The ChuckleHut

[ Monday, March 31, 2003 ]

From the Daily Fix I find a collectible suitable only for hiding and ignoring: The Hamilton Collection Lord Bless This Defender of Freedom Figurine. Yea, Lord, bless this ugly piece of crap and let it be true in your infinite mercy that our war machine is defending something more righteous and worthwhile than meticulously handcrafted handpainted sculpture and crystalline garbage like this. So realistic you'll think he's actually going to shoot at you from the shining clear hands of Jesus. So cute you'll wish you were being invaded yourself.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:57 PM]

What good's a sidebar if no one uses it? The Institute of Official Cheer's Dorcas Collection merits a reference even if I'm too busy working on a freaking State holiday to enjoy it!
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:32 PM]


When your dog weighs 100 pounds - or when mine does - there are bound to be a few curious noises in your life. The occasional rumble, whistle, squeak or - god forbid - oilcan clunk followed by splash: these are the auditory gifts that all our canine friends bestow freely on us. Eventually we wonder how we managed without them. But Coz has a cinderblock instead of a skull, a cinderblock full of teeth and hydraulic fluid with a hard marble of grey matter bouncing around in it. And this creates a sound sensation that, as far as my experience with the species goes, is unique to Cosmo.

Like many dogs, Cosmo sleeps. We have him come back to the master suite with us when we retire of an evening, and he goes obediently to his fleecy bed opposite ours. As I lie in my bed I can hear him breathing, his exhalations outrushing in his nostrils, regular and soothing.

But then, much later in the night, when we're all sleeping and even the cat has crept in to join us, he begins a distinctive and cacaphonous conversation. You could say that he's snoring, and that would be accurate, but insufficient to describe what he's doing. It's not that he snores loudly - not all the time, anyway. He can crank out a bone-rattling snore, but it's not his style to stick with it. His snores constantly change, going back and forth in tone, pitch, duration and intensity. It's like his snores are having a conversation.

I wake up without opening my eyes, knowing that it's 1:45 a.m. and the room is dark and still. The thing that awakens me is a sharp retort, like one old friend greeting another. It's a snore, but it seems to say, "Hey!"

I lie waiting for the response that comes with his next breath. This one is protracted and ascending in tone, as if asking a question - "How's it going?" Another short snort replies, "Fine." A long snore - "Do you think they're asleep?" And from here the alternating snores become quite expressive: "Yup!" "Should we wake them?" "Sure!" "What should we do?" "Dunno." "I think we should sing." "Can't." "You're not trying." "Make me."

At this point I reach down to grab a shoe or sock or notebook at my bedside - anything - and rustle it about, trying to suggest that, if the dog doesn't wake up and shift positions, I'll have to toss something at him. He bestirs himself moderately and curls up in a new spot. The room is quiet for a few minutes. My mind relaxes, I sense sleep returning, dream images arise from my subconscious for my amusement and delectation.

"You still there?"
"You betcha."
"Wanna play a game?"
"Twenty questions."

I have to toss a sock at the dog. He sits up with a start and a single rifleshot snore. This wakes up the cat, who jumps onto Kelly, all four feet landing in a two-inch square area just below her navel. Kelly awakens, displeased. The dog, alerting to the cat, comes over grinning and wagging his tail. The cat complains. It's so nice when we can all be together like this.

MORAL: Sometimes it's better to let snoring dogs lie.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:32 AM]

[ Sunday, March 30, 2003 ]

This area is known for grey foggy days where a wet wind whips ocean-cold against your raw bones, and you shudder in your pantlegs against every frigid blast. Then there are days like this one, warm and clear and chamber-of-commerce perfect - days on which the antisocial nihilist in me derides the joy I feel when the hillsides erupt in wildflowers and the sky is deep and cobalt blue. At times like these I look for ways that my whole life might take on a similar upswing. And things have been good.

We got a "last-best-final" offer from management, so the decision goes to the bargaining unit membership - it's finally out of my hands. What's even better, the offer wasn't totally insulting and I got a nice free lunch out of it.

I got to visit happy hour for sixty precious minutes last friday and was paid the most profound compliment I've ever received: Last week Hillary told me that she'd had to stop reading this site while in class over the wireless network in her school's lecture halls - she'd read something that made her - well, chuckle, and someone else chuckled too, and as a result, almost gained some unwanted attention, and therefore, no more Chucklehut. I actually wrote in my notebook on the way home that night, "Highest compliment: H can't read in class." (It may help, in this case, for me to clarify that I have the utmost respect for Hillary's intellectual capacities. I'm not going to get into the total package here because this would become gushing and sycophantic, but among her innumerable other sterling and superlative qualities, she's drop-dead brilliant.) So anyway. I see Hillary at the patio and thank her for a comment she'd left a day or so ago. She recounts, matter-of-fact, 'yeah, that was in Con law...." It's childish, and worse now that I'm broadcasting it here, but that really made my day.

However, that was not all. I also had *two* excellent comebacks over the course of the day:

(In bargaining session, with senior union representative:)
Susan: We're looking for people who can count to eleven without taking off their shoes.
Dan: You mean you're looking to hire the deformed.

(Meeting a very nice person for the first time:)
Lisa: They say we are most attracted to those who are most like us.
Dan: I supposed that's why I love myself so very much.

Then I had another deeply satisfying dinner at our favorite place, which I was wondering whether even to link here because they're getting a big too busy for my liking, but while we were waiting at the bar the owner came up and introduced himself and we were able to speak about having bought art off his walls, some of his menu changes, and the guy who did all the metalwork and metal art they have up, whose name we already knew since we're interested in some of his work ourselves. He comped us our beers. I'm plugging his place even if I'm inconvenienced by it.

On the way home I stopped off at ToyBoat to get an egg cream, which I love dearly, and at the checkout line I saw a display of flat taffy from Country Store Candy, Austin, Texas; it was red with a thick white stripe down the middle and I bought it and ate it right away. So thrilling again to be peeling off that waxed paper, snapping off a hunk and letting it shatter and then dissolve in my mouth, sealing my jaws shut for a moment or two before it disappeared.... The label described it as "Old Fashion" taffy. No "-ed." This made it seem a bit less nostalgic and more backwards. "Yes, I've seen the new fashion - if you can call it that. I really don't think I'll be espousing it. I'll stick with the old fashion. Some things are not subject to change."

Then Saturday - we got up early and went to the gym, which for me is about 1/4 mile from the east end of Chrissie Field. I'm driving over in my cross-trainers and tshirt and shorts on a stunningly beautiful day; as we approached the facility a big blue heron cruised right in front of us, he must have been five feet long from beak to tail, wild in my face. I got to the gym and stretched out, took a look at the treadmills and went back outside to run along the bayfront amidst the restored wetlands. As I re-approached the gym after running for about 20 minutes it occurred to me that it isn't really accurate to say I'm working out when I'm going in. I'm working, yes, but in, not out. Out is an entirely different ball game. And "working in" has a somewhat different connotation. But it seems more precise, and maybe a bit more fun. God knows anything would help.

As I'm waiting for Kel after my workin, I see a big truck painted with the words: "Royal Laundry, Division of American Etc. Inc." It seemed to me that someone gave up too quickly. I suppose the inherent weakness of the Royal circumstances in America would contribute to a sense of helplessness and, perhaps, to a tendency to throw in the towel. But really - "American Etc."? I'd like to see their mission statement: "To have a mission statement." Although I guess it's better than "American Etc. 'n' Stuff."

After the gym, we got to walk the dog in Golden Gate Park, which is always a treat. We got to see the old Acid Drop area near the Polo Fields where Kel's sister took a header and wound up with a little retrograde amnesia for a while, and in general the park is looking incredible, everything in blossom or bright with new growth.

Then we grabbed a bit of lunch and went out to the Asian Art Museum, which just opened last week in the building that used to house the old library. It's a strange marriage of sensibilities; there are still a lot of big plaques and carvings everywhere about reading and silence. The overall effect is, "keep quiet, you're upsetting the art." There are big spaces where nothing is installed yet; I'm hoping that they fill them in soon. But the gallery space was plentiful and harmoniously arranged. Conclusion: I'm not crazy about the architecture but the art is displayed nicely.

On the way home we strolled up Polk Gulch all the way to Pine Street, where Shalimar has opened another branch - I got some fresh onion kulcha - and then back home where I grilled the perfect pork cutlets and Kel did that thing with onions, peppers and cumin that works so well over cornbread; we experienced palpable satisfaction and then retired to the entertainment lounge for three episodes of the Tick - Pineapple Pokopo, Arthur's bank account, and the Mole Men. Random noteworthy lines which I can still read in my notebook include:

"Let's hang ten for justice!"
"Join me in my soily realm!"
"Thumbs up for evil!"
"A terrified City cringes in its collective pajamas."
"Villians - I say to you: cut out all that evil!"
"Joseph Stalin - grab onto my armored muu-muu - together we will leave this earth behind!"
"I don't think that puppet's going to give us any more trouble."
"You can't fight evil with a macaroni duck!"
"Get meta with me!"
and finally, my personal favorite for the evening:
"Evildoers - Eat my justice!"

Finally, today, we get in a great bike ride down to Kirby Cove (and the first time I've ridden past where I fell and broke my wrist), and can take a quiet day of recuperation, reconstruction and regeneration. (Laundry.) Tomorrow I have a pile of work to do but it's officially a holiday so it'll be quiet and I'll be able to get a lot done.

I had some other stuff to put up that was more interesting but instead I blew a bunch of time on hunting down linques. Ah well. Our glorious and inevitable victory is surely at hand. That will have to do for now.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:34 PM]

[ Friday, March 28, 2003 ]

The medicinal smell of geraniums awakens in me
sensations of warmth and eyelevel flowers
a hillside cascading in small pastel petals
don't really care much for stamens and calyxes
little boy stuck with his parents and puzzlebook
sunshine so bright that my eyes try to hide from it
'go outside get some air, daddy needs quiet time'
he was the chaplain for malibu summercamp
I was the baggage he carried like Faberge
eggs - precious, beautiful, kept on a shelf
but occasionally I'd escape into childhood
those are not the times remembranced
by pharmacopeal effusions
just a moment standing silent
by the steep and ragged hillside
in my little canvas keds
the flowers honest, sturdy, breathing
all the freshness of the seabreeze
thinking that the world is growing
living things erupt and change
my tiny body not so different
see the roots right through the soil
smell so sharp my eyes would water
brings me back to potted flowers
on the balustrade before me
verdant scallops, fuscia dollops
close my eyes and hold that breath
inside me for a couple seconds
give the fouryearold a blast
of unadulterated life
he likes it still and goes back to
his puzzlebook with silent smile
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:09 PM]

[ Thursday, March 27, 2003 ]

...precluded.... before I even had a chance to clude...
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:12 AM]


Perceptive time-stamp readers might notice that I didn't post anything yesterday - a violation of a personal ethic and an unusual circumstance regardless. Well, it sometimes comes to pass that several positive influences converge on my tired foggy place all at once. Usually these are in the nature of a decent shave and a really good syndicated Simpsons. Yesterday was just a little better than that, but we can start with the shave, which was smooth and thorough; I even clipped my hair to a tidy 1/4 inch. Next, my post-ablution calisthenics - I've been getting steadily stronger and more flexible this year, but until yesterday I was still "in recovery." But I got myself into crow and held it for close to a minute. I now consider myself no longer broken (the word "fixed" still has unpleasant connotations from my days with the SPCA). NEXT, I learn from GG that the last of my cookies found good - albeit temporary - homes in the warm, lubricious mouths of a gen-u-wine Hollywood glamor couple. My gratification exceeded my envy at someone else eating my biscuits. NEXT, I got to the office and found a voice mail from my boss - who's OUT OF THE OFFICE ALL DAY - telling me that the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down its ruling in Brown v LFW - a 5-4 decision upholding an en banc opinion of the 9th Circuit that IOLTA programs do not result in uncompensated takings in violation of the 5th amendment - and, by extension, ensuring my professional position as an IOLTA program administrator. Next, for the rest of the morning I worked steadily and intensely, with only brief breaks for a nice email or two from a dear friend and a phone call to set up a bike ride this weekend with my lovely cousin. I was told by one Executive Director whom I called to pester that I had a 'radio voice' and one Development Director thanked me repeatedly for helping her understand what she was doing better. NEXT, lunch was actually taken both away from my desk and outside the office with the lovely and pro-active Wetnurse, who gave me a free meal, a mental vacation, two great hugs and countless positive vibes. We may even have seen people having sex in a car in front of us, but we weren't sure. Next, lunch over and back at my desk, I wound my day down with another modest helping of extremely productive work and managed to shoehorn in some essaywriting for my volunteer gig.

Downside: Someone grabbed my special seat on the bus home, and when I was on said bus (in the wrong seat) reading Scalia's dissent in Brown I started feeling so nauseated (carsick and sick of Scalia's sententious posturing) that I skipped supper altogether. But since I'd had the mondo falafel burrito for lunch, I was okay with that. A fellow can actually get too much of a good thing. Depending on which thing it is, of course.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:11 AM]

He kept pace with her on the crowded sidewalk, twisting his shoulders to keep the vision of her loveliness in view as they walked. She was looking forward, stepping briskly. His eyes were smiling, but her smile went no further than her lips.
- Are you up to anything this weekend?
- Um... well, not as far as I know.
- Oh, just some quiet time for yourself?
- Well actually, I have some friends I'm supposed to see.
- That sounds like fun. Friends from work?
- No, from - from home. You wouldn't know them.
- What'll you do together?
- Well. Um, we go out for supper, maybe a drink or a movie.
- Hitting the town.
- It's not like that. They're just good friends. We don't see each other too often.
- Must be nice when you can all get together. Do they live around here?
- I don't know - yes. Some of them do.
- Sounds like quite a crew.
- Yes. We stick together. We've known each other forever. I mean, you know, it's fun.
- I guess you guys'll paint the town red. I'll probably stay home and catch up on some reading.
- That's good, reading's good. Going out can be so tiring.
- It's worth it. Especially if you like the company you're keeping. But I don't have any friends in town from home to hang out with.
- They don't come out to visit?
- Didn't have them to start with.
- Well, enjoy your book, I guess.
- Yeah. Enjoy your friends.
- I will.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:40 AM]

[ Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ]

I was inspired to consider Buddhist theory by a small metal amulet I recently saw which bore the legend, "4 TRUTHS". The four noble truths of Buddhism may be summarized as follows:

1. All of life involves suffering.
2. Selfish craving causes suffering.
3. Suffering can be eliminated by eliminating its preconditions.
4. The Eightfold Path is the way to remove the preconditions of suffering. These consist of right seeing, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

The four truths can be a powerful and effective guide to enlightenment. However, I question the value of amulets like the one I mentioned above. It was a license plate, and frankly I consider it a bit duplicitous to get all righteous about suffering, selfish cravings, and the preconditions thereof when you're DRIVING A BMW 740il - BADLY - ON THE 101 IN MARIN COUNTY. If you want to tell me that life is suffering, don't be driving a nicer car than I am when you try it. I can eliminate your preconditions while-u-wait.

However, it does put me in mind of two really unfortunate acronyms I've noticed on certain Toyota and Dodge trucks. Some Dodge trucks bear a chrome plate that reads, "SLT." All that's missing is 'u'... needless to say, they're pick-ups. Not to be outdone, Toyota attaches a plate that reads "TRD." Charming. If you want to drive a piece of shit, don't let me stop you...
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:01 PM]

It was just yesterday that my dear friend Ms Pea suggested that I try to make a list of the words I always use. Not the obvious ones like "the" and "I," but the ones more particular to my personality and expressive style. I put my mind to the task and was quickly overwhelmed. There are the words I say too often, the ones I like but don't use enough, the ones I think I use but really don't, the ones that are so eccentric that, even if I use them rarely, it feels like I use them a lot... Long story short, I just wasn't up to the task. Not that one.

But it turns out that there was a list I was able to compile that I think is a bit more revealing - and isn't that what the internet is all about? I was on the bus in my typical, ordinary seat, realizing that my life is full of little habits that anyone who wanted to kill me and take my place would have to learn before being able to fool all the people all the time. Never one to stand in the path of such progress, I cheerfully present:

(Note: "Always" means "almost always, all things being equal." I'm a creature of habit, not a slave to convention. Well, I guess that depends on the convention, but all things being equal....)
* Look back at the projector during (or before) movies. This started when I saw my first movie, which scared the hell out of me at times and I had to look back to ground myself and remember what was really going on. Since then I've skipped the peer-back only once - on purpose, during an iconoclastic phase that was unproductive and unsatisfying.
* Think about Leonardo Da Vinci while taking off in an airplane. I think of him sitting next to me, getting all jacked up about the whole process of jet engines, air pressure, in-flight service, and modern urban planning... He travels with me for a few minutes everywhere I go.
* Mute commercials on t.v. I don't understand why everybody doesn't do this. Commercials irk me no end and I get such a sense of empowerment being able to quash them.
* Listen to the news in the morning. NPR. The only exception is if I'm in LA and happen to be in an area that has good reception of KJZZ (I think, used to be KLON but the letters changed) - the best jazz station in the country. Otherwise, it's Bob Edwards and yoga.
* Read plaques set into walls or sidewalks. Sometimes this slows me down but I learn a lot of interesting and useful crap. People ask me, 'where did you learn this useful crap?' and I tell them 'I read it on a building' and they either don't believe me or they don't believe the building. I don't care either way, but suddenly I'm inspired to create and install a bunch of misleading plaques... maybe more on this later...
* Ride harder uphill. - That is, on my bicycle. (You knew. Don't be that way.) I love the struggle against the mountain, the thrill of summiting, even if it's just a small incline on a neighborhood street. To this compulsion I credit my breathtakingly sculpted calves.
* Tuck in the bottom of the bed. If the sheets come untucked from the foot of the bed in the middle of the night I will sometimes have to get up and re-tuck. Kel prefers the "born free" philosophy as re: bedcovers, which irks me no end. If the edge of the sheet is lying halfway across my sculpted calves while my feet protrude under the blanket or the comforter, I have disjointed dreams and restless sleep.
* Shave in the shower. This, I learned after years of amateur hematology, gouging divots out of my face with bloodthirsty abandon. Now I use hair conditioner instead of shave cream, and have a no-fog mirror in the shower. It makes the difference between being presentable at work in the morning, and being asked by strangers when they opened up Molokai.
* Sit, on the bus coming home, on the last seat on the left before the articulation in the middle of the bus, facing inward (not forward). This is the habit that triggered my awareness of this whole subject. I like this seat because I can see the other riders; nothing happens that escapes my attention on the bus. Also, I can be sure that my right hand will not be encumbered by another person sitting next to me, or bumping it in the aisle, and there is an armrest on which I can rest it. My bag fits under the seat and I have a choice of easily-accessed doors. It's the little things in life that make me feel so petty...
* Kick stuff lying around on the sidewalk. I'm right-footed but I'm working on pedal ambidexterity. I also tend to hook my kicks left with both my right and left feet, but over time I've improved somewhat. "Time" in this case means "since I started walking." Prospects for a professional career in the kicking of found objects have dimmed over the past decade or so.

By mastering these simple behaviors, you can be as maladjusted, anxious and socially inappropriate as I am myself. And that's quite an accomplishment, so pace yourselves. Rome wasn't tucked in in a day, after all.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:16 AM]

[ Monday, March 24, 2003 ]

She felt huge in her chair. 'I can't do this anymore,' she repeated to herself as the coffee in front of her steamed and swirled with rich clots of cream. She could taste her breakfast on her tongue. '...can't do this again....' But as her eyes scanned the desk, everything seemed in order. It looked like it did when she'd left it the night before, or it seemed that way to her casual glance... '...maybe I can do this once more,' something tired in her muttered. She exhaled slowly, through her mouth, with careful control.

Her phone rang. Reactively she began functioning. The work occupied her mind; she couldn't think about her thick wrists or stubby fingers when she was up to her ears in busy work. She took pride in doing things well. Twenty minutes later, when she came to a pause, she smiled internally. 'I don't care what they think of me,' she comforted herself. 'I'm as good as any of them.'

Mandy walked up, looking great in a suit that must have cost her a fortune. "Hey, good morning. Did you get that tape I left for you last night?"

She looked down at her desk, feeling the leading edge of a disproportionate panic. She'd seen nothing. She craned her neck, searching for the hidden cassette. Could it have fallen behind the paper clips? She reached over to move her desk caddy - her hand brushed the coffee cup - Mandy was saying, "Don't worry, maybe I left it in the machine..." - too late for that, Mandy - the cup was tipping, slowly, inexorably... she saw her stupid plaid skirt, swollen with the bulk of her thick stupid thighs, as the coffee spilled onto the desk, splashed vindictively across the blotter, poured down onto her kilt. She lept to her feet; too late, too late... Mandy acted concerned, as it it hadn' t all been her fault, her plan; ran off, saying she was getting a paper towel....

She stood and watched the coffee soaking into her papers, puddling around the tapes she'd completed, dribbling off the edge of the desk onto her canvas shoes - once cute, now stained and odious. She looked down with revulsion at her thighs painted with the warm liquid, as the warmth quickly faded to coolness, to cold. Her mind was stuck. 'Again... I've ruined it... nothing works... was doing just fine there... bitch did this on purpose..." She couldn't move, rigid with disgust and anger. By the time Mandy got back with a roll of towels, she was gone. She had taken the photo of her cat and wasn't planning on returning.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:18 PM]

I've been concentrating on holding onto my dreams and finally caught one. Am I pleased? Hard to say....

The part I remember had me on a cabin cruiser being towed around the streets of a tough waterfront city. It was owned and skippered by a corrupt cop. The boat was decorated in bandaid beige and was loaded with sport fishing gear. I asked the skipper how I could be helpful, secretly fearing for my safety. Leering at me from the wheelhouse, he handed me a bulky winch handle and told me to cinch up a boat we were towing. I hopped down and attended to my task, noting that the insertion for the winch handle was disturbingly tiny. But I got the job done, quickly and efficiently, and as I tossed the handle back to the skipper I asked if there was anything else he needed me to tighten up. He demurred.

This dream could mean a lot of things. I prefer to believe that it doesn't.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:13 PM]

[ Saturday, March 22, 2003 ]

The Oxford Universal Dictonary (third ed., New York 1955), provides as follows: Cookie: (ku’ki). Sc and U.S. 1730. [prob a. Du. koekje, dim of koek cake.] In Scotland, a baker’s plain bun; in U.S., a small flat cake, with, or (locally) without, sweetening.

Are they kidding me? No one reading this definition would have any inkling of the magic and magnificence evoked by those two precious syllables. Here, I’ve been treating the damn thing as a reference source. It barely qualifies as a paperweight.

Let’s start with the “koek cake” - this isn’t whetting my appetite, for food or anything else. Maybe some of you are more interested in it than I am but since American Pie I think I’ve had my fill of that kind of sweetmeat.

Now for Scotland: I’m not familiar (thankfully) with their bakers’ buns, plain or otherwise, but I’m wondering to what the comparison is being made: a tartan baker’s tattooed ass, a kilted boulanger’s tush with a sacral ring, or maybe a caber-tossing patissier’s branded bottom? Nothing could be farther from my thoughts when I think of a cookie. And frankly I prefer it that way.

Finally, once we get to the U.S., we find a definition that begins, in a pale, inadequate way, to approach the topic appropriately - a small flat cake, but definitely with sweetening. What kind of “locality” would call an unsweetened cake of any size or shape a cookie? That’s just wrong. Wrong and cruel. Either tell me where the “cookies” are unsweetened, so I can avoid ever going there, or don’t talk about it at all. You’ll just scare the children.

In summary: My faith in this particular dictionary is fatally wounded. But my curiosity about, and hunger for, the cookie remain unsatisfied. So I suppose we must fall back on our own resources to understand this beloved baked delight. My mind’s been on the subject lately because of all the hamentashen, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Having been spurred to this task by loyal Chuckleists and Chucklistas, I will proceed with Aristotelian deliberation by considering the most important (to me) exemplars of that most profound creation, the cookie. And you can bet there’s not a plain bun or unsweetened cake in the lot. I wouldn’t do that to anybody - and certainly not to you.

Golden Fruit: searching for a link to enrich the discussion of this primitive, larval form of this complex cuilinary phenomenon, I learn that they have been discontinued by those miserable craven elves from Keebler. I’m so outraged I won’t even link to the “meet the elves” page, which is bandwidth-intensive and unflaggingly stupid. The Golden Fruit biscuit is/was a sandwich of long, broad, flaky flat biscuits with fruit paste in the middle and a slightly sweet glaze. It was good for lunches when I didn’t want to get too much of a sugar infusion in the middle of the day. They came in raisin, apple, cranberry, and a few other flavors too, I think. I could find out more from Keebler but screw’em.

Fortune and Almond Cookies: it’s pretty well known that fortune cookies were invented a few blocks from my apartment at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park for the 1894 California Midwinter Exhibition. My local greasy chinese restaurant will sometimes give me these by the bagfull when I order the occasional chicken fried rice. That’s, like, 30 fortune cookies. I have no self control and obtain numerous contradictory and delicious fortunes forthwith. Almond cookies are much more in the traditional “cookie” format, round and flat and crumbly. I tend to believe these are actually chinese in origin; however, I know that they can be bought in outrageous bulk for low prices. If I succumb to this temptation I deserve my own fate.

Stella D’Oro Selections: These were always popular at religious events and I wasn’t proud of how much I liked them. But there were a lot of different kinds of cookies in those bags and I could finish a whole sack before I realized I had made myself sick. Anisette, biscotti, and the sugar-glazed ones were particular favorites, but I’d plow through them all. In recent Stella news, be on the lookout for undeclared almonds and non-kosher cookies.

Circus Animals and Animal Crackers: I hadn’t realized the pink and white iced cookies with little candy dots all over them were a local specialty till just now. I proudly grew up on these sugar-loaded morsels. After years of testing, I personally concluded that pink tasted the same as white, but some of the animals were more fun to eat than others (however, some secrets will die with me).

Animal Crackers were always a favorite of mine because 1) they came in a cage-like box with a handle, suitable for swinging; 2) they called themselves crackers but if you were paying attention, they were actually sweet; 3) no one ever seemed to mind me eating them between meals. They were also sufficiently realistic in detail as to lend themselves to many pleasant carnivorous games when I was a tot, and occasionally more recently.

Lemon cookies: I remember getting these mass-produced in cheerful yellow boxes but I can’t find a link to that product so here’s an analogous image. These cookies were small and crunchy and seemed a bit effete to me, except if you ate a lot of them your tongue would start to burn from the acid in the lemony powdered sugar all over them. Made me feel cooler in the summer. Good with punch. I enjoyed sucking all the sugar off and then finishing them quickly. Oh, now I get it.

Iced Oatmeal: I’ve always liked oatmeal (I make a mean bowl of oatmeal, you don’t know till you’ve tried it) and oatmeal cookies, especially when armored with a thick layer of solid sugar. I typically preferred the chewy kind, and was okay with the raisins on occasion.

English Tea Dunkers: when I was six and my family went to England for an extended stay, my mother brought these home one day and I still haven’t finished thanking her. They are about two inches square, very dense and firm, with an extremely hard sugar coating in different bright colors with different simple images. You had to dip them in milk - and hold them there a few moments - before your teeth could penetrate that glucose plating. I’ve never seen them since then (1970-71), but hope springs eternal. Probably the highest sugar-to-biscuit ratio I’ve ever had in a cookie. I can’t find a link. If you know where to get these, act now and earn my undying gratitude. I beg of you.

Flaky Flix (fudge, not that parvenue vanilla): a mainstay, and I think still on the market, though I’ve given up finding a link for them after 20 minutes of inexplicable disappointment. These things are cultural icons, aren’t they? I remember going shopping
with mom and making her get a box of these first and having her give me the money to pay for them so I could sit in the car and eat them. In my family, this was exercise. (We left the house, and I had to stand in line, and open the package myself.) I would vary between chomping my way down the length of the cookie, or breaking it longitudinally and eating the individual wafers. That was a challenge and I’m not sure it was worth it, in retrospect - the cookies tasted pretty much the same either way. (Yummy.)

Girl Scout Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs: There really aren’t any bad girl scout cookies, but my original favorite, Thin Mint, has been supplanted of late by Samoas and Tagalongs. The chocolate on the Tagalongs seems milkier to me but the Samoas are chewy, and I’m a sucker for caramel. (No, not a caramel sucker. That’s altogether different.)

Milanos: regular/mint/orange: another mass-produced favorite. I ate a lot of these in college when I worked at the downstairs convenience store in my dorm. They tended to be the major favorite of the endemic spoiled campus girls. So I had to be careful with the Milanos - if a guy was coming down for munchies I hid them so as to preserve some modicum of masculinity (right), and if it was girls stopping by for a study break I could break them out and share the joy. Like it ever went any farther than that; I was locked in a metal cage full of junk food, more an object of pity than derision - give me back my goddamn cookies...

Pinwheels: these were like mallomars, which I also liked (and which I could find on the ‘net where I couldn’t find Pinwheels), but they were in a sort of bundt cake shape and had a higher chocolate-to-marshmallow ratio, on account of the big hole in the middle where the chocolate coating would pool. I would peel the chocolate off a whole cookie, then eat the cracker base, and then pop the naked, glistening marshmallow wad into my mouth; and next I’d just cram a whole cookie down my piehole at once, impatient with my own artifice. Then I’d cycle through again. They only came about 18 to a package so it was hardly sport to finish them during a half-hour cartoon show after school.

Fudge-covered Graham Crackers: these had the attraction of starting off as health food and then being made into something more important. Sometimes there was a lot more chocolate than cracker. Still a lunchbox favorite. These are sold nationwide by myriad producers and distributors. The fact I can’t find a link to them proves the internet is useless. Of special interest is advice from Kel: peanut butter on chocolate graham crackers is even better than it sounds.

Entenman’s Chocolate Chip: There were several important cookies with which I was not familiar when I ventured east for college. Entenmann’s was a major discovery for me. They were chewy, had a high chip count, and I sold them in my little convenience store. Now they’re even being sold out here in California. God smiles on the west coast.

Archway Rocky Road (the only links I could find were nutrition and recall information, neither of which seemed very cheerful so I’m leaving them out): another east coast confection of enlightenment, the Archway Rocky Road cookie was large and very chewy. Irresistably scarfable. Sold in my little shop. Never lasted long around me, and vice versa.

Chocolate covered Oreos: Here we start to stray from the mass-produced to the specialty food. I first saw these in catalogues, but when the manufacturer started packaging and selling them in grocery stores it all became too easy. I had grown weary of regular oreos; I have nothing against them but I don’t personally feel too attached to them. But dunk them in chocolate and, naturally, the rules change.

Now we get into the specialty foods - the ones that come out of my own kitchen, at which the rest of the cookie-eating world can only gape with envy and awe.

Cookies of the Gods and Holy Heroin: mom got this recipe, whence I know not, for big chewy cookies with lots of chocolate chips, raisins, oatmeal, cinnamon and nutmeg. As she began turning them out on the baking sheets for the first batch and I scrambled for a spoonful of the luscious dough (cookie dough is a whole separate topic for me), she wondered aloud if she was making them too big. Somehow she was convinced to stick to the recipe and wound up with enormous, taut - but yeilding - cookies riddled with dense globules of chocolate, redolent of spice and butter, cookies like none I’d ever seen or eaten. I was in an Erich von Daniken phase and named them “Cookies of the Gods,” a name that stuck in part due to (rather than in spite of) my dad’s rabbinic accomplishments. They remain the biggest and the best. However, the last time I made them I wondered if I hadn’t pushed the envelope quite far enough, and cut the cookies, still hot from the oven, into quarters. When these had cooled a bit, I dipped the interior corner of each such wedge into melted chocolate. These were now dangerous - perhaps, too dangerous. You could eat one in just a few bites and the chocolate levels were through the roof. Kel took one, then several more, and then coldly accused me of producing heroin. That, I liked. It stuck.

Hamentashen: the King of cookies. Almost every year of my life I’ve made these triangular sugar cookies with fruit filling. Once we had our own place, I started experimenting with different doughs and fillings. I have now perfected this ancient and revered art, such that friends who are true gourmands and sophisticates have dubbed me the very King of Hamentashen. (The regal references are relevant to the association of these cookies with Purim, of which, see below.) I can roll dough to an even 1/4 inch thickness - a dough lighter and more buttery than any ever previously produced, infused by secret ingredients with a delicate floral aroma. I make my own fruit fillings on the stovetop, unequalled in variety, flavor, or consistency. This year’s batch of hamentashen were produced with machine-like efficiency and are small enough to be popped in the mouth whole. They are indescribably delicious, so I will stop trying.

Thank you for your courtesy and attention. You may now return to your regularly scheduled snack foods.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:04 PM]

[ Friday, March 21, 2003 ]

Okay y'all* are right. I'm getting too caught up in cerebrations and not caught up enough in celebrations. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. And one of the things I most love is words. (Is that grammatically correct?) I noticed it yesterday when I was crossing out "bookkeeper" on an org chart and writing in "accountant" and I realized that "bookkeeper" has three matched pairs of letters in a row. Pretty cool. Then I noticed that "accountant" has four letter pairs (of which three are non-contiguous), and I actually spent a few moments wondering whether that made "accountant" a cooler word than "bookeeper." But instead of resolving the question, I started writing down some words I really enjoy reading, using, saying, spelling (in alphabetical, not preferential, order):


Just seeing them all lined up together gives me a warm feeling. I don't even feel the need to blend them into a single cumbersome paragraph. Each one deserves its own paragraph. But not now. I have some beers to drink.

*I've long held the opinion that the english language needs a second-person plural pronoun. "You" is ambiguous. There's I/we, he-she/they - this is sensible, consistent; there's precedent in other languages. I think "y'all" is the right choice - pithy, concise, established (in some regions) already, and grammatically consonant. For those who deride it as a regionalistic colloquialism, I say this is the nature of language, to evolve, to absorb - even the french are adopting english words, why can the english adopt their own words? We all know what y'all means. Or mean. Oh don't be mean. Time to go.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:28 PM]

For those many of you who may think the Chucklehut should lighten the hell up already, I offer a snippet from my current source of nocturnal reading:

"I confess, that the theory which subjects all things to the will of an indifferent deity, and asserts that they are all dependent on his fiat, is less far from the truth than the theory of those, who maintain that God acts in all things with a view of promoting what is good. For these latter persons seem to set up something beyond God, which does not depend on God, but which God in acting looks to as an exemplar, or which he aims at as a definite goal. This is only another name for subjecting God to the dominion of destiny, an utter absurdity in respect to God, whom we have shown to be the first and only free cause of the essence of all things and also of their existence. I need, therefore, spend no time in refuting such wild theories." Baruch/Benedict Spinoza, Ethics, Part I [Concerning God], Prop. XXXIII, Note ii.

Yeah. I guess that explains some things. If you know which ones they are, do please let me know. I'm on page 82 of 270 and I'm hoping things come together eventually.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:15 AM]

Yesterday was surreal.

"I don't know, but I've been told, it's hard to run with a weight of gold...."
I caught my bus - late, again - and was surprised to get a seat, one of the inward-facing ones that I prefer. I glanced around - there was an unusual concentration of non-ugly people. I don't mean to impose values or criteria for the way other people look, but the 38L can tote a rude-looking crew on occasion and this bunch wasn't one of those. As we worked our way downtown several of the less attractive folk left the bus - the dowdy, angry housewives, the dermatologically-challenged youth eating fast food out of foil wrappers, the old men with aggressive behavior and poor self-control... stop by stop they excused themselves politely and were replaced with a high concentration of well-presented, vibrant women. There were lots of shapes, ages and sizes, but they tended toward the classic 'hottie' in face and physique. One was sitting on either side of me. Four stood in front of me, three more faced me across the aisle. And there were plenty more sitting in the back.

I was listening, for once, to the news on my headphones, looking for a handle on the unilateral acts of international aggression being perpetrated in my name. I was trying to keep my mind on scuds and Basra and 'shizzle & awe' or whatever we're calling ourselves. But I'd glance up and see eyes focused on mine, turning coyly away. The girl in the flowery dress in the back seemed to be looking in my direction, then down or out a window when I looked back at her. The women across the aisle, I'm pretty sure, were peering at me from beneath their kohl-heavy lids and thick dark lashes. Up till Union Square I felt (as I very rarely do) watched, noted, possibly appreciated. Goddamn it. I'm trying to keep my focus on the war and I'm surrounded by beautiful harem girls. What am I supposed to be thinking? How could this day of invasion and terror be Hot Chix day on Muni? What were they doing on my bus? And today, of all possible days, when my thoughts were black and sad?

"On the other hand, I've heard it said, it's just as hard with a weight of lead...."
At Union Square the busses stopped, stacked up down to Market Street where traffic had all been halted. Newspaper vending boxes had been dragged out as street barricades, as had garbage cans and sandbagged sawhorses... Thousands of protesters roamed in a daze right up the middle of Market, untroubled by cars - there were none - but with a grimness around their eyes. They gathered at corners to chat and dance and wave signs at each other. (Best chant: 'Stop the war / in Iraq / it's bullshit / it's wack.') One car made it onto Market but was stopped immediately by a young woman who laid down in front of it; a man quickly appeared to draw the outline of her body in chalk on the street.

At Sansome and at Montgomery I saw batallions of cops in riot gear, their blue helmets looking a bit scuffed in the clear early morning light, their face shields lending them a predatory anonymity, long batons at the ready and pockets stuffed full of plastic zipcord cuffs; they stood in formation, five by ten, arms crossed as waves of the indignant in dreds and t-shirts surged forward and ebbed back, furious and impotent. The noise and shields made it hard for the cops to communicate and they had to embrace and press their faces together if they wanted to speak to each other; it looked like they were necking. The sky was clear, the air was clean. I went to my office and acted normally. It didn't look or feel like a war. I felt no threat, took no precautions.

"One way or another, this darkness got to give...."
Going back home, the beautiful women and my charismatic attractiveness to them had both evaporated. The cops were still gathered at the same intersections, milling about on the sidewalks, chatting amiably and eating fast food out of foil wrappers. Like groomsmen at a wedding, they were superficially very similar in their uniforms but the individual differences were pronounced. Some glowered, tapping their nightsticks into their palms; some giggled like kids on a fire drill. I had the sniffles. I got home and we ate salmon for dinner. Things remain surreal. This has been a Chuckehut update. (Lyrics from New Speedway Boogie.)
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:05 AM]

[ Thursday, March 20, 2003 ]


It was late and I'd been on the road all day. I'd taken a very early bus to BART to a carpool to the airport, spent the day working diligently in LA, and was on my way back the same way. I stood down in the downtown Oakland BART station, sunk in my own thoughts, innocuous in blue cotton slacks, a yellow shirt, and my favorite $20 brown cashmere four-button sportcoat from the Bargain Bank. Under the greenish glow of the lights, the platform was nearly deserted - except for one dude. He had a stocky, muscular build, a square jaw, a broad nose. His hair - wavy, dark but greying - fell to past his shoulders. His t-shirt, jeans, leather boots and leather jacket were all black. His soul seemed black. He swaggered as he came down the steps, as he paced the landing, as he stood still and looked at me appraisingly. I was carrying an attache case. I felt pale and weak and very tired. The man in black approached me, checked me up and down. He was three feet from me. I waited to hear what he had to say.

What he said was, "Nice jacket." He nodded curtly and stepped away, took up occupancy of a different part of the landing. We never again made eye contact. The jacket, however, is now marginally warmer.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:28 PM]

I try to make a point of getting the wrong message out of commercials. There's one that's caught my eye lately in which a bigtime Hollywood couple are hanging out at home and he's playing one of three or four pinball machines lined up against a wall. I immediately stopped paying attention to the sponsor's message and started wondering, is this why this guy wanted to be rich and famous? He went into an arcade at a tender age and decided, "someday, all this will be mine?" I think he aimed too low. So I've come up with a few items that I can look toward as proof that I have "made it big." In the Hollywood/Wall Street sense, you know.

* My compost and medical waste have resale value.
* Personal lane on Bay Bridge Toll Plaza.
* Biography Channel keeps calling my friends for "background."
* Complementary swedish massage with HappyMeal purchase.
* Wardrobe provided by Hugo Boss for promotional consideration.
* Free annual sampler pack of new European luxury vehicles.
* Baseball commissioner accepts my recommendation that an intentional walk sends the batter to 2nd.
* Votes in general election counted repeatedly until my choices win
* Television networks clear proposed scheduling changes through my personal secretary.
* Health clubs both provide free membership and graft actual fitness onto my body.
* Special P.O. box needed to handle requests for sperm donations.
* Fashion mistakes promulgated as actual cutting-edge trends.
* Thanksgiving renamed 'Dansgiving."
* Photographed while shopping by other than security personnel.
* Someone else registers my name as an internet domain for commercial use.
* People would rather keep my checks than cash them.
* Terrell Owens asks me to sign his football.
* Ben and Jerry's names a new ice cream after me.
* A urinal in my bathroom at home.

Thanks for your support. I promise not to forget any of you when I'm so rich and famous that I can buy and sell ordinary people like tart-n-tinys. Not that I'd need to do that myself, of course. You'd have to talk to my staff. Unfortunately, at present that's an obscene reference, but I'm sure my value to the nation and the world will be recognized and appropriately compensated any minute now.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:25 AM]

[ Wednesday, March 19, 2003 ]

Lately my poems have been slipping into the realm of doggerel. I'm okay with doggerel, but sometimes I like to read a line that's got more substance to it. Romy pointed it out to me a few days ago - she said something that Haloscan isn't sharing anymore to the effect that she usually prefers poems with longer rhymes. Well I agree, and inspired by this welcome critical appraisal, I emitted this:


Digitalis dusts my favorite memories with cyan
Leaving me sometimes to wonder if I still recall aright
I refresh my recollection till the parts that I'm implying
Are the parts I hold most precious when I reach out in the night.

It's a trick of time, a chronologonundrum, a mirage
Now the preciousest of moments have been gilded in my mind
I surround myself with twisted recollections, a bossage
of caricatures, petrified, ideal and purblind.

I have convinced myself of what once was with rude abandon
And hallucinate a happiness unbounded and serene
But waking from a fitful sleep and disabused of phantoms
I meander oleander through a field of broken dreams.

Deluded as I was to think my joys unique and vaunted
I descry my selfish cruelties and my thoughtless callow acts
Unvarnished, what I've let be done to have the world I wanted
Sickens me with poison pity and I choke on simple facts.

The dark is not so dark as I imagine in my terror
The light no quite so light as I embellish in my dreams
The poison flowers of the mind proliferate - much rarer
are simple shoots of lucid thought reflected in the stream.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:34 PM]

Dear SF Staff:

Please be advised that activists have called a rally for 5PM today to coincide with President Bush's deadline for Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq. The demonstration will start at the intersection of Powell and Market Streets with a march to follow. There is no civil unrest planned for this event.

In the event that war breaks out, at 7AM on the first business day after the inception, activists plan to swarm across downtown San Francisco to disrupt businesses and transportation.

Please know that [this agency] has taken appropriate measures to protect all building occupants. In addition to having a shatterproof film installed on the most exposed ground floor windows of the building, we have large sheets of plywood on site that can be used to board up store fronts etc. as needed. As you know, [we] employ five full time security guards and they are all on alert as are the building engineers. They will be deployed as needed to protect the building and all tenants. Additionally, [this building] has a three day supply of food and water for each occupant.

That's nice. I feel safer already. All the plywood I want to eat for three days? In some countries, these are the good times!

thats just the way it seems to me at [12:35 PM]

[ Tuesday, March 18, 2003 ]

It was last week, I think, that my dad's stupid old joke about shampoo came up in a comment or something. I can't even think about finding it again now, but it's gotten me thinking for the past several days about the "jokes" my dad likes to make. They're really not all jokes - they're just stuff he says because he wants people to laugh and he knows if he repeats any of these phrases enough times someone will just offer up a pity giggle to get him to stop. These are pretty terrible, even stupid - and the man's definitely one of the sharpest thinkers and smartest people I've ever met. But that doesn't stop him from endlessly repeating the following attempts at humor:

* Calling the kitchen spatula the "flatula."
* If you are drinking tea he will ask you if you've heard of the indian who drank so much tea he drowned in his tepee.
* Apropos of almost anything, he'll repeat an old spoonerism blooper from the 30s, when a guy named Eddie Peabody was a famous banjo player (fame followed the banjo in those days I guess) and a radio announcer introduced him by saying "Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Playbody will now pee for you." In all honesty, when I first heard this I laughed so hard for so long that my jaw started shaking - but I was about 12 at the time, and I've heard it a whole bunch of times since then.
* "Sic transit gloria money - Gloria comes across for money."
* "Don't use shampoo - use real poo." Again, this was funny the first three thousand times I heard it, but after that two month period in the mid-70s was over I stopped laughing quite so hard.
* Referring to someone in an old picture that shows them at a young age as "shortly before his bar mitzvah." This is a special favorite for photos of negro league ball players and prominent episcopalians.
* A little nursery rhyme that he taught me at a tender age: "Ding dong dell / pussy down a well / who threw her in / little shitty kid." Actually this one still kind of makes me giggle but he didn't say it very often either. I think he got in trouble for teaching me a dirty word. But now you can say "pussy" on tv, if you're on the animal channel.
* If you say you don't care for "X" - anything, like tripe or the president's environmental policy or the NRA, he'll respond by saying "That's too bad, (X) speaks very highly of you..."
* If he's talking about football, he'll steer the conversation to Vinny Testaverde and use an old-school sports announcer voice to repeatedly call him "Vinny Greenballs."
* "Beans, beans, fruit musicale; the more you eat, the more you (never sure if he says "smell" or "smile" here, he does this one in an execrable french accent).
* Calling a pina colada a "penis colossus."
* The punchline to a lengthy joke about a man hit in the ass by a car that concludes, "rectum hell, it killed him."
* "His face was flushed, but his broad shoulders saved him."

There are a few dozen more that aren't surfacing in my memory right now but I think that'll do for the present. I wouldn't want to incapacitate you with laughter. Or become an object of pity - though I may be useful as a cautionary tale.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:13 PM]

[ Monday, March 17, 2003 ]

One of the loveliest and most prolific trees in this part of this lovely and prolific country is the Bay Laurel. Laurel, as victory - its cheerful leaves evergreen and its branches seeking light and life even from downed trunks that somehow still persevere and thrive where other trees would lie and rot, the symbol of triumph over even winter and death. Bay, as in bay leaves, bay rum, gumbo, cioppino, the big herb that you pull out of the soup. Don't eat the bay leaf, it's too tough and strong. And its got nothing on the Bay Laurel. I can smell them before I see them, whether an upstart sapling or one of the monsters at Crystal Springs or up Muir Woods. It's a fresh, invigorating smell, piercing like menthol, cooling and warming me at once.

Maybe you'll read this and seek out one of these gracious forest denizens. You'll drink in the verdure with your eyes, caress with your fingers the fine grain of the bark, wonder at the delicate network of tiny branches, each crowned with glorious leaves. The distinctive perfume will waft over you, encouraging you to breathe deep, to take it all in, to maximize your experience of this exceptional scent. And you should - but keep your hands to yourself. Whatever you do, don't pull off a handful of bright new leaves, tender and delicate as eyelids, to crush them and inhale their sweet pungency. You'll pay.

First, your nose will burn. Then it will burn a lot more, quickly. You'll drop to your hands and knees, and the leaves will flutter to the ground. Too late, too late.... their insidious plan is already in effect. The pain spreads, filling your sinuses as if you've snorted ben-gay. It gets up to your eyes - your vision blacks out, or turns red. Your hands go to your eyes but they're covered in bay oil - you've made a bad thing much worse. You notice your ears are burning too, from the inside out. Your head is full of searing coals, all bearing the furious purfume of laurel. You press your hands to your temples as you kneel in the dirt, praying for the end. And the end does come, eventually. It's olfactory wasabi, inhaled napalm. You stagger out of the woods, forever changed, forecver scarred. Gentle arboreal friends, my ass. That shit'll kill you.

You don't believe me? Find your local Bay Laurel, crush four fresh leaves, cup your hands and take three deep breaths. Once you come to, you'll know better than to doubt me. About this, anyway. I have a fairly high tollerance for pain but Bay Laurel is one hard wood. And not in the good way.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:35 PM]

At work I get to overhear conversations. Boring, conventional, tedious conversations. Comparative weigh-watchers goals. Preferred shoe styles. Carsick children. Whose plant looks healthiest. I'd rather watch food rotate in the microwave than endure more of these utterly unimaginative chats. So here's a short list to inspire my coworkers to have a conversation worth overhearing:

* Same-sex celebrity you'd sleep with
* Drunkest you've ever been at work
* Dirtiest dream
* Lives you've ruined (how and why)
* Most you've ever thrown up in public
* Who's not wearing underware today
* Your secret piercings
* Drug addicts in your family and what they do when they're wasted or jonesing
* Your involvement in a cult (religious or personality)
* Workplace crushes and how you gratified them
* Personal financial shenanagans
* Favorite "other" uses for your vacuum cleaner
* Your criminal past (don't skimp on jailhouse details)
* Weirdest thing you ever put in your mouth (food or otherwise)

If that's not enough to spice things up I need to find new co-workers. You may begin chatting now. Chuckles is listening. Intently.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:45 PM]


Just outside the door to the bullpen where I work is a hallway, undecorated and sterile, nothing punctuating the walls but the occasional door, each unmarked and identical and anonymous. But one of those innocuous doors leads to one of my favorite rooms in the whole, bland, antiseptic building - the Fifth Floor Conference Room. It's intimately proportioned but not overly cozy, and has no windows, interior or exterior, so the occupants can concentrate on their efforts without distraction or the self-consciousness of being observed. The lights are on a dimmer - there aren't many of these in the building - and the chairs are deep and comfortable.

I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why I like this room so much but I'll sometimes sneak off to it and secrete myself there when I want to thrash out some especially pressing business. But one particular feature disposes me particularly fondly toward this room, apart from its accomodating features and the significant - nay, earthshaking - accomplishments I have achieved in it: the door, which closes automatically like all the other doors in the building, makes a little sound that none of the other doors make. It's something like a quack, something like a biological backfire. When I have meetings in this room I try to be the first to arrive so I can enjoy as many pneumatic raspberries as possible. If someone comes into the meeting once we're in session, I have to exert myself prodigiously not to disrupt the proceedings by giggling as the door closes behind him with a thick squirty sound.

I'm personally grateful that this particular room makes this particular noise. It's a good way for me to keep perspective and a sense of humor in an otherwise humorless environment. Otherwise the Fifth Floor Conference Room would be nothing more than my cloister, my sanctum, the place I go to be alone with my thoughts and labors, where my distractions can be minimized and my output, maximized, where I can get the most out of my time and myself. But that little noise - that cheers me up when I get tired, fires my enthusiasm for the task at hand. Every workplace needs a little weird inappropriate noise every so often. I've found mine; you're on your own.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:28 AM]

[ Saturday, March 15, 2003 ]

Crime and punishment
error and trial
what wouldn't I do
to see you smile
How many times over
must I re-live
that moment of crisis -
what wouldn't I give
to so something over,
not do it at all
instead of disharmony
living in thrall
The planet keeps turning
the sun sometimes shines
but I suffer the darkness
your anger consigns
to me. Both of us wonder
how long this will last -
perhaps it will linger
as long as the past.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:31 PM]


She sat down next to me, beautiful, dark, soaked from the rain. For several minutes she was pensive, motionless. Then, in a burst of decisive motion, she took out a small cell phone and turned it on, stared at it. More slowly, she took out a small slip of torn paper. On it, written in a woman's hand, was a man's name and phone number. She stared at it, and at the phone. Her thumb hovered over the keypad. Slowly she opened the leather cover for the telephone and stuffed the slip of paper into it. It crumpled. She put the phone away again and sat very still, like a muse of forgotten arts.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:27 PM]

[ Friday, March 14, 2003 ]

In honor of the Feast of Lots upcoming next week and the associated revelry thereunto appertaining, today's blog is brought to you by the word CRAPULOUS and is inspired by those whose tutelage has made me the man or men I am today.

I knew pretty quickly that I was in over my head. My first xmas with the inlaws - really, my first full-on xmas ever - was when I was a senior in college, and gave me a hint of what was to come: a dining table covered with board games and wine, the decrepit stereo cranking out holiday polkas, and the deck outside the kitchen stacked wide, deep and tall with cases of Yuengling - the undiscovered treasure of Northeast Pennsylvania. This was S.O.P. for a few years, when I was the only 'outsider' to have been incorporated into this rollicking fold.

Then, one year, Karen showed up with Pat, and he - can ya believe it - liked beer and wine, and liquor too. The dining table grew more animated and more crowded yet as PJ, Andi and Phil came on board over the fullness of time. Now we've got little cousin Justin too, sucking down 4-ounce "donkey shots" of Maker's Mark, and PJ's brother and cousin and his army buddies daring each other into ever greater feats of intoxication, not to mention the prodigious genetic capacity of all the original family members to, as they say, consume.

There is a pattern to these xmas boozefests, established by acclamation and now confirmed by repetition. When we wake up we start our day with beer. (All of us stay in the family home - which was cozy for the original unit of two parents and five kids, and is now bursting at the joists with the addition of five spouses, three new kids, and the irrepressible cousin Justin.) After several hours waiting impatiently for night to fall, we transition to include hard liquor as well in our imbibement. With dinner, wine is enthusiastically poured and drained, but never lasts very long so we go back to the beer (which is usually purchased daily, in minimum orders of three cases).

By late in the night we're concentrating on the hard stuff. I've already had to pace myself for a few hours at least. We're all talking pretty loud and we're switching the rules among the board games. And then we realize we're out of the good stuff. The Tullamore Dew, the Chivas, the rum and vodka, even the goddamn bourbon is gone, the dead soldiers shivering transparently on the icy deck.

But every year ther'e's a bottle or two of prank liquor. Someone bought it for a giggle but as the five or seven or twelve of us blearily gaze at each other and the lone bottle left before us, we know the joke's on us. A few years ago it was cheap Chilean Pisco (Andi's from thereabouts) - not so much a brandy as a solvent, presenting a strong argument in favor of her family's emmigration. But I'd drink Pisco any day before I went back to the next year's slection - genuine Irish Potcheen, distilled from a secret blend of sterno and formaldehyde. It actually eats away at the bottle in which it's packaged. It tastes like a bandaid. An old one. We finished it anyway.

When the rancid booze is gone, I take my cue to toddle off to a darkened corner. Others remain behind to drink more beer, harass each other, and grin their faces into shatters. I can't keep up with them, though I'd love to. They'd wipe the floor with me. I'll have more serious drinking to do when I wake up anyway. Discretion is the better part of valor. And of not hurling.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:33 AM]

[ Thursday, March 13, 2003 ]

something seems wrong with the 'hut. my template's not republishing and my blog is disconcertingly short. my links are missing. I am bereft. So hear me now, ye fates and gods: give me back my freaking blog!
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:10 PM]

It's almost Purim - the most drunken carousing holiday in the Jewish calendar! Monday night marks the kickoff. We are obliged to give charity, eat sweets, and party our asses off. We're supposed to drink until we can't tell the difference between the good guy and the bad guy in the Book of Esther. And for those of us who would be hard-pressed to make such a distinction even in the sober light of an ordinary day such as today, I offer my magnum opus: Rashamontashen is the entire book of Esther, retold from the points of view of all four main characters. It's a cool story, and not a very theistic one. God is never mentioned, and there's some cool ass-kicking. What's more, in this time of increased tension between western powers and Iraq, it's a story that takes place in Baghdad ("Shushan") that links the fates of those who are now commonly considered enemies of each other. So get a tall cool beverage, put up your feet, and party till the sun comes up. And for what it's worth, my hamentashen cookies are far and away the world's best. This year's selection will include prune (traditional), raisin, pluot and carmenet wine, nectarine, and mixed berry. The dough's chilling, the fruit's been pureed, and all I need now is some bourbon for the celebration. Let's get righteous!
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:56 PM]

My lilsis just notified me of breaking news: Advances in a field I'd thought had been fully developed. Turns out it was the work of a fevered and understimulated copywriter, but I still thought the headline was chuckleworthy.

For the record, I'm not in favor of 60-year-old high school teachers coming on to their students, and especially not in favor of school districts or others who are in loco parentis letting such behavior continue. But I am in favor of amusing double entendres in newspaper headlines. I especially like the commands at the top of the page: Save, email and print this; it's most popular!
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:11 AM]

[ Wednesday, March 12, 2003 ]

Lately I've been reading some great blogs about dreams. People are having some weird ones, fun ones, provocative ones... I've started feeling left out. Lately I've not been recalling much about my dreams. I get flashes of recollection of terror (I've been selected for death by an incorporeal evil), of titillation (some improbable relationship with a stranger or passing acquaintence that's on the verge of raunchy impropriety but never seems to get there).... But apart from these very stimulating flashes, I don't recall much of many of my dreams. Not long ago I found a notebook from several years back in which I described to myself several scenes of an eerie dream that straddled the line between eroticism and horror. But I don't recall many more recent dreams well at all.

Back in the day, before I got scared to go to sleep (when I was 6), I recall at least two incidents when I not only dreamed a whole story, but I was able to control it. One time I dreamed I was on a PT boat (yes, I knew my WWII warships at an early age), being chased by bad guys. I had to jump off the boat to make my escape, but I realized once I was in mid-air that I'd jumped off the stern and the propellor would chew me to pieces once I hit the water. Thinking fast - in my dream - I reversed course, flew back on board, and jumped again - this time off the side of the boat. I hit the water safely and eventually everything in the dream worked out just fine.

But the really cool one was the dream that started out with an olde-fashioned parchment scroll that slowly unfurled before my dreaming eyes. With rubricated capitals and elaborate calligraphy, the scroll crawled like the credits to an old movie, but instead of the names of directors and producers, it was a list of dreams available to me that night. I read them as they went past and when I saw one I liked I picked it and it started up like TiVo. As I remember it had something to do with the middle ages and sword fighting. I was, naturally, a hero.

But I don't remember getting such a choice again since then, and I don't seem to have much control to "re-do" the mistakes I make in my dreams. It's like I lost the remote. Meantime I'm not having many very memorable dreams. I wake up refreshed but rather bored. Frankly, I'm feeling ripped off by my own subconscious. I'll update these ruminations once I get my special super sleeping powers back.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:21 PM]

I'm not proud to admit it, but, having spent 14 hours of the last weekend on airplanes, I looked through every piece of literature in the pocket of the seatback in front of me. The magazine was like a chocolate easter bunny - apparently thick and rich, but once opened, nothing but an empty shell of chalky pap. But the ads were worth the slog - I especially liked the one for the Bose(R) Quiet Comfort(R) Acoustic Noise-Cancelling(R) Headset. I was able to wile away many lofty minutes imagining the frustration of the Bose(R) copywriters that they couldn't register the phrases "acoustic" and "headset." I don't care how great a piece of equipment it is; there's no reason to stick three (R)s in a single product name. All those (R)s made me start saying "matey" to myself in a bucaneer accent, but as I was sitting alone I was able to get away with it. However, it made me want a parrot for my shoulder, or an eyepatch, or at least an island riddled with secret tunnels filled with booty. (Heh.)

Bereft of such props, I went shopping in the SkyMall and, though they were sorely lacking in the pirate gear department, I was pleasantly surprised by the tremendous quantity and breadth of fresh, unsullied crap that is being marketed in that ubiquitous airborne rag. Crap so weird it got my weirdness juices going. I was pretty sure, once I'd read the wicked thing cover to cover, that I, too, could come up with products that could successfully be marketed to jet-lagged, poorly fed, tipsy, uncomfortable and bored business travellers and vacationers, based on the stuff that's apparently being sold to them already in Le Bourse du Ciel. So just for chuckles I append hereinbelow a few actual SkyMall items and a few of my suggested additions to their product line. Come on folks, don't you want a:

* Necklace-mounted personal ionizer
* Vacuum-operated lip plumper
* Elephant-head wall-mounted candelabra
* Beaded resin monkey table?

-- Of course you do. And you can buy them all at 30,000 feet (really!). But why stop there? Shop Chucklehut and be the first on your block with a:

* Home botox kit
* Child compactor
* Portable sports/camping bidet
* Inflatable flotation underware

Those bastards should be paying me to fly on their airplanes and read their magazines. These ideas don't just grow on trees. Although(R).....
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:04 PM]

I keep seeing "The Church of Jesus Christ" in all these different places... I'm waiting for one with a marquee that reads "Jesus Christ - appearing nightly"
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:39 PM]

It has to be said, and I'm the only one who'll say it: my most recent creation, the fried calmari po'boy, is irrefutable proof that I put the "oof" in "etoufee."
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:15 PM]

[ Tuesday, March 11, 2003 ]

The Leland Hotel stands seven stories tall over Polk Gulch, the part of Polk Street where hungry teens and homeless transsexuals compete for crack money and seek sleep's solace in the sour stench of curdled alleys. Further south, faceless edifices and the neoclassical coldness of the civic center do nothing to discourage such denizens, but fail to encourage them either and the region is seedy but dull. To the north, porn and pawnshops give way to trattorias and trendy boutiques, where 'quality of life' crimes are enthusiastically enforced. But right in the gulch, the richness of human poverty in all its diversity whimpers and twitches like a dreaming dog.

The Leland Hotel has been shuttered for years. Perhaps it's being renovated - very slowly, imperceptibly, secretly. The shops fronting off its ground floor are all closed, ostensibly temporarily, apparently permanently. They all have identical awnings with identical lettering, in a stab at sophistication that succeeds only in reinforcing a tawdry outdated vapidity. The awnings advertise businesses long since relocated or, more likely, defunct - His'n'Hers Hair, Computer Game Depot, Acorn Bookstore, a jeweler, a tavern. Their storefront windows admit a view of discolored floors, overturned chairs, and, to my eye, a terrible lonliness, while the adjacent sidewalks teem with chilly people looking for a place to turn a trick or sleep indoors.

The Leland Hotel is a dusty cypher. But when I last went past it of an evening, one light shone from the topmost floor. One room had been illuminated, while all the others below and to the left and right were black as battered eyes. That single room seemed bright with more than light; the walls inside glowed freshly, the glass gleamed with an extra measure of transparency, and the light itself was airborne alabaster, cutting into the night with a purity unknown to and unsullied by the wretched street below.

And I asked myself, What's going down upstairs at the Leland Hotel? A squatter? A tryst? A body being secreted in a wall or floor? A clandestine auction of stolen art? A fetish fantasy atop the fetid Polk Street nightmares? Or just a single thinker, reading, writing, watching traffic ebb and flow?

I drove on by, more curious with every block I travelled. That single window still illuminates my imagination. At the Leland, I'm sure it's long since been extinguished, the darkness from the gulch absorbing it completely. But as the Beastie Boys tell us, "darkness is not the opposite of light - darkness is the absence of light." Now I have to do the shining on my own.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:50 PM]

Paying my bills, it occurs to me that "Sallie Mae Servicing" sounds like an escort agency. Or for those with a taste for exotic preferences south of the equator, try her sister, "Fannie Mae Servicing".... makes draining your assets as much fun as it sounds.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:35 PM]

Be careful where you fly your freak flag, peoples. In Albany NY shopping malls, you can get busted for wearing a pro-peace t-shirt. The charges in this case were dropped eventually, but the chilling effect on free speech has already been accomplished. Albanians, exercise your freedom of non-association - boycott merchants that oppose your civil liberties! Those who think "give peace a chance" is an offensive or dangerous sentiment should be given the immediate privilege of service with the armed forces now in the middle east. Those who think a t-shirt threatens their way of life are not living in a country that deserves respect. If we don't have the freedom to express a political opinion (that doesn't involve profanity, bigotry, "fighting words" or other unprotected speech), THE TERRORISTS HAVE ALREADY WON. Unfortunately, they're the terrorists we elected - or that were awarded the presidency, anyway...
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:18 AM]

Written at 1:30 pm eastern time at the bar in Terminal E at the Ft Lauderdale Airport

I tried to write this up as one of those cools numerical lists people seem so able to generate but my experience just isn't translating into mere quantification.

I landed at 7 pm friday and went immediately to a party at my aunt and uncle's. We left, stuffed and tipsy, at 10 and went to our motel in a sketchy part of a sketchy town between Ft L and Miami. On our way we visited a Walgreens (still in the classy part of town) and saw numerous young women on their way to a "Who's the Slut" competition, all dressed for success. The motel was emphatically ordinary, flanked to the east by Scarlett's - "An Adult Cabaret" - and to the west by Cheetah's, so obviously a strip club that descriptive signage was superfluous.

We got up the next a.m. and went directly to a conservative synagogue where four hours of services were already in progress; the yarmulkes were color-coded for the two b.mitzvah celebrants sharing the stage that morning. My cousin Sarah did a great job and after services were over we gorged in the reception hall at the oneg - sort of an apres-services smorgasbord. I ate to satiation before my mom told me we (my immediate family) were going out for lunch, where I forced myself to eat a very tasty plate of cuban food.

Afterwards, distended and waddling, I went back to the motel for a nap. Heat and humidity (both high) were sapping my strength. Then, forty winks and two hours later, we drove to Mom's motel for a few hours of poolside shmoozing by the tiki bar, where the beer selection was weak and the mojitos, non-existent, and then to the big hotel across the street for the "big" family al fresco dinner, where the food was excellent and, though the mojitos still didn't exist, the hurricanes were powerful and plentiful.

That night we got back to our motel late, just in time to rest up for the reception the next morning, to be held at that same big hotel's classiest ballroom. Family pictures took an hour, followed by hors d'oeuvres, general and novelty photography, and enforced merriment via a DJ, MC, and four bespangled professional dancers charged with the responsibility of working us up into a terpschorian frenzy. There were no fewer than 80 family members and 50+ screaming youth, plus assorted acquaintences and colleagues - we must have been pushing 200 on the guest list. We ate competitively and compulsively at four groaning buffet tables, well-lubricated by a wide-open and very active (but mojito-less) bar...

Kel and I escaped around 4 to fall asleep, bloated and buzzed, in preparation for the family pizza party that night at my cousin's house (the bat mitzvah girl's dad). We got there around 7, still stuffed, and resumed our prodigious eating. Then, in view of Kel's early flight home the next day, we returned to our motel at 10 to find police tape blocking half the small parking lot as the good officers of the Hallandale PD investigated a gunshot homicide on the premises.

We slept unquietly until 5 am, when we awoke and I got Kel to the airport; I then returned to the room and took another nap and a shower before returning the rental car and getting back to the airport myself. I've now been at the airport since 11 am for a 3:30 flight, and I've had a scrumptious $8 sloppy joe, eased by two beers (mojitos still unavailable). Don the bartender tells me there are 175,000 exotic dancers in South Florida - the equivalent of a good-sized city of strippers. There are undoubtedly a lot of slutty-looking women around. Maybe I'll kill this last cup of Sam Adams and return to my gate. I take off in a mere 105 minutes (barring delays). Then again, maybe there's an Adult Cabaret at this airport.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:17 AM]

[ Friday, March 07, 2003 ]

Taking my cue from townie Matt, I will be leaving shortly on an invigorating late-winter ski trip. Matt has mad skilz [sic] and therefore has removed himself to the soaring frigid heights of Idaho, where mountains are rocky and men don't hug. I have somewhat more lucid skilz, to employ the idiom, and out of respect for my fellow skiiers will travel instead to Ft. Lauderdale, where the land is flat and snow is enjoyed primarily via the nasal orifices. None of that for me, though - it's time for a bat mitzvah and family reunion in the sultry spring break heat. I will be honing my ski skills with specific reference to brewskis. I understand they come with goggles sometimes, too.

The house is unnaturally quiet as I prepare for my trip. For the first time in at least 15 years, I am completely alone for hours on end. Kelly is already in Florida, regaling me with tales of topless sunbathers on the beaches of Miami and crotchety clients she's visiting for work. The dog is in a kennel up in Marin and the cat is boarding with the vet so she can get her insulin. (As an aside, it's costing us about $75 less to board the cat for 5+ days than it cost me to buy my freaking ticket to the east freaking coast. I better be getting major karma credit for this.) ANYWAY my point is that this house is strangely still as I've wandered repeatedly through it trying to undo the damage I may have caused, or neglected to prevent, over the past week or so. The place is looking pretty good, too; it will be pleasant to get back to such a clean, tidy, well-vacuumed domicile. I've made multiple sweeps to gather errant possessions and return them to their rightful hiding places. Now I'm down to one item with which I am having trouble dealing.

My green army surplus trenchcoat is biting the dust. I got it in 1982, which (can you stand it) was my freshman year of college. It was $25 at I. Goldbergs, and endowed its wearer with supernatural powers. It had (has) a zip-out wool liner, broad lapels that could deflect small-caliber bullets, a belt (suitable for belting), and deep capacious pockets with slits on the inside to enable one to put one's hands in one's pant pockets while the jacket was buttoned and cinched tight against the cruel west Philly winter winds. (You gotta believe me - it got freaky windy where I lived.) This jacket was so tough that, when I, a pale and undernourished undergrad, wore it around a tough neighborhood where I certainly did not belong, people got the hell out of my way with exclamations like, 'yo, check the dude' and 'lookin tough.' It followed me through the bad times and into the good times, and from Philly back to LA and up to SF. Where it went into a closet and languished for several years.

Several years later, like late last year, I pulled it back out of the closet. If anything, it was even cooler. It fit me better, had finally lost the army surplus smell, and had aged and weathered to a mellower shade of olive green. I started wearing it again. One stylish and articulate friend referred to it as a 'serial killer coat' - which pleased me no end. If I didn't have my own, independent, attitude, at least I could wear some.

But now I really can't anymore. The heavy wool of this trenchant coat has long since exceeded it's useful life. As I wore it more often, I started tearing it. The edges of the cuffs were fraying fast; the belt showed signs of shred, and - most ignominious of all - those hyper-cool pockets that let me get to my pants from inside the coat, those wonderful pockets were ripping every time I pushed my hand into them. I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that I won't be able to wear it any longer, and it's slowly worked its way from the closet to the hallway to the foyer to a chair next to the front door. The final step will be to place it outside where someone who really needs to stay warm at night can get more use out of it. But I'm afraid my time with the big green coat is at an end. It's hard to let go, sometimes.

See you all next week.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:03 AM]

[ Thursday, March 06, 2003 ]

When things get intense, my brain goes into hyper-ferment. The thing I can't stop thinking about at present is a hypothetical independent filmmaker in New Jersey's industrial heartland, who winds up documenting the outbreak of a terrible disease that shuts down the city and makes people brutalize each other. I'm thinking his name should be Trenton Quarrantino.

Glad I got that off my chest.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:27 AM]

[ Wednesday, March 05, 2003 ]

Here's something for your entertainment while I attend to sundry aggravations:

The cleanliness has taken over
Whiteness washes over me
And nowhere that the eye perceives
Exists the least impurity
From garret to basement and baseboard to mouldings
A prairie, a vacuum, unsullied and pure,
The tabula rasa confounds every aspect
With desert Antarctica's frozen allure.
Inhaled, it stings me - the cleanness inside me
Resists respiration, too perfect to breathe
Or incorporate into corporeal beings;
It burns me, indignant, demanding reprieve.
Unbroken and utter, it spreads out around me,
This terrible absence of fracture or stain,
Its harmony deafens, all counterpoint banished,
And singular qualities deaden my brain.
As a mantle of ice I can see it encroaching.
I wait with my colors, my dissonant germ,
And soon it will touch me, unblemished, insipid,
And I shall consume it, and each in its turn!
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:12 PM]

That squealing, popping sound in the background is my nurts in a vice. (They're popping, I'm squealing.) There's no way I can finish what needs to be finished before Ieave for my trip to Florida. There's no way I can finish what needs to be done for tomorrow morning tonight. Plus I *have* to cook that calmari - make a nice po'boy with lemon mayo and sliced tomatos and shredded cabbage in vinegar with pepper... cooking for one, too bad y'all can't come and share; it's fine eating, which is one of my favorite mottos anyway.

So much crap to deal with. Gotta leave but first a nod of grateful recognition to the good people of blogland, and a pretentious word of advice: When life gives you lemons, make lemon bombs. ("They said, you gotta have a gimmick, and I said, yeah, baby, high explosives! I'm making gravy without the lumps!" - Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight)
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:06 PM]

[ Tuesday, March 04, 2003 ]

Notes from a not-quite-totally-useless meeting:
* You've got archaic resources in your drawers.
* Your paradigm is killing my buzz.
* Just tell the webmaster to pound ampersand.

Totally useless meetings don't make me giggle even once.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:41 PM]

Diet tip: even if you're used to the "portion size" listed on the side of your favorite pre-packaged foods being about half of what you would eat ordinarily, that doesn't mean you can just consume 3/4s of a four-serving bag of chocolate covered pretzels without courting disaster. It seems they have the capacity to re-form inside onesself into a single, giant, very angry pretzel.

As I creep toward recovery from being attacked by such a pretzel a few days ago, buttressed by the comforting salty refreshment of chicken noodle soup, I'm reminded of a health warning I got on my first real under-the-table job. I worked for Harry Shoemaker, a morbidly obese house painter. To see him on a ladder was to see the laws of physics not just violated, but brutalized. His shadow could be mistaken for a solar eclipse. It was grotesque to see him move, and even worse to work in close proximity to him. As a result of his gross enormity, his heavy smoking, his poor hygiene and his miserable interpersonal skills, he grunted, wheezed, gasped, gurgled, and eructated constantly, producing a charming calliope effect - a calliope that's been possessed by dark forces and is trying to destroy the world through pure disphonium. I worked for Harry for one summer when I was 15, washing out buckets and toting sand and otherwise laboring honestly in the warmth of the sun. The crew was usually Harry and me and a few casual laborers. You know, laborers who don't wear suits. One day Harry brought me to the site and introduced me to the two men helping us that day. I shook their hands; this seemed to strike Harry as inappropriate.

It may be worth mentioning here that Harry was from deep south Texas, a very small town, probably smaller than he was himself, and he was in his 70s at this time - putting his birth in the 19-teens or so. And the men helping us that day were black. Harry had never said a thing about his feelings on the subject but I sensed his discomfort when I reached out my hand to them. But whatever. We shook and went on with our work.

At the end of the day we were hot and tired and Harry took us all out for a sandwich. We sat at the same table and Harry bought us all food and drinks. One of the laborers told me he wasn't going to finish his soda and offered it to me. I gladly drained it for him. Harry blanched. On his way back to drop me off at home, in the privacy of his Chevrolet Grand Panjanderum station wagon (wood grain, cigarette ash carpeting, thick plastic dashboard, dripping with style but the wrong kind), he soberly advised me that I shouldn't drink from a black man's cup. He had lived a long time, was an experienced man, knew the dangers with which the world confronted us. (Of course, all this was accompanied by the gasps and slurps which orchestrated all his efforts.) "You betta just not do that no more. Them's black fellas - you leave theyah drinks and such on the table. You'll catch youself that sickie cell anemia." I thanked him for his advice and he dropped me off with another cheerful smile and a twenty dollar bill for my day's labor. Then he drove off, scraping and creaking, and his car was making funny sounds too. The next summer I got a better job. It was at Arby's but by God that was a much better job.

Update: hemocytes still look like frisbees. Guess I dodged that bullet.

MORAL: some warnings are more dangerous than the peril they mean to prevent.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:38 PM]

[ Monday, March 03, 2003 ]

Sometimes I like to drive faster than some of the other drivers around me. Many of the drivers in my neighborhood, for instance, seem to have serious issues getting the speedometer over 20. When they see other cars they slow to a crawl - even when those other cars are parked and vacant. They drift into oncoming traffic, as if walking up to a stranger in a crowd to ask directions. They stop in the middle of the street without warning and for no perceptible reason. And if you honk at them they freeze in place - the old 'honk and freeze.' I try to get around them, to take alternate routes, to use the hidden power of my mind to clear them from my path - but sometimes even that doesn't work. I just watch them slow down for green lights, back out into traffic, switch drivers in the middle of a three-point turn, and otherwise drain the life out of what could have been an exciting, or even just amusing, drive.

I used to get really worked up about this kind of behavior but I've changed my ways. I no longer permit myself to badmouth another driver while I am driving. This has been a real challenge for me, and I have devised certain laxities in my rule for special occasions - sarcasm is prohibited, but I can say non-sarcastic things in a very aggravated voice, like 'Would you please learn to drive your vehicle?' or 'that stopsign isn't going to change color for you.' But no way will I call them dinkwads, jagoffs, puckerreams, or any of the other colorful phrases that occur to me in such circumstances. I think it makes me a little calmer and more courteous, and I hope to translate that small achievement into other areas of my life. I mean, eventually. I'm not ready yet. Baby steps.

Kel called last night from Florida to tell me that the drivers down there are worse than anything she's seen in our neighborhood. I'm heading down to join her in a few days and I'm not looking forward to this aspect of what will otherwise be an exhausting, overscheduled and very short trip. I'm thinking calm thoughts. Furiously calm.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:56 PM]