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Monday, 11 August
Take Another Little Pizza, My Heart

My friend J. just recently got himself a new apartment! Naturally, he felt the need to break it in like we all do: by having a fry party. That is, a party where J., in a dignified striped apron, manned a couple pots full of near-boiling oil and deep-fried any insane thing that we felt like bringing with only two caveats: 1. must be smaller than a grapefruit, and 2. must not have excessive moisture content. RATS! My dreams of deep-frying a baby continue to be confounded.

However, my dreams of deep-frying live rats have been fulfilled! Oh, not really, but that idea probably wasn't the worst of the night, all things considered.

I brought--well, I had someone else bring--sage leaves to fry after being lightly coated in oil and dusted with flour; the wife prepared some balls of goat cheese wrapped in biscuit dough. They were fine, if tepidly received: the biscuit dough proved to be a little fragile, and most people had to be coaxed into trying the sage leaves with a little salt and aioli.

Other offerings were . . . well, let's say entertaining. Let's also say "potentially deadly." R., who brought a ridiculously well-received garbonzo bean fry batter, also happened to bring some weird things called "rice sticks"--items I figured you could find in the Dave Matthews Band gear list--and coated them in tempura batter. Into the pot they went, and we chattered happily for a few moments.

POOOM!

A truly absurd geyser of hot oil erupted from the pot, hitting the ceiling, the wall: everything, miraculously, but us, the idiots who happened to be standing close by. P. backed into the kitchen shelf, nearly upsetting it; J. gawped and wrung at his apron; I screamed like a primate in heat, baring my silly little stunted canines. I felt a sudden, primal urge to pick nits off of my neighbor. Flames licked briefly in the aftermath, and J. recited nervously the physical happenstances that had led to our near-scalding. "The batter formed a hard crust and then the center mass--it was too dense--expanded abruptly . . ." I left him to his babbling to go change my pants.

As if drinking men standing around throwing questionable battered items into crazy-hot liquids wasn't enough, there was also M. to deal with. "I didn't invite her," J. murmured to me early on. "Someone gave her my damn address." M. is a professional drunk with a fervent need to "help," and I use those quotes aggressively. "Hey, new guy," she said to me as I was standing in the kitchen. New guy? "Hand me that salt." I handed her the salt.

"Thangs. Whatcher name?" I've met her before. "Skot," I said. "Thanks, Todd," she replied.

Let's say this: M. means well, I guess. She just is incapable of doing well. She is a fundamentally awful person, and there's no better way to put it. If she did nothing but give sympathetic blow jobs to leper colonies, I swear to you that the lepers would stone her to death within two sweaty, hydrodynamically challenging months.

(Side story: At the bar that shall not be named, J. and I later tried to explain the terrible conundrum that is M. to our friend W.

W: "Is she at least hot?"

J: (diplomatically) "She's not my type."

Me: (not diplomatically) "She has great big tits. That's about it."

W: "Ah ha."

Just thought I'd satisfy every prejudice women harbor about men while I'm here.)

At one point, I commented to J. "I have horrible news. M. just drank your sofa." M., who seemingly arrived pre-drunkified, eventually began to give me shit, although it was pretty watery, gravel-mouthed shit.

"Fuck is your shirt?" she said at one point. I was wearing a plain blue shirt. "I'm giving Todd shit," she told J. J. sensibly ignored her. At this point, several people left the kitchen, including the wife--"I'm going anywhere else," she breathed--and L., owner of a much-commented on corona of wonderful hair. I've begun to think that L.'s hair describes a notional gravity well around his skull, if his skull happened to be composed of a solid block of osmium, which, for all I know, it is.

M. turned this way and that, sending searching looks at the walls, wondering where people had disappeared to. I, Todd, slumped, and J. toiled silently at the witches' brew of oil and solids he was charged with.

By this point, the sensible frying portion of the evening had ended, and the obnoxious period began. One fellow had brought a Totino's frozen pizza, which was quickly dissected, battered and fried; later, when it was discovered that a quantity of previously-fried calamari had simply sunk to the bottom of the pot, it was piled upon said pizza and merrily re-fried as well. P. ate it with a slightly queasy gusto that made me wince to think of the gastric holocaust soon to occur in his abdomen.

We left right as soon as people were starting to discuss frying up banana chips; I had availed myself of a shot of J.'s fine Glenmorangie as well as a couple of ancillary shots of Dickel. ("Get a little Dickel in ya!") L. was pitting his osmium skull against R. at some improbable video game where Link was fighting Mario on what looked to be Russian steppes, or perhaps some anonymous Greek ruin. I freely admit that video games have outpaced me any more; everything looks to me like something scripted by Mark Leyner.

We went home content, and I dreamed all night: of heat; and light, of dense-metal skull composition; gravity wells, fried eggplant. Onion rings. Heat and hair and prowlike bodices and nameless voices calling out, "Todd!" Ceiling-height conturbations of oil and fire.

Underneath, submerged in my consciousness, roiling under the waves, the calamari reach for me, but I cannot wake up, and their breaded tentacles pull me down.

Monday, 14 July
Hell Isn't Necessarily Always Other People

Jesus Christ, July. What the fuck?

July replies: Yes, penetrating question, Skot. What the fuck, indeed. July is always a snotty pain in the ass.

It was a busy weekend, particularly for my astoundingly dismal standards. Thursday was a rehearsal dinner, and you know what that means: Yes, on Saturday, there was a wedding. A wedding that I was in, alarmingly. Yes, there roams the earth a man courageous enough to allow me to become part of the most important day of his life. He is, of course, deliriously insane and not worth poking fun at, and so I will not sully their good ceremony with any cheap shots, except for a few. Mostly at me.

1. Not a shot, actually. It really was pretty cool that the procession of groomsmen (me! included!) leading up to the march of the groom was accompanied by a live acoustic version of the Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man."

2. My classiest moment probably had to be during the photo shoot when the bride arrived, and I said, "You look beautiful. I wish I was the one nailing you tonight."

3. Later, when going in for a congratulatory hug, I stomped right on her damn foot. "That's a twofer!" I witlessly cried, and she looked at me like I had opened my mouth and produced the motionless WB frog. She hates me, and I deserve it. Get to know me!

Enough. Let the poor couple rest, and may happiness rain down upon them ceaselessly.

That was Saturday. An entirely different event was planned for Sunday. It was sort of peculiar, even by my exceedingly expansive standards, because it was a housewarming party thrown by my neighborhood bartender. I've never been to any of my bartender's parties over the years, but I was to this one, causing me to wonder if I should check my expenditures at this place.

We showed up and were immediately met by the host's wife. "Oh!" she cried. "You're the special ones!" She shared a meaningful look at E. (the host), and I didn't know how to interpret that. Special as in fond of dipping his balls into his cocktails? Because I do that for effect, and to also clear bar space. Or maybe we just like cocktails a lot. It's hard to say, because then E. was screaming at his father, manning the grill: "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, THE SALMON IS DONE! LOOK AT IT! WE'RE NOT MAKING CARBON HERE!" And then a good-natured wrestling match ensued.

You see, E.'s family brood is, to borrow a phrase from Morbo, belligerent and numerous! I was introduced to, variously, Aunt Boo ("I'm a situation buster! Like Ghost Busters! Only situations." A child had fallen down and skinned his knee. "Break his legs!" howled Aunt Boo. "Situation busted!") and Carla, who declared her passion for the punch containing "Mexican crazy liquor." (I don't know.) Children ran amok during the afternoon, particularly one horrifying little thug who screamed like a madman at any and all opportunity, and resembled nothing so much as a sloe-eyed little Rutger Hauer; his mother's idea of parenting was to simply be exasperated and make empty threats about "tying [him] to the car bumper." "No!" he screamed back as he attempted to drop another unlucky child down the chimney; his mother shrugged. He was a tiny little speeding argument for eugenics.

But I make it sound like a bad time; it wasn't, really. E. had really laid in the food and drink, and he tended to the makeshift open-pit barbecue like a man who has singed his nuts before. Hilariously, E. also has like eight brothers and a father who all claim to know barbecue better than anyone else; even better, they all look identical: they are all about six-foot-three and all sort of resemble burlier Michael Phelpses, or perhaps several blowsy Chris Martins.

"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! DO YOU WANT ME TO COOK THAT, YOU FUCKING IDIOT?"

"GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY GODDAMN SALMON. GIVE ME THAT SPATULA, DOCTOR MENGELE!"

"CAN YOU EVEN SPELL 'FISH'?"

It was sort of thrilling, at least until that little towheaded shitbag entered the scene again, screaming incomprehensibly and threatening to launch water bombs onto our heads from the raised porch. His mother screamed at him to get down. "No!" he shouted, and she sat down again. I hate rotten little shits, but really, I hate rotten little parents even more. Later, he bit some other kid.

("Knock his teeth out!" yelled Aunt Boo. "Situation busted!" She had located the terrifying Mexican liquor punch.)

Presently, E. gave us a tour of his new home, a charming little edifice constructed entirely out of things designed to bonk your head on--an interesting choice for a tall guy. "Here's the head-smashing room!" he didn't call out, but might as well have. In the living room was a photo of himself with his wife from their marriage shots. It was almost unbelievably charming: there stood E. with his girl, in front of an Airstream trailer, looking for all the world like two Nevada desert mannequins waiting for an A-bomb test to happen. I made some empty comments about the lovely wood flooring and the . . . unique architecture as E. made another near miss with his skull versus some duct work.

"It's all ours!" he said over his shoulder to us, grinning wildly.

Children burst into the room. A little girl held out a handful of silver: "Look what we found! Money!" E. smiled. "Really?" he asked. "I wonder if there's more."

E., of course, had salted the basement of his new house with spare change for the kids to find. They raced back downstairs. E. looked fondly after them, even the hideous one.

"This is all ours."

Monday, 19 November
This Landlord Was Our Landlord

So! It turns out that our goddamn motherfucking ass-eater of a former landlord isn't too keen on returning our deposit! This is great news!

This is what I'm assuming, anyway: we haven't gotten any actual notice of this, or really anything apart from his verbal assurances two weeks ago to return it. Since then, however, he has ducked multiple emails and has stopped answering his phone--which, incidentally, has no voice mail either, so it just rings and rings! Which is not at all fucking maddening.

This mealy-mouthed fuck-wig had the goddamn fucking nerve to actually call us a few weeks ago and lick our crotches with a bunch of meaningless happy talk about what great tenants we were, and how much he appreciated us--though, apparently, not enough to, you know, give us back our fucking money that he owes us. This ALSO despite the fact that he's run out the clock on his chance to itemize any possible reasons why he isn't refunding us the full deposit; Washington State gives this defective fucking Sears made-by-blind-children tool 14 days to provide us with reasons why he would withhold the deposit; he hasn't given us shit. Actually, shit would be an improvement; an improvement over the nothing that we have received to date for our (very polite) efforts. With a handful of shit, I could, I don't know, go smear it on his fucking windows. It would feel proactive.

You know, I have to ask: where to these fucking amoebas come from, and why don't they spend their miserable lives getting cornholed by giant horned lizards every day like they deserve? Who tolerates these hair-fall-out Morlocks that live amongst us and do nothing but slink around eating millipedes and honking like the subhuman troglodytes that they clearly are? How do they obtain property? Did Gorilla Grodd seize property from some luckless condo hillbilly in some ill-fated land grab and then cede it to his feckless fucking dipshit hairless drool-emperor of a half-cousin only to have this trip-dick then rent it to us in some sort of reckless half-figured stab at the free market in rental properties? This is all I can figure, and now this quarter-gorilla of a landlord is strapped for cash and hiding in some carved-out bunker somewhere mindlessly evading our phone calls and emails and hooting miserably at the four dank walls that enclose him and wondering what ever persuaded him to venture into the world of men.

So I'm a little pissed off with the situation. Happily, the wife happens to have an old friend who is an attorney who specializes in--guess what?--tenancy disputes! So if by the end of this week this broke-dick mammal hasn't responded to my latest grim missive full of apocalyptic warning, we will certainly be happy to--in the legal sense--nail his goddamn fucking feet to a couple of gas cans, strap some firecrackers to his nuts, stuff his mouth full of gunpowder and light him up and then wait to see if we see a real Pynchonesque screaming across the sky as his primate skull launches off his goddamn neck into the sky only to blow up in the aether with the forlorn message "DIDN'T REFUND DEPOSIT" twinkling in the clear night.

Metaphorically. I feel I should stress this.

Oh, and former landlord? If you're reading this? If you can read, you swayback fucking mini-Yeti, if your scleras haven't become completely occluded by ocular damage from spending all of your time reading I Fuck Dead Things magazine while you clumsily jerk off into crusted, abrasive old discarded woollen socks that you scavenge from the dump on your nightly forays to find dead sparrows to chew on, I'd just like to tell you that when we moved out of your place, every single person we encountered in the building expressed severe dismay over the news that you were moving back in. You see, they all hate you.

I can't fucking imagine why.

Tuesday, 06 November
Be-In

Ladies and gentlemen, our long dark days are OVER! Oh, wait, we just came off daylight savings time, so really they're just beginning. This fucks my game up every time, but on the other hand, I've had nearly two weeks off from writing, so I can hardly bitch.

Okay, time for me to bitch!

As I mentioned briefly in the previous post, we successfully made the move and are reasonably settled in with our ridiculous new pad. Already we've enjoyed three fires, two of them in our delightful fireplace.

The move itself was actually just fine, for the most part, mainly because the move itself was done by two guys, who were pretty awesome despite physical problems of their own--one of them had an orange-sized lump on the back of his neck--and you know, if I'm going to have a huge fucking lump on my body, why not where I'll never see it?--and the other guy casually mentioned to the wife that he recently suffered a prolapsed neck or something and he almost died. Interesting! That bookcase should be downstairs.

But as I said, they did a good job, such a good job, in fact, that we tipped them twenty bucks apiece shortly after lump guy tore a rear wheel off the entertainment center. "Fucking particle board!" he screamed. He looked at me in the deeply earnest way of someone who doesn't want a customer dumping poison into his boss's ear. "You can just glue that and clamp it," he explained. "And maybe drive in a couple screws," he mumbled. He handed me the wheel. I stared at it and sort of helplessly kneaded it like maybe I had unbeknownst healing powers over media furniture.

Whatever. It's this hulking rolling thing (not anymore, though!) we got at Ikea six years ago. I can't be bothered hassling this belumpen geek about it, much less get into some gabbling argument with the movers over the damage amount. I stuck some books under it--books, of course, I'll never read again and yet moved anyway, despite my solemn oath not to.

And so we lived in a box floe for a couple days, but I must say, we kind of kicked the place's ass into shape pretty quick. (Except for the one room full of unopened boxes.) Today we achieved wireless! Comcast, thrifty folks that they are, sent me a handy, do-it-yourself setup for the modem in the mail! So I could DO IT MYSELF! I'm paying them . . . to do it myself. They are geniuses.

I of course did nothing myself. After a torrential session of helpless weeping as I opened the boxes--which contained no less than three installation disks for the various dongles and whozits--I cradled the mysterious toys in my hands helplessly, like an L-DOPA patient discovering a box full of superballs. Then I called my friend J., who actually knows helpful things such as how to do . . . things, and speedily set everything up. He performed all sorts of digital acts of Santeria on the laptop, none of which I understood. I saw him type "ipconfig" once, if that helps. I distinctly felt the laptop purr with pleasure at his ministrations, and I also felt the poor little machine glaring over at me a few times, sending me the clear message that it would prefer I never touch it again. Jesus, can you get me the fuck out of here? pleaded my laptop to J. You're not going to hand me back to Joe Bob Mengele here, are you?

Finally, with all the hardware installed, it was simply time to "register" with "Comcast" and get a new "email address" that I'll "never use!" Oh boy! This required a simple download; in fact, Comcast made sure you got this download by redirecting my browser implacably to its download site. INSTALL! commanded the window.

It failed, and threw out some awful, incomprehensible error message. J. pounded (but nicely) out some more baffling demands and commands and crap, but to no avail. J. snarled and grabbed the CD included in the system, which was presumably the same software. It gave the same error.

At one point, through some process I could not, well, process, though, it DOWNLOADED! (Secret: I do know what the hangup was: Comcast evidently hates Firefox.) Success! I set my password, username, all that shit, and finally--finally!--finished up. We reloaded the browser.

We got the familiar INSTALL! page. It was still redirecting. J., looking a little hunted at this point, tried a workaround that initially looked promising. Then we got--of all things--a 404 message.

Looking good, Comcast!

After a few minutes of this, I blindly suggested "Look, try just going to comcast.com. See what happens."

The comcast.com home page opened up like a horrible flower, I signed in, and that was that. "That was the worst thing I've ever seen," pronounced J. He was bleeding slightly from his ears, and he said a feeble goodnight as he tottered out the door.

"Thanks, man!" I called distractedly. I couldn't be bothered with him any more.

I had wireless! It was the best experience of the whole move.

Thursday, 11 October
Body Movin'

And so it was that we signed the papers on a new apartment. We can start moving in any time after the 16th, having parted with several thousand dollars. We don't mind.

Because this apartment . . . is magnificent.

We still can't quite believe it. It's a couple hundred more than we were already paying, but when you factor in certain costs we incur at this place and compare it to this other place . . . it's like finding out that your rent is being raised by fifty bucks, but they're also adding on a new wing.

Let me try to summarize.

It has a wood fireplace. (It also has reg'lar heating, which is by all description awesome and cheap and not baseboard.)
It has an outside deck, on the lower level.
Oh, did I mention that? It has a lower level, where the two bedrooms are, each with their own bathrooms.
Oh, right! It has two and a half bathrooms; there's a half-bath upstairs.
It has a washer and dryer in the unit.
They happen to be in their own room, too. That would be the laundry room, the one with shelving.
It's next to the gigantic closet with the gigantic water heater that appears to contain enough water to scald a regiment of war-filthed Hessians.
The kitchen has a dedicated hot-water dispenser, which is, according to the owner, "great for tea." You know, fuck tea, but that's sort of awesome.
It includes a covered, secure parking spot.
And finally, one of the sinks has an adorable floral motif.

Holy fuck.

What we don't have is a view. You know what? Fuck views. Like I'm going to spend my evenings staring wistfully out my windows anyway. I would barely care if the place had no windows at all. We could open a casino. We look out into the surrounding greenery anyway, so it's not like there's derelict mimes taking a shit out there 24/7. That's a lot more interesting than watching rich douches sailing around Lake Union any day. (The greenery, that is. There are hydrangeas out there, not defecating buskers. But we can always recruit.)

The living room is the size of Delaware; we're going to have to buy a bunch of crap from Crate and Barrel just to prevent unpleasant echo effects when we speak. When I opened one of the kitchen cabinets, Henry Kissinger was in there. He hissed, "Leave me be! I come here to practice necromancy! You don't need the space! What will you put in here? A box of cereal as large as a toilet? Go! Go! Here is one thousand dollars." Fine with me, war criminal. Your money spends just like anyone else's. We'll never use up this absurd cabinet space.

It has a Brinks security system, for God's sake. I mean, it's not active or anything, but the owner told us we were free to fire it up. It's kind of tempting in a stupid way, just so I could show off to my friends. "Hold on, I have to deactivate the SECURITY SYSTEM." But then I'd feel pretty lame when my friends noticed that I was paying to protect my embarrassingly large collection of graphic novels, so.

THIEF: "Sucker! No security system at all! Sweet!"

(Thief looks around.)

THIEF: "30 Days of Night: Featuring Linus from Peanuts? I hate my job."

I might have forgotten to mention the helipad and the wild game preserve. The helipad will come in handy when my good friend Richard Branson stops by to insult my shoes and fuck expensive whores in the spare bedroom; the wild game preserve will please me when I get my frequent urges to lope around shooting torpid jungle cats in the brain with a high-powered rifle.

If there's one downer about the place, it's the "No Gloryholes" wording in the lease. In a place with 2 1/2 bathrooms, you really want to drill some gloryholes.

Man, now I'm a little bummed. Branson is going to give me a lot of shit about this. He really loves anonymous blow jobs.

Monday, 08 October
Life As A Househunt

Howdy, howdy. Sorry for the lapse in posts; we've been dealing with a lot of crap what with the whole "get the fuck out!" thing. But you'll be happy to know that we haven't bothered to start packing anything. (Truth be told? We have boxes of shit that never got unpacked from four and a half years ago. Hooray!) We figure we'd like to, you know, have a place to live before we worry about shoving our garbage into liquor boxes.

We looked at a place today, a two-bedroom only a block away; the 50-ish bra-less apartment manager ushered us in to the 1928 apartment, saying, "And it's still standing!" Good selling point! We trudged up the four flights of curiously barn-smelling stairs to the apartment and entered. The living room was smaller by half than our current living room. "That's a nice archway," I said, noting a particularly boring archway. I stared at the sprung hardwood floorboards and didn't say anything.

"Isn't it?" she said. "We're changing the awnings, by the way," she continued, striding to the tiny windows. "The new ones will be green!" She hauled for a moment on the window to open it up and failed. "Ugh," she said. I noted a quarter-inch gap between the window and the sash. "Anyway, we're not done with this place."

The wife and I split up. I headed into the kitchen. I noticed one of those old circular kitchen fans set into the wall to vent to the outside. The cover was open, and I beheld what appeared to be the crushed remains of The Scarecrow crammed into it; I could feel his fear toxin seeping into my body. I opened a thin cabinet, and an ironing board fell out; the cabinet door had staples that protruded through into the inside.

I found my wife exploring, if that can possibly be the term, the Lilliputian bathroom, which felt like some sort of Iowa hostel bathroom, complete with an ancient, cutesy sink. The wife opened a sad little cabinet mounted above, and mustered the comment, "Look, honey, it opens." I toed a loose tile in the flooring, and tried unsuccessfully to imagine ever happily taking a non-depressing shit in the room.

The bedrooms, both of them, looked exactly like what "Law & Order" location scouts look for when they're hunting for some seedy murder scene in a shitty NYC hotel room. Hey, are these cheap blinds bent and dusty? Score!

Looking at apartments is just depressing as hell. The rent on this place--no parking included--was $1400.

Some apartment managers simply do not show up for their appointments. I guess that's sort of a hint of the kind of choad that we don't want to be needing help from when the toilet explodes from methane buildup. Other places simply don't seem to match up in any way with what these people have to say about them. We waited for ten minutes in the lobby of another place recently while the manager explained to the Geek Squad guy about how he wanted his new TV installed. In the meantime, a young girl on a cell phone let in some guy through the front door, and the first thing he said to her was, "Can you hold my sandwich?" She did, you'll be thrilled to learn. The wife and I looked at each other.

"I would say our building skews a little older," the manager told us when he got done with the Geek Squad guy.

He showed us the apartment. "You can probably tell the previous tenants had cats," he said. Being a histological comedy zone, I can generally tell when cats are within city blocks of myself, the distinct tang of catshit in the air was, yes, a slight giveaway.

We glanced around a bit. The baseboard heating units (oh, for fuck's sake) looked rather kicked in, and, as usual, the horizontal blinds were dented and sad. He raised one anyway to show us the view, which looked straight down into some neighboring bungalow's windows. Sweet, I can either watch strangers fuck, or, better yet, commit murder. There was a lower-story roof overhang that it also overlooked, and I stared dismally at, of all things, a discarded AC/DC CD that someone had apparently decided to pitch out into the gloaming one hopeless dark night of the metal soul.

We asked about the rental price. "I think it's $1345. It might be $1395." Sigh. I breathed in another dose of feline funk and felt my lungs prickle.

But there is something else we saw. We saw it today. I don't want to talk about it, because . . . look, I'm not a superstitious guy. But I'm going to be so here. I just don't want to say anything, because it feels good to hope. It feels good to have a good feeling. We have good feelings about something, something good, and frankly, we could really use it right now. If it doesn't happen, then we will soldier on, but . . . this could happen.

If you feel like you want to contribute to the juju we're feeling and nursing, well then, just dig out that old copy of the Revolting Cocks' album Beers, Steers & Queers, dial up the volume to just under "getting evicted" levels and dance all you like to track 7. Its title comes from the rather unassuming film 2010.

Something Wonderful.

Tuesday, 29 May
Death By Water

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

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

(So beautiful)

But not beautiful
For I am scowling

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

(Splash)

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

He is an asshole.
Stupid Pabst.

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

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

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

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

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

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

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

Good

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

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

I would prefer a harmonious deck.

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

Perhaps.

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

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

Don't drink Pabst.
I am begging you.

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

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

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

But I would prefer a harmonious deck.

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

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

We have an odd relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who did this?" he wondered aloud.

"The owner?" I offered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 26 April
Don't Nook Now

The wife and I recently bought a nice small little pine-and-wrought-iron breakfast table set for our breakfast nook.

Do you know how many years I spent thinking God, I'd kill to live in anything with a space that can be characterized as a "nook"? A long time. And we've been in this place for a couple years, but only now did we finally get around to accessorizing said nook with a table set. It's pretty awesome. We've furnished our nook! Previous inhabitant of the nook-space: a wan houseplant that perpetually looks like I water it with gasoline. It's such a shitty plant. I lavish attention on it, and yet it always looks like something you'd find in a Kierkegaard essay. "Why won't this fucking plant die?" I will occasionally scream, and my friend R., who knows from plants, inevitably replies, "Because it's a weed."

My houseplant is a weed.

Get lost, weed! Make room for the awesome nook-making table and chairs! Now we have a proper nook. We try not to talk about the fact that five feet away, in our newly appointed nook, is what I guess must be a "breakfast bar," since that's where the bar is. It distracts from the nookness of the nook. On the other hand, it might be comforting some Sunday morning, esconced in our nook and eating omelets, to know that at any moment, it would be child's play to make a five-foot dash for some badly-needed rye shots.

Another useful thing about our new nook is that instead of eating dinner on, say, an ottoman (me) or a lap (the wife), we can now eat it on a table! The breakfast table! We are eating dinner on a table, I think deliriously. In our breakfast nook. There's an indescribable frisson about the whole thing that's hard to talk about. Dinner in our breakfast nook! That's crazy! Tom Lehrer could write a song about this! (Memo to Tom Lehrer: Please don't.) Fred Durst could write a song about this! (Memo to Fred Durst: Please don't.)

I furnished my own little nook-y/Perhaps you'd like a cookie . . . Well, fuck, that's going to stick. Dennis Quaid was in "The Rookie"/We should totally go to Stuckey's/I'm not even rhyming any more . . .

Anyway. We had a lovely dinner tonight. The wife even set out a little bowl of savory items, gherkins and pickled onions and so forth. At one point, she plucked a cherry tomato from the bowl and chomped into it. We were seated at our lovely little nooked-up table. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw this . . . jet . . . of corpuscular red shoot out at me. Having seen Platoon, I of course screamed, "NOOOOOOO!" in slow motion before this horrible arterial spray of tomato juiceseed hit me in the chest and neck. The tomato had simply exploded in the wife's mouth and blew the fuck all over me. Have you ever picked a tiny tomato seed off of the side of your neck? It's quite a singular experience. "I'm sorry!" my wife wailed, right before dissolving into helpless laughter. I solemnly rescued a tomato seed from my weird-ish epicanthic fold.

I should at this point note that, in addition to our usual bottle of wine with dinner, we had some San Pellegrino water, which I had downed at a gulp at the beginning of the meal. Now relieved of my sudden burden of tomato shrapnel, I opened my mouth to comment on recent events, and said: "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAGGG." A shocking basso belch erupted from my abdomen; it sounded like Merle Haggard and His Walrus Chorus being caught in an industrial press.

Both of us were now just fucking useless, and we dropped our utensils in paralytic hysteria. "Dinner with the hillbillies!" the wife choked out. Eating was now out of the question, and breathing was starting to get difficult. We laughed and laughed.

Fuck, I love this nook. You know what everyone needs, I've discovered? Nooks.

Wednesday, 05 July
This Is Going Just Swimmingly

The wife and I love our condo. In fact, we've dropped dozens of thinly-veiled hints that we'd like to buy it, but no dice. One of the things we love is that we're on the ground floor, with backdoor access to the lovely deck and the lovely pool and the lovely barbecue. We've come to think of it as our own, really, and in the rainy months, it practically is our own--who else would want to invade a concrete rainland and a chilly pool?

This illusion is, of course, utterly destroyed in the summer months. This is when we realize that, no, this is not all ours: it belongs to everyone in the building, and anyone else that anyone else in the building cares to invite over. And it's our rear back set of windows that gets walked by as they march happily to our deck, our pool, our barbecue.

This was all made horribly clear on this Fourth of July weekend, when the usual suspects came strolling out, along with several dozen of previously unknown suspects, many of whom had shockingly ugly children in tow. Into the pool they dove, screaming like tortured revenants, like sausages dumped into boiling water. EEEEEEEEEEEE!! And the children and their parents were also stunningly frank about staring at us through our windows, as if we were paramecia frantically wriggling for their entertainment. I took a good deal of entertainment out of 1. wriggling like a paramecium, just to be disturbing--I must say that Bloc Party is good wriggling music-- and 2. when, in finest Seattle tradition, it rained like hell on their barbecue party. If there's one thing you can count on in this ridiculous city, it is that it will unfailingly rain on the Fourth of July. Cry, children, cry! Cry as you are hauled out of the pool like Belugas! Enjoy your unappealing, moistly bunned hot dogs!

I think it's clear that I hate people. But more specifically, I hate the invaders of our--yes, I have come to consider the entire deck and pool area "ours"--back yard. They come in a few categories.

THE TRUST FUNDS

Let me say right now that all of these judgments are completely unfounded and also are completely set in the uneasy concrete of my mind. But there is something fundamentally irritating about kids in their early twenties who have nothing better to do than sit around the pool all day, every day, and worst of all, drink cans of Miller High Life. They clearly have money--they have complicated, spiky haircuts, and the girls they hang out with are unfailingly slim and adorn themselves with obviously expensive little hankies--and yet they delight in swill like Miller High Life. In cans. Their leader--who I guess is the trust fund leader, and there's been some delightful dish going around the condo about a certain someone's fund running low--sports a chest whose concavity is truly inspiring to chess players everywhere. It seems to be defined by negative space, a less-than-nothing defined by the landmarks around it, like his sloping shoulders and weak chin.

That said, his girlfriend is alarmingly hot, and will certainly set new land speed records when his funds run out. We're sort of hoping that we can buy his condo.

THE NEO-YUPPIES

These folks are more our age, but we only really see the gal. She's an impossibly leggy thing with a trim body and the kind of hair that says "I pay over a hundred dollars for this kind of carelessness." She will lay out for hours, courting melanomas, while he only shows up occasionally for brief bouts of exposing his awful, hairy gut to Yellow Face before scratching himself uncomfortably and retreating inside: I have him pegged for a lawyer. I say this on flimsy evidence, but let me just say that he is clearly incapable of moving farther than five feet from his cell phone, which rings at every ten-minute mark, and is also prone to barking into it: "What? What? No! What? No! Yes! Fuck that! I'll call you back!" Then he jiggle-bellies out of the pool area while Legs turns over languorously to bake her back and see what Star magazine has to offer.

I hate them. Although since we encountered them--well, her--I no longer need a calendar. "What day of the week is it?" "I don't know. What's Star magazine wearing?" "Some kind of stomach-lining color . . . pink or grey?" "Thursday."

OZZIE GUILLENS

Our next-door neighboor, a social dynamo, has this thing for company. Specifically, working-class Latino gay company. He threw a Fourth of July party as well this weekend--again, it was awesome watching these poor people hunch under party umbrellas--and it was not much different than his weekly visitors: an endless parade of gone-to-seed Latino men in Speedos wandering around proudly with tiny, groucHy penises encased in polyethylene, all screaming things like "No bueno!" and, in one memorable case, "C'est chaud!" (Our freezing pool was too hot? Was our friend from the Latin Quarter? So confusing.) I wouldn't even mind the Ozzie Guillens that much--they're certainly less irritating then the Trust Fund Kids' penchant for boring tribal tattoos--except for their penchant for astounding, water-assisted flatulence. The wife and I have been woken up more than once, wondering if were undergoing attack by sentient lawnmowers.

THE SCUM

So yeah, here we get to the nitty. I don't have ANY IDEA who these nutfucks are, but they terrify me. But they are clearly scum. They are some driftwood horrors that occasionally filter down to our pool, and nobody--including me--has the balls to chase them off. They are three of them, and they all look like things that you'd pass over in the produce aisle: one has a horrible, greasy beard; another has tattoos with legends like "REJECTED BY THE EU," and the last one is a sexually indeterminate thing with alarming lumps in all the wrong places, like it had been surgically modified by Penthouse editors from a galaxy without gravity.

As if I need to make it clear, the pool area clears of visitors once the Scum come to visit. Mr. Belly swats at his abdomen like it owes him money, while greasebeard admires his tats, and the unidentifiable thing improbably smears his/her armpits with what one desperately hopes in deodorant. The whole picture is impossible to take, much like any episode of CSI: Miami. We close the blinds.

I try to think clearly about everything I've seen, and come up short. The Scum have destroyed anything like that. I imagine them not only as the rednecks who shoot Peter Fonda at the end of the monumentally awful Easy Rider, but then I happily also imagine them as the victims.

In the end, I imagine the Scum as blowing off their own faces with shotguns.

I can some day be happy.

Monday, 01 March
My Life With The Liver Pill Kult

We have moved successfully. Well, semi-successfully. Our stuff was all transported and transported well: the young lads from the moving company were actually nice and helpful and hard-working. It kind of freaked me out, as I was anticipating Teamsterish, sandwich-clutching mesomorphs who would stolidly refuse to move anything, because I'm such a weenie. But no! We got everything into the house okay, and then I promptly broke the toilet by foolishly trying to, you know, use it. My pleas for a plumber were somehow construed by the manager as a demand for a brand-new toilet, which made no sense at all, but it sure caused a lot of baffled screaming on my part, which then immediately made the cable go out.

I'm sure the events are related somehow, anyway. So the wife is going home early today to meet the cable guy "between one and five!" Or so promised the nice cable lady, who allowed me to bully her into an afternoon slot rather than the usual preposterous wasting of an entire workday. Honestly, when did an entire nation--large parts of which are predicated on the notion of good service--suddenly roll over for a bunch of geek failures in ballcaps who provide annoying, desultory service and then soak you for plugging in some fucking co-ax? For these dipshits we willingly sacrifice entire workdays? Cable companies can't contract out to people with efficient scheduling and troubleshooting skills? What if every service was like that? "Hi, I'd like a cab, please." "All right, it'll be about two to six hours." "WHAT?" "Yep. Eat it raw, stupid. Oh, and no matter where you're going, it's gonna cost you forty bucks. How do you like that?" "I hate it!" "I know! But tough! So you still want a cab?" "I guess . . . "

I'm sorry, but this is not the America I want to live in.

It is time now for me to do something I haven't yet really had to do: issue a retraction. In a previous post, I made several mean-spirited jokes at the expense of my new condoneighbors. I implied that they were a bunch of soulless cheese-scarfing yuppies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I now declare that I couldn't have been more wrong about my new neighbors. They are not yuppies.

They are, in fact, all wizened husks, near-corpses and shambling, blasted zombies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I have moved into the Condo Of Imminent Death, and it's a little alarming. In the course of one discussion in the lobby with the Head of the Board (estimated age = one million), there were three wheelchairs, two walkers, and one cane spotted. At another point, when the movers were backing the truck into the front roundabout, an agitated woman started saying frantically, "They can't block the driveway! They can't block the driveway!" Later, after I had gotten the truck out of the way, she (with restored composure) explained, "It's a house rule. There are a lot of people who use that roundabout: tenants, deliverypeople, emergency vehicles . . . " She casually dropped "emergency vehicles" in there without noticing that not all apartment buildings have ambulances on full call all the time. I wondered how many tenants had died during our conversation, and whether or not they had nicer apartments than mine.

But then, when I get home and find out that I still have no cable, and I still have no toilet, I'll probably welcome death myself. And look! I'm right where I need to be.

Thursday, 26 February
We Are Proud To Be Vermin

The move continues, and we are working in frantic spasms, like periodically salted slugs. We actually got the keys tonight, and wandered around the new place for a while, staring at its soon-to-be-ours features, such as the one orange-y wall in the dining area (WE HAVE A DINING AREA!) or the immense parking space in the secure garage (WE HAVE A PARKING SPOT IN A GARAGE!). We also have, by far, the crummiest car in there, which kind of makes me happy. I look forward to the first dirty look I get from some yuppie, so I can cheerfully pipe up, "It's a beaut, isn't it? You can hardly see the rust! I'll trade you straight across for your Lexus!" Then the yuppie, creeped out, will scamper to the elevator, wanting only to get to his apartment and to settle into a nice slice of Gouda, and the wife and I will chase him. "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" we'll scream after him as he hunches crabwise into a waiting elevator. "WE'RE RUINING YOUR PROPERTY VALUES JUST BY BEING HERE!" You have to make your own fun if you're going to live amongst many people who all have much more money than yourself.

Yesterday I made the big sacrifice: I toted three huge bags of books down to the local cat-infested used bookstore to auction them off to the legendarily nutty (in a great way) proprietor. She asked me my name as she immediately attacked my miserable offerings. "My name's Skot," I replied. She stared at me as if I had said, "Hu-mans call me Klaatu!" But that's just her way: the woman is a champion starer, and you never quite know why. She fingered my ancient Dungeons & Dragons books from high school: "These are terrible, Steve. So old. I'll send them up the the University District store. The only people who buy these are the kids in black who mutter to themselves about the Lord of the Rings movies." She grabbed at my musty, horrible Piers Anthony paperbacks. "I guess I'll take these. They always sell. I don't know why. He sucks." I couldn't disagree. Also, I was taking a shine to being called "Steve."

It wasn't all tripe. I'm a book-buying nut, and over the years had developed a pretty big collection. In fact, on the whole, she seemed impressed by what I had brought, wretched crap aside. "So!" she crowed, holding up an improbable collection of New York Times Book Review pieces, "What did you do with all this education?" I fidgeted. "Let me guess. The arts." I surrendered. "Well, yeah, I'm an actor. I mean, that was my degree." She all but swooned: "I knew it! You have such a wonderful voice!" I shuffled nervously some more. "I have a cold. It makes me sound more resonant than usual." She blew me off and spun on the wife. "Do you ever just sit around and listen to him talk?" The wife, in what I imagine was a purely heroic effort, managed not to say, "Holy fuck, do you think I have a choice?"

It was very silly and embarrassing. Then she started telling me about her 21 pairs of Birkenstocks, and I'm afraid I had to kind of leave my body.

Anyway. She gave me an $80 store credit for all of my crap, and I'm pretty sure that at least $20 of that is going to go towards a t-shirt that they sell that says, "666 years of celebrating the Bubonic Plague."

In the soon-to-be-not-our-home, I was panicking earlier about being behind with the packing, but I think we're getting a handle on it. Plus I had forgotten that the wife is off for most of tomorrow, and will be able to get some more work done (and I'm taking Friday off, which will be the Uh Oh Am I Fucked Day? Because that's when I'll fearfully disconnect all the electronics with only a vanishing hope of being able to revive them again later). Move-panic also inspires some telling reactions in terms of your relationship with the items surrounding you in your home. "Honey? What about this leather bag with the broken strap?" "Ugh. Get rid of it." "What's this old bookshelf stereo system?" "I still have that? It's busted. To the dump." "Why are there four speakers in the closet when we have five around the apartment?" "Uh . . . all red-blooded males dream of a nonaphonic stereo system." "All right. What about this broken monkey-themed candleholder?" "Fuck it! Dump all of this shit!" "Even this solid bar of platinum?" "Gone!" "And this splinter from the One True Cross?" "Garbage!" "Oh, and here's a bottle of Bushmills. It has half an inch left in it." "Jesus Christ. Make sure to double-wrap that."

Hell, I'd keep even an empty bottle of Bushmills. Why? So I could loll around in the pool (WE HAVE A POOL! AND A PATIO!), decked out, say, in lime-green biker shorts, resting the empty whiskey bottle on my tummy. Then I'd wait for the fearful yuppies to creep out onto their balconies to look down at me with opprobrium and terror. And I'd scream at them, brandishing the bottle.

"ONE OF US! ONE OF US! SOMETIMES WE BUY OFF-BRAND MAYONNAISE!" The yuppies, terrified beyond lucidity, will scuttle back into their leatherette warrens, cowed into blank incomprehension by the dreadful invasion of Us.

And they haven't even met our friends yet. We're going to have a time.

Wednesday, 04 February
This Boy Is Exhausted

At long last, the wife and I are officially looking for a new apartment. When I first moved into this place back in, uh, 1999 or so, it was perfect for me: I was single, didn't have a lot of shit, etc. Then the future-wife moved in, and things got a little tighter, but no biggie; we made compromises, we both dumped a bunch of redundant crap, my walls had artwork instead of nothing, again etc.

Then we got married.

Our stockpile of crap exploded (partially due to people who APPARENTLY DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO WEDDING REGISTRIES). At one point, we had--I'm not kidding--something like 36 martini glasses. 24 margarita glasses. 18 highball glasses. 6 discount drugstore eyeglasses. (Some of our friends are drunkards or dumb or both.) Were people trying to tell us something? We hate you! said these gifts, We'd sure appreciate it if you drank yourselves to death! Well, we're working on it.

We gave away tons of crap. We received a George Foreman grill from a certain wobbly relative, who was extolling the virtues of its eggplant-sizzling properties: we gave it away to our friend C. (fuck you, eggplant). We didn't have room in our kitchen for the motherfucker anyway. A few months later, for her birthday, the wife's parents gave her (us) . . . a George Foreman grill. The "deluxe" size, perfect for roasting, say, dinosaurs. We exchanged sidelong glances when she unwrapped it, and put on our best happy grin-rictuses, gaily showing our teeth to the oldsters. "That's fantastic! We have . . . nobody left to give this away to! Maybe we can put it . . . Christ, I don't know . . . in our bed?"

This explosion of shiny stuff is only compounded by my penchant for buying as much crap as humanly possible: I am a freak for CDs, DVDs, and, my real Achilles' heel, books: Books are goddamn fucking bulky, and not to mention heavy as shit, so you can imagine how stoked I am to move all the bastards. Also not helpful is my seeming inability to get rid of any of them, which makes no sense whatsoever, since I'd rather roll around on a bed of carpet tacks rather than reread, say, Piers Anthony ever again, but the main problem is: I can't get rid of any of my goddamn books. I'm just incapable, and so I stare disconsolately at wretched pieces of shit like Golem in the Gears on my shelf, thinking, "I can't even burn you. Why can't I burn you?" I don't know what it is.

So we're looking for a new place, preferably a 2-bedroom. No, definitely a 2-bedroom, because apparently I'll need one entire fucking space in which to store all of the sonuvabitching books I never again intend to read. I have a call in to a guy (actually a former building manager with whom I had a good relationship) to see about a condo on Friday; he said something about a pool. The rent on the place is $1100 a month, a sum that I can barely believe I am even contemplating: I know that you New Yorkers and San Franciscans pay that much a month just for your ham, but this is foreign territory for me.

And I know, I know, I shouldn't be throwing this money down a gape-hole, and should be getting some equity on some firetrap shack, but listen: I'm a total man-boy, and the concept of trying to buy a house is roughly akin to the idea of being a superhero. I could be NEBBISH-MAN! He drinks too much and routinely fails to combat crime, because, hey, he's lazy!

God help me if any Seattle landlords read this weblog. We could die in this place.

Monday, 14 July
A Miracle In The Temple

Something momentous occurred today.

My toilet got fixed.

A little backstory (haw!): since we moved into this apartment, the toilet has always been a cranky old bastard. The outlet valve was dodgy, and sometimes didn't fall into place, and the tank would gargle malevolently as it wasted vast quantities of water while we ineffectually jiggled the handle, trying to pacify the wretched beast. But worse than that was the inlet valve that sits atop the float; as it struggled to refill the tank, it hissed anemically, spraying water in a thin spittle that would literally take as long as twenty fucking minutes to refill the tank. This was bad news when you found yourself having to take a crap, only to hear the doom-flush of Ye Olde Floor Tuba in the bathroom courtesy of someone else, and you'd realize: Fuck! It's going to take twenty minutes to fill up before I can flush again! Then you had a choice: sit for twenty minutes or squirm for twenty minutes.

You end up taking that sort of thing personally after a while. And because I am unbalanced, I attributed it all to accumulated aggression on the toilet's part. I imagined its cognizant soul, a deeply jaded and angry spirit that lived somewhere deep within its workings, thinking vile thoughts: Twenty five years I've had to placidly sit here whilst various humans have lowered their unlovely asses onto me and done unspeakable things. Drunks have pissed on my feet and vomited into my lap. Well, well. I can't do much. But I sure can make you wait for nearly half an hour before you can drop the next payload of fun, can't I? Chew on that, you lousy goo merchants!

But no longer. Today, at long last, I think our nightmare might be over. The plumber was summoned, and he waved his bejeweled plunger over the recalcitrant beast; when it shuddered, he caressed its sides and whispered complex hoodoos into the thing's lid; and when it cried, he held it like a mother. And after the ordeal, the toilet was reborn, its purpose restored, its hate dispelled. It is once again childishly eager to receive our benighted asses, and it coos when we enter the temple to perform our gastrointestinal sacraments.

I love this toilet, and it loves me. When I flush, it gives a mighty throaty roar, like the howl of a Gorgon. The mighty valve blasts water into the tank, singing a song of hydrodynamic hosannas, and fills the tank in under two minutes flat. This is a toilet with some fucking panache, people. In fact, I can't stop flushing it. I dance to the song of its mightiness, and I know sublimity. I have flushed this toilet 138 times in a row now. And I don't think I will stop, not tonight anyway.

It's the music of the spheres. One of the spheres even folds down. If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Monday, 07 April
Windows On A World

I oversee a magical realm.

(Don't look so surprised. I do have a treacherous, magical homunculus, after all.)

Courtyardia. Often do I stare out my window and survey my lush--albeit small--dominion; it soothes me to do so, and to view the lesser forms of life that reside there, and their small, charming habits. They (not counting the plants, of course) are three in number.

There is the tiny princess. She is very beautiful, and loves to cavort in Courtyardia, free in those precious moments when she has escaped the grasp of her wicked parents, the Bylding Managyrs, dark entities with whom I do battle too regularly; monthly it sometimes seems. Not physical battle, of course; mystical beings such as myself do not sully ourselves with crass, fleshly touch, but rather on a more mystical plane; what some call the Phiscal Levelle. I am, sadly, no doughty warrior here nor even there. I lose every battle, and they sap my essence, feasting like ghouls, denying me the pleasures I could otherwise achieve with this Phiscal Currencie: expensive meals at the ale-house, perhaps, or even a motor-bicycle. Alas.

So it remains puzzling how such a dark, twisted couple could have produced such a fine little tow-headed lass, who skips around Courtyardia, tra-la-la, feet kissing the ground, and often her face as well. "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" sings the princess on her many trips to the ground, and it tickles me to see such carefree play. "YAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Over and over she does it, the pretty thing! How she loves to greet the earth so intimately, with all of her face.

The princess has a companion, a mighty protector in the form of a dog. But what a dog! A champion without question, he runs by her side at all times, save when distracted by a bug, or a mail-man, or a cloud, or his own heroic ass, but at all other times he is very much mostly wholly vigilant to his charge. The mighty beast, in aspect, is a fair four-pound or so, with fearsome bug-eyes and a sharp, pointed face that all who are knowledgable recognize as of the Chijua-jua breed. And when danger approaches (or, truly, anything at all, for it must be confessed that the dog is blind), all quiver to hear his throaty cries: "erk! erk! erk!" It curdles the milk of the soul to hear the sound; and I hear it every day. But small price to pay for the spectacle of the lovely princess, once again embracing the ground. "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" And the dog, perceiving something, or possibly nothing, joins the chorus: "erk! erk! erk!"

Such is the music of Courtyardia.

Only one other makes his way in the verdancy of the land, and that is the proud cat. The cat is older than both the princess and the dog, and remembers the Long Days, back in time when he roamed Courtyardia alone; seeming master of the place. The cat is older now, and probably grateful for the company, though he keeps his own counsel, and spends much time relaxing atop the picnick table, viewing the goings-on of the princess and the dog. I am sure that he welcomes the pleasing din of the child and her companion, though some foolish souls find his gaze murderous and cold. I do not see it; what lonely beast would not welcome such frolicsome sights, such joyously piercing noise! I prefer to think of him as perhaps in the grips of some digestive malady; and if he cuffs the dog roughly from time to time, or bites him viciously, or leaps on him savagely as he would a blind, idiot, ratlike thing--well, that is just play, I suppose, and the dog participates enthusiastically, howling with a mad panic that comes across as quite authentic.

These are the three players on my little stage, but alas, I see far too few of these springtime hi-jinx. Too quickly, too quickly by half, the princess always attracts the ire of the Bylding Managyrs, and her faceplay is quickly halted. They race out-of-doors (they hate the light) and scoop up the princess and the dog and scold her with fierce words. "Time to come inside," they hiss, and the princess resists futilely. Summoning inner reserves of strength, her body goes rigid, arms and legs sticking straight out, and she experiments with incantations. "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" Well, I allow, only one incantation thus far, but she is a young lass, and will learn. "erk! erk! erk!" cries the dog in protest, or pain, or mere confusion with the tilting world.

Daytime starts to leave Courtyardia, and only the cat is left, lonely and no doubt sad once again at the departure of the Songs. But the cat does not easily betray his feelings; he masks the sadness with a kind of relaxed enjoyment, and feigns as always a satisfaction with his solitude, and wanders the darkening Courtyardia, a king without subjects.

I turn from the window, my vigil over for the eve.

I know I shall hear it again tomorrow, though, and that gives me small comfort. Perhaps if I am lucky, I shall hear them sooner than that, in my dreams: "erk! erk! erk! "YAAAAAAAAH!" And might I smile as I sleep? I might. Or I might not.

Monday, 20 January
Strangers Enjoy the Ambience of My Uninviting Back Yard

It seems that one of our neighbors has a stalker. Isn't that fucking wonderful? There is a woman who apparently lives in the house next door to our apartment building, and her ex-boyfriend can be seen at pretty much any hour driving around the block in his van, parking in her driveway, or, if he's feeling really frisky, sneaking into our back yard to spy on her window. This I love. Our building manager caught him pressed up against the wall the other night and called the cops, who promptly let him go. Thanks, guys! I had a conversation about this with Jason, the guy who called the cops.

"What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck? FUCK!"

"I know," Jason calmly replied as I fitfully gnawed on my arm.

"Why didn't you . . . I don't know . . . hit him with a shovel a bunch of times?"

"See, you can't. I have to lure him inside."

"Are you kidding? That's fucking stupid."

"I know. But I have taken my guns out of the safe again."

Well, now I feel better. So we have a crazed stalker diddling around in our back yard and an armed, bloodthirsty building manager. How can we add to this picture? I believe I'll set up a combo crack lab/abortion clinic! It is imperative that I maximize the horrific danger quotient here. But there are some other anti-stalker methods I can take.

1. I will stop recycling. Not only will this hasten the demise of the earth, and thus stalkers, it may also act as a psychologic depressive on intruders. They'll sneak into the back yard, and will inevitably see the woefully underused recycling bins. "Jesus, that's terrible," they'll think. "Recycling is important to the global community. I'm too depressed to murder my estranged girlfriend now. I'm going to go read some Carlos Castaneda instead."

2. I will litter the back yard with my famously inedible pot roasts. This is almost too cruel, but my safety is paramount to people like me. So the stalker will creep into the yard and spy a pot roast sitting there. "Pot roast!" he will think, "What a delicious surprise! I will eat this pot roast before I murder my estranged girlfriend! O happy day!" Then when he discovers that the pot roast is, in fact, horrible, he will become incredibly depressed. "Who can't cook pot roast? This country is going into the toilet. I'm moving to Indonesia."

3. I can pay William Bennett to sit around in my back yard and intercept the wicked. Again, the stalker sneaks into my yard, and there's William Bennett. The stalker panics. "Jesus Christ in New Jersey! A shrill, right-wing moralizer is back here!" And William Bennett will thunder, "This nation's poor have only themselves to blame!" And the stalker will cringe and think, "What? Is he insane? Why won't he let me murder my estranged girlfriend in peace?" William Bennett will be unperturbed. "Images on television are destroying our nation's fiber," he will dourly intone. The stalker is plunged into a paralyzing morass of confusion and terror. He gibbers fearfully while William Bennett continues his ruthless attack on his psyche. "White people are great! I am frightened by the young! I'm a quacking programmable mouthpiece for the Republican Party!" At which point the stalker, now terrorized beyond reason, chooses to die, and eats an entire pot roast. And William Bennett looks on approvingly; a criminal has died horribly, and recycling is on the wane. It's morning in America.

Monday, 30 December
The Many-Worlds Theory Predicts That Somewhere Roy Cohn is Cleaning Your Bathtub

I was outside on my little stooplet having a cigarette a moment ago, thinking of a few things. For one, my bathroom, or more specifically, my tub. Even more specifically, my filthy tub. It looks like God's own biological drop-zone; it is a horror. There are good reasons for this.

1. We're pretty fucking lazy. Who likes cleaning tubs? It's a filthy job, particularly if you're really lazy in the first place. I like to imagine, say, Roy Cohn on some blasted wasteland in hell, dutifully scrubbing an acres-wide tub while winged, incontinent demons flit about overhead. He has a radio, but it only plays songs by the Chipmunks.

2. The tub has a window above it with a sill. Instead of angling the sill downward so the water could sluice away, it is dead level, so water just pools up there and erects signs that say "Bacteria should come fuck their brains out over here!" Also, it's a wood sill for a little extra rot-oomph.

3. No fan. So all the steam just lurks around after a shower, handing out porn mags to everyone collected on the wood sill.

These three things all add up to: tubfilth. So while we can indeed take showers, we do so knowing that, oops, now we have river blindness. Have you ever tried calling in sick with river blindness? It doesn't fly. "Put some eyedrops in. We need you here today to cure cancer."

That's one thing I was thinking about on the stooplet. Another was I forget because all of a sudden, I heard a sound from downstairs. "EEEeeeeuuggh." It creeped me out, but then I remembered that the downstairs couple has a baby, and her room was right down there. "EEEeeeeuuugh" again. It was a weirdly non-baby sound; it really sounded like a querulous old man trying to disgustedly ward off some fresh terror, like a chilly sitz bath, or a hippie: "EEEEuuuugh." I figured the folks had dumped the tot in there in the hopes that she would sleep. I liked to think, too, that she was trying to exact revenge for this indignity by making the most plangent, awful noise that she could conceive of. It sounded like she was trying to talk her body into stigmata. "That'd show the big blurry food machines. A nice Biblicalicious mind-fuck. C'mon palms, c'mon palms, c'mon palms . . . EEEeeeeuuugghh!"

I finished the smoke, and retreated back indoors to escape the ghastly baby-thing honking downstairs. I took a little nap, and when I woke, went to the bathroom. A shower might be nice. I moved the curtain inside. There was Roy Cohn, wearing a tattered, grey suit and listening to the Chipmunks. He leered at me, and held up bleeding palms, and he moaned "EEEeeeeuuugh!"

Boom. River blindness.

Monday, 16 December
Lawyers and Houseflies Make My Life Sexier

So I smoke cigarettes. Hey, where are you going?

Oh, well, for those who didn't run screaming, I smoke. But not in the apartment, for a few salient reasons. One, it kind of makes everything smell after a while. Two, it tends to cover everything you own in a thin film of ick. And third, my apartment manager would nail my scrotum to a chair and then evict me and then nail some innocent passersby's scrotum to a chair just to work all the way through her anger.

So I smoke outside, which isn't too raw. I have a little covered stairway that I can smoke in, with a little window. I can enjoy the view out of my little window, and watch the lawyers working out of their home opposite my place. I will not be hiring these lawyers any time soon, as I cannot help but notice that they leave their computer monitors on all the fucking time. When they split, turn out the lights and slink into their gleaming fuck-you cars, there are their monitors, burning away. Oh, no screen savers either. Just angry, livid monitors, left helplessly on, feeling their pixels burn out one by one, for no reason at all. It seems to me kind of like tying your maid up every night and pointing a halogen lamp into her face. Jesus, you dumb fucks! Turn off your monitors! At least get a screen saver! Is that privileged information you've got blasting out photonically into the night? Perhaps I'll buy some binoculars find out why you're suing your HMO, gentle reader (they're not buying the "erotomania" argument, dude).

Another little perk I get from smoking outside--this is a recent development--giant, ghastly houseflies. Our apartment was evidently built on an Ancient Native American Septic Tank or something, because these lovelies really put the "super!" in "supernatural." For one thing, they are clearly intelligent. They know exactly when I am opening the door. I imagine them huddled outside, chattering: "T minus five seconds until the big pink thing opens the portal. Then we zip inside and look for dead stuff and crap on it. If we don't find any, just crap anywhere. Christ, I love this job." The other creepy thing is, they are utterly untroubled by spider webs. I know this because I don't mind spiders, and I let a few set up camp in my little smoking window area precisely so they could catch flying beasties. Not these putzes. In the Spider World, these guys are France. The flies are so huge that they fly into the webs, kick a bit, and they're gone. Then the spiders run out, see their ruined, flapping webs, see what amounts to the week's groceries gracefully flying off, and then run back inside to watch pretentious, porny art flicks and complain about the mushroom harvest.

So smoking clearly has its trade-offs. On the one hand, I have to deal with Brobdingagian super-insects, and even worse, I occasionally have to see lawyers. But on the other hand, I do get to smoke. It all works out.










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