Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Radio Just for You

The lovely Claire of Taller Than Average Tales provided a link tonight to this gem: Pandora, from the Music Genome Project. Give Pandora the name of an artist or the title of a song, and she will create a "radio station" for you with artists and songs that have the same type of qualities as the artist or song you entered (mixed in with songs by the artist you offered up to Pandora.)

I've just created a Michael Penn station, a Thomas Dolby station, and a Morrissey station. And, I'll be damned, but I'm really digging the artists that Pandora is offering up. I know what I'll be listening to at work tomorrow. This is freakin' cool! (Sasquatch - you are so gonna dig this.)

Thanks, Claire!

Nice. So now it shows up. Three hours late.

Nice, Audioblogger. Make me look like a moron. (Sigh.)

See post below for reference...

this is an audio post - click to play

This reminds me - PirateTwin sent me a video link to a house decked to the nines with enough lights to keep PEPCO in the black for the next decade, with musical accompaniment. PirateTwin, can you post that link in the comments? Mucus gracias.

How weird.

I recorded an audioblog on my way home from work today. I was inspired by the hideous Clark Griswold-esque Christmas lights already covering this entire house in Chevy Chase. I even described it as looking like a low-rent elf bordello.

But now that I'm home, there is no audioblog entry. Yet, I confirmed the dang thing after I recorded it. I "hit one to post" and the little Audioblog computer guy thanked me and everything. Oh well. It wasn't that good, really.

However, I cannot pass up commenting on the fact that I made a Chevy Chase movie reference about a house in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Hey kids! Know what this is?
It's the last time Chevy Chase was ever funny.
(And even that was pushing a point...)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I Scare Myself

I am a complete and utter dork.

(Like that comes as a surprise.)

Yesterday, I had totally forgotten about my commentary running on Metro Connection, and, at about 1:56 in the afternoon, I was in my car, flipping radio stations. I stop on WAMU and - WHAM - I hear my own voice inside the car and nearly drive off the road. Is this stupid? Yes, of course. I mean, a reasonable person would, first of all, have remembered that she was going to be on the radio. And, secondly, she would not be disturbed by the sound of her own voice.

I, however, am not reasonable (it would appear) and, in case I haven't mentioned it before, I utterly loathe the sound of my own voice. It sounds awful to me. Makes me want to crawl under large pillows and howl in pain. Maybe this is not an uncommon phenomenon. But my voice on tapes and on the radio sounds nothing like the tones that rattle around in my increasingly empty head. And so, yesterday, I was so alarmed to hear myself, I nearly drove off the Pike and up onto a sidewalk by Bagel City.

Like I said, I am a dork.

So, today, I'm futzing around in the kitchen, bleaching the counters (it's like an OCD with me now, after the Great Rodent Invasion of '05) and I leave NPR on my little window radio while I wander down the hall to wash my hands. Like a crow to a shiny penny, I get distracted by the computer humming in the hallway and end up checking e-mail, perusing blogs, seeing if anyone's bid on my little set of Armenian Christmas ornaments on eBay (up to $12.50 - whoo-hoo!), and there I sit for far too long. Eventually, I remember the kitchen is still mid-clean and return.

Aaaaand nearly jump through the ceiling when I hear my damn voice again coming from the kitchen window. I forgot about the reply of Metro Connection on Saturday afternoon. And my bizarre sense of timing planted me right at the beginning of my commentary again. This time I listened. Usually, I'm hypercritical of my performance, hearing each overly large, asthmatic-sounding breath and noting where I could have done a better job with both writing and performance. But this time, I ignored my voice, and just enjoyed it.

It's fun doing the radio thing. It's nice to know that, somewhere else, someone is in their car or in their kitchen, listening to your thoughts and ideas. And you hope that at least one person is entertained.

(And you hope they don't have the same shuddering reaction to your voice that you do!)

I still didn't finish the damn kitchen. Best get to that right now.

G'night, y'all.

Friday, November 25, 2005

I have sinned

Dear Mayorga Coffee:

I didn't mean to do it. But I was out today (running basic errands, not participating in the Black Friday insanity, thank you very much) and it was cold. Really cold. And you are, relatively speaking, so far away. I needed hot caffeine, and, well... she was right there. On the Pike. Big green sign with the mermaid-y chick luring me in. And I answered her siren call, dammit.

It's Starbucks Peppermint Mocha season, and I was sucked in. It's so tasty, you see. And so nice on a bitter, windy day. It was all of 25 degrees out, and I needed something cheerful and overly sweet.

And, dear Mayorga peeps, I hate to say it, but it was good. Really good. Really, really decadently good.

Don't worry, I'll be back at your front door, head hung low, sheepishly presenting my customer loyalty card, seeking absolution and a big mocha latte. I do feel a little dirty, whoring around with that slutty out-of-town Seattle girl when my local love is languishing up the road, but it's the holidays... I'm merely spreading the love... and $3.75...


The Worst of America

People, if you think a low price on a crappy no-name flat screen TV or a shitty laptop is worth stepping on an elderly woman, you're freaking insane. Shame on all you stupid, greedy, violent bastards. And shame on the retailers who encourage your stupid, greedy, violent behavior.

Guess I'll have company in Hell, eh?

Wax on, wax off

Oh lord, my third post in a row about death. I hope this isn't a trend.

Pat Morita, aka Mr. Miyagi and the Colgate Wisdom Tooth, has died at 73.

Back when I worked at the embassy in Moscow, my first job was manning the switchboard. It was an often infuriating, frustrating, and mental-stability-endangering job. My first day I had a fake bomb threat, a fake fire call, a freak who wanted to read me "filthy poems" he'd written about the ambassador, and a guy who wanted to talk about "the price of women in Israel." (The last two dudes would become regular callers.)

In the midst of the non-stop insanity, there would be some really neat moments, like when writers and artists would call in and, instead of keeping them on hold while I hunted down their contacts, we'd chat. I got all sorts of interesting invitations to come to exhibitions and dinners and plays. It was great. I had this big tin in my apartment that I called "The Big Tin o' Numbers" where I stored all the scraps of paper where I'd written down names and numbers of funky people who'd told me to call them sometime. Don't ask me why I did that. I never got any of them transferred to my tiny purple unicorn address book (I'd had it since high school.) And then, when I moved back to the 'States, my tin vanished. Ah well.

Of course, there were unpleasant moments, too, like the time an American citizen died in a skiing accident in Georgia (Soviet Georgia) on a Saturday afternoon. The particularly wussy man who was the embassy duty officer that day told me that he "just couldn't handle that today" and told me to call the man's family back home to let them know. I was 23 and untrained in dealing with grief, consular matters, and repatriation of a body. What an ass that guy was. Hopefully, he's no longer in the Foreign Service.

Or the time that an American vintner - let's call him the Robert the Raging Asshole - called the embassy just before the switchboard was to close on a Saturday afternoon. On Saturdays, only one operator worked, and just my luck, I hit the jackpot with Robert. Robbie Boy had apparently bought a bunch of paintings on his trip to the Soviet Union and had no idea that exporting art required permission from a couple of government ministries. So, he was calling from the airport, wanting the ambassador to make everything okay for him. We had strict rules for bothering the ambassador on weekends, and Robert's art fiasco did not fall into the "emergency call" situation. I did, however, know the rules for exporting art, and I explained the situation. I told Robbie Boy he'd have to leave the art with his Soviet hosts and have them work on getting the exportation paperwork and getting the fees taken care of.

But Robert was having none of this. He was leaving the country, and he wanted his art to go with him NOW. "GET ME THE AMBASSADOR!" When I told him I could not disturb the ambassador (very politely, mind you), he ripped me a new one. I will never forget the classic line from this jerk: "Don't you know who I am? I'm Robert Fucking Mxxxxxi, you bitch! Put me through to the ambassador, he's a friend of mine!" There were some threats about how he'd get me fired. How I'd never work again. How I'd regret this.

I hung up on him at that point.

And he called back.

In the interim, I'd called the ambassador and told him the scoop. The ambo was a good guy. First, he told me, Robert wasn't a friend of his. But, considering how he'd just spoken to me, he'd be glad to speak with him. So, when the call came in, I put it through to the ambo immediately. I watched the the ambassador's phone line stay lit for only a minute or two. It blinked off and the ambassador called me back. Robbie Boy wouldn't be harassing me anymore. And he wouldn't be taking his art home with him on the plane.

Since Robbie Boy called me a bitch, I've never bought any of his wine, and on the handful of occasions when I've been offered a glass of his product at a party, I've turned it down and told the story. I figure, if people are going to support his business, they should know what an egotistical asshat the man is. A couple of years ago, Saturday Night Live did a little sketch about him and a relative who was using the family name to sell his own really disgusting "wine." The sketch was so mean that I had to wonder if the writer had also had a Bad Robert Experience. (That would not surprise me.)

So, why all this in a post about the passing of Pat Morita? Because he was, for a month or so, one of my regular callers in Moscow.

He came to film a movie (although, looking in the IMDB, I can't figure out what it was), and it turned out that one of my favorite embassy officers was a friend of his from California. The first time he called in, he said, "Hi, honey, this is Pat Morita. I'm calling for my friend Ed S. Can you find him for me?" I, of course, being a total geek, couldn't help but say, "Pat Morita - as in Colgate Wisdom Tooth Pat Morita?" And he laughed and laughed. I know some actors - particularly an Oscar-nominated actor - might want to smack you down for bringing up their commercial work, but he loved it. "Yep! That's me! The Colgate Wisdom Tooth! Mr. Miyagi! Arnold! You name it!" And we chatted away for a few minutes while I hunted down Ed.

From then on, whenever he'd call in, he'd greet me by my name and chat with me for a minute or two before I put him through to Ed. He even invited me to join him for dinner with Ed one night, but sadly, he got sick and we had to cancel. I got the warmest feelings about Pat Morita. Just over the phone, he seemed like such a sweetheart - and Ed confirmed for me that Morita was one of the nicest guys ever.

Isn't it weird - I can remember the very last call I took right before he flew home to California. He told me he was sad we didn't actually get to meet. And before I put him through to Ed, he said, "Honey, it's been so nice to hear your voice each time I've called in. You take good care of yourself, okay?" I know it's just a nice thing people say to each other, but his voice was so cheerful and sweet, I can still hear it in my head.

Rest well, Pat. I'm sorry I never did get to meet you.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Which flavor is best for eternal rest?

Ruth Siems, the Mother of Stove Top Stuffing, has died at 74. Mrs. Siems will be sauted with butter and water, fluffed with a fork and then lovingly wrapped in crinkly plastic and sealed in a red cardboard box. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for a nice greenbean casserole and some Ocean Spray cranberry sauce.

(I'm going to Hell, aren't I?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Just another DC lunch hour...

At lunchtime on Tuesday, a deranged naked guy pulled a Jeep Cherokee up in front of a building one block from my office. Clearly disoriented, he walked into an office building, went to the eighth floor, pulled the fire alarm, smashed through an office window, and jumped to his death.

Now, it's tragic that someone was disturbed enough to do this. And Tuesday was a damn cold day. (As a male friend noted - not being callous, but merely sympathetically observational, "Oh, I bet he had massive shrinkage.") But the question on my mind is why did the building security guard let a deranged naked guy pass him and get on the elevator? I know rent-a-cops aren't paid much, but, c'mon! Wouldn't you at least try to stop the naked dude from going upstairs?!?

Then, deranged naked guy gets off at the eighth floor and sets off the fire alarm.

Now, imagine being a worker on the eighth floor of Naked Central...

You're at your desk, eating your Soho Market buffet goo downtown lunch, taking a sip of your Diet Cherry Coke, and there goes that damn fire alarm. Downtown buildings always seem to choose the worst weather to make you hoof it downstairs and wait to get back inside, you think.

But no, leaving your desk and the remains of your carbtacular lunch behind, you see him: deranged naked guy. He's pushing past your coworkers, headed straight for you, and your TPS report (you know, the one Lumbergh made you come in on Saturday and Sunday to work on?), and the remains of your General Tso's Hope-it's-Chicken.

But, he's polite. Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me!

And then, in a flash, he's past your desk. He's at your window, kicking and kicking. And just like that, he's gone, out the window.

What kind of therapy will you be in for years to come? What kind of nightmares will you have? Why did he choose your office as his suicide weapon of choice? Do you get paid leave after someone kills himself in front of you? Does the company health plan cover psychological services?

Deranged naked man is now at rest, but he's surely left a great deal of distress and anguish and sadness behind for his family and friends( and some traumatized office workers and passersby.) It must be a difficult Thanksgiving for them all.

I don't have a good ending for this post. Since I read this story yesterday morning, I've been thinking about just what snaps in someone to make them drive naked to a strange office and kill himself. And I just can't fathom it.

Be at peace, naked guy. And may your family find peace, too.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Radio, Radio: The Turkey Day Edition

Hey, kids!

I will be gracing the airwaves (or torturing them, depending on your perspective) this Friday for 4 exciting minutes on WAMU's Metro Connection show.

iTurkey will be listening. Will you?

Hear of my love for all things turkey-riffic!
Thrill as I tell stories of holiday screw-ups of my childhood!
Waste 240 seconds of your life!

Yeah, I'm a little like Orson Welles.
Later in life, less talented, fat, wine commercial Orson Welles, that is.

As always, you can listen live on your radio here in the DC area at 88.5 FM, or online at WAMU.org. The show will be archived online so, if you miss me, you can call up my commentary at your leisure and then remember why you don't really miss me all that much.

But really, Metro Connection is a pretty cool show and WAMU is a damn fine NPR station, so you should listen in. 1-2 p.m. on Friday. I'll be on right before the end of the hour, doing my thang and then fading away like a slightly gimpy gorilla in the mist.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting me. And thanks for supporting public radio!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Damnation, Hellfire, and a Cannibal Update
(I swear I'll stop talking about the people-eatin', really!)

Crap, crap, crappity crap!

The CompactFlash slot on my computer is kaput. One of the little prongs inside actually broke off when I pulled my card out today. Now, I'm getting a bunch of damn Reddy Kilowatt danger messages telling me that there's a power surge on a hub port. Shite.

I gave the freebie USB card reader I had to someone in need. Now, there will be no more silly photos from me (or photos for my eBay auctions) until I have procured a new card reader.

Cheap-ass Gateway crap. Grrr.

And now, with no appropriate segue whatsoever...

For those with an interest in the grotesque (all two of you), here's a link to a more detailed story on the Cannibal Family of Rostov. I find it very interesting that Mom-chitsa can't be charged with anything now, since the Russian Criminal Code doesn't mention cannibalism. Apparently, Russia doesn't give a crap about corpse desecration.

Now, don't laugh, but on my Bookshelf of Stuff That I Haven't Looked At Since 1988, I have a copy of the old RSFSR Criminal Code. Back in Ye Olde Pretentious College Days, I did my honors thesis on Soviet Russia's Criminal Code and the treatment of dissident writers. I took the position that, if we in the West accepted the legitimacy of the Soviet Union, which, legally and diplomatically we did, we gave tacit approval to the Soviet constitution, and with it, their criminal code. Therefore, I opined, we had to shut the hell up and stop whining about the treatment of dissidents, since we said the rest of their legal infrastructure was okie-dokie with us. It was a whole "Devil's Advocate" thing - the type of overwrought self-righteousness that only can be produced by a college student. I really didn't think that sending writers into Siberian exile was a good idea. (Even the ones as obnoxious as Solzhenitsyn...) Anyway, I'll have to check and see if the Soviets had anything to say about cooking human parts with potatoes.

Ironically, a theater piece that features episodes of cannibalism is drawing crowds in Moscow. Super-duper! When I found this review, I was surprised to see that I'm acquainted with the woman who translated the play from Georgian into Russian. Maya Mamaladze is a kick-ass translator, and she's a pretty cool person, too. She did some work for me in Tbilisi and it wasn't cheap. (But it was the most beautiful translation of government crap ever seen.)

Cannibalism aside, the theater scene in Russia is pretty rockin'. I miss going out to see new productions all the time. Back in the day, when the ruble was toilet paper and tickets were cheap so workers could enjoy the people's theater (and music and art), you could spend virtually every night of the week at plays, the symphony, you name it... and it might set you back $3 or $4 all told. That was awesome. (Except for that surprisingly nude version of "Iyesus Khristus, Superzvezda" I saw. I really didn't need to see all that nippleage and dingly-dangly-ness during the "So You Are The Christ" number with Herod. Too much pale skin wavin' and floppin' in the breeze.)

Russian theater rocks, but the Bolshoi is waaaay overrated.

Imagine Broadway being price-accessible to the masses here! How cool would that be?!? (Of course, I also fantasize about theaters and movies without cell phones, but I digress...) Reasonably-priced theater would be a harsh wake-up call for the Nathan Lanes and Matthew Brodericks of the world. But it sure would be sweet for the average joes who need and desire culture and art and pleasure just as much as wealthy Manhattanites. Of course, those with the moolah already would probably just reduce the non-star players' and musicians' wages to sawdust and crap to make up the difference...

Art For The People was one thing the Soviets did well. They screwed up just about everything else they touched (except science, which was astoundingly advanced, but often used for some pretty fucked up purposes.)

Culture for everyone. It was a beautiful thing.

I miss that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Seinfeld & Russian Cannibals (Redux)

Oh dear, Mutha Russia. Is there lead in your water supply, hon?

Here we go again. (Sigh.)

Authorities in the town of Rostov-na-Donu in the heart of Russia report that a 30-something mom and her two teenage sons have been arrested for murdering a man and then snacking on his innards.

When you read the news account here, the important sentence to remember is this:

"According to (police spokesman Alexei) Polyansky, there have been no cannibalism cases in the Rostov region in more than 10 years."

Ten years. Oh, as long as that, eh?

Dearest Mutha Russia, this is not a record to be proud of. Ten years without a case of cannibalism is not that impressive. Ten years without vomiting? Maybe. Ten years without eating someone? No.

Remember "Seinfeld" and Jerry's legendary non-vomiting streak?

JERRY: I haven't vomited in thirteen years.

ELAINE: Get out!

JERRY: Not since June 29, 1980.

ELAINE: You remember the date?

JERRY: Yes, because my previous vomit was also June 29th... 1972. That's why during the '80 vomit, I was yelling to George: "Can you believe it? I'm vomiting on June 29th again."


GEORGE: You vomited in 1987.

JERRY: Oh no. That was the dry heaves.

(and, at last, one season later, after eating a bad black & white cookie...)

JERRY: Fourteen years down the drain.

Yeah, there you go. Now, imagine if that had been played out in Russia:

JERROVICH: I have not eaten one of my neighbors in thirteen years.

YELAINA: Get out-ski!

JERROVICH: No, comrade. Not since June 29, 1980.

YELAINA: You remember the date, Jer-chik?

JERROVICH: Da, because my previous feast on human flesh was also June 29th... 1972. That's why during the '80 man-munch, I was yelling to Georgiy: "Can you believe it? I'm eating a neighbor on June 29th again."


GEORGIY: You ate someone in 1987.

JERROVICH: Oh no. That was just me nibbling on Yelainie's ear.

(and, at last, one season later, after an all-night drunk...)

JERROVICH: Fourteen years down the drain. Pass me the ketchup. (*BURP*)

Seriously, I just don't get it. What is the strange psychosis of the Russian mind, the twisted mark of the culture, that encourages the consumption of people meat? Apparently, over the summer, some Russian filmmakers created a TV documentary about the problem of Russian cannibalism. This was broadcast just a couple of weeks ago on the NTV network and shocked the hell out of people who don't eat people. In fact, it raised the hackles of the Russian Duma, which slammed NTV for broadcasting the incredibly graphic and gory piece and passed a resolution demanding Russian networks more closely adhere to a voluntary set of standards on how much violence they feature in their programming.

George tests Jerry's arm for plump juiciness
while Elaine prepares to eat George's face
(and Kramer has already basted himself in butter like a turkey...)

Good luck with that one, kids. The Moscow evening news programs already feature things that would scare the living crap out of most Americans, including features like "РОЗЫСК!" (SEARCH!) Broadcast during the dinner hour, the "РОЗЫСК!" segments show you close-up photos of decaying corpse heads and ask if you recognize them.


So, yeah, Mutha Russia. Good luck with the TV violence thingy. And good luck controlling your dangerous dining public. (This is why I'd never trust a rib joint in Moscow. Seriously.)

I think I'm having vegetable soup for dinner...

GEORGE: Say you, me, and Kramer are, uh, flying over the Andes.

JERRY: Why are we flyin' over the Andes?

GEORGE: We got a soccer game in Chile. Anyway, the plane crashes. Who are you gonna eat to survive?

JERRY: Kramer.

GEORGE: So fast? What about me?


GEORGE: Kramer's so stringy. I'm plump, juicy.

JERRY: Kramer's got more muscle, higher protein content. It's better for you.

GEORGE: Well I would eat you.

JERRY: That's very nice, I guess.

GEORGE: I still don't see why you wouldn't eat me. I'm your best friend.

JERRY: Look, if other people are having some, I'll try you.

GEORGE: Thank you.

Damn you, Julio M!

I intended to sleep in today. My body and my brain were both begging for a couple of extra hours of downtime.

But, in the words of Rene Belloq, "It was not meant to be, cherie."

Rene Belloq makes a profoundly bad judgment call, film at 11.

For, you see, I made an error last night that opened the door to the evils of Murphy's Law. I turned off my cell phone (which otherwise would have woken me up with the theme to Law and Order around 8 a.m.) But I forgot to turn off the ringer on my landline. No one's called me at an ungodly hour for ages now. If anyone does, it's likely to be my oldest sister, who likes to call people on weekends at 7 a.m., I swear to god. (Her lovely daughter reads my blog - she can verify this telephonic terrorist act, for sure!) Or my brother in Germany, who just enjoys being an early a.m. sadist from the comfort of early afternoon in Europe.

But my brother is currently visiting our siblings in Illinois, and I didn't anticipate any calls from big sister. So, a little forgetfulness on my part with turning off the ringer wasn't going to be a problem, right?


6:00 a.m. Ring. I open one eye and squint for the clock and fumble for the phone, panicked that maybe someone is ill or injured.

Me: "Hello?"

Gentleman Caller: "¡Hola Maria!"

Me: "Whaaa?"

Confused Gentleman Caller: "Maria?"

Me: "Oh, maaaan. You have the wrong number." Click.

6:02 a.m.
Ring. This time, I look at Caller ID. I see "Julio Mxxxxx" with a local number.

Me: "Yes?"

Julio: "¡Hola Maria!"

Me: "This is not Maria."

Julio: "No Maria?"

Me: "No Maria." Click.

6:03 a.m. Ring. (dammit.)

Me: "¡No Maria aquí!"

Julio, Idiota Grande: "Oh. Okay. Gracias." Click.

6:05 a.m. Ring.

Me: "Yes, Julio?"

Julio, El Dorko Grande: "¡Hola Maria!"


Julio: "Oh. Okay. Gracias."

6:07 a.m. Ring.

I let the answering machine pick up.

Julio, Uberfreak Estúpido: "Maria? Maria?" (Followed by a rambling, casual Spanish monologue I did not understand.) Click. You would have figured from my very Anglo, very much en inglés answering machine message, he would have really gotten that I was no Maria. But, apparently not.

He hasn't called back since. But the urge to call Julio five times in a row at some bizarre hour and maybe speak in, oh, Russian or German, and just fuck with him? Well, it's muy, muy tempting.

So, I've been up for a while. It's a beautiful life, no?

Friday, November 18, 2005

I swear...

...I will write something of substance (well, what passes for substance here at the Church of the Big Sky) tomorrow. Honest.

I am going to bed now (yeah, I'm a hot date on a Friday night) with a Ben-Gay heat patch on my lower back, fuzzy socks on my feet, and a couple Tylenol PM in my belly. And a copy of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine to read. (Holy crap. I'm turning into my mother!)

I'm a tuckered puppy, but it's a good kind of tired. The "I have a job at the coolest freakin' place in the world and no longer have to worry about rent" kind of tired.

Stories will be told tomorrow. Russian cannibals will be discussed (yet again.) I will shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Wait. I don't think I actually meant that last one. Like I said, I'm a tuckered puppy. The brain-to-typing-fingers filter is offline.

So I wish y'all a good night, and I'll be back tomorrow, buckaroos!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Running on Empty (but still going)

Sorry that updates have been few and far between of late. I am really, really exhausted by my first week of work. (Exhausted but happy!) I've been the human sponge, trying to absorb information and acronyms and just trying to remember people's names, but my brain is pretty much full at this point. For the second night in a row, last night I fell asleep with teeth unbrushed and all the lights on. I intend to sleep a whole heapin' helpin' this weekend.

However, before flopping into dreamless sleep, I made a detour yesterday evening. Ms. Homebody ventured out in the cold, nasty rain after work (reminder: read the damn weather reports - an umbrella and a jacket would have been helpful yesterday) to join up with other folks at the Blogger Meetup at Pharaoh's in Adams-Morgan. I was tickled pink to finally meet the lovely and talented Always Write, along with some very cool gents, including Martin (who listened to all my goofy stories), Alex (to whom I apologize for not having been a sparkling conversationalist), and Rob, the ringleader of the group.

Also there, and a real pleasure to meet, was Frank Warren, the man behind PostSecret. He brought a copy of the new PostSecret book and a tin of real, genuine postcards for us to see. That was amazing. Turns out Frank digs AVAM and photobooths, too. I told him my story of meeting up with the jilted girlfriend in the booth in the basement of AVAM.

Coolness. And well worth crawling out from under my rock.

I'll have to crawl out more often.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Please tell me, y'all - if you have HBO, y'all are watching "Rome"? Right? If not, you should be doing just that.

This scene in the arena simply kicked ass. It really did. And it made me get teary-eyed. Teary-eyed over blood and guts in the arena? Aye, citizen, it turned me into a right wussy girl. When I thought our good men of the 13th, Pullo and Vorenus, were going to buy it, I had a moment. I will miss this show when it ends next week.


This whole having a job thing...

...certainly gets in the way of one's blogging. (Not that I'm complaining.)

Last night, I got home, ate dinner, took a shower, got in comfy sweats, sat down on the sofa, closed my eyes... and I blinked and it was 11:30 at night. Then, of course, I was up until 2. Grrr.

Tonight, I'm forcing myself to wash the dishes, do some laundry and stay awake until 11, and only then will I allow myself to collapse into the Sleep of the Damned. I'm sure once my body gets back on track with the rhythm of a day job, all will be well, but for now, I am the Zombie Queen, koo koo ka choo.

I started telling weird life stories at work today. Usually that's the kiss of death for me, but, for once, I'm working in a place where many of the employees have weirder stories than I do. I look like an utter amateur compared to most of them.

Bring it on, I say. Bring it on. Can't wait to hear about more cool adventures.

Tomorrow, I'll hopefully be recording another piece for WAMU, after work. It's a Thanksgiving piece, to run the Friday after Turkey Day (I think.) I cover some of my classic childhood memories. For the sake of propriety, I left out one of the best ones - the year one of my sisters baked an apple pie for dessert while stoned out of her gourd. She overfilled the pie pan so high with filling, the crust was stretched to it's limits over this enormous, bulbous affair. Instead of cutting vents into the behemoth, she carved the name "JIMMY HOFFA." My father was not amused. My sister has no recollection of this Thanksgiving incident. I, however, have a Polaroid photo of the finished product. Heh heh heh...

I'm excited that I'll still be able to keep doing commentaries, even with the day job. Yeehaw and whoo-hoo!

Hand turkeys for everyone!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hello, Dalai!

Today was my first day at the new job. Very hectic, very busy - I can guarantee that I won't have a moment to be bored, that's for sure.

This afternoon, I had to go to the basement of the building to get my ID photo taken. As I'm sitting on this lonely little bench, I see a Secret Service guy enter the narrow hallway, wire in ear, familiar lapel pin marking his status. I had no idea what was up - was the president dropping by?

Then, I saw a Buddhist monk.

And I knew.

Moments later, walking slowly and silently through the hall, came the Dalai Lama. I just about passed out. He had a small entourage of monks and a group of Secret Service men with him, all draped in white prayer scarves. As he approached where I sat, he smiled broadly, leaned over to me and waved. "Hello! How are you?" His voice was incredibly cheerful and warm.

I did my best "deer in headlights" imitation. "Helloooo!" I waved back. His smile widened and his eyes crinkled.

And, with that, he was gone, down the corridor, his quiet delegation following in his wake.

Holy crow, Batman! I was greeted by the Dalai Lama on my first day of work.

Seriously, that has got to be a good omen, right?

This is also a reminder that I really, really, really need to carry my camera with me all the dang time.

Really, really.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


This is a post for the Sasquatch who complained today that he was "tired of the artist's rendering of God" at the top of my blog. Fine. (Mind you, I'm taking this from a guy who's posted an average of 6 posts a month since February. Nice.)

So, bubba, this is what you get instead: lemurs. A shitload of lemurs. I hope you're happy.

Back when I worked at American Embassy Moscow, I handled diplomatic customs and shipping for all our freight, including the personal effects of Marines coming from other posts...

We had a Marine in Moscow who previously had been posted at our embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The shipping office at Embassy Antananarivo was so incredibly incompetent, it took more than six months for them to ship this dude's effects to us in Moscow.

Plus, they mislabeled his stuff, and, instead of going into the duty-free diplomatic pouch, it arrived as commercial freight, and I had to call in a lot of favors to get it released without hefty fines or a big bribe.

After that fiasco, my boss and I determined that the embassy shipping office in Antananarivo was actually staffed by lemurs, who could not really be blamed for their lack of knowledge in matters of diplomatic cargo.

The photo above, indeed, could be the head shipping clerk at our embassy in Madagascar.

John Cleese digs lemurs.

In fact, the University of Zurich just named a lemur for him, the avahi cleesei, a tiny leaf-eating critter. Perhaps Cleese can teach them some solid management techniques and get our shipping office up to snuff.

So, Squatchito, does this beat the Sistine Chapel?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Intercepted Communique:
A Message from God to Pat Robertson

Pat? Pat Robertson?

Yeah, uh, Pat...

This is God.

You know, God the Almighty. God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Top of that Holy Trinity pyramid. Yeah, Pat. That God.

The Lord, Thy God
(Artist's rendering)

I've been watching you and listening to you for some time now, and I have some thoughts I'd like to discuss with you.

No, no - don't bother to sit down. This won't take long.

You see, I have a lot of other people to watch out for. Ones that haven't become fat and rich and smarmy by claiming to have my hotline number. They're the ones who actually need me, but I can see you require a little bit of my patented Fire and Brimstone treatment, my son. For you have strayed far from the path, and your false righteousness... well, it's really started to offend me.

I'm not sure where to begin with you, Pat. There are so many challenges to my continued love of you as one of my children.

Considering that I made women, just as I made men, and I gave them mighty nice and useful brains to clothe, feed, and defend themselves, I take exception to your suggestion that feminism - how was it you put it? - encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Ah yes, that was it.

Right, Pat?

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I really can't recall that many cases of infanticide being blamed on feminism. Can you provide me with some statistics, my child? In fact, it is with great sadness that I note cases like that of Andrea Yates, God-fearing stay-at-home mom who snapped and killed her five biblically-named children. Her husband, a true Christian, has abandoned his ruined wife and is looking forward to finding another God-fearing woman he can keep at home, tending the hearth, popping out a pile more Bible Babies for him. I don't think feminism made Andrea crack, Pat. I just don't think so.

As for witchcraft, I can't say much. After all, you do believe I created the Heavens and the Earth and everything therein, right, Pat? So I'll happily take the hit for the witches, son. I've been around a long time, and yet I haven't seen a whole lot of Wiccan crime out there. They've got a pretty good common sense moral code, like to celebrate the seasons I created, and treat the Earth with respect. (Not to go with stereotypes, but some of them also make mighty nice aromatherapy soap and Celtic knot jewelry.) Hey, it's more than many of my other children are doing.

(probably do not make nice aromatherapy soap)

I'm not even sure where to go with the "destroying capitalism" and "becoming lesbian" bits. I think those comments would come as a shock to the millions of straight, business-owning mothers in the United States and across the planet. If there's a sudden explosion of socialist lesbians from the center of the Earth, Pat, I'll pay you a nickel for each one that pops up.

I don't think you're going to get very rich.

Oh, and, taking your beliefs into account, I created all the socialist lesbians, too. Nice ladies. Maybe too many t-shirts with slogans, but that's just me.

And what was that mess back in 2003 when you suggested blowing up the State Department with a nuclear weapon? I can't even discuss that one with you. You made me weep at your lack of decency. I figured after that mess, you'd learn your lesson, zip your lip, and develop a sense of humility.

Sadly, I was mistaken. (And for a omniscent deity who's theoretically infallible, that's quite an admission, you know.)

You see, Pat, you had to open your mouth this summer and suggest that the United States assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Nice words from someone who cherishes my love and forgiveness so much. (Or so you say.) I was really embarrassed for you when you outright lied and claimed to have never said those words. I felt shame for you. Genuine shame. Had you owned up to your un-Christian ideas, I would have found it easier to embrace you. But you are, in truth, a pompous windbag. I'm your Heavenly Father, Pat, so I have to be straight with you.

When, exactly did you lose your way? And when, pray tell, did you grow those undeservedly economy-sized testicles?

Why am I asking?

Well, Pat. I saw what you said to the good people of Dover, Pennsylvania today. Because the citizens of Dover chose to not re-elect a school board that wanted to include intelligent design in their curriculum, you suggested that Dover had "voted God out." You said that, if Dover experienced a disaster, they should not turn to me.

The Self-Righteous Weasel in Question

Pardon my language, Pat, but where the Hell do you get the nerve - and the authority - to speak on my behalf? And where the Hell do you get the right to tell good people - people who are concerned about the lives and education of their children - that they are condemned for supporting science?

Not everyone in America is a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew, Pat. Not everyone believes the Bible shows the way the Earth was created. I was the only one there, my foolish boy, and I'm not telling. Let my generations of scientists try to suss it out with their brilliant research. Let there be healthy debate between science and religion.

But don't take religion into the classroom in America, Pat. And don't use me as a way to frighten and bully people into accepting your twisted version of me and of Christianity.

I respect that whole Church and State Thing. You should, too.

It's time for you to get your house in order, Pat. It's time for you to stop putting your words in my mouth.

Once, someone asked my child the Dalai Lama why there was so much war and violence in Buddhist countries. With a laugh, the good Lama replied, "There are a lot of bad Buddhists."

I guess, Pat, I can only laugh when I look at you. For when people ask me why a child of mine, one with money and power and the ability to reach so many people speaks with such hate, in my name, I can only say, "There are a lot of bad Christians."

Knock it off, Pat. For the love of... well, for the love of Me! Stop being an idiot, or I will give you the Mother of All Ass Kickings. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? Cakewalk, baby. Cakewalk.

Shape up, my son. And learn to keep your big mouth shut.

Veterans Day

WWI veterans have dwindled to a tiny few. WWII veterans, like Holocaust survivors, fade from our world every day - and with them, the last eyewitnesses to the last clear cut battle of good versus evil in our modern world vanish.

My nieces (Nurse Rachet's daughters) visit my parents in the
National Cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal, Memorial Day 2005.

Never forget. Never, ever forget. And offer grateful thanks. And remember those who were bidden to fight in "police actions" and other ill-conceived excuses for war. For their service to country, they have - and continue to - suffer for the misbegotten aims of foolish politicians and fear mongers. Never, ever forget them.

Never forget, but always move forward.
Thanks, Mom.

I'm untouchable... in every way...

BBC America has some pretty funky comedies on late at night:

this is an audio post - click to play

I will have to see if this show was released on Region 1 DVD format. If Netflix has it, I'm adding it to my queue...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Edmund Fitzgerald (30 years on)

Pirate Twin commented on my entry about ballads that today marks 30 years since the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in terrible weather on Lake Superior.

In reading this CNN.com story about the wreck and the Gordon Lightfoot song, I was amazed by this figure: 6,000 ships have disappeared in the Great Lakes.

6,000 ships.

It's hard to imagine 6,000 ships scattered at the bottom of the Great Lakes - and with them, the remains of many crew members, surely. A ghost fleet, silent and dark, moored at lake bottom.


Oops: A Correction

The Sasquatch just told me that the Atomic Editor is only 39. (At least the mocking bigfoot thinks so.) I was mortified, having aged the Editor dude before his time. I said I'd better take the birthday entry down, as the Editor probably wouldn't appreciate his premature turn of decade. The Sasquatch disagreed. He enjoyed the entry. I said the Editor wouldn't.

Replied the Sasquatch, laughing, "Eh, close enough! Fuck 'im!"

Ahhhh, the things only long time friends can get away with saying. Just remember, AE, that was the Squatchito who wanted you to stay old. Not me.

So, AE, my apologies for blowing the birthday greetings.

Gonzomantis - you're turning 40 for sure. No reprieve for you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I forgot something else...

For I am a bonehead.

This week, two of my friends turn 40: the Atomic Editor and Gonzomantis. The good Mr. Editor and I met our first day of classes at Macalester College. We were both taking Elementary Russian I, taught by the Kinky Finn.

The Atomic Editor is a genius, and I don't say that lightly. He's the finest type of intellectual - one who can, with true authority, explain the mess that is Middle East one minute and quote Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Aqua Teen Hunger Force the next. We need more talking heads like this on CNN, thank you very much. The Editor has, on occasion been called in for TV and radio interviews to discuss his areas of expertise. He makes a point of NOT informing the Sasquatch or me of these events in advance. He's afraid we will call in and make his life difficult (which, of course, we would, but god, it would be so much fun!)

The Sasquatch and I got to see the Atomic Editor and his Atomic Spouse this weekend when they did a swing through DC. We ate barbecue until we almost exploded and we gave the Editor his birthday gift of vintage sci-fi magazines. It was a pretty damn good evening.

The Editor's birthday was yesterday. I hope he had a very good one, indeed.

Gonzomantis, on the other hand, has a couple of days yet before he becomes old and decrepit like the Editor and I already are. The G Man has been friends with the Sasquatch since dinosaurs ruled the earth. (More or less.) They were friends back in Nebraska, and then roommates at Macalester. I met the Sasquatch and Gonzomantis at the beginning of my sophomore year. They lived next door to one of my freshman year friends. Eventually, my treks to see that friend became a good excuse to visit the gentlemen down the hall. Gonzomantis was the first person I ever knew who had a CD player. I thought he was a god. Between the G Man and the Sasquatch, my musical tastes were dramatically expanded. (The Sasquatch made me tapes of a whole lotta music that year. I still have most of them, labeled in the Squatch's distinctive hand.)

Now, Gonzomantis is a respectable family man in Minnesnowta, with a lovely spouse and two cute kidlets. Every once in a while, he comes out here to DC to harass the Sasquatch, and I get to join in poking the bigfoot. It's fun. One night, when the G Man was visiting the Sasquatch several years ago, we ended up at the we-only-hire-Ralph-Lauren-models-for-waitstaff White Flint branch of the Cheesecake Factory. I have no recollection of why, but Gonzomantis and I started laughing over something, and it became one of those uncontrollable, laugh-until-tears-stream-down-your-face moments. God, I wish I remembered what was so funny. I love laughing like that - it's incredibly liberating and feels so good.

I don't get to see Gonzomantis very often - the last time I encountered him was at the Atomic Couple's wedding last October. He is, and I say this with all seriousness, a good man. He's smart, funny, handsome, and just a decent guy. I wish him a great birthday on the 12th - I hope it's a day spent having fun with his family and friends. Have a good one, Gonzo!

So, gentlemen, this is for you:

Two 40th birthdays equals one 80th, right?

Okay, so my math may be a little off there. The thought's still the same. Happy birthday, guys! Big hugs to you both.

I forgot...

Leaving Potomac Mills last night, I saw a wonderful neon mess at the local Jennifer Leather store. For those unfamiliar with Jennifer, it's a company that sells leather and convertible furniture. Most of the local neon store signs read as follows:


However, last night, the Woodbridge sign read simply:


Of course, Ms. Dork here didn't have her camera with her. This is the second time this week I've missed out on a great tasteless photo op. The other one came up a couple of days ago when I found myself behind a truck marked "SEWAGE". The company was called "King Throne" and advertised port-a-potty cleaning services. (Eeesh.) Their slogan, complete with little sparkling crowns: "Number One in a Number Two Business!"

Oy vey.

Seriously, I'm going to glue my camera to my hand.

You give me pale shelter

You give me cold hands.

Last night I trekked south on I-95 toward glorious Richmond, Cradle of the Confederacy. Except I stopped well before I reached Virginia's capital - a real snake pit of late, considering the acrimonious gubenatorial election that is now thankfully over. (When Hitler gets mentioned in campaign ads, you know it's bad.) I was bound for Potomac Mills, the outlet mall from hell. That place gives me a migraine even before I ever enter one of its various "neighborhoods."

Huh. Apparently they have a penny crusher at Potomac Mills. Shame I missed it. The Sasquatch collects squished pennies. Sorry. Elongated coins. That's the technical term.

I needed shoes - specifically work shoes that don't look like they should be worn by an 85-year-old named Gladys Kravitz. I have funky feet with weird bone structure, and they're jumbo cow feet, to boot. This means that, if a mall has 15 shoe stores, the likelihood that I will find even one pair of office-appropriate shoes to cover my tootsies is, well... NIL. Zilch. Zip. Nada. I've been to countless shoe stores in recent weeks, and I've had no success at all. Yeah, I can mail order shoes, but I hate the thought of having to deal with returns and losing out on shipping costs if the damn things don't fit. It's a pain in the patoot, and I just didn't want to go through that crap this time.

So, I made the trek to the 7th Level of Shopping Hell, the big-ass Virginia outlet mall. Driving there from Maryland requires negotiation of the horrific Springfield Mixing Bowl, the Mother of All Bad Road Work. The Mixing Bowl is an evergrowing boondoggle road improvement project that, since its inception in 1994, has cost nearly $1 billion (it was supposed to be $220 million) and several lives. It's a disaster, and I hate driving through it in good weather and broad daylight. Just my luck tonight - it started pouring rain while I was still on the Beltway, playing "Auto Ballet" with idiots who apparently have no turn signals. By the time I hit the Mixing Bowl, my head was killing me (admittedly, it's been bugging me since the whole Bambi Incident two nights back) and I figured I'd made a colossal mistake in coming out at all.

But I was a woman in need of footwear. I had a mission. And I would not be deterred. I'm not a great shopper, by the way. I get terrible headaches if I stay in a mall too long. I call it "mall head." I shop like a man. I know what I want, and I like to shop commando raid-style. Surgical Strike Shopping. In, buy, out. Then, go and feed or at least sit in a coffee shop and ponder the successful hunt.

After all the crazy driving with the morons on I-95 South, I am happy to report that Madame Clown Feet successfully procured not only one, but three pairs of shoes suitable for her huge feet - at the only store in Potomac Mills where I've ever found shoes to fit me before. (One of those "brand name discount good luck if you find anything" shops.) Okay, so it was the same pair of shoes, but it came in black, navy, and dark brown, all in a lovely soft leather. And they were on clearance for $29 a pair. Done. Finito. Now let's get the hell out of this consumer nightmare!

Of course, you're probably wondering now, after reading all this crap about shoe-shopping, why the hell I titled this with a line from an old Tears For Fears song. I figure if you'd read in this far, you deserve some explanation. In my car, the Crapmobile, I have several boxes of audio cassettes. Most of them are pretty old - some of them bootlegs I picked up in Thailand a gazillion years ago (someone tell me why I bought a 10-baht bootleg of "Johnny Hates Jazz"?) and some of them mix tapes I've made or been given over the years.

Until last night, I still had a tape called "John's Music" that was made for me by a guy I had a very bad crush on my first year in college. As usual (and as happened with every guy I liked in college), he only wanted me as the "fat girl buddy." (Continuing story of my life.) I thought he was really, really hot. Turns out, he was actually just really, really crazy. Bullet dodged. Although, back then, I was traumatized that he didn't want me, especially when a fun evening in my dorm room turned into him making out with my next door neighbor. Which, in turn, led to my introduction to drinking screwdrivers, courtesy of a more worldly (and inebriated) chick down the hall. Aaaand, eventually, led to me worshipping the porcelain god for the first alcohol-induced time in my life. (I was a late bloomer. In fact, I'm still waiting to really bloom.)

But, before all the mess, John made me a tape of his favorite music. Remember, this was 1985, so there's a lot of cheesy new wave and really bad goth stuff on this tape. In a random tape grab the other day, I popped that one in, and I found that most of John's favorite music sucked. His teenage tastes have not stood the test of time, unless you are an aging Circe Nightshade or Azrael Abyss, Prince of Sorrow, and you're still working at Cinnabun...

I think John may have had that hair at one point.
No. Wait. Now, I'm just being mean.

Lord knows, there's a pile of brilliant new wave stuff from that year and some excellent goth-y stuff, too. John just didn't find it. He found and embraced crap. So, reaching around for any old tape in the dark last night, I ended up grabbing "John's Music" again. I didn't know what I'd gotten until the first horrid tune started up. Ugh. How is it that the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union collapsed, but this piece of shit still existed? And why in god's name had I not destroyed it in some sort of ritual years ago?

So, there I was last night, cruising up 95 in the Crapmobile, listening to StinkFest 1985 in the rain. I think there was a measure of divine intervention at work, for somewhere into the third awful song, the tape committed hari kari. I heard some sort of unpleasant warbling sound that wasn't pouring out of a poor man's Siouxsie and with that, the tape ejected, drooling two decades of horribly abused magnetic tape all over my cup holder.

And thus, the era of John, college non-boyfriend Numero Uno, came to an official end, twenty years later than it should have. Not with a bang, but a warped whimper.

So I reached into the tape pile again, hoping for a better outcome. This time, I was successful - I had retrieved "Moscow Mix #1." When I first arrived in Moscow in 1989, one of the first things I did was to make a mix tape to commemorate the beginning of this weird adventure. I had a first generation CD player and a banged up Teac dual tape deck. (I still have it. It looks like someone took a sledgehammer to it, yet it's still up on top of my stereo cabinet.) I didn't have a lot of music back then, but what I had, I still like now, and I'm glad this tape hasn't bitten the dust.

In the darkness and rain last night, I heard Natalie Merchant sing "Like The Weather" and Sting go on about "An Englishman In New York." I felt my headache fading away, and I thought back on that time - uncertain about the future, but ready for just about anything. I rolled down my window and put my left hand out, loving the feeling of the cold rain on my skin. As I was pulling up to my apartment, Tears For Fears pounded out of my speakers.

How can I be sure ?
When your intrusion is my illusion
How can I be sure
When all the time you changed my mind
I asked for more and more
How can I be sure?

My cell phone rang. It was a friend calling to say that he wouldn't be around for Thanksgiving, after all. Was that okay? Of course it was. I was delighted he would be traveling to see a friend he hadn't seen in years. Pretty excellent deal. I don't control my friends' social agendas, I said. Thanksgiving alone would be okay. Of course, I laughed, I'd just written a radio commentary on Thanksgiving, and how much I loved it, and how it didn't matter where you were or what you ate, as long as you were with people you cherished. How ironic.

Stupidly, I was suddenly depressed. I was really happy that my friend would be spending the holiday with a good friend, long unseen. How could I not be? I was quietly envious that he had enough money to buy an airline ticket this close to the holiday, I'm ashamed to say. But, more than envious, I was again faced with the realization that I was on my own again. And I was tremendously, lamely sad.

When you don't give me love
You gave me pale shelter
You don't give me love
You give me cold hands
And I can'’t operate on this failure
When all I want to be is
Completely in command

I ejected the cassette and turned off the engine. I was cold. My left hand looked chapped from hanging out the window in the rain.

You give me cold hands.

Weird, isn't it, that three minutes on the phone can change your mood from bright to dark? I wish I wasn't that fragile. I get excited over dumb things that really don't mean that much to other people. And then I get crushed when meaningless things are discarded. It's a childlike, perhaps childish, response. I really wish I could be stronger.

Someday. Maybe.

Ballads, anyone?

I'd love to make a mix cd (or a mix tape - my mutant 1999 Ford Escort does not have - nor can it be altered to hold - a cd player) of good ballads for long car trips. And by "ballad" I really do mean good songs that tell a story, not long, drawn out sappy crap described as ballads by pop radio.

So far I have:

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
The City of New Orleans (Arlo Guthrie's cover of the Steve Goodman song)

Not a long list yet, but I'm working on it. Any suggestions? I have no idea when I'm next taking a long car trip (that would require moolah and a destination), but, ever the Girl Scout, I like to be prepared. Oh, wait. Damn. That's the Boy Scouts, isn't it? Well, same idea.

Whenever I think of a Warren Zevon song - even one as demented as "Roland" - I get a little bummed out. He came to DC a number of times in the decade before his death, and I foolishly never went to see him. Going to movies alone is one thing - got no problem with that. Going to clubs to hear music alone - it seems a little sad to me. I should have gotten over it and gone to see him. After he died, I found myself listening to "A Quiet Normal Life" quite a bit, and I'd get choked up listening to one of my fave songs, "Johnny Strikes Up The Band."

Enjoy every sandwich.

He was a hell of a songwriter and a storyteller. Before I knew anything about Zevon's family background, I said to somebody that he reminded me of the Russian balladeers. Russia has a pretty amazing, centuries-old tradition of ballady. It all goes back to the real-deal medieval balladeers who traveled and told stories to share news of victories and defeats to people who would never otherwise know what was going down in distant cities. Then, shortly before Zevon died, I read that he was the Chicago-born son of Russian immigrants, and it all fell into place for me. The art of the balladeer, the gift of the troubadour, was in his DNA.


Okay. I look to y'all for suggestions. I'm looking for great songs that tell a story. Let me know what you'd put in this mix.

Muchas gracias, amoebas!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spaghetti Legs

I just hit a deer. Thank god, thank god, thank god, I was only going 15 miles an hour. I was cresting the tiny hill on the narrow residential street in my neighborhood - the deer bolted out in front of me from between two cars. I hit my brakes as hard as I could, but his entry into the street matched my passing precisely. I smacked him and knocked him down, and time slowed down. I could feel the strength go right out of my legs, my hands started shaking, and my breathing sped up. I put on my hazards and tried to step out of my car, but my legs were too wobbly.

Strangely, for 5:30 in the evening, the street was empty - no cars coming by. No pedestrians walking from the Metro. Had anyone seen this, I'm sure they would have come over to see if the deer and I were okay. While I sat there, trying to get some power in my legs, the deer stood up. He was big. Really big. Both he and I are lucky I wasn't going full speed up the hill.

Damn, damn lucky.

He seemed stunned, and he turned and stared at me as if to say, "You idiot! Didn't you know I was going to bolt out right then and there, on a dark street, between parked cars?" And with that, he was off. I moved my car down to the condo office parking lot to see what damage had been done. Miraculously, my car doesn't have a single scrape. Just a bent license plate (which was in bad shape anyway), and a tuft of hair caught in my right front light assembly.

Lucky impact angle. Lucky me. Lucky deer.

I've wondered when I'd finally have a deer encounter, seeing as they are always hovering around my building, looking vaguely lost. Now I've had one, and my hands are still shaking, and my legs are still wobbly, and my neck hurts, and I don't need any more deer encounters, please sir, thank you very much.

Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky...

Be careful, y'all. The deer are more insane than ever this season.


A post only a geek could love

So, if you're not one, you can probably ignore this and live happily.

On Saturday, the Sasquatch and I trekked to Frederick, Maryland (aka "Fredneck"), home of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and Barbara Fritchie's Candystick Restaurant (see "Crummy But Good" on that link for more info.) The Candystick is the home of the orgasmic hot apple dumpling. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. It's quite something.

This picture could have been taken 30 years ago or yesterday.
This place is bizarrely timeless.

But we trekked to Frederick this time not to learn about Civil War embalming techniques or to eat of the mind-and-body-altering desserts. We were on a mission. The Atomic Editor shortly turns 40, and we were bound to Wonder Book, one of the most astounding used bookstores I've ever seen, to procure the boy a birthday gift. The Atomic Editor digs vintage sci-fi, and Wonder Book has a pile of awesome old sci-fi magazines from the 1950s and 60s (plus more from the 70s and 80s.)

This is a great little museum. Be sure to visit it if you're ever in Frederick.
I was going to use an actual picture of Civil War embalming, but I figured that no one really needed me to spoil their morning coffee break with that. Seriously. Not pretty.

The Sasquatch and I had discovered Wonder Book on a recent trek to Hagerstown with the bigfoot's lovely girlfriend, the Scandahoovian. We were bound for an outlet mall (I was on my never-ending quest for attractive, work-appropriate shoes to fit my giant clown feet), and we stopped at a Maryland visitor center/rest area on I-70. As we pulled in, the Sasquatch and I had the same creepy realization - this was the rest area where a truck driver discovered the crazy-ass DC snipers, snoozing in their Chevy Caprice murdermobile. Once our "oog factor" wore off, we stopped in the visitor center and, among the 8 million glossy brochures touting overpriced vacation spots, we found a simple yellow flyer advertising Wonder Book.

Never ones to pass up secondhand books, we headed to Wonder Book's main Frederick location, after we finished the Bataan Outlet Mall Death March (where, of course, I found not a single goddamned pair of shoes to fit my economy-sized feet.) The Sasquatch and I were pretty excited about the possibility of digging through racks of dusty tomes. The Scandahoovian kindly put up with our mania. (Also, she had no choice - we were about an hour from home, and the Sasquatch was driving.)

From their less-than-wonderful website. They need some design help. STAT!

And so, in the back of the enormous store, stacked in wobbly piles on the floor, I found the vintage science fiction magazines. Most of them I knew from my childhood - Analog, Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, IF... My mother subscribed to most of them and read each story voraciously. I read most of them when she was done. (I still remember, when I was living in Moscow, my mom calling me from Illinois one night, wanting to discuss an article from Analog about quantum mechanics. She thought the whole concept was utterly fascinating.)

Back in 1978, Stephen King started offering up some novella submissions to Fantasy & Science Fiction, all about this Gunslinger fellow. In fact, the October 1978 issue of F&SF was the very first time Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, saw the light of day. Over five more issues, the first full story of Roland played out, and now, fans of the books search high and low to find copies of these magazines, to own the First True Edition of The Gunslinger. When I went to Wonder Book a month ago with my two compatriots, I thought I had scoured all the shelves and stacks of old magazines, looking for The Gunslinger. Alas, I had found nothing.

So, on Saturday, once again, I found myself faced with those stacks, this time hunting for choice gifts for the Atomic Editor's impending natal day (and we found some awesome gems for him.) The more recent magazines, from the late 70s, the 80s, and the 90s carried a low price tag - the vintage mags held a much greater value (and usually cheesier and more sexist covers.) Even though I was sure I had scanned all the magazines well on the previous trip, I felt I had to look once more at the Fantasy & Science Fiction copies. Heck, maybe I'd missed something.

Turns out, I had. The very first magazine I plucked from the shelf featured one of the Roland stories. The magazine was in mint condition and cost all of ninety-five cents. I think I may have been bouncing up and down like a possessed pogo stick. Yeah, if you're not an utter geek for The Gunslinger, this isn't going to grab you and swing you around. That's okay. For me, though, good lord... it felt pretty good.

I loves mah Gunslinger. Oh yes, I do.

But the Sasquatch was about to feel a whole lot better. You see, I'd missed one shelf of magazines altogether on our last trip, and there, in the middle of that shelf, the sharp-eyed arboreal giant found The Mother of All Gunslinger Relics. The Holy Grail of Roland Stuff. He'd found a copy of the October 1978 Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. The very, very, very first printing of The Gunslinger. The Sasquatch held it up in victory, and I nearly passed out.

Jeezus, we sound like some sort of pasty skinned geek freaks, don't we? Oh hell, who cares. It was a great little moment. I swear to god. And again, this one was only ninety-five cents. Honestly, we almost forgot we were there to gather our friend's birthday gifts. So greedy were we to find more, we actually drove down the road to Kinko's to go online and look up the publication dates of the other stories. We returned to the store with cheat sheets, looking for other Gunslinger booty. Alas, it was not meant to be. But that's okay. We found a gem in the most unlikely of places, and it warmed our little pasty geek hearts.

How excited were we? The Sasquatch documented our victory with his camera:

The Dork Squad visits Frederick, Maryland. Note my cheesy, toothy grin.
Yeah, we may be utter goofballs, but we could have worse vices that used books and old science fiction magazines.

Oh, and forgive my hair and my blotchy face, please. I know I look like crap, but I don't put on makeup or fix my hair when preparing for a day of digging through dusty old books.

The Sasquatch thinks he looks old.

I think he looks just fine. Just fine, indeed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Now that it's all official, I can say...



Autumn leaves

I love my digital camera - a Nikon CoolPix 950. By this year's standards, my camera is bulky and doesn't have enough megapixels for the hip crowd. It also doesn't shoot movies. But I don't care. It takes a nice, clear picture, and, if my hand isn't shaking too much, I like the results.

I'm sad to say, I still don't know enough about the capabilities of my Nikon, but, given time, I'll be able to do more with it. There are some absolutely gorgeous trees in my neighborhood, still in full autumn scream. I think I'm going to go out and shoot some pictures before the leaves are all gone.

Just driving by a couple of days ago, I snapped these two shots of one of the trees.

Doesn't look like the same tree, does it? I love how light and angles can make such a profound difference in the final result.

Yep. I need to go take more tree pictures. Now.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Up in the headlines section of CNN.com right now:

Riots in Paris.

Scooter Libby pleads not guilty.

Joey Buttafuoco is selling protein shakes in Hollywood.

Whaaa? Yep. That's headline news for ya. Joey Buttafuoco is running a craft services company serving up goodies to the Desperate Housewives. This is major news? Did the war end in Iraq? How the hell did I miss that?

The face that launched a thousand health shakes. Yeaaaah, right.
Nicollette Sheridan needs a nectarine-kiwi smoothie! STAT!

Someone at CNN.com needs to be slapped. And slapped hard.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Visit the Chairborne Stranger

I followed a link from Always Write's blog a while back because I found the name very witty: Chairborne Stranger. Turned out, Chairborne is an American soldier in Iraq, and he's a pretty good writer, too. Please visit his blog - get a view from the ground that most of us will never experience firsthand.

Decadence, nervous energy, and Peruvian food

I had a really excellent birthday yesterday. I set my alarm for 6:30, so I would be wide awake for my brother to call from Germany. He tends to call me somewhere in the 7 a.m. hour, so I wanted to sound semi-alert. Sure enough, 7:15, he's on the line. Apparently, he sent me a box a while ago, but it still hasn't arrived. He made some comment about hoping it wouldn't be moldy when it arrives. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My oldest sister called an hour later from her cell phone, which kept breaking up. I got every fifth word or so before finally just giving in the static. She sang, which was pretty hilarious, since all I heard was HA-- RTH-- OO-- OO. Hey, it's the thought that counts, not the mobile performance.

But the thing that grabbed me most was the Hallmark e-card I got from the Sasquatch's mom. I know that, if my mom were still here, hers would have been the first call of the day, with her off-kilter warbling of "Happy Birthday" and a query if I'd received her check for $40. (Grown up kids just got a check in a dollar amount matching their years on the planet.) But that was not to be. Instead, I got a sweet card from MomSquatch. And I cried. (And I'm crying again now, big wuss that I am.)

Back in 1968, MomSquatch really wanted a "SLOW CHILDREN PLAYING" sign for their Omaha neighborhood, but the city council gave her this instead.

Once I got my act back together, I opened the Amazon.com parcel that had arrived the night before. I am delighted to say that the fabulous Mr. and Mrs. Atomic Editor (aka the Atomic Couple) sent me the whole DVD set of the brilliant old UK sci-fi series UFO. UFO kicks ass. I watched the show with my mother back in the day, and I haven't seen it in three decades. The Atomic Couple rock.

The Alasko-American, knowing my particular caffeine kink, got me a gift card from Mayorga Coffee, so I can keep mainlining Cafe Cubano. God bless those who support our legal addictions. My sister, Nurse Rachet, is very jealous. No good Cafe Cubano in West Chicken Farm, Illinois. I remind her of this on a regular basis. (I am cruel.)

Most of the day was spent waiting and hoping for a phone call about The Anticipated Job. No such luck, but another of my references was called late in the day. This is a Good Thing. A Very Good Thing. (And here's hoping for news today.)

I think my favorite e-card of the day had to be the one from Gonzomantis. It featured two frogs, one playing a banjo, the other playing guitar. The one playing guitar immediately loses the pick inside the guitar. This made me roar with laughter, as I have hideous eye-hand coordination, and, if a guitar is placed in my hands, I will have the pick bouncing around inside that damn thing in mere seconds. Good call, Gonzo, my boy.

The best part of the day was dinner with the Sasquatch. He gave me the new Depeche Mode cd (very cool) and we ended up going to a Peruvian place in Rockville called Inka's Empire. It looks utterly tacky from the outside, complete with seizure-inducing, blinking lights on a plastic-plant-covered trellis and a poster for some bedroom-eyed singer named Valentino. But, once you got past that (and the mirrored walls inside, and the strangely framed Peruvian masks on one wall, next to the big American flag), the food was pretty damn good. We split an appetizer that looked like a football - it was mashed potato, filled with ground beef, funky cheese, and olives. (Well, olive, singular, actually.) Pretty damn tasty. We both had lomo saltado for our entree. Lomo saltado is Peruvian for "mighty tasty beef dish", I do believe. (And I'm waiting for the phone to ring and the Sasquatch to call me a moron for having written that last sentence. I wait with much amusement. Make the Spanish speaker's teeth grind, heh heh heh...)

The evening was wrapped up with a trek to Tower Records, aka "the only show in town after 10 p.m. on a Tuesday." I picked up a copy of the horribly expensive drool-fest magazine American Bungalow (a girl may be broke, but she can still dream, eh?) and the surprisingly good new Echo & the Bunnymen cd, Siberia. (They may have sucked rocks in recent performances in the U.S., but the cd is solid, old school Echo.)

While wandering the aisles, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of a new Pet Shop Boys cd. I'm usually on top of such things, but, frankly, I've been out of touch recently. What can I say? Turns out, the boys have written a score for Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film "Battleship Potemkin." I'll be damned. I gave it a listen, and, frankly, it was pretty good. It was an import only, and quite pricey (like everything at Tower), so I didn't pick it up. When I'm re-employed, I may have to buy that sucker. I have a copy of "Potemkin", and I'd get a real kick out of watching it with the Boys playing in the background. Until then, I'll just listen to my old Boys cds. Left to my own devices, I probably would...

Yeah, it was a pretty good day. Nice way to start a fresh decade.