Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Olympic Game



What a way to cap off a long weekend. Yesterday, Legs and I had dinner at Samakhan, a decent -- though pricey -- Indian restaurant in Seohyeon*, afterwards returning home to pop the cork on a bottle of Chardonnay I'd bought her for her birthday and to sit down and watch The Fantastic Mr. Fox**. The movie ended at nine o'clock; I went upstairs to sleep just before ten. Why so early, you ask? I had to get up before five a.m. to watch the men's Olympic ice hockey final, of course.

Thing is, though, I couldn't sleep. I thought the wine would help, but due to sleeping in until nearly eleven yesterday morning and my anticipation for the big game, the Sandman eluded me. I tossed and turned for two hours, occasionally falling into some weird, semi-delirious half-sleep. At midnight I went downstairs, turned on the TV, and tried to a) find something to hold my interest during my insomnia or b) be lulled to sleep by late-night-television mediocrity. I found myself on middle ground between the two, and at one o'clock I went back upstairs, determined to get as precious few hours of sleep as I could. It's a holiday here in Korea, but, unfortunately, it's not one for me. FML.

Miracle of miracles, around two or so I was able to drift off and catch some much-needed REM sleep. When I awoke just after four, however, I knew that was all the sleep I would get. The puck was set to drop at 5:15, and I had to prepare myself mentally -- or as well as I could on such short rest -- for the game.

I smoked a square, drank some cola, read and reread numerous previews of the game from both Canadian and American perspectives, considered trying to find an Internet feed of CTV's broadcast, then decided against it. No interruptions, no hiccups. I would watch the game on SBS in glorious HD.

From the get go, it was clear this was going to be a close game. Canada had home-ice advantage, and its Olympic team passes and handles the puck better than any team in the tournament. They also play gritty, grind-it-out hockey better than anyone. But the US has one hell of a brick wall in goalie Ryan Miller, and they're more of a threat on the open ice.

That Team Canada scored first in the opening period off of Jonathan Toews rebound brought a small sigh of relief. Canada had to score the opening goal. What do you know, for the first time in the tournament, Team USA was trailing.

When Corey Perry extended the lead to 2-0 midway through the 2nd, it was certainly more-comfortable breathing room. I knew the game was still up for grabs, but that's when my earliest thoughts of Olympic-gold glory started to creep into my head.

I pushed them back.

Relax, Sparkles, I told myself. A 2-0 lead halfway through the second period is no reason to start celebrating. There's plenty of time left for the Americans to get back into this thing. Don't count your chickens before they hatch***.

Five minutes later, Ryan Kesler reminded me of that in real life.

But Team Canada held onto its lead for the remainder of the period and most of the third. With only minutes left, cameras showed a sea of berserk, red-clad Team Canada fans inside and out of the temporarily dubbed Canada Hockey Place ready to erupt in national sports ecstasy.

It wasn't to be. With twenty-four seconds remaining and a six-to-five-men advantage, Team USA crowding in front of the Canadian goal in desperation, Zach Parise caught a break and slipped the equaliser past Roberto Luongo.

Oh, no. Oh god, no. This can't be happening. We were so close. Now we have to go into sudden-death overtime, four-on-four, against this feisty team and their momentum? I think I'm going to be sick to my stomach. This is too much.

That's what I thought. What I said was much briefer: Fuck.

Is there anything in any sport more intense than sudden-death overtime when a championship or gold medal is on the line? When the puck was dropped to begin the extra period, I couldn't have held a pencil if you had placed one in my hand. My heart was bounding in my chest like Jason Statham's in Crank.

It's patently obvious that Canadians take ice hockey far more seriously than citizens of every other nation. I won't bore you to death with an essay on just how intensely passionate we feel about about it, or why, but know this: had Canada lost, no Canadian would ever be able to forget it. And it wouldn't have been because we lost to the US, at least not for me. I would have felt equally depressed had the loss come against Russia, Finland, or any of the other nations competing in the tournament. Canada could absolutely not afford to lose, in the sport we invented, on home ice in the gold-medal game. It would have been a tragedy in the most literal sense of the word. Canadians would remember it for decades in ignominious sadness the same way some Americans feel about JFK's assassination. Comparatively, that's bugshit irrational, but the analogy still stands. Nobody ever said Canadians were rational when it comes to hockey.

As you all know by now, Sid the Kid was able to avert disaster seven minutes and forty seconds into overtime in a game that instantly became part of Canadian hockey lore, right up there with the Summit Series in '72 and the Canada Cup in '87.

Referring to Kim Yu-Na's short program, last Wednesday I wrote, "as great as the Korean athletes have performed, there's one gold medal with more significance attached to it than the rest combined. No hyperbole: even a silver medal in women's figure skating would be a tremendous blow to the nation's pride." Well, switch "Korean" with "Canadian" and "women's figure skating" with "men's ice hockey" and you have something eerily similar, the difference being that Korea had no history of figure skating before these Games, while hockey is Canada's oxygen.

Breathe easy, Canadians.

---

One more thing:

Leading up to the game, I talked some trash to my American friends, in person and on Facebook, but I want to say something sincerely: Team USA were never underdogs. You proved that by beating our squad 5-3 exactly one week ago, and you proved it again today. It was an extremely hard-fought instant classic. The nail-bitingest of nail-biters. I probably wouldn't be writing this tonight had Team Canada lost (I'd be sobbing like an inconsolable baby, seriously contemplating changing my nationality), but I would have eventually. Your squad deserves it.

See you in Sochi.


* Samakhan's interior -- minus the large video screen playing Backstreet Boys videos -- is very nice, but Thali, also in Seohyeon, is cheaper and serves better food. Take your girlfriend there for White Day, fellas. Their tandoori chicken is to die for.

** I'll probably put up a review tomorrow night. Which means I probably won't. Regardless, it's absolutely terrific.

*** Fittingly, the voice in my head was not my own but that of Chicken Wire, who, I found out too late, stayed up all night to see the game. If I had known he was awake and watching live, I definitely would have initiated a text-message flame fest.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The PK 27 -- Game No. 25 (Preview)

Normally, I'm not one to label something (anything) as the best _______________ (in this case, RPG) of the decade, let alone designate that something as worthy of the PK27, since the list is a far cry from a catalogue of the greatest of the great. That being said, game no. twenty-five may very well be the best RPG of the decade. Feel free to disagree till your heart explodes, friends.*




* Like it or loathe it, the decade belonged to neither Square nor Enix, but Atlus.

Reign of Ice



On Wednesday, I mentioned that everybody in Korea knows who Kim Yu-Na is. After today, the world does, too.

This time skating ahead of rival Asado Mao in the women's free skate, Kim delivered an absolutely mind-blowing routine, earning an astounding world record of 228.56. Asado skated next, and midway through her routine it was clear that "Queen Yu-Na" would become Korea's first Olympic figure skating gold medalist. Asada did what no other skater could do -- nor tried -- in landing two triple Axels, but she stumbled on the ice and missed a jump, which ultimately placed her in second. Canada's Joannie Rochette, the Games' most inspirational story, ended up with the bronze*.

Kim Yu-Na gave another performance of a lifetime, her second in two days. After the short program, pundits commented that Asada, with her triple Axel (the women's figure skating equivalent of John Holmes's schlong, Daniel LaRusso's Crane Kick), was still within striking distance. What they failed to note or notice, however, was the day-and-night difference between the two skaters' grace. Kim moves over the ice with a speed and fluidity heretofore unseen in the sport. Asada, in comparison, looks like a dispassionate stick figure.

Going into these games, there was intense intrigue as to who would emerge on top, Kim or Asada. Today, Kim Yu-Na had her Michael Jordan/Muhammad Ali/Tiger Woods (minus the infidelity, I hope) moment, proving on the world's biggest stage that it's her rink; other ladies just skate on it. Perhaps it's unaesthetically correct to say so given the sport, but Kim Yu-Na is a killer. Skating after Asada in the short program, she gave a confident, record-breaking routine. This afternoon (Korea time, "Gucci Time" for Schooly D), Asada was visibly nervous -- shook, in hip-hop parlance -- skating after Kim.

Who wouldn't be? With the weight of a nation's hopes resting on her shoulders, Kim delivered on her promise and then some. The aforementioned pundits claimed that Kim's free skate wasn't as strong as her short program, Asada's free skate much more powerful than her short program, and therein lied Asada's chance of capturing the gold medal. Set to the Bond theme, Kim's short program is indeed more exciting; however, as evidenced today, Kim's free skate is the more beautiful, the more hypnotically rewarding. I watched it live this afternoon, my initial viewing interrupted by the nerves fans of figure skating experience when watching their favorite skater attempt jumps in real time, so it took me awhile to fully process just how sublime Kim Yu-Na's performance was. It's the Zapruder tape of figure skating excellence.

Thankfully, SBS has been running her routine on a perpetual loop**. I've watched it a half dozen times, and each repeat viewing reveals more layers of perfection. It's no wonder, no hyperbole, that NBC's broadcasting team dubbed it possibly the best Olympics figure skating performance ever, although I'd omit the modifier. That was transcendant; that was, ladies and gentlemen, a genuine moment, not only for Korea but for the world at large.

Without hype or spectacle (at least not in the Western world), Kim Yu-Na made Olympic history, sports history. She inspired the planet and excelled women's figure skating light-years with her two performances, each as incredible a work of art as her contemporaries in art or sport.

I want to write so much more about Kim's skate, her tremenduous achievement, but words spoken or written can't do it enough justice. You have to see it to believe it. I'm fawning, have been fawning the entire day, but only because, on February 26, 2010, I witnessed perfection.

Talk about a moment.


* Although, to be fair, Mirai Nagasu of the US skated a clean routine -- Rochette stumbled after a jump -- yet earned a lower score than Rochette's. To me (and I'm not the only one), Nagasu's free skate performance looked better than Rochette's, but I'm unqualified to comment on the technical aspect of the judging system. Could Nagasu have taken the bronze with -- what, to this observer, appeared to deserve -- a higher score? I don't know. Given the, ahem, unique situation, I'm guessing that's a question those within the sport are reticent to ask. To Nagasu's credit, after completing the evening's final routine she beamed upon seeing that she had jumped from sixth place to fourth. Only sixteen years old, she has the poise and talent to compete among the world's best in the years to come, and I'm looking forward to watching her progression in future competitions. Anyone who can skate through a nosebleed with such calm deserves praise in my books.

** It's been said a million times by expats in Korea that, during Olympics coverage, Korean channels replay Korean victories ad nauseam; but what newbies and myopic masochists fail to mention or realize is that, with much fewer commercials and, praise Buddha, puff pieces, there's not much else to air. Also: can we lay to rest the apocryphal belief that Korean Olympics coverage focuses solely on their countrymen's athletes? It wasn't true for the years I've been here through Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin, and Beijing; nor is it true in 2010, in Vancouver.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Showdown


Snacks are just snacks, or so they say, and by they I mean people who willfully neglect to acknowledge the crisp, cheesy fact that snacks make up roughly fifty percent of my daily caloric intake.* They're in the wrong, of course, but I've no interest in flogging that bloated horse, and for those keen on trivia, this is my way of justifying terrible habits and eliminating any shred of nagging remorse.

Basically, I like snacks and -on the slight chance that you're not a fourth-dimensional jock strap- you probably do, too; thus the latest poll has taken shape. Vote as you see fit, folks, and feel free to use the comment box of this post for trash-talking and whatnot.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to address a few of the most likely questions and comments:

Q) No nacho cheese Corn Nuts?

A) I know, I know. I'm from Iowa, and you'd think I'd be all over Corn Nuts like Chicken Wire on, well, roadkill Taco Bell** Corn Nuts, but alas, they slipped my mind. Jikko and I have been popping a lot of pills lately, so it's been hard to keep track of loved ones.

Q) To which brand of salt and vinegar chips do you refer?

A) Fair question, to which I reply with a staunch "Whichever gives you the most pleasure" since there are far too many brands of the aforementioned snacks to designate any particular product as the end-all-be-all of salt and vinegar chips. 

Q) Chips? Don't you mean crisps? Any educated person would have known that chips are strips of deep-fried potato. Bloody Americans!

A) Boy, you really sat me down on that one, sir. Consider me humbled.

Q) What, no ketchup chips?

A) Hey, I like ketchup chips as much as the next guy, but they're not that good.

Q) Enough with Steven Seagal already!

A) Scoff all you like, but I guarantee you that ye olde Seagal will garner a vote or two -at the very least- before the eighth day arrives.

Q) Are write-ins allowed?

A) Indeed they are!




* With the remainder consisting of alcohol, gum, Japanese-style curry, and Steven Seagal movies.

** Coming soon to a Korea near you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Queen Yu-Na


Breathe a deep sigh of relief, Korea, because for now it appears the combined misfortunes of Messrs Highly and Forbes have no effect on your figure skating queen, Kim Yu-Na*. Kim participated in the women's figure skating short program this afternoon (last night for you North Americans, three years later for you Martians), and her performance was one that will go down in the annals of great Korean sports history moments.

Korea has done quite well at the Vancouver Olympics, thus far earning five gold medals, but I think it's safe to say that, before last week, hardly anyone knew who athletes such as Lee Jung-Su, Mo Tae-Bum, or Lee Seung-Hoon were. Everyone knows who Kim Yu-Na is; and as great as the Korean athletes have performed, there's one gold medal with more significance attached to it than the rest combined. No hyperbole: even a silver medal in women's figure skating would be a tremendous blow to the nation's pride.

So far, so good. Like most of the nation, I watched in rapt awe as Kim delivered an amazing performance years in the making. The Korean media has, since 2006, followed every step of Kim's career, everything leading to these Olympic Games. What enormous pressure; what assured skill. Kim didn't just give the performance of her life today, she blew her fellow competitors out of the water. What had prior been a fairly uneventful, subdued affair became very interesting when Kim's chief rival, Asada Mao of Japan, turned in the evening's best performance, garnering a leading score of 73.78. As Kim took the ice, I nervously texted Chicken Wire the following message: Yuna has her work cut out for her.

She got the job done.

After falling hard during the morning practice, there was speculation that the pressure and grand expectations placed on Kim in the months and years leading to these Games were finally taking their toll, and at the worst possible time. Consider the morning practice a fluke, because Kim skated her heart out, landing every jump and exhibiting an exuberant flair unmatched by her peers. Finishing with a world-best 78.5, Kim sits in first place going into Thursday's free skate.

(Kim's performance wasn't the night's most touching, however. Canada's own Joannie Rochette, whose mother died of a heart attack two days ago, skated to a career-best 71.36, placing third. Had Rochette decided to withdraw from the competition, no one would have faulted her. That she didn't showed great courage. And had her mourning or her no-doubt shaken mind led to an uneven performance, all in attendance would have stood as they did, applauding her heart, her courage. Instead, Rochette gave a flawless performance, puncuated by clear, bittersweet emotion. Watching live, there were only two eyes in attendance at Chez Sparklegs. Neither were dry.)

The entire nation will be tuning in this Thursday, cheering on the country's most celebrated athlete since...ever? Through judging scandals and intense -- sometimes criminal -- rivalries, every four years I find myself engrossed in the wonderment of Olympic women's figure skating. It's a sport where anything can happen, and it's infinitely watchable. And, as seen today, it's incredibly beautiful.

See you on Thursday.


* Oh how I hate the official romanization of her name. Ms. Kim is, naturally, free to call herself whatever she wants, but it must be stated that the first syllable of her name is neither 여 nor 유. "Yeona," "Yuna," "Yeon-Ah," or "Yun-Ah" I can accept, but Yu-Na? Who thought that was a good idea?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Good Times Rubbin' the Black Hole's Son

 

 Friends, enemies, lend me your ears: a fresh nemesis has entered the fray, and what an insidious little bastard it is. World, meet the Dustpan of Death; Dustpan of Death, meet the World. That's a superfluous introduction, though, now isn't it; as the two of you have obviously entered into some clandestine pact for the dual purpose of injuring and humiliating me in one fell swoop (or crash, as it were). Truth be told, I don't hold you responsible, World, as you've been misled by that little harlot from day one. Dustpan of Death pretends it's of some use, of some merit to the community, but alas (alas!) it's not; old Dusty does nothing even the most basic Dirt Devil can do so much better - other than sabotage a guy's evening. I won't dawdle on the Fall anymore than necessary because like it or not, I took a dive to the floor, and sure, my motor skills were growing increasingly questionable, but would I have kissed the cement without the appearance of said Dustpan of Death? No way, no how, no ma'am. 

Sunday's cataclysmic tumble is just one of the bizarrely unwholesome skirmishes endured this week, and it's only Tuesday night. Another Sunday debacle involved none other than the now infamous Salted Licorice Fish aka Licorice Fish of Destruction aka Spawn of Satan. Holy fuck, I can't even begin to describe the 'flavor' of these ebony atrocities, other than to posit that if you popped a chunk of regular black licorice into your mouth, followed by a tablespoon of salt, proceeded to chew vigorously, and multiplied the discomfort tenfold, you'd approach the level of discomfort suffered by all unlucky enough to ingest these abominations.




(The observant reader will note the fish depicted above is held with a pair of tongs rather than fingers, and for good reason, believe me.)

Upon Consumption

Sparkles: An onyx salt-muck button resembling an airplane ration of soy sauce and tasting like a deposit of black sodium-licorice death.

Lady Sparkles야! 이 개새끼야! (with ample amount of thick, black juice dripping from the corners of her mouth)

Chicken Wire: Wow. I mean, just wow. I'd rather perform cunnilingus upon the reanimated corpse of Bea Arthur than consume another one of these things. Seriously.

Melissa: You know, I like to think of myself as an extremely tolerant Retard. When you recommended a Retard Meet-up at Hooters, I rolled with it. When you demanded I drink a pint of Guiness alongside two shots of Jack Daniels, I did it, if only to keep up with the Forbeseses. When you wanted to rob that ginseng store, I went along for the ride even though ginseng candy just plain blows. But now you're pushing it.

Jikko: This shit is great! (when you're hopped up on amphetamines)

-----

That was Sunday, yet as bad as the day may have been, it was also a portent of things to come. Monday morning, I got to watch the USA/Canada hockey 'game' at Casa del Sparkles, and by 'game' I mean something akin to a Globetrotters/Generals show. I'm not pointing any fingers here, but take it from me, Team Canada: drinking heavily before an Olympic hockey game is scarcely the way one goes about winning matches. (I speak from experience, lads.) If anything, the highlight of the match came when Sparkles flipped a table full of quasi-Chinese cuisine into the air near the end of the massacre.

As for Tuesday, I think it best to leave that till another place, another time, and another contributor.

What's in store for Wednesday (and beyond), you ask? I'm no prognosticator, yet if the past few days are any indication of future crashing, choking, or anything else that begins with the letter c, we may very well see Olympic favorite Kim Yu-Na wipe out during the figure-skating competition. I'm not saying I want her to pull a Midori Ito circa 1992, not at all; I'm just saying that it could happen.


To summarize the week's events thus far, I offer you, Dear Reader, the the most ridiculous drawing in the history of mankind:



And this:


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ties that Bind

video

An analogy for Psychedelic Kimchi if I've ever seen one.

Crippled



Ah, Monday -- or as one Kennan Highly likes to call it, Sunday Part II. While much of the real world returned to work today, the erstwhile Kmart spent the day basking in the glory of a US Olympic hockey upset. I myself had very little to do in the way of "work"/work, but at least I wore pants for most of the afternoon.

Now here I am, a glass of pilsner within arm's reach, a Dunhill tucked between my lips, and everyone's favorite Shih Tzu by my side. It wasn't a long day, nor was it a hard one, but as it creeps to a close I find myself thankful that it's winding down. I also find myself reminiscing over

(Trouble T Roy)

the weekend that was. Via the Forbes Capacitor, let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Saturday

- Folks, I'm getting fat. Blame Legs. Her goal, which she candidly expressed when we began living together in holy matrimony, is for me to weigh 75 kilograms. This I cannot abide. Sixty-nine kilograms when we first met, I've gained two kilograms -- 4.4 pounds for you metric-system-maverick Yanks -- over the past year. That might not sound like a lot, but trust me when I say that it's not my ideal weight. My belt is getting tighter in monthly increments, my already chubby cheeks are getting puffier, and, just between you and me, I'm a little concerned that I'm starting to sprout man-boobs. I love my wife like Jarobi loves phone sex, but even though I should be content in knowing she loves me and would like me to round out more, I have to feel comfortable in my own body (at least until the spacecraft following the Hale-Bopp Comet's sodium tail whisks me away), right? She's feeding me at an alarming rate, and my digestive system is putting up the same fight my conscience is. Furthermore, Legs has recently insisted that I take chlorella pills, which are supposed to keep me regular in the bowel-movement sense. They do. They also make me shit green three or four times a day. Anyway, after my morning class Legs presents me with a sandwich. Anyone who knows me, familiarly or carnally, knows that I grow weak over sandwiches like Jimmy McNulty does over Irish whiskey, but in mental and gastrointestinal protest I eat only half, complaining of a phantom stomachache.

- For the remainder of the new year, Saturday will thusly be referred to as High-Kick Day. If Chicken Wire fails to name it so, as his editor I will see it fit to invoke my editorial right and change his posts accordingly. Legs and I bum around the house for the better part of the day, taking in God's gift to Korean television.

- Marvel Team-Up has tickets for the 6:45 showing of Joe Johnston's The Wolfman. It's a werewolf movie, so as per my pact with Satan, I'm obligated to see it (I watch every werewolf movie released in theaters, Beelzebub makes sure I age imperceptibly). Before the film, 보니 and 클라이드 have dinner at a donkatsu restaurant. I lamented to a friend just last week how long it had been since I'd had a nice donkatsu meal, and now I'm eating it -- albeit of the fish variety -- for the second time in three days. Life is funny that way. Predictably, Legs admonishes me for not eating my rice. I'm taking driving tests, getting scolded for not eating my food...how old am I again?

- The Wolfman mini-review: If you're scoring at home, we still have only a paltry two-and-a-half great werewolf pictures in cinematic history. What a mess of tonal editing and pacing. Anthony Hopkins is fantastic until his evil twin is suddenly teleported into the film. In contrast, Benicio del Toro spends the entire running time looking glum and affecting a Brooklyn accent. As I mentioned to Cold-Sore Crayon (aka Chicken Wire), the transformations, of which there are four, are quite possibly my sole endorsement of the film. A remake of the 1941 Universal classic, you can't have a compelling werewolf movie without a central love story, and Johnston shits the bed incredibly here. Del Toro and Emily Blunt have about as much chemistry as I have with the exhumed corpse of Sylvia Plath. And don't get me started on the climactic, X-Menesque werewolf showdown, or the mindnumbingly poor, insanely inept pacing (either full moons occur within a matter of days -- not impossible, I'll concede -- or it takes a month to travel the English countryside). Or possibly (definitely?) the worst closing narration I've ever had the displeasure of listening to in my years as a moviegoer, something along the lines of They say it's not a sin to kill a beast, but what if that beast is also a man? 2/4 *_*

Sunday

Zut alors, I went to bed at the reasonably early hour of four a.m., and now it's ten-thirty. Legs is in the kitchen, frying an eggplant, and I'm in post-intoxication purgatory/Ilsan. After brunch, I want nothing more than to take a crap and nap, but the Winter Olympics draw me in like ants to honey, and I find myself plopped in the center of my favorite sofa, cheering on Canada's short track skaters male and female, absorbed in the spectacle of competition and praying to a deaf god that our team can topple the South Korean short-track juggernaut. Doesn't happen. At three p.m. I wrest myself from the sofa and sleep the only way losers can: uncomfortably.

- The man, the myth, Kennan Highly shows up at our place just after five o'clock. He bears gifts of ecstasy (Chili Cheese Fritos) and of sadism (salty black-licorice fish gummies). Also: Chinese cigarettes. I'm convinced China's pollution problem could be solved if only their government banned such toxic monstrosities. I feel the same way after smoking a Chinese square that I do after giving fellatio to a car's exhaust (although, admittedly, I rarely smoke Chinese cigarettes and so often perform automobile ass-to-mouth, so maybe that's a misinformed analogy).

- Psychedelic Kimchi's main contributors spend a night in Bundang doing what we do best. Food is eaten with relish (not the condiment); glasses -- not of the bifocal variety -- are drained then replenished; women swoon, and somebody loses an eye. Mr. Wire and Yours Untruthfully participate in trivia night at The Best Bar in Bundang/The Nativity Sequel, placing second because Sharkfin Boner failed to accurately guess which European city Nightcrawler was born in. (Lima is in Peru, dude.) He also took a spill of epic proportion, insuring that, heretofore, he will be known by me as "Crash." I nervously sing the sea-song from Jaws to no fanfare, Legs and her entourage of attractive women show up after it's confirmed that scores of nerdy half-men have evacuated the premises, and I proceed to murder at least ten bottles of Tsingtao.

Monday

- It's ten-thirty a.m. on a Monday morning, and we're all going to die.

It's fun to have fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Choke

This seems timely, since the Olympics are in full swing and Tiger Woods is set to make a public apology tomorrow. I have a confession to make, Constant Retard, and as insignificant a failure as it it may seem to you, trust me when I say that today has been absolutely devastating to my psyche. I'm not kidding.

As you might have read here, despite my misgivings I've been in the process of obtaining a Korean driver's license. I took the required three-hour education class, took the horribly written computer examination and barely passed, took four hours of course practice, and today I took the course test.

I failed.

How did it happen? I'm still putting the pieces together in my memory, honestly. A few factors are to blame, but ultimately I have to resign myself to the fact that I choked. What follows is a short explanation of the test and where I made my mistakes.

The course, which takes around five minutes to complete, is a series of driving challenges which -- like communism -- works in theory but not in execution. It's supposed to determine a driver's competence, but instead it's all about memorization. I joked to Legs that it's like Mario Kart, only at 20 km/h. Anyway, a driver has to get a score of 80 or above to pass.

I got 74, and here's how:

I'm car No. 25. I get called up and get in, put on my seat belt and await the announcement that I can start. When I hear the announcement, I start the car. I should have started the car as soon as I got in, because the announcement to start means that I should have turned on my left blinker and waited for the bell. This was not explained to me during course practice. I start the car, but it's a newer model than the one I practiced in, and I can't tell if it's running or not. Stupid me, it's been running the whole time, in neutral.

I turn on my blinker and wait for the bell. When it rings, I turn of the blinker, but it's so sensitive that I mistakenly turn on the right blinker. That, or the time it took me to get started, costs me 5 points.

Next, I stop at a stop sign and proceed up a hill where I must stop and wait between two white lines before the car's computer counts to three. Then I can proceed. I drive around a curve and into a zigzag with wire sensors on each side. In practice this was easy peasy Japanesy, but the dimensions on this course are considerably narrower. The car, a Hyundai Verna, is also a newer model than the one in which I practiced, so I'm higher up the driver's seat, unable to see the sides as clear; and the steering wheel is a lot more sensitive.

Once I'm out of the zigzag I see on the computer screen that I'm at 90 points. Unexpected, but I drive on. I come to a red light and stop. When the light changes I take a right curve into an S-shaped road, similar to the zigzag with wire sensors on either side. Knowing that I lost 5 points in the zigzag, I'm a little nervous navigating the S, but I make it through without any demerit points.

Still at 90. You can make this, Forbes, I tell myself. (Yes, I call myself Forbes in my head.) I stop at another red light, and when it turns I proceed past the intersection into a zone for reverse parking. Again, sensors all around the roadsides. I'm equally nervous and upset, because the dimensions here are much narrower than the ones I memorized on the practice course, but I hold myself together and make it through. I still have 90 points, and I know that it's pretty much smooth sailing until the last challenge, parallel parking.

Out of the parking zone, I approach an intersection and turn on my left blinker. I turn left and drive toward a faux railway crossing. Before I get there, the car's bell sounds again. During practice I was taught that that means I have to brake and turn on the cars emergency blinkers. I stop and frantically search the dash for the emergency light button, which, since this is a new-model Verna, isn't where I'm used to it being. I have three seconds to hit the button or I'm deducted another 5 points. In what was probably a fraction of a second before, I locate the button and breathe a sigh of relief.

Still 90.

After the railway crossing I go into a turn and have to speed up to over 20 km/h, then quickly slow down to under 20. This was never a problem during practice, but again the dimensions of this course aren't exact, so I lose a single point for going above 20 before the sign. Still, I'm at 89 points. Even if I can't successfully parallel park, I still pass. Time to pop the cork on the champagne bottles at Chez Sparlegs.

I've never been good at parallel parking, but my instructor at the practice academy taught me a fail-safe method that worked like a charm: Line up to the curb, shift into reverse, turn the wheel all the way right, release the break until your left mirror lines up with the back right corner, turn the wheel a revolution and a half left until the right side door handle is seen in the right mirror in line with the white line, then turn the wheel hard left until you line up and two red lights come on the computer screen to indicate that you've succeeded.

Again, dimensions. Again, newer-model car. I make a passable parallel park, but my right wheels are about 30 centimetres away from the white line. Stupidly, I try to correct my mistake, god knows why. It can't hurt to try, I think, and I go at it a second time. But it's clear to me that -- like strawberry jam with ham on sandwiches, like Rebecca De Mornay as your nanny -- this won't work out. I wanted a perfect score, but I'll have to settle for 84, I think.

I pull out of the slot, and that's when an alarm rings. The computer's screen flashes red, and I see that my score is 74. How? My guess is that, upon driving out of the parallel parking slot, I angled the car during my second attempt in such a way that I hit the foremost corner curb sensor, although that doesn't explain why the fail signal sounded a full five seconds after I exited that stage, but whatever.

I failed a driving test that, in practice, I passed every single time, usually with a perfect score but sometimes with a 95 because I suck at parallel parking. I've been hanging my head in shame all day, and nothing can console me or make me feel better, not even Legs's admission that she failed the course her first time only 10 seconds in because she didn't stop on the hill, resulting in an automatic failure. I can blame a lot of factors, but the reality is that I choked. That's the starkest explanation. And what hits the hardest is that I haven't felt this humbled since...ever?

I'm an introspective guy, and because I've had all day to beat myself up mentally and contemplate just why I feel so down about a test I couldn't care less about (I'd rather walk carrying Legs on my back than drive in Korea), the only answer I have is that I'm allergic to failure. I'm 31 years old, and failing a driver's exam is, to me, embarrassing as hell. Like most people my age, I've carved out a comfortable niche in life, one which doesn't include tests or exams, one which favors experience and practicality over rote memorization; but today I was reminded that I'm not infallible, and that realization hurts.

Hurts bad.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

(Even) Weirder Science

 


 Kelly LeBrock's been on my mind lately, though not for any readily apparent reason (and yet here I am, posting a picture of her from Weird Science; but hey, you knew I'd do something like that, right?)

(Right.)

My current fascination with Ms. LeBrock stems from her marriage to the one, the only, Steven Seagal. I need not introduce you to him, of course, but just for fun, here's a shot of him gettin' fresh with a heretofore-virginal panda bear.



Apparently, Kelly LeBrock was married to Seagal from 1987-1996 (her second marriage, his sixth), during which time she bore him three healthy children (three for her, three of fourteen legitimate children for him). After their inevitable divorce* LeBrock moved on to, well, okay, who gives a shit what's she's done since 1996? She was married to Semen Steven fucking Seagal, people! I mean, where's a career / personal life to go from that point, other than down?


* I use the term inevitable because it's utterly preposterous for any individual female to lay claim to a genuine, no-horseshit Bodhisattva in his eternal prime. Word to the wise, ladies: don't reach for the stars only to cry foul when your hands get burnt!

Pareidolia (February)




What's this all about? See here.

[Some timely thoughts before you dive headfirst, or dip your toes, into the amalgamated fountain of my and Google's warped mind/translate tool:

What can I say about the Vancouver Winter Olympics? I watch it out my love for sport and competition first; my conscience's reminder that this only happens every four years and I might be dead before the next one second; and, since the games are in Canada (which is arguable because, like Ilsan, you can't be a city on Earth if you're populated by non-humans, Vancouver), a sense of strangely manipulative obligation. Complicating matters further is the conflicting allegiance I feel between my home strong and free and my home soju and kimchi. I want Korea to do well, better than they have at Games previous, yet I might commit seppuku if they beat Canada in the medal count. Why? Because I'll have my nose rubbed in it, blatantly and subtly, by my Korean friends and acquaintances. And I'm not sure I can take that. If it happens, I might have to pull out the big guns: At least the former leader of my country never killed himself by jumping off a cliff after a bribery scandal; Nobody knows or cares who the Wondergirls are, and Yoobin is fat; Our male athletes don't wear makeup in TV advertisemants (aka the Mariano Rivera).

Not that I would resort to such childish insults, but for whatever reason I'm feeling a sense of pent-up angst over these Olympics. Also, schizophrenia. I want Korea to get gold medals, but when Mo Taebeom placed second in the Men's 1000 meter/re speed skating finals I was both sad and elated, sad because I was genuinely feeling the Momentum, elated because his silver medal meant one fewer gold for Korea to gloat over. This is not normal, although I'm sure generations of multicultural families and expatriates the world over have felt the same. Identity? Hardly, at least not in my case. Defensiveness is more like it. I'm willing to admit that, as a sports fan, I don't take losses lightly. In my perfect world, Korea and Canada could combine their medals and gloat to every country not named the United States of America, and possibly Germany.

Whatever the case, I'm pulling for Kim Yeona to place first in women's figure skating, mostly because she's cute, but also because her coach is Brian Orser, who, like me, is a gay Canadian with ties to Korea.

This might not make sense, might not be logical in this global age, but thats sports and nationality for you.]

---

My mouth tastes like crap. I love it. All the bad food, liquor and tobacco and a mixture of fetid garbage, it's just, I can understand the smell of toxic products has accumulated. This is meant to be alive.

I can still taste last night drinking a dirty martini. My stool, tear them quivering like a guitar string is unstable. My hair gave me a confession of guilt, straight, obedient children are standing in a row aboard the train was rusty. I'm wearing upside-down undershirt, I crapped my pants, but just a little bit.

Time for breakfast: the number of spam messages to eat with a fork. Green apple soda. Budweiser. Life is full of simple pleasures. Good Day, Point Break will be shown on cable. I love fucking break score.

I'm hearing is impaired. But that does not mean that I ate. I'm just here while he sleeps, I'm an extreme amount of earwax, this condition is typically produced. The world is quiet, I wake up every morning. 04 across the street after 6, I started to think I'm evolving. I've beaten drills. My next trick: The B - 52 bomber flying at my apartment.

You're so beautiful, frilly blouse, and your mouth was like. I made a bet satin. I'm fine, I'm not? Your lips are glossy with shiny chrome on the bumper. Your eyelashes and you forgot to create a universe deprived of a blue iris and, whenever you close the curtains of dust in the sky are splayed. I told you, you're looking for a flexible skin, teeth bleaching, enamel. And you went to hell by the insurance ads.

Solictitors again, just my mid-morning nap, I'll jomhadorok. Militaristic outfit two sexagenarians. No, I'm, I'm fine thank you, I have a religion and the NFL, college football's, so I'm busy Sunday. Girl Scout cookies are sold, at least. Good-bye.

Former Soviet Union, is a hunting game. Elk. In the flesh and fur beoksyatyineyo blast holes. This is an adventure; this is what freedom means. I mean, I want to kill the statue cut off. I want to hail the fantastic colors of the spectrum, my epiphanies and drenching the roots populaces.

I wrest the Burger King himself at noon on a sofa and a large soda, go for the jackpot. On the way, I buy some gum. White grapes. One day before I was born, the earth's total population of self-deception is the belief in a particular grape, even though they're white is green. In addition, the "Red" is a Burgundy wine.

Now are you drinking coffee. Starbucks, if you know. Black like my soul. I'm a scorpion, but then I saw it crawling on my arm, I thought it was just opposite the tail wagging the dog saw me. Close call. I 2-minute couple fun vacuuming gotta sock, wrote clearly marked.

It's close to 4:00. 57 years old must be accurate. It is five years old, and I can not forget mundanity of the day we are the new expectations.

Down the mountain until it Humps big green moss itself is swallowed by the sun going down, look and sound beautiful, and a glance through my window crying, is the pumpkin.

6 o'clock is approaching.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weird Science


I ventured into Shanghai for Lunar New Year, and I have no regrets save one: not enough honeybees! Yes, believe it or not, fried honeybees are considered quite the snack in some variations of Chinese cuisine and you should know that they're delectable, awkward appearance notwithstanding. Behold!


For those curious, some of the bees were -as to be expected with fried food- crunchier than others, and some of them were downright soft, yet all were delicious as well as addictive. I'm no food critic, so I won't bore you with an inane attempt to describe the flavor, though nevertheless they're highly recommended.

---

In other news, did you know that back in the late Eighties, scientists in Montreal, Quebec successfully imbued a simple rose with the cells of a radioactive lizard? Bet you didn't, but it's true, and what's more, that rose served no scientific purpose whatsoever, but that's unimportant. What is important is that this particularly radiant rose was encased within a sphere of bulletproof glass for several years, deprived of any nutrients, and still it remained as healthy as the day it blossomed.

Fast forward to the year 2010, just after the Year of the Tiger commenced. I woke up at the crack of noon in order to pretend to prepare for another day at work, and wouldn't you know it? The peculiar rose blossomed once more, this time well beyond the capacity of any and all protective glass, bulletproof or not.

The result? None other than Murdox as Biollante as Murdox*, bioengineered plant of blackish death!


Don't let that spine-chilling visage frighten you (actually, do let it terrify you, but anyway), for it merely reflects her considerable artistic talents and larger-than-life personality. Word on the street is that she makes a mean Kraft Dinner, too.

---

This just in!

Sparkles has just informed me that the -inevitable- twentieth Constant Retard shall receive a private audience with the Pope herself, just so long as she's not robotripping at the time (in which case the meeting will be rescheduled to allow for two long days of detox).



This


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Automatic



I've done a lot of things in my life to please the women I've loved*, but never anything that might get me killed. Until now.

I'm a fairly easygoing guy**, Joseph Conrad Retard, and the life I've led in le Republic de Corée has been one mostly of pleasure. Time is of course a big factor in adjusting to life in a foreign country, and I've certainly mellowed over the ten years I've been marooned on this ROK, but even back when I was a fresh-faced*** young man of twenty-two I wasn't the type to bitch and moan about the "hardships" I faced. No; I played the hand I was dealt and rolled with the punches****. Because that's what a man is supposed to do, dammit.

You also learn to pick your spots. For example, I never go shopping at the large supermarkets on the weekend, because I know it's like being holed up in the Monroeville Mall. And I never go to a 노래방 if I can help it. It's best for everybody that way, trust me.

But I'll do either to placate the 12th Letter, also known as Legs, personally known as my dear wife. After all, she asks for so little ("Not in my hair") and gives so much (sandwiches!).

Getting a Korean driver's license, though...that's a favor I was loath to grant (Hill). At the risk of offending my host nation, let's just say that Korean drivers are a wee bit overzealous, a tad lax when it comes to obeying traffic rules. If I can help it, I stay away from vehicles like Superman stays away from Kryptonite, like Jodie Foster stays away from good film roles. Nevertheless, when Legs asked me one month ago to get a Korean driver's license, I finally relented after much protest. Because, you know, I enjoy regular sex (also: I'm a non-eunuch male).

And so it was that, one month ago, I took time out of my busy Saturday schedule to attend three hours of Driver's Ed, or, as I like to call it, "shit I already know." A week later, I again postponed a relaxing Saturday to take a fifty-minute computer exam. In English (or, rather, a reasonable, hand-drawn facsimile thereof). Seriously, that test was balls hard, taken in a language with words I understood but sentences that resembled a thrown-together jumble of nonsense. I should mention that a textbook exists for this test, but it's absolutely useless. The text, while poorly written and edited, is at least comprehensible. The computer exam? No way. Needless to say, I was quite surprised to learn that I passed, although it's a bittersweet victory when you need to get higher than 70 percent to succeed and wind up with a 72.5. In my defense, that test is bullshit; I'm confident I would have scored higher had it been written in Spanish.

(Sidenote: This all could have been avoided had I registered for an international driver's license prior to three years past my Canadian driver's license expiration date: 2004. But instead of foresight I have, unfortunately, Forbesight.)

All of which leads us to today, wherein Mammy Forbes's second son, Chicken Wire*****'s half-brother, took part in four excrutiatingly dull hours of "driving."

As it turns out, there's really not much to getting a driver's license in Korea. (Which perhaps explains why I saw a Siberian Husky driving a Sonata in rush hour traffic. It was that or the PCP.) You sit through a three-hour education class, take a computer exam, do three or four hours driving at 20 km/h through a bizarre course which doesn't measure your actual skill as a driver so much as it does your ability to memorize, get dropped off in the middle of a highway by a seemingly drunk shuttle bus driver (no lie), and then you're ready for your road test.

I take mine next week. Fingers crossed.


* All two and a half of them

** Unless you break my DVD collection or mess up my Burger King order

*** Well, I'm still pretty darned fresh-faced. Just today I was asked if I was a student. Take that, Father Time!

**** It's two-for-one cliche Tuesday (and everybody's celebrating)

***** aka Tuna Mustache

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cravings

  




1) Same job, more vacation time.

2) Better Pringles

3) Kurt Russell's wardrobe from Big Trouble in Little China.

4) Better booze and cheaper smokes.

5) A 1979 Daewoo Royale (diesel).


 6) A set of Neon Maniacs action figures.

7) A spin-off of 안녕! 프란체스카 (Hello, Francesca!) entitled 안녕! 체스카 (Hello, Kencesca!).

8) To be in an orgy with ABBA circa 1973. 

9) Fewer fibs from one Eoin Forbes. 

10) To watch Steven Seagal wail on his ax. 






Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Effigy Blue




“Jess.”

The voice was there, it existed, but so did that redundant announcer who mechanically repeated the virtues of the “Big Naboo Sweepstakes!” throughout the entire store, so one voice began to remind her of all the others she encountered during the course of any given day partially devoted to work. One of her fellow drones, Dave - the same Dave who often vigorously proclaimed that he was the Big Naboo - phrased it as tolerating the job, and despite all the junk that characterized the content of his average utterance, she was tempted to agree completely. Then again, today was one of the weekly reprieves from the store director’s presence, so it was prime time for spacing off into the distant horizon of fictitious fancy.

“Jess?”

Spring blossoms, ocean waves, a taste of tropical juice! Nothing so glamorous; Cancun-laden dreams weren’t the focus of her thoughts. Far removed from the hedonistic revelry, Jess stared blankly downward, between the lines of text which peppered the complimentary employee copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly, with articles strategically, deftly, placed to best accentuate the prevalent bouquet of visceral advertisement. Each was a pompous plea for an accumulation of monetary wealth, siphoning precious funding away from functionally retarded families that were constantly eager to pursue any manner of transient alleviation. That was what she had been told, at least. So that reviled, required Introduction to Literature course, and its instructor, did have some relevance to everyday life!

In actuality, the experience only served as a bountiful reservoir for amusing references. Jessica gave thanks to her professor and the wisdom he had shared, as he would surely be proud of her application of fine literary criticism to such mundane rubbish.

This was her life, and it was easy. Boring, futile, and entirely lacking in any proactive aspiration, perhaps, but nonetheless quite relaxing.

“Hey Jess!” This voice alarmed her senses and pulled her mind back into the drudgery of daily grind. Her eyes rolled up to meet the curious gaze of the Big Naboo himself. “Yo, space cadet. Didn’t your break get over like eight minutes ago?” She glanced over to the clock and cursed the horrid visage employed by the corporation. The face of the clock was marred by a picture of Geoffrey the Giraffe; his ugly, deceptive mug was unsettling enough, but the fact that each of his arms were used to indicate the time was like pouring salt into an open, corporately-inflicted would. Dave’s accusation was valid, too, and that was an additional agitation for her to contend with. The question was, go with plan A or plan B? And the clock was blue. 

Plan A was a general strategy for meeting the expectations of management. From the moment she first applied for the job, endured her most recent performance evaluation, and into her current situation, she was “Jessica Palmeri: Good Overall Worker.” That was the official description, but she was fairly certain that behind closed doors there was the chatter of “Nice girl. Absent-minded though. I’m surprised that she doesn’t mind being an ‘associate’. She’s been to college, you know. Just between you and me, she’s easy on the eyes, and pretty sociable, too. Put her in electronics -she won't intimidate the parents and boys will like her- because, well, she sells the merch. Just keep in mind that she’s a bit scatterbrained.” 

Was that sufficient to characterize her position as a drone? Were a listener privy to said information, and subsequently, pose such a blunt question regarding self-worth, she would be tempted to reply with an evasive “Pretty much, give or take a phrase.” To grant a description which included easy on the eyes was a bit too generous. Above average? Maybe, but Jessica knew full well that she was scarcely blessed with curves and eyelashes necessary for excessive magnetism. She was a slender runt with shiny eyes, and while the globes drew guys in for a closer examination, the baseball-sized protrusions which accentuated her petite frame sent them running with “What a waste” etched upon their once-eager lips. Even Dave had once, initially, exhibited some form of overt interest in her, but thankfully, long since abandoned any notion of pursuing his fellow peon, subsequently regulating her to the status of friendly acquaintance. She was not a vindictive woman -sure, the fact that a punk like the Big Naboo had mentally rejected her appearance did irritate her slightly, but it was, at its worst, a fleeting shudder of vanity- and therefore she respected both his childish demeanor, and his status. The status of fellow peon, pawn, and participant, that is. Therefore, a flexible application of plan B was in order. A was reserved for any methods pertaining to the deceitful, pragmatic act of appeasing management, referred to by some as “playing dumb” and “eager to improve” by others. B consisted of convincing others that they were mistaken.

“Actually, Dave, I’m pretty much right on schedule. That clock is running about eight minutes fast. It’s only six forty-five, not seven till.” She watched as his brow furrowed, and she almost broke into a fatal grin.

“Shut up. It’s gotta be seven till.”

“Nope. You’ve been gone for two days, part-timer. If you had been here, you would so know about this already.” Again, she noticed a look of uncertainty spread across his face, one half covered in an unkempt mop of fiery hair. It was an appropriate opportunity for her departure, before the Big Naboo had further concerns to express. She tossed the magazine aside and squirmed out from the picnic table so graciously provided for employee comfort. While never having actually observed, let alone participated in, one herself, Jessica was willing to envision an outrageously contrived picnic thrown in honor of “Associate Appreciation Week”, with delicious dishes -cheese ravioli, potato salad, baloney and bread, oh my!- lavishly supplied by the good folks at Hy-Vee catering. She could almost catch a whiff of the bland, inoffensive slop that would, most certainly, sit atop the indoor picnic table, one never used for anything remotely similar to a joyous outdoor experience. Each savory dish would lie inside sterile troughs of manilla-colored rubber lined with scorched steel. Was there any better manner in which to promote the continued excellence of an associate, exemplified by the spectacular performance of one Jessica Palmeri? And the picnic table was blue.

“You gonna straighten the Bs? Me and Crash Bandicoot were talking about doing the Cs and so, you know.” Jessica appreciated such indirect statements, especially when they were uttered by a guy who was, evidently, furiously struggling to open a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. She did indeed know; it was a question of straightening either the As or the Bs, a choice between Scylla and Charybdis (hooray again for Dr. Kaylor’s Humanities course). She pulled the door wide open, eliminating the illusionary separation between fallacious freedom and inane servitude. Before she could sever the ties to Dave, breakroom, and clock-lies, however, the Big Naboo mentioned something else, and Jessica’s curiosity was mildly aroused. 

“I heard Jason talking to Crash a few minutes ago. Jason was saying something about new clothes, like button-up shirts, khakis and shit like that.”

“Really?”

“If it’s true, guess that means no more bullshit black jeans and stupid Geoffrey T-shirts for us, huh.”

“Yeah. I’ll do the Bs by the way.” Jessica giggled while Dave smiled at the ramifications of her choice. “And you can tell Steve that he’s stuck with the As, Barbie dolls and all.”

New uniforms? To think, no more grubby, weathered black jeans. The notion of khakis arising fresh and triumphant was welcomed with open arms and exuberant legs, but what about the new shirt? Cargo pants were functional and stylish, and she relished the thought of plunging her scrawny legs deep into their inviting folds, but she was also an intimate bedfellow of T-shirts and pullovers in general. A shirt with multiple buttons just seemed like too much work for the meager aesthetic asset commonly associated with such apparel. Jessica figured that it was yet another scheme to increase the potency of illusion, an act of retail wizardry in which customers were presumed to be spellbound by the “professional” yet “friendly” decor of this petty feudal serfdom and its ensnared tenants. She couldn’t baud the company without mercy however, as she had recently been granted a nickel-an-hour raise.

She located Kris in aisle 3C. The lanky blonde hobbled along, manipulating the merchandise into favorable positions as she laboriously maneuvered down the aisle. As Kris was hampered by an inflexible, plastic foot brace that encompassed the realm of her lower left leg, Jessica could see why two individuals would be necessary for adequate coverage of the convoluted mass that comprised the “C” aisles. She wanted to say “Hey Crash!” in reference to the automobile accident Kris had recently been involved with, but the ensuing wrath that would inevitably occur, expressed via the act of a hardened brace bashing against her shin, suppressed Jessica’s impulse for comedy.

“Hey Kris,” she began, awaiting an initial act of eye contact, “Dave said that Jason was telling you about some change in uniforms.”

“Yeah, he did.” Her voice always amazed Jessica, although she wasn’t exactly sure as to why. It was coarse; not horribly corrosive, but like worn, ineffective sand paper that defaced whichever pair of ears so unfortunate as to fall prey to its grating tone. As much as Jessica wished to avoid the malady, she listened as Kris continued. “Starting next month, we’re supposed to wear khakis and new shirts.” Jessica already knew that.

“But are the new shirts gonna be the same color?” Kris snickered in response, as if the inquiry was idiotic in base concept.

“Nah, they’re gonna be a lighter shade of blue, like sky blue, I think. Why the hell do you care what color they are, anyways? Will it conflict with your wardrobe?” Blue, of course.

Jessica nodded with a profusion of derisive enthusiasm. “Yeah, I am totally ruined, thank you very much. In fact, as soon as I get home I’m gonna go reorganize my closet in preparation for the dreaded day. Thanks for the info, Crash. Enjoy straightening the action figures.” 

To her good fortune, Jessica was well out of range for a physical reprisal to be feasible, and thus Kris was forced to redeem her honor with an indignant “Bitch! Don’t call me Crash!” The mother of two boys who were browsing through the collection of Star Wars Legos in aisle 4C was not amused with the obtrusive outburst of affection. 
Playstation controllers were a popular item, one of the exceptional success stories in an otherwise bleak sales period, and the chaotic state of the display case was proof of this ephemeral craze. A control pad was nothing new, as it was basically the same thing as her old Nintendo game pad. However, Sony had recently exhibited a slice of insightful marketing genius and unveiled a new face for an old product. The functions were subject to no innovation, but the color of the control pads were now assorted. Traditional gray, creamy emerald, gothic charcoal, and -of course- blue. Jessica never ceased in her confusion regarding the official, printed title of Island Blue. Were islands actually blue? No, the ocean was blue. The sky was blue. An island wasn’t blue, was it? (What isn’t blue?)

Every sign designating the contents of an individual aisle was blue. Each of the sporadic oases of carpeting was comprised of an indigo hue. The customer service department catered to a countless array of disgruntled patrons on a daily basis, and all of the fixtures which greeted these malcontents were blue. Dragonball Z action figures were a firecracker of profit; children and adults alike constantly swarmed her, begging to know if they were currently stocked with Dragonball merchandise. Vegeta, the villain turned anti-hero (or so she had been informed by an ecstatic lad) was the most popular of the collection and, as expected, Jessica had long ago ascertained that a majority of his costume was blue.

If she sought refuge from the incessant barrage of customer queries, Jessica could always flee to the sanctuary christened “Girl’s Restroom.” What lie beyond the blue door was a secret garden of sorts, albeit one comprised of stalls, sinks, and stools. The decor was not denied its prominence, as the flimsy walls separating each occupant were blue, the same blue that characterized the insidiously infectious corporation. At any given moment she could envision a cadre of jackals sifting through reports, projections, and industrywide psychological recommendations, each manicured beast eagerly nodding in response to the dogma of their current god, who was lord almighty until properly dispatched, one visage replaced with a correspondingly repulsive moniker. 

“So, we can’t totally deny our associates a restroom,” the misbegotten idol would proclaim, studying his legion with an eternally vigilant eye predisposed toward suspicion, “as that would be utterly inhumane, which is scarcely an image we wish to be identified with!” The jackals nod, some shuffling through papers, others jotting down notes in cursive with fountain pens of impeccable quality and exquisite taste. These notes do not pertain to the issue whatsoever, instead focusing upon the fact that their god’s hair isn’t as fastidiously groomed as usual, and that such a flaw may indicate a weakness and thus, potentially, the coming of a new dictatorial era. A few members of the horde are producing crude sketches of their leader, limp and hanging from a tree. Even so, they certainly understand the veracity of his words. “At the same time, we know that they rarely engage the facilities for their designated purpose. Given this knowledge, I propose that we extend our celebrated motif to encompass the restrooms, to serve as a constant reminder to our junior associates regarding their purpose as members of our family.” The speech meets with immediate applause, as the cult is both voraciously unanimous, and eager to greet the next item on the official agenda; an increase in the Christmas bonus of senior officers. Europe is such a wonderful location for pacifying incredulous wives, lecherous husbands, and ungrateful children, after all. 

“Ma’am?” 

     Jessica blinked, snapping out of her chimerical vice. She glanced down the aisle, noting the organized merchandise. At the very least, her body was adept at functioning responsibly in reflex to her mind’s determined reluctance. She felt her shirt stretch. “Umm...Miss?” Looking down (and, almost disturbingly, not too far down, as her stature was a far cry from impressive) she met the source of the tug upon her clothing.

A young boy stared curiously at her, apparently unsure of which title to use in reference to a woman not old enough to be motherly, but not quite young enough to be addressed as “Hey you." Jessica brushed a wayward strand of hair out of her face and smiled at the lad, and not because it was a requirement as an associate. 

“Hi! Hmm, looks like it’s still raining a lot, huh?” She pointed to the boy’s disheveled mass of sodden hair, each golden strand flattened by the day’s incessant shower. The boy smiled gratuitously, exhibiting a plethora of disorganized teeth. Each sporadic, ivory projection cried out “Braces, please!” and, yet, it was irresistibly cute to say the very least.

“Yeah! My mom said it’s gonna last all afternoon. I hate when it rains, ‘cause there’s nothing to do and you get wet. Do you like rain?” 

Jessica’s initial inclination was to respond with “Sometimes!” but this had been stifled quickly, as it was not the proper situation for a discursive dialogue upon the potential virtues of rain. Additionally, she agreed with her temporary companion that rain did indeed suck when it persisted throughout the course of an entire day and well into the early evening. 

“Sure do,” Jessica replied enthusiastically. “So, I’m guessing that you are really looking for something if you came here through all this rain.” The boy nodded, as if unfazed by his disdain for drizzle or downpour alike. 

“Yeah, I’m looking for Dragonball Z stuff. When my mom called, they said that you had all the stuff in stock. I want to get the Goku figure, like he was in last week’s show. Super Saiyan Goku."

Jessica didn’t have any notion of what identified someone as super let alone saiyan, but she was eager to listen. “Well,” she began, while pointing toward the “C” aisles, “I’m not sure if we have that particular figure, but let’s go look, okay?” The boy readily clasped her lowered hand with a surprising rapidity, as it was an act of affection often uncharacteristic of one stranger toward another. Together, they ventured forth into the realm of sculpted heroes, die-cast villains, and everything between.