Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Riding The Magic Bus

They say you can’t go home. Well they’re stupid idiots, because I did just that last week. I’m from Michigan and was returning to work at a club out there. When I travel I generally travel by bus. This is not an ideal way to travel, but it’s cheap and I’m what you would call a “nervous flyer.” I used the Megabus, which is nice because it’s both the cheapest and smells at least 45% less gross than Greyhound buses. Most bus travelers don’t discuss the finer points of bus travel. This is probably because most bus travelers don’t want to admit that they’re bus travelers, they’d prefer say that they flew and the plane just got lost for the other eighteen hours it took to get to their destination. The most important part about traveling by bus has got to be the seating situation. Unlike planes, trains, and other forms of travel that treat the traveler with a modicum of respect. There are no assigned seats. With the Megabus you just show up at 34th St. and 12th ave. There’s a crowd of gross people. You wait with the crowd of gross people. Hopefully a bus shows up eventually. And then you get on. The goal of corse is to end up sitting alone. Nobody wants to sit next to some weirdo for 8-16 hours. The desire to sit alone is compounded when you see the caliber of people you’re riding the bus with.

They thank you for riding by bus like you had a choice
You’re first inclination is going to be to run to the top level. You’re going to want either the first in the front or the last seat in the back. Both of these are mistakes. You don’t want back because you’re not the only person who has this plan. A lot of other folks are going to be sprinting for those seats. Unless you’re one of the first few in line you ain’t getting one of those, so just forget it. You’re going to get to the back of the bus and realize all the coveted seats are taken. So as you’re sitting there dumbfounded wondering how your plans went awry all the other primo seats are being snatched up. You’re gonna run into the same problems with the front section of the bus. I would throw out the front half right away. Megabus tickets are cheap. The reason they’re so much cheaper than the other bus companies is that they’re good at saving money. One way to save money is to hire drivers who sometimes run into things. I like to think of a bus as a chessboard. Let the pawns take the business end of an overpass while me and the rest of the important pieces hang out in back. So ignore the back and definitely ignore the front row.
Not so smug now are you Rosa Parks
After you’ve ridden the bus a few times you might start thinking you can game the system. You’ve seen the way people act, and you think you’re smarter than the unwashed masses that you travel with. You watch as everyone takes a look at the lower level realizes that all the seat rows have at least one in them so people venture upstairs. Only then if all those seat rows have at least one in them do they choose to sit with someone. They of course won’t come back down to do this so they choose a seat mate upstairs. You watch this a few times and you think you have the whole thing figured out. You think if you get in line early enough you can take one of those lower level seats. When people board after you they’ll just leave you alone and go upstairs. You’ve got it all figured out don’t you. Well you’re a naive fool. You may be right. The odds of sitting along may be a bit greater on the lower level, but you don’t realize the gamble you’re taking here. You take that seat on the lower level you’re opening yourself up to the three worst groups of people to ride the bus with. First you have the people who need to be really close to the bathroom. I’m not judging. I know there are a lot of medical conditions that require frequent trips to the bathroom. I just don’t know if I want to be in noseshot of any of them for the better part of a day. Secondly you’ve got the people who don’t mind sitting next to a stranger all day. These people will probably want to talk. You will definitely not want to. Thirdly you’ve got the people who not only are willing to sit next to a stranger all day, but ACTIVELY WANT TO SIT NEXT TO A STRANGER ALL DAY! If there are open rows and one of these nuts sits next to you. Run. Take a different bus, change your name, do whatever you can, but do what you have to do to get the fuck away from this lunatic. 
Hope you brought enough trail mix for the both of us.
The problem with both these strategies is that sometimes sitting next to someone is inevitable. If you get on the bus and every row has at least one person in it then you’re pretty well fucked. You won’t be getting your own seat. I’ve seen too many guys automatically go for what they think is the best option. Pretty ladies. This is dumb. Listen, you’re not gonna fuck on the bus. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s true. People don’t want to have to sit next to anybody. When you sit next to someone they’re disappointed. Plus, you’ve been riding a bus all day. You are not at your best right now. You’re probably wearing your shitty clothes, because what kind of asshole dresses up for the bus. If this isn’t the first leg of your trip then your shitty clothes are probably pretty wrinkled, making you look even shittier. And you smell like you’ve been on a bus all day. Even if you haven’t been on a bus all day and you’ve just boarded the second you touch the bus you instantly smell like you’ve been on a bus all day. Plus if you have to go the bathroom you’re going to come back smelling like a bus bathroom. You’ll be dead in the water. Even if you’re a nice guy with good intentions, who has a giant bladder, and you smell like roses you will be looked at as the guy who fucked with her legroom. If there is a lady who catches your eye wait until the rest stop. Buy her a coffee  then make your move. 
You're into traveling to the rustbelt city your parents live at very slow speeds? ME TOO!
In my experience look for a bro. Bros are in my experience the best bus-mates around. They keep to themselves, they never want to engage in inane smalltalk, and as a rule they chew with their mouths closed. If you’re going to sit three inches away from a total stranger for upwards of eleven hours I can’t recommend enough seeking out a bro. Quick caveat on the bro rule though. Make sure the bro is a sports/frat bro not a frolf/Whole Foods bro. To the untrained eye the casual look of both may be one in the same, but if you choose the wrong bro you’ve just signed on to a marathon of awful smalltalk, weird smells, and the sounds of loud crunching on organic almonds. If you come upon a bro and are unsure which one you have on your hands just keep on moving. Regroup and try to find a more suitable bro. 

Sometimes no good options exist. This may feel like a defeat. But this is where the real fun begins. Don’t resign yourself to this fate, embrace it. If the only seats that are left are unappealing options then this can be fun too. Think of this as an opportunity. You’re not in a seat cowering in fear that you have to ride next to a stranger. You’re now the hunter. Your steely gaze locking onto your prey. You get to stalk the bus like a jungle animal looking people in the eye. You get to choose whose ride you get to ruin. Like a god walking among men, it’s all in your hands. Might I recommend the person who is staring the angriest at you. It doesn’t matter. You’re gonna have to squeeze in next to some piece of shit, might as well make it someone who doesn’t deserve to have a good ride anyhow. If they ask you if you have to sit there you get bonus points if you say “nope” and just plop down next to them anyhow. You definitely will not have to worry about smalltalk after that. 

Well that’s about it. That’s about all the advice I have to give you regarding bus travel. I would say happy riding, but that’s really not the point of bus travel. Just try to get there alive a relatively not smelly, and that’s really all you can ask for. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Don't Compress My Heart

A couple years back I did something everyone should do. I bought a real bitchin' set of headphones, or "cans" as pretentious douchebags refer to them as.  I spent some money, not a crazy amount, but enough to make me notice the hit to my bank account. The ones I ended up getting were the Bowers and Wilkins P3s. Good solid headphones I would highly recommend.  They sound good, they weren't crazy expensive, and they don't look ridiculously ostentatious. All things I like in a headphone.

These aren't even connected to anything, I'm that much of an asshole
I was surprised by how they change my listening habits. I find I like hip/hop more now. Those artists tend to recognize that a lot of people will listen to their stuff using headphones and they're more apt to screw with sound staging almost to turn the headphones themselves into an instrument. For whatever Kanye lacks in basic human decency he makes up in making his albums interesting to take in. I don't always like them, but they are interesting to say the least. The Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes sounds even better. I didn't think it was possible, but it does. It's like Lou Reed is whispering it into your ear. Better even, because this way you don't have to have notorious jerk Lou Reed in your home. Adele sounds great. Always has always will. Only problem there is the last thing I needed was to feel a more personal relationship with Adele and her music.

Too busy winning awards to return someone's calls I see

Something's don't sound nearly as good. I think punk rock is meant to be played on the shitty tape deck of my 86 Grand Am. They say punk sounds better on vinyl, but your parents' turntable probably sucked balls so what do they know. I guess if you're into overthrowing the government you've got bigger fish to fry than worrying about making sure the levels were right, because punk I guess was more about the message. The thing is I'm in my thirties now. The message sounds pretty goddamn silly. Would it have killed any of you assholes to say once "hey fellas how's about one more time from the top. Lets get this right and then maybe we'll be able to subvert the dominant paradigm and all that other horse shit."

Punk rock evidently does not mean having someone professionally mix it when you're done

As I was going through my favorites and rediscovering things I had missed for years there was one I was really looking forward to diving back into. That was of course Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. Meat Loaf for me is not a guilty pleasure. I don't listen to Meat Loaf through a veil of irony.  I don't constantly use air quotes while I'm listening to him. I just listen and enjoy the hell out of it. And Bat Out Of Hell is damn near a perfect album. From open to close all you get is classic Loaf, and what the hell else can you ask for? I've listened to this album an untold amount of times and was really looking forward to listening to again for the first time through fresh ears. I set aside an hour (that's just for Paradise) put it on and it was, in a word, fine.

I don't know what I was expecting, but it didn't quite live up to it. Don't get me wrong it sounded good. It sounds pretty damn good. It sounded better than it had. The vocals were clearer and the bass was better, but other than that it was just fine. I guess I assumed it would open up all these different avenues that had previously been closed off to me with my shitty earbuds. I'm not a music snob by any stretch. I don't really have a CD player any more. Just about all my music is MP3. That being said I have had more than a few albums saved on my iTunes that required redownloading because they were too compressed. So I spent a while searching the Internet for a better file. A master sound CD, a FLAC file, super audio cd, or just a file with a more MBs listed. Anything. Turns out very few people on the Internet are audiophiles, into Meat Loaf, and use torrent sites.

For crying out loud uncompress me!
Maybe it's for the best. Maybe humans weren't meant to take in all that Meat Loaf is putting out there. Maybe Bat Out Of Hell is compressed for society's safety. Too much of a good thing can kill you. Maybe 68 MBs of Meatloaf is all the average human can take before they overload and are sent scampering back into hell. I hope if that's the case that the masters are saved somewhere. Waiting for the world to change before it can be released to the waiting world. Like with Nelson Mandela.

Heaven can wait (until I get some uncompressed Meatloaf in freedom fighting ears)

I've since given up the search for now. I may not have uncompressed audiophile quality meatloaf, but I've got pretty damn good sounding meatloaf and I've got a bitchin' set of headphones. And as a wise man once said "two out of three ain't bad."