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c u l t u r e oct 2007

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tall bikes 07 bar tips 09 local film maker jack bennett 11 gogol bordello 15



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STAFF David Franusich Graphic Design & Photography Dave is a local freelance graphic designer and photographer. He studied design at Virginia Tech and works in both the print and web mediums. Christina O’Connor Photography & Graphic Design Christina has been freelancing as a photographer in the region since graduating from Virginia Tech in 2005. She currently photographs for The Roanoke Times, The Chronicle for Higher Education and Dance Magazine. Michael “Flash” Clark Feature Writer Flash is a Virginia Tech graduate and regular opinions columnist for the Collegiate Times. He wrote for The Commonwealth Times as an undergraduate at VCU, and has published his poetry in Text magazine. Trained in the martial art of Akido, he has worked as a bouncer and knows the ins and outs of Blacksburg’s nightlife. Brandiff R. Caron Columnist Brandiff is scheduled to receive his PhD in Science and Technology Studies in 2008 from Virginia Tech. He was, until very recently, the managing editor of the MIT Press Journal ‘Perspectives on Science’. Currently, Caron teaches introductory Ethics classes at Tech. He is also the lead singer for the successful local punk rock group ‘Lee Street Riots’. Dominique Funeral Columnist Dominique studies Interdisciplinary Studies with focuses in Women’s Studies, Women’s Leadership, and Gender, Science & Technology. She is active in the on-campus women’s group, Womanspace, which organizes the “Take Back the Night” rally and march every spring, as well as other events on campus. She is also a member of the band The Two Funerals, an actively feminist band that has been gigging regularly since 2004. Danny Phillips Comix Danny (aka Kuru) is a painter and comix creator who recently relocated to Boulder, Colorado after breaking out of his hometown of Radford. He is currently exhibiting his work at U.Va’s Newcomb Gallery in Charlottesville. Check him out at CONTRIBUTORS FOR OCTOBER ISSUE Bryce Chalkley - Local Music Bryce studies English at Virginia Tech. James DeMarco - Fitness Writer James is the owner of Runabout Sports and coaches track and crosscountry for Blacksburg High School.

It feels utterly like home on my front porch in the warm opening of Autumn; beside me the Hokies are on the radio. The hair on my arms stand when I hear the crest of a roar from Lane Stadium a split second before Bill Roth raises his radio-voice calling a Vince Hall sack. A half-mile away, I imagine a sea of orange ruffling like a flag in the wind in the bleachers. Darth Vader’s cape rustles in my mind when the Highty-Tighties plays a Star Wars theme. Back on the porch, Pete the dog finds a place to lounge in the sun. Not completely unaware, his ears perk up to the sound. Downtown, the game is on the TV above the bars and tables, and the bartenders and wait-staff recognize the mellow time, the calm before a storm. They know that when the floodgates of Lane open, pouring the crowd down Washington Street to Draper and Main towards celebration and refreshment, that it will be the beginning of a long, loud and, most importantly, lucrative night. Tyrod throws an interception as Glennon paces the sidelines. The Hokies are off to a slow start, but I imagine they’ll come around. In the living rooms of the sprawling undergraduate apartment complexes, those not at the game are drinking cans of beer and lounging on couches, maybe playing Tiger Woods or Madden on the TV beside their TV. They’ve got a handful of parties when the sun goes down, where the yellow beer will be flowing into plastic red cups to the sounds of squeaky pumps. Hopefully that girl from class will be there. Hopefully the kegs won’t tap-out too early. It’s halftime and the sounds of a herd of fans are echoing off the stone columns underneath the bleachers as they head toward the smell of hot dogs, pretzels, and turkey legs. Now is the time to beat the traffic and run weekend errands or go to the grocery store to buy dinner groceries. It is the time to have a comfortable bike-ride or take the dog for a walk In the dorms and libraries, the studious are getting a head-start on that paper while others are putting it off until Sunday. In the labs and at their computers, the graduate students are wondering what the big deal is about moving a football back and forth across the field. There are three or four rock shows tonight, and the bands are wondering who is going to show up. “He still has legs and he’s looking downfield,” Roth raises his voice in excitement. He’s a new young quarterback, and the Hokies quietly slip by for a too-close-for-comfort victory as I tune the radio to WUVT. For me and many others, it’s just another day in the 16 Blocks. This debut issue is dedicated to my family. My two beautiful sisters, my steadfast dad, and my mom who had a downtown store where I’d spend summers as a kid, getting comics at the Hobby Shop, and feeding quarters into the games at Arnold’s Arcade. Hart Fowler Publisher



16 BLOCKS MAGAZINE: Blacksburg Arts and Culture October Issue #1

b l a c k s b u r g

a r t s


c u l t u r e oct 2007

Shaun Carrol inks custom designs that nurture his client’s image-inspirations into one-of-a-kind tattoos.

Contact us for subscription rates, general questions, corrections, if you’re interested in submitting short stories for our Logos Section, questions for Dear Dominique, ideas for Ethos, letters to the Editor, or if you just want to say hey. 16blocksmagazine


COPYRIGHT: No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

Our Q and A with Shawn O’Neill, the tall bike builder who pedals to the beat of a different drummer.

COVER Photo Illustration by Christina O’Connor

07 Feature-Writer Flash Clark compiled 16 things to help you stay on good terms with your bartender.



Familiar locations for Blacksburg residents and familiar themes for twenty-somethings are the setting and subject of Jack Bennett’s movies.

03 Ethos: Philosophy & Ethics 05 Dear Dominique Funeral 05 Know Your Rights 08 A Fine Jog 10 Know Your Bartender 15 Gogol Bordello comes to Blacksburg 16 Alliens Have Landed 17 Logos: Poetry & Literature 22 Calendar

16 Blocks is for the dishwashers, the clerks, the baristas, the cooks, the drivers, the staff, the waitresses, the bouncers, the managers, the bartenders, the cashiers, the landscapers, and the out-of-work loungers. 16 Blocks is in the scene.

NEXT MONTH: Four Minute Film Festival Winners take on a new project

16 Blocks is for the undecided undergraduates, the four and outers, the lingering graduate students, the serious researchers, the thesis and dissertation writers, the young professors and TAs, the community college commuters. 16 blocks is young Blacksburg . 16 Blocks is for the locals, the weekend visitors, the transplants, the young professionals, those waiting for a gig and the “been-here-too-longers.”

Moped vs. Bike Gangs

From Heather Drive to the top of Harding. From Ellet Road to Mount Tabor.

International Page

16 Blocks is you.

Bouncer Tales Pete Sforza’s satellite art

concepts. responsibilities. analyisis.

In Defense of the Casual ‘Piggybacker’ Imagine you have no electricity and thus no lights in your house at night. Luckily you have a neighbor who purchases electricity and keeps incredibly bright lights on all night. These lights are so bright they shine through your window illuminating your living room enough for you to be able to read. Your neighbor could draw the shades and block the light from coming into your house at any time, but for one reason or another does not. Because of this lucky accident, you decide not to purchase electricity of your own since all you ever really use the electricity for is to do some light reading anyway. Should we say in this situation that you are stealing light from your neighbor? We might have to if we agreed with many of the reasons given for why ‘piggybacking’ on other people’s wireless internet connections is wrong.

wireless connection on a typically underused home internet connection there is zero difference in terms of connectivity. In cases where many people use the same connection I can easily agree that my analogy fails, but still maintain that in cases where only a small amount of people are sharing a connection, the analogy holds. This, especially in a small town like Blacksburg, is not an infrequent occurrence. The Ethics of “Piggybacking” According to recent legislation, using a wireless connection that is not your own can result in legal action. According to a source deep inside the Department of Justice, “It’s not yours and you’re taking it. This is theft plain and simple.” Sounds reasonable right? Wrong.

One might object to my analogy by claiming that wireless is unlike light in that the more you use of it, the less there is. This, however, is only true to a point. If one additional person uses the same

Let’s explore the reasoning. According to our source, the reason why using another person’s wireless internet is wrong is because you are tak-

ing something that is not yours. This, in turn, is taken to constitute theft. In order for this line of reasoning to hold, it would have to be the case that each time one found an instance of a person taking something that is not theirs one also finds a case of theft. Are all cases in which a person takes something that is not theirs theft? No. If you use the light that comes out of another person’s window to read a book are you stealing their light? If you use the warmth coming from the window of a bakery to warm your hands on a cold day, are you stealing their heat? If you read a newspaper over the shoulder of a stranger are you stealing the words on the page? Of course not. So, the reason our source gave for the immorality of wireless piggybacking fails. But, there may be another reason one could have for seeing piggybacking as stealing. Let’s see if we can’t put to rest these charges by focusing on the concept of ‘stealing’ itself. What is it to steal something from someone else? As we just saw there is more to the concept than simply taking something that is not yours. Can someone steal something from someone else without taking anything away from them? Doesn’t seem likely. The worst thing about being stolen from is that you no longer have something that you had before. But, in the case of a casual ‘piggybacker’ of Wi Fi, the person who is having something taken from them is no worse off. They have the same thing they did before. Can this even be said to be stealing at all? Many localities are beginning to come around. Instead of fining the people who do the ‘piggybacking’ (as in several cases in London recently) some localities in New York are now fining people who leave networks open. This is because of the potential for misuse of the internet and the resultant inability to track people if they are an unauthorized user on another person’s network connection. Many people simply appeal to this potential problem as the reason why piggybacking is wrong. Of course, child pornography, internet fraud, and spamming are bad things and the possibility that an open connection could be used in such a way is a really good reason to protect your connection. But...piggybacking in and of itself does not necessarily imply that these things will happen and thus can’t place any moral disapprobation on the casual non-pedophiliac ‘piggybacker’. It instead places the responsibility on the person who leaves a connection open. So, the moral of the story is…lighten up. There’s really no big problem when someone uses a connection that’s not their own to check email occasionally. In fact, it seems pretty clear that it’s not stealing (at least in the traditional sense) at all. If you are a habitual ‘piggybacker’ that uses other people’s internet connections to play World of Warcraft 24 hours a day. Stop! You’re giving the rest of us ‘casual piggybackers’ a bad name. Yours in Discourse, Brandiff Caron

03 16 Blocks

SHAUN CARROL’S EASYGOING, enthusiastic and likeable demeanor is one reason why he’s booked two to three weeks in advance. Another is the superb quality of his custom work. “Part of me likes to work on the fly, but another part of me likes to be prepared,” he said. “If I can sit on it for awhile, I can see things that I didn’t before.” Shaun said when he left Ancient Art Tattoo’s downtown shop to open Hot Rod Tattoo way down South Main Street that it was nothing personal. He just wanted to indulge his passion for custom designed tattoos, and break away from situations where the customer picks prefabricated designs off of the wall.

shaun carrol of hot rod tattoo. photos christina o’connor

It’s like comparing a band that plays your favorite coversongs to a band that writes their own. Shaun wanted to have a more active part in the creative aspects of the medium. “Up here and away from downtown I get to do more sleeves, more backwork, and larger pieces,” he said. “I have more clients, and I have the freedom to schedule sessions any time.” One of Shaun’s regular clients is Jeff Mangold, who has spent 120 hours under Shaun’s needle. “He’s someone you go to if you’re looking for a one-of-akind piece of work,” Mangold said. “He takes a concept and top-shelves it. He did that to me, and I hear it echoed from other people around town.”

Mangold said: “He taught me something new about the process of tattoing as being something that doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting.”

october 2007


With Blacksburg Police Captain Bruce Bradberry Dear Dominique,

Dear Dominique,

I lost touch with my mom as a child when my parents separated. I grew up knowing her through old photographs of her burning her bra and holding abortion rights and equal pay signs at rallies. As a college student, I feel the same inclinations to be active in the feminist community. I’m sure things have changed over the years, but I’m not aware of any of the issues that modern-day feminism addresses. Is it still Roe V Wade and equality in the workforce? And are there any new issues for feminists in the 21 st century that weren’t around back then?*

I had a date with a girl where we watched a movie at my place. When the movie ended it was well after midnight, and I offered to walk her home. She took offense to this, and thought that I was insinuating that she couldn’t look out for herself, whereas I was just worried about her safety. Was I in the wrong, or disrespectful? If so, how could I have acted differently?*

I believe all the issues your mother faced are still pertinent today. Roe V. Wade is under attack in many states as we saw in the attempt to ban abortion in South Dakota, and the latest federal abortion ban. What your mother and other feminists fought so hard for is being undone – something definitely still worth fighting for as a 21 st century feminist. Equality in the workforce is still an issue – women still make an average of 75 cents to a man’s dollar for equal work. Sexual harassment is also an issue in the workplace. Other than those, many other things that seem minor are signs that sexism still exists and needs to be fought – sexist jokes, advertisements that dehumanize women, and animalize women of color, survivors of sexual assault and rape not being believed, and so on. Feminists in the 21 st century are also much more aware of race and class issues than in feminist movements before, so it is less exclusive than it was in the past. A lot of work has been done, but there is still a lot to accomplish. I would suggest reading Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgarnder and Amy Richards – it lays out these issues for those who are interested in learning about what is important to a modern-day feminist, and their other book Grassroots gives lots of good ways to be a feminist activist if you decide you feel strongly about these issues.

I don’t think there was anything inherently wrong about offering to walk her home, but I can empathize with her for getting upset. Women are subject to tons of propaganda to make them paranoid about sexual violence, from chain e-mails sent out with stories of violence, to articles with tips on how to avoid rape. These tend to place the blame on the woman, instead of the rapist. For instance if a woman doesn’t follow the tips, and walks home alone or something else deemed dangerous for women to do, and something happens to her, it’s her fault. So the blame is on the choice the woman made, instead of the choice the rapist made. The funny thing about this paranoia concerning stranger rape is that it is the least common type. She was more likely to be raped by you (not that you would, just statistically) than if she had walked home alone. Date rape is a huge problem, especially on college campuses. I don’t know how you replied when she was offended, but next time you see her you could tell her you didn’t mean to offend, but that you were just worried about her safety. We are all subject to worry and paranoia in our society. Maybe next time ask her if she will call you when she gets back to her place, so you know she got there. Or to call her roommate before she leaves so that someone will be expecting her, and will notice if she doesn’t show up in a timely fashion. I definitely don’t think you were being disrespectful. Just remember this situation in the future.

[16B’s] If an officer passes someone walking down the sidewalk with what appears to be an open container of alcohol, how does the officer respond? [Capt. B] It’s up to the officer, drinking in public is against state law, carrying an open container is not. If the person appears to be under 21 then we can ask for ID. [16B’s] What are some actions that would draw an officer’s attention to someone who may be drunk in public? [Capt. B] Staggering, yelling, fighting, beating on stop signs or parking meters or other inanimate objects, throwing up, urinating, lying on the sidewalk. We see that every night. That’s what happens, that’s how people get arrested… There’s 5000 kids downtown on Saturday night and 6 police officers. If you’re a part of the quiet crowd walking home, then you won’t get arrested. [16B’s] What is the BAC level required to receive a drunk in public and what is the usual penalty? [Capt. B] No blood or breath test is required. It’s based on an officer’s experience. It’s just if you appear to be intoxicated, with no blood test, no breath test, no nothing. You go to jail until you’re sober, which is typically for the night and for your own protection. There’s a fine, and it’s a class IV misdemeanor. Most of what we deal with can be described as a college indiscretion, that is until you take a swing cop, then you ‘ll have a criminal history for the rest of your life. [16B’s] On the road, what factors would cause an officer to be suspicious that a driver is intoxicated? [Capt. B] Any type of traffic violation. Looking drunk is a big indicator. If we pass them and they look drunk, or they are weaving or driving without lights on, that is also a sign. That goes for passengers that are yelling or screaming as well. Racing or any other kind of erratic driving would also be a red flag. [16B’s] Do DUI rules apply to bicycles and mopeds? [Capt B.] No [16B’s] What constitutes a noise violation? [Capt B]The town ordinance says you can’t be audible 50 feet from the source, or disturbing other persons. So in an apartment separated by three feet, if someone complains, that’s a violation too. [16 B’s] There seem to have been more noise violations this year than in others, is that a change in the law, or more enforcement of current policy? [Capt B] Both. The law used to require a warning. We haven’t been issuing warnings . We asked for the change, because if eight people live in a house, eight different people can accept warning, which makes for a big revolving door of warnings. [16 B’s] What is the typical penalty?

*Because this is our first issue, these questions were fabricated to give our readers an idea of the kind of topics that Domnique will address. If YOU have a question for Dominique, email us and we might publish it.

05 16 Blocks

[Capt B] There is a fine, maybe some community service. The judge has some discretion.

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october 2007


nearly larger than life. AFTER KNOCKING ON MANY A RUSTY DOOR in many a dark alleyway, after searching dead-end leads and false-starts, the 16B-Team finally sheds light on Blacksburg’s mysterious, burgeoning counter culture of “Tall Bikes”. Through certain undisclosed channels and only after diligent persuasion were we able to track down one of the spearheads of this elusive underground movement, Shawn O’Neill. So what inspired you to create these “tall bikes”? The first person to make one of these was a guy named Mike Stratton. One day I saw Ben Fama riding one his bikes around and we got together and thought,”Hey, we could make a lot more of these things ourselves.” Besides the tall bikes, what are these other bikes you have with you? Two are just the regular tall bikes- one which has a free wheel and the other which is a fixed gear. I also brought what we call a swivel or swing bike, which has a hinge welded to the seat tube that allows the front of the bike to operate independently of the back section of the frame. It’s kind of difficult to ride, but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty fun. The other one is a chopper. You can ride this one with the handlebars backwards or in the regular position. I also have another tall bike at home that is three frames high and two frames long but it hasn’t been ridden in months. How exactly do you put one of these together and where do you get the materials? To make a tall bike you have to weld the bottom bracket of the top bike to the seat tube of the bottom one. Then you generally have to remove the forks from both frames and fit a regular piece of metal tubing into the steering columns and weld it into place. Some of the materials come from local hardware stores, such as the electrical conduit I used for the steering column on this one. Some parts can be traded at the Bike Co-op on Turner Street while others are donated. Some of the frames I found in a dumpster behind a bike shop in my hometown because they had small defects. But I get a lot of the frames from the VA Tech Surplus Property Auctions.

07 16 Blocks

story flash clark

photos christina o’connor

Where did you learn to weld?

What’s a “track position”?

I didn’t know how to weld before I started making these bikes. I got a mig-welder as a gift one year and just went from there. The first bike I made fell apart a few times but by the second one I had gotten the hang of it.

It’s how track racers balance themselves at the beginning of a race to get a faster start. It involves being able to pedal backward and forward to keep balanced. With a freewheel it’s a little more difficult to stop and stay upright.

Are tall-bike builders mostly engineer- influenced student-types, or just people living outside of the box?

So I guess you have to sort of plan your flight path so-to-speak?

We are just people who like riding bikes. We take things that other people might regard as trash and turn them into something cool. The internet helps a lot. We can see what other people are making and what can be done to bikes, which helps give us ideas of our own. I think that maybe more people would ride bikes if it didn’t seem so boring. So that means other people are doing similar things elsewhere?

Yeah either that or rest against a stop sign or light pole, but being so high in the air it makes it a little easier to plan your route because you can see everything. Can you do a wheelie? The bikes naturally are back-weighted because of the way they are made which sometimes makes you do a wheelie, especially when you are going uphill.

Oh yeah. Especially in bigger cities like Seattle, Portland, New York City; I hear there is a tall bike scene in Richmond.

What about gravity? Does it ever concern you?

I’ve heard of some mass cycling group that gets together around here? What is that about?

How do automobiles respond to you? I hope it’s better than the way they treat pedestrians.

Every Friday afternoon a group of us get together in front of Burruss Hall for Critical Mass. It’s a bunch of riders that get together and make a presence on the streets to create biker awareness. The turnout is low sometimes, except on the last Friday of the month, which is the official meeting time for the group.

Actually, being so high in the air cars tend to notice you more. They have more time to respond and I have more time to decide where to go. It’s when people get close to you that things become sketchy. I know where I am going and have already planned for them to keep moving.

Can you build me a 4-wheel monster truck bike? Actually, we thought about mounting two bikes side by side with a concert speaker in the center just for Critical Mass.

I’m more worried about cars.

Local running guru James DeMarco went on the record with 16 Blocks about one of his favorite jogs in the area. I like the Poverty Creek Trail at Pandapas Pond, which is located in Jefferson National Forest five minutes from Blacksburg down 460 towards West Virginia. The Poverty Creek trail is the main trail in Pandapas, and all trails lead in and out of it. The trail is 7.4 miles one-way, and that main route is great because it’s for both the beginner and the advanced runner. You can roll up and down without major climbs. Pandapas is great for the experienced runner too because you can get a really long run in if you go the full distance. Also if you know the Poverty Creek Trail, you’ll have a basic understanding of how all the other trails that comprise Pandapas connect. Another thing about Pandapas is that compared to running here in town, it feels like half the effort because of the scenery, and the time goes by faster. The trail wanders and is relaxing. You kind of get lost in your thoughts. Its also about ten degrees cooler there than here in town. Go online and check out a detailed interactive map of the Pandapas Pond trail system:

It’s kind of like the little sidewalk-waltz pedestrians do with each other sometimes. Yeah. Do people ever give you crazy looks?

[ monster truck bike, okay...] Here’s the obvious question. How do you mount one of these tall bikes? That’s a question we get a lot. That and, “How do you stop?” For a fixed gear bike you just put your foot on a pedal and hop on [like mounting a horse]. With a free wheel, you have to put one of the pedals in the down position and build up speed with one foot like a skateboard. If you have to stop with a fixed gear, you can use the “track position” to balance yourself while not moving.

Oh, definitely, especially on game days. People get increasingly vocal and sometimes shout things. Would you say there is any kind of “Westside Story”-like rivalry between the “Smalls” and “Talls”? No, it’s all about just getting together and having fun riding bikes. So, no choreographed musical knife fights? No. Definitely not.

october 2007


f or k eep in g y ou r b a rt end e r h ap p y . story flash clark

EVERYONE KNOWS that bartenders make great money. However, with that knowledge arises the misconception that through their patronage a customer virtually owns the person behind that bar. We somehow have the idea that these people owe it to us classy and cunning drinkers to be perpetually happy and delighted to serve us up choice swill with deftness. The fact is: People can be idiots. Furthermore, people who have been drinking from the wine-skin are oftentimes a helluva lot less charming and funny than they think they are. It’s not an insult, just an observation from someone who has been on both sides of the bar. After all, if people’s judgment and behavior remained unchanged after two or twelve drinks, then there wouldn’t be that whole, “You are going to prison for killing your passenger and a family of five in a drunk driving accident”-thing. Avid liver killers must keep in mind that these people working to inebriate them are surrounded by impaired individuals every moment of their workday. Imagine having to entertain your drunken Uncle Ed everyday (I love you Uncle Ed). Yeah it’s like that. So here are a few tips to help the would-be drunken charmer to help stay in the good graces of those very wonderful people, bartenders. All advice falls under this one mega rule of thumb. It seems pretty straightforward but there are people out there who die trying to steal underground cable, so this is for them in the event that AEP doesn’t get them first.

09 16 Blocks

Tip # 1: DON’T PISS OFF YOUR BARTENDER.Remember the days of kickball when one kid would bring the ball and then get angry for some reason and storm off with it, effectively ending the game? Drinking at a bar has the same potential so don’t make the man who portions your alcohol at $4 per pour angry lest he storm off with the ball. Tip # 2: DO NOT TAP OR WAVE YOUR CARD OR CASH FRANTICALLY IN THE AIR TO GET THE BARKEEP’S ATTENTION. You are in a bar and not on the trading floor of the NYSE, so chill. Waving anything at them, especially when they’re busy, actually implies to the bartender – “I have no social empathy, please ignore me until my arm gets tired, and then please give me some attitude followed by years of bad service”. Tip # 3: (Following in the vein of Rule # 2) WHEN WAITING TO BE SERVED, FIND A SPOT AT THE BAR AND BE PATIENT. For best results, pretend you are in the doctor’s office and waiting to get some test results back. Wait with monk-like patience wearing a face that says, “Yes I am concerned, but there is little I can do but sit here and feign a smile like everything is cool. However, either way this goes, I am going to need a drink very soon”. Tapping your glass on the counter for a refill implies that you enjoy watching other people getting served before you. Tip # 4: BEWARE THE BOUNCER! Bartenders have a near symbiotic relationship with these guys. A barkeep can be held liable for underage drinkers. Not only do the bouncers maintain an acceptable amount of order in an establishment, they also litigiously protect the bartenders’ best interests, creating a pretty strong bond between the two people.

photos christina o’connor

This having been said, don’t do anything to aggravate the bouncers. If it’s a big dude then you already know what’s going to happen. But even if it’s a small guy, understand this- there is probably a very good reason why someone would hire a smaller bouncer over a larger one. You think watching a 6’3” 260lb man escort a guy out of a bar in a head lock looks ugly, just imagine what it looks like when it’s done by a 5’ 10” - 160lb mixed martial arts trainer who was deployed with the U.S. Marines in Fallujah for a year.

Tip # 5: KNOW HOW TO TIP. Most bartenders have to balance the credit card receipts at the end of the night which means that they can see the amount that customers have tipped them. If you want to be established as a great tipper, pay with a card of some type. Tip modestly throughout the night with cash but save the bulk of the tip for the credit card slip, which will be balanced at the end of the evening. Cash looks good going in a jar but when it comes down to it, having your name next to a big tip is priceless.

It may seem like a popularity contest, but in some ways it is. You need to understand that if you establish a rapport with the bartenders, inevitably the quality of life improves. I know, it’s high school all over again, but this time money makes people popular (oh wait, that’s high school, too).

Tip # 6: GENTLEMEN, PLEASE DO NOT HIT ON THE BARTENDERS. In all likelihood, she is probably dating the insecure yet observant 260lb bouncer watching everything go down from about 10 feet behind you. Asking out a girl is like asking for a job interview anyway, isn’t it? You wouldn’t approach an employer in flip flops and popped collar for a job

Tip # 7: UNLESS YOU’RE A BEATNIK APPLAUDING HIS OR HER READING OF GINSBERG’S “HOWL”, DON’T EVER SNAP YOUR FINGERS AT THE BARKEEP. Tip # 8 NO NAME-DROPPING. They don’t care who you know unless it’s Hamilton, Jackson, or Grant, and to a lesser extent Lincoln or Washington.


TIP # 10: USING GLASSWARE AS ASHTRAYS SUCKS FOR THE BARTENDER WHO HAS TO WASH THEM OUT. Besides, ever drink from a beverage someone extinguished a cigarette in? Tastes good doesn’t it?

Tip # 11: IF YOU ARE BROKE, WHICH HAPPENS SOMETIMES, DON’T ASK, “WHAT IS THE CHEAPEST THING YOU HAVE?” Just ask for a beer list or a PBR, High Life, Natty, or Keystone light. Otherwise you may be handed the pitcher from the keg-o-rator that catches the runoff from the taps.

Tip # 12: TRY NOT TO ARGUE ABOUT WHY YOU NEED AN ID TO DRINK. It’s just a job, nothing personal, and certainly no one would dare tarnish your upright reputation by believing you would lie to drink at a bar. Dig deep down inside yourself and pull out 3 seconds of time to entertain the law.

Tip # 13: DON’T SAY, “YOU MUST BE NEW HERE. NO? WELL I’M HERE ALL THE TIME AND I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU.” Chances are the person has served you before and “being there all the time” has killed the brain cells directly responsible for face recognition. Generally, if you spend more time at the bar than the people who work there, try not to call attention to it.

photos david franusich

hammered by some Kentucky Gentleman, so try not to hit on the lady serving you. It’s just bad game.

Tip # 14: CHAWIN’ON BEECHWOOD-AGED CANCER FLAVORED TOBACCO IS DISGUSTING ENOUGH, but add it to some fermenting saliva-filled Solo cups left for the barkeeps to clean up and it’s enough to make Kenny Rogers puke on his first drink of the evening. TAKE IT WITH YOU! Tip # 15: UNLESS YOU HAVE A DEBILITATING LYCOPENE DEFICIENCY THAT FLARES UP ONLY AT BARS DURING HAPPY HOUR, BARTENDERS HAVE A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING WHY YOU ARE ORDERING A BLOODY MARY AFTER SUNSET. It’s a postchurch service drink for Pete’s sake. Tip # 16: JUST BE COOL. Treat the place you are in like it is your own house, and the people serving you like friends. Do this, and you should be able to exit the place dignified and return welcomed. Remember that the bartenders, most of them that is, are sober for those long blurry nights and though you may not remember the how Gorilla Farts and table dancing fused to create the lump on the back of your head, rest assured that the people working that night do.

16 Blocks saddled up to the bar at the Cafe at Champ’s to talk with one of our favorite bartenders downtown, Pete Jacobs, on his 25th birthday. [16B’s] What do you do when you’re not bartending? [PJ] Well I just graduated from Virginia Tech, so now I’m thinking about what to do after bartending. Right now, I’m just a bartender. My degree was in Psychology but I’m not that interested in Psychology. We’ll see where the world takes me I guess. I’m thinking of moving to California. [16B’s] Why did you take up bartending? [PJ] One of my friends worked here [at Champ’s], and he was telling me about being a bouncer and how much fun it was, about the decent pay and how you get tipped out, and that it was just so much fun. I make ten new friends a day, get paid really well, and I have a lot of freedom and enjoy my time at work [16B’s] What do you think about the current legislation to take smoking out of bars here in Virginia? [PJ] It’s kind of a tricky question. I’ve been to a lot of cities lately that don’t allow smoking and bars are just as busy. And from a nonsmoker’s perspective, it would be fantastic to be able to come home from working eight hours and not smell like an ashtray. I mean, my bed even smells like an ashtray. My clothes that are in the basket next to my work clothes smell like cigarettes for a week. Honestly I wouldn’t mind it one bit. [16B’s] Anything else about bartending that you don’t like? [PJ] Other than the smoking, it’s a really fun lifestyle. But it’s also kind of detrimental to your health. You’re up at all hours and you’re always eating at random times. You work for like 15 hours one day and then you’re off for two days in a row. You don’t know what to do with yourself. The schedule is a little crazy. [16B’s] Does bartending affect your drinking habit? [PJ]My drinking habit has significantly increased since being a bartender. You could probably do a study fairly easily that would show a huge correlation between working in a bar and drinking. Yeah, I’d say it definitely affects your drinking habit. [16B’s] What is your drink of choice?

photo flash clark

[PJ] For me, I’d say grape or cherry vodka, and Red Bull. If a customer

continued on page 19 october 2007


loc al fi lmm ak e r br in gs B la c ks bu r g t o th e b i gsc re en. story hart fowler

IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE ANYTOWN, USA to viewers who don’t know Blacksburg, but watching a Jack Bennett movie for those in and around the 16 blocks could best be described as a familiar experience.

Scenes dealing with misspent youth, unheralded creativity, and twenty-something romance are as familiar to Blacksburg residents as the places where they are shot, be it dinner at The Cellar, or an afternoon beer at The Underground. He will take a familiar foggy walk across the drillfield or hike around Mountain Lake and use them as the setting for macabre tales of murder in a B-grade horror-flick. It may even feel like you live in that apartment where the party sequence in Beast was shot, and that just might be YOU walking down Main Street in the background of a scene from The Goat. With three full-length features in the can, another one in the editing stage, and a new movie in pre-production, Bennett has successfully eschewed New York and Hollywood to develop a burgeoning film career here. Quiet on the 16 Blocks, our de-facto local auteur is about to call “Action.”

11 16 Blocks

Write about what you know. Seated among the flat-screens and high-end gear in Torgersen Hall’s plush New Media Center, Bennett takes his headphones off. He clicks the mouse, freezing the image on the screen. “It’s about that point when you get strained because you’re approaching the time where you can no longer call yourself a young and aspiring whatever,” he said. “You get to a point that you think, ‘Isn’t it about time I became successful with what I’m doing?’” Bennett was not speaking directly of himself, however, but describing the subject of his newest film The Goat. The film is based on a Noah Tyler short story about creative writing graduate students struggling with their identities and lack of success. Bennett continued voicing the internal conflict of the film’s characters. “Is this what I should’ve been doing with my life? What sacrifices have I made? Did I give up too much, or do I even want to be a writer? Do I even enjoy it anymore?” It is clear that Bennett has answered these questions for himself. He speaks confidently, keeping

photos christina o’connor

the natural feeling of self-doubt that surely comes with being a 29-year-old filmmaker working out of Blacksburg. And if Bennett’s newly finished film is semi-autobiographical, he has clearly left that transitional stage of his life behind. Write about what you know is the line. Looking back at his body of work, it becomes apparent that Bennett has done just that.

Walking Shadows both on and off the screen. Bennett stands tall above a red sea of empty seats in the darkened Lyric Theatre, his voice echoing off the dark screen, tall walls, and looming balcony. He is much at home here, both to the flicker of the camera directed at him, and to the airy confines of the nearly 100 year old building.

“I didn’t have the kind of constitution where I could be drunk every time I wasn’t working like a lot of my friends were doing,” Bennett recalled bluntly, speaking of his college days at Virginia Tech. “I needed to find some activity that could be a reprieve from that… so, for a very long time, I watched the Lyric movie every weekend. I’d come see it even if I didn’t

know what it was.” The movie that came out of that period in Bennett’s life, his first attempt at filmmaking, was Walking Shadows. He’ll tell you it’s no surprise he didn’t finish it, describing it as a movie about a depressed college student living a decadent lifestyle that doesn’t fulfill him, surrounded by a group of friends that have an immediate connection through their drug use and partying. The movie has never been shown publicly.

No Fool’s Errand. After Walking Shadows, Bennett graduated from Tech and became involved with the university’s theatre program. This would turn out to be one of the most important moves in Bennett’s short career, and one that would encourage him to continue making movies in Blacksburg. With the theatre department, he acted in four plays in three semesters, bolstered a newfound creative outlet, and met people that he would later collaborate with and cast in his movies. Around that time his ex-girlfriend found some comic vignettes about breakups that he had lying around, and told him he should make them into a movie. These vignettes became Fool. The produc-

tion took two years, and Bennett borrowed cameras and worked through the difficulty of staging shots with second-rate microphones and scheduling difficulties with actors that have day jobs and are in school. Seneca Haynes was one of those actors. “That is the first time I acted in front of a camera, everything I had done before was on the stage,” said Haynes, who has worked on nearly every Bennett production since. “It was great because lots of people trusted us to come into their businesses to use as locations, which wouldn’t have worked in say Richmond or Charlotte.” When it was completed, Bennett showed the film to a crowd of 80 at Squires’ recital salon. “Fool is what happens when I make a romantic comedy. It’s about how we should laugh at people who are going through acrimonious heartbreak,” Bennett said. “And it is the first movie I ever finished and showed to an audience. It’s the basic reason anybody knows me around here as being a filmmaker.”

River of Dread and the best place to show a movie in town. Bennett is quick to reiterate the following statement when speaking of his following project, River of Dread. “This is not my movie, this is Seneca’s

Don’t Look Now (1973): Here’s a film that shows up in horror sections of video stores almost solely on the basis of the last two minutes. This is one of those movies where the scariest part is the sad, unchallenged inevitability of our own deaths. This one directly influenced my student film WALKING SHADOWS and the upcoming BURIED. An American Werewolf In London (1981): This movie does feel like a letdown peppered with inspired moments, but only after the fantastic first act. They always say that movies are scarier if the characters feel real, but while the kids in BLAIR WITCH never seem like anything more than actors improvising, the way best friends David and Jack try to keep up the chatter while they’re scared to the core will be familiar to anyone who has actually been in a panic situation with a buddy. The characters are funny and human, they feel real, and you really don’t want to see them get killed, by a werewolf or otherwise. Night of the Demon (1957): They also say that movies are scarier the less you show. When the demon shows up in Night of the Demon, it looks like a puppet with somebody’s thumb wiggling the nose, but in the best scene our protagonist is stalked by nothing but sound design and footprints. I reference it directly in BEAST, where the approach of a huge creature is signaled by music, a shadow, and a long chain. Low budget filmmakers have a hard time pulling that stuff off, though. There’s a fine line between the power of suggestion and cutting away because you can’t afford special effects. Day of the Dead (1985): If it’s always scarier when you don’t show it, then fear not the single shot from our heroine’s perspective of a restrained zombie sitting up from an operating table while all his guts spill out in full view. George Romero began his career making industrial films, and his matter-of-fact shooting style is the key to his zombie movies. My favorite is this one, the last in the trilogy; though the characters don’t feel real like DAWN OF THE DEAD (the original, not the mildly diverting remake), and the performances are over the top and the script reads like when that drunk cornered you at the Pub… those effects are AWESOME. Day is still the best geek-show horror I can think of, and a perfect example of the golden rule of gore: why just kill a character, when you can show them getting killed spectacularly! Return of the Living Dead (1985): While prevalent, it isn’t the gore in this one so much as the bleakness. Following one of my favorite openings to a movie ever (it’s all just acting punctuated by a truly great pre-title punch line) is a darkly comic tribute to the unlikelihood of surviving this kind of situation. Shortly after humanizing the standoffish (literal) punk protagonists through their newfound vulnerability, the movie is then unrelentingly cruel to them. Feel sympathy for a character? Too bad, they’re going to die. I saw this thing when I was ten years old; the first movie I saw a completely naked woman in, the first I saw where the good guys don’t make it out alive, and the best L.A. punk movie from the mid-eighties not to feature a character named Otto.

continued on page 14

october 2007


13 16 Blocks

movie,” he says. Bennett produced the film, which basically means he helped bring the elements of production together, while also playing a leading role. Once again everything was shot locally, with most of the action occurring at Mountain Lake. He described the movie as a “stoned-at-three-amwatching-pulp-1950s-science-fiction” flick. “[We had it] here at the Lyric, a midnight screening, Halloween 2005,” Bennett said, his eyes widening. “It was a huge party; 200 people showed up. It was great watching it with that audience.” If the movie theatre is a church, then the marquee is the steeple, and Bennett professed that seeing the film up there was one of the things that made the movie a success. “We took pictures of that. This is the place to show a movie in town.”

Beast and Buried. Bennett walks past the brassy old-projector that the Lyric has on display in its lobby, up the stairs to the balcony, and up further into the darkened projection room. A film is wrapped tight around a wheel of the newer projector, poised for the night’s viewing. Bennett finds a box of old film and sifts through it, holding the strips up to the light. The beginning of the summer of 2005 Bennett remembered as being the time when he was tired constantly. He wanted people to know that filmmaking for him wasn’t just a phase, and that he was planning to continue shooting movies in Blacksburg. He was tired because while he was working on River of Dread, he was also filming two new projects, Beast and Buried, two horror movies he recently completed that are currently awaiting release. Bennett calls Beast a learning experience. “You can tell it was shot over time. Sometimes it looks professional, sometimes it looks somewhat amateurish,” Bennett said of his take on a long-running campus horror story. One thing that came out of Beast was collaborator F.M. Turner, who played a leading role and also laid down the soundtrack for the film. Both his acting performance, which was an exercise in reticence, and the music he provided, which was mostly picking out old-time tunes on acoustic instruments, were highlights of the movie. “There’s an Irving Berlin song that I made creepier, and there’s and old

continued from page 12 Irish tune on there. Everything else I wrote for the movie,” Turner said while visiting Blacksburg from Houston, where he now resides. Buried was another movie in the horror genre Bennet made around the same time period, and also another film about misspent youth. Actor Cullen McKay played Curtis Grieves, a character he described as “waffling, and who is stuck where he is because of money and life and everything.” McKay met Bennett through Tech’s theatre program, and played a part in Fool before Bennett cast him in the leading role of Buried. McKay said: “I am very proud of the entire experience. [Jack] has a strong ability to envision characters, not as stereotypes but as real people,” speaking over the phone from Sterling, Virginia, where he is currently working as a fireman. “I think he has a real chance of making it, and I want him to.”

Cut and Print. Back at Torgersen Hall, Bennett hands over the headphones and pushes play on a nearly-completed music video he conceptualized and directed for F.M. Turner. He walks around the desk to help a collegeaged kid who is editing some footage of his own. This is also the room where Bennett recently edited Hokie Nation, a movie he helped produce that was recently shown at Lyric. In a room down the hall, he filmed a promotional piece for a group of Virginia Tech researchers. “It’s not so much a ‘big fish, small pond’ story where I don’t want to pay my dues,” Bennett said. “The fact is that right here in Blacksburg, I’m doing exactly what I want to do and learning so much about telling a story.” It has recently been rumored that Bennett has a working script for his next film, and has even begun the casting process. As for the shooting location, just look out the nearest window. Beast, Buried and The Goat will be coming soon to a theatre or DVD player near you. Check out Jack’s production company at

Them! (1954): When Seneca was writing RIVER OF DREAD, we watched tons of sci-fi horror movies from the ‘50s, including CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. The one I see the most of in RIVER OF DREAD is THEM!, not least of all because it’s surprisingly, and intentionally funny. We screened THEM! for the cast before shooting started on RIVER OF DREAD, and everybody immediately picked up their equivalent character; Turner’s Dr. Goran was especially inspired by the blustery little British scientist with all the best lines. Re-Animator (1985): A flick for anyone whose idea of a fun horror film involves melodrama and mad scientists. It’s a perfect Halloween movie for the strongstomached: a little cheesy, a little creepy, and a macabre sense of humor. The biggest influence on me is the way the movie warms up and then takes off, and the flick continues to remind that when you’re an unknown director looking for a movie to establish your notoriety, always commit to your premise and push it as far as you possibly can. That’s why in the last act of this movie a disembodied head tries to go down on a screaming co-ed. Night of the Demons (1988): Not only does this movie have nothing to do with the classy British production NIGHT OF THE DEMON, but it’s actually not a good movie. In fact, it’s awful. The acting is terrible, the humor is groan-inducing, the gratuitous nude flashes feel like afterthoughts (Director: “Here’s an idea! In this scene maybe you take off your panties…?”), and anything good in it has been done better in another movie. So why’s it on the list? Notice how many flicks on here have been from the ‘80s? That’s the decade in which I started watching horror flicks, and ‘80s horror flicks are what horror is to me. Given the choice of Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING and FRIGHT NIGHT, I’m going with FRIGHT NIGHT. Hold up a copy of RINGU next to BASKET CASE, and we’re watching evil separated Siamese twin in a basket. As great a film as UGETSU is, I’ve seen it only once, while irredeemably exploitative garbage like BRAIN DAMAGE or STREET TRASH have garnered multiple viewings over the years. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH are just ‘80s flicks that made enough money to repeat the success with glossier productions, were they less successful they’d be NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. It’s the quintessential eighties horror flick; shoddily produced, haphazardly conceived, but still delivers the universal pleasure of watching obnoxious kids get punished horribly for throwing a party. There’s even a god*amn Bauhaus song in it! Frankly, on a cold night in October while there are countless better films on hand from decades of scary cinema, I’d rather watch this one. Eat a bowl of f*ck! I’m here to party!

See why Jack Bennett didn’t write about romantic comedies and why he left some iconic classics like The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre off of the list at

october 2007


IT’S BEEN FIVE YEARS since journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered in Karachi, Pakistan. Since then, 1500 concerts in over 60 countries have been held during the month of October in conjuction with Daniel Pearl World Music Days. Hillel at Virginia Tech has brought the cause home to Blacksburg. This will be the third annual musical event they have staged to promote the Daniel Pearl Foundation’s mission to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and dialogue “Our goal is to bridge differences among people,” said Sue Kurtz, director of Hillel at Virginia Tech. “Part of our feeling about Daniel Pearl Day this year after the tragedy is looking at how the community brought people together. [This year] seems more important than what we’ve done over the past three years.”

gogol bordello takes a scenic detour from their big city east coast tour. THE GLOBE-GALLOPING GYPSY PUNK CARNIVAL known from Kiev to California as Gogol Bordello is coming, making a special Blacksburg stop for a sold-out crowd in the heart of the 16 Blocks, the Lyric Theatre on October 18. And when Ringmaster/frontman-extraordinaire Eugene Hutz raises this kaleidoscopic musical big top fueled by wild and ancient fiddle-runs and accordionbellows, dancing-girl percussion vocalists and dub-reggae style bass, many witnesses will agree with his claim that Bordello is taking over the world. They describe themselves as supercharged music generated by gypsies and rebels from across the globe. “Reggae and gypsy music were created by poor people with nothing to lose,” Hutz explains on the band’s homepage. “They had to find a new way to look at the world… Looking at string theory, creationism, globalization, political cataclysms and the general chaos facing us makes you realize you have to find some way to survive.” If theirs is the sound of survival, then Gogol Bordello celebrates it with a wild glee and triumphant ecstasy, not just getting by, but reveling in the challenge.

With its nine members representing the Ukraine, Russia, Scotland, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Israel and the U.S., Gogol Bordello seemed like the right band to promote diversity.

16 Blocks is proud to say that our first music section is dedicated to the cause of using the power of music to heal oneself and one’s community. This one’s for you Danny.

15 16 Blocks

Photo by Lauren Dukoff ©2007

“We celebrate life with the makeup of the band. We celebrate differences,” said Ethiopian-American and Gogol bass-player Tommy Gobena in a phone interview. “And that shows with what we do with what we do with our music presence and our stage presence. Everybody in the band is really conscious about how things are in the world and how things should be in the world.”

photos david franusich

Cindy Heller ©2007

16 questions

JUF Tour Poster by Cindy Heller ©2004

Gogol Bordello’s fourth album “Super Taranta!” was released on July 10th on Side One Dummy Records. Check it out at

bryce chalkley

If you tune in to the local jam-funk-reggae scene and haven’t heard the Alliens, than perhaps you should put down the pipe and return to the home planet. This Floyd-based trio of brothers Jamiel (keyboards) and Janiah Allen (drums), alongside cousin Zeph Allen (guitar), have become a mainstay at Awful Arthur’s, and over the summer rocked both Floydfest and Maggie’s Farm. They just finished a massive tour that took them around Virginia, up through the Northeast, and then back home again. 16 Blocks managed to flag down their mother ship in the middle of their hectic touring schedule, and ask them a few questions about their sound, their family bond, and Ultimate Fighting policemen.

[16B’s] Describe your sound in three words? Jamiel: Funk, rock, reggae. [16B’s] Who were your early influences? Janiah: Les Claypool, Afro-Cuban All Stars, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Zeph: The whole grunge era, Wu-Tang Clan, Jimi Hendrix. Jamiel: The Wailers, Earth, Wind, & Fire. [16B’s] How has living in Floyd influenced your music? Zeph: Floyd is pretty cut off from the outside world. We’re exposed to very little media, so it gives us room to find our own thing, and not be influenced by every little trend. [16B’s] Who are you listening to right now? Janiah: Alex Acuña, Midnight. Zeph: The Knife, Bob Dylan, NPR.

Tune in to to check out our exclusive interview with Gogol bass player Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena.

Jamiel: Lettuce, The Abyssinians, The Roots.

continued on page 20 october 2007


speech. word. reason.

Trees In My Head john cordero Lying lucid flying on my freedom buds of orange take me there again My harbor hideout saves us heathens from the punishments of mortal men Withdraw wisely from the mundane embrace to the field of open minds Where people ponder exclusively to erase all they have learned in time Follow the feral footsteps Release the routine race Seize back stark simplicity Grow your genuine face Confused conviction leaking from my lips roots of trees are now my body’s veins A bush for brains behind skin bricks lie inside the dirt contained Bounteous bodies turned into vacant vessels for the conquering of the soul Seeds are scattered which wildly wrestles against the body whole

17 16 Blocks

photo david franusich

Create confusion in the core Dire demand makes eyes dim Knock down what we’ve known By those backings only we begin

So she’s standing there on the blacktop in front of her car, and I can barely see her from the sunlight reflecting off the driver’s side mirror. And she tells me her name is Tan-ya, over-emphasizing the Tan, just in case I didn’t catch her Southern drawl. Tan-ya explains to me how no one ever gets her name right, how they always call her plain old Tanya, like it’s some Cardinal offense. She repeats herself quite a bit, ‘it’s Tan-ya,’ she says, ‘Tan-ya,’ and I don’t care one way or the other, just trying to kill time before work. She keeps up her defense, me nodding and agreeing. ‘I just don’t understand,’ she tells me, and I have nothing to offer as comfort. The way she curls her brown hair around her index finger and then pulls it down is remarkably childish, but it pulls me in, nevertheless. ‘I’m twenty-four,’ she blurts, momentarily sidestepping her defense, ‘and I just can’t stand it anymore,’ then she stops, and another lock of hair wraps around her finger, her eyes x-raying my thoughts. I wonder if she caught the rhyme in her complaint. The summer’s days here in the valley, they’re brutal. Looking closely enough, I can see the heat colliding against the blacktop, forcing wavy laminations upward into the transparent air like some exotic dancer way out East. Yet I can’t see her, only the air pushed by her hips is visible, shifting and popping in the bright sunlight.

of the universe. Work is simple: I listen to what people have to say about their taste in music, and then I offer up some suggestions they might not have heard of. Invariably, there’s always that one guy—or gal, but mostly it’s a guy—who swears that all I listen to is hippie-shit, and stomps his steeltoed black combat boots back to the metal section. After he cools, and I turn up the volume on my hippie-shit, he comes back to the counter with a copy of Metallica’s “St. Anger,” wanting to know, ‘Hey, you heard this one? Y’know ‘fit’s any good?’ and even die-hard Metallica stooges know that “St. Anger” is terrible, white-noise crap. Even so, I tell him a good buddy o’mine loves it, and that it’s definitely worth the purch. He bites—they all bite, for some reason—and I win—I always win, for some reason. Work is slow: I listen to music once all the people have cleared. When the store’s busy and sitting’s out of the question, I only hear the music. Yet the store’s never really busy, it only seems that way. Usually, I can escape to the backroom a few times a shift to smoke a cigarette. I’m trying to quit. I understand it’s best to just do it, but I like to think I’m a realist. I’ll quit when the time is right. That’s the problem with this city; it locks people inside its bubble, as if there’s no other life beyond the surrounding mountains: nothing out there but darkness. But when they’ve all gone away, I listen.

Tanya’s still upset. She doesn’t understand why people don’t call her Tan-ya, like it’s some ancient and foreign thing, Tan-ya. She’s about as exotic and foreign as plastic palm trees and canned pineapples. ‘I can’t believe I actually said that!’ she goes, after she picks up on her rhyme. ‘Like, why didn’t you say something?’ I just shrug; the heat keeps me from thinking too much during the day. Sweat’s beading on my forehead now, this damned heat. It’s a blanket, smothering everything and thickening the air. Standing in the shade is useless; the heat still hugs the way unwashed wool sweaters do, itchy and sticking. It amazes me, though; how I can carry on this conversation with Miss Can’t-take-it-AnymoreTwenty-Four-Tan-ya. I let her field the question, but she hasn’t a pen to use, so I give her mine. She had a slip of paper, but she dropped it when I gave her the pen; so she uses my hand to jot her number and her name, Tan-ya—like I forgot. She even spells it that way, somehow emphasizing the Tan, letting the “ya” fade off into some distant corner

Then it’s over and I turn off the neon “OPEN” sign and sit down to count money and close the store. The rest of that’s mainly drivel, clockwork stuff, list-like and all. Anyway, the store closes at nine and I’m usually out of there at nine-thirty, depending on my eagerness to leave—it’s hard to escape a dark room full of booming, kinetic sound surrounded by nearly limitless potential sound, damn hard. But I’m almost always out by nine-thirty anyways. The summer’s nights here in the valley, they’re gorgeous. The city lights up like a pile of diamonds sitting in an endlessly black pot, with the barely visible mountains jutting out the top. Tonight I’m heading to Antietam Street; it’s this road in the middle of a severely upper-crust neighborhood. A convenient mart and a coffee shop and a bar line the short expanse of cracked asphalt like buttons on a tattered shirt. Antietam Street doesn’t fit into the neighborhood all too well. But like Irony’s kid brother this section of town was originally built around the road, so it’s likely not going anywhere

for some time—one of those Historic Landmarks— yeah, real historic. The air at night is crisp, refreshing. It fills my lungs: it recharges. The passing houses or estates, rather, are monstrous and foreboding affairs. None of them resonate comfort; not one of them is necessary. They stick up—pearly white teeth chewing on a wad of tobacco—and gradually decrease in size, from outlandishly big to laughably small, the closer I get to Antietam. A product, I guess, of the way in which they built this neighborhood: backwards, rotting from the inside out. But that’s how it works; things rot inside, pressing towards the shell like a great big venom-filled blossom. We grow on the inside of our mother, slowly rotting her from within. Then we’re born and we start our rotting process; this place, this town, this brave old world feeding on our core, turning us all to beasts. Tanya’s number’s still on my hand, the “ya” off investigating universe. Damn squirrel, right there in the middle of the road. Like a speed bump. My headlights hit his eyes and they glossed over with fear, the pupils expanding and then narrowing to a point. They were penetrating; somehow reminding me of Tanya’s eyes, the way they went straight through and out the other side, pulverizing everything in between: then thump and gone. To end something is terrible, to truly end something, something that was breathing and living moments ago is fucking terrible. That squirrel knew me in that instant, knew my thoughts, my fears; it knew me and I ended it. Usually I meet Cohen, tonight’s no different. Cohen’s a nice guy; I’ve known him since middle school, a real coin. He arrived home from college this evening and we’re meeting, per usual, at Antietam. Neither of us live near Antietam; Cohen and I live off in Newport, but we both attended this snappy private school in Aperiens. Most of the students who went there live in Aperiens, specifically in this neighborhood; hence our ever-presence. We’ve got nothing in common, Cohen and I. He’s prep to the hilt, bred and raised in the private sector. He’s going pre-law, double majoring in History and Psychology at the state university. Like I said, a real coin. He’s severely upper crust, but it doesn’t bother me much. I first met him in middle school. It was my first day at Shriver (the private school) and I just waxed this one kid for calling me ignorant. Why call someone ignorant? It’s useless.

continued on page 20 october 2007


KNOW YOUR BARTENDER continued from page 10

[PJ] I have not, but I’d say I’d be the irregular one in that case. I think most people [bartenders] probably have dated several people they have once served at one point or another. [16B’s] Any bands or DJs that pack the place more than others? [PJ] It seems like the people that know the most people around town always do the best, probably through word of mouth, and because they put up flyers. People that come in from DC and think, “We’re a hot band from DC and everyone’s gonna come see our show in Blacksburg .” They don’t do so well. We’re kind of an isolated community. We like our local music. That is unless we have a friend that moved to DC and comes to town with his band. [16B’s] This is kind of a Blues Brothers question. What’s the highest band bar tab you’ve ever seen?

tells me to make whatever I want, my drink of choice is my old roommate’s special mix. Drew Juice, named after him. It’s fantastic, and it’s got like 15 ingredients. I can’t say what’s in it because he’d be pissed. I might be one of the few people around that still know how to make it. People are like, “This is so good, what’s in that?” Oh, I can’t tell you. [16B’s] Dating coworkers, do, don’t, no comment? [PJ] Big time don’t. I’ve never done it. I have had my opportunities and seen a lot of people do it, but it’s kind of my unspoken rule. I haven’t really dated much since my last big ex but I’d still say it’s a big don’t. It brings in a lot of political-type coworker drama. [16B’s] Have you ever dated someone you met while you were serving them drinks?

Open M-Sa 5-10pm. Early for Tech homegames.

[PJ} Hundreds of dollars. I’ve definitely seen bar tabs where guys are happy if they make as much at the door as their bar tab. They’re like, “We were just coming out to have a good time and get a bunch of free booze.” I’d say like $500 bucks. It definitely happens [16B’s] How long do you see yourself being a bartender? [PJ] Probably another seven or eight months, until I move. Now that I’m done with school, I feel like I should move on with the progression of my life, and try to get another job at a higher tier, like a careertype thing. It’s been great, and if I end up being a bartender somewhere else, that wouldn’t be a problem.

bigscreen Pete’s Tip: Write cash on the tip line of the receipt if you’ve been tipping in cash. If you leave it blank and have been tipping, we don’t know that you tipped cash.

on 9

19 16 Blocks

Alliens continued from page 16

Janiah: Yeah, we usually don’t have much time to have a routine so to speak…We pretty much get there, set up, and play.

[16B’s] You guys often collaborate with other musicians onstage. If you had to choose, do you prefer playing with guests or just as a trio?

[16B’s] Who would be your ideal musician, living or dead, to collaborate with?

Jamiel: Well, we love playing with guests, but if we had to choose we’d just play as a trio. There are certain restrictions that go along with having guest musicians that we don’t have when it’s just us.

Jamiel: Definitely the Family Man [Aston Barrett, bassist with Bob Marley & The Wailers]. [16B’s] How did you decide on your band name?

[16B’s] What’s your favorite story from the road? Jamiel: We were leaving Dundalk, Maryland, after a show. It was late, and we were really tired. So sure enough, we get pulled over by a state trooper. He asked for my license and registration, and started asking us all kinds of questions…He was basically suspicious because we were in a van full of equipment, had Virginia plates, and I had a Florida driver’s license. He thought we were trafficking cocaine or heroin or something. We told him we were in a band, and had just played a show, and he got really cool all of a sudden. He told us he was an Ultimate Fighter, and was pretty much counting the days until he could quit being a cop, and fight full time. Zeph: It just goes to show that if you’re doing something cool, sometimes you get a little leeway.

Zeph: We really wanted something with our last name in it, since it’s pretty unique for all members of a band to have the same last name. So we mixed it with “aliens”, which kind of shows that we’re a little different, a little out there.

Janiah: Hectic. We grew up separately, but it’s amazing how the bloodline shows through with the connection we have musically.

Jamiel: And it’s pronounced “Alley-enz”. Some people get that wrong.

Jamiel: It’s nice knowing the family bond is there, so that when we argue, we wake up the next day and we’re still family.

[16B’s] What’s your favorite venue you’ve ever played? Janiah: We really like the Sun Music Hall in Floyd, but for overall atmosphere, you can’t beat Floydfest. [16B’s] Do you find you attract a different crowd depending on where you play? Zeph: Yeah, definitely. We played Memorial Day in Ohio, and it was mostly middle-aged people and families, but it was mostly blue-blooded types in New Hampshire. It really depends.

[16B’s]. How do you like playing Awful Arthur’s? Jamiel: Awful Arthur’s is a really cool place, but the sound is always terrible. It’d be nice if they would show that they care about the bands that play there, and do something about the acoustics. [16B’s] How do you get ready for a live show? Zeph: We drive to it.

[16B’s] What’s it like being in a band with family members?

Janiah: Since our name is fresh, the crowd’s hit or miss when we play really far away from home, so the crowd reflects the area we’re in.

Zeph: Extremely difficult but extremely rewarding.

[16B’s] Are there any different instruments you wish you had learned, or would like to learn? Janiah: The trombone. Jamiel: I’d like to learn all layers of percussion. Zeph: I’m pretty happy with the guitar, but I would’ve liked to learn the saxophone. [16B’s] If you had to change your sound, what genre do you think you would play? Janiah: To tell the truth, I don’t think would want to play music if I knew I had to be confined to one genre. It’s no fun that way.

[16B’s] What’s your favorite thing about Blacksburg?

[16B’s] Finally, how long before Alliens take over the world?

Janiah: The Cellar. Jamiel: All the beautiful women. Zeph: Kroger!

Jamiel: Two years. Janiah: Anywhere between two weeks and a decade. Zeph: Four years and 17 days.

‘Egg! Where ya’ been all my life?’ he says. ‘Come give Cohen a hug,’ the sarcasm thick and wet like fog. He rattles and rattles, mostly about exams and how fit it is to be back. ‘We gonna get tight tonight?’ he goes, always referencing, trying to get a rise out of me—it never works. ‘Let’s go, this place is a ghost,’ and we’re gone, off to Flamingo Street for a party.

of it fading. Cohen’s pickup heaves through the hills of Flamingo, and we grow darker with each mile traveled deeper into the forest. ‘This place is in the sticks, man. Way in the sticks;’ and I know. But it’s nice seeing the darkness of the mountainside and the dimming lights of the city beneath us. There’s not much of this left in the world.

Street names always baffle me. I’ll never understand who came up with ‘em. Flamingo, Antietam, Colonel, Caroline, Dawn, etcetera, etcetera: hmmm, this street conjures thoughts of the bloodiest battle of the United States Civil War. Yeah, the way it winds, it’s like musket shots waving and dodging particles in the wind. And that one, that road’s definitely an exotic pink bird with ankles for knees. It’s all dilapidation, fading out like a flame burning through the last threads of a candlewick, popping and cracking, then gone. The cool night air trots between the squares of the screen door, cooling the wax and dissipating orange spices—all

Joseph Lambert is a Roanoke transplant currently attending Virginia Tech and pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English. When not in class, Joseph can be found working at Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea on North Main.

Tan - ya continued from page 18 Anyway, I waxed this kid, slammed his head against the wall and Cohen was there, in the hallway, and he says ‘fuck those schleps, they’re empty shells; you, my man, you’re the egg.’ And that was that. Antietam’s a wide road with a fat, grassy median separating the two lanes of traffic, often used for parking or, if there’s enough heads, a game of soccer. Soccer’s the sport in Aperiens, especially at Shriver. I’m alone pulling into an angled space in front of the convenient mart, Antietam’s dead. Miles Davis creeps into the blank street out of my car while I’m sitting on the curb waiting for Cohen. Ten till ten, ‘I’ll be there square at ten’ he said earlier, on the phone. I pull a drag and see Tan-ya again on my hand, and behind that Cohen’s white pickup blurred in the distance. The rust spots materialize the closer he gets, then the load in the bed of the truck: some old furniture he’s taking to the salvage store. Cohen’s always taking something to the salvage store; it’s how he makes money during the summer.

october 2007


21 16 Blocks









9PM Rivermill







7 & 9:30 PM Lyric Theatre Juxtaposition Fall Concert

Re: Fill - FREE

8PM WUVT-FM Local-Zone

9PM Cabo Fish Taco

Boogieburg w/ Sabo (from NYC) - $5

VA Folk Jazz Trio

9PM Attitudes

Far-less w/ The Glass Ocean Secret & Whisper - $10 Lyric Movie: The Rape of Europa

Lyric Movie: The 11th Hour

october 28



8PM Cabo


7:30PM 204 P.A.B.

9PM Rivermill

Freestyle Poetry Open Mic


A Murder of Crows Play Directed by MFA Candidate Alanna Malone - FREE

Re: Fill - FREE

8PM WUVT-FM Local-Zone



10PM CafeatChamps

Curious Strange

Lee Street Riots

Lyric Movie: 2 Days in Paris


WUVT-FM’s Semi-Annual Fundraiser




8PM Cabo


07 9PM Rivermill

Freestyle Poetry Open Mic

november 08 09

Re: Fill - FREE

7:30PM Haymarket Theater Nuclear Power: A Performance

See Ad on pg 10

8PM WUVT-FM Local-Zone

8AM-4PM Donaldson Brown

Nuclear Power Reconsidered: A Free Public Forum

7:30PM Haymarket Theater Nuclear Power: A Performance

8PM CafeatChamps

Blame James w/ Gill

10PM Cabo Fish Taco

Boogieburg w/ AMac of QDup Foundation - $5

10PM Cafe atChamps

Lee Street Riots w/ The Illbotz Nancy & the 2 Meteors - $5 no more late night food raids...

no more forgotten lines...

no disser more tatio n


no more old bohemian...

See Ad on pg 10

Lost at Sea


12 8PM Cabo

Freestyle Poetry Open Mic


14 10PM TOTS

Curious Strange

9PM Rivermill


9PM Rivermill

Re: Fill w/ DJ FLO (from Boone, NC) - FREE


10PM Cabo Fish Taco


Alliens - $5

Re: Fill - FREE

8PM WUVT-FM Local-Zone


october 2007 22 october 2007 22

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7002 tco e r u t l u c


s t r a


g r u b s k c a l b

16 Blocks Magazine - Issue #1 - October 2007  
16 Blocks Magazine - Issue #1 - October 2007  

The debut issue.