Friday, August 27, 2004

Smell you kiddies the week after next. I'm off to the Middle West.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I'm guessing that you tuned in this morning for one of the following reasons:

1. You're bored.
2. You want to be enlightened by my wisdom, wit, and insight.
3. I owe you money and you're trying to track me through my blog.

I'm here to tell you that today I will leave you unsatisfied. See, I'm eating Planters Snack mix and fresh figs. That's all I'm doing. Really. Its really boring. This weekend I plan to hoe my garden. It has poison ivy. Again: its not exactly rocketing to Jupiter with the Nebulons in hot pursuit. Next week, I will be in St. Louis all week, away from home, away from my wife and dog, my new house, and (*sigh*) even my blog. I'll spend my days reading about the usual and unusual ways people die in war, reading disintigrating letters from the mothers of the dead, and returning in the evening to a low-ceilinged hotel, lying on a king sized bed drinking cheap scotch and watching cable TV. Somewhere in there I might dream of robbing a bank or performing nail-file surgery on myself just to keep remotely interested in breathing.

As for the "wisdom, wit, and insight" thing, what can I say. I spent my morning snoozing on the train, which is when I do my best thinking. Yesterday I snoozed on the train. And I don't remember the day before or the day before that. I occasionally consider it problematical my increasing lack of caring about the Larger Issues confronting humanity, the cosmos, and the Root Cause of Tim Robbin's horrible hairdo (which I possess), but such concerns are becoming immaterial. I've got a war on terror to fight, or maybe you didn't see my uniform (wrinkled white button-down shirt, no tie, no undershirt, courderouy pants, grey socks, no watch, fray-laced buster browns, a little Defense Department i.d. badge & mug shot). I'm a warrior doing dangerous national security blogging here. Humanity is not my problem.

Oh, and if I owe you money, relax. I've got it right here...

...right next to this here punch in the eye I've been saving for you, you lout.

I don't owe you anything. Not even a favor, you got me? Not even a phone call or a condolence letter. I'm sorry your freakin' hamster died, I really am.


Tell you what.

If I die before my next post, I'll mail you an e-card fromValhalla.

Monday, August 23, 2004

As many of you are well aware, we just bought a house.
Relax, I'm not going to go through the litany of chores that accompany such an undertaking, but suffice to say if I were, it would look something like this: paint, spackle, wash, scour, tidy, carpet, refinish, refurbish, sweep, haul, heave, scrape, sand, dust, disinfect, hammer, etc. This is to say nothing of the process of actually buying the thing (i.e. inspect, appraise, borrow, pay, sign, negotiate) as well as informing relatives, changing address, meeting new neighbors and then (and only then) can you actually pause, take a breath, and figure out what the hell else needs doing that you hadn't thought to consider. Generally such considerations involve more of the same, but combined in new and hellishly time-consuming ways.

After 4 weeks of home ownership, we finally have a plush new carpet on the floor and shiny wood floors.

We are nowhere near completion of most of our projects, and the list keeps growing every day.

So, we did what every responsible young couple with a new house and very little time do:

We bought a puppy.

Yes, we did.

We ignored all the advice of more responsible adults who told us that puppies take away from time better spend doing other things ( see above list). We ignored our inner voices that said "That is a LOT of money to pay for a dog on top of the 7 grand you just spent on flooring that your beloved new puppy will very rapidly reduce to piss-rank, chewed rubbish." We ignored strongmen PETA sent over intent on convincing us to buy some toothless, broken down rescue dog. We ignored conventional wise men who suggested that mutts are better bred and healthier. We ignored the hints of many parental types who fear that puppy ownership will distract from near-future child-production. We ignored our trepidation about a dog that was going to grow to the size of a medium-sized human being, and be able to use poodles for Q-tips.

In defense of ourselves, who are really the only people we needed to consider when making such a decision, we came up with the following rationale:

She is so cute.

God, I hate that word, but really, there is no other word in the English language that applies.

She is so damn, abominably, amazingly cute that I can't stand myself for loving her so (and I've only known her for 2 days).

She is so damn, abominably, amazingly cute that when, upon discovering her (at 1 a.m.) vibrating in shame amidst a pool of dark green diahrhea (think Sag Aloo in Hell), I barely flinched. I just picked her up, threw her bedding outside, and marched her up to the bathtub, blaming myself for letting someone else let her eat grass.

She is so damn...well, you get the picture.

We named her Cali[fornia] because its not only my home state, but is the Golden State, and she's a Golden Retriever.

True story: I haven't had a puppy since I was 4. We had a mutt named "Cookie" that I dearly loved but who jumped all over me and knocked me down (causing my mom to give her away to a farmer, upon whose property she was devoured by coyotes).

We almost bought an equally adorable little pup at a nearby pet store a few weeks ago. That little pup was coffee-colored with the sweetest brown eyes and much curiousity (who knew instinctively how to play fetch). We were just about to plop down the credit card when a strangely disconcerting voice in my inner ear voiced a word of caution:

"Dude, don't buy it. Its a Beagle..."

I said: "Voice, why do you sound disconcertingly like my friend Ramsey?"

"Because I am," the voice said, "I am the internal 'Ramsey' in all of us. I was once like you. I, too, fell in love with an adorable little Beagle in a pet store. But when I got it home, things changed. It ceased being pleasant and agreeable and transformed, nearly overnight, into a domineering, howling, house-eating menace."

We ran out of the pet store in terror.

Still having second thoughts, I received a timely email from Unbreakable, who corroborated this impression, explaining that the beagle he knew was a selfish, clever little brute with little to recommend.

So we decided to get a Golden Retriever and, with a few days of searching, found one.

I'll post pictures if I ever figure out how.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ok, so here's something to try:

Find a solid, spongy wall with a hole in it a comfortable distance from the floor. Stand next to it. Make yourself comfy.

Ok, now slowly stuff food into it. As much as you can, of whatever you can find: meat, vegitables, soda, lettuce, waffles, onion rings, tabouli, bread, ham, dim sum, lolipops, corn, knish, dal, salsa, cake.

Repeat for at least 16 years.

Several times a day, scour the hole out with minty chemicals derived from chalk and obscure chemical formulations manufactured off the Jersey turnpike. Every so often leave it alone for six to eight hours. Re-apply chemicals if, during this "down time" it starts to reek.

Make sure the hole doesn't dry out. Spit in it, if necessary.

Blow a steady stream of warm, moist air into and out of it to keep it from drying up.

When you've finished these things, place your own mouth over the hole. Rub your lips all over it. Get it good and saucy. Then insert your tongue. Wiggle it around a bit until you think enough time has elapsed to pull away with dignity.

Try not to get aroused.

This is kissing.

Been boredly pouring over my favorite bulletin board posts, pumping up my favorite author, plugging friends and their ventures. Ain't it wierd that plugging a pal used to be a bad thing? It used to mean sneaking up behind them in a darkened alley and filling their brain point-blank with a dum dum.

Anonymous posts have a flava all on their own. Sometimes its good, sometimes not. Especially in areas of high subjectivity, (i.e. anywhere aesthetics are required) people get nasty quickly. They feel free to say what they *really* think, or they just take out oddly vitriolic aggression on absolute strangers. As if anything really matters online.

Of course, people who post personal poetry online are asking for trouble.

Such as this poem, a summation of my opinion about freeverse:

Poems that don't rhyme
are dull and heavy
they suck me down like tears in a drain

life is dull and heavy
if sometimes its beautiful

it hurts, too.

When it hurts I say ow.
Uncle Ted used to let me ride on his tractor.

That's lovely. Truly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

"Ever since his young wife had given birth to a cat as an unexpected consequence of his experiments in sexual alchemy, and ever since his accidental invention of a novel explosive that confounded Newtonian physics by loosing its force at the precise distance of 6.56 feet from the source of its blast, President Veracruz had thought of himself not only as an adept but also as an intellectual."

This is a great opening line to a novel. I wish I had written it myself. But I did not. It was written by Louis DeBernieres in "Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord", a book which has so far matched both the tone and the hillarious high-octane absurdity of its prequel, "The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts". I very highly recommend this author.

Just had to get that out of the way.

On other fronts, I found this headline amusing:

"Rock-throwing Kids Anger 120,000 Bees"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't throwing rocks at a beehive self-evidently stupid? Remind me again why society feel that kids are capable of making adult decisions? We send them to jail for life for imitating their favorite homicidal rap-heroes, we hook them on mood-altering chemicals when they act like brats, we train them at an early age to ignore biological signals (like boredom & sexuality).

Throwing rocks at bees is just a plain terrible idea.

Although you gotta sounds kinda fun, too.

In a way.

When I was a kid I used to shoot beehives with my bow and arrow. Sometimes I'd blast them with a BB gun, along with windows, birds, bugs, offensive sprinkler systems.

I used to dissect dead birds with kitchen utensils, too, and let centipedes crawl on my arm. These were qualities appreciated by neighborhood females, I am sure. All those screams of derision and terror were really just indications of inexpressible attraction.

Yeah, once I learned not to poop in my pants, the betties really dug me.

Friday, August 13, 2004

My muse failed to return.

I wrote half a post congratulating myself on being smarter than my boss.

I erased it because although it was at least half-true, it was far less than half-interesting.

Then I wrote half of a post about how blogs needed to be racier, gutsier, and sprinkled with violence (real or implied). Or just damn funny all the time.

I erased that out of fear that my internal monolog would be taken seriously by my handlers at the Defense Intelligence Agency. They might prematurely thwart my (secret) Plan for taking over the world.

Then I thought about my day, and how it contained nothing remotely blog-worthy, except for what I read on other people's blogs (where people go out on first dates, save the planet from sentient spit, and generate random poetry from perfectly ordinary web pages).

Then my day ended.

Do me a favor: do something incredible this weekend and write all about it on Monday.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

My muse has left me.
Scattered to the four winds.
Chopped up by Valkyries and fed to reindeer.
Dropped in a martini and guzzled by an architect.
Strapped to a jackboot and ground into a protester's skull.
Erased from a balance sheet to increase profit.
Coughed into a hankie in a TB ward.
Mixed with Semtex and detonated.
Sprinkled on onion rings in Philly.
Given a golden handshake and sent to Spain.
Lobbed into the crowd as the buzzer sounds.
Sunk on a tanker bound for Taipei.
Mixed with blubber and eaten by Eskimos.
Stirred into concrete and dropped in Lake Michigan.
Caught in a rabbit trap and left to starve.
Mixed up with J-Lo and Ben.
Sucked into the turbofan of Airforce One.
Preserved in a jar of ear wax.
Devoured by tapirs.
Excommunicated by His Holiness.
Annexed by the Chinese.
Adopted by indie rockers.
Blocked by the FCC.
Stranded on an ice floe.
Sanwiched between a fat lady and a very angry commuter.
Run through by headhunters.
Consumed by migrating ants.
Taken ill with shingles.
Extracted by sadistic dentists.
Ensconced in rubber and bounced off of Ray Leota's hair.

Maybe I'll get it back tomorrow.

Yesterday I made a crack about a fat guy who was, in effect, a human couch. Apparently, I had the story mixed up. The real human couch lived in Florida. Apparently she spent six years on one couch, too fat to move or clean herself. How sad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Check out this story:

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- As Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Right?
Scientists say the right name can make you sexier.
Linguist Amy Perfors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology posted photos of men and women on the U.S. Web site "Hot or Not," which lets viewers rate pictures according to how attractive they find them.
When she posted the same pictures with different names, she found that the attractiveness scores went up and down depending on the vowels, the London-based magazine New Scientist reported.
Men with "front vowels" in their names -- sounds formed at the front of the mouth like the "a" in Matt -- were considered sexier than men with "back vowel" sounds like the "au" in Paul, she concluded.

This story has me convinced: I'm changing my name and that of all my (future, potential) offspring to "Matt". Even the girls.
In the News:

"Wedding Guests Eat Victim" [CNN]

Hey it could be worse. The English eat fruitcake at weddings.


"Travel to Iraq Hard to Sell" [CNN]

Maybe these guys need to take a page out of the book of the boosters who managed to transform Branson, Missouri from stately country village into the biggest trailer trash draw since Greater Dayton Moon-Pie Giveaway of '76. I can see it now: "Najaf: Country Music Capital of the Middle-East."


"Nebraskan Trying to Lose 770 Pounds to Stay Alive" [AP]

Congrats to him. Its never too late to shed a few pounds before Speedo season. Although if he's not careful he'll be without a cupholder when the bed sores heal. One wonders what a person might do when they no longer resemble a human couch. Maybe this guy will put to good use all the loose skin he's accumulated over the years and hire himself out as a slip n' slide at the local water park.

"Turkmen Leader Orders Ice Palace" [BBC]

I think we've managed to mistranslate President Niyazov's order. I believe what he really said was "I order Ice Castles to be the Turkmen national movie. I love zat movie. Anyone who does not watch it will be shot."

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I find ghost towns and abandoned buildings entirely captivating. Get me anywhere near a ruin and you'll have to lure me away with entreaties and threats. I think it started when I was a kid summering in the U.K., where old castles and broken churches crown every hillside...

My fascination blossomed from there to include:

Scaling a fence to climb a crumbling stone stairway in an empty moathouse along the Shannon.
Poking my head into a Turkish minaret silent on the shore of Galilee.
Crawling through narrow hallways in a Hungarian count's castle in Austria.
Climbing among beachside colonial forts of Sri Lanka, Kauai, and Salonika.
Braving the ice-swept depths of Walnut Canyon cave dwellings.
Running from killer bees nesting in the half-buried pyramids at Uxmal.
Going deep underground at Thebes.
Risking collapse at the bottom of sunken gold mines in Yosemite.
Staring up the treeless streets of Bodie.
Visiting a hollow, firebombed church at Coventry, and a similar structure in Berlin.
Confronting a stray cow at the druid oak in the Abbey of Adare.
Standing beside bullet riddled walls on shattered, shellpocked Corrigedor.
Wandering numb-headed among the evil, low-slung barracks of Auschwitz.
Watching flat silver light sweep across copper domes on 19th century Baltic beachouses.
Ducking off-limits among unexcavated Greek streets under Jericho.
Smelling sulphur and lime in Roman catacombs five stories beneath Jerusalem.
Helping a woman move her belongings from a condemned apartment after the 94 L.A. quake.
Wandering through a desolate 1980s era shopping mall in Oklahoma City.

Such experiences are my bread and butter. They are why I travel. Leftover, forgotten places remind us that it is not only our indiviudal selves (our bodies, our thoughts, our lives) that are ephemeral. Indeed it is all of our collective activities as well. All of our buildings. All of our tools. All of our tragedies, triumphs, beliefs, awarenesses, fetishes, phobias, hubris, follies, victories. Even the things we create to last forever (such as monuments and works of art) are always reduced to incoherency by slow forgetting. And when the skeletal structures remain (i.e. the Pyramids), our knowledge of the ideas and the people who produced them are, at best, fragmentary and distorted.

Paradoxcially, this awareness of time (a subject treated so very eloquently by authors such as Loren Eisely in "The Night Country") lends an immediacy to the present. We are all equally temporary, and nothing is actually built to last. We must, therefore, not only live full and furious, but we must pay attention to the shape of things at the moment.

Check out these two incredible sites featuring photographs of modern day ruins:

One is the industrial ghost-scape of Japan's Battleship Island, a coal colony closed in the 70s.

The other is a woman's photo journal among the empty, frozen waste of Chernobyl.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Or something.


Stay with me here.


Its Monday out here in the District.

Searching the brain for this weekends rants.

And all blogworthy epiphanies.

I'm sure there were some.

Probably I sloughed them off in favor of paint-fuelled hallucinations.

If that's where the organ grinder with the talking hamster came from.

And all those dancing girls with pinwheels for heads.

Or maybe they came from under the stairs.

Where I buried Eugene.


I feel the brain slowly coming on-line, cycling through the RAM, doing its memory test.

Up to 512k.

Cache loaded.

Whatever that is.



I wonder what will happen if I pour hot coffee into the hard drive.

Ow. My ear.

I guess I'll have to drink it normally.


That's better.

I'm warming up.

So...this weekend.

Worked on the house every minute.

Had lots of help from friends.

Won't bore you with the details.

I did manage to plug in the bass.

Shut my eyes and played Les Claypool style -- all wigged and trippy. All ruined for rythem but with enough cojones to fuel Arty Lange on an all night Rocky Mountain Oyster binge.

While I played, I concocted a short story about bored neighborhood kids discovering, promoting, and ultimately murdering a strange reclusive musician in their midst.

It was supposed to be pitch-perfect and poignant.

It was supposed to evoke a sense of heartache and loss of innocence.

But Graham Greene has already written that story.

As have about a hundred thousand other people.

So I'll just make a nod to it on this blog and move on.

You can fill in the details yourself.


Saw "Bourne Supremacy".

It had all the right elements: a tough, gritty protagonist, murderous CIA spooks, the obligatory Russian foil.

It had a plot that was just about to take off.

Then it ended.

Too quickly.



It was like a funny car just about to bust a speed record, but crashing instead.

It was like complaining about finding a fly in your eyeball soup.

Well, not that.

Not at all, actually.

In fact, what the fuck am I talking about?

I'll just sit here quietly a minute, listen to the air conditioner.


I just hit third gear.

I don't see any end in sight for this post.

See, the moment I stop this post, I'm going to bury my brain in the past.

In times almost entirely forgotten, searching for traces of people we never knew.


Of haunted islands in the Pacific.

Of fogbound mountains in Burma.

Of icy Belgian wilderness.

If we find them, we can't say hi for you.

We can't show them snapshots of little Billy playing shortstop.

We can't impress them with our stock portfolio, or spread their favorite marmalade for them.

Likewise, they won't be saying much.

You might be able to hear a breeze through their eye sockets.

Or the patter of rain off the odd femur.

What will we do when we find them?

Probably adjust a database somewhere.

Close a file.

Pat ourselves on the back.

Collect a paycheck.

Go home.

Maybe we'll take them out of the dirt somewhere else and put them in dirt closer to home.

Our dirt is sacred.

Our worms gnaw for freedom.


I fucked up my shoulder.

Its one of those strange, surprisingly sharp injuries that comes from doing absolutely nothing:

Racquetball, painting, sleeping.


Its like a fillet knife under the collar bone.

Pardon me while I call the paramedics.


You hear about Alice Cooper's snake?

It ate a heating plate.

The vet had to perform an emergency extraction, a C-section of sorts.

Maybe it should be called an Sss-section.

Ok, sorry.

Couldn't resist.

But don't you wonder what was going through that snake's head?

A hot plate does not at all resemble a mammal.

Did it just eat it because it was warm?

If that's the case, do wild snakes eat warm rocks? Smoldering coals? Sunlit pastures?


There used to be a burro at our cabin in Yosemite that ate cigarette butts.

She was addicted to nicotine, as was the crazy hermit who threw them out the window.

We'd be sitting on the porch, swilling whiskey and smoking cigars and Jenny (the burro) would come up to the rail and hee-haw for the cigar butts.


Ah. Fifth gear at last.

Until later, then.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

This morning I showed up to a meeting covered in paint. See, last night I was up till midnight painting a bedroom.

After initially expressing some alarm at my spotted appearance, a naval officer I work with recommended I wash my hands with WD-40.

"Takes paint right off," he said, his eyes full of mirth at my ignorance.

"That so?" I said.

I pretended to consider the idea, but upon further consideration, realized that the whole suggestion was ludicrous. Washing one relatively harmless (if unsightly) chemical off of one's hand by applying another (not-so harmless) chemical simply doesn't make sense. Its like taking a shit and wiping with a dead woodchuck. (Ick. Sorry for the image.)

See, WD-40 is a hardcore petrolleum product. That means its full of benzene and toxic metals. That also means its very slippery, which could cause things like coffee cups and rare Ming vases to slip from your grasp, crash to the floor, and sever intervening appendages. I like my appendages and would be very upset to see any of them lying on the floor.

So once I'd gotten the paint off with the WD-40, I'd have to find something to get the WD-40 off with.

It'd be like the old woman who swallowed a fly. She then had to eat a bird to eat the fly, and then eat a cat to eat the bird & so on. If I recall correctly, eventually she ate a giraffe but since giraffe's have no natural predators, I'm not sure what the moral of the story was.

What planet am I on?

Oh yeah.

That smirking naval officer and his (admittedly well intentioned) paint-removal scheme.

As one of the few "academics" in a highly militarized environment, I can hardly expected to be competent in the ways of real men. I have not been "initiated" into that secret cult where they teach you to change sparkplugs and get excited about extension-cords. And I'm just terrible with tools. I barely know how to use a hammer. Just the other day I tried to use one to change a lightbulb, and got told I was told I was holding it from the wrong end.

And don't even bother engaging me in a conversation about sports: if it ain't lawn bowling (the kind where you lie on the lawn and watch bowling on TV) then I'm out of my league. I guess I'm o.k. at couch surfing, too. (And pocket pool, but lets not go there.)

So I'm not much of a man, but I'm a halfway decent academic.

I can find Morotai on a map without looking.

I can woo doe-eyed co-eds with steamy book citations.

And rattle off ingredients to the latest trendy cockail.

Who's up for an apple mojito and some intellectual house painting?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Want to give a shout-out to an old friend who has recently unveiled a blog. Me and Cowboy Nute (whom many of you know on this blog as the fearless Jerzy B) go back to L.A. in the late 90s. We worked nights listening to Holocaust survivors & spent uncountable afternoons strumming guitars and watching life (including ours) collide with Cowboy's wierd corner of Hollywood.

When I got back from my disastrous foray into the Peace Corps, it was Cowboy who provided me with a safe haven from judgement & a steady ear for listening to the bewildering circumstances into which I so forcibly stumbled that year.

So check it out Nute's Faradic Pharmacy. ("Faradic" for all of you illiterates out there means Of, relating to, or using an intermittent asymmetrical alternating electric current produced by an induction coil.)

Here's an old Panacylum post featuring the Cowboy (a.k.a JerzyB):

Thursday, July 26, 2001
High Desert Dreams

So me and Jerzy B were busting through the dry arroyos and sandy bottoms just east of the main ridge of the San Bernardinos. It was early summer and he was hunched behind the wheel of a black VW Jetta. We were on a road mysteriously called Japatul whose sporadic asphalt attested to its previous place among the known roads of civilization. The farther you went, worse it got until petered out altogether and turned into a hardscrabble mezzanine of washouts and pits. Every so often someone from the county or the BLM would come through and scrape it, causing it to sink ever lower beneath the floor of the desert. Someday it will disappear forever into the sage brush and joshua trees. To get there from L.A. you take 14 to Palmdale to the Pearblossom Highway to Main Street Hesperia to Rock Creek Road to some turnoff with a white picket fence to a road that runs beside steadily declining houses with dirt yards to Japatul itself, and from Japatul to Bowen Ranch road which runs out at the ranch and leaves you within easy hiking distance of the Deep Creek hot springs. Deep Creek originates out of Lake Arrowhead in the high country and falls for 23 remote miles through the back canyons along steep ravines and out of the way fishing trails. At the point at which it hits the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs from Baja to Canada), it meets a small collection geothermal vents. Somebody over the years has channeled the spring water into several rough rock pools that form a gradient from scalding hot (in "The Crab Cooker") to deliciously warm to Deep Creek itself, which is either lukewarm or frigid depending on the year. I've had my share of adventures at Deep Creek, and been there with nearly every friend I ever had and some I never had but wished I did. Somebody even said the Manson family spent a summer there. Anyway, it was this legendary confluence of water that Jerzy B and I were either returning from or heading toward (I forget which) that afternoon on Japatul road."What do you suppose 'Japatul' means?" I said, hitting a pipe somebody had brought along. With every jounce and swerve, the flame shot dangerously close to my face. "Its probably Indian," B said. "India Indian, or American Indian? Japatul sounds like a place in India. Or maybe the Conquistadors named it when Coronado came through."So far we had been going in a more or less straight line down the road, subject only to the difficulty of smoking and driving. The Jetta took the rocks and potholes in stride, an unnecessary testament to the quality of German engineering. B turned up the stereo. "Hang on," he said."Hmm?" I said, flame again dangling at the end of my nose. B wrenched the wheel sideways, sending me hard against the window. The Jetta shot out across the desert floor, somehow finding its wheels amid the softpacked dirt. Recognizing that slowing in sand was a fatal option for any subsequent motility, B smacked down the accelerator and launched us off into the scrub. After plowing thus for several minutes over boulders and cacti and the stubs of old fences, the brush opened up into a weird flat punctuated by the ruins of an ancient Mexican pueblo. "What..?" someone articulated. B slammed on the brakes. We stumbled out of the car to stare. It was incredible. Broken, bullet riddled walls jutted out of sandy nothingness, smooth Moorish columns swept gracefully into the sky. Crumbled, cracked plaster had fallen intact to the desert floor, revealing brown adobe beneath. It was straight out of Revolutionary Mexico. As we stood, stupefied, the sun made its course down the dry swale to the West. We half expected a phantom Zapata and gang to emerge from the dust, sombreros pulled low, bandoleers across the chests, shambling in line for a grim black and white photograph. If there were clues among the broken glass and occasional bits of metal littering the earth floor, I do not recall, but eventually it became clear what we had discovered: we were among the ruins of a dead shopping center -- a pseudo-Spanish mockup strip mall. Someone with high desert dreams, sensing potential at the end of the end of the road, had built it and waited, but it had failed and fallen to ruin and been shot full of holes by desert rats, until it finally it resembled exactly what it had intended to imitate in the first place. Life mimicking art mimicking life. There's poetry in it, I'm sure, and justice, and I'm sure if Jerzy B and I hadn't made it out of that sand a few minutes later, somebody would be crossing our bleached bones one of these years, unaware that they too were about to contribute to the ever-increasing ambiance of the place.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Warning: This Post May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Just found the following warning on a plastic bag containing my lunch:

Caution -- keep away from small children. The thin film may cling to nose and mouth and prevent breathing. This bag is dangerous to children / it is not a toy.

I'm not sure who the poor sucker is who has to stencil these types 0f messages on plastic bags, but I venture that he/she does not get out often.

If they did, they'd notice that we are surrounded by many more dangerous hazards. For example:


Stay with me here...

Bricks are everywhere. They are hard, they are sharp, they are extremely heavy and -- worst of all -- bricks do not come with warning labels. People bludgeon each other to death with bricks all the time. Bricks fall of cornices during earthquakes. Bricks that become slippery with pigeon dew or rainfall can be a hazard to window washers.

And you ever accidentally shove a brick in your mouth? It is not a pretty sight, my friend. You think Jaws from James Bond had a lousy time at the dentist, try crunching through solid cinder block. To make matters worse, once those razor sharp bits of quartz and clay make it through your digestive track (assuming you live), you literally have to shit a brick.

Not pretty at all.


People need to be educated about this hazard. The Clay Brick Association outlines all the potential horror in plain, bold English.

This should convince you beyond the shadow of a doubt: we must label bricks.

Here is what one such label could look like:

Caution -- keep away from small children or murderous psychopaths. If enough pressure is applied, sharp part may yield discontiguous brain matter. This brick is dangerous to children and other living things (i.e. snails) / it is not a toy.

You hear that kiddies? Not a toy. No kickbrick for you or tying a string to one end of a brick and sending it aloft on kite day.

For my next public consumer alert warning, I will address another serious safety hazard:

Loose floorboards.

Oklahoma City was the place to be this past weekend. Sorry you couldn't make it.
That's ok, snicker away. Last week I would have joined you.

Then I found "Bricktown" -- a revitalized warehouse district just east of downtown. It was full of pubs, coffee shops, clubs and restaurants. Streets were thronged with thousands of partiers. Races mingled. Bands played on every corner. Mexican, Thai, Italian, German, American, Chinese, & Japanese restaurants catered to even the most discerning dining whim. A free 2 day Reggae festival kept the streets packed with beer-swilling babes, easygoing gangstas, punk rockers, nerdy kids, asian tourists, aged rockers -- even old grannies, none of whom wore scowls. I saw very few cowboy hats and nobody put on airs or drooled over Jesus like they do at every public event in Tennessee. Cops were mellow. Friendly bikers abounded. A public fountain kept children wet and laughing from sunup to sundown. Gondolas ferried tourists down a canal. The night air was warm and bore the sweet scent of horse-ass from carriages.
Normally if I enter a bar in a strange city, I feel isolated. Despite my occasionally gregarious nature, I have trouble talking to strangers. Everything resolves into a transaction of some kind: money for food, money for alcohol, give me directions, how would you like a knuckle sandwich punk, etc. Not in OK city. Folks made eye contact, asked polite questions, and didn't seem in a hurry to prove anything.

I was taken aback at the urbanity of it all.

I've known very few Oklahomans in my life, but the few that I have led me to believe that there was something out there that makes the people slimmer, stronger and more beautiful than the rest of us. The blondes are blonder, the brunettes are brunetter. Men are more muscular. Dogs are docile.

I think maybe they're on to something out there that people-of-the-coast haven't figured out yet, some quality of finding pleasure in existance without being uncomfortable in their own skins. Or maybe the Dust Bowl drained off all the riff-raff, sent them West to devolve into the Pride of Modesto (or worse: Bay Area yuppies).

Or maybe I just showed up on a good weekend. Whatever it was, I'm pouring some out for Oklahoma City.