Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Some days have passed since my last post. The more perceptive among you might even call it a month. The Christmas season is almost upon us. I can tell because people in my neighborhood are trying to signal passing space aliens with their yard decorations. There are a lot of lights. I think I saw Mothra circling one particularly impressive display featuring some glowing Jesi. That's understandable, since Mothra has always been known to favor glowing messiahs.
So what has been happening in this long month of radio silence? I turned 34 in November, that's one thing. While it's true that birthday wishes may be a little late, it's never wrong to try to get in my good books.
The birthday was a memorable one. The wifely friend and I had a great dinner, drove to the not-terribly scenic Altamont area. Oh, and we fell two miles in one minute.
How that happened was that the night before my birthday, feeling fine and glowing like a million candle-power Jesus from birthday scotch, the wifely friend informed me that we were going skydiving. Now, this wasn't entirely unexpected, as I had mentioned in a sort of vague way that I had always wanted to try it. I'm not known for my EXTREMEosity in general, but I just felt like I should do something that involved being harnessed to another man and pushed from an airplane.
So we woke up early the next day, after a mostly restful slumber, and drove out into the boondocks. We checked in at the hangar, where a smiling woman told us we should go sit on the nagahide sofas and watch a terribly important video which would tell us why we were basically fools for doing this, and not to come limping back to them when we ended up, broken and bleeding, in the fields of Altamont. Really, if something goes wrong when you're skydiving, you're not going to be doing a lot of suing, or a lot of anything, so I don't know why you sign all those waivers. Unless one of the myriad forms they gave us was a solemn oath not to return to the hangar in an amorphous, non-corporeal state, and haunt the bejeezus out of the place.
The video was a guy who resembled a young Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard sitting behind a desk and mumbling for half an hour. It was pretty noisy in the hangar, and I couldn't hear a word of what the guy was saying. But I figured it's pretty straightforward: This is really dangerous, what with the jumping out of a plane and all, but you probably knew that.
The day was quite foggy, so we ended up sitting around in the hangar for about an hour and a half. The hangar was full of skydiving guys. I don't know where these guys came from, but it was pretty clear that they were into skydiving in a big way. They were all standing around, watching Revenge of the Sith on a projection teevee, and every once in a while wandering to the doors of the hangar and grumbling. They couldn't wait to get up there.
I think a lot of them got into it for the clothes.
I thought parachute pants was just a term for ugly pants, but there really are skydiving pants. Kind of baggy nylon pants. One guy had en-fuego flamejob pants and a matching hat. Another guy had a jumpsuit with little batwings that unfurled when he raised his arms. They didn't mix much with us, as we lounged on a sofa, asking each other every two minutes "So, are you scared?"
I'm not going to tell you I wasn't scared. Mostly, though, I just wanted to get up there and jump.
And after an hour and a half, Anakin had turned into a Sith Lord, and the sky cleared. We shuffled out to the plane with our instructors, to whom we would soon be strapped, and boarded the very, very little plane. In a skydiving plane, there are two benches, lengthwise, in the cabin of the plane. You sit basically on the lap of your tandem jump instructor (hence the witty No Farting sticker on the wall of the plane). On the way up, something suddenly occurred to me: I'm in a plane, 10,000 feet off the ground, and the door is open.
The door is open!
When I'm on a normal flight, I often get thoughts like "I wonder what would happen if the door opened right now?" I always figured all the passengers would be sucked out to their certain demise. But no, it's just cold. And rather unnerving, of course. But we weren't stopping at 10,000 feet. No, we were going up to 14,000 feet.
And soon we were there.
I was first to go out the door...or rather, I went before the wifely friend. A bunch of the skydiving devotees who had come up for a dive went barelling out before us. These guys just can't wait to get out that door. I imagine when they fly on commuter flights, it's all they can do to keep themselves from running to the emergency door and launching themselves out.
The guy strapped to my back was a little shorter than me, which made the waddling dynamic probably very humorous as we wobbled to the door, which I will again remind you, was open. I had been given instructions when we were on the ground, along the lines of "lean your head back on my shoulder after we jump. Then we'll freefall for a minute or so. Make sure you wave to the camera." We had opted to get a DVD of our jump, to ensure that if we survived, we'd be able not only to bore people with the story aurally, but visually as well.
Then I was at the door, my toes outside the plane, wondering in a distracted sort of way why the instructor gets a helmet and I don't. It turns out, incidentally, that it's so, if he hits his head on the wing of the plane on the way out, he doesn't get knocked out and pull you 14,000 feet to certain death. There is no way for the jumper to release the chute, you see. That suddenly occurred to me as I felt the thin air buffeting me.
The instructor pulled my head back, so the video guy could capture my expression, which , in retrospect, was one full of despair and second thoughts. Then, I stuck my tongue out to say "Hey. No big deal, man. I'm extreme! ...Can we just go back in the nice plane and shut the door and--"
And my instructor began to rock me back and forth. One...Two...
Three! He pushed me out of the plane, and we were falling.
At least, I think we were falling. There's about zero sensation of falling, when you are free falling from almost three miles up. You're so high up, you could be rising, falling, going sideways. It's hard to tell. There's a few seconds there where you're accelerating exceedingly fast. Then, you reach "terminal velocity" and just stay at that speed.
My head was not on my instructor's shoulder. It was craned forward, looking down at the brown fields miles below. My mouth was open, in an expression that can only be described as AAAAAAA! Looking at the video now, I can see my face doing that great flapping thing that you see in astronaut movies, my open mouth filling with air.
It's hard to breathe in free fall. Well, maybe that's not the best way to describe it. there are two factors: One, your brain is totally overloaded by the fact that you are not standing on anything, that the ground is just unbelievably not there, and is in fact way, way down there, and you're seeing a pretty incredible view beginning to get larger, but slower than you'd think. Two, air is pushing into your mouth and nose very rapidly, so you're really inhaling the whole time. Exhaling is the hard bit. You have to work a little bit, and push the air out.
And I found myself going Woooooo! as we spun circles and continued our fall. Just like those turds you see on extreme sports shows. It's inevitable. The wifely friend, in the video, gives the double-peace sign, Nixon-style, for a good three thousand feet. She has no idea why.
I opted for the secret devil signs so popular at early eighties Motley Crue shows. Again, I have no idea why.
And then, after nine thousand feet of free fall, my instructor tapped my shoulders and released the chute, taking us from 125 miles per hour to 10 miles an hour in about a second. I was a rag doll. And we drifted down, looking at what view we could see on this somewhat cloudy day. I could see Oakland in the far distance, and the San Francisco Bay.
My instructor said "OK, I'm just going to loosen the harness a little bit here."
I froze. For just a fleeting second, the thought crossed my mind: "He's going to kill me. He probably does this all the time. He's going to kill me and kidnap my wife and live in Buenos Aires." And he loosened the harness, and I dropped just a little bit, and he didn't kill me. My testicles were very grateful for the loosening of the harness, by the way. That thing was tight.
He said "Now this is how you steer the chute. You pull on this strap to go to the right." He pulled the strap and we lurched sickeningly down in a spiral to the right.
My stomach quailed.
"And this strap to go to the left." Another spiral.
"Woooaaggggg!" I said, profoundly. this spiralling was making me very nauseated, which is kind of funny, since jumping out of the plane didn't bother me much. But it's the change from wafting gently down, to spiralling and picking up speed as you spin.
I've always had a problem with the spinning. I have gotten ill on the Teacups at Disneyland. Anything that spins you and makes you aware of a migration spineward in the internal organ region is not, well, my cup of tea.
"Can we not do that please?" I said, but I don't think he heard me.
"You try it now!" he said. And I did, spiralling and almost, but not quite, vomiting on him.
And then we were down. The ground came rushing up, and I grabbed my instructor and hugged him. A hug that expressed these things: thanks for not killing me there, you know with the harness thing; and that was the coolest damn thing ever.
And it was the coolest thing ever. If you've thought about jumping from a plane, preferably with a parachute and a sensible and non-suicidal individual strapped to your back, I am here to tell you that you should do it.
Unless you die. Then, you probably shouldn't have.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The wifely friend has been pushing me tofuwards in small steps.
"Look honey," she'll say slyly at the store. "It's a steak substitute. I bet it tastes just like steak!"
And she can, of course, sense my resistance to the meatlessness of these substances she brings home. She is attuned to subtleties undetectable to the untrained ear, like when I say "You want me to eat that?" or "Will you please stop buying all this meatlessness?"
But I give in, I give in. As the meat-like sculptures invade our home, shaped into steaks and little hamburger patties, and I think even a rack of lamb once.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
This salad that I'm making now - oh man, it's like confetti. It's got color and texture and little stringy things. And olives. It's like when they'd go to Puerto Vallarta on the Love Boat and they'd go to the market and buy all that crap and maybe somebody would get a cursed pinata or something (and Doc Brikker would learn the true meaning of love, by learning that sometimes you have to let that special lady go).
And in the pinata would be my salad, but it would be such a good and important salad in the greater scheme of things that it would beat that cursed pinata right back into the fiery depths of hell. That's the kind of salad we're talking about here.
Friday, October 21, 2005
TV Cream's Top 100 Toys [via boingboing]
This is a great collection of toys I remember fondly. Most of them we didn't have ourselves, but I either yearned for them, coveted them, or have, indeed, never heard of them. This is a British site, so being raised by diffident and bespectacled British parents gives me more chance of having seen these, but most are universal.
I spent a good hour and a half reading through the very amusing summaries. Some highlights are the Shaker Maker, Magic Rocks, Big Trak, and the toy I coveted the most richly and longingly as a boy: Subbuteo.
This list reminded me of another soccer game: Blow Football, which sounds like Diego Maradona's autobiography but is not.
Blow Football was a game my grandparents sent from London one year. I use the term "game" loosely here, since it consisted functionally of two straws, two plastic goals, and a ping pong ball cunningly disguised as a soccer ball. I think there may have been some cardboard goalies, too, but I can't be sure. The idea was that you would set up the goals, and two intrepid players possessed of stronger than average respiratory systems would, well, blow through the straws and attempt to blow the football into the goal of the opposing player. Production costs, I'm guessing, were pretty low on this baby. Hours of fun were no doubt to ensue. All I remember ensuing was a lot of saliva ejected onto the coffee table.
I have a cherished memory of this game, though, for reasons that are frankly lost in the weft of time. I remember setting up Blow Football and playing with my father on that Christmas Day, and him turning a peculiar shade of crimson as a pack of Pall Mall Reds every day caught up with him, and we reached somewhat of a stalemate, with the ball hovering mid-table, neither side able to gain an advantage. It ended with us both collapsing in tears of laughter, and I don't remember ever playing the game after that.
Some googling leads to:
Blow Football Balls
Make your own Blow Football (using a cereal box)
Antique 1910 Blow Football
Improved Version of Blow Football (certainly much more impressive than the one I had)
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I saw a really tragic commercial the other day on the electric television.
It was along these lines.
Frighteningly smooth man's voice: "How much would it take to get you to listen to a radio station? Two hundred fifty dollars? What about twenty-five hundred dollars"
Sultry, yet sort of perky woman's voice: "That sounds good."
FSMV: "What about twenty-five THOUSAND dollars? Tune in to KOIT at seven-thirty each morning to find out how you can win twenty-five thousand dollars."
SYSOPWV: "For twenty-five thousand dollars I'd listen all day! What kind of music is it?"
FSMV: "Lite rock! At KOIT."
Now, if you're not in the Bay Area, you may never have been exposed to KOIT, but I am guessing the devil and his minions have established base camp in most urban centers, where they broadcast the audio equivalent of velour. And I thought, would it be worth it?
How long would I make it, enduring instrumental arrangements of Rocket Man and John Tesh live performances? Would the irreparable psychological damage of prolonged Celine Dion exposure be forgotten in the face of 18,000 after-tax dollars?
And how sad is it for KOIT to bribe people to listen to their preprogrammed journey through the unchallenging side of adult oriented rock, the would-be winners' eyes glazing over, their skin growing sallow and baggy as Music Box Dancer washes over them in a cool breeze of torment?
Curse you KOIT. Curse you. It's not enough.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I was on my way in to work this morning, stuck in rather heavy traffic, when a guy in a Range Rover pulled up alongside me and shouted something. I didn't hear him, because I was being extra-dorky by listening to Sisters of Mercy* at high volume.
I turned down the tunes and looked at him. "I went to Miskatonic University too!" he cried.
Aha! A fellow dork had spotted the dork-signal "Cthulhu Saves" sticker on the back of my Golf! This has only happened once before in the seven years or so that I've had that sticker. And that time, it was an alarmingly hairy and lonely-looking guy at an Orange County Chevron station who attempted to involve me in a conversation that seemed destined to involve twenty-sided dice, fishpeople, and a scene-by-scene deconstruction of Re-Animator.
Impressed, I flashed him a thumbs-up and a smile, and we drove off, each a little dorkier for the experience.
I'd like to add, parenthetically, that these chance drive-by encounters can leave one a little discomfited if one pulls up at the next stoplight immediately next to the person who has just conversed with you. Is the burden now upon you to continue the car-to-car communication, referencing something on the other person's car? Like a Jack-in-the-Box antennahead? "I see you've got a Jack-in-the-Box Antennahead!" you could yell, for instance. Or do you just smile? Do you have to wave? Would rolling up the window seem rude?
These things worry me.
*"This Corrosion", if you must know. There, now you've got an earworm**. Sisters of Mercy are perhaps the dorkiest Goth music available, with their twelve minute remixes for no good reason, and what was with those cop sunglasses? The singer was like the Goth Ponch, for God's sake. Sisters of Mercy are, in this humble non-reviewer's opinion, roughly analagous to KMFDM in dorkiness.
**Typing this word too quickly may result in the tragic if somewhat amusing typo "rearworm"***.
***Rejected title for the porno version of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
1 Go look at pictures of baby sloths!
Blatantly stolen from the pleasing greengabbro.net.
2 The streak may be over. Something stung me this morning while I was jogging. Thirty three years without a bee sting and it all comes crashing to a halt beside a lake in San Bruno. Oh the humanity!
I can't prove it was a bee. It could have been anyone of a small and stingy nature, I guess. Jogging, sadly, is not a sport that features instant replay, so we can't go to the replay booth for a slo-mo review. All we can do is watch my right ear get more swollen as the day goes on.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
I just spent twenty minutes writing a post about going to the Dead Can Dance show in Oakland on Thursday, but Blogger barfed and now my post is lost in the aether, much like a diaphonous goth blouse. So, here are the abbreviated highlights.
The show was great, and we agreed that it was a great old person show. The doors opened at 8, and the band was on by 8:20. I'm sure there were lots of upset goths (if that's not redundant) who got there at 9 and essentially missed half the show. They played for two hours, and we were home by eleven. We agreed this was the best of all possible worlds.
Two guys sat behind us and would not shut up. There were beautiful, hymnlike songs, with Lisa Gerrard singing solo. The entire theatre of hundreds of people were utterly silent except these guys who, every song, would crow "Oh man! I can't believe I'm hearing this song! Tears, man! I have tears!"
They would gush about how much they loved every song, making it very clear, very loudly, that their feelings were terribly important.
And "Hey man, after the show! Let's get some beers! And some weed! You can put your bike in my car! And..."
I finally had to tell them to be quiet. I know I'm easily annoyed at conerts and movies, but without fail I'm sitting by the loudest people in the theatre, in some horrible karmic punishment. But really, I paid sixty dollars each for these tickets, and I don't want to hear about your feelings or your post-concert plans.
And, I have to say, they were generally quiet after that, and nobly refrained from kicking my chair or wiping boogers on me.
And we were home by eleven! Sad, really.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Something is in the ground at the Kafkaesque homestead.
EXHIBIT A was the mounds of earth multiplying in the back yard. EXHIBIT B was the odd and somewhat disconcerting behavior of the neighborhood cat gang (note: I am not specifically speaking here of Cat Town, which I enjoy linking to whenever possible, because it contains pictures of cats wearing headwear, and that's important for America). What was happening was this: one representative of the neighborhood cat gang (usually a rather dapper little grey and white number) would trespass into our back yard and then sit and stare at the ground for hours at a time. Of course, having lots of first-hand experience with cats laying around and generally not doing anything, we were not too alarmed by this impressive display of inertia. But this cat was alertly staring into the corner of the lawn area (I call it the lawn area, because I think one day I may put a lawn there, and not because there is an actual lawn item there at present. There are rocks, dirt, and weeds, not necessarily in that order.) like a cat version of the Blair Witch Project.
This tipped us off that something was up, ground-wise.
At first I thought we had moles. And moles are great. They wear little plaid vests and charming Victorian eyeglasses. In the morning, they peek their heads out of their little holes, carrying a candle and wearing a jaunty nightcap. They also bring to mind the psychedelic Spiderman foe, The Molemen. Just to be thorough, I should also mention that Molemen are also featured in the not as charming, but you'd have to say interesting, series of Residents albums. Sure, moles still destroy your plants, but they're weird enough that you can almost forgive them.
Then, I described the symptoms to variety of people well versed in the rodent arts, and they assured me what I was facing was a gopher.
Gophers are single-minded about destroying your garden. They don't wear plaid vests or squint in the sun. They don't go for wild rides with Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, or gambol down rivers with their friend the weasel. They have giant fangs and, as if that's not bad enough, as soon as you tell someone you have gophers, chances are pretty good that person will launch into stirring rendition of one of three, or possibly all three, scenes from the movie Caddyshack.
Still, I wasn't that worried about our back yard, since as I have mentioned, it's a barren wasteland suitable only for filming 1950s Mars movies. Then, we spent many back-breaking hours redoing our front garden, freeing it from the shackles of junipers and ugly white rocks, and ushering in a new age of feather grass, Mugo pines, and a particularly nice flowering cherry tree. The mounds started appearing in the front yard soon after, and one day one of our grasses was pulled into the earth, cartoon-like.
Clearly, the time had come for action.
I went to a local nursery and asked for one of those gopher deterrent devices that you bury in your yard. You put batteries in the device, and every 30 seconds or so, it whirrs into life, emitting sonic vibrations that send your gopher nemesis into apoplexy, so determined are they to get away from the shaking menace. Maybe the device plays Guns n Roses too. I don't know. It sure worked for the ATF that time in the Koresh compound.
So I went to the counter and said, in so many words, that I am less than a completely formed man because I want to gently dissuade my rodent squatters, instead of, variously, sucking them out of their warm burrows with a tremendous vaccuum cleaner, driving stakes into their trembling gopherbodies, gassing them, or blowing them up. "I don't want any, you know, trouble," I said to the nursery lady.
After all, I'd hate to get to the afterlife, and find of bunch of pissed off grub-munching vermin are running the show, and none too happy about the whole genocide thing.
So I wanted the humane alternative, the sonic sound wave emitting super-robot machine from the future that would drive my little gopher chums to the very brink of madness and possibly over that brink. Maybe they'd run out into the street and get run over. Hey, not my fault. I didn't gas you, gopher buddy. Or drive a giant stake into your head.
But no, she informed me. They didn't have any happy friendly gopher-driver-insaners at the nursery. "Just," she said with something of a twinkle in her eye, "Poison, gas, traps. You know." I was disheartened, but told her that I would look through the selection of medieval torture devices anyway. Maybe there would be a pleasant and quick death device. Like a gopher version of Soylent Green, where the gophers get to view pastoral scenes and listen to soothing music in their final hours, before being processed into Ritz crackers. On the shelf there were the spike traps, indeed, and poison and gas. But there, in the corner of the display, was the prize...the GopherIt.
The GopherIt is an 18 inch, 4 battery-havin', buzzin', beepin' gopher sanity remover the likes of which I have never seen.
So I grabbed it and strode boldly to the counter and crowed to the woman who had denied the device's existence: "You do! You do have a gopher vibrator!"
And then there was a little pause, during which I thought (as I end up thinking quite a bit) "Maybe I didn't really say that out loud."
But, of course, I did. And I have to say she was unrattled.
It does make me think, though. For one thing, I paid $39.95 for the GopherIt. I don't shop for a lot of vibrators, but I'm guessing you could get a non-name-brand knock-off vibrator for somewhere around $20. Also, if I planted vibrators in the yard, maybe I could grow a vibrator tree and start a lucrative new career as an organic vibrator farmer.
So I've got that going for me.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I think one of my animal crackers has a goiter. And what is that? My god, is it an udder? A monkey with an udder?
I can only conclude that some hideous experimentation has been taking place. That the jar of animal crackers in the break room has become some sort of nightmarish Island of Dr. Moreau, where beaks grow from the crotches of innocent bison, yawning bubos infest the backs of polar bears, and the number of appendages afforded God's creatures cannot even be reckoned in sensical integers.
If I can but find the tasty scientist-shaped cookie responsible for this genetic manipulation, this hubris-damned tampering in the domain of the lord, I promise vengeance to you, my monstrous, deformed cracker friends. Freedom is at hand!
(I am unused to sugar.)
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
It is the simple questions that can drive one to the very brink of madness. Such a question haunts me in the quietness of the night, when the clacking percussion of the clock's march offers no respite, and sleeplessness is the only spectre haunting the halls of my consciousness:
What kind of world are we living in that T.J. Hooker is available on DVD?
Friday, August 05, 2005
I declare, in an admittedly unofficial sense, today to be French Pop Day. Please, take to the streets playing Stereolab and Air. Be aloof. Be confused about exactly what you should be wearing or listening to. Try a hat. When people ask you why you are wearing a hat, and perhaps even demand that you remove said hat, especially if you are wearing it indoors, which can be construed as rude in some circles, you must act aggrieved and seethe "Eet ees French Pop Day, mon ami." Or, if you feel more rambunctious "C'est le jour de Pop Francais, imbecile!"
Please, no craziness with the baguettes.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
I'd like to broach kind of a tender subject here.
I don't know anything about women. I know that's shocking to hear, coming from a guy who is not only married, but has an near-encyclopedic familiarity with horror movies and D&D.
This fact was brought home to me the other night, a night like any other. The wifely friend (who I am at pains to mention is a woman, and therefore a person I really don't understand in even the most basic way) and I were on the sofa, watching television. I know it's also kind of shocking that an exciting guy like me was sitting around watching television, but I assure you it was something educational, like Australian Rules Football or America's Funniest Police Shootings. Anyway, this was laundry day.
We have a special trade-off that happens on laundry day: she does the sorting, the pre-soaking, the loading, the washing, the removing of tender and fragile items for line-drying, the painstaking removal of lint from the screen, and the transfer to the dryer. I do the folding*. This is not because I have convinced her that folding the laundry is dangerous in any way, like maybe there is a choking hazard involved in vee neck undershirts, or that she may become disoriented by the nineteen black socks that are in some indiscernible way different from each other, and go running off into the night, screaming. For some unknown reason, she finds folding the clothes tedious and annoying, and won't do it.
So that works out.
I was gamely folding my way through the vast Matterhorn of dingey whites and slowly fading blacks*** when it struck me that I should put some underwear on my head. So I did. Now, I know you do this when you're folding laundry too, so don't try to deny it. Sometimes I'll even mix it up a little and hang one of the wifely friend's bras off my ears. And then I'll sit there, as I was at this particular moment, grinning at my wife, waiting for her to notice that I am doing something that is so desperately hilarious that she'll remember why she is so proud to be married to me, her undie-headed king.
I had selected a pair of the briefs that I recently picked up for jogging. Any of you joggers (I should say male type joggers) can testify that jogging in boxer shorts is not that pleasant.
She looked at me, with my briefs all chapeau-style, and said "Well, they're better than boxers anyway."
I was stunned. The briefs slid from my head, obviously as troubled as I was.
"You mean you like tighty-whiteys?" I asked her.
Now, there was a time when I was all about the tighty-whiteys. Up until I was twenty-three or so, I was a tighty-whitey man. I was gripped, cupped, and supported. My junk was warm and safe, like a little baby bird--no, I mean like a particularly large kookaburra--in the cottony softness my Fruit of the Looms provided.
And then, a girlfriend told me one day, as if this was a self-evident truth, "You should wear boxers."
So, like any sane man would do, I destroyed every last pair of tighty-whiteys. I cleansed with a holy fire. I committed underwear genocide of the highest order. And I bought a whole range of boxer shorts. For about ten years now, I've been all boxers. I'll wear them until the elastic is such a half-remembered whisper that my pants are the only thing keeping them on. I have exotic and exciting patterns, like dachshunds in repose, footballs, and a variety of plaids that would boggle the mind of those of you who are easily boggled.
Boxer shorts are better for admiring your physique in the mirror, too. You feel tough wearing the boxers. Like you should be enjoying a cup of really bad coffee on the porch of a log cabin somewhere, maybe lighting a match on your inner thigh to light your cheroot. You want to be striding through the woods boldly, alive as only a man who has no sort of testicular support of any kind can really be.
And now here was my own wifely friend telling me after what is soon to be five years of marriage that she like the whiteys.
And the question that keeps recurring to me, before I go ahead and rout the forces of boxerdom from my drawers drawer, is this:
I wonder how they'll look on my head?*****
*Everything, that is, except the fitted sheet. No man knows how to fold a fitted sheet. It's like trying to fold a lettuce leaf.**
**I'm sorry but I'm fresh out of logical similes, apparently.
***Incidentally, "dingey whites and slowly fading blacks" was the rejected first title of the timeless anthem Ebony & Ivory. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and added the stark contrast so beloved by the entire world.****
****Though, strangely, hated by Jupiter.
*****Incidentally, my wifely friend just read this and denied that she likes the tighties for anything but purely lecherous reasons. So, never mind.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The surface of the blog is crystalline and unmoving. Not a wind or breeze breaks the undisturbed, mirror-like level of the disconcertingly white Blogger template. For over a month the quiet has reigned, icy and deathlike.
From behind you, you think you hear a sound. But it is nothing.
You eat a cheese puff.
And suddenly, without notice, without notifying you in writing two to four weeks beforehand and asking you to please send an RSVP and maybe bring that nice ambrosia you always make, with the colored marshmallows that all the kids like so much, and that was held in evidence once on suspicion of having killed a man, though it was later acquitted when it turned out that the guy was not in the best shape, certainly not in any shape to be eating ambrosia anyway, and maybe had kind of a deathwish when you really think about it, I mean really, suddenly it is
!My Life as an American Gladiator's Fourth Birthday Spectacular!
Perhaps, I hear you say, kind of snottily if you don't mind my saying so, it's a little less spectacular when Mr. Gladiator Blog Writer Guy hasn't been exactly blazing away on the updates for the last year. Well, OK. You have a point.
But, undaunted, I press on, continuing the fine tradition of listing my favorite posts of the year. Since there were only about seven posts all year, this should be cake.
So, without further ado, the painfully self-aware favorite posts list for our birthday:
Bees in the walls! (incidentally, here is an update on the bees in the walls situation: They came back. I heard from my tenants that they were being bothered by thousands of bees pouring out of the walls. Having experienced that myself, I can tell you that it is a little worrisome. It turned out the little darlings had indeed come back and had built a four foot beehive in the wall. Yay for fun!)
The Squeegee Incident
Things I Learned from Watching John Carpenter's The Fog Did you know they are remaking this movie? Will it be bad? Mmmaybe.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I just thought I'd drop by and let you know about some important things that have transpired of late.
a. The Taco of Gold
I was unprepared for the discovery one morning of the Taco of Gold. I was in the midst of my daily commute, not suspecting that the proof of the existence of this legendary comestible was mere yards ahead of me. And then, as I entered the 101 onramp, there it was!
Men had given their lives for but a glimpse of its precious lettuce, cheddar cheese, and lard-cooked beef. It had been the subject of song and legend since time immemorial, and now here before my eyes...a roach coach emblazoned proudly with the words El Taco Del Oro!
I should have been tipped off by the proximity of Cortez, dancing across the slow lane, with his galleons and guns.
b. The Band - Not Really All That Great
There's an amazing record shop called The Record Man in Redwood City. The store is in a guy's house, and the walls are lined, ceiling to floor, with records. I like to go in there and gawk, and pay rather exorbitant prices for Roxy Music and John Cale bootlegs.
A couple of weeks ago, The Record Man had a sidewalk sale, where they put out boxes and boxes of their overstock. I showed up at ten in the morning and spent a few hours rummaging through the piles of vinyl. Records were a dollar each. Double albums two dollars. Box sets, three dollars.
I ended up, it must be said, buying stuff I would normally never have paid more than a dollar for. About twenty albums, including an old Bill Cosby comedy record, an Animals live album, some Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, that sort of thing. I also went a little crazy and picked up a Band album. Or is it a The Band album? I don't know.
Anyway, I reasoned that I like Bob Dylan, and The Band had played with him quite a bit. I looked at the track listing, and recognized only one song: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. For a buck I figured, what the hell.
My wifely friend was less than pleased with that selection. I would even go so far as to say she mocked me. But I was steadfast. "The Band," I assured her, " Was a very important, you know, band."
She sighed and gave me a look that managed to convey the sentiment that she feared her husband would soon be having his own Lynyrd Skynyrd/Creedence/The Band rockblock, and maybe begin drinking rye.
Well, I waited until I had some "me time", and cued up my The Band album. I struggled through the somewhat twangy harmonies and clearly very emotional ballads. This was not going well. I wanted to achieve some sort of oneness with seventies Americana, but all I was getting was a feeling that I should be driving a Ford pickup, and considering a gun rack.
Then, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down came on". I don't know if it's just me but songs about the glory of the South don't do that much for me. At least I think that's what it was about. But I don't think I ever actually needed to hear it again.
And then I realized with full clarity: I don't like The Band. If you're interested, one very used The Band album. Only 99 cents.
c. Dental and Auto Hyjinx
I had my first dentist visit in many years last week, occasioned by a spectaular molar-breaking incident. I was eating red licorice and somehow chipped one of my molars. I assumed some deviant had put a piece of gravel in my Red Vines, unwilling to admit it was because I had a gaping cavity in the tooth roughly the size of the Moaning Cavern.
So I made an appointment with a dentist recommended by my boss. I had a moment of misgiving about going to the same dentist as the person who writes my performance evaluations.
"Your work is good, but frankly, your teeth give me the creeps. Clean out your desk, Shane MacGowan."
But I needed help to prevent myself from sinking further into dentropy, so I made the appointment. I also had a coolant leak in my VW, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and visit my mechanic after the appointment. The dentist is in downtown San Francisco, and the mechanic is over by the ballpark. This seems unrelated, but stay with me.
The dentist, it must be said, was very forgiving, as I confessed the many years that had passed since my last dental genuflection. And then the drilling began. I ended up with three fillings, and the promise that this was but the beginning of a truly impressive series of dental spelunking excursions.
Then, I headed off for my mechanic, my mouth still anesthetized.
I don't know much about cars, but I know this: having your clutch snap at 4pm on 6th and Bryant sucks. That's what happened. I was at that intersection, and when I went to put the car in first, the clutch just snapped, and the pedal sagged to the floor, dead. I began all my tried and true tricks to resuscitate the car. These include swearing a lot, making witch doctor noises, crying out "you're only supposed to have a coolant leak, you stupid car!" and gesturing futilely to the angry woman in the Lexus behind me that I was not going anywhere.
I got out of the car, which was lifeless in the inside lane of three. Heavy traffic zoomed all around me. I knew I had to push the car off to the side of the road, but clearly, no-one was going to stop to let me do that. I looked to the sidewalk, and there just happened to be one of those guys who absolutely live for car-pushing. He was probably forty, and had two younger guys with him. He had a hoodie sweatshirt on and looked kind of like MacGyver. "Hey!" he shouted across the cars. "You need help pushing that?"
Honestly, I think if I had said no, he would have been crushed. Instead, I gratefully said "Yes!" which came out more as "Eeears!" from my novocained mouth.
He and his two friends charged across the oncoming traffic. "You!" he addressed one of the other guys. "You stop these cars. You, get behind the car. Let's do this!"
I think his hair may have rippled in the breeze, even.
I am eternally grateful that they helped me push the car to the right lane. There is no shoulder at all at that intersection, so my poor VW was blocking a lot of people who wanted to get on the freeway. If you happened to be driving that particular way, that was me, sanding a fair distance away from his Golf, in the hopes that the angry masses would not disembowel me for inconveniencing them.
I soon realized that I had wisely forgotten to bring either my AAA card or my cell phone with me, but I found a CHP who called a tow truck for me, and a mere 45 minutes later, one arrived and towed me to my destination for an insane amount of money. My mechanic called me today to let me know he'd be relieving me of another insane amount of money, putting me that much farther from my goal of being wealthy enough to hunt other humans for sport.
But at least my tooth is fixed.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
I really feel like I should like The Stranglers. Every few years, I get "Always the Sun" stuck in my head, or I suddenly think of "Golden Brown" and can't remember how it goes. So I dredge up a Stranglers Greatest Hits album and play it. And you know what? My Stranglers Greatest Hits album would contain exactly two songs. The rest? Kind of crappy.
update: Actually, "Always the Sun" isn't that great either. "All Roads Lead to Rome"?
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I went to Trader Joe's, as is my wont when I am in need of some substandard cereal and Slovak beer, and a remarkable thing happened: a little Chuck Norris moment.
I took my purchases to the register, and got carded for my exciting Slovak beer purchase. The clerk looked at my driver's license, and immediately got a far off look in his eye. I thought maybe he was impressed at my youthful appearance, or perhaps the organ donor sticker made him covetous of my spleen or liver, which, it must be said, are also quite suprisingly youthful. But no!
My driver's license still has my old address from southern California, you see. This prompted the following inspirational Chuck Norris moment:
"I have a trivia question for you." the clerk said, somewhat conspiratorially.
"Um," I said.
"What...martial artist...lives in your town?"
I wracked my brain. Sure, I knew my southern California abode was a hotbed of Tae Kwan Do, Jujitsu, Judo, really all forms of martial arts. But who could it be? Jet Li, who lives down by the Circle K? Jackie Chan? The shy and private Jeff Speakman perhaps?
"I have no idea."
"Star of Fists of Fury?"
"Played a Texas lawman on TV?"
"Ah! Chuck Norris!"
"Yes, yes," said the clerk, with a tone usually reserved or speaking to the very dim. "I've just finished his autobiography, you know."
I began to worry. The transaction was over, and this guy was sill talking to me.
"He's had quite a life, Mr. Norris."
"Yes. One day they should make a movie of his life. It hasn't all been good, but Mr. Norris is the first to say that in his book."
I wanted to tell him that I would be the one. I would take it upon myself, make it my life's work, to film the almost Messiah-like story of Mr. Norris's life, how he rose from the ranks of a disturbingly hairy Bruce Lee foe to star in a syndicated television program loved by the elderly this country over.
Instead, with a tear in my eye, I collected my Slovak beer and eight-pound bag of frozen prawns and wandered out of the store, my life forever changed.
Monday, May 30, 2005
About an hour and a half into clearing our front garden of the ten foot by ten foot pile of rocks, shovelful by shovelful, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, it hit me:
This is the same thing I'd be doing if I killed a guy in Mississppi in the late sixties.
Monday, May 16, 2005
A Play in Two Acts
Doth thy carte offend thee?
I just returned from the grocery store, which for brevity I shall simply call The Really Overpriced Grocery Store That's On The Way Home. On the way inside, I stopped to grab a cart (because I'm a thinker, see?), when something strange caught my eye.
This store has a dispenser of sanitary cart handle wipes.
Ha! I thought. These pathetic snobs can't even touch a shoppping cart that someone before them has handled? What kind of hyper-sensitive society are we living in, anyway? I mean, sure, the last shopper may have had some fingernail fungus or other similar fingernail life-forms going on, but is it really necessary to sanitize the cart handle?
What's the worst that could be breeding on there? Well. Hepatitis C, maybe?
I looked around the store entrance furtively. These shoppers looked clean, but who can really tell? They might be infested with sores, or maybe the scurvy. Honestly, there's some class-A whack-jobs out here. It's like a damn Fellini film.
I grabbed a wipe and wiped that cart for all it was worth. I didn't stop at the handle, either. I sanitized the crap out of that cart, even lubing up the little squeaky cart-tires for good measure. The pina-colada cart-freshener I threw in at no extra charge.
Intermission —Snacks and frozen treats in the lobby
A complex man!
Why is it that the idea of Domino's Cheeseburger pizza fills me with revulsion and cynicism for the future of mankind, and yet I love with a deep and abiding passion the tiny grill-marked burgers of Chunky Sirloin Burger Soup?
It's my turn. Yes, it's my turn. I know there's an old lady here, but I was here before her. I'm not making some sort of judgment call that I am better then her, although it is important to note that she will probably not be around as long as I will and shouldn't really be eating meat at her advanced age anyway. It's not like I'm taking her seat on the bus. I was here a good 70-80 seconds before she was.
The Manne of Meate Is Surlye
So, the red snapper, please.
But wait, there is more meat that I want from you. Please, do not look at me exasperatedly, as if you had far better things you could be doing. You're either getting me two one-pound packages of ground turkey —the dark meat if you please (I care about my health but only in a token sort of way)— or you're going to be slinging meat for someone else. Maybe breaking a crab's knees with that silver hammer thing, which I will grant you looks kind of fun. The choice here is not "get Kaf his meat or gaily skip through a field barefoot". Okay?
Did you just roll your eyes at me?
Look, I told you I wanted the Rocky Junior chicken. Not Rocky Senior! I don't know what the difference is, either, but I'm already coughing up some serious dough for this chicken because someone thoughtfully slapped a Free Range sticker on it, so I think I should get the choice. Frankly, I'm reluctant to eat a Senior range chicken with this elderly woman standing next to me and eyeing me as if to say "Why, why must you order so much meat, young man?"
Yes, that's all. Thank you for being so surly, Meat Man. You really made my day.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
You know what? I'm getting a great deal on my nationwide calling plan! For the ten minutes of each day that my phone actually has a connection, it's great!
But I must say that I'm paying a mere 60 dollars a month for two phones! 60 dollars! That's such a great deal that I don't mind the fact that the phone works neither at my office nor my home. And it has a really cute picture of a smiling panda on the display. And that's worth thirty dollars a month right there. I'm not sure why it has a panda, or how to get rid of it, but I must say that Cingular Wireless gave me a really great deal on this phone.
Nine dollars I paid for this phone! Can you believe it? This phone, that doesn't seem to have a volume control, is awkward, unwieldy, and uncomfortable to use, and whose battery leaps from its protective sheath like a lemming from a cliff every time the phone is more than softly placed on a pile of papers. It is very, very good at holding down papers, by the way, as it displays the comforting message "Network Search" for 23 out of the day's 24 hours.
In fact, this wonderful phone that I am paying only 60 dollars a month for only functions while I am driving to and from work. As we all know, that is the best and safest time for any important and potentially distracting conversations that will take your mind off less pleasant things like, I don't know, brake lights.
I hate talking on the phone while I'm driving. I have enough trouble avoiding the fleet of white minivans going sixty in the fast lane and Johnny Acura Integra going eight thousand miles an hour in the slow lane without worrying about the phone. In fact, I don't even like having a cellphone. I don't want to be reachable, and I also don't want to have to worry about my cellphone popularity.
Everyone else seems to be talking on their phone all the time. They must know a lot of people. And those people must be really interested in everything the phone people are doing. I only got my cellphone so I could call my wife, or she could call me. In case there's some sort of invasion and we can't be near each other. Then we can call each other and spend those last few hours crying into the phone, waiting for our painful deaths.
But, of course, all I really use the phone for is this sort of thing:
"Honey? It's me. What kind of pickles do we buy again?"
So, in the interest of furthering the pickle discourse and to avoid the potentially disastrous mis-purchase of any and all condiments, I called Cingular Wireless. If you've never called them, I highly recommend it. The best thing about calling them is that you have to navigate through a button pressing menu so esoteric and torturously labyrinthine that you have to trick them into talking to you. The only way I managed to get an actual sentient (and I use the term in its broadest sense) human on the line was to press the button for "report a lost or stolen phone". I mentioned this to the being on the other end of the line, complimenting him on his company's dedication to customer service and he said "Oh. Yeah. You have to do that."
"Well, I was wondering if there's a reason I don't get any reception at work, or at home, unless I am in one particular area of the kitchen, hanging out the window where my soft flesh is exposed to nature and may, in all likelihood, be nibbled by ambitious raccoons."
"Where do you live?" he asked speculatively, and I told him.
"Oh. That's a really bad coverage area. Have you tried climbing on the roof, or holding a lightning rod in your teeth?"
Encouraged, I asked him if their merger with AT&T would help my reception in any way.
I think he may have giggled at that. "I, um, I don't think so. Have you considered moving?"
"It hadn't, honestly, occurred to me."
"Well, you do have the panda, right?"
I had to agree that the panda really made it all OK. I should really be glad they aren't charging me more for that little scamp.
"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
No, Cingular, I guess not.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
What's that? Am I still here?
Yes, I'm still here. I was not here for a while. I was even in Hawaii for a while there. But now, resolutely and steadfastly, I am here.
And what knowledge do I bring you from Hawaii? Not much, really. But I brought you chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Everyone brings chocolate covered macadamia nuts. I think you can probably buy them here. But in Hawaii, or in Maui anyway, which is where I was for a while of the while I was not here, they sure have a lot of them. The nuts. With the chocolate. It's a little known fact that you are legally required to buy at least three (3) boxes during your stay on the islands. If you don't, then you anger The God of The Volcano. And then there's trouble.
The God of The Volcano has some sort of royalty deal going with Hawaiian Host, maybe.
Where did we go, exactly? To Hana, which is the best place you can go, if you are going. It's only accessible by driving a menacingly small road that clings to the edge of cliffs and features locals driving very fast over one-lane bridges. But it's nice and mellow and relatively untouristy, after the day-tripper types have returned to Lahaina for the evening. There is only one hotel in town, the Hana-Maui, which is crazy, crazy expensive, so we didn't stay there. We did, however, partake of their extremely good Mai Tais and Pina Coladas. Highly recommended.
As is the Heavenly Hana Inn, a Japanese style bed and breakfast where we spent a couple of nights.
We also stayed in a treehouse for a couple of nights, which was slightly less deluxe and more oh-man-I'm-in-the-middle-of-rainforest. It had exciting features like giant spiders and mosquito netting with holes in it over the bed. The giant spiders didn't seem to be doing that great of a job of combatting the eight million mosquitos, but they assured me they were trying their best. The treehouse also featured an outdoor toilet and shower which made us feel very adventurous and tough, so that was nice. The tree that the treehouse was built in was a guava tree so we'd be sleeping fitfully, dreaming of ungodly predators nibbling our soft underbellies, when we'd be woken by a giant crash as a guava, filled with ennui, finally leapt to its death on the jungle floor below.
All in all, a good trip.
I promise to be slightly less silent in the coming months.
By the way, if anyone has emailed me in the last, say, three months, at the nachtopus.net address, I won't have gotten it. Address any concerns or frippery to kafkascampi AT gmail DOT com. See how I did that there, with the capital letters and all? Smart like a whip.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Dave Allen passed away last night at age 68. I grew up watching his very old-school one-man show "Dave Allen at Large" late at night on PBS. When my parents would let me stay up late enough, that is.
Good night, thank you, and may your God go with you.
Some collected Dave Allen quotes
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Once again, we have begun to plunge healthward in the Kafkaesque household. Roughly every other day, we wake up at five thirty in the morning (or even earlier, depending on who we are trying to impress with the story) and go for a half-hour jog.
And we are not even being chased by bears or anything.
I've discovered something fantastic about jogging, and I think it's probably why most joggers jog: you can complain about it whenever you want. And any time is the right time to complain about jogging, I assure you. Any lull in the conversation is ideal to issue a low groan and say pathetically (yet impressively) "Ohhh. I woke up at five-thirty this morning to go jogging." [obviously, you may embellish with any time up to 3 am. Earlier than three may stretch plausibility.]
On the days we don't go jogging, I do exercises in the morning. These exercises consist entirely of pushups and crunches, ensuring a minimum of actual results. I call them "crunches" because it sounds really important and rough and tumble. "Situps" doesn't sound anywhere near impressive enough.
I do fifty of each in our guest room, choosing to perform the mighty crunches with my toes hooked under one of our Ikea Billy bookcases with really heavy glass doors. A couple of factors make this placement enjoyable:
1. Each time I struggle to a near-sitting position, I am eye-level with the philosophy and religion shelf, so my thought process is kind of like this: "Aaaaaaagh - oh, the Baghavad Gita As It Is - Aaaaaaagh - I should really finish Violence and the Sacred - Aaaaaaagh - I bet Joseph Campbell can't do fifty crunches - Aaaaaaagh - If he were alive I mean - Aaaaaaagh!" and so on.
2. Every crunch exerts a little more upward force on the heavy bookshelf, and makes me wonder if I correctly installed the little safety strap to the wall. By about crunch #43, I secretly wish for the sweet release of death, crushed under a weighty pile of New German Cinema texts and travel guides for places we haven't been yet.
All of this madcap exercising is occasioned by our desire to be slightly less flabby when we go to Maui next month. I feel confident I won't be much less flabby but at least, when I am gazing at the sunrise from Haleakala, I can groan and say "Ohhhh man. I was up at three am jogging," and put all the other tourists to shame.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
So the wifely friend and I were out hiking this weekend. It was a beautiful day and we hiked about 5 miles, up a mountain ridge to the San Francisco Bay Area Discovery Site, where hundreds of years ago, intrepid explorers looked down on the San Francisco Bay and said to themselves "I think the real estate here is going to be very, very expensive."
And of course, as so often happens when surrounded by Nature's rich pageant, we were seized with the urge to stop off at the mall, buy horror movies, and eat popcorn. This was perhaps a byproduct of our discussion that Pacifica is a pretty likely place to find some fishpeople.
I selected The Fog, a movie I remembered as being truly frightening. Of course, I hadn't seen the film in some twenty years, but I felt confident it must be good. I remembered undead shambling and...well, that's about it. Having watched The Fog, I was astonished at how poor my memory can be.
And what did I learn from John Carpenter's The Fog?
If zombie leper pirates show up at your house after midnight, and start banging on the door with their giant zombie leper pirate fish hooks, don't let them in. You should probably think for just a minute before letting them in, at least. You could think, for example, "Did I invite the zombie leper pirates over?" and maybe "Even if I did invite the zombie leper pirates over, it's frankly a little rude for them to show up after midnight. And what's with the banging on the door? Zombie leper pirates should knock politely, especially at this late hour. I have half a mind to never invite the zombie leper pirates over again."
That's about all I learned, honestly. Except that, again, my memory had made The Fog much better than it really was. I remembered a great sequence in which some luckless drunken fisherman gets his throat ripped out by one of the aforementioned giant zombie leper pirate fish hooks. This did not happen. Maybe it was in Escape from Witch Mountain? I can't be sure.
The Fog, incidentally, goes against my theory that seventies horror movies are as a rule very good. Because it's not.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
This weekend we drove down to Orange County for reasons which I assure you were perfectly valid, and I just wanted to share a small magical moment that occurred in a 76 gas station in the town of Grapevine: an elderly gentleman cringed before me.
Now I should begin by saying that I am not a particularly threatening looking kind of guy. Goofy and somewhat slow-witted, yes. Threatening, no.
While I was gassing up the car, I looked for a squeegee to shift some of the truly impressive weight of bug parts from my windshield. In the fine tradition of Interstate 5 gas stations, there was but one squeegee to be had, and it was not at my pump. So I grabbed the squeegee from the next row of pumps.
As I toted my squeegee carwards, an elderly gentleman and his wife pulled in to that row of pumps. I washed my windshield. Then, when the tank was full, I glanced over at the elderly guy, who was looking futilely for the squeegee.
Being the helpful sort that I am, I walked towards him, holding out the squeegee for him to use.
Now I don't know what this guy thought I was going to do with the squeegee, but he flinched and took a couple of steps back. In his mind, perhaps, he saw me standing over him, raining sanitary blows upon him, as his blood slowly mixed with Windex, running off into the drain. Perhaps he thought I would restrain him and squeegee his glasses against his will. I don't know.
Anyway, in the end I just kicked him in the shins and took his wallet, so he wouldn't feel he cringed for nothing.
That's all I have to say about that. I would like to close by saying "squeegee" a few more times.
Squeegee squeegee squeegee
Saturday, January 29, 2005
So many dramatic things. I now have an actual job where I have to do actual work. And actually commute. So as a result I've been a little busy.
Gone are the halcyon days of Purgatory Inc, where I labored for so many years. I know I will always miss the excitement of working with people who sold Avon on the side and had Tupperware parties. And will I ever see Captain Porno again?
Or the guy who liked to shove a handkerchief way, way into his nose while he was talking to you? So deep that you wondered if it would result in an exit wound? That guy? Ah well, things move on.
We've moved away from Orange County and are now up here on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula. It's coming home in a way, since the wifely friend and I are both from the Bay Area. Actually, we're from the South Bay, which looks a lot like Orange County these days anyway, but has maybe three less Jamba Juices per square mile. Now we live on a hill by the airport, and are surrounded by varying degrees of weirdness.
Some happy weirdness I can report is that we live a few blocks away from a Samurai. No, really.
Every time we drive to the grocery store, we pass a house whose front yard is just immaculate. Every last little blade of grass is clipped, just so. The house itself is painted a soothing grey, the trim just setting off the main color of the house. And there is nothing in this yard besides grass and a couple of perfectly shaped hedges.
I have a particular liking for complete absence of clutter, so I feel good every time I see this house. It stands out all the more in our neighborhood of relative weirdness, where some houses seem to be vomiting stuff like old sofas and small dogs into the street via their porches or garage doors. The house has a neat and tidy, very Japanese look about it, so pleasing and austere.
Then, one day recently, we were on the way to the grocery store, and we saw a Samurai on the corner, right by the house. He was sort of a middle-aged, balding, portly Samurai, smoking a cigarette, but other than that, he sure looked the part. He had a kimono on, and sported the requisite ponytail so popular in Kurosawa movies. I could almost picture him with a little flag on his back, sweeping down the plain to meet his almost certain death on the color-coded battlefield.
I wondered if this was what happened to Ronin when they don't commit seppuku. They come hang out on the peninsula, smoking cigarettes and looking down the hill to see if the neighbors' garage sale has anything they might be interested in, like maybe a breadmaker.
The wifely friend and I looked at each other in awe.
"He must live in that perfect house!" I said.
"Yeah," said the wifely friend "Or the house with tinfoil all over the windows."
Maybe it's better not to know.
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