The ChuckleHut

[ Tuesday, December 31, 2002 ]

 
My uncle Bern is a remarkable man. In his mid-90s, he still golfs (badly), drives (dangerously), visits my incompetent grandmother at Lochaven and keeps up quite well with the news and the market. He gave up cigars but his teeth are random chunks of discolored bone and his speech is accompanied by a spray of saliva and pieces of unswallowed food. He's funny as hell, loves Mahler with a true romantic's passion, tends to forget his cane. My very dear friend, my grandfather's brother, who stood on his head for us when we were children. Good old uncle Bern.

None of us knew how dedicated he was to his wife until she was slowly taken from us - from him - by a series of strokes that left her progressively debilitated. He learned to do her work, to cook and clean and keep house as tidy as she ever had... and when she died he left things as they were, as they had been for untold years. Their bedroom held two twins pushed together; a single afghan warmed them both but they were separately made up beneath it. It's how they used to sleep together - man and woman, husband and wife, and on the opposite wall hung photos of the two of them from decades long ago.

I stayed with Bern once when I visited to see my grandfolk in the home. We did both of the things there are to do in Lima - cooked in and ate out. We spoke at length on many subjects, and I enjoyed myself immesnely with him over crystal cups of Turkey 101 and Das Lied von der Erde cranked up to 11. And in the study was a fold-out sofa where I expected to retire. But Bern had other plans for me - I would sleep on Ruthie's bed, lay beside him in the dark. He'd fed and entertained and hosted me so graciously - I acquiesced without argument. But it felt like something strange was happening when we shut down the room for the night. Maybe something wrong.

And so we slept together under dark Ohio skies. I could feel him just beyond my skin, restless and clacking in his fitful dreams. Once his raspy breathing caught and stopped, and I lay breathless too until he gasped spontaneously and went deeper into Morpheus' grasp... I was wide awake by then, feeling the small shallow space that Ruth had hollowed on that mattress, tiny woman, lying still for all those years, and I was smothering her beneath me, as her husband rattled out a breath he borrowed from the crypt. He got up several times to drain the pickle, slowly and laboriously, grunting and sighing with every move he made to leave the bed and bedroom, as he did his business, as he kicked the dresser coming back and muttered curses falling once again into the bed we shared...

I awoke unrested, ready for my grave. Bern cooked breakfast, cheerful as ever. I scored a lot of points with the family for enduring Bern's bed. And now I can say unequivocally that I know what it's like to sleep with a man. It's stress-inducing.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:41 AM]

[ Monday, December 30, 2002 ]

 
Anybody else notice the thing with Skyflake Crackers? I've never seen them before a few months ago and now their cheerful rolled-steel boxes are showing up at work, at play, crushed flat in the street... these crackers fill that void we've all noticed between stoned wheat thins and saltines. I'm just wondering how they got such quick, thorough market penetration. It's not like I have any crackers to flog - I just think it would be useful to know. And "skyflakes?" Stoneground wheat thins are ground between stones. Saltines have little salts. But I saw no sky in any of the flakes that crumble from these undistinguished crackers. I'm sorry. I just don't get it. But obviously lots of other people do. I just spent too much time looking for a picture of them on the web - just another facet of their ubiquity/obscurity - I am beset by unimaginative snackfoods. I guess things could be worse.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:27 PM]

 
POEM WRITTEN WAITING FOR AN AIRPLANE TO LAND ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29:
Staggering, jammering,
hangover hammering
linttraps and vacuumbags
clogging the air
Cloven hooves clattering
satyrs unflattering
scoundrels and scalawags
gum up my hair.

thankyouverrymuch.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:25 PM]

 
Charles hosted a lovely party yesterday, with the glamorous Lori, of course - and thus inspires me to relate one of his stories. Charles was working with a small crew of computer artists - eccentric, overeducated and overcaffeinated. And that' s good, because they were working in Livermore, an old inland valley town from stage coach days, now a homogonized suburb, a midwestern enclave in the very loins of the Bay Area, a boring and inimaginative place where people say "howdy" a lot and drive large pickups. The town symbol, appearing on police car doors and the mayor's butt tattoo, is a clumsy collage of a steer (the Livermore Rodeo claims to be the "world's fastest"), a bunch of grapes (the area claims to be California's first wine country, still makes a mean cabernet) and an atom (for the Lawrence Livermore Labs). Pure class. I can't imagine why they invented a new design for their flag. I myself worked in Livermore for 14 months - it's a different world out there, one populated with some very uptight parochial people. People who were just waiting to be made the butt of cruel computer artist humor.

So Charles is out in Livermore with his freaky friends and they regularly eat lunch at a soup and salad emporium, one where everything chills or simmers behind sneezeguards and little signs tell you what you're spooning onto your tray. It's a classic business model, and the clientele are into rodeo, Jesus, and being from Livermore. Charles' crew swipe a blank food label from the restaurant and painstakingly match the font and color of the lettering, creating a nearly-indistinguishable rogue label for their amusement. They bring it back to the restaurant and slyly, one of them sneaks over to the soup station and removes the label from the New England clam chowdah... Charles was given the honor of sauntering over next and casually installing the label reading "Viscous Phlegm." The animators then sit and choke with laughter on their croutons and soft-serve as patrons step up and read the sign, decide whehter or not to get a bowl of the hot creamy phlegm, usually deciding thoughtfully or at least phlegmatically, only occasionally reacting with shock... At one point someone tells the busboy, not a native speaker of english, that "there's something wrong with your sign." Obediently, if incompetently, the busboy removes the offending tub of soup and replaced it with an identical one. The sign remained far longer than it should have.

Before Charles and his merry band of pranksters got a chance to try it again, their company moved to Berkeley, where words like 'viscous' are more readily comprehended by a larger percentage of the population. The next mission would have been to rename the rainbow jimmies at the froyo station. I bet they'd still be popular even if their sign did read "rainbow maggots."
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:54 PM]

[ Saturday, December 28, 2002 ]

 
It's pretty geeky to post about stuff I heard on the radio, especially when it's NPR, but I did think that this morning's story about automated checkout at some grocery stores deserved repetition - or at least, one line of it did, one of those lines that, for me, will define my generation: the store in the story (those words are almost identical aren't they) was in the south, so the automated voice of the automated checkout equipment had a slight twang as it politely, firmly, gracefully instructed patrons to weigh their vegetables, to scan their groceries, to type in produce codes, and to "Move your sweet onions to the belt." Move them, indeed. It sounded so euphemistic, the way it came out. I can't be responsible for my immaturity when NPR broadcasts such glaringly provocative material. You're just daring me to giggle chocolate milk out my nose.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:29 PM]

 
As part of my calculated path of destruction through the holiday season, I made two trays of lucky glucose squares for xmas and tookem to the homes where I was invited to share the yuletide cheer, or whatever they had going at the time. (These were two wonderfully intimate and relaxing events, for which I am extremely grateful to Brett and Krista and Dave and Kim and all the beautiful people who made all of this possible.) Lucky glucose squares? - I hear you struggling to recall as I veer dangerously off topic. Yes, and once again you're unexpectedly confronted by the perils of the RECIPE CORNER:

it's a 9x13 pan lined shallowly on the bottom with a layer of rice krispy treats, and then you make rocky road fudge by melting chocolate, butter and peanut butter together, and mixing in marshmallows and peanuts, and then you pour it over the top of the treats and let it harden in the fridge before you cut into it.

But here's the thing: I used Beer Nuts instead of reguler peanuts in the fudge (an independent dessert named by Kelly "o my god are you trying to kill me"). And what I did was, I only used about a third of the cannister of beer nuts and then I gave away all the lucky glucose squares and later on I absently started munching on the beer nuts and then I started shovelling them into my mouth with both hands and even regretting that I was limited to just the two of them. They are very easy to abuse. (The nuts, I mean. I guess I use the hands to abuse the nuts but that's not an evil inherent in the hands. Oh dammit you know what I meant.)

Before I realized that I needed the help of a greater power to overcome my weakness and imperfection (and yo, folks at 13 last night, thanks for plowing through the remainder and taking temptation out of my path), I was reading the copy on the side of the cylinder in which my nuts had come packaged. There were five paragraphs of laudatory prose regarding the redoubtable beer nut and those whose lives had been dedicated to its perfection and promulgation. The second ("payoff") paragraph began with the phrase "The most passionate of all was Russell Shirk."

I stood there in the unflattering overhead light of my kitchen, maw full of half-masticated sugar-caked goober peas, and considered Mr. Shirk's example. Swallowing, I swore to do something really great really soon. Something I can be passionate about, that brings joy to strangers and comfort to friends. Something that would have made Russell proud. I left the kitchen both enlightened and inspired. That's a lot for a snack food.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:22 PM]

 
An elderly lady thrust a pamphlet into my hand a few days ago on Clement Street. She was stationed in a pedestrian chokepoint; the crowd thronged and I had no choice but to walk right up to her. (I suppose I could have walked over her. She was an elderly asian woman, very nicely dressed with a topcoat, smiling and bowing shallowly as she proffered her wares. She'd have offered little resistance. But that's not my style.) She graciously offered me a tiny pamphlet, and seeing as she was so sweet and tidy and grandmotherly I just wanted to see what kind of pap would make her stand outside and flog the public that way. The pamphlet was one sheet, folded twice to create, front and back, six panels. One had a photo of a young manchild in a tent writing by flashlight in a notebook. The text purported to be a letter sent home from camp by a sensitive youth who'd A.J.C.A.P.S. He wrote (purportedly) that at his camp the counselor took the boys out at night, a different one each night, and spoke with them under the whispering trees about J.C. and accepting him A.P.S. And this young boy was nervous about his turn, for one reason - he didn't A.J.C.A.P.S. But his night came and the counselor asked him if he A.J.C.A.P.S. and the boy started crying, saying he didn't want to go to hell, and the counselor looked him right in the eye and asked him, "Do you believe (divinity myth)?" And the boy said that he did, and he was suddenly convinced, yea, and without the inconvenient intercession of logic or reason or even a bribe or imprecation this boy's doubts were melted away like so much butter in the rectory soapdish and he A.J.C.A.P.S. So he was saved. But be that as it may, one thing is for sure: that counselor didn't even start to convince me. I wanted to be charitable toward this nice old lady on the busy crowded street - not like by giving her money or anything substantial, but just not to assume a peremptoraly derisive posture toward her - but it's hard not to make fun of her when her material is so very weak. It's not like they put this counselor's phone number in the pamphlet so he could make house calls and awaken the flame of faith in wavering hearts across America. Well, I don't know about that actually because one side only was in english and the other was in chinese. I don't know if maybe the chinese side made better sense than mine did. And nice old lady, if you happen to surf over here as you check your stocks and download large jpgs of angels and bunnies, nothing personal but I hope that's not the best your church can come up with.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:58 PM]

[ Friday, December 27, 2002 ]

 
There are some things LA does very well. Television is one of them; fast food is another. They can slap together a better burger or hot dog than I have found in any other town I've visited; they turn these lowly foodstuffs into deeply fulfilling gustatory experiences. And I mean "gustatory" only in the nicest possible way. Even though San Francisco does a better burrito than LA does as far as a meal goes, there's a lot to be said for LA burritos too. Lucy's is one establishment that does a fine burrito, fresh carrot juice, hot white cheese on flour tortilla, the whole enchilada. I looked for their website - though their several locations have been cranking out the lard well into the wee hours, they aren't on line - as they should(n't) be... they serve up a mean styrofoam plate of arterial plaque and trans-fatties, but who's counting... when I was a midge it was a special treat to go with my dad to work down near USC and enjoy the indigenous cuisine with him, and one of my favorite options was to go to the local Lucy's down on Washington and Hoover or some such south central junction. I'd get an enchilada, drowned in hot red sauce, speckled with olives and drooling fats onto the plate... but the special thing about this particular Lucy's as opposed to the Culver City one or the Pico Union one or the others was that, at the south side of the parking lot, next to the adjacent building, suffocating under a thick layer of LA smogdust, was a bus. This particular bus was kind of old-fashioned, with a broad bonnet hood and a flat front window. It was painted white, with mondrian-like blue, red and yellow patches of regular geometric shapes, outlined in black, all over it from radiator grille to the back, where a diamond-shaped yellow patch bore the legend, "Caution, Nervous Mother Driving." Recognize it? It's from one of the only sitcoms I could bear to watch as a child, although I don't know why I found it less offensive than the Brady's or Nanny and the Professor - it was the tour bus for the Partridge family. Parked next to Lucy's. Falling into desuitude, grimy and tired, but still a magical form of transportation. Ride it and you might turn into Susan Dey or David Cassidy. I would eat my enchilada and then sneak back to check out the bus. It was full of old cardboard boxes and Mr. Kinkaid was nowhere to be seen. It made me a little sad to see that famous bus, erstwhile host to famous passengers, just sitting, fading, seeping into the blacktop. It didn't actually seep, of course, but every time I saw it it seemed a little less vibrant. Eventually the bus disappeared. I think that enchilada may still be in residence. This has been a Chucklehut rememberance. Cherish it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:30 PM]

 
Sure, I'm weak and easily swayed. But that's not why I like the Beastie Boys' Best of Funk and Groove. It's because they're speaking my language - the language of smoothness and suavete'. The music of a man whose ice doesn't melt when he takes a cocktail into the shower. The music of serene sophistication. I'm really surprised I'm so into this stuff but I've just listened to the disk for the fourth time in a row. Time to switch over so I don't get too cool for my own good. That would be disasterous. Roy Rogers' Slideways will get me revigorated and potentiated. Cool and wired - that's the goal for 03. Now stand back, the powersurge is about to hit.....
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:48 PM]

 
Holiday lessons to collect and trade:

1) Some people are trying to popularize "National Buy Nothing Day" for the day after Thanksgrabbing, as a way to assert the inherent independence from market forces that distinguishes members of our culture. After the way I've been abusing my digestion over the past week, I'm considering a push for "National Eat Nothing" day on the day after Xmas. And all the food we'd have eaten, we can just scrape it off of our plates into a cardboard box and mail it to someone less fortunate than ourselves. Someone, for example, who receives a box of stale and rotten food in the mail from a total stranger.

2) I'd like one of those heavy heirloom turkey roasting pans, tall-sided and seasoned with love. But life's not always like it is in my dreams. For one thing, I came to work wearing clothes today. And for another, I'm still buying those disposable aluminum roasting pans whenever I bake the gallinaceous fowl (speaking euphemistically). But you learn important lessons from these little dustballs on the parquet floor of fate: the pan I wish I didn't have to buy has a motto stamped into its ventral surface: "Support the Bottom." Damn straight, you roasting pan - that's the ticket for success in life and love. Let that bottom droop and we'll all be in trouble. I wouldn't have gotten this important reminder from a non-disposable roaster, and my bottom'd be dragging all over the damn place. Hardly suitable for fine dining.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:29 PM]

 
Chucklehut Critical Analysis: Books I've cranked through lately included Dharma Bums and The Razor's Edge. DB was about lost souls going out to get found and grounded in wild country and wild parties; RE was about well-born members of the bourgoisie slowly moving into realms other than those of their dreams. Maughm called it a success story but it seems a cruel and misguided definition of success. You know how he gets sometimes. DBs was ecstatic, and even though I got a little tired of all the hipsterisms and dehumanizing of women, it was a blast to read. Official review: they're both okay, but not as good as Aztec. This has been a Chucklehut Critical Analysis.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:16 PM]

[ Thursday, December 26, 2002 ]

 
How I can tell these really are the best of times: I woke up this morning and before my flailing appendage could find and strike my wandering snooze bar I heard NPR interviewing Hot Tuna - ONE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST BANDS - and Jorma's talking about not having to dance and show off his navel stud. Then on the way to work the bus stops in front of the Fillmore and there's playbills stuck all over the streetlight standard - SCI and GBA both playing shows for NYE. Good times, people....
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:53 PM]

 
God bless ye merry gentlemens - one block from my apartment, on a ritzy block on the greenbelt side of the street, I found the discarded evidence of someone's merry xmas. A 4-pack of bacardi coolers sat empty on the curb, three bottles drained and replaced in the cardboard carrier and one slot empty. Next to it lay two plastic wrappers bearing the proud insignia of the Trojan corporation. With a mise en scene like that, I can think of a dozen stories that might have played out that night. It's how I amuse myself. The twist: what did they wind up doing with that fourth bottle?
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:03 PM]

 
And another thing - how come people don't spend 12/25 watching The Magnificent Seven, Anna and the Dude of Siam, Westworld and other favorites featuring the holiday's eponymous actor, Yule Brynner?
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:59 PM]

 
This being the season of family togetherness, in theory anyway, I find myself avoiding the question why I don't want to contact my grandmother. It's certainly not as if she'd remember three minutes after she put down the letter or the phone that I'd written or called; the whole family knows Zerline's mind has substantially deteriorated. She can remember the past. She is unfailingly polite and kept a trace of her sense of humor. But she has no short term memory at all; she can't make new memories. She can't get out of her wheelchair. She can barely speak, and often doesn't for long stretches. We didn't take her to her husband's funeral. But I should be sending her cards, supporting her, directing my love to her.... instead, I treat her as if she were already gone. Is it because I fear her fate - mental incapacity - more than about any other? Is it fear of mortality? Misguided resentment? Sheer sloth? She was a great and powerful woman with much to contribute. She deserves better. Yet it would make no difference to her if I wrote her or called her or not - no difference at all. I would be doing it for myself. The more I beat myself up, the less willing I am to do the deed. I'm making myself recalcitrant.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:34 PM]

 
I'm just ripping off another blog altogether now but this is just too funny not to promulgate. Credit to this dude for pointing me in the direction of The Onion's expose' on the popularity of the coolest movie I've seen in several months. And hey - I went with a girl, too!
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:47 AM]

 
Maybe there's hope for us yet. For the new year, how about getting crammed with pleasure, the Manix way? If the French are doing it, the Belgians can't be far behind... heh - I said behind....
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:41 AM]

[ Wednesday, December 25, 2002 ]

 
Phrases that Resound, continued:

Back in the late 80s in LA I watched a lot of syndicated TV on stations that carried what we might describe as 'second tier' commercials. Local ethnic groceries, amazing advances in the domestic sciences, auto insurance, trade schools, and the occasional oddball ad. There was one that ran quite often that still plays over in my mind, and the recollection of it returns me too often to that time and place...

Was it "Secure Horizons?" Or something with a name that just strove to be that comforting and reassuring? A pre-paid funeral plan, the final and most thoughtful gift you can give to a loved one (or embittered moneygrubbing survivor, it's a matter of semantics). It was a long commercial, maybe a full mintute, with testimonials and dramatizations, somber rooms full of dark shelves full of leather-bound books, over which key data were superimposed in canary yellow... thorough and carefully crafted, this commercial nonetheless succeeded in cheapening and trivializing the ultimate passage, that unimaginable transition between the here and now and the great beyond, that ineffable lapse of the vital spark...

In this commercial, one somewhat oily-looking fellow is earnestly testifying as to the high quality and value of the vendor's ghastly service. His mom or somebody died and all he had to do, it seems, was show up at the ossuary, confirm her identity, and pick up the cremains. He smiles, nodding a little stiffly, looking 1/4 left, emoting blandly "It was a great relief." So often now, when I experience relief, it's his voice I hear announcing it, confirming its greatness. I just wish he sounded a little more enthusiastic.

At another point, the narrator demonstrates how easy it is to sign up with this organization, by picking up a telephone and dialing the number flashing at the bottom of the screen. A split screen wipes in from the right and a cheerful blonde hotty operator in a dirndl and wearing a headset - I may have confused some of these details but the basic picture is accurate - the operator speaks into the empty air of the studio as if she were answering the announcer's questions and concerns. He asks if she can send him literature and she cheerfully responds, "Certainly, sir!" To this day, I hear her carefree chirp of an answer, especially when someone says "Certainly" to me, and even more often when I say it to someone else. It sounded like a Stepford wife had gotten a job hawking burial plans. And snorting a lot of caffeine. Assuming that works on a Stepford wife. But it was a stunning blend of creepy and chipper. Maybe you could call her "cripper." But that might send the wrong impression.

But anyway the point is that this dumb commercial still provides two critical tracks in my mental soundtrack for life. So let's hear it: what bizarre shred of commercial culture keeps coming back to you?
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:07 PM]

 
Just when you think it's the corporations' fault that americans are so woefully devoid of perspective and depth, you learn that Mattel tried to do the right thing and WalMart even tried to carry it - and who can blame them for responding to a public outcry? Better to turn our attention to those who are crying out that a doll that's full of life poses a threat to our childrens' moral health. Maybe the part they found distasteful was the way it activates its special preggo powers and splits in two to emit the happy fetus. Or maybe everything else in the world was going so great that they didn't have anything else to complain about.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:40 AM]

 
In honor of the festive season - solisticial, of course - , or maybe out of an errant sense of excitement at having spent my evening utterly, blissfully unoccupied and undisturbed, or maybe a wild hair just, how you say, got up my ass, but last night I prepared to write by pouring out a chinese teacup full of bourbon, flossing, and then changing into my dolphins shirt. I got it in the early 80s as one of several purchases I made at a sale of overrun, irregular and defective t-shirts down at Houston Hall. The dolphins shirt is the last one of them still in the non-archival drawers. Two simply-drawn dolphins chase each other's tail in silhouette; while still in college I found some gold glitter glue and dotted their eyes with irridescence. Around them are the words SOCIETY for the PROPAGATION of the GREEN DOLPHIN, all in a faded forest green. The green bands around the cuffs and collar seem to have faded significantly and the neck seems to have grown very wide to accomodate my shoulders. The whole shirt is stretched out and rides up. It's tissue-thin. It has tar stains on the back from that hike I took after the Ojai Krishnamurti lectures in '85 or so. It makes me feel like a million dollars. It's like a support group I can wear.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:36 AM]

[ Tuesday, December 24, 2002 ]

 
The departmental secretary is a woman of vast experience but limited education. I respect her judgment on anything to which she has paid any significant attention, though we don't always agree. But I think we'd agree on her latest movie recommendation for me: she told me that she'd just seen a powerful documentary about the proliferation of firearms in this country, and urged me to get out and see "Bowling for Concubines." I'm thinking, now that's entertainment.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:29 PM]

 
One can see some thought-provoking things if one looks around... my current favorite is the great big cardboard box on the sidewalk that I saw a few nights ago that bore the legend: "Special TV Microwave Computer". That would sure be one special computer if it comes with TV microwaves. Of course, then you gotta wonder, M2F or F2M? And how can you tell the difference? Well I suppose the computer could be programmed for that - another special feature. No wonder the box was so voluminous.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:26 PM]

 
Chucklehut Survey: would you rather be inherently weird with a patina of normalcy, or inherently normal with a patina of weirdness?
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:31 AM]

[ Monday, December 23, 2002 ]

 
And while I'm at it: TWO XMAS REFLECTIONS:

1. I didn't grow up with xmas traditions of which I was aware, but it turns out that some of the cultural dross in which this season is dredged has stuck to my moist little brain. I realized it when I saw the Norelco (c)(tm)(sm)(p)(k)(all rights reserved) commercial featuring that porky little santa scooting around on the three-head comfort of a riding-shaver, its rotary blades etching a clean capital "N" through the driven virgin snow. Santa comes in fast and low, so you can see the heads rotate on his keel, and then he glides in like a hovercraft and just effortlessly burns through the drifts, leaving the Norelco initial proudly melted in the permafrost like a hoary brand... here's the thing that's got me ticked off, the heartless bastards of Madison Avenue remade this classic commercial. I don't care much about Santa, but I like the commercial, or that little clip of it anyway, and they took it away, replacing it with - exactly the same thing! They changed the old stop-motion animation for computer-generated animation, but it looks just the same, does the same thing, in the same amount of time... why would they take him away just to replace him with a pale reflection of himself? It's another example of change for change's sake, of busting something down just because it's standing up, even if the best you can do afterwards is to try to rebuild it as best you can... Or maybe I just resent that, after all the technological improvements they've made in animation, ol' Santa's still riding the same 1973-style shaver that ripped my flesh in byegone days...

2. There was a time a week or so ago when I was seeing ads on TV for an xmas special starring Ben and Jerry Stiller, and then there was another commerical for an Adam Sandler holiday opus, and then a commerical for some xmas story starting Jason Alexander... I guess what I was noticing was that these are a bunch of jewish guys out flogging the joy of the season of red and green. Not anger and money, either, but holly and mistletoe or whatever that stuff is they put in fruitcake. Or elves, they're red and green too. My point is, the Jews of Xmas are upon us. Because obviously we've worn out all the gentiles and without resorting to the people of the tribe we're likely to lose the holiday spirit altogether, with no one to tell us to celebrate our family ties and wealth of friends and the peace that envelops the whole world, especially the middle east, because if you want to hear about the spirit of Christmas, you've got to get with the jews. That's my media lesson for this holiday season. Have yourself a jewish little christmas - and make sure you bring soy sauce, because there *will* be chinese food.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:49 PM]

 
You know, don't you, how it pains me not to be able to share my deepest thoughts and most intimate ramblings with a billion strangers each and every day. But today is a "take it the hell easy why the hell don'tcha" kinda day and I'll have to try to be more provocative and creative when I damn well feel like it. In the meantime, so as to be as little lame as possible, I reproduce (heh) the following excerpts from a list of items found on less-than-stellar performance evaluations:

3. I would not allow this employee to breed
5. works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap
8. delusions of adequacy
9. sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them
10. depriving a village of an idiot
15. doesn't have ulcers, but is a carrier
16. I would like to go hunting with him sometime
19. has a knack for making strangers immediately
24. prime candidate for natural deselection.
30. If you stand close enough to him you can hear the ocean.
35. The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.

thats just the way it seems to me at [1:01 PM]

[ Friday, December 20, 2002 ]

 
Rehash from July:
INSPIRED BY NEGOTIATING WITH MANAGEMENT FOR A NEW CONTRACT

He grinned without smiling
and spoke without breath
like he thought it beguiling
it looked more like death
His fingers were twitching
with minds of their own
He was stretching his stitching
His cover was blown
I stood with a grumble
and swung with my chair
Excelsior tumbled
from under his hair
His eyes rolled like marbles
and fell to the floor
Yet he still mouthed his garbles
as if there were more
that he needed to say
that he had not yet said
but we'd all left the room
because he was undead.
We returned with a stake
that we drove through his sternum -
you can talk at a zombie
but you simply can't learn'em.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:30 PM]

 
Post-Mediation

Arriving at the antisceptic office, we found no one there to let us in or tell us what to do - the story of my life, I guess. I waited in my power suit for others to relieve themselves; then they went out to find us coffee. Time passed slowly. I began to doubt the value of the process. We were there in time to start at 9 am but minutes crawled; the coffee came but nothing happened. Eventually we got into the office and were shown into a conference room, quite devoid of decoration save a Federal Conciliation Service plaque high on a wall. On a ledge, a target from a firing range lay perforated with a sloppy cluster of nine-milimeter holes - on the back, "From horseback at 100 yards." Nice shooting, buddy. Management or Labor? We just waited for the show to start.

10:30: Now we had our mediator, and the Deputy ED against whom we'd arrayed; he'd brought his legal counsel too (outfitted in a suit shirt tie so much like mine we were chagrined) and several handouts, thick and dense. They started with a couple lines from "Blowin' in the Wind" and then descended into a morass of paraphrasis, partial excerpts, false assumptions, all set forth to justify conclusions we'd come down to question. No, he didn't bring the budget, actuarials, or money. First he said, "I think we can come to agreement" - then he started dancing madly. Accounts, ostensibly restricted, seemed to slop into each other very intimately; no one knew where surplus cash had gone; the brokers' questionable theories held no water and were not explained. We asked to see the books but kept on hearing "that would make no difference. We don't have the money."

One pm: the mediator's diabetic, needs her lunch. The rest of us are sick of sitting still for such unmitigated pap. We came for nothing - that's what's on the table. Break for lunch. At Clancy's Crab Shack everyone is anxious, irritated, tired - all of us want beer but no one gets one. We order food and total tea and hone our gripes. The union rep's cell phone goes off: would we accept (x y & z)? A moment's caucus - yes we would, if nothing is our other option. We return with cautious optimism to the table; tell the boss we're skeptical of information he still won't divulge to us - we're not about to act on faith. A lengthy sidebar with the mediator leaves us wondering, but she returns to set a date for us to meet again - the DED will take the issue for the Board to authorize a transfer - "interfund" - to get us part of what we want.

What had she done? And was this progress? I don't know and I don't know. But Bob was shaking when he made his presentation, changed his story vastly, told us he was on our side and wished he could do more for us. At least the mediator's presence seemed to make him think he was accountable for what he said - no more "staff are replaceable" and "we can run this show without you."

Now it's night, dark 7:20, Bakersfield far below me. Maybe next time we'll be finished. I don't know how far we have to go but this sure felt like something positive was happening. If the mediator helped, we didn't see what she was doing there behind closed doors at lunch and sidebar, but the process moved toward some manner of conclusion. Now I want to go back to my desk and do my job again. I can't unclench my jaw. And far below on rain-soaked fields, tiny lights are flickering in murky vastness, full moon shines on mirror floodplains showing me the farmhouse lit is mired on all sides by standing water, small and fragile in the night and overwhelmed by lunar luminosity; we fly forward to the future. Waters have been known to part or turn to mist. And stranger things than that have happened. Even, once or twice, to me.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:24 PM]

 
Pre-Mediation

Early morning: sky is black, a full moon hovers in the trees, the street still wet - nocturnal rain - and I am standing in a suit and tie, my whiskers newly trimmed, my overcoat enveloping a question that has twisted me... I'm waiting for a ride to Oakland, wishing that I had some coffee - someone's dropping off a dog to sniff and piss on rainslick sidewalks - trots right past me, knows I have no food to offer. I am cold and tired and hungry, but look so serious and businesslike.

My ride arrives are we are off to mediate an MOU: four hundred fifty worker bees have chosen me and my eight colleagues, twenty times we've met so far and now the offer's on the table: Nothing, plus 'we'll talk more later' - one scant page of paid conclusions offered up to justify the revocation of a promise that we fought for hard last year... So now we got a mediator; now I wonder what she'll bring us...

Up at 20,000 feet the plane has circled daybreak city; I can see the hills and spires, watch my block go gliding past; the bridges, parks, the foaming surf... until we leave it all behind and dawn rose-paints the pendent engines; clouds confined to rugged chasms...

None of us have any notion what we're likely to accomplish, toting all our ammunition (Elkhorn Slough unfurls below me). Mediator like a bubbeh - granny with a riding crop - Don't fool yourself she's not yer buddy (snow has capped the coastal ranges).... We don't know if they'll present the evidence of empty coffers, risk predictions, actuarials, and if they don't what happens next? It's hard to work so long for nothing. I don't want to have been lied to; but Better that than truth and empty hands and pockets.

That's my hope for mediation: someone who can tell us plainly "take the box" or "take the curtain" - even though it's not a game show (Morro Rock and Bay awaken down below my cozy elbow)... nothing left for now but to put best face forward, make our case and hope for progress. Now we're starting to descend, sliding into hazy valleys, mediator waiting for us. Seems unlikely we'll have much to say to her but maybe equities will be persuasive - we're just mushrooms - wish me luck - we're going down - to mediate
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:07 PM]

 
Inspired on a recent trip to Golden Gate Park (for locals, the meadow just west of the Rose Garden):

- Did you see that?
- I don't know. It couldn't have been what I thought it was.
- I think it was. Oh damn, it still is.
- I don't think I've ever seen that in public before.
- I have, but not so blatant. More subtle.
- How do you do that subtly?
- Like, trying to hide more. More on the D-L.
- I don't think they're hiding. This is more like advertising.
- It doesn't look comfortable.
- You need a lot of flexibility to do that.
- And leg strength. Stamina.
- I'm getting a cramp just watching them.
- They can't keep at it much longer.
(.....)
- I think this is where I came in.
- That's what she said.
- You're terrible. Well, I can't stand here and watch this all day.
- There's still plenty of sunlight.
- I'm getting bored. I'm out of here.
- OK, I'll see you later. I'll tell you how it turned out.
- Good, I like stories with happy endings.
- Oh, you're terrible too. See you at home.
- OK - and don't be getting any ideas while you're out here.
- Too late.

thats just the way it seems to me at [1:20 PM]

 
Who's a Sucker?

Sure, I'm a sucker. I've been watching Survivor since it started back in the Era of Good Feelings, between the Jackson administration and Reconstruction. But I'm not here to defend my choices, questionable though they may be. I'm here to bring others down to my level, or at least to revel in their already being even tackier than I am. I'm just now learning that Brian, the talldrinkawater who won the million bux last night, has two provocative subplots running:

His wife is accused of beating him, bloodying his nose upon coming home to find him, purportedly, asleep on the couch with a beer in his hand. (I knew she was trouble when her little videotape for him featured pseudo-belly-dancing, and when she chickened out of eating bugz. Come on girl, you've had more distasteful protein than that before, I'm sure. And it hadn't even been boiled first.)

But more significantly, as I was researching this very critical issue, I learned that Brian also was an actor in other reality-based features. Which raises the question, would you buy a used car from this guy? If you were gonna, be sure to check the glovebox first. When I was looking for a car I took a test drive of a beat-up old beemer in the tenderloin; the grinning vendor reeked of hair cream and body lotion and told us that it was his sister's car, they're very close, just selling it for her as a favor... he popped the glove box to show me that it worked (what else is there to say about such features?) and a gross of condoms sprang forth. (A "gross" means 144 of most things, or any number of distasteful things.) "Ooops, sorry," he chuckled. "But you gotta be safe, eh?" I preserved my safety by avoiding the back seat and declining the extended version of the test drive. Sometimes you just want body lamination.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:23 AM]

[ Thursday, December 19, 2002 ]

 
I guess I never get tired of putting words in a vapid mouth. So have fun directing the president to tell us all it's okay. It's not like he believes it either but it's better than listening to those Gap ads.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:24 PM]

 
What a cheerful world. Bread is the staff of life. I guess that's why someone found me by looking for picture poppin fresh being baked alive. I need more dirty search terms and fewer disturbing search terms. Story of my life I guess...
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:09 PM]

 
I've been writing a lot of long heavy stuff but I don't have time to post anything meaty. So instead I'll assault your sensabilities with this work-in-progress list. I mentioned a few of these to Kel and she told me it sounded "very Letterman." That slowed me down but I've decided there are worse things to be. When I start posting stuff that's "very 'Touched by an Angel'" I'll have something to worry about. Unless this is some different kind of touching. I did say 'angel' after all.

Regardless, and in random order:
XMAS TRADITIONS THAT NEVER REALLY CAUGHT ON
Ornament Hurling
Turkey with Cherry Bomb Stuffing
Naked Carolling
Sucret Santa: the office cold-remedy exchange
Chimney-mounted Santa Snares
Reindeer Steak
Igniting the Tree on X-mas Morning
Barracading the Family in the Yule Bunker
Lard Nog
Carolling 'Favorite Wehrmacht Marches'
Hanging Ornaments from Body Piercings
Peppermung Sticks
Human Hair Yule Log
Elf Loaf
Strippletoe
Body Flocking
Setting Out Tranqs and Bourbon for Santa
Decking the Halls with Boughs of Stinkweed
It's a Miserable Life
Yule Floss
The Gift-Stomping Polka
Sterno Figgy Pudding Football
Naked Nativity Pantomimes
Sanka Claus
The X-Men
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:22 PM]

[ Tuesday, December 17, 2002 ]

 
Maybe I'm the only one who hasn't gotten tired of this, but that won't stop me from wallowing in it. Let the griping begin.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:00 AM]

[ Monday, December 16, 2002 ]

 
THE SCHNECKENING

It started back when Lena braved the North Atlantic for a man she hadn't met; he'd written away to friends at home (the Kaiser's tidy little empire) - "No one like us hereabouts" - that's Lima, Ohio - the Jews were all Russians, he wanted a German, so he heard about Lena and got her to come to him. Canny and tough, with a face like a hatchet, personality to matchit, she shaved half a decade off her age to trick him into matrimony. She brought with her meagre reminders of home; though not much of a cook she maintained in her head a dowery of kitchen skills, recipes, knowledge - the chiefest of which was that she could make schnecken, with hot fists of butter and spirals of sugar.... the legend was born.

She had three sons. Two married sisters, one married their friend, and all six ate the schnecken - but the outsider non-sister spouse Estelle, she really noticed, and made sure the pastries were perfect and plentiful, made them herself from the old german formula, carried on what Lena'd started. Later, the grandkids called Lena their Grossie and ate of the schnecken that now had attained semi-legendary status. One grandson in particular, Estelle's youngest - he got married and his wife was treated to the schnecken. This one, Donna, she, too, noticed they were special; got the kitchen lore from someone - schnecken-making moved a generation forward.

We didn't get the Donna schnecken in my house. That marriage didn't last; the only person of that generation who made schnecken was to me a distant name, a face in old reunion photos... but not schnecken. Those were limited to Lima. Sometimes I would visit Lima; there the old ones still made schnecken. I would marvel at the glaze and vortex that distinguished them: how did kitchens make such marvels? But schnecken take a lot of effort - twice-rised dough, a lot of mixing... the grandmas slowly stopped their schnecken making, too much work and time and space. They all stopped cooking. No more schnecken for yours truly.... all things pass.... I reconciled.....

Then Donna's daughter - my dear cousin - very well, her name's Diane - we became much closer friends, together with our households and some other cousins, plus my sister. All of us were reminiscing how we loved those sticky muffins, mourned that they were made no longer. Diane had the recipe, and it was settled - we set a date and got together, made four dozen, each a jewel, and furthermore, we had a good ol' time while we were making them.

So every year for half a decade we've been making Grossie's schnecken sometime near the winter solstice. We younger cousins get together, make some schnecken, have some wine, and every year our party became more elaborate, we kept boosting the yield, till this year we chose to go up to the Compound - two perfect vacation homes, side by side in old Sonoma, larded with art and bursting with wine, nine of us plus five dependents. It poured rain as we caroused, the little children proofing yeast as bowls of dough were generated, growing slowly overnight; the children screamed, their tiny fingers clutching dripping pens and crumpled sheets of paper, secret codes and noms de guerre, they swarmed, cicadalike, their laughter splitting through our conversations, pulling one of us away up to the loft for 'special briefing' - Sam shrugged back over his shoulder, had to leave us, dragged like meat behind the children giggling into their armpits.... finally we fell asleep at close to midnight.

Awake: Sonoma morning, linens crisply cradle me and rain has poured forth from the sky for days, the sky all grey when I arise, a thousand colors, each one grey, a schnecken (early batch) for breakfast, stretch a little in the hallway, cushioned with a richly textured carpet, air still still and quiet, walk through rain-drenched flower gardens underneath storm-tossed gazebo; now people are stirring so Let's get schneckening -

Dough has doubled in the dark; we roll it into living parchment, sprinkle it with nuts and sugar, roll it gently into logs, softer than a hidden breast, delicious down against the granite - slice it into sleeping larvae, let them grow in cups of candy, bake them, dump them, drenched with praline, twenty dozen deadly nuggets... kids got anxious, hide and seeking, dressup, magic, jail, spy, Let them see what's going on and take them out to watch the creek and see the runoff, storm-engorged; salmon spawn there, nothing going now but muddy water, surging, churning, Let's go back - They're making schnecken

Lena did her best, I'm sure, but never could she have imagined such perfection, military execution, such a setting for our little bakeoff, and the final products more sublime than she had scope to dream. Those products are the schnecken, sure, but also the great joy we took in being there, a family together, all by choice. Our laughter echoed off the plaster walls and baked into the pastries... now as I eat them, I can feel the warmth of that great cozy home return to me in butterfat and melted sugar, and still the rain falls thick and warm, reminding me that generations will ensue and will ensure the arcane art of schneckenmaking will yet survive another couple generations. It's just too much fun. The bribe that became the burden is now the bonus benefit, the best of times, the consummation so devoutly to be wished... We eat like kings but that is not the wealth we value - rather, it's the being with each other that made all the difference.

Same time next year.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:24 PM]

 
How to find the Chucklehut: just ask Google for billy bob's big brown burning booty boil, silly. Like everybody else. Man there's some eccentric folk out there. What were they looking for before the internet? And where?
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:59 PM]

 
Once again the morning fix provides a critical counterpoint to our quotidian ponderings. I'll never think of a loincloth wearing salty squirter the same way again. If I ever did before, I sure won't now anyway.

There you go, fishbulb!
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:41 PM]

 
STUCK IN MY BRAIN

As regular Hutters may recall, I sometimes get a phrase stuck in my head. It's usually something benign, like "tempera paint" or "International Aileron" or a few bars of catchy music. Well, I'm stuck there again. Recently the lovely Kel shared a story with me that I can't stop remembering. Her sister was at a frat party at good ol' Alma Mater U. when she foolishly chose to visit the sanitary facilities. Someone had spread a deepheating rub on the toilet seat. She had thoroughly mentholated her posterior integument before she knew what had happened. All that night she experienced something that I wish I could stop repeating to myself: In her own words, " My ass was on fire with a cool minty sensation." Its amazing how many situations seem to beg for that phrase. If they don't, anyway, they should.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:29 PM]

 
my imaginary friends

I don't know if everybody went through a phase when their best friend wasn't real, but I think I did. I remember hours spent alone, deep in conversation; I remember inconveniences suffered on behalf of someone I'd invented. Maybe it was a reaction to something, a delusion I created to sublimate some lonely maladjusted pang. I don't suppose its so uncommon.

Like most kids, I grew out of my imaginary friends. I stopped seeing monsters in the closet and playing with bugs, too. I became a cynical little person, and I amplified my alientation by trying to make me some real friends. Even though my real friends were sometimes less convenient and amenable than my imaginary ones had been, eventually the were the only ones whose opinions mattered to me. I'd weaned myself from fantasy to reality. And I thought that was progress.

About a year ago a real person I know well invited me to a concert with a person I didn't know, but with whom I became friends. When she shortly thereafter had a party prior to moving away to the east coast, I met other actual human friends of hers, who also became friends of mine. We started meeting regularly, and also corresponding through our blogs. This was a means of communication previously unknown to me, but is a rich and gratifying medium to which I have taken enthusiastically. In doing so I started making new friends through their blogs, friends who lived far away: LA, Seattle, Virginia, Boston, St. Johns, New York... they all seem like such interesting, articulate, stimulating people. But I've never seen their faces, felt their handclasp, heard their voices. They were my new imaginary friends.

Then one of them - he's "how weird" on my sidebar - announced on his blog that he had just recorded a commentary for my local public radio station. He lived in town but I'd never met him - just read his site, exchanged comments with him. When he hit the air I listened from an airport waiting room on a tired old headset. His words were familiar to me - I'd read the article on line - but his voice was intriguingly new. I sat in the plastic seat surrounded by scurrying strangers and heard the voice of a friend I'd never really met, talking as if to me, thoughtfully, earnestly. I still have no idea what this guy looks like, how he carries himself, the way ideas or emotions chase across his face -- but now he has a voice, a cadence and a timbre. There is more to him - objectively - than just a website. My imaginary friend is turning real. Now this is progress.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:09 AM]

[ Wednesday, December 11, 2002 ]

 
You may notice a change. Yes, I made the font smaller. I was checking the archives for that poem about the holiday season and I liked the way it looked. I am willing to reconsider upon receipt of overwhelming negative public comment. Time's up.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:51 PM]

 
Back in July I posted this classic of my youth, but that was ironically out of season. Now it's harshly in season. I'm inspired to repost it because back in July I don't think many people were checking it out, so it's probably still almost fresh so far as readership is concerned (yeah both of you, officer) and because of what this thoughtful spiritual leader had to say to his tender flock in jolly olde Ngland. I heard about it on NPR this morning and it just added so much to my xmas spirit that I had to revive the shopworn but undiminished CHRISTMASTIME IN HELL:

Well you worthless rugrats did you think we'd turn the heat off?
Don't tell me you've forgotten where you spend your darkened days
Your parents cannot hear you as you plead for toys and candy
You knew what you were doing when you chose your vile ways
So you remember Santa? Well down here he totes a pitchfork
Invincible and scarlet in the boiling molten air
He'll slide right down your chimney with a tail long and pointed
But it's you who'll feel the fire as he baits you like a bear.
The elves! The elves, you scream, aghast, the maitre' de steps forward
with tidbits for the demons who so revel in your pain
Your little friends are skewered, three to every plastic sabre
They are gobbled up with relish and there's only you to blame
And all your stupid reindeer and their stench of waste and sulphur
Will join you as you suffer in the cauldrons where you dwell
A million times eternity we shower you with nightmares
Come on you yuletide maggots it is christmastime in hell

Now go shopping. The clock tix.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:27 PM]

 
ONE MORE THING YOU GOTTA LOVE ABOUT POLITICS

I read about this incident some time ago and found it compelling and inspirational. Someone who cares so deeply about the democratic process as to humiliate herself in public. Someone who's a whiz, out looking for number one, not just trying to take the pressure off. And now I learn that Irene Smith, the St. Louis alderwoman isn't gonna have a chance to make her stand for the rights of politicians to void where prohibited. They're saying they can't prove the case because the videotape may have been altered? That's not a very difficult thing to prove, just show that in one frame she's standing straddling a trashcan and in the next frame she's sitting comfortably smoking a cigarette or cavorting on a golden strand or otherwise not where she useta be. And wasn't there some physical evidence? Like a trash can full of political effluvium? I guess no one wanted to be responsible for that chain of custody either...
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:30 PM]

 
Stay warm - a public service from the Chucklehut, per referral from the Morning Fix. Because a possum nipple is a happy nipple.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:33 AM]

[ Monday, December 09, 2002 ]

 
Am I Going to Hell? Part II: So You're Going to Hell

We live upstairs from our landlady and her family. I don't pretend to understand much about them. She has one daughter and one son still in their teens and living at home, and one daughter who's moved out. Her husband shows up sometimes. There are several aunts and cousins; I think the handyman is related somehow; and of course there's grandma in the in-law downstairs at the back of the garage, audibly scowling and stomping around in her house slippers. Grandma cooks some kind of greens so rank that even she can't stand to boil them in her apartment, so she drags the hotplate outside; the humid stink fills my bedroom and makes me wonder if the dog has somehow fatally deflated. Grandma also refuses to speak english, so a lot of the communication among family members is in chinese. They seem usually to communicate with each other by shouting, or on other occasions, by yelling. The son has a loud voice that carries well through the floorjoists and drywall; when he speaks it's audible throughout my whole apartment. He also suffered a serious injury several years ago, leaving him heavy-footed and limping, possibly developmentally disabled, and certainly with a serious speech impediment. His voice is thick and clumsy; you can hear him think his tongue into place as he speaks. I have great respect for his ability to overcome the frustrations of his injury; he does his best to be a normal kid in his late teens with a screaming mom and a pot of rancid leaves boiling on the porch. So far so good.

They bought the boy a karaoke machine, which he turns up to a volume high enough to rattle my chandeliers. (Remember, I live upstairs from them.) The bass makes my television reception fuzz out. The vocals are inescapable - especially when the boy gets soulful and moans and hollers and shouts out with the joy of artistic creation or whatever it is that motivates karaoke singers. Mind you, he only does this when he's home alone. (I don't count.) He makes a hell of a lot of noise and it's often when I'm trying to take a short nap on a saturday afternoon. And that's okay. He can't drive, he gets yelled at all the time, it must be so hard for him - I can't begrudge him this experience, this chance to soar in his own soul.

Except for that now he has a "christmas hits" karaoke disk, one that seems to feature remixes of xmas classix from boy bands of the mid 90s. The thumping and ululations are indescribable. If I didn't know better I'd honestly think something terrible had happened. I lie there on the big green couch, trying to rest. The moaning and retching downstairs is barely in time with what I would barely call music on a good day, and this is surely not a good day. If he knew - was made aware - that I could hear him, he would stop. I want to let him know. But I restrain myself because his life is so difficult and my inconvenience is so selfish. So here's my question: if I made him aware that I could hear his caterwauling, and thus shamed him into denying himself the harmless pleasure of screaming tonelessly into a microphone, WOULD I GO TO HELL?
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:45 PM]

 
we drank at an angle
unusual placement
newspapers covered the benches we sat on
newspapers covered with pictures of women
the benches were wet so we sat on the women
but that's not my point
so the place was just the same as always
we sat together at the table
ranging freely - same as always
and others shared the outdoor air
a couple couples at some other
tables where we'd drunk before
and one young random soul among them
regulation specs and goatee
groomed and shod like anybody
muttering his way into
our conversation
undercurrents
we were talking about stemware
suddenly he was among us
something about getting plastic
for those who preferred a
transtemporal something
so Jared said Anyway
we kept on talking
then he was gone
and we questioned his reason
later we saw him conversing with others
he spoke quickly and cheerfully, delicate gestures
the others stood smiling politely or
sat with uncomfortable looks on their heads
and when he sat alone he'd have more conversations
his gestures less delicate
youthful face sneering
but he'd pull it together and quiet it down
and then he stood up as if someone had called him
and strode very normally over to us
hunker-haunched down at my shoulder and chuckled
looked me right in the eye and said Lemme just say something
none of us wanted that moment of silence
yet we were all curious, like we were watching
a horrible accident happen before us
what's this psycho gonna tell us
so he starts to get into it
Worldwide peace is possible by christmas at the latest
(none of us have said a word)
You see, I asked my father - a professor -
asked him (- here he turns away
and shrugs a poignant little grimace)
Quite directly....
now our silence has derailed him
staring blank, one dozen sockets
six of us with looks of incredulity or challenge
I can't believe you're really saying
I dare you to keep on saying
that was when he got the picture
cast his eyes back to his finges
mumbling into his beard
That's what I wanted to convey
he stood, his beer still barely touched,
and lumbered lightly up the steps
the air behind him reeked of shame
the conversation was restarted
same as always
but I couldn't
thinking of a world in which
my mind could not be counted on
a million woards and passions roil
spawned in chemical imbalance
all you want is interaction
quiet moments shared in moonlight
what you get is lunacy
and stares of incredulity
so what is shared is what's not wanted
Psycho find another victim
it's time for me to count my blessings

thats just the way it seems to me at [3:12 PM]

[ Thursday, December 05, 2002 ]

 
MORAL DILEMMA: I almost always take my lunch with me to work, and it's almost always dull as a sand sandwich. Healthy, usually, but dull almost always. Today there wasn't enough decent fare at home to make a reasonable lunch (a feast of a dinner, maybe, but not a lunch at my desk) so I opted to buy my sustenance. I went to a local chain that makes good fresh bread and sandwiches, and ordered a tasty repast. I'd brought them a fair share of business in the past; I'd arranged to have them cater whole meetings. I've put up with a fair amount of aggravation from them too, but they still make a good sandwich so I ordered, got my receipt, pulled out the soda and chips I'd told the cashier I would be wanting, and waited for my order to be ready. Oh yes, I also took out my money and held it obviously and visibly with my receipt. The sandwich was soon ready, the crowd was churning, and the cashier thrust the bag into my hands with a quick "hereyagothanks." Now, a few weeks ago I stopped someone at a cafe in LA from giving me change for $40 when I'd given him $25; now I was getting about eight dollars of lunch for free. It's like fate was just throwing money at me. I need money this week, so I walked out with my $20 still in my hand, not saying a word. Here's my question: Am I going to hell?
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:49 PM]

 
You know how sometimes you get a phrase stuck in your head and it won't go away? And sometimes that phrase turns out to be something that saves your life ("take stairs in case of emergency"), or makes you lots of money ("put it all on red"), or somehow fulfills your mission on this dusty humble planet of our birth? Well I've had a phrase stuck in my head since my shower this morning and I don't know what to make of it. It goes: "WELCOME TO INTERNATIONAL AILERION INCORPORATED - A TONG SOO COMPANY." Really. If this doesn't save my life or make me a lot of money, I'm gonna feel righteously ripped off.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:38 PM]

 
- Can I ask you a question?
- Sure.
- If I was coming to your house, and I brought cookies, and they were these cookies, what would you think?
- Why are you coming over?
- Oh, we're friends. We've known each other a long time, like a couple years. Not a long long time. But, this is the thing: I've never come over before.
- I'm a man?
- Oh yes, a man, but you're my age.
- Okay, if we're just friends, those cookies would be fine. No problem. If we're more than just friends, I guess it would be a toss-up for me. They look good. I'd eat them now.
- Do you eat a lot of cookies?
- Not very often, but sometimes I just get in the mood to eat cookies and I eat too many.
- Oh yes, I'm the same way. I don't eat a cookie for a year - then someone gives me a box, or a girl scout comes by and sells me a box of cookies, and I eat them all in one night.
- Watch out now - is your friend going to get any of these cookies?
- Oh yes, they're a gift. For later.
- I don't know, I'd probably open them right away.
- My friend won't. I know him. We'll have something else for dessert.
- It sounds like you know him pretty well. I bet you know if these would be okay or not.
- Yes, I think my friend would like them. I just wanted to see what you'd think.
- How'd I do?
- Very good. You really gave it a lot of thought.
- Well, have a good time with your friend. I'm going to keep shopping.
- Okay, you too. Goodbye. And thank you.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:32 PM]

 
He sat on BART with a clipboard and a hardback book. His hair, brown as a funk, surged incorrigibly from under a tired ball cap. His jacket, well-worn, bore a breast label from a motor oil company, and seemed to have been soaked in his sponsor's product. Pants: chinos, old and tired; shoes: leather sneakers, alive with pleasure. His black shirt bunched and wrinkled over his gut; a motto on a round pin perched at the bottom of his daringly plunging placket - I couldn't read it, too much information, too small a space. Next to the pin dangled a pewter pentangle charm. His brow furrowed as he worked a green ballpoint, going from the book to the clipboard. The book was thick and dense, and he had scrawled many notes in the margins. The clipboard held a few sheets of less-than-pristine three-hole notebook paper on which I thought I could read the beginning of a sermon of some sort, written in a deliberate and plain magiscule print. The book was open to a chapter that seemed to have something to do with God. At his feet were two bags: a white plastic grocery bag, crumpled and ratty, full of envelopes and papers; the other, a white garbage bag full of rolls of unused white garbage bags. When he left the train he was running.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:25 PM]

 
So recently a marathon runner - in training, but that's good enough for me - mentioned getting in her car and running errands. At the time it didn't make much of an impression on me, but now I'm thinking, dang, marathon runners should be actually running their errands. If they can't, nobody can. And that would just be too depressing. My own self, I'm working on levitation. So far I've almost perfected getting spaced out.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:17 PM]

 
Hey I came back and fixed the link here - so give me another shot:

In honor of Greg's upcoming radio spot about the old timey days of wood-burning computers, I forward this BombSquad classic about pong - a game I first saw in 1972 where it was making such a sensation that crowds were forming to watch it being played. I think the lesson of this link is, drive fast enough and you'll break the bounds of space and time. Anyway, that'll be my motto for tomorrow. You other guys on the roads, watch out, okay?
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:12 PM]

[ Wednesday, December 04, 2002 ]

 
Sure, I went to a hoity toity college, not like anyone around here ever heard of it, but it's old and expensive and has great pretensions if not actual greatness. Actually, 17 named it one of the top ten "cool schools" this year. That would not have been happening when I attended. The most popular (best-selling) t-shirt on campus then was the school seal with a legend around it clarifying which school it wasn't. Regardless, or maybe because of, this lack of external recognition, I was indoctrinated there to believe that we had a rival school, one which I was supposed to hold in utter disdain. When I met people from that school, they had heard of my school but not of the rivalry. To be frank, I think everybody who didn't go to this purported rival school wound up with negative feelings about it; Side Show Bob (last item on the link page) certainly did and he's the final word in my book on this subject. Or he was until today. Because today, I learn that the debating squad from rival Princeton University were attacked in their sleep by the fighting and drunken Quakers of the U.Penn. I guess they wanted to inject some violence into the overly-cerebral world of rhetoric. Take that, brainiac! Eat 10W-40, geniuses! Really, where's the sport in beating up people who are 1) sleeping, 2) debaters, 3) from Princeton? Is the frustration of not getting into one of the schools other people have actually heard of so rankling that they had to resort to violence? And not just violence, but oily violence? In my day we sang biting satirical ditties and drank ourselves quietly into a stupor. I guess the problem is that these guys just didn't drink enough.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:03 PM]

 
You knew he wasn't writing them himself. Now, thanks to this link provided by my own lilsis and the inestimable Scott, you can write them for him. Make him say it isn't so...
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:00 AM]

[ Tuesday, December 03, 2002 ]

 
My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me.
Benjamin Disreali

thats just the way it seems to me at [5:59 PM]

 
Courtesy of the Daily Fix: the butt-ugly Jacuzzi of your dreams. Now you don't have to leave the tub to enjoy high-definition sporting events. By which I mean home shopping, syndicated law and order, and those prurient entertainments available on dvd. In other words, you can actually get clean while you're getting dirty. How did we live before these times? Or better yet, who'd call that living - forced to spend an entire bathtime without mediated inputs? Speaking for myself, I'll mediate my own inputs while I'm in the tub, thank you very much...
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:08 PM]

 
When (not if - when) you get in trouble, if you're very very interesting, you might get listed among the most famous mugshots to circulate on the net... lucky you....
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:37 PM]

 
Far be it from me to halt the progress of byte-munching data proliferating the ethernet worldwide... I got this in an email this morning and found it sufficiently amusing and useful to pass it forward to the cosmos at large - because the Washington Post, where it was apparently first shown, clearly won't reach the cosmopolitan and farflung audience of the Chucklehut:

Take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

1.Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
2.Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
3.Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.
4.Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
5.Cashtration (n.): The act of buying something expensive, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
6.Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
7.Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
8.Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
9.Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
10.Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.
11.Decaflon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
12.Glibido: All talk and no action.
13.Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
14.Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at 3 in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15.Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
My personal favorite from those I've seen:
16.Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid AND an asshole.

Got any words that need to be made part of the language? Post them here!
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:55 AM]

[ Sunday, December 01, 2002 ]

 
After the second turkey came to the table and all nine pies had been made available for general delectation, I hoisted myself off the sofa and put the pudding in the oven. Yes, an additional dessert was superfluous, but I hadn't known that when I set it up hours earlier, before the cheesecake and extra coffeecakes and those wonderful italian nougats arrived... so I put the damn bread pudding out when it was ready and wouldn't you know it, the thing disappeared. Nothing left for Chuckles' breakfast (which wound up being a big dim sum family brunch so it wasn't a problem). Out of respect for the obvious enthusiasm with which the gustatory public took to this product or service, I hereupon take it on myself to provide yet another cinderblock for the RECIPE CORNER: this one I got from Narsai David's radio show, I wrote it out while driving from work sometime in the mid- to late-90s and it's worked perfectly every time.

EASY/TASTY PINEAPPLE BREAD PUDDING: Take a can of crushed pineapple, three eggs, three tablespoons of flour and one cup of sugar, and mix them well in a big bowl. Get five or six slices of good white bread and cut them into cubes (Bay area residents should know that the Santa Rosa Baking Co's "Great White" at Trader Joe's is the best white bread available on store shelves anywhere.) Mix the bread cubes into the pudding batter and then mix in a melted stick of butter (the cold eggs and unheated pineapple will congeal the butter so stir as you pour.) Dump the whole mess into a 9x9 baking pan and bake uncovered for 35 minutes at 350 f. When it's getting ready to come out of the oven, stir up some Bird's Dessert Sauce (don't worry, the US version tastes great too) and after it boils add some good bourbon for flavah. Let the pudding cool when it gets out of the oven, it'll burn right through your tongue; keep the custard from forming a skin by draping some plastic wrap over the surface. When it's time to dish out, get your serving first - it might not be there when you get back...

Had I not researched this matter I'd have been ignorant to the fact that custard is a cult. A creamy, warm, delicious cult, but a cult nonetheless... so wear your cowl and cassock and eat hearty - only 24 scarfing days till xmas...
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:55 AM]

 
Thanksgiving became a living testament to the shift from the possible to the compulsory, from "by any means necessary" to "by all means available." I endured critical gastric distension until I was incapacitated. The next night we had a family menorah lighting (mom and sis and me plus two spouses) for the first time in 20 years, and cooked up those tasty multi-veg latkes for which I am justly so famous throughout the area code - they're authentic no matter what they're made out of as long as they're fried in oil, so I use taters, parsnips and carrots, and I squeeze the liquid out of the raw grated veggies through cheesecloth and let it settle, pour off the liquid and get a bunch of pure vegetable starch to dump back into the mix to thicken it... plus there was taking mom to the airport and, as we dropped her off, noticing that my cousin Billy was waiting at the cab stand for a ride back to his house, where we were scheduled for a party two hours later, so we gave him a lift and then killed a few hours in the east bay browsing bookstores and listening to steel drum bands and downing a few holiday brews at the Triple Rock with Evi and Scott and Dr. Andy from up the hill... it was there at the Rock that Evi described a visit to the local supermarket, which is really not that super but it's pretty cosmopolitan, being in the heart of the multiethnic Richmond district of this bizarre town... Evi's checker was named Victor, and he appeared to be hispanic. He was having a great time yesterday, checking out the shoppers and offering them help to their cars... Evi and Scott were buying ordinary staple-type items, nothing explicitally semitic, but Victor had their number. He wished them a cheerful "Happy Channukah," and then went on to advise them that he was glad to be "keepin' it real with [his] Channukah brothers." I'm feeling more real already. Thanks, Victor - I'll save a nice starchy latke for you when you're off work. It's as real as it gets.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:20 AM]