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Tuesday, 05 January
Brad Company

A couple years ago, I was in Chicago on a business trip. My good friend Brad L. Graham met me at my hotel lobby for a night of dinner and subsequent carousing. We hugged warmly, despite the fact that I had met him only a couple times in, as they say, "real life"--but I had known Brad for the better part of a decade; first through a website called MetaFilter and then via another more private site where I and a bunch of other degenerates and perverts hang out and bullshit all the live-long day in order to avoid doing work.

Brad, a tremendously energetic and unapologetic flirt, immediately engaged the staff. After we hugged, he turned to the bell desk attendant and said, in his improbably deep voice, "Excuse me, lovely lady. Could you recommend a restaurant where I could take this devastatingly handsome man?" (I am emphatically not handsome in any conventional sense. I sort of resemble a shorter Toxic Avenger with slightly better skin.) He flashed his trademark snaggly grin, and you could see her respond in kind. She pointed us to some place that I do not remember, but seemed to feature attractive ashtrays.

The flirting towards me was of course harmless and vaguely ridiculous, since he knew very well that I'm straight and married, but he also knew my weakness for wordplay and playful repartee, and so as we sparred throughout the evening, gradually endrunkening ourselves (the business meetings the next morning were murder), we found an easy groove. We shared the same vices and spent the evening reveling in both of them--nail-biting and tearing the legs off of earwigs. (Not really. I'm of course talking about drinking martinis and smoking shitty domestic cigarettes.)

It was a simply *jazz hands* fabulous evening, with Brad making his trademark groantastic punny jokes and occasionally making utterly silly salacious remarks about nearly every male or male-ish person who happened to enter his ambit.

My friend Brad was found dead on Monday, apparently from "natural causes" in his bed. He was 41 years old. I will myself turn 41 in June this year.

I am devastated. I hate the phrase "natural causes." What the holy deep-fried fuck is natural about dying from some handwavey horseshit at the age of 41? Let's leave aside the idea that "natural causes" generally elides the whole idea of providing an explanation of "causes" at all. What fucking causes? I'd like to see some fucking newspaper article describe some poor bastard's death as "natural murder." Fuck. You might as well state that he died from "Stuff."

I am also pissed off. It's difficult for me to make sense of, and I don't know how to articulate it, other than to repeat the completely worn-out trope that death is a bitch, and it's unfair, and frankly, can go fuck itself. I don't really want anyone to die (though of course I've engaged in hyperbole to the opposite, as we all do), but Brad? Really? In the words of I.I. Rabi upon discovering a subatomic particle that nobody had ever predicted, "Who ordered that?"

And it's strange to me to have these feelings--these cloudbursts of tears that have been coming on me for a couple days--over someone who I met physically only a couple times, but who I knew what I would considerably fairly intimately over eight or so years on the fucking Internet. I don't think I'm the only one. The MetaFilter thread announcing his death (technically a subsite called MetaTalk) brought dozens and dozens of old members out of the woodwork (many of whom had to obtain help from the administrators to restore long-lost login passwords) simply because they felt the need to express their utter grief.

I won't go into the details of his storied life. You can look it all up. You should. The man was an Internet legend for a lot of reasons, but those details are boring compared to the man qua man. He was one of the most generous souls I ever had the great pleasure and great fortune to meet. He's gone, and there's a void in the world that will never be filled.

I miss him very much.

I keep thinking of the closing lines of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. "O God--please give him back! I shall keep asking You." Well, unfortunately, I don't believe in God. If I did, I'd be pretty pissed off at him for this fucking horrible nonsense, this worthless, wrenching death. But I'll bet you a million dollars that Brad would forgive Him in a heartbeat. With his last heartbeat.

Friday, 20 January
Thursday, I'm In Pain

It started innocently enough yesterday. I went to get my teeth cleaned, as I do three times a year, since I am a smoker with a frankly kickass dental plan. (Lisa needs braces! Sorry, reflex.) No big deal, although I wondered if the gal cleaning my teeth was a little wobbly that day. At one point, she was attacking an incisor with particular rigor, and then muttered, "Hold on. I've got to turn this up!" She abruptly left the office. When she returned, Billy Joel's "Allentown" was noticably louder on the speakers, and she remarked, "Now I can get this stain."

I just want to note right now that nothing in this post is made up.

Later that evening, I noticed that my lower left gum was a little inflamed. Nothing too bad, but it was tender. I still have all my wisdom teeth, and the left lower one is only partially emerged, so this has happened a couple times before. It usually fades soon. (Why do I still have all my wisdom teeth? Because I'm a big fucking chicken. And honestly, most of the time, they don't bother me at all.) I didn't worry about it much, and gave myself a salt gargle before going to bed.

Then this morning I woke up in some previously uncharted circle of oropharyngeal hell. My gum was hideously inflamed and tender, and even the mere act of swallowing triggered all sorts of awful pain waves. (Smoking did too, but somehow less so . . . gosh, I wonder why?) Despite all this, I went in to work--it'll wear off! Right? Right?--and made it all of about an hour before calling it quits. I rang up my dentist office and explained what was going on.

The receptionist listened to my situation and asked, "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is the pain?" I'll bet there's a reason that so many medical receptionists are female. The tiny sliver of male non-wussiness in me rose up at the question. "Three or four," I muttered. Three or four? Yeah, three or four hundred. But I sure wasn't going to tell that to . . . some woman I've never met before! I'M ALL MAN! But of course I am not all man, since I'm pretty sure my pain tolerance is pretty pathetic. I mean, I can't even handle getting hiccups.

ANYWAY. They agreed that I should be looked at, and so I bailed out of work for a 10:00 appointment. Dr. J. (yeah!) took a look at my ruined mouth. At first he didn't see it . . . which didn't make me very confident. But he had been looking in the wrong place, because then he made this "UH!" noise, like someone who has just discovered a dead cat in his easy chair. "I see what you mean," he said neutrally. "That was either one hell of an aggressive infection, or your cleaning yesterday really aggravated something."

WHO FUCKING CARES? My mind screamed. But I had a bunch of other people's fingers in my mouth, so I could only go, "Yuh."

He explained to me that my left bottom wisdom tooth was partially emerged (which we all knew), and that he could either 1. slice away the creeping gum that kept occluding the tooth, which would almost certainly grow back; or 2. right then and there rip the fucking molar right out of my skull. "You could go back to work today if you felt up to it."

Gee, can I?

Well, one of two horrible things was going to happen this day. And one of those horrible things would probably just happen again later, for, you know, more horror. So . . . I told him to pull the fucking tooth.

We talked about the details. "You won't feel anything but pressure, like this." He pushed down on my shoulder. "We'll give you a local." Needles in my mouth! Just like I planned when I woke up! "That's it?" I said weakly. He looked at me for a moment. "We could also give you laughing gas. It's--" I cut him off. "I totally want gas." He looked at me again and gave a nearly invisible sigh. "You seem nervous," he said. I stared at him. It was like he had said, "You seem to have skin." Nervous? He wanted to remove bony structures from my mouth!

He read my face. "Jenny, can we get a gas hookup?"

Good old Jenny really got a lot of balls rolling then as we moved into Phase II of Operation: Ruin Skot's Week. She dollied in a tank of NO2, and then gave me a delightful swab of topical anaesthetic to gnaw on. Presently, Dr. J. returned to fit me with my NO2 nosepiece and waited for me to be acceptably peaceful about the needle he held in his hand. All at once it hit me, and my extremities became exceedingly tingly. "Can you box some of this up for me to take home?" I asked.

"Ha ha ha," he said mirthlessly, and then propped my jaw open with a big rubber chock block, and dove in. I dimly felt him stab me way down in the back of my jaw, and then the entire left side of my face slid away. He got some plier-looking implement and went to work. I studied the ceiling with a monkish intensity while he worked. The thing about laughing gas is not that it's a euphoric . . . it's more like a distancing drug. I knew what was going on, but really . . . there were more interesting things to think about. Like, for example, the fact that I felt like Kid Flash. (Again: seriously.) I thought, "I'm totally like Kid Flash right now!" (BZZZZZ! GRIND.) "I'm definitely Kid Flash."

Later, when the gas wore off, this was . . . well, humiliating. Kid Flash? Not only does it make no sense, but it's just stupid. I can't even fantasize about being the legitimate Flash? I have to be Kid Flash?

At some point, Dr. J. asked how I was doing. I reflected for a moment, or perhaps centuries. Dr. J. waited patiently. When no answer was forthcoming, he experimentally wiggled the damn tooth with his evil pliers. I clawed the base of my jaw frantically. I FELT THAT! "We can take care of that," said Dr. J. I felt him jab me way the fuck down in my mouth again, and now my neck was gone. "We sure have sedated the hell out of you," he muttered, and my whole Kid Flash thing was gone. Now I was Beast Boy or something. "Pain Lad! Who cannot tolerate pain!" Fortunately, the gas still acted as a deterrent towards caring.

When all was said and done, I was able to leave Dr. J.'s office under my own power, minus one tooth. I crawled into a cab and moaned, "Gemme da Bemon an Erger!" My jaw-hole was packed with gauze, but I guess cabbies have heard worse, and he drove me home. I deliriously overtipped him and wandered into my apartment; I then called the wife to report that I was home and needed SOUP, STAT! Then I passed out on the couch, presumably from the sedation, but I also figured my entire body was just fucking disgusted with me.

"What, he can't even get through this lousy day without some asshole drugging him and stealing some of our bones? Jesus Christ. Put him to sleep while we work on repairing this goddamn hole in his face."

And so I slept most of the day while my body fretted about the awful insult that it had received. I woke up only a couple times to 1. gingerly chew on some nicotine gum to relieve the smoke fits; 2. marvel at the incredible oozing grossness of my gauze pack ("It's like Elmo got run over by a tank!"); and 3. of course, fret about dry socket infections.

I bet Kid Flash never has to worry about this shit.

Tuesday, 16 November
Ill Communication

Well, hi there! It's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry about that.

I was all set on Thursday to give you a rip-roaring little piece on stamp fraud, when all of a sudden . . . I started to feel kind of icky. You know: that creeping awareness of small clues--a tickle in the throat, a little sweat, mild headache, alarming nonappetite for booze . . . yeah, I was definitely fighting something off. I didn't really feel up to writing, but I did go to bed with a health-restoring attitude of positivity, telling myself, "I'll feel so much better in the morning!"

The wife informed me later, "It was like a dead man crawling into bed with me. You were so cold." We then had a heated discussion about the various corpse-trysts she had enjoyed in her past and my ignorance of such atrocities, but that's best left between the lady and myself.

Needless to say, on Friday morning, feeling like the Wet Questing Nose of Anubis, I called in sick. Several times, actually, and there's really nothing like standing around in one's underwear, sicker than hell, trying desperately to reach the office and having nobody pick up. What the fuck is going on? I wondered, dialing for the third time and hearing again only unanswered rings. Finally, after dropping the phone due to uncontrollable shivering, I realized that I had dumbly been dialing the office number from two years ago before we moved offices. I had to find one of my own business cards in my wallet to look up the right number because I was so fucking miserable. After calling in, I returned to bed, where the wife muzzled me anew, gratefully, no doubt welcoming my clammy, deathlike form and attendant funk of the incipient grave.

Hours later, after the wife had split for work, I finally arose around noon, not due to any wish to get out of bed, but simply because I was too fucking bone-cold to stay in the room. Being apparently completely fucking delirious (though I was having incredible chills, I'm betting my fever was off the charts; later on in the day, when I felt slightly less miserable, I was still clocking in at 102), I then got up, put on a horrid, threadbare little flannel robe and nothing else and parked myself in front of the TV for a few hours of mindless programming and some really kinetic shaking. No socks. No undershirt. Just a crummy robe and the gloomy glow of daytime television. I didn't even adjust the thermostat, which is programmed to be off during weekdays unless overridden. I can honestly say that I have no idea what I was thinking while I sat there all that time--pausing only, of course, to go outside, where it was much colder, to miserably smoke vile-tasting cigarettes--except maybe that while some believe the world will end in fire and others in ice, I was pretty sure mine was ending in ratty flannel.

Eventually, when I had sort of wised up a bit, I tried for a shower to hoist up the old core temp. When I disrobed, I was seized again with a horrid case of the shakes, and could barely manipulate the faucet controls, and in one memorable spasm, caused my face to impact nicely onto the tiled wall in front of me. I did start to feel better after a couple minutes of standing under the warming spray, and the steam felt good on the sinuses. Then I started to feel vaguely uncomfortable, and I looked down at my torso, which was gleaming a sinister red underneath the murderous spray; I realized that I was verging on giving myself skin burns, and reluctantly dropped the heat level down from George Clooney to more like Ethan Hawke.

One thing that is weirdly entertaining about being horribly ill are the startling fever dreams. One I had that night featured a foosball table at my workplace. It's in a stupid location in the hallway on the way to the elevator, and in this particular dream, I stopped by the foosball table and glanced down at the gaily-attired little amputee players. Then I leaned down and bit off all of their heads, crunching them in my teeth like candy. (Confession: this is probably because in real life, I have actually fantasized about biting off the heads of the foosball men. I hate foosball.)

In another dream that seemed to last for hours, I was meticulously cleaning the shower. I scoured every inch of that goddam thing, and every time I was sure I was done, I would find another surprising patch of mildew, or another rogue bit of munge; I was Sisyphus with a scrubby rag. Finally--finally!--I completed my task, and I turned on the shower head to rinse down the stall. As water rinsed away all the soap and muck, I noted with disappointment that the water spray was dislodging what appeared to be peanut brittle from the shower walls, and shards of it ran down with the water and collected near the drain. In what must be the most depressingly upbeat part of this dream, I did not attempt to eat the brittlestuff.

Worst of all was an excessively detailed dream where the wife and I were on vacation; from what I can recall, the setting was some hideous amalgam of Europe and Las Vegas--maybe it was EuroDisney. Anyway, right smack dab in the middle of this vacation, the wife--in the dream--sat me down to casually inform me that she no longer loved me, and would soon be seeking a divorce.

This was, of course, utterly soul-destroying, and in my dream I pleaded and begged and wailed and all but lit myself on fire and so on, while the wife continued to look at me placidly and pityingly, as if she were studying the behavior of a particularly uninteresting paramecium. No, she would reassure me over and over, she had made up her mind. Sorry. I'm gone.

It was one of those perfectly horrifying dreams that, upon waking, you sit up for a panicky moment to make sure, damn sure, that it was just a dream, and when you do assure yourself, the relief floods your system like a narcotic. I sat for a moment, panting, feeling the adrenaline subside, and I thought a bit about the ghastly fucking dream again, its sickly certitude and seemingly self-abrading maliciousness, and I also remember thinking: When the dream-wife was telling me all that, I was feeling shock, and horror, and despair . . . but there was another part of me kind of going, Why is she ruining our vacation?

Speaking of which--and less us not dwell any more on such horrible ideas--the wife and I are indeed going on vacation again. Next Monday evening, we fly out for London for a couple weeks (a side trip to Dublin is already booked), so there will once again be a break in posting while I'm gone. But fear not! I will be back in December with what I hope is many a tale of Ye Olde Merrie and Erin Go BLARG! and all that, as we simply cannot fucking wait to get out of this country, go to some new ones, and then, of course, make fun of them.

Wednesday, 28 April
This Is Just To Say

Normally, I like to use my own words, but frankly, this day has rendered me mute with rage, so I'll borrow.

To the hopeless fuck-mule who scammed my debit card information and cleaned out my bank account: Well, I certainly hope you'll die soon.

Tuesday, 01 April
Emmitt Smith Commands You To Purchase Liver Pills

Now I can't be positive about this, because I'm too lazy to check, but I'm guessing that as long as man has been around, so has advertising. Darwinian evolution is, after a fashion, advertising in many ways: a peacock's plumage, a warbler's song, a balding old guy's Maserati. As long as barter and trade have been around, so has advertising, in some form or another. So we've been doing this a very long time. These days, the large media companies feed us our steadiest diet of advertising: TV ads, radio ads, billboards, pop-ups, whatever. So you know there's a towering amount of money that goes into not only making these ads, but also in tirelessly researching them, ostensibly to maximize their effect. So knowing all of this, realizing that for millenia, mankind has studied, refined, and flogged the holy fuck out of all things ad-related, the stupefying question remains: how come they all still fucking suck so bad? I mean, Christ almighty, what's it going to take?

Take, for example, the baffling existence of a band like Smash Mouth. They were clearly grown in a vat somewhere, molded out of protoplasm and programmed with the DNA of bong-huffing frat boys, and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting world with a mission to concoct terrible, derivative, limp cock-rock suitable only for: advertising. And of course their appalling music gets used in every fucking car ad, every soda pop ad, what have you. Never anything good, of course, nothing funny, like, say, Fleet enemas, maybe just what-the? nonsensical, like Heinz tomato paste. Wouldn't that be fucking great? You could show a whole bunch of fresh-faced teens gamboling merrily on the beach or something, while "All Star" plays boisterously, and they all ecstatically wave their cans of tomato paste around.

(Incidentally, the only way I can survive that particular song any more is to mentally change the lyrics to "Hey now, you're a crack whore, get your game on, go play/ Hey now, you're a crack whore, get the show on, get paid." I recognize that this is crass, and hope I don't hurt any crack-whorish feelings out there.)

There is an ad that plays here in Seattle pumping a local "oldies" radio station (I hate the term "oldies" for stations that play things like the Beatles--play me some fucking Gregorian chants or something) that features "everyday people"--just like you and me!--singing along to the radio, only they mess the words up! It's so cute! Except it's not; it's a horrendous soul-fuck, because the"oopsies" are just mind-bogglingly stupid. One guys starts it out, singing along to "Pretty Woman:" Pretty woman, walking down the street/Pretty woman, a candle on her feet . . . " Oh ho ho! Those aren't the lyrics, sir! Why, that makes no sense at all! But oops, here's another one, and this time it's a cute widdle moppet in the back seat of a car, singing along with her mom to "Ticket To Ride:" She's got a chicken to ride, and it's in her hair!" Ma'am? Your child eats lead. The ad concludes with some asshole in the shower mangling the lyrics to "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch": Sugar fried honey butts! His bulldog looks on while the viewer mentally pleads with the it: Please destroy him. Tear out his jugular. Needless to say, this ad fills me a bracing terror and firm loathing: I assume not what KBSG was going for. "How are our rage-inducement numbers?" "Stellar!"

Speaking of needless affliction of rage on a populace, what in the holy hailing fuck is up with our nation's phone companies? Just off the top of my head, here's some of the ghastly visages they've wrangled to hawk various phone-related products or services: Carrot Top. David Arquette. Mr. T. Alf. Mike Piazza. Terry Bradshaw. Alyssa Milano. Howie Long. Jesus Christ! It's like Lucifer's own fucking talent show! What sensible person would arrange for this dismal assemblage of z-talents to shill for their products? A sociopath couldn't come up with a more awful set of names. It's saying something incredibly ominous when you survey the whole lineup of phone company spokesthings and discover that the most charming presences are Ving Rhames and Vanessa Williams.

Jesus, the phone companies even bone the dog when they don't use ghastly, wraithlike uncelebrated uncelebrities. Five* illustrative words: "Can you hear me now? Good." If you aren't gnashing your teeth at that, you're either a hermit, and congratulations on that; or you've already succumbed to death, and are just a gritty husk. I won't congratulate you on that, but at least you won't have to hear "All Star" any more.

*Where "five," of course, means "six." I've been drinking all day.

Wednesday, 29 January
I Am A Misanthrope With Certain Bathroom Anxieties

I work with a guy whom I'm going to call Caftan Guy. And the thing is, Caftan Guy is fundamentally intolerable. So I'm just going to get this off my chest. Oh, and if by chance he ever finds out about this post, somehow, let me just say right off the bat, so there's no silly misunderstanding: I hate you, Caftan Guy, because you are so hideous.

He (obviously) wears caftans to work. And sandals. And kilts. And, probably, saris and obis and codpieces and feather boas and nipple clamps for all the fuck I know. I try not to be around Caftan Guy, not only because he looks like a twerp, but because he's Deep, Man. He's always wanting to talk about the latest New York Times story about . . . I don't know, because this is where I always stop listening, because Caftan Guy is about as smart as a tennis racket. But with less utility.

Caftan Guy is very problematic, because he thinks he is very smart, but is in fact, very stupid. Now, I'm becoming more tolerant of stupid people as I come to realize that I can frequently be quite stupid, but Caftan Guy is way beyond the pale. Is the phrase, "Just right-click on the document and select 'print' " a daunting intellectual puzzle to you? Caftan Guy regarded it as some mysterious Zen koan presented in an obscure Portuguese dialect. Have you ever asked anyone, ever, "What happens if I delete this document?" Caftan Guy has asked me that, and was satisfied when I answered him, "You'll delete the document." He walked away chuffing happily, and I sat in my chair pondering the cheerless notion that this person is responsible for actual medical data.

There's another horrible reason I try not to be around Caftan Guy. And that is the bathroom . . . issue. Our company apparently pays this man to take endless, backbreaking dumps, because Caftan Guy is always in the bathroom. Constantly. And there's not much guesswork involved in what's going on, because he periodically cuts loose with bloodcurdling grunts, pops, and whistles. It sounds like the fucking Amazon in there; it freaks me out and makes me want to boil myself. Also, get out of the fucking bathroom, you goddamn bowel-mutant! I can barely bring myself to even shudderingly open the door any more. I'm too afraid I'm going to hear his terrible plorping and urfing and GRUUUUH!-ing.

One final thing about Caftan Guy. He writes haikus. Now, that's cool. I'm down with people writing haikus, even maudlin, clumsy, florid ones. What I'm not down with is reading them. See, he emails them to our entire department when the mood strikes him. The death of a co-worker; the first day of spring; a random erection that he wants to announce: He's going to write a haiku about it. I've decided I'm going to give it a shot.

Dearest Caftan Guy
You shit so audibly that
I pine for the grave

Wednesday, 15 January
The Icy Hand of Death Hogs the Remote

There is an advertisement on TV that has quickly vaulted onto my list of Things That Make Me Want To Set My Face On Fire. Perhaps you've seen it, which would explain the extensive facial scarring.

The scene opens up with a normal schlub sitting at his computer. Behind him stalks his clearly pregnant wife. She has the kind of face that suggests she has thus far spent her life spreading malice and despair; perhaps as a telemarketer or an angry Tiki god. It's hard to say. The guy wears a faintly haunted look that suggests the early stages of Stockholm Syndrome. Anyway, he's kind of dicking with his computer, tapping at it with the desultory air that men have at the keyboard when they know they won't be looking at pornography.

Then you hear a sound like old bones being gnawed by hungry ghouls. Oh, right, it's the wife speaking. "You know, starting a family means getting a new car," she hisses in a nice wifely way. It does? Never mind, you poor shithead! Run! Run while she's heavy with your unfortunate child! Start a new life as a lemur wrangler in Madagascar! Anything! Don't doom yourself to this!

"Right," he sighs, tapping away. Oh well. A weary voice-over is mumbling some baffling, meaningless horseshit, but you pay no attention, because of the vast horror of the scene unfolding.

She looks at the screen. "A sports car?" Her voice is loaded with poison. He hangs his head, and you hear his spine creak. It's like watching someone slowly being eviscerated. He fearfully clacks some more with his desperate fingers. The sad droning of the voice-over slouches into audibility again, drops off its hopeless freight of by-now irrelevant information, and recedes.

"A sedan?" She's all but filing her teeth now, and there's a screaming voice in your head. "A SEDAN IS FINE! A SEDAN IS FINE!" No, nothing is fine in this world. She speaks again, and somewhere birds fall dead. "We're talking . . . family." This last word spoken in a tone suggesting dark, religious overtones of a uniquely Faustian variety. Even the boneless schlub can't quite process this turn of events, and mounts a defense not unlike that of the Cincinnati Bengals. You want to cheer weakly when he turns in his chair to confront her, but it's too cruel to entertain hope now. You sit morosely, vaguely wondering why life is so terrible. But he has apparently picked up your madly broadcasting alpha wave message, because he despairingly reasons your very thoughts: "It's a sedan." Her implacable response comes like the distant croon of a lonely wraith. "It's too smaaa-aaalll."

"What . . . kind of family are we talking about?" he quavers, because now, like you, he is flailing around in a mind-shattering welter of panic and dread. What the fuck is going on? Marat/Sade is starting to look like a merry episode of Three's Company compared to this.

She grins with a mouthful of angry little teeth. She pulls something from an envelope, and you feel the temperature drop ten degrees; your blood is jellied mercury. She holds up a false-color sonogram showing . . . three babies. Three tiny incubating souls waiting to erupt into this dismal world, where horrors happen every day, horrors like this fucking commercial; and they will probably grow up to produce commercials like this; and they will cackle with mad laughter.

The man is now, you see, utterly pithed by this image. All lucidity sluices from him like so much cold water, and you see him give over into pure, gibbering surrender. On a fundamental level, he is no longer alive; he is now simply her automaton, to be maneuvered as thoughtlessly as a mannequin. He grins jerkily, and tries horribly to emulate human behavior. He clacks lifelessly at the keys. "A minivan," he jabbers in a stale voice. The beaten voice-over once more drifts into cognizance, and you manage to hear the perpetrators of this death-carnival. "Vehix.com," intones the voice, which, you can tell now, was recorded in a dank basement with no light and no hope of escape.

It's over. The commercial is over. And so are we all. These are the end times, and you can thank vehix.com.

Wednesday, 08 January
Soon My Ugliness Will Be Assessed

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my optometrist. Pro: I'm leaving work early. Con: I'm doing this to willingly have an unctious person jab erratically at my eyes while asphyxiating me with aggressively minty breath.

Nothing good ever happens at the eye doctor, and I'm an authority on this, because I've been blind as a turnip since fourth grade. I've been to a lot of optometrists, and I think I know the problem. Let's admit it: they are not real doctors. They are a rung up from podiatrists, who are the Mortimer Snerds of doctordom. Okay, urologists and proctologists get their share of guff, but they also get points for sheer determination and bravery. You gonna get into a bar fight with a bunch of pissed off proctologists? I don't think so. They know exactly how to hurt you.

Optometrists don't really dispense useful advice: I know I can't see. I even know I'm nearsighted. I see stuff up close okay, far away stuff is blurry. I can look this up! So he's not telling me anything fresh. Every now and then I want to pointedly say, "Listen, doctor, what about this lump in my groin?" I imagine he'd look thoughtful for a moment and then say, "That's your penis."

But optometrists do try and sell you stuff. Doctors--real doctors--do this too, but they're selling drugs, and hey, sure, I'll buy some. But optometrists try and sell you expensive bullshit based on the "you're ugly" factor. Sure. You could go for the 2-for-$29 frames sitting in a fish bucket in the bathroom. But you won't, and to be fair, who wants to? They all look like they were made by the Mafia. No, you'll let the blandly pretty woman make you try on all the designer frames and squintily assess your face with each one. "Hmmm. Your eyes are so unique. I want to find just the right thing for them." Of course my eyes are unique; I'm fucking blinder than Oedipus. What she's implying is, "Those frames make you look kind of ugly." And it works, because I'm kind of a funny-looking neurotic guy.

I'm embarrassed to say how much I spent on my last set of glasses: around $600 (insurance picked some of this up). Okay, that's fucking stupid. I'm wearing a used car on my face, and the glasses won't last as long as a used car. The truth is, they don't even look like six hundred bucks. They look like fucking glasses. Now of course I know that they're made out of honey-glazed molybdenum steel and were polished by the hot breath of a Scandinavian bra model--or whatever the blandly pretty woman said--but nobody else does. Maybe if they played Supertramp mp3s or something, that would be tangible, I could demonstrate that. "I love your glasses!" someone would say meaninglessly, and then I could excitedly reply, "Want to hear 'The Logical Song?' " And then the other person would look puzzled and say, "Nobody wants to hear 'The Logical Song.' "

So that's a bad example. But you see what I mean.










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