That was it, no explanation, no disappointment, nothing. Brett didnít seem to
care one way or the other. He just grabbed his apron and his keys and left
Iíve always had trouble getting to sleep. I usually donít have
any trouble once Iím out, but finding that switch in my head that kills all the
thought processes can be a struggle sometimes. Almost seems like somebody
changes the wires around ever so often just to mess with me. Out of all the other things that
happened that month, one of the few things I specifically remember is
not sleeping well that night. I woke up ever couple of hours it seemed,
and always thinking of Brett.
I dreamt about him too, in that vague, fragmented way the mind has when it
lingers in limbo between sleep and wakefulness. At one point, I saw him riding
his motorcycle on a little mountain road. My scape shifted from the front, his
head panning slowly over the densely wooded terrain, to some spot just behind
him where I saw the wedge of light skimming along the path. It wasnít a silent
dream. I could hear the whir of the engine loping just off idle, the creak of
the shocks as he bounced over a pothole or loose piece of asphalt, and somewhere,
in the depth of the forest, I could hear a faint cicada chorus. It wasnít a
silent dream, but I had no voice. I couldnít even feel a breeze, although
I could see Brettís hair wisping along just above his shoulders. It was
almost as if the whole thing were a film. Like when your watching one of those horror
flicks and you keep telling the pretty young extra not to open the garage door
or go into the pool house because you know it will be the last thing she
does. Well, the last thing besides showing a bit of skin and screaming.
You know she canít hear you, but you repeat it anyway as if simple
recitation could somehow splice in a new ending. As I watched Brett
searching, all I could think was:
Heís taken a wrong turn. Heís lost. He needs to go back to the beginning
and start over.
Never mind that I didnít even know what he was looking for, or where, exactly,
he had taken a wrong turn. I just knew the road he was on wasnít going to
take him anywhere. Somehow, I knew it. Just like you know the
sexy little flirt is going to die the minute she steps through the door of the
to an excellent
article in the Atlantic about introverts. I'm not looking for special
treatment, but acceptance, if not understanding, would be nice. It's kind
of ironic that all my ex's have been extreme extroverts. Ah well.
The best part of the entire piece? The Sartrean "Hell is other people at
Thanks to some good friends and a lot of great beer (Bass, and I think
there was a Guinness or two in there somewhere) I had a great B-day dinner last
night. Beer and philosophy go together like a Les Paul and a Marshall.
The only bad thing was that both commenting systems seem to have disintegrated.
It's here. D-day. That horrific 3 followed by the ominous 0.
I am now officially too old to trust, and all I
can offer are some tips for surviving without a domesticated other.
1) Closets, dressers, and laundry hampers are useless wastes of space.
The sole purpose of a dresser is to collect dust, change, and receipts.
Well, that and sobering you up by catching your toe as stumble to the
bathroom at 3:00AM. (Note: Closet doors also perform this function with
startling efficiency) Contrary to popular belief, you do not need
these things for clothes. All your clothing storage needs can be handled
by those two metal cubes in the utility room. Dirty clothes go in the
washer. Clean clothes come out of the dryer. What else do you need?
I must, however, advise against ironing clothes while you are wearing
2) How to fix dinner without dirtying any dishes.
Preheat oven to 450į
Take one Totino's pizza
Open package, insert pizza into oven. Place directly on oven rack
Close oven door
Set timer for 10 minutes. No, you will NOT remember!
When timer goes off, remove pizza from oven and place the pizza on the empty
Allow pizza to cool slightly to prevent spontaneous sputtering of epithets.
Roll up pizza like a burrito.
Eat pizza while standing directly over the kitchen sink
If you absolutely must be in front of the TV while eating, the empty
pizza box can double as a TV tray.
When finished, place empty box on floor, and after a week or two you will have a
stack of boxes that will serve (with a bit of duct tape) as a perfectly good
After two 26 ft. U-Haul loads, 1-2 inches of ice, 6-8 inches of fresh snow,
and many beers, they are moved. Out of the city and into a nice brick home
on two acres with a heated and air-conditioned 16 x 30 outbuilding. Or
their stuff is at least. They've still got a lot of sorting and unpacking
Q: What do you use to extracate a fully loaded, 26 ft U-Haul truck stuck
in the ice and snow?
A: Two shovels and about four hundred pounds of rock salt.
Awhile back, I wrote about some brands/companies I liked.
To be fair, I think I should mention a few that suck.
Amtrak/Greyhound - Two companies that truly don't give a bucket of bong water
about their customers. Repeatedly late. Repeatedly rude.
Nevermind the lovely people that always sit next to me (a topic for another post
altogether.) Amtrak is a little better than Greyhound, but that is only
because they suck down taxpayer dollars like
White Castle Sliders.
Rio/Sonic Blue - While their MP3 players are relatively decent, their customer
support does the Hoover maneuver like nobody's business. I recently
upgraded to XP and contacted the suppliers of all my peripherals (scanner,
camera, printer, etc.) for the necessary changes. Fuji, U-Max, et al, were
very easy to work with and provided prompt responses to all of my questions.
Rio/Sonic Blue, however, sent one lone email that stated very simply:
"Your model is not compatible with Windows XP." An MP3, is an MP3,
is an MP3. What the email should have said is: "Your model is
disposable. Your business is not worth the time it would take to adapt our
I will be buying another MP3 player, but you can bet your digital
derriere it won't be one of theirs. Actually, I've been looking at the
portable hard-drive versions from Archos
- same idea as the
iPod, but with adequate storage and half the cost.
2/23/03 @ 11:05 PM T-2
Blogcritics have voted and the top musical for 2002 are up. The top
ten Albums of the year are listed
2/21/03 @ 3:54 PM T-4
Breakin' out of Chi-town to help my sister move this weekend. Hope everybody has a great one!
#1 The next time he saw her, she was in her Golf heading his way at a considerable speed.
She swerved off the road, crossed the ditch, and slid to a stop at his deck. Leaping out of the car
she started babbling "That's so sweet! That's so sweet!" So, they
got married, made naked babies and all lived happily ever after.
#2  Sometime later that week, Jason noticed an personal ad in
Did you send cookies?
He hemmed. He hawed. Finally, he called.
"Ah, yes. Uh, this is Jason. I live up the street. . . with the
I was, uh, just calling to tell you that I made you those cookies, and . . ."
"You dirty rotten [BLEEP] [BLEEPITY] [BLEEPIN'] [BLEEPER]. What the hell
were you trying to do, kill me? I just spent two weeks in the hospital
because of those damn things! Ever had your stomach pumped Jason?"
"Uh . . ."
"Well, let me tell you it hurts like hell. And just so you know, I'll
be forwarding the hospital bill to you!" CLICK
Jason, of course, plummeted into misery and guilt. As nothing dilludes
misery and guilt like a bar, that's where Jason began to spend his off-work
time. One bleary-eyed night several weeks later, a barfly, Suzy, attached
herself to him. "What the hell," he thought, and decided to take her home.
Halfway home, with Suzy still attached (literally), Jason swerved to miss
a dog, over-corrected and ended up cracking into a telephone pole on the
opposite side of the road. He survived with three cracked ribs and a
broken collar bone. Suzy didn't. Jason was sentenced to five years
in prison for involuntary manslaughter. He will be released on parole in
August of 2004.
Jason finished mixing the dough and washed his hands. He appraised the
situation and decided the dough needed another sprinkling of chocolate chips.
That would be milk chocolate chips, none of that semi-sweet stuff.
Real milk chocolate was the key, as far as he was concerned, to really good
cookies. Milk chocolate and the right sheet. For cookies, nothing
but shiny will do. Dark, glass, or overlarge pans almost guaranteed the
cookies will end up browning too quickly and becoming brittle little rocks
instead of chewy enchantments. There was nothing like a good stainless
steel cookie sheet
Spooning out the dough, he began to speculate what Amy's response would be.
How would he respond to a plate of cookies left anonymously outside
his door? He didn't think he was quite jaded enough to be suspicious, but
then again, he wasn't sure. A lot of how she reacted would rely on what
was going on in her life, which admittedly, he knew almost nothing about.
She lived in a little stone looking cottage two houses down and across the street
from his. She drove a white Golf convertible, and spent most of the
evening daylight tending the rose bushes that circled the cottage like exterior
wainscoting. The last few hundred yards of his drive home from work had
become the best part of his day. The previous Monday had been the cliche'
of Mondays. He was sure it had been a Monday like that one that had
initially garnered Mondays their infamy.
He had just turned on to Mulberry St. after eight and a half hours of
reprimanding salesmen who promised the world, encouraging engineers who were
adamant that it couldn't be delivered, and soothing customers who expected it,
when he saw her. Her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and kneeling
with clippers in hand at the island of a rose bush next to her mailbox.
There was something about the scene that caught his attention. Even in old
Levi's and an Ohio State sweatshirt she was stunning, but that wasn't it.
At least not all of it. There was something about the slow, casual,
but precise movements of her hands mixed with the calm of the early evening street
that struck him. After the day he'd had, she looked like the epitome of
serenity. Without being aware of it, he'd taken his foot of the gas and
was merely idling down the street as he watched her. He had been so taken
with the peacefulness exuding from her quiet work that he hadn't even realize
he was staring. That is, until she looked up. And smiled. Her
smiled jerked him out of his trance, but elicited a smile from himself as well.
When your that busted, you might as well play it out, he thought.
So he rolled down his window and slowed to a stop.
"Those are beautiful. What's your secret?"
"Ah, no secret really. Just water, sun, and keeping all the dead stuff
No magic potions, huh?"
She laughed. And God, what a laugh. "No. Actually, I do it
more for me than for the roses - it keeps me sane." She laughed again, a
smaller laugh, but every bit as rapturous. "I'm Amy, by the way."
"Jason," he offered. Well, looks like you're doing something right." He smiled, and tried
to think of something else to say.
"Do you live around here?" she asked.
"A couple of houses up" He pointed to his own little house.
"Oh, the one with the deck? I love that."
He blushed a 'thanks', and, sensing an awkward silence on the rise, he waved
bye and slid on down the street to his driveway.
So he'd decided to bake her a little anonymous thank you for unknowingly
lifting his spirits with her friendliness. He spooned out the last dollop
of dough, slid the sheet into the oven, and set the timer. After several
failed attempts at reading the paper, he settled into pondering the various outcomes
of the situation. He wanted it to be anonymous, but if she happened to
figure out who left them . . . well, that just might be an added bonus. But
then, he didn't even know if she was already seeing someone. He thought
about the best way to leave them without her little scottie sensing his
presence and raising ten kinds of hell. He decided early morning would be best.
Less chance some critter would find the cookies before she did, and then he
could just head on in to work and catch up on some things before the world started
abusing his patience over the phone. He dug out an old sketch pad and tried
to compose a short note. After switching from pen to pencil and amassing a
pile of crumpled sheets at his feet, he finally managed to write something acceptable,
and more importantly, legible.
Because you smiled
Because you spoke
Because you laughed
He folded the paper in half and taped it to the plastic wrap that covered the cookies.
The next morning before daylight, he carried the tray of cookies up the street, and placed it
with slightly shaking hands on her doorstep. At the office, he submerged
himself in work to keep from driving himself crazy thinking about what might or might not
happen. But, sometime after lunch he was overcome with a horrendous thought.
What if something was wrong with the cookies? He hadn't tasted them. They should be ok, but
what if . . . She wasn't outside when he came home that day. Or the next. Paranoia
was really starting to get the better of him. He had to go to Jersey the next week
in order to ensure continued business with customers that, personally he would like to see
go by the wayside. That week passed slowly and when he finally returned, was dismayed to see that
fall was beginning to set in. Two weeks went by, and still he hadn't seen
her. The tray was gone, but he didn't know if the cookies had turned out ok, or
if she had even found them or if some stray dog had carried them away. And
that felt worse than any of the other outcomes his insecurity had cultivated.
Uncertainty is always the hardest thing to deal with.
Eh, not really. Far from it actually, but recently I've become in critical
need of a new pair of boots. My current dog protectors are nearing
their 6th year and have been worn every single day for the last three.
Anyway, I am loathe to buy anything but Rockies. I positively hate
Nike, and not because they force toddlers to manufacture their shoes out of
puppy and kitten skins (for .00005 cents a week) or any such tripe. No, I'm opposed to Nike
because I think they are overpriced, poorly constructed (the few pairs I have
owned have never lasted longer than a year), not to mention ugly. I'm opposed to Nike because
they seem to think that by making an athletic shoe brown, this somehow qualifies
it as a boot.
I'm not 100% monogamous to any certain brand, but I do have very strong
preferences and convictions based solely on my experience. So, here are a
few brands that I have absolutely no shame in promoting.
Kenwood receivers & CD players. This
is a hard one, because due to the price of audio/video products I haven't been
able to test as wide a range of brands as I would like. However, in
comparative shopping, Kenwood receivers have always came out on top in the bang
for the buck category, and my current Kenwood models
and DP-R4060 have more than adequately pummeled my speakers for the last
seven years. Not to mention the head Kenwood unit/CD player that went through
two vehicles, lots of cigarette smoke, and the occasional beer splash in the
nine years it was in my clutches and is still functioning perfectly as far as I
Crate amps. No, people don't clamor
after a 'Crate sound' like they do Marshall, Fender, or Vox, but they have
received some notable mention for their BlueVoodoo
series as well as their VC series.
Crate amps are built in the USA and I've owned my current model since 1989. That's 14 years of being
tossed in and out of trunks, rattling around in the bed of a pick-up, and
pissing off neighbors with only minor maintenance.
Ingersoll-Rand air tools. Having
spent two or three years earning my daily bread with these things, I'll take an
I-R impact over all the others any day. Of course that was 10+ years ago, so
I guess it is possible (although I think improbable) that their quality has changed
There are others I'll think of when my memory cooperates. How about you?
Any brands you couldn't live without?
There are events in our lives, that when recall them in that little studio of
our mind, we see things we missed during the initial production. Sometimes
these details elucidate the events by filling in gaps we hadn't realized were
missing in the storyboard. Elements that, once recognized, immediately
become ingrained into our interpretation as if they had always been there.
Yet, there are other details that only seem to complicate our account.
Details too odd to be either coincidence or explicit, and merely make us
wonder just what exactly did happen.
And that's what it's like when I look back on those next few days.
There are things that happened, things that I would have known were going to
happen had I not been so preoccupied with my own trivial catastrophies.
The promise of summer was overshadowing any relevence of the last few weeks of
school. Sarah and I had settled into a close, but unfortunately plutonic
relationship. Brett had backed off his little spiels, actually Brett had
been pretty quiet all the way around.
A day or two after my first taste of riding, I was sitting on my bed before
school when I noticed a book laying open on Brett's bed. From where I was
sitting, I could see blue lines marking off a particular passage. I
stepped over to the bed.
"If I am right, then Ďtruthí may, like Ďproofí, be a term with only
I remember thinking: "This guy sounds just like Brett, or I guess,
Brett sounds like him. I flipped to the cover. The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
The screen door slammed, and I sat back down on my bed to put on my socks
and shoes. Brett tossed his apron on the floor by his bed, closed the
book, and started building. In the time it took me to finish tying my
shoes, he had worked up his usual five or six levels. He barely hesitated
as he placed card after card on the growing tower. I hadn't seen
(or stuck around long enough to see) his house of cards get any higher than
seven or eight stories, and, like I said, he hadn't been giving me any of his
unsolicited wisdom lately, so I just sat there for a while and watched.
He placed the last card of the eighth layer and reached over to fish a new
deck of cards out of the nightstand. The mattress creaked and the tower
shuddered on top of the book. I caught myself holding my breath as he
pulled the cellophane off the new deck of cards. Brett looked calm as
always. The new cards looked too bright next to the dog eared deck he'd
used for the last seven or eight months, and I wondered if there newness might
be a problem. Too slick or too stiff or something. He clenched his fist
with a trill of popping knuckles, and stood up.
Pulling the first two cards
off the top of the deck, he leaned them against each other on top of the tower,
that by all apparent logic, should not be standing. Brett's hands were
automatic, placing one card after another until there was only one layer left.
I had completely forgotten about going to school, and he laced the next
six cards so slowly I was beginning to think he was avoiding finishing the level.
The king of clubs. The three of diamonds. The nine of diamonds,
and finally, the Jack of spades. I counted all eighteen layers just to
Brett didn't even look at me. He just sat there staring at the
"There's nothing any greater."
That seemed a bit of an overstatement, but I was still pretty impressed.
"I'm gonna get the camera."
"There's nothing less."
I heard him say it, but I wasn't going to let him ruin my good mood with one of
his rants this morning, so I just ignored it. I found one of those disposable
cameras in the kitchen cabinet and walked back into our room.
"There's nothing any greater. There's nothing any less."
Brett had fallen into a slow repetition of those lines.
"Smile," I said, and snapped the picture. I set the camera down on the
desk and noticed the clock. Shit! I grabbed my backpack and
ran out the door.
For some reason, I thought Brett would leave that tower standing for
awhile. I don't know why, but I just assumed it would still be there when
I got home. It wasn't. All the cards were in their boxes, which were
stacked neatly on the nightstand.
For those of you arriving here in your search for G*e*n*e*l*l*e F*r*e*n*o*y,
I have one little thing, and that was mentioned only in passing,
For those who searched for "Molly Ivins is a whore," well, I have to ask:
Is that a question or an assertion? Either way, the only thing I have on
Molly is here
. If you really want some good stuff on Mrs. Molly, you should go
When the streets get strange
2/07/03 @ 1:05 AM
There's something eerily surreal about a midnight walk down Taylor St. with
Beethoven's 5th in the headphones.
Our town had two doctors. One was an old, half-blind fart of a man that managed
to stay in business because people visited him when they didnít want to answer
too many questions. Need some Xanax? "Yes, the nerves . . . the
nerves . . ." he'd mutter, his own hand shaking as he scrawled out a
prescription. Want to dictate your own physical? Just remember to
speak slowly. The other doctor, Deborah, was a young woman with a newly framed
license. She was a pretty woman, in a plain sort of way, and moved all the
way from Chicago looking for a quaint home in the country. What she got,
however, was an old two-story farmhouse two creaks away from being condemned.
Anyway, one morning Brett was on his way home from work when he spotted this
morning glory trellis masquerading as a motorcycle next to Deborahís
shed. All it cost him was a quick stop by her office and the aggrevation
of getting me out of bed on a Saturday morning. After we stripped all the
vines away, I stood there in disbelief that he had the nerve to drag me out of
bed for this. I could barely make out the faded Honda logo, or
the Ď750í embossed on the engine.
Mom was gonna be thrilled. Brett
was always carting home junk, but usually it was junk that ended up in our room,
not sitting outside the house or taking up space in the car-port. I think
mom and I were both kinda surprised that he actually restored it. He
spent hour after hour getting high and massaging the ports in the engine with
sandpaper and steel wool until they reflected like a funhouse mirror.
He even bought this yellow cafť racer fairing kit for it. He rode it
everywhere, and of course gave the people around town something new to laugh at.
The Banana Bike. Yeah, thatís my brother. Ha ha, a monkey
riding his banana, youíre a scream. Granted, it was kinda goofy looking
and out of place in a town full of Harleyís, but it was fast.
It was a Saturday morning almost two years after we drug that thing out of
the weeds, when Brett woke me up and told me it was time I learned how to ride.
I didnít move at first. I just kind of looked at him, trying to
figure out what he was up to. It was an unspoken rule that I wasnít to go
near his bike.
"Come on, I donít wanna be up all day."
But he was. Brett rode out to the Methodist Church parking lot, and I
followed in my car. Looking back, it amazes me how much patience Brett had
that day. For the first hour or so, I did nothing but pop the clutch
until I was sure the bike was eventually going to jump out from
under me, that was if I didnít break the clutch first. Brett never once
raised his voice. In fact, he didnít really say much of anything until I was
visibly shaking. I parked the bike, ready to forget the whole deal when
he pulled out his pipe. He took a hit and put it back in his pocket.
"Itís like learning Algebra."
Oh God, here we go again.
"If your teacher were to start out with 1+1=2 and work his way up to algebra,
youíd get bored and stop paying attention before he ever got to that point.
But if he started talking about factoring or quadratic equations on the
first day of class, youíd be so lost youíd just give up. Now, imagine two
discs Ė oneís spinning really fast and one's stationary. Imagine that
when you let out on the clutch, that youíre moving those two disks together.
Do it too quick and they'll both stop dead Ė too slow and they'll burn
up. You've got to feel around for that balance."
Brett stood up and walked over to my car.
"Iím gonna go get a soda."
And he was gone. I didn't know what to do, so I just sat there looking
at the bike. A half hour went by. The bastard's not coming back!
It was almost one oíclock, and I had to be at work at four. If he
thinks I'm gonna walk, heís friggin' nuts. But he wouldnít just leave his
bike out here all night.
I walked over to the bike and got on. After four excruciating kicks, it
finally started. I gradually let out the clutch and suddenly
I was whizzing across the incredibly short parking lot. I panicked, and mashed
down on the rear brake, bringing the bike and the engine to an abrupt stop.
I flexed my aching hands, and looked back across the parking lot - I'd covered a
whole twenty feet. I laughed, held my breath and started the bike again.
Before I knew it, I was riding figure-eights around the parking lot. I stopped
the bike and looked at my watch, almost three. I was feeling pretty good, but
I still wasn't ready to take it all the way across town. I glanced around the parking
lot trying to decide what to do. And there, leaning against the corner of the
church with Dr. Pepper in hand, was Brett.
"'Bout ready to take on Laguna Seca?"
That bastard. "Where's my car?"
"'Round the church."
I sat at work feeling a little buzzed. People rented and returned tapes,
but I didn't really see them. I was to busy going over the day in my head.
Remembering the feeling of riding. For once, I felt balanced and
graceful. It had been a strange day, but a good one. I was so
psyched about learning to ride that I didn't even stop to wonder why
Brett was teaching me to ride.
Out of all the ills we, as a society, face today, it would seem the most detrimental of all
is being ignored. No, I'm not speaking of crime, riots,
homelessness, racism, or even the regrettable fact that we have television
shows like Joe Millionaire. The social ill that is going to ruin this
great nation of ours is rarely mentioned as such in newspapers or magazines,
and it is this obscurity that allows it to propagate throughout our society.
It is an ill that thrives in bars and other such places under the guise
of entertainment, under the falsehood of giving the little guy (or gal)
opportunity, and as so often with other social ills, under the thin veil of leisure.
The social ill of which I speak? Karaoke. It has infected nearly
every social establishment in every city of our country. Going out for a
relaxing drink without fear of exposure now involves solving a labyrinthine
formula of physics, statistics, geography, and astrology.
"Jack's has it on Sundays, Tuesday's and Saturdays."
"Stan's Still has it every other night beginning with the first Saturday of the
"Ok, we divide the square root of the number of possible bars, by the number of
days until the next full moon and multiply that by the probability of B . . .
What does 'B' stand for again?"
"Well that depends, what day is today?"
Educating people in the skill of a tort et a travers vox et praeterea nihil avoidance (or
dodgingkaraoke) is perhaps our only true hope. We, as a nation, cannot hope to
overcome or even endure this disease unless we make it a firm fixture in the
consciousness of the American people. This, dear reader, is a call to
action, nay, it is an appeal to you to 'Just say no' to karaoke. And
should you find yourself in a moment of doubt, simply recite one or more of the
following phrases as your mantra.
"Guns don't kill people, karaoke kills people."
"No blood for karaoke!"
"It's not a choice, it's karaoke."
As Uncle Willie used to say:
"Your voice is such as dreams are made of. Indeed, nightmares."
A friend of mine sent me this rough outline of a poem:
I can either sit at home and hope
for things that I will never be
or will never happen
or give up
close the shades on the windows of my soul
the only drug I know
do I dream of hope? - Brian Walker
What struck me about this was the metaphore of hope as a drug.
Many years ago (pre-PETA) I heard or read about an expiriment where two groups
of rats were placed in tanks of deep water. One group could not see anything
that resembled a way out, while the other could see 'land', but could not reach
it. Both groups eventually drowned, but the group that could at least see land
survived significantly longer than the group that couldn't.
We have a true dependence on hope. We need it. However seemingly
insiginificant that hope may be, we cling to it with everything we've got.
What other reason is there to get up in the morning, save hope? And yet
some hopes, like the image of land, are nothing more than hallucinations -
pipe dreams that will never be realized. How do we recognize which of our
hopes have potential?
They say it's not the destination, but the journey. If, at the end of
our journey, we find ourselves drowning next to a glass wall, will the journey
really be any consolation?
This is the first thing I saw when I turned on the computer this morning.
The thing I hate about the news media is that they never really tell you what
you want to know. All they want to talk about is what happened at launch
and the fact that there is an Israeli astronaut on board.