May 2008 Archives

what piper has taught me

While Blondage is out of town, her Yorkshire terrier, Piper, is staying with me. Piper has been in my house for only four minutes and I've already learned a lot about dog training.

For instance: dogs that have historically been rewarded with treats for pissing in a house are inclined to leave prodigious volumes of piss in houses.

cheating beauty

Blondage and I were talking about a mutual friend, whose boyfriend cheated on her. Blondage's first reaction mirrored my own: "That's insane! She's so beautiful! What an idiot."

Her second reaction was also the same as mine: "Why does beauty make it worse?"

I have a theory as to why we react this way, but I thought I'd solicit your thoughts first. Also, is it different if the genders are reversed and it's a beautiful man who's cheated on?

I'll make this one quick, as I'm getting sick of this theme.

Elan and I were seeing Al Green perform live. Standing in a giant mosh pit filled with swooning middle-aged women, we didn't exactly blend. Reverend Al picked up a bouquet of long-stem roses and started tossing them one by one into the audience. Elan simply must have a rose from Al Green, I decided.

You're cringing, aren't you?

I watched his eyes. When they fixated in our general direction, I hunkered down and placed my forearm on the lower back of the woman in front of me, my shoulder between the shoulder blades of the woman beside her. And when he tossed the rose, I exploded into the air, instinctively knocking down an entire domino line of middle-aged housewives. I must have taken out a half dozen women. The rose was mangled by the violence of my rebound, but I handed it to Elan anyway. She hid her face, presumably from intense pride.

I don't want to hear it. If you don't wanna get hit, don't come into the paint. Paint belongs to me.

I received a last-minute phone call that a pickup soccer game needed players. And so I drove the haul to Chillicothe, OH, and I inserted myself at right fullback. We were a full half-hour into the game before the ball came into my hemisphere. The other team's left wing looked familiar. Really familiar. Wow, what a coincidence.

If you ever meet my brother, Russ, you will come away with the impression that when I was, say, 8 and he was 17, I beat the crap out of him and not vice-versa. The fact is that there were exactly five times I ever got the best of him. This is the story of the last.

He was surprised, too. And then we realized the significance of the moment: this was the first time we would ever compete against each other as adults. This man was once the boy who drove tomato stakes into the back yard so that I could practice ball-handling by weaving through them. Now, he was weaving through me.

He beat me badly the first time. Completely pantsed me and got an easy goal. And then I got a couple of stops. But in the scintillating scoring system that is soccer's, one goal is an enormous lead, and as such Russ could claim to be leading our personal contest. Another goal and he would achieve immortal bragging rights.

To aid his quest for immortality, his team started funneling him the ball on every advance. Eventually, inevitably, he got behind me again. I slipped. He drove toward the goal. The goalie slipped. Russ drove to point-blank range and stopped. He was going to make the net really billow. This was for immortality! And so my showboating brother selected his shot, cocked back his leg, and...

He doesn't remember what happened next, but I do. I hit him so hard from behind that I knocked him a few yards out of bounds. His skinny body made a wet celery sound. The ball remained where he'd left it. I was yellow-carded, of course, and he was awarded a penalty shot. He staggered to the ball and weakly kicked a roller. The goalie had no problem stopping it. Russ took himself out of the game and remained out for the next, oh, 15 years.

He blames me for the end of his glorious career. And for his subsequent battles with back pain. I may or may not be responsible, but what I will not concede is that I had somehow made an improper play.

"YOU TOOK ME OFF THE BALL, JOHN!" he'll snarl angrily.

"I'm sorry, did you score?"

I'd show more of the conversation, but those are essentially the only two sentences we've spoken for the last 15 years.

rock me like a hurricane

When a parent and child come for a weekend visit, you expect armloads of kid crap to migrate from the trunk of their car to the middle of every room in your house. You likewise don't expect the kid to pick up after herself. About these things, I have no complaint.

But what is up with the parents?

Having long since lost control of their own homes, they happily bring chaos into mine. At least the kids only affect the state of my home at ground level. The kids are nothing compared to the swooping carnage that are their parents. I can't even cook this morning because every square inch of counter space—kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms—is cluttered with food and trash and dishes and toys that someone was too lazy to put away.

Now pardon me while I go parent the parent. Let's just pray she's figured out the whole wiping-her-own-ass thing.

When one enforcer type happens upon another, no matter the sport, it becomes a game within a game. Actually, that's a lie. The larger game—the one with teammates and a score—ceases to matter. It becomes a primal battle. It becomes you against him. It becomes, in a word, stupid.

Dirk was the other goon in my neighborhood. He was built roughly like a washing machine. And frankly, I'd rather hit the latter. We got along fine outside of the field of play, but once the first hip-check was thrown, it was balls-out.

I threw the first hip-check during a pickup basketball game, knocking a sprinting Dirk ass-over-teakettle into some empty risers beside the court. Unlike mortal men, he gathered himself and returned to the game. He didn't even attempt to stop bleeding first. He only paused to pull a long, thin shard of steel out of his arm. It was like the end of a Terminator movie.

I was a dead man walking.

Dirk could touch the rim, which is pretty amazing feat for someone 5'6" and 225 pounds. I don't know if he could dunk. I couldn't take the chance. ("No one has ever dunked on me," I still stupidly boast.) When Dirk came charging down the court toward me looking for all the world like he intended to dunk, I defended him. He leapt into the air, knees up, toward me and, roughly, the basket. He drove one knee into my throat and the other into my nose.

I do not know if he made the shot. The next thing I remember was waking up face-down on the court, my nose broken and the game continuing at the other end. Thoughtful.

great moments in troll correspondance

I just found myself writing this to a female reader:

"I'm sure it looked for all the world like you pile-drived into his privates."
Yep. These are my readers.

Because it wasn't game-related, this is perhaps my worst ethical infraction. You have been warned.

The scene: gym class in high school. In that I had previously seen a soccer ball, I was arguably the best player on the field. A Korean exchange student, Phuong (pronounced "Foong"), was modestly talented but figured that when it came to soccer, he was culturally and genetically better equipped than Americans. He played with an aggression that exceeded his talents. He hogged every ball, took every shot, and lectured us about strategy and rules.

He also cut Stephanie down. Steph was a friend, a sweet girl and talented athlete who happened to get caught between Phuong and glory. When I was serving my time as goalie, she was playing fullback and had the temerity to impede Phuong's progress toward the goal. He tackled her hard, clamping his legs around hers and wrenching her knee perversely—and bloodying her face when she kicked her own lip. We had to help her off the field. As we did, she asked us for a favor. She asked for a little playground justice.

She needn't have asked. I was very much in the mood for a little Korean.

I inserted myself at center fullback. I cleaned the dirt off my cleats. Nothing would impede their progress. And Phuong came. And I checked him brutally, not even making a pretense of legality. And no one helped him off the field as blood erupted out of the two perfect holes in his calf.

I saw him a few years later, and he still had noticeably symmetrical scars there. He didn't speak to me. Bonus.

I was about 19. I was playing in a pickup basketball game in my father's neighborhood when, for the first time in my life, he decided to attend one of my games. Sigh. It would have to be in basketball.

Still, I appreciated his encouragement. "Move your ass, John! Jesus Christ, it's like you're running through sand! Stop passing, you pussy! Shoot! Shoot! Ha ha ha. What a brick."

After 20 minutes of such scintillating wit, we lost several players. I pointed to my 50 year old father, standing on the baseline. "Him." Everyone agreed.

Because everyone but Dad knew what was coming. (Perhaps if you had come to one of my games, Dad, you too would have known better than to whip off your shirt and trot on to the court without a care in the world.) He insisted on guarding me, naturally, and it wasn't long before I was going up for a rebound and felt him trying to go up my back.

"MY EYE!" he screamed, cupping his face like his eye might fall out of its socket. "MY FUCKING EYE!"

In his haste to leave, he left his mangled eyeglasses lying on the court. My elbow felt better the next day. His glasses and cracked eye socket, not so much.

Dad never went to one of my games again.

cheap shots i have thrown, part i

On any playground, I was always about the fourth guy picked. There were always more talented athletes, and those guys went first. But after that, we dogsbodies were allocated. I was a top-drawer enforcer. I never thought I was a particularly dirty player; I simply thrived in contact sports. I loved being able to use my physical "gifts" to jar a more talented athlete off the ball. Toughness is part of sports, or so I told myself, and my efforts were usually within the rules.

Venture outside the rules once in a while, though, and a merely aggressive player gets a "dirty" tag. This was me. And it was a different era. I'd be taking a rest on the sideline of a soccer game, and some uppity opposing player would start shredding our defense, and our coach would glare at me. "Get in there and maim that motherfucker."

One minute (and a legal slide into the ball) later, the player was helped off the field. A different era, indeed. And for my accumulated efforts, I earned a reputation. Where some kids made All-State, I got yellow-carded at the pre-game handshake.

This week, I shall chronicle the worst cheap shots I ever dispensed.

left, ditzy

If you live in Seattle, you wonder why this has no commentary. If you live anywhere else, no commentary from me is really necessary.

photo.jpg

The hairball pizza was oddly delicious, with a musky, peaty aroma I couldn't quite place.

I will, it turns out, eat pizza that's in pretty much any state. (Any state but Washington. Rimshot.) One time I was rear-ended very hard while at a stoplight and the Massey's Pizza (important because they cut long, thin, rectangular slices) accordioned. It was a solid fused plate of pizza that I cut into cubes and ate. And then there was the homemade pizza last year when my heating element split in two, caught fire, and imbued the pie with acrid, probably carcinogenic smoke. Chomp, chomp. Yum.

oven 001.jpg

One time I had a craving and Maddie and I drove out to Eagle's Pizza, about a 45 minute drive from home. When we returned, she somehow dropped the box. It flew open, and pieces of pizza skidded across the apartment's parking lot. You know what's coming. She knew it, too. She went to the other room while I brushed off the gravel and bits of broken glass and ate the pizza anyway.

And it was still a thousand-fold better than anything I've had in Seattle.

forgetting ed

When Ed died, I reacted very much like I do after a breakup. My first priority when I got home from the vet's was to sanitize the house of reminders. Oh, pictures of Ed remain. She'll always have a hallowed place on my wall. But her bed? Her dish? The sooner I could get rid of that stuff, the better I would feel. Writing yesterday's post made me think of the one Ed reminder that will never go away.

That dog shed like a spaniel.

Yesterday I hosed down the inside of the Jeep. Ya gotta love a car you can hose down. Collecting near the drain holes were ginormous clops of dog hair. I rolled my eyes. Even in death, Ed manages to get hair everywhere. Within days of sweeping the floor at home, I'll invariably watch hair bunnies roll by.

How bad is it? One time a few years ago, I returned home with a pizza. I set the box on the ottoman and got a napkin and a drink. When I opened the pizza box, there was a giant hair bunny sitting on the pizza. Now that's revolting. Having long since developed an immunity to Ed cooties, I ate the pizza anyway.

Tomorrow: I continue my stream-of-consciousness week by reminiscing about other disgusting pizzas I have eaten

forgetting sarah

My first experience with relationship debris was in the immediate post-Fucking Amy aftermath, when the movie "Chasing Amy" hit theatres and remained there for 162 years. Was that really necessary, God? Was it?

Now I'm in the post-Sarah aftermath, and along comes "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," or as every theatre owner designates it:

forgettinggsarah.jpg

There's just no avoiding relationship debris. It's not like I didn't try. By now I know the drill: throw out nothing, but hide everything where you don't have to see it. So the day after she tossed me on the pile with her other discards, I spent hours sanitizing my life of her. Every last note, toothbrush, and sock was stuffed into a box. I went into iTunes and deleted pretty much every song I purchased in the last year. I moved her email to the Estranged section. I would not be made to think of her involuntarily.

Which is to say that every day for the three months since, I've come across a scarf or shoe or underwear or hair. Several times a day. Especially the hair. The chick sheds like a Newfoundland. And then there's two TV shows with Sarah in the name, each of which has ads (with the word "SARAH" prominently emphasized, naturally) embedded into the shows I watch. Because to marketers, in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," Sarah is apparently the operative word.

Nothing, not even the real Sarah abruptly dropping by two weeks ago to try to placate me, has had the effect that the iPhone did. See if you can follow this. I had to transfer my Verizon number to AT&T, which meant losing my saved voice-mail. I had many vmails from Sarah that I don't want to hear but that I don't want to throw away, either. Verizon provides no way of saving voice mail, so I hired a third company to record it for me and mail it to me in an MP3. And so they did. And iTunes invisibly—and quite thoughtfully—sucked it into my library and put it on my iPhone, which played it when I was hurtling down I-5 the other day.

"Thank you for loving me," Sarah cooed over the stereo as I swerved all over the interstate, trying in vain to find the skip button.

I have exactly two religious beliefs:

  1. There is a God.
  2. He's out to get me.
The evidence is abundant.

the obama paradox

There once was a time when media labels for candidates, if they weren't quite accurate, were at least consistent. Reagan was the Mad Bomber. His successor, ironically, was derided as The Wimp. Clinton was Bubba. Nixon was Tricky. Kennedy was Catholic. Carter was, well, Carter. Perhaps the most hurtful label of all.

So is Obama too close to his Christian, voice-of-the-oppressed-underclass pastor, or is he the anti-religious elite? I swear it's the same people saying both.

these here are woman tracks

It occurred to me Saturday, when I was walking around my house in a t-shirt and shorts and I was still sweating like a New York waiter: a woman must be coming over. There's no other reason the thermostat in my house would be cranked so ludicrously high. And so she came and went, and the first thing I did upon her departure was throw all the windows open. I'm shocked that when cold air invaded hot, no thunderstorm developed inside my house.

Clue number two: during the visit, the roll of toilet paper somehow made it on to the spindle.

Let's just say that the initial calibration of the iPhone isn't quite the smoooooth downhill coast it's reputed to be. It's a good thing it cost so iPhucking much money, or I would have taken a sledgehammer to it already.

dahlia

I cringed on Friday when I clicked Submit. Anytime I write about race and stray from the traditional party line—this white child of privilege is deeply sorry for something TBNL—I get crucified. My lack of crucifixion this weekend gives me hope.

I will therefore tempt fate by writing about race again.

On HBO this week is a new episode of "Costas Now" that concludes with a remarkable chat with Jason Whitlock and Mike Wilbon, two black sportswriters. For all the "dialogue" on race that Obama has supposedly begun, this was the most breathtakingly honest thing I've heard all year. Or perhaps I merely identified with their sentiment that the moment they write about race, their voice-mails are going to fill up with invective from both sides.

It was Wilbon, though, who threw down a unique challenge: "If it's just Jason and me [writing about race] all the time," he said, "That just sounds like preaching. It's lecturing. It's not engaging. White men, specifically, do not get absolved from responsibility for writing about race and this culture. It's an obligation to engage the reader." When Costas pointed out that any white writer who departs from the traditional narrative will not be well served, Wilbon's answer was essentially Tough.

Good point. At most I can be called racist or, more likely, an obtuse white guy. From what he said, Wilbon's voice-mail gets lots more varied insults than that.

obamania

The Reverend Wright business doesn't affect my favorable impression of Obama—lord knows I wouldn't want what my idiot friends say held against me professionally—but it does affect my impression of Reverend Wright. He's the sort of guy you hope is mentally ill instead of just another hate-mongering, self-aggrandizing, invective-spewing asshole.

Is it just me, or did Wright just torpedo his friend's candidacy so that Wright can later reap the rewards of victimhood? Nah. It ain't just me. The larger irony here is that Wright has put Obama in the bizarre position where a vote against Obama is conceivably a vote against interracial contempt and distrust, a repudiation of racism.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

But I'm sure I just don't understand.

overheard

Actually uttered by the author, without a trace of irony or self-awareness:

"Wait! I'm not done belittling your lack of self-esteem!"

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