The Boyfriend of the Week

April 8, 2007

First, a little warning: as subscribers to the email notification thingy (see paragraph above) already know, this site is in the process of moving servers (I ran out of server space just as I was trying to post this write-up last week and have been scrambling around for the last several days trying to get a new account opened up with a secondary ISP). Because the move just happened, I haven't had a chance to test everything out, and there may be some broken links here and there until I get all the bugs worked out. If you DO find a broken link, I would greatly appreciate it if you'd let me know which page it's on so I can fix it. Just email me with any problems you come across in the next couple of weeks:

Now, onto the much-awaited next Boyfriend of the Week!

This week's Boyfriend is a former opera singer (no, really!) who now spends most of his time inserting his arm into cow rectums (recti?) or standing around covered in bat poo. And god, do we ever love him for it. His name is Mike Rowe and he's the host, and, some might say, martyr, of Discovery Channel's hilarious, fascinating, and often utterly disgusting, show Dirty Jobs.

On this delightful show, which I somehow managed to escape knowing anything about until it hit its current season (thank Pete for all you Mike Rowe fans out there who clued me in several months ago!), our dashing, crinkly-eyed, operatically-voiced hero travels around the country trying out a wide variety of jobs most of the rest of us never even knew existed: sewer inspector, road kill removal specialist, professional skull cleaner (?!), illegal dam deconstructor, brewery vat cleaner, chick sexer, avian vomitologist, oh good lord, the list goes on and on. And on and on and ON (don't believe me? Check out Mike's complete Dirty Jobs resume). If you tell him about a profession that involves getting dirty, Mike will show up to try it out. He arrives on the set of a each new job full of enthusiasm and optimism, and, usually, ends the day covered in poop, exhausted, and muttering, "Man, I hate my job."

And god, do we ever love him for it.

One of my favorite things about Mike, actually, is his capacity for being both reverent and irreverent at the same time. He does this show in part because he wants to showcase the behind-the-scenes people, you see (of course, he also does this show because he just really, really likes poo, because, honestly, wouldn't he'd kind of HAVE to in order to do his job?). Anyway, Mike wants to show the rest of us how hard others work so that we can: have a clean Lake Erie to boat around in (hi, algae-scooping guys!), have lobster for dinner (hi, lobster fishermen guys covered in dead fish goop!), drink milk (hi, guys who made me afraid to ever drink milk again because of all the poo on those cows' nipples!), or visit clean caves (hi, bat guano cleaner guys!). Mike's never afraid to get down and dirty with the work crew, and, well, even when he IS afraid, he does it anyway.

And god, do we ever love him for it.

At the same time, though, Mike's the kind of guy who tells it like it is, which is why he spends half of every episode muttering things like, "Forget hoof-and-mouth disease, I'm gonna get poo-in-mouth disease," or "You don't HAVE any knees, you freaky hobbit!" or, my current personal favorite, "Holy crap! She just gave birth! That just isn't natural!"

Ah, Mike. Mike, I love ya. I love your deep, booming voice, I love your eye-crinkles-to-end-all-eye-crinkles, I love your sense of humor, I love that you spend 3/4ths of your time with some part of your body shoved up the rectum of some animal and you only complain in jest, and I love -- LOVE -- that you never give up, even when you've just been told, AGAIN, "Uh, Mike. . . you see, well. . . that isn't actually MUD."

What I didn't know about Mike until just recently was that he's not just the man behind Dirty Jobs at the Discovery Channel. He's also the voice behind another show I used to love on that channel, called Deadliest Catch. I watched the first season of DC a couple of years ago and finally had to quit because it just stressed me the hell out. My god, it's a miracle ANY of those guys live to see a second fishing season! That job is just CRAZY. But recently, I was flipping channels and came across an episode and was floored to recognize Mike Rowe's voice doing the narration. Back when I was first watching, you see, I didn't know who he was, and I was far more interested in the visuals of that show than the voice-overs. But once you know the face that goes with those vocals, you can never mistake that sound again. Mike's voice is very distinctive. So distinctive, in fact, that after watching that episode of DC that day, I decided I could probably give the series a try for real again. There's something about Mike's voice that really soothes my nerves, and now that I'm focusing more on the smooth taste of that aural honey (yummy!) and less on the images of guys shoving hooks through the fleshy parts of their hands and nearly being yanked overboard when their ankles get caught in the lines, it's more like an hour of meditation than anything else. No seriously.

Now, if Mike'd just do a book-on-tape version of Will and Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization (all eleven volumes and two million words of it!), we'd be able to rest assured we'd be listening to his voice from now until the end of time.

I mean, just think of it: getting to lull yourself to sleep every night listening to Mike Rowe whisper in your ear about the Age of Napoleon? It's enough to get a girl interested in stodgy European history, I tell you. (Though I will say seeing Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Showtime's The Tudors isn't going to hurt much with that either, hubba hubba.) I think this idea is totally brilliant -- the estate of Will and Ariel Durant should snatch this one right up. They'd make millions!

Next up, a little savvy investigational work which turned up some more interesting details about Mike's past. First off, the aforementioned brief career as an opera singer -- I swear I am not making that up, even though when a reader told ME that, I definitely assumed she was yanking my chain. Because, wha. . .? OPERA? Isn't that a little girly for a guy who now spends his time making snakes puke and scraping bat poop off his shoes?

As it turns out, though, Mike was a baritone for the Baltimore Opera (which he claims he joined so he could meet cute girls -- so modest, our boy). I wondered if that was what led to his interest in narration (he's been the narrator for a number of other shows and specials over the years, by the way). As it turns out, though, what really got him interested in talkin' was the community service project he did as part of his quest to become an Eagle Scout as a teen -- volunteering as a reader for the Maryland School for the Blind. What a guy!

In any case, once that interest took major hold of him years later, Mike decided to go for it. He left the opera and spent the next several years doing on-again, off-again parts in a variety of television projects. And then, he landed the job that would change his career forever -- a gig on Evening Magazine hosting a regular segment called "Somebody's Gotta Do It" in which he showcased, yep, you guessed it, a variety of VERY dirty jobs.

After airing a particularly memorable piece on artificial cow insemination, the viewer response went off the charts, leading Mike to think he might be a natural at putting himself into horrifically disgusting situations to make money. He sent a tape of the segment to the Discovery Channel, and the rest, as they say, is absolutely filthy history.

In an interview on the Dirty Jobs web site, someone asked Mike if he's ever been injured doing all these various jobs. It's definitely a question I've had myself while watching. "What the HELL are you THINKING, Mike?!" I am prone to exclaim when he sticks his arm underneath a rock looking for snakes with sharp fangs for the umpteeth time. You see, as a kid who grew up in the deserts of Arizona, I was told about 80 gazillion times by my parents that you never, EVER put your hands where you can't see them. And, as an adult and fan of Dirty Jobs, I have recently expanded that rule to include places like cow rectums which, though unlikely to contain scorpions or black widows, apparently are host to all kinds of other unpleasantries I really feel no desire to discover for myself. In any case, Mike lives by an entirely different set of rules, by which I think I mean he lives by no set of rules whatsoever.

Here's the list Mike gave back, which I believe speaks for itself when it comes to describing for you Mike's personality (in a nutshell, the man is INSANE):

"I've been thrown from horses, kicked by cows, scratched by cats, bitten by an ostrich, rubbed raw by the hide of a shark, bitten (really hard) by a catfish, crapped on by millions of bats, pecked by chickens, stung by lots of bees, attacked by a sewer rat, covered with hundreds of roaches, and profoundly frightened by an alligator. I wrenched my back hauling garbage, smashed my finger with a hammer, smashed my toe with a sledgehammer, cut my arm open on a rusty nail, burned my eyelashes off in a blacksmith's furnace, and become dehydrated twice, most recently in a New Jersey sludge pit. I've also developed several infections, most probably caused from waste material getting into open wounds. Pulled my neck, sprained my middle finger, and sustained a second degree burn while hot tarring a roof in Los Angeles. Of those, the scariest was probably the furnace incident. The heat MELTED MY CONTACTS TO MY EYES [emphasis mine, to illuminate the fact this man is TOTALLY INSANE], which alarmed me considerably. On the positive side, my left toenail has nearly grown back completely. My eyelashes have also returned, more or less."

Dude, his contacts MELTED ONTO HIS EYES, and he just kept going. I'm not sure if that's admirable or just plain dumb. But either way, god, do I ever love him for it.

Dirty Jobs airs Tuesday nights at 9pm on the Discovery Channel. Be there, or be, heaven forbid, UTTERLY CLEAN.

MacGyver Factor Score: 96.268%. Okay, so, points off for the obvious -- who wants to date a guy who smells like, at any given time: fish guts, cow poop, rancid cheese, snake puke, or, for the love of all that's holy, whatever it is he was cleaning off those skulls.

Points back, though, because I always wanted to learn more about the Age of Napoleon. Seriously, I think this book-on-tape idea of mine is genius. Hell, I'd listen to him read Roget's Thesaurus. In TONGUES. It's really not going to take much. Mike, call me -- I've got some great ideas for your career, whenever you're finally ready to "go clean."

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