Monday, January 31, 2005
The other side of taxesNot the war machine
Not the leg-up or the hand-me-out
Not the health care for vet'rans
Not the cent or two for the poor and old
Not the roads, the gas, the infrastructure
Not the public works, the guv'mint
Not the cops on every streetcorner or in your internet
Not the arr-an-dee, the scientific curiosity
Not the nukular power, the coal, the dams
Not the rape of our public forests for private roads
Not the suburban sprawl, the displaced farmers
Not the theft from the Injuns, before us or since
Not the inflation of industry, the wealth of the few
Not any of these justify
The thirty percent
Of my life
Tax on, uh, me.[I wrote twenty essays on the subject. Here's one for you, leaving nineteen for me.]
As a citizen of this kingdom, I pay taxes. Fill out the forms, file 'em, and pay an amount according to my class in order to keep me and my family out of jail. Unfortunately, you have to be some sort of genius to get it right. More often one finds pieces of ones work to be in error.
Miss SpellingsI was talking with a friend who is dyslexic, and the topic was our current administration.
"The president makes people like me look like geniuses," he said. "I mean, why in the world would anyone give away pieces of his home state to rich people?"
"Huh?" I said. "I missed that one."
"No you didn't," he said. "You've talked about it before in your emails."
"I did?" I wondered, asking "when exactly did I do that?"
He laughed. "You're always complaining about how Bush gave all of his rich cronies a cut in Texas..."
Death and...I've been temping at an insurance company that is late in getting its W-2s out to all of the claimants. For the last few weeks, I've been correcting errors, and printing new documents, and enduring Client Service Reps who think that their request is more important than the other thousand or so that we're already working on. Sometimes I think I prefer death to
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Dread Pirate BobBob's a good guy. He eats what's put in front of him. He doesn't snore when he sleeps. He cleans up after himself, including lowering the toilet seat. He's very gracious and kind to animals and women. He doesn't have a weakness for grog. Last winter, when he was on the schooner coming home from the West Indies, he passed a perfectly good target without firing a single cannonball.
Still, as a pirate, he has his weaknesses. For instance, questionable pr0n and cracked software. He's also fond of that popular booty, MP3's. He's got every BitTorrent and KaZaa variant installed on his homebuilt CPU, and half a dozen hard drives busily gorging themselves on smut and illegal music. His PC's are fastidiously maintained and have never been seriously compromised by either spyware or viruses, and he's thoroughly firewalled and protected by a NAT-enabled router.
As a pirate, Bob's a magnet for lawsuits and the Justice Department. These days that's a lot worse than a frigate bearing the English Crown. Which is ironic, because the booty's free for the taking, and one could argue Bob's not hurting anyone with his pursuits, and that criminals from as little as ten years ago would laugh at him if he were ever jailed for his piracy.
Will Bob walk the plank? Will he be remanded to federal prison, or have to settle half a dozen poorly-conceived lawsuits from a music industry scrambling against the dissolution of its empire? Will the Patriot Act compel his favorite bookstores to quietly comply with requests for his most recent book choices? Stay tuned.
Acting 101I was stage managing a play, and one of the actors was a young early-20s guy who confided in me that he was becoming enamored of the slightly-older-than-he woman who volunteered on Friday nights at the theater's concession stand.
"So, ask her out," I said.
"I can't. I'm nervous and I don't know what to say," he said.
"What?" I exclaimed. "You're an actor. You're not allowed to be nervous. You're also not allowed to not know what to say."
"But I don't have a script," he complained.
So I gave him an old Acting 101 homework assignment. "Go into the prop room, and grab the first thing you see. Then find something else that matches it. These are the props you'll use in your scene. Then, write a play with less than 30 words that enable you to use both props," said I.
He wandered off in the direction of the prop room. Five minutes later, I saw him emerge, wearing a giant Pirate's Hat with a scruffy, half-un-stuffed stuffed Parrot roughly tied to his shoulder with a red bandana.
With a look of determination, he headed towards the concession stand. I followed, and as I emerged from backstage I heard him exclaim to the girl...
"Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ya doing anything after the show?"
She said, "Do you plan to pillage first?"
He looked at the parrot on his shoulder and said, "Ah, Polly, just the treasure I was hunting for: she's a saucy wench, and lovely to behold, too..."
They dated for nearly a year after that.
The red seaDetails of bodily functions are so... gross. Much better than using words like "diarrhea" and "constipation" is a nice, pleasant phrase like "abdominal discomfort", right?
That is why, every month, I am visited by Captain Bloodsnatch.
Arrrr!Avast, me hearties! 'Tis I, Seanbeard, terror of the high seas, hijackin' ye precious cargo of topic! I says ye write about
so write, ye lily-livered landlubbers! An' be quick about it, afore I makes ye walk the plank!
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Fantasy/RealityThe five things I would want to have with me on a desert island
*A computer with satellite telephone uplink
*$450 million, 10% in gold and negotiable bonds, the rest in various bank accounts in Switzerland and the Caymans
*A 45-room mansion with sustainable geothermal power system, satellite TV, fully landscaped botanical garden, jacuzzi, planetarium, and 14-person maintainence staff
*A private jet with landing strip
The five things I probably would have with me on a desert island
*An old phone bill
*A can of Alpo (no can opener)
*A tattered copy of The Power of Positive Thinking (in French)
Psssssst...The truth is out there. Maybe it's just a blip in a frame of 40-year-old film, but remember, that's why anyone knows who Zapruder was. Maybe it's just a little inconsistency, or perhaps someone indiscreetly let a word slip. But your subconscious knows it's true. In your heart you know it. A fact that might be innocent, save for the implications. Why was this person never seen, unlike the others. Why stand in the shadows? Was it a hidden power thing, or was it suppression by the others? Given that nearly half the witnesses are dead, and the others have vanished from the public eye for the most part, we may never know what was going on. Nor, for that matter, may we ever know the identity of that elusive eighth castaway who survived the wreck of the SS Minnow.
TopicalityToday's topic is Desert Islands.
Sorry I'm a wee bit late! Had to backdate that Friday entry...
Friday, January 28, 2005
HookahI knew there would be people I didn't know. Shop owners speaking in Arabic, friends who were also artists, and the scene of the smoking of rare Egyptian herbs ( or not so rare) at this shop in the recently un-smoked town I'm from. I went after work, all lathered up with early to leave haste from work and then perfected with a grounding of the tang of home and dog. I wandered until I found it, with some help, this hookah shop. Cell phone messages were exchanged.
I drank Turkish coffee. I listened as the interested parties exchanged public pleasantries and opinions about their livelihoods and avocations. About gastric bypass, too, and new toys. The surprise was the girlfriend of my new friend, who I'd known only as a bun and her art. She was not only more flirtatious -- this married gal with at least one possibly two children -- but also had more of what I dig, more moxy, more let-go, more let-your-hair-down-and-live-a-little. I could also tell that she was digging for info and that was OK. We connected. I could see in her eyes we did.
Sat there, not smoking, in the hookah shop. Listened as the Arabic expressions were said. Said "In English!" a dozen times while our mutual friend was in the bathroom. Kept our distance, despite obvious chemistry. I could see her attributes showing behind the false denim jacket, and her eyes just bugged out at me with exactly what I like. And she tossed her hair around like she didn't care. This only increased with time.
The martini bar. Globes and rare drinks. I didn't offer the girl my cherries. I felt she had enough, and she was married. My mistake. Even when you know she's leaving with her friends and nothing could possibly happen with the six-foot-five underage dude your friend's friend invited, who somehow wound up with his arms around her when these should've been yours, when someone else has his arms around both available and unavailable women in your party, and you're leaving by yourself to go home and write this entry, it's still a shock. How did you play the butter shots wrong? How did you miss the transition between someone you had sympatico with, 80's music with, flirtation with, robot dancing and proximity with? And the answer's of course that nothing was going to happen, and you were always going home alone. And the answer is this is the way you will always go home, that you fundamentally miss your opportunities with the wrong women as much as the right ones, and that there's no way you're going home with anyone who you'd want to go home with, that you've rejected people in those clubs just as now you're being rejected by their complements, and that one way or another, someone's morals are always superior to wishes and attractions and inappropriate slaps on the ass given by the underaged and accepted graciously by the Saturn return women with kids and a husband waiting contentedly, bemusedly at home.
Yes, you're going home but not to that one. You're going home to the dog, the early rising for photoshoots, the stopping for coffee and dissassembling and reassembling of equipment for unthought-out weekends full of not what you just thought you could have touched. That touching, that surprise, was never yours and you should just put it out of your starving mind.
Surprise! Someone's postingWhen my father turned 50, his (second) wife set up a big surprise party for him, with lots and lots of people attending. They'd be out somewhere the afternoon of his party (it was either his birthday or the day before), and we would all fill the house awaiting his arrival. I drove in from school 900 miles away a few days prior because of the event (missing the better part of a week of classes as a result), and was staying at my mother's house when I made the near fatal mistake of answering the phone when the kids' line rang. It was my dad, and now he knew I was in town. He didn't grill me as to why, and he never put two and two together until one minute before the party when he saw all the cars on his street.
Fast forward a few months shy of two decades, and now I find myself more intimately in on the planning of another surprise 50th birthday event, this time that of my wife. A good friend of ours from out of town talked to me about creating such plans, and insisted that she would come up for such festivities. The wrinkle here is that the big day falls on a Wednesday, so I'm hoping to set up a week-long festival of activities she will enjoy with whomever wants to join us. The things that need to be done are:
1) Talk to a few key people and get their commitments.
2) Based on that, plot out a full schedule of activities -- games, movies, fun.
3) Arrange it so that JJ can take the whole week off from work (not sure how best to do that -- probably tell her to arrange for the week off so she can get her "present" without my giving any details).
I have over half a year to get this set up, but probably best to get the ball rolling. Anyone with any good ideas, feel free to contact me by email.
Topics For AlgernonToday's topic is:
Have at it.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Why evolution is a lieOh you and I both know it. We tested it out, you see. We put two grown adults in a room, sealed it, and threw in a hamhock. Two years later, the ham was cured and the adults had ascended to a higher plane. Where's the evolution in that I ask you? What were the bacteria thinking? Oh, you say the bacteria *couldn't evolve into a thinking being in two whole years*?
So much for higher thought at the top of the food chain!
PurposeNothing. The sort of black that you get because "the darkness hasn't been installed yet," to quote Terry Pratchett. No way of knowing how long this takes because there is no time and nobody around to observe its passage anyway.
Then white. A brilliant expenditure of energy rushing outward from a central point. Thirteen billion years pass while atoms huddle together for warmth and become dust, the dust congeals slowly and becomes stars, crap left over from the stars becomes planets, shit hits the planets and creates moons and asteroids, and things generally begin to get into the swing of the old universe game.
All of a sudden, on a backwater planet in orbit around a hayseed sun in a pissant arm of a boondock spiral galaxy in the forgotten corner of this crappy branch of the multiverse, something uninteresting happened. Well, it was uninteresting by the standards of colliding planets and exploding suns, but for the sake of this post it was pretty damn important. A bunch of folded polymers managed to replicate themselves more or less exactly.
While the more part was cool, the less part was significantly cooler. Over the next four billion years, cells form, blobby little weird fish-things get backbones, the fish-things with backbones drag themselves across the scary toxic atmosphere to increasingly distant puddles -- which, as it happens, makes some of them get lungs -- the things with lungs eventually become damn big lizards, some of the smaller lizards get this bizarre coating of hairs, the hairy things diverge into all sorts of shapes, including one group with surprisingly big brains and mobile digits, the long-fingered, big-brained things get stranger and stranger until they lose their hair again (makes you wonder why they went to the bother of having it in the first place), the hairless primates develop written language, cities, the egg salad sandwich, global war, mass transit, and rock music, and finally, as we rush up towards the present day, one group of these people, a particularly sexless group who will probably not be passing on their genes, develops TCP/IP, TFT displays, routers, and HTML.
Which doesn't explain why I find goatse.cx so hilarious. But it does give a bit of background on the issue.
"Think of it as Evolution in Action" * **Edgar the mouse and Dani my fiance are engaged in battle, and I have been brought in as the secret weapon.
Edgar, as Dani calls him, took up residence somewhere in our kitchen last week. We think the bitter cold that we've had the last 10 days drove him in, and since there was a broken window in the basement that my landlord was slow to fix, we think he got in through there.
So Dani asked me to get traps, to try to get rid of Edgar.
I bought these vicious classic spring-loaded mouse traps, which I liberally baited with peanut butter and placed in the two places we had seen him.
The next morning, the peanut butter was completely gone, the traps licked clean, yet still unsprung.
So we put some drops of honey on the traps, and even under the trap mechanism, and even on the cross-bar. We basically gave the entire trap a honey-coating better than any Beer Nut.
This morning, the traps were nice and dry, no honey, traps even moved significantly from the spot they were in the night before, but still unsprung.
There were also mouse droppiings found under the sink next to our cleaning supplies.
I pulled out the big guns today.
I bought four glue traps. Ever seen these things? They are ultra sticky goopy pads that you leave in the mouse's usual pathways. I nearly had to throw one out because I came this --- >.< --- close to getting stuck to it myself.
They are now under the sink, in the potato drawer, and at the location of the last two traps. I have even dropped a small dollop of peanut butter into the center of each glue trap as an added incentive for Edgar to investigate.
Edgar will die tonight. If by some miracle he survives, we plan to escalate even further tomorrow: My friend has two big, six-year-old cats named Hermione and Loki. They are experienced and very effective Mousers, and while I am badly allergic to all things furry, I'll hop myself up on extra doses of my allergy meds for a few days while we invite the cats into our humble home for the weekend.
* Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Dream Park
** Or, in the case of the guy on the train tracks, "Evolution Inaction."
How Cockroaches Will Outlive Us
The Danger: Global warming
The Adaptation: After years of living behind refrigerators, cockroaches will develop the ability to suck out the coolant via osmosis, thus allowing them to roam the tropical rain forests of New York in comfort.
The Danger: Republicans
The Adaptation: Cockroaches will develop the ability to cause wedge-shaped protruberances to issue forth from their anuses. These wedge issues will allow them to pry apart coalitions of their enemies, so that they can win the Electoral College.
The Danger: Blogs
The Adaptation: Natural selection will give cockroaches inflexible flaps covering their front appendages that will prevent them from spending 8-12 hours a day sitting in front of a computer in their pajamas writing out their opinions on reality TV and Social Security reform.
The Danger: Cholesterol
The Adaptation: I Can't Believe It's Not Detritus!
The Danger: Overexposure, followed by the inevitable backlash
The Adaptation: Cockroaches will avoid the career arc of Conor Oberst.
The Danger: Getting "Borked"
The Adaptation: Cockroaches will evolve the ability to not be nominated to the Supreme Court, or alternatively to not be crazy, misanthropic social Darwinists.
The Danger: The Rapture
The Adaptation: There'll be cockroaches in Heaven. You honestly think there's anyplace they can't get into?
TransitionEvery now and then, an ill-formed practical joke leads to an improvement in the quality of our gene pool. Then again, too often, the wrong people pay the price (like that bozo who parked on the tracks yesterday lives, and a bunch of others don't). Let's write for a day about things relating to some aspect of some sort of ...
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Infantile humorOr, everyone loves plastic poo.
So long as it's really plastic.
And not really poo.
Because that would be impractical to pick up and not vomit.
Not vomit actual vomit rather than plastic vomit.
To pick up what is ostensibly plastic poo, cringe as if it smelled, then throw up plastic vomit?
That would be a great practical joke!
The joke's on youYou see, Sean, we all agreed to wait until you decided to hijack the topic, just to see what you'd come up with.
It's amazing how you channeled the spirit of this challenge without any foreknowledge.
It's 4PM. I'm Hijacking the Topic.How's about...
Have at it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Fuckyouplexless in OmahaI am a terrible navigator. Although I did once find my own ass with a map, so I'm not that bad.
I navigate by sight (which, a friend once told me in a fit of pique, is how women navigate) and if I have driven someplace before, I can usually find my way back. Following directions I have a problem with.
But I am not as bad as I used to be. Once, when I had just gotten my license, I tried to meet a friend at the AMC Theatre on 144th and Center -- hereafter referred to as the Fuckyouplex due to the many bad experiences I have had that involve it in one way or another. The Fuckyouplex is a building of truly Wal-Martian proportions, fronted by a big, bright red sign and a parking lot bigger than my high school gymnasium.
I couldn't find it. Drove up and down and up again. Couldn't find it. The next day I called my friend to apologize. I told him I had driven the length of 114th Street with no luck. He told me he had said 144th Street. I looked daggers at him, just like in the comics.
"Dude, you should, like, learn where more stuff is," he said, and I swear that is verbatim, because the words are burned in my brain as the single most superfluous piece of advice I have ever been given. The effect was heightened by the fact that my friend has this staccato, affectless voice and this straightforward, graceless manner of saying whatever he thinks. I laughed so hard that I had to forgive him for giving me the wrong directions.
Atlas didn't shrug. It was a back spasm.Out of the 48 contiguous United States and the 11 Provinces of Canada, I have visited 45 and 6, respectively.
I have not been to the Yukon or any of the rest of the northern provinces, and I have missed Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
I have been to California three times, and have taken distictly different routes to get there each time, and different ways home as well. I have travelled all of the double-digit Interstaes except 10 -- drove on 20 out west, but, sadly, we headed North before we got to Louisiana. I begged and pleaded my father to take us on 20 to I-71 then north back to Cleveland, but no, we didn't have the time to travel the extra 4-500 miles that my choice would have added to the trip. So I still am missing out on those three heart-of-the-South states. I also traveled most of the Trans-Canada highway, only missing British Columbia on that particular looooong stretch of road.
For all this traveling, however, I cannot and refuse to claim to be well-travelled. I have never been to another country except Canada, which, for all intents and purposes is the US's northern states. I have never been to Mexico, I have never flown 'cross an ocean, never sailed the seven seas -- well, I have gone sailing off of Maine, and in Puget Sound in Washington State, so I guess technically I have never sailed five of the seven seas.
But someday I plan to go to Northern Europe and Scandinavia. I have an Uncle living in Sweden who is getting on in years and I'd love to see him one more time, I have cousins whose children I have never met in both Sweden and Norway, and I fully plan to visit the Glenmorangie and Oban distilleries in Scotland before I die.
Now, how can I plan my honeymoon in Florida and still somehow drive through the remaining three states... in six days...
A Matter of ScaleI wish there were a Mapquest for the routes I'm tracing. Following the path of electrons on a printed circuit board is bad enough when you're the designer; when you're a reverse engineer, the work's about ten times as hard.
Lately I've been running across nanosecond timing glitches in the prototype we've built of one of our competitor's microprocessors. A billionth of a second seems like nothing up here, but down there, where a resistor towers like the Empire State Building, it's the difference between $168 million of pure profit (what the other guys have) and being $6 million in the hole for the project (where we're currently sitting). Since neither I nor anyone else on the fab team can figure out why we're glitching so badly on the new traces we've run, it's back to the competitor's working model to work it out.
Even when I compare the two under the microsope, the two look exactly the same. But somewhere in the two millimeters' worth of copper, there's a traffic jam causing the electrons to slow down. I've spent the last four days trying to break that jam, and I've been forgoing food and sleep to do it. Now I'm working at the scanning tunneling microsope, where individual atoms are the size of beach balls.
There! A cut in the trace, about four or five atoms across. The dies are bad, and we can fix this. I leave a note on my boss' desk:
Rebuild the die on PCB-CM-104. Problem's solved.
P.S.: I quit. I'm moving to a commune in Vermont, where I will deal with no span of time shorter than a season.
Grody to the MapOk, people. Show of hands: How many of you have been to Sodomy City?
Uh, I think a few of you have been there, but just don't realize it. Not your fault; it's just that your memories have been rewritten. Let me explain from the beginning.
I must have been about 14 when my mom took me into a used book store, and somehow my eyes found their way to this dusty old atlas. Something about it, I don't know, but I could hardly pull my eyes away from it, and after the proper amount of begging and pleading, I was able to get my mother to fork over the $8 that along with the $16 in my pocket, would allow me to bring that volume home.
I loved that book, spent most every free hour looking at it, wallowing in the intricacies of our planet. Until one day, tragedy. I dropped a thick black magic marker on the map of Arizona, permanently obscuring the last five letters of the name of the town Whyficus. A few days later in the library, I was looking at a map there, and noticed that that Arizona town was listed as "Why." Another atlas, same thing.
Had I changed the world? One night after a few beers, I changed Wooster, Massachusetts in my atlas to Worcester. Then I changed Ford, Wales to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I switched two letters in the name of the town next to mine, and soon as I did it, everyone I knew claimed it had always been spelled that way.
Fast forward a few years, when I got an unfair speeding ticket from a lying cop in Philadelphia. I decided to take my revenge in spades. When I got home, Philadelphia was now, and always had been Sodomy City, appropriately enough, the eternal butt of jokes, even more than it had been.
At this point, you're probably doubting my credibility. You're probably wondering why it isn't Sodomy City, and why it has never been. It's simple. A few years later, after my anger settled down, I went to the mayor and made him an offer. I told him I could retroactively change the name of his town, and would be willing to do so for, oh, $3 million, give or take a nickel. The mayor, being an intelligent man of reason, of course didn't believe me. But I was able to convince him of a way to pay me without fear of being ripped off. He would put the money, and I would add $5000 collateral, into an escrow account, payable three days hence to me "if this city is not, and never has been named Sodomy City," and to the city otherwise. I went home, took out the atlas and my eraser, and three days later was a rich man.
Since then, I have effectively extorted enough money from dozens of municipalities to live quite comfortably, thank you! But just in case you think this is all out of avarice, and there is no altruistic motive, do you remember the ebola epidemic of '03 that wiped out over 60 million people? Probably not. I erased that little town in Cameroon where it originated. You can thank me later. But now I feel like skiing. Hang on while I draw a mountain west of here ...
Today's Topic is...Mike reaches deep down into his bag of esoteria and produces today's topic:
Do with it what you will...for science.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Coming home to the kittenWillow greets me when I come home. She runs up to the door, blinks sleep out of her eyes, and mews loudly, then runs to the bedroom. She looks back over her shoulder and mews again, signifying that I must follow her. She then tosses herself on the bed and rolls around with glee, knowing that I will be in shortly to pet her tummy. Woe to me if I do not arrive promptly, for she will walk out of the bedroom, and then ignore me for as long as she can remember to do so.
Sometimes she seems angry that I have joined her on the bed, though she was begging me to do so a moment earlier. She tosses her head indignantly, and sits on the farthest corner from me, looking away from me and grooming herself. I can almost hear her saying "You cannot have the Willow!" in Chris Kattan's voice.
Eris glares at her from the same place she was when I came in. She has long since outgrown the greeting game. She chuckles silently to herself, and goes back to sleep.
I come home all the timeBut what's home? I call my hometown home but as I've been known to say, and as George Carlin, that wino, says, "Home is where you keep your stuff." In my case, my dog. The other stuff is a lot more mobile these days than my dog. I've gone on weekend trips without her because she doesn't travel anymore. I have sitters who look in on her, and she's mostly good with this because she actually has to climb fewer stairs. When I come home, she's ecstatic. The whole time I'm gone I'm wondering if there will be an old dog to come home to. When I walk in and smell that old dog tart odor and hear her whine, I sigh in both relief and sadness because though this is not the day, the day isn't far off and then where will home be?
Hey Frank! Sing to the camera!When I was a late-teen I spent a two-plus year timespan going to the Heights Art Theater on Coventry Road every Friday and Saturday night at midnight in order to watch and [perform in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I played Riff-Raff, which got me the nickname Tim-Raff, which I gladly acknowledged and even encouraged. -- my current online handle comes from a Polish Immigrant mispronouncing the nick, which I thought was funny, and so I kept it. More people at college knew me as "Riff" than as Tim, and it was a fun bit of notoriety. My picture was printed in the local weekly suburban paper, standing resplendently in my black and gold vinyl spacesuit and fishnet stockings, with a banana on my head and a bizarre three-pronged "laser capable of emitting a beam of pure anti-matter". Said my best frind's mom, "Damn, Tim, you've got nice legs!"
I ended up seeing Rocky 189 times. I last saw it 20 years ago on the last night that the Heights Art was open. They closed the next day, and with it went my career as a space pirate/butler who has regular elbow sex with his sister/coworker. I can still recite all the lines. I know the dialogue frontwards and backwards.
My friend Ennie is currently playing Magenta at the Cedar Lee Theater, where they've been showing Rocky once a month for the last fifteen or so years. I never went to see it there, mostly out of respect for the guy who now plays RiffRaff, but I know most of the cast and regular attendees, and have even met up with them post-show for parties.
Ennie will be retiring next month from her role. She recently turned 30, and acknowledges that "it's time to grow up."
I have een asked to come to her final curtain, to act as an extra in the cast (as one of the Transylvanians doing the Time Warp) and to present her with a bouquet at the end of the show.
So it looks like, unlike Frank N. Furter, who despite singing about Going Home and never actually getting to, I'll be Coming Home to Rocky one last time. Should be fun.
Enter DexX, looking flustered...Me? Forget? Naaaahhh...
Sydney was fun. I am now back.
The topic for today is: Coming Home
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Moving inI knew it was a mistake that I moved in on his woman. I read her blog for weeks, passively, and without getting a sense of who she was or what was going on in her life. I missed that she'd moved halfway across the country to be with this man, that he was married, that he was Italian, and that he was, of course duplicitous about his need for another woman in his life -- the woman I was destined to steal from him. We talked on the phone for weeks. I was sadly desparate for some kind of romantic aside from the horrible breakup I'd just gone through. She was realizing that she'd made a mistake being with this married charmer. We met, and there were some sparks. A month went by, the holidays, and when she returned from her trip East, she soon found her tax shelter depleted and her car taken by him who she'd trusted. When she asked around, she found to her shock that he had mob connections, that he was Not To Be Messed With. So when she failed to confront him for taking her assets, it didn't surprise me. I would have run the other way rather than confront a mobster myself. I've seen the movies. When I visited her for only the second time, he had made himself scarce. I was treating it like a visit looking for some reasons to move closer to her. All of a sudden, while apartment-gazing, two nasty looking men jumped me and my lady love and killed us both. So yeah, I have some regrets.
pack-rattingThe problem with being a pack-rat is that every time you contemplate moving, you have more crap to take with you. And unlike the old adage that "he who dies with the most toys wins," he who has the most crap when moving loses...
...friends, who suddenly find themselves busy washing their hair when you announce your move: "Yep, it's pretty much gonna take all weekend and into next week to wash my hair. Yep. It's a new special anti-aging treatment. You have to soak your head in a bowl of cold running water for 108 hours. Yeah, I'm not going to enjoy it at all. Good luck moving!"
...money, when you have to hire two-idiots-and-a-beat-up-bad-excuse-for-a-truck for $500 to work for four hours while they break half of your dishes and that really cool halogen lamp you bought three days ago.
...time, as you need to take off two hwhole weeks to pack all that crap into the many many many boxes you "borrowed" from the local liquor store or the milk crates that fell into your trunk when you backed into the loading dock of the supermarket at 3am. Then the boxes sit for six months untouched, or, at most, moved to get at even deeper buried boxes, all arranged haphazardly in the basement storage locker.
I'm currently in the first floor of a rental property. The basement is crammed floor-to-ceiling with my junk. Tomorrow, I begin the great un-pack-ratting, in order to find crap to sell on eBay. And I vow that the next time I move will be the last time I move. So help me God.
Topic-jackingBen has recently moved and doesn't have internet access right now... so the topic is:
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Delta Blues11:15 on the highway through the bayou. They say that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil on a crossroads at midnight in a bayou like this one, just for a hand on the six-string, and I believe it. When the road dust coats you in the night, the sweat running sticky trails down your neck and pooling in the hollows of your shoulders, you can believe the old legends. I passed a Waffle House about fifteen miles back, and my own personal legend hit me again. She was a waitress at the Awful Waffle.
The knobbed plastic of my steering wheel is no substitute for the swoop and curve of her hip, but at least it's real, and not like the fever dream I've been living in for the past five months. Lately the dream has started to work its way into my waking world, denying me even the cold comfort of sleep. I've been awake for 86 hours now, and I'm still too drowsy to lie down. All I can do is drive, another hundred or thousand or million miles down the road, however long the cash I picked up on the construction job in Gautier or Biloxi will last.
Some nights, the shameful ones when I've hired the services of a surrogate to take her place, I lie awake alone in the motel bed, the breeze from the open window cooling the sweat of -- not exactly passion, but at least a replica -- on my chest and legs. I think of her, how we would collapse backwards, panting, the coal of her cigarette a beacon in the dark.
...And the man and the woman were naked, and felt no shame.
So I light another menthol, and curse the broken air conditioner, and turn off the highway. The asphalt changes to gravel, and then to dirt. There's a crossroads up ahead, and midnight's coming. I know exactly what I want to get for the price I intend to pay.
The ListYou want to know what I did the last 72 hours? I went to see Racing Stripes, that new movie about a ebra, and then drove my Mada home in the haardous freeing drile. I completed a 1000 piece jigsaw pule, and learned to play some of my favorite Top and Eppelin songs on my ither (I wanted to learn Purple Hae too, but was feeling too lay). I dined on pia and pretels and subs from Quinos. I stayed up late calculating astronomical syygies and memoriing ip codes. I watched videos of some movies I like, including Orro and Ardo and Frit the Cat. I wrote to pen pals in Swailand and Anibar. But in that time, I've gotten exactly ero hours of sleep, and I feel like a ombie. I really need to catch some you-know-whats!
topic o' the dayit's 3:24 AM
I can't sleep.
Let's make today's topic
Friday, January 21, 2005
Ay-nal or Ah-nahl?I spent years overcoming my fears of being naked, running through school halls with toilet paper on my wooden-heeled feet. Nevertheless, following my sister into the girls' bathroom threw me for a loop, for in that luxury suite stood the dirtiest, nastiest piece of bathroom china I've ever seen. "Oh, Brian, you know it's only here for show!" My sister's potty mouth... priceless. "I can't use that," I exclaimed, "it's disgusting!" Ever so obvious. "But it doesn't smell!" She was right. I couldn't smell a thing over the potpourri. She led me closer. The potpourri smell grew stronger. "Hey, that isn't real poop!" It looked like a chia experience upon close inspection, with little buds coming out of the rolls of brown muck encrusted on the thing. "I told you!" But how did they get the smell to so completely change complexion in so short a time? It was still disgusting, but now it seemed... "Natural," I said, "and so fragrant!" My sister, her bubble-gum chewing coming to a sudden pop, said, "Yeah, it took enough seeds to kill a diverticulitis-prone horse to get it this way!" And now, I wondered aloud, "Why leave it this way at all? It still looks horrible." She said, "You didn't expect one of us girls could bear to clean it did you? Ewww!"
To be continued?
True ConfessionsThe first time I ever used a laxative I was 21. I was in the Air Force, and I'd been what my grandmother would euphemistically call "backed up" for about six days.
Strangely enough, long-term constipation is part and parcel of the military experience. When I went through basic training, I (along with forty of the fifty other people in my basic training flight) was so stressed out by the pressures of basic that I was unable to defecate for about four weeks. That's twenty-eight days. All of us in the flight celebrated our respective inaugural poops with much cheering. But I digress.
Basic training had been over for a year, though, and six days was far too long a time for me to deal with near-crippling abdominal pains, so I decided to do something about the situation. I went to the base shoppette (it's a little convenience store-type deal), and bought a box of Ex-Lax. After I'd queued up to purchase my remedy, though, it occurred to me that perhaps I should have picked up some other things so that the Ex-Lax wasn't immediately obvious. It was too late for that, because now there were about six people lined up behind me.
The cashier didn't say anything to me about the laxatives, but she looked me in the eyes with that solemn, knowing look of shared misery. Ugh.
When I returned to my barracks room, I didn't read the directions, I just popped three of those chewy squares and grimaced my way through eating them. I'm not sure what I expected, but I think I figured it would be nearly instantaneous, so I was disappointed initially. About twenty minutes later, disaster struck.
My large intestine turned into a churning engine of hate. The rumblings and twistings were so loud that my neighbor thumped on our shared wall to quiet me down, but to no avail. I was seized by an irresistible urge to run for the toilet NOW. What could I do but give in?
I made it to the toilet just in time. My body unleashed a foul torrent of concentrated evil, with such force that I felt the sides of my skull collapse inward a bit from the suction. For nearly an hour I was trapped in the bathroom, with my neighbor calling out to see if I needed an ambulance, if someone had died in the bathroom. The sickening stench of my horrible deed permeated the walls, and would occasionally return on humid days to gag me once again.
I stood up from the smoking, vile remains of my act and flushed them away, like a murderer trying to conceal his crimes. I felt weak and tired, with fluttering knees and a sad heart. The only way to cleanse my body was to shower, so I did, but I knew that it was only my skin that was clean. My soul would never be clean again.
Assume the fecal position ...I looked around. The place was even classier than my friends had made it out to be. Not bad at all. The hostess looked over at me. "Buzzing or non-buzzing?"
I know what you're thinking, you stupid homocentric human. But we mayflies got to eat too. Why shouldn't we go out to a nice, fancy place every once in a while?
I placed my order, a nice rare piece of meat, and the waiter asked me if I would like some dung with that. A capital idea, but I must admit I'm no sophisticated conoisseur of poop. I asked if he could assist me with my order, and he graciously agreed.
I began by asking him about the Chateau de Equus Millieu-Brun. "An excellent choice. Collected four days ago from the Wilcox farm, it has aged very well, collecting a deep sienna tone and a pungent aroma."
But my eye had already moved down the poop list and caught something else. "What's this 'Double-D Acres'?"
"Ah, yes, daschhund diarrhea -- collected from the most upscale dog park on the north side ..."
"Uh, listen. I'm not really into working dogs. Do you have anything human?"
"We do have an excellent Sepia Septic Seepage today. But I must warn you, this vintage has a very high e. coli count. It might be too much for you."
"Look! It's not like I'm going to be alive tomorrow or anything, I want to enjoy myself to the fullest. Here, let me tell you what I like, and you pick accordingly. Best shit I ever had was over in the Boones' pasture, some ..."
"WHAT? Your idea of a good dung is Boone's Farm? I can't believe it!" He ripped the poop list from my hands and fumed away. "Nopoopforyou! Nopoopforyou!"
The Sad Little Adventures of David the Dung BeetleEpisode 23: David Goes on a Date
David the Dung Beetle scampered busily through his home at the end of Bobbin Row. "Bother and bother!" he said absently to himself as he scurried to and fro, "I shall never finish all this work in time for my encounter with the lovely Adelaide!" Fretful though he was, he proceeded apace; for he never shirked and always did his share.
The afternoon sun dipped into the horizon, and at once David exited the lump of shit at the end of Bobbin Row. He waved hello to his neighbor, Mrs. Praying Mantis.
"Hello, Mrs. Praying Mantis!" said David.
"Hello, David!" said Mrs. Praying Mantis as she munched on one of her offspring.
As David walked through the tall grass of Simmons' Yard, he ran into Charlie Cockroach, carrying a Big Potato Chip.
"Hello, Charlie!" said David.
"Hello, David!" said Charlie with a smile, "and where are you off to this fine evening?"
"I have a mind that I shall see the lovely Adelaide, and I have made a date with her!" said David.
"There's a fellow!" said Charlie "I hope you have a pleasant evening!"
Suddenly, Charlie looked up, "Bangers and mash! It's a Big Two-Leg! Come for my Big Potato Chip, doubtless! Well, I shan't give up!" And he scurried off into the deep grass.
David looked up and chuckled, for he saw that it was only Bartholomew. He smiled and shouted up, "Hallooo, Bartholomew!"
"'Ello, David," said the boy. He knelt over and David crawled on his finger. "You look keen, then! Whe' you off to?"
"I shall see the lovely Adelaide!" said David.
"Bartholomew Michael Simmons!" Said a Big Voice from beyond the yard. "You quit playing with insects and come inside this minute."
"Got to go! Good luck!" Bartholomew whispered to David, and with that, he gently put David back down on the grass, and off he went. "Put it to 'er good!" he called back. What a silly boy.
As David reached the edge Simmons' Yard he nearly became giddy with delight. He had only been out to see the Wider World thrice before, and never had he ventured so far as he would tonight. At last, he would see the lovely Adelaide! Oh, rapture! Oh, such a day!
Addie sat at the table for two in the cafe and glanced at her watch. It was still five minutes early. Don't be nervous, she tried to tell herself. If you're nervous, you'll come off as a complete airhead. This guy had sounded so great when they'd chatted on the Internet. Polite, intelligent, and just...well, genteel. That was important to a girl, in a way that most guys couldn't understand these days. The only thing that gave her pause was that he didn't have a picture to share. He said he didn't own a camera. Maybe he was just embarrassed. Maybe he was overweight or had a big nose or...
A big dung beetle had just crawled up onto the table across from her. In a restaurant! This was the most disgusting thing she'd ever seen.
"Hello," it said.
Her eyes widened. She opened her mouth but no sound came out.
"Adelaide, I presume? I have waited oh! so long to meet you!"
"D...D..." she could barely get the words past her throat. "D-David?"
"The very same, my love! My heart! My...w-where are you going? Come back! Adelaide!...Adelaide? Oh, bother and bother!"
Today's theme is...Last night, Michael and I joked that the theme should be "poop". I think he thought I wouldn't do it. Silly man.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Working too hard...Too busy to blog at work, too tired to blog at home.
I really want to know what happens to Steve and Joe and Amy (and I want to go back and rewrite it all in third person so I can leave the bloody narrator and check out other character, but I digress) but I just haven't had a chance for a few days. This will come as a relief to those who have been watching the instalment grow longer each time, overpowering the whole page... Anyway, I will be away for the weekend (Trip up to Sydney! Yay!) but I will be back on Monday to set a topic and continue writing.
As for movie credits, well...
- = -
Who would play you in a filmed version of your life story?
Personally, I hope I am played by someone old, because it would be such a shame for a young actor with so much ahead of him to destroy his career like that.
Post-scriptI can't understand what's happened to my script. It started out a science fiction story about a whiz kid and an afghan fighting evil, but it's now morphed into a buddy cop story with a schnauser and two aging starlets. I'm named in the credits somewhere, but I can't find me.
This post is overAuthor: Ken Kaufman
Typist: Ken Kaufman
Producer: Ken Kaufman
Director: Ken Kaufman
Guy who installed and plugged in the computer: Ken Kaufman
Key Grip: Tuning Fork
Dolly Grip: James Madison
Gaffer: George W. Bush
Greens: Lettuce and Broccoli
Second Unit: Randy Johnson Jr.
Computers supplied by: Dell
Internet Access: AT&T
Based on Wheel of Topic by BlankPhotog
No pixels were harmed in the making of this post.
Why are thhey still called "trailers" ???::: rant :::
Why do they show a billion "trailers" before the movie?
Trailers were designed to keep people in their seats until the credits were finished, in order to show them what was coming next week to the theater.
But with the advent of the multiplex and multiple-week runs of films, now they put the trailers at the beginning to make sure everyone sees them -- and commercials. Ooooooooooh! I HATE the fact that they're showing commercials in the theaters these days. But I digress.
The worse part of ppre-movie trailers, though, is that all the hard work by the assistant to the Key Grip and (insert star name here)'s personal lackey goies unnoticed, because as soon as end credits roll, that's the audience's cue to skedaddle.
Personally, I want to know who the assistant to the Second Unit Director was. I want to know who was the caterer. I want to know who put money into the film -- those are all the "thanks" at the end of the end of the end, after the hit credit single is done playing.
And how the hell can a song that's played only during the credits be nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards? Especially since no one sticks around to hear it.
The Loews and Cinemarks of the world need to get their act in gear, show previews and trailers, cut the commercials, and give proper credit to those who have earned it.
::: /rant :::
Wheel of TopicToday, Thursday, the topic shall be:
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
you want bug?Bug me about it
Find a solution yourself
I can't save you now
Don't let the bedbugs bite
Don't let the bedhounds bark
Don't let the bedbums booze
Don't let my bed words bore!
Don't bother to get up or anything as I walk out of your life forever, you lazy fuck! You disgust me! You can't even leave the house long enough to pick up a welfare check! Well, I'm through waiting on you hand and foot! You can rot in that bed forever for all I care!
And I'm taking the kids with me!!!
Celebrating BugsI'm celebrating because despite the fact that I was laid off of my job on Monday, I am still upbeat.
What bugs me is that they yanked my chain for six weeks before letting me go.
I celebrate the fact that I have a team of people who are hunting for me, and I have a good feeling that I'll be finding something soon.
It bugs mne when I apply for a job and the HR people don't reply to acknowledge the receipt of my application.
A poet I am not, but this bit of crude doggerel comes to mind:
I plan to celebrate
as well as indicate
that the heavy weight
will soon abate
and that those things that bug
-- and make the heart tug --
will be swept 'neath the rug.
So raise a mug!
I'll try to do better on Thursday.
This Topic Will Self-Destruct in 15 Seconds...Here ya go kids:
Knock yourselves out.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Something's about to blossom
Hurrah, it's not me!
The thrill of victorySome days you might as well not even be there. Other days you find yourself carrying the whole team on your shoulders without breaking much of a sweat. This was one of the latter days, and in terms of personal performance, it was extraordinary, even by my standards. We blasted teams that are usually better than us, and challenged the performance of the cream of the crop, the elite of the elite. Our names are now being spread by the national media; someone in Michigan is going to look up and see that we venividivicied their local heroes.
It is not long before the gradual dissipation of that initial rush of euphoria turns our emotion into one more of self-satisfaction, of a job well done. We come out with a buttressed sense of respect for each other's abilities, and with the knowledge that tonight we will sleep very well.
James's Nameless Serial #3Gawler was a speck of a town, perched halfway up a mountain alongside the young, fast-moving Hatch River. I was relieved when I saw the sign that read "Now entering GAWLER, hidden mountain treasure! Population 425". A town that size would be no effort to search, I thought. It would probably have only one petrol station, a pub or two, maybe a cafe and a restaurant. If Amy had been left here, we would know.
I was right about one thing: Gawler had only one petrol station. It was fairly small, with four pumps - two regular, one diesel, and a gleaming new LPG pump that looked like it had been deposited in the night by visiting aliens - but it was not quiet. All pumps were occupied, and the driveways in and out were packed. Stephen and I stared through the windscreen at the gathering in front of us. It looked like all of the world's Volkswagen Kombivans had arrived in Gawler, southern Queensland.
It appeared to be a hippie convention.
"What is this?" I asked out loud.
"Forgot about this," Stephen said in response. "Shit. It's the Hatch River Festival. A sort of . . . Woodstock thing. Live music, hippies camping out, about a thousand people on average. Came here a few years ago with . . . my wife." He cleared his throat, but not before I heard the tremble in his voice.
"This is going to make things harder," I said, perhaps stating the obvious. I looked at Stephen, but he simply stared ahead and showed his agreement with a slight nod. "Okay, first thing. My mobile is still out of range, so we can't call the police. You want to go use the public phone to call the cops and report what's happened."
Stephen glanced over, looked hesitant. I raised an eyebrow, a wordless question, and he shrugged a bit self-consciously. "Well, what if she's right here somewhere? Wouldn't it be kind of dumb to report it to the cops without looking first?"
Carefully, I chose gentle words. "Even if she is here," I said slowly, "even if she's fine . . . something bad happened. The police have to be told."
He nodded. "You're right," he said, popping the door open and putting a foot outside. "I suppose I was just eager to get looking, not stand around chatting with some phone operator for god knows how long."
"I understand, mate," I replied. "Have a good look around on your way in to the phone. Meanwhile, I have to get some fuel. I'll probably see you in there."
Stephen agreed, shut the door, and headed into the crowd of people and cars. I shook my head in disbelief at all the VWs - the petrol station was a sea of off-whites, creams, tans, and browns. God, I thought to myself, didn't they ever make those things in any attractive colours?
The queue of cars moved excruciatingly slowly, and ten minutes later when Stephen returned I was still two cars from the front. He slipped into the passenger-side door, and I could tell he was unhappy - his body was thrumming like a guitar string. After some gentle prodding, he finally spoke.
"Nobody answered! he snapped. "The triple-oh operator put me through to the local station, and the fucking-" He realised he was starting to shout, stopped, breathed deeply, then continued. "The station had an answering machine on. I just . . . I can't believe it! Police station, on triple-oh emergency relay, and they've got a fucking answering machine turned on in the middle of the fucking day! What kind of town is this?" His shouting died off, but his hands were quivering. "What now?" he asked, near tears once again.
"Did you have a good look for her?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "Not a sign."
"Okay." I spent a few moments in thought. "Well, it's a little flyspot of a town. Even full of hippies it shouldn't be too hard to spot her. Red t-shirt, wasn't it? She should stand out. You know, theoretically." A Kombi, the colour of mustard but covered with hand-painted flowers in rainbow colours, finally pulled away from the pump in front of me, and I nipped into its place. I pressed the fuel cap switch beside the steering wheel, and opened the door to get out, but stopped and turned to Stephen. "Go on, I'll do this myself. Walk down to the main drag and have a look around. I'll cruise down there in a few minutes." He hesitated, so I added, "Seriously, you'll go nuts wating for me. There's no need. Go look for Amy." I think the sound of his wife's name convinced him, and he got out.
Before closing the door he leaned his head inside. "Thanks so much for everything . . . Shit, you never told me your name!"
"Joe," I said with a smile. "Joe Reynolds."
"Thanks Joe," he replied, giving a small smile of his own. "I could've been walking down that bloody highway all day if you hadn't turned up."
"You're welcome," I said, "Now go! Amy's waiting for you!"
He nodded, then closed the door and jogged off. I watched him go, then started filling the tank.
- - -
It was nearly fifteen minutes later - after waiting for a petrol pump as old as God to push fifty litres of fuel into my car, and standing in a long queue at the counter - that I turned my car into the main street of Gawler and started scanning for Stephen's blonde hair and white shirt. I should have known it would be useless; the petrol station was only a hint of things to come.
The main street was pandemonium. A folk quartet played on the back of a big flatbed truck parked outside the pub, amplified by many large speakers. Hundreds of happy people packed the footpaths, spilling out onto the road - dancing, drinking, laughing. In the middle of the street were jugglers, stiltwalkers, firebreathers, firetwirlers, clowns, and even a guy on a unicycle. The thing that really drew my eyes, though, was the dragon.
It was huge, maybe fifty metres long, scarlet and gold, with a massive head of yellow, red, white, and gold, sparkling with tiny mirrors and glass beads, truly beautiful. It danced left and right, gnashing its jaws with staged ferocity. Onlookers left the footpaths to run and jump and dance alongside the hyperactive monster. I couldn't even guess how many people hid under its fabric; it seemed to have a thousand legs, each pair of them wearing red silk pants and bright yellow slippers.
Obviously there was no way I could drive through, so I parked my car, got out, and engaged the central locking. blip blip! That done, I turned to face the throng of revellers. With a sigh, I dropped my car keys into my pocket and entered the fray.
Upon an Encounter Between the Last Man on Earth and a Post-Operative TranssexualBill whooped at the sky and jumped for joy
Until she proved a genetic boy
Monday, January 17, 2005
Do I have to?Why is it that any activity becomes so much more difficult to begin when someone is expecting you to do it? If someone were counting on me to play 10 games of Settlers of Catan a day, I would whine and drag my feet, and manage to play 8 games a day for a few days, and forget to play altogether for the next 3 days. If I were expected to read 10 novels a year, I'd probably watch a lot more television.
Maybe what I need to do is turn all my leisure activities into obligations. Perhaps then I would get my apartment clean.
The Last ObligationHis looks belied his youth, no surprise given the cancer that now ravaged his body, leading the most optimistic doctor to predict that he had maybe two or three more days before he descended headlong into whatever lay beyond. Fifty-eight years young, an age at which most of his peers were still vibrant and able to look forward to seeing the birth of the next generation of their lineage.
That said, the man's affairs were magnificently in order; he had known for some time that his departure from the living was imminent, and had meticulously taken care of everything, while at the same time shielding his entire family from the truth. He was prepared to die alone, independently, no burden on anyone save for those he had hired for his final care.
Suddenly, the nurse broke into his room. "Sir, there is someone here to see you." See me? he thought, That's impossible. No one knows I'm sick. No one knows I'm here.
"Tell them to go away. I don't want to see anyone."
A moment passed. Then the nurse returned. "Sir, they say there is something you need to take care of. An obligation you must satisfy before you die."
He was about to tell the nurse to shun them a second time, but for the final time, his curiosity got the better of him. Who could it be? Who could know he was here? Who tracked him down, and why? "Very well. Send them in."
Upon entering the room, the three well-dressed individuals, two men and a woman, introduced themselves. "We are from Columbia House. In 1971, you bought 13 records for a penny, with the promise that someday you would buy eight more at our regular prices. You have bought five; you need to buy three more. Here is our current catologue; feel free to take a moment to look it over..."
James's Nameless Serial #2Internal voices made war, and all the rest of me could do was sit and stare.
He's a fucking murderer! screamed one voice. For Christ's sake, get rid of him before he pulls a knife!
It was an accident, said a more reasonable voice. He's crashed his car, his wife or girlfriend is trapped, unconscious, maybe even . . . He's come looking for help. Then, more forcefully, You have to help him.
Get rid of him! He's dangerous! Trick him into stepping outside the car, then drive like hell!
And if I turn on the news tonight in my hotel room, hear about some guy whose wife bled to death in a car wreck because nobody stopped to help? I couldn't live with that. No way.
Look at him! No injuries, no cuts or bruises. Just sweat and dust and grime. This guy has not been in a crash.
Well, I don't know. Maybe he and whoever "she" is are climbers. We're in the middle of a mountain range after all.
Is it worth the risk? He could be anybody.
Yes, but he could be a regular guy who needs a hand.
But how do you know? The selfish, whining voice was losing. I realised then that my fear was irrelevant - I was going to help him.
"I have to," I muttered.
He looked at me then, puzzlement showing through the mask of grief. "Huh?"
"We have to do . . . something," I said, with only a bit more confidence. "Tell me what's going on. What's your name?"
"St- Stephen," he said, his lower lip trembling. He suddenly looked like an upset child, pouting lower lip trembling. For one insane moment I nearly laughed out loud.
"Stephen, okay. What's the problem? Is someone hurt? Have you crashed your car or something?"
Pain showed plainly when I mentioned a car. Stephen hesitated, then explained, his voice hesitant, speaking in short, sharp sentence fragments, staring straight ahead at the glove box. "My wife, Amy. She's . . . gone. I was driving. Needed to piss. We stopped, I got out. No other cars around. I went into the bushes. Then-" Stephen's jaw worked up and down soundlessly for a moment, then he found the words. "Screamed. She screamed. Oh, Jesus, Amy screamed. The car started. I was running, dick hanging out, pissing on my shoes, running back to the road. Fuck, why was I such a prude? Too far into the bushes. Too far from the road. Took too long. Engine revved, tyres squealed. Got to the road and . . . Amy, the car . . . Disappearing around the next hairpin. Just for a split second I saw her. Someone else driving, couldn't see who. Then . . . gone." His red eyes welled again, and he repeated, "Gone. Gone. Oh Amy . . ."
I think it was guilt that spurred me, knowing how close I had come to throwing him out. My thoughts crystallised. I was going to do everything I could to help this man. I knew I had an obligation, and I also knew I was going to carry it out. The doubting voices were banished in an instant, and I began to plan.
"Okay, Stephen," I said sharply but, I hoped, kindly, "you have to tell me a few things. How long ago did this happen? What does Amy look like? What was she wearing? What kind of car do you drive? Tell me everything you can." As he began to speak I checked my mobile phone. No luck; we were too far from anywhere and in the middle of mountains. No police for the time being, at least.
Stephen ghave me a lot of good information - I think my clear thinking was somewhat contagious. He told me Amy was twenty-three, as was he, fairly short, slim, with long, straight brown hair and brown eyes. She was pretty, he said, and a really good person, and a few more tears fell as he told me about her. She was wearing a red t-shirt and a pair of jeans. The car was a dark blue Subaru Outback, and had been missing for-
"Three hours?" I almost shouted. "You've been walking for three hours?" He nodded. "Oh, you poor bastard. Let's get moving, then." As I popped my rented Falcon into gear, I confirmed that his car had gone the same direction which we were now facing, and started rolling. "Try not to worry too much, mate," I said, trying to sound reassuring. "This sounds like a carjacking. Most of the time a carjacker will throw out any passengers the first chance they get. They don't hurt them - there's no need. Why go to jail for ki- uh, for hurting someone if all you wanted was a car? Makes no sense. Don't worry, we'll probably find her at the first petrol station we come to."
Stephen nodded, but the fear did not leave his eyes.
Information wants to be free. Rent wants to be paid.My financial commitments, that is, my obligation to keep a roof over my own head and food on my living-room table, dictate that I have a job. The job I have chosen sometimes requires me to do excessively boring or humiliating things. Today I had to do the former.
I spent 2.25 hours on the phone with the Microsoft corporation today. Of that time, the actual time spent talking to a real live human being was less than ten minutes. Why, you may ask, would I waste my time talking to Microsoft in the first place, much less for 135 minutes?
Actually, you wouldn't ask that, because you're smart enough not to care about the arcane technicalities of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Suffice it to say that there was a problem, and that it took 8100 seconds of my life to fix it. In exchange for all that, the creatures at Microsoft gave me a file to solve my problem.
The file was a measly 600 KB. They could have easily put it up on their site for people to download as they need it. But instead, they make you cross the Bridge of Death to get it.
The things I do because I don't want to end up squeegeeing windows on an interstate off-ramp.
A photographer's lamentI know, I know. I promised I would call all these models or email them within 24 hours of your referral. I promised I would take whoever came to me and produce some kind of picture you could use. I promised I would endure no-shows, flip-flops, and bad streak jobs in the service of your tax deduction, I mean talent agency and front for bikini girls. But do I really have to take pictures of 8 year olds? Do I really have to spend an hour or two on a Monday morning after being awakened over and over by my aching, elderly puppy trying not to fall asleep as the little ham over and over puts on the most embarrassing, unattractive expressions, and then have to lie to his mother (who graciously avoided the studio room, supervising her obviously untrustworthy 11 year old) about how grand this kid's prospects are? Do I really have to promise to look through these pictures before I die and burn them to a CD so others can associate my name with pictures of a cheeseball hammy asthmatic kid who can't sit, and can't stand still for more than one picture in a pose at a time? Is this really part of the deal for the lights that don't work well, the use of the studio space that I don't have energy to use for myself, and the experiences, like this one, that should build me into a better photographer but in fact just drag me down into mediocrity and keep me there? Is the only alternative turning into a real camera whore, demanding money commensurate with my debasement, if not my talent?
Monday, whee.The theme for today is
Sorry I've been missing the last few days. I've been in Iowa. Why? See above.
I'll post later, hopefully. Time for bed, now.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
James's Nameless Serial #1I thought it might be fun to try writing a serial with recurring characters and situations based on the day-to-day topics made up by the group. This may be a disaster, but I'll give it a go. Unplanned free writing mode... ON!
Desperation. That is what I saw in his eyes - sheer desperation. I don't usually pick up hitch-hikers. Well, no, that is misstating the matter: I never pick up hitch-hikers. Frankly, I am a coward, and the thought of letting a total stranger into my car, invariably in the middle of nowhere, has always terrified me.
Still, there was something different about him. I think there was something about his body language that affected me subconsciously, as he trotted beside the road, jerking his thumb at passing vehicles. Whatever it was, my concern for another person in trouble managed to overpower my far more cosmopolitan self-preservation. I slipped down through the gears, nudged the brake pedal, and stopped beside him.
A glance at his face confirmed it - he was close to panic - but when he saw me pull up the desperation was coloured by relief. For a moment he looked as if he would cry. I thumbed the electric window control down.
"Hey mate," I began, then could not decide how to go on. After a moment of silence I added, "Anything I can do to help?"
He also seemed a bit lost. I suspect he was stunned that somebody had actually stopped for him, and I wondered how long he had been out here in the middle of nowhere, the middle of the afternoon, the middle of summer. With visible effort, he found the words to say. "Help," he said, echoing me. "Yes, need help."
I leaned over and opened the door. "Come on, mate. Get in and tell me what I can do for you." He hesitated for a moment, glanced around (No, there's no queue of cars behind me hoping to be the one to pick you up came a quiet but bitter thought) but finally got in and closed the door.
He smelled of fresh sweat - salty, not unpleasant yet. If he didn't get a shower in the next few hours, though, he would end up pretty ripe. A small selfish part of me hoped his destination was close, but I pushed it away; like most people, I like to think I am a decent human being, and nobody wants to recognise those petty and nasty facets of their nature. Probably out of a moment of guilt, I grabbed my half-full bottle of water from the drink holder and handed it to him.
"Here," I said. He had been staring at his feet, and I startled him somewhat, sloshing the plastic bottle into his field of vision. He took it from me carefully, but did not open it. He just looked at it.
"Thank you," he said in a small, dry voice. "You're very kind." The plastic bottle crackled like twigs and I realised he was squeezing it. Then the tears came. Tremors shook his body, and tears wet the front of his dusty white t-shirt. "Oh Jesus," he sobbed, "what'm I gonna do?"
What was he going to do? God, I was the one with a strange, sweaty, dusty man bawling his eyes out in the passenger seat of my rented car. Come on, Joe, I thought to myself, you're being a prick again. It's a weird situation, but this guy is seriously upset about something. Talk to him, you dumb bastard!
I cleared my throat. "Hey, it's okay. I'll help. Just tell me what's wrong, eh? We can sort it out. You need a lift somewhere? Need a bit of cash? I don't have much on me, but it'll get you a few meals. I could-"
Then he said it. I suppose they were the kind of words I had been dreading from the moment I had depressed the clutch and started slowing down to stop for him. He said the words, and a glacier touched my spine.
"I think she's dead," he sobbed. "Oh Jesus, what'm I gonna do?"
My feet were lead and my head was full of helium. Oh shit, I thought. I think I'm in trouble.
Forget freedomDesperation's just another word for nothing left to lose. Backed into a corner, all hope oozing away, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes in spurts, but regardless as a monotonic decreasing function. Nothing left to lose, nothing left to risk, just go all in with what you've got. And who cares about the result? You've lost hope. If you lose, you've tried, and are no worse off, if you win, what the heck? It hardly matters anymore. You are numb. You are no longer bound by the rules of the game. Anything goes. You've earned it.
Haw! Haw! Haw!In those days, Jack Chick was pushing hard on us, trying to get us out spreading the good word with his tracts like there was no tomorrow. Every morning, he'd line us up in his seedy little office there just off the Strip in Vegas, and he'd belch gin fumes at us until we were all drunk just from breathing.
"You fuckers," he'd say, as his eyes, yellow-rimmed like two piss holes in the snow, bored in on our scrubbed faces, "you fuckers just better get off your lazy asses and start pushing the tracts! I want to see Somebody Loves You in the hands of every little girl in this city! Aw yeah, every little tramp slut who ran away from home..." And from there, he'd trail off, mumbling and groping himself shakily while we scrambled to get out of the office before we saw more than Jesus wanted us to.
I think that the others were probably hard-core on Christ, moreso than I was, at any rate. That was why I lagged everyone in the sales figures. Churches could smell the devotion on them, like some sort of incense. With me, all they smelled was the gallon of Brut I was using to cover up the reek that clung to me from being in Chick's employ. For some reason, Chick wouldn't fire me, though. I kept hoping he would, kept praying that one day I would be able to escape from his booze-soaked clutches and go back to the smack that had been my friend for years, until Chick pulled me out of it.
About a month before I finally worked up the courage to quit Chick Enterprises for good, Jack called me in my little studio apartment. It was about 2:15 A.M., and I was having the horse shakes anyway, so I was awake.
"Eric," he slurred into the receiver, and I knew that there would be trouble, "get your ass over here right now." The click that ended the call had all the finality of a judge's gavel crashing down on a death sentence.
I pulled my beat up Festiva into the driveway of Chick's bungalow on the edge of the city, out near where the desert still rules, and walked up to the door. Before I could knock, Chick had already opened the door.
He looked bad. I don't think it's possible to look really good when you're blind drunk, haven't shaven in about four days, and are only wearing a pair of lime green French-cut men's bikini briefs, but Chick managed to push the bounds of even that look. He slithered into a robe as I walked into the living room.
It's a little-known fact that blood has a smell, because most people don't come in contact with enough blood to get a good whiff. It's a meaty, metallic smell, like a steak covered in pennies. In this particular instance, the smell of the blood was coming from hookers. Probably three or four of them, although the fact that I can't tell you exactly how many should tell you what condition they were in.
"Don't know how it happened, Eric." Ice cubes clinked, and I realized that he'd poured himself a water glass full of bourbon. "But you gotta help me. I helped you, man. It's only fair. It's only fair."
I wanted to argue, to run. Hell, I wanted to be anywhere but in a room with this guy. But he had me dead to rights: it was only fair that I help him out, just like he got me off the junk.
So I grabbed some towels, and some Hefty sacks, and we proceeded to work together to clean up the mess he'd made. He put on some light rock, Foreigner or Journey or something, and we started to sway and bop to the rhythm as we dropped fingers or ears into the trash bags.
Eventually, the living room was cleaned up, and we drove out on some county road into the desert, picked a tapped-out oil well more or less at random, and started tossing the sacks down the wellhead. The sun started to rise just as we finished, and as we drove back to Chick's bungalow so I could drop him off, I reflected that I'd probably never have a better job than that one. I never had.
Still, to this day I wonder how he could have made such a mess and not had a drop on himself, except around his mouth. Some questions just don't have answers, I suppose.
Today's topicToday's topic is:
I'll post later (I know I haven't posted in a few days, but I promise to get the lead out of my fingertips once the filth is out of my apartment).
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Emergency phone call"Smith, Parker, and Franklin. How may I direct your call?"
"Hello, may I speak with Mrs. Franklin, please?"
"Mrs. Franklin is in a conference at the moment, would you like her voicemail?"
"Can't I speak to her? It's really important."
"Who may I tell her is calling?"
"One moment, please.
"...drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry... and good old boys-"
"What is it? Is your sister okay? Is something on fire?"
"No mom, I just need you to pick up more peanut butter on your way home."
"Mom? Hello? *sigh*"
"Smith, Parker, and Franklin. How may I direct your call?"
"Hi, I was just disconnected..."
Maybe We Should Just Have One Topic For the Whole Weekend......since it is harder to find time to post than it is during the week.
Tom rooted around in the fridge full of nondescript takeout boxes and quarter-full condiment bottles. Here I am he thought living in the richest country on earth, in an age of technological marvels, gainfully employed with reasonably good prospects, and yet I don't have a fucking thing to eat.
He could go to the grocery store. Nah, he was too weak from hunger. He could order a pizza maybe? Nah, it was, like, 2 degrees out. He's have to tip the driver a five-spot for coming out on a night like this. Clearly, a more drastic solution was called for.
Tom grabbed everything he could find from the fridge and cupboards that was not expired, stale, or moldy. The assembled emergency rations were as follows: one and a half sleeves of saltine crackers; two unopened pudding cups; a pickle of whose integrity he was reaosnably certain; a Big Mac that he had apparently brought home Friday night, but instead of eating it, had accidentally put it in the freezer (thank you, Jagermeister); quarter-full bottles of ketchup and mustard (and thus, by implication, half a bottle of steak sauce); and a fortune cookie.
Yes, he would feast tonight. Then tomorrow, he would go grocery shopping. If it wasn't too cold.
Not the Salmon MousseThe young paramedic looked horrified as the sheet-covered bodies were wheeled past him. The emergency medical team had done everything they could, but all of their patients had just slipped away. He approached the junior doctor, who sat exhausted as orderlies took the casualties away. "What was it doctor?" he asked. "The whole group struck down like that. Did they eat some bad seafood or something? Was it food poisoning?"
The doctor shook his head sadly. "No, worse than that. It wasn't a dinner party - it was a writing club. Looks like someone fed them a bad topic."
The paramedic sighed deeply. "God, what a senseless waste of life..."
Here, have a topic...Your topic, should you choose you accept it, is as follows:
This topic will self-destruct in ten seconds.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Fulfilling my purposeI was born on a cold winter morning. I spent the early part of my life being trained in the right way to behave, and how to participate with my fellows for a desired result. When I was two years old, I watched my neighbor be remorselessly yanked from his home, just because his color was different. This was sufficient to make me glad that I was undergoing periodic treatment to make sure that my color was desirable.
The day that I was forced to leave my home was a sad one. I landed in a field of white. I was all alone. I clung to the stark whiteness and awaited my fate.
Some time later, I was discovered. I heard the words "divorce" and "cheating bastard." I realized that this was the end of my existence, but that my purpose in life had been fulfilled.
This is the Yawning of the Aged AquarianPredictably, when my friend found out I was involved with an amateur production of Hair, the nude-dance-sequence jokes began.
"I never understood the title before. Does it refer to your back and shoulders?"
They could not discourage me from my theatrical passion, and neither could my morbid fear of displaying my naked body to the world. I was going to give it everything I had. Nothing would stop me.
When the music started up, I was ready. I waited in the wings, my dressing gown on a hook, the breeze of the theatre's air conditioners brushing my bare skin. The music swelled, the chorus began, and I flung myself onto the stage.
I danced, naked and free, exhilarated and ecstatic. It was glorious.
When the music faded, I sank to the stage in an exhausted bow, awaiting my applause.
There was a nervous cough, a pause. "That was... lovely. Thanks for coming in. We'll let you know if you got the part." The director shuffled some papers on his desk, down in the theatre's stalls, and said, "Next audition, please."
I walked slowly from the stage, feeling tired but happy. I dressed as quickly as I could, then hurried from the theatre, catching a few mutterings of the word "police". I didn't care about police, though.
It wasn't as if I'd given the theatre group my real name or anything.
Didn't I just write one about hair?Visual haiku.
Same haircut for years
Suddenly, unruly growth
Then cut, then nothing.
Pride Goeth Before the FollicleMy hair always made me stand out, even if nothing else would have. I was always different, the alien among the mundanes. My hair was so utterly thick, and I would be teased that I never had to worry about going bald (which seems to be true). The downside of this thickness was that it quickly becomes totally unruly. I couldn't get it as long as I might have wanted. In later years, I began taking pride in my hair, as if it were my only distinguishing feature, and in some cases, it might have been. I had this special talent to attract the envious attention of all sorts of women ... but only if they were at least 15 years my senior. Nowadays, I tease my wife, "When this goes gray, will you have any reason to stay with me?" We may find out soon.
Damn!In my life I have had long long pony tails down to my butt, twice, a flat top that was the envy of marines worldwide, I had my Fraternity letters carved on the back of my flattop, I had a rat tail in the '80s, and, as I mentioned to a coworker earlier today, I worre a baseball cap literally every day for more than three years.
But now I'm in my 40s (great googly-moogly, how'd that happen???) and I've turned to a more "professional" haircut. It's parted on the side, usually the left side, and when I looked in the mirror this morning I actually was pleased with the result.
I haven't felt that since college. and I really felt great.
But then I saw it.
The gray one.
I thought, "Adieu, youthful visagé, Hello, mortalité"
Then I plucked it.
Now I know why young men go bald. It has nothing to do with their mom's dad's hairline, and everything to do with their own vanity. Pluck one, and more fall out. Plucking one sets off a chain reaction that never ends.
Just Doing What Management Tells Me...Jess said to hijack if no one's posted a topic by midday. Hope no one gets mad at me.
Your theme is:
Have at it.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
I like online dictionariesAccording to synonym.com there are 11 senses of the word "new." (I think they left out the bad pun: What's New? The thirteenth letter of the greek alphabet!, " but dictionary people are remarkably short on the humor scale)
According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary there are 94 different entries for "new;" the synonyms include... NOVEL, (which) applies to what is not only new but strange or unprecedented "a novel approach to the problem." ORIGINAL, (which) applies to what is the first of its kind to exist "a man without one original idea.". FRESH, (which) applies to what has not lost its qualities of newness such as liveliness, energy, brightness "a fresh start."
But with all of this erudition, they still fail to grasp what "new" is: New is the sharp intake of breath upon discovery, the tug of the heartstrings and flash of light behind the retinas upon realization, the conceptualization of just how immensly huge the universe is, and how alone we truly are. New is the Big Bang, the something from nothing, the time between the moments, and the space between the atoms. It is the pause, the heartbeat, the gap between the utterance of "Let there be light" and the appearance of the radiance in all its glory.
Yes, I like online dictionaries. But I like poetry better.
Several years ago I realized that all papers everywhere were new things in the world, geologically speaking. Nowhere had mountains of unrecycled newsprint been known in all of history until the invention of bleached paper, petrochemical ink and buried trash come together. Three rivers of burnable, buryable unliving carbonaceous pre-tar, come together. One day the aliens may extract it and accelerate the burning and turn it to new smog.
Kind of takes the blush off the rose.
That is what the packaging said. No, it did not say it - it screamed it, bellowed it, in bulbous text and glowing colours that have never existed in nature.
Intrigued, I picked it up from the shelf and examined the box.
Strangely, it seemed identical to the old version of the product.
After a few moments of searching, I finally found it: tiny, tiny print at the bottom of a sidebar, tucked underneath the legally-required nutritional information. It said this:
"New updated product! Now features the word "new" on the packaging."
The First TimeI look into the eyes of my new partner, and then take a peek at what's been offered to me. The shapes are familiar of course, but this combination will present a new experience. We speak little -- just enough to indicate what we want to do with our hands ... And suddenly it's decided.
We can feel the awkwardness of the first time together. There is an unusual tentativeness. I wonder if I am reading her signals correctly, giving her what she really wants, and noticing her imperfect responses to mine. Presumably, over time, we will develop a masterful rhythm. But for now, the outcome remains in the balance. One mistake could easily ruin the entire evening.
But no! Somehow we stay on the right side of the border between success and failure, and after six frantic gloriously-oblivious-to-the-world-around-us minutes, it is over, and a satisfied smile crosses our faces. A few onlookers perceptibly nod their approval, and with that much more confidence, we wait as the next hand is dealt.
A Li-ku For YouOkay, well since the theme is "new" and I've been thinking about poetry forms lately, I'll come up with a new form and try it out. I'm making this up as I go along, so forgive me if it's not very good.
Okay, my new form will be a cross between a limerick and a haiku. Let's call it a "li-ku". It will combine the rhyme structure of a limerick with the syllable structure of a haiku. Also, it seems like making it five lines instead of three would be more interesting. So the lines should look like the following:
5-syllables, rhyme A
7-syllables, rhyme A
5-syllables, rhyme B
7-syllables, rhyme B
5-syllables, rhyme A
A proper li-ku should also combine the respective characters of its parent forms. Since it is half-haiku, it should attempt to describe the beauty of nature. Since it is half-limerick, make that "nature". An ironic twist is an optional bonus, but should be fairly low key. Let's try it out.
Gentle breeze grazes
Touching through silk that hazes
The sight of her form
Touching cool; I have touched warm
The touch still blazes
Suggestions for improvement? Any other thoughts?
TopixSeing as I am new to the group, and participating in an experience that is new to me, and meeting new people and new styles of writing, I think it's appropriate to make today's topic
I'll post something on that later.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Yeaarrrrrgh!I spent some years in Vienna before I returned to my family home in Schmaltzberg. University life suited me wonderfully, and there was a shop girl there named Alexandra who captured my heart with her first words to me.
It was a fine day in the late spring of 1865, and I was reading in the Wiener Tageblatt about the shockingly public murder of the American prime minister. A shadow obscured my view of the page, and I looked up in irritation which quickly metamorphosed into awe. The woman standing before me had easily the most stunning eyes I'd ever seen, a smile to match, and she was looking at me.
"You want cream for your Kaffee, ja?" It was obvious: she was head-over-heels for me as well, and all I had to do was make her see that. I bade her sit with me, but she refused, claiming that the owner of the Kaffeehaus would sack her. So I sat at the same table again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that one. I was determined to wear down her resistance, and I felt that I was making real progress...right up until the moment that my father's death brought me back to Schmaltzberg.
So I lived the life of a business manager for my family's farm, and soon became too busy to seek out love. I thought often of Alexandra, and what might have been, but I knew that my reality was far more quotidian than that fantasy.
When the researcher and his staff moved into the manor house, one of his assistants was a beautiful young woman. I saw her across the town Marktplatz one afternoon when I was visiting the counting house, and decided that I would work to win her affections.
Sadly, rumors began to circulate about the things that went on in the manor -- horrible tales of desecration and blasphemous "experiments." When proof arrived in the town of the true nature of what the doctor was doing there, the fires of our passion were stoked and we rushed to the manor -- more a castle, now that I think about it -- in the middle of the night to demand justice.
This is how I find myself carrying a pitchfork in one hand, and in the other...a torch.
[Okay, so I'm a literalist. Sue me.]
Over here, a "torch" is what you would call a "flashlight"...We were drunk, you see.
Jim had hosted a party at his place, a small farm half an hour out of town. In the middle of the house paddock eight or so of us had a bonfire, ate, and drank.
Fuck, did we ever drink. Daniel, known to his friends as Skupp, spent some time climbing trees and claiming he was a possum.
We were out in the country, so naturally when night fell and the embers of the fire died down, it got very dark. As I recall, there was no moon that night, either. We had one torch between us, a chunky, rugged Eveready Dolphin.
I don't remember how it began. All I know is that the guy with the torch ran away into the darkness and we chased him. Whenever somebody got close, he shone the torch in his pursuer's eyes to dazzle him, then changed directions. Eventually he was caught. All the pursuers tackled him to the ground, a mound of drunken bodies, all of us scrambling for the torch. Somebody got hold of it, and they ran. The rest of us dusted ourselves off and gave chase.
I don't know how long this went on - snatching the torch, running, shining it in pursuers' eyes to escape, then being caught and tackled.
All I know is that this weird spontaneous game appeared out of nowhere, and in the years that followed never repeated itself, which is a pity, because as stupid and simple as it was, it was really fun.
Achin' for AikenThere's this chick at work who calls herself a "Claymate." She, and who the hell knows how many other Clay Aiken fans, gather weekly to talk about him and exchange Clay-related gifts and stories.
I pointed out to her that the name of the show is itself an indication that the show's producers are pushing to get the viewers to idolize the singers they showcase, and that she has allowed herself to be manipulated. She nods, and says she knows, but that she can't help it.
She said she met Kelly Clarkson near the American Idol tour bus when she was walking by it. I asked how many times she walked by the bus, and she looked embarassed and said "a few." I'm betting on a number closer to 20.
She recently went on a plane trip to a Clay Aiken concert that she couldn't afford, because a coworker was so impressed with her devotion that she lent her the money. Then she hadn't even set her suitcase down before she got on another plane to go to another Clay concert in another city via another plane, all paid for on another friend's credit card. She's working 16 hours a day at 2 jobs to support this.
And people think I'm strange?
ConundrumReleased sex offenders must follow some rules,
And stay far away from youngsters and schools.
Drug felons are slated for regular testing,
To find out how much of what they're ingesting.
Those folks who have by DUI offended,
Will find that their licenses have been suspended.
When virus creators are freed to their turf,
They are no longer permitted to surf.
All of our crooks are treated this way,
Except for one, who gets full leeway.
So in Olympic years I hose down my porch,
In case an ex-arsonist is carrying the torch.
Carrying a Torch SquaredWhen I was in high school I belonged to a church youth group called Teen OutReach for Christian Help, or TORCH.
TORCH met at St. Paul's church on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, along with Sunday morning/afternoon. We had a peer-counseling group, a musical group that sang at nursing homes and hospitals, a gaming group -- it's hard to call D&D Satanic when the DM is an Episcopal minister -- and a theater group, with whom I starred as Judas in Godspell.
I joined the group because of Aline Hockenstadt. She was 16, two years older than I, tall, brunette, slender/athletic with a brushing of freckles across the bridge of her nose that were barely visible. I was still a gangly skinny kid, all knees and elbows and self-loathing with a high tenor voice, shy, never been on a date. We sat next to each other on during a 6 hour van trip to a Midwest regional Diocesan Youth conference in Chicago, Ill., and by the time the trip was over I had become her knight-protector, her champion, her seneschal and major-domo. I would have gladly thrown myself in front of a train, cheerily singing songs of praise as I was crushed by the massive engines. My heart sang when I saw her across the room, and I pledged my undying love and devotion to her.
Of course, I never told her, or anyone else for that matter.
I carried that Torch until she graduated 2 1/2 eyars later. I saw her a few years ago and finally admitted that I had a light in my heart -- for that's what carrying a torch is, right? -- and she laughed and said, "took you long enough to admit it. I probably would have dated you if you had actually asked me out, but your lack of a proposal told me you weren't mature enough yet. It's a shame, really. You were, and still are, such a nice man."
And while she's got three kids, happily married, working part-time as a social worker, and while I'm out on my own adventures, engaged to marry a truly wonderful woman, I still hold a warm spot in my heart for Aline, who taught me how to be kind to people, and that good things come to those who do good.