Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Thursday, October 31, 2002 Hey, what gives? Am I being so hard on you people that nobody wants to e-mail me any more? Well, too bad. I’m not abandoning the Reader Mail Slot, even if that means I have to start answering spam or, worse yet, making up e-mails again. Fortunately, things arent’t that desperate yet; I got just enough e-mail in October to build an entry out of it today. Of course, some of the October mail is in reference to the September mail, but I’m not exactly drowning in it over here, you know.
For instance, Regan at Somewhere Quiet has solved the mystery of a text-free e-mail I received last month:
Yeah, so that was my friend Adam’s e-mail to you. His explanation to me about it was that since he uses a Mac, his message was superior to the capabilities of your PC. He’s a Mac snob.
Now that you mention it, I think I remember seeing that Mac commercial with Adam in it. I’ve obtained a shooting script, reprinted here:
Adam stands in front of a plain white background.
ADAM: Back when I used a PC, I would always be getting in these long, protracted flame wars with people I’d never even met. It got really time-consuming. I’ve got better things to do, you know? But since I switched, I can vent my spleen once and be done with it. For some reason, the fact that my pissed-off screed comes from a Mac seems to intimidate my debate opponents into silence, right from my opening salvo. It’s great getting the least word.
My name’s Adam, and I’m a heckler.
As you may recall, Adam’s phantom missive was in response to my cheap pot shot at Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. Beerzie weighed in on the same topic, presumably from a crappy old PC:
Attack Bill Watterson? You aren't half the creative mind he is, and even on his worst day, you aren't fit to carry his urine to the outhouse. Up Yours!
How's that? Is that what you wanted?
Oh. He didn’t mean it. Damn.
As far as the peeing Calvin stickers, I am pushing for legislation to make them a cause for justifiable homicide in California. (Although the "praying Calvins" are worse.) The demise of the funnies, which I wrote about on my blog on September 3rd is one of the pop culture tragedies of our time. Where are the good strips these days? If you like edgier stuff, I suggest you try Peter Bagge's Hate and Neat Stuff; they are great!
Thanks for the recommendations, and for an excellent reason to move to California.
Bill Watterson wasn’t the only subject that garnered responses. Casting aspersions on St. Anthony sparked this exchange with Lisa:
I feel bad sending you a non-hate letter after that last entry, but I did want to share an Italian superstition about St. Anthony. Apparently, when they've lost something, some Italians will pick up their statue of St. Anthony, take the little baby Jesus out of his arms, and tell Anthony that he ain't getting the baby back until he returns their lost items.
So, there you go -- the next time you misplace your glasses, hold the baby Jesus hostage.
Wow, do all Italians do that, or just the Sicilians?
HA! Actually, St. Anthony's from Padua, so that's where the most insane religio-complex-bunker resides. It's eNORmous, and they have a full multi-media presentation -- during which visitors are more or less barricaded into a room that shoves various full-sized dioramas in and out of the space -- to explain why a man who spent a great deal of time sitting in trees and talking to fish is a saint and not just insane.
See, this is my problem. Even when I take a few paragraphs off from being strenuously inoffensive, nothing I say is as bad as what the readers come up with. You’re all going to Hell, you know.
But not before we answer the mail that actually had to do with things I wrote this month. Hey, I’m doing you a favor. Hell won’t be such a shock after we’re done here today.
Looks like Chrystal’s pissed off for a different reason:
I just wanted to warn you that I'll be suing you for publicly posting my great-grandmama's secret pot pie recipe [October 9] without her consent.
It's the only family heirloom we had.
I can only assure Chrystal that any resemblance between my recipe and her great-grandmama’s is purely coincidental. I’d go into more detail, but my lawyer has advised against it. I will say that with the legal fees I’m racking up, the least Chrystal could do is come through with some actual papers. The suspense is killing me over here.
Finally, Marchelle from St. Paul has passed on a helpful household hint:
You may get this suggestion more than once, but since I, too, have an old house with temperamental fixtures, I've learned quite a few tricks. My kitchen light fixture has the same problem with breaking bulbs, and the solution I picked up was to use half a cut potato to grab onto the metal piece to get it out. It works pretty nicely, and I haven't been electrocuted. Yet.
Well, I wasn’t electrocuted either, but after I cooked and ate the potato I had to spend the night in the hospital. Thanks a lump, Marchelle.
On the other hand, now I have a recipe to send to Chrystal to make up for the one I stole from her family. Maybe we’ll be able to settle this out of court after all. posted by M. Giant 3:16 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 30, 2002 It’s that time of year when Trash and I buy way, way, way too much candy, and then end up having to eat it ourselves over the course of the next ten months. This year we’re going to be in particularly desperate shape since BuenaOnda moved to Chicago. We’ll probably just end up boxing the whole sticky mess and FedExing it to her next month. Especially if this year ends up being as much of a disappointment as last year was, trick-or-treater-wise.
Last year we had maybe a dozen trick-or-treaters, all told. It was quite the letdown. Not because I like kids, mind you, but because I like terrifying them. One of my favorite holiday traditions is to hide in the bushes wearing a hooded Death cloak and one of those “no-face” masks. Then I jump out and wave one of my grandfather’s rusty old farming implements at any small children who venture across our property line. Their reaction is worth having too much candy left over at the end of the night. It’s even worth having to hose down the sidewalk the next morning.
Last year we only had a dozen or so of the little freeloaders. I don’t know why. Every costumed beggar got as much candy as my girly fist would hold, and you’d think word of that kind of thing would get around. When I was a kid, there was like an unwritten Zagat’s guide for the houses with the most and the best candy. Apparently that’s not the case any more. Furthermore, Trash was all dressed up as Britney Spears, and her boobs are real. So it was a mystery.
“Maybe people think nobody’s home because the house is so dark,” Trash suggested.
Of course it was dark. It was supposed to be dark. I’d replaced every light bulb visible from the street with either red, green or black bulbs. The sidewalk was strewn with plastic bones, the bushes were layered with fake cobwebs, and the welcome mat screamed when people stepped on it. I was going for dark. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine what more I could do to the place to indicate that we were open for business.
See, a lot of the houses in the neighborhood where I grew up went all out for Halloween. One guy sat out on his front stoop all evening with his head inside an actual pumpkin shell. People would have scary sound-effects tapes, smoke machines, stuffed scarecrows in the front yard, trees festooned with human intestines, you name it. We all knew that people who went to that much trouble really had the goods in their candy bowls, too.
“What else am I supposed to do?” I asked Trash. “Set fire to the lawn?”
No sooner had I finished speaking than I realized I might be onto something. Can you imagine being six years old, wandering the neighborhood, and seeing a burning lawn through your crappy little plastic mask? You just know you’d be thinking, “Wow, that yard is on fire! I bet they have the best candy! Score!”
That’s why I’m planning on picking up a can of gasoline on the way home tomorrow night. My Halloween house will be the talk of the neighborhood for years to come. Even better, I won’t have to rake leaves this fall. Ha! posted by M. Giant 3:25 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, October 29, 2002 I have an update on the Project Greenlight question. After I posted last night, I checked my e-mail. This was in the inbox:
From: PGL Support:
Unfortunately you are correct, there are two screenplays names "Exile" in the competition, the one that has advanced to the Top 250 was submitted
by another user.
There’s only one thing to say to that:
Those philistines can’t grasp my vision!
Okay, moving along.
* * *
Q: How many blog writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. The light bulb ends up changing you, in so many ways that you never could have predicted when you started.
I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to take twenty minutes to change a light bulb that I can reach from the floor without opening up a light fixture or access hatch or crawling through a Jeffries tube or whatever, but my experiences of the last couple of days have indicated otherwise.
Here’s the thing: our kitchen has a ceiling fan/light fixture combo. It’s a little on the aged side, but it still works. Mostly. I mean, the blades still spin and the lights still light. The problem is what happens when the bulbs burn out.
Now, I took a semester of Electronics in junior high, and a community education class on electrical wiring earlier this year, so I feel pretty darn qualified to take on a project like changing a light bulb when circumstances call for it. And if I’m feeling out of my depth, I can just do a little research on the ‘Net.
The problem with the kitchen fan/light is that the light bulbs are housed inside metal cylinders that hang from the fixture. These metal cylinders are almost the exact diameter of a light bulb. The ceramic light sockets aren’t affixed to the rest of the structure by anything except their wiring. And there’s no way to reach around the bulb and hold the socket in place while you spin. So removing a light bulb requires you to turn the bulb until the wires behind the sockety are as twisted as they’ll go in a lefty-loosey direction, and continuing to turn the bulb until it comes out. Adding to the fun is the fact that a previous owner appears to have lubricated the sockets with a homemade cocktail of sand and hairspray, so removing the old bulb is a delicate process akin to that of defusing a bomb. Sure, if something goes wrong during the latter process you get turned into a diffuse red mist, but trust me: that doesn’t sound so bad when you’re left holding a detached glass bulb and staring at the desiccated filament and scary, pointy, electrocute-y wires hanging from the metal base that’s still screwed in, just waiting for you to reach up and turn yourself into a six-foot frogleg wired to a galvanometer. That’s when you find out what you’re made of. Specifically, a highly conductive material.
And even when I’m able to get the dead bulb out intact, I still have the task of installing the new one. Now I have to grind the bulb into the all-but-free-floating socket, turning not only until the bulb is screwed down, but until the wires have twisted as far as they’ll go in a righty-tighty direction. Then, and only then, does it become apparent that I’ve screwed the bulb in crooked. Then I have to repeat the process again and again until the electric company cuts me off anyway.
I had to do this on Sunday night, and again last night. They’re burning out so close together because I hate this particular task so much that last time I just waited until all the bulbs were burned out and we were cooking by the light from our open refrigerator. Now the cycle of dread has begun anew.
Last night, I got frustrated with the process and unscrewed the tin-can housing. That allowed me to pull the socket out just enough so I could hang onto it while I screwed in the bulb.
But then the wires wouldn’t go back into the tube thingy. Now I have a light bulb that is indeed lit, but it’s swinging at a dangerously low altitude over the kitchen floor.
Considering how much easier it’ll be to change next time, I’m actually okay with that.
* * *
I have a new article up at Teevee.org. It’s kind of a think piece.
Okay, it’s really not. I just wanted to claim to have written a think piece.
posted by M. Giant 3:25 PM 0 comments
Monday, October 28, 2002 The second Project Greenlight contest has entered Round Two. By a process of peer review, Eleventy-thirteen squillion screenplay entries have been narrowed down to the Top 250, along with 25 alternates. Those 275 lucky contestants have been notified via e-mail, and the titles of their screenplays are listed on the Project Greenlight website for all to see. 275 are still in the running, and their dreams of having their vision transferred to film, projected on three movie screens nationwide, and summarily dismissed by condescending movie critics are still alive. All of those talented writers deserve our praise and congratulations.
Am I one of them?
To be completely honest, I wish to God I knew.
There are a few supporting facts on both sides of the issue. On the positive side:
1) The title of my screenplay is listed among the ones still in play.
2) I really want to be in the top 250.
Actually, that’s about it.
On the negative side:
1) I didn’t get an e-mail notification that I had advanced to the next round.
2) When I sign in on the site, I get a message that says my screenplay is no longer in the running.
3) I have access to the reviews of my screenplay on the site. I’m not sure that’s supposed to happen until you’re out.
4) Some of the reviews I got were a little harsh. I know it’s tacky to be all “those philistines don’t grasp my vision” when there’s a chance I advanced anyway, so I won’t. I will say that I shudder to think about the reviews that other people got if that’s the case.
So there are two possible explanations:
1) I have a Top 250 screenplay, but some glitch in the PGL system prevented me from getting proper notification. Perhaps you’re thinking that LivePlanet could never make a mistake of such magnitude. I direct your attention to Push, Nevada.
2) Someone else has a Top 250 screenplay that has the same title as mine. I’d consider this pretty unlikely if my screenplay were called something like Painting Jerzy Scynscycsnsyk’s Duodenum a Dusty, Muted Fuschia, but I didn’t have the foresight to come up with a title that unique. And even if I had, I would have gotten tired of typing the name “Jerzy Scynscycsnsyk” in a big hurry. Hell, I’m already tired of typing it. But since my screenplay’s title is fairly succinct and not necessarily specific, it’s possible that someone else’s has the same one.
Right now there’s no way to tell which scenario is the correct one, since the screenplays are listed only by title; no author information is available. The idea is that we’re supposed to review the entries without knowing who wrote them. Putting your name or contestant handle on an entry is grounds for disqualification (and I’m not giving the name of my screenplay here for the same reason). The message boards are down, so I can’t ask any other contestants what they think is going on. I sent an e-mail to the judges, but I haven’t heard back from them yet. They’ve probably been too busy getting ready to give away the Push, Nevada money tonight.
Occam’s Razor suggests that someone else is still in the running with a screenplay that shares the same title as mine. But just to be sure, I’m going to proceed as if I’m still a contestant until somebody specifically tells me otherwise. If that results in my getting escorted off a film set a few months from now, then so be it. It’s worth it just to have heard my own gasp of shock when my title showed up. 275 people are still in the running, and the rest have gone home empty-handed. I’m kind of enjoying being number 276, even if it’s just in my head.
I’m still going to try to win the Push, Nevada prize, though. Just in case. I have to lighten Affleck’s wallet one way or another.
* * *
Girl Detective is back from Italy, and she seems to have overcome whatever technical issues prevented Trash from updating more than once in her absence. Go welcome her home.
posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments
Friday, October 25, 2002 Don’t really feel like updating today, but I will anyway.
Last summer, Trash and I got some real momentum going on fixing up our house. We totally redid the kitchen (except for the floor, which went in this spring), painted and rearranged the living room and the hallway, and any number of other, more minor projects. We decided we’d replace the ceiling in the basement that winter.
One year later, we still have the old basement ceiling. It’s my least favorite thing about the house, and that includes the bucket underneath the toilet. It’s the kind with interlocking tiles that really show the water stains and numerous downward bulges. It has several different levels because the previous owner who installed it (a man we’ve unaffectionately dubbed “Dr. Jellyfinger” based on all of the ambitious screwups he left us to deal with) forgot to take things like low-hanging pipes into account when he put it up. It contains recessed lights that, even with 100-watt bulbs, provide about as much illumination as chewing on a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver™. The cats went through a phase where they’d crawl up between the ceiling and the subfloor, so they’ve knocked out a few tiles and created an area that looks like a septuagenarian hockey player’s smile. And it gently caresses visitors with a gentle drift of asbestos* fibers. I can’t wait to get rid of it.
I hate it so much that I’m actually prepared to tear the whole thing down right now, light fixtures and all. I’d rather look up at the subfloor, plumbing, wiring, and bare light bulbs than the mess we have now. Unfortunately, Trash disagrees with me, so we have to keep the ceiling up until we’re ready to hang the new one.
Or do we?
Would it be imprudent of me to point out that Trash is out of town this weekend?
I’m not even sure if she’ll have Internet access, so I could conceivably get those grubby old ceiling tiles pulled down and bagged up at the curb before she even knows what I’m up to.
And it’s not like we’d have to have a naked ceiling indefinitely (i.e., another year. Heh). I’ve already scheduled people to come over and help me put up a brand, new, shiny suspended ceiling, with pristine white tiles and sufficient lighting and all one height. That’s happening in just two weeks. You might even say that tearing down the old tiles now is a good idea, because it’ll give me a chance to tell in advance what kind of project we’re going to be dealing with when we hang the new grid. If there are any obstacles, maybe we should know about them now so we have time to figure out how to deal with them in advance, no?
Besides, we’re planning on painting the walls down there anyway. Maybe a ceiling-less interval of a couple of weeks would be the ideal time to do just that. We’d only have to do half of the taping. Of course, that doesn’t leave me much time to talk Trash into letting me paint it dark red instead of applying that tea-stained textural paint that Gen used on Trading Spaces a couple of weeks ago, but we’re both flexible. We can compromise and use dark red textural paint. Where was I?
Oh, yeah. The ceiling. Now that I think about it, I don’t really want to do something this major to the house without letting Trash know in advance. She may have reasons for keeping the ceiling up until the last minute that she hasn’t fully communicated to me. And it would be wrong of me to betray her trust by making a mess of the house while she’s away from it and can’t do anything to stop me. So I’m going to hold off because it’s the right thing to do.
And also because I’m very, very lazy.
posted by M. Giant 3:24 PM 0 comments
Thursday, October 24, 2002 I haven’t mentioned the ongoing story here, but I’m really glad the [guy who shoots people] thing is looking like it’s about to get wrapped up. It was obvious that he (or they) was just going to keep going until he got caught, so let’s hope he has been. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be a cop in [places where people have been getting shot] if somebody else takes an anonymous [caliber] bullet while their prime suspect is sitting in the tank. I’d be even less inclined to be the person taking the anonymous [caliber] bullet while the prime suspect is sitting in the tank, but that should go without saying.
In any case, I can’t ignore the [guy who shoots people] story any more, because it’s obvious that nobody else is. So many people are doing Google searches that include the words [guy who shoots people] and [names of suspects] and [name of police official] that they’re spilling over into my referral logs somehow. Since I’ve never even used the word [guy who shoots people] in the history of this blog, let alone any of those other phrases, I’m really not sure how so many people are finding me that way. I am, however, fairly sure that they’re disappointed when they do.
That’s why today’s entry looks like a Mad Lib™. I feel guilty enough about all the people who’ve come here looking for hints on how to get through [first-person-shooter game featuring a Jedi] and have no doubt gone away frustrated. The last thing I need is to have the entire Internet pissed off at me because Googling the phrase “washington d.c. maryland virginia sniper john allan muhammad john lee malvo montgomery country .223 caliber rifle” led them here.
Oops. Now I’ve done it. posted by M. Giant 2:57 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 23, 2002 When you spend one weekend in New York City and the next weekend in Iowa, it really highlights the difference between the two locales.
For instance, during our last visit in August (which kind of undercuts my lede, but if I held myself to things like standards I’d never get anything posted), we went to Culver’s for dinner. I don’t know if you have Culver’s where you live, but in this region it’s kind of like marginally upscale fast food. The signs include the words “FROZEN CUSTARD BUTTER BURGER” and it took me years to figure out that they weren’t referring to a single menu item with a rather fearsome name. But anyway. We were walking in from the parking lot, and two of us heard a bizarre honking noise in the middle distance. Trash missed it because she’s all but deaf in one ear, and her brother didn’t hear it because he was probably talking, so they didn’t believe us when we made them stop and listen for a recurrence. Especially because there wasn’t one. Trash’s brother dismissed it as a kid’s laugh. Since his wife and I thought it sounded more like an aardvark trying to croon the hits of Ethel Merman through a bicycle horn, we were skeptical of that theory, but everybody got bored of waiting for the noise again after a half-hour or so, so we went inside.
We had dinner, an experience that included table service by the saddest young man we’d ever seen. I’m not kidding; we couldn’t even enjoy our food because we had to keep him on suicide watch. We had no idea what could have turned him into a walking personification of dismay. I mean, okay, it was Saturday night and he was delivering plates of carcinogenic grease to salt-dusted tables in a Culver’s in suburban Des Moines, but…
Maybe we should just get back to the weird noise.
It was still going on when we walked out of the restaurant. “That is so not a kid,” my brother-in-law’s wife told him, and even he had to agree that a kid would have to be sick, disturbed, or very, very large to be making the Dennis-Franz-belching-into-the-wrong-end-of-a-kazoo sound we were hearing. It appeared to be coming from a narrow strip of brush that separated the parking lot from the lot of the Menards next door. We wondered if it was a lost moose or something. Since there’s no smarter way to kick off a Saturday evening than getting close to a panicked Alces alces, we decided to investigate.
Just so you’re not expecting this story to end with a hoof to the teeth or an antler through someone’s chestal region, I’ll come right out and say that when we got to the edge of the parking lot, we were right next to the source of the noise: namely, a car full of sheep. And when I say that, I’m not being judgmental about people who listen to Top 40 radio and shop at Old Navy. I’m talking about a vehicle occupied of actual ovines.
That’s something you don’t generally see in New York, not least of all because a parking slot in Manhattan, while comparable in price, doesn’t offer the same kind of graze-tastic nutrition that a dozen acres of Midwestern pasture does. And even if someone’s doing a little freelance transportation of sweaters-with-feet from South Jersey to New England, he’s unlikely to park his internal combustion shepherd outside the WWE Café in Times Square. I hope.
On the other hand, sometimes Iowa is more like New York than you might think. For instance, there’s an outlet mall that you can see from I-35, less than an hour north of Des Moines. Some of the manufacturers represented there are Lee, Wrangler, and Jantzen. Most eye catching, though, is the sign reading “Dress Barn” right next to the sign reading “Dress Barn Woman.” Two separate stores? Kind of makes one reassess the initial Dress Barn sign, if you know what I mean. Perhaps Iowa isn’t as repressive as it’s reputed to be, if its cross-dressing population is substantial enough to support an outlet store. I’m just saying.
posted by M. Giant 3:49 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, October 22, 2002 The last time Trash and I went to Iowa was also the last time her brother and his wife got out of the house for the evening. You can check the archives to see how that went (8/19/02).
This time, we decided to go to a different bar. Because I wasn’t about to go back and subject myself to hip-hop versions of country TV theme songs again, and Trash’s brother thought my out-of-state plates would be cop magnets on the drive home, we ended up in a much smaller bar in one of Des Moines’s suburbs. Since this place wasn’t inside the city limits, and it didn’t have a dance floor the size of a pasture, and there was no cover charge, the band was a whole lot better. Go figure. You might not think that a band that has a cellist/bongo player, a lead guitarist who plays solos with just his left hand and his pelvis, and a setlist that includes covers by Collective Soul and INXS would be worth listening to, but the fact that none of the musicians performed a lap dance throughout the entire evening was greatly to their advantage.
By the way, what’s up with Des Moines bands being so big? According to my observations, the average size of a bar band in Des Moines is 6.5 people, and I’m basing that on my statistically significant sample of two bands. Maybe Des Moines bands are just easier to get into because they don’t know when to close the doors. Or maybe the musicians want to outnumber the audience members in case the latter ever start getting hostile. That might explain why the band from Saturday night waited until the place was almost empty before busting out their twenty-minute opus “Variations on “When the Levee Breaks’”, because I think even they knew full well that there was really just the one Variation, and that wouldn’t have cut it in a full room.
But today isn’t about bad barroom bands; it’s about bad barroom etiquette. When we arrived, there was one empty table and it was directly under one of the TV sets showing the baseball game. It was one of those high, round tables with the kind of chairs that leave your feet swinging a foot or two above the ground, and with my height I worried that I might be blocking someone’s view and that my big exposed head might start looking like a tempting dartboard to some frustrated sports fan. So as soon as a table with a more civilized height opened up, we adjourned to the lower altitude.
But now the problem was that we were sitting at the table closest to where people were playing pool. Normally that’s not such a big problem; if someone needs to line up a shot that impinges on the table space, they just say “Excuse me” and we lean to one side while the pool player, self-conscious about having asked a stranger to move so he or she can make the perfect shot, invariably bricks it. But tonight, the couple at the table was apparently unaware of the standard operating procedure. Not the shot flubbing; that went just fine. No, it was the “excuse me” part that escaped them.
Trash and I had our backs to the pool table, and there were three or four occasions where we’d be in the middle of a sentence as someone’s shooting hand whizzed past her ear. We let it go the first few times, figuring that maybe they just didn’t know the rules. But as the game progressed, we began to feel that it behooved us to embark on an intensive program of disapproving glares and annoyed gestures. Fast Eddie and his date simply continued to pretend we weren’t there.
Until the woman actually thumped Trash dead-center in the back of the skull with her cue. And the cues in this bar didn’t have the little rubber stoppers on the butt end. Trash and I whirled around in our chairs, snapping something openly hostile that the woman probably couldn’t hear over the band. She muttered some lame apology that we couldn’t hear over the band. Then she capped it off with this gem as she backed away:
“She was leaning forward when I lined up the shot, so, you know, she backed into me.”
Well, as long as she’s sorry.
“Oh, come on!” I hollered at the bimbo. I know she heard that over the band. I can’t say if she heard everything I was trying to communicate with those three words, to wit:
“Try having some freaking manners instead of acting like you’re the only person on earth. And by the way, you might have better luck if you said “excuse me” instead of rushing to time your shot against the random movements of the people whose personal space you’re invading. Idiot.”
It’s always tricky to verbally transmit that much information inside the aural equivalent of a jet engine, but I’m fairly sure the “idiot” part got across.
I’m also fairly sure that the righteous indignation of the rest of our party was conveyed (verbally and otherwise), if not to both of them, then at least to the bimbo’s Chipster date. Between the glares from my brother-in-law and myself, he seemed to understand that a repetition of the incident would, in short order, result in somebody eating an eight ball. After a few minutes of studiously avoiding our gaze, they hung up their cues and left. And that was the second near-bar-fight of my life.
Then my brother-in-law challenged me to a pool game on the newly open table. I agreed, but only after making Trash promise not to back into me while I was shooting.
* * *
The other weird thing about that night was the way Brooke Burke kept watching me pee.
The restroom had one stall with one toilet. Not a urinal, a toilet. Hence, maximum exposure. And on the wall directly above the toilet was a life-size poster of the E! Entertainment Television personality, wearing a bikini and staring back at me with an expression that in that context could only be described as “appraising.” By the third visit, her expression was looking more like “distinctly unimpressed,” and when last call sounded, there might as well have been a caption there that read, “Oh, please, you might as well just sit down because you’re not fooling anybody.” I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch E! again without feeling inadequate.
Okay, that may be the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. posted by M. Giant 2:50 PM 0 comments
Monday, October 21, 2002 We went down to Iowa this past weekend to see Deniece (Trash’s brother’s daughter, for those of you who’ve forgotten). She’s nine months old now, and she’s talking with considerable fluency. Except her primary language appears to be Navajo, so that’s a little bit inconvenient for those of us who haven’t learned it yet. She does know a few English words, like “dada” and “oboe” and “Walla Walla.” She can’t seem to use them in context yet, but since she’s never seen a double-reed woodwind instrument, been to Washington State, or participated in an early twentieth-century avant-garde movement that sought to redefine the meaning of art, I can’t blame her for not wanting to just wait around until those subjects crop up in conversation.
She also has a lot more mobility than she did the last time we saw her. Back in August, her standard method of locomotion was dragging herself across the floor with her hands like a little sandworm. I sandworm with hands, granted, but you get the idea. Now she can crawl, but she prefers to pull herself up next to the coffee table or some other piece of furniture and sort of walk along that way. I thought about suggesting that my brother-in-law install a network of low railings so she can navigate the whole house by herself, but I soon realized that wasn’t such a swell idea. Judging by her behavior, some little gremlins are singing to her from inside the electrical outlets and she’s pretty keen to fish the little guys out of there. I don’t know what they’re singing, but it seems like a good bet that they’re sending her subliminal commands to spill everyone’s beverages. So maybe her dad shouldn’t facilitate her activities until those activities start being a little more constructive.
And she’s graduated to baby food. Fortunately, she’s still at the stage where she can eat baby food, but not yet at the stage where she’s figured out how to not eat baby food. She’ll be sitting in her chair, just looking around at everyone, soaking up all the attention, and then she’ll be all, “Hey! I have a mouthful of pre-masticated peas! How’d that happen?” So she’ll swallow that, get back to what she was doing, and—“What? Again? Fine, let me swallow this so I can go back to wiggling. Hey, look at me, I’m wiggling! Look at me wiggle! I can—d’oh! Okay, swallowing, swallowing, but this is the last time. I’m not opening my mouth again. I’ve got a lot of wiggling to do here. Hey, what’s that thing touching my bottom lip? I’ll just check it out with my—oh, goddammit!!”
Besides, what she really likes is Cheerios™. There the ideal combination of a fun shape and something she can stick in her mouth and not get it taken out. Thus she puts away about a box per week.
Deniece has always been a bit of a flirt, and now she seems to understand that dinner is an occasion that carries special romantic potential. She’ll smile fetchingly at you, apparently unaware that the come-hither effect is somewhat marred by the Linda-Blair-spew-looking stuff encrusting the lower half of her face (and an expanding segment of the upper half, after she sticks her fingers in her mouth and rubs her eyes). The overall impression is an unsettling combination of “Look at how cute I am!” and “Keep away! The sow is mine!”
There’s one other thing she does now that she didn’t do before: clapping. Her execution isn’t quite spot on yet, but she’s got a pretty clear grasp on the concept. Sometimes she’ll need to be prompted and sometimes she won’t, but she’s pretty much always up for giving herself a hand. Then everybody will smile really big and clap back at her and call her a good girl, and she’ll bask in the spotlight, blissfully unaware that it’s going to take a lot more than that to impress the admissions department at Harvard.
She’s a really happy kid, which is great. She seems to have figured out that things are going pretty well for her overall. And as much as we miss her and wish we could see her every day (okay, every other day), it’s interesting to see how much she’s grown over a period of a couple of months. For instance, now that she can clap, gripping fingers is so for six-month-olds. When she cries now, it’s because she wants something and not because every fiber of her being is suffused with black, bottomless despair. And since she’s learning how to get around, it’s no longer safe to just park her on top of the refrigerator for a couple of hours while the folks go shopping.
So that’s the latest with Deniece. No need to thank me; I’m happy to perform this service for all of you who have never come in contact with a miniature human before. You’re welcome. posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments
Friday, October 18, 2002 The downside of having limited home maintenance skills is that when you have a major problem like, say, a toilet leaking water into the basement, there isn’t much you can do that doesn’t involve a) a bucket or b) a plumber’s phone number. The upside is that it doesn’t take nearly as much to give you a sense of Bob Vila-level competence as it does for other people.
Take our showerhead. Trash was about ready to take it this morning, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The water pressure in our shower has been getting a bit anemic recently. Apparently, mineral and water deposits had clogged up the little holes or something. It was such a gradual process that we didn’t really notice as it was happening. I think what happened is that staying with Lawre for a few days and using her shower demonstrated that not everyone has to wash themselves under the equivalent of four eyedroppers. Then we got home, and Trash commented that rinsing the shampoo out of her considerable quantity of hair was taking too long under the wimpy little trickle she had to work with. I made a non-committal “yeah, I’ll get around to it” noise. Then when I took my shower I realized that the wimpy little trickle wasn’t doing it for me, either. And when I’m being inconvenienced, it’s clearly time to take action.
Except I didn’t know whether I was going to have to ruin a toothbrush or buy a new shower head or what. Instead, I just did a little research and found a site with all sorts of helpful (and cheap) little household hints. It turns out that all I needed to do was remove the showerhead, take out the rubber washer, and boil it for five minutes in a mixture of water and vinegar (the showerhead, not the rubber washer). An added benefit is that a good whiff of vinegar steam is enough to give you a month off from having to trim your nose hairs.
So I did that last night, and then extracted the superheated showerhead with a pair of cooking tongs, feeling all competent and resourceful. I especially got a little ego boost from the fact that I hadn’t turned on the garbage disposal before I accidentally dropped the showerhead into it. That’s the kind of detail that separates a true handyperson from a dilettante, you know.
Then I screwed the showerhead back onto the pipe, and it only took me a minute or two to figure out that it was hanging loosely because I’d forgotten to stick the rubber washer back in. I took care of that and turned on the shower to rinse out the vinegar and see if it had worked. Given the volume of water that rushed out, both of those tasks were fairly well accomplished after a nanosecond or two.
Trash came out of the shower this morning with an exhausted smile on her face. “Fixed?” I asked. She nodded, unable to speak. Eventually she caught her breath and explained that it was much easier to shower with the “new” shower head, because not only was there enough water to get the shampoo out of her hair faster than a news camera clears out a whorehouse, but she didn’t even have to put any effort into standing or balancing herself, since the water pressure effectively pinned her to the far wall and held her suspended there. The only hard part was struggling upstream against the storm surge so she could turn off the flow and escape. Now I kind of wish we had a detachable showerhead with a hose, because with this kind of water pressure we could use it to disperse angry mobs.
It’s things like this that make me feel better about that bucket in the basement. posted by M. Giant 2:57 PM 0 comments
Thursday, October 17, 2002 Still talking about New York. I promise I’ll shut up about it soon.
I kept thinking the subways were faster than they were. I mean, you go underground, sit down, and reemerge miles away. Zooming underneath the Manhattan traffic, whether it’s five p.m. or one p.m., makes it seem like you’ve entered an alternate dimension where time has no meaning. It was like “getting on the train” = “arriving,” and it took a few trips before I got used to that not being the case. That was the excuse I used for being late all the time, at least.
Generally we didn’t have anything to read on the train, and Trash wouldn’t let me take out my maps unless it was absolutely necessary (even though we had those laminated Streetwise maps that make the user look so much cooler then the average tourist), so there was a lot of people-watching going on. Among some of the things I learned: sky blue is the new black, one guy can make an unholy racket with a pair of drumsticks and a stroller full of five-gallon buckets, and there’s always someone more touristy-looking than yourself. I pointed out one couple who had a huge map out and unfolded on the train, but they were having difficulty with it due to the lack of a half-acre banquet table upon which to spread it. That thing wouldn’t have looked out of place on the wall of NORAD headquarters in WarGames. “No more complaining about my Streetwise," I told Trash. She just rolled her eyes at me.
One ride found us on a car between a group of dress-uniformed firefighters and a couple of young women who appeared to have boarded directly from the set of Center Stage. It was like Career Day for first-graders: “I want to be a fireman…I want to be a ballerina.” There are your two choices, right there.
Umbrellas in New York are just like pens in a classroom. Everybody has one, and nobody worries about them getting stolen or damaged, because it’s easy to get another one. A lot of restaurants have umbrella stands by the door. Using them felt a lot like leaving my car parked on the street with the keys in it. Or it would, if I’d only spent ten dollars on my car. As for the likelihood of an umbrella surviving the city for any length of time, the necessity of weaving through low-hanging, sidewalk-covering scaffolding every sixth block, under a veritable forest of “beautifying” trees with branches at exactly the perfect brolly-snagging height every third block, between nine million other umbrellas every single block, tends to reduce the life-expectancy of these fragile items to roughly that of antimatter. While walking around, we saw any number of abandoned skeletons lying twisted on the pavement, with shredded batwings flapping in the damp breeze. It was kind of sad. What was even sadder was the fact that our brand-new umbrella looked a lot like them after only two days.
You know what else? People in New York really dig themselves some Law & Order. At least the people I talked to do. Trash is a big enough fan that she’ll stop on it when she’s channel-surfing, but that show is practically a religion to New Yorkers, or at least to Manhattanites. I think it has something to do with the show being shot entirely on location and all of the addresses chung-chinging on the screen all the time so they can say “I know where that is!” or “My friend works there!” or “I got smashed at that bar!” I thought about sitting in front of the Friday night rerun with my Streetwise charting the various locations. You know, for navigating practice. But that was too geeky even for me. Besides, I can do that at home.
One last story. On our final day, we’d just left Lawre outside the building where she was going to take her exam. That makes it sound like we’d robbed her, beaten her unconscious, and left her for dead, but she was fine last we saw her (of course, that was before the exam). As we walked to the subway, Trash thought she heard Jon Stewart’s voice coming out of a passing radio. I clarified that the voice was actually coming out of a passing Jon Stewart, who was wearing a baseball cap and was looking unshaven, bordering on grizzled. With that, we were ready to pack the Celebrity Sighting Counter into our carry-on. We’d only used it to track random encounters on the street, which excluded several working actors and dancers who were at the wedding we attended on Saturday night. Thus we ended up with an artificially-low-but-still-respectable reading of four. New York rocks, dude.
* * *
Girl Detective is in Europe at the moment, so Trash is filling in for her. You heard me. Don’t try to pretend you’re not curious about what kind of writing would come from somebody who can tolerate such massive doses of me. Go check it out. posted by M. Giant 2:41 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 16, 2002 For various reasons, our trip to New York didn’t cost us a lot of money. The only way it could have been cheaper would be if we were getting deported and the INS let us get off the plane for a while at JFK. In fact, we’re looking into that for our next trip. Never let it be said that we aren’t bargain-hunters.
One of the ways we saved a lot of money was by forgoing a hotel in favor of staying with a very generous friend who moved to New York last year. I’ve referred to her as Laure in this space, after the character she played in the last show I saw her in. But since she’s now a diligent legal student, I should probably change her pseudonym to Lawre. Don’t worry, it’s still pronounced the same.
In any case, since she was kind enough to lend us keys to her place and let us sleep on her futon, I thought I’d repay her hospitality by relating an embarrassing story about her. See, this is why you should never do anything nice for anyone who maintains a weblog, ever.
One evening, years ago, a group of us were sitting around relating stories of our varied youthful indiscretions. You know, the kind of stories that you always wrap up by explaining how you avoided getting caught, or what happened after you got caught (I got caught every time, so there’s nothing new here for you, Mom and Dad). Most of us had taken a couple of turns already, except for Lawre. We prevailed upon her to spill.
Her story started off ordinarily enough. Parents out of town. She and a friend decided to take the car to get some coffee, despite having nary a driver’s license between them. Time passed, and when they were ready to put the car back in the garage, it was too late; the neighbors were home. And they were outside, in clear view of Lawre’s garage. Worse, these were neighbors who talked. Lawre figured she was pinched for sure.
But it wasn’t too late. I think they’d walked back from the coffee shop to make sure the coast was clear. For that reason, their joyriding hadn’t been noticed yet. All they had to do was get the car back into the garage without the neighbors seeing it. Being resourceful and quick-witted, Lawre came up with a sure-fire plan.
Her friend would go back and retrieve the car. Meanwhile, Lawre would distract the neighbors and get them out of the incriminating line of sight they currently occupied. The scheme couldn’t fail. It was absurd in its simplicity. And the diversion would be irresistible.
She would go into her basement, get the clown costumes out, and explain to the neighbors that she needed them to dress up in them and let her take pictures of them at the park for a school project.
Okay, maybe it was just absurd, period.
First of all: who has clown costumes in their basement? Aside from the Brady Bunch, I mean. Secondly, can you imagine a teenaged neighbor approaching you with such a bizarre request? Did Lawre think that “pictures of the neighbors at the park” sounded like a transparently false assignment, whereas adding the phrase “in clown costumes” gave it that necessary ring of verisimilitude? What would her answer have been a few days later when the neighbors, still Q-Tipping white greasepaint out of their ears, asked what grade she’d gotten on the assignment? What would her answer have been when the roll of film came back from the processors after a few weeks and her parents flipped idly through them, going, “us at the lake, birthday party, cat, cat, lake, party, lake, what the hell is this?”
As much I would have loved to hear about any of this story’s potential denouements, the sad truth is that by the time the clown suits had been exhumed from storage, the neighbors had left again, allowing Lawre to return the car to the garage without risking exposure. It’s a shame it turned out that way, really.
But at least now you know what to do the next time somebody asks you to dress up like a clown and go down to the park. Just offer to drive the car back yourself and pledge eternal silence. posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, October 15, 2002 1.
Here’s what I hate most about flying: for some reason, we always have to get up obscenely early in the morning to catch our flight. I prefer to acknowledge the existence of only one five o’clock per day, thanks very much, and when I’m throwing our suitcases into the car on the wrong side of the wrong five o’clock, it makes me a little owly. Our plane’s not going to be in the air until after sunrise, but I have to be behind the wheel when it’s so early that dinosaurs are still roaming the earth.
One of the many reasons we like having Dirt and Banana for friends is because they live much closer to the airport than we do. So we drive to their place and park our car on the street in front of their house, which is cool because they charge us a lot less than the airport parking ramp does. From there it’s just a short Big-Wheel ride to the main terminal. Usually that’s pretty neato, but on the morning we left for New York we were sitting in our car waiting for our cab (Dirt and Banana don’t deserve to have us hauling them out of bed to cart our grumpy pusses to the airport at that hour) with the engine running and the heat on. See, when it’s that early in the morning, the sun hasn’t coalesced enough to reach critical mass for nuclear ignition, so it’s a bit nippy. That didn’t stop a predawn neighborhood watch guy from approaching our car all skittish-like and wonder what the hell we were up to. We calmly explained that we represented a neighborhood Al Qaeda cell and we were just going to spend a relaxing morning picking off commuter jets with shoulder-mounted SAM missiles. Okay, not really, but the guy needed a little talking down. People sitting in their own idling car on a public street with the license plates clearly visible and the daytime running lights on are clearly up to no good, you know. That’s just too sneaky by half.
Here’s a question: whose brainwave was it to not open any of the stores in the airport before six a.m.? Maybe they wouldn’t get a lot of customers, but there’s an old joke that’s germane to the situation: it’s the Great Depression, and a guy has set up an apple stand on the sidewalk. His sign says, “Apples $50,000.” A guy comes up and says, “How many apples do you expect to sell at that price?” The apple seller says, “I only have to sell one.” My point? People in the airport at 5:30 in the morning are prepared to spend a lot more money for a cup of coffee than they will be four hours later. Hell, I would have bought a cup, and I like coffee about as much as I enjoy spent matches.
Our cabdriver from LaGuardia asks if we’d object to taking the Queens Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan, since the Triboro Bridge is under construction. My wife decisively Picards her approval. The driver asks us where we’re coming back from. I guess we don’t scream “tourist” from every pore of our bodies after all. Maybe it was Trash’s quick response to the driver’s suggestion, but I resolve to cut down on the cursing anyway, just in case. After Trash explains that we are not returning but visiting from Minneapolis, the cabby lights up. He talks about the Twins, who at this point are still in contention for the American League pennant. He even assures us that now that the Yankees are out, New York is firmly behind our guys. I don’t know how he can speak so authoritatively about the hopes and dreams of nine million people, but given the outcome of the Twins-Angels series, thanks a lump, New York. He’s not done, though. He wants to talk about our soon-to-be-former governor. He wants to talk about our weather. He wants to talk about Duluth and Beaver Bay. He wants to talk about that embarrassing “Minneapple” nickname that some wag came up with years ago. He wants to crown Minnesota the Capital of the Upper Midwest. I just want to point out to my wife that that’s the United Nations building we’re driving past, but since Garrison Keillor up there isn’t taking a breath, all I can do is fingerspell “U.N.” and point. I’m not even kidding. By the time he drops us off at our friend’s apartment, I expect him to be wearing a T-shirt that says “Don’t blame me, I voted for Mondale.” He offloads our bags, tells us it was nice talking to us, and wishes us a pleasant stay. After that I can only assume that he goes right back to the airport to hop the very next plane to the Twin Cities. Trash and I wonder briefly if we should have picked up Twins hats before coming out here. “New York City luuurves Minneapolis!” I crow. Trash just hopes that New York City doesn’t start stalking Minneapolis. That would be creepy, with the Statue of Liberty sending all these gooey mash notes to the Mall of America, and the Empire State Building calling the Wells Fargo Tower its “soulmate,” and Shea Stadium buying giant panties for the Metrodome and what have you. At this point it occurs to us that we need a nap. posted by M. Giant 3:26 PM 0 comments
Monday, October 14, 2002 It's our last day here in New York, and I can't tell you what a thrill it is that the sun has finally deigned to acknowledge the existence of this little island.
Despite the weather, it's been a great trip. We got to wander all over Manhattan, eat plenty of great meals, witness the beautiful and moving wedding of an old friend, go on a bar crawl with Sars (if you can count two bars as a "crawl"), learn all about the subway, and use up an entire umbrella. Our plane leaves tonight at around sevenish, so we still have time today to do a little more exploring. More specifically, we're exploring the Strand bookstore near Union Square. It might not have been wise to leave that for our last day, actually. We may end up hanging there and not getting to the airport until some time next week. Time has a funny way of disappearing for us in bookstores.
Provided we aren't drawn too inexorably into the black hole of the printed word (the used printed word, no less), we'll be back on Central Time within the next twelve hours, and I'll be back to my regular schedule tomorrow. Thanks for your patience during these brief and sporadic updates. And thanks to New York. posted by M. Giant 8:29 AM 0 comments
Saturday, October 12, 2002 Over the years, Trash and I have experienced firsthand some of the most famous weather in the world (and I 'm not just talking about the winters we stayed home):
London: Eight solid days of bright, warm sunshine, except the time we spent in Edinburgh, Scotland, where we found more bright, warm sunshine.
Seattle: Three days of bright, warm sunshine, followed by two days of bright, warm sunshine in Portland, capped off by one last sunny morning in Seattle.
New York City: Doesn't it ever stop freaking raining here? I had to buy new shoes and socks yesterday from a couple of friendly Russians in the finincial district because every step felt like I had sponges on my feet. I suppose we could stay out of the rain by riding the subway all over the island all day, but somehow one doesn't feel like one gets the full New York experience from that. Go figure.
Celebrity sighting counter: 2 (two-time Academy Award Winner Dianne Wiest. 3 if you count the head of the FDNY.) posted by M. Giant 11:35 AM 0 comments
Friday, October 11, 2002 So, maybe somebody could have warned me that New York is the City That Never Sleeps before I agreed to haul my ass out of bed yesterday morning at a time when I'm normally just lying down. So is it true? Nobody sleeps here? I'm going to be so tired when I get home.
Actually, this is just a quick little update from the New York Public Library, which is fine because not much has happened yet. We've been wandering around Midtown Manhattan in the rain all afternoon. You could practically go for a mile without touching the sidewalk just by walking on the umbrellas. Of course, you'd have to be very light to avoid pissing off the owners of said umbrellas, which excludes us since we just had lunch at Roxy's. Looking at the menu, I just thought the food was expensive. Well, it is, but they also bury you in it.
Celebrity sighting counter: 1 (John Pankow, who played Ira on Mad About You.)
That's it for now. posted by M. Giant 10:44 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 09, 2002 I had a fairly memorable dinner last night, and I thought I’d share the recipe with all of you so you can have a similar experience. Here’s how you make what I like to call “Pot Pie a la M. Giant.”
1. Buy a frozen pot pie.
2. Bring it to work one morning so you can microwave it for lunch. Don’t bother checking to see if it’s microwaveable.
3. At lunchtime, open the box and discover that it’s in one of the old-style aluminum foil pans and therefore cannot be microwaved unless you want to be known for the rest of your tenure as the guy who blew up the microwave.
4. Stick the pie back in the box. Stick the open box back in the freezer. Walk down to the deli in your building so you can spend twelve dollars on a turkey sandwich for lunch.
5. Forget about the open pot pie in the freezer at work for at least a week.
6. Bring home the pot pie in the open box. Stick it in the freezer at home. Forget about it for a month or so.
7. Stick it in the oven for dinner one night. Don’t forget to cut a slit in the top crust. We don’t have to be entirely unorthodox here.
8. After cooking for half the time suggested on the box, make a fast-food run to satisfy spouse’s sudden, inexplicable craving (no, she’s not pregnant). Turn the oven off and leave pot pie in while it cools.
9. Return home with fast food. Eat fast food with spouse.
10. Remove dried-out, slightly overdone pot pie from 120-degrees-and-cooling oven and stick in fridge uncovered.
11. Wait one day.
12. Get home from work twenty minutes before Buffy. Dump cold pot pie out of aluminum foil pan and onto plate. Microwave for three minutes.
14. Okay, maybe “enjoy” would be too strong a word. Unless by “enjoy” you mean “pick reluctantly at what looks like the steaming, flaccid remains of some small, bald, woodland creature dropped from a great height as you wonder where the potatoes went, what caused the carrots to take on the consistency of asphalt in July, how the crust turned into sodden cardboard, and why all of the turkey chunks are dark meat.”
So it takes a little more time than the standard method. That’s how you know you’re going to end up with something really special. I subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine, but I maintain that the finest culinary delights are the ones that you discover for yourself. Mmm, yum-tastic.
In related news, nobody, but nobody is going to listen to me if I bitch about the food in New York now.
* * *
Speaking of which, I can’t promise updates for the next few days. We’re staying with a friend in Manhattan, but who knows whether she has a computer she’ll let me use, and I’m not about to go out and stand on some isolated dirt road all morning waiting for some farmer to maybe pick me up in a ’58 Ford pickup on his way to into “town” in hopes of finding a storefront Internet café somewhere. Depending on how cut off from civilization I end up being on this trip, you may just have to get through a weekday or two without me. But it could be worse. You could be me. posted by M. Giant 3:24 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, October 08, 2002 On my desk, I have a candy wrapper that I picked up a few months ago. There was candy in it at the time; I’m not some weirdo who goes around collecting discarded candy wrappers off the ground. As I ate the candy, I read the message printed on the wrapper:
“The best ideas come after you think you’ve run out of them.”
I’ve hung onto that wrapper for inspiration ever since. Thank God I did because today, something came to me.
Candy wrappers lie.
Stupid candy wrapper.
I’m going to limp through an entry today anyway. Don’t expect a theme or anything.
* * *
In Serres, Greece, a 66-year-old grandmother became a celebrity of sorts after telling a story about how she drove two knife-weilding burglars from her home.
"I grabbed his arm, pulled the knife from him and stabbed him in the gut," she said. "The two men were forced to flee."
Yesterday she admitted to making up the story when the blood on her clothes turned out to be tomato sauce. "The woman had made it all up because she wanted to convince her husband to spend more time with her at home," said a police official.
Let’s go back to her original story:
"I grabbed his arm, pulled the knife from him and stabbed him in the gut," she said.
Husband not hanging with you? Feeling neglected? Want to put a little spark back in the marriage? Just claim to be someone who’s capable of disarming a man and perforating a bowel. That ought to fix the problem. What’s for lunch, honey?
Besides, everybody knows that the proper way for grandmothers to get the attention they need is to shoot the person who’s ignoring her in the first place. Jeez.
* * *
I entered a screenplay in the second Project Greenlight contest. In order to qualify, each contestant has to read and review four other screenplays. I’ve read two so far.
If they’re representative of the general quality of the submissions, I’m really liking my chances this time around.
* * *
Okay, short notice, I know. But Trash and I are going to New York on Thursday. This’ll be the second time for both of us, and our first time together unless you count a three-hour layover at JFK, which you probably won’t. Heck, we’ll stop counting it ourselves on Thursday.
But anyway, since you guys came through for us so fabulously before our Seattle trip, I thought I’d hit y’all up for some recommendations. Because, really, the last thing we want is to be stuck in some backward, jerkwater burg like New York City with fuck-all to do on a Friday night. You guys are our only hope. E-mail me and rescue us. Do it now!
posted by M. Giant 3:30 PM 0 comments
Monday, October 07, 2002 Last night I walked up onto a stage, strapped on my bass guitar, and promptly stunk the place up.
Every Sunday night, Famous Dave’s in Uptown hosts its open jam. It’s a chance for dilettantes and wannabes from all over the city to perform in front of an audience with a real, live blues band. It’s kind of like karaoke with instruments. The bandleader is this skinny, old, balding guitarist with glasses, a long gray beard, and bib overalls. And I have no idea how he does it.
This is a guy who, week after week, has to put on an entertaining show while simultaneously dealing with genuinely talented musicians, show-offs, hacks, and slow-witted incompetents. He has no idea which category any given person falls into when he invites them onstage; he just has to make it work somehow. And it generally does.
That’s partially because it’s an open blues jam. An open speed metal or industrial jam would probably be less successful, but the blues has enough standards and conventions that in theory, anybody who can play a twelve-bar progression should be able to join in. In practice? Well, it’s still a good theory.
I’d been to the blues jam once before, in 2000. This was a couple of months after my band had successfully pulled off a demanding wedding gig and I was feeling pretty confident. I fouled up “Little Red Rooster,” then the piano/keyboard player let me redeem myself somewhat by calling out “Feelin’ Alright,” which we played while the bandleader changed a guitar string. I did quite a bit better on that one—all two chords of it—then the bandleader called the real bass player back onstage and I hadn’t been back since.
It was a humbling experience. I’d considered myself a fairly able improviser, as two of the guys in my band are pretty prolific songwriters and I’d never had trouble learning their tunes and coming up with bass parts quickly. However, it turns out that there’s a world of difference between “quickly” and “on the fly.” It’s an entirely different skill set. Especially when “quickly” applies to a basement practice session with three other guys, two of whom are also learning the song, and “on the fly” applies to a stage with professional musicians and an audience of a hundred or more, any number of whom are just waiting their own turn to blow the roof off the joint. The latter feels considerably less conducive to experimentation. Can you blame me for being spooked?
I didn’t mean to wait two years before getting back, but somehow its been pretty easy to find things I’d rather be doing on Sunday evenings than embarrassing myself in public. The last few weeks, though, I’ve been practicing at home a lot more (gig coming up), so I figured, what the heck. There’s only so much I can learn at home anyway, and I’m not going to become a brilliant live improvisational musician by playing along with the stereo. Not that my chances of becoming a brilliant live improvisational musician are much improved by playing live improvisational music, but they’re a little bit improved.
So last night I got there and put my name on the list. By the time it rotated around to me, the only member of the regular band onstage was the bandleader. The guy who’d come up to do vocals called out a slow blues in G, a song with which I was unfamiliar (and still am, to be totally honest). Slow blues sounded good to me, because it meant I could miss notes and still have time to find the right one. I was somewhat confused by the minor chords and half-step intervals, but I muddled through. Then he wanted to sing “Brick House.”
“Brick House?” I thought this was a blues jam. I didn’t sign up for no “Brick House.” Again, I muddled through, emphasis on muddle. I cannot honestly say that I brought the funk.
The bandleader, accurately perceiving that I was out of my depth, cut me some slack and called out a “straight-ahead shuffle in G, starting on the five.” Fortunately I knew what that meant, so I was able to pull it off well enough that at the end of the song, I could still walk off the stage under my own power. Overall, it was a little less humbling this time around, but only because I was more humble to begin with. I’ll probably go back before much longer. It’s the only way I’m going to develop the skills it’s going to take to actually make a contribution. Otherwise it’ll be like trying to learn how to bowl without ever going to the alley. Or some other stilted simile.
But I think I’ll wait a few weeks, just to give the bandleader time to forget me. posted by M. Giant 3:33 PM 0 comments
Friday, October 04, 2002 Weird day.
First of all, I spent most of the morning under my desk, dismantling enough electronic equipment and wiring to fill an FBI surveillance van. You can imagine how much I’m looking forward to putting it all back together on Monday. Really, the time-consuming part was making and attaching all of these little labels to both ends of every cord I detached before I detached it, so I don’t go to put it back together, plug it all in wrong, and accidentally send myself forward in time or something. Sending myself back in time wouldn’t be so bad, because then I could warn myself to leave it alone and just make the IT department do it. But as Mom always told me, uncontrolled temporal displacement is not something you want to be rolling the dice on.
Where was I? Oh, right. So I get that out of the way, and then my boss tells me that the new voice recording system is here and it’s too big for the delivery guy to load onto the elevator from the dock to the second floor. This is another instance where a visit from my future self would have been handy, because he would have told me to say, “that’s his problem.”
Instead, I went down to the loading dock with the guy and led him back up to the second floor with a large pallet of boxes. The second pallet was quite a bit bigger. The delivery guy was right about it being too big to fit in the elevator. We would have had as much chance of that as we would have had parallel parking a Honda in there. So like an idiot, I signed for the thing and cut him loose, figuring that if nothing else, I could open up the crate and get the contents carried up in pieces.
While I was signing, a janitor walked up to us and asked me, “Do you have any idea where Ben Franklin is?”
Since answering the question would require me to know what Ben Franklin was in this context, I asked for clarification. The janitor explained that an electrician from a company called Ben Franklin was in the building doing some work. “I thought you might be able to help me but I guess you don’t have a clue he sneered, turning away.
I ran up behind him, hurled him to the floor, and started banging his head against the tiles while the delivery guy kicked him repeatedly in the stomach.
No, that never happened. Instead I snapped, “Hey! What’s your name?” He stopped short.
“Kevin,” he said.
“Kevin, do you talk to everyone that way, or just people at your workplace?”
“You’re not my boss.”
“Yeah, you’re right. What’s your boss’s name?”
“Boy, are you in trouble,” the delivery guy observed.
Long story short, dude was carrying his personal belongings out to the parking lot within an hour.
Okay, that didn’t happen either. I did roll my eyes extravagantly while the delivery guy made a sympathetic crack about his rudeness. I’m such a loser.
Anyway, now I was more worried about the larger-than-an-elevator-car box in the basement that I had made myself responsible for transporting upstairs. Once I cracked it open, it became apparent that the contents were going upstairs either in one piece or not at all. I drafted a couple of phone reps to help me load it onto a cart, but once we’d done that, it was clear the crate was going to be too tall to get through the door. We ended up borrowing some tools from the janitor (a different janitor) and tearing the crate apart. Fortunately the cabinet inside had wheels when we upended it, so getting it down the hall and up the elevator proved to be no more difficult than wheeling a fully stocked industrial refrigerator through a corn maze. No problem whatsoever.
So then I had to finish clearing off my desk and now my workspace looks like someone picked up one side of it and tipped it into a rolling wooden cart. Except of course for the single VCR I wired back up to the video wall so people could watch the game. I’m not used to seeing this much Formica from my seat. The sounds of my keystrokes echo strangely in the empty space. It’s like somebody attacked it with an experimental bomb that only destroys binders and office supplies.
It’s just going to get weirder, though, because tonight Trash and I are going to the Mall of America. On purpose. We’re seeing Girl Detective and G. Grod tonight, and we didn’t want to go downtown (Twins playoff game, torrential downpours, road construction, and terrorism evacuation drills) and they didn’t want to go Uptown (insufficient parking, torrential downpours, Uptown’s high idiot quotient on Friday evenings), so there we are. I think this will make a baker’s dozen of trips to the Mall for me since it was built. I should cut down, I think.
I wasn’t actually serious about the terrorism evacuation drills downtown. I think that might be going on at the Mall instead. We’ll see. posted by M. Giant 3:24 PM 0 comments
Thursday, October 03, 2002 Over the past few weeks, my office has been in the process of being re-carpeted. It’s been happening in stages. They did another department a couple of weeks ago, half of my department this past weekend, and this weekend is when my area gets re-carpeted. I’ve been dreading it for over a month.
That’s not because the new carpet looks like it belongs in a casino, or because it’s about as plush and luxurious as a percale sheet stretched across the floor. It’s because it means I have to clean up my desk.
That would be bad enough under normal circumstances. In school, I was always the kid with the messiest desk. Periodically, my teachers would get tired of watching me rummage around in it for ten minutes before giving up on finding what I’d been looking for, and they’d make me clean it out. After a couple of hours of finding stuff I’d given up for lost, I would be admonished to try to keep it more organized from then on. And I did. Sometimes for as long as several minutes.
Likewise, my attitude towards keeping things clean served me rather poorly during my brief career in the food service industry. Not that I was committing any health code violations by any means, but I never quite got the hang of “clean as you go.” I was more of a “clean when there’s no other option besides getting fired” kind of guy. I guess the fact that I only lasted three weeks at that job demonstrates that I never quite got the hang of that philosophy either.
Once I got into the corporate world, I obviously discovered that there’s a lot more leeway. When you have your own space at the office, nobody cares how messy it is as long as your crap doesn’t spill out into the aisle and you’re not serving anyone food from your work surface. After I learned those two nitpicky little rules, things were much easier for me. Nobody ever made me clean my desk again (except for my worst-boss-ever who I think was trying to get me to quit so she wouldn’t have to give me a severance package, but that’s another story).
Of course, since nobody was making me do it, I got into the habit of doing it myself. I’m not claiming to be Felix Unger by any means, but I would always take action when things got to a certain point. When my desk drawers filled up, when I couldn’t remember the color of me desk, when the lower strata of papers in my inbox started turning to diamonds, then I’d take a few minutes out of my routine to get rid of stuff and straighten up a bit. Another factor was that in the corporate world, people made me change desks a lot more frequently than they did when I was in school, so stuff didn’t have quite as much time to build up.
Fast forward to today. I’ve described my desk before. If you’re too lazy to click on the link (or, as is more likely, if I’m too lazy to go back and add the link), then pretty much all you need to know about it is that it’s a circle twelve feet wide, and I sit in the middle of it. I have one drawer, which is just big enough to store two days worth of newspapers provided you fold them creatively.
Since I have no shelves, no file cabinets and minimal drawer space, 99% of my stuff is just out in the open. My manuals are on the counter-y part, and the computers and phones are about where you’d expect them to be. Everything else is just dumped in cardboard boxes on the floor. And it’s been that way for five years.
That’s right. I’ve sat in this desk for five years this month. I’m imagining what my elementary school desk would look like if I’d occupied the same one nonstop for grades 1-5. Probably it wouldn’t resemble a desk so much as a horrible accident at a paper mill.
My current desk doesn’t look like that, mind you. That’s because although I have practically no filing space, I have plenty of on-the-floor-under-the-desk space. And since I’ve never been on the verge of running out, I’ve just been adding to the growing carnage below normal sightlines.
But like I said, that all ends this week, because new carpet is going in over the weekend. So in addition to taping several miles of cabling to the underside of my work surface and dismantling the rack of VCRs that control the video wall, I have to go through all of the boxes of crap I’ve accumulated in the years I’ve been at this company. Among the stuff I found:
Several years’ worth of reports that we stopped running five years ago and about which anybody stopped caring even earlier. By far the largest component by volume, getting rid of this stuff allowed me to relieve my workspace of enough paper to provide a Manhattan city block with phone books and a number of paper clips that, if melted down, would have yielded enough metal to manufacture an Apache helicopter.
Over half a dozen birthday cards containing any number of signatures, some of them from people I don’t even remember. Looking at this small stack made me realize something: this job is making me old. See also:
A coffee mug featuring the logo from a first-season NBC sitcom called Friends. Yeah, you heard me.
An inexplicable odor of cat pee. Seriously, I don’t know.
So many unused office supplies that when I brought them down to the mailroom they had to open a new wing.
I didn’t even finish cleaning it out before the end of the day. Tomorrow should be fun, what with all the dismantling and un-wiring I’ll be doing. But what I’m really looking forward to is Monday, when I’ll be able to see more of that new, casino-worthy carpet than I ever would have before.
posted by M. Giant 3:46 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, October 02, 2002 Several years ago, when Trash worked downtown, she was in the habit of using her lunch breaks to bop over to the Barnes & Noble a block or two over. She’s usually a very punctual person, but if you get her around books, the very fabric of space-time curves away from her and she ends up being forced to struggle free of a temporal vortex that threatens to eject her clear out of the Einsteinian universe. That’s a fancy way of saying she had to rush back to work every once in a while.
On one particularly rushful walk back to the office, she found her exit from the building blocked by a small conversational grouping of people standing directly outside the heavy glass door. She wasn’t going to be able to even crack the door open until they moved. She tapped on the glass impatiently. Then she banged on the glass, a little more impatiently. Finally she had their attention. The two women stepped aside. The man turned and made a gesture that Trash interpreted as “Sorry, I’ll move now.” Trash reacted accordingly, and, she’ll freely admit, rather briskly.
Unfortunately, the gesture wasn’t a “Sorry, I’ll move now” gesture at all, but a “Hi, how are you?” gesture. That’s how Trash explained the fact that the man’s head was still in the door’s arc when she swung it open and it bashed him on the melon.
Trash came out of the door apologizing, explaining that she thought he was moving, she certainly didn’t mean to trepan him, and was he okay? Being who she is, she was able to convey all of this in about three phonemes, whereupon the man said it was fine, and just generally made agreeable and apologetic noises of his own. After an awkward couple of seconds, Trash was on her way.
Then she stopped. Froze. Slowly turned around to get another look at the man she’d just brained.
That’s [unnamed movie star], she realized.
Then she quickly turned back around and kept walking.
Think about it: what would you do? Go back and apologize some more, demonstrating that you’re the kind of person who thinks celebrities are more important than other people? “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were famous. Suddenly I’m not in a hurry any more.” But she’d also be saying that [unnamed movie star] isn’t important enough for her to have recognized him before he waved at her. What could anyone do but keep walking?
Besides, his two groupies were acting all offended on his behalf, and Trash didn’t have time to deal with them if they decided to throw down.
As for the man himself, who was in town shooting Feeling Minnesota at the time, he was pretty classy about the whole thing. When our local gossip columnist spotted him at some do or another a few days later and asked him to explain the welt on his braincase, he refused to explain. Of course, that might have been because he thought it would be cooler to let people think he’d been beaten up by his costar.
Now that I think about it, if some chick thumped me with a door because I was too addlepated to get out of her way, I’d probably claim to have been beaten up by a movie star, too.
Basically, Trash saw the humor in the incident, even though she felt a little embarrassed and guilty.
Not embarrassed or guilty enough to actually go see Feeling Minnesota, mind you.
posted by M. Giant 3:21 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, October 01, 2002 I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Trash and I live with two cats. Since they’re cats, I’ll use their real names. I could come up with pseudonyms, but it’s not like you can Google them to find out where they live and start stalking them.
Strat was about eight months old when we rescued him from a stray’s life on the street. This was at the end of a long, cold winter, and the vet suggested that he might have a little neurological damage from living outside during his crucial growing period. We spent a lot of time playing with him, and he eventually figured out concepts like object permanence and inertia and gravity. Now he’s a big, sweet, fluffy lug who thinks he can still nap in a cracker box and has to have the kitty snacks on the floor pointed out to him with a fair degree of precision. He’s had a few other health issues which I will, in the future, shamelessly mine like the rich veins of comedy that they are.
Orca, on the other hand, has a bum rap for being a bitch. I maintain that she’s simply shy, a personality trait which appears to take on the form of hostility. She’s a small cat, but she has her space, and you invade it at your peril. I’m not one of those people who will chuckle indulgently when she snaps off the tip of someone’s finger; she knows that’s not okay and it’s going to earn her a time-out in the bathroom. But she also knows that a human being is big enough to kill her if it wants to, and unless it’s Trash or me, she’d just as soon it kept its distance, thanks. Her self-preservation instinct trumps her manners. That doesn’t make her a bitch. She’s just cautious. I say this with some authority, since she’s only ever really tried to kill me once.
But she’s a little weird. I don't have kids, but it must be like when you do and her or she (or they) has this genius-level I.Q., but you don't notice it so much because a) you're used to it, and b) it's always manifesting itself in the strangest ways via the most bizarre behavior. Or at least that's what it must have been like for my parents.
Also, Orca is one of the few cats in the world who's a hypochondriac.
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Many years ago, she darted under our sleeper-sofa while we were opening it up and got her head caught in there for a second. We stopped before her fuzzy little noggin got pinched clean off, but a few days later she started walking around the apartment with her head all bobbly like Katharine Hepburn’s. We took her to the vet, where she immediately stopped doing it and they were unable to find anything wrong with her.
There was another time, when I'd taken a week off of work to build a deck behind our house. It wasn't going particularly smoothly, we were tracking mud all over the place, and the refrigerator quit working. You don't want to be working on an outdoor construction project without a working fridge. On top of that, Orca started dragging her back legs around. "Great," we thought, "now the cat's broken too."
No, it turned out she was just lazy. Again, the vet was unable to find anything wrong. Although it was nice of her to force us to take time off from building the deck and scheduling fridge repair so we could haul her prima donna ass in to the vet.
This past spring, she reached new heights of invention. Trash discovered a lump on the back of Orca's neck. I took her into the vet the next day (Orca, not Trash). Fortunately, we don't have cat cancer. The lump is a harmless mass of skin cells. How the cat figured out how to fake cancer, I'll never know.
Shortly after that episode, she got the sneezies. There's nothing cuter than a tiny creature sneezing uncontrollably, especially when they're dry sneezes. She probably just inhaled some plaster dust, given the fact that we'd been playing the home version of Trading Spaces. But of course we had to call the vet anyway, just to make sure she didn't have kitty tuberculosis or something.
Actually, I thought the sneezing was so cute that I considered having her fixed so she stayed that way. But I was too slow, and she recovered after a couple of days.
Now her new thing is to walk around crossing her front legs in front of each other. I’m not exaggerating. She’ll be strolling along, placing her left foot in front of and to the right of her right foot, and vice versa. Seen from above, it gives her stride a very even, measured weave. And it’s weird. But I don’t think it’s a sign of anything wrong with her. I just think she got bored again, and is experimenting with a new way of walking.
I’m going to tell myself the same thing when she starts walking around upright. It’s only a matter of time, and there’s going to be no other way to avoid getting freaked out about it. posted by M. Giant 3:16 PM 0 comments