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Tuesday, 06 May
Go With The Phloem

This Sunday was our fifth wedding anniversary! And you know what the fifth means: wood. Yes, it is the wood anniversary. Do you know how many jokes I had to stifle? Erectile dysfunction can really kill a "wood" joke.

Wait! Is this on the internet? I meant that I'm as virile as a centaur! Oh, whatever, it's all too easy.

Here are some of the gifts that I lavished on my wife.

--Louisville slugger
--Cocktail muddler
--The wretched Promise Ring CD wood/water
--A seat as assessor of Wood County, West Virginia
--Fragment of the One True Cross
--Cunnilingus session from Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood

Well, not really. We're trying to travel to Europe later this year--good choice! The dollar is set to rebound any day now!--and so we didn't really go nuts for this one. But I did get her Season 1 of Deadwood, which I'm going to say counts.

But we did also have a lovely evening out. We started out our night at the Stumbling Monk, a Capitol Hill tavern that specializes in Belgian beers. It also specializes in the sort of anti-ambience that might be best characterized as a Fuddrucker's that was decorated only with things found at Goodwill. The Stumbling Monk, while having delectable beers, feels exactly like what it is: a former office supply store redecorated by a couple of schlubs who nailed some coasters to the walls and then went out to thrift stores in search of something, anything, that they might put around the place in order to cover up for the peeling paint and lack of running water. A dusty old fixed-gear bicycle presides perplexingly in an alcove that sits atop the primitive bathroom nook; next to it is a confused-looking typewriter. Nearby is one of those old boxy 70s gas heaters that seems all set to blow its payload directly out a window. For "fun," the bar stocks weathered old board games, such as Scruples--the 90s' bowdlerized answer to "I Never"--and a Scrabble game that is missing all the vowels. Needless to say, we love this place.

After that, we headed out to dinner at another Capitol Hill joint called Crave. "Two?" asked the unstoppably cheerful waitress. Her teeth were like Velamints. "We actually have reservations," said the wife. We all looked at the dining room, which had two other occupied tables. I felt sort of dumb. "Okay!" the waitress replied, and unnecessarily but enthusiastically scratched our name from the reservation tablet. She was sort of like Stalin, except that instead of executing us or forcing us into a gulag, she was going to bring us dinner.

We took our seats and ordered some wine and cheese, all of which were magnificent, and we took to idly watching the street life petri-dishing itself outside our window. Crave stands above a small theater space called CHAC, which stands for Capitol Hill Arts . . . Company? Collective? Consortium? Cocksuckers? I don't care. Anyway, there was obviously something going on down there on this Sunday evening, and whatever that something was, it involved the oddest mix of audience members I've seen in a while. There was a large constituent of the ink-and-skateboard crowd, wearing aggressively ugly clothing and fierce expressions; what was interesting was that for such an obviously anti-normals crowd, they sure did like to hug a lot. You don't often see a guy with full tattoo sleeves fist-pound another dude with a scrotum stapled to his forehead and then warmly hug each other. You also don't often see these sorts of fellows hanging out at theater venues with their mothers, but that's the only way I can explain the startling numbers of middle-aged women meekly wandering down into CHAC, clutching their purses, to witness what I could only figure was a reunion concert of the Crucifucks. The whole thing was deeply strange, but interesting to watch. It was, for all the cognitive dissonance, kind of a sweet scene.

On a cigarette break, I examined a tattered poster advertising what was going on that night: it was a night of dance performances. Well, okay. I returned back to Crave to deal with the rest of dinner and the pleasant waitress and her glinting, unsheathed teeth.

Which was happily fantastic. The wife had some gorgeous lamb chops--they were all out of braised puppies--and I had a "thick-cut" pork chop, which seemed to stretch the definition of "thick" to include "absurd." It had some glaze on it that included, ludicrously, sarsaparilla. I kept waiting for Yosemite Sam to appear tableside and ask me how my gol-durned hunk o' dang hawg was.

And naturally we ended the night at the Bar That Shall Not Be Named, where, as usual, we were treated as royalty. W., our humble bartender, fixed us our lovely drinks--I had a Vieux Carre; order that in your average bar!--and we quietly drank our nightcaps, chatting and surrounded by a pleasant hum of conversation, and warmly patted the gleaming bartop of comforting burnished wood.

Monday, 06 November
You Can Call Me Allium

All you really need to know before I get started is that my wife hates onions.

She hates them quite a lot. She's not an absolutist, mind you: when we make tacos, onions certainly are in the mix. But those are minced and cooked down to a distant memory. But raw onions--the smell, the taste, their offending presence in the cosmos--no, these are not to be tolerated.

We went out for dinner the other night; nothing special, just a dinner out at a neighborhood joint with all-right food. She ordered a burger with bleu cheese on it, and I had what I have every time we go there: Eggs Benedict. (When presented with a menu that has Eggs Benedict on it, I am almost totally powerless not to order it. 99% of the time, when given the option to order that dish, I will. Fuck you, Tony Bourdain! I have the balls to order Eggs Benedict! I do not fear the rancid Hollandaise! I am all man.)

As the wife was finishing her burger, I noticed the veggies on the side--some unused lettuce, an out-of-seasony pink tomato slice, some red onion slices--and I said, "Don't forget to eat your onions." I pointed at them firmly.

She frowned at me comically. I evidently then decided, as I do, to tormented her, and steeled my tone.

"I'm serious," I said. "You eat those fuckin' onions."

"No!" she wailed. "I won't!" She shifted tactics. "You eat them!"

Minx! "No way," I responded instantly. "I didn't order them." (I don't like onions either, really. Except for pickled onions. Let's not stray too far here.) "You eat those onions. You ordered them," I repeated implacably.

"I'm not eating the onions," she said firmly, and took another bite of her insultingly onionless burger. I seethed for a moment, then feigned nonchalantness.

"All right," I said lightly. I thought I saw her stiffen, anticipating a new tack. I pounced. "I guess I'll just take them home with me." She waited warily for the rest while I scooped up some hashbrowns and chewed them pensively.

"Then when you're asleep," I continued serenely, "I'll wake up in the middle of the night and put these onion slices all over your face. When you wake up, you'll be Onion Face, and you'll totally shit." Checkmate!

But she wasn't done with this battle. She narrowed her eyes. "You'll wake up in the middle of the night and put onions on my face?" she asked skeptically. I nodded. "Uh huh. So. Where are you going to keep them?"

Again, I had the answer in a flash. " 'Round my dick," I shot back confidently. I pointed helpfully at my dick area and made jaunty circular motions, helpfully demonstrating how raw onion rings would hang there nicely.

I will not give you a verbatim transcript of the terse dialogue that followed, but instead will simply--and humbly--say that her next few points about why that particular course of action would have devastating repercussions ably demonstrated that I had not thought that strategy through very far. And, in the end, I had to hoarsely admit that the idea was horribly unsound, and would quite possibly have profound marital implications.

"I won't keep raw onion rings around my dick," I said quietly.

"I bet you won't," she replied primly.

That should have been the end of it. But I couldn't let it go.

On the way home, we stopped for some groceries, and I was carrying the bags in both hands. And I had to once again express my dismay about the onion thing. "I'm still a little disappointed that you didn't eat your onions," I grumped. I wasn't going to let this go, because I'm apparently incapable of letting stupid, played jokes die with any semblance of dignity.

And she lashed out! With unexpected ferocity, my wife goosed the shit out of me. "AAAAAAAAAHHHH!" I screamed. "What the fuck!"

"HAH!" she yelled, and lashed out at my ass again. I screamed the eunuch's song and waddled forward, pelvis first, butt-puckered and ridiculous, and howled, "Get away from me!" I waddled ineffectively away from her while she groped at my ass; laden down as I was, I had no defense. Unless I dropped the grocery sacks, but they held my beer, so that wasn't going to happen.

She goosed me like a dumb pud for two blocks, occasionally varying her attacks by jabbing an outstretched thumb towards my asshole, while I could do nothing but shriek inanities like "Butt assault!" and "Restricted! Restricted!" Somehow I managed to hobble home, red-faced and, quite likely, red-assed. I assumed all the platelets in my body had gathered in my ass region, assessing the non-damage and wondering what all the fuss was about.

When we got home and I divested myself of the grocery burden, I did retaliate with an goose-attack of my own, but I have to confess, my heart wasn't in it. I think the wife knew it too. I might have won the ass battle--it's arguable--but I lost the onion war.

This must be why we get along. We both hate onions. I just didn't know until that night that I think I hate them more than she does.

Monday, 01 May
Sorry, Ladies, This Boy Is Taken

Do you remember, my love?
A few hours ago, I turned
To you and asked you about
Panty liners.

"What's the deal with
Panty liners?"
I said.

I had just watched a commercial
With a dancing lady.

And you explained to me about
Panty liners.
About variable flow and spotting
And that sort of thing. And it all made sense.

It was a pretty stupid question--
Really--
And I've never met a woman who buys
Panty liners
(not that it would come up in casual conversation)
(and I hear that they do not bunch up when
you are dancing! So that's nice)
And now I know a little more about
Panty liners.

In a few days, love, we will
Have our three year anniversary, and
(I languidly sit in my big ugly chair and reflect)
I still love you so, and learn from you
Every day
Every moment
A few moments ago it was about
Panty liners.

I am o'er the moon now for
Panty liners
And,
Duh,
You.

As we enter our
Third year of marriage stuff
And prepare for our trip to
Yakima
(O Yakima . . . O wine country . . . O Superman)

I will remember this night
Our night of
Panty liners
Gazes closely met

And think of things like
The Forty-Niners
And Shriners
And roadside diners

Things that rhyme with
Oh, you know, you must see it . . .
Panty liners.

And so I compose this verse for you.
On this third year of marriage to, uh, tu.
You taught me a little about
Panty liners.
And for me, every day, nothing could ever be anything but totally
Finers.

Coda

OMG LOL
U ROCK
BFF
canz plz

shantih shantih shantih

Tuesday, 12 July
White Room

On Saturday, the wife and I drove out to an idyllic little spot for her little brother's wedding. I wore one of my three suits that I get to wear about twice a year, and happily, the weather was gorgeous: they were having an outside wedding, on a gazebo, which I like to believe is because "gazebo" is a really funny word.

We showed up very early, partially to soothe the nerves of the bride and groom--we're here! Two hours early! See!--and partially because we were bringing a little table they needed to use for the ceremony. And we spotted them right away, as we were hauling the little table to the gazebo: they were being ordered around by an imperious harridan with a camera. They both wore tight smiles as we passed them. The wife called out in good humor, "Hey, you're not supposed to see the bride before the wedding!" The camera-wielding harridan shot back, "You're not supposed to see her!"

The wife later confirmed with me that that was the very instant we formed an utter dislike of the woman. Fuck you, lady, we thought. Without this INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT little table, nobody gets married today!

And anyway, her remark was dumber than hell, as we found out an hour later. While having a glass of wine before things got started--like I say, we got there early, which was fine--we were suddenly summoned by the wife's neice to report for photos. Right at the entrance of the building, a charming brick edifice. Where fifty fucking people were all standing, gawking as the awful photographer barked out orders to all and sundry to pose with the bride and groom. We weren't supposed to see her before the wedding? Jesus Christ, any dipshit driving a pickup in Woodinville can see her. And, oh, who gives a fuck anyway?

The incredible, never-ending parade of photos continued, and the bride and groom soldiered on grimly as a baffling number of incredibly specific shots were set up, in no apparent order. "Now the bride's family! With the bride! Great! And now with the groom's family! [My one shot. Woo.] And now the bride with her grandparents! And now just the bride! And now the bride with her little brother! No, never mind that, I don't like that kid! And now the bride and the groom with a lizard! And now with the bride holding a jar of piss! And now the bride hitting the groom with a rolling pin while he eats a hoagie!"

Later, I whispered to I., the groom, "Man, this is why we didn't do this shit." He rolled his eyes at me in silent commiseration, and then expressed his desire for the photographer's gruesome and timely demise. She haunted the rest of the damn evening with this sort of horseshit.

As for the bride, S., I can only suppose, but she wore a real glare of hatred during the photographic ordeal (during the lulls, of course), and who can blame her? She had to be in every fucking shot; wedding ritual demands it. Brides have it both good and bad in a unique way during weddings: they are, like it or not, the entire focus for the whole fucking night. There's no getting around it. And I say this without rancor--it's not a job for the faint of heart. And I also say this as an actor, who is accustomed to the spotlight, but this kind of attention is daunting as hell: it's like a one-person show that lasts eight hours where there are no intermissions and you are the star, and God help you if you so much as absentmindedly pick your nose. Because there you are, on camera, forever, and now you're starting to wish you could have that photo back of you with the jar of piss.

The groom? Well, it is of course also his night, but let's not be dumb about this. It's a lot like what I imagine being a male porn star is like. Sure, you have your place there, and a job to do, and most of the time there are functionaries who will go get you water or whatever; but never, ever forget these things: you're really not there to talk much. Most everyone there wants to watch the girl. And, also like porn, it's really embarrassing for everyone if you wear athletic socks.

And of course despite all my snarking, it was a pretty damn fun night. Sitting in the front row for the ceremony was quite exciting, particularly when the pastor (my father-in-law, miked for the outdoor crowd) got started: "WELCOME!" he screamed maniacally. "THANK YOU ALL FOR COMING!" Of course he didn't scream; we were just sitting right in front of the damn speakers. But it scared the bejesus out of us: the wedding party had it worse--they were standing two feet in front of the things. It must have been like 25 minutes of Krakatoa for those poor bastards.

And so we ate, and we danced, and we behaved like people always do at these things. The wife's mom wanted a picture of us dancing, and so I did, though I protested that I looked like a "monkey on a hot plate" doing so. The band was even pretty good, and played the usual standard rock songs, and some unusual ones: there was very little dancing while the guitarist improbably performed a note-for-note reproduction of Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption," which struck me as hilarious. I kind of wanted the keyboardist to respond with his interpretation of what a deer sounded like when killed by bowhunter Ted Nugent. It would probably be just as danceable.

And so, and so. I. and S. cracked some Dom Perignon, and danced, and toasts, and cake, and bouquet, and garter, and all that. They seemed to be having a tremendous time, as well they should have.

You see, by this time, the photographer had left.

Thursday, 02 June
Outrageous Yarn

The wife has recently opened up a show here in Seattle where she makes a brief appearance at the top of the play and then isn't really seen until act two, so she was looking for a hobby that she could try out as she whiled away the free time backstage. (If you're interested, Seattleites, go check out The Ritz at Re-bar. It's funny!)

She tried bearbaiting for a while, but you know what? Bears, while hilarious to see cruelly killed, are in fact damned expensive. So that was out. She tried primal scream therapy for a short time, but it turns out that bone-chilling howls of agony from backstage tend to unnerve audiences, so that didn't work out either; she also tried an alternative, primal sigh therapy, but it wasn't that fulfilling, nor was primal belching. Musical autopsies didn't even last for two days, as we quickly ran out of fresh corpses, and the noise factor became an issue again when audiences complained about the racket made when she joyfully cracked a chest and played the ribs like a marimba.

And then a friend turned her on to . . . knitting. Which is possibly the most disturbing one yet, at least from my perspective. Because while I know it works for her situation--it's quiet, productive, passes the time, etc.--it is really sort of disturbing to be sitting around the home, I'm watching SportsCenter, and then to look over at my wife . . . knitting. My breathing becomes shallow, and the adrenal glands go juicy. Oh, God! I think. My wife is seventy years old! Because, I'm sorry, I do associate knitting with the elderly. Inept scarves and ill-fitting scratchy sweaters and all that, those lovingly-made gifts that have ruined countless Christmases for children.

"Oh, isn't that adorable! Skot, thank your gramma for the shapeless, abrasive sweater!"

"But I wanted Micronauts! I hate you, gramma! All the other kids are going to laugh at me and make me lick the toilet seats if I wear this!"

"They do that anyway, son," my mother would say in reassuring tones. "But for being such a little turd on Christmas, we're going to burn all your good gifts."

"Ahahahahahahaha!" my grandmother would cackle at me then. "Fucked you pretty good again, didn't I, ya little smartass?" She would rattle the ice cubes in her empty bourbon glass wrathfully and lower her voice to a hiss. "Knitcha a coffin next year, ya lousy little pisser."

Maybe we shouldn't talk about Christmas. Sorry . . . took a little trip down memory lane. What were we talking about?

Oh! Right! Knitting. Yeah, anyway, so the wife does this now, and I enjoy ribbing her about it. "Can you knit more quietly?" I said to her tonight, mock-serious. She made a face at me, and then pretended to "knit quietly," which was kind of funny in a way that I can't really describe.

Later, still knitting, she said mildly, out of the blue, "I'm making you a cock warmer." I laughed, and took a look at her work so far. "You've seen my cock, right? I think you're done." She laughed. I looked again. "Seriously, I think you've made three of them," I said. She held up the yarnwork. "Nuh uh!" she exclaimed. (You see why I love this woman?)

After a bit, she put her knitting down to take a break. I turned to her. "Hey," I said, "get back to work. My cock is cold."

And so goes another evening in a happy marriage.

Tuesday, 01 February
Excellent Choice

Every theater worth its salt has its own bar.

Not one they own, of course: theaters barely have enough money to put on shows. But they have bars, the ones that, when the shows are over, they repair to, to commiserate, or celebrate, or just to hang out and unwind. And so every theater also has its own bartenders.

When I was a member of Open Circle Theater here in Seattle--good years I would never want to give up, but also strenuous years that took their toll on me--our bar was called The Family Affair. The Family Affair was a blue-collar sort of place that had the virtue of proximity: it was three blocks away from our theater space. It also had the virtue of its proprietors: Bronko and Angela, a couple of reformed degenerates (coke fiends and coke runners in their times; tellers of "we fucked on the beach" stories, which were, in their own way, charming and yet kind of ghastly; and, finally, surrogate parents to a bunch of snotty, mouthy kids with a penchant for something as ridiculously dumb as live theater, for God's sake).

Bronko was well known for his well-used and familiar turns of phrase:

"Hey, easy money, how's it going?"

"What can I get you, Captain?"

Or, most commonly, after any drink order, no matter how outlandish: Excellent choice!" You could order a glass of spinal fluid, and Bronko would tell you it was an excellent choice.

There were other common routines, such as when Bronko would be introduced to, say, a new female companion. He would offer to show her baby pictures. "Oh, I'd love to see that!" some girl would inevitably squeal. Then Bronko would produce a doctored photo of a baby with a gigantic, two-foot erection. That this was never met with alarmed screams or complicated litigation is a testament to Bronko's easy gentleness, and that he was a man who, for Christ's sake, was just fundamentally good. I never, ever saw anyone who responded to him without good humor, except for the low-watt bulbs who failed to realize that he was completely prepared to turn people into interesting shapes when they tested his temper.

Bronko and Angela nursed us for years, tolerating our more ridiculous antics--Anniversary stripteases! Birthdays for the terrifying "Vagitarians!"--with more humor than we deserved. When, unsurprisingly, one or two of our group fell into fiscal despair, they had an obvious (and unquestioning) solution: Give them kitchen jobs. Once, Bronko drove a few of us home in his Caddy to save us cab fare. (Angela: "Bronko! Get off your ass and drive these kids home! I'm not calling that fucking cab company any more!")

And we--filled with drinks and maybe one of the Family Affair's diabolical foodstuffs--happily piled in. (Their food was, ah, memorable: One concoction called the Blue Ox or the Artery Grenade or something was a quarter pound hamburger topped with a slab of breakfast sausage, a fried egg, blue cheese and a defibrillator.)

When I first met Bronko, I did not know that he had been battling cancer for God knows how many years. He held on from the moment I met him for another ten. Some of those times were miserable (and, through my work, I happen to know his oncologist). He lived for longer than anyone had any bloody reason to. He was a tough son of a bitch, and I still remember his booming laugh, his jokes about having "the vapors" . . . and his damn Caddy, which he loved so much.

Bronko and Angela had to eventually leave the Family Affair thanks to some really scummy fuckover courtesy of a couple of their former employees and the landlords; I vowed never to darken the door of the new owners, and I am delighted to report that the new place, after a couple years, went right into the toilet.

When they lost the place--which angered and bewildered them--I know that Bronko had to sell the Caddy. He couldn't afford it any more. He and Angela had a group of us over to dinner anyway. They absolutely refused my offer to help pay for the rather extravagant meal, despite the fact that they had had to move to a cheaper house . . . and take in a renter to help defray living costs.

I got older. I got married. (And The Family Affair plays no small part in the history of our courtship.) And, to my shame, I lost touch with Bronko and Angela once the Family Affair was gone. I wonder what else I've neglected.

God, I miss that place. I miss that sense of belonging, of knowing that crossing the threshhold meant that I was protected, and loved, and that it was mine.

And I miss Bronko, who finally succumbed to his disease last week. He's dead. And, oh, I miss you, Angela, who is still alive, and utterly wrecked, and who doesn't know where to go, and God damn it, whom I have failed.

I am so sorry, Bronko. It's high time I gave Angela a call. I'm going to tell her all about you, from over here. Not that she needs it. But I do.

See you later, easy money.

Wednesday, 26 January
You Say It's Their Birthday

In a week and a half, the wife and I will be throwing a modest gala for her parents to celebrate a couple events: her father's 60th birthday AND their 40th wedding anniversary. Wow! Either way, that's a lot of years. Sometimes I have nightmares thinking about the cubic volume of cheese they must have consumed in that time, and I wake up sweaty--"Oh God . . . so much cheese . . . lodged in their bowels . . . "--but mostly I'm happy for them. They really are lovely people, and I do look forward to making with the happy.

And they really deserve it. It was kind of a shitty year for them; they lost both their longtime cat Peanuts (known in his later years for staring mournfully at, oh, the refrigerator, or walls, or middle distance; also, for getting trapped in the shower stall) as well as their longtime dog Travis (known for, in livelier days, chasing Peanuts through the house as the family howled in lusty enjoyment and laid down twenties betting on winners).

So we're treating the good old bastards to a sprightly night out at an Irish bar up on 15th. Many friends and family will be in attendance, and later in the evening, we've got some entertainment in store, in the form of a bagpipe player, who we assume will drive everyone away early so we can get some fucking rest. In the interim, people can chat and drink whiskey, except for the wife's parents, who barely drink at all, which allows me to order double whiskeys on their behalf, and then drink them.

And the gifts! I can't wait to unveil mine, which is a sassy, pop-culture-savvy farting robot named Vera. I can just see their faces. "What the devil is this?" they'll ask. "It's Vera!" I'll exclaim. "Do your stuff, girl!"

She springs into action! "What are you talking about, Willis? Eat my shorts! Kiss my grits! Ayyyyyyyy!" And then mechanized flatulence. BRAAAAP! I'm pretty sure that they've never seen anything like it, much like the wife and I had never seen anything quite like the Christmas carousel they gave us last year, the one that when wound up plays Fear's "Beef Baloney" while gnomes frantically sodomize a few terrified reindeer.

It's going to be a special night. I hope the bagpiper knows "Beef Baloney." It would mean a lot to them.

Friday, 29 October
XXXVI

Oh my wife, it is come now
In this fell world
It comes, coruscating and wild
The day we celebrate your birth
Again. Darling, you are
Thirty-six

And you are still some prime beef, baby.

Beef--if you will indulge me--benefits
From aging; we know this.
And you have certainly aged. Thirty-six
Is damned old.

I have so many visions
For the morrow
A balloon-ride where we may
Jape at the sullen clouds

And later a host of acrobats to delight
As they pirouette and prance
For your pleasure whilst you sit
On a throne made from finest damask
And lace
And velvet
And human leg bones, which I think is a jaunty touch.

Oh, what visions--horses will laugh
With delight as they gallop before you,
Carrying balladeers who will sing of
Your grace, your beauty, your
Splendid rack; scribes will write it all down--
The spectacle, in finest prose captured, preserving it
Forever, to remember, unless you are stricken
With Alzheimer's.

All this I would willingly give to you, my love--
But alas, I have not the means, which
You well know; You remember, wife,
How I blew it all on the ponies.

But I do, humbly, and with devotion, what I can,
Love--
So love me too, tomorrow, on your day, when our
Honda chariot arrives at Sizzler, and I will
Look into your quiet eyes, and I will think
How I love this woman--
How I love her--
How I hope she does not order lobster.

And, sated, we will go further into the night
To the lantern-show, where magic is painted on the walls
In Light! As if lit by divine flame, a story told in flickers:
Seed of Chucky.

After, when the night is deepening, Ah . . .
We will sit upon a happy hillock
Under the adoring gaze of the Stars
Leaning in, taking solace in our
Company, and laughing, laughing
As we throw stones at the
Promise Keepers who are in town.

You afford me too much, dear, and
Here again you allow me my indulgences;
I do enjoy my jests after all.
And yet--

You are thirty-six, my Love, and in truth
I am very close behind you; a race
That I never wish to win or lose, but merely
Hope to keep running, tirelessly, gaily--

Oh, I never want to stop running with you.

Thursday, 15 July
Towards A Poor Toilet

Lately I've been sacrificing most of my free evening time rehearsing for the show I'll be doing in August. This means I've been hanging out at a certain theater--home to a company that I once was a member of, but have since amicably parted from, officially--and it bears some describing.

When most people think of theaters--live theaters--they probably think of things like velvet seats, or polite bartenders in well-appointed lobbies, or maybe just the cheerfully low lull of erudite conversation. (Some people, when confronted with the phrase "live theater" might just think of strippers. Which, depending on the play, could also be true.) The point is, the concept of "going to see a play" carries certain cultural connotations, like casual wealth and slight ostentation.

Fringe theater, most of the time, carries no such cachet. Least of all in this one. It is, without doubt, the dingiest, dankest, bacilliest theater that ever existed. It is, in fact, less a theater than it is an abandoned garage with pretensions. It is an enduring wonder to me that it has never been condemned, most likely because any sane inspector would flee from its haunting decrepitude in fear for his safety (stumbling perhaps as he crossed the noxious sewer grate that decorates its streetfront, and routinely emits horrifying, Plutonic odors).

Let's just start with the bathrooms. The men's has a door of sorts constructed of 3/4" painted plywood, and a yellowing printer sign above the crapper with the cautionary message: "I'm an old, cranky toilet!" An ominous plunger crouches near the bowl, presaging dire visions, such as you dancing anxiously in pisswater overflow, or worse. If one is feeling really courageous, he can cautiously lower his ass down onto the seat (trying not to think of how many varied asses this Methuselan receptacle has patiently met over the years) and then be treated to a strange kind of circus ride or well-rendered video game: CLUNK! What the fuck? The bowl just listed to starboard! Hey, I'm a sailor and I'm taking a dump! Woo woo! GANK! Now to the other side! Most of it's getting in the bowl! What the hell is anchoring this toilet? Safety pins?

It's really very strange. Then, just like in video games, there might be a bonus round for the lucky player, and the toilet overflows onto your feet, and you grab at the plunger to stab at the beast, but nobody ever gets many points in bonus rounds, and you count yourself lucky that hey, you never liked those shoes anyway.

The main theater itself--again, it's just a reconverted warehouse space, resplendent with the kind of invisible black grit that only lives in your hair or, more happily, insistently under your fingernails--is a dismal place with primitive electrics and an utterly unsolvable humidity problem: it is always either (1) gaspingly arid and intolerable or (2) so thick with mugginess that ones lungs feel like wet wool. On some amazing occasions, it can be both within the same day. I call those days "weekdays."

The whole place deserves to be hung with colorful banners, reading "DISEASE VECTORS WELCOME HERE!"

There is also the shop area, where in addition to dozens of cans of donated paint ("REJECTED COLOR: 'Rancid Come' "), there is also a horribly undifferentiated pile of donated "wood": that is, boards. Unfortunately, these boards were merely the result of deconstructed pallets that someone had assaulted with a hammer; nobody had bothered to remove the dozens and dozens of staples. Great! Someone donated a bunch of horrible garbage that even hillbillies wouldn't deign to either (1) snort, or (2) burn.

This is how classy fringe theater can be. And for all that, I continue to do it. I have no explanation.

I'm tired. I'm making no money doing this. The hours and the unbelievably draining schedules suck. I'm 35 years old and still playing make-believe. I'm still frantically battling recalcitrant toilets.

And I tell myself, again: Here we go again.

It's not so bad.

Tuesday, 17 February
We Celebrate Our Love Over Meat

The wife and I went out Saturday night for our vewwy fust Vawwentine's Day togevver as a mawwied couple! Awww! Isn't that just the oopsiest-loo? Fortunately, we aren't really this nauseating together, except in that I-hate-happy-couples way that I remember so well from being a bitter single person, and there's not much we can do about that. So we just avoid all our single, bitter former friends for now--we'll reconnect with them once time grinds us into the jaded, vituperative couple of backbiters that sitcoms through the ages have assured us we will inevitably become.

We went down to deepest, darkest, gentrificationest Belltown for a nice prix fixe dinner at Marco's Supper Club, a medium-swank spot that we've always liked. The eponymous owner Marco, a spectrally courtly gentleman unswervingly dressed in tweed, likes to stalk about the place helping people with their coats and lighting cigarettes; with his demeanor, his dress, his height of well over six feet, and finally his ungainly shock of graying hair, he looks rather like a former basketball star whose crippling ankle injury forced him unhappily into some weird form of restaurant-based academe.

We went a little early so we could have a drink at the bar--our first step in utterly demolishing the prix fixe illusion of budgetary restraint--and surveyed the other patrons. An early alarm: at a table of four were seated two middle aged couples, just getting started in, and fully embracing the unspoken class system we have in this country, I immediately judged them. The women wore the sort of offhandedly gaudy clothing that betrayed the fact that they simply had too much money: gold chains in place of belts, tiny purses of brightly-hued leather, altogether too much makeup, and coifs that crouched tensely and blondly on their skulls. Going rather too far in the other direction, the men looked like vacationing RV salesmen: careless short-sleeve shirts, rumpled Dockers, and sullen, gelled hair. I took an instant dislike to them, which was hardly mitigated by the speech pattern of one of the women: SHE BRAYED EVERY FUCKING THING SHE SAID AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. She was like some fucking awful mechanical mule crafted out of bent brass. The whole scene was intolerable, and I prayed for respite.

Naturally, we were seated right next to them. However, what I thought was total disaster turned out to be okay, as down amongst the actual din of the room (away from the bar), it was much easier to lose the howling in the general noise of the place. Also, mule-woman was seated with her back to us, so her throat-cone weapon pointed at some other luckless bastards across the room.

We continued throwing gasoline onto our ongoing bill fire by ordering a ridiculously great bottle of wine from our scampering waiter and resumed making uncharitable comments about other diners. One couple seated at the bar occasionally interrupted their dinners to periodically grope one another and engage in some fairly enthusiastic necking. This is kind of icky to have to witness in the best of circumstances, but in a classy restaurant . . . and the guy is kind of a frightening, unclassifiable xenomorph . . . and she has a simply stupendous nose . . . all of these details add up. I mean, look, I'm certainly not saying I'm not funny-looking, because I kind of am, but then, I don't ostentatiously give my gal the facehugger treatment at crowded restaurants either. So we didn't feel bad about covertly mocking them too much. Emphasis on "covertly," since he would have beat me stupid had he caught me.

At one point, the wife said, "Too bad you're not sitting here. I'm getting quite a show." I discreetly turned around and saw a woman wearing the plungiest of necklines, and when she laughed, it looked like her tits were mounting an incursion on her skull. I love my wife.

At any rate, our food eventually started appearing. I opened with a Caesar's salad and the wife had oysters on the half-shell and shut up, dude. For the entrees, I opted for the good old heart-shocker, tenderloin wrapped in bacon (along with some horrifyingly delicious truffled mashed potatoes and a red wine demiglace to boot). The wife had gone for the roast lamb, and as she ate, I mentally entertained myself by using the lamb voice from the Simpson's episode where Lisa goes vegetarian. Why don't you looo-oove me? What did I do to yoooo-oou? Then various gruesome mental lamb-screams as my wife chewed the unfortunate little beast. I felt it best not to share this interior dialogue for all concerned.

It was a phenomenal meal, one of those rare ones where everything clicks, and as we gamely dug into the dessert--a chocolate pot de creme--I happened to glance up at the table of awful people that I had been so worried about, when one of the ladies was saying something I happened to catch briefly. It may have been a joke. I hope it was a joke. Because the bit I caught was her leaning back in her chair, preparing her delivery, then popping her eyes out and while craning forward again, said, in swooping tones: "Caaaaaaaaa-mel tooooooooe!" To the general hilarity of her tablemates.

I dropped my spoon, utterly unnerved, and by now completely unheedful of the bill, swiftly ordered a cognac. I relayed what had just transpired to the wife, and she said, "What?" I couldn't really add any more to that: Yeah, that was a big fucking "What?"

It will be my little test to her on next year's Valentine's Day. I'm going to get a big-ass card, one of those fluffy bastards with flowers and pink and oogy sentiments, and on the inside I will write "Caaaaaaaaa-mel tooooooooooe! Love, Skot," and see if she remembers. Or, even better, if she just reads the card and then says, "What?"

Wednesday, 29 October
A Love Letter To, Variously, The Wife, Certain Adzes, And Unappreciated Vegetables

Today is the wife's birthday, so I will of course be taking her out for a lovely meal at the Insanely Fucking Great Tapas Joint, where we will, I hope, consume beets. I'm a sucker for their beets. I'm also reasonably sure that I've never typed that sentence before, but I'm kind of enchanted with it: I encourage whatever American beet concerns might exist out there to pick it up and use it as a really terrible advertising campaign:

He's a sucker for our beets! Paid for by the US Beet Council.

Or maybe just one of these:

Fuck you, dude! Eat beets.
Beets: Pee red in a good way.
We've! Got! Folate!
Sexier than cabbage.
Now with fewer aphids!
Beets: Because You've Just Given Up.

No charge, boys! Anyway, I'm sure glad I could marginalize my lovely wife's birthday by jabbering idiotically about root vegetables, because I know she'll read it later and think, "What a swell husband! His sad babbling touches my heart!" And then she'll attack me with a pulaski.

Married life is great, but occasionally terrifying. There's only one thing to do: go get some tasty damn beets.

Thursday, 22 May
Things I Have Shouted In Belgium

(But first: I will probably misspell many if not all of these Dutch words because of my serious allergy towards doing any kind of research at all, but please don't interprete that as disrespect towards a very fine language. Rather, you should just consider me bottomlessly lazy. Another thing is, the wife and I are actually good, quiet, polite travelers, so we didn't really shout anything in the streets of Belgium; in fact, we were constantly stunned at how loud the Germans always seemed to be. But we spoke these words to each other sort of sotto voce, but the tone was one of shouting. You know what I mean.)

Gevaar!

Basically, this is the word for "danger," and Brugge has many cute warning stickers with little pictogram men falling down stairs, being electrocuted, or failing to obtain efficient service all over the place indicating various dangers. For our purposes, we co-opted it to mean, yes, danger, but also "oh fuck!" and "this is terrible" and also anything else we felt like.

Examples:

"Are you enjoying your stoemp?" (Stoemp is a regional mashed potato dish that incorporates leeks and caramelized onions into it. It is an uncharacteristically terrible culinary idea for the region.)
"Gevaar."

"I want to go bra shopping."
"Gevaar!"

Jupiler!

Jupiler is a mass-produced Belgian beer that is responsible for roughly 90% of Brugge's cafe awnings. Sadly--and this is a stunningly uncommon thing to say about a Belgian beer--it's swill. It's basically the Budweiser of the place, but when it costs all of around a buck more to upgrade to any of a hundred other vastly superior beers, it's not that oppressive. But I used it as an all-purpose term to simply express glee, I suppose because of its resemblance to the word "jubilee," which I associate with the good sense of the makers of the X-Men films in their decision to marginalize the presence of Jubilee, wisely noticing that she was one of the lamest X-Men ever.

Examples:

"Look at this. They serve over four hundred kinds of beer here."
"JUPILER!"
(Bartender): "One Jupiler, sir?"
"God, no."

"The Justin Timberlake video is over."
"JUPILER!"
"The Madonna video is coming on."
"Gevaar."

Gruuthuse

This is some weird little museumlet in Brugge that apparently features old tapestries and furniture and crap; we didn't go. When even Rick Steves--a man so perfectly square, he is nearly a Platonic ideal--says something is boring, I take that to heart. But we did take to saying "Gruuthuse!" a lot just for the pure joy of its mouthfeel. We said it any time we saw the place and also any time we didn't see the place: "Gruuthuse!" Lovely. But then I noticed a little bit down the road a little cafe called the "Gruuthuse Hot," and I got really excited. "Gruuthuse Hot!" I would exclaim. Then, for some weird reason, I started developing this persona of some officious college professor, and I would start sternly mock-instructing the wife. "Gruuthuse," I would turn to her and say gravely. I'd raise my finger in the air. "Gruuthuse hot!" Giving the "hot" a clipped, imperative tone. "Go away," she would sometimes reply; yes, we are magical.

I don't believe any examples are required here.

De Groepe

One day the wife just struck out on side roads, looking for stuff we hadn't seen and getting away from the other tourists. We eventually found ourselves wandering in a mostly residential area, which was nice and tranquil. Briefly. For presently we were wandering past a larger building that looked possibly like a school of some sort, and on one wall it had the letters "DE GROEPE." Unfortunately for the wife, I noticed this, and, figuring it's always best not to ignore hints from the World Brain, I took its advice. "Honey?" "Yes?" "It's time for . . . DE GROEPE!" I yelled (quietly), and then remorselessly grab-assed her. "EEEEE!" she shrieked and wriggled away.

This of course became a theme. At any given time, anywhere, for the rest of the stay, the mood could strike me, and I'd start breathing heavily, and I'd put on a sort of weirdo face and start slowly curling and uncurling my hands into claw shapes. The first couple of times, the wife noticed, and would ask "What's wrong?" Rising to the bait. "DE GROEPE!" I'd howl and grope her again. After a couple times of that, I had to stop the maniac routine, because it would tip her off and she'd run away, so I had to content myself with simply shouting at random intervals "DE GROEPE!" and then lashing out at her ass like a viper.

I think the best part about being married might be not having to pretend you're not a half-deranged pervert any more. It's so freeing. And now we have our own kind of language to express it, or at least I do.

Skot: "DE GROEPE!" (Skot gropes his wife.)

Wife: "GEVAAR!"

Skot: (rejoicing) "Jupiler!"

Wife: (looking kind of hunted these days) "This is going to wear off at some point, right?"

(Pause.)

Skot: (stentorially) "Gruuthuse. Gruuthuse hot."

Wife: "Go away."

Tuesday, 20 May
It's Like I Never Left, Except That I Did

Yes, I am back from the Belgian honeymoon, and yes, it was fantastic, and yes, we ate chocolates, and yes, we drank beer, and NO, Belgian beer does NOT give you a hangover, and believe me, we tried. I cannot emphasize this enough. It was sort of like getting away with murder. Or, more accurately, it was like getting convicted of murder, and then having the judge say, "But everyone hated that guy anyway! Get out of here, you scamp!" And then everyone goes out and eats wonderful stew. Or something. I'm still fried from the flight, so don't expect much in the way of linearity or coherence--a rather silly warning to give to regular readers of this site, I suppose.

And they didn't even hate us! Or if they did, they were very circumspect and polite about it; if they covertly spit in our food, all I can say is: Belgium, your citizens have ridiculously delicious spit.

Even their television is wonderful, provided you get a kick out of not knowing what the hell anyone is saying. On my very first day, as the fiancee wife (hey!) and I lolled bonelessly in our room after the flight over, I was informed by a Belgian ad (in Dutch, of course) that Calgon (hey, they have Calgon!) will definitely clean the shit out of any KALK! you might have in your home. I naturally don't have any idea what KALK! is, and didn't bother to find out, but there it was on my screen, KALK! and sure enough, Calgon came along and blasted the letters all to hell. It was great.

Okay, not everything was great, strictly speaking. There was the music--and I know I wasn't exposed to the great Flemish alternative scene or anything--but the eerie ubiquity of Phil Collins was greatly unnerving. And literally seeing the video for Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" video every day for the first week was positively shattering, especially when we found ourselves singing along. Oh, and of course Madonna's "American Life," a hauntingly poisonous song replete with a pungently embarrasing rap was all over the place, handily answering any lingering questions as to why perhaps other nations hate us. But there were bright spots too, mostly of the deeply weird sort. One young group of lightly scrubbed boys named The Androids were clearly shooting for a spot next to Eve 6 in future 99-cent bins with a catchy ditty called "I Want To Do It With Madonna." Clearly, they hadn't heard the new single yet. But they had some stiff competition from another group of aggressively market-tested moppets named Busted! (very focus-group edgy) with their massively catchy and utterly inane songsicle "The Year 3000." Sounding a bit like Green Day as interpreted by Up With People, Busted! brought the goods with these classic lyrics: "Well, I've been to the year 3000/ Nothing's changed, 'cept they live underwater/ And your great-great-great granddaughter/ is pretty fine." O manna, Nickelodeon! O fuck me in the ears with your lyricism! You can't tell me that's not some quality schlock, especially the casually tossed in bit of info that, um, our descendants will be marine mammals.

It occurs to me that maybe these kids are all the rage over here in America too and I just didn't know it. You know you're getting old when it takes a transatlantic flight to get exposed to youth culture. And speaking of youths in other countries--just so everyone knows I didn't miraculously shed all of my neuroses while abroad--can I just say that little kids speaking Dutch freak me out? While I know intellectually that of course, it's their native fucking tongue, it still made me feel terribly inadequate. There would be some little kid unspooling mystifying Dutch sentences, and I would be standing there thinking, "Wow, that must be a smart kid. Dutch is hard!" Then it would occur to me that this was a country where practically everyone at a minimum is at least trilingual, and I'd feel really dumb.

Then I'd remember I was on my honeymoon, and that I was damned lucky to find someone who'd marry such a goddamn weirdo, and that it was practically MY DUTY to enjoy myself, and we'd go have a beer and do just that.

Hello again, faithful tens of readers! It's good to be home. But it was even better to be there. You'll hear more, of course. Please stay. I wanna rock your body. I gotta have you naked by the end of this blog.

Monday, 28 April
A Spiritual Bond And Its Appropriate Government Form

I left work a little early today, so the fiancee and I could zip down to one of the county administrative offices and procure our marriage license. There's nothing like the clumsy oafishness of bureaucracy to kind of kill the whole mood, you know? It's like watching a romantic movie with your loved one, the lights low and the wine half-gone, and all of a sudden your flatulent brother-in-law wanders in and asks for ten bucks.

But what are you gonna do? We fought the awful downtown traffic and made our way to a Eastern Bloc-looking building looming unattractively over 4th Avenue; it was the kind of building that Tom Wolfe would go out of his way in order to primly vomit on it. At the last moment, we also realized that Our Modern Government required that we pay in cash and CASH ONLY--$54--because apparently, credit cards are a little too racy for Uncle Sam to deal with, and as for a personal check, screw you buddy, we're not those pussies at the IRS. We don't trust you. So we did a quick cash-check.

We had about thirty bucks between us. Of course. I noticed a lonely-looking ATM sitting in the cheerless vestibule, and was immediately plunged into clammy sense of gloom, because it couldn't be a normal ATM, one that actual people would ever be moved to use, no, it was from The Bank of Great Neck or something like that, where nobody banks, least of all in Seattle, and of course it was going to gouge me stupid, being a non-Great-Neckian banker, and on top of that, my bank was also going to gouge me later for being the kind of hopeless schmoe who has been reduced to begging some hick machine from the fiscal sticks for a couple of tattered twenties. But I had no choice.

Then we went into the licensing office, which I noted was also where you got your pet licenses. Handy! And kind of sinister and subtle; the implied question seemed to be: "You guys look kind of stupid. Are you sure you wouldn't rather get a dog?" But on the other hand, the public employee there was genuinely helpful, even when we immediately displayed our vast incompetence by filling in the bride's info in the groom's fields and vice versa. Feeling purest form of dumb that can only come by failing to correctly fill out a government form, we asked for another; she looked at it and said, "No problem, people do that all the time." She scrawled in the margins the correct genders, and I thought that they were uncharacteristically malleable about the whole thing. I wondered if for kicks, they sometimes made other marginalia: "Groom is a silverback ape." "This couple was resoundingly ugly." And then it goes into the permanent file. What's anyone going to do about it?

But of course we got it, after a silly affirmation--complete with raised right hand--that we had not lied on our forms. This struck me as less than rigorous: we couldn't even fill them out correctly. Did she even check the form? No. I could have wrote that I came from Barsoom, Mars. In fact, next time, I will. You know, when we go back for the dog license. I imagine they will greet us like old friends: "Look, it's the resoundingly ugly couple!"

That's not true, of course. The fiancee is quite stunning. And me, I'm pretty good-looking for a Silverback ape.

Monday, 21 April
Definitely Not Losing Perspective

As many of my tens of readers might know, two weeks from today, I will be married and in fact on a plane to wonderful Belgium for a two-week honeymoon in the land of BEER! and CHOCOLATE! and MUSSELS! and FUCK YOU, AMERICANS! We anticipate that it will be quite restful in between effigy-burnings, but for now, we are in full crazed mode, and spend our days holy-fucking around between various oh-shit thisses and my-god thats. But the really important thing to remember is, soon I will shut the fuck up about the whole thing and we can get back to the real crowd-pleasing stuff, like my frantic mutterings about earwigs or something.

Today we made a big decision about the processional music: we didn't want the traditional "Here Comes The Bride" glop, and we agonized for a while, but we finally went with "Mony Mony." That makes it kind of interactive! And it will really get us in the mood for later in the evening to see our parents' smiling faces in the audience lustily shouting "Hey! Get laid, get fucked!" as my bride makes her way down the aisle.

The other thing to iron out is the vows, which we are writing ourselves. Now, the fiancee is keeping things to herself, but I can let you guys in on what I'm working on, because she doesn't read my "horseshit website" anyway, as she puts it. See what you think so far.

My love, as I stand here with you in this Applebee's conference room, I am overcome with my feelings of love and my nausea. Give me one moment, my darling.

HARF! HARF! EEEUURGH! HARF!

Thank you, sweet.

We came to this fine family dining establishment as two; and we will leave as one. Not because I am fusing our bodies together at a molecular level as I originally anticipated--technological advances have not been all I had hoped--but in the metaphorical sense. And legal sense. And expectations-of-friends-who-have-bought-us-gravy-boats sense. But can our gravy-boat-buying friends know our hearts? Our souls? Our bank accounts? No, they cannot, because they aren't very good friends at all. This is why we poisoned the ham.

Only we can know us, and us is what allows we to know you and me, and we are all together. Do you understand, my umpky-pumpkin loaf? We are to be as one from this date on, my urple-wurple, one who is stronger than the two we were mere moments ago when we were not one and I had no legal access to half your stuff. But this is not the time to discuss massive financial insolvency, my woogie, tomorrow can wait for that. Tomorrow is for . . . oh, many things . . . darling, a murderous bookie rambling about runaway gambling debts is for tomorrow; we are for today.

Today, I vow to give you my all, my dearest. Will you give me your all? I really, really need it.

Sorry, ladies. This one is taken.

Wednesday, 16 April
A Love Poem, And Then Some

Beneath the spreading boughs of the elms; kindly
Arbor above, we repose, and the gentle breeze carries
Blossoms of some kind of flower whose name I know not
Yet are still pretty. Maybe they are poisonous, so do not eat them.

Lie we there with one another, and I nuzzle softly your
Ear, your precious lips, your outstanding bosoms, and
Tremble to know you even this intimately, for you have
So far denied me anything else, and really, that is okay, honest.

For I am content to leave aside the base carnality, shun the
Ugly rough animal pleasures that other, lesser people race
Crazily to, as if possessed by ravenous and horny demons. I
Know that while my shirt is itchy and hot, it should stay on. Darling.

Sultry day begins to turn into cool evening, and I coax a blanket
Over your sweet, juicy form, and I am careful not to cop a feel, sweet.
O I am careful of all things, lest I do something icky, lest you
Never let me . . . I shall change the subject now. You are pretty.

Oh let these long days never end, here under the trees that see not,
Know nothing, and would certainly never mind anything that might happen!
Anything at all could happen, at any time, here in this sexy, sexy grove!
Yes, love, anything you choose! And I see you have chosen: a Fresca.

Monday, 17 March
Synthetic Xenomorphs Are Happy To Be Of Service

Well, the wedding is less than two months away, so I'd better give fair warning that the entries here might get a little more sparse. I mean, we've got everything more or less under control, but of course there are more and more little shitheaps to trip over along the way. Holy shit, we've got to get a marriage license! Also, a banquet license so our friends can drink! Definitely a banquet license so we can drink! (Thoughtful pause.) JESUS CHRIST! Do you realize how much people are going to drink?! At least Cap'n Bush is doing his best to make things festive. I can see it now. "Aw, look at that, you're crying. Is it because you're so happy for us?" "That, and I'm anesthetizing myself against the gibbering fear-imp that gnaws on my neck each and every day in this terrifying, uncertain world full of blinding madness. But mostly because I'm happy for you. I got you pretty blue towels." "Oh, fuck the towels, give me a drink. Christ, I'm depressed."

Tomorrow we go to meet with the nice 'n' clenched mansion people to talk about meal options (my votes for corn dogs and fries have been loudly shouted down), review information regarding the band (a peppy little outfit named Gapin' At Your Mom; the cool thing is that they'll play for bottles of cough syrup), and oh, of course, how could I forget, give them a check. We've done most of the calculations, and we're pretty sure the figure is going to be . . . let's see, carry the two . . . yes, yes . . . yes, it's a million dollars. I'm pretty sure that's it. No, of course not, it just feels like a million dollars, because in my life, I have never written a check this big. I've never bought a house; my car cost $450; and my student loans are paid whenever the jar of pennies fills up. So it's a big deal for me, especially since I'm handing it over to people who, while again, are very nice, seem on occasion to be made of extruded plastic.

And you know, for extruded plastic animated entities, they sure have a lot of snitty fucking rules (not that I am conversant with other lilac-scented, money-snatching plastigolems, but I'm just saying). They have one entry on SPARKLERS: "not permitted as 'send-off' favors." Oh, well, that's a relief. But we can still have them hanging out of our assholes during the ceremony per my Estonian folk tradition, right? Whew. Or FURNITURE: "may not be rearranged . . . without the permission of . . . authorized Mansion personnel." That seems Draconian. Do I have to get Dolph over to my table to help me with Operation: Scoot In Chair? Or are they worried that my frenzied guests are going to push the grand piano into the fireplace? Okay, that actually is probably good policy. There are, yes, INSTRUCTIONS FOR FLORISTS, which has this alarming bit of information: "The oak candle stands hold flowers 1" in diameter." One inch? Sorry, honey, I guess it's stalks of Kentucky Bluegrass or nothing. But this one is my favorite: "Due to a dangerous metal band used in packaging, Andre champagne is not allowed." What? What is it made of, uranium? Or does it rapidly convert into a shiv? No wonder they stopped serving it in prisons. "No more Andre for the cons! Kitchen stabbings are through the roof! From now on it's Boone's Farm or nothing." Christ, like I can't do better than Andre on my fucking wedding day anyway.

Well, actually, I'll be lucky to afford Andre, now that I think about it. I just coughed up a million dollars.

Wednesday, 26 February
ISO

Music of the spheres
Help me to hear it? It should be easy.
SWF, 28, likes live music, dead meat,
red wine. UB 25-35, HWP, herb friendly
and willing to buy me tampons if
necessary. Friends first, celestial
symphony later. 4004

. . .

(Beep.)"Ah . . . hi. Hi. Uh, my name is Rick, and I, uh, I guess I saw your ad. I mean, I obviously saw your ad, and it, I, uh, I liked it, so I guess I'm calling you. About your ad. (Pause.) Fuck, I sound dumb. Uh, sorry I said fuck. (Pause.) I'm really making a mess of this. Look, I liked your ad and thought I would call. I, uh, really like live music, and I would totally buy you tampons any time. I'll shower you in tampons! (Pause.) This is just getting worse. Look, I'm much cooler in person, and I've never done this before, so I hope you give me a call. Uh, like I said, it's Rick, and you can reach me at 983-446-" (Beep.)

. . .

Rick, U Called Me
In response to my ad, but the service
cut U off before I got your number! I want
to call U but I need U to call back and
leave your phone number! Try again,
big boy, stuttering optional. :) 6793

. . .

From: xxxxx [fouriertransform@claxyco.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 12:13 PM
To: xxxxx [velikovsky@medea.net]
Subject: Sunday night

Hey there, it's Rick--

Just wanted to let you know what a great time I had at the show. I thought the Telescoped Spines pretty much rocked hard, but I wish the opening act hadn't been so lame, you know? Nobody needs to do a raga cover of "Word Up." Anyway, I had a blast and would totally love to see you again, if you're up for that. Email me back or give me a call if that sounds cool. We have an unfinished James Clavell conversation! :)

Rick

. . .

(Beep.) "Hey, sweetie, it's Fiona. I thought maybe I could catch you, but you're probably on your way over with another load of stuff. This is really dumb, but do you have salad tongs? I wanted to make a nice salad later, but I don't have any tongs. I could always go buy some, but if you have some . . . hee! hee! This is dumb, I'll just ask you when you get here. See you in a few minutes! Love you." (Beep.)

. . .

FILE #97-1000345-675

Officer Brooks responded to a 911 call in which complainant reported her boyfriend engaging in erratic behavior on their stoop. Complainant was frightened for her safety and had locked the front door. Upon reaching the scene, the officer observed suspect on stoop was wearing large diaper and shower cap and nothing else. When approached, the suspect brandished a handful of tampons and said something to the effect that the suspect was "trained by angry monks" in the martial arts. Suspect then began sobbing about the complainant, claiming that his "gift" would make her forgive him for his actions. The officer presumed the suspect meant the tampons, but was unable to extract more information due to overall incoherence. The suspect made further tearful statements regarding "innocent [sexual acts of oral nature]" and someone named "Tina" who "understood the fundamental innocence of infantilism." The suspect was placed into custody and taken to Harborview Medical Center for observation.

. . .

Still Standing
Want to stand next to me? You won't
be sorry. SWF, 30, who has seen some of
this, and too much of that. Likes live music,
her dog, and a responsive police force, so
don't fuck with me unless I ask. U be: 25-30,
reasonably HWP, and, yes, willing to buy
me tampons if necessary. Some things are
non-negotiable in this life. No freaks. 3578

Monday, 24 February
A Misanthrope + Wonderful, Deluded Woman = Wedding Plans!

Deciding on Who to Invite

This process--known also as "culling the herd"--gives you a good insight into the staggering organizational power of the human brain. I never realized my capacity for creating disturbingly Microsoft-esque mental folders each with bafflingly nested sub-folders many layers deep. The top level folders, of course, are "People I Really Want to Be There," alternatively titled, "People Who Will Literally Murder Me if Not Invited." It includes, of course, close family, the people in the wedding party, and That One Friend Who Everyone Rolls Their Eyes About Because She's Such a Fucking Drama Queen. Being an actor, I can safely put that out there for my friends to read, and everyone will think it's someone different.

Then it gets more difficult. There are those who are Probably Not Going To Show Up, But They Might Get Us A KitchenAid. There are those who are Almost Certainly Too Safely Far Away To Come, But Then Again, They're Crazy. There are People I'd Love to Have Come, But We Suspect We're Not Cool Enough. There are the Bastards We Kind of Have to Lump It and Invite No Matter What. And there are even the Bastards We Don't Really Want to Invite and Probably Won't Come, but They Might Buy Us A KitchenAid, But on the Other Hand, Are Just Crazy Enough to Come, And to Add Insult to Injury, Would Probably Buy Us A Dog Bed or Some Other Terrible, Useless Thing.

So that's where you start, with this horrifically long list of people that you begin systematically cutting down. When you start, there's a lot of stuttering and backpedaling, and you say ridiculous things like, "I like those guys, but they probably don't want the trouble, you know?" Or, "With the baby and everything, it's probably doing her a favor to leave her off." Then somewhere halfway through you get kind of tired, and things take a decidedly more Manichean turn: "Howie? He gave me socks for Christmas. Off." "Bess didn't even invite us out bowling that one time. Nah." By the end, forget it. "What about Eric?" "Eric can go fuck himself." "What about Merle?" "Merle can go fuck Eric. I hear he's free that night."

Selecting the Menu

Sane people have their weddings catered, and of course we are doing this, because all of our friends are actors, and without weddings, they don't eat at all. You know when you go to friends' weddings, even friends you know pretty well, and there's like a whole galaxy of weird strangers wandering around? Those are your local stage actors, which is also why all of their formal wear looks like it dates back to the vintage "Gasoline Alley" years. Weddings are like when an okapi gets brought down on the savannah, and actors are the grinning, high-pitched hyenas that immediately fall on the corpse and all the other predators stand around going hungry thinking "Where the fuck did these dicks come from?"

The menu from our particular place--Denny's--really cracks me up, because it is such a splendid example of gastronomic horseshit-ese. "Bleu Potato Salad." This dish is named specifically for the noise you will make if you try and eat some. "What's this stuff here . . . bleu!" And a half-chewed lump of goo hits the chenille antimacassar. Oh and here's the ever-popular "Antipasti." Let me translate: "Bottles of shit dumped on a tray." Also known as: "Chef needs a smoke break." Ah, this sounds homey: "Rustic Mashed Potatoes." Which simply means that they leave the skins on and aren't terribly enthusiastic about a smooth texture. People who breathe romantic sighs over all things "rustic," I suggest, have never experienced actual rusticity (or whatever, I'm sticking with that word because I like it). Other "rustic" things include lack of plumbing, high infant mortality rates, and grizzly bear attacks.

What else? "Chilled Asparagus." Dear chef: Please cook my fucking asparagus. And finally, "Nutted Wild Rice Salad." Wonderful! Either this dish was prepared by a dangerous lunatic; or possibly the implication is that you will be driven irrevocably mad by the taste; or possibly that it contains testicles.

Picking Out A Tux

So you slink into a store, feeling kind of dumb, because the last time you did this was Prom, and you remember how well that went. Three hours of freakish, awkward misery followed by definitely no sex. Great precedent! Take a look at the dizzying array of tuxes and vests and ties and cummerbunds and shoes and hats and codpieces? It might be. Anyway, it's not as bad as you think, because they are almost all irretrievably ghoulish. Individually categorize their apparent intended effect: I Am Disco Stu. I Dance Along With Falco. I Am A Gay Man Entering A Sham Marriage. Would You Like A Jointe Of Fynest Roaste Beefe, Milady? There's even one that seems to say, I Am Wearing This Only To Cover My Track Marks. Finally, you pick out something not too offensive, which is really just an eternal euphemism for "It doesn't look really stupid right now, but wait until you see the pictures in twenty years." But it doesn't matter, because right before you're done, two incontrivertible facts loom into your mind. One is that you remember that, as the groom, nobody really even gives a fuck about you and will not be looking at you. This is, of course, the bride's day, and that's cool. It's just as well, because you'll probably have chilled asparagus on your vest. And the second thing is, prices for tux rentals have gone up by fifty bucks in the intervening years. Those bastards better come through with the KitchenAid for this.

Friday, 14 February
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Valentine's Day

I
Among twelve expensive entrees,
The only thing moving
Was my rapidly mounting credit debt.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a man
Awkwardly watching the Spice channel with his girlfriend.

III
The valentine whirled in the autumn winds.
What dumb thing did I say this time?

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and--
Damn, I'm sorry. I thought I could keep a straight face.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of imperfections
Or the beauty of her toes
She says, "You're kind of a freak." Now,
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled my long-windedness
Because I am an ass.
I talked of Shadoe Stevens,
Unbelievably, to and fro,
The mood,
in discussing Shadoe Stevens,
Indicating: bad idea.

VII
O thin hippies of Broadway,
Why do you ask me for change?
Do you not see how the fiancee
And I walk around your feet
Because we hate you?

VIII
I know wily stratagems
And lucid, clever rationales
But I know, too,
That the fiancee will not let me
Play Fear's "Beef Bologna" at our wedding.

IX
When the blind date flew out of sight,
It made you think
About the inappropriateness of handjob jokes.

X
At the sight of people making out
In the Starbucks parking lot
I clutch at my pickaxe
And cry out sharply.

XI
He sat over the freeway
In a tall glass office.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he realized
He'd forgotten where
He'd parked the damn car.

XII
People are crabby and stressed out.
It must be Valentine's Day.

XIII
It was afternoon all evening.
It was not snowing
And not going to snow.
The couple sat
In stupid Seattle.

Happy Valentine's Day or not, depending on your point of view.

Thursday, 13 February
A Prostitute By Any Other Name

Like I imagine most larger cities, we have a couple of "indie" weeklies (that are of course published by large media companies, but they're allowed to say "fuck" and stuff, so, "indie"). I read them on occasion, usually when there's some specific article or review or something that I care about. Otherwise, nah, because they of course suck.

One of the weirdest things about them--and it's been this way for a while, I realized--are the classified ads in the back, specifically the ones that are advertising "adult entertainment." Oh please. These are whores. And what whores they are! This is the most democratic sampling of whores I've ever seen, but then again, I don't get out whoring as much as I used to.

There really is a pleasing diversity in terms of the girlflesh available for what is coyly referred to as "Outcalls" or, more rarely, "Incalls" (which I suppose must mean "I prefer to fuck on sheets that I know are clean, and plus, I'm probably armed"). There are petite girls, larger girls, Sears catalog bra model girls, ugly girls, older girls who aren't even girls any more, girls who technically were never girls in the first place, girls of every race, girls who were professionally shot, girls who were shot in somebody's garage, and on and on and on. Just about the only universal is that they are holding their boobs in their hands. LADIES! Don't you know that you're obstructing our view? Oh, right.

But not the men's ads. Homogeneity rules the day here: nothing but Speedo-wrapped sausages with the occasional inclusion of some really ripped abs. It's an interesting contrast. The women, mostly, seem to be saying, "Ain't this a package, boys?" And the men seem to be saying, "THIS IS MY PACKAGE, BOYS."

The text, when it is present aside from the de rigeur listing of measurements and phone numbers, also makes for pretty good reading. One lass is brilliant: "Call for Good Morning Wake-Up Specials." Good gravy! She's got morning blowjobs on special! This is the sort of thing that makes me so fucking proud of this country. Well, and several other countries, where this sort of thing is perfectly legal, but you see where I'm coming from. Other snippets are less successful, mainly because of unfortunate phrasing. "Enjoyable Moments with Premium Satisfaction." Enjoyable . . . moments? What's going on when I'm not enjoying myself between these moments? Does she punch me at odd intervals?

Of course, even if I weren't in a happy relationship, there's no way I could ever manage to get through a "session" with one of these gals.

She (at door): Hi, sweetheart. Come on in.

Me: Hi! Okay! Um! Hi! (Long pause.) Boy am I sweaty!

She: That's all right, honey. Now, what--

Me: I GOTTA GO! I GOTTA GO! I'M SORRY! YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! HERE'S A HUNDRED DOLLARS! I GOTTA GO! (Exits running.)

She: Thank goodness. He stank like anything.

Tuesday, 31 December
New Year's Eve Fails to Solve Our Problems Again, But Champagne!

Happy New Year, everyone. And remember, be safe: if you've been drinking, buckle up. The shoulder strap will help keep your floppy torso and lolling neck in a more vertical position as you speed down which-way streets. Install a temporary cowcatcher on your fender if you have time. This will prevent troublesome child-shaped dents to your car. And I probably don't have to tell you to remember your fake set of car keys to hand over to those idiot, prying hosts when they mention you've had a bit too much. Put the real set of keys somewhere you're likely to find them later, such as the ground.

A few thoughts to round out things. I made a few personal discoveries this year:

*There is a movie out there that is actually called Soft Toilet Seats. When I found this out, I spent a couple hours laughing, vomiting, and emitting piercing cries of despair. I've never felt so dyspeptically alive. It is . . . oh, it's the best movie title in the universe. I don't know what will happen if I try to watch it. I might collapse into a tiny, vomiting singularity.

*I discovered that this Internet thing is pretty easy, provided you get a friend or two to do everything for you. I shower praise on these suckers, and look forward to exploiting them further into the new year.

*Finally, I discovered this year that there was actually a human on the planet who was willing to marry me, and not for money, because I have none, and have no intention of getting any. I shower adoration on my as-yet-accent-free fiancee, and look forward to exploiting her further into the new year. She's the most special kind of sucker: the one that will have me.

Happy New Year, everyone! Except for Corbin Bernsen. That guy can go eat it.










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