Friday, April 29, 2005

George Bush press conference/Survivor/Apprentice reaction thread.

Proposed topic: Who did the worst job at damage control?

A. George Bush
B. Stephanie
C. Alex

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Set your VCRs, if you still have them. President Bush will be holding a rare press conference tonight, during which he will finally outline his plan to destroy Social Security. This will be his first press conference since last April. No word on whether he will answer questions from actual journalists.

So as public support for Bush’s plan to privitize Social Security ebbs down toward a singularity, our fearless leader presses on undaunted. He has already extended his town hall tour. Now he’s going to make what we can only hope will be one last, desperate pitch.

Beware the spitball.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I have finally opened my very own Flickr account and posted some photos from Saturday's Fry Street Fair. See Dave G in rare form. Keg-stand chic. Bloody-faced punkery. A burly man in jean shorts and a blue helmet. The fuzz. The soul of Record Hop. And you guys always thought I was just making this shit up.

Today's Vitriolic Spree reader contest: Teach me how to use my free Flickr account! I uploaded 15 photos. Maxed the fuck out. Then, I decided to delete a bunch of photos so I could place some other (better) ones in their stead. But my account page still tells me I'm full. What gives?

The first to answer without using the word "mimesis" wins the latest in personal satisfaction.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I grabbed yesterday’s hours by the necks and choked the fuck out of every last one of them.

First things first, I called in sick and rested until my oats let themselves be felt by me. This early experience both passive and erotic. I slipped into soft slacks and got off to a fresh start, picked out the finest T-shirt my money ever bought, slipped it over my dome and jogged a meandering circuit — a blind man on fire. I then doused myself in ice-cold libation, supine on the sectional, Cubs afternoon game, windows open, humid and half-cooled air moving through the apartment, my ears perked for storm sounds.

I hoped for rain. Believe me, I did. This pagan prayed. Dallas forecasters have been casting about for precipitation for four weeks — minimum — with no luck. Every such prediction now gone and forgotten and my hopes and birdbaths remain unfulfilled. The dry spring dirt has deep cracks in it, like the credibility of local meteorologists. Oh, to see that inky squall line creeping toward me from the southwest horizon, to feel that rush of ozone in my face, to see the panic of birds, mist in headlights, to hear the sizzle of cars on by, the damp skids, oh, to see the thick green branch fuzz in the roiling cottonwoods, to hear it and feel it, to lightning flinch and thunder cringe!

Polishing my galoshes, I’ve been waiting like a good citizen. Waiting for droplets.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Flat hand pressed to my brow, I have had it up to here with Pope coverage. Although my grandmother still wants me to sprout the wings of a righteous cherub and fly out to spread the Catholic gospel (you know, the one with those ridiculous footnotes), I have grown into a secular heathen. I have had my first communion and been confirmed. My confirmation name was William, because — let’s face it — nothing befits the faith like a rich, kingly moniker. I walked the stations of the cross at Ascension Church. I could not memorize the Ten Commandments, but I kicked ass at the fundraising car wash until I slipped on a wet manhole cover and suffered an almighty knee gash. My blood, like wine, spread lazily into the soapy water.

In spite of my rigorous upbringing (“rigorous” possesses enough vaguery to let me slip by without going into detail), I forsaked the church in my mid-teens. I never became a bellowing pagan, decrying the forces of religiosity, but still I am stubborn w/r/t my conversion — no one, not even creeping death, will sway me.

But when cable news networks spend their airtime trained on a foreign stovepipe, speculating for hours on the hue of holy smoke tendrils, I have no choice but to complain.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

... a block down on Harrison there was a small Indian grocery store that my friends and I (anyone from Damian Edwards to Tom [whose last name escapes me now] to Mike Edwards [Damian's older brother, my onetime babysitter who stole my dad's car at some point and crashed it into a snow bank three blocks from our home on Taylor] to Charlie [another surname in the murky ether] to Bruce Lewis [my longtime next-door neighbor and junior high school most athletic] to, finally, William Chukwu [who helped me with my math]) used to walk through so we could marvel at the smell of the place. All curry and other spices from the fragrant East. And a block down on the other side of the street was Cardinal, a neighborhood grocery store where the owner and cashier once caught me stealing a plastic hockey game, a colorful little novelty that I slipped into the inside breast of my baseball jacket. The owner asked me if I wanted him to call the police or my parents.

My grandparents were in town, a rare occasion. My dad had to explain to them that he had to go to the Cardinal to pick up his son the shoplifter. I could see his anger when he arrived. Face the red palette, he demanded a story. I told him a kid, some black kid, had threatened to kick me if I didn't steal a toy and turn it over to him. No, I didn't know his name. No, I couldn't remember what he looked like except that he was black and was much bigger than me. The ridiculousness of my testimony, the utter transparency of it, didn't occur to me at the time. My dad spanked me (something he rarely did) while my grandparents sat in the living room shaking their heads and sighing heavily.

I would like to say here that this incident could be isolated from the balance of my childhood and that, under that circumstance, my record would gleam unchecked by other transgressions. I would like to say this here. I really would like nothing more.

I could go into great detail about the woman who lived two doors down, next to Bruce. A white-haired woman who, I trust this now, looked much older than her age. Who kept her twisted white hair clumps up in bows of bright orange yarn. Who wore old summer dresses with brown vomit stains and who paced her front porch uttering perpetual obscenity. Mike Edwards went up there on a dare and asked her for a kiss. They had gone inside for a few moments and I nearly drowned in my anxiety. I could go into great detail.

One summer evening at eleven o'clock we rushed to the railing overlooking the highway at the end of our block and watched a van go up in spectacular flames while a family huddled in the grass shoulder fifty yards away.

I traded comic books and baseball cards with Tom. I swear his last name is on the tip of my tongue. His father scared us both, but nowhere near as much as the father of the kid who lived directly downstairs from Tom. (A kid whose name I never knew. A kid who showed up at my doorstep only one time ever, where he stood with a thick green blade between his lips and asked my dad as I waited inside "Can Mike come out and smoke some grass?" The stones!) The boy's father would lay into him without mercy. We would, Tom and I would listen with our ears to the floor as the poor kid was beaten. I don't know if we were entertained but no matter, I feel shame in this memory.

I wish I could tell you that's all. I really would like nothing more.

Friday, April 15, 2005

to deserve this.

Last night during hours wee I woke up with an idea for a comic strip. The protaganist would be a stoic, honest-to-goodness samurai from old-school Japan (I’m thinking of the character “Kambei” from The Seven Samurai). This majestic warrior finds himself being plopped down in cities throughout the modern-day U.S. by a mysterious force (whose origin and purpose we can figure out later, but let’s for now call it the Imminent Will). As the strip opens, he emerges from a blackout in, for example, Rock Island, Ill., sitting in full samurai regalia on a red-topped swivel chair in a 50s-style diner. No one notices him; he’s just a regular guy. That is to say, the other characters in the strip never acknowledge that they are in the presence of a hired sword whose belt notches represent the lives of slain enemies. Our character, let’s call him Sam, quickly figures out how to deal with his situation. He is a samurai, after all. He offers to clean dishes at the 50s-style deli in exchange for an egg sandwich and a cup of hot tea. Possibilities take shape. Sam comes up with a novel way to clean dishes that only a samurai would think of. He slays a rowdy patron, then sits down on a swivel chair and eats his egg sandwich and drinks his tea with calm deliberation.

As time goes by, life in the States begins to affect Sam’s behavior. He shops at huge retail warehouses, spends hours sitting on the couch eating candy bars and watching MTV and Fox News, gets a credit card (oh, the possibilities!), falls in love with a different woman in each city to which the Imminent Will dispatches him. Sam is able to see the pain in these women — a poor young haberdasher, a rich socialite, a vegetarian health professor from Cal-Berkeley. At first, he slays their enemies — a tyrannical boss, a nihilistic husband, a beef industry magnate. Then, as Sam begins to understand the ways of the West, he finds new ways to solve the women’s problems. He begins to embrace capitalism and learns to game the system for their benefit (he’s still the magnanimous warrior). But he finds himself thousands of dollars in debt. The tax authorities are looking for him, closing in. Fortunately, the Imminent Will always transports Sam to the next city on his North American adventure just as the gumshoes seem to have him in their clutches.

The opening conversation in the deli might go something like this:

FLO: What c’n I get you, hon?

SAM: The strongest hand does not catch the crippled bird.

FLO: How ‘bout some flapjacks with bacon'n eggs? Big guy like you.

SAM: Egg sandwich, please, ma’am. Hot tea. Make it snappy.

FLO [blushing, primping her bouffant]: Well ain’t you sweet?

So, now, does anyone know a good illustrator?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Last night I threw homeward to mow down a potential scorer, a bold idiot on the basepaths, in the waning moments of victory. Two weeks earlier, I stroked a game-winning four bagger just after dusk. My glove hand came through in the clutch. My aim was true. Softball in summer makes heroes of ordinary men. Ordinary, skinny, yet mysteriously handsome men who, in their most private moments, might replay the previous evening’s on-field slickery before falling asleep to dream it over again with new detail for nights hence.

Our record of 3-1 (I missed Game 3. The loss. Coincidence?) will almost certainly get us into the postseason, where I shall catch no fewer than seven fly balls in the fleshy web between the toes of my right foot. Because, when called upon, that’s what heroes do.

[I huff, puff, steam up fingernails, brush them off.]

Players make much of the smell of the grass, the chalky texture of diamond dirt rolled between palms, the ping of aluminum contact, the slap of the ball finding purchase in a mitt’s web, the sunlight, the night game, the twin bill, the sudden tightening of an aged hamstring. What a game we have. Much should be made.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My resolution (although I never really resolved anything, officially) to stop watching television (a promise that I tell myself now I didn’t make) has not been going as well as I’d planned (although, again, it wasn’t really a plan per se — more of a fanciful ‘what if I...’ proposition that I bandied about for a few weeks, maybe a month, tops, for my own personal amusement/betterment) and I find myself watching more and more television while doing less of the following: reading, writing, working out, cooking, rock climbing, soda jerking, beef jerking, competitive math, all-new special Judging Amy, top plays of the week, C-Span, next week on Survivor.

See what I’m dealing with?

Last night, a light round of flipping. A few minutes of sitcom-ery, oddball stories from around the globe, Cialis, Pat Buchanan, a very entertaining commercial with mischievious talking cats, a bad one with a talking baby, pope/papal/pontiff (egad! — surf wisely, my son), I’m no Superman, and so on and so forth. Thumb callous. Eyeball weary. CNN has a new segment, the shitting of you I would not, starring a guy named Sean. A guy named Sean who actually pronounces his name “Seen.” He appears to be another in a string of feckless cable ‘casters whose only discernable function is to bolster ratings in the Sad Fucking Lame-O demographic. Sean. Excuse me — Seen. Can I change my name to “Bootycrap” and continue to spell it M-I-K-E? Do you pronounce your name that way just so you can correct people at dinner parties when they call you “Shawn”? Are you even invited to parties? You Sad Fucking Lame-O. I hope your face falls off.

Seen: another asexual spore blowing about the airwaves. I can’t wait to watch your fucking show, Seen. I can’t stop saying your name either, Fuckface. I am astounded by your ability to convince a cable network to actually go on the air with your silly moniker. But then no I’m really not. These are the same guys who bring us “Crossfire” and “Other Crappy Shows.” They are in the same sad family as the makers of “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Scarborough Country” and “Hannity & Colmes” (pronounced “Seen”) and — Ah! — so on and so forth.

I should. I should go back and try that resolution again. That un-resolution. Because clearly I need to get a grip. Clearly this television, and Seen, that puffy-faced mortal, conspire against me. Against my lobes, collosum, stem on down to cord and the rest of me — all the inner workings feel tainted by a creeping black mold. A carnivorous beast. Vile inner stew.

Beware that flickering claptrap. His name is Seen, last I heard. God damn him. God damn him. God damn him.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Renee wore glam and Tammy goth. I held their photo in my hand. Renee stands in front of a tree, one arm above her head holding a branch, the other dangling, wrist against hip. Her face shone squinting against late afternoon sunlight as the sun hanged, presumably, just above the opposite horizon. Tammy claws at an itch through wide black net-holes that wrap her left calf, half bent over, head pivoted, facing the camera but just barely. Grandma is a blur behind the picture window, in the house, behind the tree and the grown girls.

Either my sister took the picture, or they set the timer and rested the camera on a fence post. Heather, my sister, their mom, has disappeared and the girls don’t want to talk about it right now and now it’s been, what, six months? So I’m going through her things again. Her empty perfume bottles smell like sweet attic dust. The old rubber band doubled around her letters snaps apart at my slight touch. Six months, I decide, is not long enough to begin with the letters. Heather’s been gone before. We have tracked her down in Iron Mountain after she passed bad checks in cities south to north along the Michigan Lake Michigan shore. In Bethesda when she left a note behind saying she was on her way to meet the president. In Rock Island when she went to visit Tammy at Augustana, took a wrong turn and ended up applying for a job at an A&W, sleeping in her car. She’d stirred when I tapped on the glass.

I have sat her, Heather, down on four different occassions and asked her where she thinks she’s going when she goes.