Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just Another Manic Monday (They Wanted To Call Themselves "The Bangs")

"Six o'clock already?  I was just in the middle of a dream."

She did it again.  Please, please, PLEASE stop waking me with 80s song lyrics.  It's bad enough that I have to become conscious, at all.

"Do you remember that song?" she asks, knowing full-well that I was DJ-ing at the college radio station in 1986 (and therefore was all-too familiar with that song).

"Ugh.  Yes.  Hit snooze."

"I love how this song brings me straight back to April of 1986 - back to my second semester in college," she said, more wide-awake than I could ever reconcile with the time on the clock.  "Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when this song was everywhere?"

I grunted again.  "Of course.  How could I forget?  I was nineteen - working the dodge-ems - sorry, bumper cars - at the amusement park in Pripyat, Ukraine.  I was sharing a flat with two Ukrainians, three Russians, a Greek, an Uzbek, and a Belgian, and we were having the time of our lives.  There was never much to eat, but we had more Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish vodka than we could drink, and if there were twenty good-looking young girls in town, I swear to you that nineteen of them were at our place, every night.  It was heaven."


"Then, as you know, on April 26th, there was an explosion at Chernobyl.  They told us to stay put.  On April 27th, there was panic.  They told us nothing.  On April 28th, an evacuation order was issued.  By April 30th, everyone was gone.  I missed the last bus out, because I was having drunken, end-of-the-world sex with the only Russian nurse from the hospital who was under 99 years old and thrice as many kilos."


"And to this day, I can see the terror in her eyes as I left her there, naked and alone, with the Central Emergency Government Ministry-issued Geiger counter buzzing away, on that mattress in the hallway, the lights having long-gone.  Who knows - perhaps she was pregnant with my doomed fallout baby... I turned and ran as fast as I could, while securing my pants and such, and never looked back.  I'm sorry.  Listen to me, droning on and on.  What about you?  Where were you when that song was hot?"

"I... I was working at the movie theater, and trying to figure out how to tell my high school boyfriend that I was sleeping with this college guy, and transitioning from blue eyeshadow to, you know, more of a green..."

"Oh.  Cool." 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Siderodromophobic Billy - The Worst Hobo Ever

I never met Siderodromophobic Billy, and to be honest, I had never heard of siderodromophobia, and for three weeks, I assumed that the friend who told me about it was just having a laugh.  So, ever the skeptic, I did some research.

Well, whaddaya know - he was real, and so is the condition for which he was given his hobo moniker.

Now, I know that you, gentle reader or readers, have access to something called (or a lot like) "Google," so I won't bore you and waste your valuable Insta-Crush time with a lengthy and tedious description of siderodromophobia.  

So, let's focus on Billy.

My first question was, quite naturally, how can you possibly have been a hobo at all, and follow-up question - how does one even begin to think about considering developing such a disorder?

The first answer:  It's hard enough to be a hobo, but being a hobo who is deathly afraid of trains is nearly impossible.  "You still walk the rails from town to town," he supposedly once said, "but you can't abide the sound of a whistle, nor the sight of steam."  This resulted in a lot of running perpendicular lines from train tracks, hiding in the woods, and sweating through panicked heart palpitations.  The average hobo spent more time walking than riding, so in reality, having siderodromophobia didn't make that big a difference, so never mind what I said earlier about it making it nearly impossible to be a hobo.

The second answer was harder to find.  I mean, what could make someone so afraid of trains?  Of course, they are massive, fast-moving, and thunderously-loud - especially close-up, but lots of things are that way.  Horse races are that way, strictly speaking.  A large city can be that way.  The ocean.  A hurricane.  War.  I was a bit lost, but perseverance pays, and the internet is sometimes a wonderful tool.

It might not sound like much.  A train killed little Billy's parents.  It might not add much, the fact that a train killed them before his six-year old eyes.  And it still could fail to impress, the fact that a train killed his parents - pulverized them, really - in the warm, safe comfort of their kitchen, as the complementary aromas of kielbasa and sauerkraut filled the air.  These facts, these indelible sights and sounds of horror and instantaneous, permanent loss, excruciating as they are, do not fully explain a true case of siderodromophobia.  There had to be a missing element.

I had to resort to microfiche - material that has, to date, not made it to the digital domain.  I found it in a Pittsburgh library, slated for demolition in 2006.  The extra piece - the bit that made it all make sense - was not the fact that an eastbound train of 98 hoppers filled with a hundred tons of anthracite coal, powered by a total of four heavy locomotives (two up front, one mid-train, one on the rear) jumped the tracks and plowed into little Billy's house.  Fear of ordinary objects stems from a perception of reach.  Obviously, if you live 25 feet from railroad tracks, an accident can land a train in your living room.  

But Billy lived over five blocks from the tracks.  The lead locomotives, coal tenders, and a half-dozen loaded hoppers rolled a half-mile down Sycamore Street, from the Pennsylvania main line, past two stoplights, past the school and the fire house, over a small hill and around a 10-degree curve in the road, before slamming into the house and annihilating Billy's parents, two minutes before supper.

So, yeah.  I guess I kind of get it.

Siderodromophobia.  Look it up.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That Thankfulness Thing 2014 - Part Two Of Three

Okay.  Two years ago, I did the Thankfulness Thing.  I should have stopped there, but no - I did it again in 2013.  And now, I just can't stop.  No time to lose!  Herein you will find the second ten of thirty things for which I find myself thankful in November, 2014...


11.  Jets.  Benny or no Benny - they are bone jigglingly amazing, whether just rolling from point A to point B...

Or performing the Missing Man formation...

...over the Daytona 500.

12.  Sparkles.  (for [Maris])

13.  The 1st-generation Sony FM Walkman.  From Rehoboth Beach, you could hear Ocean City (NJ or MD) pop stations, as well as 96-Rock, 98-Rock, and the legendary WHFS (on a clear night), and life was good.  Life was, of course, already pretty good, being life at the beach, and all, but the Walkman made it just that much better.

14.  Flasks.  Yes, these little life-savers have previously appeared on this list, but this year, more than ever...  And no - I don't need a flask in order to survive my wife's family - or MY family - but it's always better to be prepared, right?

15.  The fact that [Maris] was willing to help with this year's list.  Granted, I out-drank her (for once), tonight, so she has been of VERY little help, but still.  Just knowing that she's in my corner makes ALL the difference.

16.  Mountain Dew (Throwback).  As long as we're talking about sleepyhead over there.  This stuff is like honey.  But with caffeine.  It's... It's just TOPS...

17.  Legs.  Still.  Legs.  Sue me.

18.  Anthony Rendon and/or Asdrubal Cabrera.  Yes, it's a baseball (specifically Nationals baseball) thing.  If that's not your thing, no worries.  Go to 19.

19.  Vacations.  It doesn't matter if your vacation is some six-star escape from your five-star life of utter leisure, or a one-star motel on the "cheap" side of your nearest budget/family-friendly seaside town - or something in between...

...just getting away is half the battle.  Read, sleep, eat, write, play mini-golf - whatever - just get away.

20.  Doctors.  Mine, [Maris]'s, my mothers', my nephew's, my in-laws', and so on.  Independent of everyone's individual issues and/or coverage options etc. - I'm just really glad, tonight, that they are there, doing what they do, sometimes utterly thanklessly.  Here's to YOU, docs!

More on the 30th.  There's just so much for which I should be thankful.  Will Spridel and Chim Chim make the cut?  Stay tuned...  

I found a way to, lame as it may be, incorporate my own phrase/prompt, "I should have stopped," for my buds at STUDIO 30-PLUS, and I'm at peace with the results.  Come back again, won't you? 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

200 Bits Of Mostly Harmless Drivel


For my 200th post, I wanted to do something special.

Instead, I did this.  What follows is one word from each of my first 200 blog posts - the first word of the first post, the second word of the next post, and so on.  Ready?  Okay!

I the trains. family you Hall welcome only that I half was gently us have the your is acquisition that are huge groups previous Head Doom thinking hi! piece with By along well-intentioned camp but saw middle paper mode floor Rockville.  Seven the hardest words in succumbing I wrap. It's other picture foist verb Lake corner Knotted public tell sucks to complaints an members named it names yet done who haha my main death fight start did still long happened he lot didn't Seventeen? plans historic walking might KNEW against I Perhaps Right from put spoons house accent birthday Tuesday what blocks met everything questions understandable Pennsylvania made police like for 2:09. again learned bored end or Christmas not ones minute him father dozen finale advancement sticks wretched spring this advice pointed so "Nope."

maybe Poor, poured me would be sell possession glare Achilles separated Glimpses own Bat "find." muttered. never also commerce smile hope road idea go? writer off you're illegal brick Pass! to Barb It's fiction Flowers from great this?** dream was traumatic as in rushed least "Oh, widely you right non-issue navigation about Stingo newly hate work... aspect his On Squeeze come that his room doc. commerce

There.  Wasn't that monumental?  If you knew how much time I spent on this, and you like me at all, you would be overwhelmed with pity for me, tonight.

Still.  200 posts - probably 50 good ones.  It's been a lot of fun, for me, and I very much appreciate your visits to my silly little corner of the virtual universe.  Tune in tomorrow for more of this year's Thankfulness Thing...

** this post did not have enough words, so I used "this?" because it was the last word in the post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Session Number 199 - What About Hyperion?

While we're on the subject of therapists - which, technically, we are not, but which, 24 hours ago, we briefly were...

Doc:  You're late, again.  I have an appointment immediately after yours, so we can't run long.  I'm sorry.

Joe:  (standing)  Well, I'm off to serenade a parking meter...

Doc:  Seriously?

Joe:  (sits down)  No.  Serenade wouldn't really make sense, anyway.

Doc:  (writes on note pad)  Okay.  So.  Last week, we left off with you feeling confident about...

Joe:  About my job interview - yes.

Doc:  So, how did it go?

Joe:  (thought bubble: SO not hired)  Not bad, actually.

Doc:  Excellent.  I'm encouraged.  So, no trouble with the coprolalia, this time?

Joe:  Well, I didn't say that, but it wasn't bad.  I didn't get kicked out, and there were no cops.

Doc:  So, you made it through an interview.  There was never a doubt in my mind.  Mazal-tov.  

Joe:  Um.  Thanks.  I didn't have half of the experience they wanted, though.  

Doc:  How does this whole encounter with potential authority figures leave you feeling?

Joe:  This, again?  'And how do you feel about that?'  Really?  How do you think I feel about it?  It was an interview, doc.  I did better than usual, but they gave me no reason to get my hopes up, blah blah blah...  Can I ask you a question, though?

Doc:  And how did things go with that other issue we discussed?  The guns?

Joe:  (avoiding eye contact)  Yeah.  That.  I kinda bought three more guns - two fully-automatic, and one old .38.

Doc:  And?

Joe:  (sighs)  And nothing on me has gotten any bigger than it was before.

Doc:  And how does that--

Joe:  But I haven't been to the range, yet!

Doc:  (writing on note pad)  I see...

Joe:  Listen, doc - I've been meaning to ask, and don't take this the wrong way, but...

Doc:  Yes?

Joe:  Well, with you over there, and me over here on this clichéed couch, we can't even see each other.  We might as well do this over the phone.

Doc:  No.  I don't want you multitasking your way through these sessions any more than you would want me to to sit here reading, while you talk...

Joe:  Wait.  You're not reading, over there?

Doc:  No!  I'm listening, and taking notes.

Joe:  Oops.  Well, I'm working on my novel, on my iPad.

Doc:  (turning to look)  You are not!

Joe:  Well, not right now, but last week, I completely rewrote chapter sixteen, about Edward meeting Callista's family at Thanksgiving...

Doc:  Mr. Scott!

Joe:  What?  I was fully-engaged.  I'm an excellent multitasker...

Doc:  Understood.  Okay, let's get back to an issue you brought up during our first session...

Joe:  Ugh...

Doc:  Tell me about Hyperion...

Joe:  You mean the Dan Simmons novel?

Doc:  Great book - but, no.  

Joe:  (repositions self several times, looks at clock)  What?

Doc:  Can you tell me about Hyperion?


Doc:  Are you ready to talk about Hyperion?  About what happened, there?


Doc:  It's okay to say no.

Joe:  No.  Not yet.

Doc:  That's okay.  

Joe:  Thank you.

Doc:  Change of subject.  How about the 'roid rage?  How has that been, lately?  You're stepping down off the prednisone, as I recall...

Hyperion, summer.

Stay tuned, kiddies.  Assuming that my math is correct (a generous assumption, to be sure), the next post is NUMBER TWO HUNDRED!!  What can up with I come, to the occasion mark?  Join me.  Joinnnnnnn meeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Out Of Order

Sometimes, I know exactly what I want to write.  I'm in tune with my reader, and with my other reader, and I don't dither and watch "American Dad" until it's too late to come up with anything new or worthwhile.

Every once in a great while, I have Too Much Material, and I end up failing to write anything, simply because I couldn't pick from the myriad of great ideas. 

The memories are coming fast and thick, now, and I can't stop them.

Should I write about: 

The control room of the Haunted Mansion ride in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - and the horrific crimes I witnessed there, when the power went out on the ride, and I got lost, trying to follow the glow-in-the dark emergency evacuation route signs.  No one believed me at the time, so I very much doubt that anyone will take my word for it, now.  I'm pretty sure even my therapists have dismissed my account of that night as some sort of paranoid delusion of imagined ultraviolence.  So, never mind.

During the 1993 Storm of The Century, I sold urine to a desperate George W. Bush for $700,000, in the rest room of a Petro truck stop near "South of The Border," on I-95 in South Carolina.  Say what you will about the guy, but he seemed really cool, that morning.  Check bounced to hell and back.  Lesson learned.  Wanna hear about that?  No?  I'm not surprised.

How about my Spring Break 1988 hook-up with MTV's Tabitha Soren?  My back starts to hurt when I think about that night.  I called it a life-altering, near-death experience.  Apparently, she called it "Thursday."  [Note:  I didn't know who she was until much later, but somehow, she knew all about me.]  No - I don't have pictures or video.  Oh, I see how it is.  Fine.

There was the mystery of the poop in the hall, and the 3rd floor of residence tower "D" at Towson State, following the 1988-1989 Christmas break - a mystery, I might add, that was never solved.  Yeah - I don't have a whole lot of interest in rehashing that crap, either.

Maybe I should tell you about The One Who Got Away.  [Maris] is asleep, so I'm pretty sure she'd never know.  It was the stuff of epic romance, of rom-coms, of Ross & Rachel, Ren & Stimpy, and Heathcliff and whats-her-face.  Ha ha ha I'm kidding; she didn't get away!  It's [Maris]!  Duh!

Okay that's enough good night.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wormy Glenn and Nootka the Flatworm

Nootka regarded his master blankly, unable to speak.

"You're wondering where we're going, I bet," Wormy Glenn said.  

Nootka remained expressionless, and said nothing.  

"Winter's coming, buddy. We're heading south." 

Nootka opened and closed his mouth twice, which Glenn interpreted as a kind of "Whatever."  

"Trust me, Noot.  It's getting cold - definitely time to get to California."  Glenn returned the tiny flatworm to the mulch- and dirt-filled canvas sack that served as his home and carry case.  The empty livestock car in which they were stowed away had been cleaned, but there was still some manure in the stalls, so Nootka would be well-fed, all the way to Fresno.

Glenn and Nootka met near Nanaimo, on British Columbia's Vancouver Island, and had been traveling the roads and rails of the Pacific Northwest together for almost a year.  Glenn was already a seasoned, weary veteran of the hobo life by then, but it was all very new to Nootka.  This is primarily because Nootka was a flatworm.

They never made Fresno.  In Eugene, Oregon, the train stopped.  It stayed stopped.  After almost 24 hours stopped, it showed now signs of un-stopping.  Glenn gathered his gear and his sack of Nootka-sustaining gunk, and ventured out.  There were other hoboes in the area, and although none of them knew exactly where, it was established that there was at least one bridge out, south of Eugene, on the Northern Pacific mainline.  

"Change of plans, buddy," Wormy Glenn said to his miniature friend as they sat in the raw November Oregon rain, near the passenger station.  "Don't give me any guff!  There was too a plan.  I just didn't tell you."

The flatworm said nothing, as per usual.

"I don't have to tell you everything, Nootka!  You're just a worm.  You eat and poop through the same hole!"

Nootka was speechless at his friend's cruelty - both the suddenness and severity of it.  It was more than he could process.  He squirmed.

Glenn looked at Nootka - at where he had long imagined that the worm's eyes would be, if he had any.  He was quickly overwhelmed with guilt.  "I'm sorry, buddy.  I can't believe I said that.  I'm so sorry.  I'm just frustrated, is all."

Nootka remained silent, and drooped a little.

"I couldn't tell you the plan, Nootka, my friend.  My plan was to get to southern California - or maybe Mexico - turn you loose in a nice pig pen, and find a palm tree, where I would sit and drink myself to death."

Nootka opened his mouth and held it that way for several seconds, which Glenn had always assumed meant "Oh my God!"

"Don't act so surprised, buddy.  I can't do this, anymore.  This world is going to kill me, anyway - and soon.  I won't let it.  I'm going out on my own terms.  Hence, the change of plans."  He reached into Nootka's mulch bag and grabbed the worm, shook off some of the dirt, held the wriggling little parasite up high, and dropped it into his mouth, swallowing it whole.

"Don't be sad, Nootka," he sighed.  "It's gonna be okay.  You'll have plenty to eat."


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dear (17-Year Old) Joe,

Dear Joe,

I don't know what to say. Well, maybe I do have a few things to say, but I don't know where to start.

Arbitrarily, I guess I'll begin by telling you to forget about business and accounting - and maybe even college in general.  You need to create stuff - not sell stuff, not count stuff, not just take up time and space.  Now, you're only seventeen, and you have no idea what any of that really looks like, so I'm asking you to please just take my word for it.

Next - and I know this is going to fall on deaf ears, but PLEASE don't marry that girl your coworker sets you up with, in 1990.  

Also, don't pick up that hitch-hiker in the rain on St. Patrick's Day, 1992.  He's not just a little odd; he's actually a she, and armed and extremely dangerous.

Don't - do NOT - waste more than ten minutes stressing out about politics.  You're going to like the conservatives for a while, then become educated and experienced, abandon them, and embrace some of the liberal stuff.  By the time you grow up enough to grasp that the only place where any common sense exists is the CENTER, there will BE no more center, and you'll save yourself a lot of frustration if you just skip all that trying, and accept the fact that, at the end of the day, it simply Does Not Matter.

Next, don't stop watching cartoons.  You will be tempted to do so, but don't.  If you have to cut some TV from your diet, make it news - or crime shows.  Oh, and when something called "Reality TV" comes along in about thirteen years, ignore it.  No, it won't go away, but ignore it just the same.

Now, this is going to be unpleasant for you to hear, but you have to come to grips with the fact that in the future, when it gets really late, you're going to have to stop writing your insipid blog posts or whatever, and GO TO SLEEP.  

Thank you.  Sorry I wasn't more helpful.  I'll write again in the springtime, when I'm more alive.

Love, Future Joe

Friday, November 14, 2014

We'll Drink To That! And That! And That...

We don't always drink shots and have chips and salsa for dinner on Fridays, but...

Oh wait - yes we do!  And when we do, we take turns giving a short toast, with each shot.  Notes:  1) We are not toastmasters.  2) We take tiny shots, so coming up with new toasts - especially now that neither of us works in a Vortex of Doom, anymore -  can be problematic.

We start small.

[Maris]:  To having survived this week - and to surviving this weekEND.  

Joe:  To paydays!

[M]:  To being rescued and returned to our homeworld.

Joe:  Yes!  And to not leaving a paper trail.

[M]:  To Chips-and-Salsa Friday nights.

Joe:  Here's to the Garbage Pail Kids (they never lie) - Here's to Transformers, 'cause there's more than meets the eye!

[M]:  All shots, all the time!

Joe:  Here's to heat pumps.

[M]:  TOAST!  (Raisin toast, especially)

Joe:  To the Patron Spirits Company, makers of the best-tasting rum I've ever had.  They make a nice tequila, too.

[M]:  To our dinner NOT being made of goat chops, asafoetida, petite French lentils, brownie edges, used tea bags, and quince paste.

Joe:  To drinking enough to come up with better toasts - or buttered toast.

[M]:  Mmmm... raisin toast?

Joe:  Of course.  Or, you know, French.

[M]:  Yay!

Joe:  Your turn.

[M]:  Here's to the NL and AL managers of the year (our very own Matt Williams and Buck Showalter).

Joe:  To the humans who managed to land a washing-machine-size robot on the surface of a comet, 300 million miles away, after a 9-year flight through space.

[M]:  To the Star Trek transporter!

Joe:  Here's to finding and/or remembering that ass-hattery quote...

Postscript:  We can do so much better.  So here's to the fact that so few people will see this, before we have a chance to redo it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

8th-grade Elevator Pitch: The Cosmos Annihilation Matrix

As I remember it...

It wasn't technically an elevator pitch, because we weren't in an elevator.  Also, I was fourteen years old, and had no concept of what a "pitch" was - let alone the elevator version of one.  Still, that's what it was.  

I was waiting in line at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, with my mother and my younger brother, who were busy negotiating the dining and/or treats in our future.  We were queued up to see "To Fly," on the 5-story-high movie screen that would later be called "IMAX." The gentleman in line behind us had overheard our prior conversation about Atari games - and how we would improve them.  He asked me to describe in two minutes what I would put into a game if I were in charge.  

[Blogger's note:  It was 1981 so, you know, cut me some slack.]

"In my game, you're a baby owl, so you can't fly, but you have roller skates, but if you get hit, you can lose them, but you can get them back if you eat enough mice from the barns along the way, and..."

The man, who seemed to me to be about 99 years old, when in fact he was probably 28, interrupted. "Wait.  Is this a first-person shooter, or is it a scroller?"

"It's both," I said. "When you're the baby owl, it scrolls right-to-left, but later, when you learn to fly, and when you fight the mother ships, it's first-person."

"Do you have inanimate obstacles, active enemies, or both?"

"Both.  If you hit a tree branch, or a car, or a squirrel's tail, you lose energy, and if you lose too much energy, you go extinct.  Also, there are theater majors with a creative writing minor, and they try to grab you and use you as a prop for their soliloquies.  They squeeze you over-dramatically and kill you 'cause your eyes pop out.  Plus, there are these cats that are, like, part cat and part over-ripe plantain, and they're all named TJ, and they're friendly at first, but eventually, if you don't buy a universal life policy from them, they turn sort of passive-aggressively hostile, and they start to subtly call your manhood into question, until eventually, the only way to get rid of them is to hold down the Fire button and waggle the joystick left and right as fast as you can.  Then, your owl says, 'Fuck off, TJ,' and it works, but your owl feels bad that it had to be rude, and you lose more energy points.  But then, after a few seconds, your owlet starts to resent TJ even more, for putting it in the position where it had to resort to telling him to fuck off, and it chases the ghost of TJ off the screen, throwing stuff at him.  There's a cutaway instant-replay of this action, where you can clearly see that what your owl is throwing is poop - and not owl poop, if you know what I mean..."

"Wait.  How old are you, kid?" the stranger asks.

"Fourteen," I say, "Why?  It's okay for me to say the F-word, if it's in the gameplay description."

"No, no - I'm okay with the language.  I'm just wondering how you're going to get simulated speech from an 8-bit processor."

"A what?"

"An 8-bit processor.  Some of the new arcade consoles have 16-bit chips, but if you're talking about your little Atari set at home..."

I held up a confident, let me finish hand.  "Ah, I'm not worried about that. If the voice can't be emulated, I'll just have a dialogue bubble pop up above the owl."

"Okay.  So, what's the goal?  Is it just multi-level, never-ending, or is there a boss villain - an end?"

I hadn't thought of that.  I said, "I thought of that, sir.  There's a giant robotic alien guy at the end, and he looks like Joan Lunden and R2D2 had a baby - all gleaming blue and white and metal, but with a cute blonde bob, and thin, professional, no-nonsense on-air lips.  He fires dirt missiles and intestine-shattering jokes that can't be unheard, plus some deep-fried bowling shoe guacamole balls, and reaches out with long, vector-graphics tentacles and grabs you as you try to dodge the projectiles.  He pulls you into his freakish plastic mandibles and eats you, and you lose."

"And?" the man said, shuffling forward as we began our march into the massive theater.

"And what?  Game over."

"How do you win?"

I tried to be polite, but I could feel my brow furrowing into its What are you - stupid? shape.  "You don't," I said, matter-of-factly.

"It's un-winable?"


"What are you calling this thing?"

"It's called The Cosmos Annihilation Matrix, because if you don't collect all the coat buttons in the coat-button phase, everything that is, or ever was, or ever will be... winks out of existence in one fell scream of ultimate horror and suffering."

"What?  No extra lives?"

"Nope.  Finito."

"Wait - what coat-button phase?  You must have skipped that part," the man said, somewhat bemused.

"That's 'cause I just thought of it.  I realized that there was no transaction education element, and our future capitalists really need that, you know?"

"Yes.  I'm fully aware of that.  Anyway, you had me until you said 'vector graphics,' kid.  You can't do vector graphics on a regular TV.  No sale."

"Okay."  I pretended not to be heartbroken.

"Maybe you should think about a career in accounting or something."

"Um... okay..."  Soul... crushed.

"Enjoy the movie!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Our Planet...

It has been established that my wife and I are not of this earth.  We fell through an unidentified portal (wormhole, time-uterus, quasar-crack, other?) to this pretty - but ridiculous - place in the mid-to-late-sixties, and have yet to find our way back.  I once asked [Maris] about our home world, just to be sure that my memories were still intact.  

Realistically, I should have stopped with the first answer I got from my [M]...

On our planet, we have magical powers.

That, as previously indicated, is where I should have stopped.  It is, in fact, not where I stopped.

On our planet, there is no one we don't like.

It never rains or snows, and when it sleets, it sleets amethysts.

We have unlimited books.  (obviously, that one's [M]'s)

Our planet is populated only by Ricky Gervais, Ellen DeGeneres, and Steve Martin (and maybe Leon Redbone and Tress MacNeille) - and they love us.

On our planet, a train comes whenever you approach a railroad crossing - and the power is always a dog's breakfast of history.

On our planet, food has only the calories you need, and junk food is nutritious. 

Also, no one cuts in line - car or no car.

On our planet, Starbursts - unwrapped - original flavors, with lots of strawberry - grow like dandelions.  Also Skittles - but the apple flavor was never invented.

Movies on our planet:  Murder gets an X rating, while sex is PG (and Ps actually exercise their G).

On our planet, [Maris] gets magical powers.  I think we've pretty much established that, but there it is.  Again.

On our planet, you can continue "Space Harrier" until the end - no extra quarters required.

On our planet, when you say "gigitty," everyone knows exactly what you mean, and responds in kind.

On our planet, all animated movies are made by Pixar.

"[M] can fy flighter jets as fun."

On our planet, our teams always win, while the yankees and braves... don't exist.  Nor do the cowboys, or duke.

On our planet, Thanksgiving comes four times a year, and when we host, we have invisible spirits who do all the cooking and cleaning.

Finally, and perhaps most-importantly, on our planet, all pandas and/or lighthouses have the perfect light, and are devoid of all people.
Aw, come on!  What now?  Get out of my shot - I've got waves breaking and clouds rolling in...

There.  It's a start.  Hopefully, with deeper hypnosis and temporal regenerative regression therapy, we can uncover more...

This time, I couldn't bring myself to attempt the *phrase* prompt from my Studio30Plus buddy Kirsten,so I used her "amethysts," from "Inside the Chamber," instead.  I hope you like it.  I'm in the middle of attempting to produce 30 blog posts in 30 days.  Not an excuse - just an explanation.  Bear with me...


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Armistice Day Wish From Rear Admiral JF Grease Pencil

Rear Admiral JF Grease Pencil never served in the military.  His father was a US Navy Captain who served - and died - during the Great War.  James Franklin "JF" Happ was born in Annapolis, Maryland within a few seconds of the official 11/11/18 armistice - the end of the first world war. His mother gave JF the nickname "Rear Admiral" during the boy's toilet training.

Through his formative years, sharing his birthday with Armistice Day, and growing up with the ghost of a brave father he never met, JF learned a deep and abiding respect for the uniform and those who wore it.  JF's mother taught him to thank his friends' fathers for their service, and he did - long before he even knew what that meant.

So in 1932, when his mother was killed in an owlery collapse, and fourteen-year old JF hit the road with his hobo uncle, he took his appreciation for his country's veterans with him.  Every November 11th, he made sure he found his way to the war veterans or Armistice Day memorial of the nearest town, said a prayer, and left a note and some of his best lint.  He did this every year from 1932 until 1940, when he was crushed to death under a load of scrap metal while sleeping in an open gondola near Atlanta.

One of these notes survives, and is on display in the National Hobo Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC - or it will be, if I can ever get the Smithsonian people to answer my emails:

Dear Veterans of America's wars,

I never knew my father.  I've been told that he was very brave, and I've met some of the men who served with him, and they cry when they talk about him, so I suppose he was a special man.  I knew some kids in school whose dads also never came home.  It's very sad.

Now, I have some wishes.  On this Armistice Day of 1939, I wish my father were here, so that I might shake his hand and say thank you.  I wish I could thank everyone on his ship - in fact, everyone who fought in the war to end all wars.

More than that, I wish you didn't have to do what you do.  I wish you didn't have to go where you go.  I wish with all my heart that my country had no use whatsoever for your sacrifice and your set of skills.  But the simple fact is that you are needed - you go and you do and you sacrifice because it is necessary.  

One of my dad's men once told me that most of them can't stand being called heroic - or even brave - so I'll just say, as I do every year...

Thank you all.

Hobo Rear Admiral JF Grease Pencil

Yes, I know that's a schooner.  I like the flag on it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

That Thankfulness Thing 2014 - First of Three Bite-size Pieces

Remember a couple of years ago, when a lot of people spent the month of November sharing via social media one thing per day for which they were thankful?  And remember how I did all 30 of mine at once, via blog post, in 2012, and again (a day late) in 2013?  No?  That's okay.  I don't remember what song my iPod finished playing 22 seconds ago.

Anyway, those posts were way too long for today's short attention spans, so-- hey?  HEY! OVER HERE! (snaps fingers)... Geez.  I'm trying to help!  This year, I'll post my list in three MUCH more reasonably-sized parts, so that you, dear reader, can get back to your pintstergram and skype-chat and whatever this year's Candy Crush is.  See - aren't I nice?  Well, sure I am.  You have a bad attitude, today.  Wait - I didn't mean that.  You're very busy - I know. 

So let's do this!  This year, I find myself especially thankful for...

1.  Hypnotoad.  All glory to the Hypnotoad... And to everyone involved in any aspect of the production of "Futurama."  It was a most skillfully-crafted show, and it was unapologetically nerdy - even before that was trendy. 

All Glory to the Hypnotoad...

2.  Robin Williams.  Versatile, fun, gifted, and flawed - just like the rest of us, only more so.

3.  Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan - bridging the gap between us and science.  Dr. Sagan is irreplaceable, of course, but Nye and Tyson are engaging and smart and witty, and they're doing an admirable job, despite the astonishing power of the willful ignorance that stands in their way.

4.  Two words:  Red Stapler.

5.  The fact that, as she did in November 2012, my old (snow) car surprised me and the DMV by once again passing her emissions test.

6.  Beach webcams.  Especially THIS ONE.

7.  Game Sevens - especially when the yankees and braves are not involved.  In the sports world, it doesn't get much more dramatic than a game seven.  Unless, of course, it's a best-of-nine series, in which case WOWEE GAME NINE!!

8.  Lizards.  They HATE me, but I still think they're groovy.

9.  My office (cubicle) toy corner...

Oh, the personal history on that shelf.

10.  The Internet Arcade!  Free, old-timey (1980s is old-timey) arcade machine emulator software you can run right in your browser.  I'm wallowing in nostalgia, here!

And with that, Bite #1 is complete.  Will Lionel trains finally make the list, this year?  Tune in on the 20th for Part Two, to find out!  Seriously.  Tune in.  Don't make me beg.  I'll be thankful for not having to beg, maybe...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Water Under The Wall -or- Houseapalooza 2014

Shit happens.  

On July 22nd, as I rolled into the homestretch of Camp NaNoWriMo, I came home from work, went to the back door to look for the rabbit that had been visiting our backyard for much of the summer, and squished.  The carpet in our dining room was saturated with water that had leaked from our neighbors' washing machine.

[Maris] and I had been thinking about replacing the carpeting in our tiny townhouse - and we knew that its cheap, pre-2001 paint had long ago passed the end of its useful life - but we also happen to be incredible procrastinators, so we were in no way prepared to act on either of these home improvements.  And yet...

In a fit of pique, I ripped up the damaged part of the carpeting, knowing that this would spur us to action.  And it worked.  Eventually.  Carpet was ordered, a painter was hired, and because [M] and I don't do anything half-assed, new blinds, closet doors, and bathroom and door hardware were selected.

We have no useable attic, and no basement, so we pretty much had to move out, for the duration of the work...

You have no idea how many paperbacks fit into those shelves.

We spent more nights than I care to recall in this room, at our local Extended Stay America.  I don't recommend doing this at any time, ever.  For any reason.  I mean, we've stayed in worse places, but...
And this view omits the TV with a 1970s-grade channel selection.

Meanwhile, back home...

Blurry is better, for this one.


Even the mighty iPhone and natural light fail to do justice to the improvement.

After another weekend of more work than either of us like to do to a house - ever - we lived there, again.  Our stuff (apart from the things we moved out to the trash and/or recycling and/or Goodwill) was back where it belonged.  Our walls had become untouchably beautiful - as had the floors and most everything else.  It pained us to hammer that first picture hook.

Same wall, different day.  Oh, and Halloween!  And don't knock the 25-year old Ikea dresser.  If that thing could talk...

We now float through the house like ghosts, physically willing everything to remain unblemished, like teenagers with brand-new sneakers.  It's still technically not much of a house, and sure, it's still at least $100K under water, but it's SO MUCH nicer.  I figure, if we're stuck here, we might as well like it as much as possible.  

And we do.

All's well that ends well.

(These pics don't really do justice to the improvement over the prior condition, but trust me...)

Saturday, November 8, 2014


The favorite year.  Most people have one.  It usually occurs in one's late teens or early twenties, and involves some sort of coming-of-age event, like a first job, first love, first sexual encounter, first drug experimentation, first out-of-body experience, first murder, first space flight, first arrest and so on.  For some, it comes later, and centers around becoming a parent.  For a few, the favorite year comes late in life - retirement, grandchildren, enlightenment, transcendence.

I have a lot of favorite years, and I'd love to bore you with tales of 1978, 1988, 1996, and 2000 - but I won't.  Tonight, let's take a quick peek at 1983, because really, it was all downhill from there, in so many ways.

I was fifteen when the year began, and younger than my years, so my world was an amalgam of music, movies, video games, and a few TV shows... Oh, and my first job.

First, there was snow.  We don't get a lot of snow, in the DC area, but in February of '83, we got this:

Thirty Inches of White Sky-excrement
I know that by now, if you've read what I have to say about winter, you know that I am not a fan.  I hate snow - because I'm an adult, now.  In 1983, however, it was pure white fluffy frozen MAGIC.  Anyway...

Television.  I had outgrown "Little House On The Prairie," and "Automan" proved to be a giant lie - with trailers that deliberately made it look like "TRON," but a show that was beyond terrible.  I was too young to care about "Dynasty," and even at fifteen-going-on sixteen, I could not wait for "M*A*S*H" to just end, already.  Also, I really thought "Just Our Luck" and "Mr. Smith" had a chance, but they were dead on arrival.  But there were bright spots.  "Taxi" showed promise, "Cheers" was good, and "V" did not disappoint, but in early '83, we obtained our first VCR, and suddenly it was MOVIES that we wanted on our TV screen.

"Cujo" was, as almost all big-screen adaptations of Stephen King stories are, a gigantic disappointment, but "War Games," "Risky Business," "Flashdance," "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life," "The Outsiders," "Return of The Jedi," "Vacation," "Scarface," and -helLO- "A Christmas Story?"  It was not a bad year.  Not enough?  How about "Eddie and The Cruisers," "The House On Sorority Row," and "Krull?"  Yeah - top that, 1984.

Of course, at 15-16 years old, I couldn't help but be ruled by music.  Whether it was on the turntable of our first real component stereo system, on my first boom-box, or in the too-powerful headphones of my first-generation FM Walkman, it was one of the driving forces behind my adolescent psyche.

There's entirely too much music to even begin to attempt to think about doing justice to, here.  Rest assured, if Bowie said "Let's Dance," we danced.  If the Plimsouls were "A Million Miles Away," so were we.  When the Stray Cats were "Sexy and 17," and demanded that we "Rock This Town," we did.  Thomas Dolby couldn't find "One of Our Submarines," Kajagoogoo was "Too Shy," Peter Schilling hijacked "Major Tom," and Men At Work said it was all "Overkill," and we were all like, "I'll Tumble For Ya," it's just "The Politics of Dancing -" no, "Don't Change" "My Ever-changing Moods -" "Goodbye to You."

I'll be brief on the video games, too.  I mean, it's not like anyone remembers Congo Bongo, Tapper, Blaster, Mappy, or Gyruss, right?  Everyone's all about Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, and Q*Bert, blah blah blah.  But does anyone want to join me in a rousing adventure in Mr. Do's Castle, or a round of Crossbow, or the Journey (as in, the band) video game travesty, disaster, and money-grab?  No.  You're all off playing Missile Command, or Centipede.  Harrumph.

Now, about that first job.  In the late summer of 1983, I graduated from delivering newspapers to making bad pizza, cleaning up after bad pizza-eaters, and entertaining bad pizza-eating children - at Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre, in Rockville, Maryland.  Yes, they actually spelled "theatre" that way.  Anyway - click on that link, read that story, and you'll get a feel for why 1983 was special.

That's about it, really - although I would appreciate a little credit from you sports-haters, for not mentioning the Redskins' Superbowl victory or the Orioles' World Series victory.  You're welcome.

Anyway.  This post-a-day thing is already dragging a bit, but bear with me.  There's much for which we will be THANKFUL, as well as the highly-anticipated by no one TWO-HUNDREDTH POST!  I know!  The all-caps should arouse some excitement.  No?  That's okay.  Just don't leave me.  Yet.