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Monday, 30 October
My Girl Wants To Party Every Year

Sunday was truly a day of rejoicing, as the wife rolled over another birthday on the ticker, edging us ever more inevitably on towards our forties. And so we threw a little tapas-style shindig at our apartment and invited our pals over, asking them to bring some kind of finger food or snack or whatever. We're throwing a party; please supply it with food! People fall for this.

In preparation, the wife went into gear, and began fussing with the Kitchen Aid I got her as a gift. She made some loaves of bread, suitable for slicing up and stacking crap on, and also a flourless chocolate cake, which she later halved, slathered some chocolate goo in the middle and frosted. It was, it must be said, not the most attractive thing at this stage: it was a lumpen, misshapen, sad little thing, and it seemed to emit little hoots of gloominess as it crouched there on the plate. We were moved by the poor thing, and as the wife stared at it, she began singing in mournful tones, "Happy birthday to me," and suddenly, I was further moved to gales of laughter. At any rate, the wife soon enough pounced again on the Kitchen Aid and promptly churned up a nice bunch of Frangelico-laced whipped cream, which she then plastered all over the sad cake, and then gave it a final dusting of cocoa powder. After this bit of cosmetic foodery, it now resembled, as a guest later observed, "a giant Deviled egg." Every confectioner shoots for this sort of culinary camoflage: for instance, I like my pies to be shaped like Balkan states, and I prefer lollipops that take the shape of the bones in the human ear. Anyway. The happy news is, the cake ended up being delicious for all that.

Our guests certainly did not disappoint, apart from the fact that nobody showed up for the first 45 minutes--"Nobody likes me!" moaned the wife while I helpfully watched football--but when they showed, they brought the goods. Either we're accidentally hanging out with a higher class of friends or we're getting older, because the food that came with them, rather than being bags of chips or store-bought salad plates or half-eaten bottles of cocktail onions, were good. The first guy to show up--looking a little haunted by the fact that he got stuck with the "first arrival" tag despite his good efforts--brought prosciutto-wrapped figs. Figs? Prosciutto? Later, others brought things like Pecorino skewers with marinated vegetables; mozarella, tomato and basil salad; and wine! People brought wine! Nobody brought bottles of apple liqueur, say, to be hugged to one's body greedily, as if anyone on the planet has any desire to take it from anybody. Nobody hid a six-pack of Schaefer's in the dryer. And most importantly, I didn't see one person taking long pulls from my premium bar liquors. Who the fuck were these people, and what had they done to the rapacious, destitute booze jackals that we remembered so clearly?

There was one food item I did feel a deep, cellular desire to distance myself from, though part of it might have feeling a bit cheated. I was half-hoping that my friend D., who had so heroically showed up at last week's football fest armed with a crock pot filled with Li'l Smokies, would repeat this performance. Alas, it was not so. What he did bring was a shallow dish containing what appeared to be shrimp atop a layer of cocktail sauce--fine so far--but then layered over a substrate of cream cheese. This I gave a wide berth from where it lay malevolently on the counter, and made vague warding gestures at it, complete with subvocal invocations to the Elohim, asking for protection. Sorry, D., but that stuff terrified me. Others, however, seemed to not notice this challenge to the Forces of Goodness, and merrily ate away. I assume they are all now dead.

The rest of the evening went just swimmingly, with the usual things happening: the boys hunched in front of the (muted) TV, eyeing football games, murmuring in wonderment at how enjoyable the games can be without the inanities of the booth crew; the girls chatted amiably about . . . well, how would I know?, and occasionally rapped us on the foreheads when they felt we should be doing anything but watching football; and of course, we all talked smack about people who were not right there in the room to defend themselves or punch us for slagging on them. (This of course is the reason why parties inevitably drag on longer than anyone ever intends: everybody knows that once they leave, the conversation in the room will instantly turn to the urgent topic of why that person is such a boob.)

And of course, during all this, our guests unconsciously and wonderfully revealed their clear roots as stage actors by absolutely demolishing all the food in the place. Spend a decade or so in crushing penury while working on shows with titles like That Which Divides: Septumescent Moon, and pretty soon, you become programmed with this ineluctable imperative: When food is present, fall upon it like a starving bear. It is really something to watch a roomful of actors go at a spread of chow; it makes a plague of locusts look like a calm, methodical group of careful hostage negotiators.

Alas, all good things. As we escorted our friends out the door, drunkenly hurling depleted wine bottles and vicious imprecations at them as they fled, we were filled with warmth and cheer for our friends. For their company, for their good taste and generosity, for their simple friendship. And also, now that everyone had left, we could finally rip on each and every one of them.

Thanks, everybody! We had a great time, and we hope you did too. Maybe next year, we'll all be even older and wiser and fairer, and maybe when you leave next time, we won't have to crow, "Did you see her shirt? It looked like a rugby team fucked it and threw up on it." And maybe when you leave, you won't turn to each other and say, "Jesus, those guys throw the shittiest parties."

Anything could happen.

Thursday, 26 October
It's The End Of The World As I Know It, And I Feel Fabulous

CORRECTIONS DEPT.

My friend D. wrote me after my last entry to complain that I had misrepresented his utter dominance over C. and I at darts on football Sunday. He is correct. For the record, D. beat us stupid three games in a row, not two, as I reported. I would also like to point out that in one game, thanks to C.'s fuckup with the electronic dartboard, I was accidentally awarded 40 free points, which means that my defeat in that particular game was spectacularly humiliating. In my defense, all I can say is: D. wears hoodies and enjoys baking. So I've got that going on.

D. and I also noticed that day a rather irritating TV ad that kept cropping up. In fact, you see it all the time. It is an ad for Chevy trucks, and it features Mr. John Mellencamp (nee Cougar) playing one of his signature bland roots-rock songs, this time called "Our Country," while showing footage of, well, America. I guess. Mr. Mellencamp seems like a decent enough fellow, I suppose, though I still think he has to answer for John Cafferty. That, or he should really stick to licking Bruce Springsteen's shoes to a high shine.

The ad images that Chevy uses for the "My Country" spot are puzzling at best. "FROM THE EAST COAST!" John bellows, and you see a craggy hand picking up a doomed, delicious lobster headed for a barbecue. "TO THE WEST COAST!" he screams, and you see . . . a violent forest fire. Really? That's what we get? It gets more confusing. "TO THE DIXIE HIGHWAY DOWN HOME!" Winding up this uninspired Guthrie-lite chorus really moves the editors to baffling new heights, because all of a sudden you're seeing images from the aftermath of Katrina intercut with mighty Chevy trucks power-braking on dirt roads. "THIS IS OUR COUNTRY!" he concludes.

America: Delicious seafood; frequently catches on fire; rampant drownings; enjoys trucks.

The other spot that's really added to my bruxism habit is for some fucking shampoo and/or conditioner called Sunsilk. The ad features bullshit footage of women with alarmingly shitty hair being critiqued via voiceover by some insultingly fake flaming queen, who says things like "Fluff up all you want, but that hair is flatter than a training bra!"

Sigh. Look, I'm delighted that more and more, gay culture is becoming more accepted and prominent in American culture, whether it be via the astonishingly legless "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" or the underground success of "Grizzly Man," an unflinching documentary about the bear scene.

But the Sunsilk ads manage to make you just depressed as hell over the whole state of things. The flamier-than-thou voiceover work is grating and insulting, and at the same time serves to make sure to ram home the salient point: without Sunsilk products, you will not only look like trashy whores, but you will be put on television and derided by millions of anonymous screamy queens. By the time the ad has finished showing you these pitiful excuses for women--why don't they even care about their hair? What harridans!--and milked the fake-gay crap for all it's worth--"THUN-THILK!"--all you're left with is this gut-dropping feeling that any progress made in the last twenty years or so has all been for naught.

I know, that sounds like I'm overreaching, and maybe I am, but this particular ad just fucking infuriates me. It perpetuates the idea that women are lame or deficient or dumb if they don't show a less-than-perfect public face; it utilizes a boring stereotype of queeny gay males and their supposed (and bizarrely insensible) obsession with females; and, for Christ's sake, it's fucking shampoo. It's the same damned sulfates that are in every shampoo.

Now I have this dream of driving a Chevy truck into a big vat of Sunsilk, perhaps with John Mellencamp tied up in the passenger's seat. As I claw my way out of the greasy mess, I'll look back on poor John, struggling in his bonds as the goo rises above the red bandana I've gagged him with. "MMMF! MMMF!" I sympathize, Mellencamp. But you must be drowned for your crimes. Also, your split ends are horrendous, and anyway, the sibilant voices with prominent lateral leakage tell me I'm in the right.

THUN-THILK! I will make sure your corpse gets Hairapy.

Monday, 23 October
SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY

ON SUNDAY I LEFT MY WIFE!

. . . to go watch football with the guys. (Sorry. I just got done watching "CSI: Miami," and now I'm a sucker for this sort of shit.) My friend D. picked me up and we drove out to fucking Shoreline ("A car in every back yard!") where C. lives in his new house, complete with his game room right above the garage. Or "Fonzie's Place," as he correctly described it.

Normally our football gang, when we get together, also includes our friend K., but K. is in a big-shot rocking roll comedy band, and he had practice that day with them, so instead of joining us for some red-blooded American footing-ball, he hung out with his long-hair scab-pickers while they perfected their sneering techniques, flicked boogers at their roadies, and debated the logistics of fitting a harmonium, a lute and a theremin into an already loaded-down '89 Honda Civic. Anyway, K.'s band played Helena, Montana recently, so now he's too good for us, so C. and D. and I all agreed: sucks to his ass-mar. We settled in.

C.'s game room did not disappoint. For one thing, it has a pool table! A ratty, unlevel pool table! Which, I think we can all agree, is the best kind of pool table. Shitty pool players everywhere--and we certainly are--learn to love the frisson of excitement that only can be found in unpredictable table roll. It makes setting up subsequent shots really exciting, and it also lets us horrible players pretend that we had the next shot all planned, but that cursed table roll foiled our plans! Another pleasing feature of home pool tables is that they are invariably too big for the rooms that contain them, and so certain angles require crabbed shot angles, with the cue bouncing against the wall behind you, forcing you into near-masse-style shots, or to having to use the ignominious sawed-off house cue instead. C.'s mini-cue for those spots was named "Little Blackie" because C. is a racist who wishes he could have slave dwarfs. Also, it has black decorations on it. Anyway, at halftime, I destroyed C. in a game of 8-Ball by inducing him into sinking the 8 ball into the wrong pocket while I still had four balls on the table. I'm pretty good at pool.

D. didn't play pool, claiming that he "didn't like" the game, but in reality it's because while he's a good six feet tall, he also is a socialist with tiny little weenie hands, and he clearly feared my prowess at this mighty game. Instead, he decided to demolish C. and I in a couple of games of darts (for what game room does not have darts?). D. smoked us both twice in a row, but it must be pointed out that C. and I had, by this time, already consumed a couple beers, while D., who does not drink, had not. So, in other words, D. cheated. Congrats on those empty victories, D.

Speaking of consumables! Oh, we had a fine spread. D. had brought a mighty crock pot half-filled with Li'l Smokies, wallowing in a heavenly bath of barbecue sauce. We stamped our feet like toreadors as the pot slowly heated. While we waited for the tiny little hot dogs to come up to temperature, we sated our appetites with . . . jumbo hot dogs! C. had broken out the Foreman grill for the bastards, and so we manfully wrapped our lips around gigantic wieners and stared at the televised images of heavily muscled men grabbing other men and passionately pulling them to the ground. In time, we did also sample the savory little wieners as well, glistening and plump, and marveled at the salty juices inside. MEN! Yes, we were men.

We had other snacks, of course. Bags of chips! Or . . . well, I'm not sure what they were. One bag was filled with a bunch of shit like Chee-Tos, pretzels, little hunks of tortilla chips, peanuts, photinos, marbles, mahogany splinters, clumps of hair . . . I think the brand name of the stuff was "SKUNGE!" and it had an adline something like "The tailing pond of snack foods!" And it really was like the Superfund site of snackables. There was also a twenty-five-pound bag of something that we were too nervous to open, brightly labeled as "Human Arms." C. kicked nervously at the bag and said, "It was on sale at Costco."

We had a great time, apart from the actual football game unfurling in front of our horrified eyes. Already down our hobbled star running back Shaun Alexander, out with a busted foot--Jesus Christ apparently has nothing on the mickle powers of John Madden and his lousy curse--we then stared unhappily as Matt Hasselbeck left the game after having his knee rolled over by some oaf; after that, the game turned into a Benny Hill routine, complete with "Yakety Sax" playing whenever Seneca Wallace touched the ball.

It's too bad that K. missed it, really. We had a gay old time.

Wednesday, 18 October
Skin Trade

Last Thursday--a week ago--I wandered past my boss's office. He had these odd little sculptures on his desk, so I ducked in to look at them. They were little squat white things; they looked like trophies from some sort of Abstract Olympics.

"What the hell are these things?" I asked.

"Melanoma displays," he said. I picked one up and looked at it closely. Sure enough, it was a little model of a particular kind of melanoma, in this case malignant melanoma. "It's a little doodad that clinicians can have around as a help in diagnostics, I guess. Some drug company gave them to me." Sort of like those sets of fake teeth that you see on sitcoms when someone goes to the dentist, but you never see in real life.

"Do you like them?" he asked awkwardly, probably because I was still staring at one of them intently. He must have felt like kind of a tool asking that.

"Oh, they're great!" I said, and put the thing down quickly. Smooth. I mentally donned the tool-shoes, mentally taking them glumly away from my boss. "They're pretty awesome." He looked at me oddly, and in my mind, I began lacing up the tool-shoes and straightening my tool-cuffs. You're a tool, I told myself, and adjusted my tool-lapels.

What I had been staring at was the model for malignant melanoma, and what I realized was: Hey. That looks exactly like that thing right under my beltline! Right where my pubes sort of dwindle down into lazy gut-hair, so, you know, the awesomest part of my body.

See, I've had this mole. And it did this freaky thing for a while where it swelled up painlessly, turned into some strange groinal continent, shed a bunch of hinky skin, and then reduced itself down into a little weird spiral of obnoxious-looking mispigmentation. I had thought, for a while, dimly: I should get that looked at. You know, by the Green Lantern, maybe. "Ring! What's with this guy's creepy mole?" Not: "Hey! You might want to have a medical professional examine this!" Because fuck that.

But then I saw those terrible things on my boss's desk last Thursday, those little totems of oncology, and I thought of my crummy goddamn freaky fucking mole . . . I don't know what happened. It looked exactly like what was right below my beltline. Son of a bitch.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist that very day. In fact, I found one that was in the same building in which I work, ten floors down. I called them up.

"What's the nature of your visit?"

"I have a misbehaving mole. I'm hoping it's not malignant."

"What's it been doing?"

Three-card Monte.

"It, uh, if it isn't new--maybe it is--anyway, it grew, uh, above the skin, and then it was flaky for a while, and now it, uh . . . it's kind of funny-looking."

"I see." You've got to love unflappable receptionists. "And may I ask how you found us?"

I closed my eyes at this point. "I found you on the Premera website," I said honestly. And I had! But why I had really chosen them? Because their offices are in the same building as where I work. Ten floors down. Yes, I make potentially crucial medical decisions based on spatial expediency. For all I know, they're a vampire farm with designs on my unimpressive neck.

It went very quickly, the exam itself. The doc introduced himself, and then spent little time in saying, "Well, let's see this rascal!" Rascal. I closed my eyes again, and he asked, "Are you okay?" I resisted the urge to reply: "Well, you said 'rascal,' and that's kind of freaking me out." Instead, I peeled down the front of my pants and lay back on the fucking doctor's table so the poor bastard could bow down and take a good look at my sorta-pubes. He snuffled down around my crotch for a while using some sort of loupe-like thing to examine my strange bunch of epithelials.

There was a nurse there as well, of course, who sort of tugged on my pants with the kind of urgency that I would normally find thrilling, but in this context, it was just a drag.

"Yeah, I'm going to need to take a sample of that, buddy," the doctor said. The nurse stopped pawing professionally at my groin. I asked him what all the changes in my mole meant. He helpfully said, "I have no idea."

"How big of a stick am I going to get?" I asked. I was waiting for him to haul out some terrifying large-bore needle.

"Oh, I'm going to numb you up," he said briskly. The nurse once again lavished some attention on my near-penis, rubbing it with a pad, and then cruelly jammed a needle into my belly. "Sorry, sorry!" they both yelled, and I leaned back and thought dismal thoughts. You're being eaten from the inside. You have aggressively malignant boner disease, and in three weeks your dick is going to fall into someone's salad, and frankly, you deserve it. After the local, the doc didn't just give me a needle aspirate: he fucking carved the whole goddamn thing out of me, possibly with a rusty shovel.

I honestly had no idea that some biopsies require stitches. But stitches I got. They are still bristling from my low belly; I tickle them on occasion when it suits me. I have been flicking at them for a whole week as I waited for the pathology results to come in. The mole is, as far as I can tell, completely gone. I guess the guy just chopped the whole thing out. The stitches come out in one more week.

I've been working on cancer trials for fifteen years. Eight years ago I managed to convince myself that an atypical nevus on my neck was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had a co-worker whose stomach complaints exasperated everyone for months, right up until she died of gastric cancer.

I got the call today. There's no malignancy. Probably a lot of people with much more practical medical knowledge are laughing at this whole thing. That's fine. I have a mole--or had a mole--with odd pigmentation and not much else, never mind the creepy physiological changes. But I'll tell you this: I was fucking scared.

You're all stuck with me for a little while longer.

Monday, 16 October
'Tis The Season To Prejudge Movies

It's that time of year again! Summer has come and gone, and with it goes all of the big summer movies! It's fall! It's fall! It's time to ROLL OUT THE HORSESHIT!

God, I get all tingly. Let's prejudge some movies!

Saw III

As everyone knows, the first Saw was made for twenty-five cents by a couple of dreary perverts who listened to one too many Rob Zombie songs and then went on to make equivalent of the GDP of Chad, and all of this despite a risible performance by Cary Elwes, who appeared at times a little too eager to chop off his own foot. Maybe he wanted a fair shot at the director. God knows I'd need to be chained down if someone handed me that script.

But for all that, the wife and I kind of liked the gummy, dumb atmosphere of that first one. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was garbage--heavily machined, clumsily shot, Danny Glover's spinal block--but earnest, infectiously gleeful garbage all the same.

Then came Saw II, a thoroughly repellent and nauseating affair that carried the Mephitic stink of cashing in. Cut from the same dreary cloth as Eli Roth's nauseating torture porn film Hostel, Son of Saw featured touching scenes like the one where a girl is thrust into a well full of hypodermic needles, where she thrashes wildly, provoking heart-rending sympathy from the viewer, who feels exactly the same way.

So, what's in store for Saw III? Here's a tidbit from IMDB:

Trivia: According to 'Darren Bousman' , the fans of the "House of Jigsaw" Message board heavily influenced this film.

This is excellent news and should cause fans to take heart. People who hang out on internet message boards are the only people worth listening to these days. I think we can all agree on that. Thumbs up, producers! I can't wait for the scene where the vampire Democrats come on Paris Hilton's hair.

Flags of Our Fathers

Well, my father is Estonian. I look forward to loving shots of that proud Baltic banner waving in a chill wind.

Sigh. Look, I admire our veterans as much as the next guy, but after being anointed as The Greatest Generation and all the rest, can we give it a fucking rest? Clint Eastwood trades in his burnish-cam for gritty-cam in this story, I guess, about one of history's favorite staged photos. It all kind of bums me out, since I really liked Unforgiven. Then came the execrably titled Million Dollar Baby and its Hillary Swank stick-armity, and now this fucking pile of shit.

You heard it here first! Fucking pile of shit. I have no intention of seeing this movie any more than you have any plans to go see whatever that laughable thing called The Marine is that's being limply flogged these days.

I turn again to IMDB to provide damning evidence of this film's badness, and IMDB always comes through:

1. Jared Leto turned down a key role in order to commit his time to his band, 30 Seconds to Mars.

Read that a few times to yourself in a dark room late at night. That one sentence is ten times more terrifying than Saw III could ever hope to be.

2. Writing Credits: Paul Haggis

Yes, the same guy who wrote last year's Oscar winner, the widely loathed Crash. Oh boy!

3. Ryan Phillippe .... John "Doc" Bradley

Hold me.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Oh my God.

Look, this isn't even fair. Are there parents who are really so pliant, so completely fucking desperate to shut their awful children up that they will willingly succumb to nightmares like this? There must be, because there's three of them now.

This . . . object . . . features two of planet Earth's most offensive personalities, Tim Allen and Martin Short, and then for further abuse, throws in the once-blazing-hot Ann Margaret, apparently just for the pure sadism of it all. The writers probably have her breaking her hip or eating a pile of reindeer testicles or something. Meanwhile, I'm sure Tim Allen can be found gruffing it up while making fart jokes and then we can cut over to Martin "Will Mince For Screen Time" Short licking a dog's ass. Hey, it's a holiday movie!

Note that IMDB lists Kevin Pollak and Judge Reinhold in the cast. You have to kind of feel bad for Kevin Pollak. You kind of have to judge Reinhold.

Pffft. Saw III? Give me a break. We've found this season's true horror movie. Torture doesn't come any purer than this.

Thursday, 12 October
Equus

I have, I must confess, unpleasant memories of horses. For a few years, encompassing the fourth grade through the seventh, I think, we lived on a horse ranch where part of the rental deal was taking care of some beautiful Arabians and a few other farm animals, including one memorably crabby bull that we dutifully fed until he got turned into steaks. The horses, perhaps picking up on this treachery, spent most of their time trying to murder me. Me--not their jailer--just the littlest, dumbest, and most vulnerable little schmoe who was stuck feeding them.

An early unfortunate memory doesn't even have to do with the gorgeous Arabians. It was, instead, an older Quarter horse, a proud American breed, strong and hellishly fast; think of them like Ford V-8s. My father was riding a really gentle old guy, a big roan that was no stranger to riders, and was largely regarded as unperturbable. He was riding around in a nearby field while me, my mother and my grandmother looked on; and after a bit, he swung over to me to give me a ride. He reached down a hand and swung me up behind him.

What I didn't realize at the time was, as my leg arced over the beast's back, my right leg managed to catch his tail, and I sat on it.

Horses, uh, hate this. The Quarter horse sure did, and he commenced to buck like, twice. My father and I, neither of us being rodeo riders in any way, immediately were thrown into the troposphere and then fell onto the welcoming ground. I still remember my grandmother screaming, just before we began our unfortunate parabolas to the ground, "Scotty! No!" Good advice, grandma!

My father sprung a rib, and I got a mild wrist sprain. Grandma was force-fed some brandy.

The other two episodes I recall of felonious horseplay (Ha! See what I did there? Oh, fuck you, me.) involved a particularly unbalanced Arabian stallion, a horse so flighty and weird that he had to be confined to his own meadow, lest he be found eating ducks or setting up craps games in some blighted pasture corner with the other impressionable horses. This guy--a real piece of work--really lived up to the Arabian horse stereotype in that he was hot-blooded and excitable and faster than hell; Arabs are slighter in build than many other breeds, and known for their unpredictability. This fucker was like an airfoil with a hard-on.

Once I was crossing his (large) pasture towards a placid pond that adjoined the property; to be perfectly honest, if I remember correctly, my intent was to go to the pond to go throw rocks and crush a few of the native frogs. (Little boys are, frankly, tiny terrorists and utterly without conscience.) I was halfway across, and keeping an eye on the skittish horse, when, unfortunately, a car drove by the nearby dirt road.

The Arab fucking flipped out, because, well, he was a real asshole. He took about two seconds to hit a full gallop--and these beasts can get up to 40 mph and more if they feel like it--and he was heading straight for me, whether or not by luck or design . . . I don't know. I was caught out in the open field, and no cover was in sight. He was on me before I could even think what to do. So I just dropped and covered up, going fetal.

Human memory is notoriously unreliable. We routinely fill in gaps and then convince ourselves that that was "what happened." It's been proven that we invent things all the time in the name of irreducible memory. All I can tell you is this: He ran right the fuck over me. Make of this what you will.

I dropped to the ground, covering my head and drawing my legs up. This was instinctual. I remember the rich smell of the heavily horse-fertilized soil. I remember hearing an incredible thundering tattoo of hoofbeats all around my body, one near my head, one near my stomach, others . . . I don't know. I remember the light darkening as his body passed over mine. I remember his awful, freaked-out whinny, but maybe that was later. Moments later, the car was gone, and he was back to calmly grazing. I opened my eyes and saw the hoof marks around me.

There's no reason he didn't smash me into field chum that day except, I guess, dumb luck. I had been run over . . . and totally missed.

You should watch this guy, I thought. Kids, after all, think nothing of brushes with death, because as far as they are concerned, they're immortal.

Later:

I still had to feed the fucking bastard horse. I would do this as part of my morning chores, along with feeding the fucking idiot chickens, and so forth. (This was a real drag when I started taking Driver's Ed, so I had to get up an extra hour early to get all that shit done.) They were of course fed in grain troughs in their stalls in the barn; generally no biggie. The horses all knew when the food was supposed to arrive, and they'd wait in their stalls, hanging their heads over the doors for me to come for their chow. Even this guy! Usually he'd be there with the other Arabs, adorably hanging their giant heads over, waiting for breakfast.

One day I showed up, and the horse was in his stall. Backwards. His ass was pointed towards me as I came to the door. He was my last feed. There wasn't any way in hell I was going into this guy's stall with his ass to me, three feet away. I kicked the door. He just stood there.

"HEY!" I yelled. I kicked the door and yelled a few more times. Nothing. He just stood there, in the stall, twitching his tail.

I looked at my watch. If I took too long, I'd miss my bus, and then I'd have to wake my parents, and they'd be pissed off about having to run me the seven miles into town, and Jesus Christ, fuck this fucking horse, man. You'd think I'd have learned.

I slipped the drop-lock on the stall door and eased myself in, hugging the wall, cooing meaningless bullshit to the horse. "Breakfast, breakfast, I'll be out in a minute." His tail twitched lazily. I upended my steel bucket of grain into his trough: it was going to be okay. He was just being an asshole, as usual. I edged back to the stable door, cracked open so he couldn't get out, but so I could still whisk it open and escape quickly.

If you've only seen horses on television, it's like, well, anything else you've seen on television. Television is deceptive. It's one thing to say, "Boy, that horse (or sprinter, or Alpine skiier, or race car, or whatever) is really fast." No. Horses are fast. He kicked at me with his right left foot, right at my head. If his tail hadn't begun twitching more erratically, I might not have noticed, but then, I was watching him every second. Or maybe I just probably got really lucky again. He kicked.

I had only the steel bucket in my right hand, and as soon as I saw the flash of movement, I brought the bucket up in defense. His hoof smashed into the bucket, which promptly smashed into my face, which also promptly smashed my terrible, cheap glasses. I staggered back against the stall door, and the fucking horse gave a nervous whinny and ran out into his lonely field, his food momentarily forgotten. I scrambled out of the stall, latched the lock, and nervelessly took a personal inventory.

I had: one (1) relatively undestroyed (albeit startled and unhappy) face; one (1) completely demolished steel bucket, complete with a rough cast of my profile; and also one (1) pair of wrecked glasses, which I actually had to fish out of the fucking horse stall, which wasn't that worrisome since the homicidal horse had abandoned the stall.

I panted for a while, trying to gather my wits. I thought: Jesus Christ, that fucking horse almost kicked my brains in. I thought: What time is it? I looked at my watch. I thought: Aw, fuck, I'm going to miss my bus. I thought: I hate that fucking horse. I thought: Seriously, I'm going to miss my bus. I thought: I don't need this shit.

I got rid of the bucket.

I only told my parents about it years later.

I didn't miss my bus.

Monday, 09 October
The Best Kind Of Nothing

I know I'm really starting to get the hang of this blogging thing when I start half my entries with some variation on the phrase, "Not much has been going on lately, but . . . "

It was an uneventful weekend. The wife, on Friday, did go to see a play featuring many friends; I did not. It was a shitty week, frankly, and I had to work late that day, so I just showed up after the show was over for the opening night party. I ran into the director there--a good friend--and said, "Sorry I didn't come for the show, but . . ." and prepared to launch into my tale of not much woe, but he cut me off, saying, "But you didn't want to." It seemed unwise to contradict such a succinct summation. "I'm here to drink your free booze," I said. "Excellent!" he said, grabbing a bottle of whiskey. This is what real friends do: they labor to tolerate the myriad of ways in which you are a disappointing asshole.

I did have a lovely dinner with the wife on Saturday. We had what we call a tapas night--just many little plates of stuff like salamis, olives, bread, chorizo, cheeses, lightly steamed vegetables, etc., and we just graze. It's simple and great and, best of all, is a killer way to see how all kinds of different foodstuffs go with whatever wine one has chosen to sample that evening.

It really was a lovely dinner, so I naturally followed my instinct to see if I could ruin it. I picked up a nice piece of pastrami, a thinly-sliced tatter of a morsel, put it in my mouth, and then let a large flap of it hang out of my mouth, as if it were a horribly maimed lower lip. Then I leered at the wife. "EW!" she said, and laughed. My tens of readers will recognize this as being fairly emblematic of my level of humor.

"Wud?" I asked innocently. "You wouldn't lub me if I god indo an industrial aggsident and I looged lige thid?"

This is a hoary joke of mine that I never tire of. "You wouldn't love me if I got into an industrial accident and looked like this?" is a question I have plaintively asked after sticking grape tomatoes up my nose, after putting my arm around the back of my neck and hooking the corner of my mouth, after jamming small screwdrivers in my ears and hanging Christmas ornaments off of them. "If you really loved me, my appearance wouldn't matter," I've said after rolling my eyes into the back of my head while my gums were packed with citrus rinds.

The wife is no fool, except for the whole marrying-me part. "What on Earth would cause your lip to look like a piece of pastrami?" she asked sensibly, while I worked at flapping the piece of pastrami ghoulishly.

"You don't love me any more," I said morosely. This is another stock line. "You'd leave me if I got the pastrami-lips."

"I . . . well, it's a good thing it'll never happen," she said primly. I wailed in horror.

"Aaaaaaaaaahhh . . . don't leave me and my pastrami-lips! Kiss me!" I leaned in impulsively for a deli-kiss, and the wife recoiled. "You won't kiss my pastrami-lips?" I was really warming to the phrase pastrami-lips; I gave my head another little shake, and the slice of pastrami waggled enticingly, anchored in my mouth by my tongue.

My horrified wife had a question: "Listen. Would your pastrami-lips--" (Yay!) "--only look like pastrami? Or would they taste like pastrami, too?"

It was a good question. I gently masticated the meat pensively as I thought about it. I had to be honest, especially after I looked at my glass of wine. "I hope it wouldn't taste of pastrami all the time," I said. "I'd hate to open a nice bottle of Malbec and have it taste like pastrami."

"I wouldn't want you to taste of pastrami all the time," she agreed. I still had the awful slice of meat hanging out of my mouth, and she eyed it angrily. "I don't like the pastrami-lips," she said, suddenly restive.

So I slurped the meat into my mouth and ate it. We finished the rest of the meal without incident.

What I said earlier about friends? It goes double for spouses. Easy for me to say: I don't have to be friends with me, least of all be married to me. I don't know what I'd do without these good people. I'm lucky to have them around. They allow me to fuck around, to be my usual self-indulgent self, to play without consequence. Without these people, my beloved wife, my beloved friends, I'd never bother to start off writing something like:

"Not much has been going on lately, but . . . "

Thursday, 05 October
The Wreck Of Edwina And Harold

The legend lives on from the grad students on down
Of the big LARP called Half-Elves Are Gloomy
The LARP it is said took place in a shed
Which was cramped, it was dusty, not roomy.

Harold was there, having braided his hair
And his character was Kells of the Silver
Edwina he met in that dark oubliette
And his heart was captured forever.

Edwina the Dwarf was called Slatherton Tarf
And she wielded a great mighty hammer
Harold and she, they loved fiercely and free
And they shared an adorable stammer.

The questing heroes had astonishing THAC0s
And they ranged from cold west to bright east
Never leaving the shed, out of shame it is said
Fighting kobolds and displacer beasts.

Gelatinous cubes proved to be idiot rubes
That the couple would merrily slaughter
Mind flayers were fought in a psionic onslaught
So to rescue King Devilwind’s daughter.

But Edwina one day announced “I-I’m g-gay,”
Harold was riven and then torn asunder.
“Her name is Leaf Mossy, she’s an Elf and an Aussie
And I’m leaving you, I’m moving down under.”

Edwina moved on and Harold cried on the lawn
Outside the shed that had held their shared passion
He tore at his braids and called out to the shades
Of dead loves as is the Half-Elvish fashion.

Harold grew old and lonely and cold
And he sometimes reminisced of Edwina
Memories of battle and halting Dwarf prattle
Drove him to drink in a lonely cantina.

He died in that bar, a Toyota his car
And he slipped into black with a shiver.
He whispered, they said, “After I’m dead
Remember me, Kells of the Silver.”

The legend lives on from the grad students on down
Of the big LARP called Half-Elves Are Gloomy
The LARP it is said took place in a shed
Which was cramped, it was dusty, not roomy.

Wednesday, 04 October
I Am Trying To Break Your Toilet

The wife and I have been living in our current residence for two and a half years. Frankly, we love it. It's a condo building, but we do not own the apartment; its owner is, the last time we checked--which was two and a half years ago--a pastry chef at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I have literally had one conversation with the man, and that was the day we moved in and noticed that the toilet was broken.

(Is there anything more dispiriting than taking a rather satisfying dump and then realizing that the recalcitrant toilet is simply giving you a firm shake of the head? I submit that there is nothing more depressing than taking a crap and finding out that the toilet is malfunctioning. You feel betrayed. Then you have to morosely trudge out of the bathroom and tell people--people you love--that you somehow broke the crapper. There is no good way to pull this off without feeling humiliated.)

Anyway, after a lot of confused phone calls--on moving day--I finally found myself on the end of a phone call with my new landlord, outraged and squawking, wondering why I was demanding a new replacement toilet. Hanh? Things had gotten garbled, and I explained to the man, who was probably staring resentfully at his neglected creme brulees, that no, I'd really just like a plumber to come over and fix my fucking toilet, which was still smirking over in the corner of the bathroom, with my wretched turds still lurking merrily unflushed in its fucking bowl. Please?

You wouldn't think that, after such an inauspicious moving-in, we would still like to buy this place. But we would. And we drop hints about it all the time, such as the sticky notes I attach to our monthly rent checks, which crudely depict me fellating a Bellagio pastry chef. But we get nothing. We love this place; if it has anything wrong with it, it's the horribly in-need-of-replacement-if-not-eradication of the carpet, which some loon decided should be ivory in color. It has since devolved into a sort of nicotine shag (hey, I smoke out on the deck, okay?) that displays every single insulting stain possible, the most egregious from when we had the stove replaced: it looks like a morphine addict was dragged out of our kitchen, leaking fluids from every possible opening.

We'd still very much like to buy this place. The condo members constantly ask us: "Are you guys going to buy it or what?" They love us, and constantly give us helpful building hints. "10A has lung cancer! You guys would be so cute in 10A." Which is sweet.

My friend K. lives only two blocks away from us. And her building has gone condo. K. is emphatically not being courted by the new regime, unlike us, and the results have been . . . startling. She invited us over a couple weeks ago to see how it is when people stop wanting you in their building.

"Welcome to Bosnia!" she chirped as she buzzed us in. The laughter died in our throats as we entered a hallway stripped of its vintage wallpaper. A heat register lay torn out of its socket in the hallway like a set of casually discarded dentures; the hallway carpet had been torn up and left rolled carelessly into corners. We glumly trod across bare cement. I found myself thinking about recovery nuts ripping copper wires out of the walls. It really did look like a crack den, except that nobody here smoked crack. Hell, nobody here smoked.

It wasn't just the interior, which was bad enough. The developers had also made sure to--for some reason--remove every single bush, tree and green thing that surrounded the building, including a particularly fine aspen. They just ripped all that fucking shit out, ostensibly so they could paint.

And paint they did. I . . . I wasn't able to find any images to post to display this paint job, and I fear I don't have the vocabulary to describe it. It's not an attractive building to start with, a boxy thing with no inherent charm. It was just fine sitting there being all beige and all, and at least it had some nice trees around it. But then . . . hoy. Look, the building now stands out on satellite imagery. In some sort of Mondrian-meets-Tristan Tzara spasm, the owners opted for some non-Euclidean geometrical color scheme that features gold, turquoise and cranberry quadrangles that owe absolutely nothing to anything resembling sanity. Especially in this very geen city, this building, denuded of all masking plant growth, simply looks like a demented child's mad arrangement of colored blocks. It is an unequivocal horror.

K. sensibly moved out. The question is, Who on earth is moving in?

This new condo recently put a sign out advertising the newly vacated spaces. It reads:

VERTIGO The city is a game of tag This is your base VERTIGO

Are you joshing me? This whole thing makes my hair fall out. I'm upset that I live within walking distance of something this awful.

I wish I could have saved K. It was a lovely apartment with a lovely view. Now it's a ridiculous joke of a building with an extravagantly embarrassing sign in front of it.

It's too late for K. But maybe I can figure out how to take that one disastrous shit in just one apartment. I will break their shiny new toilets.

I can bring these fools to their knees.

Monday, 02 October
That Was The Weekend That Was

It was another chilling weekend at Chez Pfaff! Oh, how the icicles pierced our hearts! We visited a thoracic surgeon! "There's nothing wrong with your hearts," he declared flatly. Fuck you, surgeon.

It didn't start that chillingly. On Friday we were at the video store staring at the dismal, picked-over "Recent Arrivals" section, glumly noting that the only thing left to rent was some limp horror thing called, imaginatively, Stay Alive. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming sequel Why Don't People Listen? and then the capper of the trilogy, I Don't Know Why We Even Bother To Tell People To Stay Alive, Since These Dipshits Always Die. Naturally, we leaped to rent it.

But we needed a first act, something to watch while we were still lucid. I glared at a shiny DVD cover advertising Dorf on Euthanasia and suppressed a shudder. We wandered over to a section called "Controversial Classics," and looked over titles like Crash and Caligula and, troublingly, Dorf on Fisting.

In the end, the wife and I decided on Midnight Cowboy, a film neither of us had ever seen. All I knew about it was that it had won best picture, the only picture to do so when saddled with an X rating. "All riiiight!" I thought. "Bring on the fuckin'!" I was inwardly pleased that the wife agreed so easily to bring home a critically acclaimed spank movie.

What a rip! Midnight Cowboy features no sex at all! Unless you count the spectacle of Jon Voight getting blown in a theater by no less a personage such as Bob Balaban, and really? I don't count that as sex. I count that as cinematic ambush. "Hey, weird! I think that's Bob Balaban! Boy, he's young! Say, what's he doing? He's . . . he's . . . oh, NO, PLEASE STOP THAT, BOB BALABAN!"

All kidding aside, the wife and I were both utterly charmed by this movie, which is frankly touching as hell. The X rating, incidentally, was later rescinded by the still-idiotic MPAA to an R once cooler heads prevailed (the X was stamped on the film evidently only because the main character was a gay hustler), and the questions the film mainly raises today are: What happened to Jon Voight in the lonely years after this film? Did he eat himself? And: Should we reinstate the X rating after all these years because of the scene with Bob Balaban?

This fine film--which is, I stress, awesome in practically every way, including its reluctance to SPELL OUT EVERY FUCKING THING FOR Y'ALL--also of course has Mr. Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo, in a lauded performance which I frankly found pretty showy in a really Hoffmanesque manner that would later re-manifest itself in things like Rain Man, but I could handle it. Hoffman anyway has since attained the kind of silver-haired eminence that allows he and his ilk (Bobby DeNiro) to act in skin-peeling horrors like Meet the Fockers without the opprobrium that he would otherwise so deservedly receive.

The less said about Stay Alive the better, so naturally, I will speak more about this acid bath of a movie. Starring a bunch of anonymous young long pig marching ever onward to slaughter, this movie manages to deal with the following issues currently confronting society: Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Czech slaughter queen, who inexplicably, in this movie, at some point moved to a black obelisk in Louisiana, and her taste for the blood of virgins; LAN parties; Bathory's subsequent insertion of her digital self into a bootleg video game, and also real life; the nature of the ultimate betrayal of the "Pause" function in certain un-beta-tested video games; and Frankie Muniz, America's least attractive child-cum-teenage actor, whose unsuccessful deployment of a visor rivals only Brian Austin Green's efforts in his post-90210 appearances. Muniz, who at all times resembles a small, worrisomely wrinkled mammal, does succeed in stirring minute amounts of sympathy in the audience, at least until everyone remembers that he was central to the nightmarish success of the unwatchable Malcolm in the Middle, and then everyone screams for blood.

But it was Sunday that really ruined things. For you see, my Seahawks unwisely entered Chicago, and were summarily steamrolled by the fucking Bears, who have obviously, after many years in the desert, sold their souls for an offense. The Seahawks were summarily blown completely off the field in a humiliating rout, and several Bears players were seen to have been reverently clutching squirrel heads as they gave thanks to Baal. For our part, several Seahawks simply abandoned the field after falling to 100,000-6 in the second quarter, and several cameras caught franchise stalwart Walter Jones wander to the sidelines to sell ties to any comers. "GETCHER TIES HERE!" screamed Jones, as he watched Matt Hasselbeck's spine collapse under a murderous hail of cheesesteaks.

While the Seahawks offense stuttered and made "No mas!" gestures, its vaunted defense was seen to take an urgent telemarketing call in some other stadium, and the massacre was on. Walter Jones continued to ply his trade on the sidelines: "TIES! These are really good ties." At halftime, Brian Urlacher was seen to approach the table.

"What are these made of?" inquired the All Star.

"Our dignity," replied Jones.

"I'll take three," said Urlacher.










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