Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Five After Midnight: Chunk the Chicken



Five paragraphs, one topic, deep in the night.

  Okay, this whole Chick-fil-A mess, with the president of the company coming out against gay folks and claiming we should follow the “biblical interpretation” of marriage. Now we have an uproar (this shouldn’t have surprised anyone, especially the PR folks at Chick-fil-A), with folks taking both sides and blasting away in social media. And initially, it didn’t really bother me that much. I’d heard rumors that Chick-fil-A donated to anti-gay causes, so when Dan Cathy (there’s a split-personality name for you) made his announcement, it was a done deal. I wouldn’t be going there again.  A company taking an anti-gay stance is nothing new (hello, Exxon-Mobil). Bigots can rise to power anywhere, and there’s often little or no legislation to prevent discriminatory activity. (In over half the states in this country, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for simply being gay. Didn’t realize that? You should.)

  But then two talking points started rearing their heads, and those points got my little blogger-ass all fired up and typing. First, folks on the conservative side started screaming about the folks on the progressive side attacking a man’s right to free speech. (And the right-wing politicians latched on to that and ran with it, bellowing about how the progressive response was attacking a founding principle of our nation. The right-wing loves the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Except when it doesn’t agree with their political platform. Then they just ignore all those founding documents and founding fathers who didn’t want any of that religion stuff mucking up the law of the land.)

  The right-wing is correct on the first part of the issue. Dan Cathy can say whatever he wants. Free country, for the most part. But if you say something, you own it. You can’t get mad when people are offended by what you’ve said. And trying to stifle any reactionary comments is violating the free speech of the people who aren’t happy about the words that came out of your mouth. You can’t have it both ways. So the freedom of speech angle is a wash, Rush Limbaugh. (And by the way, Rush, calling the mayors of Boston and Chicago “Stalinist” for not allowing new Chick-fil-A’s to open further underscores your misunderstanding of world history, evolving social culture, and your worthlessness in society.)

  But the more pressing point, for me, is Dan Cathy’s insistence that his company is based on biblical principles.  Really, Dan? Okay, this takes us back to the right-wingers picking and choosing when it comes to founding documents, religious or legislative. If you want to justify your bigotry with a particular resource volume, you’ve got to follow every rule in that book. But I’m pretty sure your employees wear uniforms made of mixed fibers. That’s not allowed. And the pork thing? It’s unclean, but you’re serving it with your bacon and sausage platters. I could go on for a while. And when you mix in your conflicting statement of  “we don’t discriminate but we think some people don’t deserve the same rights as others”, well, you’re just proving how hypocritical you really are.

  Final note, though, is a grand thing in my eyes: We’ve passed a pivotal point. It’s no longer backlash-free to be openly homophobic. People are going to call you on it, as decent people should. Yes, we still have bigots with money, and politicians who insist on scape-goating  people who are different. (Seriously, one of the central tenants of the Republican platform is to find minorities to stigmatize so that close-minded folks can feel superior and cast their votes in the red column.) But there’s considerable fallout now.  Chick-fil-A may come out of this just fine, especially with the deep-pocket rich conservatives scrambling to protect  their dying philosophy of dividing and conquering. But the next company might hesitate to make a similarly offensive PR statement. And the company after that might not consider it at all. And thus another brick is laid in the painful, lurching path toward human decency…


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Five After Midnight: The Beginning



Five paragraphs, one topic, deep in the night.

  So, as a blogger who tries to take his mission seriously even though there are many folks out there who think blogging is just a way for unsuccessful writers to do something that helps pass the time, I’ve been a bit peeved lately about the traffic results for my tiny little website. This traffic disappointment is really nothing new, thousands before me have lamented about the difficulties of getting folks to return to your (hopefully) creative little sphere on a regular basis. There are so many distractions on the web that it’s a wonder that anybody even contemplates going back to a place that they’ve already been. Ergo, my pain.

  From an analysis perspective, as I run about and try to torment the few regular visitors to my blogs into fessing up what makes them actually come back, there are two schools of thought. The more encouraging Avenue of Revelation is that some people have convinced themselves that they should check on my latest postings with some type of regularity because they are at least minimally assured that they will find something of interest. (I love these people and would willingly have sex with each and every one of them if it would ensure that they remain followers.)

  Sadly, on the flip side of things, we have the field reports that some people stop coming back because I don’t post every day. Why check a website only to find that there’s nothing new, and you’ve already chuckled over the crap that’s already stale? And I know that this is an issue. When I was a little virgin blog poster, just starting out with my feeble attempts at coherency, more mature bloggers let me know that you cannot be a slacker. (Sample advice: “Dude, until you become Jesus or something, your ass better be posting every 26 seconds.)

  Duly noted. Well, sort of noted. I understand the rules. But I haven’t been following them, at least not lately. My posts can get very expansive, running several pages, because that’s just how my mind works. There’s gotta be a setup, there’s gotta be a valid flow-through, and there’s gotta be a final paragraph (or 12) that wraps everything up in a manner that would satisfy my eighth-grade English teacher because I still worship her and simply couldn’t continue living if I disappointed her in any way. These missives take time.

  But still, there’s this “keep the people happy and coming back” angle. I know I need to do that, at least until I’m Jesus. So I came up with this (probably dumb-ass) idea to force myself into a finite structure where I have to make a point in 5 paragraphs. And I have to be working on it by midnight, every night. (I’m a total night owl.)  Thusly, we now have what is probably the most asinine blog series title ever, “Five After Midnight”, aka “5AM”. I’ll still be doing the long-form posts, I can’t give that up, that’s still my true reason for being. But I’ll also have this side-mission objective where I have to be productive on a daily basis, creating a stockpile of shorter blog posts that I can slap out there when the longer productions aren’t ready for publication. This whole project may collapse within hours, but I need to give it a try. Are you with me?


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Idiot Fondue: Case Study #37


  Continued from a previous post. Click Here to read the first session with Bexx, a client annoyed by straight people who are confused that some lesbians fancy intimate toys…


  “Are you still there?” inquired one of the voices on the speaker phone.

  “I certainly am, Bexx,” responded Dr. Brian. “But would you mind holding for just the briefest of seconds? I need to berate an underling and I’ll be right back with you.”

  “Oh!” enthused Bex. “That actually sounds like fun. Let me hear it.”

  Dr. Brian sighed. “That wouldn’t really be the right thing, now would it? Why don’t you and the lovely Sangria get back to your amorous adventures for a minute or two.”

  Bexx giggled raucously, in a manner that fully explained she had been a participant in multiple bar fights at some point in her life. “What makes you think we ever stopped? Sangria really likes an audience, her whole family is in the entertainment industry. There was this one time at the Muskrat Music Festival when we-”

  “Bexx, I will be right back.” Dr. Brian stabbed at a button on his phone, welcoming the sudden silence. Then he turned to glare at Lanae still standing in the doorway and still using her incredibly flexible tongue to search for missed bits of raspberry filling.

  The tongue stopped moving, but the mouth didn’t. “Wait. Am I the underling? About to get berated?”

  “You are my only underling, Lanae, of course it’s you.”

  “But I didn’t do anything.”

  “Well, it’s nice to finally hear you own up to that after my paying you all these years. Now please leave and close the door behind you. Close it.”

  Lanae pouted. “But I want to hear what you’re going to tell her.”

  “We’ve discussed this, it’s not proper.”

  “Yes, we have discussed it, and I thought I made myself clear. I hear everything and I know everything. I sit ten feet away from you and….Ohhhhh…”

  “Oh what, Lanae? Did you just figure out what day it is?”

  She smiled victoriously. “You don’t know what you’re going to say. You don’t know how to answer her.” She folded her arms smugly and leaned against the open door frame. “I’m going to stand right here and listen to you wing it. I‘ve earned it”

  “And when, pray tell, did this earning take place. Was I even here?”

  Lanae smirked. “Do you really want me to get started on this? Letting all your blog readers know your secrets?”

  “Don’t break character, Lanae. Stick with the script.”

  “The goat in Paris?”

  “They know about the goat. I’m the one who told them, if you’ll recall. It was a very moving six-part series. Get back on this side of the camera.”

  “And then there was the time when you stole the giant tortilla and-”

  “Okay, Lanae, you win!” Dr. Brian made a dismissive gesture with one hand, something he had once seen Paul Newman do in a movie that made Elizabeth Taylor cry. “Stand there all you want. Just be QUIET. Don’t say a word and quit licking your lips.”

  Lanae quit licking. And stood.

  Dr. Brian punched at a button again. “Bexx?”

  “Hello there, Dr. Feelgood. I thought perhaps you had passed on from this life.”

  “So sorry, Bexx. Now, about this penetration thing.”

  (Lanae professionally choked back a snort.)

  “Oh, right,” said Bexx. “Let me tell Sangria you’re ready. She can’t hear you right now… my legs are covering…” (Sounds of the phone being jostled, Bexx’s voice focused elsewhere, giggling,  and general re-arrangement activities. “Oh, honey, don’t sit on that, I just had it cleaned.”) Then her voice was again directed at the phone. “Okay, proceed, Marcus Welby.”

  Dr. Brian cleared his throat. “Well, as any sufficiently-enlightened person will tell you, sexual pleasure and satisfaction actually has a strong root in the brain. It’s a significantly mental experience. That being said, physicality is an equal partner, so to speak. Some sensations are, in fact, purely primal.”

  Bexx sighed. “So far, I could have learned this from the back of a cereal box.” (To the side: “Sangria, sweetie, put that down. It’s annoying me.”)

  Dr. Brian stupidly glanced at Lanae in the doorway, who was completely red-faced with her struggle to remain discreet and non-laughing. “Primal?” she mouthed. Are you kidding me?

  Dr. Brian flipped her off, something he had once seen Jack Nicholson do in a movie that did not make Cher cry, then continued. “So any sexual experience, and the enjoyment derived from the encounter, is a combination of complex, mental satisfaction and the simple pleasure of stimulation. Ergo-”

  “No one says ‘ergo’ anymore, doctor,” remarked Bexx. “Except for Republicans who are trying to sound fancy in a debate by using a word that has more than three letters.”

  Lanae failed at remaining non-intrusive, releasing a small yelp.

  “Did someone just step on a chipmunk?” inquired Bexx.

  “No,” said Dr. Brian. “That was just my assistant, Lanae. Apparently she just took a look at her next paycheck.”

  Lanae was not amused, but got the point and tried to focus on not exuding further wildlife emanations.

  Bexx tried to focus on what was going on at the other end of the line. “Is she in the room with you? Is she listening?”

  “Yes,” said Lanae, quite clearly and unmistakably, surprising both Dr. Brian and herself.

  “Oh,” said Bexx. “Well, doesn’t really matter, I suppose. Wait, does she do women?”

  “Not that I recall,” explained Lanae. “Although I did find a strange pair of panties on my chandelier one time. Never really did find out what happened there. Fairly certain it was all innocent, but the margarita machine was bone-dry in the morning. Who knows.”

  Dr. Brian was simply at a loss for words at how things were going at the moment, then he found a few. “Lanae, would you like to take over the session?”

  “This isn’t a session,” clarified Bexx. “It’s a conversation.”

  “But you’re still paying for the conversation, right?” inserted Lanae. “I do the books, and it’s so much easier when things balance.”

  “Oh, don’t worry about the money,” soothed Bexx. “In fact, I’ll throw in a little extra for ya darlin’, because I really do appreciate people who love raspberry filling as much as I do.”

  “How did you know…” asked Lanae, flummoxed.

  “I know exactly what a tongue is doing based on the sounds alone,” explained Bexx. “I love tongues. They’re pretty swell.”

  Now both Dr. Brian and Lanae were at the loss-of-words speed bump.

  “Anyway,” said Bexx, “There are things which I must attend to.” (Slight squeal from Sangria, hoping to be on that agenda.) “Let’s cut to the chase. Dr. Brian, give me your final answer in one sentence.”

  Dr. Brian looked at Lanae with slight hesitation. Lanae looked at Dr. Brian with partial pity. The last remaining splotch of raspberry jelly on Lanae’s face looked at her tongue with total fear.

  “Dr. Brian?” prompted Bexx.

  He cleared his throat, then leaned toward the speaker phone. “It’s not the car, it’s the driver.”

  Pause for contemplation. And a short word from our sponsor.

  Then Bexx: “Interesting. Well, I’ll be sure to include my analysis of that response in the evaluation.”

  “Evaluation?” asked Dr. Brian.

  “Yes,” confirmed Bexx, then clarified: “In regards to the request you filed to extend your office lease at Bonnywood Manor.”

  Dr. Brian was stunned. “My lease? How did you know… when did you become involved…”

  “I bought the entire complex,” announced Bexx. “I own it now. Just like this plane. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I also have some panties on my chandelier, and I know exactly where they came from. Best of luck on the request, we’ll talk soon.”

  Click.

  “Holy cow,” breathed Lanae. “Did I just eat my last free donut?”

  “You and me both,” sighed Dr. Brian. Then he took off his glasses, folded them neatly, and slipped them into his shirt pocket. “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens. In the mean time, would you mind fetching that last-”

  Lanae strode toward his desk and plunked down a bottle of Madonna merlot. “I’ll be right back with the glasses.”


Friday, July 27, 2012

10 Reasons Why This Photo Triggers My Spidey Sense



1. It has members of my family in it and I don’t know what they’re doing.

  This instantly puts me on high alert. Knowing how some of my family members have a natural instinct to do things they probably shouldn’t, this document could easily become evidence in some sort of trial. Should I instantly destroy it and pretend like I didn’t just find it in this old scrapbook? At the very least, I should flip it over and see if there’s a date scribbled on the back so I can make sure I have an airtight alibi, even if I have to pay someone to make that happen.

2. There’s no date on the back.

  We’re all in trouble. I can’t possibly develop an alibi that would cover a whole time period that, judging by the estimated ages of the participants, runs roughly from the early to mid 80’s. But at least I was in college then, so maybe I can find some old fraternity brothers that can swear I was drunk in the frat house for two solid years and didn’t have the strength to get into any further mischief. Which is sort of true but also a complete lie. I still managed to do things I shouldn’t, despite heavy round of serious beer-bonging. Shhhh. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

3. My mother apparently raised a child that I didn’t know about.

  I recognize my youngest sister and youngest brother (fore and aft, with my Mom right behind fore). But notice the set of legs in the third position. There wasn’t another child in that chronological segment of the child-production assembly line, yet those cryptic legs seem to match the general age of the two known siblings. Interesting. Mommy, did you have a hobby that we didn’t about?

4. Of course, the elephant in the room is the elephant.

  What the hell? Where did they find this thing? I mean, we had a zoo in my hometown, but I sure don’t remember that place having elephants that you could climb your ass on and smile for a camera. Which means this staff-reduced version of my family had to travel somewhere in order for this paparazzi session to take place. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t India, because we didn’t have that kind of money, and I don’t see any members of Duran Duran in the background making a music video. On the flip side, I didn’t know about the extra brother, so I’ve obviously missed a few memos.

5. Speaking of the background, why does it look like some type of archeological dig site?

  Was somebody looking for yet another buried king in Egypt? Are there still more to find? Then again, we seem to have an awfully large amount of trees for this to be an Egyptian locale. No offense to the fine people of Egypt, but I don’t remember any Egyptian descriptions containing passages like “we looked out upon the vast forests of our land, dripping with moisture and heavy fruit, and we smiled, knowing that those crappy upstart rainforests of South America (we had kings before you had people!) could not begin to compete with our arboreal treasures.”

6. Those horrid brightly-colored tube socks.

  Everyone wore them at the time. Why did we do that?

7. The dramatically asexual attendant to the right.

  What is she looking at? Would it have killed him to look at the camera? And why does she seem to have more badges that necessary? Did he do something extraordinary at some point? Her cap is kind of jaunty, but he loses points for the poorly-tucked shirt. And she’s wearing cryptic sunglasses when no one else is, so he must have secrets. Like her postures seems to speak of a military background, but the fact that he’s now working with elephants indicates that something went wrong somewhere with the career goals.

8. And s/he’s holding a cane in a menacing manner.

  What’s up with that? Is she beating the elephant with it? I’m not really happy about things if he was doing that, but she’s obviously not using it to walk, like maybe he’s suffering from a war injury that still troubles her. Of course, if he was even minimally being unappreciative of the elephant, my sister would have leapt off that royal travelling-platform and kicked his ass, even if she was only six and wearing non-combat jelly shoes that were so popular in that time period.

9. Speaking of that restrictive platform…

  Don’t those menacing bars look like they might be a bit of a hindrance if the elephant decided to, I don’t know, do yoga? Those elephants weigh, like, 400 tons. If girl starts to roll, you’re not going to have enough time to extricate yourself from the Spanish-Inquisition stadium seating before your ass is squashed big-time. And that stupid little cane that your flight attendant is carrying is not going to help you much.

10. And finally, speaking of the elephant.

  Doesn’t the poor thing look tired? I mean, maybe that’s the natural expression, and maybe the elephant doesn’t mind lugging family units with mysterious extra members from one end of the Egyptian excavation site to the other. (Which is, interestingly enough, how I feel when I go to staff meetings.) But do we really know that? Are we caring for the animals of this planet properly? Are you?

  Just something to ponder as you flip through old photographs and think about history and life and responsibility. Cheers.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scotch The Cat Replies To Emails From Some Of His Beloved But Possibly Twisted Fans



  Yep, the rising feline star actually receives fan mail from time to time, a clear indication that we have some folks out there  who might need to get out of the house a little more. I thought it was only appropriate that Scotch respond to these missives, since these folks took the time to correspond with a kitty, but you know how cats are. They aren’t interested in doing anything that wasn’t originally their idea. But eventually, after I pretended to no longer care and went into another room to make fake busy noises, Scotch padded over to my desk, slipped into my fancy office chair, adjusted some of the controls with his tail, picked up the first letter, and began to read…

Deer Skotch...We luved your Store Ree. It sounds like our house too eggsept we have 2 Mommies that won't let us on the toplap to make our reports. Keep up the faith, our brother from another mother....Piece Out! Your Ginger Brothers from across the pond, Angel and Spike Aten-Shearwood

  Dear People Who Wrote This,

  Why are you talking about deer? I don’t think I like deer. I was watching a dockingmentary on the NayChore channel the other day, because my daddies left it on that stupid station and I couldn’t press the buttons on the Ream Oat because my stupid daddies didn’t trim my nails and I kept making the sound louder instead of making the picture change and I was not very happy.

  Oh. I don’t think I should be saying my daddies are stupid because they feed me and stuff and I really don’t want that part of stuff to stop because I’m hungry a lot. All the time. I don’t have any brothers and sisters so I just eat and sleep. I don’t know any different.

  But I do know that I didn’t like the deer on that show. I don’t like horns. Nobody I know has horns. So horns are bad. I think. I don’t know.

  I don’t know what I’m talking about right now. I get confused. Sometimes sunshine comes in my favorite window and sometimes it doesn’t come in. Nobody told me why, I just wait for the sunshine and keep myself clean.

  Oh, wait, you have two mommies? I think that’s good. Better than dockingmentaries about stupid deer with stupid horns. And those co-mershal things, with stuff to buy.  Why do the Big People need something so they can clap and make lights turn on? Just go ask a Daddy. He can turn it on for you. And maybe give you treats if you did the right things that day. Or are cute. Cute means treats sometimes, so I try that a lot.

  Why are we talking?

  Oh yeah, two mommies. I have two daddies, so we are just alike except your Big People have to sit down when they squirt water. And they don’t have a dangle thing that I want to scratch when they are sleeping and making noises with their mouths. Tabby Lee, the cat who gets to run around Out Side and sometimes talks to me when I’m in my favorite window, she says that I use to have a dangle thing too, but I think she drinks a lot, so I don’t know.

  But what is the ginger stuff? What is ginger brothers? I was in the pantry one day, because when somebody opens that door I know I need to run like crazy because I might be getting a treat, the pantry is the Treat Kingdom, there are treasures in there. So I was sitting there all nice and not-clawing in the pantry, and one of the daddies knocked over something and it fell on the floor down where I live. A bag of something.  I can’t read very well, because I hit my head when I was little, trying to fly, but I think the bag said “Gingersnap Cooties”.

  Is that what you and your brother are? Ginger Cooties? I don’t know if that’s really fun or not, because I don’t know what that is. And I don’t know why you would want to be in a bag that can fall down, unless you just have to do that because your Mommies said you had to. My Daddies make me do stuff all the time that is not right and doesn’t make me happy, so I understand if you have to live in a bag, because I have to stop scratching stuff even though it feels good and I like the sound of things being ripped to pieces.

  Oh. That made me think of something. Have you ever played with the fancy machine in the bathroom that gives you paper if you just pull on it? I think it’s called the Twyla Paper Distemper. I love that thing. You can whack at it for a long time and paper just keeps coming out. Until it doesn’t anymore. Then it’s kind of sad, like when there’s something floating in your water bowl and you don’t want it in there anymore, even though you put it there. I don’t know why I do stuff sometimes but I think Daddies should just fix it when I don’t like it and not just tell me it’s my fault.

  But even when the magic paper stops coming out, there’s still fun. You can roll around in the paper and play games about being trapped and you have to kill the paper and rip it up. Then you can hear one of those noises that the Big People don’t hear you hearing, and you can pretend to be scared and go running all over the house without knowing where to really go. And that makes some of the paper be in every room and that’s a special thing I like to do. I’m an inferior decorator!

  The Daddies don’t think so, though. They say bad words when they pick up all my presents everywhere. They don’t understand that I’m giving them nice things. I have to hide for a while until they quit stomping around and talking about trees dying for no reason. But then I get them back when they try to pick me up and love on me, and I get to act like it hurts me and I just want to get down or I’m going to die. Daddies can’t scream and twist like me, so they need to understand that my fighting makes me very important. And they need to give me treats for my special skills.

  Okay, I think that answers all your questions, fan mail writer person. You said more stuff about “Angel” and “Spike”. I think those might be your names, because names are at the end of stuff you read that you find in the mailbox, but those words make me think of a TV show that my Daddies used to watch, one that I didn’t like when they watched it. That show was about van pires, people that bite you in the night.  But I can bite in the night too, and I do, all the time, so they just need to turn the TV off and wait for me to get bored. Anyway, bye bye.

Dear Scotch,

My name is Princess Noelle. I am a supurr sexxy sleek jet black kitty with purrty gold eyes. I live in a catsell with my Queen Mommy and King Consort Daddy and my Prince Poodle brother. I would love to trade my brother for another daddy like you have though.

My hobbies are laser light shows, making things go bump in the night, ambushing my brother and all things shiny and sparkly (I get that from my mommy). I also enjoy indulging in a bit of herbal relaxation on occasion. Maybe someday we can meet, enjoy some fresh grown herb and learn all about who, what, when, where, why and how together. Maybe even get Mary'd and share a sunny window.

Dear Princess No L,

  How did you become a princess in our land? My daddies say they don’t have royal T’s where we live. They say this while we are watching dockingmentaries on TV where they are talking about Egg Land, where they still let people wear crowns and long robes that I want to jump on and rip and then act like I don’t know what people are talking about when the don’t like ripping. (Try it! It’s fun!) I think one of my daddies really wants to be a royal T, because he likes to wave like that one queen woman, queen Liza Beth, where she waves like her arm is broken or something and she needs to use the litter box real soon.

  What is super sexy? I don’t know anything about sexy. Because my daddies ripped my berries out when I was too little to fight and now I don’t think of sexy. Well, they didn’t really do the ripping (they don’t like ripping! bad kitty!) but I saw them sign a little piece of paper and give it to the man who did the ripping. If you sign something and give it to people, that means you are saying “yes, do a bad thing and here is my otter graph”. I learned that watching Cord TV.

  But I do know what a catsell is. I learned that watching the stories about Queen Liza Beth, her ugly children with big ears, and lots of catsell staff who did jobs I could do, like wind a clock or make sure there were seven doves flying in the air when Liza Beth had to go tinkle. I think I would like to live in a catsell, because with that many people, somebody is gonna have treats in their pocket.

  Why do you want to trade your brother? I had a brother and a sister who had to go to a resting place with angels, and I didn’t want to trade them, but it happened anyway. But if your brother is fussy and makes people look at him instead of you, well, that’s not good. You have to always be the cutest if you want to win. My mommy told me that, before I didn’t listen to her and ran away and was very scared until my new Daddies found me in the pumpkin patch at their house. My new house is not a catsell, but there is always food in my bowl.

  What is a hobbies? Are those the little people in those movies about the Lord’s Ring? Those really long movies where I fall asleep trying to be cute and I wake up two hours later and movie people are still talking about a ring that I don’t care about? I think you don’t need hobbies. Too long.

  But laser light shows? That would be when the daddies make something shiny dance on the floor and I go a little bit crazy because I must kill that light spot even thought I can’t catch it. (My friend Tabby Lee says making lights dance that you can’t catch is child abuse. I never know if I can believe her or not.) Making things go bump in the night is good, though. I’m trained for that, even if I don’t remember who trained me. Maybe the angels who are resting? I don’t know.

  Okay, the other stuff you are talking about. I don’t think you should ambush your brother. That’s silly. He’s a poodle and he’s a dog. He’s going to ambush himself, so just let it happen without getting off your special pillow. I do like Shiny and Sparkly, they were my favorite characters on “Will and Grace”.  But I didn’t like how that show ended. I thought it was stupid. And it’s hard for me to call things stupid, because I lick my own boo-boo.

  Now, what is this with herbal? Herbal Essence? Like the shampoo, where the commercials  had people telling two friends and telling two friends and the TV screen was full of hundreds of big-hair women who just should go to a disco and leave me alone? Oh wait. I might be mixing up my shampoos. I don’t really use one (I have a tongue!) so I should maybe be quiet. But if you want to share shampoos and talk about why and how, okay, but I don’t want there to be water. Especially if there is something floating in it that I threw in there but then decided I shouldn’t have done that.

  Thank you for asking to be Mary’d and sharing windows, even though I can’t have sex and I will claw you out of the window if I want to be in it. But I can’t do that. I can’t be Mary’d . Not until my daddies can be Mary’d too. I have to protest and wave a sign and smile for the TV people and vote for progress people. Everyone should get a Mary if they love each other. I learned about that watching the Ellen show while I waited for my puff balls to dry out after I Bap Tithed them in my water bowl.

  Okay, I have to go now. My daddies will be home soon and I need to make sure that I have the magic paper from the bathroom spread out in a way that will help me win Design Starch. Bye bye.

Scotch.

P.S. If you have treats, I want them now. Thank yoo.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Mercado Madness



Restaurant Review #3.

  Once upon a time, dear reader, there was a wildly popular dining establishment located on the far western end of Northwest Highway in Dallas. This restaurant, known as Mercado Juarez and featuring delicious Mexican fare with a tendency to be both fried and incredibly spicy, was all the rage. Each night, the place would be packed to the brim, meaning that if you had any real intention of being seated you had to fight your way to the all-powerful hostess, knocking aside small children and grandmothers, and try to impress her in some way that would allow you to be seated within the next 24 hours.

  And really, once your party was deemed worthy enough to have temporary ownership of a table, the ensuing experience made everything worth it. The drinks were aggressive and colorful, the staff was courteous and responsive, and there’s simply nothing better than exquisitely-balanced combinations of grease, heat and abundant cheese. You would eventually be belching and stumbling your way into the parking lot, sated and happy.

  But things change.

  It had been years since I had entered the once-hallowed doors of the Mercado. If memory serves, the last visit, somewhere around 2005,  had something to do with a work-related outing, one of those usually-vile experiences where co-workers from various regions of the country gather together to dine and pretend that we are some type of mystical family of mankind. Thankfully, those aggressive drinks helped everyone exude an air of camaraderie that buried our day-to-day grievances about certain members of our team that were too mean to live.

  Flash forward to the current week.

  One of our former co-workers and dear friends, a vivacious woman who had up and moved halfway across the country several years ago, was back in town for some work-related mess and she wanted to meet for drinks and dinner. I was not part of the social planning committee (and therefore absolved of any eventual regret or guilt) which handled the arrangements, but it was decided that our reunion shindig would take place at the once-fabled Mercado Juarez. Upon hearing the news, I was a bit perplexed.

  Upon arriving at work the day of the scheduled extravaganza, I shared my perplexity with bestie Apiphany: “Is that place still open? Did we check on that? Has anybody even been there this decade?”

  Apiphany, always the trooper: “Oh. Well, the last time I drove by the place, it seems like there were cars in the parking lot. I think. Not really sure. It’s not like somebody texted me and said ‘hey, make sure Mercado Juarez is still open the next time you go get sangria at Big Daddy’s House of Liquor and Stuff’, so I wasn’t really paying attention.” Then she smiled in her trademark way of expecting people to love her no matter what.

  So it was with some trepidation that Apiphany and I fled our office building and caravanned our way to the restaurant. (We were going to be the first to arrive, since we both firmly believe that social engagements are far more important than mundane things like job responsibilities and remaining on conference calls that were pointless. Besides, we had given ourselves the highly-worshipped responsibility of arriving early enough to procure a large table in a desirable location that would maximize our enjoyment. We take these things seriously.)

  We pulled into the parking lot, and we were quite pleased to observe that there were indeed other cars hither and yon in the parking lot, a positive sign that there was most likely some type of life within the establishment. (Although it must be said that the relative paucity of vehicles was a far cry from the glory days when you couldn’t even get in to the parking lot, and instead you had to park blocks away and stomp through the Texas heat to get anywhere near the building.)

  We parked side-by-side, because it’s a cute thing to do, and then hopped out. I confirmed my supply of gas pills (something you must do after the age of 40 or so, especially when Mexican fare is involved), Apiphany confirmed that she had applied adequate lip gloss (something she must always be doing because we have established this tradition in my blog posts), and we trotted through the doors of the building, hoping for the best.

  And then we made a very profound mistake.

  To be fair, we were a little confused and disoriented, what with not having been here in forever coupled with that off-putting transition from fierce sunlight to dim interior that happens in Texas, resulting in folks being basically blind and drunk-appearing. We staggered over to one lady who was manning what looked like some type of welcoming station, only to find out that she was not the least bit interested in our needs, despite standing at a concierge-like counter and wearing a festive outfit that would normally make one think “hey, she looks like she knows stuff, let’s ask her”.

  Pointless Woman (we never did find out what her actual purpose in life might be) smiled at our stupidity, then waved us around a corner in the supposed direction of someone who might care. So we traipsed around that corner and marched a football field or so to another station, where we encountered a very short woman who was probably standing on phone books. We explained our plight to her (“we just want to eat and drink, can we actually do that in here?”) and she initially appeared quite pleased to satisfy our needs. “Table for two?”

  Well, actually, no. “There’s going to be about 8 or 10 of us,” I naively said.

  Her expression changed to one indicating that I had just excreted something unpleasant on the floor. She pointed behind us and muttered “Wait. Over there.” Then she turned and fled the country.

  Apiphany and I glanced behind us. There were several couches placed about, couches that appeared to have survived one of the earlier Mexican revolutions. Still confused, we selected one of the smaller couches, hoping to minimize our visual presence after managing to somehow offend the employees of this establishment. We perched and we pondered.

  Apiphany: “What the hell was that all about?”

  Me: “I guess we have to wait until everybody is here. Or she is religiously offended by the provocative lip gloss dripping from your lips.”

  Apiphany, surveying the seating accommodations in the cavernous floor plan of the building. “I see people sitting at three tables. There are 97 empty tables, some of them large enough to hold all of the Dallas Cowboys. Why are they not letting us drink yet? I hate them.”

  So we sat. And waited. With Apiphany receiving periodic texts from our other cohorts as they submitted status updates on their estimated times of arrival. (No one ever texts me. Probably because I never pay any attention when my pocket pings and vibrates. I just assume that I’m having another anxiety episode of some kind and I keep doing whatever I’m doing. Or take a pill.)

  Then we noticed the bar directly in front of us. (We are very observant people.) Apiphany: “We could go in there and get a drink.”

  Me: “If we do that, we are not going to care when everybody else shows up, and we will probably hide from them and giggle.”

  Apiphany, sighing: “True, true.”

  So we remained bored and unquenched for a bit longer. Then there was some type of clattering commotion and one of our co-workers, Riker, came strolling up. This pleased us immensely. Riker generally does not participate in our social drinking games, choosing instead to spend time with his beloved wife. His appearance offered up a promising form of entertainment, because we now had the opportunity to shove beers at him and make him spill about what he actually thought about everything. Yay!

  Riker had another agenda in mind. “Why are you sitting out here?”

  Oh.

  Tiffany waved her hand with serious disdain at the hostess station where the short woman used to stand before she sought political asylum in a country where large groups of people did not arrange to eat at the same time. “The serving wench hates us. There will be no alcohol served until everyone arrives. This is why people need medication.” She then made a second hand gesture that may have been expressing her disdain with the complications of life or that she simply needed medical attention and someone needed to do something about that if they wished to remain in her will.

  Riker contemplated this pronouncement, along with the very real possibility that one of his co-workers may have issues that modern society cannot adequately resolve, then he chose to follow the path of least resistance. “Okay, then. What should we talk about until all members of the circus have arrived?”

  Talk? Oh, this could be fun. Riker was one of those folks where you never really know the full story, sometimes coming into work as a complete ray of sunshine and frivolity, entertaining us all with his amusing exploits, and then other times arriving in an odd cloud of mystery, speaking to no one and acting very much like one would if they were a furtive government agent intent on gathering data that might lead to a prison term. The chance to speak to him on a basic human level was an opportunity to be relished.

  I leaned forward, in anticipation of a conversation that would reveal all. Apiphany leaned forward with the same intent. But two seconds into her lean, she realized that the spotlight was no longer on hers truly, and she instantly went to her safe place, which was a discussion of her own merits and her self-perceived status as royalty in some manner. “Well,” she orated, making a third hand gesture that had nothing to do with anything, “It all started when I was in second grade and Mother forced me to wear a garment that was homespun and belittling, and I immediately-”

  Riker leapt to his feet, briefly clutching at an amulet he wore around his neck, an evil-spirit-defying accessory that he had wisely purchased in Texarkana during another dark time when people revealed too much in Mexico-themed food establishments. “Let’s go talk to the lady who isn’t there about getting a table even though we don’t technically qualify for such a life-goal at this moment.”

  That was fine by me. I leapt as well, proudly standing by his side in a defiant manner that was hopefully both reactionary and photogenic. Apiphany, on the other hand, was a bit nonplussed. How was it possible that the common folk did not want to hear the tragic tale of how she was horribly abused by a fashion-lacking parent in the mid-70’s? But she managed to pull herself together, most likely due to the siren call of free-flowing tequila, and she leapt in solidarity.

  The three of us marched to the hostess station, with the firm conviction that we were willing and able to sacrifice everything in our lives in order to have guacamole and chips placed before us. Nothing could stop us. If innocent lives had to be taken, so be it.

  Riker cleared his throat, in a noble and admirable way. “We’re ready for a table,” he announced, standing tall.

  The person on the other side of the hostess station didn’t say anything at all. Probably because no one was standing there.

  Then we heard a bang, and someone walked out of one of those mysterious swinging doors that they always have in places where you have to pay for food and questionable attempts at ambiance. The skinny little man appeared to be on his way to parts unknown, but he glanced in our direction, and paused with what appeared to be surprise that visitors had arrived who apparently needed something, which was a shocking thing, in a restaurant where people need lots of things, like food and adequate service.

  Skinny Man approached the station. “Can I help you?” he asked, even though his body language said something completely different, along the lines of “do you idiots even realize that there was a misunderstanding about the refried beans at Table 12?”

  Apiphany made her fourth random gesture of the evening, a night that was still very young. “We wish to be seated. Despite the fact that some errant members of our party have not managed to arrive just yet.”

  Riker and I both looked at Apiphany. Had she been raised in England?

  Skinny Man smiled limply, in a manner that made it very clear he was quite used to peons demanding extraordinary things at inopportune times. “Of course. Follow me.” He grabbed three menus from the stack of such in the cesspool pile of social germs to his right, then turned to march forth stoically into the wide expanse of obviously available tables from here to the horizon, his shoulders sagging with the torment of trying to figure out where we might be seated.

  We followed, mainly because the narrative says that we should at this point.

  Skinny Man led us to a table that could clearly seat 12, which meant that the political refugee who had previously manned the hostess station must have handed off notes to her fellow employees before going dark. Skinny flopped three menus in our general direction and then wandered off, presumably heading to a counseling center where someone could help him understand that it’s okay to be happy.

  Two seconds later, our waiter arrived. (Of course he did, there was absolutely nothing else happening in the entire restaurant, and he was bored.) He introduced himself, but I really didn’t pay any attention to that part, as I was busy wondering why my wooden chair seemed to have a stability issue, so we’ll just call him Armando.

  Armando: “Would you care for a cocktail?”

  Apiphany: “I want the biggest margarita on the entire planet.”

  Me: “And I want something even bigger.”

  Riker: “A Coke.”

  Armando rushed off to make arrangements for our beverage needs, while Apiphany and I turned to glare at Riker with astonishment and dismay. A non-alcoholic beverage? This clearly wouldn’t do, not if we wished to get him loose-lipped enough to gain usable office-gossip intelligence. But before we could school him properly, the rest of our friends began to arrive, meandering their way through the 7 miles of other patrons between the main entrance and our palatial table shoved up against the wall of the kitchen area.

  Included in this entourage was the actual guest of honor, the divine Miss Besh Viaduct, fresh from the suburbs of our nation’s capital and all aglow with the impending joys of our reunion. I rushed to embrace her, with plenty of air-kissing and beaming expressions and the sharing of pictures of children that we don’t actually have. The rest of the entourage followed suit, and there was joy throughout the land.

  Then we all sat down, requested additional fortifying beverages, ordered appetizers and entrees that appeared to be appealing on the somewhat puzzling menu, caught each other up on our life experiences and the best way to avoid jail time after ill-advised decisions, and carried on in that interesting manner that good friends do when each of them knows a dark secret about everyone else at the table but doesn’t know who else knows of the darkness. Great fun, as always.

  Then we paid the checks and went home.

  Notice how, even though this is a restaurant review, I didn’t actually mention anything about the food? Mmm hmm. Let’s just say that I understand how you can now park in the actual parking lot of this establishment. Got it? Cheers!


Friday, July 20, 2012

20 Signs That I Was A Complete Geek In High School



  Picture it. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Late 70’s, early 80’s. We didn’t have any money. And GO…

1. The fact that I would go out in public looking like I did in the photo above.

2. A female friend had to pull me aside and discreetly inform me that my clothes were supposed to match. This was an astounding revelation. It also partially explained why I was a late-comer to the dating scene. By about 10 years.

3. I drove a beat-up, wood-paneled station wagon to school, parking next to the souped-up hot rods that everybody else had, and my stepdad’s empty beer cans would clatter out when I opened the door. Yay.

4. When the untrustworthy station wagon wasn’t running, I had to ride the school bus. No one else my age did this. No one.  I was a lumbering, poorly dressed giant that served as a solitary target for hyperactive third-graders with good aim and a steady supply of juice boxes.

5. I wasn’t just in the library club, I was the president of it. And I was the state treasurer. Clearly, I took my literary duties quite seriously. It also meant that I continued to not date.

6. I had absolutely no interest in football, despite the fact that the entire state was essentially founded just so we could have schools that played Friday-night football games. Taking land away from the Native Americans was only a secondary reason for statehood.

7. I completely missed out on the whole “everybody who was anybody goes to the roller-skating rink on Saturday night” thing. Of course, I also missed out on the things that went on behind the building, like drinking Strawberry Hill and getting pregnant. I think I’m okay with not having experienced that.

8. I thought the cafeteria food was excellent, and I would race to be the first in line at lunch time. And that cake the hair-netted, white-shoed ladies would make, using beets of all things? Best cake ever.

9. I was always offended by people who took the “freebie” elective classes like Study Hall and Eraser Cleaner. What academic benefit are you getting out of that? (I was a total scholastic snob.) What I didn’t realize is that we simply had different life plans. I wanted to go to college. They just wanted to be old enough to buy alcohol without a fake ID.

10. I would put Clearasil on my face (horrible acne for a while there) but not bother to rub it all the way in, with my pasty face making me look like Toe Tag #814 in the county morgue. Still no dating.

11. I loved math class. And it loved me. Until the fateful day when my lover went through a mood swing and turned into Calculus. I didn’t understand this Calculus or what she wanted, try as I might to please her. Our relationship soured and my GPA plummeted. I had to move on, and so I dropped her.

12. I worked for a while at a quasi-department store called David’s. (Think “distant cousin of JC Penney, the cousin that will probably never get married”.) In the Men’s Department.  Yep, the fool who had only learned about “matching clothes” a few days ago was now responsible for advising patrons on what looked cute and hot, fashion-wise. The department manager soon realized that I was much more effective stacking boxes in the warehouse rather than pretending to be Calvin Klein. After a few months, I quit. And went to work for JC Penney. (No really, I did. Swear.)

13. I was so not into the hair metal bands that the cool kids were playing in their fancy cars as they dragged Main street. My 8-track collection? Things like Barry Manilow, Helen Reddy and the original cast recording of A Chorus Line. Uh huh.  I don’t think anybody should have been surprised by a certain announcement I made later in life.

14. I would drive into downtown Tulsa late at night, which one shouldn’t have been doing at that time because it was not the safest place to be, just to watch foreign, art-house movies at the only theater around that played such things.  It would just be me, and maybe five other people in the vast expanse of otherwise empty seats, sitting there, enraptured, dreaming of a magical life-change that would get us the hell out of Oklahoma.

15. Of course, I would also go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show on weekends, with me and my friends piling in a car and driving en masse to a much closer theater where they hosted those audience-participation free-for-alls. (Yes, despite the geekiness detailed in the above items, I did have friends. Good ones. The square pegs always find one another, eventually, and those bonds are tighter than the Strawberry Hill connections.) But, try as I might to pay attention and make notes, I could never get the shouted dialog just right. I was always yelling out the wrong line at the wrong time, and half the audience would turn and throw leftover rice at me.

16. One of my best friends was an amazingly rebellious woman who didn’t take anything from anybody. She didn’t suffer fools, she had little respect for authority, and she would ride her horse into town just for the hell of it, clomping along and sitting at stoplights, waving at astonished people in their cars. Sometimes her actions thrilled me, sometimes they scared me, but she always had my back. Always. And we all need someone like that in our lives, especially in the messy pain-world of high school.

17. I had usually read the book before the movie came out.

18. The best way to spend a Saturday when I wasn’t working? The downtown branch of the Tulsa Public Library. It was five stories, people. Five stories of discovery. I’m actually becoming a little bit aroused thinking about it, even after all these years.

19. I drove to the Senior Prom in another of my family’s questionable vehicles, one that managed to up and die while sitting at one of the busiest intersections in Broken Arrow. Cue the faded image of my date and I frantically running through that intersection, she hoisting her beautiful dress and me groaning with shame in my tuxedo, as we tried to keep from getting killed on our way to the Otasco parking lot so we could find a phone. Help arrived in the form of her best friend and another man in a tuxedo, one that the friend would eventually marry. Later that night, still on edge as we ate at a fancy restaurant, I realized that I didn’t have enough money to even cover the bill, never mind a tip. Rains, pours.

20. But still. Things could have been better, things could have been worse. In the end, the foundation was set. And here we are…


Monday, July 16, 2012

Cruise Control – Part 26: Big-Ass Gulches and Unexpected Wetness



Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in This Series.

  Eventually, the Divine Miss Tiffany was safely transferred to the landing platform, without any actual mid-air copulation that we could see, but since that’s such a delicious phrase and possibility to work into the opening paragraph of a blog post, I simply had to go there. In any case, once the public-transport clothesline had been cleared of debris, human and otherwise, the rest of us who had been trapped on the Ewok tree were free to fling ourselves into space and allow the laws of physics to do whatever they must to keep us alive.

  Rest assured that none of us let our gloved hands get anywhere near mechanisms of any kind. It’s fun and interesting when tragedy strikes other people. Not so much when it happens to you.

  And for most of the rest of our zipping extravaganza in the jungle, things went quite swimmingly. There were a few tense moments when folks didn’t quite make it to the other end at some of the zip lines, but by now we all realized that it was probably a wiser move to just haul your ass to the platform rather than wait for one of the guides to throw his legs around you. After all, we had no idea where those legs had been. No one wants to get an STD in a foreign country where you don’t know the locations of free clinics. This is something that is not adequately covered in travel brochures.

  But then it was time for the final zip. We traipsed up to that last launch platform with two mindsets. There were those among us who hadn’t had a particularly festive afternoon, and they were simply waiting for the pain, agony, and lack of cocktails to come to a miserable end. (Picture Tiffany, with her mangled glove and the slight abrasions around her waistline. She would never look fondly upon goats again.) Then we had folks who were quite saddened that our adventure was reaching the part where Carol Burnett would tug at her ear. (Picture Terry, who had greatly enjoyed the excursion, wiping away a tear as we approached final lift-off.)

  Personally, I’d have to include myself in the enraptured group. After the first run, where I didn’t die and actually became slightly horny during the zip (don’t ask, just go with it), I’d had a rather swell time. But something seemed a little odd as we collectively gathered and sweated at the last station. For one, you couldn’t really see the destination. Granted, we had survived a few runs where the landing platform was a bit distant and vague, but you still got a sense of the general in which you would be flung.

  This time? Not so much. The zip line simply vanished into mere sunshine and nothingness. We couldn’t see anything remotely resembling a place where one would wish to go, harnessed or otherwise.

  But I was still adequately doped up on whatever body chemicals were coursing through my body after the morning’s physicality (after all, the only exercise I normally get consists of reaching for the TV remote control or hitting “enter” on a keyboard), so I really didn’t worry about things as I was once again hitched to the clothesline. Then I happened to glance at two of the lesser guides who were huddled off to the side, apparently exchanging money. What was that all about? Was it a drug deal, or were they betting on survival chances? That made me a little uneasy. Maybe I had better ask someone about-

  “GO!” screamed the main guide standing right beside me, a gruff invective that both startled and aroused me. I instinctively ran to the end of the platform like the po-po were banging on the front door and dove head-first into nothingness.

  And things were fine for roughly four seconds, with pretty greenery whipping by on both sides and a brisk wind cooling off my heated bits. Then I shot out of the trees and found myself in an open-air expanse that people typically only encounter when they drive up to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Except that I was way past that rim. And the other side of the canyon appeared to be in another country, like Ecuador or Australia.

  So I screamed. Okay, maybe not screamed, but a crude expletive that normally references solid body waste fought its way out of my mouth and echoed up and down the canyon that was ungodly large and obviously a place where people died. This was clearly a moment that wise advertising personnel had left out of the glossy brochures.

  But I managed to stop with the masculine screaming, somewhere over Colorado, and I got a second wind. As it became evident that I was not going to immediately perish, as long as I didn’t stick my fingers where they shouldn’t be, I actually relaxed enough to enjoy the view. Because really, it was quite magnificent. After all, how often do you get the chance to see things from the perspective of a flying creature that normally just poops on your car?

  Then I started spinning.

  I really didn’t welcome this development. I vaguely recalled that one of the guides, when he wasn’t flirting with all the women-folk in our entourage, had mentioned that spinning was a possibility. And that there were certain measures you could take to stop the spinning if you didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. But I really couldn’t remember what he proffered up as preventative actions, because at the time of his oratory I was more concerned with the fact that my flight gear was separating my testicles in a manner that was neither pleasant nor productive.

  So I continued to twirl. Normally this is something that my people enjoy, preferably with an abundance of glitter and a Lady Gaga song playing in the background. But at this particular moment I was not a fan of the twirling. Revoke my gay card if the by-laws of our constitution say you must. Everything was blurry and I couldn’t figure out where I was, and I really didn’t care for feeling like Courtney Love on a typical Saturday night.

  Then, by whatever happenstance and alignment of the planets, I stopped spinning. Right as I was approaching the very end of the run. This was a quick bit of business, and I only had about three seconds to assess the situation. I could see several friends and family members clustered near the landing platform, most of them cheering me on in that “Go Team!” way that non-athletes have when it comes to encouraging people do sporty things while watching TV in a bar during happy hour. This was sweet and all, but I couldn’t help but notice that I was rapidly heading toward a tree.

  A tree with what appeared to be a mattress strapped to its trunk.

  Despite my recent spinning and screaming, I was fairly certain that a tree should not come equipped with a mattress, unless there was some type of pain-avoidance scenario that owners of jungle-based entertainment venues wished to avoid. I was only able to process about three words in my brain (“why is there-“) before I slammed into the evil tree with enough power to make the slamming of Hurricane Katrina into New Orleans look like a hiccup.

  My sunglasses flew in one direction, my already-abused testicles flew in another direction, and several internal organs flew to parts of my body that hadn’t received the memo about the new arrivals and proper accommodations had not been prepared. I slid down the tree and hung from the zip line like a piƱata after children hopped up on birthday-cake sugar had beaten me with sticks. I fully expected emergency personnel to arrive within seconds and begin performing life-saving activity.

  This did not immediately happen.

  In fact, no one around me seemed all that interested in the possibility that I might never walk again. The only person who even glanced my way was one of the little lesser-guides who reached up and whacked at the pulley device above me so that I could drop to the platform with an unsatisfying thud. (And that was his job, so I’m not really going to give him any bonus points for merely following protocol.)

  I plucked my sunglasses out of a nearby bush and staggered my way to a little ladder leading down from the platform, where I then managed to further desecrate my athleticism by not remembering how one navigates a ladder. I made it to the first rung with amazing skill and expertise, but then things got a bit jacked-up and I barely even touched the remaining rungs, hurtling downward in a manner that would have delighted those soul-deprived people who watch amateur videos and laugh hysterically at strangers who do stupid things that result in pain and disability checks.

  And still, no one was paying any attention to the fact that I was not having a good time right at the moment. There just might have to be some harsh words exchanged with my supposed friends and family members, once the bodily pain diminished enough that I could form coherent sentences.

  Eventually, I clamored back to my feet, brushing off the exotic Jamaican soil that was now in every crevice of my body, and turned toward said batch of former loved ones as they stood in a circle off to one side. I opened my mouth to say something essentially pointless but still cutting enough to be emotionally satisfying, then I quickly closed my offended mouth as I studied their behavior. They all seemed to be greatly focused on something in the midst of their circle, with all of them making cooing noises of delight and a few of them possibly approaching orgasm.

  Well, this I had to see.

  I walked up to the circle and shoved a few of the worshippers to the side (look, if you can’t rush to soothe me when I’ve slammed into a tree, you really don’t have a special place in my heart), thus allowing me to cast my eyes upon the idolatrous wonder that had enraptured them.

  It was one of those one of those big-ass water coolers that you normally see on the tailgate of a government-owned truck parked by the side of a construction area on a highway, in one of those scenarios where hundreds of government-owned workers are standing around and doing absolutely nothing while you are trapped in your car for hours, log-jammed because the 6-lane highway has been reduced to 1 stupid lane. Why are those fools thirsty? The only person who is actually doing anything is the flag-waver person, and his bitter expression makes it very clear that he doesn’t care where you drive as long as it’s not toward him.

  The acolytes at this particular jungle-based water cooler were shoving little paper cups at the dispenser spigot and sucking down the gushing liquid as if there had never been anything more glorious in the history of the planet, even surpassing the invention of fried cheese.

  And suddenly, I realized that I was more thirsty than any human being should have to endure. I hadn’t really thought about my parched state during the entire trek through the tropical forests of Jamaica, mainly because I was more concerned about staying alive and such, but now that the lovely combination of hydrogen and oxygen was there for my taking from a slightly-dirty round vessel composed of plastic that won’t decompose in a landfill for 2 billion years, there was nothing I wanted more.

  I grabbed a flimsy paper cup (at least the cup could be recycled, karma points for me) and shoved it under the spigot, knocking aside the hand of someone who was also reaching. (Screw you. You’ve been here longer than me, and if you haven’t managed to get what you need with that kind of head start, then you have personal issues that you really need to work through.) I filled my cup, purposely spilling a bit just to irritate those who were waiting, and gulped down the entire contents in one epic example of gluttony.

  Oh. My. God.

  I may have possibly spent my seed on the ground without impregnating anybody, an obvious affront to the seed-maintenance directives listed in the Bible, but that was the best water that I have ever tasted. Ever. I could smell colors and touch sounds.

  “Incoming!” screamed one of the acolytes. Or one of the guides. Somebody hollered.

  What? I’m having a religious experience here, why must there be shouting?

  Then I heard a whizzing and looked up. Another member of our amateur flock was hurtling along the zip line toward the mattress tree. It happened so fast that I really couldn’t see who it was, but they were very un-original in their execution, as they basically copied my own routine, slamming into the tree with mind-numbing force. There might have even been blood spatter, but I’ll leave that decision up to the fine folks at CSI: Jamaica.

  I turned back to the sacred font of obviously drug-laced liquid, and proceeded to gluttonize further. No shame in my game. Eventually, the newer arrivals shoved my belching ass to the side, intent on their own vision quest, but it really didn’t matter. I was sated at that point, and the only additional thing I might need in my life plan at that point was the appearance of a serving-wench type person bearing a plate of grease-dripping nachos and an alcoholic beverage.

  But then one of the guides got our attention by assuming an authoritative pose, which basically involved him standing in a strikingly-flattering shaft of sunlight filtering through the lush leafy coverage over our heads, and then chastely rubbing in the general area of his crotch. (Those Jamaican men sure do love their appendages.) “We will now march back to camp!”

  March back to camp? I don’t think so. At a hundred bucks a pop (U.S. dollars!) for this excursion, my water-logged butt wasn’t marching anywhere. I turned to glare at him defiantly.

  He couldn’t have cared less. “Follow me to the camp!” he announced, with one final diddle on his digit. Then he whirled about and attempted to commence said march, with the firm conviction of Napoleon strutting his short-ass self into a certain place known as Waterloo.

  I gave the knowing eye to all of my compatriots, full of the Norma Rae spirit, firmly convinced that they would join me in rising up against our oppressors.

  Instead, they all completely ignored me and raced to fall in line behind the stoned Pied Piper who was now in charge of our lives.

  Great.


To Be Continued…

Friday, July 13, 2012

5 Old-School Childhood Games That Did Not Involve Electronics, Internet Access or an Expense Account



1. Hide and Seek

  Very simple, really. Somebody was “it”, and that person had to close their eyes and count backwards from a designated number. Everybody else ran like hell to find a hiding place, preferably within the same county, but some people took this game very seriously and you never knew. Once the countdown was done, Phase Two of the operation would kick in, with “It” trying to find all of the escapees. In turn, the escapees would try to sneak past “It” and touch home base without the humiliation of being tagged or tripping over something stupid that some fool had left in the yard.

  I never really cared for being “It”. That was too much work, unless all of your little friends were uncontrollable gigglers and you could easily track them down with sonar. I preferred the Anne Frank role, because I loved discovering the perfect hiding place and driving everybody else crazy with bafflement, with fools wandering right past me and having no idea that I could bite their ankles if I felt inspired to do so.

  Of course, your hidey hole couldn’t be too perfect or people would never find you, especially if “It” was one of the younger kids you were forced to play with because their parents were drunk and needed an impromptu baby-sitter. Those little urchins just didn’t have any gumption, half-heartedly looking behind one tree and then giving up completely, crying and sniffling as they sat their lazy asses down right on home base so that you couldn’t sneak past them without their grubby little fingers touching you.

  An additional downside to a premium hiding spot was the potential discomfort. Almost invariably, the best hiding places were cramped and stuffy. It was a hoot of a good time for the first few minutes you were in there, but it didn’t take long before you were sweating to death and unable to get a decent amount of oxygen. You didn’t want to just give up, of course, but sooner or later you would start to get a cramp or lose consciousness, and you wouldn’t have any choice but to suck it up, pop out of your hole, and signal for a medic.

2. King of the Hill

  This one required at least a minimal amount of preparation, in that you had to have a mound of something that would support the weight of several youngsters essentially trying to kill each other. A volcano-shaped hill was nice, but nature didn’t always cooperate so you often had to resort to man-made structures, such as a large pile of sand or a stack of abandoned tractor tires (this second option was readily and abundantly available in rural Oklahoma in 1975, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one).

  Anyway, someone was anointed the initial “king”, and as part of his coronation procession he had to clamor to the top of whatever had been designated as the hill. Once there, he would review the peasants gathered below him, place his dominant hands on his hips, and loudly proclaim that he was now the absolute ruler of all, forever and ever. (Or at least until everybody had to go home for lunch.) Providing your own dialogue such as this was something that children often did back in the day, because we didn’t have video games that did all the playing, thinking and imagining for us.

  Then the more exuberant aspect of the game would commence. This entailed all of the dis-satisfied peasants at the foot of the hill suddenly forming some type of labor union, taking a vote that a new and vicious change of leadership was in order, and then storming the hill with cries of determination and battle. End game? Knock that fool off the top of the hill and make the crown your own.

  Now, that may sound very festive and such, but in reality, this could be a brutal and bloody experience. Ever take somebody’s bony head to the gut and then find yourself flying 20 feet through the air and landing on your back? Had somebody hurl themselves into the backs of your knees so that you fell on them while they fell on your lower legs, putting enough pressure on your shins that you screamed in an octave range that hadn’t been invented until that very moment? Slid on your face down the side of a pile of gravel while somebody stomps on your head as they rushed to take the place of your sorry, felled ass?

  If I had a brochure entitled “Fun Things That I Really Love About Life”, none of the above options would be in it. Sayin.

  But the true dynamic of the game is that the “king” was really in a position of power, based on the laws of physics and the overwhelming disadvantage of the eternally-suffering peasants. It was very hard to topple the bastard at the top. Many a time the insurgency would wear itself out and the kingdom would remain in the hands of a single monarchist until Mom would holler from the back porch that it was time to wash up for supper.

3. Red Rover

  This was another essentially pain-based form of entertainment, although it required a rather sizeable contingent of rowdy hooligans for there to be any type of success. This high-population requirement probably explains why it was popular on community playgrounds. In my own case, however, it was also a requirement that we play this sadistic mess as part of our P.E. classes in elementary school. (It also didn’t help that our P.E. “coach” was a twisted sociopath with authority issues and a love for inflicting pain on youngsters wearing Garanimals.)

  You split into two teams, with each team holding hands in a straight line and facing the other team. One of the teams would go first (I don’t recall how this was decided, but it was probably drug-based, since it was the 70’s), and that team would target someone on the other team by bellowing “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Billy Joe come over!”. Billie Joe, gulping, would then haul ass toward the other team and try to break through one of the little hand-holding segments. If he bounced off like a rag doll, he had to join the other team. If he broke the chain, he got to pick one of the probably-injured breakees to join his own team. Play continued until there was no one left on one team or somebody was killed.

  Now, as I’m sure you can imagine, there was a lot of cheating in this warped exercise that basically taught you that you have to hurt people to succeed in life. You had the hefty farm boys targeting the linked hands of dainty little girls, knowing they wouldn’t survive any better than bugs hitting the windshield. You had those dainty girls who would often scream hours before the rutting bull got anywhere near them, voluntarily breaking the chain and allowing themselves to be carted away as captured flesh and having visions of being turned into slave labor or harem personnel, depending on which books they had checked out of the school library.

  And you had any survivors of attempted chain-breaks. Whether you won or lost the round, you were basically out of commission. If you were the defending chain, your arm was probably torn out of its socket and hanging limply. If you were a runner, you took a serious blow somewhere on your body, with possible outcomes ranging from gastrointestinal damage to sterility.

  And if the runner was subjected to “clothes-lining”, the supposedly-banned but still-practiced ploy of raising your linked arms to the neck-level of the runner? That runner was no longer breathing. He had just enough time to crawl off to the side and scratch out his last will and testament in the playground dirt.

4. Crack the Whip

  You know, I’m starting to wonder if we ever played anything that wasn’t dangerous. Was this just an Oklahoma thing? Or did kids around the world gleefully participate in activities that could maim or cripple them? Do kids still do that these days? Well, probably not at public schools. You know, those places where there’s so much restrictive legislation now that a teacher can’t even say “good morning” without a consent form signed by God, yet so many modern “parents” fully expect that teacher to completely raise their own children without the parents having to lift a finger.

  Anyway. With this festive game, everybody joined hands in a single line, assuming you were still physically capable of doing such after playing Red Rover earlier in the afternoon. Then the “head” of the snake would start running all over the place, all crazy-eyed and preferably zig-zagging. End result? The increasing pressure on the people at the end of the line would soon become so great that they would go flying through the air and slam to the ground in a far field. Good times.

  Now, one of the rules was that, even if you had been flung, if you could somehow manage to rejoin the chain and hang on, you were officially back in the game. But seriously, once you’ve crashed through the front window of the Five & Dime two blocks over, why would you go back? Why?

5. The Quiet Game

  Okay, maybe not all of our youthful entertainment pursuits were dripping with blood and intense peer pressure. But even though this game was relatively tame, from a physical-damage perspective, it’s still tainted by the fact that isn’t actually a game, but rather a coping mechanism invented by parents who were waiting for their Valium prescriptions to be refilled.

  The object? Sit your ass down and shut up. For a very long time. Don’t talk about anything, don’t file oral reports about what your sibling may or may not be doing, and don’t provide commentary about who was whisked away in an ambulance from the playground at school. If you speak, you lose, and Mommy has to start drinking again.  But what do you win, if you don’t engage the vocal chords until you’ve graduated from high school? You get to continue being raised by your parents and not Child Protective Services…