Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The adventures of Dr. Mystery

I hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving. I did, though I regressed back into some bad habits. Three weeks ago, I finally got around to my New Year's resolution to live a healthier lifestyle because, as one of our country's finest poets, Kirk Hammett, has told us, "my lifestyle determines my deathstyle." I'm a fan of drinking to excess, eating rich foods, and sitting on my ass, but my sausage casing isn't. I want to get rid of my beer gut, improve my circulation, and refrain from stuffing delicious foodstuffs inside other delicious foodstuffs and frying the whole works and topping it with cheese. I also want to avoid the alcoholism that plagues males on both sides of my family. I once had an uncle who passed out drunk with a bloody nose and bled to death. I never met him, but I assume we shared a love of the epicurean lifestyle. (Oddly enough, Epicurus was hardly an advocate of the lifestyle bearing his name.) Zaz! Whoop! Honk! Anyway, I started running three weeks ago, drinking a lot less, and eating better and smaller portions of food. I've dragged myself in and out of shape a half dozen times in the last half dozen years, but in a very lazy way. This time, I really did it right. And I felt great. And I'm going to continue to attempt to make steps in this direction as soon as I finish these four glasses of vodka. (Rimshot!) But seriously, folks, I have been plagued with the curse of the formerly lazy. I have shin splints from the running. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I bought expensive and comfortable running shoes, I didn't overexert myself, I stretched after each run. The shin splints were inevitable, though, considering my previous exercise regimen included challenge pissing and competitive taco-eating. My shins are puny and ill-mannered. So I took this last week off to let these jerks heal. I also drank a lot and ate many, many foods in one sitting, but I was visited by my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister, and it was a holiday, so nuts to you. I'm a man who enjoys the pleasures of life, and since these pleasures are few and far between, I must take advantage.
Other exciting news flashes about me:
1) I had to have a biopsy because I have nodules on my thyroid. Fortunately, the biopsy was later cancelled because the nodules are too small to give an accurate reading. Nodules are fairly common, and 95% benign, but I have family history, so they have to keep an eye on them. Worst case scenario, I get the most treatable kind of cancer, have my thyroid taken out, and miss a couple weeks of work. That actually sounds really good. Two weeks off. I wonder what kind of drugs they'd give me. Good ones, I bet.
2) I've decided that working in an office is unacceptable for a man of my ill temper and constant sadness, and that my journalism degree has the cachet of a homeless man's diarrhea sample. I've also decided to get a teaching degree and teach high school English. So many people think this is a bad idea that I'm convinced it's a good one. (So many people thought a journalism degree was a good idea.) It's been in the back of my head for about four years and has grown to such a loud buzzing I can't ignore it. I have no fantastical, idealistic illusions. However, there are too many shitty high school teachers, and kids are receiving messages everywhere they move that the purpose of American life is to move piles of money back and forth while everything around us (landscape, culture, family, interaction with people, art) decays. All I need to do is reach a couple of kids each year, make them feel like reading is a worthwhile thing to do, and I'll be content with that. I also love having summers and holidays off to travel, write, sit on the couch in my sweatpants drunk watching "Tyra," eat a donut at every donut shop in the city, etc. The so-called low pay is not a problem, either, considering how much less I'm making than Austin-area teachers with my prestigious journalism degree. I make really shitty money. I don't care about status, impressing anyone, blah blah blah, but it would be nice to answer the question "What do you do for a living?" without my stomach sinking into my knees. I think teaching is an honorable profession. I think I could be at least moderately decent at it. I like having my summers off. I like kids, believe it or not. I even like the idea that I may be shot. I really, really, really need to do something with my life besides proofreading in a motherfucking office. I need something that is not going to be the same every single day. Academia's not for me, I'm not a famous celebrity millionaire, so what do I do? This may be a way out of my unsatisfying working life.
3) I had a goddamn religious experience last night when I was lucky enough to see my favorite movie, John Cassavetes' Love Streams, on the big screen at the Texas student union. Every time I see his films, particularly that one, it's a life-altering experience. I drove around aimlessly afterwards, eventually getting an extra-large cheese Coney at Sonic. I also got a parking ticket I'm not going to pay, because fuck 'em, that's why. What I'll never understand is how his movies never, ever play the same way twice, how I'll never understand them even though they feel like extensions of my body, how open and free and mysterious and bottomless and infuriating and wild and elusive and beautiful and tough they are, how these movies I've seen dozens of times continually surprise and invigorate me, how anyone who doesn't like them is wrong, how this guy was a Shakespeare, a Van Gogh, or a Picasso. I saw it by myself because my wife was tired and had a lot of stuff to do and another Cassavetes freak friend was out of town, but I'm glad I ended up there by myself because it was such an overwhelming experience that I don't think I would have been good company. I can't believe how much his movies mean to me. I can't put it into words. I try and I just sound like a big sissy. It's a goddamn abomination this movie is not on DVD and out of print on video. Why don't people want to see good things? Why does TV and newspaper world reinforce such lonely, pathetic emptiness? There are so many ways out. Go and find them. This is a world worth living, and hope is something worth having.
4)Lecture over. I was proofreading a book two weeks ago that was published in the 1950s and is being reprinted exactly as it was then, with the exception of the now-dead author's contact info. He was an old cowboy who wrote about the proper way to bridle horses, California-style. In his author photo, he is ancient, leathery, slight, wiry, and scowling like every other person in the world infuriates, disappoints, and exasperates him. I imagined him yelling each word of the text at an unappreciative younger horseman. If I walked on to his property, he would have asked me to lasso something. I would have failed. He would have spit on the ground and walked away, muttering under his breath about my perceived lack of proper masculinity. These are actual quotes from the book:
(from the introduction) "All of the information contained in this book is important. There are words and groups of words that are more important than the others. These words are in dark print to make them more noticeable. It is written in a style that is conducive for a clear understanding of the information given in this book."
(on the back) "It is as different from the average 'horse book' as bourbon is from skimmed milk."
(from a foreword by a ranch owner who knew him well) "He is one of today's old timers."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

November contest winner

The winning name has been drawn from the winter cap. Congratulations, Air Wolf! You are November's caption contest winner. I don't have your new address, so email it to me or give me a call. Booyah, bitch!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crustville, episode two

Episode one link

Jimmy's left half sat awkwardly in the passenger seat of Bob Larkin's green 1971 Dodge Dart. The bleeding had stopped, mostly, but a towel was placed on the seat to catch the odd dripping and/or leakage.
"This is the part of the job I hate, Left Jimmy," Larkin said, mopping his brow with a crocheted doily. "It doesn't seem right to separate you from your right side like that, especially when profits are up. Sure, we'll help place you somewhere else, but you were probably pretty attached to your right side, pardon the pun."
"Who cares?" Jimmy's left half said (though to the untrained ear his speech sounded like "sssaaa ungh ungh goo sa fmmp ungh ungh," Larkin had become accustomed to the particularities of half-mouth speech). "I'm glad to be free. Guy's a pussy. Right Jimmy 's been a thorn in my left side for years now."
"Oh, really?" Larkin said. "If what you say is true, and I have no reason to doubt you, why did you let Right Jimmy dominate Whole Jimmy's personality?"
"Because I'm fuckin' lazy, that's why," Left Jimmy said. "I chipped in on the typing and the eating lunch, but I let super-douche take care of the rest. I didn't even know we were in a frat until the third year of school. I was laying low. Think I'd join up with a bunch of salad tossers in backwards baseball caps and beaded necklaces? Think again, fuckface."
Larkin stroked his chin and smiled.
"I think I know a guy who can set you up with a job," he said. "His name's Tony. He used to run a job service for people in your predicament. It's called Half a Chance. He sold it to Martha Stewart last year. And he still likes to give guys like you half a chance, but in a slightly different market."
"Tony?" Left Jimmy said. "Sounds like some pasta-making queer. I don't think so. No more shit jobs for me. I'm probably just going to buy an RV and sell crank to junior high kids."
"That is a solid option, but hear me out," Larkin said. "You get in good with Tony, and not only will you get your RV, but also enough extra to pick up a few Quonset huts and a Carl's Jr. franchise. And you won't be selling crank to junior high kids. You'll be selling crack to rich housewives of aluminum siding executives."
"I'm listening," Left Jimmy said. "You're lucky you mentioned Quonset huts. Does Crustnet Enterprises know you consort with crack dealers?"
"I consort on my own time," Larkin said. "It's not like I'm e-mailing him from my work computer."
Nobody said anything for a while.
"Well?" Larkin said grumpily. "Do you want me to call Tony or don't you?"
"Fine," Left Jimmy said. "Set it up."

Thirty minutes later, Larkin and Left Jimmy were parked in front of the gates to Tony's sumptuous estate, a sprawling 54-acre compound that was the end result of the only known collaboration between Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. Larkin pushed the buzzer and waited for the gates to open.
"Why are you doing this for me?" Left Jimmy asked.
A single tear trickled down Larkin's left cheek.
"Because you remind me of my son," he said.

Larkin and Left Jimmy were sitting in the Jacuzzi in Tony's living room. Tony sat in an Aeron chair on the other side of the room, in a Speedo and a t-shirt embossed with the phrase "I got Lewinsky-ed on Padre Island Spring Break 2002," with a sleeping tiger cub in his lap. The cub was named Ronnie Van Zant. A blonde woman in a bikini combed his hair while he talked.
"I've got a feeling about you, Left Jimmy," he said. "You're a born salesman. But we need to do something about your downsizing. We need to upsize you. These are upscale women, our customers. They don't want to buy anything from half a man. Left Jimmy, how would you feel about a full half-body robotic prosthesis?"
"I'd love it!" Left Jimmy shouted.
"Your enthusiasm warms my heart, Jimmy," Tony said, smiling and stroking the cub. "For what you've given me today in enthusiasm, I repay in robotics. I'm going to pony up the dough for the prosthetic attachment, complete with extra-strength robotic claw. Your right hand is going to be a claw, Jimmy! Think of it. You can crack nuts with it! A robotic claw! It's every boy's dream!
"I'm living the dream," Left Jimmy said. "This is really happening."
"Do you play keyboards, Jimmy?" Tony said. "Our keyboard player just quit to go to law school right after I wrote some new material that really cooks."
"You have a band?" Left Jimmy said. "What are you guys called?"
"Ass Disagreement," Tony said. "We play heavy blues with a slight trip-hop inflection and a couple of Glenn Frey covers. 'Smuggler's Blues,' 'The Heat is On.' The bitches go nuts when we play. I mean they go apeshit."
"Sounds great, but I don't really play anything. A little acoustic guitar, but that's about it."
"Don't worry," Tony said. "We'll program the claw to play keyboards. We can attach the prosthetic this Thursday. Get used to it over the weekend, then be here on Monday at noon to start working. Sound good?"
"Sounds real good," Left Jimmy said.

After his visitors were gone, Tony grabbed his cell phone and dialed Frank's number.
"Frank," Tony said. "Guess what? We have a new keyboard player."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Poem, Vol. 1

I've been collecting Yahoo news headlines for the past year with the goal of assembling enough of them to create rhyming poems. You'd be surprised how hard it is to collect rhyming headlines. Here's the first one.


Report: Stone ready to bare all in "Basic Instinct 2"
Newly discovered ring around Uranus is blue
Women break record for longest bra chain
Barry Bonds: I'm just trying to stay sane

With movie due, "Da Vinci Code" debate persists
Crafty sea lion befuddles fish biologists
K-Fed illegally samples Thomas Dolby's '80s hit
Spokeswoman confirms Bow Wow and Ciara split

Pope calls Judas double-crosser in homily
Can Michael moonwalk his way out of bankruptcy?
Bolten: White House must regain its "mojo"
Is a burrito a sandwich? Judge says no

See you next year!

Halibut: Fish of the Month


Not as heavy as tuna steak or swordfish, not as fragile and flaky as tilapia, not as fishy as salmon, halibut rises above. Congratulations, halibut, you are Dr. Mystery's new go-to fish.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

November caption contest

I was gently chastised last month for failing to explain the full rules of the contest. I admit to being lax about that in recent months, so here are the rules:
I put up a new photo on the fifth day of each month (since that's the day I happened to post the very first contest).
Leave a caption in comment form under the post to be entered.
The fifteenth of the month is the last day to enter.
On the sixteenth, I put all contest entrants' names in a cap and draw one winner at random.
The winner gets a compilation CD, made by me.
Last month's winner is ineligible the next month, but may enter again after that.

Good luck, contestants.