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Friday, 29 October
XXXVI

Oh my wife, it is come now
In this fell world
It comes, coruscating and wild
The day we celebrate your birth
Again. Darling, you are
Thirty-six

And you are still some prime beef, baby.

Beef--if you will indulge me--benefits
From aging; we know this.
And you have certainly aged. Thirty-six
Is damned old.

I have so many visions
For the morrow
A balloon-ride where we may
Jape at the sullen clouds

And later a host of acrobats to delight
As they pirouette and prance
For your pleasure whilst you sit
On a throne made from finest damask
And lace
And velvet
And human leg bones, which I think is a jaunty touch.

Oh, what visions--horses will laugh
With delight as they gallop before you,
Carrying balladeers who will sing of
Your grace, your beauty, your
Splendid rack; scribes will write it all down--
The spectacle, in finest prose captured, preserving it
Forever, to remember, unless you are stricken
With Alzheimer's.

All this I would willingly give to you, my love--
But alas, I have not the means, which
You well know; You remember, wife,
How I blew it all on the ponies.

But I do, humbly, and with devotion, what I can,
Love--
So love me too, tomorrow, on your day, when our
Honda chariot arrives at Sizzler, and I will
Look into your quiet eyes, and I will think
How I love this woman--
How I love her--
How I hope she does not order lobster.

And, sated, we will go further into the night
To the lantern-show, where magic is painted on the walls
In Light! As if lit by divine flame, a story told in flickers:
Seed of Chucky.

After, when the night is deepening, Ah . . .
We will sit upon a happy hillock
Under the adoring gaze of the Stars
Leaning in, taking solace in our
Company, and laughing, laughing
As we throw stones at the
Promise Keepers who are in town.

You afford me too much, dear, and
Here again you allow me my indulgences;
I do enjoy my jests after all.
And yet--

You are thirty-six, my Love, and in truth
I am very close behind you; a race
That I never wish to win or lose, but merely
Hope to keep running, tirelessly, gaily--

Oh, I never want to stop running with you.

Wednesday, 27 October
Up

As everyone knows any more, air travel really blows, and particularly so since 9/11. To be honest, I'm not sure it was ever much fun anyway, except, of course, for those who have money, like your Rich Uncle Beard-O over there, living it up in first class with the reclining seats and the martinis and the hey hey hey I Get Blowjobs! Here's a fifty, stewardess.

(I recently read a classic bit of sniffery in the NYT Book Review where the writer was pining for the days when people on airplanes wore proper suits and the airport restaurants were all classy affairs. In other words, she was eulogizing a time when people like me didn't fly. I'm more than happy to dance on that particular grave.)

One of the leveling effects of any kind of downward technological creep is a certain dismay in the fact that while you--the regular joe--suddenly get to enjoy the benefits of [whatever], you also suddenly realize that all of the other regular joes get to enjoy it too. This leads to resentment in that what you expected to be kind of cool and thrilling--a big-screen TV, a hotsy computer--is just that, but it's diluted by the fact that the dickhead over there in thongs gets to enjoy it too. It's orthogonal to misery loves company; think more like self-indulgence hates competition.

But you swallow it, and at times you can even commiserate. I certainly did with other weirded-out flyers who, like me, weren't familiar with the new "TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!" policy at security gates. That was new to me--you want to scan my shoes? Jesus, fine, I guess. Everyone knows that now that shoe-scanning is routine, some guy is just going to eventually show up with C-4 shoved up his ass, or his hair woven into some terrible nuclear dreadlocks or something . . . scan my shoes, you poor nerds. We're the middle class and we can afford to FLY! Nothing will prevent the shuffling, besocked hordes from getting on that plane!

The wife has always been irritated with a trait of mine when it comes to air travel. I was about to call it a talent, but it's not; it's simply a condition. You see, I can not only sleep on planes, I am basically incapable of staying awake at all on a plane. I just can't. I've fallen asleep even before the drink cart shows up, and many friends of mine will testify that this is deeply weird for a lush like myself. It happens all the time. The wife hates this very much, as she cannot sleep for shit on a plane, so there I am, a hateful drooling golem, whose helpless dozing is like a jabbing thumb in her restive ass.

But sometimes, even the most somnolent of travelers can be jarred into thrashing agony. Most commonly, this is due to horrifying co-travelers, which come in many varieties. On this last trip . . . I encountered several. It was uniquely terrible.

THE GUY WITH THE FUCKING CELL PHONE

We all know cell phones, while annoying as hell, are very useful. HOWEVER. There's a time and a place. I'm willing to forgive minor transgressions like their use in restaurants . . . usually. If people are discreet about it. But places like city buses, elevators, bathrooms . . . no. Same with planes. I mean, sure, a quick conversation--"Honey, the flight is late! Pick me up at nine!"--that's cool.

What's not cool is the loud guy who talks into his cell phone all the way from the jetway right up until the flight attendant is demanding he turn it off. So it was flying home, with me on the window and he in the aisle; he went from one "DUDE!" conversation with a BUDDY! right into a gruesome conversation with his mother. I was already feeling antipathy for the bastard, and then I heard this:

"Mom . . . MOTHER! (Pause.} Mother. I'll try to make it, okay? (Pause.) Mother, what industry do I work in? What industry do I work in?"

Here my hatred intensified. For one thing, don't be a dick to your mother. But also, don't make a show about your incredibly important job here for our benefit. I knew this was going to end badly. He didn't disappoint.

"Mom! I work in television! You know that! Television! I'll do my best."

I immediately wrote this person off as a human impostor, and I devoutly hoped he'd fall through a rusted area of the floor. Everyone would cheer as he fell screaming to his death.

FEET

Here's what you don't do: take off your fucking shoes in public places. Least of all on a goddamn plane. But that's exactly what the grim-faced woman did, right after she sat right next to me. She pulled off her fucking shoes and then, cementing my feelings of horror, pulled out a Dr. Phil book. I began to feel glad about my air-travel narcolepsy until I realized that occasionally her nasty foot--which she had tucked under her leg on the seat--was prodding me every now and then as the plane yawed. Now, I'm not a germophobe or anything, but do I really want some harridan's skankerous feet touching me on a long flight? Waking me up to notice that she's still reading about how Dr. Phil helped out a family of half-human-half-dingoes by bathing in a tub filled with human placentas? This would alarm anybody. It's fucking unnerving. I wanted to whip out a copy of Swank magazine and start vengefully beating off to see if I'd get a counterreaction.

FINALLY, YOUR HORRIBLE CHILDREN

One in front of me, one in back of me. And listen--despite what you might think, I get along pretty well with kids. They're generally hilarious, but in most contexts, that's because one knows that they are easily escaped from. Not so on planes, and I was sandwiched. The kid in front of me was a screamer: "EEEEEEEEEEEEE!" This because he was trying to shove his headphones into his pants, and the father sensibly was trying to prevent this. "EEEEEEEEEE!!!" Kids are weird, or perhaps just know more than we do, we who are corrupted by so much confusing "experience." Perhaps the kid realized the truth: that our genitals are broadcast mechanisms for communicating with outer civilizations. Or perhaps he was just a little howling sack of shit. In either case, I was consumed with fantasies of poisoning him, particularly with the idea of conspiratorially whispering to his parents, "I've poisoned your awful child! He'll be dead soon!" I liked to imagine their fictional reactions: "Oh my God, how can we thank you? Now we can buy things we like!"

The kid behind me was worse. He was a Kicker. SLAM SLAM SLAM went his feet against my seat. GLARE GLARE GLARE went my eyes behind me. But it didn't matter. The parents of this kid were completely fireproof, in that hateful way that I don't quite understand, where the parents' judgment is so completely warped that they are incapable of recognizing that just maybe their delightful little tots are actually a real pain in the ass.

It's not that parents shouldn't be allowed to travel with their kids. It's just that they should travel on planes other than mine. We should all have our own planes, just like Rich Uncle Beard-O. Just like I shouldn't have to share. We're all kids in the end, I guess.

Take off your shoes.

Tuesday, 26 October
KC And The Unshine Band

Well, yes, I'm back from good old Kansas City. Friends--particularly those in KC--I am sad to report that my take on this city is, sorry, that it sucks. Part of it is a certain amount of misrepresentation, which I cannot blame on KC; you see, after spending many meetings at airport-based hotels, I was finally led to believe that this time, we'd be at a hotel with retail connections, proximity to the urban center, etc.

This was all true in the sense that "The check is in the mail" is true, provided you sent the check to Provo, Utah and made it out to Diana Moon Glampers. The Hyatt Regency Crown Center hotel is in the city proper, and not 20 miles out of town, but it is also abutted by a four-block radius of city blocks that are, essentially, construction rubble. "Construction," by the way, being synonymous here with "willful neglect." The rubble sat mournfully, bereft of any sign of actual workers doing any kind of construction, like abandoned children waiting for someone in a limo to come pick them up and give them a nice life.

As for the retail core, there was the Crown Center, a mall-ish thing reachable after a long walk through some skybridges known as The Link, which I supposed at least ensured that its users would have a pleasingly rubble-free experience as they sped their way to the juicy stores; I further assumed that The Link was a fairly hassle-free way of making sure that anyone in the mood to shop wouldn't be troubled by the panhandlers below skulking through the desolate rubble.

Unfortunately, the Crown Center was pretty dispiriting. One of my coworkers scampered happily into a Hallmark store to buy awful-smelling candles--she couldn't find these at home? She enjoys the smell of what I swear was Urinal Cakes?--and another bought his boyfriend a little thingy of incredibly-priced cologne from the good folks at Puma. You know, like the shoes. When You Want Your Man To Smell Like Feet! Apparently, branded scents are very big these days. For Christ's sake, Hummer has its own custom stink. I hate colognes. In the meantime, I kept staring at a shop called "Pretzel Time," but its neon sign was kind of funky, so I kept seeing "Pretzel Toe," which was briefly amusing in that I'd probably opt for an odor reminiscent of salty metatarsals before I would one that supposedly evoked that of a Hummer, which is a punchline of a vehicle if I ever saw one.

I hate colognes.

Anyway, the meeting was, of course, boring and endless, featuring long PowerPoint presentations with alternatingly mysterious and/or horrifying phrases. As to the former, here are some gems. Try and stay awake as I simply list them: Hypertriglyceridemia. Micro-array. FISH analysis. (Actually, that last one briefly excited me, as I wondered if we were going to get some serious Abe Vigoda data. Alas, no.) At another presentation (exemplefying the latter), I heard "Think outside the box!" once, and the word "synergy" three times. My notes are murky all around, really. For some reason, I wrote this at one point: "Phase II (randomized), Sorafenib + Tipifarnib . . . " and then there's just a scrawled line trailing off the page, which I assume is when I had my stroke.

Lord, it's good to be back.

Tomorrow: How I Learned To Intensify Worrying And Hate Airline Travelers.

Tuesday, 19 October
The Love Boat

Oh, maybe one more before I split town. (And incidentally, thanks to all of you out there in KC who offered to buy me drinks/dinner/hookers/etc. I've been way too busy to respond to everyone, but the reality is, between actual work and meeting a couple of, how you say, RL friends, I simply don't have the time. But thank you again, even the really crazy ones.)

Friday the wife and I rounded out our Year of Goddamn Weddings by attending the happy nuptials of our friends M. and R. Because apparently, nobody's wedding is really complete until I log on here to complain about it.

This time the thing was happening on a boat-cum-banquet facility called the Skansonia (the boat motif is, unsurprisingly, pretty common around Seattle). It was a lovely venue (the wife and I had briefly looked into it ourselves), but the name eats at me a little bit; I kept mentally thinking of it as the "Skanksonia," which you must admit would make anyone feel kind of skeevy about getting hitched. Especially if the bride was named Sonia. But never mind.

The invitations read 7:00, so of course we showed up a few minutes early, which turned out to be a mistake: there certainly were a lot of people sitting in their cars, fogging up the windows. I know weddings are emotionally frieghted affairs, but this was a little weird . . . but no, it just turns out that the invitations meant 7:00, by God. The ramp--gangway? Upgurgle? Mizzen-blat? Like I know from boats--up to the entrance had a firmly polite sign: No Early Admittance. So there was us and a few other people standing around in the cold, shivering with the ocean breeze coming off the water, feeling decidedly less charmed with each passing moment. I noticed another sign: No Smoking On The Dock.

Hanh? This was hopelessly absurd: Sailors hang around docks! Sailors smoke! We all know this. This is besides the fact that I was standing around in the outdoors. I dismissed the sign as the ludicrous work of someone in the grips of a killing fever and lit up. Klaxons failed to go off at this criminal act, thereby reinforcing my opinion that the sign was the work of someone dumb and bent.

Eventually, we were allowed in--I was really hoping that the vaguely hostile sign No Early Admittance would be turned around to reveal another message: I Guess You Can Go In, Fags, or something, but no. We gratefully trotted indoors.

It was a perfectly nice interior, and it was evident that it wasn't going to be a big, big wedding; there were chairs set about, around fifty maybe. I glanced to my right as I entered, noting the bar and another kinda-snotty sign. Bar is Closed. This despite a perfectly serviceable bartender standing right behind it. Bar is Closed? Jesus God. I wished I had some embossed business cards to whip out and present to the bartender: Skot is Sober. Maybe a medical alert bracelet. I'll have to look into getting something done. We sat down and waited.

I nervously stared at the minimilist setup for the ceremony: on the one hand, the Spartan setting--lectern--suggested short to me, as in duration. On the other hand, I also saw a guitar, which suggested to me gloppy balladry, and therefore menace. I fidgeted, waiting for the hammer to fall.

Presently, the ceremony began, and I noted that the music was being handled by a fellow off to the side, swiftly changing CDs in and out of a little Walkman unit. So he had to change the discs out for every change, creating inadvertant mini-theater on the side as everyone waited for him. I wondered why nobody had burned a master disc, or just used an iPod, for God's sake. The rotten part of me kind of hoped he'd blow a track selection and something like Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" would start up for the processional, forcing everyone to breakdance.

Actually, it was almost that terrible, at least for me: the processional began with the music, which was . . . Pachelbel's Canon in D. I closed my eyes and let the wine commercial experience wash over me in a sickly wave. Did nobody warn them? Good God. Someday I'm going to go to a wedding and they'll play something horrifying and janglingly awful, like "Fuck Like A Beast" or "Beaver Patrol," and I'll just weep with gratitude.

Finally, things got underway, and the JP or whatever she was began The Spiel, which everyone knows by now, about the joining of these two people FUH-EVAH and EVAH, and how they were vines twisted around one another, except then she talked about them reaching their hands out and finding true love, or something, and then all I could think about was horrid vine-creatures with misshapen human characteristics, but by then she was on about the threads in their beautiful tapestry, and so I dutifully imagined the vine-creatures suffocating horribly in a musty old woven blanket, while they beat plaintively at it with their horrible, vine-sprouted hands. She blithely continued to mix metaphors like this while I sat, sweating slightly, acutely cursing my continuing sobriety.

Finally, she wrapped up whatever horrific gibberish remained, and we got to the songs. The guitar was taken up, and I braced myself as one of the bridesmaids clutched a microphone, and she sang . . . a really pretty song! Whew. It was quite lovely, and she had a pleasingly waifish voice, and it was also charming when she kind of fucked it for a half-second by going into the chorus too soon, but the guitarist valiantly saved her ass. All this I did not see at all, because the groom is 6-foot five and has an impressive loom that blocked all view of the bridesmaids. Then the groom's mother got up--more singing!--and gave another quite lovely gospel-y hymn-y performance. I was perking up; the songs were pleasing and not long at all.

Then came another DANGER! DANGER! moment, as the JP (or whatever) announced that there would be a reading. Alarmingly, by her, whose public speaking skills were, in my mind, severely deficient. Things then got very bad. Remember: we had already endured one crime (the Pachelbel). We were about to experience another. Can you guess? Uh huh. Khalil Gibran. Or was it? Here the JP announced the reading of, I swear to God, "Cahill Gibran," which made me wonder if there was some terrible hillbilly schlockmeister poet of unknown renown. I waited to hear if marriage was like the perfume of bathtub gin or the ineffable beingness of webbed toes, but alas, it was some crap about how elm trees don't get along with walnut trees. Or something. I know there was some nonsense about trees, but I couldn't think very straight by now, because I had mentally dispatched patriot moonshiner/poet Cahill Gibran to do battle with the half-human vine-people. I clearly needed a drink.

After a little while--to be honest, the whole thing was of quite acceptable length, despite my snarking--I got my wish. They exchanged the rings, kissed, left, etc., etc. (though here the CD guy got all behind and fucked up, so everyone wandered off in a sort of embarrassed silence as he fussed), and there was a general charge towards the bar. People drank and ate--your standard cheese-and-quiche spread with some alarming-looking pasta that I detoured around--and danced and all that. Very nice.

That was our last wedding of this year, knock wood. Hopefully the rest of our friends will maintain the unmarriageable kind of horrible habits and defects of character that we have come to rely on. And if not, then lessons have been learned: always bring a flask.

I'm out for at least a week, so I'll see you again after I return from what I've taken to calling Kancer City, earning me glares from co-workers. Whatever. They don't have to contend with visions of Cahill vs. the Vine Things. I'm taking a flask.

Thursday, 14 October
He's Leaving Home

To be honest, I don't have much gas left in the tank this week. Sorry about that--work has been, well, hellish, and next week I have to go to Kansas Fucking City for work. This would be great (if disturbing for my wife) if "fucking" really was part of the Kansas City equation, but it is not. I'm pretty sure that an oncology consortium will be largely fucking-free. Especially for anyone who gets treated to the penile cancer slide shows that I've heard so much about.

"Here's a horizontal cross-section of a diseased penis. And now our lunchbreak!"

Anyway. I myself happily do not have to attend any graphic penile cancer presentations, so I'll have to content myself with whatever varied joys the lymphoma and melanoma folks have concocted. If I'm really lucky, someone will have some good splenomegaly films.

So posts are going to be here and there for a couple weeks, just so you know. I had a conversation recently with cancer about this:

Skot: "So, cancer, why be a dick? It's hard to work around you sometimes. I have a crappy blog to maintain."

Cancer: "Yeah, well."

Skot: "That's not even an answer."

Cancer: "Sorry. I wasn't paying attention. There was this guy in Montana."

Skot: "What the fuck? Now what? Eye cancer?"

Cancer: "It's an expansion market."

Like I say, I'm out of gas. And it's just going to get worse once I have to leave town. I hate being away from my girl, and it makes me behave erratically.

Actually, I've already started. Tonight:

[The theme to "Law & Order" begins. Skot adopts a cruciform pose and begins wriggling his hips. This is horribly unfunky.]

Wife: What are you doing?

Skot: [still gyrating] I AM THE DISCO CHRIST! I DO WHAT I WANT!

This is the Disco Christ, signing off for a while.

Tuesday, 12 October
Smooth Criminal

My junior year in college, I was of course still slinking around the theater department working on my worthless degree, when an interesting opportunity fell into my lap. One of my professors had been contacted by the Oregon State police. Would he, the cops asked, happen to know of any couple of actorlets weird enough to come down to the state police HQ and spend a few hours helping out with Hostage Negotiation tactics? Probably in the hopes that we would be "accidentally" shot in the course of events, my professor sought out me and M. We agreed instantly to the job, particularly when we found out that the cops were coughing up $40 apiece for the whatever it was.

So later M. and I found ourselves driving out to the state police facilities, something I had only previously imagined occurring under some duress. Like most municipal buildings, it was irritatingly annoying in different, nonspecific ways that you couldn't quite nail down: architecturally, it was kind of like a balding man in a cheap suit whistling to himself while jangling his keys in his pocket.

We met with a fellow who explained what was going on. Hostage negotiators, like all of us I suppose, need practice! Troublingly, though, hostages are not a clockwork commodity that one can count on, so to keep the boys on their toes, periodically they get some actors to come in and spend three or so hours improvising hostage scenarios for the negotiators to work on.

He pulled out some papers, one of which outlined the requirements, which were, I thought, quite broadly defined. I was quite free to invent a vivid past for my bad guy, as well as any motive I might have for the "kidnapping," up to and including batshit craziness; similarly, M., the victim, and I were free to invent any relationship that might exist in our predicament, if any. What did need to happen was that (1) in the course of our chats, I was to make at least one completely unreasonable demand, and (2) that eventually M. should begin to exhibit symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, the famous psychological effect of the victim beginning to sympathize more and more with the captor. The rest was up to us. "You can kill her if you think they're doing a bad job," said the fellow mildly. I cheerfully turned to M. and informed that the moment we got into the room I was going to beat her to death with an ashtray and take her forty bucks.

We went into the room; I was distressed to notice that there were no ashtrays--for did not the stoolies smoke hungrily as they squealed to the coppers? Did I not see this on TV? This place looked more like a conference room anyway, and I took note of a couple open windows, and realized glumly that I would almost certainly be breaking the law with some regularity during my visit to the cophaus.

The fellow pointed to a sturdy-looking phone cradle on the table, with a wire snaking out the door. "This is actually what we toss through windows so we can have a direct line with the captor in live situations." We stared at the veteran phone with new respect for its blocky heroism. Then he gave us the big tip: "I'll also tell you what we obviously don't tell the captors: even when it's on the hook, it's still on and transmitting any conversations or noises it picks up." I stared back at the traitorous phone again, realizing what a lousy criminal I would be. That it would never occur to me to see through such a transparent trick was evidence not only of my fundamental dimness, but also of that widely held bullshit assumption: that cops are the good guys, and good guys don't lie. Not to say that cops aren't good guys. It's just that in fact they do routinely lie as a matter of course, in word and deed.

We had fifteen minutes or so of alone time, M. and I, to come up with a loose story to get things started. Then the phone would ring--pretending here that the negotiators had been notified of a hostage situation, and tossed in the phone--and we'd be underway. (The fellow in charge assured us the phone would be off until that first ring, and I don't think he fucked us on that one. He wanted an honest test of his boys.) So we decided that M. was my old girlfriend; she had kicked me out because I was kind of a flake who, when "off his meds," was semiviolent and unpredictable. We spiced things up by giving her a baby to worry about; it was also in the house.

For my part, I can't remember what name I gave myself--I think it was Earl--but I decided that my troubling mental history would guarantee a spotty and variegated work history, which gave me an idea about an "unreasonable demand." We quickly agreed that M. had kicked out Earl thanks to his deteriorating mental state, which also led to his most recent firing, which had all culminated with the current events, namely Batshit Earl's Gonna Shoot Momma And The Baby.

Presently, the phone rang. I obviously can't remember all (or even much) of the exact language these fellows used, but they were damned smooth. "What do you want?" was a big question at the outset, and I noticed a certain determined avoidance of ever actually saying the word "No." I felt a little weird knowing I was talking to Real Live Cops, but I also thought (1) they wanted some verisimilitude in my demeanor, and (2) I felt a kind of perverse glee in being able to--no, encouraged to--chew on these cops' asses, so I cut lose with torrents of horrid vituperation. "You fucking cops, fucking with me all the time, I oughta blow this bitch's head off RIGHT NOW!" Etc. etc. I felt very macho at the time, but I'm sure that the negotiators were rolling their eyes at each other from the outset and scratching notes to themselves like, "Great, three hours with Baby Mamet."

I ranted at them for a good while, hanging up on them with dire threats and--making some theater for the open line--hissed threats at M. while she wailed and pleaded convincingly. In the interest of keeping things on this side of stupid, we wisely didn't attempt to imitate terrified baby noises. After an illicit smoke--hanging out the window--it was time for Unreasonable Demand. I picked up the phone, and the negotiator boys were alert and attentive. They of course immediately asked me if I was ready to come out; it was always their first question, and always came with steady assurances that their only concern was everyone's safety, including mine. I sported with them a bit, trying to see if I could get them to actually tell me No.

"I think I'll stay put. That okay with you?"

"Whatever you're comfortable with right now, Earl."

"You're lying, aren't you? You'd like to blow my brains out!"

"Earl, I'm not lying to you. We just want everything to stay cool and calm."

"Bullshit! You want my nuts in a vise!"

"Earl, even if that were true, I don't own a tool shed."

I mean, not really, but you get the idea. Anyway, I finally hit them with my demand: that every employer who had ever fired Earl be gathered right there on that very street, and that they loudly shout at Earl how sorry they were that they ever canned his loony ass. If I didn't get these demands met in an hour, then it was curtains for M. and her oddly stoic baby.

The boys were, as ever, not to be flapped, and made cheerful sounds to indicate, Well finally! Something we can work on for our good buddy Earl! Jesus, why didn't you say so before, son? And then they hung up, and M. and I performed another laughable little psychodrama for the negotiators' benefit, where I direly hinted something about shutting up the fucking kid before I shut it up for her (we tacitly assumed that the boys were accepting our invention of the troublesome baby despite its lack of voice). RING RING! Hey, what a coincidence! I picked up the phone. "Say, Earl," said one of the boys, "we're having some trouble with finding all these guys to apologize to you. You think you can help us out with some names?"

This went on and on, and I really started to like these guys. They were on my side! Well, Earl's. And M. really started to come around too: after a couple hours, she was faithfully howling about how EVERYTHING WOULD BE BETTER IF EVERYONE LEFT US ALONE! This after the boys wanted to speak to her to make sure her and the "baby" were all right; I let M. gurgle at them for a while as I hung out the window and smoked, and she sobbed at them to piss off, and they told her, sorry, ma'am, we can't do that (but we're not saying no!), not just yet, and boy, once those fellas come and apologize, this would all be over. I ended that conversation by roughly grabbing the phone away from M. and smacking my own palm to indicate that I was roughing her up a bit. Then I hung up, which prompted a fresh spate of RING RING RING! Which I ignored for a while; M. put her head down by the phone and gasped miserably. RING RING RING! I let the boys dangle for a while before picking up again, which I figured was cool as a kind of "What's going on in there?!" tension-builder, but I now realize probably had the boys scribbling fresh notes: "Does he know this isn't a movie?" "Silence is sure helping us hone our negotiation skills."

Oh, this went on for what felt like ages. Eventually, the boys regretfully (but sternly) told me that they were shit out of luck in finding all these old supervisors to come say they were sorry. I screamed hideous imprecations, and all the while, the boys still managed never to actually come out and say they weren't doing what I wanted. Everything was simply fucked up, Earl, can't you see that?

"You fuckers promised me."

"Now, we said we'd try, Earl. We've been trying. It's difficult, what you're asking."

"You haven't even fucking tried! You've fucked me from the beginning!"

"Earl, we've been talking all this time. If you feel we haven't been straight with you, that's on us, but I want you to know that we've been working for you on this. Nothing that's happened so far is a big deal, Earl, and we want to make sure it stays that way, all right?"

"You guys aren't negotiators! You're ballet dancers from the Bolshoi, aren't you? And one of you is also a circus bear!"

"Earl, it's true I like to dance here and again, and Joe is pretty goddam hairy, but you have to understand that . . . "

Again, I don't remember it all, but you get the idea.

Eventually, after three hours and some change, I decided I'd had enough and the boys had earned their pay. (I was also getting a nice crick in my back from angling myself out the window.) I finally told the boys that I'd seen the light; I didn't want anything bad happening, like myself being riddled with large holes; I wanted to come out. I was given precise instructions on what to do: something about cracking the door, throwing out the gun, lacing my hands on the back of my head, backing out slowly, etc. I agreed to all of this (and they were really putting on the cop mojo for this speech--there were clearly some seriously good ways to get shot if one didn't follow these instructions to the letter). Finally, after getting it all, I hung up.

M. and I stood there, staring at the door. Was that it? I whispered to her: "Am I supposed to follow their directions? Are we also "doing" the arrest?" She didn't know. The guy who gave us the lowdown at the beginning never mentioned this. We kept staring at the door. Finally, I said, "I guess I'll go out."

So I cracked the door open, cautiously and very slowly, and feeling both apprehensive and really dumb, backed out with my hands laced behind my head. I craned my skull around trying to see what the fuck was going on. I saw the orientation cop and what were obviously the two negotiators, looking at me with amused grins.

"We're not doing the arrest part, are we?" I asked, loosening my stance.

"No," said one of the negotiators, for the first time all day.

Friday, 08 October
More Rules About Food

The seeds in cucumbers can tend to be rather bitter. It's best to remove them during preparation; a grapefruit spoon is quite useful for this. That way, your next salad might perhaps not be disposed to throw all of your shit out on the street after it finds out you have recently enjoyed other salads.

Delicious hot dogs are an important necessity for good living. Endeavor not to live in cities with a pronounced dearth of reputable hot dog vendors, such as, say, Seattle. This wicked city is likely to laugh at the average hot dog seeker, and might even suggest seared ahi as an alternative. Nothing is to be done about such a nightmarish locale except to flee it immediately.

Leeks. What to do about leeks. The word rhymes with "beaks," "cheeks," "Laliques," and, if one accepts the Many Worlds theory associated with quantum physics, "Mozambiques." Apart from these and many other lexical nubbins, leeks have very little utility. When waved vigorously, one may pretend that they are comical penis-like things, but this is usually regarded as crude.

Saffron is famously expensive, and, as such, is not-so-famously overrated. Which is not to say that it should be shunned, unlike children of wealthy families who happen to also be named Saffron, who are intolerable. This is unacceptable. When found, these children should be kidnapped and boiled. I understand that these boiled children are delicious, particularly, and ironically, when boiled with saffron. Look, I don't make the rules, I just report them.

Dill pickles are undeniably one of creation's finest foods, particularly for males. Females are encouraged to enjoy dill pickles, but they will always remain a particularly male staple. For a man, there can be no finer event than receiving an enthusiastic blow job while holding a dill pickle, which he may (at his leisure) wave around happily during the experience. We shall not speak of sweet pickles here, except to note that they are only enjoyed by Communists, and as everyone knows, Commies don't get blow jobs.

When in doubt, make stew. Nobody on earth has ever found a reasonable basis to question stew.

"Hey, there's earthworms in this."

"Uh . . . yeah. You've never had earthworm stew?"

(Pause.)

"It's really good!"

Nobody can say anything about stew, since by definition, it's just a bunch of crap dumped into a pot. Feel free to urinate in your stew if you hate your guests. They will call it "piquant."

And finally, don't forget to smoke incessantly during meals when you have guests. It will cut the smell of those saffron-boiled children you served. If a particularly intractable guest continues to comment--"I swear I smell little Tommy!"--don't panic. Light another cigarette. Offer them dill pickles.

You might get lucky!

Wednesday, 06 October
Teeth Vs. Hair

I don't know if I'm starting a tradition here--or even if I want to--but once again I am going to provide coverage of our election debates, heroically, even though yet again I did not watch tonight's, opting instead to nap briefly and then watch the hated Yankees fall to the Twins. And is there anything more American than rooting against the Yankees? I don't think so. (Yankees fans: I don't mean anything by this, you know that. Other than to suggest that you are all dreadful monsters.) So here again are some excerpts from the debate that I simply just made up.

Moderator (whoever it was): I now present the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Joe Edwards.

Edwards: John.

Moderator: Joe Edwards, everyone! Mr. Vice President, you may begin.

Cheney: (He stares balefully at Edwards. An uncomfortable silence grows.)

Moderator: Mr. Vice President?

Cheney: Who the fuck is the hamster?

Edwards: Hey!

Cheney: I've never seen this area rug in my life. Security!

(Armed guards swarm the stage and bludgeon Edwards with truncheons. After much tumult, order is restored, and the candidates finally retake their podiums.)

Cheney: My apologies to the hamster for his brutal beating.

Edwards: Id's do pobblem.

------

Edwards: So I have to wonder, given the current administration's total mishandling of the intel leading up to the Iraq situation: where does the buck stop?

Moderator: Mr. Cheney, your rebuttal.

Cheney: ZZZZZOOORG! ZORG IS THE ONE AND THE ONLY! ZORG IS COMING! ENCHAINED WITHIN SATURN'S RINGS FOR THESE MANY MILLENNIA, ZORG IS FREE! I AM THE EMISSARY. YOU WILL BE SAUSAGE IN ZORG'S GALACTIC MEAT-MILLS! COME, ZORG! SHOW THESE DIMINUTES YOUR POWER!

Edwards: (Rifling through notes) These weren't in the talking points . . .

Moderator: Mr. Vice President?

Cheney: My apologies. My pacemaker is tetchy. Sometimes I get alien transmissions.

------

Cheney: I see your point, Mr. Edwards, but if I may rebut . . . (Cheney suddenly juts out his entire lower jaw like a cash register drawer, exposing many dull, gray teeth.)

Edwards: (He emits a piercing cry and bursts into tears.)

Cheney: America, I hope you're watching this. Let me tell you: my father, God rest his soul, used to pull the goddam skin right off his skull to teach us kids some goddam discipline. And here Mr. Hamster is bawling like a baby over some goddam teeth. If he had any gumption at all, he'd rise up like a man and hack me into bait with a garden hoe just like I did my no-skin daddy, but no, he's gotta have a good cry. I think that says something.

Edwards: (Weakly) . . . please . . . see a dentist . . .

------

Cheney: In closing, my opponent's arguments have been so laughable and, dare I say, fruity, that I am comfortable sitting down and eating these Chicken Nibblers during his closing arguments. Thank you.

Moderator: Mr. Edwards?

Edwards: (He begins talking about tort reform; the audience stares wistfully at Cheney's Chicken Nibblers. Suddenly, Cheney clutches his chest and moans horribly.)

Cheney: My! Heart!

Moderator: Call 911!

Edwards: (Cheerfully) I'm sure Mr. Cheney would hate for valuable tax dollars to be wasted on emergency response when he is well covered. I'll send a fax to his HMO. I'm sure they'll get a hold of his primary care physician vacationing in the Yucatan.

Moderator: (Thrusting a microphone into Cheney's purpling face) Mr. Vice President! Mr. Vice President!

Cheney: (Weakly) . . . go . . . Yankees . . .

Tuesday, 05 October
The Mediocrity Is The Message

This weekend was just what the doctor ordered, provided your doctor is mendacious buffoon with a degree from the Online University of Frozen Toe, Canada. We spent the whole time on our asses absorbing the vast spectrum of terribleness that our media has to offer.

Friday I watched some of the retirement ceremonies for Edgar Martinez, Seattle's creaky old DH for years. It was pretty touching for a while: unveiling of various memorabilia, checks presented to various causes in his name, a street named after him, etc. Edgar sat around, seemingly bemused at the parade of accolades while his children sat around with the dull knowledge that they had to be good and sit still until all this shit was over or they would be killed.

But then bad things started to happen, like the appearance Bud Selig, who is the obverse of a Dorian Gray, and physically wears his unspeakable evil like an unhappy suit. Bud droned on for a while, and I stared at his hair, which is, like that of so many wealthy, powerful people, mesmerizingly horrible. I don't understand this about wealthy powerful people. Jesus Christ! Fix your fucking hair! During his speech, the Puget Sound silted up, ruining trade in our region, and several small children flung themselves under horse carriages; it has been widely acknowledged that Selig's hair was responsible.

By the time an apparently drunk and deranged Bret Boone took the stage--Boone is Seattle's not-very-beloved second baseman who has made a comfortable living out of dashing the hopes of thousands--it was time to change the channel; I believe they were about to bestow upon Edgar several thousand endangered butterflies, which he could "eat at any time," because, fuck it, it's YOUR NIGHT!

Saturday night, driven to madness by the ongoing wasteland of regular TV, the wife and I decided to take matters into our own hands: did we have to sit there and just take the horrifying crap being handed to us by the networks? Fuck no! We were going to pay extra for some different horrifying crap!

[There are major spoilers ahead for a really worthless movie, but some people are rabid about that shit, so, if you genuinely believe that a dented turd of a film like Taking Lives can be somehow ruined, you may want to skip the next bit. But I reserve the right to call you weird.]

Yeah, we rented Taking Lives on pay-per-view. This Angelina Jolie/Ethan Hawke . . . vehicle, I guess, though "vehicle" usually connotes something that moves . . . is, even from the opening credits (during which I said to the wife, "Se7en has a lot to answer for."): empty, derivative and . . . not even bad. It wasn't good enough to be actually bad, which is to say, badness, to me at least, implies effort. Someone attempts something, some work or craft, and they fail miserably; they did badly, the result is bad. But not this thing. It doesn't even try to be anything other than pure mediocrity, mindless gruel pumped out of a blue and white tube marked INGREDIENTS: MINDLESS GRUEL. Some people consider this worthy of the title of "bad," but would you consider a latch-hook rug "bad"? Or Guinness records? Or are they just stupid, trifling things that only weirdos and the infirm would comment upon favorably?

The plot is so blindingly stupid I won't even try. Jolie is the usual driven investigator who does semi-mystical things like lie down in graves, staring intently at the sky, or takes baths with crime scene photos posted here and there, because not even relaxing baths must intrude up her single-minded purpose: to do the job, dammit. And Hawke is the MacGuffin role: Is he an innocent unkempt lad caught up in extraordinary circumstances, or . . . IS HE THE KILLER? Never mind that the answer is screamingly obvious (He is! Oh my God! I think I need a haircut! Oh, right, the film isn't over.): Jolie knows what she has to do--fuck him. Fuck him BUT GOOD.

The inevitable sex scene that results is baffling by even Hollywood standards. While Hawke peels off Jolie's clothes enthusiastically, he himself remains fully garbed in what appears to be a three-piece suit. They fall back onto the bed, humping the bejesus out of each other, and he's still dressed; and further, the wife and I both noticed that Hawke never even did that actor-y thing of miming the reach down to pretend to unzip and fumble his dick out. So the unlovely mental image I was left with was Angeline Jolie crammed chock full of an indeterminate amount of hot, stretched wool.

I slept fitfully that night, plagued with uneasy dreams about dry cleaners.

[End the world's dumbest spoiler.]

Finally, just tonight, after watching (what's wrong with me?) "CSI: Miami," a humdinger of a show which features David Caruso palely refusing to act, ever . . . and hold on, let's stop a minute. I'm used to Caruso standing around being all Tough Irish; he did that on "NYPD Blue" constantly, despite the fact that he looks about as tough as a potato chip. The real crime of this show that needs investigating is the utter waste of its other actors, such as Khandi Alexander, from the much-missed "NewsRadio," and Emily Proctor, who deserves better than the Kitten With A Gun Fetish role that she is routinely saddled with. John Heard occasionally shows up as Proctor's drunk dad, too--poor John Heard. Maybe he livens things up by actually showing up drunk. I would.

Anyway, at the end of the show, they played the usual "Next week on CSI!" teaser, and it was kind of shattering. The voiceover: "Next week on CSI: Miami, a murder is discovered . . . at a flashmob!" I jerked in my seat as if someone had sharply jabbed my asshole. Flashmobs? On an ostensibly stylish crime show? On CBS?

There's going to be a blogger crime thriller soon. Mark my words. Some lucky blogger is gonna get to crawl all over Angelina Jolie.

Hey, don't look at me. Hell, give it to Kottke.

Friday, 01 October
Speak, Muse

As everyone is numbingly aware of by now, the first 2004 Presidential debate took place on this momentous evening. And the wife and I did our part: we faithfully did not watch it, and instead chose to drink Manhattans with a visiting friend.

So I did not see it (though I did see the Daily Show's "coverage" of it, and just need to ask--who gave the Crazy Pills to Giuliani? His report from Galaxy Eyes-A-Poppin' was really . . . weird.), so as I often do in these situations, I just made some crap up.

Lehrer: Senator, how do you respond to charges from the right that your Viet Nam medals were wholly undeserved, and that you wipe your ass with the flag of America?

Kerry: Sir, I wash those flags. Well, Rosa washes them. But those are clean flags.

------

Lehrer: Mr. President, you've maintained that the war in Iraq was justified for reasons having to do with--

Bush: [makes human beatbox noises while inexpertly poppin' and lockin']

Lehrer: Mr. President?

Bush: Shut up a second. I'm courtin' black votes as we speak.

Lehrer: This is not what--

Bush: [blinks eyes rapidly] Goddamn if that Grandmaster Flash doesn't give me the fuckin' twirls! I gotta play this for Dick. He'll shit his livin' heart!

[Kerry looks despondent for a moment, and then attempts to flash a Crip sign, but hurts his back. As he writhes for a moment, Bush mouths the word "fag" to the camera while pointing at the incapacitated Kerry.]

------

Lehrer: Gentlemen, I ask both of you: tits? Or ass? Senator?

Kerry: Mr. Moderator, I thank you for the opportunity to speak out on this question. America, since its infancy, has long had a dichotomy involving the elements of your query, and after much thought . . .

Bush: Tits.

Kerry: [sotto voce] Damn. There goes Michigan.

------

Lehrer: Finally, gentlemen, could we have your final statements?

Bush: I'm a scion of one of America's most fabulously corrupt families. If you don't vote for me, we'll track your ass down and stick funny needles in you until you piss fear. Don't fuck with me. Thank you, and God bless America.

Kerry: I married some lunatic Portuguese ketchup broad, which, honestly, still cracks me up. But to get the the heart of the matter, here is what counts:

[Kerry abrupbtly moves from behind his podium and casually unzips his pants to reveal an astounding set of testicles, which resemble two golf balls contained in a loose sack of dull, gray fur.]

Bush: [Off camera] Hey, no fair!

------










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