Huzzah! My lady and I shall be in the wood these next few days. Verily, there shall be no blogging henceforth unto Thursday.
I'm trying too hard, aren't I? My wife and I bought season passes to Renaissance Festival this year, and the stupidity of it all rubs off on me easily. This is a picture of (from left to right) my sister-in-law, Tami, me looking as if I have had a few more mugs of beer than I should, and my wife at the Renaissance Festival.
Feel free to stare at this picture for the next several days while Rachel and I go backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail. I should be back Thursday, assuming I don't get eaten by a bear.
Holy smokes, Thursday's post was huge -- 2,600 words. Extra points to you if you read it.
When I die (which hopefully will not happen for many decades), do not hold a candlelight vigil for me. Do not wear ribbons with my favorite color. Do not print up T-shirts with my face on them. Do not honor me with teddy bears. Do not try to convince yourself that the lyrics of a popular song fit my situation. Do not do things and then vindicate them by saying that's what I would have wanted. Do not say that I am looking down on all of this and smiling -- I assure you, I am not. In heaven, Bettie Page is in her prime and I will be too busy having sex with her to pay attention to what the rest of you are doing.
Am I the only one who giggles uncontrollably every time popular radio plays Iron Maiden?
Some people are willing to pay upward of $400 to see the Rolling Stones perform. I wouldn't pay $400 to have them perform in my apartment. I might pay that much to have Van Morrison play my living room because he has a positive effect on my wife's libido. Who would you pay $400 (£222) to perform in your living room?
Do you ever play the mental game of asking how many modern U.S. soldiers it would take to defeat some army of the past? For example, do you think 200 Navy SEALS (with all their modern gear and skill) could defeat the whole of Napoleon's army? I'll bet they could, and quite possibly without suffering a single fatality amongst the SEALS. I am also convinced that just four modern machine guns would have kept the Dakota Territory in American Indian possession.
This video takes quite a long time to load, but it's worth it in a very strange way.
I thought this list of things that show the mindset of new university students was interesting. Although, some of them don't make a damn bit of sense: "It has always been possible to walk from England to mainland Europe on dry land." What?
I decided to steal a blogging idea from Christa and write out the whole of my employment history. For the sake of manageability, I'll only list jobs for which I paid taxes. There are a number of odd jobs, volunteer jobs and internships/work experiences that I'm leaving out. Also, I have a ridiculously faulty memory, so there may be some tax-paying jobs that I have left out.
1) Cart rustler. I made minimum wage collecting shopping carts from the parking lot of a nearby supermarket. The company has since equipped all its employees with color-coded polo shirts (red for stock, green for cashiers, yellow for maintenance -- it's got a sort of Star Trek quality to it), but at the time we were expected to show up wearing dress clothes and a tie. A tie. I wore a dress shirt and nice trousers and a tie whilst pushing shopping carts in the heat of summer. Adding to my joy was the fact that I was required to be union, despite the fact that as a part-time employee, I received no benefits. The union dues were taken out of my check as a lump sum, and I was never able to determine when it was going to happen. As a result, on more than one occasion I worked upward of 20 hours but wound up with about $7. Usually this would happen on weeks that I planned to go out with a girl. I was eventually encouraged to leave the job. I had become rather fond of attempting kung-fu moves on the pads that lined the doors of the docking bays in the back of the store.
2) Cashier. The next summer I was back in the employ of Cub Foods, this time up front, where I couldn't easily sneak away to attack the docking bay pads. I still remember the key code for bananas: 22. Most of my time was spent flirting with the other cashiers (I was one of only two guys) and the attractive customers. I left after deciding to go crazy when my girlfriend broke up with me.
3) Music store clerk. This ranks up there among my favorite jobs. The now-defunct store was a massive warehouse of music; we had everything. Pretty much all I did was wander around, occasionally alphabetizing music and listening to whatever struck my fancy. The store had some corporate playlist of music that we were supposed to be following, but it was mostly ignored because no one in the store could tolerate Mariah Carey or Jimmy Buffet. The manager had no qualms with just pulling a CD from the shelves and putting it on. There was a little candy dispenser at the front of the store and I compulsively chewed little tart pieces of candy throughout my shifts. To this day, when I hear the Cranberries, I get a sort of sickly dry and sweet taste in my mouth. I was eventually laid off due to the fact that hardly anyone ever came into the store. Although, I can't help but notice that my dismissal came shortly after a co-worker and I had spent the day playing Store Olympics -- a series of competitions that involved hurdling displays, throwing CDs, and sprinting the length of the store with the life-size cardboard cutout of Mariah Carey.
4) Sam's Club. For some stupid reason, I was actually excited to turn 18 years old so that I could work at Sam's Club. In my defense, I hadn't yet realized the evil of the Sam Walton empire, the job paid better than my previous jobs, and it gave me the opportunity to hang out with cute girls like Beth (who needs to update her blog). I started out as a cashier but was moved to work in the freezer-cooler after I thrice failed to remember some procedural element to accepting a personal check. The company lost no money in these mistakes, but a little green piece of paper was placed in my file folder nonetheless. I can no longer remember the procedure nor the significance of the little green pieces of paper. And as it turned out, freezer-cooler was more fun. 15 degrees below zero is surprisingly comfortable when there's no wind, and I built a little space for myself on a rack where I could lie down amongst the frozen chicken and nap. I left to go to university in another city and because the fun people like Beth and a guy named Dan Burns had already left. This is one of the few times in my employment history in which I was not hustled out in some form or another.
5) Theater bitch. Actually, I'm not sure I earned enough to pay any taxes on this job, but I'm mentioning it to make myself feel cool. I was an extra in a Guthrie Theater production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Because I was young and able and willing to do a lot of running around, I was featured in every scene under a number of guises -- guard, servant boy, member of duke's entourage, etc. I even got two lines: "Out, old man!" and "Aye, he did, sir -- weeping and commenting upon the sobbing deer." John Carroll Lynch gave me my first beer. It was a bottle of Sam Adams. The gig also helped me score with a girl from my high school that had been out of my league. Suddenly she was all over me after having seen me on stage. I left when the production's run ended. If I had been smart, I would have tried to get into another production.
6) Annoying son of a bitch. I spent a month canvassing for Clean Water Action, giving it up because I got sick of pestering people for money when they were sitting down to dinner. Also, I became suspicious of whether any of the money we raised went into doing anything more than sustaining the system. I consider myself an environmentalist but I contribute to no environmental groups because I fear that too much of my money goes into paying the salary of the person who is asking for money. Paying people to ask me for money doesn't seem to have preserved any wetlands. I have a higher opinion of the Sierra Club, but refuse to give them money because they put me on some sort of liberal whacko mailing list that saw me receiving tons of mail from the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and on and on and on. I was not happy with the irony of my giving money to save the environment and receiving more dead trees (paper used in the mailings) in response.
7) Warehouse worker. Easily the most tedious job I've ever had, I was a jack-of-all-trades in a Holiday distribution warehouse. Among my tedious tasks: putting things in boxes as they rolled by on an assembly line; removing old cigarettes from their packets, counting them, and placing them in a larger container; collecting cardboard, loading it into the cardboard crusher, and then waiting for the union guy to come push the button on the crusher. I was encouraged to leave after the following events occurred on consecutive days: I fell asleep whilst sitting on the toilet, napping for a full hour; I got into a fistfight with a co-worker in the parking lot, after we had clocked out for the day; I and another co-worker used forklifts to sumo wrestle, ramming the two lifts into one another and trying to push one out of a circle.
8) Conus Communications. I can't now remember exactly what I did for the now-defunct Hubbard Broadcasting venture that was Conus. I do remember fooling around with the video archivist. She drove an MG and had a delightfully dirty mind. I left to return to university in another city.
9) KVLY. Amongst the myriad useless advice I have for any damned fool that would undertake a career in television is this: expect to do a lot of different things. In my happy time at the self-proclaimed Valley's Choice I ripped scripts, operated the TelePrompTer, operated studio cameras, ran audio, edited video, operated Chyron, wrote stories, and did whatever else there was to do. Indeed, it was a happy time -- I really enjoyed working there. Pretty much everyone I worked with was a lot of fun, and some of them were damned attractive. Unfortunately, the station was located in Fargo, N.D., which I was desperate to flee. I left to save my soul.
10) Tourist trapper. I've written a handful of columns in which I mention my time at the now-defunct Ponderosa Ranch because it was there that I met my wife. When I wasn't falling over myself in pursuit of the hot Mormon girl, I was a gunfighter. In some performances, my wife-to-be got to kick me in the crotch. The highlight of my daily performance came when the head of my gang of bank robbers tossed a stick of dynamite into the outhouse in which I was hiding. The walls of the outhouse collapsed and I stumbled forward with my trousers around my ankles. Hilarity ensued. I also took sepia pictures of people dressed in Old West outfits. This was after I had been scrapped as a cook for being allergic to smoke, scrapped as a bartender for putting too much booze in people's drinks, scrapped as gold-panning host for putting too much gold in the panning stream, and scrapped as a carpenter's assistant for not being able to drive a nail. I left when the height of the tourist season ended, which was long after I came to terms with the fact that I am not of the right mindset for manual labor (arguably, I am not of the right mindset for any type of labor).
11) KOLO. Remember what I said about working in television? During my years as a member of The Team You Know and Trust I served as a video editor, tape operator, photographer, writer, associate producer, producer, and web editor. Things ended horribly, so it is sometimes too easy for me to forget that I actually enjoyed working there. When Rachel and I were married, we had no money and no real concrete idea of what the hell we were doing. The newsroom collected money and helped us stock our new home with things via generous gift certificates to Target and Wal-Mart. I formed friendships that would sustain me for years to come and worked with a number of quality journalists. But as I say, things ended horribly. I was fired for threatening to kill the sales staff. I would like it to be known that I did not threaten to kill the sales staff; I simply said that they should all be dead. And I did that in a personal e-mail to a co-worker. Yes, I was that guy -- the dumbass who used company e-mail for personal use and got fired for it. The general manager had been looking for a reason to fire me after I totaled a news jeep, kicked a hole in the wall, told an assignment desk editor that a masturbating monkey could do her job better, and referred to the sales staff as "lying weasels." Because I was fired, I could not get unemployment from the state of Nevada. When I appealed the decision, a state worker called me and said she had the offending e-mail in question and that was enough to reject me. Knowing that the e-mail used the word "fuck" 27 times, I asked her to please read the e-mail to me.
12) New reader. This job actually came and went during the time I was working for KOLO. KKOH AM 780 is one of those beloved old giants of radio that can be heard for hundreds of miles around and I worked there just to be able to say that I had. For 20 cents over the minimum wage, I read news at the top of the hour during the Art Bell show. In between my newscasts, I would usually sleep -- Art Bell was broadcast from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. I left because I was sleepy.
13) KUSI. I know it's not wise to trash a former employer, but I don't care in this case. Working for this station was the suckiest suck that ever sucked. I worked with two great guys -- Jim Landrith (with whom I had worked back at KOLO) and Steve Weakley -- a handful of attractive women, and a fleet of incompetents. Hate hate hate hate hate. That is all I have for this place. I was brought in to produce a noon newscast but when that newscast finally started up, I wasn't even a part of it. I was consistently told that I would be doing one thing and then shifted to do something else. The news operations manager was fond of randomly switching people's shifts and not telling them (keep in mind that no other newsroom even has work schedules. You are hired to work a specific show and that's your show and you show up and leave as that show allows). The general manager there told me (and apparently still believes, judging by their website) that the Internet is a fad. I was there for only four months before I walked out and I could write a whole other blog about how awful that place was. I left after a huge row with a producer who was trying to sabotage me. I know it's a crazy-person thing to say, that someone was trying to sabotage you, but really, she was. Shortly after I walked out, the news operations manager reportedly announced to the newsroom that I would never again work in Southern California. Six months later I was working in the No. 1 station in the market.
14) Web editor The now-defunct Combio, Inc. was located in Carlsbad, Calif. Oh what a happy job this was. What I do now in 15 minutes I did there over the space of a whole day. We were provided with unlimited quantities of free soda and snacks. We were given silly little toys and encouraged to play basketball in the parking lot. We all listened to intelligent music at our desks. I had the free time to discover and start learning Welsh. I was paid relatively well and treated with respect. I left when the company declared bankruptcy.
15) The benevolent employer. It's not hard to figure out who has been signing my paychecks these past four and a half years, but something tells me that they would appreciate it if I not make such an easy and direct connection between this blog and them. Additionally, I'm sure you won't be surprised when I say that I have no major qualms with my benevolent employer -- some things could be better, some things could be much, much, much worse. They have given me a column that will one day make me rich and famous. They manufacture gorgeous women. They have given me two coffee mugs, two shirts, a hockey puck, a handful of toys, and the opportunity to perform a James Brown standard at the Christmas party. What more can you ask?
I'll miss this -- I return to the U.S. on that day. If I had known beforehand, I might have extended my stay.
I'm having a BBCentric day. This is a term that I came up with a while ago to describe my frequent overwhelming desire to do nothing other than listen to online radio and fumble through the BBC web pages. I am convinced that the BBC is one of the greatest aspects of modern life. The elimination of polio and small pox and high rates of infant death are lovely, but the BBC is what makes living in this particular point in history worthwhile. I know that Britons complain a lot about the BBC -- bias, quality, licensing fees, etc. -- but I still love the massive entity. How could I not? They taught me Welsh.
This post reminded me of this: When I was about 14 years old, I bought a book called "Teach Yourself to Juggle," or something like it, and spent a month desperately trying to teach myself the skill. I did this because I was pretty sure it would impress girls. Ultimately, it was a failed venture and to this day I cannot juggle. Instead of juggling, I taught myself how to pratfall. I got really good at throwing myself into walls or tables or down stairwells. Why I thought this would impress a girl, I do not know.
Canada is getting ready to fuck some shit up with Denmark. What kind of fight would that be? I think Canada would win, but they would be very polite and apologetic about it. Denmark would agree things had gotten out of hand and would offer up loads and loads of absurd pornography as a peace offering.
Today I signed up for PayPal and I noticed this in the privacy information: "Pursuant to section 326 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission require PayPal Funds to obtain, verify, and record the following information for each investor... : Name; Address; Date of Birth (for individuals); Tax identification number (Social Security number for individuals or employer identification number for businesses)." I find that disconcerting. Thanks to the Patriot Act, the United States government is keeping track of my sending cash to some Welsh bloke for soccer tickets. Yeesh. Could America be more creepy? Oh, wait. Forget I asked.
Somewhere in the world it is time for breakfast. If Astrid were in that part of the world she would now have something to read. My latest column is out.
My dad says it is good, but every time he compliments me I always feel as if he is about to ask for money (he never does). If you think it is good, send it to all your friends, relatives, and elected representatives. If you think it is bad, just keep it to yourself.
Man, Northwest Airlines is evil. The airline is basically gunning to push itself into bankruptcy on purpose by forcing its mechanics union to strike. The airline asked the union to cut staff in half and sustain a 26 percent* pay cut. The union suggested that they take a 15 percent cut instead, to which Northwest extended the middle finger and brought on a fleet of scab workers that it had been building for 18 months. In that interim time, Northwest head honchos have been selling off their stock in the company -- eager to sink the ship but definitely not wanting to go down with it. Until going on strike Friday night, a Northwest mechanic was making an average of $36 an hour. Northwest was/is demanding that the mechanics -- the half that wouldn't get laid off, that is -- accept an average wage of $26.53. But it is paying its scabs $32 an hour plus $2,000 starting bonus. Grrr. Fuck you, Northwest. This is the same airline that my state, my tax dollars, bailed out a few years ago. This is the same airline that Minnesotans will automatically choose out of loyalty. But they are perfectly happy to let the whole thing go down in flames. The guys who are out in front of the airport on picket lines all readily admit that they doubt their strike will work -- Northwest will declare bankruptcy and be free of its obligations to unions. Bankruptcy is part of the business plan. How fucked up is that? The union workers are simply leaving their jobs with some integrity intact. It's all very depressing and makes me want to run away to some ignored hinterland where corporations have no interest and I can live in peace in a mud hut.
So, wait. This lady bashes Puerto Ricans and the response is to want to give her a trip to Puerto Rico? How is that fair? But, uhm, on a related note, have I mentioned how awful the Welsh are? Nothing but trouble them.
*That number changes, depending on the story you read -- it goes from 25 percent to 32 percent.
Uhm, OK. Five songs that I'm currently enjoying (in no particular order):
1) "Your Missus is a Nutter" - Goldie Lookin' Chain. Yes, yes, yes. I know. It's stupid. But I really like the music bed. 2) "Slam" - Pendulum 3) "County Down" - Me. Well, I didn't come up with the song. It's just some Irish folk song that I tend to sing to myself when I've been drinking. 4) "Lazerbeam" - Super Furry Animals 5) "Place Your Hands" - Reef. For reasons that I cannot really seem to figure out, I find myself listening to Reef's "Glow" CD at least once a week.
UPDATE: I am also adding "Gwefus Melys Glwyfus" by Topper, because Dave said he'd be disappointed if there were no Welsh songs in the list (although Goldie Lookin's Chain and Super Furry Animals are Welsh).
On Thursday I was giving Dave shit over the fact that he drives a BMW and was reminded of the one time I got to drive a BMW. My co-worker in San Diego was union, so she earned more than double what I made for basically the same job*, and her husband is an international spy. Oh, sure, he says that he is simply setting up satellite security networks, but he's obviously a super spy/assassin. People cross him and those people disappear. Anyway, the point is that my co-worker was (in my opinion, at least) stupid rich. "I'm selling my BMW," Jen said to me one day. "I know your truck was stolen, would you be interested?" "Ha. Not unless you are selling it at some ridiculously undervalued price," I said. "Well. $1,400. Is that low?" "What?! $1,400? What year is it?" "A '98" (We were having this conversation in 2002). "A 1998 BMW for $1,400? Does it not run?" "No, it's a real nice car. I've got it outside if you want to drive it." "Fourteen-hundred dollars? One-thousand four-hundred?" "Yeah." And so even though I knew she had lost her mind, I agreed that I should take it for a test drive right away. To give you an idea of the cars I was used to driving, the first thing that stood out for me was the air conditioner. It was instantly cool and I felt happy and comfortable as I sat into the leather seats. The car was in perfect condition and had all sorts of amenities that I can't imagine ever needing. "Well," Jen said. "Drive it around." She made me drive it around the neighborhood and then take it on the freeway and gun it up to 90 mph (the speed of traffic in Southern California) and then we brought it back to the TV station and I told her that I would try to get my hands on $1,400 as soon as possible. "Where the hell am I going to find $1,400?" I thought. "Well, I've got about $200 in savings. I'll bet Jim would lend me a little bit of money for this. He would understand. I could borrow some from my parents, from Rachel's parents; I could sell my CD collection." Later in the same day, Jen came over to my desk. "Hey, about the car," she said. "I was just talking to my husband, I meant to say $14,000. Thousand, not hundred." "Yeah. I thought it would be something like that." "So, are you still interested?" "Not so much." Sometimes I think about dressing up in my hippest clothes and going to test-drive nice cars like that, just for fun. But I'm not sure how I would get to the dealership. Rolling up in the Delta 88 would be a dead giveaway, I think.
This is my new favorite thing. It's a bit more difficult to navigate than I would like, but it allows you to listen to the various accents of the UK. I find it to be fascinating, because I come from a country where accents are increasingly being melted away and those that exist stretch across huge distances. If you drive from Bristol, England, to Cardiff, Wales (about 40 miles), you hear distinctly different accents. Whereas if you drive from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Chicago, Illinois (836 miles), difference in speech will be almost negligible. It's fascinating to me that there can be so many variations in speech in such a small space. The trend is intensified in the Welsh language, where you can seemingly heave a rock and hit someone who speaks Welsh in a different way. This makes for a language that is rich and colorful, but also fucking hard to learn. There is a program called "Lleisiau" on Radio Cymru that discusses all the differences in Welsh speech. I try to listen to the program, but usually get lost within a minute as a deep panic comes over me: How in the hell am I supposed to learn how to speak this language when there are so many dozens of ways to speak it?
"Last year, university researchers conducted an experiment in which police fired 700 blank rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood in a single afternoon. No one called to report the gunfire." That's a tough city.
Good name for a band: Coq Roq. Oh, wait. It's taken.
*That's not a slight against union; she deserved that money. I did, too.
Every day is an adventure with my beloved Delta 88. Who in their right mind would want a boring normal car with all its reliability in getting its driver from point A to point B? Part of the adventure, they say, is getting there. And the question of whether I will get there at all makes the journey even more exciting. I have found that the car performs better if I give it a minute to warm up when I first start it up. So, I was doing this on Thursday morning and I sort of leaned back and watched the steam rise up next to the car's window and I felt all happy and relaxed and thought to myself: "I'm so happy that the mornings are starting to get cool again. I love the fall." Then I remembered that it is August. The mornings have been cooler, but the temperature was still up around 65. The steam I was seeing was bluish smoke. Thankfully, Gov. Jesse Ventura eliminated emissions standards in Minnesota several years ago, so I just ignored it and drove to work. Thanks, Jesse!
Random line from the song that I can't get out of my head: "After two flaming sambukas she don't care who she is."
I was lying in bed last night and my brain was spinning so hard that it started trying to do math. Math, for the love of Pete! I am sick. Sick in the head. In my defense, I was trying to work out how many square feet of womanage will be in my apartment on Thursday when two of my wife's sisters come to visit.
Here are some other random things that happened on my unscheduled day off: --- Just to make it all official like, I went to the doctor. He gave me a bottle of amoxicillin and sent me on my way. I may or may not need the amoxicillin -- something about how quickly he prescribed it reminded me of the doctors in "Catch 22" who would paint your teeth purple. --- When I got home from the doctor, the first thing my wife asked was: "What did he say about giving you something for sleep?" It had been her suggestion that I ask my doctor to prescribe sleeping pills, to help me get enough sleep. And, I suspect, by extension, to help her get enough sleep. "Uhm, he says I don't need 'em," I said. "You didn't even ask, did you?" No. No, I did not. I am a Manly Man with a Manly Brain That Is Not Broken. I don't need no stinking sleeping pills. Judy Garland took sleeping pills. Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley, bitches. I am not that bad off -- far from it. --- While I was walking back from the market with various items for lunch, I spotted a guy on a bicycle in the middle of the street. As he pedaled by, he screamed out to no one: "I don't deserve this! I'm an American citizen!" --- I dreamt that Rachel and I were being attacked by a dude who looked a lot John Astin in his character as Buddy, on "Night Court." He was trying to attack us with a frying pan. I pushed Rachel into a stairwell and then stood at the stairwell entrance, so that the guy would only have a single angle of attack. My tactic worked and when he tried to swing, the frying pan he got caught up against a wall and I threw a jab that dropped him to the floor. But then he started trying to scramble under my legs and get up the stairs to my wife. I caught him again and started punching anything I could in the dark of the stairwell and then I heard my wife shouting, "What the hell are you doing?!" and I woke up to see that my wife was gripping my fist and that I had punched her in the hip. "Oh, shit!" I yelped. "There was a guy and he was coming after you and I was hitting him and..." "Did you get him good?" "Well, uhm, yeah." "Good for you, honey," she said, kissing me on the cheek and going back to bed.
I'm pretty sure this was reported a year ago, but Pierce Brosnan seems to have finally been informed that he is Bond no more. Who would you choose to take his place?
The rugby team I mentioned in a post a few days ago now faces eviction from the pitch they've held for 25 years. And the team president has uttered one of the most implausible phrases I've ever heard from a rugby player: "... all the other guys in the club who don't drink, like myself."
Why do I take joy in Madonna's falling from a horse? "Isn't she from Detroit?" my coworker asked. "What was we she doing on a horse, anyway?" Indeed. I despise her that she has somehow become a member of the English aristocracy. I expect her to start lobbying for the return of fox hunting soon.
Today I took the day off work due to stress-related illness (that makes me sound like a celebrity, doesn't it? That's what they always blame when they are rushed to the hospital for heroin overdose) -- basically, I have stopped sleeping because I've managed to wrap myself in a warm blanket of anxiety over a number of things that are going on in my little world.
I am trying to push myself to allocate enough time for everything, but each night finds me lying in bed muttering: "Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. I didn't get this done. I need to do this. I need to do this. Fuck, how could I forget about this?"
Blah, blah, blah, I'm a big pussy and I don't know how to relax*.
So, what did I do with my impromptu day off? I used it as an opportunity to try to get some more things done.
That's enough bitching. Normal service will resume tomorrow.
*Who has time to relax? Relaxing takes time, which means that I then have even less time to do stuff, which means that I become even more stressed. Stupid fucking vicious cycle.
This may amuse Sara Handy, who reads this blog from time to time, although it probably won't surprise her -- my parents remember things she has done better than I do. This last week, my mother was serving as an instructor for some sort of science project in Lake Itasca, Minnesota (headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River). Last night at dinner she was explaining the whole project in her usual meandering and overly detailed way and I was just sort of sitting there nodding and not paying attention until my dad said: "This was the same thing that Sara did that one summer." "Huh?" I said. "Sara Handy," my dad said. "She used to be your girlfriend." "I know that. I don't remember her going to Itasca." "Sure, it was the same summer that she also took part in some research on the brains of snails." "I think it was worms," my mom pitched in. "Yeah," my dad said. "Snails or worms. And it was supposed to somehow help to find a cure for Alzheimer's." The hell? I don't remember any of this. That probably says a lot about my quality as a boyfriend. In my defense, my memory doesn't work that way. I have a crap factual memory. I can remember things vividly, but it all exists without context in my skull -- a timeless collection of sensual experiences -- taste, touch, smell, look, sound. This morning I found myself thinking about it more, and perhaps I do remember Sara's going to Itasca. "Hey. That was the same summer that she worked with those hot Puerto Rican girls," I thought. This, too, probably says a lot about my quality as a boyfriend.
Maybe, though, Sara told me all about these snails and worms with Alzheimer's disease and I don't remember because I didn't hear her.
On July 2, 2003, I sent a note to the American distributor of Welsh ESB, asking where I could find it in or around St. Paul, Minnesota. Today I heard back from them, in the form of my being CC'd on an e-mail to someone else (presumably a local distributor). Two years -- I can't even decide how I feel about that customer service. Obviously, it's abysmal, but at the same time, you have to respect that the person I sent the e-mail to got around to answering it eventually. I also give him credit for his valiant effort in ending his e-mail with "Yachi-da," which, I'm guessing, was an attempt to write "iechyd da" -- a common drinking toast, it is Welsh for "good health."
I think I have before told the story of being on the Tube in London with an American friend when a very loud American family boarded the train. They stood in the middle of the carriage, loudly announcing to one another their complaints about various facets of what they perceived to be daily British life: "WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BUTTER THE BREAD ON ALL THEIR SANDWICHES? IT'S SO GROSS!" screamed the mother, emphasizing "they" with a tone of disgust. My friend leaned back against his seat, put his hand over his face and muttered: "I am Canadian. I don't care what my passport says; I am Canadian. When we get back to Pompey, I am sewing a Canadian flag onto my backpack." Similarly, dudes like Larry Mattlage make me want to disavow my being a fourth-generation Texan.
Good name for a band or an album: El Presidente de NASCAR*
I am shocked -- shocked, I say -- to learn that a rugby team would become disruptive when denied alcohol. No, wait. I'm not at all shocked. What were the flight attendants thinking? Getting between a rugger and booze is like getting between a mama bear and her cub.
*I don't know what's wrong with me, I was watching NASCAR again this weekend. In a Domino's advert that ran during the race, Michael Waltrip proclaims himself to be "El Presidente de NASCAR," in response to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s claim that he is "Grand Pooh-bah of NASCAR."
My wife is out of town for the weekend. She's visiting St. George, Utah, for her 10-year high school reunion (Go Flyers!). She will probably be a standout among the breeding stock that is your average Southern Utah girl. That's cruel, I know. My God, the women are gorgeous there, but the majority of them have been brought up to be mothers and housewives*. As such, most of Rachel's friends will have gained weight, have children, and never finished college (because what's the point of going to college after you've found a husband?). Whereas my wife is the hottest of all hotties, with a master's degree and a husband who... oh, that's me... well, OK, she could have done better in picking a husband, but she wins on every other count.
Am I the only person who remembers Square One? I mentioned this show at work today and they just looked at me.
One of the beauties of the Internet is that my columns never go away. So, from time to time I receive e-mails in response to columns that ere written several years ago. I received an e-mail today that said: "I read your article, and I would like to ask you, some men unbuckle their pants at the urinal, and some just unzip. Is unbuckling considered rude? I can not find an etiquette site that says so." How would you have answered this guy?
Usually when a school eliminates its American Indian mascot, it does so with a half-assed sense that strikes me as almost bitter: "Fine. You don't like the Redmen? From now on, we are the Red Storm -- a perfectly useless and shapeless mascot that is impossible to conceptualize." Therefore, I suggest University of North Dakota change its mascot from the "Fighting Sioux" to the "Fighting Sue." The mascot can be an angry visage of mystery writer Sue Grafton. "H" is for Hockey champions, bitches.
*Housewives and mothers are good things, of course -- I'm pretty sure they're the core readership of my column -- but I'm not sure that any gender should be steered toward any specific occupation.
I am hereby issuing a fatwa against the asswipe (pronounced: "ass-wee-pay") who designed the 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham.
Specifically, I want the head of the person who designed the doors to be brought to me on a pike. The city of Detroit will bathe in the blood of GM engineers!*
As I mentioned Wednesday, the right rear window got stuck open. My 22-year-old power window refused to do anything when I pressed the switch. Keep in mind that when I bought the car a week ago I was already aware that the driver's side window did not roll down, so I was not happy to be reduced to just two windows in a car that is sans air conditioning.
I called my brother, Jon, (pbuh**) and went over to his shop after work, where we removed the door panel and discovered that the power window was designed to never, ever, ever, ever be fixed. The window motor (known as the regulator, apparently) was safely hidden behind a piece of jagged sheet metal that had been welded to the door.
"I hope you understand this," my brother said, "but I am not taking this section off and then spot welding it back on. That's too much work for a $250 car."
I understood perfectly, so we reached through the various holes in the sheet metal and freed the window from the yellowed piece of plastic that until Wednesday morning had been moving the window up and down. As I say, the sheet metal was jagged, so I cut my knuckles up right good in the process.
"When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?" Jon asked.***
Normally what you would do in this situation, my brother informed me, is take a piece of wood, jam it inside the door, and use it to prop the window shut. This is what's known in the auto body profession as a "ghetto fix." But we couldn't find a piece of wood just in his shop that was small enough to fit into the door, so I came up with the idea of running wire through the bolt eyelets at the bottom of the window (where it had been bolted to the regulator) and then lashing it to the top of the door.
In short, my right rear window is now wired shut. That left me with two operating windows. But wait...
When we were finishing up, we happened to be fussing with the left rear window, and right then and there, the regulator died on that one, too. This means that I have one operating window -- the passenger side. Needless to say, I'm not inclined to mess with it.
On my way home from the shop, I started thinking about how much I hate whoever designed this car, and the mentality that allowed them to do it. How in the hell can it be morally tolerable to build a mechanical thing that cannot be fixed? Yet there it was, this goddamned unfixable door. It's a mentality that extends to the dashboard -- there is no temperature gauge for this car. No other gauges save the fuel gauge and the speedometer. If the radiator overheats, I won't know until it explodes.
You suck, General Motors. A pox upon you!
*I'm kidding. Please don't have me arrested and sent to Guantanamo.
With Monday's tire issue still not resolved (I'm getting new [used] tires on Saturday), a new problem has reared its ugly head in my car. Today the window motor in the right rear door burned out. Power windows are, of course, the worst idea of all time for exactly this reason. Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday, so I'm going to have my brother help me jam the damn thing back up into place before then. After that, I will simply have to accept that that window, like the driver-side window will remain closed forever. I have a fear that the same will soon be true for all the windows of this car, and with my luck, this will happen before the weather cools.
Coincidentally, a year ago today I was coming to terms with the fact that my wife's car was dead and not coming back (apologies to Hoss for a "Here's another one from the archives"-style post). I went a year without a car, and now that I am no longer biking to work and bumming rides, I am living my personal hell. When I was a boy, many an hour were spent alongside my dad in the lobbies of various auto repair shops. Due in part to the fact that my dad seems to think that basic auto maintenance is for pussies, our cars would break down with incredible frequency. Cars are like that -- once you get behind the 8 ball*, it becomes incredibly difficult to remove yourself. The cost of one set of repair puts you in a financial hole so deep that you can't afford to deal with other problems until they become too great to ignore. It becomes an evil, unbreakable circle. In my memory, the visits to auto body shops are more frequent than trips to the doctor (and keep in mind that I'm asthmatic -- I saw the doctor a lot). Once, our minivan's cruise control got stuck (even after shutting off the car and starting it back up, the cruise control refused to disengage -- it kept trying to rev back up to 60 mph, forcing my dad to drop it into neutral at intersections and then riding the brakes as he fought the thing to the nearest Firestone) just as we were arriving in Austin on a particularly hot day. As a result, I spent the afternoon jumping pieces of concrete in the parking lot instead of going to Schlitterbahn. I distinctly remember standing there in the heat, my eyes rolling back in my head from boredom, and vowing to myself: "This will not be me." I promised myself that I would fix problems when they needed to be fixed. I would do all maintenance on time. If a car were getting to be a problem, I would get rid of it. I would not be beaten by some goddamned dirty piece of metal. But that's a much more difficult battle to fight than I realized. And this is why I love my brother -- he understands cars. When he taught me how to replace the brakes, I saved hundreds of dollars. He saved me hundreds of dollars earlier this year when he fixed the radiator. He saved me hundreds of dollars last year when he helped me replace all the plugs and wires (admittedly, I had done this before, but he was the one actually doing all the work). And now he is going to save me money and embarrassment (taking an '83 Oldsmobile in for service on the power windows? What?).
This week it was reported that the U.S. military has devised a plan to operate domestically in case of terror attack. Does this make anyone else nervous? Instead of using a force that is primarily trained to kill, wouldn't it be better to use one of our myriad domestic forces -- off the top of my head: U.S. Marshals, ATF, FBI, DEA, Border Patrol, state police, municipal police.
I think it's really cool that Radio 1 is now broadcasting in the United States (of course, I and probably thousands of others have been listening online for years). I like the idea of a global radio station, and I think the BBC has the capacity to pull that off. But the time delay is arse. Especially considering that it the single five-hour delay applies cross-country. In other words, while Chris Moyles' 7 a.m. show will broadcast at 7 a.m. in New York City, it will broadcast at 6 a.m. here in St. Paul, 5 a.m. in Denver, 4 a.m. in Los Angeles. What the hell is the point of that? I'll just continue to listen online.
Ever have one of those days when you want to drive to Canada, listening to metal all the way there? That's where I'm at today.
*Is that a real phrase, or did I just make that up?
So, on Monday I happened to be looking at the right rear tire of my beloved car. Of course the tire was worn bald, but I also noticed that there is a piece of metal imbedded in there -- a large Phillips head screw. So, I need some tires. I am, of course, going with used tires. I spent most of the morning calling around and it looks as if I will end up having to fork out about $60 for a pair of mismatched tires.
Good name for a band: The Provo Incident*
Jenny and Mr. Phin are officially wed. Every time someone gets married I feel the need to point out that one of the true benefits of marriage is that you no longer need to worry about getting caught having sex in your parents' house. Now, if someone walks in on you, instead of acrobatically leaping to opposite sides of the room whilst doing up your clothes, you can simply toss a Bible at the interloper: "It's in Genesis -- we're supposed to be doing this. Now go away."
"I feel like I've accomplished something when actually I have accomplished nothing." --- He's talking about something else, but that quote pretty much sums up my journalism career.
In his column this week, Garrison Keillor made the observation that "America is losing its capacity to manufacture things... but every day we turn out trillions of words about ourselves, bloggers blogging, floods of memoir, day-dreaming, carpet-chewing, and when eventually the Chinese repo men come to collect on our debt, they will find a nation of highly articulate self-aware people who can't change an oil filter but maintain wonderful websites. A nation of English majors." My immediate reaction to that was: "Hey. I can change an oil filter." Combine this with Dave's recent stop-and-smell-the-roses commentary, and I found myself thinking about what legitimate skills I possess. When the revolution comes, what good will I be? I can knit. I can perform relatively basic auto repair. I have pretty solid storytelling ability (every society needs storytellers). But I can't hunt or fish or start a fire with rocks; when it comes right down to it, I'm relatively useless. I'm not entirely sure I would survive for very long. What are your actual skills?
*I have long thought of building a blog dedicated entirely to good band names, but I can't be bothered.
Arse. Why does Peter Jennings have to be dead? How can you not appreciate the sleepless one? When the millennium rolled around, he and ABC marked every single new year around the world (surprisingly, there are more than 24). My friends and I were at the bar for most of the time (thank you, Nevada, for 24-hour bars), saluting him with each new stroke of midnight somewhere around the world, but we couldn't survive as long as Jennings. He did the same thing on 9-11. My memory of that time includes Jennings effectively living on camera for two days, and, strangely, it was comforting to see him there. I think I mentioned before that I got the chance to meet him once. It was my impression that Jennings was far too intelligent to be a television anchorman.
I found another flaw with Y Bwystfil today -- the roof leaks when it rains. How can you not love this car?
Can someone please explain this guy fashion of only tucking in the front of your shirt, so that everyone can see your belt? When did this start? I've only just started noticing it. This has got to be the dumbest fashion I have encountered.
Here are the results from this meme (two of which actually refer to the important Chris Cope -- me): 1 - Chris Cope is Director of SmartCapital Special Projects at the Ottawa Cenre for Research and Innovation. 2 - Chris Cope is married, with no children. (Yes, I am) 3 - Chris Cope is making a name in international fraud and asset recovery. 4 - Chris Cope is very excited about these new services and about the whole idea of the SmartCapital Project. 5 - Chris Cope is no slouch on guitar. 6 - Chris Cope is an academic in the Department of Information Technology at La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia. 7 - Chris Cope is president of Sunbelt Lending Services, headquartered in Clearwater. 8 - Chris Cope is also the director of Accountants Defence and Advisory Services Limited... 9 - Chris Cope is the son of preacher Mike Cope. 10 - Chris Cope is disturbed by Wal-Mart's new environmentally friendly store in Texas. (Yes, I am)
According to my insurance agent, the average American car is driven some 15,000 miles a year. Considering that automakers brag when their cars can last 100,000 miles, we can assume that modern cars aren't built to last much longer. Put those two numbers together and you get a car that is expected to last just a little more than six and a half years. That's pretty sad, actually, that people would spend as much as my grandfather paid for his four-bedroom home on a piece of metal that is only expected to last 6.6 years. Any-who. The average American lifespan is 78 years. That means that one human year is 11.8 car years. Thus, the 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale that I bought Thursday is about 260 years old. I can't say the age doesn't show -- there is no front grill, the body has a fair number of dents and some rust, the front is grey and the rear is tan, the tires are worn (I may even have to replace one or two), the right front tire is missing a lug nut, the brakes are suspicious, the steering is loose, the automatic door-locking system does not work, the driver's side window won't roll down (mental note: don't drive into a lake with this car), the driver's side power window console will close the front passenger's window but not open it, the passenger-side mirror does not exist, the driver's side mirror is cracked and cannot be manipulated so as to be useful for doing anything other than looking at the door handle, the air conditioner does not work (who thought it would, though?) and air does not come out of the vents, the cloth from the roof hangs down and touches my head, the cigarette lighter does not work (I am planning to throw it out the window as soon as someone is in the car with me that will understand the line, "Fix the cigarette lighter"*), the radio (it's got a dial!) works but mysteriously works best when listening to classic rock or country or sports-talk radio, only two of the five radio pre-set buttons function, the cover for the trunk (aka "boot") must be propped open, and I haven't had the guts to really explore under the hood (aka "bonnet") yet. But, oh Lord, is she a beautiful car. I have named it "Y Bwystfil." You should hear this thing at idle. It has that deep rumbling that comes from an old carburetor engine. This is the sound made by all the cars of bad guys in 80s and 90s action films. I feel as if I should carry a baseball bat and terrorize some innocent single mother (Where's the fuckin' money, Demi Moore!? Give it to me before I smash some random glass home accessory with my baseball bat -- the stock of which has been wrapped in hockey tape!). And there's so much room. I can comfortably seat at least six, and there's room for about four more in the trunk. I'll try to take pictures this weekend.
This is brilliant. For some reason, I'm thinking that Thomas will appreciate this application.
I am in an unreasonably foul mood today. The main reason for this is my having spent the whole of my paycheck in less than a week. In looking through my checking ledger, the money has all gone to normal things -- not one hookers-and-booze binge to be found. Capitalism sucks so much, dude.
One good bit of news, though: I have purchased the Delta 88. It is a beast. More on that when I can get around to taking pictures.
"This is just a sign that God's trying to tell us that you should look for faith wherever you find it -- even in a pancakes."
For reasons that are not clear to me, I am no longer able to leave comments on Linus' blog. Is it just me or does anyone else have this problem?
Today I was driving along in my pickup truck, with the air conditioning on its highest setting and listening to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells," and I had this feeling come over me that everything was right and good in the world. After a few moments, though, I thought to myself: "What does this mean, that I am so happy?" Am I simpleton? Give me an air-conditioned pickup and cookie-cutter rock and I am placated? Is my life this sad? Am I so beaten and frustrated by the routine of my daily life that I will become euphoric at even the tiniest respite? I don't know -- the guitar solo ended and I had to get back to singing. If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine.
The evolution debate has reared its ugly head on Thomas' blog. Go over there and get your rhetoric on. Of course, you are not allowed to discuss serious issues on my blog unless you agree with me.
Fun! Find sex offenders in your neighborhood. There are either no sex offenders in my neighborhood or this thing is a bit wonky.
"In the 18th Century it was the height of fashion for rich (British) ladies to have a black child servant."
If there's a fella I want to buy ice cream from, it's this guy.
*Six points to you if you can catch the reference in my headline.
Per Sara's request in a recent post, I have taken a number of character-based pictures:
The Pimp: I'm suffering from a certain bling deficiency in this one, but my coat is 100 percent big pimpin'. I bought that coat for $20 at a thrift store in Reno, Nev., where I used to run a brothel (OK, half of that sentence is true). I dig the 70s porn lighting that this one seems to have.
NASCAR Fan: I'm sorry if this one hurts your eyes, but nothing seemed more authentic than a shirt-off pose. I have the teeth of a NASCAR fan, but my beer is way too high class. I didn't have any Keystone Light in the house, and I wasn't about to go out and buy some just for the sake of a picture. Also, NASCAR fans probably don't wear Claddagh rings.
The Academe: Easily the biggest stretch of my caricature ability, I'm not sure I look so much like an academic as I do a pseudo intellectual that sits in coffee shops. Imagine that something by Sartre is in my right hand. I used to listen to Joanna Newsom until she sold out.
The Pirate: Avast thar! No jaunty scarf could be found, so I used a table runner. But check out my authentic pirate-type shirt as purchased at the Renaissance Festival last year. Of course, parrots are for worthless scurvy-infested scalawags, so I have a dolphin. Actually, it is my wife's dolphin. Its name is Dottie.
My good buddy, Jim, is a producer in Sacramento. He sent me a few videos today to prove why he loves his job so much. Jim is the voice of Mark's brain in these two clips: - Part one - Part two
Here's how I amused myself at work today. Someone sent something to me that was meant to go to our Spanish translators (apparently we have those among the ranks at my benevolent employer -- this was news to me), so I translated it into Welsh -- not nearly as much fun as getting to scream "I am the god of hellfire" on TV.
I like this idea. I'm thinking of sending in my Wu-Tang Clan "Wu-Tang Forever" CD. What would you send?
Hooray: mammoth. Once again I issue my call for mammoth cloning. We could put them in North Dakota -- think of the tourist boon!
This, by the way, is my 500th post, according to Blogger.
Rachel's out of town for the week, which means that as you read this I am probably putting out a fire that I accidentally started while trying to make "beer toast."
I don't have any idea what beer toast is, but I'm sure I'll try to make it at some point and I'm sure I'll end up with second-degree burns. I will also likely eat nothing but Buffalo wings, sausage, and Jell-O pudding snacks.
Mmmm, pudding snacks. I wonder if those go well with Guinness? I guess there's only one way to find out.
My wife and I biked down to Ribfest Saturday, spent $40 and ate until we felt sick.
Ribfest is basically a celebration of grilled meat. About a dozen barbecue grilling crews offer ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage and beans at exorbitant prices to the hungry masses. Also available is expensive beer, roasted corn on the cob, ice cream, and funnel cakes. It is effectively a confirmation, with country music power chords, of all the negative stereotypes Europeans have about American lifestyle and cuisine. A number of similar events take place in just about every American town throughout the summer -- if you don't go to one, the terrorists win.
In previous years, the local Ribfest was held in a parking lot in downtown Minneapolis, making it a miserable and unpleasant experience for everyone involved. It was poop -- the heat of the grills combined with the heat coming off the pavement and went nowhere because the surrounding buildings blocked the wind. Of course, that never stopped me from going, but it sure as hell contributed to the persistent complaining of the entertainment. Last year, my wife and I saw Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Ribfest and they pissed and moaned about the heat between and during just about every song.
This year, the Ribfest was moved to Harriet Island, making it better on a number of points. Harriet Island is considerably larger than a downtown parking lot, allowing room for more toilets, which in turn meant that the toilets were cleaner overall. Harriet Island has grass, which was definitely cooler than pavement under Saturday's cloudless sky, and there are even a handful of trees there to provide shade.
We ate a ridiculous amount of meat, ice cream and a funnel cake, and then suffered through a 10-mile bike ride home. When we got home, we were completely defeated by the sun, dehydration, the bike ride, and fattening food, so we just sat on the couch and watched NASCAR.
More disturbing, though, was how much I know about NASCAR. My wife would occasionally ask questions about why drivers were doing such-and-such, or why they weren't doing such-and-such, and I was shocked and amazed to hear myself giving the correct answers.
"I thought you didn't watch NASCAR," Rachel said.
"Then how do you know so much?"
"I think it may be genetic -- fourth-generation Texan and all that. You know how I can tell if a bull rider is going to fall as soon as he lets go of the gate? Same thing. It's in my blood to be this white trash."
When Martin Truex Jr. started to slow late in the race, I said: "I'll bet there's something wrong with his wheels. He changed four tires when he pitted and they did it so fast that they probably screwed up."
Several laps later, Truex was forced to pit again (losing him the race) and we found out that I was right.
Hola. I'm Chris Cope, author of the books The Way Forward and Cwrw am Ddim. I'm originally from Austin, Texas, but through a series of terrible and wonderful events called "life," I now reside in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- specifically the bit that is Penarth, Wales. Occasionally I write things.