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Tuesday, 14 February
When A Body Meet A Body

Friday I was walking up Capitol Hill after work to meet the wife and a friend for a Friday afternoon ritual: anaesthetizing ourselves with drink to stave off the horrors of another workweek, and to perhaps even burn out the unlucky neurons responsible for remembering the preceding five horrid days. As you can imagine, I was eager to get to the bar and commence lushing it up.

However, as I came to a corner--narrowly missing a crosslight--I realized that I'd been buttonholed. A man, a tall young black man, was holding . . . pamphlets. Of some sort. My testicles throbbed and contracted painfully as I realized that he was going to talk to me.

There is little I find less pleasing than to be talked to on the street by strangers. I'm basically a game-face, head-down kind of walker, and do my level best to give off violent, roiling waves of purest GO THE FUCK AWAY. This of course stops nobody, since the people who are going to accost strangers on the street are 1. paid not to give a fuck, or 2. at some sort of life's nadir where they couldn't possibly care less, or 3. crazier than a sack of trapped marmots.

The young man approached me with a winning smile, and said, "So! We gonna get Bush and Cheney out of office or what?" He was very nice, which of course triggered my politeness gene. "YUP!" I yelped, my voice cracking with the strain. I eyed the red crosswalk light and steadily lost hope. "Great!" he beamed. He held something out to me, and I looked down.

He was holding a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet. This in itself was sad enough. Lyndon LaRouche? Really? Fuck, why not Eugene V. Debs? This was getting worse and worse. The pamphlet itself was totally depressing; once in time it had been a proud, glossy thing, almost professional-looking, but now it just looked shabby and battered, almost like . . . it had been handled for months or years by some sorry bastard who every day tried to get someone, anyone to take it. It looked like one of those awful office White Elephant Christmas gifts that has lived entire lifetimes in people's attics. It was pure, distilled hopelessness in pamphlet form. Somewhere, distantly, I could hear poor Thomas Paine taking it up the ass from cackling pit demons.

"NO THANKS!" I quavered in my new adolescent voice. I shot a hunted glance at the oncoming traffic to see if there was anything that I was reasonably sure would kill me if I hurled myself under its wheels, but I saw only a disheartening line of hatchbacks. Life is not an option, I told myself. I was certain this guy would clamber into the ambulance and dispense LaRouchian wisdom to me all the way to the hospital while I lay there like the gormless cripple I would surely be.

"C'mon! What are you gonna do, then?" he asked. Sunlight glinted off his glasses; he was charm personified. I crawled further into my jacket, attempting to fold myself into some undiscovered dimension. "Vote for the other guy," I muttered lamely.

He was genuinely aggrieved with this nonsense. "But elections are only every four years!" he literally wailed to the skies. Can't argue with that, I thought dismally. I tried to shrink even farther into the lonely carapace of my coat. I realized that on some level I was totally failing to live up to my end of this unwanted conversational bargain that had been foisted upon me, and I actually felt kind of awful about it. But what on earth could I say? "They aren't on Earth Prime! You see, I come from an alternate universe." Well, that wouldn't work. So did he.

In the end, I took the coward's path, because of course, the light changed. "No thanks, no thanks," I squealed, moving again into my upper register as delight warred with weird, unreasonable guilt in my head. I escaped! And yet I treated a crazy person shabbily. Good Lord.

When I was halfway across the street, I couldn't resist stealing a look back. And he was still looking at me, a little sadly. He was still holding that terrible pamphlet in his hand, arm down in limp--yet familiar-defeat. He hadn't closed the deal, and another deluded soul had been allowed escape.

Then he turned around and approached a couple walking by. "Hey, how are you today? So are we gonna take Bush down or not?" His smile was brilliant in the February sun, so much more brilliant than the dog-eared, much-fingered unshiny pamphlet he held out to them, which, of course, they did not take as they wordlessly skirted their way around him.


POSTSCRIPT: I thank my readers for taking the time to wade through this humble offering. I realize that there are other things going on in the world, such as little tidbits such as the Vice President discharging a shotgun into the face of his hunting companion. Clearly, there are other, larger matters to attend to, so I appreciate your staying with me. And I would like to extend my best wishes to Mr. Cheney, our first Vice President to be constructed by 19th-century vivisectionists out of the nailed-together gall bladders of asylum inmates, and also to that guy he shot.

Friday, 03 February
Touch Me, They're Sick

Health issues have been on my mind lately. Now, some of you may be sick of hearing about my recently removed tooth.

What's that? You want to hear about my jaw-hole? WELL, ALL RIGHT THEN!

Ah, it's fine. It's kind of boring now, really. There's still some cold sensitivity issues going on, but the major repercussions of that have simply led me to reduce my beer intake in favor of scotch. And the empty spot--which I must say is really very thrilling to worry at with my tongue pretty much all day long-- still insists on throbbing in an interesting way when I take a particularly enthusiastic drag on a cigarette, but on the whole, you'll be happy to know that my regular regimen of unhealthy vices continues more or less unobstructed.

Now, close members of the family, however, are moving in to fill the gap, as it were.

My father, for example, who a year or so ago kicked a practically lifelong smoking habit. I think was birthed in a Lucky Strike factory. Anyway, after a couple of alarming months where he experienced certain . . . eating problems . . . oh, let's get it over with. For a while, during meals, he would occasionally experience problems swallowing, and would exhibit signs of choking. The immediate remedy was, well, garfing up chewed food from his throat. Mmmm!

As in, "Mmm! Mmm! Worrisome!" When the problem started to increase in frequency, he went to the docs, who told him that it wasn't uncommon for long-time smokers to experience a "stricture" in the esophagus. This was actually great news in a couple of ways. For one, it wasn't some ghastly tumor lurking in his throat blocking up his neck plumbing. For another, it allowed me to imagine a tiny nun in his esophagus, enforcing solemn foodish strictures as punishment for years of sinful smoking. "Back the way you came, Sonny Jim!" she'd scream, and hit the food on its food-wrist with a tiny ruler. GARF!

The nun has been banished by the docs, who presumable drowned her with some terrible regimen of holy water and rigorously chewed hosts. Except we're not Catholic. It's kind of confusing, but he's okay now. (I'm sure he told me exactly how they eased the "stricture," but at the time I was still stuck on the throat-nun, so it didn't make it into my brain. I'm a great kid.)

Then we found out that the wife's good mother is scheduled for surgery on Valentine's Day. That'll be a fun card to try to find. "It cuts me up thinking of you!" Ah, but this is elective surgery: she is having gastric bypass surgery done, as a combination of weight gain and a simply astonishing bout of osteoporosis have led her to say, "Hi, hello, fuck all this!" The wife has told me many times that it was apparently all her fault for some of this, as her incubation basically drained her mother of nourishing elements. And for this I call her the Calcium Vampire, so if one day my desiccated, brittled bones are found in a bar or something, you know who to look at.

AND THEN, the wife talked to her father, who at the same time evidently discovered some alarming mass around his testicles. Okay, this must be every daughter's dream: Pa! Tell me about your lumpy nuts! Groovy. He thought for a bit he had testicular cancer, but declined to tell anybody about it, as he didn't want to alarm anyone while wife's mom was gearing up for her surgery.

Jesus God. Well, he does not have testicular cancer, as what I'm sure was a really entertaining biopsy proved ("We'll be taking this needle and . . . doctor, he's fainted")--it's some damn harmless cyst or something. Oh, and did I mention that this conversation took place during a phone call when the wife buzzed to wish him a happy birthday? Although I am as happy as anyone that he is still healthy. And simultaneously not that happy that one of his gifts was something like a fine needle aspiration of a growth on his nuts. Again, I'm glad I didn't have to shop for a card. "Have a nutty birthday!"

Really what it comes down to is, I need the people I care about to not fucking get sick. If they can't do it for themselves, I need them to do it for me. Because I am weak, both constitutionally--there's a hole in my jaw that's, uh, healing well!--and mentally--I complain about the illnesses of close ones! You see my problem. Jesus fuckbitin' Christ, people. I can't take this. Stop having things go wrong! Is that so hard?

So I'm declaring a moratorium on ill health for a while. Not for you, understand--look, you're swell, but let's remember what's important here, which is me--you can get lupus or something if you really must. I'm not encouraging it, but I won't stop you. Hell, I might even send you a card, one of those hard-to-find ones, like, "I would never attack you like your own immune system is right now" or "You're hysterical! And so is your histological breakdown, so sorry about that." And maybe with a picture of a dog.

I mean, I'm not a total asshole. Which reminds me. I'm of a certain age. I should start eating Total. It's got all kinds of vitamins and fiber. Which is, I assume, good for my asshole.

Find a card for that.

Tuesday, 24 January
Football Gums (Not To Be Confused With Cowboy Mouth)

And so! I survived a long weekend of hole-in-face, more or less intact. On Friday morning, I awoke to discover that the gum had re-swollen up again, and ached alarmingly, and so with diligent speed, I immediately went back to bed. I sure hope that's normal! Zzzzzz. As it turns out, there wasn't much to worry about, as over the course of the rest of the day, the swelling went back down and the tenderness receded somewhat.

And what a day it was! When I finally did get up from bed, it was to wander into the living room and settle into my easy chair and watch SportsCenter for half an hour before falling asleep again. And thus was my Friday. I woke up about every hour or so--a particularly haunting moment was waking up to the crazy bull-throated screamers on that "Pardon the Interruption" fuck-circus--and then realizing that I could easily sleep for another hour or so. I guess my body was still reeling from the horrible misdeeds I had subjected it to the day before, because I just slept the whole damn time.

Well, most of the time. Every now and then I'd rouse myself from the chair to go out onto the deck for--yes, of course--a cigarette. Being mindful, still, of the very fresh BLOOD CLOT THAT MUST NOT BE SUCKED OUT lurking back somewhere in my gumline. Which made smoking a real logistical nightmare, since smoking is sort of predicated on creating suction.

Frankly, I must have looked just pathetic. For one thing, I hadn't bothered showering, and was still in my bathrobe and slippers, and I'm sure my hair looked like grease-slathered kelp. So I'm standing outside, shivering against the cold, trying desperately to take the tiniest possible gulps on my smoke while still obtaining some nicotine delivery from the process. Using only one side of my mouth, naturally, so the overall effect was something like a homeless stroke victim making a halfhearted first attempt at the act of fellatio.

A friend of mine later witnessed this most unappealing, desperation-inspired smoking method and wondered when I could stop "smoking like a Nazi." Not having any idea what he was talking about, I ignored this, but now I wonder. Did the Nazis suck gingerly on their cigarettes and then snap-turtle at the smoke dribbling out the sides of their mouths? I'm terrible at history.

I was feeling a lot better on Sunday, though; well enough to have some of the boys over for FOOTBALL! Now, it has been commented before that I really don't know shit about football. And this is completely true. When people say things to me like, "The Seahawks are going to get buried by the Steelers' O-line," I generally argue back, "But I want my team to win." See, while I enjoy sports (well, a couple of them), I am honestly far too lazy to be a bona fide fan, because . . . I don't want to work that hard. See, when someone says something about a team's offensive line--a team that they're not even a fan of--well, I'm not willing to go that extra mile. Some fans do things like research and they pay attention. Fuck that.

That's what announcers are for! So when Phil Simms says something ingenious, such as, "The Broncos need to put some points on the board here," I pay attention. Because that kind of insight is pretty on target. I usually wait a few minutes after digesting this kind of information before regurgitating it as if it were my own thoughts. So later, I'll say, "The Broncos need a score here, because if they do not score more points than their opponents, they will lose." In this way, I do not actually have to know anything about the game! It's kind of brilliant. Check this one out: "Jake DelHomme should not have thrown that mystifying pass right to three Seahawk defenders!" I said that! And I was lauded for it by my friends, who agreed with me while they ate their jalapeno poppers, pizza rolls, jojos and other things I couldn't put into my mouth. But I really cribbed it from Joe Buck, who said something very similar like, "A bad choice by Jake DelHomme." If it weren't for Joe Buck, I would not have known that an interception was a bad choice.

So to all you "fans" out there who are counting out my Seahawks, who are pointing out things like the effectiveness of the Bus, or the relative dominance of the Steelers' offensive line, or the merits of Hines Ward, or whatever other baffling shit you have "researched" or "learned," I have just ONE THING to say to you:

But I want my team to win. So nyah.

Tuesday, 17 January
Three Days In January

I have been accused before--fairly, I think--of being a little prolix on ye olde weblog here. So, in the spirit of laziness, I present my weekend in thumbnail form.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Meh.

The Island

Meh.

Primer

What?

WHAT I LEARNED:

1. Shooting two guns in a Jesus Christ pose is the optimal way to destroy one's kitchen. It is unfortunately a horrible way to kill one's black ops enemies, who sensibly use only one gun to, you know, aim at things. (NOTE: If you are completely gorgeous, these rules may not apply.)

2. Lawbreaking corporations who operate clone farms as organ banks should not build rickety ladders leading to loose floor tiles allowing access to the operating theaters. Additionally, Sean Bean is responsible for ninety percent of the world's cinematic evil.

3. Garage geeks somehow manage to make time travel even more confusing than Star Trek: TNG, which in itself seems to be some sort of paradox, as Star Trek: TNG created garage geeks in the first place with the epochal episode "Quantum Muffler." (This movie was a real ripoff, frankly. Where was Q?)

Washington Redskins 10, Seattle Seahawks 20

Yay!

New England Patriots 13, Denver Broncos 27

Yay!

Indianapolis Colts 18, Pittsburgh Steelers 21

Yay!

Carolina Panthers 29, Chicago Bears 21

Meh.

THINGS I LEARNED:

1. Nothing. For God's sake, it's football.

2. On the other hand: Tom Brady? Peyton Manning? HA HA HA HA HA HA

3. Before every postseason game, the referees are carefully but forcefully hit in the head with a boat oar. The resultant blindness and confusion only add to the "anything can happen" atmosphere usually reserved for Warner Brothers cartoons. I'm guessing that next week, Troy Polamalu gets his face blown off with a shotgun.

This blog entry

1. It took only about a half hour to write.

Yay!

2. It is largely devoid of humor.

Meh.

3. I'll probably return to form in a couple of days.

What?

Thursday, 01 December
An Affable Neutron Star Made Entirely Of Beans

Oh, one final entry about Chicago, then. I've been hesitant to write about this, for a few reasons, but I guess I'll just dive in and see what happens.

See, I hang out online at this bizarre web-chat-fuckaround site that a couple of lunatics created a few years ago as a place to . . . well, basically, bitch about work, get into heated arguments about terrible movies, and, most of all, geek the fuck out as much as possible. A lot of this involves me sitting at my computer wondering what in the hell they could possibly be talking about, especially when talk turns to things like Perl, or SQL language, or whatever "Ruby on Rails" is. (Though I do like the last one, if only because, for reasons I leave to you to figure out, every time I see the phrase "Ruby on Rails," I imagine Kenny Rogers strapped down on a train track moments away from being obliterated by an oncoming locomotive.)

So anyway. When these mutants learned of my upcoming trip to Chicago, plans suddenly started to hatch, mostly thanks to the abrupt offer from J., a Chicago resident, to open up his unsuspecting home for a dinner event open to anyone who cared to come join in. And so, on our final Saturday, we went to J.'s house and had what he had dubbed . . . Skotsgiving.

This was a generous and kind and thoughtful and insane thing to do. You see, most of us on this website that we fuck around on in order to avoid work have never met in real life. (This is also, you can imagine, a lot of fun to explain to normals who immediately think that you're living out some sort of "You've Got Mail" fantasy, or just assume that it's a lame excuse to cover for the fact that you're actually going to the annual Toto fan club meeting or something.)

When J. announced the event, I figured maybe a few folks from the Chicago area would show up and we'd awkwardly eat some pizza together or something, overcome by the realization that without a mediating website between each of us, we were all just hopeless dweebs with nothing to say to one another. I am accustomed to being wrong . . . but I was really wrong.

People came from Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota (OH WHERE WERE YOU, MONTANA?), Canada, and one demented soul flew out from California to join this . . . event. (She also came loaded down with scotch, so she was warmly greeted.) In the end, all told, there were around seventeen people at the gathering, including nervous spouses ("We're going where to meet who now? Those people who talk about that comic book? Mutt Vs. Pine?" "Never mind, honey, it'll be fine.") and a couple of rugrats to boot.

J. had even tacked up a homemade "HAPPY SKOTSGIVING" banner across the windows. It was all very strange, and yet very sweet and nice. J. and his wife had laid out a magnificent spread of turkey and the usual T-day assortments, and we all tucked into dinner with gusto, making sure to drink a lot as well to numb us to the idea that we were all actually in the same physical space together, and that in itself was KINDA WEIRD!

I have no intention of giving a blow-by-blow of the entire evening, though; for one thing, it was a marvelously normal evening of a bunch of people hanging out and enjoying themselves. For another, I would no doubt really offend someone, probably, by making some stupid well-intentioned but ill-considered joke at his or her expense, and fuck that. These were lovely people.

I will mention a couple highlights. The wife (who herself had developed mounting trepidation about this evening as the head count of attendees rose, and she continued to contemplate having to make conversation with these . . . people? She couldn't be sure. For all she knew, I was dragging her to, well, a Toto fan club meeting.) spent some time with J.'s lovely toddler daughter F., who, unbeknownst to the wife, had been learning sign language from her parents. The wife was dandling little F. in the crook of her arm while she refreshed her scotch, when the little tyke suddenly made the sign for "more." More scotch for the baby, stat! The wife was really amused by this, probably more so than J., who will no doubt look back on that dark day as the launchpoint for baby F.'s remarkable thirst for liquor. (F., I must point out here as well, is incredibly adorable: she looks to me like a model for the Cabbage Patch Powder Puff Linebacker doll.)

At another point, J. showed off his remote-controlled secret door that conceals a staircase leading to the attic. We cooed like pigeons. "That is so COOL!" we sighed. We stared at it for another moment. "We are such dorks," I said. But I ask you. Is there anything MORE AWESOME than a remote-controlled staircase-concealing door? I posit that there is not.

Another moment of unintentional hilarity occurred when a good number of us were in the back yard, drinking and smoking before a wood fire, and I was indulging myself in a predictable and dull litany about how I Am Not A Real Adult and I Cannot Manage Money and crap like that when M. asked me, in all seriousness, "Have you ever seen a financial advisor?"

And the whole group cracked up, because M. had unwittingly asked me the most hilariously improbable question possible. After I reset my laughter-inflicted dislodged ribs, I told her that it was entirely possible that at some point I had inadvertantly seen a financial advisor, but it would have been in the capacity of noticing his coat as he passed me on the street. Or I might have seen one in a dream, perhaps. Anything's possible. Once I dreamed of J. Edgar Hoover in a bikini made out of popcorn, so hey.

But what I remember most clearly (well, apart from the harrowing, primitive, 80s-era sex toy video ads that J. delighted in screening for us--look, don't ask) was sitting down for dinner. This was early in the evening. I was seated across from J. and his lovely wife, and she was fretting about the relative doneness of the green beans. J. speared a bean with his fork and popped it into his mouth, chewing contemplatively.

"This bean is of agreeable density," he said.

I relaxed immediately. When you hear a sentence like that, spoken casually, how can you feel anything but comforted? Nothing bad can happen on a night when you hear that sort of phrase.

To all of the beans who came to Skotsgiving: You are each and every one of you of agreeable density.

Wednesday, 09 November
Of Me I Sing

Today was a really unpleasant day at work, so naturally afterwards, I went to a neighborhood bar for a drink. Why not? Unwind! The bartender on duty was a young woman--actually, the owner's daughter, I knew--and I hadn't seen her in quite a while. I had thought she had been overseas attending college. So, feeling friendly, I asked her about it.

"So are you back from school now? I haven't seen you in a while."

She replied, "Well, I--"

And that was where I stopped caring.

Hi, my name is Skot. And I'm an asshole.

You see, it really did take just that long for me to stop caring. Why am I listening to this shit? I asked myself. Well, you asked, stupid. I replied. She was still explaining what her story was, and I was still not caring. Weren't we happy just a minute ago watching ESPN in peace? I wouldn't let this go, and neither would I. She's just answering your fucking question. Ass.

As I pointed out to me at the time, it wasn't like she barged in on my private time. I asked her a question. And she was answering it. The problem was, I didn't care about the answer. (Not that I heard it, really--I was already deep in conversation with myself by that point. And also the World Series of Poker, which was helpfully right over her left shoulder.)

It's a problem I have. I admit it. I am a shallow, self-obsessed creep. Don't get me wrong: I am not pretending that most of the things that come out of my mouth are somehow less banal or tedious than anyone else's. It's just that I am, at my core, far more interested in what I have to say than I am with what anyone else says. And despite my every effort--well, a couple of weak efforts, maybe--I remain so to this day. Let me give you some more examples.

Earlier today, in the smoking gulag, a fellow gasper remarked, "That's a nice coat."

"Thanks!" I replied. "My wife gave it to me."

"I--" he started to say, but then I was instantly bored, and kind of stopped listening. He prattled on about something that had nothing to do with me, clearly--the "I" was a giveaway--so I sat there and stewed, thinking, I could be doing my crossword puzzle right now. Then I spent a few moments fantasizing about how cool it would be to be a professional crossword puzzle-solver, but like with fame and money and stuff.

I can pretty much do this for hours, no matter how exasperated I get. All you have to do is keep a polite smile going. Here's another example that's happened to me many times.

"Hey, what's up?" It seems like an innocuous question, but in reality, it's the worst thing I could ever say. Because inevitably, here's the reply:

"Well, I--" And then I stop caring. Look, I've tried everything, including not trying to be an asshole, but nothing has worked. Because I'm still an asshole. I am pretty much going to assume that you're about to tell me about a dream you had or something, and then I'm long gone, and probably thinking about Kate Winslet or some such. I can't help it, folks. It's not my fault that everyone in the world but me is so unfathomably boring.

Let's all just agree that this is really your problem. I mean, of course, you and everybody you know. Would it really be so hard to try to engage me on topics that I find interesting for a change? Like, say, me? It doesn't seem that hard. But nobody is ever willing to meet me halfway. (Okay, to be fair, people often try to meet me halfway, but honestly? Halfway is too far.)

Just look at this entire magnificent fucking post. Has there ever been a better one in the history of the Internet? One more interesting? I can categorically say: No. This is easily the most well-written, absorbing thread that I--and by extension, the entire world--has ever seen. Because it's about something that we all want to hear about: me. Somewhere, Hemingway's zombie corpse is futilely blowing his head off again and again because of how insanely great this post is, and it makes zombie Hemingway bummed out all over again that he can't get his zombie dick up or write anything good any more. Suck it, zombie Hemingway! Well, once you find your mouth again.

I'm really glad to get this all off my chest. And I know it's been valuable for you. You get way too much of you. I'm happy you're finally getting some more me. In fact, it reminds me of a funny story.

I--

Thursday, 27 October
Where Are They Now?

In the following, I remember--poorly--some of my fellow acting students from college. Suffice it to say that, like me, none of them ever amounted to shit. (We're talking fame-wise. Some of them may actually feel fulfilled with their careers, but if they are like me, they are mostly embittered and hate Hollywood for failing to take the time to come up and discover them in their regional productions of Lost in Yonkers. Stupid Hollywood!

Well, one of them eventually did get a Rogaine TV ad. And another has a IMDB credit as "jacuzzi girl" in some terrible 80s skin flick.)

Anyway, these guys were all fellow acting students in college. I couldn't pick on anyone I actually currently know, because, well, they would beat me up.

B.

Where to start with B.? She was about 5'2" and was generally likened to Betty Boop. For good reason. She had a helium voice and a molybdenum body, that one. She was given to wearing all black, right up to her eye shadow, and it was really entertaining to watch her during winter when the streets would ice up. There would be B., tottering around gorgeously in her four-inch heels, bobbling at a low simmer. Think Jennifer Tilly without the poker skills.

I naturally decided that I really needed to sleep with her, which I eventually did. I'd like to say that this was a monumental achievment.

What was a monumental achievment was . . . well, I should set this up.

We got together in a neighbor's dorm room, as my roomie was inconveniently in mine: my neighbor was out, and helpfully lent me the key for this assignation. At some point as we writhed, she requested music. I knew that neighbor's boombox was above the bed on a shelf, and I slapped at it blindly in the dark as I continued my project of thoroughly groping B. No music at all. Eventually we forgot about music.

What I didn't know at the time was that I had hit the RECORD button on the boombox. And neighbor-boy had a tape in. I swear I'm not inventing this.

You know where this is going.

The next day, G. (neighbor) dropped by. "You want to hear something really great?" he said.

"Sure!" I replied.

He put the tape in.

Look, here's all I'm going to say: I pulled out the tape and violently unspooled it once I heard myself breathe, "Oh my God."

G.

G. was an actor in our program, one year older than me. G. had been a football player until he destroyed his knees, but then moved over to lesser calisthenics like fucking the back teeth out of most of the women on campus. G. was good-looking and burly and pretty funny.

G. predictably liked to discuss these things with me. We got cast in a lot of shows together, he as the leading man, and me as the not-leading man. (It took me a long time to realize that character actors totally have the best jobs on earth.) He told me of the time that he and his girlfriend fucked so aggressively that some of her spermicide had worked its way inside his penis and had started eating away at the lining. He went to the ER after a screamingly painful attempt at urination, and the doctor clinically squeezed the head of his penis, making bilious-looking foam come out.

"Your girlfriend uses sponges, huh?" he said.

"AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!" replied G.

G. also had his single days. Not that that meant that G. went unfucked. He just picked up women in bars. And would tell me about them . . . or at least his Penthouse Forum versions. And I would believe him.

"I got this chick home last night? Man. She was just kind of hanging out. (Pause.) Anyway, I got her home. And she just flips over and gives me her pooper."

The word "pooper" is going to stay with me all my life. I might have it etched on my gravestone. "He Knew This Guy Once Who Said Pooper."

You know, it should be noted that he gave me some hilarious advice once. I had fallen hopelessly for this girl a few years older than me. In fact, we ended up going out for three years. But at the time of this conversation, we had slept together just once.

"I just don't know if she likes me!" I moaned to G.

He responded laconically, "Well, Skot, you've fucked her. And now you're wondering if you can ask her out? It usually goes the other way around for me."

And so.

C.

C. was, in pretty much every way, the definition of Diva. C. was frequently sick, like consumptively sick. COUGH COUGH! But no, the show must go on! She would always somehow summon her innermost reserves to actually act in front of an audience. They needed her!

C. was a fainter. I lost count of how many times she fainted. Her excuse? (Again: I AM NOT LYING.) She "forgot to breathe."

"I forget to breathe sometimes," she would cry. You know? Sometimes I forget to grow my hair.

There was a show we did one time that C. got cast in as the female lead. Lucklessy for her, it was a Sam Shepard show, so nothing good was going to happen to her. I was--get this--doing the costume duty for the piece, fulfilling one of the requirements for my major. So I wasn't even part of the cast.

In this particular show, there is a rape scene. C. was the rape victim. And so it came about that the rape scene--which was staged really strangely in that you never saw the rapist, who was down in a trap, so he became known as "the rapist in the hole"--would largely be dictated by C.

"Who would you like to do this?" asked the director. And by "this," he meant, "tear off your velcroed clothing and grab at your tits"?

C. picked me. The guy who was doing the wash. I had acted before with the woman, but . . . uh?

This, incidentally, really pleased this OTHER guy in the cast who had an incredible crush on C. Which I could never figure out. Did he think that he was going to get lucky with this dreamgal by simulating rape four nights a week? He hated the shit out of me, but then again, he was really dumb.

Anyway, it all fell to me. And for a few weeks, Thursday through Sunday (what happy matinees!), I did my job: as the smoke machine churned and C. sang high C, I would rip off her tearaway dress and grab at her mercilessly. I swear I will never forget certain scenes where I would be eveloped in smoke, tearing this woman's dress off, and seeing suddenly, out of the mist, this pale breast in front of my eyes, like an attacking kraken. Needless to say, it damaged me.

And after every single scene, she would climb down from the trap and break into tears. "I'm sorry," I would whisper before climbing down the ladder to fling dirty costumes into the washing machine. She would just keep sobbing.

At the end of it all, C. had only one comment for me. "You were a good choice. Thank you."

So if anyone out there needs a qualified stage rapist, you know who to call.

Friday, 21 October
Who Let The Corn Dogs Out?

Finally, our long national nightmare is over! By which I mean the three-nights-only demolition of Flashdance. Not "national," you say? Well, might I point out that we got a letter from President Bush on closing night to commend our efforts? I quote: "In these uncertain times," he wrote, "what America needs are more fingerbanging jokes." I feel like a patriot. A fingerbanging patriot, damn you.

It was really a lot of fun, if you enjoy barely-controlled anarchy with liberal dashes of utter filth thrown in just for the sake of being filthy. There's a certain feral joy to be had in saying the line "Shut your whore mouth!" not once but three times in a row. (Thanks, K.!) It's not every theatrical experience where any props that are food, phones, or flowers are all replaced by--and there is no explanation for this--corn dogs. [Note: I make up things all the time, but this was really true. I just wanted to be clear on that.] And it's certainly not my everyday performance that finds me in a fit of narcolepsy only to wake up to discover that I am vigorously groping a transvestite. But it will be from now on!

It wasn't without its bumps, to be sure. (Uh . . . no, no comment.) For one thing, there is the de rigeur booziness surrounding the event, and let's just say that as one enters his late thirties, the body is slightly less tolerant of a full workday followed by a chaotic evening of theater and relentless drinking. By last night, C., a castmate and fellow tippler, was seen at the bar, cradling his head in his hands. "C.!" I cried! "What's up!" "I'm pretty hung over," he said in low tones. I looked at him critically. "You should start drinking," I declared. "I don't think so," he replied. I regarded him with pity and contempt as I ordered my first beer of the evening, ignoring the slow, helpless roll of my resigned gastrointestinal tract.

This was worrisome. C. is not known for dropping the Drink-O-Ball. But I needn't have worried--he is a professional. Later, backstage, I again chided him about his horrible decision to not drink on a Wednesday night. "I am drinking!" he said brightly, and held up a glass of beer. "You are a warrior!" I said, and noted with private approval that he had lost a bit of color, and was returning to a real Flashdance pallor.

And some audience members were problems, really. Most of the time everyone was okay, and limited themselves to drunken hooting and setting loose wild boars in the crowd to provoke a response. These things we can deal with. We are professionals, and really, much better drinkers than the average booze-addled transvestite-obsessed lushes that make up our core audience.

What we can't deal with? People who touch us when it's over. One fellow, a definitely altered, definitely very gay chap named W. was introduced to our group. He immediately hugged J., an innocent bystander, for approximately 45 seconds. "Doesn't this feel good?" he cooed as he crushed her hyoid bone. "I like hugging you." When J.'s body had gone cold, he let her slump to the ground, and began liquidly casting around the room for fresh victims. He saw me. "I could hug you?" he suggested. "I'll pass!" I chirped. Not that I'm averse to hugging gay men--it's practically the only exercise I get any more. I'm just averse to hugging murderously drunk, creepy gay strangers. He said coldly, "I'll pass too," and breezed off and rapturously strangled a couple of other girls before he got 86ed.

So despite all my kvetching and bellyaching and protestations about my fundamental lack of funny, it was all still a great time. I didn't even have to worry about the funny anyway, really, thanks to the Humor Wig. (Seriously, the various comments I got later were all some variation on "Oh, man . . . that wig . . . ". Well, that and the narcolepsy.) Even my wife, commie traitor Ethel Rosenberg, had a good time before she was marched off to be executed for treason. Her only negative comment was, "Why are you calling me Ethel Rosenberg on your blog now?" Ha! I'm not falling for that, turncoat! You won't get ME to reveal America's secrets to you!

I am a patriot. I've got the letter from George W. Bush to prove it. A patriot. A true-blue narcoleptic transvestite-fingerbanging patriot in a Humor Wig, holding a lager in one hand and a bouquet of American goddamn corn dogs in the other. And I'm dancing--flashdancing--to the music of the spheres. And those spheres are strippers' breasts.

Christ, this is a great country. You think differently? Shut your whore mouth.

Tuesday, 18 October
Indeed, What A Feeling. Oh, What A Feeling That Was

Tonight was the night! After an interminable rehearsal period spanning almost an entire week, tonight we opened our complete rape of the immortal film Flashdance!

It was important to me that the day lead up to the big event perfectly, which is why I woke up this morning and immediately smashed my alarm clock to smithereens.

I honestly really did. I've never done that before. But I was obviously possessed by the spirit of Flashdance! You gotta follow your dreams or you'll end up as some junkie stripper, or something! And that morning, my dream was: more sleep! So I did what Jennifer Beals would do, and picked up my alarm clock and crushed it against my nightstand until it stopped making noise; it sits there still, a broken thing, but for all that no less proud of me for facing my demons . . . the demons of, well, waking up and facing work.

(In truth, of course, as happens distressingly often, the fucker went off, and I in my morning fog couldn't figure out how to turn the goddamn thing off. I stabbed at every button I could think of, but it kept up its miserable blatting, so I pounded it until it was dead. So tonight I have to use my cell phone alarm, which I understand far, far less than my dead alarm clock, so I assume I'm going to be out a couple hundred bucks tomorrow morning when I can't make the thing stop howling out the T-Mobile jingle.)

I spent the whole day at work thinking about tonight, and all the things I would need to keep straight in my head, like, where's my script? And where is my drink? (These events are, according to long tradition, simply impossible to face without drinking through the entire thing. Part of it is to simply deal with the fact that it is all so thrown together chaotically, one requires a certain boneless quality to be able to careen around the stage so crazily; another thing is, well, actors like to drink. It also helps us enthusiastically embrace the unbelievable amount of raunch that inevitably gets shoehorned into these shows.) Anyway, to ease my panicky mind about all these issues at work, I decided to not do any work at all, and you know? It really helped!

Then, after a short time at home, Preparing As An Actor Does (read: remembering to put in my contacts), it was time to go to the theater. Which is actually a bar. Handy! I immediately ordered a whiskey, for vocal purposes. A castmate saw this. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Warming up." She stared at me for a moment. "I can't believe I almost forgot to warm up!" she cried, and raced to the bar. I felt us coming together as an ensemble. Everyone else was soon warming up.

We lounged backstage as the audience started to come in--hey, the audience was really getting into the act too! They all started warming up! We peeked at them through the moth-eaten curtains when we weren't fussing with the prop table, which is a pool table with a sheet of plywood on top of it. (Hey, it beats the setup we had at Pocatello Flats Community College and Grill.) It's always fun looking at the audience from behind the curtain. "They look like ants from here!" squealed K. I looked at her. "They're ten feet away from you, K," I said. "I took a lot of mushrooms earlier," she sighed.

It was time to prepare. I began putting on my costume--khakis and a blue shirt, items I had specifically selected for their innate hilarity. (When I asked for costume notes, the director had distractedly specified that I should wear not only a shirt, but also pants, so this was important to me.) No way I was gonna let Hollywood icon Michael Nouri down, if he's still alive!

And then--moments before the curtain didn't go up, because we don't have a curtain, . . . it was time. It was time to lay my hands on the Talisman. The object that would allow me to fully infuse my character with substance, with life, with essence. It was the one thing that would bring my character into a fuller reality.

I touched it tenderly before picking it up. It seemed to glow from within, like a baby who has swallowed a lit cigarette.

I lifted my Humor Wig and cradled it in my hands. It was misshapen and black, and seemed to radiate its own internal light. It was a mystical Humor Wig, and I knew that once I placed it on my skull, I would become a Comedy Shaman.

I would read from my script, right there in my hand.

I would almost nearly get some of my blocking right.

I would make people grudgingly laugh, unless they happened to be laughing at unrelated events happening in other parts of the world.

All because of the Humor Wig. I was told--I blush to confess this for I do not wish to boast--that I resembled Gino Vanelli. And when all was said and done, and the audience was sated with laughter, I was clapped on the back and congratulated by my adoring public. "Were you in the show?" gushed one fan, and another enthused, "Can ya empty this fuckin' ashtray or somethin', please?" I basked in the radiance of these stolen moments, and sipped my whiskey--an actor's training does not end as the curtain comes down.

I sat alone in my booth, sipping whiskey, apart from my fellow actors, and reflected. I had done it. I had come through the evening unscathed, had so utterly scorched the stage boards with my comic skills that--it must be said--the audience had not dared once to laugh at me. But I had not done it alone.

Across from me sat my Humor Wig. It did not deign to sip from the whiskey I had purchased for it as congratulation, so I pulled it to me. And I toasted the Humor Wig as my equal. With the Humor Wig at my side--or, probably better, on my head--there was nothing I couldn't do.

There was no need to act at all.

Wednesday, 05 October
Carlos Castaneda! I Can See Your House From Here!

Well, the wife is about to open another show here this weekend, so all week I will be enduring Bachelor Week. While she attends technical rehearsals--which involves mostly wasting actors' times while geeks in black t-shirts fret over things with ominous names, like "Fresnels" and "gobos" and "buckets of rancid stage blood"--I am left to my own devices at home.

Since the week also coincided with the start of baseball's playoff season, you might think this was a good thing, but as I do not give one fucking fig for any of the teams in question, it's really kind of not. I suppose that, at some point, I will of course reflexively begin to root against the Yankees, but right now I just can't bother to care. Go . . . Angels? Bah. Fuck the Angels; at least the Yankees know pretty definitively who they are and where to go home at night. Rooting for the Angels is kind of like cheering on Sybil.

At least the wife knows how to find the little moments where she can. She got a hold of me at work today and offered to pick me up; the idea was to go get a drink to celebrate . . . uh . . . well, not working any more, I guess, and also to celebrate the act of drinking. So we did! The wife had a demure glass of wine while I tossed back a couple of martinis. Hey, I didn't have to go to rehearsal. (Incidentally, if you're wondering, they were gin martinis. I'm not saying anything against those of you who enjoy vodka martinis or whatever, except to point out that you probably are ruining civilization.)

Then we went home and had a nap. By which I mean I had a nap, a real pillow-drooler, while the wife got 20 minutes of shuteye before heading to the theater to watch geeks adjust cabling. I'm sure I was dreaming loving things of her as she rushed out the door.

Like loving shots of an actual dinner. The worst aspect of Bachelor Weeks like this is the horror of considering cooking for one. Me? I just won't fucking do it any more. I am lazy, it leads to leftovers that I inevitably will not eat, and I am lazy. For instance, tonight I consumed a quantity of sour cream & onion potato chips and some canned chili. At one point I hallucinated I was Vince Vaughn, for some reason. Can you see Vince Vaughn grimly spooning chili into his maw while watching The Amazing Race: Jesus Loves America Edition? Try mentally putting him in a wifebeater. It helps. Anyway, as I Vaughned out, I assuaged some of my wifebeatery feelings by opening up a bottle of really great red wine. The whole thing was a big experiment with cognitive dissonance, and as those feelings deepened, I blackly started to think about Duchamp's urinal, and that guy who canned his own crap, and the whole thing got kind of fractured.

Probably the chili. OR . . . it occurs to me! . . . the ketamines. Nothing speeds Bachelor Week by like diving right into the K-hole. I WANT TO KILL YOU, MOTHER! (I don't really know what I'm saying. This is what I get for buying my PDR at Half-Price Books.)

Tomorrow night, instead of retreating into some hellish drug-induced foxhole filled with chili and rampaging Vince Vaughns, I have unexpectedly taken steps to spend time with friends. I am dropping off the wife at the time-wastery and then speeding off to hang out with pals at a place that specializes, apparently . . . in pot pies.

I'm not entirely sure what's real any more.

Friday, 30 September
Platform Diving

A while ago, we got this decent-seeming PC pawned off on us by the wife's little brother. We enthusiastically accepted; the decrepit iMac had served us well, but it was time to retire the little bastard. It was, to our PCs-at-work brains, always kind of a pain in the ass to rebrain over whenever we wanted to use it at home. And, of course, there was always the fact that people laughed at it. It was like having a particularly ugly dog. "Get in the closet, Rex! We have company!"

I had a geek friend come over and help me set up the whole thing . . . he set me up with Office XP and a bunch of other shit, including, I think, McAfee Virus Shield or some such. I, naturally, being a dumbfuck, watched and thought, "Hey, a virus shield! This means I will never get a virus."

People sometimes shake their heads and wonder aloud, "Why do these fucking people write these viruses and spyware and crap?" I have concluded that they have all been written for me.

About a week ago, I noticed that the computer was being very sluggish and grumpy. Upon closer examination . . . hey! There are listings in my "Favorites" that I am pretty sure are not our favorites at all. The wife and I are not, despite reports in the media, fans of spycams. And though at least one of us is fond of blow jobs, I am not so crass as to bookmark sites dedicated to them. And . . . hey again! This is not my home page! What is this shady site? I'd better change it back!

But the next time we fired it up . . . it was back to the shady page again.

After mere . . . days, I realized: Holy shit! I have a virus! Or spyware! Or . . . Homepage Alteration Somnambulism! I complained to my geek friends (note always that when I say "geek," it is merely me feeling better about myself by not more accurately referring to them as "people who are smarter than me in pretty much every way") about my woes, and they concluded that yes, shithead, your system is all fucked up. They pointed me to things like AdAware and Spybot, which I dutifully downloaded, glaring all the while at the shitty little McAfee icon, thinking, Boy, you really let me down. My geek friends also exhorted me to FOR GOD'S SAKE, stop using IE! Evidently, though I always somehow dimly knew the truth, I had gone for years being somehow unconvinced that the most dominant browser out there was incredibly vulnerable to malicious teenagers all over the world. Which honestly? Is really unreal. It's as if one were to buy the world's most popular car because it would be weird not to buy that car, and then discover that it doesn't have door locks, and nor does it require a key of any sort, and you are contracutally required to park it in public in the worst neighborhood in the world.

Anyway, I ran AdAware and Spybot dutifully, and they got out their trusty electro-speculums or whatever, and took a good look around the PC's plumbing. "Oh my God!" they screamed in polite little dialog boxes. "You are really fucked. Should we quarantine this . . . sewage?" The programs seemed a little bummed at me. "Uh, sure . . . quarantine it." Whatever that meant. "Great! What do you want to call the quarantine file? We recommend You Are Stupid." I didn't really get this. You're putting this crap in a file? Why? Get it the fuck off my system! "Are you sure you want to purge this horrible garbage? This may lead to partition rot, dll pickles, file dropsy and the Billy Beer Blues."

I wasn't sure about anything, leading to a familiar kind of technical paralysis, where you just start clicking things until they "feel right," ignoring the fact that that's part of what got you into this mess in the first place. The programs became utterly gloomy at my idiocy. "Failed process," I was tersely told at one point, reminding me of my first marriage. "You must restart," I was told a bit later, totally not reminding me of my first marriage.

In the meantime, something else really exciting started up. My Windows security update had completed! And it had some exciting news for me! "YOUR SYSTEM IS INFECTED!" No shit. And then, right before my eyes . . . wow. My desktop changed. It turned an alarming scarlet, and flashed "SPYWARE!" at me. It also helpfully directed me to a site that would ostensibly get rid of this bad juju. I then watched as no less than a dozen new shortcut links popped up onto the desktop, things like ONLINE GAMBLING and, har har, SPYWARE PROTECTION. Oh, and yes, of course, one called BLOW JOB. I immediately--and I knew even when I was doing it that it was just futile--deleted all the shortcuts. And feeling even stupider. The machine was experiencing metastates and hemmohagging from practically every hole. But I was furious. Fuck this! I won't be treated this way! I will fight!

Right about then, IE launched about ten brand new windows all on its own, to skeezy sites like YambaSearch and . . . oh, I don't know. It was like Level 11 of Galaga trying to click those fuckers down. But I did. Then, ten minutes (me still desparately trying to launch system scan after scan) it did it again. I noticed also that my bookmarks had reset to include the same old tired horseshit as before.

The PC was feeling the strain--and remember that I am on dialup at home--and was juddering like an epileptic at Lazer Floyd; the poor fucker would sit for a while mutely, refusing to acknowledge my ever-frantic clicking, me trying to--I don't know--get Task Manager up! Or something! And then after three minutes, Task Manager would come up, finally, and not even notice what processes were going on. "Hey, kill that . . . process!" "What process? Everything looks cool from here, boss! It must be black magic that is causing these incredible usage spikes. Hey, time for my break!"

The final straw came when I heard a nasty rapping on my front door. I opened it, and stared at two toughs in shades wearing cheap suits. "You Skot Kurruk?" one of them rasped. "Who wants to know?" I squeaked. "The internet. You're fucking stupid. You might have gotten the email." I sagged and hung onto the door frame. "What do you want?" I said wearily. "Your dog," the talker replied. "We're here to fuck it to death." The other one chimed in for the first time: "Man, I love fucking dogs. Is it a small dog? Because they are so cute." "The building doesn't allow dogs, you assholes." I tiredly informed them. They seemed crestfallen. The first one finally said, "Well, what a bummer. I guess we'll be on our way then. Hey, thanks for using Internet Explorer! We really appreciate it. Dogs or no dogs. Hey, wait, do you have cats? Because--" I shut the door and went and pulled the plug on the PC.

Enough. My God. I am willing to go ahead and say it: I am clearly too stupid to own a PC. Fine. That's okay. I don't mind. It's a good thing we still had the dreary little iMac sitting here, on which I am composing this. I guess I'm not too stupid for that.

And I guess that means that I can probably manage to get a new machine. Let's say . . . a Mac Mini.

Friday, 09 September
Free Mumia Stuff!

Sunday afternoon, after our final fucking wedding, we rushed home to meet up with the wife's parents for a little bit. They were stopping by on their way to Jazz Alley to see Cleo Lane with some friends, and yes, to answer the same question that was on the lips of every single person we mentioned this to, she is evidently still alive. They took a few moments to show off their new vehicle: a truly stupendous beast-van that looked like a five thousand pound piece of ordnance manufactured by SkyNet.

"Tomorrow it gets fitted with the lift, so we may have to take some of these seats out," Papa said, peering into its cavernous interior. (Mama has some serious mobility issues, and drives an entertaining little cart.) I thought, Gee, it'd be a shame to lose some of these nine hundred seats. The Duke of Gloucester might have to sit at the kid's table. The thing was fucking immense. Papa proceeded to point out the--I'm not kidding here--29-inch plasma TV, the rear seats that folded somehow into an origami bed, the movable command console, the vacuum cleaner . . . it was humiliating to even walk back into our apartment after seeing the fucking thing. Have a seat on our pedestrian couch! Would you like some cheese? What? Your van has its own cheesemaker? I understand.

The other reason they were there was because the wife and I had also made arrangements with them to buy the car they were offloading in favor of the Behemoth: yes, we're finally ditching the wretched Honda in favor of: a 2000 Dodge Neon sedan. It is purple. The fact that this car makes us feel like we're really hitting the big time, automotively, is pretty telling. It's like going to ComicCon 2010 and proudly waving around our Archie mags, screaming, "Have you guys seen this shit? It's blowing my mind!"

The purple car--which I have mentally christened "Grape Ape," but another friend has also called "Grimace" (available as a vanity plate!)--is, I should hardly have to point out, a complete babe magnet, which has the wife plenty worried, especially since I drive at most about one day a week. "Honey, I don't want you getting any strange pussy while you're driving to Safeway for your ear pills, okay?" I cannot give her any assurances. This mother is so sexy that I won't be surprised if chicks run up to it at stoplights and squish their breasts against the windows in some fever of horniness. I pointed this out to the wife, saying, "I can't help it, baby. This baby is tricked out with cooze control." She pointed out that it was actually "cruise control," but I decided to stop listening to her as I contemplated the sinuous aubergine lines of this most snatch-dazzling car.

Wandered off there, didn't I? Anyway. The wife's folks were really putting us through the wringer with the buying of this magnificent machine, what with their insane demands, like, "WE TOTALLY DO NOT INSIST ON A DOWN PAYMENT!" and "JESUS CHRIST, YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY MAKE ANY MONTHLY PAYMENTS YOU FEEL LIKE, UNLESS YOU CAN'T!" Just seriously crazy shit. We had previously agreed on a price of a few thousand bucks, and now it was going sideways. I said in steely tones, "You wait just a minute, Mister Man," slipping as I always do in moments of tension into the Kathy Bates character from Misery. "I don't know if I can go with this cockadoodie plan."

Pappy-in-law stared at me right back. "All right then," he replied. He pushed an envelope towards us. "See if you like this plan better." The wife opened the envelope, trembling. Inside was the title signed over to us, along with a letter indicating that the car was a gift, free of charge. No down payment. No payments at all. It was ours, free and clear. I glanced up. "I don't know if I can go for this, old man." He didn't budge. "You're taking this car--for nothing--as sure as Cleo Lane isn't dead, I think."

I wish I were stronger. I won't go into the nasty details, but after a lot of back-and-forth, I ended up taking the raw deal. We had ourselves a free five-year-old car with barely 30,000 miles on it. I'd just have to live with the fact that I'd been beaten by one of the best.

It's been a strange week in this way. Just last night, the wife and I were too lazy to worry about cooking dinner--probably still demoralized by our complete capitulation to her parents' insane terms over the car--so we ordered some pizza. Forty minutes later, it arrived.

The delivery guy stammered, "This is actually free. We have you guys listed as 'Super Customers' "--I swear that's what he said--"and I don't know how they choose these things, but it's no charge." We stared at him. Finally I piped up. "Did her parents get to you? Does this have to do with Grape Ape?" He moaned quietly. "Grimace?" I kept pressing him. "The Snatch-Wagon?!" I screamed. "Please, mister!" he howled. "I don't know what you're talking about! Please take your free pizza! I'm worried about the crust getting all gluteny!"

I threw him fifty cents and snarled, "You've got tomato sauce on your crotch." He deftly caught the two quarters and mewled, "It's kind of burny on my dinger." I shut the door on the wretch.

Free car. Free pizza. Something's in the wind, and I'm not sure I like the smell. I can only ride this bitch out to the very end. All I can do is ponder over things at the local bar, drink after soothing drink . . . just waiting for someone to pay for them all.

Wednesday, 07 September
Join Together

And so on Friday began PROJECT: DRINK-O-HOL! In which our hero embarked on a mighty weekend full of liver damage. Yea, may he live forever a few more months.

Friday night wasn't really a bachelor party for J. so much as it was a few of his friends taking him to horrible places where he might be forced to vomit. To that end, we started at, God help me, the Outback Steakhouse. I'm still not sure why. And what's worse is, it wasn't even as horrible as you would imagine. I mean, all they do is fry up steaks; it isn't hard. So the worst thing about the evening was really us dipshits making shitty old Aussie jokes in bad accents. "You call that a knoife? THIS is a knoife! Oh, wait, no, that's my poinis." Horrible. And yet after a couple of Foster's piss-brine, it almost became funny.

Then we went bowling. I would never in a million years expect anyone to read any single thing about bowling, so let's just say we went bowling. (Okay, I'll say one thing. Apparently, my technique was identified as "deep lunging," which made me feel sort of like a porn star. URRR! I LUNGE DEEPLY! Okay, tiger, it's just bowling. Time to go home now.)

On Saturday, we had our first wedding of the damn weekend. It was a backyard affair, and our friend J. was up on the mike with a guitar singing, I'm almost positive, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" when we showed up. Awesome! Welcome to our wedding: please do not become victim to a maritime tragedy. Have a scone!

As backyard weddings go, it wasn't all totally horrible. Only slightly horrible. Four speakers were on the schedule, and they gave the usual "We give thanks to the four fucking winds" thing or whatever. "We give thanks to the East!" and all that. This is always basically, "We give thanks to, uh, this tree in our way! Now we give thanks to the little league stadium. It's right past that dog manure. Oh, and we give thanks to the South, which you can see a small bit of if you squint into our bathroom window. That guy is kind of peeing south, I guess. I mean, south is 'down,' right?"

Anyway, I mostly gave thanks to the open keg that was conveniently nearby. I'm a swell guy.

Sunday brought our second daytime backyard wedding of the weekend, this time for our friends J. and P. They also happily had open kegs ready to go even before the ceremony, and people raced for them, because, well, theater people. We attacked them like Huns, and before anyone knew what was really going on, J. and P. appeared on the deck for the ceremony, and all of us dipshits were trapped way in the back, by the beer, as the priestess or nutbar or whatever did her business. As a result of this, a lot of us didn't hear what the hell was going on, but that was all our fault.

It didn't help that the house in question was clearly on the approach path to Seatac. So we heard this:

"J. and P. fell in love when . . . "

RRRRRRRROOOOOOAAAAAAAAR

". . . and this was cemented when . . . "

SHRIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK

" . . . until assassins caught up with them . . . "

VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

" . . . extradition is unlikely, thank God!"

So we don't actually know if they're married, but we assume so. And more power to them! I assume Interpol will go easier on them if they are, and we certainly didn't have to endure the hardship of worrying about the interdiction of the Winds or whatever, as they are presumably watching what's-her-face take a piss through the south window.

Aw, hell, to all these people let there be nothing but happiness, and we don't have to say anything about their side businesses, like about importing shaved rats or anything like that. Let them live their lives. Who cares about dangerous rodents or poisoned beer? Not me. Here I am, content as can be, eating my own feet. After a weekend of good fun.

Blessed be.

Thursday, 01 September
I Resent Other People's Happiness

Labor Day weekend is coming up, and boy, am I looking forward to . . . not relaxing! Well, some relaxing, I guess. Like 3/4 of the non-service economy employees in this country, I'm taking Friday off for the good old four-day weekend, because, hey, I can. (Working for a nonprofit may not get me serious wages, but boy do I rack up the paid time off--also, I rarely call in sick.)

And I need the spare time, because the wife and I are attending two fucking weddings over the weekend. I've said it before and I'll say it again: WHY MUST OTHER PEOPLE'S HAPPINESS INCONVENIENCE ME SO? Honestly. Would it be so bad for other people to be lonely shut-ins? It worked for me when AOL started up.

Saturday is the first one, and it's totally the wife's fault. They're friends of hers, and she also has spent time caring for their little boy. In fact, they set up the whole deal (at their house) in that cutesy way where they make it seem like the kid is throwing the party. "Don't tell Mommy and Daddy, but we're having a party!" And all that. They're totally nice guys, really, but . . . please, don't do this. Because now when I eat some overboiled carrots, I'm going to think that junior just wiped a bunch of shit on them. Also, is the kid going to know where they keep the Tanqueray 10? This stuff is important.

On Sunday, it's our friends J. and P. J. is some sort of web designer thingy (I have a complex understanding of these things), and P. works for NPR, so I assume there will be a short communion with virtual dolphins. I'll be very disappointed if this doesn't happen. At the very least, I expect to play WoW with the bride and groom, preferably underwater at a kelp garden. I've got this Drow Cabbage that will KICK THEIR MARRIED ASSES, and I haven't even mentioned my Icy Manipulator and Oubliette cards.

Well, hell, we'll see what happens. I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of the kid running the show on Saturday. Because maybe then, instead of the usual tired "you may now awkwardly jam the ring on to her finger," stuff, we'll get someting different.

"MAN AND WIFE! MAN AND WIFE! NOW WE CAN PLAY TRUCKS!"

And then? Duh. We play trucks.

Tuesday, 16 August
Dourif I Had A Hammer

The wife and I got our weekend off to a rip-roaring start on Friday by meeting our friend R. for drinks after work. We do this--let me think--approximately five days out of the week. It's helpful! And therapeutic. We frequently cry in each other's company: for example, on that day, I broke down weeping as I clutched my Sapphire martini. "Oh, God!" I wailed. "This really isn't very dry!"

R.--who I should point out actually works for the wife--had similar grief issues. "You scag!" he screamed (we don't judge during our sessions). "Why must you withhold praise?" The wife put a calming arm around his shoulders, and murmured, "It's only because you don't deserve it. And you steal. You steal everything. Yesterday you stole my car. The cops picked you up in Ballard." R. wailed with remorse. "I'm sorry! The plasma center won't let me in any more!" he cried.

You can see why we all needed a calming drink after a tough week.

But not as much calming as we needed after the wife and I decided to watch Bride of Chucky on cable that evening. Here is a brief transcript of how this came to be.

(Skot is surfing the cable menu looking for, Jesus, anything. He passes by the Travel Channel special called, If You're Not Young, Beautiful and Rich, I Guess You Could Always Die, and something on the Food Network with Bobby Flay, who, having barbecued every other possible thing on the planet, is planning to shove his gorgeous cock into red-hot coals and then have co-eds rapturously lick his perfectly scorched member while the house band plays "I'm Burnin' For You.")

(Anyway. Skot eventually hits Starz or something. He sees the title Bride of Chucky.)

Skot: BRIDE! OF! CHUCKY!

(Skot raises his arms in some sort of puzzling victory salute. The wife looks vaguely defeated.)

Wife: Whatever.

Skot: BRIDE! OF! CHUCKY!

(The wife here gives a sigh and goes to make something that contains a lot of gin. She then spends several minutes spinning her wedding band on her finger and glaring at it, for some reason. I assume it is out of purest love.)

Bride of Chucky is the work of my man Ronny Yu, who has also includes in his oeuvre the indelible Freddy Vs. Jason, a movie so spectacularly wonderful that it featured one horny slut beating another horny slut to death with a hippie in a sleeping bag. BoC is hardly less exacting in its pursuit of the utterly surreal, and includes among its wonders the spectacle of John Ritter taking a faceful of carpenter's nails into his face and, defying all jaws not to precipitously drop, a particularly unbelievable scene involving puppet sex between Chucky and his indecorous puppet bride Tiffany. I should note that this scene wantonly includes shots of naked puppet ass and puppet French kissing.

The movie is completely fucking deranged on almost every level, of course. Always the voice of Chucky, poor Brad Dourif is yet again called in: you never know when this guy will turn up. Mississippi Burning? Aw, he's a racist! Exorcist 3? Aw, he's the devil! Alien: Resurrection? Aw, he's an evil scientist! Voyager? Aw, he's an amoral murderer! But he's still my stuttering Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest! Every movie I see him in (or hear him in), I still kind of hope that Jack Nicholson shows up with a kindly whore for him to fuck.

Oh, and there's also Jennifer Tilly around somewhere, whose chief role is to simply always nearly fall out of her shirt. Not to get all sexist or anything, but it wasn't that long ago that horror movie rules simply dictated that at some point, one of the gals (probably the slut) yanked off her top? Why else was Jennifer Tilly created if not to take off her shirt? I don't think it was for her incisive political analysis. Anyway, I don't want to be a neanderthal about this either. I'm just saying: let's get horror movies back to where they belong, which is to say, as completely prurient endeavors. I am totally happy to stipulate that if Jennifer Tilly is in the movie, then she should spend almost all of it naked. And to provide balance, let's say that they also have to get, I don't know, Josh Hartnett as well, to hang out the whole time with no pants. I can live with that.

"Jesus. Check out Tilly's rack."

"Yeah. And check out Hartnett's dong."

(Long pause.)

I really think that this sort of strategy could bring a lot of people together on some common ground. Plus, we'd see a lot of tits and dongs. IT'S WIN-WIN, PEOPLE!

Oh, and on Saturday night we attended a simply huge theater party that marked the dissolution of one of Seattle's longest-lived and most respected sketch comedy groups, Bald Faced Lie. They are very amicably breaking up after many years of brilliant service: I once had the honor to work with them on a show they produced; at least two of them I count as among my very best friends in the world. They will be missed. It was quite a gala, and I think that practically every Seattle actor I've ever met was in attendance: the admonishment not to take drinks out into the alley was quickly and overwhelmingly ignored.

An awful lot of people that night that I spoke to mentioned my dumb blog, saying that they read it all the time, which, as always, made me happy and embarrassed: I am really lousy at taking compliments. (Criticisms I can handle: my friend C. said, "You're too wordy!" To which I thought, "Well . . . yeah, I sure am.") Anyway, it was all very sweet (except for C., and C.? Suck it! Look at me being all wordy again! Ah, you're not even reading.) and I wanted to send all the kind folks a message, so here it is:

JESUS CHRIST, GET BACK TO WORK! YOU'RE RUINING THE ECONOMY!

Thank you.

Tuesday, 02 August
Coyote Ugly

And so the parents blew into town this weekend, and much merriment was had. They got in on Thursday evening--I had somehow managed to misunderstand this and thought they were coming in on Friday, and had already made some plans--but it was no trouble, really: they would spend the evening "walking around." I'm an excellent son. I have plans, parents! I know you drove seven hours to get here, but would you mind terribly, oh, I don't know . . . walking around? That would be great.

(No, really, it was fine. They wanted to walk around. Incidentally, my father is having knee surgery later this year, which I think explains a lot about the streaks of utter perversity that I often display.)

So we met up at their hotel and then caught a cab to the Mariners game. (My father, now all but retired, has made it his mission to visit as many stadiums as possible.) I had wrangled some pretty decent seats down off the first base line, and so we settled in happily with some beers. Well, not the wife: she hates American beer. So she instead had a Mike's Hard Lemonade, or, more aptly, Mike's Hard-To-Drink Lemonade; that brine really is fucking ghastly. I mean, yes, there's something vaguely un-American about the idea of serving wine at a ballpark, but is this really the best we can do as the only non-beer option? Couldn't the poor wife get a fucking tequila shooter or something? Anyway, memo to this Mike person: You suck. Please stop, for God's sake.

Naturally, the Mariners got clobbered. By Cleveland. Which really tells you all you need to know about the Mariners this year. They are utterly opposed to favoritism, and will cheerfully lose to simply anyone. My mother asked adorable questions:

"When will the pitchers get to bat?" she asked worriedly. I think she felt that they were being excluded.

"This is the American league, Mom. The pitchers don't hit," I explained.

She looked worried again. "Why not?"

Good question. "Because the American league sucks, Mom."

She was apparently satisfied with that. Probably because all she watches are NL games, and because Dad is a Cubs fan. She's used to horrible nonsense and fatalism.

The game itself, though, was kind of exciting, particularly if you enjoy watching pitcher after pitcher take endless numbers of warm-up pitches: three pitchers were ejected from the game, including the supremely hopeless Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who, clearly disgusted over instantly giving up a home run, immediately plunked the very next batter he saw. The umpire, no dummy, tossed him, much to Shiggy's delight: "Stupid game, awful team, I'm no good. Send me home!"

In the very next inning, Cleveland's pitcher bonked one of our losers--Betancourt? I don't care--and then he got tossed, but not before the benches cleared and the players stood around bristling and not doing anything else. Even the bullpens cleared. I crowed, "Watch out, everyone! Here come the pitchers!" It was like the Invasion of the Trotting Anemic Huns Who Forgot Their Weapons Anyway. The worst damage these guys could do, really, was to threaten to pitch for you.

And then, later, another Cleveland pitcher nailed Ichiro right in the small of his back. BOOOOOOOO! Now, this was clearly a total mistake, a pitch that got away from the guy; retribution had already been had. And obviously the benches knew this too, for they failed to clear this time. No matter: the guy got tossed too, because, you know, you gotta. We stared frostily yet again as some anonymous clam got rolled out of the bullpen and threw for fifteen minutes. I went for another round of beers and Mike's Undrinkable Superfund Tailing Pond Insult.

The next night (can you guess what my parents did during the day? "We walked around.") we went to one of our favorite restaurants, a tapas joint called the Harvest Vine. As usual, they did not disappoint, and we leapt like animals onto the small plates of ridiculously good food: tomato salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette, sea salt and parsley; cheese plates; olive plates; meat plates; rib plates . . . you see what I mean. The tomato salad prompted my father to declare, "We're doing that again." Pause. "That and some more blue cheese." Pause. "We're going to need more wine." Indeed.

Then, at one point, he told us a good supper story, which I'll try to recreate here, but I'm not sure I can do it justice. This was a story from the bad old times, his wild days when he and my mother were young and crazy and all that.

It seems that he was at a party, and it was hosted by one of his crazy friends who, in his spare time, did some hunting. One of the things he hunted was coyotes. (Back in the day, I know that certain counties or cities would pay bounties for coyote skins, as they were regarded basically as pesty scavenger dogs, barely above vermin.)

At this party was a vastly unpleasant woman: she was making everyone angry, and in general just being a pain in the ass. So while she was distracted (and presumably irritating people), a plan was hatched: the host, with my father's help, fetched a coyote carcass. But not just any old dead coyote . . . this one had been skinned. Now, I don't know if you've ever seen anything skinned up close and personal, but I know from watching my father skin elk and deer when I was a kid, but it ain't pretty. Bulging eyes starting from naked sockets, a horrible profusion of exposed teeth, awful blue arteries tracing the whole pink terrain of exposed skin . . . it's fucking horrible.

They took this awful specimen and put it in the woman's car, in the driver's seat. In what is easily my favorite touch of the whole prank, they also carefully positioned the dead thing's paws right on the steering wheel, so the horrendous dog-corpse appeared to be some ghoulish canine chauffeur, all set for a midnight ride straight to Pandemonium. Then they simply waited, and of course the time came for her to leave. My father and his co-conspirators watched from the bushes as she approached the car, and opened the door.

Now, it's bad enough to open your car door and find, like, some unexpected dude just sitting there grinning, or whacking off, or playing whist, or whatever. But when she opened the door, what she saw was some EC Comics vision straight from the Pits of Beyond: a denuded, pink musculature of vaguely canine aspect, with prominent staring eyeballs and far too many teeth; its paws in an obscene mockery of helpfulness, perched at ten-and-two on the steering wheel, waiting to drive her straight up the Devil's rectum.

She screamed like a scalded harpy and dashed off into the night. It took them twenty minutes to find her. In the meantime, others of course removed the horrible evidence from her car and cleaned out the front seat. When she shakingly returned to the scene of the crime, she was assured that she must have gotten a hold of some terrible shit to have seen such things, but look: it's all fine now! It must have been in her head.

This is what passes for dinner conversation in my family. I laughed and laughed and laughed. (And by the way, my mother, who does not lie, vouches for this story.) What would I do to have stories like that? Just about anything. I'd take a pitch right in the small of my back. I'd drink a Mike's Date Rape Special. Or hell, maybe I'd just walk around.

Thursday, 28 July
We Are Occasionally Family

Tomorrow my parents come to town! I'm looking forward to seeing them, as, being who we are--that is, a pretty low-maintenance family--it's been a while.

I know a lot of people who talk with their families once a month, once a week, even once a day--this I find pretty freaky--but our family (I'm an only kid) just isn't that way. I'm pretty sure we've gone for six-month stretches where we didn't phone or email. And not because we hate each other . . . it's just not really that big a deal, I guess. When we do visit, Mom does insist on taking some pictures, and we pose for them, of course, because hey, it's Mom, but really, Dad and I could care less. I mean, it's not that I dislike looking at these photos or anything . . . it's just that, as my Dad once said about these infrequent photo shoots, "Christ, I remember what we all look like anyway."

Which is also kind of funny, since he's a professional photographer. Me, I am absolutely as far from being a professional photographer as it gets. I would need exhaustive hours of training in order to even be called a barely adequate photographer. I have the magical ability to ruin any shot at all. I took one gorgeous picture in my life, and I have it framed: it is an early morning shot of a tower in Brugges--it's a study in grey, and in mist, and the Gothy tower stands in the hazy distance like a ghost of a building. It really is a wonderful photo, and never fails to evoke the memory of that magical vacation, especially where at the top of the photo I thoughtfully included part of my thumb.

Anyway! Family's coming for a short visit. I've already got tickets for a Friday baseball game, where we will be seated right off the third base line to watch the mighty Seattle Mariners do solemn battle with the fearsome Cleveland Indians. Which I assume will be a lot like watching an enactment of a Matthew Arnold poem: ignorant armies clashing by night.

But who cares? We'll be there at the ballpark (and I must admit that Safeco is a beaut), eating some dogs and drinking some beers--the game is nearly incidental to such an immersion in Americana. We will have a good time even if the woeful players on the field all suddenly decide to form a kickline and punch out a few numbers from Pippin. I'll be there with the wife, and Dad--a professional dog burglar (not at all like a cat burglar--any fool can steal a cat, for God's sake), and Mom, who, back in the Seventies was a hand model until a horrible thresher accident, but who then came back triumphantly as a popular wrist model. (She loses more damn watches . . .)

Oh, and I'm sure Mom will insist on a few photos, and Dad and I will roll our eyes, but then pose anyway, out of familial duty. And it's all for the best. Later on, I can pull out those shots with the wife and say, "Aw, remember that night? At the baseball game? What a great shot." And she'll reply, "Yeah. Look at your thumb there. It was a good night for your thumb."

Yeah. I sure hope so.

Thursday, 14 July
As I Lay Blogging

The wife, I am miserable to report, is absent for the next six days or so. Turns out her brother's family in Connecticut is undergoing some real turmoil--everything is okay, everyone is fine, but there are medical issues going on--and she heroically flew out there to help with her bro, his wife, and their two small boys. I talked with her briefly today from work, and also my little nephews-in-law, who had this to say about seeing their aunt: "Peanut butter sandwiches are good." Good to know. My bitter heart did just about break, I must say, though, when little A. breathlessly spoke to me: "Hi I am reading Harry Potter now and I am going to be Harry Potter I think because I have all the books!" And I said, because I'm worthless on the phone even with adults, much less little kids, "Wow! You have a lot of reading to do. I should let you get back to it!" (Read: Please put my wife back on the phone.) And he said, "Okay! Goodbye! I love you!"

The damn kid has met me once, when he was the ringbearer at our wedding. I doubt he could pick me out of a lineup. I know that it's a rote thing that little kids are trained to say, especially to "family," but Jesus Christ if I didn't feel like a frozen turd all day for just gaping into the receiver, even though the damned tot almost certainly threw the phone back at the wife's head and went off to go spear frogs or something. Stupid adorable kids. This is kind of why I don't want any. My mind is already horribly bent. I don't need any help.

And anyway, the wife has a lot to answer for. For one thing, the garbage is really piling up. Who's going to take this shit out? I might call the condo board. I assume they have a service.

For another thing, it took less than twenty-four hours to confirm that I simply cannot take care of myself. I mean, at all. Last night, when I went to bed, I set on the alarm. Good show, old bean! Corking! Too bad it was set for the wife's normal waking hour, which is a good hour later than mine. So I got to work an hour late. I emailed the department: "Sorry, I'm an hour late getting into work today, thanks to my suck-ass wife, who is in Connecticut, and failing to take care of me."

Not a good way to start the day. Even worse was ending it: on the way home, I walked by two--two!--old ladies rummaging through garbage cans. Is there anything worse than seeing little old ladies scavenging through trash for . . . I don't even know, really. One of the women surfaced with a bus schedule. This depressed me even further. It horrifies me to see shit like this. That's why I normally make the wife go out fishing for dumpster treasures. But she's not here! You see my situation.

Then I bought a book about rats. It is called "Rats." This should improve my lot.

Clearly, I am going to be dead before my wife comes back. Devoured by rats, and surrounded by substandard garbage. It's going to be a rough weekend, particularly for my neighbors, since I suspect that I am going to be one smelly-ass corpse.

Tuesday, 28 June
Failure Is So Totally An Option

If you're anything like me--and, you know, God help you--then you too are probably a big favorite of arbitrary milestones. And passed one on Friday! (They're like kidney stones, only conceptual!) On Friday I turned 36.

Thirty-six! The year of . . . before thirty-seven! The year you start to think, "I should have things looked at. Unpleasant things. Like this mole that looks kind of like Ed O'Neill." The year where, when you stare yet again at your battered 20+-year-old Honda, you find your cheeks moist with grief. Sort of because you know it still has more energy than you. The year that you realize that 40 is right around the bend, and your awareness of your prostate starts to move from being "Uh, that thing that is important for coming, or something?" to "Glandular minefield."

With these happy thoughts in mind, I did what any responsible mid-30s kind of guy would do and threw a party, got wrecked, and in general behaved like a Hun at a bikini party. Huzzah! Huzzah for the not-that-elder drunken statesperson!

Well, I had a little help from my friends. Is it actually possible to stay sober at an event (celebrating one's own birth) where a friend brings you a powder-blue t-shirt with big block printing on it thus: "ASK ME ABOUT MY THEATRE PROJECT"? (Because, of course, spelling it "theatre" makes it extra ghastly. Let's not say anything about the powder blue.) Or the person who brought me a card encouraging me "not to smell like pee" during the coming year?

And then there were the fellows who showed up a bit later carrying--I swear I did not know this kind of shit existed--a six-pack of something called "Brutal Fruit." The specific flavor was "MANIC MANGO," which makes me want to alliteratively Murder Myself Mightily Much. Of course, by this time, to be honest, I was far gone, and heaped vituperation upon them anyway, which is possibly why they revenged themselves by leaving a few bottles of this noxious elixir in my fridge. (These guys actually kill me. The "bring horrid undrinkable poison" strategy is a charming holdover from the "how will people not drink our booze?" years in which they would show up to parties armed with bottles of vermouth.)

For all that attended, take your pick: 1. It was great to talk to you! 2. It was great to rail incoherently at you! 3. I'm sorry. For what it's worth, which I suspect is nothing, I had a great time.

On Sunday, the wife and I traveled to the in-laws' (mine) place for a belated Happy Father's Day gathering and also so they could give me some birthday love. The in-laws, in usual fashion, had procured a truly Brobdingnagian amount of food for the event, leading to questions like, "Do you want chicken? Or steak? Or both? I think we have a sack of dead raccoons in the garage that we could blend into a nice shake for you too."

We were kindly given a ride to and over on the ferry by the wife's brother I. and his fiancee S., who are really lovely kids--I. is a big fellow and thinks nothing of eating an entire sack of dead raccoons, so it's always entertaining to watch him eat. After the preposterously large meal, we all retired into the living room, where, after a nice gift exchange--we got the wife's dad a pretty hot DVD called What Hump? about the erotic adventures of a randy French bellringer--we settled in to play a nice family game called "Scene It!"

"Scene It!" is a board game/DVD trivia game about movies: sometimes you watch a scene from a well-known movie or whatever, and then answer questions. Like, for example, one that came up for us (we all played teams), which said something like, "This '80s thriller involved an icepick, a novelist and film history's most notorious snatch grab." (I may be paraphrasing.) My mind was electrified, and I of course couldn't help yelling out the obvious answer.

"Fatal Attraction!" I howled in complete wrongness. What the fuck? My awful brain had subbed in one horrible, insulting '80s fuck/stab film for another. S. looked at me sadly, as if she suspected my prostate was starting to atrophy. "Basic Instinct," she corrected me gently.

"FUCK!" I screamed, momentarily forgetting the company I was in. The room fell into a gloomy silence. "Pardon my French," I said lamely. I should note here that the wife's father is a pastor. He looked down at the game board dismally, and my mother-in-law coughed politely and spun a few cookies on the rug with her little scooter (she has horrible arthritis), as if to distract from the fact that I had just displayed my utter worthlessness as a son-in-law.

It was right about then that I had wished I had worn a certain powder-blue t-shirt so someone, anyone could clear their throat and say, "Well! Tell me about your theatre project!"

Thursday, 23 June
I, Caregiver

Last night the wife had mentioned a couple times that her throat was a little sore, and fretted about possibly catching something from the little germ-bombs she minds each day. Despite my best efforts to tune out her complaints in order to read the fiery "New X-Men: Wolverine Buys New Pants," some of her ramblings sneaked into my brain. I mumbled, "Well, you'll feel better tomorrow. It's your mutant power." "What?" she said, but when I didn't answer, she went to bed.

But sure enough, when I got home from work today, there was my gal, bundled up on the couch, looking pretty miserable. She honked a greeting at me. "My baby!" I cried, running over to give her a kiss on the forehead, making sure to lay down some plastic wrap on her skin first. "You stayed home today?"

"Yezz," she said, huddled in her robe. I felt terrible, and said so.

"This is terrible," I cried. "We really needed the money. But if you're too lazy and sick to go to work and earn your keep, I guess it's my job to pull up the slack." She stared weakly at me, saying nothing, and I sighed, feeling terrible about everything. "My girl," I cooed. "I guess I need to take care of you, huh?" She nodded sadly, and so I pushed her roughly off the couch and fluffed up some pillows and lay down.

"Well, I'll need my strength for this shit," I said. "And that means napping. In an hour I'll get up and go get you some of those discount throat lozenges from Latvia that you like. Remember? The ones that don't usually make you throw up? But right now I need rest." She honked again forlornly and crawled over to the baseboard heater to huddle against it, and I fell into sleep.

An hour later, I awoke feeling pretty rested. Time to tend to my gal! She was still lying on the ground clinging to the heat register; she really looked like she could use a hug, but she was pretty sweaty by now, so I just poked her with my foot. "I'm going to get some food," I said. "I'd make something here, but all we have is a box of Mike & Ike's." "That sounds good!" she said, perking up. "No. Those are mine," I replied. "How about some soup?" "Okay," she said, drooping. "Whatever you want!" I cried heartily. Sick people should be coddled.

So I wandered up to Broadway, where there is a perfectly fine Vietnamese pho joint. Pho, for the uninitiated, is a spicyish soup dish with rice noodles, onions, scallions, basil, bean sprouts and whatever happened to be slow enough to be caught and slaughtered that day. I ordered a couple small bowls to go, making sure to request "extra tendons" for the wife's, reasoning: tendons are funny. (If you're wondering about the "small" order portions, let me just say that pho places have their own ideas about serving sizes. "Small" means "you will piss for hours!" and X-large means "renal failure.")

Returning to our apartment, the wife cried out happily as I served up the soup. "What are these thick noodles?" she wondered as she slurped up tendons. "They're really al dente." I didn't tell her they were tendons; specifically neck tendons. I was using the "like treats like" medical reasoning, figuring that the neck protein would clear up her sore throat. (I saw this on a documentary once . . . I think it was called "Dr. Quinn, Frontier Medical Gal and Her Dancing Jesuit Bears." Something like that.) Also, I had thrown in of Vicodin into her bowl and dissolved them, because Jesus, how long did I have to listen to this bitch complain? She had already cost us a day's pay.

After a little while, having slurped up a good quantity of soup, the wife declared that her sinuses were feeling a lot better. "That's good!" I said happily, and then she pitched forward face-first into her soup. Boy, was she hungry!

Whoops, no, she was drowning. Soup bubbles gurgled up from the bowl and around her cheeks, but she was out. That would be the Vicodin. I hauled her skull out of the bowl by her hair, and winced as the broth spattered the carpet. Christ, that's going to stain, I thought, but dismissed it as unimportant. When the wife healed up, she could scrub that stuff out no problem, or just replace and install new carpeting.

Well, the poor thing was obviously done for the night. It was time for bed. I dragged her by her ankles into the bedroom and dumped her on the mattress, making sure that no part of her crossed the midline that I had drawn some months ago with Magic Marker (in case she forgot, my side of the bed reads, in large block letters, "SKOT'S SIDE"). I secured her leather restraints just in case she got some case of night-thrashes and intruded on my side of the bed, and then kissed her gently on the forehead, using a fresh piece of plastic wrap again for sterility. Poor thing.

I went into the kitchen and stacked up the dirty dishes neatly next to the sink for the wife to clean the next day. Usually I'd be a little irritated with having to do the chore, and I never like to go to bed knowing there's a dirty dish in the house anyway, but come on. She could always do them as soon as she feels up to it.

Tonight she needs her rest.

Tuesday, 21 June
Old Adventures In Lo-Fi

On Saturday night, having nothing much to do anyway, I decided to meet the wife down at a place called Re-bar, which happens to be the venue for her current show. Re-bar is a nightclub that also happens to stage theatrical productions here and again on their tiny two stages, usually gay-themed or at least gay-friendly, so a Terrence McNally farce is a good fit. Re-bar is renowned amongst the theater crowd for its incredible dinginess and thoroughly ramshackle atmosphere--backstage, which is a merely polite term for "curtained-off dead end," the actors put on makeup in front of one tiny mirror and array their props on plywood laid over the pool tables. We don't do this stuff for money, folks.

And yet, Re-bar, despite the monumental amount of shit we give it for being such a hilariously, uh, contaminant-friendly environment, is weirdly beloved by a lot of actors I know. And myself, really: I've done a whole ton of productions there. This despite the "well, it could be true" stories about things like carnivorous mushrooms that lurch around in the subcellar, garfing out hideous spore clouds that we all inhale during a show; the nearly irrefutable fact that during any given run at Re-bar, someone will get murderously ill--we still come back to the place, like that ex-girlfriend you broke up with like six times, and yet you still kept winding up in bed with her.

(Once, when going to the place for a rehearsal, someone found a tiny amber vial on the dance floor. "It looks like, uh, coke or something," someone ventured. Never one to shy away from empiricism, I took the vial and shook out some of the stuff and put it on my tongue, which numbed up in an old familiar, bitter way. "It's crank," I announced officiously. My friend B. snatched it from my hand. "I'll give this a good home," he said twinklingly, putting the thing in his pocket. That's the thing about actors: We are so picky. Mysterious chemicals on the floor? Sounds like heaven! Hey, let me taste that! It didn't kill you? Wonderful! I want some too!)

I went down there, timing my arrival for the end of the show and the commencement of the night's special event, something called "Frankenboot," which promised to be an evening full of dancing to mashups--where a DJ created improbable mixes of popular songs, like wedding the bass line of "Pressure" to the papery wailings of Britney Spears, and then perversely tossing in some trumpet line from the Beta Band.

Me, I eat this crap up. I mean, what kind of sociopath spends his free time thinking, "You know what would be cool? Basement Jaxx versus the Spice Girls, maybe with a calypso flair! I wonder what the BPM on 'Baby Elephant Walk' is!" Like I say, perverts. But I find it a lot of fun. And so did some of our companions, mostly other actors from the wife's show. Our friend R. exhibited real delight at the sonic appearance of C.C. Penniston, which while deeply weird, was at least mitigated by her total excitement, and never mind that good old C.C. was being married to something wrenching like the bass line from "Hangin' Tough." Finally, it happened to C.C., right in front of her face, and she just can't deny a certain hair-free Wahlberg penis.

I don't know.

We of course observed the local fauna. "What's with this guy?" asked R. as an older gentleman paid the cover to get in, improbably decked out in a suit and tie. "Don't make fun of the librarian," I said. "He's on gay safari, doing research." "I understand," R. said gravely. I spied a girl while in line with the wife, waiting to get drinks, mainly because her tits were shoved up to her neck. Her hair was dyed the color of some unearthly metal unsynthesized by atomic processes not yet available in the hearts of nearby anemic stars; it looked like she had imported the color from a system with much more enthusiastic solar processes. "She brought the girls tonight," I breathed to the wife as she glided by. She chuckled briefly, and I realized that this whole scene was kind of exotic to me in a way that it really wasn't for my gal--I had always shunned the dance scene when I was (let's face it) a kid. Mainly after getting totally shot down a couple times in humiliating fashion.

(Memory that I will take to my grave, from college, at a dance club: me, approaching girl, on the floor: "Mind if I dance?" She: "Go for it!" Then she spun and walked away. OH THE ANGST! It really does make me laugh now, because, hey, that's pretty awesome. "Go for it!" What rejoinder could I possibly have? "You! You . . . damn you! One day I will vengefully blog about this!")

If only I had had some coke on me at the time. Then she wouldn't have walked away. "Don't go," I could have smoothly said, taking her upper arm. "I found this on the floor, baby."

If you're wondering how I ever got married, well, yeah. Me too.

Wednesday, 01 June
Causation

Really, this whole weekend was about questionable choices.

This morning, for example, after walking to work in the rain, I attempted to close up my umbrella. But the latch seems to have broken. I spent a few minutes trying to force the damn thing, but it's just busted, and sat open all day. Every now and then it would catch my eye in the office, sitting in the corner not closed and a fresh wave of irritation would wash over me. Fucking umbrella, I'd think. I even bought a nice one with a LIFETIME FUCKING GUARANTEE because I was sick of all the cheap ones breaking. It really burned me. Lifetime guarantee, my ass. Like I'm going to go through the trouble of finding an umbrella-sized box for the thing and then cough up the dough to ship the bastard back to the manufacturer--by that time, I could have just bought a new fucking umbrella. It ate at me all day.

So when it was time to go home, I stared at the umbrella for a minute and then thought, Fuck you, umbrella! And marched right out the door. Into the heavy rain which was still falling.

Stay with me here. First, I let a broken umbrella turn into a grim psychodrama starring ME! And a broken umbrella. Then, in order to cause the broken umbrella emotional pain, I spurned the thing and left it in my perfectly dry office, where it is presumably still stewing. Then, despite the fact that the umbrella was only broken in the sense that it would not close--in other words, that its normal rest state was now one in which it was perfectly capable of serving its only function, that is, keeping me dry, I instead chose to leave it behind to walk out into the pouring rain, which was clearly visible from out my office window.

Oh, and the whole walk home in the rain, I also managed to anthropomorphize the rain, which was clearly in collusion with broken umbrella in a campaign to break my spirit. At one point, I actually thought, Fuck you, rain. I'm glad I didn't bring broken umbrella. That's just what you would want. Take that, you . . . weather!

This whole thing might have been influenced by another poor choice made earlier in the day. Our office had a little pizza party to celebrate the May birthdays (that we didn't get around to this until the last day of the month should tell you something, but I'm not sure what), and I noted with private gloom that they had ordered from Domino's. Have you ever read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? It's a harrowing book about a guy in a Russian gulag. You know what he does all day? He eats Domino's pizza.

I'M TELLING YOU RIGHT NOW YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT TO READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH.

But I was hungry. I ate two slices of the wretched stuff. And worse, I chose the "all meat" pizza, guaranteeing me my RDA of poisoned pig and stretched cat. Nummy! Needless to say, two hours later, my guts were roiling and my skin felt too tight on my face. I groaned and clutched my addled stomach, and my revolted brain began torturing me with foul hallucinations. Ugh, god, that tasted like shit, I thought. Brain took over from there, and--God help me, I am not making this up, and you're going to be really sorry you ever read it--I suddenly imagined an entire digestive process gruesomely reversed. I spent a good ten minutes or so hellishly picturing my greedy ass gulping up excrement, reverse-mouthed, cheeks writhing in an awful approximation of mastication, then a two-hour interlude where mysterious, awful things happened in my body, and then finally me opening my mouth wide and disgorging a perfectly formed slice of pizza.

I'm sorry, I had to stop for a moment there to laugh as I wondered exactly how many of my tens of readers just read that horrible paragraph and swore off this site forever. I blame nobody but myself.

And to take things further back, I'm not sure that my febrile rectodental reveries cannot be tied to another rotten choice earlier in the weekend, which was my fateful decision to watch Ladder 49 on pay-per-view. "Honey!" I sang. "There's a shitty movie on cable!" What is wrong with me? Because she is a good and loving wife, she cried, "Let's watch it!" And so we did. And it was a lot like eating shit with your own ass, in some ways: you will be filled with awful garbage, but you won't taste anything, and it will probably take hours.

I really need this image out of my mind.

Anyway, Ladder 49 is one of those tough films with a difficult message: firefighters are heroes, man. Hey, they might drink too much sometimes, and maybe the life is hard on the little woman, but when you get right down to it, there's nothing like sitting around for days on end eating with other men, showering with other men, and darn it, just being with other men. In other words, it is a courageous gay film, but without the gay.

SPOILERS HERE!

Ladder 49 is, of course, unspeakably bad. For one thing, Joaquin Phoenix is utterly useless, as he has been in everything he's ever done save for To Die For. John Travolta does his usual teeth-baring hissing routine, and Robert Patrick seems content to sit back and let his really hilarious moustache do the heavy lifting. There are moments of comedy, though, such as when Balthazar Getty falls through a roof and gets cooked like a hot dog. As befits someone named "Balthazar." No word on whether he plumped when you cooked 'im, though one wonders if that's what's happened to Travolta.

If I had only watched Elektra instead, this whole series of events might have been avoided. On the other hand, watching it might, oh, I don't know, give me lupus.

I really can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, 03 May
That's How I Get By

I recently picked up the much talked-about novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, written by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's getting a lot of play in the press because 1. it is a novel about 9/11 and 2. Mr. Foer is only eight years old, so his accomplishment is that much more remarkable.

The book does have a lot going for it. It is a hefty tome, but not dauntingly so, so it could be used, say, to flatten chicken breasts in the kitchen. On a more aesthetic level, its professionally bound hardcover version makes a satisfying THWOCK! when hurled against a wall--a sound so pleasing, actually, that I enjoyed throwing the thing against many surfaces, including the ceiling, the floor, and in one memorable instance, my wife, who made her own interesting noise.

It could also be used as an effective warding tool for fending off small bats attempting to entangle themselves in your hair, it occurs to me. The book is certainly massive enough to kill many bats, provided your aim was true.

But it must be admitted that the book is not good for everything. Among the things I would recommend against doing with it are opening it, reading it, attempting to enjoy it, or in any way attempting to consider it as an enjoyable piece of literature. Foer's writing is so excruciating, so grating, so cloying that . . . that I'm out of "so"s. I did not last more than fifty pages, and already by then I'd been subjected to a supremely insulting amount of from-the-mouths-of-babes fake profundities, dorm-room blue haze "what if?"s and, to top it all off, CrAZy paaaaage

LAYOUTS AND typography

that I did the only rational thing, which was to fend off the bats attacking my hair. Maybe they were trying to get at the book, in which case I am certainly sorry for killing them.

This book is so intolerable that I can only assume that it's being made into a Hallmark TV movie with Rosie O'Donnell.

But the weekend wasn't all bat-attack this and spousal-abuse that! Oh no! Something quite wonderful happened! I watched a little movie called--stop, my heart!--Cabin Fever!

WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS MOVIE BEFORE? If there is a finer film ever made, I'd like to know what it is, because this movie KNOCKS EVERYTHING ELSE DOWN AND THEN DOES THE FRUG ALL OVER THEIR UNHAPPY ARMS AND LEGS!

I need to calm down. Okay. If you haven't seen it--SPOILER STUFF--Cabin Fever is, on its face, a standard-issue Teen Meat Stuck In A Cabin Waiting To Die kind of film, but this film simply jettisons the Jason or Freddy or Michael in favor of something even better: flesh-eating disease! Yeah, run from that, Geek-O! Can't fuck your way out of this one, can you, Hot Slut? (I mean, not that they ever do. But in THIS movie, it's not the hot slut or even the black guy [there isn't one] who gets it first! It's the tease-y virginal type!)

The film takes pretty much every stock teen horror trope and then starts fucking with them one by one. Geek-O Hero is sort of a cruel asshole and not very heroic! Mindless Drinking Lout kinda tries to behave admirably! Skeevy Blonde Guy . . . well, he's skeevy and pretty much hateful, but whatever.

I won't even try to talk about the jaw-dropping scene featuring a demented towheaded kid with . . . biting issues, or the sight gag involving an unfortunate harmonica player. You'll just have to treat yourselves to them.

All of this, and the movie does have some horror chops as well. I mean that in a good way, not in a Rosie O'Donnell or Jonathan Safran Foer way. I preach the gospel now. The gospel of Cabin Fever. (END SPOILERS.)

I also preach the gospel of profligate drinking with friends, and to that end, the wife and I took our friend K. out for drinks on Saturday in belated celebration of her birthday. We went to a tiny little cubbyhole of a place called Bleu, helpfully located mere blocks from our homes.

Bleu's name is somewhat mysterious, as there is nothing identifiably blue in the place, which is all wood grain, dimly lit and claustrophobic. As best as I could tell, the name referred to the sounds you would make into your toilet after a few too many of their lethal drinks. BLEU! (This is an admittedly similar theory to my wife's on how grappa came to be named. All I can say is, maybe it's just that a lot of French and Greek words sound like vomiting noises. I don't know.)

Bleu's M.O., you see, is to charge you a nervy $8 or $9 per drink, but their pours make you see why. Order a martini? Here it is! Oh, and here's a backup glass to handle the overfill--so you're getting like a drink and a half or more per order. This became interesting when I momentarily lost my mind and decided to have a shot of Laphroaig, which is a high-end single malt scotch that, according to K., tastes like "shoes." I received my glass, and the wife observed, "Wow, nice pour." Indeed. It was easily the heftiest shot of scotch I've ever seen outside of my home, my friends' homes, or the homes of casual acquaintance/lushes. I really enjoyed it, as well I fucking should have, as I found out later that it cost me fourteen bucks. (Sadly, not the most I have ever paid for a drink.)

After a delightful while of this, we galumphed back over to K.'s apartment, where she treated us to a slideshow of her recent Hawaiian vacation, gabbling along merrily and tipsily, describing all their adventures (she and her boyfriend), many of which seemed to involve insane things like hiking, enjoying the outdoors, and getting close to lava flows. Her tipsiness also led to some enjoyably fond and nuttily specific recollections. On their little rented bungalow or whatever, she confided happily: "We had a toaster oven." On black sand: "That's black sand!" It sure is!

But this is the way you--well, I--dig on stuff like this. Most of the time, looking at pictures of people's trips and shit like that is a real drag. "And here's a grainy shot of my thumb and half a church! Oh, and this is where we saw a dog! He's not in the photo, though." (Mine are certainly like this.) But sitting around doing the woozy recall two-step? Sign me up.

They had a toaster oven, Jonathan Safran Foer! That was black sand, Rosie O'Donnell! You hear me? Are you listening?

Ahhhh, you do what you want. I don't care. I've got Cabin Fever. That's all I'll ever need.

Thursday, 14 April
Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

This is simply a very abbreviated document of some of the various lies I have told over my current lifespan. I have rated them, and I admit that these ratings are wholly subjective, but I think it's interesting to note the "Flowers for Algernon" arc that they take in terms of how they started out just terminally dumb, then got slightly more sophisticated, and then just got dumb again. Great. I have a bright future.

---

[Youngster]

Father: Did you lock the chicken coop?

(Pause.)

Skot: Yes.

(Several chickens get murdered by animals.)

Rating: 0.1

---

[High School]

Skot: The car was parked at the supermarket. I guess someone ran into it. I didn't see who!

Mom: Really?

Skot: I swear to God!

Mom: Lynn already called to say you ran into her car.

[Silence.]

Rating: 2.0, because it's just so stupid.

---

[Skot and his Girlfriend are, horribly, groping each other in the back of his heroic Chevy Monza, possibly the worst car ever. Girlfriend, it should be noted, is six feet tall. Also, Depeche Mode's Black Celebration is playing, which is great fuck-music, assuming that one has no will to live.]

Skot: Muh!

Girlfriend (helplessly kicking at everything in the car): Fur!

Skot: Lip!

Girlfriend: Uh . . . do you have . . . protection?

(Pause.)

Skot: Yes.

Girlfriend: Oh, good.

(Interminable silence. Finally:)

Girlfriend: You don't.

(Interminable silence. Finally:)

Skot: No.

[End of date. She ended up being caught by her Dad anyway.]

Rating: 2.5, if only for audacity.

---

(College. The Capitol Market was known for its extremely lax ID checks. I was nineteen and trying to buy a case of beer.)

Store guy: Can I see some ID?

Skot: Sure! (I hand him my very real driver's license.)

Store guy: This says you were born in '69.

Skot: (Slight pause, then half-belligerently) Yeah. '69, '79, '87 . . . sounds like twenty-one to me! Do the math!

The guy pondered this bit of horseshit for a moment before ringing me up. It was, perhaps, my finest hour.

Rating: 8.6

---

Skot, to his future wife, God help her: I think you should come home with me.

Future Wife: I'd better not. I'd better go home.

Skot: But it's my birthday!

Rating: This is in the Kelvin range.

---

(Now:)

Friend: I hope you can come see my [awful] show.

Skot: I wouldn't miss it for anything.

(Later.)

Wife: Do you want to go see that awful show?

Skot: I would pay money to miss it.

Wife: Thank God.

Rating: 10.


Tuesday, 05 April
There He Goes

Sorry things have been a bit slow lately. Work has been kind of work-ish; and there was the deal last week where my host switched servers, or something; and also our oven died, so there has been wrangling with the landlord, the building manager, and I guess Sears or possibly Kevin's Komplete Cookery, Bookery and Rookery, which I must admit is the finest retail outlet featuring kitchen appliances, rare books and pet ravens that I've ever had the pleasure to visit. So things have been hectic.

I'd like to say that things are going to pick up here, but alas they will not for this week. Part of the workishness is yet another business trip, this time to Denver; I leave tomorrow morning.

I am not excited about Denver. For one thing, it's work. For another thing--I'm sorry--it's Denver. Now I'm sure it is a fine city (I've only been there once when I was a kid), but look: I don't know anyone there, it's way the fuck up in the goddamn ether, and I smoke. So, great, a week of lonely, friendless gasping intermittently broken up by having to attend meetings about cancer. All this in a city a friend of mine once called The City of Quitters: settled by pioneers who got halfway over the fucking Rockies and then said, "Well . . . I fold. This is good enough for me."

Look, I know, that's mean. I just don't much want to go, is all, because it is work, of course, and it's time away from the wife, which also sucks, so I'm just venting. And not to piss off entire portions of the country, but I do feel I have to point out that it probably cannot be worse than my last trip to Kansas City. (I'M SORRY. Apart from some seriously mind-blowing barbecue, KC was probably the most depressing city I've ever visited. It felt like Dante's Wood of Suicides, except there was no plant life anywhere, and everyone I saw looked too enervated to actually mount the initiative to take his or her own life.)

So now that I've insulted two perfectly innocent cities, I'll pay for it by going to hang out in one of them while the wife stays behind to deal with an oven installation, waiting on tenterhooks for Amazon to deliver me some of my stupid comic books and, as I like to imagine, exulting in an empty apartment by rubbing scented oils on her body and dancing naked atop tulip petals spread artfully on our carpet while listening to, let's say, RJD2. (Is it just me? Or do other guys like to think of their girls as turning into strange, wanton harlots in their absence BUT WITHOUT OTHER GUYS. ? Actually, don't answer that.)

So, here I come, Denver, pen in hand. (This is, of course, a lie. As I'm sure most of my posts readily give testimony to, I almost never take notes with the idea of blogging in mind. For that matter, I almost never take notes. I was once caught a few years ago by a colleague who was staring at me during a theater meeting. I was, instead of taking notes about the show, attempting to scribble down a recreation of the logo of the band Ratt.)

I will hang out with my co-workers, and nurses, and doctors, and statisticians, and we will by God hammer out all this shit about cancer. And I will be there to record it. In typography inspired by Ratt.

I'll let you know how it all works out next Monday. Just another meeting, after all. Round and round. What comes around goes around. I'll tell you why:

Dig.

Thursday, 17 March
Green Day

Well, in just a bit it will be St. Patrick's Day. (Probably by the time I post this, it will be.) Just what we need: another quasi-holiday giving us an excuse to drink. It's the Cinco de Mayo of the Irish! Let's leave aside the obvious Irish jokes about hard drinking anyway--Americans frankly don't need any excuse anyway. We'll drink on any holiday.

Well, I will, anyway. There aren't a lot of holidays, sanctioned by the gov't or not, that doesn't call for hoisting one. What are the exceptions? Easter isn't a big boozer holiday, I guess, but I'll bet when Jesus crawled out of the damn tomb he was probably ready for a Bloody Mary. Luckily, he had not one but two Marys around to tap. All he needed was vodka and an efficient plan for exsanguination.

I guess MLK day isn't a real barn-burner for the lush set, either; nor Presidents Day. Really, none of the generic Monday holidays are really about celebrating much other than the pure glee of being able to drink to excess on a Sunday night. Well, and remembering icons and memorializing certain dead people, I guess. You always make sure to do that, right?

The generic Mondays aside, the rest of the big holidays are drinkoramas. As a kid, Halloween is all about candy. As an adult, it's about getting loaded and hunting around for chicks in Elvira costumes. Valentine's Day? Wine, chocolate, and fumblesome sex. July 4th? Fireworks are so utterly boring that it's really just impossible not to cast around for a numbing agent. Thanksgiving? It's when you set out all the booze you don't want any more and wait for the desperate to charge. "Loganberry liqueur? Jolly Rancher Watermelon Vodka? Off-brand mezcal? This is it? (Pause.) Gimme one of each."

Do I even have to mention Christmas or New Year's?

I can't face going out for St. Paddy's day any more. Too many amateurs out there slugging down Irish whiskey and Guinness while roaming bands of malicious bagpipers assault the luckless fools with Gaelic wheezes as they wrestle unholy sounds out of their weapons crafted from the lungs of asthmatic sheep. We will bar the door and make some nice stew (the wife's brother is coming over), and we'll just have a quiet night in. Probably we'll get kind of stewed, too.

It's how we show our respect for our Irish brothers!

You seriously don't want to know what we do for Groundhog Day.

Wednesday, 09 March
Back To The Top, Shall We?

It was, I think, the summer between my junior and senior year in high school that the big party was announced. Some guy--a popular guy, but whose name I just do not remember--was having an overnighter on some property his family owned down on the river. Everyone was invited, everyone was told to bring their own provisions, and everyone was told that it was for the night: the gates would be locked, mainly to prevent teenagers in assorted altered states from doing what fucked-up teenagers do best, which is run into things, like trees or dogs or grandmothers.

I loaded up the car with the necessary provisions: a cooler of beer and my friends B. and K., who were in charge of . . . watching the cooler of beer, I guess. We set out for the party site. Halfway there we were pulled over by a State Trooper.

"What's in the cooler?" he asked, bored.

I don't deal well with cops, which is to say, I immediately give in to fatalism.

"Beer," I said. He sighed.

I swear to you, it was just then his radio crackled with some urgent message. "BLAH BLAH! BLAH BLAH! ON THE SCENE! BLAH BLAH!" How they listen to that gabble is beyond me, but he stood up very straight and stepped away from the car; said a few terse words back. We remained silent in my awful car, sullen in the knowledge that we were well and truly boned. We were probably all wanted for rape in Saskatchewan or something; the beer cooler only confirmed our rotten character. Finally, the trooper came back.

"It's your lucky day. I have to go to another scene. I don't have time to bust you right now. You best get where you're going and stay there. You get me?"

Boy, did we. This was a warning shot from the cosmos, and I would have to be a stone fool to ignore it. It was time to go home.

We naturally drove like maniacs right to the party.

The scene there resembled something like some unholy Valley of the Dolls/Lord of the Flies mashup. A few guys had built an anemic campfire, mostly out of toxic semi-combustibles like deck-treated lumber and tires; they were deriving some hilarity out of--this still depresses me--tossing live toads into the blaze. I moved away from this place quickly, not only because of the obvious horror of it all, but because I was nervously observing a particular troglodyte named Nate, who eyed me with a drunken malevolence. I didn't know why. (I still don't.)

I retrieved a beer from the car (everyone, for obvious reasons, kept their beer locked in their cars) and wandered over to a ramshackle barn, where I encountered Bobby, who was fiddling with some tiny objects in his hands. I asked him what was up.

"Fucking Tylenol caplets, dude." He continued futzing with the tiny little things. It became apparent that he was trying to separate the two pieces of the caplets, which he eventually accomplished, and weensy little granules of analgesic poured out onto his palm. Bobby honked all of this up into his nose, looking satisfied. "You want some? I've got a ton of this shit."

Well, no. But his Kleenexes probably looked kind of amusing the next day, like he'd been sniffing Smarties. This was coming of age in rural Idaho: Nope, no crack! Want some over-the-counter painkillers?

As the beer continued to flow and the night darkened, things took a turn for the worse. Nate, previously seen roasting toads, for some reason decided that what would really enliven the night was a beating, specifically him beating me. He began a really inept stalking campaign, trying to hunt me down stealthily, but managed to ruin it at about every turn, because he kept drunkenly whispering things like, "Li'l fucker . . . gonna beatcha." (People are going to think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

It was really just stupid as hell. Nate would spy me, and would try to corner me somewhere (which was even stupider, since it was a pretty open place with not many corners), rasping "Gonna beatcha . . . little fucker . . . don't run . . . " and then he'd lurch out of the darkness, and I'd walk away from him, because he was just blind, and couldn't follow. Don't run? Fuck, I could crawl away from him.

At one point I thought it was all going to be done with. Nate spied me across the bed of a shiny pickup truck and tried to climb over it, and was immediately seized by the truck's owner, a truly immense person named Tim. Tim held Nate by the neck and explained, "Your jacket rivets are fucking up my truck! Knock it off!" He tossed Nate to the ground like litter while I chuckled inside; Nate lay on the ground for a while, and I figured happily that he was done for the evening.

Twenty minutes later: "Where's that li'l fucker? I'm gonna beat 'im." Nate was staggering around looking for me. I wondered if Bobby had shoved some invigorating Tylenol up his nose. It was time to go, locked gate or no.

"Look," I explained to the beefhead at the gate, "I'm not going to spend all night waiting for this guy squash my head with a rock." I was given a look that informed me that I was, pretty irrefutably, a complete pussy, an assessment that I was prepared to agree with. So was the kid who hitched a ride back with me, a freshman. I hadn't had time to figure out what his deal was; perhaps he was being menaced by Ghost Rider or the Toad Spirits. I didn't give a fuck--we just wanted to go home.

Two minutes after we had pierced the town city limits, we were pulled over. I hadn't used my turn signal. A cop approached my vehicle.

"What's in the cooler?" he asked.

I gripped the steering wheel. "Beer," I said.

He sighed.

Wednesday, 09 February
Fences

When I was a tot--third grade--we lived in an Oregon town called (you're not going to believe this) Shady Cove. Yes, it does sound like a show on FOX about the supernatural, but we did. We lived next to Victor.

Victor was a great old duffer; he did stonework, and had constructed a lovely terraced garden on the hillside opposite his house. He also had a really great hand-built stone fountain that he made for his front lawn. When he built out a back porch for his place, he ran into a stately old pine tree that impeded his progress. Unwilling, I suppose, to get rid of the tree, he built the damn porch around it. As a little kid, I was always taken by the neat hole in the floorboards and roof of the porch, and of the mere fact that a TREE WAS IN HIS PORCH!

Victor was always kind to me, and had weird paint cans full of little geegaws and trinkets that he would let me rummage through; I could always take what I liked. (I know this sounds kind of creepy and pederasty, and you're probably wondering when Victor was going to get around to removing my pants, but you'll just have to take my word for it that Victor was just a really nice old man.)

One morning on her way to work, my mom spied Victor; he was crumpled over one of his garden terraces. He had croaked. It's good (in some small way) that my mom discovered him; as an RN, she wasn't going to get the heebies about discovering a corpse, anyway. And he was found by a friend.

After his death, the house sat vacant for a little while, and then was bought by an awful family with an awful dog who liked to chase me every day, and filled me with daily terror, and eventually ended up viciously biting my best friend's leg.

And so it began that I would experience Bad Neighbors.

DORM

Everyone has a bad dorm neighbor experience. Mine is actually pretty boring. He was your average burnout, the kind of guy you wondered how he even got out of bed in the morning, and you generally wished he hadn't, especially when he'd say things like (I remember this exact quote), "This is the best love song ever made." He was referring to "I Melt With You." He displayed no hint of irony as he said it.

The only thing he seemed to be good for was selling Ecstasy, which I tried a couple times, and quickly became frustrated with it, since a drug that heightens arousal is kind of a pain in the ass when nobody wants to have sex with you. I realized Ecstasy really wasn't for me when I found myself telling a girl, "I really like your haircut. You should get that haircut every day."

I obviously went home alone that night, and, thanks to the drug, failed to sleep, so I was treated to burnout (1) having sex while (2) burning incense and (3) loudly playing Enya.

He probably makes six figures with Union Carbide or something.

OUT OF THE DORM, OUT OF HER MIND

When I moved off-campus, I got an apartment with a pal from Boston. We were barely tolerated by the management; they seemed to get upset when we had loud, drunken parties where my friend D. would run out to my balcony and squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out onto the cars parked below.

But we were positively adored by the neighbor across the hall, who was screamingly fucking crazy. My first inkling of this was when she knocked on our door--wearing, I kid you not, an actual housecoat--and presented me with some leftovers. "You kids can't afford much! Take some food; I have plenty!" And hey, I'm not too proud to eat leftovers. But what she was presenting was simply her evening's dinner plate with pushed-around, half-eaten food, covered in Saran Wrap. Lovely! I'm a hobo!

Crazy Lady reached her apex one unfortunate day when my friend D. was over, and she knocked on the door. I answered it, and she lunged inside, waving a crummy little Pink Panther doll. "Can you fix it?" she implored. We stared at her, and she raved for a little while longer about uncertain things. She waved the horrid little thing at us again, while D. and I wondered how to get her the fuck out of our space. D. finally got decisive, and snatched the doll from her grasp. "We'll take care of it!" he said, and relief flooded her face. We uneasily showed her our teeth as she backed out the door, tearfully thanking us for agreeing to mend her bloody Pink Panther doll.

D. got steely after that. "We've got to get the fuck out of here," he said. He marched into the kitchen and opened the freezer and threw the doll inside. D. was also very stoned, so I suppose the freezer made as much sense as anything. We composed a note for my roommate: "Please ignore the Pink Panther in the freezer."

DOWNSTAIRS

For a time here in Seattle, I lived on my own after the utter whoops-that-broke-horribly disaster of my first marriage. Part of that time was spent in a second-floor studio apartment sandwiched between a techno enthusiast (upstairs) and a raving lunatic (downstairs). We obviously all didn't move in at the same time, but when the three rivers all came to a confluence . . . well, I got phone calls.

The techno guy upstairs I could frankly live with. I really don't give a damn, and I can sleep through anything. The problem came when First Floor Loony moved in, because she was extraordinarily sensitive to noise. So then these things happened:

The third floor techno guy would be blaring some Propellerheads song. The first floor loony would go outside to hit my buzzer--which connected to my phone--to complain.

"Who is this?!"

"Uh . . . my name is Skot. Who the hell is this?"

"I am Debbie! I'm on the first floor, right beneath you! Can you please turn down your techno music?!"

"I'm not playing techno music!"

"I don't care what you call it! Turn it down!"

This is where I had to close my eyes for a moment.

"Debbie . . . I'm not playing any music. It's the guy above me. Call him."

"Oh!" There was a pause. "I'm sorry. You sound like a nice young man."

I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't. Every time third floor techno guy would play his music loud, Debbie would call me, but now, she knew me.

*phone rings*

"Hello?"

"Skot! Hi! This is Debbie! I live right below you!" (No shit?) "Can you please turn your music down?"

"Debbie. I'm not playing any music. I'm watching Ape Follies."

She called me every fucking time the guy above me played his loud damn music.

I avoid my neighbors now, of course. I remember a time when I didn't have to.

I sure miss Victor.

Tuesday, 08 February
Skotpourri

Saturday night was the big extravaganza: the celebration for the in-laws' 40th anniversary (coinciding as well with father-in-law's sixtieth birthday). Laboriously set up by the wife, it was a gathering of nearly twenty people, consisting of family, friends, in-laws to be (the wife's brother is engaged), uninvited friends, a flurry of small bats, and, for some reason, Eric Roberts.

While not strictly a surprise party--that would have been a bit much to pull off--the in-laws were certainly surprised at the turnout. They hadn't seen some of the guests in a long time, and in certain puzzling cases, ever; but they delightedly chatted with everyone in attendance, expressing their happiness at seeing . . . who are you again? "Eric Roberts! Remember Star 80? By the way, this is excellent cheese."

I must give props to our main waiter, who handled every request with swiftness and aplomb, save for one: he balked at our request for 20 separate checks, for some reason having to do with brittle wristbones or some such, so we gamely acceded to having just three checks for our three tables. This led to fiercely worded reminders to all in attendance (minus of course the in-laws) that, apart from the appetizers we provided, anything else anyone drank, touched, ruined, farted into or paid to go home with was their responsibility to cough up dough for. (Look, we would have loved to pay for 20 peoples' dinner and drinks, but we are but poor peasant folk, and we also really need a new duvet cover and stuff.)

(Eric Roberts was pissed, and stole away unnoticed during a toast, leaving us to deal with his order of chili fries and nine Manhattans.)

The evening was very nice, and Maw In-Law got to sing "their" song as accompanied by the bar's pianist; Paw In-Law, never known for being a stoic, gave a lovely speech that ran to four pages, including (believe your eyes, here) the recitation of the entire set of lyrics from a Celine Dion song. It was really charmingly corny, and I mean that in the best possible way, because he clearly meant every word he said. Then they exchanged ruby-studded rings, or they would have, had we not had to confiscate them to pay for Eric Roberts' ducked order, to say nothing of the guano damage caused by the small, excitable swarm of bats. (I wondered if that was a bad idea.) The in-laws got a little teary when they saw the waitstaff excitedly examining the bejeweled rings and biting critically into the golden bands, but were pacified when the wife and I promised to take them shopping for pants sometime soon.

Sunday was, of course, the Super Bowl, and so much gets written about it that I don't really need to get into it much. A couple of the fellows came over to watch, and there were Bloody Marys (and mine are acknowledged as the Finest in the World, goddammit), a daunting spread of chips 'n dip 'n something else my friend C. brought over called Mexican Meatballs, which were actually really good . . . for fifteen minutes, and then they all got cold and looked like malevolent shrunken heads. (C. took the leftover meatballs home, including the one that fell on the kitchen floor. He gave it a rinse in the sink before popping it in the bag, causing me to think that it looked like a malevolent shrunken meatball head left out in the rain, causing me to then think of "MacArthur Park" as done by Primus, and by then I just needed a fucking nap.)

Anyway, as has been widely noted, the Super Bowl itself was phenomenally boring, particularly the razzle-free-non-dazzle of that miserable first half. Confronted at halftime with alleged entertainment provided by the man who embodies everything about the NFL, Paul McCartney, we fled for other pastures, and found it in Animal Planet's weirdly brilliant $50-dollar budget competition, the Puppy Bowl. For three hours, Animal Planet just shoved five or six puppies into a fake tiny football field littered with toys and let them fuck around. PUPPIES! we screamed. It was just adorable. They yapped and bit each other's asses and gnawed on toys. I kind of wished that the Super Bowl would adopt Puppy Bowl rules and show Tedy Bruschi gnawing on Donovan McNabb's ass in a pileup, but not for very long. The evil shrunken meatfaces were glaring at me again, and I was getting unnerved. Probably time to put down the Bloody Mary. We flipped back to Paul McCartney to make sure we weren't missing anything too funny, but he was just pounding away listlessly on his piano while slowly being eaten by the gloaming that was encroaching onto the stage. "Get back!" he screamed, as he was devoured by the Jacksonville night. "Get back to where you once belonged!" We switched back to puppies right as he was being consumed by unheeding Langoliers.

Even the celebrated ads were all terrible. I'll only mention two, for they were the only ones to elicit vocal responses from myself and the fellows. One was the clear winner, the AmeriQuest ad featuring the guy who appeared to be slaughtering his cat in the kitchen, which wins my all-time best award for an ad featuring a guy apparently slaughtering his cat in a kitchen. A close second was the ad for GoDaddy.com, which showed an alarmingly buxom woman falling out of her top and gyrating in front of congress, which brought cheers from the room (well, me) mainly for being so unapologetically salacious and appallingly puerile that I had to give it points. It was like including a clip from "Beavis and Butthead" right in the middle of an "Upstairs, Downstairs" marathon.

So it was a pretty full weekend. (I passed on talking about Bronko's funeral, which was Friday, for what I hope are obvious reasons.) Next weekend should be a lot lighter, except I guess there's Valentine's Day to deal with, and the obligatory romantic dinner. I wonder if C. still has those meatballs.

Thursday, 03 February
I Think I Also Had A Headache

Not to get too dorky about it, but occasionally I hang out with online friends at this weird forum/place/nerd heaven where we do the usual stuff: BS, trade links, howl in outrage, vent, etc. Recently my friend Brad compiled a fairly comprehensive list of maladies that I have complained about (or have had attributed to me) over the past few years. I give you the summation (minor edits for clarity/privacy) as follows. It's been tough, apparently.

SKOT KURRUK IS DISEASED. Since arriving in 2001, he has suffered from a variety of illnesses and maladies, including Estonian neoplastic spread, scrofula, Charwoman's Itch, the Wooden Porcupine Fever, Brighton Beach Blotches, Estonian Goalie Pout-Rictus, the sweats, the chills, medulla rot and the Estonian All-Body Funk, hives, welts, histological monkey-fuss, shrieking neck, and the Estonian nut-shrivels, Estonian Flip-Flop Night Sweats, Estonian Spleen Rots, Estonian mind-weep, febrile neutropenia, lupus, river blindness, and of course, the Estonian Barking Moose Splenomegaly, Estonian Wet-Sock Stupids, spastic colon, rickets, gout, rheumatism, St. Vitus' Dance, flesh eating virus, flesh vomiting virus, and the Estonian Perineum Twitch, syncope, supraventricular arrhythmias, gynecomastia, clotted eyes, Hambone Fever, Dinkle's Happy-Be-Gone, and the Estonian Redeye, flop-sweats, Estonian Brain Chiggers, Estonian Giggling Whim-Whams, Estonian Brain Fleas, Estonian Spine Rot, Estonian pituitary mange, Estonian Doublewide Goiter, Estonian Howling Chancres, gout, rheumatism, and the Estonian brain gravy, Estonian Head Staggers, Estonian Feverish Corn-Shits, Estonian Raving Brain-Worms, Estonian Medullar Shilly-Shally, Estonian Fear Fog, Estonian Angry Ass, Estonian Twitch-Fingered Murder Voices, Estonian Dry Heaves, Lithuanian Cerebellum Rot, Estonian Brain Sweats, the vapors, the whim-whams, and the Estonian Face-Melt, Estonian Ululating Whim-Whams, Estonian Non-Authorized Ratfuck BARL, Estonian Dissonance-Ague, Estonian Jagged Fire-Trots, Estonian Cochlear Flapshuts, Estonian Sweaty Brain-Hates, Estonian Jumping Freak-Outs, Estonian Ragefleas, Estonian Butt-Pucker, and recently, the Estonian Melt-O-Brains.

WON'T YOU HELP SKOT KURRUK? Call now. Operators are standing by.

Bless you, Brad. I've always wanted my own telethon.

Wednesday, 02 February
A Bad Week

Paula Abdul was just on The Daily Show. The wife: "Is she drunk?"

I watched a little longer.

Skot: "My God. She's wasted!"

It's stuff like this that makes you want to hug your television. I imagine her getting chided by moral authority MC Skat Cat. "Not cool! Not cool to be drunk on TV! Hey, did you know I can lick my own asshole?"

Eh. Not much is funny this week. On Friday, dozens of us will be going to a funeral; Bronko's, whom I talked about last time. And IN THE NEWS has been the awful shooting death of Nicole DuFresne. This has apparently made CNN, which is a real broil temperature for our little theater scene here.

The thing I'm not supposed to say is, really, that I don't much care. I didn't know her. I'm sorry for my friends who did. But most of them didn't, from what I can tell. And yet local bulletin boards are clogged with grief, to which I say: Great! Except when I see comments like, "I never met Nicole, but . . . . "

Well, stop. Why are you here, anyway?

The most nauseating comment I've seen so far was a lamentation that the media never focuses on theater unless something crappy like this happens. As if this is somehow relevant. It's a moribund art form. Get used to this. This was not a death about "your community," or "our collective fuckall" or anything else. It's just a stupid, senseless death. It has nothing to do with our "community," and P.S., we've never had one in the first place.

I'm sorry. I'm certainly sorry for Nicole. The rest of the "theater community" can frankly go to hell. I know I'll get torched for this. I don't care.

I've got a funeral to attend on Friday.

Thursday, 20 January
Inconsequential Brushes With Non-Greatness

Just a few recaps of my encounters with fame and how they failed to shape me in any way, unless they contributed to me being kind of a dick.

Leaving on a jet plane

When I was a lad, I would visit my grandparents most summers in LA. When I was about eight or nine, I was at LAX with my grandma waiting for my plane back home to Idaho, and my grandma said, "That looks like that girl from 'Little House on the Prairie!'" She was pointing to some plain-looking broad. I glanced at her. Whatever. She looked like anyone else, and besides, "Little House on the Prairie," as far as I was concerned, was the most miserable piece of shit around anyway. Fuck, I lived on the prairie. In a little house. I didn't need to see that shit on TV.

We got on the plane, and as usual when I was flying alone as a kid (does this still happen?), they seated me next to another kid my age. I found him intriguing, as he was an Arab child, and had exotic dietary requests to make of the staff. (I considered trying to order a beer or something, and planned to cite "Methodism" as my justification, but didn't. Probably because I didn't know a Methodist from a Method actor.) Anyway, the plain broad was seated right across from us, and she eventually revealed herself to be, yes, Melissa Gilbert. My buddy a seat over didn't know who that was.

"Do you ever watch "Little House on the Prairie?" she asked.

"Yeah," the kid said. "That show stinks."

Next to . . .

In 1993 or so, when I was in college, a bunch of us went to Portland to see a production of Burn This, a really, really overrated Lanford Wilson play about a complete asshole. The production's naturalistic high point was when Pale (the asshole) makes breakfast, and HOLY GOD HE REALLY COOKED EGGS RIGHT THERE ON STAGE! Yeah, theater fucking magic.

At the end of the show, my technical director asked me how it felt like to sit right next to the legendarily filthy and profane playwright David Mamet. "WHAT?!" I screamed. I had no idea. (In fact, even now I couldn't pick him out of a lineup.) And to this day, whenever I wash my left arm, which surely touched the tweed of Mamet's clothing, I think, "Now I am washing my left arm." It really made an impact.

The Wreck of the Chevy

Okay, I wasn't there there. But I saw it, right on TV. Remember the "Chevy Chase Show"? Even if you don't, the hallucinatory first episode has been mocked by "The Simpsons," so you know what I'm talking about. But I was there, I watched as the incredible unfolded: Goldie Hawn mounted Chevy's desk and earnestly began singing "Look At That Face." This was possibly the most damaging thing I've ever witnessed.

I kept waiting for the joke to come, for the hideousness to be interrupted with a punchline. But Chevy kept sitting there, with that awful expression of beatific smugness, while Goldie kept singing, and I thought, in a moment of satori: Oh, God, they aren't joking. Fall down, Chevy, fall down! Preferably onto Goldie Hawn! With your elbows!

He did not. As I say, I was not there, but I am privileged to announce that I watched that, and survived. I am also privileged to announce that neither Goldie nor Chevy survived it either.

The Sullen Man

When I was in college (and a theater major), I had the chance to see the great-ish playwright Edward Albee speak at our library. I would have been stupid to miss the chance. (Note: The first syllable of his last name is not flattened, as in the name "Al;" it is rather the more snooty "Ahl-", so "Ahl-bee.")

On the day of the meeting, I was walking in the quad and spied an English professor of mine walking with what I assumed was either a desolate hobo or a shambling janitor. Perhaps her pipes had failed.

I approached her and immediately ignored the bum. "Going to the library to see Al-bee, Carol?" (She was one of those profs who liked to go by her first name. In fact, I cannot remember her surname.)

"Going to the library with Mr. Al-bee, actually!" She said this primly, probably to get me in trouble.

He stared at me, for some reason (Hey, everyone's fucking up your name!). "Ahl-bee," he intoned in a gravelly voice. I refrained from explaining that that I was surprised that the renowned playwright wasn't swamping out our dorm toilets.

I can't imagine why I'm not famous yet.

Wednesday, 19 January
Absence

It has been a week since
I saw you last--
I see you now, wondering
Where has he gone?
What has he done?
Where are my pants?

I understand.
(Your pants are in a puddle at your feet.
You are on the Internet.
You were looking at pornography.
Speak, memory!)

It is true that I left you
For a week, maybe longer--
And I have so many tales to tell you
Of my time away . . .

One night was spent carousing with friends
At a local tavern, taking in idle beer
(Oh ho! And one was spilled into the
Wife's lap, and we laughed!)
And good company;
Someone ate pretzels.

I forget who.

This is why we blog. For these
Jewels of our lives.

On another night, we had dinner with
Good friends, and ate heartily of tapas
(Spanish food! It is all very small.)
And drank exotic concoctions in no small measure;
One was spilled into the wife's lap, again.

It is humorous!
And we made many a jest of wet crotches
(Some of them salacious!)
For we are a comical group.

The small Spanish food was uncommonly good,
And much remarked upon;
And if fond Memory serves, metaphors were
Employed comparing the quality of the Meal
To an Or-Gasm, a strange practice found in
Certain Eastern humping rituals.

I do not know. But it was a good meal,
And we ate it,
And, later, paid for it
With money.

Days later, we watched an entertainment,
A Moving Pict-O-Scope entitled
Arachno-Chap Versus Mollusk-Man!
Which was arresting, for the maiden in
The "moovler"--as the children call them--
Insisted upon a rather extravagant
Display of her . . .

I must leave off ere I stray into waters
That fashion--Satan's wanton tart ever--
Has polluted. Save it to say that I saw
Buttons.

(And yet I must confess it to be a
Superior spectacle to its predecessor,
A wretched thing entitled
Spid-O-Lad Battles A Large Cabbage.)

How did you live before without
This knowledge?

Ah, but in truth, I do confess that I
Abandoned you, left you to
Freeze for a time, for I also confess

That I was not moved to write; nor move,
Really, at all, least of all when there was
Foot-Ball on. I have had trouble
With a block in my brain that seems to say:

Perhaps you should just sit around.

I will try not to listen to that voice,
And will try faithfully to visit you more, friends,
My good friends,
You few,
You unlucky few
You tens of readers.

Wednesday, 05 January
All You Have To Do

The new year is underway, of course, and though I've never been a resolution kind of guy--except from 1981-1987, when I quite determinedly avowed to get laid, and those years were a real goddamn bust--this year I've decided, what the fuck: It's time to make myself over into a better man.

I got off to a miserable start, naturally: one of the first things I did was watch the woefully bad Secret Window, as previously mentioned. This did not make me a better man. In fact, I would argue that it made me a worse man. Some adversity is expected in life, and many would argue that one emerges stronger from having endured it. But I was not strengthened by Secret Window; I was, I am sure, immeasurably weakened: by its embarrassing transparency; its wholesale theft from other, more superior films; its occasionally hilariously humid performances; but most of all, for its use of steamed corn as a dramatic device. Nothing here is remotely strengthening, and so I am a worse man now than I was mere days ago.

But my spirit is still willing! Or, if not willing, then at least really bendy. As in, Listen up, spirit! We're gonna change for the better! And then spirit sighs and goes, Whatevs. I doubt it. And then I go, Oh burn! We're doing this thing! And spirit once again says, Whatevs. You see, I have the spirit of a jaded hipster who is easily talked into things because, hey, whatevs. My spirit can't wait for the next Ted Leo show! Unfortunately, my spirit is kind of overruled by my body, who would rather watch CSI reruns.

Anyway, here are some resolutions.

1. I'd like to bone up on my besmirching. Clean linens, the reputations of the innocent, automobile upholstery, whatever. I miss besmirching stuff.

2. Championing neglected berries. Loganberries, elderberries . . . fuck, even the cran-man gets relatively few props. I've also come up with a snappy ad campaign, where I go on TV and pound my shoe on a desk, promising America that "We will berry you!" Then we advertise our website "crushvideos.com." This one's a sure winner.

3. I'm no one-trick pony in the business world, though. I also have big plans for another company in the works, RoBoBloJos. I think there's a big market out there for men who desire fellatio, and that's just what my giant clanking robots with fearsome metal teeth will be programmed to perform.

4. I'm pretty sick of our flag. And that's why I'm in touch with Jasper Johns to create a new one. I'm thinking of a color scheme with some dynamism, like cream, bone, eggshell, buff and lace. Basically, I've got kind of a hard-on about color in general, really, so I am also talking to Tommy Hilfiger about a new line of jeans made of translucent tarps. If my vision comes to fruition, look for "Whatevs!" to be replaced by the amusing phrase, "I can see your weird boner!" soon.

5. I think the next step is obvious. "Hey, I can see your weird boner through your translucent pants!" Enter robot. "Would-you-like-me-to-chew-on-that? Five-dollars-a-minute!" Customer: "This is a great new world!"

I'm a dreamer, though. Maybe it won't come to pass. I can always hang and watch CSI.

Whatevs.

Thursday, 09 December
Hirsute Fruit and Other Concerns

Yesterday at 2:05 PM or so, the wife and I took off from Heathrow airport in London, and at around 3:40 PM, we happily landed at Seatac. Which was puzzling, because the flight certainly felt longer than an hour and a half. We must have encountered some temporal difficulties along the way. I mean, it really felt more like nine hours--actually, watching the last part of Troy seemed to last for weeks, really--and why would they serve us two meals on such a short flight? It's a mystery. And speaking of mysterious, for that second meal, we were served something called a "bap." Specifically, a "turkey salad bap." The word "bap" was ominous enough, but not nearly as ominous as what it actually was: a small sandwich that was filled with, apparently, leftover meat from a burn unit slathered in clotted pus. I left aside my bap and stared morosely at my tiny little TV screen to watch more of Troy, which was itself increasingly unappetizing in a nicely bappish way. I wondered idly if someday an inventive airline chef would create the Troy Bap, which I figured would be popular with the gay crowd. You could do worse than a Brad Pitt/Orlando Bloom sandwich, after all.

I think it's clear that I have not quite recovered from the effects of the trip back. Sorry I'm still a bit woozy. Just one thing before I launch later into more in-depth coverage of the trip:

American bars really must try harder to be more interestingly named. Here in my neighborhood I have such uninspiring establishments as The Deluxe, The Broadway Bar & Grill, The Canterbury, etc. But across the pond, we encountered such delights as The Rat & Parrot (whose mirrors featured etchings of a rat and parrot in seeming combat), the Slug & Lettuce (Yum!), and (my very favorite, and recommended by a Dublin cabbie) The Hairy Lemon. There's something terribly obscene about a mental image like a hairy lemon, especially when you're eating food there, particularly fish and chips. "Care for some hairy lemon with that?" Well, no. In the end, I wasn't able to rationally figure out which was worse: the idea of some mutant lemon-shaped genitalia, or Meadowlark Lemon shaking his loose hairs out onto my fish.

It's good to be back. And we were greeted in absent-friend high style by our friend D., who nicely looked after our apartment while we were gone. He kindly left us a note to greet us, which he wrote on a piece of paper and then used a chip-clip to attach it to a lighting fixture. It read: "WELCOME BACK, DIPSHIT!"

Lord. None of this is very coherent; as I say, we're still trying to deal with the horrific time change and all that. But I do note something . . . this is roughly the second anniversary of this blog. Which seems crazy. It seems sometimes like much longer than that, and sometimes much shorter. And I have a lot of people to thank for it--more than I can name here, but fortunately, I list most of them on that little list of links on your left, so check them out if you want. They're good people, and for want of many of them, I wouldn't be doing this.

Thanks to you all, and to the others who know who they are--

Yrs,

Dipshit

Tuesday, 19 October
The Love Boat

Oh, maybe one more before I split town. (And incidentally, thanks to all of you out there in KC who offered to buy me drinks/dinner/hookers/etc. I've been way too busy to respond to everyone, but the reality is, between actual work and meeting a couple of, how you say, RL friends, I simply don't have the time. But thank you again, even the really crazy ones.)

Friday the wife and I rounded out our Year of Goddamn Weddings by attending the happy nuptials of our friends M. and R. Because apparently, nobody's wedding is really complete until I log on here to complain about it.

This time the thing was happening on a boat-cum-banquet facility called the Skansonia (the boat motif is, unsurprisingly, pretty common around Seattle). It was a lovely venue (the wife and I had briefly looked into it ourselves), but the name eats at me a little bit; I kept mentally thinking of it as the "Skanksonia," which you must admit would make anyone feel kind of skeevy about getting hitched. Especially if the bride was named Sonia. But never mind.

The invitations read 7:00, so of course we showed up a few minutes early, which turned out to be a mistake: there certainly were a lot of people sitting in their cars, fogging up the windows. I know weddings are emotionally frieghted affairs, but this was a little weird . . . but no, it just turns out that the invitations meant 7:00, by God. The ramp--gangway? Upgurgle? Mizzen-blat? Like I know from boats--up to the entrance had a firmly polite sign: No Early Admittance. So there was us and a few other people standing around in the cold, shivering with the ocean breeze coming off the water, feeling decidedly less charmed with each passing moment. I noticed another sign: No Smoking On The Dock.

Hanh? This was hopelessly absurd: Sailors hang around docks! Sailors smoke! We all know this. This is besides the fact that I was standing around in the outdoors. I dismissed the sign as the ludicrous work of someone in the grips of a killing fever and lit up. Klaxons failed to go off at this criminal act, thereby reinforcing my opinion that the sign was the work of someone dumb and bent.

Eventually, we were allowed in--I was really hoping that the vaguely hostile sign No Early Admittance would be turned around to reveal another message: I Guess You Can Go In, Fags, or something, but no. We gratefully trotted indoors.

It was a perfectly nice interior, and it was evident that it wasn't going to be a big, big wedding; there were chairs set about, around fifty maybe. I glanced to my right as I entered, noting the bar and another kinda-snotty sign. Bar is Closed. This despite a perfectly serviceable bartender standing right behind it. Bar is Closed? Jesus God. I wished I had some embossed business cards to whip out and present to the bartender: Skot is Sober. Maybe a medical alert bracelet. I'll have to look into getting something done. We sat down and waited.

I nervously stared at the minimilist setup for the ceremony: on the one hand, the Spartan setting--lectern--suggested short to me, as in duration. On the other hand, I also saw a guitar, which suggested to me gloppy balladry, and therefore menace. I fidgeted, waiting for the hammer to fall.

Presently, the ceremony began, and I noted that the music was being handled by a fellow off to the side, swiftly changing CDs in and out of a little Walkman unit. So he had to change the discs out for every change, creating inadvertant mini-theater on the side as everyone waited for him. I wondered why nobody had burned a master disc, or just used an iPod, for God's sake. The rotten part of me kind of hoped he'd blow a track selection and something like Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" would start up for the processional, forcing everyone to breakdance.

Actually, it was almost that terrible, at least for me: the processional began with the music, which was . . . Pachelbel's Canon in D. I closed my eyes and let the wine commercial experience wash over me in a sickly wave. Did nobody warn them? Good God. Someday I'm going to go to a wedding and they'll play something horrifying and janglingly awful, like "Fuck Like A Beast" or "Beaver Patrol," and I'll just weep with gratitude.

Finally, things got underway, and the JP or whatever she was began The Spiel, which everyone knows by now, about the joining of these two people FUH-EVAH and EVAH, and how they were vines twisted around one another, except then she talked about them reaching their hands out and finding true love, or something, and then all I could think about was horrid vine-creatures with misshapen human characteristics, but by then she was on about the threads in their beautiful tapestry, and so I dutifully imagined the vine-creatures suffocating horribly in a musty old woven blanket, while they beat plaintively at it with their horrible, vine-sprouted hands. She blithely continued to mix metaphors like this while I sat, sweating slightly, acutely cursing my continuing sobriety.

Finally, she wrapped up whatever horrific gibberish remained, and we got to the songs. The guitar was taken up, and I braced myself as one of the bridesmaids clutched a microphone, and she sang . . . a really pretty song! Whew. It was quite lovely, and she had a pleasingly waifish voice, and it was also charming when she kind of fucked it for a half-second by going into the chorus too soon, but the guitarist valiantly saved her ass. All this I did not see at all, because the groom is 6-foot five and has an impressive loom that blocked all view of the bridesmaids. Then the groom's mother got up--more singing!--and gave another quite lovely gospel-y hymn-y performance. I was perking up; the songs were pleasing and not long at all.

Then came another DANGER! DANGER! moment, as the JP (or whatever) announced that there would be a reading. Alarmingly, by her, whose public speaking skills were, in my mind, severely deficient. Things then got very bad. Remember: we had already endured one crime (the Pachelbel). We were about to experience another. Can you guess? Uh huh. Khalil Gibran. Or was it? Here the JP announced the reading of, I swear to God, "Cahill Gibran," which made me wonder if there was some terrible hillbilly schlockmeister poet of unknown renown. I waited to hear if marriage was like the perfume of bathtub gin or the ineffable beingness of webbed toes, but alas, it was some crap about how elm trees don't get along with walnut trees. Or something. I know there was some nonsense about trees, but I couldn't think very straight by now, because I had mentally dispatched patriot moonshiner/poet Cahill Gibran to do battle with the half-human vine-people. I clearly needed a drink.

After a little while--to be honest, the whole thing was of quite acceptable length, despite my snarking--I got my wish. They exchanged the rings, kissed, left, etc., etc. (though here the CD guy got all behind and fucked up, so everyone wandered off in a sort of embarrassed silence as he fussed), and there was a general charge towards the bar. People drank and ate--your standard cheese-and-quiche spread with some alarming-looking pasta that I detoured around--and danced and all that. Very nice.

That was our last wedding of this year, knock wood. Hopefully the rest of our friends will maintain the unmarriageable kind of horrible habits and defects of character that we have come to rely on. And if not, then lessons have been learned: always bring a flask.

I'm out for at least a week, so I'll see you again after I return from what I've taken to calling Kancer City, earning me glares from co-workers. Whatever. They don't have to contend with visions of Cahill vs. the Vine Things. I'm taking a flask.

Wednesday, 22 September
What A Time That Was

Like a lot of people, summer jobs during college are not that unusual. After all, I had to defray some of the costs of attending school, such as profligate drinking and unlooked-at textbooks. And my deadbeat parents sure weren't helping, what with their incessant whining about $10K+ a year tuition and so forth--thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad. What, a third mortgage would have killed you? So I worked. Like a dog. A really lazy dog.

My main job during a couple summers was with the good people at the US Forest Service, whose mission seems to be, "Jesus, we've got to sell these fucking forests!" To that end, I worked what was called "Class III P-line Survey." This typical bit of jargon meant: "Go out and figure out what kind of a living bitch it will be to build timber roads for logging." Logging in Idaho is, unsurprisingly, a rather heated topic, and it was totally unremarkable at the time (and probably now) to see prominent bumper stickers (modern America's version of political broadsheets) with the words "I Love Spotted Owls . . . For DINNER!" I dealt with this sort of incendiary rhetoric by mostly not caring, a cherished skill amongst teenagers everywhere. Every now and then I'd get a pang of anger and think, "That's fucked up!" Then I'd get distracted by something else, like actually getting fucked up.

But the job was pretty good for me. We worked "four tens," Monday through Thursday, all out in the field in a camper with no shower or toilet, so you can imagine how we smelled when we came home at the end of the week. There were always four of us, the supervisor and three gormless boneheads. I am ashamed to say that I remember hardly anyones' names, save for the supervisor, whose name was R. R. was a good boss, diligent about keeping good hours, but also making sure people were rested and safe. R. did have some various neurological tics both motor and sensory that made him interesting, however. A compulsive smoker, he was given to tapping his unlit smoke on any available surface to tamp the tobacco down, which sometimes included our skulls. I have since occasionally tried this method on the wife, who is less than appreciative. The first time it happened to me--TAP! TAP! TAP! as he bounced the cigarette off my skull nonchalantly--I thought he was coming on to me with some weird bonding ritual. Later I learned to ignore it. His other strange habit was to idly blast out weird little rhyming raplets whose provenances were unknown. One that sticks in my memory that he blurted out while playing Spades one night--we played Spades constantly--went:

Johnny had zippers on his sleeves
And zippers on his knees
And a tattoo on his back
Sayin' "Mammy don't you please?"

I never asked about stuff like this, because I assumed he'd actually try to explain it.

I'd like to say I remember the other people who worked with me on the job, but their names are forever lost to me. One guy, a nice fellow with a relaxed temperament, I knew spent most of his spare time selling drugs--I knew this because I was occasionally a customer--and there was a girl as well, who distinguished herself by complaining to me a couple times about the motorcycles we'd have to ride out in the field to get to our destinations. "I hate those fucking things," she'd say. "They make my snatch buzz."

Noted.

Road surveying is a really boring thing to do. What happens is, someone decides they want to build a road into some fucking desolate place, and they refer to geographic maps to etch out where, roughly, the thing could go. Thats where we come in; we would go out there, map out the "center line"--the center of the road--and then take 90-degree measurements every 25-50 yards to fine-tune the geography. So every 25-50 yards, one person would go up the hill and one down (because they are always on hills) to take azimuth and elevation measurements on a 90-degree angle from the planned road, and you would take those measurements also at 10, 25, 50 foot increments. So in other words, two people monitoring the center line would stay on the planned road line, and then the other two luckless fucks would dash up and/or down a slope to take multiple measurements up/down to the center line, calling out figures as one went. Then, twenty-five feet later, you'd do it again.

More than any college course, this job taught me about what it is to be a functional adult. It's so great that you've taken a course in Renaissance Art, it told me. When you're done fucking around, we need you to run all over this godforesaken hillside and take measurements for future timber contracts.

I don't mean to sound bitter. I'm really not. In fact, I know I'm very lucky to be where I'm at. I don't even know what I mean. I didn't even write any of it thinking it was very funny. And I left a bunch of stuff out, like the time it snowed in July and we played cards all day ("No one on my watch is breakin' an ankle"), or the time where we stayed up until 4 a.m. watching a lightning storm create tiny, beautiful forest candleflames that we would the next morning go chase down and try and put out.

Johnny had zippers on his sleeves
And zippers on his knees
And a tattoo on his back
Sayin' "Mammy don't you please?"

Tuesday, 21 September
They Them Wed

On Friday, the wife and I attended the wedding of friends L. and K. They had rented out the Lake Union Cafe for the night, a swankyish place I hadn't been before. Said swank was somewhat nullified at the end of the evening by our parking place, which being directly below a portion of I-5 some height above, left our already-hideous little Honda befouled with dirty road drippings. Needless to say, we haven't bothered to wash it, but instead are content to continue driving the awful, filthy gnomelike beast on in ignominy.

As for the wedding, this was the SEATTLE RAWKS! entry in our nuptial roster, and so we found ourselves sitting with many musicians, who are easily identifiable by the apparently timeless practice of simply refusing to comb their hair. (The male ones, anyway.) These guys put on some nice respectable suits, shave, shine their shoes; but yet, because the Power of Rock has an inverse relationship with follicular kemptness, their hair always looks as if they had all gotten down on hands and knees and furiously rubbed their skulls into the ground.

(Here I could make a digression about rock stars who started to suck once all their hair came off, like Billy Corgan, but the argument would be diluted by the inescapable fact that Billy Corgan always sucked.)

After the mercifully brief ceremony, which really consisted mostly of the marble-mouthed guy who ran it--everything pointed to an Internet-based priesthood here--assuring the bride and groom that they were groovy, interesting people embarking on their big fucking journey of discovery and wonder and all that . . . you know, the stuff that everyone hears at any wedding, including mine. (It's a good thing I didn't think of this when I wrote my vows. "Darling, I'm so stoked about this big fucking journey of discovery and shit . . .") It's just one of the rules of weddings, just like the little kid who has to totter down the aisle artlessly dropping clumps of flower petals on people's shoes.

But like I say, it was creditably short, and before you knew it, everyone was standing up and clapping while the bride and groom chastely kissed; the musicians batted nervously at their heads with sticks to maintain the frenziedness of their coifs. Then after the wedding party split, the polite DASH TO THE OPEN BAR began. (Great. A wedding with an open bar where a large portion of the guests are theater people and rock musicians. The whole idea was so fraught with insanity that I immediately had two drinks just to put it out of my mind.)

And then of course the food, which everyone looks forward to criticizing. What can you ever say? It's wedding food, and unless you're loaded, it's just banquet food, which is a euphemism for cafeteria food. Hey, crostini! Bread with . . . stuff piled on it! Hey, smoked ahi! It's smoked so it won't rot! Hey, teriyaki chicken! It's teriyaki chicken! Everyone! Teriyaki chicken!

There is honestly nothing meaningful anyone can say about teriyaki chicken except to simply acknowledge its physical existence. It's not bad. It's not good. It just exists, like gravity. "Hey, whatcha eating?" "Teriyaki chicken." "Huh." "Yeah." "Is it . . . good?" (Pause.) "It's teriyaki chicken. You know." "Yeah."

Finally, the real deal of the night, the dancing. Now I'm no dancer; in fact I suspect I resemble a palsied mime, but I also know that nobody thinks they are a good dancer, except for women, who are all dynamite dancers because they don't give a fuck. They just dance, and everyone else can eat shit. It's kind of cool. But anyway, since as I mention, the place was lousy with musicians, the band was, atypically for weddings, fantastic. Not that they had pretensions or anything; they didn't turn it into their own Very Special Wedding Concert, but rather, just enthusiastically played fucking great songs really well. Chris Friel was yelling at people constantly to get out on the dance floor, and how can you resist when the opening chords of "Billie Jean" start honking out and the players are all loving it? Or--call me a sap--who doesn't want to dance with his gal when Kim Virant is up absolutely belting out "Maybe I'm Amazed"?

Suckers, that's who. I mean, fine, ironic distance and all that, and it exists in me to a degree, and it even has its place at times (though twenty years of misuse have taken their toll on good old I.D.), but Jesus Christ, it's just kind of sad when the band kicks in with (my favorite choice, especially for a wedding) "Another One Bites the Dust," and all you can do is sit around smirking. Well, fine, smirk away, weirdo; I'm gonna go out there and jerk my limbs around and grin. Just like that little tiny guy over there, with the frosted hair and the manic spasms that I recognize as a fellow sufferer of Crappy Dancer Syndrome? Dance like an ass, Mike McCready! I sure am.

Thursday, 16 September
Admitting Impediments

All of our friends are apparently STEALING OUR IDEA. A while ago, the wife and I decided to get married, and now everyone is copying us. Jesus, people, be original! Buy a potbellied pig or take up macrame or send taunting letters to the FBI. Getting married is so lame now; we totally had the idea first.

This is apparently our year to endure the things. We already went to one earlier in the summer, which was held in a perfectly lovely boathouse thing, replete with full Western exposure, giving everyone present a grand view of the shimmering water, the gorgeous sunset, and the stroke-inducing summer heat. Everyone, including the bride and groom, felt like bugs scurrying around under a gigantic magnifying glass, as if the ceremony was a particularly cruel panel out of "Calvin & Hobbes."

On Friday, we've got another one; a friend of the wife is getting hitched to a local musician--the wife and said friend also spent many years hanging out with bands, which I refer to as the "groupie years," irritating the wife to no end--and so I am promised many ostensible celebrity sightings. People like, say, Stone Gossard or Jeff Ament or the shambling corpse of Layne Staley.

(Who I actually met years ago, working retail. We could make conversation!

Skot: So. Layne Staley, huh?

Shambling Corpse of Layne Staley: (gnawing rattily on overcooked shrimp) Yuh.

Skot: You probably remember me from a few years ago. I sold you some pillows and shit that one time.

SCoLS: Yuh.

Skot: So . . . any new projects? Or stuff? Like . . . you need . . . I don't know . . . a guy on tambourine or something? I could be your man.

SCoLS: Yuh.

Skot: I'M IN THE BAND! I'M IN THE BAND!

That would be pretty cool.)

Not that I would recognize any of these guys anyway (except for Layne Staley, being a corpse and all). I guess I'll try and look for the guys who just have that "rock dude" vibe about them, that vibe that always makes me think of strangely pampered undertakers: they seem privileged and aloof, but there's some earthy stink of gloom always haunting them.

"Is that Mark Arm?" I'll say to the wife, pointing at some sallow creature uncomfortably inhabiting a bad suit.

The wife will roll her eyes. "No. I think that's L.'s uncle. He works in insurance."

"L.'s uncle is Mark Arm? He looks terrible!" This is where the wife will stop talking to me, and I'll spend the rest of the evening casing the joint, and accusing random strangers of being Chris Walla.

On Saturday, we are attending an event where a friend-couple of ours are renewing their vows. This is charming, I suppose, if a little . . . I don't know . . . soon? They are lovely people, but around our age, so it kind of makes me want to ask, "Hey, uh . . . so what happened that you have to renew the vows? Come on, spill. Who fucked up?" Then, hopefully, I would be treated to a tearful rant about how one party cheated on the other, or failed to feed the dog properly, or committed mail fraud. Whatever.

"G., do you promise to love and cherish M. for the rest of your days?"

"I do."

"And to not invent bogus internet personas?"

(Long silence.)

"Look, Kaycee just started as a goof, really, I . . . "

"And not to invent bogus internet personas?"

"Yeah, okay."

And then two weeks after the vow-wow, the wife and I hit another ceremony, this time for her friend M. and his Mystery Fiancee. Nobody seems to have met her. M. is a fine fellow, and I would say that even if he weren't close to seven feet tall and perfectly capable of picking his teeth with my femur. He just apparently met this person and it all clicked or whirred or purred or gasped interestingly or whatever; and now they're getting married. Naturally, everyone is excited to have a look at the bride, if only to assure themselves that M. hasn't gone off his nut with drink and decided to wed, say, trickster god Loki, or perhaps some clever, sentient yak.

Given our very strange friends, anything could play out. Perhaps, one day, after realizing that being undead was kind of a crappy existence, the shambling corpse of Layne Staley would be looking for love. And in this state, he could meet up, quite innocently, with the clever, sentient yak (who herself is getting a little tired of the shaving regimen she has to maintain). They'd go for coffee, talking haltingly at first, and then animatedly. Eventually, they'd fall in love, and the clever, sentient yak would leave M. for SCoLS--M. would be heartbroken, but would soon find happiness in buying a potbellied pig.

Finally, there would be one last ceremony to attend, presided over, of course, by Loki.

Loki: "Do you, Shambling Corpse of Layne Staley, take this clever, sentient yak as your wife?"

SCoLS: "Yuh."

Loki: "And do you, clever sentient yak, also so swear?"

CSY: (Lowing happily) "I do. HRRRRAAAAAWWW!"

Loki: "Then I now pronounce you corpse and yak. You may tug affectionately on her teats."

SCoLS: "Yuh."

Crowd: "Huzzah!"

Loki: "Now let us celebrate with . . . burritos! Some of them I have shat in!"

Crowd: (Less enthusiastically) "Er . . . huzzah!"

And I'll be off in the corner with the wife, beaming. Why?

I'M IN THE BAND! I'M IN THE BAND!

Tuesday, 31 August
Slowly I Turn

As you might expect, everyone was pretty excited this last weekend, as it was closing weekend for the show.

Friday: Rain.

The wife and I mourned the terrible turn of events by going to the IMAX theater to see the most recent Harry Potter movie, which featured Gary Oldman eating his own face, as he does so well. The movie also contains some hilarious scenes where the young fellow playing Harry attempts to conceal his prominent, embarrassing erections, which is somewhat difficult when they are apparently six feet tall. I can't wait for the next movie, which I assume will have a scene showing Hermione shaving her upper lip. On the IMAX screen, it will almost certainly look like wheat being harvested.

We did indeed have shows on Saturday and Sunday, however, bringing up our final tally of performances to 7 out of 12 scheduled. This is no way to win a pennant. On Saturday, having gone nearly a full week without doing the show, the actors were not quite on their game. One actress, having gone up on her lines, completed a dramatic paragraph by stuttering, "When gold and silver rust . . . we will . . . we . . . after all that happens . . . ah . . . then it will be funny." Well, good. At least "funny" is somewhere in the future. At another point, a different actor lost his shit completely, and simply didn't say his line. We hissed at him to give him a kind of half-assed prompt, to which he hissed back, "Keep going!" This is right at the bottom of things you want to hear onstage, coming a close second behind, well, complete silence.

These things happen, especially when events conspire to deny a cast regular shows. On Sunday, we were confident that we'd be more on our game; perhaps to help facilitate this, one cast member suggested we get together for a "unity circle" backstage before we went on. My tens of regular readers might easily predict my reaction to this suggestion.

"I'd rather die," I said. But these things take on a life of their own--Christ, actors are weird--and after some cajoling from people who really felt strongly about it, I reluctantly trudged over to join the circle. Unfortunately, since the cast was so huge, the circle began to spread out into the actors' seating area, where many deck chairs had been laid out for us, and we found our circle blocked by these various items. Everyone stood around, not knowing what to do (like, I don't know, move the circle), and we stared at each other dumbly for a little bit, an uncompleted circuit needing unforthcoming help from . . . anyone. I found myself clutching a chair back in lieu of someone's unifying hand. Finally, I turned and said to portable furniture, "Chair, I think I'll miss you most of all."

The final show progressed well after that unlovely benediction. People were picking up their cues, and overall, it was a pretty good show. There were, however, developments of a sort. At one point in the show, one character flings dry oatmeal at another; this did not go unnoticed by the pigeons who live in the park and they immediately flocked over to devour the discarded grain, unasked-for guest stars. They were actually hilarious, and lent a certain "Where's Tippi Hendren?" aspect to the proceedings, particularly when they had finished up with the oatmeal and began stalking other scenes with a definitely gluttonous sparkle in their creepy side-faced eyes. There is a "Last Supper" scene which coincided with their tentative assault, and they seemed to be eyeing our plates of plastic fruit with an unnerving potential of voracity.

I actually fucked up a line because the sky-rats were so brash; I kept imagining their hive-mind communiques:

"NO-WINGS HAVE SUSTENANCE! SEE HOW THEY EAT GRAPES!"

"SKY-RATS ATTACK! FIRST, OATMEAL! NOW GRAPES!"

"BE OF CAUTION! THEY ARE NOT FUNNY."

I'm hard on the show I just did, and I've been hard on the shows I've done lately, and I think it speaks to something: I'm going to lay off acting for a while. Possibly a good while. I'm probably tempting fate by even writing this, but I just haven't been enjoying myself doing acting for a long time, and that's no good at all. I have a job already, and it pays a helluva lot more than acting--which, you know, pays nothing--so when acting turns into another job, well . . . you can do the math. It makes me sad and kind of guilty to admit it, but hey: in the final analysis, if I'm not enjoying it, what the fuck am I doing?

I've already turned down one role, and I don't expect I'll be accepting another soon. And with my crummy attitude, who would want me in their cast?

I know. Unity Circles everywhere are wondering who in the hell is going to notice those poor chairs.

Tuesday, 24 August
When The Weirdness Died

Another weekend, another triumphant set of shows!

Friday night: Bumpy, but okay. People were tired and out of rhythm with the piece. But overall, not bad. Notable also for two small girls, maybe ten years old or so, who left off playing in the park to come perch on the fringe of our "stage," occasionally coaching us. (One of the characters in the show has a crippling stutter, for example. Said character was in mid-stutter: "O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o . . . " One of the girls piped up: "Say something!" Thanks, kids!)

Saturday: Rain.

Sunday: Rain.

Another weekend, another triumphant set of . . . actors going out for afternoon drinks!

So Saturday we packed in our crap and headed off for drinkier pastures. Our first choice of venue--a newish place called Maguire's on 15th, which features ludicrously cheap whiskey drinks during happy hour--was closed, causing us to scream ghoulishly and claw ineffectually at the windows. So we ended up heading north to . . . the Canterbury Inn.

The Canterbury Inn has been around forever, and squats like a furry toadstool on 15th; its less-than-enthusiastic stabs at living up to its name include a shabby suit of armor that greets you as you enter, its authenticity distinctly Bill & Ted-ish in flavor. Apart from that, you've got nothing really Chauceresque going on with the place, except for possibly the incredibly calcified barflies, who certainly seem old enough to have fucked the Wife of Bath, and are conceivably still getting palimony.

I really try to avoid the Canterbury as a rule; I have a checkered past with it. My friend N. and I used to call it "The Place Where Disturbing Things Happen," which, while an acknowledged mouthful, did convey the truth. All previous visits to the Canterbury had resulted in . . . well, disturbing things.

MY BIRTHDAY, some years ago

N. and I, for reasons unknown to humans, decided to celebrate my birthday at the dingy place. We showed up and found a table (one nice thing about the Canterbury is that you can always find a table; this is also one of the disquieting things about the Canterbury). We sat down with a couple friends, and were approached by a flinty-eyed waitress (nothing new here; as an afficianado of dives, I am accustomed to unhappy waitresses). She appraised us quickly, and then said, "Hello, pissants." We stared at her uncomfortably; we hadn't even had a drink yet! We had not yet earned pissant status! She then broke into a humorless grin, eagerly showing us her molars. "I'm just kidding. What do you pissants want?" Another grin, this one frankly predatory. Totally unnerved, we stammered at her. "Ah . . . ah . . . can we have a-a-a . . . how about a pitcher, of, ah, beer?" She beamed horrifically, a corrupt Madonna on the Rocks. "One pitcher of ah, ah, ah, beer coming up!" She left to fulfill our order while we sat gloomily, all the potential fun of the evening having been horribly murdered in front of our eyes by the malefic waitress.

To pass the time, N. and I swiveled our heads to the TV set mounted on the wall, seeking any kind of assuagement from the bizarre, Artaudian treatment we had just experienced. At that very moment, the TV was showing some hideous oceanographic footage of a thrashing shark being hauled aboard a ship with cruel hooks. N. and I stared as the crew lashed at the beast savagely; it was like watching Children of the Corn as directed by Jacques Cousteau. It was then that N. said to me, "This is a very disturbing place."

I vowed never to go there again.

ONE YEAR LATER

My friend T.'s birthday this time. "We're going to the Canterbury!" he howled over the phone into my voice mail. I immediately thought of that horrible shark footage, and wondered what fresh horror could possibly be waiting.

This was a much smaller group of guys for this celebration; just a few of us playing some pool. We really stunk, but gamely kept playing, and occasionally not fucking up. Presently, a mulleted fellow arrived with a female companion, and put down some quarters on the felt; they would of course play the winners of the game we were working on. My friend T. and I won, and therefore got the dubious honor of taking on Mullet and his gal, Slightly Faded Peroxide Gal.

We started playing, and the writing on the wall was early and clear. Mullet was beating us stupid (he had his own cue). What was weirder, however, was that Slightly Faded Peroxide Gal seemed to be hitting on me, relentlessly. Obviously. In no uncertain terms. Now, let's get this straight: I'm kind of funny-looking. (And not that SFPG was a supermodel, but she WAS right there with her ostensible boyfriend.) So I am not used to such behavior. I wondered if I was suffering from some organic malady. What the fuck is going on? I wondered. She was being very vocally lascivious, in the most embarrassing way, replete with lines like, "You really handle that stick well." I responded by launching the cue ball into the overhead halogens. "THANKS!" I screamed. I was waiting for the boyfriend to casually beat my skull in with his custom cue, but he continued to shoot nonchalantly.

"Nice shot; right into the hole," she cooed later, "You must be good at that." I thought I must be losing my mind, and at one point retreated to my friend T., standing on the sidelines. He, thank God, confirmed that I wasn't going insane. "What the fuck is going on?" he rasped. "She's totally hitting on you!" I assured T. that I hadn't the vaguest goddamn idea what was going on, and I assumed that I was about to be shivved at any moment. But the Mullet calmly continued destroying us on the table, which wasn't very hard, of course, continuing to display no awareness at all of his girlfriend's freakish behavior.

After the rout was complete--Mullet reamed us thoroughly, which as I say wasn't very difficult, since (1.) he was really just much better than us, and (2.) we (I) was, at this point, convinced that I was going to be beaten into Dinty Moore ingredients . . . they left. Quite amiably. Mullet shook our hands and thanked us for the game, while SFPG magically turned off her horny-rays and said, "See you boys later!"

T. and I stood there for some time. Finally, T. said, "What the fuck was that?" I had no answer. I looked up at the TV, wondering if I'd see some horrible shark abuse to round out the evening. Instead, I saw only soccer, which was somehow worse.

POSTSCRIPT

I wish I had something cool and awful to relate about my latest visit to the Canterbury, but I do not. I was waiting for . . . something. But it never came.

I did go right to the bar to order a beer, and there of course was some white-haired virus of a man to my right; he might have grown there, like coral. He said something to me; I have no idea what it was. His mouth had seemingly evolved into some vague pink hole genetically enhanced to accomodate beer bottles. "Taffy horse race!" he shouted at me. I smiled wanly and gave him my stock "whatever" response: "Yeah, I hear that."

"Wad of chickens!" he might have screamed. Something like that. I really couldn't be bothered, and was anxiously patrolling for things like numbing shark footage on the TV, or perhaps Mullet and SFPG scouring for fresh victims. In the end, though, nothing of the sort materialized.

And oddly, I felt a little sad.

Friday, 13 August
Riding Around In Bars With Boys

Tonight the wife and I attended a "bachelorette" party for S., a friend of ours; he is marrying his longtime boyfriend this weekend, so we gathered at the gloriously shabby Rendezvous bar to celebrate his last days of ostensible freedom. (S. undoubtedly counts himself dead lucky, as his fiance, J., is like something that accidentally stepped out of the pages of Startlingly Gorgeous Men magazine.) So we sat about and coolly sipped martinis for a bit, trading theater gossip and making occasional toasts. Usually scathing toasts impugning S.'s moral character.

Then the strippers showed up. Two anonymously lovely lumps wandered in, carrying a boombox, and visibly fretted over the bar's existing sound system, which was just then playing an Eartha Kitt song; S. wondered if they would strip to dear Eartha. They declined politely, and stood uncertainly for a minute before beginning, allowing me enough time to notice that their teeth were exactly the same color as their white cotton shirts. Then they hit the boombox and began their routine, as S. folded himself into a banquette to enjoy the show; the wife was seated nearby as well.

The strippers wasted no time, and stripped off their shirts in fairly short order. They were wonderful fellows, even if their expressions seemed to telegraph unstrippy thoughts, like perhaps, Maybe I'll have some soup later! or I have my doubts about certain Malthusian projections. One wore a thong, and the other some tighty-whities, which gave me fearful thoughts about unintended skidmarks for a minute, but then he peeled that off to reveal: another thong. I guess I should have trusted that he was a pro who would be vigilant about things like skidmarks, but then again, I'm needlessly neurotic. I observed clinically as tighty-whitey guy moved over to my wife and began jabbing his crotch at her face while she laughed hysterically and frantically jammed dollar bills into his waistband. On occasion, she would inadvertangly dislodge other bills when doing so, and would apologize to the man as she scrabbled at the floor--and then his underwear--to replace the lost cash. I also saw our good friend M.--a delightful actress with whom I've worked with on, count 'em, ten shows--be assaulted by the nearly naked boys, holding her arms up as if being attacked by hornets while the lads writhed around her. "NO! NO!" she screamed, which of course practically invited the strippers to do all but drape their cocks over her head.

The gay men in attendance, on the other hand, adopted a much more utilitarian stance, and literally manhandled the strippers to within an inch of dermal abrasion. R. actually patted his lap to encourage one of the boys to visit, and then, when accommodated, seized the young fellow's asscheeks like a Visigoth attacking a joint of beef, kneading them enthusiastically as if assessing their doneness. A., sensing that S. was being neglected, ran over to S. and began his own denim assault on S.'s face; R. continued to explore the murmury legalities of running his fingers down various G-string boundaries. At one point, it looked a bit like Caligula being filmed on a downscale budget financed by a very desperate Disney.

It was a lot of fun. And a lot of laughs. And I also realized that those beautiful boys probably made more than I did today.

So, sorry about the cancer. But we needed boys.

Tuesday, 10 August
Yellow Face And The Rubberband Man

It was a real apres de deluge weekend: having rained heavily on Friday (show cancelled), but not on Saturday, though the ground remained an unappealing stew of ligament-testing mud (show cancelled), we finally had a show on Sunday. Which was a horrifyingly hot day, leading to such delights as one actress nearly succumbing to heat stroke, and somehow worse, a local theater critic deciding to take his shirt off during the performance.

Poor M.--she who nearly collapsed for good--had a very bad time of it. She is a slight woman anyway, and has milk-colored skin, so it wasn't as if her defenses were strong in the first place, but she wilted like a collard green in the microwave under the punishing heat. We dumped water into her as if she were a ravenous colony of sea monkeys, but not being a giant mass of brine shrimp, she continued to gasp like a trout. Unbelievably, she roused herself for scene after scene like a trouper.

More were afflicted during the afternoon; in one scene, several "lepers" take the stage, clad in what appears to be several yards of discarded trawling nets. (The wife is one of these.) That has to feel lovely. But they howled convincingly while the rest of us--including M.--wobbled unsteadily onstage, unable to get a fucking break to take a drink of water. I myself felt woozy a couple of times, but cheered myself by noticing that the audience seemed attentive, receptive and that nobody was visibly doing anything horrible.

I think it was right about then that Local Theater Critic--who I am almost certain is going to flay us unmercifully--chose to remove his shirt. This was truly unfortunate, and kind of begged the question: What would you rather see? Marlon Brando nude, or Marlon Brando's autopsy photos? You might notice that there is no good answer to this conundrum.

Despite all of this nasty chatter, everyone felt that they had a good show (including me), but what the fuck do we know? We're all too close to it. It's a weird one--it's mostly two+ hours of vaudeville, give or take, but it's kind of like being asked to evaluate your child on a scale of 1 to 10. After so much effort and so much put in to it--and Lord, if you only knew the behind the scenes stuff, which you must understand I cannot go into-- . . . well.

I'm pretty sure I was totally addled for at least part of the show, when I fantasized--onstage!--that the guy from the OfficeMax commercials was going to show up, accompanied by the Spinners tune "Rubberband Man."

I love that guy. And it's not the first time I've envisioned him joining our merry band.

It's good to get some rest. Clearly.

Tuesday, 03 August
If Arby's Be The Food Of Love

I'm too bloody tired to try and come up with a snappy opening or anything for this. So, let's just go:

Saturday, blissfully, the wife and I got to stay home, no rehearsal while the behind-the-scenes folks endured what's called a "dry tech"--that is, no actors called, and the tech geeks just sat around somewhere with thousands of pieces of paper trying to figure out what all the bizarre fucking glyphs and whatsas and who-dats written on them could possibly mean. "Is this the light plot?" "It's an outdoor show, stupid." "Oh. Right. So what is this? Prop list? Costume plot? Scene breakdown?" "It's a receipt from Arby's." "Jesus Christ. Well, I'm starving anyway. Where's the Arby's food?" "Carla's dog ate it while we were looking at the light plot." "WHAT? It's an outdoor show, goddam it! There is no light plot!" "Maybe it's the phone list." At this point, usually the weeping and screaming begin. This is why I don't typically work tech. It's all snowdrifts of paper, recriminations, skull-clutching misery, and the only one who ends up eating anything is somebody's fucking dog.

But we paid for our indolence on Sunday, when we had us a 10-hour day out in the park, in the sun, with the bugs, and the six-pack-toting rubberneckers, and the frisbee-ers, and horrible old Yellow Face, who burns us, burns us. One thing about performing outdooors: it's quite unlike performing indoors. Particularly when one is accustomed to fringe theater indoor environs, which typically resemble retrofitted butcher shops or abandoned buildings once used only to film Nine Inch Nails videos. No, performing outdoors has its own set of interesting challenges, particularly when one is competing with things like the fucking Seatac flight approach, which is, evidently, directly overhead of our park space. So in addition to ramping up one's volume just to carry your voice out into empty ether, one also occasionally finds oneself trying to outbelt the roar of an overhead 747:

"Yea, Sister Marguerite, leave off thy ministrations to my overtaxed trouser-salmon, and do favor me with a kiss!"

"Oh, Father Flote, I do serve to--"

ROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR

"-and that is how the Pope was undone in Auxerre! We will not miss his insolent dances, nor his cabbages. But it is important to remember that--"

VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM

"--which I hardly need say is why we shall never again be plagued by the hideous Kelp-Men from the sea, now and to forever!"

After spending that hellish Sunday, ten hours of simply BLASTING OUT THOSE FUCKING LINES, I woke up this morning with a curious sensation: my abdomen hurt from using all those lazy-ass, beer-accomodating muscles to project an acceptable volume. When I awoke, I sat up and my gut winced. What the fuck did I do? I wondered muzzily. Then I remembered. Oh, yeah, stupid . . . you did theater. Again.

I'm probably boring my tens of readers by going on about this play, but Jesus, I don't have anything else to write about. I am consumed by this thing, every day! I don't even have a good screed about something terribly obvious, like, say, Arby's.

Don't look at me. Talk to Carla about her goddamned dog.

Wednesday, 07 July
That Good Night

I've started rehearsals for a new show going up in a month or so. It's called Red Noses by Peter Barnes, and it's set in France, 1348, so it's plague-tastic. The basic plot is, a (possibly unhinged) priest founds an order of buffoons--the Red Noses--who combat the plague by wandering the countryside clowning around, making terrible jokes, and putting on ridiculously absurd morality plays. It's a measure of the play's sensibility that one of the first victims (and there are dozens of victims, many of which manage to walk onstage, gasp out a few lines, and then die) is named First Attendant, who complains that it's difficult to care about the little people, like First Attendants, who die before you get to know them. "I'm an extraordinary person!" he exclaims. "I'll tell you a secret!" Then of course he immediately dies.

The director of the piece, with whom I've worked before many times, obviously has a complete understanding of my comedic talents, because out of a 40+ slew of characters, which run the gamut from bawdy nuns to murderous mercenaries to malignant corpse-gatherers to syphilitic priests to expressive jugglers, he has cast me as . . . the po-faced, humorless pedagogue. This may have been due to the pre-casting discussion I had with him: "I don't want to fucking learn how to juggle. And I'd rather not sing. I certainly don't want to do any goddamn Theater 101 buffoon work. Jesus, don't even talk to me about mask work." Basically, I was saying to him: Don't make me work. Well, problem solved. For most of the play, I just stand around being a complete pain in the ass, which, I must admit, I can do.

(I'm exaggerating, of course: I do love the role. But I'm not exaggerating much.)

Last night was first readthrough, which is just what it sounds like, and just as thrilling as you might imagine. The actors introduce themselves around, and then read the damn play right off the page. First reads are wholly useless except for two things: One, for some reason, they are very good for predicting how long the final show will end up being; and Two, much like day one of any grade school year, you have to start somewhere, even if it's just wasting time to get it out of the way. And it might as well be with some good laughs as people botch lines, burst out laughing at jokes, and hearing people innocently butcher unfamiliar language. This play is good for that, for many reasons. One, Barnes was a wordy motherfucker who never used one word when he could riff with five; two, the play is filled with mouthbreaking French names and locations; and three, sometimes actors just aren't familiar with certain terms. Favorites from the first read included things like "anathema" being pronounced, many times, "an-a-THEEEEE-ma!"; "Genoese" pronounced as "Genovese," which introduced a tantalizingly weird Mob element to the proceedings; and, my favorite, "Oyez! Oyez!" being pronounced phonetically. OH YEZ! OH YEZ! I don't know why it cracked me up so. I imagined it to be the sound produced by an orgasmic harelip.

So we're off and running, and well, if my posting habits start to slip, then you know why. I'm out making ART! On the STAGE! (Well, grass. This is an outdoor show, a new experience for me.) And pretending that live theater isn't a DYING FORM! Which let's not pretend it isn't. But it's okay. The patient is critical, but it seems to be a tenacious fucker--it'll still probably outlast little old me. But more and more, I think of live theater as that poor First Attendant, crawling and beseeching the audience to listen, because he's an extraordinary person.

He says, "I'll tell you a secret . . . " And then he quietly dies.

Tuesday, 06 July
Our Country's Sort Of Good

Heigh-ho and a happy past Fourth and all that (for non-Americans, if any: Just hi, I guess). The weekend at Chez Pfaff was mostly low-key and for me, at least, slightly longer, which was nice. The wife did not manage to get the 5th off, and because she is a much less infantile person than myself, managed even not to get cranky about it. If I had had to go to work today, God knows I'd be rending garments, weeping to the skies and performing various other etc. Biblical expression-of-nameless-grief kinds of things. Instead, I was able to sleep in and then watch baseball, which is about as nonbiblical as it gets.

Friday found us staying in and watching a movie, the latest box office catastrophe perpetrated by Mr. John Woo, Paycheck. A most ironic title for a movie based yet again on a Philip K. Dick story, who himself spent a large part of his life searching for same. At any rate, the movie surprised us in that it was not as horrifyingly terrible as we were expecting it to be (this is a quintessentially American thing to do, it strikes me: to willingly pay for a product that one feels certain is going to lead to profound disappointment). This despite the best efforts of veteran movie-ruiner Ben Affleck, who toyed briefly with the notion of actual acting in Good Will Hunting but has since only committed grave filmic crimes. I need only cite here Daredevil, a film so ghastly that it moved Pauline Kael to claw her way out of the grave to pan it. ("Death will not stop me from condemning this movie . . . ")

This is not to say that the movie was good; rather, it was merely less disappointing than we had expected. It was sort of like getting excellent service at Arby's. The final product might be gray and dank and unpalatable, but at least you felt unhassled and full-bellied. I was even able to forgive the scene (which I had joked about well in advance, so there was much laughter) when a door opened and, per the Woo canon, a white dove flew out. You have to kind of give it up to a director who so tirelessly sticks to such a dull, unimaginative visual metaphor whose presumed emotional freight is so embarrassingly tiny.

Nothing interesting happened on Saturday, unless you count the enthusiastic droves of people who flocked down to the pool, which lies right outside our patio door. What people failed to realize, however, was that the early part of the day was a bit overcast and chilly, so the pool hadn't had a chance to really get up to speed. So the annoyance of having to listen to the slap-slap of bare feet on concrete was somewhat allayed by the endless reactions to people joyfully leaping into the startlingly cold pool. Sploosh! (Pause.) "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! IT'S FREEZING!" This happened over and over, causing me much joy. Sploosh! (Pause.) "AAAAAAHHHHHH!" Sploosh! (Pause.) "My pacemaker! My pacemaker stopped!"

On Sunday, the wife and I strolled over to our friends' place a couple blocks away to eat many buckets of chicken and drink beers and basically waste time until nightfall when the fireworks would begin over Lake Union. The only problem with this idea was, once people had eaten and settled in with beers, there wasn't anything to do but sit around and mock things (this is what happens when actors get together). So we turned on the TV, that most mockable of media. We were instantly rewarded with visions of Barry Bostwick, garbed in an alarming cobalt suit, yell-singing something at us from the bowels of Washington D.C., surrounded by thousands of aggressively white people who cheered and generally went crazy at pronouncements to the effect that America is pretty swell. It was, of course, gaspingly horrible, and we ate it up, even when appalling entities like Clay Aiken were trotted out to tonsil up some patriotic rah-rah vibratos: my friend P. remarked, "If I were fourteen, I'd totally be in love with him!" I understand. However, this is why young teenagers don't get to vote. Ten years ago, we might have had to endure President Carrot Top and his cabinet of Jerky Boys.

When we got bored of that, we also found, on public TV, for God's sake, an extended commercial for old Lawrence Welk DVDs. They showed much ancient footage featuring doddering weirdos in mindbending toupees, and frighteningly corseted women attempting to breathe, and of course footage of old Larry grabbing old, startled women and forcing them to leadenly dance with him. He would seize their arms savagely, and the poor old hens would try and make their legs work while Welk grinned vampirically, as if to say, "America! I'm eating your old women! And I'm loving it!" This is to say nothing of his vaunted side players, who were visions of horror. At one point, they showed a terrifying she-beast gnawing relentlessly on some forgotten melody, and I screamed, "It's Divine! She's going to eat a dog turd at the end of this song!" Sadly, that particular episode had not been directed by John Waters, so we were denied that payoff.

Later, of course, we retired to view the fireworks, which, seriously, are really boring. The wife and I viewed them from our patio, and it says something when the loudest cheers are reserved for the smiley faces. "SMILEY FACE!" screamed the people on the balcony. Wow, yes . . . it's a smiley face. Do you also scream at Ziggy cartoons? Because that's just about as exciting. More puzzling was the semi-political commentary: "FUCK GEORGE BUSH!" screamed one guy after a vague purple explosion. Was he seeing something I wasn't? "This is the SHIT!" screamed another after that one pyrotechnic effect that looks like hair growing in the sky. It is? I obviously fail to appreciate the aesthetics of your average fireworks show, which seems to me about as interesting as Laser Floyd. Perhaps if I hadn't given up pot.

But it's all over now. Back to work tomorrow, where I will resume my new terrifying supervisory role. Which I am supremely incapable of fulfilling; I'm going to really irritate a lot of people over the coming months.

Now that's American.

Monday, 28 June
And He Was

Hello from the other side of the Birthday Weekend. All went well; and surprising things happened, which is not always nice, but in this case, was.

Thursday night found me and the wife at our favorite tapas restaurant, gorging ourselves on favorites like golden beet salad in vinaigrette (which have lost none of their "So good they make everything else in the world taste like old pants" charm), various coo-worthy cheeses, and of course, some bad-ass Rioja. It's basically impossible to go wrong at this place; it always leaves you feeling sort of breathless and euphoric, like surviving a rabid dog attack.

"Did you fucking see that? Those beets went right for my throat! I thought it was all over!"

"But you survived, baby. They were all like 'RAR! You can't handle this flavor!' And you were all like 'Fuck you!' And they were all like 'This guy is totally eating us!'

"Yeah! I owned those delicious punk-ass beets!"

Beet triumph is often hard-won. But it wasn't the most surprising thing to happen.

Friday, we did up the late birthday thing by going out bowling with friends. The turnout was nice, and allayed suspicions at least for a little while that Everyone Thinks I Suck, which was even nicer. B. showed up, ever the fan of all things sport, armed with his custom ball, his own shoes, and a complicated-looking forearm brace thingy. His first game was a real dog, however, and he amused me after one particularly disastrous frame by saying, "See, you can't show up in all this," he explained, waving his gear around (be quiet, Mr. Graham, I hear you snickering), "And throw like that. Because then you just look like an idiot."

Which is true. But then most people in a bowling alley look like idiots. Granted, mostly because they're drunk and haven't bowled for four years, like me. But B. also explained the Booze Effect re: bowling, which is, the more you have, the better you do. Which I initially doubted, but by the third game, I had scored a not-horrifying 145, so here I bow to the expert.

And then of course by the end of the night, a chocolate bunny had been thrown on some outdoor heating coals, and I had suffered head trauma from being hit by a beach ball thrown by K., and so that was all in its own way, typical, at least for my friends, who, unchecked, tend to behave like raving Huns anyway.

So that wasn't really surprising either.

Saturday, the wife and I went to the closing night of a show that the wife had actually had a hand in bringing to life. Called Are We Scared?, the piece was adapted from the actual everyday jabberings of pre-school-aged kids and then massaged into a very weird, wonderful whole. (The kids in question are under the charge of the wife, who works at the pre-school in question, and hence her involvement: she did some of the adaption.)

I was initially worried about the project when I heard of it, thinking, "Oh, Jesus, what if it just turns into Kids Say the Darnedest Things?" But it certainly did not, and in fact, it was utterly delightful and hilarious (because let's face it, sometimes the nippers are pretty fucking funny) and, most unexpectedly, oddly moving, as with the ending piece, adapted into song, which encouraged everyone to "Be careful in the gorgeous tunnel"--which isn't the stupidest metaphor for life that I've ever heard.

And I just have to point this out, even if it's only so I can search my archives and remember them: Here is one of the funniest lines I have ever heard onstage (my friend K. will back me up on this, because we just about came out of our chairs):

[Actor, at the encouragement of the other "kids," has been making mighty hops across the stage. Upon reaching the other "kids," the actor turns and yells proudly at the audience:]

"This hopper's name . . . is Noise-Boy!"

But even that wasn't the most surprising thing I heard all week. Although I may never recover from it. I couldn't even see for a while through the tears of laughter.

No, the most surprising thing I heard all week (last week, technically, but it didn't get finalized until today) was at work. I'll paraphrase several different conversations here, but this was the surprising thing I heard:

"Skot, we want to offer you a promotion. After your years of indifferent and desultory work, we are perplexingly interested in having you join the management team, and we hereby offer you this bunch of luckless revenants to boss around. If their spirits weren't broken before, they are now, because we already told them that you were going to be their supervisor, and those who didn't immediately drink poison have only shattered souls and sunken, twitchy eyes, and await your addled, perverse guidance."

"So what do you think, Skot? Will you do us the honor of filling this position with the same unnerving verve that we've come to expect from you, like that one time a few years ago, when you were disciplined for screaming 'FUCK!' down the hallway so loudly that the head of the whole organization heard you?"

Dimly, I heard myself accept the new job, thinking, I guess I can kiss all my former friends good-bye, but then conveniently remembered that I never really made a point of being friendly to anyone, so that was easy. Starting July 1, I am some very nervous peoples' supervisor. The higher-ups asked me, and even (mostly) kept straight faces.

That was definitely the most surprising thing I heard all week.

Friday, 25 June
The Book of Me

1 And the Lord took a break from the Heavenly Hassle, and saw that it was June the twenty-fourth, and he Said, "This is a holy day, for it is the day that Skot clawed his way out of the womb."

2 And the Lord kind of got creeped out by the word Womb, but He had already made it, so the Lord had to suck it up. "Womb" is icky," said the Lord, "why did I say that word?"

3 The Angels were of no help in this matter, and the Lord felt even stupider. "You Angels blow," declared the Lord. The serene Angels agreed placidly, and continued to fly about in worshipful inactivity. "This is the stupidest job," said the Lord, and He did pick at His astonishing pants dolefully, prising out bits of Holy Lint, and flicking them majestically at stuff.

4 Anyway.

5 The Lord noticed that it was June 24, and his servant Skot was faithfully at work, despite it being his birthday. Skot was a good follower, in that he was an uncomplaining dupe, and the Lord rewarded him with surprising hookers. Skot enjoyed the work-hookers, and bent them over his keyboard faithfully, and praised the Lord for His bounty. The hookers were paid handsomely with God's grace, and they did grumble, for that was not even worth a cheeseburger, for God is kind of a cheap-ass, but hey, it's God.

6 "Jesus, God," moaned the hookers. "This is kind of crappy."

7 "Saieth not His name!" said the Lord. "He is more than cheeseburgers." And the hookers felt like gravel, and they repentantly bought Frescas, and woe to them, they did drink the Frescas.

8 And so it was that Skot returned home, having gloriously succumbed to the work-hookers, and his wife did take him out to Dinner, whereupon he ate tapas. And they were good tapas, for the Lord had decreed: "Tiny portions of good food is the best idea anyone has ever had!"

9 And the Wife did say, "Wasn't that your idea? I mean, isn't everything?"

10 And the Lord did say, "Uh . . . yeah. Of course it was."

11 And the wife kind of stared at the Lord.

12 And the Lord said, "So . . . what else did my boy Skot get?" The Lord looked kind of hopeful and strange, like a guy who had forgotten to get his Favorite Son anything for his damn birthday.

13 "I bought my man some pants," said the Wife proudly. "And some scotch. And some books." The bounty was indeed impressive. The Lord was shamed.

14 "I only brought some meager spices," whined the Lord. He held out peppercorns. "I feel like a tool," said the Lord.

15 The Lord was indeed a tool. But that mattered little to Skot. He got pants. And dinner. Tapas, even.

16 God fulminated. "I could get you pants. The finest pants. Pants of panting gold!" The Lord seethed and wheedled.

17 And Skot said, "Gold pants? That seems kind of gay."

18 And God did say: "Don't give me any ideas.

19 And Skot said: "Pretend I said nothing. Sorry."

20 And God said, "Okay, then."

21 And like the best families, they talked of nothing at all.

Tuesday, 22 June
Golfers And Bowlers And Horseshit, Oh My

Walking home from work today, I was thinking about a few things coming up, such as my birthday on Thursday (you'll want to use FedEx, people). Yeah, it's the big 35--more on this later--and the wife and I and several of our closest reluctant friends will be going bowling. More on this later. Anyway, as I walked deep in thought, my body quickly adopted one of its least attractive traits when confronted with two simultaneously unconscious actions (walking and thinking), and allowed my mouth to fall agape. It's probably, overall, a happy gift. I imagine passersby:

Girl: "Wow. Who's the gork with the hang-mouth?"

Guy: "Ew. I think I can see the sandwich he ate earlier."

Girl: "Do you have an opinion, passing hobo?"

Hobo: "Disgusting! He's Joseph Stalin! Do you have fifteen cents? I only need fifteen cents."

And so on. My father used to comment on this openmouthed habit of mine, actually, when I was a kid. It's a crummy habit to have, especially when you aren't even aware of it; it gets worse when I'm deep in reading. Not only does my mouth hang open, I tend to let my tongue loll out grotesquely. My father's exasperated--and indelible-comment from my youth: "Jesus Christ, close your fucking mouth. It looks like a hunk of liver is hanging out of it."

It took me years to get over that comment, mainly because whenever I thought of making out with girls in high school, I'd remember that liver comment, and I'd get creeped out, thinking, Don't subject them to your mouth-liver! This turned out to be the least of my problems, as girls were not exactly lining up for the oral liver treatment, perhaps because I was pretty ugly, even by teenage standards.

Jesus. Where were we?

Oh, right. Walking home, thinking about the Big 35. Why is every year the Big [number here]? We're just not very honest with each other about birthdays. I'd like to rectify this. The Big [whatever] trope is a drag, because they're not big: it's usually stupid. We should embrace this. "Hey! So it's the Pointlessly Marking Time 28 this year!" Or: "Oh, boy. I guess we're up to the May Finally Learn How To Cook Crab But We Doubt It 42 now, huh?" Maybe: "Congratulations on the Cannot Ignore Hanging Gut 39!" The ne plus ultra is in sight: "I can't believe you're finally reaching the Eats Cabbage A Lot 50."

And so we're going bowling for the big event. Bowling, at least, has the virtue of being a sport that has the sense to encourage its participants to drink at the actual venue, during said participation. Golf is sort of like this, but then again not so: a martini on the third green is qualitatively different than a beer on the fourth frame. Plus, golf takes place out of doors, which is anathema to bowling; hell, actual sunlight is the bane of bowlers. Golfers are werewolves; Bowlers are vampires. Which may seem counterintuitive until you actually look at Phil Mickelson. I think he's hairier then he lets on.

I don't expect anyone to look at--much less identify--bowlers.

All of this wore on my mind today--honestly--as I walked home from work. My mind was occupied with all of these things. My mouth hung open.

Presently, a bug flew into my maw, and I had a rather awful experience as it buzzed frantically inside my mouth, exploring my gumline with a frankly horrifying enthusiasm for which I was not prepared. (It was really classic watching the woman across the street, bewildered by the noise I made as I spat the insect out: "HLEMGH!" She nervously looked away at this display of entomological spittoonery.) I vowed for the millionth hopeless time to keep my goddamn mouth shut from now on, knowing that I'd still fuck that resolve up sooner rather than later.

"Welcome to the Big 35," I would rather not hear my brain say. "Calling all bugs," says my brain. Or maybe: "Welcome to the Might Learn Not To Eat Bugs 35."

One can hope.

Tuesday, 04 May
A Spring's Tale

Hail, good Readers! I welcome, as always, your mighty tens into my demesnes.

In but a short few Houres, it will be the fourth of Maye in this Good Year of our Lorde, and this date marks one year from the day that I wedded my faire wyfe; it was a joyous occasion, truly, and well I remember the wine, and the song, and my lovely bride, and the Briefe, Fumbling carnality that followed into the merrie evening. O ho! I still have the imprints made by the ingenious magick lantern device I concealed in the bedchambers to record our first enchanted Coupling, and I have many eager offers from those who wish to post them to the Ethereal Inter-Nette! I resist these rogues, of course--One, for my faire lady, to whom I have sworn no harm; and Two, if I be honest, I confess I am ill prepared to demonstrate to the whole World mine own disappointing sau-sage.

But I maunder on. To-morrow marks our first Anniversary, and then we travel! To that storied land of mystery, and wonder, and Banque Apparatuses--have you heard of this place? It is spoken of in tones of Wonderment and Delight: Las Vegas! I'faith, I know you have heard of it, Reader, for who could have not? A glorious city, it is, with its boggarts and nixies and naeads, who roam its streets a-sweating triumphantly 'neath glowing signs of Magickal Men (their brightly-hued kerchiefs!) and Purveyors of Enormous Lobsters (for is it not wise to eat seafood in the desert?) and--let us not forget--Resplendent harlots that will for a pretty coin display their juiciest ankles, and perhaps more!

We shall repose in Good Las Vegas for the better part of a week, traveling and having fine adventures, as those of great Barnabas the Pinch-Penny, who is rumored once to have consumed fine Steake-Hide and Elastick Eggs--for a mere Guilder! Christ's nails! And the ale-houses are relaxed, and mind not if you wander with your crockery to a neighbor--nay!--for is not the House of Emm-Gee-Emm also the House of Tropickana? Sooth, it is, and they mind not the intermingling of fine folk nor their tankards, and nor do the gendarmes, provided--I advise--you do not Piss unguardedly; Mind The False Plant-Pots. I tell you this after an Unfortunate Experience, reader.

In truth, I am cheered by thoughts of our visit, and this Opportunitie to leave this duckish land for a time. I am spurred on by Thoughts; thoughts of tiny little wizened imps, clad in their Tuxedeon glamours, seemingly eaten by Time's Hungry Raccoon--they are so Wrinkly, like Bathed Toes!--and how they squire about with the finest Maiden-Flesh to be found in Christendom: the orange bosoms radiant as midday suns. "How do you do it, sir? How do you acquire such Specimens of pulchritude?" I inquired once, a time ago. He beamed slyly: "Sirrah, I tell you, I have Guilders falling out of my Arse-Hole."

Puzzling! But now I knew a secret--the Gnome had revealed his Magick! I could scarcely believe it; I attributed this lapse to his advanced age: clearly his mind was gone with Syphilis or the Vapors or the Like. No matter. Now I knew the secret: Guilders would be shat.

On our first morn in Las Vegas, I will Discreetly defecate in my lady's bag. And she will be pleased when she opens her pouch and discovers its Rapturous contents. "Someone has shat in my bag!" she will scream. And I will say, "Yes! It was I, my love. I shat in your bag. Let's see what fun we can have with that!"

Until a week hence, I will be absent, readers. Be well for the nonce, and I will return to tell you of our Glories.

Thursday, 22 April
Dreamlike Occurrences That Were Not Actually Dreams

Because I am a hellbound smoker, and also because of my apparently Croesus-like health plan providers, I find myself going to the dentist three times a year so they can climb onto my face and savagely jab at my gums with polearms. The good people at my dentist office are sadistically enthusiastic about these periodic cleanings, and never fail to wait until the blood-bucket is dangling from my jaw, ready to accept the freely flowing gore I will soon ooze, to lecture me cheerily about quitting smoking, to which I unfailingly reply, "Laagh." It's a routine for all of us, and they rarely surprise me.

So it was a little startling when I walked in yesterday to find some strange woman I'd never met standing in the place of H., my usual medieval specialist. "Hi, I'm L.," she said. "H. is on maternity leave." My brain took that in for a moment, wondering They let these psychopaths have babies? She's probably going to put alum on her nipples before she nurses the poor bastard. L. went on to explain that she was herself a dentist, as well as an acupuncturist, which are two words that seriously shouldn't be that close to one another. That's fucking great! Pins in my mouth! I numbly climbed into the chair and adopted an attitude of hopelessness and began sweating.

But, shockingly, L. was pretty great. She was very gentle, and seemed to enjoy demoing her newest toy, an ominous metal viper-thing that screamed in Edith Bunkerish tones as it blasted the coral on my teeth and nosed at my gumline. It was a freaky little fucking doodad, but it didn't hurt at all, and it beat the hell out of that thing with the hook--the one where they all but put a foot on your neck and use two hands to try and rip your teeth out. Unwisely, I began to relax.

No doubt sensing this, L. chose her moment. "Oh!" she said, "look at that!" I stiffened immediately, sensing danger. Now she's going to tell me there's a family of earwigs living in my skull. "Wa! Wa!" I implored. She put a gloved finger in my mouth right under my tongue. "These bony structures here? When you were a baby--a fetus, really--these bones came together and just kept growing for a little while. They're nothing, really." I do have these two kinda lumps under my tongue; I assumed everyone did. "Just wanted to let you know." I had no idea how to respond, and plus my mouth was full of dentist. "Yang," I said.

L. bent again to work, and she became preoccupied. I was almost starting to think about something else when she suddenly crooned, almost absently, "Some people think they're tumors."

And now, of course, I do.

-----

At work today, we had a little group training thing--they call it, horribly, an "inservice"--in which we learned about how and when to do Unblindings. These are so boring that I'm not going to bother telling you about them. (Oh, all right--when a patient is on a double-blind study, there are certain times when the doctor needs to "unblind" them, which is just revealing whatever crap the patient was getting: drug or placebo, etc.) Never mind that unblindings are so easy that a slab of bacon could do them, and never mind that I had already done a million of them before, or that I was the one who tested the new software for the unblinding program . . . yeah, never mind. There I was.

So we learned. (Some of us doodled. I made what I thought was a pretty good drawing of Robert Plant. [I have no idea.]) Then, when the bosses were done, it was time for some Office Fun! O Ecstasy! They had devised a silly little not-game-at-all, really, where you picked 1 or 2. We all did. Whoa, let's slow down! It turns out that those who picked 2 got a Booby Prize! Wa-wa! (Actually the Bosslady phrased it hilariously: "Okay, you guys who picked 2 are the losers!" Whee, you're losers! All this and training too? It's too much!) Those who picked 1s got Real Prizes. The losers picked shit out of a bag and got bubble kits, or wacky suction balls, etc. Your basic crap.

But I! I had picked 1! I reached into the bag and brought out my Real Prize.

It was a Durabilt 6-in-1 Ratcheting Screwdriver. I stared at it. "Wow, you got the best one," said Bosslady.

-----

Finally, walking home from work, I was crossing over I-5 and, as usual, making a point of staring contemptuously at all the assholes driving single in the carpool lane. Then, looking forward, I saw two things that chilled me. One was a fellow walking towards me wearing--in very warm weather--a short-sleeved button down shirt, ugly tie, black slacks. He had glasses, short hair, and I could see he was carrying some magazines or something in one hand. It was obviously a Jehovah's Witness. And the other thing I saw, right next to this apparition, was the same fucking thing. There were eerie Jehovah's Witness twins walking straight for me. I felt like Danny Torrance confronting those creepy little girls in the Overlook, except they had un-horribly-died, grown up, gained weight, changed sex, and found Jesus. Heading right the fuck for me. I saw them try to bother a girl walking ahead of me, but she blasted right past them. I could do that too, but the optimal outcome of this situation would be Totally Not Having To Talk To Them At All.

I had very few resources. I pulled out a cigarette, lit it quickly, and then clamped it in my teeth. I hoisted my chin up to a jaunty angle and put the hugest grin on my face possible--what I was doing was trying to look as much as possible like Franklin Roosevelt, for reasons that elude me now. I wished I had a cigarette holder, but oh well. For extra weirdness, I adopted a kind of exaggerated saunter. They drew closer, and I could see them glancing at me nervously. I widened my grin a bit more. At the last minute, I was still afraid that they would try and talk to me, so I pulled out my hole card.

Easing more deeply into my role as Bizarro-FDR, I flashed them my new screwdriver ostentatiously--still in its packaging--, and waggled my eyebrows at them, pretending I was showing some advisors my plans for the New Deal, and wasn't it just hot shit? They twitched and stared at the screwdriver as we wordlessly passed.

No one said a thing.

Wednesday, 10 March
Rub Not Against Your Bookseller

All righty! I am finally settled in to the new place, and after a visit from the sweet, stammering Qwest dude, I have home PC access to the electroweb. After my thorough autopsy of the offending phone jacks ("Mistah Phone Jack, he dead."), the guy spent about ten minutes fixing everything. I quizzed him extensively: "Hey, what was up? I looked inside those phone jacks and didn't see anything wrong." The guy looked at me like I was exactly as stupid as I happen to be. "Th-there are two phone lines wired into this place. Two of your jacks were hooked up to the other inactive line. So I, uh, sw-switched them." Feeling pretty stupid, but apparently not stupid enough, I quizzed him further. "Oh. So you . . . ?" Here I waved my arms around dumbly, because my wife was watching me, and I like to make sure that she's embarrassed for me at all times. The guy said, "I pulled the dead lines off and attached the live ones." People like me are kind of a pain in the ass for smart people, because our very existence tends to cast doubt on things like evolution.

Prior to this bit of self-humiliation, I had stopped off at the end of work to visit the local used bookstore to try and burn off my $80 store credit from returning old, horrible books for newer, slightly less horrible books. Never mind that we still have two or three boxes of unpacked books--fuck those books! They shouldn't have been dawdling at move time. So now, for all I know, some Arrabal plays are languishing in cardboard in favor of my new collection of Ring Lardner short stories. Survival of the unluckiest. All I know is, my collection of the Books of Lists (Vols. 1-3) are smugly sitting high and pretty, and I curse myself that I could not find the strength to purge them. Know this: Books suck, and will make you feel rotten somehow, eventually. My advice is to never read.

Travels to the used bookstore are supposed to be placid affairs, usually. Not this time. I had already picked out some terrible crap--"Hey, a crummy Batman graphic novel from the '80s!"--when the genially loony owner pegged me. "Oh, it's you," she said, in a tone of undisguised boredom. She pointed at a cat (which in her store are legion): "What do you think he's looking at?" Well, the cat was looking at Sherman Alexie books, so I imagined that he was vaguely bummed out, but you can't say that. I muttered something incomprehensible, and the owner wandered off after looking at me liquidly. She kind of freaks me out, but in a good way, like Girl Scouts.

Then the excitement happened. An awful person who looked like he was five bucks short for the next Nine Inch Nails concert exited the store, and the magnetic book detectors went nuts: BEEP BEEP BEEP! The gal at the counter asked him to step back inside, and he swiveled his head around weirdly, and said
"Nah." Then he walked into the street.


BEEP BEEP BEEP!

And the store owner, bless her soul, went nuts.

You know how you read a novel, and someone screams, and the author renders it as something like "EEEEEEEE!"? And it looks kind of stupid? Well, I'm here to report that the owner genuinely screamed "EEEEEEEEE!" And followed the guy out of the store. In fact, she hassled him so thoroughly on the street that she made him come back into the store to pose for "never serve this guy again" pictures. It was kind of like some sort of justifiable criminal frottage. She so thoroughly humiliated the man--"I feel dumb. I'm so sorry." "You should be! You don't steal from me! There's a library two blocks away! Steal from them!"

Jesus. I see her plight. I want him to steal from me. I have a lot of crappy books.

Monday, 23 February
Days Of Blunder

As I mentioned in my last post, I did indeed go out for a poker night with the boys. And I'm happy to report, that despite my vast ineptitude, I did actually win money. Not as much as B. or E., but I did pretty well. I'd also like to point to my terrific poker skills as the main factor, but I cannot: basically, I was simply slightly less inept than the others, and tried to hew to a policy of folding all but the strongest hands. Not so players like K., who would call patently absurd bets with cards that were visibly comical: "Who gives a fuck? I call!" "Dude, you have a three, an eight, and a coupon for dog grooming." There was also the perenially woeful C., who is perhaps the unluckiest gambler I have ever seen. C. could not only lose at solitaire, he could lose to other people. C. was the first to burn through his buy-in, and I believe it was an hour and a half before he won his first pot, which he took only after shooting another player in the face.

In other news, it's holy-fuck central at Chez Pfaff, as we are moving into our new place on Friday. We opted for Friday after learning the totally figure-outable fact that movers bend you over spectacularly for working weekends, as opposed to the slightly more soporific lurch-hump they deliver to your fiscal region for working weekdays. So, Friday. Consequently, we have thrown ourselves madly into Project: Fuck House Up, and we now cautiously walk through rooms strewn with boxes that contain various chaotic piles of our hastily-heaped shit.

And since moving sucks so much, you find entertainment where you can get it. For instance, I just moved aside an empty box that reads, proudly, "POISE BLADDER CONTROL PROTECTION PADS. EXTRA PLUS ABSORBENCY. 120 PADS." That should get the neighbors chatting. "So, howdy! Wow, I see you piss yourself. We'd invite you in, but, uh . . . we just put in new carpets." And then I can point to another box that says "12 Bottles Gordon's London Dry Gin" and reply, "Yep. A case a day! Well, that's renal failure for you."

I'm sure I'll manage to hork out at least one more post this week, but with all that's going on, it may be spotty. If I end up vanishing for a while, I should be back sometime next week, where I can tell you about the lap pool (in Seattle? Uh, okay.), the amazing circa 1965 stove, and the incredible bathroom that seems to be an homage to Robert Frost's "Mending Wall." Something there is that does not love a wall/And it is in my bathroom.

Friday, 30 January
Buh. Muh? Snuh.

Sorry about the lack of recent posts; it might have something to do with the boatload of viscous ooze I've been carrying around in my skull this week. I'll try and come back on Monday with some more brain-waddling prose for your non-enjoyment and derision.

In the meantime, may I suggest porn? I understand that the internet has some, somewhere.

Tuesday, 27 January
Lost Weekend

What a wretched weekend. But it's all my own damn fault. Let me explain.

It all started with pay-per-view, but again I say, it's my own fault. I need only say four words as clarification: League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

[For those who care, the next paragraph contains spoilers. However, the term "spoiler" is a woefully inadequate term here, as LXG comes thoroughly pre-spoiled. It's like trying to spoil six-month-old yogurt. Sure, you can dunk a dead rat into it, but who cares?]

I knew I would end up seeing this movie at some point, so I figured, Why not? It'll be a dumb romp!

I was half right. It certainly was dumb. A "romp" it was not; I have had what I would classify as "romps;" this wasn't one of those. Romps involve goofy fun, or deliberate ironic distance, or even just what-the-fuck nudity. I got none of these. It was a definite non-romp. What could be the linguistic opposite of "romp"? How about "pung"? That's a pretty unappealing word that seems quite unlike "romp." This movie was a total pung.

I don't want to get too much into this, but I should say that I was a fan of the comic book (but word to the wise: The second volume of the comic really licks), and it pretty much betrayed its source material at every turn. Even the wife--assuredly not a comic fan--noted that the Mina Harker character was something like 19 when she got vampired in the literature: the movie featured an admittedly toothsome gal as Mina, but she also was vaguely reminiscent of someone who would buy you beer at a rest stop in Missoula.

I ended up paying the price for watching this debacle (I'll let this go in a minute, I promise, but for Christ's sake, even Nemo's submarine looked like some hideous, discarded Victorian silver comb): I woke up the next morning deliriously ill. Swollen glands, achy limbs, screaming hair, phosphoric bladder, the works. And parched mouth, the worrisome kind: when I went to go gorge myself on lovely water, my stomach immediately groaned, and spoke to me kinaesthetically: If you drink more than five mouthfuls, I'm going to send it all back up, stupid.

Awful. This was made even worse by the remembrance that I had already been ass-tastically sick a month ago, laid low by the goddamn flu virus that had levelled everyone we knew. Sick twice--horribly--in one season? Fuck that. To top things off, I couldn't unwatch League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I spent most of the day shuffling around like Jim Backus, hunched and palsied, nasally foghorning my wretched plaints. "Please don't put on the Food Channel," I whined. "They're going to show that commercial where they melt Velveeta with salsa." Just what I needed to see: Crushed tomatoes with bait.

By Sunday, I felt rather more human: I was actually not only able to view actual food, but to miraculously consume it. I ate a baked potato. Huzzah! Puny potato! I thought, You will die screaming in my listless gastric tract! This is perhaps not the most stirring tale of gustatory triumph you've ever heard, but it was a big deal to me.

And I lived through today, and I even made it to work. I may be immunocompromised, but that won't stop me from burning paid time off to potentially infect all of my coworkers! Oh no.

May they all get sick. And stay home. And watch League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I shouldn't be the only one who suffers.

Thursday, 22 January
Car Talk, But Crappier

Yesterday the wife took the creaking, aging car (an '83 Honda for those who haven't been playing at home) in for an ostensible simple tune. It is a finicky little beast in the best of circumstances, but the recent cold weather had left it with a troubling case of the gout. Also, I'm pretty sure it's coming down with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's: it shudders and lunges erratically, and the odometer has simply given up counting and now just reads Fuck, pick a number.

So she took it in to our trusty, uh, car-place (we gauge their trustworthiness by their ongoing track record of not spectacularly boning us, as far as we can tell, which isn't far at all, but hey), and their report was pretty gloomy.

"Needs oil change. Needs new belts. Needs left axle adjustment or something. (I may be paraphrasing.) East trans-linkage is faulty and may result in extensive passenger scabbing if left unattended. Possible nuclear failure." The whole document was very stareworthy, especially for a rig that we had paid $450 in the first place: they were now saying the whole burrito would be around $800. This was almost cosmically hilarous.

But it was also scientifically very exciting: what they were telling me was, We owned Schrodinger's Car. When they put it in the garage, it was both alive and dead at the same time. The observation of the mechanics should have collapsed the various quantum states and resulted in an observable single response, but then again, these were auto mechanics, so I'm not sure physics recognized their feeble tap-tappings as actual observations. I mean, these guys watch "The King of Queens." Plus, I'm pretty sure our car is blasting out electron pairs with identical spin measurements, and I'm certain that one can measure both its position and momentum pretty reliably--"It's at Pike and Boylston, doing fifteen!"--so basically, our car is destroying quantum physics as we know it. When people come to gape at our car and ask if it addresses the double-slit experiment, I can confidently tell them, "No. There is a pigeon stuck in the AC." Can your car do that?

For all of that, we basically signed the equivalent of a "Do Not Resuscitate" order on the car. Let the thing die. The only worrisome issue now is: we'll probably have to buy a new (read: used) car. And I don't want to do that. I never have done that. I can barely buy radishes.

I'm a terrible adult. You want some anemic radishes? I locked them in the car.

Monday, 19 January
I Have Strangely Insignificant Psychic Powers

Happily, this was the most exciting thing that happened all weekend:

Today, around 4:00, the wife called me (she had to work), wondering if it was OK if she brought her friend C. around so we could go out for a drink together. I said that was fine.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I was struck by the strangest thought. I said to myself, I'll just bet you that C. will want to use the bathroom when she gets here. I know it. C. seems like the kind of girl who just pisses all the time. And don't get me wrong--I like C. very much. I just had the sneaking suspicion that she has doglike pee habits, and marks her presence with a kind of canine determinedness.

So I went to survey the bathroom, which was in its usual Superfund state. (The wife and I are persnickety about some things, but cleaning the bathroom is, sadly, not one of them.) So in a paroxysm of weirdly urocentric precognition, I set about cleaning the toilet, which is pretty much just humbling as hell. Nobody can possibly look dignified cleaning a toilet. In fact, next time you pick up a toilet brush, go over and look at yourself in the mirror. I did. I stood in front of the mirror and held up the toilet brush as if it were an enchanted sword, posing grandly, Lord of the Rings-style. Terrible. I was far from Tolkeinesque. I wasn't even Lynchian. I was, however, vaguely Ken Russell material.

Anyway. Shortly after I finished murdering millions of slime molds, the wife and C. showed up. We exchanged greetings; coats were doffed. And C. said, "I'm going to use your bathroom!" (Not said in response: "See if you can spot the cameras!")

I smiled inwardly. These uncanny powers must only be used for good.

Tuesday, 06 January
Ah, Just Some Crap

Hey there. Sorry it's been a while, but I'm glad you're still coming around. And by "you" I naturally mean "SexTrackerStatistics" and "Lickity Slit Lesbians," because you good folks are really leaving some great comments. It's not every day I get wished a merry Christmas by Lickity Slit Lesbians--oh, wait, yes it is--but I'm glad you're visiting and saying howdy. I can't wait for Valentine's Day. I expect pictures.

I did really intend to do some writing between the last post and this, but, ah . . . well, I didn't, because I had important things to do, like sleep in until noon and then watch football and then mollify the wife, who was less than enthused that football games follow one another, routinely, from morning until night, without respite, and if there is some respite, it is easily drowned with a bracing dose of ESPN and Chris Berman's brassy blats of "Da Rai-Dahs!" and whoops, another game is on! That she puts up with this at all is a real testament to her patience: if someone tried this shit on me--say, putting on a Woody Allen movie, and then following it up with a Woody Allen movie, and then saying, "You know what would be fun? A Woody Allen movie" I would make perfectly serious threats of violence. Then this someone might say, "But there's only three more weeks of nonstop Woody Allen movies!" and then they'd be wrapped up in a rug exploring the crab life at the bottom of Puget Sound.

This is only one of the reasons why I love the wife: she puts up with my terrible horseshit and crippling neuroses, which is probably why I detest Woody Allen so much (well, his late stuff): I'm not that far off from him.

Well, except that I'm not Jewish, and I don't make movies, and I don't suspect that he likes football. And I don't generally fail to convince audiences that I'm boning people like Mira Sorvino or Helen Hunt; I fail to convince audiences that I'm boning people you've never heard of. Other than that, we're exactly the same.

Up here in Seattle tonight we're huddling together under the miserable dog's haunch of some freakishly cold weather. Well, for us, anyway. To Northwesterners, anything below 40 is like Dante's Ninth Circle; I keep going outside to try and find Judas buried neck-deep in our lawn. It's kind of embarrassing, especially for a guy who was raised in coldest, shrivel-dickest Idaho that I am now such a weather puss: I used to take tennis practice in basically Nanookian temperatures, and now I moan whenever the temperature falls enough to penetrate microfiber.

On my way home, I passed a dad with kid, and the latter wailed, "Dad, I'm fweeezin'!" Complete with the adorable minor speech impediment. I was cheered by this charming bit of familial street theater, and thought, briefly, "Awww." Then the kid started screaming, "BLAT! BLAT! BLAT!" and stomped mysteriously on the sidewalk. "Cut it out, Eric," said the Dad. My urge to never have children was suddenly restored: At some point, they might get cold. Who needs that? I'm perfectly capable of complaining about the cold all by myself.

The wife is also susceptible to the cold, but I'm contractually obliged to care about her chilliness, and I do: I mean, you can choose your wife, but not your awful yammering offspring, and hey, it's part of my role. Plus, I'd like her to have sex with me on occasion. So when she latches on to me and says "I'm freezing!" I of course hold her back and try to rub some warmth back into the poor thing; it is very lucky that I'm basically a walking furnace. I may not feel very warm myself, and that is because, against all evolutionary logic, I am still cheerfully giving up all of my available body heat to the outside air or whatever desperate animal that cares to wander up and grab onto me. I think even at my cellular core, my body recognizes that I'm incredibly lucky to have this woman, and so my DNA screams at my bewildered capillaries: "Code Red! She wants our BTUs!" "Jesus Christ, give it up." "This woman is a vampire!" "So what? Give up the body heat, or she'll leave us to die. I can't face any more roast beef sandwich nights."

Earlier tonight, she grabbed onto me like a chimp on a soft-shell crab: she was very cold. "Warm up my nose!" she demanded. (This is sadly not the first time I've heard this request.) I felt her nose with my cheek, and it was positively Arctic: it felt like how Lara Flynn Boyle looks. Sort of knifelike and in the Kelvin range. I rubbed her nose companionably with my face until it warmed up a bit.

Up yours, Woody Allen. If you want, I can send you the address for Lickity Split Lesbians. I could do this forever.


Monday, 29 December
Lo-Resolution(s)

Ah, another Christmas come and gone, and another bunch of ancillary, holiday-induced activities to deal with: going out and using those gift cards (or, as we're having it, staying in and ordering shit off the net); dealing with the return of redundant gifts (I forgot to warn the wife off of my incredibly outdated Amazon wishlist, which now really just functions as a sort of depressing chronicle of my past retail crimes); and performing end-of-year surgery on the rest of your crap, which now looks a little wan and sad next to all the new shiny things.

You know: you got two new sweaters, and some of your older, rattier sweaters now seem sort of puny and maybe a little ickier next to the new guys--like parasites, almost, feeding of the newness and good cheer radiating off of the new sweaters. Plus, you're out of room for sweaters. So out they go, and they scream. "You loved us once!" But you're a grim, unflinching surgeon. "Yeah, I loved Def Leppard once, too, but things change."

Then you stop talking to your sweaters, because hey, don't be a fucking weirdo all the time, Skot.

Speaking of being a weirdo, around this time of year, obsessive weirdos sometimes make new year's resolutions; strangely, being an obsessive weirdo, I've never tried this, so I thought I'd give it a shot this year, and wouldn't you know it, the first one involves talking to oneself, or, either more or less dumb--I'm not sure which--talking to inanimate objects, such as sweaters.

Walking home today, I passed a guy who, steps in front of me, stopped dead in his tracks and muttered urgently, "Slice of cheese!" Which made me a little wary, but then he lurched over to his left and entered a pizzeria: so okay, then, muttery nutjob wanted some pizza. But then I realized that I am a muttery nutjob, and I should maybe try and cut it out. For I have been known, for example, to stand in a bookstore, looking at the shelves, and upon seeing a book I hate, hiss to the author's name on the book's spine, "You're a total boner." Which has caused (real, live, in-the-room) people to shuffle rapidly away from me. (Leaving aside the myriad of sad implications that arise when I notice that at my age, I still say things like "total boner.")

So: Try not to be a muttery nutjob who talks to himself.

Pros: People won't think I'm some creepy masher with a boner.
Cons: Does not address disturbing penchant for sixth-grade smuttery.

The holiday season of course brings with it a whole boatload of new Hollywood movie offerings, and I--as I've explained many times--ruthlessly prejudge movies based solely on their advertising. My track record is, I must say, pretty good with this method, and I have been routinely punished when I have deviated from it (I'm looking at you, Mulholland Drive). So I pay a lot of attention to movie ads, and I've come to the conclusion that I shouldn't see any Sean Penn movies where he looks shatteringly sad; or, as a corollary, where he is shot from above, walking dolefully and stolidly down a beautifully empty street; or finally, where he is shown howling in agony to the heavens, and crumples to his knees. Mr. Penn is a talented actor! He can do more than that! Not that you'd know it lately: ads for Mystic River--a film more than a little tainted by the faint (but ghastly) whiff of Mystic Pizza you get from the title--21 Grams, and so on. I'm not sure where this phenomenon started--maybe Dead Man Walking--but come on!

So: No more movies with emotionally devastated Sean Penns.

Pros: More free time to see less psychologically freighted character studies, like the upcoming Torque, which as I understand it, is a touching story about motorcycles and the tiny-penised men who love them.
Cons: May backfire and result in I Am Still Sam.

But of course, TV's endless pleasures don't end with just ads for crummy movies. There's plenty of crumminess, and at least 35% of it is brand new! For example, the hit phenom Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--which always makes me, troublingly, think of gay opticians--debuted an exuberantly embarrassing new MUSIC VIDEO to open its show not too long ago. It's really quite something, even if it is also, at times, extremely puzzling: Ted, the food guy, using a champagne cutlass? I don't think so. First of all, champagne cutlasses are deeply stupid, and pretty much only a ridiculous rich person would ever use one, because two; YOU'RE SPILLING THE FUCKING CHAMPAGNE ALL OVER THE PLACE! Never mind, it gets worse later on when Jai--the adorable, useless one who never has anything to do, and so ends up standing around failing to be witty--hits the dance floor and treats us to some of his more ferocious Jazz Dance 101 moves, looking for all the world like a somehow slightly less talented, slightly less hairy Jennifer Beals. At this point, the camera cuts back to the other guys, wisely seated and drinking, who all point and laugh at Jai. I'm sure it's supposed to look very supportive and all--"Look at Jai tear it up!"--but it really just looks like they're pointing and laughing at Jai--"Somebody make him stop!"

So: Watch even more television.

Pros: I certainly can't get much dumber.
Cons: We'll see about that, as FOX continues to develop shows.

I talked a bit about gifts above, and the wife's very nice parents had some great ones for me: a couple gift certificates, some books, and of course . . . socks. In fact, everyone in the family got socks from them--"They were on sale!" they crowed, which killed me--and they themselves were also wearing these socks. Wife's dad waggled his brightly-hued feet for me as I opened my booty of socks; an apropos phrase, I think, because they are booty socks. Mine appear to have wide racing stripes, and have little nubbies on the soles to prevent linoleum slippage, and remind me of old Gremlins. The wife got a simply remarkable pair that have what are alleged to be cute penguin faces on them, but the stitching is all wrong, and so they look to me exactly like the corpse-heads of Sesame Street's Grover. So now I want to challenge the wife to a race: "My Gremlins versus your dead muppets! Vroom vroom!"

So: Make sure to wear insanity-inducing socks.

Pros: Will make the in-laws very happy.
Cons: Will possibly be haunted by terrifying nightmares involving zombie Grovers.

Finally, today when I stopped at the supermarket to get some dinner stuff, I waited in line to get to the register, and when I got there, something wonderful happened. The guy was ringing me up, and I was fumbling with my wallet for money, and when I looked down, I spotted a $20 bill. Just sitting there on the floor. I remembered the customer before me had used a card, and anyway he was long gone, and nobody else was making a scene, so I picked up the bill. I looked around to see if anyone was digging frantically in their wallets or purses, but nobody was. I thought for a second of saying, "Ah, hey, did anyone lose a twenty?" But that seemed like an invitation to catastrophe, so, well . . . I took it. What was I going to do? Give it to the cashier for Lost and Found? I hadn't found money sitting around unclaimed for a long time, and you know what? I really, really like it!

So: Continue to find money sitting around.

Pros: I will have more money.
Cons: It will probably not help to prevent me from talking to my sweaters.

What a total boner.

Monday, 22 December
Christmas Gifts That Have Been Largely Unappreciated

AGE 5: I think this is when I got my first taste of . . . what? Feeling left out of things, I guess. When you're a little kid, your parents of course think it's just cute as hell to sign your name to presents to other people, who then feel obligated to thank little you ostentatiously, while you sit around feeling kind of confused: "I didn't give you dick. I don't have any money! And if I did, I'd probably spend it on, like, jerky. Plus, go away, as I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to nap or pee or both."

But at my age 5 Christmas, I think I must have gotten a little bummed out with people sticking my name on gifts I didn't have any say in, because I ended up taking this terrible little plastic horse--it may have been Pokey--and wadding up a bunch of wrapping paper around it, and then presented it proudly to my grandmother. She of course made a grand show of acting as if it was the greatest gift she had ever received--in fact, I believe she displayed it on her mantle for a while--but of course it was just a wretched little plastic horse.

It took all of two days for me to regret giving up my beloved horse; I soon wanted it back, and whined to my parents about this, and they took a bit too much pleasure in informing me that I had screwed myself: "You gave it to grandma, and she took it home. It's gone!" They watched merrily as I grieved over my fucking horse, probably not suspecting the lesson I was starting to learn: Giving things away is lame.

AGE 6: Trying for another out-of-the-park homer like the previous year, I rather cynically wrapped a crummy kitchen magnet up in paper, planning on yet again delighting my grandmother, but this time with an item that I couldn't care less about. Unfortunately, my father caught me in mid-fumble-wrap. He snarled, "Nobody wants this shit." I was horribly wounded: MY GRANDMA WOULD HAPPILY ACCEPT ANY SHIT I SAW FIT TO GIVE HER! Which was true, but that hardly excused grabbing some random piece of crap and pretending it was a diamond ring. I pouted for a long time, mostly pissed off because my transparent ruse had so easily been seen through.

AGE 18: Is there anything sweeter than a high school girlfriend? And is there anything more utterly soul-crushing than when she dumps you and then takes up romantically with the scuzzy guy who occasionally likes to punch you in the face? I was lucky enough to find out! The gal and I had spent a thrillingly erotic evening in my Chevy Monza once, enthusiastically making out to Depeche Mode's album-length ode to depression, Black Celebration. I honestly don't know what I was thinking: the album is like a 70-minute-long dirge; it's about as romantic as an autopsy. But hey. So for Christmas, I got my gal a copy of the tape, as a sort of memento of our Night of Luv. I got it back soon enough, along with a note that said she was breaking up with me. A note that she left in my car. The tape was sitting there with the note, a sort of unspoken rebuke for subjecting her to such terrible make-out music; and she and scuzzy-guy-who-hit-me were an item mere weeks later.

(Silly addendum: I was really crushed over her dumping me for, like, months. Then, out of the blue, she got a frighteningly terrible haircut and perm . . . I mean, it was bad like nothing you've ever seen. It was the Weekend At Bernie's of haircuts. And when I saw it, it was like a switch had been thrown: I was magically, instantly over her. It was amazing. If only every ruined relationship were that easy.)

AGE 33: Two-fer this year. Lovely.

First off, our friend and downstairs neighbor, R., always gives us great gifts, usually very thoughtful and unexpected and cool. So that's kind of a pain in the ass to live up to, you know? I mean, there's only so many years that you can lamely just say, "Look, I just got you booze again." So last year, I was scouring around for good ideas, thinking about what a cool gift would be, when I stumbled upon it: I spied in my local music store a box set of AL GREEN! AL FUCKING GREEN! Everyone loves Al Green, and it surely stood to reason that our neighbor, a 40-ish music-loving gay man, would be thrilled to have such a gift.

Later, I watched happily as he unwrapped it, and then turned it over in his hands, like he had tripped over a meteor, or a dinosaur bone. I was certain he was kind of awed by the UNEXPECTED COOLNESS of this marvelous gift. "Wow," he said. "Who is Al Green?"

I shit you not.

The second instance of fucking it all up was with the wife's younger brother, who is 24. Naturally, I wanted to be the cool older brother-in-law, and bestow upon him some cred-building thing that would make him think, "Wow, what a mensch!" (Note that this is already Mission: Hopeless due to my pathetic usage of "mensch.") Knowing that he's a movie freak, I began patrolling the DVD racks, searching for that perfect movie that would say, "You'll smack yourself for not thinking of this terribly cool movie!" And then I found it. I stared at the box for a moment, siezed with glee--he's going to be poleaxed by the coolness of this fucking movie and will worship me as his utterly hip brother-in-law!

And that's how I ended up giving him a copy of An American Werewolf in London, saying, as I handed it to him, "I thought of you immediately when I saw this." I pressed the wrapped DVD into his hands like I was handing him a baby son. Bring on the coolness! He'll tell all of his college pals what a boss guy I am. 23 skiddoo!

A week later, on the voice mail: "Hey, guys! Hope you had a good Christmas. Give me a call sometime, and thanks for all the stuff! I . . . uh . . . hey, Skot, I'm not sure why you thought of me when you saw that DVD . . . but thanks, man . . . uh, it's pretty cool."

Later he told me he thought I was maybe "trying to tell him something" by buying him the movie--always a wonderful impression to make on your in-laws during the holidays. "Merry Christmas! I suspect you are a lycanthrope!"

This year he's getting a gift certificate to Best Buy. I'm guessing he'll race down there and buy a fresh copy of How To Deal With Your Awful Putz of a Brother-In-Law.

Fuck this. Next year, everyone's getting a refrigerator magnet.

Tuesday, 16 December
All Yesterday's Parties

The weekend has been, ah, full.

I've been doing the Christmas show, of course, to surprisingly good houses; I guess there's a big hunger out there for nontreacly holiday fare, moving at least one set of parents to ask themselves: "Should I take my pre-teen children to see a coal-black comedy about whether or not Santa Claus raped one of his reindeer and molested Rudolph into catatonia?" The clear answer: You betcha! I hope the parents got a good laugh for their efforts, because their kids are probably going to be sleeping with the lights on for a few months. (In the very first monologue, a story is told of one former reindeer who lands badly on a roof and shatters his leg, killing him. Santa leaves him there, dead on the roof, citing a busy schedule. I imagine these children are going to nervously tiptoe out on Christmas morning to scan the top of their house for castoff reindeer corpses, which is a pretty festive state of mind for young children.)

In addition to the show, there also began the inevitable landslide of parties. Friday marked the annual moral debacle that happens to be the shared birthday of three female friends who have, over time, dubbed themselves the "Vagitarians." They are all three of them despicable, amoral sluts who every year take the opportunity to infect all of their friends with whatever blinding, reprehensible soul-disease they possess, and then everyone takes turns acting out Lost Weekend as if set in a low-gravity environment. Of course we love them for this: so after the show on Friday, the booze was brought forth; insectile friends of questionable provenance invaded the proceedings ("Jesus, I thought that guy was dead!"); musical instruments were abused; and I imagine that at some point someone got sticky with someone else, possibly in the rafters--or maybe the roof, atop the cooling remains of an abandoned reindeer.

Or so we heard. We're old and married now, so we left before the Drunky-fever consumed the masses. Everyone looks at us rather pityingly now, when we do things like leave the party early; it's the sort of look that says, "Soon you will vote Republican." Which is fine. Especially if it means sparing myself from, say, fumbling around myopically in the middle of some awful hyena gangbang while the speakers blare old Fixx tunes. Listen, you don't know some of these theater parties.

Saturday night was a Christmas party proper at the house of our friends J. and S. They are good eggs, and it's another annual deal, and J. also happens to be a bit of a cook, so he always puts out ridiculously good, opulent spreads. We showed up after I was done with the play, and as we walked in, we beheld: Nobody We Knew. The place was filled to the gills with what I'm sure are very lovely people, but we knew none of them, save for the hosts, and all the conversations seemed pretty hermetically sealed in that intimate way that you can spot a mile off and now what do we do? And then! We spotted our friends K. and K.--FRIENDS! We leapt at them like rats leap at unwary junkies. "Jesus God," I whispered hoarsely at one of the K.s, "I don't know any of these fuckers." "Neither do we," he replied. "You have to eat some of this cheese."

So we ate cheese, and sausage, and ham, and other great stuff, and admired their pet rabbit, who surveyed the entire proceedings with an odd mixture of benignity and fear. Rabbits have, it seems, two conscious states: Abject Holy Terror, and Fuck Off, I'm Eating. Which is, I note, not unlike the two conscious states of your average partygoer who has no idea who anyone else in the room is.

Eventually, a couple of other friends of ours showed up, J. and P., but we left shortly after that, leaving another wake of "They Need Their Gout Medicine" faces.

Sunday is easily summarized: Sleep in. Football. Flap hands disgustedly at the floppy, wan Seahawks. Go do the show. Home.

And then tonight, the wife had a bit of a girls' night out, so I had a couple of fellows over to watch Monday Night Football and drink beer and eat pizza and--of course--be dicks to each other. This is what boys do, after all--yes, you gay boys too, you know it--you piss all over each other just for the sheer fun of it. Why? Well . . . I think that science has shown us over and over again that boys are just kind of stupid and mean. You can look it up.

So we just hung out, crucifying each other as much as possible, in between bouts of mocking the dumb brutes crashing into one another on the screen. As it was my home turf--my married home turf that I neglected to screen for possible mockery-targets--I got my share. My wife has, for murky reasons I don't wish to examine, a certain book called The "Friends" Cookbook. Yes, as in the TV show. D. noticed it. "Skot? So . . . you're gay then." (Sorry. This is what dumb boys do.) Later on, they both noticed the wife's little jar of hand lotion that I stupidly did not think to move to somewhere safe, like Greenland. "Lotion! Hand lotion. So . . . you're gay then." I should have told them that, yes, I enthusiastically jerk off in my living room, preferably to the stimulating images found in The "Friends" Cookbook. But then we were back to the game, and we discussed--again, very boy thing--football players with terribly amusing names, like Algie Crumpler and the woeful Brian Griese (pronounced: "greasy"), whose terribly amusing name in no way mitigates against the fact that he is also a very terrible quarterback.

The game ended, finally--with the losing Miami listlessly half-attempting a very sad, funereal non-attempt at a late comeback; they looked like poorly re-animated corpses who had been unceremoniously dumped out of their coffins and made to run bone-clattering wind sprints while their coach chewed blackly and hopelessly on his dire moustache--and the boys left, farting defeatedly into the night, thinking of Tuesday, that deuce of spades of weekdays.

But hey. The wife is home; the evening was fun; the pizza was good; there is no actual evidence of gout or creeping Republicanism; and there are no dead reindeers on the roof. Welcome to this very John Irving ending. Good night.

Wednesday, 03 December
More Notes From The Diseased

Okay, I am well and truly sick now--yesterday I stayed home from work, and yet somehow felt the rotten urge to check work email remotely, which I did; I answered two questions from panicky Canadian doctors, shivering sweatily in my cotton robe, which felt decidedly weird, because I was foggy and all, and I truly hope I didn't lapse into some febrile kind of fugue state and tell them something baffling, e.g.:

"Skot, blah blah bone marrow aspirate blah blah inconclusive dibble wingnut is this patient eligible for the trial?

"Dear Canuck doctor. Feed the patient bacon. You should also get a dog. Dogs are so nice. P.S. I need rigid discipline at all times. Call me, lover."

Also, feeling crappy all the time isn't really conducive to bringing the funny much, unless it's in a very Krusty-ish vein: "Hey hey! I coughed so hard today I almost vomited! Mhoohoohoohahaha!" Which really did happen, charmingly; it's one of those wonderful things about being a smoker: despite the fact that you know that it will make you wheeze and cough (even more than usual) and that it will really taste like freshly grated ass, your brain inexorably snarls at you to smoke anyway, maggot! And so you do, and so you cough, and so you nearly vomit, and so your brain goes, "Well, that's what you get for being such a total dong. Drop and give me twenty, maggot!" I am of course only drill instructor-level tough in my head. Actual dropping and giving of said twenty probably would make me vomit, if only out of sheerest disgust that I was actually doing exercise.

But I did manage to crawl unhappily to work this morning. I stopped at my usual coffee joint, but coffee sounded just dreadful, so I pondered the tea menu. I don't generally do tea--actually, it occurs to me, I only drink it when I'm sick--so staring at the menu was really just an exercise in futility. But you do it anyway, kind of like when people stare at the Rosetta Stone, patiently waiting for it to somehow make sense, when what it actually is is just a meaningless jumble of incomprehensible bullshit.

And here is where I get to blame Star Trek: TNG for a little problem that I've always have. See, as I said, I don't know jack about tea. But I have, over the course of my indefensible life, watched every single episode of that fucking show multiple times, even the shatteringly boring ones that are all about Worf. So here is the sum total of my knowledge regarding tea: "Uhl Grey! HAWT!" I am incapable of thinking about Earl Grey, in fact, without mentally adopting Patrick Stewart's RADA-perfected intonation. And so, inevitably (I honestly realized this just this morning) whenever, in the past, that I have become sick, and ordered tea, I have always ordered Earl Grey.

And, it hit me again this morning, as I sipped my freshly brewed tea: I fucking hate Earl Grey. It tastes like boiled despair. But since I never order tea, and I go so long between drinks of it, I manage to forget, every time, that I find the stuff thoroughly dreadful. And mark my words, in a year, year and a half, whatever, the next time I get sick, you'll be able to find me staring beetle-browed at a tea menu, only to finally rasp out, "Earl Grey, please."

I might be proof that Darwin was a babbling wombat. If I were Early Man, I'd probably cheerfully try several times to domesticate hungry cougars. Kitty cat! I will hold him and pet him and love him and OH GOD BAD KITTY EATS MY HEAD!

Anyway. When I did get into work, I ran into bosslady, who gave me the once-over. "You look foul," she said, quite accurately. "Are you sure you want to be here?" I stared whitely at her, measuring my response. "I rarely want to be here," I didn't say. She continued on: "If you need to take off, you go ahead, all right?" (She's actually a pretty good egg.) "Ogay," I croaked.

And then--you can almost see it coming if you squint--she said: "You should have some tea!"

No thanks, bosslady, but that's sweet. Instead, I went downstairs to smoke and cough and nearly vomit. It beat the shit out of Earl Grey.

Monday, 01 December
The Fevered Brain Seeks Release

Hello hello party people! Did you wake up this morning--after not misbehaving the night before--feeling as if jackals had gnawed on your bones in the night? As if perhaps Morpheus shat in your ears while you slept? As if your throat was under Panzer attack? No? Then, sadly for you, you did not wake up in the grips of a delightful cold. I welcome colds. They make me feel . . . pretty. Which is to say, pretty fucking awful. Which makes for good character work; this way, if I ever have to play some terrible role, like for instance Willy Loman, I can use my "sense memory" to recall this sensation, and bring it to life onstage thusly: Playing Willy Loman is exactly like coming down with a dreadful cold, in that I thoroughly despise the work of Arthur Miller. And then I will get reviews like, "Skot Kurruk's performance as Willy Loman is as appealing a spectacle as Bea Arthur's moldy truss." And that's how you grow.

I'm sure you can't tell that I'm a little foggy. Plus, I can't really sleep, so here I am, talking about Bea Arthur's notional truss, which is troubling on so many levels, that I'm going to just move on.

The wife and I had a nice Thanksgiving, as we just had a few friends over who had nothing better to do; in other words, we cooked turkey for our loser friends. Dish up, losers! It's either this or Taco Bell!

Oh, not really. They're not losers; they're just nice people whose families hate them and don't want them stealing their jewelry. Although one of our guests did, in fact, steal some jewelry. This friend, whom we'll call C., showed up with some ugly lesions under his lip. I could have handled this two ways: One, ignore them and pass the evening; or Two, get it out of the way immediately. Because I'm a schmuck, I went with the latter.

"Hey, C."

"Hey."

"So . . . what's with the face?"

"Staph infection."

(Brief pause while Skot summons all reserves of classlessness.)

"Ew."

"Yeah."

"I thought maybe you'd gotten into a fistfight."

"Yeah. That would have been cooler, huh?"

"Oh, well."

"So. I've been admiring your wife's jewelry!"

I brought that all on myself, I guess. C. made off with my whole dowry, except for the milk cow that we keep in the garage.

Later during the weekend--I think it was Saturday--the wife and I found ourselves watching something truly terrible on TV. We (read: I) discovered this wretched program on MTV2 called, ominously, "The 22 Greatest CDs Ever." I unfortunately immediately decided that it was impossible not to watch this horrible spectacle that was about to unfold: What unearthly kind of list was this going to be?

It turned out to be the Ragnarok of "best of" lists. What followed was something that could only have been conceived of by The Situationists after a long cough syrup bender. It combined staggeringly obvious choices (Nevermind) with purely surreal choices (Crazysexycool, Rhythm Nation) with . . . choices so strange and left-field that one suspects that they were derived from the sacrifice of animals (Born in the USA, easily the oldest album on the list, but where did that come from?, to say nothing of, say, The Foo Fighters. THE FOO FIGHTERS? I defy anyone to tell me that they have listened to a Foo Fighters album at any point after six months of its release. It simply can't be done.)

There were some hi-larious nods to the barely-fringe: Pretty Hate Machine was in there somewhere, which was adorable; I'm always glad to see Nine Inch Trent beat out The Who or The Beatles. Also making a showing was the obligatory, cred-establishing Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, whose enduring legacy is that only fourteen people ever listened to it when it was released, a wretchedly small number that has now in 2003 been increased to nineteen people.

But the number one pick was the real deal, the supremely unstable isotope in the entire baffling pop periodic chart that was being mapped out: Jagged Little Pill.

Number One.

Babies in the Sudan wept precious tears. Sultans in Brunei penitently shopped at Wal-Mart. Welsh people suddenly became comprehensible. Nothing made sense any more (and somewhere in Seattle, Skot morosely stared at his CD collection and noted two Morrissette CDs, prompting a sudden urge to recklessly drink denatured alcohol).

It's been a weird weekend. I'm trying to blame everything on the worrisome cold. Or maybe C., when I wasn't looking, maliciously rubbed his staph-infected face on my turkey. Or maybe . . . maybe . . . maybe Garbage really is one of the best 22 CDs ever made. I'm so confused.

I'll just store this up until, inevitably, I find myself playing Willy Loman.

Thursday, 06 November
Lights Up

WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY PERFORMED THE SHOW FOR AN ACTUAL AUDIENCE.

It's the sort of thing that calls for all caps, particularly after a wholly grueling tech week featuring murderous, soon-to-be-toothless apes. We did our "preview" performance--that's really just shorthand theaterspeak for "come see a potentially catastrophic not-quite-opening performance for less than the usual ticket price"--and fortunately, it was not catastrophic; things went well. One of the theater's board members (it should be mentioned that theater board members are hunted to extinction, for many good reasons: board members are fiscally responsible for company decisions being the best ones) apparently works with the (temporarily flailing [this paragraph brought to you by the Coalition For Nested Brackets {And Parentheses}]) Bellevue Art Museum, and so brought with her twenty or so docents from the place to watch the show.

And they seemed to have a good time, or at least as good a time as wealthy dowagers get on any given Wednesday 2 PM time slot. I hope we didn't drag any of them away from their usual illicit mid-week poolboy bone sessions; and if we did, they endured the disruption with admirable aplomb. They were a good house, which is to say, not a "dead" house--a term that actors employ to describe seemingly embalmed audiences, who do not respond in any way to the action occurring onstage. This audience laughed in the right places, and of course also in some mysterious places, which is absolutely par for the course: trying to figure out what a given audience will find funny in any play is sometimes more of a total fucking crapshoot than the stock market: a line which kills three out of four nights might suddenly be greeted with mausoleum-quality silence on the fourth, while the heretofore silence-inducing line of, say, "I bought new socks yesterday!" might suddenly be greeted with bladder-bursting guffaws. Basically, the one rule is: all audiences are frighteningly insane, and should be regarded warily at all times.

Tomorrow night is the "actual" opening night for the show, and I'm looking forward to it; opening nights are fun, kind of in a prom-lite way: Chances are remote that you'll get laid, but you get to dance and maybe eat some teriyaki chicken. (Maybe you all had better proms than I did; I can tell you that my prom theme was Heart's "These Dreams," which is somehow even more depressing now than it was then.)

And since some deranged Seattle people have asked, should you want to attend, visit http://www.mirrorstage.org for details. The show is called Abstract Expression, and we're going for the next three weeks. And hey, I'll tell you what: if you email me with your mailing address (which I promise not to give to anyone except for the good people at extendyourpenis.com) I will send you coupons giving you 2-for-1 discounts on the tickets. If you want, we can even have a drink after the show, unless you turn out to be a total creep, in which case, really, just fuck off, okay?

Seriously, if you're a creep, I'm just going to write mean things about you. You can sue, of course, but I'm worth nothing. Just ask my old prom date.

Monday, 20 October
Mother Night (And Boy Is It A Mother)

Tomorrow I have rehearsal (of course), and it's a deadline rehearsal: it is the first night that we work "off-book." That is to say, we aren't allowed to be carrying scripts any more. It's always a big deal in any production, and everyone sweats it, and it's always a fucking catastrophe. There's really no way around it; it's kind of like the first day of school: everyone knows no real work is going to get done, and everyone is freaked out, and everyone feels like hell afterwards. Probably the worst part about "first night off book" is, unlike the first day of school, how boring it is for everyone; people sit around and glumly wait for their turn to look dead stupid on stage. Not exactly a spicy recipe.

See, there is etiquette to consider, and the strange ways in which this ritual has evolved. Like I said, actors are supposed to be more or less conversant with their actual lines, but in reality, this is never the case: it's too early in the process to have all your lines down, generally speaking, unless you're some kind of terrible savant, or perhaps have a gruesomely exacting work ethic, and in both cases, you will probably be immediately hated. It's almost expected that you're going to run into a big patch of bumbling fuckups, and people who show up their colleagues probably aren't going to be very popular. It's expected that even the cream of the crop are going to have to call "Line!" at least a few times, at bare minimum.

And even this calling "Line!" is fraught with bizarre ritual. See, it is one of the grossest breaches of acting protocol to actually help your fellow actor out, no matter how dire the situation when it comes to off-book rehearsals. It is a strange dance between actor and stage manager (who is, in the parlance, "on book"--that is, following your every word against the script, and noting, I kid you not, every single deviation you make) as to when the stage manager actually supplies a line. The Stage Manager will never give the actor a line until he or she asks for it. Period. The SM will sit dumbly for minutes on end while an actor stews onstage, groping for lines (or until the director goes fucking ape, and demands intervention); it is simply not cool at all to hoarsely whisper to your struggling stagemate, "Dude, it's 'Now is the winter of our malcontent.' " Your fellow actor will detest you for this sort of thing, and rightfully so. It's built in to the system.

So there's where we'll be tomorrow, I guarantee it. Someone (and there's a good chance it might be me) will be cruising along in a scene, and will then hit a brick wall. An illustrative example:

Actor One (A1): My fair Gerard! What sayest thou?

Actor Two (A2): [Dead silence. The seconds creak by ominously.]

[The SM says nothing.]

A2: FUCK!

[A1 and the SM continue to say nothing.]

A2: I know this . . . it's the chili dogs thing . . .

[Everybody continues to say nothing.]

A2: FUCK!

[Nothing.]

A2: I enjoy . . . no. I like your . . . no, I was right . . . I enjoy chili dogs! I enjoy? I like? FUCK!

[Silence.]

A2: I know this.

[Silence.]

A2: Something about chili dogs?

[Silence.]

Director: We need to move this along.

A2: God damn it. What is it? Chili dogs . . . what? I almost had it!

[Silence.]

A2: Jesus Christ. LINE!

Stage Manager: The line is, "Darling, will you marry me?"

A2: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHILI DOGS?!

Stage Manager: That's a different scene.

A2: Why didn't you tell me that?!

A1: It was actually kind of funny watching you do that.

Interestingly, people still wonder why actors drink so much. Now imagine this sort of scenario stretched out over five hours, and I'm only exaggerating a little bit. It makes for long nights.

I think I'm in good shape, but then again, I've humiliated myself before at these kind of things, so one never knows. At the very least, I can sit there, resolutely not remembering my lines, thinking of chili dogs.


Tuesday, 07 October
Work, Play, Maggots

My week in work-hell has ended, so you can probably count on me to not bitch about it until it irritates me again, so, you know, Wednesday. It actually went okay; I did have to come in on Saturday and give presentations; I also had to escort various nurses to and from a hotel on a charter bus, and while that sounds like a porn scenario, I assure you it was emphatically not. There was a decided lack of nubility among these particular nurses--unbelievably, more evidence that the porn industry occasionally indulges in fabrication--and their interests typically resided in more, ah, pedestrian avenues. "Do you know the hours of the aquarium?" asked one unheaving-bosomed not-panting lass. "They're fish," I wanted to reply. "Do they give a shit?" Instead I said, "Sorry, I guess I don't. You could ask your concierge." She replied, "I'd really like to get some photos at the aquarium. My kids would love them." I remained silent, wondering if she had actually ever met her own children. If my mom ever came back from a trip and then offered to show me pictures of some fucking fish tanks, I would have marched right out of the house and wrecked the car. In fact, I think I did that once, but instead of fish pictures, it likely involved booze.

On Sunday, I watched sports with a couple of wretched, degenerate friends of mine; they are, as you have probably already guessed, rabid Red Sox fans. We drank Bloody Marys and farted triumphantly as the Glass-Eyed Vomiter of Sports showered us in pixilated spumes of images featuring various large men doing horrible things to and with various balls. The wife, meanwhile, cowered in the bedroom with the Game Cube and periodically shouted mysterious gibberish about someone named Zelda, but we remained unmoved, and gabbled our own blasts of nonsense. "What kind of a name is Trot Nixon?" "A terrible one." "The Seahawks got murdered by the Packers." "I'm not surprised." "No, you don't understand. Brett Favre flipped out and shanked Shaun Alexander with a screwdriver. Then he called in a zeppelin strike and shot the rest of the 'hawks in the gizzard. They're all dead." "Well, it could be worse. We could be in Cincinatti."

And today was just today. Back to work, not a real biggie, and then home to watch the final game between the As and the Sox--a real thriller, for those of you who don't know (and probably don't care)--and some final chilling out before rehearsals start tomorrow night. After the game, we sadly watched an episode of "CSI: Miami," whose bright, nifty opening featured a man in bed, getting ready to masturbate, only to have a tremendous shower of maggots land on his head. (Seriously, don't ask.) And I thought, How relaxing.

(And hey, Johnny Damon: I hope you're okay. That was a horrific collision, and I worried for your skull. Look at it this way: you did not experience a hideous rain of maggots. So it could have been worse. So sit back, convalesce, and think: How relaxing. No maggots.)

Tuesday, 30 September
Nothing To See Here, Move Along

Sorry about the lack of output lately; with the upcoming event at work known as the Group Meeting, work has been really been fucking murder. (Again, I like my job. Just some months more than others.) The Group Meeting--a bi-annual event that takes place in various other cities usually--is taking place in Seattle this time around, and I couldn't find any viable way to duck the fucking thing. So starting Wednesday, I will be hobnobbing with various nurses, doctors, and other medical harpies who will flit around my shoulders, occasionally gnawing on my extremities or shitting in my hair. It should be great. I'm already descending into madness imagining it.

"So here you see the proper way to submit a teleform," I say.

"Awk! I'll feast on your eyes, youngling! What if we didn't perform certain prestudy tests?"

"Well, you'll need to fill in NA in the appropriate field, unless it's for eligibility, in which case that would be disallowed. Ow, Jesus! Hey, easy on the nuts!"

"Bother. That's not what Corixa told me. Awk!"

"Corixa isn't running the study! We are! AAAAHHH! Hey, what the fuck?"

"I shat in your hair. AH HA HA HA HA! Listen, talk to me about online data submission."

It's going to be a long week. Many of my co-workers have already made solemn vows involving the purchase of cocktails after various events, some of them ending at ten in the morning. I don't know if there really are no atheists in foxholes, but I can tell you that they're full of potential drunks.

Speaking of profligate drinking, on Friday, a bunch of friends and I participated in that most Ratpackian of spectacles, the Birthday Roast for my friend J. It was a completely Dionysian affair; around two hours in, someone turned on the global "YOU'RE DRUNK!" switch, and all of a sudden everyone in the room morphed into Peter O'Toole: shambling husks devoid of reason, motor skills, or propriety. In other words, I guess, a pretty successful affair: the various participants took their roasting duties seriously, and we utterly crucified poor J. in the most horrific possible ways. In terms of sophistication, we made "Crank Yankers" look stately and refined. I wouldn't be surprised if someone before night's end jerked off a shaved donkey on a ten dollar bet.

Christ, I hope it wasn't J. That might actually happen to that poor bastard. I hope he wore a condom. By which I mean the donkey.

Saturday was spent moaning and closely monitoring my body's frantic efforts to cleanse itself of the incredible poisons I had dumped into it. My kidneys sizzled like bacon, and complained audibly to the bladder: "Jesus Christ, what the fuck happened? It's like Hiroshima down here." The bladder wasn't having any of it. "God, shut up. The urethra software won't boot up, and the brain keeps singing the jingle for 'Mr. Clean.' " The kidneys panicked. "Reroute to stomach!" Bladder laughed emptily. "Stomach looks like an acre of mashed clams floating in crude oil. We're all fucked, burnt, and buried." There was a moment of silence while everyone stared at bowels, who kept a sphinxlike demeanor. I eventually declared a cease-fire later by sending in the Army of Bloody Marys.

Sunday was wholly unremarkable, and consisted mostly of me watching football while the wife assiduously not-watched football. Sometimes she can't help herself, though. "They're so mean!" is one of my favorite comments, which I cannot disagree with. But a great one from Sunday was, "Are you still playing that phantom football with your friends?" By which she meant "fantasy football," but golly, that was a lovely mental picture. I imagined the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride where the spectral dancers all suddenly piled into a violent scrimmage, still wearing their Victorian garb. CUT HIM DOWN AT THE KNEES, PERCY! I SAY, GOOD SHOW!

Later that evening, we watched the season premiere of the newly revamped--which is to say, horrifically denuded--"The Practice." Having jettisoned Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn Boyle, Kelli Williams, Marla Sokoloff and, presumably, the Lead Tie Ironer, I was curious as to what they would come up with. Sadly, the answer was James Spader--a rather opaquely reptilian new counsel--and Chris O'Donnell, who needs only a sudden shortage of Wonder Bread supply to give him any new job opening. Mr. O'Donnell tried to deliver an "edgy" performance, which was somewhat blunted by his eternally fluffy, crustless presence. It was like watching a jellyfish trying to eat hard candy. Hopeless. Teasers for the next episode promised even more low-level candlepower in the form of Sharon Stone, who will presumably not be flashing her snatch, also presumably over the loud objections of Mr. Kelley: "I need beaver shots, people! Beaver shots!" After watching the season opener, which of course took pains to waste the good talents of Mr. Spader, I'm looking forward to seeing how they fumble with Ms. Stone, who interestingly comes pre-wasted, talentwise. If this show makes it to January, then I'll also be rooting for the Bengals in the Super Bowl.

Go Bengals.

Friday, 12 September
The Campaign Is Unpredictable

As always--by which of course I mean "by hardly ever"--I'm not prepared to let this go. I will see this Stoltz campaign live, and if that means I have to make more shit up, then by God I will. With that in mind, I now present the seminal interview that will sew this fucker up. Ladies and gentlemen, Colin Quinn.

IP: Hello, Colin.

CQ: Hello, Skot.

IP: Just call me Izzle.

CQ: Eat a dick. Even Stoltz wouldn't call you that. And he's a fairy.

IP: He's a what?

CQ: A fairy. A queer. Don't mind me. I do that all the time.

IP: Do what?

CQ: Make unsupportable statements about people who are usually not in a position to refute them. Or those without much political clout. It kills me.

IP: Why would you do that?

CQ: It's a hedge. I'm really not very funny. In fact, I'm about as funny as sixty-five hangnails.

IP: I see.

CQ And yet I have a TV show! This is a great country. Eat some of this cheese they got here. We get it from the government.

IP: You do?

CQ: Oh yeah. We're funded by the Parks Department. Basically, the Feds give me free cheese if I agree not to make any movies. It's so sweet. I don't know when that fairy David Spade will figure out the fix.

IP: Why do you insist upon using the derogative "fairies"?

CQ: It's funny to say. Like "butt pirates" or "Bostonites." Check this: "Bostonites are a bunch of fairies. What a bunch of butt pirates."

IP: Aren't you a Bostonite?

CQ: (Pause) Oh, man. You're good.

IP: So why the support for Eric Stoltz/Digable Planets in 2004?

CQ: Well, for one thing, the free cheese. I don't know what I'd do without this stuff. (He eats more cheese.) It really binds me up, though.

IP: Oh?

CQ: Yeah, man. Is there any chance I could score some Roquefort? Because I am heavy, heavy in the back pockets, if you know what I mean.

IP: I'll see what I can do. Any feelings on the recent announcement of Digable Planets as the running mate? Mates?

CQ: They fucking move me, man. They move me. I was at Target the other day, and I was like, "I need a new hair trap for my shower." And I remembered the song, and I was like, "Yeah. I'm cool like dat." So I bought the hair trap. It fucking ruled.

IP: Wow.

CQ: Someday--and I'm not jacking you here, Skot--I'm going to be like that fucking hair trap. I am.

IP: You already are, Colin. You already are.

End transcript.

Tuesday, 02 September
This Is Not A Love Post

Posts this week will be sparse if not nonexistent: Labor Day made this a short week, and I'm taking Friday off for a long weekend on Whidbey Island, so the resultant work-cram is making for a nice psychosis-inducing three days. Also, I have a bloody audition tonight, which means even less time for dithering madly on the site and more time for horrid stress; I hate auditions. All actors hate auditions, and anyone who tells you differently is a lying sack of wet dogshit. Auditions are the worst. Normally I'd worry about the director seeing this and getting the wrong idea, but the director already knows me, and is therefore already familiar with my neurotic, fucked-up self, so why be coy? Hire me! I'm all fucked up!

Oh, and before I sign off, I must report that my inability to appreciate well-received art films continues apace: I saw Swimming Pool last night, and while I appreciated the young morsel's carefree attitude towards shirt-wearing aesthetically appealing, I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the glacial pace of the movie, and seriously didn't care about anyone much by the time the story wrapped up. The acting was lovely, though, but overall: meh.

Which was pretty much my reaction to the last well-received art film I saw in the theaters: Sexy Beast. Wonderful acting, sure, but after a while I really stopped giving a fuck. "Ho hum, here comes Ben Kingsley to machine-gun spittle and invective at the sad-faced guy again."

Wise readers might take this opportunity to remember that I have confessed elsewhere on this site that I not only watched 13 Ghosts at home, but that I also came dangerously close to enjoying it, in that Holy-Shit-What-A-Ghastly-Movie kind of way. So it's safe to say that I am best ignored on the whole damn topic.

To sum up: I'm all fucked up! Hire me! Never take me to movies! That is all.

Friday, 15 August
Oh, The Hideous Thinks You Can Think!

I'm pretty sure that the most boring thing in the world is to listen to someone who is telling you about their dreams. Isn't it? Maybe Freud thought this was good stuff, but look at what a cracked bastard he was; I myself just cannot get interested at all--they always sound either really mundane (". . . so then I ate this pretzel . . . ") or monotonously silly (" . . . except that my high school was also a roller derby!"). And they inevitably conclude with the phrase, "Isn't that weird?"

Anyway, I had this crazy dream yesterday while post-work napping.

I was in this large building, sort of like a gymnasium, but segmented by half-walls. Maybe I was imagining cubicle-land from a worm's eye perspective, but who knows. My parents were around somewhere, and the dreamlogic was telling me for some reason that they expected me to provide dinner. This is where I should have clued in to the fact that I was dreaming, as the one meal I ever cooked my parents ended up being some dismal pork chops that we gave up trying to eat and instead sanded some cabinetry with them.

So I found this dream-pond and began fishing. Success! I was really hauling the little bastards in, these little diamond-shaped silvery fish that looked a lot like my brain borrowed them from MC Escher prints. I caught like nine of them, and then, because they needed to be "sanitized," I had to move them over to a swimming pool. Mmmmm, chlorine. Just what every meal needs.

While I was transferring the fish into the pool, along came a really cute goose, swimming right up to me. He had these twinkly eyes and a near-grin on his beak, and he was in all ways clearly friendly and adorable. He kind of broke my heart. Which is why it was frankly really awful when I found myself reaching out and drowning him; he shook his head wildly and gave a very human-like AAAAWWG! while I held him under. Then I woke up.

I realized after waking that the goose was the AFLAC goose right to a T, bizarrely, but I still felt really terrible. Why did I drown that fucking bird? And why was I so disturbed by this stupid dream? Maybe I was going to make him for dinner. Or maybe an AFLAC ad was on TV and my brain latched on to it. Or maybe I'm just a budding sociopath with violent hydrological tendencies. It's hard to say.

Isn't that weird?

Friday, 01 August
A Day Which Will Live In Stupidity

Yesterday, I arrived home after work and ascended the staircase to my apartment. There at the landing was--YAY!--a box from Amazon! Always a welcome sight, especially since at least 50% of the time, I have forgotten what the hell I've ordered, so it's like amnesiac Christmas. I picked up the box.

TO: MARGARET [REDACTED]

I hurled the box to the ground. MARGARET FUCKING REDACTED! That's my neighbor! Stupid mailman with the stupid tease package. So I grabbed it again and stalked over to my neighbor's staircase and tossed it up onto her landing. Then I began re-ascending my stairs.

Then I did something very curious, where "curious" may be interpreted as "stupid." It's been a hot few days, and I was feeling it. So halfway up the staircase I decided to remove my shirt. Without stopping. You can see where this is going. [Editor's note: For some reason, I switch tenses here. It's best not to think about it.] I get the shirt half-off, and it's covering my eyes, and of course it's caught around my neck with my arms flailing helplessly inside the outturned body of the fabric, and for some reason my legs are still trying to navigate the stairs, and I'm thinking What the fuck am I doing? Stop walking! Oh, Christ, I'm just stupid. And, yeah, I miss a step up and I faceplant into the stairs and lie there a moment (still with my shirt half-off and all wound around my head and arms) and think about how this must somehow prove that I'm a complete Darwinian glitch in the cosmos. If I were plankton (and I just might be), I would probably eagerly launch myself at the nearest pod of whales.

CAR UPDATE: It's still fucked up, and the assumption is still that we overfilled it with oil. Possible sub-explanation is that the spark plugs may be fouled. I don't fucking know. Someone could tell me that the problem was related to angry pit demons and I'd probably earnestly reply, "You mean like in the belts or something?" Anyway, the wife and I unwisely attempted resuscitation last night, following some choice advice from a friend.

Said friend advised using a turkey baster to siphon off the excess oil from the engine. So, unbelievably, we tried this. Now there was a nice picture for everyone driving on 12th: me and my girl, two people who clearly should not own cars (or, for that matter, anything), gingerly probing the innards of our Honda with a turkey baster. I hope someone got pictures.

I probably don't need to tell you that this strategy proved wildly unsuccessful. The car remains on 12th. With a soiled turkey baster in the front seat.

I am the world's least successful adult.

Wednesday, 02 July
I'm Blurbed!

My friend Dave threw this together the other day and left it in my comments. It really belongs here. Now I don't have to try and actually write about that movie and can go on to actively unremembering it.

Thanks, Dave!

Tuesday, 24 June
Tonight I Celebrate My Love For Me

It's my birthday today, the totally unmomentous big 3-4, so I'll be expecting a flood of gifts from all you rotten bastards.*

In truth, it's not that big a deal. 34? Fuck that! I'm young at heart! Actually, considering the smoking and poor diet, I imagine that I have a weary, miserably chugging heart. But I've still got my mind! Which I of course am sadly ruining by watching wretched horsehit like Jason X or poisoning with drink. But I've got a good job! Which involves a lot of dead people.

Hmmmm.

Well, here's what I do got: a good wife who is taking me out on the town for a nice dinner, and some good friends whom I'm meeting afterwards for some cocktails at the lovely (and soon to be extinct) Cloud Room. And that's good enough for me.

*God, I'm kidding! Chill out, you rotten bastards!

Tuesday, 29 April
We'll Take A Short Break . . .

I just got out of a particularly mind-wrecking meeting where jargon was hackey-sacked around; I sat, numbed, while people said things like "HIPAA" and "correlative sciences leadership committee" and "de-identified" and "marker results" and "aliquots" and I thought to myself, Jesus Christ in a calfskin coat. I have no fucking idea what they're talking about.

Which was fine, since it gave me time to come to the realization that things are progressing towards this weekend with a rather crazy speed, so I'm just putting the word out there that my hiatus is starting, uh, now. If I get some free time, I'll throw something up on the site, but don't count on it, since it looks like my next patch of free time will start right about the time my feet hit Belgian soil.

Be back soon. Take care, be well, send me checks, you cheap bast--er, just be well.

Friday, 11 April
This Post Is Dedicated To My Friend Claxy, And His Hat

As usual, I stopped in to get my morning cup o' joe (for three dollars--I'm a tool) at my normal place, and was jabbering mindlessly with the barista guy. He's a nice, hyperactive fellow, has a kid, and is in a band, and possesses admirable, complicated sideburns, and is always good to me. I like the guy, and he entertains me sometimes by playing tapes of his band, whose music is a sort of indelibly ear-mauling skronk that wouldn't sound out of place in some Pigface outtake tapes. He's fun.

So it was with sad alarm that I happened to notice this morning that he has no ass. That just sucks, you know? He turned around to grab my yowling scalded milk, and there it wasn't: his jeans just kind of hung defeatedly off his waist, like the sails of a ship at dead calm. It depressed me terribly, especially when I realized that I was inadvertantly mentally evaluating some guy's ass.

This, naturally, caused me to speculate about my own ass. I pondered it as I walked to work, which isn't all that easy, because it's not like it's readily available for inspection. My mental picture of my own ass is probably imperfect, not only because it's on the back of me, but also because: who wants to carry around a clear image of anyone's ass around in one's head? So I can only speculate.

I think it's a pretty good ass. Feisty without being overbearing, I would say. Certainly downy, though this worries me a bit, for as I get older, there is the chance that the hair will coarsen, but I can't start worrying about that now. I also perceive that my ass has a charming heft and carriage.

And I do have some evidence to back me up, though it's less than empiric: in college, during the run of a particular play in which the cast wore very little, I was voted "best ass of the cast" by the actresses. Then again, none of them would have sex with me, so this might have been a mollifying sop to my ego.

I really shouldn't post on Fridays.

Tuesday, 04 March
A Liberal Arts Education Is Useful When Drinking

Oh, it's going to be a shortish entry tonight, because I've been out debauching. Well, nerd-debauching; I went out with some friends and played bar trivia. And, incredibly, WE WON!

As the bespectacled geeks who Frink around the weird server room might awkwardly exclaim, "W00t." Our team o' five took in $175, so I was basically handsomely paid to go out drinking and eating terrible bar food. Get the special of the night: "3 tacos for 2 bucks!" Are you kidding me? I just won over thirty bucks! GIVE ME FORTY-FIVE TACOS, STAT!

The categories were . . . meh. Let's see: War (they named a battle, you named the war); Beer (slam-dunk); Science and Math (in which we had to calculate a fucking kilometers to miles conversion, no mean feat even when you haven't been drinking); Lead Singers (audio trivia; they played the song, you named the lead singer--and one guy on our team knew who the fucking yowler was for Steppenwolf, unbelievably); Geography; Americana; 20th Century History, and Acronyms (did you know that RADAR stood for "Radio Detection And Ranging"? Neither did we.) The one they left out at the last minute, which outraged me and this other total nerd was Books You Haven't Read. Fucking bastards. I've read Infinite Jest and A Brief History of Time and The Corrections and Gravity's Rainbow and all that shit; it's what I did growing up while I was having no sex. I was ready for them to bring it on, but they gave me the old sandpaper handjob.

But no matter! WE WERE VICTORIOUS! It was the Lead Singers category that put us over the top; they coughed up seventeen songs and we got sixteen of them, including Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. We did unfortunately miss Jack Russell from Great White, because we all thought it sounded like the dick-in-zipperesque frightened caterwauling of Vince Neil. Those hair metal bands were all grown in the same vat anyway and have since all been deconstructed into constituent parts and then painstakingly reassembled into next year's shambling zombie models for the upcoming Tom's of Finland calendar. All that's left is for the technicians to craft ghoulishly veiny penis replicas to shove down their leather pants, as years of sopranic shrieking have left their original unfortunate members shriveled and miserable from diverted blood loss.

And since I have just creeped myself right the fuck out, I'm going to bed. Thirty dollars richer. W00t. Glavin. And the hey hey hey I won.

Tuesday, 21 January
Conversations In and Around My Body

Virus 1: What's up?

Virus 2: Nothing.

Virus 1: Want to go fuck with Skot?

Virus 2: Yeah!

Skot's Immune System: Hold it right there, you bastards!

Virus 1: Up yours.

Virus 2: Get lost!

Skot's Immune System: Sorry to bother you. Go right in.

[The viruses throw a house party at which several million guests are in attendance. The viruses insist on playing "Cheeseburger in Paradise" at high volume.]

Brain: Jesus God. Jimmy Buffett attack! I must void stomach contents!

Stomach: We've got nothing down here but ramen noodles and whisky anyway.

Liver: Don't even talk to me.

Viruses: HEAVEN ON EARTH WITH AN ONION SLICE!

Small bowel: They're making me twitchy.

[The rectum does not say anything, but mewls softly in his dread.]

Esophagus: We're all suffering, people. I'm getting gang-fucked by these lymph nodes up here. Jesus, back the fuck up!

Lymph nodes: We can't help it! We're just big-boned! Talk to brain!

Stomach: Brain? Yeah, he's a help. 'More beer and cigarettes!" That's all that guy says.

Lungs: Great, more cigarettes. Just what me and heart need. What the hell is rectum crying about, anyway? We're the ones who get nailed.

Rectum: Dude, do you have any idea what goes on down here?

Viruses: I'M JUST A CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE!

Brain: Oh, this is horrible. Hands! Beer and a cigarette! Now!

Thursday, 12 December
There is a Thing Lodged in My Skull

Tonight starts the last weekend of performances for the dinky little cabaret I'm doing. I will dress up in my finest and in a couple hours I'll be strutting across the stage belting out (to the extent that I belt, which is minimal; my technique might more accurately be described as Sans-A-Belt) lyrics like this:

I've got a tiny little pot
A little pot with tiny bells
A magic nose who sniffs and tells
And all of this we made ourselves
To entertain the princess

Ah! Ooh! It sings and dances too!
A veritable hit parade
To which your guests can promenade
While they sip their lemonade
And eat their blintzes

Seriously. Go ahead and get that cocktail you're suddenly craving. I'll wait. Yes, I'll be right here, humming the ineradicable goddamn song about dancing cookware that will never, ever leave my head.

In fact, bring me a cocktail too. Make mine a double.

Thursday, 05 December
So You Want to Make People Vomit

Tonight some friends and I opened a show (in the unlikely event that anyone who doesn't know me is reading this, I am a stage actor). Just a two-weekend silly little cabaret thing--I have three bits total. No biggie.

One of the actresses was heroically performing with the stomach flu. She's really sweet, and if you, say, felt like stabbing her in the ribs for some reason, she would probably apologize for nicking your knife blade right before she died. She certainly wouldn't be so crass as to bleed on your shoes.

So she was a little under the weather. And here are the various (totally unintentional, but hey) ways I inadvertantly tortured her tonight:

    I wandered around the dressing room eating a very pungent hot pastrami sandwich, mouthing inanities such as, "Come to me, bread and meat and cheese!" It should be noted that the sandwich also had oil and vinegar on it for that special added "I am raping your nose" effect.

    As she was sitting around innocently watching the acts, I stepped on her bare foot with my leather shoes. She couldn't even scream, because there were performers doing their thing. So instead she hissed, "I kind of hate you right now."

    And finally, the coup de grace. While backing my car out of the lot, I ran over her incredibly adorable small child, who was playing with G.I. Joes and flexing his dimples. When we were done unpeeling his remains from the tire treads, he resembled a spectacularly unsuccessful lasagna. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, "Aren't I a stinker?" And we all had a good laugh.

Okay, so the last one isn't true. But I kind of felt like it might be in the cards. Some nights one should just stay home.










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