December 2008 Archives

hell pelican

During the dinner that Sarah and I would both come to think of as our first date, she suggested that we go to this tiny Mexican restaurant owned by honest-to-God Mexicans. This is unusual in Seattle, where Mexican restaurants are all seemingly owned by Welshmen who gargle hot candle wax.

Over dinner she gushed about how much she loved the place. "I even love that ugly pelican picture!" she said.

"That? It's really ugly," I replied.

"I know! But it's somehow perfect."

For her birthday a month later, I knew what had to be done. I went back to the restaurant and asked to speak to the owner. She was a 60-ish Mexican immigrant straight from central casting, right down to the clunky jewelry and the scarf over her head. As she wiped her hands on a towel, I told her I wanted to buy the pelican picture.

Her English was thickly accented but impeccable. "Oh noooo," she said, shaking her head loudly like only immigrants can. "That peecture was given to me by my seester. Before she died."

Uh oh. This is really gonna cost me.

And so I did what white guys do best, soullessly peeling off $20 bills until she couldn't not break her own heart by parting with the picture her dead sister had given her. I believe she sold her soul for $140 that day. And as I absconded with the picture, quickly, lest someone talk her out of the sale, she and another woman started to weep.

I am going straight to hell for this. Well, not just for this. But this is very possibly the final nail.

I gave the pelican to Poor Sarah, who said she loved it. Nine months later, figuring it wasn't exactly going to be hung in Rich's house, I asked her to return it. She didn't protest. Surely she didn't want to look at it any more than I wanted her to have it.

And so I snuck back into the Mexican restaurant and hung it on its still-bare nail, right over the perfectly sized clean spot on the wall.

pelican 003.JPG

tuesday morning

I knew the exact moment I wanted to break up with the Approval Whore.

Oh sure, there was a long demise marked by countless wincing "Really? Seriously?" incidents and the slow, inexorable death of love. But there was one incident from which she never recovered.

in-love-and-death.jpgI'd helped her come up with perfect Christmas gifts. We paid particular attention to her mother and to Joyce, her new friend at work. The AW really wanted to nail their gifts. She bought and rebought them, and over the months before Christmas I provided thoughtful feedback and suggestions during our multiple shopping excursions. This is what partners do.

And then Christmas morning, I unwrapped my own gifts.

"Really? Seriously?" I thought.

They were curious. I remember ugly towels that had the approximate texture of a burlap bag containing crushed gravel. I remember a wooden ship with a broken mast that had been glued back together. And I remember these were the highlights.

And then she lamented that Tuesday Morning hadn't had much of a selection yesterday. Yesterday, of course, had been Christmas Eve—approximately three months after she'd started Christmas shopping. And Tuesday Morning, for those of you blessed with partners who don't put a thousand times more thought and planning into co-workers than into you, is a dumpy discount store. Everything doesn't cost 99¢, but most things there should.

Not really wanting any monuments to how little she cared about me, after she left I threw everything out. She never noticed.

• • •


I tell you this story because for Christmas 2008, six years later, Blondage gave me a present in a plastic Tuesday Morning bag. And let me tell you, the parody is one helluva lot funnier than the original.

• • •


Faith in you people runs strong in my circle:
Blondage says (8:45 AM):
God, I hope your readers know what a parody is

taking stock of my life choices

You might waste too must time listening to "making of" commentaries when you hear this sentence uttered with a straight face:

"The Boomer's vomit has a couple of interesting mechanics."

shagged

"I think that's brilliant," Katrina will say, barely able to suppress the admiration making her face visibly twitch. "So when acid-washed jeans come back, you'll be wearing them first."

Exactly.

Having seen bellbottoms and pastels and any number of similar fashion abominations come and go in my lifetime, I'll be damned if I'm throwing out my acid-washed jeans from 1989. I keep them in a plastic tub in a storage shed. They'll be back. It's only a matter of time and patience. It's like sitting on gold.

"And their waistline is what, again?" Katrina will ask, the expected wave of admiration so crushing, this time, that she physically braces against the table.

"32."

"Isn't that, like, your thigh measurement now?"

• • •

Yesterday I was in Home Depot and saw something I never thought I'd see return, in my lifetime or anyone else's. Yep, ghastly shag carpeting is back, folks. The horror, the horror. Now an entire new generation of kids can hunt in vain for the food that hit the floor and disappeared. Forever.

shag.jpg

l'chaim

Yeah. Doing a survey over a holiday when my hits go down 98% was pure genius.

I thank my couple of Jewish readers for their responses.

is it writing? i hadn't noticed.

Keeping with the cheese theme, Four Weddings also made me think about the worst lines of dialogue I've ever heard. Four Weddings, famously, has the Dread Andie McDowell utter the following tripe:

Hugh: There I was, standing there in the church, and for the first time in my whole life I realized I totally and utterly loved one person. And it wasn't the person next to me in the veil. It's the person standing opposite me now... in the rain.

Andie: Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed.

CLUNK!

four_weddings,0.jpg

Several other groaners immediately come to mind. How about Hayden Christensen's permutations on sand?

Natalie: We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.

Hayden (while suggestively caressing Natalie's arm): I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft...and smooth.

And then a movie later, they give this stubborn floater another flush:
Natalie: "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo."
Presumably she means "creepily."

Hugh Grant might be the finest actor of his generation. In Notting Hill, he keeps a straight face through this:

Julia: I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Those are mine. How about you? Does love mean never having to say you're sorry? Should Baby be put in a corner?

I think I already know Dorkass' response. From The Wedding Singer:

Nobody treats Billy Idol that way!

break a leg. break two.

In last week's "this actor almost ruined an otherwise fine movie" survey, one person took exception to my saying Tom Cruise ruined Jerry Maguire. Each to his own, but I think his performance is unwatchable. To me, he's always Tom Cruise acting. The man cannot connote vulnerability. The man cannot connote normality.

One I can't believe I forgot: Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda. If there's ever been a bigger talent disparity between one actor and the rest of the cast, I've never seen it. My god, the rope-humping scene. My god.

Speaking of Cruise, Katie Holmes was the most nominated actress. She wasn't very good in Batman Begins or Thank You for Smoking, to be sure, although one could make an argument in the latter that she was playing an insincere actress of sorts, so false notes served the character. Yeah. It's not a bug; it's a feature!

Keanu Reeves was the most nominated actor, male or female. His offenses are legion, but one voter remembered a chestnut I forgot: his turn as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing. Shudder. I was unable to find a quick clip from the movie, but in this interview you get to hear his English accent. Or not.

Remember: it's remarkable acting.

achoo

I've been laid out with a cold for a couple days, and I've been excited to press the streaming TV into service. I've watched quite a few Netflix movies. Last night: Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Is there a good movie more marred by a single performance than Four Weddings is by Andie MacDowell's? She's just dreadful. Her leaden line readings suck the life out of not only her own scenes, but out of adjacent scenes. And it's bloody impossible to believe that Hugh Grant would wreck his insides over her. You have to work hard to imagine it.

I think the answer to my question may well be Jerry Maguire. Tom Cruise is cringe-inducing in what's otherwise a good movie, but considering that he's in every single scene, the impact is lethal. He needs to play a man verging on insanity, but it's a bizarre, clueless portrayal by an actor who hasn't known "sane" for quite some time. The first time I watched that movie, I couldn't help but wonder how much better it would have been with John Cusack or, better yet, Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. Any real actor, really.

Honorable mention: baseball "expert" Susan Sarandon in the batting cage in Bull Duhram. Yikes. Keep your eye on the ball. Put your weight into it. And for the love of God, wear a bra.

roaring

I once nearly wrecked a car from laughter. Phil and I were driving from the Oregon coast to Spokane, and along the way we tweaked the lyrics to the song "Memory" from Cats. It was an inside joke about and amongst friends, and the laugh won't translate, but the result of our riffing on one another's lyrics was, in fact, the biggest, most debilitating laugh of my life. Other cars backed off 1000 feet. They were that scared of my suddenly erratic driving.

Oddly, the second-biggest laugh was also at the Oregon coast. I was in our rental house, watching the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. Don Imus was speaking. He was typically unfunny. He wasn't even trying to be funny, really. He was listing the many virtues of right-wing nutcase Pat Buchanan, and I was semi-tuning him out. And then...

"Did you know, most people don't know this, but did you know that a relative of Pat Buchanan's was killed at Auschwitz?"

I tuned back in. What?!?

"Yeah. One of his uncles fell out of a guard tower."

I completely lost control of my tear ducts. It was ten minutes before I could draw a breath. This was bloody genius, right down to the five minutes of tedium beforehand. I couldn't have been sucker-punched better.

I've shown you mine. Show me yours.

best and brightest

"Your sister is taking photos of the dog," said my brother-in-law. "It will be a few minutes."

I slumped in my chair and waited for the dog's headshot to be perfected. I had called my eldest sister to discuss our middle sister, the one with the mental problems. And discuss her we did. And we also talked about the dog, the weather, the Buckeyes. She talked about her Secret Santa exchange at work. She bought her designated recipient a Browns mug, "even though I'm a Steelers fan." This was news to me. Her husband is a Steelers fan, but her? Never once heard her mention it.

"If you were really a Steelers fan, you wouldn't buy a Browns mug," I replied. "You'd get them a Steelers mug."

"Huh. That's exactly what my husband said."

And so what passes for witty repartee in my family ran its course, and as I got off the phone, my thoughts drifted where they go after every phone call home.

My siblings are fantastically stupid and uninteresting. They are inarticulate, ill-read citizens of an exceedingly small world. I say things like "[Our ill sister] needs some structure in her life. Without her husband and job to occupy her active mind, she's got way too much time to count the conspiracies against her." and they're baffled by abstractions like "structure" and "the."

"What do you mean?" they invariably ask.

This is what vexes me after every phone call: the lowest IQ among us five kids is 127. The human average is 100. Just how monumentally stupid is the average person if these mouth-breathers so definitively trounce their IQ score? My siblings can't be exceptional. They just can't.

Time to add another lock to the doors.

philosophizing at albertson's

I was standing in the line at Albertson's this morning, fuming about the teetering shit-sandwich life has been serving me lately. Any act of kindness on my part has been punished severely and ruthlessly. But on the upside, my bare feet are constantly finding dog excrement. So there's that.

The guy behind me in line had 4 items to my 12. "Would you mind terribly if I went ahead of you?" he asked, already inching ahead of me.

"Yeah. Actually, I kinda would mind."

"Asshole," he snapped.

I couldn't even manage to care. "I might as well be," I shrugged.

And then I went to my car, and it was neither on fire nor being trampled by rabid yaks. So things are improving.

I heard from my adopted Spokane family yesterday. Lynn, this time. Every such conversation invariably leads to her asking about every female name I've ever mentioned.

"So what's going on with x?" she'll say leadingly. "How's y?" Are z through gg still happily married?"

"With love, Lynn, kindly shut your nag-hole."

For whatever reason, the holidays bring it up a notch. The implicit becomes painfully explicit. "Well, we just want to see you happy before we die, is all."

Happy meaning married.

I've never noticed any particular correlation between those two concepts, but despite the abundant evidence to the contrary in her daily life, Lynn still devoutly practices the religion happiness = marriage.

"Can you remind me again why you and Allie didn't work out?"

Jesus Christ pushin' a hand-cart. Now she's mining 1995?

"Please don't. We are and always should have been friends. It wasn't even close."

"You say that, but it just seems like a shame."

"And the fact that she's got a family of her own now, this doesn't take her off your random list of prospects?"

"Is she happy in her relationship?"

"Elated. And I like him more than I like her. Now can we drop this?"

"It just seems like you two have such a special relationship, is all."

"If by that you mean she doesn't annoy the fuck out of me like this, then yes, it's a very special relationship indeed."

"What about your boss, Flo? Is she single?"

purple rain

Once a year, I bought Maddie a new canister of mace, just like the package suggested. Sure, I knew it was a scam, but then I would imagine standing over her crumpled corpse, mace still in her hand, and some cop walking up with his thumbs in his pockets. "She emptied the whole canister into his face," he would drawl. "But it appears that it was 14 months old. At that age, it's effectively chocolate silly string." And so even though I knew the year-thing was a scam, I gladly bought into the scam.

Maddie examined her new mace as I pulled on to I-71. She flicked the trigger guard with her finger, testing its hinge. And she somehow pressed the trigger with the mace aimed perfectly at my face.

Speed: 75
Traffic: Packed tightly
Visibility: None
Pain: Transcendent
Dye color: Rapist Purple

It's quite impossible to keep your eyes open when they're filled with mace. Shutting eyes is mace's sole purpose, really. It is equally impossible to pull over to I-71's four-foot wide berm against the cement divider during rush hour without the use of said eyes. So with my left hand, I physically pulled my eyes open—and excruciatingly, exposed them to air—for 20 more seconds as the Buick slashed across traffic and into the berm.

I'd be interested in having a mother try this. I'd like to know how the pain compares to childbirth, in severity if not in duration. Me, I would rather gouge out my eyes with acid-slathered icepicks than experience this again.

Maddie was uncharacteristically quiet. And then, even before I could open my eyes, she began laughing at the purple dye. The laughter built the whole way home. At some point, she apologized while she was still laughing, which was apparently really funny.

I didn't leave the house for a week. I got her back, though, by using all of her foundation makeup, which I'm told was really expensive. Yeah. We're even.

relativity

theory-of-relativity-thumb3733903.jpgWhen the announcer said that "the Steelers have just scored 14 points in the last 22 seconds," I heard the same sound I did back in Astronomy class, when Dr. Newsom introduced me to the fine print of Relativity and my brain made a rusty-gerbil-wheel squeak. My mind groaned in protest Sunday night, too. This announcer's stopwatch was as rubbery as the spaceship's ruler of yore.

He spoke in football time, of course, which is famously relative. I went back and timed the 14 points. That 22 seconds actually lasted 10 minutes, 12 seconds. And there wasn't even a time-out or a review.

And I wonder where my Sundays go.

new diet craze!

My fingers tremble with excitement as I share with you my newly found secret to weight loss.

  1. Buy bottled coyote urine. In my case, it wasn't just a fetish thing. I also used it to scare raccoons away. Whatever its use, this putrid black toxin is the rankest substance you can conjure.
  2. Accidentally slop some of it on your hands. Just a dab will do.
  3. Simply try to eat. If you can gag down any food (or get the stench off your hands within the half-life of 16 pounds of depleted uranium), you're more man than me.

crushed

It's with no pride whatsoever that I can say the following: the times in my life when a woman has told me she had a crush on me, it took me by complete surprise.

"Me? Seriously?" is usually followed by a thoroughly baffled "Why?"

Significantly, seldom has the woman used the present tense. The crush is always in the past. As in "I used to have a crush on you." I can't help but mentally complete their sentence.

...but then you opened your mouth and ruined it.

What's the "used to" about, besides giving me a complex? As always, I have my thoughts, but I want to hear yours first.

fonts! woo!

I just stumbled upon this 1984 clip of Steve Jobs demoing the Mac for the first time. What a time capsule. Just listen to the audience go batshit over, essentially, not seeing a DOS prompt. This is the first graphical interface they've ever seen.

This was only 24 years ago, but it somehow feels like centuries.

hot or not?

Whenever I'm asked who I'd be gay for, my answer lately has been "Clive Owen." A man's man, he, and talented to boot. A no-brainer.

And then I watched the DVD extras on "Sin City." Included among them is behind-the-scenes footage in which Clive Owen and Benecio del Toro perform take after take of one scene. Before each take, we watch our hero Clive dig for boogers.

Now, perhaps this is simply professionalism. Perhaps Sir Lawrence Olivier himself was in up to his wrist between takes. But one thing's for certain: my heterosexuality is not in imminent danger. The only way Owen could be any less hot is if he actually ate the booger.

clive.jpg

happy returns

Today marks the beginning of my third gig with my once and future boss Annette. A Stank troll, she's also a private person and probably wouldn't be thrilled if I published my favorite Annette stories here, which is a shame, 'cause you'd love her.

If I had a nickel for every time this woman gave me a "You don't really believe the nonsense that's coming out of your mouth, do you?" stare, I'd be a...

Actually, I pretty much do have those nickels. Those nickels bought my house. That stare has been fairly unremitting for 11 years.

Fact: in our previous gig together, Annette kept a folder of all my resignations. How does one quit multiple times, you reasonably ask? One has a boss who guilts him into staying for her sake. To borrow from Seinfeld, quitting on Annette is like knocking over a Coke machine. You don't knock it right over; you have to rock it back and forth a few times first.

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