Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movies: The Best (and Worst) of 2010

Here’s what I think. How ‘bout you?


As inventive and dazzling a sci-fi movie to hit the screen in ages. Far superior to Cameron’s Avatar. Christopher Nolan has, like he came so close to doing with The Dark Knight, elevated the genre flick to grand art. It’s brilliant in every respect.

The Social Network

My personal favorite movie of the year. Excellent performance by Jesse Eisenberg, but the real star is the script by Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing and SportsNight). Sorkin might be the best writer working in Hollywood today. I dream of being able to write dialogue like he can.

The Tillman Story

Pat Tillman was a star in the NFL who gave up millions of dollars to join the Marines after 9/11. He was sent to Afghanistan where he immediately saw how fucked up things were, and he transformed himself from Bush-administration posterboy into a vocal opponent of that war, as well as the fiasco in Iraq. He was killed in a friendly-fire accident, and subsequently had his memory corn-holed by the Republicans. This documentary made me sad and profoundly angry.

The Kids Are All Right

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, alongside Mark Rufalo, conduct an acting clinic here, while Lisa Cholodenko’s direction is an understated marvel. She should get an Oscar nomination, but, alas, probably won’t. Funny, charming, socially relevant. Who could ask for more in a movie?

True Grit

I dig the novel by Charles Portis, but, personally, can hardly sit through the John Wayne movie version (Glen Campbell set a standard for hideous acting). Thankfully, the Coens came along to do the book justice. Terrific work by Jeff Bridges, and Josh Brolin somehow gets better with every movie he makes. Hard to believe he was the dorky big brother in The Goonies.


I’ve been a fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s work since Delicatessen. Micmacs, the tale of two guys with a wildly elaborate plan to take down a weapons manufacturer, is simultaneously pure Jeunet, and something very new. The sight gags are hilarious, and the overall visual impact is stunning. You just never know what Jeunet is going to do next.


How do you make a movie of Allan Ginsberg’s decidedly un-cinematic poem Howl? Here’s how.

The King’s Speech

It doesn’t get much better than Colin Firth as George VI, the British king who overcame his stammer, with the help of a goofy Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), and rallied his country in defense of Hitler’s Germany. Watching two heavyweights like Firth and Rush work with each other is truly a wonder to behold. And even Helena Bonham-Carter isn’t as annoying as she usually is.

Winter’s Bone

A double prize winner at Sundance, this introverted little movie is an arresting experience. 19-year-old star Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a young girl in the Ozarks forced to care for her family. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

Jackass 3D

A place-kick to the face. Bee-hive tetherball. A feces volcano. A tavern full of brawling midgets. A sweat cocktail. A Port-O-Potty full of dog poo on bungee cords. Laughter heaven. The funniest movie I saw this year.

And, in no particular order, the worst…

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief
How to ass-rape Greek mythology for fun and profit.

127 Hours
Amputation porn.

Knight and Day
Cruise still can’t act. Still isn’t funny. Is still really irritating.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Metrosexual nancy-boy vampires. I hate them and want them to die.

Heterosexual hipster-boy vampires. See above.

The Expendables
Careful, Sly! You’ll break a hip!

Ridiculous times at the Armageddon diner. Dopesville.

Grown Ups
So little comedy talent, so little laughter.

Hot Tub Time Machine
What the fuck is John Cusack doing with his career?

Alice in Wonderland
Someone please assassinate Tim Burton before he strikes again.

Have a most excellent bunch of holidays, folks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Return to the Freaks of Freak Central

I’ve been out and about again in my little Oklahoma town, hobnobbing with the populace, and man, this place just keeps getting stranger and stranger. So, without further preamble, join me for another trip to Freak Central.

Weird Things

Late in the evening on Black Friday my brother and I ventured into Wal-Mart because, well, long story short: I wanted a footstool. And also because there’s not one other goddamn thing to do here, but anyway. I located the necessary piece of furniture, a cheap-ass boxy thing that doubles as a storage container and is upholstered in orange fur (yes, I am the very model of a modern pimp mack daddy), and we headed for the check-stand.

Upon alighting at that destination, the clerk there, a hobbit-like creature of the female persuasion, offered us the traditional Wal-Mart greeting: a tight grimace suspended beneath a pair of small, mean eyes. She grabbed my wooly cube, dropping the bottom part when the lid came off in her hands.

“Humf,” she said, her tone suggesting that never in all her long days had she encountered something quite so novel as this. “This’ll be a good place to hide your weird things,” she said.

“Weird things?” I asked

“Your weird things,” she affirmed. “You know, like when you have your lady friends over…?”

Had she winked at me right then my head would’ve exploded.

“Ah,” I said, and, giving voice to the world’s most unconvincing chuckle, shoved some money at her.

My brother was already edging for the exits in an obvious attempt to put as much tile between himself and Mrs. Baggins as possible. I collected my change and joined him. We made eye contact, but elected not to engage in a detailed rehashment of the episode. That way, madness lies…

Have it Your Way

We used to have a Burger King here in my little town. Not much to brag about in a village with something like one fast-foot franchise for every ten people, and an obesity problem that makes the whole place look like a summertime retreat for Macy’s floats, but it was an alternative. It shut down not too long ago for the simple reason that people stopped going there. Capitalism in action. Hell, I’m all in favor of a community getting all communal and giving a big corporation a boot in the backside, but I have a little problem with this particular instance.

Not long after the BK flung wide its doors a woman complained that she and her three kids had gotten sick from the food there. No doubt about it, the four of them were healthy and frolicsome as colts one day, a-swarm with vomit-provoking bacteria the next.

A health inspector was summoned to investigate. He white-gloved the joint and pronounced it clean and crisp as a winter’s morn. Yet that simply could not be, not according to the original claimant, nor to her rapidly expanding cadre of disciples. No, no, no, that restaurant, they shrieked, was nothing more than a pestilential swamp, a fetid bouillabaisse of filth and disease. And theirs was the view that took hold, because the citizens of my little town rarely allow something as paltry as the truth to interfere with their God-given right to think and say nasty shit about others.

So, slowly, the BK’s customer base dwindled away to nothing, and its doors are now chained shut.

Then it came to light—far too late—that the woman who started the whole affair might have bitched precipitously. It turned out that she and her brood lived in a squalid hovel out in the country, the condition of which would’ve sent the editors at Better Homes and Gardens into the midnight streets rending their garments. Dirty dishes adorned every horizontal surface, and the floor was carpeted with piles of old laundry and dog shit. The children were regularly sent home from school to keep them from contaminating the other students with their head lice.

Now, where do you suppose they got sick?

Wag the Dog

I got this information second-hand, but I’ve talked to enough of the eye-witnesses to stamp it “approved” from a factuality standpoint.

The local high school offers a seniors-only political science course. The instructor, by all appearances an enlightened sort of dude, decided to get the conversational juices flowing by showing Barry Levinson’s movie Wag the Dog, a satirical demonstration of the lengths our government will go to keep our attention focused anywhere but on what’s important. At some point near the beginning of the flick one of the characters drops an F-bomb. (David Mamet co-wrote the screenplay, so go figure.)

A female student, upon having her ears and psyche invaded by the dreaded oath, leaped from her seat, galloped from the room, and made like a homing gopher for the principal’s burrow, where she made her mental anguish plain to all and sundry. Her pitiable state apparently infected the boss, who vigored off to the site of the offense, and shut down the movie, praying, we can only imagine, that he had not been too late.

In the aftermath of the Expletive Incident, the students were left to their own ruminations for the remainder of the period, while the teacher was hustled away to the principal’s lair and subjected to a stern dissertation that covered the length, width and depth of his shortcomings as a Shaper of Youth. He must now have all of his lesson plans approved in advance and, in the coming weeks, as I understand it, the teacher must stand before the Superintendant of Schools and explain his poor judgment and taste.

How has it happened that our nation has turned into one that kowtows to the people with the thinnest skin? If that dopey chick got her granny panties in a twist over something as measly, as trifling, as a little F-bomb, she really needs to get her face out of wherever stuff she’s been hiding it behind, or she’s gonna graduate and, barring an immediate transfer to a convent, the world is gonna rear up on its hind paws and claw her face apart like so much whiney taffy.

Makes me want to hold her down and yell “Fuck!” in her face until she cries.

Springtime for Hitler

About a week ago, I’m cleaning up after a show at the theater where I work as a projectionist, and I find a Blackberry on the floor. Thinking maybe the owner is one of those folks who puts their name on their phone’s banner, I poked the button to awaken the thing. No number, alas. I did discover, however, the very colorful swastika that was the banner pic. Yessiree. Right there—red enough, white enough and black enough to make a Tea Bagger leak girlie tears all up and down the barrel of his AA-12. Found out later that the phone belonged to a 14-year-old. A 14-year-old girl.

Can barely wrap the ol’ bean around that one, except to say that it does call to mind an image of Nazi symbols BeDazzled onto a Jonas Brothers backpack…

And that’s the news from the wilds of Oklahoma, where the men are atavisms, the women are hirsute, and the children should be kept chained to something heavy.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Free-Floating Hostility

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a little free-floating hostility.

I’ve been thinking about a few things lately that annoy the shit out of me. But I believe that giving them vent will go a long way towards giving me peace. (I should also mention my debt to the late Mr. George Carlin—the greatest comic who ever lived—for inspiring the title of this offering.)


I was listening to the radio the other day and the DJ just went babbling on like the dopiest of brooks extolling the world-changing position Nirvana holds in rock music history. I hear this silly shit all the time. Nirvana was warmed over Neil Young with a splash of ‘70s punk and a few obnoxious guitar effects. I will give Kurt and his gang credit for one thing: they are almost wholly responsible for the incessant goddamn bitching and whimpering you hear in rock music these days. “You lied to me! You don’t like me! I’m a miserable toe-rag! But I just loves me some heroin!” Oh, wah wah wah. Fucking grow up. Here’s the thing: the best thing that happened to rock music in the 1990s was the day Cobain tongue-kissed the business end of that shotgun. Huzzah.

The British Invented Punk Rock

This myth has been running rampant for nearly two decades. The British didn’t have jack to do with the invention of punk. They offered some material to the catalogue, sure. But, aside from perhaps the Clash, the Isles produced not one seminal punk-rock band (and the Clash’s first, and best, album, was nothing more than a ham-fisted rip-off of the Ramones). Most of what Britain provided to the music was cosmetic—goofy-ass mohawks, safety pins, in-concert spittle, and that goddamn stupid “pogoing” they were so fond of, which, incidentally, we brought to its fullest and most perfect expression, in the form of the mosh pit. In a search for punk’s precursors, the Brits can point to a couple of songs by the Kinks, and that’s about it. We have the Velvet Underground. We have the MC5 and the New York Dolls. We have Iggy and the Stooges. And most importantly, we have the Ramones. When Joey, Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee first toured the UK in the mid-‘70s, members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols were in attendance. Johnny Rotten wanted to get backstage to meet the boys, but was frightened that they might beat the shit out of him. That’s right. Mr. Anarchist Tough Guy cringed like a little girl. Ding-ding! Ding-ding! The Brits lose. We win. Case closed.

Bicycle Pads

I am so tired of seeing kids out on their bikes wearing enough padding to play middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos. Haven’t we taken kid protection about as far as it needs to go? Exactly how long are parents supposed to keep their offspring swaddled in plate mail—both physical and mental—before allowing them a peek at the real world. When I was a kid we rode around barefoot in nothing but swim trunks. (I was much skinnier then so the sight wasn’t quite as horrific as it sounds.) And, yes, sometimes we fell off our bikes and broke our faces. That’s the whole point to being a kid. It’s how we learn. You tried to jump that canal ditch, but shorted it and broke your face? Well, maybe you won’t be in a hurry to try it again, or you’ll build a better ramp…or talk your little brother into doing it. The world is dangerous. Insulating kids from it too stringently is, in my humble opinion, one of the main reasons our young people are, too often, pampered, mewling little shitbags. Let ‘em ride without armor, for God’s sake. Let ‘em break their faces. They’ll heal. They’re tougher than they are generally given credit for being.

Fortune Cookies

Why don’t they make fortune cookies anymore? My most recent cookie contained this: “You are intelligent and people like you.” That’s not a fortune, that’s an aphorism. And sometimes they aren’t even directed at a person. “A smile is a rose on a rainy day.” Really? Fuck you! I want a fortune. Used to be, you got a fortune every time, a pithy little prediction of what your future might hold. Not these days. And I want to know why. Can it be that there is a world-wide fortune shortage that has so far gone unreported by the major news outlets? Shit, if there is I’m here to help. Try this on: “You will find out the hard way that Sarah Palin has teeth in her honey-hole.” Not pretty, but at least it gives you some idea of what might be careening down the highway at you. And besides, who says a fortune should be all sweetness and light? Can’t they just as well be weird and disquieting? For instance: “In the spirit of unalloyed wantonness, you will run over a chicken.” Gives you something to watch out for while motoring. In closing, I’d like to say this: the last honest-to-Nostradamus fortune I can remember finding in my luncheon cookie fucked me up for three goddamn days. I got it on September 12th, 2001. It read: “You will own one of the tallest buildings in New York City.”

Now that’s a motherfucking fortune, man.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Freak Magnet

I have a Freak Magnet. My whole adult life, if there are freaks in the vicinity, they will, according to some fucked up law of nature I can’t even begin to fathom, make a bee-line right at my personal space, and then subject me to a full and uncensored display of their freakishness. And I am continually flabbergasted at the ratio of Freaks to Non-Freaks, here in my little Oklahoma town. They run the gamut from run-of-the-reality-show freaks, to full-on, radioactive psychos, as I hope to demonstrate with the following samples of my recent life, here in Freak Central.

It was a little bit overcast the other day when I decided to go out on the town (procuring the weekly Rolaids supply from Wal-Mart), but I had my shades on anyway, just because…I dunno…that’s how I roll. In any event, I’m walking across the parking lot at Chez Wal and there’s this guy sitting on the hood of his car staring at me. He’s wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, combat pants, a cap advertizing a local mud-logging concern, and smoking a cigarette. As I walk by he says:

“Hey! Don’t’cha think it’s a little dark for sunglasses?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, with a sigh. “Is it?”

“It’s too dark for sunglasses.”

The tone of his voice suggested that he was as sure of this fact as he was that the Earth is flat. I don’t often have smart-assed responses ready to go on the instant, and I didn’t really this time, but I took a crack at it anyhow.

“You know?” I said. “I was hoping the Guy Sitting on his Car at Wal-Mart would bestow upon me each and every one of his clever thoughts concerning my wardrobe. My sleep tonight will be dreamless. Thanks. You SO totally rock.” He looked at me like a dog eye-balling a page of differential equations, and went back to smoking.

OK. Not too freakish, right? Sure, but read on. The freaks are only getting warmed up.

Two nights ago, I damn near got into it with another freaky douchebag, this time at my job. I work as a projectionist at the local movie theatre, and sometimes, on a particularly busy night, I get roped into helping out at the concession stand. I was pouring sodas for a couple, but, since my sketchy past has left me with the attention span of a fruit fly, I’d forgotten what they ordered and needed clarification.

“That was a root beer, and was it a Coke or a Diet Coke?” I asked.

“Coke,” the lady said.

I’d just started pouring the drinks when the male half of the duo says:

“Sounds like somebody’s calling somebody fat.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Sounds like somebody’s calling her fat.”

“Whoa, dude,” I said. “You’re gonna get me in trouble for something I didn’t say.”

Diet Coke? Sounds like somebody thinks she’s fat.”

“Man, that’s not even what I was talking about.” I looked at the lady. “You know that’s not what I meant, right?”

“I know. Don’t listen to him.”

The guy glared at her, little volcanoes in his eyes. “Shut up.”

“Look at me,” I said. “I’m the last guy should be calling anyone fat.”

“Same with him,” the lady said. “If he stepped back from the counter, you’d see.”

The guy snatched one of the sodas and shoved it into the woman’s chest.

“Here,” he said. Then he gave her a little shove toward the auditorium, adding, in a voice that oozed chivalry and good will: “Move your ass.”

It’s not like I want my little town to be invaded by platoons of metrosexuals, stinkin’ the joint up with their CK-1 and their ennui, but come on… Let’s at least try for 1960, huh?

And here’s a tale of freakiness perpetrated not just on me, but on anybody who happened to come into contact with it. Call it anonymous freakiness.

I’m once again in the local Wal-Mart, lookin’ for pants. Find a pair in my size and head for the changing cells. Inside, I kick off my shoes, drop trow, and start unhooking the new pair from the hanger. About that time I glanced over at the mirror. And then glanced again to make sure my first glance hadn’t glanced off something and gotten me confused. But no. No confusion.

There on the glass was a foot-long smear of blood.

A clothes-changing mishap had befallen someone, and the fucking gargoyle had wiped his coppery discharge on the mirror. I mean, what the hell is that?

I decided Wal-Mart could keep their pants and, after checking to make sure I hadn’t sat in anything exciting, handed them over to the dressing room lady. I also mentioned that she might want to get in there with some 405 and a rag, and explained why. She gave me a skeptical look, had a peek for herself, and came out shrugging.

“Huh,” she said, as if commenting on the price of plums, “it is blood.”

And now, to close this missive, here’s a story of freakishness that goes beyond. Way beyond.

I was recently set up on a blind date of sorts. “Of sorts” because I sort of knew the lady and so wasn’t entirely blind to the sitch, if you see what I mean. In any event, we met at a local steak place and had a pretty nice meal, along with a couple of drinks and a bottle of wine.

Now, you’ve all been on dates, yes? And so you know that a moment arrives at some point over the course of any first date—the make-or-break moment, where you think to yourself, “Yes, I could see this person again,” or “No, I’d prefer not to.”

My make-or-break moment arrived just about the same time as the check, when my date demurely turned away from me, removed her upper dentures…

…and proceeded to blow food from them into a napkin.

Then she popped the plate back in, secured it with some solid thumb pressure, and turned back to me.

I was home eleven minutes later. And my dreams, friends, were troubled.

So, can there be any doubt as to the existence of my Freak Magnet? Oh, I think not. See, all of the above proofs happened within a mere eight-day span of time. I shudder to think what next week might have to offer.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Tea Bag Tuesday!

It’s time to set a few things straight. We have a big ol election coming up in a few days, and I want to do my part to get my good friends in the Tea Party elected to every office where they have a dog in the fightin’ pit.

Here’s a just a sample of why I believe it’s time for all those good, God-fearin’, Tea Partiers to get up from the card table in the den and join the grown-ups at the big table in the dining room.


Why in all the heavens do we keep paying these gosh darned things? I, for one, think we have all the roads we need. Don’t you? Somebody’s got a pothole out front of their store, let ‘em grab a shovel and get to work! And emergency workers? C’mon, people! My grand pappy’s corral caught fire once, and did he wait around waitin’ for 911 to show up? Heck no! He put that fire out with hand-pumped well water and a quart of his own all-American urine! And I’ll tell you somethin’ else, friends and neighbors. I don’t know about the air you breath and the water you drink, but mine’s just A-OK. Didn’t y’all watch Fox and Friends? That story they did ‘about all them folks who overdosed at that oxygen bar in California? My Tea Party chums are the only ones who understand that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.


Can you even help your son do his homework anymore? If our kids aren’t learning about pagan demons, or all kinds of algebra an’ bunkum like that, they're getting’ force-fed a lotta bull-hockey about how rotten America is. Whine, whine, whine! That’s all these teachers teach our boys to do! Teachers: what they are is—and you’ll pardon my language—is tenure whores! My neighbor’s boy, as fine a young man as you’ll ever wanna meet, came home t’other day talking ‘bout how his teacher (a woman, I found out, who makes $26,000 a YEAR, if you can believe it) told him that the Middle Ages were a time of pain and poverty and superstition. Well, I thought I’d walked into an episode of The Midnight Zone! Superstition?! Is it superstition to root out practitioners of the Occult and give them a little American what-for? Is it superstition to gather up a bunch of your friends and ride to the Holy Land to defend your kin against the Arab Hordes? Is it superstition for the wealthiest members of the community to set the standards for that community? I say: no, No and NO! Get my dear friends elected to office. And you won’t have to listen to any more of that kind of Liberal brainwashing!


“In God We Trust.” It says so right there on the almighty American green-back. Too much more Liberal nonsense, and we’ll have to hide our Bibles under our floor-boards to keep ‘em from the clutches of Hussein Obama’s anti-Christian crusade! Him and his rag-head relatives will make reading the Koran mandatory! But not with my friends running things. No siree! Once the Tea Party is in charge the only religion we’re gonna need around here is the Christian religion. And when every American receives the word of the Christian God at compulsory Sunday services, why, you’re gonna see our streets improving pretty gosh darned quick! Say good-bye forever to drugs and pornography and prostitution. Not to mention all them homeless leaches and child-killing homos and evolutionists doing the Devil’s work.

I could go on and on listing reasons to elect Tea Party candidates. I am sure y’all could too. But why bother? We’re in terrible trouble, and that’s all there is to it.

It’s time to take America back, friends and neighbors! Vote Tea Party!

(Cuz if ya don’t, you’re no better than an Al Qaeda.)

God bless the United (Red) States of America!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adventures with Nature, Part 1

One interesting thing about living in a tiny town out in the middle of the Great Wide Open, as opposed to a big urban center, is you get to roll with so many more representatives of the Animal Kingdom. Sometimes these encounters are a Disney movie, sometimes they are Nature Red in Tooth and Claw. Mine? For some reason mine tend to be Dali Does Warner Bros.—surreal life, with sarcastic plants and smartass bunnies.

Rattlesnake Fencing

My favorite uncle has a ranch about an hour’s drive from my little town. There’s a small spring-fed lake on his land that he has been stocking with largemouth bass and channel cat for twenty years or more. Excellent fishing.

I’m over there late one afternoon, casting for bass with a silver spinner. It’s a bit too far in front of dusk for the bass to be very hungry, so I decide to wander down to the far end of the lake, where there’s more shade, and where the fish might be more peckish. The move entails my climbing up a slight incline, motoring several hundred yards along a sort of mesa, and then making my way back down to the water, by way of an even steeper incline, where deep run-off trenches scar the rock-hard, red Oklahoma dirt.

Down I go, carrying two poles in one hand, a collapsible camp chair in the other, and my tackle box slung over one shoulder. My eyes worked busily, scouting for a good spot to throw a lure. Which is all well and good, but they really ought to have been engaging in a larger mission: making sure I got one foot in front of the other without mishap. Couldn’t tell you what I tripped over, but trip I did. (Maybe the several beers I’d consumed played a part?) And the fall was a doozy, too. I flailed for a second with my over-full arms, but alas, I still went ass-over-tea-kettle down the hill, and all of its jagged little ravines. Stuff literally flew all over the place—an indecorous cloud of fishing tackle, fiberglass rods, folding furniture, and one fat white guy.

After bouncing, skidding and rolling about twenty feet, I finally came to an abrupt stop against a fallen cottonwood log, and simply sprawled there panting like a stranded beluga whale.

So many parts of my body hurt that I had, for a few minutes, trouble concentrating on any one particular pain, while entertaining the entertaining notion that I had simply broken my entire body. Soon, though, the myriad agonies settled into three fire centers: the right side of my head, my left rib cage, and the better part of my lower right leg. Some finger-tip explorations yielded a small amount of blood on my head, an inflamed blotch on my side, but probably no broken ribs, and a whole chum bucket of blood on my leg, where a four-inch by eight-inch swatch of my skin had been flayed off, like something out of Hannibal Lecter’s notions box.

After a few minutes, I lurched to my feet and set about collecting my scattered gear, stopping for a moment to wipe blood off my leg (it was filling my shoe) with a handful of leaves. Stuff reassembled (and the urge for further fishing now gone the way of the mastodon) I started back up the rutted incline. It hurt like shit, and I was reduced to a sort of inept crawl. But I made it, by God, my head cresting the top very near my trusty Toyota—

—and even nearer to a rattlesnake.

The scaly bastard was tightly coiled, with its head up high in that super-snarky, get-the-fuck-away-from-me-with-that-stick-Steve-Irwin, pose. Don’t know what I did to piss the fucker off, but pissed he was.

So, I’m in pain, my shoe is full of blood, and I’m eye-ball to slit-pupiled eye-ball with a cantankerous reptile. And I did what so many of us out-doorsey types do in such perilous situations:

I said, “Shoo.”

And I meant it.

The snake didn’t care. He just rattled at me. His rattle had around six segments on it, making him approximately three feet long. Not exactly an anaconda, sure, but easily long enough to puncture me if he got up the urge to do some puncturin'. I needed him out of my way and not just in retreat under the car, but since my heartfelt “shoo” hadn’t exactly sent him into slithers of apoplexy, I was forced to roll with Plan B.

Moving slowly, I let go of the tackle box and folding chair, and got a grip on my fishing pole. I turned around, aiming the tip at the snake, and gave him a poke. He raised his head even higher and really got to working his rattle, but he didn’t launch an attack. So, I poked him again. And again. And a fourth time. And still he refused to either bite me or fuck off. He just kept rattling, in a way that was fast becoming wearisome.

“C’mon,” I said, stabbing at him now. “Move your narrow ass or it’s wallet time.”

Rattle, rattle, rattle…

“Jesus Christ!” I hollered. “Move!” I hauled off and gave him a really solid thwack with the fishing pole. And finally! He flung himself sideways and took off through the grass like he had a herd of Pentecostals on his tail.

Quick as possible, I hauled myself and my cumbersome stuff up onto flat ground, loaded my car, and got inside, cranking the AC all the way to HIGH. Cooling off, I blotted at my leg with some old newspaper, and fumed about my decision making skills.

See, that very morning, while cleaning out my tackle box, I had, after almost no humming and hawing at all, removed my little .22 revolver and hidden it away in the garage. Not that I wish death upon all serpents, or anything, but a pistol is simply a better deterrent than a fishing pole. Right?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Drunkard's Baptism

A week or so ago I encountered a woman here in my little town (in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart, to be exact) who informed me that she was a life-long teetotaler, and gosh-darn proud of it. Nothing good, she claimed—absolutely nothing—had ever or would ever come of booze. She was an elderly woman, sporting the pinched-up expression of the professional Baptist.

Responding to her dopey assertion would have taken more energy than I had, and besides that, the odds that she would have listened to one word of what I had to say were about the same as James Dobson grand marshalling a LAMBDA parade, so I simply walked away. But for the rest of the afternoon Miss Pinchy’s words clung to my mind—just like the foam rings in a glass of properly poured Guinness—until they eventually called up a memory…

Middle of last summer was a bleak time in the life of your friendly neighborhood Wine God. I’m not going to get specific. Suffice it to say that the sky above my head was darkened by the Great Cloaca, and She was a-gushin’.

I used to collect beer cans (that’s not a non sequitur; just roll with me). Started when I was 9 and living in Milwaukee. When I ceased serious acquisition maybe fifteen years ago, I had near to 1,800 different cans from all over the world. Some of them were worth over a hundred bucks a piece. I didn’t want to, but seeing as I was forcibly rooted in the flood plain of the Great Cloaca, it had become clear that I had no other recourse but to sell my collection.

Now, in the can-collecting world (a small and pot-bellied, yet genial, subset of society) a beer can is worth more coin if it is full. However, since I was going to entertain bids from far and wide, I felt I needed to empty my full cans, if only to facilitate less costly shipping. However, a third of my collection—something like 700 cans—were still sloshing with twenty- to thirty-five-year-old beer, and decanting the stuff was a task I looked forward to with approximately the same level of enthusiasm as tongue bathing Margaret Thatcher.

But I felt I had to be done. And so, at about four o’clock one sunny afternoon last June, I dragged the old door I use as a work table into the back yard, laid it across a couple of saw horses, and commenced hauling boxes of beer cans from the storage shed, arranging the full ones on the door. When it was covered with standing cans I went back to the garage and retrieved a smallish phillips-head screwdriver and a two-pound sledge hammer. (Another thing about maintaining the highest value of a collectable can is this: if you must empty it don’t pop its top. Instead, punch a pair of small holes in its bottom and drain the contents that way. Now you know. Try to contain yourself.) I flipped a can upside down, positioned the screwdriver near the edge of its concave base and raised the sledge.

I paused before striking, however, wondering what would happen when twelve to fourteen ounces of stale thirty-year-old beer was suddenly reintroduced to the world. The cans hadn’t been shaken, I knew, which was a plus, and they had been designed to be airtight, but still. A whole wallop of additional fermentation must’ve taken place over the years, which would have caused a heightening in internal pressure. Upon puncturing the can’s metal hide, would I be rewarded with a sloppy spray or but a lackluster foosh? Well, the only way of discovering the answer was to do the deed. And so I did.

And got my answer. It came in the form of a dark brown, yeast-scented geyser; a geriatric suds slurry; an Old Milwaukee Faithful of beer from yesteryear.

The stuff went up my nose. It went in my eyes. It squirted all over my shirt, and clots of foamy gunk clung to my hair like a spider’s egg sacks. And since you need two holes for the fluid to drain effectively, I whacked a second one in the can. This time the beer came out, not in a splash, but in a thick, arterial gush. It didn’t violate my face, either. Instead it ran off the table and soaked my sneakers, right on through to my socks.

Well, I thought, squelching in my shoes and spluttering stale beer off my tongue. This is gonna suck more ass than a porn star.

As it turned out, though, it didn’t.

It didn’t at all.

For three hours I kept knocking holes in cans, and the beer rain kept falling. Before long I was standing almost ankle deep in a frothy puddle. My hair was pasted to my head, and I was soaked through to the skin. As the sun dropped lower, its light angling across my yard, each new fountain of beer created a little rainbow in the air around me. My dogs, Sadie and Sam, who had been completely perplexed by my actions (all that noisy whacking), slowly warmed to the situation, until they were dancing and yipping around beneath the now flooded and dripping table trying to score a few rounds for themselves. All three of us were laughing—Canis lupis familiaris and Homo sapiens sapiens sharing an intoxicated and totally sober giggle. And the wetter I got, and the more I laughed, the more my mood lightened. All the hateful, tedious shit that had been assaulting my person and my world was washed away; my soul scrubbed free of fear and worry in a baptism of beer.

As it finally grew too dark to continue working, I wiped my face, smoothed back my hair, and looked upon what I had wrought.

A good hundred beer cans lay atop the door-table, their contents dribbling onto the sodden grass, and at least two hundred more stood like cylindrical metal soldiers all about the yard. Sam and Sadie were positively marinated in beer, but seemed no more or less tipsy than they ordinarily do, seeing as they are of the border collie and terrier persuasions, respectively. I was thoroughly saturated, quite tired, and I smelled like bread, but…


But I felt better than I had in months. Glorious, in fact. The Great Cloaca was still loitering about up there, of course, but I felt ready to take Her best shitty shot.

Beer had once again worked its singular magic and I hadn’t taken even a single sip.

So…that’s the story I wish I would’ve told Miss Pinchy. Would she have listened? Would she have seen that booze is good, even when taken externally? Would my tale have cracked through her rigid Baptist shell? I seriously doubt it, but here’s the thing:

Who cares.

Her life is hers, and mine is mine. And mine is better.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Piece of Oklahoma That Surpasseth All Understanding

This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Really.

One day I will write something blithe and Wobegonian about the “joys” of hamlet life, but this is not that day. Today I have other fish to fry.

See, I’ve been here close to a year and still find the place —specifically the people and their behavior— mystifying. There is a certain predilection among the locals to consciously, even blissfully, engage in activities which are demonstrably stupid and which generally result in harm—mental, physical, even metaphysical—to their persons.

By way of illustration: a true story.

I managed a now-defunct retail concern here in town. Early one weekday morning my phone rings. It’s one of my employees, asking if I can cover her shift.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“It’s hard to explain,” she says. “I’ll come by the store later and talk to you.”

“Wait,” I say. “You can’t come to work, but you can come by work to tell me why?”

“Uh-huh. You’ll understand when you see.”

“Oh. OK. Whatever. I’ll cover your shift. Come see me soon as you can.”

“I will.”

So, I head to the store, auto-pilot my way through the morning routine, blah-blah-blah, and at around eleven, in she rolls.

I’m not drawn up short often, but that’s exactly what happens when I get an eyeful of her.

Someone has kicked the living crap out of the woman. Two black eyes. Broken nose. Small cuts on her face. And best of all, bruises on her neck shaped like fingers.

“What the fuck?” I shout “What happened?”

“My Ex. We got in a fight.”

And me thinking: Yeah, no fucking shit.

She’s told me stories about this asshole. He’s violent, paranoid, and subject to fits of irrational jealousy, all side effects of his ongoing crystal-meth pastime. He spent three years in the can for repeatedly abusing a woman, and choke-slamming her four-year-old son through a coffee table. I don't pester my employee for any details about her adventure, though she does divulge that the cocksucker had broken her nose via the delightful expedient of hitting it with a propane tank.

“You go to the hospital?” I ask.

“No,” she answers, with a dismissive wave of her hand.

“Call the cops?”

The question makes her mad. “Fuck no! Why?

“Why?!” I holler, stopping myself just short of adding: Why the fuck do you think?!

“It wouldn’t do anything. Most’a the cops in this town would take his side.”

“Oh, horseshit!”

To which she responds by changing directions. “So… I don’t really want to be out in public for a few days.”

“Sure. Of course. I’ll help cover your shifts for the rest of the week. Is that long enough?”

“Hopefully. Thanks.”

“Of course.” I wasn’t done, though, trying to spark some glimmer of survival knowledge in the woman. “You know, the more women report shit like this, eventually the cops will have to react.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about it, OK?”


And off she goes.

Flash forward about six weeks.

I’m working the day shift, and she’s closing. She bops through the door all grins and giggles, practically vibrating with some giddy inner energy.

“What’s with you?” I ask. “You look like Sylvester with a mouthful of Tweety’s ass.”

Her response comes in pantomime. She waggles her finger at me. Her ring finger. It’s sporting a fair sized rock set in a white gold band.

“I’m engaged!” she hoots.

Yes. Engaged. Docketed to exchange vows with the same dipshit who’d pulped her face not two months ago.

“What?” she asks, perplexed, perhaps wondering why I’m not flailing around in paroxysms of delight.



“Are you out of your fucking mind?”

And she stares at me, genuinely, nakedly surprised that I’d say such a horrible thing. Then, after an inward-looking pause —a brief inward-looking pause— she defends her plans by saying, in a tone that indicates both my profound ignorance and overall assholery: “He’s off meth.”

As I understand it, they stood up in front of a clergyman ten days ago.

Do I feel for this woman? Of course I do, but only up to a point. My sympathies went south about a nanosecond after she announced her impending nuptials. I mean, what the fuck? It’s not like she’s some dopy kid, or anything. She’s in her thirties, for fuck’s sake. No one forced her to do a half-gainer into what will certainly turn out to be a matrimonial cesspool. No, her own surreal decisions got her there, and if she’s too needy, or weak, or —let’s face it— stupid, to suss out the big-ass-fuckin’-neon writing on the wall, then ya know what?

Fuck her.

I’m sure I’ll hear all too soon that they’ve procreated. And thus will the Great Wheel of Stupidity will keep right on turning.

Jesus Christ…

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Wilds of Oklahoma--Update!

Here’s a short update from the Wilds of Oklahoma.

Small town weirdness comes in forms both funny and horrifying. I’m interested in the funny bits, most of the time. Sure, my little puddle of Americana is colonized by its share of mouth-breathing, semi-literate crackers blithering on about “Obama Care,” but you can experience run-of-the-uterus witlessness like that every afternoon on Fox News, and it’s generally more tedious than it is entertaining. So…

First up, a tale of homelessness and deprivation.

I’m sitting in one of my local watering holes, enjoying a frosty mug of beer and a few shots of Wild Turkey. A guy wanders in, settles himself on a stool a couple down from mine. He’s maybe 50, thin, graying. He orders a beer, pays for it from a roll of quarters, then asks the bartender if she has a small box.

“What for?” says she.

“Nothin’. Just…do you have a box?” He holds his hands about a foot apart. “A small one.”

The bartender chuckles, then a look of dawning awareness pops into her eyes. “Oh yeah. Oh shit. I heard she threw you out. Sorry. You want me to check if we have some bigger ones back there? For your stuff?”

“No. Just a small one. Like this:” He holds up his hands again.

The bartender appears confused, so the guy finally rolls his eyes, and reaches in the side pocket of his coat—from which he extracts a gray and white guinea pig.

“He’s been living in there three days, and it’s making him mad. He bites me.”


His lady gives him the ol’ heave-ho and all he’s got left is a pocketful of cranky rodent.

Poor, sad bastard...

So, then, on to Part II of today’s news update.

It’s a tale so mind-numbingly bizarre, shocking, and unsettling, I still can’t decide whether to cry, laugh, or laugh really, really hard.

Just the other evening I found myself in a round of chit-chat with a local high-school kid. He is, I think, 16. He’s all happy with himself, having spent the last few days undertaking a bit of genealogical research vis-à-vis his forebears. There are, he informs me, both “good parts” and “bad parts” to his ancestry. I ask about the bad parts. It turns out he’s some kind of distant cousin to Jesse James, who, the kid says, with complete accuracy, “was kind of a scumbag.” And the good parts? Well, the kid says, preening, “my great-great grandfather, was a Grand Dragon in the Klan.”

Kind of puts a whole new slant on the concepts of “Good” and “Bad,” don’t it?

Fuck me…

And that’s the news from the Wilds of Oklahoma, where the men are toothless, the women are potbellied, and the children are beyond freakish.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why One Man Quit Drinking

I drink for a living. I enjoy drinking. I enjoy drinking with people who enjoy drinking. Drinking is my hobby and my passion. So, I automatically feel a flutter of disquiet when confronted by someone who doesn’t believe and act the same.

Their excuses are almost always of the tired sort, but every once in a purple moon I hear a “why I quit” story that come close to making sense. Such as the one which follows, told to me by someone near and dear. And while it in no way persuaded me to end my personal love affair with ardent water, I feel it’s worth passing on, mostly because its simply too goddamn funny to keep from public view.

My friend joined the air force after graduating college in the mid 1950s, was schooled in the ins and outs of the dental hygenist, and wound up stationed at a base in the wilds of Alaska. He described the biggest state in the Union as mind-bogglingly beautiful, hellishly cold, even in the summer, and, ultimately, rendered dull by the strictures of military life. In other words, there wasn’t a lot to do but look out the window at the same mountain vistas, complain about the ball-shrinking temperature, and search for ways to while away one’s off-duty hours. Can there be any wonder that the number one pastime among the airmen was boozing? What the fuck else was there to do?

My friend and a couple of his fellow soldiers, in posession of two-day passes, got their hands on several bottles of tequila. How they got that particular tipple in Alaska in the 1950s is beyond me, but they did. And they put the stuff to its full purpose, draining every bottle dry. At a bottle of Mexican go-go juice each, they must’ve been gloriously shitfaced.

The bottles dry, they hit their racks for a few hours of nappy-time.

At 0630, my friend is shaken awake by another airman.

“You’re needed in the clinic,” he says.

“Blurmaflurmle,” my friend responds.

“Right now, fella. On the double. Emergency root canal. Move it.”

Feeling as though a herd of caribou with loose bowels is stampeding through his head, my friend hauls himself off his bunk, tidys himself, dons his fatigues, and scrambles across the base to the dental suite. The base dentist, a captain, is irritated at his tardiness. Their patient is already in the chair, suffering the singular pain of a rotten tooth.

My friend deposits himself upon the assistant’s stool, a tray of instruments nearby, trying to focus while the captain administers Novocain. My friend can barely maintain a verticle position. The caribou have sprouted claws and have begun breathing fire. His stomach is a perfect Charybdis of roiling bile. He wobbles a bit.

The captain looks up, frowing all the way to his stubbly crew cut. “Are you ill, airman?”

“No sir,” my friend mumbles. “A little bit, sir.”

Squinting, the captain says, “Have you been drinking?”

“Um…Yessir. Last night.”

“Jesus, man. You smell like a flophouse bathroom.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I—”

“Can you do your job?”

“Yes, sir! No prob—”

But he never gets to complete the lie, because at that moment the ugly contents of his belly staged a coup over their masters, and broke for freedom. He belches, wetly, thickly, and then the rebels are flooding over the prison gates, and my friend vomits a warm slurry…

…directly onto the patient in the chair. Directly onto the patient’s face, in fact.

I should mention at this point that I’ve left out a couple of the story’s salient details.

The first is that by way of preperation for the root canal the dentist had inserted small rubber blocks between the patients molars to keep his mouth open—wedged open; wide open—transforming it into a nifty little…well…receptacle.

The second is that the patient was a major, the base’s second in command.

And my friend spewed yesterday’s Spam and last night’s tequila right spang into the man’s mouth.

My friend did not receive a commendation. But, he wasn’t thrown out on his ass, either.

And he never got drunk again.

As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Incredibly Stupid Woman

This crazy shit actually happened. I’ve probably fudged some of the dialogue (my past has left me with the short-term memory of a fruit fly), but it’s still pretty close.

I sometimes emcee trivia contests at bars, which is what I was doing on the evening of the Incredibly Stupid Woman. I’m not going to name the bar (for legal reasons which will become clear as we go), but I will say that it’s a really fun neighborhood joint that attracts an eclectic bunch of interesting patrons. Occasionally, the category “interesting patrons” includes one or more members of that very interesting bunch, the Hells Angels.

A number of Angels hang out at the bar, and on certain really weird nights will even play a round or two of trivia. I have a nodding relationship with a few of them. People tell me not to get too close, because Angels, like pit bulls, can go from sociopathic to really sociopathic with freakish briskness, but this is not information I, or any reasonably sane person, requires. (A good friend of mine was seriously injured by an Angel, and I once got sideways with one, but the details of both events can keep for now.) Over time I’ve learned the secret to staying even-steven with the one-percenters is simply to keep your shit straight around them. Don’t stare; don’t be a smartass; don’t leer at their women; don’t go looking for a fight, because you don’t fight one Angel—you fight them all. And sending over a round of shots wouldn’t kill ya either…

Anyway, I’m sitting at my little table, rattling off trivia questions in my oh-so witty and endearing way. There’s maybe thirty people in the bar, including an Angel and his rode-hard-n-put-away-wet girlfriend. And I mean a full-patch brother—top rocker, bottom rocker, the whole iconic shebang.

Enter the Incredibly Stupid Woman.

She comes in from the street-side entrance, a decidedly alky-pop wobble to her gait, and sort of, well, flows onto a stool at the bar. Everything gets a little murky for me at this point, though I found out later that the bartender hadn’t seen the woman arrive, and, more to the point, hadn’t realized the depth of her shitfacedness or she wouldn’t have served the big loonybird a double bourbon on the rocks and a bottle of Tecate. The woman re-enters my attention zone when I—and everyone else in the bar—hears her whisper-shout:

“Whatta you s’posed t’be? Some kinda faggy biker fag?”

Another thing you don’t do around the Angels—never, never, never—is fuck about with, or in any way cast aspersions upon, their patches.

Anyway, I wouldn’t say that one of those fabled “hushes” descends on the tavern, but
there’s a decided cessation of conversation in the area of the Incredibly Stupid Woman and her two nearest barmates: the Angel and his moll. The woman’s query also attracted the immediate interest of the bartender, as well as the establishment’s fine owner (the two are sisters, as it happens), both of whom bee-line it toward the Incredibly Stupid Woman. By the time the ladies arrive Mr. Hells Angel has hopped to his feet and stuck his stony grill about three inches from the Incredibly Stupid Woman’s porcine one.

“Fuckin cunt,” he says with less malice than you’d think; mostly a kind of contained menace. “You wanna talk like a man, I’ll drop you like one.”

To which the Incredibly Stupid Woman responds, and I am not kidding:

“Big talk, ya fuckin pussy fag.”

Several things happen at once. The Angel comes off his stool like there’re wasps in his drawers. The bartender leans across the bar in an attempt to keep him off the Incredibly Stupid Woman. The owner hot-foots it down the customer side of the bar, her boyfriend right behind, shouting “Hey! Hey! Cut it the fuck out!” and plants herself between the combatants, facing the Incredibly Stupid Woman.

Stupid people—especially when their already diminished cranial dexterity has been pimp slapped by too many cocktails—often simply forge ahead being stupid, even when faced with stark evidence warning them against continuing to follow their current game plan.

This stupid person was no different.

She howls something incomprehensible, takes two fistfuls of the bartender’s hair, and proceeds to make a good go of twisting the fine lady’s melon right off its stalk. Thankfully backup arrived before that could happen, in the form of the bartender’s boyfriend, who, together with the bartender, wrestled the Incredibly Stupid Woman away from the Angel, through the bar, and out onto the sidewalk.

Most of the patrons, including the Angel, his lady, and myself, trail along behind, to follow the drama from the front patio, chuckling and cracking wise while the bartender tries to talk the Incredibly Stupid Woman down, and the boyfriend uses his cell to summon a taxi. Despite the bartender’s efforts, though, the Incredibly Stupid Woman steadfastly refuses to go anywhere but up, up, up and away.

She starts staggering up and down along the patio rail, working herself into a full-throated drunken tirade.

“I’m gonna kill you all! I have a gun at home! I’m gonna go get it and come back here and kill all of you motherfuckers! Starting with you:” she shrieks at the Angel, “you fucking biker faggot!”

Wearing a grin that’s almost Grinch-like in its self-satisfied wickedness, the Angel steps to the rail and beckons the Incredibly Stupid Woman toward him with a crooked finger. She lumbers forward, opening her mouth to vent more stupid vitriol.

Before she can speak, however, the Angel says:

“Here you dumb cunt. Have some a this:”

And he triggers a can of mace, nailing her point blank right in the mush. The nozzle is so close to the woman’s face that the cloud of chemicals actually surrounds her head.

The fight goes out of her like somebody pulled her plug. She bawls in pain and rage. One hand goes to her eyes, almost attacking them, clawing at the burn, while the other, for reasons that baffle comprehension, shoots straight up in the air, like she’s testifying at a tent revival. Her mouth snaps shut as she spins around in a tight but graceless circle and lurches away from the patio, across the sidewalk, and…straight into the thickening Saturday evening traffic.

Brakes lock. Rubber squeals. Horns blare. Several of us on the patio blurt out our own individual versions of “Holy shit!” The bartender hurries into the street, and grabs the Incredibly Stupid Woman’s arm (the one not pointed at the heavens), yanking her back to the safety of the sidewalk, where she resumes her outraged bleating.

Almost at that same exact moment, an ambulance rolls to a stop in the middle of the street. No one called it. It just happened to be cruising by, just in time to witness the Incredibly Stupid Woman’s suicidal pirouette. Two paramedics climb from the vehicle and, after a quick conference with the bartender, one proceeds to shoot the Incredibly Stupid Woman full of quieting drugs, while the other pulls the stretcher from the back of the bus. Working in tandem, the EMTs leverage the Incredibly Stupid Woman onto the rolling bed and, as a precaution, since the drugs have only taken partial effect, handcuff her to the side rails. They leverage her into the ambulance, give the bartender a thumbs up, and motor away, surely to, first, an emergency room for a de-macing, and then to the drunk tank.

The observers on the patio disperse back into the bar, where the bartender buys a round of shots for the house. I linger for a few minutes, smoking, which is why I’m the first to note the arrival of a sheriff’s car.

I slip inside, looking for the Angel. He’s back on his stool, looking now more pissed off than he had during the entire event. Catching his attention, I point at the front door and warn him that the law has arrived. He slams the rest of his beer, slaps me on the shoulder, and exits the scene through the rear exit.

The deputy asks several of us a few perfunctory questions, jots something in a note pad, and leaves, all in less than ten minutes. And ten minutes after that, I’m back at the mic reading trivia questions.

And the moral to the story? Shit, you figure it out.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pissing People Off--Movie Night!

I was sitting around, feeling restless. Began casting about for some way of entertaining myself. Nothing worked. Then it hit me that what I really felt like doing was pissing someone off. Who did I want to piss off? No one specific, really. It’s just that it’s been too long since I spewed a cloud of venom and outrage into the world, if only to see whose face it sticks to. It's been too long since I’ve given voice to my Inner Prick.

So, here’s some random bile aimed at a few flicker shows I’ve been victimized by lately.

And hey boys and girls: Enjoy!*

Grown Ups

Two hours of life I will never get back again. Most of the cast are SNL alums, which is fitting, because it’s basically a two-hour version of one of those sketches they put on in the last ten minutes of the show to round out their air time. Thank Christ I got in free. Sometimes I wish the Grim Reaper was a little more observant.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Remember when Nicholas Cage was an actor? Back before the mind-flogging horror of “Next” and “Ghost Rider” (and pretty much every other movie he’s made in the last decade)? Back before he settled on his two-fold acting strategy: Sensitive Eyes and Crazy Eyes? Back before you didn’t need to watch his work with cotton balls stuffed up your nose to stem brain bleed?

Twilight: Eclipse

Jesus Fucking Christ! These aren’t vampires! These are weepy vegetarian emo seat-sniffers. We need our monsters, people, and our monsters do not need the therapy couch. Blame Anne Rice. Blame Gregory Maguire. It might not be their fault entirely, but it’s sure as shit somebody’s fault, and whoever it is can just smooch my hairy middle-aged nutsack. If that doesn’t remind them of what a nightmare is, then nothing will. Arrrrrgh!

Alice in Wonderland

The newest entry to the ignominious list that includes “Sleepy Hollow,” “Planet of the Apes” & “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” this latest abomination from Tim “I Ass-Rape the Classics” Burton is splendid to look at, but that’s all she wrote. Like almost all of Tim "The 50-Year-Old Goth Poseur” Burton’s movies, “Alice” is 99% flash, and 1% substance. Instead, I recommend popping by the Home Depot, buying a Dremel Tool, and settling in on your sofa for an evening of home dentistry.

Want to rent a good movie? Check out The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's not great, but it doesn't completely suck hobo-butt, either.

That’s it for today’s temper tantrum, folks. It is my hope that future posts will actually have a point. And be much better written.


(*Exclamation point courtesy of Up With People.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Take Your Children to the Bar

American children receive almost zero education in the finer points of drinking, and of tavern etiquette, cocktail savvy, personal tolerance, etc., they rarely of ever hear so much as a word before finding themselves at large and forced to fend for themselves in an unpredictable world of booze and boozeheads. Their lack of knowledge causes them to make stupid decisions which can lead to tragedy, such as dying from alcohol poisoning after knocking back two dozen shots of Svedka Clementine at some douchebag frat party. It isn’t the alcohol’s fault. Such calamities are born first of ignorance.

As professional drinkers we are, of necessity, the arbiters, the village elders even, of intoxicated culture, and as such it is beholden upon us to provide guidance to such potentially lost souls, so send them into the world armed not with myths and superstitions (D.A.R.E. to Keep Your Bullshit to Yourself!), but with facts.

We might approach the problem from any number of directions, but I wish to focus upon the most unaware members of young society—kids. Pre-teens. Young-uns. The ones that ain’t got tits and whose balls haven’t dropped.

Taken them to the bar. Stand firm against the deluge of moral outrage that could come your way, and do it. Do it a bunch of times, in fact. We’ll get to some specific “whys” in a sec, right after a few short, common-sensical caveats.

Caveat One: Barring circumstances which might suggest otherwise, make sure you take your kids to the bar. Dragging random tykes in off the street is a Pandora’s Box waiting to spill its fetid contents all over your life. That, and it’s a little creepy, too.

Caveat Two: Don’t haul the little monsters along on specialty nights. “Implants Drink Free” night, and “Get a Lap-Dance from a Meth-Head” are really not the direction you want to head. Same with “Transsexual Sunday Brunch” and the ever-popular “50% Off to Whoever Can Puke the Most Colors.” Use a little sense. It rarely hurts.

Caveat Three: Other suspect activities include: Strip Beer-Pong, Keg Stands, Beer Bongs (unless the child is over 16), Mosh Pits, Shot Wheels, and any room where Silicone and Bo-Tox are more popular than un-doctored flesh and laugh lines. Avoid bars where the smell of dirty mop water is tolerable only because it masks odors of a far more horrifying sort, as well as those special dives where, when you touch the bar, your hands come back black. I mean really…

And those are my caveats. The MADD Mothers could probably rack up a bunch more, but I really don’t give a crap. I want the opinion of a Mad Mother, I’ll talk to my own, thank-you very much.

So, if you’re ready to schlep your offspring along to your local, here are a few humble suggestions as to how you can go about it.

Pop by your usual watering hole in the early afternoon. The sun is out, the place isn’t too packed with customers; altogether a more mellow atmosphere. Take a seat at the bar. Get your kid one beside you. Order your standard libation and whatever is appropriate for the child (which largely depends upon your and the bartender’s flexibility). Introduce your little one to the barkeep and to any of the regulars who might be on hand. Give em some quarters for the juke, or to play pinball or Golden Tee. Explain to them what the taps are and how they work, and about the position of the bottles behind the bar—top-shelf, bottom-shelf, etc. Offer a primer on shakers, strainers, garnish, bar mats and the other tools of the drinks trade they are likely to be unfamiliar with. Give em a sip of your beer.

Kids will learn that bars aren’t weird, scary places that adults disappear inside of to engage in mysterious acts. They will come to see that bars are companionable centers of community good cheer; places to have fun, goof around, shoot the shit with friends, and otherwise happily indulge oneself. Taverns have fulfilled this function for centuries, all over the globe.

We need to educate our children instead of shielding them. Prolonging adulthood for 18-21 years as we do in this country doesn’t keep kids from making dumb decisions. It only leaves them unprepared for life’s complexities.

Take your kid to the bar. Call it home-schooling with a real-life bent.