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The first thing you must be wondering is why the cover of this book
is so crappy. Well, I'll tell you. I threw this together quickly to
give the general idea of what I wanted as the cover but the more I
thought about it the more I wanted the cover to look crappy. I
wanted it to scream SELF PUBLISHED. I didn't want to pretend that
this book is something that aspired to be read by the masses.
I know what you're probably asking yourself
... “Doesn't he know that most people judge a book by its
Believe me, I do. But most people won't enjoy
this book. It's definitely a book geared more for the people that
don't judge a book by its cover. Over the years I've had publishers
and agents contact me with helpful advice and tips on how to
improve my writing and be more accessible to the general public and
they always seem at a complete loss when I tell them to piss off.
They just can't process that someone doesn't want to be a best
Just because there isn't a demand for obscure
writers doesn't mean there isn't a need.
I know my limitations. I am incapable of
writing some epic, transcendent story about fabulous people doing
fabulous things, meticulously researched and rich in detail. I'm
literally struggling to get through this introduction.
How long do these stupid things have to be
And yes, I know that you probably figured out
that not judging a book by its cover is also a form of judging a
book by its cover.
Life is funny. And dumb. And sad. And scary
and absurd and rude and weird. That's pretty much all I'm trying to
capture. The human experience is wildly erratic and I won't pretend
Here's the thing ... if I could sing I'd have
much rather been a songwriter. If I could draw I'd have much rather
been a cartoonist. I can't do either so here you sit reading an
introduction to a book that is one corndog away from being an odd
little carnival tucked away where you least expect it.
I hope you enjoy some of the rides.
a stinging bug by any other name
The other day it was partly cloudy, which doesn't make a great
opening line but it does go a long way in explaining why when a bug
landed on my nose it couldn't be said to have been “out of the
blue.” It was partly cloudy ... as I just mentioned. Rarely does a
bug land on someone's nose “out of the partly cloudy.”
I like to believe that I've evolved as a
human being because I reacted very differently than I did the last
time a bug landed on that particular spot. The last time I acted
under the false premise that my nose was constructed with
indestructible titanium and not the very structible bundle of nerve
endings that it actually comprised.
I slugged myself right in the nose and left
it all red and swollen and was forced to walk around the rest of
the day sporting this testament to my poor decision-making.
The problem then, as it was the other partly
cloudy day, is that while the bug did not wear the distinctive
yellow and black colors of the notorious villains of the insect
world, it sat on the end of my nose and, while my eyes are
outstanding at gathering information from a variety of distances,
the close proximity made the bug blurry.
Try as I might I could not make heads nor
tails of what exactly was perched on the end of my snout.
This is where being a writer makes one
susceptible to unfortunate flights of fancy. While most people
would stop at a small number of insect suspects, the writer, given
his or her training, can come up with a cornucopia of winged
menaces that could have hypothetically plopped down and made
themselves at home.
I guess this is a cautionary tale of
Everybody thinks they can write and most
people aspire on some level to put the ol' pen to paper and take it
for a spin on behalf of their fellow man. What they don't
appreciate is the terrible toll it takes on your imagination.
Scientifically speaking, I believe every time you think of a new
odd idea you build a new neural pathway. You make a new connection
which in turn allows you to make a similar odd connection more
easily the next time the desire for weirdness takes hold. The odder
you start to think the easier it is to continue to think of odder
and odder things until such a time as you are sitting at a dinner
party making small talk when all of a sudden you look up to find
everyone else at the table staring at you with their mouths wide
open in shock and bewilderment at what you thought was a pretty
Some people don't think this part through,
the dangers that lurk in thinking oddly. Once you slip to the odd
side, it's a long road back. Book signings might be tedious but
they are nothing compared to the horror show of lying awake at
night staring at the ceiling with a writer's mind.
So instead of lashing out in fear I took a
composed breath and tried to imagine all the whimsical
circumstances that could have brought this noble creature to my
nose. All of a sudden I was one with the universe. Connected with
all living things. How two separate but equal beings such as me and
this blurry little fellow could have found our paths entwined began
to play out my head in great detail. Each scenario getting
progressively more poignant.
I slowly pointed my head towards where the
sun would have been, had it not been partly cloudy, as if showing
the universe that I was a much better person than the last time I
punched myself in the face. I was beaming and imagining my friend
doing a little basking itself.
Perhaps I'd truly found some deeper
appreciation of the beauty of life in all its many forms.
That's when the insect stung me and left my
nose all red and swollen.
Well played, universe. Well played.
lost in transmutation
If people hibernated then I'm sure there
would be a medical term for what Greg had but as Greg was a frog
and people don't hibernate I'll just have to describe it as best I
Disappointed in the name Greg for a frog?
Expecting him to be called something whimsical like Gribbit?
Be reasonable. First of all, there are
literally millions and millions of frogs and they can't have all
names that are whimsical. Second, if you take a moment to examine
the existence of a frog you'll find a decided lack of whimsy in
their lives. Granted they start off as tadpoles and it's tough to
top that if you're looking for whimsy, what with the tail and the
swimming around and all, but eventually the tail departs, to be
replaced by legs, as they move from an aquatic lifestyle to a more
half and half land approach, and after that they are strictly
So, the condition Greg was afflicted with
Although perhaps the word afflicted is a bit
harsh. While it did drive him a bit mad, it could be argued that
the thoughts that run through the heads of both people and frogs
are really the only proof that we exist at all and thus this
so-called “affliction” added at least thirty five to forty percent
to Greg's existence.
His condition was this: while all of his
amphibious comrades slipped deep into the mud and went to sleep for
the winter months, Greg slipped into the mud and was awake the
A bit of a mixed blessing.
It made him a very odd frog when he
eventually popped out of the mud and rejoined his brethren but
nobody could argue that he wasn't a pretty bright frog. He'd had
plenty of time to think through some issues that in the course of a
typical frog year most frogs didn't have time to mull over. Frogs
seem to be on the menu for almost every animal out and about in the
warmer months so much of their time is spent hopping for their
lives and trying to squeeze in a few worms and flies when the
opportunities present themselves. Buried safely in the mud allowed
Greg some peace and quiet his slimy pals didn't have available to
I realize at this juncture that you might be
guilty of anthropomorphizing Greg to such a degree that you have
him inventing things and walking erect and such but let me slow
your roll a bit and remind you that he was still a frog. A really
smart frog is still not as smart as really dumb raccoon and I've
yet to be walking through a wooded area and see a small raccoon
factory belching out black smoke and producing tiny wheelbarrows or
You're still probably dizzy with the earlier
whimsy of tadpole imagery and thinking this story is destined to
end up a Disney flick.
Let's try to collect ourselves and get back
to Greg shall we?
For although nothing about his condition
indicated that he would end up the beloved star of an animated
movie, Greg had seen some things that no other frog, that he was
aware of, had seen.
Snow for starters.
Every few years the ground would warm up
noticeably and he would slither up topside while the rest of his
frog compatriots slept blissfully unaware that there was a break in
the cold action. Greg would emerge and see the grey skies and naked
trees of winter but the temperature made it safe to sluggishly move
And while sluggishly moving around, he would
occasionally see lumps of this white stuff he'd never seen before.
When he got closer he could feel the chill radiating off it. Being
a very wise frog he knew not to get too close because there were
still hawks flying around and they could, whether it would make
sense to them at the time or not, see a green frog against a white
background from miles away.
The first time he'd seen it he couldn't wait
to report back to all the other frogs but the following spring,
when he told them of his discovery, they laughed and croaked
derisive things about him so he never said another word about
So seasons came and went and Greg spent his
winter months deep in mud and thought while simultaneously trying
not to go out of his mind.
Then one December the temperatures suddenly
shot up and he emerged to find the air temperature similar to a
typical spring day. His blood started to flow more quickly and he
made short work of exploring the frog-less world around him.
Or so he thought anyway.
For there, sitting on a section of pond still
covered in ice, was another frog.
A young lady frog.
And quite a looker. Legs that went on for
days. He thought he remembered her name was Amy and she had just
lost her tail the previous spring.
Almost on queue he saw a hawk high above them
take notice of her and he leapt into action. Please note that the
fact that Greg was a frog and he happened to be leaping into action
was entirely accidental and one of the more pleasant side-effects
of not knowing what the next word in the story might be until it's
He let out a well-timed croak and Amy was
able to slip safely into the chilly water and make her escape.
Moments later she slowly crawled up to Greg to croak back her
thanks. Greg could think of no better way to get introduced to a
female and felt his confidence grow with each suave observation he
made about their winter environment. She took it all in like an
eager student. They spent two solid days above ground before the
temperatures started to sink again and signaled it was time to once
again slide deep into the earth and wait things out.
Two magical days.
Amy was just happy to know that she wasn't
the only frog who couldn't get to sleep.
Greg found himself appreciating probability
and circumstances more than he could ever remember.
It was the first time he could remember
burrowing where he was already anticipating the trip back topside.
His heart was fluttering away, remembering sliding up to Amy just
before they went their separate ways. If ever a frog felt debonair
it was then. Their enormous eyes almost touching. Whispering to her
and hoping that she understood.
“I have to be leaving … but I won't let that
come between us, okay?”
the pep talk
never a natural athlete. Whatever gifts of hand-to-eye
coordination, strength or speed that were ladled out to my peers
via DNA somehow gave me a miss. Nowhere was this more on display
than when I participated in youth baseball.
I don’t want to get all Wonder Years on you but somehow it seems unavoidable.
That little wave of nostalgia that washes over me when I think
about grabbing the ol’ bat and ball and heading out to the ballpark
has me longing for a simpler time when all I wanted was a root beer
and a corn dog.
And a girl to touch my penis.
Sorry. No need for that. Penis-touching
aside, there was nothing about my baseball experience that would
help me convince any girl that my penis was something to aspire to
touching. That last sentence proving once again that try as you
might to put penis-touching aside, you simply cannot. Truth is, at
the age I was during this story, penis-touching probably wasn’t
even on the menu but that’s yet another example of how I have a
nasty habit of working penis-touching into stories even when it's
not relevant. With a hyphen no less. The hyphen is where I feel I
really crossed the line.
Back to the story with the usual
I was the complete package … I could neither
pitch, hit nor catch. I couldn’t even figure out the point of the
brim on my hat. Sure it kept the sun out of your eyes when you were
looking forwards but as soon as you lifted your head to try and see
a fly ball the sun immediately overwhelmed your retina and had you
covering up your head and backpedaling away from the site where the
small leather meteor was plummeting to Earth with ill intent.
It wasn't as if my father hadn't done his
best to prepare me for baseball. Just before my first practice, he
dragged me to a local pizza place that had a few batting cages out
back to work on my swing. He quickly bypassed the 30 mph and the 50
mph options and threw a few coins into the 70 mph machine. Having
done that, he grabbed a bat and a helmet- safety first in the ol'
Manion household- and strode confidently to the plate.
He looked me right in the eye. “You can’t
have fear in your heart when you approach the plate so let’s get
this over with right now.” I heard the pitching machine growling
away in the background as he leaned forward into danger zone and I
knew at once he meant to get intentionally hit by the ball to drive
home whatever lesson he was cooking up in his head. “There are
worse things than pain. For instance … a restless heart.” Before I
could ask him what he meant by that, the ball came hurtling forward
and fractured his humerus. Despite the name of this bone, there is
nothing funny about damaging it. I concluded this as I, and all the
families gathered at the pizza place, listened to a smorgasbord of
profanity that would have had a longshoreman covering his ears.
My dad was in a cast for the first six weeks
of my season. A grim reminder of the suffering that can be
inflicted by even the smallest of objects.
During the first practice it became clear
that the coach would be assigning positions based on the size of
the truck each child arrived in. Until that time I was completely
unaware of the thriving lumberjack community our town must have
been harboring. A few of them appeared to have paid extra just to
have the vehicle unnecessarily belch black fumes into the air upon
command. By the time our station wagon roared down the dirt road
there was barely room enough for my mom to park between the
collection of phallic-mobiles.
Being keenly aware of the subtleties of
language, I quickly noticed that while my coached instructed the
other players to “play” second base or “play” centerfield, I was
always asked to “go out” to left field. I quickly vowed that I
would “go out” there to the best of my ability so as not to
The wooden bat that I had purchased with my
own money was sneered at by my peers so I scooped up one of the
aluminum ones, or whatever space-age material it was made of, to
take batting practice only to find that this space-age material was
scientifically designed to transfer the energy from the pitch to
your hands, should you be unlucky enough to make even the slightest
contact with a pitched ball. The results would have your hands
burning with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.
For the record, listening to some of the
parents doing their best Tom Hanks “There's no crying in baseball”
impersonations every time I fouled one off did little by way of
making me appreciate the movie A League of Their
I remember the events leading up to my little
pep talk like they happened yesterday. It was during a practice
when I was having particular difficulties doing anything right. Any
ball headed in my general direction did so with the complete
certitude that it was in no danger of being caught. Each grounder
and pop up had an almost palpable arrogance to them, as if they
knew that they were going to reach their intended destination with
no meddling from my glove.
It was after a tenth ball in a row had seemed
to defy physics and make its way through my glove and into the vast
expanses behind me when the coach seemed to feel the need to pull
everybody together and address the team.
“I want everyone to take a look at Lance.
Here is a kid that can’t catch a ball to save his life. His
fielding skill seems to defy all laws of probability; a bystander
would assume that if enough balls came his way that at least one
would make its way into his glove … and yet none do. In fact, the
only thing worse than his fielding is his hitting.
“Why do I point this out? Because he still
makes every practice and he still shows up to every game. He
doesn’t let the fact that every one of his teammates and every one
of their parents and every coach, including myself, secretly hopes
he’ll miss one deter him. Just one.”
He paused and got a far-away look in his eyes
“But he never does. Ever. Every friggin’ game
I’m forced to find a spot for him on the field and every game we
can look forward to him striking out three or four times. Sometimes
during critical at-bats. But does he quit? Nope.
“Why do I point this out? I’m not sure. It’s
just watching him play the game of baseball makes me so angry at
the universe that I simply couldn’t stand by and not say
Practice then resumed.
The next game, fueled by this inspirational
pep talk, I decided to take one for the team and get hit by a
pitch. Years later I would understand more fully what my dad meant
about a restless heart but, as I lay there in a pool of my own
blood with two of my teeth knocked clean out of my head, I would
briefly question his conclusion vis-à-vis getting hit with a
killing a bird
While I would love to regale you with a charming coming-of-age
story, I'm afraid the facts surrounding this particular one
preclude that. Had I been ten or eleven when the events I'm about
to chronicle occurred, there might have been a chance but, given I
was nineteen at the time, chances are you're not going to find it
The lessons learned from the forthcoming
narrative should have been learned long beforehand but taking into
consideration they weren't might allow a little sympathy towards me
to creep in.
When my college roommate suggested we buy a
BB gun you would think that all my “nothing good can come of this”
bells would be ringing up a storm but you have to understand that
while my “gathering” skills were unmatched, I had yet to explore
the “hunting” side of my psyche. While it was true that it wasn't
the first time I had held a weapon, it was also true that the
previous weapon had been nun chucks and after hours of practice the
only thing that was in any possible danger of getting harmed were
my elbows and the occasional lamp.
As is inevitable when dealing with all thing
male, shooting at bottles and cans soon became tedious for reasons
that might escape the typical female. I am careful to say “aiming”
as opposed to “shooting” because “shooting” infers that the
aforementioned were hit from time to time. Try as we might, as
close as we crept, we were unable to hit a single bottle or can. We
put them up as targets and then twenty minutes later we took them
We had bigger fish to fry.
It was time to hunt.
While we didn't apply war paint to our faces
before departing we did pretend to. The village needed food and it
was up to us to oblige.
My friend took a couple unsuccessful shots at
a squirrel and cursed the breeze and the faulty manufacturing
facility where his BB gun was made. Moments later a blue jay landed
on a branch about thirty feet above my head. I aimed and pulled the
trigger and was about to curse the breeze and the faulty
manufacturing facility where my BB gun was made when I saw the blue
jay fall from the tree like a plastic thing.
No final chirp, no twitching. It fell like
the dead thing it was. The dead thing I'd made it.
To this day I remember watching it fall.
Remember walking up to it as my roommate congratulated me. The
sincere admiration in his voice. I remember, as if it just
happened, looking down at the corpse.
When I hear about these new 3-D printers I
know in my heart that when they have the ability to take images
directly from my head that I will be able to recreate every feather
on that blue jay.
I couldn't tell you the name of my high
school prom date or my first drink or even where I lived at the
time of this hunting expedition but I can picture that bird laying
there with complete clarity.
So I talked early on about the lessons that
come from such an experience. I can spin it however I want but the
truth that was revealed was that I am a pussy. I am a gatherer.
I should be back at the village with the rest
of the women grinding corn and whatever the hell else Indians
I tried using my intellect to rationalize the
killing. I told myself that I had no doubt saved the lives of
hundreds of worms. Each of them free to go on and procreate and
have little worms. When I thought about it, I was the Oskar
Schindler of the Amynthas alexandri crowd. Somehow being the hero
of all things slimy and spineless seemed appropriate.
This fucking bird now lives in my head. He
visits me when I get too happy or too full of myself. A ghost that
lives in my stomach and his fluttering is felt as an ache.
The funny thing is- if you find irony funny-
is that, although I've never held a weapon since, I don't think I'd
have much trouble shooting a person. Maybe irony isn't the word for
Maybe I didn't learn dick. About having a
dick. Or being a dick.
the hanging bit
Sometimes I get so frustrated with this little thing hanging
between my legs. The grief and drama it causes.
Then I laugh at the absurdity of it all. Not
just the fact that that it's hanging there in the first place but
the whole body. The appendages jutting out all over the place, the
anus sitting right next to the little hanging thing, the nose,
hair, the whole package.
How absurd we are.
We think we are so special in the universe
but I'm pretty sure there is a lot of other sentient life put
together a lot better than we are.
And this damn hanging bit.
Half the people on the planet have a hole in
them that seems to be a perfect fit for my little hanging bit but
it's never that simple. Sure, they all feel the same but somehow I
want to stick my hanging bit in a particular hole. Even “want” is a
poor way to describe it at times.
And why? They all feel the same.
Don't give me the evolutionary imperative
line. I know we are born with the drive of spreading our seed but
that is simply the engine that moves the metaphorical vehicle.
Procreation doesn't explain everything. Our minds, our ego, play a
huge and senseless part. A cute woman could be wearing an “I'm
infertile” t-shirt and there would still be lines around the block
to have a shot at her rig.
So evolution gave us a motor but no steering
And why does it feel so good to play with if
it is just a means to an end? If you stretched the nerve endings on
the tip of my hanging bit endings-to-end I'm pretty sure they would
travel the moon and back at least a half dozen times. Funny we
would call them “endings” in the first place, they are usually just
All of this sensory overload would seem to
scream “Any hole will do!” but it doesn't work that way.
Don't get me started on the hole either. What
a mess that thing is. How could evolution come up with something as
beautiful and complicated as the human eye and then produce the
hole? The hanging bit might not be a treat for the eyes but the
hole looks like evolution was just exhausted from working on the
eye and decided to turn in early. You can almost see it throwing up
its just-recently-completed hands and saying “Good enough. We'll
come back to that in a few hundred thousand years when we're done
growing the head a bit more. The downstairs plumbing will have to
suffice. They'll just have to live with the bouquet.”
But my hanging bit desires it just the
I sometimes sit back and wonder what great
advances humanity would have made if we didn't have such voracious
sex drives. So many brilliant minds (I'm obviously not including
mine amongst those) spending so much of their day worried about
their hanging bits. I'll wager every known disease would be a thing
of the past if men could spend just a few clear-headed days without
the shadow of their penis hanging over them. We'd be flying around
in environmentally-friendly solar cars, our life spans would be
doubled and college and professional athletes wouldn't have to
continually spend big bucks getting themselves found not guilty of
What a wonderful world it would be.
But instead we all wallow in the bleak
reality of the hanging bit. Chasing the momentary release of
shooting a batch of DNA into the depths of some hole that is
usually lying there seeking completely different objectives,
collapsing back dazed like the guy who suddenly wakes up with a
start and realizes he's been a werewolf all night. Except instead
of mauling people to death he's been crashing around making poor
decisions, promises and mistakes.
“What have I done? What have I done?! That
wasn't me. That was my hanging bit!”
All these lamentations falling on
deaf-and-expecting-to-be-taken-out-to-an-expensive-dinner ears as
the poor creature tries to drift off to sleep figuring out why hole
and whole and hold and holy all sound the same but are so damned
Sometimes I get so frustrated with this
little thing hanging between my legs. I can't help feel that
putting the anus right next to it was poetic justice.
appeared at potluckmag.com 6/3/14)
It took a minute to clear my head. The last
thing I remembered was a long fall and then suddenly I was sitting
in the dust in the middle of what appeared to be a movie set based
loosely on the Old West. Damned if there weren't tumbleweeds
rolling past and all.
I stood up and found I was parched. My lips
felt like little pieces of cracked leather and my throat was raw.
As much as I wanted to cough and get rid of the dust that had found
its way to my mouth I didn't dare.
“Go on, check the well.”
I heard a voice behind me. I turned to see a
man leaning against what appeared to be an old saloon. His face had
too many lines on it and although he was wearing chaps I could see
that his legs seemed to bend in the wrong direction. Like the kind
of insect that comes to mind when you talk about legs bending the
Usually I would immediately come up with the
kind of insect but I was just too damned thirsty.
From inside the saloon I could hear raised
voices. Eager to take my mind of my need for refreshments I walked
up to the little swinging doors you always see in westerns and took
a look inside.
There were two men, both who seemed to have
legs that bent the right way, sitting across a wooden table across
from each other and seemingly in a heated argument.
“Obviously the peanut is the preferred nut of
the poor!” one of them bellowed.
Not to be outdone the other bellowed his
choice of the almond with equal fervor.
“How can you say that?” the first one
thundered. “The almond is clearly the nut of the middle class.”
“You're batshit crazy I tell you!” the second
man countered, “The almond is the nut of the common folk.”
The first man fell back in shock.
“The almond? The almond the nut of the common
man? Are you mad?”
Neither had bothered to mention if the nuts
in question were salted or unsalted but the question ran through my
mind just the same and reminded me how much I needed a drink.
“Go on then, check the well,” the cricket-man
My attention was brought back to the two men
at the table as the second man began to make his case.
“Was there or was there not an entire
advertising campaign based solely around the image of a peanut
dressed up in a top hat and cane? Is this the preferred wardrobe of
the masses? Was there a fashion memo I missed?”
A satisfied grin began to crawl across his
“You're seriously going to base your argument
on a giant peanut wearing a monocle?” The first man sat back with a
look that was equal parts disbelief and disgust.
Feeling the argument turn in his favor the
second man made his closing argument “Why would a peanut company
“Why do all commercials lie? Everybody knows
that the cashew is the rich man's nut. Just because one doesn't
waltz around in a TV ad with a monocle doesn't mean that it's not
the favorite nut of the upper class. It goes cashew for the rich,
almond for the middle class and, sitting on every counter in every
shitty little bar across the impoverished landscape, is a bowel of
the lowly peanut!”
Every time they mentioned a peanut I imagined
them covered in salt. I imagined them sitting in my dry mouth. I
could almost taste them.
“Go on son, check the well.”
Did I mention the big cowboy hat that sat on
top of the man who had been asking me to check the well the whole
It was large and until that moment he'd kept
it leaning so far forward that I'd yet to even see his eyes. Just
his mouth and the few teeth that called it home. I spun around and
glared at him and he stared back and I finally saw them. With the
hat now pushed back I could make out his two grey eyes. I lost all
my enthusiasm for confrontation and my fists unclenched.
Suddenly I had to find that well.
I rushed out the front as the little doors
swung wildly behind me, leaving behind the two men and their inane
debate. At the end of the dirt road that ran through the center of
this make-believe town I could make out a well. Heart pumping I ran
to it, wild with thirst.
Sure enough there was a rope with a bucket at
the end of it and I hurled it into the black depths only to hear it
crash against the solidness below. My tongue was a withered thing
in my mouth. My head swam.
He was right behind me. Dressed as Mr. Peanut
but still sporting those aforementioned
“There's no water in hell.”
appeared at themeofabsence.com 6/27/14)
Do you ever catch yourself doing something
that seems innocent enough but then when you think about it you
realize there might be a lot more to it?
Of course you do. Everyone does. Forget I
phrased it like that.
The thing is, this thing I do is so weird and
creepy I can't come to terms with it. I've been doing it ever since
I was a kid and I never stopped to think about it and now it's all
I can think about. Like how hair grows out of our face and head and
we never stop to think just how creepy that it is. How we'd freak
if anything else was growing out of our skin but because nobody
else seems concerned we just accept it.
Sort of like that except worse. Worse because
it could mean so many things ... this thing I do.
Examine any peanut and you'll see in addition
to the two main pieces that make up this embryonic dicot, called
the cotyledons, there is a little thing sticking out called the
radicle. This is the root emerging from the peanut seed. Most of
the time you pop the whole thing in your mouth without a second
thought but occasionally you'll see it poking out of the peanut and
you'll make a special effort to pop it off and eat it
Or at least I do.
And then, when the can is almost empty I will
tip it into my hand to see how many of these radicles have fallen
off their original peanut and settled to the bottom. Sometimes
there will be a couple, other times, particularly if the can has
been given a good shake when nobody is looking, there will be a
dozen or more.
And I will pop them all in my mouth. They are
my favorite part of the peanut and I can't explain why. I crunch
them between my front teeth and close my eyes and feel nothing
short of euphoria.
Sometimes I will buy a few cans and spend a
leisurely evening opening each and every peanut, removing the
little embryonic shoot and then placing it in a pile with all their
unsalted brethren. Typically I'm wearing women's clothing and
listening to Dashboard Confessional.
It puts the radicle in the basket.
I can't put my finger on what makes this seem
so wrong. Is it because the radicle is designed to thrust into the
earth and start the root system of a plant and instead it ends up
in my stomach? Is it because it is so small and typically ignored
by the peanut-buying public? Is it because as I am gently pulling
it off the main part of the peanut and making small piles of them
on a piece of paper towel I am wearing women's clothing and
listening to Dashboard Confessional?
I realize that last part might seem a bit gay
but to be fair, their song on the Spiderman soundtrack was pretty
good. Plus, listening to Dashboard Confessional is only about ten
percent as gay as any man over the age of sixteen using an
I mean seriously, how do they not see how gay
they look standing there holding an umbrella? They might as well be
holding an erect penis in their other hand. If a man is that
worried about getting wet that he insists on carrying an umbrella
the top should have to be purple and the shaft should be covered in
At least using an umbrella in public gets it
out there for the world to see. Shaking my nuts in secret just
makes the whole thing that much worse. There are times I wish I
would get caught in the act. I imagine trying to explain what I'm
doing as my face grows red with shame. Pieces of my treachery still
stuck in my teeth.
“The peanut isn't even a nut, it's a legume,”
I would rage, quivering.
“A legume you barbarians!”
I am Vindicated
I am selfish
I am wrong
I am right
I swear I'm
I swear I knew it all
“It's a bean ... a bean ... and I love the
little nub sticking out of it.”
Now where are my fishnet stockings?
There's really no way to tell this story where I don't come off
looking like an asshole and to some degree that makes telling it a
lot easier. I could tell you that I'm not proud of my behavior but
instead I'd like to focus on some possible explanations.
The behavior I'm alluding to?
Let me preface it by saying that I was having
a perfectly normal day. There had been no stressful encounters
leading up to the incident and I had entered the little gathering
of friends only an hour beforehand completely at ease and looking
forward to a pleasant evening.
I felt the need to relieve myself and entered
the bathroom both sober and in high spirits.
I closed the door behind me and just as I was
about to unzip and start the proceedings a little plastic snowman
holding a plunger, hidden amidst bowls of potpourri and little
soaps in the shape of clams and bottles of hand sanitizers, let
loose with a loud “Whatcha doin'?”
It startled me.
I was not expecting it.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, instead
of being startled and leaving it at that, I lifted my leg and after
letting out a small roar, did a side kick into the
would-be-humorous motion-activated snowman. There was nowhere for
the snowman to go. With only tile-coated drywall behind it to
absorb the impact it immediately exploded into what seemed to be
dozens of fragments. It broke apart with such enthusiasm it led me
to believe for a moment that Fabergé had, without fanfare, gotten
into the business of would-be-humorous motion-activated novelty
Before I launch into a defense of this rather
unprovoked outburst let me first admit that my Bruce Lee-esque side
kick was not the end of said outburst. In fact, I'm sorry to report
that it was only the beginning.
Upset that I was startled by such a poorly
made holiday decoration I then let fly another kick, more of a
stomp if truth be told, at the defenseless hand sanitizer. It put
up about the same resistance as the snowman and threw its contents
all over the sink and mirror and me.
Which pissed me the fuck off.
I grabbed the hapless bowl of potpourri and,
with a thunderous yawp, hurled it across the tight confines of the
bathroom and into the toilet. The sound of the ceramic-on-ceramic
impact bordered on ear-shattering.
It's at this point I should mention that the
foot that had only seconds before been involved in dispatching the
hand sanitizer was just now coming back to earth and been given new
instructions to pivot and become a weight-bearing entity.
It's at this next point I should remind you
that hand sanitizer is very slippery. And that it was coating that
For reasons that are even less comprehensible
than my original reaction to being startled, it had been my
intention to punch the mirror. Why? I have no idea. I bore no ill
will towards the hosts of this gathering and when I went in to pee
I had no intentions of destroying their bathroom. Be that as it
may, I was just about to punch their mirror when my foot, due to
the aforementioned slipperiness, decided to abandon the plan to
support my weight and instead headed for points south. This
treachery resulted in my twisting and flopping and whirling in such
a manner that my head hit the metal toilet roll holder in such a
way that after my head finished its journey to the cold floor it
left a good chunk of head still clinging to the metal toilet roll
That started the red stuff flowing.
I realize that if I describe the sound that
my lungs then produced as a thunderous yelp it might confuse you
but that's exactly what left my lips. A sound equal parts yelp and
That's when I heard it. The voice on the
other side of the door. Asking me a simple question ...
It was at that moment I decided to pull the
toilet out of the floor.
To the partygoers gathered outside the other
side of the door I'm sure what they heard next was more of a bellow
than a shout, although to be fair I think folks from below the
Mason-Dixon line might get away with describing it as a holler, but
whatever it was it convinced them that immediate action was
required and they began to try to break down the door.
When you pull a toilet up out of the floor
water really does come fountaining up. It was the first time during
the entire bathroom incident that I can remember feeling any
The truth is, or at least the truth as I
explained it to my shocked and deeply dismayed hosts, that if you
insist on inserting plastic snowmen in your bathrooms for the
express purpose of terrorizing the occupants of said bathroom you
have to expect some collateral damage.
It's at this juncture that you might be
waiting to hear some possible explanations. I advertised these
explanations early on so it's a reasonable request on your
It might be that in third grade Mike Sanchez
pinned me down at recess and shoved a snowball in my pants.
It might be that when I owned my first
apartment I got overcharged by an unscrupulous plumber.
It might have something to do with that
reoccurring dream I have where an unscrupulous plumber shoves a
snowball up my ass.
Who knows. It might be that I don't enjoy
holiday parties as much as other people do.
The subconscious is a funny thing.
I have thirteen stitches in my scalp and an
expensive trip to Home Depot that will testify to that.
The Council of Jeffs
Any time you write fiction, the hardest part
is introducing the premise. The harder it is to swallow, the more
background you have to provide to make it plausible. If what you
plan to write about isn't in any way plausible, you have to pull
off the literary equivalent of ventriloquism; have the reader be
watching your lips so intently that they don't really care about
what words are coming out of your mouth.
While you mull that over let me explain that
there are hierarchies of reality and just because yours might end
on a deathbed surrounded by family members obeying the laws of
physics doesn't mean that's true for everyone.
Not Jeff anyway.
While he liked the scenery he wasn't enjoying
the play, so it was decided that he would change the script at
intermission and pick only one hundred people with whom to move the
Except that such was his dislike for his
fellow man, he decided to live in a world populated with only one
hundred of himself.
Jeff and ninety-nine other Jeffs.
Why one hundred?
I could explain it but, as with most things
physics, you wouldn't understand. This reality couldn't exist with
only ninety nine Jeffs and one hundred and one Jeffs would face a
With what I've told you about Jeff I'm
guessing you can already see the problem with this scenario. It
took only a few days for him to realize that the only people he
disliked more than everyone else on the planet was the collection
of Jeffs he'd surrounded himself with. Sitting in a confined space
with a group of himselves was torture.
Luckily the Jeffs had a great big world to
spread out across and they all agreed to do just that. With what I
haven't told you about Jeff though it would be hard for you to see
the problem with this scenario so I will come right out and explain
it. The skill sets possessed by Jeff, multiplied a hundred times,
or even a thousand times, were limited when it came to practical
applications faced in a world devoid of all other people. He was
unfamiliar with plumbing, electricity, farming, weaving, automobile
repair, construction, and pretty much everything else that his
fellow man had provided prior to his decision to abandon them to an
alternate realm. His mechanical aptitude, on a scale between 1 and
10, sat uncomfortably at a zero.
Thus was born The Council of Jeffs.
Perhaps ventriloquism wasn't the best way to
have framed what was discussed in the opening paragraph. I'm sure
by now you've long forgotten it and perhaps even forgiven me for
having phrased it as such but I think I'd rather come back and
address it rather than have it sit in the back of your head only to
lurch out months later unprovoked and cause a burst of anti-Manion
I might have better explained myself if I had
compared it to sleight-of-hand. Doing something interesting with
one hand while the other is up to no good. Or perhaps distracting
you with something shiny while elsewhere something dark and
unexpected takes place.
As you can see, however I explain it, you now
return to the story with a complete understanding, and, dare I say,
an appreciation for, the reality that Jeff finds himself.
The Council met every month to discuss the
challenges that the Jeffs faced out in their new existence. None of
them knew- given that if any of them knew it they all would have
known it- that gasoline doesn't power cars after enough time has
gone by, so they discussed alternate forms of transportation. The
lack of fresh meat presented a problem so they discussed if any of
them would like to go into raising cattle, forgetting of course
that either everyone would want to do it or nobody would want to do
it. The only thing they all agreed on is the fact that they should
have one leader and each felt very strongly that it should be them.
They voted and every time it ended with one hundred candidates
getting one vote each.
There was no way Jeff could convince another
Jeff to throw his allegiance behind him for the betterment of Jeffs
I could at this time ask you that you not
substitute yourself for Jeff in this little scenario and play out
what would happen if you woke up on a world populated with only
ninety nine of yourselves to keep you company, but I know it would
be useless. In fact, unless you're gay and preoccupied with
wondering if you would find yourself attractive, you've probably
already jumped ahead to the same ending that Jeff has in store.
In a way it's like those street hustlers that
ask you to keep track of the little rubber ball they place under
one of three plastic cups that they then move around in a series of
seemingly easy-to-follow circles. You'll follow it and hand them
over a dollar, certain that you've beaten the game, only to find
that the cup you've selected is empty.
It's really just a matter of time until one
Jeff decides that this world isn't big enough for so many Jeffs
and, if you've started to notice the pattern, that means all of the
Jeffs will come to this conclusion.
Actually it's more like when a magician
flashes a pack of cards in front of you and asks you to select any
card you want and he then guesses your card. You're unaware that
after years of practice he flashes the deck in such a way that one
card stands out amongst all the others and sits in your head even
though you're completely unaware of it. You think at the time that
you are making a choice of your own free will but in the end the
power of suggestion is stronger than you think.
So a Jeff, which one isn't important, calls
for a Council of Jeffs. Everyone agrees that all one hundred Jeffs
need to be in attendance for this particular conclave and everyone
comes into the meeting with an ingenious idea to slay all the other
If you give it some thought I think you'll
find that this was your card.
Bunny and Claude
Submitted for your approval: the tawdry tale
of Bunny and Claude. A tale so unbelievable that it couldn't be
true. And isn't ... i.e. any similarities between anybody you know,
living or dead, is completely a coincidence. Although I think it's
fair to say we all know somebody similar to both Bunny and Claude
... proving coincidence is a force not to be trifled with or
Bunny was a country girl, Claude a city boy.
They met on a midnight train and instantly realized that while
anyone can live with quiet desperation, it's the slight discontent
that will get you. So it did. It got them. Both at the same
He leaned forward for a kiss and she said “So
I guess this makes us partners in crime.”
From that moment a sincere word never passed
between them. It was just somehow understood that every moment they
were to spend together was a send-up of real life. Given their own
moral ground rules, lying between the pit of man's fears and the
sunlight of his knowledge as it were, calling their actions
“crimes” was being both disingenuous and generous. With an equal
mix of weaponry and tomfoolery, the only thing for certain was that
no money was ever going to be successfully stolen.
Oh sure, there were many attempts at bank
robberies, complete with large bags with overly-large dollar signs
painted on them, but something always went hilariously wrong. After
awhile they had only to enter a bank and everybody on cue would
fall to the ground to enjoy the show. The hold-up notes were the
stuff of legend. Desperate pleas for financial riches, written with
the lust of an accountant, the sincerity of a pirate, and always
signed “Romeo & Juiciest. “ They never used dynamite. They
called that the “Butch Cassidy Rule.”
They had both enjoyed the performing arts in
colleges but upon graduation had chosen other ways to make a
living. Straight-faced. Straight-laced. They preferred their drinks
and upper lips the same … stiff.
Despite what you might think about her name,
Bunny had never been a stripper. Although the same could not be
said about her sisters Candy and Cherry.
From their first date they lied about
everything. She changed her hairstyle and he bought a handgun.
Claude's friends asked him why he suddenly began to talk like an
old-time gangster and all they could get out him was “That's just
the ways things are now, see? You get me?”
They traded in Bunny’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird
convertible for a 1932 Ford V-8 B-400 convertible sedan and then
robbed a convenience store to celebrate. The heist netted under
twenty dollars but they did manage to make off with a thousand
scratch-off lottery tickets, which they handed out to diners at a
local fast-food establishment later that evening.
Then one day, as they were driving through a
small, horribly rustic town near the Grand Canyon, he told her a
true story. When he was younger he was forced to do an “Impossible
Sit-up,” which consisted of being blindfolded, held down on his
back and told to do a sit-up. He struggled and struggled and at an
agreed upon moment the boys holding down his shoulders let go and
he went flying face-first into the bare ass of the boy crouched
over his face. “Right into his ass, see? At a slumber party. You
As the story was winding up two birds began
an aerial dance that started half mile up the road and ended with
one of them bouncing off the windshield of the vehicle driven by
our two distracted robbers. Whether they were caught up with
fighting or flirting or doing an elaborate mating dance, the birds
that is, it was impossible to tell. Claude applied the brake and
hopped out, frantically trying to locate the bird to see if there
was anything that could be done.
He heard a car door slam and watched the car
pull away and drive off.
Claude was unable to find a body but
nonetheless he walked to the nearest police station and turned
“I'm a murderer,” was all he said. They took
him at his word and applied the handcuffs.
Bunny just kept driving. She looked into the
rear view and said “Oh Claude, yeah, you know I used to have a
scene with him.”
can't say exactly how long it will take you to read this first
sentence but what I can know for certain is that however long it
takes you will be that much closer to death.
That was exactly the kind of thought that was
dogging Neil Nathan Pre (pronounced /prā/). His mortality shadowed
him everywhere he went and was becoming a problem. Being a
reasonably intelligent man, religion offered him no comfort. The
specter of death became his constant companion and made him a
tiresome person to hang out with.
To rectify the situation he determined that
he needed some sort of epiphany in order to avoid squandering what
little time was left to him. The kind of epiphany usually reached
while watching a sunrise. To that end, he planned out a thirty-day
trip wherein he would watch the sun rise from thirty different
strategic locations that would appear, on the face of it at least,
to be ideal places to have a brilliant insight into life.
His first stop was the Verrazano–Narrows
Bridge, the double-decked suspension bridge that connects the
boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City. Completed
in 1964 it is named for the Florentine explorer Giovanni da
Verrazzano. Three men died building it. You might be asking
yourself how these details are important to the story and all I can
answer is that they may or may not be. Better to include them than
have you finishing the tale and feeling a vague emptiness that you
can't quite put your finger on.
He got there well ahead of time and began the
walk across so he'd be right smack in the middle of it when the sun
finally got around to making its big appearance. No doubt some of
the cars passing him thought that he was there to jump, what with
passing of Bob Casale and Harold Ramis in the same week, a
double-blow to humanity that would cause the most stoic soul to
waver, which was pretty ironic given he was there to avoid thinking
about that very fate. In fact, he leaned over and saw The Narrows
glistening beneath him and wondered how anyone ever had the guts to
hurl themselves off.
He watched an enormous freighter heading out
to sea beneath him. So large that it seemed impossible it had been
built with human hands. As the sun broke over the horizon the first
rays of light made the ship seem sluggish, almost hesitant to begin
its long journey to somewhere far away. Then, only seconds later,
more yellow poured over it and it suddenly looked eager and full of
optimism. No disrespect to purple intended.
Neil watched the sun rise. There would be no
need for the other twenty nine destinations. There could be no
lovelier place on earth to watch the sun come up. He soaked it all
in and realized, or rationalized or whatever he was doing, that
every planet in the universe was made up of all the same stuff and
each was just trying to assemble the elements in interesting ways.
Few of them could take in the scene that stretched before Neil and
not be envious. He couldn't let his consciousness ruin what was
going on. He was, and always would be, part of the Greatest Show
Earth Is Capable Of.
An anthill needs ants to be an anthill, not
any particular ant.
He forgot about the cars belching out exhaust
behind him and the fact that Staten Island was really nothing more
than a giant garbage heap with a few strip malls scattered around,
and he just looked out at the sun crawling up over the horizon. His
five senses tingled and traded bits of insight into what he was
The ghost of Gerard McKee stood wordlessly
next to him, drinking it in. Once the sun was fully up he nodded
and went back to the important business of not existing. It wasn't
so much jealousy that Neil felt, watching him go, as much as the
hope that one day he might get such a nice spot.
He wondered where Bob and Harold were.
He began the long walk back to his car, aware
that his constant, scythe-carrying companion was no longer with
You wanted a story to read, maybe not this
particular story I confess, but I hope it was worth the time just
the same. If you're waiting for me to wrap it up with some answers
... I've got none. How could I when I don't even know your
Neil, on the other hand, would suggest that
there is a Verrazano out there for you if you're so inclined.
(first appeared at Yareah.com on
Every year at this time, being the
influential writer I am, the requests to speak at graduations start
to pour in. It just doesn't seem like a commencement without a few
wise words from Lance Manion. Because I'm stretched pretty thin
during this time of year, I figured I'd publish my last address and
perhaps others can try to recreate the energy and enthusiasm of a
Manion speaking engagement.
“Dearly beloved, especially all of you
sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs, with your square caps and
colorful tassels, representing all the time and energy you traded
so you could wear a colorful tassel, we are gathered here today to
send off this new collection of fresh-faced graduates into the
It is my unique honor to say a few words to
them before they depart.
In the coming months as you decide which
career to choose, you're going to hear a lot about two things:
money and happiness. Depending on your upbringing, one of these
will take a starring role in your decision making.
Let me give you an example. Let's say that
you decide that you need a lot of money to be happy but you'd also
like to work with interesting people, so you find a market for
something that nobody has ever thought of.
You find that if you bottle it, people stand
in line just to snatch the stuff up. I could give you a long list
of possible uses for somebody else's dandruff but it's not relevant
to the point I'm trying to make. You create a solid brand name and
you simply can't keep it on the shelves. Everybody wants a bottle
of your dandruff.
The problem is that you need to find a lot of
people with dandruff and then convince them to let you harvest it
off their heads. Not exactly the kind of people you want to be
interacting with on a daily basis. I don't mean to cast aspersions
on those of you with dandruff but even you have to admit that being
paid to shake your head into a big vat every day wouldn't exactly
keep you in the most cheerful mood.
So you have this big dilemma. Keep raking in
the cash selling dandruff, knowing that you'll no doubt get sick of
dealing with all things itchy and flakey, or find something else to
What's the point of this little story?
Before I answer that, let me point a few
If you want to be angry, really legitimately
angry, there is no shortage of reasons to be angry.
The same can be said of sad. There are
terrible things happening all over the place that can make you sad.
You don't have to invent reasons. Turn on any television, open any
newspaper or log onto the worldwide web and in minutes you can be
swimming in very good, completely understandable reasons to be
You want to be indignant? No worries
What about disgusted or offended? There is
vast sea of things to make you want to hoist the trembling fist or
hang your head in your hands.
Do you want every bit of hope pounded out of
you? Because I'm here to tell you, all you have to do is look and
you can find the apparatus to strip yourself of every ounce of your
Do you want to wallow in despair? I'm not
talking about the kind of blue that you get when you run out of
toilet paper mid-shit. I mean the kind of despair that you can only
feel when you've taken it all in and found that nothing you ever do
will be able to change things. The grim understanding that we are
all here for a short period of time and we, as a species, have
decided to use that time being horrible to each other and every
other living, breathing animal on the planet. In a hundred years
we'll all be dead.
Or can you say “Fuck that!”?
Can you muster up the willpower to ignore all
of the foul goings-on and still laugh?
To find it in yourself to say “Yes, I know
there is suffering and misery going on and the whole game seems
fixed and nobody would care if I fell the fuck over right here and
now, but I'm still going to be happy.”
Are any of you out there?
That can say “I don't give a flaming crap,
this smile will stay plastered on my face and I dare any of you
gutless turds to try and remove it. It's not coming down! It may
falter but it will endure.”
If you only believe one thing I'm saying
today make it this: It's your only hope. It's the only hope of the
planet. It's your only defense and its frail and it's a fraud and
we both understand it's bullshit but never let it go. Not all of
it. Not any of it.
Carry it in your heart and defend it with
everything you are. Because they're coming for it. They hate it.
They fear it.
Be fucking stupid and laugh whenever you can
and cherish people. Sweep them up whenever you can and shine like a
torch for them. Be happy. Be joyful. Be happy. Sing in the shower.
Be happy. Act crazy. Be happy. Dance. Be happy. Chuckle. Be happy.
Sing in the car. Be happy. Be silly. Be happy.
It's a decision. It's a choice. Make it your
And fuck those that aren't, because it's a
war they know they're going to eventually win. Fuck 'em with all
the power you can muster.
Find a way to be happy. Beyond that, nothing
I can say can help you.
And what, I'm sure you're asking yourself,
was the point of my first story?
The dandruff story?
Don't be afraid to change your opinion of
Forgive them for their awkwardness and dumb
They will sometimes surprise you.
And become allies.
And that will help make you happy.
the lookout for the next threat to global stability, I started
doing the math on hangers the other day. If the average working
person wears five shirts a week that require dry cleaning, they are
bringing in five additional hangers into their closets every week.
Assuming that their non-dry cleaned clothing wears out and is
replaced by new items at a constant rate and these hangers are not
utilized that means that the average working person brings in 20
empty hangers a month into their closet, 240 per year. In the
United States I would reckon that there are at least fifty million
people that would fall into the definition of “average working
person,” which means that every year there are twelve billion empty
hangers clogging up closets from coast to coast. Over the next
twenty years that is two hundred and forty billion hangers in the
United States alone. Don't even get me started on China.
I don't want to come off as an alarmist but
by the year 2034 I expect the world to be waist-deep in unwanted
You'll note that I don't call them coat
hangers. The little metal wires I'm referring to cannot support the
weight of a real coat. In fact (a little known fact at that) the
wire coat hanger was invented hundreds of years before they became
commonplace in the dry cleaning industry. Unfortunately there was
no use for them because giant Viking coats would instantly cause
them to lose their shape and the garment to fall onto the ground,
at which point the Viking would rage and twist the hanger into all
sort of obscene shapes and then hurl it out into the
Which brings me back to the crisis we're
staring at presently.
If you take the time to figure out just how
much metal would be involved in two hundred and forty billion
hangers, which I obviously don't have thanks to America's stubborn
refusal to embrace the metric systems which would have everything
divisible by tens instead of trying to figure out ounces and pounds
and tons, you'll probably see what my next threat to global
stability is ... horrible sculptures.
The kind that sit out front of corporate
parks and have you scratching your head until you find out what the
sculpture costs and then you start scratching with such fervor that
bloody clumps of hair end up in your hand. I keep calling them
sculptures but the truth is they are just giant hunks of crap
welded together by talentless frauds. “Modern Art” they call it.
I'll stick with my initial summation.
These “artists” will try to ride in and save
the day but the truth is the world would much rather be waist deep
in hangers then have to stare at more horrible sculptures.
Which leaves us screwed unless of course
genetic engineering makes some great leaps forward and we find out
a way to bring back Vikings, heavy coats and all. I think we all
know how the average Viking would react to Modern Art. Assuming
they could wade through the waist-deep hangers (no doubt exclaiming
“What sorcery is this?”), they would make short work of lopping off
the heads of all these pretentious “modern” artists that are
clogging up corporate park entrances from bow to stern of this
great country, despite our lack of enthusiasm for the metric
system, with enormous shiny twisted entwined phallic symbols most
of which are saddled with annoyingly ostentatious names.
And the best part?
You didn't know there was a best part yet did
you? I'm self-aware enough to know when a story is screaming out
for a best part and if there was ever one that needed a little bump
in the “best part” department it's this one. Oftentimes I will
forgo a point in exchange for a best part. This story for example
(which has you shaking your head and muttering “What sorcery is
The best part is that with all these new
Vikings running around the need for multiple hangers would go
through the roof. It would take at least seven to nine wire hangers
to support each of their heavy pelts. Within a single generation
the hanger crisis would resolve itself.
Yeah Vikings! Yeah best parts!
let's get started,” he thought to himself as he turned his car down
the narrow lane and saw the house.
What was left of it.
And it wasn't actually his car. He had
recently borrowed it.
Most people would consider what he was doing
as simple escapism but it was all he could think to do. To try and
make things right. To rebuild.
He had burnt down the house ten years ago.
Their house. He regretted it and even
after all the years had passed, he still woke up screaming her
name. He saw the flames and felt the heat and smelled the smoke on
his clothes even after he woke up.
He started with the front steps. He was no
good with tools but he was going to try just the same. He tore out
the charred old pieces and started hammering the new wood into
place. Try as he might though, he couldn't get the steps level.
Things have to be level. “Things have to be
on the level,” he heard her say. “They have to be on the up and
up,” and he closed his eyes tight and fought the urge to hurl the
hammer into the woods and run far from the house but he didn't.
“Good enough,” he thought to himself. The
steps would work. They would bring her from the front step into the
house. That's all steps need to do. Step by step. A step at a time.
Level or not.
Doors and windows seemed trickier. A good
wind will make a bad window whistle and he still felt the draft
under the door back when it was the front door of their home. He
stuck a towel under the door and argued that any heat lost in the
winter was balanced by the cool air contributed to the summer.
“It's all a balancing act, Dear,” he would
argue. He loved to call her Dear and she hated it and called him
The days passed and anyone looking for him
would never have thought to take a drive out to his old abode. He
felt more alive with every nail he pounded.
Maybe he could make it right. Maybe she would
take him back.
He wished he could ask for outside help but
they wouldn't understand. Apparently burning down your own home is
a crime punishable by a life sentence. Nobody had ever looked at
him the same way.
“You never have to be afraid of me.” He
jerked awake. Out of the dream of how things were. Laying in what
was left of their front room he fell asleep looking up at the stars
and dreamt of holding her and woke up angry and cold.
Why couldn't she even pretend in his dream?
It was just a dream after all.
He went back to work, ferociously tearing
away anything that reminded him of the blaze that consumed
everything. There were days that it wasn't a wonder the whole thing
didn't collapse down upon him.
There were moments he wished it would. Just
like the old days.
Such a simple thing lighting a match. He
wished that gasoline didn't burn so well and words didn't sting so
much and memories didn't hold on so damned tight.
He grabbed the saw and went back to work
humming the same part of an Eagles song over and over and over and
So often times it happens
that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we
have the key
He spent an hour trying to remember the title
but it was only after he stopped trying it came to him. “Already
Gone...” of course.
His back ached and he wondered what she would
say when she saw the work he'd done. A helicopter passed over him
and a bright light shone down on him. He had to admit to himself
that the house still looked like crap. He wasn't one of those handy
men. The guy in the helicopter probably had a good laugh.
He wondered if it would be good enough to get
her back. Would she see it how he wanted it to be? Would she
appreciate all the hard work and see the glimmer of the man she'd
hoped he would become one day?
Could she forgive him?
Then he remembered that she had died in the
Somewhere off in the distance he heard the
wailing of an approaching siren.
accustomed to moving. He had moved nine times by the time he was
fourteen. His dad had been in the military which meant a lot of
moving but even after he left the Air Force he didn't seem to be
interested in any new job that wasn't at least two time zones
Which meant the boy was familiar with the
dread that was slowly taking hold of him. The first day at a new
school. Lying in bed he could only imagine what fresh hell awaited
He was not a good-looking child. Non-athletic
with a pasty complexion, he knew he was going to have to find the
least popular group of kids and hope that there was an opening. He
dressed as though he was about to enter the Alaskan wilderness. He
was spindly in build and he hoped a few layers would add a little
bulk to his frame.
T-shirt, dress shirt, t-shirt.
He stood at the bus stop, away from all the
other kids. An awkward adolescent giraffe hoping the hyenas didn't
It was deep into the second semester of his
freshman year. As he approached the enormous high school his head
swam at the sheer size of it. His last school had been a rural
setting where the kids that disliked him were mostly farmer's sons
and daughters. Now here he was in the suburbs.
He made his way to the front office to pick
up his schedule. One thought kept scrolling through his head; “How
bad could it be?”
His first class was swimming.
That answered that.
He sat down in the office, his legs unable to
bear the news let alone the weight of his body. He thought only
major universities had swimming pools. “What kind of sick bastard
puts a pool in a high school?” He put his head in his hands.
Someone asked if he was ok and he gazed up at them with a look that
caused them to draw in their breath sharply and haunted them for
He had enough time to find his locker and
realize that he didn't know the combination before he made his way
down into the pool locker room. He could smell the chlorine before
he saw the little sign.
He didn't have a swimsuit. “Who brings a
swimsuit to school?”
They provided him one. A shapeless black set
of trunks that were so short that they would have cut into his
balls if he'd have had any. He was a good two years away from
puberty. The tile floor was freezing and he was surrounded by what
appeared to be the cast of a surfing movie. Somewhere in the
distance he could hear the snap of a wet towel.
“Where's the fat kid?” His eyes darted around
madly, hoping to find one teenager that looked as horrific in his
swimsuit as he did.
There weren't any.
He folded his arms across the space where his
chest should have been and started to shuffle out the door to the
waiting pool. When you were put together as he was it would
surprise no one that he didn't know how to swim. Cleary he was a
youth that did not spend any time around water.
He turned the corner and saw the females in
his class. And then they saw him. And he saw them see him, all the
while pretending not to. He heard snickering but wasn't sure if he
was the cause.
The gym teacher marched in with practiced
indifference and gave the order for his charges to enter the water.
The boy rose to introduce himself but the man walked by him, his
full attention being given to the whistle that he clutched in his
He shivered involuntarily. He had yet to say
a word to anyone. He stood at the end of the pool and debated
whether or not to hold his nose as he jumped in. If he did he would
be putting the cherry on top of a very unflattering sundae. If he
didn't he would drown. At that moment the drowning sounded very
appealing but he doubted that with this many people around they'd
let him get off so easily. Somebody would haul him out of the water
and he would splutter and cough and seal his doom as surely as if
he'd held his nose to begin with.
“Let's get this over with,” he thought and he
hopped into the pool.
He surfaced clutching his nose and completely
unaware that his borrowed swimsuit was no longer intact. It was
sitting about knee-level.
The worst part about it? Nobody noticed.
He pulled them up and clung to the edge of
the pool as his compatriots swam laps, splashed and played games.
They called out to each other and laughed and the instructor blew
his whistle whenever the opportunity presented itself and the boy
clutched the side and treaded water and was completely ignored. It
was clear that everybody there not only found him loathsome but
would detest him as long as he was to attend this school.
When he was finally able to haul himself out
of the water nobody hated him more than he hated himself. He was
skinny and wrinkled and openly shook with cold.
He kept his eyes down. He didn't want to see
how the others were looking at him. Or through him.
He dressed and left the locker room, heading
to his next class.
“How bad could it be?”
Tomorrow he would bring his own swimsuit.
the deep dark web
He remembered sitting around campfires as a boy, back when he was a
Boy Scout and getting badges for making knots and walking old
people across intersections seemed about the most important things
in the world. Listening to spooky stories and getting so freaked
out, he'd lay awake for hours in his tent afterwards, listening for
confirmation that one or more of the ghouls and goblins described
in no particular detail were making their way over to his sleeping
bag with ill intent.
Perhaps it was the very vagueness of the
threat that allowed his mind to wander in such detail. The stories
were always very formulaic and he could see the endings coming a
mile away and initially there was no great cause for concern. He
would chuckle to himself and load another marshmallow onto his
stick and await the next attempt by the older counselors to
traumatize their charges.
It was only later, when he was alone with his
thoughts and the moon was doing its best to cast shadows where no
shadows should be, that he would feel the icy finger of fear start
to creep up his spine.
Sort of like what he was feeling as he looked
outside his window.
There are parts of the United States where it
is so crowded, it's hard to imagine a house could be so far away
from anywhere else. Set in the woods, his home was only accessible
on foot and even people who liked their space might find it a bit
remote. It sat atop a large hill and on a clear day he could make
out the middle of nowhere. He was careful, however, not to be
He had an internet connection.
That's all he needed. He walked to town for
supplies every couple of weeks and pretty much kept to himself.
Except for the aforementioned connection.
Nothing crazy mind you, just a few social
networking sites to keep in touch with friends and a link that
allowed him to manage his finances. Nothing out of the
Until last night anyway.
He stared at the snow. It surrounded his
house and sat at least six inches deep. It covered everything in a
blanket of white. Nothing disturbed the stillness of the scene and
on any other morning he would have thought it was just the start of
another beautiful day.
And it would have been except for the
footprints in the snow. Footprints coming out of the woods and
ending at his front door.
He'd had no visitors last night.
Last night. He jerked involuntarily as he
remembered the previous evening.
It started off with him speaking online with
an old college buddy and went south from there. His friend had sent
him a link discussing the parallels between the internet and the
human subconscious. It discussed in greater-length-than-necessary
detail how the worldwide web might someday become self-aware. Most
of it went over his head but he did find it interesting the many
levels that the article prescribed to the internet.
It mentioned something called the “deep web.”
A place inhabited by only a small fraction of users, where the
information posted and shared started at obscure and got weirder
from there. This was where the radicals, the loons and the
fruitcakes hung out. One link led to another and soon he was
plumbing some pretty strange depths.
His friend had warned him about it. Told him
that the government monitored these kinds of sites. His friend told
him that while it might be fun to take a quick peek, it was
dangerous to take a longer look. Like some sort of cyber-Medusa,
there were things underneath this “deep web” that were best left
He opened his front door and looked down at
the tracks. A single set leading to his door. He felt a panic
rising in his chest and he slammed the door and reached for the
closet doorknob. With a quick twist it was open and he felt the
comfort of the rifle in his hands. Loaded and ready for use.
He went from room to room. His visitor had
not turned around and gone the other way. He must be inside. The
next twenty minutes were spent throwing open every door, each time
expecting to see some villain crouched and ready to do him harm.
Finally he had explored every inch and was confident he was alone
in his house. He sat down and closed his eyes. With the gun lying
across his lap he tried to unremember what he'd found under the
The images began to assault him. He winced as
each refused to be unseen.
For a moment he saw himself in front of a
campfire, surrounded by eager young faces looking up at him as he
told them a scary story.
“You see kids, underneath the “deep web” is a
place called the “dark web.” You don't ever want to go there.
“Why not?” one of the boys would ask.
And he would scream.
It was real, this place where the sickos
communicate with each other. It exists. The depraved and the
perverts. The worst of humanity using technology to interact and
spread their filth.
“Who the fuck came to my house?” he said
He pulled on his boots. He reasoned that if
the tracks ended at his house they had to have come from
He was going to find out where.
Obviously it was completely unconnected to
this “dark web.” He had only stayed for a little while and nobody
knew where he lived. Nobody could have found him and, even if they
had, what would they possibly want with him?
The wind was cold and after walking long
enough his eyes hurt as the sun reflected up off the whiteness of
the snow. He kept them open anyway because whenever they shut there
was some picture or snippet of conversation that forced its way to
The footsteps led away from town and deeper
into the woods. He had never been this far away from his house but
he had to know who had come to his door. He had to make sure it was
just some crazy coincidence and completely unconnected to the “dark
He repeated the word crazy in his head and
“The deep dark web. What a crock of
So he walked on.
It was getting dark. If he was camping he'd
be making a fire and heating up some hot dogs right about now. His
fellow Scouts would be tittering to themselves excitedly as they
waited for the sun to fully set and the nighttime to kick in with
all gusto. The darkness bringing with it the requisite creepiness
to begin an evening of storytelling.
The stage was being set.
But he wasn't a Scout anymore; they don't
hand out badges for what he witnessed last night. He remembered
sitting there, after clicking on one website after another after
another, wondering to himself that if the road to hell was paved
with good intentions ... where the hell was he headed?
“It's been there all along.”
The footprints stopped.
He looked down and tried to pick up the trail
but it had ended. No more tracks. He looked around wildly. There
was no wind. No sound other than the minute crunching noise his
boots made rubbing against the snow as his head pivoted desperately
He closed his eyes as tears began to trickle
out and freeze on his cheek. He had a moment of clarity ... the
last thing he could afford.
He was standing in the last set of
footprints. He realized that he'd been walking backwards from his
door the entire time.
And now it was dark.
It was time to get back. Before he froze. He
could just follow the tracks. He might even make it.
Though it was getting really, really
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame must burn!
I've never been a big fan of civil
disobedience. It just seems such an impotent act. A bunch of
slackers wearing nose rings throwing bricks through front windows
is not my idea of revolution.
The biggest problem these days is with
revolution itself. It's been co-opted. Bought, labeled and used to
sell fabric softener and pick-up trucks.
Which is why I'm calling for one enormous act
of rebellion to remind everybody why we need rebellion in the first
This is a call to burn down the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum. It is everything wrong with our culture
boiled down to one location. Ground Zero of hypocrisy. The spot
where the very spirit of rebellion has been stolen by corporate
I want it burnt to the ground. Not
metaphorically, I mean literally destroyed and left a smoldering
pile of rubble.
How can we ever hope to address the problems
in our government, both locally and in Washington D.C., when the
very music that was supposed to be a revolt against the norm is now
simply revolting? Rock and roll was supposed to be something that
made the older generation nervous, not a way to peddle soft drinks.
How did the corporate types ever get the first bands to agree to
such an offensive premise?
I still can't believe that so many bands get
excited to be inducted into the musical equivalent of the Anarchy
Club. Congratulations, to show your rugged individuality we're
going to put you alongside other such bad-asses rebels as Hall
& Oates and ABBA.
I'm asking for a wild-eyed crowd of
rabble-rousers to assemble and set fire to this abomination and
when the inevitable suits start pouring out of the building to try
and defend their beloved Madonna and Randy Newman busts like so
many cockroaches I want them drawn and quartered as an example to
anyone else that would ever dare to try and buy the musical soul of
our nation in the future. I want their empty heads on spikes for
our children's children to remember.
Maybe politicians would even take note.
How did we ever buy into this place in the
first place? Every year they have their “celebration” and it feels
like every other insurance convention or law firm retreat going on
across the country. It sickens me that rock stars, of all people,
would allow themselves to be paraded around like so many sheep in
the hopes of finding some validation that they should be the last
ones seeking in the first place. That's why they don't ask real
bands like Devo or The Replacements to join. I would hope they
would both tell them to take a big flying leap.
Why does it matter?
Because America used to be rock and roll. We
had swagger and energy and balls. Now America is the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum. If I have to explain the difference or
give you a million examples to prove my point then you are too far
gone to ever be of any help in getting us back to where we once
I'm talking to the rest of you. The ones that
shook your hips and threw your head back and smirked when you heard
the occasional bad word. The ones that felt the vibe and it
energized you to fight to bring down the rest of the squares.
This is not the way the world was supposed to
The radio is not how it was supposed to
How long has it been since music made you
want to change the world and not buy a new phone plan?
It begins and ends in Cleveland, Ohio. This
blemish on our collective souls has to burn before we can ever hope
to turn things around.
We could even set up a stage next to it and
have bands provide a soundtrack: Burning Down the
House - Talking Heads, Firestarter
- The Prodigy, Open Up - Leftfield,
Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil,
Dig For Fire - Pixies, Cover It With Gas And Set It On Fire - Ween... you get
Just as long as Great White closes the
Now that would be rock and roll.
where there be blow jobs
If there is one thing that the internet
has stolen from this generation of kids it's a sense of innocence
about sex. Looking back now there was so much about sex that I
didn't understand and there's a large part of me that wishes to go
back to that time. Not knowing now all the things I didn't know
then would be nothing short of magical.
His name was Mark and he was one of the cool
boys. He wrestled and as a sophomore that allowed entry into that
small but very visible club. When we saw him walking down the hill
that separated Coolville from Nerdland we didn't know what to make
of it. I think we expected to get beat up. We couldn't think of a
reason why we'd earned a beating but it was the only plausible
It was the three of us playing football
behind Ryan's house. Me, Ryan and Dave. Dave was a Hispanic kid of
questionable ethnicity. His parents had adopted him when they
thought they couldn't have kids and then a year after his
appearance his mom got pregnant so from that time forward Dave was
an orphan again. To make matters worse, his little “brother” was a
little snitch who everyone hated.
Ryan was a fat kid. The funny thing was is
that a year later he turned into a buff football player and then, a
few years after that, he turned fat again. Sort of like that movie
Awakenings except that instead of
suffering from some rare Parkinson's-type disease he suffered from
fatness. At least he got a few good years; the dorkalitis geekspazica that kept me socially catatonic
He made his way down the hill and asked if he
could play with us. To us it was as if Lemmy had asked if he could
sit in with a garage band.
We played two on two and kept changing the
teams so that Mark didn't get tired of trampling the same person
into the grass. I remember to this day the feeling of exultation of
having him trip over me and almost fall over before recovering and
completing his four hundredth touchdown run.
“Nice try,” was all he'd said but it was if
confetti was raining down on me.
Later, when the three of us were sufficiently
battered and no longer able to walk under our own power, we sat
together and he told us that he'd just gotten a blow job.
On cue our faces scrunched up and squinted
and made it clear to Mark that we had no idea what he was talking
He explained what a blow job entailed. My two
friends gasped and nodded and I tried my best to unsquint my
To give you an understanding of what kind of
cool-kid-worshipping was going on that day, it was only upon
deciding to write this story that it hit me why Mark had come down
to play football with us in the first place; to tell us about
getting a blow job! For years it never occurred to me that he must
have been bursting at the seams to tell everybody he could about
it. Even the dipshits. At the time, I assumed that cool kids
wrestled and went to parties and got blow jobs like it was no big
deal. This whole time I was completely oblivious to the fact that
Mark was just like I was ... just not as a big a wheeze.
My face slowly lost the look of an
inquisitive child and took on the demeanor of a seasoned gigolo. I
didn't want Mark, for even a second, to suspect that I wasn't a
veteran of the whole putting-your-penis-in-the-mouth-of-a-girl
thing. Truth was, of course, that I was the last boy in our grade
to hit puberty so not only was I unfamiliar with the act but I was
completely unclear as to why anyone would want to engage in it the
first place and what would transpire after the requisite number of
Why a girl would subject herself to this
remains a mystery to me.
Eventually conversation dried up and Mark
walked back up the hill to where the rest of his kind lived and he
never again came down to play with us. I saw him in school but it
never crossed my mind to nod or acknowledge him in any way. I never
felt insulted that it was if the whole thing had never happened; it
was just the way things were.
What it did open my eyes to was the fact that
once I got my equipment there were blow jobs to be had. I would
watch Mark's girlfriend and imagine that, sick of having a large,
hairy, functioning penis in her mouth, it was mine she wanted.
Though without the ability to climax and wrap up the proceedings,
the daydream would often fizzle out and end awkwardly.
I bet kids these days don't have to go
the slightly amusing story of the no-show ghost
“I'm a winner. I have a seat at the
It began as simple as that for John. No
mysterious noises or floating objects. Just a quick whisper in his
ear as he sat reading a book in his living room. Of course, the
mysterious noises soon followed as well as things being moved
For me to spend another word describing
events that indicate a ghost had taken up residence in John's house
seems the epitome of wasted space. Movies and television programs
dealing with hauntings seem be all the craze right now, so I won't
squander any more of your time setting up the story with
unnecessarily long descriptions of the creepy proceedings. I will
squander it telling you how I won't waste it.
The creepiness went on and on and began to
irritate John to no small degree. He's a laid back guy but whatever
spirit moved in had very little respect for the rules of the
living. And that little expression it kept repeating, “I'm a
winner. I have a seat at the table,” would be enough to drive
anyone crazy. Fearing that he'd never be able to get a good night's
sleep again, John reached out to a group that does paranormal
investigations. He asked for their help and in return they asked
that he agree to let them use his story, and whatever footage they
captured on the various cameras and microphones on their hit
The days leading up to their visit his spirit
was quite active, whispering his catch phrase and knocking things
over. John was actually a little excited to have these events
filmed and broadcast across the country. He could be the one that
proved the existence of ghosts.
When the big day arrived though, his ghost
was nowhere to be seen. Or heard. Or captured in any way, including
the EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recorders and thermal cameras.
The investigators did their best not to make him come off like a
loon but after they picked up and left he sat in his quiet living
room and felt like an ass.
Had it all been in his head after all?
“I'm a winner. I have a seat at the
His friend was back and John didn't feel any
of the usual fear that came along with hearing its voice. He was
“So now you talk?” John yelled to nobody.
“Now you want to say that stupid saying? Where were you a few hours
His eye twitched and a little spit shot out
as he raged on and on.
Then he paused to see what if any reaction he
“I'm sorry. I had to step out.”
That answer did not satisfy John. He went
Weeks later, when the episode aired, there
was further humiliation for him. After they were done showing the
world that his house was the last place to look for a ghost, the
next segment had undeniable proof of supernatural activity. It
seemed that there was a man complaining of some presence following
him wherever he went so the show's producers decided to take him up
north and have him walk through a snowy field. Sure enough a second
set of tracks followed him as he made his way across. This brought
to John's mind a certain story of two sets of footprints walking in
the sand until there was some sort of trouble at which point one of
the set of footprints disappeared.
He explained the analogy to his
“Not likely. Not unless Jesus has cloven
“Yeah.” John laughed. “Good one.”
“Listen ... sorry again about ducking out
when you needed me to be here. Had I known, I would have hung
around. You know, had ghost stuff to do.”
“At least you stopped with that “Seat at the
table” crap.” John thought it over a second. “By the way, what does
that even mean?”
“Nothing. I just thought it sounded
John laughed and picked up the remote. “Fair
how a story fails
(first appeared at www.newpoplit.com
I thought you might find it interesting to
take a little peek behind the curtain and see how things work in
the mind of a professional writer. Just remember not to attempt any
of the following techniques on your own. I am a veteran of the
writing process and even then, I sometimes require the assistance
of a spotter.
After reading any of my books the first thing
most people ask me is “Is there anything that you don't print?”
A writer with thinner skin might take offense
at such a pointed question but as I mentioned before, I am a
veteran of this game. Haters are gonna hate.
But to answer the query anyway, yes. There
are certain stories that just aren't going to make it to the
To give you an example- and the peek that I
promised earlier- I was working on a story about a moth earlier
today. The general idea was originally going to be that this moth
had been given the task of flying into a person's mouth. After a
quick bit of research into moths, I felt comfortable coming up with
a pretext of why it had been given this mission in the first place
and the next step was to do a bit of research on kamikazes. Once I
had a decent handle on the culture behind these suicidal aviators,
it seemed like a pretty simple task to knit the two together in a
jocular fashion and end up with a pretty cozy thousand words sure
to delight and entertain.
In fact, initially I felt it might be
the story that suddenly caught fire on the
internet and made me an overnight writing sensation. I was giving
the moth some real depth while still being able to throw in some
poignant commentary about the courage and stupidity required to
sacrifice one's own life for the greater good. All of it presented
with the snarky wit that I would be known for if I was known.
Before it was even done I saw myself receiving any number of
literary accolades. Of course, I usually feel this way about each
of the 400+ stories I've had published so I never really give these
feelings much credence. The important thing to note is that as I
started to jot it down there didn't seem to be any dark clouds on
that particular horizon.
Then another cook entered the kitchen.
I started to think about the scene in Star
Wars where Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star by shooting a
torpedo from his X-wing fighter into the tiny exhaust system. In my
head I simultaneously imaged a Japanese Luke flying into the mouth
of an unwary picnic attendee and a hachimaki -wearing moth
bullseying womprats on Tatooine.
Cracks began to appear in the fragile
framework holding the premise together.
With only three hundred words to go did I
have time to include other Star Wars characters in my story? Would
readers understand how these three moving parts could come
While the two chefs wrestled with the recipe,
another entered the kitchen through the back door.
Literally. You'll understand in a minute.
I suddenly imagined the picnic taking place
at a nudist camp. Instead of the moth being tasked to fly into an
open mouth, its merry band of moth friends, including a butterfly
it wanted to bang that would end up being its sister, talked it
into trying to enter from the other end and abruptly the Death Star
became a man's hairy anus.
I closed my eyes as the story began to
crumble under its own weight. Even the anus started to disintegrate
in my head like an old mine collapsing in a B movie. Let me tell
you, it was not pretty.
I even thought about telling the story
Please don't try to bring all these elements
together and finish the story in your own head. I tried and it
can't be done, you'll just hurt yourself. I appreciate that a moth
named Skywalker following the Bushido code and flying out of the
ass of a human seems like comedy gold but you'll just have to trust
me on this. No can do.
There's no shame in tapping out. Sometimes a
professional writer just has to understand his limitations and walk
away with his dignity intact. Even kamikazes came back from
missions once in awhile.
this constant certainty
I was never a strong swimmer. From as
early as I can remember I was afraid of the water.
And yet ...
My pop is a good man. When I was little I
didn't see him much, he was always off traveling somewhere distant.
Distant and exotic with hard to pronounce names. He left my mom
before I had even emerged and it was obvious to everyone I had been
Still, whenever I did see him he seemed to
Maybe the near misses were my way to get his
attention. Never really far enough from shore to be in any real
danger but the sight of him plowing through the waves to my rescue
was always something beyond a relief. I know most kids that grew up
with a father who wasn't there end up bitter and angry but I could
never hold a grudge. He was who he was.
Some people weren't cut out for one woman.
One family. Quiet desperation.
Not my pop.
He belted out his discontent for all to hear.
In time with the bongos he happily carried around with him,
seemingly at all times. They were never far from his reach.
Like I was.
Deeper and deeper I went. My toes crawling
along the bottom, trying to discern how fast the ground was falling
away beneath me. My arms, useless for anything but splashing and
waving and drawing attention to myself, made swimming motions so
the casual observer would feel that I belonged in my aquatic
surroundings. Underneath the waves my legs probed and hopped like a
sluggish astronaut on the foreign terrain.
What is there to say about my mother... She
was there every day so became invisible. It was my pop who sat in
the sky like a distant star calling to the sailor in me.
In the end I went too far out to make it back
on my own. Over my head. I felt nothing beneath me and the panic
started to rise. I thought about calling out to my pop. He would
come- like I said, he was a good man. Maybe the fairest soul I'd
But this time was different. I was in real
trouble and you know how a drowning man reacts. Wild and desperate,
grabbing a hold of anyone nearby and dragging them down with them.
I couldn't do that to pops.
My mom had the police kick in the motel door
the next morning and they found me.
hard-nosed seasonal fare
This time of year, everybody is
searching for a good holiday story. Magazines are packed with
heartwarming reminiscences and the shelves of your local bookstore
are choked with anthologies promising to spread good cheer.
What you won't find much of is hard-nosed
I'd like to change that if you have a few
minutes to spare. I know that might be asking a lot this time of
year, what with all the hustling and bustling going on, but I feel
that it's important to keep perspective on things. One minute
you're decking the halls and the next you're living in a cardboard
box if you don't keep your head on a swivel.
The tale I'd like to regale you with is about
a little girl named Brenda.
Well, Brenda is an ugly name and I thought
I'd throw a bone to girls with that moniker as a way to make up for
the fact that they've had to drag it around all their lives. I'm
just thoughtful like that. They might even feel indebted to me.
Years from now people might say “You know, those Brendas sure are
devoted to Manion.”
So this little girl Brenda wanted to know why
Santa seemed to favor rich kids over poorer ones. After doing a
little research on the topic, she found that wealthy children got a
lot more toys than boys and girls from impoverished areas.
To say that she was fuming over this would
not be putting too fine a point on it.
Her parents tried unsuccessfully to explain
it to her. Her teachers tried unsuccessfully to explain it to her.
Her friends were so annoyed by her ceaseless questioning that they
stopped talking to her altogether.
It took two burly mall security officers to
drag her off the Santa sitting outside the food court. Decorum
prevents me from relating much of the subject matter she discussed
with the as-jolly-as-can-be-expected-for-$12-an-hour old elf. The
one word that will stick with most of the emotionally-scarred
children who witnessed the confrontation is “despicable.”
Brenda decided the only way she was going to
get answers was to meet the “big man” himself. To that end, she ran
away from home and tried to make it all the way up to the North
Let me just interrupt here and warn you that
if you're holding a mug of warm cocoa, listening to Bing Crosby
singing a classic tune, and filled to bursting with the spirit of
the season, then you might want to stop reading here. I certainly
don't want to be the turd in your holiday punchbowl ... because
beginning next paragraph I have dropped trou. I'm perched over the
aforementioned bowl and open for business.
Fueled by the apparent injustice of it all
and driven by the ruthless determination that most kids possess,
Brenda made it all the way into the Alaskan wilderness before she
froze to death. Her last hours were spent trying to find warmth in
an unforgiving clime. Delirious, her hands, feet, ears and nose
black with frostbite, she dropped the charts and graphs she had
dragged along showing the discrepancies in ol' St. Nick's gift
distribution and fell face down in a snowdrift.
I wish I could say that's how authorities
found her but anyone familiar with that area of the country knows
that there are too many large predators for a meal like Brenda to
go to waste. An hour after she finally expired, a pack of wolves
found her frozen corpse and tore her limb from limb. Aside from a
few scraps of bloody clothing there was nothing left for her
grieving parents to identify.
It's at this point that I'm having some
second thought about naming the little girl Brenda. What seemed
like a nice idea at the time now has me wondering if the Brendas
reading this will appreciate their namesake being devoured by
wolves. It might undo any good will I might have created and
actually make these women annoyed with me.
You know how people say a crowd can “get
ugly?” Well, in the case of a crowd of Brendas they start off ugly
and I'm not anxious to find out where they go from there.
Certainly not a group I want showing up to a
book signing in the future.
Like most holiday stories, there are a lot of
morals you can glean from Brenda. The most obvious is that
frostbite is not given enough respect in most of the TV specials.
Elf or not, Hermey would have been dead in a matter of hours after
leaving the cozy confines of Santa's workshop. If we as a society
are going to go on perpetuating careless winter behavior then the
large predators of the North have no fear of starving to death,
I'll tell you that much.
Perhaps a holiday special about Santa
slipping down chimneys and redistributing gifts more fairly to the
children of the world might be a good place to start.
Brenda would have liked that.
for a minute you live in a temperate clime. Somewhere where the
temperate never gets too hot or too cold. A place where flowers
take root and never look back.
Given finite space in your garden, would you
prefer a bland flower that blooms all year or a flower that has a
prettier appearance but only blooms half the year? After that, the
flower drops off and you just have a boring green stalk.
I'm guessing your answer to that question is
very telling. Psychologists would jot down your decision in a small
notebook and feel they had a good handle on you. Do you prefer dull
but steady or are you willing to sacrifice a little for the sake of
beauty. Withholding the pleasure of seeing a flower for half the
year in order to get a better product for the last six months.
I'll wager there are some of you who would be
willing to cut back the flowering time to only three months if
there was an equivalent bump in the beauty of the bloom. In grade
school this would be the point where I asked you to drag out some
graph paper and start to create a chart showing either a steep
incline or decline, depending on what parameters you put on the top
and side of the graph, in how much additional beauty you'd need to
see to allow the bloom to be around less.
Is there a flower so nice that you'd accept
that it only bloomed one month a year?
What is if I told you about a flower so
amazing that when it blooms people would come from miles around
just to see it? TV crews would arrive days beforehand so they could
set up and get the perfect shot. For one week a year your neighbors
would be jealous and complain about the congestion and you would
bask in the reflected glory of your flower.
The fifty one weeks of a barren stalk.
Could you live with that?
Now what if I told you that there was a
flower that only bloomed one day a year but when it did it exploded
into such a dizzying array of colors and textures that grown men
would weep upon seeing it. Great swarms of hummingbirds would fill
the skies around it and large ferocious animals would gather but
they would be docile and allow you to rub their bellies. Then, just
as it is about to fold up its petals for the year, it releases a
sweet burst of nectar that provides everyone within one hundred
yards the longest and most satisfying orgasm of their lives.
Of course, many of you are signing up for
that plant without thinking through the dozens of other unintended
hiking the Appalachian Trail
(first appeared at
valterramagazines.com on 2/1/2014)
I'm not sure what I thought hiking entailed.
It seems easy enough when you think about it, one foot in front of
the other as gorgeous scenery unfolds in front of you. When it was
suggested to me that I join a few of my friends for a few days of
hiking along the Appalachian Trail I thought nothing of giving the
idea a rousing thumbs up. While not in tremendous shape, it never
occurred to me that it would require anything more than a small
dose of physical fitness. If things got a bit dicey I could always
grab a walking stick. To make sure I left nothing to chance I even
dragged out a pair of hiking boots I'd purchased a few years back
when I was threatened with a similar activity. I found them on a
discount rack at a discount store for $12. I'd never worn them but
they certainly looked like the type of footwear I'd seen on rugged
mountain men in antiperspirant commercials.
Were you aware that to even get on the
Appalachian Trail requires a hike of several miles? Most of it
uphill in the kind of rocky territory that is usually home to those
goats that you see standing sideways on mountains whose tops are
typically covered in fog banks?
I was not aware of that.
I had gone no further than a hundred yards
when I began to realize that my $12 hiking boots were not going to
be up to the challenge. With apologies to Nancy Sinatra, these
boots were not made for walking.
And when I say “trail” I mean it in only the
loosest meaning of the word. Whereas I was expecting cheerful signs
every few feet what I saw before me was a few trees with a small
splash of fading orange or completely faded orange markings on them
separated by at least ten thousand other trees. It was like playing
Where's Waldo if Waldo had gone into a Witness Protection program
and had been told to lose the red and white striped shirt, ditch
the glasses and dye his hair blonde.
Another thing I noticed as we began our climb
was my friend's legs. They looked like pencils with oranges
protruding where their calf muscles should have been. I looked down
at my legs and saw two pencils with absolutely nothing where my
calf muscles should be. I won't even bother describing their thighs
... except to say that they wouldn't have looked entirely out of
place on the average Greek statue. You know the kind I'm talking
about, the type where some hero or other is hoisting some heavy
object over their head or wrestling a lion or whatnot.
We weren't twenty minutes in and the
good-natured ribbing- at my expense of course- began. The sun had
barely crept over the horizon on day one of a three day hike and
already I could taste blood in my mouth.
Blood and despair.
I began a steady stream of lamentations under
my breath as I realized that it would be at least another mile of
uphill climbing before we actually reached the “beginning” of our
hike. Quietly I cursed the birds and wished terrible things upon my
friends. If only one of them would trip and tumble down the hill
and break their spine I could save face and end this debacle.
But it was not to be. Cruel fate kept my
friends safe and upbeat and I continued to hurl obscenities at any
creature that had the misfortune of appearing in front of me.
Walking sticks, despite what you might have seen in the movies, are
of no help at all.
It was noon when we took our first break.
My friends threw off their packs and attended
to their feet like an experienced Indy pit crew. They each stripped
off the two pairs of socks they were wearing and nonchalantly
applied baby powder to each foot as if it were the most normal
thing in the world.
I took off my boots and my single pair of
100% Rayon socks to find that the soles of each foot were covered
from heel to toe with a giant blister. It appeared that my feet
were enormous and had the consistency of bubble wrap.
Miles away birds flew in great flocks,
startled by the noise I made when I popped the first blister.
Popping the second foot had my friends looking away and having
silent conversations with their respective deities. Had there been
a bear within a hundred miles the smell of blood and pus would have
had him running towards us with all gusto.
I wrapped my feet with my own blister-skin
and trudged onward.
It was only eight hours later that we arrived
at our camp for the evening. The hours literally flew by, in a way
that I imagine only the hikers involved in the Bataan Death March
could relate to. The only break I got from the searing pain of each
foot hitting the ground was the occasional leg cramp.
I had eaten my three-days’ worth of
provisions before noon so I was at the mercy of friends and their
ridiculous freeze-dried dinners. The fact that they were all openly
wishing I would hurry up and die of pus-loss and despair made my
leverage in negotiating what I could borrow from their ample packs
limited at best. What I ended up with was a pouch of “Southwest
Chili.” On the cover of the packet was a smiling chili pepper.
Given my feeble intestinal fortitude I would typically avoid such
spicy fare but such was the depths of my hunger that I happily
snatched it up and threw it on the campfire. Moments later, the hot
water barely soaked into the pepper-ridden powder, I wolfed it all
As the sun set all the creatures of the
forest were treated to the noises coming from my stomach. I could
clearly make out the sounds of gringos galloping down my small
intestine, all the while whooping and firing their pistols into the
air. My face was a red mask of sweat as I inquired where the
bathrooms were. It was then I was introduced to the concept of a
composting toilet. Compost, from the Greek “can be smelled for
miles.” I was pointed down a narrow trail and told that at the end
of this was what I sought.
As I walked further from camp I began to get
a whiff that I was headed in the right direction. There were no
animals here. No insects chirped. The only noise I could hear was
the buzzing of flies.
When I finally arrived I seriously considered
taking off one of what remained of my $6 hiking boot ($12/2) and
beating myself to death with it as opposed to sitting on the
filth-encrusted hole that sat before me. That's when the “Southwest
Chili” made the decision for me.
I shat with a force that had me looking
between my legs to see if any of my spine had been cast out with
the “Southwest Chili.”
Even the flies left.
I realized I had no toilet paper.
I began to weep.
Eventually I made my way back to camp and
found a spot to lay out my sleeping bag. Above my head there were
at least a dozen spiders the size of my fist, sitting in their web
and watching me with undisguised avarice.
I didn't care.
In the distance I heard my friends talking
and laughing with a few other hikers who had made their way to the
structure. They were giving each other trail names. I sat in the
dark and decided I'd like to be called Strider. I was about to make
my way over to the fire when I heard them give me the moniker Shit
I stayed where I was.
A few hours later I heard them make their way
inside the wooden structure and soon after I could hear them all
snoring. My feet hurt too much to sleep so I decided to rid myself
of what little moisture I still had in me by weeping again.
Occasionally I would slip into a fevered hallucination where the
smiling chili pepper would laugh and poke me with a fiery
The next morning my friends set off without
**The journal ends here. The identity and
fate of the author remains a mystery and part of Appalachian Trail
four lads that shook the entomological world
It was March 1957 when the story began.
John, who'd always had a strong interest in anthropodology, had
struck up a conversation with Paul in the zoology section of the
Natural History Museum in London... and the rest was history.
Four lads who shook the entomological
It wasn't long afterwards that their two
classmates at the University of Liverpool, George and Paul, joined
their team and thus began one of the most prolific partnerships in
the annals of research history.
After a semester as adjunct professors at the
prestigious Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, the foursome
issued what would become the first of hundreds of wildly-popular
papers: “Effect of temperature on the phenotypic variation of
colonizing stink bugs.”
The paper met with a very emphatic reception
and colleges around England threw open their libraries to the
charismatic lads. Their follow-up paper, “The influence of altitude
and landscape structures on colonies of the corn herbivore,
Diabrotica virgifera virgifera,”left no
doubt the boys were headed for greatness.
Lecture halls were forced to turn people away
as people clamored to hear them present their supporting data. It
seemed everyone wanted a piece of them and after the Bulletin of Entomological Research signed them to an
exclusive contract it wasn't long until television came calling.
Nature programs were just starting to take off and the four lads
from Liverpool made the jump to broadcasting seem effortless.
Now obviously I could go on from here and
draw humorous parallels between The Beatles and the four fictitious
lads that I have gone to no particular lengths to describe, but I
think you get the point. Hopefully your head was swimming with
black and white footage of the Beatles being hustled from their car
to a hotel or airplane or wherever it was you imagined they were
headed off to but instead you put four nerdy professors in their
place and that image made you smile.
Perhaps you went even further and really gave
your imagination a workout. It is my hope that this effort was
Of course, by not shepherding you through the
entire life spans of these made-up gentlemen I risk you focusing on
some of the more tawdry elements that crept into the Beatle story
in their later years, but I trust you'll keep the innocent, idyllic
elements of the tale intact and will stay pretty much in the
matching-slacks portion of the band's career out of respect for the
field of entomology.
how to make love stay
As I made my way down the hallway carrying
my laptop and bed sheets I couldn't help but the envy the kids that
had come to college with a high school friend. It would have been
nice to know somebody right from the get go. I had put my name in
to get a roommate but as fate would have it I got a single. Nice to
have some private time but I was a little nervous the initial lack
of opportunities for making new friends.
I ducked and dodged my way down the hall,
sometimes bouncing off a wall to keep all of the items in my
laundry basket from falling out of my aching hands.
The first time I walked right by my room
because the door was open and a girl was standing in the middle of
it so I assumed that it couldn't be the right one. It was only when
the numbers on the doors indicated I had missed it did I turn
around and walk back to find that it was the correct room after
Empty this time. No girl. I couldn't help but
feel it was foreshadowing for what was to come with the ladies.
Nerd in high school. Nerd in college. I was on the express train to
I began to unload and set things up but the
slight scent of perfume in the air was a bit distracting.
My concerns about making friends was
unwarranted and within a few days I'd found a small group to go eat
and hang out with whenever I needed a break from my studies. I even
mentioned the girl that was in my room that first day but nobody
could place her. For some reason I couldn't stop thinking about
Petite and redheaded with pale skin. Ever
since reading Still Life With Woodpecker,
I'd wanted to date a girl with red hair. I'd only glimpsed her but
every time I thought about her I'd remember some new detail. The
human memory is a funny thing. Little freckles. Flip flops.
Late at night I'd lay in my bed and I could
swear I smelled her perfume.
A week or so later I was walking into the
dorm with a friend and I noticed her again. She was standing on the
far end of the hallway and staring right at me. I couldn't even
pretend to act casual. My face must have lit up because even though
she was far away I felt the hairs go up on the back of my neck. My
legs were jelly and I stopped quickly to collect myself.
I looked up again and she was gone.
I realize that these two brief encounters
don't seem like much but you have to understand I didn't see much
female action. I had no game whatsoever. These encounters had
pretty much been the high point of my sexual interactions to that
point in time.
There was no denying she was looking right at
me. She didn't turn and look away or act like we weren't staring at
each other. She might as well have invited me out to a movie right
then and there.
Things were moving pretty fast. It wasn't
even another few weeks before I saw her again. This time she must
have been working up her courage to say hello because I looked up
from my desk to see her standing in my doorway.
Keeping my door open was just one of the many
elaborate schemes I had for seducing the other sex into my lair.
There were also posters hung of cool bands as well as multiple
chairs in case any female was just too exhausted to make it back to
their own room and needed a place to collect themselves. Obviously
I wouldn't have used the term “other sex” to describe girls if
there was any danger of me having to use the word “sex” again when
describing my room or my first few weeks of college. There wasn't
any danger of it. At all. I just wanted to somehow get the word in
because it was pretty much all I could think about since I arrived
I made my move. I cleared my throat and
looked down as I pushed back my chair and stood up. When my eyes
finally returned to the doorway it was empty.
She was gone. All that remained was the smell
of her that hung in the air for what seemed like hours.
I'd blown it again.
For the next few days I was asking everybody
I knew about her. I described her in as much detail as I could. My
college wasn't that big and I felt like the Prince with the glass
slipper looking everywhere for a mystery girl. Nobody knew a girl
fitting the description.
Meanwhile everywhere I looked I saw swarms of
beautiful women in short skirts and tight blouses. You couldn't
throw a rock without hitting a cute girl. Which, ironically enough,
was probably a better strategy in introducing myself to one than I
had been employing. Apparently college girls didn't like flustered,
mumbling, awkward, shy-but-wild-eyed-with-passion come-ons.
I was ready to burst. I swore the next time
the red-headed girl showed up I'd be ready.
It wasn't until the semester was almost over
that she made an appearance.
It was late but I was lying in bed thinking
of all the wonderful and terrible sexual things I wanted to do to a
female in that bed. I was going down the list of things I'd heard
about or read about or watched online. Having not done any of them
they all held the same vague but urgent appeal.
That's when I smelled her perfume. Stronger
than ever before. It was as if I had willed her to be there. That's
when I noticed a small shadow interrupt the light coming in from
under my door. And then again.
Feet. Somebody was standing outside my
Without thinking I jumped out of bed and
threw it open. I wasn't going to let another chance slip through my
It was her. Red hair and freckles and flip
flops. She stood there and my heart began to pound.
She put a single finger on my chest and
slowly pushed me back into the room and didn't stop until I fell
back into a seated position on the bed. The door slowly closed
behind us and the room was plunged back into shadows.
It was going to happen. Just like I'd
imagined a million times.
I felt her lean in close to my neck. I felt
her breath on me and I began to wonder how any man holds out until
the actual act of intercourse. I was dizzy.
Her finger slowly ran up my chest until it
was under my chin. She lifted my head up until I was looking
directly at her. She spoke.
“This used to be my room. I went here three
years ago. I invited a boy into my room one night.”
Her voice was so soft, it seemed to almost be
a whisper. Almost a counterpoint to the erection thundering between
“I thought he was nice but he wouldn't stop
when I asked him to. He said he couldn't. I tried to make him but I
couldn't. He killed me right here on this very spot.”
my first racist joke
I heard my first racist joke when I was
about eleven. I went to an all-white school and lived in an
all-white world. At the time I didn't think anything of it. I
didn't think I was a racist. I didn't think about race at all.
“There's a guy and he's standing at the edge
of the Grand Canyon.”
I saw plenty of non-whites on television and
they all seemed the same as my friends. I would later be part of a
track meet where we went into the city and ran against an all-black
team. Afterwards, on the bus ride back to my school, I would think
to myself that blacks seemed the same as my friends except they run
“A Mexican family walks up to look at the
Grand Canyon. They look over the edge and marvel at how far down it
Maybe it was the innocence of youth but when
I heard this joke I laughed and laughed. What did I know? I knew
nothing of what went on before me in the world.
“The guy standing there asks the family if
they want to see something cool. Of course they all say yes. He
climbs over the railing and then hurls himself over the edge.”
Looking back now I wonder if the joke would
have worked without the racist bit. Probably not.
“The Mexican family is in awe as the man
seems to just float there, smiling away. The man explains that
there are thermals that blow up from the canyon depths that keep
him from falling.”
I do remember wondering, on that same bus
ride home from the city track meet, if Asians or American Indians
ran slower or faster than I did.
“The man asks the Mexican dad if he wants to
try it. He says yes and climbs over the railing and jumps. He
plummets to his death.”
I wonder now if racism isn't just another way
to laugh at people. Something to make jokes funnier. To make barbs
crueler. I'm sure there are people that have good reasons to
dislike other people but I can't help but think that if the other
person is a different color that it might make it easier.
“A man standing next to the grieving family
turns to his friends and says “Man, Superman sure hates those
Obviously you could switch out the races of
the superhero and the victim but that's not the point. The point is
that someone told that joke, using Superman no less, to an eleven
year old. Even if I could at the time rationalize Superman's
behavior, perhaps he was upset about the amount of illegal
immigration; it seemed a very inefficient way to get rid of
Mexicans. And also a bit ironic given that despite his patriotic
appearance (red cape, white skin and blue tights) he was not only
not from this country but he wasn't even from this planet and I'm
fairly certain he failed to fill out any paperwork before crash
landing here. But the joke itself is funny, you can't deny that. I
laughed because it seemed dangerous and edgy to talk about another
I'm still not 100% sure. What I do know is
that was no way to hear the word “spic” for the first time. Having
never heard the word before I could only assume it had negative
connotations because of the way it was said. I heard it from the
same kid that always had a cripple joke or a Helen Keller joke
handy. He was very popular. I don't so much blame him as wonder
whatever happened to him.
I'm guessing that kids these days don't get
to eleven before they hear the word “spic.” I doubt they'll even
remember it the way I do. Like a scar inside my head.
A few years later, after I was getting
accustomed to hearing racist words, I had the thought that perhaps
racism is just a way for sensitive people to deal with reality. I
thought maybe that if people didn't dislike people of color for
some reason they'd go crazy with all the hunger, poverty and war
going on in other countries. I wondered if it was just a defense
mechanism to stay sane in a cruel world. Distancing themselves from
the horrors going on around them.
Then I learned maybe that wasn't the
Learned is a bad word for processing such
Whatever the reasons, I never looked at
Superman the same way.
I never read
newspapers. If I want to hear what’s going on in the world, which I
never do, I’ll watch TV or turn on my computer. That being said, I
was reading a newspaper when the trouble began.
I say “trouble” in order to make this seem a
bit more exciting than it really is. Or was. Whatever it was, or
is, it’s over now.
I was at a Jiffy Lube getting my oil changed
and there was nothing else to read in the little lobby they
directed me to, not even an old National Geographic, so I was
forced to flip through the newspaper otherwise I ran the danger of
having to make eye contact with the other poor bastards sitting on
the dirty folding chairs waiting for our cars to get done.
I could make it seem a crazy coincidence that
I ended up reading the obituaries but the truth is I perused every
inch of the paper so it was inevitable I’d end up there. This is
where things got sort of weird.
One of the stiffs was a guy I thought I knew.
Or at least remembered from somewhere. I’d like to claim that I
have a great memory but I don’t. The only reason I thought I
remembered the guy was that his nose was enormous. The kind of a
nose you can’t forget. Not only large but it had a ding in the top
of it. Not so much a piece missing, just that it appeared to the
casual observer that he must have been dropped as a baby.
Onto an axe. From a great height.
A dent. Sort of.
Not the kind of a nose you're likely to
forget, I'll leave it at that otherwise I will spend the entire
story trying to describe this whale of a snout.
But where did I know him from?
It wasn't until I was home and in front of a
large picture of myself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower that
I realized where I'd seen him. He was the guy in my framed Eiffel
Tower picture whose nose was blocking most of it.
Then it hit me...
I don't usually take pictures of myself but
when I do I rarely put them in a photo album but in this case I was
forced to go grab an old photo album I had tucked away on a shelf
under my vinyl record collection. Having thrown out my old record
player years ago and with no way to play the albums this was a
section of my entertainment center that did not get a lot of play.
When I pulled out the photo album my nose itched from all the dust
that was kicked up.
I began to rifle through the album and it
wasn't long until I found what I was looking for. A picture I had
taken in London over twenty years ago. A picture of Big Ben. Well,
a picture of some of Big Ben. The rest was
lost behind the gigantic beak of a stranger.
The same stranger who had blocked out a
sizeable amount of the Eiffel Tower and the same stranger from the
What the hell was Sir Nosealot doing in these
pictures? Decades apart in different countries?
My hands trembling slightly I did what any
veteran of scary movies would do: I began to look through all of my
Now you, no doubt a veteran of watching those
same scary movies, are probably anticipating that I found this guy
lurking in the background of dozens of shots. And you'd be
Although lurking might not be the right word.
He was blocking out some of the largest natural and manmade
structures in the world. The Pyramids, the Grand Canyon, the Great
Wall of China. He was there with his giant nose ruining them all.
And there I was smiling away, completely oblivious to his presence.
In the picture of the space shuttle launch he ruined he's holding a
vuvuzela of all things.
Who was he?
It's at this point that I was forced to admit
to myself I'd been waiting all my life for this type of thing to
happen to me. Something to make my life seem somehow special. Maybe
even important. The laws of probability seemed to indicate that I
was part of something bigger than myself.
What was the cosmic significance of this guy
with the colossal nose?
That Saturday morning I got dressed up in
somber attire and drove down to the funeral home to pay my respects
and to see if I could find out some answers. When I got there and
found that they were unable to close his casket because of the size
of his schnoz I laughed so hard that it didn't seem to matter
anymore. It ruined everything. The metaphorical nose photobombing
my big mystery.
I had to admit, thinking back on it, that
bringing a vuvuzela to a shuttle launch was pretty cool idea.
Bugs the bunny
I guess we all carry around a little baggage that makes us more
sensitive to issues than we'd otherwise be. In my case it was a
story I read about a puppy mill. It had made me furious.
For those of you lucky enough not to know
what a puppy mill is let me pull the shades from your eyes. A puppy
mill is a place that breeds dogs with no thought given to their
bloodlines. They take the same few dogs and have them crank out
puppies, even if they are related. In the end this causes all sorts
of inbreeding and a whole slew of related health issues. If you buy
a dog at a mall it's almost guaranteed that your puppy will have a
host of genetic problems that will ensure a shorter-than-expected
life filled with medical troubles.
Why is this topic such a sore subject for
Because when I was younger I bought a rabbit
from a pet store at the mall and it was obvious from the beginning
that this rabbit's family tree was short a few branches. Or any
For starters, he was blind in one eye and
only had partial vision in the other. His ears were different
lengths and for some reason his large legs were up front.
Take a minute to imagine him if you will.
This leg arrangement made walking a bit of a
task and painful to watch. Half the time he would flip backwards in
the air. Heaven help us if he had been the Easter Bunny. Those eggs
would never have gotten delivered.
“Here comes Peter Cottontail ... hopping down
the bunny trail ... eventually.”
One day. Two. Three days after Easter and
still no sign of the first egg.
Speaking of Easter eggs, he had testicles the
size of tennis balls. When he leaned back it looked like he was
sitting in a beanbag chair.
That wasn't even the worst of it.
Somehow his DNA blueprints must have been
upside down because his mouth and his ass were switched. Anyone
witnessing him eat would be traumatized for days.
“Look at that rabbit. It looks like he's
slowly sitting on that carrot. Wait a minute ... is that? ... look
at the carrot ... oh my god. No. No!”
My rabbit was a mess.
Was his ass and mouth thing the worst
The worst part was what happened when I tried
to pet him. I wanted him, and the universe, to know that a few
dozen maladies generously dished out by the callous hand of fate
would not impact the love I felt for my pet. Every time I attempted
to show said love by petting him large chunks of fur would come off
in my hand. He’d look up at me forlornly with his one good, albeit
usually dripping, eye.
That was the worst part. Perhaps all that fur
was why the hand of fate got so callous in the first place. Chicken
and egg stuff I guess.
That was his name.
Not after the famous bunny but because his
skin was always crawling with parasites. No amount of tick sprays
or flea baths would stem the tide of critters that called his pelt
Luckily for everybody involved he was eaten
at a young age by a two-headed wolf that escaped from the wolf mill
up the road.
That's all folks.
the song between her legs
She sings from
somewhere you can't see
She sits in the top of the
She sends out an aroma of
It drips on down in a mist
-DEVO “Girl U Want”
In Greek mythology, Sirens were beautiful
women who lured sailors to their doom with their enchanting song.
Beautiful, they would plop down on their rocky coastlines and sing
away and even the strongest of men would be led to make poor
decisions and end up in a watery grave.
The Greeks called them Sirens, these days we
just call them vaginas. You can dress it up however you like, but
the same forces are in play.
While I may not always admire the English
language, you do have to give it some respect for grabbing the word
siren and making it mean alarm, warning, danger and/or distress.
You can't say the language didn't try and warn men. I'm surprised
that the police and firemen across the country don't have their
sirens blasting out of giant replicas of vaginas. Men would
certainly take more notice and somehow I think the ranks of
neighborhood watch and volunteer firemen would swell.
Even though the way Sirens were represented
in folklore changed as time went by, the fascinating mix of
temptation and charm persists to this day. Beguiling vaginas whose
song makes us forget our native lands.
Although I didn't feel like a sailor at the
time, I remember there were a couple of ball fields where we would
play baseball when I was a kid. Because we were kids we would hit
ten times more foul balls than we ever put into the field of play
and, because we were kids, we were poor and needed to find every
one of them. A task made that much more difficult by the heavy
woods that lurked right behind the fields. We would try and follow
the flight of the ball and go hurling ourselves into the shrubbery
in pursuit but more often than not we were unable to retrieve
The funny thing was, the next day I would
take a bucket and just poke around behind the fields and find
upwards of a dozen balls. Some of them sitting right out in the
I guess when you're not after a particular
one it's easier to find them.
That's the thing about women. Emotions make
them like foul balls, difficult and arbitrary.
Depending on how hot she wants her porridge
on a given day, she might choose “Aye Papi” Bear, “Hot Mama” Bear
or “Ooo Baby” Bear and there's squat we can do about it.
And yet we go plunging into the woods or
sailing into the rocks just the same, hypnotized, never sure if
we'll find the ball or a ball and even more unsure if, in the long run, it
makes a bit of difference.
Myself, I've found that the act of sex
doesn't help clarify things. I never found a correlation between
the physical attractiveness of the woman and my performance, both
in and out of the bedroom. I've spent my life assuming that the
hotter the girl is the less adequate my sexual prowess would be
when the time came to step up to the plate but the evidence does
not bear this out. In fact, at times it's almost an inverse
relationship. I have been a stallion with beauties and
disappointing with very ordinary girls.
Ordinary physically anyway.
And now what fresh horrors await us as this
newest Siren, the internet, takes a hold? Our subconscious laid
bare to anyone who happens to glance at our browsing history.
I recently had my penis fall asleep for the
first time in my life. I must have been sitting very oddly because
all of sudden the music stopped. My mind was flooded with fractals,
geometric patterns and topographical dimensions and then I adjusted
my leg and the blood flow started back and all of that melted
The singing resumed and I suddenly remembered
this old movie theater I used to go to. It was small and old
fashioned but it held a certain place in my heart so I would go
there when all of my other friends would go to the big multiplex
down the road. Eventually it closed down and fell into disrepair. I
would sneak inside every once in awhile and sit in the darkness and
the quiet and miss the old days.
Then, when it got to be too much of an
eyesore, they tore it down completely and left nothing but a flat
piece of pavement. Maybe they meant to rebuild something on the
site but never got around to it.
So I would occasionally sit where the theater
used to be and pretend it was still there. In my mind's eye I could
see the screen and walls and even smell the popcorn. I was there,
occupying the same space as always, but it wasn't.
That's the thing about foul balls. If just a
few things were different they could have been Homers.
a few thoughts
Can you imagine the violence that would ensue if truth serum was
somehow introduced into the water supply over a holiday
So what did we learn from the latest David
Blaine special? That the easiest way to make celebrities look like
dolts is to film them watching magic.
I remember when LEGO was just a bucket with a
bunch of little building blocks in it. Now kids are given detailed
instructions on exactly what to build with no pieces left over.
What a great metaphor for childhood these days.
People ask me “Lance, do you ever run out of
ideas for stories?” and I answer “Nope, just good ones.”
As my dog lay sleeping with her head in my
lap she slowly transformed from a trusted and loyal friend to a
dumb, oblivious animal as I gave myself permission to fart.
Ever have those turds that are too big? You
sit there sweating and pushing like you're giving birth. I call
them “prison turds” because they remind me how THANKFUL I am I'm
not in prison.
I always meant to ask my last girlfriend what
it was she thought about during sex that stopped her from coming
too quickly. Whatever it was, it worked great.
There are people who are born to leave you.
There are people wired to stay. To blame either for being how they
are is to be mad at the sky for being blue. (Feel free to explore
this observation further by noting that what we call the sky is
just a vague region of the atmosphere and the color is only because
air molecules scatter blue light from the sun more than they do
red. You could easily replace sky with space and black for blue.
Would that change how you feel about the first two lines?)
You know what would make a great holiday
special? Having little people dressed as elves drag everyone
involved in the decision to make a sequel to “A Christmas Story” in
front of a Santa who will then chainsaw their heads off.
Hope springs eternal. It's annoying like
that. Cynicism, on the other hand, just sits there.
When you understand just how many things go
on in order to pee it makes you want to at least say “Release the
urine!” every time you're standing in front of the toilet.
While on hold yesterday the message I was
hearing made two things clear: 1. I may be being recorded. 2. I was
free to press 0 at any time. Speaking in a strong firm voice I let
the message know that I was free to press ANY number at any time. I
wanted to let it know exactly who it was dealing with. I hope that
it was recorded.
If you talk to any old person, all of their
conversations can be distilled down to one simple thought: getting
If a woman didn't have nipples I bet we'd be
ok with them walking around topless.
“Cough... cough,” he coughed.
Sometimes I think that I'm nothing more than
a machine to turn onion rings into odd-smelling farts.
Listening to a Barry White tune today I was
able to improvise an entire song's worth of lyrics. Granted at
least 50% of the time I was singing “Put your hands on my penis.”
(Note: This is not as funny if one is not listening to a Barry
Listening to the stranger next to me. Her
breathing is a lullaby. A lullaby that doesn't rhyme and causes me
to lose my boner.
Had to delete a story today. Entitled “Hope
is a Cruel Mistress,” it was tale of a married man who was dating a
girl on the side named Hope who was cruel. It was so choked with
metaphors that the Word program kept freezing.
It appears impossible to leave Jiffy Lube
without spending over $100 on a $40 oil change. I had no idea my
car had so many fluids and belts that needed replacing. Finally I
was forced to pull the greasy man over the counter and explain that
I didn't care if they found human remains in my air filter I wasn't
interested in replacing it.
Justt wantedd too seee howw cooll myy
writingg wouldd bee withh aa littlee reverbb.
While I appreciate the fact that the folks at
Hallmark Cards went to the trouble of exhuming the two ladies
working at the checkout, and will no doubt return them to their
graves after the holiday rush is over, there to wait until next
season's shopping frenzy again summons them from the cold confines
of their caskets, I do wish they could move the storeroom, where
they apparently keep the boxes in which every little ceramic
figurine comes in, a little closer to the front counter. And by
closer, I mean not at the other end of the store. And while they're
at it perhaps even shrink the size of the storage area down from
the four football fields it appears to occupy so when the old
corpses drag themselves back there for each and every customer that
has had the misfortune of walking through the Hallmark doors and
decided to purchase something they could be gone for less than an
Last night, looking out my window and seeing
a neighbor’s light on through a small wooded area in the
development next to mine, and then looking up and seeing the light
from a star hundreds of billions of miles away, and noticing that
they look almost identical, I could not help but feel that my
neighbor's light just wasn't trying. There was also a metaphor
about celebrity in our culture in there somewhere but I just
couldn't be bothered to sort it out. That's how disappointed I was
in my neighbor's light.
I don't enjoy watching people dance well. I
don't dislike people who dance well; I just find their dancing
tedious to watch. I like to watch bad dancers. I could watch a bad
dancer all night.
A mayfly lives for only one day. When it
rains that entire day you know that they must look skyward and
think to themselves “Well that sucks.” When one of them gets eaten
after only a few hours the rest must be thinking to themselves
“What a shame. He was so young.” They don't have mouths, so that
why they have to think everything to themselves.
The news never reports the things I want to
know, i.e. was the jumper wearing Life Is Good apparel?
I always give mock advice as a way to make
fun of people who feel so self-important that they give advice but
today I'd like to give some actual advice: give mock advice as a
way to make fun of people who feel so self-important that they give
Living without regret is a ridiculous
expectation. If you come to the end of your life with no regrets
all that shows is an astounding lack of imagination.
I read that only 30% of woman can achieve an
orgasm through intercourse. Here's hoping that the other 70% will
make it their New Year's resolution to get their vaginas fixed.
“Caveat Emptor” - Let the buyer beware. “Just
Pay Separate Process And Handling” - The buyer is an idiot who is
about to get screwed.
Always remember... a hot knife through butter
is fast, but a knife through hot butter is faster.
It seems that the word sweater has a negative
connotation built into it. Instead of a cozy item to wear on a cold
day it seems to indicate it somehow creates sweat. “He won't talk
eh? Put on the sweater.”
I love pulling a grey hair. It's like
fighting against the ravages of time without actually having to do
any exercise. An epic tug.
Typically a fart comes out front to back.
This one was more left to right. I was farting and then one-tenth
of a second later I was done. Felt great.
Yesterday I got my daily e-mail from a
service that sends out requests for guests for various
entertainment outlets and among these pleas was “Looking for
couples who got engaged in a Costco.”
Ironically, I too am looking for these same
couples ... so I can talk to them about sterilization.
I have a pet rash. I keep him on my arm.
Last night at the mall I saw an awkward
teenager who reminded me of myself at that age. Nerdy,
unfashionably dressed, bad haircut. The whole package. I wanted to
go up to him and throw my arm around him and say “I know right now
life seems tough and unfair and everything seems an uphill battle
but believe me... it gets much worse.”
I'm realizing that a lot of celebrities don't
have the complexion for 60” HD televisions. Hunks of make-up
clinging to nooks and crannies as if it had been applied to an
English muffin. A bit distracting.
I had a dream last night about camping. When
I woke there was a faint smoky smell in the room and crumbs in my
bed from the s'mores I had eaten. When I went downstairs I found
the kitchen had been ransacked by raccoons. You could argue the
sound of this ruckus was the reason I chose to dream about camping
or you could believe, as I do, that I dreamt raccoons into
existence. And they had antennae and human smiles.
Stalkers, a word of advice: make sure not to
lose sight of what put you in that shrub by the window in the first
place. Enjoy yourself or march right out and find something else to
do with your life.
I can trace some of my problems back to my
childhood and the toilet-flushing policy in my house: If it's
yellow let it mellow, if it's brown also let it mellow. Our house
Read the word revolver. You picture a gun. I
did anyway. Now remember that it is named so because it has a
revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers and a barrel for
firing. The cylinder revolves. This allows the user to fire
multiple rounds without reloading and was a giant leap forward over
the single barrel weapons that preceded it. Now read the word
again. Revolver. Doesn't it seem different? With the emphasis on
“revolve” I get a weird tingle in my brain now. Probably just
Replaced all the wooden doors in the house
with three inch thick granite ones. I prefer a more dramatic sound
when they close behind me. It's working.
I saw a car stuck in the snow so I quickly
pulled in front of it and secured a rope to the front bumper. With
one quick push on my accelerator the bumper gave way and I drove
off dragging it behind me. I thought to myself “That makes
Traumatic experience #37: When I was a kid I
showered at a relative's house and they handed me a towel and said
it was “thick and thirsty.” Ever since I've been terrified by the
idea of a thirsty towel. Why couldn't they have just said
The difference between being embarrassed and
being ashamed of your behavior is a thin line usually directly
connected to alcohol intake. Following that train of thought I have
a feeling when I remember last night's events, or have them
recounted for me, I will be revolted.
I don't mean to brag but I'll bet that when
you hear that someone evacuated their bowels, I imagine it a lot
more orderly than you do.
Women seem to violate the laws of gravity,
i.e. they are easier to pick up than drop.
Love has gone when you stop kissing, not when
you stop fucking.
Spent the night drinking and unsuccessfully
trying to come up with a difference between my previous books and
the journals kept by Kevin Spacey's character in “Seven.”
When I'm watching porn there is nothing I
hate more than when they show the man and woman initially talking
and then cut to them banging away. It's like when I buy a new car.
If I'm in the showroom and I find one I like I don't want to blink
and find myself driving off the lot.
Watching UFC makes me wish cloning technology
was much further along. While Barao vs. Faber is an ok fight, Faber
vs. Faber would be awesome.
I can never quite relate to people that don't
pick their nose when nobody is looking.
Some days time passes leisurely and others it
seems to be marching relentlessly forward, determined to return us
to a state of unconscious elements. Don't let circumstances fool
you, it's always the latter.
The only female super hero I thought was ever
named appropriately is Wonder Woman. The word “Wonder” can be used
as a noun (miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon;
something strange and surprising; a cause of astonishment or
admiration) or a verb (to speculate curiously or be curious about;
doubt) ... much like every woman I've ever known. Her weapon? A
lasso that compels all beings who come into contact with it to tell
the absolute truth. Thank goodness she's the only gal with one of
Whenever you buy anything you are deciding
amongst different options provided by different competitors. You
are creating a single winner and multiple losers. Given that, I
only have one question: “How could you?”
I laid there pretending I was asleep. She
laid there pretending to sleep. Introductions can be so
The professor handed each student a mirror
and said “Today we're going to be studying entropy.”
I've never written to be popular or been
Whenever I'm having a conversation with
someone and they blink I immediately think to myself “They just
spread a mixture of oils and mucous secretions across the surface
of their eyes to keep them from drying out.” Makes it hard to
follow what they're saying but it's their fault if they're going to
be standing there blinking the whole time.
Tom Hanks was ok as Captain Phillips but I'd
rather have seen Emo Philips play the part. Or have Tom Hanks play
Captain Emo Philips.
I'd like to open a restaurant in Hollywood
called Gruel. All the hipsters would assume the name is ironic but
I would serve nothing but cornmeal boiled in water. It would no
doubt be a wild success. “Would you like that runny or extra runny
Mr. De Niro?”
The problem some kids have with standing up
to a bully is the part where they pin them to ground and repeatedly
punch them in the face in front of all their friends.
While taking candy from a baby might appear
easy, there are emotional tolls to consider.
I refuse to feel bad that my frozen dinner
had chocolate pudding. If everyone was so damn worried about
getting chicken fingers, leaving me with fish sticks, they sure as
hell can choke down their corn without complaint.
I just had the feeling that it was going to
be one of those moments where somebody would snarl at me “You're
better than that” and I would whimper “No. I'm really not” before
I don't completely trust any language where
the word “manhandle” doesn't have something to do with
St. Patty's Day research completed: How many
green beers does it take to begin hearing voices in the bagpipes?
I refuse to stay at a La Quinta until they
change their name to The Fifth. This is 'Merica, damn it.
Perhaps what nobody likes to admit to
themselves is that they can leave any time they want. If they're
here, wherever here might be, they are here because they choose to
It's gotten to the point where we can only
hear truth from comedians. Politicians and businessmen are
incapable of it. Comedians don't even have to be funny anymore,
we'll pay them to stand on a stage and yell common sense at us. How
fucked are we?
When someone asks you to pick a number
between 1 and 10, don't pick 1. Or 10. Do I even have to explain
it? Nobody wants you picking 1 or 10. You're going to end up making
people ask you to pick a number between 2 and 9. Is that what you
The thing about polarizing writers is that
we're always looking to increase the size of our pole.
I think the plan to just ignore the rampant
violence and crime in the inner cities in the hopes that it will
somehow just go away is going to work out splendidly for
Whenever someone says “I like to consider
myself an intelligent person,” what they really mean is that they
like to consider themselves a more intelligent person than they
are. Having said that, I just watched the India vs. Sri Lanka
cricket match for two HOURS and, while I like to consider myself an
intelligent person, I could not figure out how the game of cricket
Every time I watch Alien I spend the whole
movie marveling at how small Sigourney Weaver's mouth is. Not that
she would necessarily be willing but I don't think I could get it
Mark my words, one day that Cocoa Puffs bird
is going to kill somebody.
I remember this girl. I thought she was the
one... until the fateful day I snooped in her medicine cabinet and
found a packet of Preparation H Medicated Wipes. When I think how
close I came to asking her to be Mrs. Manion... really dodged a
How can you trust a language where the word
“umlaut” doesn't have an umlaut?
You know the music that plays in the
background of movies that tells you if things are great or if they
are about to get scary? It's there in real life too. You just have
to really listen.
In the interest of full disclosure, the ruler
I have tattooed on my inner thigh is not entirely accurate ... but
it helps sell the product.
Tiny farts can be more socially crippling
than large ones. I'd rather have somebody think I farted than think
that's how I smell.
Fact: I am two pounds heavier when I have an
Sitting at the park last night, I was
watching an overweight guy jogging when he suddenly let loose with
the loudest and most glorious fart I'd ever heard. Then, to my
left, I saw a man dragging his golf clubs across a patch of
pavement and realized that was where the sound came from. I was so
disappointed. True story.
I'm not saying that every woman would go
lesbian if they knew what men were really thinking. I'm just saying
that they might give the brochure a longer look.
The other day I was walking when I heard a
familiar voice, that I couldn't quite place, say “Hey, I spy a
Lance Manion,” to which I replied “Shhhh, if you're quiet you can
watch him in his natural environment.”
I then pecked at the ground and began to
gather twigs. An hour later I had finished a serviceable nest.
Turning to finally see the owner of the familiar yet unknown voice
I found that he was no longer there.
Pausing a TV show because someone in the room
is talking is like asking them to be quiet. Pausing and then
staring at the ceiling is like saying “shut the fuck up.”
Not saying “Yay!” out loud when something
good happens is missing an opportunity. Even the smallest things.
Just because other people are too inhibited to verbalize it doesn't
mean you have to be. Throw your hands in the air if you want. If
you want to be happy, be happy.
An interesting dilemma is walking by a
retarded man fishing in a pond that you know unequivocally has no
I think if you made traffic lights take even
30 seconds longer to change, that most major cities would burn.
That's how fragile I think our civilization is.
I was asked to write a children's story so I
did. It was titled “Gary The Dragon With Erectile Dysfunction.”
Gentlemen, when at the bar and witnessing a
girl about to sit down be careful of how you say “May I push in
your stool?” If you don't lift your eyebrow just so she might miss
If you're going to stage a protest, make sure
your message is clear. For example, last summer all of the
squirrels in our local woods disappeared. Just packed up and left.
Not one squirrel was seen all summer. This spring they're back. Not
sure what their point was. Fucking squirrels don't know dick about
In fairness to the Pope's decision to
canonize John Paul II, Catholicism did need a Patron Saint of
Covering Up Rampant Pedophilia In The Church.
I sat at the bar listening to her and putting
her words in my pan and swirling them around like some horny 49er
in the hopes of spotting gold.
I realize saying that I don't enjoy burlesque
as much as I do strippers might be as fine a line as saying I like
hookers more than escorts but there it is.
So let me get this straight... Donald
Sterling was caught saying anti-black comments to his half-black
girlfriend and Jay Z was wearing an anti-white medallion while
sitting next to his bleached-her-skin-to-look-more-white wife. How
can average folks deal with their own racial identity issues when
even the racists don't know what they want?
As time passes too many of us are like trees
on the outside but bars of soap on the inside.
I'm alright with the “For he's a jolly good
fellow” part, as redundant as it may be; it's the last bit that has
me a bit skeptical. Nobody?
I'm sure that this makes me a horrible person
but I just love to look at the promo pictures of shitty TV series
that get cancelled after one season. Everyone in the picture
smiling like an asshole, convinced that that they are part of the
next big show.
If you want to ruin a wedding toast, include
some real advice to the groom: “And finally, and most importantly,
always clear your browser history. Never forget. Ever. Not once.”
Half the women in attendance will glare at their husband.
I remember sitting at the edge of the bed
with a good friend. I said “Will this make things weird?” She said
“I certainly hope so.” It forever changed the word. From that
moment on I equated weird with good.
It was just one of those games... three pucks
in a row sailed into the crowd and killed somebody. You know how
Pee Wee hockey gets...
If bombs sounded like mosquitoes then more
people would be swatting at their necks before they died.
The desire to take a good look in the mirror
is usually replaced with a realization that I strongly dislike
Assuming for a minute that birds could use
briefcases, would they? I like the idea of the skies filled with
birds carrying little briefcases. One bird turning to the other in
the nest, grabbing their briefcase and saying “Gotta fly,” before
launching themselves off to work. Occasionally you'd get bonked on
the head by a dropped bird briefcase but then you'd not only get
the enjoyment of rummaging through it quickly before they swooped
down to collect it but the amusement of them giving you the “What
the fuck do you think you're doing?” face.
After reading that 90% of the medical advice
on Wikipedia is incorrect I think it's time to remove the bacon
wrap from my testicles and go see a professional.
Last night there was a huge thunderstorm and
a tree fell into my neighbor’s hot tub, flattening it. In surveying
the damage this morning they looked at me straight-faced and said
“Well, at least no one was hurt.” “Yeah, cause going out in the hot
tub during a freak electrical storm is so commonplace.” I replied.
They stared back. To clarify I said “Yep, you really dodged a
bullet.” They continued to stare as I went back inside.
Of course the thumb is a finger. Otherwise
the middle finger wouldn't be the middle finger. Duh!
I picture a dark raincloud coming over the
mountain and looking at the parched plains lustily and saying
“Where do you want it?”
The defense attorney finished his arguments
by saying “Don't judge lest you yourself be judged.” The judge then
said “Fine, but just so you know... I was going to rule in your
I think it would be fascinating to watch a
very muscular man take a dump in a field.
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
Except she was a spider and one day the owner of the shoe returned
and crushed her to death putting it on.
The time I'm most bewildered by humanity?
When I hear someone calling another human being “His Majesty” or
“His Holiness.” It's just embarrassing. “Hey buddy” would work just
What kind of demented mind writes circus
I want to write a book about finding love
after 50 entitled “Finding The Perfect Mate Amongst All The People
That Nobody Else Wanted.”
While I never give much thought to the
coordination required to dry myself off when it comes time for each
arm to dry the other I will invariably imagine one thanking the
other followed by the second saying “Right back at you señor,” when
it is their turn to wield the towel. I'm not sure why but whenever
my limbs communicate with each other they do it in a heavy Spanish
Men who have lived alone for a long time will
usually start unzipping in the hall and have their dick out before
they even reach the toilet.
Given that Tony the Tiger is the pitchman for
Frosted Flakes, you'd think that there would be chunks of antelope
When I imagine a product being shipped over
to America on an enormous ocean-going freighter and then unloaded
and placed on a giant, yet slightly-smaller train and then placed
in a huge, yet slightly-smaller 18-wheeler and then again in a big,
yet slightly-smaller van I like to finish the thought by picturing
it being delivered to my door by a midget riding a unicycle.
Went to a Phillies game yesterday in an
effort to blend in. As my fellow males debated the finer points of
bunting and the designated hitter I finally offered up “And don't
try and tell me that home plate doesn't give the other bases
attitude.” Cover blown.
If I ever get a talk show I will have my
guests sit on a leather couch on a slightly elevated platform and
I, to show my humility, will sit in a pit of my own filth.
The past is the past. Who you were doesn't
matter. All that matters is who you are now. Who you are at this
very moment. At this very moment I'm a drunk asshole.
All I know is that if I were a pro golfer,
I'd get the oldest and frailest caddy I could find. That way nobody
would worry about my score, they'd all be watching to see if he
made it from hole to hole. Especially since I'd carry 40 clubs in
Whenever I see someone who is pigeon-toed it
reminds me of when I was twelve. When I was twelve I thought I was
Given that the average gorilla weighs 400 lbs
the 800 lb gorilla in the room would be who let the gorilla get so
My friends tried to warn me that buying her a
drink was wasted money. Her on/off switch was an off/really off
If you smile broadly enough, long enough,
people will conclude that you're an asshole.
Is there anything I hate worse than listening
to someone tell me how the child of a famous actor/actress chose to
use a different last name in order to make it “on their own?” As if
they weren't handed roles because they were the child of a famous
actor/actress. As if they earned them and changing their last name
meant anything. They've earned nothing. It was given to them. Is
there anything I hate worse than listening to someone tell me how
the child of a famous actor/actress chose to use a different last
name in order to make it “on their own?” No.
To the rest of the soccer-crazy world ...
just remember that we're using our, at best, fifth-best athletes.
Only after our football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams are
filled do we ever start looking for soccer players. If LeBron James
played soccer all his life, he'd average three goals a game. Just
I think the worst part of being a fish would
be constantly swimming through other fish's pee. You'd never get
the taste out of your mouth.
Don't try and tell me that a unique idea
isn't powerful. It's a unique idea, not an unique idea. It breaks
the rules of English for starters.
Another day wasted trying to teach the dog to
yawn on command. It's just not boring enough for her.
Some days are just frustrating. I'm shooting
this porn where all the girls are flowers and all the men are bees
and we spend the whole movie pollinating and the prop department
just doesn't understand why I need bigger wings.
How do men with beards do it in the summer?
When things heat up their faces must be itchy as hell ... said my
ZZ Top-esque ballsack.
I think if I had only a week to live and
wanted to leave the world a better place I would buy a rifle and
kill all the lawyers who advertise on the Maury Povich Show. I
would probably end up getting a national holiday.
What is it that makes a dog suddenly start
licking its bunghole? Is it the sweet sound that calls the young
The home furniture place near me closed
yesterday. I didn't realize how serious they were about their
liquidation sale until I heard that at the end of the day they
killed all the employees.
I hate when speakers or comedians have a
guitar up on stage with them, as if to say “Look at me. Look at how
talented I am.” If I was good at golf should I interrupt my talk to
drive balls into the crowd?
One-night stands are fun for the same reason
you drive less carefully in a rented car.
It's one thing to catch someone on the
toilet. It's another to catch them wiping.
I can't help think that men would handle
menstruation more efficiently. None of this three to four days of
acting crabby. Perhaps a pop-out uterus that can be hosed off.
Tell-tale cramp. Get the scraper. Done!
There's just something hot about watching a
21 year old girl ride a big wheel.
I once wrote about listening to a neighbor's
kid practice the banjo on his driveway every summer. It's true,
most days it's my favorite part of the day ... walking past the
house and listening. Typically I take a walk each day not so much
to clear my head as refill it. Like a hungry person pushing a
A public speaking tip. Start off by
explaining to your audience that before you underwent hypnosis you
were too terrified to even get up in front of a group of people.
Then laugh and ask that for the next hour that nobody clap three
times. If somebody does, begin to bark.
Writing Tip #8: If you are describing someone
swimming and they are doing well don't say they are doing
swimmingly. Use a different word.
Some people prefer to get into a made bed at
night. As long as the wet spots from the previous evening have
dried I'm good.
The question isn't so much “Do fish sleep?”
as it is “Who gives a shit?”
I was watching a movie where they kept
focusing on a girl's ass and all I could think was “That's where
the poop comes out.”
I wonder how many women are afraid of getting
caught poisoning their husbands so instead have put the 10 year
'saturated fats' plan into effect. “Bratwurst again? Thanks Honey!”
“No problem Dear.” (small smile creeps across her face)
This morning I did an inadvertent magic
trick. I took a crap and then wiped. As I reached back to flush I
looked down and saw the turd sitting on top of the toilet paper.
I don't know how people who live in huts do
it. All the biting insects would drive me crazy. If I were a
caveman I know the second thing that would have been invented.
“Well, that's fire out of the way. Now I can get working on
I just watched something so bad that I
couldn't turn away. Like a traffic accident ... involving
Apparently there is just something about me
that doesn't allow me to eyeball somebody. All I can do is look at
Things that never need to be said at a
Manhattan Bagel at 8 a.m. “Behold my penis and despair!”
I can't imagine anything more horrible than
to be sitting in bed watching TV and having the batteries of the
remote die on you. You sit waving it like some demented conductor
as it's perched there in your hand seemingly mocking you. “Where is
your god now?” You feel like the main character from A Clockwork
Orange, strapped down with your eyeballs held open having to watch
a program that you don't want to watch because the only other
alternative is to get out of bed and find new batteries. Subjected
to a bit of the old ultastupid involving three cows looking for a
wedding dress as their inbred family squabbles amongst themselves.
You take off the back of the remote and wiggle the batteries,
desperate for them to find enough juice to turn the TV off and end
your torment. But that doesn't work. It's like a horror
It's gotten to where my morning fart is equal
parts the crowing of a rooster, a bugle blowing reveille and a
If you tell the truth for a living you are a
comedian. If you lie you are a politician. Sad.
It is now my fondest wish that karaoke be
outlawed across the country. I would walk into bars and taverns
across the land and apply the axe to each machine with the same
zeal that the old abolitionists would have when destroying a barrel
I think I had the same reaction upon hearing
the news of Robin William's suicide as everyone else; “Why? Why?!
Why couldn't it have been Howie Mandel?”
While flipping through channels I came upon
Jimmy Fallon interviewing Carson Daly. Thankfully it was muted but
watching them exchange grins and grimaces it became obvious I had
stumbled on the two least interesting people to have ever walked
the Earth having the least interesting conversation to ever take
place. These are the people that entertain us?
For reasons I can't begin to understand
whenever I see someone driving with their hand out the window and I
watch it move up and down riding the breeze I feel a sense of
why men can't stay faithful
There seems to be this crazy idea
that when the skirts start to get higher on the leg men become less
faithful to their girlfriends/wives. Nothing could be further from
the truth. Let me tell you, even back in the days when it took a
hundred buttons just to get at a woman's breasts men were lining up
for the opportunity. Men have always been unfaithful and will
always be unfaithful. While women are wired to be nest-builders,
men have a genetic predisposition to spread their special sauce to
any buns that make themselves available.
It goes beyond simple explanation. Men
understand that unless their woman just lays there with the
enthusiasm of a Thanksgiving turkey getting stuffed or has a
defective vagina, if they close their eyes they all pretty much
feel the same. Any girl can be the lovely Yvonne Strahovski, even
their non-Strahovski-esque girlfriend/wife.
It's not just the physical act of intercourse
that we desire and women will never be able to understand that
because they are women. You can use any logic you want but at the
end of the discussion they will remain stubbornly and steadfastly
Conquest is hard-wired into us. It's what
makes us men. When Ferdinand Magellan first stepped onto the deck
of the Santa Maria (Santa Maria? Forget it, he's rolling) he felt
more alive than the people who were sending him over to plunder
Incan gold could ever hope to feel. Looking at the horizon, feeling
the wind in his hair, I have no doubts whatsoever that he was
sporting the biggest exploring boner France had ever seen.
That's why it's a common expression that the
sea is a sailor's mistress, and there's never been any sailor who
spent his whole life trolling back and forth over the same patch of
water. He's erecting his sail and going wherever the wind blows
him. Plowing resolutely through the waves of testosterone, plowing
onward, seeing every point of light in the sky as some sort of
North Star imploring him to plow and plow some more. North, south,
whatever the course may be as long as there is plowing
You want to read a short book? Look for one
entitled “Great Female Explorers.” That will be the quickest read
you've ever had. Why? Because back in the exploring heyday there
were no women involved. They stayed in port having songs written
about them. (Am I right, Brandy?) It was too risky for women to be
onboard ocean-going vessels what with their breasts getting tangled
up in the rigging, getting pregnant by pirates and attracting
sharks with their constant menstruating and all. It's a shame
because while men were capable of making their own sandwiches, a
woman would have instinctively added a few orange slices and
cleared up that scurvy nonsense in a flash. They're good like
While I hate to use the term “manly,” the
truth is that exploring is manly stuff. Like plowing. Men are
plowers and women the plowed. Men will be forever driven by
And flag planting. Women kid themselves but
there has to be some part of them that realizes that they are
nothing more than new land to be captured. And plowed.
Perhaps they look at what typically happens
to the indigenous people after men have found their way to a new
shore, and begun their inevitable shenanigans, and feel a little
queasy about giving in to our more carnal urges. Well, they have a
point there. Again, I'm not trying to rationalize our behavior,
just explain it. It rarely works out well for the post-plowed.
It all sounds very seedy but in the end
there's nobody to blame. Our DNA is the puppet master and we dance
on the end of its string. It calls the tunes. And those tunes are
baby-making tunes. When a girl in a short skirt bends over Barry
White starts singing in our heads and there is fuck all we can do
Frankly now that I give it some thought, I'm
a little tired of explaining myself on the topic. Women want some
sort of defense for this caddish behavior and no amount of
scientific data seems to be able to quell their need to blame some
sort of character flaw in men. A character flaw would be never
leaving a penny in the little dish at the 7-11. What we have going
on below the waist demands that we plow our girlfriend/wife on her
Mom's casket at the wake if the opportunity presents itself. Our
girlfriend/wife or any other female in the room that gives us a
wink. Open or closed lid. We will stare right into our Mom’s cold
dead eyes as we ejaculate and think nothing of it. You think we
want to do that?
Want has nothing to do with it.
It's a switch that gets flipped and from that
point on our penis is on auto-pilot.
While it might be argued these urges may be
all that keep a man from cutting off the head of nagging woman, in
the end, if she is not available to be on the receiving end of his
gooey burden, he will simply find the next suitable candidate and
not give it a second thought.
I think a better strategy would be to come up
with more realistic coping mechanisms as opposed to constantly
trying to change us. We might pretend to change for a few days but
in the end our true nature will reveal itself. The salty smell of
the sea will fill our noses and we'll be setting sail to harbors
unknown in search of sweaty adventure.
Lots of plowing.
Walking by a downtown storefront window I see a plaster bust of The
King. Somebody has made him into a table lamp ... but they've made
him silver wings.
It makes me remember (again) an old friend of
mine. The most talented guy I'd ever had the pleasure of knowing.
His complete lack of success had been a big reason I'd lost faith
not only in the music industry but in people in general. Of course,
he'd been aware of his lack of success but he'd be quick to remind
me that I was defining success in a very narrow context. I wanted
to believe it didn't haunt him but I could never bring myself to
My lack of belief amused him.
He would defend The King.
“Maybe he was fat and maybe he was a pervert.
He took pills and drank booze like tea. Maybe that's just the kind
of a cracked-up angel that they'd send for a fool like me.”
And yet ... how could he? His belief
concerned me. How could he believe? Here he was, talent so obvious
it oozed out of him whenever he picked up a guitar and yet he sang
his songs to half-filled rooms of disinterested people. Pearls
Whenever I'd get too worked up he'd tell me
“If you go down to Memphis town and you hear angels sing, you may
see some fat old clown in a velvet crown ... but he may have silver
Again with the pearls before swine. I didn't
get it at the time and I don't get it now but I think that he
believed one day I would. He never seemed to lose faith and I hated
that. That ragged certainty. I raged against it but only because I
was confident I would never put a dent in his armor. It allowed me
a certain license and I took full advantage.
Of course, if you didn't know the whole story
you'd think he was a choirboy and you'd be wrong. After a show we
would walk empty streets drunk and full of life. We would argue
with each other and boast at complete strangers. So young that
remembering it now it seems like it was someone else in my
He was just seemed virtuous to me because he
made me look so petty and self-absorbed by comparison. Maybe I just
felt he was just a better version of myself. Sometimes I thought he
was just like me, except talented, and if he couldn't make it what
chance did I have?
He would sing a phrase that said more than I
could in twenty pages.
“And maybe if my time on earth is over and I
leave this world of pain, remember Manion nothing happens for
nothing ... and I may see you again.”
That shit would haunt me. It made my inside
ache because I could never imagine a world that didn't have him in
it. He had enough faith for both of us and I hated that and I would
use every argument I could muster to tear down his perspective. To
find a chink. I had reason and logic behind me.
He had Elvis.
“Cause maybe there's a patron saint for the
loser, for the queer-birds and the strange. For the junkies and the
boozers ... when it's just too late to change.”
I can still hear him in my head. That voice
that would quiver and hold a note too long. The unnecessary
falsetto and that big foot clomping along in time. Muttonchops that
went on for days.
So here I am down in Memphis walking along
and saying a prayer for him. Listening for angels.
“Manion, I will hover there on Elvis wings
... and pray God's love ... to thee.”
appeared in Psychopomp volume #7 7/29/14)
Few people knew that there was a lower level
to the department store. As the anchor of the mall it sat at the
end lording over all the shoe stores and candle stores and pretzel
vendors and not only was it two stories but it had a lower level as
well. That wasn't the lower level that most people didn't know
about. There was a level underneath that one. A lower lower level.
That was the one that few people were aware of.
Fewer still were aware of the one under that
All told, the store went hundreds of feet
beneath the earth. Most of the levels below the lower lower level
and the one beneath that weren't so much polished floors,
colorfully-dressed mannequins and attractive lighting as caverns.
They got progressively danker the further you went down.
People who ended up exploring these twisting
tunnels in the hopes of finding additional discounts usually ended
up extremely disappointed.
The man who was currently moving through the
darkness had originally set out to find a restroom while his wife
shopped. One thing led to another... and here he was.
Had it been the narrow passage with the
restricted sign and little chain across it or was it the hidden
trap door he'd found on the lower lower level? It was of no
consequence. Now he was here he wanted to find the bottom. One
thought kept repeating itself again and again in his head “There
are good bargains to be had in the deep places of the world.”
He could feel things moving around in the
darkness. He was only twenty minutes removed from the glare of the
mirrored sales counters and his eyes struggled to adapt. In the
distance, how far away he couldn't tell, something dripped.
He switched the bag in his hand from the left
to the right, the weight of the waffle cone maker beginning to make
itself felt, and crouched down to stay balanced as the floor sloped
down more steeply. Finally it opened into a large space, he could
feel it more than see it, and in the middle of the darkness there
were unseen hands loading blackness into black boxes. Tearing away
the shadows and loading them into nothingness.
He went to take a step forward when he heard
a voice and felt an arm blocking his path.
“Don't go in there.”
He turned and his eyes strained to follow the
arm to its source. His nostrils filled with the smell of stale
“Who are you?” the man whispered to the other
end of the arm.
“I'm Gabe. From menswear.”
The words seemed to shake loose gloomy
specters from the walls and they flew crazily around the man's head
for a few moments before buggering off. After he was done ducking
and weaving he saw that Gabe had moved closer to him. He looked
like every homeless man looks, a mixture of mountain man and bad
luck. His clothing was covered in grime and he wore a battered tie
around his head. There was no way of knowing that color the tie had
originally been. His eyes carried a wild gleam and they darted back
and forth as they peered into the darkness behind the man.
They grew wide and the man felt a burst of
“Don't turn around.”
The man did not turn around.
“It's my boss. I've been down here for three
weeks now ... I figured she'd come looking.”
“What is this place Gabe?”
“Not now. Just go back the way you came.
There's nothing for you down here.”
The man moved the waffle cone maker back into
his left hand.
“I'm gonna trust you on this one Gabe,” and
with that the man headed back to find his wife.
occasionally introduce a little truth into my stories in order to
keep them fresh but this tale, I'm sorry to report, is a whole
boatload of true. I'm not sure how to even introduce this story,
that's how true it is.
I awoke in the middle of the night, still
slightly intoxicated I will admit, with some intestinal distress.
Having digested nothing different from the norm that evening my
mind swam as to why I was suddenly get the cold sweats and feeling
the need to relieve myself of some tremendous burden. Without
thinking I rolled to the edge of the bed and stood up, intent on
making the trip to the bathroom and back without getting myself
fully awake. It must have been this combination of stomach trouble
and sleepiness that didn't alert me to the fact that I couldn't
feel either of arms. They were hanging off my body like two dead
That's when I felt the pain. I know you are,
much like myself, sick to death of people comparing some pain to
getting shot but I swear on all that is holy I looked down at my
belly and was completely surprised to see that it was hanging open
as a result of a gunshot wound. It was so obvious that the bullet
had entered my back near my spine and passed through all the
plumbing that a phantom ringing started in my ears. As evidence of
the degree to which I was overcome with pain my legs both buckled
and I crumpled to the floor.
I thought I was dying.
The only thing a reasonable man would do at a
time like that would be to get to a phone and call 911. Being
nothing if not reasonable I attempted to put that very plan into
action when I realized that getting up off the floor without the
use of your arms is damn near impossible. An inhuman cry left my
lips as I tried to flop back on top of my bed like a spawning
salmon but try as I might I couldn't make it happen.
The grudging respect for snakes that was
beginning to grow in my breast was interrupted nearly a dozen times
by the feeling of a large sword being driven through my midsection.
Not a dagger or knife, as sick as of those analogies as you are,
but a great sword. The type usually associated with Vikings and
other men of violence.
I'm being especially descriptive because
these days it seems that what you read and what you get are
sometimes two entirely different things. Take for instance clear
plastic wrap. I usually buy a brand name clear plastic wrap and
when I apply it to some dish that needs to be stuck in the
microwave it clings with the enthusiasm of a drowning person
holding on to a life preserver at sea. Not so the budget clear
plastic wrap I recently procured. It was indeed clear and I assume
that it was some sort of plastic but it didn't have the slightest
inclination to cling to anything. It sat on top of my dish in a
relaxed posture that seemed immune to my attempts to mold it. As
soon as my hands released the pressure it immediately resumed
laying atop the dish in a very lazy, dare I say arrogant, way.
And if I am to be honest here, I am the
closest thing you're going to find to a budget writer. Hence the
need for me to be as clear as I can: it was a great sword that was
being thrusted in and out of my midsection ... not a knife.
It was at this time that I felt certain that
it was curtains for one Lance Manion. Unable to use my arms and
being violated by some ghostly blade I began to sob to myself. I
was now like the salmon you see sluggishly flopping around after it
has delivered its payload and is now coming to terms with its own
mortality. While I am no stranger to looking pathetic, it was
certainly a low point.
And that's when I farted.
I say farted, but it was no mere fart. I had
never, nor will ever, fart like this again. It was more like a
groan escaping my ass. Everything was wide open. From the right
angle you could probably have looked into my ass and seen a little
light from my throat. Papers slowly floated down on the other side
of the room. And then I could feel my arms. And then, as quickly as
it began, the great sword abruptly stopped its assault. All that
was left to remind me of the incident were the tears slowly making
their way down my face and a nose full of snot.
Well, that and the horrified-looking girl
slowly getting out of my bed and collecting her things. No words
were needed. She'd seen everything, which was ironic given that my
first few attempts at finding love were with blind girls.
Apparently I'd misunderstood the expression.
But that's another story.
Mr. Old Fashioned
The dark-skinned girl behind the counter with
eight vowels and only three consonants in her name looked up at me.
I was next. If there was ever a time for finger-pointing it was
now. It was show time.
I had twelve to pick for my morning
presentation and any veteran salesperson will tell you that your
choice of donuts can make or break you. To add to my stress, the
meeting would include both flaky interior designers and hard-boiled
engineers. Two entirely different groups of donut consumers.
“I'll start with three old fashioned.”
Old fashioned donuts represented
fundamentals. The backbone of a good box of donuts.
My eyes crawled back and forth over the
racks. To include a lemon filled donut would be tantamount to
calling the designers a bunch of squealing fairies. Same for the
coconut guava. Anything with sprinkles would probably get me
punched in the mouth by a grizzled engineer.
I had to tread lightly.
“Two more old fashioned.”
You could never go wrong with old fashioned.
Old fashioned donuts are what built this country.
My eyes left the face of the apathetic
counter girl and returned to the sea of choices. I wanted to show
the flair of a glazed apple maple without the cockiness of a
vanilla berry shortcake. My head began to swim a little, the sweet
scent of sugar entwined with the intoxicating odor of coffee
distracting me from my task.
“Actually, give me two more old fashioned
while you're at it.”
They would never see that coming. I was
certain that both the designers and engineers were probably
pummeled on a daily basis by blueberry crumbs, butternuts and
Bavarian kremes. They were probably numb from opening box after box
of brightly colored donuts, half of them with unknown fillings
I felt the customers behind me start to grow
restless. I didn't care. It's a man's world and if I needed a
little more time, I would take it.
“Why don't you throw in another old
fashioned. What's the count up to?”
The girl, without even looking into the box,
said “Eight.” Obviously she was more of a pro than I gave her
credit for. There was no way I would have guessed I was already up
to eight. I wasn't making such bad time after all.
The double chocolate cake was out of the
question. It would stand out amongst the old fashioneds and I'm
sure fate would have it that there would be only one black guy at
the presentation and everyone would wait awkwardly for him to take
it. I'm not sure what I would do if he didn't. I'm not a big
perspiration guy but I would hate to put my deodorant to such a
What if I included one French cruller and I
walked in to find two people wearing berets? Or one dulce de leche
only to find three men sporting bombaches? The donuts that aren't
in the box can be as important as the ones that are.
It had taken me three months to get this
appointment. A lot was riding on it. I had spent forty minutes at
the copy place deciding which paper stock to print my handouts on
and over an hour selecting a tie to wear. If you must know, I had
finally decided on the one that was a parody of Andy Warhol's soup
cans except it featured numerous pictures of Austin Powers.
“You have four more sir.” There was a hint of
exasperation in her tone. I found I was growing to respect the
young lady. I could see myself handling the situation in a very
“Understood. Now let's see...” my voice
trailed off as I was once again faced with a myriad of choices. A
cheeky cocoa confetti poked its head up, the rugged powdered cakes
stood at attention and the iconic jellies all fought for my
attention. I was swimming in the deep end now.
Which to choose? Which ones would add that
“Let me just grab four more old
The girl stuffed the last of the old
fashioneds into the box and then hesitated. She looked up at me. My
eyebrow cocked ever so slightly.
“We have a special today. You get a free
donut with the purchase of a dozen.” I heard a groan from behind
I hadn't planned on this contingency. The
girl took out a small bag, obviously designed for a single
passenger, and glanced at me expectantly.
I think we all know which donut I selected. A
reverse Boston kreme. They're my favorite simply because the name
is steeped in sexual innuendo. I could hear someone saying it as a
punchline. If that makes me an old fashioned guy then so be it.
“A reverse Boston kreme please,” I said with
a small laugh.
I gave the counter girl a little wink, paid
my bill and headed off to the big meeting.
Miss Ham and Eggar
It was somewhere in her mid-thirties that
Dana Eggar gave up on her dream of meeting someone special,
settling down and raising a family. It was also about this time
that she completely devoted herself to teaching.
She had been a 5th grade teacher at Walcott
Elementary for the last 12 years but it was only in the last few
that she had really hit her stride. She was easily the most liked
teacher amongst the student population and the parents had no
issues driving their children over to her house once a month for
her notoriously fun “popcorn parties.” The simple fact was that the
parents trusted her completely for the best of reasons. She
sincerely loved the kids and her affection was returned.
Students who came back from junior high and
the local high school even felt comfortable enough around her to
call her by the name that the younger kids whispered and giggled
out of her earshot… Miss Ham and Eggar. The nickname went all the
way back to her own elementary years but she would never admit that
to her former pupils and take away their pride of thinking that
they coined it themselves.
It was midday and the children were running
around on the playground behind the school. As she sat and watched
her charges scamper around she realized that she enjoyed recess as
much as any of them. These were the moments where the solitude left
She never understood why she never found Mr.
Right. She was not an unattractive woman and she had both wit and a
nurturing nature. Many nights as she laid in her bed staring at the
ceiling she wondered if that was perhaps exactly why she slept
alone. There was something good about her that made a man feel bad
about not giving her the love and devotion she so obviously
deserved so they usually ran for the hills. She had dated but it
was rare that she made it more than a few dates when the man would
get a “shit or get off the pot” feeling that he normally didn’t
feel around other women. She both laughed and cried about this
warped male radar that had driven away so many interesting
So she poured herself into her students.
It was a nice day and only a few clouds hung
in the sky. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the sun on
her face. A light breeze moved over the pavement like a sigh.
She couldn’t help but watch the kids playing
four square. For some reason they took this game very seriously and
the social order often times revolved around which child could
dominate this seemingly innocuous game played with a red rubber
ball. Despite the occasionally heated arguments over whether a ball
was in or out Miss Eggar found it a lot less worrisome than the
dodge ball games that used to have the red rubber ball bouncing off
of faces and groins and seemingly requiring her constant medical
opinions on everything from scrapes to contusions.
Let them argue all they want about who is in
and who is out. If they didn’t bleed then it was a step in the
right direction as far as she was concerned.
Today’s game was particularly well attended
and there was a line of boys and girls shifting their weight from
one foot to the other anxiously as they waited their turn to get
into the first square and show off their ball-slapping prowess.
As it was almost noon the sun was nearly
overhead. As she watched the children there was something gnawing
away at the back of her mind. Something wasn’t right but she had no
idea what it could be.
Something seemed a little off about the
It started to annoy her. What was it about
these kids playing four square that had her intellect annoyed? She
laughed and made the analogy to herself that it was as if she was
looking at a Where’s Waldo picture but she
had neither the time or interest to actually look for him.
She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the
It had stopped.
She opened her eyes again and suddenly found
the cause of her anxiety.
Some the kids were casting long shadows while
some of them cast very small ones.
She wanted to laugh it off but when she
started to look closer she even noticed that some of the children
had shadows that went in the opposite direction of the child next
A few of them cast two distinct shadows.
She wanted the breeze back.
Her mind raced for explanations. Her mouth
had gone dry even though she had no idea what this could even mean
and appeared to pose no visible threat to her class. It had to be
some weather phenomena that would easily be explained by a science
She felt the protective side of her
personality coming forward with surprising force.
She saw a few shadows racing around,
seemingly playing happily, that had no corresponding person to cast
Recess needed to be over.
She fumbled for the whistle in her pocket and
At her own shadow.
The shadow that had one arm up.
Waving back at her.
Caesar can't sling the batter
(first appeared at
www.herecomeseveryone.me Boy/Girl issue 8/16/2014)
For some people the world around them and the
world they live are distinctly different places. Such was the case
for Caesar. Born Brad, he changed his name to sound more exotic. He
would be the first to admit that he liked the name Caesar because
it sounded like “seize her.”
Unfortunately there was a distinct lack of
“seizing” going on in his life so he was forced to “seize” himself
from time to time.
Which drove his wife crazy.
She hated the idea of him pleasuring himself
to other women on the internet and felt that it was a direct
violation of the wedding vows. Numerous times she would feel that
he had been in the other room tossing one off and they would end up
in a brawl as he denied everything. She would feel hurt and he
would pretend to be insulted at the very idea that he would resort
to masturbating to images of women he would never meet.
If you remember the opening line of this
story you'll understand that Caesar wasn't being quite honest.
There was a part of him that felt closer to these women than he did
to most of his friends. How could he ever feel intimacy with people
that still called him Brad?
One night his wife had had enough. She lay in
bed waiting for him deep into the night. She heard familiar
rustlings in his den and suspected that he was up to his old tricks
so she decided a bold move was required. When he walked in she sat
up in bed pretending to be feeling amorous and offered him a
Caesar had a problem.
He had indeed been up to no good in his den
and he was suddenly in a gunfight with no bullets. Obviously he
couldn't pretend that he wasn't in the mood. Every man is always in
the mood for a blow job. He was going to have to call her
He walked forward with a large grin on his
face. He expressed his enthusiasm for her little scheme.
This startled her. It was not the reaction
she expected. Had she been wrong about the rustlings?
Had he been playing her all along with the
ol' fake masturbation ruse?
It was too late to back down now. She hopped
out of bed and assumed the position in front of him.
Caesar, suddenly feeling very Brad, suddenly
got the feeling you get when you pull into your favorite restaurant
only to find it closed. It will make you suddenly feel two things
at once. No amount of desire for pancakes will turn on the lights
in the establishment nor get the chef back behind the grill.
He pressed his face against the glass and
wondered how long it would be until it was open.
His wife was wondering something very similar
as his member hung limply before her.
She looked up at him.
He looked down at her.
Then a smile slowly started to creep across
his wife's face.
“Something wrong?” she inquired.
Truth be told, if you've just had a meal of
pancakes the last thing you want is more pancakes. He looked back
at the empty parking lot and up at the huge sign that usually was
brightly lit and offering up the daily specials. Sometimes it
helped to undo the top button of your pants when you're faced with
a second meal but in this case the pants were not only unbuttoned
but resting comfortably around his ankles.
“Admit it. Admit that you were just whacking
it,” his wife said as her smile began to evaporate.
His response required some delicacy as his
soft member was now being clutched in the formidable hand of his
The distance between where they were and
where he was was getting further. Any time the word was appears
twice in a row you know it's a bad sign.
He looked through the door into the darkened
restaurant and hoped that a key would suddenly appear to slide into
the lock and allow the phantom personnel to take their rightful
place behind the griddle and start slinging the necessary
But none appeared. Pancakes just don't work
His wife, growing tired of waiting for an
apology, explanation or alibi, eventually stormed out of the room.
He banged on the window of the closed establishment then threw up
his hands to the stars and cursed fate. The only other sound being
the buzzing of the obligatory flickering streetlight a few hundred
yards away or maybe it was a mile. It's always hard to tell in
Brad, his pants still down, shuffled off to
find his wife.
House the house
When I tell people that I have a dull house
they assume I am talking about the grey paint color on its
They are wrong, but understandably so. You
see, apparently I'm a “house whisperer” and I'll be the first to
admit that it is a gift you really don't want to go around
advertising. When people ask if by dull I mean the paint I nod and
say “Yes. The paint color. That's exactly what I mean.”
But it's not.
I say it's dull because houses do not have
senses of humor. I learned that the hard way. I asked my dwelling
if nails hurt. The heat shut off for two days and I almost got
My house talks to me through the heating and
cooling ducts. Any time they are in use my house talks to me. The
air passing through the vents allows it to take on a whispering
tone and it's easy for me to see where a lot of haunting legends
got their start.
I wish it were that easy.
Most of our chats are dull and revolve around
mundane topics but occasionally we'll get involved in a deep
conversation that goes on for hours. Last summer we had a debate
about consciousness that went on the better part of an entire
afternoon and by the end of it I could see my breath and the
windows were covered in frost.
One of the downsides of engaging an entity
that has to communicate through air conditioning.
The house was telling me, in much greater
detail than was necessary, that humans and most other animate
objects have a very strong bias against the inanimate. A bias that
stops them from understanding that consciousness rubs off, that was
about as scientific as the house could phrase it, when the animate
and inanimate spend enough time in close proximity.
I wouldn't have believed a word of it weren't
for the fact that those words were coming up from the vents of my
Whether it is a tree fort or a ship, it's not
the lack of trying that stops these objects from talking. It's only
that humans don't pay any attention.
I argued that a conclusion like that sounded
very arrogant and my heat shut off and didn't come on again for a
week despite my endless fiddling with the thermostat and shaking my
fist at the walls.
When people tell me that their heating and
cooling systems are temperamental, I only laugh and say “You have
My domicile has never answered, to my
satisfaction anyway, why it is that it can turn the air and heat on
and off at will but can't be bothered to lock the doors after I
leave, strobe the lights a little when I'm listening to my Saturday
Night Fever CD or open the garage when it sees me pull in.
“Get a garage door opener,” is its only
How does a house even keep up with such
I once asked my abode if houses are scared of
dying. It answered that it feared the wrecking ball the same way I
feared a heart attack, which led me to ask if hotels have one
consciousness or each room has its own. I asked because I suddenly
had that footage of an old casino being imploded in Las Vegas run
through my head and I wondered if behind the noise of the explosion
a thousand rooms wailing away and crumbling into non-existence
sounded in any way like a thousand bubbles bursting at once.
I later found out that each room does indeed
have a unique personality, as I spent a sleepless night at a Best
Western listening to schizophrenic suites bicker among
“Do houses in France speak French?” I once
queried. That's how I first knew that houses had no sense of humor.
I marched around using my best French accent for the next half hour
and didn't get one snicker. Perhaps it's related to the fact that
houses don't perceive things as right or wrong, only sound and
unsound ... although it did admit that it enjoyed a good coat of
new paint now and again and that when I cranked up Lou Reed's “Walk
On The Wild Side” it made its pipes drip.
I told it that the song has the same effect
Common ground is important when you're living
inside something else. Perhaps it will remember that little moment
we shared and decide to turn the air back on soon.
It's been off since I asked it “If a man's
home is his castle, are castles stuck up?”
No sense of humor at all.
Porn World: The Movie Pitch
The chimpanzee and dolphin are the only other
animals that have sex just for fun.
They are also among the
most highly evolved. What does that say about sex?
Angelo was certain of only one thing in his
life. He was not getting enough. His wife, although physically
attractive, had never in the fifteen years of their marriage
instigated sex. In fact, she treated the matter with the same
enthusiasm she had for getting the oil changed in the car.
A necessary evil.
Not Angelo. All around him he saw sexuality.
Behind the facade of daily interactions loomed sex. Insinuated,
implied and injected into everything.
It could drive a red-blooded man like Angelo
Perhaps it did, because one day he woke up in
Porn World. He should have realized that things were different when
his wife rolled over and said a string of the filthiest things he'd
ever heard. No small feat given Angelo's favorite website was
thefilthiestthingsyouveeverheard.com. His wife threw off her
clothes and did all the things he thought she'd never do.
And then she showered and went to work
without so much as a look back.
Angelo smiled, rolled out of bed and got
dressed. He brushed, flossed and went to the refrigerator for a
glass of orange juice. He was interrupted by a knock at the door
and when he opened it he was greeted by a buxom young lady asking
if there was any way she could convince him to buy some magazine
Any possible way.
Moments later Angelo was violating her in
such a way that he ended up with not only a 2-year subscription to
Rolling Stone but also six months of Field & Stream. After what
she did to him, an act more appropriately done in a field than on a
kitchen counter, it seemed only fair.
After she left he tucked his shirt in and, in
a bit of a daze, made the short drive to the building where he
worked. He wasn't halfway to the front door when he spied a young
woman trying unsuccessfully to change a flat tire. Feeling pretty
good about things Angelo sauntered up and offered his assistance.
After making short work of throwing on the spare the woman was so
grateful that she immediately dropped to her knees and polished his
knob with a ferocity that left him frozen to the spot for a full
five minutes after she drove off.
He wasn't in his office five minutes before
his secretary walked in with the strangest look on her face. And a
short skirt and fishnet stockings and heels that must have been at
least five inches. He'd always had a crush on her but in the eight
years she'd work for him she'd never shown him the slightest
interest. She dropped the legal pad she was carrying and when she
bent over to pick it up Angelo noticed she wasn't wearing any
panties. She looked back at him and asked if he liked what he
When he entered her she let out with a moan
that had dust falling from every ceiling on the block followed by a
whimper that had dolphins beaching themselves miles away. Just
before he erupted she spun around and greedily swallowed up his
She closed the door behind her as she
Angelo slumped back in his leather desk chair
and wondered if he was dreaming. He lazily looked out the window
and a small smile crept across his face. It didn't feel like any
dream he'd ever had. He continued to stare out of the window awhile
before he noticed a woman in the next building staring at him.
Her skirt bunched up around her waist and her
enormous breasts swaying as her hand disappeared rhythmically
between her thighs.
Angelo decided to get some air and slowly
backed out of his office. And into the new UPS delivery woman
wearing short shorts and a brown halter top. She immediately
launched into barrage of sexual innuendo involving deliveries, each
punctuated with her licking her lips. Angelo made a quick excuse
and dashed out into the street. Flustered he half-walked, half-ran
down to his favorite coffee place to collect himself. He walked in
to find the usually-busy establishment empty except for the girl
behind the counter. The very young and very hot girl behind the
counter. Without asking what he wanted, she held a can of whipped
cream between her heaving breasts and shot some into her open
Angelo turned and ran back to his car. On the
frantic drive back home he was caught speeding by a gorgeous female
police officer and forced to perform a breathtaking variety of
sexual acts to get off without a ticket.
He was forced to circle the block twice
before the voluptuous woman from the electric company standing at
his door finally went away and allowed him to get safely inside his
house. For the next hour he crouched down to avoid answering the
door as a dizzying array of visitors made their way his door.
Finally he heard keys jingling in the door
and went to greet his wife.
And her friend Patty. Patty, the six foot
Amazonian beauty that worked with his wife. The woman he had
secretly lusted over for years.
The woman who was now standing in front of
him with a smirk on her face.
“You know that one thing you always wanted me
to try ...” his wife began.
Angelo screamed so loud that he actually woke
He lay in the bed covered in sweat, his heart
racing. Finally, after blinking comically a few times, he sighed a
lazy sigh and realized that despite the panic he had recently felt
he still maintained one hell of a large erection.
He leaned over to his wife and touched her
Angelo smiled and rolled over. He was
the tough questions
Sometimes a man must ask himself the tough
questions. Face the music. Unfortunately for me, that music is the
theme song from Jeopardy and suddenly Alex Trebek is sitting in
front of my id, ego and super ego.
Before I plunge into the meat of this, let me
give you a quick review of the id, ego, and super ego. Without that
basic knowledge, you won't be able to imagine how the three
versions of myself would be dressed. As much as I'd like to believe
that the people who read Lance Manion are doing so during a small
break in their typical day of unraveling the mysteries of the
universe in their lab at M.I.T., I am realistic enough to know that
most of you have a Big Gulp in your other hand and you're listening
to your iPod, loaded with a collection of Queen songs done on the
banjo at the same time you're reading this.
I'm not thrilled with this reality but the
truth is I love the part where it goes “Bismillah! No, we will not
let you go... twang twang twang” just as much as you do.
The id, ego, and super ego are the three
parts of Sigmund Freud's model of the human psyche. The id is made
up of our basic instincts. Our unconscious desires. Our primal
impulses. The id is the reservoir of our libido. There is no right
or wrong in the id.
That stuff is handled by the super ego. This
is the repository of all the rules and morality we've been taught.
The super ego demands perfection and is better known in
psychological circles as “the party pooper.”
Acting as the mediator between these two
forces is the ego. The ego is all about balance. The ego tries to
give the id a little of what it wants without having the super ego
get all pissy about it. Realism rules the day as far as the ego is
Armed with this information, you may now
proceed to imagine the three versions of myself standing there
behind our podiums, buzzers in hand.
And the categories are:
“Bad decisions I have made.”
“Things that I am embarrassed about.”
“Things I am ashamed of.”
“Things that if anybody knew I'd be
And finally... “Things that if anyone knew
I'd be incarcerated.”
You'll note that there isn't a category
titled “Things I would take back.” Maybe that's why I hate this
game so much. All the categories might as well be “Things that are
wrong with me.” I'm not even half way through “Things I am ashamed
of” and the audience has transformed into the frothing crowd of
ignoramuses that make up the Jerry Springer Show. They are calling
for my blood and the whole time my id is laughing and flipping them
off and my super ego is being held back by my ego because all he
wants to do is punch my id in the face.
By the time the words “'Things that if anyone
knew I'd be incarcerated' for $500” have left the mouth of Alex
Trebek, he has sprouted enormous twisted horns and has cloven feet
and a barbed tail. Even my id doesn't seem to have the intestinal
fortitude to buzz in with the answer.
And the whole time I'm desperately looking
for the “Things I would change” category but it's not there and the
game keeps going on and on and my id keeps building his lead
because although they all know the answers to the questions,
neither of the other two want to say them aloud. The ego was
hanging in there for awhile but once the real stuff started to come
out he gets all pale and looks like he needs some air.
Then comes Final Jeopardy and Alex has huge
bat wings and tusks jutting out of his dripping maw and the
audience is a choir of demons and the word “jeopardy” starts to
echo in my head with such ferocity that I can barely make out the
But I do.
And my ego, in a last desperate attempt to
win, bets it all as the music builds to a crescendo.
What would your answer be?
so much for high society
Life is absurd enough without the added
indignity of having to give people respect for things that are just
plain stupid. There are so many things that have been created for
the sole reason of allowing some people to feel superior to others
that it's all I can do not spend my entire writing energies listing
them on a daily basis.
In the interest of my time and your painfully
short attention span let me give you a few brief examples.
Professional wine tasters.
What a bunch of pretentious dickwads. Get a
fucking real job. Dig a ditch for fuck's sake.
If you want to pollute your body with alcohol
go right ahead. I do it all the time. Knock yourself out, just
don't drive into my house at the end of the evening, but to sit
there and try to make a profession of tasting wine ...? Are you
fucking kidding me?
I'm not saying that every winery shouldn't
have a guy at the end of the line taking a swig every now and then
to make sure it still tastes like wine and something didn't go
horribly wrong, but to pretend that you're somehow “cultured”
because you swirl it around in your glass and sniff it before you
start chugging it down is just embarrassing. When
otherwise-intelligent adults start talking about how the bouquet is
“impish” I want to smack them in the mouth.
It's a drink. Drink it and shut the fuck
There are dogs that can smell cancer, if you
want to put your super-cool taste buds to work learn how to gargle
pee and tell if the person has a urinary tract infection.
That's a constructive occupation. That would
be contributing to the greater good.
Wine tasting is something invented by people
with empty lives to try to somehow feel “classy”.
The same goes with the morons who claim to be
cigar aficionados. You do realize that cigars cause mouth cancer,
lip cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, esophagus cancer, larynx
cancer and lung cancer right? That in addition to heart, lung and
gum diseases. You are literally judging something that will kill
“I particularly like the way this bullet
feels as it passes through my head. It leaves a nice clean
It's one more way for empty people to pretend
to be better than others. They want to take something that is
painfully self-destructive and somehow spin it into something
It's like starting an exclusive club to taste
various household cleaning products.
“Mr. Clean has a nice clean finish ... now if
you'll excuse me I feel a little lightheaded. I think I'll retire
to a nearby hospital and writhe in agony.”
A subscription to a magazine that rates
cigars is the best way I know of to tell the world that you are a
completely vapid, soulless douche. They should sell the subscribers
list to those in need of organs. You know who you see enjoying a
lot of expensive cigars? Lawyers. Enough said.
I'm not as angry as I no doubt sound but
sometimes I feel like I'm living in Bizarro World when I see the
time and money people invest in such dumbfuckery. Celebrities and
politicians and yuppies loitering in cigar bars with literally
nothing better to do with themselves than to sit there puffing
themselves to death.
And everyone else buys into it. How
glamorous. An entire industry built on self-importance. There are
people that think that snorting buffalo semen would be the height
of sophistication if they saw Rush Limbaugh doing it.
Even when these dipshit cigar smokers
eventually get face cancer and we all have to absorb the cost of
“I bet they get the coolest rooms at the
You'll notice I used quotation marks when I
said “cultured” and “classy”. That's because these are made-up
words that don't mean dick. If you are worried about being either
you are wasting the precious moments of your life on nonsense.
Wake the fuck up. Don't buy in. It's all
bullshit. There are real and very valid reasons that other people
are better than you.
Or do you keep tugging on this thread and
watch the whole sweater come apart?
Jameer shook his head and decided to go through it all again, to
see if he could make any more sense of it than the imprevious
attempts had provided. Imprevious was a word he'd come up with as
he thought things over. A previous thought that seemed impervious
to reason resulted in imprevious.
If he doesn't recognize someone that knows
him it means that the relationship that that person thought he or
she had with Jameer wasn't the relationship he or she had with
Ok, so far so good.
It takes two to have a relationship and if
one of those two parties doesn't have the same impression of the
relationship, or doesn't acknowledge it the first place, it
basically invalidates the relationship.
Thinking the word relationship so many times
began to make his head hurt. Did it have to have four
One more problem with relationships.
So if that person had a relationship that
turned out to be different than he or she thought, doesn't that
bring into question not only their decision-making ability but all
of the relationships that they had up to that time?
There was an expression that seemed
appropriate to support that last contention, something about a
house built on sand, but Jameer couldn't come up with it.
Jameer began to walk around squinting his
eyes and rubbing his head much like the way he imagined a dog would
at the onset of rabies.
Originally this line of thinking had him
feeling bad for the person he didn't remember. As they walked away
he felt a pang of grief over their sorry state that bordered on
embarrassment. But there was something else eating at him.
So he started to think it through a bit
“So if that person had a relationship that
turned out to be different than he or she thought, doesn't that
bring into question not only their decision-making ability but all
of the relationships that they had up to that time?”
“It takes two to have a relationship and if
one of those two parties doesn't have the same impression of the
relationship, or doesn't acknowledge it the first place, it
basically invalidates the relationship.”
Also his words. Why did his words always seem
to include the word relationship so damn many times?
“Takes two to tango.”
That wasn't his. That came from a 1952 Pearl
Bailey song but the inference was clear. If the poor bastard
slinking away was worthy of a cringe of embarrassment, then surely
there should be a sprinkling of embarrassment left over for
Embarrassment. Another damn four syllable
word. He thought it was only four-letter words that were supposed
to be trouble. Wrong again.
The saying about a house built on sand had
something to do with a bad foundation. It was coming back to him
now. The foundation would be subject to erosion and thus made it a
dubious investment. He now feared it wasn't a house built on sand
that should be his primary concern. It was looking more and more
like it was a house of cards, built on whatever substrate he chose,
that was his problem. For every person who thought there existed a
relationship with Jameer that, when staring into the cold light of
reality, turned out not to be a relationship at all it was like
taking one card away from the base of Jameer's house.
And one was it all it needed to falter and
fold and flop into an impromptu game of 52 pickup.
An outside observer of Jameer would note he
seemed only moments away from a frothing mouth.
So because he didn't recognize someone from
his past he now has to go back and re-evaluate every relationship
he's ever had? Is that what he was trying to tell himself? He liked
to think that he led a logical life but if this is where logic was
leading him he wondered what was the worst that could happen if he
decided to take a sharp right and follow the path of least
George Carlin noted “It takes two to tango.
Sounds good, but simple reasoning will reveal that it only takes
one to tango. It takes two to tango together, maybe, but one person
is certainly capable of tangoing on his own.”
The words tango and tangled seemed
intertwined to Jameer ... which in itself was ironic.
Jameer thought that perhaps ol' George was
right. He didn't have to abandon reason after all. He just had to
stop thinking it takes two to get tangled. Let that other stranger
walk away and don't give them a second thought.
Jameer continued his day.
“You never find yourself until you face the
truth.” Another Pearl (Bailey) of wisdom.
tragedy plus time
Two wannabe-comedians were sitting at the
bar at The Comedy Store, hoping to get a few minutes on stage and
drinking. Not enough to get sloppy, just enough to want to be
“Fat girls don't jog. They plod,” the tall
The short one didn't laugh but gave a
“Funny. But mean. Especially considering that
somewhere there is a fat girl debating whether or not to start
jogging. That joke may convince her otherwise.”
The tall one mulled it over. “Do you really
think that a joke can affect people like that?”
“But that's only if the joke is heard,” the
tall one said darkly.
“Agreed.” The short one ordered another
drink. It was getting very late and it appeared that neither of
them would be getting any time.
After a long pause it was the short one's
turn to speak. “I’m guessing water balloon fights in Antarctica can
get pretty brutal.”
“Not bad. The audience has to think about it
a bit... but not bad.”
“Cerebral is in right now.”
“Think so? Ok, here's one then... if you set
out to catch two rabbits, you'll catch neither. Honestly, if you
set out to catch one you're not going to get one either. Rabbits
are really fast. Perhaps set out to catch something else.”
Honestly, I'm getting sick of referencing the
two wannabe-comedians as the tall one and the short one. It makes
no difference at all. There are two comedians talking, figure out
which one is saying what yourself.
“I'm not sure that observation will work. You
want them to think, not spend time in deep thought.”
“The expression ‘killing two birds with one
stone’ must have a much darker connotation when birds say it.”
“There you go again. I think it's safer just
to make fun of people. People can relate to it. It's quick and
It was obvious they both had more jokes to
tell but they spent a few minutes silently sorting through them to
try and come up with a funny one that didn't have a cruel
“Ok. I have another bird one. In a scene
reminiscent of a bird feeding her young, I watched a mother feed
her baby. Actually, the scene was almost identical. Perhaps I
should involve the authorities.”
He sat back waiting for feedback.
“Nope. Too long. An observation that long
better be particularly funny.”
“Really? I really like that one. I can
picture it in my head.”
“I'm telling you ... pull that one out and
you're going to hear crickets.”
More drinks were ordered.
“Let me tell you one that would suffer the
same fate. What do I do with my free time? I like to walk around in
the woods wearing giant plaster Bigfoot feet, except I put another
set of normal sneakers on top of them. Anyone who examines the
prints closely enough will wonder to themselves ‘Why? What are the
Yeti playing at?’”
It might be helpful at this juncture to note
that they were both starting to get fuzzy as it became apparent
that they weren't going to be getting anywhere near a microphone
and would soon be headed back to their small apartments alone.
“You see what I mean? When you finally figure
it out it's funny but I can't exactly stop the show for five
minutes and let people sort it out. It's a shame though...”
“Yep. Once you picture wearing a set of
normal shoes over the enormous plaster Bigfoot feet it's kind of
“Ok, I got one. I would watch a Clown Winter
Olympics just for the 30 Man Bobsled event. Picture it... come
on... 30 of them piling into the bobsled... their giant red shoes
trying to find traction on the ice... the medal winners crowding on
“I got you. Funny stuff.”
But he didn't laugh. Neither of them had
actually laughed out loud at anything that was said. They were
laughing or not laughing on the inside. Where all wannabe-comedians
who are soon to be headed back to small apartments alone laugh.
“The worst part about the number of illegal
immigrants? George Lopez keeps getting new shows.”
“Now that's funny.”
“Is there a dumber expression than ‘It goes
without saying??’ Instead there should be a long pause where
everyone thinks to themselves ‘It went without saying.’”
Inside both men was the belief that they
belonged on that stage. The unwavering conviction that they were
funny and could make an audience laugh. That they could relate.
That they could translate. Distill all their anger and
disappointment into a viable product.
“Don't let them fool you. Switching from
vinyl to CDs had nothing to do with sound quality. With records you
could control the RPM, with CDs you're forced to listen at the
speed The Man wants you to.”
The other man leaned back and you could
almost hear him swishing the observation around in his head like
wine in a glass. Thinking through the bouquet.
“Whenever I hear about somebody with sausage
fingers I can't help but imagine how harrowing it must be for them
to pet a dog.”
“Yep. Not only a funny visual but you're back
at making fun of fat people. That seems to be your wheelhouse.”
“I guess the only thing left to ask is this
... is it too soon for Philip Seymour Hoffman jokes?”
Had there been any other wannabes or real
comedians in earshot they would have no doubt leaned in for the
answer to this question.
“What was it Woody Allen said? ‘Comedy is
tragedy plus time?’ I'd give it at least another few weeks.”
“Woody Allen didn't say that first you know.
It was actually Steve Allen... 30 years before Woody. That quote
gets a lot of miles. Carol Burnett, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, they
were all quoted as saying something similar.”
“I find it more ironic coming from Woody.
From a movie called Crimes and
Misdemeanors no less. A comedian who's nailing his
step-daughter talking about tragedy. You can't write that
“What a dirtbag. Literally the lowest of the
“I hope he gets colon cancer. I would make
fun of it the very day he got his diagnosis.”
“If he offered you a part in one of his
movies would you take it?”
goes a bit in and out some days. Some days that's a good thing.
Most days I'd go crazy if I was fully able to understand just how
old I am. How much of my life is behind me. In the ol' rear
So I sit here and allow myself to drift away.
I usually drift to the same spot.
Watching the movie Braveheart together. I don't know why fate would have
my returning to that particular moment, perhaps fate is a cruel
SOB. It was almost as though she saw something coming that I
didn't. I thought everything was great and everything would
continue to be great.
It's hard to tell these days.
I don't remember the exact scene that caused
her to say what she said. I just remember what she said. I realize
it's frustrating to listen to a story that has so many holes in it
but you'll just have to try and follow along as best as you can. I
could fill in the gaps with a load of made-up stuff but in the end
I don't think that would do anything to help the story along. Maybe
you will fill in the holes with stuff a lot more interesting than
what actually happened.
She took my hand and looked at me and said
“One day, when you're in a similar spot, I'll come back. I'll be
there.” I think it was in response to the love interest in the
movie returning to Braveheart. It might have been when he was
getting his head lopped off. “Fat lot of good it did him then,” you
might think to yourself but if memory serves me right, which it
rarely does these days, he was glad to see her nonetheless.
Some days I can't remember my birthday but I
remember those words as if they were spoken yesterday.
She left me soon after.
I guess a lot of people claim to have found
love multiple times in their life, and I don't want to sound like
I'm judging them, but I believe that if you've found love multiple
times then you've never actually found it. You just have a lot of
fools' gold piled up in your heart. There are those that enjoy
poetry and there are those that prefer to follow the exploits of
the man from Nantucket. Something along those lines.
She was it for me. My one love.
I found out the hard way that not every
street runs both ways.
That was over fifty years ago.
First the Nantucket reference and then the
street thing, I hope you'll forgive an old man his metaphors. It
seems to take the sting out a bit when I use them. Of course, I
wouldn't trade this ache for the world. It's one of only two
mementos I have of her. The other is a faded picture I keep in a
tattered copy of Still Life With
Woodpecker. When you're my age everything you own is either
faded or tattered.
Even your memories.
So she left and I carried on and lived a
life. Wondering, of course, how many people could see that there
was something different about me. If anyone could tell that I had
loved and lost. It only occurred to me that nobody cared when I
realized that I wasn't looking at anyone else with any particular
interest. We all lead out lives as if we are the stars of some
cosmic sitcom when it reality there's just too many of us on the
planet for everyone to have their own show.
Two months ago I had a stroke. It was very
touch and go and I spent six weeks in a coma. Actually, I'm not
sure if it was officially a coma. I'm unclear about a lot of the
medical definitions that I hear thrown around these days, all I
know is that I was asleep for a long time. My insurance is good so
they were happy to keep me alive by whatever means necessary.
It was the nurse that told me about my
frequent visitor. Having no family it perplexed me to no end. I
wondered who it was that had bothered to pop in to have a look at
me laying there. It wasn't until that same nurse caught me staring
at the picture of my lost love that the riddle was solved.
“That looks like her,” she said and then
added “about a hundred years ago” with a chuckle.
As if that wasn't enough, when I went to slip
the picture back into the book I noticed that there was a part
circled in black ink:
“I'm an outlaw, not a hero. I never intended
to rescue you. We're our own dragons as well as heroes, and we have
to rescue ourselves from ourselves.”
I'd be lying if I told you my head didn't
swim a little reading that. Why that line when there was a
perfectly good “The only question is how to make love stay” only
pages away? I'm too damn old to figure it out. If you're looking
for some brilliant analogy from a man wearing an adult diaper
you've come to the wrong place.
Still, it's nice to know she stopped by.
The steady drumming of the rain on the roof threatened to lull me
into a sense of melancholy. Nothing is more dangerous than a
melancholy writer sitting in front of a blank page. Rain has been
responsible for some of the worst prose on the planet. One minute
you're perched in front of your screen hell bent on giving the
world a taste of your acerbic wit and the next you're calling
Luckily a small raindrop clinging to the
window ledge caught my eye. While all around it there was
gratuitous dripping and streaking going on, this little devil just
clung. Slowly getting larger but obviously not getting enough water
to force gravity into making it plunge off the window to join its
damp comrades on the roof on the way to the water spout and then,
eventually I guess, the ocean.
Damn that melancholy. I can feel its
influence even now. Just look at that sentence. A Manion not caught
in its melancolyish embrace would never have let his
apparently-not-as-acerbic-as-imagined imagination wander like
Watching it grow I noticed a little white dot
in its center. Obviously some side effect of refraction or some
other scientific tomfoolery. As I watched it get larger the white
dot took on the shape of a white square and then a tiny white TV
And then I saw the little girl from
Poltergeist sitting in front of the little
white dot with her hands pressed against it.
For those of you young enough not to remember
Poltergeist, or too old to remember much
of anything outside of reading your daily Lance Manion prose
(“stories” for those of you in a non-raining locale), or even too
cultured to have watched a bad horror movie back in 1982, the movie
had a scene where a little girl was able to communicate with the
dead through her television set. Or at least I think that was the
Suddenly there was a somebody with their
hands pressed against the TV screen in the raindrop but it wasn't
the little girl anymore.
It was me.
Slowly the raindrop gathered up some
surrounding H2O and continued to expand. It threatened to get too
big and drip away.
I stared more intently at it. I committed to
You know what I mean. There are times that
you are doing something either too dumb or too embarrassing to let
go and get into it for fear of someone seeing you. Like flying.
Like when you take the garbage out and, convinced nobody is looking
out their window at you from next door, you take a few running
steps and try to fly.
I'm not going to tell you about my flying
incident for fear you won't believe me or, even worse, try it
yourself. The last thing I need is a sky cluttered up with
Anyway, I stared at myself staring at the TV
and tried to make out what was going on in the static behind my
Then I saw it.
The drip shook a little. It was getting close
to falling. It shimmied from side to side and instead of looking
like a hammock it began to look like a drop of honey getting all
thin at the top and fat at the bottom.
The TV was a telescope, some scientific
voodoo or other, but instead of peering into the house across the
street, upside down of course, I was looking into a room from my
My old living room from when I was a kid.
Don't believe me? Reach back into your past
when you used to have an open mind. Just try to use that for the
next couple of sentences.
I did, so it's the least you can do.
So I'm watching the TV and my mom walks in.
She's telling me to turn it off. I tell her “The TV is a wonderful
light. As bright as the sun but it doesn't hurt to look into it.
All the answers to all the questions you want to know are inside
that light. And when you watch it... you become a part of it
She tells me that my room is a mess.
“This house is clean.”
And then the raindrop let go ... I felt the
freefall, I was inside it for a fraction of a second but I jerked
back into my own head just before it hit the roof. I wondered if
I'd made a conscious choice. If I might have instead stayed with
the raindrop as it departed and left my body sitting in the chair
for police to find some days later.
We could have started our long journey to the
Just a heads
up as you go into this story: much of the humor is going to be
based on how you say the upcoming catchphrase in your head. When
you reach the word, you'll know it when
you read it. Please say it with a sneer so exaggerated that it
makes one of your eyes squint. Please take some time to perfect it
before moving on with the story or you will find this entire
enterprise rather tedious.
She wasn't unpleasant to look at. She would
do. That was pretty much my criteria for sexual encounters at that
time in my life. And by that I mean a month ago. In fact everything
was going great until she spoke. She was a white girl who talked
black but she had breasts and legs so I was willing to give her a
pass for the cultural ambiguity.
Until she said that awful phrase. The phrase
that burnt its way into my head and has haunted me ever since:
“Make sure you pull out before you nut.”
If you were to watch a replay of my penis in
slow motion it would be like watching a pin make contact with a
balloon. I actually felt the blood violently sloosh back into my
“Make sure you pull out before you nut.”
I can still hear her say that when I think
about it and when I try not to and when I'm sound asleep and when I
wake up screaming in a cold sweat.
Of course, once she took off her shirt and I
saw her breasts the blood hesitantly made its way back into my
penis and I completed the act... including pulling out before I...
When she said “nut” she added a few extra
I was still hearing echoes of the word when I
entered her. It was obvious that this wasn't her first rodeo... and
by that I mean it felt like she had fucked horses and bulls. There
wasn't much tread left on those tires.
But nut I did.
Or nuuuted to be precise.
The real problems began when I tried to have
sex with other women. I didn't want to achieve orgasm or even cum.
I wanted to nut.
I even went back to an old girlfriend who I
still had feelings for. A great girl who was filled with passion
and romance and longing and who made love with the intensity of a
last fling before the spaceship you're riding in crashes into the
heart of a pulsing sun. You know, legs wrapped around your back,
fingertips buried in your shoulders, the whole show.
My penis wanted none of it.
At one point the tenderness of her touch had
me wanting to grab the nearby wastebasket and empty the contents of
my stomach into it.
Finally I whispered into her ear.
What I wanted.
It did not go well from there.
They say that with some drugs you are
addicted the first time you do them. Like crack. Ironic given that
crack has a sexual implication. You don't want to be addicted, you
just are. Except there aren't any clinics that treat my condition.
Or even weepy TV commercials where I can garner sympathy for
wanting to nut.
It was a disease and I am a carrier. If
wanting to nut is wrong then I don't want to be right.
All I have is this burning desire that sends
me out every weekend to dance clubs in the trashy part of town
looking for a fix. To hear the lyrics of my soul spoken aloud by
some horrid wigga bitch.
“Make sure you pull out before you
the father he needed
“Son, let me tell you a story. You'd better
get comfortable as it might take awhile.”
The man settled back into his chair and
struggled to find a place to start.
“There was this man, let's call him Ed. Ed
saw these two people having what seemed to him as irreconcilable
differences. It pained Ed because he knew both parties were good,
decent folks and he wanted nothing more than to bring them
Pretending to think on how to do this the man
rubbed his chin and screwed up his face. Then, all of sudden, one
finger popped up symbolizing that he had an idea. If light bulbs
truly popped up over people's heads at these particular times there
was no doubt that one would have made an entrance.
“Ed decided that nothing brings people
together like a common foe. I won't go into how he managed to piss
off both individuals but suffice to say that the mere mention of
his name had both of them gnashing their teeth as if their dental
plans were ironclad. Soon they saw the folly of their own petty
disagreement and became fast friends.”
The man leaned over and picked up his glass
of lemonade and took a sip.
“Thinking back on his triumph Ed wondered if
this same strategy could be used to solve other disputes. You have
to understand, Ed's motives were always the purest. He always
believed that while the road to hell is paved with good intentions,
you could always turn around and head back up that particular path.
You have to believe me on this point.”
Now the man's face screwed up a bit for
reasons that weren't quite clear. Once again it appeared that he
did not know where to begin to continue.
“Seeing how professional sports teams in
neighboring cities didn't get along he made sure to become such a
pariah to both that they soon joined hands and sang both Kumbaya
and songs involving his being drawn and quartered. You probably saw
this on the news.”
His son nodded.
“Intoxicated with that success he took aim at
grander targets. Soon he was inserting himself into conflicts as
diverse as gay marriage, race relations, political animosities,
environmental issues and religious conflicts across the globe. Each
of these required greater and greater atrocities to convince the
two sides to come together in their hatred for Ed. The things he
did in the name of bringing people together became almost
He paused and wiped his brow. He lifted up
his beverage again but couldn't bring himself to take a sip. It was
obvious that he was going through a few of these unspeakable acts
in his head.
“Ed became the most vilified man to ever
exist. There wasn't a man, woman or child on the planet that didn't
have a very good reason to detest him. Working tirelessly he
collected the widespread loathing and revulsion that people had
heaped on one another for thousands of years and deposited it
firmly on his own shoulders.”
He tried to force a smile but it wouldn't
come. He tried numerous times actually. His son watched as the
corners of his mouth pushed up against the combined forces of
gravity and circumstance time and again but to no avail. His face
His son finally spoke. “Dad, your name is
“Yes son, I know ... and I know you know that
I am the Ed in this story.”
His son stood up and produced a pistol from
underneath his jacket.
“Well then Ed, I guess you also know that I'm
here to kill you.”
Ed finished his glass of lemonade in one long
gulp. He looked up and was finally able to get the corners of his
mouth to cooperate.
Given that racism has been in the news
so much lately I thought I'd take a deep breath and provide my
opinion on the topics of race and race relations.
They are fucked.
Because we are fucked.
That's all I got on the subject.
You know who I blame for this?
That asshole who just cut me off in
It doesn't matter what sex, color, or
religion he/she was, that's the person I hate. Those people can't
drive for shit! They shouldn't even be allowed on the road. If it
was an expensive car it just shows that rich fuckers drive like
they think they are better than everybody. If it was a piece of
shit car it just shows why we shouldn't let pieces of shit like
that on the road. If it was a minivan it just shows that those
fuckers are reproducing at an alarming rate. They probably need
every seat and still have two little fuckers stacked in the
It's like the dumb fuck in front of me at the
supermarket. Damn I hate those people. Standing there in front of
me when if I wouldn't have spent so much time reading that random
ethnic food label, the one designed to make people like me read it
in supermarkets and thus make them end up behind someone with a
full cart, I would have beaten this person with the full cart to
the checkout and I wouldn't have to be standing there waiting as
they unload their hundreds of predictably stupid food items. It's
exactly the kind of fucking food I'd expect this cart-loader to
eat. It's a wonder their cart's wheels didn't snap off under the
tremendous weight of stupid food. They are the reason none of the
fucking carts work right and they always have a wheel that turns in
the wrong direction and squeaks. If you think it's an accident,
think again. They know what they're doing.
They always know what they're doing.
It's because they are on one hand brilliant
and devious and on the other hand dumb as shit.
I should have won that raffle, not them. What
the fuck are they going to do with two tickets to an Eagles game?
They can't appreciate football like I do so why did they even
bother to buy the ticket in the first place? They're not fooling
me, I know they don't give a crap about cancer research. They just
wanted to make sure I have to sit home on Sunday while they go down
to the stadium and enjoy me not being there.
You can't leave your house these days without
seeing them running around like they own the place. Cutting me off
in traffic and making me wait behind them at the grocery store and
winning raffles and buying the last waffle cone at the ice cream
And the look on their face as they ordered
You would have thought it was the last waffle
cone on the planet. That after they received their stupid ice cream
in it that there would be a worldwide announcement that all waffle
cones had ceased to exist and it would be easier for everybody if
nobody told their children that waffle cones had ever existed
because the reminder of them is just too painful. The way that they
smugly pretended not to even notice that they took the last waffle
cone... the way they didn't look back at me and inquire if I
perhaps had driven all the way to the ice cream place just to get a
fucking waffle cone and would I perhaps like the last one?
No, they just ordered it and paid for it and
ate it and steadfastly refused to choke to death on the
unnecessarily large amount of sprinkles that the counter person had
added simply because everybody knows they are in cahoots with those
people. It's a big fucking conspiracy and you're an idiot if you
Don't you ever wonder why you never get
enough sprinkles on your ice cream?
Wake the fuck up.
That person who just cut you off in
traffic... they are to blame. Them and all those other people that
look like them. Do you see it now? If it weren't for them you
wouldn't have gotten cut off. It's just simple logic. This isn't
some emotional conclusion, it's a fact. If they hadn't cut you off
you wouldn't have got cut off. What the world wants is for you to
forget it. To move past it.
If you do, they win. And you can't let them
win. If you do then they win.
Today it's sprinkles. Tomorrow they're going
to cancel your favorite TV show.
Those sitcom-canceling bastards.
Wait, is that a sprinkle on your top lip?
You're one of them.
I knew it. You're fucking everywhere.
his airtight heart
In a way you can blame Sid's lack of a
long-term relationship on his parents. They set the bar so high
that he's never felt even close to the love that they shared.
There were four separate parties going on in
the apartment building, typical for a Saturday night in a college
town. The building was on the main drag on campus, three stories
high and built in the shape of an L and each apartment looked out
into the same parking lot. The music from each party thumped away
and you could look from one end of the structure to the other with
little fear of stumbling across a sober student.
Three of the four parties contained women
that were of interest to Sid. If you're looking for it to get
romantic, let me stop you right here. When I say “of interest” I
mean girls that he's either slept with or wanted to sleep with.
Romance had very little to do with it.
He remembers after his mother's funeral he
drove his father to the little house where he'd grown up and sat in
the living room with him. His mom had been sick for awhile so her
passing wasn't a surprise but he was still concerned at the lack of
emotion his father had displayed at the cemetery. They had been not
only been married but inseparable for the past fifty three years.
He finally worked up the nerve to ask him why he hadn't cried.
“Because if I start I will never stop,” his
dad answered in such a way that the whole world suddenly froze.
On the first floor, third door from the
stairs, there was a girl named Robin. A local girl Sid had met a
few weeks back and with whom he had slept with twice since. As a
local, there was this feeling that she was trying to marry a
college boy but nothing could be further from the truth. She was
just horny a lot and, being she lived at home, she liked to sleep
somewhere else now and then. She was pretty and quiet and Sid
enjoyed being with her.
Of course, when I say “with her” I mean
She seemed to enjoy it as well.
“Can I tell you a story about when I met your
mother?” his dad asked. A reply was unnecessary.
“I might be one of the few people on the
planet that remembers his last thought before he fell in love. I
was sitting in a restaurant looking out the window. There was a big
storm coming and the clouds were all dark and low. I thought to
myself ‘That one looks like a dragon duck’ and then I happened to
turn and see your mom walk in.”
On the second floor was Jenna. She wore short
skirts and too much make-up and Sid liked the way she whimpered his
name when they were having sex. She would no doubt graduate but the
only thing more certain than it would not be on time was that it
would be with a degree that did not open many doors for her in the
corporate world. She liked to drink and laugh and she had a thing
for Sid that came to the forefront when she was drunk and
Now I was going to barrel ahead and talk
about the girl on the third floor but I first want to make sure
you're not associating the floor with some hierarchy of sexual need
on the part of Sid because each girl was successively higher. It
was a total coincidence that they happened to be on the floors they
While I'm digressing, let me also note that
at this point you might be wondering if there is a broader point to
this part of the story. Both Robin and Jenna are very generic
characters and offer little by way of interesting dynamics, be they
social or sexual. While I understand that men readers spent their
energy picturing the two women during coitus and female readers
wondered if they were prettier than them when they were their age,
neither of these justifies the amount of time I've spent in this
Sid could see his father watching the dark
cloud crawl across the sky.
“Funny thought to have but that's what it
looked like. A dragon duck. Then I turned and saw her. It was at
that moment that I could see for years. I could see farther ahead
than I ever thought possible. Clear as a bell.”
His father was there but he wasn't. He could
see his dad moving through the years, just as he'd seen them on
that day in the restaurant.
Samona on the other hand...
She was so badly damaged that if I went into
any detail about her past this story would end up in a stuffy
psychology magazine. The worst part about it was that most of the
damage was between her ears, completely invented by her and
completely hidden from anyone not interested in having her fall for
them. Sid had yet to sleep with her despite taking her to bed
Later he hugged his father and drove off. In
the morning he got the call that his father had died during the
night. He hadn't even gotten undressed. He was just lying on the
bed with his hands folded across his chest. There was no official
cause of death. As the doctor put it, “It appears his head and his
heart decided that they didn't want to go on any further. I
wouldn't claim that he died of a broken heart... just one unwilling
to live without your mom.”
Sid sat on the wooden stairs that smelled of
stale beer and spilled Chinese take-out and looked up at the sky.
At the clouds. Examining them as he often did. Looking
unsuccessfully for a dragon duck.
the button revisited
(first appeared in East Coast Ink issue #3
Before I launch into this I'd better give you
a quick bit of background in case you're unfamiliar with the
Richard Matheson short story “Button, Button.” Published in
Playboy in 1970 it went on to be the basis
of a Twilight Zone episode in 1985 and
then was revisited in the 2009 Cameron Diaz movie “The Box.” The
story itself was really just a retelling of a passage from the 1802
François-René de Chateaubriand book entitled “Genius of
What I'm trying to get at is this... in these
varies incantations someone is presented with a button and if they
press that button someone they don't know will die and then they
will receive a huge cash payment.
You can see how if you were unfamiliar with
this premise and I just went barreling along it might have caused
some confusion. Now we can start.
Actually, one last thing: calling it a story
might be a little inaccurate. What I'd like to do is elicit a quick
giggle with a little visualization. I realize that most men, and
some women, are not fans of giggling and would prefer to let loose
with a full-blown laugh or just forget the whole endeavor but in
this case I hope you'll make an exception.
Remember the fun of trying not to giggle in
school? The more you tried to hold it in the harder it became?
Perhaps try that approach, it might help you overcome your fear of
silliness in general.
Knowing the kind of people that read my
material I assume that you would immediately hammer that button
down. I'm not here to evaluate the morality of the decision to push
or not push the button. In your defense, I'm sure the person you
pictured dying was from some shithole in Africa or some god-awful
country in Eastern Europe where the people can live in any color
house they choose as long as they choose cement grey. You're
horrible like that.
I'm not here to point fingers. Be assured, if
given the opportunity I would wear that button out.
Now onto the giggle-inducing part.
Instead I'd like you to imagine sitting
across from the box in front of a giant bay window. I want you to
see yourself struggling with the decision and at the same time take
notice of various people walking by. Then I want you to see
yourself pushing the button down as one of the people walking by
the window drop.
Actually now I picture it in my head I get a
full-blown laugh. Perhaps those of you with both an active
imagination and a fear of giggling and/or snickering can proceed
with renewed gusto.
Now I'd like you to imagine the same exact
scene except this time the button gets stuck and everybody walking
by the window starts to drop. Of course, you are there fiddling
with the box with a concerned look on your face. Looking around
helplessly with a “Is it supposed to stick like this?” look on your
face as the bodies start to stack up outside like so much
If you haven't laughed yet I don't want to
jump to the conclusion that you're a humorless turd, I've been told
that being sensitive occasionally is exactly what could cause my
readership to one day surge into the double digits, instead I'd
like to think that you're just a bit squeamish and the idea of
people dying just for a laugh upsets you.
Honestly though, if that's the case I've lost
all respect for you.
Anyway, try imagining the effect of pushing
the button to be something less than death. See if that works for
Wait, wait, wait... you thought of something
like erectile dysfunction, didn't you? Something that wouldn't
change the behavior of the people walking past the big bay
Honestly, that's why I can't trust you to do
anything on your own.
It has to be giving them a hunchback or
explosive diarrhea, something that would result in hilarity behind
you as you pushed the button. Like blindness. You push the button
and suddenly someone comes crashing through the window.
If you imagined yourself hitting the button
and seeing yourself fall over dead because we can't truly know
ourselves so you sit there smugly thinking you've outsmarted
Richard Matheson, François-René de Chateaubriand and myself then I
wish I had a button in front of me that when I hit it you would
die. Painfully. I'd probably sprain my wrist I'd hit it so
Then I'd find out it was one of the six
people who actually bought my last book.
Even in a stupid story a moral is always
trying to inject itself in where it's not wanted.
Brickel sat in the sweltering heat and sweltered. The fact that he
was given a last name just goes to show you the interestingness of
the coming tale. He sat in his new car and fiddled with the air
conditioning and briefly thought about how ironic it was that he'd
bought the car to be cooler.
When he returned the vehicle to the
dealership where he'd purchased it they gave him a loaner and,
seemingly against all odds, within hours of pulling out of their
parking lot the air conditioning stopped working. This was during
the biggest heat wave the area had seen in years so you can imagine
his temperament on the return visit. If you were to have used one
of those thermal imagers on him he would have appeared entirely red
with a band of darker red under his collar.
With an attempt at humor and some heartfelt
apologies they handed him the keys to yet another car and sent him
on his way.
It was early the next morning that the air
conditioning on this loaner went kaput.
This time the dealership summoned their
Service Manager. His name, inconveniently enough, was also Eddie.
Eddie the Service Manager asked Eddie the new car owner to sit with
him in his cramped little office.
“Have you ever seen the movie The Cooler?” he began.
Unbeknownst to Eddie the Service Manager
Eddie the new car owner was a huge William H. Macy fan.
“Of course I have. Why?” Eddie the new car
owner inquired. If this seems a bit snippy please remember that
this was his third trip to this automobile establishment in the
past two days.
Eddie the Service Manager, realizing the foul
mood of the gentleman sitting across from him, went right to the
point. “The premise of the movie is that there was a man who could
affect the luck of gamblers simply by being in close proximity to
“And?” The “and” was said in a way that if
anything but a clear reason for mentioning the premise of the movie
was offered that Eddie the new car owner would no longer be
responsible for his actions. In order to ease the tension Eddie the
Service Manager leaned back and took a breath.
“I'd like to tell you a brief story, if
you'll allow me, that will throw some clarity onto my Cooler reference.”
Eddie the new car owner, with a slight
grimace, nodded his approval.
“This was a few years back, at a dealership a
few counties away. Near Flint. I heard it straight from the mouth
of a mechanic up there so I know it's true.” Eddie the Service
Manager licked his lips in a way that made it clear that
storytelling was not his strong suit.
“There was this guy and he bought a new car
and after only a week the driver's side window wouldn't close.”
Eddie the new car owner shifted in his chair
as if to say that the story was not living up to his expectations
vis-a-vis explaining the William H. Macy allusion. Eddie the
Service Manager lifted his hand up as if to say the next few
sentences would make it all clear.
“They gave him a loaner car and lo and behold
who drives back into the dealership an hour later with a stuck
window? The same guy. Do you see where I'm going with this?”
After a moment of deep reflection Eddie the
new car owner could only offer up a “No.”
“So they give this guy another loaner and
send him on his way. Now I didn't mention it at first but it bears
mentioning now ... it was the depths of winter. So this guy ends up
driving with his family to visit his folks in Saginaw and rolls
down his window at a toll booth. It wouldn't go back up. They have
to drive the whole way home with the window down. They all nearly
Eddie the new car owner digested it and then
asked “Rolled down? The loaner didn't have power windows?”
“Of course it had power windows ... I said
rolled down because it means the same thing.”
“Good. I was gonna say, who would give a
loaner car without power windows? It would reflect badly on the
It was Eddie the Service Manager's turn to
get annoyed. “You're missing the point. The point is that much like
William H. Macy, some people just interact badly with things. The
guy in Flint ... power windows. You ... air conditioning.”
“So what do you suggest?” asked Eddie the new
“ What did William H. Macy do to change his
“Are you as an auto care professional
suggesting a trip to Vegas?” Eddie the new car owner seemed to
brighten up ever so slightly.
“Not exactly” countered Eddie the Service
Manager. “I just thought a cocktail waitress might be exactly what
your air conditioner needs.”
“But that's what buying the new car was all
about in the first place. I wanted to be cool enough to get a
girl.” He paused briefly. “I knew I should have gotten the sun
The chicken or the egg nature of the dilemma
hung in the air between them.
my laptop in the hopes of capturing something profound.
I knew I had a long night in front of me. I'd
been dreading it for weeks. Ever since I heard the news that my
brother Ron needed the heart surgery.
We said our teary-eyed goodbyes and he went
under just after one in the afternoon. He was done sometime after
eight. It would be another hour or so before we got to see him and
we were told that he would not wake up before the next morning so
everyone left but me.
I would sit at his bedside for the next
twelve hours to make sure he was ok.
Not that there was anything I could do but
panic and alert the proper medical personnel if something came up
but there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
He was my brother.
I brought my laptop and wondered if I was
going to gain any insights that I could share.
So I waited for some brilliant epiphany as I
sat and watched him breathe in and out amongst the bright lights
and beeping machines.
I ended up settling for a memory.
I was in college, in a giant lecture hall,
and the instructor was lecturing on life and death. I'm not certain
but I'm pretty sure it was a class that had nothing to do with
philosophy so I'm not sure why the topic was even being discussed.
But the teacher was prattling on about it anyway. If memory serves
I think it was an astronomy class. Maybe it had to do with some
astrological sign or mythology or something but he was making a
point about how final death is and how everyone, secretly or not,
fears it. To make his point he asked everyone with a sibling to
raise their hand.
“Now, how many of you would trade your life
for theirs? Truly die to let them continue living.”
Every hand in the class of over three hundred
went down. Except mine.
He looked at me.
“You would trade your life for theirs?” he
“Yes” I answered without hesitating. He took
this as a sign I was lying.
“I don't believe you,” he said.
I looked at him and said the only words I
would speak in his class all semester: “I don't give a shit what
A machine chirped out a vague alarm and
brought me back to my brother's bedside.
Maybe fate didn't believe me either because
years later my brother would face cancer twice and neither time was
I asked to step in for him. The kind of cancer that stole your
hair, ended marriages and dashed any hopes of happy endings.
Radiation and chemotherapy would allow him to survive both bouts
but would leave his body ravaged and in need of the heart surgery
that left him lying comatose in front of me with tubes sticking out
of every opening.
As the hours passed I thought about love and
mortality and hope and irony and waited for some wisdom to hit me.
If I wasn't able to find some deeper meaning about life here next
to my brother as he fought for his then where was I ever going to
find it? Between staring at him and crying I wrestled with the
familiar doubt that every writer deals with. Here I was facing an
emotional crisis and nothing was coming.
I felt like a fraud. A charlatan. Empty.
I wanted to feel something beautiful. I
wanted to capture something powerful. I thought I was being
unselfish. I wanted to bring something moving to you.
And nothing came. Nothing but the hurt of
watching my brother groan and gag on the ventilator shoved down his
throat. Just mundane concern.
About six thirty in the morning his eyes
fluttered and he squeezed my hand. He finally seemed out of the
woods after an endless night where every minute seemed like an
You might think that had he died I would have
something more profound to pass on to you than a boring story of
relief. You might even believe that as a writer it is my obligation
to want to feel things that most people fear and that by having my
brother live I have cheated you out of something but in the end I
realized that as long as my brother is alive, I don't give a shit
what you believe.
earthquake is the only time the roots of a tree get to sway,” his
neighbor began. Bob knew him well enough to know that this was only
the opening salvo. He never had just one thing to say. There were
no simple observations or quick platitudes with his neighbor
Bob decided to play along.
“So the roots of a tree look enough like
brain synopsis that you’re implying that an earthquake represents a
troubling event of some kind?”
Bob knew that Hank didn’t know what he was
talking about and enjoyed the moment. Hank, standing slack-jawed
while he attempted to absorb the new spin on his statement, began
to nod ever so slightly.
Bob continued. “That would make swaying a
triumph of sorts?”
Gathering himself up Hank replied “Yes, in a
manner of speaking. Adversity and all that.” Hank’s face then took
on the quiet serenity that can only be achieved by the complete
Bob owned a small but thriving company that
centered on Bob lending himself out to corporations and government
agencies to speak about motivation and efficiency in the
Hank had been unemployed for going on six
months. He was formerly a salesman who sold gardening implements
and before that he was a salesperson for a litany of unrelated
consumer goods. His resume was a tour de force of mediocrity and
Instead of pursuing the root metaphor Hank
took a sudden turn and point-blank asked Bob if his company could
use another associate. Bob would have been startled if he wasn't so
stunned. In all their year of pseudo-witty banter Hank had never
broached the subject of employment.
“You know what would make me a good speaker?”
Trying to move past stunned and into the safe
waters of being not remotely interested Bob adjusted his stance and
braced himself for the incoming stupidity.
He was not to be disappointed.
“Half the people in the world are annoying
because they are different than everybody else but don't know it.
The other half are annoying because they think they are different
but they're not. I can tell them apart almost instantly.” His face
once again took on a serene quality.
“But,” Bob interjected “What's the difference
if you find them both annoying?”
On the face of it a fair question but clearly
one that Hank was prepared to answer. “You have to know who's
“Ahh, I see,” answered Bob though he
Feeling like Hank's presentation was over Bob
mulled over his situation. He was in a bit of tight spot. He didn't
want to offend a neighbor, whose lawn mower he had borrowed
countless times in the past when the discount ones he always bought
ended up engulfed in flames, but at the same time he could never
inflict an empty-headed buffoon on a paying client. Then the answer
came to him in a flash of inspiration.
“Tell you what Hank. If I'm ever unable to
make a commitment to speak due to illness or a scheduling snafu
you'll be the first one I call.”
While not what Hank was hoping for, it seemed
to do the trick and soon they were back to talking about topics
that no other human on the planet but Hank would find
The problem, for Bob anyway, was that while
he was done having a flash of inspiration Hank was just getting
warmed up. The words “due to illness” had barely left Bob's lips
when Hank had a flash himself. Upon returning home, he went to his
computer and, in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee,
he had found an over-the-counter medication that would cause the
imbiber to immediately suffer side- effects that would render them
useless for the better part of two days.
Three weeks later, and only hours before he
was to depart for the airport, Bob unknowingly imbibed it. One
fortuitous phone call later Hank was hastily packing and heading to
the airport. Halfway across the Atlantic, on his way to Uzbekistan,
Hank decided to call his old pal to check up on him and to get some
additional details about his upcoming presentation. Knowing that
the call was being charged to Bob's account he felt no pressure to
keep things short. In fact, he immediately asked the sniffling Bob
something off the subject; something totally and completely off the
He asked him whether or not he knew if it
were true that the European Mute Swan is silent throughout its
entire life, only to sing one glorious song just before it
Bob had to confess that he had no idea.
“It's not true. There is no such thing as a
'swan song'. It's a myth.” Hank sunk back smugly in his first class
seat and tried again to catch the eye of the stewardess to let her
know that another glass of champagne would hit the spot.
Sniffing softly Bob grinned to himself and
said, “I wouldn't be so sure. Have a great trip Hank. Goodbye and
good luck,” and with that he disconnected.
An odd way to wrap up a conversation...
unless of course you were somebody that knew you'd been poisoned
and were having the responsible party met at the airport by a small
group of dangerous men involved in sex trafficking.
“I hope you enjoy your new life you annoying
prick.” With that Bob smiled and threw up.
National Have Sex With An Ugly Person Day: Year
Last year I had the brilliant idea to start
a new holiday: National Have Sex With An Ugly
Person Day. It was met with offense by the ugly community
and bewilderment by the beautiful crowd. That's how I knew I was on
I was reminded of that fact during a recent
visit to a farmer's market. Having never before been to a farmer's
market I was not prepared for the ugly people I saw there. It is
literally Ground Zero for ugly. I want to have sympathy for my
fellow man but holy shit were these people ugly! The kind of ugly
you don't come across every day. The kind where you sharply draw in
your breath and shudder a tiny bit. The problem was, at a farmer's
market there is so much concentrated ugly that you walk along
sharply drawing in your breath and shuddering so much that it's all
you can do not to pass out into one of the discount meat
That's right, I said stalls. Not stores.
And I'm not sure why but at least half the
people there have a limp. People at farmer's markets don't walk
around, they hobble. As soon as they injure themselves the doctor
must look at them, shake their head slowly and say “It's the
farmer's market for you.”
If you think with all of our scientific
advances that people who've had throat cancer no longer talk
through a box in their neck think again. Farmer's markets are
choked with people talking through boxes in their neck. They don't
even wear scarves. They just crash around with these big things
stuck in their necks and talk their creepy electronic talk as they
negotiate the purchase of a talk box made in 1995 at the “Used Talk
Thankfully the sound of the dilapidated
shopping carts being pushed around by overweight freaks in velour
sweat pants drowns out most of the racket. Farmer's markets are
where shopping carts go to die. When a grocery store throws out a
shopping cart because it can no longer be pushed around without all
the birds in the area taking flight every time someone attempts to
give it the slightest shove it ends up at the farmer's market.
There's always a pet store there and even the
animals are ugly. Ugly fucking rabbits looking through the glass as
ugly faces peer back at them.
Hopefully by now you've realized how
traumatized I was by my visit. I had no idea that things were so
bad. That's why I've renewed my enthusiasm for National Have Sex With An Ugly Person Day. For awhile
I toyed with putting my energies into National
Roll A 16+ On A d20 Day but clearly the ugly issue is a far
more pressing problem. These fucking troopers are having sex with
each other day in and day out and you never hear a complaint. There
people are heroes. If you saw some of the hot messes that were
shambling around with wedding rings on their deformed, scaly,
gnarled fingers you'd want to track down their spouse and give them
some sort of award. Last year, when I started this holiday, I had
no idea of how terrifying some people were. You would think that
there was an underground lab somewhere breeding these revolting
Women with muttonchops. Men with swaying
It's time to act. We can no longer sit on the
sidelines and pretend that life is fair. There are empty-headed
super models running around without a care in the world, having
never once done anything for their fellow man. It's time for them
to take one for the team. A year ago I suggested that if beautiful
people and ugly people happened to come into contact on April 2nd,
the beautiful people should go out of their way to sleep with them.
Now I want more direction action.
I want bus loads of beautiful people shipped
out to farmer's markets across the country. I want them to rent a
stall and I want them to bang the first ugly person that happens to
No games. No excuses.
It's the very least they can do.
If you happen to be very attractive... it's
the very least you can do.
Remember the date: April 2nd.
Find an ugly person and have sex with
and now for the news ...
Let's say for instance that you're part of
a sports team and you see highlights of your last game on the
television. I'm sure there's no small amount of pride involved.
Now let's say you're part of a larger group,
say the Knights of Columbus or 4H and you see your organization
mentioned in the news. Perhaps not as intense but there is still a
small rush of recognition.
Taking it a step further, if you're overseas
and you see a TV report involving someone from your country I bet
there is still some small tingle inside as you sit amongst
Now what if your team lost?
What if your club was involved in
What if your country was being talked about
in an unflattering way?
Imagine for a moment you could buy into the
concept that as a human every story involved you. You were actively
part of a larger whole, every story would reflect on you. You would
take it to heart because they might as well be talking about you
personally because they are talking about a human and you are a
You are aren't you?
You'd avoid any TV news programs, I'll tell
you that much. To the very best of your ability.
You know when somebody goes from a friend to a “good friend?” When
they are trying to sell you something.
That's how I knew that my friend from college
had suddenly gained lofty “good” status. He was sitting in my
kitchen with what looked like a large duffel bag telling me all
about the unique opportunity that was sitting in front of me.
A unique opportunity I wouldn't have had to
endure had the dumb bastard just studied more. When I said I went
to college with him I wasn't lying, but I didn't say he graduated.
He quit senior year because he couldn't pass his calculus
He just walked away. I wonder if he
romanticized it like people do when they see a balloon get away
from a child and float off.
And then a few years later he walked into my
kitchen after calling me up and asking for a few minutes of my time
to discuss his exciting new career.
Knives. He now sold knives.
Who the hell sells knives?
I'll tell you who sells knives... old friends
who never got their degree. That's who sells knives. He didn't even
have courtesy to barge into my kitchen and try to sell me insurance
or pitch me on some crazy investment.
He wanted to sell me knives.
So I sat and listened and pretended to care
about all things cutlery for the sake of an old friend. The first
thing he did was try to shame my current knives. I leapt to their
defense. It was the least I could do after all the years of service
they had put in. To that end I opened up with a salvo from one of
my favorite old English brewers Charles Buxton: “The rule in
carving holds good as to criticism; never cut with a knife what you
can cut with a spoon.”
I could almost feel my silverware drawer
titter in appreciation. Truly a quote that would have sent most
knife salesman scrambling, but this was a “good friend” who was
only three credits away from a degree so after a small wince he
unzipped his bag and produced a knife.
“Temptation is like a knife, that may either
cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his
poison, his exercise or his destruction,” he countered. I
appreciated that he stayed in Jolly Old with his choice of John
Now before you start to think that we are
eggheads who attended some prestigious university let me admit
right now that I had to use autocorrect to spell prestigious
correctly. Both times. That second i is a sneaky one. To be quite
honest, we spent the vast majority of our time drunk and/or high
and on an endless hunt for sexual encounters. We were far from the
polished specimens exchanging knife quotes.
“So did they give you a list of quotations
about knives for moments like this?” I inquired.
“Nope. I Googled them after I got the job.”
He seemed proud in a “not bad for a man who never finished college”
way. I gave him a “you were only three credits short you dumbass”
look back but I'm not sure he caught it.
The thing about balloons is that you imagine
them traveling a great distance, on some great adventure and seeing
a lot of cool sights, but typically they just go up. Up will give
you as nice view for awhile but eventually up gets cold.
He fished out a larger knife and began to
extol its virtues. He went Italian on me during the big close.
“Happiness, for you we walk on a knife edge.” He just assumed that
I would know a quote from a Nobel Prize in Literature winner and I
appreciated that. If he was willing to whip out a little Eugenio
Montale to influence me then I was only too happy to be on the
Then he got to the price. It was all I could
do not to burst out laughing. I had spent less on automobiles and
much less on beautiful women. There were samurais back in the day,
whose very existence depended on a keen blade, that did not spend
that much cash on their sword. If I bought one lone knife it would
become the most expensive item in my kitchen.
“Hell no. Sorry but I can't afford that.” I
He launched back into his sales pitch, noting
repeatedly how we were “good friends.” This seemed to imply I
should feel on the hook for at least the 5-piece starter set. Why?
Just because I finished my degree and got a decent job and didn't
have to schlep around with a bag of knives humiliating myself in
front of all my “good” friends?
Irritated I got all Lao Tzu on him. “Fill
your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.” I hoped he would get the hint.
He did not. Instead he went for the throat
with a little Sophocles. “A wise doctor does not mutter
incantations over a sore that needs the knife.” Sophocles... a
tragedian. The room grew silent and I understood.
Sometimes you see deflated balloons in the
oddest places. Like in your kitchen trying to sell you knives.
If someone close to me was kidnapped and a
ransom in the same amount was required to assure their safe release
I would probably have to receive at least a few fingers before I
finally coughed it up but because he was a “good friend” I forked
it over and sent him on his way.
Now before you leap to the conclusion that
this makes me a nice guy I want you know that I'm not. I put the
knives on top of the cabinet and I haven't touched them since. Out
of sight. Up high where hopefully they'll soon be forgotten.
putting off a visit to the optometrist and I've been trying to
figure out why. My first thought was that I've always associated
poor eyesight with weakness. I can't be the only one otherwise
Superman wouldn't have found a pair of glasses such an effective
disguise. It always seemed that it was the bespectacled kid getting
punched in the face at recess and you didn't even need to see his
glasses hit the ground to know they would break and need to be
taped up to make it through the rest of the day. Sympathy for the
kid was always in short supply because while all the other kids
always imagined him perched over a chess board and while they knew
how all the pieces moved they never knew how to play.
I never wanted to be that kid.
I don't like to think that my hesitancy is
caused by the fact there are so many eye charts out there that it
is impossible to study for the test. I understand that it's not a
pass/fail situation but I don't like to be unprepared. Sure, I
might resent the dryness of the exam (would it kill the makers of
the eye chart to make I C U P the second line?) but I can't believe
that I'd be so intolerant of the stuffiness of the process that I'd
risk the health of my eyes (do they think that a little humor would
eventually result in some eye chart manufacturers adding more and
more outrageous content until the final line of some eye charts
would be a string of profanity?).
Maybe it's a fear of weakness on my part. As
much as I wouldn't want to wear glasses I don't think I could find
it within myself to have LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ
keratomileusis) surgery. I just don't trust lasers. I picture
myself sitting there in the chair after a quick blast with a
smoking, empty eye socket. Screaming, crashing around, the whole
shebang. Not trusting lasers seems to indicate I don't trust
technology and by not trusting technology it seems I don't trust my
I don't so I'd end up wearing big clunky
glasses while the other people who had bad eyesight but had the
stones to get the surgery can now blend in and not get beat up at
recess anymore. They blend as I crash around conspicuously all
because the girl behind the counter didn't have the heart to tell
me that the giant black frames I picked make me look like a cross
between Buddy Holly and someone even dumber looking than Buddy
As an aside, nobody has ever said that I have
attractive eyes so I'm left to assume they are like my nipples and
are ordinary on their best day.
When words start to get blurry it freaks you
out. For awhile you can blink a few times and will your eyes to
focus a little harder but eventually the blurriness starts to hang
around and you realize that 20/20 vision has an expiration date and
that could be the reason that you don't want to go to the eye
doctor because he'll sit there in his white jacket and confirm that
time is passing and that you're not as young as you used to be and
you never learned to play chess and the kid that used to get beat
up now wears contacts and owns a large company and you're afraid
that having poor hindsight would be too ironic for you to bear.
Can you blame run-on sentences on poor
I'm going to go ahead and say yes.
Before they had glasses people just saw the
world get fuzzier as they aged. Perhaps that's the way it's
supposed to be and wanting to see things clearly when we're old as
hell is an unnatural desire. There's a part of me that thinks the
world looks better hazy around the edges.
So I put down the phone and put off the
appointment a little longer because once your eyesight starts to go
your hearing will think it's ok to start slacking and the next
thing you know you can't get a boner without ingesting liberal
amount of pharmaceuticals that have side-effects ranging from blood
in your stool to not being able to get boners ... which seems a bit
redundant because if I've got blood in my stool I don't think there
would be any boners on the horizon.
I don't want to live to see that ...
advice from a dodo
The people who piss me off the most are the
ones that tell you how lucky you are to have been born in the
country you were born in or born into the family that you have. It
just shows such a profound lack of understanding of what's going on
around them that it's everything I can do not to break their necks
like people do in all those kung fu movies.
“You're just lucky you weren't born in
We don't start out as souls hovering on the
edges of time waiting for the next baby to insert ourselves into.
We're here because of a decision two people made. We are the
product of a sex act and our genetic material is made up of those
two people. And the two people who created them and the two people
who made them. We are the echoes of thousands of decisions made
since mankind decided to stand erect and begin waltzing around the
In other words, I could only have been born
in Africa if my parents happened to be in Africa nine months after
There might be a small element of chance as
to which chromosomes made it through the heads or tails selection
process but other than that we are here because of a single act of
procreation. Intended or otherwise. As hard as it might be to
believe when you look in the mirror, we are the result of natural
selection, not some cosmic throw of the dice.
This fundamental flaw in reasoning also goes
a long way in explains why those same people hate professional
gamblers so much. They think it's luck that they win so much money.
They believe you have to play the hand you're dealt when every
successful gambler will tell you that the cards you're dealt aren't
as important as the cards everyone else thinks you have. They are
so busy looking at their shitty hand it never occurs to them that
most people are holding the same cards or worse.
It's at times like these when it's important
to remember our friend the dodo. Before this bird went extinct it
chose to become flightless. I would give my left nut to be able to
fly and yet here is a bird that literally walked away from the
opportunity. Perhaps things aren't always everything they are
cracked up to be. The point, of course, isn't that this decision
eventually caught up to this stupid fowl and directly led to its
demise; it's that... sometimes... well... I forgot the point I was
trying to make but be assured that it would have made you stop and
think a bit.
I think it had something to do with the fact
that sometimes you lose a hand even though you're holding
I remember a day recently where I went for a
long walk. It was in the low 80's, light breeze, not a cloud in the
sky. For some reason my legs seemed up to every challenge that the
path could throw in front of me. Hills and valleys, downed trees
and soggy ravines, none of these seemed a match for me. I could
have walked forever it seemed. Every gulp of air was sweet and
birds circled me and sang like I was in a Disney flick. For a
little while I literally felt the road rise up to meet me.
I just wish I could hold on to that feeling
forever, especially when the weather isn't as nice. Perhaps a dodo
went on one of these walks back in the day and that's what made it
give up flying, a thought that actually muddies the waters a bit
but there it is. That's life in all its mystery I guess.
We're not accidentally here. There is a
reason you're here despite my belief that there really isn't a
reason that we're here. Following me so far? It's all pointless
which makes it even more important that you find a point.
You are a collection of things you aspire to
be and you gravitate towards people that buy into this persona. You
have to put up with other people that see you differently but it's
important that you keep these annoying individuals around because
you never know who you'll end up being sometime down the road.
Don't let the dodo dissuade you from aspiring to fly, just remember
it might not be in the cards. Walk the walk either way, even if the
temperature isn't in the low 80's. Even if your parents weren't
born in Africa and you're on the hook for the expectations of their
And don't resent the gamblers. Learn from
You have a hand but sometimes in the
high-stakes game of life it's ok to bluff.
About The Author
Unless you've read and rejected George
Steiner's book Real Presences: Is There Anything
In What We Say? you'll never understand Lance Manion. His
writing aims to violate “the small house of our cautionary being”
and leave it “no longer inhabitable in quite the same way as it was
As well as give you something to read on the
Mostly to give you something to read on the