Like a Caged Rat, eh?

This past Sunday the O-Dog had a doubleheader of birthday parties. Unfortunately, the first one was one that the Fletchmonster had to sit out. His heartbreaking cries of "I want to go with mommy and O.D." made the daddy-tears well up.

"Don't worry, Fletch. We'll hang out like gentlemen."
"I don't want to hang out like gentlemen. I want to go with mommy. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

As Mrs. P and the O-Dog left, I was left with a wailing two year-old.

Any parent knows that the quickest way to stop a kid from crying is to put him in the car and tell him you're going to buy him something. I thought I'd take a quick jaunt to Ft. Erie in Canada to buy myself some hockey elbow pads (the cheap, sh*tty pair I currently own did little to protect me from a weak-ass shot from the point). Also, the Fountain Plaza ice rink should be opening any day and it's time to throw the Fletch into the size 7 Bauer skates. I figured I'd get him a helmet while I was there.

For the geographically impaired, Ft. Erie is on the other side of the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY. We live five minutes from the Peace Bridge and the Canadian Tire store is about another 8 minutes away. Going through Canadian customs is usually a breeze, so I figured the whole trip might take an hour or less...

I turned to take the bridge and got an eye-full of Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhk!

There was a back up of about two to three miles of what my Canuck brother-in-law calls "cheap-ass Canadians" coming into the U.S. to take advantage of our crappy Crap-mas sales over the holiday weekend.

I felt like that Flick kid in "A Christmas Story" as soon as he put his tongue on the lamp post.

"Stuck? Stuck! Waah-hah haaaaaaaW! (painful wails continue).

Short of making an international incident causing u-turn in the middle of the bridge (brown people like me get shot first and get questions asked later when doing anything unusual), I bit my lip and headed into Ontario.

Customs Official: Purpose of your visit.
Prego: Well, I was just going to take a quick trip over to Canadian Tire, but...(Customs Official winces and grimaces...) I think I picked a bad day...
Customs Official: Yeah. I'd say so.
Prego: ... so I'm probably going to pay a visit to my sister in Thorold, ON.
Customs Official: Yeah. You might want to extend your stay a little. Go ahead.

I drove the 20 minutes to Thorold, short of breath... suffocating from feeling trapped in the land of hosers, curling and (shudder...) politesse.

In the meanwhile, the Fletch was chatting me up from the back seat.
"You getting me a hockey helmet? Where's the store, daddy? Am I going to see my cousins, daddy?"

"Yes, buddy. We're close. Yes, buddy."

I pulled into Canadian tire and browsed the aisles for hockey gear. Bingo. On sale, $16 cdn for a pair of elbow pads. Sweet. Now where are those helmets?

I located them in the next aisle. $50 cdn? Jesus! I put one on the Fletch's head, at his request. The vision of my handsome toddler behind the facemask evoked fantasies of the Fletch-Master General leading the Maple Leafs to their first Stanley Cup win since 1967... or becoming a stalwart defenceman for the Edmonton Oilers...

Sh*t like that? 50 scoots is a baaaahr-gain. In the end, it was almost worth getting stuck in Canada, eh?

For the record, I paid my sister and her family a 40 minute visit before I decided to head back to the U.S. I managed to spend an hour and a half in Niagara Falls, inching my way towards and across the Rainbow Bridge, trying to maintain my composure. Remember, brown people like me get shot and get asked questions later.

...Put a Nickel in the Drum...

I'd always thought the Salvation in Salvation Army was derived from the term "salvage", as in "Let's salvage that ratty-ass couch and sell it to some college kid for $15."

At some point I made the connection of "salvation" and jesusness, at which point I stopped buying the $15 couches. It also changed the tone of those little bells some schlep has to peal in front of the local Piggly Wiggly. It started sounding less "Hear ye! Hear ye!" and a bit more "Haaaaa-leluia." In either case, I usually bury my head and dart past, unless I have a pocketful of loose change, in which case I toss them in and pay my holiday tax.

SK Waller, the Incurable Insomniac found a bit of "Haaaaa-leluia" actually made her afternoon. Surprising, since she doesn't seem to beat the jesus drum any more than I do. Ring her bell at this week's roundtable. How do you handle the ringers: avoid eye contact by looking at the road salt and poinsettia displays? Toss in a fiver and say "Bless-sed be thou and thine?" throw them a deke by fumbling for your pockets only to pull out your car keys? The Insomniac might need some pointers. We might lose her to the light side.



... to myself for leaving the digital camera in the back seat of the car.

An O-Dog self-portrait...

...and a snapshot of his brother.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.


Tonight I'm Going to Potty Like It's 1399

Scene #1
I've got a thing about 'dook' . It might be because my mother, frustrated that I kept sh*tting myself at the age of three or four, stuck me (coated in sh*t) in the bathtub and left me there. I don't remember, really. My aunt likes to tell me the story of how she came in and washed me off. The end result is that I get really skeeved out about all things fecal. I have a hypersensitive gag reflex that makes me coil in disgust whenever there are O.P.S.S.s in the toilet basin or if I have to wipe off the stuff I sprayed all over the rim after a night of Old Mil-yuckee and burritos.

I'm one of those guys that likes to mummify his arm with sh*t-tickets before I wipe my soiled ass crack, lest the toilet paper accidentally shift, exposing my index finger and getting a smear across it. Even with this failproof method of avoiding actual contact with excrementum, I still have to wash after a trip to the loo.

That's why I can't understand why the dude whose legs I saw under the toilet stall at the library managed to walk past me at the urinal and exit the facilities without a quick stop at the sink.

The first thought that crossed my grossed-out mind was "How the f*ck do I get out of here without touching any part of that door?"

And no. It mattered not that the gent was wearing wool gloves.

Fortunately there were paper towels on hand. Otherwise I'd have to wait patiently for somebody to enter so I could stick my foot in the door and make a sanitary getaway.

Scene #2
Person A: Did your mother teach you to wash your hands after you pee?
Person B: Of course.
Person A: Mine taught me not to piss on my fingers.

(unenthusiastic rim shot.)

Common 'guy' courtesy mandates that you never leave a hand hanging when a handshake is offered.
(Okay. You know where this is headed.)

Mrs. Prego and I were at the Town Ballroom this past weekend to take in the Supersuckers concert. (Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. More on that later.) I went to the bathroom to void, when whom should I see, but a casual acquaintance. Now the proper etiquette to acknowledge a compàdre in the john is a jut of the chin, followed by a "What's up?" as you shake off the drip.

This guy breached urinal decorum by finishing his piss and immediately giving me a cordial "Hey, what's going on, man?" as he extends his hand out for a shake.

Again, this is not a close friend... Just a guy who traveled the same social circles as I for the past 20 years whom I still occasionally see. Immediately I start hearing those piercing violins from the shower scene in Psycho and my eyes quickly scan his digits for any sign of piss dribble.


The irony of the situation is that historically, extending one's hand either to wave "hello" or for a handshake was a symbol of goodwill that indicated "I am not going to kill you."

Here, then, we have this jester holding out his possibly infested hand for a greeting. I kept imagining all the things that could possibly have happened to his penis... hookers, circus midgets with herpes, gangrene or a mere U.T.I.

I equated the exchange to a banana with those unpleasant, pulpy brown spots that mom made me finish.

I thrust my hand out instintively and gave him a quick shake, making sure I unzipped and pissed with my left hand until I could manage to wash vigorously.

Next time I'm wearing wool gloves.


Sunday Night Four Play! - Volume 10

A friend of mine who was a concert promoter once quipped that if he booked the Afghan Whigs to play in Buffalo, the only ones who'd show up would be "Prego and every girl he ever dated." Yeah, this might have been an unfair joke at the Whigs expense, who at the time might not have had the drawing power of say, Hootie & the Blowfish. Other than what might have amounted to a 'cult following,' the Whigs were a ripple in an ocean of music.

Their six album tenure yielded some outstanding soulful rock before they hung it up in 2001. Nestled among the rough, acerbic guitar-driven tracks were some silky smooth "touch" songs. They were alternately haunting and 'lovely' at the same time.

From their rendition of the Ass Ponys' "Mr. Superlove," (a wife-beater's lament) to their own "Let Me Lie to You" and it's imagery of infidelities, Greg Dulli & co. deliver some unconventionally romantic music. Three of the four tracks register high on the Prego Mellifluous Test™ by including the word "baby" in their lyrics. That's largely why they made their way onto almost every 'mix tape' I made - hence, my aforementioned friend's theory.

This is one for the Georges Dubœuf...

Mr. Superlove mp3
Let Me Lie to You mp3
When We Two Parted mp3
Faded mp3


Instant Hipster: Just Add Ink

About twelve years ago, I was sitting in my mother's living room watching television with my mom and my sister. I scratched my arm, revealing a glimpse of one of my tattoos to my sister. Now nobody in my family except for my brother knew about the encre, since getting inked would invariably piss my old school Venezuelan mother off.

Needless to say that my sister Zilt, Queen of Subtlety, outed me to my mom with a shrilling, "Oh my GAAAAAAAWD!!!! Is that a tattoo????!"

My mother immediately shot a stare in my direction with a look of horror and disappointment.


I had to hem and haw à la Ralph Cramden and began to appease my mom, who was lamenting in Spanish that I did not love her.

"¡Tù no me quieres!"

I had to reveal the tattoos to her, one by one while she asked me why I would do such a thing (followed by a derisive "pendejo.")

The real reason, of course, was to get chicks. When you're an average to dorky looking twenty-something, you pull out all the stops in your endless quest for tail (not that it worked...).

"I'm sorry ma, I do love you. I just thought they'd look cool, that's all."

Though my mom still wasn't happy about it, she soon forgot about them altogether. I had the foresight to get them done above the "unemployment line" (above the short sleeve of a t-shirt), so it's not like they were always in her face.

Now I'm not mentioning this to portray myself as a trendsetter or anything... Nor am I claiming to have put the 'ooh' in cool, but judging by the f*cking Rorschach tests that abound on the haunches, limbs and ankles of our youngsters, I'd say that the ink-fest has run its course.

No longer the mark of a convict, biker, stripper or general ne'er-do-well, tattoos dot the fleshy landscape like barnacles on a cruise ship. Hell, even one of my kid's teachers has a non-descript sh*tty ink job all over her neck. (Something tells me she'll be donning a turtle-neck type gown at her daughter's wedding some day)

Scholars and dolts alike decide to decorate themselves with a myriad of designs. I was DJ'ing at a bar a few years back when some dipsh*t enters the booth, showing off his fresh one.

"Uh, can you play some Black Flag in my honor?" he says as he demonstrates the logo of the punk rock band on his bicep.

"I didn't bring any, bro."

I lied. But I knew if I reached for Damaged or Slip it In I'd be tempted to jam it in his ass sideways. That's one rule for the guys: You don't tattoo a rock band anywhere on your body unless you were in it. There is no guarantee that a Hoobastank, Blink One-Eighty-Crap or Queens of the Stone Age tat will bring back sweet memories.

There's really no way to regulate them. It'd be tough to put together a Tattoo Commission or Review Board:

"Ms. Van Doren, we're happy to approve your request for a caduceus on your shoulder. We realize you're very excited to get into medical school. Congratulations."


"John, I'm getting pretty f*cking sick of these requests for 'tribal' sh*t on the small of the back. I'm denying this one."

Perhaps if this was in existence, I'd have been spared the sight of a water-buffalo pulling up her shirt to reveal, in addition to about 42 lbs of flab hanging over her belt, a crappy tribal job about nine inches above the crack of her ass. This, while she's puffing on a dangling cigarette, dropping her daughter off for kindergarten.

Those ubiquitous and tacky tribal jibbers creep up along with thong shot on our more svelte young ladies, but on occasion you get treated to a tattooed breast. Yeah, that's appealing.

Ladies, it just might be the old-fashioned in me, but the nipple is decoration enough for that titty. Pink, brown... small or the size of a stop sign, we don't care - just tweeze the hairs out. It's good enough. You don't need that jailhouse rose on it.

Maybe I just have to get with the times and be a little more open minded. I suppose I'll also have to stop cringing at those horrid looking facial piercings. You know the ones... where the marginally unattractive decide to make matters worse with a nice stud connecting their upper lip to their nostril.

I must be getting old... or not?

Have we actually changed our collective attitudes on tattoos?


Sunday Evening Four Play! - Volume 9

My friend the Beercan worked at an indie record shop for years. He'd take trade-in CDs in and call us if there was something of interest to any of us.

"I scored you a CD. I don't know if you have it."
"What is it?" I asked.
"It's that Madonna ballads album."
"Oh cool," I said. "I don't have it. I'll come by to pick it up."

That afternoon I stopped into the store to pick up Something to Remember from him.

"You know," he remarks, "you're the only one I know who buys this stuff who's not a 'fella' (gay)."
"Yeah, I figured as much."

I walked out of Home of the Hits knowing that I was the only straight man in the Greater Buffalo Metropolitan Area with the entire Madonna catalogue.

I don't know why, when or how I earned this distinction, but I don't mind it. It got to the point where I'd buy those sh*tty bootleg European singles from the used bin, prompting my friend Marcel to chide, "I can't believe you just spent $4 on a crappy CD just to get another picture of Madonna."

I'll admit, I probably gave the crappy CD one listen, but I think deep down I only got it because of the Beercan's remark - that, and the fact that I'm kind of a completist when it comes to music. In other words, I have to own all the albums of bands I really like.

I found out I'm not alone. Months later, Midge came up in a conversation where my friend Clark admitted that he was also quite the fan. This was rather surprising, since Clark was a fixture in several garage-y type Buffalo bands like the Splat Cats and Doombuggy. He and his wife Tina mentioned that they belong to the "M.U.D. Club."

"Mud club? What's that?" I ask.
"Madonna's Underground Devotees."
"Ah. Count me in."

It's easy to love Midge, just as it is, apparently, to hold her in disdain. She's brash, has a big ego, likes to push people's buttons, shows them big ol' Madonna t*tties proudly and adopts African kids.

Frankly I could give a flying rat f*ck who she adopts or why. Hell. Some kid growing up in a sh*thole essentially just won the lottery. I'd feel bad for him if he had to grow up with Oprah or Mia Farrow or something.

The music? Yeah, there's the occasional clunker, but on the whole... sh*t. She's been around for twenty years for a reason. When the Club Karaoke was the hot-spot for us, yours truly regularly warbled selections from Midge's works, like La Isla Bonita and Borderline -- much to the amusement of my friends and the chagrin of the emcee.

"Um, Prego... perhaps next time you can pick something in your vocal range."

Here is a small selection of some of the rarer tracks along with Crazy for You. I had to include that one, because honestly I think that's where it began. Watching the classic Matthew Modine film Vision Quest, I caught a glimpse of Madonna briefly on screen - 'it' shifted in my underwear while I thought, "Who's that?"

Enjoy. Perhaps Clark and Tina's M.U.D. Club will gain some new membership.

Hanky Panky mp3
Crazy For You mp3
Another Suitcase in Another Hall mp3 (with Antonio Banderas)
Something to Remember mp3


My Christmas Was in June

I stopped into the local Starbucks today, on the way to work. I seldom carry cash, and it's the only neighborhood coffee shop that doesn't have the $3-5 minimum purchase requirement for debit card purchases.

I'm very conscious of music, so whenever I walk into a place it's usually the first thing that registers. It sounded eerily like the kind of 19th Century European churcy music that makes caucasoids feel warm and fuzzy in December.

"Is this Christmas music?" I ask the Plain Jane standing in queue in front of me.
"I think so," she responds, motioning for me to notice all the snowmen and Crapmas knickety-knackety sh*t for sale. "It's a little early for me."

"Me too," I replied.

The line breezed through pretty quicky and I was up to bat.

"Large coffee, please."

The clerk turns around to pour the beverage and returns to the counter. "Can I get you anything else?"

"No thank you," I say as I hand over my charge card.

He runs the card through, turns around and says, "Venti Christmas blend. $1.90. Happy holidays."

The fist thing that struck me was that he actually corrected me and my 'order' with the "venti" thing, but it took me an extra few seconds to process the f*cking "Christmas" remark.

I stood perplexed, looking at the bright red paper cup, the snowflakey sleeve and my credit card in my hand, feeling like I just got a reach-around from Tiny Tim's mother. Then my eyes started darting around the place, waiting for Santa or Frosty or some other Christmas a**hole to come by to add some holiday flavour to this nightmare.

I left in a daze, trying to ascertain whether the three weeks after election day had been cancelled without my notice. I chuckled to myself as I made my way to the exit as another patron smiled at me and said, "I know."

And god chafe us, everyone.

Firmly Insert Foot in Yap...

Hairshirt's Joe Wack hosts this week's and asks us to hark back to a moment in miserable existence where we might have said something we wish we hadn't - not something necessarily offensive, just something that might have made us feel plain dumb.

Heh. I remember getting set up in the sh*tter in high school, where a couple guys started in on talking about a guy I didn't know very well, but didn't much care for. I decided to chime in my less than favourable opinions on the chap and probably used a few expletives do describe him when he comes out of the stall, saying, "You guys don't know what the f*ck you're talking about."

I felt about an inch tall.

Pay Josephus a visit and 'fess up. What's the dumbest thing that was ever expelled from your voicebox and how much of a jackass did it make you seem?


The Return of the Four Play! - Volume 8

There's a window of about 8 to 10 years in a guy's life where music plays a crucial role... usually. Right about half-way through high school you gravitate towards a particular personal style, and with it comes the soundtrack of your youth. You could've been one of those turtlenecked choads, writing sub-par poetry in a leather bound blank book who cut your teeth on Philip Glass; or an maybe you were an unfortunate soul with hessian hair and an affinity for the bong stylings of Sabbath or Zeppelin.

Perhaps you were one of the stinky hippie types that caught the tail end of the Grateful Dead and are still wearing tie-dye t-shirts and doing "'shrooms, dude." Almost everyone else moves on... shelves the Twisted Sister records, gets a job they hate barely enough, weds and spends the afternoon raking leaves and fixing the washing machine.

Once in a while you dust off the turntable or CD player and hark back to simpler times: before the squabbles with the spouse and dinners at the in-laws -- where you could take the fifteen bucks in your pocket and buy the new album by 38-Special rather than a 48-pack if Luvs or Huggies. You'll find that you outgrew most of your music collection, but there is always a small handful of albums that are both timeless and nostalgic. Yeah, Venom and Morbid Saint might suck ass to listen to now on the way to work, but for some reason you could still listen to Megadeth.

Me? Out of the muck that was the mid-80s there are several albums and artists that I can still listen to. Some of it still speaks to me as an adult, but nothing makes me feel like a kid more than the Descendents.

Their playful lyrics, catchy choruses & rudimentary harmonies take me back to a time when all I had to worry about was meeting girls - all I had to do was hang out with friends and all I owed was one months' rent in a sh*tty college apartment.

Drummer Bill Stevenson and vocalist Milo Aukerman are two of the most talented songwriters ever to fly under the radar. They helped us recover from sh*tty girlfriends and made us daydream about meeting the next. They included tracks full of their own farts (gotta love a band that appreciates toilet humor). Their songs melted away the miles on road-trips with as we sang along at the top of our lungs - a tradition that I've maintained with the O-Dog, who can sing all of "Clean Sheets."

Enjoy... but I ask: What takes you back?

Silly Girl
Clean Sheets


Mille Grazie

Recently, the O-Dog and I sent off another original O-Dog design on a tog for Jaques Roux from the brilliant but oft-dormant Hubris & Hate blog. (Understandably the homes is in law school. What's a brother gonna do if he gots to study). As a thank you, Mr. Roux was generous enough to send 4 lbs. of Hershey, PA chocolate.

Here's the O-Dog's design. Somehow I felt it went perfectly with Mr. Roux's blog and his current role as a student.

On behalf of the O-Dog, the Fletch and our family dentist, merci beaucoup, bro. And thank you for patronizing my little dude's art.


From the Annals of "My B*tch Can Beat Up yo' B*tch"

Trick-or-treaters around here usually include neighborhood kids and an influx of kids from Buffalo's 'less affluent' neighborhoods. Not that this is a problem by any means, but along with them come older teens with no costumes, and an even bigger chafe: twenty and thirty-something women holding out bags to fill.

Usually I give a handful of treats to the little ones and then a piece of candy to the aforementioned scavengers. My neighbor is less tolerant. While doling out the goods he'll take one look at a questionable costume and inquire, "What are you supposed to be?"

"A football player," responds the costumeless teen, holding a football.

"I don't think so. Get off my porch."

In years past I've had some sh*theel in a Barry White voice at my door scrutinizing the candy and inquiring, "You ain't got no chocolate? I don't like those."

[F*ck you, a**hole] "Nope. No chocolate."

Fortunately this year's trick-or-treaters were largely legit, with a couple of twenty/thirty-something heifers partaking in the festivities... which leads us to the highlight of the evening.

Mrs. Prego was out with the kids, along with our friend Nicole and her son. After a block or so their paths with some older heavy hitters on their cell phones telling their friend, "Yeah, we're in the rich neighborhood getting some good candy."

Things got a little heated after a while as these broads got a little aggro, shoving past kids and complaining. "Mother f*cker gave me pixie sticks. Probably got anthrax in it."

Meanwhile, Mrs. P did her best to ignore them, snapping pictures of our kids. After a while the heifers took exception to that. "Is she going to take pictures at every house?"

At the next house one of them mumbles to the other, "Hold on, it's picture time."

"Excuse me. Do you have a problem with me taking pictures of my children on Halloween?"

"I wasn't talking to you!" came the response.
"No, but you were talking about me."

After that I'm sure there was the typical posturing and "bitch" lobs that accompany such encounters and they parted ways without further incident.

As Mrs. P retold me the story I ask, "Was she bigger than you?"

"Oooh. You don't tangle a**holes with the heavy hitters. She would have kicked your ass."

The missus is from South Buffalo Irish stock, but she grew up in the 'burbs so I doubt she's ever been in a physical altercation with anyone.

"There were other people around," she replied.

"Nicole?" I said. "She's scrawny."

It reminded me of the scene in Dazed and Confused when the Mike Newhouse character decides to stand up to drunk bully Clint at the kegger. He figures he can get one swing, theorizing that the onlookers would break up the fight before Clint delivers a painful reprisal.

The onlookers, much to the disappointment of Mike Newhouse, watched idly as Clint delivered an ass-kicking before anyone intervened. I have no doubt the missus would have suffered a similar fate.

Well, fortunately for Mrs. P it never came to that. I'm willing to wager that the 250 lb. sister would have wiped the sidewalk with the missus. I'd have to teach the boys to feed mommy through a straw and I'd have to wipe her ass for her.

On the plus side, if she ever 'vents' on me or throws one of her patented tirades because I didn't help her with the house work I could always pull the plug.

Just kidding. I'm proud of you, baby. You've got cojones.