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Tuesday, 31 July
En Garde(n)

While eating dinner tonight, I examined some wan cucumber slices and pointlessly remarked to the wife, "I didn't know how good I had it." She appropriately stared blankly.

I was thinking of the garden my mom maintained when I was a tot.

(Can you tell how exciting this post is going to be?!)

"I was just remembering our old vegetable garden when I was a kid," I explained.

(The excitement! You can smell it! It smells like . . . Bibb lettuce!)

"Oh," she said. Then I bored her senseless talking about my stupid fucking old garden. Now it's your turn!

(Bibb! BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIBB!)

Yeah, so we had a damn garden. My mother, who apparently as a lifelong RN feels the need to be even more nurturing, loves gardening. She loves gardening like some people love pornography. To my mother, the prospect of spending several back-wrecking hours in the beating sun lunging around in the fucking dirt is much like what other people experience when they go on a Thai Underage Orgasm Tour.

We moved to Idaho when I was eight or so, and I, of course, immediately hated the extensive garden my mother set up. This was mainly because I had to do shit like weed the son of a bitch and water it and otherwise, you know, do anything not involving watching television.

But I'll be damned if it wasn't some garden for all that. We grew (and this is just what I remember): corn, lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, peas, pickling cucumbers, regular cucumbers, Estonian derelict bluecumbers, garlic, pumpkins, gourds, fjords, House of Lords, strawberries, raspberries, halleberries, marionberries, barrywhites and bondbarrys, and on certain magical nights you could walk out to the garden and watch horrible actressberries jiving onstage and smoking crack with DC mayorberries while the smooth soul berrysounds echoed in the night and our genetically modified baseballberries creamed monstrous home run balls out into the adjoining fields, occasionally landing on and conking out one of our horses.

It was kind of a monstrous garden, is what I'm saying. And I had to weed the damn thing.

(You know? Not really. My mom the dirt maiden really did most of it, because she has brain damage, and likes it. I only very occasionally had to do it, but I'd snivel as if I had been ordered to eat my own kidneys. This is because children are basically the shits.)

And I had to water the thing.

(See previous parenthetical.)

But as the garden gradually went fucking nuts that summer, I started to see some benefits. Namely . . . holy shit, look at all that food!

We had this entirely freakish summer that year, with heat, heat and more heat that caused the majority of the garden prisoners to behave as if Demeter had descended from the skies and taken a divine shit on our soil. The corn was as high as an elephant's eye long before the fourth of July! The chives took lives from neighboring peasant wives! The tomatoes . . . well, the tomatoes just went fucking nuts, and pretty soon our kitchen was filled with boxes and boxes of these clear foes of Zero Population Growth, and were soon loaded into the car to give to friends of the families. We actually got tired of the stupid damn tomatoes, especially after they formed their own political party and began loudly speaking out against the "hegemony of bacon," but happily they all then rotted and died, and we fed them to the feral cats out in the barn, who didn't seem to enjoy them much either, but fuck the barn cats, was our attitude.

(Note early experimentation with Republican ideology! Cats: "Hey, how come we gotta eat this crap?" "I dunno. Stop living in a barn?")

The garden, once in full horticultural freakout, inspired me to some weird, compulsive habits. One was my utter and over-the-top voraciousness for peas right off the vine. I would defoliate (delegumiate?) entire rows of peas, leaving a damning Hansel-and-Gretel path of spent pods behind me. I was the Joe Stalin of peas that summer, and my mother would wail about this: "Stop eating all the peas, would you?" "You don't like it when I eat a bag of Doritos! Isn't it better that I eat these peas, then?" I would reply, causing her to wonder if she had taken one too many bong hits in '67. "You're being an asshole," she suggested. This reasoning was lost on me, and I continued to devastate the pea harvest. My mother gritted her teeth and accepted that I was, in fact, a creep, and sublimated her fury with nearly nonstop canning efforts involving vegetables that I was incapable of or unwilling to eat off the vine, such as the unappealing, mealy pickling cucumbers. (I tried to eat those too.)

Weirder than the peas thing was my garlic phase. For reasons that are best left unexamined, I developed a taste for eating raw garlic. Well, less eating it than simply gnawing on a clove of it, pried right off the plant, for hours at a time. (I'm guessing this ties in somehow with prior penchants for eating things such as raw potatoes, sticks of butter and cold hot dogs, but again, I prefer not to dwell on these memories.)

"I've had it," my father said one night. "You smell like . . . I don't know what you smell like. You smell like something I can't stand any more." When my father is heated up--and he was, a not-uncommon state--he's kind of scary. He leaned in to me, and gave me that ex-Marine look that still has the power to kind of freak me out. "Stop eating raw garlic. It's fucking disgusting."

"Okay," I said quietly. He was right, of course, and I'm sure I stank like low tide. This didn't mitigate against my resentment about being told off, or this shitty prohibition against my new favorite thing to gnaw on, or the fact that children are genetically programmed to hate their parents for entirely reasonable demands.

"Go water the garden now," said my dad.

"Fuck you," I said, under my breath, about fifty yards away from Dad having any chance of catching it.

I watered the stupid garden, and glared at it, knowing that soon I'd have to weed some stupid thing.

"Fuck you, garden," I said, a little more boldly. I was reasonably sure that the garden would not rise up against me, at least not in any physical manner. Also, Dad was still in the house.

I didn't know how good I had it.

Thursday, 09 March
The Pointlessness Is Strong In This One

Is there anything more boring and cliched than talking about the weather?

So, the weather here has been kind of fucked up and irritating.

For one thing, a friend of mine, who seems to have a disturbing affinity for slavishly reading every single bit of data that the NOAA issues, likes to taunt me with their horseshit predictions. "Skot!" He will say. "HIGH PRESSURE FRONT TO BONK PACIFIC COAST ENTHUSIASTICALLY . . . BOATS AND SHIPS TO BE EATEN BY MOTHRA . . . ARCTIC BLAST TO CHILL REGION WITH BALL-SHATTERING COLD . . . " And so forth. Of course, nothing the NOAA ever says comes to pass. I wouldn't believe them if they predicted rain in April.

What usually happens is some horribly disappointing Mini-Me version of NOAA's predictions. BLIZZARD ALERT? We get some chilly wind, as if a cadre of Frost Giants were farting at us. TWO TO SIX INCHES OF SNOW? Local Dairy Queens shower the region with promotional flyers.

I wouldn't even care, except for the fact that I keenly miss actual weather. It's one of the things that, since I live in Seattle, I should be used to, but I still am not: the fact that the seasons here are basically monotonous as hell. Apply the usual tropes: yeah, it rains a lot, and you get about six weeks of sorta-summer, and that's it. Which gets old.

However, there is the other side of the coin, which is to say that I'm full of shit: Because living in Seattle has turned me into an incredible wimp who hates any kind of climactic extremity. Earlier this week, for example, we had a couple of horridly chilly (read: below 40 degrees) windstorms. My lovely wool coat, which my wife gave me last Christmas, has a broken zipper. So I had to break out my sad, rumpled backup, a bizarre, heavily-lapelled thing that I think I inherited from an ex-girlfriend's father some years ago, presumably when he was thrown into some Russian gulag, since the awful thing (an unclean-aquarium shade of green) makes me look like a cossack. The world's most anemic, unthreatening cossack.

"Mama! A cossack is coming on his horse! Oh . . . he got thrown by his horse. I think he's hurt. Now he's stealing our cabbage. Now he's eating raw cabbage while rubbing his leg. Mama, he is a very sad cossack. Now he is crying. I think the cossack is using an inhaler, Mama."

Anyway. Needless to say, we haven't seen any fucking snow to speak of (snow that is gone in a couple hours does NOT COUNT). And yet every morning I am donning my hideous coat. Tomorrow, you know, it's supposed to snow.

Fuck this. I'm going to put on a thong. And an anorak. And . . . I don't know. A peacock headdress. This stupid city.

Tuesday, 20 December
The Island Of Costly Toys

I tried, I really did. I tried to do all my Jesus Day shopping online this year again, thinking, This year will be the year that I do not actually have to enter a real store. Once again, I failed. There are simply things that are good for online shopping ("What a handsome Prada purse!") and things that are just . . . not. ("What a handsome prostitute! . . . Ewww.") And then there are friends who are easy to shop for, like most actors I know ("When all else fails, buy booze"); and then there are those who are not, like most parents I know ("I don't fucking care. Let's get them a sex pinata filled with erotic tacos. I can't even think of this any more").

What all this means is that, yet again, I found myself trudging downtown today after work to enter the perfect Gehenna that is downtown Seattle shopping.

One thing you should know about downtown Seattle is that, while it has a lovely skyline, the place itself is devoid of anything resembling soul or character or fun. All these things, along with troublesome homeless people, have either been chased out to other neighborhoods--like mine--or have been simply dumped into some large municipal burr grinder, so that all that remain are edificial horrors like the Cheesecake Factory, Banana Republic and horrid corporatized bars with names like Hello, Cactus Fuck or Bonny Al O'Pecia's Genuine Irish Publick House, where the prices will make your hair fall out! Guinness served ice cold!

Downtown Seattle is to enjoyable municipal space as Patch Adams is to heartwarming comedy.

It was with this sort of attitude that I entered the completely intolerable Pacific Place mall, an airbrushed gleam of a thing that features little annoying shops with little annoying names like TWIST! and, horribly, UNIK! right alongside such big names as Pottery Barn (who keeps their pottery in the barn? I guess it beats calling it "Shit in a Shed") and Restoration Hardware (which I always see at first as "Resurrection Hardware," for some reason--"Get your Lazarus shovels here! He's not going to dig himself up, you know!"). My first stop was the odious Barnes & Noble.

B&N always fills me with conflicting emotions, mainly because of my undying fondness for mom-and-pop bookstores, whose inventories always reflect the owners' personalities, and for the clean, simple pleasure of jawing about good books. (Once I had a book shoved into my hands by a local bookseller who said, "You'll love this. Just bring it back when you're done.") On the other hand, it sure is convenient to have every book ever published right there ready to buy if you want it. You can even read it if you want! Right here in our cafe! Want some melon? No thanks, I'm reading Henry James.

I found what I needed and bullied my way to the cashier line, and plopped my crap down, ready to buy. The cashier gave me my total and said, "Do you have a membership card?" I told him no, don't worry about it. He pursed his lips, as if I had really let him down.

I don't even know when this membership card thing all started. I have one now for my fucking supermarket, since I don't want to get boned on all those great deals on olives--though they bone me nicely anyway by overpricing every other item I could possibly need--but that's about it. Are there really people who have membership cards tucked away in their exploding wallets for every fucking conceivable shopping experience? "Oh, honey, look--two dollars off margaritas at Hello, Cactus Fuck! Should we?" "Well, I'm driving, but . . . I can't pass that up! What do you say, kids?" "Daddy, but what if you drive drunk and kill us?" "Oh, children! Don't worry! You're insured! Daddy has a double-points card with Geico!"

I'm a pretty efficient shopper, particularly when I have incentive to get the fuck out of anywhere that has more than ten people in it. I soon left Pacific Place and caught a cab back home. I glared at my GIANT BIG FANCY SACKS full of shit and stewed in the cab. Despite the fact that nothing I had purchased was really all that huge, the store staffspeople had nonetheless dropped everything into these ridiculously enormous bags, as if to say, "Hey, this guy bought some seriously gigantic shit! Shouldn't YOU stop by and torch your credit card for a Mary Magdalene RealDoll? You can get it, right here at Resurrection Hardware!"

Fully functional. Dishwasher safe--she is super bendy. No, sir, the historical record is kind of unclear as to the actual color of her pubic hair. I recommend auburn. Anyway. Do you have your membership card?

Thursday, 03 November
I Can't Wait To Have My Meat Packed!

Hey, November! So here you are! Gosh, it's . . . fucking lousy to see you again!

Bluh.

As if on cue, the weather has turned absolutely fucking miserable these last couple days. I stare up at the grim sky and wince at what appears to be the dire folds of God's great grey striated anus stretched out across the horizon for my nonpleasure, waiting to unload His woe on us. Fuck this, man.

(Look, not to pick on God's butthole or anything. I'm sure it's like the best butthole ever. But I'm sorry, He's getting up there. It's got to be kind of grey. I'm sure He's fastidious and all about this. But grey. Gotta be.)

I know . . . I don't have to live here. It's all just crummy. I just managed to forget that this place is shitty for heating. It's electric baseboard (as opposed to our last place, which was forced hot water)--I considered for a little while about getting an auxiliary heat source. An electric one. Because I'm a fucking genius. Then it was gently pointed out to me that whatever electric source of heat I brought i would probably be financially equivalent to our baseboard heat. Then I killed some adorable babies, because, hey man, fuck this! I'm cold! And, it seems, pretty stupid.

But in only a week and a half or so, I will be relieved of this shit! The wife and I are going on vacation. To the tropical town of Chicago! Hurrah! Fuck this abysmal cold and rain. Think about it: if you're kind of sleepy, "Chicago" sounds like "Kokomo"! (Enjoy that earworm, everyone.) Which means--duh--that it is somewhere we can relax on the beach while Bryan Brown prepares elaborate cocktails for us! Hey, look! Tom Cruise is putting it up Elizabeth Shue's ass! Flip her over, Tom! It's the "Cocktail" thing to do!

We're really looking forward to this. Especially the famed "Lake Effect," where the warming air of Lake Whatchama blows all over Chicago and we all walk on the beaches getting free corn dogs and shit from The Fridge. At least that's what the guidebooks say. We have coupons. "Present this to The Fridge for a free corn dog and shit." (Look, it beats the hell out of Jim McHahon's sauerkraut.)

Here's to dreaming about tropical Chicago! The city of White Shoulders! Who knew that city was so into fragrance? I can't wait.

Thursday, 06 March
Streets of Fire (Sale)

I've been living in Seattle for over ten years now, in fact in the same neighborhood the entire time: Capitol Hill. It's well known around Seattle that Capitol Hill is the artsy, boho-ish, gay-friendly area, so it's naturally full of local color and about nine hundred thousand hoboes, each of which hits me up for change on my way home every day. Broadway is kind of the acknowledged main drag (ahem), and if I have only one problem with it, it's this: it's going straight to fucking hell right before my eyes.

Take the Broadway Market. The Broadway Market is a mall that's not really a mall, more kind of just a dinky mall-let with more character and a nice public space in the middle where people of all ages and all manner of metal shit lodged in their bodies come to hang out, drink coffee, and make fun of the unhip straights like me. It's cool. Upstairs years ago there used to be a funky bar/restaurant called Hamburger Mary's which has since moved to a different location, where it died a horrible death, and was replaced by another bar, which is undergoing a horrible death, pretty clearly, because nobody ever goes there for mysterious reasons perhaps having to do with a gypsy curse or something. Anyway, when I worked at my horrendous retail job in the Broadway Market, we would of course go upstairs to get drinks there, but then when Hamburger Mary's left, it was replaced by an intolerable Mexican joint whose margaritas tasted like transmission fluid, so nobody went there any more, and now it's a fucking health club. Part of me dies when a health club replaces a former bar spot, but maybe that's just my liver sparking out a twinge of hope.

Downstairs in the Broadway Market, they just lost a big anchor store when the Gap moved out. This leaves me really fucked, as I now have no convenient place to purchase my bland, monochromatic clothing. I need solid colors! I can't dress myself otherwise! But the real question here is: how does one of the ostensibly hippest shopping centers in town, located in the midst of a huge gay population, with tons of foot traffic lose the Gap? It's insane; it would be like a head shop going out of business in downtown Eugene. It doesn't make any fucking sense. The Market is looking pretty gutted, and there's more on their way out; a funky African store is taking off, and the snooty sandwich shop inside folded too. Now it's not that I feel warm fuzzies for any of these particular places of business, but I liked them a whole lot better than, oh, nothing, which is what's shaping up to replace them. About the only thing in there clearly still doing a jumping bit of business is the liquor store, and why not? Everyone on Broadway is drinking themselves stupid while they watch their neighborhood dissolve into something out of Escape from New York. Only instead of Kurt Russell, it'll be Jane Russell, except this Jane Russell is a man in drag, and instead of subhuman CHUDS, there'll be loser punker kids spare-changing in front of empty store fronts. Othewise exactly the same.

Down the road a bit, there's another bar that croaked itself after being in business for around ten minutes--Jack's Roadhouse--and since it failed as a bar, the new tenants are cleverly resurrecting it as another bar, this time an Irish Public House sort of deal. We'll see. Across the street, the great old indie record store that closed down a while back and then turned into sleeker record store that almost immediately gorked out is trying to become a funky shoe store. They're doomed. And down from them is the space where--RIP--Fallout Records used to be, home for about a million years to punk records, punk regalia, punk comics, and, occasionally and improbably, since the place was about as big and comely as a grimy phone booth, punk bands. It cheered my heart walking home some days to stroll by and be suddenly leveled by the sheer noise emanating from their store, while the neighboring shopowners glared and calculated arson prison sentence negotiations in their heads. It always sounded like some pub band had fallen en masse into a huge wood chipper.

It's all just depressing, and I hope the place recovers before it gets worse. I might do my part and go out and get a drink at one of my default bars on Broadway. There's a nice little Asian joint right around the corner. You know the place. It's next to Jimmy Woo's Jade Pagoda, one of the most legendary places of magic in town, a wellspring of timeless booze mojo. Cheapest drinks around; clientele looking like they were born in there, years ago, sprouting up from the carpet mold; a jukebox that really has "It's Raining Men" on it; and of course the alleged food that they never serve to anyone because every person I know is terrified to try it, even in the most gravely drunken desperate state. That's the place.

It's closing soon.










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