April 30, 2008
Imagine if you will a hot Houston summer - a place that would make a fat man's armpits look like an arid paradise fit for a picnic. One hot Houston summer when I was 14 I worked as a paid apprentice to a hat maker. The hat shop in which I worked was one of the oldest family hat businesses in the state and had existed in the same location since it was founded generations before. What used to be an old barn in the middle of nowhere became a store fully engulfed on all sides by urban sprawl. And while modern conveniences like air conditioning had been embraced sometime in the second half of the 20th century, the workshop in which all the hats were crafted remained little more than a barn. It was hot. And creepy. And hot. Did I mention hot? The fact that some of the machinery was as old as the building and actually steam-driven didn't help. The only thing worse than working in the workshop making hats was dealing with the old dudes coming in looking for new hats. These guys invariably had on hats of their own and had baked for some unknown period of time in their black Caddies before coming in. My job? Measure their heads. Sweaty heads. Not good.
I've long been a devotee of Dirty Jobs. And while I realize that this job is far from the dirtiest in the world, it's certainly the worst I've ever known. I mean, measuring fat guys' sweating heads and sweating my own ass off in a creepy barn making hats? That ain't good...
...but I'm sure you can come up with worse. What's the worst job you've ever had? What's the worst thing you've gotten paid to do? What's the worst job you can imagine? Come on, give it a whirl. Maybe it'll make you feel better about what you're doing now.
BTW, I probably shouldn't look for a second career as a princess, right?
April 29, 2008
As A Parent
A few coworkers and I were chatting about our kids yesterday. We found ourselves doing so in front of a single coworker who just listened in horror. It got me thinking about the culture shock - for lack of a better term - that you go through when you become a parent.
As a parent you will do more laundry than a convicted felon and you won't even get the fifteen cents an hour for cigarettes.
As a parent you'll get vomited on, pooped on and peed on. This would normally strike you as disgusting if any of these bodily fluids were delivered by a random stranger however since it's your kid, you won't much care. But it'll still be a little gross.
As a parent you will learn that there is absolutely no owner's manual for your child nor is there any such thing as a guide book for parenting. The honest to god truth? You make it up as you go along and hope you don't fuck them up too bad.
As a parent you learn that planning is completely and utterly unnecessary because planning implies expectations and plans rarely succeed. Allow an hour at minimum to get our of your house. You will most likely make it out of the house more than once a day. Some days you won't even get out of your pajamas. These are not failures. They're life.
As a parent you will become one of those insanely annoying people that you, at an earlier time in your life, hated because you were tired of hearing about how cute all the shit their kids did was. You will actually find yourself ending stories by saying "it was the cutest thing ever" after describing something mundane your kids did. Then you'll want to open a vein with a bendy straw. But you won't.
As a parent your once hip music collection will become littered with albums by characters that are essentially socks with hands up their asses. This is not nearly as offensive as your child's desire to listen to these records approximately 3,290 times a day in rapid succession.
As a parent you will, on occasion, find yourself muttering something along the lines of how did I get here? The meaning can be either good, as in oh my god how did I end up with this awesome kid or bad like how the fuck did I get myself into this? Being a parent is dynamic and ever-changing. You'll snap out of either fairly quickly.
As a parent you will enter a vortex into which time virtually disappears. Blink and a week has passed or your kid turns two. Some days you will wish it would go faster. Don't. You might regret it.
As a parent you will wonder what you did with your time before you had a kid and while you might miss that from time to time, you won't mourn its loss.
As a parent you will spend more time talking about poop than you would have ever imagined. I mean, poop will seriously dominate the majority of your conversations for a time. Sometimes you'll actually find yourself talking about poop with complete strangers. Then you'll feel a little stupid.
As a parent you will feel as if you were pulled to sea in a rip tide, swallowed by the surf, spit out on the sand and life was breathed back into you with unimaginable force, filling your lungs and expanding your chest. You will be humbled by your own power to create life and wonder what the hell you were waiting for. When you see that child pulled into the world covered with sticky good and crying for the first time, you might, despite your disbelief in a god, see his face in the existence of your child.
April 28, 2008
Savor Every Popsicle
Oh people I am tired. I get the distinct feeling that I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. But it was a good one.
We vegged out on Friday evening but were both forced from bed early Saturday morning because our spawn seem to have inherited my annoying penchant for waking up before the sun has even thought of showing his face. We had breakfast, cleaned ourselves up and after the obligatory two hours it takes to get out of the house for the day, we went to Beth's parents' house. After hanging out for a little bit, Beth and I made a getaway. We went out for a nice lunch and a movie, pasta and Juno respectively. And yes, I realize Juno just came out on DVD but the only things that are allowed to live in our DVD player feature Elmo and the movie tickets were, like, four bucks each and the theater was manned by bitter high school students who could do nothing but poke fun at their teachers which was amusing as well and, for that matter, so was the movie so forgive us if we aren't exactly at the zenith of popular cinema. That said, here's a question - when did the "dollar theater" start costing four bucks? Seems like a rip-off. Anyway, we headed back to rescue Beth's parents and stuck around for dinner. Then we went home with two exhausted (one completely napless) children, got the kids to bed, passed out on the couch, and watched lame home-flipping shows which were at the top-end of our intellectual capacity.
One of the early risers (Mia) was back at it on Sunday. She and I got up, had breakfast then got dressed and headed back to the in-laws' house. Which isn't exactly close. Why, you ask? Because at some point the previous evening I'd inadvertently allowed Mia to walk off with my cell phone and I didn't manage to get it back before we'd left. Now, I'm not a huge cell-phone user because, frankly, I hate the phone - and all phones - to such an extent that I'm sure I sound moderately retarded when engaged in conversation on the phone but since I'm out of the office at different locations so damn much lately, my office phone is forwarded to my cell. I couldn't exactly leave it behind. So Mia and I drove the hour and a half round trip then hit Target on the way home (Gatorade, new sunglasses, a pair of jeans, diapers and flip-flops if you're curious).
Sunday afternoon brought the dreaded Bratz party I've mentioned a few times. I didn't go, thank the baby jesus. I'd have preferred to attempt to eat my own head. Mia, however, couldn't wait as she saw the moonbounce across the street as soon as she woke up from her nap. Mia was elated, Owen merely drooled and I suspect Beth cringed through the whole thing.
And now, here it is Monday morning. I'm supposed to be refreshed and invigorated but instead I'm merely trying to figure out exactly how uncomfortable I'd be if I crawled under my desk and pulled a Costanza. I'm thinking I could tolerate being pretty darn squished. That said, I give you this sage advice - savor every popsicle.
Haiku For Monday #215
I know this will come
as a shock to you. I need
fucking coffee now.
April 25, 2008
The Weeklies #33
The Weekly Contribution to Going Green. If I just become independently wealthy and stop going to work, think of all the pollution I'll stop generating.
The Weekly Strangest First Paragraph of a News Story I Read. "Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft." Note to self: Remove "Congo" from list of places to visit.
The Weekly Reads. In an effort to move through some of the books I've had on my "to read" shelf for a while, I picked up The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury. I read his novel The Black Brook a few years ago and it was excellent. This one, well, I'm not sure about. Don't get me wrong - it was wonderfully written. Despite being peddled as a comic masterpiece, I didn't really think it was all that funny. And I'm not sure that anything truly happened. It was less a novel and more a collection of glimpses into the life of a small town in the middle of nowhere. Strangely enough, parts and pieces of the story were heavily excerpted in The New Yorker a decade ago. So, it was good, yes, but didn't function well as a novel.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Hillary won Pennsylvania. This means we'll all be subjected to an even more protracted fight for the Democratic nomination. The more rocks they throw at each other, the more dented they'll be when one of them has to face off against McCain. I'm concerned.
The Weekly Observation. When one is standing at a urinal doing ones thing, there is never a good reason for ones pants to be around ones ankles.
The Weekly Hypothetical Question. A comet is hurtling towards earth and, in two months, will destroy everything. A special project has been established to send a probe into space containing five items that best represent mankind. What are they?
April 24, 2008
The Sky Is Falling
There are several things that, were they to occur, would surely signal the beginning of the apocalypse. As terrifying as these possibilities may be, imagine if you will...
...a Star Jones sex tape. I mean, can you imagine? Or a Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter ticket winning the Republican Presidential nominations and the presidency itself. We wouldn't even be safe in Canada. Of course, there's always the chance that Air Supply and Starship both get back together and tour the world on a double-bill. That could either be a sign of the apocalypse or cause it. Small Wonder could make an astonishing return to television. Lindsay Lohan could, well, stay sober and Britney could win the Mother Of The Year Award. Worst of all, The Chipmunks could cover the Beatles. Thankfully for mankind as we know it, none of these things have happened. Oh shit...
Okay, nobody panic. I doubt this is the end, but seriously? I realize this is a re-release but in many ways that's actually worse. Someone saw fit to ruin the contributions of rock royalty and, off the shelves for many years, someone even worse with no regard for mankind decided it needed to be out there again? This is a hate crime. But I guess I really can't talk. After all, I own some seriously bad shit.
What's your personal indicator that the end of times is near? And what's the most embarrassing thing you own?
April 23, 2008
You Ask, I Answer
Last week I asked you to ask me some questions. Some of you did. Without further ado (whatever the hell that is), here are my answers.
Okay, do all of these truly strange bathroom scenarios really happen, or are you just an story telling genius?
I'm a freak magnet. Sure, I may tweak a detail here and there and if there's a conversation involved, I'll give myself a funnier line which proves me to be wittier than I actually am but for good or ill all this crap happens to me. One day I'll learn to harness this power and use it for good. Or sell it. I could use the extra cash.
What is the funniest/most absurd thing that ever happened to you?
It's called life, my friends. Specifically, my life in bathrooms. Hey, that sounds like a great book title. One specific event stands out though. When I was in second or third grade, my mom and I were packing up the car getting ready for picking up the kids in our carpool. It was my birthday. My mom made cupcakes. From out of nowhere came a gigantic boxer (a dog not, say, Muhammad Ali) jumped in the backseat and sat squarely on the box of cupcakes. And it wouldn't move. For, like, an hour. Nothing we could do would move the dog which was, coincidentally, twice the size of my mother and I. Eventually, it left, the cupcakes were hopelessly screwed up and we went about our merry ways. I'm not sure that's overly ridiculous but it was slightly absurd.
And what day would be complete without talk of midgets, sex toys and the baby Jesus?
Don't forget seal clubbing. As one intrepid reader mentioned, I frequently forget the comedic value of clubbing baby seals.
So, are you writing a book? What's it called?
Writers Block: I'm Fucked. No, seriously, I'm not writing a book. I barely have time to breathe.
Do you ever regret yours and Beth's decision for her to stay at home?
No. Not one single bit. Sure, money's tighter than it was when we were both working but you can't quantify the benefits of having a mom at home with her kids. I realize there's great debate and differing opinions about day care. Everyone has to make the decisions that are right for them without fear of judgment. But I'm glad Beth is able to stay home because, personally, I wouldn't want it any other way.
What is the hardest thing that you've ever had to deal with and have you ever been brought close to the edge of doing something permanently disabling like, let's say, suicide?
I'm not sure I have a really good answer to this one. I'm lucky. I haven't had too many opportunities to face the kinds of adversity a lot of people have. Dealing with my own depression and anxiety issues were probably the hardest but even those pale in comparison to some of the hardships people endure.
Boxers or briefs?
Neither. Assless chaps.
What is your fascination with putting things on your head?
I have many fascinations with no apparent reason. Take for instance my never-ending quest to find Midgetville, Virginia, the 70's run of the series Love Boat and the band Journey. Some things can never be explained.
I really want to hear more about your vegetarianism (since I'm into that right now). Why? For how long? Is Mia vegetarian??
We've been vegetarians for a number of years. I forget exactly how many. Neither Beth nor I ever really enjoyed eating meat so one day we just decided we wouldn't. As for Mia, she hasn't ever consumed meat but it's not for lack of opportunity. She's free to eat meat or not. That's her call. I'm not going to impose our beliefs on her.
If two trains are traveling in opposite directions at 55 and 78 mph respectively, at what point will the Baby Jesus meet the crack-smoking midget hooker and lay hands on her/him to heal her/him of her/his genital herpes/sex change operation?
10:32 AM, December 12th in Flint, Michigan.
What do you believe to be the single greatest invention in history?
If you were in a sinking boat with sweet baby jesus, a midget and crack whore who would you sacrifice for your own life? And why?
Gotta be the crack whore. The midget's only issue is that it was short. That;s no reason to be condemned. And the baby jesus? Well, let's just say that I'm not 100% sure the whole religion thing is crap. I'd like to hedge my bets. Regardless that couldn't be good karma.
So you see, all you have to do is ask. Now whatcha got?
April 22, 2008
Get In My Belly...No, Wait
I am somewhat obsessed with two shows on TV - No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. In them, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern (respectively) travel around the world soaking up local cultures and eating everything in sight, presumably whatever happens to land in front of them. I'm not sure why I'm attracted to these shows though I am interested in both history and culture and nothing speaks to history and culture like food. This got me thinking about my own gastronomical adventures. One - that I've most likely recounted here in the distant past - sticks out. For obvious reasons.
When I was a kid, my parents and I flew to Europe, spent some time with friends in London and Paris then rented a car and drove through France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. So, we drove a lot and we also ate a lot. Europe is a wonderful place to eat. You can pretty much find a sidewalk cafe anywhere and get a decent meal. Except Chablis. You know, where they make the wine. The three of us - my parents and I - pulled into Chablis, found a nice little place, and ordered some lunch. My dad ordered ham. My mom and I ordered something else. It wasn't quite clear what. But it couldn't be bad, right? We should have picked up on the reaction we got from the waiter. We didn't.
Fifteen minutes later, my dad's ham arrived looking lovely while our whatevers showed up looking much less appetizing. The whatevers kind of looked like purple snakes that had been boiled for eight days. It was vaguely sausage-like, very purple with traces of green. It had clearly been an animal at some point but not recently. But being true troopers and possibly too stubborn to admit that what we'd ordered looked like roadkill and we'd sooner eat the tires of our rental car, we each tried a bite. We tried to chew while my dad looked at us and murmured "well, that sure doesn't look good." Thanks, Sherlock. Meanwhile, the whatever was clearly not good. And by not good I mean putrid. We gave up, summoned the waiter and in a curious mix of French and English we asked the waiter then the chef exactly what we'd attempted to consume.
Dick. Yeah, dick. Purple cabbage-stuffed dick. We'd been served and tried to consume a big 'ol pig penis. Turns out that the wang formerly attached to my dad's ham had accompanied it to our table. As it turns out, I'll never be a Bourdain or Zimmern. For one thing, I learned young that I don't like ingesting genitalia. For another, I don't even ingest animals anymore. But it sure is fun to watch.
I ask you - what's the strangest thing you've ever put in your mouth? And please don't say a foreign exchange student who recited Shakespeare's sonnets while pedaling around on a unicycle. That's more about you than I want to know.
April 21, 2008
I have this fairly random belief that everything I read is somehow inexplicably related to either some specific incident in reality or whatever it was I read previously. For example, I'll read something and find that one of the main characters' names was shared by a main character from the previous novel I read. Or, the stories revolve around the same town. Or, that, in the story, the characters were listening to Led Zeppelin and I had just listened to that same Zeppelin album the night before. Sometimes this link establishes itself 10 pages into a book. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred pages. But I'm always looking and it always happens. I choose to believe it's magic. Because magic has to exist. I don't want to believe in a world absent of magic.
On Friday, I was reading The End Of Vandalism. In it, one of the characters shoots and kills a great blue heron, a tall bird of unimaginable size that he stupidly mistakes for a duck. On Saturday morning while Mia and I were eating breakfast watching The Backyardigans, an immense shadow fell over the back yard. It was as though we were being invaded by aircraft intent on strafing the house. I suppose that was partially accurate. A giant blue heron landed, stood tall in our yard, looked around at us through the window and, thirty seconds later, took off. He returned briefly a half hour later then departed for good.
I happened to have a camera at arm's length. I got one, fairly bad shot. Bad because you can't tell how vast this creature was. But at least it's proof that it wasn't a hallucination.
So, I believe in magic. That belief was helped by the fact that Mia pooped last night. In a potty.
Do you believe in magic?
Haiku For Monday #214
Spring has sprung. Which begs
the question. How can I get
sprung from work? Like, now.
April 18, 2008
The Weeklies #32
The Weekly Contribution to Going Green. I'm about to trade my alarm clock and my lawnmower for a rooster and a goat, respectively. Neither work and I think the low-tech versions would be much more effective.
The Weekly Song. Courtesy of Mia - "My Owen lies over the ocean/My Owen lies over the sea/My Owen lies over the ocean/Oh bring back my Owen to me."
The Weekly Reads. So a porn star walks onto a movie set...no, this isn't a joke. It's actually the premise of one of the new Hard Case Crime novels. Hard Case releases both new and classic pulp mysteries. They're fantastic, light and a whole lot of fun to read. The newest - Money Shot by Christa Faust - is like Kill Bill with a backdrop of porn and not much martial arts and swords. A porn star, thought to have a hidden stash of cash, is left for dead but surprisingly, she bounces back. Not surprisingly, she's pissed and plots her revenge. Cheesy? Hell yeah. But the narrative is well written with a great, wry sense of humor. Definitely worth checking out.
The Weekly Music. You know what might actually be the genius album of the year? Panic! At The Disco's Pretty. Odd. Okay, so I realize I'm way out of their target demographic but when has that stopped me? Combine equal parts post-punk emo and mid-career Beatles and you've pretty much got Pretty.Odd. Sound cool? It is. It's catchy, funny, and smart.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Joe Simpson - you know, Jessica and Ashley's dad - is pushing the rights to Ashley's first baby pictures. He's trying to unload them for a cool $1 million. First problem, the baby's not around yet. Second problem, Ashley denies she's even pregnant. It must suck when you realize your father is a greedy tool.
The Weekly Observation. You guys feel pretty strongly about Bratz.
The Not So Hypothetical Question. Wasn't yesterday's Bratz issue enough? No, well, here's something to ponder. We're vegetarians and have been for, well, a long time. Why do we own a meat thermometer?
April 17, 2008
There's a girl in our neighborhood who Mia loves with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Anna - her name for the purposes of this post but not in real life - is five and Mia would follow her to the ends of the earth if it was requested of her. Later this month, Anna will turn six. Mia was invited to the party. The invitation was hand-delivered. I opened it. I was horrified. Beth was horrified. Mia was thrilled. The theme? A Bratz party.
If you don't know, Bratz are little pint-sized hookers-in-training. Their motto? "The only girls with a passion for fashion." Catchy, huh? If you visit their site (find it yourself - I'm not promoting this shit) you can browse their fine selection of inappropriate crap for kids. Baby Bratz, for instance, in which infant-sized hooker-babies are adorned with bikini tops and given hookeriffic names like Lilee and Vinessa (yes, I spelled those correctly). Then there are the regular Bratz - sassy prepubescent fashonistas with names like Yasmin, Cloe and Sasha each with their own eveningwear collections, some of which are more than slightly see-through with slits in their skirts up to their missing plastic hoo-has. If your kids want to model themselves after Britney, you can buy something from the Neon Pop Divaz collection; each comes outfitted with a miniature Gibson Les Paul, an even smaller skirt and a microphone. Yasmin also comes with bunny ears in the Spring Time collection. I can't think of a more obvious nod to Playboy. Once your little girl grows out of the Bratz phase, don't fret - Bratz Kidz are there, methadone-like, to ease any withdrawal pains that might surface. Better yet, Bratz Couture lets you dress your kids just like the Bratz and Bratz Home Decor lets you trick out your home just like a Bratz girl would.
Clearly, I have a few issues with Bratz. They objectify women. Sure, this isn't any worse than how society at large operates but they shrink that objectification into little girl-sized toys. And you know that from the moment kids realize there's something bigger, more adult out there, kids themselves want to be bigger and more adult. So these pieces of plastic crap not only objectify women and say exactly the wrong thing about what little girls should strive to be but they actively market these things to little girls with the visual equivalent of crack.
I can object all I want but it doesn't actually solve the $64,000 question - should Mia go? What would you do?
P.S. - In all likelihood, she'll go and have a great time partially because she's too young to understand just how wrong it is. I'm not that big an asshat killjoy. But what I'm trying to get at here, really, are your thoughts on our tendency as a society to emphasize and glamorize precisely the wrong things.
April 16, 2008
R-E-S-P-E-C-T (And A Close Encounter of the Papal Kind)
As many bathroom stories as I've shared with you, I've never adequately described the bathrooms at work in which I seem to have so many odd encounters. The bathrooms are large, fully automated - self-flushing toilets and urinals and automatic sinks - and made of gorgeous marble. This last detail is particularly important. You see, sound carries in marble bathrooms. It even carries from other marble bathrooms, particularly ladies' rooms next door.
Yesterday, I was sitting there in the bathroom doing my thing when I heard the loud click-clacking sounds of high-heeled footsteps walking into the ladies' room. Thank the holy trinity it wasn't the mens' room because that shit's happened before too and it wasn't pretty. More click-clacking followed by a stall door closing. What I heard next was a little surprising.
Ooooh! What you want
Baby, I got
Ooooh! What you need
Do you know I got it?
Ooooh! All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect when you come home
Just a little bit
Just a little bit
When you get home
(heel clicking) R-E-S-P-E-C-T! (heel clicking)
(heel clicking) Find out what it means to me (heel clicking)
(heel clicking) R-E-S-P-E-C-T (heel clicking)
(heel clicking) Take care, TCB (heel clicking)
- Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Even her worst songs (see Freeway of Love) deserve to be appreciated and performed outside a bathroom environment.
- Choruses of songs should never be punctuated by farting or any other spontaneous bodily emissions. Unless its actually part of the song as written by the artist. Even then it's questionable.
- Post-potty dancing - or any choreographed presentation or performance - is never appropriate no matter how relieved one feels afterwards.
- I seriously need to tie a knot in it and stay the hell away from the bathrooms at work.
To cap off my day, the Pope descended into town at just the right moment, snarling traffic everywhere. At least, I'm assuming he was somehow the mastermind behind the monster motorcade I ran into on my way out of town.
April 15, 2008
Hookers, Crack, Midgets and The Baby Jesus: The Perfect Storm
A couple of weeks back, I got an interesting question from a long-time reader. I'm not trying to out her. As a matter of fact, I wrote her back and asked if I could talk about this on my site. And I know that she asked the question out of curiosity, not to give me a hard time. Anyway, here's what she asked.
I've gathered that your religious preference is to not have one and I've kinda gathered that you do not believe in God and Jesus being the son of God etc etc etc (correct me if I'm wrong). I also remember you posting on how you hated going to a Baptist bible school growing up. So, here's the question. If you don't believe in the power of God or things happening in Jesus name (which I don't agree with, but totally respect your right to believe so), why would you "mock" (for lack of a better word) his name and use it in so much in your writings?
Good question, huh? Let me answer.
My sense of humor is based, in part, on being vaguely inappropriate. I'm a big fan of fart jokes too. There's an off-chance I stuck my tongue out at Beth during our wedding ceremony. When one of the Harry Potter books came out, Beth and I went to a bookstore at midnight and waited in line for its release. We spoke very loudly about how sorry we were that our nephew Timmy couldn't join us but that we hoped he recovered quickly from the savage lobster attack he'd been the victim of at a local seafood restaurant. In elevators I'll strike up conversations with willing participants about a made-up relatives' sex change or raging case of genital herpes all for the benefit of my fellow passengers. My days aren't complete unless I've made mention of crack in at least one meeting. And my blog fodder frequently involves midgets, hookers and the baby Jesus at odd moments.
My religious beliefs really have nothing to do with my sense of inappropriateness. I'm likely to offend each of you at some point. It's only a matter of time. Sure, I had a pretty crappy time as a kid in a religious school, but that doesn't compel me to blog about the baby Jesus any more than my childhood experience with crack-smoking midget hookers caused me to target other members of a diverse social strata. I say these things because they are - in my mind - funny. Funny because they are untrue, inaccurate or are just plain irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Funny because they have no place coming out of my mouth (or, in this case, fingers).
I'm a very open-minded guy. I appreciate people from all walks of life and faiths. People who have faith are people for whom I have a great amount of respect. People who face adversity - whether they're spiritually challenged, undersized in an oversized world or turn tricks for cash to pay the rent - every day deserve respect, more than I can give or take away with a simple, half-assed post written at 6:00 in the morning without the benefit of a cup, or pot, of coffee. More basic, it takes all kinds to make the world spin. How boring would the world be if everyone was the same? Me? I have faith in the enduring comedy of midgets, hookers and the baby Jesus.
So, you can see that I take reader mail seriously. Do you have something you're dying to know? Something you've always wondered? Well, just ask. Seriously. Now. You know you wanna.
April 14, 2008
How Cactus Got His Groove Back
Because it is Monday - the start of a new week and all that jazz - I do hereby solemnly swear to do my very best to shake off the meh attitude that held sway and tormented me the past few weeks. This will be made much easier by several developments over the weekend.
Development #1. Remember that professional certification I signed up for a few weeks ago? History. At least temporarily. I'm postponing it at least three or four months. It was pretty much the last thing I was prepared to handle right now.
Development #2. I started a little project over the weekend that actually required me to be creative. More on that later. But hey, I can still be creative. Who knew?!
Development #3. Mia got some test results back. They were positive. Positive in a good way. It means, I think, we can stop torturing her.
Development #4. I caught up on some photo editing. Some of the results are over on Flickr.
Development #5. I won the Master Bedroom Ceiling Fan Smackdown of '08. Sure, it took nearly two weeks, a crowbar, inhalation of drywall dust and insulation, brute force, electrical skill, and a rapid expansion in my daughter's vocabulary (sadly, in the battle, I believe she was exposed to some verbal shrapnel) but it was totally worth it. The original fan - which was last tolerable when Crockett and Tubbs were fighting crime in Miami - is in the trash and it's replacement is whirring gracefully above our heads. Sure, there's still some drywall work that needs to be done but cut me some slack. I won!
Development #6. I have an outrageously cute and awesome family. 'Nuff said.
Haiku For Monday #213
Missing: Two days. Named
Saturday and Sunday. Please
return. Cash reward.
April 11, 2008
The Weeklies #31
The Weekly Small Appliance Replacement. My alarm clock. Sadly, I didn't replace it with a vacant place on my night stand. Instead, I swapped out the old alarm clock which, when set to "buzz" doesn't buzz but plays country music and Pink Floyd songs at full volume, with a new alarm clock that actually does the buzzing thing quite well.
The Weekly Reads. Last week I read one novel by John Lescroart. This week I tackled another. Betrayal to be precise. The verdict? Meh. I liked the story - guy goes to fight in Iraq, gets tangled up with a bad contractor who screws with his life after the soldier gets injured and is presumed dead - but the construction of the story felt a little off to me. It's delivered sequentially in parts making the story seem very choppy. I don't know the solution but then I didn't pay myself $20 to write the book.
The Weekly Music. Last week I joked that REM's Accelerate was a masterpiece. I say joked because I hadn't yet listened to it. Turns out I wasn't too far off. This is honestly the first REM album I've truly enjoyed since Automatic For The People (which I maintain is one of the truly great albums of the 20th century). Accelerate is gritty, hard, full of insightful observations and music. Less original is Joe Satriani's Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock. One day back in the mid 80's I bought two albums that changed the way I look at music. The first was Led Zeppelin's Coda (admittedly the worst Zeppelin album to start out with) and the second was Joe Satriani's Surfing With the Alien. Satriani was one of the pioneers of guitar-driven hard rock. His output has remained steady but unfortunately, of late, there isn't much original about it any more. Pieces of this latest album feel like they could have been recorded back in the 80's while other parts of the album are just plain silly. Still, there are enough gems here to make me happy. And Satch's guitar playing is still top-notch.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. Did you see who one of McCain's leading contenders for the VP spot on his ticket is? Condi Rice. If that happens, and Old Man McCain actually wins, the volumes of schadenfreude that will be written will be written about us having to put up with The Bush Era Part III.
The Not So Hypothetical Question. China is hosting the Olympics. Since the Olympic flame began traveling around the world, it's been mobbed by protesters and, from time to time, extinguished. With its history of human rights violations and virtual imprisonment of Tibet, should China be allowed to host the Olympics? If so, should the Olympics be boycotted?
The Weekly Post Script. You rock. Thank you all for the kind words yesterday. I needed them and appreciated them.
April 10, 2008
Woe Is Me
I'm afraid I'm not myself lately. This has been a tough week and a half.
A while back, our family included Callie, one of our two cats. Callie was the sweetest animal I've ever known. She'd literally lick me to sleep. And she always purred. I don't mean she purred a lot of the time. I mean always. Later in life, she developed a kidney problem. We had to do some pretty terrible things to her that really probably weren't so terrible but they felt awful to Beth and I because we loved her and didn't want her to be miserable.
Now, I'm in no way comparing our kid to our cat but we're in kind of a similar situation here with Mia. And it sucks. Really sucks. Like, rip out your heart and stomp on it a few times then get a gigantic buffalo with an attitude problem to stomp on it for a while too and then, just for good measure, get the entire cast of Riverdance to do one of those Irish clogging jig things all over it for a few more minutes sucks. You get my drift. Going through that this past week and a half has really colored my view of the world.
Meanwhile, I'm just a little stressed about other stuff since, it seems, the universe has conspired to make April the single most stressful month in this history of time.
I get a lot of comments from you guys about the ways I spend my time or, more specifically, how I cram so much into so little time. I read, write, work, I'm a parent to two kids, I'm a husband (though I suspect a pretty miserable one lately)...the list goes on. I'm not sure how I do what I do. For a while, I even thought I was invincible. But every superhero has an arch-nemesis, every Chandler has a Janice, and every New York governor has a high-priced hooker. Me, well, I finally met my match. Time, it appears, has evened the score.
So, while I'm working through all of these things, I try to keep the good stuff in mind - my kids, my wife, a good job, great friends (you guys included, of course), the internet, anti-depressants, Starbucks, a home with electricity and running water, food on the table, home shopping, evening reruns of The Colbert Report because I'm not allowed to stay up late enough for the real thing, Skittles and the random goodness sprinkled throughout the world that gives me hope that this, too, shall pass.
Thanks for hanging out through the rough patches.
April 9, 2008
Goodbye Charlton Heston
I'm not a big fan of firearms. I get that in the right, properly trained hands they're marginally safer than a retarded monkey on meth with a bag full of live hand grenades. But how often are guns actually in the right, properly trained hands? I'm also growing more and more convinced that the Second Amendment contains either a spelling error or has been severely misinterpreted, and we've actually been led astray for the last 200+ years. Specifically, it reinforces "the right of the people to keep and bear arms". Now, everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson had a large collection of grizzly bear appendages. Perhaps it was his intent that we should all share his hobby and outfit our homes with similar collections of bear arms. Or the Founding Fathers just misspelled a very key word - bear instead of bare - in their furious attempt to rail against Merry Old England's disdain for short-sleeve t-shirts, particularly the ones with fake airbrushed boobies that Ben Franklin enjoyed wearing in the summer. Perhaps I'm wrong. But that doesn't change the fact that this country's love of guns is directly proportionate to the number of gun-related crimes perpetuated in this country each year.
Charlton Heston was a great actor and, in many ways, a pretty great guy. He was originally a fairly liberal democrat (what happened??) who was often the loudest and sometimes only voice in Hollywood against racism. He was Moses, Ben-Hur, Mark Anthony, battled damn dirty apes and discovered the truth behind Soylent Green. But I'll always remember his as the senile voice of the NRA telling those with concerns about gun control that they'd only get his gun if they pried it from his cold dead hands.
So what I want to know is, has anyone taken him up on that or are they burying him with the damn thing?
Without further ado, a tribute.
Untitled from rudecactus on Vimeo.
April 7, 2008
My parents came over for dinner on Sunday evening. They're prepping to redo another room in their house (they seem to have an endless supply of rooms that need to be redone) and stumbled across assorted buts of my life they thought I'd like to have. Report cards from elementary and junior high schools which were surprisingly good (except math), much high school transcript, letters of recommendation for my first job - those kinds of things. While it was all vaguely interesting in a This Is Your Life sort of way, one thing stuck out. A letter. I'm sure I'd seen it before but I have no recollection of it. It was addressed to me and my parents. I've redacted a few of the more personally-identifiable things but it's otherwise represented below as written.
October 19, 1984
Dear [mom's name], [dad's name], and Chris,
It will be quite a while before I am able to show you how much I have appreciated your company over the last few years. That is because I do not know how to express it even in words.
Each of you has one person or thing to lay to rest. For you, Mr. [last name], it's [business associate] and any corrupt fat cats you find down there. For you Mrs. [last name], it's the legacy during the changing of the guard to where my mother is on top. For you, Chris, it is a new grade with new material and new teachers.
But for me it's the uncertainties of the future. I do not have a complete understanding of my role in the future; I only know that there is indeed a role for me. I know that I can count on your encouragement and support at all times while I am feeling the future out.
By the way, I regret that I am unable to share with you my art history report. I have not yet gotten it back yet but it should not be lower than a B. I'm personally hoping for an F myself (note the sarcasm).
You will always be my friends.
A month and a half later, Steven loaded a shotgun, shut himself in his parents' room and killed himself.
I've written about Steven before. Steven was autistic, insanely bright and wonderfully talented. Given a choice, he would have simply told jokes - in that nasally voice and somewhat disconnected gaze he had - all day long. His autism was very much a part of who he was yet he managed to transcend it, to avoid being defined by it. He attended one of the most prestigious high schools in the state of Texas yet it was his success and the need to keep up with life's unrelenting pace that, we think, drove him to take his own life. He was born unlike the rest of us yet assimilated into the world so successfully that he was eventually crushed by its pressure.
Steven's death affected me. I was a kid. I'm not sure how it couldn't. The fact that he did it the day after my birthday didn't help. I learned early that taking your own lives takes little pieces of life away from everyone else you know. Opening and reading the letter, I was reminded that Steven was a person, not a concept cobbled together from memories over the past 24 years.
Revisiting Steven's death through the lens of the letter doesn't clarify or change anything. I'm not sure what triggered the letter but it does seem to come from a kid who's conflicted. Concern about legacy yet hope for an uncertain future. A future that was, in his case, a month and a half long. He'd be 42 years old if he'd lived. He might be a father. He'd definitely be telling jokes. But he probably wouldn't have the complete understanding of his role in the future he mentioned. None of us do.
The Dangers of Peeing Standing Up
This weekend was a smidge underwhelming. This was largely due to the work-week stress I carried over into the weekend. Turns out I've got a lot of stress. Which explains the tightness in my shoulders. I need a massage. That's beside the point. Anyway, I had a marginally shitty attitude part of the weekend. This bubbled up when a) the lawnmower broke and b) I installed the second ceiling fan in as many weeks. I still haven't resolved the lawnmower issue (I'm thinking fuel pump) but the ceiling fan is up despite the terrible placement of a ceiling joist.
There was this one thing that contributed to the overall weekend suckage (not that the weekend was a loss, but still...). It involves my daughter. Because she is a little person who will one day grow up to read, blame her parents for everything, and feel truly embarrassed by her father, I shall not mention this thing here. Suffice it to say there were several things we had to do this weekend - in the interest of her health and well-being - that were excruciating for all of us. But it could have been worse. I could have peed on her head. I came close.
Mia has this habit of accompanying me into the bathroom. Like most men, I pee standing up. Like most little girls, she likes to crawl between adults' legs. These two activities should never be combined. She now know this. I have conveniently diagrammed the issue below.
The resulting move I pulled off was something Fred Astaire never dreamed of. It involved yelping "no", swinging one leg back over Mia's head while doing my best to, uh, stem nature's tide, so to speak. I nearly fell ass over teakettle into the shower but it worked. Somehow. But it was a near thing.
So that was my weekend - a bad mood, stress, a ceiling fan, a broken down mower, the unmentionable, and nearly peeing on my kid's head. That said, it turned out pretty well. Although I could use another couple days. I might be coming down with something...wink wink, nudge, nudge.
Haiku For Monday #212
I'd like another
weekend, a shot of booze and
a nice long nap, please.
April 4, 2008
The Weeklies #30
The Weekly Stupidest Thing I Did. Ran into a curb, threw a couple of hubcaps and destroyed a wheel.
The Weekly Cost Of The Stupidest Thing I Did. $265.32
The Weekly New Thing I Started Doing. Twittering.
The Weekly Reads. I managed to power through the 500 pages John Lescroart typed up and called The Suspect. It's the second book I've read by him and my first impression stands - he's good. This isn't particularly intellectual stuff but it's entertaining.
The Weekly Fake Record Review Of An Album I Bought But Haven't Yet Listened To. REM's Accelerate is a masterpiece. Who'd have thought that adding a full-time accordionist to the band (Monkey Flung Poo's Jason Valeri) and guest stints from local Athens, Georgia high school marching bands would be so incredibly successful. I'll admit - I was a little concerned by this new direction coupled with the band's choice to cover 1980's hair metal anthems but those fears were unfounded. The results are nothing short of fantastic. Michael Stipe and company power through classics by Ratt, The Scorpions, Skid Row and Stryper with blindingly brilliant results. Peter Buck's guitar work is gritty and Valeri's electric accordion solos are the stuff of legend.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. It's been a weird week. Jerry Seinfeld rolled a car (he's fine). Bobby Brown claimed that it was Whitney who got him hitting the crack pipe (though, as you'll recall, she believed crack to be whack). And Naomi Campbell was arrested yesterday for spitting on a cop. This is one incident in a long string of Campbell's anger management problems. Chick needs to land in prison and become someone's bitch.
The Weekly Hypothetical Question. You are wrongly accused of a serious crime. Given the opportunity, do you flee, living a life on the run while seeking to prove your innocence? Or do you turn yourself in and let justice run its course?
April 3, 2008
Don't Wanna (Or, The Tale of the Reluctant Professional)
I was sitting in a room full of professional people, all around my age in the same industry as mine, and we were talking about our jobs and, more specifically, our futures in those jobs. The general consensus was that no one knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. That was interesting to me. And somewhat heartening because I have no clue either.
[For instance, things I would like to be when I grow up: writer, musician, photographer, teacher, secret agent, beach bum, George Clooney.]
But those are all pie-in-the-sky (whatever the hell that phrase means) types of things which generally require a period of starvation and struggle before they're realized. And I firmly subscribe to The Wing Walker's Rule of Career Management - don't take one foot off a wing until the other is firmly planted.
To better myself, enrich my career and make myself more marketable, I did something last year I swore I would never do again - studied for and got a professional certification. I hated the process with every fiber of my being. See, I wasn't a fan of school. I didn't like sitting in classes and I especially loathed having things like papers and - worse - tests hanging over my head. I lived for a month railing against my own high standards for myself combined with an ever-present fear of failure. Of course, it all worked out - I got the certification and, as I mentioned, vowed to avoid putting myself in that position ever again.
Beth always tells me that I don't listen to her but apparently I don't listen to myself either. Later this month, I'll be taking a week-long training class to get me prepared for what? Another certification test. What the hell was I thinking?
Anyway, that leads me to a question for you - what do you do that you hate and how do you get through it? And how bad a sign is it that when I ordered the exam prep book online last night, Amazon helpfully informed me that I should also be interested in There Will Be Blood? That can't be good, right?
April 2, 2008
Funkadelic (You Stole My Socks Uh-huh Uh-huh)
I've been in a funk. The weather's sucked, work has sucked and my attitude has sucked along with the rest of the suckage. It's been a big old suck fest in my head the last couple of days. I'm sure this has been reflected in my lackluster posts the past couple of days. But finally yesterday the clouds parted - literally and metaphorically - and the suck blew away. So to speak. It was helped by the fact that last night was just so flat-out silly, I couldn't help but laugh.
The evening started out innocently enough. With a conversation about Jesus.
Mia: Why are you clapping? (I don't recall why I was clapping.)
Me: I'm clapping for Jesus.
(Mia leaves the room - thank god.)
Beth: What are you talking about?
Me: Clapping. For Jesus. When his applause-o-meter hits a high point, it's common knowledge that he makes something good happen to us down here.
Me: Those $600 checks everyone's getting from the government? That's because of the clapping. Different colored Peeps at Easter? Clapping for the J-man.
Beth: You weren't really going to tell Mia that were you?
Me: She's got to hear the truth from someone.
Immediately after this, Beth and I came up with the crime fighting team of private investigators Cracker & Cracker. Their slogan? They're White, They Fight! The less said about that the better.
To cap it all off, the first shot was fired in The Great Sibling Conflict of 2008. Admittedly it was only a minor skirmish but it was the first of what I expect to be many battles. Mia stole Owen's socks. While he was wearing them.
She hipped us to this fact in the most obvious of ways - running around the kitchen holding Owen's socks yelling "I stole Owen's socks! I stole Owen's socks!" All this went down while Beth was talking to her mom, currently visiting family in California, while strains from bagpipes suddenly drifted through the windows we'd flung open earlier in celebration of the warm, sunny weather. And before you ask, yes, I said bagpipes and no, I have no idea.
It took me some time to get this funk out of my head. I hope I didn't drag you guys down with me. The internet's been a little quiet this week so I'm guessing I'm not alone. I ask you all - what's gotten you funked up lately and how did you get out of it?
April 1, 2008
I Think I'll Move To Australia*
Yesterday sucked. I felt like Alexander, he of the terrible horrible no good very bad day fame.
I woke up late because who the hell wants to get out of bed at 5:30 on a cold rainy Monday morning anyway? Then I got dressed, headed to work and had, well, an incident getting there. If you've ever driven in DC, you know that the majority of the city's curbs are up to a foot high in spots, made of granite or marble or something else really hard (what do I look like, a freaking geologist?) and, unlike most curbs, completely square. I was swerving to get out of someone's way when I clipped a curb with my two right tires. Oh, who the fuck am I kidding? I wasn't swerving. There was no other car close to me. I was tired and was paying no attention to where I was going. I threw one hubcap between two pedestrians walking side-by-side (score!), cracked another and severely dented a rim. I made to the parking garage, left my wounded car to sulk, my tires to surely deflate, while I went on my somewhat less than merry way to work.
And then there was the work day itself. Which sucked. I got stuck in an elevator, assaulted by two ruffians on the way to grab some lunch, was told I was being transferred to Tibet, broke three copiers and - inexplicably - 27 pencils, got my butt stuck in a toilet seat in the men's room and had to yell for help, got a speeding ticket on the way home and found out that my house was built on the site of both an indian burial ground and an underground cement vault once used to store nuclear waste. Okay, none of that actually happened but writing out all the stuff that didn't happen sure made me feel better about the damn car thing.
I'm working from home today due to the fact that I don't have a car. I'm waiting for the VW dealership to call and tell me how much I'll have to fork over for my little navigational error. I'm guessing it will cost me the monetary equivalent of my left nut. Do you think they'll let me sell a testicle on EBay?
* April fools...but really, I considered it.