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Wednesday, 15 November
Movin' To The Country, Gonna Eat A Lot Of Olives

I HAVE GOOD NEWS!

My tens of readers are getting a break. The wife and I are going on vacation for a few weeks, and so Izzle Pfaff will be mercifully silent until at least December 7. So y'all are going to have to get your RDA of strained metaphors, clumsy profanity and pointless, overfreighted verbosity from somewhere else for a while. Fortunately for everybody, there's always Fox News.

Where are you going? I hear you all asking. Is it somewhere uncomfortably humid and with lots of feces lying around? Somewhere unpleasant? Please let it be unpleasant. That's what everyone has been asking us. The guy who cuts my hair just asked me this, and when I told him, he was not pleased. In fact, he was envious. (Really!) He was so envious, in fact, that he literally stamped his foot with jealousy. I'm not sure I've ever seen an actual human stamp a foot before. But he did. Then he proceeded to spitefully give me the worst haircut I've ever had in my life.

(One thing I like about getting my hair cut is that it tends to make me look younger. In fact, minutes after the haircut was finished, I was buying some wine at the grocery store and the cashier carded me. "You're making my day!" I chirped. "Did you really need to make sure I was over 21?" She stared at the top of my skull and replied, "I needed to make sure you were really human.")

So anyway. On Tuesday, the wife and I leave for Italy. We're taking a lovely nonstop flight out from Seattle and then spending a few contemplative hours at Heathrow to have our rectums politely examined--hopefully from harrumphing, mustachioed fellows smoking briar pipes and saying "I say! No hexplosives up this one's bum! Roight!"--and then on to Rome.

We're only spending a couple days in Rome, though. We have been once before--for one whole day--in 2001, where we dashed around madly, managing to see the Vatican and the Colosseum before we had to madly dash somewhere else . . . I think it was Naples. (At the time, we were experiencing severe travel madness; this time, we basically have no excuse.) Anyway! Maybe this time we can bag us a new Pope sighting! (We got blessed by good old John Paul the Sequel back in 2001--along with about 10,000 of our closest friends at St. Peter's--so we figure if we can get blessed twice, we basically can give God a wedgie if we feel like it. This is leaving aside the fact that neither of us are Catholics, but hey, these guys don't have to keep blessing us.)

Our big destination for week one is a little town in Tuscany called Arezzo. Through an astonishing website that a friend clued us into, we are renting an actual apartment in the city; an apartment that opens right onto the fucking town piazza.

This is awesome.

One, it's not a hotel. It's an apartment. It has a bedroom. It has a GREAT BIG FRESCO OF JESUS in the bedroom, right opposite the bed, actually, which, uh . . . well, that might be distracting. BUT IT'S STILL AWESOME! ("Honey, you feel like . . . you know . . . ?" "But . . . He's . . . staring at us." "Sigh." "But this is awesome." "It's getting slightly less awesome for me." We'll see.)

For another thing, and nothing on giganto-cities, but I have found that most of the time when I am traveling, that I really kind of love the more village-y places, the small towns that you can walk through on foot, and where you see the same regulars in the same places every day. I'm looking forward to finding that place where, without ever quite knowing you've decided, magically becomes that place where you end up every day at 2:00 for a sandwich or a drink. I can't wait to meet all the characters who own the little shops who crinkle their faces in pleasure to see a new face, someone new that they can show off their stuff to, to say, This is what I do! I do it very well, don't you think? And I always love finding out that, most of the time, they're absolutely right, and telling them so.

I cannot wait.

Oh, and as if all this weren't enough, we're spending four days in Florence after that. Florence, home of the Uffizi Gallery, the tiny museum that just happens to house the most heart-stoppingly concentrated collection of Renaissance art that you can find--and comprehensively tour in under three hours. If I were even remotely religious, this place would be church for me.

And then, of course, there is also--walking distance away--the Accademia. Nothing special here. Just David. Just the most beautiful piece of physical art that I've ever seen in my life. Just the only inanimate object that I ever found myself falling in love with. The only thing that it was wrenchingly difficult to leave, to take my eyes from.

I have heard songs, seen paintings, read books, many times, that made me intensely jealous and awed. Jealous because I want to create art on that level. But I do not. Awed for similar reasons, but awe also for the artist: How did he/she think of that? Could I ever come up anything close to that? But I cannot. David, while it does these things, also provokes this in me: it makes me feel small. I am utterly unable to conceive of the creation of its perfection. Its beauty is palpable and unknowable and nearly inhuman. I am diminished and imperfect in its presence, and I am so small in the knowledge that such a thing is so beyond my ken--in its conception and execution and its existence--I have no choice but to simply rejoice in it, in my tiny way. For me, David nearly inspires something I would in other contexts call penitence. And I don't even know why or what for.

I have been longing to see Michelangelo's David again since the moment I stopped looking at it five years ago. I would posit that it is simply the most beautiful thing ever created by man. This is of course a matter of opinion, and is also of course intensely personal. All I can say is: I really look forward to feeling small again.

I can't wait to get there. And I can't wait to come back to write about it. You're never going to get a David out of me, of course. But the point of David is: You should try.

Monday, 13 November
We Aren't Family

On Sunday, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, and so we got together at a local foodery to have a celebratory dinner. It was, of course, horrible, as I am deeply loathed by the wife's family.

When we arrived, the in-laws were waiting for us. We easily picked out the table they were sitting at from the merry balloons that waved in the air; they each said, "Over Here, Beautiful Daughter And Slime-Thing!" So we joined them and exchanged some hugs and, in my case, some hearty jabs to the face courtesy of the wife's father. "Good! To! See! You!" he grunted as he playfully dislodged a few molars. "Fank you, shir," I replied, absorbing the blows with what I hoped was good humor.

Presently, the wife's brother also arrived, completing our party. I get on pretty good with the fellow, based on the fact that he doesn't reflexively punch me on sight. "Hey dude!" I exclaimed when he appeared, and he replied with a good-natured "Get fucked, Admiral Dick." I took this as a sort of promotion, since the last time I had seen him, he had called me "Sergeant Douche." Confusingly, he also occasionally refers to me as "shit-pain," so really, I don't know where I really rank at any given time.

We ordered and ate, and that was nice enough. It must be said that my mother-in-law, who has had weight issues for years, has recently embarked on an ambitious weight-loss regimen, to spectacular effect. She has lost over 100 pounds to date, and I am pleased (as is she) to report that she is very nearly not there any more. Several times during the meal--hers consisted of one french fry; she used the rest as missile weapons directed at my skull--I was able to hear her bones grind against one another.

"That's some pretty good osteo-clatter!" I said to her brightly. She shrugged with a noisy rattle of her scapula and pitched another french fry at my head while her husband knocked me in the jaw once more.

Though it was properly the mother-in-law's birthday, it was also a slightly late celebration of brother-in-law's belated birthday, and so gifts were exchanged. The wife gave her mother a lovely 4-CD set of something called Drunks Who Died Years Ago Or Should Have featuring songs by crooners like Tony Blanchett and The Arizona Dog Society. Brother-in-law was similarly treated to a DVD game not dissimilar to the famous Scene It line, except this one was called "RIFF!" and purports to be at least six minutes of racking nausea while a roomful of party-players attempt to retain consciousness when the guitar figure of Bush's "Glycerine" suddenly assaults them from TV speakers.

Eventually the evening wore down and we exchanged goodbyes. The wife hugged her family warmly, and her father socked me affectionately in the jaw a couple times. "Good night, heathen!" he yelled; then her brother kneed me in the groin and said, "Stop touching my sister, you fucking creep." "Admiral creep!" I hollered, but to no effect. He stuck a screwdriver in my back. "You've been demoted, shit-pain." What a drag. I liked being an officer.

I can't wait for Christmas!

Wednesday, 08 November
Mid-November Prejudging!

HERE COME THE HOLIDAYS!

And you know what that means! Horrible movies! Diabetic treacle! Appalling children's fare! Numbingly earnest juggernauts of capital-D Drama! Bizarre, unclassifiable projects that . . . uh . . . got done shooting! I guess!

Let's prejudge some of them.

A Good Year

Noted director Ridley Scott (White Squall, GI Jane) teams up with one-trick pony author Peter Mayle to deliver a moving character piece in which a rich white asshole (believably played by Russell Crowe) manages to find spiritual peace after inheriting a French vineyard and subsequently fucking an enigmatic, attractive woman.

Hey, we've all been there! I can't wait for the ironic scene where Crowe's character throws a phone at the woman's head for accidentally pinching his nuts during the candlelit handjob scene. In an honest world, A Good Year would also carry the subtitle: A Horrible Movie.

(NOTE: Firefox 2.0's spellchecker doesn't like "handjob." Interestingly, it also doesn't like "spellchecker.")

Deja Vu

Speaking of punishingly ticcy directors with the surname "Scott," here comes Tony Scott! Coming off the universally loathed, spectacularly unwatchable Domino, Scott once again looks to induce seizures with Deja Vu, which, if he keeps to form, will be edited in such a way as to make you want to pull the lobes of your brain apart. (I will confess here that True Romance remains one of my fonder guilty pleasures.)

Deja Vu apparently posits the idea that the familiar phenomenon is actually a government plot to . . . oh, who fucking cares? It's a summer movie that . . . didn't get done in time for summer! Jim Caviezel is in it, so maybe he'll treat us to a little more of that Aramaic that we've been longing for since he did the Jesus. "Please, Tony . . . I had to learn this shit. Please let me use it." Tony will probably let him; it's not like Tony Scott has ever demonstrated anything resembling restraint or coherence.

BONUS! IMDB lists some gripping character names such as "Time Window Lab Tech," "Ferry Survivor #3," and, my favorite, "Guy with Backpack's Girlfriend (Featured)." It should be noted that the listing for "Guy with Backpack's Girlfriend (Featured)" is listed before a character with an actual name, "Janice." Suck it, Elle Fanning!

Bobby

This serious ensemble piece about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was written and directed by Emilio Estevez (Men At Work).

Fast Food Nation

Eric Schlosser's muckraker was a provocative and popular piece of extended journalism that sold millions. How to cash in further? Make it into another sprawling, confused ensemble piece, directed by the insufferably overrated Richard Linklater!

(Linklater fucking pisses me off. I wish he'd stick to what he's good at, which is disarming comedies like School of Rock and Dazed and Confused, rather than cardboard pretensions like the execrable Waking Life or Before Sunrise, which I mentally renamed Before Suicide.)

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

What a title! This movie will make millions. That is, if frat boys assume that it's a film about some porn actress's incredibly amazing pussy hair. If not, then this movie will not be seen by anybody on earth, as it is the worst title since (still my reigning favorite) Soft Toilet Seats.

Speaking of horrific movie titles . . .

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

I . . . well, this is bad. I didn't think the badness of the Diane Arbus title would be topped soon.

Here, let me try.

The Hat That Gives Me A Hat-Crease. (You Know, In My Hair)
Pants!
Robin Williams Eats A Cantaloupe
How Stella Got Her Library Card

No. I'm not up to the task.

Monday, 06 November
You Can Call Me Allium

All you really need to know before I get started is that my wife hates onions.

She hates them quite a lot. She's not an absolutist, mind you: when we make tacos, onions certainly are in the mix. But those are minced and cooked down to a distant memory. But raw onions--the smell, the taste, their offending presence in the cosmos--no, these are not to be tolerated.

We went out for dinner the other night; nothing special, just a dinner out at a neighborhood joint with all-right food. She ordered a burger with bleu cheese on it, and I had what I have every time we go there: Eggs Benedict. (When presented with a menu that has Eggs Benedict on it, I am almost totally powerless not to order it. 99% of the time, when given the option to order that dish, I will. Fuck you, Tony Bourdain! I have the balls to order Eggs Benedict! I do not fear the rancid Hollandaise! I am all man.)

As the wife was finishing her burger, I noticed the veggies on the side--some unused lettuce, an out-of-seasony pink tomato slice, some red onion slices--and I said, "Don't forget to eat your onions." I pointed at them firmly.

She frowned at me comically. I evidently then decided, as I do, to tormented her, and steeled my tone.

"I'm serious," I said. "You eat those fuckin' onions."

"No!" she wailed. "I won't!" She shifted tactics. "You eat them!"

Minx! "No way," I responded instantly. "I didn't order them." (I don't like onions either, really. Except for pickled onions. Let's not stray too far here.) "You eat those onions. You ordered them," I repeated implacably.

"I'm not eating the onions," she said firmly, and took another bite of her insultingly onionless burger. I seethed for a moment, then feigned nonchalantness.

"All right," I said lightly. I thought I saw her stiffen, anticipating a new tack. I pounced. "I guess I'll just take them home with me." She waited warily for the rest while I scooped up some hashbrowns and chewed them pensively.

"Then when you're asleep," I continued serenely, "I'll wake up in the middle of the night and put these onion slices all over your face. When you wake up, you'll be Onion Face, and you'll totally shit." Checkmate!

But she wasn't done with this battle. She narrowed her eyes. "You'll wake up in the middle of the night and put onions on my face?" she asked skeptically. I nodded. "Uh huh. So. Where are you going to keep them?"

Again, I had the answer in a flash. " 'Round my dick," I shot back confidently. I pointed helpfully at my dick area and made jaunty circular motions, helpfully demonstrating how raw onion rings would hang there nicely.

I will not give you a verbatim transcript of the terse dialogue that followed, but instead will simply--and humbly--say that her next few points about why that particular course of action would have devastating repercussions ably demonstrated that I had not thought that strategy through very far. And, in the end, I had to hoarsely admit that the idea was horribly unsound, and would quite possibly have profound marital implications.

"I won't keep raw onion rings around my dick," I said quietly.

"I bet you won't," she replied primly.

That should have been the end of it. But I couldn't let it go.

On the way home, we stopped for some groceries, and I was carrying the bags in both hands. And I had to once again express my dismay about the onion thing. "I'm still a little disappointed that you didn't eat your onions," I grumped. I wasn't going to let this go, because I'm apparently incapable of letting stupid, played jokes die with any semblance of dignity.

And she lashed out! With unexpected ferocity, my wife goosed the shit out of me. "AAAAAAAAAHHHH!" I screamed. "What the fuck!"

"HAH!" she yelled, and lashed out at my ass again. I screamed the eunuch's song and waddled forward, pelvis first, butt-puckered and ridiculous, and howled, "Get away from me!" I waddled ineffectively away from her while she groped at my ass; laden down as I was, I had no defense. Unless I dropped the grocery sacks, but they held my beer, so that wasn't going to happen.

She goosed me like a dumb pud for two blocks, occasionally varying her attacks by jabbing an outstretched thumb towards my asshole, while I could do nothing but shriek inanities like "Butt assault!" and "Restricted! Restricted!" Somehow I managed to hobble home, red-faced and, quite likely, red-assed. I assumed all the platelets in my body had gathered in my ass region, assessing the non-damage and wondering what all the fuss was about.

When we got home and I divested myself of the grocery burden, I did retaliate with an goose-attack of my own, but I have to confess, my heart wasn't in it. I think the wife knew it too. I might have won the ass battle--it's arguable--but I lost the onion war.

This must be why we get along. We both hate onions. I just didn't know until that night that I think I hate them more than she does.

Thursday, 02 November
To Live And Die In Elevator

Another Halloween has come and gone, and I'm pleased to report that, as I grow older, Halloween is becoming less and less relevant every year. Don't get me wrong: Halloween is a lot of fun. For children. For adults? It's just kind of a big pain in the ass, and more and more, people are just ignoring it.

For instance, work. A few years ago, better than 50% of my coworkers would come in some sort of costume, even if it was half-assed, like the guy who always shows up in sweats and says, "Hey, I'm a sports fan!" Jesus. A more troubling example was the since-departed female supervisor of mine who, every year, showed up as Sexy Witch, with fishnets and plunging cleavage and alarming hat and all. Now, the thing is, there all sorts of supervisors: there are shitty supervisors (that's me!); there are great supervisors; there are hands-on supervisors and I'm-staying-home-all-week supervisors; there are insane supervisors and there are supervisors who wear visors, and who themselves might be insane, since, God, visors? But what there are not are sexy supervisors, and this always created all kinds of cognitive dissonance for me that I'd have to go hide under my desk whenever Halloween rolled around, reaching occasionally for my trusty whisky bottle.

But as I and my co-workers age, we are more and more blowing off the dressing-up conventions; we're all much less likely now to go out to some dance club costumed in revealing outfits. We're more likely turning into the kind of old cranks that go home and watch television, waiting for someone unpleasant to show up onscreen so we can scamper over to the screen to press our ass against it. (I assume everyone does this. I personally ass-pressed both Sean Salisbury and the Verizon guy on Halloween.) So hardly anyone dressed up.

A couple people did, of course, but they were pretty half-hearted. For some reason, they were all women: I saw one lazy pirate in a sort of pirate hat and an eyepatch; she said "ARRR!" to me and waved a little plastic sword commonly found in tropical drinks. Terrifying! And another woman dressed up as a construction worker. I wouldn't have noticed her, except she happened to walk by my office window. The only reason I really took notice is that she is under five feet tall, so all I saw through my window was her hard hat crawling by, and it startled me, because I thought a turtle was crawling along my window sill. I like turtles, so I quelled the impulse to press my ass against the glass as a startle response.

The wife, of course, working as she does at a day care/sweatshop, had plenty of tales to tell of kids who dressed up. A pair of twins came dressed as cops, complete with little pads to write people tickets for bad behavior, which they gleefully did all day long. They also arrived carrying donuts and coffee. (The wife herself borrowed my pajamas and arrived at work dressed as something called "Corduroy Bear," whatever the fuck that is.) But for some reason, I was most tickled by the tale of one particular child who, unable to master the pronunciation of "Miss Jeanette"--the convention is that the children address the teachers as Mr. Whatever or Miss Whodat--decided to simply call her "Mister Net." Mister Net sounds like a lazy month for the writers at Marvel Comics. Let's team up Mister Net with Stilt-Man! They're the Circus of Evil! We can work in Kraven the Hunter and the Rhinosceros!

Anyway. Halloween has come and gone again. The only other remarkable thing that happened that day was when I left work. As usual, I waited for the elevator to take me down the 20 floors to freedom. Part of the way down, the car stopped, and more people stepped on; one woman was dressed as some sort of . . . you know, I have no idea, really. A gangster? She had a black jacket on, and a dingy baseball cap. I paid her no attention. At least until about floor 11. Then she stabbed me.

"I'm sorry," she suddenly said to me, blinking rapidly. She laughed a little bit in nervous tones. I had no idea what the fuck was going on. "What?" I was about to say, but then she plunged a knife into my arm. A fake knife, of course, one of those cheap retractable jobs. "She dared me!" she cried, pointing at an uncostumed woman who had boarded the car with her. "She dared me to stab a stranger!" The other woman offered a sheepish smile. I stared at them both for a moment, and then did the only thing that made sense. I rolled my eyes into the back of my head and moaned "Oh my God." Then I let myself fall to the elevator floor in the most bone-jarring possible fashion. Nobody screamed, but there were an assortment of harsh gasps.

The poor woman had simply picked exactly the wrong person to sport with. I've faked passing out in the office for years, so much so that I've had co-workers step uninterestedly over my collapsed form after being burned one too many times. And I'm really pretty good at falling down in the most awkward, jarring way possible without doing me too much harm--no mean feat on thinly-carpeted concrete. God help me if I really ever do gork out at work--I'll probably die on the floor, since I've pulled it so often. People will continue to say "Har har, Skot" and continue clacking away while fluids leak out of my brain onto the floor. I'd certainly deserve it.

After a short moment, I sensed people crouching, leaning down over me solicitously. I opened my eyes then and said "Happy Halloween!" Uproar and clamor.

I guess I'm not so old yet.










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