Friday, September 20, 2013

Attack of the Giant Mary

  It all started rather innocently.

  My partner, Terry, turned to me and uttered these deceptively benign words: “Johhna and Patty are going to Pecan Lodge for barbecue on Sunday for lunch. And then to The Anvil for drinks. Wanna go?”

  Me, taking roughly one second to consider all angles: “No.”

  Terry: “No on which part? The barbecue or the drinking? We have options here.”

  Me, slightly annoyed that I have to explain myself, because we’re in a long-term relationship, and there are certain things that should be instinctive by now. “Well, definitely no on Pecan Lodge. That place is insane. You can stand in line for two hours. And there’s no guarantee that there will be any food left by the time they bless you with entrance to the building.  I don’t understand why they don’t plan any better. They need to have more meat.”

  Terry: “We all need to have more meat.  Meat is good. If everybody had meat, we wouldn’t have war. But now I’m not sure what we’re talking about.”

  Me: “I can’t bear the thought of standing in the Dallas heat for hours and then not getting any meat. So, it’s a no on The Lodge. The psychological cruelty aspect is just too much.”

  Terry, adjusting his spreadsheets:  “Okay, no meat. But the drinks?”

  Me, already sensing that I may be venturing into Total Regret territory but not wanting to appear completely anti-social until it becomes popular to be that way again: “Yes, we can do drinks. Quick drinks. Then we flee.”

  Terry: “Got it.” Then he is immediately texting Johhna and/or Patty, using a complex mix of hand-held devices, intricate communication networks, and global satellites, none of which were necessary back in the day when you simply picked up the hard-wired, stationary phones and spoke to your friends in a real-time manner.

  At that point I wasn’t too overly concerned. It was only Saturday afternoon, Sunday was still years away, in that lazy manner you have on the weekends where nothing is really all that important until you have to do something about it. I had plenty of time to make up excuses or flee the country, should I come to a decision that I didn’t want to go drinking in a place that I didn’t know, this Anvil Pub that was somewhere in the Deep Ellum section of downtown Dallas, a funky, often trendy bit of the city where you could have a really good time or you could be car-jacked. Lots of time to develop Plan B.

  But then it was suddenly Sunday morning, late Sunday morning, and Terry’s face was in mine as I awoke from a dream wherein I was running about on a nude beach in the south of France and having a festive time because I had acquired a tan that I normally am unable to acquire, and certain hot guys were showing appreciation for such an acquisition. And for my nudity. This is not a development that one wishes to awaken from. But I was. And there was Terry. “The girls are already at Pecan Lodge. They’re still in line. But the clock is ticking.”


  So he ran off to make us breakfast, which is nice of him and all, and I lay there in the bed, trying to think of at least one valid reason why I should leave the bed. Nothing immediately came to mind, especially when you considered the possibility of falling back into slumber and playing a rousing game of leapfrog on that beach where nobody knows the name of your clothes. Sunshine, gentle lapping waves, and friskiness. How can you argue with that?

  Terry could. “Breakfast is ready!”

  So I schlepped my ass into the part of the house where we don’t have beds and pleasant dreams, and both Terry and I began to nosh on the results of his culinary expertise whilst we watched an episode of CSI: New York from one of the 4,000 boxed sets that we own due to compulsive purchasing issues. We mistakenly believed that we still had plenty of time, because The Girls were standing in line at one of the hottest restaurants in Dallas. They would be there for days.

  This illusion was shattered three seconds later , when Terry’s phone loudly buzzed and jingled, indicating a text intrusion. The Girls were nearing completion of their meal and would be heading toward the questionable bar in Deep Ellum within 15 minutes. What the hell? What kind of superpowers did these women have that had somehow allowed them to triumph over all odds and get serviced in an expedited manner?

  This text alert meant that, in an ideal world, we should race to jump in the shower, scrub our sins away, and then pile in the car, gunning the engine so we could meet our friends in a respectable amount of time, despite the heat of Dallas in September, a heat that can suck your soul out of your body.

  In reality, it meant that we finished watching the episode of CSI: New York. This particular episode was from the first year, that lone season where they had that fascinating, somber color palette that was all about blues and grays and coldness and a morgue that looked like an abandoned subway station from 1912. After that, the fool producers brightened things up and killed the Gothic tone and made it look like CSI: Miami, just with a different address and without David Caruso, who can’t say a dramatic line without placing his hands on hips and tilting his head to the side.

  Wait, I seem to have lost the narrative. Where was I? Oh yeah, it was time to get my ass off the couch, move beyond the cloning of American television, and cleanse my special bits. So I did.

  A few years later, Terry and I were motoring our way into the head-scratching environs of downtown Dallas. I’m not sure who designed the layout of what is now the epicenter of a major American city, but that person was clearly on drugs. Nothing makes sense. There’s no simplicity, no life-affirming agreement that the roadways should somehow conform to basic plot-points like North, South, East and West. Nope.  Somebody thought it would be really super-neat to have streets meandering in haphazard directions that would boggle the minds of any known GPS software on the planet.

  And when you throw in that jacked-up mess about one-way streets, where you have to traverse acres of civilization just to navigate your way to a destination that is only millimeters away from your current position, but you can’t easily get there because some dumb-ass in 1812 made a poor zoning decision? Seriously, what is the point of a one-way street, other than to intentionally piss off half the driving population?

  Speaking of people: Because downtown Dallas is now rather trendy, it’s filled with trendy people doing what is now apparently the latest trendy thing: Walking and driving around whilst texting and paying absolutely no attention to anything that is going on around you, such as other people who are trying to navigate past your annoyingness so they can actually accomplish something in their lives. (#asshats)

  In any case, Terry managed to find a parking lot with multiple available spaces, a discovery that was almost erotic because sometimes it can be very hard to find a parking space up in this hood. We secured the vehicle and wandered around the corner onto Elm Street, where we were nearly flattened by some very exuberant motorcyclists straddling thundering hogs. One of them was wearing an “Anvil” t-shirt, our destination. It seems that we were about to enter a biker bar where people enjoyed being loud. (I breathed a couture sigh of relief, since I had wisely donned blue jeans and a grunge-tribute shirt, instead of the disco pants that had briefly caught my eye.)

  So we trot into the establishment, slightly wary of what we might find. (Biker bars in and of themselves are usually just fine. But a biker bar packed with trendy people who are trying to be street when they’ve never actually straddled anything in their lives? We could have issues.) Turns out that the quality of the clientele was not what we needed to be worried about. Instead, all other concerns in the world were immediately forgotten when we strolled up to the bar where Johhna and Patty were sitting, and found them drinking this:

  “What the hell is that?” I asked, fear coursing through my body.

  “Well,” said Patty, turning from the bar so that we could see her better, because she’s the more performance-oriented of the two and she doesn’t want to disappoint her audience, “it’s a Bloody Mary. With lunch on top.”

  I didn’t know if I could take this story on faith. “Are you sure it’s not a Lady Gaga bobble-head?”

  Terry chimed in. “Or Patti LaBelle’s hair?”

  And both of us briefly paused to gauge the distance to the front door of the pub, just in case we suddenly needed to run back out it after the thing on the bar pulled out a tiny machete and tried to cut a bitch. (This is a survival instinct that has developed after watching horror movies, where you are schooled in what happens when stupid people don’t make adequate flight preparations upon discovering something odd sitting where it shouldn’t be.)

  “It’s really good,” piped in Johhna. “You should try one.” (She did not, however, let us try hers just in case there were compatibility issues. I made a mental note that she might have a slight selfish streak, something I would need to keep in mind in case we ever got stranded in the Andes Mountains after a plane crash, and she decided that she was very, very hungry. Not turning my back on her, no sir.)

  Still, they seemed sincere about the pleasures to be had from getting intimately involved with a five-gallon bucket filled with liquor and topped with a garnish the size of Detroit. So I ordered one. (Terry refrained. He has a thing about tomatoes, especially the juice, although he worships ketchup. I’m sure there’s a fascinating story behind it all, perhaps a tragic incident in his youth, I just haven’t bothered to ask, because sometimes the first step toward healing is to never talk about it again.)

  The ordering of the Mammoth Mary is a complicated process. For starters, they plunk down a glass of beer, a PBR. (“Pabst Blue Ribbon”, for those trendy texting people who have never experienced anything that doesn’t involve social media.) They call this PBR the “appetizer”, which is kind of cute, but it actually means “it’s going to take us a decade or so to put together all the nibbly bits that go on top of your bucket, and you’re going to be really thirsty before it gets here, so drink this.”

  And it did take a long time. Long enough that my PBR glass was bone-dry and abandoned, rolling around on the bar. (There was even a brief moment of boredom where I actually watched the Cowboys game on a monitor in the bar. Those who know me well will realize that I must have been absolutely desperate to do such a thing.) But eventually, somebody fired up a forklift, drove the beeping machine out of the “kitchen” and lowered my cocktail onto the bar. You could hear the foundation of the building groaning as this took place.

  Let me break down this drink for you: It comes in a Mason jar. Not the little version, the kind you use to make your own jelly or to store buttons that you will never actually need. The big kind that you would use to pickle a watermelon, or that serial killers would use to store the heads of their victims in formaldehyde. This jar is filled to the brim with the main attraction, the actual Bloody Mary. The rim of the jar is encrusted with black pepper and salt, which allows you to use your tongue to moderate the seasoning level of the beverage, which is always fun, who doesn’t want to demonstrate the agility of their tongue in a room full of drunken strangers?

  On the second floor of the libation, we have the artwork, the creatively arranged snacks that are anchored in place on a number of shish kabob skewers. Rumor has it that the niblets can vary from time to time (this was according to a free-spirited woman who happened to wander by at one point, with her and her unrestrained but combative breasts informing me that she’s “seen all kinds of mess up on those things.”)

  My current version of the mess included:  a celery stick (natch), a green bean (no idea), a small wedge of broccoli (looking like a little green Don King), pickled okra (I’m assuming pickled, I don’t touch okra unless it’s fried and this was not), a cooked Brussels sprout (I’m guessing the uncooked version proved impenetrable for the skewer), a single shrimp (more, please, it was quite tasty dipped in the Bloody Mary), a wedge of salami (also a good dipper, not sure why), a chunk of artisanal cheese, a cherry tomato (one of the few things that was cherry in that bar), an onion ring (always a good choice, regardless of circumstances), and an actual slider cheeseburger.

  There may have even been more snackies involved, but I did reach a point where I was tired of leaning in for a slurp and getting poked in the eye by a skewer stick, so I popped the structural mechanism out of the jar and chunked it to the side. (Side note to the Anvil Pub staff: Longer straws, maybe? Sure seems like a good idea to me. If you can afford to stock up on Brussels sprouts, I’m sure you can find longer things in the stockroom that people can suck on.)

  In any case, the drink itself was quite satisfying, leaning toward the spicy side, which all good Bloody Marys should do. (It took me well over an hour to finish the drink, in case you’re keeping score.) And speaking of leaning and spicy, we were about to meet someone who was both. (Well, only two of us got to meet her. The other two in our motley crew chose not to participate in what quickly escalated into an eye-opening adventure, and therefore missed out on the glorious joy of having a complete stranger barge into your personal space and then proceed to have a neurological breakdown, complete with random spittle and exuberant hand gestures.

  This development also started innocently enough, or at least as innocently as things can be when you are smoking behind a rowdy bar in a questionable area of Dallas. Johnna and I had decided that we needed a quick nicotine fix, so we worked our way out the back door of the bar to the designated area. We fully expected this little quest to result in us huddled in a smelly alley, taking hurried drags as we dodged homeless people and possible gang members who had just decided they needed another teardrop tattoo and they were looking for people who couldn’t run very fast.

  Turns out, this was not the case at all. Instead, we stumbled into a very nice patio area, with thick, brick walls that would help prevent us from becoming a crime statistic. Cozy tables and chairs and umbrellas. The only slight drawback is that it was still 117 degrees in the Texas heat, even under the festive umbrellas. Not a particularly thrilling environmental aspect, but it also meant that the patio was completely deserted, and the entire kingdom was ours to rule as we pleased.

  So we did, sitting down and lighting up.

  Our reign, though glorious and marked by festivals thrown in our honor by the peasants, proved to be a rather short one. We were barely finished with handing out knighthoods for the first fiscal quarter, when the back door flew open with a bang. We turned to see who had made it past the Palace Guard, fully expecting to find an assassin, sheathed in black and sent by our pesky enemies in the neighboring kingdom of Fort Worthia. Instead, our eyes fell upon a tall woman whose own jittery eyes were staring back at us in confusion and wonder.

  We knew immediately that she was insane.

  There are times when folks can fool you about their madness, feigning sanity for hours or days or years before you run across them eating purple crayons and doing unspeakable things to donkeys. That was not the case here. We were in the Express Lane, no doubt about it. She was wearing an outfit that might best be described as “soccer player on acid”, she had a hairdo that implied “I only bathe when I remember what that is”, and she marched right up to our table, whipped a cigarette out of her pack, and proceeded to throw the pack on our table in a clear homesteading maneuver.

  This is one of the ultimate taboos in the smoking world.  Yes, the 12 smokers left in the United States often find themselves in temporary-bonding situations, as they huddle together 50 yards from the entrance to a restaurant and try not to get shot by vigilantes, but there are still protocols. And one of them is that you do not stake a claim at an occupied table in a smoking-zone unless you have slept with someone at that table on at least two prior occasions.

  Since neither Johhna nor I could recall ever having been horizontal with Medusa of the Doorway, we were a bit affronted. Then again, we’d just consumed a Bloody Mary bigger than a car, so there was definitely some flexibility here. Besides, a runaway train of cray-cray can be very entertaining, as long as you remember to get out of the way before the derailment. So we sat back and just let Medusa share her thoughts on mankind.

  Boy, did she ever.

  At first, her ramblings were a bit benign.  She initially babbled about how the weather was ultra-pleasing today, words that she on/off muttered between bouts of staring at those things in the back wall. (They’re called bricks, sweetie.) Then there was some mess about how she had kicked off her morning by indulging in something that was not alcohol and most likely not legal. (She definitely had a fondness, or inability, for choosing words that had any real concrete message, a theme that would continue throughout our fellowship.)

  Then she eventually wandered her way into incoherent tales of working for some type of adjunct program with the Sierra Club, a community-service (or so it seemed) type of thing where she would pay money to go on a trip and do manual labor for needful local citizenry. She mentioned the name of this program several times, but the name didn’t fully register because I was too busy watching her eyeballs vibrate. (Dear Sierra Club, I am not trying to besmirch you in any way. I had no way to gauge the truthfulness of this woman’s oratory. Please see above references to Medusa, lack of proper sportsmanship in social settings, and inappropriate wardrobe selections.)

  Whatever the program was called, Sierra Club involvement aside, it cost 300 dollars per trip. The financial part was very clear, because this woman repeated that figure at least 20 times. 300 dollars. Over and over.  It’s like she was going for some type of door prize for the number of repetitions. I felt like I should write “300!” on the wall behind us so the poor wretch would stop bellowing that number. Sadly, Vanna White did not walk up and offer me a writing implement, so I couldn’t do this.

  Johhna, on the other hand, didn’t need a spokesmodel/failed actress to further her cause. She decided that it would be jovial to query Neurotica Nancy on the finer details of her vague endeavors. “So, person, what did you do on these trips?”

  Person: “Trips?”

  Johhna:  “Not the trip that you’re on now, the thing with the Sierra Club. What did you do? How did you help?”

  Person:  “Oh… um… we… there was weeding…”

  Johhna:  “Oh?”

  Person:  “Weeding management.”

  Johhna:  “I see that. And where did you go?”

  Person:  “Go? Um, we went… Alaska… and some other… I’ve been four times… other states… Washing and Origami…” (Keep in mind that during the pausing bits, Person would stare at the ground as if contemplating where she might be at the moment and whether or not she turned off the iron back at the halfway-house.)

  Johhna: “Uh huh. And when you were there did you-“

  Person:  “Hawaii! We went to Hawaii!”

  Johhna, smiling, because she lives in Hawaii, and this suddenly became very interesting:  “Really? And where did you stay in Hawaii?”

  Person:  “The big one… the big… island. And the other island.”

  Johhna: “And what did you do there?”

  Person:   “Do? Oh… there were waves.  I could sit and watch. The waves would come in, and the waves would go out. The waves would come in, and the waves would go out. The waves would come in, and…”

  Johhna:  “The waves would go out?”

  Person:  “Yes! And then the waves would go out and-“

  Johhna:  “But what did you do there? Help me understand.”

  Person:  “There was… there were people… and they would decide about… and we would do… and they would plan things and… we… they had to make decisions about… decisions… and we…”

  Johhna:  “Yes?”

  Person:  “The waves would come in…”

  Johhna:  “They do that a lot.”

  Person:  “It was 300 dollars! And that’s a lot of money for me, I’m a teacher!”

  Those last three words were the most chilling of the afternoon. She was a teacher? Holy crap.

  The back door of the pub suddenly slammed open again, and we were presented with a waitress proffering a steaming bowl. “Do you want your chili out here or back inside?”

  My mind boggled. What the hell?

  Then the waitress glared at Crazy Train, her expression indicating that she had heard, many times, about the waves coming in and out, and she no longer cared for the constant updates. She just wanted it to be the end of her shift, and if people had to get hurt to make that happen, so be it.

  Crazy stared at the bowl, flummoxed. Then she turned to look at us.

  Johhna and I just stared back at her. We had nothing to do with this chili development. It’s all on you, girl. Deal.

  Crazy swiveled back to Waitress. “I… think that… the waves should go in.”

  Waitress promptly turned and fled, mission complete.

  Crazy turned back in our direction, although it took a bit for her to determine exactly where we might be located. Then she decided that there might be something to be gained from becoming even more intimate, as if such a thing were even possible. “I’m Gillian. And that’s my real name.”

  It was fully understandable that this woman might need an alias from time to time.

  Still, the random arrival of the chili did present a convenient exit opportunity for Johhna and myself, should we choose to take it. (I was more invested in departure than Johhna, who seemed to be enjoying this spectacle far more than she should. There was a definite entertainment factor to it all, but it was hot out here and things were becoming damp in unattractive places. Besides, we hadn’t bothered to frisk Gillian for weapons, despite that being an obvious course of action once Gill opened her mouth and the Mental Institution Alumni Newsletter fell out. She could jump us at any moment, thinking we were weeds, and the hacking would begin.)

  So I took the initiative to make imminent departure moves. (Which basically consisted of me staring at the back door of the pub with obvious longing, a single tear running down my cheek. This triggered something in Gillian’s psyche, probably  a trace memory of the Native American in that long ago anti-litter commercial, where he was pissed off about the trashy white people throwing their beer cans and McDonald’s sacks on the side of the road, and Gillian mistakenly assumed that it was time to report for litter detail on her next Sierra Club adventure. Only 300 dollars!) She faced the door as well.

  Which left Johhna as the only one not studying the woodwork, so she grudgingly got out of her chair and joined us. We graciously allowed Gillian to wander in before us (I was NOT going to allow that woman to be behind me for any reason), and as Gilly pinballed her way up the hall, Johhna thought it would be festive to holler “And the waves roll out!”

  Gillian didn’t hear a thing. Of course she didn’t.

  Meanwhile, somewhere in Dallas, there’s a group of confused students sitting in a classroom, awaiting the return of their teacher. They’ve been sitting there since Friday, afraid to move since they weren’t properly dismissed. All they know is that Miss Gillian said something about needing some chili and that she would be right back…

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to Read a Kindle Book If You Don’t Have a Kindle

Dear Friends,

  Amidst all the excitement about releasing my book on Amazon, I’ve had several folks wondering how they can go about getting the book if they don’t have a Kindle. Well, since there’s already enough confusion in the world (WHY are any of the Kardshians even remotely famous)?), I’ve put together a quickie list of how you can circumvent the pesky non-ownership of a Kindle…

  Amazon offers free apps that will allow you to read Kindle books on a variety of platforms.

  Desktops and laptops:

        Windows 8:

        Windows 7, XP and Vista:





        Windows 8:


        iPhone and iPod Touch:


        Windows Phone:


  There’s even a thing called a Kindle Cloud Reader, which does something magical to your browser, I’m really not sure what this one is all about, maybe it means something to you:

  Fair disclaimer: I haven’t tried any of these apps, so please read things carefully before clicking.

  Hopefully, this list will allow everyone to download my book in some way, shape of form. Oh, and here’s a link for the actual book:

  Finally, why is the book only available on Kindle? Well, I’m in a program with them where they have exclusive rights to the distribution for 90 days. (I can’t even sell it on my own website, I can only provide links to the book on their website.) This program has side benefits for me that seem reasonable for now, so I signed on the virtually dotted line. I’ll take another look after the first 90 days have gone by, and then determine if I want to stay in the program.

  Anyway, that’s it for now with the technical angle, back to the funny in the next post. Hopefully.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Drum Roll, Please

  And there you have it, the book cover for the Kindle Edition of "Screaming in Paris".

  Hopefully, the layout accomplishes its goal of overcoming the somewhat horror-story hint of the  title (People are screaming in Paris, something must be on the loose!) and conveys the message that this is actually a humor book where you are supposed to chuckle, not die. We'll see.

  Yes, that's me front and center. It's a snap my sister, Dawn, took in one of the elevators at the Eiffel Tower. (We were bored at the moment, and I believe she said something like "what do you think of all these people packed in here with us?" I responded physically, she clicked.) Of course, I jacked around with the thing in Corel PaintShop, and a cover was born.

  It took me a while to make a final selection. I went through over a thousand pics from that 2009 week in France and, initially, there were other options that were front runners. But I kept coming back to this one. There's just something about the expression on my face, the fact that I'm actually in a Paris landmark, and my sister's composition that allowed me to squeeze in the necessary text. (Not that I'm happy about the double-chin action going on, but I couldn't find an option in PaintShop that said "click here to eliminate unruly body parts".)

  Anyway, the details are somewhat unimportant, the real focus is whether or not the layout invites you or repels you. The book is about to be released any day now on Kindle, so it will probably go out with this cover version. But I'll be tracking responses and commentary, and if the cover is affecting sales, I can always drop this one and go with the next runner-up, just like they did when Vanessa Williams turned out to have too artsy of a past to be Miss America...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Postcard #1

  So, it’s been a bit since I’ve managed to post anything here on this blog. Not really surprising, my whole focus lately has been on  getting “Screaming in Paris” ready for digital publication. Still, I feel a bit guilty about the posting drought, especially since it wasn’t that long ago that I would get into a tizzy if I didn’t post every day. In the hopes of keeping interest alive as well as ease the shame of my lackluster blog performance, here’s a snippet from what is now “Chapter 32” of Screaming…

  Okay, time for a slight break from the narrative. Let’s take Paris out of the equation. Isn’t it amazing, when you are dealing with multiple family members and trying to select a food destination, that the whole process becomes this maddening, excruciating journey through hell?

  Picture this: Trace and I are innocently sitting in our humble domicile, our Fortress of Solitude, when one of our families (I won’t say which one), calls and announces that they are coming down for the weekend. That’s fine, great, love to see ya. So the platoon of relatives descends on Dallas, and everything is fairly decent, lots of love all around.

  Until it’s time for us to go eat somewhere. Then the soul-sucking hatch to madness opens up, and we fall through it, with a big batch of Alices tumbling down the rabbit hole.

  First, it takes two hours for everyone to actually get in to the vehicle that has been chosen for our drive to a restaurant. This should not be difficult. You stand up, you walk out the door, and you get into the car. This should take five minutes, ten if you need to set the security alarm and make sure the cat has food.

  Instead, two hours. No one is prepared to actually leave the house, even though we have all been up for hours and everyone has bathed. Everyone is dressed. Makeup has been applied. Yet all these people still have last-minute things that they need to take care of before we can leave.

  So people are stomping all over the house, doing who knows what the hell, and no one is getting in the van. No one. The departure announcement has been made, people. Get your asses out here. I’m in the driver’s seat, ready to go.

  No one in sight. Tumbleweeds blow past and a cow moos.

  So I go back in the house. Everyone looks the same. In fact, they appear to be in the same positions as when I left the house to start the car thirty minutes earlier. What are you doing? Come ON!

  Still, we spend more time gathering things that nobody needs, changing blouses that looked just fine the first time, and thoroughly inspecting the contents of purses that will never be opened during the entire journey.

  Finally, when I’m just shy of pulling out a cattle prod (no need to ask why I happen to own one), we get everybody in the van. Then it’s another thirty minutes while people jostle around, switching seats, adjusting car seats for the little ones, screwing with the seatbelts, arguing over who gets the window and who gets shotgun, and having to wait while people check their purse for the fourth time to ensure that they still have the things that they will never need.

  Eventually, and several gray hairs later, we are able to close all vehicle doors. I maneuver down the driveway, but pause before pulling out into the street. I know from experience that we need confirmation of the destination. When you are dealing with ten people having sidebar conversations about food, there will often be furtive executive decisions made where you didn’t get the email.

  “So, we’re still going to Ingrid’s House of Pasta, right?”

  Total silence.

  “Okay, somebody say something. Yes or no. Ingrid’s?”

  Total silence.

  I am now gnawing on the steering wheel to keep me sane.

  Then a small voice from somewhere in the back: “Well…”

  I jerk my head up and look in the rearview mirror. “Who said that? Somebody in the third row. I see movement. Show your face.”

  Everyone is still as stone.

  “Fine.” I start to put the van in gear. “Ingrid’s it is.”

  From the back again: “But we were thinking…”

  I turn off the engine, take a deep breath, force my eyes to bulge in an obvious display of lunacy, and whip around to face the demons behind me. “Okay, here’s the deal. You will come to a decision, and you will come to a decision NOW. I am not starting this car until every single one of you is in complete rapture about our destination. Do. You. Understand. Me?”

  Total silence.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Slash and Burn

  So I’ve been banging around, trying to convert the Paris Chronicles blog series from 2009 into something that could have the pacing and flow of an actual book. As many writers will attest, it can be a very painful process, trying to edit something you’ve worked on years before, something you thought had been put to rest, for better or worse. And now here you are, dragging the poor thing out of the ground, editorial meat cleaver held high.

  It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. It’s very nice reviewing a particular blog post and thinking, okay, that holds up pretty well, I just need an intro and an outro and the post is now a chapter. Yay! I must have been really focused that day. (Writers need that boost, that reassurance that you are actually capable of cleanly hitting the target from time to time.  Otherwise, we get a little crazy.)

  On the flip side, some of the posts are a disaster, especially from the viewpoint of turning them into book chapters. There might be several lovely paragraphs in a row, full of wit and charm, and then BAM, I run into two paragraphs that basically suck, with the suckage factor loud enough that the cats race from the room and they are not seen for two days. Why did I think this section was funny, or even publishable, at the time? The mind, it can be a terrible thing to cut and paste.

  So the literary renovation has been rather time-consuming. (As it should, if you want to get it right.) Entire original posts have been excised and banished, never to be spoken of again. Paragraphs of pointless meandering have vanished, and subplots that slammed into a brick wall and then limped back to the  main story are now in the trashcan. (But I promise I will never actually empty that trashcan. It will simply be placed in the attic along with all the other “well, that didn’t really work out” ideas that might gain some useable worth in the future. Until then, they shall gather the dust of time.)

  However, the remodeling hasn’t been just a slash and burn. In fact, I have worked in far more new material than I have deleted of the old. Expanded dialogue and scenes, additional adventures that didn’t make the cut the first time around, transitional passages that smooth over the sometimes abrupt sting of original posts that ended simply because I was tired and I had to get another post out the next day. The resulting book will be a different read from the blog run, with much more of, hopefully, the things that worked the first time.

  Which actually gets us to the point of this post. I’m down to just a handful of posts that need to be converted. And one of them is a blog entry concerning a sidebar, completely fictional story I wrote as a response to a picture that I took at the Chateau de Chambord. This bit has nothing to do with the real-world adventures on our trip, removing it will not affect the flow at all. But I still kind of like this one, and I’m on the include/don’t include fence, wondering if the effort to “make it fit” is justified by the value of the content.

  And this is where you come in, dear reader.

  I am pasting the mostly-original post below. (There have been some minor modifications, because I can’t help but tinker with things.) But you don’t need to know where it fits in the overall story, because it’s outside that story, it’s a stand-alone, and you should read it as such.  (For those who followed the original run of the blog series, you will notice that my family members’ real-life names have been converted to whimsical French names, something that I have done throughout the new book, for a number of reasons.)

  So, if you accept the challenge and have the time, please read the story and then add a comment (either here or on Facebook) with one of three ratings:

  A  -  Very funny, fit this in somehow.

  B  -  Amusing, but Argentina will not cry for you if you cut it.

  C  -  Make your peace and let it go.

  Easy enough, right? And no, you don’t have to comment, if that’s not your thing. But I would certainly appreciate it if you do. Since I’m truly undecided about keeping this bit or not, I will not be offended in the slightest with your ratings.

The Picture:

The Story:

This is the clan standing just outside the Salle du Grande Fromage at the Chateau de Chambord, waiting for some servant to make the formal announcement that we have arrived for tonight’s masked ball. This is procedural protocol for such royal events. You do not do anything until you have been announced.

This, of course, is unlike the American concept of arriving at a party. Back home, if we were headed to someone’s shindig, one would typically bang through the front door, usually without knocking, slam down a casserole on the kitchen table (a dish that you usually didn’t even prepare yourself and instead relied on one of your bored, socially-awkward relatives to prepare for you), high-five whoever is standing near you, and then reach for a beer. There are no announcements, formal or otherwise.

Anyway, the guy on the far right is with the castle staff. Since we only heard about the festivities at the last minute and arrived without an actual invitation, he is checking with the head chef in the kitchen to ensure there is enough food to pacify the over-sized American appetite, as opposed to the French appetite, where an entire ballroom of slender Parisians can be satisfied with one jar of olives and maybe some leftover brie.

Right next to the staffer, you can see that Maman is the official representative for our clan. She felt it was only right that she be the first one announced to the exclusive gathering, since it was her idea to come to this castle in the first place, she was the one who coordinated the whole van thing, and she’s been to France more than any of us and therefore is the most sophisticated about the French culture and she can show us how it’s done.

(We simply chose to ignore the weaknesses of these qualifications, especially the last bit about French culture. Seriously, if Maman ever tried to actually order something in French at a restaurant, she would be arrested immediately, deported, told to never come back, and a discreet phone call would be made to the White House.)

She actually got to go first because she’s the shortest, therefore less intimidating, and she likes to chatter a lot. These qualities are appealing to the French. They like short, chirpy things. After all, we were basically crashing the party, and we needed to ease into the setting. Sending Mom in first would be a more agreeable sight as the royal guests got their first sight of an “Oklahoman”. If we had sent Darrin in first, towering over everyone and stomping in his biker boots like Godzilla attacking the city, there would have been screams of terror, broken china, and spilt wine.

Proceeding left in the line up, we then have Reina. She is not the least bit happy at this moment. Maman is forcing her to wear a poofy dress that she hates. On top of that, since we were running late, Maman had decided to just slam the dress over her head, wheelchair and all.

This, of course, led to some immediate complications. The voluminous material of the dress kept getting caught in the gears of the wheelchair, locking the wheels and abruptly stopping all forward movement of the vehicle. Normally, this would send Reina tumbling to the ground. Instead, because she was wearing the material locked in the wheels, she was trapped in place but quickly losing the available material to actually wear, making the dress tighter and tighter as the wheels gobbled more of the fabric.

Reina was being eaten alive by her own couture.

By the end of the night she would be wearing nothing but a sash as a tube top and a hastily-snatched drapery tassel as a creatively-arranged thong.

Continuing left, we have Trace, who is also not in that great of a mood. He’s a little miffed that his outfit looks astonishingly similar to the one worn by Maman, even though they worked with two completely different designers on opposite sides of the city. He will not be able to stand out in the crowd as much as he had hoped. At least the foo-foo thing on his head is more flamboyant than Mom’s foo-foo, so he does have a height advantage. There is still hope for a stunning entrance.

(Then again, looks like he may have made an unfortunate choice in going with the asymmetrical cut of his evening wear, with the one completely exposed leg and the other sheathed in taffeta. Perhaps J-Lo could have pulled off this look. T-Lo, not so much.)

Care to venture a guess as to who is next in line? With the queenly bearing and the only one in the clan to be directly facing the paparazzi?

Tatum. Naturally.

She, as expected, was the most perturbed at not being designated as “First to Be Announced”. After all, she is still convinced that her family ruled this country at one time, so it was a total shock that she was not going to be the first float in the parade. But she understood, as all ladies of the court understand, that any revenge you seek should not be brash and hasty. You must plot wisely and carefully. And plot she did.

Her left hand that is chastely hidden behind her back? It’s holding a knife. She is just waiting for the right opportunity to whip it out and hack at those who have wrongly not recognized her noble breeding. It’s simply a matter of time until there is bloodshed.

Speaking of plotting, if we jump left to the other side of the stone column, we have another example of a scorned female seeking to show displeasure at having something she wanted rudely snatched from her grasp. This is Nynette.

Her issue?

Well, Nynette also had dreams of being the Belle of this particular Balle. Let’s face it, she’s traveled all the way from Odessa, Texas to be here. Might as well go all out. She had worked tirelessly the whole day on her attire and presentation, racing from shop to shop to get everything she needed, consulting with Tatum to ensure that she purchased the highest-quality makeup and top-of-the-line hair products so that she would be a goddess of beauty and light.

Then, just five minutes before this shot was taken, as we rolled up to the Chateau de Chambord in our horse-drawn carriage that we stole from a stupid man in a nearby quaint village, a devastating conversation took place between Nynette and one of the many servants who rushed out to greet us and attend to our immediate needs. The dialogue went something like this:

Male servant, assisting Nynette down from the carriage: “Ahhh, madame, your costume is magnifique.”

Nynette, slightly blushing but thrilled: “Well, thank you! I appreciate that. I worked really hard to-”

Servant: “You are being the… the name is not in my mind at this moment… the American woman who sewed the American flag… a grand idea to come as such, very much clever.”

Nynette, momentarily confused, then realizing: “Sewed the flag? Wait. You think I look like Betsy Ross?”

Servant: “Oui, madame. Very much a good image. Very… convincing.”

Nynette, now outraged: “But she was UGLY! I don’t want to look like Betsy Ross. Do you think I spent all this money just to look like some simple seamstress from Philadelphia?” She snatched her hand away from the servant and helped herself out of the carriage.

Servant: “Madame… my English is not of perfection… but I am not saying of the ugly and simple-”

Nynette: “Just go help somebody else. I’m fine. Leave me alone, you wretched man.”

Then Nynette stomped away on the finely-maintained alabaster gravel of the entrance courtyard, crunching off to one side, then turned to watch as the rest of our party descended from the carriage.

Next out of the carriage door was Tatum, bursting through the opening in a glowing and radiant way, instantly charming most of the servants who then rushed to assist her, one of them rudely pushing Nynette to the side in his haste to offer comfort to the latest vision of loveliness.

Nynette, scowling, barely paid attention, at first, to this rush of devotion for her friend. And then it clicked.

Tatum was the one who convinced her to buy this particular makeup. Tatum was the one who insisted that she wear this specific outfit because it would “look fab”. Tatum was the one who said “no, shoving your hair up into this wig does NOT make you look like a serial-killer posing as a high-school cafeteria worker.”

Tatum was not a bestie. She was the evil opposite. She was a bitchie.

And with that thought, Nynette began to plan her own revenge. She wasn’t sure how, but justice was going to be served. By the time the photo above was taken ten minutes later, she had a rudimentary plan. Details still needed fine-tuning, but the basic gist was that Nynette was going to shove Tatum’s treacherous head into a silver punch bowl, washing away Tatum’s own carefully-applied makeup, thus revealing all of the traitor’s skin flaws to the entire court. Nynette hoped that somewhere along the line the royals had installed florescent lighting, thus making the Big Reveal even more shocking and traumatic.

Back to the group photo.

Moving to the left of Nynette/Betsy, we have Daisi, looking naturally stunning and thin as a blade of grass. Daisi is also a woman scorned (we seem to have a lot of them in our family), and Daisi is a woman who is about to take the life of the man she is glaring at with murder in her eyes.

That man is Dash, her up-to-this-point-at-least husband. You see, Dash has an interesting concept of how to behave in public. For the most part, he’s harmless. He just goes with the flow. But he’s a firm believer in taking care of bodily needs as they arise. He feels that anything which naturally occurs should not be offensive. It’s just part of being a human.

In this case, the natural occurrence is that he has just let rip with one of the loudest examples of flatulence that has ever taken place in the history of our planet. The sheer energy that has been released could power a small village for several days. As this photo is being taken, the reverberations of his release are still echoing throughout the five stories of hand-carved stonework in this palace.

Daisi is mortified. Dash is mystified at her mortification. What? You expected me to keep that IN? A gas bubble the size of Jupiter that could work its way to my heart and kill me? Do you want that?

As the thunderous rumble slowly dissipates, let’s move to the final person on the far left. This is me. As you’ll notice, I’m facing away from these obnoxious people, hiding my face in shame. We get all gussied up for a fancy ball, but the hick still oozes out like somebody’s got a major problem with their septic tank.

I’m wanting to leave. I’m wanting to just quietly slip out the door and walk away. I don’t care about the carriage. I’ll find my own way. I will walk until my feet are bloody nubs, hoping to find a secluded spot in the country where I can have a simple life, raising goats and reading poetry to the tomato plants that I lovingly nourish.

If only Tatum hadn’t talked us into coming to this party. If only-

Wait a minute. There’s the key.


Oh my God. It’s like the end of that movie, “The Usual Suspects,” where the detective stares at his bulletin board and suddenly everything is clear. Clues that he should have picked up on, but he didn’t until that final moment when the pieces clicked. Scenes from the our whole day flash before my eyes:

Tatum telling Maman: “Oh, go ahead and get the poofy dress for Reina. It won’t get caught in the wheelchair at all. It’s silk. Silk doesn’t catch. But on the teeny tiny chance that it does, I can take your place at the front of the line. It’s the least I can do.”

Tatum telling Trace, over brunch: “You have GOT to use this design for your costume. It’s totally unique. No one else in the world will be wearing anything like it. And that asymmetrical part? To DIE for.” A bit later, I should have known something was up when I spotted Tatum racing away from the hotel fax machine with a furtive look in her eye. I just thought she was helping Trace out by sending the pattern to his designer. But she must have been sending the pattern to Maman’s designer as well, thus ensuring that there would be an awkward twinkie situation.

Tatum to Nynette, as they were sharing a beer and makeup tips in the bathroom: “No, sweetie, pancake makeup is NOT a bad thing. It’s very hip these days. And wear this dowdy wig, which is also very current. Trust me. You will NOT look like that woman who happened to share a pew with George Washington at his church, managing to score a gig to make a flag in an early form of social networking.”

Tatum to Dash, as they are perusing the fresh vegetables at an open market while the rest of the women are back at the hotel, squeezing themselves into their outfits for the evening: “Do you like broccoli? I LOVE broccoli. Here, try some. Try some more. Isn’t it good? More.”

These whizzing scenes in my mind come to a halt. Tatum has done all of this to make sure that she would be the standout at the ball.

I pull back from the stone pillar at Chateau de Chambord where I have been banging my head. I turn and glare directly at Tatum.

She knows instantly that the game is up.

“You!” My voice echoes upwards, joining the lingering gases of Dash’s ass.

She yelps. Then I hear a clatter as she releases the knife she had been holding behind her back. “But I didn’t really mean to-”

“YOU!” I repeat, marching in her direction. “What is WRONG with you? Do you have to be the center of attention SO bad that you would-”

Just then, we hear the odd two-note siren of an approaching French police car. Great.

Tatum’s eyes are wide with fear. She instinctively reaches for her lip gloss with a trembling hand…

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Where I’ve Been, And Why

  So, in the middle of December, last year, I suddenly stopped posting on this blog. Absolutely nothing for over 3 months. I basically avoided any updates on Facebook, although there were a few drive-by snippets here and there. I didn’t throw anything out on Twitter, although, to be fair, I never really got invested in the Twitter thing. (There’s something about the 160-character thing that just irks and inhibits me.) My Pinterest boards went silent, I apparently stopped perusing books according to Goodreads, and Google Plus became Google Minus.

  Last month, the silence on this blog was briefly broken, with three half-ass posts, not my best, then the tumbleweeds started rolling again. I essentially went AWOL from social media, and I gave no reason why. But today, with the arrival of a certain something in the mail, I decided it was time to chat a little bit about what’s been going on.

  Despite the concerns expressed by a few people who emailed me privately, I did not go into a depression. Rather, I went into a distraction. Two of them, actually. My creative juices did not dry up. Instead, the juices were squeezed into different containers than this one.

  The first container was one of my other blogs, “Backup Dancers From Hell”. At some point late last year, something I did, or perhaps something someone else did, caused a huge spike in hits on that blog. I went from an average of less than a hundred hits a day to over a thousand a day. And the spike held strong, continuing for weeks. It eventually abated somewhat, but I still regularly get 500-600 hits a day.

  Granted, an analysis of hits is rather mundane and boring for people who aren’t writing an actual blog. But if you are a blogger, any time you see a spike, you do the best you can to recreate or reinforce whatever caused that activity. Trouble is, I couldn’t figure out what was causing all the commotion, what  might be the source of the influx, because the tallies of hits on the individual posts did not add up to the overall total that Blogger was reporting for that site.  And I still haven’t figured it out, even after I went to the Blogger IT people. They were just as flummoxed as me about the discrepancy, but they confirmed that the overall total was a valid and wonderful thing.


  Bottom line, something or somebody somewhere was paying attention to that blog. And the only way to guarantee the attention was to keep posting. So I have been. Which means less time for this blog.

  The bigger container for my juices (that sounds a bit naughty, but I’m keeping the phrase anyway) had two fundamental ingredients. The first was the abysmally low number of hits for this blog. Although I like ALL of my blogs, at least those that are still active, this one is my pride and joy. This is where I have the most fun, where I don’t limit myself, and where you can get the truest glimpse into what I’m really trying to do. But nobody was coming to visit, despite my promotional efforts on social media.

  And that’s ingredient number two, social media. I had been spending an enormous amount of time on the various outlets, from Facebook to Pinterest to lesser-known vehicles that might generate some visits, especially repeat visits, which is crucial, to my blogs. Yes, some of my time, especially on Facebook, was purely social in nature and I do enjoy that angle, but a big chunk of my efforts were concentrated on the business side.

  And it really is a business, for me. I love writing, don’t get me wrong, if The Fates decree that I am never to earn a penny from my writing, so be it, I will still continue. But I would like to earn some pennies from it, many pennies, to be blunt. I would like it to be my career. Scratch that, I dream nightly about it being my career. It’s the one thing I’ve always wanted, since day one when I first composed a sentence as a young child and thought, wow, that felt really good. More, please.

  But we all face obstacles when approaching  fervent goals, and mine are currently these: I have a soul-sucking day job that takes up a tremendous amount of time. (And most of us do, I realize, I’m just listing my grievances to present a better case in court.) I’ve been spending a lot of time on social media promoting my material, instead of producing my material. (And as I’ve mentioned, that promoting doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere.) And I have a tendency, on this blog, to create hugely-epic, multi-part posts that only attract my few hard-core readers. (The average visitor drops into the middle of this mess, immediately gets confused about what is going on, and leaves.)

  Those are the lesser-evils. The biggest impediment? My using the above excuses to justify and explain why I’m not getting anywhere with this blogging thing. It was time for me to suck it up, get real, and do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is write books. The blogs are fine and dandy, for what they are, and I’ve had many fine moments where I’m overwhelmingly proud of what I’ve done, even if only my hard-core readers pay any attention.

  So that’s what I’m going to do, write actual books. More importantly, I’m actually doing something about it instead of just wishing and hoping. I’ve started on the first book (in this decade anyway, more on that later) and things seem to be going okay. It’s a reworking of the “Paris Chronicles” series from this very blog, which originally ran at the tail-end of 2009. I’m chopping and shifting and adding and subtracting bits of those 52 posts so that they read in a smoother narrative flow, so that it proceeds like an actual novel and not something that was invented on the fly, as it was, one post at a time.

  Why revisit something that I’ve already done? Why plunder that which was once writ? Well, because I think it’s worth the recycling, and the opportunity to revisit “old friends” has been rather fun, both the good (“oh, I like what I did there”) and the bad (“holy cow, that sucked”). Over the years and all the various blogs, I’ve amassed a huge number of posts. If you lay them out end to end, you probably couldn’t circle the world, but by sheer odds alone there’s going to be a nugget or two worthy of rescue.

  To put it another way, here’s an excerpt from what is now the opening chapter of Screaming in Paris, a working title that suits me now but is obviously subject to change. In this bit, I address those well-intentioned folks who ask why I’ve never written a book…

  In the years since, as my blog-work wandered through a range of stories and experiments (some efforts producing pieces of which I’m proud, other efforts calling into question the severity of my alcohol intake), there was one thing which remained constant: People were always asking me when I was going to “write a book”. (Because, as the snooty authors with actual “hard-cover” trophies on the mantel loved to point out, a blogger just isn’t a “real” writer, he’s only playing in his own little sandbox.)

  But the truth is, I have written a book. Three of them, many years ago. None of them were exceptionally brilliant, and all of them were soundly (and probably wisely) rejected by publishing houses back in the day. (The first effort no longer exists, the worn pages having been lost at some point as I moved between houses and cities and states. I believe there might be a copy of the second manuscript in a box in the attic, but I haven’t tried to find it in years, fearing that it, too, may have joined its older sibling next to a manual typewriter in the sky. The third and last child is neatly tucked in a cardboard box and shoved to the back of a shawdowy, rarely-used drawer in my desk, patiently waiting for me to love it again.

  There was a dark period where I wrote very little, a lost decade or two, running in place and even slipping back down the stairs from time to time. But I never stopped paying attention, observing, filing away images that planted seeds, quietly distilling a new approach to my writing. And then this magical concept of “blogging” came along, a new playing field where you can get real-time reaction from readers, and you realize rather quickly whether or not an experiment is working. My seeds now had plenty of water, I just had to keep fertilizing them.

  My farm, over time, exploded. At one point I had nine separate blogs, each constructed around completely different concepts, using various writing styles. The years of pent-up non-expression came pouring out of me, two or three posts a day. I don’t think my fingers ever stopped moving in 2010 and 2011. It was a glorious, wonderful release. But there was a potential price. “You’ve got to slow down,” warned my more-seasoned blogger friends. “You’ll burn yourself out, you’ll get all cranky, and people won’t invite you out for cocktails anymore.”

  And they were right, of course. The little engine that could can only cover so much track before the scenery starts to get a little too familiar. I transferred my engine to a smaller network of tracks, one with fewer departures and a more relaxed schedule, and I spent some time reviewing the logs to see just where my train had been.

  My overgrown garden is now full of thousands and thousands of pages. Bits of this, long stretches of that, weird snapshots of whatever, planted hither and yon. THERE are my books, the new and preferably better ones, the books I actually have been writing during the years when people thought I was just playing. It’s time to get out my trowels and shovels and pruning shears and, yes, the dreaded axe, harvesting the good stuff and sadly sending the not-so-tasty produce to the compost heap so they can help feed next season’s crop.

  And there you have it, a snippet of the future, at least for me, one wherein I focus on writing books and not so much on my blogs. There’s a bit of pain with that, because I like the immediate response of comments on my posts. But it’s clear at this point that I’m not doing whatever is necessary for the blogs to become a source of income. I can’t keep pointing fingers and hoping for something magical. I have to take concrete steps.

  And one of those firm steps involves what I hinted at earlier, the arrival of something in the mail this morning. This package contained finalized documents between me and the county of Dallas, state of Texas. Officially, I am now a publishing company, Bonnywood Manor. (A name which should come as no surprise if you have followed me for any length of time.) It cost me a little bit of money to do so, not overwhelming, but still, it would certainly cover the tab of several consecutive happy hours at my fave restaurant, Ojeda’s.

  What does this mean? It means that I can retain complete ownership of anything that I publish, and that seems rather important to me even if it really isn’t in the long run. It also means that, someday, once I’ve figured out the hazy maze of getting things published, I have an umbrella to hold up, where I can reach out to others who type endlessly into the night and dream during the day, and help them share what I hope to share. Baby steps now, strong strides later.

  But first I have to finish my first/fourth book, make it festive and enticing. Which means, somewhat sadly but also encouragingly, that this blog will transition. I’ll still be using this site to post original material, especially when I need input on tricky bits where I’m needing critical insight. But it won’t be what it once was, which was a repository for my literary whims. Instead, it will become a sounding board as I reflect on life, liberty, the pursuit of publication, and a never-ending quest to find the perfect queso to compliment a margarita.

  Or, as some purists will say, it will become an actual blog, a hitching post for what is happening in my life. This scares me a little bit, because I have a tendency to hide the real me from the spotlight, after years of being misunderstood and defaulting myself into obscurity. I initially named this blog “The Sound and the Fury” for a reason. I’m going back to that reason, and I hope you’ll join me.

  But there will always be my stories, either here or somewhere else, that I promise.

  Stay tuned. Please.

Friday, April 19, 2013

15 Updated Adult Beverages to Help You Cope With Modern Society

1. The Surly Temple

  This drink was originally created to placate people who confused their uptight religious upbringing (no demon alcohol!) with their natural social inclination to have a good time with their less salvation-based friends. Sadly, because the Surly Temple has no actual alcohol and did nothing to make prudish people relax their sphincters, the ordering of a Surly Temple by restaurant and/or bar patrons became a clear signal to the service staff  that  “this is somebody who is not going to tip well because they have issues, skip the dessert presentation and get them out of here.”

2. The Marge Or Rita

  This is the drink you should order when the bartender hollers “Last Call!” to help you determine who you get to share hangovers with the next morning.

3. Gin and Chronic

  This will help you live with all those recurring body aches and pains that mysteriously and suddenly appear at the very second you turn 40. (You know, those things you tell your doctor about but he gives you a dismissive “get over it, bitch” hand wave, because you’ve reached that point of personal-decay where a simple sneeze can throw your back out. Then the doctor bills your insurance company 700 dollars for the three minutes he spent pretending to examine you.)

4. Rum and Cope

  Have one of these before attempting to drive on any major freeway, because it’s inevitable that some dumb-ass is going to do something completely dumb-ass that jeopardizes the life of everyone except the dumb-ass. And you really don’t need to be aggressively forcing said dumb-ass into the Ditch of Retribution until you have met your insurance deductible for the year.

5. Sex on the Reach

  This is the perfect cocktail for those times when your current bed partner just isn’t managing to make the earth move under your feet. (“Honey, while you grunt and sweat and impress no one but yourself, could you hand me the TV remote?”) And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to mix one of these up during the theoretical love-making. After all, you need something to do whilst waiting for your clueless lover to find your F-spot.

6. Cosmopolitician

  Whip up a big ole pitcher of these the next time the planets cruelly align and you are forced to watch a presidential debate. Take a swig every time a Republican lies or a Democrat hedges on calling the Republican a flat-out liar. You’ll be drunk before the third question is asked.

7. The Booty Mary

  This is the required drink any time you head to a shopping mall, because you know damn well you are going to run into a pack of those horrid women who mistakenly believe that Spandex was created to showcase butt-crack and camel-toe. It is suggested that you have several drinks before you even get out of the car, because one should never have to encounter The Walking Spread whilst sober.

8. The Man Had One

This is the official drink of Lorena Bobbitt.

9. The White Rush In

  Served in upscale, old-money, Presbyterian pubs where over-privileged socialites named Leona and oil-company executives named Dick whine about possibly having to pay the same tax rate as the little people. The drink is served with a silver spoon for stirring and a listing of Cayman Island banks for perusing…

10. The Mar-Teeny

  This is the courage-inducing drink that will allow you to seem convincing when notifying your significant other that you have once again wrecked the car, but “it’s only a tiny little scratch!” (Even though you have busted both axles on said car, destroyed part of the town square, and caused structural damage to an important and historical bridge.) In some parts of the country, this drink is also used to console sad people who have just had sex with someone so cosmically under-endowed that they are both technically still virgins.

11. The Mo He Toe

  This is the favorite beverage of foot fetishists everywhere, and that’s as far as I care to go with the explanation. (Sometimes a click on the Internet can take you to places that never need to be mentioned again.)

12. Absenth

  Drink enough of this kick-to-the-head and you will have no problem calling in sick at your place of employment. For several days. Until you stop believing that you are a Bohemian in turn-of-the-century Paris and remember that you have actual bills to pay. (But that nice little fever-dream where Nicole Kidman danced with you at Moulin Rouge was kind of fun, eh?)

13. Cape Clod

  This elixir is traditionally served to people who think they are superheroes, but they suck at it and everyone with an I.Q. above “2” is aware of their sucking, even though the fool in question ignores the suckage-outrage and continues to suck. (See: Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, Westboro Baptist Church, anyone working for Fox News, anyone named Kardashian, current governors of Texas, and people who still don’t understand how to use an ATM machine after 30 years of having ATM machines.)

14. Long Island Iced Flee

  This is served to calm the nerves of tourists who have fled the island and are still trying to figure out what people were saying to them, what with that crazy accent and all. (And the hairdos. Why do some Long Island women of a certain age feel it necessary to tease and jack their hair to a point where it has its own gravitational pull?)

15. Tequila Surprise

  Anyone who has ever spent a splendid evening enjoying tequila-based cocktails will agree that this is a true statement: At some point during the night’s festivities, perhaps wedged in between the moment you fell off the barstool and the moment you screamed along with Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, you will find yourself wondering “What happened to my underwear?”…

Saturday, April 6, 2013

10 More Signs That Your Body Just Isn’t What It Used To Be

1. You wake up in the morning and you aren’t really sure who you are.

  You crack the seal on one eye and look around. Something seems to have disturbed your slumber, but it’s not really clear. After perusing a few questionable things around you (Did I really eat yogurt in bed and then throw the container on the nightstand like I don’t have any sense? How did the remote for the TV get wrapped up in my underwear?), your lone functioning eye spots the alarm clock, which seems to be rudely wanting attention, with unwelcome noise and such. This is clearly the sign of the devil at work.

  But still. If the alarm has been set, and it has subsequently gone into Def-Con 4 alert, there’s probably a good reason. We should probably figure that out, despite the incredibly alluring possibility of just going back to sleep. Am I supposed to be somewhere important? Do I work today? Have I done something that requires me to appear in court, denying everything while my lawyer does his best to keep from laughing? Am I living illegally in whatever country this might be?

  A person really shouldn’t have to figure these things out on such short notice. It’s just not right. Why isn’t there a helpful attendant standing beside the bed and handing me an itinerary and some orange juice? Or adjusting my morphine drip.

  Then it all comes back to me, there IS something very important that I need to do. I take a deep breath, gather my strength, and reach out with one wobbly arm to slap at the button marked “SNOOZE” on the devil-box making noise. The gestapo siren ceases, albeit temporarily, and I fade into darkness within two seconds.

2. Things hurt that shouldn’t.

  After 712 snooze sessions, where you have 30 seconds of air-raid terror and then 9 more minutes of jerky slumber, you finally give up all dreams of happiness and attempt to claw your way out of the burial chamber. This takes way more time than back in the day, when you could leap off the floor of the frat house, splash some water on your face, and be fully-prepared to take a calculus exam in five minutes.

  Now? Simply peeling the comforter off your aching body takes all of the strength you can muster. By the time your jelly-flesh has been fully exposed to the world, you’ve broken out in a sweat and your muscles are trembling. It’s at this point that all of the various status reports start coming in from the far locales of your body. This one thing over here is really itchy, this other thing seems to be spasming, and this third thing is super stiff, and not in a good way. Initial diagnosis? You need to have a good stretch and those things will settle down and cooperate.

  But the stretching thing is a leftover remedy from the days when you could still find your toes without a GPS. Stretching, post-40, is a dangerous road that one shouldn’t travel unless they have been adequately and mentally prepared. There’s a chance that stretching could feasibly result in all uprisings being quelled so that you can go on about your day in a pleasant manner, humming a tune about sunshine and the juiciness of pomegranates left out in the sun.

  But, more likely, stretching is ill-advised. You might work out some of the kinks, but this accomplishment pales in comparison to the new disruptions you trigger by contorting your body in a feline way. Previously complacent parts of your anatomy, bones and muscles that were quite content until you stupidly attempted to disturb them, will now add their grating voices to the chorus of disapproval that is more heinous than the stupid alarm clock which you have broken in two and thrown under the bed. And the usual end result is that you feel something pop that shouldn’t be popping, making you wonder if whatever popped is covered under you increasingly-dwindling insurance plan.

3. Your bladder has been secretively removed and replaced with a defective piece of crap made in China.

  Remember, back in the day, when you could feel a tiny little twinge that you might need to pee, but you knew that you could ignore it for hours while you continued to leap about on the jungle gym or play kickball in a vacant lot in the neighborhood? That is no longer the case. Now, when you need to pee, you need to pee. There’s no discussion and this is not something that can be tabled for the next committee meeting. You stand up, the various fluids and organs in your body are repositioned, and you suddenly have to pee like the hounds of hell are nipping at your heels.

  You can’t ignore it. You can make a weak attempt to, say, go kick off the coffee maker or fire up your laptop to see who might have said what about you in social media, but these are fool’s choices. Because if you insanely try to overlook the requirements of ancient plumbing, the need to pee will become so intense that you are suddenly dancing a jig that would get very high scores from Olympic judges but does nothing to delay the inevitable result. You’ve got to tinkle NOW or you’ll be pulling a Linda Blair in the hallway.

  So you give in and race to the bathroom, knocking startled relatives and pets out of the way in your mad scurry. You slam the door to the privacy chamber, practically rip off any clothing you might be wearing and slam your ass down on the Porcelain Throne of Release. Then you let go with gusto.

  And there’s a tiny trickle. That’s it. End trans.

  What? That can’t be right. You squeeze all the appropriate muscles, and all you get is the plink of another drop or two. Well, damn. You tidy things up, then stand up, and there it is again. Fluids want out. Now. You squat back down, more weak dribbling, and then silence. Seriously? You slowly start to rise, and there it is again, the knocking on the pee door. What is going on down there?

  Two days later, you finally leave the bathroom.

4. Coffee = A Will to Live.

  Some people can blithely flit through life, without ever needing a morning jolt of caffeine. I’m happy for them, I really am. But I think there’s something seriously wrong with those people. Coffee beans are grown on this planet for a reason, and to deny the functionality of the coffee bean is to deny the evolution of mankind. We are supposed to drink it, because it helps us cope. The drinking of coffee is the sole reason why this planet did not go up in flames centuries ago.

  Having said that, drinking coffee has different implications for different age groups. When you are young, the java simply helps you deal with a pesky hangover, helps you reply coherently to questions in your starter-job interviews, or helps you participate vigorously in daily exercise or athletic sports that you will not be able to participate in once your bladder is stolen by Chinese officials.

  For someone my age? The coffee stops me from taking your life when you ask an otherwise innocent question about how my day is going. End trans.

5. The Horror, Part I – Taking A Shower

  I like to be clean. I really do. But lately I really don’t care for the process of washing away my sins and preparing for another day where I am supposed to accomplish things of at least minimal importance. I’m still able to get in the shower and turn the water on, so far so good. But I am no longer able to reach parts of my body that were easily within my grasp mere seconds ago. The business with the upper-section is fine, I can usually lather away with the precision of a doctor. And the private bits? Got that covered. I can always find the time to faithfully attend to landmarks on my body that are responsible for pleasure, or at least the memory of pleasure.

  But those feet down there? Holy cow. They’re so far away now, and not in a poetic Carole King kind of way. You really have to work to get to those things. If I don’t bang my head on the shower wall, because coordination is whisked away about the same time as your fully-functioning bladder and your ability to eat vegetables without turbulence, then I get light-headed because I’m bending over and this jacks up my time-space continuum. I’m actually sweating (in the shower!) after attending to my feet, and I have to slump against the wall and catch my breath, heart pounding. It’s just not right.

6. The Horror, Part II – The Mirror after the Shower

  Remember how, when you were young and vibrant, that you could hop out of the shower, wipe the steam off the mirror, and you could review yourself looking all dewy and fresh? That doesn’t happen anymore. Now all you see is curdled pudding plastered on ancient infrastructure that should have been condemned long ago. Is this what it’s come down to, that I look like a floating corpse that somebody has fished out of the water on CSI: Shady Pines? Jeez.

  On the flip side, if you stand really far away from the mirror, and squint your eyes just right at the foggy glass, you can get a flashback to that time when you could eat a slice of pizza without your hips instantly expanding wide enough that you could stop a cruise ship from entering port.

7. The Clothes Closet

  There’s not a single thing in there that you can wear anymore. (Well, you could wear them, but it would look like you were in a sausage casing that hasn’t been properly reinforced.) This isn’t fair. We worked hard to be able to buy those clothes. (We’ll ignore the fact that if we had worked just as hard at getting off the couch and actually performing some minimal exercise, we wouldn’t have to shop at Hank’s Circus Tent Emporium.)

8. The inability to enjoy anything on the menu at your favorite drive-thru restaurant.

  So you finally get out of the house, wearing an outfit that has more yardage than most football games, and the whimsical side of you opts to zip into one of those fast-food places for a bit of nosh. Sadly, as you stare at the menu board, you realize that nearly everything glowingly displayed has a greasy fat content that could decimate an entire neighborhood with one bite. In your previous life, the one where you pulled into places like this at the tail-end of a drinking binge, you could suck down a burger or two and be good to go within seconds, fresh-eyed and bushy-tailed.

  That is no longer the case. Now it’s a matter of deciding between something that will have you running for the restroom every three minutes, or something that will have you running every five. Your body has declared a war on greasy input, refusing to quietly process the systemic clogging of your body flow, and you are the hostage. Everything you eat has repercussions. There is no middle ground.

  And even if you have a moment of epiphany and select the one healthy choice on the menu (because that’s all there usually is, one), you will have to face the wrath of the drive-thru attendant, who doesn’t get any bonus points on her evaluation card if she lets somebody slip by who doesn’t order something from the oinker line of products. Might as well ask for the Big Boy Country Breakfast and save yourself from any heated discussion at the pay window.

9. The amazing gazelle-like qualities of some of your co-workers.

  You finally get to work,  strenuously lugging the grease-dripping bag from “What-a-Porker”, and you lurch into your cubicle, plopping into that stupid chair of yours that hasn’t been comfortable since your ass went from “hey, girl, hey!” to “crime scene”. As you squirt 17 packets of mayo onto your deep-fried omelet burrito, you notice that most of your younger work-mates are doing attention-getting cartwheels and talking very loudly about nothing important.  This means your boss has arrived, and he  soon moseys his way down the aisle, pretending to care about the brown-nosing but really just wanting to get to his office, with the impenetrable double-lock  on the door, behind which he can swig from the industrial-sized bottle of bourbon he keeps for emergencies. Like days ending in “Y”.

  You realize that you should probably participate in the self-promotion extravaganza that the youngsters insist on performing, but you’ve been seriously tired since before they were born. (Besides, once you get situated in your chair, it’s a really risky move to get back out of it.) So you ignore the blatant sucking-up of the children (I have spreadsheets older than you!) who still have a lot to learn about how it really plays out, and you quietly gnaw at your breakfast burrito with teeth that stopped doing a decent job in 1993.

10. In the end, we’re all in this together, come hell or high diapers.

  Everyone generally experiences the same relative journey down the Avenue of Aging, encountering the same structural and processing issues to one degree or another. (Except for that small handful of people who magically seem to get better with age, defying the laws of nature by somehow becoming more attractive as they mature and/or running marathons without breaking a sweat. But we don’t really care for them, and we seek petty revenge by starting rumors about them “having work done” or organs transplanted.)

  So it helps that we have a network of similar-age people to support us in the darker hours, offering bits of wisdom to one another (“never get down on the floor unless it’s the weekend, because you might be down there a really long time”) or swapping war stories (“It took me three whole hours to realize that my panties were on backwards”). These people make us feel loved and cherished, despite the increasing cobwebs in the brain (“Why did I walk into this room? What did I need in here?”) and the growing pharmacy in your bathroom (“I have to take pills to counteract all of the other pills that I have to take”).

  And the ultimate sign that someone has your aching back in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Elastic Pants? The person who knows when to say the right words, and when not to say any words at all.

  This person remains calm when you have a sudden burst of that horrifying medical condition wherein you sneeze and toot at the same time, aka “the snoot”. This person does not make rude commentary or draw attention to the fact that you have just inadvertently crop-dusted. Instead, they calmly reach down (slowly, so that nothing snaps that shouldn’t) and retrieve the knitting needles that you dropped when you temporarily lost control of your entire body. You gratefully accept the proffered needles, and then both of you get back to work on your afghans, rocking in your chairs on the sun-dappled porch of the Happy Valley Home for the Tired and Tooty….