Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Answers in the Form of a Pop Culture Footnote

To my neighbor to the south, Nancy Zerg of Ventura, California: Congratulations. You are now and forever embedded in popular culture. Way to have a good story at cocktail parties.

Don't Shoot Until You See the Reds, Blues and Aquamarines of Her Eyes

A rerun of the "Drew Carey Show" airs on the local FOX station before midnight during the week. I haven't watched the show in a few years and I believe it's not even on the air anymore, but back when I was younger, I used to think it was funny. The roommates and I couldn't even sit through a full half-hour of the what we saw. I'm pretty sure the episode was from the show's last season, since Mimi had lost a lot of weight and Drew's brother wasn't a character anymore and Kate had been replaced with the blonde chick from "Titus." Also, it was pretty evident that the writers had just stopped trying, as everything that's wrong with generic sitcoms was wrong with this episode.

Anyway, seeing the show reminded me of this one Christmas episode some years back that had a surprisingly touching scene. Granted, I was slightly intoxicated at the time, but thinking back on it sober — tired, but sober — still moves me, just a little.

In the episode, Winferd-Louder, the department store Drew works for, had decided to have a nativity scene in the window. They'd also decided to cut costs by using store employees as the various characters. Some clerical error had made Mimi the Virgin Mary and when shoppers saw the Holy Mother smeared with clown make-up they protested. Eventually, Mimi has to explain herself to the whole angry mob. She explains that, in her mind, the Virgin Mary must have been the most beautiful woman in the world. That's what would make the whole virgin angle exciting. Ugly virgin: who cares? Pretty virgin: we're still talking about it two thousand years later. And then Mimi went on to say that she wears her make-up because that's what makes her feel pretty and she's only doing it because she wants to make Mary look as beautiful as she knows how.

Of course, she follows that with something like "And if you don't like that, you can shove it up your filthy anus" or something like that. But for a moment, I feel like they gave her character actual depth, made her seem more like a real person instead of some garish accident at the crayon factory. Considering that Mimi is basically a one-joke character, I think that's pretty remarkable.

That's gotta be the reason I've remembered it all this time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Ballad of Bardo Boppie Bip

Please excuse the lack of updates. I have a Power Point presentation to give on tourism crisis management on Monday and a paper to not completely fuck up. My verbal energies must flow elsewhere.

Oh, and I finished Villa Incognito. If anybody else would like to read a thrilling novel about mythological Japanese badger-raccoons, Lao whores named Miss Ginger Sweetie and Miss Pepsi Please, a lesbian circus clown and Vietnam MIAs who would rather stay missing, drop me a line.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Queens of Spades, Clubs, Hearts and Diamonds, Respectively

So the William Jefferson Clinton library opened today. Whether they wanted to or not, the Carters and all four Bushes were in attendance for the opening ceremony. This picture, which I would have flagrantly reprinted without permission if My Way News allowed me to download images, shows the four First Ladies.

I think there's something perfectly iconic about this picture of these women carrying umbrellas. I'm not sure what though.

Maybe it's that Hillary is carrying the only white umbrella. Maybe it's that Laura is the only one wearing pink — and at that, she's wearing the pinkest pink she could get her hands on. Maybe it's Laura and her mother-in-law's apparent amazement at the function of their umbrellas? And just maybe it's Rosalynn Carter putting as much distance between herself and the other three as possible while still remaining in the shot.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Drew and the Mysterious Bathroom

Lying in bed, I hear the upstairs neighbors' toilet lid drop and I instantly remember this lost, random anecdote...

So this lady is having dinner at some fancy house owned by this rich people and she really has to take a piss. But she wants to be polite so she asks to use the "washroom," as she thinks "bathroom" or "restroom" might sound too vulgar. The hosts show her down the big houses complicated corridors to the washroom, which consists of a sink basin, a mirror and nothing more. Again, not wanting to appear impolite she steps into the bathroom. She's rather not, but the urge to urinate is so powerful that she has no choice. She balances on this antique sink basin, drops her pants and squats... Only the antique basin is way fragile and it snaps partway through the piss and she falls to the floor. Time passes, and eventually the dinner hosts wonder what's become of their polite guest. They finally wrench the locked door open and find her unconscious on the floor, drenched in urine and sink water and lying besides the porcelain shards of the ruined bathroom fixture.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where I've heard this anecdote. Some drunken conversation? A movie? I haven't got a clue.

King of All Blasting Matter

I walked around Georgetown by myself yesterday and though I was among hundreds of shoppers, I enjoyed a sense of privacy I rarely do: invisibility in a crowd.

The air stings a little more every week. I'm told that's what real winter is like -- a general sort of pain that rattles all your exposed skin. Since I was downtown and cold, I gave in a bought a scarf, meaning I made the transition from "guy who doesn't wear scarves" to "guy who does," a change in categories that I think only an insecure guy from California could really appreciate. I wandered around for a while, and because I had "Wonderwall" stuck in my head again I went into a music store and bought the Ryan Adams album that has his cover of it. I still haven't listened to it. Then I looked at some children's Christmas books. Seeing Polar Express reminded me that I had a dream about riding a open-air train a few nights back. It was freezing, that train. I myself have never read Polar Express.

I'm not going to be in Washington for very much longer, and even though I'll be returning to a different Santa Barbara than I left, I'm really going to miss parts of this city.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Iron Horse, Iron Terror

The following includes original subject matter I dreamed, scenes my subconscious gleaned from movies and movie trailers, things that actually happened and plot connections I strung together in the moments I woke up after the dream in an effort to jam a serious of unrelated images into a cohesive narrative.
Marcy, Jill and I lived together in some big city. (I presume Washington D.C., but we're working on dream logic here so it could be the Vancouver, for all I know.) We have an apartment in some high-rise building. Despite its age, it looks a lot like the UCDC complex. In any case, we have problems with our upstairs neighbors. They play their music too loudly and, from what we can hear, they spend their evenings rearranging their living room set — every night.

Frustrated, we go to our building superintendent to complain. He asks us what room we live in and we tell him and explain that the source of the noise comes from directly above us. The super looks at us funny, then says that such a situation would be impossible: the room directly above ours is vacant and has been for years.

We're suspicious. After all, we can hear the noise. So we venture upstairs that afternoon and check it out for ourselves. Sure enough, the door is boarded shut. No one's been in or out in a while. Then we can hear a woman's voice in the room across the hall. She's repeating the same word over and over again.

"Hello?" She opens the door.

"Oh hi. I didn't mean to disturb you. I was calling for my cat, Psyche," she tells us.

"That's fine. But while you're out here, do you know if anybody lives in the apartment across the hall?" we ask.

"No. Not since I've been here"

"Okay thanks. Hope you find your cat. Has she been missing long?"

"Yeah," she says sadly. "Nearly a year."

She closes the door.

In a transition that evidences that my subconscious has the foresight to make plausible scene transitions, I wake up to the upstairs noise again. I go to the living room and me the other roommates and we stand, groggy and annoyed, and look at the ceiling, from which a series of loud bangs can be heard — three at a time, in the same pattern.

We figure we have nothing to lose, so we go upstairs to the mystery apartment. The door is wide open.

As we walk through the house, I notice that it’s much bigger than our apartment. More nicely furnished, too, even though sheets dusty cover much of it. It really doesn’t look like anybody lives here. It’s cold, too. I can feel it in my lungs. And I’m jeebing like I never have before, but the girls insist that we should see the whole apartment.

We keep going through the chain of rooms until we find the farthest back one. It looks very much so lived in. I even notice a cup of coffee steaming on a table. I’ve about reached my addreno-limit when we hear the front door slam shut. Someone is home and they’re moving toward us.
“We need to get out of here now,” I say.

“I think there might be a place we can hide behind that couch,” the girls say.

Without even questioning the logistics of this claim or even how they might now that, I pull one side of the couch away from the way. Sure enough, there’s a tiny door there — no more than two feet tall but wide enough that I could fit through it.

“How did you guys know that would be there?” I say, turning around to face my roommates.

They’re gone.

“Fuck it,” I think and I throw open the tiny door and dive through. I’m crawling through what feels like a carpeted air conditioning duct forever until I finally reach the other end. I pull open a second tiny door and then tumble out onto the floor of my apartment.
No denouement. That’s the dream, more or less.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Yellow Meat Pounder With Ping-Pong Ball Eyes

Characters on "The Simpsons" who have undergone long-range changes in lifestyle or personality:
  • Kirk and Luann van Houten got divorced in "A Milhouse Divided."
  • Barney is sober now (and less funny).
  • Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krababel started dating in "Grade School Confidential," then got engaged and then finally broke off the engagement on their wedding day.
  • Skinner also was revealed to be Armin Tanzerian, which Lisa brought up again in a later episode despite Judge Snyder's decree that no one in Springfield could ever do so.
  • Apu married Manjula, they had octuplets and Apu cheated with the Squishee Lady. Now they go to marriage counseling.
  • Lisa became a vegetarian and then a Buddhist (though I can't actually recall her Buddhism being mentioned after the episode dealing with her conversion).
  • Maude Flanders died, making Ned a widower.
  • Bleeding Gums Murphy died, which is fairly life-altering.
  • Dr. Marvin Monroe died off screen, then re-appeared inexplicably.
  • Lenny and Carl developed this gay-vague affection for each other (like so many male-male pairs on "The Simpsons" do).
And then, I've read that this season will see a prominent regular character come out of the closet. And it's not Smithers, though it's still pretty obvious once you hear it.Characters that have become regulars in the past few years:
  • Lindsay Naegle, the blonde, professional-seeming but apparently alcoholic businesslady
  • Cookie Kwan, the shrewd realtor
  • Gil, the only guy in Springfield with worse luck than Hans Moleman
  • Judge Constance Harm
Characters who don't show up anymore because the actors who provided their voices either left or died:
  • Troy McClure
  • Lionel Hutz
  • Lunchlady Doris
  • Helen Lovejoy — haven't heard her near-catchphrase, "Won't somebody please think of the children?" in a while.
  • Maude Flanders
  • Does Miss Hoover ever talk anymore?
  • Princess Kashmir

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Dyluck (or "Die, Luck")

My brain connections sometimes connect inappropriately.

Walking through the city on the day immediately following the election, I noticed that everything felt just a little heavier. I didn’t see any of the emotional meltdown — the hysterical crying like the women in the streets just after Kennedy got shot — though if I had I surely would have stopped and watched. And the black shirt I was wearing wasn’t picked out necessarily as a sign of mourning. I’m not that dramatic. I just think I look good in black. Sure, the sun didn’t come out today. Sure, I can feel that nasty east coast winter coming. But knowing that the vast majority of DC residents voted for Kerry instead of Bush, I shouldn’t have been surprised that people seems just a little down.

Strangely, I had a song stuck in my head that I’m sure I couldn’t have heard more recently than eighth grade. When I was a kid, I played this game called Secret of Mana. It’s like Legend of Zelda, just not. Early in the game, the hero happens onto the first city — not a village, a full-on city with a castle and everything. The town, which I think was called Pandora, however, is cursed. Everyone’s mute. You talk to them and all you get is “……………” That’s how text-intensive video games represent silence: with ellipses.

Anyway, I can remember all this clearly now, when I haven’t really given it much thought since then. But the memory that seems to outweigh all the others is the music for that area: a sad, repetitive ditty that doesn’t go away until you beat the witch who’s cursed the area.

Sometimes, my brain connections things inappropriately. No symbolism. No foreshadowing. Just an odd song from my childhood composed for the primitive sonic capabilities of the Super Nintendo sound processor.

I wish it would connect to a melody that I wouldn’t mind forgetting.

I'm not really mad. And I guess I'd be kidding myself if I said I was all that disappointed. I'm not even all that surprised that to so many people, everything that happened in the last four years — 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Patriot Act, the prison torture, Michael Moore and other things which surely must matter, regardless of a person's political affiliation — added up to equal four more years of the same administration. What really gets me is that there's that much difference in Americans. I could probably no better understand some Bible-thumping Mississippi native than I could Joe Eskimo. Statistically, I'm the odd one, not Bible-thumper.

I wish I could unearth the Super Nintendo and play video games all day.