Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A post about OpenOffice in which I devolve into griping, as usual these days

I'm writing this post in OpenOffice.org Writer instead of Word. I switched recently, partly because my free trial version of Microsoft Word was expiring, but also because I think the idea of OpenOffice is just so cool. “Open source programming”? Where anyone who wants just chips in like Wikipedia to write a program, and it works just as well? That's such a cool idea to me that when I heard it, I knew I had to have it. I'm like that sometimes: anyone who has a cool idea, a product I think is “neat” or an innovative sales pitch, I fall in love with immediately. Multiple times before I've bought something I didn't need just because I thought the salesman really did a heck of a job. It's not a good philosophy, it's poor business sense, but I just can't shake the habit.

I'm also compelled to respect OpenOffice because I don't understand it. I thought I did, of course, but then my mom asked me to explain it, and I found myself completely unable to do so. The same thing happened with the whole idea of social networking (and blogging, for that matter), which I was at a loss to explain to my mom too. But the most ingenious solution is usually the easiest, isn't it? So I just did what I always do when someone older than I am doesn't understand anything remotely technological: I laughed a little and then shook my head as if to say, “oh, you'll never get it – you're so cute and fuddy-duddy.”

That approach always made me feel much better about myself until the other day when my high-school-age cousin tried unsuccessfully to explain to me why he couldn't go with Hayden and Alice and Fiona all together to the Christmas dance as a double date, and then gave me the exact same look after he finished explaining and I said “huh?” At that exact moment, I realized that my parents probably think I'm a jackass and that their feelings toward me lean less toward envy of my tech savvy than toward simple, mild contempt.

It's snowing like balls outside right now. Started at noon or so and supposed to last all night. Winter is depressing, but snow makes it a lot better. It's awful pretty. But emphasis on the awful there.

But at least Obama's our President-elect, right? Oh wait, that guy sucks. Since the election, he has backed off his “out-of-Iraq-now” pose, deferring to “the judgment of commanders on the ground,” and has in fact promised to deploy active military within the United States – 20,000 by 2009 (wtf?). He's ramped up the bailout package too, now tossing in bones for the Big Three (which should just go bankrupt already) and pushing the total to over a trillion dollars. And he's announced a gigantic public works program. Oh yeah, and he's promised that his first act as president will be to sign FOCA, which aside from its murderous character, is also a decimation of states' rights. With the shit he's announced, bigger military than he promised, huge government intervention everywhere else across the board, forget about calling him as bad as FDR; the closest twentieth century leader to Barack Obama is Joseph Stalin. I'm so not even kidding. But we elected him fair and square, and all I can say is we got what we deserved. It's going to be a godawful ride.

Umm, so, cheers! Have a great day anyway, what the hell.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Part Three - Chapter One

It all started so innocuously, the way the worst things always do, when Jenny fed too many scallion tails down the disposal drain. When you chop scallions, Jenny said, you clip off the squidian roots with the long green tails and only use the middle. The ends, short and white or long and green, you toss aside into the garbage. Or the disposal – which of course is anything but.

Another labor-saving device, the disposal never lived up to the spirit of the automatic bread-slicer in purely literal terms. A bread slicer sliced bread like the best thing since... whenever – and the disposal only disposed of mushy leftovers and baby food... maybe every once in a while something as strong as a carrot, but certainly never anything as strong as these scallion tails.

Once Jenny had heard of using a food processor to chop the most stubborn leftovers and then flipping them to the disposal. Saves your disposal, saves your garbage-hauling costs, saves everything. Except that twenty seconds of sanity that you save by chucking the damn things into the garbage can, and sometimes that's worth a lot more to you than a green world forever. If it came to going green, sometimes Jenny felt fine to peppering the garbage can with scallions.

Except this one time, she decided not to decorate the Glad bag with a garnish of green; she put her environmentalist hat on and threw the long strands down the drain. The environmentalist hat, Jenny always said, was too small for her, so small that it cramped her brain. An environmentalist hat would stop anyone from thinking, Jenny said.

I never understood that about her, her heartless conservatism, but there was a lot about her that I didn't understand, starting with everything. Starting with everything, culminating in something, and coming to a head with scallion tails dropped down the disposal.

Like a shot I was over there when she called me, because that's what good boyfriends do, right?

It was 8:30 in the morning. Who cooks scallions at 8:30 in the morning? I wondered. So I asked her when I arrived at her apartment, “who cooks scallions at 8:30 in the morning?”

“I was making an omelette,” she growled at me. She pointed to a tin bowl full of eggs, mixed, next to neat piles of shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled sausage, green pepper and yes, green onions.

Her hair wasn’t done for the day, and she was wearing big gray sweatpants and a plain white t-shirt. Her face was flushed with anger, the pink settling high on her cheeks, near her cheekbones. Her eyes, that opaque blue, tried to flash with fury, but only twinkled. She looked gorgeous.

I’ve heard a lot of people say it before, that some girl or other looks her best when she’s steaming mad. But for Jenny it was really true. I just wanted to smile and hold her as close as I could and make her laugh or love me. The only time she looked as good as when she was mad was when she was sharing an inside joke, across the table or across the room, when anyone else might see it but no one did.

Suddenly I realized that I was just standing there in front of her sink with a half-smile on my face, thinking about her while she was three feet away, staring at me and waiting. So I stuck my hand into the drain and started groping around.

I’d never fixed a disposal before; I’d never even tried. So I just made exploratory humming noises for a while, hoping to feel something inside the sink’s throat, or better yet, hoping the thing might magically fix itself. After about a minute and a half, almost enough time for her to realize that I was clueless, I pulled out my hand, rinsed it and shook tiny water droplets that spattered into the sink. “Feels jammed,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, with surprising patience. “Can you unjam it?”

I indicated her chair and white-formica-topped table next to the window. “Why don’t you sit down,” I said, “and tell me where I can find a screwdriver. Or maybe a pair of tongs.”

She reached up over my shoulder and grabbed tongs from where they hung on the wall above the stove. I took them with nodded thanks and ushered her out of the kitchen, the full twenty-five feet to the opposite end of her apartment to have a seat so I could concentrate on my work... or at least on figuring out what the hell my work was.

The apartment was almost as wide as it was long, almost twenty feet by twenty-five, but still, obviously, a very small place. The kitchen occupied one half of one of the short walls, separated by a wall from the entryway that took up the other half of the short wall. On the other short wall were her bed, opposite the kitchen, and her table, opposite the front door.

The front door, Jenny always called it the front door, although there was no back door or side door anywhere in the apartment. But she had a habit of domesticizing; her aparment was her home, and that door was the front door. I loved it about her – the habit of making things comfortable, not the door; there was nothing really special about the door. Not that it was a bad door or anything, I’d just never–

I saw her still staring at me from the table, so I hefted the tongs in a silent toast to her and poked them into the drain. For all her tendency to make things comfortable, she could still make people uncomfortable with almost no effort. It was funny when she did it to someone else.

After a minute or so of wiggling, I said, “Aha!” and removed the tongs from the drain. There was a smallish piece of scallion-tail clutched between the fingers. I raised my eyebrows in what I estimated to be a confident glance, paused for a dramatic moment, and then reached for what I thought was the disposal power switch. The light above the sink went on, then off again. Then on.

I cleared my throat. “Can see better now,” I said, and peered into the sink. I couldn’t see shit. Jenny reached over to the shelf at her shoulder, pulled out a book, and opened to the first page.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Well

Hi. I guess it's been a while. I have no idea how many Google Readers this is going to show up in. Maybe what we had wasn't as great as I thought it was... then again - what do we have to lose, you and I.

My name is Joe White.

Hi.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Here am I

Almost a year ago now, I decided to sign up for NaBloPoMo, which some of you may remember, a blogging group dedicated to posting every single day during the month of November. The inspiration for NaBloPoMo was NaNoWriMo, a group dedicated to writing an entire 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

Bloggers, as is their wont, saw a good idea and tried to find a way to make it easier. Naturally, I was right there with the rest of them. The truth is, I had heard of NaNoWriMo before I even knew what a blog was, and the idea fascinated me. I've continued to fancy myself an excellent writer of fiction even though I haven't finished a single story since high school summer writing assignments, when I would pound out fantastical stylized pieces like this little gem from my sophomore year.

Since then, I've finished nothing, not a single story (at least nothing over 1,000 words), but I've always supposed that if I really wanted to, I could jump up at the drop of a hat and produce a passable, above-average novel. I don't really know if that's true. I'm afraid it's not.

But after trying my hand at NaBloPoMo last year, and finding out that I couldn't even keep up with that easy a task, it was only natural for me to decide that this year, I would take a stab at the big kahuna. So bring on NaNoWriMo, I thought. That was about three weeks ago.

My plan was to bring myself gradually back up to speed by finishing the series of stories I had started in high school. The one I posted here, you see, was only the first installment. The next year I had written “Nature Calls” for the high school summer writing assignment, and sometime shortly afterwards, I'd begun working on the third story, tentatively entitled “The Milk of Love.” Each story corresponded to one season - “Winning Atalanta” to summer, “Nature Calls” to fall, and the third and fourth to winter and spring, respectively. Three weeks ago, I had the idea that if I finished the third story during September and wrote the complete fourth story in October, I'd be warmed up enough to write a whole real book in November.

Well, I added enough to “The Milk of Love” to bring it to a grand total of fifteen pages, about ten less than I planned, and that was all. Apparently, it just doesn't come back to you like riding a bike. Perhaps also, I was underwhelmed with the quality of my stories from high school when I went back for a second look... and maybe, I have to say, disillusioned.

It's depressing to find out that at least in some ways, you aren't as exceptional as you always half-believed you were, and coming down from that feeling into the choking quiet of reality in a slow hollow thud can leave a bruise. It did for me.

So for now anyway, I'm going to try to finish that third story, and then if it's in me, write the fourth story, just to finish something, to be done. If that's done by November 1st, I may see about taking Roy and Emi out for a spin. I've already got 6,000 words or so on it, so it's technically cheating, but I'm not worried about that. In the meantime, I think I'm going to post the stories that I'm writing online as a way to keep myself honest. Anyone who cares to know can know exactly how much I've gotten done and when I've done it. We'll see if that helps. So that will include moving “Winning Atalanta” off of this page, where it doesn't really belong in the first place.

And I think that does it for housekeeping – plenty enough for me anyhow.

So I'd like to throw one more thing out there. I'm Catholic and I'm American, and I'm very proud of both. And projects like this one, which is run by my brother-in-law and is starting to get national attention, including mention in this past Sunday's New York Times, are genuinely exciting to me.

God bless America.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain-style Straight Talk... As in "heterosexual"

Today I’d like to talk about Sarah Palin. You may have heard of her – John McCain picked her to be his running mate. Well, I don’t know about the running, but I would have no problem picking her as a mate. We’d hole up in a den under Denali and she’d nurse my cubs while I foraged for berries, arctic hare and the occasional stray caribou.

Can’t you just picture her, lounging in a dark cave, covered in a bearskin with just her feet and face peeking out. You can see her glasses shining bat-like in the ambient light, but other than that, who knows if she’s wearing anything? Whew, I need to go take a cold shower.

I think it’d be best if I broke this down into sections here, otherwise I’m just going to waste my time and yours by talking about how I get lost in her eyes. So let’s start with

1. The reaction to her selection. When McCain’s choice of Palin was announced, the reaction was intense, from the most positive end of the spectrum to the dumbest. Liberal feminists everywhere realized that in one swift stroke, McCain had illegitimized the entirety of their movement. The history of feminism, from Cady Stanton and Dorothea Dix to Jackie O and Oprah, from Sharon Stone to Tina Fey to most bloggers, was immediately rendered meaningless. Suddenly it was clear that women don’t have to wear pants and kill their unborn children to have a meaningful life. Just look at Sarah Palin. She hardly ever wears pants, especially in my imagination, and she’s super successful.
This catalyzed intense jealousy, which found a surprising mouthpiece in Matt Damon. Like countless dumb others, Damon tried to pawn off his jealous rage as a critique of her credentials, but the fa├žade was transparent. And when, for heaven’s sake, will actors realize that no one cares what they think? Even if you’re a good actor, odds are you’re still retarded. Just look at Alec Baldwin. Remember those voicemails he left his daughter? Great actor… just retarded.
There was another crucial reaction that Palin garnered. All of a sudden, men across the country were entranced with the presidential race, reading up and watching videos in every spare moment. Women have always outnumbered men at the polls, but the Foxy Factor could change that. It’s a well-known statistic that extremely horny men are the #1 untapped demographic nationwide, especially in the plains states, which are renowned for the ugliness of their women.
And finally, there was the hardcore conservative reaction. Somewhat unimpressed with McCain’s conservatism, the large right-wing block was energized by a woman who is as conservative as they come. She even sold the governor’s plane, or something! Immediately, the red states got even redder with the flush of sexual arousal.

2. Todd Palin. Sarah Palin’s wife, I mean husband, Todd, is affectionately dubbed the “first dude” by the admittedly redneck Alaskan populace. Todd is a man’s man who works on the oil pipeline, allegedly working security to keep the other workers safe. Some skeptical democrats wondered who he might be protecting against, since there are no people in the wild hinterlands of Alaska, but it turns out that mostly he fights fucking bears. A representative of McCain’s campaign provided this video as evidence.
Bill Clinton is also a fan of Todd, which, let’s be honest, is probably just some backhanded attempt to get in Sarah’s snowpants. I mean, let’s look at the choices here: which would you rather?




Yeah, me too.

3. Bristol Palin is pregnant. I just don’t understand why this was in the news. We’ve all been pregnant before, some of us worse than others. This is a private matter, to be settled between Bristol, her family, that hick she was dating, and me. Seriously, Bristol, I could make you so much happier than the hockey player. I have a beard and two rifles, even though the beard is a little homo-looking. Be with me! You and your halfsquatch baby can move in with me right after the inauguration (propriety, naturally).
There was a lot of confusion, with some liberals calling the Palins hypocrites for not using birth control, or not living chastely or something, and then conservatives said the liberals were hypocrites for judging her use of her body or something, and it all got a little convoluted and confusing. But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the clear glimmer of the Northern Lights I see when I look in her eyes. And think of her mom.

And here are a few resources on the great lady I think we should all take advantage of:
Sarah Palin facts – great for researching the background and experience of the candidate.
Sarah Palin baby name generator – predict the name of her next child... Sell the story on exclusive to Us Weekly... Use the money to buy a lobbyist’s spot in the Oval Orifice – Office, sorry.
Sarah Palin naked portrait – This is kind of creepy, especially because I hang out in this bar at least once a month, and now it’s going to be awkward. I’ll have to stand right up against the bar the whole time, pressing my stomach against it.

And finally, if that hasn’t convinced you to vote Republican, I offer this shocking video of Senator Barack Obama visiting a McDonalds with his family when his daughter Malia asks if she can get a parfait AND an apple pie. Is this the man you want beating your children? McCain could never move that fast. Vote Sexy, vote Sarah.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Waking up in a park on a Saturday afternoon with literally no idea of where you are or how you got there is not as glamorous as it sounds. It’s not even grungy-glamorous, like your life is the next poppy production of the National Lampoon.

And it’s not because it’s trashy, or because it’s dangerous, or because it’s immoral – even though it is all those things – the reason that waking up in a park with no memory is not all it’s cracked up to be is that you don’t remember anything. It might have been fun, it might have been awful, but you have no idea.

Then you have to try to gauge the time of day and the directions from where the sun is in the sky, and then try to hail a cab while you remember bits and pieces of where you’d been and what you’d done in the last 24 hours since the party started. Images of a bouncer telling you that you can’t come into a bar, of hiding a full bottle of vodka in the tank of a tavern toilet.

I suppose that this is what alcoholics are referring to when they say rock-bottom – the strange feeling that you don’t even know who you are any more, that you can’t even tell whether you’re awake or dreaming. It’s not glamorous, it’s not romantic, it’s not nice.

Three weeks ago tonight, I was sitting on my back porch with my younger brother Ed after a softball game, drinking beers and shooting the shit until about three in the morning, when we decided to go to Nashville. So we left, got into South Bend around 6AM, stayed to eat with our cousin Jack, and then left heading South. I called in sick to work that day and the next, and we wandered up and down Broadway in the rain in Music City, USA. We saw the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry, and we saw Second Avenue and Jack’s BBQ and the famous Wildhorse Saloon.

When I got back home on Sunday, I had an email waiting from my boss. I was being transferred to another department. So I’ve been a little busy since then, which is too bad. But I’m tired of talking about it, so don’t ask. I’ll be right back.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I don't care if New Orleans floods

Politics are all over the news these days, what with McCain’s choosing a woman as his running mate to pander to feminist Democrats and Obama’s choosing a crusty old man to appeal to crusty old Republican men. Neither strategy seems to make much sense to me. Feminist Democrats are crazy bitches who would rather wear a skirt than vote for John McCain (maybe that’s a bit of a stretch), and all the old Republican men are going to vote for the old Republican man no matter what. “A black president?!” they’ll exclaim. “Pshaw!”

But I don’t want to spend too much time with politics for now. Also in the news the past few days has been the anticlimactic onslaught of Hurricane Gustav.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was hoping for the drama and excitement of another Katrina-scale disaster. I mean, the stories of heroism, the heartbreak, Kanye West making an ass out himself… that’s just compelling television.

But that wasn’t the only reason I wanted Gustav to slam into New Orleans and flood it again. I also felt that New Orleans kind of deserved it. All everyone ever talks about is how hard it was and how sad and yada yada, who gives a crap?

The Lower Ninth Ward is constructed almost entirely below sea level. You know what happens to places that are below sea level? The sea flows into them, and they get wet. I don’t care how much quick-dry cement you dump into those levees; sooner or later, that shit is going to collapse and your stupid town is going to flood. So live there if you want, but don’t come crying to me when your retarded plan blows up in your face. Suck it up and move to Nebraska, bitch.

My dad has a theory that people build out below sea level just so they can have a great story about a boy who heroically stuck his finger in a dike, and I’m all, “Rosie O’Donnell sorta looks like a boy.”

But we don’t need to literally stick our fingers into sandbags or lesbians here in America just to make a point. If that’s your thing, that’s your thing, I guess, but I would disagree with your dirty doings.

Instead of sticking a finger somewhere inappropriate, we can stick our whole hands.

Let me explain. On Monday night, the long weekend wound down with a barbecue at the home with the whole family. After dinner, as usual, the men went out to the porch to smoke cigarettes and pass gas, and it was a few minutes after this stage, as I was sitting in the kitchen, sipping the last of my Bookers when I heard a cracking sound and a loud grunt.

I looked over to see my brother Ed straining with all his might against the giant rack of cupboards that sit above the stove, which had somehow suddenly decided to fall off the wall. Most inappropriate behavior for a four hundred pound cupboard. I helped him hold it up and we awkwardly scrambled to empty the shelves enough that Ed could hold it up while I ran to get help.

My parents were watching tv and drifting off in the front hall, and I could clearly picture Ed, holding out for as long as need be, the boy with his finger in the dike.

I tried to be calm. “The cupboards above the stove are falling,” I said.

My mom looked up from the tv. “Like falling, falling?”

“Yes.”

The two of them immediately whirred from their seats like rocketing pheasants and we bustled back to the kitchen.

It took a while for us to empty the rest of the cupboards, turn off the requisite circuit breakers, unscrew the hood of the stove and lift the giant piece of furniture to the ground, but that’s not the image I want to leave you with. I want you to picture Ed, alone, straining to hold on. He might not have had his finger in a dike, but that cupboard must have weighed almost as much as Rosie O’Donnell, and that’s good enough for me.

In conclusion, this is why I don’t care if New Orleans drowns once and for all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My first kiss: I kissed a girl and I liked it

I was incredibly tame in high school. I never smoked, I never drank, I never went out. The first time I smoked a cigarette was after the last baseball game of my high school career, late in the spring of my senior year. I never drank until college. I never took a date to prom; in fact, I never went to a single dance or went on a single date. Or kissed a girl.

Well, I drink and smoke more now than I did then, and even though I've still never been to a dance or been on a date, I have kissed a girl. High five.

I made it through an entire semester without getting remotely close. Or remotely trying. To be honest, I wasn't that interested. I was more focused on drinking vast quantities of beer and then making it to class the next morning.

Along with my cousin Jake and his roommate Zach, I went out every night for the first two weeks of school. Every night, we'd go to the beer store for a thirty pack of Keystone Light, split it between the three of us, and then head out to whichever upperclassmen's house was having a party to see who could get the most phone numbers.

It was a pretty sweet setup. We got along with all the seniors, who had all the apartments and all the houses and threw all the parties. That meant, for the rest of the freshmen, being friends with us meant you could get in to the cool parties. So the numbers weren't hard to come by.

Seven nights a week for the first two weeks (and five or six nights a week after we slowed down a little), we'd each have our ten beers and then make a call or two, encouraging the company we'd selected for the night to make sure to "bring a friend! Bring three!"

The first few months were too busy a torrent of collecting phone numbers to leave any time to call them, to follow up, to close the sale. Forget the "wait three days" rule – girls were getting pushed six, seven days back just because the schedule was packed until then. We had to split up some nights to make sure we were going out with all of the right people often enough, make sure that the queue wasn't getting too long.

But of course, the number of numbers we had to go through was limited. On November 1st, for the first time, we did not go out on a weekend night. As December rolled around, our really intense partying nights were cut down to four or five nights a week. The numbers, although they were still coming, were dwindling. There were only so many girls at the school.

By the end of the semester, Zach had met his future wife, and they were getting serious. Jake had begun another dysfunctional relationship (he had a history). We were still the biggest carousers on the campus, but we weren't as rabidly devoted to the cause of partying as we had been at the start.

Early in the second semester was the annual out-door backwoods barbecue party that the school put on – probably the biggest party of the year. Everyone was there – pretty much everyone in the whole school. That meant that the three of us were going to be stretched to our limits. Add to this the fact that my foot had been run over by a drunk senior girl in a minivan two nights before and I was on crutches, and it was promising to be even busier.

In preparation for a long night when we might be too busy taking care of every Jilly and Jane in the wide forest to have a beer or two, we made sure to drink extra beforehand. Actually, the beer distributors were closely watched at the school parties too, and since we weren't twenty-one, that ought to have been a problem – and more reason to drink beforehand since you can't get your share at the party. Problem was, all the senior friends we had would insist on getting us beers and making us slam them behind the port-a-potties pretty much all night. But we didn't know this at that point. So we drank with gusto.

After fifteen to twenty beers, we drove over to catch the bus that would take us to the hayride that would take us to the party. Zach pulled up near the cul-de-sac where the buses were waiting, finished the last of a beer and threw up all over his own running board. We declared ourselves ready.

The next four hours were a blur. I actually ended up in a different hay-truck than Jake and Zach because I couldn't keep up on crutches, and I didn't see them again for the rest of the party.

After talking to them afterwards, I know it was just as chaotic for them as it was for me. One conversation, one group, one excuse, one promise to hang out after another – dashing back and forth between desperate friend-sets for five minute intervals by claiming to each that I was going to the bathroom.

For the duration of the party I felt like one of those airline pilots you read about who have two or three different families across the country or across the world that they only see for four months out of the year and still manage to convince them that "you are the ones I really care about, I really love, I really want to be with."

If you're good, you can make them believe it.

As the party wound down, and the hay-trucks took more and more revelers back to campus, I found myself talking to a girl who had been pushed to the “hang out with her once every two weeks” folder in the queue. Her name was Aida, she was from Mexico, and she was actually pretty cute and pretty cool, but her English wasn't great, so hanging out with her took a high level of concentration. Hence the two weeks folder status.

Ha! I just searched for her on Facebook and she's actually really cute! I didn't remember exactly what she looked like, to be honest. Just like I don't really remember what we were talking about, just that after about twenty minutes, she said, "can I kiss you?"

I said ok, so she did. And there we were, standing pretty much in the middle of an emptying party. I'm on crutches, I'm supposed to be playing it cool, keeping everyone happy, and instead I'm straight up mugging down, and I mean wet from my nose to the tip of my chin, teeth-clacking against each other mugging down.

And who better to tap my shoulder no more than twenty seconds into the affair than my older sister. Yes, honestly. She was a senior, I was a freshman, and this display was most extremely inappropriate.

So I said, "oh, hi. Nice to see you to. You're leaving? Oh, I think I'm going to stay. Oh, I'm coming with you? I'm too much of an embarrassment to stay and you can't even believe you're talking to me? Oh, ok. See you later, Aida."

My sister walked me to the hayrides most solemnly, while I attempted to agree with her decision and simultaneously make light of the dire awkwardness by reinventing the lyrics of Aretha Franklin's famous "Respect" to spell out "R-E-T-A-R-D-E-D!" which I sang the whole way. I meant it to apply to myself, but I don't know if she got that.

And that's the story of my first kiss. Romantic, or what?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

She loves me; I love me not

I spent most of the day yesterday lamenting my sad, sad history with women.

I’ve described before, you might remember, my basic MO when it comes to interaction with the opposite sex. Basically, the approach consists of two distinct steps:

Step 1: Get her to like you. And I mean really, really like you. There are a variety of tricks to this, including, but not limited to:
  • Hinting vaguely at serious commitment.

  • Using her name whenever possible.

  • Telling her friends that you like her but never telling her.

  • Winking knowingly across the table/room during parties.

  • Picking her for your beer pong team even though she probably sucks.

  • Calling her right after she leaves a party to tell her you miss her already and then running out the door and across the lawn to kiss her romantically in front of everyone.


Step 2: Nothing. This is basically as simple as it sounds. Once she really, really likes you, you just do nothing. You don’t ignore her – that’s not what I mean. You keep talking to her, but just refuse to move the relationship forward. When she questions you on this, you ask “what relationship?” She stammers for a minute and then says… “you know, us.”

After a moment of furrowed-brow stare, you make as if it just dawned on you and go “ohhhh, ok. I didn’t know what… haha, yeah.” Then you shake your head. “So, can I get you another drink?”

This really drives the girls crazy. First it drives them crazy like “oh, she’s going crazy for you!” crazy. They think you’re mysterious, they want to know more about you, they want to crack your hard exterior, they’re convinced they understand you better than anyone else, etc.

Then, after a while, it drives them crazy like angry, pissed off “you’re driving me crazy!” crazy. They want commitment, or at least to know what the hell is going on and is this a relationship, or what the hell is it? And you’re just dodging the questions, dancing along the verbal tightrope like an old pro, and she gets tired of it. At this stage she usually threatens to go after other guys. You have this conversation:

Her: “If you’re not even going to tell me what you’re thinking, then maybe we shouldn’t be exclusive, then!”

You: “I didn’t know we were exclusive.”

Her: “Very funny. You’re impossible.”

More often than not, she’ll get drunk one night and convince herself that she deserves better. She’ll find some male shoulder to cry on and probably end up hooking up with him. Then she’s better for a week or so. She’s independent, she’s happier, she looks great. Then she gets drunk again and this time, feels incredibly guilty. She comes back to you doe-eyed, apologizing with tears glistening on her mascara and swearing “I know we can make this work,” only to deflate like a blow up doll when you tell her you don’t really care that she scored with that dude. Except more emotionally than a blow up doll.

At this point, it drives her crazy like literally “holy balls, you’re batshit insane!” crazy. Her reactions can range from trying to hook up with your friends to accusing you of rape to quitting her job and moving to Poughkeepsie.

The problem is, the point is, that approach doesn’t really work. I know what you’re thinking – come on, that’s GOT to work! It’s pure gold! But you’re wrong, it doesn’t.

It makes you laugh, and it makes you feel like a powerful person when you tell your friends the story and laugh, but after a few years of breaking down girls emotionally so that they’ll need you - only to see them break down so far and so hard that they’re not even fun to hang out with any more, you start to feel like a lonely husk of a man.

But just before you get to that absolute low, that terrible feeling of self-loathing, while you’re still, just barely, in normal mode, you hit a marvelously strange intermediate point, a point at which you will, to your later disbelief, mail a $200 bouquet of roses to a girl with a note that says, simply, “whatever.”

And then, before you can really begin to appreciate what is clearly a new brand of insanity, you find a website on which you can watch every single episode of Arrested Development for free, and you never find out what that next stage would have been. Not yet, anyway.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twenty-somethings suck

I think I’m going to write a book with this title; there’s certainly enough to say. But before I even begin to enumerate the ways in which twenty-somethings suck, perhaps it’s best for us to discuss just what is a twenty-something.

A twenty-something is someone who refers to himself or herself as “twenty-something” or “a twenty-something.” Remember these terms, as they will be important in our conversation. Also remember that they suck. If you are a twenty-something, remember that you suck.

First of all, “twenty-something?” I get pissed when people in their thirties and forties refer to themselves as thirty-something or forty-something. I just think “why?” I’m twenty-two. Next year I will be twenty-three. In fifteen years I will be thirty-seven. Why are you afraid of your age?

Most people who call themselves “forty-something” are at least forty-eight anyway. The guys are balding and struggling with impotence, and the women’s biological clock clicked to a desperate zero nigh on a decade ago. That’s your company when you refer to yourself as twenty-something. Is that the image you’re looking for?

And that’s people in their thirties and forties! You’re in your twenties, for fuck’s sake. You’re not old. You might be a fucking loser, sure. But it’s not because you’re old, it’s because you’re just a loser.

Here’s the bottom line: anyone who’s going to make automatic negative judgments about you based on your exact age is a douchebag. So why do you care what they think? The rest of us are just going to say, “oh, 25. ok. Oh, 29. ok.”

When you refer to yourself as “twenty-something,” what you are saying is that you don’t think your age is cool. You think people who are your age suck.

The problem is, if you think that anyone any age automatically sucks, then you automatically suck. See how that works? Whereas if you just bit the fucking bullet and said, “yeah, I’m 28; yeah, I’m 43,” then who gives a shit? So you’re 28.

It’s just a number, people. And when you try to control it by referring to yourself as a “twenty-something,” all you’re doing is showing everyone around you that your age controls you – that you fear the power of the number. You, who fancy yourself clever and educated, are controlled by a fucking numeral. How sad is that? You suck, that’s how sad it is.

The real question is this: do you consider yourself a disappointment for the age you’re at?

And whichever way you answer, you’re probably right.

So suck it up, stop being a little bitch and grow a pair. You’re 28 after all, right dipshit?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It runs in the family, apparently

So yeah, my family's really close - both my immediate family and my extended family.

But are we too close? Too loyal to each other? Too caught up in a feeling that blood runs thicker than water?

You tell me. After my post earlier today, I got an email from my cousin Jake. He told me that he'd had similar dreams in the past: a family member committing unspeakably horrible evil, and then, when push comes to shove, we just go along with it. And not only that, we worry about their leaving evidence behind. We do everything we can to help them get away.

We do our best to get around the situation by pretending like it never happened, like we can just sweep it under the rug.

None of our family members is a murderer, that I know of. But I still found it pretty odd that we'd had such similar dreams, and so did Jake. Here's his.



I had a test to think about. First one of the new year, I hate it when christmas break ends and you have to go back to school. Never a worse time in a midwest child's life that between about January 3rd and February 28th. Long, dark, cold winter mornings when you have to wake up at what seems like 4am to go to school. That was today. My dad was taking us to school that day on his way to work. It's overcast outside plus it's early and still pretty dark. And cold, really cold.

I'm sitting with Maggie in the back seat while my Dad checks a message on his phone. We know to be quiet, not as if we would have anything to say this early on, but still we knew. It hadn't been thirty seconds since we had left our driveway, hadn't seen any other cars yet cause it's early and our road isn't very busy anyway. I was zoning out watching the trees go by, drifting in and out of a dreamy haze huddled inside my big winter coat. I'm not sure if it was the jarring shock of a frigid metal zipper touching my cheek or the sound of the engine coming to life as my dad finished his call that brought me back, but either way I was aware again. Then something bright caught my attention up ahead- it was almost blocked by the bend in the road at first but it quickly came into view. As we neared the curve in the road I heard the hum of the engine grow rapidly louder. Then the car straighted out instead of taking on the gradual turn in the road. I see him. Does my dad? He's right fucking there. Wham! nailed him.

He barely even turned around before we smacked into him. I couldn't even see his face yet, just his ear and nose as he was beginning to turn and face us. He didn't stand a chance cause he never got to react. No jumping up to roll over the hood, just a slight turn in time to probably know he was fucked. We hit him and he went down. I followed the path his body took with my eyes as we passed over what I now presumed was a mangled corpse. I swear I heard crunching under my feet as the front passenger tire came back to the ground and the rear passenger tire lifted up over his body. What an odd feeling it is to be sitting one moment in your seat and then the next to be sitting in that same seat only a foot or so higher up and knowing full well that that increase in altitude is due solely to a human being's body being crunched under the tire of the three thousand pound car you're in.

Somehow I knew it wasn't a mistake. The car didn't slow before impact, it revved and sped up. The front bumper never dipped, maybe if it had he would have stood a chance over flipping up toward the windshield, but not this poor bastard. He went down under. Wait. That fucking song. It was on the radio right then. What a coincidence I thought. That's funny, this song is so catchy. The car was stopped. It had been for a while. Maybe an hour or two, or three seconds, I don't know, but it was long enough for my dad to be out of his seat. His door was shut. His coffee hadn't spilt. Good thing he brought that one cup with the safety top. The steam escaping the small opening in the lid was fogging up the windshield. I leaned forward to hit the defrost button and turn on the heat. Man was it cold. Wait a second. "Maggie, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just cold."

I wonder if that guy was okay. When I got out of the car my dad was stuffing his body in the trunk. He looked at me and casually mentioned that he was dead. "Oh, okay. What are you doing?"

"I'm gonna put him in the dumpster, it's garbage day today."

I nodded and followed the trail of blood back to where we hit him. I started scooping fresh white snow on top of the blood stains. My dad told me to hurry up or we'd be late for school. So I did. I covered up all the blood spots and erased my dad's tracks by kicking snow over them. I jumped back into my seat and shut the door.

"Sure is cold out there huh Jake?"

"Yup."





Yeah, I don't know. Analyze that.

I don't know why I act differently in dreams

I had the scariest fucking dream last night. It was the first time in about ten years that I actually lay awake for a while, afraid to get out of bed and get myself a glass of water.

I was out at an Italian restaurant with my younger brother Ed. It had a really Mediterranean feel to it, with arched doorways, tan stucco walls and an open, airy dining room.

As my brother was walking to the bathroom, he got the evil eye and a shoulder from some heavyset guy that we’d met the day before, a friend of two friends of ours – they were at the restaurant too. At least, I assume that’s what happened, I didn’t really see. But Ed wasn’t coming right back from the bathroom, so after about ten minutes, I went in to see what was up.

He was standing there by the sinks, not doing anything, just standing. And then I realized the heavyset guy had followed me into the bathroom. I could see that he and Ed had business.

"I’ll wait out in the back," I said, and started for the door. I didn’t offer to help; I knew he didn’t need help. Before I even reached for the handle, Ed had grabbed the big guy, lifted him bodily off his feet and slammed his face down into the sink with tremendous force. The body fell to the ground limp. He was dead for sure.

Oh shit, I thought. Oh shit. We’ve got to get out of here.

Next thing I knew, we were running along a path behind the restaurant towards a deck high on a bluff that overlooked the lake and the wide beach, and Ed was dragging the guy’s body behind him. Fifty feet behind were our two friends, a guy and a girl, calling to us and wondering what the hell was going on.

I was past the deck and down ten stairs or so when they caught up to Ed right at the top of the stairs. "We’ve got to go, we’ve got to go! People will be coming!" I called to Ed.

But he wasn’t listening. He was crouched with the body, quiet, rocking back and forth. And then he started talking to our friends. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but they looked like they were trying to comfort him. Soon all three were sitting down together, embracing and crying. And then Ed had them hug the dead man, bracing the body up so the two could hold hands behind his back while they held each other close in front.

I was getting more and more nervous, jumpy. We really needed to go. Right down the stairs, some hundred and fifty feet, I could see the beach where we were supposed to meet the rest of the family for the afternoon.

But I couldn’t call out, I was mesmerized by the three people and the corpse at the top of the stairs. Ed seemed to be directing them through a series of strange arm movements and gestures. They would clasp each other’s hands, then release, twist arms around and clasp again.

And then Ed pushed them back, with their arms caught behind the dead man’s back, stepped onto his chest and started the chainsaw. The calm trance-like expression fell from their faces and they squirmed to try to free themselves from the weight of the dead body, but they were hopelessly stuck.

Then Ed lowered the saw and started cutting off the dead man’s head. Immediately, in a second, they were covered in the warm spray of blood and they screamed and tried to wipe the blood away from their faces, out of their mouths.

The cutting was done quickly, and Ed bent to pick up the severed head. I looked away, to the side down the bluff, only to see it bounce and roll past me, down toward the beach.

Back up to the deck – Ed held a dull black machine pistol. He shot the nearer of the red squirming figures, the guy, in the head, paused and then shot him again in the head. Then he turned to swing the gun to the girl.

There was a click. He was out of ammo. The girl, who didn’t look like a person any more, struggled anew with desperate hope of escape, but Ed just stepped back so that the thrashing arm and legs didn’t get blood on his pants. He pulled a fresh clip from his pocket and threw the empty case off the bluff. I thought for a moment how careless he was being with the evidence.

Then he slid the new magazine into the pistol grip and jacked a round into the chamber. "Don’t try this at home," he said with a smile, and then shot her in the face. Her head snapped back against the wood with a force that would have left a bruise, but instead there was just a wet thunk, and then her head rolled to the side. There was blood everywhere.

As we ran down the stairs toward the beach, Ed seemed to be throwing one thing after another over the railings out onto the bluff. I couldn’t see what, I just encouraged him, "get rid of it, get rid of it."

We hit the sand and I just ran. I ran toward the water as fast as I could, but it just kept getting farther away. My lungs were burning and my legs were heavy and still I ran and still I got no closer. Finally, I threw myself down under a log of driftwood and lay there clenching my eyes closed to keep out the sand that blasted up under my breath.

When I opened my eyes, I saw that the family was already there, the kids playing in the sand up nearer to the bluff. And thirty feet from them I saw the dead man’s head lying in the sand, eyes open. Right away I ran to get it, to hide it, to take it away.

"He got rid of it, he got rid of it," I was repeating to myself, only it came out as a whining moan, "he got rid of it, he got rid of it."

Bridget, my niece, heard me coming when I was fifty feet away, squinching across the sand, and looked to see where I was running. She saw it, and stood up right away. Then she started walking towards it. The face was towards her, the mouth slightly open, the eyes rolled back.

"What is that?" she said, and the alarm was clear in her voice. And then she started sobbing, "is that a hea- a head?"

"Bridget!" I yelled, and reached out across the blankets. I opened my eyes in the dark and I was in bed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Advance screening

I wrote a longer piece today (that's what she said! -no, "wrote," not "rode"). It's a guest post scheduled to run on Citizen of the Month on Friday. But seriously, it's kinda long. So I figured I'd put up some of it now. And here's how the rules go: as soon as five people say "where's the next part?" or "put the next part up!" I'll put the next part up. There are four parts total, I guess, and I definitely will save at least the fourth and final part for Friday on Citizen of the Month... But for anyone who wants to, here's a special preview. Five people say they want more, we do more. Clear on the rules? OK. Here we go.



My First Day as the Chicago Cubs New Mascot to Attract More Gay Men to the Park – the Chicago Red Hot

It was one of those times in a young, impetuous man’s life when he mortgages the love of his family for the pursuit of an ignoble passion.

Philosophically, technically, I believe in the dominion of the intellect over the will and the will over the passions. If you ask me the order, that’s how I’ll answer: intellect over will, will over passions – that is, your passions impel you, but your will controls your submission to those passions; and your intellect determines the resolution of the will.

I’ve learned that from an early age, from 18 years of Catholic School. Yes, that’s right, eighteen years. But also, I believe in that pecking order of the personality (intellect, will, passions – repeat it like a mantra). It makes sense to me – that it should be true.

As a matter of course, as a matter of empirical reality, I know that sometimes things don’t work that way. I know this because I have an intensely addictive personality. I am addicted to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling. The only reason I’m not hooked on more serious drugs is because, thank God, I’ve never tried them. But don’t worry – addiction to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling is quite enough.

People have told me that a lesser man would have broken by now. I know that being a lesser man is the only thing that’s kept me sane. The reason I haven’t broken is because I bend. And it feels so good when I bend, stretch like a sapling under strong weight, and it hurts so bad when I snap back upright. The weight of addiction has bent me like an old man’s years bend him.

When I was younger, I wondered why old men didn’t just stand up! I wanted to straighten them out myself, flatten them on a table – lay them on their backs and push against pelvis and clavicle until they unfolded under my hands like a road map. I imagined that then they would breathe, freely, deeply, for the first time since their first Social Security check slipped through the mail slot in 1981.

Now I know it doesn’t work that way. Which is why I don’t try to unkink my own hunched back, just manage it; just make sure my shoulders aren’t banging on my knees, my forehead between my calves. Manage the bend, that’s my motto. Control my handicap.

It was gambling that got me into this mess, smoking and drinking that had made it worse. God knows where the sex would take me.

My First Day as the Chicago Cubs New Mascot to Attract More Gay Men to the Park – the Chicago Red Hot

Well, it's already been posted at Citizen of the Month, but here's the rest anyway.



It was one of those times in a young, impetuous man’s life when he mortgages the love of his family for the pursuit of an ignoble passion.

Philosophically, technically, I believe in the dominion of the intellect over the will and the will over the passions. If you ask me the order, that’s how I’ll answer: intellect over will, will over passions – that is, your passions impel you, but your will controls your submission to those passions; and your intellect determines the resolution of the will.

I’ve learned that from an early age, from 18 years of Catholic School. Yes, that’s right, eighteen years. But also, I believe in that pecking order of the personality (intellect, will, passions – repeat it like a mantra). It makes sense to me – that it should be true.

As a matter of course, as a matter of empirical reality, I know that sometimes things don’t work that way. I know this because I have an intensely addictive personality. I am addicted to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling. The only reason I’m not hooked on more serious drugs is because, thank God, I’ve never tried them. But don’t worry – addiction to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling is quite enough.

People have told me that a lesser man would have broken by now. I know that being a lesser man is the only thing that’s kept me sane. The reason I haven’t broken is because I bend. And it feels so good when I bend, stretch like a sapling under strong weight, and it hurts so bad when I snap back upright. The weight of addiction has bent me like an old man’s years bend him.

When I was younger, I wondered why old men didn’t just stand up! I wanted to straighten them out myself, flatten them on a table – lay them on their backs and push against pelvis and clavicle until they unfolded under my hands like a road map. I imagined that then they would breathe, freely, deeply, for the first time since their first Social Security check slipped through the mail slot in 1981.

Now I know it doesn’t work that way. Which is why I don’t try to unkink my own hunched back, just manage it; just make sure my shoulders aren’t banging on my knees, my forehead between my calves. Manage the bend, that’s my motto. Control my handicap.

It was gambling that got me into this mess, smoking and drinking that had made it worse. God knows where the sex would take me.

------

“Do you think you could make it onto the field during a Cubs game – for more than a full minute?” my friend Eddie had asked me five weeks before, while we were – wait for it – drinking. Of course I could. I knew I could. In the warm friendly haze of a dozen beers, I was certain.

I loved that haze; it made anything possible. It meant she loved you, your life was on track, your friends were the best in the world and you were strong, smart, good-looking. I’d written a poem a few years before

When the sun has gone down and the moon takes its place
And the revelers rise to give darkness new grace,
When the harshness of daylight has dwindled to night
And all beauty increases, by softness of sight,
Then the friends are more friendly, and enemies too,
Which is more than the unreserved drinking can do,
For there’s magic about, and it’s all through the air,
And as long as you’re with me, I long to be there.

That feeling. That fucking feeling was what made me take the bet – a thousand dollar bet, which was about nine hundred and fifty dollars more than I could afford to lose. That made me take the bet. That, and my certified addiction to gambling.

Every day I would think about calling Eddie, calling it off – knowing he wouldn’t mind that much. I’d pay him twenty bucks, he’d make fun of me, we’d be done with it.

And then every night, I’d drink until that feeling got me again, until I was past the point of talking myself into it. “I played baseball in college for four years,” I’d say. “Of course I can do it. I’m an athlete. Hell, I could do five minutes, let alone one.”

That was how my first attempt happened: July 8th, 2008 – the first month of the second half of the year: new beginnings. And I was celebrating by hefting my ass over the low fence to the left of the Cubs home dugout in the middle of the fourth inning. New beginnings. If you were watching the game, that’s why the commercial break took an extra thirty seconds or so.

It all started off well enough: a quick sprint and I was across the foul line, moving into shallow left field. Edwin Encarnacion, the Cincinnati Reds third baseman, made a half-hearted grab for me, but I was past him.

And then I ran out of gas. The two years of steady smoking since I’d last run regularly had an unbelievable effect. I swear I hadn’t gone more than fifty yards when I was sucking wind, slowing down, looking over my shoulder for the inevitable security. I dodged once, turned to my right and was immediately tackled and smothered. And I was so gassed I was almost relieved. Total time on the field: forty seconds.

Needless to say, the blue-coated security and ubiquitous ushers were on the lookout for my face the next few home series. Three times in the next two weeks, I was nabbed before even setting foot on the playing surface and then, once last week, I was denied entrance to the stadium. Denied entrance to the Friendly Confines that I know and love so well. I needed a new plan.

------

When I saw the flyer advertising for “specialty mascots,” I had a glimmer of hope. When I called in and heard that there was still one position unfilled, that hope swelled inside me. And when I arrived to interview to find that somehow, no one there recognized me as the would-be trespasser, that hope filled my heart and overflowed. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get the spot. I barely listened as they described the job, the position, my duties. I signed the waivers, the contract with a smile on my face. And last Sunday, July 27th, I reported for duty.

The game was at 6:00; I was there by three, knocking on the “Personnel Admitted” door right next to Gate 14. A girl about my age with a clipboard and headphones swung the door open. “Are you the red hot?” she said.

I was confused. The red hot? Was she coming on to me? What?

“No, you’re the red hot,” I said, and then added, reading from her nametag, “Amy.”

She shook her head but I could see the smile at the corners of her mouth. She grabbed my wrist and pulled me inside, spinning me in front of her down the hallway. I was smiling to myself in congratulations of my smoothness halfway down the walk when I remembered, “Red Hot! Fuck! That’s my job! Ohhh yeahhh.” I turned to say something, but she was talking on the headset, “I left it right there… Ok, I’ll be up in a second. Yeah, he’s here.” She turned to me, swinging me by my wrist to a door in the right wall, and with a hand over her mouthpiece, whispered, “I’ll help you with your costume. Strip.”

And then she walked away down the hall. I watched her go, her white sneakers susurrating on the cement. Not a bad-looking girl. Strip, huh? Ok, Amy, you got it.

I pushed my way into the cement room, decorated with green lockers on walls to the left and right. An old, and by the looks of it, unused vending machine stood at the far end of the room, some thirty feet from me, and on the floor in the middle of the room lay what looked like a red kayak with rounded bottom and edges, so rounded that it was basically cylindrical.

I took my shoes off, and my shirt, and then I stopped. Couldn’t mascots wear clothes under the costumes? Didn’t they all? Was it just too hot this time of year? I was paused with my belt halfway undone when I heard the door rasp open behind me. Amy walked into the room, closed the door carefully behind her and took off the headset, setting it on top of the first locker.

She shook out her hair with her fingers as she walked past me, blowing out a sigh. I turned, my fingers still on my belt, to see her hefting the kayak-thing and turning back to me. “Pants off,” she said, and then smiled, a full, not-just-corners-of-her-mouth smile. “Part of the job.”

I had no idea where this was going, not a clue in hell, but I was liking it so far. I kicked out of my socks and then slid out of my jeans.

“Whoah, does the smell in the locker room turn you on or what?” she said. I glanced down. “Must be something,” I said. She dragged the red thing over to where I stood, flipped it over to I could see another hole like the one on the top, except instead of being in the middle, like a kayak, this one was at one end.

“Hold this,” she said, handing me the end. It was round, and wide, about two and a half feet wide, no narrower at the end than the middle, with a little clip on the very tip, a small steel loop. I took this in quickly in the half-second before she reached over and pulled my boxers down to my ankles.

I passed off the “mmm” sound that escaped me as an “mmm-hmmm!” clearing my throat. This was weird. Amy looked up at me, a confused expression on her face. There was much to be confused about. “Aren’t you gay?” she said.

I looked down, narrowed my eyes, and tried to shrug, which was difficult with the giant red thing in my hands. “No,” I finally said, “I’m not.”

Amy stood up and looked at me. Then at her watch. Then she reached over my shoulder and flicked the power switch on her headset to ‘off.’

She was very energetic.

------

I was sure we were going to be late. I really didn’t want to be late. It must have been getting close to time when she told me to climb inside the red thing. “Are you nuts?” I said, but she was busy tucking in her shirt. “Hurry up!” she said. Ok, the dominatrix thing. Fine. I wasn’t into it, but I owed her, I figured. I started to climb headfirst into the top hole hear the end. It was slow going, my legs waggling in empty air. And then she smacked me, hard, right on my bare ass. I jerked and banged my head on the inside of the red plastic, then crawled out.

She was giggling, but obviously still in a hurry. “Oh, shit,” she was saying, “I left a huge welt on your ass.” Why would she worry about that? Ten minutes ago, she was scratching up my back like a damn leopard. I turned once and a half around, craning to try to see the welt, like a dog chasing its tail. She giggled again and pushed me back to the red thing. “Go!” she said, “feet first.”

“What?”

“Feet first!” she said.

“…” I said.

Amy shook her head. “Did you even read the job description?” she said. She lifted my feet in the end hole and scooched me down farther. Soon my ass was in the tube. She kept pushing, telling me to “scoot!” until I was completely inside the red thing, staring out the opening at the cement ceiling where a bare light-bulb hung. I could feel the cool of the cement floor against my ass through the other hole, and slowly, gradually, the words from my job meeting started coming back to me.

Amy was at the door, opening it, and I could hear more people coming in. Three or four, maybe. There was a shuffle of feet and a clink of steel at the clip on each end of my red sarcophagus, and then I was hefted into the air. I could feel the rush of air across my backside.

As I was hefted out of the tunnel, squinting in the bright sunlight and hearing someone reminding me to “smile!” I remembered everything, and I realized why Amy had been so nervous about the bright hand-print she left on my ass.

I was the Chicago Red Hot. My job? To attract gay men to the park. My MO? To be trussed up like a giant sausage on a rotisserie next to the visitors bullpen, and rotate for nine long innings, cooking evenly in the sun and offering the crowd alternating views of my smiling face and my bare white ass. With Amy’s handprint gleaming on it.

I won the bet. Damn right I did. And I also boosted gay attendance in a big way. Already the section just up the line from the bullpen is known as “Queer Corner.”

But when my family found out, my conservative, traditional Catholic family, it wasn’t an easy thing for them to swallow. It was one of those times in a young, impetuous man’s life when he mortgages the love of his family for the pursuit of an ignoble passion.

Intellect, will, passions – I can say it like a mantra. But sometimes, when you live in a world as addictive as this one, an experience can turn everything on its head… or in my case, on its ass.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Or at least get run over by a bus

a sestina, by me

I certainly didn’t expect to
Have to write a sestina when
I had this great idea in the first
Place. They’re super complicated, plus I
Am not that good at this to begin with.
But I’ll give it a shot.

That’s what I thought: a shot
In the dark is the only way anyone’s going to
Come up with
Sestina as their poem of choice when
They leave their comment. I
Should have thought this over first.

Most people just made fun of me. The first
Few were hacks taking their shot –
Which is fine – that’s what I
Expected to
Happen. But that was when
I didn’t know what I was dealing with.

Out of nowhere, with
Malice like Cain’s first
Murder, when
He shot
His brother to
Get back at him, I

Was blindsided. I
Was nailed with
No mercy by Falwless, pinned to
My own promises. First
I did a shot
Of whiskey, and when

I had one, I wanted another, and when
I had ten, I
Decided to not even give it a shot.
It was a lucky stab anyway, and I didn’t deserve to be stuck with
Punishment for that. But that was only at first.
I knew I couldn’t bring myself to

Go back on my word just to make things easier. When
Someone gets me first, I
Turn the other cheek. But when I do, I’m secretly praying that she’ll get shot.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I was in Michigan last week, nine days of lying on the beach, eating grilled meat, playing golf and beach volleyball and drinking to my heart’s content, or maybe a little past that point. I actually got back from vacation exhausted, like I needed a few ten hour workdays to really wind down and relax.

I guess I’m still like a kid in that sense – for me, vacation is like recess for me. I get out of where I’m trapped all day every day working, and for a specific, limited amount of time, I get to do whatever I want as long as I don’t throw up or make anyone cry. And let me ask you this: do you see a lot of first graders lying around the blacktop with a kickball under their heads, or flipping through Calvin and Hobbes while they lounge on the playground’s bouncy bridge like it’s a hammock? No, you don’t.

So I went and I ran around and I got sunburned and cut my feet running through the woods shoeless playing Foxes and Hounds, and bruised and abused myself so that I was physically sore for the whole second half of the week. That’s just how I roll.

And I ate and drank too much, because the food – my goodness, the food. With as many family cooks up there as we had, the food was abundant and delicious. The dinner rundown:

Saturday: Grilled brats, burgers and hot dogs, with whatever accoutrements
Sunday: Grilled beef tenderloin
Monday: Barbecued pulled-pork sandwiches
Tuesday: Lasagna
Wednesday: Beer-butt chicken and cheesy cornbread
Thursday: Shrimp, mussels, corn, chorizo sausages
Friday: Grilled whitefish with cherry salsa
Saturday: Grilled pork loin

Oh, you could almost hear us all getting fatter.

On Sunday, before we left, my brother and I were sitting in the car when he decided that it would be fun, if you had a dog, to name the dog a crude or suggestive word. Groper, Fuckstick, Anus, Herpes, Buttplug, Merkin, Phallus the Fister and Whore are a few possibilities.

And now I’m back, sitting at work, and it seems somehow fitting that the list of names keeps running through my mind. Over and over and over again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sipping on

I have two things to say. Firstly: I don’t remember what the first thing was. Secondably, I am a little bit drunk.

As I have been know to say before, someone put gin in my grapefruit juice. I don’t know how this happens (I do), but every three weeks or so, my morning wake-me-up has alcohol in it. Why? How? Who knows? (I do.)

I actually never drink grapefruit juice, because I don’t like it. It’s bitter and pink, like a grandparent who’s moved to Florida, and we all know no one likes old folks. Or grapefruit juice. And that’s the point.

This would be a good time to point out that the first time I tried to spell “gin,” I wrote “finger.” I guess that means I’m a fast typer. A fast, bad typer. Fast, bad and drunk. I think that should be the title of my autobiography.

Oh, I think the first thing (back to the first sentence, ignoranuses), was something about how I said Brandy hated to swear and then she said the “fuck-word” in a comment (for shame, Brandy!) and also about how allthewine got mad and jealous that I wrote a post about Brandy (I did?) and not her (I didn’t). Meanwhile, Lil is ignoring me, despite the alleged fact that she had a crush on me once (never gonna forget that one), except for very gracious responses to my corrections of her sports-related posts, which I reply to drunk. That’s kind of an inside joke, huh.

Let me explain. Actually, never mind. Suffice it to say that the ladies seated around me are laughing at me right now and I think they have a pool going as to whether I will cough or burp next. I’m guessing cough.

Yes! I was right. Even though I sorta fake-coughed it, and burped a little at the end. Aaaaand I just saw money changing hands. I guess I was right – they are literally betting on my physical condition. I don’t know whether to be flattered or depressed. I guess, like Jane Austen says, “when in doubt, be flattered.”

Ok, she just said “oh! Sounds like it’s breaking up though.” Talking about my chest-phlegm. Why are these people in the office? Wait, why am I in the office? I ought to be on the beach, drinking beers and trying to hook up with someone.

Waaaaait a minute! I remember what the first thing was. (first and fourth paragraphs, retard.) It was about how a bunch of people read and commented on my last post. What? Why? I felt like I was at a grungy club, just hanging out with the people I knew, then all of a sudden people start grinding up on you from every side, and at first you think “gypsies! Whoah, is my wallet safe?” and then you think “what if I was getting interrogated and the police guy said ‘where on the doll did you touch her’ and I would just have to rub the doll all over like I was giving the poor thing a full-body massage,” and then you think “oh this is bad,” and then “hey, this ain’t bad!” But eventually you realize it’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a bunch of people rubbing up against your blog.

See what I did there?

Yeah, me neither.

Credit to rs27 for the style of this post (is he just drunk all the time? is that his little indian secret?) and to Chris because he just kicks ass and I don't know how else to mix him in - I always make friends when I'm drunk, what can I say?

I'm off to Michigan for a week, so you peeps take care. I'll see you in August.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When people stop being polite and start being "get me Robitussin"

People who know how to write well say, “write what you know.” But that can be difficult for people like me who don’t know very much, and don’t have very interesting lives. I’m kidding, of course. Nothing is difficult for me.

And because nothing is difficult, I can write about what I know, or I can just make up stories. Did you know I make up a bunch of the stories on here? It’s true. Like the one about the naked chick on the beach, and the Supreme Court justices running down the street with guns, and the awkward conversation with my coworker, and really hating BlogHer, and that one about the guy getting arrested, and about wearing silk underpants.

I hope that doesn’t bother you. No, let me rephrase: that shouldn’t really bother you, should it? It’s not like we’re best friends and I lied to you. Sure, a story might not have happened, but it could have.

That’s one reason I didn’t get the big flap over the guy James Frey who wrote the book and called it a memoir, but then it turned out he changed a bunch of details, and he was on Oprah and then everyone hated him for it… why? They didn’t know him – so who cares if the story really happened or if it’s just a story. If it’s a good story, it’s a good story. That’s what I say.

If this really bothers you, then whatever, maybe this is actually the post that’s made up. Convince yourself of that. Or don’t.

Oh hey, I have a question. How do people set it up so that only a little bit of their blog posts show up in Google Reader… because then people have to click through to their blog and so you can see who’s reading, right? Mine was never set up like that, so I could never tell, which is why I didn’t find out until today that Brandy has me in her reader. She came over because of an overwhelming impulse to comment on my highly intellectual BlogHer post, and I was all, “heck yeah, Brandy’s got me in her Reader, what up now, bitches?” But then I got nervous because I have the feeling she doesn’t like bad language, and sometimes I use bad language, especially if I am really worked up or bored. Sorry about that, Brandy. I shouldn’t have said “what up now, bitches?” a little bit ago. Also, I shouldn’t have repeated it just now.

There’s something of a ruckus going on across the internet right now about something I wrote about gay dudes for my work. I can’t really get too specific, unless I just come ahead and disanonymousize, which I was thinking of doing anyway (thoughts?), but suffice it to say that there’s kind of an uproar about whether I am a homophobic bigot.

Well, that’s hogwash. I have tons of gay friends. Well, that’s not really true. But I think I saw a gay person once! Plus, I call my friends gay, you know, if they’re being gay. I’m not coming out like I planned. Wait, I wasn’t planning to come out – shoot, that just made it way worse. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I should stop now.

The final thing I have to say is this: I have a cold, a bad cold. It’s ninety-five degrees and I have the worst cold I’ve had all year. This is (look away, Brandy!) bullshit. But anyway (you can look back, Brandy), I blame the complete incoherence of this post on my cold... and on the fact that, like I said, when you write what you know, it’s just kind of boring. The end.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. The second greatest was convincing you that you're interesting.

So. Oh my gosh. Have you guys heard? BlogHer is coming up! Zomg! Only like a week, or like, two weeks or something!

You’ve heard about it, right? San Francisco, tons of FAAAAB female bloggers from all over the country! And international, too! Everyone’s posting on their blogs about it, about how fun it’s going to be, about how many awesome shoes are going to be worn, and ohmigoodness, we are going to have a cocktail. Maybe even three! Then we will take pictures of ourselves with our cocktails! Can you believe it?! Pictures!

Wait. Just wait. Stop, take a deep breath.

You forgot about the part where I don’t give a shit. Maybe that should be your next post on the topic: “BlogHer is coming up, but I’m not going to talk about it because Fort Knocks does not give a shit, at all. Not even a little bit.”

Because, let’s face it, if I don’t find your blog entertaining, that’s probably because it sucks. If I don’t find a topic interesting, that’s probably because it’s fucking boring.

It’s not that I’m calling you a boring person… just your mind. Your mind and your ideas and what you like to talk about. Pretty fucking boring. But not you personally. You are a unique snowflake.

One time one of my friends asked me to proofread his paper in high school. So I did. And you know what? It was boring, and I told him so. But he didn’t believe me. He kept the story. And one week later, he got struck by lightning and died.

So what I’m saying is, if you keep yammering about BlogHer and how fun it’s going to be to meet someone who you feel like omg you already know, you’re probably going to die.

So don’t say you weren’t warned. Don’t come spooking about in ghost form after the terrible earthquake that destroyed the convention center in San Francisco, saying “oooooo if only I’d knoooowwwwnnnn.”

Here’s a list of topics and activities that would be more interesting than posts about BlogHer:

1. Margarine vs. butter
2. What’s the longest word you’ve ever spelled with alphabet soup?
3. Watching your toenails grow
4. Counting the number of times you can count to one
5. Waiting for a bus
6. Watching Twelve Angry Men on mute in slow motion
7. Blowing your nose
8. Beating a dead horse
9. Literally
10. Blowing a dead horse
11. Trying to fit two golf balls in your mouth
12. Choking on one of them
13. Betting on the exact date of the Apocalypse
14. Farting in a wetsuit
15. Saying “hamburger” over and over until it sounds weird
16. Learning to speak klingon
17. Stretching a rubber band, then letting it unstretch
18. Growing a mullet
19. Saying “hamburger” in klingon over and over until it sounds weird
20. Writing this boring, boring list

If you’ve got anything to say, I’d love to hear it. No, of course I’m not serious.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nude beach conversations

There’s a beach on the California coast, somewhere in the Central Valley, I think? Does that even make sense? I don’t know, I was out there for a week-long trip and didn’t do any of the navigating, so I never really knew where we were. Plus I was drinking. But the exact location doesn’t really matter for the story.

We were at this beach. In California. And man, let me tell you, it was gorgeous. I grew up with Lake Michigan beaches, and as impressive as those are, they’re not quite as big as beaches on the ocean. People who first see our beach in Michigan are always surprised at how big it is, at the fact that you can’t see across the lake, that the sand is so much finer than ocean sand, that the waves are actually big – but still, nothing like a Pacific Ocean beach.

They’re just so much bigger. The waves break over a long gradual slope of a hundred feet instead of twenty. The waves are eight feet instead of four.

We lay back on the fluffed brown sand in our sunglasses and sucked on Bud Lights, and that’s when I noticed the woman without a shirt on.

I was surprised, naturally, to see a woman topless on the beach, which one of my friends had described as “semi-private” – I don’t know what that means, but I was doubly surprised because most nudists you’ll run across are sixty, sweaty, and swinging. This woman was none of the above.

She looked young thirties, but I suppose she could have been pulling off a lithe forty. She was lying on a towel on her back, with her knees up and her head up, propping her elbows on the ground behind her for support. She was only about thirty feet down the beach to our right, sitting with another woman who was wearing a full two-piece swimsuit. This girl wasn’t. Black bikini bottom – and that’s it.

Quite honestly, none of us made too much of it.

“Oh, I didn’t know this was a nude beach.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it is.”

“Huh.”

“Hey, pass me another beer.”

End of conversation. We went back to drinking, minimal talking, and watching the waves beat the beach.

But then the guy happened.

This guy was probably fifty, but he could have been forties. He wasn’t in bad shape, but he had some kind of pot-belly working, and I think it must have been a new development, because he’d definitely gotten his swimsuit before he packed on the pounds. It was snug, a little blue and white number that left most of his thighs breathing free and the seams might have split if he started doing lunges.

But he wasn’t doing lunges. He was walking over to the woman purposefully, his hair-covered gut preceding him like the advance guard in a royal fat parade. The man shuffled up, careful not to kick sand onto her towel, pushed his sunglasses onto his head and began, “could you please put a… you know… put a shirt on?”

“I’m not trying to bother anyone,” the woman said. My ears perked up immediately. This could be good.

“Well, some of us would just like to enjoy the beach and not have this… immodesty going on.”

And this is when the exchange got so outrageous I literally could not believe it.

The woman shifts position a little, looking as cocky as you can when you’re lying on the ground talking to someone standing over you, and says, “it’s just my body.”

The guy is not about to take shit. “Yeah,” he says, “and it’s just my erection.”

I was amazed that the woman could even respond, but who knows, maybe she gets this all the time. “You don’t have to look at me, you know,” she says.

“Yeah, but when I look somewhere else, I still imagine them. And they’re even bigger in my imagination.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t even laugh, I was so shocked. My mouth fell open and a little beer dribbled out.

But he topped himself. “And what if…” he stumbled. “What if in my imagination, you don’t have pants on?”

The woman was confused and ready to acquiesce. But she had one last rejoinder: “even if I put a top on, you’ll still have your imagination.”

“I hope so,” he said, and it was a withering blow. The woman was overwhelmed, defeated. She grabbed a matching black top and threw it over her neck, then hurried to tie it behind her back.

I couldn’t blame her. At that point, the guy’s next move could have been to ask her to put suntan lotion on her back or strip off his swimsuit, plop down on the towel and say, “scooch over, will ya? And then tell me a little about yourself.”

But he didn’t. Instead he shuffled back in the direction he’d come from, farther up the beach. The women picked up and left about ten minutes later, possibly because they heard us snorting with uncontrollable laughter.

That was the only time I’ve ever seen someone naked-ish at the beach, but I have no desire to do it again. I can’t imagine ever topping that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just had this awesome exchange

I was walking out of the bathroom not ten seconds ago when one of the jackasses I work with was walking in - the same one who sent an email to the entire company to "use white-out sparingly." I don't even know what that was about. Does anyone even use white-out any more?

Whatever. Anyway, he goes in, immediately turns around, sticks his head back out and calls to me, "Hey!"

I turn around.

"Are you the one that layered the toilet seat with toilet paper?"

"No."

"But you were just in there."

"Ok."

"So you peed right through the middle and didn't get any on the toilet paper?"

I thought about it for a second. "I was just washing my hands," I remembered.

He starts walking toward me in that jokey-bossy way where people want to be friends with you but also have authority over you. "How bout you let me smell your hands."

"How bout I let you put my balls in your mouth."

Long, awkward pause.

Finally, I say, "I'm sorry," and turn and walk away.

Probably going to get an email about it tomorrow, with the whole company cc'd.

A peek inside my outbox

Last night I went to a poolside barbecue and then drank far too many beers for a weeknight while sitting on a 35th story balcony at State and Superior downtown, trying to flick cigarette butts into the pool two hundred feet below, watching fireworks explode one block away and listening to the echoes boom off the sides of the skyscrapers. I don’t have a good post in me right now.

Then, my little muse of a cell phone informed me that my message memory was full. So I thought, hey, let’s post all the text messages in my inbox. And here they are, 112 gems, for your viewing pleasure.

1. What?
2. Oh no sanks. Even though that does sound delish right now.
3. That apple was epically delicious.
4. Cheers! Let’s get drunk about it!
5. Maybe we should get there a little early to make sure the bar is ok and taste-test the Guinness.
6. Still at work, leaving in ten… Be at the bar around ten to six?
7. 55 90 armitage Ashland Belmont?
8. Don’t smoke without me.
9. You read my scene?
10. Hey thanks. It still very much sucks, and we could still very much do it.
11. Guess whether or not I am yammered and have your number.
12. Someone put gin in my grapefruit juice.
13. She’ll probably do it too… I’m still in bed.
14. You have no idea. No, you probably do.
15. In. Tonight we go out. Joe’s birthday.
16. Long and drunk.
17. Way to go, dude! I found my phone in the driveway yesterday. In shards. Go us!
18. Actually just stayed in and got ploughed with my brother. You do anything?
19. I left my life in Irving.
20. Compound bow, carbon-fiber arrows.
21. Shut the fuck up.
22. Yao or Yaos?
23. Where are you?
24. That is incredibly ironic.
25. A tradition unlike any other.
26. Cubbies!
27. Cuckin Fubs.
28. I don’t know what the deal is.
29. I did. I sent him an email. Where do they live? Email me directions?
30. When are you getting to J&J’s?
31. Did you call me?
32. You get drunk last now?
33. Oh yeah, sorry, got it.
34. Did you get her evite idea? Do you want to do that or should I? Prolly you.
35. I don’t know
36. .
37. %
38. Parked for the third time so my smoking engine can cool. In Bellwood or something.
39. No thanks, I’m sure I’ll make it. Eventually.
40. Haha ‘moral’… good one.
41. Movie?
42. Thanks, who’s we?
43. Miss y’all too. Let’s hang out sometime.
44. Grand!
45. Seems to be the story of the day…
46. I think men should be more embarrassed of their nipples.
47. No, I meant because they can’t possibly compare to how perfect mine are.
48. Don’t fuck with me, man.
49. Boohoo. (hug)
50. It’s been arranged.
51. Murder any rodents lately?
52. Oh yeah, just got back.
53. Yup.
54. Aim for the black fag
55. Splendid! I’m about to be a pro baller, hopefully, what more could you ask? What are you up to?
56. I diggoo
57. Feck off
58. No offense
59. That’s from sitting on the copier.
60. Throat, head, body.
61. I just want you to know I have no memory of texting you last night.
62. Entirely p-bear.
63. Are you serial?
64. Broooodaaaayyy
65. For sure. Also have to say ‘oh em gee I hate spence’
66. Score. You’ll totally get on TMZ
67. I’ll give you eighty bucks if you do all my laundry.
68. What?
69. Are you sure it wasn’t him? Yeah I want to go to Michigan too for sure.
70. Hey, just finished golfing, ready to go. What’s the plan?
71. Yeah, let’s all hang out. I don’t care where…
72. I’m all hopped up on Mountain Dew!
73. Holy crap caffeine buzz. I just had two jumbo monsters, which is the equivalent of… wait for it… thirty cups of coffee.
74. Aselin Debison
75. Working?
76. What the shit, Tiger?
77. And he needs it now tonight, he fuckin needs it more than ever.
78. Right back at ya.
79. It’s likely.
80. Let’s boogie!
81. If you blow low enough.
82. I’ll drink it.
83. Etoh walks if you blow a James Bond.
84. No dude- gave up a twenty-four point halftime lead.
85. Yup. I’m starting the second game tomorrow.
86. It’s Friday, everyone’s goodly. I still don’t like Boston.
87. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time for me to drink waaay too much.
88. How’s downtown?
89. Parents tropical disease. Children of incest.
90. Emi typed confessions, girl’s therapist.
91. Time to start a new streak
92. He’s at an evening of recollection.
93. Heading now as in leaving now? Haha, you’re going to miss the game.
94. I’m leaving.
95. Oh wait, I just got a pitcher of beer.
96. Supplemental income?
97. Waiting for his brother to get to the bar.
98. YES IT IS!
99. What’s imd?
100. I said ‘cot’ mother.
101. haha, no, I really have baseball.
102. How bout now? Six minutes?
103. Four minutes? Four minutes?
104. You’re so immature.
105. You spelled ‘ynur’ wrong.
106. Aah, you fucksteak. I didn’t even notice the sandwich till now.
107. Nice, supreme court.
108. That and sex.
109. I dunno. Plan?
110. He’s at a wine and cheese party, isn’t he? Lottie’s might work.
111. Let me know.
112. Oh. Well. What are y’all doing?

Now we can do several things (damn, typing that took me longer than I expected). We could say everyone picks one text that they want more context on (or two). Or we could have fun trivia like this quiz entitled “Mom or Booty call: which is which?”

1. 43 and 97
2. 17 and 87
3. 100 and 45
4. 4 and 81

And then you have to figure out which was which. Ok, you’re right, that wasn’t much fun. So you think of a game. My head hurts.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Not for the faint of shart

One of the things that I like best about baseball is the road trips. Playing at home is great, sure – you’ve got the home fans, a familiar playing surface and a much easier commute. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing like the fun you can have on a baseball road trip.

After ten, or fifteen, or fifty hours on a bus together, guys get pretty punchy, pretty familiar with each other and pretty bored. I can’t describe the feeling, I guess – so let me sum it up with one example. The baseball road trip environment is the one where one guy creeps up the aisle behind another guy who’s watching a movie and sees how long he can rest a part of his naked anatomy on the guy’s shoulder before he notices. Then the guy notices and yells, startled, and then tries to punch the other guy in the balls while he trips back down the aisle and everyone giggles and screams and hollers like they’re seven years old and someone just got pantsed.

Not everyone likes this kind of atmosphere. It’s crude, it’s immature, it’s petty, and very often it’s genuinely unkind, sometimes even cruel. I understand those reactions. If you’re one of those people, I say “you’re right – that’s a valid complaint. Also, don’t play baseball.”

On one road trip to Washington, D.C., after seeing the mall and the Smithsonian and everything else good and great around the city, some of us started to get bored. It was the second day we’d been there, just around that time when guys start getting slap-happy and someone does something crazy. Well, this particular time, that person was Lance, our left-fielding leadoff man, working in coordination with Mark, the backup catcher.

They bought Ex-Lax – neatly packaged in miniature chocolate bars.

But the execution of the plan was the real genius. They picked a target: Rob, the closer, the butt of a lot of the team’s jokes and a man with a beast of a temper. And then they struck – moving up from opposite directions, Lance with two full bars of Ex-Lax chocolate and one of Hershey’s.

“Hey Rob,” chirped Lance, “you want some chocolate?”

Rob was not buying it. “Yeah right,” he said. “You put something in there that’s gonna make me throw up or something.”

Mark popped over his other shoulder at the perfect time. “What? Rob, you need to relax, man. Not everyone is out to get you, you know,” he said, and grabbed a piece of chocolate from Lance’s hand.

Rob watched carefully as Mark put it in his mouth and chewed slowly. And that was that. They had him. Before fifteen minutes were up, one bar of the Ex Lax was in Rob’s stomach. The recommended dosage was one square – or two in cases of extreme constipation. Each bar had six squares.

Rob didn’t sleep all night. He was in the bathroom. All. Night. Long.

What made it worse was that his roommate, in fear of having his stash of porn discovered, had put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, which meant the maids had not replenished their toilet paper that day.

By midnight, Rob had run out of toilet paper and switched in desperation to hand towels, then bath towels.

He did his best to make his tormenters suffer with him though, screaming periodically from on the toilet, “Lance, I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU!” Several times, after a few minutes of silence, the following yelled exchange occurred:

Lance: How’s it going in there, Robbie?
Rob: I’m going to beat the shit out of you, asshole!
Lance: [giggles] Oh, poor baby!
Rob: Ghaaaa! Fuuuuuck!

I don’t know what else to say. I laughed as hard as I could for each item in the next impossible sequence:

Rob’s roommate, who had left the sign on the door, got his karmic due when he took a shower in the tub where Rob had thrown the pile of used hand towels, which clogged the drain and left him unknowingly standing in a puddle of poop-water.

Rob was visibly waddling the next morning as he carried his bags to the bus, and when he tried to chase down Lance in the parking lot, he pulled up after four steps with a cry of pain.

Lance somehow managed to convince Justin, the 350 pound first baseman, to eat SEVEN squares of Ex Lax. For the next two days, Lance would ask him every hour or so, “So Justin, how you feeling? Pooping much lately?” And the answer was always no.

When Justin finally found out what he’d eaten, he just shrugged and said, “yeah, I’d been a little backed up, but since then, I’ve been fine.” Unbelievable.

On the trip home, I learned what the term “fruitbowl” meant, as well as discovering that it is possible for one man to urinate 40 ounces in a 7-11 cup. But I guess that’s a story for another time.