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Thursday, 26 February
We Are Proud To Be Vermin

The move continues, and we are working in frantic spasms, like periodically salted slugs. We actually got the keys tonight, and wandered around the new place for a while, staring at its soon-to-be-ours features, such as the one orange-y wall in the dining area (WE HAVE A DINING AREA!) or the immense parking space in the secure garage (WE HAVE A PARKING SPOT IN A GARAGE!). We also have, by far, the crummiest car in there, which kind of makes me happy. I look forward to the first dirty look I get from some yuppie, so I can cheerfully pipe up, "It's a beaut, isn't it? You can hardly see the rust! I'll trade you straight across for your Lexus!" Then the yuppie, creeped out, will scamper to the elevator, wanting only to get to his apartment and to settle into a nice slice of Gouda, and the wife and I will chase him. "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" we'll scream after him as he hunches crabwise into a waiting elevator. "WE'RE RUINING YOUR PROPERTY VALUES JUST BY BEING HERE!" You have to make your own fun if you're going to live amongst many people who all have much more money than yourself.

Yesterday I made the big sacrifice: I toted three huge bags of books down to the local cat-infested used bookstore to auction them off to the legendarily nutty (in a great way) proprietor. She asked me my name as she immediately attacked my miserable offerings. "My name's Skot," I replied. She stared at me as if I had said, "Hu-mans call me Klaatu!" But that's just her way: the woman is a champion starer, and you never quite know why. She fingered my ancient Dungeons & Dragons books from high school: "These are terrible, Steve. So old. I'll send them up the the University District store. The only people who buy these are the kids in black who mutter to themselves about the Lord of the Rings movies." She grabbed at my musty, horrible Piers Anthony paperbacks. "I guess I'll take these. They always sell. I don't know why. He sucks." I couldn't disagree. Also, I was taking a shine to being called "Steve."

It wasn't all tripe. I'm a book-buying nut, and over the years had developed a pretty big collection. In fact, on the whole, she seemed impressed by what I had brought, wretched crap aside. "So!" she crowed, holding up an improbable collection of New York Times Book Review pieces, "What did you do with all this education?" I fidgeted. "Let me guess. The arts." I surrendered. "Well, yeah, I'm an actor. I mean, that was my degree." She all but swooned: "I knew it! You have such a wonderful voice!" I shuffled nervously some more. "I have a cold. It makes me sound more resonant than usual." She blew me off and spun on the wife. "Do you ever just sit around and listen to him talk?" The wife, in what I imagine was a purely heroic effort, managed not to say, "Holy fuck, do you think I have a choice?"

It was very silly and embarrassing. Then she started telling me about her 21 pairs of Birkenstocks, and I'm afraid I had to kind of leave my body.

Anyway. She gave me an $80 store credit for all of my crap, and I'm pretty sure that at least $20 of that is going to go towards a t-shirt that they sell that says, "666 years of celebrating the Bubonic Plague."

In the soon-to-be-not-our-home, I was panicking earlier about being behind with the packing, but I think we're getting a handle on it. Plus I had forgotten that the wife is off for most of tomorrow, and will be able to get some more work done (and I'm taking Friday off, which will be the Uh Oh Am I Fucked Day? Because that's when I'll fearfully disconnect all the electronics with only a vanishing hope of being able to revive them again later). Move-panic also inspires some telling reactions in terms of your relationship with the items surrounding you in your home. "Honey? What about this leather bag with the broken strap?" "Ugh. Get rid of it." "What's this old bookshelf stereo system?" "I still have that? It's busted. To the dump." "Why are there four speakers in the closet when we have five around the apartment?" "Uh . . . all red-blooded males dream of a nonaphonic stereo system." "All right. What about this broken monkey-themed candleholder?" "Fuck it! Dump all of this shit!" "Even this solid bar of platinum?" "Gone!" "And this splinter from the One True Cross?" "Garbage!" "Oh, and here's a bottle of Bushmills. It has half an inch left in it." "Jesus Christ. Make sure to double-wrap that."

Hell, I'd keep even an empty bottle of Bushmills. Why? So I could loll around in the pool (WE HAVE A POOL! AND A PATIO!), decked out, say, in lime-green biker shorts, resting the empty whiskey bottle on my tummy. Then I'd wait for the fearful yuppies to creep out onto their balconies to look down at me with opprobrium and terror. And I'd scream at them, brandishing the bottle.

"ONE OF US! ONE OF US! SOMETIMES WE BUY OFF-BRAND MAYONNAISE!" The yuppies, terrified beyond lucidity, will scuttle back into their leatherette warrens, cowed into blank incomprehension by the dreadful invasion of Us.

And they haven't even met our friends yet. We're going to have a time.

Monday, 23 February
Days Of Blunder

As I mentioned in my last post, I did indeed go out for a poker night with the boys. And I'm happy to report, that despite my vast ineptitude, I did actually win money. Not as much as B. or E., but I did pretty well. I'd also like to point to my terrific poker skills as the main factor, but I cannot: basically, I was simply slightly less inept than the others, and tried to hew to a policy of folding all but the strongest hands. Not so players like K., who would call patently absurd bets with cards that were visibly comical: "Who gives a fuck? I call!" "Dude, you have a three, an eight, and a coupon for dog grooming." There was also the perenially woeful C., who is perhaps the unluckiest gambler I have ever seen. C. could not only lose at solitaire, he could lose to other people. C. was the first to burn through his buy-in, and I believe it was an hour and a half before he won his first pot, which he took only after shooting another player in the face.

In other news, it's holy-fuck central at Chez Pfaff, as we are moving into our new place on Friday. We opted for Friday after learning the totally figure-outable fact that movers bend you over spectacularly for working weekends, as opposed to the slightly more soporific lurch-hump they deliver to your fiscal region for working weekdays. So, Friday. Consequently, we have thrown ourselves madly into Project: Fuck House Up, and we now cautiously walk through rooms strewn with boxes that contain various chaotic piles of our hastily-heaped shit.

And since moving sucks so much, you find entertainment where you can get it. For instance, I just moved aside an empty box that reads, proudly, "POISE BLADDER CONTROL PROTECTION PADS. EXTRA PLUS ABSORBENCY. 120 PADS." That should get the neighbors chatting. "So, howdy! Wow, I see you piss yourself. We'd invite you in, but, uh . . . we just put in new carpets." And then I can point to another box that says "12 Bottles Gordon's London Dry Gin" and reply, "Yep. A case a day! Well, that's renal failure for you."

I'm sure I'll manage to hork out at least one more post this week, but with all that's going on, it may be spotty. If I end up vanishing for a while, I should be back sometime next week, where I can tell you about the lap pool (in Seattle? Uh, okay.), the amazing circa 1965 stove, and the incredible bathroom that seems to be an homage to Robert Frost's "Mending Wall." Something there is that does not love a wall/And it is in my bathroom.

Thursday, 19 February
Boyz 'N The Reazonably-Priced Apartmizzent

My friend K.'s longtime girlfriend is out of town for a while, so as a break from what I assume has been nonstop, frenetic masturbation, he is having some of the boys over on Saturday night for some poker.

This ought to be good, since we are all, to a man, hopeless poker players. But I'm guessing there's been some secondhand infection going on courtesy of the freaky breakout popularity of the World Poker Tour that broadcasts on the Travel Channel, also known as the "We Will Ram Free Advertising for Las Vegas Down Your Throat" Channel. So we'll do it, and it will be comically bad. The last time we did this--"Let's play seven-card stud." "Okay. How do you play that?"--we got very drunk, at one point abandoning the poker game to play--I'm not kidding--a game of four-square. (We were in a theater space that time.) Manly. We ended that particular evening by going out into the alley and taking erratic swings at raw eggs with a golf putter.

One hopes we pull it in somewhat for this evening, as we're doing it at K.'s place, and as a compulsive neat freak, I'm not sure he's psychically prepared to see eggs exploding off of his picture window. Also in attendance should be C., a genial block of a fellow whose skull glows incandescantly after a few drinks; sleepy-eyed E., who has an unpredictable penchant for suddenly "cupping your junk" just to provoke a reaction; T., who appears to be built out of hyperanimate Tinker Toys and will at any minute lapse into a deeply alarming Cajun dialect (his karaoke performances are, ah, memorable); B., probably the most successful acting-wise of the group, for which he is genially hated, and thus we tirelessly mock his giant chin; and finally, D., a laconic fellow with an acid wit whom I once accused of looking at me like I was "a worm." (I was, of course, being insane, and every now and then he fixes me with a steely glare and intones, "Worm.")

And of course there will be me, the shithead who writes well-meant but ultimately crummy things about his friends, for which he will be the recipient of many vicious junk-cuppings, I assume. C'est la guerre.

In K.'s email invitation, he exhorted us to bring "manly" music, which, of course, means terrible music. In this we will not disappoint. D. has already been tapped to bring, God help me, Slayer, and B. has promised to bring some (note casual abridgment) "Tull." K. immediately replied that there was hardly anything more masculine than a band with a flautist; I refrained from pointing out that a guy wearing hairspray and hitting an E above high C vibrato might not be either, but that's just maybe because I wonder if nobody brings up Slayer again, everyone will forget about it. I'm sorely tempted to poison the well by bringing an Indigo Girls CD, but this plan won't work because 1. I don't own any Indigo Girls, because 2. I find them intolerable.

(Full disclosure: The last time we did the poker night thing, we did a similar "manly music" thing. Delving deep into my unforgivable collection of old cassettes bought in the 80s, I showed up with--and insisted on playing--Winger. I have no excuse, except just to say that it's fun sometimes to be willfully perverse.)

Actually, it occurs to me now . . . we're getting together on Saturday night. I may have to go out and find an old Bay City Rollers album. Slayer, indeed.

Tuesday, 17 February
We Celebrate Our Love Over Meat

The wife and I went out Saturday night for our vewwy fust Vawwentine's Day togevver as a mawwied couple! Awww! Isn't that just the oopsiest-loo? Fortunately, we aren't really this nauseating together, except in that I-hate-happy-couples way that I remember so well from being a bitter single person, and there's not much we can do about that. So we just avoid all our single, bitter former friends for now--we'll reconnect with them once time grinds us into the jaded, vituperative couple of backbiters that sitcoms through the ages have assured us we will inevitably become.

We went down to deepest, darkest, gentrificationest Belltown for a nice prix fixe dinner at Marco's Supper Club, a medium-swank spot that we've always liked. The eponymous owner Marco, a spectrally courtly gentleman unswervingly dressed in tweed, likes to stalk about the place helping people with their coats and lighting cigarettes; with his demeanor, his dress, his height of well over six feet, and finally his ungainly shock of graying hair, he looks rather like a former basketball star whose crippling ankle injury forced him unhappily into some weird form of restaurant-based academe.

We went a little early so we could have a drink at the bar--our first step in utterly demolishing the prix fixe illusion of budgetary restraint--and surveyed the other patrons. An early alarm: at a table of four were seated two middle aged couples, just getting started in, and fully embracing the unspoken class system we have in this country, I immediately judged them. The women wore the sort of offhandedly gaudy clothing that betrayed the fact that they simply had too much money: gold chains in place of belts, tiny purses of brightly-hued leather, altogether too much makeup, and coifs that crouched tensely and blondly on their skulls. Going rather too far in the other direction, the men looked like vacationing RV salesmen: careless short-sleeve shirts, rumpled Dockers, and sullen, gelled hair. I took an instant dislike to them, which was hardly mitigated by the speech pattern of one of the women: SHE BRAYED EVERY FUCKING THING SHE SAID AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. She was like some fucking awful mechanical mule crafted out of bent brass. The whole scene was intolerable, and I prayed for respite.

Naturally, we were seated right next to them. However, what I thought was total disaster turned out to be okay, as down amongst the actual din of the room (away from the bar), it was much easier to lose the howling in the general noise of the place. Also, mule-woman was seated with her back to us, so her throat-cone weapon pointed at some other luckless bastards across the room.

We continued throwing gasoline onto our ongoing bill fire by ordering a ridiculously great bottle of wine from our scampering waiter and resumed making uncharitable comments about other diners. One couple seated at the bar occasionally interrupted their dinners to periodically grope one another and engage in some fairly enthusiastic necking. This is kind of icky to have to witness in the best of circumstances, but in a classy restaurant . . . and the guy is kind of a frightening, unclassifiable xenomorph . . . and she has a simply stupendous nose . . . all of these details add up. I mean, look, I'm certainly not saying I'm not funny-looking, because I kind of am, but then, I don't ostentatiously give my gal the facehugger treatment at crowded restaurants either. So we didn't feel bad about covertly mocking them too much. Emphasis on "covertly," since he would have beat me stupid had he caught me.

At one point, the wife said, "Too bad you're not sitting here. I'm getting quite a show." I discreetly turned around and saw a woman wearing the plungiest of necklines, and when she laughed, it looked like her tits were mounting an incursion on her skull. I love my wife.

At any rate, our food eventually started appearing. I opened with a Caesar's salad and the wife had oysters on the half-shell and shut up, dude. For the entrees, I opted for the good old heart-shocker, tenderloin wrapped in bacon (along with some horrifyingly delicious truffled mashed potatoes and a red wine demiglace to boot). The wife had gone for the roast lamb, and as she ate, I mentally entertained myself by using the lamb voice from the Simpson's episode where Lisa goes vegetarian. Why don't you looo-oove me? What did I do to yoooo-oou? Then various gruesome mental lamb-screams as my wife chewed the unfortunate little beast. I felt it best not to share this interior dialogue for all concerned.

It was a phenomenal meal, one of those rare ones where everything clicks, and as we gamely dug into the dessert--a chocolate pot de creme--I happened to glance up at the table of awful people that I had been so worried about, when one of the ladies was saying something I happened to catch briefly. It may have been a joke. I hope it was a joke. Because the bit I caught was her leaning back in her chair, preparing her delivery, then popping her eyes out and while craning forward again, said, in swooping tones: "Caaaaaaaaa-mel tooooooooe!" To the general hilarity of her tablemates.

I dropped my spoon, utterly unnerved, and by now completely unheedful of the bill, swiftly ordered a cognac. I relayed what had just transpired to the wife, and she said, "What?" I couldn't really add any more to that: Yeah, that was a big fucking "What?"

It will be my little test to her on next year's Valentine's Day. I'm going to get a big-ass card, one of those fluffy bastards with flowers and pink and oogy sentiments, and on the inside I will write "Caaaaaaaaa-mel tooooooooooe! Love, Skot," and see if she remembers. Or, even better, if she just reads the card and then says, "What?"

Friday, 13 February
Movin' On Up

Rounding out a week of listless dickpulling, today I experienced the vertiginous highs and the bottomed-out lows of that remarkable office experience: moving to a new office.

It's actually pretty cool. See, a couple years ago, I got attached to a project (well, a couple of projects, but they are all mind-bogglingly boring, so let's just fold them into one) in which I was given a nice raise, but was also required to move down a floor to live in the jabbery squalor that is Geekrealm. I also sacrificed my real office, getting instead a cubicle, surrounded by a very multi-culti assortment of gearheads, sysadmins, coders, database gnomes, application nudniks, and other unidentifiable wingnuts who occasionally sent me unasked-for Photoshop renditions of various other co-workers with sudden, alarming monkey heads. Whatever. It hardly mattered, since even when they actually spoke the English language (not a given: the geeks are, variously, Chinese, Spanish, Indian, Romanian, and, always hilariously, Canadian), I still didn't know what the fuck they were talking about. I still don't know what a "sproc" is, though I heard the term enough for it to haunt my dreams. It's probably Tagalog for "cheese pizza."

So long, geeks! And here's the thing: through basically dead dumb chance, I scored a really cherry corner office all of my own back up on my original floor. In fact, it's so swank (corner office! On the 20th floor! I can see the mountains!) that there was some grumbling by others on the floor (most of whom either reside singly in cubes or share similar offices), to the tune of: "Why does that guy get the best office on the floor while the rest of us suckers have to share farts with everyone else?"

Good question. I talked with the Bosslady about this for a while, and she made two good points. The first was, "Well, apart from T. and K., who are perfectly happy where they are, you have seniority." Which is, alarmingly enough, true--alarming mainly because I realized I've been at this place a long time, and yet I still think of myself as kind of a frightening dingbat who lucked into a job he has no business attempting. But her second point was much more relevant: "We also couldn't imagine putting anyone else in a shared office with you."

No, really, she said that. To which I replied, "Yeah. That's why I never thought I'd make it back out of a cube." Bosslady laughed and said, "Well, have fun. And if anyone gives you grief about it, you can send them to me." Fat chance. Besides, she was right. It makes me sound like a real asshole, but I'd make any office mate utterly miserable, because I'm, well, an asshole. And while I'm cautiously liked (generally), most others know this too. You'd have to be insane to want to share office space with me, and I'd have to be insane to even consider accepting such an arrangement. But anyway, I said, "Nobody will ever say anything to my face about it. They'll just grumble behind my back. Which saves me the trouble of having to care." Bosslady replied, "Exactly." The apparent moral: It pays to be an asshole. We could possibly also make a case for this precept in Capitalism 101.

And so it came to pass. Movers were brought in--there were several coordinated moves happening simultaneously--and many of us spent time standing around watching burly men shuffle shit around. I was delighted to actually hear one mover guy: when a woman asked if he'd be careful with her plant, he really said "Yuh." A guy down on the floor I was vacating took the trouble to send out a fulsome email wishing me all the best (cc:ing the entire floor), which was met with a vast silence. Who? Who's leaving? What? Oh. It's that dumbfuck who didn't even know what "sproc" meant.

Wednesday, 11 February
Madison Avenue Encourages Me To Stay Home

My old nemesis, the television, has been acting up again. I think it might be getting frisky after totally boning us at the Super Bowl. It's getting a little sad. To wit:

The ads for Starsky & Hutch. Does anyone really want to see this fucking catastrophe? I mean, look at it: it's got Owen Wilson-- he's the uninteresting portion of the Shanghai movies, and look at how damning that judgment really is--and Ben Stiller, who needs to stop. Just stop, Ben. He's been doing the same awful schtick for about six years, and look at his glories: Mystery Men. Meet the Parents. Zoolander. Along Came Polly. The only exception has been the marginally tolerable The Royal Tenenbaums, a movie that is a slightly funnier version of Magnolia, a similarly sprawling disaster whose threadbare charms are also, again like Magnolia, thanks entirely to an irritatingly talented director.

Chevy has a series of horrifying ads out as well, and you've seen them: they're the "hemi" ads. Bafflingly, they feature a highly icky couple whose prominent dynamic seems to be mutual loathing for one another. And this isn't very surprising, as the actors both come off as utterly repulsive people. The progenitor of this set of misanthropic ads has the mom cooing at the kid in the back about the gentle ride of the ginormous SUV they are navigating, and extolling the virtues of the DVD player and the gentle shocks. The irritable husband chafes at this, and says, "What are you DOING to him?" The terrible wife, adopting a rather glacial tone, responds that she's just trying to educate the doomed little sprite as to the relative benefits of their war machine. The husband rolls his eyes extravagantly, as if to say, "I can't believe I put up with this horrific cunt every day." The wife of course looks like a vengeful rodent.

Next you see the brutish dad holding up the kid and pointing to the vehicle's huge-ass motor: "There's only one thing you need to know about this car--HEMI! Can you say "hemi"?" The kid does, completing the circuit of dysfunction that will surely earn this guy periodic weekend visits once his terrifying wife destroys him in family court. Well done!

But by far my favorites are the new tampon ads. I don't know what it is, but there's something truly weird about these spots. Inevitably, the viewer is treated to many low-angle shots of women doing things involving her legs, like running up stadium steps or perhaps just bending over to do something stereotypically matronly, like digging out the vacuum. "Now for more comfort . . . " these ads soothingly say, particularly the O.B. ads. I'd really like these to be more direct. Say, something like, "O.B.! Designed by a female gynecologist. Now with thirty percent less snatch-pain." Or testimonials: "Since I switched to O.B., my pussy feels like a hungry cougar. It wants some fresh meat." Then they could cut to nervous-looking men. It might be a good tie-in with Cialis. Those unfortunate bastards with the alarming four-hour erections could finally have something to do with their time.

We have to make sure that Ben Stiller isn't attached to any of these projects.

Tuesday, 10 February
Can I Resent Helping You Today?

Like most people, I have worked my share of shitty jobs. I've talked before about my fast food experience, for example, but that was only for a month. What's inconceivably worse is, I (again, like millions of others) also put in my time in retail sales. Five years of it, to be exact.

Five years. Don't ask me how I endured it--and my heart goes out to those of you who are still doing it today--because it is, of course, fundamentally intolerable. I've never really met anyone who genuinely likes working retail, never, because the overwhelming imbecility of the job is truly taxing: most of it consists of selling (let's face it) generally tasteless, shoddy horseshit to avaricious shitpiles who are undoubtedly making more than you anyway. This, anyway, even if it happens to be untrue, is the mindset you will inevitably end up with after any amount of time spent working retail.

I used to wonder how I endured five years of this sort of awfulness, and I finally realized what I had done to get by: I lied to myself. Constantly. "Aw, it's not so bad. It's not like working at a steel mill or mining coal or something." Which is true. But it does not mean that it didn't suck, and wasn't a ghastly kind of way to spend eight hours a day five days a week. And when I finally quit--I had nothing else lined up, I just finally told myself that I couldn't do that any more--I looked back at those five years, and did some thinking, and realized, finally: Holy shit. I was fucking miserable for five entire years. And my brain--knowing this, and probably looking to stave off a host of pathologies--simply lied to itself, saying, Ah, it's not so bad. It wasn't until I finally quit that ol' brain finally relaxed and 'fessed up: Uh, sorry about this, but just so you know? That was a pretty fucked up five years, dude. Let's not do that any more.

Noted.

Anyway, here are some highlights. Again, I don't pretend that I'm unique in my special retail misery niche or anything; it's just stuff I remember. These experiences all came during my five years selling futon furniture/bedding/bath crap at an old place that used to be in the Broadway Market on Capitol Hill. It's not there any more, but they're still around somewhere.


THE CLOCK

This one is pretty bare-bones, but I recall with a strange clarity, because it was so goddamn odd.

Anyway, there I was behind the counter, more or less keeping out of the way of the customers roaming around. This would have driven the boss crazy--I was always supposed to approach each customer and begin some kind of greasy rapport, but this was a mall-ish kind of building, and of course most people were just moseying around. Plus, I learned early on to hate most people and avoid them assiduously. A woman stopped by the counter and said, "Excuse me, is that a clock?" She pointed behind me, where there was a clock on the wall.

I turned around to make sure there wasn't suddenly a dead body hanging on hooks or something I might have missed earlier. No . . . just . . . our clock.

"Yes," I said cautiously, suspecting a trick.

"Oh," she said, standing there, fascinated by our crummy plastic clock. I stared at her. Then she left.

(There are actually other similar iterations of this same story, but that one is my favorite. I learned to hate the phrase, "Is this a couch?" Invariably delivered by someone pointing at a couch. "No, it's a barbershop quartet! Hang on. If you kick it in just the right spot, it'll do a great 'Sweet Adeline'!" I don't know how many snotty retorts I bit back over five years.)

THE AMAZING BOSS-QUIETER

I worked for a volatile married couple who owned the place, but mostly for the extremely volatile husband, who at age 38 possessed the manic, purple-faced, prolapse-testing personality of a chimpanzee with a case of scorching piles. His long tenure at retail sales had also bestowed upon him a boundless supply of venom for the rotten bastards whom he routinely had to be nice to and from whose monies he derived a living. I was treated regularly to spittle-flecked rants about the "douchebags" who wandered into his store, "wasting his time" and generally just being dirty, cheap bastards who kept their wallets all shoved dismally far into their tightly locked asses.

One memorable time, in mid-rant, he wheeled on me with the look of the truly hunted, and half-screamed, "What the fuck is wrong with these people, huh? I mean, what the fuck do I have to do? Tell me what the fuck I have to do!" I made a terrible mistake and tried to employ reason: "M.," I said, "we're in a little mall in an urban center. Not everyone who comes in can afford to buy our stuff."

"They can fucking afford it," he hissed, "they just think they can fuck me out of a good deal." (This, I should point out, is memorable for me mainly because it was a sort of wake-up call: This is what I could end up being. Great.)

Some weeks later, a nice enough family came into the store while M. was there. I helped them for 45 minutes, plying them with catalogs, wood chips, finish samples, fabric swatches, the works. M. kept giving me the pisseye as he dealt with all the other customers, clearly not happy that I was allowing myself to be dicked around by Daddy and Mommy and their little brood. Finally, the family left.

"Thanks a lot for playing host to the yuppie fucks," he said. "I'm sorry, should I have brought you over some tea? Jesus Christ, they jerked you around for two fucking hours!" He was pissed off.

I said, "They just ordered three thousand dollars worth of cherry wood furniture for their den. Prepaid." M. looked at me as if I were some sort of terrible wraith who had erupted from the floor spouting netherworldly gibberish. I smiled placidy, waiting for his rat brain to process everything.

"Holy shit!" he finally said. "Let me look at that ticket!" I handed over the invoice and watched him scan over the unbelievable miracle of a purchase. Finally, he looked up at me. I waited.

"You sure let them fuck us on the delivery charge," he said dolefully.

THE BLANKET I'LL NEVER FORGET

I almost didn't write about this one, and you'll see why. It's just . . . oh, hell, you'll see. Just please realize, it really happened, and I don't intend it to be some kind of commentary or swipe or anything. It was just possibly the most surreal episode I experienced.

Okay. I was working, and the store was a fucking desert. Just nobody around. Finally, at some point, a middle-aged couple walked in, a nice black couple. They said hi, I said hi, and they wandered around, obviously just looking around. After a bit, as couples are wont to do, they started looking at different stuff. He ended up staring, obviously not giving a shit, at a bunch of pillows. She walked over to a wall display of many patterned throw blankets. Suddenly, she squealed.

"[His name, whatever that was], come over here! I want you to look at this!" He dutifully walked over to his wife to see what she was excited about. She was holding a Bob Timberlake blanket, with one of his folksy-as-shit designs on it. But not just any design.

The blanket depicted a garden scene. More specifically, a watermelon patch, rendered in dizzying greens and violent scarlets: a bunch of watermelons, sitting around in attitudes of pastoral glory.

"Look at this! Isn't this beautiful?" she exclaimed. And continued, "You know I love watermelons. Oh, lord, I love watermelons! It's so beautiful!" She went on in this vein for at least thirty seconds. "This is so beautiful. Oh, I do love watermelons. I surely do love watermelon."

I was, to put it mildly, paralyzed. I wondered if I was being filmed in some sort of malicious plot to make the leftie-leaning, filled-with-race-guilt white boy dipshit react in some deeply embarrassing way. I can't even begin to describe the awful feelings I was having: it was in one way a little funny (her reaction was so clearly genuine and felt deeply) and in another way horrible (she was unintentionally evoking a rather awful history of atrocious racial stereotyping) and in yet another way pretty revealing: Look at how little it took to instantly tie me into a bloody knotted mass of bullshit guilt and self-recrimination. I felt acutely rotten for having any of these thoughts at all. Not that there was anything I could consciously do about them. I think I lost ten pounds in that thirty seconds.

They kindly wished me good-bye as they left, and I wanly returned the sentiment, wondering yet again how I ever managed to get up in the morning.

I hope to hell I don't offend anyone with that story. I hope to hell I never have to work in retail again. And now that I don't, I can get on with better things.

Namely, I can hope to hell.

Friday, 06 February
The Elderly Go Out On The Town

This evening, in a rare instance of non-hermitage (hermitude? hermitization? hermitesse?), the wife and I ventured out to attend a birthday celebration for our friend E. E. turned 29 today.

29. That horrible little bastard. I resent the young. Which is why I offered to buy him a drink. "Jack and coke!" he said, happily accepting the offer. So I bought him poison. Yep. The bartender said, "What can I get you?" I replied, "Poison. What do you have in the way of excruciating poison?" He stared at me for a moment, and then said, "Someone's still under 30, huh?" "Yeah." I started to cry. "Hey, hey," said the bartender, suddenly solicitous. "Don't be like that. You want poison? I understand. You want me to pour him a shot of Jaegermeister?" I thought about it, but in the end, I couldn't do it. It was just too cruel. "No," I snuffled, "just give me a damn Jack and coke." The bartender smiled sympathetically. "You got it." I waited while he made the drink, and then finally said, "Listen. Would you mind spitting in it?"

The place E. had chosen was a genial enough dive up on Phinney Ridge (neighborhood motto: Come For the Torturous Hills, Stay For the Blandness!) called The Tin Hat. Yeah, I don't know either, but I of course immediately mentally renamed it The Tinfoil Hat, and hoped that the patrons inside would be complaining about the influence of the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. No such luck; instead--even better--they had pinball, and seats with duct tape on them, and dubious whore-lighting, and a DJ who spun (according to the posters) "classic country" on Thursdays. Which was only slightly mystifying for those of us who didn't happen to know that the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" was classic country. I'm glad to see that our nations's staunchest rednecks are finding their roots again with Jewish white-boy hip-hop, where it all began.

It was a nice evening. I played a few games of pinball, and was horribly reamed by both the vicious magnets inside the board as well as my simply hopeless play; I remember once being pretty good at pinball, but now, at the advanced age of 34, my moaning nervous system is no longer as agile as it once was, so I could only fitfully pound the flippers, erratically beating them in 7/8 time. No longer a good pinball player, I comforted myself with the thought that I could still be a drummer for Primus.

Later, after giving up the pinball debacle, I had a nice discussion with friends L. and P., and we discussed non-actorish people and the silly things they say. I maintained that the worst possible conversational gambit that we normally encounter is: "Hey, you're an actor? That's cool! You know, I did some acting in high school!" Then said person might horribly go on to describe the vertiginous joys of flogging the hell out of their nonspeaking role in The Star Spangled Girl.

Wow! That's fucking great! You know, I did some algebra in high school. It was really rewarding; in fact . . . don't tell anyone, but I can still recite the quadratic equation! Tell me, do architects have to suffer people who say things like, "Architecture? RAD! Man, I once threw rocks at a beaver dam when I was a freshman. You know?"

Maybe they do. I hope so, anyway. Me, I just throw rocks at 29-year-olds and serve them bespittled drinks. It's not much, but I'm content.

Wednesday, 04 February
This Boy Is Exhausted

At long last, the wife and I are officially looking for a new apartment. When I first moved into this place back in, uh, 1999 or so, it was perfect for me: I was single, didn't have a lot of shit, etc. Then the future-wife moved in, and things got a little tighter, but no biggie; we made compromises, we both dumped a bunch of redundant crap, my walls had artwork instead of nothing, again etc.

Then we got married.

Our stockpile of crap exploded (partially due to people who APPARENTLY DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO WEDDING REGISTRIES). At one point, we had--I'm not kidding--something like 36 martini glasses. 24 margarita glasses. 18 highball glasses. 6 discount drugstore eyeglasses. (Some of our friends are drunkards or dumb or both.) Were people trying to tell us something? We hate you! said these gifts, We'd sure appreciate it if you drank yourselves to death! Well, we're working on it.

We gave away tons of crap. We received a George Foreman grill from a certain wobbly relative, who was extolling the virtues of its eggplant-sizzling properties: we gave it away to our friend C. (fuck you, eggplant). We didn't have room in our kitchen for the motherfucker anyway. A few months later, for her birthday, the wife's parents gave her (us) . . . a George Foreman grill. The "deluxe" size, perfect for roasting, say, dinosaurs. We exchanged sidelong glances when she unwrapped it, and put on our best happy grin-rictuses, gaily showing our teeth to the oldsters. "That's fantastic! We have . . . nobody left to give this away to! Maybe we can put it . . . Christ, I don't know . . . in our bed?"

This explosion of shiny stuff is only compounded by my penchant for buying as much crap as humanly possible: I am a freak for CDs, DVDs, and, my real Achilles' heel, books: Books are goddamn fucking bulky, and not to mention heavy as shit, so you can imagine how stoked I am to move all the bastards. Also not helpful is my seeming inability to get rid of any of them, which makes no sense whatsoever, since I'd rather roll around on a bed of carpet tacks rather than reread, say, Piers Anthony ever again, but the main problem is: I can't get rid of any of my goddamn books. I'm just incapable, and so I stare disconsolately at wretched pieces of shit like Golem in the Gears on my shelf, thinking, "I can't even burn you. Why can't I burn you?" I don't know what it is.

So we're looking for a new place, preferably a 2-bedroom. No, definitely a 2-bedroom, because apparently I'll need one entire fucking space in which to store all of the sonuvabitching books I never again intend to read. I have a call in to a guy (actually a former building manager with whom I had a good relationship) to see about a condo on Friday; he said something about a pool. The rent on the place is $1100 a month, a sum that I can barely believe I am even contemplating: I know that you New Yorkers and San Franciscans pay that much a month just for your ham, but this is foreign territory for me.

And I know, I know, I shouldn't be throwing this money down a gape-hole, and should be getting some equity on some firetrap shack, but listen: I'm a total man-boy, and the concept of trying to buy a house is roughly akin to the idea of being a superhero. I could be NEBBISH-MAN! He drinks too much and routinely fails to combat crime, because, hey, he's lazy!

God help me if any Seattle landlords read this weblog. We could die in this place.

Monday, 02 February
It Wasn't Really Super, Supergirl

My convalescence has been proceeding . . . slowly. I've been feeling somewhat better, and managed to check out a movie over the weekend (Lost in Translation, which I quite enjoyed); however, at work today they more or less hustled me out of there early, as my wracking coughing fits were discomfiting the rest of the skittish staff. Geeks are fragile little rodents, and get twitchy when they see someone nearby getting hammered sideways with coughing attacks and spuming out microdroplets of some hideous, unidentifiable plague into the air. Go figure.

Probably a big impediment towards achieving good health--pointedly ignoring the cigarettes--was actually watching the Super Bowl. My friend D. came over to watch it with me and the wife (who, it probably doesn't need to be said, really could have gave a fuck anyway). Things did not start auspiciously (do they ever?): some idiotic flack unwisely exhumed Aerosmith and turned them loose onto the stage for the pre-show. Aerosmith. These antediluvian fucks. Whose idea was this? Anyway, there they were, prancing ridiculously; they looked like the Living Avatars of Fruit Leather. Joe Perry arthritically strangled his guitar like a recalcitrant stepchild, and Steven Tyler . . . good god. He clutched frantically at the microphone, like a drowning man, as his glassine bones moaned under the weight of his terrible array of scarves. And of course his voice is just ruined any more: he searched myopically for notes the way a frustrated man looks for a missing sock in the back of the dryer, and unable to locate any, resorted to some terrible, grainy shrieking. At this point, mysteriously, tiny men began parachuting into the stadium, for unclear purposes. Tyler eyed them nervously, and I thought, ecstatically, They're coming to kill Steven Tyler! Finally! But no, the weird 'chuters touched down and just kind of scampered off, pointlessly, and Tyler flashed a relieved smile at the apparent reprieve from Death from Above.

That was just the pre-show I caught. Christ only knows what the network sackheads inflicted on an unwary public before I bothered to tune in.

Well, there was a bit more: Beyonce was dragged in to spang out a typically flashy rendition of the National Anthem, and there was a whole bunch of thumbs-uppery and backslapping for the good NASA folk in the wake of the shuttle debacle, but it really just kind of felt . . . out of place. Especially the "what the fuck?" moment (little did we know how many of these we would have over the evening) when the stage birthed up a freaking astronaut, with a big, stiff flag, miming the famous old moon photo. They stuck that poor bastard there for the entirety of the National Anthem too; one fervently hopes that at least his helmet rendered him immune to the singing.

Anyway, the game. It sure looked like it was going to be a sack of wet shit for a quarter and a half--D. howled hopelessly at one point, "This is fucking boring!"--but then both teams caught fire, and a real game was to be had.

Meanwhile, the weirdness continued to pile up (I know everyone's heard this shit before, but hey). There were, of course, the ads, which were, by and large, tremendously terrible. Come back, dot-coms! All is forgiven! Come back and make us more freakishly expensive, mind-shatteringly terrible advertisements!

Oh, they're not coming back. Which means we're stuck with the brain ticks over at Budweiser, whose "farting horse" ad achieved instant legend in the house. (For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, the nitty is this: a horse farts explosively at a woman who happens to be holding a candle, and she is burned terribly, while her boyfriend asks, "Hey, you smell barbecue?") This one pretty much blasted our synapses all to hell, and we sat, stunned. "Did that just happen?" I said. D. blinked erratically. It was like the TV had farted explosively in our face, and in a way it had: I certainly smelled something, but I'm not sure it was barbecue. As the evening progressed, I wanted desperately to see that . . . thing again, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and I periodically screamed, "FAR-TING HORSE! FAR-TING HORSE!" But my exhortations were ignored, and I knew, desolately, that the awful thing would never see the light of day on TV again. (Later, of course, I found it on the internet, where nothing is ever allowed to die.)

Budweiser ads were front and center on the evening, but also omnipresent were the various get-a-boner! drug ads. Most egregious, of course, was former Bears coach and current mustache-gnawer Mike Ditka, who barked at us like erectile dysfunction was something vaguely all our fault. Never mind that I don't need visions of Mike Ditka in my head when I'm thinking about sex, please; but I did note that Levitra's little logo consists of a tiny flame. "Levitra!" I shrieked, "It'll set your dick on fire!"

Considering the prominence of advertising featuring alcoholic beverages and boner drugs, I idly wondered, Maybe if American men weren't drinking all that booze, they could get it up once in a while. I was soon disabused of this notion by another beer ad: This one showed a ref being screamed at by a coach on the sidelines, and wondered how he could take such scorching abuse so stoically. The answer: The wife at home is a hysterically shrieking shrew who berates him at all times! Now I understood: men don't get boners any more because of (a) a tremendous beer deficiency, and (b) their wives are all nightmarish harpies. If I suffered from these incredibly dystopian views, like apparently Budweiser's ad men all do, I'd need something pharmaceutical to help me get in the mood too.

I won't even get into the halftime eye-poison, as it will be gummed to death over the next few days, except to note that there was spirited discussion amongst us as to what the exact notional sound was made when Ms. Jackson's boob flopped out depressingly on national TV. "Muuuh." was suggested, as was "Blop," but in the end the winner was something close to "Lllllurp." Just so you know.

And these were the sounds of my evening: Aerosmith. Equine flatulence. Screaming wives. Mike Ditka obliquely talking about his penis. Lllllurp.

I don't know if I'll ever get better.










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