skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Thursday, 30 August
A Medical History
At age four, I contracted a nasty ear infection. Two of them, actually! One for each ear. I remember we were on some road trip--my childhood consisted of any number of ill-remembered road trips, suggesting that my parents were, for a while, rootless hippies, which they were, sort of--and I was lying in the back seat of the car, moaning softly, by which I mean loudly.
At some point, I was taken to the hospital, where it was discovered that my ears were, thanks to the infection, filled with compacted dried blood. This was excellent news to hear as a small child, and I soberly responded by immediately making a Barry Sandersesque break for the door, figuring that nothing good was going to happen next. However, as my legs were 18" long, I was easily intercepted.
When the docs held me down and vacuumed out the muck from my ear canals, my mother heard my screams all the way down the hall. This was, by her report, my very first post-innocent-repeating-babytalk utterance of the phrase "fuck you." I think Dad got a talking to.
I have a very clear memory, I think age five or six, of being at the doctor's office, and for whatever reason, they deemed it necessary to take my temperature . . . the bad way. I thrashed like the world's tiniest professional wrestler on fire, screaming--let me see if I can remember . . . oh, yes!--"NO! NO! NO! NO!" I do not remember if I deployed a few "fuck you"s this time around, and my mom has no memory of this particular violation.
In the end--oh, shut up--it was really kind of dumb. They finally got me to stop shouting long enough to inform me that they were done. "You are?" I said, totally confounded. In the tumult, I hadn't felt a thing. "That's good," I said. I felt a little victorious about the whole thing.
A year or so later, my parents were concerned because of weird cold-like symptoms that would not go away. Wheezing, runny nose, sneezing, the whole bit. Back to the doctor, who figured it out more or less instantly:
"Does he sleep with a feather pillow?" My mom the nurse hadn't thought of the obvious: I had allergies. "Let's find out what he's allergic to," said the doctor.
Do they still do this shit? Because if so, fuck you, medicine. Here's what they did in my day: I took off my shirt and laid down on my stomach while the doctor cut my bare fucking back with a bunch of histological provocateurs. He cut me over and over. Doctors are sadists. Anyway, whatever got red and angry and itchy, I was allergic to!
I was allergic to goddamn fucking everything, and now my back looked like a Stratego board. "He's allergic to," said the doctor, staring dubiously at this incredible litany of everything, "most grasses, hay, straw, animal dander, pollen, Delaware, school sports, human contact, combs, the works of Immanuel Kant, floors, walls, phone books, the concept of emotional blackmail, and house dust." He smiled pleasantly while I thought, house dust? Living as we did in, you know, a house, this sounded like the shits.
We got rid of the feather pillows. The house dust, not so much. It's dust. I spent a good portion of my childhood getting halfway up the stairs in the spring and then having to stop to catch my breath before I could finish the job. One flight of stairs. It would make my mother cry. To this day, I can't look at cottonwood trees without feelings of naked loathing. Happily, Seattle has no cottonwood trees. In fact, Seattle has apparently no allergens at all, as I haven't had an allergy attack in twelve years here.
"Oh, he's also asthmatic," the doctor explained to us. For a period of a year or so, I had to have a weekly shot to control this delightful condition.
So it's only natural that I grew up and became a smoker. I hope that doctor is dead.
In fifth grade, my teacher asked me to read something off the blackboard. I squinted, and couldn't make it out. He contacted my parents, who took me to an optometrist. My eyesight was truly horrible, and I was fitted with glasses. We were not a rich family, so I got to choose from the delightful array of horrific plastic glasses frames that are made by shaky buskers in Poland. I looked like an Aryan Henry Kissinger, I wore clothes from Goodwill, and I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without my alveoli sending up rescue flares.
"I think you need to take a school sport," my father informed me around this time.
When I got my physical in order to qualify for school sports--required--the kindly old doctor totally fondled my balls. This was horrifying. Clinical, professional and horrifying.
"You're fine," he said at the end of it all.
I'm allergic to the world, asthmatic, blind and I look like a junior war criminal, I thought. Doctors are fucking stupid. Plus, he touched my balls.
I have since had my balls groped many other times, in strange contexts, by doctors. This despite my total reluctance to visit doctors at all. Doctors are all ball fetishists. "I have this thing with my arm hair," you might say. "I'd better feel your balls!" the doctor will say.
I forgot to tell you about when I was hospitalized when I was four--allergies? It's lost to me--where I was horribly thirsty, but I was not allowed liquids except for ice chips wrapped in a damp washcloth, which I desperately sucked on for hours. Or when my eyes swelled shut on multiple occasions, generally due to the existence of cats. Doctors were summoned, and when they weren't slicing up my back, they were giving me ice chips in washcloths, and then were probably reaching down to cup my balls.
I think I might have to go to the doctor. I don't have a regular doctor, so I assume that this will be a total nightmare, paperwork-wise. I've had this fucking cold--if it is a cold--that simply won't go away, and so I suppose I need to go to a professional ball-handler to tell me, "Oh, God, you're stupid, here's some antibiotics, get lost," right after he clinically and professionally hefts my sack.
I swear to God, if I see a cat that day, I'm going to kick it to death.
Monday, 27 August
Saturday! Was! Another! Day! In! Our! Lives!
Only this Saturday we had a party to go to. Our friends C. and L. decided to throw a party, and so we traveled up to Shoreline--you may remember me writing about this neighborhood before, but if not, all you need to know is that there are lots of cars and boats sitting on dead lawns--to partake of PORK! As C.'s invitation indicated.
Now, I like to rag on C.--it's what guys do--but he and his wife-to-be really do have a perfectly fine house, and C. does make a damn fine pulled pork shoulder sandwich. (This phrase always makes me think of some anthropomorphic pig athlete yelling, "Oh, fuck, I pulled my shoulder on that play!" and then Darkseid shows up and is all like, "I enjoy strained pig muscle!" and he tears off the pig's shoulder and shreds it with the Omega effect and puts it on bread, and everyone says "Darkseid makes one hell of a sandwich, boy." I'm sure you've heard this before. Anyway: thanks, dead pig! Granny Goodness and I really enjoyed eating you.)
When we arrived at Chez C., there was a lively round of Drunk Croquet being played, but it was really too early for anyone to be drunk yet, so they were just playing croquet. Croquet, of course, is a deeply stupid game when played properly but somehow manages to be ridiculous fun when played by ticcy beer-swillers on a lunar-inspired grass-scape. C. naturally recognized that his terrible lawn--tilty and pitted and ravaged (he pointed out some footstep-shaped dead grass spots where his fiancee had trod on the lawn after accidentally soaking her feet with herbicide)--was perfect for this sort of thing, and then did the smart thing and placed the bent, dented wickets thirty feet away from each other, causing the players to take monstrous, Andruw Jonesish wild swings at the balls, and occasionally sending the mallets flying through the aether to maybe cave in someone's windshield. I kept hoping.
Then we ate, and it was pork, and it was good. C., who happily also hates other mammals, also made some jerk chicken drumsticks and some beef chili and some deep-fried turkey heads and a batch of candied bat eyes and a plate of undifferentiated scalded ears. I think I ate Macaulay Culkin's!
Then we got down to what actors and sketch comedians do best: chaotic drinking, look-at-me preposterousness and relentless dismantling of whoever happens to be close enough to you to focus on. We got started with drunk badminton.
There's not much to say about drunk badminton, except maybe to point out that we got sort of fanatical about it to the degree that one of the participants left the party to go to some fucking place to get more shuttlecocks after we destroyed the two that we had. "Where is S. with those fucking shuttlecocks?" we screamed while duct-taping up the wretched shuttlecorpses. Then we would spend ten minutes making cock jokes. "That cock was totally in your face!" Some of my friends work at banks; others at hospitals. I work in cancer research. The next time you wonder why commerce is failing us and science is a stagnant force in our society, you can go ahead and blame us.
During all this, C. would occasionally appear, chewing on a cigar, and would yell incomprehensible things at us. We would typically respond by hurling terrible imprecations at C., because that's how we treat our good friend who fed us free mammals and let us ruin his house; it's just the way we are. Actually, it's easy to explain: we're assholes.
(My favorite was when C. or T. or someone would appear in the second-story window of the garage--the game room, actually--to yell shit at us, because it made me feel like I was on Laugh-In. Then someone would throw a shuttlecorpse or a soccer ball into the window.)
Eventually we all went inside to the upstairs-from-the-garage game room, because it got cold outside and there was a pool table and a poker table in there and also the whiskey. (We had since received and destroyed the new shuttlecocks and made ten thousand more cock jokes, and one guy fell asleep in the hammock, and then on the lawn, but you know: I'm condensing here.)
I got dragooned into playing a doubles pool game; I kicked ass. (Really!) This is because I was drunk. I'm a horrible pool player, but when I've been drinking, I can kill. It also helped when I conked out the other team by smashing in their teeth with my cue; then I herded the balls into the pockets with my hands. Suck on that, gummers! (No, seriously, I did kick ass, because I was sort of drunk.)
Then C. opened up the CASINO TABLE. Which is this little half-sized blackjack foldout table that he has. I promptly tripled up my fake chips (C. has real casino chips) before instantly losing them all on one bet, and so I offered to deal. Emulating C., I would wish the recipient of a leading ace "Good luck!" but then varied my patter by telling people who got nightmare hands like queen-four things like "Say, you're fucked!" or "Nice one, dog's ass!" I was a very popular dealer, as far as I know. It should be mentioned that I was within reaching distance of a giant bottle of Jack Daniels, so I'm sort of assuming here.
I love these assholes. I can only hope that they feel the same way.
Monday, 20 August
Don't Touch Her, She's Sick
Sunday was a big day for us with a lot on the schedule. The wife's father has recently retired (involuntarily due to some crappy health problems, but happily not due to any morbid health problems), and so there was a surprise party being thrown for him. Kind of a big deal. Also kind of a big deal was later that day the funeral for an old friend of the wife's who had finally succumbed after a long and fairly gruesome battle with cancer.
I was getting dressed after showering when the wife materialized before me. "I'm sick, my boy!" she wailed, and then dissolved into huge sobs.
Now, I am not a strong man under normal circumstances. I am exponentially less strong when my wife is in tears; it completely hollows out my heart to see her cry. I know this was not about me, at the time--I'm just saying. I will put on an Insane Clown Posse CD and fuck a monkey in a tutu if I think it will cheer her out of tears. (So maybe I'm not always weak and ineffectual. Just mostly. Good to know!) But there was nothing to be done here, really--she was sick.
"I almost passed out in the shower," she snuffled into my shoulder. "And then I threw up! I threw up twice!" Then she pulled herself away from me to go throw up. I couldn't help but notice that she was fully dressed, and also that she was throwing up, since the bathroom door was still open. "I'm sorry," she said miserably. "I could have shut the door."
There's a lot going on here, so let's take a moment to consider a few things. First of all, she nearly passed out in the shower. (She had showered first; when I got out of bed, she was sitting on the floor of our bedroom, rooting around in the closet. I didn't know then that she was sick, and dimly dismissed the kind of weird fact that she was sitting on the floor. Because she was dizzy.) (In fact, she later told me that she had basically crawled to get to the shower for fear of falling down.) After that, she threw up a couple times. Most people would be calling the fight at this point--God knows I would be. However, after nearly passing out a couple times, heaving a few times, she then--after rooting around in the closet (on the floor), managed to go ahead and get completely dressed for the day. Then--then!--she apologized to me, her husband for inconsiderately forgetting to shut the bathroom door.
It wasn't until she realized that she possibly couldn't walk without falling down--and, you know, the uncontrollable vomiting--that maybe she didn't have it in her to go anywhere that day, and she cried, because not only did she feel bad, now she felt really bad.
So I did my part: I held her and said meaningless things. "What can you do?" I said. "It's not your fault!" I cried. I'll cut off my arm with a chopsaw if you want! I thought. "I have the baclava!" she sobbed into my shirt. (Explanation: she was bringing the baclava.) "Fuck the baclava!" I declared.
I still think this was the right thing to say, but I can't really be sure, since that's when she vomited again. I ran around in circles for a while, babbling things like "call!" and "your mother!" and "your brother!" and "Insane Clown Posse!" and "baclava!" while she reclined grayly on our bathroom floor, looking truly horrible and spent. I did finally manage to get her brother on the phone to explain the situation. "I've got this baclava!" I screamed frantically. (I don't know why this became such a focus.) But he was already miles away. I hooted like an insensate asshole for a while longer before hanging up, figuring that once again, I had sounded kind of like a dipshit in a conversation with her family members. (This is not about me, I thought again.)
I took care of her the rest of the day, if you can define "taking care of" as "fetching 7-Up and avoiding making loud noises." She returned to bed and slept until 3:00, finally emerging with a noticeably ginger step. I piled blankets on her so that she looked like a miserable fungus.
At 5:00 she sent me off to my favorite bar that I mention too often--I think she wanted to moan plangently to herself for a while and maybe catch some more sleep. I vowed to also procure chicken soup.
I think we can agree that I am a hero.
At the bar, the regulars all greeted me and asked about the wife. "She has a stomach virus," I said. "Or maybe food poisoning." (It's not food poisoning.) "Or a Gypsy curse. I don't fucking know."
"Does she need pot?" asked O., one of the regulars. I blinked at him. "For the nausea. It helps me when I'm sick. I can go home and get some!"
W., the wonderful bartender, offered to send me home with a "to-go cup" of Fernet Blanca, a noted digestif (it is also notably fucking disgusting, but his heart was certainly in the right place; Fernet Blanca tastes like Azazel's filthy choad). Note that this is terrifically illegal.
O. was still pressing. "Do you want my phone number? I'll bring you some pot." He thought for another moment. "By the way, we should go out to dinner together." I declined the pot, but said we'd love to go to dinner sometime, probably when the wife wasn't vomiting. There's nothing the wife and I enjoy more than going out to dinner with gay interracial couples we don't know that well, but seem harmless, and hey, they are moving anyway. And really--he was offering to deliver some antiemetic pot to us.
This is why I talk about this bar so much.
I procured the soup. The wife is feeling much better today.
I assume this is due to my not playing any Insane Clown Posse.
(This is not about me.)
Monday, 13 August
A Lie Of My Mind
Some of my tens of readers may have noticed a drop in posts lately. The reason for this is simple: my life is almost supernaturally dull. This is not to say that I don't enjoy my life--I do! I have a decent job, a wonderful marriage, any number of fairly non-dipshit friends . . . I can't complain. But it isn't very interesting, least of all for anyone else to read about. There's only so many posts I could write where I come home from and watch the game and moan to the wife about Papi's declining stats this season.
I have to watch myself, because when I get nervous about not posting enough, I start to press. I start looking for things to write about, which is a danger, and I start to think about embellishing, which is another danger. I like best the ideas that come to me out of the blue, but when your life is as ordinary as mine, they don't necessarily always flow.
The embellishment thing, for instance. All writers embellish; anyone who thinks they don't are seriously deluded or stupid or nuts. Every writer--says I--fixes things up. (I hope it's obvious here that I'm talking about writing about actual events.) Every writer alters timelines to suit the narrative; we all clean up sorta-remembered verbiage (or substitute reasonably sane facsimiles); we all condense and distill and filter, all verbs which helpfully remind me that most writers also drink.
This normally isn't a problem, at least not for me. This is a stupid blog, and so I am held to no standards whatever, though I like to think I hew to the few I keep. I try not to lie. And when I do lie, I try to lie in such a hyperbolic, overblown fashion that I hope that it is patently obvious that I'm just making shit up.
I probably fail at this, though. It's just too easy to lie. Writers lie all the time, because most of the time, life is just fucking dull. So we pull out our little tricks, and we lie. We insert or import in false details to serve an anecdote. We pretend to remember things that nobody could possibly remember, except for some bedridden mutant like Proust, but does anyone trust Proust?
Writers are liars. Don't trust them.
And especially don't trust me, assuming that you even consider me a writer, as opposed to some twitchy dilettante. I'm also an actor, so I'm also trained in lying. I think I'm pretty good at it. I (read: my parents) spent a lot of money to make sure I got trained very well to lie to you, right to your face. It's no good protesting that when people go to the theater (and nobody does any more, but never mind), that the audience is damn well expecting that I lie to them: it's my job. It's no good because we are delighted to take those very same skills and exploit them for our own base wants and needs.
I have been taught to lie, we realize at some point. This could be awesome.
And so we do. But it's more sinister than even that. It's more sinister because actors aren't just trained to lie, they are trained to lie with the unshakable conviction that they are not lying at all. Bad actors are people who are unconvincing liars. Every time you've ever stared hopelessly at a movie screen and thought, "That is a shitty actor," you have essentially deemed that person a terrible liar. This is doubly insulting because 1. being lied to poorly is exasperating enough in everyday life, and 2. it's even worse that this incompetent got paid money to fail to lie to you, the viewer. Being lied to excellently is one of life's great joys, which is why actors continue to draw paychecks, much like astrologers, psychics and Republicans. (Ohhhhh! I couldn't resist.)
Don't ever listen to actors or writers, or worse, some unholy combination of both. They are liars and aren't to be trusted.
Here's a true story.
Sunday night, the wife went out of town to visit an old girlfriend of hers. So that evening I went down to my cherished neighborhood bar. W. was bartending; W. is my very favorite bartender ever. W. was playing The Who's Who's Next, an album which in my opinion is the finest studio rock album ever recorded.
"I knew you were coming in," said W. "And I like The Who, so we both win." This is only a fraction of why this bar is so goddamn great. W. also knew--because he knows us well--that the wife was out of town for the night. "What do you have going on tonight?"
I looked around. "Apparently the same damn thing I have planned for most nights," I deadpanned. We laughed, and then, as the just-opened place was pretty empty, we shot the shit.
We talked about: the awesomeness of The Who; the various musical plagiarisms of Led Zeppelin; the manic qualities of various other bartenders; the ontological importance of bar backs; the weird dearth of decent Mexican restaurants in Seattle; this time when W. accidentally sucker-punched a stranger in the kidney at a bowling alley; and (of course) the relative awfulness of the current political scene.
This is why bar talk exists: to solve all the problems in the world. If W. and I ruled the world, the world would be just fucking fine. At the end of every conversation in a bar, the world is saved. That, or someone is going to get dumped, which is saving someone's world, probably.
You see how this anecdote really isn't very interesting? It's because it's true. Sort of. It's not all true, but it's mostly true. Does it matter? Do you even believe me? I told you not to. I told you twice.
It's true and it's not true; it's false and it happened to me. I arranged words on a page, you read them, and now you're involved in the lie, too, but you're also stuck with the true parts. You just don't know what they are.
Is it interesting? This is what I always come back to. I don't know. It's interesting to me, but then it happened to me, except for the parts that didn't, but I'm reasonably sure they did. I remember them. You don't, because they didn't happen to you, (shut up, W., if you're reading this [he's not]) but I'm guessing you assumed they were true, despite my desperate urgings not to.
I told you not to listen to me. I gave you good reasons not to. You read this anyway. And I thank you, because if you didn't . . . well . . . what good is an old liar if there's nobody around to listen?
Wednesday, 08 August
Sorry about the recent drought. Here's what happened: I meant to post more last week, but then I didn't want to, so I didn't. I AM FUCKING AMAZING. Then on Monday, I also didn't feel like posting anything, so I once again didn't, which frankly confirms how awesome I am. Then last night, my wireless connection--which I steal from my neighbors--broke down in some unidentifiable way, which caused me to more or less toss the laptop around like it was a discount tin of anchovies--remember, I don't actually pay for wireless access, and therefore have no real right to get pissy about it when it goes sideways--anyway, I'm a complete asshole, I think must be the final point here.
And also anyway, here I am stealing from my neighbors again. Which makes me sort of on the plankton level of morality, until you consider--here in midsummer--what Hollywood is unloading on us. THAT'S RIGHT! It's once again time to prejudge some inconsolably awful movies.
Say, let's try a theme this time, and see if I can stick to it! I'm going with . . . testicles.
Daddy Day Camp
Jesus. Really? Cuba Gooding Jr. long ago joined that immortal group of Academy Award winners who are asterisked thusly: "No, seriously." Brian Doyle-Murray is also in this movie, but then Brian Doyle-Murray is contractually bound to be in every movie that nobody ever wants to see, forever. When they dig up John Travolta in 2025 to film Battlefield: Earth II, dead John will huskily rasp, "Tell me Brian Doyle-Murray is here."
Or you could just slam your testicles in a car door for two hours.
Am I a creep for being kind of delighted that this movie features an actress named "Bimbo Hart"?
"Hey, who was that chick you fucked last night?"
"You are the greatest man who has ever lived."
Anyway, Michelle Pfeiffer looks kind of hot. And if Bimbo Hart turns out to be a nine year old girl, I'm going to feel really awful. Particularly in my testicles.
The Hottest State
Ethan Hawke wrote this novel that absolutely nobody at all read and now he's directing the film. Can anyone explain to me why we put up with Ethan Hawke? Here's IMDB's plot synopsis:
A young actor from Texas tries to make it in New York while struggling in his relationship with a beautiful singer/songwriter.
I defy anybody to tell me that they really want to see this film. I defy them with my TESTICLES. Nobody will watch this nightmare.
It's directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.h Line up, folks!
Happily, it stars Daniel Craig, who in the last Bond movie got some serious testicular damage courtesy of a giant rope. Even more happily, it stars the Aussie favorite Nicole Kidman in all of her exsanguinated glory. Kidman is one of our more wonderful actresses, mainly because with every film she does, she pares down the number of emotions that she is willing to portray. Back when Dead Calm came out, she was all, "Shirt? I don't need this shirt." Then when the indefensible horror that was "Moulin Rouge" came out, she was all, "I might be persuaded to cough on my bodice." And now we have this thing--a third iteration of what was--let's be honest--a pretty stupid allegory, where she's all, "I'm out of blood! I have lipstick and hair dye!"
She should have stayed married to Tom Cruise. Now that guy knows how to manage his testicles.