M. Giant's
Velcrometer
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks


Friday, January 31, 2003  

Reader Mail Slot, Episode IX

Thanks to everyone who e-mailed me with birthday wishes (I’m 33, BTW). If I haven’t responded to your e-mail yet, don’t take it personally. I haven’t responded to e-mail from anyone in like a month. I’m an equal-opportunity rude bastard.

Well, not entirely equal, because Sundry’s greeting also included this question, which she’s going to be so sorry she asked:

I won't ask you how old you are, but I will ask you something that's been niggling at me when I visit - why do you provide the proper trademarks to brand name items? Just curious.

Let me answer this way: of the following phrases, which one do you think is funnier?

1. Sodomized by a Swiffer.

2. Sodomized by a Swiffer™.


Okay, it’s not a lot funnier, but every little bit helps. It’s like words with a K or the names of midwestern cities.

Also, back when I subscribed to Writer’s Digest in the mistaken belief that it would make me a better writer, there were all these ads towards the end whose entire purpose was to remind us that the names of various products were brand names, registered trademarks, not just standard nouns. We writers should always keep in mind that when a character was out of Coke™ and Funyuns™, stuck in a house made of Styrofoam™ and Scotch™ tape with a broken Xerox™ machine, he should never cry into a kleenex, but a Kleenex™. So I guess it’s fair to say that all of the ™s are kind of a running gag that amuses only me. Much like ninety-five percent of everything else that goes on around here.

And if you leave one off, you never know when it’s going to bite you in the ass. As I’ve learned. Because you see, there’s a glaring omission from my litany of ™s. There’s this word. I didn’t know, or didn’t realize, or didn’t care about its brand-name status, and it’s ruined my life. Can you guess what that word might be? Of course you can. But I’ll tell you anyway.

It’s Velcro™.

Remember last month when I said there were big changes in store for 2003? Those big changes have turned out to consist of nothing more than a title above the daily entries, but at the time, I was planning to launch Velcrometer.com, envisioning an independent site with its own domain name, a separate page for each entry, a list of archives with entry titles, the whole hacienda. Just like a real web writer. I was trying to learn DreamWeaver™ and everything.

But registering the domain name set off some kind of alarm over at the Velcro Corporation. Which I expected about as much as I expected a C&D from The Denim Group or Linoleum Industries or whatever. They sent me a letter telling me to knock that shit off. They were worried that the site name “Velcrometer” might confuse people into thinking I was connected to their company somehow. Now, I know you guys aren’t that easily confused, but they have a legal department and I don’t. So I’m selling the domain name to them and backing down. As far as this here Blogspot account is concerned, they either don’t know about it or don’t care, and I’m not about to bring it up. But if you come here some day and the title has changed to “M. Giant Rites Gud” or something, you’ll know why.

So™, Sorry™, Velcro™. I’ve™ Learned™ My™ Lesson™.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about our Saturns. As Kelly says:

Saturns are evil.

OK, maybe not evil. but I used to own a Saturn. A cute little green SL2. Ran great for the first 90,000 miles, so I kind of feel a little guilty about complaining, but hey, I'll get over it.

First, the alternator went. It didn't go slowly, it died smack on the middle of a highway, while I was in the left lane doing 70. I had it towed to Saturn, who told me that Saturns have "special" alternators that require me to pay about $500 more than anyone else has to pay for their car's alternator.


Mental note: get my alternator replaced at 90,000 miles, whether it’s bad or not.

About a week after I got that fixed, my transmission decided it didn't want to work any more either. Towed it to the same Saturn dealership again. Apparently, Saturns also have a "special" transmission that required me to pay about $1,000 more than anyone else has to pay for their car's transmission.

Mental note: steal the Cavalier nameplate off Trash’s car and stick it to mine.

By that point, I got the impression that "special" really means "sucker". Had I known my car was so "special" when I bought it, I would've parked the freaking thing in the garage and forgotten about it. needless to say a week or so after I got all its "special" parts fixed, I traded it in for a Jeep, lest I find myself suddenly stopped dead in the middle of rush hour in the left hand lane with cars swerving around me at 80 miles per hour.

Hopefully (knock on wood, here), my Jeep won't be as "special" as my Saturn.


You know, nothing makes a person feel more special than being the proud owner of the one immobile vehicle fetched up on the shore of a lethal river of hurtling steel and glass and flesh. People will notice you, that’s for sure.

It’s not just Kelly and me, as Cathy assures me:

I have had so many weird problems with my Saturn, I now realize that the PR hullabaloo is just that. A car is a car is a car, and a Saturn will break down just as easily as the next car. I have had an engine mount go bad at 50,000, and the part of the back doors facing the doors has almost completely rusted away. Repeatedly, I pointed out to my Saturn dealer that the seals were bad, and they insisted that they were fine. So now I get to listen to a whistling noise when I go faster than 60 miles per hour. And my horn broke around the 40,000-mile mark. And two of my friends' Saturns' horns broke about the same time. Seriously, who ever hears of horns breaking with such regularity?

Actually, when my horn broke, it stayed on. So I couldn’t hear anything.

I have had so many other issues that I wrote a letter to Saturn in Spring Hill, Tennessee about it. I received a polite response back: "We're sorry. Your experience is highly unusual..." Anyway, I will stop carrying on about my car! Despite my issues, it is the only car I have and can afford right now, so I just cross my fingers each morning when I turn the key. It is seven years old now, and I am just praying it will keep together until I am out of grad school in the next couple of years. (and yes, I bought my car new also) Have a good one!

Hey, I got that letter too! Here’s the full text:

We’re sorry. Your experience is highly unusual. Most SW2 owners have expressed satisfaction with their vehicles, especially those in the 1999 model year. Nobody else has ever complained about their horns or transmissions or anything else before, ever. We hope you are having a pleasant January in Minnesota, and we look forward to being there for your next automobile purchase in six to eight months.

Wow. I guess they really do care.

Fortunately, even Saturns don’t give out as often as my light bulbs were doing a week ago. My bandmate Kraftmatik advances his theory about that:

6) The Cold. The poor filament sits for hours at near-absolute zero
temperatures and is suddenly heated to hundreds of degrees like that scene in
Aliens 3 where they're in the foundry and it jumps out of the liquid lead into a cold shower and shatters into a million bits of Giger-burger. Only in reverse.

That’s a good point. We store our light-bulbs-in-waiting in the basement, between two ground-level windows that are currently half-buried in snow. Maybe before I screw them in I should warm them up in the freezer for a while to ease the transition. Nothing’s more irritating than having the lights suddenly go out in the kitchen when you’re trying to whip up a batch of Giger-burger Helper™.

It’s not so much of a problem now that I’ve phased in some of those fluorescent spirals that screw into a socket just like an incandescent bulb. The packaging claims they’ll last for five years, but it’s been three days and I’m already better off than I was. Ah, technology.

Speaking of technologies (and transitions so strained they’re practically transparent), Karin set me straight on the latest developments from the bleeding edge of the George Foreman Grill™ frontier:

Actually, some of the newer grills as of two years ago have timers and some even now have temp settings. I’ll admit they are the ones that are a bit more expensive but still laugh that you may need directions. I mean you are talking to the same people who need instructions on how to properly use an extension cord and how to rinse lather and repeat.

Thanks for the update, and well put. That’s why I spent some time visiting Google results on the phrases “extension cord instructions” and “shampoo directions.” People will see that in their referral logs and know how I feel.

Without benefit of a segue, Casey shares my pain over television conflicts:

HA! I have the same Tuesday night TV scheduling dilemma. But then, I'm a 24-year-old female, so I'm allowed to have these problems.

We used to have the nice VCR setup where you can tape one thing and watch another, but digital cable has put an end to all that. Now we're contemplating purchasing a third TV just so we can stick a bunny-ear antenna on it and solve all our problems.

Sad, really.


Yeah, I didn’t know about that limitation of digital cable until it was too late. I wish they would have told us that. Also, the parental control keeps getting activated on our box. I keep calling my mom at her house to get her to shut it off, but she pleads ignorance. I think she just doesn’t want me watching MTV.

And finally, this from our friend Corpkitten:

So disappointed not to find M.Giant listed here:
http://members.rogers.com/ghidorah/naked/index.html


Hey, that makes two of us. From now on, I’m going to concentrate all of my efforts on making it onto the Naked A-list. If that means I have to write better entries, update more often, and type without using my hands, then so be it. I’ve got my eyes on the prize, baby.

Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you in February. Naked!™

posted by M. Giant 3:25 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, January 30, 2003  

Snowblows

It’s almost February and I just got my first chance to use my snowblower this week. I love my snowblower. Why? Because it works.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to have this Crap-brand paperweight of a snowblower that would break down at least once every year. It would only throw the snow in one direction. Getting the right fuel/oil mixture required measuring cups. Starting it called for a pullcord-based workout that left both arms feeling like I’d walked to Mexico on my hands. The only way to shut it off was to run it into enough snow to slow down the blade, which is a pretty self-defeating feature for a snowblower to have. And that was when it worked at all. I took that thing apart and put it back together so many times that it started to look like one of the bad kid’s playthings in Toy Story.

Before that, I had a shovel. The shovel was better.

I could pick up the shovel and put it to work. I didn’t have to take the cover off the shovel, poke around its workings for an hour in the freezing cold, call my dad and ask how to fix it, drive out to the exurbs to buy tiny little parts for it at thirty bucks a pop, load it into the back of my station wagon when my pitiful efforts failed, drive it to my dad’s house so he could overhaul the engine, and go to put the cover back on only to find I’d lost the bolts. It was a shovel, and it did its job.

But it was impractical. The thing about our driveway is, we share it with our next-door neighbors to the south. It goes from the curb, between or yards, to the space between our houses in a nice, manageable, single lane. After that, it spreads out like a lava flow into a four-lane expanse that services both our garage and theirs. I think it has more square footage than our house. Most driveways, you can just do a push/scoop/toss maneuver. Ours requires a push/scoop/lift/carry fifty yards/dump/walk back maneuver for every few square inches. For a couple of years we sucked it up and used shovels anyway, but every time there was a heavy snowfall we’d be digging out from it until Easter.

Now, I’m lazy, but I’m also cheap. Trash had to talk me into buying a snowblower one year. We got the cheapest one we could find. We got what we paid for.

After five years of fixing, kicking, and cursing that thing, Trash and I decided it was time for a new one. Despite my lobbying for a fully loaded model with a cab and a radio, we went with a three-hundred-dollar Murray™. This was about a year ago this month, after several snowfalls, several failed attempts to get the old snowblower working, and several leaves of absence from work to remove the snow manually. I promised myself I’d take better care of this one. I’d keep it oiled, take it in for periodic tune ups, and knit it little sweaters. Unlike my old snowblower, I wasn’t going to treat this one like a rented mule.

The next time it snowed, I went out into the garage, filled my brand-new snowblower tank with the precisely correct mixture of gas and oil, yanked the brand-new cord—once—and reveled in the healthy roar and beautiful billows of brand-new blue smoke that filled the garage. Several dozen brain cells died happy. I engaged the brand-new blade and guided the brand-new machine joyfully into the powder.

It died after three feet.

Oh, how my thoughts went black. This snowblower was supposed to change my life. It was supposed to make winter itself effortless. Instead, it was sitting on my driveway, three hundred dollars in a form that refused to do so much as cough when I pulled the cord. There’s a word for people who spend a hundred dollars per foot of travel. That word is NASA.

It was under warranty, but I was still livid. Because once again, I had to move ten tons of snow, twenty pounds at a time. My ire increased with every shovelful. By the time I was finished, I planned to bring it right back to the hardware store the next day. Then, when they asked me the inevitable question, “are you sure you have the right fuel/oil mixture?” I’d slit the gas line. While the volatile liquid sloshed onto the floor, I would hold aloft a flaming Zippo™ and holler, “Does that look right to you, fuckstick?

As it turned out, that scene wasn’t necessary. They’d put a wrong part into the engine at the factory. It was fixed at no cost to myself. Of course, if it had snowed while it was in the shop, I would have rented a large front-end loader to carry all of the snow from my driveway directly to Menards’ lawn and garden aisle.

But they got it back to me in working order and in plenty of time, and my snowblower and I had a highly functional working relationship for the rest of the winter. I bought it some fuel stabilizer (because gas here contains an additive that supposedly protects the environment, which it does by turning the gas into varnish that gums up small engines, because what could be better for the environment than landfills packed with gummed-up small engines?) and ran the motor for a few minutes every month throughout the summer just to keep everything clear. And the other night after work, I fired it up for its first job of the season. Before it was fully dark, I couldn’t even see one end of the area I’d cleared from the other, due to the curvature of the earth. Life was good. And so is my snowblower.

As for my old snowblower, it’s sitting in my dad’s garage, waiting for him to do horrible, gruesome experiments on it. I love writing happy endings.

posted by M. Giant 3:35 PM 0 comments

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Wednesday, January 29, 2003  

Quitcher Bitchin’

Trash’s car is fixed now. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t broken, as it turns out. It had been making this noise like an electric pencil sharpener trying to put a point on a length of iron rebar. You hear a noise like that under your hood, and the primitive reptile part of your brain is going to scream right along with it, telling you you’re driving a time bomb.

I brought it to my dad last spring, and he gave it a listen and assured my primitive reptile brain that it was just a tiny broken part on a spinny thing that a belt runs past. The car could run forever in that condition. Obviously I didn’t let him fix it, because who doesn’t want a car that’ll run forever? Besides, even if it did break, we always had my car.

Of course, last week’s events shook that worldview somewhat, and that reptile brain started seeming less primitive. And one probably shouldn’t ignore primitive reptile brain warnings when the cold is turning pedestrians into ice mummies and leaving them scattered on sidewalks all over town anyway. That’s the kind of situation where the primitive reptile brain really shines, in fact. So, on the theory that a tiny broken part on Trash’s car would be cheaper to fix than a transmission on mine, I brought it in to the dealer. Not only did they want more than Saturn wanted to fix my transmission, they told me that if I didn’t replace that whole section of the engine, it could seize up and leave me stranded on the side of the road to become permafrost while my primitive reptile brain stuck its fingers in its ears and went “neener neener” at me. Could be a week, could be a month, but sooner or later I’d be screwed. And he was right, but not in the way he meant—and then, only of I listened to him. But I wasn’t comfortable blowing it off while my car was still in “forward only” mode. That’s the thing about shady automotive service guys. They speak fluent primitive reptile brain.

I passed the dealer’s advice along to my dad, while my primitive reptile brain asked him why, if the car wasn’t a time bomb, there was an LED display with big red numbers on it. My dad stood by his original diagnosis but allowed that we probably shouldn’t drive it to Iowa. He agreed to take a look at it over this past weekend. He and my mom picked the car up on Friday night, at which time I was still blissfully unaware that sixteen hours later I’d be stranded by the side of the road anyway.

Dad looked at the car again, again assured me that the metallic grinding screaming din under the hood was a mere flaw in aural cosmetics and that those LED numbers were just an ordinary clock. But he’d fix the noise anyway. And he has, at considerably less cost to myself than if I’d paid the dealer a thousand dollars to do it like they recommended.

In fact, the replacement part was about twenty-five dollars.

Considering I got not one but two thousand-dollar auto repair estimates last week, I’m in pretty good shape on the car situation now. I could pay my dad eight hundred dollars for labor and still come out ahead. Especially since he wouldn’t take it.

Okay, no don’t be e-mailing me asking me to get my dad to fix your cars for you. It won’t work. Unless you’re one of my sisters, I guess. I can probably put in a word for you then.

* * *

Thinking back over the last several days, I’m a little concerned about this site’s somewhat negative (dare I say, whiny?) tone as of late. I’ve been doing all this bitching about the house, the cars, the cell phone, blah di blah di blah. I just hope it’s clear that a lot of the complaining is exaggerated for effect. Looking at the triviality of the stuff I go on about, it should be fairly apparent that I have a pretty good life going here. Don’t think that I don’t realize how fortunate I am to have a house, a car, a cell phone, blah di blah di blah. I couldn’t make up this material without them.

If you want to see some complaining that isn't unfounded, go read a blog by an Iraqi political prisoner or something.

posted by M. Giant 2:53 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

Moving Right Along

Trash’s mom and stepfather are moving to Iowa this week. Their beautiful new house is in a town called Lacona, which is a Plains Indian word for “you can see frickin’ Omaha from here.” With all the friends and relatives who assembled to unload their two U-Haul 26-footers into the house, the town’s population temporarily doubled on Sunday morning.

But before that, we had to get their stuff packed into the U-Hauls up here in Minnesota. When we arrived at their house in the northern suburbs on Saturday morning, stepfather-in-law had begun packing the first truck’s cavernous cargo bay. Since he had spread everything out horizontally, nothing was above waist-height. An eagle could have flown in there, done an immelman, and flown back out without touching anything. Stepfather-in-law said that he had the house half packed. Which would have been correct, if the house had only had one room. When we took into account the remaining boxes, tables, beds, dressers, love seats, garage stuff, laundry, dishes, lamps, bicycles, and concrete statuary (I am not kidding), the situation looked pretty different. Stepfather-in-law would keep saying, “this is about it,” but stuff just kept coming. In short order, stepfather-in-law was fired from loading the truck and assigned to full-time carrying. Meanwhile, our friend Bitter, who we’d dragooned into helping; my sister-in-law’s friend, who she’d dragooned into helping; and later my brother-in-law completely repacked each truck twice, maximizing every cubic micron of space all the way to the ceiling. By the time they were finished, Truck One was packed tighter than a can of hairspray and BIL was standing on the tailgate of Truck Two saying, “Hey, mom, if you don’t want to drive, we have room for one car up in here.”

Which brings us to the caravan. Stepfather-in-law drove one truck. Sister-in-law and friend drove stepmother-in-law’s car. Mother-in-law drove stepfather-in-law’s car. Trash and Bitter drove my car, one of them ready to take over for mother-in-law if her feet gave out. Brother-in-law-drove his own car. Got all that? Actually, none of that matters because at the end of the day, these are stories about me.

I drove the other truck. At about two-thirty p.m., when it became clear that Truck One didn’t have room for so much as another styrofoam peanut, I popped my altitude-sickness pills, clambered up into the driver’s seat, and lumbered out onto the road. Although nobody else was quite ready to go, I figured they’d catch up with me at some point during the next 260 miles. Because while I have been known to cover the distance between the Des Moines and Twin Cities metropolitan areas in three hours flat, I wasn’t going to manage that feat behind the wheel of a vehicle that spanned an entire freeway lane and handled like a capsizing innertube.

This was easily the largest vehicle I’d ever driven. It was the first time I’d ever stepped on a brake pedal and heard a noise louder than my car’s engine. As disappointed as I was that I hadn’t been allowed to drive BuenaOnda and Astroboy’s moving truck last summer, I now know that threading that beast down that single functioning lane of the Kennedy Expressway would have killed me. More accurately, failing to thread that beast down that lane of the Kennedy Expressway would have killed me. And probably a dozen others. I-35, threading through the wasteland of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, is a much more suitable route down which to wrestle an aircraft carrier with wheels. It also meant I had plenty of room to pull over when the truck’s engine died here.

I should have known something was up when I heard that my in-laws had been able to pick up the trucks they’d reserved with no delays or headaches of any kind. U-Haul stories always seem to contain the words “no truck” or “broken truck,” and here I was in the latter, turning a key that didn’t seem to activate anything but a colorful array of mysterious dashboard lights and being rocked by vehicular slipstreams screaming past me at seventy-five miles per hour. On top of which, it was getting cold enough outside to turn the nitrogen in the air to liquid. My only hope of survival was to wait until another driver in our party caught up with me so I could at least have someone to eat.

I whipped out my brand-new cellphone (less than twenty-four hours old, in fact, and that’s another entry) and called Trash first. She was on the road about thirty miles behind me, dealing with a traffic jam that had reduced her driving options to high-speed parking. She had me call her brother, who had been the first to leave after me. He’d be along shortly. In the meantime, I laid out my warning triangles and built a small bonfire in the passenger seat. I wouldn’t have to wait long. In a half hour, I’d be either rescued or dead.

I dialed the U-Haul 800 number on the sun visor, then disconnected before anyone answered; was I supposed to be driving this truck in the first place? I’d certainly never given my information to U-Haul. As far as they knew, I was a legally blind, narcoleptic member of Al Qaeda with four DUI convictions and I’d stolen the damn truck. I decided to wait until the in-laws arrived.

But when they did, then what? The problem of their stuff remained. Specifically, it remained on the icy shoulder of a rural Minnesota highway, in the form of two thousand cubic feet of crap springloaded into fifteen hundred cubic feet of cargo space behind a ton of inert metal. What if U-Haul couldn’t get a replacement truck out to us right away? And what if they could? Even given that best-case scenario, where would that leave us? I’m pretty sure you can’t just disconnect the cab from the cargo box and swap it out like a team of horses. So we’d be stuck hauling furniture and boxes out of the dead truck, stacking them between the road flares, and trying to get it all into the new truck in the same configuration. And all this with nowhere to warm up or pee, losing a race against the sunset, knowing the whole time that any second, any one of us could be reduced to a chunky paste in some inattentive motorist’s front grille.

With these happy thoughts in mind, I gave the ignition key one more desperate twist.

The engine turned over. Better yet, the truck moved. I gathered up the warning triangles from the shoulder and went for it all. The truck accelerated to 65 mph in a matter of minutes, which, for a vehicle of that size, approximates the performace of a Ferrari..

I made a couple of phone calls and let everyone know I was mobile again. A few minutes later, brother-in-law caught up with me and acted as my escort for the next couple of hours, just in case there was a recurrence. I not only got to his house outside Des Moines without incident, I also made it to the in-laws new place an hour away the next morning. I can only assume that the truck’s engine pitched a brief diva hissyfit for reasons known only to itself.

Unless the reason is that I kind of sort of hit eighty miles an hour coming down a hill just before I lost power. Anything’s possible, I guess.

posted by M. Giant 4:01 PM 0 comments

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Monday, January 27, 2003  

Cursing the Darkness

Okay, why are my light bulbs burning out so quickly? You’d think that after a hundred years of refining the incandescent lamp, modern science would have a pretty good handle on it by now. Yet every time I put a new bulb into the light fixture in our entryway, the thing burns out practically before it’s heated up.

Last spring, the socket in that fixture came partially loose. I patched it up with some electrical tape, gambling that my jury-rigged arrangement would fail before it burned the house down. That’s a gamble I won. A couple of weeks ago, the bulb burned out. I changed it. I changed it again the next day. Then, the following day, I changed it again. I changed it twice the following day. Soon I was spending entire evenings perched atop the step stool while Trash handed me box after box of innocent bulbs to feed into the fixture’s insatiable maw. When we got a letter from the American Federation of Tungsten Miners, telling us, “enough, already,” I realized I had to change the light fixture itself.

So that’s what I did last Wednesday. As it turns out, the only advantage that’s afforded is that while I was tearing out the old fixture and installing the new one, no bulbs were burning out in either one. So that saved me an hour’s worth of bulbs. Then it turned out that the new fixture was just as voracious as the old one.

I was at my brother-in-law’s house in Iowa on Friday night (and now you know exactly by how much you’ve been spared another Deniece entry—for today), and he reported the same problem. I advanced a theory that maybe the lights are burning out more because the winter air is so dry. Later, I spotted the fatal flaw in that hypothesis: it’s stupid. Even if humidity could extend the life of an electrical device, the whole point of the “bulb” component of a light bulb is to keep air away from the filament. Atmospheric conditions are about as relevant to a light bulb’s innards as public opinion is to the Bush Administration.

So, my half-cocked speculation having proved unsatisfactory, I’ve done a little research online. As it turns out, there are several possible reasons why light bulbs burn out frequently:

1. It’s all in your head. It only seems like I’m changing light bulbs with a frequency that could be measured in kilohertz. The fact that there are more smoky white globes than beer bottles in the recycling bin must simply mean that I’m drinking less (not the case). Actually, this one applies more to people who change all the light bulbs in their house on one day, than get all het up when they all start burning out within days of each other a year later. Someday, somebody’s going to have to figure out exactly what percentage of Internet bandwidth is devoted to telling people to calm down.

2. Proximity to an electrical switching station. Apparently, if people who live far away from the nearest switching station are going to get enough juice, the people who live next door to it are going to have to deal with the fact that the electrons get pushed though their houses a little harder. Which, in turn, puts a little more strain on those glowing metal hairs that illuminate your living space. I don’t know where our nearest switching station is, and I’m not going to start caring now.

3. Weird wiring Living in a fifty-year-old house, I never know what I’m going to find when I throw the circuit breakers and start rooting around in electrical boxes. Once I had to evict an enclave of house sprites so I could plug in my computer in the new study. My dad has suggested that the switch is wired “220,” which means about as much to me as it did to Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. As far as fixing it, I still have a slowly-healing scar on the wall from where I replaced the light switches seven months ago. If I tear all that out of there again, there won’t be enough wall left to hold up the ceiling.

4. Vibrations. Those little glowing metal hairs have enough to deal with, what with having to heat up to solar temperatures day after day. Shaking them up on top of that is just too much for the poor guys. This might be our problem; lately we have to slam our front door pretty hard if we want it to latch. Trash and I discussed implementing a policy of only entering and exiting the house via the living room window, but that’s likely to merely relocate the problem rather than solving it. I’ve decided that we should just leave the front door open at all times, effective immediately. The loss of heat and security doesn’t seem so bad when you weigh it against all the light bulbs we’ve been through in the past week. Of course, I may have to rethink this if someone steals the light bulbs.

5. Cheap-ass light bulbs. Here, in conjunction with number four, we have a winner. Some time ago, Trash and I went to Target and spent about a buck-fifty each on several boxes of light bulbs. Each box was about the size of a retaining wall. It’s entirely possible that these all-but-free assemblages of candyglass and tinfoil are dying more often in the winter because we use them more. It’s different during the summer months when it’s slightly cheaper, lumen for lumen, to raise our windowshades. But with the sun gone until Mid-April, we’re forced to be entirely dependent upon light bulbs that, on an individual basis, barely cost more than the same number of M&Ms. If I can’t talk Trash into letting me take the front door off its hinges, I’m going to have to actually invest in a couple of those seven-year bulbs that you can’t buy without filling out an application.

If that doesn’t work, we’re moving. Preferably somewhere far away from a switching station.

posted by M. Giant 4:14 PM 0 comments

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Friday, January 24, 2003  

Auto Focus

My car is fixed. It goes both forwards and backwards again, although not at the same time, which is good. Yesterday I mentioned that I usually drop off my car at the Saturn dealership a block away when I have problems with it. What sort of problems? Well, I was going to go more into that yesterday, but then I realized that it would quickly end up being an entry-length digression. So here, in the form of today’s entry, is that digression.

1. Aside from a few scratches on the internal plastic from hauling amplifiers around and helping friends move, my car was in pristine condition until the front license plate frame fell off a few years ago. The front bumper got kind of scraped up in the process.

Okay, I say “fell off,” but that doesn’t really convey what really happened, which was that the license plate frame suddenly found itself in the path of an oncoming car that I was pulling out of my driveway in front of. Shut up! It was foggy and there was a big pickup truck parked there so I couldn’t see him coming. For whatever reason, the accident that denuded my bumper of a piece of plastic and a couple of square inches of paint managed to cause about nine hundred dollars of damage to the other car. I’m still paying for that on my insurance premiums.

I left the front license plate off for a few months, because I read that cops bounce the beams from their radar guns off that little rectangle of metal. I didn’t get a speeding ticket that whole time. Eventually, my dad helped me reattach it and I got another ticket the following February. Which I am also still paying for on my insurance premiums. Coincidence? Well, yeah.

2. There was the time my engine started sounding like that of a speeding muscle car even when I was idling. Since I spend a lot of time being idle, I needed to get that fixed. They replaced a part they called the “resonator,” which is something I’ve never heard of before or since. Also, it sounded like rather a misnomer; without it, the car was resonating quite effectively, to my ear. But what do I know? Maybe cars just have to have a certain number of parts that do the opposite of what they say. For instance, a car without brakes is very likely to end up breaking.

3. One evening, Trash and I heard a low-level whine coming from somewhere outside. I stuck my head out the door, and figured that it was an alarm of some sort, either at the school across the street or the top-secret government labs on the next block losing containment of some deadly superflu bug they’d been busy developing. Either way, it wasn’t my problem, so I went back to what I was doing. A few minutes later, our neighbor knocked on our door to say my car alarm was going off. I knew that wasn’t true, because my car alarm doesn’t sound like that. Unfortunately, my horn does sound like that when the switch has broken and my battery is leaking electricity into the neighborhood in the form of a fifty-decibel stream.

So I pulled the fuse, which involved a little trial-and-error. I caught a break in that the horn didn’t share a fuse with the starter. That would have been just my luck, to have to put the fuse back in whenever I wanted to start the car. Every time I left, I’d be announcing it to the entire block:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAvroomAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

You don’t realize what a vital piece of driving equipment your horn is until you drive a few days without it. I learned that on a car, the importance of the horn is ranked somewhere between the engine and the wheels. I got it fixed within the week.

4. You know that part in Risky Business after Tom Cruise has gotten his dad’s car fished out of Lake Michigan and the mechanic comes out and asks, “Who’s the U-boat commander?” I was flashing to that moment a year and a half ago, during a harrowing morning commute that came to an abrupt halt with rainwater trickling in over the tops of my windows.

Okay, even though torrential rain had flooded streets all over town, with storm drains boiling over like cauldrons, the puddle I was trying to drive through wasn’t that deep. But it was deep enough. Some Nobel-prize-winning engineer at Saturn had decided that the air intake on my model of car should be as low to the ground as possible. I guess they figured that Saturn drivers would want to vacuum the streets as they tooled around town. The side effect is catastrophic hydrolock if you try to drive through standing water that’s any deeper than Ashton Kutcher. One second I was a block from work (right in front of the Saturn dealership, as it happened) and the next, I needed a dry pair of socks and a new engine.

Fortunately, I only had a hundred-dollar deductible, my insurance company blamed it on the weather instead of me, and Trash was out of town for a week so I got to drive her car while mine got fixed. If you’re going to destroy your car’s engine, that’s the way to go. Now I drive a four-year-old car with an eighteen-month-old engine. Gave me great peace-of-mind until the stupid transmission threw its wobbler the other day.

The thing was, with a dealership a two-minute walk from the building where I spend forty hours a week (give or take), car trouble for me was barely worthy of the phrase. It was like parking further away in the morning and then giving someone a whole lot of money before driving home in the evening. But my experience yesterday has put me off. I used to trust the people at the Saturn shop. Now, the next time something breaks on my car, I’m going to have to actually call around and do research again to make sure that the vaunted Saturn reputation for excellence and customer service isn’t just rooting around in my pants. And then, when I find someplace cheaper, I’m going to have to get my car there and then figure out some other way to get to work and back. My faith is gone, and the result is that the logistics of car repair have become so much more complicated.

I probably should have suspected something was up when they charged me seven dollars for a new key last month.

posted by M. Giant 3:22 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, January 23, 2003  

End of Transmission

When Trash and I refinanced our house last summer, it allowed us to pay off my car loan. I own it free and clear. Right on schedule, it’s falling apart.

The other day, my “service engine soon” light came on as I was driving down the street. I thought, yeah, I’ll sure do that. Tomorrow, maybe. Then I got to where I was going, tried to parallel park, and realized my car wouldn’t go in reverse any more. I mean, I could move the lever into the “reverse” position, but the car seemed to think it was still in neutral.

Obviously, this couldn’t stand. Granted, there’s an awful lot you can do with a car even if it only knows “stop” and “forward.” I bought my car when it was new. It now has fifty thousand miles on it, and I’d be willing to wager a dollar that I racked up less than half of those miles driving in reverse. But there are limitations that you don’t think about until your car can’t back up. For instance, I can’t park in a driveway unless I want to have someone come tow it out. If I park it in a parking lot, I have to do that thing where I drive straight through an empty slot and into the one facing it so when it’s time to leave I can pull out forward, which usually requires one to park seven miles from the front door. And my days of backwards drag-racing down Main Street in Anoka are looking pretty numbered.

What I know about the workings of cars would just about fill the white border on a postage stamp, but I knew enough to conclude that something was wrong with my transmission. The word transmission, for those of you even less mechanically inclined than I am, comes from the Latin words “trans”, which means “terrifyingly complex collection of fiddly, delicate metal bits through which all the force of your engine is communicated to the wheels,” and “missio,” which means “cripplingly expensive to repair.” Since the car still went forward, I assumed that the whole transmission wasn’t completely shot. My dad, who has been working on or around cars since they weighed as much as a Navy destroyer, agreed with my assessment. He’s out of town this week, but he told me on the phone that he figured I could probably get it taken care of for a couple hundred dollars. Relieved at the price tag, I decided to drop off my car at the Saturn dealership which is conveniently located only a block and a half from my office.

(Side note: this week we’re having a “cold snap,” which is Minnesotan for “stay indoors or die.” And when Minnesotans say that, you know it’s cold. Pluto cold. I had a guy from the shop drive me to my office, which I never do. It’s bad enough to have my transmission freeze up without my following suit in the shadow of my building.)

Sure enough, it was the part my dad thought it was. To fix it, they only wanted a thousand dollars.

My dad does tend to quote auto repair estimates in terms of what he would charge for the same work, but this was ridiculous. That’s the thing about Saturn. They advertise themselves as “a different kind of car company. A different kind of car.” But in the service shop, it’s just the same old “spread your cheeks.”

I called around and found another reputable shop (if you live in the upper Midwest, you’ve heard of it) who could not only take care of it for less than half the price, they’d get it done in a couple of days. This is especially good news because Trash and I are helping her mom move down to Iowa this week. We can’t take her car because the noise under her hood that we’ve been trying to ignore for the last eight months may turn out to be life-threatening in these weather conditions. And obviously, we can’t take my car in its current condition because the Iowa Highway Patrol has begun cracking down on people who drive through Ames grille-first. I have no idea what that’s about.

Two days ago, we were a two-car family. Now we’re a no-car family. This morning I was so stressed out I could barely tie my shoes. I would have fallen down the stairs and broken my neck if I hadn’t been wearing slip-ons.

Trash’s car is okay for driving around within the city, so we’re not actually totally stranded. And my car might just be back on the road tomorrow. In their infinite generosity, my parents have offered to let us borrow their car if mine isn’t finished in time. So the situation isn’t as desperate as it could be. In the meantime, I’ve decided to finally stop ignoring the noise under Trash’s hood and get that taken care of ASAP. I do know what that sound is; it’s the compressor for the car’s A/C. God knows you can’t be driving around in subzero weather without a functioning air conditioner. The only problem is the chance that it’ll seize up and break the serpentine belt. I don’t see why I can’t just take it out and put a Lego™ wheel or something in its place. The guys at the Chevrolet dealership wanted a thousand dollars to fix it. My dad tells me he can do it for a tenth that. As irritated as I am with Saturn right now, at least they’re not Chevrolet.

posted by M. Giant 4:07 PM 0 comments

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Wednesday, January 22, 2003  

More Than Words

Trash needs a new cell phone. The last one she owned used to drop its antenna so easily that she had to stick it on with first aid tape. Eventually it quit working entirely, so she took over a hand-me-down phone from her friend Bitter. That one, in addition to being a couple of years old and not mush smaller than a shoe, is having problems of its own. Specifically, it sometimes acts like a one-way communicator. You can hear people talking on it, but they can’t hear you.

Now that I think of it, there are probably a lot of people who could use a phone like that.

Anyway, the semi-failure of the phone has led to some interesting conversations, even though they’re not conversations in the strictest sense of the word. They’re more like monologues in the form of yes/no questions that are punctuated with beeps.

Oh, didn’t I mention that even when the person on the other end can’t hear your voice, they can still hear when you press the buttons?

Trash called me from the road yesterday to say hi. Or, more precisely, beep. I picked up my office phone on the second ring.

“Hello?...Hello?”

beep.

“Oh, hi, honey!”

beeep.

“Are you there yet?”

beep beep. [That means no.]

“Is everything okay?”

beep. [That means yes.]

“Is there anything you need to tell me?”

beep beep.

“Do you want me to ask you anything in particular?”

beep beep.

“So you were just calling to check in?”

beep.

“I miss you.”

beeeeeeeeeeep.

“You know, I was thinking I’d paint the second bedroom black while you’re gone. What do you think?”

beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

“Wow, how many yesses was that?”

beeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeep!

“That sounded like more than two yesses to me.”

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

“Okay, I’ll take care of it tonight. I really didn’t think you’d be this excited about it.”

beepbeep. beepbeep. beepbeep.

“Aw, my heart beats for you too.”

beep freaking beep.

“Wow, how’d you do that?”

sullen silence.

“Okay, well, you stay safe. Are you going to call me later?”

beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

“Honey? Give me a call later, okay?”

…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

“I have to go.”

…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

If I don’t answer the phone tonight, it’s because I can’t hear it over the noise from the power sprayer. But call me anyway, okay?”

…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

“Bye, sweetie.”

click.

She either needs a new phone or lessons in Morse code. But I’m hoping that it’ll make up for it when she comes home and sees her newly black second bedroom. I’m betting she’ll take one look at that and she won’t even need words.

posted by M. Giant 4:20 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, January 21, 2003  

Time Management

Trash is out of town for a couple of days. I could play out the bachelor-for-a-weekend stereotype so that when she comes home on Thursday night she’ll scarcely be able to push open the front door against the weight of empty beer bottles, cigar ashes, and spent frozen dinner trays piled waist-deep throughout the house, but I prefer to avoid making her regret coming home.

So I’m planning to do a few things around the house. I’ll clean the kitchen, obviously, and finish the laundry, and vacuum the living room. As well as any other general straightening up that needs doing. Then I’ll take down the outdoor Christmas lights, get my car’s oil changed (and I might as well detail it, and Trash’s car, while I’m at it), and do some other things I’ve been meaning to get around to. Like finally painting over that mauve nightmare in the basement. And replacing some light fixtures so we can see what color clothes we’re putting on in the late predawn hours. And maybe building some permanent shelves in the basement. That should leave me enough time for more relaxing pursuits like finally burning the fir tree that got evicted from our living room into the backyard two weeks ago, and trying to get Grand Theft Auto 3 to run on my PC in such a way that it doesn’t play like a semi-interactive slideshow. Also, I was thinking I’d get a haircut, compose an epic poem in Esperanto, and learn Tae-Bo. But that’s only if I get bored.

I always make these lists of things I plan to do whenever Trash is going to be gone. When she gets home, they always look ridiculously long and ambitious, and I feel like a slacker looking at all the uncrossed items. Eventually I learned that the lists are more gratifying when you can cross out a lot of items, so Trash now gets home to find bold, dark slashes of ink through tasks like “shave left side of face,” “go upstairs,” and “eat,” which are designed to distract her from the still-clearly-readable goals like “repave driveway” and “build bathroom in basement.”

I don’t know why I always think I’m going to be able to get more done with her out of the house. It certainly isn’t because she slows me down in the pursuit of my modest domestic ambitions. It’s not like I usually spend my evenings and weekends loudly protesting, “No! I must insulate the attic!” while she clings to my legs, or dragging her dead weight across the garage floor as she begs me to put up the drywall some other time.

Actually, that’s not true; I do know why. Just because time goes slower for me when she’s not around, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the universe follows the same rule. So I end up feeling like I’ve been alone for weeks, when in fact two days have passed and I still haven’t finished installing the new kitchen floor. It gets me coming and going.

Especially when she’s going.

* * *

Tuesday night television is becoming a logistical nightmare. Buffy, Gilmore Girls, and American Idol are all on at the same time.

Don’t think for one second that I don’t know exactly how gay that last paragraph makes me sound. At least I watch 24 at 8:00 instead of Smallville.

* * *

There’s something to be said for sharing a birthday with your spouse, but I’d say it’s vastly preferable to have the same birthday as your boss. Like I do. Especially when your boss is in a director-level position. Then the entire department bends over backward to give her a good birthday and you (well, the hypothetical “you,” by which I mean the literal “I”) get the spillover. Today, the managers decorated our respective workspaces with a Survivor theme—shell necklaces, fake flame torches, giant mylar balloons shaped like immunity idols, and a birthday cake with plastic bugs scattered on top. It’s kind of funny, especially when you consider the existential implications of birthdays and survival and how you can’t have one without the other. My coworkers are even deeper than I thought.

The tribe has spoken. And it has said, “Happy Birthday.”

posted by M. Giant 3:35 PM 0 comments

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Monday, January 20, 2003  

You Say It’s Your Birthday

A year ago today, Trash’s brother’s daughter was born. I call her Deniece. Her due date was actually my birthday, but she was a couple of days late. Apparently the majority of full-term babies come late, which makes me wonder why they don’t just push the usual due date back a little, but whatever. In any case, I got to spend part of my 33rd birthday (which was Saturday, and thanks for the e-mails) celebrating hers.

I’ve never been to a first-birthday party before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Not that that gave everyone else much of an advantage over me.

When it came time to cut the cake, Deniece was strapped into a chair in front of the cake like a condemned criminal. I have to give her credit for not freaking out while almost totally restrained in front of a couple dozen witnesses. I can’t say I would have been as sanguine about my future under the same circumstances. Especially if I had a dozen cameras pointed at me like she did. Deniece, on the contrary, seemed fairly comfortable with being the center of attention. With a little help from her mom, she got the candle blown out and prepared to have her first piece of birthday cake.

Her mom had to explain it to her a little bit, steering her hand toward the hunk of frosted cake on the table in front of her, scooping up a smear of frosting, and bringing it to her Deniece’s mouth.

Deniece is nothing if not a fast learner.

Although I give her high points for execution, I can’t in good conscience give her a high score on style. Getting her sugary fingers within an inch or two of her mouth seemed to be good enough for her. After half a minute, her mouth was totally encrusted. She looked like an alien with rabies.

That wasn’t quite doing it for her, though. She wanted to experience the cake more fully. Whereas you or I might accomplish that by putting more of it in our mouths, Deniece took a more novel approach, i.e., putting it on more of her face. And more of her head. And more of her.

In front of a dozen cameras recording the moment for posterity, Deniece gave herself a full frosting facial and shampoo. She rubbed her frosted fingers over the top of her head, covering her forehead with sticky stalagmites. Since she still had frosting on her hands, she tried to get the rest off by rubbing them on the back of her head where she still had some clean hair. That worked a little bit the first time, but the second and third attempts were less successful. That meant she had to resort to cleaning her hands on her cheeks, forehead, and eye sockets. All while grinning and laughing so she looked like a tiny, demented mime.

After a few more minutes of this, you could have stuck a baseball cap on her, cut a hole in the top of it, and used her to write your name on the driveway. Instead, her mom took her into the other room to rinse away the outer layer so she could start opening presents. There wasn’t time to do the whole treatment, so Deniece came out a few minutes later with a clean face (except for the bits of white in the crevices, like a member of Kiss the morning after a show) and hair that had been given a quick rub with a wet cloth. It stuck out in damp, random spikes. She looked like a dandelion that had been spritzed with spray glue.

That was the last we saw of her, grinning like the Joker on Ecstasy, completely unaware that her normal beauty had temporarily deserted her in a big way.

Today’s her actual, official birthday. At one year of age, she can walk with slow, unsteady steps, arms flung out in all directions so she looks like the world’s shortest zombie. She has added a couple of words to her vocabulary, namely “bottle” and “stop,” so they’re thinking of sending her to AA meetings. And she has become quite adept at operating her dad’s cell phone. Her specialty is the redial button. Trash’s uncle has become accustomed to getting rambling calls from her grandniece, who wants to brief him on such developments as “eehuhhgheebloough” and “gggbbgfbgggbgh.”

She’s growing up. It’s only a matter of time before she’s old enough to be embarrassed by the record that was made of her behavior the other day. I can’t wait.

posted by M. Giant 3:34 PM 0 comments

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Saturday, January 18, 2003  

Trash here -- I have hijacked Velcrometer to let you all know that today, January 18th, is M. Giant's birthday, so feel free to e-mail him with cards and such. If you like, feel free to ask him his age, as well. He loves that.

posted by M. Giant 12:39 PM 0 comments

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Friday, January 17, 2003  

Can’t Explain

It’s been almost a week since Pete Townshend got nabbed for visiting a child-pr0n website. Given my previously stated admiration of the Who, you might expect me to weigh in on the bust. That’s a perfectly reasonable expectation from which I have been hiding. I know I have to say something, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I think. I’m conflicted and I’ve procrastinated and I don’t deserve your love.

Neither does Pete Townshend, apparently.

I’ve read the defenses of what he did, both his own and from people who know him personally. Part of me believes it. The guy has been an advocate against child abuse. He’s been a huge supporter of charitable foundations that help kids. I’d hate to think that all the good he did for children was only for the sake of getting into their pants. Part of me believes that he really was just doing “research.”

But I wonder if that’s only because all of me wants to believe it. I mean, when Gary Glitter got nailed, it didn’t affect me because I almost never go to sporting events. I thought what happened to George Michael was pretty shitty for him, but it didn’t exactly wreck anything for me. The Hugh Grant thing was disappointing, but whatever. I was in some early denial about O. J. because, you know, Nordberg. The amount of money I’ve paid to see Woody Allen movies in the past ten years is more or less equal to the amount I spent seeing them in the previous ten years. And I don’t care any more about Robert Blake than I do any other accused murderer; maybe even less, considering how much Lost Highway pissed me off.

But Pete? Pete’s a whole different thing. I’m not going to go into what a big part of my life his music has been again, because enough already. Furthermore, everyone who knows him seems to be backing him up. What they’re saying makes sense. It doesn’t seem like a guy can live for four decades in the public eye and be a closet pedophile without anyone even suspecting. Usually, when something like this comes out, people come forward with the “now that you mention it…” statements. Where are those people? I mean, besides the ones who are merely seeing “Pictures of Lily” and “Fiddle About” in a whole new way this week, i.e. everyone? Why aren’t his friends trying to distance themselves? The Michael Jackson lawsuit didn’t shock anyone. The Paul Rubens arrest didn’t shock anyone. Pete Townshend? General shock. I mean, I know a thing or two about Roger Daltrey’s personal habits that I wish I didn’t, okay? Nothing illegal, just unsanitary. And I’ve never met the man. How could I know that about him when nobody knew that Pete had a thing for the little ones? And yet…

I just can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Not yet, anyway. Whether his guilt or innocence is proved, it’s going to be tough to document his state of mind. If he was going to do research, he probably should have done it in his attorney’s office with half a dozen witnesses. Or, better yet, at the police station. It doesn’t help that Pete has a history of being a little playful with the facts; I know about half a dozen versions of the story of the first time he smashed a guitar. All of them from him. And if he changes his story on this, it’s over for him.

And frankly, it bothers me a little that I even have this double standard for celebrities that I like and ones that I don’t. Because it means other people have it too. Someone may have read a previous paragraph and said to themselves, “How could he just write off Gary Glitter like that? ‘Rock & Roll Part II’ saved my life!” By the same token, millions of people wrote off Pete the moment they saw the first headline. I was just as unfair to Gary Glitter as they were to Pete. But should fairness even be at issue here?

John Entwistle’s death was actually easier to deal with than this. When I spent a day accidentally painting our basement the color of one of John’s uglier leather jackets, I had Thirty Years of Maximum R&B in the CD player the whole time. Four CD’s worth of genius are sad enough when you realize that half the guys who played on most of the songs are dead, but I could still enjoy the music. When you think of one of the surviving guys—the main creative force, no less—downloading kiddie-pr0n, that’s something else entirely. When I repaint the basement a less abhorrent hue, I don’t know what I’m going to listen to. And I’m saying this as a person who owns a copy of It’s Hard. I’m really not cool with that.

I’m not going to try and draw a parallel between this and people who felt betrayed by the Catholic Church last year, but I’m sure somebody else will. As for me, I just don’t want it to be true. I want to keep listening to my CD box set when Trash is out of the house. I want the Touched By An Angel network to continue to have Pete’s music as the theme song for nearly ten percent of its prime-time lineup. I want to get sick of hearing “Let My Love Open the Door” in movie trailers for romantic comedies. I really, really hope that he’s guilty of nothing more than stupidity and naivete, because I don’t want the Who’s music ruined for me forever. Even though, in a way, it already has been.

Mainly, I want to pick up my guitar and slash power chords though the strings until there are only three of them left, but at the moment I don’t even feel right doing that.

posted by M. Giant 3:28 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, January 16, 2003  

Down the Chimney

Recently, Trash got something rather amusing at work. It came from her company’s downtown office inside an interoffice envelope. It was Bendy Santa.

You’ve seen those toys made of flexible, posable rubber in a humanoid shape. Somehow they always end up in some kind of self-sodomizing pose within seconds of being liberated from their blister packs. Bendy Santa, a Bendy toy made up to look like Father Christmas after a gastric bypass, eight months on an all-fiber diet, and a strict torturer’s rack regimen, was no exception. He turned up in one of our Christmas stockings one year. My sister-in-law, who lived with us back then, and I took turns putting Santa in various poses that would have been too risqué to make it into a Cirque du Soleil contortionist’s copy of The Kama Sutra for One and leaving him that way on the bookshelf for the other to find the next day. Once in a while, Bendy Gingerbread Man would be enlisted into these toy-pr0n tableaux, but it was really all about Santa.

Once we ran out of illicit poses for Santa, things began to escalate. I came home one night to find Santa at the keyboard of my computer, apparently having just finished typing a threatening message to me. SIL walked into the study one day, only to be ambushed by a small plasticine personification of Yuletide spirit that had been rigged to fall on her when she opened the door. There was the time I lifted the toilet lid to see the jolly old elf staring up at me in apparent terror. I don’t remember everything we did, but it took us well into the spring.

One day, I dropped Santa into a pitcher of water and stuck the pitcher in the freezer. Hours later he was entombed in a block of ice, frozen up solider than Han Solo. I left SIL to chip him out. And thus, I won.

For some reason, Bendy Santa came out of retirement again recently, even though SIL is long gone from our home. In October, I stuck him on a ghost decoration that dangled from the light fixture in our entryway. He hung there for days before anybody noticed him.

Then Trash’s coworker MC stopped by one day and noticed Santa splayed out on the kitchen table. While Trash was upstairs changing clothes, I brought MC up to speed about Santa’s peculiar domestic history. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but somehow he agreed to mail it to her interoffice. He jammed the inedible forked Twizzler™ into his pocket just before Trash came back into the room. A couple of days later, it was, inexplicably to her, on her desk at work.

“Did you get anything at work today?” I asked her at the end of the day, practically vibrating with suppressed mischief.

“Bendy Santa,” she monotoned, her voice radiating volumes of “whatever.”

I think it’s time for Santa to retire again.

posted by M. Giant 3:16 PM 0 comments

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Wednesday, January 15, 2003  

Vacation Food

Three and a half years ago, we went on a two-week road trip, making a wide loop from Minneapolis through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah, all the way to Las Vegas and back via the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska. When we got home, our cats were fat.

It’s tempting to blame that on the person who house-sat for us. So that’s what I’ll do.

No, not really. I’ll also blame it on the cats. Strat in particular.

When he came to us, he was an eight-month-old stray. Skinny, adolescent, white-furred, and pink-eared, he looked like a giant lab rat. While we advertised (unsuccessfully) for his owners, we took him in, took care of him, and made a big, healthy, happy, slightly overweight housecat out of him. If he likes you and wants to impress you, he’ll flop over on his side so you can see his ample belly. He might even clean it for you. It’s like he’s saying, “I didn’t used to have one of these because I was a homeless street cat nobody cared about, but now I do because MY PEOPLE LOVE ME SO MUCH! YOU MUST ALSO LOVE ME!”

Of course, after we returned from our two-week road trip, the size of the belly made flopping over on his side problematic. He rolled clear over onto his back a few times because of it and would flail around like an inverted turtle in a furry freezer bag full of vanilla pudding. You could see his sides when he was facing you. When sitting on the floor, from behind he looked like the letter Q. Picking him up for a hug required one to lift with one’s knees. The cat was fat.

My written instructions to the housesitter had included this passage:

“Just fill their bowl with dry food when it gets empty. The cats will try to tell you that they get soft food every day. They will be lying.”

Which is good in theory, but in practice I was hundreds of miles away and the cats (particularly Strat) were right there screaming at her, trying to lead her to their full bowls of dry cat food like Timmy was trapped in the well. So they probably did get soft food every day. Probably twice some days. And then we got home after learning all about the sacredness and rarity of the White Buffalo while we were in South Dakota, and my God, there he was! Orca had also packed on a pound or two, but she at least still had to go around walls rather than through them. And the housesitter moved out of town, probably to avoid the risk of being crushed.

Clearly it was diet time, like, now. No more filling the bowl with dry food whenever it was sort of empty. No more weekly soft-food treats. No more giving him half the can of tuna whenever we had a sandwich. And also, chase the little red dot from the laser pointer. Chase it! There it goes! What? Tired already? Fine, rest a minute. Okay, chase it again!

Strat was nine years old. Everyone told us he wasn’t going to lose the weight at his age. We were simply going to be living with a bewhiskered case of marshmallows for the duration. But we kept him on the diet. A cup-and-a-half of dry food every day for both cats, with soft food only on special occasions.

Orca lost her weight, but she’s still got this funny little empty pouch that flaps from side to side when she trots. As for Strat, we eventually stopped calling him “Chunk.” And people who hadn’t seen him for a while commented on his weight loss, although it was too gradual for us to see it. Finally after three years, he reached his goal weight. I don’t know how many pounds that is, but it’s light enough that he can finally climb back on top of his Kitty Condo™ again. This is a six-foot-long, one-foot-wide, carpeted cardboard tube that stands upright in our bedroom. He used to sleep curled up on top of it, when his circumference wasn’t twice that of the Condo. The top level had a large hole punched through it, but he didn’t care. He’d just sleep with a DDD-sized hemispherical scoop of cat meat dangling into the “attic.” Until he got too fat to climb up on it, that is, and it stood there unused for years. Every once in a while I’d put him on top of it, just to remind him how much he used to love it up there. He would immediately jump down onto the bed, causing the headboard to crash into one wall, tipping the Condo against the other, and breaking the occasional mattress spring.

But a few months ago, he was back up on his perch on a regular basis, and we realized that at twelve years of age, our cat was healthy and happy and only slightly overweight again. At least, he was happy in between the bouts of screaming for soft food.

We left the cats in the care of other people during our Austin trip. Too many people, perhaps. When we got home Monday night, there were at least six empty cans of soft food in the trash. We should have left clearer instructions this time.

Orca’s empty pouch is only half-empty now. Strat’s weight gain is all in is face this time so he looks like one of those cartoon cats with the wide, pointy cheeks. He can still scale his fort, though, so it’s not as bad as it could have been.

I guess, considering all the barbecue and Tex-Mex and Asian food I ate during that time, it was only fair that the cats should chow down as well. But now that vacation’s over, I think we’re all going to start eating more sensibly. Especially them.

posted by M. Giant 3:19 PM 1 comments

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Tuesday, January 14, 2003  

I’m not used to staying in B&Bs. I’ve got nothing against the Bed part, but I always have to get up earlier than I care to on vacation if I want any Breakfast. There’s a fair chance that I’ll need to share the bathroom with someone who isn’t my wife. And then there’s the way the places are always decorated. There’s always this Victorian, Jane Austen-looking vibe that they’re trying to cultivate. And yes, I know Jane Austen died before Queen Victoria was even born. Somebody should tell that to the people who decorate Bed and Breakfasts. Once in a while, you’ll find the chair occupied by a nearly life-sized doll whose expression suggests that she is mentally calculating the number of finger bowls she’ll be able to fill with your blood. And, in a confidential to the nice people who hosted us last year, twenty-six self portraits of Red Skelton in clown makeup hanging in the upstairs hall do not a valid design alternative make.

I like that a lot of the places have cats (although the Red Skelton place had a bulldog so orthodontically challenged that it had kibble crumbs on its back) and cable. But some of the places have kind of a weird smell. Obviously it’s not cigarette smoke, as management generally makes guests agree to disembowel themselves in the street if they’re busted sucking a heater in their rooms. Sometimes it’s potpourri, sometimes it’s musty wallpaper, sometimes it’s a vanilla candle so strong that you can count the individual beans with your nostrils. At the place we stayed on Saturday night (not the Austin Motel), it was something entirely different.

“I’m just going to tell you,” our hostess said, after she’d already taken our money, “There’s a dead animal under the deck.”

This particular inn has two houses. The gap between them is bridged by a low-slung deck whose footprint is as big as that of either of the houses. For this reason, the carcass had thus far been inaccessible to anything but the forces of decomposition. Which, given the free reign they enjoyed, were having a field day. When we checked in, we were in the house that contained the office and not so much of the carcass-whiff. We’d be sleeping in the other house.

“It’s a big animal,” she added. I assumed that she meant that it was taking a long time to get to where it would stop stinking. I think I read somewhere that a dead rat will only smell for two weeks before it, um, doesn’t any more. Feel free to use that little tidbit when planning your own vacations. I figured that the two weeks on the rot-clock had already expired and there was still a problem, which meant they were probably going to dig out a squirrel or a rabbit or something. In any case, she assured us that the worst of the smell was right by the door and that our room, one story up and on the other side of the house, was April-fresh.

I don’t know if she actually did the forensic math, but it’s entirely possible that she deduced the size of the animal from the size of the foul miasma it was sending up. Trash and I waded through the faint green comic-book lines rising between the slats of the deck and let ourselves into the structure that would be housing us for the night.

I’ve smelled bad meat. Bad meat doesn’t smell like that. I don’t think I would have recognized the smell if I hadn’t known what it was. It was somehow sweet and flowery, yet inexpressibly wrong. I probably would have just assumed it was yet another weird Bed & Breakfast smell, because it almost seemed like the kind of smell that people who own Bed & Breakfasts might actually try to achieve if they were particularly twisted. I might have thought, “whoa, that is way too much carpet perfume” or “I need to find whatever candle that’s coming from and blow it out now,” but that might have been whatever they were using to try to mask the odor. Knowing that it was actually a time bomb of pestilence that used to be a raccoon (because that much corruption needs something bigger than a rabbit) destroyed the entire illusion.

And our host was right; it wasn’t as bad up in our room. Not nearly as bad. But we could still smell it a little. And anyone who has ever had a misbehaving pet or played the two-year game of Diaper Roulette that is early child care knows that once you’ve smelled something, it’s hard to stop smelling it. Our room was cozy and warm, with so many pillows on the bed that we needed a front-end loader just to make room for us to sit on the edge of it, and under the air freshener and candles and potpourri it smelled like somebody had wiped down the walls with a butcher’s apron.

After we got back from dinner late that night (the Salt Lick, way out in the hinterlands), the odor in our room was quite a bit stronger. We probably should have gone out to prowl Sixth Street, but it was cold and rainy—less than ideal conditions for a bar crawl. Instead, we stole a so-strong-you-can-count-the-beans-with-your-nostrils vanilla candle from the hallway, which worked pretty well until we had to blow it out and drift off into a fitful night’s sleep perforated with nightmares about swarming maggots and decaying zombies. By morning, we’d just about convinced ourselves that the inn had a guest whose name wouldn’t appear in the register. One whose car wasn’t in the parking lot. One whose tastiest bits were being carried off to various anthills.

We didn’t eat much of the breakfast.

posted by M. Giant 3:33 PM 0 comments

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Monday, January 13, 2003  

The timing of our Austin vacation was a little weird. I complained in Wednesday’s entry about a few minor botherations of our flights down, then learned that the day had seen not one, but two plane crashes. I bitched to Omar about the way our high-end hotel was nickel-and-diming us, and there was a hotel fire in the city within days (not in the hotel where we were staying, thank God). It’s like my complaining prompts the universe to remind me just how good I have it. So I should stop complaining. Thanks for reading, everyone. It’s been real.

No, obviously not.

But yesterday the hotel fire hit home in a way I didn’t expect. I was on my way to get some ice at the Austin Motel (thanks for the tip, Regan), and spotted a two-person news crew taping some footage. They also spotted me.

“Are you a guest here? Is this your first time staying here? Did you hear about the hotel fire here in town? Would you mind if we asked you a few questions?”

That last one was a little late.

“On camera?”

Oh. Okay. I’m in need of a haircut, a shower, a shave, and a shoe-tying, but what the hey? It’s not like anyone knows me in this town. Except Omar, of course, and he’s in San Francisco. Wait, he’s back now. On the other hand, he’s seen me at six a.m., so, again, what the hey?

They just wanted to take a few more establishing shots of the grounds before they shot me, which gave me just enough time to run my fingers through my rain-dampened mop and fill my ice bucket. The Austin Motel is one of those places without hallways, where you pull right up to the door of your room. The ice machine is right across the driveway from the front office. I scooped my ice and stood ready for my close-up.

When they were ready, they asked me to dump my ice back into the machine and scoop it again for the camera. I might have objected in the name of journalistic integrity, but you guys already know I don’t have one of those. So I dumped out the ice and scooped it back in as heroically as I could manage. The news is totally manufactured, y’all.

Those of you who’ve read these pages in the past know of my facility with words, my immense vocabulary, the startling extent of my articulateness. Here’s how that translates on video:

Reporter: When you check into a hotel, do you check and see if there are smoke detectors?

Me: Uhhh…

Reporter: Do you ever test the smoke detectors to see if they’re working?

Me: I…I…ummmm…

Reporter: Do you feel that it’s the hotel’s responsibility to make sure there are working smoke detectors?

Me: Fire bad! M. Giant fear fire!

Reporter: Okay, now we’re just going to get a shot of you walking back to your room. Thanks a lot.

Me: (turns and walks back to room, wishing my black trenchcoat would billow more in the breeze and that I were carrying a pair of smoking Glocks instead of a laden ice bucket, because how cool would I look then?)

From that, they somehow managed to find a few usable seconds of footage, and a few hours later I was watching myself on Channel 8 news while Trash ribbed me mercilessly.

Trash: I think they should ask the man on the street what he thinks.

Me: I think you should shut up.

Trash: But honey, how do you feel about hotel fire safety?

Me: Fire isn’t going to be your problem in a minute.

She’ll ease up on me eventually. The fact that she also mocked me later that night, today at the airport, and ten seconds ago probably doesn’t indicate anything.

Austinites, don’t bother turning on Channel 8 news now. I’m out of rotation by this point. If you happened to see me and wondered, “Who is that geek?” then I’ll claim to have made up the entire thing.

* * *

So we’re back home now. Once again, we didn’t get to do quite everything we wanted to do (including hanging out with Tim, but it’s just possible that I’ll be back for Journalcon 2003. Who’s got a couch for me?

posted by M. Giant 7:38 PM 0 comments

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Friday, January 10, 2003  

Day three in Austin. We've been doing a lot of eating, wandering around, eating, and also some eating. Our first night, Omar--who turns out to be a very cool guy in real life, much to our lack of surprise--took us to a Tex-Mex place where we got food whose weight was straining plates the size of hubcaps. Last night we ate enough sushi and teriyaki to sink Okinawa. And tonight we're planning to go to one of those barbecue places where they just keep stacking food in front of you until they can't see you any more.

See, this is one of the reasons we go on vaction in January. It's not just to get away from the Minnesota winter for a few days (and it looks like we actually timed it right this year); it's also so we can maintain what our friend The Engineer calls "winter weight." I'd say we're doing okay there.

We're also working through our list of stuff to do. There was the Texas History Museum, with its multimedia presentation about Texas that was like a cross between a Universal Studios thrill ride and the pageant in Waiting for Guffman. We went to the LBJ Library and Museum, a rather grim-looking structure that we enjoyed, except that we couldn't get into half the museum or any of the library. Which saved us a lot of time, I guess, so there's that.

Pretty much, we're having a grand time here. More in the next few days. Maybe.

posted by M. Giant 3:12 PM 0 comments

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Wednesday, January 08, 2003  

Remember that TV commercial for Apple from a year or so ago? This asshole asks for a middle seat on his flight. That's not what makes him an asshole, mind you. On the flight, he waits until his seatmates are asleep, then co-opts their tray tables to us as his workstation. He still hasn't quite attained the rank of asshole, but he's getting there.

His seatmates, sensing his invasion of their personal space, awaken in irritation. Does he apologize and put his shit away where it belongs? I wouldn't be calling him an asshole if he did. Instead, he continues noodling away on his banal little home movie of his dog and girlfriend, subjecting the woman next to him to his delusions of cinematic adequacy. She smiles indulgently. I can only assume that she is some kind of seraph because a human being would be flagging down a flight attendant to ask for a parachute at this point. Not that her patience makes him any less of an asshole. Then he asks her, "you like these guys?" and without waiting for an answer, yanks the plug out of his headphone jack, waking the entire plane. That alone is enough to ean him induction into the Asshole Hall of Fame on the spot, but the fact that the song he inflicts on a hundred innocent travelers is "Who Let the Dogs Out" rockets him past "asshole" and deep into "war criminal" territory. I haven't seen the ad in a while. Maybe its run expired, or maybe they realized that "Apple users are assholes" wasn't the message they wanted to convey.

I didn't have to deal with anything that egregious on the flight from Minneapolis to Memphis (and let me just sneak a correction in here; I've realized that Memphis is not in the Eastern time zone. My army of fact checkers has let me down again. Not to worry, I've fired the lot of them). There was the laptop-wielding ophthamologist on Trash's right, a.k.a. the most important person on the plane. There was the eleven-year-old traveling without parents who, doubtlessly, would have informed her that it's not polite to practice kickboxing routines on the seat in front of her. There was the woman behind me who was intent on testing her theory that the most efficient way to lock a tray table into position is with a series of sharp nudges spread out over a one-hour period. There were the two toddlers who had enough wind in them to alternate between repeatedly dashing the entire lenght of the aircraft and perfect their steam whistle imitations. One expects things like this when traveling by air. It would be nice if they could hapen one at a time, though.

More tomorrow. Or maybe not. I'm on vacation, suckas!

posted by M. Giant 2:58 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, January 07, 2003  

So we’re arriving at our hotel in Austin at about 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. If we were driving, we’d have to leave at about 10:30 tonight to get there at the same time. Of course, that’s only of we never stop for gas or bathroom breaks (and the person who invents a car that runs on urine will change the world), but it also doesn’t take into account the way I drive. Obviously we’re flying, so we’re leaving at a different time. 8:30 tonight, to be precise.

Why? It’s a long story. And you know what that means.

Here’s what happened. Last summer, Trash went on a small shopping spree at Travelocity. When she got the tickets for Austin, we found out that it would be much cheaper if we flew out of Rochester, Minnesota for some reason. Rochester is about an hour and a half away from our house, and it doesn’t have the biggest airport. So we’ll have to change planes in Minneapolis—

Wait, what?

When we reserved the tickets, we of course called the airline to see if we could just get on the plane in Minneapolis. They said we could skip the Rochester part, but then they wouldn’t let us on the plane in Minneapolis either. Security reasons.

So, okay. Fine. Hey, you know how much we hate early-early-morning flights? We should probably stop taking them, don’t you think? Guess what time our flight out of Rochester is? Five. Thirty. A.

M.

Grrr…

So if we wanted to, we could leave at two this morning and still get there in plenty of time. Instead, our friend Bitter is driving us down to Rochester so we can “spend” the “night” there before our flight. We’ll drive an hour and a half, maybe get four hours of sleep, and our alarm will go off at 3:00 so we can schlep to the airport to make our five-thirty a.m. departure time so we can make our connecting flight at nine-fifteen. From Minneapolis.

Yes, you read that right. We’re driving an hour and a half and spending the night in another city so we can endure a THREE-HOUR LAYOVER IN AN AIRPORT ELEVEN MILES FROM OUR HOUSE.

Us: Are you sure we can’t just get on the plane in Minneapolis?

The Airline: Yep.

Us: Damn.

Okay, so since we’re leaving Minneapolis at 9:15, our wheels should hit the runway at Austin Bergstrom at around noonish, right? Wrong. Apparently, months after we reserved the tickets,the airline has decided that nonstop service from Minneapolis to Austin would be just too convenient. So at noonish, our wheels will be on the ground in Memphis and we will have just begun making a dent in a four-hour layover there. Maybe we’ll have just enough time to visit Graceland. For like twenty minutes.

Finally, we’ll catch a flight to Austin that’ll have us at the gate at around 3:30 p.m. Figure another hour to disembark, get our rental car, and check into the hotel, and we’re looking at twenty hours of travel time. All to go a distance of three hours as the 747 flies. When it doesn’t have its cockpit jammed up its tail vent clear up to the forward galley, that is.

It’s bad enough that we’re basically running a leg of The Amazing Race here (somewhere, Phil Keoghan is Kiwiing, “teams must now kill a total of seven hours in the airports of at least two different time zones”). What makes it worse is the fact that Trash still hasn’t fully recovered from the grippe she’s been battling. We’re probably going to spend twenty hours getting to Austin, and six days recovering from the journey.

The way back should be easier, though. We have a nonstop from Austin back to Minneapolis. After that, we’re supposed to change planes and fly back to Rochester before we go home. It’s a round trip, after all.

We’ll just see if we’re in the mood to do that when we come back next week.

posted by M. Giant 3:15 PM 0 comments

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Monday, January 06, 2003  

This is a story about three people. I only know one of them, and I haven’t seen her in years, but I still have to come up with pseudonyms for all of them. This Internet thing is hard, dude.

E-Beth was a co-worker and friend of Trash’s. Great sense of humor, which, given the amout of grief she’s taken about this story, turned out to be lucky for her.

Amelia was E-Beth’s best friend. Not so much for her with the sense of humor.

Nigel was the British guy that Amelia was dating at the time.

Got all that? Good.

So, it’s Nigel’s first visit to the States. Amelia wants him to have a positive experience, and meet her friends. In no uncertain terms, she briefs her friends, including E-Beth, that those two agenda items are not to be mutually exclusive. Be nice to Nigel. Make sure Nigel feels comfortable. Be friends with Nigel. E-Beth promises to comply with all due sincerity.

That evening, everyone’s together. Everything’s going fine. Nigel feels welcome, comfortable, and so on. They’re talking about days when work is so busy that the company brings in lunch (this was back in the mid-nineties, when that actually happened). Nigel is explaining how in London, the process is more formal than here. Instead of pizza boxes stacked haphazardly on a vacant desk, he describes how uniformed waiters come in, bearing trays of real food like beef stroganoff.

While he’s saying this, E-Beth sees him raise his hand. She thinks he’s going for a high-five. It’s kind of weird, but she’s under an injunction to make him feel at home and she’s not going to leave him hanging like that, even for a second. So she raises her own hand to return the gesture, cheering, “Yay! Beef stroganoff!”

The look he gives her is filled with confusion and terror. It’s then that E-Beth realizes that Nigel is not going for a high-five, but simply holding his hand as if he were carrying an invisible tray at shoulder level. He’s merely illustrating the concept of “waiter.” Sadly, E-Beth is already leaning across the table, hand extended. She’s committed. She continues to hold her hand up, nodding encouragingly and grinning like a loon. Finally, Nigel nervously returns the high-five, probably wondering if this reaction to the mention of beef stroganoff is some kind of weird Yank thing, and wondering also how quickly he’ll be able to grab some cutlery if he needs to defend himself from the nut bar across the table. Meanwhile, Amelia is wondering how quickly she’ll be able to grab some cutlery, because she’s decided to kill E-Beth.

I can never decide which of these three people I feel worse for in this story. You can see all of their points of view. Nigel’s heard all about how cool Amelia’s American friends are and one of them turns out to be prone to sudden fits of unprovoked soccer hooliganism. Amelia’s stressing out about whether her boyfriend is going to get along with her friends and their first meeting is marred by a faux pas of surrealistic dimensions. And poor E-Beth was just trying so hard to be nice to Nigel. Quite a bit too hard, as it turned out.

I have no idea what happened to everyone’s relationsships with each other after this, and I don’t really have to. It’s enough that in our house, beef stroganoff will forever be known as “yay, beef stroganoff!”

posted by M. Giant 3:00 PM 0 comments

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Friday, January 03, 2003  

It’s probably a bad sign that I haven’t even started the entry and the word “bacon” has lost all meaning.

I’ve been getting a lot of searches for “George Foreman Grill Recipes.” Normally I feel bad when people’s searches for home improvement tips or video game hints or pictures of Nikki McKibbin’s ass or what have you lead them here, because I have nothing for those people. And at first I was confused about why Google would rank me so highly on the phrase “George Foreman Grill Recipes,” but then I figured it out: there aren’t many George Foreman Grill™ recipe sites because if you have a George Foreman Grill™, you don’t need recipes. It’s not like you can adjust the temperature, unless you want to stand next to it and unplug it at intervals. The thing has two settings: open and closed. It doesn’t have a timer. It doesn’t have cruise control. It doesn’t even have a damn off switch. It’s basically a pair of hotplates connected with a hinge. Here’s the only George Foreman Grill™ Recipe you’ll ever need:

Plug in grill.
Put meat on.
Close grill.
Check frequently.
Flip the meat, maybe.
Eat.

I refuse to accept the Google Guilt in this case. As long as you don’t throw an entire frozen turkey between those metal jaws and immediately leave for the airport, your food will turn out fine.

And I can prove it, because with my George Foreman™, I achieved the impossible.

I made bacon.

I can cook, okay? I’ll never go pro, but I generally don’t have to make that many nonstop trips between the trash can and the stove, either. I once made lasagna from scratch. I’ve invented at least three vegetarian lasagna recipes. I’ve come up with any number of successful meals that didn’t involve lasagna at all. But for some reason, bacon has always been my kryptonite. I’ve fried it, baked it, broiled it, microwaved it, boiled it, grilled it, held a magnifying glass over it on a sidewalk in July. Nothing ever works. I always end up with either a flaccid strap of thick slime that looks like a giant, pink-gray booger, or a charred stick of congealed smoke. Many attempts included samples of both on one strip. Trash can cook as well as I can, if not better, but her experiments with bacon didn’t turn out any better than mine. Well, they were better in the sense that they weren’t my fault, but that’s cold comfort when you’re sitting down to a breakfast of warped and blackened Popsicle sticks with a side of Gummi-Pork. Eventually we just gave up. You might remember; that was the year the pork bellies market collapsed.

I know bacon isn’t that hard. Nobody believes us when we talk about not being able to pull it off. And nobody understands why in restaurants I’m always drawn to the menu items with the most bacon. Everyone will look at me funny when I order the bacon-fried bacon and bacon sandwich on a bacon roll (extra bacon sauce, please) with bacon fries, bacon salad, and a bacon milkshake. Then I explain why we can’t have bacon at home, and everyone looks at me funny some more. But by that time I don’t care because my bacon has arrived and who knows when I’ll get more?

Last month, our quest for quality home bacon was cruelly revived by a new product: Hormel Fully Cooked Bacon™. It comes already cooked (hence the name), arranged on sheets of paper, and sealed into a package which claims that these creepy little strips are completely edible after 45 seconds in the microwave. We bought them, not expecting much. I ate them, getting less. Obviously, this is a product aimed at the time-impaired rather than the true bacon gourmet.

Then I got the idea that bacon might work on the George Foreman™. We bought a pound. I Georged a few strips, expecting the grill’s fat-draining action to dry out the bacon like desiccated slices of pig-mummy.

Instead, success!

We were both thrilled. Our long, bacon-less nightmare was over. Even Trash indulged, and she stopped eating meat years ago. Like many vegetarians, there are certain foods she misses, and bacon is at the top of the list. I’m sorry to say that between the two of us, we put away a whole pound of bacon in less than an hour. And nothing else.

What, I’m supposed to wrap up what’s left over and stick it back in the fridge? What a waste of effort.

Later, when Trash’s body was vociferously protesting the abrupt and fairly voluminous reintroduction of a foodstuff it hadn’t been asked to deal with in years, she asked God, “What was I thinking?”

“You were thinking, Mmmm, bacon!” I said.

Even after that gastric adventure torched her immune system and left her open to the flu bug that flattened her for most of a week, she still had the same answer:

“It was worth it.”

* * *

I don’t want to step on Keckler’s toes or anything, but as long as I’m getting the searches, here’s my recipe for bacon on the George Foreman™.

Plug in grill.
Put bacon on.
Close grill.
Check frequently.
Flip the bacon.
Eat.

See what I’m saying? This’ll take about ten minutes. Go nuts.

posted by M. Giant 3:36 PM 0 comments

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