Thursday, March 30, 2006

Building bridges with popsicle sticks

  • I heard from Cardiff University's financial aid department today; the bloke there was immensely helpful in talking me off the ledge. He sent me an e-mail that in its essence went like this: "Well, you should do these five things. But, you know, I can make it magically work without an element here or there because the Welsh are nice like that."
    Actually, he didn't applaud himself or the Welsh in any way, but my mind added that because his helpfulness is so contrary to every other experience I've had with university administrative types.
    It adds to this terrifying sense I have that the universe is cooperating. Jenny the other day was talking about trying not to think about things that you want for fear that somehow even thinking about them will cause them to go horribly pear-shaped. I feel some of that when thinking about all these goofy heavy things like life and what the hell I want to do with it.
    When I do think about it, I get even more nervous in thinking about the "how" of it all. Often in my life, things seem to have fallen together in the most tremulous of ways. I feel at times as if I am living on the edge on one of those cartoon bridges that Daffy Duck would build by hammering a plank of wood onto another. I have these ridiculous hopes and I am inching toward them on a bridge of popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue. And when I stop to look at things, I think: "This is ripe for disaster, man."

  • Also, thanks for the advice, Eilís and Tuckmac. I may still name my first child Lucy, though -- €10 is $12.16.

  • Today someone sent me a story for which the headline was: "Man Shot Outside Barbershop."
    When you think about it, that headline could be used for any shooting anywhere, as long as it didn't take place in a barbershop.

  • "I said, 'What are you crying about?' He said, 'Daddy, I was a Jew today.'"

  • It's not the booze, apparently -- college girls are just whores naturally.
  • Who wants to be my sugar mama?

  • Does anyone have a few thousand dollars they want to give me? I am in the process of applying for student loans to go to Cardiff but it is killing my mind. I am so confused right now that I can't verbalize it. I can't even analogize my confusion. I can't compare it to anything. It's not like anything. It is beyond my capacity to even begin to understand what I need to understand.
    Here's what I do know: I need several thousand dollars. I'm not even completely sure on how many thousands of dollars I need; I think I need $14,790. But it could be that I need $19,010. I am praying it's the former*.
    When I needed money in Nevada, they had me fill out a FAFSA application. I waited a few weeks, and then received a letter telling me to go to an administrative office where a grumpy woman had me sign my name to several pieces of paper. A few weeks later, they sent me a check consisting of the loan money left over from the tuition fees and I used it to buy beer and presents for my wife. It was simple, and all I had to do was sign away my soul to Nelnet.
    This time around, it doesn't work that way. I have again filled out a FAFSA application -- two months ago -- but have not been instructed to sign away my soul or fill out forms in triplicate or any other such thing. I called Cardiff University this morning and they told me that it was up to me to find someone to give my soul to. I am trying to do this, but it's turning out to be far more complicated than you would expect. It is so complicated, so confusing, that I can't get a mental grasp on it well enough to define the questions that I have. I can't even tell you how confusing it is. I know only that I need money and that I don't have it.
    Mental note: purchase lottery ticket.

  • Littlegoat today took issue with my claim to have come up with the word "retropost," directing me to a blog where the term was used 15 days ago.
    Big deal! I came up with the term more than 16 years ago, as my archives clearly show.

  • Here's a random and painful memory: Madame the puppet. Completely out of the blue today I visualized her as the personification of my evil thoughts.

    *Mother of Pete, though, that's a lot of money either way. What the fuck am I doing?
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    Let us never speak of it again

    OK, I'm back from Dublin. Keen observers will note that I've spent the past few days retroposting our trip. I've just invented the word "retroposting." I am a genius; please remember to attribute me when using this word.

    I've written a hell of a lot of words for what was actually quite a short trip. The child bride and I were only in Dublin for five days:
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Saturday
  • Sunday

    After two days of writing, I want to say that I hope you'll enjoy reading about our trip, but I honestly can't imagine why you would.
  • Monday, March 27, 2006

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    No root beer

    O'Neill'sThe clocks in Ireland were set forward an hour as we slept, so when the child bride and I awoke at 7 a.m. on Sunday we had enjoyed even less sleep.

    At breakfast, I found myself giggling over a short conversation that Linus and I had the night before:
    ME: "Did you get me a Guinness?"
    LINUS: "No. I thought you didn't want one."
    ME: "OK. No worries, I thought I had said I did want one."
    LINUS: "No, I asked you if you wanted a Guinness and you said, 'Fuck off, Irish," which I thought was rude."

    Rachel and I were at the bus stop in city center at about 8:30 a.m. and the area was deserted enough that she and I were able to stand in the middle of Suffolk Street and take pictures of one another. When I travel, I usually try to time things to allow for the possibility of everything going horribly wrong. Almost always this results in everything going exactly as it should. So, the child bride and I arrived at the Dublin airport some two hours and 45 minutes before our flight.

    Fortunately, we were kept occupied by security checks. In line to get our boarding passes, we had to talk to a bloke with a thick Dublin accent who used "ya's" as the plural of "you" ("I just need to ask ya's a few questions about your luggage."), which was an element of speech that I didn't think really existed. As soon as we were finished talking to him, a woman pulled us aside for a "random bag search." Once we got our boarding passes, we had to go through the metal detector security check to get to the terminal. In the terminal we then had to go through U.S. Customs before we could get to our gate. And as we were boarding the plane, Rachel was pulled aside for a "random bag and body search," that involved one fellow breaking the zipper on her carry-on while she was frisked by a slightly butch female security official.

    Rachel in DublinThe flight to Chicago was tedious, as you would expect, with the highlights coming from the head flight attendant who appeared to be suffering from age-related dementia. Her cabin announcements were filled with very long pauses and occasional rambling statements. She also displayed a true skill in driving the drinks cart into my knee.

    "Do you have root beer?" the child bride asked.
    "No. We have beer," the flight attendant said.

    In what world is beer the same thing as root beer? In Crazy Person Land, that's where.

    We sat amid a group of three girls from Los Angeles who had been in Ireland for spring break. One of the girls had four canisters of Pringles in her carry-on. Because God forbid you should trapped in a foreign country without any Pringles. Another girl sat directly across from me and appeared to be mildly disgusted when she saw me reading "Tocyn I'r Nefoedd" by Dafydd Llewelyn, which is obviously a Welsh-language novel.
    "That is crazy looking. None of it even looks like words," she said.
    "It's Welsh," I said.
    That usually gets a blank response, so I added: "It's the root language of Irish."
    "It doesn't look like any Celtic (she pronounced it 'Seltic') script I've ever seen," she said, as if I were lying.

    In Chicago, we got to play Security Fun House again. We deplaned, had to collect our luggage, go through customs, then give our luggage to a sort of Oompa-Loompa assembly line of grumpy TSA agents, then go through another metal detector security check. But we did eventually make it back to Minnesota. We went to bed at 8 p.m. and slept for 12 hours straight.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Work is the curse of the drinking classes

    Dublin streetSaturday morning was sunny and warm. While Rachel attended the last few hours of her conference, I walked up to the tourist office to check the schedule for buses back to the airport. I took a roundabout way that first took me around Merrion Square and then up past the statue of Phil Lynott. Dubliners are known for giving their statues rhyming nicknames, but I'm not sure anyone has yet come up with a name for Phil's.

    Waking up early on the weekend is clearly not a popular activity in Dublin, so I had the city pretty much to myself as I walked back to Merrion Square to see the "Fag on the Crag," aka, the statue of Oscar Wilde.

    Wilde was a heavyweight boxer when he was in college. Keep in mind that this was boxing in the 1870s, the time of John L. Sullivan and brutal, bare-fisted fighting. You have to admire a big gay man who can fight.

    If anyone ever makes a statue of me, I would hope it would be as irreverent as the one of Wilde. He is sprawled out on a rock with a smirk on his face that lets you know that if he were still alive, he would think that you, the person standing there taking pictures of him, are an idiot. Actually, I'm pretty sure that most writers I admire would think I'm an idiot. I would like to think that if I were to get a chance to go back in time and meet Ernest Hemingway, he would punch me in the face. Wilde likely would just tell me that I am uncultured and dull -- he wouldn't even want to make out because I'm too old.

    Oscar WildeI sat in Merrion Square for a while, reading and watching people walk by. At around noon, the child bride and I went for lunch.

    We originally set out for the Temple Bar Food Market, but my shit map (provided by my shit guide book) did not identify the exact location of Meeting House Square. We spent a while wandering through Temple Bar and I know now that we were off by only one street. I suspect that we would have eventually found the market with a bit more wandering, but the child bride had no faith in my navigational skills after the fiasco of getting to the hotel on Wednesday, so she insisted on asking people.

    She asked a woman who appeared to be a hostess at a restaurant, but who told Rachel, "I'm not from here." She then went into a hotel to ask, and the Eastern European girl at the counter didn't have a clue.

    This was a common theme for most of my trip: people not from Ireland not having a clue what you were talking about. This is my roundabout way of lamenting that they did not speak English, but not wanting to blatantly complain about someone who doesn't speak English because it makes me sound like one of those people who complains that too much government money is spent supporting Welsh education.

    Merrion Square In one pub, I had asked the bloke serving us if the pub served bitter (I only found out later that ales and bitter and the like are not terribly popular in Ireland).
    "Wha?" he said.
    "Bitter. Do you serve bitter?"
    I just sat there, twitching. In my head I was screaming: "FUCK! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST OUR FUCKING LORD AND FUCKING SAVIOR ON A FUCKING POPSICLE STICK, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?! Miller?! Miller?! I'm in a pub, you ass. Do you see me eating Buffalo wings? Is there an American football game on? If not, I don't want to hear the word Miller. I am disappointed in myself that I'm not punching you in the throat right now."
    After a few seconds, I was able to force out through grit teeth: "I'll just have a Guinness, thank you."

    At another pub, I asked the girl if they served Caffrey's.
    "Kilkenny?" she asked.
    "Is that the same thing?" I asked.
    I would find out later that, yes, it is similar, but all I got from her was a blank stare.
    "Never mind. I'll have a Guinness," I said.

    On the child bride's third attempt, another hotel, she found someone who claimed to know where the food market was located. This woman even produced a map and pointed out where we should go -- north of the river. Obviously, this woman was completely and totally wrong. Neighborhoods/districts hardly ever span rivers, regardless of the city. But with our reasoning abilities depleted by the continued exhaustion of jetlag, we wandered around a series of less-than-clean streets until Rachel decided she was ready to give up.

    I spent several minutes cursing the worthlessness of my guidebook as we walked back to the Grafton Street area, where we found a small pizza place. It is frustrating to know now where the food market is, just as it is frustrating now to know that I should have gone on the Viking Splash Tour, which also went unmentioned in my guidebook.

    Dublin bloggers and meIndeed, I probably would have written off my Dublin experience as a shockingly disappointing waste of $2,400 (cost of flights and hotel) had it not been for Linus' managing to put together a group of local bloggers and others willing to risk having their skin eaten to meet the child bride and me.

    I'm not sure all who were there necessarily want to be visually identified, so I'll simply tell you who was there and you can guess which one they are in the picture: Elisa, Donal, Isobel, Linus, Ken, Mick, and Noel. Lucy had also toyed with the idea of coming up from the Kingdom of Tramore, but perhaps as a result of my exposing the fact that the Guinness in Dublin doesn't taste different than it does elsewhere, she stayed home. In her stead, Linus made sure to insult me.

    Things went off better than a number of military operations, with Linus sending Donal and Isobel ahead to a pub called Grogan's while he went to meet us on the only street I had as yet been able to find with any sort of consistency. Once it was determined that Grogan's was too full, the Irish Blogger Recon Team was sent out to find another pub while Linus, Rachel and I ate dinner.

    We all eventually met up at Neary's, which is strangely identified outside as the Chatham Lounge. Whatever it's called, I liked it and I enjoyed the company so much that the child bride and I were there a good three hours later than I had originally intended.

    More pictures of Dublin taken on March 25

    Quite hot

    LampWe were up again at 8 a.m., but I lied in bed for a while because it was pissing down rain. At breakfast, a very large American woman insisted upon saying "Top o' the mornin'" to everyone who walked in.

    Even with my dawdling, I was at the Museum of Archaeology and History some 15 minutes early. I wrapped up in the new coat my parents gave me for my birthday and fell asleep amid the sound of the rain.

    The museum was not suggested by my guide book and turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip. I was particularly amused by the size of the weaponry used by early Celts around the time the Vikings invaded. The swords are no longer than my forearm, which suggests that they were used by rather tiny blokes. And, indeed, they were -- their skeletons fit into boxes that wouldn't hold most modern overhead luggage.

    Then, on the next floor, there is a Viking skeleton, which is of a fellow who was as tall or taller than me. You can see, then, why the Vikings were so successful in Ireland. They conquered thanks to an abundance of reach. They probably never got within striking distance of the wee Irish blokes and their miniature swords. In a very gruesome way, a fight between a Viking and a 8th century Celt must have been rather funny to watch.

    DaffodilsAfter staring at everything in the archeology museum, I went over to the Museum of Natural History. This was suggested by my guide book, which means, of course, that it was a disappointment. It was interesting only in the sense that it gave you an idea of what was interesting to Victorians -- case after case after case of dead taxidermied animals. To its credit, though, the animals didn't look threatening. As a boy, I used to be dragged to these sorts of "Let's look at dead animals" exhibits all the time and it seemed the taxidermist had gone out of his way to make every single animal look as if it was in mid-attack: menacing ducks, evil mongoose, flying death snakes, etc.

    I stayed at the natural history museum only long enough for the rain to let up, found an Internet cafe, e-mailed Linus to set up the next evening, did a quick blog post and went to lunch. I ate lunch in O'Neill's, then set out to visit the General Post Office, which had been suggested by my guidebook. When I got there, I discovered... a post office. I learned later that it had been a major symbol of the Easter Rising of 1916, but my guidebook made no mention of this. It said only that it was a quality bit of architecture. It was at this point I decided my guide book was a waste of time.

    I randomly chose a spot on the map and decided to make my way to the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, also known as Christ Church. Admission was €5, but I managed to slip in for free, thanks to a group of very stupid French girls that were distracting the old fellow who was supposed to take my money. Has anyone else ever noticed that French people love to congregate in the most inconvenient places? They especially love standing in doorways. It's as if they have some sort of internal mechanism that drives them to do this.

    I went back to the hotel at 4 p.m. for some tea and the child bride was there, eager to again take on the challenge of buying shoes. After hitting several stores, we both eventually bought shoes and then celebrated by eating at an Indian restaurant. Good Indian food cannot be found in Minnesota, so any trip to Ireland or the U.K. has to involve curry.

    Statue An English couple sat next to us, and when the girl ordered chicken madras, the waiter said: "That's quite hot, OK?"
    "What's 'quite hot?'" she asked.
    "Well, hot. Quite hot."
    "Hmm. Can you make it maybe not as quite hot?"
    "It wouldn't be chicken madras then."
    "OK. I'm fine with quite hot."

    The time difference still wearing on us, the child bride and I went back to our hotel after dinner. We watched "Jeremiah Johnson" on RTE and went to bed.

    More pictures of Dublin taken on March 24

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    The Guinness does not taste different

    It's pissing rain, so I am killing time in an Internet cafe.

    You know how every American insists that the Guinness tastes different in Ireland than it does in the U.S.?


    That's not to say I'm not drinking a lot of it, though.


    StairsRachel and I were up at about 8 a.m., our wake-up call feeling like the sort of thing they might do to you at Guantanamo.

    I started out for the Guinness Storehouse at 9 a.m., which seemed a bit early to be drinking, I'll admit, but fortunately I managed to get myself lost several times and it took me a full hour to walk a mile and a half.

    The Storehouse is a multi-media do-it-yourself tour/learning experience based on the alcoholic liquid that could easily be the center of a religion for some people. Americans are the No. 1 visitors, according to the woman I asked at the customer service desk; the English come in at No. 2, with the Scots taking the No. 3 spot. In an audio post that I recorded shortly after visiting the Storehouse, I said that holding the No. 1 spot made me somewhat proud to be an American. But when you think about it in terms of population, Scotland should be the most proud -- there are far fewer Scots than Americans or English.

    I finally found myself wandering through a series of old stone buildings and cobbled streets that looked like the set from a Batman film; this was the Guinness brewery complex. I got a sense of what it must feel like for a devout Catholic to see the pope when I saw that gate -- the gate from all those "Brilliant" ads ("A bear trap! Brilliant! Ahhhh!"). I took about 12 pictures of said gate, from all sorts of angles, as if it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. In the end, I kept only two pictures, this one and the one immediately below.

    Me at Guinness gateIt's vain to say this, but the picture to the right is probably one of the best pictures taken of me ever. It makes me look like a writer, if that makes sense. If I can't write like an actual writer, at least I can cherish this picture that makes me look like one.

    I paid €14 to attend the Guinness exhibit. That's $16.82, or £9.62, or three pints of Guinness at The Liffey to walk around and learn everything you could every possibly want to know about Guinness. But, factor in the fact that they give you a pint of Guinness at the end of the tour and a souvenir, and I suppose the admission drops to about €8. The souvenir is a clear plastic medallion, about 2 inches in diameter, that has a little drop of Guinness in it. I decided I would give it to the concubine, who demanded that I get her something from Dublin.

    Side note: never, ever, ever, ever, ever tell me to get you something when I go on vacation. You can ask, politely, but never say: "Get me something." That turns a part of my vacation into a stupid task that I have to perform just to keep you happy. Said task will eat away at me and make me angry and you will end up getting some piece of shit I got for free, whereas everyone else will get really cool scarves and T-shirts and candy made of whiskey.

    Here are a few things I learned about Guinness:
  • It is not black; it is, in fact, ruby red.
  • The water does not come from the River Liffey, and thank God for that. The water comes from the Wicklow Mountains and always has done.
  • The city of Dublin once determined that Arthur Guinness was using more water than he was allocated and sent a few fellows down to shut off his water supply. They were unable to perform said task because Arthur came at them with a pick ax.
  • There are several types of Guinness that are shipped to various parts of the world, which is probably where this "Guinness tastes different outside of Ireland" myth got started. I knew about Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught, but I had never before heard of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which has higher alcohol content and is not sold in the United States.

    GuinnessIt took me a little more than an hour to make my way through the self-guided tour and up to the bar where the complimentary pint of Guinness is served. The bar overlooks the whole of Dublin and strangely, or perhaps appropriately, plays popular American music.

    The bar is a large room that offers a panoramic view of Dublin, with modern IKEA-style tables pushed up near the windows. As I sat enjoying my pint and the view, an English woman came up and asked if I was using the chair next to me. I said no, and she proceeded to move the chair directly in front of me, thus blocking my view. For the first time in my life, I was able to see why some people thoroughly dislike the English (I should point out, though, that this was one of those upper-middle-class on-the-older-side-of-middle-age almost-certainly-conservative types that no one likes, regardless of nationality). Fortunately, as an American, I will always win a battle of rudeness.

    "I said you could take my chair; I didn't say you could take my view," I growled, allowing my Texas accent to come out.

    She blustered and moved out of my line of sight. Later, she and her group would raise their glasses say, "That Irish toast."

    I wanted to (but didn't) yell at them: "Sláinte, for fuck's sake. It's an Irish word that actually sounds like it looks, you morons. People like you are the reason the Empire fell apart. Fucking try, you fucks."

    Ha'Penny BridgeAgain I got lost almost immediately after I left the Storehouse. Eventually, I found my way to the Liffey River and walked along its northern banks up to the Ha'penny Bridge. The Guinness Storehouse makes a point of letting you know that the water for its beer has never come from the Liffey and you can understand why they want you to know this when you see and smell said body of water. It's not exactly the sort of thing you'd jump into on a hot day.

    As I walked along its banks, I was reminded of the first time I saw the Charles River, in Boston, which is far more attractive. It was summer and my friend, Paul, and I were walking across Harvard Bridge; I debated jumping off the bridge into the water and he said rather matter-of-factly: "You could; they've cleaned it up a lot -- you no longer need a tetanus shot if you fall in."

    Who knows what you'd need if you fell into the Liffey. There are little life preservers along the banks that you can throw to an unfortunate victim. I think it would be more appropriate to put rifles there, so you could put the person out of their misery.

    But a walk along the Liffey tells you something that I sensed about that city as a whole - it is, or, at least, was for a very long time, a rather utilitarian city. This is where people live and work. I sense that the idea of Dublin as a tourist destination is not one that stretches back too many decades. The walk along the Liffey is narrow and very close to cars; it is not built for a leisurely stroll as are sections of the Thames through London, or the Taff through Cardiff, or the Mississippi through St. Paul, etc. I'm not really trying to make a statement in pointing this out, I just found it interesting.

    StickA highlight of this walk came when I cut north toward the shopping areas and encountered three girls who were beyond the definition of white trash, beyond the definition of chav, and into some never-before-encountered territory of human filth. The leader of the crew was a foul-mouthed young woman who appeared to be 8 months pregnant. She wore a dirty pink track suit, the top of which could not cover her distended belly, making it more of a midriff top. She was, of course, smoking a cigarette. I considered taking a picture of her, but worried that the girls would somehow develop super-human-trash speed and come running across the street to pummel me.

    I ate a late lunch at the Stag's Head which has been helping people get drunk since 1795. If a pub is about as old or older than the nation of my birth, I have an overwhelming desire to go there. After a bit more wandering I went back to the hotel and slept and read until the child bride showed up.

    Rachel decided that she wanted "European" shoes, so we went shopping in Grafton Street for a short while, discovering that we are giants. Rachel was forced to look for shoes in the men's section, and I was told that several styles I was interested in didn't go up to my size. We gave up in frustration and ate dinner at Bewley's, then were back to our hotel in time to join a literary pub crawl.

    The evening started off with the actors doing a quick scene from "Waiting For Godot," which isn't the sort of barn burner stuff I would use to try to really wow the crowd from the start, but Irish literary figures have hardly ever been Tony Orlando on the entertainment scale, so you work with what you're given.

    More pictures from Dublin taken on March 23.
  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Drunken Muslim

    Cope StreetThe child bride and I arrived in Ireland at about 9 a.m. local time Wednesday. Dublin's airport has a certain feel to it that makes it seem as if it is a throwback to the Soviet era. In the way that Irish pubs are built in Ireland and then shipped around the world to be assembled elsewhere, Dublin's airport appears to have been shipped from the Ukraine.

    They say that queuing (aka standing in line for things) is one of the great British pastimes, so perhaps out of spite the Irish offer nothing even remotely resembling a queue to get through customs. It's just a multitude of people, most of them desperate to be released so they can buy leprechaun figurines.

    Before I go any further, I want to clear up something from a conversation that would take place a few days later. When the child bride said aloud in a pub in Dublin that she thought Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, she got exactly the sort of response one would expect; she was soundly corrected as I nervously made note of the fact that the room we were in had only one exit. She never got a chance to explain that, yes, she knows Ireland is not British, but that she thought "United Kingdom" was a charmingly antiquated phrase that is synonymous with "British Isles."

    And apparently, she is not the only one to be unclear on what larger groups Ireland fit into. As we stood in the mob waiting to get through customs, a group of pre-teen Irish boys stood in front of us and argued over whether they could go through the area marked for members of the European Union.

    Davenport"Ireland isn't in Europe, you ponce," one of them said.

    We took a bus into Dublin, and it was there that I first encountered what would be a common theme for the trip: if someone loudly bumbles into the room (or bus) in Dublin, they are almost certain to have an American or English accent. The full 30-minute trip into city center consisted of my listening to some low-level manager from Woking calling the three or four people that she was in charge of and asking them unnecessary questions.

    Another common theme was my getting lost. Within seconds of getting off the bus, I had no idea where we were. I was forced to stop every 20 feet and look at my map while Rachel communicated telepathically to the whole of Ireland that I was an idiot. If you look at a map, we walked slightly less than 900 yards down what is effectively one street. But since the street changes names four times -- Suffolk, Nassau, Leinster, Clare -- and I had not slept in about 24 hours, my navigational skills were soundly defeated.

    HousesWe ate lunch at Gallagher's Boxty House in Temple Bar, which marked the single success for my tourist guidebook. Shortly before I left for Dublin, my dad gave me Fodor's "Dublin's 25 Best." With the exception of its suggestion to eat at Gallagher's, a better title would have been "How to Be Disappointed in Dublin."

    The food was delicious (as it should be for $70 -- Dublin is an expensive fucking city), and with food finally in our bellies, the child bride and I found it hard to stay awake as we sat at our table. We went back to our hotel and, despite everything that they tell you about adjusting to the time difference, took a three-hour nap. It took me an additional hour to fully wake up and I felt as if I had been hit by some sort of massive Nerf semi-truck -- I didn't hurt but I was completely disoriented. And my bowels hated me.

    We walked to a chemists and got to live a sort of comedy sketch in my being forced to tell the chemist exactly what was wrong with me. Very little medication -- at this chemists, anyway -- is available over the counter, so rather than simply finding Immodium on the shelf at Walgreens and purchasing it camouflaged among conditioner, gummy bears and a copy of Time, I instead had to stand a counter and tell an attractive woman that I had the runs.

    ME: "I need some, uh, stomach medicine."
    ATTRACTIVE IRISH FEMALE CHEMIST: "Certainly, what sort of stomach medicine?"
    ME: "Uhm, well, I just flew in from the U.S., so I'm just a little off."
    HER: "Right. Something for motion sickness?"
    ME: "No. Not. Like. I have to, you know, go frequently?"
    HER: "Frequently?"
    ME: "I, oh, hell, I have a bit of diarrhea."
    HER: "I'm sorry, you were mumbling."
    ME: "Diarrhea."
    HER: "Oh, diarrhea. No problem. We've got this and this."
    ME: "Uhm, that one I guess."
    HER: "You're pointing, but I can't see to which. Do you have cramps with your diarrhea?"
    ME: "Uhm.."
    HER: "You're mumbling again."
    ME: "No. I'll... I'll take that box you've got in your right hand. Please let me leave."

    MountainsI was back to something resembling normal by the time the child bride and I went out for the evening to a social event connected to the conference she was attending.

    Public health nutrition is not really a male-dominated profession it seems, and I found myself as one of only four men in the room -- all of us husbands. I didn't talk to them because I was too busy sitting in stunned silence at the fact that the Guinness in Dublin does not taste different than the Guinness in St. Paul. All our grown lives we have been told that Ireland, Dublin specifically, is a Valhalla of Guinness, but it simply isn't true. I had traveled 3,728 miles to drink a pint of Guinness exactly the same as the one I could get at The Liffey. It was like learning that Santa Claus isn't real. It was like getting Kiera Knightley naked and discovering that she has an enormous tattoo celebrating the Bay City Rollers on her lower back. Sure, I still celebrate Christmas, I would still participate in a bit of "how's your father" with Kiera, and I still drank four pints of Guinness, but a certain innocence was lost. I hoped against hope that just the pub in question, The Gingerman, was to blame.

    The evening finished with the child bride and me at a table with a young woman from Indiana, a woman from Adelaide, Australia, a San Diego-raised Mexican who lives in Sweden, a woman who lives in Malawi, and a Denver-raised Lebanese Muslim who was blasted on white wine.

    Cope Street

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Gone till Tuesday

    The child bride and I will be in Dublin for the next few days. I have heard there is beer in Ireland, so the probability of my blogging anything until Tuesday is somewhat unlikely.

    Have a good week. Play nice.

    Celebrating 40 Going On 20

    My latest column is out. Please forward it to all your friends and family.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    It's my birthday, bitches

  • It has been a pretty good birthday -- far less painful than I would have expected a milestone birthday to be. When Beth turned 30, she mentioned that it wasn't as big as she thought it might be because she had spent the whole of her being 29 years old thinking of herself as almost 30. My experience has been similar.
    I've managed to drag my birthday over a space of three days. On Saturday, the child bride and I went out with a few friends; Dan and Anthony (here they are, arguing over who gets mentioned more often on my blog) and I discovered the joy that is Young's Double Chocolate Stout and decided that when we get together to watch Wrestlemania, we are going to make beer floats. I promise we will do this, and I promise we will take pictures.
    Contrary to what this picture* would lead you to believe, I didn't drink too much and was able to run in an 8K race the next day, finishing with one of my best times ever. On Sunday night, my family had actual Texas barbecue for dinner, and I cleaned up in presents. Although, strangely, the concubine seemed to want to use the occasion to stir sibling rivalry between my brother and me.
    Tonight, the child bride and I will be going tapas crazy at Solera. I didn't know this until checking the link, but apparently wine is half price on Mondays. Yes!

  • The fun continues Tuesday, with the child bride and I flying to Dublin for the week. Rachel will be taking part in a conference of dietitians and I will be wandering around the city like a big stupid American tourist. As I understand, Dublin has a lot of big stupid American tourists, so I should blend in rather nicely.
    Strangely, Linus has offered to be seen in public with me. His being off the booze has clearly done horrible things to his judgment.
    I am being dragged along to two convention-related events, and I think it would be funny if Linus and the rest of the Irish Bloggers Welcome Society were to barge into one of the events and pretend to throttle me, loudly proclaiming that, "Nobody fucks with Big Mikey."
    I won't ask him to do this, however, for fear that he would conveniently forget the pretend element of throttling me.

  • I managed to miss this somehow: Andraste (aka Joelle, apparently) celebrated her birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, Andraste.

  • The same goes to Lucy, who celebrates her birthday on Tuesday.

  • To both Andraste and Lucy I offer this really swell e-card that was sent to me by my benevolent employer. Just pretend your name is Chris, ladies. What makes it a particularly swell card is that my benevolent employer's name is written incorrectly.

  • Wrestling for Jesus.

    *Honestly, what the hell is happening there?
  • Still just as useless

    Here's a picture of me, my father and my mother 30 years ago today. I'm the one wearing a blanket. As you can see, the nurses are all standing around. A few minutes after the picture was taken, the head nurse spoke up and she said "Leave this one alone." She could tell right away that I was...

    No, wait. That's not me at all.

    I was still trouble, though. My mother kept the hospital bill; it cost $147 to take me home. When I set things on fire as a child, when I got suspended from school for fighting, when I totaled my father's car, when I drove my truck into the garage wall, when I called from Spain and begged for money, when I moved into their basement, do you think they felt they were getting their $147's worth?

    Eilís asked me about this photo; it was taken for the Austin American-Statesman as part of a feature piece they did about what-were-then-modern birthing techniques. As a result, we have all sorts of professional-quality photos of my birth -- most of them with my mother looking hell-fire unhappy. Strangely, one of my favorites is a picture of the doctor after the surgery. He is sitting alone on a standard-issue hospital chair and is holding himself in an exhausted sort of way that suggests my showing up interrupted his recovering from a hangover.

    An interesting thing to note about the newborn in this picture, though: that baby looks nothing like me. My mother says that when I was very young I had red hair, yet somehow I've grown up to have light brown hair. I think perhaps the real Chris Cope wandered off at some point, and my dad, in comedy sitcom style, ran to the nearest orphanage and picked out a replacement. He probably painted my hair red for a while, too.


    Zoom, I am fast. The child bride and I took part in an 8K race Sunday and the 30-year-old me was able to beat my previous year's time by almost a minute. I ran the race in 37:44. That's a pace time of 7:35 a mile. I finished No. 438 out of 1,163 runners, so no one will be sending me to Beijing in 2008, but I'm pretty happy with how I did.

    As usual, the most important thing is that I outran my wife. The child bride finished No. 742, with a time of 43:47, which gives her a pace time of 8:48.

    In fairness, she wasn't trying to run through a mild aging crisis. In her division (women her age), the child bride finished in the top 50 percent (48 of 99), whereas I finished in the bottom 50 percent in my division (48 of 80).

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Gettin' ink done

    Help Esther determine what she will scratch into my neck after she sneaks up on me and knocks me unconscious.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Thank God for hats

    Because I value Crystal's readership, I decided to eliminate her concern that I might pull my hair into a ponytail, and I got myself a hair cut today.


    You may remember from earlier this week that the look I was hoping for was best described as "a classic look, but as if I've just been in a fight." To help in this, my wife printed out pictures of Russell Crowe when he was at the Oscars recently.

    Crowe throws phones at people. That was sort of the aura I was hoping to achieve: "Hello, I'm wacky nutso dangerous. If you bother me, I will attack you with the nearest object and then I will steal your girlfriend using my New Zealand accent."


    What I ended up with, however, isn't very close to that. This style is neither sexy nor threatening. I don't look as if I've been in a fight in my life. I look like the sort of person who should be presenting game shows on the Disney Channel in the 90s. It's all gone horribly wrong. I want my Jesus hair back.

    What about Raven?

    Raven WK
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
    Solely to amuse Dan, Jericho, and the other professional wrestlers who occasionally post on my blog, I give you my best attempt to look like 90s professional wrestler Raven.

    Of course, since Raven has about 100 pounds on me, I look nothing like him. I do, however, show a passing resemblance to "Party Hard" Canadian rocker Andrew WK.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Ba mhaith liom Guinness*

    Cad é mar atá tú?** I can't say I'm at my best. Due to the fact that I've spent the day working -- instead of drinking Guinness and watching parades and being packed shoulder-to-shoulder into a pub and listening to folk music and hearing people speak in horrible fake Irish accents and laughing and singing -- I am incredibly short-tempered.

    Yes, I know it's amateur night, but that's part of the fun to me. I love me some St. Patrick's Day, man. Give me corned beef and cabbage. Give me green Mardi Gras-style beads. Give me green beer. Paint shamrocks on my face. Sing "Wild Rover" again. Why the hell not? Remember last year when an 87-year-old woman stole my beer? How can you not love St. Patrick's Day?

    But instead I SPENT THE FUCKING DAY AT WORK. I had planned to silently protest my being stuck in the office by bringing in my wee camera and videoing myself drinking Guinness at my desk. But almost intuitively, my wife on Tuesday had a little talk with me about my not going out of my way to do things that will get me fired.

    So, instead, I just sat and fumed. Were I the Lord Our God, huge swathes of this great nation would now be smoldering in the wake of my Guinness-deprived wrath. Blogger especially has been fueling my rage. I keep getting a message that says: "There were errors." That would be good on a T-shirt, but it's not what I want to see when I realize that I've written "Happy St. Patrick's Day" incorrectly and want to change it before someone points out what a damned fool I am.

    Meh. There's no reason for me to be this upset. I'll be in Dublin on Wednesday. And each moment of sobriety is another moment that gives me a fighting chance of running well in Sunday's 8K. Last year, my hangover lasted for two full days.

    Plus, being at work gave me a chance to dabble in learning some Irish, which is one of those things I keep telling myself I'm going to start doing but then I don't. One day I will speak all the Celtic languages fluently. How I expect to make money doing this, I haven't a clue, but I'm now well on my way. I can tell you in Irish who I am and I can ask how you're doing. And the best part is, I taught myself to do it at work; I was paid to learn how to say, "Tá fearg orm mar mhúscail an guthán mé."***

    *I would like a Guinness.

    **How are you?

    ***I'm angry because the phone woke me.

    Irish, Russian, whatever

    When I saw my dad today, I noticed he was wearing a pin on his lapel that I hadn't seen in at least 20 years.

    "Is that one of the pins from the Soviet grain ship?" I asked.

    When I was a kid, there was a rundown seafood restaurant called Hill's just off Pier 19 in Galveston, Texas, that my family went to all the time. The restaurant had enormous fresh Gulf shrimp that I had an amazing capacity to consume. It was tradition for the ships docked at the pier to make themselves available to all the visitors willing to scramble through a section of pulled-back chain-link fence. Perhaps it wasn't tradition at all, now that I think of it.

    Nonetheless, my family would always go check out the ships and would ask if we could come aboard and look around. Mostly it was Coast Guard ships. I clearly grew up in a different time that a family of four could just sort of wander up to a U.S. military vessel and ask to look around.

    But easily the most memorable ship visit came when we found ourselves on a grain ship from the Soviet Union.

    The Soviet Union! Remember that I grew up in Texas, and it was drilled into our heads in school that the Soviets were atheist psychopaths hell-bent on war. As the son of a journalist and Democrat, I was skeptical of such claims, but going aboard that grain ship with my brother and mother and father felt like the craziest, most death-defying thing that a little boy had ever done in the history of little boys.

    The men on the ship were hilarious. They had converted one of the empty grain bins into a swimming pool and were all jovial and friendly as one of them showed us just about every inch of the ship and told us all about what it was like to live aboard her. Russians weren't scary; they were cool! And at the end of our impromptu tour, the bloke who had been showing us around gave us little lapel pins (British people call them "badges," I think), each one different, with Russian writing on them.

    "Yep, it is; commemorating 70 years since the Bolshevik revolution," my dad said, pointing to the red, gold and green pin on his chest, with the embossed numbers "1917-1987."

    "I haven't seen that in years," I said. "Why the hell are you wearing that?"

    "It's the only thing I could find with any green in it," he said.

    Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

    Guess where I want to be?

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Jesus, ch'i and Cymraeg

  • It spent the morning dumping down snow again today. I didn't have the same clusterfuck commute as Monday because I was prepared. I needed to be at my desk by 7:30 a.m. for an interview with Radio Wales, and the weather folk had predicted 5-8 inches of snow, so I set out at 6:30 a.m. for a drive that takes less than 20 minutes in ideal conditions. The roads were shitty, but things moved along pretty well and I got in at 7:10.
    I can't express to you the pain of arriving in one's office 50 minutes before you are scheduled to work.
    The interview went pretty well, except for my habit of sounding like a loon when talking about Welsh. I compared the history of Welsh to the Taoist concept of ch'i.
    I'm such a dork.
    I also made a wee misstep in stating that Welsh, at 2,600 years old, is older than Christ. I should have said it is older than Jesus. There is factual evidence of the existence of a bloke named Jesus, and Welsh is older than him. Some people would disagree with me as to whether that fella is the Christ, and others would disagree with me on the issue of whether Welsh is older than the metaphysical Christ. That's my Methodist-Baptist upbringing coming out that I would automatically state Jesus and Christ as interchangeable.
    Anyway, you can hear the interview from Sunday. It's in English and should be available via the radio player.

  • Every time South By Southwest rolls around, I find myself listening to BBC coverage and they do all these color pieces that try to give you a sense of Texas and Austin, and I feel this tremendous sense of guilt because I don't live in Austin.

  • "There's such a great emphasis here, in the United States, on looking good and feeling good -- usually at enormous expense to your personality, I find."
    - Ardal O'Hanlon
  • Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    I rule, you fool

  • Last night, the child bride was not around when I was picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, so I was able to listen to Pantera for the first time in several years.
    Here's a little tip for all the kids out there who are considering getting married: if you wind up with someone who is gorgeous and wonderful and totally out of your league, you have to sacrifice a few things. For example, I had to give up getting drunk while watching wrestling and then crying myself to sleep. I also have had to give up on listening to really angry heavy metal as loud as my stereo can stand.
    But last night, aha, no one was in the house but me. So, I was free to listen to "Vulgar Display Of Power" as loud as I liked. Unfortunately, hearing the lyrics anew -- e.g., Phil Anselmo's wacky word-association beat poetry: "Fist. Skull. Break" -- made me laugh too hard to work out. The level of my extreme uncoolness in high school seems to reveal itself exponentially with each passing day.

  • I have decided that Lucy should celebrate her birthday on March 20.

  • Zoot! Sarah lives! No, not that Sarah, the Sarah who lives in Houston and occasionally disappears from the blog world because her in-laws are bonkers. If the blog world were 1970s-1980s TV classic "Love Boat," Sarah would be Charo -- assuming Charo's father aggressively hated communists.

  • When I worked for the erstwhile "Team You Know And Trust" in Reno, Nev., Charo was once a guest on our morning show. Not Sarah, the real Charo.
    Of course, everyone in the station wanted to have their picture taken with her and she was very gracious, setting herself on the news desk and beckoning people from a line that had formed as if she were some sort of big-boobed over-the-hill Latina Santa. Charo is a pro, she's no doubt in hundreds of thousands of people's photo albums, and she knows that what everyone wants in a "Here's Me With A Celebrity" picture is the impression that the celebrity is actually your pal. So, she pulls you in really close for pictures. Really close.
    With Charo up on the anchor desk, it put her massive rack right at about shoulder level for me. She draped her arm around my neck and pulled me in close and I was able to feel her boob pressing into my shoulder and chest. The terrified smile on my face in the resulting picture is the look of a man thinking: "OH MY GOD! I CAN FEEL CHARO'S BOOB! DON'T LOOK, MAN! DO NOT STARE AT THE GIGANTIC CELEBRITY BOOBIE THAT IS PRESSED UP AGAINST YOU!"
    It felt so wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I never displayed the picture and it has since disappeared.
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    The new 30

  • My birthday is Monday. I'll be 30 years old. The makers of beauty products and other types who refuse to accept reality insist, however, that 40 is the new 30, which means that I will, in fact, be turning 40 on Monday. I feel robbed.
    Fortunately for me, beer slows the aging process.
    In honor of this landmark birthday, I have decided to get my first haircut in about a year and a half. The child bride has scheduled said cutting of hair at a Proper Hair-Type Place, where one is referred to as a "client." Belle de Jour used to refer to the men she slept with as "clients," but I doubt my haircut will be nearly as exciting.
    Now the question I'm faced with is what exactly I want to do with this mess of dead cells stuck to my scalp. So far, I have only come up with a description of how I want to look: "a classic look, but as if I've just been in a fight."
    I have no idea what this means, nor how it would be manifested in a hairstyle. Any suggestions?

  • Have I mentioned how pissed off I am that I will be stuck working on St. Patrick's Day?
    I am.
    A lot.
    And my vitriol toward my benevolent employer increases daily as a result. I always take St. Patrick's Day off, along with my birthday -- this year, I'll get neither.
    I have considered quitting, and still haven't totally ruled out the possibility. Work vs. Guinness: guess which one wins in my world.

  • I dream of this happening to my plumbing.
    (Link sent via Huw, who can't be arsed to update his blog)

  • Ass. I am never flying Northwest again -- they want me to pay an extra $15 to sit in an aisle seat.

  • Dumbest hip-hop simile I've heard today: "(I've) got a bill in my mouth like Hillary Rodham."
  • Monday, March 13, 2006

    I smell bacon!

    12 Mawrth
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
    The picture on the right was taken Sunday, about 19 hours before this picture. You've got to love the great state of Minnesota.

    Actually, I do love it; it's just the benevolent employers who expect me in during crappy weather that I don't love so much. I shouldn't have been trying to drive into work today -- I should have been trying to drive to the ski slope.

    I was able to jerry rig things so that I was able to work from home for a while. Normally, I would love this sort of thing, but remember that I am stuck living in my parents' basement.

    My mother is a schoolteacher and classes at her school were cancelled. She squealed like a teenage girl this morning when she got the call that she had been given a day off.

    "I don't think your mother has been that happy in days," my dad said later.

    The child bride works in connection with a number of local schools, for which classes were also cancelled. And my dad is a managerial type for my benevolent employer, so he doesn't really do anything other than schedule meetings -- all of which were called off today because other managerial types didn't feel like leaving their far-flung suburbs.

    My mother spent the day watching TV and eating ice cream, my dad spent part of the day scheduling meetings from home, and the child bride got in a good workout.

    Eventually my dad decided that scheduling meetings from home wasn't as much fun and we risked our lives to drive into work. The roads were in rough shape and, as is always strangely the case when it snows, no one seemed to know where they were going.

    Have you ever read a story about a house fire and the firefighters find some poor person's body under a pile of clothes and you think, "What the hell was wrong with that person? What mental failure would cause you to seek refuge from fire beneath a pile of flammable things, within something that is on fire?"

    When it snows in Minnesota, you see the people who would not live through a house fire. They hit their brakes on patches of ice; they meander across three lanes without warning; the speed up and slow down by dramatic degrees; the presence of snow and ice causes them to lose what little grasp of sense they had and they become speeding death things, hurtling themselves down roads with no more skill or focus than a dog that smells meat but just can't seem to find it.

    Dance party

    I'm working from home today; everyone else in the house is taking a snow day.

    Fuck this weather

    13 Mawrth
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
    A number of local schools are closed but my benevolent employer expects me to be in on time.

    And I'm sick.

    Fuck this two times.

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    A mere male and that's all you'll ever be

  • It's been a few years since I played rugby, and I think the thing I miss most is the peer pressure to drink. Thankfully, technology has the answer.
    (Link sent to me by Señor Phin)

  • It looks as if I will be interviewed on Radio Wales next week as part of the Mousemat program. I'll again be talking about my experiences in learning Welsh. I've got to think people will get sick of me soon. I think the next logical step for me is to release some sort of comedy dance single, in the spirit of the 1985 Chicago Bears: "I'm Chris Cope, and I'm here to say/ I learned my Welsh the BBC way. Yeah!"
    At some point in the video, I will dance with a cartoonish mascot dragon. It would be fitting for my Welsh experience, which is oftentimes surreal. The producer for Radio Wales asked if I had ever been on the air with Radio Wales before and I told him no*, which isn't quite true.
    Many years ago, I got a chance to speak to Chris Needs MBE. I happened to be listening to his show after an episode of Catchphrase had aired and sent in an e-mail in response to a question he asked on air. The show called me, Chris, a Welsh speaker, taught me how to say "ardderchog," made me a member of the Friendly Garden (I'm member M-2214), and sent me a Radio Wales shirt and a tea mug.
    I just realized that this story doesn't really have that "I think I may have taken drugs and I'm just imagining it" sense if you don't know who Chris Needs is. Here, listen to the first 1 minute and 20 seconds of his show from Thursday and you'll know what I'm talking about. Messes with your head, doesn't he?
    Best radio ever.
    Honestly, if I win the Learner of the Year award at Eisteddfod this year, one of the first things I'll do is contact Chris and try to bullshit my way onto his show by pointing out that he was the first real person to speak Welsh with me. In a perfect world, he would invite me into the studio.
    Coincidentally, I saw him when I went into the BBC studios back in October, but I didn't talk to him because he had just stepped out for a cigarette and sometimes a fella just wants to step outside and not have people bothering him. When I came back out of the studio, he was still out there and being swarmed by schoolchildren.
  • Friday, March 10, 2006

    Mouf to mouf no working!!

    I can't stop laughing.

    O Dharshini schnitzelbank

  • Whoa, man, I feel like ass today. It's always best to find yourself coming down with a cold just a week before you plan to take part in a race. It's only an 8k, so I can run it sick, but I have this stupid goal of soundly beating my time from last year. I will turn 30 years old the day after the race, so my histrionic age-fearing male mind has attached a certain degree of importance to the symbolism of (almost) 30-year-old me being able to outrun 29-year-old me.

  • I think BBC World News reporter Dharshini David reads this blog. Just days after I mentioned my dad's criticism that she looks like Morticia Addams, she is suddenly sporting a lighter makeup scheme.
    Dharshini, if you are reading: 1) Thank you; 2) I have two words for you: volleyball outfit.
    I tried finding a picture of Dharshini online, but there weren't a whole hell of a lot to choose from. The one that amuses me the most is this one, which would indicate that Dharshini has been broadcasting since she was 14 years old.

  • Once I make a T-shirt featuring Jingjing the Death Panda, I want to make a shirt featuring this, which I stole from Kari.

  • Have you ever heard of the wee Channel Island of Sark? For all of my Britophilia, I'll admit that I had not. I know nothing of the Channel Islands. But apparently Sark, which is only three miles long, maintains a feudal system. That's so quaint, in an oppressive way.
    Sark is so wee that you have to first fly or float to the slightly less wee islands of Guernsey or Jersey and then take another boat to get there. All of this really makes me want to visit. Inevitably, this means that going on holiday to the Channel Islands is something that only old people do. I have an amazing ability to want to go to places that turn out to be old people Meccas.
  • Thursday, March 9, 2006

    Look! Look! I'm crazy

    I'm always amused by these sorts of tests that allow you to prove to yourself that you are crazy. Of course, I've always reckoned that if you think you are crazy it's a clear sign that you are not.

    Next time you are on a bus and you get stuck next to an absolute raving loon -- the bloke who is listening to radio via 1980s-style portable headset, hasn't bathed in a day or two, is talking to no one in particular, wears Coke-bottle glasses, and is wearing a color scheme that threatens to rip a hole in the space-time fabric --turn to that guy and say: "Hey there, fella. Would you agree with me that you are fucked in the head? I mean, from what I can see, you have no grasp of what's going on. You, sir, are crazy."

    Inevitably, said nutjob will become belligerent and you'll regret having spoken to him. Because crazy people don't know that they are crazy; it's a part of being crazy. Logically then, people who think they are crazy clearly are not.

    So, if you sit there and think, "I am crazy. And I think I shall take time out of my busy workday of subversively spreading socialism and pro-abortion propaganda to the masses to find an Internet quiz that will prove I am crazy," it's a clear sign that everything is OK.

    You hear me? OK. I'm just fine, bitches. There's nothing wrong. I am not histrionic at all; certainly not 82-percent histrionic, so get off my back! Why are you so critical? Oh God, why won't you people love me????

    Personality Disorder Test Results
    Paranoid |||||||||||||||| 62%
    Schizoid |||||||||||||| 54%
    Schizotypal |||||||||||||| 58%
    Antisocial |||||||||||||||||| 74%
    Borderline |||||||||||||||| 62%
    Histrionic |||||||||||||||||||| 82%
    Narcissistic |||| 18%
    Avoidant |||||||||||| 42%
    Dependent |||||||||| 38%
    Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||||||||||| 82%
    Take Free Personality Disorder Test
    personality tests by

    And if that lying Kari tries to tell you that I stole this from her site, don't believe a word of it. I meant to post this, like, last year but I hadn't gotten around to it and Kari totally stole the idea from me because she is jealous of how pretty I am and she just wants to take you away from me. But you won't let her do that, will you? You'll never leave me, right? Hold me.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2006

    Searching eBay for Oscar

  • If you ever find yourself in want of something to blog, try answering these questions.

  • Here's another question: Anyone know how I can get my hands on an Oscar statue?

    I realize it's a double standard of sorts to suggest that this is one lucky 14-year-old boy, but you have to suspect that relationship came to light only because he was bragging.

  • We're No. 2, yo. We should be ranked No. 1, but each breath that Carl Pohlad takes in keeps us down.

  • Today I happened to be listening to that song "Roc Ya Body," by MVP. You'll note how cool they are because they deliberately misspell "rock" and "your." Coolness = a flagrant disregard for the English language.
    Anyway, at some point in the song, a bloke announces: "All my ladies, sing along, come on!"
    But only one woman sings. That's kind of sad.

  • Random brilliant statement by me: "We are not building a legacy. We are setting up tents by the side of the road and selling velvet paintings. We offer some of the best velvet paintings around. But they are still velvet paintings."
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2006

    The man and me

    I had a dream last night that, under the false pretense of being a reporter, I was able to score an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, where I was supposed to interview Van Morrison.

    After going to his concert at random Vegas hotel that looked a lot like the MGM but wasn't, I was ushered into an interview room to sit with a very bored-looking Van and try to think up some bullshit questions. Most of my questions centered on asking why "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart" is such a bad album, and pretty soon he had figured out that I wasn't actually a reporter. I confessed that I was, in fact, just a fan, and told him my theory that I would not have been able to dupe the child bride into marrying me had it not been for his and B.B. King's music.

    "I'm tired of this," Van suddenly announced, "come on upstairs and I'll get you a drink."

    So, I followed him up to this large room at the top of the hotel that had a massive bar and enormous windows that looked out over the Strip. I had a beer and he drank whisky and we sat talking and he told me a really dirty joke that I can't presently remember. I mentioned at some point that I thought it was a bit un-Van-Morrison-like for him to perform at casinos.

    "Maybe," he said, "but it's worthwhile because you can make almost any ridiculous request and they'll bust their ass trying to make it happen."

    Then he turned to the bartender and said, "This room feels a little cold. Perhaps you could warm it up by filling it with pretty women."

    "No problem," the bartender said, picking up a phone.

    "Now, see, you make some totally inane request," Van said to me. "Go on, think of something stupid."

    "Can you make sure they're all wearing volleyball player outfits?" I asked, a recent blog entry coming to mind.

    Within 15 minutes, amid Van's laughing so hard tears were in his eyes, hotel security was ushering the entire University of Nevada Las Vegas women's volleyball team into the room.

    At some point, I went to the toilet, and when I came back, the girls had convinced Van to do an impromptu performance and he was standing on the bar, belting out Otis Redding's "Tenderness."* A group of showgirls, replete in sequined dresses and feather headgear, had also showed up.

    "Hey, man, what songs do you know? Get up here and sing with me," Van shouted to me.

    As I was being helped onto the bar, Van smiled and said in a quiet growl: "I had some roses and chocolates sent to your wife. But there is no way you're going to be able to re-tell this story without her getting angry."

    My alarm started ringing and in the millisecond between dreaming and consciousness, Van's final words to me, mysteriously, were: "Bloody Dutch."

    *And it was really good. You have to laud my subconscious for its ability to put together Van Morrison singing an acoustic version of "Tenderness." My brain actually does this sort of thing a lot.

    E-Mail And The Glow Of Accomplishment

    My latest column is out. Random sentence: "I've never met a fellow who spells his name D-R-U, which, I assume, would be short for Druid."

    Please help me become famous by forwarding it to friends and relatives, or, in Astrid's case, enjoying the column with your morning pancakes.

    No. 34

    One of the very, very few sports stars who I thought was awesome. His, Kent Hrbek's and Nolan Ryan's are the only baseball cards I own.

    Kirby Puckett died Monday, age 44.

    Monday, March 6, 2006

    Celebrity harem

  • I've never been immensely interested in the Oscars, so I don't have much comment other than this: Whoa, man, that Salma Hayek cleans up nice. She is welcome to join my celebrity harem, along with Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon. Julia Roberts will be the harem's matron.

  • All of them will be required to wear volleyball outfits. The other day, a girl from a local college team was walking through the liquor store, still wearing her gear, and it was the first time I had ever seen those short shorts up close.
    "Ya-pow!" I thought to myself. "I can't believe I didn't chase after the girls' volleyball team in high school.
    "Oh, wait. I probably did."

  • The man who almost single-handedly won Game 6 of the 1991 World Series is in the hospital. (see entry above)

  • Hey, have another McNugget, little fatty.

  • Omega, I think it may be time to start packing your bags.

  • Garrison Keillor suggested this week that Bush be impeached.

  • I desperately need more time. I have decided that I need to quit work and find a patron, in the style of Harriet Shaw Weaver.
  • @ work

    @ work
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
    If I were at home right now, this is what I would look like.

    You'll note that the fridge -- where the beer is kept -- is within my immediate reach. That's ergonomics.

    Friday, March 3, 2006

    All your pancake are belong to us

  • I should point out that the woman in Tuesday's post is not the child bride. The child bride is far more attractive. That's just some woman I drunkenly slept with -- I don't even know her name*.

  • I want this T-shirt.

  • In light of a conversation I had with a co-worker today, and Jericho's comment on a post from a few days ago, I'd like to remind you that you are always welcome and encouraged to comment in the style of a professional wrestler.

  • A girl came up to me today at lunch and said in conspiratorial tone: "So, I heard you're not really moving to Wales, that you are moving to L.A."
    "I hate L.A."
    "That's what I thought. I told Guy Who Always Wears A Baseball Cap that, but he insists that's where you're going."
    "Not to my knowledge. Maybe he knows something I don't."
    What an odd rumor to spread.

  • I suppose, though, I could stand moving to San Francisco.
    That's a lie. I wouldn't move to San Francisco; despite the fact that there is a Dylan Thomas-themed pub in the Mission District.

  • Man, it sucks when truth bites you in the ass. Stupid crappy truth. Always truthin'. Go away, truth. Leave us alone.

  • America has become a parody of some wacky America-like country.

  • Sometimes, in the process of my reading news stories all day, I want to send this note to people: "OK, turn off the computer and lie down."
    Sometimes people reach a point at which the best course of action is to just stop trying. This is an actual lede that was sent to me the other day. I sent it back and told the writer to correct the "glaring error" and he sent it back with the same error. See if you are smarter than one of the people from whom you get your news:
    "Ohio has a new millionaire after the winning Mega Million ticket, worth $267,000, was sold in Lyons, Ohio, which is near Toledo."

  • Made-up public information films. My favorite is the film that warns of pantomime dame attacks.

  • Heather today referenced one of my favorite shows of all time, "Night Court." I love me some "Night Court," my bitches. In the comments on Heather's blog, I neglected to mention my connection to Texas' own Reinhold Fielding Elmore (Dan Fielding's real name).
    In one episode, Harry explained that everyone has a little floodgate in their brain that keeps them from saying rude or offensive things. Dan, he said, had his floodgate surgically removed.
    My friend, Eric, once said he felt the same was true about me.

    *No, I'm kidding. It was the first picture I found when searching "Pancake Day." I found the picture on an Australian website dedicated to said day.
  • This winter is ass

    This winter is ass
    Originally uploaded by ChrisCope.
    Those lying bastards at the National Weather Service have said over and over this week that snow is in the forecast. But instead we get a series of relatively pleasant days.

    The art of forecasting the weather seems to have gotten less accurate over the past few years. I'm not sure if this is actually true, or just that I'm paying attention to it more.

    Unrelated to weather, when my parents first moved into their house, I could jump over the tree on the left.

    Thursday, March 2, 2006

    Texas is free!

    "Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word... A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner" -- John Steinbeck

    Exactly 170 years ago today, a group of fellas got together near where my grandmother lives today and decided slaves were a good thing, and Catholicism was not. They agreed to declare their independence from Mexico and -- thanks to risky strategy and under-the-table assistance from Andrew "I'll Bust Your Ass With My Cane" Jackson -- by the end of May they had themselves their very own country.

    The Republic of Texas lasted for nine years and 11 months. It even had an embassy in London, in Hammersmith -- a bit of a walk from the restaurant that is an ironic favorite of Jenny and the boy. But a crippling war debt (Hmm, Texans running up war debts... that sounds familiar), forced the fledgling republic to abandon its sovereignty; it was annexed and became the 28th state of the United States.

    The fact that Texas is not a sovereign nation-state has never been clearly communicated to the people of Texas. It is arguably more a separate entity from the United States than is Canada. It certainly has more people who are fiercely proud of where they're from. Have you ever heard a song about Winnipeg? Who pines for Thunder Bay?

    A recent survey by Texas Monthly found that 70 percent of Texans would be in favor of seceding from the United States. It almost certainly would never happen, because there are far too many money-making opportunities in running the United States. But there are people actively working to reclaim Texas' sovereign status. An Interim Government of the Republic of Texas has set up shop in the nether reaches of northeast Texas and pumps out nationalist radio via Radio Free Texas.

    Perhaps out of some strange sense of duty, I spent much of the day listening to Radio Free Texas, which isn't nearly as shitty as I expected. If genre-stretching country music is good (which is debatable), the station is a quality source. It certainly provided a number of great country music lyrics:
    - "DHS 'bout to take my kids."
    - "It's hard to dress a woman on $5.15 an hour."
    - "I may not be hung like the horses, but the horses are sure hung like me."
    - "Texas is the place I want to be and I don't care if I ever go to Delaware, anyway."

    Considering the quality of the federal republic to which Texas presently belongs, I can't say I'm 100-percent against seceding. At the very least, though, I want a Texas passport.

    Celebrating Texas Independence Day is pretty easy. Primarily, you need two things: meat and beer. The more you have of these things, the better. Ideally the beer should be Shiner or fizzy piss, but we're not picky. Similarly, beef is the meat of choice, but if you want to throw rabbit and quail on the grill, hell, man, that's your right. Once you've consumed as much of these things as you can possibly stand, go outside and do something stupid. If you manage to bust out a tooth, break your nose, or land yourself in jail, your Texas citizenship form will be issued immediately.

  • Random fact: When I was a boy, freshly transplanted to Minnesota, I regularly claimed to be a direct descendent of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. This is an all-out lie.
  • Wednesday, March 1, 2006

    It's St. David's Day, bitches

    I'm a food and drink guy -- drink especially. One of the key ingredients to any celebration, I think, is beer. This is one of the reasons Ramadan tends to go under the radar for me.

    Despite the fact that the Welsh were at the heart of the temperance movement (Welch's grape juice was invented by a Welshman to be used in place of communion wine in Methodist churches), you won't have any trouble finding a Welshy who's up for a pint or four. In the most recent census, 70 percent of the Welsh population said they would prefer to spend their free time at the pub. These are indeed my people.

    Brains is making an effort to establish itself as the national beer of Wales, the way Guinness is for Ireland, but as yet it is not available in the United States. The only Welsh-brewed beer I'm aware of that is sold in the United States is Welsh ESB, but it has very limited distribution. For example, it is not sold anywhere in the state of Minnesota. So, the best solution is to celebrate with Boddington's.

    The erstwhile "Cream of Manchester" (now, I suppose, the cream of Preston, Manchester and Bristol) is bottled in Cardiff, and David Lloyd George was born in Manchester.

    Foodwise, I suppose the most stereotypical dish would involve leeks and/or lamb, the latter of which I will be grilling tonight.

    In addition to wining and dining and singing (you must sing -- it is a national duty), there are a number of things you can do to mark the day:
    - Learn more about y dyn ei hun.
    - Learn Welsh
    - Learn Welsh
    - Plan a trip to California to Learn Welsh
    - Listen to Welsh-language radio
    - Watch Welsh-language TV programs (most of these, like 'Caerdydd,' even have English subtitles)