Friday, March 09, 2007

In which Birdmonster redefines a popular term

As to where the acronym "SNAFU" originated, there are competing accounts. The publication American Notes and Queries first noted the term in 1941 with the PG-rated, truncated definition: "situation normal." By 1944, with World War II in full swing and the U.S. Army mobilizing at historic levels, the term gained popularity and spread quickly, later to join the American vernacular sometime after the war. It's probably common knowledge, but, in case not, a definition: "situation normal all fucked up." The acronym allowed for military men to politely spew invective at bureaucrats, their commanding officers, and each other, without all that nasty cursing and insubordination, which leads to discipline, which leads to court marshalling, which leads to Jack Nicholson screaming "You can't handle the truth." Obviously, a useful word.

Of course, Birdmonster has it's own version. We just say "Arizona."

For the sake of argument, let's recount the episodes that have befallen us in John McCain-land, shall we? When travelling with the venerable Art Brut, we blew a hose on our radiator near Yuma and were detained by the Border Patrol and their canine-unit, whose olfactory powers are, well, phenomenal. Our next trip was the one I noted yesterday, where, while waiting at that same fateful checkpoint, the transmission on Patrick Stewart gave up the ghost. All manner of SNAFUs followed (auto-wrecking yards, hundreds of dollars spent on cabs, various transport options pissing coolant after a three mile test drive) and we eventually made it to the dealership where we bought our new van, whose unstoppable glory had been confirmed time and time again. Until, of course, last night. All together now: "Arizona."

Before continuing any further, I need to mention that the people in Arizona are lovely. When our radiator hose broke, it was fixed on the cheap by a gentleman who dropped everything else he was doing to save our tuchises. The old dude who sold us the Donald wasn't bent on ripping off four scrubby kids who showed up at his dealership in a taxi, smelling of failure and dejection. The fans here are always supportive and understanding and, even as I write this, we've been lucky enough to have a cozy home to use as our lair for the latest adventure in desert-flavored frustration. Like I said: good people. Like I also said: Arizona.

And you'll be hearing both of those sentences again, by the way.

So, we got to the club a bit early, relaxed, opened up some horrible wine that had been gathering vintage in the van since last month, and, eventually, loaded our gear into Modified Arts. Upon realizing we hadn't eaten yet, we decided to jump in the van, drive down the street at random, and stop at the eatery that looked least likely to give us dysentary. And this is where the unpleasantness starts. Not so coincidentally, it's where the van doesn't.

My automobile knowhow essentially ends after "gas on the right, brake's on the left," so, I was surprised as anyone that the simple suggestion of a jump start turned out to be all we needed. Pete & I picked up some sandwiches, drove in circles in an attempt to charge the battery, and returned, listening to "Astral Weeks," feeling vaguely optimistic.

Of course, this is what the next few hours brought along with them:

- Bass amp implodes on stage, devolves into 50 pound paperweight
- Van refuses to start again
- While looking at the engine, van hood slams Peter's arm
- The crushing of Peter's forearm fails to fix engine problem
- Further attempts at jumping van lead to much swearing and cackling, largely by yours truly
- Strange band inside nearly ODs on hallucinigens, throws blanket on crowd, and invites crowd to get naked under blanket
- Van gets towed
- Vague optimism replaced by feeling of impending storm of horseshit

But like I said: good people live in Phoenix. Everyone at the show was more than patient with the on-stage SNAFUs and were chatty and calming afterwards. Our van was towed to the house of a gentleman named Kevin, with whom we were internet friends, but had never met before, and, well, thank God he stays up late. Apparently, just the news we were coming in town caused his refrigerator to blow a fuse, but he treated us to Bud Lights from the sink anyway, and we listened to music, pet his chunky, wonderful cat, and slept like babies.

Here's the head-slappingly stupid part: Charlie, our tow-truck driver, after about ten minutes, diagnosed the problems under the hood, and said he'd have no problem fixing the Donald in the morning. A new starter, some new solenoid, maybe a new cable for our corroded battery and we'd be good as new. He said: "Call me up at 8 and I'll come by and fix it." We did. He'd be there by 1. No problem. In the meantime, Zach and Dave called the cab company, who sent some sort of lunatic with dual Confederate flag tattoos on either forearm (and who also went to bat for Olive Garden, so, really: take a nap), and picked up the starter, the solenoid, the new battery cables. Optimism, slowly, reared its naive, little noggin.

Needless to say, like some cable man from hell, the Charlie just didn't come. We called, he called, we called, he called, and suddenly, it's 3:30 and the van is still sitting in the street, although it's halfway down the street because we had to move it so some dude spraying roof foam didn't ruin our paint job. It rains, it pours.

Skip forward to now. It's 7:30, the Charlie dropped his friend, one of those mechanics that chain-smokes inside the hood and makes me feel like I should be cowering behind protective glass like one of those guys on Myth Busters, and that guy fixed the van, and we left, and now we're sitting in horrendous traffic but we'll make it to Tucson on time, exasperrated, frustrated, but we'll make it. Of course, Tucson's in Arizona, so we aren't out of the woods yet. Or out of the desert, as the case may be.

The moral? Say what you will about Tokyo, but Phoenix is the most expensive city on the planet.

12 comments:

Dahlgren's Daddy said...

Wasn't there an X-Files epidode based on this?

Kevin said...

Oh, man. Don't give up on the Grand Canyon State yet.

Besides, you guys were better guests than my own friends. In the words of my wife, who I think was expecting the sure signs of rockstardom -- overturned furniture, scattered lines of cocaine, urine-stained carpet -- when she came home: "They can stay here anytime." Let it be known the Birdmonster boys are well-behaved and clean up after themselves. They deflated and folded (FOLDED!) the air mattress. Next time, I might even SEE your show.

Conquer your Arizona demons and return. That is the only way. And, if all goes as planned, Bud Light may come directly from a functioning refrigerator. Mmmmm.

Best of luck on the tour.

SindrePB said...

If you keep up the hilarious blogging, you might soon get me wishing for "Arizona".

bluebird said...

i really appreciated the historical explanation for "SNAFU."

Grant said...

Sigh. I should have been there. We could have been like Spinal Tap. If I ever do go on tour with you, I'm taking my own car.

oscar the orca said...

I myself never did trust a state where winter is like summer, and summer is like being roasted on a spit. I'm sending you some good vibes right now, so they should be there in a few hours or so. Hopefully they won't get stuck in traffic or break down along the way.

Sabrina said...

Oh this sucks guys. I'm sorry to hear that you've experienced more van troubles. Just think when you guys blow up you'll have a nice tour bus and this will all actually be funny!
Lots of Love

birdmonster said...

DD: The only X-Files I really remember was that one with the freaky, inbred Appalachian hillbillies who looked like wax people and terrorized Scully to no end. In other words, anything's possible.

Kevin: Thanks again. You were our own personal savior (no offense JC). And just don't tell your wife we peed in your closet.

SPB: I did in fact use "Arizona" yesterday when I almost poked Peter's eyeball out with a high-hat stand. The vernacular has been updated.

Bluebird: My pleasure. I enjoy done learning people stuff.

Grant: That's a good choice. I'd skip us is Arizona though. Our luck could rub off and you'd return a double amputee. No one wants that.

Oscar the Orca: I think we got those vibes somewhere in Tucson where everything changed for the better. Maybe it was just coincidence. I'd rather think the former though.

Sabrina: Minor van troubles though. The idiocy was waiting for the Charlie when a mechanic anywhere could've saved our hides in 30 minutes for $50 more. We live, we learn. Sometimes.

birdmonster said...

DD: The only X-Files I really remember was that one with the freaky, inbred Appalachian hillbillies who looked like wax people and terrorized Scully to no end. In other words, anything's possible.

Kevin: Thanks again. You were our own personal savior (no offense JC). And just don't tell your wife we peed in your closet.

SPB: I did in fact use "Arizona" yesterday when I almost poked Peter's eyeball out with a high-hat stand. The vernacular has been updated.

Bluebird: My pleasure. I enjoy done learning people stuff.

Grant: That's a good choice. I'd skip us is Arizona though. Our luck could rub off and you'd return a double amputee. No one wants that.

Oscar the Orca: I think we got those vibes somewhere in Tucson where everything changed for the better. Maybe it was just coincidence. I'd rather think the former though.

Sabrina: Minor van troubles though. The idiocy was waiting for the Charlie when a mechanic anywhere could've saved our hides in 30 minutes for $50 more. We live, we learn. Sometimes.

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