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Friday, 25 February
Meat; The Parents

A few weeks ago--as my tens of readers may remember, and they'll have to, since I am too lazy to link to it--I wrote about how we organized a large anniversary get-together for the wife's parents. (I say "organized" because we, being substandard children, did not actually pay for the whole dinner. In fact, we cleverly skipped the check entirely by spiking everyone's dishes with a violent emetic; the attendees all stand to come into a good deal of money thanks to several pending lawsuits against the soon-to-be-bankrupt establishment.)

Anyway, the in-laws were wholly surprised and delighted by the entire event (well, up until the mass vomiting and subsequent ambulance rides), and we learned last week that they were sending us a gift of thanks in the form of Omaha steaks. (They are not apparently themselves believers in surprise. Unless they spiked the steaks with botulism as revenge.) So the wife and I waited in gleeful anticipation for the mailman to drop off some . . . meat.

(It is a testament to the wonders of our age that we think nothing about trusting strangers in Nebraska to throw a quantity of beef into a box and give it to the United States Postal Service for it desultory journey across half a continent, where it will then be consumed without much thought or worry. Someday soon we can look forward to having Byelorussian whore-borgs teleported directly into our geodesic yurts for those lonely Antarctic nights at McMurdo station to relax us after a long day of making Shoggoths in the intellisnow with our grafted multi-limbs. [Hey, I'm Neal Stephenson! Or, more troublingly, Cory Doctorow.])

Yesterday, the meat arrived! I don't know what I was expecting . . . some little insulated box, I guess, like a puffy pizza box with the steaks huddled inside, hiding from warmth. What I was NOT expecting was a middle-sized styrofoam tub of approximately beach-going size. It contained mini-bergs of dry ice and several sub-boxlets containing: Six top sirloin steaks, a bunch of preprepared and flash-frozen twice-baked potatoes (soon to be thrice-baked), and a quantity of cheesecake. This embarrassment of riches was less "Hey, have a nice meal on us!" and more like, "Hey, you guys should pretend to be the Roman senate!"

There is a lot of food in our freezer now, where it is probably bummed, after all its travels, to be confined with some homebody blackberries and old hamburger. I can hear it sighing: "Man, I really liked traveling. Idaho was beautiful, and I liked the plane rides. Now we're just stuck here in loser city with these lousy peas."

Naturally, we cooked some of it up right that evening. The steaks were fucking marvelous--nicely marbled, juicy, and flavorful, which I think are qualities that we all as a society associate with anything that comes from Omaha. (It's a little-known fact that Marlin Perkins was enthusiastically eaten by his family after his death.) The potatoes were . . . probably an experiment that should be abandoned: they had a slightly chemical taste to them that gave me once again sinister suspicions of gastrointestinal revenge on the part of the in-laws; perhaps they had laced them with molybdenum? And once you got to the actual potato skins themselves, they proved leathery and inedible, like Marlin Perkins.

I did not touch the cheesecake, since cheesecake in all its forms is utterly horrendous, and should only be fed to recalcitrant sociopaths in prison.

"That's it, Simmons! You shoved that guard's face into a belt sander! Your choice: Thirty days in the Hole? Or eat this cheesecake! What'll it be?"

(Sneering) "I'll take the thirty days, you rotten screw."

"You bums are all alike. Sure, take the easy way out."

It eventually dawned on me that this very generous and very extravagant gift of thanks probably cost the in-laws more than we actually spent on their anniversary party. I felt guilty about this for a little bit, but it was gradually eclipsed by the memory of getting meat. In the mail. I get kind of misty just thinking about it.

And we haven't vomited at all. These guys are all class.

Wednesday, 23 February
The Dead Pool

So far 2005 has been a sprightly affair! For death! A brief skim yields a croak-count featuring a writer I will miss, a playwright I never much liked, an actress I was largely unfamiliar with, another actress I never met, a bartender I will very much miss, and an NFL punter I barely heard of. Way to spread the field, death!

I think it's time for my predictions for the Hot Death List of 2005, where I anticipate the coming years' trendiest new ways to die.

Cougar Attack

No, not "cougar" in the MILF sense, you dirty dogs! (Although getting fucked to death by sexually predatory older women barely got edged out at #11.) I'm talking about mountain lions! These sporty carnivores are starting to make a real arterial splash, especially in the Western states, and are redoubling their attacks on deer, pets and . . . humans! When it comes to the Hot Death List, cougars are poised to claw their way to fabulousness! Predicted victim: Haley Joel Osment. You'll see dead people . . . all the time!

New Age

This one is a real comer, and will supplant the longtime champion "old age." Hippies, vegans and other societal punchlines will soon start to succumb to such hilarious mistakes as Tinctures of Potassium Cyanide, uric acid poisoning, and Chronic Meat Deprivation. Worse will be when the Crystalline Entity shows up again and takes over their quartz necklaces. Will these people never learn from the lessons of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Predicted victim: Shirley MacLaine. Unfortunately, only Woody Harrelson will notice.

Overflossing

This is less a problem about people maniacally sawing away at their gums for hours and hours and hours and hours until they shear off a portion of their skull, only to watch it slide glumly down to the bathroom porcelain and land with a dull thud as all their neurons misfire and they collapse into a bloody stew that is going to be hell for housekeeping to tidy up. No. The problem is the dental industry's tragically underthought new product line of monomolecular-filament dental floss that will have people unintentionally doing this in seconds. Predicted victim: Dr. Phil. "Hey, my severed fingers! Hey, my bisected skull! Hey, I had a hateful life! Buuuulllgghhh . . . "

Terrorist Pranks

Terrorist attacks are obviously pretty passe. Get ready for a new terrorist paradigm . . . of hilarity! Well, deadly hilarity. But they meant well. It was just too bad (and too funny!) when that guy slipped on the flaming sack of poo and broke his neck! Or when they sent that Photoshop image of Diane Sawyer's ripped corpse where the dogs were eating her heart? Oh, man. That just killed. Literally millions, actually, since Teheran was bombed as a result, but you should have seen the look on your face! Predicted victim: It hardly matters. Let's say Gary Busey.

Bezoars

These are essentially large balls of hair that sit, undigestible, in the stomach. They are found in mentally blitzed-out people that, well, eat large quantities of their own hair, and they can kill you. If you eat enough hair. For myself, I'm just about ready to eat hair for the next ten years just out of gibbering despair. Won't you join me? I'm developing some really ritzy hair recipes! Hair-icots verts? It's beans and hair! Or Angel Hair Pasta? Boiled hair! (Disclaimer: May Not Contain Angels.) Predicted victim: Too many to name. I imagine that a good portion of the US population will be gnawing fretfully on their own hair as this year progresses.

Don't let me down, folks!

Tuesday, 22 February
Man Down

Over the (mercifully long) weekend, I did something rare for me these days: I left the house. Yes, the wife and I, professional shut-ins in our dotage, actually tasted the night air on TWO WHOLE NIGHTS rather than watching the latest ass-bomb go off on pay-per-view. We went to see our chosen craft, some theatah.

Friday night was barely theater, really: it was a show called Delaware, which featured some very loose-limbed performance art-stuff that basically served as framing devices for a band named . . . oh dear . . . "Awesome." (I can make fun of this band's name because (a) it's just terrible, and (b) they all know it, and (c) I am friends with all the band members--two of them served as my groomsmen, in fact.)

We had a great time; Awesome plays an art-rock sort of wankery that I can firmly get behind; I annoyed them all afterwards by telling them that they put on a really great Grandaddy show. (Strangely, I liked their music; not so much Grandaddy's. Further proof that I am a complicated man . . . or just a dithering fool.) Anyway, it's impossible for me to be impartial anyway, as they are all my pals, so it was just nice to have a good time. And to hear lyrics along the lines of "My mouth tastes like my mouth." I await their collaboration with Laurie Anderson with a mixture of dread and anticipation.

Then on Saturday, the wife and I were treated to FREE TICKETS to see one of the more lauded current shows in town, a production of Clifford Odets' Waiting for Lefty. We also knew many members of this production as well, and they acquitted themselves very well--the performances were, for the most part, superb, and the director (another acquaintance of ours) gave up a typically inventive and engaging production.

Too bad the play is so fucking terrible. It just chafes me that so many people in town are howling about how great this show is, because, unfortunately, it is not. What it is is a simpleminded, ham-handed, clumsy pile of claptrap gussied up with song and bombast so that what you're left with is something like several SNL sketches as written by Bertolt Brecht, minus, you know, the talent.

It's not hard to figure out why a show like this was picked, given our political climate and the typically pinko (or, well, lefty) bent of most theater folks. (It's a series of vignettes regarding Depression-era cabbies and their corrupt union. It's main message: FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS! This philosophy has resonated through the ages with some of our society's finest thinkers, such as the Beastie Boys.) What is difficult to understand is why this play was picked, as it wanders aimlessly from scene to scene, bringing with each two or three utterly dimensionless stock characters uttering inane, cliched dialogue. Hard-luck cabbie arrives home to find his furniture repossessed, his wife weeping about How we gonna feed our children, Joe? Check! Young gal in love with her hard-luck cabbie beau, but her brother disapproves? Check! Doctor getting fired due to hospital cutbacks because, despite seniority, she's a . . . Jew? Check!

Look, I'm not unsympathetic to anything the play tried, however ineptly, to say: I definitely skew towards the pinko side of many, if not most issues. What just bums me out is when they're delivered so badly, so baldly, so shoddily, that it dilutes the message to the point of irrelevance. The left isn't exactly kicking ass these days, and it saddens me to go see a play that ostensibly aims towards shoring up our resolve, and ends up being something that not only just preaches to the choir, but becomes good fodder for those who would tear down that resolve. Clifford Odets was what we don't need any more of: a boring hack with a good heart; a true believer without any of the chops he needed to get his message heard.

I don't mean to sound nasty. (And I reiterate: the production and the actors were very good. I'm not hedging, either. It's just a terrible play.) But I think I'm also a little raw over someone we lost Sunday: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. (In some sort of cosmic jest, Sandra Dee died too, which makes for a kind of wicked duality.) Dr. Gonzo evidently blew himself away.

I don't know what to do with this. I don't even know the details, but I will say that my first reaction was, "He didn't pull a Hemingway; he didn't just fold after his talents went queer. He must have been diagnosed with something." I don't know. I will say, without embarrassment, that the man--even after he went stupid crazy--could still whip up a sentence, a phrase, that could make me laugh and laugh. I remember reading him when I was, oh, I suppose ten or twelve, and wondering, How the fuck did he come up with that? I would put, on my personal list, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as my second-favorite work of comic (though it wasn't really that at all) literature, right behind A Confederacy of Dunces (and that guy offed himself too).

I won't say Hunter made me want to write; I don't know what did. I do know that his voice--that scalding, logorrheic, priceless invective--awed me at times, even later, when his clarity was obviously failing: he could still occasionally poleax me with some meltdown phrase. Or his throwaway details, like his casual mention in F&L about how drug users get used to visions like seeing their dead grandmothers with a knife in her teeth crawling up their pantlegs. Or just his chutzpah: I still remember the Rolling Stone piece he wrote when Nixon died; Thompson brutally pointed out that he was a vile, pillaging tyrant, and the world was better for being without him. This is not what you'd call material for the Bravo channel.

And if it makes any difference, he wasn't a total fucking lunatic--at least not always. Read Hell's Angels, a startlingly lucid account of hanging out with the biker gang of that name--yeah, he's engaging in typically Hunteresque behavior (shooting off a .357 through his window), but the prose is nothing like the (sigh) hallucinogenic tales related in later books (a lot of which I recognize are terrible). Or the other Fear & Loathing book of the 1972 campaign trail, where he displays a rather sophisticated understanding of that uniquely bizarre beast, American politics. I don't think David Halberstam (and I like him) is prepared to hammer out a 10,000-word piece about Howard Dean while amped on distillate of mongoose adrenalin, and even if he did, would you read it?

I never tried to imitate the Doctor, certainly not in any conscious way (though I once did imagine him as visiting my home, so that's close), because that would be stupid, though many tried. His rhythms were purely his own; and you certainly didn't have to like him, but you have to admit that you could pick one of his sentences out of pretty much any crowd. I don't think there are a terrific number of writers that you could say that about (just try to write a parody of Thompson's writing: if you can even come close to being as funny as the man himself--or as insightful--then my hat is off to you).

I would very much like him back.

Selah.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Thursday, 17 February
Odorono

I just got done watching The Daily Show, which started out with a piece on that hot new topic, bloggers in the news--or, rather, reporting the news. Shoutouts were given to Daily Kos and Atrios, among others (the supremely annoying Wonkette was even given a screen shot of her home page), cementing the notion that the dweebs have basically taken over. What is Nick Denton, after all, if not some hideous amalgam of Queer Eye, Real Sex and the New York Post?

I await the rise of the Mecha-Dweebs, whose nascence is already in evidence with the advent of Fucking Machines. (Look it up if you don't know, just not at work. [Summary for the lazy: fucking machines.])

Later on the program, for the usually lame interview segment, Stewart gabbed with Alan Cumming, who was ostensibly there to flog the obviously unwatchable movie Son of the Mask, but, happily, didn't. Instead, he and Jon spent some giggle-time discussing his new fragrance cleverly entitled "Cumming." I admit I laughed (better was the body lotion he plans to market called "Cumming All Over"), but a running spunk joke is only going to have limited mileage.

But I did think of several terrible jokes on my own! I present here some other celebrity fragrance suggestions.

Tom Smelleck

Magnum P.U.! Oh, lighten up, you goose! This scent will appeal to every hot-blooded mustachioed Republican who at heart just wants to capture the essence of a sweaty Hawaiian private investigator. Enlivened by high notes of salt spray, Corvette seat leather and John Hillerman.

Ashley Judd Hirsch--Shrew 'N Jew

This enticing concoction will have you wondering, "Am I on the private set of a horrible direct-to-rental movie?" These two relentlessly unbankable stars have teamed up to bring you an astonishingly pungent odor reminiscent of the unholy reek of Hollywood failure! Famed director Sidney Lumet says: "DIRECT yourself to the fragrance aisle and buy this stuff! Can I do another picture now?"

Alan Greenspan-Tasy

Fiscal miscalculation has never smelled so great! Take an olfactory journey with Alan as the hot sweat from your cleavage while you watch your IRA crater mixes with the undeniable scent of mishandled interest rates! (This product is not available for members of the EU, and besides they all smell bad anyway.)

Tom Shales' Unremitting Funk

T.V. party tonight, indeed! Black Flag's own Henry Rollins has proclaimed this new scent as "What the fuck are you talking about? Get that shit away from me. It smells like old hair." Mr. Shales' new fragrance will have everybody talking about you, possibly in a good way, though litigation suggests otherwise! Are you man enough to try this new fragrance before the FDA pulls it from the shelves?

Sterling Hayden's Purity Of Essence

Alan Cumming can market all he wants, but a real Man knows where to get his cologne. This product dries to a hard, scaly crust on the skin, just like a real man would expect, and shuns the fruitiness of the competitors; P.O.E. smells like Clorox and tastes like the Junior Prom, soldiers. Grab it and yank out a few drops, men; you won't regret it. Show those other fairy perfumes what real men like, and leave the spunk jokes out of it.

Tuesday, 15 February
Play On

Hello hello and happy late Valentine's Day! Do you hate this day? Do you sit and gloomily watch dirty movies on Cinemax? (No penetration. Bummer, huh?) Do you viciously excoriate your lousy friends with their lousy wives/girlfriends/mistresses for buying into such a lousy manufactured holiday? (Can you name me a non-manufactured holiday?) If so, you might be one of my friends!

Well, fuck that. I'll take any opportunity to go out with my girl and live it up. Sure, I had to cough up for some gifts. On the other hand . . . I got gifts! Hey, no biggie: I used to badmouth Valentine's Day too . . . when I was single. It's just what you do. But then again, I took time out to hate my coupled-up friends on a daily basis, out of sheer jealousy; I hardly needed a vacation day to do it. But whatever gets you through.

The wife and I, after exchanging GLORIOUS BAUBLES OF LUV, went out with a friend for some drinks at the Virginia Inn; we figured it was either entertain him or he'd stay home doing horrible things to his penis, and we didn't need that on our minds. After a couple hours, we figured it was safe to go meet our reservations at our restaurant and not have to worry about him slow-braising his dick.

We wandered over to Cafe Campagne, a relatively non-ludicrous place to chow, and settled in with a nice plate of unpronouncable cheeses. As accompaniment, we also had unpronouncable wine. "Try the Green-Veined Blaarpel with the Banded Snatch!" Okay. She looked at me funny when I threw my cheese into the wine glass; I was trying to make some sort of European shake, but I must have done it wrong. I tried to reason with her: "I'm letting the flavors meld." She looked unconvinced.

Then came the salad course: I had some straight-up greens in a sherry vinaigrette (which had the unfortunate side effect of giving me a Steve Perry earworm), and the wife had something involving goat cheese on toast. She ignored my entreaties to plunge these delicacies into her wine, which, if memory serves, was a nice Galoop.

Presently our entrees arrived, mine a nice steak frites, and the wife's some chicken corpse jauntily tossed onto noodles with a pan sauce. My steak was, unfortunately, undercooked ("Medium rare, sir?" It was blood raw); and when I showed it to our server, she was more than gracious about taking it back for further triage. (She could hardly have reacted otherwise: the thing was clearly barely out of surgery.) Meanwhile, the wife stabbed joyously at her lovely, inert chicken cadaver and its bier of noodles.

(I am happy to report that the steak, when returned, was perfectly cooked. These things happen. Stupid is the person who makes a huge issue out of these situations, for they are those who will surely taste a stranger's saliva.)

After our repast, we treated ourselves to dessert: a creme brulee for my girl (with a little help from me) and a cognac for myself (with a little help from her).

Then we came home. A glass of champagne. And a good night to you.

(Note: This was to have been published the night of the 14th, but Movable Type kept vomiting in my lap. Also, I was kind of drunk.)

Friday, 11 February
Street Hassle

I had a jolly time walking home from work the other day. So many new friends to meet!

First up was the fellow who, at the freeway onramp off of Olive Way, simply sat down in the middle of the street. He wore jeans, a ratty jacket, and carried in his arms an ancient radio that, as far as I could tell, was playing nothing, but this did not prevent the man from feeling rhythm (I would not be surprised if the apparatus was capable of playing old 78s. In fact, that would be cool. "Let's rock out to 'Sixty Minute Man' "!). As he sat on the asphalt (in front of cars, who honked forlornly), he held his arms out horizontally and did kind of a hippie wave with them, bobbing his head ecstatically. He was like the quietest, loneliest Phish concert ever. The cars continued to beep at him peevishly, and after a moment, he incorporated their noise as synocpation; he bopped to his feet and boogied over to the nearest car's driver-side window and gave the occupants a happy double bang-bang set of gestures with his hands . . . you know, like, "Hey, you are rad! I would enjoy having a key party with you and your wife!" Or something. Unmoved by this display of appreciation, the driver frantically scrambled to lock his door. The man held out his decrepit radio to the window in an attempt to share the Music of the Spheres with the car's occupants, but still the radio remained silent. The car veered around him onto the onramp, roughly at the same time I was veering around him, praying he wouldn't notice me. But he did: as I passed, he flashed me a gigantic grin and gave me the finger. I was actually pleased with this encounter, as it did not involve me talking to anyone.

I was not so lucky once I reached Broadway, where I was innocently making my way to the liquor store. I waited on the corner to cross the street, willing the light to change, when I was approached.

"Hi, sir! How are you doing?" This from a chirpy little dronelet wearing some yellow polyester jacket with an unfamiliar logo on it. I glanced down the street and noticed other yellow jackets. The bastards had blanketed the QFC block (a supermarket; basically the Kroger's of the Pacific Northwest), and were hassling the street's busiest area.

"I'm fine," I said stonily. Thanks to my accursed parents, I am pretty much trained to be at least minimally polite. Otherwise, I would have said, "I was great until some broad I've never met decided to bother me on the street." Or, "See that liquor store over there? I wouldn't need to go there if people like you were dead." But I didn't.

"Have you ever heard of PLAN?" she asked.

"No."

"Well, we're some sort of lousy organization that allegedly helps starving kids in hellholes everywhere, presumably by holding them hostage to Jesus-lectures before we give them donated food." I might be paraphrasing.

"I see."

"Maybe you've seen the movie About Schmidt?"

"I saw it on a plane." (Here my mind took time out to become exasperated with itself. Who fucking cares? Why are you talking to this person? How is this information relevant? Why haven't we bought liquor yet?)

This was obviously a BINGO! response that, like a dummy, I had provided. "Ah! Then you probably remember--"

My temper slipped a notch as I noticed that I had allowed a crossing-light cycle to pass by. "I don't have any money for you today," I interrupted.

"We don't accept cash donations," she smoothly replied, which certainly ruined my idea of winging a roll of quarters at her forehead. "What we do is take your name and address . . . "

Yeah, that was enough. I showed her all my molars. "No thank you. No." My mind was still wondering why I was simply unable to tell her to leave me the hell alone in the first place. She gave me a sad grin that clearly said, "You are a terrible person." Well, I knew that already, but I'm a happy terrible person. And now I'm not talking to you, so I'm even happier!

After the happy visit to the liquor store--which is kind of funny, since is there a liquor store that is not fundamentally depressing? There's always something, like the guy whose credit card I saw got declined when he tried to buy three minibottles of vodka. "Run it again!" he wailed, and I just wanted to sit down and be miserable for a minute, BUT--I wandered back out onto the not-very-mean streets., only to be confronted by my least favorite "homeless" scam artist.

"Got any spare change for foooooood?" he crooned, as he always does. He's a big blond guy, and his schtick is that he's perfected this man-boy persona that suggests that he's mildly retarded and helpless. He's been pulling this shit on Broadway for ten years, and it drives me crazy, to the extent that I have jettisoned my usual "must-be-nice" reactions for pure brutality: "Fuck no, you parasite." He does not drop his role for a second, and stares at me with a wounded look: but I have seen him about a billion times pulling out wads of bills to buy beer and lottery tickets. Once I walked into a local convenience store to get some smokes, and the bloody bastard was playing a "Mars Attacks" pinball game.

And this concludes my tale of being irritated by the possibly drug-addled, nonprofit volunteers, and the homeless. Hurrah!

Wednesday, 09 February
Fences

When I was a tot--third grade--we lived in an Oregon town called (you're not going to believe this) Shady Cove. Yes, it does sound like a show on FOX about the supernatural, but we did. We lived next to Victor.

Victor was a great old duffer; he did stonework, and had constructed a lovely terraced garden on the hillside opposite his house. He also had a really great hand-built stone fountain that he made for his front lawn. When he built out a back porch for his place, he ran into a stately old pine tree that impeded his progress. Unwilling, I suppose, to get rid of the tree, he built the damn porch around it. As a little kid, I was always taken by the neat hole in the floorboards and roof of the porch, and of the mere fact that a TREE WAS IN HIS PORCH!

Victor was always kind to me, and had weird paint cans full of little geegaws and trinkets that he would let me rummage through; I could always take what I liked. (I know this sounds kind of creepy and pederasty, and you're probably wondering when Victor was going to get around to removing my pants, but you'll just have to take my word for it that Victor was just a really nice old man.)

One morning on her way to work, my mom spied Victor; he was crumpled over one of his garden terraces. He had croaked. It's good (in some small way) that my mom discovered him; as an RN, she wasn't going to get the heebies about discovering a corpse, anyway. And he was found by a friend.

After his death, the house sat vacant for a little while, and then was bought by an awful family with an awful dog who liked to chase me every day, and filled me with daily terror, and eventually ended up viciously biting my best friend's leg.

And so it began that I would experience Bad Neighbors.

DORM

Everyone has a bad dorm neighbor experience. Mine is actually pretty boring. He was your average burnout, the kind of guy you wondered how he even got out of bed in the morning, and you generally wished he hadn't, especially when he'd say things like (I remember this exact quote), "This is the best love song ever made." He was referring to "I Melt With You." He displayed no hint of irony as he said it.

The only thing he seemed to be good for was selling Ecstasy, which I tried a couple times, and quickly became frustrated with it, since a drug that heightens arousal is kind of a pain in the ass when nobody wants to have sex with you. I realized Ecstasy really wasn't for me when I found myself telling a girl, "I really like your haircut. You should get that haircut every day."

I obviously went home alone that night, and, thanks to the drug, failed to sleep, so I was treated to burnout (1) having sex while (2) burning incense and (3) loudly playing Enya.

He probably makes six figures with Union Carbide or something.

OUT OF THE DORM, OUT OF HER MIND

When I moved off-campus, I got an apartment with a pal from Boston. We were barely tolerated by the management; they seemed to get upset when we had loud, drunken parties where my friend D. would run out to my balcony and squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out onto the cars parked below.

But we were positively adored by the neighbor across the hall, who was screamingly fucking crazy. My first inkling of this was when she knocked on our door--wearing, I kid you not, an actual housecoat--and presented me with some leftovers. "You kids can't afford much! Take some food; I have plenty!" And hey, I'm not too proud to eat leftovers. But what she was presenting was simply her evening's dinner plate with pushed-around, half-eaten food, covered in Saran Wrap. Lovely! I'm a hobo!

Crazy Lady reached her apex one unfortunate day when my friend D. was over, and she knocked on the door. I answered it, and she lunged inside, waving a crummy little Pink Panther doll. "Can you fix it?" she implored. We stared at her, and she raved for a little while longer about uncertain things. She waved the horrid little thing at us again, while D. and I wondered how to get her the fuck out of our space. D. finally got decisive, and snatched the doll from her grasp. "We'll take care of it!" he said, and relief flooded her face. We uneasily showed her our teeth as she backed out the door, tearfully thanking us for agreeing to mend her bloody Pink Panther doll.

D. got steely after that. "We've got to get the fuck out of here," he said. He marched into the kitchen and opened the freezer and threw the doll inside. D. was also very stoned, so I suppose the freezer made as much sense as anything. We composed a note for my roommate: "Please ignore the Pink Panther in the freezer."

DOWNSTAIRS

For a time here in Seattle, I lived on my own after the utter whoops-that-broke-horribly disaster of my first marriage. Part of that time was spent in a second-floor studio apartment sandwiched between a techno enthusiast (upstairs) and a raving lunatic (downstairs). We obviously all didn't move in at the same time, but when the three rivers all came to a confluence . . . well, I got phone calls.

The techno guy upstairs I could frankly live with. I really don't give a damn, and I can sleep through anything. The problem came when First Floor Loony moved in, because she was extraordinarily sensitive to noise. So then these things happened:

The third floor techno guy would be blaring some Propellerheads song. The first floor loony would go outside to hit my buzzer--which connected to my phone--to complain.

"Who is this?!"

"Uh . . . my name is Skot. Who the hell is this?"

"I am Debbie! I'm on the first floor, right beneath you! Can you please turn down your techno music?!"

"I'm not playing techno music!"

"I don't care what you call it! Turn it down!"

This is where I had to close my eyes for a moment.

"Debbie . . . I'm not playing any music. It's the guy above me. Call him."

"Oh!" There was a pause. "I'm sorry. You sound like a nice young man."

I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't. Every time third floor techno guy would play his music loud, Debbie would call me, but now, she knew me.

*phone rings*

"Hello?"

"Skot! Hi! This is Debbie! I live right below you!" (No shit?) "Can you please turn your music down?"

"Debbie. I'm not playing any music. I'm watching Ape Follies."

She called me every fucking time the guy above me played his loud damn music.

I avoid my neighbors now, of course. I remember a time when I didn't have to.

I sure miss Victor.

Tuesday, 08 February
Skotpourri

Saturday night was the big extravaganza: the celebration for the in-laws' 40th anniversary (coinciding as well with father-in-law's sixtieth birthday). Laboriously set up by the wife, it was a gathering of nearly twenty people, consisting of family, friends, in-laws to be (the wife's brother is engaged), uninvited friends, a flurry of small bats, and, for some reason, Eric Roberts.

While not strictly a surprise party--that would have been a bit much to pull off--the in-laws were certainly surprised at the turnout. They hadn't seen some of the guests in a long time, and in certain puzzling cases, ever; but they delightedly chatted with everyone in attendance, expressing their happiness at seeing . . . who are you again? "Eric Roberts! Remember Star 80? By the way, this is excellent cheese."

I must give props to our main waiter, who handled every request with swiftness and aplomb, save for one: he balked at our request for 20 separate checks, for some reason having to do with brittle wristbones or some such, so we gamely acceded to having just three checks for our three tables. This led to fiercely worded reminders to all in attendance (minus of course the in-laws) that, apart from the appetizers we provided, anything else anyone drank, touched, ruined, farted into or paid to go home with was their responsibility to cough up dough for. (Look, we would have loved to pay for 20 peoples' dinner and drinks, but we are but poor peasant folk, and we also really need a new duvet cover and stuff.)

(Eric Roberts was pissed, and stole away unnoticed during a toast, leaving us to deal with his order of chili fries and nine Manhattans.)

The evening was very nice, and Maw In-Law got to sing "their" song as accompanied by the bar's pianist; Paw In-Law, never known for being a stoic, gave a lovely speech that ran to four pages, including (believe your eyes, here) the recitation of the entire set of lyrics from a Celine Dion song. It was really charmingly corny, and I mean that in the best possible way, because he clearly meant every word he said. Then they exchanged ruby-studded rings, or they would have, had we not had to confiscate them to pay for Eric Roberts' ducked order, to say nothing of the guano damage caused by the small, excitable swarm of bats. (I wondered if that was a bad idea.) The in-laws got a little teary when they saw the waitstaff excitedly examining the bejeweled rings and biting critically into the golden bands, but were pacified when the wife and I promised to take them shopping for pants sometime soon.

Sunday was, of course, the Super Bowl, and so much gets written about it that I don't really need to get into it much. A couple of the fellows came over to watch, and there were Bloody Marys (and mine are acknowledged as the Finest in the World, goddammit), a daunting spread of chips 'n dip 'n something else my friend C. brought over called Mexican Meatballs, which were actually really good . . . for fifteen minutes, and then they all got cold and looked like malevolent shrunken heads. (C. took the leftover meatballs home, including the one that fell on the kitchen floor. He gave it a rinse in the sink before popping it in the bag, causing me to think that it looked like a malevolent shrunken meatball head left out in the rain, causing me to then think of "MacArthur Park" as done by Primus, and by then I just needed a fucking nap.)

Anyway, as has been widely noted, the Super Bowl itself was phenomenally boring, particularly the razzle-free-non-dazzle of that miserable first half. Confronted at halftime with alleged entertainment provided by the man who embodies everything about the NFL, Paul McCartney, we fled for other pastures, and found it in Animal Planet's weirdly brilliant $50-dollar budget competition, the Puppy Bowl. For three hours, Animal Planet just shoved five or six puppies into a fake tiny football field littered with toys and let them fuck around. PUPPIES! we screamed. It was just adorable. They yapped and bit each other's asses and gnawed on toys. I kind of wished that the Super Bowl would adopt Puppy Bowl rules and show Tedy Bruschi gnawing on Donovan McNabb's ass in a pileup, but not for very long. The evil shrunken meatfaces were glaring at me again, and I was getting unnerved. Probably time to put down the Bloody Mary. We flipped back to Paul McCartney to make sure we weren't missing anything too funny, but he was just pounding away listlessly on his piano while slowly being eaten by the gloaming that was encroaching onto the stage. "Get back!" he screamed, as he was devoured by the Jacksonville night. "Get back to where you once belonged!" We switched back to puppies right as he was being consumed by unheeding Langoliers.

Even the celebrated ads were all terrible. I'll only mention two, for they were the only ones to elicit vocal responses from myself and the fellows. One was the clear winner, the AmeriQuest ad featuring the guy who appeared to be slaughtering his cat in the kitchen, which wins my all-time best award for an ad featuring a guy apparently slaughtering his cat in a kitchen. A close second was the ad for GoDaddy.com, which showed an alarmingly buxom woman falling out of her top and gyrating in front of congress, which brought cheers from the room (well, me) mainly for being so unapologetically salacious and appallingly puerile that I had to give it points. It was like including a clip from "Beavis and Butthead" right in the middle of an "Upstairs, Downstairs" marathon.

So it was a pretty full weekend. (I passed on talking about Bronko's funeral, which was Friday, for what I hope are obvious reasons.) Next weekend should be a lot lighter, except I guess there's Valentine's Day to deal with, and the obligatory romantic dinner. I wonder if C. still has those meatballs.

Thursday, 03 February
I Think I Also Had A Headache

Not to get too dorky about it, but occasionally I hang out with online friends at this weird forum/place/nerd heaven where we do the usual stuff: BS, trade links, howl in outrage, vent, etc. Recently my friend Brad compiled a fairly comprehensive list of maladies that I have complained about (or have had attributed to me) over the past few years. I give you the summation (minor edits for clarity/privacy) as follows. It's been tough, apparently.

SKOT KURRUK IS DISEASED. Since arriving in 2001, he has suffered from a variety of illnesses and maladies, including Estonian neoplastic spread, scrofula, Charwoman's Itch, the Wooden Porcupine Fever, Brighton Beach Blotches, Estonian Goalie Pout-Rictus, the sweats, the chills, medulla rot and the Estonian All-Body Funk, hives, welts, histological monkey-fuss, shrieking neck, and the Estonian nut-shrivels, Estonian Flip-Flop Night Sweats, Estonian Spleen Rots, Estonian mind-weep, febrile neutropenia, lupus, river blindness, and of course, the Estonian Barking Moose Splenomegaly, Estonian Wet-Sock Stupids, spastic colon, rickets, gout, rheumatism, St. Vitus' Dance, flesh eating virus, flesh vomiting virus, and the Estonian Perineum Twitch, syncope, supraventricular arrhythmias, gynecomastia, clotted eyes, Hambone Fever, Dinkle's Happy-Be-Gone, and the Estonian Redeye, flop-sweats, Estonian Brain Chiggers, Estonian Giggling Whim-Whams, Estonian Brain Fleas, Estonian Spine Rot, Estonian pituitary mange, Estonian Doublewide Goiter, Estonian Howling Chancres, gout, rheumatism, and the Estonian brain gravy, Estonian Head Staggers, Estonian Feverish Corn-Shits, Estonian Raving Brain-Worms, Estonian Medullar Shilly-Shally, Estonian Fear Fog, Estonian Angry Ass, Estonian Twitch-Fingered Murder Voices, Estonian Dry Heaves, Lithuanian Cerebellum Rot, Estonian Brain Sweats, the vapors, the whim-whams, and the Estonian Face-Melt, Estonian Ululating Whim-Whams, Estonian Non-Authorized Ratfuck BARL, Estonian Dissonance-Ague, Estonian Jagged Fire-Trots, Estonian Cochlear Flapshuts, Estonian Sweaty Brain-Hates, Estonian Jumping Freak-Outs, Estonian Ragefleas, Estonian Butt-Pucker, and recently, the Estonian Melt-O-Brains.

WON'T YOU HELP SKOT KURRUK? Call now. Operators are standing by.

Bless you, Brad. I've always wanted my own telethon.

Wednesday, 02 February
A Bad Week

Paula Abdul was just on The Daily Show. The wife: "Is she drunk?"

I watched a little longer.

Skot: "My God. She's wasted!"

It's stuff like this that makes you want to hug your television. I imagine her getting chided by moral authority MC Skat Cat. "Not cool! Not cool to be drunk on TV! Hey, did you know I can lick my own asshole?"

Eh. Not much is funny this week. On Friday, dozens of us will be going to a funeral; Bronko's, whom I talked about last time. And IN THE NEWS has been the awful shooting death of Nicole DuFresne. This has apparently made CNN, which is a real broil temperature for our little theater scene here.

The thing I'm not supposed to say is, really, that I don't much care. I didn't know her. I'm sorry for my friends who did. But most of them didn't, from what I can tell. And yet local bulletin boards are clogged with grief, to which I say: Great! Except when I see comments like, "I never met Nicole, but . . . . "

Well, stop. Why are you here, anyway?

The most nauseating comment I've seen so far was a lamentation that the media never focuses on theater unless something crappy like this happens. As if this is somehow relevant. It's a moribund art form. Get used to this. This was not a death about "your community," or "our collective fuckall" or anything else. It's just a stupid, senseless death. It has nothing to do with our "community," and P.S., we've never had one in the first place.

I'm sorry. I'm certainly sorry for Nicole. The rest of the "theater community" can frankly go to hell. I know I'll get torched for this. I don't care.

I've got a funeral to attend on Friday.

Tuesday, 01 February
Excellent Choice

Every theater worth its salt has its own bar.

Not one they own, of course: theaters barely have enough money to put on shows. But they have bars, the ones that, when the shows are over, they repair to, to commiserate, or celebrate, or just to hang out and unwind. And so every theater also has its own bartenders.

When I was a member of Open Circle Theater here in Seattle--good years I would never want to give up, but also strenuous years that took their toll on me--our bar was called The Family Affair. The Family Affair was a blue-collar sort of place that had the virtue of proximity: it was three blocks away from our theater space. It also had the virtue of its proprietors: Bronko and Angela, a couple of reformed degenerates (coke fiends and coke runners in their times; tellers of "we fucked on the beach" stories, which were, in their own way, charming and yet kind of ghastly; and, finally, surrogate parents to a bunch of snotty, mouthy kids with a penchant for something as ridiculously dumb as live theater, for God's sake).

Bronko was well known for his well-used and familiar turns of phrase:

"Hey, easy money, how's it going?"

"What can I get you, Captain?"

Or, most commonly, after any drink order, no matter how outlandish: Excellent choice!" You could order a glass of spinal fluid, and Bronko would tell you it was an excellent choice.

There were other common routines, such as when Bronko would be introduced to, say, a new female companion. He would offer to show her baby pictures. "Oh, I'd love to see that!" some girl would inevitably squeal. Then Bronko would produce a doctored photo of a baby with a gigantic, two-foot erection. That this was never met with alarmed screams or complicated litigation is a testament to Bronko's easy gentleness, and that he was a man who, for Christ's sake, was just fundamentally good. I never, ever saw anyone who responded to him without good humor, except for the low-watt bulbs who failed to realize that he was completely prepared to turn people into interesting shapes when they tested his temper.

Bronko and Angela nursed us for years, tolerating our more ridiculous antics--Anniversary stripteases! Birthdays for the terrifying "Vagitarians!"--with more humor than we deserved. When, unsurprisingly, one or two of our group fell into fiscal despair, they had an obvious (and unquestioning) solution: Give them kitchen jobs. Once, Bronko drove a few of us home in his Caddy to save us cab fare. (Angela: "Bronko! Get off your ass and drive these kids home! I'm not calling that fucking cab company any more!")

And we--filled with drinks and maybe one of the Family Affair's diabolical foodstuffs--happily piled in. (Their food was, ah, memorable: One concoction called the Blue Ox or the Artery Grenade or something was a quarter pound hamburger topped with a slab of breakfast sausage, a fried egg, blue cheese and a defibrillator.)

When I first met Bronko, I did not know that he had been battling cancer for God knows how many years. He held on from the moment I met him for another ten. Some of those times were miserable (and, through my work, I happen to know his oncologist). He lived for longer than anyone had any bloody reason to. He was a tough son of a bitch, and I still remember his booming laugh, his jokes about having "the vapors" . . . and his damn Caddy, which he loved so much.

Bronko and Angela had to eventually leave the Family Affair thanks to some really scummy fuckover courtesy of a couple of their former employees and the landlords; I vowed never to darken the door of the new owners, and I am delighted to report that the new place, after a couple years, went right into the toilet.

When they lost the place--which angered and bewildered them--I know that Bronko had to sell the Caddy. He couldn't afford it any more. He and Angela had a group of us over to dinner anyway. They absolutely refused my offer to help pay for the rather extravagant meal, despite the fact that they had had to move to a cheaper house . . . and take in a renter to help defray living costs.

I got older. I got married. (And The Family Affair plays no small part in the history of our courtship.) And, to my shame, I lost touch with Bronko and Angela once the Family Affair was gone. I wonder what else I've neglected.

God, I miss that place. I miss that sense of belonging, of knowing that crossing the threshhold meant that I was protected, and loved, and that it was mine.

And I miss Bronko, who finally succumbed to his disease last week. He's dead. And, oh, I miss you, Angela, who is still alive, and utterly wrecked, and who doesn't know where to go, and God damn it, whom I have failed.

I am so sorry, Bronko. It's high time I gave Angela a call. I'm going to tell her all about you, from over here. Not that she needs it. But I do.

See you later, easy money.










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