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Screwin' and Strokin' 

An odd contest and a drunk band

Early last week, I got an e-mail from Wilson, the popular radio personality from WRFX 99.7. The one-named host was putting on something he referred to as a "Screw-off," and invited fellow Loafer Tara Servatius and me to be celebrity judges. I told him he might want to reconsider referring to yours truly as a celebrity -- was Mark Mathis out of town? -- but readily agreed anyway. (Not that it mattered -- later on, a lady came up to me and commented that "she just loved my show." I didn't have the heart to correct her.)

The contest was a tournament of sorts, with the goal being to zap 10 screws into a piece of drywall in the shortest possible time. Servatius and I basically were there to make sure people didn't cheat, and to throw out some free shwag to the audience from time to time. If you've never stood on a raised stage waving something above your head and having a large mass of people go nuts, I'm here to tell you, you haven't lived. It's easy to see how people could get addicted to this sort of thing. Thankfully, I ran out of "I've got Lance in my pants" T-shirts before the whole Cult of Personality thing went too far.

Finally, it was down to two people -- the fastest screwer to receive a $5,000 gift certificate to Lowe's (whoever thought being a fast screwer would be a good thing?). The guy on my side of the stage finished first, and then stepped back. "You've only got nine," I told him, and he dutifully zapped in one more and took the competition. I figured I saved the guy $5,000, and maybe he'd drop me a few greenbacks for my kindness. As I went to shake his hand, though, he made an about-face and raised his hands to the crowd instead, leaving me clutching air (hey, you meet the same people on the way down as you do going up, buddy!).

At one point, Wilson asked Tara and me if we were wearing any green. Not on the outside, I said, before pulling down my jeans a bit to show my boxer shorts. Wilson spurted: "Too much information!" and quickly turned away in a fluster. It dawned on me that WRFX is part of the Clear Channel family of broadcasting.

I nervously scanned the side of the stage, looking for FCC officials. "Wardrobe malfunction," I said, and quickly beat a path out of there.

Saturday evening, I headed to see the NYC-based buzz band The Strokes. I'd painted an unflattering portrait of the band in the music section of this paper earlier in the week, and so I entered the Grady Cole Center with some trepidation. What if some would-be hipsters spot me, and try to kick me to death with their band-approved Converse All-Stars? Or strangle me in the lush growth of their Anglo-afros? I toughed it out anyway.Good thing, since I was probably one of the biggest -- and oldest -- people there. This probably explains why I didn't raise my hand in a devil sign every time lead Stroke Julian Casablancas cursed out the audience, or slurred his way through some drunken aside that ended up going nowhere (or ended up introducing a song, which then went nowhere).

It's not that the songs themselves weren't fun, but rather everything else that came along with them. The group came on about 45 minutes late, either due to copious backstage quaffing or the fact that the band's entire catalogue only lasts a little over an hour. Fellow Big Apple alum Frank Sinatra sang his heart out on the PA -- I did it myyyyy way -- before the house lights went down, and the band finally appeared. Sinatra was, of course, Francis Albert Sinatra -- he earned the right to do it his way, or someone else's way if the spirit so moved him.

The Strokes? Not yet, at least. Going on late didn't bother me, but it did seem to bother one group of people -- the snakelike line of parents sitting in their cars outside. As I walked to my car, I heard plenty of cussing, and for once it wasn't coming from inside the arena.

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