Waking Life 

Unreal rubs the sleep from our eyes (thanks, Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch!) just in time to read a larceny-laced local blog, chat with a master framer and meet a SoCo man who owns anteater (!) boots

Unreal walks around all day in a semicomatose state, zombielike, unable to summon the strength to maintain our appearance, health or integrity. The reason? When we wake up, we're still tired. So when we got a press release promoting the $150 Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch — an alarm clock that purports to wake you up at just the right moment — we popped a couple of NoDoz and inquired.

Unreal: Does the Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch monitor our dreams, and if so, is it required by law to report us to the federal government?

Jason Root, VP of product marketing for Smarthome: (Laughs meekly) No, what it does is it monitors your sleep cycles. Everyone has four two-hour sleep cycles or so every night, and during that two-hour period you go through four stages and REM. It's during REM that you're more restless and closer to being awake. The watch's goal is to wake you up when you're almost awake anyways, which it does by gauging your restlessness — how much your body is moving.

How will my NyQuil and peyote addictions affect the Sleeptracker?

[The manual] actually does say there's all sorts of things that impact sleep. Medications are included, alcohol is included. They will change your sleep cycle, but they won't change the fact that there is a cycle.

Will a heart attack trigger the Sleeptracker?

No, it wouldn't trigger the watch. With the Sleeptracker you don't set a specific wake time, you set a window. So, if I had to be up at seven o'clock, I might set a window from 6:40 to 7:00 in the morning. What it would do is, once 6:40 starts, it would find a moment when I was restless and wake me up at that time.

So, the Sleeptracker sends a bolt of electricity into your bloodstream when it's time to wake up?

It's a beep. A little chime.

What if you're deaf?

It's probably not the product for you.

Does it come in an anklet?

No.



Well Hung

Shockingly little media coverage accompanied the Professional Picture Framers Association's regional framing competition, held in Hannibal in mid-October. There was no red carpet, no paparazzi. The ceremony wasn't even broadcast on cable television, let alone network. Unreal aims to rectify. After all, without framers, all them pretty pictures would just fall to the ground.

A hearty huzzah! then, to Don Dolan, owner of Soulard Picture Framing, who snagged the Judge's Award for Creativity at the contest, which pitted against one another framers from Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. To level the playing field, each framer worked with the same object: a used artist's paintbrush. "We all framed a brush as though it were a Van Gogh or Monet," recalls Dolan. "As if it were worth a million dollars."

Dolan was faced with a complicated task. The paint-splotched brush was messy, with many disparate hues. How to match the mat color? How to fasten the brush without damaging it? What kind of frame? Then, an idea struck him like a diamond bullet through the forehead. Dolan would go deep: multiple mats, each a different color. "Ten years ago someone asked me if I'd layer five or six mats," Dolan says of his epiphany. Seed planted, he went for more — fifteen mats — perhaps some sort of world record.

The result hangs in his row-house shop about a block south of Soulard Market. It's peppered with prize ribbons and is, indeed, a glory to behold. Fifteen points of the color wheel surround the brush in the middle, each mat a different color. They accordion out from the paintbrush like an inverted rainbow pyramid. The gestalt is held in a thick shadowbox and framed in a maple that precisely matches the brush handle.

Dolan points to the brush. "It's elevated, so it floats there, but you can't really see that," says the master framer. "It just is."

Although another framer won Best of Show, for Unreal's money Dolan snagged the more coveted prize, for it's here that a framer gets to stretch out, to follow his muse. Last year at the Atlanta Art Expo, Dolan recalls, someone had framed a Beatles Yellow Submarine album cover. The frame itself was an aquarium. "He had fish in it, too," the framer notes, still awestruck. "Live fish swimming around in the frame. They have some of these things you just can't believe — makes my humble effort here look like nothing. But fifteen mats. That's something."



Somebody Buy My Crap

Python-skin boots
Condition: Like new
Price: $200
Seller/Age: Mark/46
Location: South county
Phone: 314-892-3168
Issue: November 29

Unreal: Are your boots made from real pythons?

Mark: Yeah, my brother got them down in El Paso. They're custom-made. New they'd sell for more than $600. I collect exotic-skin boots. I probably have 35 pair.

What other types do you have?

Horn-backed lizards, ring-tailed lizards, anteater, sea bass, stingray and ostrich leg. My dog just ate a pair of ostrich-leg loafers. My first pair of boots were made from some type of Mexican tree frog. A lot of these animals are endangered species now.

Do you worry that you've contributed to the near-extinction of these animals?

I don't feel guilty. But it's kind of an embarrassing obsession, really. Collecting shoes is the type of thing women do. Guys don't do that shit.

Why do you do it?

It started about 30 years ago when I was in Gravois Bootery and saw that they made boots out of crazy stuff like this. They're great with the ladies. They'll stop and ask, "What type of boots are those!?"

Any boots that guarantee you action? The anteater, perhaps?

I got a lot of them. I've got a cobra-skin pair with snake heads mounted on the toe. They're a "Hey, look at me!" sort of thing. But if someone steps on them, the head would fall off. So I don't wear them much.

What do you wear with these fancy boots?

I don't know; I wear jeans. That's partly why I'm getting rid of the python ones. They're too flashy for me. I'm liable to get in a fight.

Where do you wear your boots?

Usually the bar — House of Rock in south county. Truth is, I'm not even the cowboy boot-wearing type. I don't know anything south of the Meramec River. But you got to have a hobby. At Nordstrom you can spend $500 on a pair of shoes, and they're just made of ordinary leather. These boots, they have character.

From time to time Unreal trolls the St. Louis Post-Dispatch classified section's "Bargain Box." We cannot guarantee any item remains available for purchase at press time.



LOCAL BLOG O' THE WEEK

"ThisBlogSucks.com"

thisblogsucks.com

Author: ?

About the blogger: The author is a single, Caucasian male who attended the recent Old School Tattoo Expo and got himself a large tattoo on his left arm that pays homage to his family, Harley-Davidson, Green Day and the city of St. Louis.

Recent Highlight (November 27, 2005): Yesterday I stopped by Jack's place to see the progress on his new addition. While I was there, Jack recieved a call from my brother. My brother was asking him to meet him at one of his properties in the morning. Apparently someone had kicked a door in and "removed" an entire kitchen from one of his vacant properties.

[...] I arrived at the property about a quarter past 8AM. They were viewing the first unit, the one my brother noticed first. Well, he was right; someone broke in and removed his entire kitchen. All appliances, cabinets, and copper piping were missing. After viewing more of the apartment, we noticed that the bathroom was also removed. After seeing this we decided to view the rest of the vacant apartments (This is a 4-family home) or at least we thought it was supposed to be vacant. The second unit was above the first unit. After unlocking the second unit front door, we started to walk up the stairs. Bob was first, with me behind him. As he approached the door he said: "Oh shit, someone's in that one." I turned around and headed back down. Jack ran around back in case they made their exit that way. Once he made it around back, two skinny African-American females came running out the back with a couple of bags in their hands and ran through the alley. Bob and Jack made their way into the apartment first to make sure no one else was in there. Once it was secure my brother and I went to inspect. This unit also had the kitchen and bathrooms removed.

Being a little freaked out with the findings in the first two units, we decided to contact the police. While the police were on their way we decided to view the other units. None of the keys we had would open the third unit, so we proceeded to the fourth. This one also had the kitchen removed, but the bathroom was still there, at least the toilet and bathtub were still there. All the piping was gone though.

Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog? Send the URL to unreal@riverfronttimes.com.

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