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

Full Disclosure

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

The Answer to Any Trivia Question Worth Knowing is "Chuck Norris"

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."

"Oh. Yes?"

"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.


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