In November of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO DEAL WITH WHITE, WEALTHY MAN'S BURDEN.
When electronic devices enter my life, they often do so in groups of three or four. Maybe I'm destined to temporarily surround myself with a entourage of new gadgets and their companion cords, cables, headsets and batteries to show me why these objects are superfluous, confusing, and burdensome in my life. Nice pens are no problem. Cell phones and wireless network cards and digital music players are.
As these objects cover tabletops and fill junk drawers, and the packaging from which they've hatched piles up in the corners of my apartment, a couple of patterns in behavior typically manifest themselves:
I have a love-hate relationship with technology, as I do with most things I enjoy. If I need something for practical reasons (e.g. a cell phone or a remote control) I tend to throw myself into the purchase and, rather than invest $50 in a clunky-looking but highly useful cell phone, I will add another $100 to the purchase and take home some attention-grabbing, flip-open, fussy hip-hop jewel that requires an extensive learning curve, multiple calls to tech support, and completely disappointing workaround for all of my existing electronic equipment.
The new object excites me, and this excitement naturally triggers an intense feeling of shame. I have this irrational belief that, despite all evidence in my life to the contrary, I am a down-to-earth guy who needs nothing more than a comfortable denim jacket and a reliable cigarette lighter to get from town to town. A free-wheeler. A contemporary model of the classic buddha. Who just happens to own a used leather couch, an iPod, and a Chinese language import of Cannonball Run on DVD. As such, my new things make feel like a phony who isn't keeping it real. If you've ever visited me, you know the great hangdog look that grips my face whenever someone discovers the tremendous universal remote in my living room. As useful as that thing is, I hate it, and I hate what it says about me, which can be summed up as, "I OWN A LOT OF THINGS AND THIS LARGE, CONFUSING DEVICE THAT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS BUILT IN A PROPULSION LABORATORY IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN FEEL IN CONTROL OF THEM. TiVO, ANYONE?"
My remote is only the beginning. I have a loud (often legitimate) excuse for everything I own. In fact, if I pull out an object and, unsolicited, begin explaining its origins, you will know this is something I happen to be very ashamed of. Here are some recent examples:
- Universal Remote: "Honestly, I had six different remotes sitting on the coffee table and, while this object is actually larger and more intimidating than six remotes combined, it is incredibly convenient for me. Please don't touch it." Sometimes, for economy, I'll just say, "I bought this many years ago, when I was rich."
- 15" Powerbook (sitting next to an older, unplugged model of the same laptop): "A client bought it for me, as compensation for some writing I'd done."
- Nintendo DS: "A client bought it for me. He has made me the video game gadget equivalent of his drinking buddy."
- TiVo: "I won it in a contest, many years ago. I paid NOTHING for it." (here, i carefully omit the fact that, upon bringing it home, i still paid $200 for the lifetime subscription fee that did not come as part of the prize. and you know what? fuck you all, because i love tivo so much it makes my heart bleed.)
- 40GB iPod: "My 15GB iPod died, and I loved it so. A friend convinced me to upgrade to a 40GB model, even though I think this is overkill. It's her fault. Here's her phone number."
- New cell phone: "The '3' key on my existing cell phone stopped working. What was I supposed to do?" "Also, this phone is cute. Yes, you can hold it."
- Black Leather Couch (i don't know why i catalog this with other gadgety purchases, but i guess it carries the same bachelor significance for me): "I bought that from a friend when I moved into this apartment, over six years ago. I couldn't afford anything else. Will you help me find a new couch? Please?"
Nothing goes smoothly when I purchase a new piece of electronic equipment. NOTHING. Every item requires multiple tech support calls, and at least 1-2 issues which usually remain unresolved for the life of that product. For instance, I never figured out how to use my previous cell phone to get online, nor did I figure out why I would want to use my previous cell phone to get online. And now, as you know, the '3' key is broken and I remain in the dark.
I can't think of a single gadget I own that I did not, at one time, consider returning for a full refund. However, my initial feeling of shame usually provokes me to discard the cardboard packaging for everything. I run around my apartment, looking at all the shiny housing, and start behaving like Lady McBeth crushing it down, flattening it, trying to remove all traces of its existence. Sometimes, when I bring this refuse out to the recycling area in front of my apartment buliding, I will rip off the mailing label. I do this for two reasons. First, I'm embarrassed that all of these fancy items have been shipped to my address. And second, I don't want my neighbors to think I'm wealthy because I'm afraid they'll ring my bell, requesting a cup of gold.
Of course, because my shame made me so fastidious that I've removed all traces of packaging, manuals, UPC codes, etc., I have essentially rendered any chance of receiving a refund impossible.
It has occurred to me that perhaps the foolish gesture of clearing out any traces of packaging for everything I own, repeated over and over again despite the known consequences, is really just my love of electronic objects undermining my shame over them. I'm sure there's a prescription drug that cures this specific dilemma. In the meantime, does anyone want to buy a universal remote? Or a couch?
[Addendum: I found out last night that someone read this post and her first reaction was, "is todd a snob?" I think she interpreted this post as my effort to share/lord over readers a detailed list of all the awesome material goods in my possession. Have I been the victim of my own game of (brag)? Anyway, the criticism really affected me. When I went to bed last night, I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking about what that reader said. I spent most of the evening, tossing and turning in my 800-count Egyptian cotton sheets. At one point, I absent-mindedly knocked over my Tiffany lamp, which shattered on my Italian marble floor. I'm still looking at its shards, radiating out from its point of impact. I should call the maid.]
HOW TO NIP IT IN THE BUD.
It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I have a holiday message to everyone with a weblog. Before you click the "PUBLISH" button on your site, I need you to know that your tryptophan joke is not funny. Sorry. I hate to be such a killjoy but, really. Spend 15 more minutes thinking about what Thanksgiving meant to you, and you might discover an ounce of real introspection, or at least thoughtfully observant moment to record for public record. It's just that the whole tryptophan thing -- well, that's not really trying. Summing up your Thanksgiving experience with, "I'll write more when the Tryptophan wears off!!" is an exercise in borrowing from something already borrowed.
Similarly, comedians, as a means of comic shorthand, will often name little kids in their jokes, "Sally" or "Timmy" or "Billy" or "Stevie." Or the way they'll name dogs "Fluffy" or "Sparky." It's not real; it's just kind of off-the-shelf comedy. And it doesn't make me think that comic is bad, really. It just makes me think he or she is racist.
Happy Thanksgiving! Football, huh? And also MY CRAZY FAMILY!!!! Plus cranberry sauce shaped like a can shopping mall obese aunt gravy boat! ZZZZZ.
[semi-related: read Thanksgiving tidings from 2003 & 2002.]
HOW TO SEARCH THE YELLOW PAGES FOR 'HOLLOWED-OUT TAUNTAUN'.
I do not like the current arrangement with my new building superintendent. I like him – Sela is a cherubic eastern bloc'er with wide, square hands, each with a damp spot in the center from the many times he has spit into his palms to "get to work." I do not, however, like the web of confusion that often stands between my problems and his solutions.
When I call Sela because water flows where it should not, or because it refuses to stop flowing, or maybe because it flows exclusively in a temperature unsuitable for my purposes, I rarely get Sela. Instead, I get his lummox of a son, Niki, and Niki's even more lummoxy mute sidekick.
Niki must be in some kind of apprenticeship program to become a super and uses my apartment's tics and quirks as his hands-on training. He always enters my apartment clean, his mute trailing behind, and leaves a full 45 minutes later unkempt, sweaty, wild-eyed and defeated. "You need plastic thing," he will tell me, and then leave. His mute sidekick will shrug his shoulders with a half-smile, and also leave. And neither of them will ever return to put together The Thing That They Have Taken Apart. (This Thing might be a bathroom sink, toilet, radiator pipe, shower drain, or a combination of all four.) Who am I to argue with a man about a "plastic thing" when I know even less (possibly) about plastic things than Sela's lummox son and Sela's lummox son's toolbox-toting, shoulder-shrugging, multiple cell phone-possessing mute sidekick. (The irony of a mute with three clip-on cell phones has not been lost on me, incidentally.)
Unfortunately, this is a best case scenario. The arrival of Niki at least signals that something is being done (or nearly done) and some need is being attended to. Most importantly, it means that my call has gotten through to Sela, which is a rare treat. Typically, when I call Sela – as I did this morning to inquire about the absence of heat in my apartment since last Friday – someone with a thick Former Soviet Union accent will answer the phone. This person, of indeterminate gender – the voice is always husky and squat – will say things like, "Sela not here!"
I know it would make sense to ask a follow-up question but what's the point? There are a million things I could ask, such as, "Where is Sela?" or "When will Sela get home?" or "Is the mute around?" or "SELA GOOD HELP ME?" and none of them would be understood or responded to in any way that would get me closer to having a heated apartment.
So this morning, when I was told "Sela not here!" I thought about it for a second, and then just rattled off my street address, hoping the person on the other end would hear the jumble of English language and, even without fully comprehending its meaning, at least recognize it as a tenant's address, and then know why I needed to speak with Sela. (Unlike many Americans I've seen interacting with world travelers, I have decided that people who do not speak English are not dumb at all; just confused. And they are probably reasonably able to free-associate, in any language.)
Having submitted my address I felt nervous but hopeful. Here's what the person on the other end said, "You must please leave a message!" He/she said it like it was written on an English-language flash card, or learned from an episode of "America's Most Wanted." "PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE!" the voice repeated and then, as I was about to, he/she hung up the phone.
HOW TO COPE.
I awoke easily this morning, from that frog dream again. I had a bed pillow all to myself. My chest was unburdened of the13-pound weight pressing down on it, in four sharp points, to which I had grown accustomed. My chin, cheeks, and forehead skin were intact, and puncture-free. The bedroom smelled of detergent and a bit of sweat, without a trace of spoiled alosa pseudoharengus. I added up all of these miniature luxuries and suddenly began to panic. “Fuck!” I thought, whipping the sheets aside. “Where’s Coleman?”
So it began that the first verbal contact I had with the world today was a series of "kissy" noises, as I patrolled my apartment, wondering where a thick cat with a noisy respiratory system could possibly hide in these 450 square feet of minimalist squalor. Coleman wasn't beneath my bed – not surprising, as there has been no possible room for her here since I converted that prime area of real estate into a storage facility – but I found some interesting items in her place. For example, I had completely forgotten that I am in possession of a lobby poster for the third Austin Powers film, Goldmember. The poster is still in its shipping tube. I'd ordered it months before the release of the film, after hearing a rumor that New Line was being sued by another film studio, for infringement on the name "Goldfinger." If the lawsuit dragged, there was a very good chance the title of the film would need to change before its premiere. I decided to order the lobby poster that instance, expecting its value to increase exponentially upon the film's (newly titled) release. It was one of those "ah-ha!" moments that are typically the province of sad sacks whose idea of financial investment is rooted firmly in the search results of eBay, or etched into the surface of Burger King collectible drinking glasses. I was surprised with myself for even acting upon the impulse – and, like those other eBay investors, I doubted whether I'd even have the energy or strategy to sell the poster once its value was reassessed, and expected it to languish in its shipping tube until my next stoop sale – but I figured it would make an interesting story one day. Upon reading this story back, I realize I was wrong about that, too.
I also found a Starburst fruit chew, in its original wax wrapping. Strawberry – not my favorite flavor – but it was still tasty. It's nice to start the morning right, with some fresh fruit (flavoring chemicals). I did not, however, find a cat.
After checking the cupboards, the insides of my closets and, for a few minutes, today's "Sticky Movies" on Sublime Directory, it occurred to me that Coleman might have been locked out of my apartment last night. This happened once with Ble, when she was much smaller. I hadn't seen her slip past and, as a result, accidentally locked the door behind her. I only discovered my mistake the following morning and, when I opened the door, she was right outside and belly-crawled into the apartment, devastated. She must still bear the emotional scars of the incident because now, whenever I open my door to greet a delivery person or UPS carrier, Ble lingers in the doorway but refuses to cross its threshold. And, if you examine her closely, you can see a single tear bubbling in the corner of each eye. (Ble also goes nowhere near the rear of my refrigerator anymore. This used to be her favorite place to annoy and frighten me. However, the last time she was rescued from behind the refrigerator, she left a toe behind. Since then, that location has lost some of its appeal for my nine-toed cat.)
My heart grew heavy as I opened the door. There was a moment of silence – a void I quickly filled with dread and guilt – then Coleman marched right inside, chatting amiably as she made a beeline to her Science Diet. Psychologically, she seemed relatively intact. It wasn't until I picked her up that I noticed a difference. I wanted to hold her, to remind her that I love her MORE THAN ANYONE I HAVE EVER KNOWN, and also to trick her short-term memory into believing that none of last night's events ever happened. As I pressed her close to my face, I saw something very upsetting. Her fur seemed a little unkempt and stiff, and was laced with the aroma of cherry wine. Examining my cat's face, I saw that her gaze was a little distant and, more tellingly, some of her eye shadow was streaked away. I started petting her furiously, hoping to let some gentleness in. As I continued stroking her coat, she loosened up and began purring. I thought, "We're going to make it through this, baby," and was just about to kiss the tip of her nose when I chanced upon something that caused me to recoil in horror and drop Coleman. (She landed on her feet, incidentally. That's kind of her thing.) As I was petting her, one of my fingers became caught in a small snag. It was a small, telling rip in Coleman's panty hose.
Coleman is resting on my lap right now, happily sipping from an artisanal saucer of air-cooled Yerba tea. I fear the events of last night will always remain a dark mystery and a chilly wall of psychological distance between us.
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE: "I AM NOT A MISTAKE".
Tonight, it would be nice to see you at How to Kick People, the monthly comedy reading series I co-produce, co-host, and co-perform with Bob Powers. It's here:
H2KP: "I Am Not A Mistake!"
Wednesday, November 17th, at 8pm
at Under St. Marks Theater
94 St. Marks Place, between 1st and A
Tonights guests are comedian Jessica Wood; raconteur and author Mike Daisey; and self-deprecating "A Prairie Home Companion" contributor Laura Buchholz.
Also, the review of last month's Halloween show is finally online. You can also read our contributions to the first annual How to Kick People Ghost Story Slam.
HOW TO POISON YOURSELF.
Against my better judgment, and against the better judgment of loved ones whom I'd consulted before making my decision, I ate nachos for dinner last night. My guilty conscience required that I supplement the nachos with some kind of vegetable dish.* Unfortunately, as these nachos were purchased at one of New York's uniquely Chinese owned-and-operated Tex Mex establishments, the vegetable dish was, in a word, confusing. It was a sauteed mess of cabbage, carrots, zucchini and broccoli, all choppped up until each individual ingredient was only faintly recognizable within the resultant slaw. In retrospect, the vegetable dish was possibly more detrimental to my physical health than the accompanying aluminum tin filled with corn chips, cheese, sour cream, beans, chicken, and self-loathing.
Why am I so bad with food? (the nachos were a finale in a tuesday diet exclusively composed of a cinnamon roll from The Doughnut Plant, a tuna fish sandwich with a hundred thousand pickles, and a soy latte) This is the area where I make most of my self-destructive mistakes. Last weekend, as a friend and I were grabbing a five-minute slice of (terrible) pizza on the fly, I remarked that if my parents could see me, a grown adult catching a fast-moving slice for dinner, they would try to re-assume custody.
Whenever I eat like this I play a game with myself in which I try to imagine what my old high school girlfriend, who is now a pediatrician with a (presumably functional) family, is doing at the very same moment. My answer is usually, "scooping out some fresh fruit into glass dishes for her children" or "sleeping." I don't know why I use her as a barometer for normal living; we haven't spoken in over ten years. I guess I just decided that she has always been domestically-adept and, when we broke up, we were making two very distinct decisions about where we wanted our lives to go. She wanted to be married young, and bear children as soon as possible. I wanted to sleep with someone from France. (again, as soon as possible.)
I really do think I might require a full-time chaperone to insure my diet remains comfortably human, even in moments of alcoholic stupor or existential sadness. This includes cooking healthy foods, and knowing when those foods have ceased to be healthy. Currently, the only diet moderator I actively employ is my optometrist; not because he's a medical professional, but because his own diet is so deplorably vermin-like that even my most outrageous infractions of good, healthy judgment pale in comparison to his everyday, unconscious dining solutions. When I call him to talk about food, it's usually to unload my conscience. I know he'll patiently listen to the litany of poor choices I delineate and then reply, "So what? Everyone eats candy corn for breakfast!"
And if my optometrist expresses genuine concern, look out. Once, just after finishing a Cuban pot roast I'd been chipping away at for weeks, I called my optometrist to brag. I'd kept him apprised of my progress because I knew he alone would appreciate the lengthy tussle with this tremendous slab of meat.
"Hey there, Doctor!"
"Toddy! I can't talk. I got Laurel here."
"Long story. What's going on?"
"OK," I said. "This will only take a second. Guess what I just finished." Although I wanted to play it cool, and maintain suspense, it was difficult to subdue the stink of arrogance and greed in my voice when he answered the phone.
"Wha – Oh no, not the pot roast!"
I incorrectly assumed he'd be proud of me. While I appreciated his instant recognition – that's what friends are for, of course - I did not expect anything close to shock from someone who has a deep fryer at bedside.
"Yeah, the pot roast. Finally killed it. What's wrong?"
"Todd, that pot roast has gotta be four weeks old! You froze it, right?"
I replied with a dismissive snort. He was way off, on both counts. The pot roast was not four weeks old. It was six weeks old, and had been sitting in my refrigerator the entire time, sealed only by its own exposed juices, inside the crockpot with which I'd originally cooked it.
"This is serious, my friend. Are you OK? Do you feel dizzy? You know, you can't just eat meat forever."
It hurt to hear him say those words – "you can't just eat meat forever" – and I might have told him so if I hadn't already dropped the phone and run to the bathroom to induce vomiting. My optometrist warned that I should make sure to eat any kind of cooked meat within four weeks of refrigeration.
My father, whom I called next, amended that figure to one week and my mother, who grabbed the phone from my father mid-conversation, reduced it further, to three days. The Poison Control hotline felt, in their professional opinion, I could technically eat meat within two weeks of its original preparation and still walk away relatively unscathed providing the meat was given proper refrigeration and a properly sealed container. (Resting a dinner plate over the top of the crockpot, I was told, did not provide an airtight environment.). And the emergency room physician whose voice moved slowly, and without even a hint of modulation, suggested switching to a vegetarian diet, provided I was able to hold down solids after this incident.
*I think the vegetable dish is a symptom of a much larger problem. Very often, I refuse to fully embrace pleasure – particularly guilty pleasure. That's why a dinner of nachos, which I know to be terrible for me but am incapable of talking my fat brain out of, must be coupled with some kind of vegetable. And it's why I never order that sixth alcoholic drink – the cocktail that will carry me across the threshold between adorably slurred speech and voluntary karaoke. I do this all the time.
I'm certain my reluctance to award myself with pleasure stems from a hazy guilt about the voiceless suffering in the world around me. How dare I cut loose when there is so much pain in the world? I even have a name for this particular subgenre of guilt: I call it the "Masque of Red Death" complex.
HOW TO MAKE THEM READ THEIR EMPLOYEE HANDBOOKS.
[this is what happens when i write an entry over the course of two days. i will give you a hug if you can figure out where day two began.]
Does it make me a horrible and out-of-touch white person simply because I expect certain types of employee behavior befitting certain retail establishments? I know one cannot expect happiness from an employee earning slightly above the minimum wage, and I absolutely wouldn't encourage cruel and humiliating personality modification training from a corporate level. (A friend of mine briefly toiled as a waitress at a Friendly's® restaurant and, during her interview, the manager demonstrated how to speak while smiling. Additionally, a few days into her tenure, she found a sign posted on the door of the employee break room that indicated something like, "WE'VE BEEN SEEING A LOT OF FROUNS [sic] LATELY. [sad face] WE NEED TO SEE MORE SMILES ON THE FLOOR, OR ELSE SWIFT AND APPROPRIATE ACTION WILL BE TAKEN.") I'm just saying that, as different hubs of consumer activity make tremendous and costly efforts in their design and branding to elicit specific responses from customers, those customers grow to expect interactions that are consistent with their own manufactured emotional connections to the products they seek. For example:
Ice Cream Shop
I know this request is sometimes difficult, particularly when your manager keeps cutting your hours to avoid full-time benefits, but it would really be great if you could pretend you're really happy to be working around all of that delicious ice cream. Here's the thing: no one walks into an ice cream shop because it is an item on their to-do list. People walk into ice cream shops because, for whatever reason – job stress, negative HIV test results, low impulse control – they have decided they've "earned" an ice cream. Earning things makes you feel happy, even if the happiness is sort of flimsy and will be sometimes become converted into embarrassment or self-loathing, just as sugars are converted into fats, the moment you're face-to-face with the dried fudge streaks in the bottom of a Haagen-Dazs "Dazzler" cup. And, for this reason alone, it is sort of necessary that the teenagers delivering you that milky joy appear (appear!) happy to do so. When you cluck your tongue at us for ordering something that requires machine-blending, or refuse to make eye contact, or blankly respond to our orders with, "what else?", or punch a co-worker between the shoulder blades while you're making a Fribble, it sort of punctures that delicate happiness that directed us into your establishment in the first place.
(When I was a teenager, the Ben & Jerry's employees always did a great job of exhibiting this kind of ice cream-related job satisfaction. Maybe it was because their employers had the least restrictive rules and the most desirable uniforms. [the cherry garcia tie-dyes were so coveted that B&J customers paid good money to dress like B&J employees. to my knowledge, there is only one other retail chain that has achieved that level of customer-empathy, without being driven purely by irony: Hooters.] And maybe it was because their employees were WASPy, with creamy, unflawed skin that was totally resistant to the pore-raids of New York Super Fudge Chunk streaks across the cheeks and chin. Either way, they were the very model of ice cream shop-appropriate behavior.)
Fancy Coffee Café
I do not require that you act French or Italian; just try not to act like you're serving me an Egg McMuffin. I still can't place my finger on exactly what depresses me in certain coffee shops. I only know that when Starbucks first began proliferating, their employees were empowered with a sense of novelty that could only be the product of serving very expensive cups of coffee with crazy names, like Mocha Bravissimocchina. And, at some smaller, independently run coffee shops, this good-time feeling of perfection still exists. (Hi, Gorilla.) The employees are a fun, multi-cultural hodge-podge of tattoos, rumpled thrift-store clothing, crazy hats, and multiple sexual preferences. That feels about right for a latte. Again, not sure why. Maybe it's because they make it feel like I'm not just purchasing a stomach-burning cup of caffeine. It's more like I'm making a donation to an artist. Keep up the good work!
Please make me feel self-conscious every time I pick up a CD or LP. At larger chain record stores, the employees are often happy at the mere fact that you've bought something. That is a failure, as far as I'm concerned. Records are not mere commodities; they are a fair representation of who you are as a human being. Your record purchases cut to the very quick of your psychological and emotional make-up, and should be judged as such. That's why I can't buy records at places like Best Buy. There, the employees are so detached and non-judgmental that your music purchases might as well be a stack of blank, recordable CDs.
Having been on both sides of this transaction – I used to work at a Rhino Records store – I know the value of being told by an employee, "Nice one!" when you buy the "correct" album. Likewise, it is an employee mandate to call you out for purchasing Music Inspired by the Television Show, One Tree Hill. Call it petty and superficial, but how else do you explain the success of The Killers. (P.S. If I worked at a record store and you walked up to the counter with The Killers album, I'd smack it out of your hands and send you back to try again. And you'd thank me in three years.)
Scented Candle/Christmas Tree Decoration Shop
I would really appreciate it if your employees were women in crocheted sweaters who faintly smelled of cat pee. And yes, I'd like very much to see your plastic Jack-O-Lantern brooch light up and play spooky music when you squeeze it. Thank you, ma'am.
This is by no means a mandate, but it would be cool if your employees were giant black bears, in aprons. Just saying. As it is, not that many people crowd their way into stores that specialize in the sale of different varieties of honey, and honey-related products. The bears would be a great touch. Much better than if you staffed your store with angry swarms of bees, or black teenagers.
Time Machine Repair Shops
For the purpose of authenticity, in addition to the roster of underpaid kids, I would appreciate the presence of one Cro-Magnon Man and one confused Sherlock Holmes.
Family Home-Cooking Style Restaurant
Ease up. Time and time again, I'll eat at one of these "mom's cookin'" restaurants and leave with the same complaint: the food is too good. It would be nice if one of them would trade in fantasy for reality. When I order "green beans," I expect them to be served in a hot, microwave-safe dish covered in plastic wrap. When I remove the wrap, a scalding blast of steam should rise off the beans, searing the tips of my nose hairs. And the beans, now suddenly cold since their protective plastic wrap has been removed, should be floating in a small pond of their own canning fluid. Steak should be served well-done, and curling up around the edges. And, when I ask the waitress what dessert choices are available, I expect her to reply, "shit on a shingle," and then run upstairs to her bedroom to cry. Just like mom!
HOW TO HIDE FROM NATURE.
All day long it scratched at my windowpanes. It jumped from the brickface to my safety screens to the sill back to the brickface to a lightweight tree branch, then from one window to the next. My cats – docile, toothless, confused by even the unpredictable sway of dustmites – spent the rainy afternoon on the verge of miniature nervous breakdowns. They battered the window with limp, asthmatic paws while I tried to ignore wildlife civil war and press my nose a little harder to the grindstone.
I had an excellent night, but it wasn't my day; today belonged to the squirrel.
click on that picture for movie time
HOW TO HOLD YOUR BREATH.
It's 12:56am, and Ohio is still MIA in the election. A slow creeping horror is making its way beneath my skin. If P. Diddy was prescient about the voting process, I wish I'd skipped voting today so I would be dead right now.
HOW TO GET YOUR TRICK ON.
I spent the middle-third of my weekend in Philadelphia, to attend a part and reacquaint myself with the faces of a couple of old friends. While there, I decided to take several shaky, blurry, low-light photographs, without the benefit of a flashbulb or eyeglasses. Prepare to squint.
I have a secret romance with the way West Philadelphia wears autumn weather. It is an old and haunted part of America and, on a fogged-over fall evening, the neighborhood looks right at home. My friend, Melissa, claimed that the leaves on the ground contained a few extra shapes and colors not indigenous to the trees, and suspected they were distributed overnight, by some kind of Philadelphia beautification task force.
The party was advertised as an appreciation of St. Jude, and was held in honor of the 7th anniversary of Melissa's stroke. (her genetics made it possible, at age 23. she's just about the strongest person i know.) It was a suitably morbid occasion, and the costume rules were sort of strict: guests were asked to dress as patron saints, virgin martyrs, hopeless causes, or demigods. (One attendee, claiming to be dressed as Zeus, was scolded because Zeus enjoys a full-fledged god status. It's weird to see a god apologize, and then reach for some hummus.)
The uniforms were really impressive. Melissa dressed as Zuul, the demigod that possesses Sigourney Weaver's character in the film Ghostbusters. A very elaborate Joan of Arc was present, and a Santa Lucia. There was also a St. Christina the Astonishing, who provided a nice photo opportunity when she stood beneath a very well-placed lighting fixture. For all the saints and demigods in attendance – Dionysus was there, as was Persephone, and Melissa's brother went very high concept with a "Son of Seitan" costume – I was most surprised by the presence of not one, but two unrelated attendees dressed as the Muppet, Beaker.
After deciding my original plan to attend the party as St. Ides was too embarrassing, I just dressed as St. Bernard instead.
The following evening, on Halloween, I saw a children's costume that beat the pants of last year's "Crybaby Dracula." A few small kids – maybe between 6-7 years old – were dressed as the Incredible Hulk, with fully rendered musculature. There's just nothing more hilarious than a tiny child with perfectly sculpted abs. I hope someone makes an action movie where the hero has to fight a testosterone-crazy, pumped-up six year-old. And soon. I also saw a mother feed her baby more candy in a single sitting than I ate during the first ten years of my life. I need to put social services on speed-dial.