Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eating my hand at the mall

I don't like the mall.

I'll give you a moment to pick your jaw off the floor. That's right. I prefer to spend zero-time at the mall if I can help it. Circle-Slash-Malls. I was going to get a t-shirt made up, but I'd have to go to the mall.

I'm reminded of a little incident that occurred about a few years ago. I was hurting for an Xmas present for my mom. Try as I might, I can't get my family to join me in my Xmas boycott. Something about their being born again Christians... It's a big deal for them.

Kinda like Groundhog Day if your god and savior was a groundhog, and was crucified on a little groundhog-sized cross, and half the fucking world made a mess in their pants several months before Groundhog day, and stressed out and fought each other in parking lots for a spot because they need to buy useless crap that has a groundhog theme.

But I digress. I was in need of an Xmas present for me mum, my time was drawing short, and I had no clue what the hell I could get her for this stupid holiday that I don't even like in the first place. So, against my better judgment, I went to the mall. They got stuff at the malls, right? Surely something will seem appropriate for Mumsie.

I walked around, all scared-like, for what realistically seemed like two hours, my heart racing, my eyes wide, and a thin, greasy film of sweat breaking out on my forehead.

A little background info: I like breaking bad habits, and I broke myself of the bad habit of biting my nails at about 16 years old. I got tired of painful, bloody stumps on my hands. And people who bite their nails always look guilty of something, so I decided to quit doing it. It wasn't that hard, and now I am a reformed nail-biter.

Flash forward to the mall, Xmas time in the present. I'm walking around trying very hard to keep myself from just bolting in any direction, panicking and scratching for a way out. Absent-mindedly I was chewing on my fingernail. The left pointy-one, to be exact.

By this time, I'm freaking out, and not in a "omigod, I'm like totally freaking out," kind of way, but in a way that I feel I might actually die here, in this place with no windows, with its recirculated air, and its awful, awful music. My heart just might explode. I'm going to projectile vomit black bile and then fall over in the puddle, dead. DEAD!

And then I see the slippers. Fucking slippers! "Buy the fucking slippers and get the hell OUT!" [<-- that's my brain yelling at me] I grab a pair of pink slippers and start scanning around for a cashier. As I'm walking around, I notice this intense fire that is radiating up my left arm. I look down at my hand holding the slippers, and there is BLOOD EVERYWHERE.

I ate part of my hand at the mall!

Blood is all over my hand, and now, on this pair of fuzzy pink slippers. Everywhere. Covered. This is not good.

Well, like a good American, I stuck the bloody slippers back on the rack, got a fresh, non-blood-soaked pair (in my good hand), stuck my bloody stump in my pocket, and beat a hasty retreat. I think I really freaked out the girl at the register. She gave me one of those looks that I'm sure amputees and the facially deformed see a lot. That look where the horror sneaks out just a little before politeness kicks in, and you smiiillle, and whatever happens, for god's sake do not look at it...

Everything turned out ok in the end. I didn't die in the mall. Mom got a comfy pair of slippers for Jesus' birthday. I renewed my vow to avoid malls to the best of my ability. My half-masticated finger healed nicely. I have a picture of it, scabs and all somewhere. Maybe I'll go look for that right now.

(originally published 12/22/06)

I Ran Over a Lollipop Kid

Only one word came to my lips as I sailed through the air. Time slowed down, stretched out and seemed to crystallize around me, and I was stuck in slow motion. I could make out tiny flecks of sparkly material in the asphalt. I felt suspended, caught in an impossible sprawl as I uttered the first and only word that came to mind:


Upon contact with the street, time suddenly sprung back into motion, over-compensating for its previous lapse. Things now moved very, very fast. Luckily for me, although I never could have known it at the time, I had been forced to take judo lessons as a kid. I was taught to not fight a fall, but to roll along with the force of inertia. I had actually placed third in a regional competition at the age of eleven. But all that was very far away. For now, it was simply: Tuck and roll, tuck and roll.
And so instinctively I tucked, and I rolled to a stop in the middle of the intersection. I came to rest on my back, draped across the pavement like a carelessly tossed sheet. I took a quick inventory of my body and all major systems seemed to be responding. That was good. Now I had to collect myself and get the hell out of the intersection before it was me who was the one getting run over.

I couldn't believe it. I had run over a midget.

I stood up and looked behind me. The midget was getting up as well.
"Are you okay, man?" I asked, not yet sure if this was real.
"Yeah... Are you alright?" He asked back as he hobbled along across the street. Some passersby hurried over to him, asking if he was hurt. I decided it was probably best for me to make a hasty get away. I hopped on my wobbly, warped bicycle and loped down the hill, continuing on my way. This was too coincidental to be real. I could almost taste the blood in my mouth from Karma's bitch-slap.

I am sure there is some dainty, politically correct term for the persons I am describing. Dwarves. Vertically Challenged Individuals. Little People, for crying out loud. But I refuse to use it. This is a story of exploitation and callous, selfish indulgence. I had once used midgets as my personal jesters. It was a reprehensible act, and I continue to expose myself as a jerk by using the term Midget. I may arouse some ire, But I feel it is deserved. Call it a penance of sorts.

It had all started innocently enough, as most of these kinds of things do. I had begun to notice that I had been seeing more and more midgets in the movies I had been renting, and they would always make me laugh. Without fail. Regardless of subject matter, a midget in the cast was a surefire way to have me rolling on the floor, clutching my sides with convulsive laughter. Imagine Marlon Brando as a midget in The Godfather. Goddamn funny, right? I suppose it got a little out of hand, as do most things that start innocently enough. I began renting movies based upon the sole merit of a midget in the credits.
A short list of classic midget films:

Gone With The Wind employed midgets as extras in background scenes in order to make the main characters seem larger than life. Destination Moon was called the most realistic film ever made to portray a journey to the moon when it was released in 1951. Midgets were used in backgrounds to convey a sense of distance which was just not available on a closed set. Other films put midgets at the forefront, as was the case in The Wizard of Oz, or much later in the Star Wars series. No film, however, featured as many midgets as Terror in Tinytown, the all-Western, all-singing, all-midget film which predated The Wizard. It may sound funny and exploitative, and indeed it is, but Tinytown was actually played straight; as a legitimate musical western, played by midget actors exclusively. (I am aware of the irony of this statement). There were no cheap short jokes or puns intended to poke fun or ridicule. Make no mistake, however: the film was terrible. A certifiable goose-egg. But then again, so very few musical westerns ever make it into Hollywood's Hall of Fame.

Recovering addicts sometimes talk about how they hit rock bottom, and how it forced them to see clearly their problem and to take action. I suppose my rocky bottom on the wild ride of midget fetishism was my rental of the film Bloodsucking Freaks. This is a modern classic of trashy filmmaking, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The loose premise of the film revolved around young, helpless, half-naked women being gruesomely tortured by (that's right) a midget. I'm not proud to say I rented this movie, and even less proud to say I enjoyed it. That midget was a pint-sized dynamo, a horribly skewed Jerry Lewis. He was brilliantly hilarious, and he was obviously enjoying himself immensely. Disregarding all conventional acting tradition, he made no attempt to pretend the camera didn't exist. He would look directly into the lens and laugh a horrible, bone-chilling cackle through yellow, crooked teeth. I think he may have acted in the film for free, he seemed to be enjoying himself that much.
I suppose the only saving grace for me, if there can be one in this instance, is that I couldn't watch the entire movie. Somehow, seeing women exploited didn't sit so well in my stomach. But seeing a midget exploited? Comedy gold.
Addicts who hit rock bottom don't always kick their vice right away. Some keep to their habit, using it like a pathetic, disintegrating crutch, while they hobble about in a thinly disguised panic. I was no exception. I knew I had done something "dirty" by enjoying that film. I had crossed a line and could never go back again. But it took the event of me running over a midget on my bicycle in front of many witnesses to check myself into midget rehab.

I was riding my bike a lot in those days, and was pretty good at it. I could get anywhere in the city in small time. This particular day I was heading to a friend's house to attend a potluck dinner. She lived at the bottom of a hill. At the top of that hill was the fateful intersection. As I approached, the light turned yellow. I was already making good time, and I stood up on the pedals to get that extra burst of speed in order to beat the light. The mailbox and garbage can on the corner concealed the midget too well. I would have seen any normal sized person, even a really short one, in time to brake or at least swerve. But this wasn't a regular sized person. This was a midget.
Apparently, he too saw the light change, and bolted out into the street, convinced he could make it. He didn't look. He didn't make it either. He ran right out into the path of whizzing, two-wheeled fate. I hit him hard. REAL hard.
For anyone who wishes to know what this experience is like, imagine riding a bicycle at top speed, as fast as you can right into a tree stump. Don't apply the brakes, just careen right into it. That's roughly what this collision was like. Due to his lower center of gravity, he didn't have far to fall. I, however, took the brunt of the impact. I sailed over the handlebars, taking the bike with me, into that vast, slow-motion expanse I described earlier.
Afterward, I loped down the hill, not quite sure what to make of the incident. I arrived at my friend's house shortly thereafter. She opened the door.
"You will NEVER believe what just happened."

[* Although this account is absolutely true and entirely written by me, I feel compelled to inform you, gentle reader, that it is taken from a former blog housed in a site that rhymes with the words SighPlace.com. Since SighPlace is a dying scene and doesn't support blogging quite as easily or nicely as our friends at Google, I've decided to relocate it here. If you've read this before in another location, I apologize for wasting your time. If this is the first time you've heard of my traumatic event, feel free to leave feedback. In the future, I will indicate at the end of any reproduced blog updates (and there are many) the fact that they are relocationed entries with a far less verbose explanation. That is all. Thanks for your patronage.]

(originally published 12/27/2006)

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Crappiest Job

I thought I would do a bit about all the awful jobs I've ever worked. I have at least one anecdote from each that illustrates how ridiculous, terrible, or ridiculously terrible each one was, and perhaps how it crafted me in some small way into the industrious young man I am today. Or maybe it will just be good for a laugh. At me, not with me.

Without further achoo, Part I:

The Line House.

I grew up in Southern Maine, where the youngest that one could legally work was 14. So, as soon as I was eligible, my friend Mike hooked me up with a job washing dishes with him.

A lot of young men in this country get their start in the working world this way. It doesn't take a whole lot of brain-power to do. It is, however, one of the crappiest jobs on the planet. The smell is the worst part. A pungent blend of bleach, industrial soap, grease, and old food, it really sticks with you. On rare occasions I will walk into a restaurant and catch a tiny whiff of that scent and be transported back to the late 1980's, scrubbing away in that tiny little back room.

The Line House was situated on the town line (get it?) between Kittery and York, Maine. It served your standard diner fare, blended with a few nods to the surrounding fishing industry. Think fish and chips and clam chowder, but nothing more elaborate than that. Burgers and fries, brunch on the weekends, that sort of thing. The burgers were pretty good, however, and it was here that I tasted Cape Cod potato Chips for the first time. One "perk" of the job was unlimited fountain sodas, which, as a teenager, is really all you need in life.

As I said, I worked in a small room with a low-ceiling in the back designated for dishwashing. It couldn't have been more than 12 x 12 feet, with most of the space taken up by a chest-type freezer, two industrial stainless steel sinks, a drying rack, and shelf space on either side: one side for clean dishes, the other side for dirty.

Dave was the line cook, a diminutive guy with tight, curly red hair, who thought nothing of tending the grill with a Marlboro hanging out of the corner of his mouth as he worked the spatula and barked at the waitresses as items were 86'd. He would torment the dishwashers in a good-natured way, and smoke a joint on the back steps with the waitresses after the place had closed for the night. He took to calling me Metal Head, as I had a habit of wearing Megadeth T-shirts and wearing my hair in the mullet style. I'd walk into my shift and be greeted with "METALHEAD!!!" Putting on a white apron, I'd smile, flash The Goat, and walk into the steam-filled abyss of the crappiest job ever.

Washing dishes sucks. It sucks. As a dishwasher, you are wet from your chest to your thighs all the time. Your hands will turn into pink prunes and smell of garlic and bleach for days. They will also blister, from the combination of the industrial chemicals and the searing heat of the washing process. That apron I mentioned does nothing to protect you, either from the water or the food and grease that ends up sticking to you like a ghost. But, as a fourteen year-old kid, I didn't have a lot of career options.

One Saturday in particular, the restaurant was slammed. Packed to the gills. Crammed into a small, greasy, hot and dangerous place, people tend to get a little cranky. Dave was screaming at the waitresses, and I was scrubbing like mad to keep up. Woe be unto the lowly dishwasher if the cook runs out of frying pans. Steve was the owner/boss, and he came into the back, needing more wine glasses. I looked around, and could only see three in the dish room. I washed those quickly and gave them to him. Shortly after, he came back again, and asked a little more pointedly, for more wine glasses. "I don't have any. Every glass in here is out front," I told him, getting a little testy as well.

A few minutes later, he came to me and said, "this is what I need you to do."

The Line House sat on a plot of land owned by Steve's sister, who had a house down a dirt road about 200 yards behind the restaurant. I was to jog down the road, open the garage door, go through the laundry room, and into the kitchen, where a case of new wine glasses was stowed in a cabinet next to the sink. Being the loyal foot soldier that I am, I clicked my heels, saluted, and jogged down that road.

As I opened the garage door, I could hear the telephone ringing. On the other end of that line was Steve, trying to call to warn me about the large German Shepherd that his sister owns.

I walked into the laundry room and opened the door to the kitchen, where I was greeted by the biggest fucking dog I had ever seen. His head was lowered, and as soon as he smelled the grease on me, assumed I was either an intruder or lunch. Or both. He lunged forward and bit me right in the middle of my chest. I'm sure I screamed like a girl, but I know I ran faster than I ever have out of there, the dog biting me twice on my ass as I fled. The t-shirt I was wearing, I later discovered, had a perfectly symmetrical bite mark taken out of the bottom of it.

Everyone from the back of the restaurant had come out onto the back steps to see what was going to happen. Dave later approached me, "Dude! Metalhead! That was fucking inTENse!" My hands couldn't stop shaking for hours after that. When I told my folks about it, my dad was pissed. But I defended the place, saying that Steve was a good guy, it was an accident, they were good enough to give me a job, etc. I know now that I should have sued the hell out of that guy. But sometimes I'm too nice for my own good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Coldy Bowldy

It's been rather cold up in these parts the last few days. No real shock in stating the obvious, but it is a nice way to introduce these pictures I took at Nancie's house this morning.

I should say at this point that Nancie and I have joined a bowling league. We've formed our own team, and have been taking a few of our recruits out to scout their performances. The good news is, so far all of our teammates are better than both of us combined.

Our team name is The Thunderballs.

I'll take credit for the team name and minimal-effort logo, thank you very much.

Last night Nancie and I were joined at Boston Bowl with our teammate Jeremy and some potential recruits in the form of Jane and her husband Dan. I'm really beginning to like the Boston Bowl. For one thing, it's open 24/7. NOTHING of any entertainment value is open that long around Boston. Secondly, even at peak hours, it's pretty darn cheap to throw a few sets. Lastly, free socks. Not many places have their own logo socks, embroidered with the American flag on them.

At first the complimentary socks seem like the best part. And they are, in a way. You can't take a Pin home as a souvenir, and those shoes don't match with any outfits. So the socks are a pretty cool little take-away, until, that is, you've gone there a few weekends in a row, and the socks start piling up on the floor of your car. Nancie actually refused the socks last night. But I found a simple alternate use for the comp-sock: Behold the Boston Bowl Beer Bottle Cozie!

Buy one get one free! And since you get them free anyway, I think you might actually make money on the deal. Beat that!?

Anyhow... There we were, all in our fresh socks (except Nancie), ready to bowl. I think I was fourth in our fivesome. I grabbed the ball I had picked, set myself up, approached, released, and... Wham! The ball caught on my thumb as I released, hooked HARD to the left, hit the gutter and then skipped into the adjacent lane where a bunch of kids were rolling. It's a good thing those kids had the bumpers up, because that ball probably would have skipped into at least one other lane if it had the chance. Humiliated, red-faced, I turned to face my current and potential teammates. They of course thought it was hilarious. I put on my most sheepish smile and turned to my lane-neighbors, sputtering apologies. In the end, one of the kids ran down the lane to fetch the ball, I had a do-over (since I had missed my lane completely), and all was right with the alley.

Maybe I should stick to Skee-ball.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Default Hot Chick

I've noticed in certain social situations a phenomenon that I've come to label as the Default Hot Chick Situation.

In this day and age of gender equality, one thing perhaps has yet to be addressed: the fact that guys want to take their clothes off and rub against chicks. Or dudes, I guess. But I can only speak from experience here, and I haven't had a whole lot of dude-rubbing urges. At least not lately.

The way the Default Hot Chick situation works is thus: In any situation there are bound to be some participants of the female variety. By nature, one of these females are to be perceived as more attractive than others. That female becomes, through no fault of her own, the Default Hot Chick. I suppose some Sociologists could have field day with these assertions. (Since I'm a sociological layman, I can only hope that there are countless tomes already penned in this vein.)

For instance: Where I cemented this theory was a job I had straight out of college. Three women worked in this place, two of which were in their fifties, one of which was almost as equally wide as she was tall. (She was very short, and worked in the basement, where the ceiling barely cleared my head) The other Cinco-genarian wore enough perfume to be recognized from 15 feet away with one's eyes closed.

The Default Hot Chick (or DHC, as she will henceforth be known) was in her mid-20's, not unattractive, yet not really a stunner. And yet I found myself wildly drawn to her. Not in an inappropriate sense. I'm a professional, and can separate my job from my throbbing biological urges. (Oh there is a huge story to illustrate this last bit forthcoming) But nevertheless, she was the only show in town, as it were.

I don't mean to be a jerk in writing this. I'm not a "Bro". I'm merely setting up, through an anecdote from my adultivity, an experience from when I was a pre-pubescent pup, and the weirdness that can grip a boy, or a man, and can make him act in irrational, sometimes comically bizarre fashion. More to follow.

Screaming into the wind

Both members of the fanclub have been up in arms about my lack of attention given to the blog in recent months. The truth is, months ago, on the blog of a guy I went to high school with I found this image:

Puts this whole blogging thing into a bit of perspective. I'm just another monkey screaming into the wind. In space no one can hear you scream. In cyberspace everyone can hear you scream. It's just that no one cares.

Stay tuned for updates. I'm about to tell a weird and embarassing tale from my adolescence, and the story of my arrest, and more anecdotes of pointless minutiae that I'm the only person to read over and over again.