Wednesday, December 29, 2004

1. I once owned a company. It’s true. And after many years of profit and productivity and other important words, I dissolved my assets and decided to move my family to Spain. I have friends in Spain. They are Spanish. Spaniards. They speak a romantic language. They drink sangría and other exotic cocktails. They run through the streets wearing red neckerchiefs and white painters smocks because, as often happens in strange places, horned livestock are allowed to wander the streets at their leisure, which leisure usually involves spearing a native or two. Somehow the neckerchiefs and smocks make the whole ordeal worthwhile.

My best friend here in the states, Haircut Liggett, tried to dissuade me from following through. He called it a monumental error in judgment. Spain, he said, is on an entirely different continent. Nonsense! I said.

But it turns out he was right. According to Atlas, Spain juts out from southwest Europe like a goiter. Or an Abraham Lincolnesque chin beard. A bulbous tuber. It dangles precariously above the Mediterranean Sea, which separates Europe from Africa from the Middle East. Spain. Spain is an ocean away from Chicago. I figure this fact will add upwards of $300 to the relocation process, for which I had earmarked an entire jarful of dimes. (Those fucking cartographers, I tell you. They cannot be trusted.)

I called Haircut Liggett from the Airbus but he wasn’t home. I got the machine.

2. Last night I finished one book and started another, which must be some kind of world record. The first book, the one I finished, was a collection of short stories that dazzled the mind and tickled the you-know-what. Upon finishing the ultimate salvo and closing the cover with a snap, my brain’s pleasure centers assumed a heightened state alert and demanded succor. So I dove headlong into a relaxing bath of Pale Fire and splashed around in it for a few hours. Ready as I’ll ever be.

3. Then there’s this.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

There’s nothing I loathe more than arriving at the grocery store to find it overrun by dragons. Dragons at the vegetable outpost. Dragons in the frozen foods aisle. Dragons with clearly more than 15 items in the 15-items-or-less line. No one will stand up to them. They are dragons.

So I grab my faggoty green handbasket and traipse on toward the deli counter for freshly sliced meats and cheeses, careful of the dragons and their offspring. I get peppered turkey (one pound of) and enough baby swiss to last me ‘til Sunday. On Sunday my brother, Spellman, comes into Master Card Airport on the red-eye. Must remember to pick him up. Must look up “red eye.” I shovel pistachios into a clear plastic bag and twist on a twist tie.

My brother moved to Mississippi ten years ago to work at a reostat factory. A friend of his from prison was the supervisor. My brother wasn’t in prison for a crime or anything; he was a prison guard. But he’d had enough of that life. Especially after that one guy stabbed him in the eye with a shiv. It's time to move to Mississippi, he told me on the phone, time to build me some reostats. I asked him if you could do that with only one eyeball.

The only place safe from dragons is Powders/Cosmetics. I need neither. But I negotiate the aisle just in case. I walk up and back three, four times, pretending to look for that damned powder or cosmetic my wife told me to get. The one I can never find. Oil of Olay? Right. Nope. I’m bored of my own fake search. I take a last poke at a pink shower poof to kill time. Glass shatters and I hear a young dragon shriek in the next aisle — Sauces/Creams. I need to get some milk and get out. Dragons shriek loudly and the distress of one tends to throw the entire species into a tizzy within a one-mile radius.

A half-gal of whole. My handbasket is heavy and I’m having to walk like a cripple. I swear I forgot something, but the dragons, some of them at least, are gliding over the aisles looking for — shit, I don’t know — some vikings to eat. I put everything on my credit card, which I’m told is unwise. I’m told most millionaires are stingy. They scrimp and save. Spellman told me this, I’m sure, although at the time we were probably arguing over a check.

He has a tendency to do that. The bag with the spaghetti sauce breaks in the parking lot. But forget it. I resolve to eat a couple cold sandwiches for dinner.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My comprehensive list of lines from TV commercials that would transfer well to the world of porn:

1. "Well you've got total happiness on your shirt."

2. "Fuck me harder, Mr. Clean!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm going to do this for a little bit and then I'm going to stop and I'm going to read. I repeated this to myself to confirm. Yes. That is what I'll do. (He definitely won't do it. He doesn't know what he's talking about. And not only will he not do it, but he'll totally lose concentration and end up at the drive-through taco stand handcuffed to a hooker. Just watch.)

I talked to Chris about twenty minutes ago. I've known Chris since high school. Junior high, actually. I think we were on the tennis team together at some point, but I was pretty drunk most of the time back then. We might have just been in homeroom. Or biology. Either way, we ended up becoming great friends. I was the one who told him his brother was adopted, even though it turned out not to be true.

Chris, after graduating with the coveted bachelor's degree in history from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, started a magazine about movies. When he called me, he was driving back home through Indiana after covering some junket on the east coast. Chris is perhaps the greatest hot dog critic on the planet. And this fact is quite interesting in context with a related story, but in this case, the fact that Chris is perhaps the greatest hot dog critic on the planet merely distracts everyone from the story. So what was the story?

I hung up after we talked for a while and promptly did something I can't remember what. But then, after watching a few minutes of Frontline, I leapt from the couch like a jungle cat and commenced to type feverishly for several minutes. And then I realized that it wasn't the typing that was feverish, but my body. I am covered in fever. The boils, they doth protrude from mine body like tender angels of most vile mercy.

(No. It's not a big problem. This is to be expected. Don't panic. You still have a pretty impressive head of hair and your joints don't ache. You're not like that guy at the clinic whose meal inched through the straw looking like the inside of sausage. He was bald and his joints ached. You've got a car. You've got an apartment and you ate reheated pizza. You even drank plenty of water. Your skin, your skin it's the oily mahogony of bodybuilder skin. Your eyes like western movie villian eyes. Slick that thick hair back and let's rock the world.)

It's no use.

I shall go out as I am. To the drive-through taco stand!

I'm wildly something.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I just read the prize-winning entries from the third-annual Contest and I am sad to report that it’s not worth linking. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even worth spelling out the entire name of the contest. Furthermore, one of the entries, which received honorable mention honors, was plagiarized. (Btw [B-T-W], “plagiarized” is one of those words I have to look up every time I type it; I find it difficult to master the spelling, despite the fact I’ve got words like diphthong and homunculus down pat.) So the contest, which, in theory, was a great idea, ended up being quite a disappointment, so much so that I started writing about it without being sure where I’d be going with it. Friday morning. Sue me.

Seriously, don’t sue me.

For had I entered the contest:

2. Cannons spit their leaden ordnance over the veld, relaxing the weary captain’s bowels.

3. “Don’t fuck with Charro!”

7. I was happy until the day everyone turned against me.

15. They argued at great length the differences between pliable and malleable, assume and presume.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cable news is giving me the vapors. The vaypahs. But my morbid curiosity compells me.

After hearing the initial plot back in the fledgeling days, I tuned out to the Scott Peterson saga. The cable news networks were having none of it. They crammed and clamoured for months, breathlessly reporting every last nugget and then airing heated exchanges between hired experts (and that’s experts, in quotes) who disagreed on the facts and the merits and the merits of said facts. The experts (again, in quotes) then gave way to pundits. And the pundits joined us live via satellite to tell us that the media maelstrom was reaching frenzy proportions. Fox News, MSNBC, CNN — they all shouldered and jabbed each other like New Yorkers in a rush-hour subway. But they weren’t trying to get home or get food. They were trying to get ahead. Trying desperately not to be scooped.

Scooped is news death. The story doesn’t make a lick of difference, once they establish the hook. Only the scoop matters. And after the scoop, the jabber. And after the jabber, the recap, and after the recap, the analysis, and with luck by then another scoop, and a follow-up, and more jabber, and it’s no wonder Rita Cosby is breathless by sentence’s end.

All the while I could sense a campaign. The media were selling us another boring story. They were producing a vortex into which we were sucked whether we’d tuned out or not. They were Miller Light and Crestor and Volkswagon and Burger King. You don’t watch commercials, but you see them all the time. The Scott Peterson story lingered in the periphery and despite my best efforts, I knew the principals and the merits and facts. But I didn’t care. Nobody did. Even the one’s who did only think they did. The same way they think a cheeseburger sounds really good, even if they don’t want one. Even if another cheeseburger could kill them.

I wonder who watches and gets sucked in. I imagine blue-haired retirees sucking back health shakes with vitamins and minerals or latter-day confederates with bulldog tattoos and beer cozies and wire-haired mutts curled around their ankles, licking their toes. But I know these people can’t be the only people watching. I’m sure there are some like me, who watch because it’s such a slick, fantastic spectacle. Who watch because they love deconstructing the language (e.g. think about “Attack on Christmas.” Think about it. I guarantee you someone was paid to come up with that campaign. I guarantee you there are studies and focus groups behind it. Studies that showed people reacted strongest to “Attack on Christmas” and that “War on Christmas” was a close second and that “Liberal Grinchosity” was dead last. “Attack on Christmas” came from the same tablet as “Activist Judges” and “Death Tax” and “Liberal Media.”). But there have to be other people watching and soaking it in and loving it. Our next door neighbors, our teachers, our police officers and bag boys and pilots.

We are being suckered because we are lazy. And by “we” I mean “other people.” Because it’s always other people.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

To the woman in the black BMW with the coffee cup rising to her lips and a tabby peering at me from her lap, I say: That is not safe. To the woman on the elevator with the Christmas sweater and bouffant: Welcome to the present; would you like a tour? The characters on your Christmas sweater look like they stepped out of an early-1980s arcade game. No reindeer has antlers that poofy. No christmas tree needles that beveled. To the sweater: Oh, purple-red-white-green wonder, how you cleave to the steep contour of her motherly bosom. Oh, how your right wrist is caked in last winter’s petrified snot. Oh, unsafe drivers! Oh, sweater-wearing giver-uppers! Oh, lap tabby and coffee-chuggin’ mommas!

The temperature has dipped to ungodly lows. It attracts all kinds. My neighbor put blankets on his plants to prevent them from doing something they’re not supposed to do. I know nothing of plants. Nothing. Well, only the littlest something. But if your plants are not equipped to handle what life throws at them, why coddle them? They’re going to have to live on their own eventually. You can’t just blanket them to the world. If they die, give them a proper burial in the soft dirt next to the swimming pool. Near the table where the old folks sit and play bridge.

Only in Dallas. Thirty-degree overnight lows was the top story on the nine o’clock news. The top story. In Chicago, the weather would lead the newscast if, and only if, there were glaciers falling from the sky.

Traffic is backed up in the southbound lanes. I guaran-fucking-tee it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Finally, affordable housing in Chicago.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Friday night I went and saw “Ocean’s 12” at Zip Code Movie Plex. The movie does not deserve to be linked. It deserves to be put over my knee and spanked. Especially that Catherine Zeta-Jones. And George Clooney.

Saturday night was a different story altogether. It was a birthday story. My birthday story. It goes something like this: Enter the Lakewood Landing and drink heavily. Play some pool and drink heavily. Pee on the jukebox and drink ... heavily. Repeat, as needed. Tumble dry.

The head-scratching moment of the century occurred yesterday at about 1:30 p.m. But then it wasn’t really so much head-scratching as it was awesome and shocking and one of those things. You know, just one of those things. To the casual observer, it was just another Bud Light commercial. But something struck me about it. It was the commercial where a guy puts an electric dog collar on his roommate to prevent him from stealing his Bud Light. Flash to the roommate sitting on the couch, offering girl beer, opening fridge, getting shocked up proper. And then I had this eureka! moment. One of those things. The guy in the dog collar is David Aranovich. I know this because I have absolutely no doubt that it is him. There is only one person in the history all sorts of things who could pull off that fluttering-eyelid shock maneuver with such subtle perfection.

Dave and I were friends when I was a sophomore in college. He lived on Pick 1. I called him Applehead, because he had a big, apple-shaped hair mass on his head. He was a theater major (voted, as a freshman, Biggest Freak in the department ... which is the equivalent of a rookie winning the Heisman). He insisted (repeatedly) that he could achieve orgasm simply by listening to “A Day in the Life” while staring at a spot on his dorm-room ceiling. He was awkward with women, but managed to have a brief dalliance with a bleach-blonde bubble whose name should have been Bambi. Or Samantha. She blew him in a bathroom stall.

His roommate, Craig Rosenblatt, was a drummer. I could not figure out what any of these people were doing in college. Except maybe David, who, and I say this with all seriousness, is one of the best (if not the best) pianists I’ve ever done ‘shrooms with. Yes, he was that good.

So I was happy to see David had made it to the big-time world of Major Beer commercials. I Googled him and found that it’s not his only accomplishment. So way to go, David Aranovich: Actor. I’m going to try to find your e-mail address. Because I’m sure you owe me money.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I’m doomed. Doomed. Fucked in unpleasant ways. I arrived at the office this morning to find that a band of barbarians had vanquished our once-proud coffee supply. I am running on empty. I declare war on coffee-chugging insurgents.

A couple of things from Bob Dylan’s 60 Minutes interview Sunday night:

• If you are going to do an TV interview for the first time in over 20 years, and that interview is going to be marketed as “Blankity Blank’s first TV interview in over 20 years!”, and all anyone on the bus and in the break room can talk about is So-and-So’s first TV interview in 20 years, then the least you can do is have at least one interesting thing to say.

• Morley Safer asked Bob Dylan: “Do you see yourself as a prophet?” This is a classic friendly interviewer trick. Morley knows what Dylan’s going to say. We know what Dylan’s going to say. But Morley just can’t resist the urge to cast his subject as a humble genius who rocked a generation with his folksy rock records. The only person who answers yes is Charles Manson. And he’s done more interviews in the last 20 years than George Bush (who, incidentally, also answers yes).

• If you are a hero to a generation of people who once looked upon you as someone who could capture their frustrations and emotions and deliver them to other people with the same frustrations and emotions and bring everyone together in harmony and love and a mutual desire to fix corporations and governments and the materialism that stains society, please please please don’t go on TV to sell your book. You whore.

Monday, December 06, 2004

I could do this with my hands tied behind my back. No I couldn’t. I couldn’t do this with my hands tied behind my back any more than I could do it with my tongue in a vice. Speaking of which, drunken charades might seem like a good idea, but it isn’t (or maybe it is).

You guys have been dying for a fantasy football update. I have received many angry letters. I haven’t read any of them. Well, I am sad to inform you that, barring a miracle, a rash of coincidences, and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, I will not finish this season in the Money. This after I dominated most of last season and took first place in the 10-team league. I have fallen on hard times. Two of my marquee players have missed several games due to injuries and drug suspensions. These things happen in professional sports.

Just look at baseball.

(I plan to attend the first Texas Rangers home game of the 2005 season. I plan to hold a sign reading “Dear Dopers, You broke my heart. Sincerely, A Fan”. The sign and I will make it onto Sportcenter. Host Stuart Scott will say “Booyah! This fan is not feeling the love. Baby daddy!” which will irritate me to no end, but I’ll be heartened by the fact that at least my message made it out into circulation. Maybe a photographer will submit the photo and win a Pulitzer. Or a Nobel Peace Prize. My face might end up on a stamp. Or a wanted poster. Many things can happen. Mother Nature is a crazy bitch.)

Barring an unlikely turn of events, I will not be winning my fantasy football league title.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Aging happens like fuck. You would not believe it if I told you. But take my word for it. It begins at birth. Scientist will not make guarantees, but statistical probability does not favor my goals of invincibility and world domination.

On the plus side, I’ll probably live to see another season of new and innovative network sitcoms.

I am staring down the barrel of 30 and it’s not 30 that scares me. What scares me is one through 29.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I don’t find panda bears fascinating so much as utterly cute and terrifying. Panda bears look like large, fluffy humans with large, lifeless black eyes. They remind me of those dolls that rich teenage girls have in their bedrooms. Only with claws.

There are people who actually for real exist in the world who like dressing up in fuzzy animal costumes and having dinner parties. They call themselves Furries. They knock over candelabra and pepper mills with their big, bulbous arms and fluffy Rayon tails. Somehow, this turns them on sexually and they all begin mashing their snouts together in a fit of fetishistic release. Inevitibly, one of the furries is dressed up as a panda bear. So now you have a bunch of normal, everyday people — look around you, I bet at least, like, seven people in your office do this kind of thing every weekend — dressed up like bunnies and squirrels and panda bears, rolling around on the dining room floor, humping each other in whichever position is standard for their particular species.

I’m sure there’s at least one poor soul at that party who’s as afraid of panda bears as I am, and who sees this guy (which guy, IRL, probably supervises a staff of top-flight accountants who crunch numbers for some massive corporation) and goes postal in a very personal and contained way inside of his own Furry outfit (I imagine he’s dressed as maybe a groundhog or collie) and starts choking on the baby corn he’d stuffed into his cheeks for later. And the thought of having to have mouth-to-mouth performed on him by a man in a panda bear getup (who just seconds ago was mating with a tapir!) just magnifies what is already a pretty desperate and anxious situation. So (in complete disregard for the rules of the Furry Community and his own feelings of shame) he rips off his groundhog (or collie) head and begins gagging uncontrollably. And the accountant in the panda outfit rushes over and leans in and spreads his arms out to keep other Furries from crowding the victim as he proclaims “Stand back! I know CPR!”

We’ve all seen this kind of thing happen before.