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Friday, April 30, 2004

High Pressure Versus Soft Sell: Getting Lucky in the New Century

I was waiting at the bar for my take-out food at the Chinese place next to my apartment last night when I was lucky enough to overhear the mating ritual of a rather common species of inner-city techno-dork. I was sitting at the bar and the action was taking place at a table directly behind me. I didn’t even turn around see the parties involved. From what I heard at the table I think I can come to a fairly accurate generalization of the principal characters in this drama. “Accurate generalization’ is my own oxymoronic word coinage.

It seemed pretty obvious that the central male character in this play was a salesman of some sort. If he isn’t a salesman then he should be. Let’s call him Dave. I’m guessing Dave is still wearing a tie even though it is well after business hours. Maybe he lives in the suburbs and can’t go home and change before cocktails downtown. Although I can’t see him, I can almost hear the cell phone clipped to his belt.

Dave and one of his workmates are joined by a young woman who seems to know Dave’s friend. As soon as she sits down and is introduced to Dave, he starts to work his “charm.” In Dave’s case, his “charm” borrows directly from Gestapo interrogation tactics used against French Resistance fighters. The only thing missing is the standard, “Vee haf vays uf making you talk.” Dave grills his new acquaintance with so many questions of such a personal nature that the conversation seems more like he was interviewing someone wishing to adopt a newborn child, instead of him trying to get in a girl’s pants.

“How old are you?”
“Where do you work?”
“What do you do?”
“What do you do there, specifically?”
(He really asked this)
“How much do you weigh?”
“How much do you make?”
(He didn’t asked these questions but I wasn’t around long)

My first question to Dave would have been, “Is this a social call or are you making a sale?” Work is done for the day, Dave, time to turn off the high-pressure sales tactics. For a minute there I thought I was in the middle of a comedy sketch. The woman would say, “I was just out to get a drink after work. I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.” And so on.

But then I got to thinking about what a fucking dipshit I am when it comes to women. My soft-sell technique hasn’t served me all that well except in keeping me out of sexual harassment law suits. Here’s how my sex life generally unfolds. I go out with a woman. Maybe we go out a bunch of times. I say good night and go home. I close the door behind me and walk into the apartment and turn on the light. I look behind me and my date is standing behind me. I shriek in terror. After I calm down I realize who it is and what it is she wants. Even then I’m not totally convinced that I’m going to get lucky.

Maybe Dave and I should hang out together sometime. He can teach me how to say to a woman I’ve never talked to before that she has pretty eyes while keeping a straight face, and I can let him know that if you wear a cell phone on your belt it just shouts to the world that you were a kid who got his lunch money taken away in high school.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Fixer Upper




Maintenance Request

Name: Leftbanker Apartment: #202

1) The #4 washing machine--although it seems to work just fine--makes a noise when it is in the spin cycle that sounds a lot like two people having sex. The only reason that I have decided to fill out a maintenance request is that one of the two people making sex noises may be underage. The machine may not be broken but it is wrong.

2) At certain times of the day it can take upwards of fifteen minutes before anything remotely resembling hot water makes its way into my faucets. Is there some way to collect the run-off water and divert it to irrigation projects in Mauritania?

3) In your brochures you advertise this building as having “old world charm.” By that do you mean the old guy who is often passed out in the doorway? Can you ask him to at least pull his pants up? Or by “old world charm” do you mean the ancient elevator? Taking that thing is like some form of extreme sport.

4) I know this isn’t a maintenance request, but in your brochure you have a picture of a building tenant who looks like a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader with a laptop computer. Can you tell me her apartment number?

5) I'm afraid I lost all interest in this bit.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Cultural War to Come

Like everybody these days I’m a student of popular culture. If you have paid attention at all over the past several years you would know that the apocalyptic tempest brewing on the horizon of modern society has nothing to do with the differences between Christianity and Islam, east and west, American hegemony and third world insurgency. No, if popular movies have taught us anything it is that the coming firestorm will pit the slobs against the snobs.

It is time to choose sides, America. This is a war that will pit brother against brother, father against son, mother against daughter, father and sons against great-grandmother (Not much of a match-up there. Granny is definitely getting her assed kicked.), caddies against country club members, rich versus poor, stuffed-shirt professors against partying students with failing grades, semi-retarded nuclear power plant employees versus decadent owners, and this is just TV characters; when Christian and Muslim slobs go up against their snob counterparts the shit will really hit the geopolitical fan.

Since the dawn of time slobs have been stronger and have outnumbered snobs. Neanderthals were pretty much ruled by slobs but then a snob Neanderthal used a stick sharpened with a stone tool to poke out the eye of the dominant Neanderthal slob. Snobs went on to build nuclear weapons which proved more than a match for slobs armed with tire irons and broken beer bottles.

George Bush and Osama bin Laden have more in common than they have differences. Although they both came from wealthy families their personal styles run towards the slob. Osama lives in a cave and reportedly has a serious flea problem. What could be more slob than that? Bush, a former frat boy, threw up on the front seat of Dick Cheney’s Porsche at a White House fund-raising party. Although Bush and Osama are sworn enemies, put them both at a fancy dinner party and the only fighting they will do is over who gets to dump the terrine of scalding soup on the wealthy dowager’s head.

I, myself, feel like someone living on the Mason-Dixon Line at the start of the Civil War--I will have a hard time picking a side. Although I spent the entire past weekend locked up in my apartment trying to learn two Chopin nocturnes on the piano (very snob), all I ate were nachos and hotdogs (very slob). I think that I will wait to see which side is going to win and then jump in on their side at the very end to the conflict. I will throw the last pie into the face of the symphony conductor which will be the coup de grace in the slob/snob death match—unless the snobs up the ante by using nukes in which case I will take off my Hawaiian shirt to reveal the tuxedo underneath.


I understand it's your job to be funny, but there really is a coming cultural war. It will be between those who are dumb enough to believe a sock stuffed in a flight suit makes the man, and those who laugh out loud at the sight.

kevin m.

Friday, April 23, 2004

For Sale: Our National Dignity

Price: Make an Offer

Yesterday I was at the game watching the Seattle Mariners take a 2-8 beating at the hands of the Oakland A’s. The ball park here is called Safeco Field in honor of the corporate sponsor that put a few pennies in the pot after local taxes paid for the lion’s share of construction. Safeco is some sort of insurance agency. The basketball arena in Seattle is named after a bank. This seems to be the wave of the future, making you wonder when the time will come when cities are renamed after their corporate sponsors.

Lots of people now write on personal web sites, or blogs as they are called. What sets this blog apart from the rest is that I actually research the things that I write about. I took a trip to the drugstore in my neighborhood to research companies that may one day be among those bidding to rename our local institutions.

I looked at the aisle categories. A less tireless researcher would have taken the easy route and gone directly to Antacids/Laxatives/Incontinent Aids. I did too, but that wasn’t the only place I looked. I could have ended this essay of questionable humor value by asking how you would feel about going to see a game at a stadium named after a hemorrhoid cream. That would have got a cheap laugh, but I’m looking for more than that. I’m looking for several cheap laughs.

If I would have stopped there I wouldn’t have stumbled upon Boudreaux’s Butt Paste: Goes on and cleans off easily. Pleasant scent. Pleasant scent is something we all look for in butt paste but I don’t want a baseball stadium to carry that name. A less devoted writer wouldn’t have ferreted out Fleet Enema for Children. I feel that just writing that will get me in trouble so naming a football stadium after that product would be totally inappropriate--or am I just being too conservative?.

Will we allow any corporation to purchase the names of our parks and cities? In the Foot Care/Detergent/Light Globes aisle I came across Zim’s Crack Cream. Your guess is as good as mine as to what that is for, but surely we will draw the line at Zim’s Crack Cream sponsorship. Please tell me that we aren’t going to let companies place their corporate logos on military uniforms. I’ll bet that the Bush people have thought about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Dynamic Personal Power Energy Systems

What do you think is easier: Becoming a motivational speaker or becoming motivated by the speakings of a motivational speaker? From the look of bookstores these days it would seem that making a bundle on a self-help book is about the easiest thing in the world. I wonder if there are any motivational books on how to get motivated to write a motivational book. There has to be.

Being the tireless journalist that I am, I like to have the faintest knowledge of a subject before I make fun of it. In the name of research I spent a couple minutes online looking at the website for that “Personal Power” guy with the big teeth. For his biography the site lists an impressive catalogue of his accomplishments including bringing peace to the Middle East. He supposedly feeds 9 million people a year. With this list of credits I was hesitant to poke fun at him. And then I clicked on the merchandise page.

He sells a leather date book for $255. That seems like a lot until you consider that it has a calculator with a powerful micro-chip capable of doing of doing multiplication and long division in seconds.

For only $199 you can get Mr. Robbins nutritional supplements of “bioenergetic colloidals and micronutrients.” I don’t know what that means and my spell check has no fucking idea either but they are guaranteed to “detoxify your cells while providing nutritional support for all of your body’s functions.” Is skepticism a body function?

His brand of hucksterism would make Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man blush. Consider his personal coaching method that charges $3,200 for a series of 30 minute phone calls from a professional coach. Who are these coaches would be my first question. I have a feeling that they are the moral equivalent of "hot" phone sex operators. Instead of a highly-motivated personal coach you will be talking to a guy who hasn’t changed his t-shirt in four days. He just hit the mute button on the fishing show he was watching before he dialed your number. Good luck with your search for “personal power.”

$210 buys you CD’s of his powerful 7 day program where you will “learn to develop deep relationships for profound fulfillment.” I think he needs to use another synonym for ‘deep’ in that description to really hypnotize the hicks. I love it when a motivational series is offered on tape, as if people too fucking lazy to even read a book are ever going to get their shit together. Why don’t they just offer these life-changing works in nacho cheese flavor? Motivational snack food—I think I’m on to something with this idea.

Leftbanker Motivational Dynamics now offers synergy-dianetic sour cream and onion potato chips (My spell-check wanted to call them ‘synergy-diabetic’ but I overruled). At $25 per 16 oz. bag these potato chips will revitalize your personal energy by providing valuable micronutrients, like salt. A dozen bio-energentic donuts cost only $40 but provide you with something your body is probably dangerously lacking: sugar. Sugar deficiency is known as the silent killer. Don’t take any crazy chances with your health, order now.

Using powerfully advanced cellular telephone micro-technology Leftbanker Motivational Dynamics offers personal training for only $450 an hour. Each telephone motivational-training session will encourage you to:

Clean your room. You’re living like an animal in there.

Sit up straight; slouching makes you look shorter.

Stop picking that! If you pick it, it will never heal.

Take a jacket, it’s freezing outside.

Clean up the water you spilled on the tile floor before someone breaks their neck. Then how will you feel, Mister “I’m too much of a big shot to clean up my own messes?”

for more info call 1-800-JEWISHGRANDMOTHER

Quite frankly, I don’t know how you have survived this long without these valuable “dynamic life-energy lessons.” Order today and start being a new you tomorrow because let’s face it, the ‘you’ that ‘you’ are now is a big pile of horse manure if we can be totally honest here. And would it kill you to lose a few pounds?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Speaking French, Right-wing Loud Mouths, and National Defense

A short piece in this week’s Talk of the Town in The New Yorker magazine reveals how presidential candidate John Kerry has been trying to distance himself from the fact that he speaks fluent French. Evidently in these Franco-reviling times, right-wing talk-show hosts feel that speaking French is somehow...I don’t know what right-wing talk-show hosts could possibly feel about Americans who speak French. They themselves probably feel threatened, inadequate, stupid, parochial, and smug all at the same time. Know-nothing, right-wing talk-show hosts are a complex breed of…something.

Most American universities require a foreign language requirement so why blame guys like John Kerry who actually passed his requirement and then some? Can someone please stand up and tell me that my investment in learning foreign languages is a bad thing. President Bush has been caught on tape attempting to speak Spanish (His Spanish is actually a lot worse than his English, if you can imagine that.) I guess the right-wingers think it is OK to speak a foreign language as long as you speak it like a severely handicapped person. This sort of critique of Kerry belongs somewhere back in the Chinese cultural revolution where intellectuals were ridiculed and forced to work as stable cleaners.

I was in Paris the day before we invaded Iraq. I listened to Jacques Chirac on French TV explain that he didn’t think Iraq was an imminent threat and that an imminent invasion wasn't justified. He wanted to let the weapons inspectors finish their job. In Hindsight he was absolutely right but try telling that to a right-wing talk-show host. Over the course of the past year I have seen, heard, and read the vilest of insults hurled at the French for opposing this war in Iraq that has turned into a shit storm—just like Chirac predicted it would.

I overheard a guy next to me in a bar tell his buddy that French people were spitting on Americans in Paris and spitting on the graves of U.S. soldiers who died fighting in France during WWII. I turned to him and told him he was absolutely full of shit (In those words, I’m no diplomat.). I asked where he heard this shit and he started back-pedaling immediately. I’ve never been spat upon while traveling in France and I’ve never had anything remotely resembling an anti-American experience. As I’ve written here before, if you’ve had an “anti-American” experience I would suggest that what you had was an anti-you experience. You are probably an asshole.

On the other hand, I have read and heard some extremely virulent anti-French rhetoric in the past year. If the shoe were on the other foot, if while in France I had read in a popular magazine--say the French equivalent to Maxim--about what a cowardly sack of bastards Americans are, I would have taken offense. If I had heard French radio hosts ridiculing their president for speaking English I would have been insulted.

If anyone thinks that it is in the best interests of the United States of America for our president NOT to speak a language other than English I dare this person to say as much. If these right-wing ideologues knew anything about national defense—and they don’t—they would know that what threatens our security more than anything is our lack of qualified linguists in the intelligence services (Yes, we even need French linguists). Right-wing heckling of people who speak a language other than English is detrimental to the security of our nation.


Seems odd that a political strategy derived from grade school taunting could be so effective, but why would the Republicans abandon it now since it's been so effective for them?

It's all a bunch of coded shorthand that lets know-nothings feel as though they're in the know. Terms like "Liberal Media," "Teddy Kennedy," "Tax and Spend," "Tough on Crime," "Weak on Defense" and, of course, "France" are non-thought signifiers that serve to warn others that though the speaker's mouth is moving, the brain is turned off.

kevin m.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

White Bread Aesthetics

One of the Mexican kitchen workers in a restaurant next to my apartment drives this funked-out Ford Mustang. He has added some crazy details to his ride, personalizing his vehicle. In the movie Office Space workers at a cheesy theme restaurant were told to wear buttons on their uniform suspenders. These buttons were called ‘flair’ in the movie and employees were encouraged to wear as much ‘flair’ as possible. This Mexican dude’s additions to his Mustang could be considered ‘flair.’ Most white people don’t have any ‘flair’ on their vehicles.

Most well-to-do white people would see this Mexican guy’s after-market alterations to his car as tacky. On the other hand the Mexican guy certainly thinks that his car is much cooler now than when he bought it. My car has no flair but I certainly admire what the Mexican guy has done with his wheels. I’m sure that the Mexican guy looks at rich white people’s cars and thinks that they are terrifically boring. Whose aesthetic sensibilities would you lean towards?

This Mexi-mobile has a decal that says “Jesus” (I think that in this instance it is pronounced “Hey Soos.” My guess is that “Hey Soos” is a Mexican NASCAR driver.). The car also has gold embroidery on the dash. Lots of white people think this sort of ornamentation to be in bad taste yet they leave their cars “as is” from the factory, with no attempt to customize their wheels in any way. Let’s think about this for a minute.

Lots of rich white people drive German or Japanese luxury cars. I think it is safe to say that most Americans feel that Germans and Japanese are fussy and uptight. Cars are designed by engineers who most people think are fussy and uptight. German and Japanese cars are designed by German and Japanese engineers. Are you getting my point yet? What I’m saying is that the stick up white people’s butts has a stick up its butt. I think that it is time for us to try and at least pull the stick that is up the stick’s butt in our butt, out. I realize that the last sentence is a bit clumsy but seeing that it is probably the dumbest thought that has ever passed through my head I decided to leave it “as is.”

We take our automobiles much too seriously. Just what we spend on car advertising is enough to build a nation-wide network of mass transportation. If more people started driving these “Jesus-mobiles” or Philippino taxis it might take some of the wind out of the sails of the “conspicuous consumption-mobiles.” If every other car stopped at a light had flames along the sides wouldn’t you feel like a douche bag in your 7 series BMW?

Under the present regime of white people-dominated aesthetics the only thing your car really says about you is how much you paid for it. It doesn’t say whether or not you are a fan of “Hey Soos” or even if you care anything for gold embroidery. You wouldn’t hire a German engineer to decorate your apartment, would you? I hope not. Let’s all go out there and add some flair to our cars.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Tune in Tomorrow

(or the next day)
I’m going to do my taxes today, or maybe tomorrow, but almost certainly the day after that. What are they going to do, throw me in jail? Wait a minute; I think they actually can throw you in jail for procrastinating on your taxes. Most things you can put off pretty much indefinitely without much in the way of consequences. Most businesses have late fees to discourage procrastination but only the Internal Revenue Service has come up with the very effective deterrent of jail sentences. 

So unless you are threatening me with a stretch in prison don’t expect me to get too excited about whatever it is you have for me. That Alumni fund donation is certainly the lowest priority in my life but I’ll get around to it eventually--maybe tomorrow. I call this sort of tasking strategy “Mañana-ization.” This word comes from the Spanish word ‘mañana’ meaning tomorrow and ‘ization’ meaning…how the fuck do I know? Do I look like a dictionary? Look it up yourself. 

Bill paying seems to be the area most affected by this mañana-ization process, at least with me. It’s not that I lack the funds to take care of my bills, but it is just so much work to write the checks and put them in stamped envelopes. I keep meaning to get on-line bill paying, but it’s probably too late to do that today. I do have a very organized system for keeping track of my bills: I just leave them in the mailbox until I finally get around to paying them. 

I wanted to get a few answers about this mañana-ization thing so I thought the philosophy faculty at the University of Washington might be able to help me out. They told me that although this problem has definite philosophical implications they were all too busy at the moment. They are still desperately trying to solve the age-old riddle of whether or not if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it make a sound. After three and a half years and with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation they have only been able to determine that when a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, the tree almost always falls on the tape recorder. They told me to call back tomorrow or the next day. Not a good sign. 

I did manage to speak with someone in the psychology department. I asked if it was true that procrastination comes from a fear of failure, that you put off things because it prevents you from dealing with your inadequacies. The professor’s response was direct and to the point. “What? You’re afraid of failure so you put off mailing in your phone bill for weeks? Maybe you're just a lazy slob who needs to get off his ass and live your life. Are those pajamas you're wearing? It’s four o’clock in the afternoon!” I thanked the professor for his time and shuffled out, being careful not to lose my footing in my slippered feet. I was going to change into appropriate clothes but I figured that I was just going back to bed in a few hours anyway. 

And then it dawned on me. The mañana-ization syndrome is just taking shortcuts. Like lying around in your pajamas all day to save time when you go to bed the next night, leaving your bills unpaid really just saves you time. They will just double-bill you next month so why bother? So yes, Mister College Professor of Psychology, I’m lazy—lazy like a fox.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Grown-Up Laughs

Tragedy is when I get a paper cut on my little finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
-Mel Brooks

There is some commercial on TV that has a clip from an episode of The Three Stooges in which Moe clocks Curly in the head with an enormous pipe wrench. For those of you too young to be familiar with that old show, it was not about sado-masochism, it was supposed to be a comedy. Eye-gouging was a big laugh-getter back in those days. Back in the good old days, comedy was directly proportional to the size of the object you broke over somebody’s head. It was much funnier to smash someone’s head with a sledge hammer than with a small vase. As a comedy writer I long for those simpler times, those halcyon days of comedy where a piano dropping on an innocent bystander’s head was enough to bring the house down.

Lots of comedy shows back in my youth were so appallingly violent that Spanish Inquisition torturers would probably flinch at their content. I wonder if I somehow damaged my psyche by sitting through countless hours of this horrific brutality. It’s not that I really liked watching trash like The Three Stooges or Tom & Jerry cartoons as a kid but it sure beat learning Mozart sonatas on the piano. Besides, we didn’t even have a piano. If we did have a piano my brothers and I probably shoved it out a third storey window on one of the neighbor kids. Sure, life was violent back then, but man, did we have some major laughs.

The Simpsons has taken the violence of yesteryear to outrageously absurd lengths in its cartoon parody, The Itchy and Scratchy Show. Unspeakable acts of torture are committed, all in the name of humor. I guess all this falls under the old adage, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets shot in the head repeatedly with a nail gun, and then it’s hysterical.”

But why does comedy have to stoop to such incredible lows of pain and suffering? Not all comedy writers take the low road to laughs. The New Yorker magazine has a cartoonist who contributes quite frequently and who never resorts to violence. I can’t ever read his/her signature but his/her drawings are almost always of a bunch of rich white people standing around at cocktail parties. In one cartoon the caption reads: It’s a ‘warts and all’ biography with some really great warts. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that this cartoon desperately needs some sort of violence to bring out the humor. You are thinking that maybe the pilot light goes out in the $6,000 custom-made Wolf range in the kitchen and then one of the party goers lights up a Cuban cigar and KABOOM. Deadly shards of champagne glass and oyster forks create a carnage so horrific that only a careful examination of dental records allows loved ones to identify the victims. (Please allow me to regain my composure after my fit of giggles just thinking about all those rich people tragically struck down by a gas explosion).

In all seriousness I think it is high time America and I “grow up” when it comes to comedy. I'll admit that I'm not proud of work I've done in the past. The eye-gouging, the hammers to the head, the killings, all for a few cheap laughs, these all have got to stop. I mean, what kind of society are we living in if the comedic content of a New Yorker cartoon is vastly improved by an explosion that completely destroys a 5,000 square foot upper Westside apartment? Things need to change and I vow to change things here at Leftbanker right here and now. I refuse to use human or animal suffering to bolster a punch line. I vow to write humor as inoffensive as those New Yorker cartoons.

This is really, really hard for me so can you give me a few minutes?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

Have you ever had a parking spot that is so good that instead of screwing that up by driving you walk or take the bus? My car is parked in one of those envious spots right now. I realize that not driving my car because I have a great parking spot makes less sense than vinyl slip covers on your furniture, but I can’t help myself. I think that the satisfaction I get just looking at my car parked right in front of my building is worth a lot in cab fare. As I’ve said a million times, I don’t really like to drive anyway.

Since I don’t really drive, and what I’m really interested in is having a good parking space, I have come up with an idea for a new company. It would be a company that gives you a really nice car with a really great parking space. You don’t get to drive it but who cares? It would be cheaper than actually owning a car. You would use this decoy car just to impress women while saving yourself a bundle on car insurance. Intrigued? Keep reading.

Say a woman comes over to your place. You both decide to go out. You would leave your building and walk towards your decoy car. Let’s say that it is a really nice European luxury sedan. Just when you are opening her door to go where ever you were going you stop and say, “You know, it’s such a nice evening, maybe we should walk.” She will be impressed not only with the car but also with your kooky unpredictability and spontaneity. Maybe the car doesn’t even have an engine or it could be just a hologram of a car. Who cares? She won’t ever know the difference.

Maybe you have a decoy car that is some sort of hot rod or sports car. This time you tell your date that you really shouldn’t drive because your license was suspended for driving 180 mph down a side street. Your lawyer will probably get you out of it but maybe you should take a cab tonight just to be on the safe side since you can’t help yourself when you are behind the wheel of this tiger. My guess is that after you lay that on her she won’t even want to go out; she’ll just want to go back to your place to get to know you better, you big outlaw you.

Your fellow bus riders would think a lot more of you if they thought you had an immaculately detailed Maseratti parked in front of your building and the only reason you take the bus, the “looser cruiser,” is because you are firmly committed to environmental issues. I mean if a car is basically not much more than a status symbol in our society who cares if yours is just a cardboard cut-out?

This same company could park a horrifically expensive luxury car with a flat tire in front of some swanky pick-up joint. You meet someone at the bar and suggest going to another bar across town. When you walk out with your new friend you get to the car with the flat. You feign like you are going to change the tire like the he-man that you are but then you say, “Let’s just take a cab. I’ll call the garage to come get this wreck.” While she is checking out your car you spray a little more of that paint stuff on your bald spot and whistle for a cab. Game, set, and match. The company could rent the same car out to a bar-full of losers like you and me.

This system would work especially well for guys who want to “own” a Humvee. You don’t think the dorks who have these monstrosities really want to drive them do you? Hell no they don’t, they just want to seem like the outdoorsy type to women who want to seem like the outdoorsy type. After the two of you decide not to take a drive out to the mountains for a hike you propose driving your Humvee over to Applebee’s for some mozzarella sticks and daiquiris. In the parking lot you point to your fake Hummer and tell her that you only have a 50 gallon gas tank and Applebee’s is three miles away so maybe you should walk. Unless the TV ads are lying to me, shitty gas mileage is a real turn-on for women these days.

Is this being deceitful? Sure it is, but most of the people you see driving fancy cars are so far in debt that they make Brazil look solvent. So what if that little chubby guy with the toupee who drives the Porsche is closer to the people at the collection agency than you are with your own family. Do you think that keeps him from scoring?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Major League Memories

Today is the opening day of Major League Baseball (As far as Mariner fans are concerned). Life is good. I’ll be watching the M’s play the Angels at Seattle’s beautiful ballpark in the Pioneer Square section of town. I refuse to call Seattle’s ball park by its official corporate name—they don’t pay me anything to call it that. I will meet all of my other friends who were lucky enough to have found tickets. We’ll have a beer or two at one of our traditional pre-game watering holes like the J&M Saloon or FX McCory’s. I’ll eat a hot dog, settle down with a cup of coffee, and take in a ball game.


Baltimore Orioles My baseball-addicted friends and I are rather intense when we are at the park. We used to be the clowns of the left field bleachers at Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium. Admission was $4.50 and a beer was less back then (1987-1991). We rarely drank much at the games because we were just too busy watching the game. We would bet on every inning, every at bat, and sometimes on every pitch. Don’t try any of that “baseball is boring” shit on this crowd or you could very well get thrown out of the section. Anything that got in the way of our watching the game was asking for it from this group. We would heckle the hecklers, shout down the loudmouths, and God help you if you booed Cal Ripkin.

I loved talking to the old timers around us; people who had been Orioles fans since the beginning, fathers teaching their sons how to keep score, grand fathers telling their grand kids about the days before the designated hitter. It was from the depths of Memorial Stadium’s left field bleachers that the best baseball betting game was invented by my friends Andy and Tom, and me.

On the night the best betting game was invented, Andy, Tom, and I had been elevated from our lowly bleacher seat status to the lofty heights of a sky box suite through some work connections. We were eating and drinking for free with about ten other people we had never met before. To break the ice we started our usual degenerate betting games like guessing what the pitcher would throw next or which team would score first. From this our game—BALTIMORE BEER CUP BASEBALL--was hatched.


Every one who wants to play puts a dollar in an empty beer cup. One person takes the cup. That person takes the first batter. If the batter hits an extra base hit the person with the cup keeps the kitty. If the batter fails to get an extra base hit that person puts another dollar in the cup and passes it on to the next person. If he walks you just pass the cup with no penalty. If your batter strikes out, hits into a double play, or flies out to the warning track you must put in two dollars before passing the cup. If your batter hits a home run all other players must give you an extra dollar. After someone takes the pot everyone must ante up again and play resumes.

The beauty of our game is that it gets non-fans involved in every play of the game—something real baseball fans do anyway. I wouldn’t suggest you play with more than ten people and 6-7 is ideal. During the course of the game any player has the right to yell out “Embellishment” and add another rule which must be approved by a majority of participants. Have fun.

Florida Marlins It is October 1997 and the first game of the World Series between the Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians. A friend and I don’t have tickets but we feel we deserve to go to this game by the mere fact that we are Florida’s most avid baseball fans. Joe Robbie Stadium is a huge dual-purpose arena that holds 70,000 fans for football so we figure we have a chance—there can’t be that many baseball fans in the whole state. We get there early, at least an hour and a half before the first pitch. The Marlins usually draw less people than an art show here in south Florida. Most of the fans don’t know the difference between a balk and an earned run.

Can’t we just take some sort of baseball test to get into the game? The Marlins need at least a couple of knowledgeable fans if they really want to win the Series. We run across a couple of scalpers who are all asking upwards of $500 for tickets—a little out of our price range. As game time approaches our chances are looking worse and worse. As the National Anthem is being played we are watching the action on TV outside the stadium in one of the beer tents. We resign ourselves to watching the game from here and console ourselves by saying, “At least we tried. At least we’re here.”

At the end of the first inning my friend goes to take a leak or whatever. He comes back flashing two tickets. I ask him how much he paid and he says $20. He just happened to be walking by a ticket booth as they reopened to sell seats in a section that they hadn’t planned on opening. It’s perhaps the end of the second inning by the time we climb up to our noose-bleeds. We are at a World Series game—the first for both of us.

Seattle Mariners One of my favorite things is to be out somewhere in the Cascade Mountains, climbing or mountain biking all day, and wrapping it up when the light starts to fade. In the summer at this latitude the light lasts pretty late, and it’s almost always sunny. On other evenings I will sit by a mountain stream, smoke a cigar, and watch the sun set, but on game days we are eager to pack up the gear and head back to Seattle. We usually need to drive a couple of miles west to pick up the radio signal. If we are really lucky we will break into the middle of a good game and we won’t lose the signal at crucial moments meandering through the mountain passes. If we are truly blessed we will make it back to Seattle in time to find a bar with a TV. I always feel like I actually deserve a beer on days like these. The beer always tastes better on nights when the Mariners win.


Monday, April 05, 2004

Down Time

I often wonder if we get our money back at the end of our lives for all the time we spent doing nothing. It doesn’t really seem fair that we have to pay for all of the time we spend waiting for traffic lights to change, sitting in front of computers while they boot up, listening to Muzak while on hold, and, my favorite, staring out into space while your brain receives enough coffee cells in the morning to begin work. The average American life expectancy is only like 76 years for women, 72.5 for men, and 27 for rock drummers. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to waste on anything but things that are exciting and fulfilling.

Life should be compressed so you only experience the fun parts. I’ve never bungee jumped before but life should only be like the part where you jump off the bridge and you sail down until you go BOING, BOINg, BOIng, BOing, Boing, boing. You shouldn’t have to pay for the parts where they haul your ass on a bus out to the bridge with a bunch of tourists wearing bad clothes; make you sit through some boring lecture about the safety requirements; make you eat a crappy brown-bag lunch; make you wait your turn and you have to pee really badly but there is no bathroom so you just go off the bridge and someone yells at you; and then, after you jump, you have to get carted back to town with a group of people you thoroughly hate by now.

That’s what being rich is really all about: taking cuts in line. Rich people work their asses off their entire lives just so they don’t have to stand around doing nothing. Take business class on airlines for example. Sure the seats are a little bigger but it’s mostly about not having to wait in line. If you have enough money you don’t get beat up or get a wedgy for taking cuts. I think this is my single greatest talent as a writer: I can take a dumb-ass essay like this and turn it into class warfare.

About 99% of the technological advancement we have experienced over the past fifty years is the moral equivalent of taking cuts. We just want to do things without waiting: faster computers, microwave ovens, TiVo, Polaroid cameras, 5 minute ab work-outs, you name it. In the old days of porn, in the days of slow dial-up internet connections, you had to pull your pants down before you even reached puberty to get off sometime before your 18th birthday. These days when it takes 15 seconds to download a bootleg mp3 you get pissed off; I mean what are you supposed to do while you wait, read War and Peace?

Take Michael Jackson. He sees a boy that he finds attractive. Do you think the King of Pop has 10-12 years until that kid reaches the age of consent? He's got a nail appointment at 3. You do the math. Do you think a filthy rich movie star like Tom Cruise can waste two minutes waiting for his burrito to come out of the microwave? Hell no, he pays someone to do that so he can concentrate on making movies about hotshots. He has servants download all his bootleg mp3’s. Having servants is the same thing as paying someone to wait in line for you.

If I were rich I could pay somebody to drink coffee for me so I wouldn’t have to waste time thinking up pointless essays while my brain boots up. I wouldn’t exactly file writing these essays under “sucking the marrow out of life.” Writing these essays is more like staring at the microwave oven until the timer goes off. And then you die. I know that sounds pretty grim, but before you die you get to eat a beef and bean burrito that thoroughly burns the hell out of your mouth because instead of waiting for it to cool down you eat it while it is still so hot it is on the brink of actually bursting into flames. Rich people pay people to cool down their microwave burritos so the inside of their mouths don't get as blistered as a Marine recruit's feet--lucky bastards.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Play Nice

I thought all of you would enjoy this amusing little anecdote. At the baseball game the other day a player hit a high foul ball down the left field side. The ball got stuck in a light fixture just below the upper deck seats. A man sitting directly above the light fixture held his toddler by the foot and dangled him over the side to retrieve the ball. The kid seemed terrified to be hanging almost 100 feet above the lower seats, but he did his duty and grabbed the ball. His father pulled him back to safety and the fans gave them a polite round of applause.

None of that is true but just for laughs I asked a lawyer friend if that hypothetical parent would run any legal risk for putting his son in grave danger to retrieve a $5 baseball. Although my friend’s specialty isn’t criminal law he told me that prosecutors aren’t likely to charge parents for anything that doesn’t actually harm their children. My legal advisor added that had the father been going after an important baseball—like Barry Bond’s record home run—he wouldn’t be charged even if he dropped his kid. Things happen. Maybe dad had some mustard on his hands, mustard he got on his hands from wiping his careless child’s face, maybe the kid was wiggling too much, or maybe the father was distracted by the next pitch which the batter sent over the center field wall for the game-winning run, and the kid just slipped. Is that the father’s fault? What's the guy supposed to do, not clap when somebody hits a game-winning home run? Do you even like baseball?

My lawyer friend did advise me that an essay poking fun at recklessly endangering the lives of children poses some possible legal ramifications. I have decided to change everything by saying that the guy at the baseball game lowered his wife by her ankle to get the baseball—his wife who is an adult and is not pregnant. One of my female readers quickly pointed out that this scenario is demeaning to women.

So how about this: The guy climbs out on the ledge to get the baseball himself and falls to his death. There, are you happy now? An innocent man dies trying to obtain a priceless memento of a wonderful day he has spent watching a baseball game with his son. Maybe the kid has cancer or something, I don't know. Had the man used his son to retrieve the ball the two of them would probably be home by now playing catch with an official baseball. Instead one of them is dead and it happens to be the bread winner of the household, not just another mouth to feed.

Doesn’t it make more sense to let the father lower his kid to get the ball? Sure, there will be a few cases—as I mentioned—where the father’s hands are greasy from a hotdog, so his grip is compromised, but even in the worst case scenario, if someone has to die to retrieve a foul tip, would you really rather see the father fall from the upper deck instead of the son? What if the kid grows up to be a terrorist? Or a drug dealer? Or even worse, a U.S. Senator?All that I'm saying is that you should be careful before you judge a man who is lowering his child by one leg from the upper deck seats at a baseball game. You aren't getting all the context you need to make a fair assessment of the situation so perhaps you should just mind your own business and watch the game.