Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ignorance and Want

This may come as a shock to many, considering my famously rosy disposition, but I don't really care for Christmas. I'm not a huge fan of any holidays, really. This most likely comes from having had to spend miserable dinner after miserable dinner with my miserable family. Luckily, I suppose, I'm all but estranged from 90% of my family. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I really only ever talk to my dad and brothers anymore. With the exception of the week I spent in the same house with her, I haven't spoken to my mom in well over a year. I don't speak to her partially because I hate every single thing she says and does, and partially because I just don't want to bum myself out. Sadly, this doesn't mean I don't hear from her. She leaves me voice mails every few days, the content of which just serves to bring me down. She's a depressing person, especially around the holidays. Every message is the same.

“Joshua, it's mom. Um, just wanted to know how you are. How's Beepobo [my cat's name is Peepopo]? I hope you have a good (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, New Year's). I can't wait to come out to Los Angeles to visit you again. Call me right back. (Then, she gives me her phone number, like I don't already know it.)”

I just can't do it. I'm not even sure why I bother listening to the messages at this point. The worst is when she hijacks my dad's phone and tries to trick me into picking up. This just means I never answer when my dad calls. Incidentally, his voice mail messages are just as formulaic, but they vacillate wildly between hilarious and depressing. They usually contain information about my brothers' athletic prowess and my mom's shitty life. One particularly disconcerting message began with “Don't worry, there's no reason you should call me back about this, but your mom just got driven to Mass General Hospital.” Awesome.

Anyhow, now that I'm out of the will as far as most of my family is concerned, the holidays are a little less painful. A “family holiday dinner” for me now usually means my wife and I order food from Kung Pao Kitty and give Peepopo a tin of wet food. I don't go out for Halloween, I don't really do New Year's. I still, however, hate Christmas with a passion envied by the Grinch himself. I hate the music, I hate shopping, I hate crowds. I also hate being compared to Ebenezer Scrooge. By the way, why did everybody need to shit on Scrooge for hating Christmas? It's not like he went around lighting pine wreaths on fire or anything. What's really rough for me is how much I love crass commercialism.

I, personally, wish no ill will upon anybody who wants to celebrate Christmas. I mean, I have a fairly strong faith in God and the Bible, and even if I didn't, I wouldn't begrudge people their right to observe the birth of Christ in whatever way they see fit. I just don't want to be a part of it, is all. I like the idea of giving presents to my wife, although it almost always happens that we're too poor in December to even think about gift-giving. I'm also not one of those people who feels the need to get their pets Christmas presents. A girl at work asked me a couple weeks ago if I was going to give my cat extra cat nip for Thanksgiving. This would have been a lot more appropriate had she asked me on 4/20 - which, as we all know, is Peepopo's birthday. I told her no, I wouldn't be giving the cat extra cat nip on Thanksgiving, because that doesn't make any fucking sense. She's a cat, she wouldn't understand the significance of the gesture. Also, we need to renew her medical cat nip license before I feel good about giving her anything more potent than one of those dingle balls.

One of my biggest dreads is the idea of raising children. It wouldn't be fair to project my hatred of Christmas onto my child - although the idea of raising him 1/12th Jehovah's Witness has crossed my mind. If his birthday is in December as well, then double score. Christmas really ought to be the best day of the year for kids. Presents, family, Jesus, it's all there - the idea of taking that away from my progeny is unconscionable. I fervently hope that I'll be able to provide for my child an environment only half as shitty as mine was growing up. Hopefully by then I won't loathe everything as much as I do now, but let's face it, that's a long shot.

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With only a little over two weeks until Christmas actually happens, I still hold out hope that this year will somehow be different than every other. It can't be as bad as two years ago when my wife had an asthma attack so bad that she nearly died on Christmas Eve. It also probably won't be as bad as that Thanksgiving when I woke up covered in pepper spray. The thing that will be most different about this year is my job. I'll probably end up working both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I'm okay with this. It'll provide me with something to do on Christmas besides sit around and wait for my mom to leave me a sad voice mail and then spend the next six hours moping about my apartment wondering why the family I refuse to talk to didn't send me any Christmas presents.

More than anything it'll give me something to do instead of hate myself for getting my wife nothing for a second consecutive Christmas. Three years ago I bought her Primatene caplets from the Long's Drugs on Hollywood and Sycamore, which ended up saving her life. That's almost as good as a card with 20 dollars in it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 10

Sunday, November 1
Day 10

I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to be home. I know that when people bitch about their vacations it's tough to relate, so please understand that I didn't have a bad time. Far from it, in fact. I ate a lot of good food, I spent time with my brothers, I got to drive around the Cape and look at the leaves change colors. Hell, I even had a genuine Field of Dreams moment last night when I played wiffle ball in the back yard with my dad. It was pretty sweet.

I feel the worst part of being on vacation is having to be away from home. I can't stand it. I thrive on familiarity - my wife basically needs to trick me to get me to eat at a restaurant we haven't been to yet. I really like the idea of having fun, eating out, spending money, not working - I just like the idea of doing all of that stuff, then going back to my home to curl up in the cozy covers and watch TV. I don't see what's so bad about that.

Some notes on the vacation, the flight home and the whole business:

Today wasn't so much of a vacation day as it was a travel day. I'm still enchanted with the idea of flight - by the way, since when did “flight” get changed to “plane ride?” That really makes it sound way less important. You know what you describe using the word “ride?” A haunted hayride. Orville and Wilbur Wright deserve better.

Anyhow, today's flight was way better than the one we took on the way out to New England. First of all, we only spent about six hours today on a plane, and we didn't have to go 1,500 miles out of our way just to get home. Magnificent. There's a lot to be said about flying into Los Angeles after dark. As you approach the city, you see billions and billions of tiny lights below you - they seem to go on forever, past the horizon and, conceivably, into the Pacific Ocean. You fly over the lights for a few minutes, then the pilot gets on the PA system and tells you that you're about 30 minutes away from landing. For those 30 minutes, you continue to fly over billions and billions of tiny lights. It's breathtaking, but not in the way that Elaine meant when she looked at that ugly baby.

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As happy as I am to be home, I wish I had more time in Massachusetts to spend with my friends. I made plans and promises all week to see people, and I never had the time - or in the case of Julianne, I got a new phone and didn't her number saved on my SIM card so I couldn't call her when I was in Boston. It sucks. For the first time in my life, I put my family ahead of my friends, and I honestly feel awful about it. Not only did I not get to see my friends like I wanted to, I didn't even manage to do any of the shit I told my wife we'd do this week. We didn't go to Salem, we didn't go to Provincetown, we didn't go to the New England Aquarium. I'm a massive disappointment as a husband. I'm sorry, everybody.

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I wish my mom would decide whether or not she wanted to be the type of person who gives good gifts or not. This week she bought me new glasses, which was awesome. She also gave the following items to me and my wife: a Cape Cod sweatshirt that was at least 20 years old, a broken lamp, a book that she alleges to have read about some woman getting murdered and three high school yearbooks. With the exception of the yearbooks, none of these things turned out to be even remotely useful. If only she would choose to give only good gifts or shitty gifts, I would know whether or not to get my hopes up when she says “Joshua, I got you something nice.” Although the nicer she thinks it is, the worse it usually turns out to be.

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The great unsung hero of this vacation was one Mike Strauss. He stopped by our apartment a few times this week to feed the cat and let her know that we haven't just abandoned her to waste away and die of starvation. In addition to feeding the cat, Mike took some truly terrifying photos of her and put them up on facebook. It warmed our hearts to see pictures of our cat's brightly glowing eyes on the internet - that way we knew that she was alive, or that even if Mike had killed her, he had the decency to stage an elaborate, Weekend at Bernie's-type ruse. Weekend at Peepopo's.

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The best part of going on vacation is coming home with souvenirs. My wife got some nice fluffy socks and a few nice books. I got a Larry Bird t-shirt and a cold. The nice thing about our souvenirs is that we both got one that was only for us, and the other we can share with all our friends. Most importantly, I found out that, given enough time, I'm capable of writing over 1,000 words a day, every day. I'm considering blocking off a couple of hours each day to write. I figure as long as I keep doing that, somebody has to publish it, right? I mean, it's a blog. A blog on the internet, guys. That's what people publish now. All I need is a literary agent. Ironically, before I start writing every day, I feel like I need a short break from writing. Much in the same way that a writer writes - always, a procrastinator procrastinates - always.

Thanks for reading. It's been fun.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation Day 9

Saturday, October 31
Day 9

I'm officially sick. I'm not sure what I've got - maybe it's swine flu, maybe it's regular flu, maybe I'm just plain sick. I haven't felt this sick in a while - not since February when my brothers came out to visit. What I'm saying is, they're Patient Zero and Patient Zero-A. It sucks. A sick Mousebed writer can mean only one thing - Clip Show!

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I went to another of Tommy's football games today. He was the long snapper, which is a noble position. My wife and I showed up about a minute into the game, and Barnstable High scored just as we got there. It was really quite exciting. Just as the fourth quarter started, my mom showed up and sat next to my wife. She just started talking, like she does, and never stopped. My wife, in one of her more spectacular efforts, offered to give my mom a dollar - one American dollar - if she could pick her own son out of the crowd. Not only did she guess wrong, but she picked out a kid who wasn't shaped like either of her football playing sons.

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One of the great story lines of this week with my family is my mom trying to find out how old my wife is. I'm not sure why she's curious - I guess maybe she thinks my wife is older than she is? Who knows. First she just came out and asked her how old she was, to which I wish my wife had replied “28. Now how much do you weigh?” Later, at the football game, my mom asked my wife what year she graduated high school, in an attempt to trick her into revealing approximately when my wife was 18. Slick, mom. Real slick.

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One of the things I do when I'm sick is make horrible puns. I mean, one of the things I do when I'm not sick is make horrible puns, but it's way worse when I'm not feeling so hot. Most of the time I end up changing the name of a celebrity to describe something my wife or cat is doing. Tonight I called my wife Yawn-Claude Van Damme. Sometimes when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, my cat will jump up onto the bed and sit directly in the center, making it so that nobody can lay down in a comfortable position. When this happens, she is known as Bed Middler. Just say it out loud, it's pretty fantastic. When my wife goes to the bathroom I call her Mario Van Pee-bles, and when I go she calls me Pee-a Zadora. The cat's name often turns into something along the lines of Francis Ford Peepopo-la. We're seriously the coolest people we know.

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My dad is great at telling long rambling stories that go nowhere and mean nothing. I guess this is something that everybody's dad does, as evidenced by the Shit My Dad Says account on Twitter. Today, as we were driving past the West Barnstable Animal Hospital, he offered up this story: “See the animal hospital over there? It's bigger now. You know why? It blew up. It just blew the fuck up. Some idiot lined up the electrical right over the gas main. Started leaking and bam! The whole place blew the fuck up. They had 20 minutes to get all the dogs out. I was driving by when the second explosion happened. Blew the roof clean off. You know, a hurricane happens and people are homeless, but the fucking animal hospital blows up and UNICEF comes in to build them a new one overnight. Sheesh.” The best part of this story is that I have no reason to believe that it is a lie, other than the extreme improbability of it. Some day, when I'm a dad, I'll tell all kinds of pointless, horrible stories that involve exploding dogs. My kids will love it!

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Remember how yesterday my mom was going to take me to LensCrafters to get new glasses? And remember how she told me that I had an appointment at 8am? And remember how, for some reason, I believed her? Well, believe it or not, most of that turned out to be a lie. After what could be best described as a horrible night's sleep, my mom decided to wake me up at 7:10 this morning. I, in a textbook “too little, too late” moment, checked the LensCrafters website to see that not only did they not open until 10am, but you needed an appointment to get your eyes checked. I made the earliest appointment I could, which was at 1pm, a mere five and a half hours away. I was pissed. My wife and I went downstairs to find my mom in the living room. When we told her that she gave us the wrong time, rather than just saying “Oh, sorry, I should have checked,” my mom said “Oh, did I say eight? I meant nine,” WHICH WOULD STILL HAVE BEEN WRONG.

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As my vacation winds to a close, I'm beginning to worry - as I always do when vacations end - that I've forgotten how to function as a member of normal society. Have I forgotten how to work? Do I no longer understand how to take public transportation? Can I still go grocery shopping without freaking out? I suppose I'll find out on Monday. Until then, all I can do is hope my flights are on time and my pilots don't have their laptops with them. I seriously can't wait to just get home, sit around with my wife, cook some dinner and watch something on the TV. I think we still have this week's Dancing With The Stars elimination show recorded. That'll be a nice little taste of normal after a week and a half of “fun.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 8

Friday, October 30
Day 8

This vacation is starting to wear me the fuck out. It's not the writing, it's not having to deal with my family, it's not even the rigorous travel schedule. I hate having to spend so much time away from my life. I haven't seen my cat in four days, I haven't slept in my own bed for four days (because that would be way too long), I haven't been to work in over a week. I enjoy being on vacation, I just wish it were over already. When I saw that I had a day off next Wednesday, I became positively giddy. I actually get to have some time off of work that I'm not forced to enjoy - how great is that?

Tomorrow will be my last full day on Cape Cod, and it's going to be packed to the rim with activities. My day starts at 8am, when I'm heading over to LensCrafters with my mom (blugh) to get some new glasses, then it's down to Barnstable High to watch some Tommy play junior varsity football, then back home for lunch, then my wife and I are going out with Tommy and Billy to spend some Good Old-Fashioned Quality Time together, then back home again, then dinner, then Halloweeny shit, then dinner with the Cabrals, then I have to do laundry, then I have to pack. Oh, and then I still have to sleep in a tiny, uncomfortable bed with my wife. That might be the worst part of the trip so far, having to share a twin bed. Any of those things separately would be great, but as a day, it seems pretty shitty.

The thing I'm least looking forward to is going to LensCrafters with my mom. Spending time with my mom is like being in one of the traps in Saw, but sadly, unlike in the movies, death is not an option. We were all having dinner tonight when my mom asked me if I needed new glasses. I said yes, but I don't want her to buy them for me. This was an immediate, gut reaction fueled by years of hate. I really, really hate my mom. So much so that the thought of her doing anything for me - even something that needs to be done - is like being force-fed ipecac. Fortunately/unfortunately my wife was there to say that yes, it would be very kind of my mother to buy me new glasses. This is fortunate because, let's face it, I really need new glasses and I don't have the $400 to get them. However this is unfortunate because now, I'll be forced to spend the first few hours of my day with my mom. Worse yet, I'll be beholden to her. That's the worst feeling in the universe, being beholden to somebody you hate.

Conversely, the thing I'm most looking forward to is spending time with my brothers. Tomorrow's won't be the first high school football game I've been to this week. Yesterday Tommy, Billy and the rest of the Barnstable High freshman football team beat North Plymouth's freshman football team 12 - 8. Since then - in the past two days - Tommy got called up to junior varsity. Hopefully they can beat North Plymouth's JV team, too. It's nice spending time with the kids now that they're finally old enough to joke around with. Tommy's 15 now and he's getting to be pretty funny. Billy's on his way - he's not much of a talker, but when he does speak, he usually manages to zing my mom. For all the chaos that has gone on since I moved to Los Angeles, the kids have somehow managed to turn into pretty good people. It's seeing stuff like that leads me to believe that if my wife and I turn out to be even kinda sorta remotely almost halfway decent parents, our kids have a shot at contributing to Western Society in a positive way.

This isn't to say that both of my parents are doing a horrible job. My dad, for all his faults, is doing an amazing job with Tommy and Billy. He runs his own law firm - up until very recently, he was the family's only source of income. He does the grocery shopping, he does all the cooking, he makes sure the kids do their homework, he takes them to and from football and baseball practices/games - and most importantly, he makes sure to get the kids to do a lot of stuff for themselves. Tommy and Billy do a lot of cleaning, they do their own laundry, they're able to cook their own meals if they need to. Although it took him a while - he didn't do half that stuff for me - my dad has turned into a pretty great dad. Although I must say that I'm pretty jealous that this seemed to happen about three hours after my plane touched down in Los Angeles.

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Like I said earlier, I can't wait to get back to my life - more than anything I want to be sleeping in my own bed again. I will, however, miss spending time with (most of) my family, just as I miss spending time with (most of) my wife's family. I hate the fact that I have to take time away from my life to see them - I want (most of) them to be a part of my life. The chances of my wife and I moving to Massachusetts any time soon are slim and the chances of us moving to Fresno are even slimmer. The obvious solution here is for everybody to move to a mutually agreeable place so we can all just hang out and do whatever. Since Fresno blows and Massachusetts is super cold, I feel the solution is obvious: We'll get everybody - my wife's family, my family and all of our friends - to move to a compound in Texas. That way, everybody is equally miserable, but at least we'll have each other.

Friday, October 30, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 7

Thursday, October 29
Day 7

I graduated from Barnstable High School in 2003, but I never really thought of myself as a true Red Raider, mostly because I went to a different high school for two and a half years before transferring to Barnstable. I never even met principal Pat Graves. I don't think she even exists. I mention this because today, my mom gave me the Barnstable High yearbooks for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004, so I could look through them and find my old friends. I'm not sure why she thought I'd want to do this, seeing as my biggest anxiety right now is running into people I knew in high school and having to pretend I'm happy to see them. This means I should be avoiding places like the Cape Cod Mall, Sam Diego's, most Dunkin' Donuts (although that doesn't stop me) and Cape Cod Community College.

If I had my druthers, I'd have not been at my own high school graduation. My wife tells me she didn't go to hers, and I'm insanely jealous. It's tough to say this without sounding like an asshole, but here goes: Why the fuck would anybody want to go stand out on a field for three hours and watch a procession of people you don't like and - God willing - won't ever see again get congratulated for doing something that the state forces you to do, like a prison sentence? How many times have you been asked for your high school diploma after you filled out your college applications? Never? Less than never? Exactly. That said, you can imagine that I wanted nothing less than to be in my high school yearbook. I went to Barnstable High for a total of 14 months and, while I had friends, it wasn't like I was going to drop $75 or whatever in order to have access to photos of them from when they were 18. That just doesn't sound like a good investment to me.

I was all ready to not be included in the yearbook - mostly as a political stunt, which was something I liked doing when I was 17 - when my mom called to tell me that she had booked a photographer in order to take my senior portrait. She even bought me a new sweater to wear, which was awesome because I never wore sweaters. That's the best part of senior portraits - for the most part, they're pictures of people you never want to see again, posing in ways that are utterly unnatural. “Oh, hello! Didn't think anybody would find me here - though I know not why, as I spend most of my time sitting cross-legged on a sand dune, reading a book. Yes, this is me in my element. Soak it in, boys!”

So there I was, in a park that I'd never been to before, sitting cross-legged in the grass, looking up at trees, leaning on tables, laying flat on my stomach and writing long-hand in a journal - name something I don't do, there I was doing it and having my photo taken. Finally we settled on one where I was just sitting in the grass, which more or less looked like something I'd do at some point. My mom had a billion copies of it printed up and shipped to various relatives - many of whom I have not met to this day. She hung one up in the living room, put one in my dad's office and finally sent one in to the yearbook committee so that they could put me in the yearbook. I kindly asked them to keep me out, but they said they “could not, in good conscience, leave a student out of the yearbook if a photo had been submitted.” What utter bullshit.

The worst part about being in the yearbook is having to do all the extra work that goes into being remembered. The yearbook committee wants you to put together a brag sheet about yourself - what clubs you were in, what superlatives you won, et cetera. When they were passing around the superlative ballots in my homeroom class, I got everybody to write me in for “Most Likely to Hide From the Law in a Graveyard.” Despite being the top (only) vote-getter, they didn't add my awesome superlative to the yearbook. I didn't even get “Most Likely to Have a Five-Star Podcast on Soundlantern.com,” which I eventually would succeed in doing.

Anyhow, the thing I hated the most about doing the yearbooky stuff was having to do my senior write-up and my yearbook quote. While mulling it over one day, I found a stack of old yearbooks in the school library. I immediately pulled out the year my mom graduated and looked up her entry. There was no senior write-up, but her yearbook quote was “I get high with a little help from my friends...” which she attributed to Ringo Starr. I figured there was no way I could top that, so I just decided to leave my entire entry blank - just a photo of me.

This turned out to be a much better decision than I could ever have guessed. Looking back, every senior write-up reads like a bad Scrabble hand. A lot of initials, a lot of acronyms, not a lot of cohesive thought. There are, however, a lot of people pledging their undying love to somebody they would dump less than six months later - some couples didn't even make it to the yearbook's publication before they broke up. The yearbook quotes are pretty sweet too. There are a few “Life isn't measured by the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away,” a couple “Dance as though nobody's looking,” some “Live each moment as though it's your last” and even a “Life is short and hard like a bodybuilding elf.” My personal favorite was Andy Beard, who - and I shit you not - claims to live his life a quarter of a mile at a time, just like Dom from The Fast and the Furious.

Here, for posterity, is what I was thinking of using as my yearbook quote:

My poor generation, we're on for the ride. An ocean of choices, pulled out on the tide. We're handed a beach ball and told to pick a side. Drowned in information, my poor generation. - Moxy Fruvous

Song lyrics always look trite when you write them out - I swear it sounds deep when they sing it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 6

Wednesday, October 28
Day 6

I totally get it now.

After living on Cape Cod for 21 years, I finally realized why people like it. I drove around aimlessly for an hour or so with my wife, pointing at things and saying “ooooh!” That's the appeal! Looking at shit! There are all kinds of things to look at. We looked at trees, old cemeteries, quaint storefronts, things made of wood. Everything on Cape Cod is there to be looked at. I'm pissed that I didn't realize this earlier.

Seriously though, after spending upwards of three years in Los Angeles, America's Home of the Fake, it was refreshing to see so many natural things at once. It's nothing like Fresno, a town where all the natural things are immaculately planned - planted in rows, pruned precisely, geometrically designed to look right - and everything else is either a barren wasteland or a Target. Things in Massachusetts are all over the place. The trees just grow where they grow and the roads wind around them. The gravestones at the cemeteries look like crooked teeth popping out of the earth, all of them pointing in different directions and none of them matching. The plots are in a vaguely grid-like arrangement - hell, the graveyards themselves are hilly and bumpy. It's almost like this stuff is super old and they didn't plan it as well as they could have.

(By the way, a discussion up in Fresno between my wife's mom and her husband brought to light some of the hang-ups that people have about their deaths. Cindy and Steve were talking about their plots, where they want to be buried, how they want to be buried, et cetera. Cindy made a joke about Steve buying the plots on either side of his so that she could be buried in one, and Steve's ex-wife couldn't be buried on the other side of him. Why do people give a shit about where they're buried, and more specifically who's next to them? Just donate your body to science and maybe you'll help the living. It's not like you're going to piss off the God you don't believe in. If your religion forbids you from doing anything with your corpse other than burying it, then by all means do so. But again, why does it matter who you're next to? It's not like when you're in Heaven you're forced to sit in chairs relative to your how and where you were buried. At least, I hope not for the sake of my many pets who are all buried next to each other. I have a feeling they wouldn't all get along.)

Another thing Cape Cod is good for is breakfast. On the trip from my parents' house to the restaurant where we ended up eating, we passed by about two dozen breakfast places. In fact, we ate at The Egg and I, which is right next to The Gourmet Brunch, which is across the street from Perry's, which is down the street from Percy's Place, which is less than a block from Cafe e Dolci, although that's more of a coffee/pastry affair - not to mention the hundreds of Dunkin' Donuts establishments peppering the landscape. The fact that all of these places stay in business leads me to believe two things: first, everybody on Cape Cod who knows how to prepare eggs has opened a restaurant and second, I need to move back to West Barnstable and start investing in omelette futures.

After breakfast, I suggested to my wife that we check out some of the local mom-and-pop-type businesses, like Best Buy and the AT&T store. We futzed around Hyannis, stopping in at the mall and a couple of record stores before grabbing a hot chocolate at Dunkin' Donuts and heading home. By the way, for my California readers, Dunkin' Donuts is like In & Out, but in reverse. It's a way of life in every state in the fucking union but California. If the Starbucks on the corner of Hollywood and Las Palmas could be replaced with a Dunkin' Donuts on the condition that I get my wife pregnant and sell the child into slavery, I'd hope for twins so I could also trade the Starbucks at the Sherman Oaks Galleria so I could go there on the way to work.

Being on vacation, I find myself asking questions that I would normally find appalling. “I wonder if I can find a t-shirt with an outline of Massachusetts, but with Cape Cod being an arm, and instead of Provincetown and Truro, maybe it could be a hand giving you the finger. What? They don't have it in navy, only red or green? Forget it.” The urge to buy t-shirts on vacation is amazing, by the way. I'm barely on vacation right now - I grew up here and I'm staying at my parents' house, for God's sake - but regardless, I need to come home with shirts. I'm thinking about getting a Red Sox road alternate shirt with either Jon Lester or Jason Bay's number. Oh, and I saw a sweet Milan Lucic throwback Bruins shirt. I pity my poor wife.

The only bad thing about today was having to spend time with my mom. She came out of the gate strong by opening the door to my bedroom, then knocking, then asking if my wife and I were taking a nap. Well, we were. Not anymore. There will be a lot more on my mother coming in the next few days, but here's a taste of what's to come. This happened at dinner tonight.

Me: Yeah, we're thinking of driving up to Salem this week.
Mom: Oh? Well when you're up there, you can learn about Lizzie Borden. She was in the witch trials, you know.
Aurora: Kathy, you know she was born 200 years later, right? [ed. note: She also lived in Fall River, MA - over an hour away]
(Stunned silence)
Mom: You know that place is a hotel now, right? A haunted one?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 5

Tuesday, October 27
Day 5

I've already been to Paris, I've already been to Rome
But what did I do but miss my home?
Oh, New England
I've been out west to Californ'
But I miss that land where I was born
Oh, New England

- Jonathan Richman


Considering the many millions of things I'm afraid of, air travel surprisingly doesn't make the list. In fact, I rather enjoy it. I find a certain amount of comfort in knowing that if I die some time in the next six hours, I'm pretty sure I know how I'm going. Six hours, of course, being the amount of time it takes to fly coast-to-coast, provided of course that your pilots don't fly an hour and a half out of the way like those pricks for Northwest Airlines. I got to experience the unparalleled joy of flight today for nine hours today because my itinerary made a retarded stop in Ft. Lauderdale, FL today. It sucked.

I'm in Massachusetts now for the first time in about eleven and a half months. Unlike my last trip, which was for my great grandmother's funeral, this one was planned a lot farther in advance. Despite that, my wife and I still managed to get the shittiest flight in the history of America. A few thoughts about flying:

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I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that nobody seems amazed every time a plane takes off or lands. Like, I understand that that's what's “supposed to happen,” but really. 200 people are being lifted off the ground, just by virtue of the fact that you're going super fast, and then a few hours later you just put down some tiny wheels and you stop completely, and ANYBODY CAN DO THIS FOR LESS THAN $100. Insanity. I feel that this miracle of modern science needs to be met with a round of applause every time it happens. It's so cool.

---

I'm not a superstitious guy, but do you think people get super nervous if they see William Shatner or John Lithgow get on a plane? Like, would you want them sitting in a window seat? I wouldn't. Then again, I also wouldn't want to be anywhere near John Landis if flight is involved. Or any members of the New York Yankees.

---

Southwest Airlines has discontinued their policy of accepting cash for alcohol on their flights - credit or debit cards only. This is a bad idea for so many reasons. First of all, I assume this lowers the number of people who buy alcohol. It just does. Not accepting cash is just a horrible policy for any business. And secondly, how do you expect a teenager to catch a buzz on a plane if he has to wait for his dad to fall asleep and steal his credit card? Sheesh.

---

What is it about traveling that makes it okay for people to be either super-conversational or a total asshole? I hate both ends of the spectrum, and you seem to encounter both in equal quantities. At the airport this morning, my wife took her iced tea out of her cup holder for about as much time as it takes to take a sip and put it back, during which time a woman who was probably in her 50's just came over, sat down and put her coffee right in my wife's cup holder. She even made that noise that you make when you sit down to let everybody know that you're burdened and world-weary. “Ough.” It's very important for everybody to know that her life is tough, and it's a wonder that she makes it through each day, but she perseveres.

On the trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Providence, a guy sat next to my wife and me, and God bless his little heart, he wanted nothing more than an audience. He just wanted people to talk to him. He told us that he “basically lives on planes now,” and that whenever he goes to a new town, he makes sure to eat at whatever place they told him to eat at on the Travel Channel. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I just didn't want to talk to him. I'm sure this says something about me.

---

Flight crew breakdown:
Los Angeles, CA to Austin, TX: Three women, called everybody on the plane “customers,” all cunts.
Austin, TX to Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Three other women, called everybody on the plane “passengers,” all more or less okay. Recognized the youngest one from my last trip. Weird.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Providence, RI: Three men, called everybody on the plane “guests,” all super-competent and polite.

---

Now that I'm back in Massachusetts, I'm trying to figure out what to do with my time here. The only thing I really have to do is go to my brothers' football game Thursday afternoon, and I even kind of want to do that. Tomorrow the plan is to futz around in Hyannis, Friday I'm taking Aurora and my brothers up to Salem for some witch trial fun, and Saturday is Halloween. Really, the one thing I need to make sure to do every day is text Mike Strauss to make sure he feeds my cat and avoid interacting with my mom in every possible way. That's the only thing about this trip that really scares me. It's not the flying, it's not being away from my cat for a week (although I'm not thrilled about that), it's having to avoid seeing my mother as much as possible. I haven't talked to her in eleven and a half months, and I'm hoping that streak can continue. I feel like an alcoholic with 50 weeks of sobriety taking a vacation to wine country. She's really the only thing I can think of that could possibly ruin this trip, with the possible exception of a gremlin on the wing.

For good measure, here's a clip from Sesame Street, with the music once again provided by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 4

Monday, October 26
Day 4

I suppose the phrase that best encapsulates the Fresno Experience would be “terrifying sameness.” In one of her many unfortunate attempts to convince the two of us that Fresno was The Place To Be, my wife's mom decided to drive by the apartment where Aurora's sister Sarah lives with her husband. “It's cheaper and way nicer than your place,” she told us. When we got there, we were presented with a series of identical House Pods, arranged neatly in rows. “There's her place!” Cindy yelled, pointing at one of the many residences. “No, wait, there it is! No, wait! It's that one, I think. Anyhow, they have a pool!” The apartment was so nice, you couldn't tell it apart from its brethren. Oh, and they weren't that nice - certainly not as nice as our building. They were actually kind of shitty.

Everything in Fresno is exactly like everything else in Fresno. Up the street from the Stronghold is a large shopping center with a Target, a Petsmart, a Starbucks, an In & Out, a Best Buy, a Gamestop and a Joann Fabrics. About two miles away is a large shopping center with a Target, a Petsmart, a Starbucks, an In & Out, a Best Buy, a Gamestop and a Joann Fabrics. Three miles from there is a large shopping center with a Target, a Petsmart, a Starbucks, an In & Out, a Best Buy, a Gamestop and a Joann Fabrics - and a Barnes and Noble. A ways away from there is - well, you get the point. It's not just within the city limits, either. On the train ride home you pass by a row of houses that have the following items in each backyard: Pool, satellite dish, two old bicycles and a rusted tool shed made of corrugated tin. The only thing that differentiates each house from the next is the graffiti on the side of the sound barrier that faces the train. “Which house do you live in? Is it the 'Fuck Bitchez' house or the 'South Side Is Fagz' house?”

This terrifying sameness is, among other things, what keeps me from moving up here. I mean, that and the people. Aurora and I were at one of the many Targets in Fresno. I was in the dressing room when one of the employees got on the PA and said “Can we get a little help with go-backs here at the fitting rooms? We're ooooooverflowing!” A woman in an adjacent booth loudly proclaimed “All your stuff here is ooooooverpriced!” Where the fuck do you shop that Target is overpriced? The point of Target is to undercut everyone in town. In what universe is eight dollars for a polo shirt unreasonable? Sheesh. Anyhow, back to the sameness. One of the great things about Los Angeles is that nothing is the same. There are distinct neighborhoods, different cultural influences, millions of people, all of them different. Even the McDonald's are different. Within a five block radius, there are three McDonald's, each of them completely different. Different customers, different employees - even different prices. It's a sociological study just waiting to happen.

---

9:01 PM
Day 4.5

I'm finally home. I was thrilled to get off the subway train and see different things everywhere. Neon lights, street performers, a giant ceramic dinosaur, people who aren't white - all sorts of things. One of the things I did to combat the sameness of Fresno was, ironically, listen to the same album over and over. According to iTunes, I have listened to Someone to Drive You Home by the Long Blondes eight times in the past three days. I made an attempt to eat the same foods that I eat when I'm in Los Angeles, too. We stopped at one of the many Starbucks Drive-Thrus in one of the many identical plazas and I got my usual black iced tea/lemonade. I'd also mention that I ate the same things I always do when I went to In & Out, but that's not hard to do considering that their menu consists of three things.

As I pack to get ready for the second leg of our two-legged journey, it must be noted that I do look forward to the familiarity of my hometown. Even though when I lived on Cape Cod I did the same thing more or less every day, it didn't have that same-y feel that covered every inch of Fresno. No two houses look the same on any given street. The 7-11 over by the mall is totally different than the 7-11 off of exit six - the one by the mall is attached to a Dunkin' Donuts, while the one off of exit six is attached to a Burger King and a Dunkin' Donuts and has way higher prices because it's the one that the tourists go to when they're on the highway. Don't even get me started on the obvious differences between the Dunkin' Donuts across the street from the Cape Codder and the one at the end of Main Street - I think we all know what they are.

That's the thing - all I really want is variety, even if it's to be found in minutiae. Luckily, I live in a neighborhood that doesn't really allow for sameness. There's always a new piece of discarded furniture on the sidewalk, there's always a movie being shot on the sidewalk, there's always a new feral cat hanging out in the vacant lot on the corner of Yucca and Cherokee. Tonight, a fistfight broke out in the courtyard of the apartment complex next to that vacant lot. Two people were leaving the building, yelling at a group of people smoking pot on the patio, threatening to call the cops. One of the pot smokers told them to relax, and the antagonistic couple screamed “CALL THE COPS! DRUG DEALERS ARE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!” So naturally, one of the pot-smoking chicks punched the other girl in the face. It spilled out into the street and turned into a full-out melee.

And that's why I'm not moving to Fresno. Sorry Cindy, sorry Steve.

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 3

Sunday, October 24
Day 3

I've been here in Fresno for two and a half days now, and the one thing I've learned is I'm not a huge fan of families. Not specifically my wife's family, but the concept of familial bonds forcing you to tolerate another person, no matter how angry they make you. I'm already on - at best - shaky terms with most of my family. No thanks to this blog, I suppose. You write what, only a dozen or so unflattering essays and people start to turn on you. Anyhow, today was family day here at the Stronghold. By the way, have I mentioned that my wife's mom remarried a few years ago, and when she did she married a guy named Strong (last, not first)? Well she did. Have I also mentioned that they're the type of people that think it's hi-larious to call their home the Stronghold? Well they are. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

---

The house was pretty packed today. Packed and noisy and full of children. My wife's parents have been watching three small children for the past few weeks. Their mother just died, and their dad is taking it pretty hard, so Steve and Cindy have been helping take care of the kids while their dad is at work. They've all - the kids and their dad - have become honorary members of the family here. It's very sweet. When we took family photos yesterday (don't think I won't be complaining about that at a later date, by the way), they were included. There's a boy and two girls - twins - and none of them can be older than eight or so. The boy is a question asker, which is great. He sits, he plays on his Game Boy, and he asks questions.

- Do you like video games?
- Yeah, I play a lot of vid-
- Did you know GI Joe was old?
- Yeah, I used to watch the cart-
- No, like really, really old?
- Yeah, back when I was a kid I-
- What video games do you play?
- I like sports ga-
- Do you like Mario?
- Yeah, I have all his-
- Do you have friends?

And so on. I wouldn't mind his inquisitive nature if he would just wait for me to answer before the next question. By the way, the answer to “do you have friends?” was “yeah, kinda.” The twins - not my wife's sisters, but the young ones - were a lot tougher to deal with. They didn't ask questions, they just screamed. Not the standard “kids are having fun” screams - those are screams of joy. No, these were raspy-voiced, blood-curdling screams of terror and fear, except they weren't afraid of anything. They just made that noise. Sometimes when I walk around the house, searching for a book or a pen or something, I like to mutter “puff puff puff” under my breath. Not sure why, it just seems like it helps me find things. I'm like a very quiet steam engine. The twins just go around screaming. The problem with this - aside from the obvious problem of having these two klaxons blaring all day - is that when something actually goes wrong, it takes a while for anybody to notice. The girls were outside, not wearing shoes, when one of them stepped on a pricker or something, and screamed a terrible scream. My wife was the only person in the house who could differentiate this scream from one of the normal ones, and rushed out to help her. Everybody else just kind of sat around for a second, trying to decide if this was a good scream or a bad scream. If this girl had fallen into a well, we may not have moved for days. What I'm saying is, that's why you don't yell.

---

Later in the day, my wife's sisters came over for dinner. Celeste and her husband Brad, and my wife's twin sisters, Excalibur and Excelsior. Those aren't their real names, the twins. Their real names are Athena and Alethea, but I can't tell them apart, so rather than get it wrong and feel guilty, I get it wrong on purpose and I feel just fine about it. Tonight's theme was “Salad Night.” We were presented with the following non-salads: fruit salad (closest thing to a real salad), potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken salad, Jello salad, and a six-and-a-half layer dip, which isn't really a salad so much as it is a bunch of yummy shit in a bowl. It's a six-and-a-half layer dip because it didn't have black olives, and that's just criminal. Black olives are delicious, but I digress. The point I was trying to make was that there wasn't a single leaf of lettuce eaten at “Salad Night.” How positively Fresno.

After dinner, everyone just kind of puttered around, talking, making noise. I hate noise. Sometimes I feel like the Grinch. Noise, noise, noise! My wife's sisters got up to make peanut butter squares - really good, by the way, and no lettuce in them anywhere. While this was going on, Celeste was pontificating loudly about what foods her husband - who was sitting next to her - wanted at his birthday party. By the way, the reason for tonight's gathering was to belatedly celebrate Celeste's birthday. It was like, a month ago, but whatever. As she was going on about what kind of frosting Brad did and didn't like - by the way, she didn't want any of her cake because it had the kind of frosting he didn't like - somebody asked her why Brad didn't speak more. Her response? “Bradley likes to let me shine.”

“Bradley likes to let me shine.” Just let that percolate.

Concurrent with Celeste shitting out of her own mouth was more screaming from the (younger) twins, and more questions from their brother. It got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore. I went into the guest bedroom and closed the door, but it was no good. The noise bled through, and I wanted to die. I couldn't read, I couldn't write, I couldn't think. By the time everybody left, my brain was so cooked that, even now, I still don't feel quite right.

---

I wrestle with the idea of having a family. My wife wishes her family lived anywhere but Fresno, by which I assume she means somewhere in Los Angeles. She likes the idea of being able to go to her parents' house, eat their food and enjoy their company, which I must admit, is a pretty sweet deal. Deep down, she may even like the idea of being able to spend time with her sisters. I, on the other hand, just want to be left the fuck alone. I'm much more into the idea of seeing my family once a year, hating every minute of it, and praying that maybe I'll be able to write something interesting about it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 2


Saturday, October 24
Day 2

There are a lot of men I look up to. My childhood hero was Larry Bird. As I grew older, I fell in love with the music of Bob Dylan. Now, in my early 20s, I have learned to embrace the greatness of Huell Howser. Huell, for those who don't live in California, is the host of PBS' California's Gold, a documentary show featuring the lesser known aspects of California's rich cultural tapestry. Unfortunately, the reason most of the places Huell goes are unknown is that they suck. Not only do they suck, but he sucks. He's a terrible, terrible host. There was a fantastic clip they used to play on the old Adam Carolla morning show where Huell spends 20 minutes interviewing an 80-year-old man about a bucket of rocks he has collected over the years. Some of my favorite episodes include a trip to the Colossal Colon, an interview with a woman who makes sculptures out of laundry lint, and a ride-along with a ladybug hunter and his oft-ridiculed son on their weekly ladybug hunting excursion.

Huell goes to other, more mundane places, too. These are the episodes where he truly gets to shine. Huell exhibits the same amount of excitement when presented with a pizza oven as he would if you told him the meaning of life. My favorite pizza place in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Village Pizzeria, on the corner of Yucca and Ivar. First I fell in love with their pizza, then I met the owner - then I saw the photos on the wall of Huell tossing some dough with the owner.

One of the more interesting places to be featured on California's Gold is the Forestiere Underground Gardens, in Fresno. The Forestiere Underground Gardens is tailor-made for somebody like Huell. It has all the indicators of a fantastically boring episode of California's Gold. First, it needs to be in a boring shit-town in the middle of nowhere - Fresno. Second, it should have a backstory that on the one hand is interesting, but on the other is kind of pathetic (more on that later). Finally, it ought to be a family-owned operation, which means the terribly boring shit is generational!

---

My wife found the website - www.undergroundgardens.com - and was immediately smitten. She called her mom and declared that the moment we set foot in Fresno, we were to head to the Underground Gardens. When I asked what it was, she explained that about a century ago, some guy moved to Fresno from Sicily - major downgrade, by the way - and couldn't stand the deadly hot summers. Because there was no air conditioning, he started digging holes to live in, and eventually he started planting trees in the holes. Sound awesome, right? I can see the headline now - Crazy Loner Digs, Lives In Holes. Fascinating.

Sadly, as it turns out, the Underground Gardens was pretty interesting. Baldasare Forestiere, working alone and using only a shovel and wheelbarrow, spent his entire life digging an elaborate system of tunnels and rooms underneath the hardpan layer, and eventually moving underground. Now, you may ask why he needed to be underground, but the answer is obvious - it's too fucking hot in Fresno. Once down there, he began planting fruit trees, leaving holes in the ceiling so that sun and rain could get in. He grew hybrid trees - I saw one today that grew both oranges and lemons - and even defied the laws of God Himself, creating a strawberry tree. In his later years, Forestiere decided to open the Underground Gardens to the public, and created an entire underground resort.

Everything about this place was interesting. In addition to showing us the crazy underground trees, our tour guide took us to Forestiere's living chambers, including his two bedrooms - one with a stove to keep warm in the winter, while the other was an open air room to keep cool in the summer. There was a kitchen, a beautiful outdoor bathing area with a cast-iron bathtub and even a small altar, at which the Roman Catholic Forestiere could worship. There were various religious symbols throughout the gardens, and even an aquarium that sadly wasn't part of today's tour.

The only thing that bummed me out was Baldasare Forestiere's personal life. Although the tour guide insisted this wasn't true, Forestiere seems to have been an insane loner who started digging holes to get away from people, like the episode of Seinfeld where Dana Gould dug a hole in Central Park because Jerry didn't want his van. Anyhow, he never married, and as such never had any children. When he died in 1946, his brother took over his work, finishing the grand ballroom for the resort. To my knowledge, Forestiere's plans for a resort were never fully realized. Today, his family keeps the property, harvesting the fruit. We couldn't figure out if the two tour guides we saw today were volunteers or employees, though my inclination is to go with employees. I mean, they had name tags.

The real problem I had with the Underground Gardens was that while it wasn't life-changing, it also didn't suck enough. It was only pretty cool. There was nothing there to make fun of. I know it says very little about me that the most important attribute something can possess is mockability, but it's how I get through life. I suppose it kind of serves me right that what I was hoping would be a massive suck-fest turned out to be a nice day with my wife and her family. I even signed the fruity guest book. I even even took a small amount of pride when I took the pushpin and stuck it in the part of the map that said “Hyannis,” signifying that I was the first person from Barnstable County to have set foot in the Underground Gardens, despite the fact that I haven't lived there in years. What they don't know won't hurt them.

I even even even bought a bumper sticker. Maybe someday, I'll have a car.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10,000 Word Vacation, Day 1

Friday, October 23
Day 1

Most of the English speaking world goes on holiday. They take time off of school, work, whatever. They leave town and go somewhere nicer. They go to Lake Something-or-other, where their family has a cottage. They take a lot of photos. It's pretty cute, I guess. Americans don't go on holiday, we go on vacation. They don't take time off of school or work, we escape. We don't just look forward to going on vacation - we count the days until our release, like prisoners. When we go on vacation, we have Fun Regimens. Day One: Explore the hotel. Day Two: Tourist attractions. Day Three: Theme parks. It's no wonder that people come back from vacation more exhausted than when they left. I have trouble planning my normal life - the idea of putting this much thought into recreation is mind-blowing.

Right now, my wife and I are vacating our lives. We're going on what I'm calling the “Transcontinental Whirlwind In-Law Tour 2009.” Ten days, two coasts and about 25 or so hours of actual travel time. From October 23 - 26, we're going to be in Fresno, California, where her family lives. From the 27th through the first of November, we'll be staying in West Barnstable, Massachusetts with my family.

---

1:15 PM
I'm of two minds. For the most part, I like my wife's family. They're pretty okay, as far as people go. I mean, they were kind enough to pay for our trip up to Fresno. The problem is that they live in Fresno. For those who are unacquainted with the Fresno/Clovis area, it's the crown jewel of California's Meth Belt. I feel like I'm being pretty fair when I say that anybody who elects to live in Fresno is one of three things: a meth-addled hillbilly, a migrant worker, or Mormon. The one thing those three groups share is a common love of shopping at Target and eating at Chick-Fil-A. To be fair though, I can sort of get behind that myself.

The real problem I have with the trip to Fresno is the trip itself. It's not that I hate travelling - quite the opposite, really. What I hate about going to Fresno is taking the train up there. The first time I traveled by train, I went from Providence, RI to Akron, OH. What could have been a two hour flight ended up being a ten hour train ride. An old guy even shit his pants next to me. I decided to take the train to Ohio because I foolishly thought I wanted to See America. If for some reason you're a high school senior, do yourself a favor and avoid Seeing America. There's not much to see. Well, not much that a train can show you at least. The Philadelphia to Pittsburgh leg of my journey went a little something like this: field, cows, field, cows, fields, Mennonites, giant bales of hay. Fantastic. The one thing I learned from Seeing America is that America is mostly shit. It really was a bummer.

Anyhow, as much as I hate trains, we're pretty much fucked until we get a car or her parents move to civilization. Trains go where pilots fear to tread. The American Midwest is often called “flyover country,” but even in California there's not a lot going on geographically between Los Angeles and San Fransisco. I can say without hyperbole that when I look out the right side of the train, I'm presented with nothing but dirt for as far as the eye can see. Running along the left side of the train are power lines. I feel like every time the train stops, its mere presence doubles the population of whatever town we're in. Right now we're stopping in what is supposed to be a town by the name of Corcoran, although it's less like a town and more like a wide spot in the road. I'm surprised the train isn't besieged with local children selling tchotchkes and Chiclets to the passengers. Sometimes I feel like the anti-Steinbeck. There is a disdain for rural America that flows through my veins. The idea of romanticizing this lifestyle is so strange to me. Oh, also unlike John Steinbeck I'm a piece of shit writer.

---

2:24 PM
We're about 40 minutes outside of Fresno right now. We're in the town of Hanford. Things are looking a little more metropolitan now. I just saw a gas station and a stop light, which is a lot more than I can say about Corcoran. Some of the farms even have livestock. I'm seeing restaurants with names I've heard of. I even saw a woman that some people would even call “attractive,” though she was wearing a NASCAR shirt.

Every time I bitch about having to take a train to see her parents, my wife tries to convince me that Fresno has an airport. Bullshit, I say. If Fresno has an airport, I will eat not just my hat, but the hats of any pilots in the area. (2:29 PM Interjection: Holy shit, I just saw a Long John Silver's restaurant. It took me upwards of 24 years, but I've finally seen one. All I need is a Waffle House and a Steak and Shake and my Obscure Restaurant Chain Bingo card is full.)

---

2:36 PM
We're passing by houses now. All of them appear to be about the size of my studio apartment, all of them have matching swimming pools, and all of them have rusted-out sheds made of corrugated tin. I always wonder what people in these Podunks do when they're not cooking meth or painting signs that say “OBAMA + HEALTH CARE = WHITE SLAVERY.” The only thing I can think of is towns like Modesto and Bakersfield work as a feeder system for carnival workers. Recruiters come through every few months, setting up folding tables with signs that say “TRAVEL THE WORLD, BECOME CARNIE TRASH.” That's really all I can come up with.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hypercritical Mass

I'm not one of those misanthropes who only hates people on Christmas and Easter - Dorothy Gambrell

Apparently I've gained a reputation at my job for hating everything. For some reason, everyone thinks I'm a heartless, emotionally empty jerk off. I guess I earned this by making puke noises every time somebody mentions something I don't like. There's my taste and bad taste, and I like to make it clear what category certain things fall into. This makes me a huge asshole. This isn't just for movies or music or books or whatever, this covers everything. If you like ranch dressing on your pepperoni pizza, I will call you a mongoloid. If you think I give a fuck about which cartoon is on your metal lunch pail, you'd best believe I do not. I know that this behavior doesn't make a lot of friends. Frankly, I'm amazed that I have any friends at all. I'm sure I'm one more “I don't think you understand why you're retarded for not listening to Tom Waits” tirade away from everybody I know abandoning me.

This horrible behavior is compounded by the fact that I'm a huge cynic. I'm sick of everything being super-sincere, saccharine-sweet sing-songy bullshit. I'm sick of adults who act like it's okay to watch television made for children despite not having kids of their own. Anybody who goes out of their way to watch Yo Gabba Gabba needs to be shot out of a cannon and into a bag of glass. While I'm not opposed to adults liking things made for kids, I just can't get on board with the idea of grown-ups blindly loving things meant for children, especially when they suck. Personally, I'm incredibly excited to see the Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature this week, not because of some sense of nostalgia or a desire to feel like a kid again, but because those two films are really, really good. This isn't like when guys eat Luna bars because they're yummy, despite being marketed towards women. This is like when college freshmen sleep with their blankies. Guess what - if your age doesn't end in “teen,” it's not acceptable to like the Jonas Brothers. It just isn't.

I work in a movie theatre, and the theatre industry makes all its money off of hype. Where the Wild Things Are doesn't come out for another two weeks, but I'm already fucking sick of it. I've seen previews for this movie for going on five months now, and it makes me want to smash my head against the wall every time I so much as hear the song from the trailer. I want to enjoy this movie, and I probably will - it's directed by Spike Jonze, after all. The problem is every time I hear somebody talk about the soaring sensation the feel in their chest when they watch the trailer, I have to suppress my urge to vomit. To be fair though, I'm sure I'd feel the same soaring sensation in my chest if they made a film adaptation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Anyhow, the incredible hype that surrounds virtually every Friday at work has started to wear me out. Every week a new group of movies get released, and every week everybody I work with tells me how much they can't wait to see whatever movie. Smash cut to 72 hours later, their Facebook status reads “Movie X was okay, but not as good as I had hoped.” I'm not saying I'm above this. Believe me, the same thing happens to me every fucking week. I can count using one hand the movies that lived up to the hype this summer: Star Trek, Inglourious Basterds, Up, District 9 and uh... that's about it.

I'm pretty sure I'm broken. I have so much trouble honestly enjoying things these days. Maybe I'm sick of my life and everything in it. Maybe I need to move away from Los Angeles, a city full of frauds, hype machines and - forgive my Holden Caulfieldness - goddamn phonies. With each passing day I find myself hating a higher percentage of the people I see on the street. Maybe I'm drawing from a pool of people predisposed to being miserable - public transit users in LA - but fuck me, if I have to sit near somebody else on a subway platform playing music on his iPhone for everybody to hear, I'm going to jump in front of the next Union Station train. Remember the goop from Ghostbusters 2 that fed off of all the anger in New York? I wouldn't be surprised to see it start bubbling up out of my bathtub sometime soon. The worst part is I'm starting to hate myself as a result of this - loathing goes hand in hand with self-loathing. Walking around being an asshole to everybody isn't as much fun as it seems. When you spend enough time thinking about what other people do that you hate, you realize how loathsome you truly are.

At the end of October, my wife and I are going on a ten day vacation during which time we're going to visit our respective parents. I'm hoping this time spent with both of our families will serve to recalibrate me. If nothing else, by the time we get home I hope to hate enough things about Fresno and West Barnstable that some of the wide-eyed, Oz-like wonder Los Angeles once held for me will be restored to this squalid shithole of a city.

If not, then fuck it. I'm moving to Australia.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More stand up, this time it's even less funny

I swear I'm writing still, but these past few weeks have been devoted to writing one long essay. Hopefully I'll finish it some day. Here's more shitty stand up for you. Sorry.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tune in, stand up, cop out

You'd think that with all the time I spent not working this week, I'd have a killer essay for you today. Sadly, this is not the case. Instead, please accept this chunk of mediocre stand up comedy. If you like it, let me know. If not, also let me know.



Thanks for listening, see you in a week.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Things that scare me

I live a life of constant fear and paranoia. Everybody's afraid of something, I'm afraid of most things. Worse yet, I'm afraid of things that aren't material - my fears are nebulous, my fears are mostly intangible. Sometimes these fears paralyze me. I curl up in a ball late at night, worrying that someday, I may have to deal with these fears. In an effort to reduce the number of nights I spend weeping myself to sleep, terrified of something that probably won't happen or isn't true, here is a list of my fears, complete with rationales for all of them. To be fair, some are more rational than others. The goal of this essay is to gauge how reasonable each neurosis is, and rank them on a totally not gimmicky or arbitrary scale, where the reasonableness of each fear is given a score from one to five Woody Allen films. Shall we begin? Let's shall.

Abandonment!

I'm afraid that one morning, I'm going to wake up and everybody I love will have left me. My wife will disappear, my friends will stop answering my calls, even my cat will have run away. I'll be alone, with nobody left to love me. The only thing worse than being alone is the knowledge that once left to my own devices, I'd probably end up living in a pile of filth and eating shoe leather to survive, periodically shuffling back to civilization to weep in front of the local DSW in the hopes of receiving some old adidas Gazelles to eat.

This fear, the armchair psychologist might say, comes from the fact that my biological father did, in fact, abandon me and my mother when I was very young. The fact that I somehow managed to survive being raised by my mother tells me that I'd at least be able to carve out a decent life for myself, even after the wheels fall off. More importantly, I know that while my wife may leave me for an orthodontist some day, my cat will love me forever, or at least until she sees a squirrel in the tree outside our apartment.

Neurosis score: 2 out of 5 Take the Money and Runs

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Being a bad parent!

I have no children, thank God. Someday, my wife and I plan to buy a couple of daughters from China and raise them as our own, and when that day comes, I'm sure I'll be a terrible parent. Not “keep one of them in a Rape Shed in the back yard” terrible, but bored, disinterested and selfish. This comes from the related fear that I could never love anything as much as it truly deserves to be loved.

Luckily, my wife is a wonderful person. She'll take care of our children while I spend my time with a worthless hobby that distances me from my family. I'm guessing building ships in bottles or something.

Neurosis score: 2.5 out of 5 Hannah and Her Sisters

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Losing my mind!

Another wonderful fear of mine is the inevitable day that I will be sitting in my bedroom with, as the great Tony Kornheiser would say, “a rat in my mouth and drool running down my chin.” Not that I'm 100% with it all of the time as it is, but I fear that at an advanced age, my faculties will fail me and I'll eventually slip into a stupor, forcing my loved ones - assuming they haven't abandoned me yet - to care for me.

This comes from a tangentially related fear of mine - the fear of someday having to take care of my own mother, despite the fact that I hate her with a passion that burns like 1,000 dying suns. However many times I told her as much, I know that there's no way I would be able to put her in one of those crooked homes you see all the time on 60 Minutes, if for no other reason than I probably won't be able to afford it. Then again, if my kids hate me as much as I hate my mom, hopefully they'll kill me in my sleep like the Menendez brothers.

Neurosis scale: 4 out of 5 Bananas

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I'm bad at my job and all of my friends and coworkers secretly hate me!

I work at a movie theatre, and apparently I'm good at my job. At least my bosses think I'm good at my job - they want me to train other people, which is super-weird to me. I think I'm terrible at my job. This is a vestigial fear dating back to the days when I really was terrible at my job. I'd fuck around at the supermarket all the time, catching Peanut M&M's in my mouth that people would throw from ten feet away. At Olympia Sports, I'd take ten breaks a day to smoke cigarettes in the parking lot with a drifter named Chaos. I can't go into what I did to fuck around at adidas, because one or more of my accomplices still work there, and I don't want to get them into trouble. That's all at my old jobs though, and if my new bosses think I'm good at my job, then I must be good at my job. Similarly, I'm sure all of my friends secretly don't like me. Not in a Mean Girls/The Hills kind of way, but more like they spend time with me because they pity me. They know I'm fragile, and without their approval I'll break like a Fabergé egg. They're doing me a favor. Goddamn I'm a wreck.

Neurosis score: 3.5 out of 5 Broadway Danny Roses

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Snakes!

Pretty self-explanatory. Every snake in the world wants to kill me, and will stop at nothing to do so. They hide in bushes, piles of leaves, trees and ponds, just waiting for me to let my guard down and then bam, I'm fucking dead. Luckily, I live in the city now and all the snakes I see have been turned into belts for assholes.

Also, to save Dave Mahan some time, I'll just add this: Aaaah! COBRAS!

Neurosis score: 5 out of 5 Purple Rose of Cairos

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Immortality, the death of my pets and secretly being the source of the destruction of everything I love!

This one's kind of a doozy. I lump them all together because they all involve the death of the things I love. First, there's the idea of living forever, while watching my friends and family waste away and die. I'm not sure how I first developed this fear, and it's not like it dominates my every thought or anything. It's just that I worry that although it's never happened before, there's a chance that I'll be the first person to live forever. This is one of the reasons I stopped smoking pot.

Secondly, the death of my pets not only frightens me, but the mere thought of if eats me up inside. I feel a gnawing inside my chest, right around the xyphoid process, that once I think about my cat dying, I can't shake for days. This is one of the many reasons I have yet to buy a turtle. This fear is so bad that it's tough for me to get new pets, because I know that someday they will have to die, and the idea of having to cope with that - despite the fact that it's probably over a decade away - is usually enough to deter me from getting an animal companion in the first place.

Then there's the most insidious, most nebulous, most incredibly weird fear of all. I'm afraid that somehow I will end up ruining everything I love. All the things that are important to me, all the friendships I have, my marriage, my impressive collection of old Loveline episodes, all of it will be gone, and I'll have nobody to blame but myself. And there's nothing I can do to cure this one. Well, maybe therapy, but fuck that.

Neurosis score: 5 out of 5 Love and Deaths

Friday, August 28, 2009

A blowhardy Mousebedaversary to you!

So a few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see Julie and Julia. Aside from some minor problems with the presentation, the movie was pretty good. In it, Amy Adams decides she's going to start blogging about her quest to cook every recipe in the Julia Child cookbook. Her blog leads her to (spoiler alert!) a happier life and a better understanding of who she is. Oh, and a book deal. Oh, and then that book got turned into a movie. This movie. True story.

I started this blog a year ago this week. I've written far fewer entries than Julie Powell, although I've had a less solidly defined goal than she did. I started writing because my boss, my best friend and my wife all told me to start writing within about 24 hours of each other. They told me to start writing about my horrible dating life, my horrible home life, my horrible job at adidas, whatever. Just start writing, and people will enjoy it. For the most part, they've been right. I know my friends enjoy my writing for the most part. Since I left adidas, I've written ten stories about my tenure there, which have gotten great responses from my former coworkers. I've even gotten my wife and John Cabral to write a few essays for me, which I enjoy because that means I have an excuse to write less.

I suppose the best thing to come out of this blog - a word that still makes me retch, by the way - is the stuff I've written about my family. A lot of families suck, but mine sucks in a way that entertains people. I've managed to take the experiences I had living with them and parlay them into a collection of pretty solid essays, and through that I've worked out a lot of anger that I was building up for years. The person who helped me the most with this was my wife. She's really great.

Before this turns into a cock sucking exhibition, here's the point of this entry: I'm a big enough narcissist that I think I could maybe turn Mousebed into something that could make me money. Over the next few months, I'm going to work my ass off trying to rewrite some of my older posts, taking them from 800 word essays and turning them into long form pieces. Maybe even chapters. I think I could seriously turn this thing into a book. I really feel like I could combine all the essays about my family into a few thousand words. I could take all of my exes and make them 15 or so pages in OpenOffice. Hell, I could write an entire book about my fears and neuroses.

What I need is an angle. Julie Powell used her love of Julia Child. What do I love that I could write about that could tie into each of my essays? Let's see, what do I do with my life? Work, play video games, listen to old episodes of Loveline, work, hang out with my wife and cat, listen to music, work. The only one of those things that might be even remotely interesting is my love of music. Nick Hornby already wrote High Fidelity, but I think I could maybe take this a different direction. Each of my themes - sad girl stories, gallows humor, brutal honesty - could be turned into about 60 pages each. Each of those 60 page chunks could then have music worked into them. Maybe a play list for each chapter? Not quite sure yet. I swear this all makes sense in my head, despite how much I'm rambling here.

In the coming weeks, I hope to have rewritten enough of my stuff to start posting some old stories, written with a more cohesive structure. I'm hoping you're willing to put up with me doing this, rerunning old material. If you're not, I suppose that'll be too bad. I'm going to limit myself to 2500 words per essay, as I expect this might turn out to be a little wordy. I'll also mix in some of my other projects, specifically some of my stand up material. I'm going to start rehearsing my stuff more, writing new material and I may even end up doing a few open mic nights.

In a final act of cocksuckery, I'd like to thank some people. To all my fantastic coworkers at adidas, thank you for not being the miserable pricks I wrote about. To my friends here in Los Angeles, thank you for actually reading this shit and giving me fairly instantaneous feedback regarding my work. And finally to all the people I'm still friends with from back in Massachusetts, where most of the horrible shit that happened to me actually happened, thank you for making me a better person. I love all of you. Except for my cat Peepopo - you can eat a bag of dicks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Listen to me, I'll show you the light of the mind!

So I finally sat down with an audio recording program and fucking recorded myself talking. I'm a blowhard, I know, but please be kind enough to give it a listen and let me know what you like, don't like, et cetera. The file is a little over 11 minutes long. Please love me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Knock, knock. Who's there? I dunno. I dunno who? No seriously, I don't have an end for this fucking joke.

Here are some half-formed jokes. They don't really have endings yet, but they look like they could be solid. Any input would be nice. Thanks again. I swear I'll write a real essay again someday.

Sex toys sometimes bother me. There's one I saw called the “Clone-a-Pussy.” What it does is it makes a mold of your girlfriend's vagina, and you can make your very own latex clones of her vagina in whatever medium you feel suits her. Latex, chocolate, hamburger meat, whatever. Now, this really creeps me out. Just imagine Jodie Foster stumbling onto a burlap sack full of pussy paperweights.

The lack of utility is what really gets to me. You can't even fuck this thing - that's what really creeps me out. I could see maybe if it had an attachment, like a tube you stuck on the end that was full of lube and stuff. That sort of makes sense. I figure then you can fuck your girlfriend when she's out of town. So you start going at it, but then you remember the time she left the butter dish uncovered and the cat got to it and there was a cat tongue-shaped groove in the butter. Then the mood is broken. Or, you could use it when she's not in the mood. That seems healthy, right? Just going at it in the other room, occasionally shouting, “Man, this is waaaaay better than the real thing!”

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You know, in every third retarded teen movie in the 80's there's a scene where the nerd goes on his first date, and his goofball buddy tells him to take her to the movies. Once there, he should buy a bucket of popcorn, cut a hole in the bottom and stick his dick through the hole. I suppose the thinking is that once his date reaches into the popcorn, she finds his salty, buttery cock and decides to go to town on it. This thought process fails on so many levels. First, and I suppose most importantly, when do you find time to cut the hole? Then, let's face it, this is basically sexual assault. Like, nothing you'd go to jail for, but expect to introduce yourself to your neighbors when you move to a new town. Most importantly, has this ever fucking worked? For anybody? I work at a movie theatre and I've picked up my fair share of popcorn buckets. Not a single one has had a cock-sized hole in the bottom. I did once find a bucket full of urine, left by a parent who decided that their movie-going experience was not to be interrupted by having to take their kid to the bathroom. This is already a dick move, but not throwing away your pee bucket is the icing on the asshole cake.

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I've always had trouble with dating. When I was in sixth grade, I was going to ask a girl out in science class. I wore my nicest pair of pants to school - green corduroys - because they made me look like hot shit. Before I could even begin talking to her, my pants fell down. Now I can't go on dates if I'm not wearing a belt. Before that, though, things were just as bad. In fourth grade, I went to my first boy-girl sleepover party. I was stoked. I didn't know exactly what to expect - it's not like nine year olds have tits or anything - but I knew if I played my cards right, I could at least kiss a girl, which I was hoping I could later parlay into a blowjob.

Late that night, we all decided to play spin the bottle. This was it, I thought. I'm going to kiss a girl, and like I said, hopefully score some oral. We sat in a circle, put the bottle in the middle, and selected the first person to spin. Before the bottle was spun, though, one rule was laid out. If the bottle lands on Josh, you don't have to kiss him. This was made worse by the fact that there was only one other guy at the party, and everybody knew - even in fourth grade - that he was gay.

Any ideas on how to end these jokes would be greatly appreciated. I'm turning to you, loyal Mousebed reader, to be funny where I simply cannot.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So a joke walks into a bar and,

NB: Anybody who knows me already knows I'm super-stoked about working on my stand up act. Once again, instead of actually writing an essay, here are some of the bits I've been working on. Hope you like them.

I fucking hate babies. Just hate them. The worst are the babies who wear the “hilarious” onesies. I saw one the other day that said “Back off daddy, her boobies are mine!” Great. You can't even piss in the toilet but you can cockblock your old man? What an asshole. Seriously though, this comes from the “cool parents.” Mom thinks it's adorable for their tow-headed kid to wear a dopey Mohawk, dad has the weird pierced ear even though he's 38 and he dresses the kid in a Ramones shirt. There's this place in Sherman Oaks that purports to be an “alternative kids boutique.” On the door, written in what can only be described as “kid font” is the phrase “PUNK LIVES!” Not anymore, it doesn't. Once that phrase is painted on the door of a store that sells clothes for three-year-olds, punk is officially dead, and you have killed it.

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I used to be an animal rights activist, back when I used to care about things. I used to care, then I stopped, and then I was happy. Weird how that works, right? Anyhow, back then I used to do a lot more drugs, and sometimes I have flashbacks. It always ends when I throw a bucket of paint on the cat and shout “FUR IS MURDER! FUR IS MURDER!”

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When I get my hair cut, I like to go to the gay neighborhood, because I assume they'll do a better job of cutting my hair than the fat unemployable chick down at the Fantastic Sam's. I extend this theory to clothing. I like going to the thrift stores on Santa Monica Blvd because I assume that if a gay guy used to own it, it has to be stylish. That's why my closet is full of leather train conductor hats and t-shirts that say “Boy's Town Bear Fest '97” (Alternate endings to this joke are “Bears Do It Better” and “Future Mrs. Timberlake.”)

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I grew up in the village of West Barnstable. Not the town, the village. You may ask yourself what the difference between a village and a town is. It's easy to remember - villages have idiots, while towns have drunks. If we lived in a town, I'd be embarrassed by my alcoholic dad, but instead, I'm embarrassed by my retarded mom.

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The place I grew up in had no black people. Like, at all. There were 200 people in my town and 190 of them were white and the other ten were Caucasian. I didn't meet any black people until college, and I didn't really hang out with any until afterwards. My first black friend was named Doug, and he had a lot of other black friends. It was pretty cool. He called me one day and invited me over to a barbecue at his place and told me to bring some beer. Now, I was used to hanging out with my honky-ass friends and going to their Graham Wellington-ass box socials, not barbecues with actual black folk. So when I get to the party with my six-pack of hefeweizen, I was shocked to find that it didn't fit in with the other beers in the fridge. Steel Reserve, Olde English, Colt 45, more Steel Reserve. About an hour into the party, somebody from the patio yelled “Who the fuck brought this shit?” Obviously he wasn't a fan of hefeweizen. I told him it was me, and that it was wheat beer. He told me that it smelled like a gorilla's dick, and that my new nickname would be Gorilla Dick. Now, when you're the only white guy at a bar with eight black guys, there are certain advantages to having a nickname like Gorilla Dick. Women would always ask where I got my unique name, and I'd offer to show them. By which I mean buying them a shitty beer.

So yeah, there's some more stuff. What did you like? What didn't you like? Any feedback would be great. Thanks for putting up with this shit, and hopefully something noteworthy will come out of it. Have a good week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

So we're talking about practice? Not a show. Not a show that I give my life for, but practice?

NB: So I'm writing a lot of material for a stand up act I'm doing at the end of next month. I'm working out a few of the beats right now, and I thought I would use this time to post some of the stuff I've been writing. If you're not exactly a fan of the idea of reading jokes that could be deemed incredibly offensive, I'd advise skipping this one. I work particularly blue when I write jokes, as it turns out. However, it's all I got this week, so I hope it's good enough. Enjoy!

So you know how at the beginning of the porno movie there's a disclaimer that reads “This film does not necessarily depict a healthy sexual relationship?” I'm not a huge fan of that. The last thing I need before beating off is a guilt trip. I know it's not a healthy sexual relationship, that's why it's a good porno. Also, what if the subject of this particular porn is how you actually live your life? Calling my lifestyle choices into question as I'm about to jerk off isn't exactly a turn on.

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So I'm married, and when people find out about it they're always surprised. I'm pretty sure I should be offended, but whatever. Anyhow, everyone always asks, “So what's your wife like,” which is tough for me because I can never remember. I always end up saying something like “I dunno. I guess she's 5'5”? Mid 20's?” It's like I'm describing her for a police sketch artist. I've just learned to give the people what they want to hear. For women, it's “She's my best friend and the greatest thing to ever happen to me.” For guys, it's “Red hair, nice tits, good in the sack.” I suppose the truth really lies in the middle.

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I hate people who need to volunteer super-personal stuff about their lives. This girl I know is telling me how she's going to graduate from high school in October because she had to be home schooled. I say “Why home school? Do your parents hate the government or something?” She says “No, I couldn't be in regular school,” and before I can say another word, she blurts out “Because I tried to kill myself there.” Total downer, right? But she was all cavalier about it. “Oh, yeah, you know me! I'm the girl who's unbalanced! Doesn't that make me fascinating?” I fucking hate people like that. You know what needs to come back? Shame. Used to be you didn't go around announcing to the world that you're a fucking nutcase. Now it's cool. Makes me sick. By the way, have I mentioned that I tried killing myself twice? Because I did. Please like me.

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I like to think of myself as being very similar to John Lennon. Not in that I'm a great songwriter, or an iconoclast, or a genius or anything. I'm a lot like John Lennon in that I spend a lot of my time in bed and none of my friends like my wife very much.

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I used to be afraid of two things. I'm afraid of snakes, and losing my mind to the point where I become a burden on the ones I love. Those two things used to terrify me. Recently, however, I was listening to an interview with Dana Gould, a comedian who is funnier than I could ever be, where he revealed his two biggest fears. First was snakes, just like me. Seems reasonable. Second however, was getting trapped in an elevator and having to take a shit. When I heard this I laughed and didn't really think about it. The other day, however, I was at work and I got into the elevator. As the door closed, I realized I had to take a mammoth shit. Like, urgently. It was then that I realized the validity of Mr. Gould's fear. Now, the elevator at work pauses for like, a one-and-a-half Mississippi before the door opens and friends, that felt like fucking ages. As the door opened, I pushed one of my coworkers out of the way and shouted “MOVE, OR I'LL SHIT ON YOU.” From then on I couldn't even look at the elevator if I had eaten in the past hour. Needless to say, I am now afraid of three things, and if you're anything like me, you are too.

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So yeah, that's some of the stuff I've been working on. It's still a little raw, and I still need to say it out loud more so I can get used to my own speech patterns. If you have any input, please leave it in the comments section. Thanks for putting up with my non-writing these past few weeks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So procrastination decides to walk into a bar later...

So it's Friday and I haven't really written anything. This isn't because nothing has happened - a lot has, really. Some of it even noteworthy. The reason I'm not really posting anything this week is I have a stand-up gig in about a month, and I've focused all of my writing time on banging out crappy jokes, and neither John nor myself was available for podcasting. I'm sorry. This (probably) won't happen again. In recompense, here is a photograph of my cat, taking a well-deserved nap after tearing apart a roll of paper towels.



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Have a good week, everybody.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Born Under a Yield Sign

The other day I caught four teenage girls trying to sneak into the movies. When I caught them, they freaked out and started explaining their scheme to me faster than a Bond villain. What they would do - and apparently they did this all the time - was they'd pool their money, go through box office and buy one ticket. That way, they could see which seats were available. They would then go through the upstairs entrance to one of the theatres, and all four of them would sit in the section that had the most empty seats. A pretty brilliant plan, considering the various checkpoints they managed to avoid. Honestly, I caught them by accident.

I'm a fairly cautious individual. I don't drive particularly fast, I don't run red lights - left turn arrows not included - and I certainly wear my seatbelt when I'm driving. I never snuck into the movies as a kid. At least not without paying. I would routinely buy tickets for one movie and proceed to sneak into an R-rated movie, but everybody does that. I never really stole either. My friends would often steal stuff from record stores and Best Buy and whatnot, but I was always too timid. I knew that the moment I tried, I would get caught. I had a friend get banned for life from Newbury Comics for trying to steal Magic cards once. His lifetime ban was lifted as soon as everybody who worked there forgot who he was, but it was pretty rough for him, and I couldn't bear the thought of not being allowed into my favorite store.

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There used to be a Strawberries record store in the same plaza as the Staples I used to work at. I would go in there before work to kill time and maybe buy some CDs. One day I found an empty case in one of the racks. It was a copy of Closing Time by Tom Waits, and somebody had taken the disc out of the case. I brought the empty case to the girl at the counter and told her what I found. She thanked me, and I left the store.

I went to the bagel shop up the street to get some lunch, and the store clerk followed me. She demanded I return to her store to be searched. She had decided that I stole the CD and she called the cops to search me. Naturally, I freaked out and started crying. She asked me for some ID, which I had in my car. She followed me to my car and wrote down my license plate number, I suppose in case I tried to make a speedy escape. I got my license out of the glove box and dolefully returned to the store. It was pretty awful.

When the cops finally showed up, I was searched. At this point, I was so rapt with guilt that I had forgotten that I hadn't actually done anything wrong. When it was discovered that no, I didn't actually steal anything, the manager of the store wanted my car searched. The cops said they not only didn't have the time to fuck around in my station wagon, but that it was also a violation of my rights as an American. That was a pretty cool moment for me - I thought the Constitution was just there for show. Anyhow, I was let go without charges, but the cops sent a letter to my house telling me that I had been banned for life from the store, and I wasn't allowed to park my car in the lot there. This was tough, considering I worked next door. I worked at Staples for three more weeks, and my car managed to not get impounded.

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As I've grown older, I've become less timid. I still don't run red lights, but I jaywalk. Often. I find it freeing. It's the walking equivalent of not wearing underwear.