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


Tuesday, September 30, 2003  

Reader Mail Slot, Episode XVII

Light blogging this month, which led to a light haul of e-mails. I hope you don’t mind that I’m not even going to bother to make my usual pathetic effort to shoehorn everything into a theme. Aside from this paragraph, I mean.

Erin is looking out for my marriage:

I hope that you don't get too worried that J. Lo and Ben broke up -- I'm sure it isn't a reflection on you and Trash. Unless it's because they read your blog and realize that you and Trash are their perfect mates.

Okay, I wasn’t going to mention this, but since Erin brought it up…

It wasn’t a light e-mail month at all. The Monday after our anniversary, I started getting all these e-mails from someone claiming to be “J Not-a-ho” and asking me to meet up with her, buy her some drinks, and marry her. Meanwhile, Trash’s inbox got clogged up with these desperate, pleading missives from “TheBestJackRyan” in which he begged for her hand. We did our best to ignore them, and then all of these other notes from people like “J-Lawyer” and “NoNotOneOfThoseJudds” and “ReallyGoodWillHunting” and “GlamourousGwynnie” poured in and they were all cc-ing each other and things got pretty ugly for a while there. Then we read about Jen and Ben applying for a gun permit and all the e-mails just abruptly stopped. Not sure what’s up with that.

The influx of e-mails I expected about the Search Phrase contest has yet to materialize, although Wendy at Pound was nice enough to mention it and DragonAttack told me she was intending to play. I’m certainly not hurting for goofy phrases in my referral logs, but nobody’s claiming any of them, which may be the most terrifying thing of all; it can only mean that people actually are curious about Mayonnaise Fetish Trailer Park.

But I know people are playing, thanks to Ryan O’Neal, who was kind enough to take a break from the set of Miss Match to share this:

So, I paged through your archives and found what I thought was a winning collection of search terms:

Car becue Pat Buchanan soulless replicants

How could that lose? There's the idea that you're roasting ol' Pat, but not just on a grill, on your car. Add to that the part about right-wing Republican clone stormtroopers fighting alongside Yoda, and you can't go wrong.

All the terms show up on this page buuuut, Google and AltaVista don't want to give me the page. (And surprisingly enough, there are no results at all; even when you take out car becue there are no results for Pat Buchanan soulless replicants.)

So, dang.


Sorry, dude. I can only offer consolation by way of pointing out that this deficiency may be remedied once the search phrase spider this entry or whatever it is they do. You still won’t win, because that phrase is a dead ball now, but you’ll be able to point at something and say “I had a hand in creating that.” Of course, you can already say that about What’s Up, Doc? so I don’t imagine this’ll be such a thrill for you.

Today’s best search phrase: “Shaving cats for profit.” You know what they say: do what you love and the money will follow.

posted by M. Giant 3:17 PM 0 comments

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Saturday, September 27, 2003  

Rejection Issues

I’ve been trying to turn myself into a professional writer for many years now. Like everyone else who can say that, I’ve amassed an impressive collection of rejection letters. I saved most of them, so that one day, when I accomplished my goals, I could sift through them and laugh at the folly of those who had once failed to recognize my genius and turned me down. And especially at the folly of those who expected me to pay them $2500 for editing services, after which they might think about maybe reconsidering.

I am glad I kept those letters, but not for that reason. I’m going to have to go through them for ideas.

As it turns out, one of the duties in my new job is to go through the stuff people submit to us, hoping we’ll use it on the show and pay them for the privilege. Every item goes in one of two piles. One pile gets shown to the boss. The other pile goes back. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned a “yes” pile. That’s just how it goes. It’s my job to respond with bad news. Or pass it on to the boss and then get it back and have to relay his bad news. Or, best-case scenario, pass it on to the boss and then have him pass it along to other people give the good news.

So here I am, not that far from my own life as an aspiring writer, and I’m responsible for shooting down other aspiring writers. This can’t be good for my karma.

I was conscious of this when drafting the rejection form, and I think that may have been why I had so many versions I had to reject. The hardest part was coming up with a letter that applies to everyone. I could individualize them if I had that kind of time, but I don’t. Otherwise, some of the people who sent in stuff (but by no means all—there are two piles, remember) would be getting letters like this:

Dear _____:

Thank you for your submission. We look forward to future submissions, when hopefully you will have learned to operate the spell check function.


Or,

Thank you for your submission, which we regret we are unable to use. Please bear in mind that the entire show is only two hours long. Perhaps you would be more comfortable writing for a less restrictive format, such as daytime drama.

Or,

We appreciated receiving your submissions, but we are sorry to say that since we work in the medium of radio, lengthy car chases and shootouts lose a good deal of their visual impact.

Or

While our show’s host and cast appreciate a challenge, none of them are fluent in Urdu. Please consider resubmitting in a more familiar language.

Or:

While we appreciate your faxing your manuscript, we would prefer that you would mail it if you insist on writing in crayon.

Okay, the truth is that none of those comments apply to anything I've received yet. Often stuff is good; it's just wrong for us. Writing a letter that will say that and also apply to some potential, eventual submission that will make me want to say "Please never set paper to pen again" is the tough part.

From wannabe to gatekeeper in one step. Oddly, being on this end of the rejection process isn’t quite as much fun as I thought it would be.

Today’s best search phrase: “mayonnaise fetish trailer park.” The Mayonnaise Fetish Trailer park is, of course, one of a series of highly specialized mobile home courts in the Florida Panhandle. I think you’ll be very happy there.

posted by M. Giant 5:23 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, September 25, 2003  

Reaching New Heights

I started my new job a month ago, but my new benefits didn’t kick in until today. I went a month with no health care coverage. So I figured, hey, why not spend that month balanced on the penultimate rung of a sixteen-foot ladder?

One hears about people falling off of ladders. That occurred to me. I didn’t plan to fall off the ladder. No, if I overbalanced and tipped away from the house like John Belushi in Animal House, I’d be riding that sucker all the way to the ground (or into the neighbors’ dining room, as my location dictated). Same thing would happen if the feet at the bottom of it lost their grip and started sliding away from the house, placing me at the vertex of a collapsing hypotenuse. Either way, for weeks I’d be galumphing around on crutches, and when people asked me what happened, I’d have to say “I fell off a ladder.” Even though falling off a ladder wouldn’t strictly describe what had happened to me. Falling off a ladder implies catastrophic operator error, some impromptu and brutally brief Harold Lloyd routine at the end of which the blameless implement still towers unmoved over your broken form. I’m not that inept, so I wasn’t worried about that happening. Until it almost did a few times.

My mom has spent the latter part of the summer working to increase our home’s curb appeal. She and Trash have done all this landscaping work, and she’s helped us paint the shutters and the trim, and she even painted the naked concrete foundation so our house is white all the way to the ground. As if that weren’t enough, she’s prevailed upon us to let her put a couple of coats of paint over our increasingly dingy aluminum siding. Now, the home that started the summer as “the ratty little blue-and-off-white Joad house on the block” is “That sharp-looking little gray-and-white house on the block.”

A quick digression—how common is it to use the word “Joad” as an adjective to describe a crummy-looking domicile? Trash and I first heard it when we were on our road trip with Kraftmatik and the Krank four years ago, and we saw quite a few rural dwellings whose appearance called to mind a Jeff Foxworthy routine. Obviously the term “Joad” derives from the family name in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but sometimes I wonder if we’re the only people who use it. Anyway.

So now our house looks much nicer, and of course that has led us into the trap, as it always does, of having to continue to do stuff so that the overall appearance lives up to the work we’ve already done, even though we weren’t necessarily planning on doing more right away. Thus, we’ve repainted the wrought-iron railings on our front stoop. We bought a new storm door to replace the rusted-out horror that hangs on the front of our house now (although we haven’t installed it yet; as of now, the decomposition continues under a recent coat of Rust-Oleum™). And I’ve been sort of working on painting the eaves on the ends of the house.

It’s technically a 1½-story house, so painting the front and back was easy, except for the giant tin triangle whose apex is twenty-some feet above our front stoop. The ends are a little trickier, though. I can’t reach the peaks of the eaves even from the fully-extended sixteen-foot extension ladder, even if I stand on the very top rung on my tiptoes. Even if I jump as high as I can from that rung with brush extended, swiping it along the millwork at the apogee of my leap, and hugging the side of the house again when I land. Not that I did that too many times. I found that it caused me to slosh the bucket a little too vigorously, which tended to get a little sloppy.

Only thing for it is renting a 28-footer from the local hardware store. The rate for six hours of use is ridiculously cheap, so my plan is to get as high as I can with my own ladder, then finish up the three-foot-high wedges at the top of each end with the rented one and have it back at the store the same afternoon. But I’ve been putting that off.

Now that I have full medical coverage, though, there’s no reason to procrastinate any more. Up, up and away!

While I’m at it, maybe I’ll put up my Christmas lights. It’s never too early, you know.

Today’s best search phrase (which doesn’t qualify for the contest because it turned up before I announced it): “Fisher Price little people whores.” I can understand if someone is trying to assemble a complete set of these little guys, but you have to understand that not every profession is going to be represented. Even in the gritty urban milieu of the Sesame Street set.

posted by M. Giant 2:56 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003  

Today’s Best Search Phrase

I know it’s not the end of the month, but I just had to share this email from a reader named Josh. It’s relevant:

I wanted to let you know that your "Today's Best Search Phrase" feature has made me snort coffee through my nose more than once. (I read Velcrometer in the mornings (Snort in humor, not disgust)). But it has also gotten me and my other Indiana buddies together for a little game/wager. Who can have the first featured "Today's Best Search Phrase." The rules are simple. Browse through the Velcrometer archives, and then construct a Google search that will hilariously link to your pages. First man featured wins. So far I haven't.

Either you are on to me, or there are others even better at rigging the search.


As I told Josh, this is an awesome idea. As I told Josh, I’ve decided to tell everyone about it. So I have. You’re all invited to play!

Here’s the rules:

How to enter: type a nutty search phrase into a search engine. If Velcrometer pops up, click on through to it.

The search phrase must show up in my referral log. That means you have to actually click through to me on the results page. Note: If you’ve been to Velcrometer in the past half-hour, SiteMeter won’t count your search engine link as a new referral. It’ll just count you as still here. So keep that in mind.

You don’t have to use Google. You can use Yahoo! Search, or AltaVista, or LexisNexis for all I care. If it shows up in my referral log, it’s in play.

I have to see it in my referral log myself. No alerting me to wacky search phrases, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Let’s not dilute the purity of this any more than I already have. If you have a wacky search phrase and I miss it (as is more likely to happen overnight or on weekends), them’s the berries.

Who is the sole judge of whether a search phrase is actually “Today’s best search phrase?” You’re soaking in him. Anyone who sends me an e-mail saying, “Hey, why’d you pick that search phrase? This search phrase is better” will be summarily disqualified on the grounds of having bugged me.

If—and only if—a search phrase becomes Today’s best search phrase as designated at the bottom of the entry, the person that search phrase belongs to will receive one (1) item of his or her choosing from the Velcrometer CafePress store. The winner will also have his or her name (or Internet pseudonym, as preferred) announced as the winner, and if said winner has a work-safe blog or website, I’ll add it to my “links” section for an indefinite period of not less than one month, and not more than a period to be determined by me.

To claim the prize, the winner will be expected to send me an e-mail in which he or she claims the search phrase, verifies the date and approximate time the search phrase was entered, the search engine used, the domain, and time zone. Yes, this information is semi-public, but my free SiteMeter report only shows the hundred most recent referrals, and I will only post search phrases after they’ve dropped off the report. If somebody wants to cheat so badly that they resort to logging information on every search phrase that comes up, no prize I have for that person will make him or her less pathetic.

There will be only one winner. The contest ends when the winner is determined by me. By “determined,” I do not mean “announced.” If someone wins and I don’t get around to updating before you claim a search phrase of your own, that person still won and you didn’t. Sorry. If your phrase got used before someone else and that person claimed theirs before you claimed yours, you don’t win again. Damn, you can’t catch a break, can you?

Have at it.

Today’s best search phrase: “Possum Snapple.” Mmmmm. Refreshing.

And that one didn't count!

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Sunday, September 21, 2003  

Live From St. Paul

To any of you who may have been listening for my name in the end credits of A Prairie Home Companion, thank you. You haven’t heard it yet, but that doesn’t mean I was lying about my new job. It just means the new season hasn’t started yet. They’ve only been running shows that were written before I started. That’s about to stop.

Saturday, September 27 is the first time a show that I helped write will go out on the air. But it’s not the first show that I helped write. That’s tomorrow.

In connection with public radio’s regular pledge drives, A Prairie Home Companion does an annual fundraising show. It’s like a regular APHC show, but all of the sketches (and probably some of the songs) have to do with raising money. So I’ve spent a good deal of the past four weeks coming up with entertaining and creative ways to shake people down. Then those scripts go into the fundraising show. Or, in some cases, they don’t.

Tomorrow night (Monday, September 22, if you’re not reading this on the day I wrote it), my boss will step out onto the stage of the historic Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul and he’ll do a show. It won’t be broadcast live; it’ll be recorded by one of our producers, and she’ll edit it and cut it together and send it out to public radio stations all over the country to use at their discretion. I have no idea when you’ll be able to hear it your area. I have no idea when I’ll be able to hear it in my area.

But I imagine I’ll hear it just fine tomorrow night from backstage or in the wings or somewhere in the bowels of the Fitzgerald theater, as words that my boss and the other writers and I wrote go out live into an audience of up to 996 people, and into the guts of some electronic device that’ll be the first step in disseminating it all over the country. 996 people at the same time. I think the last time I got 996 hits on this blog in one day, there was a link from Television Without Pity involved.

Like my blog audience, the folks at the Fitz won’t be paying. Tickets are free, and I’d tell you where you can get them if it didn’t mean you’d be competing with my wife and my parents for general admission seats.

Tomorrow, Monday, is the first radio show I’ve written scripts for. My words will go out live to 996 non-paying customers, and I’ll hear their reaction instantly. It’s something to think about.

But even that will be minor, compared to the live, international radio audience that hears the season premiere on September 27. The scripts I write for that will be heard by millions.

I should probably start working on some of those, I guess.

Today’s best search phrase “Nice leather sofa none of your shit.” We’ve all been burned by Google in the past. Someone’s not taking it any more.

posted by M. Giant 6:31 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, September 18, 2003  

Hurricane? Her I hardly know!

I’ve been reading about all the people evacuating because of Hurricane Isabel bearing down on the Carolina coast. I evacuated because of a hurricane once. Yes, I live in Minnesota. But this was years ago. I lived in Minnesota then, too, but I was visiting South Carolina.

Trash and I had had the remarkable foresight to schedule a visit to Myrtle Beach around Labor Day week in 1996. Apparently this is bang in the middle of hurricane season. We didn’t know this, of course. Living in Minnesota, one rarely has to think about hurricane season. A Minnesotan hears the phrase “hurricane season” and wonders how you catch one.

Our worldview was changed significantly when we arrived at our friends’ townhouse. They’d left us a key to get in because they weren’t home yet when we got there. Our hostess had also left us a note on the kitchen counter. It welcomed us to South Carolina and told us the exact location of the spare keys, the bathroom, and three tropical storms queued up over the Atlantic, any one or all of which were potentially in a position to come and give us a good thumping.

“Life is different here,” Trash and I remarked to each other.

Over the next couple of days we watched the Weather Channel as the biggest one, Fran, approached the coast. The original prediction was that it would make landfall somewhere in Florida. Then the storm began turning north, and we watched as the predicted landfall point started sliding up the coast. Northern Florida became southern Georgia, then Savannah, then Get In The Car.

It wasn’t hard for Trash and me to pack up, because we hadn’t brought any more stuff than we could carry on the plane. While our hosts worked one last day, we went to the grocery store and bought bottled water and batteries, frustrated in our hope to witness panic and looting. We helped them secure the place, putting masking tape on the windows, breakable stuff under the furniture, wall art in the closets, pets in the refrigerator, et cetera. Then we hit the road.

There’s something sort of incongruous about joining an unbroken line of hurricane refugees on a clear, sunny afternoon. You think of hurricanes and you think of stock footage from Gilligan’s Island with rain like diagonal machine-gun fire and palm trees bent parallel to the ground. You don’t think of a traffic jam that looks like ten minutes after the end of Woodstock ’94. Or maybe you do, if you spent yesterday trying to put a few miles between you and the coast.

Our hosts suggested that if we were going to go out of town, we might as well go somewhere nice. So we headed for Asheville, North Carolina. It’s about a 300-mile drive, so we didn’t make it before dark.

Asheville is also further north than Myrtle Beach. So we were heading north. So was Fran. She wasn’t going that fast. 12 miles per hour, maybe. But, as our host pointed out, Fran wasn’t going to stop for gas, or spend the night in a hotel, or get stuck in traffic. If she did, we’d probably hear about it on the news.

We spent the first night in some small town further north and inland. We considered just waiting the storm out there, but the desk clerk at the motel explained how Hurricane Hugo had knocked out their electricity for two weeks. Way to screw yourself out of a couple nights’ rent there, dude.

Of course, we watched the Weather Channel in the motel, too. Some smarmy forecaster was acting all smug because it was looking like Fran was going to miss him and hit further north instead. Specifically, our friends’ living room. Screw you, buddy. You’ve got a national audience, okay? Quit gloating. Just because the people whose homes are in the crosshairs are on the run doesn’t mean they’re not watching you. Dickweed.

I learned a lot about hurricanes that week. I learned that when local news stations wrap up some petite chick in polypropylene and make her do a live report from the weather-lashed coast, they like to send a couple of beefy guys along with her so they can pick her up when she gets blown over. I learned about the Weather Channel’s John Hope, a hurricane expert they dragged out of retirement every time a big one hit until the poor guy died last year. I also learned about something called a storm surge. This is what happens when a hurricane comes ashore, and the northern half of it—the part that’s rotating inland—blows most of the Atlantic Ocean into your kitchen.

Fortunately, the eye of the storm hit farther north than their house, which meant that the prevailing winds were blowing out to sea. Our friends only got a little water in their house. Apparently, when a hurricane hits you, only a little water in your house is good news. These friends live in Albuquerque now.

Meanwhile, we had a lovely time in Asheville. We saw the boyhood home of Thomas Wolfe, who is famous for saying “you can’t go home again.” My whole life, I’ve been hearing people say he was wrong, and it turns out the only reason he said it in the first place was that his mother was kind of an asshole. We visited Biltmore Estates, a huge, castle-like house that belongs to the Vanderbilt family. One envies the ability to build a house this huge and beautiful, until one realizes that overextending oneself like that will eventually force one’s descendants to open it up to tourists and put in a gift shop. And we had the best meal we’ve ever had in our lives—in our lives, people—at the Flying Frog, a French-Cajun East Indian restaurant that I hope is still there. Our airline let us change our tickets free of charge so we could fly home from Asheville instead of the Myrtle Beach airport, which probably had 737s scattered on the tarmac like Legos™. Best of all, even though Fran killed 24 people, none of them were us.

Although we were a couple hundred miles inland, the leading, ragged edge of Fran caught us as she died on our last day. More specifically, it rained really hard. That was about it. So I’ve sort of been in a hurricane, as long as one avoids using the phrase “in a hurricane” in any sense that is at all accurate.

Best of luck to anyone who’s dealing with Isabel today.

* * *

Do you know a guy named Don whose birthday is September 11 and who probably lives in Jersey City? Tell Sars. She might have beer for him.

Today’s best search phrase: “Coolest shit on the web.” Sometimes I feel bad about people finding my site even though it has nothing to do with what they’re looking for. In this case, I can only say: welcome home.

posted by M. Giant 2:23 PM 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 16, 2003  

DMV vs. MIL vs. SIL

My mother-in-law came up from Iowa for a visit this weekend. She’s still got Minnesota plates on her car, but the tabs have expired, so she wanted to get new ones before she came up. Not being here made that kind of difficult.

Trash’s sister offered to help take care of it. My sister-in-law was at work last week, talking to her mom on the phone about getting the tabs. She decided to conference the DMV in to the call.

Before making the connection, SIL explained how it was going to work. SIL was going to do all of the talking. MIL could be on the phone, but she wasn’t allowed to speak. MIL tends to be even more confused by bureaucracy than most of us are, and she’s prone to time-consuming digressions at the best of times. SIL, aware of all this, declined to give her mother speaking privileges during the call, because she was kind of hoping to get some work done that day for her employer.

So, SIL is on the phone. MIL is on the phone. SIL dials the DMV, and conferences them in. Of course, the call begins with an interminable initial greeting, during which SIL reminds MIL that she is not allowed to talk.

After the disembodied voice of the DMV spends a fair amount of time notifying them who they’ve reached, and explaining what they do, and reading a considerable amount of the Minnesota Driver’s Manual, they’re transferred to a phone menu. SIL hears this:

“If you have questions about your driver’s license, press one. If—”

*beep.*

SIL becomes irate. “Mother! Why did you press one? You don’t have questions about your driver’s license.”

“I might.”

By this time, they’d been spun off into a completely different phone menu, one that was of absolutely no use to them whatsoever. This call was screwed. SIL could call back, but her prospects for getting any actual work done during the day were rapidly dwindling.

SIL disconnected the DMV phone-bot and called Trash to complain about what MIL had done. She told Trash the whole infuriating story.

“I didn’t talk,” their mother, still on the conference line, said mildly. “I didn’t say a word.”

SIL allowed that although MIL had in fact obeyed the letter of her edict, she had still hijacked the call quite effectively.

Trash’s mom drove back to Iowa Monday morning. She has new tabs on her car. SIL went and bought them for her in person. By herself.

Today's best search phrase: "Cutting hole in basement floor for sewage pit." Actually, Trash has been after me to consider building a bathroom downstairs for quite a while. Maybe if I offer a simple "sewage pit" as a compromise, she'll drop the idea entirely. That's the best kind of compromise, you know.

posted by M. Giant 2:55 PM 0 comments

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Sunday, September 14, 2003  

Happily Ever After

It was raining buckets. The flowers were late. Twelve years ago today, I was about to get married. And so I did.

Trash’s dad had hired a private security guard for the ceremony. It wasn’t the greatest neighborhood, so he wanted to make sure the gifts would be safe. Moments before Trash started down the aisle, the rent-a-cop took her hand and said, “you look beautiful, and I wish you all the happiness in the world.” This was the first and last time this man had spoken to her, and he was the last person to speak to her as a single woman. She walked down the aisle looking a bit confused.

At the end of the service, the deacon introduced us to the congregation as now both having Trash’s maiden name. We gave him a chance to try again.

Part of our reception in the church basement was lit by the emergency exit lights when the power went out for a few minutes. Part of it was lit by the small fire that started when someone got a napkin too close to a burning Sterno™ can. Most of it was lit normally by the overhead lights, so we really shouldn’t complain.

A lot of people hope, or want, or insist, or demand that their wedding days be perfect. Magical. Something out of a fairy tale. I suspect that those people are idiots.

Years later, what fun is it to rhapsodize about your centerpieces? To recall the idyllic scene? To go on and on about how perfect everything was? Speaking for myself, I treasure the special, romantic moments of that day. But I also appreciate the sitcom-like moments as well.

Life isn’t a magical fairy tale. Marriage isn’t perfect. You run into obstacles and problems and you deal with them. You support each other, help each other through stuff. You get through stuff together. You piss each other off every once in a while and you deal with that. That’s what I want. “Happily ever after” just sounds like a long nap. No thanks.

Go ahead and have your perfect wedding, if you can afford it. You’re just setting yourself up for a big comedown. Me, I wouldn’t trade that napkin fire for anything. Our wedding day was unpredictable, fun, exciting, and occasionally scary. We couldn’t ask for a better way to set the tone.

Now, twelve years later to the day, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck had planned to get married today. It’s perfect on so many levels. First of al, it’s ridiculous. Secondly, as I may have mentioned before, an online celebrity match quiz matched me with J. Lo and Trash with Ben about five years ago. People give those two a hard time, but if they’re as good a match as we are—and according to some random online quiz, they must be—their relationship is going to be long, but not boring.

Happy 12th Anniversary, Trash.

posted by M. Giant 8:12 AM 0 comments

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Thursday, September 11, 2003  

Not Just Another Day

We woke up in Williams, Arizona, a town that’s roughly halfway between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. That’s not as alarming as it may initially sound, because we could remember having gone to sleep there.

This was during our two-week road trip out west with Kraftmatik and The Krank, a trip to which I have referred in previous writings. Our plan for the day was to drive to the Grand Canyon, look down the big hole, take a few pictures, and move on to a campground in the northern part of the state. Then we’d be in a position to hit Four Corners the next morning and begin the New Mexico leg. There would be much shorter Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico legs at Four Corners, each a few seconds long, but you get the idea.

It was about an hour’s drive to the rim of the Grand Canyon. I don’t know how they’re able to charge admission to something so big, but they do. We looked out over the big hole. It’s a very big hole. They tell us that the Canyon is still being carved by the Colorado river, but I have to say that it didn’t look noticeably deeper than it did when we were there six years before. I will never forget one of the sights I saw on my first visit: a graffito in the men’s room that read “It’s not that big.”

It was an overcast day. There were clouds in the sky overhead. There were also clouds below us, down in the canyon. That’s something you don’t see every day.

We moved on to the next pullover, but while we were in transit, the cloud cover flumped down onto us and turned into fog. The view from the edge of the Canyon at the next place we stopped was gray nothingness. I’m serious. There was the rocky path, a few scrubby bushes, the edge, and then a featureless void. It looked like the end of the world.

Then it started raining. As Trash’s journal entry from the day points out, Arizona gets an average of 0.95 inches of rain in September. I think all of it fell while we were there.

Our last stop at the canyon was at a gift shop at the south rim. There was a slight overhang next to the front door, so we huddled under that to eat our sandwiches out of the cooler. We felt a little self-conscious while people squeezed past us to get in and out, but what were we going to do? Eat in the rain?

It wasn’t until we left, and our exit route took us around the back of the building, that we spotted the large, sheltered picnic area attached to the rear of the building. Then we felt more self-conscious.

Kraftmatik was driving that day. He doesn’t get road rage because he releases it in the form of haiku. We could always tell when other drivers were pissing him off because he’d be running through lines in his head and we could see him counting off the syllables on his fingers. We drove thousands of miles in two weeks, so this trip produced a veritable corpus of haiku. Here’s the one from that day:

Tailgating Sebring
Pass me already, you fuck!
Enjoy the scenery.


The irony being, of course, that the scenery was invisible.

We drove for several hours through the flat part of Arizona. The rain stopped and our rental minivan glided over a black ribbon that threaded over red earth under a gray sky. We stopped at several Native American-owned jewelry stands and bought silver, onyx, and turquoise.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at our campground on a Navajo reservation. I couldn’t tell you what time it was exactly, because were in the Mountain Time Zone during Daylight Savings Time in a state that we weren’t sure observed Daylight Savings Time on a reservation that we were somewhat sure didn’t, although some reservations apparently were on a time that was a half-hour or fifteen minutes or forty-five minutes earlier or later than the surrounding non-reservation land, just because they could be. Time for us was reduced to “dark” and “not dark.”

We were also higher than we thought. We’d driven over the Continental Divide in Montana a few days before, and spent the previous weekend in the Black Hills, so we thought we knew what high ground looked like. It was supposed to be steep and rocky, like the pass into Butte, not the level ground we’d spent the afternoon on. Then we put a pot of water on the camp stove, watched it reach a rolling boil in forty-five seconds, and were forced to reconsider. A sign next to the bathroom facilities informed us that we were at 7800 feet above sea level.

“That explains why I can stick my hand into the water when it’s boiling,” Trash observed. We were very careful opening our pop cans after that.

It got chilly that night. I think Kraftmatik and I skipped our usual campfire jam session. The four of us sat around the fire, drinking warm cocoa (hot cocoa would have evaporated and left us with nothing but a crusty residue in our mugs) and a bottle of Klingon Blood Wine we’d gotten outside the Star Trek Experience in Vegas.

It was September 11, 1999, and the only reason I remember any of this was because we were on vacation. We kept a travel journal, and Trash wrote that day's entry. The halfway point between that day and today seems a lot closer than halfway. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about September 11, 2000, other than that it was a Monday. On September 11, 2002, I listened to some of the names being read on the radio and I wrote this about September 11, 2001. Something tells me I’ll remember more September 11s in the future.

posted by M. Giant 8:15 AM 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003  

Hostess with the Mostest

So, years ago, when I’d gone back to college to get my English degree, Trash and I used to hang out with all these people from the theater department. Stop cringing. We shared a lot of common interests with them, and they were fun to hang around with, and since they were in the theater department, many of them tended to be very good-looking. Don’t judge us. We’re still friends with a lot of them. You’ve read about some of them in this blog.

There was one night—I say “one night” as if I don’t know perfectly well that it was December 31, 1997, but “one night” is the standard construction—when we found ourselves at a New Year’s Eve party hosted by a couple of these people. It was always a couple of hosts, whether the hosts were a couple or not, because it was college and everyone had roommates. In this particular case, our hosts were an actual couple. At the time I hardly knew them, to the point where I was surprised to find out they were a couple. It was rather a large party, as you might imagine. They lived in one of those apartments that occupy the upper level of an early-1920’s house. That didn’t stop a hundred or so people from cramming in. It didn’t even stop some of those people from swing dancing in the living room.

So, anyway, midnight, kiss-kiss, the whole thing, and Trash and I start taking our leave. I look around for the hostess to thank her for a great party, and also possibly to introduce myself if necessary.

A few minutes later, Trash and I are clambering into our car.

“What’s that noise?” Trash asks me. “Are you clanking?

Indeed I am.

“Eve gave me some beers,” I explain.

See, I had not only thanked Eve, our hostess, for the party, but also for having Leinenkugel on hand. I didn’t have a lot of history with this young woman, aside from having spent a couple of hours in her house and drinking a bunch of her beer, so my options for a witty remark were even more limited than usual. The very picture of hospitality, she turned, reached into her fridge, and came out with a double fistful of longnecks which she proceeded to cram, one by one, into the various pockets of my overcoat. Then she gave me some more.

“I don’t need them,” she insisted over my protests. I can’t even chalk up her generosity to inebriation, because speaking for myself, the one thing I want when I’ve had a lot of beer is more beer. Which, in this case, was working out quite splendidly for me. Maybe she was trying to starve the party and thin the herd of people in her home. Given the crowd density at that moment, that may have been the only way she saw to ever get out of her kitchen. Which, again, was working out splendidly for me.

A lot of our theater friends from those days have gotten out of the business. Eve stayed in for a while, and we kind of lost touch. She and her gentleman friend broke up. I don’t know what all she did in the industry, but there was a long period when her face was staring seriously at us from a United Way ad on the side of a bus shelter. Apparently she has since moved into stunt work. At least that’s what it says on her bio for Temptation Island.

Yes, Eve, the stuntwoman from Minneapolis, is the same woman who once sent me home from her house with a bunch of beers for no apparent reason. Now she can add the job title “Tempter” to her resume. That’s not entirely uncool.

People have been quoting Warhol in relation to reality television ever since The Real World premiered. I just want to go on record as saying that in the future, everybody will know someone who has been on a reality show.

You know, feel free to make fun of people on reality shows all you want. Heck, I’ve done it myself. Be nice to Eve, though. For my sake. I still owe her a lot of beers.

* * *

Now that I’m no longer updating daily, I’ve added a Notify List! Feel free to sign up, and fulfill your destiny as a prop for my ego.

* * *

Today’s best search phrase: “Crush crushed squish squished like bug bugs.” Somebody is either very confused or very, very angry.

posted by M. Giant 5:18 PM 0 comments

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Thursday, September 04, 2003  

Reader Mail Slot, Episode XVI

First, I need to take care of some unfinished business from July’s Reader Mail. As you may recall, Josh wrote:

What's with your vocab, man? Are you trying confuse your readers from Indiana?

Victoria took exception:

I'm from Indiana and, lo, we do have intelligent life among the corn. Josh needs to get bent.

As I suggested to Victoria, I got the sense that Josh was from Indiana. His message had that certain self-deprecating tone that suggested that he was in fact making fun of himself. Plus there were all the spelling and grammar errors I had to correct.

Uh oh, now I’m in trouble. Don’t e-mail me.

Moving right along. As one might expect, the vast majority of e-mails I got in August were in relation to my announcement about my new job. You guys are so cool. I seriously don’t know what I would do without your support. It would be impossible for me to print the names and well-wishes from everyone who sent them, but I’ll try to distill them into some kind of overall theme:

Dear M. Giant,

Heartiest congratulations on your new job! That’s excellent news. Making a leap like this is not something to be taken lightly, and many people never succeed at it. Please keep that in mind when you inevitably fail. Even the three days that you’ll last in such a high-profile position will look great on your resume. I hope you realize how lucky you are. How incredibly, ridiculously, impossibly lucky. Like, PowerBall lucky. Some people work their whole lives without ever getting an opportunity like this, and I hope their restless souls haunt you to the end of your days. I hate you. Die.

Sincerely,
Everyone.


Okay, nobody really said any of that. Just the first part. Thank you all.

Finally, there’s this from Hollienoël:

I was reading your entry about the odd behaviour of your squirrels, and I wanted to share a story. I was at some distant relative's house a few weeks ago, and we pointed out a squirrel raiding her birdfeeder. She opens the door and yells menacingly, "Hey, Squirrel! Cut that shit out!!" And the squirrel looks up at us, and CUTS IT OUT! He climbed down and walked away. So, maybe you just need to be a little more forceful in your requests and dealings with Squirrel.

On Hollienoel’s advice, that’s exactly what we ended up doing. We sat the squirrel down in the front yard, and we said, “squirrel, we’re having this meeting because we’re care about you. We’re concerned about what you’ve been getting into, and none of us can sit bay and watch you do this to yourself.” Of course, the squirrel ran away the minute we lifted up the inverted cardboard box we’d trapped him under, but I think we gave him something to think about. And he knows we’re there for him.

Today’s best search phrase: “habit loogies.” Okay, maybe Catholic school is not for you.

posted by M. Giant 7:21 PM 0 comments

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Monday, September 01, 2003  

Allied Van Morrison

The other night was AuteurCakes’s valedictory pub quiz. Now she’s in Kansas City, moving into her new place and hanging with ChicagoWench. So it was her last time playing the Kieran’s Pub Quiz with us, at least for a while. Hence my use of the term valedictory. Although perhaps the word salutatory might be more accurate, because we came in second. Again.

There are worse things than consistently coming in second at the pub quiz. Things like having to buy wine rather than win it.

Oddly enough, we got second place even though we hadn’t been there in months, and even though two of our regular team members, Dirt and Banana, were absent.

Maybe another factor was the absence of the team that normally wins. That cleared the way for us to come in with a strong second-place finish. Sadly, it also enabled another team to win outright.

As anyone who’s played more than a few pub quizzes knows, the hardest part is preventing yourself from talking yourself out of the right answer. You get questions that you’re pretty sure you know the answer to, not because you actually know it, but because you don’t know what else it could be. Then you start thinking about other possible answers, and everybody starts rattling them off, and we feel all clever because we figure nobody else knows these possible answers and we’ve outsmarted them, and then we turn our answer sheets in and the obvious answer is the correct one, and the only people we outsmarted were ourselves. Which, we’ve suddenly realized, wasn’t as difficult as we had previously thought.

We’re not as prone to doing that as we used to be. We were guilty of that a time or two the other night, but not enough to have made a difference. We lost by seven points out of a possible one hundred twenty or so. If we’re going to lose, I’d just as soon lose by that much or more. It shows that the first-place team is made up of true savants and therefore invincible, and that losing to them is no cause for shame. It also means that we don’t have to think back to the two or three answers we almost got right, but didn’t. I mean, we could, but it’s not exactly a heartbreaker to realize, “Ooh, we came thisclose to losing by five points instead of seven! Drat the luck!”

And again, we scored bottles of wine instead of T-shirts. I have plenty of T-shirts. I don’t need any more. I barely have room for the ones I have. That’s not a problem with wine. You’d be amazed at how many wine bottles can fit into a T-shirt drawer.

It would have been nice to take first place just once, though. Just for the sake of bragging rights. And there’s only one factor that kept us from doing it. That factor’s name is Van Morrison.

The last round of the evening was the music round. Normally we ace this round. Perfect scores for the music round are not unheard of for us. Actually, I should qualify that; when I say “not unheard of,” I’m referring to exchanges like “wouldn’t it be cool if we got a perfect score on the music round tonight?” “Yeah, it would.” But that counts as being heard of, I think.

Anyway, we were only a few points from the lead going into the music round, and we’d broken away from the pack that we’d been sharing second place with. The way it normally works is that our Quizmaster will play a snippet of a song, and then we usually have to identify the title and the artist. Sometimes there’s a unifying theme, like weather or songs about fruit, but it’s generally pretty easy for us. But this last time, the CD for the music round wouldn’t play on the CD player. So the Quizmaster had to improvise. In other words, he had to just stick in whatever CD he had on hand.

Did I mention this is an Irish pub?

Now, I know a few Van Morrison songs. Specifically, the ones that the local classic rock station used to play when I was in my teens. I don’t know all of them. In fact, experience tells me that I know four out of Van Morrison’s Greatest Hits. Stupid bastard.

Hence our loss. I guess I can’t say for sure that we would have won if the proper music round had come off, but we all discovered new depths of enmity for Van Morrison that night, Zen Viking, for instance, adorned his placemat with an illustration of Mr. Morrison that would have triggered a Secret Service investigation had Mr. Morrison been the President of the United States. Meanwhile, the first-place team, who were singing along when the answers were played back, who had probably lent the Quizmaster their copy of the CD, stretched their lead to a commanding seven points. Stupid Van Morrison.

Now AuteurCakes is in Kansas City, living with the bitter memory of her one chance at a Minneapolis Pub Quiz victory snatched from her hands by Van Morrison. I think Van Morrison should have to pay some of her moving expenses.

Today’s best search phrase: “Analogy generator.” Hey, I was only kidding about that. I don’t actually own one. I kind of wish I did, though.

posted by M. Giant 6:24 PM 0 comments

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