Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

A couple of posts ago, I lamented the use of the workday labels in a totally uncreative Buffalo Wild Wings commercial. Yesterday, I discovered that someone from the Buffalo Wild Wings Corporation was looking at my blog.

I'm going to lock my door lest the Wild Wings Mafia tries to get me disappeared (Though I can't imagine them effective in their mission since most of them will be arriving, dressed their Texas A & M Jerseys, off a Five-hour pub crawl.)

I know that most people don't care for grey days like today. I love them. Perhaps its my pale blue-ish skin, or child-of-the-night nature, but I really cannot stand the Sun. Sure, I get that we need its heat to sustain life on this planet. I understand that without its gravity we would just be a dead pebble hurtling through space. Thank you, Sun. Thank you for all you give.

Now quit bugging me. You get in my eyes and keep me from seeing. You burn my skin. You make me squint. You are unrelenting. Your heat stifles me and you smell like newly paved blacktop. Go away.

The Sun, in his ever jovial oblivion, wearing Abercrombie and Fitch cut offs and a polo shirt, slaps me on the back and says, "Whatever you say, cutie." He jogs off, gleeful and smiling. I know he'll be back. I roll my eyes and chuckle. "Cutie...whatever."

The grey days remind me that my favorite time of year is on the horizon. Fall. I love Fall.

Today's song gives me the same delighted warmth inside that the promise of Fall gives. It was introduced to me by a woman, L., who I was directing in an improv show a couple of years ago.

I have known her for quite a long time, and have admired her improv, but never had the chance to work with her directly. Over the course of the rehearsals she would give me the occasional ride home and I came to look forward to that time between us.

L. is the sort of person who experiences wonder in the world, and that is truly a rare gift. Most of us cage the expression of wonder for fear of reprisal. She is not one of those insufferable "happy all the time" sorts who make the rest of us feel like trolls for not getting it together (I think those are the ones who snap and go on some kind of cathartic spree. You can only swallow so much bile.). L. is just one of those souls who can express awe with open eyes. It is a pleasure to know her.

The first word that comes to mind when I hear her name is "Delight."

On one ride home she played Feist's "Mushaboom" off of the Let it Die album. I went home and promptly purchased it on ye olde iTunes. Whenever I listen to this song, I think of L. In my mind I have choreographed a whole dance with her in it, full of big papier mache flowers and stage snow. Maybe one day I'll get to stage it, whaddaya say L.?

The video is very similar to that, with the dancing. I guess it just inspires that kind of twitterpated boogie.

Tuesday is half over yo! We can make it! We can make it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ode to the Bus Driver Fetish Dominatrix

If it is late at night, or I have to be someplace in a hurry, I will most definitely accept a ride in your plush hatchback if you make the offer. On any other occasion, however, I will opt for the CTA.

(My relationship with the CTA -Chicago Transit Authority- is a long and complicated affair full of rage, despair, blame, and periodic redemption. The CTA has at turns inspired me, ripped me off, saved my ass, and openly taunted me. I love it. I loathe it. If I go on about public transportation any more, my light little piece will turn into a sermon, revealing the the full and ugly blossom of my obsession. In the end, all 9 of my readers will disappear. "Yeah, it was fun for a while...but then she just got weird.")

Some have taken offense to my preference, citing the long rides or the olfactory Russian roulette as evidence that I don't care for their company. This isn't true.

The bus or the train are the best places in the city to watch people, to look out over Chicago, to flesh out ideas, to come to terms with the day. It's not always quite so Zen as all that. I have worked myself into a major froth over 30 minutes of a bus not showing up, only to have three arrive in quick succession. I have sat in a fury of huffing and head shaking while the ubiquitous voice sounds over the loud speaker "Your attention please. We are standing momentarily waiting for signal clearance. We regret any for any inconvenience."

"No, you don't...liars." I snarl under my breath, as if exhibiting my displeasure is going to get those workers off the tracks any faster.

Of the CTA operators, the bus drivers have the worst of it. On the train, there is no direct contact with the driver. He or she is in a tiny compartment up front. There is no way to communicate with them, unless one presses that red button back in the train cars (that button like a beautiful, red candy apple you can't touch. WHY PUT IT THERE IF I CAN'T PRESS IT? WHY DO YOU TORTURE ME CTA? ).

Bus drivers are right there with you. They say hello in the morning (or not), they call out riders for failure to pay (shouting to overcome the throbbing house music in their iPods). They've heard it all ("I THOUGHT I refilled my card this month." "Oh, no I don't have exact change"). They bear the brunt of our collective rage when traffic is bad...or they just pull up to a stop and sit, for what appears to be NO REASON. (Discovering that this occurrence is indeed a scheduling issue makes it much easier to endure, though I still grit my teeth and mutter to the gods when it happens.) The homeless swear at them, careless yuppies snub them. They are the ombudsmen for the world as we step up, our troubles in tow and swipe our cards.

I have some respect for these ladies and fellows. It takes a special type of person to be a bus driver.

The other day, I happened to get on to the Irving Park X80 (the bus my sister and I refer to as the XBox.) The vehicle itself was waiting at the intersection of Irving and Broadway - the route's origin point from east to west - its doors open and only a few passengers inside. The driver's seat was empty...they must have gone on break. I swiped my card and sat in the best seat on the bus: next to the window by the steps. Through the window, I saw her moseying towards us.

Back when I was little, living in a rural part of the country, the bus was never a part of my routine. Children's books, however, showed us a world where the bus driver was an integral part of daily living - like the Milk Man, the Fire Man or the Police Man. The four were usually featured together, four pillars of the community, all white, smiling and clean cut. I figured these guys were best friends, or better yet, brothers. Living in the city has disabused me of this notion, for better and worse. Better because I am happy to see that all bus drivers are not just white men. Worse because often times, there is no ear to ear grin from the picture books...quite the opposite.

But on this day, the woman approaching the bus was far above and beyond any bus driver preconception I have ever known. Any stereotypes I have are now blown.

Dressed in her uniform, she wore it like she was in her military dress formals, strutting towards us , all business. Her keys jangled as she walked, dangling from a long silver chain that stretched from her belt to her back pocket. Her leather gloved hands brushed aside her curly eggplant hued hair. She was a big woman, not obese. Big. Tall. Easily six feet. Her boots pounded up the steps and she eased herself into her seat, slamming the doors and pressing the gas. This woman loved her job and was every inch made for it.

I think each passenger on the bus tinkled a little when she got on.

Sometimes in life, you are able to witness a person, so completely and unashamedly themselves, it is inspiring. The world has provided this giant beautiful brute of a woman the opportunity to be herself and she has accepted it.

May each and every one of us find a day when we can be so completely ourselves as was this Bus Driver. Thank God for the CTA.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Aliens Think of Our Party Habits

I don't know about you, but when I go out for a drink or two, I usually throw on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt and meet up with friends at a nearby watering hole. It's probably a dive with Boston on the jukebox and a ripped up pool table with two 9 balls. We haven't been able to smoke in bars in Chicago for a couple of years now, but the lingering odor of old second hand tar coats the air you breathe, mingling with smells of spilled, evaporated beer and urinal cakes. If we're lucky, there's karaoke and some poor bastard has opted to show us his heart by mangling Queensryche. I'll probably have about eight Vodka-and-something drinks. By night's end I will become a different person with my unashamed dance to Bon Jovi...and not "good" Bon Jovi, like Wanted or Livin' on a Prayer. I mean, It's my Life or Have a Nice Day Soccer Mom Bon Jovi. I'll even talk about how great it is that "he's still doing it, right?...making music...Good for him...It IS my life, know what I mean?" The evening will end with a precarious walk home, impulses to make ill-advised phone calls, heavy breathing as I make repeated attempts to unlock the door and a final gasp as I fall on the bed, into the quicksand of a dreamless sleep.

My night out for a drink has never looked a thing like this:

So, first of all, what the F is Disaronno? From my internet research it appears to some sort of almond liqueur but, as many liqueurs do, it looks like Robitussin. I have never tried it and am a little put off my the description of a "warm and sensual taste". Yee. There are many things that are warm and sensual, most of them I do not want in drink form.

I have yet to meet anyone who would call it their drink of choice.

However, this group of BFFs must have hit the jackpot by finding the one sepia toned bar in town that that ONLY sells Disaronno. There are a few unlabeled bottles scattered hither dither, but dang if the whole back shelf isn't lined from stem to stern with the those rectangular decanters. What a find!

And who ARE these people? Is it just me, or do they all possess a strange a-sexual extra-terrestrial innocence? There is the implication of sexuality, with the ice coming to the woman's lips, but the bartender's smile back at her reads like "Oh, neato, you can fit that clear water crystal into your face pocket." If we were to see these people stripped naked, I would be surprised to discover navels, genitals or hair.

And why are they laughing at the end? What is funny to replicants? Nothing. They watched a film strip on social rituals and saw that people bare their teeth and convulse when while experiencing pleasure in groups.

Alien Androids, before coming down to our planet to colonize, are very conscious of blending in, taking on our common social habits. So, they watched Less Than Zero and Bad Influence. This is what they came up with.

Again, the players in this ad don't have a visceral reaction to anything, merely curious observation. The two bartenders do their perfect cocktail dance and serve up two glasses of motor oil. What's this? She takes them both? What's going on? One person only gets one drink at a time! ONE DRINK AT A TIME. THAT'S WHAT THE MOTHERSHIP SAYS. Where is she going with TWO DRINKS?

Oh, wait. There are two females.

In an instance that should, I assume, come across as a guy moment ("Dude, awesome, we BOTH get one.") the two men look at each other and nod. I seriously doubt that either man is thinking of having sex with either woman. Or each other, for that matter. They are thinking, "Oh...she took the other drink for her identical twin. That makes sense."

This is what happens when Base 10 Mechas compute comedic irony.

Finally, moving away from the android aspect:

Lonely? Drink Disaronno by yourself, lick an envelope and send it, empty, to some guy. I don't believe I'm alone in thinking this to be unhealthy behavior. If I got that envelope in the mail, I'd put it in a plastic bag and take to my local precinct.

These commercials don't really make me angry, so much as bewildered. Who are these people selling to? It's certainly not me...or anyone I know. I have yet to encounter a bar or restaurant that stocks Disaronno, let alone displays it in bulk on its shelves. Where are they getting the money to produce these ads?

Must be the European market.

Or unbalanced ladies living in unfurnished garrots with a full bottle and envelopes.

Or Robot Aliens.

Thrift Store Life Moment

(Doesn't the title of this post sound like the name of your best friend's older brother's Emo band?)

People really do have prodigious, life changing altercations in public.

One of the most common film staples is the Public Fracas, designed to show the audience a character's commitment the situation. How will anyone know you mean what you say unless it is in front of the highest possible number of people - like at a wedding or at the mall? Movies promote this odd little fib about human behavior: a gush of music, the He and She at the center of the story yelping at each other like howler monkeys, one of them cries, the other caves. Popcorn, popcorn, munch, munch.

Of course, none of that is real. Movies are not built to show us what's real. They might show us a human Truth (capital "T" and that which is common to all men and women, tra la, tra la), but not real. Even the films with a kitchen sink so true you can smell the Palmolive and coffee grounds around the basin, can never be the genuine article.

During our clammy adolescence, when most of us are doughy half-formed mutants just trying to get laid, movies (and TV, it should go without saying) provide a kind of instructional video for how to behave among others - how to win love, how to fight for love, how to break up. I have had more than my share of "suited for celluloid" moments - I wish I could say they all took place before the age of 27 - and at first glance they give the impression of authenticity - REAL feelings, REAL passion. But, after several of these scenes come and go, they ring hollow, like reciting some tired users manual from a 70's electric can opener. It's an act. It's an act until we learn how to do it on our own, and in a way that is less manufactured.

It's a little silly, now, to announce, with the same chest swollen pride of discovering the New World, that movies do not show us how we really ought to act around one another. It's evident, plain as the nose on my face. But how often have we unconsciously allowed film or TV (or internet...since we're making forward progress here) nudge us this way or that, towards a way of communicating? It doesn't have to be some public event, what about in private? It's happened to me plenty of times.

Once I made this observation about film and TV, I simply assumed that participants in these all-access skirmishes were just big fakers, imagining themselves on camera, drumming up some big emotions because it's the only way "They know they're alive, man." I figured it was a myth.

And there's always the portentious, "Until..."

I do a lot of costume shopping in thrift stores. I pull out my little list an go on a massive scavenger hunt for cowboy hats and the perfect white suit. Feelings are mixed going into one of the many Village Discounts (for which the initials V.D. have a grim relevance) or Unique's scattered across the city. I am there to complete an artistic notion. Most of the other people are there to find clothes and goods at a price they can afford (excluding the hipsters who are looking for the ironic "Six Flags Fright Fest '97" tee shirt). I am a tourist, out for the ugliest pink decalled sweatshirt I lay hands on.

The biggest crowds are on the days before school begins, when mothers are loading up on white shirts required of boys and girls in some area schools. $1.00 is a pretty good price to pay for such a thing. On Half Price day (Mondays) it is the Law of the Jungle, everyone scanning the aisles for what they need, snatching it up before anyone else can see, ramming their carts down narrow pathways. It is not friendly. I will normally choose a Tuesday (suck) or Wednesday to complete my errands. I would rather pay the full $3.65 for a pair of pants in relative tranquility, than fight the mobs for $1.82.

Over the past few weeks I made the trip to the Unique on Sheridan. I have spent a considerable amount of time in this place, combing through ripped jeans and unexplained combo sacks of mismatched barbie parts and garlic presses (These items were found in the same grab bag.).

While comparing one tie covered in ambiguous stains with another, I heard a ruckus from behind me:

SHE: Why don't you just get away from me -

HE: I will not get aw- what the hell is you're problem? Fuckin' tell me to get away from you - I don't HAVE to-

SHE: Don't you get close to me - I can tell where you've been!

HE: What? What does that mean?


These two were in the throes, and I mean, in it deep. I believe, from the vapors rising off of them and wafting up my nose, they had been drinking...and early in the day. I tried to get a good look at her face. Her eyes were pink and her nose was red tipped. She carried with her a pile of jeans and a copper bottomed pot. He followed behind, stumbling up on her back. His shirt had splotches of Pepsi brown around the hem of his faded t-shirt.

They trudged up the aisles.

SHE: Don't touch me, don't TOUCH me! You can go cry to her for all I give a shit!

HE: I never touch- I never touched her...you don't even know what happened. (Passing me) excuse me, I'm sorry...

They continued for the whole time I was there, their resentments and condemnations rising with each turned corner. I could glimpse bits and pieces, even from the Ladies section.




She shoved him away from her. He recovered and got back up in her face.

The response from both customers and employees was uncomfortable silence. The workers glanced at each other with an "I'm not going near this and you can't make me" shrug. Finally the manager approached them and told them to leave. They looked at him, almost uniting against a common threat, but the unity was short lived. She threw the pile of clothes and appliances she carried to the floor and the two exited, screaming at each other, escalating the shoving match.

There was nothing fake about this (though the accelerant of alcohol may have fed the outburst). The two were in their own world, shackled together, in an intense and private moment.

This must have been an isolated incident.


In the weeks since, I have been to this Unique several times and one two separate occasions, two DIFFERENT couples have walked the aisles in fervent discussion over the uncertain future of their relationships. Must be something in the water over there.

There is some classism in my story. In these instances, when I have witnessed these tirades, the HE and the SHE are, strictly from my assumption, probably on the lower end of the economic spectrum, and have resided there for some time. Does that make the fight any less real or less valid? In general, I can shrug off outbursts I see on the streets, from my cozy bubble, as the product of low economic status and "they just don't know any better."

These feelings exist regardless of socio-economic status. When I encounter it in the real world, I want to turn away, but as unpredictable as those emotions are (and sometimes as frightening as the people expressing them can appear), there is a swirl of them inside...sometimes canned up inside the heart or the mind.

That's why I watch, or prick up my ears. It's why I pay to see movies that show some dressed up middle class version of it, even with the swell of music and the popcorn munch.

And probably why, on occasion, I have participated in my own public flare ups...I probably will again someday. Anyone want to join me at Unique this weekend?

Any takers?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This is directly from the Lunesta medical information:

After taking LUNESTA, you may get up out of bed while not
being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know
you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember
that you did anything during the night. You have a higher
chance for doing these activities if you drink alcohol or take other
medicines that make you sleepy with LUNESTA. Reported activities
• driving a car (“sleep-driving”)
• making and eating food
• talking on the phone
• having sex
• sleep-walking

What about leaving comments on your own blog?

This morning I saw that I had responded to B. on yesterday's post and the time stamp is around 11:00pm.

I have no recollection of this. AT ALL.

I remember taking the Lunesta.

I remember looking at a few things online.

I remember waking up this morning.


At least it there was some relative coherence.

This calls into question so many things.


Am I even myself RIGHT NOW?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Holy cow.

This morning, I typed the words "Tuesday is the Worst Day of the Week" into Google. What came back was a tide of commentary from writers all around the world, announcing that Tuesday is indeed the worst day and, in many cases, for the exact reasons I stated in my earlier post.

I'm not so much bothered by this (like, "Damn, here I thought I was bein' all arch and original.") as I am intrigued. These posts existed before I wrote mine and, plenty more will rise up, I'm sure. But, until this moment, I had never heard of them. These people are unknown to me and yet we share the same thought and articulate it in nearly the exact same way.

It's possible we're all responding to some pop culture touchstone, like the movie "Office Space". Still, the consistencies in how other people think are heartening, the logic or associations they take to arrive at a conclusion. Makes me feel like less of an alien.

Just don't sell that shit out to an ad company. THEY KNOW TOO MUCH ABOUT US ALREADY.

Moods, good or bad, can very easily overtake me. I wish a good mood had more power to sustain itself. As I have told past students, it is easy to play or write a character that is sad or gloomy - those feelings have a gravity that can be nigh on inescapable - but happiness or jubilation are very delicate. In a blink, they can be destroyed.

(It is possible for despair to be crushed in a heartbeat but, in my experience, I have found that Sorrow and his gang of miscreants tend to have a stronger zero-to-sixty capacity in their monster truck than Serenity has in its horse drawn buggy.)

I have come across songs that, no matter the day I'm having, no matter the real or imagined failings, or missed connections, I can hear them and I'm nearly giddy.

It's especially great when I hear them by accident.

The other day I was heading into town, in kind of an irritated stupor, listening to the radio. "I'm Gonna Be" by The Proclaimers came on. My terrible mood vaporized.

It's a crappy Tuesday. Apparently most of us think it is. May The Proclaimers make it less so.

(Seriously, is there ANYONE more Scottish than they?)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is the Mind a symbol for the Ocean's unconscious?

A few nights ago, I dreamed I landed on the moon, like Buzz Aldrin, in a house shaped spaceship. At the front of the house was a giant picture window and I gazed out over the grey sand and rock, my heart beating like a jackhammer inside my chest. "How did I get THIS job?" I thought, certain that at any moment HAL 9000 was going to jettison me into the void. (This - from the picture 2001 - is, to me, the most terrifying death scene ever)

Then, as all dreams do, the scene made a whiplash change. I turned from the window and all these kids ('round 21 or 22 years old) were standing in the house in bathing suits. I looked back out the picture window to discover we were at the beach. "Oh. Okay."

I wonder, am I nervous about launching, unprepared, into the great Unknown? Huh. I NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT.

Whenever I have dreams that consist of very easily determined symbols, I feel a little gypped. Don't misunderstand - the utter rush of seeing, with my own mind's eye, the cold expanse of space is at once terrible and beautiful. But I want to slap my brain's pink little face for not being more creative about how to show my conscious self the Unknown.

Isn't it time we updated our cultural symbols for the unmapped outer-reaches of ourselves, or are they always going to be the same? Since man could conceive of metaphor, the forest or the ocean, or space have been used to depict the unconscious mind or The Great Beyond.

Why not? They make sense. Back in the old days, if anyone ventured out to sea, there was a good chance they would be killed by sea monsters or marauding pirates. Those who returned from nautical disasters came back haunted, lingering by the sea shore. The forest was populated by wood sprites or "the man in black". Better to stay out in the open than to risk possible bewitchment and burning at the stake.

And who knows what's in outer space - Aliens, God, or, worst of all, creatures just like us?

When I dream, I want the symbols I see to have a little mystery to them or, if nothing else, a little oddity. What if the Unknown came in the form of Alphabet Soup, or Wikipedia? Feeling anxious? Oh, look, a dolphin is driving you to work. Excited about an upcoming event? Presenting ceiling-high stacks of Hanes underwear. Secretly in love? Here is a cup of Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt.

But please, Brain, don't show up with tired flash cards that show me the ocean and tell me I have issues with the unknown. Tell me something I don't already know.

PS: I get the absurdity of scolding my brain to tell me something I don't know. We'll get to duality later.

PPS: I had another dream the other night about an event and I want to see if it was a premonition. I don't want to say it out loud for fear it will jinx it. I'll tell you the moment it either happens or doesn't.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I don't care if it's directed by Michel Gondry

In lieu of my ad rant this week, I figured I'd post a less articulated gut reaction I have to a commercial that aired a few years ago. It's for Levi's and you can't get it on YouTube...you have to click on the link HERE.

Here is my reaction then...and now:


(Sobs, passes out.)

I would be a terrible mother

It's Ad rant day. Normally I get up pretty early and start perusing the yootoobs for TV commercials to send me over the edge, but this morning I overslept a bit, having a close call with a migraine last night.

At 8am, my sister tapped on the door.

"Is J. staying here with you this morning?"

I let out a low uncertain moan, and then remembered that I had volunteered to watch J. so my sister could run a couple of errands.

"Uuuuuuummmmm, yeah..."

"Are you okay?"

"Uuuuuuummmmm, yeah..."

She walked away, and I could see J.'s diapered shadow in the doorway.

So, it's been J. and me this morning. Poor kid, enduring Aunt -j-j- and her shuffling, rheumy attempts at sitting on the baby.

For the most part we've had a lovely time...or at least he has, talking with the Beatles. There was one moment of distress over the Woody doll "slapping" him on the arm. At least, I think that's what happened. Really, all I could make out from J. was a sense of pain and blame directed at Woody.

After a few moments of relative calm, I heard his voice from the kitchen.

"Dg-Dg (-j-j-)? Dg-Dg??"

I looked up from my computer to see J. idling by the fridge.

"What do you want, baby?"

He pointed to the fridge.

It is important to point out that this kid does not like to eat. One is lucky to get so much as three frozen peas and a two mostocioli noodles down his gullet, and this is after a good hour of the airplane-coming-into-the-hanger-singing-and-dancing-please-kid-just-eat-ONE-fucking-bite business.

So when he points to the fridge, I say "How High?"

I headed to the kitchen and stood before him. "What is it, baby? Do you want something?"




"Cheese? Okay." I open the fridge. I know what he wants. He want that brick of Parmesan cheese he was taking surreptitious bites out of during dinner two nights ago (He would leave the table and return, moments later, from the kitchen, chewing. Later we discovered his tell tale one-tooth bite marks all over yellow brick of cheese.). We are out of that cheese.

"Well, sweetheart...here's what we got." I pulled four different bags of shredded cheese, 2 Cheddar, 1 Parmesan, 1 Mozzarella. I lay them out on the floor before him. "You get to choose one." I hold up a finger. "Only one."

He squats and surveys the embarrassment of cheese before him. J. points to the cheddar.



"Are you sure?" (I ask this because I have fallen in to this super galactic freak out trap before, where a choice has been made, but the child did not understand fully the finality of that choice. Always best to make certain.)


The unwanted cheeses go back into the fridge. I open up the cheddar and dump some in a bowl. J. grabs a spoon from the clean dishes in the dishwasher.

So now, we are sitting together at the dining room table, while J. shoves spoon fulls of shredded cheese into his mouth, many of the orange pieces sticking to his chest and legs.

(Looking over)

Ah....now we have foregone the spoon and are just pouring the cheese into our mouths direct from the bowl.

On the scale of harmful things I could let J. eat (with Oatmeal being a 1 and CLR being a 10), I'd say a bowl of shredded cheese hits about a 1.5 . Still, I'm not doing any interviews with Chicago Parent anytime soon.

If you want me to babysit your kids, my going rate is $15/hr. I'll bring my own cheese.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. While walking home the other day, I looked down and happened to notice the outline of a dragonfly that had been pressed into the concrete. It wasn't a drawing, but an actual impression. Because the cement was the smooth, uniform sort - not the kind that is filled with gravel- the detail of this tiny fossil was incredible, right down to the veins laced through the wings. It must have flown into the concrete while it was still very wet, minutes after the workers were done.

I speculate a lot about the consciousness of beings who aren't human. It's not so much that I think every creature on the planet has fully formed thoughts and feelings, but for those beings with enough brain/nervous system formation to move legs or flap wings, I'm curious what is swirling around in there. Anything? A mish-mash of light and color? Hunger? A series of unnamed impulses and then blackness?

What's that like?

One of my abundant cockamamie theories, is that the higher the level of an entity's consciousness, the faster its experience of time. For instance, remember when we were children and an hour seemed interminable and a month away was a lifetime? Adults would say things like, "I can't believe how fast the time goes!" and I thought they were nuts. Of course, as I've grown older, my experience and my consciousness has increased, and I can understand what they meant. Days pass with a increasing speed, one dove-tailing into the next, until, lo and behold a year has passed. What just happened?

I wonder how long a second felt to that dragonfly.

2. Three of my favorite words:


Use them in a sentence today!

3. We gave those Yellow Submarine action figures to my nephew R. and I'll be durned if J. hasn't commandeered the lot. Much of his play consists of George saying "Hello" to Ringo, Ringo saying "Yello Submeen" to George (This goes back and forth for a while and then one or both of them is cast, with great force, to the floor.) and then the two of them go looking for Paul, who is usually in the TV room. John has vanished, I think he's broken.

All we need is GI Joe carrying a copy of Catcher in the Rye and we have a decent Beatles docu-drama.

4. "cloth of emotions built together with the days of our little refusals"

These were the search words that lead a visitor from Greece to my blog.

Isn't it funny how Beauty shows up dressed in the tackiest clothes ever, but it doesn't matter?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Personal Announcements...

as translated by Babelfish.

Nearly every cubicle farm resident who has access to the internet (and a greyish supervisor who doesn't care what you do as long as he doesn't have to deal with it.), has played the Babelfish game of translating innocuous phrases back and forth from English to some other language and back again. For instance, let us take the lyrics to the Pussycat Dolls immortal song "Buttons*":

I'm tellin' you to loosen up my buttons babe (Uh huh)
But you keep frontin' (Uh)
Sayin' what you gon' do to me (Uh huh)
But I aint see nothin' (Uh)

(Indeed, one for the ages)

Japanese back into English:

As for me what which is made I who have gone in order for my button to become loose lovely on the person, uh-huh you continue to face the proverb of Uh, Uh,
but, what I aint as for, Uh-huh means that you do not see


German back into English:

I explain to you that around itself my groping baby to solve up, for
Uh huh however you hold to confront, Uh Saying which you going me to
do, Uh huh, but I aint nothing, Uh-huh to see

The gobbeldygook that comes back is the result of word for word translation. Babelfish (or any other online translation program) doesn't take meaning or idioms into account, it just looks at the individual words and makes its best guess. It's especially great if there is no correlating word between the two languages...like, as you can see, "ain't".

After, playing this game for a while, an overall cultural tone emerges or, at least, what the tone is to Babelfish. When I type stuff to be translated into Japanese, what comes back almost always has words like "splendid", "glorious", or "proverb". In German, I get "explain" or "solve". (Though, "groping" gave me pause...as if to insinuate that this stereotypically regimented and precise people are latent sex fiends.)

Russian comes across as almost Chekovian:

I speak you so that it would let go upward in my opinion babe buttons,
huh Uh but you hold it resisted, statement you going you delay to
me, huh Uh Uh but aint I not
Suddenly, everything is filled with cold longing for the spirit to break free its Earthly bonds of work and loneliness: "I speak you that it would let go upward".

(I, of course, wonder if this isn't my own twee ignorance of other cultures showing itself...like Russia is populated with poor little Uncle Vanyas who just can't seem to get their shit together.)

So, to keep everyone abreast of the artistic goings on in my life, I thought I'd make the announcement more interesting by taking the exuberant mass email, sending it over to Siberia for a little gloom, and posting it here (For the original English, check the comments):

Hi each!

It is distressed for email mass, but me ask 4 to delay it is
followed, and this wakes the lightest road it obtained word from.

it is the project of neytrina
(the instant kinoiy)

Reveals tonight! on ComedySportz
Nights of the environment of runs on 8pm 17 - GO September - 19 - GO
tickets during November $10


it closes this spending the night Friday!

This Friday on 10pm
Ha Playground
(they sold from the last weekend; therefore you will receive there predydushche.)

Interruption Chicago Is spoken:

"you will recall that advertisement ' 90s where little-one it runs downward from the enumeration beverages in his refrigerator: We do obtain the certain oj, purple substance, sunny enjoyment "? Recalls Kerpatty confident spot, also, as countless other souvenirs from our collective it flapped -.kul6tury after; its transmission Grafitti it is investigated those treasures in the silliest. Shake ' boogie robots em of nose em ', then fight; The songs of girl of spice obtain a cappella the processing, man desperately searches for a certain "purple substance." Thus far gen-X- X and - Yers is obtained giddy with nostalgia, rest can it enraptured on comedy Dwyer's pat unflappable of physical. By its impression of squirrel there wake real operation, minus rabies."

Hope you can it made it!

* I want to make clear that "Buttons" appears nowhere on my iPod.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

A few days ago I was driving my sister's car and taking advantage of the time to listen to the radio.

(Listening to the radio is neat. As much as I enjoy the control I have over what I listen to via CD's or my iPod, there is nothing like driving and listening to an FM station, when suddenly a song you forgot all about, a song you once loved, plays. It's rare anymore, but it makes my day when it happens.

Of course, the commercials I could do without.)

There was a break in the music and I forgot to change the channel right away. Over the airwaves and into my ears came a commercial for Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants. Its some tired, god awful premise - hipster sounding dude talking on phone to a bored secretary, who, I would guess, wants nothing of his monkey shines, but for reasons unknown to the listening world, she doesn't hang up.

I guess there is some special happening now at Buffalo Wild Wings called "Boneless Thursdays" (which sounds like a guarantee that the fellas will be going home alone that night - insert uninspired rimshot). The gist of the commercial is that because these Thursdays are so great, they should start the weekend on Thursdays. The Dude, then proceeds to go through the days of the week with the secretary talking about which days are which (Humpday, Tuesdays suck, etc.) I was sourly reminded of my post about How Tuesdays are the worst day of the week.

I'm positive that plenty people besides myself have offered some commentary about what the days of the week mean. But it's a little deflating when the shadow of a thought you had is reflected in an lame advertisement.

Tuesday is the day when part of the collective unconscious sells out.

(Sigh, moving on)

My friend S. gave me a mix CD several months before he left for 'Nam. I've known S. for fifteen years and, though I have only met a very few true iconoclasts in my life, he is easily among them. Somehow, through the din of hype and mixed signals we get from the from dawn to way past dusk and on into our sleep, S. has managed to hear his own voice and follow his unique calling. For that, he is one of my heroes.

If I had a brother, I'd want him to be S.

The CD he gave me was not a casual listen and took me a while to get through the entire thing. Sometimes, I just wasn't ready to hear the songs (Which, I believe, is the truth when it comes to CDs and books given as gifts. When the time is right - and that time may never come - the recipient will read the words or hear the music and all the ideas and feelings you hoped would reach them will. In that instance, patience is a virtue.).

Today's song was one of those. I put it in rotation on my iPod and, at first, I'd skip it when it came on. Then, probably when I wasn't thinking about it, I let the whole thing pay through.

I have an affinity for songs about those among us who are alienated, outsiders pressing their noses up against the glass to see inside, their own breath fogging the window and distorting the view. Ever since I was little and heard SuperTramp's Logical Song (which scared the living crap out of my 6-year-old soul), music expressing that intense amount of loneliness or obsession or loss of some intangible thing, sticks to my ribs. For Real by Okkervil River is just one such a song.

Enjoy...or, well, not.

(I stalled on watching the video to this because I've entertained the idea of using it in an opening sequence in a play or short film. But I was missing out. It's a beautiful, sad and strange little film...just how I like all my entertainment.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I will slay you with my kindness (and then feast on your heart)

Some friends and I went to see a movie this weekend and, because of the crowds, we had a minor kuffufle with saving seats.

The saving of seats is a tricky business, fending off an increasingly disgruntled pack of ticket holders - their frustration levels rising in direct proportion to the countdown before the lights dim. They approach, pointing to the guarded seat:

"Anyone sitting there?"

"Yes...they are." I touch the items I have laid out to signify that a warm body is indeed sitting next to me.

(When holding a seat for a friend, most people will just stick their backpack or jacket on the seat next to them. I say this is inadequate. Anyone with a modicum of deductive reasoning can see that it is you and you alone who are taking up two or more seats....and in the back of their mind they are thinking "Well, your friend's not HERE. I'm Here. My Date's here. What if your so called friend doesn't show? Are you SURE they're coming?" If I am waiting on someone who has yet to arrive, I like to arrange a few belongings on the seat next to me to make it appear as though my guest has just stepped away to the bathroom or to pick up some popcorn. A backpack and a scarf and a jacket. A jacket and an umbrella and the Border's shopping bag. Tell a story about your friend with the items you place. You will get fewer looks of disdain.

And yes. I am fully aware of my obsessive nature, thank you for asking.)

The patron eyes the seat, sniffs in my direction and discusses his findings with his companion(s). His discontent is plain and he has no problem showing me that I am the source. Then, within moments his companion spies an opportunity elsewhere and they scurry towards it.

Rewind, repeat. The entire exchange takes about 20 seconds.

If you arrive early and your entire party is with you, you don't have to suffer this ritual. You can sit in your comfy-right-in-the-middle/front-area-that-has-the-bar-if-you-are-in-stadium-seating-so-you-can-prop-your-feet-up seats and watch with godlike pity as the poor late mortals have to beg strangers to sit together.

Needless to say, our party was not in god-seat position. We weren't late, but had missed the initial surge of humanity through the doors at 6:15. We found ourselves closer to the front and and more towards the aisle than I think any of us would've liked, but our place wasn't terrible.

One of us was running behind (which is not surprising considering the rain/flooding. I was shocked she made it at all.) and so, the four of us saved a seat at the end. (Saving one seat is really nothing. Saving five is untenable and you should consider getting a new set of friends if this is requested of you) We placed a few belongings on the seat.

As the room filled, we were asked over and over if the seat was taken. The answer was yes. My resolve was solid. Then came a phone call from our friend that there was a chance she might not make it. My certainty wavered a bit.

Then, a biggish, pulpy, angry looking fellow stomped over. He pointed.

"Is someone sitting here?"

I hesitated. "Um..."

"Is. SOMEONE. Sitting. Here."

The sudden and disproportionate anger with which he said this took me aback and I muttered, "Yeah.. I think..."

The fellow sitting next to me, P., leaned over and with a little force said. "Yes. Yes. The one on the end, no one is sitting there. But this one. THIS ONE is taken."

The man bristled at P.'s tone.

"OKAY then." and he skulked up one step...where he and his partner sat right behind us.


The minutes dragged on. I could hear the man behind us griping about how he wanted to sit on the END. Finally, the lights dimmed and I was sure our girl in the field would not make it. In the darkness, a couple came up and the woman leaned in, pointing to the array of personal belongings.

"Is this seat taken?"

I conferred with P. At this point all bets were off. I didn't think she was coming.

"No...uh...go ahead." I removed the stuff.

I could almost feel the steam shooting out of the man's ears. In a hot whisper he said. "I THOUGH NO ONE WAS SITTING THERE."

To be honest, I kinda felt bad. But not that bad. After our initial contact, I was certain, that I didn't want to sit next to him. I turned around and in a quiet, gentle whisper I said:

"Sir, I apologize. I thought our friend was coming and I don't think she is. I apologize."

I turned around...pleased that I had taken the high road on this one, and secure in the fact that what I had said was sincere. Then it came.

"Yeah (Snort) right."

It was the snort that did it. I spun around and in a stern half whisper/half yell I said:


I held my gaze at him for a second. He looked away.

This whole exchange really took me off guard. I'm not one to snap at people, and I felt kind of like a dick afterwards.

The whole incident (if you can call it that) seems to be part growing sense of anguish, this idea that other people are merely out to get you...or worse, here to ignore you.

I get aggravated at what appears to be a willful thoughtlessness, the Decartes-ish "If I don't look at you, you don't exist." I have my own outbursts, when I feel marginalized on whatever level. But this lumpy man's anger, his instant rage at what occurred between us, I believe, springs from a real sense of hopelessness and isolation. "Why not turn on her? She's got plenty of friends and I have nothing, no one listens to me, and I'll never have anything, my job sucks, I feel lonely and unattractive, and stupid and CAN'T I JUST HAVE THE SEAT I WANT AT THE GODDAM MOVIES?!?"

What turns this kind of thinking into a a lump of cancer, is that it can only find expression in the small gaskets of public life. In line at Walgreen's, at the Movies...the pressure builds and regardless of the situation, it sprays out, like someone shook up a Coke.

At the end of the day, is that satisfying? More and more it looks like we're so terrified of expressing or being the recipient of negative emotion that it gets bottled up, and then you get the itching sensation that no matter what you do, other people are never going to cut you a break, nor to they care. And in some instances, this might be true. The amazing thing is how people respond when you DO say something.

I find myself, more and more unable to ignore other people. If someone is crying out for a response, I am more apt to give it to them, for good or ill. And, much to my surprise, it is a strange sort of release. I kinda feel like a dick (like with this guy.), but at least I said something...right there, in the moment, instead of bottling it up, packing it down inside me until it turns into a gall stone the size of a walnut.

I'm not advocating telling the world off. You will get dead if you do that. But an actual sincere response, right at the time of the event, relieves just the tiniest bit of pressure.

I still hope I didn't hurt that guy's feelings.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Secret Pleasures

Below is a list of food items I like, but am hesitant to confess for fear I will be judged unfairly. I harbor a suspicion that many others like these things, too, and keep it hidden, believing ridicule is certain:

Beef Jerky
Pork Rinds
Dill Pickles
Nut Covered Wine Cheese Balls
Grape Juice
Cottage Cheese
Green Giant Mushrooms
Hubba Bubba
Taco Bell Bean Burritos
French Onion Dip

There are other non-food articles I enjoy (like Enya or Ben Affleck) that I usually choose not to share. It's intriguing how one or two fumbles in taste can mar an otherwise respectable palate and suddenly the entire spectrum of one's opinion is suspect.

-j-j- really thought There Will Be Blood was great.

Yeah, but she likes Hall & Oats.

Oh...right. Nevermind...

I'm certainly not suggesting that I don't have my level of snooty when it comes to other people's preferences. Many's the time I have let fly an ungraceful snort at the mention of "Will & Grace". However, I don't think it's possible to confine ones tastes to the "finer" things. There's gotta be a little pork rind in there somewhere.

(I have a gadget on this blog that tells me how people got here. Mostly, it says "unknown", but on occasion it tells me what search words brought a reader to my neck of the digital woods. Looking at the title of this entry - and the mention of Nut Covered Wine Cheese Balls- I'm certain I will get confused visitors lead here by Google searches that contain the words "Pleasure", "Balls" and "Cheese".

The other day, I noticed a search consisting of "Amateur", "Free", "Sex" and "Tube". I can only hope they were sorely disappointed.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Would you eat me? I'd eat me.

In Julian Baggini's book The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, he poses 100 short philosophical experiments, sort of like 2 minute mysteries written by Plato. In one of them, the experiment that shares the title of the book, Baggini invokes a moment from Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in which Max Berger is about to eat a plate of sausages and bacon:

"The sausages and bacon had come from a pig called Priscilla he had met the week before. The pig had been genetically engineered to be able to speak and, more importantly, to want to be eaten. Ending up on a human's table was Priscilla's lifetime ambition and she woke up on the day of her slaughter with a keen sense of anticipation. She had told all this to Max just before rushing off to the comfortable and humane slaughterhouse. Having heard her story, Max thought it would be disrespectful not to eat her."
At then end of all this Baggini offers questions over the morality of engineering such an animal, and, finally, eating it. If the animal is kept in a respectful and humane environment, and is delivered unto death in a peaceful and non-violent fashion, is there any reason to abstain from such a meal?

I will admit that I do have some strong misgivings over how the animals we eat are treated. I am also troubled by the basic notion that "If it don't have human consciousness, who gives a shit?" Just because an animal can't speak and express the same ideas about Being and Time that we can, doesn't mean that a certain other awareness doesn't exist.

All that said, I'm not a vegetarian. I eat meat on a regular basis. But I would not eat Priscilla the pig because I DO NOT WANT MY FOOD TALKING TO ME.

I do not want my food anthropomorphized on ANY LEVEL. I don't want it talking to me, telling me how delicious it is, I don't want it trying to seduce me into eating it, I don't want to see it getting dressed in little clothes and hoppity-skippity cheering as it heads full of glee to the apocalypse in my mouth.

I want it to be food. That's all. Food.

So why, OH WHY, do advertising companies want to show us images of food, talking, singing, dancing or any manner of human activities?? Why do they think its appetizing? WHY ARE THEY TRYING TO POISON MY MIND WITH THE IDEA THAT THE VERY FOOD I'M EATING MAY BE EXPERIENCING PAIN OF DEATH IN MY MOUTH AS I CHEW IT TO BITS AND THEN DISSOLVE IT IN THE ACIDS OF MY STOMACH (Oh, god, what if a piece of still-conscious being gets down my esophagus and into the gas chamber of my stomach...those creaks and growls from your belly? Those are screams.)


Great Scott.

Tell me this: Would we be in a rage to buy and eat McDonald's pressed chicken blobs if, at the end of this commercial, Ronald McDonald snatched up one of those little guys and took a big wet bite out of its ass? How quickly would the scene of cheering chicken dollops turn into a screaming frenzy as the GIANT CLOWN GOES ON RAMPAGE SCOOPING THEM UP, DUNKING THEM FACE FIRST INTO THE BBQ SAUCE AND SNARFING THEM DOWN. Would we stand for this slaughter of innocents?

Because they are, aren't they? Innocents? Foolishly weaving baskets and taking every pun literally, dunking THEMSELVES in a sauce of sugar and salt? Does McDonald's even realize that they are reinforcing PETA's principle that meat is indeed murder?

Oh, my god...someone call the police.

The saddest part about this is that the Cookie doesn't even know why he's there at first. He was invited, sure, but I bet he figured he was there to enjoy the birthday party.

I wonder if the children have been stalking him for months, waiting for just right moment. Jesus, is it even really her birthday?

And then, like a scene out of The Lottery, the children lean in with an ominous hunger, as the Cookie understands his fate. They cut before any real violence begins...but I wonder if he tries to make a break for it. If he is capable of understanding that the end is nigh, would he plead for his life? This has the makings of a telling societal allegory.

Ok...it's pretty funny.

But it doesn't make me want to eat the candy...it makes me want to befriend it. I don't want to be friends with my food. I WANT TO EAT IT.

The other disturbing thought about this commercial is, if you replace the M&M with a human, you have and unsettling allusion to Englishman William Hall who, in 1982 committed suicide by drilling 8 holes in his head.

Morbid? Oh, sure, but so are the advertising companies for setting up scenarios in which the ineluctable end consists of killing of a sentient being for our dining pleasure. Even in this last, arguably funny candy commercial, the implication stands that our little balding green friend could feel pain or even die...otherwise why NOT drill some ear holes for crying out loud?

The food we eat these days is such a quagmire. There is no end to the tangled web of moral, ethical, political and/or Health issues associated with what we put in our mouths on a daily basis. And I am very open to discussing these issues.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. On the bus, no matter who is wearing them, sunglasses judge you. They could be sitting on the face of a 93 year old gramma type, a coiffed emo kid, or that guy in acid washed denim cargo pants and a Brian Adams tee shirt. It doesn't matter.

The Ray Ban knock offs can see right through you. Stand and be counted.

2. I have insomnia. Struggling with sleep has been par for the course for most of my life. (And so has torturing those around me who seem to be content in their slumber. There is some quirk or social defect inside my brain that wants to disrupt them. "HOW CAN YOU HAVE PEACE?!" Growing up, most of my provocation was directed at my sister. A couple of times she was abruptly awakened to my drawing on her back with her big pink cherry lip gloss, or little -j-j- grabbing her then long hair like a mane, screaming "Heeyah!")

For the past few weeks I have been dabbling with Lunesta and the giant glowing moth it brings to sit on my chest. I also tried Ambien a couple of times.

The main difference I experienced between the two is that with Ambien, it is still conceivable to remain awake, sort of (Hence the possible driving, eating, gambling, sexing, doing stand-up, that may be a side effect of the drug.). With Lunesta, there is no question. You are going to sleep.

When I use Lunesta, I often wake up posed in the same position in which I, presumably, fell asleep. Passed out is more like it. The light is still on, the book I intended to read is still close to my hand. My pajama bottoms have one leg in, one leg out. I'm in the living room.

At least I got my eight hours, I suppose.

But I don't dig using sleeping pills. I never have. I feel groggy the next day, like my head is watter logged.

The sleep itself is strange, too, as if a large person is sitting on top of me while I slumber, holding my eyes closed. Or maybe that's the big green moth...I wonder if that's how they came up with the ad campaign. Focus groups marked the consistent observation that it felt as though something, or someone, was sitting on them as they slept. A Luna Moth must have been the least threatening option. No one wants a giant sandman looking fairy sitting on their chest while they try to get some shuteye.

3. How dangerous? Bangkok Dangerous.

4. Awesome thing my four-year-old nephew said this week:

"I want you to THINK about it, instead of randomly saying 'No.'" - in reference to his mother's refusal to let him watch a video.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I am sort of troubled by the fact that I didn't make any mention of September 11th - the DAY, The Anniversary - in my post.

I can't imagine it's a healthy thing to maintain a consistent level of grief or outrage over something that happened eight years ago. The molten lava of sadness or anger changes temperature over time, cooling and solidifying into a new landscape, until you barely notice it ever happened.

I suppose it's that way for a lot of things.

I remember a friend of mine, C., who said that for the first time that day, and in the following weeks, she felt a sense of hope for the country. Like she was a part of this Nation, rather than just living on its soil. She felt proud of our citizens and their efforts to help, and, though it was awful (particularly for those who lost someone in the crashes), we, without pointing fingers or shouting schoolyard insults, had managed to unify ourselves across party, color, and gender lines.

It's a shame that THAT's what it took.

She also mentioned her fear that this was just a result of all the dust that got kicked up, and soon we would revert to our old ways, and forget sharing our commonalities rather than blaring our differences.

Oh, well. Sorry, C. I don't think you need me to tell you that you were right.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run off to the September 11th Fire Sale at JC Penny.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Price of Choice

Is there anything more fundamentally dreary than a Blockbuster Video? Or really ANY video rental establishment?

Until the advent of cable, once we saw a movie in the theater there was a very good chance that we'd never see that movie again. One night, whisked away to another place, another life, another story, and the second the last credit rolled, that was it. Sure, we could fork over another two bucks for one more peek, but when it reached its final showing, that was the end. Absent of special screenings, or the odd network television event, the film would find its watery resting place in our memory banks, eroding with time.

I begged my mom to see E.T. three times in the theater, (And that's a lot for a second grader - even enduring that terrifying encounter with E.T. in the corn patch), positive I would never see it again. Every time The Wizard of Oz got a TV broadcast, it was like a holiday in our house. We would make cherry turnovers to commemorate the Ruby Slippers, I would sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (in the off key way eight-year-olds do, loudly groping for a semblance of tempo), and I would clutch tight the Tin Man doll my Mom made me for my birthday. Each moment Dorothy tripped across the screen became more valuable with belief that THIS WAS IT. The end was really The End. Who knows when CBS or NBC or whoever could sell enough ad space to put it out there again?

Then came cable, and bully for us! We could watch Romancing the Stone 14 times in the month of October! 17 viewings of Little Miss Marker starring Walter Matthau! If we stayed up late enough, and tippy-toed down those damn noisy iron stairs (careful not to step too hard on the third step...) at 2am, we could sneak a sexually confusing view of some Swedish soft core porn titled I lust och nöd. (In these instances it was necessary to do some covert research in the back of TV Guide. The most titillating late night movie descriptions HAD to contain the words "Nudity" and "Strong Sexual Content" and have earned only one star out of four, if they were going to be worth their forbidden salt.)

Unfortunately, the honeymoon with cable ended fairly quickly. There was no control. What if I wanted to watch The Muppet Movie or Poltergeist? Even though I felt compelled to watch Romancing the Stone all of the 14 times it aired, it's not as if I really wanted to. (I still can recite, VER-BA-TIM, most of the script for that effin' movie. It's a scar for which I will never forgive my younger self. Bad movie dialog stains the mind like Ragu on your favorite pants.)

Where was my freedom of choice?

The first movie we ever rented for my parents' Panasonic VHS top-loader (which they still own and is fully operational, thank you very much.) was The Neverending Story. I was TOTALLY befuddled by what was happening. Sure, audio cassettes had been around for a while and what is a VHS tape but an extension of the same idea? But...really? We can watch this over and over again? Whenever we want? Are you fucking KIDDING me?

I remember the long ago days when the very suggestion of renting a movie inspired heady excitement. Renting a movie was part of a special night, probably a Friday or Saturday, or a sleepover. We'd drive to the local video store, spend a good half hour at least, glancing from title to title, reading every description, (also, of course, perusing the mysterious, but NO ONE UNDER 18 COULD RENT, Faces of Death parts 1-7), searching for the one...that ONE movie that just felt right.

What mood am I in? Rosemary's Baby? Sex, Lies and Videotape? A Room with a View? Ordinary People? The Dark Crystal? How daring will I look to the girls at my slumber party if I rent Fright Night? The world was at our feet.

These days, it's different.

With Netflix we can get whatever we want delivered right to our doors (Overcoming the stigma of video mail rental as only something pervs do - as they scoop up shrouded brown paper packages tossed on their doorsteps by an unnerved mail carrier.). On Demand gives us films by the boatload without the tedious business of having to put a DVD in any sort of player machine, and sometimes even as the picture is still in theaters.

Walking into a Blockbuster is like walking into Flint, Michigan after GM shut down the plant. The aisles are nearly deserted. Employees look empty eyed and confused, condemned to a shift of straightening askew cases and vaguely gesturing to the Drama section when someone asks for Nanny McPhee.

The scene is just as bleak, if not more so, at the Mom and Pop stores. Try to resist as they might, loyal regulars succumb to the buzzing call of convenience.

I miss the specialness of renting a movie. Hell, I miss the specialness of GOING to a movie in the theater. It's a funny thing to look back and think "I miss the days...", especially when I never thought I'd be such a fogey.

I suppose it is a good thing to have so many choices. It's what we want, right, to have, in some small regard, control over our diversions? It is so easy to be diverted these days. I have only to turn on the television, or type something into my computer and there it is! Within seconds, I can watch almost anything I want in the whole world, from across the globe, from across my memory. My satisfaction is instantaneous. So why am I getting damp in the eyeballs over the clunky old method of renting a friggin' VHS tape?

One of my favorite Shakespearean monologues is from Henry IV, Part I. In it, Prince Hal says:

If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.

I long for the rare accident. The special night that is prepared for and anticipated, to sit and be engrossed in a movie...instead of a wading through a swamp of options until the very idea of watching a picture is a bore and then giving up altogether. A night of socked feet, popped popcorn and peanut butter cups.

Maybe soon I'll have a pajama party and rent a VHS copy of The Lost Boys.

Christ, The Lost Boys? There's a rare accident.

*R. don't think that just 'cause I had to take a rain check on our Transformers viewing that I forgot. You can't escape that easily.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

It is beautiful outside.

At a crisp fifty degrees, the sky is clear and cerulean. It's too early in the season for any of the trees to begin their color shift from green to orange or yellow, so their leaves are still varying shades of emerald or lime. The world looks a little unreal with sharp ultra-saturated colors, in the brisk September air.

What could possibly be wrong with a magical and inviting day like today?

Oh, yeah. It's Tuesday.

Didn't get that report done by 5pm yesterday? That's fine! Monday doesn't care. Monday is tired and sympathetic to its working comrades. Tuesday, however, could not POSSIBLY give less of a shit how exhausted or disillusioned you are by your artistic prospects, that report needs to be done by 9:05, and I don't mean PM, you lazy sad sack.

(Tuesday strides away, huffing, a beeper clipped to the braided belt on his navy Dockers)

Jesus, did you see how totally shitty Tuesday was?

I know, right? That guys needs to get laid.


(Big sarcastic sip of coffee)

So to make to day a little less a tyranny of idle tasks, here is your Song For a Crappy Tuesday.

Since high School I have loved Billy Bragg. My love began modestly with Back to Basics and blossomed with The Internationale. I don't always follow every album that he releases, but his earnest politics and songs of failed or troubled romance still touch my nerdy heart.

"Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" falls into that rarefied category of songs that, no matter what mood I'm in, make me indescribably happy. It starts out pretty slow, but the build is truly worth it. This song makes me want to dance.

NOTE: Billy Bragg tends toward the kind of liberalism they used to refer to back in the day as "Commie". If your company is skittish about the revolution to come, you might want to turn down the volume or plug in your headphones. Or, if you are so inclined, cast off your prosaic busy work, jack up the volume and scream "Sic Semper Tyrannis!" while standing astride your particle board partitions. Either way.

I'm sure I'll be on some list for my socialist leanings. But, to invoke the old saying, "I'd rather be Red (inside) than Dead (inside)."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Three Shorts on a Sunday

(The following thoughts may or may not be revisited later...I just thought I'd get 'em out there.)

1. I have a program on my computer called Stumble Upon. (If you are not familiar with this program, I will not offer you a link on how to get it. I won't be responsible for the absolute decimation of your work productivity. If you want this massive time-suck on your computer, go find it yourself. Those of you who are sleeplessly familiar, know what I'm talking about.)

This program gathers topics of interest to you and then, with the click of a button, takes you to websites with content you might like.

Three times today I have stumbled upon Wikipedia's Article on Personality Disorder.

It has been a long time since I believed the universe is trying to tell me something, so I really wish it would shut up.

2. Bath and Body Works = House of Olfactory Rape.

3. I am going through a massive change at the moment. It isn't lovely, or filled with cinematic epiphanies.

It's ugly and painful (to myself and to others) and brimming with every terrible decision I could have ever made. All in front of everyone...or at least it feels that way. As if I'm showing up to every party naked and covered in snot.

I can sense myself desperately trying to "carry it off" somehow, falling back on old habits, pretending to be unflappable. This is all false. I don't think anyone is unflappable in the face of so many bedrock shaking mutations. Part of what precipitated this change was just that, my willful make believe that nothing could touch me.

But it has. And will continue to do so. I hope. Snot or no.

I am a little more lucid now than in recent days, so I can sit on my three feet tall ivory tower and see beyond all the sturm. I'm positive, however, that this will not last long and I will fall from my perch to splatter like a stewed tomato on a hot sidewalk.

Oh, well. At least I can get a decent view while I'm here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Advertising post put on hold

My Friday jamboree of disgust is on hold. I was working on a post for it but at around 8am, this happened two doors down:

Note the younger, bearded guy in the white striped shirt behind the reporter. He seems to be yucking it up, relishing his fast-ticking 15 minutes. Typical street boob, right?

Earlier in the day I was standing next to him, checking out the blaze, when I could not help but notice that he smelled incredibly good. Even through the smoke and the damp post rain air. I don't know what the mystery scent was...I don't have a record of it in my memory banks. But there was no escaping it.

Now, if I ever encounter that smell again, I'll only be able to think of disaster.

Can't wait.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. My older nephew, R., has been sounding like Shel Silverstein recently. We were playing on the "Yellow Submarine" that he had built in the basement. The time came for a space walk to the cardboard rocket across the room. I wanted to stay behind, sit on the trampoline portion of the submarine, maybe do some staring.

R. would have none of it.

"Come with me."

"But I don't feel like it." I said

He sat beside me. "But I want you to come with me."

"But I don't want to. I can see you from here. You don't need me over there."

He sighed and got very serious.

"But if I go over there and you stay here, you will have to say goodbye to me. And I will be lonely."


I got up and walked the four goddamn steps to the rocket.

And the tree was happy.

2. Why are Blue Line cars set up differently than the other trains, with that middle divider right by those queer fold away doors? On my way home last night, I made my way to the entrance to wait for my stop, and leaned on one of the hand rails. The train stalled and jerked back. My muscle memory for the other trains (the Brown or Red lines) proved totally useless as I bashed my head on one of the poles of that middle divider.

And it was no clumsy but adorable bash either. It was a full on, "Wow, she's tanked."

I think I attempted a nonchalant chuckle, like "Yes everyone, I know what I did...I'm cool, I'm cool." But there was no recovery. Just a hyper focused stare out the window, two stops too early, feeling everyone's judgment trickle down the back of my neck.

I had only one glass of wine.

Yet another reason to rage at the CTA machine.

3. I wonder if I absorbed my twin in the womb.

I have heard stories of this happening, the Vanishing Twin - at first there are two fetuses and then there is one, the second being absorbed in utero by the first. Apparently, according to the painstakingly fact-checked articles on the Internet, this is not an uncommon occurrence...something along the lines of 1 in 8 babies start out a pair.

In that watery darkness, I looked into the eyes of my twin and said, "It's you or me buddy."

I am both fascinated and repulsed by this concept.

There is unsubstantiated speculation that those who were a part of a vanished twin pregnancy suffer a great loneliness associated with the primordial memory of womb. They spend their lives searching for the other one, hoping to cure that sense of loss and separateness.

Of course, these people are fools. They need look no further than the whispering tuft of hair that emerged on their thigh last year.

4. I have read what I just wrote and want to barf.

5. Can someone please explain John Mayer to me? There appears to be some big marketing push to offer him as god's gift to music, but every song I hear from him is like the soundtrack to my next dentist visit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A secret not shared will erupt

A few weeks ago, the writing group I belong to had an assignment: Take a post card from the website PostSecret and a write a scene in which the secret is not the focus of the scene, but a contributing factor to one of the characters.

My secret was "I can eat a dozen Dunkin' Donuts in one sitting."

Here is what I came up with. I haven't really done any revisions on it...so I think there are a few typos (NOTE: The language in here is pretty rough. If you are easily offended, read no further. Stay in bed and wish the world away.):

DAVE, 14
GREG, 14

(The fitting room of a Dress Barn on a Saturday in South Carolina.

There is a tremendous commotion coming into the store. A woman’s voice hollers, “You can’t go in there!” JUSTIN, a heavyset kid about 14 years old comes running, sputtering into one of the dressing room stalls. He slams the door shut and latches it. There is a beat of him breathing, perhaps vocalizing a little bit from the long run.

A woman, THE SALES LADY, peers into the room. She speaks with a heavy southern accent – lower class.)

Son, you can’t come in here. Now I mean it.

Please go away!

Now, Son, I’m gonna have to get the manager, and I can tell you right now he’s not gonna be too happy about this.

Please...(huffing) Just leave me alone for a second…please….

You listen here-

(As she speaks there is another wave of noise for the front of the store. Several boys are are shouting saying “He’s in here!” or “I saw Him go in there!” Their voices draw closer as they wander into the retail space.)

I’m gonna have to call your parents-

You don’t know my parents-

(One of the boys says “I think she’s talking to him in there!”)

You can bet when I call the manager down here he’ll be able to find out every little thing he needs to know about you and don’t I know it…He can be very persuasive when he wants to be. And what, pray tell, am I going to tell them, your parents…”Ma’am I’m sorry but your son won’t leave the ladies dressing room?’ What she going to think?

Please be quiet, ma’am. Shhhh! Please!

(One of the boys from out in the retail area approaches the door.)

Excuse me ma’am. Did a kid go in there?

SALES LADY (Turning to see him)
Yes…is he a friend of yours?

(Giggles from the boys in the store)

Yes, actually, he is. Would you like us to go get him…take him out of the store?

If he’ll listen you you…But make it quick I have customers I have to take care of. If he isn’t out of here soon, I’ll have to call the manager.

We should be able to get him to come out.

(A beat, JUSTIN’s Breathing)

Alright. Quickly…I said Quickly.

Yes Ma’am.

(She leaves and goes up front. The boys, DAVE, GREG, and BRANDON, all about 14 creep in and look at the stalls.)

Get out here, Justin.

Yeah…get out here you little faggit.

BIG faggit.

(They all laugh. A beat.)

We KNOW you’re here, dude. We saw you run in from the mall. Either you come out or wer’e gonna drag you out, you fat Faggit.


(Pause, the boys look at each other like “Can you believe this guy?)

No? (He walks up to the stall and rattles the door.) No?! Get out here, man, for serious! We’re really gonna rip this door off if we have to! I been lifting some weights with my dad, so I’m pretty strong. My dad said, so I bet I can pull this door down if I wanted.

(There is crying from inside the stall)

For real? Are you crying? What are you crying for? Quit crying like a bitch!

LEAVE ME ALONE! I didn’t do anything to you!

Dude you ate my whole birthday cake today! That was my birthday cake! My Garfield birthday cake that was made special at Baskin-Robbins for me! You ate it!

I didn’t, I swear to Jesus, I didn’t…c’mon I didn’t!

Brandon said he saw you, Justin!

He’s a liar!

(BRANDON bangs his fist on the stall)

What! I am not a liar! I am NOT A LIAR! You take it back! YOU TAKE THAT BACK YOU LITTLE FAGGIT!

We were gone for like 15 minutes for the all-skate, and when we came back, my cake was all gone and Brandon said it was you! He SAW YOU!

It was Brandon! I swear to god it was Brandon!

That is BA-LON-EY, you fat turd…

Look at him…He doesn’t eat anything hardly ever.

I almost never eat nothing!


That is so dumb…you are so dumb Justin so fat and D-U-M-B. Brandon doesn’t hardly eat anything and you are a big fat pig…how does that figure?

SALES LADY (From up front)
I said quickly!

(GREG rattles the door. DAVE looks at BRANDON and motions that he is going to reach under the stall and drag JUSTIN out. DAVE gets down on his knees. There is a long silence as he sneaks to the door.)


(In one swift jerking move, DAVE reaches in and with GREGs help they grab JUSTINs legs from under the stall. JUSTIN lets out a scream as his body thuds to the ground. The boys struggle. BRANDON kneels and yanks at JUSTIN’s legs as well. JUSTIN struggles, but is no match for the boys as they pull him out into the open area, in front of the mirrors. JUSTIN begins to cry out, but BRANDON covers his mouth.)

You take it back! You take that back! I am not a liar! I AM NOT A LIAR!

(JUSTIN wriggles away from his hand)

Please don’t!

Let’s get him outside!

Hold still you little faggit!


See! You Little TURD…No You big fat turd…you don’t eat other people’s cake! You don’t eat it! You don’t ! You...

(BRANDON backs up. The look on his face changes from rage to terror.)

What is it, Brandon?

You okay?

(The struggle stops. JUSTIN takes the opportunity to scoot back, but he is too tired to go very far.)

I…I’m not feeling…I don’t

(BRANDON lurches forward and in one violent motion vomits up a massive amount of what looks like orange and black cake. The boys stare at the carnage. A beat. DAVE begins to cry.)

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