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Tuesday, 29 May
Death By Water

I gaze out my back window
Out to the deck,
The pool

Calm cerulean blue
(I watch "The X-Files," you see)
And I catch my reflection in
The still water

(So beautiful)

But not beautiful
For I am scowling

Because some assholes are about to
Jump into you,
Calm blue pool
And yell
Stupid things

(Splash)

That guy has a
Half-rack
of Pabst
And he yells
"Woooooo!"

He is an asshole.
Stupid Pabst.

(I drank you when I too was young
And stupid
-er
But God help me . . . )

There are others.
You, lady, drag the chaise
Lounges into odd configurations
And it bothers me
For reasons that are hard to
Put into words

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

You, sir, fall asleep in the sun
Face up
(I do not like your washed-out t-shirt)
And then, later,
You leave the cover off the
Gas grill.

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

There is another--perhaps gone? Perhaps?
You know who you are. You have
A tattoo that encircles your bicep
And
Summers past
You would fuck your girlfriend
At night
In the pool.

Perhaps you are gone. We heard
Maybe
Your trust fund ran out
And if so
If so . . .

Good

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

I see you all. I have little choice.
I watch because
You are right there
Yes, you, my dear
You with the baby
It screams
From the carriage
Parked on the baking concrete
It screams!
You are eating nuts.

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

Calumny!
You surely cry--
Ashes of bitterness
Fall from my mouth.

Perhaps.

But might there be an else married
To this perception of
Disfairness
And uncharitable
Gripely words?

An else which opens you
An origami
Thoracotomy
(Sometimes I rhyme, sort of!
Which I think is pretty rad)
And I can pull out your lungs
If I want
Because, dude, don't fuck your girlfriend
In the pool
Right outside.

Don't drink Pabst.
I am begging you.

Don't wear that t-shirt.
I am begging you.

Don't you want to drown your baby?
I am begging you.

"Good fences make good neighbors"
Someone once said
I think it was Prince--

But I would prefer a harmonious deck.

Thursday, 24 May
Kutcher Shocks Nation, Reveals Bush Administration As "Elaborate Hoax"

WASHINGTON DC--

At a shocking press conference on Friday morning, actor and prankster Ashton Kutcher informed a stunned press gathering that the Bush administration has been a high-spirited prank orchestrated by the actor himself. "The past seven years, man . . . what can I say? You guys have all been punk'd." Supposed President George W. Bush then joined Mr. Kutcher onstage waving and smiling to the silent crowd while flashbulbs erupted in white cannonades. Dressed in a ratty "Voters Are Stupid Fags" t-shirt and Bermuda shorts, Mr. Bush grinned affably at the cameras and made flatulent noises by putting his right hand into his left armpit and flapping his arm.

Mr. Kutcher dissolved into laughter at this display while his wife, noted actress Demi Moore, snatched low-flying bats from the air and ate them with a blank-eyed vigor. Ms. Moore seemed to take no notice of the onstage antics of her husband and the ersatz president, but occasionally murmured ominous, cryptic phrases that were later determined by linguists to be ancient Aramaic incantations of immortality.

Presently, gathered reporters recovered from their immense shock, and began asking hard questions about the many controversial issues swirling around the evidently false administration.

"Mr. Kutcher, what about the Iraq war?" asked one.

"Oh, man, you guys should have seen your faces. That was [expletive] hilarious. I can't believe you fell for that [expletive]. It cost us a lot of money--like, billions, I guess--and a lot of lives, but those families who lost loved ones can rest tonight knowing that that [expletive] slayed. You wouldn't believe the ratings we pulled."

"It was so weird," continued Mr. Kutcher. "It wasn't like my movies at all. People really seemed interested in watching this stuff." At this point, pop music began playing, and Mr. Bush was seen to bend over an attractive blonde woman onstage and vigorously lick her back to the strains of "The Humpty Dance."

When pressed upon the myriad of other perceived administrative bungles of Mr. Bush's hoaxed administration, such as the Valerie Plame scandal and the ongoing questions surrounding embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Mr. Kutcher equivocated. "Look, it's all fake. You guys . . . you guys all fell for it. You're just going to have to wait for the VH1 thing we've got coming out, and you'll see what was going on the whole time. I think you're really going to laugh. All right, guys, I've got to wrap this up--if Demi eats too many bats, she won't put out, or she'll just kind of lie there, you know?"

But there was one final question for Mr. Kutcher: If the Bush administration was a hoax, who was--and is--the real president?

Kutcher remained coy on the topic, winking and replying, "Maybe you should talk to David Geffen. We've got to go now, folks." Kutcher and Moore then arose to a waiting helicopter, using only the power of their meteoric fame.

When reached at his Paris apartment, Mr. Geffen denied being the first openly gay secret President of the United States, and in fact denied any such aspirations. "I am not your president, nor do I wish to be. I'm a free man in Paris," said Mr. Geffen. "I feel unfettered and alive. There's nobody calling me up for favors, and no one's future to decide."

But Mr. Geffen did have one intriguing clue to offer. "I suggest you talk to Grape Ape," he told this reporter.

When reached for comment on this story, Mr. Ape would only bellow "Grape Ape! Grape Ape!" Mr. Ape's press secretary Beegle Beagle failed to elaborate on these comments, opting instead to speed away in a tiny yellow car.

Tuesday, 22 May
Please Help! (Oh God, Please Stop Helping!)

This weekend we got a call from our building manager W, except we didn't. He wanted to come over with a handyman to take a look at the place for some minor fixups and repairs, but then he had to cancel, except he didn't.

We have an odd relationship.

He's actually a decent enough manager, W. is, except for the rather odd (and occasionally inconvenient) fact that he has no phone; no landline, no cell. When we need to leave him a message--which, happily, has been infrequently--we leave a message with a woman who is, from what we can tell, a shut-in friend of his with nothing better to do than to sit near her phone in an attitude of anticipatory pouncing, waiting for her phone to ring, even if that phone call consists of some phrases like "We're being attacked by Swamp Thing, and he's really fucking up our carpet."

He initially called this weekend on Saturday in his inimitable way--he was wandering by our place (he lives a few blocks away, apparently) and so he simply buzzed our apartment. "Sorry to bother you! Can I come in?" We're used to this. So he called--sort of--but he really didn't. He just showed up. Whatever. We let him in. "I'm not taking anything from these handymen any more," he said mildly as he wandered in. "They keep canceling on me. But I've got this guy now, his name is Larry, and he's worked in your building . . . " At this point, I fell into a narcotized haze and tuned him out. He took some notes. "I'm going to get cracking on this dishwasher thing!" he reportedly said, studying the ancient machine clinically while I zombied behind him. "I'll call you when I set things up with Larry." Fine. The decrepit dishwasher stared back at us impassively, as if to say, "I'm not worried. I've been here since 1968."

Later that afternoon, W. called us from an unfamiliar number, presumably a friend, since as I mentioned, he has no phone of his own. "Larry bailed on me," he said. "I'm not messing with this guy either. You guys are free for the weekend."

"All right," I said. Good to know!

On Sunday at about 2:00 in the afternoon, our buzzer sounded.

"Hi, it's me, W. I thought I had this other fellow named Greg, but he got called away for an emergency. I won't be using him anymore. Anyway, can I come in for a moment?"

So much for that free weekend. I gaped into my buzzer receiver for a minute, and took an extra second to gape at myself, still unshowered and clad in my ratty bathrobe. (Hey, kiss my ass, we like to laze around on Sundays in our own filth and thumb through the NYT on our own time.)

"Why?" I yelped before realizing that I didn't have to give any good reason at all. I tamed my voice and said, "No, this is a terrible time. I'm not even dressed."

There was a tiny pause before he said "Oh!" which would have been an awesome time to say something terrible like "See, I'd have to box up the snakes" or "I'm getting hella blown right now, dude!" But I didn't. Instead, I let the pause spin out, and finally he said, "Well, how about tomorrow?" I told him I'd be home by four. Remember that the day before he had told us to have a worry-free and visit-free weekend. Now he was right outside our building wondering if he could just wander on in. I'd give my friends the business if they showed up without calling.

He did come by the following day, Monday. He had a camera with him, a disposable camera. "I just want to get some shots of the things you guys want fixed up." All right. He started with the kitchen, where some of the decrepit tiles are starting to come up. He framed one clinically, and set a loose tile at right angles to its proper seated spot. "This is dramatic," he breathed, and then poked uncertainly at the recalcitrant camera. "What are you doing?" he said to it.

The camera kept its silence. Eventually it caved to his ministrations and flashed . . . at something. "Gotcha!" W. hissed at the embarrassed tile. He turned his attention to the superannuated dishwasher again as if it were an old nemesis.

"Look at this thing," he commented neutrally, but staring at the greasy beast as if it owed him money. "This is terrible." He briefly probed the outflow vent with a steady finger while I winced. He produced a popcorn seed. "Popcorn!" he crowed in some unknowable triumph before flicking it to the (granted, dirty) floor. I stared, wondering how long we'd be here doing this strange ritual, and wondering when Sartre got assigned scripting my life.

"I think the last time we had popcorn was, like, 2003," I said, staring at the forlorn kernel on my floor. "There you go," he gnomishly replied. Then he took some photos of some unweatherstripped windows as well as several good shots of what I predict are his fingers, based on what I observed of his framing.

"Who did this?" he wondered aloud.

"The owner?" I offered.

"He doesn't return my phone calls," he said. Great! Incidentally, what fucking number would he try? Never mind.

"Is there anything else?" W. fixed me with a getting-to-the-end-of-things look. I felt kind of embarrassed. But hey.

"Well," I said. "It's kind of stupid, but . . . our toilet seat." Our toilet seat--circa the Wood Age--is, well, made of wood. Good choice for a humid environment and bacterial proliferation! "The toilet seat is kind of cracked. And, well, it can pinch."

"Let's take a look." Yes, let's!

W. stared at the toilet seat. It might have been hammered into place by Orcs. He pointed his awful little camera at the seat in its "down" position. "This doesn't show anything." He lifted the seat.

"But this might!" There was a big crack in the seat, visible from this underside vantage point. He eagerly pointed his camera at the seat while I fidgeted in the background, thinking I sure wish nobody was taking a photo of my toilet seat right now.

He took a couple shots and stood up. "Nobody should have a pinchy toilet seat," W. said solemnly. "You pick up some new one from Fred Meyer--I don't recommend wood--and take it out of your rent."

"Okay," I said. "We hate getting pinched," I added witlessly.

"I'll call you soon," he said, meaning, I might show up at your door at any time.

Somewhere during this time I decided that, for God's sake, we have to get our own house. Then, when everything goes to hell and malevolent geese nest in our chimney or something, I will know that nobody is going to show up at my house and take photos of my fucking toilet seat.

Thursday, 17 May
Track And Field

After my freshman year in college, I of course returned home to Idaho for the summer break. I worked a couple of jobs; one for the Forest Service doing something called "P-line surveying," which is exactly as exciting as it sounds; and occasionally (read: always) filling in on Saturday morning shifts at the sawmill doing cleanup, which is also thrilling: Oh boy! Several tons of wet bark! Let's . . . pick it up and move it somewhere else!

But I did manage to fit in a little recreation. And this being Idaho, the emphasis there would be on "little." But there were always the dances! Why? Nobody had any idea, but looking back, I would have to guess that it was a safety measure to get all of us desperately bored little assholes rounded up in one easily monitored place rather than have us do the alternative, which was to drive around like maniacs all night while drinking heavily.

The dances were simple to set up: Find a community center, or an old armory, or a skating rink, or a charnel house, and then play music, and wait for the drunk teens to show up and listlessly shuffle around for a couple hours before shuffling off for a couple hours of (the boys hoped) listless coupling. It was a remarkably successful strategy, if only because--we would never admit it at the time, but it was painfully obvious--that simply driving around on dirt roads and getting loaded is a profoundly depressing thing to do on a Saturday night.

As I said, I was back home from my first year in college, which I had spent madly and determinedly utterly reinventing myself from "pathetic hick geek/unclassifiable pariah" to "manic, mouthy idiot/unclassifiable buttinsky." In this I must say I was remarkably successful. One of the things I had made sure to do while away was take notice of how guys outside of rural areas danced: that is to say, I noticed that these guys actually moved, rather than sullenly shifting from one foot to the other in a circle, which is how all guys danced in Idaho--gloomily orbiting the girls (who cheerfully shimmied all they wanted), doomed electrons unable to de-quantize that one last step and pile into the nucleus of the whole thing.

Fuck that! At college--where nobody knew me or the shambling thing I had formerly been on dance floors since abandoned--I cut loose and really let it loose. I was unstoppable, and threw myself into every beat like a wino throws himself at an unattended beer truck. I was limber and loose-limbed; I vividly remember one night doing an immortal sideways pogo of sorts to "Dancing With Myself" and smacking my skull into a co-ed's nose, resulting in an impressive shower of gore. My friend J. remarked later, "I have to tell you that I love to watch you dance." With all the not-getting-it-ism of the truly stupid, at the time, I thought this was a genuine compliment.

I brought these newfound skills back home with me that summer, and one night in Greenwood, I let it fucking loose. I didn't break anyone's nose that night, but I was on fire. Looking at me at the time, actually, one might reasonably conclude that I really was actually on fire.

You see, I was still a terrible dancer, and I remain so to this day. I move like a duck on a hot plate, but I'm not that tall and pretty skinny, so my limbs fly around like several strands of overcooked pasta caught in a strong crosswind. But that night, I hadn't a care. I flailed around unfunkily to horrors while the rest of the dancers stared at me as if I'd gotten an expired inoculation. I'm different than I was! I thought, and I liked showing it. He's still so lame, but in a much weirder way, everyone else thought.

Then something unprecedented happened. In fact, nothing like it has ever happened to me since. A girl approached me during a break.

A pretty girl. She was leggy and lissome and confident and blonde and why was she talking to me? I wiped sweat off of my brow. "Hi," she said. "You can dance! Nobody else here knows how to dance."

"Thanks," I croaked. I introduced myself and promptly held out my now-sweaty hand, which she shook; it must have been like grabbing a raw chicken leg, and I cursed myself inwardly. But she was still smiling. "My name is N. You want to dance when they start the music again? I'm sick of dancing with these rednecks."

Well.

You have to understand that no woman has ever really approached me in this way, least of all while I've been perpetrating some dance crimes, unless it's to worriedly say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were being electrocuted" or "Are you a performance artist?" So this was really new. We danced together for pretty much the rest of the night, and I was suddenly getting new looks from everyone else: What in the fuck can possibly be happening over there? Is the world ending? She was beautiful, and we danced on.

At the end of the evening, she pressed a piece of paper into my hand: her phone number, about thirty minutes away in another town. I found out something else: she was also home from school in Eugene, Oregon--not too far away from where I went to school, in Salem. "Call me tomorrow," she purred. "I want to go out. You'll call me?"

Well.

Of course I called her. I may have been an astonishingly awful dancer, but I wasn't insane, and plus, she didn't seem to notice the bizarre carny geek aspect to my dancing, so. Being around this creature--she's in my car!--emboldened me, gave me confidence I'd never felt before, least of all in this town where I had basically grown up, feeling all the time like some fucking gargoyle of Idaho, a medieval thing dropped down somewhere I had never belonged.

"Let's get some beer," she said. I gulped, but pulled into a gas station convenience store. This is never going to fly, I thought as I nervously grabbed a six-pack. I took it to the counter, and the blocklike woman stared flintily at me as I smiled and held out a ten. Then she glanced out at my horrible car parked right out front in the window. N. lazed calmly in the passenger seat. The clerk looked at me again, drawing out her stare. Did a ghost of a smile touch her lips? She took my money and said, "You have a good night now."

"I will!" I practically screamed as I exited triumphantly, and then she did smile.

The rest of the evening unfolded just like you're thinking right now. "I have to go back to Eugene tomorrow," she told me while sipping her beer. She didn't look at me while I drove. She curled her legs under herself in the seat. "Will you call me when you get to Salem?"

"Of course I will," I said, meaning it.

"Take me somewhere to look at the moon."

Well.

So, in a fog, a fog not unlike the fog of uncertainty generated by the dubious heat of my unfortunate dancing, I drove us to the track field at my high school, where, yes, we fucked like only the young can fuck: loudly; vigorously; ineptly; quickly. I noted with some amusement in the morning that my underwear was a violent, rubbed-in green; I also noted with some quick yelps in the shower that N. had mercilessly raked my back with her nails.

I drove her home in the middle of the night, and sure enough, she left the next day. As promised, she had given me her phone number in Eugene. I dreamed of her for days. Being back home was a burden on me anyway, what with the unpleasant jobs and not being able to further reinvent myself back at school. I chafed at being home, and I'm sure I was an intolerable dick the entire summer. Fortunately for everyone, I was working too hard to really bug anybody for too long.

I got back to Salem, finally, that dead turd of a town (though I thought of it as Mecca). And I called N., who picked up on the second ring.

"Oh my God! I wasn't sure you were going to call!"

I puffed out my chest. "Of course I was going to call. I told you."

"I got us Grateful Dead tickets! All you have to do is come down here."

I felt a spear of ice in my chest. I hate the Grateful Dead.

"Oh! Um . . . okay."

"And I've cleared out some room for you."

Alarm bells were ringing.

"What?" The world was tilting dangerously now.

"I cleared out some space. I thought you were coming down. I cleared out some space so you could move in."

Holy fuck.

"N. . . . I can't move in with you. I like you a lot, but . . . N., we spent a couple nights together. This is starting to freak me out. I'd love to see you, but we . . . we're not . . . this is really weird."

(I'm leaving out a bunch of stuff about how I awesomely was starting to get back together with a different girl with whom I had enjoyed a previous relationship with, and so you can see how nightmarish this was getting, and it may have been all my fault.)

I have no finish to this story. Some stories don't. And they're usually awful.

I remember this one as being awful. She hung up on me, in tears. I never heard from her again.

Monday, 14 May
I Know What They're About To Do This Summer

It's time for the new crop of summer blockbusters . . . almost! In the meantime, Hollywood has some choice offerings that they're dropping like they're hot soaked in burning acid! I love my job. Let me again assure you that I have not seen any of these movies, and while I usually also append some lie about how I never will, I'm dropping that bit, especially since this weekend the wife and I watched Smokin' Aces, a movie so horrendous and mind-flaying that it has resulted in some sort of neurological trauma that has turned me into a sociopath who no longer cares about human life, much like every single character found in Smokin' Aces. Also like the creators of Smokin' Aces, I also do not care about coherent storytelling, competent editing, nuanced acting or unfiltered camera work.

In other words, I am perfectly equipped to watch all of these movies at some point. Pity me.

Even Money

Plot Outline: (All of these are lifted from IMDB) Gambling addiction bring the stories of three otherwise unconnected people together as it destroys each of their lives.

This caper comedy is made for all of us who have been waiting for Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and Kelsey Grammer to get together and bring the yuks! How can you lose?

Oh. It's not a comedy of all. It's a crime drama. With Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and . . . Kelsey Grammer. Gee. That sounds . . . good . . .

Hey, it's also got Ray Liotta and Jay Mohr! That sounds . . . good . . .

Is it getting dark in here?

What can be salvaged from this nightmare? Oh, let's go for the fun actor names. There's the appealingly salaciously named Amy Boatwright. One wants to approach her and say, "Hey, baby! I'll set your boat right!" Or there's also the equally wonderfully named Michelle Greathouse. "Hey, baby! Wanna give me a tour of your great house? I'm really interested in the downstairs." But then I'd probably run afoul of the truly awesomely named Texas Battle, who would forcefully remind me of the Alamo in several brutal ways.

I can think of worse ways to go, really. One of them includes watching this movie.

Mr. Brooks

Plot Outline: A psychological thriller about a man (Costner) who is sometimes controlled by his murder-and-mayhem-loving alter ego (Hurt).

Kevin Costner ... Mr. Earl Brooks
Demi Moore ... Detective Tracy Atwood
Dane Cook ... Mr. Smith
William Hurt ... Marshall
Marg Helgenberger... Emma Brooks

Dear filmmakers:

Were we bad? Did we do something? We are so sorry. We don't know what we did, really, but please, just tell us what it was. We won't do it again. Look, we bought these whips! We became flagellants when we saw the ads! We've lost so much blood . . . mommy . . .

Once

Plot Outline: A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

[CLUNK]

Oh my goodness! Did I pass out for a moment there? Jeez, I did. It seems that just reading those shattering words gave me a transient ischemic attack. I'd best move on.

Gracie

Plot Outline: A teenager faces an uphill battle when she fights to give women the opportunity to play competitive soccer.

[CLUNK]

Ow! My brain! Oh, this isn't going well. I keep having tiny strokes! I fear that my dangerous mind may not be healed even by the cutting edge musical therapies that offer to bring it on through the talents of Mr. Holland and his opuses or even a drumline! RUUUUUUUUUUDY!

I'm entering a fugue state now, I fear. Must! Keep! Prejudging!

Rise: Blood Hunter

Plot Outline: Supernatural thriller in which a female reporter wakes up in a morgue to find herself a member of the undead. She vows revenge against the sect that put her there and hunts them down.

USA! USA! USA!

Er, well, it was shot in Belgium, but . . . USA! USA! USA!

Good lord, what happened to Lucy Liu? There was a time when she was on top of her game and all and then . . . what? My best guess is Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever happened, which is apparently the cinematic equivalent of Hodgkin's Disease. I myself watched it one night after the wife had sensibly retreated to bed, and I can confidently say that the movie made me wish for chemotherapy.

Which might explain why the formerly ascendant Liu is skulking around this disaster taking off her shirt on demand while grips dump buckets of stage blood on her. Michael Chiklis is also in this thing (ha! Get it?), presumably running around beefily and showing his lower teeth at anyone who happens to be around; so is Robert "Will act for Corn Flakes" Forster, who is a perfectly fine character actor; as is Marilyn "Brian Warner" Manson, who is a perfectly fine fake gimmick musician, just like previously fine fake gimmick musician/actors such as David Bowie and Alice Cooper. (Bring on the hate mail! I'm used to it. I've endangered more than a few friendships over my confusion as to why people kept falling for Bowie's incredibly cynical "No, really, this is the real me" line year after year after year, which was later completely ripped off by Madonna, also to great success. On the other hand, not even Bowie was stupid enough to do Monster Dog or Shanghai Surprise.)

Well, this is obviously going to be a mephitic horror. So why am I looking forward to this more than any other film?

I told you at the beginning. I have brain damage. And after watching these night-gaunts, so will you.

Thursday, 10 May
But Seattle Only Symbolically Crushes My Balls

All right! *rubs hands together eagerly* Time to rip into some Chicago! That Chicago! What a . . . they're so stupid! Chicago. Please. It sucks like . . . a thing that . . . sucks! Sitting on that lake! Like it's so big and, uh . . . lake-sitting! Gay. Chicago, you're gay! You're so . . . wait, "gay" isn't gay anymore. What's the new "gay?" Well, it's whatever Chicago is! Chicago is the new gay pejorative term! So next time you want to malign someone for his or her sexual preference, you walk right up to them and scream, "GOD HATES CHICAGOANS!"

This is getting complicated. I need to call Fred Phelps and see if he's cool with all this.

Oh, it's hopeless. I can't really make fun of Chicago, because frankly, Chicago is awesome. It's awesome in practically every way. It's got world-class public art (Miro! Picasso!), world-class pizza (oh, shut the fuck up, New Yorkers), world-class architecture, outstanding museums, outstanding baseball history (times two!), even outstandingly entertaining political corruption. (I would love it if on the "Welcome to Chicago!" signs, they would add the phrase "Fuck You, We're Still Electing Daleys.")

If there is anything to quibble about with Chicago, it's that maybe it's almost too awesome. It's almost oppressively awesome, to the point where you simply don't know what to do with yourself. Do I go see the Sears Tower? Do I go to Wrigley Field? Do I go puzzle over that Miro piece? Do I go visit that weather-witch of a giant fucking lake and wait for my marrow to freeze? Do I fall into the Daley gravity well and helplessly vote for him even though I don't live here and it's not an election year?

I think this is why the wife and I are so comfortable in Seattle. Seattle is nothing like Chicago: Seattle is a fake big town for dumb hicks who want to think that they actually live in a big town. But Seattle is flyweight compared to Chicago. Our public art consists of things like a bronze pig and a great big silhouette of a guy crushing his penis with a hammer. Our wan museum displays things like Andy Warhol's ear hair and waits for touring shows of other, more important shows to make bank; additionally (and perhaps most awesomely), it is directly across the street from a strip club called the Lusty Lady. Our architecture is usually exceptionally bland or utterly demented; the Smith Tower narcoleptically exemplefies the former, while the Gehry monstrosity that is the EMP demonstrates the latter. In between is the iconic 70s discarded toy for giant babies that is the Space Needle. I'm not kidding. On the base of the inverted lawn dart that is the Space Needle is a parental warning: "Suitable for giant children age 3 or above." There have been so many giant babies that have picked that stupid thing up and just jammed it right into their fucking eyes.

Don't even get me started on the local politics. Do you know who the mayor of Seattle is? His name is Greg Nickels, and his main accomplishment is, astonishingly, being less exciting than an actual pile of nickels. His predecessor was named Norm Rice, whose main accomplishment was, yes, being less exciting than rice. Washington's governor is Christine Gregoire, a politician noted most prominently for her slightly unsettling hairdo, which perches over her cranium like Fuseli's nightmare incubus.

So Chicago is in pretty much every way more awesome than Seattle. The wife certainly had a good time raiding the town while I was stuck at work doing things like manning a computer lab that was attended by nobody (no exaggeration--not one person showed up over three hours). We're dinky latecomers with no claim to any kind of the sort of throne that Chicago commands.

On the other hand, even in downtown Seattle, I probably won't have to pay ten dollars for a gin and tonic.

But on some mythical third hand, Chicago has wonderful public art that does not feature a giant guy who smashes his genitals with a hammer.

Monday, 07 May
And He Was

I'm back from Chicago, but I'm afraid I just don't have the heart to write a bunch of nasty bullshit about it today. Today we lost Howard Bulson, one of the sweetest men I ever had the privilege to appear on stage with.

Thank God that I didn't have to sing in front of him--God knows he didn't need any more of that misery, although he certainly heard worse in his time. I remember his immaculate white suits; I remember his out-of-time polite courtliness with ladies: once, while smoking with him and a female cast member in the back alley behind the Rendevous, we were set upon by a young guy looking for a smoke. The young guy started a line of patter with the actress, a lot of ridiculous nonsense along the lines of "Damn, girl, you look good! You're a house on fire!" etc. etc. Howard drawled laconically, "Say, who writes your material?"

I remember how, when he showed up for the first musical rehearsal, we told him what material we needed him to play, and after an hour or so, he excused himself. "I've got it," he said, and left. We looked at each other worriedly. This was like worrying that Albert Pujols would forget what a baseball looked like or Carlos Mencia forgetting what it's like to be an intolerable asshole. He showed up at the next rehearsal unruffled and had, in fact, remodulated many of the songs so that they were more easily sung by the cast members. Without being asked to, without suggestion. And, apparently, without effort.

Friday would have been his 73rd birthday. We were going to have such a party in his honor; we knew he was sick, terribly sick. He had pancreatic cancer. But it got him before we could get there. As usual, it wasn't Howard's timing that was off: it was ours. Missed it by that much. If Howard were still here, he'd gently tell us to start over, from the beginning. We'd get it this time. And if we didn't, Howard would say, That's all right. We'll do it again.

We're still going to get together, I think. We have to. It's not a party any more . . . I suppose it's a wake. We'll get together this weekend and celebrate a life, and what a life: a life of behind-the-scenes, a life of accompaniment, a life spent making other people look much better than they might have otherwise. What could be nobler?

Good night, Howard. The songs are still here to be played, but I don't think they're going to sound right any more without you. Come back, and all is forgiven for you having left us. Come back so we can say, That's all right. We'll do it again.










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