Volkswagen Bitch!

Volkswagen Bug

 

My family and I are driving down Airport Road, having a conversation about – “Volkswagen Bitch!” my daughter screams, and I feel a sharp slap across my cheek and ear. It forms a belly-buster of an echo in the car. My wife, sitting next to me, winces, the left side of her face screwed up in a seizure-like, frozen explosion of expectance. Pow!

 

“Hey now,” my wife exclaims. My son is ducking and moving side to side like a beach crab in the UFC. He senses her mad excitement, her complete lack of motor control, and her gloves-are-off (legally, I might add) attitude.

 

“If you don’t let me get you now, you can’t get me later,” she warns. He does not give in. There is silence in the car for about thirty seconds, then, Pow! She has feigned disinterest.

 

“Hey!” my son yells, and like all pillow fights after the first three minutes, shit just got real.

 

What started this madness? My daughter and I were riding in the car one day and I said, “Hey, what if we took this whole Punch Buggy thing to the next level?” She weighed in and, before you know it, Volkswagen Bitch! was born. Let me go over some rules on this next level enhancement to an oldie but goodie.

 

First, it has to be a bug. Yes, we experimented with calling it on all VW’s, but then it was harder to get validation. Trust me, there are plenty enough bugs out there to get a car full of compadres red-faced before their destination.   Next is validation. You can’t absentmindedly call VB’s and then claim them to be just out of sight. Some people, like me, will turn the car around, even if we’re running late, and go back to validate said VB! If you are lying, or if you have accidentally, in a fit of anxiousness, erroneously called VB! Then you have uttered a False Volkswagen. The penalty here is that everyone in the car gets to slap you. And keep in mind that the people who will be slapping you have just been wrongly violated by your palm. Their reprisals will rank high on the Pimp Scale.

 

And so, after calling VB! and said validation, comes the pot of Bitch Slap at the end of the German-made rainbow. The Connection. It must be open handed. And preferably, consist of 75% fingers. Too much palm can lead to things ‘getting real’ in a high speed vehicle. And absolutely no backhand. Real pimp slaps are not for VB! If all players can keep it at a moderate 6 to 7 on the Pimp Scale, everyone’s masochistic tendencies are usually satisfied by the end of the trip. Oh, and make sure to get permission from new passengers before playing, as new recruits are often caught entirely unawares and may veer sharply from the observed rules once initiated.

 

More rules: You can’t call VB! on bugs in car lots. This only leads to a car full of manic, auctioneer sounding, stuttering lunatics who flail wildly and without clarity of purpose. You can only call VB! when everybody is inside the vehicle. An impromptu game in Denny’s can draw unwanted attention and drama to your family’s breakfast. You can’t call duplicate VB’s, e.g. you can’t call it on a bug in a parking lot, then drive by 30 minutes later and call it on the same one. This is not a False Volkswagen, but is frowned upon. If you can’t reach the other players in the vehicle, for safety reasons, you may save up VB’s and use them on passengers once you have exited your vehicle. But once you are back inside the vehicle, even if you had 8 or 10 saved up, you can no longer use them. Exiting a vehicle and returning to it erase all saved VB’s.

 

So the next time the kids are bored on a long trip, put away those Nintendo’s and that scavenger hunt piece of paper, and bring a little something to the table that will keep everybody wide awake and hyper-aware on that endless road. Volkswagen Bitches!

 

We are currently working on another next-level game called Po Po Mutherfucker! After a trial session, we are letting our bruises and lesions heal. When we are talking to each other again, I will give you an update.

Creative Writing Exercise #1

 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to get up in the middle of a book store and just stab someone repeatedly in the windpipe? No? Well, never mind. Back to what I was saying.

My name is Chris. That’s not my real name. I could tell you my real name, but then I would have to kill you. That’s not cliché. It’s the truth. That’s kind of what I do. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s sanctioned where I come from. The land of Id. The land of blood and daisies. Of tricky window Saturdays.

What? You’ve never heard of – that’s right, never mind. I forgot for a second. You guys think this is all made up? Right? Fine, whatever. You asked. I’m telling. You want the whole thing at once or do you want to pull off at a rest stop?

Okay. Then. Tricky window Saturdays. There’s the crews, all colors, all brands, you know, and they take the hoppers to the burnouts and – hoppers? There the fidgety ones wanna hop from place to place. They always think the grass is greener, you know? But borders are borders for a reason, right? So they – oh, yeah the crews. They’re the ones with the most guns or the most food or the most water, depending on where you are. Course, most guns usually equals most food, you know?

The burnouts? Buildings man. Just buildings that are burned out. Black with death and plague and soot and canker and you name it and there it is, cluttering the floor with human detritus, draped over the bombed out remains of walls like a Louisiana coffee house, smoldering like a dead turkey on thanksgiving. Bad, bad mojo. Gotta watch the stairs in burnouts. One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five One-two – boom! You’re a beauty-school drop-out. Five stories to the wet floor. Maybe a Wiley Coyote brick on your head to boot.

And they take ‘em in the buildings and light some fires at midnight and everybody stands down on the streets and looks down the blocks and waits. Yeah. They just wait. And then they hand out guns, sometimes one, sometimes 50, and they cock ‘em and wait. There’s these cooking grills, grated little splices of crisscross metal, rusted and clamped to the underside of the window. Got the wood underneath and burning white. The grill’s all red. The people are silent. Guns raised.

And then they make you wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

I seen people piss themselves without moving the gun an inch. Didn’t want to miss, you know. And then out of the blue, they shoot out from the windows like flying fish. Hands always tied behind their backs, and the guns fire away, concrete chunks flying, embers disintegrating, Hoppers flailing or going limp, the crews shooting off fireworks and the music bumping, sometimes country or something jazzy for contrast, and a few always make it, landing on the molten grate, skin sticking to it, with their teeth clamping down wildly on a bone or flank and reeling all awkward to their knees before launching backward, food in jowls, to disappear and fall back inside the burnout’s window.

Can I have a glass of water? What are they after? Food, dude. There’s not a lot of it, you know? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you really don’t. What year did you say it was? Huh. Yeah, right. Right. Are you with Chris? Yeah, the Church of Chris. I don’t think so brother. The crews speak the word and the word is. I’m not letting a letter take me down. Right?

Thanks. I’m really thirsty. Holy Chris, this is clear. Where’d you get this? Really? What year did you say it was again? Wow. Okay. So what else, man. Wait a minute, you guys ain’t crew. That just hit me, man. You guys can’t be crew. Crew knows everything about everybody. Scourge of the data. You guys, you guys look confused, man.

Hey. Is it really 2015? Oh. Okay. What?

Yeah. I’ll state it as clear as I did the first time. My name is not Chris and I’m a carrier in the Hot Zone.

The year? Yeah . . . 8256.

I already told you. Carrier’s carry. Pestilence incarnate. We deal in specific deaths. Mine is unique.

Can’t say, less you want me kill you two and everybody listening? Then it wouldn’t do much good to know, now would it? Yes, sir. Even the ones behind the listening glass. Say, you ever just wonder what it would be like to drive head on into a car on the other side of the lane? No? Well, okay, where were we?

The Hot Zone is where everything’s on fire. No reference points. Boiling, scattering, flaying, Napoleons.

How are you losing me? We’ve been over this already. Are the recorders not working? Do you people have those? Okay.

About here and now? All the books were rewritten by Chris in 6000. So not much. Just a little worrisome though. What? Well . . . suppose you’re telling me the truth? And? And it’s been about 6000 years since now in my Now. And it don’t seem like a lot has changed, that’s all. Just more fire and less green. Something doesn’t seem right with it. And how’d you say you found me again? Passed out in a church? On fire, yeah, that’s right, on fire. No, I didn’t set it. I’m not a Burner. Carrier. I told you already. Fire is not my specialty. Are you serious? I don’t think you really want to do this. I know your partner’s outside the room and behind the window, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe. All witnesses go, it spreads like that. You observe it and the wave function – it spreads, non-local, distance means nothing.

Locked up? Why? I didn’t set it on fire. What? For how long?

This is bullshit. Okay then. What’s the chain cycle? I mean you’re watching me, here, now, and whoever’s watching us on the other side of the window, that’s second level, and then whoever’s watching them, like a tree you see? Where does the tree stop? So that’s it? Three of you? Fine.

What are you afraid of? I said, what are you afraid of? Mice? You’re lying. I bit my tongue. Why? To get the blood, you need blood for everything. No, really. Mizion Seuzye paktche. Huh? Just a key. Like encryption stuff. Bloriddin pluragrir. You guys encrypt things here? Code? What’s that? Noriem jzestifer munhywella. It’s really not that funny. Krystoun vhallestia. That’s okay. See, I knew you were lying. I can tell by now just from talking to most people for a few minutes. Yeah. They’re real to you guys. Ever see snakes that fast? Spiders that small? Can’t stop it, not now. No. I just can’t. So, shoot me. Try to shoot all of them. Won’t do any good. If you’ll stop panicking, you might can get to the door. They’re not biting me because they came from me. You don’t bite the hand – no, begging is just – you’re just feeding it by begging and whatever you do, don’t pray. Do that and they find the path inside your head and file in. they’ll close it up and you’ll never get there.

Chris, this is boring. Chained to a desk 6000 years ago. No one around but Deads.

What happened? You’re all dead now. Yes you are. Look at your skin. Screaming won’t help. Well, I told you it wasn’t that funny. Fix it? I don’t know. We could go back to where you found me and see if we can get back in? In the Hot Zone. I must have slipped out somehow. Well, you can walk around dead here or walk around dead there, doesn’t matter to me.

Okay. Let’s go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unprofessional Me

Ties bad

 

The other day was strange.  I was in Panera and walked past a table of business folk.  Then looked over at a dude in business clothes, dressed to the nines, coat and all, waiting on someone.  Since then I’ve been trying to place words to my feelings at that moment.  I finally settled on repugnance.  And that bothers me and doesn’t, all at the same time.

 

Why does it bother me?  Because I’ve been a part of it for the last five years.  I’ve been to the interviews.  I’ve sent out the letters.  I’ve looked people in the eyes and seen, sometimes, into their corporate souls.  And on the surface, you would think, there’s nothing wrong with people dressing up and acting a certain way, some would say professional, in order to fit in, get a job, and keep a job.  Maybe I’m just an idiot with an authority complex.

 

Why doesn’t it bother me?  Because as Holden Caulfield might say, “It’s too goddamn phony for chissakes.”  It really is.  Business attitudes can be expressed in a simple symbol.  The tie.  A completely fucking useless accessory.  You don’t see blue collar workers in ties because it would result in someone’s head being jerked into a piece of machinery.  What it says is I am not a blue collar worker.  How did this irritating piece of faux clothing even come into being?  Turns out the Parisians caught on to a fashion statement made by Croatian mercenaries in the mid-17th century.  Stupid fucking mercenaries.  Ties are something that symbolize status.  That’s it.  But what they really represent is something for corporate minions to grab ahold to when they teabag you with bullshit acronyms, extra weekly hours, mindless adherence to policy, layoffs, and fake smiles that cover their extreme indifference.

 

It’s a rat race.  And that’s cliché but completely true.  Read a book called the Psychopath Test.  It makes perfect sense.  All the psychopaths are at the top.  Why?  Because that’s what it takes to get ahead and stay ahead.  The ability to put on an insanely sincere and happy mask and then fire 10 percent of your workforce.  And sleep like a baby that night.

 

And the same guy who will be laying you off next year and forgetting you existed by the next day, this is the guy sitting across from you today in the interview with a look of reserved entitlement.  A look that says impress me if you can.  I’ve seen hundreds of them just like you come and go.  And then they mutter something like, “So why do you want to work for us?” that shows the extent of their egoism.  Think about this question for a second.  What they will tell you is that a good answer shows you’ve researched their company, done your homework.  What?  I don’t even have a job yet and you’re assigning me homework.  What they want to hear is you tell them how wonderful their company is.  What a conceited, self-absorbed question.  Their company is no different than any other corporate behemoth.  Cold, indifferent, apathetic.  You conform and don’t complain until they are done with you.

 

Let me ask you something.  Those of you who have been let go, for whatever reason, from your jobs.  How much advance notice did you get?  None, right?  And you probably got escorted immediately from the building like a common criminal.  But what do they want from you?  Two weeks or more notice.  We owe you nothing, you give us everything.  Hypocritical bullshit.

 

So in the end it comes down to this.  You are striving and giving everything you have to impress someone who doesn’t give a shit whether or not you exist.  It’s kind of like marriage.  I know, I know.  But a few you are laughing.  I can’t make everygoddamnbody happy (Love you Sweetie!).

 

I know how far you get in life and how stable that life is depends on how much bullshit you can put up with.  Which is unfortunate for me.  Because the more I’m here on this planet, the less and less able I am to swallow large amounts of idiocy with a smile.  Unprofessional, some might say.  If the definition of unprofessional is not buying into the fake smile, not being able to put up with mass amounts of bullshit, and trying to impress people who don’t give a rat’s ass about me, then yes.  I am an unprofessional.

 

And maybe that’s what it was that was bothering me.  The man at the table was a professional.  And I am an unprofessional.

The Dark Sam

I’ve wondered around Wal-Mart for an immeasurable amount of time.  I say ‘immeasurable’ because once your physical body passes through the portal under the black hole marked ‘Grocery,’ and the elder gatekeeper greets you, time, space-time, whatever you want to call it, ceases to obey the laws of physics.  Minutes are made of syrup, and not that runny knock-off brand of syrup either.  I’m talking Log Cabin minutes.  Reference points disappear.  The gatekeeper offers you a weighted receptacle.  This is to slow you down.  It also sends a subliminal message that you must now fill said receptacle.  As your Will begins to leave your body, the automaton drags you forward.  You believe you are in control.  That you are the one manipulating the receptacle.  You are not.  The connection you made when you placed both hands on the bar has short circuited your Will.  The connection from the wheels to the floor connects the receptacle to The Dark Sam.  There is now a direct flow of Consumerism flowing from The Dark Sam into you.

Now there is the Labyrinth.  You creep slowly up and down every single isle.  You may feel as if you have only traversed the isles necessary to that little piece of paper you call a list.  The one you left on your kitchen table.  But you have not.  You are skipping forward in jilted sequences of awareness.  But you always follow The Dark Sam’s complete path.  It is manifest.  Behold.

And at some predestined locus of points, The Dark Sam will whisper the slightest hint of a suggestion in your pliant ear.  You and your party should separate.  Continue to separate parts of the Labyrinth.  You may start to resist, small remnants of your Will that splintered on exodus.  You do not wish to lose your mate to the Lost Path.  But The Dark Sam whispers into your very Soul.  That it’s not that big of a store.  That your mate will be right where they said they would when you return.  That you won’t both be circling the Labyrinth in the same direction, just out of sight of the other, for twenty Log Cabin minutes.  And when your receptacle is full, you approach the debit card portal.

This portal is congested.  The Dark Sam requires a sacrifice upon the altar with no quantity key.  This is proof, by the way, of The Sam’s inherit darkness.  The Sam is efficient.  It would be efficient to have a quantity key on the self-directed altars.  Yet there are none.  You must pass all twenty packs of Kool-Aid before the debit altar.  Individually.  Separately.  This is senseless.  Chaos.  Darkness.  The Sam is Dark.  Behold The Dark Sam.

All hail The Dark Sam.

Time to Write

February.  Say it.  February.  Now look closer at the spelling.  Sound it out, slowly.  Tell me it doesn’t sound like a Chinese person mispronouncing a word.  I’m surprised we haven’t reformed it down south.  Something like Feeben-yary.  Or Febary.  Fee-brary.  You know, like some’us done wif ferigerator.

 

Now:  Drive to California.  Swim out and trap a decent sized seal.  Put it in your backseat and return home.  Make sure to carry lots of bottled water and fresh fish or the long drive home could be awkward.  If you play music on the radio, do not put it on a bluegrass station.  It sets them off.  Trust me.  When you get back home, place the seal in your shower and rinse it in cold water for about thirty minutes.  Use baby shampoo and do not get soap in their eyes.  Again, it’s bad if that happens.  A blind, angry seal is not something you want loose in your bathroom.  When the seal is rehydrated, take it downstairs and place it in your dryer.  (Note: If you do not have a downstairs there is no need to panic.  You may use a dryer on any level of your home.)

 

It is at this point where things may break down.  You must assert yourself.  You may have to get back in touch with your inner Alpha.  One thing is certain at this stage: YOU MUST NOT TAKE ANY SHIT FROM THE SEAL!  Think of all the money you’ve spent already on gas and seafood.  Just make it happen.  Once the seal is in place, turn the setting to “Fluff Only.”  Make sure the timer is set to no more than two minutes.  Turn the dryer on.  Now, do your hear that thunking sound with each revolution?  That is the sound that my life is making right now.

 

It’s one thing to know what you’re supposed to be doing.  It’s another thing when God gives you two big-ass hints and sets everything up so you finally have to put your money where your mouth is.  It’s that final acceptance that’s the hardest.  That final turn of the screw that says, “Ok, asshole.  Put up or shut up.”  Well, I’m putting up starting Monday.  The only way that I won’t follow through completely with full time writing and heading toward a teaching position is if some hiring manager is idiot enough to hire me.  I don’t see that happening.

 

My first novella will be coming out very shortly on Amazon.  It’s called Sorry Charlie.  A short horror/thriller.  Synopsis: Dan is having a bad day.  When he kills his estranged wife’s German Shepherd in a drunken stupor, things go from bad to worse.  Subtitle: Karma has teeth.

 

 

Changing Stations

There’s a guy in the car next to us

surfing the stations

and I decide to surf mine.

I press the four buttons and skip

the missing one

and then hit SCAN.

I look up

at a green light and take my foot

off of the brake

moving it quickly to the gas.

I need to move quickly today because

I am behind on everything.

Money.

Gas.

Loose belts.

Novel editing.

Kickstarter T’s.

January’s rent payment.

Stores that carry ‘92 Nissan pickup belts.

So I have to move fast because life is a race

and it’s so easy to finish the race

with nothing accomplished

and your children following in your footsteps.

I’m turning left to go to Wal-Mart

before heading to Governor’s where they carry the A\C belt

because I have to get                                              .

 

 

GlassMetalCruchingPain.

 

 

 

Not mine, but I can feel it.

I turn to my wife who is ‘Oh my Godding’ and

tell her to “come sit where I am and get our car out of the road.”

Some one is dead.

Of that I am sure.

A tan SUV never hit the brakes

and so it flipped and landed

uncatlike on its side while the guy in the TBone

is angled down into the culvert

and is sliding, with much less blood than one would imagine,

out of his crumpled door like a lazy fried egg,

thrashing in pain as if covered in ants and blind

and holding his chest and looking nowhere.

 

I look over at the SUV and a colorful fat lady is climbing down through the windshield.

 

People come from all sides to the huddle,

a few calling plays –

turn his car off

don’t move, don’t let him move

Memorial and _________, and yes it’s bad!  We need an ambulance now!

My wife leans over and stops him from moving,

talks to him

tells him what happens

each time he asks,

gives him a focal point.

He stops moving around

and I see blood in his eye

as I look for embedded glass

and lean in his car to find the radio is still playing.

I turn the car off and

lean into the door, scrunching it back against metal

so it won’t open on the guy.

His wallet is under him and

I pick it up and hold it with his keys and

give them to a busy paramedic.

 

I look over at the fat lady and chubbyyounggirl who are standing in the median.

They are dressed from one of those stores that rich men’s wives open in strip centers because they are bored.

The kind that sell gaudy blandishments for ridiculous prices.

The girl jumps straight up and down and whines for her daddy.

Neither plump is visibly hurt.

Neither plump has walked over to check on the man in limbo.

 

I wonder if she was on the phone and have a sudden urge to grab her

by her fatblondehead and drag her across glass and metal

punching her in the face along the way

over to the man whose life/song she interrupted

and make her –

 

“Can you drive a stick shift?”

A strange question in the now.

A lady left her truck in the turning lane.

A five speed.

I make my way across four lanes

very carefully

and move it,

then

very carefully

back

then

I am

handing over a stranger’s keys for the second time this day.

 

I want to remember what song was playing on his radio.

And on mine.

So I can cross reference them and pour my metaphysics

into them when I think of

paths and milliseconds and God.

 

 

 

 

Tradition

Turkey Rickshaw

 

I am tired of ham.  I am tired of turkey.  They are not bad foods.  They are just worn out.

 

I have eaten, without pause, turkey and ham every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past 100 years.  And don’t forget the dressing, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs.  Sure, they’re only sides you might say.  Guilty by association I say.  It wasn’t until lately that I began to ask myself, why?  Why am I eating the exact same bird every single year?  Why do I cook the exact same sides every single time?  I’ll tell you why.  Tradition.

 

But is that all tradition means?  Repeating the same things over and over again.  In that case, I have a tradition of showering and brushing my teeth every day.  I have a tradition of showing up for work every day.  It’s traditional for me to fill my car with gas twice a week.  Ok.  So tradition is not just repetition.  Maybe there is a little nostalgia attached to the process.  And it is a process, isn’t it?  I mean, it’s not just a noun.  It’s more of a verb if you think about it.  Traditions take place.  They’re events.  They consist of actions and remembrances.  They are familial, local, and personal.  Every corner of the globe has them.  They fill the nook and crannies of our existence, whether it’s a couple of tulips placed on a grave or an entire village coming together in the town square to catch things thrown from a window. 

 

And these events usually evoke a certain comfort.  They take childhood memories of laughing, aromatic delights, and full bellies, and weave a strand of culture and comfort that holds strings of families together generation after generation.  Like bedtime stories.  They teach us.  How to make giblet gravy.  That you have family you’ll never talk to the other 364 days of the year, but that you can share the gravy with today.  That your progeny won’t forget the things passed down to you through the years thanks to a simple repetition of events.  A cultural chain of custody.  And preservation of ideas and ethnic heritage isn’t a bad thing, right?

 

Maybe not for the first forty years.  Maybe I’m having a mid-life-culinary crisis.  I have some good memories that go along with end of the year get-togethers.  I also have memories of lying on my side like a bloated and beached whale for a few hours on the couch, praying to the God of Gastronomy to lighten my load as soon as possible, and to please give me at least a thirty second warning prior.  I have memories of enjoying company and memories of wondering why it’s necessary to be nice to people just because it’s a certain day of the year.  I have memories of learning just how mom makes the dressing and memories of the stove blinking an error signal Thanksgiving morning a few scant hours before everyone was supposed to show up to eat.  It’s a mixed bag is all I’m saying.

 

Might there not be another way to celebrate, though?  Would it be so bad to not eat the same thing next year?  What are the consequences of being non-traditional?  I think we know now why we adhere to the robotic cycle every year: comfort.  So why forego comfort and break bad?  How about growth. 

 

Surely there is a way to preserve what mom and dad consider holy while engaging the process in a creative and forward manner.  Preparing lunch or dinner a little differently isn’t going to erase anyone’s childhood.  Maybe it’s because I equate comfort with a lack of progression.  Get too comfortable with your job, for instance, and you might find yourself in a stagnant career twenty years later with no discernible method of increasing your pay, or for that matter developing a skill set that will allow you to raise your quality of life.  Sure, it’s easy to slip into a comfort zone.  Too easy. 

 

That must be what causes me to stare impassively at those dripping juices surrounded with a heavenly crust.  To levy an imperceptible sneer at the beautiful lake of gravy nestled carefully in the middle of the hand-mashed potatoes.  To plate my dressing, which my mother prepared with love (I know this because she hates the smell of boiling chicken, but does it anyway), with a cold indifference. 

 

I know, I know.  But I can’t help it.  And don’t say you haven’t thought about it at least once.  I know you have.  I know someone has taken to their turkey and thought, “Man, I could so go for some BBQ right now.  Or pork chops.  Or maybe even Pad Thai.  Don’t feel guilty.  It’s your natural yearning to move forward and expand your horizons.  Embrace it.  Stop fixing that casserole that never has so much as a divot in it when the meal’s over and flip through that cookbook that’s in your… well, who knows where you put it years ago?  But you can find it if you try.

 

I’ll leave you with a clipped story I heard once upon a time.  There are five monkeys in a cage.  There are some steps in the middle of the cage.  A banana is hung at the top of the stairs one day and when the monkeys try to climb and reach it, they are all sprayed with a hose.  Soon, the monkeys don’t even bother with the banana.  Then, one of the monkeys is replaced by a new monkey.  The new monkey heads for the banana and is immediately pummeled by the others, with no idea why.  No one has been sprayed in some time.  Soon, that monkey gives up on the banana too.  One by one, the monkeys are replaced, each one learning from the others not to try for the banana.  After a while, all the original monkeys are gone and the new monkeys never attempt to take the banana.  Even though they could.  And why don’t they do things differently, even though they could?  Because that’s the way it’s always been done.  Tradition.

 

I’m just saying, I would eat that fucking banana.

 

 

 

Jang Scissorhands

I grew up a 5 dollar haircut kind of guy.  For a long time, that’s all I would pay for haircuts.  Then when I got a little older, I began to go to the more upscale boutiques.  The kind that charge 17 bucks for a regular cut.  Why?  For the same reason that every other guy does.  They always have those 20 something hot chicks.  Some with big boobs.  Young, hot, and big boobs.  And if you are lucky, maybe they have to lean over on you a little to get that one piece of hair.  And I don’t know of any other legal way, non-divorce causing way, to have a young, hot girl lay one of her boobs on your shoulder for a second while she plays with your hair.  And it’s much, much cheaper than the strip clubs.

 

I know what you’re thinking.  Dirty old man.  And you’re absolutely correct.  But there is something that transcends the 5 bucks and the shoulder boob.  Every barber shop and boutique I’ve ever been in operates the same way.  Time is money.  Like the old time scribes, they get paid per job.  And so like the old time scribes, they rush you through the process and end up with some misprints or lopsided bangs.  If you’ve ever crawled out of a Wal-Mart shop looking like Scotty Don’t, then you understand the prolonged mental agony of having to watch your mangled hair slowly repair itself over a couple months.  You have to say goodbye to first impressions and deal with people who try to not stare at the side of your head while they talk to you.  You become another casualty of this manic, impersonal production-like process.  Suddenly that 17 bucks doesn’t sound so wonderful.  Of course, you can get your hair mangled for less, and I have.  But it’s much less humiliating to get hair-raped for 5 bucks instead of 17.  It’s barberism.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

 

So when you finally find someone who gets it right, you stick with that person.  After I lost my job last year and had to move home, I drove all the way here to get my hair cut.  People who have had their follicles violated understand.  That’s why, even though I am happily married, I have established a relationship with another woman.  Her name is Jang.

 

Jang has two degrees.  Literature and Art.  She has gone to school, but says she really learned how to cut hair by applying her artistic skills to the process.  And she is a good artist.  This makes her, in my mind, the Ms. Miyagi of barbering.  It’s like something you would see in a Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie.  Like when they read their adversary’s calligraphy to deduce what their fighting style will be.  I’ve never really thought about it, but I like the philosophy here.  Instead of someone blowing through beauty school and then working their production line process in the same stale pattern as everyone else, Jang has taken the foundational knowledge necessary and then applied her artistic philosophy.  It works.

 

For starters, there’s no rushing you out of the seat.  It takes as long as it takes.  At some of her older jobs, when she was working for the Man, that presented a problem.  The Man wanted to maximize profits.  Jang wanted a happy customer.  Those two don’t usually go together.  But Jang has her own place now.  No rushing.  As a result, I am automatically calmer as soon as I walk in the door.  There is classical music playing, but it’s not the pretentious kind or the kitschy elevator jingles.  It’s just soothing.  There are smiles and she asks how the kids are doing.  But she actually wants to know.  It’s not just banter.  It’s sincerity.  Then she begins.

 

It’s here where things get fuzzy.  Time slows and folds in on itself and there is happiness all around me.  It’s very Zen.  I am calm like a glassy lake in the early morning.  I can hear the ocean.  I open my eyes and my wife is staring at me with a knowing smile.  She recognizes my barbershop bliss.  It’s funny, but wonderful.

 

When I leave the Lily Flagg Barber Shop, I know I have cheated on my wife.  At least it feels like it.  And I will do it again and again in the coming months.  And it won’t cost me 17 bucks.  And I can do without the boob on my shoulder.

The Library of Lost Works

I keep thinking about the fact that a friend of mine’s journals all burned up in a fire.  She had kept them from the time she was 13 or so and then boom, fire and no journals.  All that history.  All those thoughts, epiphanies, the pain and the joy, the excitement, the loneliness, the everything that was her life, recorded over the years and then gone in a day.

 

I think about it every time I write in my journal.  I write for two reasons.  One, to get all this shit out of my head.  I mean, can you imagine if I kept the fact that eating microwave popcorn causes obesity in other universes to myself?  Holding in a groundbreaking theory like this could cause serious mental constipation.  No way.  Sorry you guys have to be my vent, but there you are.  The second reason is for my grandchildren or their progeny.  Haven’t you ever wondered what it was like for your grandfather or great grandfather growing up?  Sure, you get a clipped story every now and then, maybe on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and that story is of course repeated again and again until that small section of their life is carved in mental marble.  But wouldn’t it be nice to know it all?  You know what made you who you are.  And since your caregivers helped carve out the better part of you (or maybe worse part), wouldn’t you like to know what parental carving tool was used on them?  And so on and so on?

 

So my fear is that I am going to spill my life onto the pages of all my journals over a ten or twenty year period and then have it vanish in a night.  I wonder how many people have lost things this way.  Maybe somewhere there is a Library of Lost Works.  It’s probably just down the street from the Library of Works Never Produced.

 

For instance, I’m certain no one has ever painted a picture of a prairie dog shooting Einstein with a shotgun, in watercolor.  This would be in that library.  Maybe a book called 1,999,999 Ways to Snort Gluons Through a Garden Hose.  That would definitely be in there.  What about an ice sculpture of a campfire?  A concerto in K minor?  A car that runs on irritating bullshit.  You could feed it a constant stream of car commercials on the radio, or maybe hook it up to a politician’s mouth around election time.

 

Of course, the minute they popped into existence in the Library of Works Never Produced, they would, by definition, be forced to pop out of existence there and pop into existence in the Library of Lost Works.  This would make it very difficult to check out a book in the Library of Works Never Produced.  You would have to be very quick.

 

And if you actually wrote a book detailing 1,999,999 Ways to Snort Gluons Through a Garden Hose, for a brief moment, the book would exist in both the Library of Works Never Produced and on your rather filthy computer desk.  One should be very careful at this exact moment to not suddenly destroy the book or it would be in 3 places at once, causing a literary paradox.  It would exist, be lost, and never have existed, all at the same moment.

 

What were we talking about?

 

 

Proactive Directory Assistance

DAVE:   Hello?

PDA:   Hi, this is Marcy from Proactive Directory Assistance.

DAVE:   Uh… yeah?

PDA:   Do you happen to know the number to a local Mexican restaurant called Frontera?

DAVE:   Excuse me?

PDA:   Do you know the number to a restaurant called Frontera?  It shows here that it’s about 4 miles down the road from you.

DAVE:   Ummm… no.  Can’t say I do.  So, what’s this in refer-

PDA:   The number is 256-564-7755.

silence

PDA:   Will that be all today, sir?

DAVE:   I’m not really sure what – uh – yeah, whatever.  Sure.

PDA:   Well again, this is Marcy with Proactive Directory Assistance and we appreciate your business.  For your convenience, our discount rate will appear on your local telephone bill.  We look forward to calling you again in the near future.

DAVE:   Whoa, whoa, whooooaaa.  What?  Did you say – are you trying to charge me or something?

PDA:   This is a one-time charge of .85 for a local number.  Wait a sec, looks like you were already upgraded to Gold.  Congratulations!  We are very happy you have chosen –

DAVE:   No, no, no.  Hell no.  I didn’t ask for the number and – wait a minute – I didn’t even call you.  You called me!

PDA:   Yes sir.  We are Proactive Directory Assistance, always a step ahead of our competition.  And while you didn’t specifically ask for the number, you did tell us you didn’t know the number correct?

DAVE:   Yeah, but – wait a damn minute, I don’t even want the number!  And competition?  Who the hell is your competition?

PDA:   You, sir.

silence

PDA:   Is there anything else we can do for you, sir?

DAVE:   Well, I’m sure as hell not paying for the information you’ve given me.  Flat out.

PDA:   I’m sorry sir, but you already have.

DAVE:   Excuse me?

PDA:   We contract with a company called Proactive Transaction Services.  As a special service, at no extra charge to you, they were able to take care of this entire transaction before we even called you.

silence

DAVE:   This is complete bullshit.  I’m pulling up my bank account right now and if anyone’s fucked around with my account…  You know what?  Let me talk to your boss!

PDA:   No problem, sir.  That number is 888-456-9987.

silence

DAVE:   What are you – no.  I want you to connect me directly, right now, to your – hey, you’re not charging for that are you?

PDA:   Certainly sir.  You did receive the information, correct?

DAVE:   Yes – but –

silence

PDA:   Would you still like for me to connect you directly?

DAVE:   YES!  NO!  Wait!  Are you going to charge me for this?  You know what, just connect me anyway.  Doesn’t fucking matter at this point ‘cause I’m not going to FUCKING PAY YOU A PENNY!

PDA:   Yes, sir.  No problem.  Please hold for a moment and remember that this conversation may be recorded to insure quality service.

silence

PDA:   Hi, this is Dan with Proactive Directory Assistance.  How can we help you today, sir?

DAVE:   Well for one I’m not paying a dime for anything you’ve done or given me because I didn’t ask for any of it.  For starters, Marcy here called me in the middle of my show and – WHAT THE FUCK!

PDA:   I’m sorry sir, is there a problem?

DAVE:   I’m looking at my account right now and there is a charge – a deduction on my bank account for $35!  Are you fucking kidding me?!  You cannot take money out of my account!  I am calling the police right now!

PDA:   Would you like that number, sir?

silence

DAVE:   No goddammit.  I can’t believe you took money out of my account!

PDA:   Actually we didn’t sir.  As Marcy explained we contract with a company called –

DAVE:   FUCK both of you!  You are both insane!

PDA:   I’ll tell you what, sir.  If you like, I can connect you with our complaint department.  There is, of course, no extra charge for our gold customers like yourself, sir.

DAVE:   Complaint depa – gold customer? – is that why you charged – because I’m a gold – what the hell is wrong with you people?

PDA:   Yes, sir.  Our statistics show that the best way to serve you is to proactively assign our most popular combo package, the Gold Package.

DAVE:   Gold package?  You know what you two fucks?  If you don’t reverse this goddamn charge right now, I swear to God I’m going to crawl through this fucking line and strangle the living shit out of both of you.  I mean it.  I’ll find out where this company is and I will come and hold you two stupid fucks underwater for a fucking hour and then I will burn this place to the fucking ground and salt the motherfucking earth so nothing will grow there for centuries.  Do you understand me?  And I’m going to tell every motherfucker I know, including the police and the FBI and the CIA and all my friends, not to answer their phone until I can come down there and stick my whole arm up your asses and grab your trachea and rip it out of your body through your motherfucking assholes.  Do you understand that, you two stupid fucktards?

crying

DAVE:   Cry if you want to you stupid shit.  Mar – seeeee.  Da – yuuuun.  Thieving fuckholes!

PDA:   Actually sir, that’s your fiancé, Rachel.  We called her as part of our Proactive Restaurant Concierge.  She was looking forward to surprising you with a date at the Frontera Mexican Restaurant.

silence

RACHEL:   I’m so – sor – sorry.  I didn’t know you could be like this.  I do – do – don’t understand.

DAVE:   Oh my god!  Rachel?  What are you doing on the line?  What…

RACHEL:   I don’t feel like I kno – know you.

DAVE:   What?  Oh God no, baby.  Listen it’s just – these people – they just got me so excited – I just

RACHEL:   It’s like you weren’t even my fiancé.  Like you were another person.

PDA:   There, there Rachel.  It’ll be ok.

DAVE:   Hey, you shut the fuck up!  That’s my fiancé!  Get off the line you bastard!

RACHEL:   Who are you?

DAVE:   No, baby please listen –

RACHEL:   I’m just, kinda – scared.

PDA:   We understand Rachel

DAVE:   Look, if you don’t get off the line you –

banging

DAVE:   Hold on baby.  Someone’s about to break the damn door down.  Don’t go anywhere.

silence

PDA:   Rachel?

RACHEL:   Yes?

PDA:   It’s going to be alright.  We called the Sheriff as soon as Marcy transferred him to me.

yelling

PDA:   They’ll take care of everything

yelling

PDA:   This happens sometimes.  It’s just a good thing we were here.  God knows what could have happened.

RACHEL:   I’m just so confused.

shots

RACHEL:   Oh my God, what was that?  Gunshots?

OFFICER:   Hello?

PDA:   Hi, this is Dan and Marcy with Proactive Directory Assistance.

OFFICER:   Thank God.  I’m glad you guys called me.  And you were right, this guy was a lunatic.

PDA:   No problem officer.

OFFICER:   Mam, are you going to be ok?

RACHEL:   I’m just so confused.  I – just – I’ll just stay with my friend Lauren.

PDA:   Would you like that number?