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Monday, 08 November
Comfortably Dumb

Some of you have been nice enough to inquire as to whether or not I'm okay. I am okay, and I fully plan on ROARING BACK like a . . . roaring thing, not unlike a jungle cat or a Texan. Frankly, this year has been a huge pile of shit on pretty much all fronts (to the extent that a huge pile of shit can make crafty tactical maneuvers), and it's been a little demoralizing and a lot making-Skot-not-feel-like-doing-much-ish.

So I'm sorry for the terrible lapse in failing to provide you with puerile rips on movies I have not yet seen and the dearth of stories about the places I have peed on in my storied history. THIS SHALL BE RECTIFIED! For all my snideness, I thank you for your kindness in inquiring after me.

Soon, my pretties. *pets ugly white cat* Soon, I will destroy civilization. Wait, is that camera on? I meant to say, "Soon, I'll stop being such a putz." Get lost, cat! The shit I say when you're around!

Monday, 10 May
Yakima Sax

Last week was our seventh anniversary, and in order to properly celebrate the dismal slog that has been our marriage, the wife and I decided to travel to Yakima, where we spent the entire joyless time playing golf, and when exhausted by our efforts, watched golf on television.

Not really. I mean, not about Yakima; we did go there, voluntarily. We went there because Yakima is surrounded by approximately nine million wineries, and it was our intent to pillage them all. Seriously, fuck golf. Golf courses should be stormed by right-thinking people who happen to own assault rifles. Anyway, we didn't do that either, as we are a shiftless couple who probably wouldn't be bothered to climb out of bed without the allure of free (or cheap) wine tastings.

The ride over to Yakima was . . . well, it sucked. Driving over the pass, I was subjected to twenty-yard visibility in the driving rain; I white-knuckled it for miles as insane assholes in SUVs screamed by me doing at least 80, throwing up rooster-tails of road spray at me. I hope they all drove up the ass of some fucking semi and died screaming in their fiery cockmobiles. I thought once I cleared the pass I was in the clear, but no: soon after our descent, I was greeted by risible signs advertising "very strong crosswinds," but they turned out to be no joke. Certain sections of the freeway--particularly where there was no hill cover, which was everywhere--meant that I struggled to keep the car from becoming airborne. It was like being buffeted by Hell's own flatulence. However, my superb automotive skills and our Plymouth's natural surefootedness prevented us from becoming a meteorite.

Eventually, we reached our hotel--a suite, actually, with, like a kitchen and stuff--generically named something like the Bonestone or Feathernerf or Eyebrow Suites or whatever. I don't really care, as long as the sheets aren't encrusted with an unreasonable amount of filth, and the Eyebrow Suites did not disappoint: I've seen much worse filth. I immediately turned on ESPN, which has been scientifically proven to allow the average traveler to ignore ambient filth, as the average ESPN commentator has been shown to be far more repellent than an encrustation of dried semen.

We went out to dinner the first night. We selected---I selected--a Mexican restaurant. Wineries attract a significant amount of migrant labor, so I reasoned, hey, they won't tolerate shitty Mexican food! Right?

No.

The wallpaper loudly argued with the surrounding artwork; the former featured weird frilly grandma touches; the latter included at least one haunting painting of a clown. I imagined John Wayne Gacy tucking into some woeful mole before enthusiastically slaughtering a few teenagers. The wife mercifully ordered some reasonably edible burritos, but I made the colossal blunder of trying out the place's Cubist interpretation of chile Colorado.

It was like no chile Colorado I have ever seen. Nor tasted. Nor spat out in utter revulsion. To begin with, to put it not very delicately, it looked like a loose bowel movement on a plate. Have you ever seen a chile Colorado that had absolutely no relation to the color red? I have. It haunts my dreams. In the new remake of "Nightmare on Elm Street," this is what Freddy serves to his victims. Buried in its depths, mysteriously, were quartered tomatoes, left whole, as if to mock their previously healthy red life. It was like a recipe served up by William Burke. On the other hand, nobody that Burke killed, to my knowledge, was coated with slimy onions and served with refried beans topped with gumpaste cheddar. I could be wrong.

Happily, this inedible meal was the only one to be had on our trip. As an example, our next night at the Eyebrow, we went to the Fuddruckerish establishment happily located right in our parking lot, "Bob's Burgers & Brews." Lacking only half a convertible (and Hans Moleman) sticking out of a wall, Bob's did not falsely advertise. They had burgers (massive, discus-sized burgers) and brews (bladder-straining 24-ounce brews). Fortunately, they also had a 21-and-over lounge which insulated us one afternoon from a howling, blood-drenched pack of little leaguers who clawed each other savagely in the waiting area. Compared to the feculent chile Colorado previously described, it was relative heaven. BOB! Truly, your bathmat-sized burgers are indeed digestible, assuming you are not a corpse! And if you are in fact dead, then please know, revenant, that your loyal employees continue to reliably fill your shakers with seasoned salt after your demise.

And then we went on to visit thousands (read: half a dozen) wineries, all of whom are apparently contractually obligated to own gigantic, intimidating dogs. I have no problem with this, as evidenced by the two cases of wine currently being drunk at a breakneck pace by our humble household. DOGS! Go bite those assholes who drive like maniacs over the pass! BOB! Rouse yourself from your grave and go give that Mexican restaurant shit for serving inedible chile Colorado! WINE! Ah . . . sit there placidly and wait for us to decapitate you and drink your essence.

All is well.

Tuesday, 27 October
Chicago Loop

I stopped by a neighborhood bar on my way home from work today. An old burnout guy was sitting there a few stools down--I think his name is Tom--and he's of the horrible sort who likes to talk to strangers (like me) by way of chuckling to himself and trying to invite conversation. Today, he managed to engage the indefatigable Josh, the bartender, thusly: "I mean, don't you think the moon landing was a scam? They wanted to embarrass the Russians, after all." I glared fixedly into my newspaper; Josh was all like, "Yeah, uh . . . that shit was crazy."

Tom chuckled some more after Josh scampered away; he was trying to get me to ask him what was so funny. I declined his chuckly advances. Meanwhile, the hellish radio station that Josh had on blared away with songs like "I'm Too Sexy," "I Am Your Venus," "The Heat Is On" and "Your Love." The latter song, by the Outfield, by the way, has been shown, upon prolonged exposure, to drive spiders absolutely insane, causing them to spin webs that look like line drawings of Marlonn Wayans' face. Nobody knows why, but that's the God's truth. White Chicks 2 will, I'm sure, explain this bit of Wayans ephemera.

This is all, of course, meaningless, except to sort of outline how shitty my lousy afternoon was, what with the Wayans-related-arachnoid-chuckling-burnout case and all that, other than to alert me to the fact that this afternoon was in every way superior to last week.

See, last week, I had to fly to Chicago for work for our semiannual conference. It's a combo buffet of a training seminar along with dreary meetings where everyone gets together to discuss the various ways in which we have been utterly unsuccessful in finding ways to cure cancer. "So here's how you fill out these web forms. Now, in a few minutes, we'll talk about the relative uselessness of bisphosphonates."

Tuesday--all day--was a travel day for me, so no heavy lifting there. Just the usual rectal invasion by the TSA. ("You have a muppet up your asshole." "Oh, that's where Grover likes to nap.") I checked into my hotel room without incident and was improbably ensconced in a weird suite at the Hyatt on the 34th floor, where I immediately bounced on the king-sized bed for sixteen minutes and marveled that I had two different phones. Then I came to the dispiriting realization that every time I wanted a cigarette, I'd have to travel down 34 floors. I let my bed-bouncing gloomily subside, and decided to get a beer and a bite.

In a not-rare moment of terrible judgment, I opted for an in-house hotel bar of a weak--very weak--Irish theme called, ominously, "Daddy-Os." I ask you. "Daddy-Os?" That's like going to an allegedly Scottish place called "Paul Haggis" or a lesbian joint titled "Furburgers." I'm a moron.

Anyway, I got this pulled pork sandwich (oh, shut up). It was fire-engine red and tasted like a fire engine. I got about four bites in before my dead-tired brain finally realized, "Hey! This tastes like death." I pushed the thing away from me to the perplexed bartender, who asked if everything was all right. "I'm in the most inexplicably named Irish bar ever," I explained. The Daddy-Os bartender shrugged and dumped my sandwich into the garbage, and I raised a tired mental cheer over its demise.

My duties the next morning were easy: I was to preside over the "drop-in" desk, where I registered people to our conference who where too distracted or simple to register online via a rather simple set of checkboxes. It's a lot like, I would imagine, screening contestants for "The Price is Right." There were four of them who registered; I resisted the urge to ask them how much a can of Del Monte green beans retailed for, but only barely. I also grabbed a cheap latte.

By 11:00, my stomach was in turmoil, and not just because of crippling ennui. I went out with a co-worker for a smoke, and began shaking uncontrollably (though not so uncontrollably that I couldn't raise my cigarette to my mouth).

"You're getting that from one cup of coffee?" exclaimed my friend. "Wow"

"Fucking hell," I replied. Then I dropped my cigarette.

"Whoa!" cried a bum passing by. Then he apologetically cadged a cigarette, which I gave him after a complicated bit of negotiation with my coat pocket.. "I just got out of prison," he explained.

"He looks better than you do," said my co-worker. "You're fucking swell," I chattered.

I was sent to bed for the afternoon.

And the next.

In other words, I went to Chicago for three days, and I spent one of them in a horrible hotel bar eating chromium pork sandwich and the next two shivering and puking in my hotel room. The kicker is, the last time I had to travel for work, I got food poisoning. The lesson is clear: I should never leave home.

I went through a few thoughts about this ordeal. At first I thought it was (yet again) food poisoning. Then I got to fretting about H1N1 and moved swiftly on to dark ideas about a pneumonia reoccurence. But when I got home to my wife--who has the immune system of a Borg drone--she offhandedly mentioned that a 24-hour stomach flu bug had been roaring through her preschool popluation, and I moaned out load.

Tomorrow night, we celebrate her birthday. I love her, so I will resist the urge to fart into her eggs or whatever. I'm not sure I'll be able to resist playing the Outfield, though.

Wednesday, 26 August
Gorillas In The Misc.

Been pretty quiet around here lately, huh? There's a good reason for that: my life is almost unutterably dull. But here, in the spirit of . . . something that I do not have a word for . . . let me give you some excerpts from recent goings-on!

You remember a post a while ago bragging about my winning at poker? Yeah, you can go ahead and ignore that. We had another poker night, and not only was I knocked out first (my pocket queens ran up against pocket aces), I didn't win one single hand. Joining me at the table was a guy named (allegedly) Elvis, who sported a good old fashioned handlebar moustache and who has no social skills at all, and a guy named Bert, who eventually won, and I assume ran home to roll around ecstatically on his tiny pile of money, upon which he later fucked his muppet gay lover.

Oh, and then a couple weeks later I lost at a fundraiser poker tournament, though not so spectacularly. This time I lost to a perfectly nice matronly gal who called my pocket sevens with absolutely nothing but suited cards--I think one of them might have been the joker of diamonds--and rivered a flush. I think it's safe to say that my terrifying reign of terrifying terror is over and that Phil Ivey should stop nervously throwing rocks at my wife.

You know, I have been meaning to write some stuff. Last week, I came up with an idea, too! I had it all planned out. It was to have been called "Hollywood Celebrities Who Are Also Elements." Here are some of the things I actually wrote down. Seriously, I'm transcribing this off of my scribblings on a Premera Blue Cross bill.

Weird Aluminum Yankovich
Molybdenum Shannon
Bradium Pitt
Cesiummer Glau
Max Vanadium Sydow (Jesus Christ)
Beryllium Streep
Timothydrogen Olyphant
Radon Chong

So I guess I'm losing my mind, probably because of my poker-related poverty conditions that have caused me to shoot rats for food. I got as far as typing out this:

RADON CHONG

"This faintly famous actress, known for her work in such movies as The Color Purple and Soul Man, later became known for becoming the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon Chong poisoning occurs when areas without adequate ventilation build up high amounts of radon gas. This can occur in underground mines, basements and in the homes of viewers of Commando."

Hilarious! Don't you wish I had filled out the rest of the list?

What else? Oh, right, I got a fresh lesson in WHAT NOT TO DO: Do not go out on the town with bartenders. I went out with my friend Will, who tends bar at The Place That Shall Not Be Named, and here's the thing. Bartenders all tend to know each other. We went up to Liberty, a perfectly lovely little jewel box of a lounge, and immediately the bartender there zoomed over armed with four bottles of whiskey, three of which I had never heard of. (Alternate strategy: always go out on the town with bartenders.) He proceeded to pour us shot after shot of gratis (dynamite) booze; I hadn't even gotten around to eating anything.

Here's another thing: bartenders are willfully perverse animals, given to doing insane things for no good reason at all. Which doesn't go far explaining why Will ordered us some daquiri shots, or, later, when ordering two shots of vodka, sorrowfully told our waitress, "Man, I hate vodka." But she was a pro, and didn't blink at this illogic. The next day, Will asked me, "Did I even eat anything?" Will is fifteen years younger and me and is famous for eating anything that comes into his ambit. "You ate the galaxy," I said. "You are Galactus. Then you drank God's shining blood."

"Who's Galactus?" he said, so I punched him in the face. Then he ordered a couple of killer bee shots, even though we were in a library. Don't go out on the town with bartenders, I'm telling you. Don't even go to the library.

Monday, 23 March
Scotch Hop

Last week, here's what happened. I was hanging out at my favorite bar when their Bacardi rep showed up. He offered my bartender--a fine fellow named Eric--a ticket to a single-malt scotch event hosted by the "Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America, Lt." Eric immediately asked him for another ticket, casually and laconically, and received one from the rep. He then called out over the bar: "Skot, do you wanna go to a scotch tasting held by industry?"

I tried not to have a stroke. "Yes," I replied neutrally.

"You available next Friday?" he asked. "Yes," I said again. I continued to sit quietly.

"Okay."

This last Friday, I went to the Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society of America, Ltd.'s Seattle get-together held at the fancy-schmancy Rainier Club. Co-sponsored by the "Robb Report," whatever that is. "Regular" tickets are supposed to go for $130.

It was, wonderfully, a "jacket required" affair, which, on the West Coast, is a complete joke. Over here, you wear shorts to funerals. But there we were, me and Eric, who met up at a McCormick & Schmick's for a beer, attired in suits; we might as well have been wearing zebra costumes. Eric is six and a half feet tall, so he was looking like a superhero; I am nearly a foot shorter than him, meaning that I looked like an unemployed shoe model.

Once at the event, things proceeded alarmingly apace. When Eric presented our credentials--mine completely falsified--we were directed to the "center lane." There was nobody else in the center lane. We breezed by sixty or so people in one quick dash, and bathed in their appalled gazes. Eric jerked his shoulders proudly, and then we were in the maw of the beast, surrounded by strange besuited beasts and their appalling trophy chicks.

I heard things like this (okay, not really)::

"My cravat is unstoppable.
"I really think that monocles are coming back.
"Smile! Your tits really bounce when you smile."

More later.

Monday, 16 March
All Apologies

You know what? I'm done apologizing to you assholes. Yes, you: my readers. Assholes. Every one of you. I won't give you the satisfaction of saying "I'm sorry."

I started this thing back in 2002, and I posted my balls off. Seriously, this blog was my orchiectomy. FIVE DAYS A WEEK I POSTED. Man, I posted poetry satires that were thuddingly inexpert; I posted fantasias about what it would be like if elements were high school students; I posted ranting nonsense about computer crashes that I understood nothing about. I had so much energy, so much to share! Then I stopped posting every damn day. Probably because I didn't have balls any more. I gave you my balls.

So I stopped posting every day. I cut back to three days a week, mostly writing cheap shots at movies I hadn't seen and probably will never see, God willing. Still I remained ball-less. They weren't growing back. You didn't care.

Eventually, I got down to posting once a week. That's enough for those unslavering creeps, I thought. Now my balls will gloriously return. You remained silent. Oh, sure, every now and then you'd leave a comment. "LOL" you would listlessly type into my famously obstinant comment box. "I liek it!"

Then--then!--I got sick for a while and my posts dropped to nothing. And so what happens? You bitch me out. "Hey, fucko, what's with the nothing? Give us our something! GARRRRR, OUTRAGE!"

Yeah, well, fuck all y'all. Here, let me check on something. Oh, yeah! Still no balls! You fucking sack-thieves.

What do you want from me? You want more takedowns of horrible movies that I can't be bothered to actually watch? (Exception: any Nic Cage movie.) Another greasy rip on CSI: Miami? (Okay, tonight's episode was even more deliriously insane than usual. An air marshal colludes with a stewardess to smuggle French sleeping aids into the country resulting in the death of another stewardess who winds up in a baggage carousel! MWAH!) You want more tortured fake poetry? Fine! Try this on!

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.

Okay, so that's actually Philip Larkin, but you see my (and, to a lesser extent, Larkin's) point. That point being, I'm still smooth like a Ken doll down there. I mean, I've still got wang, and plenty of it, but what good is wang without the wheels? It's like having a car jack without a tire iron, or a different, much better analogy; perhaps involving my parents.

You see? I'm spinning my wheels here, and all you want is blood and profane critiques of Axe body spray ads. Or tirades against rotoscoping, or just me mashing my keyboard with my choad. I give and very occasionally give, and two or three of you just demand more! It's unbearable.

I've just about mined every tedious childhood memory I can stand to recall. Oh, sure, there was that one time my mom made tuna casserole and forgot to put in the tuna. Jesus fucking Christ, that was awesome. (Full story: one time, my mom forgot to put the tuna into a tuna casserole. It was hilarious because without tuna, it's not really a tuna casserole, and also because I fucking hate tuna. Oh, and also, my mother had early-onset Alzheimer's, and I stole all her pills and sold them to the guys who smoked in the parking lot. They beat me savagely anyway. Don't worry; I killed them all long ago, and as far as I know, my mother is drooling comfortably into a government-bought pillow, so that's all good.)

I don't mean to sound bitter. I just want to make you happy; but more importantly, I want to make me happy, and that means making you cretinous bastards . . . happy. It's confusing to me. I can barely get out of bed in the afternoon, or sometimes late evening. Sometimes I use a cane.

This is all coming out wrong. A little bit of writer's block is to be expected every now and then. I guess I just really miss my--if I may say--pretty awesome balls. It's not your fault to want things. I want things. I'd actually say that I want all things. But mostly my balls.

This isn't your fault. It's my fault. It's nobody's fault. It's Nic Cage's fault.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm sorry.

Tuesday, 17 February
There's A Ghost In Me That Wants To Say I'm Sorry

Walking home from work today, while crossing the street, I found myself pulling a good old-fashioned double take. For I beheld, driving by, my dead grandmother, driving a shiny silver sedan. She was craning her neck to see better, in that grandmotherly way that says, "I'd better get a good look at who I'm about to run over." It was eerie. I'm turning into Hunter Thompson, I thought. I checked myself for ether.

I really gave her the eyeball, too; she was just a damn ringer. It was so stop-in-my-tracks obvious that it wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I hope she noticed; it might have thrown a charge into the old broad's day. Say! she'd think. That ugly little fellow is, as the kids say, checking me out! I've still got it! Then, if she really was like my grandmother, she would go on to distractedly say something really racist.

(It would always kill me when I'd visit my grandmother in LA when I was a kid. Driving around the Valley, every time she saw any graffiti, she'd mutter darkly, "Mexicans," and shake her head.)

Then, last night, one of our dining room lights blew.

Bear with me here, people!

So, yeah, when the wife turned on the dining room lights for dinner, a bulb--though, I found out later, not a bulb at all, but some ridiculously tiny little transistory-looking thing that frankly never had any business putting out that kind of candlepower in the first place--went pop! and scared the shit out of us, as it always does to everyone in the history of light bulbs. Well, whatever; nothing to do about it now. I wasn't about to climb up and fuck with removing the glass shade and all that, especially since we likely didn't have any extra bulbs around (and as we know now, we also don't have any alien technology in the house to replace the not-bulbs-at-all). We ate in the semi-dark and pretended to be cavemen.

Later, around 12:30, the wife was preparing for bed, and she began to turn out some lights. The dining room light refused to turn off.

"Okay, the light isn't turning off," she said. I turned and saw her poking at the light switch. Being an excellent example of the purposefully ineffectual husband, I immediately strode over to the recalcitrant light switch and poked at it authoritatively a few dozen times. The light remained on.

"God fucking damn it," I said, and stared at the fixture with a familiar blend of determination and hopelessness. You're going to climb up and fuck with that stupid ceiling light, and you're going to fail, and then you're going to get even more pissed off, I thought.

Which I did, in the process discovering the bizarre little not-bulbs that were clearly made by Thai children who bend wires with their teeth. The not-bulb continued burning furiously, and was too hot for me to remove, even when I tried wearing my very handyman-ish black leather gloves. The wife at this point had retired to the kitchen, where she rooted around for the little fire extinguisher that we keep handy in a bottom cupboard behind a Dutch oven and a stockpot. The nonresponsive light switch was on a dimmer; when the not-bulb went, it apparently took the rheostat with it. Our electrician Josh came out this morning to take care of it.

Why are you on a first-name basis with your electrician, you ask? WELL, I'M NOT. My wife is, and not only because she is fucking him on the side.

We met Josh about a month ago when on of our track lighting units croaked. Josh came over, briefly fucked my wife, and explained. A summary:

Prior to Josh's visit, one of our six-halogen tracks had a few dead bulbs. Being incredibly sedentary, we just sort of lived with the squinting half-lit existence until one of us broke (the wife) and went and bought some new bulbs. We had noticed on each bulb housing the label informing us that the max was 50W. Sweet! So finally one night we loaded the track unit with a bunch of shiny new 50W bulbs and basked in the shocking illumination suddenly brightening every corner of our living room.

"You can really see the cobwebs!" we cried. Then the lights began to flutter and wow in a kind of disco sequence, and then they all went out together.

We found out later that while each housing was definitely up to snuff for 50W bulbs, the transformer for the track was good for only 150W total, and we had tried ramming nearly twice that through the miserable little beast, and it kicked its electromagnetic legs up in the air as it died.

"Probably ought to put 20W bulbs in this track from now on," said Josh laconically. "See you Thursday," he said to my wife as he left. This was a month after the actual unit died, which was how long it took Josh to locate a replacement transformer sufficiently underpowered and puny to fit within the housing unit; Josh magnanimously took 15% off the bill total, which the wife later noticed actually turned out to be 10% when calculated. "No more front-butt for that guy," she said sourly, and I stood a little taller in the once-more illuminated room, angling myself so that the repaired lights fell most flatteringly upon my goiter, but I don't think she noticed.

So what does any of this have to do with anything else? How is this all supposed to hang together? Why are you reading yet another interminable blog entry? These things, while all stupid, have nothing to do with each other.

So you say. I have a better explanation. Poltergeists. Go ahead, call me crazy. I don't care. I'm clearly being haunted by malign spirits; I offer these vignettes as proof. You need more, you say? Fine. It lies in what I haven't seen, and here's what I haven't seen:

I haven't seen Josh fucking my dead grandmother. That would be crazy.

So it's got to be poltergeists. Nothing to do now but call Tangina. Great--another professional.

Man, she's going to fuck my wife, isn't she?

Tuesday, 10 February
Bad Will Hunting

When I was twelve years old, I went out to shoot gophers with my father and some of his friends. Basically, we just drove around on dirt roads and shot them in various fields; this was what passed for Grand Theft Auto in my youth. So in thirty years, when you're fondly recalling your memories of rocking out with Guitar Hero, your prepubescent children will be getting blow jobs from hairy roadies named Gordon. Hey, sorry, I don't make the future, I just report it.

So there we were, hanging out in the back of someone's pickup, shooting gophers. The adults were drinking beer out of cans; I probably was sucking on a lolly or something equally nineteenth-century dandyish. On the other hand, I was killing the holy fuck out of some gophers; for whatever reason, I've always been an excellent shot. It might have something to do with my ex-Marine father and growing up surrounded by guns. Or it might be my utter disdain for anything covered in fur, which would also explain why I shot my first three girlfriends in the vagina, but we don't have to bring up unpleasant mistakes of my youth.

Presently, in the midst of our rodent holocaust, a dust trail appeared down the road. It turned out to be a local cop--yes, it is true, rural Idaho cops often have nothing better to do than to patrol rural farmlands, looking for ne'er-do-wells or occasionally finding the odd near-death gopher to resuscitate. He pulled up to the truck, completely nonplussed by the fact that the truck bed was full of half-drunk men with rifles and one improbably lolly-sucking waif out of Dickens.

"You fellows got permission to shoot in that field?" he asked. Everyone laughed, but the cop didn't seem to mind. "You oughta get permission, fellas," he said. Then he noticed me, cradling my .22.

"Son, how old are you?"

I flicked a look at my father, who betrayed nothing. You were supposed to be 14 at the time in order to be shooting firearms.

"Sixteen," I warbled. The cop couldn't help but roll his eyes. So I shot him in the face. Fucking pigs!

Oh, wait! That wasn't me, that was a Joseph Wambaugh novel! (Wambaugh's middle name is Aloysius! Here at Izzle Pfaff, I'm all about dropping the knowledge that you never cared about.)

To make a long story even more endlessly boring, nothing happened. The cop warned everyone about the complicated gopher-slaughtering laws of Idaho state, and then drove off.

This was my first nominal experience with anything close to "hunting."

A couple years later, as every Idaho boy does, I took "hunter's safety," an extracurricular course that was required in order for one to obtain a hunting license. There really was never any question that any lad who wasn't plainly feeble would ever not take hunter's safety. You might as well have said, "Well, I've thought about it, and I've just decided not to grow a dick."

And soon enough, hunting season came along, back before my father's knees hadn't completely betrayed him; back when we were poor enough that bagging a deer or an elk in the fall meant the difference between a lean winter and a relatively hale winter in terms of meals. It was important. My father, for years, would (illegally) obtain hunter's permits for himself, my mom and me, just on the odds that he'd pull down more than one animal (though that never happened).

I hated every moment of it. I hated getting woken up at 3:30 in the morning, I hated being told weird, unsupportable things ("Don't eat so much snow--it'll fuck with your stomach"); I hated traipsing all over hell and fucking gone. I was a lazy little shit who wanted to sleep in. Shooting those fucking gophers was a lot less work.

We went out all the time during hunting season. (By the way, poachers are regarded as something less than human by actual hunters, and violators are subject to some really eye-popping punishments when caught.) I also learned one of the most venerable, weird maxims of hunting: your first kill should be a buck. I'm sure there's some juicy psychoanalysis going on behind this, but as I said before, I didn't really give a fuck. I went out because my dad expected me to.

One morning, driving out to the hunting ground of Dad's choice that morning, a deer flashed across the road while we were driving. My father skidded to the side of the road and grabbed his rifle.

"Let's go!" he breathed. "It doesn't matter if it's a doe." I was really confused now. "It doesn't matter," he repeated.

We loped as quietly as possible through the trees, following the doe's path as best we could figure, but she was gone. I was sort of disappointed, but for all the wrong reasons: I really wanted to shoot that deer just so I could get the thing over with, to pop my cherry and have done with it. I had been extensively schooled on where to shoot the deer; I could see it in my mind. I had aced my hunter's safety course; I had received a rather nice hunting knife for having the highest test scores.

Some days later, we were driving home at night, back to our place out on the prairie. And, again, a deer flashed in front of the car, missing us by mere feet. This was a buck--not much of one, really, but a handsome three-pointer for all that. Dad reamed out the brakes pulling over, and I whacked myself a good one on the dash, and then he was out of the car, screaming "Fuck!" I was still dazedly fumbling for my 30.06 when I heard a shot ring out.

That stupid deer. It got about thirty feet towards some undergrowth before my dad killed the beast; we were able to pull the truck right up to it so it lay dolefully in the headlights. I don't know what the fuck it was doing out in the open.

There in the headlights' yellow glow, my father instructed me. "We've got to clean this guy," he said, and smoothly pulled out his hunting knife, and then opened a large incision in the animal's belly. The deer's guts fell out onto the ground, and I immediately turned around and retched.

I still to this day recall my father's look when I could turn around. It was one of disappointment and, worse, contempt.

He never asked me to go hunting again.

Thursday, 29 January
Blue Lacuna

Okay, I owe you another explanation. Listen, here's the thing: I don't have one. In the spirit of mealy-mouthed half-qualifications, I have only the same one you've heard already.

It turns out that recuperating took a little longer than I anticipated. Yesterday a co-worker remarked, "Hey, you've got your color back." My color. What color? I'm as white as any piano key, except for the black piano keys. But it's true, you apparently don't just bounce back from pneumonia just because the pills are all gone. (I've still got the ativan--interested parties are encouraged to check Craigslist.)

But I think I'm back in the game now. I actually have proof of this; yesterday at a supervisor's meeting at work (the venue at which co-worker informed me I had achieved whiteness again as opposed to, I guess, wan translucence), I won a plushie armadillo for being the only person in the room who knew what Twitter was, and it wasn't a hallucination. Also, the context of the meeting was our new payroll compensation policies, and I didn't scream out, "OH MY FUCKING GOD, I'M CRYING BLOOD!" and rush out in search of whiskey.

I also had a nice moment with the CEO, who was sitting next to me at the meeting when talks turned to the challenges of catering to the wishes of young workers. "What do you say to young workers who want to work 'alternative' hours or expect more than you might be used to being asked for?" said the consultant who was running the meeting.

" 'You're fired'?" I offered.

"That's what I was going to say!" exclaimed the CEO. The consultant gave us a wintry, alum-mouthed look. I didn't fucking care. I had the CEO behind me and a plushie armadillo in front of me.

But like I said, it took a while getting back. A couple days ago, I pulled on a shirt before work without, as usual, paying much attention to what I was wearing--I'm basically jeans-and-whatever-I-grab shirt. Once I got to work, I looked down and realized I'd never seen this particular pullover zip-top thing in my life. When I got home, I asked the wife re: shirt, "Is this yours? I grabbed it out of the closet by accident, I guess."

"I gave that to you for Christmas," replied the wife. "You wore it for three days when you were sick." Jesus. I really had--and continue not to have--any memory of this goddamn shirt. Then I immediately dashed out the door and went downstairs to our garage to check out the brand new sports car I had obviously forgotten as well. The wife followed me down, puzzled, and found me staring at our parking space, occupied by the same 2000 purple Plymouth that we've had for a while.

"Where's my convertible, you fucking goblin snatch?" I cried. "Don't tell me you parked it on the street."

"What the fuck are you talking about? What convertible?" She had brought a kitchen knife with her, and she waved it unconsciously at her hip in graceful ovals.

"The one I forgot you gave me for Christmas!" I screamed. "Like the shirt!" I pulled the shirt-front up over my head and ran around in small circles, emitting piercing shrieks to emphasize my point, and when I had to stop to catch my breath, the wife had gone back upstairs. I didn't have my keys on me, having left them in the apartment with my pants, so I slept in the car that night, stacking the floor mats on my naked midsection to stave off the cold of the unheated garage, and in my fitful sleep, I heard raccoons saying frankly defamatory things about my uncle Sparky.

So what I took away from that whole thing is that you don't necessarily bounce right back from a serious illness. And, if I'm honest, I didn't help myself out much either in a lot of ways. When you're immunocompromised, dehydrated, and just plain old fucking wiped out, one could do much better than to put on movies such as these:

Wanted
Max Payne
Death Race

But then again, these may have simply been my wife's attempts to kill me once and for all. (You know, now that I think of it, the phrase "kill me once an for all" is basically stupid. As opposed to killing me a few times, halfheartedly and temporarily? Actually, now that I say that, I should write a movie treatment of that and pitch it to Lionsgate.)

Now I feel stronger for enduring them, really. You couldn't show those gray, humorless idiocies to bone marrow transplant patients for fear of destroying them. I don't think Mark Wahlberg is even allowed inside hospitals.

So, sorry it's been a while. My life is pretty dull, but it's a really contented sort of dull, and I think I'm ready to start complaining about it again. Quietly. Stealthily. I still haven't found my fucking sports car, the wife keeps that goddamn knife with her all the time, and you know what? Car mats are shit for keeping you warm at night.

And what you hear about uncle Sparky from those slanderous ball-gnawing raccoons? He was acquitted.

Monday, 05 January
That's Sick

Let me try and tell you what happened.

On the Monday before Christmas--which in Seattle turned out to be a citywide snow day--I woke up with an upset stomach. "I have an upset stomach," I told the wife, because I believe in directness in our marriage.

Later, I was haunted by awful chills followed by raging fevers, and I couldn't keep any solid food down. And because my wife also believes in clear communication, she told me, "You're pretty fucked up." I figured I had the flu, and responded appropriately: by drinking massive amounts of water and ginger ale, and eating Saltines to keep the good old electrolytes up.

I'm a fucking fool. By the following Sunday, I still wasn't eating anything approximating real food--lots of Saltines, though!--and was gulping water by the quartful. The wife wasn't having any of it by this point: "You're going to the hospital because you're still totally fucked up." But! The Saltines!

She threw me in the car--no real feat, since I had by now lost approximately half my body weight--and drove me to Swedish hospital, one of Seattle's finest Aryan-only hospitals. The check-in gal asked what the trouble was, which I answered with an extended hacking cough; she smoothly spun in her chair and grabbed a hospital mask off the wall. "Put that on," she said, as I attempted to cough out the phrase "persistent flu symptoms."

Three hours and ten cigarettes later, we were called in to be seen; nurses swiftly relieved me of a quantity of blood, took my vitals, tutted, fretted, patted my head, and only barely restrained themselves from installing one of those dog neck cones to prevent me from chewing on my own quaking limbs. Presently, a harried (but super nice) doctor presented herself; she was clutching a lengthy, alarming-looking printout and was staring at it with a rather close intensity.

"Well, Mr. Krubk, what I was waiting for was your white counts, but . . . " she stared again at my bloodwork printout. "Look, you're not going anywhere. Your electrolyte counts have made me shit my pants." Or something to that effect. "Your sodium, your potassium, your magnesium . . ." She shook her head. "These are so terrible, it's scary. I could probably shout you into a heart attack if I wanted to." Happily, she didn't seem to be in the mood to cause me heart failure. I got the feeling that she couldn't quite believe I had entered the building under my own power. She also explained to me that I was horrifically dehydrated, and oh, I also had pneumonia.

I mumbled something about Saltines and my dedicated attempts at rehydration, and she just gave me a smile of pity. Funny how my comprehensive cracker strategy had failed to adequately nourish my body, and funnier still was the memory of how often my attempts to rehydrate were immediately followed by bouts of gut-wringing diarrhea. Hard to figure out where everything went wrong, really.

They got me a bed up on the seventh floor and set me up for a night of "full observation." If you've never had the pleasure, "full observation" roughly means: You will get no more than fifteen minutes of sleep. This is because throughout the night, you will be visited by an incredible array of technicians, nurses, phlebotomists, doctors, and, in one memorable case, a nutritionist. ("I see you were admitted with very low potassium. Would you like some pamphlets explaining more about potassium?" Me: " . . . bananas . . . ")

I was outfitted with a set of leads on my chest for monitoring my magnesium-starved heart and was immediately hooked up to several different IV bags all of which groaned on the weird metal IV stand that you've seen in every episode of ER ever. I was also given a basketball-sized group of pills to choke down: apart from the fucking potassium, I don't remember what else they were forcing into me. Most of the IVs were of the passive sort--just draining into my bloodstream--but occasionally they souped up one of the mystery bags with a little motor thing that I assumed was some sort of push mechanism. I couldn't stop staring at the sheer number of bags of liquid being launched into me, and I couldn't help but do some basic physiological calculations: I was going to have to piss at some point, but here's the thing about the IV stand: it plugged into the wall. I pondered this while the nurse gave me one of what was to be three total heparin injections--right into the stomach!--to prevent my motionless self from developing blood clots through inactivity, or also from the hideous amounts of ESPN I found myself helplessly watching.

I dozed occasionally and fitfully, but it's hard to be restful when Don the vitals guy was lurking in the shadows, waiting to pressure-cuff me or when the phlebotomist gal ghosted by my bed, checking her list of luckless victimes, and looked at me and said meaningfully, "You'll be next."

I didn't have a private room, but I might as well have; I shared the room with a demented octogenarian who produced susurrations of the low-tide variety along with a varied medley of basso flatulence that somehow never stopped being sort of funny.

Once, at about two o'clock, yet another doctor came to visit me. He almost immediately irritated me by asking me to take off my glasses so he could perform some "follow my pen"-type diddlings. I wanted to ask him if he wanted to check out anything else completely irrelevant, such as my scalp or my nail beds. He casually asked me if anyone had told me when I could expect to go home, and I told him that the original doc had said that if all went well, I'd probably get sprung the next afternoon.

"Oh, I don't think so," he said nonchalantly. "You'll probably be here two or three days." I wondered if I had the strength to clout him into unconsciousness with my cell phone, but said nothing. I mentally vowed that no force on Earth would keep me in this place beyond the afternoon, provided it ever came, or that I was still sane when it rolled around.

After Dr. Downer split, I did another body-check. Yeah, I definitely had to piss. I eyed the IV apparatus again warily; there was no question that I was going to the bathroom. The question was, who was going to freak out if I dared move? The thing was still plugged into the wall, but I could be damned if I could figure out why: the IV push device had long since been removed; all of the IVs seemed to just be draining into the Hydra configuration sprouting out of my arm. Fuck this, I thought. The staff was, I'm sure, completely used to patients irrigating the bed, but I'd be fucked if I was going to lay in it or endure a professionally efficient sheet change. I reached over and unplugged the IV tree.

Nothing happened, at least that I could tell; no alarms went off, no nurses ran in to tackle me. Feeling positively subversive, I wheeled my ponderous IV thing over to the bathroom and exploded from two of my favorite orifices. It was a nearly religious experience, were I even remotely religious.

Later on, when I tried this operation again, I stood up and promptly and wetly crapped my pants (yes, I was still wearing pants). Trying to clean myself up in the bathroom, I realized that I just didn't care. I had my eyes on the prize: getting the fuck out of there in a few hours. Soiling myself, at this point, just represented one more lonely milestone to be passed. I would endure it stoically, if only to give the metaphorical finger to Dr. Asshole: Yes, I shit my pants, and I don't care. I'll take whatever I can dish out!

Finally, the morning came, and I forced myself to order some food: a couple scrambled eggs and some wheat toast. What I received was two planks of melamine (with butter) and an unidentifiable mass of matter that had almost certainly never been countenanced by, much less produced by a chicken. I ate it anyway, figuring it would give me brownie points with the unseen cloister of huddled doctors. "Hey, Mr. Kurnup powered through some death eggs! Maybe he won't die." "You owe me ten bucks."

Another doctor, this guy holding a strange plastic apparatus. "Heard you were having trouble breathing! Ever heard of Albuterol?" I allowed that I had. He was pretty excited about the Albuterol; he was pretty excited in general.

"Well, want to try some?" he asked, bouncing. It's a drug deal! I thought, And it's covered by insurance! "Hell yes," I said, though my shortness of breath had been somehow drowned with the incredible amounts of liquids and antibiotics that had been blasted into my system.

And as if to complete the whole drug deal aspect, Albuterol is an aerosolized drug delivery system, which meant that I sat there in bed, placidly smoking away on a hellish-looking futuristic plastic pipe. The doctor continued to be really into it. "How about a deep breath and a big cough?" he said when I was apparently done. I obliged, and produced a nice mouthful of phlegm, which was a good deal, since my morning nurse had been cajoling me for a really good productive cough so they could take my lung butter into the lab for further goo-testing. I hate to disappoint, and the next time she came in, I brandished the nightmarish jar: "Merry Christmas!"

"Good job!" she exclaimed, apparently genuinely excited to be the recipient of a sample jar half-full of mucus.

Finally--finally--yet another doctor came in, another woman. "I think you saw my colleague last night, Doctor Yeoh?" I couldn't have picked anyone out of a lineup from the last twenty-four hours, except for maybe Doctor Asshole, Doctor Albuterol and Terrifying Phlebotomist Woman. I could probably do an audio lineup to identify my roommate based on his mournful, tolling farts.

"At any rate, you look pretty stable now; we're going to load you down with some antibiotics and--" here she mentioned three other drugs that I couldn't care less about, since I WAS GOING HOME. She even threw in some Ativan, noting that I was displaying withdrawal symptoms from being boozeless and smokeless for thirty-six hours. I glanced up at the previously-laden IV tree and was stunned to see that the bags were all empty; they must have dumped a couple gallons of liquids into me over the course of 18 hours or so.

I missed two solid weeks of work, between the initial "flu" self-diagnosis and the subsequent hospitalization and recuperation from same. I have a followup doctor's appointment to, I guess, make sure I'm not still dying from pneumonia. Today was my first day back at work since the 19th. I had over 450 emails waiting for me to answer. It was completely exhausting coming back.

On the other hand, I went to the bathroom unencumbered by any trailing metal IV trees, and I managed not to shit my pants. So I count today as a success.

I make no promises for tomorrow. Frankly, as an excuse to go home, what can possibly beat "I just shit my pants"?
I think I might start showing up to work with a big IV tree. Nobody could possibly challenge me on this.

Monday, 15 September
Kind Of A Schizo Post For You Here, So . . . Radishes

On Saturday, the wife and I had YET ANOTHER GODDAMN WEDDING to go to. With that screamed said, it was a delightful affair, full of joy and all that shit. No, really! Don't for one instant think that I'm not slagging on it like I normally would just because I have several friends (read: three or so) who actually read this blog. It is easily the finest wedding that I've ever attended where I was, prior to the main event, offered a kazoo.

It was an outdoor wedding down at Colman Park, which necessitated a ten-minute walk or so, which was fine for me--I merrily smoked--but less so for the wife, whose calves complained the next day what with the heels and all. It was also less then ideal for R., whom we gave a ride to, and whose disastrous knees are hollering still. My lungs = awesomer than heeled feet; calcified legs. Fuck you, joints!

Outdoor weddings are tough, you know? It was a gorgeous scene with perfect weather; I had a beautifully unobstructed view of a bridge in the distance where I could see trucks hauling what I assume was bales of pornography over the water into downtown Seattle. The water lapped gently against the shore, creating a lulling susurrus of sound that nicely obscured the words of every single non-actor who spoke at the affair, which was most people. Many of the small children in attendance were really taken by the surf, and begged to be dangled over the stone railing that overlooked the water; their parents, for the most part, obliged by dangling the children over the water. I silently wondered how many of the parents were tempted to drop these children, thinking, "Fuck parenting. I want to go to Spain." SPLOOSH! To their credit, no children were actually discarded on that evening.

The mime show continued with occasional audibility. The officiant--self-proclaimed ninja of that wonderful Internet institution the Universal Life Church (I myself happen to be a registered Druid)--did himself proud with a clear, ringing voice, and things proceeded apace when . . . this really great thing happened.

The wife and I were positioned exactly behind the groom--whom I will call "Joaquim"--and opposite the bride, whom I name "Spudge." Joaquim and Spudge are about as nice a couple as you could ever ask for, and totally game for most anything, so it was sort of perfect that this happened, which was this: as we stood there, lock-kneed and attentive, all of a sudden, right in front of us, this golden streak whizzed past us. It was an Irish Setter that had been playing in the water, and like a glorious missile, he streaked past us, right in front of us. He made a beeline towards the small little stage holding the wedding party and the family, and screeched to a halt right in the center of the proceedings. And shook himself mightily, throwing water over everyone and all in attendance. And then he shot back out of there like some divine, damp canine bullet.

Everyone broke up, because what else can you do? I think every wedding from now on should feature an overexcited wet dog intruding and shaking the shit out of himself right in the middle of everyone maundering on about THIS IS THE MOMENT and all that. I also think that this should also occur in the middle of all funerals. Fuck, I think wet dogs should intrude on all important events, like, say, sex.

"Oh, God, baby, your dick is so smooth . . ."

"Ungh. Yeah. I've been sanding it . . . "

"Yes! Yes! Yeaaahh . . . "

(A wet dog comes barreling in and shakes itself off.}

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"

See? Awesome. I hope Joaquim and Spudge got wet-dogged on their honeymoon opener.

And here I said that I wouldn't shit all over their wedding. Way to go, me! It really was a fun time. Also, environmentally sound! Seriously, this was the greenest wedding ever. The caterers only served local, organic food that had been killed with the jawbone of an ass, or something, and the plates and utensils and even the drink glasses were made out of some mysterious corn mash that could be melted down into goldfish. I think. I might have the details wrong. Even the DJ only played Radiohead and REM. There's nothing like a warehouse full of white people jerking awkwardly to "Planet Telex."

I honestly wish them a gorgeous future full of wet-dog-shaking fantastic sex.

POSTSCRIPT: A little late, I guess, but hey. My tens of readers might have noticed my tendency towards hyperverbalism over the years, along with a certain unwillingness to edit, or, more fairly, to just fail to shut the fuck up. With this in mind--sort of--I acknowledge and grieve for the loss of David Foster Wallace.

I say that and yet I do confess that one of my first thoughts upon learning of his suicide by hanging was this: "You left your wife to find you like that? You fucking asshole." I waited to feel bad, and, after a while, did, I think.

Wallace was, to me, a thrilling stylist with a precariously high-wire voice. Who didn't get exasperated with all of those motherfucking endnotes? And yet who didn't read them all? (I sure did.) I charged through the spectacular Infinite Jest, two bookmarks and all, right up through the complete collapse of an ending; I carried that fucking brick around for five goddamn days, breathless to see where it was going; infuriated that it led to a deserted, gray beach. It is less a novel to me than it is a fireworks show, which sounds like I'm cheapening the novel, and maybe I am, but it's the moments I remember more than I do the overall work: videophony, football punters, and the simply sublime section on Eschaton.

I don't know. I found myself tearing up today reading various sendoffs to the man; there's a five-hundred-plus Metafilter thread about him. I didn't read everything he wrote, but I did read some of his coughs and hem-haws like The Broom of the System and Girl With Curious Hair as well as his frankly great essay collections such as A Supposedly Funny Thing I'll Never Do Again, which, to my mind, are the best things he ever did, even when I think he's completely full of shit.

I'm going to miss him. And you can't blame him for this, but I'm going to take this from him, for now: I'm going to try to keep failing to shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, 29 July
JULETIDE!

Here we are, running out the clock on July, so it seems obvious that what we all should be thinking about is Christmas.

Mostly, I just don't have shit to write about, so for some reason, I started thinking about

HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS GIFTS OVER THE YEARS

Mom

Mom always took it up the ass on Christmas, gift-wise. I don't care to dwell on any other -wises, but if that's how she rolls, well, you go, Mom.

It's always been easy for me to shop for my mother. We are both voracious readers, and so I know I can always dump a wagonload of books on her and be pretty safe (although she was really puzzled last year when I took a chance and gave her a copy of the comic Bone).

My mother has been an RN for thirty-five years or so, and like many RNs, does not wear much of anything, ever, in the way of jewelry or perfume. Jewelry gets caught on stuff, like patients, and is also shiny and lends itself to grabbery, by things like deranged patients. And perfume simply doesn't go over well in confined spaces, like, say, an OR, and it often goes over less well with patients with severe allergies or compromised immune systems. So she keeps it simple.

That never prevented my dad's mom from buying her, year after year, Jean Nate bath products. Christmas, for me, always carries the ghost of the scent of Jean fucking Nate, and after a few years of this, my mother stopped trying to suppress her sighs.

Whenever my grandmother came to visit, out came the Jean Nate, and it is now the unsexiest scent imaginable, as I associate it with what my dead grandmother apparently thought was sexy.

I guess I haven't helped myself any by bringing up the terrible spectral image of my mother enthusiastically engaging in Christmas anal sex, either. You see why my readership is way down.

Anyway. None of this was nearly as bad as the year my grandmother bought my mother a sweatshirt with an '80s bangled teddy bear--fake rhinestone necklace and bracelets--with googly eyes glued on and bearing the legend "Bears Just Wanna Have Fun."

Dad

My father is similarly impossible to shop for, as if there is something he wants, he simply buys it. Not many people know this, but he owns several dozen of Jimmy Carter's discarded toupees, which he likes to shoot at down in his basement, in the makeshift firing range he has set up down there.

I'm just kidding. About the toupees, anyway: he really does have a firing range in the basement, suitable for pistol shooting. This used to terrify Peggy, their lovable little mutt, until Peggy died, hopefully not out of gunplay-related agitation.

(Note to self: Possible Christmas gift this year--deaf dog.)

So my dad really likes guns, and that's cool. Seriously, it's pretty cool. Whenever I visit, we take a trip down to the basement, and he unlocks his gigantic gun vault--he has a gun vault!--and then do some target shooting while, happily, not terrorizing innocent dogs beyond lucidity.

Not that I've ever given my father a gun--nor has anyone, to my knowledge. For one thing, guns are fucking expensive. For another, nobody else in my family gives a shit about guns, except for me, and I only care about them to the extent that they are fun to shoot in basements, because it's just a perverse thing to do. My father did once give my mother a "really, really sweet little gun" that was essentially the Homer Simpson bowling ball equivalent of a gift, and my mother promptly hid it from him, forever, but brings it out once each year demanding that my father clean "her gun" as any sensible gun owner should. Then she hides it again. He sees the gun once a year, and it eats at him.

I've lost the thread here, haven't I? Well, to get to the bullet, what would you say would be a great gift to get my conservative, gun-loving, ex-Marine Viet Nam vet father for Christmas? Would you say:

A Khalil Gibran book?
A pair of "grizzly bear" slippers complete with giant claws?
Nothing?

If you answered with the first one, congratulations! You are my paternal grandparents, who evidently never met their only child, which I think is impressive. If you went with number two, you are his aunt, who had laudable but ultimately misguided concerns over podiatry-related thermoregulation, and a truly warped idea of personal aesthetics. If you guessed number three, you were my mother's parents, who frequently managed to forget about my father's material existence entirely.

FAMILIES! So awesome, so reliably fucked up.

Me

In whatever year it was really popular, all I wanted was a ROM: The Spaceknight action figure. ROM, who eventually got his own rotten comic book, was this eight-inch tall silver dumbfuck with a jetpack and a few bleepy-bloopy LED red lights and muffled space noises. ROM was cooler than shit.

"All I want this year," I explained magnanimously to my parents, "is ROM. That's all I want."

Let's not be coy about this. These were the lean years. My mother, to my unending horror, routinely dragged me to Goodwill for buying clothes. My mother was implacable about these missions, and, to her credit, also routinely failed to take any of my shit about this.

"Moooooom . . . " I would start to whine.

"Tough shit," she'd say before I could finish my nothing of an argument. She wasn't mean about it; she wasn't any happier about it herself, and fuck, she's the one who was stuck with a bathroom full of goddamn Jean Nate products anyway.

"This is a nice vest," I remember her saying, forcing me into some puffy, multi-striped winter thing that seemed to defy common understanding of the concept of "vestness." It looked like something a Wookiee would get disdainful about.

"Mooooooom . . . "

"It's a nice vest." This in steely tones.

It wasn't a nice vest. It was a shitty thing, a thing a poor kid wears. I keep digressing.

All I wanted that year was a ROM action figure. That's all I wanted. I had made that clear. This wasn't hard. I asked for one thing.

Christmas came, and I could obviously see the package with ROM in it. I had studied the box in stores closely; I knew its shape and dimensions; I knew its presence. I saved it for last, casually tossing aside the other meaningless shit with a laugh--oh, The Narnia Chronicles, huh? That's nice. Let's get to the real shit.

I took my time opening the present; savoring, anticipating.

I don't have to tell you this, do I? It wasn't ROM. I don't really remember what it was. It was some awful, anonymous toy that nobody had ever heard of. It might have been a Helen Keller asthma doll with Real Wheezing Action or something. I looked at it for a while and then looked up at my folks: my father just looked at me neutrally, and my mother wore some strange expression that mixed hopefulness and desolation in equal measure.

Let's be straight: I'm not now nor have I ever been some kind of awesome hero-child or anything, wise beyond his years. I'm just as demanding and cranky and annoying as any other asshole on this stupid fucking rock. I was then, I am now. It was a crummy effort at fulfilling a crummy wish of some crummy brat on yet one more crummy fucking Christmas.

On the other hand, I didn't want my parents looking at me like that. On another hand, my mom had gotten some more terrible Jean Nate product, and that was always good for a laugh. And on some other cephalopod hand--we clearly needed all the hands we could get--well, there was nothing but horseshit gifts lying all over the place. I think someone had given my father a snap-front shirt made out of the screams of murder victims.

I beamed as best I could and thanked them for the great toy, but I doubt I was terribly convincing.

The next year, come Christmas, can you guess what I got? My precious ROM toy, by now basically uncool and essentially one notch above debris, toy-wise.

"Oh, man!" I screamed. "This is great!!" My parents looked awfully pleased at my reaction, and the truth is, I wasn't kidding. It was great; it took a year, but then again . . . I seemed to have erased those haunted looks my parents wore, and that was pretty good. So was ROM, I had to admit, even late a year, becase the thing was, it worked all right for all that time anyway. So what was there, really, to give a shit about? I had a thing that I didn't have before.

So did my mother. She had Jean Nate body spray.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, 08 July
Dog Soldiers

I assume I'm not the only one who attended a Fourth of July party where "America: Fuck Yeah!" was played this last Friday. Sigh. More on musical crimes later.

The wife and I attended a perfectly lovely party on the Fourth, which featured some things like fifteen pounds of barbecued spareribs (rapidly consumed) and dogs! dogs! dogs! I may have mentioned before my love of these beasts/evolutionary opportunists.

Kuma was the name of our favorite dog; he was a German Shepherd/Shar-Pei mix, and he sported a really fetching blue bandana around his neck. Kuma was the sort of dog who shamelessly gets you to interact with him; he had this dumb little purple dog toy that he'd plop at your feet and then make hilariously weird faces at, crinkling up his lips at it in anticipation of . . . what? Its utter demise at his finding skills, I guess. The dog would sit there making faces at it until you couldn't stand it any more, and then you'd fling the thing into the blackberry bushes, hoping never to see it again, and Kuma would tirelessly go out an find the damn thing and return to drop it at your feet again and scowl at it some more. If it weren't so charming, it would have been annoying. Then again, I'm the kind of guy who doesn't mind eating his ribs even when his hands have been thoroughly coated in dog saliva, so.

Kuma was unstoppable, really, and is evidently smarter than most of my friends. On one occasion, when the purple weird toy had been flung into some seriously dense undergrowth, Kuma hunted around for a good while; the brambles in which it had been lost encircled a large tree. Thwarted (briefly), Kuma then proceeded to spend a good fifteen seconds looking up into the tree branches to make sure it hadn't landed above his head. This caused me to stand up and applaud and yell, "You are an awesome dog!" which made Kuma stare at me and shake his head.

When the fireworks started later, Kuma disappeared, causing a bit of a concerned fuss. He turned up later at his owner's home, patiently waiting. When the dipshits started throwing firecrackers and so forth, Kuma obviously thought, "You know, this hurts my ears, and these guys are noisy dipshits. I'm going home." I love this dog.

During respites between meat assaults, one of the chefs (there were four different professional chefs there barbecuing, so . . . I love everything) kept passing around Jell-O shots. "These are Incredible Hulks," he said enigmatically as he held out the tray of green gelatins. "These are Yellow Fever," he said of the yellow offerings. I don't remember what the red things were called. Blood clots? Hellboys? Republicans? I don't know. The fireworks were starting anyway, and I was having a bleary revelation.

That revelation was: I don't give a goddamn fucking shit about fireworks. They are dull and predictable; fireworks are only marginally more interesting than "Two and a Half Men," a show I've never watched and never need to, much like, well, fireworks.

"CUBES!" people screamed. "SMILEY FACE!" Neat. Firework technology has finally caught up to what I used to doodle on my Pee-Chees. But can fireworks depict 70s basketball players with their penises hanging out of their shorts? Not that I saw. I smoked gloomily, staring occasionally with wonder at the cascading fireworks that looked sort of like Tina Turner's hair in 1987. "IT'S TINA TURNER'S HAIR FROM 1987!" I screamed. The only people that heard me either gave me glares or kind of sagged a little bit.

One guy was way too into it; he was drunk out of his mind, drunk to the horrible point where you are convinced that if you're loud enough and repeat yourself enough, you're funny. It was awful. "MANIFEST DESTINY!" he hollered, over and over, for no reason. People began to clear away from his weird, unsteady ambit.

At one point during the hopeless fireworks, the labored stereo system started oozing the doleful strains of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again." The loud pud went nuts again. "THIS IS AMERICA, YOU FUCKERS!" he howled, thrusting his goatee towards the clouds. "THIS IS AMERICA!"

I was standing next to my friend W. "Whitesnake is a British band," I sighed, taking another pull on a nearly depleted Incredible Hulk. I was watching the one other dog at the party--now that Kuma had taken his leave--trying to burrow his way into his owner's abdomen in wretched despair over the incredible tumult. I remember thinking that the poor creature looked sort of like Bonnie Franklin trying to get away from Schneider.

W. wheeled on me. "Whitesnake is British? I didn't know that!" W., who has a keen sense of propriety and an allergy to bullshit, chewed on this for a few seconds before turning to the loud guy and yelling, "Whitesnake is British, man!" Loud guy flapped his meaty arms dismissively and then settled further into his seat, refusing to acknowledge our stinging criticisms. He glassily gnawed on a cold chicken leg, giving him the appearance of the world's laziest ogre.

A few moments later, when the strains of Europe's "The Final Countdown" started to play, he cried "AMERICA!" again. I closed my eyes.

We can all learn from Kuma.

Monday, 23 June
The Day Brings

Another strange weekend spent hanging out with other humans! Most unusual. You will be relieved to learn, however, that we did fit in time to watch Jumper, a film that dares to ask the question, "Wouldn't it be awesome if you could hang out with a deck chair and a cooler on the Sphinx's head?" The answer, of course, is "No." It's really the least awesome thing ever, and since the Sphinx-hanger-outer is also Hayden Christiansen, the answer is further modified to "Jesus fucking Christ, no, just . . . holy shit, what the fuck?"

In life, some answers just lead to more questions.

Which was brought to me even more forcefully on Saturday, when we traveled up to Shoreline to attend C.'s birthday party. C. is forever fond of making me travel places; he lives in Shoreline, for one thing, and we invariably get lost when we drive up to that baffling little area. C. is also the one responsible for dragging us all to Las Vegas in the fall so we can blearily watch him get married. The bastard.

On the other hand, C. knows how to make with the barbecue. He was preparing fajitas that day, and made sure to include as many dead animals as possible: pork, beef and chicken were all represented, and at one point I saw him getting interesting ideas in his head as he eyed Charlie, a friend's little Scotty dog in attendance. He also had prepared mojitos, iced up a giant bucket of Red Stripes, and had a full bar to boot. As if all this magnificence weren't enough, he had set up a badminton court in his pocked, uneven, ankle-breaking hellscape of a back yard. Badminton, people.

While C. slaved red-faced over the various barbecues, occasionally immolating the odd tortilla here and there, the rest of the guests traded stories, mostly about--my favorite, as my tens of readers know--horrible movies. I got into a spirited discussion about In the Name of the King, and was pleased when someone perked up when I mentioned Burt Reynolds. "What?" said D. "I am a devotee of the films of Burt Reynolds." He gave every appearance of being perfectly serious about this.

The conversation meandered along this way for a while--"I'm still angry that I watched Alone in the Dark," said someone. "I think about it all the time."--when K. thoughtfully recalled her time as a young aspiring actress when she lived in LA. "I had an audition for this movie, and I either had to be topless or I had to agree to get pissed on by an evil demon dog." I did not question the oddly specific duality of this rather stark set of choices. "I didn't want to be topless, really, but then I wondered: did it have to be real urine? Did it have to be dog urine? Could I use my own urine?" She stared pensively at the overcast sky, caught up in the memory. "Then I realized I didn't feel like driving into the Valley."

Life is full of these choices and the questions we ask in making these choices. Then we realize that there is always a third option: "Fuck all that."

Well, drinks were had and meat was fajitaed and badminton was played--horrendously, of course. There's nothing like a bunch of meat-crazed half-in-the-bag thirtysomethings staggering around playing a racket-based game that they've only played before when C. has these ridiculous gatherings. C. himself was particularly putrid, continually calling "Yours!" to me while I was being battered terribly with shuttlecocks aimed mercilessly at me by the 5' 6" girl across the net from me. Under one of these withering assaults, I tore off half my big toenail; I noticed this later in post-defeat body examination. I proceeded to trim the other untorn half, and C. commented, "So this is what you do at parties? You trim your toenails?" "This is what I do at your parties," I replied. "I think everyone will be doing it soon."

In other game related shenanigans, K. was upstairs in C.'s game room--he has a game room--laying waste to all comers with her preternatural ping-pong skills. K. is a tiny little woman and she just strafed everybody stupid enough to take her on, yours truly included (no real feat, since I know I stink). Guys are often really terrible at ping-pong, and I think I know why: guys, when given the chance, love to hit the everloving shit out of things. So you see dudes trying to lay these incredible roundhouse smashes on a ping-pong ball, but really, there's a low limit to a ping-pong ball's max velocity. Strength means absolutely nothing; it's a finesse game. It's the same deal with pool: guys love to slamball every shot, just for the manly CRASH of the cue hitting shit. But it's just as stupid and counterproductive. You can see these meatheads in any bar at all, stinking up a perfectly good table. You saw the same sort of dumb flailing at the ping-pong table, and meanwhile, K. was making all these ninja precision shots without breaking a sweat.

Guys are stupid.

It was, of course, a good time. I wish C. a happy birthday again, and I thank him for his generosity and willingness to put up with a pack of half-mad raving wise-asses swanning around his pad all damn day, ruining the august tradition of good badminton play and trimming their toenails and other various violations of common decorum.

And what do you know? In mere minutes from now--at midnight--it will be my birthday. Thirty-nine damn years old. Which raises its own set of questions. Such as: why am I going to work, anyway? Will I get in trouble if I bring whiskey into the office? Will anyone notice? Will I find myself topless, or being urinated on by evil demon dogs?

It's possible! I don't have the answers, you know. Well, I have one.

Fuck all that. Happy birthday to me.

Monday, 02 June
Into The Mild

Say! Took a week off there, didn't I? Fortunately, nobody noticed.

The wife and I have been trying this new thing. Instead of holing up in the apartment to watch terrible, mirth-strangling DVDs and occasionally breaking out in mournful sobs at unpredictable intervals, we've been spending time with other people over food and drinks! It's pretty fucked up, but we're into it; we're talking with CBS about a possible reality show that we like to call (in the planning stages) "Socializing"! Sumner Redstone called us the other day and said, "Your idea--interacting with other people in familiar social situations--really makes me almost feel my skin again. This could be bigger than buttfucking." So we're pretty excited.

On Memorial Day, for example, we had sent out a little email to fifty or so of our closest uneasy, distant, faltering relationship entities inviting them to come over and spend some quality time remembering the fallen warriors of our past and eating pork tacos. "Nobody will come," we told each other, "because we are strange hermits who never talk to other humans any more."

Nearly everybody on the invite showed up, grimly marching through our door like and endless stream of disgruntled Huns, demanding tacos. We didn't underestimate our popularity; we underestimated our friends' botomless capacity for free pork. The tacos were gone in mere instants, forcing the wife to improvise, which she did with aplomb, quickly whipping up a batch of taco meat salvaged from some discarded turkey and stretching it with several past issues of the New York Times, which we have neatly piled in several six-foot stacks that creatively delineate the mazelike contours of our living space. Some of the dozens of hamsters that reside in our place loudly squeaked their outrage, and into the spicy pot they were swept as well, and all were sated.

When the freeloaders began to overstay their welcome, I simply put on a 1985 cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" by a long-forgotten/never-remembered rap group named the Three Wize Men, and that started clearing the room nicely; the song sounds not unlike a roomful of Juggalos sodomizing a parliament of unlucky barn owls. It is unearthly, and I'm proud to own the recording; it's like owning Ed Gein's big toe, or a theremin. It just doesn't make sense.

When the last few obstinate stragglers proved immune to the terrible song, I simply retrieved my well-thumbed copy of the Planet Hulk trade paperback and began reading it aloud using the voice of Fannie Flagg, and the rest reeled out into the streets clutching their ears.

Then, more recently, we found ourselves at a birthday party for our friend S., a geriatric bank worker who mysteriously has been tasked with learning about infectious disease vectors. (Really. Except for the geriatric part. I think she's like 34. It's confusing.) They recently bought a house out in Greenwood or some such--fuck neighborhoods located more than six blocks from mine--and so we drove out there for a barbecue! This being Seattle, it of course rained, and this being again Seattle, nobody really gave a shit.

S.'s husband J., who is the walking embodiment of "jovial," manned the damp grill while swigging from his finest cans of Hamm's beer. J. is a confusing fellow, a pastry chef with a taste for the finer things--bleu cheese was one of the options for burger toppings--and yet he is content to drink radioactive brine such as Hamm's and PBR. It wasn't until I saw his garage that I understood; inside I found two scooters that he apparently tinkers with obsessively. "Oh, I get it!" I exclaimed. "You're deranged and twee!" "I am, sir!" he cried, and attempted to crush an empty against his skull, but the empty was, regrettably, full--in fact unopened--and he collapsed to the ground in a mighty, unconscious heap.

The rain had driven a few of us to the garage; all men. The reasoning being, I suppose, that that's where men go when the weather turns to shit. Some of the men for the occasion had brought cigars, which were passed around. I demurred, content to smoke my regular cigarettes, and was briefly derided: "Sure, you stick with your little cigarettes, Skot." I declined to point out the various underlying psychological rationales that might be responsible for their enthusiasm for putting the largest possible cylindrical objects into their mouths, mainly because we were also playing a manly game of darts and I didn't want to get punctured. Also, J. was starting to stir, and he could have easily harmed me rather badly had he felt like driving over me several hundred times with one of his scooters, had they been in working order, which they weren't. They simply stared at us balefully, like lazy, one-eyed candy apple red heifers.

I am unnerved by scooters, I think.

We were, it must be said, laughably wretched at darts. We were--manfully--playing a game called Cricket, where the simple object is to hit the numbers 15 through 20 (and the bullseye) three times each; first player to do this (including credit for doubles and triples) wins. In addition to the dartboard, I also hit: the wall, the ceiling, my shoe, someone's piece of birthday cake, a wayward scrivener, Jupiter, and, happily, a colicky baby, the last of which raised cheers from everyone. The tiny garage continued to fill with the unholy fug of accumulated cigar smoke, and as the game continued ineptly--to be fair, nobody was striving too terribly for anything resembling eptness--and I was moved by our close camaraderie, the social inroads I had made that day that I had been neglecting for so wrong.

"It's so good to hang with you guys," I said to the group. "Do you guys know when Jumper comes out on DVD? We could totally watch that some time."

There was a long, dreadful silence, punctuated only by mournful sucking noises as they worked the cigars in their mouths.

Baby steps. I'll get there.

Tuesday, 19 February
Getting Better All The Time

No, no, my droogs! I did not abandon you again! I did not! Rather, I was cruelly withheld from you, held in a prison not of my making!

(Who makes their own prison? Foolish people. Don't make your own prison, folks. Unless you're the Saw guy, in which case: totally make your own prison, because if you don't, those people will fucking run like crazy, and you won't be able to play with their bones like Tinkertoys after you pull their spines out. But you probably knew that.)

No, what happened was: I got fucking levelled by the flu. I mean, I got crushed. Here's a direct quote from the wife: "I've never seen you this sick." Here's another: "I guess I'll go to work again while you lie there, not making any money." And another: "Do you plan on wearing pants at all this week?"

Last Sunday it all began when I woke up and realized that someone--possibly the wife--had replaced all the bones in my body with magnesium rods. I hunched around the house in a misery, looking like Early Man, and marveled at certain phenomena such as feeling a ripping pain across my forehead when I moved my eyeballs to the side too quickly. I settled in my big-ass leather chair and prepared for a long week full of low moaning.

I had no idea what was in store for me. I called in sick on Monday, still feeling achey and horrible; the fever was starting to cycle up in intensity. This, of course led to Phase II: Chills. Chills are sort of fantastically schizophrenic in that even when you are certain that you are going to burst into flames, you can still be sitting there merrily shaking away and teeth a-chatter. When you combine this sort of thing with, say, diarrhea--though you might not have had anything to eat in 24 hours--it gets even better; for nothing pleases the terrified, vibrating buttocks like the cold kiss of plastic, and then you get to clatter around pathetically atop the toilet, sweating and shaking as your afflicted bowels feebly spit into the bowl in some sort of cheerless parody of defecation.

Then, if you're classy, you write about it on the internet!

I called in sick on Tuesday as well after a vivid night of fever dreams; in one, I was attempting to solve an intractable math problem (for me, that's something like a "How many red socks does Jerry have if he mends 3/5 of a red sock every eighth week, and shops at Threadbaresocks.com during Lent?" kind of thing), and then suddenly I was a member of the Roman senate and the senators were all screaming solutions at me.

Tuesday also brought The Cough. Thus far, I had avoided any kind of congestion or respiratory hijinks. That was all over. It has inspired a short poem, in fact.

O cough! Rage o'th' lungs!
Wake the wife!
Shake the rafters!
I beseech thee--
Bring up no phlegm at all.

Thanks, lungs!
You fuckers.

The thing about being sick and being a smoker is, you don't get to choose to just be one or the other for a while. You get to be both. And so, try as one might to wait as long as possible, there you find yourself, wrapped up in a knit blanket, standing outside, shivering with the chills--exacerbated by the fact that you're outside--and grimly trying to manage a few pitiable puffs in between wracking, gut-ripping coughs. It's pretty much the most pathetic thing you can imagine.

I had made the decision before the awful vapors that I describe, but having the sickness cemented it for me: I have gone out and got a prescription for Chantix. Chantix is some new hot-shit drug that is a smoking cessation aid; I got it from my dentist, who is nothing if not enthused about having to chisel the fucking garbage off my teeth so much. He might also be interested in my not dying, but I don't know him that well to claim that. I started this stuff a week ago.

It has interesting side effects! A lot of them are gastrointestinal, so I'm still getting some prime nervy moments in the bathroom, such as last night, when I suddenly and quite unexpectedly vomited up an entire bowl of soup. So I still get to experience these peristaltic cataclysms without having to be sick! Chantix also has a host of neurological side effects that are possible: "vivid dreaming" is one, and if I can survive being screamed at by Roman senators about story problems, I guess I can handle that. Some of the more serious ones now being reported are things like "suicidal ideation," which frankly? Not that surprising. "I'm going to fucking kill myself if I don't have a cigarette in five seconds" is hardly a new thought for the dedicated smoker.

So I'm feeling a lot better. I'm looking forward to Chantix and not smoking to make me feel worse. Somewhere in the middle I expect to find normal. Right?

Monday, 10 December
Perhaps I Should Call Them "Ratjamas"

Ah, to be back from vacation! Back to work!

Fuck work. Today's big achievement: deleting 1.5 GB of ancient, hoary emails, many of which bore subject lines such as "What's wrong, tiny penis?"

At least today at work was just about as productive as our entire vacation, in which we did basically nothing. Well, not entirely accurate; we did do one important thing: we wore pajamas. We wore the fuck out of our pajamas. Sometimes we wore our pajamas all damn day long; at least, that is, until our favorite bar opened. Then, of course, we put on our best muumuus.

(Now, listen, seriously, though. I don't wear pajamas to bed. I'm not a fucking freak. I sleep in a safe, secure bathysphere like any sensible person who is concerned about nocturnal gar attacks. I don't know how I'm gonna go out, but Skot Kurruk isn't about to get his junk eaten by ravenous Lepisosteidae is all I'm saying. You all are on your own, but I say: bathysphere.)

One fine day last week, I was enjoying hanging out in my damn pajamas right out on my deck, which for weird architectural reasons happens to directly overlook our building's front door. Normally, this isn't really a deal, but on this day, some dude was trying to gain entrance.

"HEY! HEY! CAN YOU HEAR ME!" He was screaming into our little crappy intercom at the front entrance below me. I scratched unconcernedly at my flannel-clad balls and serenely smoked.

"GUNT!" yelled the intercom at the guy, who was kind of beating on the little metal faceplate near our door. "DEAN!" continued the intercom.

"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!" screamed the guy. "I'M DOWN HERE!" This killed me. Where else would he be? Suspended in midair? Traversing the luminiferous aether? "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" he screamed again.

"NITS," said the intercom, which caused the angry guy to sink his neck down into his collar and moan. Then I must have laughed or farted or audibly scratched myself again, because the poor bastard looked up at me, standing above him. Which must, I suppose, have caused him to lose his final grasp upon sanity, because he yelled up at me, "CAN YOU HEAR ME? Can you let me IN?"

Now, really. Leaving aside the wonderful query "CAN YOU HEAR ME," is this a solid gambit? Here I was, a hobo in heart-embossed pajama pants (oh, shut the fuck up) with hair that looked like crib death had occurred on top of my skull, smoking, and I'm going to dash down to help out some angry crank who's screaming into tin? Please. People who are wearing pajamas at two in the afternoon are not ready to help anybody, even themselves. I smiled at him and hooked my thumbs into my pajama elastic and rocked placidly on my heels; I'm sure I looked more or less like a disheveled, gay Jed Clampett.

Right at that moment, the front door opened, and the ostensible host peeked out at the screamer. Hilariously, he said, "Hey, was that you?" No, you've had several strangers all clamoring for entrance to your apartment in the past ten minutes. They finally glumly trod inside, commiserating about the lousy intercom system, and throwing me a few choice glances as I continued to smoke and insouciantly pajama around.

Is this all we did on our damn vacation? Pretty much. We had some plans to go down to the Oregon coast--because where better to travel in December?--but those were kind of scotched when all of our roadways were suddenly lightly coated with several feet of water and most of the Oregon coastline was blown into the sea anyway.

We also got to know our newest friend, who occasionally hangs out on the deck with me! He's a rat. And you know what? He's adorable. I like to call him "Rat." The wife has noticed me peering out the windows lately and plaintively hooting, "Where's my rat?" Or, when I'm feeling affectionate, I might coo, "Where's my ratter?"

"You're spending too much time in your pajamas," said my wife. "And he tried to eat our brined turkey." (This is true.) More on my rat later, that gorgeous little fucker. I'm kind of in love with him.

It's probably best that I had to go back to work.

Tuesday, 27 November
Vacation Doldrums

So I don't think I told you guys that I'm on vacation. I'M ON VACATION! And now you know. Not that we're doing anything much; the recent move and also some goddamn fucking leftover medical bills from my recent firestorm of scans, proddings, biopsies, eye-grams, butt-cards and skin harvests have left us a bit skint. We may go down to Cannon Beach for a few days, but other than that, well, we're watching an awful lot of bad movies. Yay!

(NOTE: Transformers is a horrible movie, and not in a good way. This movie will cause your disbelieving mind to prolapse and fall into your GI tract. Don't watch it. And if you're not going to take my word for it, think on this: You might have, at some dark period in your life, actually wished for a giant robot to take a piss all over John Turturro, but strangely, it's just depressing when it actually happens.)

So I'll be a little (read: probably entirely) scarce until December. And speaking of December, did you know that it will mark my five-year anniversary of writing for you, my tens of readers? You know what this milestone calls for? Laziness. And so, in my absence, I present to you some of my old favorites. They weren't necessarily the most popular pieces I ever wrote, but for whatever reasons, they stick in my mind. Enjoy, if possible, and if not, I will be back in a couple weeks to disappoint you afresh.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Valentine's Day

Elementary School
Andy
The Evening Boringness in the West
The Sounds of Violence
Drink Me
Things I Have Shouted in Belgium
At The River
I, Caregiver
My Bother The Car

Tuesday, 06 November
Not Long Now

A couple kind souls have contacted me to make sure I'm okay in the unexplained long absence of new posts. And I am! I've got a second bedroom full of boxes of comic books that I can't bear to bother with, but apart from that, nothing is wrong. (Welll, maybe Season 2 of Heroes. What the fuck?)

No, the real reason is this: in our old place, there were scads of people who simply didn't bother to secure their wireless signal. So I cheerfully stole from them for about two years. Yay!

Our new apartment--which is wonderful--does not have this useful feature. Boo! So I have been forced to actually pay for my own wireless, which, oh well. And I have all the gear! It's sitting in my house, ready to go! Yee haw!

Yeah, I'm not setting up any of this shit. I've got a non-stupid buddy coming by soon to give me a hand (code for "do everything"), so soon I should be back up and running and boring the living shit out of you as per usual. I've got a reputation to uphold.

Monday, 22 October
The Doctor Is: APPALLING

I took Friday off so I could go to a WHOLE NEW MEDICAL FACILITY to get my LIVER ULTRASOUND! It was a BANNER DAY! They put out a REAL BANNER, and it flapped GAILY IN THE WIND! It said "SKOT'S BIG LIVER DAY! BRING ONIONS!"

When I got to the waiting room to . . . wait, I was confronted with one of those "take a number" little displays, complete with little plastic numbered tabs. Hanh? Take a number? I hope I come out of this with either some corned beef or a new driver's license, I thought.

After my "intake interview," which sounded wonderfully ominous, but wasn't, someone showed up more or less instantly to escort me to my room, which was moodily lit in a Blade Runner-ish way. Maybe I was going to get fucked by Daryl Hannah! Or killed by Roy Batty!

Or, more likely, an unremarkable tech was going to slather my thorax with surprisingly warm goo and then jam a little robo-phallus into my ribs for about forty minutes, which is somewhere in between. "It's kind of like a formula warmer," said Pat, my tech, of said warm goo, apropos of not much.

I asked Pat if she was allowed to let me know if she saw anything worth screaming about on my scan, and she stuttered. "I, I--I only take pictures. Doctor Marx will take a look and let you know what he sees. My job is to take the best pictures I can." There was silence for a moment. "No," she said in a small voice.

"It's cool," I said. "I'm a pain in the ass," I explained further.

"We're going to look at your pancreas and gall bladder too," she said in reply. She gouged me again, and I didn't say anything.

"I never think about my gall bladder," I said, witlessly. "That's good," she cooed. You're a pain in the ass, I assume she thought.

Our porny adventure continued on for a while, complete with sentences like, "Let's roll you over so we can get a side view." Also: "Oh, don't worry, I see pubic hair all the time."

BOM CHICKA WOW

After a while of this, she gave me a towel to wipe up all the goo, which, really, if I'm wiping up goo? It would have been nice to have a decent reason for. In this case, I was just goo-covered for unpleasant reasons. Wiping up sticky residue should always be after an orgasm, frankly. But I was neither motivated nor confident in my ability to talk my way into a handjob at this point anyway. I glumly toweled off my fish-white gut.

Presently the terrifying Dr. Marx was escorted in. Here's a rough approximation of what he said, in utter machine-gun cadence:

"I have looked at your films and I do not see scary things like cancer or robots or dog faces [I actually have no idea what he said at this point, so I'm filling in] and I will talk to your doctor about this but there are maybe some fatty deposits but you can have a good day."

He stood stoically after that while I processed that whole bit.

"I . . . that sounds like good news!" I stammered.

"You have a good day!" he yelled again. Then he left.

I stared at the tech. "He's very . . . succinct," I said. "He sure is!" replied the goo-tech. Then she showed me out.

Good Lord, fuck all this. I'm happy to live with my neuropathic silliness if I don't have to confront any more terrifying Politburo doctors.

I have trouble eating soup, for God's sake. None of this is worth it. YOU HEAR ME, SOUP? YOU DON'T FREAK ME OUT.

I have watched Viva Laughlin. I will not be intimidated by soup.

Next entry: Viva Laughlin. It was like soup, only one thousand maniacs came in it. Also, it's cancelled. Yay!

Next entry: Holy fucking hell, did anyone else see Viva Laughlin?

Monday, 24 September
Autumn Sweater

I've sure been bitching a lot lately, huh? Well, I'M NOT DONE! I'm sorry, but the latter half of this year is really starting to blow.

Dr. Hair wants me to come in for an ultrasound to rule out "anything scary," which is of course terrifying. I put off calling him today because . . . of the terror. (Yeah, yeah, I'm calling him tomorrow, don't nag me.) In the good news department, I don't have hemochromatosis, probably; in the possibly bad news department, I may have something scary, such as . . . oh, the thinks you can think! Right now, I am infested with malign nanobots, I imagine. You know, that or something really shitty, like . . . oh, I can't stand to think about it. I might have Good Luck Chuck syndrome, which causes your brain to liquefy and run out your ears and ruin your shirt and kill you.

But on Friday, we got some more good news! We're moving! Involuntarily! And I'm not talking about my tremor. The owner of the condo we rent has decided to move back to Seattle, so he's giving us the boot the first week of November. We have to move out. In November.

JESUS FUCKIN' BEEKEEPING CHRIST

It's not even like he's pulling any kind of extralegal shenanigans. He's perfectly within his rights to kick us out; we're month-to-month, so we've got all kinds of nothing here, legally. What's just irritating is that he's a fucking prick who easily could have let us know about this some time ago, but no, he didn't at all. (I suppose I'm going to get a lot of blowback from people arguing that I was a bonehead for letting this be a possibility, and maybe that's true, but really? Fuck this dude. November? Thanks a ton, asshole.) This is a guy, actually, who I have directly spoken to on the phone exactly once, when we moved in, the day we moved in, who seemed disbelieving of my wholly truthful claim that the toilet had chosen that day to die. Since then, there has been no direct contact.

And if you already thought I was stupid, buckle up! It just occurred to me that it gets better: when we do apply to some new place, we get to inform the renters that our current apartment manager does not have a phone number. In fact, he doesn't even have an email address that we're aware of. He takes messages--and uses the email account of--someone we've never met named B. People are going to stare at us like we have three necks, and they should.

It's such a long, dull story about how this situation came to pass that I cannot even bear to try to relate it. But it's been reality for a few years. ("Hi, uh, B., this is a message for W., and our tub drain is backed up. Uh, if he could call us . . . if that's possible . . . uh, that would be great.")

Sigh.

Three-plus years of looking at the Caller ID and seeing "Pay Phone" whenever that guy would call us. Earlier this year, he presented us with a used vacuum cleaner. For some reason. Thanks! He called on Friday to (1) give us our eviction notice, and (2) ask if he could have that vacuum cleaner back. Classy!

Is there any upside here? Oh, it's hard to say right now. We're too close to the horror of having to pack up all of our shit again--moving always sucks hard. I mean, I have no intention of moving all my stuff again--we'll pay movers, but still. And it also occurs to me that we paid a nonrefundable cleaning deposit when we moved in, so someone else can scrub the fucking walls, and if he tries to dick me on the security deposit, I'll do everything in my power to eat his lunch over it.

Next time, I'll try not to bitch. Unless I'm infected with the nanobots, in which case I'm just going to post something like FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!1010101110100010
error
error line 14895
error

. . .
. . .

renter error

your apartment manager has no listed phone number

you are stupid

Sigh.

Thursday, 20 September
Round Two

Today was my follow-up visit with Dr. Hair! I expected excitement! Edification! Other things that begin with "E" that are not enemas!

What's the opposite of edification?

I'll say this for my Scandinavian-themed health provider: they are time-efficient. (E!) There's a sign in the lobby: "If you have been waiting for longer than 15 minutes, please speak to the front desk." FUCK THAT! Five minutes after I got there, the delightful plump little gnome LPN who greeted me last time called my name. "How are ya, buddy?" she chirped, and warmly shook my hand. I sort of love her in the same way I love turtles. I don't really want to touch her or anything creepy; I'm just a happier person because she is in the world.

She weighed me again--I'd gained a pound, and she crowed, "Good job!" I felt weirdly proud for a moment for gaining one pound, and then she told me to turn a corner, and when I did she cried, "Good job!" Oh, I have nothing to be proud of, I thought bitterly. She's a liar. But then I didn't care, because my gnome was so adorable, and she sphygmomamamanometered me again, read the results and yelled "Good job!" again, and I was charmed once more, even though my blood pressure and heart rate are still pretty high. I have done a good job, I told myself. The gnome says so.

Then it was time for Dr. Hair again, and again, I think I only waited for five minutes before he showed. The Scandinavians continued to impress, time-wise. He stared at the gnome's notes for a bit and asked me how I was doing.

"The same," I said flatly. I still have tremors and funky parasthesias.

"[The gnome] says your cough is gone!" he said, raising his eyebrows. This was true, actually. I remembered on my intake form that they put "cough" as Reason for Visit, and I was all, That's really not the salient thing going on here, but whatever. But I couldn't argue the point.

"That's true. My cough is gone." Then I kind of ruined the moment by coughing. "That was a smoking cough," I said, feeling like an asshole.

"Okay!" Dr. Hair agreed brightly. He listened to my lungs to make sure. "Sounds good! I guess you're not the same, then! We got rid of the cough!"

Well, he had me there. "Yeah, that's cool," I said in the same tones that you might say "So, potato salad."

Then he asked me about the beta blockers. "I literally cannot tell any difference at all," I replied. I had been warned about various reactions to these things, but I honestly couldn't ever recall any emotional or physical effect at all. I might as well have been eating lettuce.

"Hmmm," said Dr. Hair. "Did I give you the 25 milligram dose?" Like I paid attention.

"If you say so," I said.

"Let's double that," he replied, writing a new prescription. "Just take two pills tonight instead of one." Oh, do let's!

(I did; in fact a couple hours ago. You might be interested to learn: I cannot tell any difference at all. I just took my pulse, and it's as hummingbirdish as it's always been.)

He went on to talk about my last blood panel, which he had told me earlier was only of concern because of the high level of iron in my blood, raising the specter of something called hemochromatosis, which you have to admit, is kind of an awesome name for . . . well, a crappy thing, I guess.

You also might love the kind-of--depending on who you talk to--standard treatment for hemochromatosis: you get a pint or so of blood removed. Hey, I was using that! That sounds fun.

"Some doctors don't do that, though," he also explained.

"Why not?" I asked.

"There are some studies," he said cryptically. Hey, can I choose? Because I enjoy my blood, mostly so I can live.

I asked Dr. Hair how this still theoretical hemochromatosis was affecting my primary symptoms.

"Oh, God, it has nothing to do with that," he said. "I have no idea about that." He took out a business card and began writing down phone numbers. "I'm not really worried." I sat there, because I'm apparently really good at that.

"This is a hematologist, if it turns out that liver function is the problem. And this is a neurologist, since with the tremor thing, if you want," he explained as he wrote. I have no idea what's going on, I thought, but I said nothing, because . . . I guess I'm stupid. I stared mutely at the business card and then pocketed it.

Then I got another blood draw and I left. I passed the gnome's workstation on my way out, and she looked up at me and waved happily. "I'll see you next time, okay?" she called.

I love turtles, I thought. I felt a little better. And I suppose that's why you go to the doctor.

Monday, 17 September
Empathogens

DirecTV NFL runs ads for its "Sunday Ticket" package; many of them feature what is supposed to be a caricature of a crusty old prick who crabs at the viewers over the new-fangled DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket and how ridiculous the whole concept is, and, by extension, the incredibly pussy sense of entitlement that the viewer must feel over having access to DirecTV's absurdly wussified Sunday Ticket package.

The idea is that these play as parody: nobody takes this horrible dumbfuck seriously, right? You totally want Sunday Ticket! Except I don't--this decision is made easier by the fact that I'm stuck with my building's cable package--and I emphatically don't, because I resent DirecTV for subjecting me to this fucking creep in the first place.

The actor playing the fucking asshole is obviously talented (hopefully at playing things other than a repellent assole); I really believe him, because he's really irritating to me. These ads irritate me so much that I take secret glee in noting that in virtually every spot, he is shown alone: his estranged family has left him, his co-workers pay no attention to him, nobody at the Shriner's dinner will sit with him. He's just this awful old man making fun of you, the viewer, for exhibiting interest in the product being advertised.

Frankly, I think these ads are what are making me sick. I'm being consumed by loathing for this poor actor--who has become sort of real to me, to the extent that I derive schadenfreude from his clearly unhappy life--and also with cognitive dissonance over a series of ads that routinely dump loads of feculent sarcasm over its own product.

(Yeah, I'm still sick, and it fucking sucks. Happily, my doctor has no idea what's going on! Good thing I'm going in again on Thursday so he can continue to not know! I'm ready for him to fondle my balls now if it will lead to some conclusive diagnosis. He'll probably tell me to try getting a haircut.)

My father called the other day to ask how I was doing, and we had a chat about that--he's experienced some of these fucking neuropathies before, but I'll be damned if I can figure on a genetic explanation--and then moved on in the conversation. My folks visited recently, and they made a stop at Trader Joe's. I don't think they have Trader Joe's in Idaho, and they certainly don't have one in my hometown. They had bought some canned tuna in oil.

My father really loved this tuna. I mean, he loved it. He loved it like a mother loves Velamints. (Your mom didn't love Velamints? Your mother must have been defective, or possibly not trying to give up smoking during pregnancy.) He asked me if I would go back to Trader Joe's and pick up some of this tuna for him. I told him it was no problem, because really, it wasn't, and we needed to do some shopping anyway.

We went, and I found the tuna. (Things that are weird? Typing "tuna" over and over. Sucks to be you, ichthyologists!) I asked an employee to check on how much of the stuff they had, and she went into the back to look, and returned to tell me. I called my father.

"They have three cases of your tuna," I said. "How much do you want?"

There was no pause. "All of it!" he cried. Three cases.

I went to the cashier. "Whoa! You got a lotta tuna, buster!" Yes. Yes, I do. I felt the tremors coming. I was actually buying close to three hundred dollars of canned tuna. For my parents, who live by themselves in Idaho, and who I guess are joining a militia.

On Wednesday, I will take 144 cans of tuna to UPS and find out how much, exactly, it costs to ship same to Idaho. I'm going to have to fill out that fucking lading form and in the "contents" field write in "tuna." This is going to be disturbing, of course, and probably my arms will start tingling and I'll probably have a TIA right there when the UPS guy goes, "Whoa! That's a shitload of tuna!"

I'm expecting a call next week where my mom furtively asks me if I can score six cases of Velamints, and my entire nervous system will burst into flames, and that crusty DirecTV bastard will stand over my twitching body and call me a pampered pussybaby while he chews his sandwich, and I will know satori.

"Samadhi alone is not enough, you must come out of that state, be awakened from it, and that awakening is Prajna. That movement of coming out of samadhi, and seeing it for what it is, that is one hundred and forty-four cans of tuna."

Thursday, 06 September
You Might As Well Live

HEY, I'M NOT DYING! Maybe. Nobody knows.

I went to the doctor today. He actually said to me: "Well, you've got me." Excellent.

I was a little late getting out of the office, so I was busting my ass walking to the office. Also, know that I suffer from white jacket syndrome--I get totally skeezed out going to the doctor. The nurse weighed me, heighted me, and then sphygmanometered me. "Whoa!" she said, and then gave me a look as if I might die on the spot. "170 over 90!" she crowed. "I've always been an overachiever," I said drily. "I think that's swell," she replied. (She really did. She was frankly kind of awesome.)

(When the doc sphygged me ten minutes later, my systolic had already dropped twenty points, which was still horrible, but he was moved to put away the casket brochure.)

The doc was a nice guy; I liked him. Are they required as part of their doctory banter to ask you things like where you went to college? Who gives a fuck? Dr. Hair did! He was really interested. (I call him Dr. Hair to protect his privacy; I came up with this nickname because he had hair.)

Presently, I explained to Dr. Hair all about my confusing problems--the lingering flu symptoms, the bizarre performative neuropathies, the six hairy eyes growing out of my knees--and he "Hmmmm"ed and "Huh"ed appropriately. He took several notes, or possibly made amusing pornographic sketches in my chart.

"Has the internet turned your job to shit? Does everyone wander in going, 'Hey, I've got Baker's Vein and Vermicious Knids!' " I asked at one point, and he barked with laughter. "Lay it on me," he said. "What have you got, doc?"

"I've been picking and choosing between lymphoma and MS," I said.

"Sure!" he said. "I'm not ruling anything out." Say, about that. Can we?

He had me take off my shirt and he had a listen at my lung talents. "It's not flaky," he said at one point. I resisted the urge to mention that my lungs were not pastries, but I figured that they covered that in med school. He mentioned some other crap about my thyroid, but then he gave my neck a grope and seemed to immediately dismiss the idea.

He had me perform some outstretched-hands exercises, trying to get a handle on the whole neuropathy situation. "You're tremulous!" he exclaimed when my outstretched hands shook. "For how long?" he demanded. "I don't know. 1974?" I guessed. He beamed at me; he really seemed excited about this tremor thing.

Finally, he decided to "take a picture": that is, get a chest x-ray. I've never had a chest x-ray. In fact, apart from dental exams, I've never had an x-ray of anything not mouth-related. I simultaneously anticipated and dreaded this, not because it would hurt, but mainly because: what if there is some melon-sized nightmare in my chest?

So I had to go over to some other nurses and wait for the chest x-ray. I also had to get my blood drawn for a CBC and chemical panel, for which I was characteristically totally brave: "Don't ask me to watch this shit," I informed the nurse. I'm so lame. She was a pro, and it was fine.

Waiting for the x-ray nurse, I sat in the waiting room, not far from the vampire who had just drained me for a few cc's. A young blonde woman came up and spoke to her, and the next thing I heard was the nurse saying brightly, "All right! Have you ever given a stool sample before?"

My head automatically shot up at this unexpected series of words, and I caught the blonde woman's stricken eyes. I felt horrible, and looked back at the awful carpet.

"No," said the woman with more aplomb than I would have ever summoned.

The extremely Teutonic x-ray tech gal called me in for the x-ray. I stood against a metal plate, and she shouted at me, through a crook in the door, "BREATHE IN DEEP AND HOLD IT!" I did, and she slammed the door. The machine went BLAH at me, and then she opened the door again. "YOU CAN BREATHE NOW!" she howled. She terrified me.

"I have to develop these," she said. "Go get dressed!" She has a totally unrealized career in BDSM. Well, she would if she weren't terrifically ugly, so everything is probably as it should be.

The bullet: my chest x-ray was clean. ("It'll be reviewed, but it's clean," said Dr. Hair. I think my blood pressure dropped another twenty points right then.)

So I still don't know what the fuck is going on, but I'm immensely cheered that Dr. Hair doesn't really seem too concerned about anything. (Then again, my bloodwork could come back with the thrilling news that all my lymphocytes have turned into tiny plastic bananas or something. Exciting!) He gave me an ADVAIR DISKUS for my intermittent dry cough--I guess--and I kind of already hate it, mainly for the bullshit term "DISKUS." On the other hand, I can't ever have enough corticosteroids. But for God's sake . . . DISKUS. Fuck you, Advair.

He also gave me a prescription for some antibiotics--Z-pack--and a beta blocker for the freaky-deaky blood pressure. So now I feel like an old man. "Mother, can you cut up my steak for me? I've got to go take my beta blockers and hobble around feebly for a while."

While I was waiting to get out of there, the stool sample blonde came walking down the hall again; I caught her eye again. She was gingerly holding a plastic container at arm's length. She looked stricken again, and I looked at the carpet again. I am so sorry I saw you carrying your stool sample, I thought to myself, and herself mentally thought to myself, Boy, me too.

I posed a gedankenexperiment to myself at that moment: If I were single, could I ever date a woman who I had first encountered while she was submitting a stool sample for the first time? I came to the conclusion that I am a huge dumbfuck.

After all that--it's been a lousy week--I reflected for a bit. And then I remembered something important. Dr. Hair never once tried to touch my balls.

Thursday, 30 August
A Medical History

At age four, I contracted a nasty ear infection. Two of them, actually! One for each ear. I remember we were on some road trip--my childhood consisted of any number of ill-remembered road trips, suggesting that my parents were, for a while, rootless hippies, which they were, sort of--and I was lying in the back seat of the car, moaning softly, by which I mean loudly.

At some point, I was taken to the hospital, where it was discovered that my ears were, thanks to the infection, filled with compacted dried blood. This was excellent news to hear as a small child, and I soberly responded by immediately making a Barry Sandersesque break for the door, figuring that nothing good was going to happen next. However, as my legs were 18" long, I was easily intercepted.

When the docs held me down and vacuumed out the muck from my ear canals, my mother heard my screams all the way down the hall. This was, by her report, my very first post-innocent-repeating-babytalk utterance of the phrase "fuck you." I think Dad got a talking to.

---

I have a very clear memory, I think age five or six, of being at the doctor's office, and for whatever reason, they deemed it necessary to take my temperature . . . the bad way. I thrashed like the world's tiniest professional wrestler on fire, screaming--let me see if I can remember . . . oh, yes!--"NO! NO! NO! NO!" I do not remember if I deployed a few "fuck you"s this time around, and my mom has no memory of this particular violation.

In the end--oh, shut up--it was really kind of dumb. They finally got me to stop shouting long enough to inform me that they were done. "You are?" I said, totally confounded. In the tumult, I hadn't felt a thing. "That's good," I said. I felt a little victorious about the whole thing.

---

A year or so later, my parents were concerned because of weird cold-like symptoms that would not go away. Wheezing, runny nose, sneezing, the whole bit. Back to the doctor, who figured it out more or less instantly:

"Does he sleep with a feather pillow?" My mom the nurse hadn't thought of the obvious: I had allergies. "Let's find out what he's allergic to," said the doctor.

Do they still do this shit? Because if so, fuck you, medicine. Here's what they did in my day: I took off my shirt and laid down on my stomach while the doctor cut my bare fucking back with a bunch of histological provocateurs. He cut me over and over. Doctors are sadists. Anyway, whatever got red and angry and itchy, I was allergic to!

I was allergic to goddamn fucking everything, and now my back looked like a Stratego board. "He's allergic to," said the doctor, staring dubiously at this incredible litany of everything, "most grasses, hay, straw, animal dander, pollen, Delaware, school sports, human contact, combs, the works of Immanuel Kant, floors, walls, phone books, the concept of emotional blackmail, and house dust." He smiled pleasantly while I thought, house dust? Living as we did in, you know, a house, this sounded like the shits.

We got rid of the feather pillows. The house dust, not so much. It's dust. I spent a good portion of my childhood getting halfway up the stairs in the spring and then having to stop to catch my breath before I could finish the job. One flight of stairs. It would make my mother cry. To this day, I can't look at cottonwood trees without feelings of naked loathing. Happily, Seattle has no cottonwood trees. In fact, Seattle has apparently no allergens at all, as I haven't had an allergy attack in twelve years here.

"Oh, he's also asthmatic," the doctor explained to us. For a period of a year or so, I had to have a weekly shot to control this delightful condition.

So it's only natural that I grew up and became a smoker. I hope that doctor is dead.

---

In fifth grade, my teacher asked me to read something off the blackboard. I squinted, and couldn't make it out. He contacted my parents, who took me to an optometrist. My eyesight was truly horrible, and I was fitted with glasses. We were not a rich family, so I got to choose from the delightful array of horrific plastic glasses frames that are made by shaky buskers in Poland. I looked like an Aryan Henry Kissinger, I wore clothes from Goodwill, and I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without my alveoli sending up rescue flares.

"I think you need to take a school sport," my father informed me around this time.

---

When I got my physical in order to qualify for school sports--required--the kindly old doctor totally fondled my balls. This was horrifying. Clinical, professional and horrifying.

"You're fine," he said at the end of it all.

I'm allergic to the world, asthmatic, blind and I look like a junior war criminal, I thought. Doctors are fucking stupid. Plus, he touched my balls.

---

I have since had my balls groped many other times, in strange contexts, by doctors. This despite my total reluctance to visit doctors at all. Doctors are all ball fetishists. "I have this thing with my arm hair," you might say. "I'd better feel your balls!" the doctor will say.

---

I forgot to tell you about when I was hospitalized when I was four--allergies? It's lost to me--where I was horribly thirsty, but I was not allowed liquids except for ice chips wrapped in a damp washcloth, which I desperately sucked on for hours. Or when my eyes swelled shut on multiple occasions, generally due to the existence of cats. Doctors were summoned, and when they weren't slicing up my back, they were giving me ice chips in washcloths, and then were probably reaching down to cup my balls.

---

I think I might have to go to the doctor. I don't have a regular doctor, so I assume that this will be a total nightmare, paperwork-wise. I've had this fucking cold--if it is a cold--that simply won't go away, and so I suppose I need to go to a professional ball-handler to tell me, "Oh, God, you're stupid, here's some antibiotics, get lost," right after he clinically and professionally hefts my sack.

I swear to God, if I see a cat that day, I'm going to kick it to death.

Monday, 27 August
Satyrday

Saturday! Was! Another! Day! In! Our! Lives!

Only this Saturday we had a party to go to. Our friends C. and L. decided to throw a party, and so we traveled up to Shoreline--you may remember me writing about this neighborhood before, but if not, all you need to know is that there are lots of cars and boats sitting on dead lawns--to partake of PORK! As C.'s invitation indicated.

Now, I like to rag on C.--it's what guys do--but he and his wife-to-be really do have a perfectly fine house, and C. does make a damn fine pulled pork shoulder sandwich. (This phrase always makes me think of some anthropomorphic pig athlete yelling, "Oh, fuck, I pulled my shoulder on that play!" and then Darkseid shows up and is all like, "I enjoy strained pig muscle!" and he tears off the pig's shoulder and shreds it with the Omega effect and puts it on bread, and everyone says "Darkseid makes one hell of a sandwich, boy." I'm sure you've heard this before. Anyway: thanks, dead pig! Granny Goodness and I really enjoyed eating you.)

When we arrived at Chez C., there was a lively round of Drunk Croquet being played, but it was really too early for anyone to be drunk yet, so they were just playing croquet. Croquet, of course, is a deeply stupid game when played properly but somehow manages to be ridiculous fun when played by ticcy beer-swillers on a lunar-inspired grass-scape. C. naturally recognized that his terrible lawn--tilty and pitted and ravaged (he pointed out some footstep-shaped dead grass spots where his fiancee had trod on the lawn after accidentally soaking her feet with herbicide)--was perfect for this sort of thing, and then did the smart thing and placed the bent, dented wickets thirty feet away from each other, causing the players to take monstrous, Andruw Jonesish wild swings at the balls, and occasionally sending the mallets flying through the aether to maybe cave in someone's windshield. I kept hoping.

Then we ate, and it was pork, and it was good. C., who happily also hates other mammals, also made some jerk chicken drumsticks and some beef chili and some deep-fried turkey heads and a batch of candied bat eyes and a plate of undifferentiated scalded ears. I think I ate Macaulay Culkin's!

Then we got down to what actors and sketch comedians do best: chaotic drinking, look-at-me preposterousness and relentless dismantling of whoever happens to be close enough to you to focus on. We got started with drunk badminton.

There's not much to say about drunk badminton, except maybe to point out that we got sort of fanatical about it to the degree that one of the participants left the party to go to some fucking place to get more shuttlecocks after we destroyed the two that we had. "Where is S. with those fucking shuttlecocks?" we screamed while duct-taping up the wretched shuttlecorpses. Then we would spend ten minutes making cock jokes. "That cock was totally in your face!" Some of my friends work at banks; others at hospitals. I work in cancer research. The next time you wonder why commerce is failing us and science is a stagnant force in our society, you can go ahead and blame us.

During all this, C. would occasionally appear, chewing on a cigar, and would yell incomprehensible things at us. We would typically respond by hurling terrible imprecations at C., because that's how we treat our good friend who fed us free mammals and let us ruin his house; it's just the way we are. Actually, it's easy to explain: we're assholes.

(My favorite was when C. or T. or someone would appear in the second-story window of the garage--the game room, actually--to yell shit at us, because it made me feel like I was on Laugh-In. Then someone would throw a shuttlecorpse or a soccer ball into the window.)

Eventually we all went inside to the upstairs-from-the-garage game room, because it got cold outside and there was a pool table and a poker table in there and also the whiskey. (We had since received and destroyed the new shuttlecocks and made ten thousand more cock jokes, and one guy fell asleep in the hammock, and then on the lawn, but you know: I'm condensing here.)

I got dragooned into playing a doubles pool game; I kicked ass. (Really!) This is because I was drunk. I'm a horrible pool player, but when I've been drinking, I can kill. It also helped when I conked out the other team by smashing in their teeth with my cue; then I herded the balls into the pockets with my hands. Suck on that, gummers! (No, seriously, I did kick ass, because I was sort of drunk.)

Then C. opened up the CASINO TABLE. Which is this little half-sized blackjack foldout table that he has. I promptly tripled up my fake chips (C. has real casino chips) before instantly losing them all on one bet, and so I offered to deal. Emulating C., I would wish the recipient of a leading ace "Good luck!" but then varied my patter by telling people who got nightmare hands like queen-four things like "Say, you're fucked!" or "Nice one, dog's ass!" I was a very popular dealer, as far as I know. It should be mentioned that I was within reaching distance of a giant bottle of Jack Daniels, so I'm sort of assuming here.

I love these assholes. I can only hope that they feel the same way.

Monday, 13 August
A Lie Of My Mind

Some of my tens of readers may have noticed a drop in posts lately. The reason for this is simple: my life is almost supernaturally dull. This is not to say that I don't enjoy my life--I do! I have a decent job, a wonderful marriage, any number of fairly non-dipshit friends . . . I can't complain. But it isn't very interesting, least of all for anyone else to read about. There's only so many posts I could write where I come home from and watch the game and moan to the wife about Papi's declining stats this season.

I have to watch myself, because when I get nervous about not posting enough, I start to press. I start looking for things to write about, which is a danger, and I start to think about embellishing, which is another danger. I like best the ideas that come to me out of the blue, but when your life is as ordinary as mine, they don't necessarily always flow.

The embellishment thing, for instance. All writers embellish; anyone who thinks they don't are seriously deluded or stupid or nuts. Every writer--says I--fixes things up. (I hope it's obvious here that I'm talking about writing about actual events.) Every writer alters timelines to suit the narrative; we all clean up sorta-remembered verbiage (or substitute reasonably sane facsimiles); we all condense and distill and filter, all verbs which helpfully remind me that most writers also drink.

This normally isn't a problem, at least not for me. This is a stupid blog, and so I am held to no standards whatever, though I like to think I hew to the few I keep. I try not to lie. And when I do lie, I try to lie in such a hyperbolic, overblown fashion that I hope that it is patently obvious that I'm just making shit up.

I probably fail at this, though. It's just too easy to lie. Writers lie all the time, because most of the time, life is just fucking dull. So we pull out our little tricks, and we lie. We insert or import in false details to serve an anecdote. We pretend to remember things that nobody could possibly remember, except for some bedridden mutant like Proust, but does anyone trust Proust?

Writers are liars. Don't trust them.

And especially don't trust me, assuming that you even consider me a writer, as opposed to some twitchy dilettante. I'm also an actor, so I'm also trained in lying. I think I'm pretty good at it. I (read: my parents) spent a lot of money to make sure I got trained very well to lie to you, right to your face. It's no good protesting that when people go to the theater (and nobody does any more, but never mind), that the audience is damn well expecting that I lie to them: it's my job. It's no good because we are delighted to take those very same skills and exploit them for our own base wants and needs.

I have been taught to lie, we realize at some point. This could be awesome.

And so we do. But it's more sinister than even that. It's more sinister because actors aren't just trained to lie, they are trained to lie with the unshakable conviction that they are not lying at all. Bad actors are people who are unconvincing liars. Every time you've ever stared hopelessly at a movie screen and thought, "That is a shitty actor," you have essentially deemed that person a terrible liar. This is doubly insulting because 1. being lied to poorly is exasperating enough in everyday life, and 2. it's even worse that this incompetent got paid money to fail to lie to you, the viewer. Being lied to excellently is one of life's great joys, which is why actors continue to draw paychecks, much like astrologers, psychics and Republicans. (Ohhhhh! I couldn't resist.)

Don't ever listen to actors or writers, or worse, some unholy combination of both. They are liars and aren't to be trusted.

Here's a true story.

Sunday night, the wife went out of town to visit an old girlfriend of hers. So that evening I went down to my cherished neighborhood bar. W. was bartending; W. is my very favorite bartender ever. W. was playing The Who's Who's Next, an album which in my opinion is the finest studio rock album ever recorded.

"I knew you were coming in," said W. "And I like The Who, so we both win." This is only a fraction of why this bar is so goddamn great. W. also knew--because he knows us well--that the wife was out of town for the night. "What do you have going on tonight?"

I looked around. "Apparently the same damn thing I have planned for most nights," I deadpanned. We laughed, and then, as the just-opened place was pretty empty, we shot the shit.

We talked about: the awesomeness of The Who; the various musical plagiarisms of Led Zeppelin; the manic qualities of various other bartenders; the ontological importance of bar backs; the weird dearth of decent Mexican restaurants in Seattle; this time when W. accidentally sucker-punched a stranger in the kidney at a bowling alley; and (of course) the relative awfulness of the current political scene.

This is why bar talk exists: to solve all the problems in the world. If W. and I ruled the world, the world would be just fucking fine. At the end of every conversation in a bar, the world is saved. That, or someone is going to get dumped, which is saving someone's world, probably.

You see how this anecdote really isn't very interesting? It's because it's true. Sort of. It's not all true, but it's mostly true. Does it matter? Do you even believe me? I told you not to. I told you twice.

It's true and it's not true; it's false and it happened to me. I arranged words on a page, you read them, and now you're involved in the lie, too, but you're also stuck with the true parts. You just don't know what they are.

Is it interesting? This is what I always come back to. I don't know. It's interesting to me, but then it happened to me, except for the parts that didn't, but I'm reasonably sure they did. I remember them. You don't, because they didn't happen to you, (shut up, W., if you're reading this [he's not]) but I'm guessing you assumed they were true, despite my desperate urgings not to.

I told you not to listen to me. I gave you good reasons not to. You read this anyway. And I thank you, because if you didn't . . . well . . . what good is an old liar if there's nobody around to listen?


Postscript: Later on that night, I fucked a million hookers, and they all insisted on paying me. No lie.

Tuesday, 17 July
Quit It

When I was a tinier tot, I think, oh, six or seven or so, my mother started giving me piano lessons. Now, my mom isn't really a very good piano player--and she'll readily admit this--but she can play, and she thought it would be a good idea to introduce me to the wonderful world of music.

I love music to this day. God, I love it. I know this is not really a very revelatory thing to say: everyone likes music, it moves souls, you remember what was playing when you lost your virginity, blah blah. But hey, I liked music. My mom used to play "The Entertainer" on the piano and I would race manically around the house; not dancing at all, but the sheer delight of moving to this wonderful music. I could not stay still while those sounds were thrumming the air in my ears.

So I took piano lessons from my mother. I did that whole thing where I painfully banged out rudimentary tunes into a tape recorder to send to my grandparents--lucky them! Horrible gonging noise perpetrated by a little fingerless ogre child who couldn't find a tune or a rhythm hidden in a broken hammock! O happy day, grandparents! Listen to your fumbling genetic disaster haltingly plonk out eerie semblences of actual music while stopping midway to holler, "Hold on! I messed that up! Let me go back!" And then it all starts over again.

After only a few months of piano lessons, I quit. It was glorious to quit. It was so glorious, I made quitting a large part of the rest of my life.

Again, as everyone does, I love music. I wanted to create it. And maybe, with a lot of practice and hard work, I could have. But that's the point. I didn't want to practice, and I didn't enjoy hard work. Or, for that matter, easy work. Or anything that rhymed with "work." Even at that early age, I knew about Mozart, for example, and prodigies. That's what I dreamed of: talent without work. I loved playing the piano: I fantasized about pulling a prodigy card out of my horrible ear and playing masterfully just by hearing things played for me. But when confronted with the awful reality that I was emphatically not a prodigy, and that years of hard work would be required, I quit.

Later in life, my father decided, as fathers do, that sports built character in a young boy. And so in junior high, I went out for the football team. (You can imagine how excited my coach was when he encountered me: by all appearances, I resembled nothing so much as a juvenile Marsh-Wiggle.) I lasted one season, playing--of all things--second string defensive tackle before quitting the next year, citing my asthma.

I remember confronting the coach. "I have asthma," I said. (True.)

"Huh." he said.

"I kind of pass out sometimes," I said. (False.)

"Okay," he said.

I also remember confronting my father. "I have asthma," I said.

He didn't say anything. For three days. I didn't care much, really, because frankly, little kids are lying douchebags, and while they know it, they don't mind.

Later, when I got into high school, my father still insisted I play a sport--at least one per year. For unclear reasons, I chose baseball, a game I had manifested absolutely no interest in and had no definable talent for.

I rode the bench for two years, and deservedly so. "Can of corn!" someone would holler after a weak fly ball was hit . . . over there. What the fuck are these guys talking about? I asked myself.

Once I got to start in right field--once--when the coach got pissed off at the normal right fielder for missing a practice. I even got to field a ball when a lefty came up to bat. "It's a lefty!" my teammates cried. "It's coming to you, Skot!" Okay, I thought. I wonder why?

Then in my sophomore year, some of the older guys on the team bus pissed into a 7-Up can and gave it to me on the bus ride home, and I drank some of it, and I knew it was time to do what I knew best: it was time to quit.

And quit I did! (I also learned to my relief, thanks to some ancillary research, that urine is actually sterile.)

I was getting good at this quitting thing. But not good enough. My father still insisted that I participate in some damn sport, so I promptly and cruelly managed to disappoint him by choosing that least masculine of sports: tennis. I didn't even have a racket.

Once again, he didn't speak to me for three days, but this time I think it was less out of disappointment than just utter confusion. It really was a perverse choice, considering that I'd never swung at anything other than a pinata about nine years previously. For my part, I had surveyed the field and figured None of these guys look like they're going to piss into a fucking pop can and hand it to me, anyway. So I was aiming high.

The amazing thing was, I didn't quit tennis. I was terrible at it, but I didn't quit, and in fact, I was on the varsity team my senior year. (This is frankly incredible, but less so in the context of the fact that my high school had less than 400 people in it. But still.)

So the tennis thing is kind of an outlier in terms of quitting. I don't know even why I mention it. I did think of quitting, actually, once, when Carol racked me in the balls with her tennis racket, but I didn't.

But I quit so many things afterwards. I became a quitting gourmet: I quit: pre-law, because of all the fucking assholes; a KFC, because, Jesus Christ, removing chicken livers and a woman with "COLIN JAMES HAY" carved into her arm; and retail.

It's hard for me to believe that I spent five solid years in retail, fielding penetrating questions such as "Is that a clock?" (She was pointing at an ordinary clock.) And "Is that a couch?" (He was pointing at a couch.) I quit that too, without any sort of backup job or source of income lined up at all, because I couldn't take it any more, and it wasn't until I was done, free and clear that I realized: I had no idea, no idea at all, how miserable I was for all that time. It's amazing what your brain will conceal from you if it thinks it's best to do so for your overall mental health.

Five years. I still can't quite believe it.

I finally quit, and shortly afterwards, I talked to my father. It didn't take three days this time. "It's about fucking time you quit," he said.

Indeed.

Thursday, 28 June
May The Road Rise With Me

For Christ's sake, I wasn't sure my erratic host--for which I should say for the last five years I have paid nothing, thanks to the generosity--was going to let me post anything. Finally it relented. I just wish that in the middle of the night it wouldn't get all funky and be like, "Hey! You know what? I'm not going to load this page. I'm beating off to Tiffany Mynx. She's over forty, and looks kind of like a lizard, but what a rack!"

Anyway. You're on your own for a little while. See, the thing is, tomorrow the wife and I are flying to deepest, darkest, rodeoest Idaho for my 20th high school reunion. Yes, proud bulls will get their nuts tied up purely so we can drink beer and cheer them on to stomp on some insane cowboys. Perhaps one of those cowboys will get headcrushed in the ring and they'll audibly shoot him out of mercy in the parking lot. You never know!

The whole thing promises to be a complete clusterfuck. (Note to self: spellchecker does not like "clusterfuck." Other note: spellchecker also does not like "spellchecker.")

For one thing, we're all pushing forty. Which means that it's a bunch of people all standing around talking about things like weight gain, hair loss and prescription medication. I'm not sure why we even bother. We might as well just send in representative samples from our pillboxes. "Doug wins. He's got Paxil, Viagra, Wellbutrin, Propecia, Clugnubber and Magic Boot Root McSmoot Toot, which is illegal in Tennessee. Also, he weighs six hundred pounds and would have been here, but there weren't any winches available."

We might even have a float in the terrible parade, which means that they give you a case of beer and a bunch of Super Soakers to douse the children. I don't really fucking know. I don't know anything.

Can you tell I'm a little freaked out? Christ. Look, I'll see you next week. I'm guessing I'll have tons to write about.

Monday, 25 June
Junetwentiethish

Well, Sunday was my birthday, and I DIDN'T SEE YOUR GIFTS ANYWHERE, my tens of readers! You freeloading bunch of devil turkeys from Devilonia. Wait! Before I go there, maybe I should just assume that all of your gifts are in the mail. Much like my parents' gift was IN THE MAIL, and they TRIED TO DELIVER IT on FRIDAY, but I was AT WORK like the red-blooded American that I am, and so the box full of cobras they intended to deliver to me resulted in a box full of dead cobras, and so now I have several dozen new dead meaty scarves. HA HA, murderous parents!

Please don't send me any more deadly snakes. I have plenty of scarves.

We went to our favorite bar for my birthday, which is is not the bar I have written about in the past--that glorious dive--because that bar has been sold and is being converted to a Mexican restaurant. No, we have a new favorite bar, and it is . . . it is something that is perfect. This bar is different from our old dives--for one thing, they wash the stains off of the walls, and for another, they are steadfast in their refusal to serve me martinis with dead fruit flies in them, no matter how much I plead--in that it is spectacular. It's a scratch bar of the highest order, with a fruit press right there on the bartop, and I do enjoy it every time when some new idiot wanders in and gives it a glance and asks, "So, what's on tap?" Here, finally, is a place near my home (two blocks away, in fact) where I can order a Salty Dog that will actually contain real grapefruit juice. Here is a bar where they have genuine Pimm's cups on the menu. Here is a place that doesn't stare at me blankly when I order a Gibson and then serve me a gimlet.

(If it's not clear already, I have no intention of naming this place because too many people have already discovered it, and we don't need anyone else coming in to piss in our astonishing drinks.)

The bartenders there, of course, are also spectacular, not only for their craft, which is impeccable, but also for their professionalism. For instance, when on Sunday night I asked E., the head bartender, about a drink called a Vieux Carre, which I said another bartender had fixed for me, E. cried "I showed him that drink! Fuck him!" This at full volume at the bar, to which everyone cheered. Fuck him, indeed! I appreciate a bar where the bartenders feel obliged to swear freely, e.g. "Hey, Skot, thanks for fucking me so grandly on that tip last night. What happened, did you get too drunk to add?"

E. also very kindly offered to have a drink special in my honor for the night, and I took him up on it, selecting a peculiar Manhattan variant called a Red Hook, which featured rye whiskey, maraschino liqueur, punt e mes (a sort of Italian vermouth) and orange bitters. I availed myself of several of these during the evening, and upon ordering my ninetieth or so, asked how it was going. "Your drink is taking over the fucking bar," said E. Startled, I surveyed the rest of the barsitters, and sure enough, at least half of them had Red Hooks sitting in front of them. "Every time you guys order one, someone asks me what the hell I'm making. I tell them, and then they want to try one." He paused for a moment--unusual for E., who is a dynamo of a bartender who is only happy when he is behaving like a man whose nuts are on fire--and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, I have to start doing drink specials!"

This can only be news of the most awesome kind, since the bar in question already has the world's greatest happy hour: 5-7, every day of the week, two dollars off all liquor, no matter what kind or variant, and one dollar off beer. Only wine drinkers lose out, but why go to a bar like this to drink wine?

It was a fantastically good birthday experience. The wife got me a bottle of Redbreast whiskey, DVDs of "Deadwood" (season 3) as well as The Descent AND Dog Soldiers! Holy crap.

Other people gave me cards. You know what? Fuck cards. You know what cards say? I don't buy things for assholes like you. Which, as an asshole, I understand. But honestly? I'd rather have nothing. Nothing is somehow less insulting than a card.

(EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE: A card that features Frog and Toad. Because Frog and Toad are not only friends, they are also AWESOME. Therefore, I am really tickled by my Frog and Toad card. Still friends! It's been like a hundred years! If I had a sister, I would happily let Frog and Toad fuck her. My notional sister would totally pull that amphibian train.)

(DISCLAIMER: Cards are actually fine. God, I'm a tool.)

You're totally welcome to my next birthday party, provided that my cherished bar remains mostly undiscovered. And I'm happy to come to yours! I'll totally buy you a card.

(I swear I was just being a dick about the card thing. I'll probably buy you one. Especially if I can find one with Frog and Toad. Because? They are friends.)

Monday, 02 April
Alone Again, Or What?

The wife's play has opened, and so I continue to enjoy some private time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. This is ostensibly a good thing--it does one good to spend some time every now and then by oneself. Or so I'm told.

The real truth? I fucking bore myself silly.

It's an odd thing. When I've been spending time alone at home when she's off performing, I've been doing the same things I do when she's here: watching piteously bad police procedurals; watching woeful, dreary horror movies; reading my idiotic comic books; reading dreadful novels. (I just tonight finished up Hannibal Rising. Why? Because I read all the other ones, for Christ's sake, yes, even Harris' spirited "fuck you, nagging fans!" that was the rapturously stupid Hannibal. Anyway, as you can guess, it stinks.)

So I'm not doing anything different while the wife is off being the artiste. So why am I so fucking bored with myself? Why do I sit here with the blood roaring in my temples, staring at yet another "Law & Order" rerun or a copy of Iron Man Vs. Chemoglobin and think, Hey, me? You are fucking boring.

I could call friends. I do have them, and I love them. But I don't call them. Normally, I don't have to. I have my wife! (My friends don't call me, either, and I wouldn't if I were them. After all, fuck me: I never call. I have a cell phone that exists solely for me to be able to say, "I have a cell phone." It literally serves no other purpose.)

The thing is, I like being able to watch terrible visual media or read insulting literary refuse while my wife is with me. I'm not sure why, and I don't mean to sound corny or sappy about it. But it makes a difference. Maybe it's just the simple animal comfort of proximity; maybe it's the knowledge that at any time, I can turn to her and say something like "Iron Man is an irritating choad," and be met with a polite, "Well, all right."; or being able to share giggles over astonishing and confusing entities such as David Caruso and the Seattle Mariners.

(Now I kind of want David Caruso to coach the Mariners. He can stare at Adrian Beltre with those dead-reptile eyes of his and whip off his sunglasses to croak, "Let's see some hustle out there, Adrian," and Beltre will jovially blap, "Sure thing, skip!" right before he strikes out swinging and loses control of his bat and it sails into the stands and kills a mother of three, and then David Caruso stonily arrests him with some pithy quip like, "Sometime, coaching can be murder." YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!)

On Friday night, I had had enough of me. Me, I said, for God's sake, let's just go to the bar. Me and me had a deal, and so I went down to my new favorite bar, which is helpfully a block away from my apartment. It's about a year old, and I love it; I am sad to say that it has replaced my former favorite place, a faceless thing of a place that charmingly refused to do things like wash its walls. The first straw was when they removed the awful Megatouch machines; the second was when I was recently served a martini with tiny winged insects in it and was told, "They must be in the olives." Must they? Say, I think I'll have a beer.

The new place is much more upscale, done in dark wood tones, dim lighting and a somewhat forced Asian feel. It is a scratch bar, which I love ("We have a cranberry moat out back! Let me go stomp you some juice!"), and their drinks are refreshingly creature-free. They also feature wonderful bartenders who are not at all reluctant to tell you entertaining stories about how last night they got ripped up on some horrific Cambodian whiskey that was laced with methamphetamine and then discovered cellphone evidence of a late-night call to a sex line.

They also enjoy coming up with fanciful drinks with names like Bit of Guv'nor's Time?, Teenager's Lament and Ina Garten's Self-Satisfied Chuckle, and these drinks, though typically Baroque in construction, are unfailingly delicious, and usually feature unusual elements such as port, or Chartreuse, or Xylene. It all sounds very fussy and too-much, but it is not, and I adore this place. So I went.

I seated myself at the bar and fiddled momentarily with my cell phone, making sure that it still was in good useless working order: this is the lonely dance of the unaccompanied person at a bar. Fuck with your cellphone, make it look like you're staring at text messages or something, so you don't look so pathetic. Meanwhile, you are doing something pathetic like playing Canal Control. Which I was.

The other thing the unaccompanied person at a bar does: people-watch. After E., my good bartender, brought me my delicious Thicket of Dense Reasoning (gin, muddled dill, cucumber garnish), I began scoping out my companions at the bar. I was seated near two young ladies enjoying a night on the town; whenever E. would inquire if their drinks were okay, did they need another round, etc., they would titter and coo at him shamelessly. "Would you date him?" one asked the other while E. made their drinks. "I'd fuck him," replied the other, and they broke into laughter that rose to the ceiling like flushed, terrified birds. I stared into my drink and then fumbled with my cell phone again, pretending it was doing something of interest.

A few minutes later, the ladies ordered two shots of something that they called "Killer Bees," and I noticed with clinical detachment that they involved Jagermeister and some other hellbrew that I couldn't identify. By this time, I was working on another house drink called One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula (12-year rum, blood orange, flensed whale blubber, bitters), so maybe I can't say anything, but an icy shudder ran down my spine. After these nightmares, they finally called for E. to settle up. As they regarded their bill with fixed concentration, one clawed at her purse and produced a pen.

"I love these pens. They are so inky."
"They are awesomely inky. They're the inkiest."
The first girl then tunelessly sang: "IIIIIIIIIINKYYYYYYYY PEEEEEEEEEEEENS!"

I finished my drink, and settled up with E., tipping him well, of course. (You don't take care of your bartender? You're a fool.) It was time to go. My girl was coming home soon, and I didn't have to be bored any more.

Thursday, 01 March
January Man

My recent exploits up in the mountains have caused me to remember the source of my love for snowplay: I used to be a skier. It was a long time ago--junior high through high school--but for a time, I was a serious ski nut.

Don't get me wrong: I wasn't ever very good. I was competent, maybe even better than average, but I never had a shining career in front of me or anything. I competed in a slalom race once; I came in third. I got destroyed by D., a classmate of mine who later went on to grow a rat-tail mullet and got on the fast track in the barfly industry. And some other guy who I don't remember, so . . . eat it, other guy!

I got started when I helped out my father at a part-time job at the ski rental place on our local ski hill. Snowhaven, as it is called, is possibly one of America's most hilariously rinky-dink ski hills. It is by any standard unbelievably tiny; if one chooses to take off at top speed from leaving the t-bar (yes, t-bar--or rope tow, if it's running! Which is never), one can easily get to the lodge within two minutes, easy. When God was leaning over to sculpt Sun Valley, Snowhaven fell lintily out of his pants pocket and drifted to Earth up north as Snowhaven. Snowhaven is to skiing as lost keys are to NASCAR. When the miniature people from the bottle city of Kandor want to go skiing, they come to Snowhaven, and are served hot chocolates and cheeseburgers by Dufflepuds.

Think I'm kidding? Have a look. A full day lift ticket is thirteen bucks. Anyone who has gone to a typical ski resort knows that the employees all wear ski masks and are accompanied by gorilla-like brutes whose job is to seize your ankles and shake you upside-down vigorously until all your money is on the floor. Then they take your credit cards, jewelry and dignity before turning you over to the attendant surgical team, who promptly remove a kidney. Getting charged thirteen dollars for a lift ticket is, in the skiing world, a lot like finding a unicorn eating a leprechaun.

Not that it mattered. As a worker at the place, I got to ski for free, once I was done helping out my dad with the rentals. After that, I was free to suit up and go ski my feet off, run after glorious two-minute run after another. At first, I wore stuff from the rental shop, but soon, as a Christmas present, my folks got me real gear of my own: namely, Atomic "Red Sleds," which I prized; these were moderately famous skis because they were worn by Bill Johnson when he won the 1984 downhill gold in Sarajevo. I cherished them beyond all measure, basking in how pristine they were for a little while--about a week--before some guy skiied right over them and laid a gash down to the metal.

My dad got me lessons to get me started; Snowhaven had a ridiculous little bunny hill with a tiny rope tow. My instructor taught me how to snow plow, and I immediately demonstrated a flair for the sport when on my first successful vertical run, I instantly forgot to put my skis in the V position and skiied off of the bottom of the hill into the parking lot. My instructor wearily took out a hip flask while the poor bastard in the Lilliputian rope tow cockpit sighed and fired up a tinfoil pipe.

I got better, of course, and eventually developed into that pestilence of the ski course, the Boy. Boys don't much give a shit about schussing back and forth in elegant arcs, enjoying the snowscape and nature's beauty. Frankly, fuck nature, fuck beauty and fuck you. Boys are interested in two things: speed and jumps. Either a run was a kamikaze dive straight down to the t-bar line (capped off, of course, with a supremely irritating last-minute stop where your skis throw an icy fantail of skidded snow all over everybody else) or it was a looping, cross-lane adventure where jump was followed by jump, young boys flinging themselves into space for ridiculous distances and attempting to perform ski tricks with exotically dumb names, like a "mule kick" or a "daffy" or a "spread-eagle" or a "helicopter" or any combination that one cared to attempt, so long as one was always, always making sure to maximize the possibility that, upon landing, one was most likely to snap a femur.

Of course I fucked up a lot. I really loved to jump, and it was great fun, but not so fun? Landing. Quite often, I would wipe out spectacularly, resulting in what we loved to call--and call we did, when we witnessed it--a "snow sale." The optimal outcome of a snow sale is: poles 10 meters away; skis five meters away, hopefully pointing awkwardly toward the sky at odd angles; hat utterly missing, as if carried of by angry birds; goggles 25 meters away, impacted and invisible into the groomed snow; teeth unrecoverable. Then, if you were very lucky, lying there dazed in the snow, you'd hear that call--"SNOW SALE!"--and then several of your good friends would swoop down on their skis, pick up your shit, and cackle all the way down to dump it outside the lodge, leaving you to trudge dolefully all the way down to retrieve the stuff.

Repeat this for nearly every Saturday night in January for a few winters, and you have reconstructed my time at Snowhaven exactly.

I did get better. I eventually mastered the daffy without exploding on impact; I took on the legendary Jump Hill, Snowhaven's single black diamond run (yes: one), which was right next to the t-bar for maximum showoffiness. I figured out how to ski backwards; I figured out how to ski on one ski with the other cocked behind me at a 90-degree angle, the leading tip of my ski carving a trough in the snow; I figured out how to annoy everyone else on the t-bar by applying drag to the cable, then suddenly releasing the resistance, causing everyone else to ride out the resultant jerk on the line, hopefully resulting in some old people losing their balance and ignominiously falling off the t-bar.

And once, taking my best friend B. up to the hill to learn how to ski, I maliciously took him right to Jump Hill; B. of course, like me once, completely froze, forgot his magical snow-plowing skills, and then parallelled straight down the slope at the speed of sound, his screams Dopplering back to me nicely. At the bottom, terrified beyond rational thought, B. simply elected to fall over on his side to stop himself, and the resulting explosion of powdered snow, B.'s limbs, and every item of clothing and gear resembled nothing so much as those Andy Capp cartoon panels where Andy and Flo indulge themselves in some enthusiastically vigorous domestic violence. I half-expected SFX lettering to float out of the incredible cloud of mayhem: "BOOM!" "THRAKK!" "SNO!"

I doubled over with laughter as B. finally coasted to a stop and lay half-dead on his back, the surrounding landscape littered with the neon Gore-tex of B.'s formerly useful ski gear and clothing. He made croaking noises and experimented with the concept of movement. It was clear that there was only one thing to do.

"SNOW SALE!" I screamed. B. feebly waved at me as I gathered up all his shit and then shouted at me weakly as I glided down the mountain to cheerfully dump it all outside the lodge. I went inside and ordered a cheeseburger and waited for B. to make his lonely, embarrassing trek down the hill. Boy, it was fun. Boy oh boy.

Boys.

Monday, 19 February
Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Cram

HEY EVERYBODY I GOT PUBLISHED YO!

I know that you've been spending time this weekend honoring our presidents, but if you have a minute, check me out at CRAM Magazine! They're a web magazine! And they are totally into . . . cramming! I guess.

Anyway, they asked permission to publish a couple of things I've written, and, astonished by the fact that they actually asked, I told them, YES! Please! I wish to cram and/or be crammed!

In truth, they put out a really nice-looking mag, and there are some very cool things in there, many of which don't feature lots of profanity or cryptic, unsettling references to "spuzz." It's a swell publication, from what I can tell, which means that they are most likely doomed.

Plus, they're liars. I quote from their site: "CRAM is devoted to the author who writes intelligent, engaging articles and just wants a place to publish." Which is nonsense, given that they hit me up, but whatever. Give them a shot anyway. Do it for the presidents. Thomas Jefferson would have wanted you to CRAM it. It's in the constitution.

Monday, 12 February
It's The Only Thing

Every Sunday night, the wife and I have our friend R. over for game night, and we play all kinds of games: Settlers of Catan, Wyatt Earp, Ticket to Ride, etc. We used to play mumbly-peg for a while until R. lost his thumb and stained the shit out of our carpet to boot. Anyway, we usually have a good time, because I always win.

It's not a mystery why I win all the time. For one thing, I'm fucking brilliant. When it comes to strategizing about, say, resource distribution, or planned routing of train tracks, well, I'm basically this century's von Clausewitz. For another thing, I've got heart. My heart? It's fucking huge. I've got a massive heart; it's the size of Secretariat's. You can hear my goddamn heart across the room, and it sounds like someone is playing "Tainted Love" in my fucking chest. That's why I win.

But something curious happened this last Sunday. Something downright perplexing. I lost. I lost at Ticket to Ride, for Christ's sake, and I lost to that ass banana R. I couldn't believe it, but there it was. Impossible but true.

But I figured out why R. won. He cheated.

It's the only possible explanation. R. cheated. I don't know how, but he did. Did he cheat with his brain? I wondered. He must have. He used his stupid cheating brain to beat me, and it really pissed me off.

You ever hear your mom or grandma spout off that ridiculous old saw, "Cheaters never prosper"? Thanks, grandma, you confused goddamn bat. Go back to your half-finished TV Guide crossword puzzle. What a bunch of fucking crap. And I had proof right in front of me, in the form of R., grinning like a macaque, prospering his ass off right in my fucking living room. "Cheaters never prosper"? Right. If you believe that, you probably also believed your grandma when she came up with other winners like "Suck a dick every day!" and "A slice of cheese between your knees will foil the fleas." Thanks, grandma: now my palate has the salinity of the Dead Sea and my body looks like a relief map of Mars thanks to the relentless flea infestations.

My grandmother ruined my life, frankly, until I learned that the world didn't play by her rules. I hate you, grandma, and I'm glad you're dead.

Where were we?

Oh! Right, cheating. That stupid fuck. He had the audacity to cheat me right in my own damn house. I couldn't tell if he was pulling cards off the bottom of the deck, or sneaking game pieces on to the board, or using his brain to play better than me, but he clearly was pulling some monkeyshines.

And you know? This crap has been going on for all of my damn life. I remember playing kickball in elementary school--at which I was, quite honestly, preposterously talented--and my classmates cheated all the fucking time. They weren't even shy about it. "Kurruk's up!" they would cry as I got up to take my kick. "He's asthmatic, so move in!" Goddamn cheating creeps. Insider information passed around the schoolyard like a dazed hooker. I couldn't believe it. And as if that weren't enough, the little bastards would do things like get me out by catching the ball or pegging me on the base path, cheating blatantly with their superior genetics, their stronger muscles, their faster reflexes.

Four Square? Same fucking raw deal. There I was, honestly playing the game in its pure form while the little refugees from a Dickens novel were fucking around breaking the rules. One kid always was like "Bus stops!" and I was like "Hey, no bus stops!" and then the lousy little bastard would go, "SLAM! And you're out!" while smashing a bus-stopped ball into my square and then getting his buddies to hold me down while a dog licked my asshole and I screamed for a teacher, or God, or anybody for help, and they all laughed, they laughed at me, and when they all mysteriously died a few months later after a series of improbable heart attacks--the coroner was puzzled by a spate of eight-year-olds suffering such explosive cardiac events--I didn't even feel bad. They were cheaters, because I didn't win.

I'd like to point out for the record that they never found that dog and nobody can prove anything. The point is, I survived. Me and my horse-sized subwoofer of a heart survived just fine, and those cheating little shits croaked when their hearts turned into shuddering jelly.

I'm still here. And I'm a winner. Even when I lose, I'm a winner. Hell, everyone knows I'm a winner, even when I lose to a dirty cheater, because when I do lose, I make sure to throw a fucking fit about it. When R. won the other night, do you think I congratulated him? I don't think so. "You're a filthy cheating pile of shit," I informed him. He made some idiotic wounded noises, and had the inflamed cojones to accuse me of being a poor loser. What a dick. Like I'm a loser at all. He didn't win! He cheated! "Probably with your fucking brain," I sneered at him, which left him amusingly confused, as if he didn't know how to respond.

"What is your problem?" he asked, playing for time.

"My problem is, you cheated me, you fucking Gypsy cheating wandering hairy mongrel!"

"I'm from Bremerton, you fuckup!" he stammered, trying to maintain the ruse. "I'm Swedish."

I ignored him, and in a fury, wandered out to my deck and began pitching rocks at my neighbors' windows. "CHEATED BY A GYPSY! GYPSY'S USING HIS BRAIN DOWN HERE TO FUCK ME OVER! ATTICA! ATTICA!" The neighbors rained down a hail of garbage on me after a while, as a tribute to my righteous outrage. "Shut the fuck up!" cried one person who threw down a garbage sack full of coffee grounds, presumably intended for me to pour into R.'s cheating goddamn pants. "Thanks!" I cried. I needed the ammunition.

But R. had already fled. His kind always shows yella. Beat me at my own game, will you? I don't think I'm going to sit still for that, Jethro. You fucking hillbilly. Take a hike back to Gypsylanti. My wife stared at me, wide-eyed, in what I assume was naked admiration. I won't stand to be cheated any more. I just won't accept it.

Because I am a winner.

Monday, 08 January
Are You There, God? It's Me, That Intolerable Griping Pud

Well, I have to say that 2007 so far has been a REAL PILE OF SHIT, people! Did I not demand not so long ago that the world needed to get better? Well, it hasn't. Stupid world.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing that horrible happened to me or anything. But there was a definite lack of awesomeness this weekend that frankly I resent. It's starting to piss me off.

For one thing, as we often do on Friday evenings, we rented a couple of horrible movies. My tens of faith-ish readers have long known about my near-fetish for appallingly bad movies, and so we figured we were in for a banner night with a double bill consisting of the remake of The Wicker Man and the screamy-meme-y Snakes on a Plane.

Snakes on a Plane featured things like a soon-to-be-dead chick with great big naked tits and a guy getting his dick bit by a reptile.

What does it say about The Wicker Man when I tell you that it could have been vastly improved by both of these things?

I never saw the original Wicker Man, but I am reliably informed that it featured all kinds of gratuitous nudity. WELL, NOT THE REMAKE, BUSTER! And the reason why is clear: director Neil LaBute, famous for such life-affirming works such as In the Company of Men, simply loathes people. All people. Only a colossal misanthrope could take a cult movie noted for its gratuitous nudity and remove all of it in favor of scenes with the ham-scented Nic Cage pointing a gun at a pagan on a bicycle, screaming "STEP AWAY FROM THE BIKE!"

You'll note that I didn't warn you about possible spoilers. That's because I don't want anyone to watch this movie. If you read that and got pissed off, thinking, Well, shit, I'm not going to watch that now, then good. Don't watch it! Nobody should watch it! Ever! It's fucking horrible! It will make you shit out your soul!

Here's another movie-ruining moment! You'll never believe who the Wicker Man is! It's Nic Cage! They burn him at the end! You can hardly see it coming, especially if you're dead or stupid or in a coma or have never once watched that VH1 show that counts down all those old horror movies and gives away all the endings anyway! You'll be shocked and stunned! Mostly at the incredibly laughable acting! Remember Vampire's Kiss? Compared to this film, Nic Cage was sleepwalking in that fucker!

Jesus fucking Christ. When they burned his stupid ass at the end, all the pagan chicks didn't even do that crazy-ass dancing. They just stood there and grinned. God.

Things didn't improve on Saturday when the wife and I went to, Lord help me, Target. (Look, don't ask.)

This required, for one thing, driving up to a section of town known as Northgate, home of the hideous and unspeakable Northgate Mall, which is where fun goes to die. I have it on good authority that at Northgate Mall, the Orange Julius outlet takes pride in pissing in each and every drink. They recently tried to spruce up the place for the holidays by putting in video monitors playing footage of three-legged dogs fucking, but the customers didn't respond well, and there was a nasty streak of suicides as a result. So now the monitors just display text messages like "WHY?" and "YOU ARE ALWAYS ALONE."

Across the street from this Gehenna is Target, and we joyously crawled up the clogged parking driveway, dodging hunted-looking customers and erratic cars before we finally found a parking place at the C3a1B level, darting into a space that was unfortunately occupied by a crack-smoking indigent; we crushed his pelvis against the wall. "YA CRUSHED MY JUNK!" he screamed, and I threw a traffic cone at his head as we locked the car, bip-bip! "Don't scratch our fender!" I yelled. He died moments later, causing a Target employee to rush out and staple a "FLOOR MODEL SALE" sign to his chest, and a minor bidding war broke out among onlookers who all wanted a discounted, slightly damaged, slightly dead junkie corpse at post-holiday prices.

Inside this horrendous place, row after row of denuded racks faced us, and blank-eyed shoppers pushed carts to and fro (and up and down--Target features a shopping cart-sized escalator, lest we consumers be forced to actually ever lift anything), loaded down with things like blister-packed six-packs of extension cords, blister-packed spousal battery complaints, blister-packed blister cream and blister-packed fake blisters. Near every checkout counter was a shocking pile of undifferentiated merchandise, all either returned, rejected or simply dumped incorrectly by some second-thought shopper, and the employees clambered over the heaping mounds of horrible crap like second-string Sherpas, calling to each other in their retail dialect: "Munchin' Purple pants 14! Three-oh!" "That's Joanie. Send it to teen humpwares."

After a long time, we got home. We of course immediately went to the nearest bar. "You guys aren't watching the Seahawks game?" asked our good bartender. "It's halftime," I said hollowly. "I really hope they do it this year . . . " he said, and I snapped, "Are you kidding?" I let him trail off into more feeble nonsense. We had two drinks apiece while I thought about how 2007 was really twisting my dick already. When we left, our bartender said, "Gonna go watch the fourth quarter, huh?" "Yeah," I replied gloomily.

Which we did. And you know what? That was pretty funny. I feel better already.

Tuesday, 02 January
Ass First Into The New Year

Hey! Did you see what I did there? I took a big old break from posting during the holidays, and I didn't even mean to! Welcome to 2007, a year that hopefully might suck fewer balls than some previous years I could mention (I'm looking at you, 1971.)

I wish I could say it was pure holiday bliss that was keeping me busy, and there was some of that, but really? I, uh . . . well, I guess I didn't feel like it. Lame, I know, but there you go: between a lot of time off and (let's face it) a lot of drinking, well, I just didn't.

In truth, I also didn't have a lot to write about. Don't get me wrong, the holidays were great. But it's not exactly blog fodder when I spend Christmas with the in-laws and totally fail to do something spectacularly awful like inadvertently screaming "FUCK!" in front of them during a trivia game after mixing up Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. No, this year we sipped wine and sampled cheese before genteelly attacking our stockings. (Mine contained things like a travel toothbrush and an apple. You see?)

I must say, however, that I rocked it pretty good with some of my gifts. For the wife, I got a pretty swell little digito-camera, the better so that she can take high quality photos of me as I work out on the stripper pole that I had installed in the bedroom. She already has some great closeups of my winker as I do the inverted flying V down that puppy.

And for the brother-in-law, well, I outdid myself. He's a music fan, as are a lot of the young people, so I got him some pretty awesome CDs. I did my research into the current music scene, and I must say, while it's kind of confusing, there are some pretty neat new genres out there that I'd never heard of, so I got him some really spankin' music by bands who are cutting it up pretty monkey: I got him some strum 'n bass (singer-songwriters who play their instruments with fish), some bad-ass cornhowl (countrified gay death metal), and this really exciting platter from some cats who rock it all electrocoustic. It's an amazing genre: these guys play acoustic instruments, such as guitars and pianos, but with lots of electric processing, distortion and effects. They're named Boston, and all I can say is, I think the brother-in-law has been waiting "such a long time" to hear these new sounds.

What else? I did find myself in a ruminative mood over the holidays, and spent a lot of time thinking about the impending new year, and how I could improve myself. But then I thought: Why the fuck am I always having to improve myself? I'm getting old and brittle. Fuck improving myself. Why don't we ever ask: How can the world improve itself, specifically for me? I mean, we're Americans, here. (I'm speaking to my American readers, of course. For the rest of you, you should have thought to ask this question before we Americans got to be so awesome.) Why can't the world shape up and stop fucking me? I think if we all stopped and asked ourselves this on a daily basis, we'd . . . oh, wait. I'm being told that we already do this. So what the fuck, world? I'm still occasionally unhappy. Get your shit straight.

Oh! I do remember one very fond holiday memory from 2006. I found myself, you see, thinking of things that do not go together at all. Like, say, "Jonathan Silverman" and "exposure to film." Have you fucking seen that this rancid fuck has gotten himself a new sitcom? Who keeps giving this one-expression mope work? (Check his resume on IMDB if you enjoy feeling vertiginous nausea, since in his long list of horrors, there is not one creditable entry to be found. It's like the anti-Schindler's list, in that you're unhappy that any of them survived.)

So one day I found myself musing about what other things just didn't go with certain other things. And one thing in particular kept coming up in my mind: shitting. There's a lot of things that go great with shitting: reading, idly shaking the jar of bath salts, staring at patterns in the floor tiles. And there's a lot of things that just don't go with shitting. Eating came right to mind. It just doesn't make sense. To confirm this, I took a bucket of popcorn with me into the bathroom one day, and it really didn't feel right. You just don't want to touch the stuff, so I resorted to trying to dump the stuff into my maw right from the bucket, but the snowdrifts of corn that accumulated around my ankles were also discomfiting.

I won't go into the pickle episode. Pickles should only be eaten at home while standing in front of an open fridge. Let's just leave it at that.

I also did not countenance the whole juvenile thing about fucking and shitting, blah blah blah, Cleveland Steamers and all that. No. I am not a sniggering frat boy. This was a genuine Gedankenexperiment, and I would not tarnish its integrity with schoolboy fripperies.

But shitting still remained on my mind. And after hours of holiday meditation, I had it. The two things that simply do not go together at all. I now present my findings.

One simply must not take a dump while flossing. This is, I submit, much worse than eating while crapping, if only for the terrible periodontal intimacy that accompanies flossing. (This thought originally sprang from the ur-idea of simply picking one's teeth with a toothpick while shitting was unacceptable--which it is--and then evolved. For you see, I am a thoughtful man.) I would further posit that--I confess that I have not actually tried--it is, in fact, impossible for one to floss while defecating.

And there my thought experiment reposed for a few days. Until I mentioned my theories to the wife. She made a moue and then, I like to think, was inspired to deliberate. She seemed to consider my conclusions for a few moments. Then she said:

"What about taking a shit while I flossed you?"

You see why I married this perfect woman?

Happy belated holidays, everyone. Don't forget to floss!

Monday, 18 December
Casineaux Night

Well, at least one of my tens of readers has declared my last couple posts about our trip to Italy "boring," so NO MORE FOR YOU! Not even that unforgettable night when Monica Bellucci gave my nuts a bit of a fondle and then enigmatically licked my eyeball.

This Saturday, the wife and I took a drive up to Shoreline--We Have Car Dealerships!--to our friends C. and L., for L.'s 40th birthday. As the wife and I approach the big 4-0 ourselves, we were interested in finding out how one goes about properly celebrating such an event. The answer, as it turns out, is that everyone acts like teenagers. Hooray!

C. and L. take frequent trips to Las Vegas, perhaps out of some sort of self-flaggelation kink, or possibly because they genuinely enjoy it; it's hard to say. (C. loses his fucking shirt every single time he goes. It's a running joke at this point. "You didn't bet on the Seahawks, did you?" I asked. "No," he replied gloomily. "I bet on the Sonics.") At any rate, they had decked the place out in finest casino style. Shrimp cocktails were served, and C., resplendent in a red bow tie, gleefully pointed out the blackjack table, the craps table, and the roulette table. There was even beer on tap! (In a fashion. C. has this terrible device that looks like a big blender with a central cylindrical chamber; he pours Bud Light into the thing, and the inner chamber contains ice. Then there's a little spigot to dispense the beer. It looks like something from the Sharper Image catalog, but what it really resembles is a giant urine dispenser for those emergency visits from a probation officer when your urine really has to be its cleanest.)

Presently, all those fabulous game tables got fired up. Everyone was given their own bag of gambling chips, and we crammed ourselves at the tables, elbowing each other roughly with our drink hands. Just like Vegas! And also just like Vegas, where good judgment goes to die, we were all soon making the most deranged bets possible (but unlike Vegas, this was because of the worthlessness of the actual chips). At the Texas Hold 'Em table I was stationed at for a bit, my friend L. raised a $200 pot with one of her $5000 chips (I know); she was immediately rewarded with an all-in bet from a competitor. (She was called, of course, and instantly lost when a nasty pair of sevens beat her queen-high, or something equally dumb. Somewhere in the world, Doyle Brunson whimpered in his sleep.)

I took a turn at spelling C. at the blackjack table, taking over dealing responsibilities for a while, and amused myself with the glistening "gamblers" who were doing wonderful things like splitting fours and hitting on A-7. "You have eighteen," I'd say. "But I also have eight!" came the crafty reply. "You have eighteen. I'm showing a five." "I have an eight or an eighteen," said the wily bettor. "I'm hitting my eight." I shrugged and dealt the player a card; it was a five. "Now you have thirteen," I said neutrally. She eyed the cards as if they were pet rats that had suddenly gone feral and shat in her socks. "Hit me again," she said, fingering her bag of chips as if they were actually worth something. I turned up a face card and she bit her lip as she busted.

Just like Vegas!

People were really into the blackjack table, weirdly, since the frisson of gambling with actual money was absent, but whatever. Meanwhile, at the "keno" table, things were similarly lively. C. did not have anything like a keno board or anything, so it was really bingo. Bingo took all of about five minutes to morph into what was swiftly dubbed "Drink-O," where anyone who had a number that was called was obligated to immediately take a drink. This is the sort of game that makes the venerable Quarters seem like a real test of skill and dexterity. "G-29!" someone would call, or something, and then moans of despondency would erupt from the unlucky people who did not have G-29, as if there were some genuine reason why they shouldn't pick up their drink and have a slug if they fucking well felt like it. Similarly, excited cheers came from the "winners" who were able to slam down a glug, as if there were any earthly reason not to any time they felt like it. But it was kind of fun to see people enter into the spirit of the whole thing, really.

And everyone was enjoying themselves. I certainly was, alternating beers with sips of whiskey. At one point, I was smoking a cigarette in the "fireside lounge"--an outdoor courtyard with a little Coleman wood-burning stove--when C. appeared, his red bow tie askew, and announced, "I don't want anyone to worry: I'm getting drunk." What a relief! And then I suddenly realized that it was time for that most interesting part of any evening at someone else's house: I had to take a crap.

"I have to take a crap," I announced, and then dashed off in search of the bathroom. Oh boy! For me, there's nothing like experiencing other people's bathrooms. Bathrooms are ubiquitous, of course, but they are all different, and exploring a new bathroom is, for me, a sort of anthropological fantasia.

I mean, I'm not crass. I don't rummage through people's medicine cabinets; I don't care. No, I immerse myself in the bathroom experience. What's the shower curtain like? Is there a candle? I examine the little soaps that people only dig out for parties. I seat myself reverently on the toilet. This toilet is similar to my toilet, I think, seating myself. But this is not my toilet. (My toilet, the one in my home is, frankly, an appalling relic. It has an old wooden seat--wooden!--that, it must be said, can sometimes pinch. C.'s toilet was refreshingly pinch-free, and I patted it affectionately.) More questions. Is there any reading material? Or shall I simply examine the style and quality of the hand towels?

I finished up in there with approval: C. and L.'s bathroom had passed muster. It was homey and accomodating, and the toilet wasn't finicky or goonish about doing its job; it flushed with a workmanlike roar without any extraneous steps like handle-jiggling or such nonsense. As a final test, I cautiously licked the shiny floor, and noted with approval the presence of ammonia. They mopped, I thought, and smiled at a job well done. I opened the door to let in the next partygoer, and quietly said, "It's all right. It all checks out. You should smell my tongue."

"You're drunk and creepy," said the woman as she slipped inside. Just like Vegas! C. and L. should be proud.


P.S.--If you've made it this far, then you might be interested to know that this December marks the four-year anniversary of this humble blog. So thanks for reading, each and every twenty-six of you or so. For those of you who are new here and shaking your heads in a horrified daze and wondering, "Did he just spend all that time talking about the bathroom?", well . . . hi. Yeah, that's kind of how it goes. Welcome. Hope you stick around. I won't blame you if you don't, but all I'm saying is, you can take a dump in my bathroom any time you want. Yeah, the fucking toilet seat pinches you every now and then, but we use only the decent kind of toilet paper--the kind without actual wood chips in it--and our hand towels have Vargas girls on them.

It isn't Vegas, but it's what I call home, and you're welcome any time.

Monday, 13 November
We Aren't Family

On Sunday, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, and so we got together at a local foodery to have a celebratory dinner. It was, of course, horrible, as I am deeply loathed by the wife's family.

When we arrived, the in-laws were waiting for us. We easily picked out the table they were sitting at from the merry balloons that waved in the air; they each said, "Over Here, Beautiful Daughter And Slime-Thing!" So we joined them and exchanged some hugs and, in my case, some hearty jabs to the face courtesy of the wife's father. "Good! To! See! You!" he grunted as he playfully dislodged a few molars. "Fank you, shir," I replied, absorbing the blows with what I hoped was good humor.

Presently, the wife's brother also arrived, completing our party. I get on pretty good with the fellow, based on the fact that he doesn't reflexively punch me on sight. "Hey dude!" I exclaimed when he appeared, and he replied with a good-natured "Get fucked, Admiral Dick." I took this as a sort of promotion, since the last time I had seen him, he had called me "Sergeant Douche." Confusingly, he also occasionally refers to me as "shit-pain," so really, I don't know where I really rank at any given time.

We ordered and ate, and that was nice enough. It must be said that my mother-in-law, who has had weight issues for years, has recently embarked on an ambitious weight-loss regimen, to spectacular effect. She has lost over 100 pounds to date, and I am pleased (as is she) to report that she is very nearly not there any more. Several times during the meal--hers consisted of one french fry; she used the rest as missile weapons directed at my skull--I was able to hear her bones grind against one another.

"That's some pretty good osteo-clatter!" I said to her brightly. She shrugged with a noisy rattle of her scapula and pitched another french fry at my head while her husband knocked me in the jaw once more.

Though it was properly the mother-in-law's birthday, it was also a slightly late celebration of brother-in-law's belated birthday, and so gifts were exchanged. The wife gave her mother a lovely 4-CD set of something called Drunks Who Died Years Ago Or Should Have featuring songs by crooners like Tony Blanchett and The Arizona Dog Society. Brother-in-law was similarly treated to a DVD game not dissimilar to the famous Scene It line, except this one was called "RIFF!" and purports to be at least six minutes of racking nausea while a roomful of party-players attempt to retain consciousness when the guitar figure of Bush's "Glycerine" suddenly assaults them from TV speakers.

Eventually the evening wore down and we exchanged goodbyes. The wife hugged her family warmly, and her father socked me affectionately in the jaw a couple times. "Good night, heathen!" he yelled; then her brother kneed me in the groin and said, "Stop touching my sister, you fucking creep." "Admiral creep!" I hollered, but to no effect. He stuck a screwdriver in my back. "You've been demoted, shit-pain." What a drag. I liked being an officer.

I can't wait for Christmas!

Wednesday, 18 October
Skin Trade

Last Thursday--a week ago--I wandered past my boss's office. He had these odd little sculptures on his desk, so I ducked in to look at them. They were little squat white things; they looked like trophies from some sort of Abstract Olympics.

"What the hell are these things?" I asked.

"Melanoma displays," he said. I picked one up and looked at it closely. Sure enough, it was a little model of a particular kind of melanoma, in this case malignant melanoma. "It's a little doodad that clinicians can have around as a help in diagnostics, I guess. Some drug company gave them to me." Sort of like those sets of fake teeth that you see on sitcoms when someone goes to the dentist, but you never see in real life.

"Do you like them?" he asked awkwardly, probably because I was still staring at one of them intently. He must have felt like kind of a tool asking that.

"Oh, they're great!" I said, and put the thing down quickly. Smooth. I mentally donned the tool-shoes, mentally taking them glumly away from my boss. "They're pretty awesome." He looked at me oddly, and in my mind, I began lacing up the tool-shoes and straightening my tool-cuffs. You're a tool, I told myself, and adjusted my tool-lapels.

What I had been staring at was the model for malignant melanoma, and what I realized was: Hey. That looks exactly like that thing right under my beltline! Right where my pubes sort of dwindle down into lazy gut-hair, so, you know, the awesomest part of my body.

See, I've had this mole. And it did this freaky thing for a while where it swelled up painlessly, turned into some strange groinal continent, shed a bunch of hinky skin, and then reduced itself down into a little weird spiral of obnoxious-looking mispigmentation. I had thought, for a while, dimly: I should get that looked at. You know, by the Green Lantern, maybe. "Ring! What's with this guy's creepy mole?" Not: "Hey! You might want to have a medical professional examine this!" Because fuck that.

But then I saw those terrible things on my boss's desk last Thursday, those little totems of oncology, and I thought of my crummy goddamn freaky fucking mole . . . I don't know what happened. It looked exactly like what was right below my beltline. Son of a bitch.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist that very day. In fact, I found one that was in the same building in which I work, ten floors down. I called them up.

"What's the nature of your visit?"

"I have a misbehaving mole. I'm hoping it's not malignant."

"What's it been doing?"

Three-card Monte.

"It, uh, if it isn't new--maybe it is--anyway, it grew, uh, above the skin, and then it was flaky for a while, and now it, uh . . . it's kind of funny-looking."

"I see." You've got to love unflappable receptionists. "And may I ask how you found us?"

I closed my eyes at this point. "I found you on the Premera website," I said honestly. And I had! But why I had really chosen them? Because their offices are in the same building as where I work. Ten floors down. Yes, I make potentially crucial medical decisions based on spatial expediency. For all I know, they're a vampire farm with designs on my unimpressive neck.

It went very quickly, the exam itself. The doc introduced himself, and then spent little time in saying, "Well, let's see this rascal!" Rascal. I closed my eyes again, and he asked, "Are you okay?" I resisted the urge to reply: "Well, you said 'rascal,' and that's kind of freaking me out." Instead, I peeled down the front of my pants and lay back on the fucking doctor's table so the poor bastard could bow down and take a good look at my sorta-pubes. He snuffled down around my crotch for a while using some sort of loupe-like thing to examine my strange bunch of epithelials.

There was a nurse there as well, of course, who sort of tugged on my pants with the kind of urgency that I would normally find thrilling, but in this context, it was just a drag.

"Yeah, I'm going to need to take a sample of that, buddy," the doctor said. The nurse stopped pawing professionally at my groin. I asked him what all the changes in my mole meant. He helpfully said, "I have no idea."

"How big of a stick am I going to get?" I asked. I was waiting for him to haul out some terrifying large-bore needle.

"Oh, I'm going to numb you up," he said briskly. The nurse once again lavished some attention on my near-penis, rubbing it with a pad, and then cruelly jammed a needle into my belly. "Sorry, sorry!" they both yelled, and I leaned back and thought dismal thoughts. You're being eaten from the inside. You have aggressively malignant boner disease, and in three weeks your dick is going to fall into someone's salad, and frankly, you deserve it. After the local, the doc didn't just give me a needle aspirate: he fucking carved the whole goddamn thing out of me, possibly with a rusty shovel.

I honestly had no idea that some biopsies require stitches. But stitches I got. They are still bristling from my low belly; I tickle them on occasion when it suits me. I have been flicking at them for a whole week as I waited for the pathology results to come in. The mole is, as far as I can tell, completely gone. I guess the guy just chopped the whole thing out. The stitches come out in one more week.

I've been working on cancer trials for fifteen years. Eight years ago I managed to convince myself that an atypical nevus on my neck was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had a co-worker whose stomach complaints exasperated everyone for months, right up until she died of gastric cancer.

I got the call today. There's no malignancy. Probably a lot of people with much more practical medical knowledge are laughing at this whole thing. That's fine. I have a mole--or had a mole--with odd pigmentation and not much else, never mind the creepy physiological changes. But I'll tell you this: I was fucking scared.

You're all stuck with me for a little while longer.

Monday, 24 July
A Million Little Boring-Ass Pieces

I don't generally talk about it a lot, but some of my tens of readers might not know that prior to being married to the wife . . . I was married to an entirely different wife.

And I'm not going to talk about it here, either. I could lie and say that there isn't a fat story there, but frankly, I don't want to fucking get into it for a lot of reasons. Suffice it to say that it was a terrible debacle that only the very young are capable of managing to stumble into, and I've long since made a sort of acidulated peace with, if that makes sense, and it doesn't.

Anyway. So I was previously married, and then suddenly, I wasn't, and so I had to rather quickly find a new place to live. My criteria were not terribly strict: Since I was poor, it had to be cheap. Since I was lazy and I think I mentioned poor, it had to be close by. And finally, since I was unencumbered by things like dignity, it had to be humiliating.

I found my dream apartment in one day. It was a refurbished utility room. I remember entering this sarcophagus (that's Greek for "flesh-eater"!), gazing upon its single 18" x 24" window with a grand view of a dumpster, noting its convenient proximity to the laundry room next door, and saying without hesitation, "I'll take it. Yes. This is where I want to die."

To describe this apartment as "small" is to heroically inflate its actual status. "Lilliputian" might be a better adjective. It was heated (quite adequately) by a sole wall-mounted little heating coil with a fan. The fridge was a diminutive little dormish thing, suitable for my half-racks of beer and my several condiments, suitable for being ignored by me as I heated up can after can of chili on my astounding little three-burner stove. Three! It had two in the front and one in the back, because . . . fuck you, you get three burners. It's the weirdest stove I've ever seen.

It probably says something about my state of mind that, during the year that I lived there, I never once bothered to lock the front door (right by the dumpsters!), even when I went to bed. Hey, hoboes and CHUDS! You should come in here, take my nothing, and then eat my legs!

The bathroom, at the end of a short hall which was clearly constructed after a wall kick-out, featured a sliding-door shower that required one to climb into the toilet before entering. Well, that does inspire one to get clean.

In my desperate state, I developed alarming habits. I started to smoke. Well, let me rephrase that: I started to smoke with real enthusiasm. Perhaps if I die, God will give me a stove with four burners, I thought. But being an atheist, this wasn't carrying me along too well. So, giving up on that pud known as Our Lord, I turned 180 degrees and embraced His polar opposite: AOL.

Sensitive readers might want to go shoot heroin now instead of reading the following.

I spent three years on AOL. I spent most of those years haunting the trivia forums, where, as far as I know, hosted trivia games still take place. These games were, during this dubious period, literally the most important things that I could look forward to. And do realize that this was in an age when, back in the day, I was paying by the minute for the great opportunity to enjoy the fruits of AOL. (Figuratively speaking, you jerks.) There I was, ruinously single, in a ridiculous oubliette of an apartment, working retail, and coughing up $100+ monthly bills to AOL that I could ill afford. (I know anecdotally of some shut-ins who spectacularly bankrupted themselves during the by-the-minute years of internet billing who routinely racked up monthly bills upwards of $500. In fact, some of them were fellow trivia players who would do nothing but fuck around on AOL for entire days at a time. And also some of them for whom the phrase "fuck around" was not entirely--or remotely--figurative.)

One night, a neighbor's cat entered my little window and perched himself on my lap, which nearly caused me to cry.

On another night, while pouncing on my keyboard to enter trivia answers in some damn AOL game, I was suddenly siezed by a violent sneeze. I turned my head to the side, kitchen-ward, and ACHOOED mightily. The cigarette that was in my mouth described a gorgeous parabola from my lips directly into the kitchen sink, which was ten or so feet away. SSSSSSS! I heard the butt die unheralded in my noisome sink full of chili-stained dishes.

You're getting weepy over garbage cats, I thought, and you don't do anything except play trivia games on AOL, which, I think, is the Romper Room of the Internet. And now you just spat your comet-like cigarette into your kitchen sink from a distance. And not much of a distance.

That month, a friend of mine from college quite kindly got me an audition. I went (and got it). I moved into a newer place--still a studio, but yet someplace that I didn't have to scale Mount Crapper to enter the shower. A couple months later, I met an intriguing woman. She would--after a few other relatively unappalling apartments--become my wife.

You feel so stilled sometimes. Paralyzed. The world is tensed and waiting. Eppur si muove.

Monday, 19 June
Love Is All

This Saturday, the wife and I put on our second-best finery (I love the West Coast) and attended the wedding of our good friends B. and G. B. and G., being of the frugal sort, held the ceremony in a privately owned greenlot in Ballard, thus screwing us, the guests, out of the common decency of, say, a roof, or seats. I would very much like to condemn B. and G. for this transparent ruse to jerk us out of creature comforts, and so I will: B. and G? Thanks for the rogering.

No! I kid. It was a perfectly lovely affair--a sunny day spent in a charming greenspace, flanked by rustic brick buildings--I kept waiting for Newsies to break out. "EXTRA! EXTRA! WEDDING TRANSPIRING!" It featured all the best features of outdoor weddings, including my favorite: the impeccable timing of our airline industry. At one point, the brother of the bride stepped up to give a poetry reading, and here's what we saw:

[Brother takes deep, nervous breath; opens mouth:]

ROOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR

[Brother concludes poem just in time for aircraft to clear our zone of audibility.]

This is easily my favorite wedding poem of all time, and I'm kind of an expert. It takes second only to "Half-Drunk Coughing Fit," and easily outdistances old chestnuts like Khalil Gibran's "I'm So Tired of All These Fairies" and "I Died of Cirrhosis of the Liver" at weddings. Give them a rest, folks.)

You always risk the weather when doing an outdoor wedding, of course, and this was no different. Happily, Seattle cooperated on this day, and rewarded us with a punishing 72-degree day of unremitting gentle sunlight. This, naturally, resulted in the unfortunate fainting of one young girl near us, as she succumbed to the abominable heat. Now, I've seen women faint before, and I'd just like to say this: it is exactly like the movies. She wobbled for a moment, and then gracefully went down on her hip, and then followed through with her upper body: it was like watching a fern wilt.

People gasped! But not me. Recognizing the importance of the moment--my chance to be the day's most lauded hero--I reached for my otherwise useless cell phone. "Do you need a doctor?" I rasped hoarsely. "Wow!" she moaned. "Do you need some water?" I pressed the poor woman. "I think I just need to get out of the sun," she wheezed. She wasn't helping me out in my heroquest. I disgustedly bounced my cell phone off her forehead with a decent overhand. "Get out of my sight, you delicate flower," I snarled. She tottered off while people pointed at me and glared. In the foreground, B. and G. continued their litany of devotion, supremely unconcerned with how I was totally willing spend some cell phone minutes to help out a friend of theirs. Fuckers. It's not like nobody else had a cell phone--several people did--but I got mine out first. I get fucked all the time.

Anyway, after all the blah blah blah of the wedding--yeah, kiss the bride, you poor sap, now you're locked in--we went to the damn reception, where everyone decided to fucking bitch at me. "What's with the cell phone to that chick's forehead, dude?" and "Put your pants on, for Christ's sake, man!" and more of this shit. I don't know why people get so uptight. Anyway, the beer flowed freely, and the bride's sister, who is apparently the touring xylophonist for Built To Spill got up and joined the band for a rousing rendition of the Flaming Lips' "Bugs"--I admired the tattoo on her back that reads VICODIN--well, the rest is kind of a blur. I remember brandishing a broken beer bottle at a very wary B. and him saying, for some reason, "Not in the grapes! I need these boys!" B. is so lame now. It used to be about the music.

Anyway, I ended up getting brained with a banjo, as usual. I hate weddings.

Monday, 22 May
I Yodel The Body Electric

As I get older (37 in a month! Uh . . . say, holy fuck!), I cannot help but notice certain changes going on with my body. Nothing big, really, just . . . well, the inevitable little breakdowns that come with the territory.

My left knee, for instance. I noticed some discomfort this weekend; a slight niggling ache that wouldn't quite go away or quiet down. I've done nothing to my knowledge to maltreat the knee. It just sort of hurts in this naggy way that makes me shift my legs around a lot, irritably.

Which doesn't help the bladder thing. I mean, not to get gross or anything, but after a few hours of this restless diddling around with my legs, all of a sudden, BANG! And I've really, really gotta go! So then I have to run--well, hobble, really--to the bathroom to empty my suddenly wheezing bladder, and that's just a real drag, especially when I don't make it. It's not just the pants, okay? I've ruined more socks, and the uric acid or ammonia or whatever is seriously corroding the shit out of my shoes.

But you know, it's all part of the aging process. I try not to get to worked up. It happens to everyone, I suppose, so I try and remain sanguine about, say, the incredible patches of wiry hairs erupting from my back, and nose, and, in one memorable instance, my earlobe ("Hello, ear hair! Whatcha knowin'? I see you're white and ya need some mowin'!"). It was five inches long or so and made me feel like God's neglected marionette. At least I retain my scalp hair, and it shows no signs of leaving me. Unlike the hair on my scrotum, which has all mysteriously fallen out--it's not pretty. I know now why evolution gave us scrotum hair: it's so we don't have to see our scrotums. Mine now looks like an old calfskin change purse with two weary riverstones inside. Weirdly, the "upstairs" pubic hair remains! I don't understand it, but it is worrying and weird. I try to cope by drawing a Gabe Kaplan face on my scrote and then doing Mr. Kotter impressions in the mirror. It's pretty cool, except that Mr. Kotter has a dick coming out of his forehead, which . . . I guess it's not that cool.

Look, I don't want to make a big deal out of all this. Even as a kid, I had some health issues, so it's not like I'm not used to taking care of myself. Childhood allergies I learned to treat with a simple oral nicotine delivery regimen, and that still works today. And I take that same can-do attitude with me with today's challenges. The knee, for example? Again, a simple treatment program consisting of regular ethanol ingestion seems to clear the pain right up. One just has to be careful to have the stuff on hand whenever you need it, so I have supplies at home, at work, and inside a special bus side panel that I pried open one morning on my commute. Hey, riders of #7, third seat down on the left! Don't snag my meds!

So really, I'm doing all right. Sure, some of my meds give me side effects. The ethanol is a good example. It's a lifesaver for the knee pain, but it also regularly causes dozophilia and tripsomania--the latter of which is a form of motor neuralgia that often can result in brainobonkia and unintended hilarity. As it turns out, actually, my brainobonkia has--this is hilarious, sort of--I've done a fair amount of damage to a portion of my brain called Wernicke's area that occasionally results in a phenomenon known as aphasia, which is really just a fancy word for the ape rice dialectic. I told the wife about this, and we had a laugh, and I told her, "I know! Here comes the ass circus, with the towels! You ate my lute." Then she poured us some more ethanol, saying, "This will help us both." I don't know what I'd do without her.

Look, I think I'm really pretty lucky. I'm not crippled like those sad fuckers who can't chew or stuff. I'm not playing for the Florida Marlins. I'm just a guy with weird hair issues who falls down a lot. Yeah, sometimes my knee hurts, and sometimes I get this stuff on my back that's like floss, and sometimes I just fall down on my Wernicke's area and I hate that because of the soup attacks, and the White Shadow.

And I can live with that.

Monday, 15 May
My Beautiful Laundrette

After an uneventful weekend, I was stuck today thinking, What the fuck am I going to write about today? I mean, seriously, nothing was going on. We watched a couple movies--one was Mirrormask, the Neil Gaiman-scripted and Dave McKean-directed piece that teaches us to believe in ourselves and to distrust screen-faced cats (don't ask); and another was Wolf Creek, an Australian bit of nasty mummery that does for the Outback what Deliverance did for Georgia.

And then the wife decided to do some laundry. Laundry.

Look, I'm not an "extreme" kind of guy. I don't give a shit about the X-Games. Frankly, I like to push bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk down and then laugh at their injuries. That's about as "extreme" as I get, unless you count rollerskating, specifically Snowball dances, at which I rock. I'm just not an extreme guy.

Except for laundry. I am a laundry ninja. Not doing it. Fuck that. What I do? I fold. I fold like your fucking momma. (No offense to actual mommas. Happy Momma's Day! Sorry about your lousy-ass kids' folding skills.)

The wife told me earlier that she was doing some laundry, and so I leapt up from my chair and punched the wall a few times, screaming, "YES MUTHAFUCKA! YES! I'S GONNA FOLD!" Because when laundry is being done, and folding is in the offing? You know I have to revert to vaguely racist speech patterns. It's just the way I roll. Ripped up my knuckles pretty bad, too, so thanks for nothing concrete walls. It's not an easy life for us fuckin' folders.

Sure enough, when the laundry came out of the dryer, I was ready. I stood, silent as a silent person, and just took a look at that hot-ass laundry. I'm so gonna fold the shit out of you, I thought. I don't think so, bitch, replied that fitted sheet. It was pretty steamed. Not really steamed, you see, but, like, mad. Though it would be pretty awesome to steam our sheets.

I launched myself at the fitted sheet. It basically had no defense--pathetic. I hacked at it with the edge of my hand, and I heard it scream. No! it wailed, I have soft, un-alignable edges! Eat it, fitted sheets. I wrestled it into a managable bunch. "That looks like coral," observed the wife. I muttered in reply, "Don't fuck with me right now. I'm in the zone."

I attacked her panties next. Inside-out? Outside-in? Panties are confusing, but I'm a professional. "Crotch up! Then fold over the other things, or whatever!" My mental discipline is unparalleled when it comes to panties. Occasionally, I would have trouble figuring out where exactly the crotch was, in which case I simply put them on my head, in order to get more into the panty-mind. You can stare right out of the leg-holes if you do it right, providing maximum panty-to-brain physical contact. I am a big advocate of putting panties on your head, because how else are you going to fold them? You're not. And it really helps me think. For instance, the last time I had panties on my head, I really got Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

Even worse, of course, are bras. Stupid broads. Do I wear weird, fetishistic apparatuses to keep my nuts from sagging? No. Like every guy, I am reconciled to the fact that every now and then, you're going to step on your dreary, floor-dragging balls. But chicks insist on shoving their tits up into their necks. Great. I have no patience for these irritating things, so I beat them with a hammer until they were shapeless wiry things. "Here's your ridiculous boob elevators," I sneered, and threw the ruined garments at the wife. "Thanks," she shot back, and then stepped on my stupefying, dragging balls.

I don't know if it's all worth it, really. I mean, I'm not appreciated here. I put my all into our laundry, really--just the other day, I folded some shoes--do you fold your shoes? Well, I do. And you know what I got from the wife? "Why did you ruin your Kenneth Coles?" I don't need this from a fucking Philistine. Then she stepped on my balls again.

I don't know what to do, really. I want to be happy. I want my wife to be happy. I want her to stop crushing my balls. I want to see the future.

I want to put panties on my head. I want answers.

Thursday, 13 April
There's No Here Here, Or, This Post Is All Over The Place

A couple days ago at work I was in a meeting. Things hadn't really gotten started yet, and we were all just kind of shooting the shit, and then, for reasons that are TOTALLY UNCLEAR to me, a coworker turned to me and said, "Hey, Skot, how does 'Here I Go Again' go? C. here doesn't know that song." What? I looked at C., who is young and did not grow up in this blighted country, and she looked back at me expectantly. I turned back to the other coworker. "You mean the Whitesnake song?" This wasn't really happening, I was sure. "Yeah! C. doesn't know if she knows it. Sing it for her!"

And that is how--if not why--I found myself singing "Here I Go Again" at work to a table full of colleagues, in my best lounge baritone. I gave it a nice swing, I thought. I was feeling nothing like a drifter born to walk alone. I had made up my mind. I wasn't wasting no more time! Here I go again! My tablemates erupted as my voice cracked at one point, and someone said, "All we need now is Tawny Kitaen!" And C. said, "Oh, I know that song! Okay. But who is Tawny Kitaen?"

How depressing.

This was starting to get sort of out of hand, but I couldn't just leave it be, no. Who is Tawny Kitaen? Give me a fucking break. How can you live in this country and not know who Tawny Kitaen is? I had to fix things quick, so when I got back to my office, I quickly found the Whitesnake video on the horribly, awfully named Youtube. I sent the link to C., explaining that Tawny Kitaen was in their videos because at the time she was going out with Dave Coverdale. Then I vomited for a few minutes into my office garbage can, because I was spending time searching for Whitesnake videos and explaining things like Dave Coverdale.

C. wrote back. "Wow, she's really . . . flexible." Yes, and skanky! Let's not forget that. C. continued, "So did you guys all wear your hair like that?" Hopefully referring here to the band members and not Kitaen, but on the other hand, was there a difference?

My first reaction was, "Of course not!" And my second reaction was, "Oh, fuck, of course we did." Well, we tried, anyway, those of us who were sufficiently Idaho-ified to know nothing of Goth and sufficiently repelled by Idahoitude to feel that country was anathema. So of course we did awful things to our hair. And to our bodies.

So tomorrow I am taking a bullet in the spirit of raising office morale. I am bringing in a photo of me from 1987, when I was a freshman in college. (I would totally post an image of it here, had I but only a scanner, knowledge of what to do with a scanner, and then the competence to figure out how to host an image and then link it over here, none of which I actually possess.)

In this photo, I am standing outside of my dorm. My blonde hair--and my, didn't I have a lot of it 19 years ago!--is resplendent and cascading off of my skull like spun, hairy gold! It is carelessly yet artfully feathered on the sides, and above my shoulders the viewer may glimpse--can it be?--yes, it is a mullet perm. How it sparkles in the sunlight, much like the two bottles of beer I hold in my hands! In this photo, I am also wearing a Quiksilver t-shirt as well as some unfortunately tight grey shorts emblazoned with tiny yellow sharks. SURF'S UP, IDAHOANS! I am also seen to be wearing cherry-red Ray-Bans. This whole horrible tableau should be adopted as photodocumentation for the Wikipedia entry on "cultural illegitemacy." The ridiculous surf garb, in fact, was bought for me by my grandmother--you can read that again--whom I would visit in L.A. during summers. This shit came from the same shopping trip where I improbably managed to convince her to buy me a "Mr. Zog's Sex Wax" t-shirt.

My grandmother. I'm pretty sure that this is why she died. Her last words were almost certainly, "I can't live any more knowing that I bought my grandson that t-shirt." This was the same grandmother who took me to movies (at my insistence) such as Aliens--which she slept through, which I thought was fucking hilarious--and, I swear to God--48 Hours, a movie she found thoroughly debased and insulting and profane. Minutes later in the car, when we arrived back at her house in Chatsworth, we discovered that there was a power outage. "Well, isn't this just a bunch of bullshit!" screamed my very proper Lutheran grandmother. "Fuck!" I sat there quietly enjoying all of this, feeling extra-great in my ridiculous new Ocean Pacific clothes, and sensed I was learning something crucial about what adults say versus what they do.

But you only think you learn things. You remember events after you've already fucked up, and think, "I should have known." But you did know! It doesn't matter. I'm an adult now, and I only think I've learned. But two days ago, I was singing Whitesnake songs at the office. That doesn't sound like someone who has learned anything. And tomorrow, because I haven't learned anything at all, I'm going to take that photo from 1987 into the office to show to my coworkers. Why not? Perhaps the horror of the photo will move one of my coworkers to holler, "Well, isn't this just a bunch of bullshit!" in a sort of unwitting homage to my deceased grandmother, and then I can inwardly smile and think:

Here I go again.

Thursday, 06 April
Pray'd

Some big news this week came out of a largeish clinical trial that determined that prayer had little or no effect on patients recovering from cardiac bypass surgery. Pfft. I could have told folks this. Yeah, this trial--which ate up a couple million bucks or so--had to do with "intercessory prayer," where other people prayed on the subjects' behalf, and my bitter experiences all relate to personal prayers going totally ignored, sure, but I think we can all confidently now assert that prayer is a waste of time. Or, possibly, that God hates me. Here's just a few of my prayers that have gone TOTALLY IGNORED over the years.

AGE app. 6 months

I clearly remember praying for formula. Was this too much to ask? Here I was, suckling on my mother's teat--like that's not enough to damage a kid . . . she was my MOM, for Christ's sake! Gross!--while all around me the cool kids were getting shiny cans of delicious formula. "Please, God," I cried, "don't make me face that creepy nipple again. Can't I have some of that sweet, sweet Similac?" But no. I tried to resist, but dammit . . . I'd get hungry! All the time! And then I'd find myself back gnawing on that awful boob.

In the end, I extracted some revenge on God. We lived on a ranch in the country with feral barn cats, and occasionally, we would feed the cats expired Similac. Or so my parents suspected. What they didn't know was, late at night, I would skitter out to the barn and kick the shit out of those cats and hungrily drink down the out-of-date warm formula like a dairy vampire. Eat it, God! Thanks for nothing.

AGE app. 4 years old

On Saturdays, I would religiously wake up around 7 AM so as to thoroughly rinse out my brains with weekend cartoons. And, being a deranged little kid, I would also want to feed myelf after building an awesome fort with kitchen chairs and blankets, so I would then raid the kitchen for my favorites: cold hot dogs, raw potatoes and plain old butter. These things I would eat with wild abandon, despite my parents' horror. "Jesus Christ!" they would wail. "Where's the butter?" And "Did you . . . did you eat a whole potato? Did you wash it?"

My beef here with God is, for one thing, there was never enough butter. Thanks for nothing, God! I would have eaten like three sticks of the stuff, but You did not provide me with divine bounty! Also, I really should have washed that potato, since I'm pretty sure it gave me worms, which was fairly disgusting. I asked You, and You gave me worms. What a tool.

AGE app. 15 years old

God, I pleaded with you to strike Mike H. dead. (I really wanted to print his real name, but I held back. Let's call him Mike Hollaback. Close enough.) You failed to strike him dead. This despite my frantic entreaties for intercessions when he administered countless Purple Nurples, "whistle or you lose its," and various attacks on my groin with a tennis racket. The best you could do was give him a great big zit on his shoulder, which unexpectedly and audibly popped in gym class one day when his friend Kendall slapped Mike on the back in a companiable fashion, and the incredible whitehead blasted a stunning amount of terrible goo onto Kendall's hand.

Then Kendall wiped that shit on my gym shorts. I've gotta say, God, you're kind of a dick. Although I can kind of see why You made sure Porky's was a huge success.

Oh, I could go on, I guess, but what's the point? I suppose God thinks He's made it all up to me by coughing up a wonderful wife, a good job, and a reasonably satisfying side hobby as a lazy-ass stage actor. All in all, life isn't bad.

On the other hand, was it too much to ask for just a little more butter?

Monday, 27 March
My Weekend, And Art, Maybe

Friday, the wife and I kicked off our weekend with some fine art: we went to a play featuring a whole bunch of friends: we know the author, the director, the stage manager, and most of the actors. And, as it turned out, about three quarters of the audience. It says something about not only us but also our friends that everybody also seemed to bring flasks full of booze--even the actors! I love fringe theater. It also says something about us that nearly everyone afterwards--after the heady delights of live theater and the headier delights of drinking surreptitiously in a dark converted warehouse--that we all went out drinking afterward.

We discussed the show, gingerly: "Well, I really liked the first half, but then the flashlights and the cockroach attacks . . . I don't know." At one point, I found myself saying, "Well, surrealism is one thing, but incoherence is another." Then I thought of this blog and got terribly depressed and ordered another beer and whiskey back. It's always unnerving to mount artistic criticism by citing something that you yourself are clearly guilty of, like, all the time.

Besides, I've never written a play. If I did, it would probably be called "Joseph and the Amazing Fuck-Bucket Death Polka, or, Snogging the Zeitgeist." So, shut up, Skot.

On Saturday, we watched a couple DVDs, at least one of which carried some solid fucking artistic imprimatur: Good Night, and Good Luck. This film is goddamn serious in a big way, so serious that its subject matter sucked out all the color from the film. Shot in smoke and grey, the movie gives us the tale of Edward R. Murrow vs. Joseph McCarthy, which is a nice tale where everyone gets to feel good about a poised, intelligent, piercing reporter methodically demolishing a boorish, fame-starved, alcoholic dumbfuck, so we're not talking Hoosiers here. It's an enjoyable film--if only for the eternally overlooked David Strathairn's wonderfully nuanced performance--if not a particularly subtle or layered one.

Speaking of unsubtle and single-patty, our next disastrous choice was Derailed, a transparently idiotic thriller with Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen that dares to ask the question, "What happens if everyone is really repellent at the beginning, but then they gradually get more and more intolerable?" This horrible objet is like "The Mind of Mencia: The Movie." CAUTION: The next paragraph contains massive spoilers. I encourage you to read them rather than subject yourself to this shambling shit-golem of a movie.

So Clive Owen, thankfully not attempting his fearfully bad American accent as found in Sin City, meets Jennifer Aniston on the train. Eventually, they manage to fumble over to a tawdry hotel room for a lovely fuck, only to be interrupted by professional reptile Vincent Cassel, who savagely brains Mr. Owen with his pistol and then gleefully rapes Ms. Aniston. It was somewhere around ten minutes before this awful scene happened--in fact, about ten minutes after I saw the box cover of the DVD--that I thought, "Well, Aniston is in on this." Hey hey! I was right! Nothing says nauseating cynicism than "fake rape scene." That's all you need to know about this vile film. Don't watch it unless you hate everybody in the world already.

It was after all this that I went seeking solace in music, which I found on Sunday. I bought a couple of albums, mostly on impulse, based on a couple songs I had heard on KEXP. Can I just say? I have a weakness. I tend to fall in love with songs. I fall in love with just the rottenest of songs. I know they're rotten. I know it. And yet. Then I buy the CDs, and I think, "You're so stupid. This is going to be awful." But the songs won't go away. All I can do is buy the fucking things.

I bought this CD by some lugubrious bunch of schmoes called Mylo, based solely on the fact that I couldn't get one of their fucking songs out of my head. And THAT was partly all the fault of Kim Carnes, since the damn song--"In Your Arms"--samples heavily from "Bette Davis Eyes." I played it for the wife, and she found it amusing, sort of. When it ended, she said, "That was it?" I blinked back tears. "Yeah," I said.

I also bought this other group that I know jack shit about, some bunch of lachrymose Brit-grumps named the Frames. This because of another song called, hilariously, "Happy." This song is about as happy as a bowel resection, and features the band grimly wailing atonally in the background during the verses, and then coming together for a bit of resolution in the chorus while the lead singer moans quavering lines such as "You're putting a line/Where there should be not a line." Should be not a line? Yes, that's MUCH EASIER than singing "should not be a line," which has exactly the same scan. Whatever. I fall into the grips of these fucking songs, and I am powerless but to dolorously march up to the music store and buy this crap. I mean, I'm not necessarily saying that the Frames are crap. (Mylo? Oh, they're crap. Another song features the heavily distorted lyrics: "Motherfucker's gonna drop the pressure!" Mmmm. Motherfucker wants some nose medicine. Motherfucker's gonna eat a bearclaw.) I just got unnaturally seized by one of their damn songs.

And then I get to waste a bunch of ink complaining about all of it. In fact, I apparently thrive on it. I may not be so far off of "Mind of Mencia" as I'd like to think.

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.

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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