Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Falling on Your Head Like a Tragedy



[7:40 AM] Wake up. Check the Yahoo! Weather app. Look out window. Gloomy, fog hugging everything like lonely specters, but apparently there's a 0% chance of rain* predicted all day. Odd.

[8:10 AM] Leave for work. "Aren't you going to take an umbrella?" asks wife. "No reason to," I say. "Forecast says there's a 0% chance of rain." I did my due diligence!

[Some indeterminate time in the afternoon] Raining.

[6:05 PM] Punch out**. Still raining. Walk to subway station. Get wet. Get smug looks from people who have umbrellas and know better than to trust meteorological guesswork.

Now...I don't expect the forecast to be accurate all of the time, or even most of the time, but to me 0% -- at least by my weird understanding of math -- means "impossible," or "The Day the Clown Cried is getting released in theaters before this happens," or "I'm trusting this lying app again."

There's rarely a sure thing. Especially when the weather is involved. That's why they call it weather***.

It could be a lot worse. Instead of raindrops falling on my head, it could have been coconuts. Or durians. Or bombs.

Drop bears.

Space debris.

Pigeon shit.




* my favorite homophone!

** Word to King Hippo and idioms that will confuse some people under 25.

*** Word to David Mamet.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Macau



"Do you have the hiccups?"

"No. I think I might throw up."

We were on the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau. The sea was calm, but my wife's stomach wasn't, and we hadn't even departed. The catamaran was bobbing up and down with the tide. The sky was overcast. I looked around the seats for barf bags and saw that there weren't any. And the lines to the lavatories were long.

"I didn't know you get seasick," I said and held Patricia's hand. We had been married three years, and I was continually learning new and interesting -- if perhaps insignificant -- facts about her. I still am, twenty-three years later.

"Didn't you say you've taken this boat before?" I asked.

"I did, about ten years ago."

"And were you sick then?"

"I don't remember."

A young man was walking down the aisle with a tray of assorted snacks and beverages. I considered buying a beer and a bag of potato chips but thought better of it. My stomach wasn't feeling in top shape itself.

"Sorry, Patty, but that seems like something you'd remember," I said. "I mean, it's not every day that you ride a boat, especially one in a foreign country. I can't recall what I ate for breakfast two days ago, but I'm pretty sure I'd remember if I vomited on a boat."

"Shut the fuck up, Jonathan. You're making it worse."

I shut the fuck up.

---

Macau was nice enough. Patty's nausea ebbed and flowed during the hour-long ride, but she was able to contain the contents of her stomach. We walked through the cobblestone streets and saw a facsimile of Macau's past. Colonial mansions and McDonald's.

We don't gamble, but during our tour we found ourselves at a large casino, the name of which escapes me. We agreed to go in and have a drink.

Cigarette smoke hovered like a cloud in that monstrous gaming room, where middle-aged men and a peppering of middle-aged women sat at tables covered in green felt. I would be lying if I didn't say that it was a pathetic, depressing tableau.

We took two seats at the bar, which was about as massive as the whale that swallowed Jonah. I ordered a beer. Patty ordered a beer. The bartender, a pretty woman with pink mascara, gave us each a bowl of salted peanuts. We talked.

My drink was almost done, and our ferry back to Hong Kong was set to leave in forty minutes. "Ready to go?" I asked Patty.

"I guess so," she said.

Immediately upon exiting the casino, we witnessed the aftermath of a traffic accident. A bus had run over a man on a scooter. People were yelling. People were screaming. There was blood. There was a lot of blood.

I wanted to stick around and gawk, but we had a boat to catch.

---

"Jesus, I'm going to be sick."

"You'll be fine. Patty, look out the window. See how the boat is going up and down? Bob your head up and down with the movement of the water."

"That actually works! I look like a crazy person, but it works! I feel so much better when I do that! How did you know that?"

"Kids get carsick, but the driver never does. If you have a point to focus on, everything else disappears."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Condemned



  "I was fishing in this guy's truck. I didn't even have to jimmy the lock or anything because the idiot left the passenger-side door open. I thought I might catch a few bucks to score. All there was in the glove compartment was a silver dollar and a birthday card, which I didn't read. I started checking under the seats and found an open toolbox, and that's when the dude grabbed my leg.

  I hit him in the head with a steel wrench. He staggered back a few steps then fell down like a stubborn bowling pin. And he died. And here I am."

---

  "God, I remember everything so vividly and I replay it in my nightmares. We were playing street hockey. It was November 2nd, my grandmother's birthday. We were supposed to go in for a big dinner, but the score was tied. To us kids, this game, Overton Ave. vs. Regent Crescent, was as intense as the Stanley Cup Finals. It was 3-3, and we decided that the next goal would win. I had a chance, the shot looked good, but Jodie Kearns elbowed me in the ribs, and I fell down. Next thing I know, he's back the other way and he scores to win the game.

  'Now you can run home, pussy,' he said. 'I bet that birthday cake will taste like losing.'

  I picked up my stick and swung it at his head from behind. It caught him in the right eye. Forty minutes later, I was in a police station, Jodie Kearns was dead, and I don't know what happened to my grandmother's birthday cake."

---

  "A guy raped my little sister. I went over to the house he was staying at, and I beat him to death with my fists. I'm not sorry. I think I did the right thing, and I'm not sorry at all."

---

  "Magnets aren't like people. Magnets don't get scared. Magnets are attracted by nature, and they connect. It's the simplest explanation, yet I'm the one who's confused? This is a bitter farce. A jaguar eats a deer, and that's acceptable. I eat a human being, and I'm a monster. I am not! I am everything you weaklings will never become. Your blood will run down from the jowls of us beasts. We will eat you."

---

  "Ah...I had a good walk around the yard today. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Do you realize how rare that is? It was beautiful. Like looking into infinity. I could die on a day like today and be happy."

  How do you feel about dying? Your appeal has been overturned.

  "It's all the same. You come out one door, and you exit another. There's nothing poetic I can say except that we're all going along on a tightrope, trying not to fall off, and desperately reaching for that rope when we do.

There was a milkman in my neighborhood. He smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. One day, he came up to my house for his delivery, but he was tired and sat down on the steps...He started crying, holding his head in his hands sobbing like a dummy.

  I don't know where I'm going with this. Hell, maybe. Anyway, nice to talk to you."

  I'd like to hear more about the milkman and what he meant to you.

"I'd like to hear more about everything. But I don't have enough time. Nice talking to you."

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Long Time Ago



Nostalgia is a narcotic. In small doses, it can enhance an experience. When I was eighteen years old, my best friend, my brother, and I took a trip to Ottawa one Saturday night on a whim, and on the way there, on another whim, we drove to the house I grew up in in Nepean until we moved when I was six. That was pretty cool. I get the same nostalgic feeling whenever I return to my hometown and drive around, passing my high school, or when I stay with my parents and sleep in the house in which I lived from six to twenty-two, the age I was when I moved to Korea.

I don't want to live my life again, however. I like to see photographs of the past and recall fond memories (and even the bad ones have a better coat of paint on them with the passing of years), but I don't want to experience everything over again in the same way that I didn't want to break into my childhood home and sleep in my old bedroom, or walk through the halls of my high school with gray hair. It's fine to look back, but not at the expense of looking forward.

For decades, Hollywood has been the hoary old coal miner of properties people my age grew up with, trying to find a gold vein but usually mining shit. While trying to appeal to the worst aspect of nostalgia -- remember when you liked this as a dumb kid? We're going to try to make you like it as a stupid adult -- movie producers also have continually thought that making children's properties into darker versions of their source materials will work.

The thing is, it does for some people. Earlier this year, director Joseph Kahn released a satirically gritty short film based on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It was meant as a fuck-you to the manchildren who actually want that kind of shit. Ironically, a vocal portion of the Internet took it seriously and ardently pleaded that a feature film be made.

I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to revisiting the nostalgic idiocy of 80s kids. I saw the first Transformers movie and liked it well enough (the sequels are for brain donors); I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra twice in a movie theater*; I have a bunch of T-shirts with comic book and video game characters on them, which, as a soon-to-be thirty-seven-year-old man, I have no business wearing**.

My ability to discern between right and wrong, just and unjust, is pretty strong, I think. When it comes to entertainment, art, I'm better than I once was, but my subjective integrity can sometimes be compromised by what I think I've seen over what I saw (I gave Terminator: Salvation a 4/4 review on this very blog almost six years ago).

Case in point: In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace on my birthday. That movie is absolutely awful, but because it was the first Star Wars movie released in sixteen years, and because I grew up with Star Wars***, I talked myself into thinking it was good. Adulthood doesn't erase idiocy, nor the indelible impressions of childhood.

 Today, I have a new hope. The second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is good. Really good. I've been a Star Wars apostate for longer than I was a true believer as a kid. My faith has been restored. For now.

Nostalgia is a drug.


* In that film's defense, it's just as stupidly silly and enjoyable as the original cartoon.

** In my own defense, I bought them while on vacation in Canada because I can't buy T-shirts here that would fit even an anorexic teenager.

*** I don't have a photographic memory, but I can recall almost every film I've ever seen inside a theater, who I was with, and where I sat. It's my mutant power. My mother took me to a double feature of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was sitting to her left. Yoda scared the shit out of me. (This was perhaps 1981, during a second theatrical run. I have a good memory, but at two in 1980? I'd have to check with the matron.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five (Consistency Has to Count for Something)



As far as halls of fame go, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has to be one of the most subjective, because it's impossible -- or at least pretty hard -- to qualify art. To quantify art is simpler, and in which case top-selling artists like Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are first ballot, but nobody wants that. So a happy medium occurs. If you can sell a bazillion records, you might be considered. Similarly, if you can be culturally significant or groundbreaking, with or without massive sales, you might get in (see: Zappa, Frank).

But I think consistency in music does need to be qualified (and, to a lesser extent, quantified; people can be pretty dumb, but if you like something for a number of years, there must be something inherently alluring there*), and so I've created this admittedly subjective -- but also based on general consensus! -- list of rock gods.

I call it the Pantheon. Shit, that's taken? When? Okay, let's call it

I Got 5 on It

The induction rules are simple: You have to have had five consecutive albums that are considered -- creatively and commercially -- as great.

First Ballot

The Beatles (Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road)

Outkast (Southernplayalisticadillacmuzic, ATLiens, Aquemeni, Stankonia, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The Beastie Boys (License to Ill, Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty)

Kanye West (The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak**, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus)

On the Cusp

Arcade Fire (Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs, Reflektor)

So Close, No Cigar

Radiohead (The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A...)

Radiohead is out because Amnesiac was a bit shaky, and Hail to the Thief started an avalanche. They rebuilt that mountain, but you need five straight to enter the joint.

Led Zeppelin (I, II...)

III killed the momentum. IV is outstanding, and Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti are similarly great, but rules.


* see: Of Nazareth, Jesus; Big Bang Theory, The; Twizzlers

** This is very arguable.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Defibrillator



Something smelled awful.

It must have followed me home. I changed from my work clothes and showered, but a pungent odor hung around over dinner. 

"Jesus, Andrew, I can't even eat. What is that?"

I pretended I didn't know. Maybe something crawled into my boot before I closed the door? Something inky and stinky.

"I'll go see."

"Dad, it smells like when Grampy eats too many boiled eggs."

"It smells like Denise's clothes!"

"Shut up, Mark! It smells like the dead salamander in your desk drawer!"

"Kids!" Liz shouts. "Eat your dinner!"

The front door is closed tightly, and my boots, while smelling worse than a seaman's underwear, contain no trace of contamination.

But something reeks.

I go out into the driveway and check the car. Clean. Then I race around to the backyard to make sure Kander is still tied up. He isn't.

He has bitten through his rope. It's not the first time. He's gotten too big; it's time for chains.

I hear a bellow. Kander walks toward me growling like a chainsaw low on gas.

"Now, now, friend," I say. "Boy have you gotten big."

I sit down on the grass.

"I have some steaks out in the car if you're interested. Red and juicy, just as you like them."

Kander paces toward the car.

"Andrew!" Liz screams from the bedroom window, "run, now!"

I give it my best shot, but my bones are old. Kander has already discovered that there are no steaks in the car. It was just a trick. Just a way to try to buy some time.

I'm outside on the grass. My head is in a bear's mouth.

It feels like a hug.

I embrace it.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Snake Queen



I'm dreaming. I know I'm dreaming. It doesn't lessen my terror.

I'm in Israel (as a tourist? Perhaps; my dream isn't providing much back story).

I walk into a large synagogue-mosque with pews divided down the aisle between Jews on the right and Muslims on the left. I know I'm dreaming, and I know how sophomoric this would be if it were an actual bit of fiction, but it's only a dream.

I'm sure that someone is going to set off a bomb in here. People start filing in ahead of me wearing backpacks that I'm worried contain explosives.

Once the synagogue-mosque is full, a rabbi starts speaking. He's wearing a white robe and papal hat. Having never been to a synagogue, I realize that my mind is using the pope's regalia to fill in the blank.

"What a day we have here, where Israel and Palestine have come together to worship," he says. "We are all closer to death."

This elicits shouts of consternation from both sides of the religious divide.

As the shouting continues, the rabbi and the imam unfold a yard-long length of connected sachets containing a brown powder. The imam pours some water into one of the open sachets, and it grows to the size of a large bag. Then the imam and the rabbi begin eating from the over-sized sachet like dogs feasting on kibble, or children bobbing for apples.

---

I'm somewhere else now. In my dream, I call it nextwhere. A friend of mine has just bought a new car. He asks me to come along on its maiden voyage, but I decline. There's something else I'd rather do, but I don't know what that is.

One good thing about dreams is that regrets are easily erased; so when I decided that turning down my friend's offer to christen his new car was a bad idea, he was still there when I returned and hopped in.

No car has ever looked like this. Compact, with room for a single driver in the front seat and one passenger in the back, I start wondering who the hell would want to drive such a tiny thing. It was like a phone booth on wheels. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

As we're racing down the highway, obstacles start to appear: first a crashed bus, then an oil tanker engulfed in flames. Ronnie (not his real name) is driving at an incredible pace, but in the back seat all I can see is danger.

"Ronnie, pull the fuck over," I say. Even though I'm dreaming, I feel really bad about using the F-word.

We stop and get out of the car. I ask Ronnie for a cigarette, but he's not there anymore. Instead, a curly haired, sinewy man with a face covered in motor oil and a ten-year-old boy approach.

The man and the boy are speaking Spanish and arguing. I understand none of it. After their back-and-forth concludes, the man tells me he knows a good place to hide. I don't know what I should be hiding from, but I follow him anyway.

We drop down, one after another, into a basement full of cinder blocks and paint fumes.

The man is shouting to the boy in Spanish, shoving him to the center of the basement's concrete floor. Then he strips the boy of his T-shirt and shorts. The boy looks terrified.

"Hey!" I yell, finally aware of what is going on. "Leave the kid alone!"

The man walks over to me. He's breathing through his mouth and nose at the same time, menacingly.

"Don't get in my way," he says in English. "I don't want to bring you pain, but I will. All you need to do is watch."

There's a small twine rope hanging down from the ceiling. I grab it.

"You even think about hurting that kid and I'm going to strangle you with this! You got it?" I scream.

I strangled him with that. Then I put a shard of glass into his dead forehead. I wanted to put a period on the sentence.

I don't know where the fictional dream-boy I saved is now, but hopefully he's somewhere comfortable.

---

"Dan, come on!" my roommate shouts. "Aren't you done yet?"

"Almost, but I don't know what to call it," I say.

"How about 'Asshole of the Year,' or 'Requiem for a Jerk?'"

Snake Queen

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exes and Ohs



Right now, the Miami Heat have 150/1 Vegas odds to win the NBA title. It might as well be zero, because there is no way that the Heat have a chance. None. Basketball doesn't work that way. Since 1991, 24 years, here is the list of champions: Bulls (6), Rockets (2), Spurs (5), Lakers (5), Pistons (1), Heat (3), Celtics (1), and Mavericks (1). Eight teams in 24 years; there is no parity in basketball.

Another takeaway from that sample is that the only two Finals "upsets" came in 2004 when the Pistons beat an imploding Lakers team 4-1 and in 2011 when the Mavericks beat the Heat 4-2 in the first year of the Heatles mini-dynasty.

There is no parity in basketball. There are transition periods. What Golden State and the Hawks have done this season has been fun to watch -- but neither team is going to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy (the Warriors are much closer to it than the Hawks). Neither will the Grizzlies, Clippers (I've picked the Clippers at the beginning of the past 2 seasons to make the Finals, and they always underachieve), Bulls, Thunder, Mavericks, Blazers, Raptors, Wizards, etc.

In my somewhat-knowledgeable opinion, only three teams have a shot at the 2015 NBA title: the Spurs, the Cavs, and the Rockets. The Warriors might get in there, but I doubt it. It's fun to watch Klay Thompson and Steph Curry play Pop-A-Shot, but that shit won't win you a chip (it might get you some Chuck E. Cheese tickets to exchange for a green plastic army man or a silver-painted handgun key chain, though).

That is what I think. Now here is what I want.

The Heat are currently matched up with the Cavaliers in the East's 2-7 seeding. I am not a bitter man, but I want the Heat to face LeBron James in the first round. I want the Heat to beat the Cavs in the first round.

The Heat beat Cleveland 2-1 during the regular season. Of course, the regular season means little when it comes to playoff match-ups, and the Heat might get smoked, probably will get smoked -- but i want it like Pookie craved the crack pipe.

Because if, by some miracle, the Heat could knock LeBron's new-old team out of the playoffs in the first round, however unlikely*, Kevin Love would probably bolt, right?



That would be my championship. I love a good comedy.


* David Blatt vs. Erik Spoelstra: I'm picking the high school dance chaperone who's seen the gymnasium and kids sneaking in airplane bottles of liquor a few times over the frustrated parent who doesn't understand why his children keep leaving their milk-stained math homework on the kitchen table.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Killing Words



Heavy fire.

Out of breath, I duck behind a stone barrier and check my ammo. Only three gofuckyourself bullets remain in my side pistol. My machine gun is out of ifuckedyourmothers. Aside from my special weapons, which I've been saving for a long time because I bought them with a gift card my mother gave me on my thirty-ninth birthday, my diebitch melee weapon is all I have if I run out of pistol ammo.

Curtis019Hotlanta has me on the ropes.

"Coming for that ass, bitchcakes," he says into his headset.

I can hear him approaching. I want to flee, find another cover, but that would mean certain death.

I check my inventory. I have two remaining eatadicks that I'd forgotten about, but they won't help me now. I'm going to have to go deep.

"Say hello to my little friend," Curtis019Hotlanta shouts into his headset just as he lobs a niggerfaggot grenade over the barrier. I scramble and make it out with 19% health. Could be worse.

I run in to a poorly rendered cinder-block building while Curtis019Hotlanta cackles maniacally afoot.

"Run, run, run, but you sure can't hide, bitchcakes. I'm going to kill you with my dickinyoureye knife."

I run up three flights of stairs and come out on a roof. I have a clear look at the doorway, but I have to time my shot. I pull out my yoursisterownsavaginadinerandthespecialtyisallyoucaneatsnapper but hesitate. I try to switch to my didyourparentshaveanykidsthatlived, and that's when the bullet struck me.

I'm on my back, and my enemy is standing over me.

"Say goodnight, bitchcakes," he says as he fires a youeatcumforbreakfast bullet into my skull.

Misfire.


"Deus ex machina!" I scream into my own headset.

Then I turn off my computer, thankful to be alive after narrowly escaping death.

Now I have a fourth-grade spelling test to prepare for. Frau Kovacs is going to be so disappointed if I don't ace it.

I'm confident that I will spell pity, petty, pitiful, plentiful, and fuck all correctly.

Practice.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Camping



I love seeing nature: flora, fauna, all of that shit. What's the allure of camping, though? Why go into the forest to put up a tent and start a fire when you have a home at home? I don't need mosquito coils or a fire; I have walls and windows and central heating! And electricity! I don't want to cook beans from a can! I can order pizza from home, the place where I live and pay a mortgage. By the way, and I'm shitty at French, but "mort" is the French word for death, I think. "Mortgage" is the English word for debt, so they're pretty close. But to get back on topic...

I can't plug a hair dryer into a tree stump...yet! We're probably working on it. Yellowstone is going to have WiFi soon. "Getting back to nature" is going to become "exactly like home." You won't have to wipe your ass with leaves -- they'll probably install working toilets with bidets.

Getting closer to nature is a joke. Nature is like, "Who the fuck invited you? We had a good thing going on, and then you had to show up. Fuck you, we're going to send some bears and shit into your territory...and then you're going to kill them."

I will, however, admit that it is sometimes fun to sleep outside.

I've done it a few times near subway stations. No bears that way.

.