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Friday, 28 February
Thar She Blows! And How.

You know, I was feeling kind of uninspired tonight, and I wasn't going to write anything, so I plopped down in front of the TV (the fiancee is out watching a play that I couldn't muster any energy to see) and thought, "Eh, fuck it." Of course, since it is Friday night, there isn't anything good on. For some reason, I found myself watching Volcano, a profoundly terrible movie, and I'm only 45 minutes into it. It's so numbingly bad in such a circumspect way, it's kind of remarkable; it's such an earnest, profligate waste of talent and money, it could only come from Hollywood.

It's got Tommy Lee Jones, looking like the family bulldog when he's been wrongly accused of farting. "Blame me if you want," his haggard eyes seem to say, "but it won't make the smell go away." Don Cheadle periodically talks to him on the phone, and isn't that just hellzapoppin' adrenalized action? That's all he gets to do: talk on the phone. Anne Heche is wandering around somewhere too, and because she is a woman, she is of course totally unheroic when called upon to save her partner: her partner dies; she cries. Poor actresses. Sorry, Anne, too bad Tommy Lee wasn't there to manfully help you: he was on the phone with Don.

Tommy Lee is running around with his hopeless daughter (poor actresses), when all of a sudden, the tar pits erupt into flames, and lava is roiling about everywhere, and ash is falling from the sky in sheets, and everyone keeps wondering: What in the fuck is going on? Is it a hurricane? Is it Godzilla? Meanwhile, the poor viewer is sitting there innocently, feeling his neck veins pulse, trying not to scream, "IT'S A VOLCANO! VOLCANO! YOU STUPID FUCKS! THE NAME OF THE FUCKING MOVIE IS VOLCANO!"

The problem with a volcano as a driving narrative force is, it doesn't really do much except sit there and . . . volcane. It's not like a tornado or a forest fire; it isn't really too hard to figure out, really: run away from the really slow moving magma until you can no longer see it. So instead they contrive ridiculous shit, like the hopeless daughter standing six feet away from the menacing, really slow magma flow, screaming "DADDY!" Tommy Lee looks over at her like "You're kidding, right?" Then he remembers the stupid script and his paycheck, and gamely wanders over to her and picks her up. By this time, of course, the magma is now a mere four feet away, and their access is blocked off, I guess, because Tommy jumps up onto the hood of his pickup while the tires blow up and the hopeless daughter screams, unfathomably, "DADDY! YOUR FEET!" (Poor, poor actresses.) Tommy sensibly ignores his hopeless daughter's plangent podiacal quacking, because it's his BIG SUSPENSEFUL MOMENT: the music swells! The film goes slo-mo! And Tommy Lee . . . jumps down off the hood onto the street.

Wow.

Meanwhile, back to Anne, who is back at her pickup, sobbing over her dead friend that she totally failed to save, because she is a puny woman who should leave the hero business to men. Thanks, Hollywood! Meanwhile, all around her, the rest of the people in the city, having noticed that magma was rolling around everywhere, shit was blowing up all over the place, and ash was falling on their heads have begun doing the smart thing: evacuating, right? Nah. They're looting. You know, that would be my first plan. "Holy shit, Mt. Rainier is erupting! (Thoughtful pause.) I'm going to go find a free blender!" Anne has stripped off her silvery all-purpose weird suit o' science and has plopped it on the hood of her pickup. Immediately afterwards, someone runs by and loots it. This, I suppose, is some screenwriter's limp stab at irony or . . . something. But it's really just hilarious. "Check it out! I got a DVD player!" "Oh yeah? Well, I got the top half of some weird silver suit!"

Actually, what the fuck am I doing wasting time telling you this? I've got to see how this turns out! So I can make fun of it!

Suddenly, I'm enjoying myself.

Thursday, 27 February
Walk Away, Renee, and Take Skot With You

There are, I hope we can agree, certain places in the world where one feels comfortable: home, of course; perhaps the library; a favorite cafe; or maybe just in the arms of someone you love, or alternately, someone with vast amounts of money. Conversely, then, there are other places in the world that have the opposite effect: they make you uncomfortable, awkward, or, in the case of, say, Olive Garden, suicidal. These are some of the places that make me intensely uncomfortable, for varying reasons, and I think about them a lot, because I pass an example of some of them every day on my way to work.

First on the list are vinyl shops. That is to say, record stores, but you don't say that any more: vinyl shops. It's just as well not to call them "record stores," because those barely exist any more. When I think of "record stores," the mental picture I get is sort of like out of High Fidelity; a kind of run-down fucked up sort of broken-homey place owned by man-boys who don't particularly care if you wander around the aisles for six days at a stretch so long as you don't do something stupid, like talk to them. These are going the way of the dodo, and what's replacing them are . . . awful. They have baffling, specially coded store names designed to give a minimum of information as to what they could possibly be selling: "Set Oscillator" or "Cathodella" or "David Cronenberg's Icy Touch of Retail." Now I'll admit that these are at least a bit more euphonious than, oh, "Sam Goody," but look at what a paltry statement that is. You can at least manage a warm feeling at the prospect of stealing CDs from something so lame as "Sam Goody," but you suspect if you try anything of the sort at a vinyl shop, they will somehow impregnate you with angry, pinching nanobots in the night, and you will die a shuddering mass of broken nightmares.

I don't even contemplate going into these joints, not the least of which is because I have no interest in their products, despite the fact that I own a turntable. I don't know who the fuck any of these groups are, or when I do, they are unrecognizable. Hey, Basement Jaxx, "Where's Your Head At"! I know that! No, you don't. Pick it up. "12 Inch Gass Huffer Bitch Remix featuring Gwen Stefani." WHAT? Who wants that? Judging by the sheened, leathered, incredibly hip people all standing around listening on brushed-steel headphones, they do. The thing is, they never look like they're enjoying what they're listening to. They look more like pathologists, trying to discover some malignant pattern buried in the sounds they are hearing. GUYS! I can tell you that: it's Gwen Stefani.

Speaking of cool people and terrifying music, that brings me to dance joints. Now I don't want to sound like a total curmudgeon, because I really, really do understand why people would like dance clubs: well, they like to dance, right? And it always looks pretty cathartic for those out there on the floor, making with the air-fucking and sweating it up and generally just cutting loose. That's cool; I get that. But it's reaaaally not my bag. For one thing, I dance like something out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and for another, I can only take the whump-whump-whump for so long before I feel like I'm caught in a gigantic ventricle of some alien beast, though probably of European heritage.

I should also confess that the last time I was at one of these for an actual entire evening, it was pretty miserable. It was many Halloweens ago, and someone had lent me a Star Trek: Next Generation uniform replica, and with a little makeup and hair gel, I made a pretty outstanding Data. The plan was to go to Neighbors, a gay-oriented dance club with a bunch of friends, which we did. I was apprehensive but willing as we went inside, but I knew pretty much immediately that this was Not For Me. There were people everywhere, and I don't do crowds well at all, and the music was almost supernaturally loud; as my friends all ran screaming to the dance floor, I excused myself to the table farthest in the corner and sat. Because of this, everyone else shoved their bags and purses and wallets on me, a logistical puzzle I solved by dumping all the smaller bags into one large bag. Now I looked like Data Clampett, waiting forlornly for the rest of the family to strap his shit on top of the car. This was, by now, clearly going to be intolerable without a drink or nine, so I left a coat on my chair and went to the bar.

Now I began to see the error of my costume. It fight tightly, and now I was wending my way through hordes of mostly men, some in costumes still illegal in Georgia, and the obvious began happening. They grabbed me stupid. I mean, they just mauled me, and why not? It's Halloween, it's a gay bar, and here's a kid who wore skin-tight Lycra: I might as well have put a sign on my back reading FRESH MEAT. I finally made it to the bar, where I waited for the most current geological age to end before being served. Noticing this vast temporal span involved in getting one lousy drink, I did the obvious, and ordered six. The bartender made them, and screamed something in Farsi at me. I yelled, "GABLAPPA!?!" Or at least that's what he heard, because of the deafening din. After a bit more of this silliness, I finally realized that he wanted money for the drinks; he was screaming, "FIFTY-FOUR DOLLARS!" Jesus Christ on a skateboard. The drinks were nine bucks apiece. I had exactly twenty-five dollars left after the cover charge, and didn't feel like howling this dire information back to the already impatient bartenders. Then I remembered that I had everyone else's wallets, those deserting bastards! So I merrily robbed everyone and bought my drinks, reasoning (correctly) that they would be too blasted to notice later. Then I made my way through the dread Gauntlet of Probing Fingers, thinking dourly that at least if I had raging testicular lesions, someone would at least notice and tell me, allowing me an early treatment that could save my life. And I sat there the rest of the night, getting utterly bombed on ill-gotten, watery drinks.

So maybe it wasn't so bad after all. But it certainly didn't make me want to go back. I certainly know I don't want to go back now: I'm much older. Probably nobody would grab me. And that, ironically enough, would probably depress me even more. Then Gwen Stefani would come on, and I'd think, "Jesus Christ. I'd rather be at the Olive Garden."

Wednesday, 26 February
ISO

Music of the spheres
Help me to hear it? It should be easy.
SWF, 28, likes live music, dead meat,
red wine. UB 25-35, HWP, herb friendly
and willing to buy me tampons if
necessary. Friends first, celestial
symphony later. 4004

. . .

(Beep.)"Ah . . . hi. Hi. Uh, my name is Rick, and I, uh, I guess I saw your ad. I mean, I obviously saw your ad, and it, I, uh, I liked it, so I guess I'm calling you. About your ad. (Pause.) Fuck, I sound dumb. Uh, sorry I said fuck. (Pause.) I'm really making a mess of this. Look, I liked your ad and thought I would call. I, uh, really like live music, and I would totally buy you tampons any time. I'll shower you in tampons! (Pause.) This is just getting worse. Look, I'm much cooler in person, and I've never done this before, so I hope you give me a call. Uh, like I said, it's Rick, and you can reach me at 983-446-" (Beep.)

. . .

Rick, U Called Me
In response to my ad, but the service
cut U off before I got your number! I want
to call U but I need U to call back and
leave your phone number! Try again,
big boy, stuttering optional. :) 6793

. . .

From: xxxxx [fouriertransform@claxyco.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 12:13 PM
To: xxxxx [velikovsky@medea.net]
Subject: Sunday night

Hey there, it's Rick--

Just wanted to let you know what a great time I had at the show. I thought the Telescoped Spines pretty much rocked hard, but I wish the opening act hadn't been so lame, you know? Nobody needs to do a raga cover of "Word Up." Anyway, I had a blast and would totally love to see you again, if you're up for that. Email me back or give me a call if that sounds cool. We have an unfinished James Clavell conversation! :)

Rick

. . .

(Beep.) "Hey, sweetie, it's Fiona. I thought maybe I could catch you, but you're probably on your way over with another load of stuff. This is really dumb, but do you have salad tongs? I wanted to make a nice salad later, but I don't have any tongs. I could always go buy some, but if you have some . . . hee! hee! This is dumb, I'll just ask you when you get here. See you in a few minutes! Love you." (Beep.)

. . .

FILE #97-1000345-675

Officer Brooks responded to a 911 call in which complainant reported her boyfriend engaging in erratic behavior on their stoop. Complainant was frightened for her safety and had locked the front door. Upon reaching the scene, the officer observed suspect on stoop was wearing large diaper and shower cap and nothing else. When approached, the suspect brandished a handful of tampons and said something to the effect that the suspect was "trained by angry monks" in the martial arts. Suspect then began sobbing about the complainant, claiming that his "gift" would make her forgive him for his actions. The officer presumed the suspect meant the tampons, but was unable to extract more information due to overall incoherence. The suspect made further tearful statements regarding "innocent [sexual acts of oral nature]" and someone named "Tina" who "understood the fundamental innocence of infantilism." The suspect was placed into custody and taken to Harborview Medical Center for observation.

. . .

Still Standing
Want to stand next to me? You won't
be sorry. SWF, 30, who has seen some of
this, and too much of that. Likes live music,
her dog, and a responsive police force, so
don't fuck with me unless I ask. U be: 25-30,
reasonably HWP, and, yes, willing to buy
me tampons if necessary. Some things are
non-negotiable in this life. No freaks. 3578

Tuesday, 25 February
Local Man Endures Pointless Existence

SEATTLE (AP)-- In a stunning reversal of fortune today, local cubicle ape Skot Kurruk emerged victorious in an ongoing battle over his server-based Citrix platform. At approximately 10:48 AM, the awful, Chiclet-shaped Citrix terminal was removed from his desktop, melted into slag, and then cast into Gehenna. The Citrix terminal was unavailable for quotation due to eternal damnation.

Earlier in the day, Kurruk had been working on his Citrix terminal, and was told by one supervisor to switch to his PC. This command was immediately countermanded by another supervisor, causing Skot to slash at his own face with a lemon zester. A third supervisor was reportedly "probably off murdering old people or something," according to Kurruk. It was an impasse.

Details become hazy here, with Kurruk reportedly seeking refuge under his desk with a whiskey bottle while a battle raged between his supervisors. While Kurruk drank the smoky nectar, the skies cracked as the Elder Check-Signers fought a pitched battle; finally, when things had quieted, Skot looked out to discover the corpse of one supervisor lying on the thin carpet, with the other waving a PC dongle to the heavens. Skot dropped to one knee and pledged fealty to the victor, who cried out, "I AM UNFUCKABLE-WITH!" Network printers fell into a respectful silence, and the water cooler gurgled not.

Kurruk then returned to his work station, accompanied by a twitchy functionary-imp dispatched by compserv. "How can I serve thee?" the worthless beast reportedly hissed, and Kurruk thundered, "Get this fucking thing off my desk." The tiny being scampered to do Skot's bidding, pausing only to bow several times in a piteous display of humility.

After the entire affair was concluded, Kurruk remained reflective about the experience. "The Darkness has been expunged. I am cleansed with divine light," explained Kurruk. He then crashed his browser by attempting to use it on the "Internet." "Home, I'm home," he whispered as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Monday, 24 February
A Misanthrope + Wonderful, Deluded Woman = Wedding Plans!

Deciding on Who to Invite

This process--known also as "culling the herd"--gives you a good insight into the staggering organizational power of the human brain. I never realized my capacity for creating disturbingly Microsoft-esque mental folders each with bafflingly nested sub-folders many layers deep. The top level folders, of course, are "People I Really Want to Be There," alternatively titled, "People Who Will Literally Murder Me if Not Invited." It includes, of course, close family, the people in the wedding party, and That One Friend Who Everyone Rolls Their Eyes About Because She's Such a Fucking Drama Queen. Being an actor, I can safely put that out there for my friends to read, and everyone will think it's someone different.

Then it gets more difficult. There are those who are Probably Not Going To Show Up, But They Might Get Us A KitchenAid. There are those who are Almost Certainly Too Safely Far Away To Come, But Then Again, They're Crazy. There are People I'd Love to Have Come, But We Suspect We're Not Cool Enough. There are the Bastards We Kind of Have to Lump It and Invite No Matter What. And there are even the Bastards We Don't Really Want to Invite and Probably Won't Come, but They Might Buy Us A KitchenAid, But on the Other Hand, Are Just Crazy Enough to Come, And to Add Insult to Injury, Would Probably Buy Us A Dog Bed or Some Other Terrible, Useless Thing.

So that's where you start, with this horrifically long list of people that you begin systematically cutting down. When you start, there's a lot of stuttering and backpedaling, and you say ridiculous things like, "I like those guys, but they probably don't want the trouble, you know?" Or, "With the baby and everything, it's probably doing her a favor to leave her off." Then somewhere halfway through you get kind of tired, and things take a decidedly more Manichean turn: "Howie? He gave me socks for Christmas. Off." "Bess didn't even invite us out bowling that one time. Nah." By the end, forget it. "What about Eric?" "Eric can go fuck himself." "What about Merle?" "Merle can go fuck Eric. I hear he's free that night."

Selecting the Menu

Sane people have their weddings catered, and of course we are doing this, because all of our friends are actors, and without weddings, they don't eat at all. You know when you go to friends' weddings, even friends you know pretty well, and there's like a whole galaxy of weird strangers wandering around? Those are your local stage actors, which is also why all of their formal wear looks like it dates back to the vintage "Gasoline Alley" years. Weddings are like when an okapi gets brought down on the savannah, and actors are the grinning, high-pitched hyenas that immediately fall on the corpse and all the other predators stand around going hungry thinking "Where the fuck did these dicks come from?"

The menu from our particular place--Denny's--really cracks me up, because it is such a splendid example of gastronomic horseshit-ese. "Bleu Potato Salad." This dish is named specifically for the noise you will make if you try and eat some. "What's this stuff here . . . bleu!" And a half-chewed lump of goo hits the chenille antimacassar. Oh and here's the ever-popular "Antipasti." Let me translate: "Bottles of shit dumped on a tray." Also known as: "Chef needs a smoke break." Ah, this sounds homey: "Rustic Mashed Potatoes." Which simply means that they leave the skins on and aren't terribly enthusiastic about a smooth texture. People who breathe romantic sighs over all things "rustic," I suggest, have never experienced actual rusticity (or whatever, I'm sticking with that word because I like it). Other "rustic" things include lack of plumbing, high infant mortality rates, and grizzly bear attacks.

What else? "Chilled Asparagus." Dear chef: Please cook my fucking asparagus. And finally, "Nutted Wild Rice Salad." Wonderful! Either this dish was prepared by a dangerous lunatic; or possibly the implication is that you will be driven irrevocably mad by the taste; or possibly that it contains testicles.

Picking Out A Tux

So you slink into a store, feeling kind of dumb, because the last time you did this was Prom, and you remember how well that went. Three hours of freakish, awkward misery followed by definitely no sex. Great precedent! Take a look at the dizzying array of tuxes and vests and ties and cummerbunds and shoes and hats and codpieces? It might be. Anyway, it's not as bad as you think, because they are almost all irretrievably ghoulish. Individually categorize their apparent intended effect: I Am Disco Stu. I Dance Along With Falco. I Am A Gay Man Entering A Sham Marriage. Would You Like A Jointe Of Fynest Roaste Beefe, Milady? There's even one that seems to say, I Am Wearing This Only To Cover My Track Marks. Finally, you pick out something not too offensive, which is really just an eternal euphemism for "It doesn't look really stupid right now, but wait until you see the pictures in twenty years." But it doesn't matter, because right before you're done, two incontrivertible facts loom into your mind. One is that you remember that, as the groom, nobody really even gives a fuck about you and will not be looking at you. This is, of course, the bride's day, and that's cool. It's just as well, because you'll probably have chilled asparagus on your vest. And the second thing is, prices for tux rentals have gone up by fifty bucks in the intervening years. Those bastards better come through with the KitchenAid for this.

Friday, 21 February
String Theory

Clotho: Here's the next thread.

Lachesis: Ew.

Atropos: Where did that come from?

Clotho: Piggly Wiggly. They had a sale.

Atropos: It's pretty ugly.

Clotho: Thread is thread, sister.

Lachesis: Well, hand it over. Boy. (Pause.) Boy. What do you think, girls?

Clotho: Peanut sheller?

Lachesis: Too ambitious.

Atropos: Crib death.

Clotho: You always say that.

Atropos: We could always make another Baldwin.

Lachesis: No more Baldwins! What is it with you and Baldwins?

Atropos: I just think they look funny.

Clotho: Oh, just throw him in a cubicle somewhere.

Atropos: I thought even "peanut sheller" was too ambitious.

Lachesis: It is.

(General cackling.)

Clotho: Okay, here you are.

Lachesis: Thanks. I'll just feed him in right . . . here, I guess. That's not too bad.

Atropos: Ugh. It sure is funny-looking that way . . .

Clotho: Well . . .

Atropos: I'm cutting him off.

Lachesis: Get out of here! Stop waving those fucking scissors around!

Atropos: Well, he's not helping things!

Clotho: Come on, Atropos, look at the thread right over there. It's that Caftan Person. Don't start pretending to have standards now.

Lachesis: Really. What is that?

Atropos: An experiment. I don't have to tell you.

Clotho: Well, this is all just very Perry Ellis, and I thought we were shooting for Armani here.

Lachesis: You're the one who picked the thread. What is that other one, again?

Clotho (reading label): "Skot."

Lachesis: What a dumb name.

Atropos: I have big plans for this one.

Thursday, 20 February
Aw Fuck and Everything After, or, Idiot in Full Flower

After maundering on at length about these various teenaged trials-by-fire, I have purposefully left off what must be the most universal and most horribly traumatic: the category-defying, all-encompassing phenomenon of Getting Caught. It doesn't matter who actually catches you in whatever act, whether it be school officials, or the cops, or neighbors: what matters is that your parents are going to hear about it, and then you will have to deal with parental wrath and reprisal. Neither of which is quite as horrible as the associated implication: you will have to talk with your parents. As in, "We need to have a talk," which is then, horrifyingly, followed by actual talk. No teenager wants to talk with his or her parents about anything apart from curfew negotiations and can I have some money? But there is a thing worse than the parents who "need to have a talk": the parent(s) who, thanks to your awful transgressions, stop talking. Such as, for example, my father, the ex-Marine Viet Nam veteran. But again I get ahead of myself.

After Tracy kindly informed my entire high school that it was I who was responsible for the bomb threat, the rest of the afternoon kind of passed in a haze, and not just because of the beer, although that either helped or hurt, I really don't know. I mostly just felt kind of wrapped up in damp bedsheets, a sort of premature shroud of dread that hung on me heavily, because even a poltroon like myself could now see that I was clearly dead, much like the luckless William Katt, who was over on the beach chatting up a reticent Carrie White. "You poor bastard," I thought, "you're like me, but with even worse hair. You won't live to see the end of prom night." Then I thought of my father, and realized that, all things considered, I would rather be doused in pig's blood and then hideously killed before facing whatever my dad came up with.

I eventually made it home and sleepwalked my way through the evening, with my dad (my mother was visiting relatives out of town) making some curious noises about the hubbub at school. I muttered that it was "pretty weird" before heading off to bed, where I dreamed of terrible things, like the acting of John Travolta. It was a rough night. And then morning hit, and I had to go to school. Where Everybody Knew.

If you've ever seen one of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies, you'll get an idea of how it felt to walk around the school. People either gave me wary, "I'm with you" glances or hard-eyed "Soon your brains will be scooped out like nougat" looks. I knew the second I walked into the place that everything had gone drastically wrong, and that justice would soon be meted out in jagged, cruel strokes. But what could I do? Nothing; I shambled like an unstrung marionette to my first class, playing a part in a tragedy whose unheroic end was eminently clear. The teacher greeted me with an iron smile and a terse, pointed "Hello, Skot." I waved goofily and dropped all my books. Smooth.

This agony went on until my second class, geometry. Then came the call. The speaker crackled: "Skot Kurruk, please report to the principal's office. Skot Kurruk to the office." Everyone looked at me silently, except the teacher, who looked at the floor. I stood up and exited, leaving my books on my desk, even then clinging to tiny shreds of nonhope: "If I leave my books here, I'll have to come back! To pick them up! QED!" A friend told me later that when one of the school staff came by to gather up my stuff, it was like watching me being erased from the face of the earth.

I went to the principal's office, where I was greeted by the vice-principal, the school counselor, and . . . the chief of police. He was holding my by-now very crumpled note. I'd like to say I gave them a bunch of Brandoesque fuck-you guff, but by now I was a babbling sack of undifferentiated terror. I do remember the cop saying "You know, we've got your fingerprints off this note." This was pretty stupid, since (a) I had never at that point been fingerprinted, and (b) clearly about nine hundred people had touched the thing since I typed it. It didn't matter; I confessed nearly immediately. (I did make a brief hopeless attempt at caginess: "Supposing I was the person who did this . . . " Really, really pathetic.) After the obvious had been admitted to, the counselor put his hand on my shoulder and said, haltingly, "Skot . . . do you need . . . help?" I twitched at him balefully and blurted out, "Jesus Christ, no!" It was my only proud moment; everyone else in the room kind of chuckled.

After that came the waiting, because of course they had to call my dad, a small-town courtesy before they hauled me down to the police station to arrest me. Waiting was of course horrible, the worst, the fucking worst, except it wasn't, because then Dad showed up. He looked like a fucking golem constructed out of wrath and moustache, and the aleph on his forehead glowed with an otherworldly malevolence, and all in all, I knew that doom had finally come. At this point, I just gave over to utter catatonia, and entered into a dream-state where Piper Laurie hectored me about Jee-zus and dirty-pillows. Anything was preferable to reality, where, incidentally, I was indeed arrested, printed, and released, with dark promises that we'd be hearing from juvenile court about a date.

I was given a five-day suspension from school, during which (it was May, remember?) I earned zeroes on no less than three major tests. During that suspension, I spent some real quality time with my crazed, vengeful father, who, depending on mood and timing, (a) threw things at me, (b) howled like a gutshot dog over my idiocy, and (c) devised foul, backbreaking chores to be done around our rural ranch. I shoveled out horse stables. I cleared a 20'x20' plot of four-foot weeds with a scythe. I waded through a two-foot tall (I'm serious) stack of extra credit problems given to me by my wonderful and sympathetic geometry teacher. I don't want to exaggerate here, but it was a million times worse than hell.

Things blew over, of course. I lived in terror of ringing phones; I was certain each time that it was Johnny Law calling to give me my judicial ball-kicking. But they never did, figuring that hey, they couldn't do worse than my dad had. I returned to school, to somewhat embarrassed acclaim; some of my baseball teammates took to calling me "Boom-Boom" or "Psycho," which made me feel like a particularly lame radio personality. I managed, through a freakish effort and not a little help from teachers who felt I had gone through the wringer, to maintain a better than 3.0 GPA.

And Tracy? I'd love to tell you that she and I got together, that she was dazzled by my half-assed outlaw ways, that she was my first love, all that. But no. Tracy and I remained only friends, but to be honest? I think I could have made a go of it with her, I really think I had a shot, but . . . oh, hell, I don't have to tell you by now. We ran out of time, she ran out of time. She should have known better than to tease Carrie White.

Fin.

Wednesday, 19 February
Beach Blanket Backfire, or, The Continuing Maturation of an Idiot

I wrote a bit yesterday about cultural milestones that teenagers pass on their way to adulthood, or really, young-adulthood, or really, "larger, hairier kids still misbehaving." I also indulged in some baseless blather about the differences between girls and boys in choosing these markers, but also pointed out at least one shared adolescent hurdle to be overcome by both sexes: not being horrifically killed by murderous telekinetic outcasts at the prom, whom you may or may not have drenched in pig's blood, but she frankly isn't making any distinctions any more. But there is one more significant activity that crosses gender lines: underage drinking.

Nearly every kid does this at least once, except for perhaps the aforementioned kooky homicidal telekinetic, and look how she turned out: blood-wet, orphaned, and dead, with finally nobody to reach out to except for Amy Irving. If that's not solid anecdotal evidence supporting the practice of getting boozed up in your teens, I don't know what is.

So to pick up the narrative thread from yesterday, that's what pretty much everyone did that day. I allowed myself to be herded whitely into Bill's car, where we were joined by Kendall--he was the second person I had told of my prank-cum-federal offense--and we immediately found a senior who would buy us beer for ridiculous amounts of money. (Idaho at that point had recently grandfathered the 18-year-olds into the newly raised 21-and-up law, which immediately catapulted those who made the grandfather into a kind of Divine Elect status, which of course they thoroughly and mercilessly abused. In a just world, they would have been the first up against--or lodged in--the wall in Carrie White's slaughterama, but most likely they were out in the parking lot fumbling with a drunken 16-year-old's bra.) And off we went, whooping and hollering things like "Afternoon at the beach!" and "Pass me a beer!" and "Oh my god, I'm going to jail!"

I had calmed down a bit by the time we arrived at the river, thanks mostly to our friend Beer. The beach was by this time fully occupied by what appeared to be the Seventh Half-Naked Regiment, who were performing their drinking maneuvers with proper military precision. Wanting, as all teenagers do when no adults are around, to be a good soldier, I joined them. Specifically, I joined a particular person named Tracy. Tracy was a junior, in fact was my partner on the debate team (look, shut up, okay?), and I had a white-hot crush on her, because she was (a) pretty and (b) talked to me. Of course, being my debate partner, she kind of had to talk to me, but one doesn't make needlessly fine distinctions like that when one is a dorky teenager whose hormones some time ago started Incredible Hulk-ing all over his glandular systems. Tracy, I was wholly delighted to see, was pretty wasted.

We talked for a bit, I guess, about nothing, because Tracy like I said was plastered, and what the fuck am I going to talk about? Debate? I don't think so. I probably unentertained her with some close analysis of the semiotics of socklessness on Miami Vice. Now those guys were cool. True, they may have a looked a lot like why Betsey Johnson sticks to making women's clothes, but at the time, they were cooler than deep space, and I most certainly was not. And then Tracy said something very important. It was the first of two very important things she would say to me that day. It was: "I wish I knew who was responsible for this, so I could thank him."

Suddenly . . . I could be cool. Tracy would think I was cool. This was inconceivable. It was also the worst possible thing she could say, because it surgically removed pretty much every shred of self-preservation that I had left remaining, which was nearly nil anyway, because hey, teenaged boy.

I heard myself as if from a great distance, say ten yards or so, because I was half in the bag and I think a volleyball had hit me in the head at some point. But you should have seen me. I was nonchalant. I was low-toned and debonair. I sipped casually at my warm Rainier can and said a bit throatily, "You can thank him right now."

Tracy's eyes widened in a way I still remember, and she froze. I smiled winningly and acnedly, and sipped again. Around us, unimportant people did pointless things and yelled uninteresting words. We were figures in a Vermeer painting: perfect, timeless, and pretty much ignored by the world at large. But it was, for me, perfection. I was, very briefly, cool.

"Oh my god," breathed Tracy. "Really? You did that?" I nodded, still savoring this new sensation, that even then I knew couldn't possibly last. "OH MY GOD!" she yelled, and hugged me, a sensation I mentally locked into a tight vault with a sign on it reading "PRICELESS OBJECTS." And then Tracy said the second very important thing of that day.

She stood up on the beach and shouted in her best debater's voice, "Everybody! Everybody, listen up? You know who did this? You know why we're here? It's because of SKOT! SKOT DID IT!"

That's when I stopped feeling cool. Now three-quarters of my high school non-chums knew Who Did It. And I'll admit it was nice being the hero for all of about thirty seconds as they cheered me on the beach and ran over to clap me on the back and chummily drip beer on me, sure. But in my mind, I knew: I now had not even the slightest chance of coming out of this one unscathed. High school students keep secrets about as well as radiation victims keep teeth. I figured I had about twenty-four hours.

Not quite.

Conclusion tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 February
How I Stopped Being A Boy And Instead Became An Idiot

I was a sophomore in high school when I became a felon.

For many teenaged boys, committing a felony is a cultural milestone, and is a crucial part of the process of becoming a man--which is to say, fundamentally just an old boy who misbehaves in more secretive ways. Some girls go ahead and commit felonies, but for the most part, I'm guessing their adolescent rituals are tamer; plus they've got the whole menstruation thing to deal with, which seems to males like a felony perpetrated on one by one's own fucking body. So while girls are sensibly transgressing the social order by doing things like sneaking a look at Judy Blume's Wifey or hurling tampons at the local hyper-Christian telekinetic while she showers, boys are out boosting cars and slaughtering pigs for their blood, which of course will be dumped onto the unlucky telekinetic at the prom, causing her to undergo a massive psychotic break during which she systematically murders everyone at the dance before going home to crucify her unhinged Bible-thumping mother against the wall with cooking implements. Christ, high school sucked. Anyway.

The whole debacle got started--where it so often does with your average teenager, provided the teenager in question is kind of a goofy knob--in typing class. The teacher had clearly given up on the whole day, because it was mid-May or so, beautiful outside, very close to the end of the school year, and we were being typically rowdy and uncooperative. I remember, for example, teasing Carrie White about her dress, a slight that would be terribly revenged later at the prom when she battered me to death with a hail of mentally-controlled flying sousaphones. But I get ahead of myself.

The teacher had basically just given us some ridiculous wankery to do involving simple transcription, and being a pretty good typist already (boy, and that phrase still makes the ladies breathe a little heavier), I got done way early. And then I got what sounded like a pretty funny idea: Wouldn't it be cute as the dickens to type up a bomb threat? Wouldn't that just make the administration chuckle their fucking nuts off? Sure it would. So I did, making sure I moved to someone else's typewriter first, because I was sneaky. No way I get fingered for this! I saw Jagged Edge. I'm sixteen, I'm beautiful, I'm dumber than a dead ape.

So I typed the thing up, and I made it look pleasingly insane in a crappy Hollywood-esque way: all caps and with plenty of stupid misspellings. I wish I had a copy today, but I can reconstruct the gist of it, including a couple of salient features that I most certainly recall:

THERE IS A BOMB IN THE BILDING IF YOU DO NOT EVACATUE THE HIGH SKOOL BY NOON THERE WILL BE NOTHING LEFT BUT SCROCHED CORPSES. THIS IS NOT A JOKE AND I WILL NOT DEIGN TO TELL YOU WHERE I PUT IT YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT YURSELF IM SERIOUS GET THE FUCK OUT

Uh huh. It's just pitifully stupid. "Scroched"? "Yurself"? Okay, even morons don't do shit like this, but did you notice the kicker? Plunked right down in the middle of all that blaring idiocy? "Deign." As was related to me later, after I was caught (you knew that, right?), the faculty, upon receiving the threat at the office, passed it around amongst themselves to see if they could, I don't know, find any clues? My English teacher did. "Well, whoever wrote this not only knows the word 'deign,' but also uses it more or less correctly. There's only about three kids in the school who probably know that word." (This is not to trump me up as a super-genius, I was just a book nerd. Also, I went to school with fucking hillbillies.)

So I was already fucked even while the ink was drying on the page, but did I give a second thought? Of course not. The whole thing by now seemed deeply funny to me, a kind of Up Yours to the school that was so irritatingly trying to educate me. So I reread my little opus, and surreptitiously left it at the office. I cackled inwardly as I imagined the office staff passing it around: "Oh ho ho. One of the students has made a droll joke in which he promises a fiery death for all! What a scamp this anonymous student is and how he has brightened our afternoon with this federal offense! Ah, well, best chuck it away and get on with our slightly less oppressive lives!" Seriously, I to this day have no idea what I could have been thinking, but I suspect it had something to do with Toto lyrics.

I promptly forgot about the whole thing as the day progressed, until my class right before lunchtime. There was only about ten minutes left before the bell, and all of a sudden--what the fuck? Was that the fire bell? It sure was, and I distinctly remember thinking about how goddamn stupid it was to have a fire drill when there was only ten fucking minutes left in class. Honestly, I was that clueless, a trait I continue to cope with. When we had all assembled in the parking lot, the vice principal started speaking. "Some joker thinks he's pretty funny, and has left a threatening note at our office. By law, we have to evacuate the school and blah blah blah . . . "

Right about then, had any school official happened to look at my face, they would have been able to save themselves the trouble of the search, because I had the whole thing written right on my face. (And let me tell you how happy a lot of students were to have their lockers searched. Bye bye tobacco, booze and porn!) I felt a terrible sensation in my gut not unlike the feeling one gets when viewing a Steven Seagal movie; I wanted, on a cellular level, to die. I knew I was fucked; it was only a matter of time. And this was brought savagely home to me one moment later, when my friend Bill leaned in and whispered to me, "You're my hero." Because . . . oh yeah. Oh fuck. I had told people. Only two people at that point. But that was enough, and I knew it.

There was really only one thing to do, I realized. I could still make things better. So I immediately drove down to the river and drank beer with the rest of the student body. Things, I knew, were just getting started, and there was still ample time for me to make everything massively worse. So I did.

Continued tomorrow.

Friday, 14 February
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Valentine's Day

I
Among twelve expensive entrees,
The only thing moving
Was my rapidly mounting credit debt.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a man
Awkwardly watching the Spice channel with his girlfriend.

III
The valentine whirled in the autumn winds.
What dumb thing did I say this time?

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and--
Damn, I'm sorry. I thought I could keep a straight face.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of imperfections
Or the beauty of her toes
She says, "You're kind of a freak." Now,
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled my long-windedness
Because I am an ass.
I talked of Shadoe Stevens,
Unbelievably, to and fro,
The mood,
in discussing Shadoe Stevens,
Indicating: bad idea.

VII
O thin hippies of Broadway,
Why do you ask me for change?
Do you not see how the fiancee
And I walk around your feet
Because we hate you?

VIII
I know wily stratagems
And lucid, clever rationales
But I know, too,
That the fiancee will not let me
Play Fear's "Beef Bologna" at our wedding.

IX
When the blind date flew out of sight,
It made you think
About the inappropriateness of handjob jokes.

X
At the sight of people making out
In the Starbucks parking lot
I clutch at my pickaxe
And cry out sharply.

XI
He sat over the freeway
In a tall glass office.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he realized
He'd forgotten where
He'd parked the damn car.

XII
People are crabby and stressed out.
It must be Valentine's Day.

XIII
It was afternoon all evening.
It was not snowing
And not going to snow.
The couple sat
In stupid Seattle.

Happy Valentine's Day or not, depending on your point of view.

Thursday, 13 February
A Prostitute By Any Other Name

Like I imagine most larger cities, we have a couple of "indie" weeklies (that are of course published by large media companies, but they're allowed to say "fuck" and stuff, so, "indie"). I read them on occasion, usually when there's some specific article or review or something that I care about. Otherwise, nah, because they of course suck.

One of the weirdest things about them--and it's been this way for a while, I realized--are the classified ads in the back, specifically the ones that are advertising "adult entertainment." Oh please. These are whores. And what whores they are! This is the most democratic sampling of whores I've ever seen, but then again, I don't get out whoring as much as I used to.

There really is a pleasing diversity in terms of the girlflesh available for what is coyly referred to as "Outcalls" or, more rarely, "Incalls" (which I suppose must mean "I prefer to fuck on sheets that I know are clean, and plus, I'm probably armed"). There are petite girls, larger girls, Sears catalog bra model girls, ugly girls, older girls who aren't even girls any more, girls who technically were never girls in the first place, girls of every race, girls who were professionally shot, girls who were shot in somebody's garage, and on and on and on. Just about the only universal is that they are holding their boobs in their hands. LADIES! Don't you know that you're obstructing our view? Oh, right.

But not the men's ads. Homogeneity rules the day here: nothing but Speedo-wrapped sausages with the occasional inclusion of some really ripped abs. It's an interesting contrast. The women, mostly, seem to be saying, "Ain't this a package, boys?" And the men seem to be saying, "THIS IS MY PACKAGE, BOYS."

The text, when it is present aside from the de rigeur listing of measurements and phone numbers, also makes for pretty good reading. One lass is brilliant: "Call for Good Morning Wake-Up Specials." Good gravy! She's got morning blowjobs on special! This is the sort of thing that makes me so fucking proud of this country. Well, and several other countries, where this sort of thing is perfectly legal, but you see where I'm coming from. Other snippets are less successful, mainly because of unfortunate phrasing. "Enjoyable Moments with Premium Satisfaction." Enjoyable . . . moments? What's going on when I'm not enjoying myself between these moments? Does she punch me at odd intervals?

Of course, even if I weren't in a happy relationship, there's no way I could ever manage to get through a "session" with one of these gals.

She (at door): Hi, sweetheart. Come on in.

Me: Hi! Okay! Um! Hi! (Long pause.) Boy am I sweaty!

She: That's all right, honey. Now, what--

Me: I GOTTA GO! I GOTTA GO! I'M SORRY! YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! HERE'S A HUNDRED DOLLARS! I GOTTA GO! (Exits running.)

She: Thank goodness. He stank like anything.

Wednesday, 12 February
We Put the "Dumb" in "Dumbshow"

The reviews have started coming in for Far East, the show I just opened with last weekend. They have been uniformly tepid, which is fine; I long ago stopped being bothered by reviews. The ones that mention me kind of crack me up: one reviewer commented, "Skot Kurruk is fine as Bob." Fine! Yeah! I'm passable! But even better was another, who wrote the immortal (to me) line, "Skot Kurruk was born to play the traitorous homo--in a good way." I can't wait until the fiancee reads this. "What . . . what does he mean?" she'll stammer. And I'll reply, "Honey, he read my soul. I am, in fact, a traitorous homo. I've already cleaned out the savings account, and have you met Clive?"

In truth, these reviewers did not catch the best show. In fact, the show they saw was a dizzying hellpit filled with enraged alligators, from my perspective. Here's basically what happened.

We started off Act I pretty swimmingly; things were humming along with only a few hiccups: one guy dropped a couple lines, another fucked her blocking all up and ended up across the stage from a particular hat right in time for her line, "Here's your hat." But everyone covered fine, nothing was happening that was perceptible to the audience. At intermission, a few of us smoked confidently and chatted, while I inwardly reflected about how I was truly born to play this particular traitorous homo.

And Act II started fine, pretty much; although an actor mispronounced "Captain Stark" as "Captain Sharks," but hey, it got a laugh. The usual opening jitters. And then there came my scene.

The scene is between my character Bob and his lawyer Hank. Don't worry about why this is, but the staging convention had me on a stool, center stage, facing straight out to the audience, and the actor playing Hank was elsewhere on stage also facing full out to the audience (like I said, don't worry about it, it was just some stylized staging). We started the scene, and "Hank" offered me a seat, and I said, "Thanks," and sat down, and then "Hank" went up. "Went up" is theater-speak for "blanked the line." I waited on the stool for "Hank" to say his next line, and all I heard was the actor's limbic system going into freakout mode and the extraordinary sound of audible sweating. "Hank" remained silent, while I pondered the full ramifications of existential despair as I sat, stage center, in dead silence. Suddenly, "Hank" erupted into a ghastly froglike series of croaks that I eventually recognized as lines from the show, only these lines were half a page later. I mentally pictured the skipped-over lines dying like slugs on a salt lick, and they screamed, "Why didn't yooou saaaaay uuuuusss? Weee are goooood lines! AAAAAaaaaaahh--!" Oh well, so we skipped ahead, at least the actor hadn't totally vaporlocked. I said the appropriate line.

And the actor totally vaporlocked. I heard awful things from the other actor. First, furious swallowing and coughing. Then: "Well . . . uh . . . I need to think about this, Bob. Uh . . . I'm thinking, Bob . . . " Trying desperately to stay in character while us, the audience, and probably passersby for a several block radius realized that the entire scene had fallen out of the actor's head and was lying in a mess on the ground. It was hopeless. I paraphrased the actor's line and threw it out there as a life preserver: "I turned myself in. Doesn't that count for anything?" The actor pounced on it like a cougar on an abandoned baby. "Yes, you did, Bob. That was very brave. I'll emphasize that." Hey, we're back on track! "Okay," I said, and eagerly waited for the next line, which of course was not forthcoming, because the other actor was still trapped on Neptune, looking around thinking, "Boy, I don't recognize this place, but it's cold." This was death. I fed the actor another line and got total radio silence. The actor kept making ghoulish throat-noises, and the vicious tang of flop-sweat was everywhere.

I really am not sure how we got through the rest of that scene without a big hook coming in from the wings to haul us off, but we did. I kept furiously making up leading questions, and the actor finally glommed on to one that led back to the scene proper and its by-now very clammy end, but it seemed to take eons. I felt like Voyager One, trawling the endless black nothing, occasionally letting out a plangent bleat, and hearing only a vast, cosmic "fuck you" of silence.

We finished the rest of the play without incident. And to be honest, the reviewers were mostly pretty kind about ignoring the obvious disaster; only one mentioned it at all, stating the perfectly obvious in case the rest of us had all gone crazy: "[The actor] does need to learn the lines." What would we do without these helpful people? Anyway, so that was over. We had survived, if not prettily. Until the next night.

When it happened again.

Tuesday, 11 February
Shows That I Can Unfortunately Watch At Any Time of Day

7:00 USA Network

JAG Rabb is joined by Mac to help defend their friend Comb against false charges. They are not helped by hostile Judge Berm or their suspicious commanding officer Admiral Yurt. Facing burnished Republicans at every turn, Rabb and Mac enlist the aid of CIA special agent Beet (Dabney Coleman). Also featuring Justin Bateman, Eric Bogosian and Danitra Vance as Gunnery Sgt. Womb.

7:30 FOX

Friends The familiar five friends disinterestedly read an old "Mad About You" script from metal folding chairs in front of one camera, and then rise up and hector the terrorized staff for "paychecks, fucking paychecks!" In this special one-hour episode, they all make foul, unwatchable movies, and weakly rail against their individual fates, which all clearly point to tedious, unnoticed deaths.

8:00 NBC

Law & Order An aging, ferret-gnawing detective and his younger, attractive, possibly ethnic partner discover a dead body of some sort and make trenchant observations about the perils of New York City life. While eating at a hot dog stand, one of the detectives gets an idea, and is seen running off determinedly, the hot dog forgotten yet symbolic of forgotten hot dogs. Various people lie, and then immediately come clean under the laser-like interrogation of either lizardy Michael Moriarty or maybe Sam Waterston, who has small stones in his throat to aid in digestion. Interchangeable female attorneys slink around uselessly, giving nothing away about the deus ex machina twist that will happen in the last five minutes, shocking everyone into a dazed walk to the elevators, where they will trade trenchant observations about the perils of New York City life.

8:30 FX

The X-Files Mulder and Scully investigate an eerie lagoon whose black waters appear to be harboring a mysterious creature that is claiming the lives of young women; Mulder suspects government conspiracy. Scully disagrees, snapping at Mulder, "You've got piles, and nobody likes you." It turns out to be a dog. Whatever. Guest starring Bruce Vilanch.

9:00 CourtTV

NYPD Blue Andy is tossed between extremes of violence and grief as everyone he knows and loves is raped, tortured, killed, and then horribly defiled before his very eyes by a succession of frightening ethnic people. In an edge-of-your-seat confrontation with his boss, he at once seems to be lashing out while lacerating himself in the process, culminating in a savage mooning. A montage at the end showcases many side-boobs; tasteful luxuriating asses; and finally three minutes of Jimmy Smits listlessly masturbating on camera.

Monday, 10 February
Coming Home From Work Is A Non-Heroic Unadventure Not Even Remotely Fraught With Danger

As I made my way home today--as always, on foot, it's about a 20-minute walk, a distressing bit of exercise that I neatly negate by smoking a couple of cigarettes--I naturally encountered other good citizens of my fair city. They included:

The Couple Making Out

You know, it's appalling enough to see people you don't know mashing away just anywhere, but it's really also very eerie to see them do it in the Starbucks parking lot. Not even leaned up against a car or anything: they were just going at it in an empty space. Did they imagine they would get towed elsewhere? Actually, there's an idea--it's a little tamer than my original fantasy, which involved sauntering over to them and hitting them with a pickaxe--Starbucks should tow them. "Kids makin' out in the lot again." A simple phone call, and then a beefy guy in a greasy t-shirt would drive up and swiftly attach a massive towing cable to the startled couple. "Hey, let us out of here! We'll move!" they'd shriek, their passion taking a decidedly sudden downturn. "Take it up with the city," the guy would grunt, and then he'd take off with a lurch, and you'd see the unfortunate couple dragging behind the truck, bouncing off the asphalt and howling like Pandemonium's own PA system.

The Unnerving Not-A-Rapper

As I crested the hill and approached Broadway, my cardiovascular system shuddering and lurching like a poorly coordinated rugby scrum, I spotted a horrifying apparition. It was an unkempt figure, nearly six feet tall, with knotted dirty blonde hair flying this way and that, limbs keeping an uncertain, frenetic tempo modeled, seemingly, on the flight patterns of frightened hummingbirds. It held a soft drink cup to its lips, and screamed terrible rat-a-tat-tat near-rhymes and assorted ravings in rough accompaniment to the tempest ravaging its tortured body, using the cup as a megaphone, which was hardly necessary; the noise had several people in a nearby bus kiosk pinioned to the plexiglass wall, and they writhed helplessly. The figure capered a while longer, and somewhere grandmothers cried piteously, without knowing why; it was because of this awful shambling thing near Broadway. I turned away from the spectacle. I cannot discount the possibility that it was Joni Mitchell.

The Dead-Eyed Bank Shufflers

I had to use an ATM, and of course as I approached the bank, there were lines of people waiting to use them all. I took my place at the end, and patiently began becoming enraged with all of the other people failing to use the ATMs quickly and efficiently. I pride myself on this skill; being able to execute a rapid succession of neatly timed keypad punches at an ATM is, to my mind, one of society's most underappreciated abilities. But apparently it's only me, because, yes, this person was staring at the screen, definitely not punching any buttons, apparently befuddled by the dozens and dozens--no, strike that, six options available to him. You want a withdrawal, you wretched troublefuck! That's all anybody ever wants! Press "withdrawal!" More monklike studiousness. Then the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw that the ATM inside the bank had nobody in line for it. What cruel trick was this? Nobody else seemed to notice or care; they were all boring holes into each other's backs. So I skipped inside, got my money, and He Who Notices Things was on his way. Nobody else had moved.

The Cold Girl

I don't want to dwell on this, because I don't want to sound creepy or sexist or anything, but. As I left the bank, I approached a girl in a tiny little tank top, and it was cold out, so of course her nipples were plainly visible through the microgram of fabric she was wearing. And I saw them, and because I'm me, I was instantly consumed with a burning shame, and I flushed violently, and cursed myself for being a man who noticed a woman's nipples, and snapped my head downward to stare at my shoes, and almost certainly became the perfect representation of the creepy guy who wanders around the streets in the daytime with nothing better to do than leer at womens' tits all the time, and who should be killed. I kind of wanted her to punch me as she passed by, but she didn't. So to the cold girl: I'm sorry I noticed your nipples. If it makes any difference, it made me feel just awful.

Nice Girl

There's not much to say here except to note its bewildering improbability: a pretty girl smiled at me. Fresh from the psychosexual horsewhipping I had just experienced, I was reeling uncertainly down the street, and paused at a stoplight, which is always a good idea when you don't feel like getting hit by many fast cars. So I was standing there spacing off, and I noticed a pretty girl looking at me from across the street, smiling. I performed my usual maneuver and immediately looked away, because, you know, girls are scary. I sneaked a look back. She was still smiling at me! Some poorly-trained lonely genetic algorithm clumsily managed to execute itself and cough out some Pig Latin instructions to my brainstem, and I feebly grinned back, a sad rictus. Her smile broadened. Then the light changed, and we passed each other, and the crazed ordeal was over.

I have, of course, a beautiful, wonderful fiancee, so I don't want to make too much of this, because it's really silly, but there you have it: it's nice to be smiled at by a pretty girl. I dashed home to see if someone had tattooed a humorous joke on my forehead, or perhaps I'd grown a tiny, adorable new head that I couldn't see, but it was just me.

USA! USA! USA!

That felt good. And with that, I'd like to publicly just remind my fiancee that I love her. If she wants, I'll go make out with her in public.

Friday, 07 February
Obscure Musical Milestones, In No Order

First album ever purchased: Abba's Greatest Hits

First album ever quiescently listened to purely because a girl I liked enjoyed it, which was torture, because I found the music so terrible, and the artist's name so mockable, but you undergo these things when you like a girl and hope that maybe something will happen, but needless to say nothing ever did: Peabo Bryson (title forgotten)

First album bought with at least dim understanding that though I enjoyed it, I knew somehow that it was really total garbage: Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Flaunt It!

First album listened to obsessively that has no rational explanation in the context of my personal tastes: Soundtrack, Jesus Christ Superstar

Second album listened to obsessively that has no rational explanation in the context of my personal tastes: Switched On Bach

First song ever sobbingly and drunkenly requested of a radio DJ to be played at 2:30 am in the wake of a horrible breakup, and which was indeed played, after which I called the DJ back to even more sobbingly and drunkenly thank him for playing, a memory which causes me searing psychological agony: Phish, "Fast Enough For You"

First album ever bought by an unknown band, a decision which was viciously mocked by my friend Nick because he thought the band members had idiotic names, which they did, but I turned out to be prescient, because they went on to be horrifically popular, and hey, it's a pretty good album, so I got to eventually viciously mock Nick right back for years, and pretty much just lorded it over him for being so short-sighted: Guns 'N Roses, Appetite for Destruction

First album listened to which actually, literally, made me feel like at that moment my life was changing in some undefinable way: Who's Next

First album purchased in a frenzy of sudden need because of one single song playing over the store's stereo even though I had never heard of the band because I grew up in fucking Idaho where popular culture is anything but: New Order, Substance (For the record, the song was "Ceremony," which interestingly, many years later, in another record store, was again playing over the stereo, only this time it was a cover version by Galaxie 500, and I was again consumed with need, and immediately bought their 4-CD box set on the spot, basically because I am hopeless.)

First album bought for only one song on the baseless assumption that the rest of the album would be as great as the hit single, but of course was terrible and now this band is a punchline: T'pau

First album to ever provoke a friendship-threatening argument spanning many weeks, ultimately culminating in an uneasy truce where I realized, simply and sadly, that I now felt that the friend in question was somehow diminished by failing to appreciate it: XTC, Skylarking

First album ever purchased, and subsequently enjoyed until one day, out of the blue, I was struck with the sudden surety of the notion that it actally fucking sucked, bad, and was in fact, unhealthy to listen to, and was summarily violently destroyed: Billy Squier, Emotions in Motion

First song to start playing in the unstoppable jukebox in my mind after writing that: "Everybody Wants You."

Thursday, 06 February
A Casual Overview of Some Online Friends, Except That I'm Barking Mad

Snarkout

This guy is crazy smart and more than a little crazy himself. I liked his Feb. 2 post on hot chicks in planes. I can only imagine having sex with Loise Thaden, but Snark helps me imagine. He can kind of get out of control though, like when he calls John Gruden a "butt pirate." That's just not cool, Snark, but shine on you crazy diamond! Overall his site is, as Beerbohm Tree remarked, "Funny without being vulgar."

Calamondin

Before you ask, "calamondin" is Nepalese for "eat shit." This wacky gal is quite the misanthrope, and sometimes it's hard to read her crazed paranoid ramblings, but I love this woman, so I just usually get really drunk before surfing there. She runs some nutty-ass project called "20 Inch Thingies" and the less said about that, the better. You dirty girl!

Brad

For a manic-depressive, agoraphobic Christian hog butcher, Brad is pretty funny. He can kind of get a little one-note with the whole abstinence thing, but he tries to stay happy-go-lucky between court appearances. Once a year, Brad goes off his meds and runs around in a killing frenzy; his pet name for it is "Breaking Heads with Brad." But you're the best, Brad! I'm pulling for you on the extradition thing!

John 13

What can you say about John 13? He's a story. It couldn't have been easy being Manitoba's first test-tube baby (the other 12 were tragically lost thanks to an errant hungry dog), but John persevered and now of course is Professor of Transgender Issues at Brown college. His weblog is kind of a sprawl, but the whimsical animated flower .gifs and hippie art can be childishly endearing. A movie was made about Johnny once called "The Boy in the Hilarious Canadian Bubble," but he doesn't like to talk about it, I think because the kid who played him was Ben Affleck, and how gay is that? (Whoops! Sorry Perfesser! You know I loves ya!)

Wednesday, 05 February
How To Get Through Your Daytime Preview Theatrical Performance

1. Get up at last possible minute. Practice morning ablution rituals with machinelike precision. Execute efficient coffee transaction. Discard cigarette 1 second before entering office doors, no strides broken. Arrive ten minutes late anyway. Feel stupid.

2. Take note of tech people hurling themselves around the office, weeping brokenly and babbling in their creepy alien tongue, and occasionally bursting into flames. "Oracle! SQL! Down! Hardware! Two network drives! Fucked! Firewalls! Remote servers! Choking on vomit! Noam Chomsky!" Eventually tire of this puzzling scene, go to office.

3. Read sweaty, dense emails from aforementioned incontinent tech staff. Finally decipher that all databases are somehow royally fucked all to hell, and might be for some time. Note with rising pleasure that this means it is basically totally impossible for any work to be done.

4. Get bored, torture office mates. Hang sign on Tiny Administrative Girl's office that reads "ACTUAL SIZE SHOWN." Maliciously inform Caftan Guy in dark tones that the database was no doubt "a problem way, way down on the hardware end. I'm pretty sure a backbone got hit with a DDOS, because the staff is saying that the DNS issues here are propogating across multiple networks." He nods sagely.

5. Leave work early to walk to theater to get ready for inexplicable Wednesday afternoon preview performance. Greet other actors and note that they--a notably nocturnal species--look kind of grey and wilted in the bright sunlight, like old mushrooms left forgotten on a countertop. The sun beats down with oppressive, cheery wrath; enter the vaguely sinister dank theater for refuge from the awful sleet of photons.

6. Greet tech staff, who are performing their mysterious preshow functions while gabbling amongst themselves. Like the tech staff at work, these are freakish, incomprehensible beings with a chittering, insectoid language. "Leko fresnel!" Or something. Then, incredibly, someone on a ladder says something murky about Phoebe Cates, and everyone laughs. What? Run downstairs.

7. Walk into dressing room, immediately deal with the psychic strain of inadvertantly being presented with fellow actor's bare ass, pointed directly at you as he bends to change pants, as if it were some sort of siege weapon from a William Burroughs novel. Note also that actress in next room (actually just a curtained-off area) is singing along to Sting's "We'll Be Together." Hazily think that God really did exist, He would probably be a lot like Adam Sandler.

8. Shave angry, overshaved neck, while fellow actors struggle with their ties. They look like clumsy fishermen wrestling with handfuls of madly thrashing eels. Stare at own tie, which you realize appears to be a sophisticated homage to quantum string theory. Actors, for no explainable reason, cannot dress themselves.

9. Perform! Huzzah! It's showtime! Aaarooogah! It's two o'clock on a Wednesday! There's twelve people in the audience, including the director, who is furiously writing a note chastising you for some awful, bumbling thing you just did! Also, there's the twisted local amateur drama critic, who is writing down a cutting remark about your belt, for some reason! Listessly wander through rest of show. The acting all around is half-speed and blunted. Receive perfunctory applause at curtain call.

10. Immediately feel nine times better upon removal of costume. Note sudden re-animation of rest of cast, exactly two minutes after leaving the stage, where it was so desperately needed. Reflect: this is why you never, ever go to the preview performance of a show.

Tuesday, 04 February
Trying Not to Feel Awful About Trying to Feel Better

An ergonomist is coming to our office today. I can't tell you how non-excited I am about this. Well, I guess I can try. So: I am fully unstoked and highly nonmotivated to have this yutz jabber about "micro-exercising" and "living our breaks."

This bologna-head has visited us before. In fact, I was the poor bastard who got to be the object of his demo; I sat at a workstation and typed while he grinned through an unfortunate moustache and made pithy comments re: my life-draining work habits. "Watch your wrists! You're causing micro-pressure on your capillaries!" Jesus, so fucking what? I drink and smoke. Oh heavens, my capillaries! "See his posture? Let's adjust your lumbar bulge." I panicked for a moment, thinking I was living some hallucinatory pornographic film script, but then he pulled a lever on my chair and wedged something terrible into my lower back. Maybe I was in a porn film. "HANH!" I yelled. "Isn't that better? Now you're sitting up." Of course I'm sitting up, you dick; it feels like there's a medicine ball pressing on my ass. You'd sit up too.

The thing is, there is no such thing as an ergonomist. It's just a bullshit term for people who are manically and unnaturally interested in things like chairs. Basically, they are people who just want to tell you what to do, even if they (and we) know that once they leave, we will immediately forget everything they just told us. Because people like this never tell us anything that makes a fucking lick of sense. "You have to remember to take breaks from your workstation to avoid strain." Let me get this straight: you get paid to instruct office workers to take breaks? I want a job like this. Maybe in the porn industry. I'll wander around to film sets. "You have to remember to perform fellatio on me." Or they ask inane questions: "Do you use a wrist pad with your keyboard?" "Yes." "What's it made of?" Oh, the usual: badgers. Yes, live badgers. Connie over there prefers a bar of white-hot metal, herself, but I favor the gentle touch that you can only get from live badgers.

Feh. The ergonomist will be here soon, and I'll probably be the show ape for the damn circus again. "You're striking the keys way too hard, pal!" he'll croon, and I'll be forced to breezily reply, "Oh, I'm just sublimating my desire to fuck my mother and kill my father!" And then I'll tear my eyes out. "Eyestrain is a very common problem in the workplace," he'll observe. And the rest of the office staff will numbly nod their heads in agreement, not listening, just waiting for their next break.

Monday, 03 February
Coprophagia Can Enhance Your Travel Experience

Because we are incredibly unique people with rarefied tastes, my fiancee and I are making the shocking decision to honeymoon in Europe. I know, I just freaked everyone out, but we are. Go ahead, Mr. and Mrs. Joe American, have your tired old Qatar, your played-out Liberia, your faux-frisky Laos! Fuck that, we're funky! It's crazy Europe for us!

Specifically, we're planning on going to Belgium, but I haven't yet secured the tickets, but only because the airline industry is a rat-chewed bunch of malevolent crotch-kickers whose sole aim in life is to make planning air travel an incomprehensible, tedious, life-destroying debacle that makes Prometheus look like a contemptible loafer sunning himself on a fucking rock all day with his adorable pet cockatoos and his nonstop triple martinis, because fuck you, regenerating liver! At least he was heroic; he gave us fire. What does Expedia give me? Nine hundred dollar fare quotes and a deep, abiding despair, that's what. Any of the services--they're all identical--are basically like experiencing Kafka as interpreted by Disney. Baffling, vicious bureaucracy methodically meting out cruel punishments served up with straight-faced outrageous gall in a world where nothing makes sense and the only real assurance one can count on is the simple feeling of pain, but in a cute way. Sound familiar? Yes, exactly, standing in line for the "It's A Small World" ride, and buying plane tickets off the net.

Because of course travel agents don't exist any more, and you can't even get into the airport any more without tickets, ID, and a wholly subdued sense of moral outrage. "Can I see your ID?" "Sure." "All right. We'll need to scan your luggage." "Okay." "Now eat this dog turd." "WHAT?" "I want you to eat this dog turd before I let you go sit desolately to wait for your late, crowded plane." "Why? Why are you doing this to me?" "New rules."

You examine the little horror. It's wrapped in foil, which you notice is embossed. It says "EXPEDIA!" Down the hatch.










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