Give Blood, Replenish with Merlot

How to live during the summer of our discontent

Why save your discontent for winter? There's enough now to last year-round. Make this your summer of discontent!

You want The Matrix? I'll give you The Matrix. How's this: nearly every dollar you pour into that film and into other paranoia-fueling entertainments such as 24—which, this past season, was about oilmen and government hawks plotting to manufacture a war in the Middle East—goes to further enrich the very people striving to make this a more Matrix-like world, where a duped populace is milked like aphids by their technocrat overlords. You think AOL Time Warner doesn't want to hook you up as well, little Neo? Meanwhile, the money 24 generates enables Rupert Murdoch to consume more media, so he's better able to sell the administration's trumped-up, oil-driven wars. Can you watch Fox News and not feel like you're living in some dark science-fiction film? They will wash your brain and charge you a cleaning fee, buddy.

Damn, but these lefty harangues make me thirsty. What say we all go get a beer by the beach?

I feel better already. I'm drinking an Oranjeboom (pronounced o-rawn-ge-boom!). I know this is good beer because it's what brewmaster Tucker Fleming chooses when he looks in my fridge. This is a service Tucker should do for everyone—for $80 or so, he'd come select the best beer in your fridge for you. I'd be lost without him. All I know about alcohol is that some of it makes me go all scrunchy-faced and other stuff goes down like Mrs. Butterworth, and I don't know which is which.

Oranjeboom is cheap at Trader Joe's, a good thing for those waiting for the Bush tax cut to generate jobs. In the meantime, don't worry; the social fabric of America has never been stronger. I mean, it's like rayon! There are many organizations that will help you through hard times.

For example, did you know the American Red Cross can help you get the most out of your liquor dollar? Here's what you do: go give blood, and then go drink whatever. They tell you specifically not to drink for 24 hours, but I like to think they tell you that with a little wink because AFTER YOU GIVE BLOOD, DRINKING ANYTHING STRONGER THAN TANG SENDS YOU STRAIGHT TO LOOPYLAND! WOO-EEE!

I gave blood last week. I'd done it after Sept. 11, and donating blood to the Red Cross is worse than joining a record club in terms of being hounded for years to come. Once they get the taste for the stuff, they only want more. This time, I swear they drained enough blood to fill Cher's bathtub, not that you should believe those rumors. They also asked 39 nosy questions, including "Have you ever offered anyone money or drugs for sex?" without even having the courtesy to make that a multiple-choice question.

But it's all worth it. That night, I had a glass and a half of red wine—you should always replenish your fluids with ones of a like color—and it was enough to get me utterly jugged-out. I don't know if it's because there's less blood in the blood-alcohol ratio or what, but it was like the high-altitude buzz you get drinking in Lugano, Switzerland. You also get a momentous hangover. Thank you, Red Cross!

But that's not all. Want to enjoy the crisp picture and extra features of a DVD but can't afford a player? Go to the Red Cross. Instead of giving blood, you can give platelets, where one tube pumps blood out of you and another one pumps it back in sans platelets—little discs of protoplasm, like you care. What about the DVDs? I'm getting to that. Since it's a two-hour process, they have a DVD player in the cubicle, and you can bring in the DVD of your choice, though Bordello of Blood may not be your best choice.

I think you can do that every two weeks, while you can only give blood every eight weeks, so you'll probably want to find a few other things to fill out your summer.

Like riding your bike around Newport's Back Bay. It has all the variety you could want: hills, curves, straightaways, scenic algae, grand resorts, trailer parks, churches, squirrels and a Mercedes dealership. Biking the bay is a splendid way to move some air through your lungs on a crisp summer morning or wilted late afternoon. Or you can hike the ridgeline of Laguna; or hang out at Irvine Park; or go to the Hootenanny and see Little Richard, James Intveld, Junior Brown and lots of other spiff acts who inspire women to walk in dirt while wearing spiked heels.

And go to the county fair. (Don't forget, I'm now in cahoots with the fair—it's a cahootenanny!—so everything I say is suspect. But also don't forget I'm looking for OC rock memorabilia from surf to punk for an exhibit, so if you've got something fun, cough it up to jwashburn@ocweekly.com.) The diversions at this year's fair will include 311, Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge, Cake, Devo, Steely Dan, Alanis Morissette, CSN, the Doors, Ozomatli, a corndog and others. There's more spiffy stuff that hasn't been announced yet. While Ozomatli and oodles of other acts are free with the fair admission, the big names on the Pacific Amphitheatre stage are a pricey hard ticket—though still a good chunk cheaper than at other venues. The top ticket for CSN, for example, is $59.50 at the fair (including fair admission) but $76 at the Greek, where you can't even pet a goat.

Looking to take a summer vacation? Some of my smart pals live in OC and vacation here, too, figuring why go somewhere else when so many people come here to vacation? They and their friends just rent a beach house for a week or two and act like they're a thousand miles away from home, with the convenience of being able to go home if they forgot a toothbrush. If you're really on a budget, maybe you could just trade houses with your next-door neighbor for a week.

If you want a get-outta-town sort of vacation, I must stress just how superfine Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival is for topping off your summer over the Labor Day weekend. It's a beautiful time of year to be in Seattle and only a cheap flight or doable car jaunt away. (Enjoy the hippie pancakes of Eugene, Oregon!) The fest is more than a fest should be, with blackened-salmon burgers, adventurous art, a film fest, a book fair, dance events from hip-hop to classical, and a bunch of crazy music from all over the place. Some of the acts confirmed for this year include REM, Wilco, Nickel Creek, Donovan, Leftover Salmon, Common, De la Soul, Black Eyed Peas, Daniel Lanois, Wanda Jackson, Robert Walter's 20th Congress and Solomon Burke.

Right now, you may be wondering, "Hey, wasn't this guy, before he got all juiced-up, talking about this being the summer of discontent and fighting the power and such?" Well, as Emma Goldman said, "What good's a revolution if you can't bang some foxy guys?" by which I think she meant she had the hots for Trotsky or maybe that you shouldn't get so caught up in fighting the buzz-

kills in this world that you become a buzzkill yourself.

What's needed is balance. Look at 1969, when folks protested the war, tripped out at Woodstock, seized campuses, listened to Iggy, made sandals and still found time to paint "Frodo Lives" on their VWs.

It is in experiencing the simple pleasures of life that we realize the common joys that bind us, freak and conservative alike. After a hard day of despoiling the planet or consolidating his power, even a button-up guy likes to kick back with a brewski at the beach. And it is in these shared moments, not at the ramparts, when you can best communicate with our sundered brethren, when you both raise your amber glasses high to celebrate the sun's beneficent rays refracted therein, breathe in the salt air, and open a door to reason and comity by starting a dialogue rooted in the basics, such as, "Hey, bro, would you stop peeing on my leg, please?"

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