Bunch of bull

Rodeos are cruel things. Beneath all of the unwashed, deep-indigo chivalry and the belt-buckle bravado masking this manhood of a tradition out of its time lies some limp premise of survival, or even triumph, in the face of planned unfair circumstance. Basically, we can cheer for the people atop the doomed castration cases (as we might for Dale Earnhardt's collapsible tomb running around in circles with Budweiser-weened, predatory sponsorship redneck cases), or we can squint and laugh at the jilted context said lifestyle provides.

So, on the occasion of the Silver Spurs Rodeo, making its last outdoor appearance Feb. 16 through 18, at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, I think I'll opt to embrace that peculiar myopia that drives men to eating soiled dirt while trying to keep their 10-gallon hats on. After all, I'd get my ass kicked if I didn't. What sort of bull did you have in mind?

Not the one hour drive to insanity (er, Kissimmee), naturally. Some bottle-blond princesses aren't really interested in becoming sweethearts of the rodeo, you see. Some of us eye U-turns with almost undeserved symbolic importance -- like "maybe this is my last chance" or "what if I was joking" importance -- while smothering our propensity toward cultural distraction beneath our shaking right leg. Regrets, I've had a few.

Steers and queers

So some of us have a few. The beer tent is perhaps necessarily positioned just inside the gate, and the fact that I only have two hands becomes, for the first time, a problem. So with one warm Bud held up between the arches of my feet and two wobbling in my hands, I stand just to the right of a hump-backed livestock situation that's sedated -- for photographing purposes -- to the right of the rodeo.

"If you've got the money, then he wants you on his back," offers a friendly, if a tad flirty bull-hand. Oooooh.

My lilty-eyed ladyfriend rises to the challenge, raising herself to the retention bump on the two-ton meat mass, and preens for her Polaroid photo-op. Me, I don't ride bareback. Really.

A gaze over to the rodeo and its adjoining packed stands brings little reason to my flubberly head, as I witness some horse-backed stud run some other horses up onto a Budweiser truck in the middle of the stadium. Dust fuzzes about as the ruckus brings a rattling howl from the cluttered bleachers, and I'm left wondering why the horses wouldn't run onto the beer bus given the presence of whips and manpower. How else are you going to get into it?

Elsewhere on the redneck midway, carnies populate the expected showing of wheel-bottomed thrill rides (like, y'know, the Zipper!), and I sedate my own wandering intentions with a spirited, throw-my-head-around submission to ticketed, childlike glee.

"You wanna go around again," snorts a cross-eyed operator while looking up my ladyfriend's swing-dangling leg, while I try to assess the market value of a blond girl on the carnie circuit. Kidding!

Then it's off to the bathrooms, which are incidentally surrounded by mounds of bullshit in the form of Church-fundraising bags of homemade fudge and brochures for children's drug-abuse homes. Alas, indigestion prevails ...

Roping 'em in

...And carries through to the 26.8 million-watched Grammy Awards celebration on Feb. 21, in which the newly cowboy chic-ed Madonna leads the affair with a celebration of herself and a fake bruise on her side.

Bullriding is a bitch. Even when it is just a mechanical bull.

Anyway, Madonna still can't sing live, especially when thrown against the circular blippery of her vocoded reintroduction, "Music." And her re-casting of newcomer Li'l Bow Wow (Snoop's protégé ... Really!) as the little Latin boy from her "Open Your Heart Video" seemed a particularly silly way to set it all off. Eminem would have been a better choice, no?

Far more impressive was the tantric fantastic offered by vegetarian shiny-head Moby (would he go to the rodeo?), assisted by newcomer Jill Scott and the obvious -- albeit entertaining -- interpretive dance of the Blue Man Group. "Don't nobody know my troubles but God," howled a touched Scott while the Blue Men banged and twisted their oversized household appliances to a suitably Wonka effect.

More importantly, all of the rage against the old queen Elton John and his one-off collaboration with towheaded b-boy Eminem, which was set to culminate in some explosion of choreographed polemics ... um, doesn't. Kudos to the two, though, who easily prove that Elton John is just as good a girl as original collaborator Dido on Mr. Em's reasonably homoerotic -- or is it just psychotic? -- pseudo ballad "Stan." He doesn't come cheap these days.

But -- and pardon me, here -- if you've got the money, he wants you on his back.

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