Thursday, June 29, 2006

What Price Freedom

Ah The 4th of July, Independence Day, the day when we remember the tumultuous and unlikely birth of our great nation, when we reflect upon the immense freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for, when we celebrate our great democracy by blowing shit up real good. The great anniversary of our nation’s first defiant cry for freedom is upon us and that can only mean one thing: Fireworks. For me nothing says Independence Day like a half drank case of Coors a wheelbarrow full of munitions and a lighter. I have not truly celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s great document until I have filled the sky with the whistle-bang of poorly aimed – if aimed at all – bottle rockets and the combustive boom of the M-80. When I see a redneck wearing a wife beater, sitting in a fraying lawn chair, throwing fire crackers into a kiddy pool, I know it is the 4th. God bless our freedoms.

Of course freedom is not cheap. No, freedom costs, and so do fireworks. You see, hear in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, fireworks are – what’s the word – illegal. So, obtaining the munitions for a proper Independence Day celebration involves a perilous trek…to Ohio, to the most frightening place imaginable: the fireworks store. These stores are odd creations, squat, windowless, cinder-blocked bunkers of pyrotechnic oddity. They dot the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, lawless business surrounded by weeded lots and rusting barbed wire fences. They have all the obsessive atmosphere of a porn shop without the bonus of seeing naked people.

I was not going to visit one of these weigh stations of the bizarre this year. I was perfectly content to light up whatever inflammable goodies a friend could provide. Then fellow Cellar Dweller and Bad Decision Maker Supreme Joe called and asked if I would like to join him in a trip to purchase the accoutrements of this year’s celebration. Not seeing any reason not too, I agreed.

I had forgotten what a strange, cursed place a fire works shop was. It had been years since my last visit. I was soon enough reminded. We pulled up to the shop located just on the Ohio side of the border. The building had the air of a militia headquarters: White cinder block, windowless, two defensive levels of barbed wire fencing about the perimeter, no sign, armed guard. Before we could enter we had to fill out legal forms, relinquish any lighters or matches, and turn all cell phones off. With these preliminaries complete, we were granted access to the building proper.

Before us stretched aisle upon aisle of every kind of legal – and quite possibly some illegal – explosive imaginable. There where ones that sparkled, fizzed, smoked, bloomed, twirled, blazed, and dismembered. The space was filled with the surreal juxtaposition of mom and pop business charm, and gunpowder. High explosives where stacked eye high atop shelves marked Nabisco, obviously pinched from some grocers trash. Carefully hand-lettered signs pointed toward the M-80’s. The counters where lined with firecrackers and snaps where a normal convenience store would house its candy and gum (Word to the wise, never confuse snaps with gum. Trust me.)

Joe and I walked the rows, studying packages depicting Wolverines with blood-foamed mouths and military motifs. Many fireworks where housed in missile shaped tubes. One read “Defender of the First Amendment.” We searched for our desired explosives tentatively, terrified lest we make eye contact with one of the other patrons. The other shoppers shuffled from display to display, eyes on the ground until it was time to search a shelf. Once again it was reminiscent of a porn shop: Creepy men shuffling about searching for that particular item which will satisfy their unnatural desires. Well, most of them shuffled. One of the other customers was wheelchair bound. He was missing both legs beneath the knee. Now, I am in no way mocking the handicapped or saying that fireworks were in any way responsible for this guy’s loss…but the guy did have the distinct air of someone who had been thrown by the horse but insisted on getting back on to ride. It was doubly uncomfortable with this gentleman. If you got caught in eye contact you couldn’t drop your gaze. Then you would be staring at his stumps. Then you would be ashamed again and look up…and make eye contact. I swear there was a good five minutes when my head resembled a yo-yo.

Eventually, we made our final selections. We paid the backward talking dwarf behind the counter, and loaded up the car. Then we took back roads back to PA on the off chance a cop might follow us – highly unlikely but an ongoing phobia of Joe’s. Then I spent the remainder of my day cleaning the stench of fireworks shop from my person, but it was to no avail. I cannot scrub my soul.

But it was worth it. The 4th is on the horizon, and I am going to blow stuff up…good.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shell Shocked

I'm sorry... really, I am. In fact, you have no idea how sorry I am. Well, perhaps you do, because I'm really not that terribly sorry. But believe me when I say that I never meant to hit you. I never meant to crush you in an instant, your shell exploding like a cluster grenade, shrapnel covering the highway. Please don't misunderstand me when I say:

I don't normally run over turtles.

Turtles have a reputation of being one of nature's wisest, most conservative creatures (next to the owl and Ben Stein). But if you are, in fact, so wise, I must ask "What were you doing in the middle of the highway?" What on earth were you thinking? Most humans don't try and cross highways during rush hour, and here you are, slower than most, doing your best to make it across. Never did you expect a Buick LeSabre going forty-five miles per hour. I don't think you saw it coming; then again, even if you did, what could you have done? Or maybe you were sleeping, or perhaps already dead? None of that really matters right now... because you are 100% dead at the moment I write this letter to you.

It all happened so fast. I was following Karissa through Monroeville, heading to my internship in Pittsburgh. We were both talking to each other via cell phone (with headsets of course). Her car straddles the turtle (or tortoise, I don't really know), and no sooner does she say the words "Aw, a turtle--" do I hear the a crunch. My car felt like it had run over a speed bump--only it sounded like a speed bump made of porcelain. Suddenly, I hear screaming in my ear... Karissa had watched the entire event unfold in her rear view mirror. I quickly glance back and see shards of shell spinning across the road, it looked like I had run over a hard vase with a gooey center.

"YOU KILLED THE TURTLE!" she's screams. Did I? Or were you already dead and I just finished the job? If I hadn't hit you, someone else surely would have? And yet I can't help but feel remorse for running you over. I can't remember ever hitting an animal before, let alone one held in such high esteem. I respect you, turtle.

But the crunch was so loud! It was like nothing I had ever heard before. There are various sounds that are so unique that they will stick in your head for days, months even. The crunch of your shell will haunt even my most pleasant of dreams. If I were to foley the sound for, say, a radio show, I would probably bake a clay pot in a kiln and then fill it with meatloaf... then run over it with a car.

I will never understand why you were in the middle of the road, or what your plans were for the day, but I give my best to your family. Perhaps your death will save the lives of countless other turtles who were contemplating crossing the highway. Unless you are on some sort of rocket-powered skateboard, don't try it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"The Search for Pluck" Tomorrow!

searchforpluck_poster.jpgThe performance of "Dodge Intrepid and the Pages of Time" is just a day away, so there is still time to call and cancel your plans so that you can attend!

"The Search for Pluck" picks right up where the "Trial of Dodge Intrepid" ended--although you don't have to have seen the previous show to understand the concept-- and our hero is searching through time for his lost intern. At the same time, we are continuing our campaign storyline with Allister Farious (who is running for mayor of Aliquippa). With the great press we got in Pittsburgh Magazine, and the great word-of-mouth that has been spreading around since our first show back in August, I'm hoping for a good turnout.

Last week, we released our first podcast since March; it's an old concept injected with some Dodge charm: Ask Dodge and Pluck. Basically, Dodge and Pluck answer questions e-mailed to us via our blog. We then turn the questions in to characters in a "call-in" question format. Yeah, it's been done before, but it is something quick and easy for us to improv and get out to the satiate the podcasting public. Of course, we didn't have questions to start out with, so we made them up... but hopefully we won't have to do that forever (and if we do, well at least you know they'll be funny.)

To listen to a trailer for our upcoming show, click here!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Yes, Virgina, I Did Happen To Score Molly Hatchet Tickets

Speaking of children, BM was a child once.

I wasn't always big. My long-term memory still seems fairly well intact; I can recall plenty of instances when I was still insignifigant enough to blend in with the general populous. Sure, that feat is somewhat more difficult now as I've since fully blossomed, outweighing your middle-of-the-road human in terms of importance by a metaphoric 24 metric tons.

In order to have reached my current bigness, I had to learn certain things on my own. No, not boldface names in history books or the locations of state capitols on a pull-down map, but so called real life lessons in so called real life situations.

As a pre-kindergarden child, I always wanted to catch a bird. Salamanders and nightcrawlers were easy; enslaving a winged sky-beast seemed the ultimate challenge. My first and most feeble attempts were essentially dead sprints toward a morning robin pecking for a worm. I thought I could catch 'em off their guard. No such dice however. I soon figured that what I needed was some kind of lure. I stood dead center in the nearby field hoisting a granola bar into the taunting lair of the common barn swallow with one hand, while poised to swoop in and snarl my feathered prey with the other. I failed again. Eventually I ripped a page from Wile E. Coyote's handbook of gadgetry and did the ol' box with stick and string ploy. We all know how well it worked for Wile E. It worked equally well for LM. I didn't possess a bird until I happened upon a wounded crow years later. I had conquered the sky-beast. Lesson learned: ain't no crow with a broken wing gonna' fly higher than LM's ambitions.

LM idolized Popeye. BM does too. When I was four I lived in my grandparents' rural home with my parents and younger sister. One evening our meal consisted of this, that and spinach. I knew from Popeye's seafaring toils that spinach could instantly make you mega-powerful simply by causing the spinach lid to pop like a Pringles can, than chewing and swallowing the contents; sometimes you even get a battleship to appear on your tricep. Yes, I would become mega-powerful for a few ticks after swallowing, but would I have the short-lived strength to raise my grandmother's organ over my head. So I inhaled a large portion of spinach, excused myself from the dinner table, then ran full throttle down the hall and into the living room. Confronted with the hulking organ, I wedged my fingers underneath either side of the pedals and attempted an overhead press. No such dice again. The 2 ton organ proved too bulky for LM and I was later lectured about chronic back problems. Lesson learned: you don't need to eat spinach to manhandle a tin whistle however.

The Molly Hatchet album covers are scary; each lp sleeve depicts either a super-spooky monster-thing or a menacing tribal warrior-god or something. I would pluck the Molly Hatchet albums from my father's record collection and create a mock Thunderdome-like scenerio where the Molly Hatchet albums would battle one another in a single elimination round-robin tourney until only one Molly Hatchet lp remained to be hailed "best rock album ever." Dad didn't like me crashing his Molly Hatchet albums together like those rubber WWF wrestler that had the consistancy of giant erasers. Speaking of my father...

I remember when Dad told me that Santa wasn't real. Six year olds rarely have heart-to-heart conversations with thier fathers'. Sure, Dad and I would discuss how awful the Phillies were performing, or why a fairly elaborate pulley system would be required in order to lift an organ, but nothing that would really stick with me so earnestly while becoming the well-rounded adult I am today. See, since about the September before that particular Christmas I had begun to wonder if Santa Clause was a set-up. I didn't want to think he was, but recent taunting from some of my friends had forced me to refocus.
My father must have picked up on my dilemma because shortly after I had opened my final gift on Christmas morning I heard him call from the top of the stairs, "Matthew, put down your toys and come upstairs for a second; there's something I want to tell you." At the time, I probably didn't feel much like a cattle being led to slaughter as I ascended the stairs; I was however. Upon scaling the final step, I turned and began a march toward the master bedroom until, "No, I'm in here son." I halted midstride and pivoted toward the voice until I was face-to-face with a wide open bathroom door. Beyond the door was my insightful father, pantless and perched on the pot. "There is no Santa Clause boy," he declared mid-smash. I was frozen and speechless (I would say his junk hung like mistletoe but that might be tastleless). But what he said next I remember word-for-word, resignating as maybe the most genuine thing the old man, or anyone, has ever said me, "Santa lives in here son" he said as he motioned to his chest, then he smashed again. Lesson learned: my Dad kicks ass.

"Tis more conducive to seek the advice of a fool than the words of a wise man rendered invalid via a freak scooter accident."
-ancient Chinese proverb.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Child Abuse

Allow me to preface this by saying that I like children. Honestly I do. I appreciate the wide-eyed wonder, the blunt literalness, the unaffected openness of emotions which children carry. I honestly do like children. I even go out of my way to entertain children. Ask anyone who has ever seen me pass by an infant. Seriously, I cannot be in the vicinity of a young child without trying to bring a smile to the young face. I’ve been known to dance for many a baby in my time.

With this made perfectly clear, I need to say that the children in my neighborhood have got to go. I’m serious. They are a blight upon the land. At the risk of sounding Mr. Wilsonian, they’re menaces. They need to disappear. They should be eliminated with extreme prejudice.

I know this sounds harsh. Trust me, this not a position I have arrived at lightly. It is not as though I simply woke up one morning and decided all the kids in my neighborhood needed to be ‘taken care of’. These kids are just asking for it. Seriously, all of a sudden I think the child population of my street has jumped ten fold. Kids are everywhere. I can’t step outside without running into a sulky four-year old delinquent. I don’t think these children even have parents. They simply arose from the streets complete with bad attitudes and toys to put right under my car tires every morning. I don’t see parents. The only evidence of parenting is the occasional disembodied harpy scream. Piercing inhuman sounds telling kids to pick up this, get in here, don’t touch that, and just wait until your father gets home. This is often how I awake. With this shrill yell vibrating some awful cord in my subconscious. Still, the parents are unseen – I do see adults on porches, drinking and watching bug zappers in an almost religious rapture, but I have no reason to connect these folks to the children.

Toys are everywhere. I don’t know what corn field these tow-headed brats walked out from, but they sure as hell brought a lot of swag with them. Every night as I fumble down the dark breeze-way to my apartments entrance, it is almost a foregone conclusion that I will trip over a ‘My Little Pony’ or this elaborate radio controlled skate boarding figure which seems to be everywhere. My sidewalks have become concrete dump bins for all types of childhood playthings. If in the future my street is excavated by future archeologists, they will be sure to conclude that my street was a strange enclave society ruled by children with no noticeable adult presence – kind of like in ‘Beyond Thunderdome’.

If the toys are bad, the children themselves are worse. I can’t tell you how often I’ve emerged from the protective cocoon of my apartment, only to be immediately confronted with a sullen-eyed child, with a strange, hard slant to his mouth, like he’s sizing me up and saying to himself: “I can take this sucker.” And this is right on my porch. These kids have no respect for private property. They don’t even have respect for their own lives. Yesterday, as I got out of my car a young child of maybe four, pedaled past on a bike resplendent with training wheels.

“Look at how fast I can go,” the kid said to me with a daredevil indifference to his voice. He didn’t even seem affected by the fact he was riding a girls bike. The pink color and bent bar gave him away.

“You be careful,” I said back. I was trying to sound friendly. I put a mock note of disapproval and a little appreciation in my voice. I thought the kid might like it.

“MAKE ME!!!” He yelled. It was as though I had offended the deepest part of him. He threw his unfiltered cigarette to the ground and tore off down the street, recklessly bouncing from one bent training wheel to the next.

Now, I fear my neighborhood. When I walk through to my apartment, the children pause and observe me implacably. They are like birds nesting in a playground in a Hitchcock film. Now they are harmless, but their sheer numbers and the oddness of their configuration, portends deep unease. That is why things have come to this point. These children can not be left to take over these streets. These children will not overcome me. I am strong. I am clever. I actually pay rent. Now is the ultimate moment in history. It is either them or it is me. God, I pray I am the one to make it out alive, but if you do not hear from me over the next few weeks, you know what has become of me: Wished into a corn field.


Friday, June 09, 2006

"Salvation" Press for CCBC Show!

The Cellar Dwellers were featured in today's Weekender in the Beaver County Times! Our show, which debuts tonight, got a great write-up by Times Entertainment writer Scott Tady:

CENTER TWP. - Ripped from the headlines and then filtered through pure silliness, the Cellar Dwellers Comedy Troupe raises a bold theological question: "What if there are immigration guards at the heaven-purgatory border?"

Behold the answer tonight when the Cellar Dwellers debut their new sketch comedy, "Salvation Impossible III: What's the Story Purgatory?"

A mix of original comedy sketches and improvised games, "Salvation Impossible III" will take place in the Allied Health Auditorium on the Center Township campus of Community College of Beaver County.

"This will be our first brand new show since last August," said Mike Rubino, mouthpiece for the nine-year-old improv and sketch comedy group that calls Beaver County home.

Besides pondering the afterlife, this new show includes sketches about a vindictive pet turtle and a 1980s-metalhead startled to discover the girl he met online isn't quite what he expected.

Spectators might smile at hometown references, like a bootlegger struggling to peddle PotteryBarn Hillbillies concert shirts or a guy who acts like he's won the lottery after inheriting Get Go gas perks.

The skit performances last about an hour, followed by an intermission and then an hour's worth of improv games where the audience suggests scenes and participates on stage.

The Cellar Dwellers perform weekly at their "F'N Improv" Friday night workshops at their theater in the Beaver Valley Bowl.

The group has also performed throughout the Pittsburgh area in such shows as "A Thousand Rays of Hype," "Desperate Housewares" and "Sam Spade or Neutered."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why Ben is my Favorite Dweller

I am such a dodo bird. I forgot Ben when I made my late night challenge post. I thought of it immediately after but did not rectify the situation. So here's a challenge for Ben: Get on a reality show and be the first person kicked off.

So to make up for my lack of tact, or Tact-lack (like Aflac), I shall tell you reasons why I like Ben.

He's tall so he's a good person for me to hug. He is not bothered when I openly flirt with his wife. He is married, and although not the only Dweller to get married; he is the only one to be married and currently in the shows. Plus, I think marriage is a very good thing. Nothing can erase the image of him playing a pidgeon with scary accuracy. Ben often would bring food to things. His Sim was very funny when I made all the Dwellers in my Sims game. His Sim would annoy people with puppets and laugh hysterically until everyone walked away from him. Weird, huh? Ben brings it to the table. He's got that something, that little extra, and he's putting it out there consistantly every night. Yeah, Ben.

Mike the Tall

Monday, June 05, 2006

Friends with Benefits

The Cellar Dwellers are trying something new, and it could end up benefitting everyone in the end! Recently, the Dwellers decided to embrace another aspect of the online community by starting an account on MySpace. Specifically, we're under the MySpace Comedy section--because after all, we're hilarious. Right?

So, after being on there for a little under a month, we've managed to get over 100 friends. To celebrate, we're rewarding our friends with a present (because that's the only way we know how to keep friends.) If you belong to our MySpace friends list, you will get your own coupon for $1.00 off admission to our CCBC show this Friday!

Of course, don't just think you can print this coupon out from anywhere and just bring it in... we're smarter than that! We'll have a list of all our MySpace friends at the door, so we'll be checking to see who came and who didn't. But it's not too late to join and get yourself a coupon! You have until 12:01am on Friday to sign up!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

150 Reasons to Hate Manute Bol

Hey, Joe here,
With part 2 of my 15 blog instalment of 150 Reasons to Hate Manute Bol, as inspired by a conversation about a college essay little mike could have writen but did not.

11) Manute Bol can not color within the lines

12) He is too tall to play in a moon bounce.

13) Manute Bol has every episode of the doogie howser show on tape

14) independent research companies obtained skewed data after surveying Manute Bol

15) Manute Bol could not beet vin disel, chuck noris, or steven segul in a fight

16) Manute Bol is the reason starbucks lines are so long

17) 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Manute Bol should be hated

18) You know that anoying sound you here when there is total silence, that is Manute Bol weeping

19) He sleeps with a stuffed kaola named fredricko koalaski

20) He has an astigmatism