Mar 22

Friday Crap Roundup VI

I almost didn’t make the deadline today. Yet here I am for the 41st time. Maybe a slow weekend will get me back in rhythm. That said, it’s time for the Friday Crap Roundup! Um, yay?

Respect At Last

I’ve mentioned a couple times Idaho State University is my alma mater. What I haven’t mentioned is how utterly dreadful most of their sports teams are. Case in point, the football team hasn’t won a road conference game since 2006.

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And being constantly confused with these guys doesn’t help.

So it’s good to see Idaho State finally won a national championship in something this week. What is that something, you ask? Well, we have a national champion mascot in Benny Bengal. He won the 2013 U.S. College Championship Mascot Division in Anaheim this week. It’s always good to win something.

Benny Bengal

And when you’re an Idaho State alumnus, you take what you can get.
Image credit: ISU

He’s All Right

As I’m sure many of you do, I occasionally post memes and other images on Facebook I find amusing. This little gem produced a lot of buzz on my page this week. Absolutely freakin’ brilliant.

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Kenny Loggins is actually alive and well. Jesus didn’t look like him anyway.

History With a Dope Beat

Speaking of brilliant, I love the Epic Rap Battles of History series on YouTube. These guys are not only pretty accurate with their history, they’re also good musicians. Hell, they even got Snoop Dogg to do a cameo. Or is it Snoop Lion now? It’s so hard to keep up with these things.

This one is pretty tame by their standards. Many of the others are NSFW.

Track of the Week

Churning out this stuff every day has been particularly difficult recently. Nevertheless, I just gotta …

… Whip it good!

Mar 21

Riding the Thunder Broom

I recently bought a bass guitar. I figured at this point in my life it would be a good idea for me to take up a new hobby or two. Beachy also wants me to be a “rock star” when I grow up. She approves of this purchase.

Music is not an entirely new thing to me. Dad was a guitarist in a few local bands in the 60s. I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, although my passion for that was halfhearted at best. Most of my friends in high school were band geeks.

Strongly influenced by said band geeks, I acquainted myself with the works of Mike Watt, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and others as a teenager. I’ve been interested in taking up bass for a good 20 years. Bass should be a good instrument for me. I fancy myself loud and low, and I think in terms of single notes rather than chords.

There were two main obstacles to that though. First, I’m left-handed. VERY left-handed. Dad tried to teach me guitar on a standard right-handed model, but I just wasn’t picking it up. Everything seemed upside down to me. What’s more, locating an affordable left-handed instrument in the pre-World Wide Web days was about as easy as picking up a bottle of Bacardi 151 in Riyadh. It just wasn’t happening.

The second obstacle – and probably the more important one – was my strong tendency to set the bar unrealistically high for myself when undertaking any new endeavor. If I wasn’t able to be a virtuoso in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t worth it to me.

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And when I say “set the bar high,” I’m not dicking around here.

I’m a perfectionist by nature. It wasn’t until quite recently that I became somewhat comfortable with the concept of not having to be a world-beater in absolutely everything I did. Having your ass handed to you by bipolar type II will do that to you. That and the miracle of e-commerce finally convinced me to take the next step.

So despite being 39, well past the age many people take up these sorts of things, over Christmas I found a left-handed bass online and had it shipped to the local Guitar Center. Of course, not wanting to drop a ton of money on something I wasn’t entirely sure I’d take up in the long term, I went for – shall we say – a low-end model. It’s made by an outfit called Main Street Guitar Company.

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The Chinese call it quality!

Over the next couple months I picked up other necessary items, such as an amp, a cord, a shoulder strap and a gig bag. I’m ready to RAWK!

Well, I would be if I had anything resembling dedication. Everyone tells me, “Man, you need to practice every day or you lose your touch.” I have no reason to disagree with that. However, I play maybe twice a week at the moment. Never mind CORRECT notes. At this point I’m happy with CLEAN notes which don’t sound like hitting a metal coil with a sledgehammer.

I can play the bass line from “Once in a Lifetime” fairly well, but that’s about it right now.

A couple days ago I compared learning the bass to learning to type. Honestly I don’t know how valid that comparison is, but as a writer it seems logical to me. Music theory as traditionally presented has never been one of my strengths. I get the basic concept of such things as notation and time signatures, but I’ve always found anything but the simplest sheet music absolutely confounding.

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Yeah, this does nothing for me.
Image credit: Hyacinth

It seems to me it would be easier to think of notes as “letters” and bass lines as “words.” One needs to learn where the various notes are on the bass. After that it’s a relatively simple matter of constructing the line in much the same way one types a word on a keyboard. I understand this theory doesn’t take into account important things like tempo. I tend to view that as something one picks up innately.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this and trying to unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. That’s another thing I’m notorious for.

Mar 19

That Giant Sucking Sound

Back in 1992, part-time presidential candidate and full-time lunatic Ross Perot coined the term “giant sucking sound.” He originally used it to criticize the then-proposed NAFTA treaty. Later politicians also used it to play up the “jobs lost” bogeyman. Admittedly, in that context it really doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for me around here.

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“Our jobs are secure. Now piss off.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a good phrase. It’s also one of the few notable things conceived during Perot’s presidential runs which didn’t involve pie graphs and/or batshit conspiracy theories. For me, the “giant sucking sound” is what I often hear in the back of my mind when I’m writing. It’s a thought along the lines of, “Hoo boy. I’m really posting a turd to the Internet today!” I’m having that thought right now, actually.

Yet one person’s manure is often another person’s manna. Regardless of what kind of artist you are – be it a painter, actor, musician, or a writer like myself – you fancy some of your works are much more awesome than others. However, what you think is good and what others think is good are often two different things. The same holds for one’s perception of crap.

Here’s a case in point. The late Alec Guinness thought of himself as an old-school English stage actor of the highest caliber, on par with his contemporary Laurence Olivier and with Patrick Stewart later on. Indeed, like Olivier and Stewart his Shakespearean chops were indisputably world-class. However, most of you out there know him for this role:

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“It’ll be just like Connery in Zardoz. No one will remember this.”
Image credit: williampcoleman

At best, Guinness viewed the Obi-Wan Kenobi role as a late-career afterthought and a retirement hedge. Indeed, thanks to some shrewd negotiating he made a ton of money off of it. But once it became apparent many would remember him from his Star Wars appearances more than anything else he ignored the subject as much as he possibly could, even going so far as to throw away Star Wars fan mail unopened.

Something like this happened to me, albeit on a much smaller scale. For a few years in the mid-90s I was on the staff of the Bengal, the student newspaper at Idaho State University. I started out as an op-ed writer and remained in that capacity throughout my tenure there. That’s how I saw my role there. Oh yeah, I also wrote some straight news stories, mainly for shits and giggles.

One day in 1995 I was informed I won first place in a regional college newspaper newswriting competition. This came as a complete surprise because (1) I wasn’t aware I entered a competition in the first place and, (2) the article I won for I found banal and pedestrian at best. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it had something to do with proposed fee increases, something dry and boring like that. To this day I’m somewhat bemused by the experience.

Mind you, I don’t try to write garbage on purpose. Well, not usually. However, I sometimes wonder what would happen if I gave up all attempts at humor, intellect and integrity, and wrote entirely for the lowest common denominator. I could totally pump out dreck for the Oprah-addled masses if I wanted. I imagine the result would be akin a mashup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the Twilight series.

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Illustrated by the undead Thomas Kinkade, of course.
Image credit: ojimbo

Ultimately I’ve learned over the years to discount the giant sucking sound, at least to an extent. It’s often completely wrong anyway.

Mar 18

Just Under the Wire

Yup, another one of those completely non-productive days here at the Command Center. It’s just over an hour until midnight and no blog entry. I thought about skipping it entirely today, but I have a good streak going which I don’t want to break. What the hell, I’ll just half-ass it today.

Besides, I never promised literary genius here.

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“So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Last night during a sometimes heated discussion with an old friend on art, writing, criticism and, um, Debby Boone, I was introduced to Phantahex, a relatively new local band. My aforementioned old friend is half of Phantahex. According to the site they play “improvised ambient psychedelic electronic music.” I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Y’all should check it out.

Dammit, there was something else I wanted to write about tonight …. “You Light Up My Life” is a horrible, wretched song? Well, yes, but that wasn’t it. Ah, whatever. I may remember and write about it another time. I leave you with this gem I found researching yesterday’s entry. This is quite possibly the best live commercial in the history of Western civilization (NSFW):

“Ya can’t get even!”

Mar 17

More Embarrassing 80s Videos

A little over a month ago I wrote about a couple video relics from the 80s which stuck with me over the years. As a writer I find this is a pretty good well to go back to. If my site stats are any indication, you agree. So here we are again.

If you know what the image below is, this will all be review. As for the rest of you, prepare for an education.

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No fair Googling or using Tineye.

You Can’t Beat Our Meat

I had the “honor” of working at the Wendy’s in the 2T in 1991. Before I say anything else, let me assure from personal experience that this is 100 percent REAL.

As those of you who have worked fast food know – which I assume is damn near all of you – the job sucks. It’s sweaty. It’s greasy. You don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits, and you have to wear the same goddamn shirt every day. You’re also controlled by corporate shills who just don’t understand the “younger scene.”

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“But, but, everybody loves Justin Bieber!”

And no, I didn’t live in the “good old days.” Consider this 1989 training video on “grill skills,” which I was instructed with in those dark days. It’s a bit slow at times. I’m posting only the second half, but stick with it and bathe in its innate cheesiness. The first half features a lot of the late Dave Thomas blathering about your “important job” in a curious accent. If you really want to watch that, it’s here.

Who’s up for chili?

Check out the rap and country rock excellence here. It’s somewhere between Biz Markie and, um, Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Incidentally, they had me wearing the exact same teal shirt featured, unfortunately without the glitter.

I was so glad when I got to leave and go to Idaho State later that year. You have no idea.

Canoe, Canoe?

Oh man, every time this spot appeared on MTV I cringed. Just cringed. Even though at the time I had no chance whatsoever of dating a hot chick – and if I somehow managed to succeed I would have blown a gasket – I knew this was just … wrong. If you kids think the marketing for Axe is over the top (and you’d be correct), you should have seen what it was like a generation ago.

So from the same pheromone experts who brought you such venerable female magnets as English Leather and British Sterling, Canoe allows you to talk to hotties familiar with international maritime signal flags, and smell like you raided a 10-year-old’s Christmas stocking in the process.

“We now return to Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp.”

I don’t know about you, but to this day I’m pretty sure if the first words out of my mouth in any singles setting were, “Oh! Canoe canoe?” a restraining order wouldn’t be too far behind. Afterwards, every once in a great while MTV would redeem itself by giving me a glimpse of the mystery girl in the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” video, but usually this crap was followed by more crap like Night Ranger.

The Proto-King of Cars

OK, this never aired nationally per se, but the basic concept plagued several media markets throughout the country in the 80s. The 2T was one of them. As a matter of fact, this guy like the 2T so much he actually moved there from somewhere back east later in his career. I want to say he was originally based in upstate New York, but I’m not 100 percent certain about that.

Anyway, meet Dave Campo, the undisputed master of local used car ads. In the 2T he worked for an outfit called Latham Motors, which was at the time the local Chrysler dealership. Sadly I was unable to find any Campo-era Latham Motors ads, but in his heyday his modus operandi was the same for all his clients. Take a look:

“With all the candy!”

Campo made what the industry calls a “shitload” of ads during his career, easily over 1,000. To this day anyone who lived in the 2T while he was active can recite the basic ad structure word for word, myself included. Campo died a few years ago. His favorite client Latham Motors went under at around the same time. Yet his legacy lives on in loudmouth used car TV spots to this day.

Is the US a lucky nation or what?

Mar 16

At One With Nature, Sort Of

Today Beachy is with me. Nothing like trying to keep an eight-year-old busy for an entire weekend without going bankrupt. The fact she lives in the 2T and Boise has so much more to do exacerbates the issue.

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She also has a pretty hardcore YouTube habit, thus the late post today.

Fortunately the last few days have been relatively nice outside. That opened up my options a bit. It was a pleasant enough day to go to the zoo, a relatively cheap and time-consuming activity. Frankly I’ve had my fill of child-friendly indoor diversions such as Pojo’s for the time being. Beachy considers herself an expert on those claw crane games, exploiting every opportunity to practice her craft. I still have a big bowl of hard candy she won something like six months ago. The Pyramid Brothers like to play with said candies. Here at the Command Center, finding a pack of Smarties behind the toilet at two in the morning is a rather common occurrence.

Beachy insisted we use sunscreen before going out. This struck me as a bit bizarre as it was 59 and partly cloudy in Boise today, hardly sunburn weather. I went ahead and got some. We’re going to need it when the Command Center’s HOA opens the pool.

More often than not, my experience is a visit to the zoo is little more than a two-hour walk past a series of empty artificial habitats, the alleged animals always sleeping in the back or whatever. Today was more successful than that. The animals were out more than usual, although most were fast asleep. A good thing for second graders, not so much for fans of blog snark. Sorry ’bout that.

There’s a carousel at the zoo, and Dippin’ Dots. Oh yes. No trip to Zoo Boise is complete without those damn Dippin’ Dots.

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Truth be told, a pretty good use for liquid nitrogen.

We proceeded with the obligatory carousel ride. As Beachy is finally over the height requirement, I observed from the sidelines. There are distinct advantages to having a older, taller kid at the zoo. No stroller required, and they don’t ask to be lifted up as much.

While Beachy was on the carousel I got strafed by a Canada Goose. Trust me, you don’t need to pay $11.25 to get up close to these things in Boise. They’re everywhere. My craptacular camera phone wasn’t able to get a decent shot of the perpetrator, so here’s a boring-ass Wikipedia image instead.

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You should see what they do to the Idaho State Capitol.

The highlight of the zoo is undoubtedly the African Plains Exhibit, set in a meticulously and accurately re-created Maasai village. Yup, it’s straight outta Tanzania, baby.

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Totally.

Anyway, the lions are always a hit and there are always plenty of monkeys about. The giraffes appeared to be hidden for some time. How the hell do you hide a giraffe? We finally found them before we got out of there, with the Dippin’ Dots of course.

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Did I mention how authentic this place is?

We were done with the zoo. My ankle was done, period. Headed to the car I was strafed again, this time by a seagull. You don’t need to pay to see those here either, especially this time of year. Thanks to my phone … aw, screw it.

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Here’s the boring-ass Wikipedia image. *sigh*

Mar 14

The Indifference Strikes Back

“A blog entry every day, no matter what.” I swear sometimes I’m such a bitch to myself.

“And make it funny, dammit!” Yeah, yeah, yeah …. This is easier said than done when one is battling bipolar depression, insomnia and cats who want to sit on one’s face at three in the morning.

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Yes, I’m looking at you, Sneferu.

Today I’ve been thinking about the benefits of carbonite as depicted in the Star Wars series. For the benefit of the three of you who have never heard of Star Wars, it’s a series of science fiction films involving good guys, bad guys, terrible laser gun shooting, something called the Force, curious swordplay, and of course explosions and shit. As a four-year-old I declined an invitation to see the first (fourth?) movie when it first came out in 1977. I thought it sounded stupid.

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A good cereal notwithstanding, C-3PO needed to be slapped, repeatedly.

Anyway, carbonite. According to the august, authoritative Star Wars database Wookieepedia, carbonite “was a metal alloy that was made from carbon. It was mixed with tibanna gas, compressed, and flash-frozen into blocks for transport.” In addition to its industrial uses and thanks to several convenient leaps of logic, carbonite was an ideal medium for placing people, and presumably other living things, into a state of indefinite suspended animation. Han Solo was placed in carbonite towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Too bad it’s not real. Given my chronic sleep issues I’d love to place myself into suspended animation from time to time. Today being a perfect example. At least as far as my experience is concerned, depression isn’t a constant state of sadness as much as it is a constant state of “fuck it.” Of course, if it were real I’d probably have to pay royalties to Disney, as they own Star Wars now.

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Behold your corporate overlords.

Personally I’m more of a Star Trek fan. The technology featured in that franchise strikes me as much more practical overall. I’d love to see a real-world transporter in action. Space travel wouldn’t be necessary to appreciate its benefits; you could just as easily use it for those nasty commutes.

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“I’m going to Albania for the afternoon. See you at 5.”
Image credit: tkksummers

Of course, the airline industry lobby would delay transporter technology for years.

All right, so I’m in the 400-word range with this. Good enough for me. I’m going back to bed now.

Mar 04

A Tale of Two Wesleys

In 2002 when I lived in Las Vegas I had a chance to see Wesley Willis. At the time I figured, meh, I could see him later. Well, I was mistaken. Willis died suddenly at age 40 in August 2003.

If you’re not familiar with Wesley Willis, you should be. He was a Chicago-based proprietor of awesome. Willis was responsible for some of the most inspired stream of consciousness observations of all time. He imparted them with the help of a cheesy keyboard too. He wasn’t a musician as much as he was a modern-day Muse. Sheer freakin’ genius.

NSFW, but still bloody brilliant.

By coincidence my first name is Wesley too. I’ve just gone by my middle name, Lane, my whole life.

Wesley Willis was schizophrenic. That was common knowledge among his fanbase. Indeed, some have accused his handlers of exploiting him as a result.

You know what? I call bullshit. I just happen to be severely bipolar. Nevertheless, I’m a published author, a former candidate for Congress and – if I may be so bold – a damn good writer in spite of it all. Indeed, perhaps BECAUSE of it all. I’m also a member of Mensa (albeit one who hasn’t paid dues recently). I use this blog to express my stream of consciousness in much the same way Willis did with his music. SB in many ways is my therapy.

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Being a bit off seems to be a prerequisite for good art.

By the way, as much as I respect Willis I don’t like being called Wesley myself. Please call me Lane, or at least something else. It’s all much appreciated.

Rock over Boise. Rock on Chicago. Franz, the good bread!™

Feb 26

Coming Attractions

Ha ha! I got tickets to that Rush show I wrote about yesterday. Looks like they’re decent seats, and for less than I thought they’d be. Good thing too. This puppy is going to sell out quick.

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Ah, what I wouldn’t give to spend an afternoon with Neil. You know, without it being all weird and crap.
Image credit: Clalansingh

I told my daughter about scoring the tickets. She said in her best deadpan voice, “Of course you did.” Yeah, not it’s like Disneyland or anything (at least not for her). I think she’ll go if for no other reason than to see her baby cousins in Portland. I think this will be her first real rock concert. The Lifehouse show she went to with her mother when she was an infant doesn’t count.

Not long after I bought the Rush tickets I found out Primus is coming here in May to play a show in Garden City of all places. Damn. When it rains, it pours.

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They have an ABBA tribute band booked there too. I think I’ll skip that one.

As for the immediate future, my daughter will be coming up here this weekend, saving me a drive to the 2T for a change. One of her favorite places to go to here is the Idaho Aquarium. I haven’t told her about the owners’ alleged illegal purchase of some of the animals. Being a pretty hardcore animal lover, more so than most other kids, she’s not going to be happy about that. I see a trip to Pojo’s in my near future.

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Which still beats the hell out of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

CRACKED.com update: Now that I’m feeling better, yesterday I managed to churn out another pitch. It got moved to the second round in less than an hour. Not too shabby. A couple of my other pitches might be salvageable. I’ve been combing through an old copy of The Book of Lists for inspiration.

Yes, The Book of Lists is one of my favorite books from childhood. That should surprise exactly no one.

Feb 25

In Concert With Indifference

I understand the Oscars were last night. Yippee skip. Did Gilbert Gottfried win anything this year? How about Penn and Teller?

Behold, unheralded geniuses.

Yes, I don’t give a rat’s ass about movies. Hell, I only recently bought a DVD player because my daughter wouldn’t quit bugging me about it. I don’t watch a lot of TV either. If I didn’t like my cable modem so much I probably would have dumped that bill a long time ago.

The_Young_Ones

Too much “ghost hunting” crap. Not enough Rik Mayall.

That leaves music. I have a large collection of 20-year-old scratched CDs I’ve been slowly converting to corrupted MP3 files. I hosted a live music show on public access in Pocatello in the mid 90s. Recently I picked up an electric bass. Left-handed, of course. More on my bass skills (or lack thereof) in a later post.

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Need an on-air bathroom break? Look no further than “The Gates of Delirium.”

Despite that, I haven’t made it to very many concerts. Let’s see, I saw fIREHOSE at the Crazy Horse in Boise in 1993. Um, there were a some opening acts I checked out: Cooler Kids (meh), Elkland (decent) and Mr. Big (no comment). As a matter of fact, there’s only one band I’ve seen in concert more than once.

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I may very well be Erasure’s straightest fan.
Image credit: Andrew Hurley

The best concert I ever went to was way the hell back in May 1992. I turned south, journeying into the dark, forbidding lands of Salt Lake City to see Rush on their Roll the Bones tour. Ever since then I’ve vowed to see them at least one more time before they retire. Given that all three of them are around 60 now, the clock is ticking.

As I write this I’m waiting for tickets to go on sale for a late July show at the unfortunately-named Sleep Country Amphitheater in the Vancouver, Washington, area. I chose that venue over Salt Lake City because (1) my sister, brother-in-law and twin nieces live in Portland and (2) screw Salt Lake City. I’m hoping my daughter wants to come. She likes Rush, but I’ve been accused of overplaying Clockwork Angels in her presence.

But it’s so good, y’all.

I’ve been told I need to get out more, preferably without knocking myself out in the process. I quite agree. So I’ve been checking out other events as a result. Another one of my longtime favorites, They Might Be Giants, is playing at the Egyptian Theatre in June. I’ve been following these guys since high school. Unfortunately the show is not all all ages. Despite the fact TMBG has made several children’s albums, no one under 14 is admitted (a rather arbitrary cutoff in my humble opinion), which means I can’t take my daughter to see them. I’m not sure I want to go alone either.

Does this mean I should re-open my dating site profiles? Feh. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on something that drastic.