March 2009 Archives

canadianese

The last time I visited British Columbia and presumed to mock Canadians in this space, I was corrected by Eastern Canadians. A whole lot of them. BC is not Canada, they uniformly told me. That's like us visiting the Ozarks and generalizing about all Americans.

Fair enough.

And so I visited the Canadian Ozarks last weekend, and from the moment I left the States to the moment I returned, I found myself using the kind of English spoken by Americans in Italy. It's just like normal English, only because the listener doesn't understand, it's screamed.

"Where do you want us to leave our bags?"

The obtuse clerktard waved her hand in the general vicinity of a teetering, unattended pile of luggage in the corner of the room.

"HUH? WHO DO WE LEAVE THEM WITH?"

"Me." She wasn't moving from behind the counter.

"DO WE GET A TICKET OR SOMETHING THAT PROVES THEY'RE OUR BAGS?" Mike tried.

"Yes." She still wasn't moving.

"HOW WILL YOU KNOW WHICH BAGS ARE OURS?" I tried.

This continued for several minutes. I was considering putting on hand puppets to explain the situation, but finally, seemingly without provocation, the clerk walked across the room and asked us which bags are ours so that she could tag them.

This is every person I've ever met from BC. Even dealing with a street vendor is a 10 minute exercise in shouting painfully-enunciated English at a 5th grade reading level, then eating a hot dog handed to you with bare, visibly leprous hands. At about hour three in BC, I so swell with patriotism that I can't wait to sit in the Customs line.

Moving southward, we sat in the Customs line for 90 minutes. Northward had only been 15. The disparity is no doubt due to an exodus of refugees with hoarse voices.

And after our 90 minute wait, we were greeted at the Canadian-American border by a Mexican border patrol agent. Ah, home.

my big fat gay weekend

Mike and I went to Vancouver this weekend. Longtime readers may recall that Mike once gave me a most precious gift indeed. In a spasm of bad judgment, he once (presumably on behalf of the entire gay community) pronounced my use of the word "cocksucker" to be inoffensive. I was incredulous. "Knock yourself out," he shrugged.

I felt exactly like Florida State University must have felt when they found some obscure, senile Seminole chief to endorse their use of "Seminoles" as a mascot. It's too late now, Seminoles and cocksuckers alike, too late now. Floridians and I are taking our dubious permissions and running. The cows have permanently fled the barn.

A gay guy and a straight guy walked into a bar in Vancouver...

Several bars, in fact. Mike suggested we go to a bear bar, where, he promised, "you'd be Marilyn Monroe." I declined.

It's amazing how a weekend with a gay buddy makes us both hyper-attuned to all things gay. I'd already chosen the headline for this post when Dick's Supplies passed to the left of Mike's car. I debated whether that, the White Spot Cafe, some place called Booster Juice, or Christina Aguilera being on the radio was gayer. Then we stopped and saw Darcy, who lamented that, thanks to her recent move, I was no longer "just a ferry ride away."

I shot Mike a look. "Well, no, I did drive," he corrected.

We decided that Darcy's line would certainly remain the gayest of the weekend, and so it did, right up until we were strolling the streets of Vancouver and I un-self-consciously remarked that I wanted to munch on some hot vendor nuts.

There were countless such moments.

We eventually went to the weekend's main event, a Q&A session with writer/director Kevin Smith. Very early into the 3-hour program, a guy told the whole audience that he'd composed a bucket list of 80-odd things he wanted to do with his life before he died, and he wondered if Smith could help with number 82: getting naked in front of thousands of people. Smith obliged, and thus came the cherry on top of my big, fat gay weekend.

I would like to apologize for my phone's detail-obscuring shutter speed. I would like to, but I just can't.

gay.jpg

reply-all

When I teach college writing, we spend a day discussing professional email. You'd think modern students would already be able to send a professional-sounding email, and you'd be right. What we concentrate on is email gaffes.

"For the love of God, little-R! Little-R!" I plead, thinking of no one more than myself in a year, when they're my spamming co-workers.

I also tell the following story.

My boss Maggie was emailing her friend, who like us worked at Microsoft. Maggie ripped our boss, calling her a "mouth-breathing, puseous twat-tard" among other things, as if other things are necessary. And then Maggie's email proceeded with the normal business of friendship, discussing dinner, shoes, and motherhood. She recommended that the friend check out the "new mom" e-mail group at Microsoft. "Its alias is..."

She typed the alias in the CC line, just to verify that she had the right one.

"...newmom."

No, she didn't delete the group's alias from the CC line. That mail went out to thousands of women, including the twat-tard. Humiliated and apologetic, Maggie became both legend and corporate cautionary tale overnight.

Astoundingly, Maggie was not fired.

Less astoundingly, her husband was a senior VP.

placebo

I was just back in Ohio for some unpleasant business. But then that's a given, isn't it? Few venture to Cleveland to have a hot 19 year-old masseuse rub crystallized ginger into their back while Enya plays in the background. Nope, this time there was zero possibility of a happy ending.

Anyway.

God, is it hard to diet on the road. I was in the land of wings, delis, favorite childhood pizza, and fantastic ice cream parlors that serve real food, too. I drove past them all, munching on beef jerky. I never particularly liked beef jerky, but man, I loathe it now.

Anyway.

It's good to be back in Seattle, where I can't think of a single tempting thing to eat.

she's adopted

The thought had already occurred to me at various dog parks, where Dex responds to friendly overtures from other dogs by falling on her back and screaming as though stabbed.

The thought was never more clear than last week, when I introduced the dog door into her life. I removed the door so that it was just a hole in the wall, and I put chicken breast on the other side. Despite my saccharine cooing, it took her nearly a half hour to work up the courage to step through the hole, grab a hunk of chicken breast, and then lunge back through the hole backward, as though she risked being guillotined if she lingered.

Christ. My dog is a complete pussy.

staving off stupidity

I'm rolling back my odometer.

It's not by design, but nonetheless, in most facets of my life I suddenly find myself looking backwards. I'm taking a class for the first time in forever. I've lost some weight, so I've been unpacking clothes from 8 years ago. I've reconnected with friends from 10 or more years ago. It wasn't until I excavated my college notes, though, that I started to note the patten.

I can't speak for others my age, but I'm ever-aware of my intellectual degradation. Where my contribution to a conversation about, say, music used to be "You know, Bach is a bit mathematical for my tastes. If I'm going for Baroque—ha, ha!—I'll reach for Handel," nowadays it's just a private thought: Fuck. I used to know something about this.

I hate that I no longer know why planets momentarily go backwards on the ecliptic, or exactly how much electricity is lost to resistance in power lines. I hate that I can't think of a single example of an object complement. I hate that I can't name all the composers who died of syphilis they'd contracted from Clara Schumann. The quadratic formula...actually, I don't much mind forgetting that. Time can keep it. Oh, who are we kidding? You have to know something once in order to forget it.

And thus it's not self-betterment that drives me to revisit my college notes; it's self-preservation. My younger self is tutoring my intellectually enfeebled self.

My younger self was apparently an arrogant little peckerwood. He wrote a lot of snotty asides about his professors. I like him.

battlestar half-gloat

I claim partial credit for calling the ancestors-of-the-whole-human-race thing. And frankly, my hack time-travel device would have made more sense than two Earths, angels, and Jimi Hendrix vibrating throughout the universe.

battlestar predictions

The finale is tonight, so it's time for me to share the prediction heretofore only shared with Stank troll Chris.

Destroyed Earth
+
Unfamiliar Cylon models found amongst the human corpses
+
A lot of babble about "this has all happened before and will happen again"
+
Star Trek writers
=
Time travel, where the corpses found on earth are actually the descendants of our latter-day human and Cylon characters. The final five plus Baltar and his harem would make sense.
I thought this had an outside chance of coming true until last week's revelation of a black hole "singularity." Now? Inside chance.

eeek, part deux

I love having a clean house. I despise cleaning my house. Ergo, housecleaner. A Metamuvillian comes to my house twice a month to push Dex's errant kibble around with a broom. On two occasions where her husband was otherwise occupied, she's asked if she can bring her toddler. I grudgingly okayed it.

Yesterday she was scheduled to come at 10am. She requested pushing it to noon. At noon, she called to say it would be 4:30. At 4:05, she pulled down my driveway. I noted the exact time of her arrival because I was in the hot tub. Naked.

Not one, not two, but three screaming kids spilled out of the car, ages 2, 7, and 10.

I pause now to remind you (if not her) that I work from home.

It took the 7 year old a microsecond to start bounding loudly down my deck, from which he launched his body six feet to the ground. He also sprayed Windex on my humidor, my floor, and the afghan Elizabeth crocheted me. The oldest stood on Dex's bed in order to climb my very expensive mounted binoculars, atop which rest my even more expensive camera. The youngest merely threw open pudding cups to the floor. And he tormented Dex, confined to her crate through the whole ordeal because of her recent surgery.

I was outside, venting to Allie on the phone, when I looked inside and saw the seven year old using his grubby hand to brush his food crumbs off the just-cleaned glass coffee table on to the just-mopped floor. Suddenly inspired to race through my house screaming, he then trampolined off the couch, making sure to land in the crumbs and deposit the pillow that goes against my face into said pile.

"How does this sort of stuff happen to you?" she asked. "I mean, it happens to the rest of us maybe once a decade. It happens to you every week."

I don't know. Apparently I was Idi Amin in a previous life. Oh wait...our lives overlapped. Perhaps Hitler, then. Or Pontious Pilate.

I went back inside to sweep up the debris. It was Goldfish crackers.

"Say," I asked, already knowing the answer full goddamned well. "Are you missing a Curious George book?

the grandma diet

"We're going to see your grandmother this weekend," my parents would declare to a chorus of groans. "Hey, knock it off. She's getting old now. This might be the last time you ever see her."

I can't speak for the older kids, but I heard that particular speech at least two dozen times. I didn't want my grandmother to die, particularly, but I sure was getting tired of having her imminent death used against me.

She lived in a ghetto in Sharon, PA, which doesn't top anyone's list of travel destinations. Nevertheless, several times a year, we would pile out of the station wagon and trudge up the steps to see our perpetually dying grandmother.

Grandma was straight out of central casting. A Polish immigrant in the 20s, she still dressed like she had just stepped off the boat. I would peek in the window and see her in her shawl, boiling the flavor out of some kielbasa. She would peek back through her 30 year-old glasses, then exclaim something in Polish. I don't know what she said. I only know a little Polish, and it's all related to card-playing. I concluded that she was professing her gratitude for my having given up a weekend of watching cartoons.

Arrivals at Grandma's house were ritualistic. We would enter single file, by age, which made me the last of seven. Grandma would greet us with revolting, sloppy old-person kisses and an assessment of our body mass index.

"Linda!" she would say to my eldest sister. "You too skeeny! Eat, eat!"

"Mort! You too skeenny too! They don't feed you?"

"Nadine! Julie! You both too skeeny! Oh my lord, eat!"

"John! Oh so skeeny!" And then she would shove a Polish pastry in my mouth. And so it went, every time. No matter how fat one of us got—we're Slavic, after all—there was always Grandma to make us feel better.

One day when we arrived, the processional went as always. Nadine and Julie has just been pronounced emaciated waifs, and Grandma turned her attention to me.

"John!" She looked me up and down. "You look...good."

Jesus Christ! I thought. I've really let myself go! And thus did I begin the first diet of my life.

the upside of layoffs

I just found this chestnut. When I was a manager and on vacation, the utterly charming writing staff put together this hallway tribute.

eeek!

Dex was spayed last week, so she's been wearing the Cone of Obedience and generally going insane. Which means I've generally been going insane. The backs of my knees are noticeably abrased from her incessant cone-ramming.

I thought little of it, then, when she was acting all loopy near my loveseat. She was whimpering and twirling and trying to wedge a cone 1.5 feet in diameter into the 1 inch space under the loveseat, an act that is so consistent with her overall intellect that again, I didn't think much of it. And then I saw something move down there.

Step 1: put on shoes.

Step 2: move the couch.

The mice scattered, leaving their lovely little foam nest to be destroyed. That was an unwelcome sight, but not nearly so much as what surrounded it: dozens, maybe hundreds, of Goldfish crackers. Thing is, I've never eaten Goldfish crackers in my life, let alone purchased them, let alone discarded them under my couch.

It was an enigma wrapped in a mystery covered in crackers. Right up until I found this in their midst. I love my friends' kids. Looove them.

book1.jpg

by fire or by ice?

There are two reasons to stay friends with your ex:

  • you enjoy angrily arguing about earth-shattering things like whether you said "affect" or "effect" in 1994.
  • you enjoy antagonizing them.
I am in the latter camp. A recent text exchange:
ME: "I'm in the new restaurant. Cute waitress with brown ponytail just introduced herself, told me her life story, asked for mine. Looks 25 if she's a day. Ring on finger. Full speed ahead!"

ALLIE: "Kill me now."

next

You know the guy.

He's hanging around your girlfriend a bit too much. He waxes sensitively about his life and loves. He's so thoughtful. He gardens. He weeps. He breast-feeds blind puppies. He thanks her for watering his plants by insisting that he take her out for a candlelit dinner. It's the least he owes her, he says. He tells her "Love ya," spelled noncommittally, just in case. He pumps her full of (for now) obsequious flattery.

take2sign4.jpgYou know what he's up to. He knows. She knows. He's waiting you out. He's jockeying for pole position, waiting for the clock to run out on you. And if you're me, you say something to her.

"Jesus H. Christ, has he no shame? Why doesn't he just hold up a sign that says Queue Here?"

The overwhelming majority of my girlfriends have acknowledged what he's up to. "Yeah, probably so," they typically chuckle. "But believe me, you have nothing to worry about. No way."

Sated, I then drop it.

Twice in my romantic history, I got a different reaction. Of my concerns about Todd, the Approval Whore called me paranoid, jealous, downright insane. She raised major cain about my many deficiencies and my appalling lack of trust, right up until she fucked Todd. Poor Sarah was no less damning. My suspicions about Rich reflected far more poorly on my insecurities and lowly character than on anyone else's, she spat, even after she fucked him.

Twice, a girlfriend has attacked me for pointing out the obvious. Twice, they ended up doing the guy. Pattern? I'm starting to think so.

"Next time I get attacked for pointing out some pining douchebag," I told Blondage last night, "I know exactly what to do."

"Yeah, you ask her So should I start having your mail forwarded to his house?"

I love when someone writes my posts for me.

ex business model

The restaurant is billed as quiet and romantic, and I suppose if I were to look at a snapshot of its interior, I too would say so. But when actually animated, the place was as quiet and romantic as a trip to the Gap.

"Good morning, sir! Can I help you find something? No? How about now? Okay, if you have any questions, I'll be standing right next to you, quite possibly on your foot. How about now? Now? Now?"

I don't know if the restaurant thought I was a food critic or what, but every staff member felt obliged to introduce themselves, their history, and that of the restaurant. I knew that our waiter was a born-again Christian who's dating a Mormon and oh-my-gosh-how-is-that-ever-going-to-work-out? before I knew the specials or, gravely, that they serve no liquor.

Somewhere around the third course, the interfaith fluid-disseminater revealed that the restaurant's owner/manager and chief chef are ex-spouses.

"Whoa," I said.

"No, it's not bad at all," he replied. "They get along for the most part."

But that wasn't why I blanched. "No, I didn't mean that. I was just feeling for the rest of you guys. I mean, don't they walk around—"

At this point, I pantomimed aggressively, if not psychotically, pressing a button.

"—pushing each others buttons and generally driving the staff insane?"

"Oh my god," he whispered, guiltily looking over his shoulder. "It's like you work here."

Yes. Yes it is.

obama's economy

This morning I saw my third or fourth article about whether we can start blaming Obama for the economy yet. One has to wonder 1) what a president can do 2) in six weeks that 3) he has not already done, but no matter. We Americans love crediting and blaming one guy, preferably the guy we give very little control over matters economic. All we need to know: are we there yet?

• • •

The Wednesday after W's re-election in 2004, I watched Nancy Pelosi on every network, applying the lesson she'd learned: the American people need to realize that Democrats are born-again Christians too! Holy hell, I thought. That's what we need: both parties run by the same zealots. Genius lesson.

I would have been pleased to see Pelosi's vapid moment stand alone in the annals of politics, but four years later here we are, with the GOP desperately looking for a new face of their party. It doesn't much matter whose face it is, just so long as it's not lily white like, say, the GOP. Because the American people need to realize that we're brown too, I hear in my head.

Yeah, that's exactly why you guys lost. The seasons changed, and so did the colors in fashion. So slip into a slinky little Jindal. He brings out your eyes and coordinates nicely with your Steele.

Genius.

eminently resistible headlines of the week

Hard to say which link I was less tempted to click, really.

"Breastfeeding other women's children" (Newsweek)

"Responsable emailling" (Aquent)

panning for gold

"Hi, John," said a vet I barely remember visiting—once, for eye drops—"I noticed that Dex is getting old enough to be spayed. We generally like to do that at six months, and as luck would have it, we're having a special on spaying this month. Can I make an appointment for you?"

"No thank you. I'm planning on doing it myself."

A sale?

In choosing a vet, Dex and I have had a few false-starts, so several vets know she exists. Each of them has cold-called me about spaying (and microchipping) her. One of them twice. It seems as though I'm the sediment in some bubbling stream, and Dex's ovaries are sizable nuggets of gold.

The economic downturn has made salesmanship extra-obnoxious. The number of catalogs going straight from my mailbox to the trash can five feet away has doubled. Ditto the spam in my Inbox. When I recently bought sunglasses and picture-framing and an oil change, the aggression was undisguised. The merchants would upsell me, goddammit, or die trying. Allow me to vote for the latter.

In Time magazine, there's an article about how the recession is impacting and changing the restaurant business. Out are pretentious, expensive dishes; in are comfort foods. Out, bottled water; in, tap water. And so forth. I read the article in a restaurant. Or I tried to. I was interrupted constantly by various staff.

An aside: when I'm stressed out, one of my favorite means of decompressing is to dine alone. I want to read, have food and drink brought to me, and not have to attend to the needs of a human being, including myself. When I'm in this zone, chatty staff is decidedly unwelcome. They make me stabby. I'm paying to relax. I can be irritated for free.

So I'm in the restaurant, ducking and weaving "where do you live?" and "my name is Erin, what's yours," trying to get through the bloody article. And then I read a quote from a restaurant owner who said that during a recession, the staff has to turn dining out into a relationship between staff and customer. No more snooty waiters, he says. The staff must chat every customer up, ingratiating themselves into repeat patronage.

So you think, motherfucker
, I thought. I crumbled the magazine into a roll and waited for someone to beat with it.

gratitude

I would be ungrateful if I didn't finish yesterday's story with its happy ending. Mortified by all the "I'm buying plane tickets!" email, Frank Frank's employer decided to make it up to me. They offered me four free box seats to any Seattle Mariners game I wanted. True, it's not like it's Angels box seats, but it's the best one could expect locally. Except for the Tacoma Rainiers and Everett Aquasox, of course.

thrown blunder the bus

I saw the wave of pain course through Frank Frank's face, then run down his spine and his pants legs, until finally his shoes overflowed with dread. Dorkass' husband had just accidentally e-mailed my credit card information to a bunch of people, each of whom thought it was just hi-lar-i-ous to reply-all "Thanks for the plasma TV, Frank!" or "I'm going to Disney World!"

Was Frank Frank pained because he had compromised my credit card? That he had done something so, well, stupid? Perhaps. But when the pain finally manifested into words, those dejected words were the following:

"Daaaaaaaamn. There's no way I'm not going to be in tomorrow's post." He actually hung his head.

And then he got an idea. An awful idea. Frank Frank got a wonderful, awful idea.

"DORKASS TAUGHT KELSEY TO PLAY LEFT 4 DEAD THIS MORNING!" he blurted, delighted to know that he'd just blown himself off this page.

Yep. Just that morning, Dorkass had taught their three year old daughter to shoot zombies in the head with a pump-action shotgun and make the heads explode. Start rehearsing that Mother of the Year acceptance speech.


start drafting the articles of impeachment

The "stimulus" package that maps so beautifully to special interests—if not to actual job creation or immediate (read: stimulative) spending—was merely annoying. Even though another, actual stimulus package will be needed, there's an element of "Eh, I'm never going to make a dent in my credit card debt, anyway. I might as well max it out. Vegas, baby!!!" that on some level makes perfect sense.

But this, I cannot forgive. Not only am I destined for 12-15 years of "Oh, did you get a Portuguese Water Dog because of Obama?" Not only will the impending fad wreck this fine breed. But the man butchered the name of the breed. The outrage!

Mr. President, they are no more hounds than poodles or Dobermans are hounds. Or if you prefer, PWDs are no more hounds than Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg are Secretaries of Commerce.

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