Friday, April 29, 2011

I Believe

I believe very little. Here is most of it:

1. Most things are stupid, but so what?
2. Ice cream trucks do more damage with their music than with their products.
3. Supermarket produce tastes like moist particle board.
4. Right now, somewhere, there is a selfless politician. (I’m kidding, this one’s a joke.)
5. Mindless computer games are good for something. I don’t know what, but I believe there has to be something.
6. Everybody needs a secret vice.
7. For every scientifically conducted study that shows something, there is another that proves the opposite. Usually the second was conducted by the former love interest of the first, but again, so what?
8. The word “moist” is funny.

If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Up, Up And Kapow!

We as a species have always been fascinated with superheroes.

It started with Gilgamesh. From there, Heracles (no sic, I’m pretentiously using the Greek variant) to Beowulf to Paul Bunyan to Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman et al, to the Shadow, the Bionic Couple, Jessica Fletcher, Remo Williams and, arguably, the jokes about Chuck Norris. Feel free to add to the list, but I’ll fight for all but the last.

I’ve been trying to put this together since I finished Carrie Vaughn’s “After the Golden Age”. We love the idea of people who can do more than people can do, who choose to protect the rest of us who can’t. Standard rationale is wish-fulfillment. We're frustrated with our humdrum lives and identify with the heroes. I used to think that. Now I’m not so sure.

It’s not enough for Parking-Space Guy™ to find me a spot when I’m in a hurry. I also expect him to battle evil Gridlock Girl™ and her partner, the Traffic Terror™. I want Cashier Queen™ to use her laser vision on anyone who brings 11 items into the express lane. Laundry Lad™ would be popular, don’t you think? But the superhero I need most is the indomitable Muse Man™, sworn enemy of writer’s block and unfunny punch lines. Maybe if I close my eyes and wish really hard…

Nope. Zip, nada, zilch. Reality remains unbroken. There is no snappy ending. We’re on our own.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Relative Power Corrupts Relatively

It’s all about being a grown-up. No, for once I’m not talking about age. (Crone, hag, blah blah, BFD.) The biggest difference between maturity and immaturity is responsibility. The rest is just details.

Non-adults have obligations and protocols and sophisticated social structures to navigate. Teenagers have high school, 20/30-somethings have work, Gen X has World of Warcraft… you get the idea. They understand about consequences because they’ve gotten their asses kicked often enough. They just don’t have to worry about mortgages or taxes or repairs. We do. Which reminds me, I have to take my car in for an oil change, but that can wait.

“But I have to get an oil change too!” Yes, I can hear you. You don’t have to shout. Of course you have to worry about paying for that new iPad, or ski trip, or whatever it is. That’s not what I mean by “responsibility”. Responsibility is when your decisions affect other people. And that sucks hard core.

Deciding what information to trust, or what action to take, when a wrong choice will damage the people you love --- that’s responsibility. Having 3:00 a.m. anxiety attacks is what it means to be a grown-up. If it doesn’t give you smudges, bags or wrinkles, you’re either not taking it seriously enough or it doesn’t matter that much.

All of which might explain why I know that it’s exactly eight weeks and two days before the next possible Vegas trip. Of course I’ll get through it. I’m a grown-up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My first job out of university was as a receptionist/bookkeeper (pre-computer, children! Ledger sheets and an adding machine with paper tape) for a company that had a Board of Directors.

Two of the Directors were a married couple. We in the office called them Frick and Frack. He was about 6’2”; she was an even five feet tall. They always dressed alike. I mean, always. And I mean identically alike. She made all their clothes, despite their wealth. She was cheap, too, used to count the office supplies in case we’d been profligate with the liquid paper. He, on the other hand, was a pathetic letch. “Pathetic” in that what he thought were double entendres could probably be said by Elmo on camera. It was sad, really.

Anyhow, I want to talk about the clothes. Although this was well into the 80s, she would make identical leisure suits in Frank Stella-esque decorator pastels. They wore matching hats. She was very proud of him and seemed to think we were after his ass, or after his toupee, which was a pre-Trump marvel. I had forgotten all about them until today.

Today I saw a couple in at most their late 30s, not only dressed alike but – here’s where I boggled – also had their hair dyed the same unconvincing milk chocolate brown. It was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a good argument in favor of reincarnation. They were Frick and Frack reborn.

Fran (my pal from the next desk) if you’re out there, you should have seen them. They made me nostalgic for Julius and the Sams and the Lake Park of yore.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Okay, now I feel bad. It’s been a week since I was here, and I don’t like staying away that long. I miss you guys. But I had flu, and it’s only just gotten to the point where I can ignore it in polite company without being impolite, or without carrying around a brick of Kleenex.

So, how was your week? Some of you I know about, and I congratulate and commiserate accordingly. There have been a few birthdays. Robert was on stage for the first time in a performance capacity. Taxes were filed. I got a haircut.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it for the week. As you can see, you didn’t miss much. I owe you a funny.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Map Of Darkness

We were walking the dog just now. On the top of a low wall was one of those nice maps that AAA doesn’t give out anymore. This one, I think, was for the Conejo Valley. We don’t live anywhere near there. Sure it was odd, but I didn’t expect Robert’s reaction. (@AlphonseBunter of course.)

“I forgot to tell you. I’ve found maps just like this all over town. One was for British Columbia, one was for Arizona. I don’t remember the others.”

Apparently the map thing has been going on for about a week, not daily, but often enough to be a phenomenon. We have no idea what’s going on, but I was charmed. It reminded me of a prank I pulled back in college.

One of you already knows this story. It was 1979, my freshman year. A friend and I were up til the wee hours reveling in the insight we found in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I had a stack of those ubiquitous (well, they were then) 3 x 5 cards. We wrote “Heart of Darkness” symbols on hundreds of them and set out with a bunch of Scotch™ tape. It took the rest of the night, and a bored and amused security guard (my friend was lovely and I was persuasive) but we covered a significant portion of the huge campus. Inside elevators, behind doors, there were buildings I had never been in before and never went back to since. Months later, people still talked about it. I never told. But years later, just before I graduated, I ran across one that had never been removed. It meant more to me than the diploma.

The message of the maps is more obscure. Whoever is doing it, good job!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

Was it Charles Laughton who famously yelled “Sanctuary!” in that classic film? I have no idea who it was, nor even what film it was. Must be on my list of famous films I haven’t seen. But if it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit™, I’ll let you know.

I was thinking about sanctuary just now. After a terrifically sucky day, incrementally increasing suckiness culminating in a crescendo of suckdom, I drove home in traffic that included a jogger darting randomly off the sidewalk into the street in the middle of a block – right in front of my car. That’s when I had the epiphany.

There’s sanctuary to be found in doing something well.

I drive well, and even safely now. (Traffic school really does work as a deterrent to speed. I don’t want to go through that ever again, God forbid. Ptooie. Knocking on wood.) As I shifted gears, working around the oncoming cars and the idiot jogger, I found my mood draining away. By the time I got home, I was calm. The day hadn’t improved retroactively, I’ll be glad to start over tomorrow morning, but the miasma of suckiness cleared because I did something well.

What do you do well? No, besides that. Something you can talk about in front of people. Next time you do it, see if I’m right. You should be noticeably calmer and more tranquil after. Otherwise, this was just more bullshit you saw online.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Family Circus

Robert heard our Loud Neighbors shouting this morning. I can hear them now, but it’s not nearly as anecdotal. I know you thought your family was dysfunctional (as was mine) but get a load of this:

Mom, screaming at Eldest Son, “You’ll be glad when I’m dead! You won’t miss me at all! You probably want me dead right now!” And lots of so on with some pretty shrill so forth.

The Eldest Son is in his mid-teens and not the sweetest child I’ve ever met. Of course I wanted to know to what depths he had plunged. That’s where the story is. It turns out he had left the toilet seat up.