The ChuckleHut

[ Friday, May 30, 2003 ]

 
Everything is going very smoothly this week. Work is getting completed, effectively and thoroughly and quickly. I've done more in three days than most men do in seven. Phone calls are getting returned and aren't taking too long. Meetings end on time - or early. My desk is organized and active. I've done all the laundry - and I look great in these jeans. Measurable progress is being made on many critical fronts - travel, home decor, fitness. Today my pictures from the weekend will be ready, and tonight is Happy Hour.

I think I'll spend the rest of the day sitting quietly under my desk. When fate wakes up and realizes I've gotten away with this kind of a week, my ass will be grass. I'll need to keep a low profile.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:11 AM]

 
MEDIA TOOL

Last week NPR had a story on in the morning about a family from somewhere in Africa, slaves and refugees, who had been resettled in Denver (having been rejected by Massachusetts); the only things in dad’s new world from his old world had to do with farming, which was once what he did. I couldn’t stop thinking about this guy, how disruptive, how isolating it must be for him. And I couldn’t really imagine it, but I wrote a poem about it anyway to quiet the voices.

Then this week NPR had another story on in the morning about a woman in Mali, or near there, who had to sweep all day to keep the desert sand out of the old family house which was far, far out into the isolation of the wastelands. She too got under my skin and took up residence in my tender cranium. Another poem resulted. And here they both are. And they say advertising doesn’t work.

Both my parents lived in bondage
I have always hunger known
the past three years I lived in camps
that no one ever called a home
They turned me back from Holyoke
Because their people have no work
I packed two bags, we rode a plane;
so this is what it’s like in Denver
Christian woman screaming for her
translator and someone laid
out napkins for us but no food
it’s so unreal
gave my boy a hideous
toy doll – a bear they say –
of cloth that’s like the U.S. flag;
he looked at it and screamed – no wonder….
Don’t put metal in the micro
I won’t even touch the micro
in Denver there is much I find
unprecedented, tiring, hard
to understand, to be well understood,
to look or even, sometimes, just to feel
like the rest of them, my neighbors
yes I’m grateful every second for
my life here now but this is all
so very strange
they take me to the seven leven
pull up in the parking lot and
there she sits – a filthy tractor,
nicest one I’ve ever seen
my farm back then was such a dump
but I grew crops
and drove a tractor
just like this one
this I know
I go inside
the multiplicity of choices
never ceases to amaze me
I have too much to understand
but there they are – a barrel of
fresh ears of corn
exactly like my own from home
I cradle one with thirsty fingers
this I understand.


This is the house
that I was born in
the sun comes up here
every morning
this little hut
and so much sand
the desert sea
a lonely land
I have a task
I work all day
it rides my dreams
cant get away
I sweep the desert
from my door
It’s never done
I sweep some more
My mother did this
so did hers
here in this hut
so many years
I love my children
live my life
It’s all I know
it will suffice
we have some water
goats and sheep
at night I go
inside to sleep
my sandy little
desert hut
I sweep you while
my eyes are shut
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:05 AM]

[ Thursday, May 29, 2003 ]

 
Calling All Clowns: Go Somewhere Else and Start Eating Healthy

You like clowns? Me neither. I guess it's because one broke into my home and tied me and my folks up for a weekend of tequila abuse and pet shaving. I've just never forgiven them. That's why this article creeps me out so profoundly. Clowns and protein patties: satan's smorgasboard. Ronald McDonald is just disturbing. Those fry things are weird too.

Choice selections:

"The 40-year-old character will start showing up more -- and in unexpected places. Maybe he'll even perform his new dance "Do the Ronald."" Please don't do this where people are eating - even if it's fast food. Even if it only claims to be food. It's gross enough in there as it is.

"Kids would throw rocks from the parking lot. Sometimes you would get protesters," explains Jeff McMullen, a former Ronald, of Appleton, Wis. "Ronald can't handle that." Ronald is going to have to learn to take care of himself. We won't be around to protect his pansy ass forever.

"Ronald McDonald was the brain-clown of two people: Washington advertising executive Barry Klein and renowned Ringling Bros. clown Michael "Coco" Polakovs. At the time, Mr. Klein's clients included a McDonald's franchisee and a local "Bozo the Clown" television show. Mr. Klein persuaded the franchisee to run commercials on the Bozo show to reach out to children. After the kiddie show was canceled in 1963, Mr. Klein regrouped with Bozo, then played by Willard Scott, who gave the McDonald's clown his name: Ronald McDonald...Mr. Scott, the longtime weatherman for NBC's "Today" show, donned the first Ronald get-up that year, using a paper cup as a nose and a cardboard tray as a hat....When McDonald's decided to make Ronald a national figure in 1966, the company dumped Mr. Scott, fearing it would be hard to find people in each market with Mr. Scott's big build, recalls Mr. Klein. "That was a heartbreaker," says NBC's Mr. Scott. "I was too fat."" Too fat to represent an organization dedicated to the injestion of saturated fats and disks of seasoned arterial plaque on a bun? Consider yourself lucky to have been dropped. Willard, you got out by the skin of your well-worn teeth.

"To mass-produce Ronald like its burgers and fries, McDonald's created a guide in 1972 called "Ronald and How." The book, by longtime McDonald's hands Roy Bergold and Aye Jaye, details everything from how to apply makeup to how to behave around children. According to someone close to the company, the book advises Ronalds "never to initiate a hug" with a child. Instead, Ronalds are to turn slightly to the left and pat the child on the back. That's right clownie, never touch them - in public. Offer them free apple pies if they visit Ronald's Grotto with you. Just ask "Aye Jaye." If you can get him to come out of the ball pit. As they say.

"Another former Ronald pleaded guilty in 1998 to a charge of carrying a concealed weapon in New Hanover County, N.C., and the next year was convicted in county court of making harassing phone calls posing as a Ronald. The judge ordered him to take anger-management classes. "I'm one of the bad-boy Ronalds," says Mr. Maggard, an actor who portrayed Ronald in the mid-'90s. "Am I a bad guy? No, I'm not a bad guy. Did Ronald get in a little trouble down there? Yes."" I don't even want to know down "where" Ronald got into trouble. And what's a harassing call "posing" as "a Ronald?" Was it a videophone? Was he threatening to take a drive thru order incorrectly, or have Jabba the Shakeslurping Hutt sit on somebody?

I'm only going back to McDonalds when they're selling patties made out of Ronald himself - the "Pound 'o' Flesh," perhaps, or "Clownie McNuggets." Meantime, I'm perfectly happy eating flash-frozen lard-on-a-stick. At least the stick has some nutritional value.










thats just the way it seems to me at [2:21 PM]

 
BUGDETS

I'm reading budgets these days. Here's what I've learned: the following typos are strongly recommended if you have a boring document that you'd like to turn into a comedy blockbuster:

"Discountenances" for discontinuances ("the discountenances in payments created financial straits")
"Commiserate" for commensurate ("each was charged his commiserate share")
"Bared" for barred ("he was bared from further relief")

Come on guys, you're lawyers. Is this what you turn in at court? Or, should I say, at curt?
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:55 AM]

 
Aint that a Kick in the Khakis?

Yesterday, it was my turn. I was feeling all positive and proactive, having worked hard, gotten lots done, and then leaving early to go to my interview for assignment to an "adult learner" in my literacy program. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and I was dressed unobtrusively in a standard but flattering ensemble. I caught a bus north, rode it with a very mixed bag of denizens and some "deni's" who weren't so "zen," disembarking at the same stop as several pushy youths, a few slowmoving tourists, and a young woman who was walking like she meant business - and not in the fun way. She strode quickly and assertively toward the crosstown busstop that was my destination too, her light skirt swishing and bouncing, doing little to hide her manifold charms.

We were both crossing Geary at Van Ness when I saw him coming. He was older, dressed in regulation shabby pants, bulky coat, layers of dirt over layers of grimy old clothes over many more layers of dirt... he stomped toward me in the intersection like a man on a mission. When we were about a yard apart he reared back and kicked at my gut, his decrepit old boot swinging purposefully but not really very quickly into my demurely tailored french blue (note: would prefer to call it "french blown" in honor of frenching) midsection. I dropped back one step, lifting my hands in a posture of defensive disbelief, ready to catch his foot, remove it, and return it to him as a suppository. He pulled his kick, grumbling, and shambled off across the street.

As I got on the waiting bus the woman in the skirt was right ahead of me and seemed to be grumbling too. She's seen him try to kick someone else a few feet ahead of her in the crosswalk and was upset and a bit pumped up. We got to talking about it. She takes Aikido, she'd have been able to handle anything the old guy had tried to pull. But then something interesting happened: a conversation. We talked about proxemics, Cincinnati (she once saw an outfielder for the Reds at Skyline getting a coney), geology, education... that tough businesslike facade melted as she described her work teaching children, her excitement riding a motorcycle in thick fog... I kept thinking, if that whack job hadn't been playing Jean Clod van Dank in the intersection I'd never have had this conversation. I'd still be mentally toying with the idea of that little skirt flicking back and forth, instead of making genuine contact with a genuinely warm, interesting, helpful person. So she happens to be wearing a cute skirt - so sue me.

I take life as it comes, one random attack at a time. This time it worked out pretty well. Next time I'm in that neighborhood I expect that some hottie in Cesare Catinis and an Ann Taylor suit will probably pull a Billy Jack on my ass and I'll have to sit next to a stinky weirdo on the bus. It all evens out in the end. Luckily, I got to have dessert first.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:10 AM]

[ Wednesday, May 28, 2003 ]

 
Notes from the Road (transcribed for rebroadcast at a more convenient time, like now):

1) The signs read "Traffic Enforced By Aircraft." I thought they'd be more effective if they read, "Traffic Enforced by Armed Aircraft." Hell, I'd stop right there to try to catch a glimpse of them. Or maybe, "Invisible Aircraft." Yeah, that'd keep us guessing.

2) The profusion of wildflowers up the 128 is astonishing. Whole hillsides drenched in color; fields of rippling grass with bright colorful bursts exploding everywhere like frozen fireworks.... One stretch of road was overgrown with rockrose and poppies, which complimented each other very nicely - the dusty fuchsia of the rockroses bumping against the brilliant orange of the poppies... I was thinking if the two were somehow genetically blended you could call them "Pop Rocks."

3) We were leaving a little shop when three people walked in - a man and woman of conservative dress and appearance, and another man who also was conservatively dressed except for his blue bowler hat that dangled yellow yarn wighair. He was trying to look cool, which was a lost cause, so there was a strange discontinuity between his demeanor and his appearance, which was itself a bit discontinuous, with the khakis and polo shirt below and his goofball pielike yarnhead. I suggested, once we were outside, that he had just blown his audition to be the next Wavy Gravy. No, Kel corrected me, that's Wavy's older, straighter brother, Davy. She is wise in the ways of familial extenuations. I stand corrected.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:32 PM]

 
EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING

Sunday morning, up the hill north-west of Philo. Impressions so far: we were wise not to try getting here at night. Just taking 128 off the 101 was a bit of a challenge in daylight. Then, to get to the cabin, we turn off of 128 several miles past a mountain valley hamlet called Philo (population around 500) right next to a longtime favorite winery, and go up a little dirt road for a few miles. The road is barely more than a fire trail, but it's lined with rail fences and utility poles and refurbished old barns that are now family homes on 20 acres each. Or anyway, that's what the road looks like till you get near the end, where it's diving into and out of thick brush and forest and the houses are few and very far between, hidden in dingles deep in the woods. Eventually we hit a T intersection, hang a rickie, and go even deeper into the coastal mountains, into deeper woods, and there, improbably, is another intersection - and at the intersection is a small wooden sign bearing the address of the cabin at the foot of a steep set of tire ruts leading up the hillside. The car complies with our demands, performing flawlessly on our first real road trip and off-road experience since we got it. The gate, when we reach it, is rustic, falling apart - Kel has to hold it open so it doesn't swing shut on us as we drive through.

We continue under a canopy of oak and laurel up the 1/3-mile-long driveway. The cabin is brown, wood, with a loft, a porch - wrap-around, wisteria lattices, stained glass - in sum, very cozy and nice. The dog has been exceptionally good on this long trip; now he's making himself dizzy sniffing everything, even us. Inside, the cabin is adorable. Mismatched furniture, all extremely comfortable; local lore and muckraking newspapers; cool music we aren't familiar with; big open kitchen; big bed with adjustable mattress firmness for either side. The deck overlooks both hills and vales, fading off into a not-perceptibly-habitated distance of vineyards and forests and hazy fog... a small pond sits below the dutch door leading from the back of the kitchen, wild turkeys gobble back and forth in the woods....

Okay, we aren't getting much water pressure from the big tank up the hill but all else is awesome and now it's Sunday morning, we're listening to Zen House (which we brought) and waiting for the pump guy to show up. (Sounds like a porno setup. Coals to Newcastle.) Last night, we went down the hill to the winery on 128 and had a few paired tastings, which revealed some interesting differences in our palates, and admired the folk art, 4th century chinese sculpture, and aboriginal carvings with which the place was, in part, decorated. Afterwards, we went on to Mendocino town, which was even more lush and gorgeous than I'd remembered - I don't think we'd ever been there in the spring before, and the wildflowers were on hyperdrive. Little alleys were choked with bowers and wild lupine and nasturtium, old wood was livid with moss, old hinges on old doors offered studies in color and texture, the Pacific insistently pounding the driftwood-littered shore 70 feet below at the foot of the cliffs - through which the sea has torn a long transverse bore, over which the earth eventually collapsed, through which gaping cave in the headlands we watched waves surge through the cliff bore, while across the street the saltbox romanticism of the town's main drag glowed in the late afternoon....

We walked Ukiah, Main and Albion Streets - the three streets that constitute the part of town that merits walking; we peered in on galleries and browsed some boutiques but it was after 5 and shops were closing, so we made our way back to Beaujolais and ate supper. (Non-foodies: skip to next paragraph.) Kel started with seared scallops, local morrels and asparagus on a bed of asparagus puree, which was decent; I had a smoked chicken salad with local granny smiths and local pecorino-style cheese, which also didn't suck. While ordering we shared a cassis and soda - quite the gustatory stimulant - and Kel had a sparkling wine with her scallops; I had a glass of 2000 Lolonis Sauv Blanc with my salad and another glass of it with my roast sturgeon in truffle reduction with house made tagiatelle (sp?), beets and garden veggies; Kel got a glass of the same wine with her roast chicken in truffle glaze, mashed potatoes and veggies. Both entrees were palatable. For dessert, Kel had fresh banana cake with malted chocolate ice cream and candied bananas; I had a chocolate brioche bread pudding with creme anglaise. Again, not bad, and the place is as comfortable and homey and well-staffed as I ever remembered.

After, we strolled the cafe's lovely gardens, picked up some pastries for (today's) breakfast [remember I wrote this on Sunday] at the local juice bar during their weekly open mike session, and then cruised back inland and up the hill listening to John Mayall's "Wicked Grin." I woke up at 6 this morning and went out to take photos on the property even though it was pretty foggy and grey. (Good texture and depth of color, though.) At noon we're scheduled to be back in Mendo at Sweetwater for an hour in a sauna/hot tub suite, in the nicest hot tub ever to cradle my moist naked self. Maybe I'll do some yoga and prepare myself for a deeper level of relaxation. My time is limited, after all, and my residual tension level is dangerously high.

UPDATE: of course, this was all days ago. But in a sense it endures. Monday was bright and sunny and we had a great breakfast in Booneville and hit four wineries on the way back to the cabin - three of which are truly world class. By coincidence, we brought home three bottles. Now it's wednesday morning and I need to think about work again. But somewhere in the back of those thoughts, my butt is still soaking in that sublime hot tub under the Mendocino sun. Some things are too enjoyable to be left behind when they're over.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:30 AM]

[ Tuesday, May 27, 2003 ]

 
Last week I took a shot at it but I did a poor job of really describing what I look out for when I'm driving - the warning signs of a driver who's likely to slow me down in random and infuriating ways. Billy described just such a situation recently, and it made me think my tongue-in-cheeque expose was anything but useful. In fact it sucked. So here is a better, more clearly conceived, and much more useful taxonomy of warning signs that should make you ask yourself, am I driving behind the automotive equivalent of Abe Simpson or Garrison Keillor - someone who's going to give me a short course in high blood pressure and low tollerance of the frailties of others?

Without further ado: "GET YOUR GARBAGE CART OUT OF MY FACE" SIGNS:
* Older diesel cars
* Cars with lots of exhaust, or a big exhaust stain on their butts
* Cars with overly cute bumper stickers ("Don't Follow Me I'm Lost Too;" "I brake for Unicorns;" "Not Perfect, Just Forgiven")
* Cars loaded with goddamn fuzzy dolls and bobblehead crap
* Cars that seem to be dragging their ass low to the roadbed
* Cars that are really big with drivers that are really small
* Cars with lots of environmental stickers all over them, obscuring window clarity
* Smashed out taillights and/or rear bumper
* Really really dirty cars with really dirty windows
* Cars with unusually tacky faux-wood panelling
* Cars that leave too long a gap between themselves and the car they're trailing
* Self-referential license plates - whether relating to people ("C WONG") or vehicles ("MY 87 CAD")
* Bumper stickers that say "I'd rather be" doing something really sedentary and introspective, like "knitting" or "napping"
* Cars with a license plate dangling precariously
* Cars that are really shiny and still have dealer's plates instead of DMV plates (drivers are so nervous about their new babies)
* Cars with lots of stuff stacked on the roof, especially if there's no roof rack
* Occupied vehicles in my neighborhood

Of course, none of these signs is dispositive; many of them can appear together in a vehicle that's not causing anyone any problems. But that's in other cities, other states. Around me, any of these signs typically means "your enrollment in rageaholics anonymous has expired." Sometimes I can control them with my mind and make them go away. Usually I just seethe until I rip the top off my gearshift knob. You can only imagine how much seething I have to do before I'm driven to such extremes. I'm very attached to my knob.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:30 PM]

 
Rancho Relaxo My Ass

On our way up north we passed an exit marked "Rancheria." I asked Kel what distinguised a rancheria from a regular, run-of-the-mill ranch. She immediately answered, "Urea." If I'd have been driving, I'd have taken us off the road.

But her begs the more important question: what is this "mill" of which we are said to have the "run"? What does it mean to have "run of" a mill? Is this like a mill with a water wheel, in which case maybe it's "run-off" the mill? Or is it 1/10th of a penny, like the cash value of a coupon, or more like a steel mill - and what do either of those have to do with getting the run, or perhaps, the runs, of a place? The longer I think of it, the less sense it makes and the more unsavory it sounds. And regardless, can you have the run of the mill of a ranch? Can't you just have a run of the ranch all by itself?

I'm overwrought.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:23 PM]

 
Sometimes when I have a lot I want to say, only the strangest little dollops of it get out. Like, I tend to spoonerize things I hear, switching the first letters or sounds of key words in a phrase. That's why I can never own a Geo Prizm.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:13 AM]

[ Friday, May 23, 2003 ]

 
Since I'm out of here so soon, I wanted to throw something up to cover up the embarassing lack of sophistication here at the hut. I was having trouble figuring out what that would be, and then my best friends at the Gillette company solved my problem. I got home Thursday night to find a mysterious cardboard box, addressed to me from them. I tore it open and found a sample razor with three - three! - blades, and also a heartfelt piece of hucksterism and pitchware. It was so fulfilling for me to read, I thought I might make it part of your experience too. And let's face it, after "gross google searches that brought people to my blog" and tirades about television shows, commercial speech is your best source for cynic fodder. So cozy up and let's begin...

First line: " Start Your Day Off Right." These letters are huge; it's the biggest part of the text - and it's all about ME and making MY experience more fulfilling. How can I argue with that? HOW CAN I ARGUE? Right. I'll move on.

"Dear Valued Customer:" My sensors extend. 'Value' is something that you attach to commodities; 'dear' and 'value' in this context take on a sense of synonymity. And what entitles them to call me a customer? Just because I buy their crap? What temerity. What gall. I'm outraged.

"At GilletteÒ, we think that every man deserves the best. And we think that you deserve our best shaving product - our MACH3Ò Turbo."

Is this really what you think out there at Gillette? Because that's a pretty lame excuse for a philosophy. Does every man really deserve the best? Isn't it inevitable that theere would be gradations of bestness to accomodate the billlions of men who apparently all deserve the 'best', from callous murderers and Donald Rumsfeld, to genius philanthropists and myself? So I question the premise from which Messers. Gillette proceed.

But they have a corollary - that they further think that I deserve their best shaving product. This leads me to wonder, when did they arrive at this conclusion? Did they just decide recently? Have they been holding out on me till now? I suppose I must have passed some sort of marketing threshold for inclusion in the "deserves best shaving product" category. I wonder what I did - I think I'd like to do it again. Also, I'm ImpressedÒ that they've RegisteredÒ the Mach3Ò. But I suppose they don't need to worry about it till they reach 5 and Speed sends Spridle and ChimChim over to break some kneecaps.

"Next Generation Triple-Blade Shaving System." Wow! Riker's choice - and you can tell that he throws a manly growth! Plus, triple blading sounds good too. It's 50% better than double blading. At least.

"Protected by over 35 patents, Mach3Ò Turbo features innovations you can feel - 3 Anti-FrictionÔ blades, thinner and more flexible microfins to smooth out your skin, an enhanced IndicatorÒ lubricating strip and a more ergonomic grip."

I'm overwhelmed. Of course, I feel very safe - safer than I've ever known I could feel. The protection of those 35 patents gives me the courage to face a new day, secure in my masculinity. And the innovations incorporated in this tonsorial marvel - I can actually FEEL them! I love the tactile sensations, theyre among my most favorite sensations. Oh, don't make me choose. Here we learn, too, that the blades - all three of them - are Anti-FrictionÔ, which provides a bit less tangible a sense of being protected, but still makes me feel special and proud that I'm now finally qualified to enjoy shaving products that incorporate technology that seems to defeat the very laws of physics, since Anti-FrictionÔ is presumably non-entropic. No wonder they Ô'd it!

BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE! Remember those thick, rigid maxifins they used to have on Gillette razors, the ones that shredded up your skin? Well market research has pointed them in an exciting new direction on that one - thin, flexible, and micro is so 21st century! It must be the most important development in the history of applied shaving technology. And they sent it to me for free. I'm almost crying.

With this kind of lead-in, they toss off a mention of the 'Enhanced IndicatorÒ Lube Strip' as a throwaway. But I'm a dear valued customer for a reason - I think for myself. Right? So we'll start with the frank acknowledgment that men have lube strips and we use them all the time. It's no big thing, just locker room hijinks. All good clean fun. Guy stuff. Man lube. End of story. But now - ah, but now there's the IndicatorÒ lube strip - and if you break down that word into its component parts, you get a vaguely rude but unintelligible phrase based around the noun "dick" and the past tense verb "ate." So you know it's a powerful lube that will leave your skin moist and pert as a playful honeyed tongue. Ooh! And then they IMPROVED it. Oh goodness how lubricious can I get? Do I have limits? I certainly hope not.

AND. And. And there's a more ergonomic grip. I know it sounds dirty but it's really not. Well, actually... looking at the photo and the device itself, the shaft - or "glans" - of the razor has long vertical grooves, broken up by three sets of three low smooth ridges. On the underside is a pattern of short dimples. You know, for a firm grip. You know, for her pleasure. So that's what ergonomic means.

"The Closest, Most Comfortable Shave Ever." That's a broad statement. Sure, you've made some important strides. But ever? The most? These are an absolute term, in one case, and a subjective term in the other. Just because it's in bold lettering doesn't mean it's truer. I read that on the internet, and it was in bold so I believed it.

"All this advanced design means that you can now enjoy the closest, most comfortable shave with less irritation - even when shaving against the grain."

What do you mean, 'less' irritation? I'm getting a little irritated right now. I expect no irritation. I have enough irritation as it is. I hear you, though, about going against the grain. I'm a rebel, a ronin, an iconoclast with an attitude - 'against the grain' is almost my middle name, except that that would make my whole name 32 letters long. But I'm pretty riled up, anyway. Closest, most comfortable shave my ass. (That wasn't a request, by the way.)

"So enjoy your Mach3Ò Turbo. It's the best you can get."

Oh you bastards. You throw me a parade and then empty your chamberpots on it. I thought I was dear to you. I thought I'd made the cut and you'd let me use your best shaving products. But now I see the truth. This isn't actually the best, or even your best. It's just the best you're willing to sell to me, the best I'll be able to get with my limited resources and questionable psych profile. And even then, I'm expecting irritation.

The signature is "Very truly, Joseph F. Dooley, President, Commercial Operations, North America."

Do you think he noticed that 'truly' rhymes with 'Dooley'? Because if I noticed that, I'd change something. Make it 'fondly' or 'With deepest sympathy' or 'And the horse you rode in on.' There's no rule-y about truly, Dooley. And yes, we should also point out that his name contains the word 'doo.' We don't owe him any respect, he's the freaking PresidentÒ of Commercial OperationsÒ for a whole continent (and one of the good ones, too!). I dont' know what 'commercial operations' are but they sound pretty all-encompassing. Whatever it is, he's old enough to take care of himself. He's telling me that this triple bladed sex toy is the best razor I can hope to get. Well you'd better be right Mr. DooDooHead (bet that one stung, it's been years since he heard it) - otherwise I'll take that better razor and come looking for you. And when I find you I'll give you the closest, most comfortable shave ever. That'll teach you to send me free toiletries.

Meanwhile, Subaru knows I'm a customer too, but so far, no free samples in the mail. Maybe it got misdirected. Speaking of which, I'm off tonight for Philo, Mendocino County, for 3 days of total isolation and rejuvenation, in our first extended road trip in the Forester. Cosmo comes too! And may god have mercy on our souls. Mine, anyway.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:01 PM]

 
This is why I love Memepool. Just make sure they all wash their hands before they come to the table. You get enough people sticking their heads out of a giant plastic colon, somebody's going to need some extra scrubbing.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:09 PM]

 
Hail Ukraine! Reenhead, whoever that is, seems to have a cool blog that links to thisdisplay of Ukranian busstops. And I am in a sharing mood.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:46 AM]

 
I was just sitting at my desk idly thinking of someone and hoping the phone would ring with a call from that person. The phone rings. I'm psychokinetic. I have powers. I made the phone ring. But it's got to be someone else. I don't have that kind of power; even so, I'm kind of buzzed about making the phone ring in the first place even though I don't want to talk to someone other than the person I'd been thinking about. I answer the phone before the second ring, announcing myself with unctious formality. The voice on the other end of the line is not familiar, but has a familiar accent. The name is the same as the person of whom I'd been thinking, who has this trace of a touch of an accent. I don't so much hear it as feel it beneath the words. But it's a different person, with a different set of concerns and issues altogether - which we resolve speedily and cheerfully. So I guess I get about a C+ for having made the phone ring with a call from a person with the same name as the person who I had idly been hoping would call at that moment. I think this qualifies me for social promotion, in educational lingo. That means I don't have to repeat this miracle again, I can go on to the next grade.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:00 AM]

 
It may only be obvious to me, but to me it's inescapably obvious that the corner of this floor on which I work, down at the opposite end of this side - in other words, I'm south-west, and I'm talking about the north-west corner - so in that corner, it really smells like cat pee. A lot. Not dog. Maybe ferret. But I digress: my question is this - is there anything other than the obvious to make a part of a high-rise cubefarm smell like little Mr. Friskers did some impromptu Jackson Pollock action on the industrial low-nap? It's smelled for days. I was hoping it was just some skeeze with b.o. but it doesn't look like I'm that lucky.

That area is a different department altogether, much larger and less harmonious than mine. I don't want to make waves, talking to someone about the secret kitten someone else is keeping in her file cabinet to try to preserve some vestige of warm human feeling in the harsh, drab world of membership "services," which is a euphemism for billing, which is where the peereek hovers... yes it sounds a bit extreme to me too, but who am I to judge? This would be the very sort of thing I could so easily ruin for everybody, it's better that I just walk around to the coffee station the slightly less convenient way and minimize my exposure to the stench (or, "stenchposure.") You know what cat pee carpet smells like in the morning? Hint: it's not victory.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:58 AM]

[ Thursday, May 22, 2003 ]

 
Overheard:

- Let me check that out.
- What, these strings? These be solid gol' tips here.
- No, not the pants; down there... those Jordans?
- Oh yeah man, these are new ones.
- Like last year?
- No slick, they bran new. I just got'm today.
- Yeah for real?
- Shit yeah; they four-five hunned dollah but see they gave me a deal and shit...
- Yeah?
- Yeah so now I got a whole houseful of shoes and clothes and all y'all... shit, that's all mine... in fac I'm just goin out ta one o' my Sevilles to check it out, yo.
- Yeah?
- Yeah, cuz that's all you can do when you be retir'd - sit around and count dollah. You know how it be.
- Yeah, I know all about it.
- Yeah, well this my stop. Gimme one, bro.
- Faith, brother.
- Faith. Later.
- Later. Yeah.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:44 PM]

 
Imagined:

He's hauling ass like people only haul it in the morning. Despite the crisp creases in his pants and the pleats down his pelvis, he's getting his knees up good and high with every stride. He weaves skillfully across six lanes of traffic; I watch him turn the corner and strive for the doors as they close in his face, inches from his outstretched fingers. Undaunted, he starts running again, heading for the next stop and betting traffic is slower than he is. The bag over his shoulders bounces cheerfully as he hurls himself across another intersection, down a block of pedestrians, dancing around an obstacle course of preschool kinds and drunkards, reaching the next stop at the same time as we do on the bus; he lets some pushy old women elbow him aside at the door and then, flushed and panting, climbs in and takes a seat.

His sholders heave; his hands shake as he pulls out a large, archaic cell phone. I can't hear the start of his conversation but I can feel his tension. Phrases filter over to me: "I'm on the bus now... it's not my fault... I ran three blocks... I've got it under control... He's there now? I'll be in in 15 minutes. Damnit I got up early today... No, I... I can fix it ... (a few moments of silence elapse, his face utterly blank as he listens to the voice in his ear) ... Yeah, okay. Okay. As soon as I get there. Fifteen minutes. Thank you. Thank you. Sir."

He terminates the call like he's on Jupiter, like he's lightyears from where he wants to be, where he belongs; like he's 300 pounds heavier, like the ground beneath his feet could just yawn open and suck him under. He presses his forehead into his knuckles. His head swivels suddenly. Our eyes lock. His face glistens with sweat that now runs freely into his freshly pressed shirt collar. He's on the verge of tears. Emotion wells in his eyes as he finds his voice, cracking and drawn; he tells me, panting, "It wasn't my fault."

I can't look away from him. We sit silently for a moment but something needs to be said; the silence is a little short, too empty and unresolved. I speak without thinking much: "Was it ever? Your fault?" He looks back down at his knees and his face drips into his lap.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:23 AM]

[ Wednesday, May 21, 2003 ]

 
Things that worked for me on the season finale of 24: * Jack doing a helicopter on that dude's neck. * SWAT team to the rescue at the last possible moment. * Tony playing it cool.

Things that didn't work so well for me on the season finale of 24: * Kim Bauer survives. * No mention of Nina, the arabic secret agent, the dead cop who was supposed to watch Kim, or Kim's boyfriend in the hospital with the amputated foot. * Noisy hissy soundtrack when David finds out Sherry's been in on the bomb plot for months. * Upswell of soundtrack music when the vp/prez stands down his troops or whatever he does - you can't hear it over the atmosphere.

And did anyone else think that they'd finished the show, for better or worse, and then someone at Division told them that some major character - who doesn't take sultry showers and bubble baths every few episodes - has to get iced? So they just grafted the bioterror plot from an old Mission: Implausable onto President Palmer's palm... the irony is overshadowed by the heartrending clumsiness of this wanna-be plot complication - less of a complication than a transplant, like when you get a frog to grow extra legs.

Conclusion: I can't believe this represented 24 hours of my life, never to be regained, never to be shared with loved ones and supermodels... and I have lost even more self-respect than time in my pursuit of the Cypress Recording and associated source materials. Does this mean I won't watch 24(x3): Jack Bauer and the Temple of Insolent Offspring and Bad Plans Gone Awry? You bet I will. Just let me get my heart refibrillated and I'll be right with you. And don't forget to set your vcrs: The Amazing Race starts May 29th.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:00 PM]

 
I love it when I get into something and someone I actually like in the media is on about it too within a couple of days. It's not like this often happens, but it's like when I said we should win that war in the middle east and then we did, or when I said I wish the Simpsons was on and then they were. But this time it's personal. Mark Morford, whose Morning Fix is such an important part of my week, and whose cultural explorations and weblinks have so expanded my worldliness, is now pimping this stuff, which I euphorically tasted at their winery just a few days ago - so recently that I can still remember that framboise they poured us - it was presented on a big chinese "two cranes" plate, the classic blue and white willows pattern, in two tiny chocolate cups, dark schmidt chocolate cups molded to resemble interwoven leaves, brimming with a nectar as sanguine and ruddy as blood; a few drops had dripped to the plate through which the white of the china shone deeply pink; the blue came through purple. I took only a moment to savor the weight of the tiny cup, the satin smoothness of the chocolate against my fingertips, and of course the scent of furiously rioting raspberries wafting from the surface of the liquid... I poured the whole thing into my mouth, letting it drip because it's as thick as cough syrup, and then dropped the cup in and chewed it up with a mouth full of liqueur. There were explosions in the vicinity of my endorphin center, and new heights of oral satisfaction were duly recorded. We wound up buying a white before-dinner wine and a raspberry port, which we've been drinking with chocolate as well. Needless to say, they're both superb, and this place is one of our favorites - one of our favorite wineries for years and one of our new favorite places to go.

The upshot: it's fun when a big time media celebrity like Mark Morford pimps something that you just spontaneously recently did on your own. Makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing, that my choices have been officially approved. Maybe that's not healthy. Maybe I shouldn't look to strangers with bylines for my sense of self-worth and the approval I so obviously crave. But you know what? I don't care. That raspberry nectar in the chocolate cup is all I really needed. Judge me as you will.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:59 AM]

[ Tuesday, May 20, 2003 ]

 
Great polychrome eggs! - courtesy of JenB, whom we dearly love...
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:50 PM]

 
Pysanki is a traditional eastern European art form in which eggs – natural or wooden – are intricately painted with geometric designs. It’s a trap for your eyes; you look and try to trace the design to a point of stasis, a place where things start and stop, but you keep slipping back and around… Kel turned me on to pysanky not long after we met. She’s had a few pieces for years and cherishes her little collection. As do I.

So what, for you, might be a pittance, a drachma in the bucket, an inconsequentiality, is truly deeply appreciated in our household. It bespeaks an ancient native exoticism, creaky water heaters and smoky samovars… even that scrap of newsprint, ripped crudely from a sheaf intended for another hemisphere, the letters conspiring and doubling backwards, tarot ads with 900 numbers and slinky skanks for which you felt inexplicably compelled to apologize as it emerged wrapping the brightly painted egg… this wad of smeary paper is itself an artifact of such obscure fascination that it remains crumpled on our dining table as a rough proletarian nest for the egg you brought us…

The egg is in traditional colors – red, brown, green, yellow; it’s a bit smaller than a small chicken egg and has a finely woven cord running from end to end, tacked down with beads and terminating in a delicate tassel. It’s going in the collection. Oh yes and it was wonderful to make your acquaintance. Enjoy your travels!
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:55 PM]

 
I just made reservations for dinner at Cafe Beaujolais next weekend. Mendofreakingcino. 20 unfenced acres for the dog to trample; warm brambly mornings and nights dark and alive with sounds the city overwhelms... I'm ready to start relaxing now, please. NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW DAMNIT NOW NOW NOW yeah I need to get away for a few days I guess
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:39 PM]

 
If you check the sidebar to the right of the article linked below, you can see the other news stories involve exciting rides for paramedics, and the shutting down of a bingo parlor. When a headline refers to the injured parties as "slightly hurt" you know the news just isn't that exciting. Might as well title it "Nothing to see here folks, keep moving along." But then, right in the middle of the Indianapolis Star - just where you always suspected it would be lurking - you find that city officials are investigating a neighborhood dominatrix just around the corner from the catholic school.

"Girls Inc. maintains one of its two Indianapolis locations just three blocks away. Girls Inc. serves 3,500 young girls in Marion County. On her Web site, Donaghy goes by Maitresse Miss Ann of the Dungeon Arts Reformatory....It tells men: "You will find a re-birth by My hand. Do you dare descend My dungeon stairs? Do you dare allow yourself to be this vulnerable, exposed and alive? I am Maitresse Miss Ann, a professional and lifestyle Domina in Indianapolis, Indiana.""

Sounds to me like this is a good chance to try some cross-marketing, if you can say that to the church. Let's get the school and the dungeon working together. Student motivation, faculty enrichment, and alumni gathering place - we'll all go down those dungeon stairs together and see what Indianapolis can do for our self-esteem. Anyway, they say that they're serving 3,500 girls daily just a few blocks away. Man that makes me hungry just thinking about it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:52 AM]

 
A SEPARATE PIECE

Some people are just getters. Not go-getters, though sometimes they have to work for their prizes. But I really mean people who get things without trying too hard, who are beneficiaries of the general bounty. People who get cars for free, who win concert tickets, who travel on complimentary airplane tickets (upgraded to first class) to gratis hotel rooms they won in a raffle they entered without paying. Sometimes these people are in the right place at the right time and sometimes they are willing to ask for the big favor that shames me into silence. "The Lord helps those that ask for shit." I'm scraping by, pinching pennies, and someone shows up to flash me the free passes he just scored to the game, assuring me that all the food will be paid for. I don't much care about the game, but I like free stuff and there's only so much vicarious appreciation of it that I can take. Sure, sometimes I've cashed in some cool gifts and unplanned windfalls, but more often I'm stewing in quiet envy at the material advantages that some other people seem to glean from the very zephyrs of springtime. Let me go on notice: I want my piece of whatever's up for grabs. If it's no longer available, I'll take someone else's piece. My appetites are boundless.

Are you going to finish that?

I thought you didn't want any.

I didn't know you were going to make it like that.

Like what?

So nice.

It's just a sandwich. I could have made you one. I offered.

I thought it was going to be like my sandwiches. Mine don't come out so nicely.

What are you talking about?

Is that mustard? And you cut on the diagonal....

Food tastes better on a diagonal.

I'll bet.

Well I am going to finish this.

You don't need any help?

No. Looks like you missed the sandwich bus.

Okay. So, um, are you planning on making another one anytime soon?
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:58 AM]

[ Monday, May 19, 2003 ]

 
It's a ludicrously nice day outside today; I'm having an "inside" day instead, very productive, kind of cranky. Sunday was the first Bay-to-Breakers I've missed in years - but we had other things to do, and some of them were a lot of fun anyway. This weekend we went to Phipp's Ranch to pick up some exotic field peas and purple-striped lima beans, and to Bonnie Doon for some framboisified port, and then to Phil's for the best seafood available anywhere and honestly people who don't like seafood haven't had it properly prepared... damn that's good eating.... as we were setting out on our 200 mile road trip sunday Kel noticed a sign of good things to come: "Fresh Cherry". Not "cherries," mind you. This sign was out to party. But things rapidly got better. The next sign was for "fresh Local cherry." Because they're always sweetest closer to home.

With all this gallivanting and perigrinating, we didn't watch the B-2-B runners in their papier-mache, grass-skirted, totally-naked beauty. But they all would have been overshadowed by the new neighbor who's finally returned from reconstructive surgery - the Conservatory of Flowers is back and better than ever. A few weeks ago I was driving home late at night and JFK drive in front of the Conservatory was totally empty. I could see that they'd moved the big construction trailers away from the facade and main entry - I could finally see the whole thing for the first time since reconstruction began; I could see it all, unbroken, for the first time since that big storm in '95 busted out so much of it's delicate glaizery and tracery. The interior lights were on and the place shone with the pure clarity of multicolored light - not like before, when the white paint on the old poorly-fitted panes made the whole place seem like a bleached carbuncle, a white elephant - now it's sleek and exuberant and wonderful to see, with jewel glass shooting out beams of purple and green and red just when you least expect them... It's not open to the public yet but that's no never-mind to me. I can see it every time I go running in the park, or go to a friend's house, or just when I have the urge to see something fragile and poetic and transparent and ethereal. It's the biggest freaking diamond in the world and it's in my backyard. I'm not the most active conservator of flowers in my neighborhood, but I'm glad to have it back.

Only downside: tourbusses. Hey, at least I get to run weekly through crowds of photo-snapping Germans and Koreans, a living, breathing, sweating piece of local culture. And if the one bad thing about living near such a treasure as the Conservatory is dealing with the myriad visitors who come to marvel at it, well I guess that's the price I'll pay for living in paradise. Needless to say, it's worth it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:45 PM]

 
Ever since Dan Ackroyd did the "Bassamatic" bit on SNL I've been sensitive to the plight of thefish in a blender. Is it art? I don't know, but it sure as hell ain't cuisine.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:19 PM]

[ Sunday, May 18, 2003 ]

 
A few weeks ago Kel acted on a long-standing desire to expand our rap and hiphop collection by picking up a big seller by Nelly, whose work has gone into, among other things, ads for chevrolets, I think. Around the same time a friend sent me a collection of archival Grateful Dead stuff from 1965 and '66. We were both listening to our respective selections quite a lot. We started internalizing the music - it became the soundtrack to our lives. I was telling Kel that I couldn't stop thinking of the chorus of "Fire in the City," an insistently cheerful song about the violent cruelty of intollerance. I quoted the words that were running laps in my head: "What are the thoughts that go racing through your head and mess your mind up, at the sight of a city that's gone completely insane - where will it wind up?" Kel told me that she was having a similar experience with the title track of her album, but she wouldn't repeat the lyrics that were fixated in her brain. "They're full of
words I don't say
," she explained.

It seems to me there's a fundamental disconnection when popular, essentially mainstream entertainment products consist so substantially of unspeakable words. And we're not just in the realm of profanity here - Kel can curse with the best of them, given appropriate circumstances. These are terms of racial opprobrium. I'm meeting more and more people who don't use certain words that are hurtful or demeaning to a class of people. I really respect that choice, but I can't say that I've made it myself and that makes me wonder why not. I've even said stupid, cruel, and insensitive things, not maliciously but still in a way that caused pain. I continue to try to make peace with those incidents and the person I was - I am - to have said and done what I've said and done.

Yet I can't bring myself to commit to the idea that I won't say certain words. I'll treat them like the instruments of destruction and devisiveness that they are, and with according respect and delicacy, but I'm not deciding not to say them. Rather, without deciding not to say them, I just generally won't. Every word sometimes needs to be said, and every idea has to be recognized at some point. I can't remove a concept from the universe of discourse just because I find it offensive - but I can try to concentrate on other concepts or less offensive words. And when I have to say what I find offensive, I won't be breaking any rules to say it plainly.

And yes, there are things that I won't say. Not on ethical grounds, or moral grounds, but because I can't get away with it. As a precondition to preserving my stature in society, such as it is, I cannot permit myself to utter what has taken the place of what young people used to say when I was one of them. Youth usage - linguistically speaking - I mean the way young people talk - their vocabulary - anyway, I can understand it, but I cannot effectively use it. By "effective" I mean, able to speak without reducing my audience to such hysterical laughter that I can't be heard, much less understood. When I express myself in the modern idiom it's the verbal version of those 70-year-old women by the beach in the little outfits from The Limited and all that makeup and hairspray - not just anachronistic, but wrong. WRONG.

So I've started compiling a list of things I really am not able to say without making a huge ass out of myself ("Hugh Jass, I have a phone call for Mr. Hugh Jass..."). As to which: If any of you hear me using any of the following words or phrases in any but the most ironic, clinical or representational ways, you are authorized - nay, invited warmly - to bitchslap me.
"Down with": I may be down with something, but I'd better say that I'm "in favor of" or "endorse" it. If I say I'm "down with" something, it's likey to stay down for the count.
"Hella": Despite the apparently Greek derivation, this word in fact has nothing to do with Hellenistic civilizations. Once I made that mistake the first time, I struck the word from my vocabulary forever.
"Peace out": Said by a dude on a skateboard in hemp shorts, it's like "shalom" for the millenial generation. When I say it, it's either like a cop drawing his gun (get your peace out, he's not cooperating fast enough) or some sort of indecent exposure (yes, officer, then I turned around and he had his peace out). Either way, not too flattering for me.
"Props/Peeps": I often wish I could ask for some props for my peeps. Alas, such a request only brings forth choking giggles. My peeps are therefore, at present, still propless. It's a sorce of shame and pain for me.
"Shizzy" or any word inventively reliant on "z"s, "f"s and "sh"s: I tried to use one of these once and my tongue got caught in my blingbling. The embarassment remains with me to this day, though I accidentally swallowed the blingbling.
"Wack": I'm not even sure how to spell this. I can "whack" something, but I can't use the word adjectivally: I can't say something is "wack" with any authority. There's only one response when I say that something is "wack" and that's to point at my face, laughing openly, saying "yeah, dude, it's YOU." I'll save you the trouble. I just won't say it.
"Word": I had a good talk with a guy in his early 20s and he kept on saying "word" in a soft, respectful way. It was meaningful and expressive, but I can't carry it off. I say "word" and people start trying to guess which one I'm thinking of. Fair enough, it's "maladaptive." "Obsolete." "Moribund." After that, they become more pungent.

I know there are a lot more that belong on this list but I am not qualified even to know what they are. I'm going back to my rocker by the fire now, with my bread pudding, port and vitamin E oil. There's not much I can say any longer, but I'm full of creative ideas.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:52 PM]

[ Friday, May 16, 2003 ]

 
I CHOO-CHOO-CHOOSE YOU

On Tuesday I suffered a prolonged and embarassingly public election. Some guys get used to these, but I was incommoded in the extreme. And what made it worse is that I'm not usually one to go asking my colleagues, much less strangers at my place of work, to help me with my election, but this time I had no choice. I couldn't handle it by myself. There were five of us, going after just three seats - I've had trouble with these odds before, regardless what manner of seat was at issue. But it seems I've been overstressing. "Dear Union Members, We are pleased to announce the results of the election of bargaining team representatives. We thank all of the candidates for their willingness to serve the membership. The General Unit representatives are: Michael Maacks, Dan Passamaneck, Reginald Wooden. The alternate is Aurora Valencia. The Attorney Unit representative is Rob Henderson."

I stand ready to serve, in whatever capacity would be most serviceable. For example, the fork across the top of the place setting is for dessert. We can discuss dessert in more detail later, if you desire. Just let me slip into a more comfortable constituency.

thats just the way it seems to me at [1:31 PM]

 
Renewing Griffith Observatory: Here's an article with some interesting models of the work being done on one of America's finest buildings. Yes, it's in Los Angeles, they have cool stuff there. Like the "Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater" to be built underground atop Mt. Hollywood, according to these plans. Okay, I love the observatory and the view and the history and the whole thing. But I can't get Nimoy's bit from the Simpsons out of my mind. *** "The cosmic dance continues." "Can I sit next to somebody else?" *** or *** (Quimby:) "May the force be with you." (Nimoy) "Do you even know who I am?" (Quimby) "Yeah, weren't you one of the Little Rascals?" *** Sorry Len, I'm fatally distracted from your unquestioned accomplishments. Homer's monorail costume is just too powerful, even for your dour telepathy.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:34 PM]

 
I cross the street, not at the marked crosswalk, but from one corner to the opposite corner, with the lights in my favor. I let a car turn left in front of me and then cross the empty road in safety. Another car, travelling parallel, slows to a crawl beside me. An older american sedan, mustylooking; he honks, rolls down his window; I pull off my headphones. He thrusts his pink face out the window into the night toward me, wispy silver hair and a polo shirt framing his expression of concern: "Be careful," he tells me. He veers close to the curb as he stares me down. As he drives on, speeding up marginally, I notice that his headlights and taillights are off.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:51 AM]

 
The evening in a word, courtesy of Dayv: "Zentastic." This morning, a perfect Klee of a single drop of sangria on the grey fabric of my sack, now stained the color of sweetness.

Bleary breakfast, Kel and my one chance today to be in the same place at the same time. We're stumbling around the kitchen and she wants to know about last night. It was a big night, in part because, among many superlative persons whom I was meeting in person for the first time, one of these was Greg, with whom my prior efforts to consummate our relationship, so to speak, had been a tragic and bloody failure. In full cognizance of the gravity of this occasion, Kel asked a few questions on said subject in particular. I mentioned, in the course of ensuing mumbled recollections about the good doctor, that Greg had brought up the Gilmore Girls in conversation. Kel's face lit up. "Really? He watches Gilmore Girls?" "Yes he does." "This guy may be all right after all!" I don't question her conclusion, but I question her premise.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:13 AM]

[ Thursday, May 15, 2003 ]

 
The thing I like about this story isn't the image of the independantly prehensile lingual portions, or the idea of letting someone work on my mouth with a scalpel that's been heated with a blowtorch, but the name of the air force base they mention. It's long been one of my favorite names, and isn't it a lucky coinicidence that I just got a letter from my old friend, Peter Johnson, telling me all about his happy family:

"Hello, Chuckles, how's it hanging? Dick and Rod send their love. They're staying over with Grandpa Willie and his ol' buddy Orel; I'm sure they've got their hands full with those boys. I'm going out hunting tomorrow to fire a few off with my brother Lance and his triplets Woody, Tiny and Chubby; the boys wanted to bag something big and hairy for Uncle Randy to take over to Seymour's place at the Air Force Base. Well I'd better go - the cock's gotten loose and he's a real pecker! Stop on by the Johnson place anytime and take a load off! - Your friend, Peter Johnson."

Good people, those Johnsons. And they know better than mess with God's handiwork. Split my tongue? I'll sit this one out. I have enough stuff to spread as it is.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:54 AM]

[ Wednesday, May 14, 2003 ]

 
Lowrider: How big is big enough? It just doesn't get any cooler than this - at ten pixels per meter, you can drag your Narn Frazi Fighter or your Vulcan Warp Sled right on top of a 747. And I thought I was finished with my education. Have a picture ID ready and don't try to bring your manicure set through the transporter. God only knows where those tweezers will wind up.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:35 PM]

 
Gotta love those Brunching Shuttlecocks. Now that I have a DVD player I can start to appreciate all the special features. Actually, mine came with the PornVision feature too - press the button and clothes are digitally deleted. Gotta watch out when you activate this, though: if it's "on" when you pop in that Golden Girls disk, you may need searing retinal surgery before the image of Estelle Getty's hams stops haunting you. Unless you're into that sort of thing. I guess it takes all kinds.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:58 PM]

 
Looks like I'll be really cranking out the work today - and I'm comfortable with that. In lieu of a for-real post, here's a brain nugget that's been clogging up my memo book - maybe it can clog up something of yours:

"I reached for his ear... to pull it off, you know... but it was already gone. That's when I realized, I've got to start paying better attention."

When a phrase like this arises fully formed and ostensibly unbidden from one's subconscious, mysterious and inexplicable, monopolizing the mental activity of the better part of a day, well, it raises any number of questions. Since I wouldn't want to hear the answers, I cheerfully ignore them. Have a productive Wednesday. You know they're watching you, right?
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:56 AM]

[ Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ]

 
Can I rant? (Can you stop me?) I just went over a few bills that needed paying and noticed a new page with my AT&T bill: each line which incurs long distance charges will be assessed an additional 99 cents. Why? So that AT&T can recover costs under the following expense categories: Interstate Access Charges; regulatory compliance; advocacy costs; and property taxes.

I AM OUTRAGED. It's not like I can do much about it but this is ludicrous. Let's look at these categories:

* The Access Charge is what they have to pay to use someone else's out-of-state lines. I thought that was what I was paying them to handle for me. "Oops, when we agreed to provide a service to you, we didn't realize we'd have to pay for it ourselves - our bad - let's just have you pay us for what we do and cover our costs when we use someone else's service, and call it even." Insulting.

* Next: "regulatory compliance." These guys are in business to make money, not to follow any stinking laws - if that's the way we're going to be about it, making them "comply" with all kinds of bogus "regulations," well there's no reason they should have to foot the bill, right? Regulations are there for the public interest, not AT&T's. Public benefit, public cost. Makes sense? Not really. That's just making me pay extra for someone to follow the rules. "It'll be $200 to fix the wires in your house. Of course, if you want me to comply with regulations, it'll be $250. Your choice." I choose to ducttape you to a sawhorse, but looks like I got strapped down to it already.

* Okay, I'll skip down to property taxes: why am I paying their tax bill? Don't people who own property have an obligation to pay taxes on it? Didn't they realize there would be tax on all that property they bought? Why should I pay for their lack of planning or - dare I say it - for their stupidity? If they don't like the system, they should rent the property they need and let someone else pay the tax. Of course, then we'd probably have to pay an assessment for "leasehold obligations." Dorkwankers.

* And I've saved the most outrageous for last: Advocacy costs. WTF??!!!! This is lobbying, right? They want me to pay for their mouthpieces who are trying to get regulation reduced, to get permissible charges increased, to come up with extra ways to gouge the public and chisle a few more pennies out of an already-stone-broke population? I'd be just as happy if they didn't have advocates at all. I'd prefer not to have to pay them to find new ways to ream me.

What they're doing is making us pay for their business costs, tax burden, and for making our own phone service more expensive and less responsive. And if you don't like it, I have three cubic yards of sand that we can pound together. Ma Bell has always been a whore but now she's pimping us out for her own fun and profit. I feel so cheap.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:12 PM]

 
I have a bad habit of putting off important choices till the last moment. I might be the first one to put down his menu at our table at a restaurant, but I'll dawdle endlessly over the big stuff. That's why, for example, I never write my academy awards acceptance speech until the telecast begins, and I still haven't hung the priceless art that's been gathering dust around my palatial compound for so many months. I freeze under the pressure of big decisions.

In a small step towards more responsible decisionmaking habits (and isn't it sad that it's come to this, my wanting my decisions to be more responsible, but anyway) I have anticipated a major decision which is looming on the midrange horizon. I know it will leave me stammering, incapable of action if I let it unfold on its own - but this time I see it coming and thereby stand a decent chance of staving off this particular bout of the dithers. I just have to overcome my neurosis and come up with a game plan before it's too late.

To wit: I received not long ago a gift basket containing a variety of comestibles. Some are lasting a long time, like the honey-roasted peanuts; some get et as soon as they're opened, like the caramel corn and the chocolates. Some items were promptly consigned to the compost, like the cheezefud and summir sosijje (neither of which seemed truly to be food to me). But there are a few items that have a sort of intermediate staying power (not unlike myself). These are cellophane bags of brightly colored candy of various sorts. I open a bag and munch a piece or two every day or so; each bag lasts several weeks this way.

I'm nearing the end of my antepenultimate bag, leaving me two bags remaining between which to choose my next selection. I dread having to pick between them, but soon I'll eat my last Super Sour Star (pentagram-shaped jellies, garrishly colored and encrusted in sugar). They are plenty of fun to eat but all good things - especially candy - come to an end. My Sour Stars are going the way of the white dwarf, collapsing to an identity, to exist only in the realm of theoretical physics. So whether I want to or not, I will have to choose one, and only one, bag to open next. I can't have two open bags at once - I lack some basic inhibitory mechanisms and that much access to sweets would surely lead to glucose abuse. And nobody wants to see that.

So help me out here: what should I open next - the Assorted Ultimate Beans, or the Fruit Flashers? Honestly I can imagine a down side to either choice. I've endured some pretty hearty beans in my day, and been flashed by more than my share of fruits. The beans were a bit more intense over the short term, but the flashers really linger in my memory....
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:54 AM]

[ Monday, May 12, 2003 ]

 
I saw most all of them over the weekend. But sometimes I'm riding shotgun and for some reason the driver in whose discretion I have entrusted my sanity and safety doesn't seem to recognize them, and it's even worse to be trapped passenging behind one of these antisocial angstmongers than to have the wheel in my own hands, silently cursing and fretting as I wrestle my way to a patch of open road. Of course, sometimes I can actually force them to turn or pull over to the side by dint of mental energy alone - that actually worked once this weekend, when the slowmoving Honda just stopped in traffic for no other reason than so that I could get around it and drive at a normal speed.

So here they are, ten warning signs that you are probably behind a bad, slow, thoughtless, or otherwise life-shortening driver:

* Rear windshield is completely obscured by cute fuzzy dolls.
* The sticker of Calvin has him peeing on himself.
* Cigarette in one hand, cellphone in the other, while working with a blowdryer.
* Driver's head keeps disappearing; driver's hands keep pointing in directions other than the road.
* Driver's head appears below the arc of the steering wheel.
* Enormous older car driven by tiny much older person.
* Gas cap is open, with gas nozzle ripped from the pump and dangling.
* Driver is eating - with silverware
* Vehicle stops at all red lights, even when they're several hundred yards away.
* Vehicle maintains safe 30-car-length following distance behind preceeding car.

If you honk at one of these cars, it will stop no matter where it is and how dangerous it is - unless it's already stopped and you need it to get moving, in which case a honk will make it back up into you. There's no solution but to take evasive maneuvers. Or some tranqs. That way, when you slam into their rear bumper as they perform the "understeered merge" or the "traffic hiatus" maneuvers, you'll be nice and relaxed.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:45 PM]

 
SARSCASTIC

I don't wish to minimize the seriousness of the new epidemic of respiratory illness that has laid low so many good people in Asia and elsewhere. I don not amuse myself with the suffering of others, nor with crises that frighten billions, rock economies, and threaten international relations. This is all serious stuff, and I take it seriously. I have to take something seriously, after all.

But I do think that this disease would be taken even more seriously, treated with the sober dread it deserves, with a different name. Think of the classics: "Plague": the word means pandemic, evokes images of continents infected and agonizing. "Influenza": with the same root word as "influence," this brings to mind an unseen, unstoppable curse that will seek you out as surely as will the light of the moon. "Cholera:" the name means bilious, describing victims writhing in grippe and distress.

Then there's SARS. Thousands of medicine's best minds are working on curing it, preventing it, unlocking its secrets and disarming it. Obviously, none of those doctors double-majored in marketing. "SARS" sounds like somebody's Norwegian uncle, not a deadly illness. Couldn't we have come up with a name as serious as the disease? "Severe Acute" doesn't say "unseen hand of pestilence" or "nations on their deathbeds" or any such thing to me. It just says "we couldn't think of a noun so we used some adjectives." And not even good juicy adjectives, like "fatal" or "infectious" or "moribund." "Severe Acute" is to "acute" as "fucking serious" is to "serious." It adds only emphasis, not significance.

It reminded Kel of the mysterious boxes we see people carting around CostCo, boxes that take up a frighteningly large part of the Escalade-sized carts that haunt those echoing aisles, boxes that read "Creamy Liquid Frying Shortening." In Mad Libs this is "Adjective Adjective Adjective Gerund." (Yes, I always bought the "SmartAss Edition" of Mad Libs. Call it niche marketing.) That's the kind of name that sends a chill down my spine, both because I know what they're describing - a thick oleagenous product in which food can be superheated and made impervious to both liquid and time - and because it's a series of descriptive words that would be better replaced with a single cheerful denominative, like "Goop-o" or "Fritterola" or "AngelWhip." (AngelWhip can be used for a lot of products, actually. You might even wind up using some of them together. "Smear your Angel Whip with AngelWhip for added flexibrication...")

But at least C.L.F.S. says something, though it makes a poor acronym. With a little more effort SARS could have been a more meaningful name too. "Shuddering Adversity Respiratory Syndrome." "Sick And Really Sorry." "Sino-Asiatic Remedy Search." But instead we have to muddle along with a name that says, basically, "awfully bad cough disease." That would be ABCD. I think that acronym is still available, but it's hard to say. CYLUS is a little better: Cough Your Lungs Up Syndrome. Now that would get everybody's attention.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:22 PM]

 
There are a few places I go to occasionally that seem to mean a lot to me. I mean, I keep returning to these places every year or so, sometimes more often. It's hard to tell; maybe it's even more than that - I probably don't remember every time these places come up. Because they're dream settings. When I dream myself in these places, I know I've been there before; even if it's my first time there in that dream, it's already comforting, or at least contextual. I have a place for that place, if that makes any sense. There's the amusement park, like Disneyland's and Magic Mountain's unholy theme spawn; and the school, with its typical southern California public education design and painters' overrun colors, acres of asphalt with yellow lines and dozens of rooms filled with desks. Most recently it was the house on a lake, modern traditional architecture in a comfortable new development, a concrete-banked urban lake reflecting an azure dusk full of ease and promise... and then there's the other lake, too, enormous and ancient and very dark and deep, a canyon lake in an arid land where trestles tower from the lake surface inexplicably and the earth is as red as the night is black... A couple of times I recall going to some sort of apartment complex, too, where attractive people are interested in me in a variety of interesting ways; the building or buildings are dreary and grey, institutional, but the rooms are all decorated with homey personal touches and there are a lot of private corners where I am invited to relax, explore, and possess... For the record, I never actually experience romance in my dreams, not ever in my life as far as I can recall. I always wake up or the path of the dream gets interrupted or sidetracked. Too often I wake up from a dream set in one of these places (well, usually not the school) having met someone fascinating and lovely and provocative, having spent time with this person in increasingly intimate ways, then waking with my heart pounding in frustration. I wonder what is keeping me from subconscious consummation, but I always remember the dreams, the players, and these places with great fondness, if not yearning.

A few nights ago I had a different sort of dream. I'm a pretty normal-looking guy in real life, but in this dream I had grown bony lesions all over my back. They were like plates or calcified warts; they reminded me of the Elephant Man. They didn't seem to bother me but I knew they had to go. To achieve this goal I was in some sort of hospital or ward, pale green ceramic tiles on the walls and bare metal gurneys and equipment tables scattered around the bare concrete floor. I lay on a gurney and a doctor in a mask cut away my shirt with professional detachment. "Don't watch," he said, and I looked away as I felt his fingers on my chest, isolating my left nipple. He held a big heavy syringe in his hand, like a dentist's novocaine needle. I felt a burning pinch in my nipple; I looked despite myself at the injection going in. The pain was excruciating and the image of the needle stuck in my flesh made me gasp. "I told you not to look," he said sourly, sadly from beneath his mask. "But now it's okay. Go ahead and watch." So I watched as he took another enormous syringe with a long thin silver needle and positioned it over my nipple again. I braced myself; my stomach clenched to see the brutal tool drop toward my defenseless tender aureola. But when it made contact, I couldn't feel it at all. It touched, penetrated, sank into me, an impossible injection, so deep it had to be piercing my heart and lung and driving through to the masses deforming my back. I felt nothing - not even as he cut me open like a side of meat, bloodlessly and neatly. I don't recall how it all ended, but things wound up okay.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:07 AM]

[ Saturday, May 10, 2003 ]

 
PENANCE

I just bought a small pack of pens, partly as punishment to myself for having forgotten both to bring one along from home or to steal one from work. I hate to be without a pen, even if I don't have anything particular in mind to write down. Often, I get my best ideas when I least expect them, and penlessness at such times renders me as impotent as I'm making it sound. That's a state of being I try to minimize in my life, minimum impotence suggesting maximum potency, so I made myself go out and buy some damn pens. I bought the ones that seemed to offer the best ink-to-pen-to-dollar ratio - I didn't want the cheapest pen, a single pen with gobs of ink in it, because it'd be just as easy to lose a big pen with all my ink as a smaller pen with only some of my ink, and also because big pen = big item in my bag = bigger likelihood of getting crushed and smashed = biggest possible mess. My biggest items are already at terrible risk of getting crushed on a daily basis, regardless where I'm secreting them; I can't go tempting fate indefinitely. So I got a three-pack of ball point pens with rubber grips, despite their stupid name: "Easy Touch." I guess they mean it's easy to touch their pens, or just a touch of pen to paper and it makes a nice clean mark, or really, I don't know why they chose this stupid name. I very nearly bought something else just because I didn't want to support such a bad choice of names. To me it sounds mostly like something that's easy to steal ("dude, those pens are an easy touch - grab another handful while I scarf the bulk candy") or to molest ("start with an easy touch, then move to a vigorous rubbing, and finally jam the whole pen where you think it might be happiest. Oh, don't forget to remove the cap - wouldn't want it falling off and getting lost..."). As pens, they work pretty well, but I think I'm sending the wrong message to the Pilot company. I'll have to learn to live with my weaknesses. And to touch things like I mean it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:15 PM]

[ Friday, May 09, 2003 ]

 
I don't know what kind of cruel joke is being played but things are not as they usually are. I'm used to being fate's plaything, a victim of circumstance and ineptitude, looked upon either with pity or derision by all those whom I encounter. I've gotten comfortable with this. Not exactly happy, but comfortable. When things change, I wonder whether it's good or not. But these days it seems I should just keep my head down and try to ride the wave.

The wave? This is one of my favorite metaphors, one that comes from surfing - letting an indifferent and overwhelming natural order move me forward, cooperating with forces that are too powerful to fight, until my body tumbles and drags against the roiling sands of reality. The gouges and scars I receive in such pummellings are badges of honor, my proof to myself that I have confronted my world and lived through the conflict once again.

But this time the wave means something more: people being friendly, hands extended in fellowship and acceptance. I'm having trouble dealing with it. I keep looking around for a camera crew or a "kick me" sign on my back. There has to be some reason for all the smiles and bonhomie.

This has all been pretty theoretical so far. Let's nail down a few details:

AT WORK: People have been expressing deep joy and appreciation over minor details of my work. When things have gone wrong which I have had some way of anticipating or preventing, others have been bending over backwards to assume total responsibility and to absolve me of any blame. Highly placed and respected individuals in and out of the organization have been complimentary about things that seemed to me unworthy of notice, much less comment. My colleagues have been asking for my help in tones of hushed awe at my prowess and wisdom, and expressing interest and concern over my personal life. As I pull out my directory to call people to follow up on some items they owe me, my finger actually hovering over their phone numbers, my phone rings and it's them, anticipating my request and meeing it and then some. And the crabby IT manager in the cube across from me is asking me what I'd like him to bring back from Australia. (Any ideas? I'd hate to let such an offer go to waste, but all I can think of is one of those hats with the dangling balls around the brim from the University of Wallamaloo, and that's too hard to pack.)

AT CLASS: I just started a short series of classes this week at the main library. On my way, out of the blue, a very pretty stranger asked for directions to the library and we accompanied each other there, during which time she was effusive in her gratitude and enthusiasm for both her destination and my assistance. The class is a lot more fun and more interesting than I'd expected and the other students are a fascinating mixed bag of smart and funny people, who seem to me to be going out of their way to ask my opinion, to confirm and bolster my ideas. The leaders of the class have us brainstorm in "break-out" groups and then, when they're listing our ideas on the big board, attributed some really smart ideas to me that I don't think I ever said, much less thought. After class several of the other students came up to wish me a "good weekend." These are total strangers with a lot on the ball, people among whom I would hope, at best, to be quietly unnoticed. I walked out of the session positively glowing with the good vibes.

ON THE BUS: I took a different line home from class, a "tough" line that runs through the tenderloin and sketchy parts of the Western Addition - a line on which I usually get some hairy eyeballs and scowls. Last night people were grinning openly at me, nodding acknowledgments, apologizing unnecessarily for their proximity. The sweet-looking young woman across from me seemed to be looking at me every time I raised my eyes from my book; when I smiled at her she dropped her eyes to her lap and blushed. The bus driver wished me "good evening" as I disembarked - he hadn't been saying that to the other passengers. And on my ordinary commute this morning, I was offered my favorite "to work" seat right off the bat. I put on headphones to listen to a new disk with excellent syncopated beats and wound up doing a bit of head-nodding to the tunes; others smiled, nodding along with me, and I even got a "thumbs up" from a total stranger. Nobody smelled too strongly, either of b.o. or perfume. I got to work on time. Short of finding money, it doesn't get much better than this on the bus.

Tonight is Happy Hour, and a friend I met a year ago wants to stop by and renew our acquaintence; he's cool and funny and it will be nice to see him again. Kel will be coming along as well, making what is usually a good time even better. It looks like I'll get to meet some "imaginary friends" for a festive supper next week, which makes me feel honored and gratified to be part of a select fraternity. I think I've kicked my cold and it's not raining any more, but the streets still smell pretty fresh. I don't want to rock the boat when it's chugging along so cheerfully - but I do think I ought to be waving back to everybody. Hey everybody - here's a thumbs-up back atcha. In fact, take two - they're small, but they can make a big difference when properly applied. Have an ecstatic weekend, my friends!
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:51 AM]

[ Thursday, May 08, 2003 ]

 
Ass-umption of Risk:"There was no evidence from which a reasonable officer could conclude that the evidence located between [McGee's] buttocks would be destroyed during the time necessary to obtain a warrant."

I've tried to think of more to say here but imagination fails me.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:24 PM]

 
I've had a cold this week, and complained vociferously of a "frog in my throat." It could have been worse. Frogs are all good fun till someone loses an eye...
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:13 PM]

 
The funny thing is, most churches try to avoid the image of being full of hot air. But get yourself an Inflatable Church and you can fill it with anything you want. Helium for those high-pitched hymns? Nitrous for those tedious sermons? The possibilities are endless. Just be careful with those sharp edges - God wouldn't be happy if you deflated his special place.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:10 PM]

 
Morning bus: Okay, people, the game is simple. The bus automatically announces your stop - the one where you get off every freaking day. The bus creaks to a gradual stop and, a few moments later, the green light shines and a bunch of people standing next to the door push on it; it opens and they leave. Once they're gone, the doors close. By this point you should be on your feet, bag in hand, on the sidewalk. Instead, you're on your ass, spacing out. No music, no book, no conversation - just two glazed eyeballs and a slack jaw. As the bus begins to move again you leap to your feet, pushing old women and children out of your way, impotently rattling the bars on the doors, screaming, "Back door, you bastard!" The bus drives two more blocks as you sulk and pout, muttering curses until you can leave. And you do this EVERY FREAKING DAY. There is a reason for this: busses are "common carriers," in legal parlance - they can't keep you off just because you're too stupid and thoughtless to understand how they work. You are trapped in a world too complicated for your mental capacities, and I am trapped here with you, as you rain your anger and frustration down on all of us who understand the rules. The guy with mongoloidism, with his name tag, little plastic briefcase, enormously buck teeth and three-inch-thick glasses, seems to have gotten the hang of it. Maybe you can ask him for some help. You'd make his day, and you'd save mine.

Evening bus: The three stood in the doorwell, talking loudly, shouting, screaming their raucous laughter. The bus was not terribly crowded; there was room to stand in the aisle. But they wanted the doorway, and they wouldn't take off their backpacks or move out of the way - even when the doors opened and people had to brush past them to get off the bus. "The word is EXCUSE ME," the tall one shouted at their backs. "Y'all ain't showin' no respect! No respect at'all! Her voice hurt my ears. When they finally used the door they'd been blocking and left us in strange silence, several of us audibly sighed and then shared a quiet laugh at our mutual relief. No one wanted to laugh loudly. We'd heard enough.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:46 PM]

 
My friend Tanja has a restless, burning curiosity. I think that's why she forwarded to me the following in response to the oft-asked, never-heretofore answered question: what if Shakespeare wrote the Hokey Pokey?

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:05 AM]

 
Tuesday night I got home a bit late, just in time to watch one of my few prime-time addictions, @$ (that's "24" written in upper-case). It's overwrought and unbelieveable but I enjoy the hell out of it. How can Jack Bauer possibly survive death and drug-induced suffocation, still able to outfight and outshoot army special forces renegades and the former first lady - without a single meal or bathroom break for a whole day? Tune in next week! However, I realized one thing that disturbed me while watching the last episode: the turncoat Chief of Staff, Mike Novak, looks and sounds a lot like a consultant we have hired at work to help us with a major legislative report. Yesterday I had a long phone conference with him and an academic at the Judicial Council, and the whole time I just wanted to demand of him, how could you be so duplicitous? Whose pocket are you hiding in? Who's the puppetmaster, you faithless wanker? For gods sake, he let Ensign Roe get critically injured; regardless that she hasn't played that part in 10 years, old flames still flicker and some things can't be forgiven...

At any rate the whole thing made me very uncomfortable while I was watching the show. As a result, I found myself engaged in a compulsive activity, perhaps as a means of sublimating my tension: eating fortune cookies. I'd picked up a cheap greasy meal at the second-to-closest chinese restaurant (the closest one give me the willies (stir fried)), and they'd given me a whole take-out carton of cookies. By the time @$ was over, I'd plowed through them all - without reading a single fortune. At first I thought this would make me extremely fortunate, but on further reflection I realized that these fortunes were cleverly written so that only those cursed with tragic genius would realize how little real fortune they bore.

In order of my having received them (though I wasn't reading them, I stacked them neatly in order as I opened them), here are my fortunes and their esoteric meanings:

Watch your relations with other people carefully, be reserved. Okay that's smart, my relations can't be trusted with me, much less with other people. I'd better set up a place for them to eat in advance. Good advice.

The philosophy of one generation is the common sense of the next. Sadly, my generation is the one that blows them both off to try to replicate the ''flaming golf cart" prank from Jackass.

You have a quiet and unobtrusive nature. But I hide it behind a blaring and garrish persona. Ironic, eh?

Life to you is a dashing and bold adventure. This sounds more like a laundry detergent ad than anything else. And in fact, my life is very much like laundry - first stiff and formal, then stylish and attractive, then wrinkled and soiled, then stinky and ignored, and finally passed off on someone else to clean up the mess.

Cooperate with those who have both knowhow and integrity. If you can find them. And they share your goals and can stand to put up with you. Otherwise go with the folks with the enormous bankroll and diplomatic immunity. Or supermodels.

Serious trouble will bypass you. Sounds like my heart surgery isn't going to go so well.

Consolidate rather than expand business projects in the near future. Okay, then can I expand my other stuff? Too much consolidation is going to cramp more than just my style.

A good time to start something new. Not complete sentence. Partial fortune confuses. Perhaps good time finish grammar workbook.

The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. And, alternatively, to kick my no-talent butt to the curb.

You will enjoy financial security, domestic peace, and good health. In the meantime, I guess I'll continue to endure penury, strife and infirmity. At least I have something to look forward to.

You will be surrounded by luxury. Unfortunately, in it I will be an island of deprivation. But the view will be nice.

A friend asks only for your time not your money. 03 07 11 18 24 40 This replaces the "time is money" fortune. They're daring me to win Lotto and see what my friends ask of me. It may turn out that they ask for my time but just take my money. Or they'll take up so much time I pay them to leave. My friends are pretty clever.

You are a practical person with your feet on the ground. However, as soon as I lift one foot I'm Don Quixote on a three-day bender. Or maybe they left out a few letters - I'm practically a person. Hell, at least I came close - that's better than a lot of folks out there.

You will receive some high prize or award. Like a stoned Oscar, or a Grammy all strung out on goofballs. They're going to have to start drugtesting the awards now. "Dude, I represent your outstanding achievement in ... um... man, is that tuxedo vibrating? I can taste the colors!

There's only so much fortune, good or bad, a guy can take. That's when you have to start relying on your own devices, and let fate play you like the knave you are. Since getting all these fortunes I have not yet been able to apply a single one to my own life. I am starting to think that the most accurate advice I got was written on the carton in which my cookies were packaged: "Contents may be Hot/Inspected by Olga A." That Olga is hot stuff, all right. Close cover before striking.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:30 AM]

[ Wednesday, May 07, 2003 ]

 
from ee cummings: "you shall above all things be glad and young"
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:44 PM]

[ Tuesday, May 06, 2003 ]

 
Can you smell that? It’s springtime! The scent of birds newly chirping, freshly mowed easter eggs and the fall fashion preview. Sap is rising, boars are rutting, and the slap of hockypucks is competing with the crack of baseballs against the foreheads of distracted spectators. Ah, springtime. It brings to mind our mysterious, silent arboreal neighbors, the trees. Benign, canopied oxygen factories, offering shade to the overheated and concealment to the prehensile, brachiating, or clambering among us. Among you, anyway. I’ve been fooled too many times by those sneaky bastards. Sure, they look nice on tv, or from the comfort of the navigator’s seat of a speeding car, but some of us have had the questionable pleasure of close personal contact with trees and, let me tell you, they hide a terrible secret. Or anyway some of them do, and I don’t have the patience to sort out the troublemakers from the do-gooders. But if you have that kind of time, I’d like you to wash my car please, and then you can review this short list of TREES THAT WILL MAKE YOU GAG:

(note: I first started thinking along these lines some months ago with a post about the Bay Laurel (March 17 03 if the link doesn't work). That’s a pretty, and pretty hardy, tree, with a kick that will blow your eyes out your earholes if you crush up a few fresh leaves and inhale their scent deeply. Then, a few days ago, while I was breeding thoroughbreds or mapping genomes or something productive, a phrase occurred to me: “Box privet.” I know what it means (you’ll have to scroll down for the reference). I just thought of it and started giggling. Filthy shrubbery, it should be ashamed of itself. But it’s not. So instead I just wallowed in prurient amusement until I thought of writing this. And that’s where babies come from!)

Ailanthus: this tree is invasive and opportunistic, even to the extent of growing in New York City, where nature herself dons a Kevlar vest. Also known as the Tree of Heaven, to which it stinks. “All parts of the tree, especially the flowers, have a strong, offensive odor, which some have likened to peanuts or cashews.” Now, I like my peanuts (when properly enrobed in honey and salt) and cashews (gesheuntheit), but I know when there’s too much of a good thing and this is one of them. Rancid nut stench is not my idea of a preferred scent, especially when it’s infused throughout the breadth and height of an 80 foot tree. Others describe the smell as similar to goat urine. I leave these distinktions to the experts.

Bradford Pear: What a lovely sight, fruit trees in bloom. Look while you can, before your eyes start watering and the abdominal spasms force your attention to lower realms. The fruit is not edible. The trees die after about 30 years. And THEY STINK: “Various sites devoted to tree culture describe the smell variously. Several call it pungent, which is true, but somewhat like saying the Atlantic Ocean is damp. Others compare the scent of Bradford blooms to everything from wet socks to carrion. A student of mine says it's fishy. None quite touched its awfulness for me….Think of a possum that has lain dead in the hot sun for several days being cremated on a pile of burning tires.” For anyone who really likes the smell of burning decomposed marsupial, I believe there are more than enough actual possums around to satisfy your jones. There’s no reason to plant something that will impose that smell on the rest of us every year for a third of a century.

Ecualyptus: I often actually like the smell of eukes. They’re endemic, though not indigenous, in this area. Story goes, the Spanish planted them by the buttload so they could grow wood to make boats – but euke wood is weak and unsuitable for that purpose. The trees grow quickly, yes, but they can be very weak and sometimes limbs fall off. When this happens, the oil has a sharp, pungent odor – not like a cough drop or other menthol product, more like an industrial solvent with week-old compost floating in it. Plus, eukes are not good habitats for birds and their leaves don’t decompose so other things can’t grow around them. Euke forests are quiet and the ground there is barren under a blanket of those leaves. Stinky in so many ways.

Carob: when I asked Kel a few days ago to name a stinky tree, she came up with Carob right away. They’re sturdy, broad trees, they grow well and cast good shade. What do they smell like? There’s no way to put this delicately. They smell like spunk. Jism. Groinsquirt. Babyjuice. They were planted all over my Jr. High; I thought it was just me for the longest time… It’s a smell so rich and pungent you can almost taste it. I wound up walking far out of my way to class every day to avoid the “Saturday night bathhouse” aroma. Even the Straight Dope weighed in on this one, so I know now it wasn’t only a personal problem. Well, maybe partly, but there were extenuating circumstances. It was mainly the trees.

But the winner, by a nose, has got to be the

Gingko: it seems colleges around the country have a predilection for planting these delicate, spindly trees. Maybe because colleges are so full of binge drinkers that everything smells like vomit anyway. Because that’s what a gingko pod smells like. They drop by the buckets in the springtime, waiting for unsuspecting feet to trod upon them, releasing a stench that’s unbelievably rank and persistent. My own alma mater is a beautiful, ivy-covered, tree-lined urban oasis – but damn, if you step on one of those pods on your way to class, leave your shoes in the hallway, puh-leeze. They say our founder, Benjamin Franklin, liked these trees. It’s also said he liked organ meats and iced coffee enemas. That is to say, just because someone liked the smell of vomit two hundred years ago doesn’t mean we have to like it now. And for the record, the link above is funny and generally perceptive, but the smell at issue is not that of dog pudding. It’s emesis. Regurgitation. Heaving the gorge. Unswallowing. Piloting the vitreous buick. Gingkos are the rudest non-digestive thing I’ve encountered in a damn long time.

Now that you’re properly armed against the plots being hatched under our very noses by those petrified ents, the overgrown weeds that stain our air and soil our soil, you can frolic in the vernal groves with abandon. But don’t come crying to me when you smell something gross. I swear, it wasn’t me.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:54 PM]