Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheapest Rent In Town

     Tudor Square Apartments. "Cheapest Rent in Town," is how it was advertised in the paper, at two hundred and twenty five dollars a month, all utilities included. In a town like Ashland, OR. this is a screaming deal, unless one is living in a dorm room at SOU, and even then the dorms might be more expensive. One would think that in a college town there would be more studio apartments, but this didn't seem to be the case when I lived there. Inevitably, the Tudor Square apartments were tenanted, primarily, by college students.

     It was 1997, I was seventeen, working at a headshop in Medford, OR., and living with my sister, her husband, and her one-year old daughter in their townhouse apartment. At the headshop, I was being paid under the table, or "gross," as it was put to me by my employer. Just in case an I.R.S. informant started snooping (around the shop?) I could tell them that I was a contractor or something (as if being a retail clerk was the service I provided, and as such could negotiate my salary). It was pretty silly answer, but they really didn't feel like paying taxes on me. And I didn't complain: it was seven tax free dollars an hour. My sister was not charging me rent, so I was able to save quite a bit of money.

     The townhouse was very small for two and a quarter people, let alone three and a quarter. I slept on a Futon downstairs while they were upstairs. In the mornings, my niece, who though had just started to walk, was able to crawl up on the Futon and do sommersaults all across me so that I would wake up. Then we would watch cartoons while having breakfast, her eyes glued to Life with Louie. Life wasn't unpleasant by any means, but the cramped quarters would've gotten to me, sooner or later, and I'm sure that my sister and her husband were anxious for their privacy. After a few months it was time to go.

     The only unpleasantry was their Persian cat, who seemed to be more in-touch with its instinctual hunting skills; my sleeping body its prey. At night when the lights were off, It would peer at me from underneath a coffee table, and through the lampost light that shone through the blinds, I could see its little eyes. She would claw at feet, arms, hands, neck, anything exposed. I couldn't stand their cat. And apparently, neither could they. They gave it away some years later, fed up with its behavior.

     My sister knew of a possible place I could rent. It was up the street, called Tudor Square Apartments, and she knew the land lady: a lethargic young mother of god knows how many children, named Ona. I was underage at the time, so I couldn't legally rent a place, but this little fact was covered because of the sister-land lady connection. Ona acknowledged this during our interview; an interview that included her screaming, mewling children running around her office. Her eyes glazed over, and she tried hard to ignore them. After our interview, she gave me a tour of the complex.

     The apartment complex was an old hotel, if I remember correctly. There were one-bedrooms for rent, but the "cheapest rent in town" was for a quad: a very small room connected to a shared kitchen and bathroom, shared with obviously three other people. It was a very large complex, with an equally large parking lot attached to it. And basically in the corner of the parking lot was a kidney bean shaped pool filled with leaves and debris, its waters muddy brown. It was Fall, after all, and who could be bothered?

     The tour concluded with a showing of the room. It was probably the size of a rest-area bathroom, brown shag-carpeted with an air conditioner, a sink and counter, a closet, and a door leading to the kitchen and two bathrooms, one with a shower, one without. The kitchen was a little larger than the bedroom, with cracked floors, dusty, splintered wood cabinets, and a small ochre-yellow fridge. Plastered on the fridge was a nude Playboy centerfold: a brunette wearing nothing but red high heels, legs slightly crossed in an X position, leaning up against a wall with a matching red ribbon slung over her shoulders and through her arms as if it were a shawl. She looked at the camera all pouty-lipped, but also kind of confused-like. As if this mattered, since the main attraction was her shaved pussy. Her horticultural talent. While being given a tour of the kitchen, this picture was a conversation stopper in an awkward way. Ona gave the picture a few glances, and let out a "hmmm..." I nervously laughed.

     And after that, I became a tenant at Tudor Square. Top floor. This little box would be my home for the next year. And what a home it would be.

     The first time I tried to use the stove-top in the kitchen, I set off the highly sensitive smoke alarm. It was conveniently placed about five feet or so from the stove, right in front of my room. The electric coils were thickly coated with oil and there was so much debris and residue underneath that it would burn and smoke. The oven was worse, with a charcoal-like residue framing the sides so thickly that it looked like an un-defrosted freezer. The actual freezer looked about the same. I could only fit a freezer bag of raviolis and a pint of Ben & Jerry's in it. Anything more, and it wouldn't shut properly. This could also be due to the bag of tater tots that had just become part of the frosty lining. The contents of the fridge were eggs, beer, milk, and a few condiments. The cupboards were baren, save a fucked up frying pan, and a pot. There were no paper towels to speak of, no glasses for water. It was clear that the tenants were in no mood to clean, or to share, or to get to know one another for that matter. So, instead of spending my time cleaning that kitchen and making it livable for what was clearly a bunch of slobs, I decided to follow suit and tried to use the kitchen as little as possible.

     I tried my damndest to not have to use the kitchen at all, and quickly fell into the habit, like the rest of my "quad-mates" of bringing in my own supplies for the specific occasion: toilet paper, paper towels kitchen-ware, glasses. I didn't want to share anything either, so I never kept anything in the kitchen cupboards.

     My room started to accumulate things: a microwave, a mini-fridge, a little machine that would boil water in under thirty seconds, etc.. If I was watching television while running the microwave or the hot water heater, it would trip the breaker. I now needed two six strips for all of the appliances in my room, where clearly I shouldn't of been using that much power. I later found out that the wiring was a little strange, or at least I thought so. Instead of the whole floor's power going out, it was my room, the room next to me, and two rooms on the floor directly beneath. Surely I was annoying some people since it took me a little while to figure out why it was happening, and so the breakers were tripping a couple of times a week.

     When I wasn't making Ramuchan cup o' noodles in my room, I was frequenting Taco Bell or Wendy's. Anything so that I wouldn't have to spend time in that fucking kitchen.

     The bathrooms were also disasterous. The toilet bowls had never been scrubbed, and were stained from urine, hard water, and feces. When lifting the toilet seat, the underside  looked like a brown Jackson Pollack design. "Splatter Art," as I've heard it described. Maybe "mother nature is the true artist," might be appropriate here. The shower curtain was of the clear vinyl type, but had started to turn pink, probably due to the minerals in the water. It was also moldy near the bottom part of it. It was the kind of shower that made one want to wear flip-flops or some other protective gear; anything so that you didn't have to stand barefoot in it. It also routinely clogged up and left about two inches of standing water in the tub when taking a shower. I had personally dumped at least three bottles of extra strength Drano down the drain during my year there.

     When my friends would come over they would hate to use either of the bathrooms. In my year at this place, I had barely run into my quad-mates and they barely acknowledged me when I did. And it might've been our age and our shyness, but it felt like an awkward situation, and neither I nor my friends particularly wanted to run into these guys coming or going. "I'm scared. What if one of those guys are out there?," was said to me on a few occasions. So if the light was on in the kitchen, we would stay in my room. Once it went out and we heard a door close, that was the signal to make a run for it. The combination of social anxiety and repulsion made the whole thing so awful. I'd give my friend a roll of toilet paper and wish them luck.

     And speaking of toilet paper, both bathrooms rarely had any. Sometimes, a quad-mate would put a roll on the dispenser, but typically all that was found were cardboard tubes littering the floor that was sticky with aged piss. There was definitely that sharp aroma, but it was also combined with the kitchen aromas of stale body odor, heavy masturbation, baked tater-tots, and old dusty place to create a real welcoming environment.

     One day, I was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom that had the shower. There was a towel that hung on a towel rack positioned right next to the toilet. This means that the towel hung to the left of me, directly next to my face. If dirty-dishwater beige is a color, then that would be the towel's color, and it had hung there since before I moved in (I had been there probably six months already). It never really looked clean, but that day it actually had a conspicuous stain on it. It was brown, shaped almost like a Nike swoosh tilted on its side. I could only think, "no way. It can't be...can it?" I stared at it. It had definitely been some sort of liquid that had partially dried up and crusted; the fibers of the towel had jutted out and looked stiff. The determinable test, of course, required of me to very gently draw my face in closer, focus my eyes and flare my nostrils, and sniff. A very short inhale was enough to wrinkle my face. Yup, someone had actually wiped their shitty ass with the towel and hung it back up to dry. And age as well, since this little problem was not dealt with for weeks, I noticed. Anytime I would sit down on the toilet or take a shower, there it was: a glaring mistake. The person who did it didn't even attempt to cover it up. The smear just sat there, and it couldn't be helped: it was so grotesque that it had to be stared at. Of course, it was years later that I read the David Sedaris story "True Detective," where he explains that someone in the family had one day started wiping their ass on the family's fudge-colored bath towels. When I read it, I couldn't believe that someone else had an even somewhat similar experience as mine. I realize that my quad-mates were probably college dudes, but this was pretty fucking unreal.

     And one day the towel was gone.

     I'd say that was a relief, but some time later one of the toilets had backed up and flooded the kitchen. I first noticed this because a section of the shag carpet near my door to the kitchen was wet. I instantly notified Ona, who then came upstairs and splashed through the standing water, getting her sandals wet. She said, "hmmm....Well, I'll get someone up to deal with this," and left. Naturally, I assumed that someone was going to deal with this problem immediately rather than the next day. I was wrong. And yeah, maybe the water was diluted and wasn't a torrent of shit and piss, but it still was the result of some fecal backup, and it did come from one of those disgusting toilet bowls. It was not something that I wanted dampening my carpet inside my sanctuary, the only safe area I could control. The filth had become invasive at this point.

     After my year, I moved down to Medford, OR., with a friend. I couldn't resist the sound of inexpensive and new. The apartment complex had just been built, and the apartment that we shared had never been lived in. Alone, my new bedroom was larger than the Tudor quad I'd been living in, and merely one hundred dollars more for the privilege.

     And, I had my own bathroom.

For Mae Culbertson


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I forgot 'bout this one.

I just now remembered that I was gonna include this one on the previous post. It's one of my favorite Kids in the Hall skits. Enjoy:

When the ephemeral is preferred to the permanent.

Since school has ended, I have been in a somewhat reclusive mood. With the exception of going to band practice last night, I have not left the house (barely have left my room) in the last five days. So, what I've been doing is researching graduate schools on the internet, looking at their criteria for admissions, etc... Also, I've been reading the autobiography of Robert Graves, Good-Bye to all That. And waiting...waiting for my grades.

Well, I received them: straight A's. I predicted a B in my Literature class, but I was wrong. However, in retrospect, I'm sure it was my one visit to my instructor's office that did the trick. I wanted her to clarify her instructions for our weekly assignments, and afterward we started talking about Shakespeare, and I inquired about her graduate thesis on Medea. Not exactly an ass-kissing, but I know how to at least make a good impression. This little talk, I swear, made up for my lack of participation points in the class. If I were to be graded on those, I would've failed. It's true, I didn't say much of anything in the class. That's because this class was absolutely the most incoherent and unruly that I've personally been in. My Political Science class, from a year ago, comes a close second, but the instructor in that class moderated and made sure that he kept our attention (this included a lot of yelling and jumping around on his part; he was a rather spiky and contrarian Green-Party loyalist).

It was an interpretation-based literature class based solely on personal experience. This means that there was a willful disregard for historical context. At one point, our instructor advocated that we not read the author's introductions to the plays, as they would inform us of the historical/political/social context, and this would influence our reading of the play. A 'cold-reading'; she wanted pure and unadulterated opinions.

This is an impossible task, and furthermore it is not very interesting. Who wants to hear other students mumble about how unfairly they were treated, or how they've justified their grudges, therefore such-and-such play spoke to them, and was the greatest play ever -- and therefore you MUST agree with them? This was how the discussions inevitably ended up, with just about everyone starting their sentences off with  "Well, I think...," or worse yet, "I see your point, but what I think is..." (which usually means, "I haven't been listening to you, I've just been waiting for my turn to speak") and then it would erupt into a war of anecdotal evidence: "Well, you may think that this character is really awful because he treats his wife and kids like shit and he's totally self-absorbed, but I think that he's a hero, because I have a dad just like him..." This is not verbatim, it's just roughly what was being expressed. Everyone's weapon was their conviction, not their rationale. The discussions were pointless because they never culminated into a further understanding of the play (the whole point, I feel), only an understanding of how our classmates' brains work. Unless, of course, the point was to feel frustration.

The class was incoherent and unruly, because our teacher was a bad moderator. She couldn't facilitate discussions because she asked very general questions about the play, rather than precise ones, and then let the conversation degenerate into chaos. These discussions had limited boundaries, and everyone's opinion was considered a valid contribution. I have always thought that this was silly. Any idea is worth considering if it has some justification and thought put into it, but anyone can blurt out non-sequiturs. And the discussions were overrun with this sort of thing, as well as too much talking-over-others when they were trying to join in. And so, though I sometimes wanted to speak because I was angry, I wasn't sure what I would've said, maybe: "Can we finally talk about why this play was included in an academic Anthology, why it is significant or important, and what it adds to literature's LARGE body of work? Basically, why does it stand out and why should we bother reading it?

During our office-hour conversation, she asked me why I didn't speak up more in class. I told her that there were plenty of people willing and eager to add to the conversation without my help. To this, she said that I should participate in order to combat the "over-contributors" of the class; a real problem for teachers, she told me. However, the way that she emphasized the necessity of my participation, made it seem like the burden was actually on me, rather than on her, to help out the class. That is ridiculous. The instructor has the power as moderator to facilitate a good discussion, which means putting their foot down when they recognize an "over-contributor" (her words) and maybe even bringing them down a rung or two when needed. And yet, I can also see how this can be impossible when you have a class structured the way that she does. If you throw restraint out of the window, how can you expect the class to possess it?

Admittedly, I can be a bit shy and tend to second-guess my opinions before speaking them -- maybe to a fault. But then again, I didn't learn anything about literature and plays from all of the talking that went on during our class. And our instructor paid almost no attention to the history of the theater, of the playwrights, of the different periods and genres. The fucking class is centered around reading plays, why not include some of these details? -- don't worry, it won't spoil it; in fact, it will enhance my knowledge of the subject.

I guess that is what I get for taking a 100 level course in English, though I still have a rotten feeling that this sort of thing continues on the further up you go. The 'American System' of learning is all about peer-discussion groups and the facilitating of critical thinking. And this is especially focused in the low-level courses, where the greatest concentration of neanderthals and backwaters reside. I understand this. Teachers have to try to work on students to not be so god-damned reactionary, and to inform them that the world is a pretty big place. However, it's getting old. The unintentional lessons I learned were from sociological observations. In fact, I started to look at this class as if it were a sociological experiment. The critical thinking in this case, from what I observed, was that a student thought that being a contrarian was going to set him/herself apart from the crowd. This would usually start out with someone disagreeing with the consensus about who the protagonist was. They would claim that the character who was the clear protagonist was really the antogonist, or that the thundercloud was the antagonist, not the arch-nemesis who's beating the shit out of the protagonist. It seemed like everyone thought about being clever, because the interpretations got so bizarre and seemed to be an attempt to one-up the last comment. Unfortunately, at some point this would exhaust the discussion because it rendered it silly and pointless, and almost meaningless. The discussions actually seemed to degrade the plays. They became boring choose-your-own-adventures.

This reductionist approach to literature, to take generous liberties with a play's meaning and to disregard the author's intent, reminds me of a pretty wonderful passage from an essay that Gore Vidal wrote. In French Letters: Theories on the New Novel, he bemoans the lack of effort and technique in the arts, as well as concern over the possibility of a future where "...the ephemeral will be preferred to the permanent...," and "the random will take the place of the calculated." Though he is referring to writing as a discipline, I think this passage is applicable to the sort of 'critical thinking' minds that I've been explaining:

One interesting result of today's passion for the immediate and the casual has been the decline, in all the arts, of the idea of technical virtuosity as being in any way desirable. The culture (kitsch as well as camp) enjoys singers who sing no better than the average listener, actors who do not act yet are, in Andy Warhol's happy phrase, "super-stars," painters whose effects are too easily achieved, writers whose swift flow of words across the page is not submitted to the rigors of grammar or shaped by conscious thought. There is a general Zen-ish sense of why bother? If a natural fall of pebbles can "say" as much as any shaping of paint on canvas or cutting of stone, why go to the trouble of recording what is there for all to see? In any case, if the world should become, as predicted, a village united by an electronic buzzing, our ideas of what is art will seem as curious to those gregarious villagers as the works of what we used to call the Dark Ages appear to us. 

If there isn't even a discipline to this particular art/lit criticism, then what's the point? Has this approach to critical thinking actually made us better critical thinkers? 

I suppose that I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for a literature class, but this was a very extreme version of it. It was strange to see the Post-modernist impulse translating to behavior. Either that, or most of the students in my class were concurrently taking Science courses where they couldn't bullshit their way through them, and found the class to be a welcomed release. The bottom line for me is that I learn and become attentive when someone I respect (and whose brain I respect) lectures and informs, not when a classmate talks.

Well, I could say so much more about this, and if I had the energy I could have made this into an essay with greater uniformity and clarity. But now I'm exhausted thinking about it. Surely, I will always come back to this topic, because not only the approach, but the ethics of Post-modernism piss me off. Anger, it's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snark and Smarm.

This was not the exact phrase that was uttered in class tonight; I believe it was "smarm and snarkiness." Nevertheless, I quickly wrote it down, cause I knew that it would be a good title. And if the guy who uttered it was 'snark,' then the greasy squirrel with ADD that sits next to me is 'smarm.' Normally, he is trying to answer every question; I've heard him raise his hand and actually say something like "I don't really know what I'm saying, but..." When not answering a question, he's busy tapping on the table and fidgeting. However, tonight he was quiet as can be because he was sleeping throughout most of class. This is always a funny sight, regardless of who it is (the head-bobbing business always makes me laugh). I also couldn't help but notice him sleeping because of the way his head and neck were sort of cocked to the side. It looked so unnatural.

And since I have a love for practical jokes, I thought about how funny a well-timed Piccolo Pete firework going off right on top of the desk would make someone jump out of their sleep. Just a dream -- a lovely daydream. Unfortunately, sometimes these funny scenarios pop into my head at really inopportune times during class, and I have to do something, like bite my finger, so that I don't laugh. These thoughts come when, for instance, people are talking about how moving a particular scene in a film was to them. So yeah, it would be especially awful if I let loose a pre-laugh snort at that moment. However, I'm sure it looks very strange to anyone watching me ferociously bite my finger at that moment, too.

And that was film class tonight. My last class of the term. I am now on my winter break. There is always a strange feeling on the last day of a school-term. There is alleviation, but there is also melancholy. It's very strange. I suppose that it feels that way because of how abrupt the end is. During the whole term, homework and future homework constantly burden the brain. There's never any true weightlessness. It feels never-ending for that two and a half months, then one day you're done. In this context, I think it's hard for the brain to quickly transition into rest mode, and so it continually tells you that things need to be done. As of now, I still don't quite feel like I'm done. I've yet to achieve true relaxation. This is how it feels every term. And yet, I still enjoy school.

However, this break is much needed. Money issues, intestinal sickness, and a bad teacher kinda took hold of my thoughts this term. I've been considering writing a post about this teacher. I still might, but I know that i first need to address my problems here, in a lengthy screed about how much she sucks. That will be soon, if not the next post. Maybe I should wait till I get my final fucking grade from her, because she probably trolls the internet looking for the bad shit that people have inevitably written about her. Well, no I probably won't wait. That's all for tonight. Till next time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Search: representations of bisexuality in the smell of apples

Lately, I have been doing a lot of research for my final paper in my literature class. Basically, the theme I'm working on is about patriarchy and filial obligation, tracing it through two different plays. And so, I'm required to have eight peer-reviewed scholarly works from journals to include in the paper. I believe this is for the purpose of making academics feel useful: at least someone's reading their academic essay on why mustaches signify success in Death of a Salesman.

Last night I was up very late trying to finish my annotated bibliography: a basic summary for each source I chose. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to starting this thing until mid-day yesterday, and so I found out just how tedious this assignment was. Most of the journals that I chose were fairly lengthy, and not all the things I read were applicable to the paper. So that meant that I was reading journals on a pdf.file for probably seven to eight hours straight. I took occasional two minute breaks to rest my eyes, but more or less I was just staring at a computer screen, growing tired by the hour.

And by the time midnight rolled around, I was getting a bit irritated by the content of what I was reading. Extremely verbose reports on the effect of doll playing on child development. Or, maybe a valid comparison of Faulkner's father/son themes with that of Greek and Biblical tragedies, but written in such a painfully pretentious way. Observe:

Yet if Faulkner's vision of the relationship between fathers and sons is finally comic, it emerges through the dark insights of an irony that reveals and reconciles disparate meanings through a multiplicity of visions and voices, both within individual stories and at their intersections. These voices within Faulkner's novels resound from corners as distant as the unselfconscious past is to the utterly self-conscious present mediated by madness and poetry. Thus, Faulkner's inquiry into human existence is unremittingly critical even as it appears to reflect unapologetically the glory of a past that is already shattered for the reader. Faulkner's portrayal of fathers appeals to the monological conventions of ancient epic, a warrior ideal and the values of classical stoicism (which implicititly admits alienation but tries to transcend it with silence or exclusion of the ambivalence of reality). Yet the conflicted viewpoints of his sons embody that polyphonic, dialogic irony which novelist and critic Milan Kundera insists "denies us our certainties by unmasking the world as an ambiguity."

Apparently, one's peers don't have to be editors in order to review one's works. This is a copy-n-paste job, so the misspelling of "implicititly" was nice as well. And this shit goes on like this for pages and pages.

Maybe it's just me, but the one sentence that ends with the phrase "is to the utterly self-conscious present mediated by madness and poetry" reads like the author has realized mid-sentence that he doesn't actually know what he's talking about, so he starts throwing in word combos that sound good. I imagine economics-speak: "If we could devise a multilateral strategy to stimulate fiscal growth, implementing a rightward shift in the aggregate demand curve to achieve equilibrium, bypassing the misery index, into a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and...polyamorous monetary mechanism,... we would sufficiently and conclusively internationalize regional policies of commerce and multiple markets, effecting culture policy, denaturation, progression of,...progress, of long-lasting peace, ..everlasting gob-stopper,.."

So yeah, it was an arduous task trying to get through some of these journals. And the reason why I had to settle on some of the worst ones was because I was running out of time (not to mention that one's research can be limited by 'peer-reviewed and scholarly only'). But now it's finished and turned in, and there's relief.

And on a somewhat aside, after reading journal after journal, I came across a title of a scholarly journal that made me laugh out loud: "Fissures in Apartheid's 'Eden': Representations of Bisexuality in The Smell of Apples by Mark Behr." At first glance, I didn't notice that "The" was capitalized, so I read it as if "The Smell of Apples" was not a book, but was what made one bisexual. As if the smell of apples could evoke bisexual feelings. Apparently, eating them makes you gay. 

Anyway, this is just another snippet of school life for ya. The term is up soon and I have almost a month off, which means I'll be writing more on this thing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A butter smooth voice like Santa Claus...

My housemate, ****,  is the owner of a fine southeast Portland restaurant. So fine that it/he sometimes attracts rabid followers, zealots -- or at least unstable people who not only have a knack for writing creatively bizarre notes, but also for coming on a little too strong.

Yes, he is having a little problem. It started out innocently enough: seemingly eccentric middle-aged lady showers him and his restaurant with compliments, inquires about a job, and even provides him with examples of her chef-(ing?) abilities. So yeah, okay, was strange that she was so adamant about the restaurant not stealing her dishware (I believe a note was attached, reinforcing this request), what? She at least gave him a resume: a handwritten narrative about life on the range, making breakfast for Ma-n-Pa, sobriety, near-death childhood-sicknesses, and other weird shit. Though I have never seen this woman (I have only been told tales), apparently she looks the part of eccentric too. A 'can't miss 'em' sort of thing. Still, nothing that couldn't be dismissed...

Well, the notes have remained just as bizarre as her resume, but now they're more frequent. And then, a dine-n-dash with a written explanation on her food ticket kinda marked her as a problem. Here's what she wrote:

 Just give moi a shout and I'll remedy the situation.
Heavenly ****, Your serviceware stinks like dog this morning and I just remembered I don't have my credit card.
In closing, do not use my art without my written consent. I'm off to meet my maker.
                                                                                            Au revoir

The art in question, both **** and I assume, is the drawings on a couple of the notes that she sent to him. One is a drawing of a saggy face, bald but with drooping long hair on the sides. The inscription underneath says "Dr D. Frankenstein Herr nurse White." The other is a drawing of a cat in a green dress with purple high heels on, its arms raised up, smiling, with this phrase attached: "Samba Strut kitten La mu."

After failing to pay her bill, Mrs. Dash later sent him another note, this time asking **** if he knew any eligible bachelors that he could set her up with. This was an especially strange letter; funny at times, disturbing at others. She describes one 'dude' in her life as "the friendly-lion white honestly," and another guy as having "a butter smooth voice like Santa Claus" (you didn't think I was that creative with my titles, did you?). Apparently, these guys in her life were a bad influence or were cruel, so she asks ****: "Honestly, dear **** do you know any fine upstanding elders like Bud Clark who just like women as friends first toujour. I can't get a decent date to save my tattered soul and I'm not a lesbian." At the end of this note, she reminds him about the smelly offense that she endured: "In closing, I hope you alleviated the dog gone fool dishwasher who contaminated your restaurant with pooch stank.... it's simply inhumane."

(Oh yeah, she really HATES dogs! **** told me about her traumatic childhood experience with dogs. Well, actually, it sounded traumatic for the dog because apparently she snatched it up and threw it at the television in disgust. Like a spoiled child readily discarding an unwanted gift. Brat).

The subject was brought up by **** this morning because he has recently had to block this woman's number since she has left many long voicemail messages on his personal phone. **** hasn't even pursued the dine-n-dash incident; he was hoping that she would feel guilty and not come around anymore. But no, according to his employees, she has come around and delivered notes and messages when **** is not there. It's still hard to tell if this person is a real menace, and by the nature of her letters she seems harmless. But how can one tell? Does she need to go into a fit of destructive rage before something needs to be done?

Really, what it seems like is schizophrenia. And so, therefore, I'm an asshole for pokin' fun at her letters, I know. But hey, her phrasings are fucking funny, and not altogether nonsensical -- gibberish it ain't. In fact, both **** and I were noting that she is not a bad writer. Her notes are not illegible, just weird; and it's been awhile since I've read anything this strange.

However, it is going in that direction, which always spells trouble. That sounds very suggestive. I mean, she is exhibiting stalker behavior. The visits to the restaurant have increased, and the voice messages were one after another, and not very far apart in time. **** doesn't seem to be overly worried, and it's not quite at that level where it needs reporting. Still....

And on a completely different note, I must comment on some of the comments that I've been getting on this blog. It's embarassing, but I'll admit it: I fell for the congratulatory and encouraging words from one 'person,' -- a word generator, probably representing a corporation. I responded with something like "Thanks. Hey, do you write as well?" No response. As far as I could tell (by tracing back his link), he has no blog, and is linked to a Brazillian news site, which seems like a random link,. And at the bottom of his comments, there is a small like to a vitamin company called Vitabits, though the website is in French. And then again, in my last post, is another comment from 'someone' new, who has the same link to the Vitabits website, this time in English. The earlier comments from 'Neil Kevin' actually sound coherent. He even thinks that the "You Know Nothing" videos are sad. But the one on the last post from 'Michael Argent' is really pretty silly. Obviously, one could just scan the comment on that post, but what the hell, I'll reprint it here:

I feel sorry for your several condition but I also get impressed with your good work in the blog which shows great information.You need some rest and Acidophilus which work for you.I want to know suggestion from others.

Of course you want to know suggestion from others, since you probably lifted the phrase 'Acidophilus' from Aunty Christ's previous comment, and you wanna sound more human. C'mon, you damn bot!

Wouldn't it be funny if these were actual people who were genuinely interested in this blog and I just completely alienated them? What would be the odds of two vitabit-promoting motherfuckers settling on this obscure-as-motherfuck blog? I'd be an asshole, again, I know.

Au Revoir

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hey, Four Eyes!

It has been awhile since I've written anything on this blog because I am at that mid-way point of the school term, which means that I am busy with assignments and tests. Unfortunately, that intestinal problem I had mentioned in an earlier post seems to be lingering too, and that has made it hard to find the motivation to write about something/anything on this blog. Also, I have wanted to write about something other than school, or the annoyances thereof, and yet not much has come to mind. Annoyances at school tend to be what plague me.

Well, the intestinal thing has been really bothersome because it comes in waves. I don't feel extremely sick, I just feel unwell. Any food or liquids that I put in just sit there, or that's what it feels like. And the issue here is that this has been going on for the past month.

So, this has made me paranoid. Not surprising, I feel, since I've really elapsed the week, or even two week sick period. After that, it starts to feel like something a bit more serious might be at work. This is of course an untrustworthy voice in my head, I think. But yeah, I definitely looked up H1 N1 symptoms. I don't see myself fitting into that though. It's a tough crowd, not for me. Unfortunately, I don't have health-care, nor can I afford it, nor have I ever had a job that has offered me benefits (with the exception of one restaurant, in which I qualified for the group-program for about two weeks). That means that I have to try to self-diagnose, and be experimental with remedies.

The first remedy is a plain, simple diet. A very wholesome, healthy, bland, and soulless diet. This week has been the start of that, and I'm hoping that this will make me feel normal. Also, I'm hoping that something will reveal itself as the culprit once I go back to the sinful stuff. And I am exaggerating a little, because the diet is not really bad. And since I'm feeling this way, it actually feels good to be eating well. However, that general feeling still remains.

The other remedy has to do with my study patterns. Or more specifically, with my eyes. I think I am straining my eyes. The amount of reading and writing that I have to do might be straining my eyes. That's what I think, at least. What has led me to think this is that every time I sit down to work on a paper or read my textbook, the next morning my stomach feels acidic. And yet, now I think that this might be paranoia, because it is happening after relatively short study periods. Either way, I have now started using reading glasses not only for reading textbooks, but for writing on either paper or on the computer.

I also thought that it could be stress-related, but I'm not so sure anymore. This is a relatively easy term for me, my classes are not altogether difficult. Stress? I suppose a little, but nothing like previous terms. I sort of loathe my Literature class, but I have sort of resigned myself to it. I'm not as concerned about the grade anymore because my instructor is in her own world, and I can only do what I can do. So yeah, the usual amounts of stress. I still think it has more to do with eyestrain.

The thing is...I've never heard of this sort of reaction. Yes, I've heard of eyestrain from staring at a computer for hours on end, but I've never heard of acidic stomach and lethargy as a result of reading an hour's worth of a well-lit book. After only a day I feel like the glasses are helping me, but here again, am I just being credulous? Is a health-nut diet and a pair of reading glasses essential to my well-being? I would hate to become one of those people who hide behind countless homeopathic medications, unable to do the most basic things in life without consulting therapists or naturopaths. A hypochondriac: someone who blames the carbs from pasta for his/her mental instability or inability to socially interact.

What's frustrating is that there probably is a very good explanation for what is ailing me, but I might not be able to find it on my own. I can think up of many different ailments, but there's no certifiable way to test for them. Not to mention that a lot of the hypochondriacs I know tend to self-diagnose the shit out of themselves.

The thing that I am looking forward to when I get to a University: health care. As a student, you can get health care through the school. Expensive and not amazing, but health care none-the-fucking-less. Until then, I am going to eat plain oatmeal, brown rice, steamed chicken, and have an apple for dessert.

Well, how about that for a return to the blogosphere? Unloading my sickness onto the screen. I swear that one of these days I will talk about something other than how sick I am, or how cynical I am.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nothing's Shawking

Inspired by Rich Bachelor's last post, specifically one comment he made, here is a bad tattoo gallery:

For starters, there's this guy:

And here are a few more permanent misspellings:


A Beautiful Mess might've been easier to spell.

Another misspelled tattoo. How the hell did this guy not notice this? It's obviously a mirror shot; is he so self-absorbed that he didn't bother learning how to spell? :

And finally, the thing that was mentioned in Rich's post, the face tattoo:

This is extraordinary. I mean, you can't really do a cover-up on a face tattoo like this. Cover-ups usually involve the tattoo artist finding a creative way to turn one's homemade tattoo of Popeye the Sailor Man gulping down a can of spinach into something like a mandala. But here, where would a tattooist go from here? He/she couldn't make this look like a tribal design or a kanji script. You'd need laser-removal surgery, and that would probably really fuck your face up. Probably a whole lot of scar tissue, probably some sort of cobble-stone effect. So there's that.

The face tattoo always reminds me of a time that a friend and I went to a show at the now-defunct Portland club Blackbird. It was a packed show, I believe the show was either Michael Gira (solo) or Angels of Light, and my friend and I were sitting at a table near the entrance. And at some point, in comes a guy with a thick-banded tribal tattoo design all over his face (by the way, tattooing one's face was a relatively new thing at this point. You didn't see many people with the full facial). It's noticeable of course, so we stared for a second. Later on, in comes a girl with a completely separate entourage, with the same fucking face tattoo, basically. My friend quipped: "That's a great way to avoid that pesky job-market." And what I thought was funny was that they both probably assumed that they were going to be the boldest in the crowd that night. The bravest soul willing to permanently alter his face for the sake of art, or rebellion. From what I observed, they didn't know each other, and they walked by each other a fair amount since it was a small club. I wonder what they were thinking at that point: "Yeah, whatever,...I got this shit first," or "Whoever did your tattoo fucked it up, it looks fucking stupid,...asshole."

This sort of reminds me of when I had my tongue pierced. I was 15, and felt pretty damn proud about it since I was under-aged and had to go to this meth'd-out biker tattooist for the piercing. Dangerous stuff I tell ya, dangerous stuff. It was fun at the time because there were only 2 other people in my town that had them, and so we were the crazy ones -- the  exreme ones. And I had it for a couple of years, but I had multiple problems because of it, mainly because I reject oral piercings. For some reason, they just don't work for me.

By the time I started working at the head shop, I had taken my piercing out. And this is when I started seeing numerous customers coming in with tongue piercings, complete with speech impediments. I think the clincher was when I saw a couple come into the shop and flash their tongues out at me, before they even said hello, to show their piercings off. Aside from that action being strange, I was really disgusted by the idea of couples piercings. I have no idea if they really got them at the same time, but by their synchronized tongue-wagging declaration, I wonder. His and Hers matching tongue piercings, I thought to myself.

It truly is an endless battle trying to one-up each other in the realm of shock. The area of shock? The arena of shock? Shocksville? You have to be a trend-watcher, essentially. And the reductionist approach to staying ahead of the pack can really start to make people look goofy and insecure: bravo, you've now created an outfit made out of scrap metal, or you have spikes implanted in your head, or worse yet, you've undergone reconstructive surgery so that you can have the same physical jaw structure as a lizard. I feel it's a good thing that I got a lot of shit done and out of the way when I was young. Doubtful that I would've wanted to look like a lizard-human, but nevertheless.

Well, that's it for now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I would like it medium-rare please.

Alright. All of my homework, for the time being, is finished, and since I'm not feeling so hot, I decided to have an evening of rest-n-relaxation. I don't know what the hell is going on with me, but it seems like irritable bowel syndrome. I guess if I were to abbreviate that I could spare myself some embarrassment, with only the IBS clan getting the wink. Nah, of course I'm not embarrassed. Hell, I'm declaring it here on this public forum. Things are not working right downstairs and out the back door, if ya know what'm sayin'......AND,I think you do.

So, I have a little time to blog now, and I wanted to blog about something other than school. I'm sure that this will become harder to do as the term progresses, so I wanted to take advantage of a little time. But where do I start?

Good ol' Pa. How 'bout with him? I have been telling Rich Bachelor that I was gonna write about my father one of these days, and I guess this is a good opportunity to do so. I probably wouldn't have thought about it for this post because an attempt to describe my father can be complicated, but tonight I gave a call to the parents, and upon hearing that I was sick, my dad relayed a message to me via my mother: stop eating all of that rare meat! I couldn't resist.

This is as good of an introduction to my father as any. Adamant, stern, determined to make causal links where there are none, etc... I could go on with that list, but I got plenty of blog-space, and in the coming times he's sure to get more than a once-over.

Growing up as kids, we weren't so much not allowed to eat pink meat as we were just not exposed to it. My father is definitely not unusual in his meat-cookery; plenty of people out in the sticks, in this case a small Southern Oregon town, cook a steak till it's textured like a leather shoe. I believe I was 18 years old before I had a steak that was cooked medium, and I'm sure most of my friends were too. In my father's case though, maltreatment of a steak is a consequence of an ever-expansive paranoia, rather than out of hillbilly neglect. Each time I see him he's found another thing that causes cancer, and suggests that I join him in his boycott. Has he told me that eating rare steaks causes cancer? Not exactly, but he's told me my toothpaste, my earrings, and my soap are poisoning me. Sushi is gonna give you a parasite, and dairy products are "about the worst thing you can put in your body." On that last part, I thought that he was being rather progressive, standing up for vegans and shit. But no, he hates 'hippies.' And one time, over a Thanksgiving dinner when I was 16 and vegetarian, he let me know that vegetarianism was the worst diet for my poor cardiovascular system. Mind you, there was some explanation behind all of these things, but they struck me as the kind of logical inferences that come from knowing half the story. I think it follows that when he's boycotted anything, it's purely ideologically driven and a bit exaggerated: he can't merely dislike the taste of a grape -- grapes are either poisoning you or trying to overthrow the government. Yes, this includes the whole spectrum: from undercooked meats to hygiene products to Hollywood actors. Though my father hasn't yet told me if watching Sean Penn will give you cancer, he sure does hate him.

And oh, by the way,...."you'll see the end times in your lifetime." He chose to use this phrase to interrupt the pleasant-until-then conversation on Christmas day, years ago. I guess the occasion had stirred him so, and he felt a monologue was in need. This is not surprising. He is notorious for killing a conversation while alienating those involved in said conversation. According to my mother, the last time this happened was when they had dinner guests over. Dinner guests are republican, but not willing to go as far as my father, apparently, or maybe not wanting to talk politics at the dinner table. I wasn't told what my father actually said, all I was told was that their guests really wanted to change the subject, felt uncomfortable, and left early.

Yeah, as you can tell, I think that my father can be pretty silly at times. This post really just grazes; there is a lot more to ground to cover, and at some point later I will (damn, this sounds like some sort of agricultural pun). My father's interest in essential oils could be another topic to explore. Or I could talk about his newly acquired machine that delivers low-level, yet cancer-curing electric shocks to one's system...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rant, undefined

Yesterday I wrote a blog post before I went to class, and for some fucking reason the PCC internet connection seemed to cut out on me at some point in the middle of my post. I was unaware of this till this morning. I thought about trying to fill in the blanks from memory, but that would be kinda pointless, since I would have to pretend that I was sitting back in the computer lab at PCC, filled with the same gripes as yesterday. It's a shame, because it was cut-off where my rant was building up its steam. So, here is what remains of that post:

[ I'm currently sitting here at the Sylvania Campus and have some time before class, so I thought a quickie might do me good. I'm not sure if a whole hell of a lot has happened to me in the time since the last post, but campus life is pretty entertaining. It would provide me with so many precious quotables if I had the mind to write 'em down quick enough. There were a few moments in my Russian History class that were eye-rollers, and I have them written down somewhere in a notebook. Alas, I don't have this notebook with me right now. Stay tuned for that shit.

Though I will be doing a character study of some of my classmates in my Russian History class, it's enjoyable for the most part. The class I'm having the hardest time sitting through is tomorrow's Drama class. If the play Fences is worth a three hour deconstruction, I can only imagine how much class time we'll spend on Oedipus the King, which we just read this weekend. The play that spawned a complex that created the psychoanalytical term "Oedipal." I'm sure the discussion will be just as boundary-less as the previous one. I'm sure some will think I'm naive when hearing my complaints: what did you expect of a Drama as Literature class? Nevertheless, it's worth mentioning how silly this whole process of unlimited, infinite deconstruction is. It's one thing to explore the historical context of the story, or the author's intentions, political affiliations, and cultural experiences that he brings to it. These are all apt explorations. However, if given enough time, the process will go on a downward spiral. The story will clearly be turned on its head just for the sake of, the poles will reverse, and the end product is a protagonist who is actually a supporting character, who is actually an antagonist and, I don't know, isn't a human being after all -- he's a demon, disguised as the moral backbone of the story. Hell, why not? One is allowed, and often encouraged, to be far-fetched when given the microphone. Then they can go to work on a string of non-sequiturs, and free association, uninterrupted, since this is a class where everyone's opinion is valid. This is welcoming thought, I'm sure, for deconstructionists and postmodernists, but it sort of takes the life out of a story for me. Can't we appreciate that some author's actually have a fucking point they're trying to convey? Or is the slave really the free man if we just shut our eyes and think hard enough?]

There you have it. 

Maybe I'll continue this on another post, since today is the day of the Oedipus conversation in my literature class.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Welcome to the next 9 months. No, not pregnancy.

I just finished my first week of school, into my third year at Portland Community College. I made sure that this would be an easy transition term so as to better acclimate to the busy times that is college life. So, I have a couple of English courses, and a History course; approximately one class per day. So far, it is a well-timed week.

As for the classes, two of them are exactly what I wanted, and for the most part they are not letdowns. My History teacher does say "Uhhh...." and "Ummmm..." a lot, and seems to lose her train of thought, but at the very least she seems to know her shit. She has mad qualifications out-the-ass like a P.H.D. in Political Science, an M.A. in Russian History, etc... On our Syllabus', she listed her schooling and achievements, and the part that made me laugh was the title of her dissertation: " The Role of the Catholic Church in Elaborating a Counter Hegemony in Opposition to the Dominant Groups in Brazil and Poland." I guess the thing that makes me laugh is the length and precision of it, not the content. However, I'm sure that all dissertations have titles like this, and my laughter is out of ignorance. Makes me want to come up with dissertation titles for fun. "Mascots of flavor: a comparative behavioral study between the suave, sophisticated, and effete Cheetah of Cheetos (tm) brand cheese sticks, and the bold, masculine, patriotic and heroic nature of Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes (tm)." The paper would be a breakdown of how these mascots are really metaphors for certain society's values; the Cheetah is France (obviously!) and the Tiger is America (obviously!!!). Putting anything in dissertation speak makes it sound official and professional. Yup, just pulling things out of my ass on this one. That's the second usage of that idiom, I've noticed. Things are coming out of asses in this paragraph.

The other class that I am enjoying is my Film Studies class. It is categorized under English, and it's my second time taking a Film Studies class. You see, I needed to have 16 credits worth of English, and I suspected that a Film class would be less obnoxious than a Poetry or Drama class. It actually is, but that's mostly because of the teacher. In someone else's hands, it could be extremely pretentious and over-the-top, but it works with this one particular teacher. This particular class is called "Film as Art," and we started out with "Casablanca." The list includes other classics like: "Citizen Kane," "Apocalypse Now," "Psycho," and "The Battle of Algiers." Like I said, it is the teacher, he addresses people as if they were adults rather than children -- even the ones who are fucking children.

And that leads me to my other English class, which is a Drama as Lit class. Much like my previous Fiction Lit class, it feels like someone somewhere is playing a joke on you. It's just a bit too whimsical and silly for my taste (a trait which seems to be a pre-requisite for English teachers), and the curriculum is set up to allow tweenage blowhards have the floor for way too long. The few bright bulbs who are assured their voices are gold just let the bullshit flow, just to have it stink and linger. It's that painful, trust me. More on this as it develops.

Gotta keep it short. This is probably how it's gonna be for the remainder of school, with time restrictions and all. Until the next annoyance...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pancreatic shock: the doughnut test

[I started this late last night, but didn't quite finish it since I was losing the battle between consciousness and Tylenol P.M. So now, here is the complete post.]

So yeah, was feeling bored and my sweet tooth was acting up, so I decided to brave the piss-Portland weather tonight along with the hell that is 82nd avenue to get a dozen plain-glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I couldn't tell you approximately how many miles away Krispy Kreme is from where I live, but it is basically on the other side of town and it took a good half an hour to get to. What made driving especially nerve-wracking tonight was that the humidity caused by the rain made my car windows fog up. This, along with wipers at high speed, blinding headlights, buses, and assholes crossing in the middle of the street, made it a treacherous journey. All for some fucking dognuts, eh?

I finally get there, then go through the drive-thru to order my dozen. As is usual with Krispy Kreme employees, the kid on the intercom sounded extremely bored or stoned, his voice barely audible and sounding like he's too tired to even enunciate. No one will ever accuse him of being patronizing, that's for sure. He was so tired and weak/stoned that he couldn't even hold onto some of the quarters I paid with. "Don't worry 'bout it," he slurred after noticing me opening my car door to rescue a few of them. So I didn't. I drove outta there back onto the street of nightmares, going north.

However, since I was already out this far in Southeast Portland and I desperately wanted to get off of 82nd, I went into close-in Southeast to get gas, as well as a dozen at the new Voodoo Doughnuts on N.E. Davis and 15th. My bright idea was that I would do a taste test and report my findings via blog post, which is pretty much what I'm doing. However, there were a few details that I thought would hamper my very important investigation: I bought plain-glazed at the Krispy, and bought the "Voodoo" dozen at Voodoo (which means that the employee picks whatever doughnuts from the rack behind them, and by my observation it looked like what was being picked were the surplus doughnuts). This meant that I would be comparing plain glazed with the zany variety pack. I didn't even think of this while I was at Voodoo, I just asked for the representative baker's dozen. Also, it's hard to find a doughnut there that one would recognize, and that's supposed to be its charm. When I got the doughnuts back to my house, I found a plain-glazed in the Voodoo dozen, so ultimately I was able to do the test.

Even before I arrived at Voodoo though, I was having reservations about the place. I had had Voodoo doughnuts at their original location in Old town, and I never really cared for them. They were quirky to be quirky, or downright disgusting to be funny. Nyquil glazed or Pepto-Bismol glazed doughnuts,... no shit. Seems like a cruel joke, as if to say "I can't believe you actually paid money to eat this -- did you think a Nyquil doughnut was going to be delicious?" Or "Hey, if you can eat this without vomiting you must be really drunk -- now get the hell out of here!" I've never tried either of those flavors. Instead, I had ones like the Grape Ape, which is some sort of grape cereal and grape frosted doughnut, or a maple bacon bar, which is a traditional maple bar with two pieces of crispy bacon on top. The bacon maple bar was pretty good, but the grape ape was just strange. I guess this sort of clouds my objectivity in a proper assessment, but I was hoping that this time they would prove me wrong.

The doom metal was blasting through the entryway when I walked into the place, which was filled with two mobs of people at the counter, one middle-aged mustachioed guy playing pinball, and another younger guy on his laptop (doing homework?). The interior was decorated sparsely, with newspaper clippings, what looked like a music poster of a now extinct hawaiian lounge singer, and a velvet picture of Kenny Rogers. Strangely enough, Voodoo's interior closely resembles that of Dot's, the bar over on Clinton St. Or maybe that's not so strange -- it has the same clientele, and basically has all the trappings of bar culture minus the booze (with the exception of a few frosting flavors like Jack Daniels or Jagermeister). The phrase "quintessential Portland establishment" would be appropriate here, which tends to be code for young and hipsterish.

So, I got my employee picks and got out of there. Back to my house, where I unloaded my treats and set out to settle this all-important matter. The Voodoo dozen was a very colorful array, each doughnut coated with candy glitter, or cereal, or shredded coconut -- and the one plain-glazed. After wolfing down the plain-glazed from each, I must say that the Krispy Kreme is still the tastier doughnut. It's richer, it has a better texture, it's cooked more uniformly. I realize that these traits are probably a result of their industrial doughnut machine, but nevertheless -- they taste better. In the plain-glazed category, they have Voodoo beat.

The Voodoo doughnut wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. It wasn't what one would expect from the renowned shop with its high reputation and fanaticism. And yes, it's true that people don't go to Voodoo to just get any ol' doughnut, and it's true that Krispy Kreme doesn't do as good when it goes beyond its plain boundaries. Krispy Kreme's "cream-filled" are filled with a substance more like cool-whip, and their chocolate glaze doesn't taste like chocolate, it just tastes sweet, and is cloying. Still, the true test of a food establishment is to test their basics, their fundamentals. It's a competency test. If they can't get that right then how good can they really be? Starbucks is a good example of this. Their plain coffee always tastes burnt, probably because they spend all of their time on foofy fucking drinks that taste less like coffee and more like milkshakes. Countless breakfast places that I've gone into have ambitious menus, but when I ordered a classic eggs over medium/bacon/potato dish, they fucked it all up. Many restaurants are like that too; so concerned with dazzling the shit out of you that they forget how to cook a steak or a hamburger properly. These type of places are either being pretentious, or always have an eye on the trend of markets. And sorry, Voodoo Doughnuts is no exception.

I know that I am supposed to be supportive of local establishments, but they just don't cut it. It's not a place to go to when you're in the mood for a doughnut, it's a place to take out-of-towners to when they ask "What's up with the 'Keep Portland Weird' bumper stickers?" So yes, in this case, I am saying that the cookie-cutter corporation trumps the local eccentric funhouse in terms of flavor.

There you have it. My opinion on doughnuts. Incredible.

4 more days till school starts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I Don't Like Mondays."

One week and starts next Monday.

So, this is my last week of absolute lethargy. After that, no more spending the entire day looking up stupid shit on the computer: looking at Ebay, re-runs of Hell's Kitchen, or what have you. Time to get serious.

Yeah, sometimes having too much free time is poisonous. In my case, it has caused a lot of self-conscious thought, which has led to self-doubt. Not the greatest thing to be feeling when your in college looking for a career and shit.

I'd wondered if this had to do with my age, just about to turn thirty, but then I remembered that I always got this way when I came to a complete stop. I've always been told that thirty is a magically debilitating age; makes you think 'bout stuff like: where am I going, where have I been? I don't know, I feel like this is stuff that's been floating around my brain ever since I can remember. Chalk it up to insecurity.

I have found a pattern in my jobless sprees: I tend to quit jobs in early Summer or Spring after previously saving at least a three month "cushion." Soft and pillowy, like a Sopapilla of freedom and unemployment. Then, I spend the majority of the time doing somewhat pointless things, all the while procrastinating about job searching and resume writing. Then, I get to the point where I currently am at: barely any money left, slightly depressed, questioning just what the fuck it is that I'm doing with myself. You'd think I would've learned by now.

Fortunately, I've been able to at least spot this pattern and realize that I get over these moods rather quickly once things start moving again. Not too long ago, I would've made some impulsive move just because I was feeling a little down: selling all of my belongings, living in my car, moving away, or traveling. You know, the less-bold equivalent of outright train hopping and street living. Maybe the phrase "yet stupid" should be interjected somewhere in that last sentence.

I know why I make these brash decisions. It's a fear that some awful cloud of depression is lurking just around the corner. The kind that was so crippling when I was young. I can only describe it as the feeling one has when coming down off of a very long acid trip with no sleep. Imagine that everyday for three years. Sort of like being perma-fried and being acutely aware that everyone thinks so too. It truly felt like a mental disorder; actually, it felt like what I imagine schizophrenia feels like. At the time, I couldn't see an end in sight, so naturally, my thoughts were very, um..., dark. How's that for a euphemism? I have kept that cloud at bay since, and maybe it's not really there anymore. But I get goosebumps occasionally.

I sometimes feel like a robot or a wind-up toy that is just off-track. There needs to be a point or a focus for my brain to function. A path to work towards. And yes, money certainly comes in handy when considering this. Hell, money is usually part of the goal. Maybe that exposes me as a compromising, conformist piece of shit. However, if you've endured many a dry spell, then you quickly grow tired of the periods when you have little money. Relative poverty is not a badge of honor anymore.

This makes me think of what two entirely different authors had to say on this point. On one hand, Charles Bukowski wrote a poem ( the name of which I couldn't tell you since this was years ago that I had read it) which basically said that it didn't matter where you were, or how healthy you were, how rich or poor, or what kind of headspace you were in: there will never be a perfect time to be creative, and that it's foolish to wait around for it.

On the other is H.L. Mencken, who wrote about this concept, calling it the "Greenwich Village complex." Here is his take on it:

"Poverty may be an unescapable misfortune, but that no more makes it honorable than a cocked eye is made honorable by the same cause. Do I advocate, then, the ceaseless, senseless hogging of money? I do not. All I advocate -- and praise as virtuous -- is the hogging of enough to provide security and ease. Despite all the romantic superstitions to the contrary, the artist cannot do his best work when he is oppressed by unsatisfied wants. Nor can the philosopher. Nor can the man of science. The best and clearest thinking of the world is done and the finest art is produced, not by men who are hungry, ragged, and harassed, but by men who are well-fed, warm and easy in mind."

Right now I'm leaning towards Mencken's take on it. That could be because I enjoy Mencken, and can take or leave Bukowski. Obviously -- I don't even own a book of his to pull a quote out of.

Do I consider myself an artist then? Well, sort of. I have an artist's one-track mind, and the tunnel-vision needed to achieve certain outcomes, since the process could seem extremely tedious and tiresome to some. I possess that sort of mad urgency for completion of projects, and my imagination is a better friend than most. I'm indecisive, a bit neurotic, and I grow bored with things quickly, alarmingly so. I think those are some good qualifications.

Pardon my weird mood. Trying not to sound self-pitying here, since I have no right. Just musing about boredom and its consequences.

In the ol' memory bank

Remember these?

     I was a big fan of these cards when I was a kid, and had collected quite a few of them over the years. Fortunately, I was smart enough not to sell them when I got tired of them-- I kept them all in a box and forgot about them until recently when I was rifling through my old bedroom's closet in my parent's house. I say fortunately for two reasons: 1) though a meager amount, they are still worth something, and inevitably their worth will continue to rise, and 2) they're one of the few things that I kept around from childhood, so they carry an even deeper nostalgia than any other thing that I own. The latter part of that sentence makes it seem like my box of Garbage Pail Kids is my most treasured possession, which is not the case, I promise. It's just that they take me back to my old run down house; to the corner-store that was run by the very friendly, but extremely hyperactive hippie lady with hair down past her ass; to when a quarter was a substantial amount of money for candy or a package of GPK. They take me back even further in memory than, say, watching an episode of Twin Peaks, or reading the letters from an ex-bandmate, who unexpectedly fled back to the East Coast while we were still renting a practice space. An explanation is in order, I know.
     When I was living in Medford, Oregon, I was commuting to Ashland (the nearest southbound town), to work as a line cook at a restaurant called Brothers. And a guy named Stephen, one of the cooks at Bros., turned me on to the Twin Peaks series. At that point, I had vaguely remembered bits of it on the USA Network, but had never actually followed the story. Stephen and his girlfriend Nora were both David Lynch fans, but were especially keen on Twin Peaks. They even had this Rolling Stones cover hanging in their bathroom:
They assured me that I wouldn't be disappointed in the show, and that once I started watching I wouldn't be able to stop. And then came the perfect opportunity to sit around and guiltlessly watch every episode: Stephen and Nora asked me to house-sit for two weeks while they were in Germany. And that's exactly what I did, plowing through all 29 episodes (the hours spent watching it almost equated a work week). I lived about a fifteen minute freeway drive away from their house, and this was a house-sitting job that involved feeding two feral cats, so it required me to stay there instead of merely checking up on the place. Like I said, perfect opportunity to sit around. 
     Oh, and a quick note on the cats: if you haven't ever had to deal with a feral cat, and you get the opportunity to do so,...boy, are you in for a treat. Shortly before they left, Stephen and Nora reminisced about the awful incidents they'd had with these two jet-black nightmares to, ya know, put me at ease. And they warned me that the cat with the white tuffs of hair growing out of its ears was the meaner of the two. Apparently, just walking behind "white tuffs" while it was eating its food was a threat to him, which would cause him to emit this gurgling, low Ohm-like sound and then turn around and swipe. The other cat did warm up to me a bit, and would even sit on my lap while I would be watching Twin Peaks. However, the minute I tried to get up from the chair, it would be a problem. Knowing that this was a feral cat, it kinda made the experience terrifying. So yeah, the experience soured me on playing with wild cats. 
     So, anytime I watch an episode of Twin Peaks, it takes me back to this specific period in my life. And so far, I can find nothing else, apart from actually travelling down to Ashland, that can achieve sort of the same effect. And even then, it's still not the same. It encompasses more than just the house and the cats: it includes the job, the town, my friends at the time, the general mood I was in, etc... So, when the Gold Edition DVD Box Set of Twin Peaks came out I considered it a worthwhile investment. 
     As for the saved letters from the ex-bandmate, those were from the period when I had just moved up to Portland. I had put up a flyer in Ozone Records, searching for a drummer to start a project with. Brainmower, as was his online pen-name, responded and even had a practice space in NW Portland where we could play at any time of the day or night. As a matter of fact, our first get-together was around 3 A.M., and we played till about 8 A.M. This we did a few times a week for the next six months, until we needed a cheaper practice space. Then onto Shurgard Storage, where we had a silent agreement with the manager, of that particular set of spaces, that we would never be there after 9 P.M., when the gates closed for the night. Mad dashes out of the lot before the gates closed were frequent, and made the whole thing kind of fun. But it came to an end when I arrived at the practice space one day only to find the majority of Brainmower's drumset there and a note bidding me farewell:
     "The music shit in here is yours. Use it well, Took some drum shit as you notice. Yo, if I go back to NY and start some shit, you have a place in my band, or with us at gigs. NY Hardcore roots beeotch! See you later bro."
     Apparently he was in Bellingham, Washington at this point, and later went back to his hometown of Albany, New York. From there he contacted me a couple of times before he went on to permanently live in Barcelona, Spain. Here is one of his letters, typical of his style: 
     "What the fuck is up son. Well, I guess you aren't actually my son, but if you were I would be proud because you are a real hard worker. Pardon my feeble attempt at humor.
     The CD in here is the 4 song At War With Shadows shit, called Healing is not an option. Its pretty fuckin' good, some nice riffs on songs 1 & 4 in particular.
     I'm playing guitar with this bands guitarist in a different band, we are pretty much a joke though, largely because I am in the band and my life is a fucking joke. Well, I'm not all that dismal I guess, but the whole east coast winter no money driving a falling apart '86 Taurus shit is a bit wack.
     I need a fucking new Benz, 7 sluts on my nuts, and a house in the Hollywood hills. Actually, what I really need is to be raped in a third world prison, until I learn the true nature of suffering. My little pussy life is no where near as brutal as it gets.
     You know My Little Pony? We need a product on the market called My Little Pussy. I think it would be a hot item.
     Anyway, I got to bounce, oh fuck, hip hop slang in my dome, cannot remove,
     I'm working on making some money on the internet here, but if that doesn't pan out pretty soon I might just go out there and start sucking cocks on Burnside. It would be a change of pace at least. Uh, well hopefully it won't come to that. That's it for now I guess, its fucked up man, it's too expensive for people to cross this fucking country yet they say the war with Iraq could run 60 Billion dollars! What the fuck man. We are supposed to be stationary tax revenue provides for the war machine. This country has all the fucking money in the world for fucking annihilating shit, but most our cities don't have one fucking community center where people can work on music, sculpting, whatever kind of shit. All of that is so within reach, maybe its not the government fully though, I guess most people are fucking selfish, afraid and not wanting to be a part of a group effort.
     Damn. Rambling on like a motherfucker. I want to write a book called This Country is a Lying Piece of Shit. Kind of stupid, but I want to make it readable from 5th grade to adult level. I'm going to back up all my sources though so it can't be dismissed by the academic types. Feel free to email me shit you think should go in it.
     Some fucking day, I will be in Oregon again, and I will shred mad East/West coast style. It's weird man, past, present, future, wow. I am going to write you a book right fucking now. If I had a penis the size of God's I would fuck the sun, and put out the light for these grovelling maggots and become their Lord.
     Maybe someday, see you later in the land of volcanoes and cappuccinos.   Brainmower."
      I still laugh when I read these letters, and they are yet another item that takes me back to a time period that I might have forgotten about, or at least would only have a vague recollection of, if it weren't for these things still in my possession. They help to flesh out the details.
     And in this whole convoluted mess that is my story, I guess I am placing importance on objects and their personal significance. Call it a defense of materialism. I've gone through many cleaning out periods in my life, when minimalism was important to me, and my possessions felt like pointless clutter, and therefore the majority of what I owned went into the trash or to a charity. Many times I felt like throwing away the letters from my friend, since I was already throwing away every notebook that I had scrawled lyrics into, every existing cassette tape of music that I had created (since I was embarrassed of it), every photo I owned, every book, and so forth. I'm glad that I didn't. More often than not, I find myself regretting that I deliberately threw something away out of immature modesty. Not saying that you should keep every little scrap; maybe just to have some foresight as to why a particular thing might be better kept than destroyed.
     I still underestimate the diminishing power of memories. 
     It's strange how this blog post morphed into something entirely different than what I had set out to write. I was gonna try reviewing Art Spiegelman's Maus, but instead got onto the subject of Garbage Pail Kids. I guess it's not too much of a stretch: he created Garbage Pail Kids. 
     Maybe next time.

( By the way, my computer seems to be a bit fucked right now, and so I'm not exactly sure how this post is going to look since the preview doesn't match up with my draft -- at all.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You Know Nothing!

Just playing around with YouTube embedding. This is a video that my friend emailed me some time ago: about two women who have apparently lost, or squandered, their wealth and now are adjusting to normal people life. I can't tell if it's fake or if it's real. Regardless, it's pretty funny. You can almost feel sorry for the woman on the left, but the one on the right is just so washed up and bitter that it's hard not to view her as the embodiment of everything shallow. And if you want to know why she is wearing something that ridiculous on her head, she'll tell you why:

This is what happens if you are a night owl...

So this is kinda strange. I never do this, but I decided to get stoned. Well, that may be a bit of an overstatement: I took all of two hits. Not exactly stoned, more like what comes after a body high. However, nowadays that's all I need. Hell, this is the first time hitting a pipe in, say, five or six years for me.

With that being said, I don't exactly own paraphernalia anymore. So, I thought: what could I use? Well, the first thing that came to mind was a soda can, after drinking a Hansen's. To make that contraption, you just crush the can in its center, prick the flattened area with a pin a couple of times (this creates the wind tunnel), and this serves as a bowl. Then, I thought of using an all-aluminum foil pipe, the one that requires some origami skills. Then I remembered, any vegetable or fruit can serve as a pipe. So, a carrot it was.

The carrot pipe is easy to do, and if you have a couple of kitchen tools you can make a pretty nice one. I just so happened to have a melon-baller for the bowl, and then used a chopstick to hollow out a stem. I wish I could take a picture of it.

This process of making a pipe triggered all sorts of memories. You see, back in the day I was what you would call "a fucking pothead." So, inevitably, pipe-making was of particular interest for me. I wonder if I can generate a list of different pipes I made, hmmm.....

Fimo clay was an easy way to make a pipe back in the day. You would let your creative skills mingle with your mechanical skills and then have something beautiful to show for it (or at least your hippie brain would convince you of this). Bake it for a couple of hours till rock hard, then put a screen in it. Unfortunately -- come to find out -- it's really toxic to burn that Fimo shit, and inhaling it is even worse.

A quick trip to the hardware store could produce enough little connector pieces and/or plumbing angles to create a metal pipe that would start to scald your hand if you held it for any longer than a minute. However, a trip to a Garden/Feed store could provide one with the parts to make a water-pipe (more on why I called it a water-pipe in a bit). All you needed was about a foot of large clear plastic tubing, a rubber stopper to put in the end of the tube, and the metal bits and pieces to make a stem and bowl -- usually the same style metal parts in the hardware store. Just cut two holes: one for the stem, and one for the carb. There you go: Feed-store bong.

I've discussed the flattened soda can pipe, but one can also make a pipe out of a plastic litre bottle. However, it is used for making a Gravity Bong. You just cut the last quarter of the bottom off the bottle and install a stem/bowl in the top. Fill up a sink full of water. Then, slowly submerge the majority of the bottle in the water, fill the bowl, light it and slowly raise the bottle. You will see smoke collecting in the cylinder as you lift it. Before the bottle comes all of the way out of the water, take the stem out, put your mouth around the spout, then push down and inhale. Instantly, you fill your lungs with more than they can handle. So you cough, and cough, and then remain paralyzed for a few good hours.

Unfortunately, I can't remember any more pipe recipes off-the-top-of-my-head. And here I thought I could be a worthy addition to a brand new edition of The Anarchist Cookbook. Does such a thing exist? Last I checked, the original author became a born-again Christian who wrote some long screed on about how wrong and stupid he has been all his life up until now. Now he has a wife and kids, and, presumably, doesn't have the spare time to tinker with lead pipe bombs and instructions on how to kill people with your bare hands. His life story via customer review came off as a bit condescending and, paradoxically, just as extreme as his preface to the Cookbook. If I hadn't already thought that he was an idiot, his long-winded diatribe confirmed it.

So, back to why I called a bong a "water-pipe." When I was seventeen, I worked in a head shop: I'm gonna assume people know what that is. I basically safeguarded all sorts of pipes, some cigars, rolling papers and machines, and UA (urine analysis) cleaners. They were all encased in glass as if they were precious jewels, and I needed a key to open each case.

I also had to police customers on their proper shop etiquette. It alludes to its use as an illegal activity if you call a bong a bong, rather than calling it a water-pipe. So, it was safe to assume that the only head shop in a small conservative town would be scrutinized, and probably by undercover cops. Therefore, I had to be strict and introduce the word waterpipe into the vocabulary of the hescher/piece of shit customers that frequented the place. There was also a sign that read: "Waterpipes Are For Tobacco Use Only." And that brought a lot of problems with it.

Typically, it would be some bright bulb who would make some sarcastic remark about the phrase "For Tobacco Use Only." It was amusing at first, to see what little it took for someone to feel clever, but it quickly got annoying. It was on a daily basis that I would get some ingenious comment on the silliness of that slogan, and one day I decided to break customer service character to tell a young kid how fucking ridiculous he was being. I pointed out that this was the only head shop in town, and that there might not be one in the future unless he started acting his age and respecting the establishment by calling them fucking WATERPIPES! And oh, by the way,... we fucking get it, alright? 

Near the end of my tenure at The Smoke Shop, I was having these sorts of arguments all of the time. If it wasn't someone yelling at me for believing that the digital scale he purchased was faulty (which turned out not to be the case, he just didn't know how to turn the damn thing on), it was someone blaming me for their failure of a work-related drug test because of the pre-urine analysis cleansing smoothie we sold. We carried three smoothie flavors: "victory chocolate", "no sweat, berry!", and "We'll be back to work in no time banana mango." Of course we didn't.

Another UA alternative was this stuff called Klear. Klear came in two vials, and instead of drinking it, one would empty the contents into their UA cup after filling it. This destroyed, I presume, any THC molecules floating around in your piss. Unfortunately, if you used too much, it would completely transform your urine into something more akin to all-purpose cleaner. So that didn't work for too long, and I believe it was those sort of products that started the whole UA officer standing in front of you while you piss. 

What was kinda strange about working at the head shop was the fact that I had already quit smoking weed at that point. Got tired of it. Got tired of the people associated with it. And then here I was, immersed in the paraphernalia trade and reaping none of the benefits. That's alright though. I don't miss it, and even now it is just ok; not great, or wonderful, or anything like how I remembered it from my middle-school and high-school days. Well, now I'm getting too tired to think. Till next time.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Big League Chu

Yesterday, a friend of mine lent me a comic book called Chew; authored by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory. Usually, I am not one for comics or graphic novels -- or at least I haven't given them much notice. However, I was instantly hooked by this one. My friend guessed correctly that this would be right up my alley. A summary:

Tony Chu is cibopathic; which is to say that he receives psychic impressions from anything that he takes a bite out of. Whether that be a bite out of an apple, wherein he can sense what tree it came from and what pesticides were used; or a bite out of a hamburger, from which he can tell how badly the cow was treated. Oddly enough, beets are the only thing that he doesn't get a psychic feeling from. The stress associated with his superpower causes him to eat lots of beet salads.

He is also a cop. And in his deranged commitment to justice, he resorts to cannibalizing perpetrators in order to receive psychic answers to their crimes. Would a McGruff the crime dog joke be too obvious here?

A pandemic of bird flu has caused the U.S. government to outright ban poultry sale and consumption. This, inevitably, has created a black market for chicken, and has led to the creation of underground restaurants, or "chicken speakeasies." It has also led to the F.D.A.'s rise to power, which has eclipsed law enforcement to become the most powerful agency in the country, with complete jurisdiction over all black market matters.

Savoy, a leading F.D.A. agent, who is also cibopathic, recruits Tony Chu because of his special talent (there are only three known cibopaths in the world) and assigns him to a special crimes unit of the F.D.A. Tony Chu now takes bites out of forensic evidence, like decomposed fingers, in order to solve murder mysteries. And that's about as far as I've come.

Obviously, The Dead Zone comes to mind, as well as the movie Strange Days, mainly for its similar dystopian atmosphere and black market theme. I say dystopian, but Chew more mirrors contemporary society rather than projects the future degrading of a society (inextricably linked with the dystopian genre, I feel). In Chew, there is mass distrust of the government and its intentions behind the poultry ban, and those who speak out against it are dealt with in various ways. In one case, Tony Chu's brother Chow Chu, a celebrity cooking show chef, abruptly speaks out against the ban on his show and is subsequently suspended, while the network is fined the largest cable network fine in history by the F.C.C. (under the advisement of the F.D.A). In another, Tony Chu himself threatens a Poultfree chicken shack employee with the removal of his family if he doesn't cooperate. The threat is ever-present, and the citizens are being watched. I'm sure there are many parallels to draw here; this isn't all in Mr. Layman's imagination.

Anyhow, just thought I would share. I've read the first two episodes, and I'm about to read the third. I would comment on the illustrations, but I have nothing to really compare them to. Like I said, I don't normally read comics, so I don't know one artist's style from the next.

My friend also lent me the Art Spiegelman graphic novel Maus. I'll review that one soon too.