Thursday, September 30, 2004

Maybe They'd Feel More at Home in the Bedroom, Al

I've decided that a silent studio audience just doesn't grab the way good television programming should. The next presidential debate should instead ship in a studio audience from the taping of a FOX sitcom like "Married... With Children." The whole thing would just work so much better if every statement were punctuated with drawn-out a "oooooh" or "uh-oh!"

Well, at least I think so.

The Pigmental Problem

"To blacken" means to turn black. "To redden" means to turn red. "To brown" means to turn brown, like with meat. And "to bleach" literally means to turn white, but we have a seldom used "to whiten" as well. I'll accept "to yellow," but Webster says that "to green" and other color words work, but I don't buy it. No one uses them very often. So I wonder why the first few are used more often, when plenty of stuff turns blue and green, like rotten meat and strangling victims. And why do only black and red take the suffix "en" when they become verbs? They don't seem any more deserving than green — "to greenen."

Tallahassee Titty Show

I'm terribly clever. I switched the names around in Jill's phone. Now, when she tries to call her brother, she'll call Little Baby Needs-a-Lot, whom she really hates talking to. I say it's her fault for keeping these numbers in her phone for my to play with — attractive nuisance, they call it. I switched some other ones, too, just to keep her on her toes.

Pensacola Pantyhose

The first presidential debate between Bush and Kerry airs live from Miami in less than an hour, but I had to tear myself away from the MSNBC pre-show punditry. I guess it's cooler watching it from Washington, even if the candidates are in Panhandle Land, a place my writing has made me feel like I've been in living for the past week.

The Letter P: Invisible but Not Silent

Anaphylaxis: an allergic reaction to foreign protein that enters the body, causing the immune system to overreact. Hamsters: apparently evil after all. Death by hamster bite: bad, but not worse than becoming a hamster-vampire.

More Than Any Fifi Has Feefed Before

The Artful Dodger takes on meteorological catastrophes, and for the first time persuades readers to give up their money. I've never used my writing as a vehicle for charity before. I'd say this instance was met with small success. Meh.
Florida's Hurricane Hangover
After Four Windy Whippings, Sunshine State Needs Help

Fifi killed 5,000 people.

The National Hurricane Center's propensity for naming hurricanes always confused me. Why personify these swirling masses of devil weather? As a kid, I always worried about hurricanes, even all the way in California - Earthquake Country, U.S.A. So, to take these monsters and give them a name like Andrew, Hugo or Fifi always seemed odd to me.

Eventually, I learned that meteorologists name hurricanes and lesser storms in order to differentiate one from another as they move over the ocean. Since 1953, the National Hurricane Center has used six different, sequential lists of alphabetical names for these storms. When a particularly violent one hits, its name gets retired, like Fifi after she pulverized Honduras in 1974.

Names or no, I'm still scared of hurricanes.

Now as you read this, 32 other UCSB students and I are living in Washington, D.C. We're far enough north that the effects of hurricanes have so far been scattered showers. Nonetheless, since I've got here I've thought less about the terror alert level - yellow? taupe? plaid? - and more about the weather; a growing mass of gray clouds that I've heard may promise an early and particularly nasty winter. It's no wonder newspapers and TV news cover hurricanes more extensively on this side of the country, which I now refer to as the "shit weather" side of the country.

Hurricanes have ravaged the Southeast since midsummer. Beginning Aug. 12, a parade of unwelcome visitors has repeatedly smashed Florida like some kind of angry gangbang on the poor state's now-limp phallus of a panhandle.

While news reports place Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne's collective American death toll at around 77 people - a small sum compared to the thousands killed in Haiti and Jamaica - their damage will cost the nation billions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency alone poured $400 million into south Florida reconstruction before Jeanne pummeled its eastern coast. And the hurricane season has a good two months left.

We Californians are downright lucky to have earthquakes as our resident natural catastrophe.

Unlike hurricanes, which unleash fiendish devil weather for hours, earthquakes strike suddenly, quickly and without warning. California can build reasonably quake-proof buildings, whereas the mobile homes of Florida prove no match for 100 mph winds. On a classical scale, earthquakes mean one angry element, whereas hurricanes mean the primal wrath of wind and rain collectively reducing your house, piece by piece, to a pile of Lincoln Logs and then flooding the hole where your house stood.

All of you in Santa Barbara should be thankful for the mild 70-degree temperatures this late September weather has brought. Coastal fog sucks, but it's not actively killing you.

I admit I felt a twinge of guilt after considering the disparity between weather on each side of the country. Luckily, I found out that helping is surprisingly easy. The Red Cross offers a very simple way to donate money to its relief fund and even allows you to designate your contribution specifically to help Florida, local Red Cross chapters or international humanitarian efforts. In an uncharacteristic act of poor college student goodwill, I coughed up a measly $20 to somewhat assuage my guilt and to minutely assuage a major nightmare.

I know Florida's not exactly our nation's proudest corner, but I seriously suggest those of us with sun over our heads consider our luck, share the wealth - and embrace our next shaker with open arms.

Daily Nexus columnist Drew will rock you like that Scorpions song they probably won’t be using at Florida’s air shows for a while.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Oak Tree, You're in My Way

The rain finally let up. I'm glad that's as close to Hurricane Jeanne that I'll have to get. The rain hurricanes bring isn't like west coast rain. It's hot and sticky, like all of Washington D.C. sits in a locker room shower. Even if you have an umbrella — I don't — and even if you keep your head dry — I didn't — you're still wet from 80-degree-but-feels-like-more humidity.

Presently, I'm at work without much to do. I'm writing a real live news story for the website, but the entire floor is at a meeting that the boss lady told me not to attend so I could finish my story, which I can't finish because I need her input, which she can't give because she's at a meeting she told me not to attend. Circularity blows. The floor is virtually dead right now. I can actually hear the fluorescent lights humming, if I stop typing for few seconds. Every few minutes, somebody opens or closes a door. I haven't heard anybody walk by my door in a good forty-five minutes and even the elevators have stopped pinging. Outside, it's just high-rises and gray skies and wet pavement.

It takes exactly twenty-eight steps for me to walk to the bathroom. Along that pathway, which I faithfully travel a good eight times a day, I notice that every office has a placard with somebody's name on it — even the ones with the locked doors and the lights that never turn on. My office doesn't have a name on it. It's just number four-seven-seven. It's strange to me because every other office or cubicle in the building has someone's name on it, even if it's scratched out or covered with masking tape. Even the goddamn fax machine gets his own name on his room: "Fax Machine Room."

I wonder whose name placard used to be in the slot underneath the four-seven-seven and why someone removed it but ignored the ones on the other vacant offices. I wonder why whoever had this room before I did left all their stuff here: two bookshelves full of travel guides and back issues, a set of file cabinets with folders marked with the names of places like "Corsica" and "Berlin Nights." Who left their "Mars: Secrets of the Red Planet?" poster? Whose office am I in?

I should have been at work early today.

But I wasn't.

Braving rain and wind and darkness, we took a taxi to Capitol Hill for the reception for UC President Dynes. They served us tiny sandwiches and cheese and vegetables shorn into wafer proportions. They also served us free booze. I hate it when stereotypes ring true, but goddamn it if the UCSB kids weren't the last to leave. Instead of taking the wiser route and heading home like Moe and Grits did, a handful of us decided to find a martini bar.

Given the amount of work I had to do this morning, you'd think I'd regret going out, but I don't. I think the best way to explore the whole Capitol Hill area was exactly how I did it tonight: in a pinstripe suit during the tail end of hurricane rain with a group of well-dressed young up-and-comers all holding black umbrellas, one of which was tragically decapitated in the process. We never found a martini bar, exactly, but we did find a place with parrot decor that would serve the underaged in our group — and, I'd imagine, also give them blocks and dollies to play with.

Now, however, I'm trapped in my office, desperately wanting to finish my story by my deadline of now, but being totally unable to — badly needing to write, but resigning myself to this as my only outlet for words.

Thick Pasty Magma

The earth shakes in Parkfield, California. Mount St. Helens is ready to blow her top in Washington. Florida suffers the wrath of wind and rain, as delivered by nasty nasties named Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. I think if we can get a lightning storm or zombie horde or carnivorous petunia plague in Maine, we can have all four edges of the country running scared.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Ghost of the San Nic Penthouse

I can't believe Shobhna kept this. I didn't even keep it. I thought about it every now and then, but I was sure I'd never actually read it again — never remember the words the way I wrote them. I can't believe it's almost four years old. I can't believe Shobhna remembered to send it to me. I can't believe how wrong I was about Johnny Cash and Cordelia.
I did survive life on the eighth floor. And you know what? I enjoyed it. All of it. Even when I was sick of sitting in my drafty room and having to ride clunky ghetto elevators (or, as I called them, “ghettovators”) and listening to squealing from down the hall, I honestly would not have had it any other way. See, for someone who like me who needs constant stimulation at all times, this floor was great because I was never bored. Not even for a second.

Besides, I am taking a brake from moving out and “Time of Your Life” randomly started playing, and I feel inspired to take stab at being eloquent. I am an English major. That’s what I do.

Shob: Thanks for putting the mailing list that made this all possible. Thanks for encouraging everyone to give a shit. We will have the Turkey Trot. And “Land Down Under.” And Seven Falls. And scabies. Thanks for helping me with my hugging problem. You are my exotic jewel of the East.

Jamie: We should get together sometime and play “Button, Button, Who’s got the Button?” Or not. Memories of Soc 2 and morbidly obese raccoons…. Did you ever find the bodies Olivia was hiding in the closet?

Lynzy: I enjoy being one of your fathers. I enjoyed murdering Bosco on a weekly basis. I enjoyed spooning and backrubs. I enjoy the way you skanked up the room just by walking in. But most of all, I enjoyed Lynzy. Be careful in Memphis; don’t end up marrying some hillbilly. Take good care of Jordan. Have fun next year on Planet Estrogen. You complete me.

Mayms: We were married once. Do you remember when you were my spicy Mexican dish? Or when you have me the best haircut I’ve ever had? Things got weird, I know, but I’m hoping to see you next year. You’re my Gemini ideal.

Greg: Dude. It was cool. Like having a little bit of Hollister lying around, only in a non-crappy way. Thanks for being the only person on the floor to appreciate my Trena jokes. You and Kat and Jenn are like the Hollister support group. Thanks for headache crisis management, too. I wonder which one of us actually owes the other any money? Could we say we just broke even?

Nate: See what the power of Nintendo can do? God bless it…. Sorry Ninja Squirrel didn’t fly too well, but South Park was awesome. My life is more complete because of it. Looking forward to hours of Gamecube next year. Long live Johnny Cash.

Brendan: What can I say dude? Irene picked you over me. I cry at night because of that. Whenever I smell the sour scent of soiled laundry, I’ll remember Brendan. Thanks for use of the skateboard. Damn Austin, I will miss that board.

Irene: I remember now. It’s “SEE-bold.” Am I still the substitute boyfriend when Brendan’s out of town? Thanks. You know that squishy noise that Easy Mac makes when you stir it? Makes me think of you.

Katie: You laughed at my jokes more than anyone else. That’s probably the best compliment someone could give me, because most people just make confused faces when I make a joke…. Thanks for helping the world’s laziest boy for helping me deal will the foul horror that is Dolly.

Jake: Dude, you were more than the guy who lived across the hall. You were a role model of alcohol consumption for us all. Did you want your skateboard back?

Justin: I’ve never met anyone who likes the NES Ice Hockey so much. I mean, it’s cool and everything, but you really took it to the next level. Oh, and I think Ness could kick that pussy ass marshmallow Kirby’s ass any day. Long live Otter Pops.

John: Well, I’ll remember your gas, dude. Potent, pungent stuff. It really made this year something special. Seriously, dude, you might want to go see a doctor.

Jenna: My Socal ideal. Here’s my gift to you. Next year, you can use my bathroom whenever you want.

Marcy: Sorry the hiking never quite worked out. Thanks for naming me “Drewling.” I kind of like it, actually. Next time some independent film no one else has heard about comes out, I’ll give you a call. If you ever miss me, just yell out the window. Wherever I am, I will probably hear you.

Beth: Without you, this year would have been completely lacking a Slip-n-Slide. And what good is any year without a Slip-n-Slide? Whenever I get a nasty chest rash, I will think of the cool art chick who lived on my floor.

Jill: God bless Easy Mac. I don’t know what I would have done this year without it. Thanks for being my enviro sci goddess. We’ll always have the Sewage Treatment Plant.

Rachel (a.k.a. Short Rachel): You made it through one year of sharing your name. Hope you enjoy being just plain old Rachel again.

Brie: You mellowed out and it turns out you were pretty cool. I’m sorry I made fun of your diseases. Ectopic pregnancy is not a laughing matter. I’m happy you could finally accept the comic genius that is Ralph Wiggum.

Meghan (aka Meg-Hann, Meggs, Dirty Brown, Molasses): Have fun at band camp this summer. I intend to read Red Dragon this summer. Fly, my little starling. Fly.

Taryn: Keep those pastries coming. Whenever I see someone remove someone else’s skull cap, scoop out their brains, and then feed them to the person, I will think of you. Have the Johnson report on my desk by Monday, Miss Phillips.

Jonna: It was cool that you were Moe’s roommate. You should assert yourself more, I think. You have smarts! I don’t care what the Berenstain Bears say. TV is good. And remember, you may not be able to paint or draw a picture, but you can LOOOOOOOOVE!

Claire: Thank you for helping me prove my theory that not going to class results in passable grades and a well rested mindset. Y’all drop by next year.

Renee: Sorry about the foot thing early in the year. And humping your bed. And all the other stuff. I thought it would be kinda funny.

Shanna: Thanks for memories of Linguistics class. We can always share the experience of a professor getting a bit too interested in our personal lives. As far as I know, he thinks we’re married. Your astoundingly thorough comm outlines were helpful in the end.

Sandy: I never got to hear your sing. I heard I was missing out. Your committed dedication to the Rock was an inspiration to the floor.

Tiffany: Thanks being someone who would allow me to ramble, whether or not I ever made any sense. Let’s hope Cordelia gets her own series soon. I already finished the mints.

Moe: Thanks for letting your car be the floor bitch. When I think of you, it will be to the tune of “Sunshine and Lollipops.” Also, remember that there’s no use getting into heavy petting. It only leads to trouble. And seat wetting.

And that’s it. Give me a brake if I forgot anything; my brain still hurts from finals. Or maybe I’m hungover.

I talk a lot, don’t I? Maybe if I had put as much effort into English 10 as I did into this little blip in the radar, I might have gotten an A instead of a B. Oh well. Please don’t mock me for writing this mushy shit. I am well aware of its mushiness and shittinesss. I just wanted people to know they were appreciated. I’m looking forward to seeing you people again next year.

Thank you for making me feel like I had family in Santa Barbara.
And upon reading it all again, I can't believe I still mean it. Well, except for the part about Claire.

Publification

I installed a counter on this site that tells me how people get here — like, the address of the page containing the link that sent whomever to here. I turns out I get a lot of traffic from South America and a lot of people Googling a string of words that just happens to appear in relative proximity somewhere on my site.

Let's see if we can Drew things up a notch.
Olsen Twins shaved genitals threesome naked almost legal Lindsay Lohan.
I'll give it a month.

Desoto Jr.

I bought a suit.

(I'll let that sink in.)

President Dynes, president of the entire University of California, has invited the UCDC student body to an official reception on Capitol Hill tomorrow night. Shirt and tie won’t cut it, or so say my roommates. So I bought a suit at H&M, the pants of which turned out to be too tight — so tight, in fact, they felt like baseball pants. “Ass pants,” they may have been called. Seriously, in the all-too-likely chance I developed an erection during the boozy social function I would wear said pants to, said erection would have been impossible to conceal.

(Two notes: I used “said” as an adjective far too often now; I didn’t try the pants on at the store because Georgetown is a fucking madhouse on the weekend.)

So after work I decided to take the pants back. To Georgetown. By myself.

(Another note: I have no sense of direction. How I ever beat “Legend of Zelda” as a child mystifies me. Now, any location is the Lost Woods.)

Yes, to Georgetown by myself — no small feat considering my lack of internal compass and my fear of public transportation. Nonetheless, I hopped on a bus after work, let it take me to the wrong part of Wisconsin — the street, not the state — and then attempted to find my way backwards to the M Street.

I did it.

The pants fit, and I’m happy, even if the bus driver lady on the way back couldn’t make change and made me pay five dollars for the fare instead of one. I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of navigating Washington. “Grids is grids,” my father would always say. I don’t think anybody else can truly appreciate how fulfilling this is for me. I feel like I’ve discovered the Mississippi.

Work is good. I learned more about hurricanes than I ever thought I would. And we took Roommate Dennis out this weekend for his twenty-first — and his first-ever shot of alcohol. And the lawn pigeons are everywhere. Oh, and the suit had pinstripes.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Columbia vs. Britannia

I yielded to inevitability and compared living in Washington with living in London. I can't quite believe that London happened more than a year ago. It still seems fresh in my mind. It's also weird for me to think that I only actually knew those people for a month or so.

But the situation then and this one now do have a lot in common: either way, I'm living in a dormish setting with a bunch of peers and such

EDIT: I don't know what happened here, but apparently the original post was truncated. Lord knows where I was going with this one, but here it shall remain, unfinished.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I Think Her Name Was "Kneemoi"

Places I wrote about today — if only briefly:

Las Vegas. Lake Tahoe. Squaw Valley. Khao Lak, Thailand. Ft. Lauderdale. Prague. Costa Rica. The Tahitian island of Raiatea. Placencia, Belize. Providence, Rhode Island. The Caribbean island of Curacao. And when — when?! — did Canada get a new province called Nunavut?

Where in My Office is Carmen Sandiego?

I just realized that the other magazine that works out of our building, National Geographic Kids, is a re-titled version of a magazine I used to read when I was a kid, National Geographic World.

Four Sisters and Their Respective Ins and Outs

A short list of English expressions in which the speaker says the opposite of what he or she actually means but is not using any form of sarcasm:
  • Tell me about it! when the speaker actually means "Yes, I fully agree with your statement and do not actually need to be told any more about said statement to further my agreement."
  • You can't be serious! when the speaker actually means "I know you are serious and, though I am surprised, I believe you fully."
  • I could care less! when the speaker actually means that "I care so little that I actually couldn't care less."
  • I just can't believe... when the speaker actually means "It's hard to believe, but I know it's true."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Problems like Acorns

Admittedly, going to a late showing of “Fahrenheit 9/11” isn’t the best idea, especially when you preface viewing of said film with drinking.

Ingredients for instant depression: two Sapporos with dinner, plus half of a Midori-Curacao cocktail called the Jade Empress that Moe couldn’t finish. On top of that, drink another beer, a Jack and Coke, then half of a Long Island Iced Tea that Moe couldn’t finish. And then another beer.

Tonight just wasn’t the right night to see that movie.
[ a brief flashback ]
After work yesterday, Jill called me. “Hey, do you want to go check out the mall a bit?” And I did. I’ve been dying to see the monument strip since I got here. We end up meeting Moe and Nidhi on the way and walk a few blocks until the girls totally puss out and decided they’re too tired, too hungry and too cuntastic to make it all the way to the mall. The retire to a bench in a park with a view of the White House — as close to the White House or anything important that I’ve been yet.

So while they piss and moan and generally sap the life out of me, I walk around the park. In its center and about half a mile directly in front of the White House front door sits a woman in a white tent. She has a cloth wrapped around her head — and over what looks like either a wig or a fifties throwback to a helmet-hair Aquanet-born beehive. She talks like the midget medium in “Poltergeist” — an almost unintelligible form of crazy people English. And all over her tent she has anti-war, anti-Vietnam, anti-Hiroshima propaganda.

Being me, I didn’t make eye contact with her. I couldn’t remember what she tried to tell me. Instead, I looked off to the left, where I spotted an albino squirrel — a lawn pigeon, as I’ve taken to calling them — jiggering about the park like a bleachmonkey on speed.

I think the girls might have taken pictures.
[ catch up now ]
And so I saw “Fahrenheit 9/11” anyway. Whether someone agrees with Michael Moore, the film has some moving, disturbing images. Dead Iraqis. Dead American soldiers. Dick Cheney, who looks like he’s dead. Prevalent death in general.

The film focuses, for a while, on a woman named Lila Lipscomb. She hails from the town that invented pitiful poverty, Flint, Michigan. Her son dies in the war. She goes to the White House to unload some of the anger she feels. She goes to the park in front of the White House. She goes to the very park I was at just over twenty-four hours before.

They showed the lady in the white tent.

I didn’t need to be in Washington D.C. to make the film any more poignant. It’s moving, regardless of where you see it. But having stood in the exact filming location so recently before seeing the film that contains that location… creepy. It pushes me out of movie-watching mode, out of the comfortable fiction of the theater that I feel even when watching a documentary.

The woman in the white tent has been sitting there for months. I live in Washington D.C. The people in the movie were real. I’m drunk, but that’s the least of what’s letting this sink in.

Also: Russ Meyer, RIP. May we never forget “Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!”

Punchy

Also: "Hawaiian Punch was originally made to be an ice cream topping," said the talking cup that's been on my desk since I moved in here.

The Secrets of the Turquoise Planet

Undoubtedly, the gruntiest of the work I perform at this job is opening my boss's mail. It's not so bad, I guess. People send funny things, like when they address letters to the travel editor at National Geographic Traveler. Or like when they send books about ghosts. Or when I open a letter announcing that some kid named Drew will be interning for the magazine starting yesterday.

But I think it's funny that I spend half an hour opening — and discarding — mail that some other intern spent half and hour stuffing and mailing. And, of course, it's odd that my boss gets so much mail at all, seeing as how she's the online editor. Stupid people, it seems, aren't hip to the information supherhighway.

7224

"So, I know you were hoping to get job experience at this internship, but here's the thing: This is my cat Mr. Peekaboo. He has a lower bowel obstruction. What I need you to do is apply an external massage to Mr. Peekaboo's lower abdomen to help work the stool through. Okay? Great."
[ a work of fiction ]

War Saw Salts Berg Crack Cow

The trouble with writing a low-fare vacation column for a travel magazine is that you get to read about wonderful, affordable, exotic vacations while sitting in an office with a paltry twelve inches between your face and a computer monitor. Any of us — any of us — could right now fly to Kaho Lak, Thailiand to stay in the brand-new Magic Lagoon Resort and Spa for $75 a night. They have five restaurants, three bars, a massage parlor and the world's largest lagoon-style swimming pool. Damn working life.

There's no dirtier sounding phrase in the world other than "Thai massage parlor."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Math Anxiety

If you look at a plus sign, it's really just a minus sign with more too it, which follows logically because a plus sign means you're adding more anyway. At some point, briefly, that seemed profound to me, though it didn't shortly after and doesn't now, especially now that I consider the implications of the equals sing and the multiplication sign — and the division sign! Mercy.

Living in the UCDC center means my life is basically the opposite of what it degenerated to in the middle of the summer: no natural air or light, no TV, no free access to computers (only this damn lab or the roomie's laptop), to music, no porn, no IM, no leisure, no sleep, no boredom. Mercy mercy.

Salt Island, Beef Island, Ginger Island

Presently, I'm making myself a minor expert on the British Virgin Islands.
  • Located: just east of Puerto Rico
  • Not to be confused with: the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Capital: Road Town
  • Nationality: British Virgin Islander
  • Official Language: English
  • Official Currency: U.S. Dollar
  • Comprised of: Thirty-six islands, sixteen of which are inhabited
  • With names like: Tortola (also known as "Chocolate City), Peter Island, Mosquito Island, Salt Island, Beef Island, Ginger Island, Jost Van Dyke (named for a pirate) and Virgin Gorda (which translates to "fat virgin")

Chipotle Turkey Club

In case anyone was wondering, I live in Washington D.C. now. I made it. I'm alive. I found my apartment. I'm wearing a tie.

In fact, I'm writing this from Washington, as I sit in my own private, windowless, cluttered office on the fourth floor of the National Geographic Building, which sits all of two minutes away from my apartment, which I share with Adam, who I didn't think I'd be sharing a room with. I live roughly six blocks from the White House. The girls live one floor above me and Lu lives in the ninth floor. At work I respond to Heather, who looks like a prettier version of Parker Posey and couldn't possibly be any older than thirty and seems like a good person to have as a boss.

Sample Heather-me dialogue:
Me: So what time should I come it everyday?

Heather: I'm not really a morning person, so I usually make it in by 9:30 every morning.

Me: Oh good. I'm not a morning person either.

Heather: If you wanted to just come it every day at ten and then work until six, that would be fine too.
And I would do that, only it might infringe on happy hour. Today's accomplishments: finding the building, finding my office, finding the cafeteria, finding the bathroom.

Friday, September 17, 2004

World's Greatest Murderer

You’d think that being faced with moving to a new, big, scary city that has snow and hurricane rain and lecherous senators would preoccupy my head with worry. I’d that so, anyway. Picture it: I’m driving back from my nineteen-hour stay at the Nexus retreat — which this year took place in Oceano, which I like better than Cay-useless Cayucos in for a many reasons, none of which involve the town’s name, which I’m sure is a totally legitimate Spanish word but just sounds like they slapped an “o” on the end of “ocean” in that way people do when they speak fake Spanish — and it occurs to me only incidentally that I’ll soon be moving.

What I thought about instead — a phrase which may one day be the title of my autobiography — was this:
I remember when I was a kid my dad came home for work really pissed because, according to him, somebody had shot the side of his car with a paintball while he was driving home. He’s in his car. He hears a pop. A few minutes later he pulls into the driveway and finds a little dent on the passenger-side door with a splatter of orange pain around it.

I didn’t give it much though then, but I got really pissed about it — impotently and far too late, of course — but pissed about it all the same.

Seriously, my dad is a nice guy and a seriously doubt he would have made such an enemy that this person would hide out in the trees and snipe his car as he drove by. No, I’m pretty sure it was probably some little punk who didn’t have anything better to than to fuck up the paintjobs on random passing cars in Hollister.

Now, I’m generally anti-death penalty, but I feel like if anyone deserved to have the state prematurely end his life, it would be this paintball fuck. Seriously, if your life has degenerated to the point where firing paint pellets at strangers’ cars is your only method of social interaction, you’re not worth being included in society.

Like, I know serial killers are generally bad people and murder is wrong, but at least serial killers might get really good at murdering people. So at least they have that and they could say to the paintball kid, “Like, I’ve been working really hard and practicing and I’m so good at murdering people now. But what have you got to show for it?”
So, clearly, I have problems.

And that’s that. In twenty-four hours I’ll be in the air, somewhere over the continent. I’m losing my voice, I’m already tired and my nostrils sting like hell — thank you very much Cory. I haven’t even started packing yet — and here I am typing like a moron — and I can’t find my brown belt, which I guess means that if I chose to hang myself from the ceiling fan to avoid the stress of new city-new people-new job and a fifth round of first-day-of-school wig — fifth! — I’ll have to do it when the black belt, which is strange because I whenever I idly imagined myself committing suicide to avoid work —Tuesdays, usually — it was the brown belt.

When will I see you again, Hollistero?

(i think i'm gonna miss the dog)

D

This is my five-hundredth post.

With Keisha Knight Pulliam as Stephanie Tanner

I remember towards the end of high school, ABC aired this Disney TV movie version of Cinderella. Brandy was Cinderella and I think Whitney Houston was the fairy godmother. I never watched the movie. A movie whose synopsis includes the names Cinderella, Brandy and Whitney Houston holds like zero interest for me, but I remember reading this article in the arts section of the Mercury about it.

The thing with this movie was that it practiced what the Merc referred to as “colorblind casting.” Cinderella was black and the stepmom was white and the prince was Asian, even though his parents, as IMDB tells me, his dad was white and his mom was Whoopi Goldberg. And even back then, I remember that being a problem for me.

I don’t know why, but when immediate family members in movies have mismatched racial backgrounds, it really bothers me and prevents me from suspending my disbelief. And it happens more than you might think — like, in the second Jurassic Park, where Jeff Goldblum has an inexplicably black daughter. Even as a kid, I was totally thrown.

But I think my problem with this is totally bogus. Ignore race, and family members never look alike on TV shows, for the most part. The racial thing bothers me, but once the family members are the same race, the problem vanishes. When you think about it, even if Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter actually had a child together, there’s no way their kid would look anything like Michael J. Fox or Justine Bateman or Tina Yothers. Same thing with the “Growing Pains” family or the Cosbys — Lisa Bonet looks practically white, by comparison. Hell, Candace Cameron, Jodi Sweetin and the Olsen twins were three cute little blonde girls, but they don’t look anything like each other, much less Bob Saget.

And yet, it’s never bothered me. Had they cast Keisha Knight Pulliam as Stephanie Tanner, though, I don’t think I could have watched the show.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Don't Miss the Wagon

I don't care — they're still lazy fucks.
Don't Miss the Wagon
Cherish the Joys of Welcome Week While You Can

If you're a freshman and this is your first week at UCSB, stop reading this.

Seriously, if you continue past this sentence, you've already squandered valuable moments of what I would call the single best week of your life - a shining moment in what will forever afterward be a dank existence weighted down by work and responsibility.

Go ahead and laugh. Maybe your parents have told you that college is the best time of your life. And maybe, if your parents didn't go to college, they told you high school is the best time of your life. And still, if your parents didn't go to high school, they may have told you that barefoot-in-the-haystacks cousin sex is the best experience of one's life.

They're all wrong.

I guarantee that the seven-day stretch you're about to begin, the UCSB Week of Welcome, will burn itself into your memory as the absolute happiest you'll ever remember being. Even though this week's alcohol consumption and booze flood will no doubt be repeated over the next four years, Week of Welcome triumphs over all other memories.

Essentially, the UCSB Week of Welcome - which abbreviates nicely to UCSB WOW - amounts to an end-of-summer beer camp-cum-singles mixer, free of the strain of study and toil. No parents, no teachers and hopefully none of the kids who remember the unfortunate childhood incident that earned you the nickname "Poo Pants." You've made it out, and now it's time to celebrate with your new peers.

Now, if you're a newbie and you're already on this paragraph, you've ignored my initial advice. Fine. But as long as I've snagged you into this corner of the newspaper page, please don't ignore the following bits of super-senior Week of Welcome wisdom.

Don't pine for your friends from back home. Display a snapshot of your clique in your high school graduation gowns if you must, but don't mope. They're all dead to you now, save drunken dials, instant messaging and Winter Break. "Saved by the Bell" ended, my friend. Venture out instead.

Maybe you're the shy type, but that's no excuse to be the invisible floormate. Push yourself to make the hall rounds with the whole "hi-who-where-what's your major?" dialogue. As painful as that boilerplate introduction may seem, it stings twice as badly having it in March and preceded by "Oh, you live on this floor too?"

As you make your howdy rounds, however, remember that Week of Welcome means first impressions. Make sure you get a feeling for new dorm etiquette - or, if you will, the mores of the floor - because violating these rules can stick you with a stigma way worse than Poo Pants. Puke in the common area before you even make it to DP, for example, and you're a lightweight for life.

Finally, if I could impress one point into your comparatively wrinkle-free brains, it would be to think of something cool to say during the introduction icebreakers during your first floor meeting. Standard procedure: Say your name, where you're from, your major - if you have one - and something interesting about yourself. It's that last part - the "something interesting" - that can do you in forever. One girl on my floor unwisely chose, "I know how to walk on stilts," and became forever known as "that fucking goddamn stilts girl."

And finally, if the thought of all this revelry, socializing and sun-dappled fun sours your stomach, I have one last bit of advice. Transfer. If you can't tough it out through Week of Welcome, there's this place called Westmont that's just up the street. Things are a little more low-key there. I'd see if they still have any open space.

Now go out and get wow all over yourself.

Drew is a Daily Nexus columnist.
Nothing like taking a potshot at a girl I haven't talked to in three and a half years. Are you listening, TallRachel?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Problematic Condom

While checking whether those lazy fucks at the Nexus had posted my column — the First Artful Dodger of the year, which I completed exactly twenty-four and one half hours late — I came across this. which I somehow neglected to post. It’s my contribution to a late-April Artsweek.
Ten Bad Signs
  1. Moon turns red, disappears
  2. Wound begins to itch, fill with fluid
  3. “Huh. Brakes are out.”
  4. Numerous cop cars pull into your driveway
  5. Vultures begin to circle
  6. Your internal monologue starts shouting racial epithets
  7. Second set of genitals emerges
  8. “Do you smell gas?”
  9. Maggots
  10. Soft, warm feeling in pants
Ten Meaningless Syllables Sung in Pop Music
  1. “Hey hey hey”
  2. “La la la”
  3. “Ooh ooh ooh”
  4. “Oh oh oh”
  5. “Yeah yeah”
  6. “Oh yeah”
  7. “Mmm mmm mmm mmm”
  8. “Dee dee dah”
  9. “Uh-huh uh-huh.”
  10. “Mocha chocolata ya ya.”
Ten Alternative Uses for Artsweek
  1. Fold into a jaunty hat
  2. Tear into pieces and throw as confetti
  3. Have a high-fiber snack
  4. Soak up spilled urine
  5. Disappointing birthday gift
  6. Makeshift diapers for baby
  7. Wallpaper for that crazy stalker look
  8. Play a round of “Count the Commas”
  9. Soak up spilled beer
  10. Problematic condom
Ten Songs That Tell You to Do a Certain Dance That You Probably Don't Know How to Do
  1. “The Electric Slide”
  2. “The Wah-Watusi”
  3. “Boot Scootin' Boogie”
  4. “The Twist”
  5. “The Time Warp”
  6. “The Hand Jive”
  7. “The Hustle”
  8. “The Bunny Hop”
  9. “The Hokey Pokey”
  10. “The Locomotion”
Ten Best Princesses
  1. Xena, Warrior Princess
  2. Princess Diana
  3. Princess Zelda
  4. Princess Morebucks
  5. Princess Buttercup
  6. Princess Jasmine
  7. Princess Mononoke
  8. Princess Leia
  9. Princess Toadstool
  10. Princess Grace
Ten Peculiar Questions Asked in '80s Songs
  1. “How can we sleep while our beds are burning?” — Midnight Oil, “Beds Are Burning”
  2. “Could it be the smog is playing tricks on my eyes, or is a roller skater in some kind of headphone disguise?” — Missing Persons, “Walking in L.A.”
  3. “Do I stand in your way or am I the best thing you've ever had?” — Pat Benatar, “Love Is a Battlefield”
  4. “I wonder who's watching me now, the IRS?” — Rockwell, “Somebody's Watching Me”
  5. “How does it feel when your heart grows cold?” — New Order, “Blue Monday”
  6. “Who's that gigolo on the street with his hands in his pockets and his crocodile feet?” — Neneh Cherry, “Buffalo Stance”
  7. “Will you stand above me, look my way and never love me?” — Simple Minds, “Don't You (Forget About Me)”
  8. “When you say it's gonna happen now, what exactly do you mean?” — The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now?”
  9. “Why can't I get just one fuck?” — Violent Femmes, “Add It Up”
  10. “Should I cool it or should I blow?” — the Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
(Here I've re-ordered some of the lists, as some person foolishly printed them going backwards, making my comi-climax come first rather than last — stupid lazy Nexus fucks.)

Julie James' Letter

A second how-I-spent-my-summer report, via Netflix:
  • Frederico Felinni's 8 1/2
  • Taxi Driver
  • Annie Hall
  • Citizen Kane
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Laputa: Castle in the Sky
  • The Road Warrior
  • Master of the Flying Guillotine
  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
  • Four Rooms
  • The French Connection
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Elephant Man
  • The Straight Story
  • Lady Snowblood
  • Three Kings
  • Switchblade Sisters
  • Richard III (the version with Ian McKellan and Annette Benning)
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Throne of Blood
  • Barbarella
  • Killing Zoe
  • The Hills Have Eyes
  • Human Nature
  • Six Degrees of Separation
  • The American Nightmare
  • All About Eve
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow
  • Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.
  • Charade
  • May
  • Punch-Drunk Love
  • Apt Pupil

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Oh Rio, Rio, Dance Across the Rio Grande

A far-too-tardy photo essay about my summer vacation. As you can see, it's a whopper.



















Elevator Girl

And for some reason, I'm suddenly reminded of... THE STRANGE ENCOUNTER!

While the Australians were visiting a few weeks ago, I got tired of constant houseguests and decided to step out for a few hours. Unfortunately, I live in Hollister and once I step outside my front door I’m confronted with thistles, rattlesnakes, packs of wild turkeys that skulk about the countryside like holiday-themed velociraptors, lower-middle class America, conservative values, country music, low-rider trucks, lifted trucks, a high pollen content, angst and the gradual re-zoning of America’s farmlands.

I decided that I was due for a visit to Fremont’s Peak, one of the tallest mountains in San Benito County. From its summit, a person could get a 360-degree panorama view of Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Gilroy, Monterey, Salinas and Watsonville — the sum of which still equals nothing, but hey — a view’s a view. Man, the Silver Bullet shot up that steep road like nothing at all.

But halfway up the road, I stopped seeing any other cars. People too, for that matter. It’s like whatever civilization San Benito County has vanishes halfway up that mountain. Since you can’t drive all the way to the top, I parked at the highest possible lot. Nobody there but me. All I could hear way up there was that constant electric buzz that invisible insects seem to generate in hot summer.

I walked to the top, even past the sign that says you can’t walk past it. “No Trespassing,” probably because the don’t want people fucking with the cell phone tower they’ve stationed up there. From the top, I looked around and took some pictures. (None of them turned out very well, sadly.) I could even look down at my car, parked by itself in the lot.

Overwhelmed by a sense of bored and creepy, I headed back down. (And, I believe, I recalled a story about a lone hiker getting mauled by a mountain lion.) Again, I didn’t see a soul — not even a rattlesnake. As I approached my car, I pulled my key out of my pocket and reached toward the keyhole. Then I stopped.

Printed neatly on the driver’s side window were two handprints, nearly half as big as mine.

I looked at the child hands for a moment and then I circled the car. No prints besides the ones on the one side window.

I looked behind me and saw nobody. I even looked under the car and in the back seat — “My mother still checks the back seat.” I didn’t see anybody. I probably wouldn’t. But suddenly that steady, invasive buzzing from those invisible insects in the grass charged deeply into my ears. I left.

I’d guess it’s not much of a story. It’s not even an encounter, technically. But it still had be jeebing like nothing had in a long time. I don’t think I’ll ever head back up there for a long time.

This has been... Drew Mackie's STRANGE ENCOUNTER!

Trouble in Woodsboro

SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: Hi
kidicarus222: hi?
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: you have no idea who I am
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: but
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: i love your work
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: I'm writing for the Nexus this fall
kidicarus222: oh
kidicarus222: well, who are you?
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: oh yah, forgot bout that
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: the name is Eva
kidicarus222: hi
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: ru gonna be around this year?
kidicarus222: eventually -- i'm working in d.c. this fall
kidicarus222: are you new at ucsb?
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: yup
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: I'm a lowly freshman
kidicarus222: but you've read my stuff?
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: yup
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: I've read your articles online
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: but I think your blog is super awesome
kidicarus222: ah. well, thanks
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: well, really weird... but still awesome
kidicarus222: thanks...
SiLeNT ScrEEmS16: well, I guess your ego is inflated enough
kidicarus222: hehe

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'll Go to Hell to Be With You

In my constant search for strange music, I ordered a CD called “Incredibly Strange Music.” (Sometimes, things have a way of working out perfectly for me.) It’s pretty good, I guess. Some of the tracks are genuinely bizarre, like this one by a woman named Lucia Pamela about talking with cows and chickens during a walk on the moon.

One of the tracks stuck with me: “Lover’s Prayer,” by Myrtle Hilo. I don’t know anything about Myrtle, except what I can gather from the photo on the cover of her album.

She calls herself “The Singing Cab Driver.”She looks about fifty in the photograph and tan in the way a native ethnic Hawaiian might be.She’s holding a ukulele.Beneath the shadow of her straw hat, she’s plainly grinning.She’s leaning out the passenger window of the car, and behind the car there’s a palm tree.

I also know that Myrtle’s song struck me on some level. The first half is in Hawaiian, I’m guessing. (I made out the word “aloha,” but since my Hawaiian vocabulary is limited to that word, “poi” and “hula,” the rest is a mystery.) It's beautiful, even though I don't understand it. The second, English half is as follows:
I do believe the lord above
Created you for me to love
He picked me out from all the rest
Because he knew I'd love you best
I once had a heart that was true
But now it's gone from me to you
Take care of it as I have done
For you have two and I have none
[something indecipherable about heaven]
I'll put your name on a golden spell
If you're not there by judgment day
I'll kow you went the other way
I'll give the angels back their wings
Their golden harps and all those things
And just to prove my love is true
I'll go hell to be with you
Maybe it’s sick or sappy, but there’s something beautiful about willing to go to hell for love. She repeats the last two lines, which I didn’t feel like actually typing twice, but I feel like the repitition only hammers in the meaning of the song. I like it. I think there’s something touching about it.

But its inclusion on this album almost pisses me off. It’s not strange at all, at least not on the level of cows on the moon. It’s honest. It speaks of a level of emotion I'm not sure most people are capable of. I know I'm not. I'm envious. I guess I have to be glad it's there on the album; otherwise, I never would have heard it. But still, there's nothing strange about a fifty-year-old Hawaiian taxi driver singing about true love.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Meanwhile Rick James

On the way to the city I got stuck behind a semi decked out with American flags and a posterboard on the black detailing in nearly too-small print that the whole red, white and blue beast was a moving memorial that would travel up the 101 to remind other motorists of the tragedy of Nine-Eleven. Driving steadily behind Super Patriot Semi, I tried to read the rest of the posterboard and caused my car to veer slightly into the right lane. I got a honk. I pulled the wheel to the left, but turned too sharply and got a second honk from the car in that lane.

An attention-grabbing tribute to Nine-Eleven quite nearly resulted in additional death.

Apologies to the one person who’s heard this story, but thought of mortality bookended my trip to the city this weekend. I headed up north to see Josh and Marisa and Downs and I had a good time. Good conversation, considering I've forfeited the Summer of Drew for six weeks with Netflix and the 16-bit era of video games. ("So I was playing Legend of Zelda yesterday... Good game, by the way....") But then Marisa told me that Porzucki died.

This guy Michael Porzucki worked at the paper. Three years ago, back when Marisa was my boss and Ladan was my boss and I didn’t know anything or anyone or anything. Porzucki was a lowly reporter, and so was I and Kristina was too. But at the end of that year, turnover flipped me and Kristina up to editor status. Porkzucki didn’t get promoted. He was a persistent reporter, but he just didn’t get promoted.

He quit shortly into the next year. Maybe he didn’t want to be attached to the Nexus anymore — understandable — or maybe he didn’t like me telling him what to do — understandable and more likely. I saw him once more, in the detective fiction class, which I actually had with Marisa and Hayley too, now that I think about it.

Apparently, he was hiking in Spain and fell and died.

That’s all I know. I guess I could email Ladan and ask her if she knows anymore. I feel like I should have been nicer. I feel as bad as when Jason Barton died. It seems like the only people who ever die are ones who I should have been nicer to.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Paint

True story: Yesterday I had to go to the post office because I owed a woman named Bulk Esther a dime. And in exactly one week from today, I'll be a resident of city that got terrorist-attacked exactly three years from today.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Like Sharpened Knives Through Chicken McNuggets

I’m walking down DP, like I haven’t done in months and may never do again. For some reason, I know it’s just before Halloween. But it’s late, too. Real late. Houses have lights on, but no one’s out. It’s too quiet.

So walking down the deserted party street, I hear a phone ringing. I check the phone in my pocket, but that phone’s off. I check the rest of my backpack, but I realize the ringing is coming from somewhere else. I look around. The ringing, I find, is coming out of a garbage can. Naturally, I reach into a bin of somebody else’s refuse and root around for this mystery phone.

I pull out what would appear to be a house made out of popsicle sticks. Inside the popsicle house, I can hear the phone ringing. I toss the house on the ground. I stomp on it. Sure enough, there’s the phone, which looks just like my phone and glows with the same neon blue light. Even though I’m sure the phone would smell like garbage, I answer it.

“Hello?”

No answer.

“Hello? I found you in the garbage. Who is this?” (I actually said this.)

Silence — then, “Sometimes… it’s too late.”

Then I can feel the phone change from hard plastic to something squidgier — wet and slippery and moving around in my hand like a giant banana slug. I try to let go, but the thing’s stuck to my face. I could feel it inching into my ear canal before I wake up.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Evils of Truth and Love

So I watch this movie, "Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S." It was awful, so I loved it. A cruel female Nazi official runs a women's concentration camp, where she test her theory about women having a naturally higher resistance to pain than men. Ilsa also has an insatiable sexual appetite.

Very low budget, so much so that it looks like it's shot in California.

Anyway, I had a small epiphany about the fiction of movies. In this movie, all the characters are German. As such, they should speak German. But they don't. See, the movie's an entirely American production, and even if the actors could speak German, they'd probably lose their target audience with subtitles in a feature that people would only watch to see boobs and gore. So, instead of real German, the cast speaks the dialogue in English with German accents. (To be fair, the accents come and go, what with the below-sea level budget.) Every now and then they sprinkle a "Mein Gott!" or "Gott in Himmel!" into their speech, but generally they speak in English.

I've seen lots of movies where supposedly non-American characters speak to each other, and very often the dialogue is English accented with a trace of whatever language the characters rightly should be speaking. And that’s also weird; we can be satisfied with plain English, but the accents give just enough of a taste of realism to make it all believable. And I realize this is just a practical aspect of filmmaking, but I think it's very strange that viewers so readily accept such a clearly false and constructed thing.

EDIT: IMDb tells me that they actually filmed “Ilsa” on the old set of “Hogan’s Heroes.” It also tells me that there’s a sequel called “Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks,” even though a bullet to the faces literally shatters her head in the first movie’s last scene.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Cici Creepies

The latest Netflix delivery is already on its way back home. I didn't much care for it. "The Serpent and the Rainbow," a zombies-and-voodoo ditty by Wes Craven. It's not scary. Or interesting. Or good, really. I only even put in on the queue because I can remember seeing five minutes of it on KICU when I was little and thinking it was the scariest thing ever. (Vague childhood memories inflated and exaggerated by decades of passing time must cease to be a motivation in my movie rental choices.) But IMDb gave me one reason to raise it from the depths of I-should-never-have-rented-this "Buckaroo Bonzai" levels.

I quote:
The CD Soundtrack to this film is rated one of the most expensive rarities in the world of film music trading because the principal release was on vinyl LP and fewer than ten CDs were pressed.
So if you're ever rifling through a bin of used CDs and you see the soundtrack for this movie, you're rich.

The zombie bride was kind of cool, I'll admit.

Monday, September 06, 2004

And What of the Emus?

Indisputably, the highlight of the weekend trip to Santa Barbara was Ostrich Land. This place, for the unlucky who haven’t yet gone, has one thing: ostriches and emus, which are two things. We saw it when we took the Buellton-Solvang exit, and I forced my parents to pull onto the side of the road, flip a U and return so I could see what wonderful things Ostrich Land offered travelers like us.

What it offered: a chance to gawk at these goony birds with beak-mouths that always hang open like they’re out of breath — even though I don’t think birds breathe through their mouth — and heads that constantly sway like they’re drunk and wrinkly neck skin like an understuffed Muppet. My first thought when I saw the birds was of how much they resembled the singing flapper ostriches from Chuck E. Cheese. Animatronic simulac-o-rama: even more interesting than the ostrich-feather coat in the gift shop.

I’d read once that an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain. Though I’ve never looked into disproving this allegation, I’m inclined to believe it. And with that, you should note that ostriches don’t have especially large eyes.

And of the emus, I have nothing to say, positive or negative.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Wild Poodles of the Serengeti

So, for like eons dogs lived in the wild — or, rather, the predecessors of the animals that used to be dogs before human unnaturally selected them into poodles and St. Bernards and Greyhounds. Anyway, they lived in the wild and they evolved to survive in that environment: the ability to hunt, to protect themselves, to chew raw meat off some animal they’d catch. That kind of stuff. But now, since God knows when, dogs have been domesticated — probably long enough that their natural instincts have become dulled.

I’m not sure my dog could survive in the wild by himself. He’s a border collie, so his instincts drive him to herd animals, which is great if he’s living on a farm but not as handy for when he’s living in the forest with a pack of other border collies. Because, you know, dogs don’t raise sheep on their own.

So while Chief may not be the most ferocious animal, he’s cute. It comes down to a matter of taste, but most dogs are.

I wonder if, now that dogs have been domesticated, they’re evolving to be cuter. Since people are the ones who keep them fat and happy, it would be in their best interest to appeal to humans as much as possible.

I wonnce people are the ones who keep them fat and happy, it would be in their best interest to appeal to humans as much as possible.

I wonder — in the centuries to come, will dogs grow so cute as to become too cute?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Cold-Blooded Old Times

Four stories — each tangentially, sequentially related — that wrote themselves in the space of today, plus some thoughts on Round Table Pizza.
[ one ]
While discussing a certain family my grandmother doesn’t like, she mentioned that they had established their wealth initially by owning a “house of ill repute” — polite grandma talk for “whorehouse.” When I worked at the local newspaper doing the blotter, I remember seeing a woman who had been arrested for prostitution, but I guess I had never really thought about their being an actual whorehouse in Hollister.

According to my grandma, the house was a conspicuously long house, as if it had several different rooms connected by a hallway. Old timey whorehouses share this architectural feature, she said. In any case, the Long House, as it came to be called, used to be on a lot behind the local pharmacy. Given the house’s reputation, however, the local government decided to move the house a few blocks off San Benito Street and onto Prune Street, where it sits now.

“Could you point it out for me?”

Our afternoon schedules being relatively free, I took my grandma in the Stang to the corner of Prune Street, where she pointed out the Long House. Just like she said, it was unusually long. To my knowledge, that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a whorehouse — and I went with my grandma.

Later, on the way back, she said that prostitution wasn’t as unusual or as illegal or as taboo as it is today. Belying the wrinkles on her face and the political disposition one would expect from a woman who’s lived more than eighty years in the dusty agricultural town Hollister, my grandma said, “You know, it seems to me that if prostitution was legal there’d be a lot less rape.”

Sometimes I think I learn more when I stay home from school.
[ two ]
a brief bit of exposition before the main attraction: before i attended the local high school, i went to an all-guys catholic school forty-five minutes out of town. me and another guy from my graduating eight grade class were the only two guys from hollister to go, and though he and i had been friends since kindergarten, it became painfully clear within the first week of school that he no longer wanted to be friends with me. in retrospect, i can’t blame him, but i resented him at the time. the rest of my stint at this school, this atmosphere of simmering homoeroticism, i was vapor — quite literally a human cloud of nonexistence that could, would and did blow away with the slightest breeze.

After the unexpected sightseeing tour, I went to Target, mostly to escape the heat — the early onset of Hollister’s early autumn scorch. This is a big deal for me. Since Target is Hollister’s de facto community center, it’s nearly certain that shopping there means seeing people you know. Surprising no one, I saw someone I know — a guy, for the purposes of this story, that I’ll call Bingo.

Bingo was shopping with his mom. And Bingo didn’t see me — I made sure of that.

You see, right before I transferred to the local high school, my family saw his family at Round Table. Bingo and I had gone to the same Catholic elementary school, kindergarten through eighth. I mentioned I was transferring. The day before school, Bingo called me and offered me to show me around campus and whatnot. I already had a good network of friends waiting, but — what the hell — I said sure.

As the first week of school went on, I realized Bingo didn’t have any friends, nor did he understand enough of the workings of campus to be offering his services as a tour guide. Eventually — I’m not sure exactly when — I stopped hanging out with him. I ditched Bingo and never spoke to him again, save a few awkward chance bump-intos between classes. I justified the act by quickly replacing Bingo the Clingo with an emotionally needy girlfriend — plus the fact that Bingo was odd, quiet and, in retrospect, fairly gay. No more than a year after I had been friend-dumped, I had friend-dumped a guy who probably really needed a friend.

Now, I rarely see Bingo, and when I do, a massive wave of guilt usually prompts me to duck and hide. However, I do see the guy from the prologue, from the first high school — who, for the purposes of this story, I’ll call Irving. I duck him, too. Until today, I thought I did that because I was still mad at Irving. I’m not. Eight years come and gone, I could care less about how people treated me as a freshman in high school.

I know I avoid Bingo because I feel guilty. Today, I realized I avoid Irving not because I’m mad about what happened eight years ago, but because my last impression of him was a status-climbing friend-ditcher and that impression looks like me.

Damn.
[ three ]
When I notified the main office of my first high school that I would not be attending the following year, the nice office lady suggested that I had to talk to my grade’s counselor about why I was leaving before I left.

I walked into Miz Drew’s office expecting a quick meeting: “I hate it here. You all suck. Go to hell.”

But when I told her that I just wasn’t happy, she asked me to explain. So I explained. I explained the whole human vapor thing. I explained having to wake up at six-ay-em in order to catch the bus to Salinas. I explained my general dissatisfaction with the school, from the shabby, diocese-funded appearance to the questionable quality of some of my teachers. But mostly, I elaborated on how inconsequential the other students made me feel. They didn’t even bother to make me feel unwanted; they made me feel invisible.

I told Miz Drew that there were some good teachers at the school and it could be give a student a valuable education — a good springboard into college that they might miss at public school — but he shouldn’t have to endure the lowly status of human vapor and they should have to place academics above their emotional health.

Now, Miz Drew didn’t look like a Catholic high school guidance counselor. She was tall and she dressed in heels and short skirts and she even looked like the kind of woman who might have been pretty, circa World War II or Prohibition or some such bygone era. But time struck Miz Drew like a falling anvil and she showed her age. Her makeup was always askew, like she had applied it in the car on a bumpy road in a hail storm, and she seemed just a little out of it, in a drug-induced haze sort of way.

“Drew,” Miz Drew told me, “you’re very mature for your age.”

And with that, basically, the meeting ended. A week later, I was sitting in my Old Testament class. Knowing me, I was probably reading the part in the Bible where Jael nails Sisera’s head into the ground with a tent peg — a personal favorite — or some other such scene of murder or rape or mass rape. The teacher, a man whose last name’s visual — but not phonetic — resemblence to the word “booger” earned him that as a nickname, told the class that before class got out, he’d like to address a certain pressing issue.

The school, Booger said, was a good school, but since it was “deprived of the mellowing influence of women,” it and schools like it had a tense social atmosphere. Booger went on to explain that teasing is a large part of male interaction, and though it can be painful at times, it’s a part of growing up. He explained that, as miserable as social interaction at this high school might be, a student who truly cared about his academic future would bear with the teasing and continue — essentially, forfeiting his happiness for the edge only the Christian Brothers of Ireland could provide.

I never really put it together, but today I wondered if Miz Drew had spoken to Booger and prompted his lecture on the character-building virtues of Yorkie Bar Catholic education. If it had, Booger had missed the point. Teasing wasn’t my problem. Invisibility was.

Or maybe the two events happened completely independent of each other. In that case, Booger’s lecture was a standard issue tough-it-out speech that he probably gave to ever Old Testament class, every year.

I think I’m glad I transferred.
[ four ]
Today my mom casually mentioned that she had only taught at this Catholic school in Fresno for a year. I asked why.

According to my mom, the school she taught at was a lot like the school I transferred out of: populated and controlled by the wealthy families of local agricultural tycoons, all just two or three generations removed from being Italian, Mexican or Irish immigrants. My mom gave one such kid a D on his report card. According to her, he deserved an F but she felt bad and bumped it up a notch. Mr. and Mrs. Row Crop, however, marched into the principal’s office and demanded the grade be changed.

The principal, a nun named Sister David whom my mom has mentioned a few times before and who, in my mind, looks like an aging Indigo Girl in the midst of roid rage, asked my mom to rethink the grade. My mom refused. Sister David threatened to fire my mom if the D didn’t transform into something more parent-friendly.

The D remained on little Billy’s record. And that’s why my mom transferred to a different school.
and [ five ]
The d├ęcor of the Round Table Pizza chain of pizzerias baffles me. What maniac decided to open a pizza restaurant and then theme the entire place with cartoon versions of characters from ancient English lore — characters who, if they ever saw a pizza wouldn’t have known what to do with it and probably would have accused it of witchcraft and dunked it in the river? I guess it’s no stranger than any other pizzeria’s theme — Mountain Mike’s, Strawhat, Chuck E. Cheese’s — but I just find a small amount of humor in the act of going to the register and ordering the King Arthur special with two trips to the Queen Guenivere Salad Bar and an order of Merlin’s Magic Buffalo Wings.