Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rock Star Supernova

Dixie Belle sent me a copy of her William Faulkner Writing Competition award winning short story Decoration Day. I took it with me to read at lunch yesterday, and was blown away. What a delightful childhood tale, told from the perspective of a little girl from a small southern town. I won't say anything more about it, other than it took hold of me and didn't let go. This was about normal people having normal problems, unlike my stories of the insane, incredibly disturbed, or just outright despicable. I'm not knocking it, but I would be challenged to write an engaging tale about normal folks.

I've discovered iTunes lately, roughly two or three years behind the trend. But when I do something, I do it large. My library of music is currently 4.5 gigabytes, or 1424 songs. If I play them all back to back it would take 3.4 days to go through the whole collection. And I'm just getting warmed up.

I don't know if anyone out there watches Rock Star, but apparently Supernova is looking for a lead singer. Who is Supernova? They are a composite of Tommy Lee--and we all know who he is don't we?--from Motley Crue, a guy named Gilby from Gunz n Roses, and some other guy from Metallica. Sorry, I'm not in the mood to look them up. This is a blog, not a breaking news site.

I just assumed Tommy Lee would be a raging prick, but as it turns out, he's a really nice guy--or so he seems. Not that it matters. The other guys are pretty cool too. Nothing like you would think if you have my kind of prejudices.

Anyway, the front runner of the competition is an out-of-this-world-rock-and-roll sweetheart called Dilana. I've never, and I mean never, heard a woman belt out a rock and roll tune like she can. She will win. Unfortunately, she really messed up by saying negative things about her competition, which landed her on the chopping block. Still, you should hear her sing. She can scream like Sam Kinison, and carries a melody like Gwen Stefani. She's everything you could want in a rock and roll lead singer.

You can view her performances somewhere online. Maybe I'll update with some links to her best, but you have to hear the song she did on Tuesday. Another woman earlier had shredded it to ribbons.

Tuesday isn't available yet, but she sang Every Breath You Take last week. Click here and click on Dilana's name in the Performances section. This song isn't her best, but you'll get some idea.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday Doings

Jason's Lonely Moon contest is closed, winners to be announced Friday at noon. I am anxious to hear his traffic statistics for this contest. The Two Lights traffic reached minor e-tailer heights. I expect this one was more like Yahoo. If you participated in the contest, you are eligible to vote for your favorites. I've read something like eighty entries, but now there are a hundred. Damn, that's a lot of reading.

So, how do I feel about having my story finally published on Pretty good. It's a slow creep though. Most of my enthusiasm was spent telling everyone I was accepted. Then I had to wait two months since I was told it would be only a week. It's kind of like being hungry for so long that your stomach shrinks. Either way, it's nice to see my name on a website that is not my own. I like too how Deathlings introduced the story:
J. Scott Ellis's Damned Carnival has it all: the ultimate creepy carnival setting, a mysterious woman and a surprise ending. Read and enjoy!
Short but sweet.

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday at Starbucks. I've been going there for a while at lunch. I bring a sandwich and my laptop, then write for a half hour or so, depending on my enthusiasm level. The staff is getting to know me. So much so that my coffee order is already waiting for me when I reach the counter. Well, it was that way until I switched to ice coffee. Now the girls are a little confused.

Anyway, one of my "barristas" is a young woman from Russia or some Slavic nation (I haven't asked yet). One of the first times I saw her she wore every sign of having a bad day, so I asked her how she was. She put on that brave smile and said, "Very good thanks." I shook my head. "I don't believe you."

Yesterday as I stepped to the counter, she was stocking the muffin display rack. I ordered my drink and looked her way, to find her looking at me, waiting apparently for me to notice. "Are you a teacher?" she asked me.

"No. I'm a computer programmer."

"Well you look like a teacher to me."

I made a facial expression. You know the one. The one that says, "Interesting, I never thought of that." But what I really said was, "Perhaps I should change careers then." Everyone else laughed while she looked on with a thoughtful grin.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Damned Carnival on Deathlings

At long last, my story is up on Tell your friends. Weird, I found out that I was actually being published during Jason's Two Lights contest, and I finally get to see it up during his Lonely Moon contest.

The check is in the mail.

The One

I watched the alarm clock this morning. Dimly I was aware that it was 5:20AM, but it just didn't make any damn sense. After some intense concentration, I decided that it was indeed true: I had not slept in. In fact, I could just get up and get in the shower, go to work, blog an entry, visit my blog buddies, and read the latest entrants in Jason's contest. I just needed to move.

Twenty minutes later I came to and sat up. My wife rolled toward me and put her hand under my t-shirt and scratched my back. The thought occurred to me just how lucky a man I really am. In my entire dating career, I gave everything of myself, subconsciously making up for someone else's disregard.

I don't know how it happened, but I not only found someone; I found the one.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Barnyard Bomb

I took my kids to see Barnyard: The Original Party Animals yesterday. One thought pervades: what in the hell were they thinking? Oh, I understand, after the success of Lion King why not? Hey, I know, I'll make a movie with cute little dogs and cats. The kid will be the cutest puppy ever, his father a champion sheep dog, and his mother a best in show poodle. Then a bulldog will rape her right in front of the kids, then kill the father by ripping his still beating heart out of his chest and eat it before his dimming eyes. But don't worry, because the bulldog will get it in the end, and the puppy will become a man-dog, as proud and capable as his father ever was.

This movie has no business marketing to kids. There needs to be a rating that fits neatly between PG and R called NFK, or Not For Kids. The letters P or G have no business in the rating of a movie of this nature. Not only did the father get killed by a pack of coyotes--oh sorry, did I spoil the whole thing for you?--but the coyotes were mangy and ferocious looking, like werewolves almost. My oldest son covered his ears and asked to leave. So that's what we did.

I have no problem with violence in film. But this was literally a wolf in sheep's clothing. They got my money, and that's what it's all about.

And for that matter, why is it so hard to create an original script? We watched Rumor Has It the other night, only to be pummeled by yet another betrothed couple going home to Meet the Parents. I must be getting old and cynical, but I could swear that Hollywood is about money first, art second. No, that's being too kind. Art doesn't even enter into the equation. It's like sleeping with a woman that everyone has been with.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Today and More Entrants

My wife has gone out with her friend to shop hard, then have a few drinks, and generally escape for an evening from their everyday lives. Just before she left she asked me to go upstairs and get the Yeah Yeah Yeahs CD. She slipped it in the player and cranked it up. The credits began to roll as the music blared, her arm out the window giving me the Hawaiian hang ten--or did it belong to Beavis and Butthead?--already on a rock and roll induced trip.

The kids are outside torturing four frogs I rescued from the pool filter. Actually, my youngest is learning that frogs are little people that get bad headaches when you bounce them on the ground.

We got quoted for a new fence around the pool this morning, on time, bright and early. My wife and I have a certain something that says, "Talk to me; I'll listen." He was here for two hours. We know a lot about him. He loves collecting comic books, but only Marvel. His favorite is Spiderman. He has a subscription to the Amazing Spiderman and the Avengers. Graphic Art is his true passion, but selling fence is what he does instead. Of course he loves what he does--ahem. He's from the same part of Ohio I am from, and our grandmothers live within a brisk walk from one another. I was tempted to take him into my basement and show him my childhood collection of Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Fantastic Four and XMen, but that would have prolonged an appointment that had already stretched an hour and a half longer than it should have.

Great guy. My wife and I marvel at how many cool people we meet from Ohio. Is that reverse racism?

My writing friends keep raising the bar of excellence. Check out Flood, Rebecca, Fringes, and Bhaswati's entries in Jason's contest. If you haven't done so from the previous post, also see Mr. Schprock and Jaye's. Of course, there is still mine if you haven't read it already.

That's a lot of linkage my friends. Good luck to everyone.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Check Them Out and Where are They

Not much to report this morning. That's not totally true. I could go in several directions right now, but I've been sleeping for an extra hour lately, unwilling to go to bed before eleven anymore. Maybe I should write posts at night when I should be sleeping. Hey, that's not a bad idea!

Anyway, I'd better do some work. I've been slacking terribly, and it's reflected in my work. Just when I'm getting comfortable with my job, this would be the most ironical time to lose it.

My friends Mr. Schprock and Jaye have entries in Jason's contest, so be sure to stop by and share the love. Both pieces are wonderful, just what you have come to expect from such accomplished writers. Fringes has an entry coming up too, and so too I assume will Rebecca and Flood. But where are they? I'll update when I see them--later today, right?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lonely Moon

Check out my entry in Jason's Lonely Moon contest.

It's called The Other Side.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Let's Get Together

I've got to hand it to my company. As I mentioned yesterday, this week is Employee Appreciation Week. Every day of the week, there is a different event, little social gatherings arranged and paid for by the company. Last night was a family barbeque at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline. What a gorgeous park it is, with expansive, well manicured turf--a far cry from any park I've seen since Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. My son and I threw the Frisbee without fear of losing it in the poison ivy infested woods that surround our little patch of heaven.

My wife finally got to put faces to the names of the people I've been telling her about for the better part of a year now. And the best part is, she got a good feeling about all of them. Another reason why I like New England better than California--the people here are more genuine. No offense to anyone from California, but I did live there for fifteen years, and consider myself a good judge of character. I lived in four corners of the bay area, and met a great many people--some I consider among the best I've ever known. But generally speaking, there was always an undercurrent of transience, an invisible wall, a tacit impermanence. Sure, yeah, let's do get together sometime.

I have to say that I'm falling into a groove here at work. This job was just a temporary stop on the train to Willoughby, but several things have happened that made me stay. The money was my only consideration at first, which trumped the contract wage I made before. That part was a no-brainer. Without it, I would still leave. The law of economics forces me in unsavory directions sometimes. Then a couple of the guys, as I've said before, turned out to be my kind--and that never happens, ever. There is practically no friction with anyone I work with, except for one, and that too is getting better. And now the large community feel, like I belong to something. And my wife likes the same people I do. Wow.

Today at three: ice cream social. Hot fudge sundae anyone?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


It's Employee Appreciation Week here at work. The company fed us lunch yesterday, and is sponsoring a barbeque tonight. Yesterday they played a game called Assassin. I'm not sure of the rules, but there were three assigned killers with different MO's. One was called Wolverine, and another two Killer Bee and Mad Cow. My manager was taken out by Black Mamba. The office assistant (or whatever they are called nowadays) wrote a heart-wrenching obituary for each. At the request of the deceased, no services will be held. The families ask, that if you want to honor their memories, to buy me a new house.

No time this morning. I was up all night watching my Cowboys in their second preseason game. The media can't get enough of Terrell Owens' hamstring, and in his absence, is trying desperately to create a quarterback controversy. Good luck with that.

Consider this post a note on the refrigerator, ala Erica, to say: Just stepped out for a little while. Be back tomorrow.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Riding Shotgun

Danny's father was the king of real estate in Juneau, until the business was sold in later years. Although I didn't feel it in my bones, I was a poor boy. All the classic symptoms existed for that logical conclusion--trailer park, plastic utensils, Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinners, depleted and moth eaten wardrobe, one-sided world view, family-bred distrust of anyone not like us--but I knew I would some day rise above it. Problem was, nobody knew it but me.

Despite his privileged home life, Danny was a bit of a recluse, a survivalist of sorts. He became known for his red beret, and once walked into the high school shower after gym wearing his new hiking boots. Why? They won't mold to your feet unless you get them wet. He was so proud of his new crossbow that he stepped onto the bus holding it at his side, pointed to the sky, like Chuck Norris--and yes, he was wearing the red beret and camouflage pants. And he sat next to me.

I had a crush on a girl in my Geometry class, one of the few classes besides computer programming that I actually understood and did well in. Her name was Kathy. As far as I know, she didn't even know my name. She was a basketball player and had an athletic build. I made the mistake of telling Chris Clarke.

Danny's father bought him a monster pick up truck that you had to literally climb to get into. He took Chris and me for a cruise at lunch time. Danny drove, Chris rode shotgun, so that left me to ride "bitch." We pulled out of the school parking lot and hadn't gone far when we all spotted Kathy walking toward us on the sidewalk. She didn't see us until Chris unrolled the window and yelled, "Hey Kathy!" Then he ducked under the dashboard, out of sight.

Then she looked right at me, sitting snugged up next to Danny, and nobody on my other side.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Work, work, a days vacation, and more work. That's what I've been up to, and will be again today. We took the kids to Canobie Lake in southern New Hampshire yesterday. At first I was disappointed, until we found the wing of the park for children. My youngest son is only two and a half, and being so young, he mostly has to watch his older brother have all the fun. Not at Canobie Lake. Wow. There were more kiddy rides than I can account for right now. Helicopters, space shuttles, dragons, cars, trucks, boats--a dream come true, all safe and slow. Hardly any wait. And in some cases, since nobody was waiting, the operators just let it roll for four or five times the normal duration. There is nothing sweeter than genuine unguarded glee from your children.

I had a strange dream last night. Apparently I was divorced. My son was hanging out with me when a guy from my office stopped in to pick my son up. Jackson was thrilled to see him and jumped up on his shoulders. The guy from my office was his step-father now, and told me that he was heading out, that Jackson went everywhere he did.

My first reaction was jealousy, but the smile on Jackson's face arrested that emotion. He was happy. Despite myself, it made me happy too.

I wanted to end it there, but I feel this will be misunderstood. There is no way that I will ever get a divorce, or let someone be a father to my sons while breath fills my lungs. The point is, in a strange dream, I experienced the true essence of love.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Inspiration Strikes

If you are wondering when my story on Deathlings is coming online, then you and I are on the same train to nowhere. It's a month and a half overdue, so I have to start considering the possibility that it isn't happening at all. It would have been nice to have that publishing credit, but I will take my victory as a good sign nonetheless. The thing to do perhaps is ask them if they intend to publish still, and if not, submit it elsewhere.

Meanwhile, I am roughly halfway through with another story, that I will likely publish here in serial form when I am all the way done with it. Or not. I haven't decided. Remember the scare over First Electronic Publishing Rights? I'm not exactly a high volume destination, but if someone wanted to get sticky about it...

The journey on my recent story has been a confidence builder. The idea was simple. My wife and I were sitting in bed when it struck. Married couples know what I mean when I say we were both reading before bed--she was catching up on current fashion, me on Whitey Bulger on the mean streets of Boston. Then bang! "Honey, what do you think of this idea?" And I told her. She nodded appreciatively, "I like it."

That's all I needed to get started. Two thousand words later and I'm on a complete tangent. An entire scene written with no apparent connection to the main story line, which had me a little depressed. Ironically I was reading Stephen King the other night--whose advice from On Writing clanged in my memory: Sometimes you have to kill your darlings--when it hit. Suddenly my scene, with some modification, fit perfectly.

I wrote a new cool beginning (If I do say so myself), and filled in with more detail in spots that were sorely lacking. Reading it back now, I am starting to think I have a winner, where nothing but a expository pile of words existed before.

The moral is nothing new. Just write. Simple. Oft emphasized in every writer's how-to book. And yet, until I had this experience, I didn't really know it. Up till now it's been academic knowledge. You had to see what I started with to realize what a hopeless cause it was. But I was having fun, living vicariously through the characters, wandering aimless until I figured out how to give it meaning.

Have had a similar experience?

Monday, August 14, 2006

First Poop

My two year old son had his first poop in the potty today. You simply have to be a parent of young children to find this even remotely appetizing. Unfortunately I was at work for this occasion, tantamount to a report card of straight A's. I got the email, so I gave him a call from the hallway and gave him much love and enthusiasm. It's a great day people!

This post will be the recipient of my ten thousandth visit, and I'd rather celebrate it with good news than with an article inspiring political debate--good natured though it is.

Some of you have been with me from the beginning, like Mr. Schprock and Natalie the Magnetbabe. Others nearly that long, and others it just seems like that long because we are old souls. Thank you all for being my friends. You all inspire me in different ways.

Fair Reporting

My wife and I had a conversation around the breakfast table this weekend. Living in New England will nudge your politics to the left unless you are either so incredibly researched that you are not easily swayed, you are immune to peer pressure, or you are just a whacko winger that cannot be reached by any amount of reason. My wife, with some indignation, quoted to me a piece from an AP article concerning Homeland Security, and a six million dollar takeaway from research to do with liquid explosives.
As the British terror plot was unfolding, the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology. Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of Homeland Security Department steps that have left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

I thought about this for a moment and said that I would have to know why the administration did such a thing. The article comes from the Associate Press, and did not offer any sort of explanation. I've read in the past about the bias of the AP, and probably was given an example or two in the past. Today I decided to use that wonderful tool that none of us can live with out. Namely, the internet.

It turns out that the six million in question was rerouted to the Federal Protective Service, which suffers from a 42 million dollar shortfall. Congress took money from the DHS science and technology program for other state and local grant programs, which in turn challenged the administration to find the money somewhere, and thus the six million in question. Cause and effect. Don't expect the AP to tell you that. They apparently want you to believe that Bush and company are asleep at the wheel. That everyone else before the thwarted attacks understood the imminent danger liquid explosives posed, except for the people that mattered most.

If you hate this administration, as most of my readers do, be very careful. This is a sword the cuts both ways.

Insist on fair reporting.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Inevitable Leap of Faith

To have a strong belief, or to even believe anything at all, is to be in a constant state of war with the world. This idea does not originate with me. I've heard it in a great many places of late. How important our ideas are to us and how willing we are to walk these streets alone determine how insistent we are in being heard.

This can hardly be unique to modern day people, but the distribution channel of an idea is certainly an ocean compared to the trickling rill of yesterday. We've all read about the internet, its impact on our society in many ways. It has for instance broken up the monopoly that traditional media has on our thinking. The Dan Rathers of the world can no longer get away with fabrication and hope to get away with it.

The most insidious effects though, will not be thoroughly understood for years to come. Ironically, the internet is the life and death of community. The internet brings us all together, people that would never have met, with similar ideas and interests--people that will likely never meet face to face.

When I was a teenager, especially before my dad bought me that rusted out bucket of bolts called a Nova--in Spanish, broken into two words means "Is not going"--for which I am forever grateful by the way, you could distill the essence of my life into one word: boring. So I was forced to go outside and seek out things to do with my friends. The neighbors would have appreciated the internet. Without it, they wouldn't have opened the door to a burning bag of Danny's shit, or to nobody at all, or find their license plates switched with the neighbors, or their garbage cans stacked with all the others in the neighborhood in the middle of the street. We may never have camped out with Heather and Paula, stealing kisses when they would allow, or having them steal a few from us. Would we have bothered to raft down a freezing river, or swam at the Mendenhall glacier, jumped our cars at Dredge lake, or just spent our time idly chatting at Mikes or Georges house? A lot of this was killing time, brought on by a desperate phone call when there was nothing else to do.

Now we have social networking and dating sites. Why waste your time with the annoying kid next door when you can find someone more to your liking online? I can easily see that, as a kid, I would have been too absorbed by chat rooms and sex talk with strangers than to even come out of my room, much less to bother making a phone call, getting together with a bunch of guys to cruise around a town that bored me anyway.

I'm not drawing any hard conclusions here, except to say that my own children will not have carte blanche to roam the virtual halls without having to interact with the real world. At the same time, they have to know how the system works. But they won't need my help for that. The opposite is surely true. I'm already out of touch and have to force myself to try out the latest and the greatest. It's a brave new world that is evolving into an information society, with no boundaries, excepting of course for China and a few other countries that control internet access. I have to say that for the most part I embrace the change. But I fear our kids have to grow up a lot quicker than we did. At some point, sooner that I would like, I'll just have to trust that I have been heard.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Musical Drug

A good song is the best drug on this planet. It has many similarities to an intense high. Consider the following scenario.

Strap on the headphones and take a stroll through the park and let the music move you. Tap your feet, rock your head, dance and swirl, sing out loud, play air guitar! Share your joy with the world. People will be moved, I assure you. They will part like the Red Sea to let you pass.

Feel the power. Know beyond certainty that you are charming, good looking, handsome even. Serenade the first pretty girl you see:
So if you wanna try,
We'll make it you and I
We'll never be alone
We'll buy a dog and bring him home
And jump up on the bed,
We'll be the best of friends
I think that we should try
I think that we should try

She might want to play cat and mouse and scamper away, but that's part of the game. Your whimsy is contagious. Run after her and imagine this same scene in slow motion in the rock video, both of you laughing and leaping.

Wow she was fast. Where did she go? Oh well, you reason, she'll be back. There was a vibe there that a boy could recognize. Time for some Guns N' Roses. Welcome to the Jungle Baby! Get up on a park bench then jump to the ground on your knees while screaming along with Axel Rose. Play along with Slash and make electric guitar distortion with slobbering lips. Now jump up and sing to the passersby in your all out falsetto:
Welcome to the jungle
It gets worse here everyday
Ya learn ta live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see
You'll take it eventually
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me
Ah, blue and red lights flashing. How wonderful. Switch over to some gangster rap and imagine the cops are after you.
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
Feedin' the poor and helpin' out wit they bills
Although I was born in jamaica
Now I'm in the US makin' deals
When you wake up the next morning wearing an orange jump suit, you'll be singing the Folsom County Blues, wondering just how in the hell you got here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

That Pesky Work Thing

I have several thoughts on the married couple slash friends debacle, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow. Tee sent me a link to read on the subject of American lonliness, which I haven't gotten around to yet. A friend sent me another, completely out of the blue, a sheer coincidence but applicable to this very conversation. His had more to do with mixing politics and friends, or the hazards thereof. I can name one example where I blew up at a friend over politics and she hasn't spoken to me since. That was just before the last presidential election.

So tune in tomorrow. My wife called as soon as I sat down to post, then my dad, then somebody chatted me at the office for fifteen minutes, then that pesky work thing got in the way. You know, my job job, the one that pays the bills. Yeah, that one.

There were a few new visitors yesterday. Valannin has an interesting blog, so stop by and check him out. Amra gave a great interview on Flood's blog on Monday. She has quite an interesting background.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Can't Complain But Sometimes I Still Do

My wife and I got together with her girlfriend Kris and her girlfriend's husband in Harvard Square this weekend. We all have kids, but they have parents that gladly take the kids for the night. We have a babysitter, a cute teenager--on her way to a very nice and prestigious college in the area--upon whom both the boys have a major crush.

Finding friends as couples is such a hard thing to do. There is always a pairing that doesn't fit. Kris's husband has no personality at all. Once the obligatory talk of work is past, there is nothing left to talk about. Kris used to bitch about her husband to my wife, and they both had a good laugh about him. But Kris has pulled back, saying that things are better now with a dramatically brave face; and we know now to avoid the subject.

When anyone asks me about my work, far from going into major expository, I say "Couldn't be better." When pressed, I say that I'm a computer programmer. That usually shuts them up. When pressed further, I say that I work on web applications that provide dynamic content. That usually shuts them up. But, when pressed further, I lay out a scrolling space list of all the technologies I've ever known or heard about. That always shuts them up.

What we need, my wife and I, is someone we like to spend time with. Good friends are hard to find. If you have them, I urge you to recognize the miracle. What happened to me? I've turned inward, focusing on this blog, on writing at lunch, on mowing the grass and cleaning the pool, on reading books, catching up on shows.

I stepped out of my car this morning and opened the back door to retrieve my backpack. A beat up Mazda at the other end of the parking lot, fifty yards or so from me, beeped its horn at a few of the cleaning staff that were arriving too, walking to work as they do every morning. The girls wore tight Capri jeans and white tank tops. I often imagine what they do for fun on weekends, because they are always smiling and animated with one another. The car beeped its horn and the driver popped out. The girls screamed and hugged the man who stepped out, like one would greet a brother who has just come back safe from the war. While one was kissing his face, the other ran off and got a few more of the ladies. Soon our Latin Casanova had four ladies in his entourage as he strutted with a gait that could not be mistaken for anything but pride.

I leaned against my car and smiled, unashamed when one of the girls saw me looking. She smiled back.

But I will not let my own gifts in this life be diminished. I almost forgot my gym bag before I left for work, so I snuck back up the stairs. The kids had since woken and were in the computer room. My two year old stood next to his big brother, who was sitting on the chair. "I want to sit on your lap Jackson," Emmett said. Jackson rolled back and swiveled toward him and opened his arms. When I looked again, after I had gotten the bag from my room, Emmett was perched and chattering atop Jackson's lap, with Jackson's arm around him.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Let's Get Animal

I'm signed up for a class called Writing Popular Fiction at our state university starting in September. The fee is a bit steep, but I am hoping that with great expense come great returns. I had a couple choices. There was focus on the short story, another on the horror genre. Let's just see where popular fiction takes me. It's time to stop all this closed-mouth kissing stuff, get butt-naked and do it like the animals do.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Out of Sight

Casey used to say that all American cities were New York wannabes, and that the rest of the country was always months, even years behind NYC in fashion. Her friends were intellectuals, mostly lawyers and such; and she liked using big words like sophomoric and septuagenarian. She worked diligently to have an opinion by emulating the TV and radio talking heads, who rehashed the same point over and again, like bulimics feasting on their own regurgitation.

This is the same intellectual giantess that chuckled over a honking horn. She used me in many ways. God her sister hated me. I was a threat. We competed, or did at least, until the awkwardness and impropriety repelled me into acquiescence. Then it was just a matter of time. The silly humor was a mechanism I think to put me in my place, on the outside of the joke, to push me away. They would laugh long then criticize my silence. You're intimidated by our intelligence, Casey once said. Don't worry, she assured, it happens.

Note: The upcoming section, which details a well timed, delivered and deserved jab at the aforementioned ex-girlfriend, will not be understood unless you have read about the horn honking incident in my previous post.

We were probably a few weeks away from the end. Being alone in the car with her was terse. All those unspoken grievances fluttering in the air, so close to release, like a match flame flickering towards the fuse.

"What do you want to do?" I asked the back of her head.

"I don't know," she said into a pulsating patch of breath-fog in the passenger window. In the opaque reflection I could see her wistful expression, the frown, the disinterest. Behind her hovered my own face, looking on, a portrait of the hapless simpleton who should have known better.

"Perhaps I should just take you home."

She whirled to face me. "I want to have fun! You don't know how to have fun."

"Oh, but I do." I honked my horn twice and said with out mirth, "Ha ha ha." A dark shadow covered her face, as if it weren't already out of sight.

Then I really did laugh. And it felt good.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Small Onions

"Would you like onions on that Scott?" Harry asked me. I'm a regular at this local Deli, whose proprietors are an entire family. The place is always brimming with business, but Harry lamented that traffic didn't translate well into money. I tried something new today--a falafel pita wrap.

"I'm not a big onion guy," I replied.

A pleasant man waiting alongside me while Harry's brother Dick (I'm not joking) worked on his Italian cold-cut special said, "Only small onions?"

I stared at him blankly, then gave the obligatory chuckle while trying to unscramble the meaning. He wasn't fooled. "You're not a big onion guy, so you're a small onion guy."

"Oh," I said. Silly, but I got it. "I'm not the best person to tell a joke to. Typically I miss the point completely."

"No, it's me. Happens all the time."

It actually is a thing with me. I dated a girl from New York City a while ago, and I noticed a brand of humor that tickled her and her sister to death, but held no value for me whatsoever. They could go on for hours chuckling and hooting about the silliest things. Once, while she and I were following her sister in a two-car caravan, the sister honked her horn. My girlfriend insisted I honk back. Why? Because it's funny she said. Ok. I honked the horn and got one in reply. Ha ha ha. She laughed hysterically.

A client from New York visited my office who loved to tell jokes. I didn't get a single one of them. It was embarrassing. One had something to do with an airplane and a graveyard. I struggled and struggled with it, even with him coaching, but I couldn't understand what was funny about it. Just so you don't think I'm cutting down New Yorkers--I'm not. It's a cultural thing. That and I might just be the dimmest bulb in the box.

"No, it's me," I told my deli mate. "Especially jokes told by New Yorkers."

"I'm from New York."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Driving Etiquette

I'm listening to Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrel on audio. Two words. Modern. Masterpiece. Sure, it takes two or three disks to get into the groove of the story, which takes its sweet time. But once it rolls, it lays out beautifully.

The entrance ramp to the freeway closest to my house is also the exit ramp to an intersecting freeway. New England drivers have no concept of the zipper effect, or slowing down, or any notion of courtesy. I'm surprised my wife thought California drivers were so bad. She has since admitted that the contrast might not have been as wide as she had imagined.

Normally I don't give into the precepts of road rage, but this morning I made a small exception. I pulled onto the launch pad that is my entrance ramp, and waited for gap to present itself. A Toyota pick-up signaled to exit, so I accelerated to full speed to enter so that he could fall behind me. He had to play ball by slowing down a tad, something I do every time when the roles are reversed. This guy however was inflamed, giving me the double bird with his forearms resting on the steering wheel. I would understand were I going thirty, but I was at even pace with traffic--we simply had to swap places.

This happened to me five or so months ago in a similar situation, when I was entering another freeway from a ramp. Some lady came roaring around me, window down yelling curses and waving the middle finger, because I had deigned to share the road with her.

These things store up.

So this morning, still smarting from that time before, and feeling indignant at his outburst, I gave him that pointless gesture in return, along with some lip movements I'm sure he was able to read. For one brief moment, I wanted to pull over and teach him some driving etiquette.

So here's a driving lesson for you egocentric one-man-island people. When exiting the freeway, slow the hell down and pay attention.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Opposition Chimes in

Yesterday I posted about Joan of Arc, known as Jean D' Arc to her friends, and how the French seem to disregard her critical contributions to the very survival of their country today. Poor GW, our maligned and bumbling leader, was the subject of a cheap shot, delivered by yours truly. In the interest of fair play, and for your enjoyment--but mostly mine--here is what his opposition would say.

John Kerry: I have been consistent on this since the term consistent was created. Consistently I have said that King Charles should have consistently marched on Rouen and taken Joan by consistent force. I voted for it before I voted against it.

Al Gore: I promised myself I wasn't going to salivate or slobber on the podium, but how dare he? How dare King Charles leave that poor girl to burn at the stake?! Huh?! After all she did for this country. That slag-off, that poor excuse for a man, never mind a King. After she delivered Orleans into his ungrateful hands--HOW DARE HE?!

Howard Dean: Not only are we going to Rouen to take Jean D' Arc back, King Charles, we're going to Brighton and Worthing and Horsham and East Grinstead and Royal Tunbridge Wells, and we're going to Guildford and Redhill and Kingston. And we're going to Merton and Rochester and Bexley and Grays. And then we're going to London baby, to take the Royal Palace! Yeaaaaagggggh!!!