It's not about the house.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Best Bar. Ever.

Congratulations, Chris, for winning the Name the Best Bar contest! Although it wasn’t really fair, because he’d heard the story before. It just never occurred to me that people actually listen when I tell things to them. He’ll get his prize, but his punishment is to have to hear the whole long-winded story again from the beginning – and it’s a doozy of a one, I tell you what.

Some years ago (and just you never mind how long, precisely) I worked for a company called Hear Music. Started as a mail-order catalog, grew to a small chain of stores, eventually even started up a label of our own. You may know them now as The Sound of Starbucks. Unfortunately, I got off that train before it hit the gravy. But that’s a story for another time.

We thought we were on a mission, we Hear Music folks. To save the music industry from itself, while bringing good music back to the good folks who want to hear it – whatever their ages, and wherever their tastes might tend to lie. Hence (cough-cough) the name. As in: Hear the Music, Don’t Just Buy the Hype.

It didn’t work. Not really. But that, too, is a story for another time.

The story that I want to tell right now is about a particular trip a bunch of us Hear Music folks took to the Second City, when we were opening a store on Rush Street there. It’s closed, now, but anyhoo…

I was excited to get to go to Chicago for work, all expenses paid. I’d been there once before, when I was sixteen years old, and I liked it plenty – but back then I was with a whole gang of other sixteen-year-olds, and we were chaperoned. Quite honestly, I spent most of my time in the ballroom of the Conrad Hilton, pretending to be charmed by an a cappella Southern Gospel barbershop quartet (again, another story for another time). Finally, I had a chance to go back and, although I’d be working diligently during the days and into the evenings, my nighttimes would be more or less my own.

And there’s a lot of Music to be Heard in the Windy City.

Now, you know those whispered legends you hear about jobs where going to work is fun, you are best friends with all your coworkers, and you really believe in what it is you’re trying to accomplish? Well, there really is such a thing, and that Hear Music job was it. So when I said “my nights would be my own,” what I really meant was “after work, we would all be going out together.” But “I would insist on choosing our destination.” Because I was not going home without setting foot in Buddy Guy’s.

The place is actually called Legends, and it had only been open for about five years at that point. I’d wanted to go since I heard of its existence, and now that we were actually in Chi-town, wasn’t nobody going to keep my ass away. I informed my co-workers, they were all in, and we were off.

I’ve never held it against Buddy Guy personally, but it was atrocious. I mean, I could have put up with the swishes of blue neon, or the tasteless beer selection, or even the elbow-to-elbow crowds – I could have put up with all of that and more, even loved it as part of the character of the place, if only the music had been good. And for all I know a lot of people probably thought it was. Lots of people do seem to like the Fabulous Thunderbirds, although for the life of me I can’t fathom the reason why. White blues leave me cold, is all I’m saying. (And no, you don’t have to be white to play white blues – and no, you don’t have to be black to play real blues. But yes, Mr. Clapton, I’m also talking about you.)

It just so happened, however, that the boy I had a crush on from the office liked the Thunderbirds. A lot. And since he was so obviously perfect in every way, I figured I must be missing something. So I tried. We pushed through to the bar, ordered beers in sign language (because even the bartenders couldn’t hear over the din), then stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the crowd, attempting to not goose or be goosed by the people in front of us or behind. For almost a full half-hour I stood there – or, in other words, the length of two interminable songs – nursing my warm, green bottle of tasteless beer and trying to find something to like about this overheated frat-party.

Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that this was December, and there wasn’t even room enough to take our coats off? Everyone was sweating – and by everyone, I mean everyone. There was a fug in the air that I could literally taste.

Again, I would like to point out: these are all things I can put up with. I’m not such a prude that I expect all my entertainment to be sterile and Disneyfied. I can embrace the fug, find a way to turn the Rolling Rock to my advantage, if the show is worth it. But this one weren’t.

So I waited politely for the last lick of that endless second song, snapped my fingers in half-hearted applause while pulling with my other hand on the sleeve of my nearest office-friend. “I’m sorry I dragged you here!” I shouted in his ear over the how-can-they-love-this roar. “But I’m leaving! I can’t stand this for one more second or I’ll—”

He turned away. I thought he either hadn’t heard me or was miffed that I would bail on them so soon after being the one who got them into this in the first place. But it turned out he was just telephoning my message down the line. As soon as it came back to him, he bent down and hollered in my ear “We’re right behind you! Go!”

And so I went. Pushing through a sea of sweaty armpits as a thousand fists got raised in salute to the mock-blues that was cranking to life again under the neon sign. I held my breath and pushed and shoved and body-slammed people on my way to the door. I didn’t care. I was never going to be back here, anyway.

When we could finally see the sidewalk, we paused to regroup. There was a bit of room there by the exit, and a bit less noise, so we stopped there and conferred, and decided we weren’t ready to go back to the hotel just yet. We were in Chicago, damn it, and we wanted to do something. Something that would rinse the fug taste from our mouths, the white-blues slick from our assaulted ears. But what? If Buddy freakin’ Guy had let us down, what chance did we possibly have of figuring something else out on our own?

Just then my boss, god bless him – without announcing to any of the rest of us his plan – did probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen a person do. He walked up to the bouncer – a gigantic, jarheaded, Dolph-Lundgren-looking, well, bouncer, for crying out loud – and, with a room-encompassing wave of his gangly arms, said:

“We hate this. Where should we go?”

That bouncer, god bless him, nodded his head one time and then – also without a word – hailed us a pair of cabs. Opened the doors for us, piled us in, stuck his head in the window of the first one and, with two firm slaps on the roof like he was patting a horse’s rump, said:

“Take ’em to Kingston Mines.”

It felt like a speakeasy.

The cabby pointed us to a barred-over window where we paid our cover charge and got waved in through an unmarked door* to a yawningly-empty room. The long bar stretched back into dark, nothing recesses, and the whole place looked as though it had been busted moments ago and rapidly evacuated. Chairs pushed back from tables, an extraordinarily large number of half-full trash cans placed around, stomped-on, still-smoking cigarette butts dotting the floor.

Huh. Well, at least the music was decent, even if it was coming through the speakers, and the stage itself was as empty as the rest of the spooky place.

We bellied to the bar and ordered a round of beers. Glanced up at the TV. Noticed that the music on the stereo seemed to sync up to the video that was playing: a wizened old black dude I didn’t recognize, dressed head to toe in black leather – cowboy hat, tie, jacket, pants, boots, the works – playing bottleneck on a steel guitar that had obviously seen its share of days. TV wasn’t exactly what we’d been hoping for, but we sat there quietly a little while, wiggling our elbows, breathing in the scent-story of a whole new fug, and appreciating the fact that this music at least seemed to have some soul behind it. Then the song ended, and real, live applause erupted from an invisible crowd.

Wait. What?

Turned out there was a whole looking-glass bar – just like this one, only opposite – on the other side of the wall behind the bar. Leather-cowboy-blues-dude was not on video, he was on live feed, and his sound had not been piped in, it had just been drifting through. We picked up our beers and followed the applause-sounds to the doorway that we’d failed to notice on our way right freaking by, and there it was:

The Best Bar. Ever.

I seem to remember that waitresses came around with buckets of assorted beers, and you picked what you wanted or just took what was left, but I might have made that up. I do know for a fact that the plethora of trash cans strewn about were for smashing beer bottles into when they were empty. I know for sure it was crowded enough that we were lucky to find ourselves a table – which we did only because not everyone had bothered to sit down – but that it still felt plenty roomy in there between the elbows. And I’ll never forget how the air was at the same time reverent and relaxed, as if everybody in there knew just exactly how good Cowboy-blues-guy was. They knew it, and – through the murmur, the Marlboro-haze and the (still-present, but now-tolerable) fug – he knew they knew it, without everyone feeling the need to close their eyes and bob their heads in an attempt to out-appreciate each other.

We sat there about an hour, smoking cigarettes and smashing empty beer bottles and generally feeling like we’d been going there our entire adult lives. Wishing we could go there for the rest. Until suddenly, Cowboy-leather-blues Dude ended yet another perfect song, said “Thank you very much” in a voice that we could hardly hear because he didn’t bother to say it in the mike, and put down his guitar. The audience gave him a whoop and a holler, picked up their beers and cigarettes, and shuffled off into the other room.

Still unclear of the concept, we stayed put – in the rapidly-evacuated room with the exceedingly large number of half-full trash cans and the cigarette butts on the floor – but we weren’t alone this time. Maybe we weren’t alone the first time, either, maybe we just hadn’t noticed the group or two of people in the dark recesses who knew exactly what was going on but had reached the point in their evenings when staying put seemed like the best idea. There was, after all, no reason to pick up and move. Because soon enough the tv sets in this room flickered to life, and we and the shadow-audience watched on them as the next band – who’d been setting up and sound-checking while we were all appreciating Cowboy Dude – kicked off the next set from the looking-glass stage.

I don’t know how long we stayed, or how many times we passed through the looking glass that night. We were told the music went till 4:00 a.m. (and 5 on Saturdays), so I’m pretty sure we didn’t close the joint. We did still have work to go to in the morning, after all.

Speaking of work: what in the hell were we thinking, a bunch of music writers and retailers and A&R folks, not writing down Cowboy-Blues Dude’s name? Maybe it was the same mentality that stops me taking pictures on vacation (or used to stop me, anyway) – that idea of just wanting to enjoy the moment, not bring it to a screeching halt in an attempt to put it away for later. Whatever our reasons, though, be they blissfulness or drunkenness or just plain stupidity, I do wish now that I knew who he was. But I don’t. I’d never heard of him before that night, and – as far as I know, at least – I’ve never heard him since.

I’ve googled Kingston Mines, though. They definitely exist. So at least the whole thing was not a looking-glass inspired dream.

*At least that’s how I remember it. Kingston Mines looks different than I remember now, but I don’t know if that’s due to their recent remodel or if I made up in my head the part about the speakeasy-entrance. At any rate, the rest of my memories check out, so you can trust that everything I say after we go through the door is true.

Monday, April 28, 2008

We're Docked!

Not quite, One Dog.
Not quite.

One Dog and One Friend are heading down to Connecticut tomorrow, to where they will live. But tonight we all are here, and I am home.

We have a winner in the Name the Best Bar contest -- although it never occurred to me someone out there would actually know. I am the Worst Contest-Thrower, Ever.

I'm fweeping wate tomorrow (remind me, some other time, to tell you why I spell it that way), but when I do log on I'll tell you all kinds of things, including the Best Bar In Chicago story.

Which has nothing to do with This Particular Cross-Country Trip.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Are We There Yet?

Not far now, One Dog. Not far, now...

You know how, like, you have your first kid, and you take a lot of pictures, and you talk about him all the time, you wash the food before you let him put it in his mouth? And then you have your second kid, and you get a little less diligent about the documenting, a little less strict about the five-second rule? And then you have your third kid, and she gets to play with knives and has to survive off of whatever everybody else dropped on the floor?

That's what being on the road is like. The first day, you really care. You're all wide-eyed, full of everybody-ought-to-do-this awe and all you can talk about is poop and pee. You take a lot of pictures, think up all manner of pithy commentary.

By day six, you don't know what day it is, what time it is, and you don't really so much care. You look at the clock, realize it's 5:46 p.m., you haven't even thought yet about stopping for the night, and you better get on the horn with AAA and find yourself a room. They (and let's god bless them, by the way) help you to discover that there is not a single hotel for the next 120 miles that will open its doors to One Dog, so you resolve to drive on a little farther.

To Batavia, New York.

It smells like cow poo in Batavia. This is nothing new, it has pretty much smelled like cow poo for the last 1200 miles, but there doesn't appear to be a restaurant in town. Cows and poo -- and, for some reason, about eighty-nine hotels -- seem to pretty much be the local industry.

But then you inquire of the hotel receptionist, and she hands you a map. Turns out there is a restaurant or two, you just have to go a little further off the highway (forgive yourself: you're not used to going that far off the highway. Not anymore, at any rate.).

So you look through the list, and you think about a few things. You think about the fact that you're wearing your Patriots jersey still, and whether or not you want to walk into a sports bar in New York. You think about the notion that your husband is from Dublin, and whether or not you want to know what an Upstate Irish Pub might turn out to look like. You think about whether you ever, ever, ever again want to eat at Applebee's.

Then you take a deep breath, and you go to Margarita's.

And do you know where it turns out you can get the best Mexican food north of the Rio Grande?

Batavia, New York.

Who would'a thunk it?

I Don't Like Chicago-Style Pizza

There. I said it.

Good thing we're getting the hell out of Dodge.

P.S. I'm wearing my Pats jersey again today. And, even if I don't have to, I am going to pee in Indiana.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dude, I Smoked Up and Forgot!

We saw Harold & Kumar last night, in the biggest, scariest shopping mall I've ever experienced.

It was disgusting -- the movie, I mean, not the mall -- and when it was over, I wanted nothing more than to get to kiss Kumar.

Still not a lesbian, apparently.

We did zoo and aquarium today, but we didn't realize quite how far out of the city we were staying, or quite how bad Chicago traffic is on a Saturday afternoon. We had to come back to the hotel to take One Dog out for #1 (happy, Leslie?), and we really don't see ourselves going all the way back in again tonight. So Best Bar Ever is off of the agenda for this trip.

Also, in case you haven't noticed, we're not really hitting any of your suggested pee stops (there's #2, Leslie!). We didn't realize quite what a schedule we'd assigned ourselves, and we really just haven't had the time. I should never have declared that contest in the first place, and I'm sorry. In my defense, however, you-all weren't exactly giving me off-the-highway suggestions like I asked for. South Dakota, for example? Honey, please.

So let's start over, shall we? Good. For those of you intrepid enough to be reading this on Saturday (and for those of you interested enough to be reading this far back come Monday), I hereby REVISE AND UPDATE THE CONTEST!

See if you can guess which Chicago bar is the Best Bar Ever. I will give you two hints:

#1. I worked for Hear Music when I (we) "discovered" it.
#2. I put "discovered" in quotes because it is famous enough without me, in the proper circles.

This is hard, so there's no limit on number of guesses. Play! Google! Research! Guess!

We still have five states to go, I will pick up something special at a truck stop for the winner -- or, as always, failing a winner, then the one who makes me laugh.

I Fwep Wate!

Well, not really late, but until the alarm went off at 6:39 (I swear I set it for 7:00, I don't know what's going on with that). So I don't have time for a proper post. Here's a rundown:

1. We're not in Indiana this morning like I said we'd be. We're in Chicago. I'm wearing my Patriots jersey anyway, because I still haven't forgiven them for the @$#%$! "Superbowl Shuffle." Which is still really stupid, by the way.

2. You're right, Green Fairy, it is windy out there -- with actual, meteorological gusts of air, and not just a bunch of blowhards mouthing off. It's also forty degrees colder than it was in Nevada yesterday, which One Friend believes makes it actually cold. One Friend doesn't know from cold, however. She will learn.

3. Speaking of which, this is at least the third time I've been to Chicago, but the first it's been warmer than 0 degrees while I was here. I'm excited to be able to stand on Lake Shore Drive for longer than thirty seconds without my fingers dropping off and clinking to the pavement.

4. We're doing aquarium and zoo today. It's what we do if we have time wherever we go, because it's what we both wanted to be when we grew up. One Friend wanted to swim with the fishes, and I wanted to speak sign language with gorillas. Dreams die, what can I say? But at nearly forty years of age, we're still pressing our noses 'gainst the glass. That's got to count for something. Right?

5. If we have time and energy afterwards, we're going to the Best Bar Ever. Whether we go there or not, I'll tell you the story of how I learned about that fabulous place next time I post.

Happy Draft Day!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ho to Rowe

Ever since I left Boston, I've had nothing to read. Nothing. Nothing.


I don't know if you realize what a hardship this is for me. Aside from the entire day in planes and airports (where I actually did have my Sunday Times, and Juno, to keep me occupied), and aside from the ten hours each day in the car (where I actually have One Friend and One Dog), I pop awake at 6:18 every morning, because that's what time my alarm's set for back home (don't ask). This would not be so bad for the up-and-at-'em's of being on the road, but unfortunately that's Eastern Standard Time. As we've been changing time zones, I've been managing to stay in bed closer and closer to the actual sunrise, but still: I've been up whole marathons -- charity marathons -- ahead of One Friend every morning.

Not a thing to read. No. Thing.

It's not like I haven't been looking. But you can't get books at truck stops, because of course we're all happier with truckers keeping both eyes on the road. And the only newspaper you can rely on getting -- sorry: the only "newspaper" you can rely on getting -- is USA Today. I'm already eating too much fast food, thank you. I don't want my brain to go all lard-ass on me, too.

(I'm not quite sure how reading nothing is better than reading USA Today, but I'm sure it is.)

And I can't even turn on the TV in the mornings lest I wake up Sleeping Beauty over there. (Who, for those of you who've read the post below, is indeed still Sleeping. It is now 7:54, the storms have blown away. I've been back to bed for an hour and given up on the idea; I've showered (but not shaved) and lotioned myself and gotten dressed. Now here I am again, and still my One Friend gently sleeps.)

So last night we pulled into Colfax, Iowa, after driving 620 miles in ten hours from Cheyenne, Wyoming. I won't put you through the whole ordeal about how we had actually made a reservation from the road because it was getting late, but how they somehow lost it in an hour and a half. How they gave us a room anyway but neither of our keys worked so we had to move down the hall. How in the midst of all this hubbub we forgot to tell them about One Dog (who is allowed, but who costs extra) and by the time we remembered we were so mad at them we decided they weren't getting no $12-stinking-.50, so we snuck her through the back door like a couple sneaky stealers. Or how, exhausted and not in the mood for a sit-down dinner, we walked across the street to McDonald's and had to wait -- I shit you not -- 45 minutes for our food.

I won't get into any of that. What I will tell you is this: in the lobby of the hotel there was a basket and a magazine rack and a sign: "Need something to read? Take something. Finished with something you've read? Leave something."


The books turned out to be mostly businessman brain candy. Nelson DeMille, John LeCarre, Louis L'Amour. The magazines ran to mostly Time and Readers' Digest. But then, buried between last week's copies of Newsweek and Fortune -- with the address-corner painstakingly clipped so as to protect the identity of whatever Assistant Vice President of Central Acquisitional Typecasting left it behind -- I found me this:

How did he know I was here!? Do you think he can see me? Oh my god, I wish I'd shaved!

I couldn't wait until this morning. I read it before I went to bed last night. Did you know he was fired from QVC for doing obscene things to a nun doll on the air? Oh, you dirty, filthy boy!

That's it. Sudden yonic-hill-licking urges or no, I am definitely not a lesbian.

Unfortunately, I am a not-lesbian with, once again, nothing to read.

Cold Facts

I didn't post when we got here last night because I had misplaced my skeleton, probably in the big bucket of grease I fell into somewhere long about Kearney, Nebraska.

By which I mean to say: I was tired, and unclean.

We drove yesterday from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Des Moines, Iowa -- well, Colfax, Iowa, if you want to get technical about it, but I'm not sure if you'll find Colfax on any map. Except for Google. Because everywhere's on Google Maps. So never mind.

Still tired, in case you can't tell. It's 4:30 a.m. (ignore the time stamp on this post: the computer doesn't know what the hell time it is, anymore). I went to sleep at 11:00 or so and I've been up since 3:00, because 38 years of thunderstorms in Massachusetts did nothing to prepare me for the Iowa variety. FLASH! CRASH! BANG! BOOM! Right through the curtains and the earplugs. Dang.

Still dirty, too, in case you were wondering.

So let's see... Yesterday we did this:

For about eleven hours.

We'd heard all kinds of horror stories about the truckers in Nebraska, but don't you believe a word. Truck drivers are always so nice. Best drivers on the road. I briefly considered lifting my shirt for one of them on our way out of the state -- you know, as a sort of "thanks for proving the naysayers wrong" salute -- but then I remembered I'm not twenty anymore. Nobody would feel appreciated if I made them look at that. I might as well just shoot their tires and blow them to smithereens.

When we were in Wyoming, whatever the hell day that was, I took this picture:

I included it in my post that day, with a snarky comment questioning the usefulness of motorboats in Wyoming. Then I remembered motorboats work in small bodies of water, too, not just in oceans like where I live. So I decided it wasn't funny, and I took it down.

Then, yesterday, I snapped this:

Who the hell needs a motorboat in goddamn Nebraska?

Oh yeah, it's the same dude all right. Turns out his license plate's from Maine. We didn't think there would be anybody on the road with us going farther than we were -- what with the, um, oceans on either side and all -- but we were wrong. We forgot about Vacationland. Although, if it's such an all-fired Vacationland, I'd sure like to know why he felt the need to drag his freaking boat across the country.

Here's a little poem I wrote about Lincoln, Nebraska:

Lincoln, Lincoln
I've been thinkin'
Just how bad
Your rest stop's stinkin'

And then we were in Iowa.

I took pictures of Iowa, but the camera seems to have decided it wants to keep them. That's fine with me, because seriously? Iowa looks exactly -- and I mean exactly -- like what you think. Corn. Hills. Silos. Farmhouses. We drove through a county named Polk or Harding or Cleveland or something, where apparently there are some covered bridges that somebody wrote a book about a couple years ago. I think there might have even been a movie made. But it was all in a language that I never learned to speak, so I am unfamiliar.

Today we're only going to Chicago. Three hundred or so miles. Compared to 620 yesterday, that's a walk in the cake. But I think I'm going to make One Friend do it all, because One Friend? Slept right through the flashcrashbangboom.

Apparently, tornadoes are de rigeur in California.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gross-Out Chronicles, Con't

Real quick, before we hit the road...

1. No pictures this morning, because we think we might be staying in the hood -- if there is such a thing as a hood in Cheyenne -- and I don't want my Mom to get a gander of the stabbers. Mom, don't worry, we escaped the stabbers and we're getting out alive. Besides, look at the nice place we stayed!

(I'm not kidding about either of those things. We are staying at the Hitching Post, and we are in the hood. There is a hotel down the street called The Sands, but something tells me Ol' Blue Eyes wouldn't cross the street to piss there.)

(And yes, I am determined to make at least one excremental reference every time I post.)


2. Turns out you can get pretty good Mexican food in Cheyenne, too. Oh, did I not mention we were on the North American Cheese Tour? Well, we are. This time it cost approximately $18 for the two of us -- and I say "approximately" because I'm subtracting the cost of the beers, but I don't know even generally how much that was.

Oddly, though, this place had the exact same chairs as did the place in Utah. Wethinks there must be some sort of central Mexican restaurant-supply conglomerate shaking them all down. There must be. Because it's not like they were the nicest chairs. Big old smiley sun staring at you from the back of the guy at the next table. Creepy.

3. We've decided to accept y'all's verdict and forgo the Daisy shavers. But I am desperate for a freaking tweeze -- and on this, you do not have a say. The beard is getting out. of. control. And, although I can put up with not being atractive to members of the opposite sex, I flat-out refuse to be mistaken for one.

4. Thank you. Thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Oh wait. No, I won't. Well, tip your waitresses anyway, it's good karma. Besides, if you don't, they just might send the Mexican Syndicate after you. And something tells me you don't want to find yourself on the business end of a smiley-ass sun.

We're hoping to make it to Des Moines today, but we hear there's weather in Nebraska. So we've agreed that, if we have to, we might call it quits in Omaha. If, you know, the decision is Mutual...


Oh, I kill me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's All Downhill From Here

We passed the Continental Divide this afternoon. Forgot to take a picture of the sign, because we were in such a hurry to do what we had to do, which was get out of the car right there and pee before somebody caught us. One Friend on one side of the sign, my ownself on the other. Wave goodbye to One Friend's pee, tell mine we'd see it on the East Coast in a couple years, jump back in the car and peel away.

Bye-bye, PP!

No. I kid. We didn't. I mean, we did pass the Divide. And we did forget to take a picture of the sign. But we did not drop trou and let it rip by the side of the I-80.

I so wish we had. I even did suggest it. But we were on the left side of the highway when the big green sign went zooming by without any warning, and there were a couple of semis between us and the breakdown lane. Plus, I can't speak for her, but I'm not entirely sure One Friend was honestly amenable. There is nothing but a whole lot of nuthin' out there -- where would we have hid our hoo-ha's?

Okay, now that I've got that vulgarity out of my system... Anybody wanna see some pictures?

1. The Great Salt Lake wants to crawl over the interstate and eat your car:

2. Wyoming has a billion different landscapes. We saw 970,000 of them. Many of them looked a lot the same around the middle.

3. And, last but not least: hills like these always look vaguely sexual to me. I don't know why. I think it's got something to do with all those folds. I just want to get out of the car, run over, and lick 'em. Does that make me a lesbian?

And if it does, will you promise not to say anything to Johnny until after I get home?

What'll You Give Me if I Lick The Dirt?*

1. If I were in high school, and our biggest rivals were from a place called Wendover, I would call them Bendover.

2. Especially if I were from a town called Shafter. And I were a cheerleader. Which I were not.

3. Know what it turns out you can get in Wendover, Utah? For eleven dollars for two grown-up ladies? Pretty decent Mexican food.

4. Know what it turns out you can't get? A BEER! Dang Mexican Mormons. Don't worry, though. By dinnertime tonight we'll be in Wyoming. Something tells me beer won't be too hard to come by over there.

5. We just realized that all of the shaving accoutrements went in the moving truck. Which is taking a different route. Should we a) stop somewhere and buy a disposable Bic, or b) have a who-can-grow-the-longest-pit-braid-before-we-get-home contest?

Sorry, man. The road brings out the Disgusto in Destructo. Oh, speaking of which, PS:

6. I'd just like to point out that the shotgun door handle was broken when I got here -- it broke just before I got here, so it may still be due to my radiating Destructive Superpowers -- but it is technically not my fault that the passenger has to be let in from the inside like we're on a marginally chivalric date.

The cooler, though? Yeah. I broke that.

*You know, to see if it tastes salty.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gimme an EGE!

The contest in the post below is still open, if anybody's got any ideas. In the meantime...

Apparently, it is some sort of tradition in Nevada for towns to write their initials REALLY large in something white on a hill by the side of the highway. (You might have to click on these pictures to make them bigger to get the full effect here, but see if you can follow:)

E is for Elkin.

C is for Clavin.

W is for Winnemucca!

So I guess the point is that Nevadans are durn proud of their towns. That's cool. I dig it. We Massholes can be, too, after a fashion.

But, um, if this Masshole were city planner in a town called Battle Mountain? I might just decide to skip on over the whole thing...

...or at the very least I'd call it quits after the B.

One Friend and I did not, in case you're wondering, BM in Battle Mountain. We did P here, though:

It was disgusting!

(Sorry, man. But seriously, how long has it been since we've had a good poop joke at The House and I?)

P.S. Ms. Lucky Pork, I'm watching you! You and your Mighty Mighty Woodcocks!

You're lucky (pork) that San Francisco's not on our agenda! Grr!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Know Any Big Balls of String That We Can Pee On?

This is not even remotely about the house, but I put the houseblogs tag on it because I'm soliciting nation-wide advice and I want as many eyeballs as I can get. Please forgive me (there is a CONTEST!, after all), and please advise.

I've been talking about it forever, but now it's finally here! I fly to California tomorrow, and One Friend and I embark on our 2008 cross-country tour Tuesday morning.

I say "2008" because we've done this once before. That time it was three weeks in August, from Seattle to Orlando in a Jeep Cherokee with a slightly crippled cat.

Crippled cat hiding from thunderstorm in Atchafalaya swamp.
R.I.P., Crippled Cat.

This time: one week, April, Sacramento/Boston, Ford Taurus, 75-pound dog. Methinks this is going to be a very different trip.

But I'm excited! I've got all my Very Important Road Trip T-Shirts packed (plus some Also Important flannel 'jams)...

... and will be leaving home just after the sun comes up.

As a result, I won't be able to post here for a couple days. I'll do it when I can, but I can't possibly know when that will be. I know for sure I'll be too busy tomorrow and Tuesday mornings. As far as Wednesday goes, well, we'll be in Utah by then -- and I don't know what Moroni has to say about the WiFi.

Which brings me to the balls of string (you do read the titles, don't you?).

See, last time we did this, we stopped. For a few days here and there. In Salt Lake, in Albuquerque, in Austin and New Orleans. But we don't have time to lollygag like that this time around. Other than a single, 200-mile, 2-night detour to Chicago at the halfway point, we're booking down I-80 the entire way. Well, I-80 till it hits I-90, but you get my point. (I couldn't figure out how to copy the screen image from google maps, but here's the link. It's going to be a fascinating ride.)

We do, however, have that dog, and the dog has to get out to pee once in a while (as does One Friend, and as do I, after all). And she is shy to do it by the side of the road (as is One Friend, and as am -- well, as is One Friend, anyway. Not so much me. I'll pee pretty much anywhere. Heck, I once peed on the Tobin Bridge at rush hour, and I wasn't even drunk. But that's a story for another day). So, instead of my regular Monday Madness CONTEST! this week, here's what I'm thinking...

Anybody know of any big balls of string out there for us to pee on?

What I mean is: we're looking for odd little roadside attractions reachable from I-80. Not too far off the highway, because we really are just looking to stretch our legs and have a pee. We can't be driving an hour out of our way just coo over the Butter Cow. But if, say, the Corn Town is a mile from the exit ramp, we'd be tickled to death to goo pee there.

So. Got any suggestions?

Okay, here's how it becomes a CONTEST!:

Anybody who suggests a place we actually go, I will send you something from the road. I don't know what yet, and I probably won't actually mail it till I get home, but I promise to pick up a souvenir from someplace with you in mind.

And don't be shy. We've got to pee at least, what, four times a day? We'll be on the road for seven days. So that makes at least twenty-eight opportunities to win a prize!

(Don't forget, I can write all this crap off my taxes. So, for those kindhearteds among you who may be concerned for my oft-bemoaned financial situation -- you would actually be helping if you entered and let me send you something. Better you should be the proud recipient of an Idaho Spud (and the postage it takes to send it) than that The Man should get my 87 cents. Can I have a what-what?)

And, for the record, even after I do put up a new post from the road, this game will still be open. Unless we're already past whatever landmark you're suggesting, then please feel free to suggest away.

In the meantime, crap. I just now realized that we're going to be on the road for the NFL Draft. One Friend doesn't give a hoo about such matters, so I can't exactly expect her to listen to it on the car radio. Besides, wherever we are, they're only going to care about their own team, anyway. So, wait, now that I'm thinking: whereabouts will we be on that day?

Oh, crap, again. If I'm not mistaken, we will be in freaking Indiana. Okay, hang on...


Anyone know anything I can pee on in Indiana?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Never Beat

The thing about the AssVac (well a thing about the AssVac) is that it was very well designed for dog days in New England. I don’t know for sure if it was originally built to be a summer cottage, but we suspect as much, because of the practically-waterfront location, and the fact that all the houses around here just look like summer cottages. Quaint, you know, and flimsy-like. Which means they weren’t necessarily constructed with an eye towards retaining heat in wintertime, but they sure as heck know how to keep it out in August.

This is nice for me, because I’ve never been fond of air conditioning. Except when we lived in that skank railroad apartment in South Boston. That p.u. place was located on street level, so we could never open windowshades unless we wanted to put on a show for all the locals. And let me tell you a little something about the Southie locals: not as charming as they’re made out in the movies. Not by half. Not by quarter, for that matter. Yuck.

(Point in fact: Jill Quigg – the local woman Ben Affleck plucked from a barstool to play the part of the best friend in Gone Baby Gone? Any sane person would have got herself an agent and turned that lightning-strike into the opportunity of a lifetime. Ms. Quigg cashed her check and drank herself homeless. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the real South Boston. Those Affleck boys grew up in Cambridge. They don’t know the half. Or the quarter, for that matter. Yuck.)

Of course (getting back to that old apartment), it wouldn’t have mattered, cross-ventilation-wise, if we did open the windows – what with it being railroaded and all. Plus, there was the smell of moldy dead things always wafting up through the air ducts from the wet dirt basement.

Good times.

So yeah, in that apartment, for the two summers we were there, we sucked it up and got an air conditioner. Actually, Mom & Dad bought it for us. A window one. We used it while we were there and then when we got kicked out (thank god) for reporting the landlord to Inspectional Services because of an annoying lack of heat, we took the a/c unit with us to our fabulous apartment in North Quincy. For the five years we lived there we never plugged it in, not once. And then we moved it here. Even a/c devotees would probably agree that we don’t need it here, but we’re still keeping it around. For the day we lose the house and wind up back in scumbagville with all the other legionnaires. It’s in the basement as I type this, feeling sorry for itself.

We don’t need it here because the AssVac was built to stand against the August heat. She’s a big rectangle, with the long sides (and therefore most of the windows) facing north and south – where lie, conveniently enough, the two bodies of water that the property sits between. Therefore, voilá, the seabreeze blows right through.

Oh hell, I’ll show you. Here:

That little yellow sort-of triangle in the middle there? That’s my piece of the planet. And the grey rectangle on the bottom of it is the AssVac. So you see? The seabreeze – whoosh!

This seabreeze thing is also, by the way, why I have to pay more than you do for homeowners insurance. And why there was a tree branch sticking through the bedroom ceiling when we bought it. And why we had to spend the best part of a year and more dozens of thousands of dollars than I care to enumerate on de-yucking the house enough to walk through without having to throw up out one of those north-facing windows.

Good times.

But this whole keeping-the-warm-air out thing is not as nice in April as in August. That first spring we lived here I refused to turn on the heat – partly because it was freaking May and partly because I was convinced the furnace would blow as soon as we turned it on (it didn’t; it lasted two entire winters after that. Hu-bleedin’-zzah.) – and so that first spring is a haze for me of shivery, chin-wiping vapors. And beer. Buckets and buckets of mind-numbing beer.

Good times!

Since then, we’ve grown accustomed to the notion that it will always be at least ten degrees colder inside the AssVac than out. We’ve apologized to all the spinning New Englanders in the graveyard up the road, and made peace with the idea of turning on the heat in April. We don’t like it, but we do – though I still put my foot down firmly come the first of May.

So April is now, for us, a balancing act. Do we open the windows and let in the fresh air, even though it means we’ll have to turn the heat on when we shut them? Or do we leave them closed and save those dear degrees? I have mentioned how cash-strapped we are, about a billion times now, haven’t I? And gas heat does cost money, after all. Yet, have I ever also mentioned that my husband smokes? Inside the house? All winter?

I’ve been opening the windows. Only on random odd days here and there – when it’s at least 70 degrees outside – and only for a little while at a time. I get home from work, throw the house wide for the fresh air, then sit at my computer shivering until I just can’t stand it anymore (meaning, oh, about 45 minutes), then run around closing it up and turn the heat on.

Good times!

I was complaining the other day to Johnny about this, and he said: “Why don’t you open the windows before you go to work? Shut the heat off and let it air out while you’re away, then close it up again when you get home?”


So that’s what we did. On Thursday. Which happens to be the day I wrote about before, when I wound up asking Johnny for his sweatshirt. Same night on which I may (or may not) have consumed a few too many beers. Because we stopped over at the neighbor’s house on our way home from work that evening (oh yeah: news! We have nice neighbors! More about them later!) and we wound up sitting in their back garden for an hour or four. Good times. Really, this time. Until the chimenea fell apart, that is, and we realized that 42 degrees Fahrenheit is not the temperature most conducive towards sitting in back gardens.

It was well past dark when we got home. And would you like to know what the temperature inside the AssVac was?


That’s colder than they recommend you keep an empty house at so the pipes don’t freeze, but still a whopping twelve degrees warmer than the air outside. So I’d like to think that we are at least gaining ground.


Friday, April 18, 2008

It's a Woman's Prerogative... sit around on her ample ass all day.

See, this morning, I woke up at the regular time. And I may or may not have had more than the regular number of beers last night, so I may or may not have hit the snooze alarm a couple extra times. But it worked out in the end, because I may or may not have fumbled with the clock when setting the alarm (thanks to said questionable imbibing), and I may or may not have accidentally set the clock ahead an extra twenty minutes.

Eventually, I did get up. I padded out to turn on the computer so I could write something pithy and toss it out into the void. (That would be you people. You're the void. Heh heh.) And on my way by, I shouted in to Johnny:

"Johnny!" I said. "I'm sorry! I forgot to set your alarm last night! Which may or may not have had something to do with beers seven through nine!"

(He pretends not to be able to set alarms for himself. He cries dyslexia, pulls a face, says pretty-please. I know he's perfectly capable, but I do it for him all the same. You see why it's best I just keep on not having children? Anyway...)

"It's six o'clock!" I went on. "Time to get up!"

As you can see, I'm very exclamation-pointy in the morning.

"But," says he, "I don't have to go to work today!"

He's not usually so exclamation-pointy in the morning. Only when I wake him, shouting, on days he doesn't have to go to work.

"What?" says I, going all question-marky. "I thought? Since when?"

"L. was going to call if we were working. He didn't call. So we are not." Period.

"Oh..." I responded, beginning to feel somewhat elliptical. "So...

"What the hell am I doing awake, then?"

And soon enough, I wasn't anymore.

All this is to say I gave myself a spontaneous day off. Of everything. But then I was literally sitting on the couch, watching The Daily Show and eating bon-bons (okay, Lindor Truffles; just what the truffle is a bon-bon, anyway?), and I started to feel guilty. Thinking about all of you out there sitting in your offices, hitting the refresh button over and over all day long, waiting for your pithy dose of void. (You see what I did there? This time it's me. Now I'm the void. Heh-heh).

So here it is:

Oh no wait. That's noid, not void. Just what the pizza is a noid-thing, anyway?

Mmmm... pizza...

Well, I guess I'd better get back on the couch. Dinner's not just going to go ordering itself, now, is it?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

May the Windows Always be Open

Our front door
Has an attitude –
Sometimes it will
And sometimes it won’t

In damp or wet weather
You have to coax it –

In hot or warm weather
It’s very obliging –
It can be considerate
At times.

Here’s how to work it:

When it’s cold
Push the button, and then
Kick it
On the bottom
While you pull it – if it’s stuck –
At the top.

When it’s warm
It opens at ease.
Push the button,
Pull it forward,
And it’s fine.

So (Johnny says)
We don’t have to take a plane
To the top,
Or the bottom.

But he’s wrong.

P.S. Johnny wrote this one. He came in last night all excited. "It's officially spring! The door opened without me kicking it! Let's write a poem to celebrate!" And so he did. Mostly. Can you tell which parts I edited in?

As God Is My Witness, I'll Never Go Spongeless Again!

I've got nothing to say.

Only, I realized while I was at work that the title above (do you read the titles? I hope you do. I work awfully hard at them) is what this morning's blog post really wanted to be called. But if I just went back and changed it, no-one would notice. So I posted again.

Oh, but since I'm posting anyway, I'll tell you this (consider it my bony gift to you):

Wanna know the nice thing about being a girl and having a husband? Especially a husband from the Old Country, trained in Old Country etiquette?

If you're cold, and you turn to him and say "Give me your sweatshirt" -- even with no explanation -- he freaking does it! Takes the sweatshirt off his back and hands it over!

Dang, why didn't I cotton to this girlie crap two (or three) decades ago?

Jeeves, You’ve Done It Again!

We were poor when I was little. Poor, poor. Well, not poor, poor, poor. Not eatin’-dirt poor. But welfare-cheese and hot-dog chowder poor. Plastic money and free lunch poor. You know, just good-old, 1970s-America kind of poor.

Not for lack of trying, you understand. It was just (ahem) recession-time. Things were tough all over. Eventually, though, my folks hauled their freakin’ bootstraps up over their ears and sent us all to private school, and private college – both with a little help, but still. All those loans are paid back now, and they even own a second home – in Maine, no less, where Presidents vacation!

I didn’t mind being poor – hell, I didn’t even know we were, most of the time. I lined up in the free-lunch line, across the room from kids with money in their pockets, and didn’t realize how humiliating that could be until two dozen years had gone by and I’d turned it into a punch line. I was telling the story (basically: I tried to sneak an extra hot buttered roll by shoving it in my pocket – I don’t know how they ever caught me), and when I got to the part about them separating us according to how much we paid, somebody (okay, it was my mother) gasped and said “How awful!”

And I thought “What?”

I still, honestly, don’t remember it being any source of shame. Maybe everybody else did, I don’t know. I’ve always been a little off on my emotional reactions. Like, um, did you silently beg to be lied to by the government about the plane that hit the Pentagon on that September morning? Or were you pissed off at Bill Clinton not for the Lewinsky scandal, or for lying about it, but for finally caving in and fessing up?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. Anyway…

We were poor, and I’m proud of it. We were raised in a very Norman Rockwell manner because of our economic situation, and I thought it was great fun. Victory gardens and chicken coops, berry-picking expeditions and the jam that they produced, toys Dad made for us on his workbench from old scraps of 2x4, wood stoves and homemade maple syrup sugaring down on them. These may have all been economical measures our folks took to survive, but would anyone in their right mind turn their nose up at any of those things?

Yeah, I didn’t think so!

So the point I’m (slowly) driving at is that I came out of it unscathed. Except for a lingering tendency to pretend money just plain old does not exist (which I’ve more or less gotten a handle on, thank you very much), I figure I made it to adulthood with no tell-tale signs of my so-called deprived youth.

Then, I was under the kitchen cabinet yesterday, and I saw this:

Okay, so, um, I have a sponge thing.

See, when we were little, and poor, and every penny counted, we didn’t always have new everything. Shoes, yes. Pencils, yes. Underwear, of course. But sponges? Not so much.

I don’t know how much a sponge used to cost back in the day, but however many pennies it amounted to, there was a better way to spend them. So we’d use each sponge for months until it was a thin, foul memory of the bright-colored cellulose it used to be. And we didn’t even have a dishwasher back then to run the old ones through. I remember when we got the dishwasher. Oh, that was a happy day! It was hand-me-down, just like the one Johnny and I have now (because we are, without meaning to, re-enacting that economy-inspired life).

Sponges weren’t the only things we'd use to death back then. We recycled milk cartons a thousand different ways, decades before it was considered the right and holy thing to do. Mom bought Tupperware lunchboxes as an “investment,” to save money in the long run on sandwich bags. And hell, she could get about a dozen meals out of a decent chicken.

But that chicken soup was yummy, and those sponges were gross.

So I (and, ahem, I'm not the only one) have been left with a bit of an obsession. Every single time I’m at the grocery store, I manage to convince myself we might be running out of sponges, and that I'd better pick up a pack just to be sure. And then – oh, what the hell – lets make it two. Before I know it, I’m clearing out shelf space in the attic to store all the thousands of O-Cellos tumbling from under the kitchen sink.

I used to have this whole elaborate system, too, regarding the rotation in which they should be used (dishes, counters, bathrooms, floors – duh), but I couldn’t manage to train Johnny to do it right, so now we just have two. Well, the bathroom one stays in the bathroom, but in the kitchen we have two: a scrubby one for dishes, and a non-scrubby for all the rest.

In fact, the reason I was under that sink-cabinet yesterday was to get a new non-scrubby sponge. I’d used the one that had been there to dust the TV, and so obviously it would have to be demoted. I saw the stack of sponge-packs, laughed at myself and went to get the camera, took the photograph, and then…

Look at that picture.

“...the reason I was under that sink-cabinet yesterday was to get a new non-scrubby sponge...”

Oh, god!

I guess this week's allotment of spare pennies are spoken for.

I only hope I've got enough room in the car.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just Cuz

¡Si, sabeis que los Partridge tienen duende!

I Am a Senile Old Fool!

Since when do we not have to dial 1 before a long-distance call? We don't. Did you know that?

For years -- years! -- I have been writing numbers down off the caller ID, then clearing them off the phone and re-dialing them. Because my caller ID didn't add the 1. Though I have also just learned I could have adjusted that.

Sheesh. What won't they come up with next?

P.S. I hear there's this new device that records live TV!

P.P.S. I kept putting this post up and taking it down, because I kept thinking I could turn it into something longer (and funnier) if I took more time. I've decided to leave it up for now, and reserve the right to reprise and extend at a later date. You may call me Mary Shelley, if you must.

Winning is Relative

For Jean...

All weekend nobody knew it not even Jean
But all at once she woke up to something that kept knocking at her brain.
I know that I’m insane for what I came right out and said
(Were I not quite so well-fed, I might have shown you it instead):
I have a tattoo!

I’m trying not to be too revealing,
My mother couldn’t deal with the tale of me deciding to myself
I'd write it on myself and never go without it
But didn’t I go and shout it into the series of tubes?
I have a tattoo!

I have a tattoo, Jean didn’t know what it’s made of –
If she did we weren’t apprised of until I gave a prize for…
Naming my tattoo! And this is said accolade of –
Though it worries me to say that it took her three whole days.

Don’t know why I love Partridges.*
What do you think it’s all about?**
Of it ought I to just grow out?***


I have a tattoo, Jean didn’t know what it’s made of –
If she did we weren’t apprised of until I gave a prize for
Naming my tattoo. And this is said accolade of –
Though it worries me to say that it took her three whole days.

Now Jeanie, why’d you go and get all blurry
With Renovation Therapy, and why’d you say "hey go away" Blogger?
Is Wordpress such a thrill you had to cut out on I Love U.?
Do you think I am debased? How does this affect my case:
It’s not my only!****

I have a tattoo!
In fact I have three!*****
I have a tattoo!
In fact I have three!******
I have a tattoo!
In fact I have three!*******
I have a tattoo!
In fact I have three! ********
I have a tattoo!
In fact I have three! *********

*Oh, yes I do. There's nothing like a little prepubescent lust to last a lifetime.

** Still, though: I've never been so deep inside of it before. You go back to the original and try to match the rhythm and the rhyme scheme -- it's much more complex than even I ever gave it credit for. Tony Romeo was a freaking genius! I couldn't come close.


**** Though I would like to point out: this is my only one in the Partridge Family oeuvre. I'm not
all kitsch. The other two were inspired by the musical stylings of Minneapolis and Detroit. Well, Minneapolis and Bay City, Michigan. Which is very close to Detroit, but it ain't Motown.

*****I'd also like to take this opportunity to point out that I invented tattoo-getting. Not for sailors or bikers of course, but for impressionable young women. Which makes me ancient, but at least doesn't make me a trendy idiot. I was a trend-setting idiot, dagnabbit!

******I do wish nobody'd invented the phrase "tramp stamp," however. Or that at least they'd invented it before I stamped #3.

*******Other than that little quibble, I still love them all. No regrets.

********But that is the last you will ever hear about any of them here, I swear to god.

*********Hey, it's a woman's prerogative. And if you watched that clip, you know it's all about the Power of Women.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Okay, Fine...

I'm not going to be shedding any forty pounds before we hit the road on Tuesday.

Not unless the airlines lose my bag.

And okay, no: this is not actually the bag I plan to bring. I just thought it would be funny, right? A good pun on the name? 'Cuz we're taking a road trip, see? And cars have tires? Also, I'm fat? And I drink beer? You get it?


I know. It's dumb. I'm not even really planning to check luggage, for crying out loud. And, if I were, that thing (which probably doesn't even weigh twenty pounds, let alone forty) is not a bag. It's a cardboard box. Der.

Plus, why would I be bringing a cardboard box of beer onto the airplane? Would they even let me? Not to mention a kind of beer I can't get here but that's made right where we're going.

Well, going right past. Sort of. Within fifty miles, anyway. And in another state.


Also, all right, it's not mine. It's just a picture I found on the internet. But there. That's it. That's everything.

Are you happy now? It was a bad joke to begin with, and now it's been completely stomped to death. Jeebers. You people could talk the 2,000 year-old man into admitting he's really a Kaminsky from the Lower East Side.

So fine. This was not the point I started out to make, but here. This is what my real bag looks like:

You think they'll let me carry it on the plane?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fun Day Contest!

Before anybody gets too excited, I'm sorry, but people who know me personally are officially, hereby disqualified from this week's contest. It would just be too easy.

I posted this picture on Friday without thinking about the fact that you might not recognize the graphic. Then I was asked, and decided not to answer, because I was sure somebody out there would know. Thirteen comments later, here we are, still answerless, so I've decided to turn it into this week's MONDAY CONTEST.


... is an actual tattoo I have somewhere on my body (none of your business). Got it in 1991. Copied it off a t-shirt. Dude only charged me $25 for it, because he'd never done one before (I'd be willing to bet he hasn't since) and he thought it was hysterical.

Can you tell me what it is?

You can follow the link above to Friday's post to get caught up to speed on all the guesses so far, but I will give you one more hint: I have admitted to it, and posted a link to the inspiration for it, in the past. But no, I will not be providing that link to you today.

You're playing for a poem this week, which will be inspired by you and the tattoo-subject, and which I will post in this space on Wednesday morning.

As always, if you don't know the answer, feel free to make a silly guess. If nobody gets the right answer, then the silliest guess will win the prize.

I won't be back at this computer until after 6:00 tonight, so please, people who know me in real life, don't ruin the surprise. Even if somebody gets it, don't give it away. But feel free to make silly pretend guesses!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I cleaned out the attic yesterday.

Ugh. I was up there for five hours and I didn't even finish. Mostly, though. I'll finish it next weekend. But guess what I found!

The pictures of my golden boy back when he was a golden boy! The ones I tore the house apart looking for three months ago, remember?

Did I ever tell you that he used to swim for Ireland in the All-Europe? He's the one on the left. Yum, yum.

He was a bit of a wanderer back then.

And also a bit of a hippie.

He got stuck in Greece one time with no money, and this very nice lady agreed to let him mind her children while she was on holiday. She gave him a roof and three squares, he taught the kids to swim, and when the two weeks were up she bought him a ticket on the Magic Bus back home.

This was back in the days when you could still climb around all over the Acropolis. You can't do that anymore.

He swears there wasn't any sort of Mrs. Robinson thing going on with Mrs. Magic Bus, but I don't know. He did used to be a bit of a flirt.

That's not the same lady. This one doesn't look like she's having any of it. She's dead now, poor girl. Lots of his friends from those days are dead now. It makes him sad.

He met Cat Stevens in this park, in London. I think he was still Cat Stevens then, at least. Not the afternoon this shot was taken, obviously. He was too busy playing frisbee in his OshKosh to ride the peace train that day.

And last, but not least...

I, um, did mention that he used to swim for Ireland, didn't I?

So we'll forgive his unfortunate taste in swimwear, then?

P.S. Johnny says "That's not a swimsuit, those are me jocks! Can't you see the opening where you stick your dick out?" Oh, well, then, sorry dear. I stand corrected.

P.P.S. I'm also over here today, and I want to be very clear: the attempted rape happened before I got there.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Only Small Men Are Afraid*

There’s a call-in show on NPR here (and in some other places) that I don’t usually listen to anymore, because I think the guy who hosts it is a wad. But I was in the car yesterday, and all the other stations had banded together for some reason against the cause of decent music. I mean, maybe “Gypsy” was a decent song the first 80 million, billion, trillion times I heard it – but enough already! Let the memory be all that’s left for a while, could you please?

The point is, I listened to the call-in show. And this time, the guest was a wad, too. She’s written a book that's essentially about how people don’t read books anymore, and therefore what is the internet doing to our very BRAINS????

Good god, Chicken Little, take a pill.

To make it a complete and total wad-o-rama, they threw in this particular Senior Editor at a certain Literary Monthly (who, my true sycophantic heart would like to interject, is obviously a brilliant genius, yay!). You might assume he was on because of his connection to the bookish cause, but no. He turns up on the show three times a week. They call him a “News Analyst,” but all he really does is read loosely-related quotes (quotes he no doubt culls from Bartlett’s over his morning Muesli), passes them off as witty observances that just occurred to him, then pats himself on the back for being so gosh-darn well-read.

My Lady and I like to pretend he’s caught up in some clandestine intell-exual affair with the Chief Wad and Bottlewasher.

Anyway, I’m taking my frustrations out on these folks, but the real reason I’ve got my knickers in a twist is that I am sick unto my very death of people bitching and moaning about this whole "Future of Literature" issue. All they’re really doing is standing on a soapbox, shouting “I read! I’m smart! I’m better than you!” If these people really cared so much about the written word, I say, they'd be willing to give it a shot it in any form.

Let me put it to you this way: I don’t know what a shirred egg is, exactly, but I like omelets and frittatas, I like sunnyside and scrambled, I like quiche and hard-boiled, and lord knows I loves me a decent flan. So if you put something on my plate and tell me it's a shirred egg, you can bet your ass I’ll take a taste. Even if it looks like snot, which something tells me that a shirred egg probably does.

All that said, I am an avid reader (I’m smart! I'm better than you!). I am also sometimes bold enough to call myself a writer, whatever that might mean. And it seems obvious to me that these could be thrilling times. We could be heady with artistic innovation, adaptation, and experimental spirit, instead of taking out our spinal columns and flogging ourselves with them at every turn.

I used to work in the music industry, and because of the particular job I held, I fancied myself a sort of amateur ethnomusicologist. One thing I learned back then that fascinates me still is how, over the 20th century, popular music reinvented itself with every subtle change in sound recording.

At first, for sure, some things got lost. Folk songs that lived and breathed and had dozens of verses, got standardized and shortened down to two or three. But then people started playing around with the new medium, writing for it specifically. Later, when 45s were invented, the B-side became an art form all its own. Long-playing 33s made possible the notion of the “concept album,” and when Walkmen became ubiquitous, some people wrote with headphone-listening in mind. Not too long afterwards, digital recording (i.e., CDs) brought previously-unimagined layers of sound. And now we’ve come full circle: folks are once more thinking in short snippets, with a mind towards thirty-second ringtones.

It is sad, undeniably, that those folk songs got paralyzed a hundred years ago. But, if you had the chance, would you really get in the way-back machine and shoot Thomas Edison to save them? I wouldn’t. Although I might anaesthetize Stevie Nicks for however long it took her to write “Gypsy.”

The same thing has always happened, with every artistic discipline. Look how many different ways painters have found to fill their canvasses since photography made portraiture obsolete. Or how writing for the screen diverged from writing for the stage -- and imagine what Samuel Beckett might not have been able to accomplish if moving pictures hadn’t relieved him of the burden of actually entertaining people.

Instead of mewling and shaking our fists at “kids these days,” we ought to be working at sussing out what these new media we have at our disposal could do for our craft. Maybe a novel – or whatever we might choose to call the new style we’d invent – could be written on the actual internet, jumping around from site to site to let the reader find the pieces on his own. Maybe an e-book comes with musical accompaniment for every scene. Maybe subjects literally wander through the story, carrying on the business of their daily lives behind the words, and even speaking up once in a while. Maybe it’s as simple as hyperlinks to images and definitions, to provide a broader background for those members of the audience willing to dive in, without bogging down those looking for something lighter. Or maybe – ooh! – maybe, like in the old Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons, the words themselves are always blowing off the page…

Or else perhaps it’s none of these. Perhaps, since I’ve never even seen an e-book, I’m in no position to imagine what one might someday do. But I also can’t imagine that when, say, firearms were first invented, all the old knights sat around bemoaning how “Nobody appreciates a decent swordfight anymore.”

I don’t know, though. Perhaps they did.

At least until the last of them got shot.

*Yes, I got this out of Bartlett's. So? I never claimed to be anything other than a pompous old wad myself.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Naked Truth

Johnny was away last night (at Andy's, remember?), so I spent some time sitting here, quietly, thinking (and also, quite honestly, quietly drinking). And I wound up meditating for a while on the fact that there are great swathes of Things People Do that just aren’t a part of my day-to-day realm. For example:

Great Rooms:

How do people heat these things?

Text messaging:
And, okay, since it's been brought it up...

John 3:16:

All right, then, I'll go to hell!

Pretty much the entire freezer section of the grocery store.

– gag – gag – gag –
(Cookies for everyone!)


I don't believe this clip needs any introduction.

And facial tissue:

You think it's Kleenex, but (say it with me)...

Then there’s another whole group of things I do understand, but that I opt out of for one reason or another. They include:


You'll have to ask Johnny about this one.

Air conditioning:

No, thanks.

And facial tissue:

My own personal Where's Waldo game!

There are things I do reluctantly:


What? That's me. Sure, it is!
(Oh yeah, like I iron.)

He's crying because sometimes I forget.
(Because sometimes I "forget")

Change the oil in my car:

Like clockwork. Every 7,000 miles. Usually.
(12,000 for sure)

And floss:

I should just tape this picture to the bathroom mirror, what?

Finally, there are some concepts that I grok altogether too well:

Reality television:

But let's keep that under our hat, shall we?

Sub-prime lending:

At least I fixed for ten years. We could all be dead by then.

Yo-yo dieting:

That's also me.
(in my hot-fat-mess phase)


Seriously. It's a problem.

And beer:

Steamroller! Steamroller!

All in all, I think if you put my many facets in a jar and shook 'em, I'd come out normal, more or less.


Unless you're counting this:

That's just not right.