Friday, November 18, 2005

my heart will go on. in theory.


It tastes like angioplasty and loneliness. Mmmm. [Photo credit: Patrick Imbeau]

autumn is in full swing, and as temperatures dip and the air takes on a wintery chill, us single people find ourselves wishing for someone to curl up with on the couch in anticipation of the cold nights that lie ahead.

but if you’re like most of the people i know, meeting that special someone, or any special someone for that matter, is hard. i’m not talking about meeting people, mind you—people are everywhere. you can’t go downtown and throw a stone without hitting people. i’m talking about people who value the things that you value, who will listen to you and support you when times are tough. people who know how to read—and do. what’re the chances of throwing a rock and hitting someone like that?

and furthermore, what are the chances of it not hitting them hard enough to cause significant head trauma, so that instead of being that special someone, they become… special?

so you see, this whole throw-a-rock-to-hit-someone-you-love business is more challenging than we thought, which is why i’ve been saying for over a year now: guys, we really should stop going out on weekends and pelting cute girls with rocks. as funny as it is when you’re drunk, that’s not how you meet a lady.

how do you meet a lady? two words.

body shots.

was it ever any easier? probably not. and that’s where advertising enters the picture.

the fact is, as long as there have been printed media, there’ve been desperate people anxious to use the written word to hide faults so ghastly they’d scare that dude from mask. don’t believe me? take this personal ad i culled from a 1704 issue of the boston news-letter, the first widely circulating paper in the colonial united states:

“MWF craves SIM for discrete midnight rendez-vous. Only your dark magic can cure my tee-pee fever! Do you think you’ve got what it takes to trap this beaver? Let’s get that arrow in my quiver and find out!”

personal ads are great for those placing them, since they seldom require photographs, allowing one to create a picture in words—usually about 50 words, leaving out the 950-or-so less flattering ones an actual picture would reveal. this is, of course, also their primary drawback. thankfully, the defense department has given us the internet.

the internet revolutionized the way we shop, and now you can get just about anything on-line, mates included. in fact, i prefer to shop for women on-line, because i can make snap judgments about people based solely on their looks, wasting no time trying to determine if these people are anything like a good match for me at all.

as all of us know from their commercials, on-line dating services claim to solve many of the problems associated with finding someone with whom you can laugh at other, less fortunate people, as they walk in misery to the bus to go home and eat cold, leftover macaroni and cheese, alone, out of the pot they cooked it in the night before. it’s no wonder, then, that on-line dating is a booming business. according to pc world magazine, there are more than 860 dating services on the web, many of which cater to specific communities; for instance, there’s “lds singles mingle,” for mormons (one wonders just how particular they are about that “singles” business), “golden matches,” for senior citizens, “veggiedate,” for vegetarians, “true,” connecting men with disembodied pairs of breasts, and “purpledoor profiles,” for people with herpes.

and please don’t spend too much time thinking about what they mean by “purple door.” what’s next? a site for people with HPV called “bumpy lovin’”?

an almost universal feature of these sites is the “personality profile,” where you are asked to “honestly” answer a series of questions; your answers to these questions will then be used to find you the perfect mate.

but they’ve overlooked a fundamental flaw in this process, and that is, people don’t know anything about themselves. for instance, i think i’m smart, charming, generous, decently attractive, and funny.

in other words, i have a completely distorted image of myself.

can you imagine what would happen if i went around actually believing that stuff? why, i could have a functioning, healthy relationship with that kind of nonsense in my head.

and don’t fall into the trap of letting friends help you fill those questionnaires out—friends need your lies as much as you need theirs; without lies, friendships would fall apart as quickly as most marriages, another institution ravaged by honesty. remember that the next time you hear someone blame homosexuals for the dissolution of the american family.

unfortunately, i don’t have too many alternatives, so i decided to try eharmony.com, mainly because they kept telling me that i could “fall in love for all the right reasons,” and i wanted to find out what those were. and no, “the condom broke” isn’t one of them.

and did you know they offer 29 dimensions of compatibility? that’s a lot of dimensions, people. by comparison, a box only has three;

nicole richie, two.

and finally, they promised a scientific approach to match-making based on years studying married couples. this almost convinced me not to use their service, as it promised to find me someone i wouldn’t talk to, rarely have sex with, and ultimately be ordered to give half my worldly possessions and future earnings to. but rarely having sex is better than never having sex, so i pressed onward.

after about 60 minutes spent pointing and clicking, they had enough data to show me my matches. i was so excited, i turned the television down. and that’s when i found out that not even eharmony is perfect. you see, what they don’t tell you on tv is that about 20% of the people who take the free personality test are unmatchable.

that’s right.

i got rejected. by the internet.

this was a very serious blow to my ego. think of it this way. according to string theory, only 10 dimensions of space-time are required to unify the universe under one set of equations—but 29 weren’t enough to get me laid.

it’s one thing to be rejected by many different women over the roughly 18 years i’ve been trying to score with them meet that special someone, but for eharmony, a service that “combin[es] the best scientific research with detailed profil[es] of every member” in order to “screen many hundreds of thousands of profiles to bring you only the ones that have the potential to be truly right for you,” to tell me that i am unmatchable is kind of like stephen hawking telling me i don’t know anything about black holes. you really can’t argue with him on that one.

and besides, who would want to. can you imagine how long that argument would take? he probably wins most arguments by forfeit.

on the upside, being rejected by eharmony means that now, whenever i tell a woman “it’s not you, it’s me,” i have scientific proof, and all those times i thought i was doing something wrong, it turns out i was merely trying to correct a situation that should never have been allowed to occur. like those times i turned the tv up because she was trying to talk over it? a valiant act of self-sacrifice to preserve the natural order. or when i told her that she was being too sensitive after i made some sarcastic remark and she started crying? a brilliant attempt to push her into the arms of a better man. and how about when i gained an excessive amount of weight because she wouldn’t fuck me?

okay, seriously, you were being a bitch.

and you want to know why i wasn’t a good listener? that’s because i couldn’t hear you over the sounds of my sperm desperately drilling themselves into the walls of their scrotal tomb.

don’t go blaming it on the tight jeans! the jeans wouldn’t have been so tight if i didn’t have to gain all that weight!

however, i do believe i’ve learned a valuable lesson. much like the rejections i have suffered off-line, my failure here is due to the one flaw in my strategy: honesty. my advice: lie. remember, a first date is one big con, isn’t it? where you pretend that you’re normal, interesting, emotionally stable… that you’re not an alcoholic? i say, take it to the extreme! it’s doomed to failure in a few months, you might as well make it fun--and what could be more fun than turning slowly into everything you promised that you weren’t, to the horror and dismay of your significant other?

my most recent personal ad reflects my new attitude towards dating:

“EBONY PRINCE, experienced doctor and D.A., seeks Princess to join him in his city in the clouds, where she will enjoy twilight jaunts in my Corellian freighter, the occasional violation of search and seizure law by Imperial forces, and plenty of smooth Colt 45!”

it works every time.

now, if you’ll excuse me. there’s some cold mac and cheese in the fridge with my name on it. yeah, little mac and cheese, maybe some hot dog bits mixed in there, a little food network. throw in some internet porn, and you got yourself an evening.

stay warm, people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Israelite Alphabet May Have Been Found



Israelite Alphabet May Have Been Found

PITTSBURGH—Two lines of an alphabet have been found inscribed in a stone in Israel, offering what some scholars say is the most solid evidence yet that the ancient Israelites were literate as early as the 10th century B.C.

Israelis were overjoyed when they heard the news.

“Finally, we can write,” exclaimed Bazil Netzrahim, a student at Tel Aviv University. “Have you seen this ridiculous alphabet we’re using? Do you know how hard it is to take notes on a lecture and make sure there’s three tagin on the head of my gimel? Oy vey!”

“I thought Israel was created in 1948 by the United Nations,” said Benjamin Reuven, an Israeli exchange student studying history at the University of Pittsburgh, where the fragments are being studied. “That there even were Israelites in the 10th century B.C. is a discovery in itself.”

“Hey, Hamas. Where’s your alphabet?” he added. “Yeah, thought so.”

The news of this discovery angered some in the Palestinian community.

In a late-breaking development on Thursday, Hamas declared a pre-emptive jihad on the ancient alphabet, in the event that it proves to be Jewish. “The Zionists wish to extend their dominion by colonizing this alphabet for themselves,” a top leader in the organization announced on the group’s website. “We cannot live peacefully alongside our enemy’s alphabet and we will not negotiate with it.”

“PS pork tastes good.”

Sources in the Department of Homeland Security reported hearing chatter suggesting that Hamas is developing a “suicide alphabet” to conduct operations against the 3000 year old sequence of letters.

The Bush Administration is concerned that these attacks could spread throughout the region, and eventually to the United States. Post Cereal, makers of Alpha-Bits, has stepped up security in response to the possible threat.

“The last thing Post Cereal wants is little Bobby or little Sally trying to spell out shalom and getting their faces blown off by shrapnel-like pieces of marshmallowey vowels and crunchy-sweet consonants,” said Jeff Billingsley, head of public relations for the company.

“I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t want any child, anywhere, sitting down to a great-tasting, nutritious bowl full of fiery death.”

Post is owned by Kraft, who is owned by Philip Morris.

Others see this new discovery as another means to jumpstart the flagging peace efforts in the region. In a statement announced yesterday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas expressed interest in a peace plan that would require Israel to give portions of the alphabet to Palestine.

“We have no alphabet of our own,” the statement read. “Like our country, our alphabet is made of scraps of other alphabets, and the people of Palestine are tired of seeing their children having to learn their a-b-z's. That last one isn’t even a letter. We tell our children it means ‘peace.’”

“It’s unpronounceable.”

Dalia Itzik, Israel’s Minister of Communications, told Reuters that “the Prime Minister is considering Abbas’s request, but any proposal to give a portion of our ancient alphabet could only happen after Hamas agrees to cease any and all attacks upon it.”

“There won’t be much left to give back if half of the letters have been blown up into smaller letters that, by themselves, can only make parts of sounds.”

Saturday, October 01, 2005

a little about my bathroom



we don't pay enough attention to the places in which we shower.

oh, sure, most of us like to shower every day, but we probably don't recognize just how important the room in which that shower happens really is. but when you take a shower in a different place every day for several days, and then have to adjust to a new shower, it becomes more apparent.

sometimes, getting used to a new shower can be shocking. for instance, i was violated by a shower at a best western in portland, oregon.

okay, technically, it wasn't the shower, it was a part of the faucet in the tub, and don't ask any questions, because i'm not going into any detail regarding why it happened so many times, and why each time it did happen it took me longer to do anything about it; suffice it to say, i remember wondering if it was going to show up on my bill as something like, "shower plus happy ending, 30.00."

with my AAA discount, 20.00.

i also remember wondering if anyone was going to disinfect that part of the shower after i left. sorry, future occupant of room 124! i promise, i didn't do it on purpose--

--the first time.

currently, i am renting a room in a house from a great couple who are presently in vienna, austria, and i am living with two terrific roommates, who are, like me, transplants from different parts of north america. we all have one thing in common, besides hair, and that is, we are perplexed by our shower.

it's not that i don't like our shower, merely that i find it odd that anyone would choose our shower over other, more normal ones. i actually find it quite a nice piece, and were i to see it in someone else's home, i would remark upon it the way people do when they think something is rather decorative but serves no real purpose. in other words, i would turn to my husband and ask for one.

unlike when we see a person who we think is rather decorative but serves no real purpose; we call those people models. if they prove that they can wear clothes without speaking, we write words for them to say and we call them actors. the problem with actors is, emboldened by the praise they receive for saying what someone has written for them, they then go off and say words they write for themselves.

words like, "you don't know the history of psychiatry. i do."

i digress.

see, viola, the pseudonym i've invented to mask the real name of my land--lady? lord? human. viola, one of my landhumans, all of 5 feet of sass and fire, really wanted a clawfoot tub and a european shower because she likes to take baths. this is obvious by the yellow and black stains that have become joined at the molecular level to the old porcelain vessel, bonded so powerfully that we've begun to see dirt from other parts of the house migrating slowly towards it like it's some kind of event horizon of filth, much the same way that ryan seacrest is an event horizon of stupid, from which no intelligence can escape.

personally, i don't understand baths, but that's because i, like kramer, don't enjoy pickling myself in the soapy filth of others and myself. it's just kind of something i was into for a while in college, and like a lot of the things i used to experiment with (q-tips, moisturizing, listening to others), eventually i just grew out of it. nevertheless, viola, i guess, loves the bathing.

so we've got a tub. and not just any tub, mind you, but the tub of all tubs; forget about bathing, you could stick a sail on the sonuvabitch and take two travellers out on the seven seas, with some plaster chick on the front like a viking's warship or a trucker's mudflaps. the rub, however, is that what makes it "european," apparently, is the absence of any kind of a fixture that would hold the shower head in place. it's just this stainless steel hose with a shower head on the end, so that when you turn it on it moves of its own accord as though possessed by the spirits of unsatisfied showerers of yesteryear. so if you prefer showers, and not baths, you are, like i was in portland, fucked.

and because you have to hold the shower head, you're always having to alternate between using the soap and using the water, which is a particularly invigorating experience on cold mornings, though we don't have any of those in seattle.

sometimes, i think it'd be easier to take a walk through a rainstorm with powdered detergent stuffed in my shorts than it is to take a shower in my own home.

we're thinking of creating a brace out of wood and metal from which to hang our shower head, thus rendering it more like the other, normal showers, like those shoes pa ingalls made for olga. i'll let you know if this leads to a rousing all-girl game of softball outside the house.

furthermore, due to the claw feet on the outside of the tub, there's probably four to six inches of space between the floor and the porcelain, which means there's four extra reasons for me to slip and break my ass. or my head. you know, as several women will tell you, it's pretty much all the same. one of these days, i just know i'm going to slip when i'm trying to disembark, and i always think about this as i'm stepping up and over and reaching for the floor with my toes like i'm descending a ladder blindfolded, because my eyes are checking out the flimsy hooks holding the shower curtain up and i know that, if i need a crutch, this curtain's falling faster than zimbabwe's gross domestic product.

what i really can't picture is viola trying to make a graceful exit from this thing; i imagine that every time she needs to get out of the tub, she's got to swing her leg over the porcelain wall while holding herself steady with her hands like a gymnast on the pamel horse, lest she either drown in the gray bath water or fall the other way and hit the ground.

and every morning, at the end of her bath, maybe as a sandlewood candle still burns peacefully on the window sill, i see her attempting the same precarious dismount as the previous day, and i imagine the same phrase echoes in her brain:

"this is so fucking worth it!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mexico Issues Stamps of Black Character



MEXICO CITY - The Mexican government has issued postage stamps depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox angered U.S. blacks.

The series of five stamps released Wednesday depicts a hapless boy drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book, which started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico.

Activists criticized the stamps as offensive, though officials denied it.

"This is a traditional character that reflects part of Mexico's culture," Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican Postal Service, said. "His mischievous nature is part of that character."

He went on to add, "just like, you know, eating a lot of watermelon and being lazy."

The 6.50-peso (60 cent) stamps — depicting the character in five poses, from a classic "sharecropping" pose to a more modern depiction featuring the character running from a liquor store with what appears to be two forty-ounce bottles of Colt 45 — were issued with the domestic market in mind, but Caballero noted they could be used in international postage as well. A total of 750,000 of the stamps will be issued.

Publisher Manelick De la Parra told the government news agency Notimex the character would be a sort of goodwill ambassador on Mexican letters and postcards. "It seems nice if Memin can travel all over the world, spreading good news," de la Parra said, calling him "so charming, so affectionate, so wonderful, generous and friendly."

"And did I mention, so mired in poverty?" de la Parra added. "Add that one to the list. Mired in abysmal, epic poverty. It is the kind of poverty we in Mexico call el pozo de lagrimas, literally, the well of tears. Only his healthy appetite for white women can ease the pain of knowing that his future generations will be doomed to low wages and poor performance on standardized tests for years to come."


(the majority of this is from an article off of the associated press by mark stevenson; the original is available by clicking here.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

more thoughts on not learning



i've been thinking over the past week about the numerous ways my stupidity has made itself manifest over the past two-point-seven decades of my life, so as a sort of continuation of last week's ruminations on my inability to learn, consider the following:

1 for years, i couldn’t understand why athletes wore sweatbands on their wrists, but i never bothered to question it until i was watching a playoff game between the lakers and the kings back in 2002. i remember the lakers ultimately won and went on to secure the championship from some new jersey team… the nets? yeah. i always get them mixed up with the devils, and frankly, when i hear “new jersey devils,” i don’t think of sports. i think of deviled ham. sad, because i’m sure they were trying for something intimidating; which is not to say, mind you, that the prospect of spreadable ham is not frightening. you certainly wouldn’t want to get it mixed up with sports—can you imagine the commercials?

“deviled ham—is it in you?”
“dear god, yes! now how the fuck do i get it out?!

anyway. i was watching one of the playoff games with a friend, and i’m like, “do they really think their wrists are going to get that sweaty?” he had to mime the act of wiping his forehead with his wrist three times before i understood.

speaking of which, why is it that, when we mime something to someone, and they don't get it, rather than explain it with words, we mime it again, only slower? as though the problem was not that our gestures were incoherent, it was our blinding speed?

2 i got my first car when i was 19. it was a 1989 nissan pulsar. now, before we criticize the nissan pulsar, we should credit the company for being very forward thinking, as the pulsar was one of the first cars with crumple zones—in a collision, the cabin was designed to crumple neatly, keeping the engine block and trunk area safe from harm. at any rate, the first day we got it, my father and i were checking it out and making sure all of the systems and “electronics [sic]" were functioning properly. so my father asks me, “check the cigarette lighter.” i pushed the metal plug into the slot and waited for a little while, then pulled on the knob impatiently and stared at the heating element. i expected the coil to be glowing orange, like the cherry on a cigarette when someone takes a drag; instead, it was black and smelled like burnt oil. i stared at it blankly.

“what do i do now?”
“touch it.”
touch it?”
“yeah, touch it.”

i was able to use my thumb again after about a week, though the spiral-shaped blister took much longer to heal completely. by the way, the correct answer is, you spit on it.

in defense of my father, he had no idea his son was retarded.

3 i used to believe it was impossible to achieve a decent shave without shaving against the grain, largely because i had no idea when it was the right time to change the blade on my razor. i asked my father once, and his answer was, you’ll just know. unfortunately, i was 16 at the time, and had been shaving for almost four years by then, and i obviously didn’t know. his answer, “you’ll just know,” by the way, doesn’t mean that a small voice will perk up inside of you the instant you begin an activity and tell you some secret. no, what it means is, you’ll spend months, perhaps years, maybe even decades, not knowing, screwing things up many times, incurring trauma or, at the very least, losing some blood, until you finally get it. what “you’ll just know” ultimately means is, “i have no fucking clue,” and in fact, if this were the answer i’d received on this and many other occasions, well, i probably would feel less animosity towards parents and other authority figures.

i can’t remember any more how exactly i started shaving, but i remember why. i was in my eighth grade drawing class, and the teacher was discussing shading. for his demonstration, he decided to draw my profile on one of those oversized pads of paper the jolly green giant writes his grocery lists on (“i’m tired of vegetables—toss me up one of them villagers, dammit!). to my eventual chagrin, his chosen medium that day was a wide charcoal pencil, making the rendering of finer details like a chin or a basic human shaped skull difficult, to say the least.

by then i had already achieved a kind of beard, and by “achieved,” what i mean is, allowed to accrue due to negligence, like the way one might say, “check out all the cavities i’ve achieved,” or, “i’ve achieved three generations of tapeworms in my colon.” my beard was not so much like peach fuzz... it was more like an elderly woman’s mustache. except, all over my face.

which, by the way, is what it feels like to enter or exit an italian household.

anyway, my teacher set about drawing my head on the paper and all i can say is that i looked paleolithic. i looked positively simian. i looked like one of the kids in that one classroom in the opposite building who still kept an extra change of clothes in a tupperware container above the coat rack. and we all had a good laugh, though by we i should clarify that i mean all of us who were not me. so, ... they.

and i remember looking at this horrific depiction of myself and deciding to at least learn how to farm so that i could boost myself into the mesolithic, because that particular lithic is the shit.

as for whether or not one should shave against the grain... well, you'll just know.

they said i play well with others


Believe it or not, some people favorited this photo. [Photo credit: Duke Energy]

going in for training reminds me of going up on stage, when in fact, it should be more like going to the hospital.

you don’t go to the hospital unless you really need to, or, if you have an hmo, when they tell you it’s okay. and usually you know you need to go to a hospital because:

when it only hurt a little bit, you decided to wait until it went away. now you can’t look to the left.

you’ve exhausted your sister’s remaining supply of the vicodin a doctor prescribed for her three years ago and you’re betting if they operate you can get more.

you’ve counted 3,483 specks on the bathroom ceiling, zero rolls of toilet paper left in the cabinet, and two of everything else.

you went to “that guy” and got “a deal” and he made it “hurt like a motherfucker.”

and since you’ve been humbled by your failures to practice your own brand of “common sense medicine,” you’re pretty much willing to accept the fact that you don’t know what’s wrong with you and maybe somebody who’s spent the better part of a decade studying the subject will have something original, or at least accurate, to say. you realize, furthermore, that this is not the time to show the doctor how much you know about your pancreas.

though, to be fair, your examination will most likely not begin with the doctor gathering the nurses and interns around and then asking you, cold end of a stethoscope pressed firmly to your abdomen, to “name three functions of the liver.” training seminars, on the other hand, are built around nothing but questions designed to determine if you already know the answers to questions you are about to learn the answers to. “can anyone tell me some methods for handling problem employees?” they ask you at the beginning of the unit on handling problem employees. it seems as though the point of your being there is not to learn new skills, but to prove to your superiors, not to mention everyone else in the room, that there was no need to send you to training to begin with.

and as if that’s not bad enough, i had to eat in front of these people! let me be perfectly clear: eating is not something i prefer to do in front of others. for one thing, it depresses me to see the ridiculous portions balanced upon the plates of the thin people, as though they are trying to invent new platonic solids out of carefully arranged foodstuffs (“i call it a brownie-decahedron”) while i have to contend with my guilt over indulging in one—whole—slice of pizza.

and i should clarify that by “contend with my guilt,” i mean “eat chocolate until my sweat smells like christmas.

and another thing. i consider myself to be an ethical person, and eating in front of someone else just isn’t a very considerate thing for me to do. it’d be like, if i were living in a country where we used our hands to wipe ourselves, and i used my wiping hand to shake yours. that’s not very nice, yet that’s what i was forced to do. to everyone in the room. at lunch. and i’m not even being metaphorical—the restrooms were not well kept.

but seriously, when i eat, it’s a battle, and the food is going to lose. it’s like if kasparov were to play a game of checkers, not that he would, really, unless the people at IBM made a computer program that also played checkers and then challenged him to beat it. and paid him handsomely regardless of the results. then i guess he would probably play checkers. i, on the other hand, would not have to be paid to go against a computer designed to eat more pies than me, the rationale being, even if i didn’t win, i would still get to eat a fuckload of pie. i don’t know exactly how much a fuckload of pie is, but i bet it’d be enough, probably at least a grip of—no, two grips of pie, i’m betting. that’s a lot of pie, my friends.

my point back there being, my objective when i eat is to clear the field of play. and the best part? at burger king, when i said “king me!” i got a paper crown. this, by the way, got old by the time i turned seven, and will continue to be “old” until i have grandchildren, when, ironically, it will be “cute.” unfortunately, if i eat fast food with any kind of regularity, by the time i have grandchildren i will probably also have “colon cancer,” which will cause a “fuckload of problems,” which is the answer to the question the doctor will pose when i get to the hospital.

furthermore, as when i play checkers, when i eat, i do so with a single-mindedness that does not allow me to actively listen to others, maintain eye contact, keep my clothes tidy and clean, or chew thoroughly. so the unit on lunch was a particular challenge to me.

adding to the anxiety produced by the prospect of eating a meal is the fact that i—am—stupid. most people are stimulated by questions; i am incapacitated by them. whenever our instructor would ask us something, my mind would go numb. not blank, mind you, but numb. i could not will a thought to happen. it was like i was one of those encephalitis patients in awakenings who are catatonic for a while and then come out of it; or like jessica simpson, who won’t.

thankfully, we frequently broke out into small groups, enabling me to coast along on the effort of others. this, i believe, makes me an ideal candidate for upper management, but not so good at middle management, which requires all sorts of actual effort. i’m not good at effort, although, once, someone said, “this requires effort,” and i thought they said, “this requires a fort,” and was very excited until i realized we were not, in fact, building a treehouse. not that i understand now why i would have thought getting a five on the ap calculus test would require constructing a house of wood.

the first indication that i was mistaken? under “test location,” it did not state, “up a fucking tree.

thankfully, i can say that i did learn a lot at training. i learned that repeating what others say back to them makes them think you’re a good listener, even if you have no clue what they meant; i learned that, when in a group, if you tell people what to do but don’t come up with any ideas of your own, they’ll do the thinking for you; and, finally, i learned that you should always use the restroom downstairs, rather than the one attached to your conference room.

in other words, the important things.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

me in conversation


Red beans. Ground beef. Endless questions. Indulge in the mystery that is chili con carne.
Photo credit: Jon Sullivan. This image is public domain.


"would you please update your blog?"

"yeah, i know. it’s been a while. i was working on a post about jennifer wilbanks—"

"who?"

"the runaway bride."

"that chick with the big eyes?"

"yeah. i read every article i could find about that woman. i even watched that movie, runaway bride, just so i could make a joke about going to duluth and ingratiating myself to all of her friends and family while slowly embracing buddhism and losing my new york accent."

"that’s a terrible movie."

"it is a terrible movie, but i like terrible movies, so i enjoyed it. one thing i noticed when i was reading the articles about her, though, was that all of them mentioned that she had breast implants, ya know? it was always something like, ‘wilbanks, who had breast implants before she met mason.’ and they always had to say something about her sex life. always something like, ‘before she met mason, wilbanks had an active social life, dating men from the local gym and the firehouse.’ if you read the papers you'd think this chick saw more dick than a mohel in the catskills!"

"i really didn’t pay any attention to that. it just seemed kinda stupid. and i guess he still wants to marry her?"

"that’s what i’ve read."

"so what happened to the post?"

"well, the media stopped covering it, so it wasn’t really… relevant any more. and then i got depressed."

"because of the media?"

"no, i just got depressed."

"you could write about that!"

"yeah, i could. but i try to avoid stuff like that. what am i supposed to write? ‘oh, i’m depressed, here’s a list of all the things that won’t bring me an ounce of happiness, i suck.’ i’m sure that’s what people are looking forward to reading."

"what if i helped you come up with something to write about?"

"umm. i guess that’d be okay."

"okay. what did you do on friday?"

"i went out for dinner with a friend from work."

"where’d ya go?"

"this place called the coronado brewery, kind of like the coronado equivalent of a sports bar."

"i didn’t even know coronado had a brewery."

"yeah, neither did i. i thought they only had pizza hut, wendy’s, and the hotel."

"and the military."

"and the military. oh, did i tell you? we took my mom to brunch at the hotel del coronado on mother’s day."

"did she like it?"

"yeah, but it’s totally not worth it. it’s all buffet style except they have a dude who makes omelettes. but it was so funny. i actually saw black people there, and they had these expressions on their faces like they were as surprised that they were there as i was. and they were sitting very rigidly, and all their movements were controlled, like they were saying to themselves, ‘okay, be calm, just chew, don't make a scene.’"

"you should’ve seen the looks you got just now when you said ‘black people.’"

"did someone hear me?"

"dude, you practically shouted it!"

"oops."

"so—friday night."

"oh, right. so, yeah, i went out to dinner. it was good. but i didn’t do much talking that night because another friend came along and brought her friend, so they all talked and i mainly stayed out of the conversation. i was like the substitute talker. you know how that is, when you kinda stay out of things and then someone gets up to go to the bathroom, and suddenly all talking ceases and you’ve got to step up and pretend like you’ve been listening for the last thirty minutes?"

"no, i don’t really feel that kind of pressure."

"well, i do. so i’d bust out with the ‘so, what do you do?’ questions until the other person would come back to the table. and then every once in a while, someone would see that i wasn’t saying anything and they would try to get me in the loop by asking me something like, ‘how’s your chili vinnie?’ and then i would say, ‘it’s really good, thank you.’ and so we did that for a while. ‘how’s your chili?’ ‘great fuckin’ chili, thanks’ ‘chili good?’ ‘delightful really’ ‘it looks good’ ‘yes it does’ ‘but how is it? is it good?’ ‘you would be in awe of the things this place has done with beans and meat; this is the chili towards which all other chilis face when they pray to become better chili. it is the arnold schwarzenneggar of chili. someday, it will marry a kennedy.’ by the time the evening came to a close i felt like the fucking representative of the chili delegation. i should do radio spots for the chili, and people will go, ‘who’s this vinnie guy?’ ‘i don’ know, but that fucker loves him some chili!’ had we died that night, it would have been on my headstone. and then we went to extraordinary desserts, where i continued to not talk, except when people would say, ‘how’s the cheesecake, vinnie?’ and i would say, ‘for the love of god, why don’t you just have some?’"

"how was the cheesecake?"

"it was fantastic, how do you think it was?"

"i love that place. we went there for my friend’s birthday."

"i know. i was there."

"oh yeah, you were! maybe you should’ve talked more."

"oh, don’t worry. there was a steady stream of ‘how’s the apple torte?’ though almost no one used my name because no one knew it."

"that should be one of your bits."

"what should?"

"that whole thing with the chili."

"yeah, i tried it out on some people at work, unbeknownst to them, and they thought it was funny."

"maybe that could be your post?"

"we’ll see. i don’t know if it would be funny written down. it needs a lot of yelling."

"like when you say ‘black people.’"

"exactly!"

"oh, and i totally knew you were trying a bit out on me."

"oh did you? how did you know?"

"it’s pretty obvious. everything about the way you talk changes."

"changes how?"

"i don’t know. you just get more… i don’t know. it’s like you’re acting, not just talking."

"you make it sound like i’m not telling the truth."

"no, i don’t think you’re lying. but you’re not telling the truth, either."

"but what if you didn’t know me? what would you think then?"

"probably the same."

"hm. interesting."

"so what about saturday?"

"i worked."

"sunday?"

"my sister came up for dinner, which was nice. and she brought up these two plastic bags filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwich scraps."

"where’d she get those?"

"she was teaching a lesson and she used peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the activity."

"was the lesson to count the number of peanut butter sandwiches she could waste on one activity?"

"it was on ratios."

"let’s compare the number of peanut butter sandwiches to the number of people who could be eating them if we weren’t wasting them on one activity?"

"i don’t know. the point is, she brought up these sacks of sandwich scraps. so i’m like, ‘what are we supposed to do with all of these?’ and she’s like, ‘you could feed them to the dog.’ the dog? we’re trying to get the dog to lose 5 pounds, how many can i possibly feed him every day? two? three? we’ll be here for 3 months! so she’s like, ‘well, i didn’t want to throw them away.’ so i start thinking of how we can use these sandwich pieces, and i figure it out. we’ll put them in some ice cream!"

"is this one of your a bits?"

"no, this really happened. i went out and i bought two-and-a-half gallons of vanilla ice cream and mixed the sandwiches in. but then it hits me—who in their right mind is going to eat this? no adult would ever eat peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich ice cream! so i turn to my sister and ask her if she’ll take some home, and she’s like, ‘maybe i’ll have some here, but i don’t have room for all of that!’ and then she says, ‘why don’t you eat it?’ and i’m like, ‘i can’t eat two gallons of ice cream! i’ll be here for three months!’ so now we’re right back where we started, only now, instead of 2 bags of sandwich bits, we’ve got 2 gallons of ice cream."

"so what’d you do?

"well, i turned to my sister, and i said, ‘maybe we could give it to the dog?’ and she just looks at me like i’m retarded—"

"and she’s completely justified—"

"yeah—and then she says, ‘no one’s going to eat this, why don’t we just throw it away?’"

"and so?"

"threw it away."

"all that ice cream?"

"yep."

"you really did this? you really put sandwiches into ice cream?"

"yes."

"and then just threw it out?"

"yes."

"why didn’t you just bring it to work?"

"two gallons of ice cream? where was i going to put it?"

"did you even taste it?"

"yeah."




"how was it?"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

the trouble with earthquakes

Earthquake damage - bridge
earthquakes are just God's way of turning the world into an amusement park. [Photo credit: martinluff]

last tuesday, i discovered that should another major earthquake strike california, i am woefully unprepared, and there’s no excuse for that kind of smug ignorance. earthquakes are to californians as white tigers are to roy horn, and we like to forget their lethal potential.

my first real experience with the devastating power of earthquakes was the loma prieta quake of 1989, which struck at roughly 5 pm and registered somewhere between a 6.9 and a 7.1 on the richter scale. when the ground started shaking, i was in bed, doing homework; i was learning that homework would be all i ever really did in a bed. my first thought was that an earthmover from the construction site up the street must have somehow wound up with its plow in the side of our house, but when things didn’t stop shuddering i realized it was worse than that. i hopped off of my comforter, unsure of what to do next. dive under the bed? no, the cartoons on tv said not to do that. the desk, get under the desk! something far easier to think than it was to do, since the crawl space beneath my desk was intended to house one’s legs, rather than the entirety of one’s corpus; but as i was deathly afraid of being downgraded to corpse, i jammed myself under there like a bonsai kitten and made do with short, shallow breaths as i felt souvenirs from my childhood flit past my head and audibly crack against the floor. once the ground stopped rolling and i could make my egress, i walked downstairs and saw the remnants of many ceramic and glass figurines i was never allowed to touch now scattered in more directions and abused in more ways than were ever within my power. i take a certain satisfaction in that.

up until then, earthquakes were mainly fun because you knew what to expect from them. the ground would move a little bit, you would hide under your (spacious) desk, the ground would stop moving, you would go back to letting some electronic device read a book for you, or maybe you would go outside and eat some tanbark. i’m sorry if your junior high wasn’t like that.

and then there were the earthquake preparedness drills my family did when i was a kid. i would slink down the dark hallway, grab my sister and father by their ankles, and shake them vigorously while proclaiming, “i’m an earthquake!” then my mother would race out of the kitchen and beat me with a wooden spoon, at which point i would start sobbing and eat the rations out of the emergency kit. i think these drills would have been more helpful if, a, someone had warned my mother that we were doing them, b, they weren’t actually some silly game i liked to play to irritate my family, and c, the “rations” in the “kit” weren’t actually the “ding dongs” in the “cupboard.”

after experiencing an earthquake of such magnitude, however, you worry that every one after it will carry with it similar force. for instance, the day after the loma prieta quake, i was standing at my friend’s door and we were sharing our experiences from the day before. it had been a rough night, not so much because of the aftershocks and the fear of returning to my own bed, but because we had a portable tv and we had spent most of the night watching simon and simon reruns since, obviously, it didn’t get cable. suddenly, an aftershock rolls through, and faster than gerald mcraney could scream for his royalties i was in my friend’s doorway, effectively preventing him from finding any shelter. i do feel bad about this, but looking back, chances are, had the quake been powerful enough, we both would have died, as i’ve learned that you can’t actually trust a doorway to protect you in an earthquake. people claim that in other places leveled by earthquakes, you would see houses reduced to rubble with doorways protuding skyward, and maybe they’re telling the truth, but it seems to me that houses don’t fall straight down, they lean, and there’s nothing to keep a doorway from doing likewise. so he would have died hating me, thinking i had lived, and i would have died thinking, fucking shoddy workmanship on this doorway. and somewhere, a contractor would have said to the families of the deceased, they obviously were standing under the doorways wrong.

the truth is, however, we really don’t know much about how to predict or how to protect ourselves from earthquakes, though we do know what causes them, and the answer to that question is, kittens. they’re so cute, when they purr, the earth purrs back. so remember: every time a kitten purrs, we lose several thousand turkish or chinese villagers. it was a great day for science when we could finally replace the aristotelian “wind” thesis with this far more believable explanation of seismic activity.

for a while, people believed they could use animals as a predictor for earthquakes. for instance, before a massive earthquake struck the chinese city of haicheng in february of 1975, the state evacuated its population, citing, among other harbingers, the strange behavior of animals in the city. the earthquake struck soon after the evacuation and hit 7.5 on the richter scale, destroying the city but resulting in few deaths. by comparison, another earthquake struck china several months later and killed 60,000 people. unfortunately, no credible link has ever been established between animal behavior and earthquakes, nor has anyone been able to dream up any other reliable method for determining where and when an earthquake will strike, and that leaves us with the task of trying to protect ourselves.

not that anyone’s really come up with anything reliable on that front, either. the most popular piece of advice is, duck, cover, and hold, and as it turns out, it's the recommended course of action in many situations, for instance: earthquakes, nuclear or biochemical attacks (though, in the case of an actual biochemical attack, you should also wrap your head tightly in saran wrap, to protect yourself from inhaling anything), assaults from angry ex-lover, or elderly uprisings. the stated objective here is to protect yourself from falling debris, but i think the intention is actually to subdue school children and to make sure that none of them sees the piece of the roof that finally does him or her in. the unfortunate reality is, people have rolled out of bed, onto the floor, and been found alive, while others have ducked, covered, held, and ended up painted across a few square yards of concrete. but if putting your hand across your spine makes you feel better, go right ahead.

the only thing that’s going to really improve your odds of survival is not being anywhere near china. in the loma prieta earthquake, a 7.1, 62 people died. in the northridge quake of 1992, measuring 6.9, 57 people died. whereas, in bachu, china, a 6.4 earthquake killed 261 people in 2003, and a 7.4 earthquake near izmit, turkey killed 18,000 people in 1999. you want to protect yourself from an earthquake? be in the united states when it happens.

unfortunately, the danger isn’t over once the ground stops moving. according to the usgs website, in order to meet the challenges of the days ahead, one should “[l]earn to fight fires, to rescue people trapped under debris, to provide first aid, to find help for dire emergencies, and to assist others, especially the elderly, immobile, or handicapped.” first, i doubt telling untrained civilians to fight fires is such a great idea. and besides, in some parts of this country, you tell people to fight fires, the next thing you know, they’re putting books on them. besides, it sounds like a lot of work. so does assisting the immobile, unless you’re my father. my father’s brand of assistance would be to tell them that if they were hungry enough, they’d move just fine, and he’d be content in the knowledge that he’d helped them by ignoring them far more than he could of by getting them out from underneath the family room.

isn’t there a disaster for lazy people? something like an ambush by puppies or a sudden pie overage?

“where did they all come from?”
“i don’t know, jane, but if there’s one thing i do know, it’s this: if we can’t eat all of these pies in the next 24 hours, well, god help us all, jane, god help us all.”
“floyd, look out! under the pies! it’s an ambush!
“oh god, they’re all over me!”
“aww, look how cute you look! it’s just darling! shoot, was the camera underneath the strawberry-rhubarb or the pineapple cream?”
“honey, they’re subduing me with their jovial affection and unquestioning loyalty!

get the shotgun!

last tuesday, a minor earthquake struck san diego, rousing many from slumber and providing me with the perfect opportunity to put my earthquake preparedness to the test, and i failed miserably. becoming aware of the rolling earth, i flung the covers off and leapt from bed in one fluid motion, landing square on my feet and dropping into a fighting stance, laughable because not only can you not beat up an earthquake, but also because i wouldn’t be able to fight my way out of a daycare center. i’ve seen amputees who look more threatening, though, to be fair, they were pirate captains.

once the shaking stopped, i left my room and tiptoed down the hall to check on the dog. since our dog is afraid of, in no particular order, rain, loud noises, gardeners, partially opened doors, the heater, the dryer, the ironing board, hoses, gingerale, and backpacks on children, i guess i expected him to be in hiding, or, failing that, i figured that he, mimicking those animals that escaped harm from the tsunami last december, would be working on a small water craft and packing essential survival tools such as a flashlight and matches along with enough food for him to reach the central united states (i wasn’t going to tell him that he couldn’t get there by boat; that seemed to me to be pointlessly cruel). neither turned out to be the case. he was resting comfortably on a throw rug, looking at me as if to say, “did you feel that? that was my stomach rumbling, bitch! now get me some food!”

i put my hand out to him, mainly to show him i had nothing to eat, when suddenly my mother burst out from the kitchen with a box of ho hos in her hand, saw the dog, and, confused, asked, “where’s your father?” but before i, panicked, could ask, “where’s the ding dongs?” my father emerged from the darkness of the hallway, broadsided me with a wooden spoon, crammed a ho ho in his mouth, and, spewing black flakes of cake from his lips, exclaimed, “i’ll show you an earthquake!”

left with no recourse, i ran back to my room, cheeks wet and ruddy with tears, and tried in vain for an hour to find simon and simon rerurns on tv.

i settled for major dad.

it was a long two hours before work.

Monday, April 11, 2005

why i don't run



i’ve been experiencing an unusual desire to get outdoors lately, and if you know me, you know how unusual this is. if i go outdoors, it’s only because i’m trying to get indoors again. i go outside to get into the car, to get into another building, and i hole up there until i need to get somewhere else. i don’t “hike,” an activity that has a lot in common with walking outdoors, so as to be, in fact, perfectly indistinguishable from it, save that it sounds a lot better to say “i went for a hike” than to say “i walked to vons.” though i think, in order for walking to become hiking, it must be done on a dirt trail, so that you can walk from your car to the trail, at which point, the hike officially commences; the hike officially ends when you realize you’re going to be looking at the same trees for the next three miles and, according to the sign, the rattlesnakes are out in force.

that’s when it becomes a sprint.

i blame the weather for my sudden interested in the natural world. though the past two weekends have been beautiful, the month of weekends before that were rainy and cold, and, in general, it has been a wet winter for those of us living in “america’s finest city.” not that i’m complaining; we only saw 20 inches of rainfall this year, and though that’s twice what we normally get, it’s nothing compared to other places in the country. by contrast, yakutat, arkansas receives, on average, 151 inches of rainfall each year. i had to do a double take when i saw that statistic; i thought numbers that high were only used to demarcate rum. and, keep in mind, this is a 30-year average, which means a good year in yakutat is when the river only floods twice. when your town gets that much rain, you’ve got to wonder what your ancestors did to piss off god, because even biblical plagues didn’t last that long; seven years, at the most, and that wasn’t really a plague, one, and two, it was preceded by seven years of plenty. i doubt yakutat had pleasant, sunny weather for 30 years. so my message to yakutat is: please move off that sacred indian burial ground before your children start making that “open open open” pose against a snowy tv screen and the ghost of craig t nelson’s career makes you watch "coach" reruns. it’s only a matter of time.

but i digress. several rainy weekends came and went, the grey rolling out just in time for us to go to work on monday morning, until, about two weeks ago, the sun stayed with us all the way through saturday and sunday, and i decided i wanted to enjoy it, because it’s probably only going to be around for another 200, 250 days, tops. and is there any better way to enjoy the sunshine than by getting out and going for a good run?

yes, yes there is. lots of ways, in fact, so i don’t know why i stuck with that one. it isn’t like running has ever been kind to me, not even when i was a young kid in elementary school. do you remember how your teacher would pair you off and make you all go down to the “track,” usually a gravel ellipsoid so haphazardly laid out that it looked like something stephen hawking made by hand? and you would run, and every time you crossed the starting line, your partner would hand you a popsicle stick to help you remember which lap you were on? what a cruel thing to do to a fat kid. instead of focusing on the run, all i could think about was, where did all these popsicle sticks come from? and who ate the popsicles? and why wasn’t i invited to help eat the popsicles? so from an early age i learned to associate running with frozen treats, which hasn’t helped me in the least.

and i’ve never gotten any better at running since i was a little kid, either, not that there’s any reason to. i suppose if i were an orthodox jew, it was saturday, and i was late for something, maybe then i would run, but that’s about it. i suppose i would run from danger, but if i did that, it would only be to amuse my pursuer, since lord knows the only situation in which running would help me evade capture would be if i stole the wheelchair from a paraplegic, and even then, why would i run when i could roll? not that i would steal a wheelchair when i could just go out and buy a pair of rollerskates, which are just like small wheelchairs for my feet.

there’s an artificial lake a few miles away from my house, and i decided i would run there, and in all seriousness, it’s a beautiful spot for a run. the lake, thanks to the recent rains, is full and blue. the parks and rec people have stocked it with fish, and people from all over san diego go there with their boats, kayaks, and fishing gear. moms and dads bring sons and daughters out for a family bike ride, or they bring the dog out for a walk, and when the breeze kicks up, little white-capped licks lift off the surface of the lake. since i run slowly, i have plenty of time to soak it all in. which gets old after about one mile, which is okay, since after one mile, i’m in so much agony i can’t focus on the scenery any more. at that point, it’s all about pain management; i.e., being managed by the pain.

i went at about two in the afternoon, an ideal time to run if you wish to increase your chances of heat stroke or blistering sunburn. i decided to improve my odds by not drinking any water all day, but i did take a pitiful 16 ounces of water with me to remind my body of what it felt like to be hydrated without actually doing so.

despite the pain, the run gave me a chance to be alone with my thoughts, to get away from the distractions of work and home and try to learn something about myself. i learned, for instance, that if you tell me to watch out for rattlesnakes, i will. and while i’m at it, i will also watch out for random sounds in the brush, for dried out twigs in the road, for things hanging from branches (even though i know that rattlesnakes do not hang, anaconda-like, from trees), and, for good measure, clowns, since i don’t trust clowns enough to assume that they are not in cahoots with poisonous reptiles. i’m no fool. i saw it.

i also learned that the ice cream man is a wily foe; apparently, he knows that i associate frozen treats with running, and he makes stops at the lake. you are a tactical genius, ice cream man, and i salute you as a worthy adversary. and the way you got those teachers in your pocket? smooth, ice cream man, smooth, much like the very confections you peddle from your mobile den of temptation.

and, apparently, if i run far enough without stopping, say, six, seven miles or so, i begin to quietly sob, in a pathetic, blubbering way that is entirely undignified. i’m not sure if this is because of the pain or because of the heat.

finally, i learned that even in the most idyllic of settings, people can still be assholes.

so i’m on mile seven, and i can actually see the end of the trail, and i’m behind some older woman walking in a blue sweatsuit. why people feel the need to coat themselves in 50 square yards of dark, heat-absorbing cotton in the middle of a baking afternoon in order to exercise is beyond me; perhaps she was trying to bring on the heat stroke early so as to have an excuse to stop. then again, i suppose i prefer it to the opposite, where people choose to wear far too little to cover their excessive amounts of flesh. perhaps they’re trying to be ironic? all i ask is that you be sensitive. while you do have every right to dress how you wish, when i’m running, i’m suffering enough.

so, on mile seven, weeping, fatigued, in terror because of the rattlesnakes and the possibility of a vicious clown attack, doing what could only loosely be described as running. i decide i need to pass this person in front of me, because were i to move any slower i would, in fact, be walking. excuse me. hiking. i can’t move left, because there’s an intermittent stream of luxury s.u.v.’s with high, dark windows and, i imagine, air-conditioned interiors, housing, i’m convinced, the wealthy and their ungrateful clutches of children, who no doubt stared down at me as i twitched and sputtered my way along the pavement like michael j fox without his meds, all the while thinking, “why doesn’t he get those shoes with the wheels in the heels? they’re like rollerskates, but for half your feet.” luckily, on my right, a small dirt shoulder opened up, so i took my opportunity. i’m not moving quickly, granted, but i’m making progress. slowly, ever so slowly, i edge alongside of her. detecting my hatred for the majority of the geriatric set (mainly because they make it impossible to navigate the vons parking lot between the hours of 2 and 4 pm weekdays), and fearing that i might be after her social security, she sees me and decides she’s going to try to walk faster so that i can’t pass her before the dirt path i’m “running” on is occluded by brush and banks sharply downward into the lake! and the thing is, i’m so tired, she’s actually doing it! she’s outwalking me! i had to push her out the way just to avoid drowning in an artificial lake—a lake that shouldn’t have even been there in the first place! it's one thing to drown in a naturally occurring body of water--but a lake we put there? that's like walking into a sliding glass door.

of course i didn’t push her. do you think i'd be sitting here reporting this to you if i pushed an old woman into the path of an oncoming vehicle, causing it to nick her as it swerved to the left, striking and killing an unsuspecting clown who, it turns out, was studying to be a mime? think about it: making pretend animals out of balloons is not that far from making pretend wind out of nothing. my point is, had i done that, the series of consecutive parties held in my honor wouldn't even be halfway over yet. no; weeping, tired, frightened, i sprinted and slipped back onto the pavement just as my lane ended. once again, a crisis at the hands of the elderly avoided by a younger yet equally stubborn and bitter person who just happens to have quicker reflexes, though not by much, especially at that point. once again demonstrating to me that people over the age of 65 should be under house arrest.

oh, i was writing about running. if i took anything away from this whole experience, besides a healthy distrust for the elderly, it would be ice cream. you win again, bewheeled vendor of joy, all-seeing navigator of your glistening lactic chariot!

that, and that if you are attacked by a mountain lion, do not crouch down. apparently, to a mountain lion, crouching food=delicious. and moving, crouching food? a delicacy. so if you are chuck berry, watch out.

Monday, March 28, 2005

my dark passion



as a consequence of being a permanent dieter, one with the ranks of those who know for sure that you can lose many battles and somehow still advance your troop position, but still never truly reach the end of the war, i am constantly taking note of my relationship with foods of various kinds. i am not one of those fortunate people blessed with the kind of metabolism that enables them to burn through an ice cream sundae like a honda fcx burns through hydrogen; my metabolism, unfortunately, would best be likened to a school bus. in fact, as i write this, i’m sitting here wearing my yellow t-shirt. i think i’m going to go change.

okay, that’s better. my point is, i’m not able to take a vacation from my diet, unless i want to expand to pre-g.i.-bypass-al-roker-like proportions, or, alternately, to present-day-elizabeth-taylor proportions, complete with sagging bust line and misfiring synapses.

but as a consequence of this hyperawareness of food, i’m obsessed with it. were it not for my diet, i’m convinced, i wouldn’t experience the overwhelming cravings for ice cream, chocolate, cheesecake... umm... hmm.

one second.

where was i? right. this is the irony of dieting; resisting all of the things that help you handle the stress in your life creates its own stress, and this stress knows only one solution: more ice cream, the more cookie bits in it the better, and now, please.

i’ve been aware of my weight since i was a kid, but that didn’t stop me from indulging myself in all of the various treats located at assorted points throughout the kitchen, and being a touch o.c.d., i knew the exact locations of each item and how much of each item remained like some kind of gourmand savant or autistic foody. i knew about food my parents didn’t even know about, and they were the ones buying it. i even knew how much cheese was left in the mouse traps in the garage! and had i ever been stricken by blindness at a young age like jimmy in that book follow my leader, i would still have been able to find all of the cookies, cakes, and ices strictly from memory or, failing that, by a process i like to call "toucan-samming-it." i would have been like daredevil; like a pudgy, overweight little daredevil, wielding my small, half-eaten billy club of cookie dough righteousness against all... who should threaten to take away said small, half-eaten billy club of cookie dough, and that includes parents, doctors, or anyone looking out for my best interests.

now that i’m older, and more aware of nutrition, of fats, both saturated and trans-, mono- and poly-un-, of proteins and their amino acids, of carbs, both the good and the bad, and occasionally the ugly, i have placed certain foods on restriction, asked them, if you will, to sit in the corner and think about what they’ve made me do. and one of these foods is nutella.

before the ferrero corporation sends me hate mail, hear me out. nutella is a wonderful substance, and i use the word substance because i would never wish to diminish its grandeur by referring to it as "food," which is what we would call it were it actually from earth. but it’s not. while i can’t be sure, i believe nutella either originated in heaven, with dogs, cats, and eva mendes, or it came to us in a small escape pod launched from a distant, dying world populated by an advanced race of people who realized that they were too far gone in their addictions to the stuff to be saved, and thus felt compelled, in the final dark hours of their once-great civilization, to expurgate the evil and, if possible, really fuck up some other planet in the cosmos, because what good would the death of an entire race of people be if they couldn’t drag down at least one more with them? after all, that’s what addicts do; it’s no fun shooting up when there’s no one there to share your needle.

and the same is true, incidentally, of s.t.d.’s, which is why they spread so quickly. and i can only hope that if we ever send out a group of people to conquer another planet, at least one man and one woman aboard that ship is afflicted with siphilus. it’ll be the smallpox of the space age, i guarantee it. we’ll call the ship the u.s.s. noah and we’ll tell the natives that they’ve been stricken by the wrath of our god, which they’ll believe because the dementia will have set in by then. space is so cool!

but i digress. nutella is a chocolate spread cleverly bonded, at the molecular level, i’m told, with the souls of a million hazelnuts (rendering them mere filberts), and quite simply, it is the greatest confection ever created. ever. no, ever. stop even trying to dispute this, it is a fact. think about it: not only is nutella delicious on its own, but it tastes great on everything, and, as if that weren’t enough, it comes to us in a convenient serving size, i.e., one jar. however, i must warn you: once you eat it, even if you only eat it that one time, you will be physiologically addicted to it forever. years from the day you actually wean yourself off "the jar" you’ll have nutella-induced flashbacks, and there isn’t a methadone clinic in the world that can help you. so, remember, i warned you.

now, about three weeks ago, my sammy-sense detected the presence of nutella in the house, somewhere in the back quadrant of the kitchen pantry. despite the fact that it’s seated on a stool facing the wall in the topographical map of my dietary restrictions, under the sign that reads, "sugary things loaded with fat and calories that i should not eat," i decided, hey, i’ve been off the jar for six months, surely by now i’ve developed the strength of will necessary to tangle with the "tella," as us addicts call it. and i thought this because the mind sometimes tricks us into believing we should do things we should never do, things like running three consecutive miles or watching thirty consecutive minutes of john stamos’s new show, which, by the way, will be among the items in the u.s.s. noah’s inventory for when we must reveal the face and hair of our lord. and based on my faulty reasoning and deep craving for chocolate, i reached for the jar.

there are many descriptions regarding one’s first sweet taste of the illicit, of the rush that accompanies the violation of the taboo, whether that taboo be imposed by culture or by the self, and because i am not a good writer, this will not be one of them. but trust me when i say, something changed after the blade of my spoon pierced the placid dark of the chocolate’s surface--my taste buds were suddenly alive with the screams of the hazelnuts (now filberts), like an ancient creature asleep for centuries in the caked mud of a dessicated lakebed somewhere in the southwestern united states that one day is deluged by some off weather pattern originating in the pacific and at once raises one eyelid to survey the resurrection of its prehistoric habitat and now vigorously propels itself from the site of its long slumber to seduce its prey and grow fat on their living. it was just like that. except replace caked mud with imitation mashed potatoes, and well, you’ve got it perfectly.

my taste buds could see again is i guess the point of that simile, and what they could see was chocolatey darkness, and it was wonderful but it kind of stung, which is what chocolate does when it gets in your eye, if you’ve ever had that happen to you. and if you had, you must be augustus gloop. nice to know you came out of that unfortunate pipe accident okay.

once i had that first taste, i was unstoppable. i found myself eating nutella round the clock--no time was a bad time. it got to the point where i couldn’t go to work without a quick dip, and then it was i had to have a little scoop with breakfast and another before bed. meanwhile, i was eating through jar after jar after jar.

i knew i had hit rock bottom one morning at breakfast. see, that original jar was my father’s, and as a way of rationalizing my guilt for eating it, i promised i would replace it, which i did promptly. problem was, he wouldn’t open it, which astounded me because my father is a man who knows no restraint when it comes to certain foods, and i mean that literally--the idea that one man shouldn’t eat half a can of corned beef on half a loaf of italian bread along with, oh what the hell, some olive oil and cheese has never actually occurred to the man, ever. every diet he’s ever been on has somehow included this one magical caveat, the one special trapdoor leading straight to some kind of hormel-brand indulgence, an amazing truth considering canned corned beef is one of the few foods that communicates, via its appearance, the actual effects it will have on your heart. yet he was able to resist opening the nutella. i was in awe. not long enough to stop myself from opening it and swallowing it whole, but awe nonetheless, awe stemming mainly from his lack of consideration. the nerve!

so after i had bought something like six or eight jars of the stuff--for my dad--i come to breakfast and see him at the table with his half a loaf of bread and the jar of nutella. naturally, i’m pissed, because, that’s my fucking jar, dammit. so i open the pantry dejectedly, realizing i have to eat cereal, and what’s staring me dead in the face but another jar of nutella, the one i had bought only the day before, for him, and begun eating shortly thereafter. now i felt guilty.

"did mom go to the store?"
"no."
"oh." pause. "where’d that come from?"
"i bought it at the store."
"there’s some in here already."
"i know. but i saw you were eating that one, so i bought my own."

i was devastated. somehow, through machinations i admit dumbfound me, my father had managed to get food into the house, and i didn’t know about it! me! blind jimmy, daredevil, the autistic foody, the gustatory jedi who, drawing upon powers only paul prudhomme, jared from subway, and i understand, knew everything there was to know about what food was where! i had been bested, tricked, by my father, a man almost 1.03 times my height! and it was then, as i sunk into despair, that i realized it was my addiction that had dulled my senses, that i was adrift in a tumultuous sea of creamy chocolate decadence. as i greedily slurped up the remnants of my jar (i had to finish it--how else could i put an end to my temptation?), i made a resolution.

switch to peanut butter.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

revelations


it says "what were we thinking" in latin. [photo courtesy amazon.com]

to anyone who saw me on the 11 o'clock news on tuesday night: i apologize. i should have known better.

how did this happen? i'll explain.

on tuesday night, my friend tony and i went to the edwards cinema in mira mesa to catch a (free!) special screening of the pilot for a new nbc drama called "revelations." the show is about the apocalypse.

no, i'm not joking. the show begins with the premise that events foretold by the book of revelations are happening now and that the hour of judgement is nigh. it even has little fraser-like breaks where it'll quote scripture regarding our impending doom. as you can imagine, these quotes are far less charming than the ones on "fraser," because the ones on "fraser" employed double entendre, so you didn't know exactly how they applied to the following scene. by contrast, the quotes "revelations" used were more to the effect of, "i hope you're enjoying that ice cream cuz in three hours i'm gonna come down there, reach up your ass, and flip you inside-out like a reversible jacket. sincerely, god."

no, i couldn't find that one in the bible either, but i'm sure i can trust nbc when it comes to scripture.

at any rate, i can honestly say i enjoyed the show despite its heavy-handed dialogue, its intrusive, incessant, and overbearing score, and its unrelenting sense of doom.

once the program ended we exited the theater and were ambushed by the media, and by the media, i mean the one and only lynn stuart from the KNSD news team, and by ambushed, i mean politely asked for an interview.

and by we, i mean tony and i, though you really should have known that because i made it pretty clear in the third paragraph. pay attention, people.

tony was first up, and he's the one who should have made it on the news because he's photogenic, attractive, and because he won the award for best line of the night. stuart asked him if surveying audiences and using their input to make a show more appealing is the newest form of reality television, and without skipping a beat he replied, "i think the newest form of reality tv is me being on the news!"

i'm sure that brightened lynn stuart's day because she had just arrived from the scene of a hit and run accident in hillcrest, and thus knew nothing about the show, period. tony could have told her that the show was actually called "revelasians," about eight immigrants from the pacific rim in their twenties, partying hard in nyc by night, spending their days together lounging in a coffee shop, and spending a lot of time dressed up like women so they could keep their swanky pad in a girls-only apartment building. but because she's a professional, she would have immediately asked him a predictable quasi-intelligent question like, "and how did watching the show affect your attitude towards transvestite immigrants?"

unfortunately, i'm the one whose face was broadcast to hundreds of viewers throughout san diego. i swear, i never thought they'd actually put me on tv, and i'm truly very sorry that some people had to see my face shortly before bedtime, and especially if any children were exposed to that grisly sight. though i'm sure their first question was probably something to effect of, "mom, if he's there, who's scaring little hungry billy goats from under a bridge?" and the answer to that question is, of course, michael jackson. and i hear he's got candy.

seriously, though, i think when the camera man saw me coming he said, "now i know there's got to be a way i can make this kid uglier," because he shot me like he had a vendetta, like i had killed his turtle in the second grade and he'd been waiting his whole life for this opportunity. before tuesday night, i had never actually seen a face that looked like it was fashioned out of spare parts, but that's what my face looked like on tv. it was more of a collage than a face. my nose was twice as big, my forehead was short and wide, i was sporting some kind of sling-blade haircut, and though i knew that the camera adds ten pounds, i did not know that it also reverses years of orthodontic care. that camera fucked up my grill so bad that beetlejuice guy from the howard stern show sent me some sympathy flowers with the name of a good dentist.

plus i was operating on three hours of sleep and had been up for about 15 hours before i was interviewed, so i was putting all of my energy into fashioning coherent answers, but i guess when that happens my facial expressions go apeshit! did you know that eyebrows can move left to right? i didn't, until i saw the news. and not only were they doing shit with absolutely no regard for the rest of my face, but they were even moving independently of each other. i looked like johnny-five from those short circuit movies having an epileptic fit! and thankfully, the camera was there to record the moment for posterity.

if anything quiets the shame, it's that i'm not insecure enough to believe i actually look like an ogre. however, i was insecure enough to get up immediately following the piece and check my face in a mirror.

i wasn't even going to go on. several people were interviewed, and all of them made valid points. by the time my turn came, all of the useful comments had been made; whatever i had to say would be redundant. i put my hand on tony's shoulder and said, all right, dude, i'm ready to leave, and then lynn stuart stuck out her hand and said, "and what's your name?" and i believe i said "I'M GONNA BE ON TV! WOOOO!" i think media culture has me programmed. putting that camera in my face was like pushing some kind of a button; from the moment the interview started, i was on autopilot. i barely remember anything she asked, nor do i recall much of what i said, i just remember not thinking at all before i spoke, like i was some kind of a medium channeling the spirit of a fucking moron. in fact, i think i may have answered one of her questions by yelling "YAHTZEE!" but the editors were kinder than the camera man.

nevertheless, the actual experience was a lot of fun. not so much because of the events that occurred, but because of the feeling that i was getting the inside scoop on something. even if i don't watch tv, and probably won't watch the show... well, at any rate, i got to sit in a movie theater for free, and i wasn't going to pass that up. and all it cost me was shame and humiliation. which is really not terribly unusual for me.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

more thoughts on love



i think about relationships and romance a lot, mainly when i should be focused on other things. you know, like when you're at work, but instead of thinking about the project you've got to finish by the end of the day, you're thinking about the woman browsing the science-fiction section. or you're in between reps at the gym. or working with non-dairy creamer near an open flame. the point is, i'm obsessed, and i've been this way my entire life.

for instance, when i was in 8th grade, i made my friends bet me that by the end of our freshman year in high school, we'd all have girlfriends.

ironically, i was the one responsible for losing that bet. thankfully, they're good natured people and weren't too concerned about collecting their winnings, which is nice, because i never had any money to speak of. in fact, if i recall, i paid them off with cassette tapes; school of fish's self-titled release, and nine inch nails's "broken." ahh, the nineties.

but this obsession stretches farther back than that. when i was in kindergarten, i was terribly upset because i thought the girls in my class didn't like me, so upset, in fact, that they called an emergency meeting with me on the playground during recess to explain that, yes, they did like me, but that this liking would not extend to making any wild accusations about my hygiene, up to and including any insinuations that i might have the "cooties." furthermore, there would be no exclaiming "ewwwwww" or "gross" as i walked by, nor would there be any spontaneously planted kisses on my cheek followed by running and giggling, which, as we all know, are the signs of budding schoolyard romance. these would instead be directed towards my cuter friend, michael, who had a red "beat it" jacket and could do the moonwalk.

curiously, these are still the primary signs of nascent affection, and owning a red "beat it" jacket will still get you laid in some circles, circles that are currently in litigation by the santa barbara court system.

my point is, i've always been anxious to find "the one," and to understand the little signals women send to indicate that they are interested. yet for all of the time i've spent thinking about love, i've spent very little time in it. for all of the crushes i had in high school, i never went out on a single date, leading me to believe i would be alone forever. i even wondered aloud whether or not i ought to just join the priesthood. sure, my athiesm posed something of a problem, but i figured we could work around it, kind of like when your student loan payment is due but you have no money. i figured maybe i could put my faith on layaway. every month, they could ask me, "do you accept the lord jesus christ as your savior?" and i could say, "well, not completely, but more than the last time you asked me. keep talking about the fish and the loaves and the wine, i'm sure i'll come around. can i have another wafer? i swear these things are not filling at all."

now that i have been in a few relationships, i know that it won't be long before i'm in one again, a thought that terrifies me, because being alone is so much easier. for one thing, when you're single, it's far easier to find someone to have sex with. and when you're single, you have a lot of friends, people who will support you, who will listen to you, who will go places with you, people you can trust. a relationship will bring you none of these things.

obviously, i'm kidding. friends won't bring you those things, either. if you want people to listen to you, you'll have to pay them. or start a blog. now people i don't even know listen to me.

joking aside, i have never found it difficult to fall in love, a tendency that has caused a great deal of pain throughout my short life, because, as easy as it is to do, it's hard to know when the object of your affection is right for you. it's even harder to find the girl (in my case) who is worth being with but isn't already with someone else. and then, to make it even more difficult, it's truly a challenge to find a woman who is good, by which i mean, does not distribute poisoned apples to fairer women who curiously live with seven coal-mining midgets yet have not been discovered by reality tv.

no? okay. what i mean is, a woman who will encourage you, protect you, listen to you, and care for you, be there for you. a woman who will let you go when you have to go because she loves you unselfishly. i would truly be sexist, i think, if i did not state that i expect a good woman to receive the exact same treatment from whomever she is with. i.e., good people should be paired with good people, because that way, each person is able to become more than what he or she would have been if left alone. a strong and healthy community of friends or a close-knit family can yield the same results, i believe. but i don't really know for sure.

in an effort to demonstrate that i am worthy of this kind of affection, i present this list of promises to my next girlfriend, who is, right now, only a figment of my imagination, in hopes that it will convince her to take a chance on me and, oh, i dunno, stick around for more than three dates.

in my next relationship, i promise i will:

1 randomly surprise you with gifts or other tokens of my affection
2 always listen to you, even if you're talking right in the middle of family guy
3 continue to take you out on "dates."
4 do the dishes, even if you don't ask me to
5 stop exclaiming "boo-ya!" after sex. even when it lasts more than a couple of minutes.
6 no, take out from the local grocery chain won't count.
7 not lie to you, not even little white ones.
8 okay, there may be times when you have to ask me to do the dishes. but i'll do them.
9 look, it's family guy. just let me have family guy, okay? and aqua teen hunger force.
10 dammit, i don't care if they're repeats, they're the only shows i watch.
11 there may be lies, but i promise, i'll only tell them to... protect you from future prosecution...?
12 because tivo is expensive, that's why!
13 you might have to endure the occasional "boo-ya!" or boo-ya's redneck cousin, "yabba dabba do!" i can, however, promise that it will definitely only last a couple of minutes.

if that.

Monday, February 28, 2005

she will be mine


eva mendes is wondering where i've been all her life. patience, eva. patience. [photo credit: nicole zheng]

for some reason unbeknownst to me, i diligently searched for, and found, eva mendes's official fan page last night. okay, it wasn't really a diligent search, but it would have been had it actually been a difficult website to find. imagine that websites dedicated to attractive women who are starring in hit movies would be so easily discovered?

for those that don't know who or what i'm talking about, eva mendes is an actress/model who can currently be seen in that will smith movie, "hitch." now, the movie isn't that great. frankly, kevin james is the best part about it; then again, i think he's funny as hell. maybe you don't. anyway. she's in it, playing a hard to get gossip reporter who ultimately acquiesces to smith's charm and becomes the fresh princess of nyc. as it turns out, mendes has had several movie roles in the past, and, yay, good for her.

before i saw her website, she was just a pretty face who happened to get a part in a movie; however, upon reading her biography (i'm one of those "i read it for the articles" types), i was shocked to discover that we are, in fact, soul mates. consider:

1 she's 5'7". i am also 5'7". in heels. the point is, we're almost the same height. no complicated adjustments necessary.

2 eva's first car was a 66 ford mustang. now, you all probably don't know this, but my dream car, the only car i've ever been sexually attracted to, is a 66 ford mustang.

oh, and i'll pass on this word of caution. never good to act on that kind of attraction.

society just isn't ready.

3 her favorite movies are "the shining" and "blow up." which means she knows the difference between an awesome movie ("blow up") and the runs ("blow out"). so, even though she stars in hack jobs, she can recognize quality. very important in a mate. you'd want to be able to go see a crap movie and laugh later about how it was crap.

4 she manages a band! the band's name is tiger. meanwhile, i have secretly always wanted to be a scout for a record label. together, we could start a label, pooling all of her money with my lack-of-business-sense-slash-rudy-like-love-of-music to create an unprofitable nightmare that will have been started in her name.

5 here's the kicker. her favorite bands? belle and sebastian, the strokes, the stone roses, saint etienne, the ocean blue, oasis, the smiths, and the nortec collective. only some of those bands are shite; the rest are awesome! and the fact that she put belle and sebastian first. well. doesn't that say it all? yes, it does.

no? okay. don't you see? she's calling to me. she's saying, "i understand you. i also listen to effeminate men who are so in touch with their emotions it's not only creepy but even a little threatening to my identity as a woman. complicated, overly dramatic men who will burden me with their sensitivity interest me greatly and i want to sleep with them sexually."

6 she's a pisces. technically, a virgo/pisces match is one of the worst matches astrologically possible, but stick with me here. if you know me, you know i love being challenged. therefore, this kind of match makes absolute sense.

the only major obstacle, besides her fame, money, and good looks and my lack of any of those, is that she is presently in what seems like a serious relationship. frankly, this does pose something of a problem, but on the bright side, it is with a man, so at least i'm playing for the right team. after careful deliberation, i've decided the best plan will be to hang back for 2, 3 years tops, and then make my move. i figure, in 3 years, her career will have fizzled out, whereas mine will just be starting to take off, creating an opportunity for my brush with celebrity rejection.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

it's a boy!



congratulations, tony and rose, on your new baby boy, a week and (almost) two days old today.

the picture above was taken very soon after alex was born. i'm not only very thankful to both of them for letting me have a copy of it (i have one in a frame by my desk) but for letting me post it!

rose, to say that i admire you for everything that you've sacrificed and endured to bring a healthy baby boy into the world would be an understatement. you are an example to everyone of what can be done by one who is truly willing and committed. that said, i don't know that i could have done it myself.

tony, i have such respect for your commitment as well. you went to every doctor's appointment, you were always willing to help; you've truly risen to the challenge of being responsible for another life. you're a great friend and i am so happy for you.

to the both of you, i've seen over the last few days how much you love this child already. you two are incredible people whom i am thankful to know, and i'm simply amazed at the commitment you've already shown to your child. alex is truly very lucky to have such loving parents.

they're actually also very attractive people, but you must remember, he's wearing a face mask sopping with tears, and she's been in labor for 13 hours. yes, you read that right. 13 hours. see? i told you, she's a trooper. i heard that straight from tony, so i know it's true.

in my last post, i wrote about the transcendent beauty of the natural world. i don't know that i would use the word "beautiful" to describe childbirth, but it is miraculous, it is awe-inspiring. i know it has been said before, but when you actually hold a baby in your arms, well, it needs to be repeated: it is simply amazing to me that all of us start out as little helpless automatons, as little fragile learning bots. of course, we weren't all this cute:



that's alex. according to tony, he's going to be a pitcher or a shortstop, depending on which hand is dominant. as far as i know, there's no contingency plan if he turns out to be ambidextrous. but i digress.

i had never held a baby before, but tony forced me. i was afraid that by some rube-goldbergesque machination i would somehow, from a seated and stable position, drop the baby on his head ("if only that bird hadn't tipped forward, causing that precariously placed bowling ball to roll down the ramp onto that conveniently positioned toaster lever..."). at any rate, feeling this tiny little life squirming and moving, sensing everything for the first time... how else can you describe it? it's a magical experience. i recommend all of you go find some babies to hold.

no, don't take them anywhere. just hold them, and then put them back. there. good.

i did not smell the baby. everyone was doing it like it would make them hallucinate, like they were taking hits off the kid or something. i was afraid a side effect of the high would be an increased desire to have my own children, and therefore declined the offer. which is good, because when i was holding alex someone told me to, quote, "not bogart that shit." i don't use so i have no idea why anyone would invoke a dead actor when asking me to share. oddly enough, i think it was a nurse who said it...

meanwhile, those of us with breasts were making the child sleepy by perching him upon them. i suddenly felt jealous, because i lost my breasts when i lost all that weight.

and then i felt even more jealous, because alex got more action in his first 24 hours of life than i did throughout my first 22 years.

now that i've let myself start making cheap jokes, i'll bring this to a close. rose, tony, alex, you're surrounded by people who love you. obviously, both of your families, but also all of your friends, all of whom share in a portion of the happiness you're experiencing. we're here for you if you ever need us, and even if you don't need us.

and especially if there's some dirt on alex that we can embarrass him with when he's older.