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Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Have a Lawn Now

I have a lawn now.  Correction—my new duplex has a lawn that I’m responsible for mowing every other week now.  Still, I haven’t mowed my lawn since I was 18.  I’ve mowed other peoples’ lawns.  I’ve mowed large tracts of land in national forests on riding mowers.  I’ve chainsawed, wood-chipped, bobcatted, and cherry-picked, but it’ been ten years since I’ve mowed my own lawn.

Last year, my first year in grad school, I barely noticed that I had a lawn.  As I recall it was blocky shock of grass split down the middle by a concrete sidewalk with a small garden of dead and dying things to the side.  My landlord took care of it and when I came home I mostly ignored it, preferring to tunnel through the nesting grounds that three grad students in different fields called a house until I made it to my room where I’d curl up for the night.  If it wasn’t a seminar paper or a book or a food, I probably ignored it. 

But this year I have a new place.  I’m living with only one other grad student, we have (some) actual furniture, this lawn, and are well on our way to possibly being mistaken as real people.  It’s easy to forget about the place where the rest of the world lives when you’re in grad school.  It’s easier—sometimes necessary—to squeeze the world into just one narrow swath of material in order to accomplish your goals.  Maybe mowing my lawn doesn’t constitute tearing down these walls and hurling myself into this other world, but it does require me to physically enter it for about 45-75 minutes every two weeks, walking it in tight, incrementally moving left vertical lines.

My old place at I-don't-give-a-crap Lane

Me now.

And there’s a certain joy to mowing a lawn.  Similar to the mindlessness of apartment cleaning that tricks the brain into believing that it’s being productive when it has chapters to read and papers to write, mowing gives me a different kind of satisfaction—a bump up on the old production/ procrastination scale.  The other day I found myself hypnotized by the lanes of fresh cut grass I was etching into the lawn.  Where there was once tangled chaos, evenly-cut order sprang forth with a wave of my wand.  I was enamored.  It was the results-oriented satisfaction of cleaning my apartment, but with an added feeling of a new normalcy as in this was something that millions of real people do.  I vaguely remembered this feeling from my before grad school days.  I kind of missed it now.  Maybe it was just the fumes from the cracked gas tank converging with the grass clippings, but I found mowing my lawn refreshing and wonderful. 

My neighbor across the street, also mowing his lawn, noticed me mowing mine and, I guess as mowing people are inclined to do, decided to walk over to introduce himself.  I had noticed him and his family while moving in.  It was the standard American family with white picket fence, 2 SUVs and 2.5 kids, one a teenager, one in elementary school, and remaining half of one either being the dog or counted as part of their Equinox maybe since it was so big. 

Michael was his name.  Michael was in his late forties with the kind of ankle-high white socks worn with plain white sneakers and cellphone clipped to his belt dad-humor that I enjoy from everyone aside from my dad.

“What do you have your mower set to?  Machete?  I’m just joking with you, but seriously it’s looks like you’re working hard out here, hardly working at all.  I’m just joking around.”

My new neighbors

Ah, yes, just mowing my lawn and chatting up the neighbor about home care.  Yes, yes.  Then Michael asked me what I did.

“I’m in grad school.”

“Oh, grad school”

“For English.”

“Oh, English.”

“Actually, it’s for creative writing.”

“Oh, fiction and poetry?”

“Actually, it’s creative nonfiction.”

“Oh… So like journalism, or text books maybe?”

There’s really no non-pretensious way to explain what creative nonfiction is to someone who’s never heard of it.  I said memoir and biography because that is true, but I still saw his face well up in confusion.  I thought about the story my Director of Graduate Studies had told last year of his neighbor who thought all of his tax dollars were going to this state college professor’s salary so he could read books on his porch all day long.  I added that had also done some landscaping over the summer.

“Well, then your rows ought to be a lot straighter!  I'm just joking.”

Saved it—bam!

Michael offered to hedge my lawn since I didn’t have a trimmer and I agreed, feeling good to be mowing along side of his trimming.  When my mower ran out of gas I said I’d get some more the next day to finish the lawn, but the next day our Internet was installed and so I watched videos all day instead.  The lawn is still only half-mowed, split down the middle like a half-shaven Two Face.  I guess mowing just isn’t as wonderful as 14th season of Law and Order: SVU.  At least I’m not reading out on the porch.

Every damn episode is the same, but God help me, those two notes between every scene...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stop Crying(,) Witch

**I think hiatuses are great.  Unplanned ones are even better.  Unplanned hiatuses from casual blogs where I’ve mostly likely disenfranchised the bulk of my readers, but then when I return, they also return eager to read every subsequent word I write are even better!  After slogging through finals and whisking myself away to Greece for a summer writing workshop, I’ve completely let justdumbenough go by the wayside, and to you, my vigilant reader who has surely withered away upon the barren alter to my prose, I am deeply sorry.  But no excuses—aside from the ones I just gave you in the previous sentence. Weekly-ish blogs begin again, now!**

Before flying back to the states some friends and I decided to climb Mount Olympus.  It was an incredible experience.  We didn’t summit, but when German hikers bundling up for the final ascension advise you to turn back because, they’re very sorry, but gym shorts and tennis shoes just aren’t going to cut it, you listen to those German hikers.  I feel very strongly that you should always listen to Germans on issues of hiking.

Moving down to the foot of Olympus.
On our way down we came across a woman sitting by the trailhead selling herbs she had collected from the mountain.  She was in her late twenties, ponytailed and dressed in a windbreaker and jeans.  She was Greek and spoke very good English.  Naturally, my first thought was that she was a witch.  I knew she wasn’t.  She was an entrepreneur who could have just as easily had a stand in the market, a normal human being about my age and status just trying to sell some herbs that hopefully wouldn’t get confiscated as drugs by American customs on her patrons’ flights back home.  I knew this, but still, the witch idea cut to front of the line in my head and demanded to be heard.  I couldn't help it.  

Now this thought didn’t dub her as some kind of “bad witch”, mind you, as in broomsticks, poisoned apples, and girl-Voldemort (I guess I could have just said Bellatrix Lestrang there) or anything like that.  It pegged her as simply someone of the environmentally-friendly persuasion, in tune with the powers of nature.  Someone who could maybe cast some, well spells if you want to put a label on it, and who was probably right to situate herself at the foot of Mount Olympus where Zeus and the rest of Greece’s mystical magical mystery tour sprung forth like a frothing fountainhead of legend and lore.  That’s all.  I knew that this thought was ridiculous and not to be trusted, but just the same, it crossed its arms and settled into its place in line.

So while perusing her wares and doing a really great job of keeping this thought to myself, the not-witch laughed at something, remarking,  

“When people see me they always think I’m a witch.”

“What?  That’s crazy,” I said, “I mean—who would think you’re a—just because you have—and it’s not even like you’re wearing a pointy hat or—so how much is this thyme?”

What the hell is wrong with me?

Why is it when we know these notions are fabricated, even when we’re eager to discard them so that we can discover something new and real, we seem to cling to them even more fervently if only in a Fruedy, subconsciousy kind of way?  This feels exacerbated when traveling for me. 

There is a waterfall right next to the not-witch!  Come on!  That is fucking magical!

In Greece I found a place that I had never visited and desperately wanted to learn more about, but the fucking line-cutter had to have his turn first.  Every city I walked into, I first had to wonder if maybe Hercules and Xena had taken these same steps.  Every temple ruin I saw, I had to imagine cartoonish Disney gods lounging about in togas while cloud servants fed them clusters of grapes before I could learn what had actually happened there.  Anytime I found some hole or chasm gored into Greece’s craterous rock I involuntarily strained forward to hear if Hades’ sarcastic James Woods voice was wafting up from the Underworld.  Spoiler Alert: it never was.  It’s one thing to try to define a place by its past—I think a lot of people still think of Greece as marble columns and street philosophers, which has its obvious complications—but with me, the mush of Lucky Charms and Saturday morning cartoons that I call a brain tried to index Greece by its fiction, and frequently by its Americanized fiction.

So why, oh why line-cutter?  Why?  Why can’t I convince this guy that he’s not helping out the team by inflicting fantasy into every new place we go?  I’d like to think I can learn more about Socrates from exploring Athens than I can from Bill and Ted, but once there I’d still have to scan the Parthenon for any traces of time-traveling phone booths first (also how crazy it is that that movie used a phone booth?  I mean, what would they have used today?  A PortiJohn?  An iPad?  How could they have crammed all of those historical figures into an iPad?).  Sigh, exactly.

All we are is dust in the wind, dude.  Dust in the wind.

It seems that my mind’s desire is in constant conflict between discovering new worlds when traveling, and by doing so, destroying the corresponding ones of fantasy that I simultaneously want to keep alive.  When I went to the fixed geographical location of Greece and did not see Kevin Sorbo fighting a giant CG-looking rat-hyrda (yes, that was in an episode) the place in my mind where Greece could exist like that was lost to oblivion a little.  And maybe I didn’t completely love that.  A little like tossing out the old baseball cards stashed in my parents' attic whose use has expired, maybe I wasn't ready yet.  But old baseball cards never impeded my understanding of modern Greece--er, or something like that.

It’s been frequently suggested that modern Greece can’t be understood without first understanding ancient Greece, which includes a fair amount of its mythology.  But just how far of a stretch is it to include Americanized fiction about Greece into this camp?  And more importantly, how much does it taint exploration of the real Greece?  Is it even possible for these two worlds to exist on the same plane without inherently needing to destroy the other?


What I do know is when you reach the bottom of Mount Olympus after a two day hike and see a woman pedaling herbs by the forest trail, don't get the melissa because customs will absolutely think it's pot. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

5 Stages of Job Candidate Rejection

Just this week, and at very long last, my grad program hired a creative nonfiction professor and my feeling is one more of deep relief than one of true jubilation.  The extremely long search turned me off to the whole process and made me feel like our program was the gimp-legged dog in the pound wanted by no one.

I realize this cynicism is partially due to the one that got away—or maybe just the one who went away--the professor who never was.  I used to think about the professorial candidate who I had forged a relationship with during his campus visit, if only in the whirlwind kind of way that’s never really meant to last, who had been offered the job only to immediately turn it down.  I'm over it now, excited to meet our new faculty member, but it took some time.  The whole academic crush metaphor is pretty played out and so I really tried avoiding equating this professional rejection with a bad break up, but damn it if it didn’t completely feel like it. 


I got the news via e-mail—the worst way to be broken up with—and the e-mail wasn’t even from him.  It was from the department search committee.  The only way this guy could have made this worse was if he could have somehow figured out a way to reactivate my AIM account and instant message me that he had declined the position.  That would have been worse.

When I read the e-mail I decided not to overreact.  I chalked it up as a miscommunication.  Wires getting crossed.  He was probably just playing hardball with the negotiations.  He hadn’t actually declined.  Hadn’t he told me how much he wanted to be here?  How much he wanted he wanted to work with me?  How much my work perfectly meshed with his?  No, he hadn’t actually declined. Everyone else must have been mistaken.


Who the hell did this guy think he was?  Who did he think I was?  I was a great grad student.  I was frick’n awesome, part of an accomplished creative program that wasn’t the kind of program that you hit and quit.  We deserve better than that.  But he just waltzed in and romanced the crap out of us, told us we were special and different than all those other writing programs out there what just to use us as leverage for other jobs?  We had tons of candidates apply for the position and I’m sure all of them would have killed for this opportunity, but this guy?  This guy here, he’s somehow better than all of them?  He’s too good for us?  Fuck him.  We don’t need him. 


Maybe it’s not too late, I had thought.  Maybe I can still win him back.  Maybe if I go to AWP, go to his panel and nonchalantly come across him afterward—“Oh hey, I didn’t know you were going to be here at your scheduled panel discussion, small world!  Me?  I’m doing great.  Just great… I will give you my teaching assistantship stipend to come back.  Would that be enough?  Was it the assistant professorship salary that detracted you?  Maybe they’d be willing to give you tenure off the bat.  Missouri not your cup of tea?  Maybe they can pay for you to commute.  Hate the other grad students in the program?  Maybe they can all have unfortunate accidents.”

But after a few awkward passes across the doorway of his panel, I chickened out and I wondered what it would take to get someone else in there to start talking up our program.

Depression –

I don’t think he’s coming.  He’s definitely not coming.  Why doesn’t he love me the way I love him, uh, academically?  What’s wrong with me?  Did I come on too strong?  I always come on too strong.  That was such a lame joke I made on the campus tour—"the rec center is a wreck"?  Really?  That's what I think a funny joke is?  Well, it's a little funny--no, this why you're alone!

It's me.  I suck.  I'm the worst.  Wherever he ends up I’m sure he’ll be happy, but me—I’ll never have another professor like that.  Maybe I’m just not meant to. 

Acceptance (finally) –

He never returned my or anyone else’s e-mails.  He didn’t even return the initial job offer e-mail.  I heard he’s taken another job on the west coast, far away from Missouri in just about every conceivable way.  I know he ever wanted to come here.  I think he duped us, maybe justifiably so as that’s the way academics work, but he definitely didn’t want to be there and if he didn’t, it’s a good thing he isn’t.  The candidate who’s accepted the position wants to be here and I think that means something.  She'll be great.  Plus, I hear he’s kind of an asshole, but I guess already knew that.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My First AWP: What I don't know now that I thought I knew then

In many ways the AWP (Association of Writing Programs) conference represents the peak of the year for creative writers.  Unlike literature, history--I assume science--we don’t have sub conferences throughout the year for things like lyric poetry or mystery novel writing.  It all happens at once, with AWP, everyone converging in one pass.  Since I had never been to a AWP conference before I had built up many expectations, which would be inevitably ripped asunder.  Here are five ways my expectations were turned at my first go-around. 

1. Wearing a blazer makes you look professional, professorial, and cool.

That was my hope when my parents bought me the brown-tweed jacket I had been eying for my birthday.  I had seen the blazer all over campus, magic with patches sewn on.  Throw a blazer over a polo, a button-down—a T-shirt if you’re rolling Miami Vice style—and it’s instant class.  I assumed a well-placed blazer could ratchet up my status at AWP from first-year noob to seasoned panelist in a snap.

Not so much.  The secret to this magic trick, the one written in fine print, is that the wearer must own it; he must truly own his wearing of the blazer, believe he deserves to wear it.  In fucked up Monkey Paw wish fashion, I have learned that I can not own a blazer, at least not in the direct company of others who own it with such authority, but wearing without confidence exposes me for the fraud I am.  Wearing my birthday blazer on the first day of the conference, I felt like a Bar Mitzvah kid wearing his dad’s old suit that he had yet to grow into.  But at least, just as my Grandma had told me at my Bar Mitzvah, don't I look so cute wearing my big boy jacket?
Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have gone with the slender-cut blazer?

2. AWP is all about getting free swag

The thing that I had heard most frequently prior to AWP was that everyone gave out free stuff—like mad free stuff.  Suitcase-busting, knee-knocking-as-you're-walking, overloaded amounts of free stuff.  And I’m all about free shit.  The thing that seemed to have been omitted from this statement was that about 87% of it is shit no one wants.

Most of this figure amounts to literary journals.  Everyone has literary journals at his booth or table.  The good ones cost money and the bad ones are hurled at your head as you pass by.  On the last day of the conference multiple copies are hurled at you in rapid-fire fashion. There are pens, but after about 27 of them, I’m good.  And the booths that are swilling pins—I mean really?  Pins?  Come on, nobody’s trying to build up their flare collection to teach Freshman Comp.  The best thing I picked up was a beer koozie and one or two journals that I’ll actually read.  The remaining 87%?  Hey, meet this dumpster.  I don’t know what AWP's slogan is, or even if it has one, but this should go at the top of the list of considerations; AWP: shipping shit to conference cities so you can throw it away!

3. Hostels are for dirty hippies and foreigners

The only word dirtier than memoir at an AWP conference might be hostel.  This year the conference’s convention center site was connected to a super posh Sheridan, which was right next to an equally posh Hilton, which was just down the street from a couple other semi-posh, grown-up, “I’m a professional going to a professional conference” hotels.  I stayed in a hostel.  I get why the professors and writers and people making over $15,000/ year chose to stay in hotels and one day I hope to be able to make that choice as well.  But how are all these grad students staying in these hotels?  How many of them are in a room?  All of them?

When I told someone I was staying in a hostel, the response was generally the same; a double take where eyes were widened, gulps were swallowed, and words were spoken along the gamut of;

“Really?  Oh, well I heard that one is actually pretty not that bad”


“Oh God, do you want to sleep in my bathroom sink or something instead?  I mean—here, I have, I think that’s almost 80 cents.  That can probably get you a Twinkie, right?”

Aside from being my only financial option, the hostel where I stayed was a legitimately great place to stay.  Lounge areas with big screen TV, a good continental breakfast, quiet rooms, Wifi, study areas—it was essentially like living in a nice college dorm on the cheap.  It was close to the conference and was even located in a pretty trendy area of town.  Fuck it, I’m going to schill out for this place—40 Berkley in south Boston, minutes from downtown!  If you don’t stay here while visiting Boston you’re either dumb or rich, which in the case of the latter you’re allowed to be the former. 

Not my room mates (at the hostel).

4. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and there was booze

To say that attending my first AWP conference was an emotional roller coaster would be a sin of the greatest nature in literary laziness, but this is what this conference has reduced me to.  It has drained my life force and my will to write originally. 

In its most brilliant moments, AWP was an event that brought hundreds of current writers, former writers, teachers of writers, friends of writers, great impersonators of writers from around the country and crammed them all into this space where they could all nerd out unabashedly and uncontrollably for a few days.  I had a 45 minute conversation with someone about how to write imagined dialogue of close family members during moments of tragedy in a funny way—yeah.  That was an actual conversation and it was great.  Tons of interesting panels, readings, off-site readings, conversations about shit I didn’t even know was going on.  It was Xanidu for the creative writer and it was marvelous.

At it’s lowest moments it was a giant pissing contest where at any moment someone prowling the corridors might be sizing you up as a writer.  What program are you in?  What have you published?  Where have you published?  Who do you know?  Who are you hanging out with tonight?  Everything was a literary measuring of dicks and I hate measuring dicks.  I hate competition really.  I want to be as good as everyone and no better than anyone.  In my perfect world we’d all be incredible writers published in equally amazing journals and we’d all be best friends who play video games and sleep over at each other's houses.  Okay, maybe some of us would be a little more equal than others at writing, and actually, there are some people I definitely don’t want to be friends with, but I still hate this hierarchical phenomenon that can happen when writers meet each other.  I think even dogs have better manners when meeting.

The other big gut-churner for me was the schmoozing.  More than I hate pissing contests, I suck at networking.  I suck at lying, especially when I have to lie, which is what networking feels like to me.  When I introduce myself to someone explicitly for the reason of furthering my career in some way--which I understand is how the world works, how things must work, get with it or get off--that feels disingenuous to me.  And yeah, at a three day conference where people are crazy busy, to a certain extent, authenticity must be shelved for efficiency, but I'm probably not the guy for the job.  There's this thing where I guess you're supposed to walk up to someone on the fly, smiling--for no real reason and it's assumed that it's not because you're actually deranged--and start talking to them about exactly what you're after, try to cultivate those professional connections.  When I tried this, it was like I made the whole world go awkward, and for what it's worth, I apologize to those folks I tried this on.  It's not you, it's me and you deserve better. 

To the people who I did meet authentically, to the friends I made at AWP camp, you're great, never change, have a neat school year, see you next summer! 

**On a semi-related note, I would just like to say how glad I am that our department is void of hipsters.  They were everywhere in Boston and AWP, and though I know hipsters lurk the PBR stills and suspender shops of Columbia, there are none in Tate's basement, for which I am immensely greatful.

5.  I’ll conclude with this…

One night I was running late to an event at the convention center so I was literally running, sprinting down the still icy street from my hostel to make it on time.  It had been snowing all week, making road conditions nasty, but I figured if I kept my pace, I'd only be 5-10 minutes late.  As I speed-tippy-toed around slosh puddles, picking my spots like I was racing over hot coals, checking my watch every four seconds, I thought of my good friend's creative nonfiction panel from earlier that day.  She had spoke of this idea of "premeditated writing" that CNF writers tend to find themselves doing, this thing where we purposely place ourselves in writable situations, strategically constructing our own nonfiction while narrating our lives as they happen.  Picking up my speed as I tore down the streets clad in button-down and what-used to be good, not soaked shoes, I wondered just how I came to be so late.  Was this a subconscious choice to create a good story?  Was it a conscious one?  If it wasn't premeditated, was there perhaps some internal narration going on as I continued to careen down sloshy lanes, heightening my pace, triangulating the center's neon spire's changing position through falling snow with every turn I took, remembering how my ex-girlfriend had always looked tired and distant, expectantly sad every time I had offered her an excuse for being late?  Nah.  But honestly, I said to myself, I'm always late.  This was no more pre-meditated than it was something write-worthy. And it wasn’t.  At that exact moment millions of people were just as late or later than me for events just as important or more important than mine and there was nothing remarkably writable about my particular situation.  That's when I bit it on the sidewalk, sliding face-first into a tree.  Then some guy bundled up on a road bike by, riding the wrong way down the middle of the street appeared and without pausing or altering his pace shouted,

"Slow down, fuckhead!"

Thank you, Boston, that’s been my time tonight.  Tip your waiter! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scenarios Where I Can Meet Girls

Upon chatting with my roommate about relationships she told me I should turn our conversation into some kind of anti-Valentines Day blog post.  While I really don’t think what we were talking about was “anti-Valentines Day”, it’s definitely not in danger of appearing on a greeting card any time soon.  Be warned.


There’s a V-chip implanted in my brain.  I don’t how my parents did it, but at some point in those dawning days of home-television-censorship that percolated through the 90’s, when befuddled politicians urged parents to regulate their kids’ viewing habits with little chips inserted into the backs of their TVs, they must have bypassed the tube all together and lodged the thing right in my brain.  Clever move, Mom and Dad, clever

The genius of the V-chip was while certainly designed to ‘desmutify’ TV of all of its swears and sex stuff directly, it’s more sinister purpose was to push a certain kind of morality on TV by eliminating all programming that even hinted at sexual situation.  This resulted in a saccharine diet of such lost-in-the-woods protagonists as Corey Matthews, Danny Tanner, and Randy Taylor who submitted to a specific code of conduct, particularly when dealing with romance on a weekly basis.   

Can't get no satisfaction.
Randy might like his lab partner, but he can’t just ask her out.  He barely knows her!  What is he, some kind of creep?  He can only ask her out after helping her solve her family issues, and in the process get to know her.  So sayeth the V-chip.

Danny Tanner can’t have a one-night stand.  Are you kidding?  He’s a loving father, which means any romantic interest must have sincere long-term aspirations because as a father he is obviously no longer a real man with real human needs.

And Corey can’t just ask out any girl he sees like Shawn so cavalierly does.  After comical failure after comical failure he is only permitted to ask out a girl with whom he has already cultivated a genuine connection prior to forming romantic feelings for her—Topanga!  And even at this, Corey must wait until he believes that someone else might ask her out first before he is allowed to disturb the status quo of their friendship with his selfish request.

Though this code is seemingly predicated on sincerity, sensitivity, strong moral fiber, and other excerpts from the Boy Scout oath, it’s really about making sure there is no possible way that any of these characters could be ever perceived as creepy.  It often muddles immorality with assertiveness, but hey, who can really sympathize with a protagonist who knows what he wants and goes after it?

And so where your Shawn Hunters and Uncle Jesses can effortlessly approach any girl without censors blaring, my V-chip is calibrated to the Corey Matthews setting where everything needs to be “just so” for a girl to be met. 

Though best friends on the same show, Corey and Shawn were held to vastly different standards.
For example where I’m told a normal person might see someone he’s attracted to at a bar or on the street, and simply go right up and talk to her, such a prospect is simply not an option for me.  The V-chip doesn’t allow it.   From a logical perspective I can clearly understand the reason, even the necessity behind such tactics, but alas the chip is a logic-less master.  

How about in one of Jim Carey’s first movies, Once Bitten where Carey’s last resort of escaping a virgin sacrifice at the hands of a bunch of vampires is to have sex with his girlfriend and lose his viriginity.  Just to be clear, in order to have consensual sex with his longtime girlfriend, Carey must be first threatened with supernatural termination.  These things just don’t make sense, and yet, they’re what the V-chip demands. 

So scenarios where the V-Chip shuts me down;

I see a girl a like at a coffee shop and walk over to say hi and introduce myself.

My V-Chip; “So why are you being such a creeper?  Pff, you don’t know this girl, she doesn’t know you, Stranger-danger.  She’s clearly just here to enjoy some coffee, but you want to come barging in because, why?  Just what are you thinking here?  I know what you’re thinking here, mister, and so does she!

Okay, so that’s completely ridiculous.  Here’s the V-chip acceptable version of meeting a girl in this scenario;

So we’re back in the coffee shop and the power goes out.  Maybe a sudden blizzard strikes, snapping electrical lines, taking out the lights and the heat.  Because the snow has piled so quickly, no one can leave and we’re all trapped in this freezing coffee shop.  We meet to figure out what to do and it’s decided that someone must go into the basement to throw on the back-up generator (in this scenario this coffee shop has a back-up generator).  For some reason the employees who know the basement’s lay out can’t go, because someone has to make the coffee?, so me and this girl I like volunteer—what luck!

At first she says she’d rather go by herself, or “Can’t someone else go?” but then I make some kind of lame joke that she feigns laughter at—we’re such an unlikely pair—and the situation has opened the door for us to get to know each other in a legitimate and non threatening way as we talk to fill the time while searching the dark basement for the generator that will save everyone’s life—so non threatening except for the potentially deadly blizzard outside that has been worsening by the minute. 

In fact maybe the snowstorm has brought in some arctic wolves that are now prowling about the basement.  And then maybe the blizzard and black out are actually the results of a new global ice age that has plunged civilization into chaos, creating a new world order where loosely-allied bands of marauders, who are also somehow mutants, have made their way into the basement along with the wolves.  Also something is on fire. 




Unexpectedly thrown together into such a wacky fray, we quickly improvise a plan for survival, relying on her skills as a former high school soccer player and my amateur knowledge of canine biology—wow, we’re really getting to know each other in a totally authentic way now!  Using the bacon bits that we’ve found in the supply closet, she kicks them all over the apocalyptic mutants, thus summoning the artic wolves whose main diet I once read is strikingly similar in aroma to imitation bacon substances. 

The wolves attack the mutants, we find and activate the generator, and are dashing for the upstairs door when one of the road warriors leaps through the fire and grabs her ankle.  We were so close!  Without hesitating I tackle him, taking both of us down the stairs, telling her just to go on without me, but she comes back for me using the ninja katana—so at some point we find a ninja katana—to free me. 

We scramble back upstairs, locking the door behind us.  We’ve made it.  We now have light, heat, and no fire-wolves-apocalyptic mutant army.  Success!  We embrace in our shared victory, knowing that we couldn’t have done it without the other and that our lives will never be the same. This is my opening so I ask her if she’d like to have a cup of coffee with me and then we really kick it off.

This would be an acceptable scenario in which I could meet a girl as per the stipulations of my V-chip.

My V-chip’s concept of romance is a mangled distortion of 90’s TV culture where every boy wears a bowl-cut and every girl a denim jumper.  It didn’t reflect actual 90’s culture and clearly doesn’t reflect today’s.  Our relationship with one another has evolved over the years to where it has achieved some level of sentience that allows us to communicate.  It has clearly stated its programed imperative has no room for re-evaluation and that its half-life is upwards of five thousand years or so.  In response I’ve tried knocking it out of my head with a softball bat, but you know, it’s stuck in there pretty good. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Adventures in Baby Flying

When I fly, I can't help but to think of the miracle of life.  And when I'm done thinking about bacon-wrapped scallops, flying usually makes me think of kids.  They're everywhere these days, but when they're in the airport, on the airplane, occasionally I'm forced to cohabit with them.

With babies on the plane, I try to be understanding.  Appreciative even.  Logically speaking, we, the human race that is, need babies to keep this whole clown show going.  I mean, I’ve watched the National Geographic Channel.  I know how it works.  Some of us must simply bite the bullet and agree to pump out and wrangle these knee-knockers for the good of mankind.  And I suppose, conceivably, these same people also have cause to fly at times.  So when I see a tired mom plodding down the plane aisle, baby draped about her neck, toddler dragged belligerently behind her, I give her a little nod of appreciation.  She usually seems pretty creeped out by this, but I think she knows what going on.  She’s carrying the load.  She isn't some selfish miscreant totally lacking in social consciousness and self awareness, she's a modern day Frodo Baggins, bearing the ring to Mordor for the good of all Middle Earth.  Thank you Mama Frodo, thank you for your sacrifice.

That being said… there were some seriously annoying-ass babies aboard my recent flights back to school.  For anyone about to take off soon, you might just want to jot down some quick notes here for a rough guide book into Air Baby Land. 

"I've had enough of these mother f^#$@!* babies on this mother f^#$@!* plane!"

First, let's talk about the white tiger of babies on a plane, the rarest of rare, the double pink Starburst in the baby pack that make all the rest look like lemons--the sleeping kid.  I love this kid!  He gets aboard and some combination of recycled air and fat guys grazing his head as they pass through the aisle conks him out.  The same thing happens for me.  This kid should get an award for his valor in service, an accommodation at least.  He should get to fly in the cockpit with the pilot, he should get to be the pilot, he should get to be the president!  Hail to the Chief, of my heart anyway. 

Then there is the classic stereo-crier; the kid who sounds like he’s being punched in the face for the entire trip.  The crying kid on my plane never stopped sobbing and screaming, exploding at the mouth with snotty, gurgling discharges.  She sounded like she was drowning, literally drowning in her own tears and snot, crying out in labored pig squeals.  And she was angry about it.  She actually sounded angry, she sounded like an angry pig, like she was trying to express her outrage over being forced into this pressurized metal tube and was pissed off even more because no one was getting that.  Some babies cry out in fear and confusion, but not Baby Angry Pig.  She was straight pissed and wanted everyone know it.

Baby Angry Pig approximation.
I also had a Narrating Kid on one of my flights.  A Narrator Kid isn’t upset like a Crying Kid or unconscious like the harrolded Asleep Kid.   He’s fine, but feels compelled to spend every moment on the plane babbling.  Flying with a Narrating Kid was like flying with a dysfunctional Garmin that tells you exactly where you are at that very moment, every moment. 

“We’re moving!  We’re moving!  We’re moving!  We’re taking off!  We’re taking off!  We’re in the air!  We’re flying! We’re flying! We’re flying! We’re flying! We’re flying! We’re flying!  We’re eating peanuts!  We’re flying!  We’re flying!  We’re flying!  We’re landing!”

The Narrating Kid on my flight was so fucking excited about every moment of his life that I was begrudgingly envious of him.  I wished that I could be as excited about anything as he was about everything.  But mostly, I was annoyed.  Unfortunately, like the Crying Kid, the Narrating Kid’s parents were too busy visualizing the glorious day when they would release their burden into the bowels of Mount Doom (college) to have the social awareness necessary to have asked their kid to just shut up for a second.  Where's a Ring Wraith when you need one?

But again, it’s a small price to pay for the continuation of our species.  I might have to put up with the Angry Pig and Kid Garmin for a few hours, but their parents have years left with these guys who will eventually morph into Biting Kid and then finally Kid Who only visits once or twice a year because he’s just really busy and last week he had this thing, and see, it just makes more sense to wait another two months until Christmas and God, can you just let it go already!  That kid sucks.