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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Help Wanted

Birth, school, work, and death. All of those pretty much suck. Most of us can’t avoid any of them. Some people go to school their whole lives, others work until they die. Some people work themselves to death, hence the phrase ‘working stiff.’ Dying usually doesn’t take a lot of work, but dying at work would really suck. Dying on your day off isn’t exactly a church picnic either. Dying at a church picnic wouldn’t be the worst way to go, but it might scare the little ones, especially if it was a Mafia hit. I thought that I was going to die at school once, but it was just under-cooked chicken. You can die at birth and completely miss two things in life that suck--school and work--so why do they always talk about infant mortality like it’s a bad thing? I guess that in a manner of speaking, it takes us our whole lives to die.

You can take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more. A job well done. Get a job. I’m a workaholic. He’s allergic to work, never worked a day in his life. What do you do, you know, for work? I need a new job. At least I got a job. Working nine to five, Monday through Friday with time and a half for overtime. Work, work, work, work, work. “You are what you do.” That’s a sad thought at times, pathetic at others. I guess it’s better than “You are what you don’t do.”

Most of the time life is a lot of work. Maybe I should have someone come in a couple days a week to give me a hand. I would be willing to pay them $10 an hour, tax-free, to help me get through the day. My helper could argue with boring friends about politics while I take a nap. They could finish the rest of the Shakespeare plays I can never seem to get around to. My French is fairly embarrassing; they could learn that for me. My Spanish is pretty good, but if I hired an illegal alien it would be a lot better. Don’t even get me started on my lack of computer skills. I guess I’m going to need someone fulltime.

My apartment is really too small to have live-in help so I’ll just have to keep doing it on my own--or not doing it, depending on how you look at it. At least I’m my own boss, and when you work for me you don’t have to do jack shit. This place is a joke: I show up late every day, hung-over, take long lunches, and then I knock off early. What’s he going to do, fire me?

Friday, July 30, 2004

Buddy Cop Cliché Essay

What would you do if your partner got killed right in front of you? A guy who had been next to you in the squad car for 15 years? A guy who was only two days away from retirement? If you were a humor essayist like me, bent on vengeance, you would dedicate your life to tracking down the scumbag who did it and bring him or her to justice. I say him or her because, although it happened right in front of me, I can’t be positively certain as to the gender of the scumbag. If it was a woman, then I must say that she wasn’t completely unattractive. If it was a man, then not only do I have a vicious criminal to apprehend, I also have some issues of my own to deal with. As they say in buddy cop clichés, I'm getting too old for this shit.

I’m on my own now, a lone wolf out for justice. It is just me and the creep who killed my literary partner by hitting the delete key on my laptop while I was in the bathroom. I came out and he was gone. I miss him now. I miss every cop movie cliché that made up his character. I miss him practically spitting on the U.S. Constitution with every arrest that he made. I miss how he would piston-whip a suspect to within an inch of his life before realizing that he had the wrong guy. I know you didn’t approve of his methods but he kept the streets safe for people like you.

If you want nonviolence, if you want peace and love, then try calling a hippie the next time you get mugged. On the other hand—with all sarcasm aside—if you need dope, then I suggest you call a hippie, because the weed those dudes have these days will blow your freaking mind. So in review: Call a sadistic, sociopathic cop for muggings and call a hippie for any reefer needs.

So I’m in my office the other day and I’m thinking, “I’m a lone wolf, what the hell am I even doing with an office? I should be out on the street tracking down leads.” Then I remember that I got a really cool espresso machine for Christmas last year that is in my office, so that is why I’m in my office. Sure, I’m a hard-nosed cop who doesn’t play by the rules but I enjoy a good cup of coffee as much as the next guy. I’m as tough as nails but I hate it when I order a latte with skim milk and then they use the same steamer that they just used to make a whole milk latte.

The captain walks in and tells me that I have a new partner. He’s a green rookie, still new behind the ears, or wet, or something like that. All I know is that he has something behind his ears, but I can’t quite tell what color it is without my glasses. Great, now I’m babysitting a kid with some kind of ear infection.

“Go get me a coffee, rookie. Cream and sugar,” I tell him.

“You’re already drinking a double espresso.”

“Shut up, rookie. Make it a decaf.”

We leave the office. I drive. This rookie wouldn’t know a backspace key from a spell check. He looks ahead nervously as I floor it. He points out that I just missed a stop and then braces himself against the dash and yells that I am running at full speed into a run-on sentence and perhaps I should throw in a period or at least a coma and this is getting pretty dangerous I slam on the brakes.

“Listen, rookie. I’m going to get this guy, or girl, or possibly a female impersonator. We can’t rule out the possibility of a female impersonator. Some of them are quite convincing these days. And don’t forget about transsexuals. Oh boy, that’s a whole other can of worms. Anyway, I’m going to get this person and I don’t care how I do it. So you can take your Strunk and White Elements of Style and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Got it, Mister big shot English major?”

I know my way around these streets. As a cop you get to know every two-bit hustler, every drug dealer, and every hooker in the city. Granted, I knew most of them before I was a cop but that really isn’t any of your business, is it? Maybe in your world of cook-outs and little league games things are black and white, but in the world of a humor essayist it gets a little more complicated. Technically speaking the screen is black and white, but I’m talking about the investigating I do. If I’m going to do an essay making fun of funny foreign accents, I need to interview some hookers. Like I said, it’s complicated. I wouldn’t expect a civilian like you to understand.

Buckle your seat belts; it’s time for that standard of buddy cop adventures: The Chase Scene. If you think chase scenes are boring and cliché in movies wait until you read one in print. Watch out for that vegetable cart! No, that’s a one way street! Lots and lots of tires screeching. The bridge is going up; do you think we’ll make it? Do you? Of course we will because consider the story options if we don’t make it. I use the word ‘story’ very loosely here because up until now this isn’t much of a story. If you don’t mind I’m just going to put on the cruise control and take a nap in the back seat.

And now for the cliché finale: They were a group of rank amateurs, just kids, really, but they had a dream—except  the one kid who was really sick. He died of cancer, which only made the others play harder. The Americans went on to beat the heavily-favored Al Qaeda hockey team to bring home the Olympic Gold Medal. Wait a second. That’s the feel-good movie cliché ending. This one ends in a bloodbath and then I get some sort of girl or female impersonator or medal for a job well done.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Secluded Places to Play


Since the very few people who read this live outside of Washington State, I don’t think I will be giving away my secret by writing about it here.  After getting pumped up riding the exercise bike in Seattle while watching Lance pedal through the French Alps, I decided I needed a day of biking in the Washington Alps.  I had in mind Highway 97 between Cle Elum and Leavenworth.  This is in one of the most beautiful areas of this beautiful state, on the eastern edge of the Cascades.  We pulled into a gas station in Cle Elum to get gas and pick up a couple of beers to ditch in a mountain stream for the end of the ride.

I asked the gal in the station about the abandoned highway that I had only partially explored on a previous biking excursion.  On that ride we found the entrance to the old highway at the end of a 40 mile, down and back, ride on Highway 97.  We knew we had 20 miles of grueling mountain road to ride on the way back, so we didn’t feel like being too curious.  I decided to leave it for another day.  The other day was yesterday.

We pulled off 97 at the sign for the old Blewett Pass highway.  We drove a few hundred yards and ditched the car off the road at an improvised campsite.  The highway is a biker’s dream:  an old two-lane road winding up through gorgeous mountain valley.  The area is totally secluded, and although the road is technically still open, we only came across one car on the twenty-mile stretch.  Besides the road, there are no man-made structures within view for the entire ride.

What is in view on this ride is some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever get the opportunity to experience on a bike.  If you don’t like riding steep mountain roads you may be in too much pain to enjoy it.  The cool thing about this ride is we had absolutely no idea where it went when we started.  We rode straight up the first five miles to the summit and then descended.  We descended some more, and then some more.  How much longer could we descend?  It is difficult to enjoy the ride down knowing that you have to eventually go back up the same way. 

You get a feeling of discovery riding on this ghost road for the first time.  Flying down the switchbacks we decided that not taking the road to the end would be admitting defeat.  We ambushed a coyote cooling himself in the shade.  I wondered about cougars.  I must look like a fleeing deer.  Spit out the rubber tires and metal tubing and I’d be good eating—if you like fat and gristle. 

We finally hit bottom on the other side and found a couple of RV’s parked beside a stream.  A little farther we came upon the junction to Highway 97.  Humping back up the mountain I looked up and saw what I thought was an eagle.  It was circling a few thousand feet above us--too far to see clearly.  As we rode up, it gradually came into focus as a huge bald eagle.  We could hear it screech, something I don’t recall ever hearing except in movies and things.

Someone just asked me how riding a bike up a grueling mountain road could possibly be fun.  That is something that I will probably never be able to explain to anyone who doesn’t ride a bike.  It just is.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Escape Artist

I will dig a little bit each day with a spoon I stole from the chow hall.  After everyone else is asleep I’ll move my bed and dig straight down.  Then I’ll start tunneling my way out of this hellhole of a life.  It may take a few years, but I have nothing but time on my hands.  The alternative is to stay where I am and continue to be me for the rest of my life.  I have considered that.  Where did I put that damn spoon?
I tried moving.  I moved all over the world, but I’m still me.  I just keep showing up like a dog that you try to abandon out in the country but keeps finding his way home.  I go to the door and there I am, looking all pathetic, so I just let myself back in.  If I don’t let myself in I’d just sit outside the door and howl all night.  I don’t want to drag the neighbors into all of this. 
But this time I think I can lose the guy who used to be me.  I found a drivers license that looks enough like me to pass casual inspection—I’ll be him.  The new me is 6’2,” I always wondered what it would be like to be taller.  Looking at the picture I can tell that I am totally losing my hair, and I’m ten years older, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.  The guy in the license is heavier so I’ll take fries with every meal.  I can hardly wait.  My fake ID is my ticket out of this dump.
I’m sick of this prison of a life where I dictate to myself that I can’t park my Hummer in the handicap space, that’s if I had a Hummer--sissy-ass me has a VW and some bikes.  I want to be free of the bars that won’t allow me to become a street mime.  I want to knock down the walls that won’t let me wear a Speedo.®   I won't let me do anything fun.  What a Nazi!  All of this is going to change when I bust out of here.
I’m going to say things like “Have a good one” and “No worries.”  I’m going to drink beer with no carbohydrates.  I am going to tell people I don’t have time to read, and then I’ll watch five hours of television every day.  I want cable with all the movie channels.  I plan on getting to the bottom of this whole Girls Gone Wild business.  The old me wouldn’t be caught dead watching that, but deep down he probably is dying to see it.  I mean, it’s a video of girls showing their boobs and all you have to do is sit back, drink carbohydrate-free beer, and watch.  What was the old me thinking?  What is he, some sort of homo?  They're girls, and they’ve gone wild, you idiot!
I haven’t even finished digging out, but already I feel so free I think I can fly.  I’m going to smoke cigarettes and get drunk every night.  The sky is the limit, and I plan on hitting rock bottom.   I have always wanted to do that, but the old me wouldn’t let me.  If I get away with this I’ll help break you out.  We can steal a car and go on a nation-wide crime spree together.  So long, suckers.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Ode to a Broken Urn: Childhood Entertainments

In a previous essay I wrote about dogs.  I defended them over cats because I said a dog would go get help if you got trapped while playing in an abandoned mine shaft.  I have never played in an abandoned mine shaft,  have never been trapped in one,  and I have never actually sent a dog to get help, but I got this information from a good source.*  What now comes to my attention is that kids, when given the opportunity, will choose to play with unspeakably dangerous objects over benign sorts of toys.
If you let them choose their own entertainments, kids would pick a book of matches over anything on the shelves of Toy-R-Us.  One of mom’s vases breaks, no problem.  We’ll just use one of the razor-like shards to make a shiv (just like in those great prison movies).  “I’ll bet you can’t jump from here and not break anything.”  How many childhood trips to the hospital emergency room do you think started out like that?         
It’s not like I didn’t want to play in an abandoned mine shaft when I was a kid.  I looked everywhere for one, but to no avail.  What we did find, when we were looking for an extremely unwholesome place to play, was an abandoned boat yard on an estuary of the great Mississippi River.  The old boat yard was practically oozing with tetanus; it was all rusty nails, rotten planks, and ship ropes hanging from dizzying heights; which meant that it was better than  Disneyland and Six Flags rolled together for a group of juvenile delinquents like me and the rest of the kids in my neighborhood.
Finding that boat yard was like having Christmas in July.  The fact that it was ringed by a chain-link fence topped with razor-wire was better than a printed invitation to our gang.  If someone had thought to put a “No Trespassing” sign on our school we would have showed up an hour early every day.  Our boat yard was definitely one of those “what they don’t know can’t hurt them” occasions as far as our parents were concerned.  Had they any inkling as to our new-found play paradise, they would have died of fright and put it in their wills that we were to be grounded until our 18th birthdays.
I don’t think our parents were aware that we had dug a Viet Cong-type series of tunnels in the park across the street from our house (When we played army everyone wanted to be the VC).  I know for a fact that the our parents and the legal authorities didn’t know we took an axe and chopped down a huge oak tree in that same park because it was screwing up a really good sledding run.  We were eight years old at the time, and it took us about a week of chopping before we were able to yell “Timber.” 
The parents in our neighborhood banded together and decided that we couldn’t have BB guns.  We found a loophole in their ban and surreptitiously bought bows and arrows.   Luckily we couldn’t hit anything with them—not even each other—so this episode passed without tragedy through no lack of trying on our part. 
I am not bragging, or confessing the sins of my childhood, I am merely looking back in wonder as to how we survived.  Granted, I have more stitches than a bag of baseballs, but I still have all of my major appendages.  Escaping our childhoods without permanent injury seems, in retrospect, like quite an accomplishment.  I guess this is why we were never very impressed with any of those sticky wickets in which James Bond found himself:  What is getting cut in half by Goldfinger’s laser beam as compared to falling 40 feet into a ravine from a Tarzan swing?  
I have pursued a lot of dangerous pastimes as an adult, but I would like to think that I am taking calculated risks.  We didn’t spend a lot of time calculating risks when I was a kid.  Calculation takes too long and he who hesitates probably won’t jump off a 70 foot cliff into a rock quarry.  We knew the pond was deep enough, we just didn’t know if we would clear the rocks down at the bottom.  You can sit there and calculate all day or just take a running jump.  If you're lucky you'll clear the rocks and make it beyond your perilous childhood.    
 *Lassie episodes #134, 137, 281, 282, 284, 287and 421
From the comments.  I wish I had written this:

It's too bad that nowadays kids don't need a pet dog to come rescue them from abandoned mine shafts, since kids don't play outside anymore, let alone venture off to secluded/dangerous areas. But I suppose that a Virtual Cyber-Lassie would come in handy to save kids from falling into digitally-enhanced Nintendo mine shafts, but don't we already have the video-game-character played by Angelina Jolie for that? Oh wait, maybe an actual dog WOULD be good to have around to perform the Heimlich maneuver on little grubby obese kids choking on their Cocoa Puffs in front of Ren & Stimpy marathons everyday after school at latchkey. 

From Bess 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

To Build an Essay

Every day in front of this computer screen is a struggle for me.  I feel like someone who has been shot in the stomach.  To save myself I have to crawl 500 words to medical attention.  Opening the lid of my laptop is when I am hit with the initial blast.  I am in shock, unable to think of a subject as I watch the blood of my battery slowly spill out.  I don’t have much time.   I force down panic.  Panic will kill you, but for the love of God why can’t I think of something to write about?  What is wrong with me?  Ouch!  Thanks, that slap to the face helped, but I think I feel a loose tooth. 
Sometimes I will crawl the wrong way for 100 or so words.  I realize this isn’t the way out so I hit the delete button and start over.  I can’t afford to make that sort of mistake twice in one day.  The pen may be mightier than the sword, but a laptop without power couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag.  I want to be a writer, not a cautionary tale told to terrified English 101 students.
I apply direct pressure and peck out a sentence or two.  There are many days when my will to go on is feeble, at best.  When my keen survival instinct kicks into high gear I won’t let anything stand in my way.  Move aside originality.  I knee creativity in the groin and move forward as he doubles over in pain.  I am half-way there, but I feel tired.  I just want to close my eyes and make it all go away.  My laptop battery is down to 19%, no food or water.  Coffee is cold.  Tell someone that I love her.  I don’t care who, just pick somebody.  I like accents, tell a cute girl with an accent I love her.  This is just too painful.  I will just lie down over here and die.
But I go on.  I know that I have to keep going otherwise I will die a fate much worse than writers block.  I will become one of those guys who write right-wing political bile EVERY FUCKING DAY!  If that isn’t enough to keep a guy going I don’t know what is.  I summon all of my reserves to move on.  I turn off the spell-check to save presious battery time.  I grab a half-eaten scone someone has left on the table next to me.  At this point I’ll do whatever it takes to survive.  This is neither the time nor the place for dignity. Dignity and humor don’t belong in the same area code, and certainly not in the same essay.  I would slit dignity’s throat and eat his liver if I thought that would get me through this ordeal. 
I wanted to be an artist but I wasn’t accepted by that art school that advertises in the back of magazines.  I thought I drew a really good pirate. OK, I traced it.  What are you going to do, sue me?  Now I’m stuck doing this.  Sometimes it gets really messy right here at the end of the essay.  I am delirious and babbling incoherently.  My life passes briefly before my eyes.  What the hell could I have possibly been thinking with that haircut I had in 10th grade?  I don’t want to go out like this.  I’m too young.  Then I do a word count and see that I’m over 500 already.  I’m not proud of this but it’s good enough for government work.  I hit SAVE and close the lid.  That was a piece of cake.  See you tomorrow.     

Just in Case You Forgot

I like France more than most Americans.  I like bicycles more than most humans.  For three weeks every July these two things that I love come together.  I sit in front of the TV and for about two hours a day and I watch people ride bicycles around France.  I’m the guy at the gym pedaling the exercise bike, drenched in sweat, intently watching people pedal bikes on TV.  I’m the guy who answers your Tour de France questions as you file out of the cardio room.  “How’s Lance doing?”  That is the question I get the most.  “He’s right where he wants to be,” is my standard reply.  I’m a scary fanatic but I’m friendly enough.
I know that I should be riding outside on these wonderful summer days here in Seattle but I can kill two birds with one stone if I ride and watch the Tour at the same time.  I’m killing three birds because I am also reading.  I may actually have time to work out at the gym and ride outside today.
Tomorrow is Saturday and a great day to put my bike on my car and drive out to the mountains to train.  But tomorrow is also one of the pivotal days in the Tour this year.  The riders must negotiate a brutal mountain stage with over 15,000 feet of elevation gain.  I guess I’ll just have to tilt my exercise bike uphill because there is no fucking way I am going to miss this stage of the Tour.  Barring massive earthquakes, I think the mountains will still be here in Washington after this year’s Tour is finished. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Best Friendship Examined


They aren’t like us at all. Have you ever noticed the things they eat? Disgusting stuff not really fit for humans. Just watching them at mealtime is enough to make a decent person ill. And how about those filthy hovels where they sleep? Who knows what kind of vermin live with them? Those vulgar noises they make don’t even sound like communication. They breed like rats. I think we should have forced sterilization for the whole lot of them. They are cute enough when they are little, but when they grow up they are lazy and good for nothing. I wish I had a dog.

If you have a dog it is like being a rock star and the dog is your groupie. Everyone wants at least one groupie. Your dog loves you more than any teenage girl loves Ricky Martin. If you would let him, your dog would hang posters of you in his dog house. Your dog would call an 800 number and pay $5.95 a minute to hear stuff about your personal life. Hell, he’d tattoo your name on his butt if he had an allowance.

Dogs rarely screw you over. They don't lie or steal. You have never been fired by a dog. Admit it, you felt worse when you got dumped by that bimbo than you did after your dog destroyed your leather sofa. You still curse and spit when you hear her name, but thinking about that ravaged $3,500 couch makes you chuckle two years later. Stupid dog.

If you were a company, your dog would win employee of the month, every month. He’s your right hand man. She’s your girl Friday. It’s your best friend and you’re definitely its best friend. Your dog is your faithful assistant. He’s your simple-minded side-kick. You're Mav and he's Goose. On top of that, he’s a chick magnet.

If it weren’t for you he’d have to go back to taking down young or injured members of the animal kingdom for his livelihood. He still thinks about that whenever he sees one of the neighborhood kids with a cast on their leg. His back-up plan isn’t too far on the back burner, but for now he’s pretty happy with the dog food in the big bags. Dog food isn’t nearly as messy, and there are no screams of agony. Dogs definitely don’t miss that really sad part where the mothers of their prey stand on the perimeter and watch them eat. It’s enough to put a dog off his appetite—almost.

The working relationship between man and dog has been going rather well for all these thousands of years even though the dogs aren’t doing a lot of working these days. They used to work but then they started this propaganda campaign against hunting. Hunting is barbaric, hunting is wrong. Who do you think started that? You think dogs enjoy getting up at 5 A.M. to go help some dork with an Elmer Fudd hat shoot another animal? Advances in eye treatment will soon free dogs from their seeing-eye dog responsibilities as well. Then their only job will be to lie on the kitchen floor waiting for food to fall off the table.
If you can't say something nice say it here.


Monday, July 12, 2004

The Shame of Music

Have you ever been sitting somewhere when the song on the Muzak is so unbelievably awful that you are actually embarrassed to inhabit the same room as some hit from Hell’s Top 40? The song is so bad that you are afraid to make eye contact with other people around you for fear that they will think you somehow requested this bit of music. You go back to whatever it is you are doing and sweat out the second chorus hoping nobody you know walks in and sees you here.

Of course you don’t ever feel this way because all of you are too normal and aren’t plagued by silly demons that still haunt you from childhood. I was perhaps eleven years old when my trauma occurred. I thought that I was home alone when I was caught red-handed playing I’m Living in Shame (Lord, the irony) by Dianna Ross and the Supremes. It was Richard Mejia, a friend of my older brother. “All the records you have around here and you’re playing I’m Living in Shame?” I fumbled around with a lame explanation, but Richard walked off laughing. For the first time someone had pointed out that what I was listening to wasn’t cool.

To this day I’m terrified that Richard Mejia will walk into my coffee shop and ask, “You ASKED them to play Billy Jean?” He won’t care that the shop has a music system that is wrapped up in complicated copyright laws and licensing agreements. My mere presence in the shop proves that I am either acquiescing to the song or that I actually love it. He won’t care that my musical tastes have matured over the years. His mocking laughter will drown out my appeal that I now play classical music at home on the piano. All that will matter is that I was sitting in a public place listening to fucking Billy Jean. Life is cruel.

Rock music has a lot to do with the tauntings of the Richard Mejias of the world. The “My music is cooler than your music” school of thinking, made famous by the geeks in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, has defined the way we look at rock and roll.

It has been a long time since I last bought anything in the rock genre—cool or otherwise. I gave up on rock for the most part. I have ventured into other areas of music where being cool isn’t so necessary.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Writers' Workshop

Recipe for a summer day: Take one part sunshine, one part sandy beach, one part picnic lunch. Mix together and enjoy.

That really isn’t my style of writing, to put it mildly. I think that I could take offal like that and salvage a decent essay if I had to. Let me see here. What if on that idyllic beach, in that Crate and Barrel™ picnic basket there is a bottle of chilled sauvignon blanc and two fish sandwiches. What the gorgeous couple sharing this beautiful summer afternoon doesn’t know is that the halibut they bought for the sandwiches went bad weeks ago but the evil fishmonger disguised the rotting smell by rinsing the fish with water and ammonia.

I don’t have access to the internet to look it up, and no one here at the coffee shop knows the symptoms of botulism, but I can only imagine that it is a horribly painful way to die. The young couple’s bloated corpses won’t be found for days. The beach will be off limits to bathers until the smell fades away sometime after Labor Day weekend. So much for summer; the dead yuppie couple ruined it for all of us.

My recipe for humor writing goes something like this: Take one part asinine topic, one part pain and suffering of others, and one part class warfare. Mix together with tortured syntax, run spell check, and post on the internet.

Perhaps I have been aiming too high in my search for humor. There is a saying, I forget who said it, perhaps I’ll never know who said it, maybe everyone just says it and that’s how it started, but that saying goes like this: No one ever went broke underestimating the tastelessness of the America people. Anyway, don’t quote me on that.

I am guessing that in the current movie comedy, DodgeBall, there are at least three instances when someone gets hit in the crotch. If anyone has seen the movie please correct me if I’m wrong. If there isn’t a single incident of a crotch ball in DodgeBall then I will offer my resignation, or an apology, or I will send them a check, or I will perform some meaningful act of contrition. If there are more than three groin shots then the makers of that summer blockbuster must have been the guys who wrote the line about the tastelessness of the American people.

A lot of comedy writers mine the lower intestinal track for most of their humor, literally. What most of us flush or throw out with the used Depends® is the same stuff that some comedians turn into pure gold. Turning Number Two into cold, hard cash goes way back. Excrement and humor have been skipping along hand in hand for thousands of years. Always remember to wash your hands after any encounters with humor—you don’t know where he’s been.

I mean, let’s be honest with each other, some of that low humor is a scream We are all educated people so why is the word ‘diarrhea’ so funny? If I could answer that I would be writing this from the deck of my pool instead of sitting here in this crappy café next to a homeless guy with three polyethylene bags full of God knows what.

* Alert reader Andy sent me this: I read your note from 7/7. The quote is
attributed to Baltimore's own H.L. Mencken and it goes
like this..."No one ever went broke underestimating the
intelligence of the American People.", but close enough.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Riding in this Year's Tour de France

This was what Bernard Hinault, 5 time tour de France winner, said when asked whether or not Lance Armstrong’s cancer medicine may have boosted his endurance. Yet another example of how much the French hate us:

"To those assholes I say, I wish you just one thing: that you have the same sickness, that you have one foot in the grave. Then you’ll see how much you’ll want to do what you love, and do it to its maximum."*

My goal is to watch every single broadcast of this year’s Tour de France. I want to savor every single minute of every day’s coverage. Because I am too cheap to have my own television I will be forced to go to the gym and ride the exercise bike during the daily hour and a half rebroadcasts. This is what I have trained all year for and I think that I am ready.

Riding indoors is a very distant second to riding in the street. It isn’t really fun and it is hard to really work hard. I have an hour and a half ride around Seattle that is all up and down. When I reach the top of the tortuous Queen Anne hill I am gasping for air—I’m not talking about breathing hard, I mean I am dying. I don’t care if you are Lance Armstrong, that hill will kick your ass. My ride up and down the hills of Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Capital Hill is fairly sadistic but I really like going uphill more than coasting downhill. I especially don’t like flying down hills in the city—too many yahoos in cars who cut in front of you.

I remind myself of Bill Murray’s character in Caddy Shack. I, too, mumble in a faux sportscaster’s voice. Instead of the Cinderella story hitting a 585 yard tee shot at the Masters, the voice in my head usually has me winning a merciless mountain stage. I try to mimick the voice of Phil Liggett, the British guy who broadcasts the Tour.

Trust me when I tell you that we have some streets in Seattle that are much steeper than anything the riders face in the Tour de France, and if you drive a few miles, there are mountain roads longer than anything in the Tour—the 18 mile ride up Mount Rainier comes to mind. Oo, the Alps, I’m really scared. Take the longest climb in the Alps, add a few miles of vertical road, throw in the possible threat of a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, and then you have Mount Rainier. The chance that Mount Rainier will erupt is about as likely as Greece winning the European Cup so don’t worry.

I don’t expect anything too exciting to happen in today’s third day of the Tour but you can’t be too careful when you are a fanatic viewer of the world’s greatest spectacle in sports. So I’m off to the gym. Today I won’t forget to bring a water bottle. Yesterday I practically dehydrated on my 90 minute exercise bike ride. I had to pee for about 45 minutes of that ride. If the room had been empty I probably would have peed in a corner so as not to miss any of the race. I was afraid that if I left to go to the bathroom, someone would change the channel. There are actually people in this world who don’t like to watch the Tour de France. That’s creepy but it’s true.

*Outside magazine

Sunday, July 04, 2004

A Must Read

(not the tripe written here, follow the link)

Everyone who wants to vote in the coming presidential election should be forced to read James Fallows’ piece in The Atlantic Monthly, Blind Into Baghdad. If anyone has another suggestion of one single piece of outstanding journalism that would help clarify the matter of the war in Iraq I would be happy to read it. Fallows has written the best work of reporting on this war that I have read to date. If you don’t read this you are not getting a highly important look at the war.

Not only is it evident that the Bush administration mislead the American people concerning the motivations for entering this war, their war doctrine of ‘less is better’ jeopardized American lives and our success in bringing about a stable Iraq after the initial phase of conflict.

The Bush administration’s obsession with weapons of mass destruction seems to have blinded them to weapons of individual destruction. The fact that we went into Iraq with insufficient numbers to pacify and disarm the population has set the course for the heavy casualties our troops have incurred. It is not nerve gas that is killing American GI’s, it is RPG’s, AK 47’s, and artillery shells used as booby traps. The U.S. military did almost nothing to deprive the insurgents of an almost limitless cache of conventional weapons.

Fallows makes clear that this poor planning was not the fault of the military but of Rumsfeld’s insistence on doing the war on the cheap. Anyone who disagreed with his policy of using fewer rather than more troops was replaced or ignored.

In retrospect I think that perhaps our biggest failure in Iraq was not to stop the looting that occurred directly after the initial invasion. Military war planners had anticipated this so it wasn’t as if it came as a surprise. Imagine yourself as an Iraqi citizen. Imagine witnessing the destruction of almost every bit of government infrastructure while U.S, forces sat back and did nothing to stop it. Fallow writes that the U.S. forces could have easily stopped the looting, they simply were not told to do so. Why?

So here we are one year and four months after the invasion and about the only positive spin the Bush people can put on this is to say that at least Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. I don’t think Bush could have persuaded the American people to invade Iraq if that was the only benefit we would receive.