Tuesday, May 30, 2006

That's right you're not from Texas

That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway

Way back when Lieutenant Trouble was just AFROTC Cadet Trouble, he spent the better part of a July at Lackland AFB, as part of the 737th Training Group. During the day, he was as gung ho as any of them, pushing himself as hard as the trainers did.

At night, he bitched on the phone to me. About the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the snakes...

At approximately 0100 hours today, Lt. Trouble was back at Lackland AFB. He'll be undergoing PRK--the corrective eye surgery that will eliminate his need for glasses.

He called me this afternoon, after he went through a two hour examination, making sure he was an ideal candidate for the surgery. Tomorrow he'll have a two-and-a-half hour briefing on the surgery. The surgery itself takes about 45 seconds on each eye. Four hours and thirty minutes' worth of prep for a ninety second procedure.

His take on Texas was markedly different. "It's great," he told me, "there's grass, and trees, and flowers and stuff..." Part of his attitude change no doubt comes from not having to slog through leech-filled swamps, but since he's spent the majority of the past two years in one desert or another, the Texas atmosphere seemed much nicer to him.

Further news about Texas came from the El-Tee's baby sister.

Were you aware that Texas knows when you buy chips?

That's what she told me yesterday. Apparently, whenever we buy chips, the state of Texas is alerted. It what her teacher said. She didn't know if it was both potato and corn chips or not.

We'll find that out today, I guess.


Monday, May 29, 2006


Once Upon a Time...

My buddy Phil was on staff at Saturday Night Live. I would, on occasion, drive to the City to visit him.

On one such visit he was given an engraved invitation. He, and a guest, were invited to the Michael Todd Room at the Palladium for a special performance. Free admission.

So cool.

Today, where the Palladium stood, there's a dorm and athletic facilities for NYU. Up 'til the end of the 1970's, it was a theater. In 1985, it was one of the hottest nightclubs in New York. It had one of the first multi-array video screens, that dipped, twisted and rotated high above the huge dance floor. MTV had a regular broadcast from the Palladium. This was back when they actually played music on the channel.

And the dance floor was huge. It was big enough to drop a house onto. And they did. There was a full-sized house that would, on occasion, be lowered onto the dance floor.

Because they could, that's why.

And we had tickets to go there.

Well, Phil did. I got to tag along.

Normally, getting into the Palladium involved standing in a long line, waiting for hours while a burly bouncer decided who got to get in as patrons left. Yes, it was exactly like every nightclub scene in every teen movie Hollywood produced. The lucky ones then had the privilege of paying twenty bucks to get in.

But that was for mortals, for Phil and I would go to the back, and climb the stairs to the supersecret back entrance: the Micheal Todd Room!*

The Micheal Todd Room was once the production/projection room for the Palladium. It was painted white, with some garish, primitive green and blue paintings on the wall. We walked in, and sat at a table.

The waitress didn't recognize us, so she hated us. This was the coolest room in the coolest place in the coolest city on earth, and she had to serve two nobodies. So she hated us. I've never heard the words 'there's a two-drink minimum' uttered with such disdain. She also let us know that she couldn't be bothered to come back more than once, so we had to order our two drinks right away.

No problem. We got to skip the twenty-dollar cover, so this was no big deal.

"Four Labatt's," I said.

No Labatts, I was told.

"Molson?" I asked.

The only beer they had, I was informed, was Guiness and Amstel Light.

"Four Amstel Lights, then."

We watched the techies finish setting up the stage. Phil didn't know who the special performer was, but he did know that Paul Schaeffer and his band were backing them up.

The beers were unceremonially dumped onto our table.

I was a yokel. She knew it. She probably smelled it. But I wasn't going to let her attitude get to me. I could show her how cavalier I was. "I got this," I said magnanimously, pulling out a $20 and handing it to the waitress. "Keep the change."

She looked at the bill like it was used toilet paper. "It's $24," she sneered.

Oh. Somewhere in Yokelville cows mooed in laughter.

I pulled a ten out of my wallet and handed it to her. "Keep it," I said. It was obvious that she hadn't assumed otherwise, since she was already four steps away from us.

"Six bucks a bottle. For Amstel Light!" I said, perpetuating every yokel stereotype, "I can get a six pack of Amstel Light for less!"

Phil was sympathetic. "Shut up," he suggested helpfully.

The lights, already dim, dimmed farther. A spotlight gleamed off Paul Shaeffer's mirrored glasses, as well as his bald pate, as he introduced...

I'm not telling. I will tell you that she was a pop icon in the 1960's, and she was attempting a comeback. She wore a lime-green bodysuit that left nothing to the imagination.

Which was too bad, because imagination would have suited her better.

And then they started playing. It felt bad.

I wrote 'felt,' because it was so loud, it outstripped our capacity to hear it. It felt like whoever was mixing this thing said 'fuck it,' and turned all the knobs to 11. We stayed around for a while, absorbing more than our fair share of abuse, and I was thinking about leaving, but then we met up with these two young women. Well, actually Phil met up with them. How he actually was heard enough to get their attention is a miracle. My contributions to the conversation were along the lines of "hey," "cool," and "what?"

Phil brought them over to the table and introduced me to them. They both had names that were smells. "This is Jasmine, and this is Rose."


"They're [Lime Green Former '60's Pop Icon's] personal assistants," Phil yelled.


"We've been with her for about a year," Jasmine or Rose screamed, "She really wants to get back into the scene."

Phil and I nodded. "How's it going so far?" Phil bellowed.

"Not so good," Rose or Jasmine hollered, "this is her second try. The first time she performed she wet herself."


"She peed," Rose or Jasmine shouted, "all over the stage."

Perhaps we should stay after all.

We hung around until we were both nearly exhausted by the aural onslaught, but then we left, to go out and experience the rest of the Palladium.**

If anyone had ever wanted to do an MTV version of The Divine Comedy, this would have been the place. The further down we would travel, the more bizzare things appeared.

We walked out of the Room, and onto what at one time would have been the upper balcony of the theatre. Now it was a lounge where various shapes writhed and intertwined, often in the rhythm of the music that was being blasted down onto the dancefloor. The music had a far-off, thunderous quality, sort of like being around the corner from a waterfall.

I had a very strong suspicion about what was going on in that balcony. I really wanted to look, but I really wanted to get out of there as well.

We went down another flight of stairs, and were on a lower balcony that stretched all around the the main dance floor. Here, people were drinking, some were dancing. The music, while loud, was at least well-mixed, so that there was a bit of separation between the highs and the lows. It was deafening, but it wasn't offensive.

We wandered through the mass of people, watching them dance and interact with each other. Being a geek, I gravitated towards the control room, trying to figure out what they were using to control the lights and the video. Phil had hooked up with another girl, and was dancing down on the main floor. I sipped my drink and watched people until I had to pee.

If this was the MTV version of The Divine Comedy, then the Michael Todd Room would have been the first circle, the upper balcony the second, et c. The bathrooms were certainly the lowest rings of hell.

I went down past the dance floor, and further down, past mezzanines, until I came to the women's room, and then another floor down was the men's room.

New York State laws require public buildings to have bathrooms labeled 'men's' and 'women's,' but these were apparently mere technicalities at the Palladium. I saw as many men going in and out of the Women's room as I saw women coming in and out of the men's room.

Remember how I've been calling myself a yokel? Here's why.

As I walked down the last flight of stairs, I heard a noise. Actually a combination of noises. More specifically, the combination of the same noise over and over again.

Here is the onomotopaea of that sound:

And here's why I'm a yokel. As I heard that noise, I thought: Wow, they sure are using a lot of hairspray.

But they weren't using hairspray. No, not at all. Even though there were cans of the stuff on the counters next to the sinks, no one seemed to be using the hairspray. The noise was coming from the long row of toilet stalls. Each stall had three or four pairs of feet visible underneath. And each stall had one or two instances of the pffffffssssssst! sound coming from it.

It was a good thing that I didn't need to poop.

So I walked past the stalls, into a room with about 30 urinals in it, stretched along a wall. I chose one about 3/4 of the way down (I don't know why I went that far down; I seemed to be the only person who used the bathroom to go to the bathroom).

As I stood there, something moved at the edge of my perhipheral vision. I turned my head, and there was a young woman, leaning against the wall, looking at me pee.

I said, "Wanna dance?"

That seemed to surprise her. She smiled, shrugged, and said "sure."

"Mind if I finish?"

She didn't mind.

So, we went back upstairs and danced for a while. The encounter had enboldened me. I smiled. I even flirted with her. I bought her a drink and didn't even care about the 600% markup.***
We stood close and smiled. She leaned over and screamed intimately into my ear:

"Wanna do a line?"

I shyly hollered that I didn't have any coke.

She leaned in and bellowed "I have a friend...?"

But I told her that I didn't do cocaine, and, well, that was that. I danced with a few others, and eventually Phil and I met back up, and went out to another, quieter venue.

But it was a great adventure, a great night.

When I came back home, I called my friend Heather, and told her about the evening. Heather was my former roommate when I lived in North Carolina, a sweet-natured, no-nonsense girl from the Canadian Maritimes. I had a thing for her, she didn't have a thing for me, but we liked each other too much to have that be too much of an issue.

I recounted the evening, and finished it with the following line: "I couldn't believe it! I asked a girl to dance with my dick in my hands...and she said yes!"

Heather's response floored me: "What makes you think it was a girl?"


Good question.

This was, after all, New York City. There were transvestites there. Transvestites. Crossdressers. She-Males.

Was it really a girl that I asked?

I thought about it for a while. Probably a couple of days. Then I came to a conclusion: it didn't matter. If the person walked like a girl, talked like a girl, dressed, and acted like a girl, and I wasn't romantically or physically involved with the person, what did it matter?


*Micheal Todd, for those who don't know, was the film producer who created the craze for ultrawide-format films in the 1950's, such as Cinerama, which used a three-camera array, and then the "Todd-AO" format, which used only one camera, with a special, extremely wide film strip.

He also tapped Liz Taylor, back when that meant something.

**And what ever happened to Lime Green Jumpsuit Singer, you ask? She made it through the event, bladder controlled, released an album with modest critical and commercial success, and had a cameo appearance in one of 1986's most popular songs, where she reprised a verse from one of her most popular songs. In the music video, she wore a jumpsuit. But this one was black.

***OK, I cared a little. But I pretended I didn't care very well.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

To Do Today

Took the kids to see X-Men 3: The Last Stand last night.

It's dark. Heroes die.

But being a comic-book movie, it's still a popcorn flick. There's totally arbitrary uses and non-uses of mutant powers, and the producers have shown that they've come across a formula that will allow them to continue the franchise without a great deal of worry about actors who no longer want to play a part--since there's so many X-Men, just focus on a new group.

There's even a nod to a certain YouTube phenomenon.

And I know it's largely done through CGI, but Kelsey Grammer does a pretty good turn as an action hero.

When we got home, it was bedtime, even for a non-school night. My son took a pencil and notebook with him.

"Whatcha writing?" I asked.

"My to do list," he said.

Sundays are our chore day. We spend about an hour and a half working together to clean the house. I know it's not much, but any more time than that and I would REALLY have to work harder the rest of the week to keep the place neat.

"That's a good thing," I told him, "what are you up to so far?"

"Number 8."

Cool. He's planning on doing eight helpful things tomorrow morning. What a great kid!

Then he read number 8: "Make afternoon To Do list."

"One of the items on your to do list is to make another To Do list?"

He looked at me like I'm the moron that I am. "Well, I don't want to forget."

So here is how the world shapes up to a ten-year-old boy, as expressed through a To Do list:

  1. Read To Do List
  2. Put on new underwear
  3. Get dressed
  4. Wake up my sister*
  5. Get cereal
  6. Start chores
  7. Finish chores
  8. Make afternoon To Do list
  9. Get clothes for tomorrow
  10. Have fun
It's great to set priorities


*I'm glad he decided to wait until he completed steps two and three for this one.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Open Letters:

Dear Bloggers, Pundits, and Others Who Publish Their Thoughts on the Internet:

Proofread. Spellcheck.

For cripe's sake. I know that English is not a static language. I'm aware that there are word formations that are working themselves though common usage into some dictionaries.* I understand that there are shorthands to indicate common expressions, although IMHO they are all BS (LOL). And I can even let pass fat-fingered misstypings in comment sections during long and heated debates. But the fact that 'teh' and 'pwn' are now considered idiosyncratic and not just lazy typing rankles me no end. Leet? Leet this sux0rz! Kekekeke!

To the High-Powered, Over-Cologned, Lexus-Driving Go-Getters That Use the Same Bathroom as I Do.

Flush. We don't save that stuff.

To Kids Playing Light Sabers:

At least one of you has to be a Sith. You can't all be Jedi. Jedi don't fight each other; they work things out. Therefore, if you want to duel, someone has to go to the Dark Side.

And yes, you can too cut your own throat with a light saber.


*Although God help me, I will cry the day Websters includes 'alot' into its lexicon. There is no such word. 'Allot' means to parcel out. If you wish to indicate 'a great deal' or 'a large amount' you type a[SPACE]lot.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sports water?

An object lesson in 'less is more:'

For the move, I bought a bunch of refreshments for the folks who helped. One of the things I purchased was a 12 pack of 'Sports water.'

I 'm aware that I'm in a minority here, but I like the things I consume to taste like the things I'm consuming. For instance: I like turkey. I like ham. But I'm not a fan of turkey ham.

Similarly, I like my coffee coffee-flavored, not hazelnut, or french vanilla, or some other ice-cream flavor.*

And, after drinking a mango-flavored Propel, I can add that I like my water--you guessed it--water-flavored.

Remember when when you were a kid, and you'd come home all hot and sweaty from playing outside during the summer, and your mom had made a pitcher of Kool-Aid yesterday because you were hot and sweaty then too, and had put lots of ice cubes in the pitcher because the water wasn't all that cold, but then she put the pitcher with the ice cubes in the fridge, but now the ice cubes all melted, and what you drank was just this really watered down Kool-Aid, and you drank it anyway because that's all that was cold and your mom wouldn't make any more until this pitcher was finished, and it just wasn't as good as yesterdays?


Well, they bottled that and called it Propel.

It's watered down Kool-Aid.

I know corporations are a bunch of greedy bastards, but do we have to make it so damned easy for them?

"Excuse me, Mister Fornortonor, but are you suggesting we put less flavoring in our drinks, and charge more for it?"

"Yes, Mister Golwhinkie, if we repackage it and give it a nice active name, all the fitness freaks will buy it!"

And on another move-related note, my one cat still only comes out at night, after everyone else is asleep. During the rest of the day he's catatonic.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.


*although I must confess I do kindasorta like coffee-flavored ice cream...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Greetings from Swillburg!

That's the name of my new neighborhood.

The name dates back to the mid 1800's when the city's most prominent pig farmer would travel the neighborhood's narrow streets, picking up the garbage to turn into his pigs' feed.

Hard to believe, but it's not one of the better-known neighborhoods in the city. People know it's here, obviously, but not many know it's called Swillburg. In fact, there's only two types of people who know its name: the type that think 'Swillburg' has a sort of quaint, historical charm, and the type that grew up in Swillburg.

I have a nice green house, with some big rooms, a damp basement, and intermittent cable problems, so I'll keep this short.

I'm glad the move is done. I still have a ton of work to do, but the house is definitely on its way to becomnig a home. And it's only one block east and three blocks south from my old digs, so I'm still close to all my favorite places.*

Maybe I'll post about the weekend move. Or maybe not.

My favorite part of the weekend, though, had nothing to do with the move: Early Sunday afternoon, I took a break and the kids and I had lunch at an outdoor cafe down the street. The highlight of the meal was watching my kids practice their spit takes.

What a great life I have.


*and in the case of Ming noodles, it's waaaay closer: 233 steps away. Yes I counted. Yum

Friday, May 12, 2006

About to go dark.

I'm going to disconnect my computer now. When next I blog, it will be from my new digs.

This move has made me very uncomfortable.

I've moved before, but this one's really disturbing me.

I finally realized that it's because the last few moves have always been as a couple.

I'm leaving the last place I lived with my wife. The next place will be MY place.

Mine and my kids.

That's a little bit sad, and a little bit scary for me.

OK. Enough of that.

Before I sign off, a few onomatapoetic words to describe the packing/moving process:

Hngh nng hnnnnnnngh!
Blech! Ptui! Ptui!

See you on the other side.


Monday, May 08, 2006

So there I was...

right out of the shower, ready to get dressed and start the day. I had done laundry yesterday, but all of it was sitting in baskets in my kitchen. When I had gone downstairs for breakfast, I had grabbed the pants, shirts, socks and underwear I was going to wear today.

Or so I thought.

Here's something interesting: did you know that an 8-year-old girls' T-shirt is almost identical in size and weight to a 200-lb man's boxer briefs?

I found that out this morning.

No big deal, I tell myself, I'll just scoot downstairs to get myself a pair. Since the kids were still asleep and their door closed, I didn't bother wrapping myself in my towel.

I think you all know where this is going. I wish I had known this morning.

To get to the kitchen, I have to go through the front hallway. Most of my kitchen is not visible from the front door, but the basket with my underwear is right at the edge of the front hallway. I bend over to find some clean undies, and as I do, I hear a noise directly behind me.

Does your front door have a window in it? Mine does. I could see the meter reader standing there. He's very conspicously looking everyplace except indside.

I'm sure he had seen enough as it was.

I duck into the kitchen, pull on the underwear, throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt from another basket, and let the guy in.

He goes to the basement, reads the meter, and splits, having already seen my split.

I'm so damn glad I'm moving.


Sunday, May 07, 2006


Perhaps he's not so bad after all.

Lt. Trouble just informed the family that he's getting his promotion a full two months early. Starting June 15th, they'll have to call him 1st Lieutenant Trouble. He's making with the modesty about the whole thing, but he's really excited about it. And I can't blame him.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to fly out for his ceremony. I start Grand Jury that week. It would have to be a brief visit regardless; he flies to San Antonio on the 17th for eye surgery anyway. So we'll just hold off until later on this year for a visit.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Well, actually, the ranch is moving. The kids and I are moving to a smaller house that's a lot cheaper than this place, where I hope to be able to start saving money again. By this time next year, I'll be out of bankruptcy, and then I'll seriously sock some green away for a small house someplace for the three of us.

Or maybe more. Who knows? Right now, there's no future STBEW's on the radar, but that may change.

Speaking of STBEW, I know I sometimes bitch about her...ok, I frequently bitch about her, but I've been in touch with some old friends (and some new friends) who are going through divorces that are far more acrimonious that mine. I'm seeing some really nasty fights out there. She could have sued for custody, and demanded support, and a whole bunch of ugliness could have ensued.

She's working the system to help her recovery, yes, but that's what the system is for. And as bad as the government's doing, it still has more money than I do.

At any rate, what with the move and all, my blogging will be even more sporadic than it is now. At least for the next week or so.

But things are getting better. Things are good now. But they will be better.

That I know.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Want

I want to keep improving.

I want to be paid what I'm worth.

I want people to say to me: "This is really good."

I want to kiss someone every day.

I want to see my kids discover what makes them happy.

I want to cry and be happy on the day my youngest child moves out.

I want to make the earth move for someone.

I want to laugh and make people laugh.

I want to forget what cigarettes tasted like.

I want to hold grandchildren.

I want to bring something valuable to every situation I'm in.

I want people to seek me out for advice.

I want to be unafraid to say "I don't know."

I want to find out.

I want to play catch.

I want to ride a horse.

I want to not care what people think.

I want to be able to feel my emotions without having them control my life.

I want to never have anyone be afraid of me ever again.

I want to leave every encounter better than I entered it.

I want to learn something interesting on the day I die.

I want the day I die to be a long ways away.

I want a big life.