Sunday, October 31, 2004

Kids and Wigs

My first Halloween living in a non-college town, in a family neighborhood, and in a house meant there was no way to avoid being bombarded by greedy, candy-demanding children. I planned ahead, buying several bags of assorted treats, hoping to keep them at bay and defend my house from juvenile attack. But I failed to take into consideration that I live in Utah, were the average family has at least 20 children. They came in droves, swarms, mobs, with their pudgy little hands outstretched, bags open wide, and fervent expressions on their faces. I could not keep up. At one point, and I kid you not, no less than 40 children showed up simultaneously at my doorstep. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. It was more like 37 or 38. I thought they’d never stop coming. I became less generous in my offerings. Two or three fun-sized candy bars became only one candy bar, became half a candy bar, became a wrapper and slap on the face. In no time, they had completely cleaned me out.

There was nothing to do but turn off my porch light and leave. Luckily I had a party to attend and thus a valid excuse for my escape. Still, getting away from them was like driving through an obstacle course. These children have no fear of death. They dart out in front of cars, wearing black witch costumes that camouflage them in the darkness, then stop and stare like deer caught in headlights. They form long trains, crossing the street, leaving me to stew over thoughts of slamming on the gas and plowing right through them. Thank goodness for busy surface streets. Freedom!

The party was certainly one of the most interesting I’ve ever been to. It was a “live” Clue game. Everyone who was invited was to dress up like one of the characters from the 1988 Master Detective Clue edition, which has four more characters than regular Clue. I came as Monsieur Brunette, a French art dealer. I suppose it fit. I wore a brown wig (since I’m a blonde) and small beard. I doubt I have ever looked more metrosexual.

The game took place in a large, well decorated house that had recently been remodeled. The rooms in the game were based on the rooms in the house. A whole new game board was made, with a photo of each room. The weapons were real, and the character cards had the photos of those in attendance. Everyone looked the part, which made it rather fun. We played the game and it ended up being Mrs. White, with the revolver, in the master bedroom. I was off by one—I thought she did the deed with the lead pipe. But if I learned nothing else that night (and I didn’t), I learned that wigs suck. And so do fake beards. They are itchy, they are sticky, and they are hot. If ever I lose all my hair, I will not get a hairpiece. Bald is beautiful, as they say, and more importantly, bald is comfortable. The wig was worth it though; it was good party. Plus I got to threaten people with a candlestick. Life goal #302, fulfilled.

I'm supposed to look menacing. I just look sad.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Thursday Special

History has become a hobby of mine. I had no interest in it until I started studying African history at college and now I’m all over it, like a cop on a danish. Currently I'm enthralled with American history as the result of designing state history textbooks at work. American history is full of so many interesting characters that do all kinds of whacky things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slamming the Present. But let’s be honest: it can get old fast. How many times do we have to hear about Brittany Spear’s wedding and still pretend like we ever gave a damn?

Let’s do ourselves a favor and make Thursday “History Day” on Flying Backwards. Yes, let’s do that. Every Thursday I will be bringing you the story of someone from American history which I am particularly tickled with at the moment. This week: Mike Fink (1770-1823).

Mike was a bragger, a boaster. They just don’t make them like they used to. Nowadays, professional boasters all make rap videos with the sole intention of informing the world that they have oodles of bling, skanky-hoes, and currency coming out their orifices. We already know that. Boring!

In contast, Mike’s boasting was delightful. There was no substance to it, of course, but it definitely had kick. He was a keelboat man, who went up and down the rivers getting into fistfights, shootouts, and winning bragging contests. Here’s a boast that got written down:

“I'm a Salt River roarer! I'm a ring-tailed screamer from the ol' Massassip'! WHOOP! . . . I’m half wild horse and half cock-eyed alligator and the rest of me is crooked snags an’ red-hot snapping turtle. . . . I can out-run, out-jump, out-shoot, out-brag, out-drink, an' out-fight . . . any man on both sides of the river from Pittsburgh to New Orleans an' back again to St. Louiee.”

I think people should use the exclamation “WHOOP” more often. It has a nice ring to it. As for Mike, he ended up moving west and becoming a fur trapper. Not long after, he was killed in a fight. No one ever claimed he was very smart, but he could sure strut his stuff. Hats off to Fink, our historical figure of the week. WHOOP!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Electronic Voice Phenomena

This is the time of year when freaking yourself out is fun. There's all kinds of ways you can do it; going to a scary movie, telling stories by a campfire, watching election news coverage…lots of ways.

I don't get scared often, I just don't. True, I'll get scared in situations where old grannies slam on their breaks in front of me on the freeway and I think, "Oh my gawd, I'm going to die!" but not ghosts and goblins scared. Even watching a so-called scary movie like “The Ring,” I'm never really afraid. Startled at times, yes, but not afraid. I can be thoroughly caught up in the eeriness of the flick, but in the back of my mind I know that I'm sitting in a theatre with lots of other people, watching a fictional movie.

So I always look forward to something that can really freak me out. I was listening to a radio program recently and they had guests on from the Ghost Investigators Society. These people spend their free-time going to known “haunted” locations and recording ghost activity. Most of it is audio. They set up tape recorders in different rooms to try to record some EVP (electronic voice phenomena.) They claim they never hear anything while they're there, but afterwards, while going over the recording, they often hear voices. A lot of these recordings are up on their website, Some of the recordings are just freaky-weird; like when two of the ghost investigators are sitting by themselves in a graveyard with the tape recorder on, wrapped in blankets. One of them feels a tug on her blanket and she asks the other “Did you pull down the blanket?” and the other says, “No.” Then you distinctly hear a child's voice say, “I did.”

You know, this is all more disturbing than you realize. If ghosts keep talking after they're dead, some people will literally NEVER SHUT UP. Can you imagine Roseanne Barr haunting you? That loud, shrill voice endlessly complaining about white-trash nonsense. Who needs hell with that going on?

Of course, this all could easily be a hoax, and probably is. That doesn't stop it from being entertaining. If you'd like to spend an hour or two in the dark with your computer, it's a sure way to give yourself the willies. (Yes I know there are lots of easier ways to give yourself the willies, but watching J-Lo movies can get tiring.) Give this a try. Have fun with it. Get yourself spooked.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere

What is it about living in squalor that people find so attractive? What's so special about a broken birdcage or a box of dusty magazines? Why do some people feel like they have to hold on to every last thing they've ever acquired? There must be some part of the human brain that causes a person to be absurdly clingy, some kind of psychological defect that makes it impossible for a person to let go of old junk. Packrats are either neurotic or diseased, I can think of no other explanation.

On Saturday I helped an old woman move some of her junk from one storage unit to the other. She's a nice lady, although a bit on the pushy side, and as much as I'd rather have been doing something else on a Saturday morning, I felt obligated to help her. She has two mentally handicapped children who aren't much help and she can't lift anything herself. Her problem is she has way too much crap. Somehow she has managed to fill a gigantic storage unit with, for lack of a better description, boxed fecal matter. I did not find one thing in that mass of junk that could possibly benefit the woman anywhere down the line. But she will not let go. She insists she NEEDS every little thing. And the state of her apartment! It is stockpiled with junk. There is one narrow path leading from her front door, to her kitchen and down the hallway. The living room is filled to the brim, her counters stacked sky high. Let go, woman! Throwing away a broken appliance is not like sawing off a limb! You can do it. Try!

I have seen only one case worse than hers. This time from a man in Le Mans, France. The first time he invited me into his apartment, he could not open the door all the way. He shoved and shoved, and finally I could fit my skinny frame through the narrow opening. I was not prepared for what I would encounter on the other side. He is the sort I would expect to see on a daytime talk show program entitled, “I am a dirty slob.” It was almost unreal. Junk, EVERYWHERE. Piles, and piles and piles. Like a gigantic rat's nest, there were no doorways or halls, just tunnels through trash. I could not see the floor. Was there furniture? The smell!

He asked me to have a seat. I sat on a pile of newspapers, old mail, and expired medicine bottles. There was no rotting food I could see, nothing organic. But it was obvious he kept every non-perishable thing he had ever owned. At least he was embarrassed. At least he didn't seem content to keep living in that condition. It meant there was some hope for him.

I agreed to help. I came three Saturdays and gathered up junk, filling trash bag after trash bag after trash bag. When it was over, I had hardly made a dent and my motivation to help was sapped. He was impossible. I would find a crusty old rag, and as I reached to place it in the bag, he would stop me. “I can use that, I can wash that,” he would say. When he wasn't looking, I'd reach into the pile of “non-throwables” and put them in the trash bag. He didn't notice, usually. But when he did, he would get very irate. Then the opportunity would come less frequently. Those eyes, always on my back. “Ce n'est pas a jetter!,” he would croak (“That's not to be thrown away,”) as if I was desecrating some sacred jewel.

I could take it no longer. I felt sorry for him, wanted to help him. But hours of cleaning without much success tends to dishearten. I had to leave him on his own. I doubt he changed much after that. The trash pile must have continued to grow. Perhaps, after the neighbors complained too much about the smell, the police came by, opened the door, and were knocked back as trash collapsed onto them. Then they must have pushed their way in, cleared paths through the trash, searching for survivors. They would find nothing alive, nothing consequential. But I imagine before leaving they discovered beneath layers of trash, one telling item. A pile of soiled old clothes, and in them, bones.

Packrats of the planet, there is hope for you. It comes in plastic, aluminum and steel. You can choose from a variety of colors. It is called the trashcan. It can be your friend, your brother, your lover. It has the power to simplify your life, clean out the dusty corners of your soul. You must force yourself to let go. Find another vice. Take up smoking, it's cleaner. Discover heroine, it's quicker. Overeat, it's better for you. I refuse to clean another sty. I'm not that altruistic. You're on your own.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Moore's the Pity

Michael Moore came to Utah yesterday to unleash some of his famous rhetoric, you know, the kind that gets people all up in arms. What does he talk about that is so controversial? Who can say, but my money’s on gardening.

This all came just in time. Word on the street was that many Utahans were suffering from and outbreak of Offensanemia (severe deprivation from offense.) Seems people hadn't been appalled or offended in weeks and everyone knows that being offended is like ambrosia for Utahans. They feed on it, drink in its juices. If Moore hadn’t shown up to fire up some long-needed righteous indignation amongst the starving populace, who knows what could have happened. An epidemic, I expect. That Michael Moore, always caring.

You see, some students at Utah Valley State College invited ol’ Moore to stop by and give a speech. Moore is currently on a tour where he riles up “slackers” by offering them Raman noodles and underwear if they will go out and vote. But why bother with Utah, Mr. Moore? Utah is going to vote Republican. I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is here.

So, why try? Well, he did get $50,000 as a speaking fee, and heaven knows how many Twinkies that much money can buy him. If that’s not motivation, what is? And now people are angry. I can’t imagine why. If Republicans get to love Rush Limbaugh, why can’t the Democrats have their own angry fat man? But people were saying that 50k is way too much to pay. Mostly, they didn’t like the idea of a Liberal in Utah, sharing his filthy lies with impressionable students. An equal number of people were incensed at the first set of people. How dare anyone try to squelch free speech! All ideas should be shared and respected and whatnot. There you go: instant controversy.

To calm some of the outrage, and keep things “fair and balanced” (like that’s important), the UVSC student council also invited conservative talk show host and known douche-bag Sean Hannity to speak. Hannity came a couple weeks prior to Moore and didn’t charge ANYTHING for his blather. Too bad he left a $40,000 travel bill. Nice guy. Fortunately, a big chunk of these costs were taken care of with tickets sales. I thought about getting a ticket for Moore’s speech, but they were sold out within days of the announcement. For being so hated, Moore sure sells tickets!

So I tuned in on the radio. Pretty standard stuff. He hates Bush, the country is going to hell, Republicans are evil and corrupt, and so on. At one point he brought in a guest speaker, Roseanne Bar, a Utah native. I guess he figured, why have only one fat, loud person when you can have two? That’s good logic.

And so it goes. Moore is gone now. The youth are safe. Some people got to be appalled and offended again. Others got to hear alternative points of view. Everyone is happy. Me? I can tell you one thing. I’m not about to jump on Michael Moore’s bandwagon. With Roseanne Bar on it now, there just isn’t enough space. Have you seen that woman? Get a bigger wagon, Michael, and I’ll think about it.

Postscript: Yes, this post is nothing more than a bunch of cruel fat jokes. I’m sorry, obesity is funnier than politics. If you’d like a better account of what happened, click here.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Let's Rock

Some guy from Ontario was recently named the Rock Paper Scissors World Champion. Yes, it's true. They have a Rock Paper Scissors world competition. This just goes to show they will have a world competition on pretty much anything. Last month I met the 1996 World Yo-Yo Champion and let me tell you, being a world champion doesn't guarantee much success in life. If it did, you would not be entertaining small crowds of incoherant drunkards at an Oktoberfest in Utah.

But unlike Yo-Yo man, the RPS guy is still enjoying his moment of fame and the $7000 reward he got for all that strenuous hand-work. To be an RPS champion, you have to have a keen mind. It's like being a Chess master, if every chess game is played against lobotomized monkeys. And in a way, it's even more challenging than chess, because the hand positions require an opposable thumb. Sorry, monkeys.

You can read all about this skillful Canadian's victory on the official website of the RPS Society. The site has over a million hits, proving once again that the web was invented so people can waste their lives away. I am no exception. I have wasted many precious moments of my life (time which I can never get back) browsing this site and sharpening up my RPS skills. They have this groovy “Online Trainer” which pits you against an animated arm, eliminating the need for any human contact whatsoever.

This whole RPS thing has inspired me to take affirmative action. No, not to find an ethnic roommate, that's not what I mean. I've decided I need to be more proactive in my decision-making. From now on, everything I do will be determined by Rock Paper Scissors. And, just for fun, let's start right now: one, two, three, rock!

….Dammit I have to kill myself. Note to readers: don't make whether or not to commit suicide your first RPS decision. It was nice knowing you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"Oh Give Me a Home..."

When I lived in southern California, at any given moment I could jump in a car and get to the beach in about 40 minutes. Here in Utah, if you want sand and salt water there are two options: 1) drive 10 hours to California, or 2) drive ten minutes to the Great Salt Lake. It’s a hard choice, because if you want to compare the two locations, just replace “California beach” with “chocolate cake” and “Great Salt Lake” with “dog vomit.” One is fantastic, but it takes a lot of work to get there. The other is pretty much worthless, but at least it’s closer, right?

But really, the Great Salt Lake does have its charms. For one thing, you can float in it. The salt is so concentrated it makes you very buoyant, as if little hands are lifting you up from underneath. The only other body of water with this much salt is the Dead Sea and that’s even farther away than California, or so I've been told. This is good news if you enjoy floating, and bad news if you enjoy drowning.

Floating is where the fun ends, however. The only other thing the lake has is brine shrimp, flies, stink, and ratbirds (seagulls). The sand is so covered with flies, they make a thick black carpet all along the shore. There is one exception. Seven miles into the lake is a place called Antelope Island which, at certain times of the year, is completely bug free. It’s home to 700 buffalo and various other animals, like (you guessed it) antelope. I’ve always had it in my head that I was going to visit this island but never actually did it.

Well I had Monday off work. Don’t ask me why they think Columbus Day is worthy of celebration. What did Columbus ever do for anyone? I'm not complaining, mind you. Crazy Spaniard or no crazy Spaniard, it's a day off! None of my friends had it off, so hanging out was out of the question. I was left with three options: 1) stay home, 2) pick my nose, or 3) go to Antelope Island.

Home was boring, nose was empty, number 3 it was. I put on my hiking boots, jumped in Abob (my car), and headed off. It was a sunny day and the Salt Lake shimmered as I drove along the causeway listening to Paul Van Dyk. There’s something about good weather, blue water and Trance that is very soothing. Not at all like bad weather, brown water and light jazz. That just sucks.

Once on the island, I pulled into the Visitor’s Center and looked around. There was this creepy old man who kept staring at me. I avoided his eyes, bought a postcard and walked out to take some pictures. When I came back in, he was still staring at me, standing hunched over, with no expression on his pruney face. As I walked past him, I smiled friendly-like. His face never changed. Stupid old man.

I decided to look for buffalo. They’re not hard to find. Really, they’re no-good, lazy creatures. It’s no surprise they were almost wiped out a century or so ago. Like cattle, they enjoy sitting around on their huge, hairy gluts. Most just lay there and stared at me, kind of like that old man. They must be distant cousins.

The only thing better than staring at bison is eating bison. That’s what I did next. A nice Hispanic woman cooked me up a buffalo burger at a small cafĂ© on a hill. It was good, tasting mostly like cow. All the “exotic” meat I’ve ever had seems to taste like cow. Warthog, bison, emu and ostrich all taste like cow. All the other birds taste pretty much like chicken. Oh, except dove. Dove is the most succulent meat there is. I suspect Noah promptly ate his dove when it came back with that olive branch. That’s what I would have done.

This long-winded travelogue doesn’t have an eventful ending. I drove around some more, went in the water, did some hiking and went home. Nothing life changing, but a good day nonetheless. I decided that I like this little island in the middle of the fly-ridden cesspool they call the Great Salt Lake. Just goes to show that every bad thing always has some good in it. The Salt Lake has Antelope Island. Country music has a few hot vocalists. Hitler has that funny accent. And Celine Dion can’t live forever. Yup, some good in everything.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Please Pass the Adipose

I was sitting around, minding my own business, when this lady on T.V. started talking to me.

“Menopause,” she said. “It's more than hot flashes and mood swings. It's about gaining weight, in places we never gained weight before.”

Holy crap! You think your day is going well, then something unexpected, and yes, even magical happens to make it so much better. You see, I'm a skinny guy and the truth is I could benefit from gaining a few kilos. But when you have a metabolism like mine, the kind that would devour itself if you didn't stop feeding it, gaining weight can be a daunting task. Well, you can imagine my joy when the nice T.V. lady announced this amazing new way to gain weight: menopause.

But what is menopause? Obviously it's something experimental, and perhaps even a wee bit dangerous, as it seems to have the tendency to cause hot flashes and mood swings. Is it a revolutionary new drug? The next trend diet?

Maybe its meaning can be derived from picking apart the word itself: men-o-pause. Hmm. Sounds fishy to me, like it has something to do with slowing men down. Just another item on the checklist of the evil Feminist Agenda. Well darned if I'm going to let some rotten, no-good Feminists show me up. If I have to take out my anger by brutally beating up a prostitute and sexually harassing a Day Care worker, so be it.

But wait, according to Google, that's not what menopause means at all. Boy is my face red. Turns out you need a uterus for the whole thing to work. In a way, I feel a bit betrayed. The lady said “we” after all, and I could only assume she meant everyone. Here I thought I had a free ticket to weight gain and now I am left with only broken dreams.

Fat people think gaining weight is so easy. You lie, fat people. I've tried it all: gorging myself with Crisco, total abstinence from exercise, scouring trash bins outside liposuction clinics. Nothing seems to work. I suppose I could lift a weight or two, but when did I say I wanted muscle? It's fat I want, and lots of it. I want a belly so big I can rest my food on it like a table. I want to my regular breathing to sound like I just barely escaped drowning. I want to experience the “Big and Tall” section of department stores like I've never experienced it before.

Alas, I must give up these hopes. Sometimes you just have to accept your station in life, no matter how hard it hurts. And I suppose, after all has been said and done, I should apologize to that Day Care worker for what I did to her. But not the prostitute. She had it coming.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Watch the Skies

I live near a major Air Force base which means low-flying jets frequently occupy the sky above my house. Aircraft that fly so close to the ground tend to be noisy. Think of the gentle hum that your computer makes and multiple that by five million. That kind of noisy. It is a booming, skin-prickling, deafening sound. Ironic that noises made by real jets can sound so much like the music of that old rock band, The Jets, no? (Stop your groaning.)

I'm okay with this. Rarely do these jets interfere with my daily life. But there is one particular activity where having jets fly directly overhead makes me want to vomit with rage: when I am outside chatting on my cell phone. This gets me to thinking, why must these jets interrupt me while I'm on the phone? Why not when I'm mowing the lawn, or vacuuming, or sobbing myself to sleep?

In fact, I do not recall one occasion where an outdoor phone conversation has NOT been interrupted by a noisy jet. Sure, this could be because talking on the phone is the only time I actually NOTICE these jets which are, in truth, passing by quite regularly, but I reject this explanation. Screw Occam's Razor. The only other logical explanation is that this is all an elaborate government conspiracy against me.

What makes me think the government would be involved in some far-fetched conspiracy against a regular, unassuming citizen such as myself? Hello, they're the GOVERNMENT. What else do they have to do? Perhaps they monitor my calls and are trying to stop me from learning some devastating fact I can use to bring them down. If this is the case, which it most surely is, then I need to piece through some of my recent outdoor phone conversations and figure this out before its too late.

True, in the past I've admitted to having a mild case of Alzheimers, meaning I have some problems with my memory and theoretically would have trouble remembering enough information to piece together any worthwhile evidence. And yes, I may not be able to remember the name, face, or even the gender of many close friends and family members, but dammit, I DO remember cell-phone conversations that have been slighted by noisy Air Force jets.

Three such conversations come to mind. In one I was talking to my good friend about the recent passing of her father. While this was sad, the obvious theme here was death. Another time I was talking to a friend about our plans for that Friday. And yet another time I was telling my mother about my visit to Octoberfest. What does it all mean? It's quite obvious really: the government is planning on murdering someone on a Friday sometime in October. And it could be you!

Lock your doors, bar your windows, be afraid.