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I'm doing weird things with my banana.
Those of you who know me either in real life or through this blog know that I’ve always been a bit of a germaphobe. I’m a weird sort of germaphobe though, because my deal with germs has more to do with gross people than the actual germs. When I’m camping, I probably eat more inadvertent bacteria than a Roomba in a 7-11, and I don’t care at all. On the other hand, when I go to the store and pick out a shopping cart, I am fairly certain I can actually see the E. Coli standing up on end like an army of little hotdogs as they hop their way onto my hands and up my arms. Or maybe it’s my imagination. Either way, I always keep a pump jug of hand sanitizer in my car. I’ve got to admit, I feel a little vindicated at the moment, since *everybody* now has a 2 bottle a week hand sanitizer habit. Although I've since learned that up until the pandemic hit, I have been doing it wrong and not sanitizing my hands until after I'm back in the car, which means my inside door handle is probably covered in virulent cruft. I also feel like maybe I should keep the bottle out of sight because these days someone might break your window for it. Screw the stereo, grab the Purell!
There’s so much conflicting information out there about what people should be doing that nobody seems to know what the right answer is. If anyone told me three months ago that I’d be sanitizing my mailbox with Clorox wipes before opening it, I would have told them that I wasn’t that far gone yet, but thanks for the concern. Now I’m picturing my mailman as some kind of Typhoid Mary, touching the mailbox of hundreds of random people, some of whom almost certainly have the hygiene practices of a poo-flinging chimpanzee, and transferring that invisible funk (good name for a band) directly to my mailbox. That little handle is probably dirtier than a truck stop hooker, and all these years I never even thought about it.
So things are a bit different now. I’ve watched video upon video talking about how to best protect yourself and your groceries from this virus, and while some of it may go overboard, (I’ve seen a guy recommend dumping all your produce into a pan of soapy water and leaving it there for 5 minutes) some of it might not. I say that because I've also seen videos of various no-brain fuckheads doing things in the supermarket like licking ice cream containers or coughing on produce and posting it on social media like it’s a big joke that doesn’t immediately make me mark them for death, so you can never be too careful.
And this is why, through no fault of my own, I am reduced to doing things like breaking up bags of produce outside, unpacking Amazon boxes on the porch, or holding my banana in two fingers like it’s been used in a porno flick without my knowledge, and wiping it down with 190 proof Everclear before nestling it gently in the fruit basket. Yes, I break up the bunches of bananas too, so get your mind out of the gutter. Also, make sure you text me before stopping over. For reasons.
The empty shelves in the supermarket are sobering. When I first heard about this thing, I figured I’d stock up a bit, so I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon, and my wife thought I was a little nuts. Among the things I purchased were toilet paper and paper towels. Why? Well, for one you’ll always use it, eventually, and it doesn’t go bad. Nor does it require refrigeration, unless you're some kind of weirdo. And for the TP in particular, it’s also something you don’t want to run out of. Nobody wants to be reduced to wiping their ass with an old concert t-shirt if it can be at all avoided. Also, you know how guys buy paper products, right? It starts to get out of hand right there in the aisle and just escalates. The thought process is usually something like “Should I buy this pack of 4 rolls? Well, this one of 8 is almost the same price. Shit, this pack of 16 is on sale, and it’s buy one, get one free. I should get four. I don't want to have to make another trip.” This thought process continues until a store employee is suddenly using a forklift to slide a pallet of Charmin into the back of your pickup truck and neither of you knows what the hell just happened. So suffice to say that even though I am no crazy hoarder, I have enough TP for the foreseeable future, but only because I’m a guy, not because of any pandemic.
So far, at least, the supply chain for most of this stuff hasn’t been interrupted, other than by stupidity.
People are panic buying, which causes other people to panic buy, which causes the supply chain to get caught with its pants down. Unfortunately, it feeds on itself, so eventually even level-headed people need to go out like Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Search for Charmin
It’s like when you are at a concert and everyone in front of you stands up, and you’re like, “Goddammit, now I have to stand up too. I hate all of you assholes.”
Same principle, except instead of everyone pumping their fists in the air and screaming at the stage, they’re pumping their fists in the air and screaming at the empty aisle in the supermarket. It’s gotten so bad around here I’m thinking of installing a bum gun
. I’m not going hardcore Thailand though. Those are cold-water-only jobs. if I put one in, it’s going to have an electric heater.
Our well water is about 50 degrees year round and I’m puckering up a little just thinking about taking a high pressure jet of ice water directly to the old bung hole.
The other thing that’s weird for me is I work from home almost 100% of the time, and as it is, I rarely go anywhere I don’t absolutely have to, so not a lot has changed for me on a daily basis. I fear for the people who can’t work from home, and those whose jobs are critical to fighting this thing. Our health workers, grocery store cashiers and delivery/shipping workers are legit heroes right now. Me, I forget what it’s like needing to go out until I run out of booze, so all I can do is cheer from the sidelines and help any way I can. I’m down to a full bottle of lemoncello, a crusty-topped 1/4 bottle of Triple-sec and a half bottle of Patron. I’m not sure what sort of hellish cocktail I could make mixing those ingredients together, and I don’t want to find out. As a result, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to drinking the rest of the Patron directly out of the bottle while sitting in front of the TV in my underwear. Like I said, not a lot has changed for me.
Another thing I thought about the other day as one of my fillings gave me a little twinge — I don’t think my dentist is taking any patients at the moment, and I don’t blame him. People who make their living working on other people’s faces (dentists, eye doctors, tattoo artists in Chicago) are wisely canceling appointments to reduce their chances of infection. I’m a little concerned that if this filling is cracked and things go bad, I’m gonna be forced to grab an ice skate and go all Tom Hanks on this bitch. Yes, that’s a 20 year old reference. Eat it.
So anyway, while I was opening my mail with gloves on and hoping whoever closed the envelope hadn’t actually licked it, I figured I would write something to help me de-stress about all this, and hopefully give you a laugh or two along the way. I don’t in any way mean to sound insensitive or give the impression that I am not taking this seriously, because this is deadly serious, and I realize people all over are fighting for their lives. Also, it’s not a political thing, it’s a virus thing, and to be frank, both sides of the political spectrum have made me sick to my stomach lately. I think a lot of ignorant people in the U.S. are in for a rude awakening, even though I hope I’m wrong.
I’ll be over here washing individual grapes in my kitchen sink if you need a ridiculous mental image to cheer you up.
I’m starting to think Kramer had the right idea
On that note, stay safe, stay home if you can, and I’ll see you on the other side of this nightmare. Good luck to everyone, and if you happen to work in one of the fields I mentioned, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Well, I finally got tired of eating whole chickens out of plastic capsules, and my wife convinced me to try one of those "we'll send you all the ingredients you need!" food services to see what's up. We figured at the very least we would get to try some new food, and as an added bonus, we'd get to keep the recipes. We started off with Sun Basket, and worked our way through Hello Fresh and Home Chef.
I called a timeout after my wife was juggling three of these services at the same time, and put an indefinite hold on Blue Apron because each one of these things is like that old Columbia House CD club you used to fall for when you were a kid. Forget to send one postcard back and suddenly you were being billed $37.50 for Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. We almost had overlapping services and too much food at once, but we got it ironed out.
After about the third meal, I realized why my wife was so interested in these kits. Out of the last 15 recipes we've tried, she cooked the first two.
The rest: All me. Why?
I think it's because she immediately figured out that if there are instructions for building something (a recipe, for instance) I am physically and mentally incapable of simply standing by and letting someone else screw up the final result by not following them exactly. To put it another way, I never have parts left over when I build shit from IKEA. Yeah. I'm that guy.
I am now convinced that she half-assed the first meal or two accidentally-on-purpose so that I'd take over the cooking. It worked, too. She is totally using my OCD against me for her own nefarious purposes, namely, having me combine pre-measured ingredients in a specific order, apply heat, and notify her when it's magically turned itself into a meal.
As I'm sure you can imagine, there are both benefits and drawbacks to cooking like this. Let me detail a few of these for you.
1. Less time at the grocery store. Note that this is another benefit for my wife, because I rarely if ever shop for our food. She saves me that hassle, and I love her for it. if I were single, I would likely be subsisting on gas station chalupas and pre-made Cumberland Farm sandwiches due to my aversion to actually shopping for individual ingredients. I say "ingredients" because the chances I would buy said ingredients and combine them into something that was actually edible all on my own are slim to none. At best, I'd have some Banquet chicken and frozen mac and cheese in the freezer, and most of a leftover pizza in the fridge.
2. It just shows up on your doorstep! It's like food Christmas every week. Especially if you forget what meals you've chosen. The UPS guy will hate you because these bastards are heavy, but other than that you're good to go. Just tip him well at Christmas. Or, if you've got a sadistic streak, give him a gift certificate for one of these services so he has to carry his own box of food.
3. You get to try foods you've never tried before. For instance, I've discovered that I like Risotto. Before this, I never even knew what Risotto was, let alone how to make it. I thought it was some kind of cheese, like Ricotta. (It sounds like it should be an Italian sports car. The Alfa Romeo Risotto. Drive one today!)
4. You have some time to decide. If you're too tired to cook or just don't feel like it because you worked late or binge-watched Breaking Bad until 2 am, you can freeze the meat, and the rest of the stuff will keep for up to 5-7 days. But usually it doesn't take that long, since the clock is ticking on three complete meals that are basically ready to go. I mean, how lazy can you be? Eventually you will feel guilty that you are standing in front of the open fridge eating slices of pre-packaged provolone instead of cooking your fresh food. Since you paid a bunch of money for it, and you probably have three more meals on the way, you either need to cook it or let it rot. Eventually, you will give in and break out the pans.
5. The instructions are pretty easy, and you get to keep the recipes. This sounds more useful than it is, especially with Home Chef, because they provide their own spice packs and some dressings/marinades, so you have no idea what's actually in them. With Hello Fresh and Sun Basket, they tend to have you make that stuff from the base ingredients, so while it's more work up front, it's easier to repeat the recipe when you inevitably quit the service.
6. Cilantro. All the cilantro. You either love it or hate it. I happen to love it, and a lot of these recipes seem to call for it. I'm not sure why, but I'm not complaining. If there is cilantro and lime in the recipe, I'm on board. I am pretty sure I must be part Mexican. You could put cilantro, sour cream and cheese on a seven day old hot dog someone had kicked under the counter at the 7-11 and I would eat it and like it.
And now for the drawbacks, of which there are many.
1. The incredible amount of packing waste. Each box of three meals is insulated with something resembling carpet padding wrapped in plastic, and contains 4 ice packs, two above and two below all your perishables. The ice packs are made from some kind of slimy gel encased in plastic. The instructions say that you are supposed cut the bags, let the slime demons out, then recycle the plastic bags and the cardboard box. Unfortunately, our recycling bin states in huge letters "NO PLASTIC BAGS" so off they go into the land fill. And that's just the beginning. In each of your three meals, you'll have more plastic. One small plastic bottle for a bit of balsamic vinegar here, another for some cooking oil there; A few sprigs of cilantro is in a plastic snap container. Individual servings of sour cream, tiny bottles of ketchup and mayo. Little bags of cheese and rice. It gets pretty crazy.
2. Don't let anyone tell you different -- This shit is expensive. It has to be. Sometimes I dump the ingredients for a meal on the counter top and think, I just paid 20 bucks for 4 flour totillas, a couple of tiny chicken breasts, a cup of rice, a lime, a pepper and some spices. What is wrong with me? It just doesn't seem worth it. But I can truthfully say that I haven't had as much food waste due to spoilage/laziness. We no longer refer to the crisper drawer in the fridge as the rotter, so there's that.
3. You get to try foods you've never tried before. The attentive among you are thinking, "Wait, didn't he just list that as a benefit? Yes, yes I did. But I maintain that it is also a drawback. Let me tell you a story about the Cheyote. While it sounds like the name of a lost Indian tribe, or a terrifying abomination resulting from the unholy union of a cheetah and a coyote, it is not. It's actually an "edible" gourd from Mexico. It should be reclassified as an ornamental gourd because it looks like a mini nerf football with warts, and tastes like dirt. That didn't really surprise me though, because in the recipe it actually had a warning. And that warning read as follows:
WARNING: WEAR GLOVES WHILE CUTTING CHEYOTE AS THE SAP CAN CAUSE SKIN IRRITATION AND NUMBING OF HANDS.
I thought to myself, That's what I want in my mouth. Something that causes skin irritation and makes my hands stop working.
But into the frying pan it went. I am nothing if not an instruction follower. (I am pleased to inform you that I did not die from Cheyote poisoning. I will not be having it again, but feel free to give it a shot if you're ever in the mood for some crappy proto-vegetable that tastes like ass and make you feel like you slept on your hands all night.)
4. Skimpy portion size. I'm not a big guy, but literally every single one of these "meals for two" had what I consider to be a good-sized single serving, with a little bit left over for a snack the next day. If you are a 5'7" 150 pound man (or woman) you could probably eat most of it yourself. If, on the other hand you are a 6'2" 250 pound man (or woman) these meals will not fill you up. If you somehow manage to do the considerate thing and limit yourself to your share, I guarantee that you will be stalking around the kitchen at 2 am eating Count Chocula out of the box while the cat looks on in disgust.
5. You don't get to pick your own vegetables or fruits. They show up in a bag on your doorstep, sure, but so far I'm not very impressed with the overall quality. I think Sun Basket is best in this regard, and all their stuff is organic. They are also more expensive. As a general rule, however, nothing is quite as "farm fresh" as they all claim it to be. The tomatoes are hard, pink pellets, the greens can be a bit wilted and the fruit is sometimes bruised. They try to prevent damage in shipping, which is probably why none of the veggies are really ripe. I could have driven nails with the last two avocados I got from Hello Fresh. I couldn't even cut them in half. I also scored a rotten potato from Home Chef. They made it good by offering me a $5 coupon off my next order, which, come to think of it, is probably about what I paid for that potato.
6. Jalapenos. All the jalapenos. Now, I love a good hot pepper, but I can only eat so many of them before my stomach and intestines revolt. It seems like every recipe we've tried has either Jalepeno or Pablano peppers as a solid ingredient. The meals in general tend to be on the spicy side, so if you like bland, then most of these meals will not be for you.
I sit here in my comfortable leather chair writing this, having just finished making something that tasted like a Mexican Sloppy Joe. Let me sum up: A burger's worth of taco-seasoned ground beef and tomato sauce, a package of cilantro and one jalapeno diced up and mixed with olive oil and lime juice. Dump the meat over some rice and top with the cilantro/jalapeno mix, add some cheese and toasted tortilla strips. Simple, right? And it might even sound pretty good if you like hot, spicy food, which I do. However, there's a good chance I'll be finishing this blog post from my much-less-comfortable porcelain chair while I chug Pepto and eat Tums by the fist-full.
7. All of the fucking zesting. I confess: I've never zested before. I didn't really know what zesting was. I had no good way to zest, and there is a lot of zesting called for in these recipes. For all the poor saps out there reading this who are in my previously uninformed shoes, it's very simple. It's basically grinding the rind off something. (I know, that sounds dirty. Hey baby. How's about you and me grind the rind over at my place?) I now consider myself a zesting expert. Limes and Lemons mostly. I'm not a professional, by any means -- I've never zested for money -- but if you need a good zest, look no further; I'm your guy. I am also pretty sure I have zest-induced tendonitis in my elbow, so I may be forced into a sub-par zest with my other arm, but I'm sure you will still be satisfied.
As to which company is best, the jury is still out. None of it is really health food, and to be honest, I think it's a fad and none of these companies will be around in a couple of years. The meats are mediocre, the veggies and other ingredients are the same stuff you get at the market except less ripe, and everything seems destined to be cooked in some kind of oil, whether it be canola or olive. If they delivered a chef, a busboy and a dishwasher with your food, then they might have something. Although come to think of it, that already exists, just not for people who fly commercial and don't own a fleet of turbo-charged Risottos. I think you'd be better off just buying a cook book, picking three meals and then going to the grocery store with your list. Sure it takes longer, and it's a lot more work, but my wife won't mind.
I think my favorite so far was shaved steak with onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese on a pretzel roll. It was really good, but I essentially paid 20 bucks for two rolls, a package of Steak-Umms, a little onion, a couple of mushrooms and two slices of cheese. I ate it, but I resented it. It was expensive, and I could feel it clogging my arteries. I dropped a piece of steak on the floor, but I picked it up and added it back to my sandwich, because, hey, that was probably like a buck's worth of meat.
So I'll end this by saying (a) I'm still sitting in the comfy chair (to your vast relief, I'm sure, and to mine) and (b) I'm kind of enjoying the cooking part a little more than I thought I would. So if anyone has any recommendations for any companies they think might offer better food or more for your money, let me know in the comments.
Until next time, Bon Ape tits! (Is that right? I think it's right.)
No Laughing Matter.
I walked into the dentist's office with a bit of trepidation - I'd had a hot/cold sensitivity in one of my chompers for a few days, and figured I had a cracked filling. Both hot and cold food would cause a dull ache in my brain, and sometimes biting down on something hard in just the right way would shoot an ice pick into my eye. I hate the dentist with a passion, even though I realize the necessity of it. I floss and brush twice a day and never miss a cleaning because I know that's all easier than having major work done. Prevention is key and all that -- especially when it comes to your teeth.
I've just started going to a new guy closer to home, and I'm not sure about him yet. The first time I went to him, he said he found a cavity. I haven't had a cavity in probably 30 years, so I was skeptical. I wasn't entirely sure he didn't just need a new widescreen TV for his kid's room, but I let him fill it anyway, and I continue to reserve judgment.
This time, I wasn't sure what was going to happen -- I figured it could be anything from a new filling to a root canal and crown; or god forbid, an implant. My wife had an implant done there 6 months ago and we're STILL paying it off. I could have bought a nice used car for what that fake tooth cost. That was a nightmare for her. Bone grafts, socket wrenches, hydrocodone, lasers... it was a mess. And then after it was done, she was having trouble with it, and we thought for sure it was going to need to be yanked out again. Eventually it settled down, and everything is fine now. I hated paying for it, but it's nice not being married to a hillbilly anymore.
They are punctual at this place, I'll give them that. I arrived about ten minutes before my appointment, and they don't generally take you early. You will sit there until the exact moment of your scheduled appointment, and then they come and take you into the back where the rooms and chairs are. I was sitting in the waiting room, coughing like a TB patient. A few months ago, I had gotten a head cold that moved to my chest. Unfortunately, it took up residence there like so much Michael Keaton in Pacific Heights. I'm STILL coughing, and it's maddening. At any rate, I was coughing, and they have complimentary water and flavored seltzer in this little glass-doored mini-fridge. I didn't want to be belching in anyone's face, so I grabbed an ice cold water and drank it down, hoping to stifle the cough a bit. That rang my bell a little because my tooth did NOT like the cold water. I still finished the bottle though, doing this weird thing where I covered my tooth with my tongue and sort of stuck the bottle on the other side.
This office is fairly small, since the entire practice is shoehorned into an old Victorian house that has been turned into a business. The waiting room and the main reception desk are basically in the same 12x15' space, with a small bathroom directly across from the desk. To the left of the bathroom door is the entrance to the examination areas. Immediately after I finished the water, the hygienist/assistant came out to get me. I stood up and started to follow her to the back, but then took a detour to use the bathroom while she waited. Better safe than sorry.
I am no fan of their bathroom, mostly because there is no fan. There is absolutely nothing to mask the sounds of whats going down in there, and it's right on top of the waiting room and reception desk due to the layout. It's like that guest bathroom at your in law's house that is three feet from the dining room table. Nobody wants to use it.
So to set the stage, the office is so quiet you can hear the house creaking, and the waiting room has about 4 other people in it, all just silently staring at their phones or reading magazines. So I do what any self-respecting guy would do. I aim for the side of the bowl to avoid making noise. This is the classic NP move (ninja pee), and it takes some skill, depending upon the toilet. Sometimes it's easy -- the newer low-flow toilets usually have lots of porcelain real estate to aim for. Unfortunately, this toilet, like the rest of the house, is fairly old and that means it uses approximately 40 gallons of water per flush, and the bowl is round and deep, like an ornamental koi pond that you pee in.* Still, if you are an expert, there's a slice of about an inch between the edge of the bowl and the water that you can hit and still execute a perfect 10-point NP. So I threaded the needle, scored a solid 9.0 (lost a point for flushing before I was done, so the noise would cover up any sloppiness in execution), washed up and followed the hygienist to my chair.
Sitting down, I immediately realized the other thing I hate about this particular dentist office. The chairs don't have arms. It's awkward, and I don't like it. I always end up sort of sitting there with my hands in my lap, trying not to dig my nails into my palms until they bleed.
I could feel myself getting nervous. I was away from work on my lunch hour, I had no idea what was going to happen, but I knew there would be drills involved. I am a big wimp when it comes to the dentist. Even if it's just a cleaning, I tense up like I'm being electrocuted and I stay that way for the duration.
The assistant took some X-rays and she apparently found a crack in the tooth, which she showed me with a digital camera and some kind of funky outlaw ROKU app on the widescreen TV in the room. The doctor strolled in and glanced at the screen, then told me to lie back so he could take a look. He poked around in there for a few seconds, and said, "I'd suggest taking out that old filling, and putting a crown on that tooth to hold the crack together. There's a good chance that section of tooth will fall off anyway when I start cleaning it up, since the crack goes around the base."
I didn't want to hear that, but OK. I asked him if that meant a root canal, and he said, "Not necessarily. I can prep it for the crown right now, and we can put a temporary on and see how it does. If you are OK for the two weeks that it takes to get the permanent crown back from the lab, chances are you'll be fine without a root canal." I liked this answer because I've never had a root canal and I'd like to continue not having one for as long as I can manage it. I never had my wisdom teeth taken out either, and that's because I was born without them. That makes me some sort of genetic freak - or (as I prefer to think of it) just vastly more advanced on the evolutionary scale than all you poor bastards who had to go through having those fuckers dug out of your neanderthal jawbones with a chisel.
So out comes the ginormous Novocaine needle, and I tense up even more as he jabs it into multiple areas of my face from the inside. Then he left, and it was just me and the assistant waiting for the numbness to start. She asked me if I was nervous, and I said, "I hate the dentist. You are going to put power tools inside my head and grind away at a part of my body that has a giant nerve bundle just under the surface. Of course I'm nervous."
She laughed. "Do you want the nitrous?" she asked. " It'll take the edge off. Laughing gas. You know."
I did not know. I didn't even know that was an option. My old dentist never asked me if I wanted the nitrous. I entertained the idea. "I dunno," I said. "I've never had it before. What's it like?" She said, "The doctor made us all try it when we started here so we'd know. She paused and then added, "Um...I'd say it's like having a couple of drinks."
A couple of drinks sounded like a good way to break the deathlock my left hand currently had on my right, so I told her to sign me up.
She strapped this rubber thing over my nose and told me to start breathing in. She said after a few minutes I'd start to feel it. I didn't feel anything. A minute or two later, she said, "Still nothing?"
"Nope." I responded. She reached over and tweaked a knob on the tank, and then looked at me again, questioningly.
I got as far as "Still noth---" and then I felt like I was already on the business-end of five martinis.
"Whoa," I said. Then I felt the irresistible urge to laugh. I know, that's a cliche, but I immediately got the giggles. On the inside. I managed to keep it together on the outside for appearances, but it was close. I almost went full Joker.
"How are you doing now?" she asked.
I grinned stupidly. "Pretty....pretty.....pretty... good." I said, giving her my best Larry David impersonation. I don't think she got it though. "Hey, you know what I hate?" I asked, as a random thought pinwheeled through my brain and came out of my word hole.
Without waiting for an answer, I pointed at the chair and made grabbing motions with my hands. "How'm I supposed ta white knuckle this bitch with no arms to grab onto?" I asked.
"Is that Novocaine working?" she asked, ignoring my question.
I touched the side of my face and it felt like I was drooling a little. Classy. Something else funny occurred to me, and I sang a quick chorus of Two Tickets To Paradise, but I don't think she got that either. She was young. Or maybe it was because it came out sounding like "Two tits, a pair a dice" and she had no idea what that meant, and wisely chose to ignore it.
By then, the dentist was back, and they were going over the plan. The told me to keep breathing through my nose. I did. And I liked it. I think I started huffing it a bit because I could feel it cut off the feed from the tank if I breathed it in too deep. It was metering me, and I hated it a little.
The assistant kept asking me questions, but I don't think she really wanted answers. I think she was just gauging how high I was and whether they could start drilling. I decided to ask her some questions, too. Funny things were occurring to me, but I couldn't get the words out. They were playing Christmas tunes over the in-room radio, so I asked the assistant about it.
"Sicka crimmas moozik?" I asked.
"What did you say? The Christmas music? Do you want us to put something else on? Did you say you were sick of Christmas music?"
"No YOU," I said. No, Butch Walker."
"Sorry we don't have that. It's just Pandora," she said.
"No. K-N-O-W." I spelled. Butch. KNOW'im?"
"Ohhh, do I know Butch Walker? No, who is he?" she asked.
"Producer. Artist. New CD. Christmas. Good." My brain wanted to explain, but my mouth only knew how to speak in single word sentences.
Then the music changed to some instrumental piece that sounded familiar. In my addled state, I could only identify it as some form of fast tempo classical.
"Carfoon Moozik," I said.
"Cartoon music? Yeah, it does sound like that," she laughed. "OK, we're going to have you lie back a little further. Are you good? You don't feel sick or anything?"
I shook my head no, and then the dentist said, "I think we're good to go."
While they were getting ready to drill, I could hear the other hygienist talking to someone else in one of the other rooms, and the way she was talking struck me funny. I started laughing, and they stopped again to make sure I was ok.
I tried to tell them why I was laughing, but the idea was a little more complex and I wasn't sure if I was making my point, which was that they were talking to all their stoned patients like they were a bunch of five year old children. I tried to explain it to them, but finally gave up. It was too much work.
Right about then, they stopped talking to me, and started talking to each other, but I didn't realize that I wasn't in the conversation any more. She was reminiscing about her first day there, when she had taken a face plant on an icy ski slope a couple of days before and scraped most of the skin off her forehead and nose and had to show up for work looking like a giant scab. The dentist was telling her he was a snowboarder and used to do the parks and ride the halfpipe and do that thing where you jump up and slide down the rail, and the same thing happened to him once. My eyes were ping ponging back and forth between them, and I desperately wanted to inject some of my hilarious snowboarding stories into the mix (of which I have none) but for some reason I had all these hands and tools and drills and stuff in my mouth and it was making it hard to talk. I finally raised my hand, and they stopped.
"Are you in pain?" the assistant asked, concern in her voice.
"You fuckinwimme?" I asked her, pointing at my dentist. "He snowboards?"
She stifled a laugh and he said that yes, indeed, he did snowboard, and that I would have to be quiet now and let them finish up so we didn't cause delays for other patients. I knew I was definitely out of the conversation at that point.
That was the weirdest thing for me -- I couldn't clearly tell who they were addressing when they spoke. It sounds ridiculous, but it was confusing as hell. The dentist would say something like "Hand me the spoon excavator" and I'd be like, Hell yes! Anything you need! Just tell me what it looks like, and I'm on it! Then other times he'd be like "OK, sit up and rinse. You can spit into the funnel," and I'd be just laying there thinking It's pretty weird that he wants her to spit into some funnel.
The other freaky thing is, for me at least, time was stretched. I kept looking at my watch after what I felt like a really long time had gone by and it had been about five minutes. They were probably wondering what the hell I was late for, I was looking at my watch so much.
They were about half way done, and had been drilling in my head for about four hours (30 minutes) and I realized that I had to pee so bad my entire body was tensed up because my bladder felt like someone was standing on it. It had apparently taken the signal a while to get through, because I had to go. And the assistant is telling me "Relax, just keep breathing through your nose." I wanted to tell her that the last thing I should do is relax, because if I did, there'd be a cleanup in aisle five. Finally I raised my hand again. They stopped drilling and I said I needed to go to the bathroom, which I am pretty sure I heard come out of my mouth as "baffroon" but they got the idea.
I stood up and immediately felt ten times drunker than I did before. I stumbled out of the room with the assistant's hand on my back. She was talking me through it. "OK, just go straight, watch out for the door jamb, don't trip on the rug, it's the first door on your left. Your other left, that's it." I was bouncing off the walls, and the hallway looked lonnnnng, and all I could feel was this giant, warm hand on my back. Finally, we were outside the bathroom door, and I went in. I looked in the mirror and opened my mouth and was immediately grossed out by the little bloody nubbin that had once been my tooth. I closed my mouth and staggered in front of the toilet. I briefly thought about threading the needle, or maybe even sitting down, but I figured if I sat down I might not get back up. So I did what any drunk guy would do. I aimed center mass and took no prisoners. I peed for about 30 minutes (one minute) and I made a racket the entire time and gave no fucks. It was the longest pee of my life. I finished, washed up, made sure everything was back where it was supposed to be, and walked out of the room and into the waiting giant hand of the assistant, who ushered me back to my armless chair, whereupon I began huffing again in earnest.
After that, things went pretty smoothly. I'm not sure if they had upped the gas again or what, but the rest of the grinding and the mounting of the temporary crown was basically a blur. A few requests to bite down, that's it, no, not on my finger, and it was done.
When it was all over, they sat me in a chair for about 20 minutes and pretty soon I was back to normal. It's kind of amazing how quickly the nitrous leaves your system and you're not drunk anymore.
I have to go back in about a week to get the permanent crown put on. I think whatever they did solved my problem because even with the temporary crown, my temperature sensitivity has gone away. I'm not sure if they'll let me have the nitrous next time or not. I doubt it. I probably don't want it anyway because I found out that it's an extra hundred and twenty bucks that isn't covered by insurance. Oops. Merry Christmas to me. I have to admit, being stoned off my gourd did help with the anxiety. They probably could have pulled all my teeth out and played a game of jacks with them and I wouldn't have given a shit.
Totally worth the money.
* In unrelated news, I'm still banned for life from the Japanese area of Epcot.
I learned a new word.
I overheard a conversation today in which one woman smugly said to another woman, "I engaged my kundalini today."
The first thought that occurred to me was that it sounds like something you'd order in an Italian restaurant. I'll have the Kundalini with Clam Sauce, please. Yes, paired with a nice red, thank you. Or maybe the name of a great magician of yester-year, Kundalini the Magnificent or some such.
But after listening for a while, it started sounding like it was something physical, or perhaps made of some kind of invisible energy. The first one "engaged her kundalini" like it was some kind of powerful weapon of the future. "The Borg are attacking the ship! Should we engage the Kundalini, Captain? "Make it so, Number One."
The second woman didn't so much engage her kundalini, she was all about "releasing" hers, which sounds more like something from a shitty monster movie where some evil mastermind sets the Kundalini loose to wreak havoc on the townspeople. DEAR GOD! SHE'S RELEASED THE KUNDALINI!! RUN! RUN FOR YOUR VERY LIVES!
So with the vast power of the internet at my fingers, I did some hard-core research on The Kundalini, and by that I mean I typed it into google and followed the link to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Merriam-Webster says The Kundalini is the yogic life force that is held to lie coiled at the base of the spine until it is aroused and sent to the head to trigger enlightenment.
That sounds pretty suspect to me from a straight up physiological standpoint. If I had something coiled up at the base of my spine, I'd probably know it, especially if it got aroused. I'm getting up there in age, and as far as I can tell, never in my life has anything from my ass been railroaded up my spine into my skull (although I've been accused of having my head up my ass, but that's a totally different thing.)
I encourage everyone to go read this book. It will explain in very accessible language exactly why all of this sort of BS is just that. "What's the harm?" you may ask. "If a person wants to believe that some self-proclaimed hippie chick shaman who smells like weed and essential oils can shoot invisible beams out of her hands and "help" heal their broken leg or sooth their angry hemorrhoids, then why not?"
Well -- because it makes us dumber as a society, that's why not. It's another step backwards toward the days when we were cowering in our caves wondering what made the gods so angry that they were shooting bolts of fire from the sky. You may think I'm exaggerating, and maybe I am, a little, but it makes me angry and a little sad to see people buy into these things. Everybody wants to believe in magic, I get it, but just because it's ancient doesn't mean it's not complete bullshit. They used to bleed people and drill holes in their head to let the evil spirits out, too. Of course, in the 1800's they also used cocaine to treat depression and that shit totally worked, at least for a few hours, so there's that.
Is there something to natural medicine? Herbal remedies? What about massage therapy or acupuncture? Sure there is. If you're taking a natural supplement for your aching joints and it's "all natural" and it's really working, check the ingredients. You'll probably find willow bark extract, which contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). That's why it works. In fact, the first aspirin was synthesized from willow bark. But now you're paying $21.95 for a bottle of 30 pills of questionable quality control when you could pick up 300 Bayer aspirin for two bucks. Massage and Acupuncture are simpler -- they both cause your body to release endorphins, which are the body's natural pain killers. Eating spicy food will do the same thing, apparently. Probably nipple clamps will too, for all I know.
Anyway, back to The Kundalini. Here are a few descriptions of it. I'll let you all form your own opinions after reading that. It sounds like maybe a nice thing to have, but if it's truly sitting at the base of the spine, I only have this to say -- I was staining my deck all day and now my Kundalini is killing me. I think I angered it. I'm going to try to fix it with a vodka martini and a dunk in the hot tub.
Wish me luck. If my head explodes, you guys know what happened.
A Forced March in the Woods. Part 2
Continued from Part 1.
We continued hiking toward Sampson Lake, figuring we’d get there with enough time to rest a bit, gather some firewood and decide what we were going to have for dinner. We didn’t have a ton of choices. We’d been shoveling homemade granola into our faces like squirrels all day, courtesy of Greg’s wife, but we were getting ready for more substantial fare.
When we finally reached the lean-to we were pretty beat. We dumped our packs and went down to check out the water. It’s a weird feeling when you take that 40 pounds of lumpy misery off your back -- you feel simultaneously off balance and like you don’t weigh anything. It makes you run around like a toddler for few minutes until you get used to it. The lake was small but pristine. And we were the only ones on it. It was glorious. I could have been sitting ten feet away from the body of a footless hiker and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed, but we had made it to our first waypoint. I activated my spot and sent the “all good” message to our wives and started getting some firewood together, and in the meantime I collected some lake water and started it filtering so we’d have it ready to boil when we were done gathering wood. I was looking forward to a hot meal and some relaxation.
I was pretty well stocked up with Mountain House freeze dried “Gourmet” meals, however they are gourmet only when compared to other large scale, commercially produced freeze dried meals which means that on a practical level, they suck slightly less than the competition. On the plus side, since they are freeze dried, they are very light, and cooking them basically means you only need to boil water, dump it into the envelope, let it sit for twelve minutes then shovel a giant sodium bomb into your pie hole. Seriously, they are so salty that they’d probably stop your heart if you had to eat them for more than a week. If you look at the ingredients, there’s anywhere from 880 to 1600 grams of sodium in each serving. The kicker -- each meal is 2.5 servings. Taste-wise, some of them aren’t too bad, and if you stick to the basics you’ll be OK for a few days. You probably won’t shit for a week after you get home, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen when you’re deep in the woods with a single hot spare pair of underwear.
The Beef Stroganoff is pretty good, and the spaghetti and meatballs isn’t horrible if you don’t mind “meatballs” the size of peas that have the texture of rubber pellets. I’m not sure if they’re actually meat, but they do add some texture. Frankly, it all tastes pretty good by the time you’ve hiked a bunch of miles and had nothing to eat but a few handfuls of granola and a power bar. Some of them are spectacularly bad, however. Scrambled eggs and bacon, for instance. When you first open the package, it looks like squares of yellow styrofoam and dirt -- and after you cook it, it looks like wet squares of yellow styrofoam and dirt. I had it for the first and last time when I went camping with my brother and my six-year-old nephew. My nephew took two bites of it and said that it “tasted like a recycled fart.” I’m not sure I want to know the arcane and probably disgusting process involved in recycling a six-year-old’s fart, so I’ll just have to take his word for it.
The lean-to was nice, except that it had a stream. Normally that would be a feature and not a bug, but the problem was that the stream in question ran directly under the lean-to. It wasn’t much, a trickle of water really, but the ramifications were that if you sat on the edge of the lean-to, your boots were in the muck. It was perfectly positioned to get mud all over everything, including the floor of the lean-to. If you moved the lean-to three feet in either direction, you would have missed the water completely. It was almost as if it had been designed that way on purp-- Chad! You bastard!
Dinner for Greg was Spaghetti and Meatballs. Dinner for me was the infamous Chicken and Rice. You’d think there wouldn’t be much they could screw up with chicken and rice, but you’d be wrong. This was the first time I had it, and it sucks. It’s deceiving, because it smells pretty good when you’re cooking it. It has kind of a "Ramen noodles in a college dorm" kind of smell to it. It continues to fool you as you take the first few spoonfuls. After about the fifth spoonful, however, you realize that it tastes like buttered armpits on a hot summer day, and all you can think of is how horrible it would taste coming back up. Unfortunately for me, I had packed more than one of these horrible meals. I thought about trying to pawn one off on Greg, maybe trade him for a chili mac, but it was too late. Instead of giving him the old Tom Sawyer routine like I should have, I instead told him how gag-inducing it was, and after that he wanted nothing to do with it. I finished it, because it was our first night and I didn’t want to waste food, but it was painful.
After dinner, we hung out a bit then walked down to the water to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful still night and so peaceful, it already made the whole trip worth it. I wished I sucked it up and brought a good camera, but all we had was a couple of crappy point and shoots that couldn’t do it justice.
|Sampson Lake Sunset|
I thought we’d stay up a bit after we walked back to the lean-to but we were both so beat we decided to turn in pretty early because we wanted to get an early start in the morning. We unrolled our sleeping pads and bags, and Greg discovered his pad wouldn't hold air. It was surprising because it was a Thermarest and those things are generally indestructible. So much so, they have a lifetime warranty. I've owned the same two for over 20 years and never had an issue. Unfortunately, when you are 20 miles from nowhere, a lifetime warranty isn't worth a recycled fart. He was going to have a few rough nights ahead of him. The bummer of it was he had to carry that useless POS the rest of the way or he couldn't send it back for replacement.
I assumed I would fall asleep almost instantly, but Greg had other ideas. Or I should say that a certain part of Greg’s anatomy had other ideas. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about his freakishly long uvula. And now I realize that probably doesn’t make it any better.
To make a long story longer, Greg fell asleep the second his head hit the sleeping bag, and he snores. With Gusto. And I mean "capital G" Gusto. And I had forgotten my earplugs. When I first closed my eyes and he drove that freight train directly through the lean-to, I thought, Holy shit, that’s loud. It’s like there’s a hibernating bear ten feet from me.
Then as it got exponentially worse, I actually started laughing. I was so deliriously tired. It was like a Foghorn Leghorn snore wrapped in Three Stooges snore, then marinated, wrapped in drunken Shrek snore and cooked for an hour at 375 degrees. It was the Turducken of snores.
There was no way
I was going to be able to sleep through that
. Not without NyQuil or Yukon Jack, anyway. Since Greg doesn’t drink, and I didn’t have a head cold, neither of those two solutions was at hand. It was like having a 454 big block with a radical cam idling next to your head, with the driver goosing the throttle every once in awhile, just to keep you on your toes. I turned on my headlamp and dug around in my pack until I found my toilet paper, and I rolled a couple of pieces up and shoved them in my ears. Then I had more than his snore to worry about, because I had made one of the damned things too small and it went in my ear to the point where I couldn’t reach it. I grabbed my ear and wiggled it, I poked in there with my thumb and index finger and tried to grab it, but all I did was push it deeper in. It was just beyond my reach. Right about the time I started to panic a little, and give serious thought to waking Greg up to assist, I remembered that I had a pair of tweezers in my pack in case either of us picked up a tick. I grabbed them and gently dug around in my ear until I was able to grab a bit of the TP and pull it out. I tossed them both and grabbed more toilet paper and made two more, probably twice the size as the originals. Unfortunately, they did no good at all -- It was like they weren’t there. I thought briefly about dunking them in water to increase their sound blocking capabilities, but then I figured that (a) I’d get one stuck again, only this time for good, and (b) I’d spend the next two days hiking down the trail feeling like my ear was being fucked by a monkey.
As I lay there wide awake, I tried all of the same tricks I use on my wife when she starts snoring. I knew from experience that if I could get him to wake up, and if I could fall asleep before him, chances are that I’d be able to stay asleep, given the amount of tired I was. The first thing I did was cough a few times. Nothing. I tried clearing my throat really loud. Nada. I yawned and made a sound like Chewbacca after he hit his shin on the coffee table, and that also had no effect. I was beginning to think he was deaf. I tried thumping my feet, which is easier to do on a mattress than a wooden floor, but it made a satisfying thump that didn’t even slow him down. I thrashed around like I just took a taser to the nuts, and when that didn’t work either, I gave up. I thought about maybe grabbing my tent and heading down to one of the nearby tent sites, but it was late, and cold, and I was already in my bag with my boots off. Short of getting out of my bag and kicking him, I was out of brilliant ideas. Then right when I was resigned to just staying up all night, I thought of one more thing to try. I fished my 2 watt LED flashlight out of my pack, and shined it directly into his face. It lit up the entire lean-to in a bright white light. He stopped snoring almost immediately, thrashed around a bit, mumbled something that sounded like "No...no...not again" and then rolled over into the fetal position. It's also possible that I had been watching too many X-files episodes and what he really said was, "Get that fucking light out of my face" but I guess we'll never know for sure. I said something about hearing an animal, and turned the light off.
I learned a couple of important things. One, when someone’s sense of hearing is overloaded with whatever internal circuits make it possible for them to simultaneously snore like a chainsaw and not wake themselves up, the sense of sight is still working, even through closed eyelids. Two, Greg mostly only snores when he is on his back. So now I have a plan for our next trip, and it involves making him a mandatory sleeping shirt. It has pockets on the back which I will fill with these
to keep him sleeping on his side. Or maybe these
. I haven’t decided yet. I know he felt bad about it, so I hope he’s not pissed when he reads this, but it’s all in fun. I just need to go to sleep first is all. Barring that, if it’s not raining, I am going to sleep about 100 yards away, and "guard the camp perimeter" with my earplugs.
The next morning, I felt pretty good for having gotten about three hours of sleep. I must have dozed off at some point, because I actually woke up, which is generally a good indicator that you have, in fact, gone to sleep. I jumped out of my sleeping bag and immediately regretted it, but not as much as I thought I was going to. Sure, my legs and feet were a bit sore, but other than the normal “sleeping on the ground” stiffness in my back, I was ready to roll. I put my boots on and got ready to face another day of hiking. For breakfast, I opted for oatmeal and some mountain house “granola and milk” which looked like dried nuts and berries in a bag of cocaine. You were supposed to add water and shake it up, then pretend it was milk. I think it needed more water than the directions called for, because the milk had the consistency of latex paint, but I ate it anyway. Greg opted for another couple handfuls of homemade granola, and I think he probably got the better of the deal. Luckily, his knee didn’t feel any worse than it had the day before, so we were able to postpone the “point of no return” decision until later that morning. We were still a few miles away from the actual halfway point in our hike. We figured we’d take a break right between West Lake and South Lake and decide what to do. At that point, we could either turn around and hike back the same distance over trails we knew the condition of, or we could continue on into the unknown. The plan was to take stock of the knee situation, and as long as it didn’t feel like it was getting worse, we’d press on.
All my thoughts about how good I felt disappeared the second I shrugged into my pack and had the full weight of 40 pounds plus water pulling down on my bruised collar bone and hips. I felt like an astronaut coming back to earth after a month in the international space station. Every step sucked, and because the main trail was back UP from lake level, it was a shitty way to start the morning. But after the first mile or so, the kinks were worked out and we felt pretty good.
The first day was filled with insightful and entertaining conversation, but by the second day most of our sentences were comprised of two words or less, and usually one of them was some sort of profanity. A typical conversation went something like:
Greg (looking at map): Ugh.
Greg: 1000 feet.
It wasn’t just our language we lost. We lost most of our humanity. It hadn’t even been a full two days and we were already blowing our noses directly into our hands and trail farting without remorse. At first we’d do the decent thing and give the guy hiking in the back some kind of warning, but by the end of the second day it was every man for himself. You had to recognize the signs, or you only had yourself to blame. The good thing about being in front was that you didn’t have to deal with the crop dusting. The bad thing was that you were the one who got to do the I-just-got-a-spider-web-across-the-face-dance. It was probably a fair trade.
We got to the halfway point pretty early, and Greg said his knees didn’t feel much worse. That was good, but there was no guarantee they’d stay that way, so we gave it some thought while we rested. It would be a shame to go back, but the devil you know and all that. I told him it was up to him; I was good to go if he was. I then said that I only paid for the airlift rescue insurance for myself, and that if I had to hit the little red SOS button on the SPOT! tracker because he couldn’t walk, I couldn’t guarantee that they’d take him along. I also told him that I thought I read in the fine print that they just shoot the lame ones, but he decided to chance it and we continued on with our original plan. We’d try to make the lean-to on the south shore of Cedar Lakes by late afternoon. Failing that, if it got dark before we reached the lake, we figured we’d camp off the trail somewhere along the way. Either way, that would leave the last hard part (Cobble Hill) and a short hike to the north side of Cedar Lakes to the other lean-to for day three, and spend the last night there. We’d wake up in the morning, take our time, and hike the four short miles back to the car. We knew the next day called for rain, and we figured a short hike from the south side lean-to to the north side lean-to might be just what the doctor ordered. Besides, we wanted to see some of the cool bridges that we had heard about.
Since this loop is pretty far out in the wilderness, most of the bridges haven’t been repaired in quite some time. A lot of the bridges over certain streams had been washed out, so you were forced to rock hop across. Sometimes that could be tricky with a pack on, but it wasn't too bad because the water level was low. Now I know why people use trekking poles - those extra balance points while rock-hopping across water can come in handy. Also, you can bet your ass I’m going to have at least one strapped to the back of my pack going forward. Luckily, none of it was deep enough that we had to take our boots off and wade across. My favorite bridge had to be this one - it was a bitch to cross, since it was slippery and at a 40 degree angle in some places:
Here’s another longer one that took us over some wetlands:
And this one probably won’t be there next year. Also a little iffy to cross:
We got to the South end lean-to around 4 pm, and while it was in good shape, there was quite a bit of left behind old junk. There was a table for cooking nailed/tied to a tree, and a good-sized fire pit. There was also a dock that was high and dry, because apparently an old dam had collapsed and the Cedar Lakes are in the process of becoming the Cedar River again. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening.
Apparently it’s due to the state’s rule about not repairing structures on land that has a wilderness designation. I’m wondering if they have a similar rule about their outhouses. I made the mistake of going to check the state-sanctioned pooper. It was completely full of shit. It wasn’t at Michael Moore levels quite yet, but it was close. Put it this way -- you could see the pile inside the hole
while still standing outside. For those of you who don't camp where there's no indoor plumbing, that’s not normal in an outhouse. That’s not even normal in Guanabara Bay. I closed the door and walked back to the lean-to.
“How is it?” Greg asked.
“Put it this way,” I said. “Be careful of where your junk swings if you decide to sit down,” I replied.
He laughed. I think he thought I was kidding.
“I think you think I am kidding," I said. "I'm not."
“I might have to suck it up and make a visit,” he replied. “That granola has been trying to get back out of me for the last hour.”
“Good luck,” I said. “Hope for shrinkage.”
He was gone for a bit, and in the meantime, I got the stove set up and starting looking around for some firewood for later. When he got back, he had a haunted look on his face. I think being told about it and experiencing it directly were two very different things. I asked him how it went and he shuddered a little and said, “I just...hovered...and..added to the pile
That visual will haunt me forever.
We were pretty gross and sweaty from the hike and Greg decided he wanted to go swimming and get cleaned up a little. It was a good idea, but the water was damned cold, and I wasn't sure I was up for it. I figured I'd let him go first. I was glad I did because he didn't last long. I tested the water and immediately came up with a different plan, and fired up my camp stove. I mixed a liter of boiling water with a liter of lake water and put it in an MSR dromedary bag
, and hung it on a tree. There's a little flip valve on it that let out a stream of water, and I used that to take a nice, warm backwoods shower. It felt like I was getting pissed on by an angry god, and it was probably the best shower I've ever had.
After we were cleaned up and in fresh clothes, we scavenged some wood for the camp fire and I scoped out a place for the bear hang while it was still light. It's always easier to find the perfect spot and get it set up before you need it. I've done it in the dark many times, and it's a pain in the ass every single time. After dinner, we made some coffee (Thank you, Starbucks, for your ridiculously overpriced instant coffee packets that are perfect for backpacking and taste almost like real brewed coffee) and hung around the fire talking. It was night time, so we were back to full sentences. After the fire burned down, we headed toward our bags, and mercifully, I was able to fall asleep before Greg and he must have slept mostly on his side because I only woke up a few times during the night, once because what sounded like a 300 pound chipmunk was rifling through the camp looking for something to eat.
The next day was a bit colder and a lot more dreary, and looked like it was going to rain.
We got a pretty early start figuring that we'd beat the rain to the next lean-to. I had my rain gear packed in an outside pocket for quick access, and I had given Greg an old surplus military poncho that I had used to cover my pack on previous trips. According to the map, it looked like we had the highest bit of elevation ahead of us, Cobble Hill, and neither of us was looking forward to it.
It turned out to be not too bad, but it did start pouring buckets about half way to the last lean-to. It was pretty much an uneventful put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other slog in the rain, looking at not much else but our own feet because of all the rain in our faces. We made pretty good time regardless, although the hardest part was not slipping on the leaf-covered rocks and roots that littered the trail. When we came around the corner and saw the lean-to, it was just about lunch time. The rain was starting to let up, so we checked out the lake, and got some water filtering for a hot meal.
|View from the North-End Cedar Lakes Lean-To.|
The lean-to was well-provisioned. Someone had left behind a brand new foam sleeping pad, the latest issue of Penthouse, and an unopened bottle of Gentleman Jack. It was enough to make us wish we had hiked the loop counter-clockwise instead, because then Greg would have been sleeping on something softer than pine boards, and I would have had a bottle of Jack to help me ignore the snores. As for the Penthouse, well. We're above that sort of thing. Also, I already had that issue.
As we sat there in the rain eating our lunches, we took stock of the weather. The next day wasn't going to be much better, and spending a wet night in a lean-to with no fire didn't really sound too appealing to either one of us. So we looked at the sky, looked at each other and decided to hike the rest of the way out to the truck. When we finally got back to the crowded parking lot, this is what we saw:
Luckily, The World's Loneliest Comedian wasn't sleeping in the back. We made it back to my house in record time. Greg helped me get my gear into the basement since there was no way my wife was letting us in the front door with our muddy boots and soaking wet clothes. While he wasn't looking, I stuck my last chicken and rice meal into his pack.
A few days later, I got this picture in an email from Greg. It's a guy who does drawings in the shape of animals by hiking or riding his bike while tracking on his GPS. The subject of the email was: "I don't think our hike was ambitious enough."
I sent him this back, with the subject of "I don't know. I think we did OK."
A few minutes later, I got his reply. It simply said: "Damn, that hike was a lot harder than I remember it."
And that's why I love my friends. They can all stoop to my level with such effortless grace.
A Forced March in the Woods, Part I
It's 11:55 pm on Friday, and I am officially turning over a new leaf. I've just removed the Book of Faces and Twitter apps from my phone, and my plan is that I'm only going to check them once a day, and then eventually wean myself off of doing even that. The way I figure it, infinity apps are the devil, and they sap your productivity and do nothing but waste your time. So this is a grand experiment. My goal is to spend less time dicking around reading various political rants and trying to interpret the meaning behind cryptically posted memes and quotes and more time on the important things in life, like television and finishing up the work-at-home portion of the curriculum required to graduate from Scary Clown School.
So what have I been up to? I know nobody asked, but it's my blog so I'm going to tell you. Ye Olde Photography, mostly. I know I've mentioned my photography jones before, but I keep going backwards in time. I started out with a Crown Graphic and a Bronica S2 from the mid-50's and 60's respectively, but lately I've been shooting film using big old wooden cameras like these, which date from the early 1900's:
For some reason, I'm drawn to alternative processes that were used before the final black and white process as we know it was ironed out. These techniques are from the mid 1800's -- basically from the advent of photography
. One of my future goals is to learn how to do wet plate collodion
, which is just about the coolest thing in the photographic universe. It's a little dangerous and a little poisonous, but you know, so is life.
I've been doing Cyanotypes, Vandyke Browns, and regular old silver gelatin prints mostly. You know, normal stuff that normal people do in modern times. I still want to try Bromoil, which is a very neat medium that combines various printer's ink and bleached gelatin prints. Here's a cool example
by my friend Mark.
Why am I doing this? Mostly because I got tired of shooting a thousand digital shots to get one good one just because I could (the 'spray and pray' method of photography), and then never doing anything with them. I started to become disenchanted with all of the pictures I saw that were clearly stillframes from 4K slow-motion video, or HDR'd within an inch of their lives
so the photo ended up looking like a shitty Thomas Kinkade painting, which is not to imply that there exists on this planet a non-shitty one. Some people love that stuff, but I hate it. Everything looks like CGI from a video game. I wanted to do something that was a little more artistic -- something that required skills I would have to learn and continue to hone over time. I wanted to produce something that was one-of-a-kind -- something that could be completely wrecked at any point in the multi-step process if I didn't pay attention to what I was doing.*
Let me leave you with a couple of prints. The first one is a cyanotype of an abandoned church in the Bahamas printed on some watercolor paper:
And this one is a regular old silver gelatin print of an abandoned truck that I just found in the woods. It was taken with that 5x7 camera and lens in the picture above:
Well, I'm not really leaving you
, per se, I'm just leaving that particular subject for now because I know I probably lost half my audience to boredom already. If anyone is interested in seeing more of my photos, email me and I'll send you a link to my Flickr account. No nudes. To clarify, by that I mean I don't have any to show you. Of me or anyone else. To clarify further, I don't care if you're
naked when you email me, just don't tell me about it because that would be weird. And also probably unsanitary.
For the three of you who are left, the real reason for this post (other than the fact that my wife is on a girl's weekend with her friends and I have the house to myself) is that I just finished watching "A Walk in the Woods." It's a movie based on a book by Bill Bryson, and I know it's a cliche to say this, but it really sucked compared to the book. Vast chunks of the book were left out - and from what I could tell, it was most of the funny chunks. I think Robert Redford was a little bit mis-cast, and Nicke Nolte was a lot
mis-cast. Also, he sounded like he was gargling kangaroo nuts the entire time. I did laugh once or twice, but mostly at the slapstick and mostly because I'm a cheap date.
At any rate, it reminded me that I still have to write about my own "Walk in the Woods" last fall -- a 27-ish mile loop around the West Canada lakes that I did with my friend Greg, who shall remain nameless. DAMMIT. I did that wrong. OK, so now you know his name, it's time for me to pimp him out. He makes custom furniture, does antique restoration work, and best of all, makes custom electric guitars from scratch.
Our trip began like so many things today do, via a dick pic sent over snapchat. No, no, I'm kidding. I barely know what snapchat is, and besides, nobody wants to see that. It really started with that most archaic of all technology - email. I got an email from Greg in July with a subject of "Bucket List Hike" and the details of a three day loop around a series of small lakes in the West Canada Lakes wilderness. He said, "It's in the wilderness area behind that log cabin we stayed in many years ago. I used to spend hours poring over the topo maps. I've been intrigued by it for years."
I must have been drinking pretty heavily at the time, because in a fit of bad judgement, I immediately shot him a response that said, "Let's do it. We're not getting any younger." I don't think he expected that because it took him a while to respond. Either that, or Wheel of Fortune was over, and he was already in bed. His initial reply indicated that he'd need to start doing daily hikes and buy some gear, and finally, after a few more back and forth messages in which we both partook of much hemming and a not insignificant amount of hawing, we agreed that we would start considering this as something that we were going to do. Granted, it's not like through-hiking the AT, but even so, I think we were both sort of amazed that we had just decided that yes, we were going to hike approximately 20-30 miles into the woods without any good reason (like, for instance, a pressing need to avoid the law.)
We then decided on an early October time frame, discussed our various outstanding physical ailments, talked about the best ways to get in shape for this, and finally decided that there was no way we could get in shape for this, so we decided to do it in three nights and four days instead of two nights and three days. Doing it in three days would be almost ten miles per day, and that seemed a little ambitious, given the fact that we both work from home and take about a thousand steps a day circumnavigating a rough triangle that consists of (1) where we work, (2) where we eat and (3) where we go to the bathroom. Sometimes you can even cut that down by two thirds with a slice of cold pizza and an empty Snapple bottle. Add to that the fact that we'd be carrying packs that would weigh in the neighborhood of 40 pounds each, and the extra day seemed like a fantastic idea. We told each other that it was so we'd have an extra day to "enjoy the hike," when we both knew it was really code for having an extra day to "not throw up our own testicles."
Once we decided where we were going, we wanted to get maps -- the problem with this location is that in order to map the entire loop, you'd need four different quadrangles. Luckily, we found a place on line
that prints custom topo maps for cheap and on waterproof paper no less. So I was able to order this on a single map:
And a few days later, this showed up in my mailbox:
It was a thing of beauty. Waterproof, folded, and it had a matte finish so you could write on it. Except for the unfortunate placement of the UTM grid that makes it look like we'd be passing Butthead Pond, it was perfect.
We had a map, a compass, a GPS, four days off, and a dream. Due to circumstances beyond our control (wives) we weren't able to leave when we had planned, (wives) so the trip got pushed to October, which meant we had to worry about two things: Hunting season and cold, wet weather. It was touch and go for a while as to whether we'd even be able to do it (wives), but at the last minute things worked out and we headed off early one mid-October Sunday morning. I told Greg not to wear his brown suede coat and white gloves, and luckily he took my advice. The good thing about doing this during the week is that we'd pretty much be the only people in the woods. The bad thing, of course, was *also* that we'd be the only people in the woods.
To that end, I purchased a SPOT! tracker
, which is a GPS device that allows you to contact search and rescue if things go to shit and you are stuck 20 miles from the nearest road and have, for instance, a random bone poking out of your meat suit. It also allowed our respective wives to know we were ok, and track our progress. I'd read that the transmission can be hit or miss depending upon how open it is to the sky, so I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that at some point during our trip, one of us would be perched at the top of a tree screaming obscenities at the uncaring gods and waiting for a little red light to turn green and still not knowing if we were about to get rescued or if the blinking green light just meant the batteries were still good. It's safe to say the UI on these units is a little lacking.
Interestingly, for being a Sunday, when we got to the parking lot, it was so crowded there was barely any place to park. We squeezed into the last spot and got out of the truck. There had to be 20 cars there, and the people milling about the parking area ran the gamut from redneck hunter types to college students to moms and dads trying to pretend their lives haven't changed even though dad has a comatose one-year-old strapped to his back like a sixteen pound spiral ham that has the poops. We locked up the truck, strapped on our packs, and headed out. Lucky for us, most of the people there were day hikers headed for the summit of Pillsbury mountain, so nobody was following us on the trail. A few hundred yards in, a group of 20-year-olds passed us in the opposite direction, heading back to the parking lot. I assume they had done the hike counter-clockwise. They barely looked winded, and were moving fast. They nodded to us as they went by, probably thinking about the all-night party they were going to be attending after they hit the gym and showered up because they don't need to do stupid olds stuff like sleep or rest.
We decided to do the hike clockwise, which meant that our first day goal was to hit Sampson lake before night fall. Pillsbury lake was too close, and Sampson lake was about eight miles out. In between was Whitney Lake, but that one had a really long detour around the lake to get to the lean-to, and it would have added a couple of miles to our hike. Turns out our decision was a good one, because apparently they removed the lean-to about five years ago. Neither one of us had hiked more than five miles with a pack on in a couple of years, so making Sampson lake was a challenge for our first day. We looked at it as sort of a test. Greg's knee had been bothering him on and off, and he had no idea how he was going to do. We figured we'd play it by ear -- If we made it to Sampson lake and his knee was still OK, we'd continue on. If, on the other hand, it felt like a hot water bottle full of broken glass, we'd stay there for a day or two then head back the way we came. In our favor, the map showed the entire hike to be pretty level, with just small uphills and downhills the entire way, so we had a good feeling that we could do it.
We were about three or four miles in, well past Pillsbury lake and on our way to Whitney when we saw our first backpacker. I am hesitant to use that term, because he wasn't actually wearing a backpack. He looked to be in pretty rough shape. His T-shirt was soaked through with sweat, and his pants were so crusty that they looked like he got them out of the dumpster after a homeless guy threw them out. He was dragging a backpack in the dirt, holding it in his right hand by one shoulder strap. In his left hand, also dragging in the dirt, was a black, heavy-duty Hefty bag. He staggered up to us, and when he was about 15 feet away, he said, "Am I glad to see you guys! Can you help me out?"Oh Christ, here we go,
Greg and I stopped at a comfortable distance from him, and waited for more information. Unfortunately, a comfortable distance wasn't something he was fond of. He was a close-talker, so he kept drifting into our personal space, and we kept edging back, not knowing what to expect. Meeting deranged people on the trail isn't something we have experience with, having never hiked the AT. We didn't immediately answer his question, because neither one of us was going to say a word before we knew what sort of random asshattery saying "Sure! We'd be glad to!" would entail.
My bet was on some scam involving money, but Greg, as I found out later, had envisioned him asking us to carry his shit back to the parking lot for him. Luckily for both of us, neither of our theories proved true. Instead, he asked, "Uhhh....can you tell me if there's a lake around here somewhere?"
At first I I thought he was kidding, but when he didn't laugh, I realized he was serious. We were in the West Canada Lakes wilderness region -- emphasis on the word "Lakes." You couldn't spin around in a circle while taking a piss without hitting a fucking lake.
"Um, you should have just passed Whitney Lake," Greg said.
"No, I don't think that's the one I'm looking for," he replied.
"Pillsbury Lake?" I asked, hopefully. "That's the only other one on this trail in the direction you're headed."
He dropped his stuff in the dirt. "Yeah, that could be it." He paused for a second, then added, "Maybe."
"Just keep going straight, you can't miss it," I said, and rested one hand on the can of bear spray attached to a holster on my hip.
"I'm Tim...," he said suddenly, then stuck out his hand to shake mine. A little side-note here: When someone sticks out their hand like that, some kind of automatic corporate reflex kicks in, and I will automatically reach out in kind to shake it. You could be a zombie, sticking out the severed hand of another zombie and I would probably still
shake it. I was halfway there by the time I realized that no, I actually did *not* want to shake his hand. Not in the least. But at that point, I was committed. He said something else, but I wasn't sure I heard him correctly because I was concentrating on how I was going to surreptitiously wipe my hand. What I thought he said was, "...also known as The World's Loneliest Comedian." I am a bit of a germaphobe when it comes to other people, and I have a vivid imagination. I could easily picture him adjusting his sweaty nuts with that same hand right before he ran into us on the trail. I mean, who hasn't done that while camping? Guilty as charged. Then he gave Greg the same rigorous, yet damply limp handshake. I could tell by the look on Greg's face that yes, that was exactly what he had said. Hi, I'm Tim, also known as The World's Loneliest Comedian.
Neither one of us knew how to respond to that statement. So far, he hadn't been particularly funny. Personally, I really didn't care what he wanted to call himself. I just wanted to make sure that reason for his self-described loneliness wasn't because he had recently killed the people at the last lean-to he had passed and was now dragging a bag of severed feet back to the parking lot.
Before we could decide what the polite thing to say would be, he continued. "Where are you guys from? Where are you going? Where are you camping tonight?" he asked. "I'm pretty beat," he told us, changing the subject without waiting for an answer. "I've been out here for a while."
He swabbed his face with his soaked t-shirt. For someone who looked absolutely dead on his feet, he was pretty hyperactive.
"I do this a lot. Hike. Get out on the trail. Helps keep me in shape." He jiggled his belly for emphasis. "I don't have a car, so I'm hoping I can hitch a ride south to The City with someone," he added. "That's how I got here. Before this I was down in Georgia on the AT."
Aha! That made sense. From everything I've read, he'd fit right in on the AT. We nodded at everything he said, not really adding a lot to the conversation. While he made small talk at us, we just sort of milled around. We wanted to be on our way but didn't want to just rudely walk away while he was in mid-sentence. We wished him luck, looked at our watches, anything to basically force the conversation into the direction of being over. But it wasn't. "Oh! Let me give you my card," he said, then started digging around in his pants for his wallet. He finally found it, and pulled out a couple of business cards and handed them to us. You know how you sometimes get wet dollar bills for change when you buy a drink at a beachside concession stand? It doesn't surprise you when it happens, because you're at the beach. The business card felt kind of like that, except it was probably closer to getting wet money for change in a Walmart at 2 am. Also not exactly a surprise, but you know, deep in your heart, that's not saltwater you're feeling, and there's no way to convince yourself that it is.
"I love giving out my card. I get a big kick out of it. You can check me out on YouTube. Just search under The World's Loneliest Comedian
." He pointed to the card I was still holding out in front of me. "Like it says on the card there," he added. I decided right then and there to call him TWLC.
In my head.
"Where'd you guys say you were from?" TWLC asked us again, his record finally skipping back to the original groove. (Back in the day, we had these flat vinyl discs that we would spin with a machine, and a tiny sapphire on a post would ride around in a groove and make music, and sometimes if the disc got a scratch in it, the needle would make a popping sound and jump out of its groove and start a section of the song over, and...I'm obviously horrible at explaining things. Vinyl is popular again in certain circles, so my suggestion is to find someone with a man-bun who is wearing skinny jeans and thick-framed glasses and they'll explain it to you.) We told him where we were from, and without being too specific, where we were going. Finally, I think he either ran out of things to talk about, or realized that he was keeping us from our hike, and he abruptly decided to get back on the trail. He wished us luck, picked up his backpack and his bag of feet, and continued shuffling toward the parking lot, or presumably, if it could be found, Pillsbury Lake.
Greg and I hiked for a few minutes, glancing behind us every once in a while to make sure TWLC wasn't doubling back to add to his collection. Finally, Greg broke the silence. "Well, that was pretty weird," he said.
"Yeah, what are the odds?" I replied. "We're out here in the middle of nowhere and we run into The World's Loneliest Comedian."
Greg said, "How do we know he's telling the truth? Maybe he's not the world's loneliest. Maybe he's only the 3rd or 4th loneliest. He could have been lying."
"That's true," I said. "We may never know. Unless he's been vetted by a sanctioned authority on relative levels of loneliness, it's just one sweaty man's subjective opinion."
We continued on. We didn't know it, but that was the last human being we'd see for the next three days.
"You realize that he'll be sleeping in the back of your pickup tonight, right?" I said.
"Yep." Greg replied.
We continued to hike. A lot. Or it felt like a lot, anyway. We hiked slowly, and complained frequently as old guys are wont to do. Nobody says that anymore. Are wont to do.
I'm going to bring it back - like I did for Fetch
. I complained at every uphill, and Greg complained at every downhill, because that's what put the most stress on his knee. So it was pretty much non-stop complaining. At least at first. At certain points, it appeared as if the trail had been cut by a sadist. Once, we hiked up a big hill away from the lake to a lean-to, and then the trail immediately turned and went back down to the lake. Completely unnecessary. It could have been a straight path with an intersecting trail to the lean-to, but no. We blamed it on some mythical 25 year old bastard of a trail designer who thought it would be funny to route the trail that way. We could picture him. He was one of those guys who was in great shape and had expensive ultra-light equipment and hiked in shorts, even in the winter. He had a GoPro and slept in a fancy hammock. His name was Chad. We hated Chad.
Eventually, though, we got into a rhythm, and started talking. About the hike, about mortality, about woodworking and politics. That last can be interesting because I lean libertarian and he leans more progressive, whatever that means these days. Basically, we agree on some topics and not on others, but we never let it get in the way of a good friendship. And I really enjoy the back and forth of it. Most of the time, when people talk politics with other people who have different views than they do, nobody changes their minds about anything and everyone ends up pissed off. Welcome to America. In my case at least, when talking with Greg, he's sometimes made me see things from a different perspective, and I've actually changed my mind about some issues as a result. I mean, I'm not voting for Bernie or anything, but still.
We've known each other since he was stuck directly in front of me in our high school physics class -- he was an egghead so he was in my class even though he was a year younger than I was. We bonded over music, homemade cassette tapes and his older brother's expensive stereo. When his brother wasn't home, we'd sneak into his room and make cassette tapes of our records, so we didn't wear them out. I still have some of the tapes we made. We had and still have a similar sense of humor, which I think is part of what kept us in touch all these years. Even when he was living in Boston and we'd only talk once in a while, it was always immediately as if no time at all had gone by. So it was like that this time as well. We still live about an hour and a half away from each other, so we don't get to hang as often as we'd like to, so this was a welcome trip.
Thus endeth Part I, which is way too long already, and not nearly funny enough. But you guys shamed me into posting something, damn you. So it's your own fault, really.
See you in few! (Days? Months? Who can tell?)
(Continue to Part II
*kind of like sex, except I'm alone in the dark in the basement, and you know what? Bad example.
I needed a new one anyway...
This has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever done. When it happened, I looked at my wife and said, "We tell no one of this. Ever." So of course, I've decided to tell all of you so you can laugh at what an idiot I am.
Last weekend my wife and I packed up the car and threw the canoe on top and headed out to one of our favorite Adirondack lakes. The thing about this place is that you can never tell just how busy it will be. Sometimes you get there and there might be 10 cars in the parking lot and other times you might be the only ones there. The other thing that can happen is that you are completely alone on a Friday morning at 9am, but by the same time the next day the lake is crawling with people. Or not. It's a mystery.
On this particular occasion, when we got there it wasn't overly crowded but there were a fair amount of cars. Worse, there was already another car parked in the launch area and they were unloading their stuff. It was a husband and wife and their dog. I noticed two things immediately -- they had an inordinate amount of shit, and they had an electric trolling motor.
We parked behind them, and started doing the same thing. We grabbed the canoe and brought it down to the water and then came back up for the rest of the stuff. We exchanged pleasantries with them, and it turned out that they were from out of state and it was their first time there. He started asking me about the campsites on the lake.
"So, are there many sites around here? Can you make any recommendations?" he asked.
I thought fast, and told him the location of all the sites, starting on the right and working my way counter-clockwise, and ending with, "The last one is around this bend, and it's not bad. It's a little loud and everyone has to pass by it to get to the other sites. That's the one we are hoping to get, because my wife's shoulder is bugging her and we can't paddle far." His wife was very nice, but she had this really loud smoker's voice and a Boston-like accent. Lucky for us, as it turned out.
The thing about this lake is that that there aren't that many sites, and it can be hard to get a good spot, or indeed, any spot. Sometimes it can seem like a race -- who can get there first and fastest. I always have that sense of panic when the place is crowded. I have no idea why, but I get very competitive.
I was hoping he'd take pity on me and shoot for one of the other sites, because I had been really talking them up. I knew he had a trolling motor and could definitely outrun us. We finished chatting, and I practically ran to the car and grabbed the paddles and the life vests, the bear canister and some of my camera gear, and loaded them in the canoe. I made another quick trip for the backpacks. We kept looking to see how far along they were with their unpacking, and we were desperate to beat them out on the water. My wife climbed in the front of the canoe, I pushed us out, jumped in the back and we were off. I was paddling my ass off, going full-tilt because I wanted..no, needed to beat those motorized bastards out onto the lake. We were almost out of earshot, paddling like a well-oiled machine, when in the distance I heard a distinctly Bostonian voice say, "I think they fuggot their cah."
My wife heard it too, and we immediately looked at each other in horror. We had forgotten our car. It was still parked in the middle of the launch area, all the doors wide open.
There was a split second where I actually thought, "Fuck it. We'll get another one," because that's how ruthless the race for campsites can get, but then good sense prevailed.
"Holy shit," I said. "I can't believe we forgot the car. I'm never, ever going to be able to call someone stupid again, as long as I live."
So we did the paddle of shame back to the launch area, and the couple were still loading up their stuff. I jumped out of the canoe, mumbled something about, "Ooops, forgot the car. Ha Ha. First time for everything," closed the hatchback and the rear doors, jumped in and drove it up to the lot and parked it. I ran back down to the canoe and we pushed off again.
The good news is that we got the spot we were after and we didn't run into the other couple for a day or so. When we finally did, it turned out that they got a late start because they had a hole in their canoe. I had nothing to do with that, I swear.
Our good luck didn't last, however. Shortly before 5 pm, we saw something moving toward us. At first we couldn't make it out, but we could certainly hear the idiots as they yelled back and forth to each other, even though they were barely a yard apart. There were many f-bombs, and a spirited conversation about knives was in progress. As it got closer to us, I couldn't believe what I saw.
Two large canoes, connected by 2x4s, with a pallet suspended between them, piled high with shit. Grills, coolers, stereo equipment, multiple 50 gallon garbage bags full of what I can only assume were clothes, full-sized lawn chairs, propane tanks, lanterns and more. You name it, and it was probably on this shitpile homemade catamaran. There was an electric trolling motor fastened to the back of the pallet, and one guy was steering the whole barge with a stick while the other three drank. I shook my head, and turned to my wife and said, "We'll be hearing from them later, guaranteed." It ended up being worse than that.
As dusk approached, I boiled water to cook dinner, and as I was fiddling with the stove, I saw another kayak heading right for us. I went down by the water to see what was up. It was a young girl, probably 18 or 19, and she said, "I think I have the wrong campsite. My friends said they'd be here."
"Yes, you have the wrong campsite." I replied. "They're not here. Did they have some sort of homemade shitpile catamaran by any chance?" I asked.
"Yes! That's them. Do you know where they went?"
"I think they're about 3 campsites down on the left," I said. "That thing was hilarious by the way."
She didn't say anything about my opinion of their boat, but thanked me and left.
A couple of hours later, another pair of kayaks show up holding two guys each. By now it's full dark, and we have a fire going. They are shining their flashlights at us and we can hear them throwing f-bombs and talking about some girl they know and describing her as a "humper." Class acts, obviously. It turns out that nobody got the memo that their spot was already taken, and since there's no cell service at this lake, everyone looking for the party headed directly for our campsite until they realized that we weren't their fuckhead college friends and veered off.
This went on until about 1am. People out on the lake with flashlights, yelling to each other and trying to find the party. It wasn't that hard to find, since it sounded like a full on frat house in the middle of the wilderness. Obnoxious rap music, lights, screaming, laughing...until 4am at least. I was a little on edge to tell you the truth because I don't like people on the lake in front of my campsite in the middle of the night. Luckily, my wife had gone into the tent before me. The last thing she said was, "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go to sl--" and then the snoring started, so she missed the bulk of it. I stayed up and tended the fire until there were no more people on the lake, mostly because I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be any idiots doing stupid things, but also because my wife was snoring like a drunk biker and I really didn't want to get in the tent with her. Eventually, everything quieted down and I crawled into the tent and fell asleep.
I'm thinking I might have to find another place to go, or we're going to have to just start camping exclusively during the week. It seems that word has gotten out that this place has no ranger presence and is easy to get to, so it's become a party destination on the weekends. I'm not sure if we just have bad luck, or if it's like this all the time now, but it used to be deserted after labor day. I think part of the problem is that they improved the road a few years ago and it's much smoother and easier to navigate than it used to be. Back in the day it would take you an hour to go twelve miles because the roads were so rutted that even with an F-150 you'd have to go really slow if you wanted to keep your exhaust system. Now it's so smooth you can do 25 mph in a smart car and not spill your latte.
Anyway, that's pretty much the stupidest thing I've done lately. I won't say the stupidest thing I've ever done, because I'm hoping I have a lot more time to top it, but so far it's right up there.
Here's a handful of pictures for you:
|Milky Way before the moon came up. The tree is lit by our fire.|
|Sunset the first night|
|30 second exposure by moonlight|
The one where my wife takes the full load.
I recently looked up our property on Google Earth, and realized something. Our house was no longer visible from space. Some may view this as a good thing, but I do not. It meant that it was time to spend all kinds of money I didn't want to spend, doing something I didn't want to do. I had to cut down trees, and free my house from this leafy oppression. Well, not me personally. I was going to hire someone, since most of these trees were white pines over a hundred feet tall, with mean dispositions, and I only have a 14" chainsaw and a fear of barber chairs. They intentionally and very spitefully get sap all over everything, drop pine cones the size of soda cans all over my driveway, and release clouds of yellow pollen for a month every year. If they could walk, I'm pretty sure life as we know it would be over because white pines would kill you if they could.
When we first moved up here to the North country, we didn't want to cut down a single tree. We had come from a development that had been built on an abandoned dairy farm, and up in these parts anyway, there are not a lot of trees in a pasture. The developer had planted one or two spindly, sad looking specimens in everyone's front yards and called it a day. As a result, we left way more trees standing than we should have when we built this house, and over the years they grew wider and taller until this past winter I realized that it never gets sunny here. It was like living in a cave all winter since the sun never clears the tree line from the moment it comes up to the moment it sets.
At least now that it's officially Sprummer,* we manage to get some sun between 11am and two pm, but even that isn't enough to plant any sort of sun-loving flowers and expect them to grow straight. Instead, they try to get to the sun and so they either lean out at a 45 degree angle (lilies, I'm talking to you) or they fall over, and grow horizontally, and when they're finally in the sun they take a right angle turn and point up again. (Gladiolus, I apologize.) It makes for a very tilty-looking garden.
Long story short, I decided that I wanted 23 trees gone. My wife, however, was not really down with that. She has a personal connection to every single tree on our lot, and was not happy with me for wasting money on something like tree removal when that same money could be spent on other necessary upkeep, like Caribbean vacations and garden potting sheds. I, on the other hand, didn't want to get crushed in my sleep by a bastard white pine with a death-wish. In typical woman-logic, she was more than willing to let the trees fall on the house, collect the insurance, and then finally paint the bedroom the color she wanted to, and maybe add a walk-in closet and a dormer. Apparently, a tree crashing through the top of the house could be a good thing.
In the end, I convinced her that it made sense to at least remove the three humongous white pines with long, heavy, dangerous branches that were overhanging our back deck, and a 70-foot tall, five-trunked maple tree that stored a swampy, evil-looking gallon of brown water in the rotting crotch where all the trunks met. I also chose a stand of mixed hardwoods and pines out in front, along with an assortment of smaller damaged or dead trees that were nothing more than an all-you-can-eat woodpecker buffet. That, my friends, is a lot of wood.**
In addition to creating a canopy over the driveway, all of these trees in front were blocking the sun from reaching the garden on the side of the house, and I figured that taking them down would give us a little more light in the front yard and also prevent her flowers from just uprooting themselves in disgust and walking somewhere else where they would be more appreciated.
I called around and got some estimates, and ended up going with a company I had used in the past. They aren't climbers -- they have a crane and the way they take a tree down is something to behold. They haul a guy holding a chainsaw up to the top of the tree with the crane and then when he's situated, he unhooks the crane cable from himself and ties it around the tree. Then he climbs about half way down and makes a cut. Then the crane lifts a 50 foot section of a giant tree directly over your house and lays it down next to the chipper, where a couple other guys with chainsaws tear into it. Then the crane goes back for another hunk. It's a little nerve-wracking to watch. While most of this tree went directly over the house so I couldn't see it, I did manage to catch this quick video through my office window:
In this fashion, they took all the trees I wanted gone in the space of about five hours, and left me with two straight 12-foot sections of oak and maple, which I will turn into chair parts or firewood, depending upon how much ambition I have between now and the time the wood dries too much to steam-bend.
At first, everything was going according to plan. Before they started, the owner/foreman asked me if I wanted any of the chips for the garden and I said no, take them all away. As my wife was leaving the house because she had to be somewhere else while this was happening, she overheard this, and mentioned to him that I was wrong, and that she might, in fact, want some. I went in the house because I was working from home that day and I needed to get some food before my lunch hour was over, leaving that bit of negotiation to her. That way, she would determine where they'd leave the chips and I'd avoid responsibility.
Fast forward to about 2:45 pm. I had been in a couple of back-to-back meetings, and so I hadn't had a chance to check on their progress. When my 2 pm ended 15 minutes early, I decided to go outside and see how things were going.
I walked out my front door and the first thing I saw was a pile of wood chips the size of a school bus lining the side of my driveway. And not a short bus either. I'm talking a full-sized, take-the-football-team-to-an-away-game, diesel-powered, yellow-ass school bus. In other words, a pile that was approximately 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and 40 feet long. A few of the guys were standing in the driveway, waiting for the next section of tree to come swinging over the house, and I ran up to them. "HOLY SHIT!" I said, followed closely by, "What the FUCK?" There was arm waving involved.
One of them looked at me and said, "What? Oh, the chips? Your wife said she wanted those."
"Yeah, she wanted a yard or two, tops. Nothing like THAT," I said. "What the hell am I going to do with that giant pile? It's completely ridiculous!"
"Well," he said, thoughtfully, looking at the pile. "We can't put them back in the truck. We don't have the equipment for that."
The owner must have seen me gesturing wildly or something, because he left his guy in the tree and shut off the crane and came over.
"What's up?" he asked. "Isn't that where you wanted them?"
"The problem isn't where
, it's how much
," I said. "What the fuck am I going to do with that much mulch?"***
"Well, I asked your wife if she wanted the full load, and she said yes."
I didn't say anything, because that sentence was all sorts of wrong and I was still processing it. He took my silence for stupidity, and continued.
That's a full load right there," he added, pointing to the pile like I was some sort of idiot.
"My wife has no concept of what a... covered dump truck can hold," I said, careful to avoid saying "My wife" and "full load" in the same sentence. Plus, I didn't want to insult myself. "This is wayyy
too much. You need to make it go away or she's going to flip out. She didn't want me to do this to begin with."
I was probably sounding like a big pussy, but I didn't care. I wasn't the first guy in the world to think about the raft of shit he was in for if a mess didn't get cleaned up by the time his wife got home.
He echoed the other guy on his team and said, "Well, I can't pick it up again, I don't have a bucket loader." He paused for a second, then said, "Do you want me to spread it out?"
In retrospect, I should have said no, but I had visions of that giant pile of wood chips being the first thing my wife saw when she pulled in the driveway, and I panicked.
"Yes," I said. "Christ, yes. Spread it out. A lot. That'll make it better."
It did not, in fact, make it better. Now the entire side of my yard looked like the bottom of a hamster cage. Instead of being one manageable pile, the chips were now distributed in a foot-thick layer, spread over about 500 square feet. Walking on it was like being in a bouncy house that had been rinsed out with Pine-Sol because some over-heated kid had puked.
At that point, I admitted defeat and just told him to knock on the door when they were done and I'd write him a check. I should have threatened to hold his money until he came back and cleaned up the chips, but in all fairness, my wife did tell him exactly how much to leave behind. So my homework this week is to find someone who can pick up these chips and move them next door to the empty lot. A neighbor took about six loads with her John Deere bucket and it didn't even make a dent.
After I find someone to clear that out of there, the plan is to have that same person move a couple of boulders into the clearing and then make me a big-ass hole. (Note: Hyphens are important. I'm talking about a big hole in the ground, and besides, too late.) I need this hole because...wait for it...we are going to go buy
a blue spruce to put in the spot where they other five trees used to be. And yes, the irony, it burns. But she always wanted a tree outside that she could decorate every year for Christmas, so there's that.
So all in all, it was not an experience I would recommend. But it's over now. Although I am
thinking of welding up a giant hamster wheel and putting it on the side of the driveway like some kind of red-neck modern art installation. Maybe I can charge admission if I can find a big-ass hamster. (Again, note the hyphen.)* I created this word because we don't have Spring here any more. It goes right from freezing one day to 80 degrees the next.
*** He called it mulch. He convinced my wife it was going to be mulch. FYI, this shit is nothing like mulch. If you ever have trees taken down, and they offer to leave some for you, just say no. Trust me.)
Random Rants and Aerial Rectal Relief in 30 minutes or less.
This post? Completely random topics that I plan to write about as I think of them. So to start, I'll have you all know that I'm a lottery winner. I found a ten dollar bill in my jeans pocket when I put them on this morning, so on the way home from work I sprung for one of those ten dollar "$5000 a week for life" lottery tickets that only an insane person with more money than sense would ever buy. But even though I knew my odds of winning were slightly worse than my odds of spending a night with a Victoria's Secret model who isn't printed on paper, I walked into Stewarts and threw my wrinkled ten down on the counter like a boss.
"Give me one of those," I said, pointing confidently to the ticket I wanted. He tore one off like it was his job, because it is, and took my money. I left the store, knowing in my heart that I would be retiring by the end of the day. Then I drove home and stood at the kitchen counter with my coat on and went to town on that lottery ticket with the ass end of a bottle opener.
And I won.
I took my coat off and danced around a little. OK, no, not really. I just looked at the cat and said, "Hey! I won!" and the cat said absolutely nothing back, but I could tell he was thinking, "Who gives a shit human, just open the magic can." I ignored him and brushed the scratch-off crumbs from the counter top (don't tell my wife). I didn't win $5000 a week for life, but I did hit on five different numbers at ten bucks each, so tomorrow, I'll do the completely rational thing and buy five more tickets because that's the only thing that's gone my way this week, and I want to keep it going. So wish me luck.
So what else is new? I have a brand new pet peeve that you should all know about. It's people who use the word "Ask" as a noun. Apparently it's all the rage in corporate America these days, and it's infecting every meeting I attend and it makes me want to scoop the offender's eyes out with a melon baller. Everyone has "an ask" now instead of a requirement or a request or, god forbid, an actual need. If I hear one more person say, "My ask of you is that...." I'm going to completely lose my shit. Either that, or I'm going to go all in, and just start using it all the time.
At dinner: "My ask of you is that you pass me the salt."
In Home Depot: "My ask of you is that you tell me where I can find 3/4" phillips head screws."
Calling my wife: "My ask of you is that you pick up some Tums and a melon baller for my next meeting."
It's a ridiculous thing and it needs to die.
Another pet peeve? It's not acceptable to use texting shorthand and zero punctuation in email or instant chat messages. Or, when it comes down to it, in an actual text message. Christ, I have an old iPhone 4s from 2011 and it practically types the entire message for me after I hit the first two letters.
There's no reason I should get a message from someone at work that says, and I quote: "cud u approve ur idm form 4 me?" Because if that happens, I will respond with, "Sure. As soon as you promise to stop talking to me like you're Prince," which I did. Unfortunately, I think the person I was having this conversation with was about 22 and didn't know who Prince was. I'm sure she was like, "f u and ur hole wrds gray balls."
So I said this post will be completely random, and I meant it. Is anyone else sick of hearing about Brian Williams? If I see one more picture of his smarmy looking face turned into some stupid meme I'm going to be forced to cancel my Facebook account, if that's even possible. I'm pretty sure they won't let you cancel it. About four years ago, I tried to delete my account and the most I could manage to do was suspend it. I googled "how to delete your facebook account" and that night someone slashed my tires and left a note on my windshield that said, 'we no what ur doing. ur next.' I'm pretty sure it was Zuckerberg, but I can't prove it.
Here's my take on Brian. You don't 'misremember' getting your helicopter shot down. What he did was basically the same as me passing a car on the side of the road that had been side-swiped by a tractor trailer an hour before, and was in the process of being winched onto a tow truck, then getting home and telling my wife that I had been in an accident. So yeah, let it die and let the guy get back to hosting The Daily Show or whatever.
Something else in the news recently -- the FAA has announced some new Drone laws that basically say that (for now) a person has to be within line of sight of any drone they're piloting, and they can't fly higher than 500 feet. That sort of puts the brakes on Amazon's plan to deliver stuff by drone
, which I personally think is the stupidest idea ever. Drones are cool and all, but I don't want the damned things flying over my house to deliver a jumbo tube of Preparation H to my neighbor because his 'roids are kicking up and he wants it in 30 minutes or less and doesn't want to leave the house. I mean, I can sympathize to a point -- 'roids are no joke. But if it means I have to put up with drones flying all over the place, he can walk around with his rectum between his knees for all I care. Not to mention that those things look dangerous. (Not the 'roids, the drones.) I'd think it would be worse in a metro area. What if one of these package delivery drones collides with a pigeon or clips the edge of a skyscraper and spins down into a crowd? Amazon better start making some profit soon because they're going to need it to pay off the lawsuits.
The other flaw in this plan? There's a lot of people up here in the north country where I live who wouldn't think twice about loading up some drone with a heaping helping of #2 birdshot. They might as well hang a sign from it that says "FREE STUFF!" It's like skeet shooting except with the payoff of a piñata.
Lastly, if you know me, you know I'm fashionally illiterate. Yes, I just made up a word. My ask is that you go with it in the spirit of a ranting blog post. I know nothing about clothes, and I don't really own a suit. I generally wear Chinese jeans from American Eagle, (the irony!) and some kind of pullover henley or a button-down flannel and call it a day. As long as my clothes are clean, I'm good with it. I really need to spring for a nice suit soon, because summer is coming and odds are I'll be going to a wedding or a funeral, which are about the only two things I would wear a suit for, preposition be damned. Although, I suppose if I lost my job for some reason, like choking out someone who had one too many asks, I might need one for an interview. Either way, it's time to suit up. What point am I driving at here? Number one, I'd like to know why Facebook thinks I am fashion-conscious, and number two, I'd like to know why it keeps putting up ads with links to clothes like this:
Can you guys see me sitting at work in the cube farm or going to a club or even going out of the house dressed like that? No? Me neither. How about this one?
Or possibly this?
actually in the market for a new hoodie, but I think I'll pass on the ermine collar.
Who wears this shit? I have no idea. Well, I do have an idea, and I think it might be adolescent metrosexual Japanese guys. Certainly not me. I could understand if they were tossing up ads for Orvis or LL Bean or even Eddie Bauer, but no. I get this sort of stuff. It did get me wondering how some of it would look on me. Luckily I had a picture of me, and a copy of Photoshop, so you tell me.
Should I wear this to the next wedding I have to go to*?
* or funeral. Or lion taming gig. And no, that's not really me. I'm much younger and better looking.
It's a Trap! Get an Axe.
Hello peoples of the Internet! It's time for another edition of the old standby....
Fantastic Searches That Somehow Pointed People To My Site
This site doesn't get as much traffic as it used to, so some of these google search links are actually less fantastic and more obvious, but I liked them so I left them in. wool nipple warmers -
My advice is that this is a bad idea. Because if you actually DO find wool nipple warmers, they will be rough and scratchy, and you will soon be looking for silk nipple warmers and a big tube of Benadryl for Nipples. And let me ask a serious question here, since I don't have cold nipples. Is it possible for a nipple to be cold while everything else is hot? I mean, I've seen my share of pencil erasers, and it seems like it would be difficult to have such an isolated regional chilly spot without some sort of ice cube involvement. But maybe I'm wrong. As I've said, my nipples? Generally the perfect temperature all the time.if u drink u are my enemy
- That's a bit harsh, isn't it? I mean, I don't drink excessively, except for on the occasional weekend, and we've been friends for a long time, and you know what? Fuck it, I'm your enemy. Although, I have a request before you go. Would you consider upgrading to be my nemesis? I've always wanted one of those. What should I have for lunch quiz
- This is a tough one, but since you want a quiz, let me see if I can whip something up for you: QUIZ: What should I have for lunch?
(1) A bowl of ground glass and fingernail clippings
(2) some sort of food
(3) A bucket of gravel and 8 ounces of Drano
If you check back with me in a week, I'll give you your grade. Hint: It's pass/fail.15 minute quiz -
You are clearly a man with some time to kill. But not a random
amount of time. An exact
amount of time. "Give me a quiz, Google. I don't care what it's about, as long as it takes me exactly 15 minutes. No more, no less." I'm sorry you wasted precious minutes on my site. I hope I didn't inadvertently force you to subsequently search for "10 minute quiz." I am a professional builder but my testicles are hang low -
This is a serious problem, but I think I can help. I've had many professional builders at the house doing one home improvement project or another, and there's one thing they all have in common -- the low testicles. I think it's one of those issues that is called "referred or reflective" in nature -- like when your back hurts but it's really caused by your knees being out of whack because the arches in your feet are messed up. You fix the arch problem, the knees straighten out and the back stops hurting. In your case, it's basically the same kind of thing. The testicles are hang low, because the underwear are hang low because the pants are hang low, and as a result, your ass crack are showing. If you pull up the underwear and the pants and tighten the belt, the testicles will rise with the rest of the wardrobe, and be held in place very nicely by the crotch of the pants, which now rests between your thighs instead of between your knees. Problem solved.hard old nipples -
I need more information to help you. For instance, I don't know if you're looking
for hard old nipples, or if you have
them. If you have them, and are looking for relief, I suggest you invest in some of this
, and lay off the wool nipple warmers. Those things are just bad for business. If you're looking for them, I'm 99% sure you found them. The internet is a wonderful and terrible thing.cock yourself, eyeball -
I'm really not sure about this one. At first I thought you were looking for the porn version of Jib-Jab's "Elf Yourself" but then the eyeball part didn't really make sense. Other possibilities just went downhill from there, so I'm going to opt out on making any further comment.bare butt spanking bill engvall -
No judgement here -- by all accounts, Bill is a fine looking man. However, I'm still not sure how you ended up on my blog since I don't have much in the way of spanking pictures. Or Bill Engvall pictures. Well, until now, that is. I can't wait to see what sort of searches show up next time around. That said, I'm always willing to got the extra mile, so let me see if I can help*
OK, that's enough search engine fun for one post. I have to go look at something else for a while so I don't have nightmares about Bill tonight. Have a good weekend and try not to cock yourself, eyeball.
*You all owe me, because I had to visit www.spankingarmyboys.com to get the base picture for this horribly obvious photoshop. Incidentally, don't type "Bare butt spanking" and *anything else* into Google with safe search turned off unless you want to see some shit.
Raptor it up, I'll take it.
Man, I almost forgot the password to this dump.
What have I been doing with my time, you ask? Well, I'll get to that. So what's new with you? How've you been? You look great! Do people still read blogs? Are blogs still a thing? I'll have to Google it.
This past weekend my wife and I spent her birthday in a little Inn in Vermont. We were hoping for some snow, and our plans included lots of relaxing and maybe a sleigh ride at a local farm. We did lots of relaxing, but it was mostly forced because the weather sucked. Instead of snow we got icy rain that turned every available flat surface into a skating rink. As a result, we spent a little more time than we planned in the giant antique store in Quechee, near the aptly named Quechee Gorge, which is always fun. If you like antiques, and you live within a couple hours of Vermont, it's worth the trip. You can spend an entire day wandering around in this place.
There are three warehouse-sized floors of almost everything under the sun, and if you look around you can find some really amazing and/or disturbing stuff. Need a stuffed animal? You have several to choose from. And I'm talking about an actual animal that has been stuffed, not some shitty Elmo from China. This one is my favorite, because of reasons:
|Gratuitous Beaver Shot|
How about a silver locket containing the braided hair of someone who died a hundred years ago? Sure, how many would you like? A Bionic Woman lunch box and matching thermos? Got you covered. A bushel basket full of doll heads? Um, yeah. A nightmare in the making. And that was all within the first 100 feet of this place. I spent a lot of time on the 3rd floor, which I call the 70's floor. I had my choice of four different strobe lights, six lava lamps and dozens of black light posters, but I managed to restrain myself. There were comic books all over the place. My favorite was an old Spiderman Comic with the headline "SOMEONE DIES!" written in dripping blood letters - they didn't sugar-coat their marketing back then.
I came very close to purchasing a portable record player with a bunch of 45's included, but after looking at the 45's, I realized that the previous owner was apparently a very serious Paul Anka fan, because about 70% of the records were by him. I didn't even know he had that much of a career. And really, there's only so much Paul Anka you can listen to before you want to break one of his 45's in half and drag the jagged shard across your throat to end the pain.
Have you ever seen a bear trap in person? Me neither, until this past weekend. And let me just say: Holy shit. That thing would quite literally take your leg off mid-shin. I did like how the person selling the bear trap was also selling kid's toys and canning supplies. This place has such a mishmash of random things, I think that's why I enjoy going there so much. It rotates stock between about 500 dealers, so there's always some new, weird stuff to gawk at.
Like this exorbitantly priced and completely horrific Santa Claus:
I tried to determine what made him worth a hundred dollars but I still don't know. At first I thought maybe it was his come-hither sex-doll mouth, but then I figured out that it had to be because his massive head wound revealed the fact that he's made entirely out of Terminator:
My other favorite item was this sign:
I saw this and immediately had only one question. And that question was, "Who is responsible for dressing these slow deaf children?"
Their outfits are completely black, and consist of high socks, short pants, a jeweled belt, pointy shoes and some weird, nipple-like hat -- it's bad enough that they're already slow and deaf, and now they're going to get the shit kicked out of them by the other kids because they dress like ninja keebler elves. It just doesn't seem fair.
We also did something else on the spur of the moment, since we had some extra time, and no, it's not what you're thinking. We had way
more extra time than that would have taken. I'm not a machine.
We were driving down the road toward Quechee and saw a sign with a picture of an owl on it. Then a hawk. Shortly thereafter, we skidded to an icy stop in front of something called VINS - the Vermont Institute of Natural Science
. At any rate, they had raptors, and if there's one thing I'm a fan of, it's birds of prey. It turns out they do rehab there, and they have a bunch of really cool birds in habitats. If a bird can't be released into the wild because its injuries are too severe, it gets to live out its life here, getting free food and shelter. It's a pretty good deal all around. So we walked into the place and paid our $26 bucks for two tickets, and we went down to the enclosures to visit with the birds.
There was a ten-cent tour starting at 1pm, so we decided to take it. I actually learned some stuff. I learned how disgusting turkey vultures are, I learned how light bald eagles are (8 lbs) and I learned how fast a peregrine falcon can dive (230mph!) I also learned it is cold as fuck in January in Vermont. Here are some pictures so you can enjoy my experience. These were taken by my lovely wife:
|This is my good side.|
|I'm invisible. Nothing to see here.|
I still cannot look at that last picture without laughing. It just can't happen. I don't know why. One of my friends commented, "That owl looks like he's seen some Stuff." and that really sums it up.
After the tour, we went to the classroom, and learned some more stuff. The instructor was a little pixie girl with short red hair, named Annie, who had the mannerisms of an animatronic Peter Pan at Disney World. Even so, she was pretty good at what she did. No sense of humor though. She started with a talk about the difference between the types of talons that various raptors had and how they were suited to what and where they hunted. She actually had a bunch of cut off bird legs that she was using for the demonstration. She'd hand one to me since I was in the first row and say, "Take a look at that and then pass it around," which I dutifully did. Of course, while she was doing this, she had a giant hawk perched on her forearm. At one point the hawk was a little restless, and she said, "I'm not sure why he's acting up." I said, "I'm thinking maybe it's all the...you know... severed hawk feet being passed around." But she was having none of it. She just said, "No, I think he's pretty used to seeing those by now." After she flew him around the room a bit (which was very cool) she retired him and then brought in a great horned owl. She spent a few minutes explaining the difference between a hawk wing and an owl wing, and how the fringe of feathers on the leading edge of the owl wing allowed it to fly almost silently. Of course she had two "sample wings" which she handed to me and told me to pass around. This bird was quite impressive, and he wouldn't shut up. Then finally, he did shut up. But not because he spied the severed owl wings and thought he might be next. He shut up because he was busy doing something else. Something that made him look like the owl version of Stevie Wonder. Annie said, "Oh look! This is going to be really special. You almost never get to see this. He's going to expel a pellet."
For those of you who don't know, an owl will eat a mouse or bird or lizard or whatever - bones and all - and it will digest what it can. When it's done with the digestive process, since it can't digest bones and fur, and it apparently can't poop bones and fur out of its tiny bird butt, it will expel this leftover mass by gakking up a disgusting ball of hair and bones, which is what this owl did. His head started bobbing, and his beak opened wide, and he made a sound like my cat when he has a hairball in his throat. A second later, a grey, hairy pellet roughly the size and shape of a walnut hit the floor right in front of me and bounced once. Annie bent over and picked it up. "Don't pass that around," I said. She didn't laugh, but that's cool. She had a giant puking bird on her arm that could snatch both her eyes out of her head before she even started to feel the pain, and really, that's nothing to laugh about.
So yeah. That was an experience. I am pretty sure that's something I will (hopefully) only get to see once in my life. I can now cross that off my disgusting nature bucket list, which, as of today, now includes this
Speaking of things I've never seen before, the Inn we stayed at had the weirdest soap. Have you ever seen anything like this before? I know I haven't.
|My soap is such a slut.|
So anyway, we had a great time, even though the weather sucked and I didn't get to take any pictures. Oh right! Back to what I've been doing with my free time. I've acquired a few old cameras from the 50s and 60s and I've been shooting and developing film and making prints in a basement darkroom. (Really, since I have no windows down there, the whole thing is technically a darkroom, but it sounds more impressive to call it a "basement darkroom" instead of "Some shitty table I have stuff set up on temporarily") It's been a blast so far.
I have an old large format Crown Graphic press camera
and a couple of medium formats, a Mamiya RB67
and a Bronica S2
I'm just getting into some alternative printing methods too, thanks to my buddy Mark, who is the one who got me into this in the first place. I know I've pointed you to his Flickr page before, but his amazing work is here
Here's a Van Dyke Brown I just finished the other night, sitting in the washing tray:
I'm having fun, and really, isn't that the point? When work's not busy trying to find new and innovative ways to kill me, I have to find something to keep my mind off servers and ip addresses and Active Directory and Powershell, and this seems to fit the bill quite nicely.
I do miss this place though, so I'm going to make a new year resolution to not go six months between posts again. You three people who still read this blog are my witnesses.
Happy New Year everyone!
You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Well, hello there. Is this place still open?
I've been MIA lately, I know. It seems the less I write, the less I feel like writing, so I have to do something about that, because I really do like writing. So I have a story to tell you. I spent $27,500 dollars about a month or so ago. I would like to say I purchased a new car, or put an addition on my house or even spent it on hookers and blow, but no. I spent it for a single night's accommodations in a drafty room in the city so a burly guy named Steve with a tattoo on his neck could offer me injectable drugs. Yes, I spent a 27K on a single night in the hospital.
And the kicker is, I did it of my own free will. It's not like I woke up in the hospital and the last thing I remembered was the grill of an 18 wheeler coming through my living room wall. In fact, I came so close to not even going to the emergency room that I'm still kicking myself in the ass for not playing the odds.
So let me tell you what happened, and you can decide if I'm an idiot or not.
About five years ago, I was watching TV and my eyes decided they couldn't take another minute of Sons of Anarchy, and they checked out. My vision went all funky, and I had zero peripheral vision. I thought I was having a stroke or something, so off to the ER we went.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was fine. They checked me out, gave me a CT Scan, had an eye guy look me over, and sent me home with a diagnosis of ocular migraine (migraine with aura, if you want to get all medical about it) and instructions to see an eye specialist for a follow up, just to make sure it wasn't anything with my eyeball nerves. After that checked out fine too, I was given the all clear, and told it might be a one-time thing.
Well, it turned out that it wasn't a one-time thing. It's continued to happen once every four or five months for the last couple of years. So I'm pretty familiar with the regular symptoms. Basically what happens is that I'll be minding my own business and suddenly I'll notice that it's difficult to read small type, because the center of my vision looks like it has sparkles in it. Remember when you were a kid and you pressed your palms to your eyeballs until it looked like white static? And then it took your vision a few seconds to come back? Like that.* Eventually, with my particular brand of migraine, after about ten or fifteen minutes, the sparkly part starts expanding into a ring, and it gets wider and wider until it's at the edges of my vision. Then it goes away and I have a slight headache for a few hours. It helps to take a couple of aspirin as soon as it starts.
A couple of months ago, I was sitting in my office working on the computer and I felt a migraine coming on. It was getting hard to read the screen, so I sighed, stood up, walked to the bathroom and downed a couple of aspirin and went out to the living room to wait it out. My wife was home that day, and I told her I was having a migraine and I just took a couple of aspirin, but talking felt a little...strange. Like I knew what I wanted to say, but it was really hard to get it out of my mouth. You know that feeling when the exact word you want is on the tip of your tongue but you can't remember it? It was exactly nothing like that. I could remember the words, but it took me a few seconds to wrap my tongue around them.
So that was weird. My wife was engrossed in a difficult and arcane knitting ritual, so she really wasn't paying much attention and just said, "Mmm hmm," and went back to tying complex knots in string with large needles. I walked back to my office, and for absolutely no reason at all, I turned on my iphone and opened up the BBC and picked an article at random. I don't even remember what it was, but I started reading it out loud. The results were hilarious, and truthfully, a little alarming. So for instance, my eyes read and understood this:
These two features of a perceiving system – sensitivity and bias – are always present and independent of each other.
But my mouth said this:
These two feet of a principal dragon – sensitivity and blenders – are aluminum car wax in presence of three otters.
I tried again, more slowly. I found that if I concentrated on each and every word, I could get through it, but if I tried to read at a normal rate, all sorts of random hell would break loose. My mouth was saying real words, but together they made no sense. This continued for about a minute or two.
I walked back into the living room and said, "I'm not 100% on this, but I'm thinking maybe I should have you bring me to the emergency room, because I just had this weird thing happen where I tried reading out loud, but my mouth wasn't saying what my brain was reading, if that makes any sense."
My wife looked at me strangely and for a second I thought I had been spouting gibberish, but then she said, "OK, let's go." When she stood up to change out of her pajamas I waffled a bit, since I seemed
completely fine, but then after a few minutes of discussion, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry since this was something I hadn't experienced before. (But to be fair, I had never tried to read out loud or talk to anyone while I was having a migraine before so it could have been completely normal. I usually just crash on the couch for a half hour and try to rest.)
So off we went. I'll fast-forward through the part where we went to our local hospital and they told me that they'd need to send me to a different, better hospital since they had no neurologists on staff, and that I'd have to go by ambulance for liability reasons, and I told them to go fuck themselves - we were driving, and they made me sign a piece of paper saying that I absolve them of any liability if I took a dirt nap on the highway between the two locations, and then they sent me on my way. That little cursory examination and push out the door, I found out later, was going to cost me close to two grand.
When we walked in to what I shall refer to from now on as the "real" hospital, I told them I was a transfer patient and handed them the papers we got from the fake hospital full of sick people I feel sorry for now because I'm putting their odds at 50/50. Since the paper said, "Possible TIA" they were all over my ass thinking I had a mini-stroke. They asked me a ton of questions about weakness and blurred vision, dizziness and slurred speech and whether or not I could smile and stick out my tongue and touch my finger to my nose with my eyes closed -- all of which I answered with a string of "No's" because it was all the same shit I ran through myself five minutes into the episode because I know all about TIAs. They asked me if I had taken any medication, and then they immediately stuck me on a stretcher and brought me to get my head irradiated by a CT Scan.
I asked them if they could give me an MRI instead, because I'm generally opposed to the amount of radiation they use in a CT, and they said that no, the CT was better at making sure I didn't have any bleeds in my brain. (I didn't feel
like my brain was bleeding, but who am I to say? How would I know? They could have said, "We'd like to make sure your spleen isn't smoking" and I would have believed that too.) After that, they took me back to the ER and dumped me there, and I watched some TV and waited for the doctor to show up, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.
When the doctor came in, he was followed by about eight students (this is a teaching hospital/|med school) and they all crowded around me in this tiny room that was barely big enough for a bed and a chair. He introduced himself as Dr. Mallory, and said he was the chief neurologist on staff. He told me that the initial CT scan looked good, and we talked about what happened. This was now about the third time I had told this particular story, so I was getting the short version down pat, but holy shit, this was like public speaking inside a crowded elevator. I could feel myself getting nervous, and I stumbled over my words a little bit, like I usually do if I'm tricked into public speaking.
"Did you suffer any weakness?" He asked. "Any dizziness?"
"No," I said. "No dizziness, no weakness, no mental confusion. I even went into the bathroom and stuck my tongue out at the mirror. I did the eyes-closed, nose-touch test, the smile test, walked on my heels, all that crap."
I had realized what I said, and amended it sheepishly. "Well, not that I think it's necessarily crap, I just meant that..you know...that it's..." and I stopped talking, since I knew I was just digging myself deeper. He turned to the crowd of students and in a sad voice said, "My life's work is crap," and all his students cracked up. I liked this guy.
The next thing he did was point to his stethoscope and say, "What's this?" I looked at him strangely for a second. "Don't they teach you guys that in med school on pretty much the first day?" I asked. He laughed and explained that with aphasia, there is sometimes a lingering difficulty finding the right word for something. So instead of saying "Stethoscope" I might have answered "thing you listen to heartbeats with" or something similar. So after he explained what he was doing, things went a little more smoothly.
He pointed at it again, and said, "What is it?" I started to panic. He was clearly pointing at his cuticle. It was like a game of charades and suddenly I felt like I was losing. Shit! Another name for cuticle. Think, man! "
Your lunula?" I asked, hesitantly.
He looked at me questioningly.
"Scrabble," I said.
"Ah. The more general term?"
"WAIT! I GOT IT! FINGERNAIL!"
"YES!" I said, and pumped my fists. Then I went for the high-five but he left me hanging. I bet if his students hadn't been there, he totally would have gone for it.
Convinced that there were no after-effects, he said that he wanted to run some additional tests to completely rule out a mini-stroke. "You can either stay here for one night, and get them all over with, or you can schedule them over the course of three or four weeks and run around to appointments and wait for the results," he said. "I recommend you stay. That way you can get it all done in one place, and we can observe you for 24 hours. We'll bring you down for another CT Scan only this time we'll add contrast. That will tell us if your vascularity is sound, and whether or not there are any blockages."
I agreed that sounded fine, although I wasn't crazy about another high dose of radiation. (And I was sort of upset that he was questioning my vasculinity, but it turned out I just heard him wrong.) Then I thought, Screw it, we're probably all dead from Fukushima anyway
. He said they were also going to do an ultrasound of my neck, an MRI of my head, and an echocardiogram, but probably not until the morning. I was going for the record. The last time I had seen this many tests run on one person in a single day was on an episode of House. I was just hoping it wasn't sarcoidosis.**
He said that after the second CT scan, they'd set me up with a room for the night, and he'd be back in the morning to check on things. He turned and walked out, taking his gaggle of scrub-wearing goslings with him.
A few minutes later, after signing a bunch of papers I'll probably still regret someday, they made me sit down in a wheelchair so they could bring me down to imaging.
The second CT scan was uneventful, except for the injection of a radioactive isotope that rushes around in your bloodstream and lights up your blood vessels like a lantern. I am not a fan of contrast. I've had it a few times, and every time as they're injecting it, they say, "OK, this may make you feel like you have to pee," and every time it's a lie. It doesn't really make you feel like you have to pee. I think a better description would be, "OK, this may make you feel like your asshole is blushing furiously," but I supposed they'd get in trouble if they told you that.
After the second CT scan, they brought me to my new room.
Unfortunately, the room they brought me to had a bed for people who can't get out of bed. What that means is, in order to prevent blood clots and bedsores and other nasty things, the bed is constantly in motion. It's blowing up and deflating at random points and random times, and laying on it makes you feel like someone gave you a nerve block from the neck down, then tied ropes to your arms and legs and turned you into an unwilling marionette. Your arms and legs and back and ass are constantly in motion and while it's moving it makes all the noises you'd expect. Pump up! BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP. It's like someone put a bumper jack under my ass. Then one leg. Then the other. Deflate! PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTT...and everything drops down four inches and I sink into what feels like a half-inflated bouncy house. PUMP UP! BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP BRUP. Sweet Jesus, what the hell is that giant lump between my shoulder blades? PSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTT. Back into the deflated bouncy house. I was laying there marveling at this technological torture device, trying to figure out if there was a way to get it to pump the hell up and stay there, and that's when I met Steve for the first time.
He walked into the room and the first thing I saw was the shaved head and the no-necked bulk of someone who was probably 6' 2" and weighed 275. Then I noticed the chinstrap beard, the earring and the job-stopper, in that order. If you don't know, a "job-stopper" is what they call tattoos on the hands, face or neck. Usually, a tattoo like that means that the person in question has determined at some point in his or her life that they're not cut out for polite society. I know tattoos have become more mainstream, and I myself have a single tattoo that means a lot to me, but as a general rule, you don't tattoo a bleeding skull with a snake coming out of its eye socket onto your neck and then go on to apply to medical school. When Steve had first walked in the door, I initially assumed that he was a Russian mobster who had just killed the cop stationed outside his door, donned a stolen scrub top and made a wrong turn trying to escape the hospital. But then he introduced himself.
"My name is Steve. I'll be taking care of you tonight," he said menacingly. I just nodded and said, "OK," and sat up on the edge of the bed and put both feet on the floor in case I had to make a break for it. I wasn't sure if he was going to be "taking care of me" in the traditional "Russian mob" sense, or in the traditional "new fish in the cell-block" sense, but either way I didn't like the sound of it. Then he stuck his giant, ham-like fist in my face, and I flinched a little before I realized he was trying to shake my hand. Before I realized it, I had mine out too. Damn you, automatic social niceties! He could have killed me right then. Instead, he just shook my hand and then turned and slowly wrote his name on the dry-erase board in big block letters, four inches high, like I was five years old. Or like he was. It could have gone either way. He turned back around and said, "So what can I do for you?" I was going to ask him to spare my life, but instead I said, "Can you get me some food? I haven't eaten since 8:30 this morning." It was now a little after 5pm.
"No can do," he said. "Dinner trays won't be coming out for another hour or so," but I'll make sure they hit you up when they do the rounds. Anything else?"
"Yeah. Can you make this freakin' bed stop doing whatever the hell it's doing? Can't you just unplug it or get it inflated and leave it there or something? There's no way I'm gonna be able to sleep on this nightmare."
"No can do," he said again. That was kind of his go-to phrase. "Unfortunately, these beds are for people who can't get out of bed."
"So you torture them with this, huh? I asked. "Can't you unplug it?"
"Sure," he said. "I can unplug it, but you're just gonna sink down to the hard metal underneath."
"OK, thanks. I'll probably sleep in the recliner," I said.
"You wouldn't be the first," he said, and left my room to kill again.
About 30 minutes later, a nurse came in with a needle. I eyed her suspiciously.
"What's that for?" I asked.
"Oh, we give this to everyone," she said, nonchalantly. "It's a shot in the stomach to prevent blood clots in your legs." That got my attention, and I sat up. "What do you mean, everyone?
There's no way in hell you're jamming that into my stomach," I said, still unbelieving. "That's just crazy," I added. "People let you do that?" I stood up next to the bed just in case she decided to call in a couple of orderlies to hold me down.
She said, "Yeah, you look pretty active, you probably don't need it."
"Yeah, no," I said, and began doing some jumping jacks for emphasis. "Take that away."
She held out some pills. "These too?" she asked.
"What are those?"
"These help you...you know. Move you bowels." I must have hesitated for a second or two, because she dumbed it down for me. "They make you poop," she added helpfully.
"Did someone tell you I couldn't poop?" I asked, confused. Was there someone spreading rumors about me in the hall? "Hey, pssssst. You didn't hear this from me. That stringy lookin' guy in room 6c ? Yeah. Poor bastard can't poop."
"Yeah, you can keep those too," I said. "I have no pooping problems currently."
"Besides," I added, "I haven't eaten anything since 8:30 this morning. Trust me, I have nothing that needs pooping."
"So no, then?" she asked, still trying to push her poop pills on any willing takers. She must have had a quota.
"No!" I said. "Jesus. I'm fine in that particular department, thanks."
A couple hours later, Steve came back. "Dude, where's my food?" I asked, the second he came through the door. "I gotta eat something so I can poop for the nice lady."
"Bad news, man," he said. "They're not gonna let you eat or drink until you pass the swallow test, and we don't have anyone here who can give you one tonight."
I wasn't sure what a swallow test was. Is it a written test? No, oral would make more sense.
I wasn't sure what sort of specialist they needed to round up, or why. I just wanted some food; I wasn't auditioning for a porno.
"I swallow all the time," I said. "In fact, I just swallowed a few minutes ago. I ate some stale crackers out of my wife's coat pocket and even drank some tap water without any problems."
"Sorry, but there's nothing I can do," Steve said, apologetically. "They won't give you food until you have the test."
At this point, I was pissed. "If I don't get some food, I'm gonna walk out of here and go to Starbucks across the street and buy one of their shitty, overpriced sandwiches," I said. "I'm serious."
He just shrugged and said, "Well, if you happened to get some food somehow and happened to eat it while I wasn't watching, I'd probably never even know."
Steve was OK in my book, and now I was committed to a shitty sandwich. My wife went out and came back with a sandwich and a coffee, and it was the best sandwich I ever ate.
After my wife left, I was killing some time screwing around with my phone and watching TV, and they came and got me again. "Time for your MRI," the new female nurse said. This was at about 10:30 at night, and the hospital was more akin to a morgue at that point. She wheeled me through the dark, mostly barren hallways to a room in the basement. This is it,
I thought. This is when I disappear.
"Where's Steve?" I asked, missing my co-conspirator in flagrant disregard of the secret hospital swallow rules.
"Oh, he works second shift," she said. "He's gone for the day."
"Lucky bastard," I said, as they wheeled me into the darkened room and told me to get up on the table.
This was a long MRI. The longest I've ever had, since they were doing both my neck and my head. I think I actually fell asleep for a while, which, if you've ever had an MRI, is actually pretty impressive since it makes incredibly loud noises while you're in the machine. Picture someone holding your head down next to a blender that someone else is throwing rocks into and hitting the Pulse button every two seconds for 45 minutes, and you'll be pretty close.
After the MRI, they wheeled me back up to my room, and surprise! It was full of people, and there was a party going on. All on behalf of my new roommate, Walter. I only know this because six of his relatives kept saying his name at the top of their lungs, because poor old Walter was almost deaf and they were trying to get him to respond. They had drawn the curtain between the beds, so I only glimpsed him as I passed by, since the bulk of the opening to his half of the room had been blocked by his relatives. The poor guy was a mess. Over the course of about an hour, I pieced together that he had suffered a stroke a year ago, and was in the hospital now for an apparent fall and the obligatory busted hip. He couldn't talk, he couldn't feed himself, hell -- he could barely move, and all he could do was make these gargling, hissing sounds with his throat. Just kill me at that point. Put me out of my misery.
By this time it was almost midnight, and the nurses were kicking his family out. As they were leaving, one of the guys there to visit him stopped for a second at my curtain and looked in at me. "If I were you," he said, "I'd try to go to sleep before he does, because he snores pretty good." Then he left.
"Snores pretty good" was kind of an understatement. His snoring sounded like someone was sucking up a bathtub full of jello with a shop vac. And the worst part of it was that he'd snore loud enough to wake himself up, and then he'd have a coughing fit. A wet, juicy, coughing fit. At one point I was pretty sure he actually died, but then he took in a great, gasping breath and it started over again.
And in addition to Old Walter's snoring and coughing, he kept rolling over on his IV which immediately caused an alarm to sound. An alarm that was very similar to the sound a truck makes when it backs up, and almost as loud. Did I mention that Old Walter was almost deaf? Yeah, it didn't bother him in the slightest. He snored and snorted and gargled right through it.
I decided to get ready for bed anyway, so I got up and looked around for some bathroom-type stuff. I hadn't planned on an overnight when we had left for the ER, so I had nothing with me at all. On the shelf across from the bed I finally saw what I was looking for. On one end of the shelf was a small container holding a comb, a tooth brush, and a tiny bottle of mouthwash. On the other end of the shelf was a box of tissues and a small bottle of lotion. It was like, "Hey, if the date doesn't work out, don't worry, we got you covered."
I brushed my teeth, went to bed and thought I'd at least try
to get some sleep but didn't hold out much hope. I was lying in a bed that was actively trying to dislodge me, I was so hungry I was digesting my own stomach, and Walter kept alternating between rolling over on his IV and trying to cough up his own asshole. I think someone should write down this sleep deprivation technique so the CIA spooks can use it at Gitmo.
Somehow -- probably out of sheer exhaustion -- I must have dozed off in spite of all this. It wasn't meant to last, however. At 3 A.M., I was rudely awakened by a giant, bald black dude shaking my arm and yelling at me, with his face about six inches from mine. "MY NAME IS RANDOLPH AND I'M GOING TO TAKE YOUR BLOOD!" Just like that, a single string of 100 decibel words, in a complete monotone. You could tell he was used to taking blood from old deaf people.
"What? Why? You need more blood? They just took it," I said, groggily.
"MY NAME IS RANDOLPH AND I'M GOING TO TAKE YOUR BLOOD!" he repeated, which cleared things up completely.
"You don't have to yell, I'm not deaf." He didn't say anything in response, but at least he didn't tell me his name and mission again. Instead, he just held my arm down, jabbed me with a needle, filled up a couple vials, then left. I never saw him again. In retrospect, I'm not even sure he worked for the hospital. At that point, I was so tired, I didn't care what he did. He could have cut my wrist open and drained it into a bucket and told me he was letting the evil spirits out, and I wouldn't have given a shit. At least he didn't come in and say, "MY NAME IS RANDOLPH AND I'M HERE TO GIVE YOU A SWALLOW TEST!" Thank god for small favors.
I woke up pretty early, after grabbing a couple hours of sleep in the reclining chair. The bed had defeated me sometime shortly after my three A.M. rendezvous with Randy. Around four A.M. I had just unplugged the fucking thing because I couldn't stand listening to it any longer. It deflated sadly one last time and I moved to the recliner and didn't look back.
By the time 9 A.M rolled around, I was really, really hungry. Luckily my wife showed up shortly after with a couple of danishes and a cup of coffee. I was still officially waiting for a swallow test, so they said the weren't going to give me any breakfast. I ate the danishes and awaited the rest of my probing.
While we waited, they brought breakfast around. Even Old Walter got some breakfast, but we didn't think he liked it. The curtain was drawn so we couldn't see what was going on but from what we could gather, they were trying to feed him, and he was having none of it. It was then that it hit me. I finally realized why Old Walter's grunting and groaning and hissing sounded so familiar. Behind the curtain, there was a poor old guy whose health issues made me feel really bad for him and his family. I wouldn't wish his poor health on my worst enemy. But when you couldn't actually see him, what you pictured was this:
Old Walter was a Walker. And he was strapped down and pissed. I leaned over to my wife and said, "Walter sounds exactly
like a walker," and from then on, we couldn't keep a straight face.
The nurse said, "Walter, honey, you have to eat your peaches. Don't just move them around in your mouth. Swallow them!" and Walter would hiss and gargle and spit his food and I immediately leaned over to my wife and whispered, "You can't teach a zombie to eat peaches. No way. Complete waste of time."
At one point, Walter got a little feisty and he bit down on his spoon and started hissing like a cat.
"Walter! Let go of the spoon!" one of the nurses said.
"He won't let go of it until you stop trying to feed him peaches," someone else said.
Watch your fingers,
I thought. Don't get too close.
I'm going to burn in hell, I know. But at that point, I wasn't sure what the hell was wrong with me, and I tend to alleviate stress with dark humor in a situation like that.
Shortly before 11 A.M. they came and got me and took me down for the ultrasound of my neck arteries. That was relatively quick, and I was back in my room inside of an hour. Old Walter's visitors were gone, and the nurses who had been trying to feed him peaches he didn't want were gone too, so other than the random beeping of Walter lying on his IV again, all was quiet.
We were waiting for the echo when the neurologist came in, and gave us the news. "We didn't find anything," he said. "All your tests appeared normal, and at this point we think your original diagnosis was correct and you had a migraine. Sometimes aphasia can happen with a migraine, but it's better to be sure it wasn't something more serious, since as far as you know, this never happened before. I still want you to have the echocardiogram, but you can schedule that somewhere else and just send the results to your primary GP. I do want you to take a baby aspirin a day, though, because people with migraines have a slightly elevated risk of strokes. Just a preventative measure. I'll put in the paperwork and get you discharged ASAP."
And with that, he shook my hand and was gone. ASAP wasn't all that quick, and it took another three hours of ineptness before they finally cleared me for takeoff, but that was it. I walked out of there a free man. Sure, I had more than my share of radiation, and I knew that all those tests were going to cost me, but at least I knew my headache was just a headache. I'm sure you've all seen the video of the CBS reporter Serene Branson -- but here's a good summary
if you want to know more about this weirdness.
So it cost $27,543.00 to get a bottle of baby aspirin. Worth it? Who knows. My wife thinks yes. I'm still on the fence.
P.S. - If I'm ever talking to you and I sheetrock candlewax, just know that I spandex orangutang.*Kind of the same thing that happens if you stare at Nancy Pelosi for more than 30 seconds. That may be total BS, but on the other hand, the vision thing might be the first symptom of turning to stone, so I haven't been willing to chance it. Also kids, don't do that shit. It can't be good for your eyeballs.
** A good drinking game is to watch an episode of House and drink a fifth of scotch every time someone says "Sarcoidosis." OK, maybe it's not a great drinking game, but you'll still get drunk. Another version is to watch Bones and drink whenever someone says "phalanges," or if you really want to get drunk fast, watch Law & Order and drink every time someone says "unsub."
For those who don't know, I have a little short story out on Amazon right now.
This is some quick background on it, written by my friend Mark, who happens to be a brilliant photographer. He uses film and develops it himself and makes his own prints for god's sake. Check out some of his stuff while you're over there.
Tell him Johnny sent ya.
The More You Know.
Did you hear about the two geniuses who tasered a guy and stole a Stradivarius violin worth five million dollars and then stuck it in a suitcase and hid it in a friend's attic?
First off, WTF were these guys thinking? Did they think they were going to just walk into Rudy's Pawn Shop and Paycheck Loans and walk out with a few million in loose 20's?
Secondly, if you were convicted in 2000 and did five years in prison because you stole a sculpture worth twenty-five grand back in 1995 and got caught because you tried to sell it back to the guy you stole it from, you might be looking for a new partner. A smarter partner. Dare I say, a partner with some Knowledge?
And really, if you're going to partner up with someone like that, you'd probably feel pretty safe going with a guy named Universal Knowledge Allah, am I right? I mean, the dude has got to know what he's doing when it comes to, well, just about everything, having such a humble yet descriptive moniker.
But unfortunately for both of them, Universal Knowledge Allah did not live up to his name, and while the plan to steal the violin actually worked, the plan to stay out of jail after the fact did not.
Just goes to show you that sometimes a little Knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
I'm sorry. That was horrible. Try the veal.
Robins and other junk.
Coffee conversation with Yort today:
Yort: "There's a new animated Batman coming out soon. They're not using Conroy, I have no idea why. They keep trying out new voices."
Me: "That's stupid. He's the perfect Batman voice."
Yort: "I know. Oh, and I guess there's a new Robin. Supposedly he's the son of Batman and Ra's al Ghul's daughter."
Me: "What? Ra's al Ghul's daughter and Batman had a Robin? I didn’t even know they were a thing."
Yort: "Yeah, It's gotten crazy lately. But on the other hand, most people don’t even know there was more than one Robin."
Me: "More than one? There’s been like, a half dozen. Robins are like Lassie. When one dies, they get another one that looks just like him."
Yort: "Right, they get hit by cars, or when they get old, he just puts them to sleep."
Me: "Poor old Robin. He was fine until he got around other Robins, and then he got mean, so we had to put him down. I’d rather he just put them out to pasture. I can totally see a flock of Robins just running through the fields, capes flapping...it's nice. Peaceful."
I'm not sure if it's comforting or scary that our conversations are still like that after 20 years.
In other news, I showed the UPS guy my junk tonight. Well, it's not like I answered the door naked, but we have a psycho cat that can hear someone peeing from a thousand yards away, no matter what else is going on. The music could be blaring, my wife could be vacuuming, the cat could be downstairs in the basement, it doesn't matter. As soon as pee stream hits water, the goddamn cat is right outside the door meowing like it's his job. Allow me to translate: "OH MY GOD! LET ME IN! I'M DYING OUT HERE! SOMEONE IS PEEING AND I AM NOT WITNESSING THIS MIRACLE! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING! OH CHRIST, OH CHRIST, THEY'RE ALMOST DONE! I'M MISSING IT! I'M MISSSSIINNNNNNNNG IT!" and the whole time, he's bouncing off the door, reaching under it with his paws, trying to gain admission to what he apparently considers The Wonderful World Of Pee. It's completely ridiculous.
So tonight, I went in there to do my business and as soon as I started peeing the cat starts banging up against the door and meowing like someone is sticking a hot fork up his ass. I must not have closed the door tightly because the next thing I know it's swinging wide open and the cat is in. Unfortunately for me, and most definitely unfortunately for the UPS guy, when the door is wide open, it faces the window on the front of the house. I look up to yell at the cat and I see headlights, and then the silhouette of someone walking toward the front steps. And I'm just standing there with my dingus hanging out, peeing, while the cat goes crazy around my feet. A second later, the doorbell starts ringing.
Luckily, I didn't have to sign for anything and so when I didn't answer, the driver dropped the package on the porch and got back in his truck and drove away before there could be any awkwardness. Or rather, any more awkwardness. Because once your UPS guy sees you pee, I'm pretty sure you can't go back to the way things were.
Grease me up, woman!
You know what's bad? When you're washing machine drains and all the water floods backward in the pipes and starts coming up in your kitchen sink drain. You know what's worse? When this water contains black hunks of rancid food and grease that smells like a dead rhinoceros and quite probably dates back to the early 1990's. I swear to god, one chunk of grease had a mullet and was wearing a Member's Only jacket.
So that's what I walked into when I agreed to take a look at my wife's grandfather's plumbing issue. His major complaints were: (1) His sink took ten minutes to drain. (2) He couldn't do a load of wash on anything but the lowest water setting. Anything else would cause the sink to overflow. Even on low, it still came up to the point where the only thing keeping it in the sink was surface tension and stink.
At first I thought he just had a minor plug. I filled up the washing machine, then gave my wife two drinking glasses. I put a wet paper towel down over each drain in the sink then had her stick the glasses over each drain. "Just hold them there," I said. "Press down as hard as you can. I'm going to use the back pressure from the washing machine pump to blow out the clog."
I put the washing machine on the drain cycle and the water started going down. An instant later, my wife says, "It's coming up! It's coming up! Oh my God, it's so gross!"
"Hold the glasses down!" I yelled, as I looked behind the washing machine to make sure the hose going into the drain pipe wasn't spraying water or leaking. It was still in there tight, so I turned back to the sink to help her. At the point where the water reached the top of the drinking glasses, she had given up and let go, preferring to have a flooded kitchen versus being up to her elbows in soupy, horrible smelling sludge. Luckily there was a plastic pitcher nearby so I started bailing and running for the door, throwing the rancid water outside, narrowly avoiding a spill-over.
I really have no good way to describe how bad this water smelled. I would rather be dipped in raw sewage than whatever this was coming up out of the drain. That's how bad it was. It coated the back of your nose and throat and stayed there like a film, and even chewing gum couldn't get rid of it. You wanted to wash your mouth out with boiling water.
So Plan #1 didn't work. Score so far: Clog - 1, Me - 0, My wife - fouled out of the game.
At that point her grandfather piped up and said, "Frank tried to snake that drain yesterday and he also put Drano down there and he didn't have any luck." That, as they say, would have been good info to have going in.
To give you a better idea of the fuckedupedness of this entire plumbing set up, let me take a little timeout to tell you about plumbing jobs that are done by "a guy I know." This guy, who is apparently the official contractor of every old Italian in New York, works really cheap. Sometimes, he even works for beer, or for wine, or because you're Jimmy's cousin and he owes Jimmy a favor. So the conversations usually go like this:
"I need a new roof on my house," one Italian will say in passing to another Italian. "I called a roofer, and he gave me a price of $12,000."
"That's crazy!" the other Italian will say. "Let me call I guy I know."
Now, even though "a guy I know" will know jackshit about roofing, and his sole claim to roofing expertise is having once watched an episode of This Old House where they gave a quick review of a shingle install, he will gladly give you a price. He will use child labor and cousin labor and maybe even homeless and/or illegal alien labor, but he will come up with a price closer to $5,000. Assuming, of course, that you pay him in cash and give him $2,500 up front for supplies. Apparently, $2,500 is the standard amount in a case like this, because over time it has been established as the maximum amount of money that any Italian over the age of 60 will just hand over to any other Italian, no questions asked, on simply a handshake and a promise.
So what he ended up with was this: A guy he knows installed a PVC drain pipe with a 1.5" inside diameter that ran directly from under the sink and into the wall, took a 90 degree left turn inside the wall, ran about 12 feet to the washing machine, then continued on roughly 30 feet to the other side of the room, took a 90-degree downward turn, then another 90-degree right-hand turn into the basement, then ran another 30 feet along the basement ceiling to a vertical pipe in the basement which led to the sewer pipe. So approximately 60 feet of 1.5" PVC pipe that had a drop of about 12" over its entire length, which means (for the non mathematically inclined among you) that it was practically level -- which is definitely not conducive to drainage of any sort.
I was done for the day. I thought about calling RotoRooter, but from looking up prices on the Internet, I knew they were going to charge a fortune and then tell him that the whole thing should be redone. They'd be right, of course, but I figured I could rent a power snake and at least get a few more years out of it. I had a vacation day the next day, so I went home and regrouped. The first thing I did was call Lowes and try to line up a snake rental for the next day, but it turns out they are first come, first serve. The second thing I did was call my wife's brother, Chuck, and get him to agree to help me do this thing. Then I collected my tools, my respirator (I was not breathing that shit again), my rubber gauntlet gloves and some work clothes, and put them all in a bag. I knew this was going to get messy. I even told Chuck to wear old clothes and be prepared. He said he'd meet me at Lowes the next day at 8:00am and we'd pick up the rental snake and any other plumbing supplies we needed.
The next day we met up at the store and, after looking at all the equipment, decided to get the 50 ft hand-powered snake, because the guy at the rental place told us that the electric power snake was more for 3-4" pipe and would "tear up one and a half inch PVC like an angry beaver," and as far as I know, nobody wants an angry beaver. A broken drain pipe inside the wall would mean major repairs, so I was all about avoiding that. And also, angry beavers. We figured we could go easy with the manually cranked snake, and do it from both ends of the pipe and in that way clear any clogs in between. We carried the snake out to the car, tossed it in the back of his pickup truck and drove over to his grandfather's house.
We were working in close quarters, and there wasn't much room under the sink, so I volunteered to feed the snake while he cranked. I disconnected the drain and fed the head of the snake into the pipe, and slowly, over the next twenty minutes or so, we fed the entire 50 feet into the pipe, turning it constantly to try to chew through the clog. We hit resistance a few times, and we weren't really sure if it was because we hit a clog or we were going around the corners, but everything seemed OK.
Then it was time to take it back out. He reversed the crank and I started pulling it back, but something was wrong. It was coming out, yes, but it felt..strange. Sluggish. Thick. You know how when you buy that 100% natural peanut butter, and you have to stir it with a fork in order to mix the oil and the peanuts and it makes that noise like a dog licking its balls? It was like that. Like I was pulling a rope through a jar of cold Vaseline, or rescuing someone from quicksand. It wasn't too bad at first, and I had a towel to wipe away any sludge that came back with the snake, but then the smell hit me, even through the respirator. I looked over at Chuck and he had his face turned away, and he was making this "urk, urk" dry-heaving sound. "Jesus, that stinks," he said, stating the obvious. I didn't want to laugh because laughing breaks the seal on the respirator, but the look on his face was too much. Finally, we had the snake all the way back on its spool. I took the towel filled with toxic waste and handed it to Chuck, who had forgotten his gloves. He took it reluctantly, like I was handing him a dead raccoon, and then I reassembled the drain.
"Should we try it?" he asked, "Or should we go down in the basement and snake it from that side too first?"
"Yeah, let's run some hot water through it and see if the sink drains any better," I said. So we ran the faucet, and at first it looked good. Then after a minute or so, the sink slowly started to back up. I turned it off again, and over the next few minutes the sink drained again. So wherever the clog was, we felt certain it wasn't in the first half of the pipe. We went down into the basement to check out the rest of the pipe. It was fastened to the wall in two places, and looked like this:
The pipe was literally sagging in between the brackets holding it up. The Christmas garland my wife hung on our porch railing didn't hang as low as this pipe was hanging. Hell, her grandfather's balls probably weren't hanging as low as this pipe was hanging, and he's 94 years old. It was heavy
with water. Pregnant
with water. I grabbed onto a section of it and wiggled it, and it was like trying to move a full fire hose. Clearly, this meant the clog had to be in this section, probably in the last six feet, near the vertical drop.
"Maybe we should cut it," I said, cautiously. Chuck agreed, and I stood on a chair with my power saw, and started cutting, prepared for the worst. I wasn't prepared for what actually happened, which was absolutely nothing. I cut through the pipe and only a tiny trickle of water came out. We had an industrial mop bucket on wheels -- one of those big yellow bastards. We had positioned it under the pipe just in case, but we barely needed it. I pulled the pipe away from the wall and grabbed a flashlight to look inside. It looked like one of Marlon Brando's arteries in there. Almost the entire circumference of the pipe was packed full of rancid grease, with just a tiny, 1/2" opening in the center for the water to move through. That's why it was taking so long to drain, and why the washing machine was backing up into the sink. There wasn't enough room in there for the volume of water it was trying to push through it. Now we had to decide our next move. Chuck said, "Put the washing machine on for a few seconds, and I'll tell you if anything comes out. That'll tell us if the plug is upstream or downstream from here. I'll just make sure anything that comes out goes into the mop bucket." I went upstairs to the washing machine and put it in the fill cycle. When it was full, I moved it to the drain cycle and yelled, "READY?"
"GO AHEAD!" Chuck yelled back, and I pulled the knob and let it drain for a couple of seconds, then pushed it back in again. "ANYTHING?" I yelled. "NOPE, NOTHING YET!" came the reply. I did it again, this time for five or six seconds. "HOW BOUT NOW?" "NOPE, STILL NOTHING!"
I walked back down to the basement. I didn't have a good feeling about this. I had visions of the snake pushing one of the PVC pipe joints apart. "Did we break the pipe?" I asked Chuck. "Are we pumping water into the wall cavity somewhere?" He looked a little sick. "Jeez, I hope not," he said. "Don't tell Papa, he'll go nuts." We stood there for a few more minutes, watching the pipe drip into the bucket, thinking. Mostly about where we could find a plumber and sheetrock guy on such short notice.
"OK, I'm going to go back upstairs and let it run for a few more seconds," I said. I didn't know what that would accomplish, but I figured if we were pumping water into the wall somewhere, we would have to pump enough of it to figure out where the break was in order to repair it. I went back upstairs to the washing machine and I pulled out the knob again, and this time I let it run for almost 20 seconds, which basically drained the basin and started the spin cycle. I turned it off again and headed toward the basement stairs. When I got about half way there, I heard Chuck screaming, "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF! OH MY GOD!" and I ran down the stairs just in time to hear a sound I hope I never have to hear again. Remember when you were in grade school and someone puked? This was almost identical to the sound vomit makes when it hits the floor, except it was ten times louder and seemed to go on forever.
I got to the bottom of the stairs just in time to see Chuck give the mop bucket a kick in the general direction of the pipe and dive away as gallons of something with the consistency of watery oatmeal mixed with curdled milk poured out of the pipe and onto the floor, coating the bucket and everything within four feet of the wall in a thick coating of greasy, nasty, half-liquid paste. He was gagging again, and still trying to tell me to turn it off.
"It IS off!" I told him through my respirator as he dry-heaved and chuffed like a cat about ready to gack up the world's largest hairball. The smell was overwhelming, and we rushed to open the basement windows as the horrible grey gruel finally trickled to a stop.
There's a full gallon of water in 10 feet of 1.5" pipe. I did the math. Or rather, I Googled it and someone on Ask.com did the math. That's roughly six gallons of putrid nastiness that we had just blasted all over the floor of the basement. We were trying not to step in it, because not only did it stink to high heaven, it was also a death trap because it was so slippery.
"We need to replace that entire section of pipe," Chuck said his voice muffled on account of his face being buried in the crook of his arm. He pointed at the rest of what was hanging from the wall. "Maybe we can cut it off and feed it through the basement window." That seemed like a pretty good idea, so I grabbed my saw and chopped into the pipe over at the other end, by the vertical section it tied into. I quickly stuffed a rag into my end as he did the same to his, and we disconnected it from the wall. It was so heavy it took both of us to lift it and get it through the window. It was basically a 30 foot long tube of grease. He went outside and started pulling on it as I pushed from inside. When it was finally out, I came upstairs and we sent my wife to the auto parts store for some oil spill absorbent. That was the only thing that even had a shot of cleaning up the mess. We were going to go buy another section of pipe but we figured we could try to clean this one out first. We started by running the hose into the end, trying to let the water do its thing, but that didn't work. All it did was shoot gruel out of the end like some kind of white diarrhea, but it wasn't touching the grease caked on the walls.
I had an idea. "Let's use the hose itself. I'll tie a rag around the end, and I'll push it through and the rag should scrape the sides clean while the water pushes the crap out." It sounded good, so we gave it a shot. I tied a rag tightly around the hose so no water could come back toward me and started jamming the hose into the pipe.
Chuck was holding onto the other end, trying to make sure the gunk that came out was evenly dispersed across the lawn, so his grandfather wouldn't notice it. I couldn't help but laugh when the pipe started disgorging its disgusting contents. At first it came out like a four-foot-long sausage made of cottage-cheese, and then it sputtered and started vomiting chunks of what looked like hammered up bars of ivory soap onto the lawn. Yeah, that won't be noticeable
, I thought. You could see it from space.
Chuck was making that "urk, urk" sound again, because even though we were outside, the stench was fearsome. Pretty soon we were both laughing our asses off even as our eyes watered, wondering how the hell it had come to this. After I pulled the hose back out, we were trying to figure out how to tell if the pipe was clean enough to reuse. The hose was also now coated in a thick, greasy slime. One problem at a time, as they say.
Chuck said, "How about if you hold your end up to the sun and I look through it on my end and see if I can see through it?"Did I just hear that?
I thought. He didn't seriously suggest that, did he?
I started to say something, but then I just couldn't. I had to let this one play out.
"OK," I said, not trusting myself to say anything else.
We picked up the pipe and I held my end up over my head, trying to point it in the general direction of the sun, and also trying not to laugh. Chuck put his end up to his eye, and I think he realized what was about to happen a split second before it was too late. He was quick enough to not get it directly in the face, but the chunky oatmeal poured out of the end and hit him full in the chest. He dropped the pipe on the ground, looked down in disgust at his oozing sweatshirt, looked up at me and said, "That was pretty stupid."
After that, it was all over but the clean up. We went back into the basement to spread the oil absorber all over everything we could get to. We used a couple of rubber couplers to reconnect the pipe, after cutting about 16 inches off the vertical part so at least we could get proper pitch to the section of pipe we had access to. Then we tested it out. The sink drain worked perfectly, and even the washing machine worked without backing up into the sink, although it still made sounds like a large wild animal puking.
I swear, I couldn't get that smell out of my nose for a week. Next time, I'm calling a plumber. No matter what it costs, it'll be worth it. I once joked about starting a plumbing company
with my buddy Yort and calling it, "Everything But Poop, Inc."
As of today, I'm totally adding grease to that list.
Would you like garden fresh, non-gmo Pomme Frites sautéed in fair-trade olive oil with that?
I guess I don't really enjoy the leisure time activity of "going out to dinner." I know, that's weird, and most people love to linger over a great meal, especially if it's with great company. I'm down with the company part, and I love my friends, but I can't sit still for that long. There's just something I dislike about being elbow to elbow with a bunch of other diners, pretending to not listen to their conversations while they pretend to not listen to mine. Especially while my ass is slowly going numb from the uncomfortable chair I'm sitting in. I hate the waiting, most of all. Waiting for the waitress to bring the drinks. Waiting for her to bring the food, waiting for her to bring the check. It's pretty sad, but most of the restaurants I eat in make you pay for meal before you eat, and I realize that says more about me than anything else.
Anyway, that said, I always have a little bit of trepidation when we're invited out to dinner, especially if it's to a really nice place. I guess I don't get enough value out of an expensive meal to avoid thinking about all of the other things I could do with the money, like buying something I actually need and won't be shitting out in 24 hours. Honestly, I'm just a hick with a college degree. I have one suit for wedding and funerals, I don't like classical music or opera, and I think art that doesn't look like something is a ridiculous concept. All this to say that eating is generally something I do so I don't fall down and die, and that's about it.
Everything I've written so far is really just to lay the groundwork for what's to follow. Not too long ago, we met our friends in NYC, and we all decided to have dinner at this particular restaurant they wanted to try. We said yes not because we love trying new restaurants, but because we love these guys and we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. If they had asked us to go eat corn dogs out of a dumpster with them, we probably would have said yes. There is one little detail that makes picking a place to eat more interesting, however. They're vegetarians. We're not. And since it was their pick, it was kind of a given that we were going to be dining at a vegetarian restaurant.
I am fine with that. I have nothing against vegetables, in fact some of my best friends are vegetables. I eat very little red meat as it is, so the fact that we most definitely were not headed for a steak house didn't break my heart. I applaud them for their choice, and I'm sure they'll both outlive me, but I could never do it. I eat quite a bit of poultry and a lot of egg whites, so going hardcore no-milk, no-meat, no-cheese would be difficult for me. I wasn't worried, though, and I was sure I could find something on the menu that I could eat, and probably even enjoy.
We met up in the city and walked around for a bit and when it got close to dinner time, we headed toward the restaurant. As we were walking, M told us about it. "It's Korean vegetarian, and it's supposed to be great," she said. "All organic and very healthy." I am a fan of stir fry, I thought. See what a rube I am? I think all Koreans eat nothing but stir fry.
When we were about a half a block away from the place, she said, "Oh, by the way, this is a shoes-off restaurant." Ha-ha, I thought, that's a good one. A shoes-off restaurant. I seriously thought she was joking, because never once in my entire life have I taken my shoes off in a restaurant. Not even that one time I stepped in dog shit in the parking lot of Applebee's.
She was not joking. We walked into the restaurant, and the entire left wall behind the register consisted of nothing but cubbyholes filled with shoes. I'm pretty sure this place used to be a bowling alley. We all sat down on the edge of the single stair leading up into the dining area and took off our shoes. I have to say, there's nothing like walking around in NYC all day and then sitting down and taking off your shoes in an enclosed area with a hundred other people. I was a little self-conscious to say the least. But then I realized that the whole place smelled like garlic anyway, so what the hell. Off came the shoes. I started to take my socks off too, but then realized nobody else was, so I pulled them back up. Close one. When I was younger, I took karate lessons for a year or two in a dojo that backed up against a pizza place. It smelled kind of like that, but with less B.O.
The place itself was so dark I had to wonder what they were trying to hide. It turns out it's all just part of their plan to give you a "total dining experience that brings harmony to the body and mind." Besides the candles at every table, there wasn't much else in the way of light. A few dim overheads and that's about it. I bet they save a fortune on their electric bill. I glanced into the dining room and saw that the tables were about twelve inches off the ground and everyone was sitting on the floor on little mats. Great, I thought. My ass, legs and my back will be aching by the end of this meal. But then I reconsidered because really, most of my meals are eaten sitting on the floor with my food on the coffee table while watching reruns of Seinfeld anyway, so how bad could it be?
Our hostess brought us back to our table and that's when I got my first surprise. The people actually weren't sitting on the floor in some Baddha Konasana Yoga pose for three hours while they ate. Instead, the tables were put in square holes in the floor, and you sat on the edge of the hole with your legs dangling under the table. So there's another thing I've never done -- sat in a hole to eat. Of course, all I could think about was how difficult it would be to clean those Korean sittin' holes, and so I avoided moving my feet too much because I didn't want to inadvertently step in any old dropped food. It turns out that was the least of my worries.
When the waitress showed up and took our drink order, most everyone ordered Sake, but I had a little too much fun the night before so I was not in the mood for hot rice wine. Instead, I ordered an iced tea. The waitress brought out the sake and my iced tea, and put them down in front of us. Then she took my iced tea, which was in a perfectly serviceable drinking glass, dumped it into a bowl, and then put it in front of me. I looked at it in confusion, wondering if I was supposed to just go full German Shepherd on it, or wait for a straw or a spoon or something. I don't know the Korean way. She just smiled, bowed slightly and walked away. Finally, I awkwardly picked up the bowl in both hands and took a tentative sip, trying not to spill it into my sittin' hole. I must have looked as ridiculous as I felt because my wife just shook her head and tried not to laugh.
We perused the menu and I found something with the exotic and fairly non-specific name of "vegetable and mushroom wrap" that didn't sound too bad. When the waitress returned, everyone placed their orders for appetizers and main course. I order the Vegetarian Dumpling soup as my appetizer. We hadn't even been sitting for 20 minutes and my back was already killing me, mostly because I'm afflicted with drummer posture, and sitting on the edge of this hole with no back support was just like sitting on a drum stool, so I fell into it naturally. The bad posture, not the hole. It took a while for our food to arrive, presumably because the chef was outside somewhere hunting all the wild vegetables required, so we had plenty of time to chat and catch up. Luckily the people sitting back-to-back with us were speaking what I think was probably Korean, so I didn't find myself inadvertently listening to their conversation, which was most likely about the idiot white boy behind them drinking his iced tea from a bowl.
It turns out that Vegetable Dumpling soup was just that. Dumpling, singular. It was very tasty, but in my opinion, the only time a single swallow of anything is worth ten bucks is when it's been aged in a oak cask for 20 years.
When the food arrived, everyone got their meal immediately except for me. And that's not to say mine didn't come out with the rest; it did. But mine apparently had to be built on-site. With chopsticks. The waitress had a bunch of piles of random stuff spread out and proceeded to make my vegetable and mushroom wraps right there on the tray she had carried the food out on. Everyone else waited politely for her to finish, but after the first minute or so I told them not to wait any longer because it looked like maybe the construction wasn't going as planned and it was time to call the building inspector and shut the whole project down. They were having none of it though, so they waited. Finally, she managed to build all three wraps and get them more or less together and serve them to me. I thanked her politely, and everyone started eating.
Except for me, that is. I had wraps. I had chopsticks. i was confused and unsure. Was I supposed to use the chopsticks or just pick the things up with my fingers? Luckily they were fairly small wraps and I'm pretty good with the nunchuks, so that deadly talent transferred well to the chopsticks, which also sound deadly but really aren't. CHOP! STICK! HYAH! Right? No? It's just me? OK. Anyway, I stabbed one of the wraps with a chopstick to hold it still while I sort of lifted it up and bent my head forward and took an experimental bite. It was really good, in an uncooked spring roll kind of way. The wrap was a little doughy by design, being steamed and all, but the dipping sauce was amazing. Each one was about the size of a White Castle slider, and because I eat like a pig without taking a breath, my main course was gone in about four minutes. If I hadn't decided to dick around with the chopsticks instead of using my hands, it would have been under two. I was done, and everyone else was still plugging along. My wife hadn't even started eating her meal yet because it was so hot. Whatever concoction she had ordered was sitting in front of her in what appeared to be an actual dog bowl. It had a wooden base with a hole in the top, and resting in the hole was a sizzling stone bowl full of rice n' things. I could feel the heat coming off of it in waves. I still don't know if she was supposed to eat it or if maybe I was supposed to roast my doughy wrap over it like it was a campfire.
After a little while, my second bowl of iced tea started working on my bladder, so I decided to hit the bathroom. It was then that I realized I was about to walk into a NYC bathroom -- in my socks. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't picture a urinal, guys drunk on sake, and socks mixing in any way that could possibly be good. Would I be walking in piss puddles while my 100% cotton, highly absorbent gym socks (I am nothing if not fashionable) worked as designed? I thought I might be.
But no, this restaurant had thought of everything. The bathroom was a single room with a toilet and a sink, and is another thing I hate about restaurants in NYC. Aren't there regulations that require a certain number of shitters based upon total occupancy? I'm just saying that serving spicy, high-fiber food to 100 people and having only one toilet seems like it would be a recipe for disaster. I've been in that situation and it's not fun. There's nothing quite like frantically banging on the bathroom door while you're clenching your sphincter to keep the turtle from poking out. Conversely, sitting on the only pot while someone bangs on the door and screams at you to hurry up is also a ton of laughs. Neither of these would probably count as an experience that "brings harmony to the body and mind."
To avoid having people walk into a piss puddle with their socks on, they provided a pair of communal slippers outside the door. So what you had to do was put on a pair of slippers that roughly ten thousand people before you had slipped their disgusting feet into, and then go into the bathroom, where you can stand in front of a urinal and splatter piss on them. When I got to the door, I could see that the slippers were missing, so that meant the room was occupied. I waited for a few minutes, and finally a guy shuffled out of the bathroom and kicked off the slippers. You know that uneasy feeling when you sit on a public toilet seat and realize that it's still warm? Kinda gross, right? Well, it's even worse when you have to put your feet into warm slippers before that happens. I slid my feet into the slippers and could instantly feel the Korean foot fungus migrating through my socks and attacking the flesh between my toes like it was the Han river offensive. Luckily, I was able to get rid of my iced tea before any door banging began. I did, however, have to pass off the slippers to another poor bastard when I came out of the bathroom. I wished him good luck and headed back to the sittin' hole.
I got back just in time for dessert. We were all pretty full, so we had ordered the little sampler platter. I'm not sure what I ate, but it was pretty good for gluten-free, dairy-free, free-range something-or-other. After we were finished and took care of the check, we hit the road toward Franklin Lakes, and I counted my blessings.
All in all, it was an interesting experience for this country hick, but I was very glad to put my hiking boots back on.
Next time, I'm just eating corn dogs out of the dumpster.
Kindle Countdown special!
I'm trying a little something new that Kindle is offering called the Kindle Countdown Special. For the next four days, my book is only 99 cents. So far it's doing pretty well -- up to #30 in the Humor/Essays category.
I know most of you probably already have it, but I figured I'd just put up a short post about it anyway, just in case you know someone who might enjoy it. I'm not on call this week, so I should have a new post up by the weekend.
Thanks for reading! And happy belated Halloween. (I'm the one on the left.)
It was supposed to be easy. We were supposed to jump on a train in Albany, and 2.5 hours later, if all went well, we'd have popped out in Penn Station in NYC and our friend Doug would have driven up to the entrance, we'd have opened the car door, tossed in our bags and escaped to Brooklyn for the weekend. Then on Sunday night, he'd have dropped us off at the train station and in a few hours we'd have been back home. I love simple plans.
Then my wife decided it would be fun if we met a completely different set of friends in NYC Sunday night for dinner and then caught a ride back to their place in Jersey and hung out with them all day on Monday. This complicated things, and now our simple plan involved a three hour drive, bumming a ride to the train station, a 45 minute train ride to another train station, and a transfer to a metro train that eventually got us to Penn station after stopping every 15 feet along the way. I know that sounds ridiculously simple to most of you, but I'm just a hick from upstate NY, and I don't understand your complicated mass transit ways. I'm about a four hour drive from the Manhattan, and that's about as close as I like to get.
Overall, it went well. We made it to Franklin Lakes in record time, parked our car in my buddy Pete's parent's driveway and his mom drove us to the train station. My wife sat in the front and I sat in the back and that was a mistake. That's because my wife likes to talk. And Pete's mom likes to talk. And unfortunately they're both Italian -- which means they can only talk by looking directly at each other and gesturing wildly with both hands to properly punctuate each point they are making. After the first few miles I just ducked my head down and closed my eyes and decided that if it was my time, it was my time. If I ended up hanging upside down by my seatbelt inside of a crushed SUV listening to Barry Manilow songs while my lifeblood ran into the storm drain, then so be it. Finally, with a little more grey in my hair and a little more pee in my undies, we arrived safely at the train station.
We jumped out of the car, grabbed our bags, thanked Pete's mom and watched her drive away. It was then that we noticed the complete and utter lack of activity. After tugging on a few doors that were quite obviously locked, we realized the train station was closed. No ticket window, no bathroom, no advice.
This resulted in my wife and I asking each other a lot of questions that neither of us had answers to. Do we just buy tickets on the train? Which train do we get on? Is there a schedule? Is that a bus map or a train map? Are we supposed to be on the other side of the tracks with those other people? Why the hell did I wear my coat? Where can I pee? I'm sweating my balls off. OK, that last bit wasn't a question and to clarify, it was me, not her, but I did feel pretty ridiculous since it had been close to 40 degrees when I left my house and right then it was probably 80 in the shade and I was wearing a coat. Finally, right before I resorted to walking up to some stranger and admitting my complete ignorance, I saw the ticket machine. Like most kiosks these days, it was a touch screen, and over the course of its life, it had been soundly touched - maybe even bad-touched. The fingerprints on the screen were so thick I could have scraped them off with a putty knife. I poked and prodded the disgusting screen, fed it my credit card and out popped two one-way tickets to THE CITY. My THE CITY. (You have to say that in a big, booming voice like The Tick for it to properly convey my elation at finally finding the giant blue ticket machine that had been hiding in plain sight.)
I made a mental note reminding myself not to touch my eye with that fouled finger, then I climbed back onto the platform to wait with my wife. She was sitting a bench away from a younger woman wearing leggings as pants and holding a phablet to one side of her head, one earbud dangling and the other still jacked in. By the way, please send her your prayers because her dad was in the hospital after having his gall bladder out, and for some reason he gained over eight pounds inside of a week and so they had to bring him back in and that's when they found out that his stomach cavity was filled with blood and it had been pooling in there for some time. They aren't sure, but they thought maybe the sutures were leaking and since he's a hemophiliac, it just kept bleeding. He's not in the greatest shape to begin with because of the diabetes, but they're hoping that after this he will be good to go. She wasn't feeling too good about the trip because she had cramps due to it being her time of the month, and she really had to pee but the station was closed. She said she was waiting for the train to The City so I figured we were on the right track. Pun intended. The things you learn sitting ten feet from complete strangers who are on the phone and don't realize how loud they're talking.
Eventually, a train came and the mechanical voice on the PA said something about Hoboken, which we figured was probably in the right direction at least. Plus, our girl stood up, so we knew we were golden. We hopped on, and 45 minutes later we were in someplace called Sacaucus Junction. I know that sounds like a dusty, one horse town out of a bad western where you should be able to belly up to the bar in the local saloon and order a shot of rot gut in a dirty glass, but it's nothing like that. We ended up running through the station because our train was late getting in and we had about three minutes to catch the connecting train, but we made it. Barely. The train whooshed in, the doors opened, we jumped on and literally took one step inside and could go no farther. It was standing room only, and calling it that is being generous. I was leaning against a wall of dangerous looking red and green buttons, and my wife was half hanging out the door when it hissed shut an inch behind her and the train started moving. I grabbed a pole, making sure I did so with my touchscreen-poking hand, and we picked up speed.
It was then that I noticed him.* The medieval warrior wearing the tunic, jerkin, gauntlets and cloak. You know, that guy you always see on the train, standing next to you holding a battle shield made out of tinfoil, old mountain dew cans and masking tape covered with spray paint. He looked about 20 or 25, give or take, and stood maybe five-foot five. He had nerd glasses, a hipster haircut, a wispy beard, and seemed to be working on developing a decidedly un-warrior-like set of moobs. But hey, at least his outfit made me feel better about my stupid coat. The connecting door between the cars was stuck open because of the crowd, and it was sort of nauseating to watch the other people across the gap move up and down and sideways like they were in the world's most indecisive elevator. The micro-warrior kept saying things like "It's a portal to another dimension! Arm yourselves! You know not what may appear!" but the only thing I saw over there were a lot of alien beings who looked very similar to us who seemed to be peering into our dimension and wondering if we had any more like him on our side. All I was trying to do was not puke because I figured the denizens of the alternate dimension would frown upon that sort of behavior and that would be the start of the invasion. That's all I need to do on my long weekend. Start an inter-dimensional war.
I could tell by the smell that we were getting close. Not me and the micro-warrior, since we were already pretty close -- I'm talking about me and The City. There was a damp, garbage-y smell that I remembered from previous trips and had tried hard to forget. But it sticks with you. It smells like someone took a bucket of dumpster juice and doused it in diesel fuel and then lit it. That's the smell. The one that you know gets ten times worse when it rains out.
Finally, the train hissed and lurched and trundled to a complete stop, and the doors opened. We again burst forth in a throng of disgusting humanity and descended upon Penn Station like famished locusts. Doug had said to meet him on the corner of 33rd street and 7th avenue, so we found the right set of stairs and ascended into the madness. We weren't sure which way the avenues went, so we just picked a direction and started walking, figuring we had a 50/50 shot of it being the right one. We lucked out, and had guessed correctly. On three separate occasions while we were walking, people asked me for directions. I don't know on what planet I might look like someone who might know where the fuck I was going, but there you go. I just shrugged and said, "I'm really sorry, but I don't even know where I am right now." So apparently there were people more lost than I was, and I take comfort in that.
Luckily it was a warm day because the wind was howling between the buildings and we would have frozen our asses off if it had been 20 degrees colder. I texted Doug and told him we were walking the streets trying to get where we needed to be. He called me back and said something like, "The Brooklyn bridge is closed and I just got out of the Battery Tunnel and I'm on the corner of 9th street and 2nd Ave, and I can probably take a right on 5th and then drive down blah blah blah-"
I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was basically talking to a dog, and I was just nodding and smiling like a mental patient and waiting for him to finish talking.
"Where are you?" he asked. I looked around.
"Standing on some random corner like a two-dollar whore," I said. "33rd and 7th, it looks like. Across from Macy's."
"OK, I'll be there in about 20 minutes. I'm a little over three miles away."
There is just something really wrong about that sentence. We backed up against the corner building and waited.
You see a lot of people when you're standing on a corner in NYC. The worst part is, they see you too. It wasn't too bad at first. Hot women seemed to be pretty abundant. On the other hand, I also got to see Black Wonder Woman. She had boobs like basketballs and an ass that looked like a garbage bag full of doorknobs, but she was rocking that Wonder Woman costume like she was late for the Justice League orgy at the Fortress of Solitude.
The first person to notice us was a tiny Asian woman in robes handing out little gold cards with some strange, mysterious symbols on them. She was saying something (in Cantonese or Japanese or Andorian, I'm not really sure) and gesturing for me to take one of these golden cards from her. I took it from her with the thumb and index finger of my ruined hand, but then she opened some book that looked like it had numbers in it. I saw one that said 30 and another that said 60 and I wasn't sure if she was selling these things or if she just wanted my signature. I gave it back to her and said, "No thank you" in my most apologetic voice and she smiled and nodded and then walked away, pausing briefly to adjust her crotch while holding the stack of golden tickets in her mouth. I moved my ruined hand farther away from my body.
I turned around from that disgusting sight to find myself facing a tall black man who looked to be about 60. He had deep set eyes and he was standing directly in front of me, holding a small piece of cardboard that said "Homeless Vet" and nothing else. He didn't say anything to me at all -- no "Can you spare some change?" no "Can you help a brother out?" no nothing. He just kept staring at me from under the brim of his baseball hat like he was hungry and I was a 10-piece order of chicken Mcnuggets. Finally, I think due to my utter confusion as to what I was supposed to do or say, he gave up on me and moved on down the street. I never know what to do in those situations.
A few seconds later, an angry, (and perhaps slightly mentally unstable) black man of indeterminate age came barreling down the sidewalk swinging a hard-shell overnight bag by its metal handle and screaming nonsensical sentences. I know what to do in that situation, which is to try not to be noticed and try not to get hit in the head with a suitcase. I managed both of those things, but not before hearing some rant about the shadow aliens who were working at the KFC. Or maybe it was with the KFC. Or the DMV. I couldn't really make it out. Either way, they were bad, and he was going to kick their asses.
My phone rang again, and it was Doug, telling me that he was still ten minutes out because he couldn't make a left because of an open manhole cover or some shit, so it would be better if we walked back to the Penn Station entrance, and he would circle around again and come down 8th and grab us from there. So we hoofed it back, which was fine by me. I felt like I was less of a weirdo magnet while I was moving.
A few minutes later, as we watched some guy sugar his nuts -- no really, he had cashews and peanuts and almonds in his cart and he was melting sugar all over them and they smelled wonderful -- Doug pulled up in his Buick with the ISLEOFQ license plates (he was/is the guitarist in that band) and we jumped into the relative sanity of his car and got the hell out of dodge.
The difference between Brooklyn and that part of NYC is striking. We came out of the Battery Tunnel and it was like we had gone back in time. The area of Brooklyn where he lives is very retro. Tons of brownstones and cool little corner stores and restaurants. It has a really neat vibe. It reminded me of Philly or maybe Boston. I could almost live there for a while, I think, if you held a gun to my head or paid me a shitload of money. Maybe both. I mean, where else can you get authentic Asian breakfast crepes and buy a classic Schwinn bike off the street for cash money all within a couple of blocks?
Those of you who read my book know that when I was a kid, I coveted my neighbor's 1969 Schwinn Orange Krate bike, and I still think it's one of the coolest bikes ever made. They are very rare collector's items, and right now, they go for about 2-3 thousand dollars on e-Bay. So it was pretty amazing to just be walking down the street on my way to get coffee and be able to do this:
I asked the guy how much it was and he said "one or two thousand" which seemed like quite a spread. I think what he meant to say was, "How much do you have?" I was a little sad that he knew what it was worth, but it was all original, right down to the flat racing slick rear tire and a banana seat with zero road rash and a matching serial number. Maybe someday I'll win the lottery and own one and you all can come over and we can take turns riding it at top speed down the hallways of my yacht.
We had a great time in Brooklyn, and Doug and his lovely wife treated us like royalty. We drank champagne and martinis and laughed so much my sides hurt the next day. On Sunday we slept in a bit, and then walked to the Asian crepes place and got some coffee and, of course, Asian crepes, which, having never been to France, suited me just fine. We basically just hung out being bums until about 3pm, whereupon we piled into the Buick and headed back to The City. They couldn't join us for dinner, which made me sad in retrospect because I think we would have had quite a few laughs, mostly because of where we ended up going, which was unlike any restaurant I've ever eaten in before.*I'm usually an observant person, so I am surprised I didn't see him right away -- maybe because it was one of those rare instances of someone actually being shorter than I am, or maybe it was because I still had no idea if I was on my way to The City or whether we'd end up at a freight depot in Newark.
Maine-lining the month.
Ah, September. It's the month I use up all of my vacation. Sadly, it's over, and I only got a few trips in. I'm hoping for a warm October so we can do a little more backpacking. It's hunting season though, so you gotta be careful walking in the woods. On the other hand, you could make a game of it and wear a brown suede jacket and a pair of white gloves.
To start the month off right, the weekend after labor day we headed up to Maine with our friends Vidna and Pootie. Unfortunately, unlike our last two visits, we didn't have a full moon. Vidna was on hardcore drugs for a series of vicious insect bites, so the girls had to take up most of the slack in the drinking department. The one good thing about lack of a full moon meant we could get some good shots of the Milky Way like this one
As always, Jesus was our co-pilot.
You may remember Action Jesus, who accompanied us on our last trip to Maine. He recites the Lord's prayer (in its entirety) when you push a button just above his ass-crack. He sounds a little like the guy who does all the movie trailer voice-overs. In a world... where pharaohs rule the day…and nobody has underwear...
|Come get some.|
He rides with us on the dashboard, and guards us against shitty weather, idiot drivers, and bad seafood. This year, JC couldn't wait to hit the beach:
|Take this Lobster and eat of it, Brah.|
He didn't disappoint. We had great weather during the day, and we only got a bit of rain the night before we were leaving, so I count it in the win department. There's a very slim chance I'll burn in Hell for dressing up Jesus for the beach, but my guess is that if JC came back now, he'd be shopping at Abercrombie and wouldn't be caught resurrected walking around commando in some rough-woven robe.
We didn't swim because the water was ridiculously cold, but we took a walk on the beach one of the days, and spent most of our time walking Marginal Way. It's a beautiful walk with stunning natural seascapes and it's custom-made for photographs, except for one thing. And as always, that one thing is the same thing it always is: Idiots. And I'm talking about a special kind of idiot. The kind that needs to reaffirm his or her existence by tagging a building with spray paint, or carving their names into a picnic table or a desk or a tree. The ones that need to shout to the universe "I WAS HERE!" even though the universe and the rest of us wish you weren't. Check this out:
What you are looking at is hundreds and hundreds of stones stacked on top of one another. Why? Because one idiot made the first stack and a thousand other idiots followed like lemmings. It might as well be graffiti. It ruins the natural landscape and it annoys the ever-living fuck out of me. Can you tell?
When I climbed down next to them to take the pictures, I 'accidentally' knocked a few of them over on my climb back up. Vidna is more direct. He just walked up next to some guy who was building one and kicked over the one right next to him.
Anyway, I have no idea why humans have to do stuff like that. Why can't we just leave shit alone? It doesn't make sense to me.
I did take a few pictures, but when you're out with an actual photographer and his wife, and your camera is a piece of outdated junk, you don't take too many shots. I thought these clouds were cool:
The obligatory sailboat shot:
On the drive up, Vidna lets me pick the music, since I'm always riding shotgun. I decided that the theme of the drive would be 80's music, so I "obtained" some Time-Life 80's collections and after about twenty minutes of listening to it, we realized that either 80's top-40 music was way crappier than it seemed at the time, or we were weren't listening to what was on the radio. There were a few gems that I liked back in the day, like Scritti-Politti's Perfect Way, or Tommy Tutone's 867-5309, and of course a Rick Springfield tune or two, but a fair amount of the songs were flat-out horrible.
For every "One Thing Leads to Another" or "I don't like Mondays" there was a "Mickey" or a "Voices Carry." The musical landscape was all over the place, so a compilation album that spans a whole decade was probably not the best choice for the drive. We had SuperFreak and the Safety Dance on the same Album and I think that must break some kind of natural law. At least it was before auto-tune, so if you sucked, everyone knew it. It was still possible for a horrible band to have a hit though*, so I guess it wasn't any different than today.
We had a good time, like we always do. We ate at a steakhouse called (coincidentally, I think) The Steakhouse, and it was pretty good. I had a hunk of filet mignon the size of a baby's head that was a little too rare for me, along with a giant salad and a baked potato and sour cream. They had a full menu, but hey, you know, it was a steakhouse so I didn't want to go with the fish. Not the best piece of raw beef I've ever had, but not bad. After dinner I was so full I thought I was going to spend the rest of the night sweating meat.
The month flew by after that, mostly because it seemed like everything conspired against us getting out in the woods or on a lake. A death in the family, the most disgusting plumbing job I've ever had the opportunity to perform, (a post that is coming very soon, once I take a break from obsessively showering to rid myself of the memory) and some crappy weather prevented us from enjoying the month like we usually do. We did manage to get out last weekend for a couple of days. Here's a few pictures for your enjoyment. I finally remembered to throw my tripod in the canoe.
|Venus on the horizon|
|I'd live here if I could|
|We're just a speck on a speck on a spiral arm...|
This is my first full week back to work in about 30 days, and it's kicking my ass. I've never wanted a weekend more in my life. But by that time, I should have the disgusting plumbing story ready to tell. I don't want to remember it, let alone re-live it, but I will. For all of you. Because I care.
*Missing Persons, I'm talking to you. Terry Bozzio, your reputation will never recover. I don't care if the singer was your wife at the time. Sometimes, you gotta put your foot down.)
Google is your friend this week.
It turns out that less blog traffic means that my search engine hits have gotten interesting again. I checked them for the first time in a long while, and I decided that they were too good not to share with you. As always, I am continually amazed by the things people type into Google, especially given all the recent NSA hubbub. That's why I always use duck duck go, no matter what I happen to be searching for. Unless it's disturbing pictures for you guys. Then I use Google, so I might be going away for a while.
These people below, however, have no qualms about typing whatever comes into their pretty little heads. And for that, I thank them. So once again, back in the U.S. after a very successful tour of Japan, I'm proud to bring you the musical stylings of:
Fantastic Google Searches that Somehow Led People to my Site
How hotel keep lizard away? - HULK HAVE QUESTIONS. HULK NO WANT LIZARD RUIN HULK VACATION! HULK LIKE ROOM SERVICE AND FLUFFY ROBE, TOO! Well, as a puny human, I can answer this because it's an easy one. While we all know Marriott can't afford to have your friendly neighborhood Spiderman on staff, and since there's only one of him anyway, they operate on the same principle as Santa and his "helpers." So in your particular case, Mr. The Hulk, this guy is outside standing guard. Luckily, The Lizard is kind of nearsighted. So there's your answer. Also, don't believe them when they tell you that movie title won't show up on your bill.
wedgie theory of interrogation - Based upon my success using this method on Houdini when we were kids, I can say with complete authority that it will definitely work if your goal is to get someone to tell you where they hid your transistor radio.
what do fancy bathroom have in it? - Oh, you poor, poor bastard. I pity you and your common nether-regions. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that since the moment you were first potty trained, you've been forced to perform the act of waste elimination using a regular bathroom? I'm really sorry. It goes against my nature to rub something like this in, but let me tell you what you've been missing. When you have the Electro-Sluice 7000BM installed like I do, your toilet will anticipate your every wish. You simply drop your pants to your ankles and the padded stimu-seat will silently rise up behind you and (using IR sensors) measure the temperature of your ass and automatically adjust itself to 10 degrees above your body temperature in the winter, and 2 degrees below your body temperature in the summer. All programmable, of course. Then it will ease you back gently until you are at a comfortable pre-set angle that promotes relaxation, as the ambient sounds of Brian Eno's Music for Airports (or other music of your choice) is piped into the bathroom in DTS 7.1 surround sound. Then the lights dim, the gentle and nearly silent fan will start up, circulating the scent of fresh, night-blooming jasmine - not too much - and at that point you are free to begin the elimination process. A patented vacuum system handles both liquid and solid waste at the same time, so you can really just let it all go without any concerns at all. With the Electro-Sluice 7000BM, your only responsibility is to relax your sphincter as both your worries and your waste float away like gossamer silk on a warm bay breeze. And that's not all. After you're done, the Electro-Sluice 7000BM will lovingly clean your private parts with 37 discrete fine mist rosewater jets, and pat you dry with freshly warmed cashmere towels from 4 different auto-adjustable angles. So that's what fancy bathroom have in it. And no, you can't try mine. Just go take a dump in your shitty American Standard white ceramic bowl with the rest of the unwashed masses.
can you drink on lunch while working at Lowes? - Based on my experiences in that store, I would say the answer is "Fuck, yes."
can I spend my vacation hanging out? - Sure you can! In fact, I've done this, and it's very pleasant. Just remember two very important things. (1) zip up before you go out in public, and (2) sunscreen is very important.
if the vet expressed her anal sac, should she feel better instantly? - This isn't common knowledge, so I'm impressed by your question. Not many people know that most vets have anal sacs that need to be expressed regularly. The answer to your question is yes, your vet will feel better almost immediately, but you don't want to be in the room when she's doing it. It involves contortions and hand-held mirrors, and it's quite disturbing to watch.
brown cloth-like stuff coming out of your pee hole - This one just made me cross my legs instantly, however I'm all about helping people. So: If you have BURLAP COMING OUT OF YOUR PEE HOLE you need to immediately get the hell off the Internet and GO SEE A PEE HOLE DOCTOR ASAP! Go. Now. Before whatever garment is coming out of your peehole gets to the buttons or the zippers.
do men orgasm out of the same hole they pee out of - Our educational system at work, ladies and gentlemen.
gay teens drenched in water from cows anus - This is a very specific search, and I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to help you with anything except perhaps the water. I have no access to gay teens, nor do I happen to have a cow's anus handy. Although I'm sure that for a reasonable fee, I could -- no. I've said too much.
how to make fast zombies climb - First of all, fast zombies are not your bitch. You don't make them do anything. From all available evidence, the overriding requirements necessary to persuade fast zombies to climb is for you to (1) have live brains, and (2) be on something high. They will handle the climbing part all by themselves.
tiny ass tongs -- I'm sure I can help you, but first we have to clear up your lack of punctuation. Are you looking for tiny-ass tongs, which can be used to grab all manner of tiny things, asses included, or are you looking for tiny ass-tongs, which serve the one particular purpose of grabbing a tiny ass and nothing else? My opinion is to go with the first one, because they're much more versatile. You don't see too many tiny asses these days, so at least if you have the first one, you can use it to pick the raisins out of your raisin bran or something if there are no tiny asses within reach. On the other hand, if you get the tiny ass-tongs, they will spend the majority of their time stuffed in the back of the kitchen junk drawer, and even if you see a tiny ass you want to use them on, you'll never get to them in time. There's way too much shit in that drawer and you really should clean it out.
wording to get friend to go to lunch -- I've had much success with "Hey, do you feel like going to lunch?" If you've been saying something like "Feel, Lunch do hey to like going?" then I suggest you try my wording instead because I think you'll have better luck.
do people like to be forced to wear a butt plug in public -- My guess would be no, and I'm thinking they probably don't like to be forced to wear a butt plug in private, either. And as an aside, what's up with all you butt-pluggers? Can't you think of a better way to spend your free time? Jesus.
how does a door knob work? - Damn dogs. They're always on the Internet when nobody's home. That's why I hate them.
i force my old granny to turn her butthole to me stories -- I'm not positive how to help you, but I will try. I am pretty sure there are no such stories published, however, that being said, it's conceivable that there could be an untapped market for granny-turning butthole tales of some sort and you could be the first author to bring such tales to the masses. Maybe even different genres. Westerns, Sci-Fi, Tales of Mystery and Suspense, you name it. Something like this, perhaps.
So this could be your big chance. Hell, if that 50 shades of Grey piece of shit can make a trillion dollars, the world should be your oyster. Pick up a pen and go for it. Cut your granny in for a piece of the action though. It's only fair.
ah me big labia -- I have to say, this one caught me entirely by surprise. I had no idea the Lucky Charms leprechaun had a sex-change operation. I wish him luck. And Lucky, if you're reading this, good choice on the XL labia, by the way. I'd lose the heels though -- at least until you learn to walk in them. You look ridiculous.
So that's it, all my best searches this week. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.
Also, on a completely unrelated topic, this little shit needs a good beat down.
Fly me to the moon.
The other day I woke up at my normal and customary and totally insane time of 4:15 to get ready for my lovely commute, and as I usually do, I sat down for a second and checked my e-mail. I saw a new e-mail from a friend of mine and the subject was simply "Good Morning." It was just a link, but it's one I think everyone needs to see because it's very important.
You can view it here. Go ahead, I'll wait.
See, this is why I don't travel. OK, I've been to Mexico and the Caribbean, and granted, they have bugs there that can kill you, (Chagas, anyone? No? Malaria? No? You're good? You sure?) but this is pure grossness.
First of all, how fast can that thing crank out eggs? It was in this woman's ear for a split second and it had time to sit around and lay eggs? I guess it stands to reason since it's called the "New World Army Screw Worm Fly." Not only does that sound like something that could lay a dozen eggs in a half a second with crack precision, but it also sounds like something that should be carrying a teeny tiny M-16 and a wearing a beret as it flies into battle.
Another question: Was she drunk off her ass the whole time? How the hell do you not know that there's something eating the inside of your head the second it starts?
I can only assume that the maggots were all crapping their little maggoty hearts out in there too, which is even worse. First you get eaten, then you get crapped on, and in a cruel twist of fate, the crap is made of you
. It's the ultimate indignity. I gotta say, if it had been me, the second those eggs hatched and I heard something that sounded like someone eating tiny Doritos inside my head, I'd have been at my fucking ear with a screwdriver and a blowtorch. I've had a ladybug in my ear before and even that sounded as big as a John Deere tractor inside my head while it was crawling around looking for the way out. I practically ruptured my eardrum with a turkey baster trying to get it out.
And can you believe someone with a medical diploma on their wall said, "Before we do anything else, let's fill your ear with olive oil." Yeah, that sounds like it'll work. Why not throw in some croutons and a little vinegar and make a salad? Jesus. And what if it actually DID work? Then you've got an ear burrow full of dead maggots, which can only cause a major case of ear odor and attract more flies. Bad decisions all around.
(As an aside, I'd like to say that I've never had maggots in my ear, but I've had them in my Milky Way bar. I discovered it after I had eaten one of those "fun size" bars and then found 2 maggots in the wrapper. In retrospect I thought it had tasted a little funny, but I just figured it was old.)
We have deer flies up here, and the season lasts about a month. When the humidity is high, you can't go outside without being instantly swarmed by these little bastards, and they bite like Mike Tyson. I was told once that this particular type of fly will actually lay eggs in a deer's nostrils and the maggots will hatch and eat the deer's brain, but I have no idea if that's true or not.*
But there is
a solution, and I just found out about it recently. I was walking down the street a while ago, swatting madly at the swarm of deer flies around my head when I walked past a neighbor's house and he saw me. He came out and asked me if I ever heard of TredNots. I said no, and he proceeded to give me a packet of them. Basically, they are flytraps for your head. You slap one on the back of your baseball cap, and in no time at all, you look like this:
Which is disgusting, but that's not even the half of it, because what you can't see in the picture is the incessant buzzing that a dozen flies can make when their legs are stuck and their wings aren't. Eventually everything will simmer down and their wings will get stuck too, but until that happens you feel like you're infested. (Also: Why the hell don't movie zombies ever have flies? You'd think that would be a given.) Anyway, when you're doing work around the house or the farm or whatever, these things are a lifesaver. His wife (and mine) both hate them, but they get bit and we don't so we win.
I have a couple of tips for you though -- One, don't forget you're wearing it and then go to say, Home Depot and wonder why everyone is looking at you and gagging. Two, don't sit down in a rocking chair to relax for a few minutes and put your hands behind your head. You will regret both these things.
I know this for a fact. * I tried looking it up but ended up at Yahoo Answers, which should really be called Yahoo Stupid Answers by Idiots because I've never seen a valid answer there, ever. The best answer to "Can a fly lay eggs in your nose so that maggots eat your brain?" was "Flies lay eggs in poop, and even if it did, the babies could never crawl into your brain." So that's good to know. I would totally let flies into my nose without fear after reading that sage advice.
Well, the good news is, my short story is done. The bad news is, I'm not sure if it's any good. I sent it to a few people and I'm awaiting feedback at the moment, so we'll see how it goes.
So here's the story of Bob. A few of weeks ago, my wife was up north at a place called Mirror Lake Inn with a couple of friends, enjoying a "Girl's Weekend" special they had going on. I'm not sure what that entails, but I know they eat and drink a lot and do things like go to the spa and have someone rub their backs with hot oiled stones, put cucumber paste on their faces and stick slices of ripe zucchini up their asses or something. I don't know what goes on there and I don't want to know. Anyway, I was looking for a weekend activity of my own, and it just so happened that my friend Pete's band The Badlees was opening up for Bob Seger at the Mohegan Sun arena that very same weekend, a mere 3.5 hours from here. I immediately called him, and said I was thinking of making the drive down. He told me they only had a 35 minute opening slot, but since it was a five hour drive from home for most of them, the guys in the band were going to get rooms at the hotel and hang out rather than running off stage and jumping in their cars while the last note was still ringing in the air as they usually do. So we called it a plan and it was good.
Or it was good until about 10 minutes later when he called me back and said that their manager gave back the rooms because he didn't think anyone was going to use them, and the rest of the band was just driving home immediately after the show. I think he probably would have driven right home too, but since I had committed to driving down for the show, it was either get a room somewhere or scrap the idea, because it probably didn't make good sense for me to drive seven hours to see 30 minutes of music. It was a golden opportunity to hang and we didn't want to waste it, so we decided that we'd find a place to stay that wouldn't break the bank, then watch Bob's show, maybe hit a casino or something, have some drinks, then crash. The free rooms they gave back went for about $350 a night, and they were right in the hotel attached to the casino and arena. The room I found was...not.
We figured our budget was about a hundred bucks if we split it and shared a room. So off to Hotel.com I went. I could find nothing that wasn't at least a 20 minute drive away from the casino. There's a lot of gamblers in Connecticut, I guess. I finally made a reservation at a Red Roof Inn that didn't get bad reviews for a 2 star hotel, and then after I paid for it, I looked them up on the bedbug registry (yes, it's a thing) and they had 3 entries for bedbugs, and two for scabies. I had to look up what that was. Believe me, I've stayed in some shitty hotels over the years seeing his band, but even though in the past I've found dirty underwear behind the bathroom door and used condoms under the bed, I never got fucking scabies.*
So I immediately jumped back on hotel.com, canceled my reservation with a shudder, and got my money back. Then I went to expedia.com to try my luck, and ended up with a hotel that got mostly horrible reviews because it was under construction while it was being renovated and turned from some no-name hotel into a Raddisson. I took a shot, hoping that the construction was done and that "renovation" meant the rooms were new.
The next morning I fed the hotel address into the GPS and started driving. My GPS is really old and really slow, (like me) so it gets confused if there's too much going on (like me). I got somewhere near Hartford and it said (in its pleasant, female British voice): "In 200 yards, take the exit right." and then 201 yards later, as I watched the exit go by, it proceeded to make Maxx Headroom-style stuttering announcements as it recalculated four times in the space of 30 seconds. When I finally got headed in the right direction again, I had added about 20 minutes to my ETA, which is the opposite of what a GPS is supposed to do for you. I think it's time to retire that $59 piece of crap. You'd think I would have shit-canned it after it was trying to get me to take a left through the guardrail on the Taconic Parkway at three in the morning, but no.
The hotel was actually pretty nice, but in the meantime it had inexplicably changed from a Raddisson to a Holiday Inn. I'm not sure what that was about, but all the construction was done. The only thing even remotely construction related that I saw was someone pulling network wire in the bar area. I checked in, did the standard bedbug check (yes, there is one, Google it), and then headed downstairs to get some lunch and wait for Pete to show up.
The bartender was a cute girl who moved with the speed of a garden slug, but I eventually got what I ordered. I think the issue was either that she was hoping I'd order more than one drink before I got my food, or she was just side-tracked by the giant TV showing the ESPN Strongest Man competition. All these ripped dudes in perfect shape were lifting weights against a clock and against each other, and while she was watching it and drooling, I was watching it and feeling really guilty about ordering hot wings and a Guinness. I thought about asking if I could change my order to a salad and a bucket of whey protein, or at least change the station, but I didn't.
An hour later, Pete silently rolled up in his brand new Prius, (Rock and Roll! \m/) I jumped in, and we headed north to the casino.
When The Badlees first got signed to Polygram in the late 90's, they did an extensive tour with Bob Seger. So I figured they were old pals. Even back then, we joked about Bob Seger and the Silver Anniversary Band, and here it is some 17 years later and old Bob is still rockin'. You have to hand it to the guy.
We arrived at the casino and drove around back, and the security guy in the guard house thought he was on a military installation because he had his list of IDs and pictures and he spent a few minutes comparing Pete's license to his list before he'd let us in. Eventually, after a radio call to someone, he was satisfied that we weren't terrorists and he let us continue on. We drove around underneath the casino for a bit, until we found the 18-wheelers that presumably carried all Bob's equipment. Let me tell you, Bob has a LOT of equipment. It's all union labor once you're past the gate, so they didn't want you unloading anything yourself. Pete backed his little Prius up to this massive loading dock door, and like six guys unloaded his monitor unit and mic stand. We got our laminates, then we parked his car and went to find the dressing room. The place is basically a maze and there are dressing rooms all over the place, so they put orange tape on the floor and then write on it with a sharpie telling you what's where. So we wandered around looking for the Badlees dressing room. We passed a wall of video recording equipment and I laughed when I saw the sign taped to the one of the video monitors. It said:
Please BE QUIET.
Bob is sleeping.
And yes, I laughed quietly. You wouldn't like Bob when he's angry. Plus his video guy looked like he just broke out of prison.
We kept walking and passed tape that said Catering, Video, Horn Section, "Lovely Ladies," (at least the whole thing was in quotes, and not just the word "Lovely") and finally, way down at the end, The Badlees.
I've been in the "band room" at lots of hole-in-the-wall clubs, but I've rarely been backstage at an arena. It was a little nicer than I expected, but also weird. The dressing area consisted of two rooms -- in the first room was a bunch of cubby holes*
and a closet area with some permanent hangers, a couch and a fridge, then there was a second room with a shower, a toilet and a urinal. The "door" between the two consisted of a curtain like the one you'd normally see on a voting booth. I'm really glad I didn't have to drop one before the show because it would have been like going to a house party and taking a crap with the door open.
We dropped off our stuff and then it was time for setup and sound check. Sound checks are hard to do when Bob is Sleeping, but they managed. I had an "All Access" laminate, so I got to wander around just about anywhere, and basically pretend I was a roadie. I got the "'sup" head nod down pat, and after a while the security guys didn't even look twice at me.
After the sound check, we headed over to catering and got some food. While we were there, Bob came in and sat down at a table and I thought maybe I'd get to to meet him, but he seemed pretty focused and unapproachable. Pete nudged me and said, "There's Bob." and that was about the extent of the meet n' greet, for me at least.
The Badlees set was great, and it was good to see them in front of that many people on an arena stage. They have a new record due out soon, and from what I've heard, it should be pretty good. If you're not familiar with them or their sound, here's some samples
from the Seger shows.
Bob's show was better than I expected it to be. He had a ton of people on stage from backup singers to a horn section to his sax player Alto Reed. Yes, I know. I'm pretty sure that's not the name on his birth certificate. That early afternoon nap he takes before the early-bird special must be in a slurry made from moisturizer and cocaine because holy shit, for a 68 year-old guy, he never stopped running (against the wind). Sorry, I couldn't resist. But seriously, he's still the same. The guy is like a rock. You can tell he's still got the fire inside. Dear God, this could go on forever. Seriously, when you think about the sheer number of hits this guy has had over the length of his career, it's pretty impressive. I was never what I'd consider a fan, but I knew the words to every freaking song he sang
. I don't even know how that's possible. He totally owns all that old time rock and roll. (I just stabbed myself in the eye with a fork, so you don't have to.)
The only time he sat down all night was for Turn the Page. His voice still sounds pretty good. He's lost a little off the top, but he's allowed. He looked like a garden gnome who forgot his hat, but he can still make the women throw their control-top panties up on stage.
Pete and I got in trouble for standing back by the sound board because we were apparently blocking the view of some old biddy with floor seats, so we went up to the side where they had some reserved tickets for friends and family. After the show it was a little surreal to be funneling out with the rest of the crowd and have people do a double-take because they suddenly recognized Pete. You could tell they weren't paying much attention to the rest of the band though, because at least three people saw me walking with him and told me that I had done a great job. I just thanked them and told them they were a great audience while Pete laughed at me.
After everyone left, Pete had to go somewhere to get paid, and I got to wait in the dressing room. I waited and waited and waited….still no Pete. It took him about 2 hours to finally get cashed out, and I spent the entire time shooting the shit with a 70-year-old security guard, and eyeing the untouched platter of cold cuts in the fridge. He was a funny old guy though -- worked every concert for extra cash. He spent a lot of time telling me how he didn't like "them Rush fellas" though. They were too damn loud.
By the time we got back to the hotel bar and decided to have a drink, it was almost 3am. W were both pretty comatose and he had to get up early and get home because his wife had to work and they have a 1-year-old now. Man, times have changed. (Rock and Ro-zzzzzzzzz.) We ordered up a couple of Grey Goose dirty martinis anyway, but the waitress said they didn't have olives. Not that they were out of olives, but that they never had them, ever, at all. Very odd. They had all sorts of top-shelf liquor, but no olives. We ordered them anyway, but as expected, they sucked.
That's pretty much it. A good show, all in all, and really nothing went wrong so I count it in the win column. The only issue I had was with the GPS again on the way home -- somehow it kept looping me around on Main Street and at one point I had to stop at a crossing and wait for the downtown train to go by.
p.s. - if you're wondering about the title of this post, it's what the guitar player's girlfriend thought Bob was singing in the chorus to "Like a Rock" when she was a kid.*spell check wanted to change that to "chubby holes" and now I can't imagine the blog spam I'm going to get.*that I know of.
I know, I know, I haven't been around in a while. I've been doing a lot of not-writing, and what little writing I have been doing has been put to use on a short story that I'm about 3/4 finished with, inspired by a photo taken by my friend Vidna. No excuse, I know. But seriously, nothing funny has happened to me lately. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. I also think work might have permanently damaged my humor bone. I wonder if I can get workman's comp for that?
Riddle me this: What weighs 300 pounds and kicked ass back in the 80's?
No, not Meatloaf. Well, OK. Besides
Meatloaf. Because nobody can deny that Mr. Loaf kicked some serious ass in his time.
Give up? It's my ex-TV.
For the last 19 years, the television in my bedroom has been an early 80's 25" RCA made of 100% actual imitation wood. (Not to be confused with the completely inferior imitation
imitation wood.) In other words, this is actual veneer, not stick-on vinyl wood grain. The remote is the size of a hardcover book and could be used to knock someone unconscious, which really doesn't matter much because it shit the bed a long time ago. Probably after knocking someone unconscious. Here it is, in all its mulleted 1980's glory:
The weird thing is, I don't know what to do with this blocky monstrosity. I feel kinda bad just throwing it out, because number one, the garbage men will probably shoot their spleens out of their ears getting this advanced piece of 1980's technology into the back of their truck, and number two, it still works fine, and that's pretty impressive for a television that's probably 30 years old. I don't know much, but I will bet you a month of paychecks that the shiny new Sony Bravia I just replaced it with will be sitting in a landfill sometime between now and the year 2020.
Unfortunately for this TV, it's not old enough to be vintage or kitschy -- it's what most people would probably consider butt-ugly. The picture is still really good, but it's 4:3 and not even close to HD. I probably couldn't give it away. As for the audio -- it's got some new-fangled thing called 'stereo sound' or something, and it sounds really good because it has real 5"x8" speakers on each side of the cabinet. These speakers, combined with the giant wooden case that holds the tube, will put the built-in sound of any flat screen TV on the market today to shame.
So I moved it from where it was sitting (on top of two stacked footlockers) off to the side about 3 feet onto the window seat. That was about my limit. Neither one of us could remember what was inside the footlockers, because the TV had been there so long. I figured it was probably all leg warmers and Member's Only jackets, but it turned out to be bedspreads.
It doesn't have the charm of my 1949 Motorola and I don't think it ever will, no matter how old it gets:
(That's a cool TV right there. The night I finished restoring it, my wife and I watched Casablanca on it. You'd be amazed at the amount of low tech crap you need to use to get a new DVD player hooked up to one of these.)
I just recently read that some people like old tube TV's for playing vintage video games. If you are one of these people, have I got a deal for you. I'll even throw in a 26" Sony flat screen that weighs even more than this one for free. All you have to do is pick them up. And not leave any spleens laying around that I'm going to have to clean up later.
I'm going to try an experiment, and just write a few short blog entries, just to get back into it a little. So I'll apologize up front because they're not going to be funny. And speaking of not funny, my friend Pootie has entered one of her pictures in a contest. Check it out
if you get a chance. The site is a little annoying, but give her a vote if you can.
Also, here's something my buddy Trav wrote about me over on his blog
. I'm honored, even if he is a little nuts to think I'm inspiring.
Next up, I drive to a casino and see Bob Seger. Yeah. Me and Bob are tight.
Suddenly, a car.
My wife had a 3-year lease on a Nissan Sentra, and her monthly payment was $56 a month.
How did she manage this, you ask? Three years ago, she traded in a car worth about seven grand because the air conditioner didn't work. After we had spent about $900 getting it fixed. So for three years, life was good.
Then it was time for me to go out of town for a week. Immediately, the funny noises started. In the car, not my wife. So the sequence of events went something like this:
"My car sounds loud."
"No, I think something is wrong with it."
"Well, you have to get the oil changed tomorrow, have them take a look."
"It sounds like the muffler is falling off."
"It's only got thirty thousand miles on it, the exhaust system should be fine."
"But maybe something happened to it when I hit that giant rock in the middle of the road."
Saturday, after returning from the dealer's "free" oil change
"Well, I don't know what they did to it, but it's really loud now. They said I need new brakes and a new exhaust system and it's going to cost about $700. They said if I don't get it fixed, it will leak carbon monoxide into the cabin."
There's nothing I hate more than some dirtbag mechanic trying to scare a woman into repairs because she doesn't know any better. I go outside and have her start the car and it sounds like my lawnmower. I look underneath it and I can't see much of anything except for rust. Apparently Nissan is making their new exhaust systems out of old exhaust systems just to save time. I follow the pipe backward to where it goes over the axle, and it's completely rotted away from the flange and hanging in two pieces, supported only by the connection to the motor in the front, and by one half-rotten hanger in the back, with the bulk of the muffler's weight resting on the top of the axle.
"Well, you can't drive it like this."
"What am I supposed to do? You're on a flight out of town tomorrow, and I have to get to work on Monday."
"I can try to wire it up with something tomorrow."
"It's supposed to rain."
"You could drive it like it is. You'd probably be fine. Probably."
"You could drop me off at the airport and drive my car all week. If you could drive a stick."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
"It's your own fault. I offered to teach you."
We've been married a long time.
The next thing I know, we're driving her car back down to the dealership, because at this point it seems to be the least painful option. Our plan is to talk to a sales guy about turning in her lease a little early and getting a new car. Which, it turns out, she already did. She introduces me to Shawn like they're old friends. Possibly lovers. And he knows every detail about the car and the existing lease and the work that needs to be done on our existing car. Dammit, I've been had. We really have been married a long time.
Shawn is a slick little black guy who reminds me of a young Sammy Davis Jr. When she introduces us, he sticks out his hand to shake mine and I reciprocate, but something goes horribly wrong and the next thing I know he's got the tips of my four fingers in his vice-like grip and I feel like a big pussy. Dammit! He's an early closer!
At first I can't tell if he did it on purpose, or if it was just bad timing on my part. I feel like I should curtsy. The early close is a power move that I used to be on the lookout for when I was in sales, but I don't shake many hands in my current job. It gets worse then, because he's not letting go right away (ok, it's a power move), I'm forced to extricate my limp asparagus fingers from his manly shake by quickly yanking my fingers out of his grip like it was some kind of rat-trapped glory hole.
And then we get down to bargaining. I've already lost.
He throws out all the typical car salesman crap -- we can either pay to have the other car fixed and pay the $350 "turn in fee" (eff you Nissan) or we can put the same amount of money down and walk out with a new 3-year lease on a new car. He can offer us a deal if we do it right now, he has to clear it with his manager, but it's a smokin' deal, what can I do to make you walk out of here with that car today, blah, blah, blah.
He actually wrote some very large numbers on a blank sheet of paper. I don't mean large numbers as in the car was expensive. I mean he wrote them in 2" high text. I don't really know what his angle was there. Maybe it was just a visual aid. Anyway, that's the paper he "took to the manager." It looked like a second grader's homework, but he was on a roll, so I let him go.
Our other option, and one that I was seriously thinking about for a few minutes, was to fix the brakes and the exhaust and buy the original car outright. I could tell that my wife wanted a new one because she kept saying, "If the muffler fell off at thirty thousand miles, what else is going to go wrong?" I didn't argue because I just wanted the reaming to be over. And she was possibly right. The only benefit to a lease is no maintenance, and I haven't had much luck in the "drive it til it drops" arena.
I brought up the topic of the crappy exhaust system on the original car and Shawn kept saying it was an anomaly. He said it like he was on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, and there was some weird noise coming from the engineering deck. "It seems to be some kind of anomaly in the exhaust system, Captain." I asked him if Nissan was using old license plates to make their exhaust systems these days since I have a Honda Fit with twice as many miles on it and the exhaust system is fine, but he had no answer other than it was clearly an anomaly. Ensign red shirt, we need you for the away team.
We eventually got down to the point where we walked the lot looking for cars. It was cold and miserable, and just as it started raining we found a Sentra that was both priced right for the $199 monthly payment we were looking for, and also a color that my wife could stand. Her original car was bright blue and rather sporty, and this lot was full of silver, black, grey, grey and more grey. Seriously, they had three different shades of grey. It looked like the parking lot at the FBI building. She grudgingly opted for silver. We went back inside and signed on the dotted line five minutes before they closed, and they were nice enough to let us borrow a car until the next day so we didn't have to drive home sounding like a Harley Fatboy going uphill.
As we were leaving, Shawn stuck out his hand to shake mine and that bastard early-closed again.
"Dammit!" I said, yanking my fingers free and repositioning my hand before he could react. I then gave him my most manly handshake. He looked a little startled, but I didn't care. It was the principle of the thing.
Early-closing son of a bitch.