In June of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO START AN ORGY.
Some friends of mine are having an orgy for the Fourth of July and I was wondering: how does one start an orgy?
I can understand how you might plan an orgy – stationery store, Evite, phone tree, party warehouse, etc. – but once all of your orgy guests have arrived, and everyone has finished eating the potluck dinner (the invitation requested each attendee bring one "covered dish, with an emphasis on sensuality"), how do you get from "that was a lovely roast, Carol" to "will someone hurry up and fill my ass?" I have imagined the scenario over and over, and it always strikes me as an awkward transition.
I guess the easiest way to start an orgy would be on a three-count, or with a track gun, the host firing a blank into the air to signal the orgy's commencement. But that's like going from zero to 80 in a split second, isn't it? It's hard enough knowing exactly when to start kissing one person; how are you supposed to know when to roll over on your best friend's wife? On the few occasions I've seen orgies depicted on film, or in my father's sketch books, it seems I'm always landing somewhere in the middle, when things have already heated up a bit, without any backstory. They never show you the part where it's just everyone sitting around on towels with flaccid genitals and lifeless breasts, kind of waiting for things to get started. The part where two of the men get briefly engaged in a conversation about their commute to the orgy:
"I took 95 East. It was a really easy time; I think we beat a lot of the holiday traffic."
"Oh sure, yeah, that's one way. Or you could have taken the Jefferson Parkway, 'cause that's a no-trucks route and you don't have all the extra stress of that, which is nice."
"Right, but 95 is just a straight shot."
"Speaking of straight shots, how about ejaculating on my face?"
"OK yeah, sure thing. But I could ejaculate on your belly instead, you know, since you've got your contacts in. Might be easier."
"You're the boss. Oh! I hope you don't find that weird, since you're actually my boss and stuff."
"Nope. I like it. I like it a lot. I'm the boss and I – oh dear, I've already lost my erection."
Alternately, maybe there's just one alpha person who just sort of takes command and loudly announces, "that's it! I'm gonna fuck someone 'cause I've only got the babysitter 'til eleven-thirty." Then, once everyone has gotten used to the idea that they're all in a room together, naked, with a couple of people having sex within a few feet of everyone, I guess it breaks the ice.
I also wonder what happens to the people who arrive late. I'm often late, and terrible at following directions, so I can easily see myself arriving to an orgy well after it's already begun, flustered from the many wrong turns and well-hidden street signs that kept me from being on time. How do you just catch up with everyone else? There must be a point where the host just sort of says, "OK, that's it. We've got most of our RSVPs here, and we're missing just a couple of folks. If they want to arrive on their own time well, then, they're just gonna have to miss out. The invitation clearly stated, 6pm until ???, and it's well after 8. I mean, when did they think the orgy was going to get under way? How long are we supposed to wait. If you're gonna have an orgy you gotta put a stake in the ground. EIGHT PM, that's it! Damn if I'm gonna make my "respectful" guests wait a minute longer. NO I WILL NOT CALM DOWN, KATHY. This is just plain rude."
I guess if I were going to host an orgy I'd start it by telling everyone that before the party I hid a coupon for Outback Steakhouse in one of the guest's vaginas, and whoever finds it gets to keep it.
HOW TO COLLECT STATISTICAL DATA, PART 1.
I've been messing around with Microsoft Chart, for something Bob and I are doing at this week's How to Kick People, and I've noticed designing charts is sort of like learning a different language. And, like speaking another language for a while, my brain has grown comfortable thinking in chart-symbols.
I have labeled this post "part 1" which is usually a very good sign that there will be no part 2. But for now, please enjoy the first batch of residual fruits from my Microsoft Chart Berlitz course. I'm calling this chart, "ME TIME."
HOW TO OBTAIN ONE FREE GUEST PASS TO SPIN ALLEY*.
I have something to confess: for years, I've lived in the dark shadow of my persona. In fact, I can scarcely remember century's dawn, before my persona arrived, back when I was clear-skinned, robust, quick-to-smile, and unconcerned with embracing the duality (yes, duality!) of smashing the system/negotiating foreign hardcover rights.
Now I am but a literary persona – variably described as "smugly dishonest," "aggressively cruel and stupid at the expense of exhibiting basic compositional aptitude," "inconceivably preoccupied with pee pee jokes," "Norman Mailer with undescended testicles," "just plain riddled with sloppy writing," and "Asshole-esque" – obfuscating the fragile man-child at the heart of all my experience.
My persona was borne of ambition, I confess. My tone poems and earnest prose-form ruminations on tide pools and the profound beauty of a woman's menstrual cycle, while spiritually satisfying, were hardly registering within social and professional literary circles.
Then one day in the late summer of 1998, I remember sitting in my garden, Brahma-style, and sketching butterflies, when a thought flitted across my mind, not unlike the way a butterfly flits across some stuff. "Hey," I thought, on silken thought-wings, "What if I started writing about how big my penis is." This was piggy-backed by a second, flitting thought: "and how I aim to smack other writers with it, without even the slightestprovocation!"
And that's just what I did. I began with easier targets, to practice my craft and perfect my new persona. I typed up my first essay, "Judy Blume Beats Her Kids with a Length of Rubber Hose," and dashed it off to my mailing list. Right on its heels, I distributed "Syd Hoff Draws Like a Crippled Fairy" and "Hey, Frugal Gourmet – I Will Smack the Taste of Canola Oil Right Out of Your Mouth" That's when my writing started attracting publishers, like delicious chum in the literary seas.
Once established, I began publishing and reading my work under the name, Todd Levin, Sovereign King of Wordsopolis. And, miraculously, the press bought it – and invoked it with alarming frequency. The lecture series programs included it in my introductions. It was printed beneath my name in my first collection of essays, "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE STANDING TOO CLOSE TO MY SHAFT: A Shit-Talking Odyssey." It was shortly after the paperback publication of this book that my persona took over.
My persona told an auditorium full of aspiring writers, "Irony is dead; long live sincerity." Then it placed air quotes around the word "sincerity" and rolled its eyes. When one of the students questioned my sincerity on the topic of sincerity, my persona threw a mug of steamed milk at him.
My persona called Joyce Carol Oates, "A piece of sushi-grade tuna for which I would gladly risk mercury poisoning."
My persona confuses "your" with "you're" and "there" with "their."
My persona placed post-it notes in all the copies of Griffin & Sabine, warning readers, "THIS IS ALL FAKE. THESE PEOPLE ARE MADE-UP, SUCKER."
My persona did the same thing to all the copies of The New King James Bible.
My persona wrote the liner notes to Lotion's Greatest Hits.
The Banger Sisters? My persona made love to them.
My persona told people he once rode in Dave Egger's antique sidecar, but never explained that it was just Rick Moody driving.
My persona liked our first book better, too.
Hot Tuna acoustic? Me. Hot Tuna electric? My persona.
My persona wrote a hip-hop song titled, "Makin' Chinky Eyes." David Byrne produced it, and brought in sixteen Tuvan throat singers to lay down the chorus. Drunk on Michelob, I flared up at the throat singers after discovering their repeated inability to correctly pronounce the words, "Prolonged Inbreastigation of the Joint Chiefs of Stiff." Then I fired them on the spot, and threw $7.58 in their faces for cab fare back to Mongolia.
My persona is going bald.
My persona can't sustain itself beyond 2000 words. (Or, in this case, 500.)
My persona bit the head off a dove, though some insist it was a bat.
My persona came in second place in the Ulster County Peach Cobbler Gobble-Thon. He lost to a man named, "Jake Gutts."
My persona wants you to know he sold over 20,000 copies of his first two books, which effectively tells you A) he's not rich and, therfore, likable, and B) he sold 20,000 more books than you did – so whatever, jerks.
My persona is sorry about that.
And now it's time to officially bid farewell to my persona. I have worn it around my neck like a publicity-generating-and-profit-reaping yoke for so long. Now I'm ready to stop being Todd Levin, unprepentant jackass and literary middleweight, and start being Todd Levin, adorably vulnerable Dad with an earnest new collection of essays available for purchase in the fall.
You can pre-order copies of Mr. Levin's upcoming memoir, "Typing White Light Now: My Literary Walkabout," at amazon.com. The collection boasts a 16-page, full-color photo-insert featuring pictures of me crying at the birth of his first child, Sandy Koufax Levin, and a full-length pull-out poster of Todd Levin hugging an AIDS patient, without gloves or anything.
*i sort of understand the dilemma, but let's call a pr stunt a pr stunt, ok?
HOW TO REGISTER YOURSELF AS A KNOWN SEX OFFENDER.
It's amazing how you can go through your entire life believing you're a perfectly well-adjusted person without any dark corners in your psyche. Just a meat-and-potatoes person who enjoys sex but finds most deviant kinks play out like an uncomfortably amateurish improv show. ["OK, I'm going to need someone from the audience to suggest a 'synthetic material' and a 'stock character.'"] And then one day, through a purely innocent accident, you stumble upon something that whips open your brain's one dank, cobwebbed trap-door, leading directly to the filthy sewage retention chamber of your subconscious. In fact, the effect of this discovery is so immediate and intense that it cracks the trap-door straight off its rusted hinges, so this chamber can never be sealed again and, instead, its contents leak out into all of the previously clean areas of your mind, spreading darkness like a weeping chest wound spider-webbing across the inside of a clean-white t-shirt.
I guess what I'm saying is, I think I just found the best page on the entire Internet, and I don't care what you think of me BECAUSE I AM FREE.
HOW TO EAT WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED.
[disclaimer: the following story is a whole lot funnier if, for every mention of the word "shrimp," the reader mentally substitutes in the word "scrimps." trust me, this is entirely scientific.]
Over drinks, an acquaintance of mine confessed that she finds shrimp delicious but lately, in addition to their natural shrimp-liciousness, she also finds them spine-chillingly creepy and, therefore, totally inedible. For years, she'd been happily accustomed to eating denuded shrimp boiled, fried, sauteed, or drowned in szechuan sauce at cookouts and moderately-priced restaurants across America.
However, a few weeks ago, she decided to order a shrimp entrée at a slightly more upscale restaurant – the kind of place that doesn't have a "Self-Serve Tartar Pump Station" or a teenager standing outside, dressed as a scallop, holding a sign that states, "Get Your Sweet Bass In Here!" – and when the shrimp arrived, arranged like a fishy wreath around the perimeter of her dinner plate, she was aghast.
"They had...eyes," she told me. "And antennae. It was like being served a plate of gigantic insects."
Apparently, she'd been long living under the delusion that shrimp exisited headless in nature, bobbing along happily in the ocean without any protection, just dreaming of the day a kind fisherman would troll them in with a giant net, and shovel them into a deep fryer so they could make a sports fan happy.
"Those eyes," she said, over and over, her disgust visibly increasing with each repetition. "God damn those shrimp eyes."
I've heard that argument made before. People will insist they can't eat whole fish, or look at anything on a plate that still resembles the living creature it was before it had a couple lemons squeezed on its head, or a branch of rosemary stuffed up its asshole. But it always comes back to the eyes. As if spooked by some Hopi Indian myth, a lot of people don't like to eat anything with eyeballs.
Eyes never bothered me. I'd eat an eye salad. I don't really care. For some reason, I've managed to operate under the delusion that most food-ready animals use their eyes only once, to stare into the barrel of a shotgun, or look up at some netting or the claw-end of a hammer, and that's pretty much it. I have never really associated the presence of eyeballs with having a rich inner-life. I just don't see one necessitating the other. A shrimp might have eyes, but so what? The average lifespan of a shrimp is about .004 seconds, just long enough to blink. Having eyes doesn't really increase your value as a creature; it's how you use those eyes. For instance, when is the last time a cow said, "look out for that meteor?" Answer: in the year Never B.C.
The shrimp-eyes conversation had me feeling very self-righteous about my dietary choices; so self-righteous, in fact, that I decided to have head-on prawns for dinner last night. When they arrived, all facing toward the center of the plate as if engaged in a deadlocked staring contest, I had a brief twinge of remorse. Fortunately, my guilt was quickly overwhelmed by the aroma of saffron, and I grabbed one of the little bug-eyed fuckers in my pincer and began applying pressure to snap off the head. That's when something caught my own, highly-functioning eye. What I had previously dismissed as a black peppercorn resting on the shrimp's head I realized now, up close, was actually a very small hat – the kind my grandfather often wore. And, though I had to squint to see it, there, around the shrimp's left foremost leg, was a tiny claddagh ring, with its crown turn outward.
Curious now, and a little nauseous, I started fishing around the plate with my fingers, upsetting the bed of wilted arugula, to see if there was any more evidence. I flipped over a roasted Yukon gold potato disc and, hiding beneath it, was a very tiny briefcase. I cleaned it off with my napkin and used the tips of my fingernails to open the latch. Judging by the papers contained within – most of them were crisped on the edges, or stained with chili oil, but a few were still slightly legible – this shrimp was a tax attorney. His briefcase was filled mostly with W-2 returns and envelopes filled with receipts for things like "algae" and "iodine stain remover." A pretty boring job, I decided, and felt justified in eating this shrimp. Then I found its poetry.
Hidden in the middle of a shrimp-sized legal pad, behind page after page of complex division and itemized expenditure categories, were five loose pages, each folded three times over. Each page was filled with some of most beautiful shrimp-oriented poems I'd ever read. Here's a sample:
The Deepest Blue
the tide rocks me, mocks me
twists me like ribbon
we bob unwittingly in an ocean of tears
i am a pair of ragged claws scuttling across ––
[here, the shrimp has crossed out a bunch of language and written "THIS SOUNDS LIKE MAUDLIN BULLSHIT!!" in the margin.]
i am a loudspeaker on mute
one in a million
one of a million
enmeshed in a sad destiny
[i think this is an allusion to the fishermen's nets - quite beautiful, really.]
shame on a nigga who tries to run game on a nigga WHO PUT GAME IN A NIG –
[i think this is where the shrimp lost its train of thought, because he never finished this sentence but, instead, drew a picture of a young couple dressed in formal wear, holding hands, and framed by a full moon. beneath the drawing was the caption, "We Had The Time Of Our Lives – Prom '88." maybe i should just skip ahead ot the end...]
my sunken atlantis,
stale and ghettoized.
better left undiscovered.
That shrimp had a beautiful inner-life. Which is why I felt horrible plucking his head off and eating him, and his twelve children. And a puppy on the way home. (Why can't shrimp be more filling?!)
HOW TO GUARANTEE YOU CAN BEAT UP EVERY MAN IN THE ROOM.
[Warning: This entry contains more unexplained inside jokes for comic nerds than most of you 'norms' will be able to stomach. Apologies are in order.]
I attended a comics convention over the weekend. It was not one of those kinds of mage and magic conventions where one might trade a near-mint copy of SUBMARINER #2 for a couple of second-edition SGT. ROCK comics, or engage another conventioneer in a prolonged conversation spoken entirely in Elvish. (Sprinkled with Elvish swears like, "Alex is such a scoundrel. I paid him 30 elf-dollars for this 'genuine' silk coxcomb, which he assured me was hand-hewn, but one can tell clearly from its markings that it is factory-stitched. Why, he's lower than a Slargworm's Underbelly!") Instead, it was the kind of comics convention where one might encounter a boy in Chuck Taylors and a "Cheapsuit Serenaders" t-shirt, quietly sketching autobiographical cartoons in the corner. In other words, the most adorable kind of comic book convention in all the world.
I paid my admission, intending to visit some friends there, who were hawking their mini-comics and zines (Yes, blogger, I said zines. Live with it.) under the group-moniker, "Artists With Problemz." I bought a couple of their comics, as well as a precious comic called "Tales from the 4th Dimension," written and drawn by the (talented and aloof) 12 year-old son of Michel Gondry. (in the final panel, the main character accidentally shoots and murders God, a scenario ripped straight from the pages of Marvel's Secret Wars, issue #3.)
What I did not count on was seeing many other people I knew, milling about, manning booths, and dressed in chainmail. Running into the Allens of Connecticut was a nice surprise. (Related, but barely: Josh helped me with me broken-down RSS feed this morning so if you're reading this entry through RSS, thank him. If you're not, then Josh is DEAD TO ME.) As was running into some comedian friends, and a newly shaggy Evan Dorkin. I want to give a rundown on the show but, as I'm feeling inarticulate, I might have to eschew my patented meandering prose and resort to a punchy bullet-point style. Here goes:
Why be Normal?
While speaking with the Allens, I was trying to emphasize that it was a surprisingly normal crowd for a comics convention. I sincerely meant this. However, every time I attempted to get the word "normal" out of my fat mouth, someone would walk right by who challenged the very notion of normality. It kind of played out like this:
ME: "I'm surprised how nor – "
[cartoonist jason little walks by, dressed in straw boater hat, shorts, mid-calf red argyle socks and leather sock garters]
ME: "As I was saying, this crowd is actually pretty – "
[fat guy covered in fake military decorations dashes across my field of vision]
ME: "Well, it's maybe not the most average group of people but there are still plenty of – "
[even fatter guy walks by with a wide yellow necktie tucked into his dress slacks]
ME: "Oh forget it. I'm gonna go get my tits autographed by Charles Burns."
[two people walk by and greet each other with 'Have a Smurfy day!' and then someone flies past on the back of a dragon.]
I was happy to discover my favorite art-making couple, Esther Pearl Watson and Mark Todd, had a booth together. I've sort of tangentially followed their romance since the late-nineties, when I stumbled across some of Esther's illustrations online. Those led me to Mark's mini-comics, and that led me to their marriage, which I regard as heaven-scent and rainbow-unicorn-perfect from my safe, delusional distance.
My other art crush is Jeffrey Brown, who makes funny and heart-breaking and fragile little comics about relationships, mostly. I was drawn to a table of his books and then looked up to see I was staring Mr. Brown directly in the eyes. This did not last long, however, because as soon as we made eye contact he completely averted his gaze and I proceeded to have the most shy, awkward exchange of my adult life. Words were muttered, eyes were met with floor, and money was silently exchanged. That palpable sense of quiet discomfort is probably how people feel while they're being secretly courted by Jeffrey Brown, even though in this case I was merely not-so-secretly purchasing a comic book from him. sigh.
I purchased a tote bag and a t-shirt from a gay man. The tote has a drawing of a seahorse on it, and is for girls. (As are sea horses, really. And regular horses, except the one the Headless Horseman rode around on.) The t-shirt features a design consisting of a giant tangle of disembodied squid tentacles. This is all pretty uninteresting, until you realize the only reason I included this paragraph was to use the word SQUIDPLOSION, at which point this becomes manipulative and stupid in addition to being uninteresting. super sigh.
Asian Guy with Glasses
A couple nights prior to MOCCA, I attended a comic book release party for my friend, Vanessa. [BUY THAT BOOK.] Someone mentioned that the cartoonist Adrian Tomine was there. I had been hoping to run into him at some point in my life, only to tell him we've a friend in common, from his hometown of Sacramento. I don't know why I thought this was a fun thing to tell Adrian, but I did – possibly because our common friend is one of my favorites of all-time, and it would give me an excuse to talk about her.
I asked, "where's Adrian," and I was told, with a jerk of the thumb, "he's over there – the Asian guy in glasses." I then spent the next embarrassing five minutes trying to convince John Kuramoto that he has some good friends in Sacramento. (He joked, "All Asians look alike," and I laughed and laughed and insisted he was wrong. Then, when I did see the real Adrian Tomine, I didn't approach him because I was afraid John K. would see me and feel justified in any anger or hostility he harbored in reaction to latent racism. This paragraph, or something like it, was probably the subject of an early Optic Nerve comic.)
HOW TO FLY THROUGH THE AIR WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE.
Thanks to some young whippersnapper friends, I now possess the power to instantly upload poor-quality, low-resolution photographs directly from my (new) Flickr account to this site. (Yes, I just said "flickr." Want a smack?)
I think I'd posted this photo, or another from the series, many years ago when I attended the LUCHA LIBRE event in Clinton Hill. A series of coincidences and good fortune helped me dig up the photos again, so I could show some of them off in place of writing anything intelligible at the moment. You lose, and win. It's pretty amazing stuff, isn't it?
HOW TO CREATE THE MOST BORING ENTRY IN THE HISTORY OF THIS WEB SITE.
I've been getting emails, here and there, telling me my RSS feed is broken. Unfortunately, I have no idea how I broke it or how to fix it because, honestly, I have no idea how I got it to work in the first place. If there's anyone out there who knows a great deal about this sort of thing and would be willing to help, I am willing to copy and paste some stuff. You have my number.
HOW TO PAY FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S INDIFFERENCE.
When I told Tax I'd just found out I was going to perform on Premium Blend later this summer, his immediate response was, "What's that pay now?"
Tax is always very concerned the bottom line. It's nice to know this is a quality that extends all the way from multi-billionaires down to guys with chapped hands who ask you for spare change outside Ace Supermarkets. Money has been the central theme of our small talk ever since Tax found out I perform stand-up comedy sometimes. Tax is convinced I should be making Flip Wilson cash as a stand-up; Redd Foxx dough. It has become increasingly depressing each time we have this little talk. It's almost like a ritual. He sees me. I give him money. He asks if I'm coming from or heading to a gig. I usually say "no." He says to tell me when I've got an upcoming show, and I promise I will. (knowing I won't, and he won't, and somehow through it all I can't believe I'm actually having a bit of that phony LA-style "we should totally get lunch!" chatter with a homeless man.) Then, just before I can get away, Tax asks, "they pay you good money for that? You make nice money?"
I don't. I have made more in an average week of work – as a summer camp counselor – than I've made across my entire brief tenure as a comic. But I'm getting a bit of cash for this Comedy Central thing so I hung around a bit longer yesterday and let Tax know, partly because I wanted to make sure he understood that I'm sort of making a living from this (I'm not) and partly because, honestly, I was pretty excited about the news and would have told the guys inside Ace Supermarket if any of them spoke English.
"I'm making a little cash, yeah. It's TV so, you know..."
Tax's face lit up. "Oh yeah, what's it on?"
When I said "Comedy Central," a little too loudly, Tax's expression darkened again, and his creases frowned.
"Oh, so not real TV," he said. "Not like NBC or-or-or wun-uh-dem?"
"Well," I said, "Comedy Central is real. I mean, it's not network or anything but – "
Tax gave me a weak, encouraging smile. "Never heard that but I'm sure that's nice for you."
HOW TO AVOID THE EXHAUSTING PLANNING AND PREPARATION THAT GOES INTO MAKING A SECOND DATE.
Dear 37 Year-Old Guy Sitting Next to Me at the Coffee Shop Right Now Who is Clearly on a Blind Date:
Forgive me for eavesdropping, but this is rather important. I am not the smoothest Steve McQueen on the planet, but my very basic inter-personal skills tell me that you are making a series of extremely obvious first date errors. If I may:
- You are at a coffee shop with a woman who, in a very objective sense, is better looking than you. No offense, but I am looking at you right now and thinking the probability of this happening is pretty good, and has probably played out that way many times in the past. Perhaps you could have offset the imbalance of your superficial beauty by, I don't know, not wearing blousy black cotton shorts. The contrast between their dark fabric and the cadaverous pale flesh of your legs is nearly as striking as your obviously poor judgment.
- While we're at it, did you know you're in a coffee shop wearing inline skates? Well, you are. And she isn't. This means the coffee shop was your agreed-up meeting place; not "The United Skates of America" or "Miniature Pylon Cone Rollerblade Alley."
- Do not pull out your ceramic one-hitter within the first 15 minutes of conversation, or even the next or last 15 minutes. It's sort of presumptuous. Your date was wearing a skirt, high-heeled sandals, and a conservative short-sleeve top. She was not wearing a "University of Cheech & Chong" t-shirt and "Legalize It" athletic headband.
- While we're on the subject of drugs – and it appears we'll be there for a while – no one cares about how much more awesome the hash is in the Czech Republic. Again, you're not on a date with the ghost of Alistair Crowley. This means small talk like, "after 6 hits while locked in my room meditating, I basically blew a fuse," is not exactly the combination to the master vault at U.S. Pussy Savings & Loan.
- OK, let's just get it out of the way. Do not offer your date a hit of weed at 3:10pm, at a coffee shop. Even if she joins you, so as not to appear "square" (your word, thank you), the ends do not justify the means. [update: she strode outside with him, then asked him to return to the coffee shop as she was embarrassed by the whole ridiculous affair.]
- Wow. Leave your balls alone. Seriously, holy cow. Those are your balls. You guys are sitting, maybe, three feet apart. Jesus, man. There is not a dating guidebook in the world that would even conceive of writing a chapter called "Don't Play With Your Balls (on the First Date)" because any mammal with the gift of literacy would not even consider this a "Do I or Don't I?" kind of question. Wow. There you go again.
- Don't be so bald. OK, that's not your fault, and I'll probably be joining you soon, but if you're going to be so bald please don't draw attention to it with a button on your messenger bag that says, "I'M NOT BALD. I'M JUST GETTING MORE HEAD."
And, for balance, here is a quick memo to your date. Please do not feel you have to indulge his half-witted drug-dominated conversation by asking him a question that allows him to reply, "Define transformative."
P.S. They left together. I expect the world will spin off its axis any day now.
HOW TO PROPERLY INSTALL A HARD DISK.
[This is a monologue I hurriedly wrote and presented at the May 2005 How to Kick People show, with some regret. Now I'm posting it here, with some additional regret. I think this site will make a nice final resting place for the piece.]
OK baby, I know that look all too well. But before you say anything, I want you to know that, yes, I am aware I've been away for a long time with neither explanation nor apology. But please understand this: some very unexpected things – some very unfathomable things – have occurred since last Thursday evening. And, sure, these three days apart, without any communication whatsoever on my part – have probably caused you a considerable amount of grief. But I assure it has not exactly been a pleasure cruise for me, either. And do you want to know why? No? You don't want to know? Then let me rephrase the question. Do you know why the last 72 hours have not been a pleasure cruise, with all of the various cruise-based pleasures contained within? Because instead of reclining on a deck chair or enjoying nightly karaoke contests, and entertainment from professional comedian/magicians and professional comedian/hypnotists, or doing anything remotely related to pleasure cruises, I have instead spent the last 72 hours desperately trapped inside the electronic cyber-world of TRON.
I see you're crossing your arms now; some would consider that defensive body language. Or perhaps they might consider that the body language of someone who cannot yet comprehend the gravity of the dangers – both real and virtual – one faces when ensnared in the digital tentacles of TRON. Sure, on paper it may look like a lot of binary code – just a slew of ones and zeroes to common eyes like yours – but coursing through TRON’s miserable fiber-optic veins you will find the cancerous plasma of micron-terrorism. Yes, micron-terrorism, and digital-skulduggery. And also hard drive-related hooliganism. You turn one-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-one-one-zero instead one-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-one-zero-one and BLAM! – you’re TRONNED. Unlike relationships, there is no margin for error in TRON.
Ah-ha! You've made a common mistake, my love, and one for which I will gladly forgive you. Yes, TRON is also the name of the video game program I’ve been developing for the last three months. And, naturally, I can imagine one confusing that purely innocuous and imaginary TRON with the very real computer world of TRON seething within the very binary code I've written.
Now, baby, I think "bullshit" is a strong word but, yes, it seemed just as implausible to me as I suddenly found myself no longer Kevin, your seven-year and three-month long intimate partner and common-law husband, but rather Jarvix 12, new molecular citizen of TRON. Why, I expect I was as flabbergasted as you appear to be right now. Perhaps more, even. Please, stop packing your things and sit back down, baby, so you might hear my incredible tale of fantastical computerology.
Now, as you know, the SARK corporation has had me working under a very aggressive timeline to complete the TRON game in time for the holiday release. It was a deadline I daresay I never would have approached within the limits of my sanity were it not for the thankless assistance of TRON's lead visual designer, Andrea. Andrea? You know Andrea. Yes, of course you know Andrea. With the flaxen hair? Are you sure? Hmm, I'm sure I've mentioned her before. Anyhow, I often found myself writing lines of TRON code late into the TRON night, especially on Thursday evenings – and sometimes I worked so late I would sleep at the office or, at one of those nameless, cash-only motels without properly working telephones. As we’ve discussed, I made this sacrifice to avoid disturbing you with all of my various late-night rattlings about the house.
Well, last Thursday evening I must have been so exhausted from my countless hours of game coding that I fell asleep at my computer – face-down, right on the keyboard. Can you imagine my embarrassment? And somehow, my face was arranged across the keyboard in such a manner that my nose and lips input my administrator security password, "ANDREA." Hmm, yes, you're right; that is strange, especially with TRON's lead visual designer also being named Andrea. It's funny, I never made that connection, but you were quite perceptive to acknowledge the coincidence, my love. You know, I've often told my colleagues that they underestimate your intelligence.
Now! I'll spare you the boring esoteric technical jargon but here's what I believe occurred, my sweet turtle: I think my security password inadvertently opened a firewall in TRON, like a kind of virtual gateway between our world and theirs. And here's where the amazing part occurred. While enjoying my well-deserved catnap, I suppose I experienced a subconscious muscle spasm in my hand, which then did spring out and topple over an entire bottle of blended rum I’d been using to clean my monitor. The bottle of rum then drained into my computer's exposed circuitry, which explains why some of my clothing and breath still smells faintly of Mai Tais. I can only speculate that the resultant short circuit caused by the rum, combined with the security gate I'd opened, fused me with my own video game's code at a molecular level, and transported me directly into the cold, electronic brain of TRON. Curse your selfish and unpredictable ways, TRON!
Baby, I don't blame you for crying. I myself was nearly frightened to tears, upon discovering all of my comfortable clothing had been replaced with a tight-fitting circuitry unitard and TRON helmet. It was terrible. I had become, quite ironically, a digital pawn in a game of my own invention. This was no carefully planned, clandestine pleasure cruise – the kind one might spend nestled in the bosom of the only woman who truly understands his intelligence and depth. No, baby – it was a futuristic nightmare of the TRON variety.
You seem puzzled. Why didn't I call you? Why didn't I call? If I may respond with a question of my own: would you mind telling me where in the vector-based chaos of TRON one might find a pay telephone? Or when I would find a spare minute in between contending with monstrous TRON battle tanks and engaging in the all-too-aptly named athletic competition, TRON'S DEADLY DISCS, to make a phone call? (Incidentally, Tron's Deadly Discs is so deadly it makes one long for the return of their previous reigning athletic competition, TRON'S REGULAR DISCS.) Perhaps, while giga-jousting with the Evil Lord Overclock at the edge of TRON’s perilous cliffs of External CD-ROM Drive, I should have said, “Hey, Lord Overclock. Sorry to interrupt you but do you suppose I could borrow your phone for a moment? I realize your giga-lance is pressed firmly into my throat and any moment I could tumble to my cyber-death in the molten surf of Lake FireWire, but I would hate to have my girlfriend wonder as to my whereabouts for one moment longer.” Honestly, dear. Be reasonable.
Kitten, you'll forgive me if I seem dismissive, but contrary to my extremely relaxed, even post-coital countenance, I have spent three harrowing, entirely loveless days in TRON. Yes, I said loveless, for the seed of love could never find purchase within TRON's cold, computerized womb. As I said before, TRON is certainly not a sexually-charged pleasure cruise spoken about in hushed tones and code words for months in advance, and then booked under assumed names, unless you consider it “pleasurable” to race light cycles at impossible speeds! I see you're shaking your head, so I will assume your answer is no. Or perhaps you derive great pleasure from running around on wildly colorful grids, while being chased by Arachnitron programs. Or maybe you'd like to have taken my place? Then I could have stayed home with a crooked uterus while you live inside a video game? Perhaps you could have summoned your powers of passive-aggressiveness to save the kingdom of TRON from the iron fisted rule of the Master Control Program, and win the favor of TRON's beautiful queen, Andrea 7. And only then was I granted safe passage home by Andrea 7, in her pleasure cruiser. Excuse me, I mean her pleasure taxi. Her TRON TAXI. TRON-TRON-TRON is where I was. And now I'm here. I see you're still shaking your head. Would it help if I told you last night I karate-chopped Q-Bert? No. OK, I see you still have questions.
Now Baby, I've explained this already but I'll do so once more to cement your trust. The reason I appear to have such a healthy-looking tan is quite simple. You see, the atmosphere on TRON is not like ours here in the brick-and-mortar world. The environment I hand-coded and that Andrea lovingly rendered for TRON allows for two suns – a regular sun and a second, female sun around which the first sun revolves tirelessly. Accordingly, TRON's atmosphere is pleasantly warm, even tropical, and tastefully perfumed. In fact, a mild breeze in TRON smells almost exactly like peaches and cream, and my goodness, try though I might, I cannot seem to wash TRON's silky aroma out of my skin – it's positively bewitching. Oh, sweet, sweet, cruel, bleepy-bloopy TRON.
As for the small purple bruises on my neck, shoulders, chest, pelvis, stomach, and foreskin – those were the result of my tussle with the flesh-sucking Whore Shark in TRON's treacherous SCSI Swamp. And this karaoke contest trophy? Well, that’s used as currency on TRON. I am positively kicking myself for neglecting to exchange it for Earth dollars at customs.
OK, I think that covers it. Oh these? I can’t be sure but you seem to be pointing at this pair of his-and-hers commemorative Carnival Cruise Tiki Statue cocktail glasses engraved with the words “SECRET” on one and “LOVERS” Those were a gift. From whom? Why, the mayor of TRON, the honorable TRONTULUS SILVERTRON…The Third. What's that? Yes, it's true that TRON has a queen – the beguiling, staggeringly attractive Andrea 7 – but it also has a mayor, doesn't it? Perhaps this complication of government accounts for so many of TRON's domestic problems. Remind me to double-check my Pascal code.
Can’t you see, in the end it's all terribly simple and easily explained. Certainly more easily explained than the weekend I missed your birthday because I was trapped inside the magnetic strip of a Diner's Club Credit Card that was used to charge an expensive dinner for two across town. Or the time I was imprisoned in an eight-track tape deck, and returned four days later with amnesia and genital crabs. Or the time my genetic clone fucked your best friend. My dove, I really must throw my hands up. It seems my life is one tumultuous affair after another, with science and technology and Andrea! I mean, TRON. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some rather important computer programming to do back at the office, where the phones have all gone dead. I’ll just grab my eyeglasses and this cologne, and – oh look! I suppose this illustrated copy of the karma sutra will make a fine mouse pad. Good night, and please don’t wait up for me.