skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Wednesday, 28 March
Bush To Name Pete Rose As Attorney General
WASHINGTON DC--In a surprising and some say shocking reversal of position today, President Bush called for the resignation of embattled attorney general Alberto Gonzales and announced his intention to fill the position by appointing controversial former Major League Baseball player and manager Pete Rose. The statement was given at a press conference in the White House Thursday afternoon.
"It has become clear that Doctor Gonzo has become too polarizing a figure to be able to effectively carry out his duties as attorney general," said the President, using the now-familiar nickname for Mr. Gonzales. "While I deplore the partisanship and vindictiveness that motivated the attacks against Gonzo, I feel that both sides of the aisle are ready for a change. I plan to appoint Charlie Hustle for that position."
Reporters immediately peppered the President with questions about his plans. Many queries carried an edge of disbelief.
"Mr. President," stammered one reporter, "can you be serious? Pete Rose has, to my knowledge, no legal training, no experience, no record of public service, and is widely held to be a man of questionable character with only a glancing acquaintance with the truth. Given the allegations of dishonesty and obfuscation that dogged Mr. Gonzales, how can you make this announcement? Isn't the public likely to be outraged?"
When the President responded, his face was tight. "I want you to understand one thing about this whole thing: I don't give a rubber fuck what anyone thinks. Not you, not the American public, not the world. Do you understand? I've got a few months to do whatever the hell I want and nobody can stop me. You all can go shit on your heads for all I care. I'm not too proud to have the balls to say that."
The President then stepped from behind the lectern, unzipped his pants, and displayed his testicles to the assembled crowd. Cameras clicked in the hushed room while the President stood with hands on hips, his slightly elongated scrotum still hanging wanly from his trousers. After a few moments of continued silence, the President strode to the rear of the room, and after a brief struggle with the door, exited.
Reactions to the unexpected and unorthodox announcement were varied. When reached for comment at his home in Milwaukee, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig would only howl incoherently at reporters from his porch swing, occasionally brandishing a gold-tipped cane. Spokespeople for the Commissioner would not comment further, saying only that package deals offered exclusively through DirecTV would allow viewers to watch special footage of Mr. Selig rolling around ecstatically on large piles of money.
Mr. Rose played from 1963 to 1986, best known for his many years with the Cincinnati Reds. Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time major-league leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), and outs (10328). Three years after Mr. Rose retired from professional baseball, allegations arose that he had bet on games, both as a player an manager; after years of denials, Mr. Rose acknowledged in 2004 that the accusations were true.
When reached for comment, Mr. Rose said, "Well, it's a hell of a thing. I didn't even see this coming, not at all. I've been thinking, though. Holy shit." Rose indicated that he planned to accept the appointment with pleasure, and demonstrated some familiarity with the turbulent situation that had brought Mr. Gonzales in the line of fire, suggesting that he would replace the infamous eight US attorneys that were fired by Mr. Gonzales with the disgraced members of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.
Rose refused to speculate further on the unexpected turn of events. "I don't know, you guys. I'm still kinda fucked around on this whole thing. I mean, it's great. Only in America, I guess. I mean . . . hell, what are the odds?"
Monday, 26 March
Hardly Any Of The World Is A Stage
On Friday, I went to the THEATAH! To see my good wife in action; she opened her show The Duchess of Malfi this weekend, and, I must say, it was strangely interesting to see my wife murdered twice onstage: once when her neck was cruelly snapped, and another when her other character had her faced smushed into a poisoned bible. While watching these atrocities, I thought to myself, as I have so many times before, "Why is this art form dying?"
It's not a new thought. I've been thinking about the stiffening corpse that is theater for years. In fact, I confess, I tire of it. I'm probably more or less done with acting myself. And for the really large majority of you reading this, live theater is probably something right up there with bearbaiting or illicit donkey shows: if it's even available to you, you'd still probably never consider going.
If you do have any kind of local theater, it is likely either community theater of the "Let's put on a show!" variety, featuring calcified horrors like The Star-Spangled Girl. Or, if you live in a larger town, you might have "fringe theater," which is what I did for years, and consists of youth-skewed dynamos with the energy to put on things like Eric Bogosian pieces or strange adaptations of The Trojan Women with a sound design that incorporates Primus. But nobody is seeing those shows except for damaged perverts, because they're probably in the better, non-warehouse part of town watching the local regional theater put on a well-lit, technically sweet production (in an actual theater) of Pirates of Penzance.
Everyone else--which is still, I must stress, hardly anyone--simply waits for that NYC trip where they make the obligatory trip to Broadway, which is to actual theater (that is, everyone else, good or wretched) as Cirque du Soleil is to the hometown carnival where they serve poisoned hot dogs.
Those scrappy kids in the fringe theaters do occasionally score. My longest run was in a comedy called Poona the Fuckdog and Other Stories for Children, written by a very funny sociopath named Jeff Goode. It ran for close to half a year, and you don't do that if a show isn't genuinely funny: it certainly was, and featured such characters as a singing penis, God, and a Shrub (me). But it would be silly for me to say that people didn't show up merely for the title: It has "fuck"! Right in the title! Other shows have learned this trick. Shopping and Fucking comes to mind, as does Urinetown.
The Duchess of Malfi doesn't have this sort of thing going for it. The Whoozits of Say What? It was written by a disturbed person named John Webster, a late contemporary of Shakespeare about whom virtually nothing is known, except for the inarguable fact that he was a demented grump who wrote shows that featured tremendous bloodbaths, torture, dismemberment and lycanthropy (Duchess features all of these). Why wouldn't anyone not want to see this? It's not that far from any episode of "24" or "CSI: Miami," and it has the added virtue of the absence of desiccated ghouls like Kiefer Sutherland and David Caruso.
Almost thirty years ago, a playwright and novelist named William Goldman wrote a marvelous book called The Season, in which he reported on an entire year of watching Broadway shows. Despite some clanging, poorly aged comments regarding gays, women and minorities, it is perhaps the finest document I've ever read about the state of live theater at a given moment in time (1967-68). In it, he describes several shows that were produced (even if some of them never made it past previews). I'm listing some of them below, along with some complete fakes that I just made up out of thin air. See if you can figure out which ones are inventions. No peeking! (And you can just be quiet, theater geeks. I'm looking at you, Brad!)
How Now, Dow Jones
Mysteriously absent a question mark in the title, this musical comedy might have a claim on the stupidest title in history, possibly only behind How to Stuff A Wild Bikini. Featuring, among others, Brenda Vaccaro, this show --which had some success--was about a young lady engaged to a fellow who would only marry his fiancee when the Dow average hit 1000. So she goes out and gets pregnant by another dude, and then tells her beau that the Dow hit the mark, and everyone, instead of looking at the newspaper, believes her.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Another outstanding title. Nothing brings 'em in like death! This play actually has the distinction of being really very, very good; it also has the distinction of being an English comedy about a couple whose marriage is slowly but inexorably being torn apart due to their daughter, the eponymous Joe, who when not catatonic, suffers from shocking epileptic fits; the couple's coping mechanism is to perform laceratingly funny comedic skits to the audience about Joe's condition.
The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N
God, I love these titles. This musical smash featured Tom ("Mr. C") Bosley and Hal ("Barney Miller") Linden. It is, I assume, about the education of someone named Hyman Kaplan as told through internet forum flamewars.
Leda Had A Little Swan
Set in the future, this comedy thinkpiece was directed by "My Dinner With" Andre Gregory, and was written by the delightfully-named Bamber Gascoigne. An examination of childhood bestiality, it posited a future where, in order to help the kids cope with puberty, they were assigned animals to have sex with during this difficult time. The last act featured things like windy discussions about the morality of underage sex acts with farm animals.
The Seven Descents of Myrtle
One final horrible title. A justly forgotten Tennessee Williams piece--and he wrote dozens of simply pathetically awful plays--in which a clearly gay Southern farmboy enters into marriage with a blowsy, dimwit stripper in order to screw his musclehead brother out of the farm's inheritance, but then he puts on his dead mother's dress and dies, right before a dam bursts and floods out the farm, but the musclehead and stripper survive. Hooray!
I'll let you know in the comments which ones are the fakes, presuming that you didn't cheat or know up front which ones were real. I'm not even sure I even have a point, other than to dick along about crappy shows through the ages, or their terrible titles. Like I said, I've been doomsaying about the death of live theater for years.
So was Goldman. He said the same exact fucking thing thirty years ago in this book. So maybe we'll hang on a little more. I might have given up, but my wife hasn't, and neither has anyone else in the show they're working on.
Incidentally, John Webster got a shout-out in the popular movie Shakespeare in Love (written in part by Tom Stoppard, who is a very respected playwright indeed). There is a grubby little tatterdemalion in the movie, who is accompanied by a pet rat, and he professes his love for the astonishingly bloody (and really not-so-good) Titus Andronicus to Mr. Shakes: "I like it when they cut heads off. And the daughter mutilated with knives."
Who doesn't like that? Maybe there's life in the old girl yet.
Thursday, 22 March
Workin' For A Livin'
It wasn't a good day today.
First of all, I overslept a little, which actually isn't like me at all. Usually, I oversleep a lot, like for a half hour or so, which frankly? Is tiring. So tiring that I usually also leave work a half hour early each day.
But it wasn't just that. I also managed to sleep wrong on my fucking neck somehow, and I've had this whopping damn kink in it since. I spent a large part of the day furiously massaging it; it's on the left side of the back of my neck, so I would reach up and back around with my right arm to prod at the hunched little mass of angry muscle. We had a leads meeting today, and I found myself unconsciously doing this. Soon the other leads were staring at me.
"Are you okay?" one asked.
"I'm exposing my armpit. It's how our people show submissiveness. It means I agree with what you're saying."
"Your people?" she echoed.
"Lutherans," I replied. I work with Philistines, but I didn't want them to know I think that, so I helpfully swiveled around to show them all my armpit. At the same time, I kept working at the aching knot, but it held fast and throbbed vengefully.
When the meeting was over, I hobbled miserably back to my office and tried to do some work on the computer, but by this time my entire left side had gone numb, and my left arm hung limply, useless as a Democratic congress. There was really only one thing to do, and so with my right hand I reached into my file cabinet and removed from it my trusty bottle of whiskey and poured a belt, and soon felt much better.
After my third pour, my supervisor showed up at my office. "Listen," he said. "We've got to talk about you showing up to work late every day, and some other people are telling me that you leave work early. And you're really erratic in meetings, so much so that there are whispers of 'voodoo' going around the . . . hey . . . are--are you drinking?"
I usually get along with my boss just fine, when he sees me, which is rarely due to his river blindness--long story--but if there is one thing that I cannot abide, it's being micromanaged. I rose purposefully from my chair three times (the peripheral neuropathy and the whiskey were taking a toll) and thundered, "Help! Saint Anna, I will become a monk!" and then clouted my supervisor violently over his head with the half-filled whiskey bottle. His eyeballs barrel-rolled impressively and he slumped wordlessly to the floor; I dragged him deeper into my office and stuffed him under my desk and covered him with an impressive drift of unread email printouts, many of which seemed to feature subject lines like "HR IS VERY CONCERNED" and an unusual amount of exclamation points.
The day wasn't getting any better, and I wasn't getting much work done. It was time for a nap. But where? Where would nobody in the company in their right mind ever want to go? After a moment of swaying and scattered thinking, I had it: the server room. We have one of those, right? I assumed we did, and after a few minutes of lurchin' and searchin', I found it. I think so anyway . . . it had urinals on the walls, and I figured, well, that's a convenient feature that our IT people had thought of. Smart. To make sure that people got the message, I crafted a hand-lettered sign and slapped it on the door. It read "DANGER! SERVER ROOM! HIGH VOLTIGE! AUTHROIZED ENTRY ONLY!" I turned out the lights and curled up on the cool tile floor and let the darkness take me.
When I awoke some time later, it was pitch black in the server room, and my mouth tasted like a stack of dead jackals. I staggered upright and turned on the lights and gratefully availed myself of one of the urinals in the server room (seriously, those IT guys have good ideas). The server room, had no windows, so I stealthily crept out the door and stared out the windows: it was night. Hours had passed, and everyone had gone home. My left arm was tingling a little--a good sign--but was still virtually useless, so catching up on the missed hours of work wasn't feasible. Plus, there was the little matter of my supervisor's body stiffening under my desk. I've smelled decaying bosses before, and I didn't feel up to that again. Not today. So I went home.
Unfortunately, my repose in the server room--the IT guys are smart, but a tile floor? Stupid--had not gone as well as planned. I hadn't had a pillow, so my neck is all fucked up even worse than it was when I woke up. Frankly, it feels like a goddamn fistula running from my brain down to my neck. And my mouth still tastes foul and cottony. And--hell, thinking about it some more--my boss is dead, which, frankly, is depressing. He was a good guy, and didn't deserve to be mauled by a drunken clinically depressed person with left-side paralysis.
Like I said, it wasn't a good day. I think I'll have a drink. As for tomorrow, I guess I'll just call in sick.
Tuesday, 20 March
Reunited, And It Feels So . . . What?
A couple weeks ago, I got a not-wholly-unexpected voice mail. "Hi Skot," said the voice. "This is D. Give me a call."
D. was our senior class president in high school (I was vice president, and pleased to be so: my duties were, among other nothings, being vice president). And this year marks my 20 year anniversary of graduation.
I stared at the phone for a while, uncertain what to do, if anything. I hadn't seen anyone from high school for, well, ten years, since our last reunion, which I did attend, and, thanks to a combination of an entirely inedible greymeat dinner and my profligate drinking, got really drunk at, mumbled incoherently, planted several unasked-for kisses on people, and then stumbled blindly home, and woke up the following morning thinking, Hey, my ears hurt! Let's never do that again.
But I called up D. anyway. D. is still a perfectly nice guy, and is a doctor. This made me feel like a tool. Let's not discount all my valuable time spent as a debt-ridden loser! I occasionally worked hard at it! Anyway, D. was wondering if I had some intel on our old grad-mates, the folks I ostensibly spent some of the best years of my youth with. I didn't.
Well, I had one. An old friend of mine had not long ago emailed me out of the blue after discovering this very blog; I provided D. with his email address. I didn't have anything on anyone else. I asked him how many other people he had tracked down. It turned out to be (at that point in time) three. "I've left messages for other people, a lot of them," he explained, "but nobody's called me back."
Oh, the mysterious allure of the 20-year reunions. Here's a group of people (small, in my case--my graduating class was around 70 strong) who are so profoundly uninterested in each other that over the years, nobody even knows where anyone went. Sounds like a party!
A few days later, D. emailed again with news of some success: a few people had called him back, and were interested in at least the abstract idea of getting together. D. also had a rather plaintive plea for help: he no longer had a list of graduates for our class, and mysteriously, the school was not being helpful with his inquiries. Did anyone have a damn class list from 1987?
At this point, I overrode my usual instinct to never Reply To All, and Replied To All my confession that I did, in fact, still have possession over all four yearbooks from high school days, and offered to provide a list of student names. Another CC'd former classmate then wrote to say, "You have the yearbooks! What spirit!" I did not point out that I didn't keep the yearbooks ("annuals," we called them) out of any sense of lingering spirit or nostalgia, but simply because as comedy qua comedy, they were indispensable. For one thing, since they were created by high school students in rural Idaho, the overall quality of these editions are stunning in their incompetence--and I am also happy to report that I had a hand in their creation. For another thing, the photos are simply shockingly funny: we were all so astonishingly ugly. Most strikingly, me. My freshman year, I resembled some sort of rodent that had been soaked in denatured alcohol and then aggressively combed; my spectacles were apparently borrowed from Martin Mull while he was on break at Fernwood 2Nite. I am also wearing a velour sort of proto-Izod-thing. Collar not up, due to uncoolness. And my senior photo--taken by my father, in an aggressively soft-focus manner, the better to obscure my puzzling, ghastly Richie Rich haircut--is not unlike a portrait of Cybill Shepherd's transsexual doppelganger.
As it stands now, the status of the reunion is unclear. There have been more respondents; D. set up some site where people can enter "Where are they now?" sorts of information, but not a lot. Unsurprisingly, I'm guessing, a lot of people have just scattered to the winds, and I'm also guessing that other simply just don't give a royal fuck.
I don't know what I'm going to do. My mom, I know, wants me to come home for a visit--it's been a few years. On the other hand, the event, if it goes forth, is scheduled to occur during my hometown's annual HUGE FUCKING RODEO FREAKOUT, in which our small town balloons from around 3000 people to around 20,000, and main street is closed for hot dog stands, hamburger vendors, projectile vomiting, random facepunchings. And parades, and of course someone suggested that we, the Class of '87, have a parade entry. I can just imagine the parade commentator: "Here comes the Class of '87! Remember them? B. has kind of tubbed up . . . that's K., we all remember him and his meth conviction . . . oh, and there's little G., who cost us the big game at state . . . looks like all his hair fell out after he knocked up that cheerleader from Riggins . . . and speak of the devil, here she is . . . "
I don't know. If it all goes off as (tentatively) planned, I'll probably go. I'll also probably make my usual fool of myself by failing to identify like ninety percent of all these people, these people who have aged another 10 years, who I never bothered to keep in touch with, nor they with me, which I assume is probably because I am a lousy creep who couldn't wait to get away from the damned place anyway, and was most assuredly not missed.
Small towns get a lot of crap, and for some good reasons: a lot of it is surely deserved. They are insular and weird and everyone is always in your shit. They are fundamentally conservative; community is valued far more than individuality. Being a hotheaded little coward, I couldn't wait to leave, and did so at the earliest possible opportunity. I immediately went to a ridiculously expensive university where I was free to invent a whole new identity for myself, which initially manifested as an Ocean Pacific-wearing, hyperverbal jackass who spoke in some sort of Martian surfer patois that I lifted mostly from my summers spent with my grandparents on Santa Monica beaches in between playing speed chess sessions with my addled grandfather. Had I tried this little experiment in personality reinvention in my home town, I would have deservedly been beaten to death with shovels. It was a hugely theatrical pose, a complete invention borne out of some weird need to present myself as anything other than what I clearly was: a pathetic hick with a gift for linguistic and kinesthetic mimicry. I doubt I fooled anybody, and it is a credit to my university friends that they didn't tie me up in oily rags and set me on fire while calling on the gods to accept this meager sacrifice.
Small towns also get absolutely no respect for their good aspects, the things that drew my parents there (both grew up in large cities); things I unfairly derided for years: the emphasis on loyalty to community; the juggernaut honesty and plainspeaking; the universal loathing for even the vaguest scent of bullshit.
I left for much different things; I didn't know at the time what they were. I was just a dumb kid bucking for something else. And I found a lot of those things, to be sure. I think. Maybe it's worthwhile to go back and see.
Thursday, 15 March
GEICO has two basic sets of ads these days: the ones with the gecko and the ones with the cavemen. I know a lot of people who hate these ads (the cavemen ones, anyway), and I can understand. For one, they really are overaired, and for another, they vary wildly in comedic value. (For those of you TV absolutists, the basic thrust of these meta-ads is that cavemen are still living amongst us, and they are offended that GEICO would suggest that getting insurance is so easy that "even a caveman" could do it. This isn't admittedly Wildean territory.)
I know I'm fucking sick and tired of the caveman in the airport (though I still like the little touch that he has a tennis racket) if only because I hate that fucking Royksopp song, which sounds a lot like what Air would sound like if they were transported back in time to 1974 and castrated.
But honestly? There is one caveman ad that kills me every time, and that is the caveman party. Two cavemen are outside the party on the balcony, and one is depressed. As he speaks to friend caveman, it is revealed that despite GEICO's offensive anti-caveman ad concept, he bought insurance with them anyway, resulting in his friends ostracizing him for his betrayal of his caveman brethren. "It's my life, all right?" he bridles hilariously. The whole ad is really fraught with the kind of Seriousness that you'd normally expect to see on something like "Law & Order," which is what makes what happens next so great.
A third caveman bursts out onto the balcony, interrupting this heavy dialogue. "Tina's here; we're getting back together!" he happily informs the first two. "Hey! Give us a minute!" cries friend caveman in frustration.
It is awesome, and I am willing to forgive GEICO the other, much lamer spots for the pure nailing of this particular moment.
It is a goodwill that will instantly be extinguished when ABC--if this dreary network insists on following reported plans to do this horrible thing--actually airs the TV show that is reportedly in development that involves the GEICO cavemen.
Our culture has a rich history of television cavemen: Captain Caveman. The Flintstones. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Two were hideous, unfunny cartoons and Phil Hartman was murdered. Are you listening, ABC?
Note: I'm not forgetting Encino Man, although that would be nice. I just would like to mention that Brendan Fraser, who played the title character in that alleged film, went to college with my wife, and that once, some years ago, they stole some guy's dog because he abused it. Hooray!
If you're not one of those aforementioned anti-TV drones, then you've certainly already got this hellish jingle running in your brain. And you're probably already remembering the astonishingly annoying over-gelled blonde kid who stretches his lips at the camera and says, "I'm thiiiiinking of a number!"
The number this little manque is referring to is, of course, one's credit score. The ad for this bunch of lousy suckpoles is for this fucking website that will, for only $12.95 a month--wait, that's not quite free, is it?--give you your credit report and also email you "changes" to your credit report. What a deal! It isn't free, but hey, I'm willing to trust a website that lies to you right in the URL! And never mind that by law, the credit bureaus are required to provide everyone with a copy of their credit report each year. Or never mind that one can always pay Experian to provide one whenever one wants for fifteen bucks. Or, for forty bucks, you can get the reports from all of them, should you really need to get that information twice or more in the space of twelve months.
Maybe Freecreditreport.com just didn't know any of this! It's probably all a vast mistake and they thought they were actually providing a valuable service! One that's free! Or pretty close to free, at thirteen bucks a month! From their website:
ConsumerInfo.com and Freecreditreport.com are not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, you must go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
No, they knew it all the time. They also knew enough to print that information in helpful blue-on-blue text. Because they just want to help.
I have nothing against Quizno's. In fact, I've never eaten at Quizno's. Actually, I'm not even sure where the nearest Quizno's is. I don't even have anything against their ads, generally: they tend to be a lot of man-on-the-street stuff with ord'nary folks really enjoying their sandwiches and aggressively pointing out how horrible Subway sandwiches are by comparison.
"Now this is prime beef," some ordinary Joe will say while erotically fingering a gorgeous sandwich, resplendently bursting with meat and cheese. Invariably, a Subway sandwich is lying next to it, looking like something fished out of a landfill. The Joe regards it with revulsion: "You can really smell the rat meat. Do they serve these on Death Row?" Nothing special going on here.
But there is a new ad. It's only a small part of the ad, but it is so horrifying, it stands out every time I see it. Again, regular folks are sampling a Quizno's sandwich, and are all uniformly transported to nearly religious experiences when eating these subs. One is a reasonably attractive woman who is holding her half-eaten sandwich insouciantly, perhaps as if it were some sort of metaphoric meat-stick that is somehow inherently enjoyable to hold in one's hand and occasionally put in one's mouth.
Then, unfortunately, she speaks.
"It's not lackin' any meat! And that's what real women need!" Then she laughs.
It isn't the vapid, idiotically charged line that she volunteers; that would be bad enough. Real women want lots of long cock. This is no sandwich for dykes! Hee hee! No, the real horror here is her laugh, believe it or not. I'm not sure I can describe it. It's a multi-toned sort of loathsome giggle, the kind of maniac laugh that every man fears to hear after some ill-considered one-night stand. It's the laugh you dread to hear waking up naked next to a stranger, and it is followed by the phrase, "By the way, my love for you burns me like hot irons. Oh, and speaking of which, I've got a hot iron. Don't move."
If we could hear the cries of bats hunting in the night, it would sound like her laugh. It is the sound of a lumbar puncture. The laugh is the granite grinding of millwheels in Hell as the femurs fall into the stones, and you're the one pushing the wheels, and the Quizno's gal is striping your tattered back with the lash.
And the music you hear as you push along is: "Freeeee creeedit repooort dot com!"
Monday, 12 March
I Take The Evening Train
On Friday, the wife and I teamed up with her brother and his wife for an exciting adventure on the SPIRIT OF WASHINGTON DINNER TRAIN! A three-hour-and-change excursion from Renton (it's Levittown for the moderately wealthy!) to a winery and back, the Dinner Train unexpectedly reveals that the Spirit of Washington is: waiters with canned schtick, hurried meal-eating, and relentless drink-gouging. Washington! It's everything the father of our country believed in.
Actually, it was sort of fun, but that's not what we're here for.
Brother-and-wife-in-law (uh . . . shut up, you know what I mean) actually live in Renton (yes, he works for Microsoft . . . I wish I had the prosodical talents to describe his expression when he told me of spending time working on projects leading up to the Vista rollout. The best I can do is say that his face looked like a Dostoevsky novel and when he spoke, ashes fell from his mouth to collect mournfully in his lap), so we met them for a drink before finding our way over to the train. After all, it's important to drink before taking a dinner train with drinks out to a winery to taste and purchase drinks before re-embarking the drinktrain to have a half-hearted dessert with drinks.
The train car we were assigned to was a double-decker, and we rode on the top level in a "domed" car. This was courtesy of the wife's parents, who have taken to Christmas-gifting their kids with adventures on outmoded travel vehicles; my tens of readers might recall last year when they gave us all two nights on a houseboat. In the years to come, I look forward to rides in stagecoaches, being shot out of torpedo tubes, and brachiating merrily through the jungles of Madagascar.
Presently--and efficiently--dinner was served shortly after boarding, just in time for some truly astounding railway sway. As we clutched at our drink glasses, skidding across the table along with our little lamp and all of our silverware, we occasionally had an opportunity to regard our food, which was serviceable in the way that any 100 or so catered meals can be. My order of medium-rare prime rib was apparently taken quite literally, as it was a uniform pink the color of the hides of dodgeballs. This was served with lifeless steamed vegetables and an inexplicable side of horseradish-laced applesauce which our waitress bragged about; it was perversely scorching and inedible and seemed like something developed by sociopaths. I mentally renamed it "sociopapples." Nobody else at the table seemed to quibble, though, possibly because most of their meals ended up on the train floor as the car shuddered hideously along the track, although it was entertaining to watch wife-in-law offer b-i-l her rather mealy-looking salad tomatoes, which he chokingly reported moments later were, in fact, hunks of grapefruit. He looked a bit green as he solemnly chewed this citrus ambush, as did the wife, succumbing slowly to motion sickness. Just what you want when you're approaching a wine tasting session.
But before anyone could get too far into the nausea zone, we were there. We had 45 minutes to storm the winery, sample a few wines (a measly three) and then fall like Cossacks on the cashiers clutching sweat-stained lists of our orders before being herded back onto the train. We did take a little extra time to take in an utterly information-free little winery tour where the biggest yuks were saved up for the inevitable utterance of the term "bunghole." I took some cheer when the tour-person noticed a sunken-eyed person with a nametag wandering around. Identifying him immediately, and also naming his shame for all gathered, she hollered, "Oh, you Mystery Train folks need to go upstairs for the Special Murder Mystery presentation!"
Yes, the train offers, hellishly, a "Murder Mystery" option, one of those horrifying immersive-theater nightmares where you and several of your favorite strangers all dully ruin an entire evening feebly trying to pretend to care about staying in character while planted actors around you all try and not stick forks in their eyes while trying to sell the idea that you're INVOLVED IN A MURRRRRRDERRRRRR, and it's all a catastrophe, because you're not an actor, and you're beginning to see why, and the actors are all hating you for, well, being you, and plus they're not drunk, and they're beginning to wonder why.
Anyway. The poor shithead looked at the tour-thing hollowly, nodded, and glumly staggered up the stairs to join the luckless Murder Mystery fools who were mercifully segregated from the rest of the group. I got the feeling that if he made it all the way upstairs without flinging himself over the bannister, he was probably going to damn well get his money's worth and genuinely murder somebody; probably one of the actors.
We eventually sampled our three wines--hurriedly--and then, yes, we grabbed a case of wine apiece (per couple), the reasoning being, "Well . . . it's a winery." We do need some new wine glasses, but I rejected all the samples shown at the place, as they were uniformly hideous: the best of the bunch were emblazoned with the winery's name, and the worst appeared to display the same design aesthetic behind the creation of the Uruk-Hai. I looked around for someone to bludgeon to death with these startling instruments, but then I remembered that the Murder Mystery folks were sequestered upstairs being glummed to death.
Finally, we were back on the train heading back home, eating either apple crisps or raspberry-chocolate things and enjoying our pre-ordered dessert drinks--the b-i-l and I had ordered cognac, and we stared at our poor choices: $9 Hennessey half-pours. Hennessey? We stared at our tiny drinklets, and swirled them unconvincingly. I'm certainly no stranger to paying exorbitant drink prices in situations just like this, but they were a little ridiculous; I wasn't expecting Manute Bol, but nor was I prepared for Peter Dinklage.
In the end, it was not as shriekingly horrible as I was dreading it to be: I was not served rubber chicken, and the grapefruit IED was actually pretty funny. We ended up with a lot of really nice wine--the Sangiovese we had tonight is just stellar--and I did not buy any Sauron-sponsored wine accessories. But most importantly, I never had to hear--or, thank God, say--anything like "Heavens! Colonel Denbury has been murdered! The murderer must be ONE OF US!"
I think it was that dead-eyed guy with the nametag. He was just looking for a getaway. I know I would. I'd kill anyone who stood in my way.
Thursday, 08 March
March Of The Prejudgments
Well, the Oscars are over, and we're nowhere near May. So you know what that means! It's time for Hollywood to clear out the fridge and dump out all the fish heads, rubber carrots and skinned-over stew and put it where all that crap belongs: into the theaters!
Frankly, I love this time of year. If there's nothing quite as awesome as hooting at horrible movies, hooting at advertisements for clearly horrible movies comes in a close second. If the fall shoulder season is the time for dismal weepers, then pre-spring is the time for unleashing its appalling flaccid comedies. Fall is Life As A House. Spring is Cosmonauts Vs. Porky's.
Oh, God! Who ordered this?
The majority of my friends all screamed, "Bill Macy! What are you doing?" when the ads for this radioactive zombie turkey came out, and it's still kind of a wonder, given the nightmarish quality of the rest of the cast, featuring drained batteries like John Travolta and Martin Lawrence alongside odious people such as Tim Allen and the incomprehensibly still-living Sklar brothers; Ray Liotta and Marisa Tomei are also skulking around in this thing, no doubt thinking about that few weeks or so when everyone wondered, "Maybe they don't stink," a grace period that ended, well, here.
BONUS: It also features Jill Hennessey, who owes all of her comedy chops to her stint on "Law & Order," where, I have to admit, she was hilarious.
THIS! IS! SCHPOTTA! I swear that's what the guy screams in the ads right before he kicks the other dude into a well. Then the bearded guy triumphantly turns to his cadre of nearly-naked compatriots, selects the beefiest, hottest one, and joyously ejaculates onto his chest. Those Greeks!
All kidding aside, it's refreshing to see an openly homoerotic movie about a small group of highly athletic, gorgeous half-naked white guys who are willing to sacrifice their lives to fight against an unstoppable invading force of foreign, occasionally nonwhite devils who have no honor. I get so tired of "issues" flicks.
Blades of Glory
A proud greenskeeper in the twilight of his years (Morgan Freeman) unexpectedly finds love on the links when he meets Helena (Helen Mirren) while mowing the back nine at Greensboro Country Club, only to find himself in conflict when news arrived that his estranged son (Dave Chappelle, in a surprisingly moving dramatic turn) has contracted lupus . . .
No, just kidding, it's just another fucking formula comedy with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, two of our finest comedic actors who achieve consistent success by steadfastly refusing to play anything other than Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.
Movies like this fucking dogsack just irritate me. Wigs = funny! Sure, they're a step up from ghastly heart attacks like Date Movie or Epic Movie or, and I'm sure it's coming soon, Sad Movie, but that's a lot like saying krill is a step up from plankton.
This purported screamer from the same sadists who are responsible for the Saw franchise dares to ask the question, "Is anyone using these old props from Magic?" The answer, sadly, appears to have been, "No, go ahead!" Even the tagline is pathetically lazy: "You scream. You die." How novel! I'm so tired of those lame horror movies with deafmutes being silently slaughtered.
We'll probably never get tired of tales of the vengeful dead; this one seems to be about a murdered ventriloquist. That's okay by me, really, as I am a bad horror movie enthusiast, but someday maybe some courageous director will have a film where the dead person comes back and says things like "You know what I miss? Gum. Do you have any?" or "I'd sure like to play some cards."
I can't even figure out the awful rhyming tagline that this movie's ads chant: is it "she'll rip your tongue out at the seams" or "she'll rip your tongue out at the scene"? On the other hand, I don't care.
Must be March. Tune in next week when I report on my own real-life horror experiment: the wife and I are taking a trip on the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train!
Monday, 05 March
It occurred to me that it had been quite a while since I visited with God, so I recently caught up with him at his place in Sequim for a chat.
Skot: Wow! This is quite a place!
God: I LOVE SEQUIM.
S: Really? Why is that?
G: DUDE. IT'S PRONOUNCED "SQUIM." THAT'S AWESOME.
S: More awesome than "Humptulips"?
G: I LOVE HUMPTULIPS. BUT THEN, I LOVE EVERYTHING.
S: Even David Caruso?
G: OY . . . YEAH. YOU KNOW WHAT I DON'T LOVE? TEQUILA. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING.
S: This is really pretty music you're playing. Very ethereal. Hey, is this the Cocteau Twins?
G: TREASURE IS A GREAT ALBUM. I PLAY IT ALL THE TIME.
S: That's great. What else do you like to listen to?
G: A LOT OF MOTOWN, REALLY. OH, AND I HAVE TO HEAR "GROOVY TRAIN" PRETTY MUCH ONCE A DAY.
S: "Groovy Train"? By the Farm?
G: TOTALLY. THAT GUITAR FIGURE IS AWESOME. I LOVE IT.
S: You love everything, though.
G: IT'S TRUE, BUT COME ON. YOU GOTTA DANCE!
S: If you say so. I also wanted to compliment you on your place here. It's lovely.
G: OH, THANKS. SORRY FOR THE MESS. I REALLY NEED TO MOP.
S: Oh, it's fine!
G: NO, NO, IT'S EMBARRASSING. I SHOULD HAVE MOPPED, BUT WHO WANTS TO DO THAT? I HATE MOPPING.
S: But you said earlier that you loved everyth--
G: (Sighs heavily) I KNOW WHAT I SAID. LISTEN . . . FUCK MOPPING, ALL RIGHT?
S: Uh, if you say so.
G: I DO.
S: You feel strongly about this, I can see. Never made any mention of it in the bible, though.
G: OH, LIKE I WROTE THAT. YOU GUYS ARE HILARIOUS. I LOVE YOU GUYS. WHEN YOU'RE NOT FUCKING MOPPING, WHICH THANKFULLY NOBODY EVER IS.
S: The . . . the bible isn't the word of God?
G: ARE YOU KIDDING? IT ISN'T EVEN THE WORD OF TODD. UNLESS ONE OF THOSE NUTTY MONKS WAS NAMED TODD. I GUESS IT'S POSSIBLE. ANYWAY, HAVE YOU READ THAT THING?
S: Just the dirty parts.
G: GOOD WORK. ANYWAY, THERE'S WHOLE SECTIONS IN THERE ABOUT THINGS LIKE BARLEY. BARLEY? WHAT THE HELL?
S: So . . . huh, that's weird. Are you saying that you're disavowing that the Good Book isn't really your word?
G: OH, FOR . . . LOOK, I LOVE YOU GUYS, BUT REALLY, CAN YOU LEAVE ME OUT OF IT? JUST DO YOUR THING, ALL RIGHT? I THOUGHT YOU WOULD LIKE THE IDEA: "DO YOUR OWN THING." YOU DRAG ME INTO ALL THIS STUFF . . . I GET SO MANY EMAILS.
The music changes, and the Farm's "Groovy Train" begins playing. God breaks into a sunny smile and shimmies a bit in his chair.
G: SEE? WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO THESE GUYS MORE? IT'S ALL RIGHT HERE IN "GROOVY TRAIN."
S: The Word of God is contained in "Groovy Train"? These are your words?
G: DON'T YOU LISTEN? NO, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. THESE ARE THE FARM'S WORDS. I'M JUST SAYING, LISTEN UP.
S: So . . . you're saying that we should . . . get on the groovy train?
G: DO YOU HAVE A BETTER IDEA?
S: . . .
G: I DIDN'T THINK SO. THOSE AREN'T THE ONLY LYRICS, THOUGH. WHAT ELSE DOES THE SONG SAY?
S: Um . . . "You're so special"?
G: THERE YOU GO. THE IRONIC INTERPRETATION IS THE LAZY ONE.
S: I see.
G: LISTEN, I THINK WE SHOULD DANCE.
S: Right now?
G: CAN YOU THINK OF A BETTER TIME?
S: I honestly can't.
G: LET'S GO.
S: One last thing. If everyone is "special," somehow, doesn't that really mean that nobody is?
G: THAT'S THE STUPIDEST THING I'VE EVER HEARD.
S: . . . I'm sorry.
G: LOOK, DON'T BE. YOU GUYS FUCK THIS UP ALL THE TIME. LISTEN, ALL I'M SAYING IS, YOU FOLKS WOULD BE A LOT HAPPIER IF YOU LISTENED TO THE FARM. YOU WANT THE BIG SECRET? WILL YOU LEAVE ME ALONE IF I JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT? ALL I EVER WANTED TO SAY, THE FARM SAID IT JUST FINE. ALL RIGHT? CAN WE DANCE NOW?
You're so special.
Thursday, 01 March
My recent exploits up in the mountains have caused me to remember the source of my love for snowplay: I used to be a skier. It was a long time ago--junior high through high school--but for a time, I was a serious ski nut.
Don't get me wrong: I wasn't ever very good. I was competent, maybe even better than average, but I never had a shining career in front of me or anything. I competed in a slalom race once; I came in third. I got destroyed by D., a classmate of mine who later went on to grow a rat-tail mullet and got on the fast track in the barfly industry. And some other guy who I don't remember, so . . . eat it, other guy!
I got started when I helped out my father at a part-time job at the ski rental place on our local ski hill. Snowhaven, as it is called, is possibly one of America's most hilariously rinky-dink ski hills. It is by any standard unbelievably tiny; if one chooses to take off at top speed from leaving the t-bar (yes, t-bar--or rope tow, if it's running! Which is never), one can easily get to the lodge within two minutes, easy. When God was leaning over to sculpt Sun Valley, Snowhaven fell lintily out of his pants pocket and drifted to Earth up north as Snowhaven. Snowhaven is to skiing as lost keys are to NASCAR. When the miniature people from the bottle city of Kandor want to go skiing, they come to Snowhaven, and are served hot chocolates and cheeseburgers by Dufflepuds.
Think I'm kidding? Have a look. A full day lift ticket is thirteen bucks. Anyone who has gone to a typical ski resort knows that the employees all wear ski masks and are accompanied by gorilla-like brutes whose job is to seize your ankles and shake you upside-down vigorously until all your money is on the floor. Then they take your credit cards, jewelry and dignity before turning you over to the attendant surgical team, who promptly remove a kidney. Getting charged thirteen dollars for a lift ticket is, in the skiing world, a lot like finding a unicorn eating a leprechaun.
Not that it mattered. As a worker at the place, I got to ski for free, once I was done helping out my dad with the rentals. After that, I was free to suit up and go ski my feet off, run after glorious two-minute run after another. At first, I wore stuff from the rental shop, but soon, as a Christmas present, my folks got me real gear of my own: namely, Atomic "Red Sleds," which I prized; these were moderately famous skis because they were worn by Bill Johnson when he won the 1984 downhill gold in Sarajevo. I cherished them beyond all measure, basking in how pristine they were for a little while--about a week--before some guy skiied right over them and laid a gash down to the metal.
My dad got me lessons to get me started; Snowhaven had a ridiculous little bunny hill with a tiny rope tow. My instructor taught me how to snow plow, and I immediately demonstrated a flair for the sport when on my first successful vertical run, I instantly forgot to put my skis in the V position and skiied off of the bottom of the hill into the parking lot. My instructor wearily took out a hip flask while the poor bastard in the Lilliputian rope tow cockpit sighed and fired up a tinfoil pipe.
I got better, of course, and eventually developed into that pestilence of the ski course, the Boy. Boys don't much give a shit about schussing back and forth in elegant arcs, enjoying the snowscape and nature's beauty. Frankly, fuck nature, fuck beauty and fuck you. Boys are interested in two things: speed and jumps. Either a run was a kamikaze dive straight down to the t-bar line (capped off, of course, with a supremely irritating last-minute stop where your skis throw an icy fantail of skidded snow all over everybody else) or it was a looping, cross-lane adventure where jump was followed by jump, young boys flinging themselves into space for ridiculous distances and attempting to perform ski tricks with exotically dumb names, like a "mule kick" or a "daffy" or a "spread-eagle" or a "helicopter" or any combination that one cared to attempt, so long as one was always, always making sure to maximize the possibility that, upon landing, one was most likely to snap a femur.
Of course I fucked up a lot. I really loved to jump, and it was great fun, but not so fun? Landing. Quite often, I would wipe out spectacularly, resulting in what we loved to call--and call we did, when we witnessed it--a "snow sale." The optimal outcome of a snow sale is: poles 10 meters away; skis five meters away, hopefully pointing awkwardly toward the sky at odd angles; hat utterly missing, as if carried of by angry birds; goggles 25 meters away, impacted and invisible into the groomed snow; teeth unrecoverable. Then, if you were very lucky, lying there dazed in the snow, you'd hear that call--"SNOW SALE!"--and then several of your good friends would swoop down on their skis, pick up your shit, and cackle all the way down to dump it outside the lodge, leaving you to trudge dolefully all the way down to retrieve the stuff.
Repeat this for nearly every Saturday night in January for a few winters, and you have reconstructed my time at Snowhaven exactly.
I did get better. I eventually mastered the daffy without exploding on impact; I took on the legendary Jump Hill, Snowhaven's single black diamond run (yes: one), which was right next to the t-bar for maximum showoffiness. I figured out how to ski backwards; I figured out how to ski on one ski with the other cocked behind me at a 90-degree angle, the leading tip of my ski carving a trough in the snow; I figured out how to annoy everyone else on the t-bar by applying drag to the cable, then suddenly releasing the resistance, causing everyone else to ride out the resultant jerk on the line, hopefully resulting in some old people losing their balance and ignominiously falling off the t-bar.
And once, taking my best friend B. up to the hill to learn how to ski, I maliciously took him right to Jump Hill; B. of course, like me once, completely froze, forgot his magical snow-plowing skills, and then parallelled straight down the slope at the speed of sound, his screams Dopplering back to me nicely. At the bottom, terrified beyond rational thought, B. simply elected to fall over on his side to stop himself, and the resulting explosion of powdered snow, B.'s limbs, and every item of clothing and gear resembled nothing so much as those Andy Capp cartoon panels where Andy and Flo indulge themselves in some enthusiastically vigorous domestic violence. I half-expected SFX lettering to float out of the incredible cloud of mayhem: "BOOM!" "THRAKK!" "SNO!"
I doubled over with laughter as B. finally coasted to a stop and lay half-dead on his back, the surrounding landscape littered with the neon Gore-tex of B.'s formerly useful ski gear and clothing. He made croaking noises and experimented with the concept of movement. It was clear that there was only one thing to do.
"SNOW SALE!" I screamed. B. feebly waved at me as I gathered up all his shit and then shouted at me weakly as I glided down the mountain to cheerfully dump it all outside the lodge. I went inside and ordered a cheeseburger and waited for B. to make his lonely, embarrassing trek down the hill. Boy, it was fun. Boy oh boy.