THE VIEW FROM STONER
How is it even possible that I can drink this much tequila?
That’s the foremost question on my mind at this moment, as I’m cutting a lime into eighths, preparing to take another swig from the Jose Cuervo bottle.
For the most part, this Tour was planned much better than my initial expectations assumed it would be. We had actually secured a camper, made a schedule, concocted review forms and taken off on the road to eat a lot of burritos. The idea seems ludicrous now, as we’re all playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking tequila while our home-on-wheels is securely wired to a RV park in Stoner, Colorado.
Now I realize why I can drink so much. I’ve laid a secure and hearty base of culinary burrito bombs. Sweet and tender meat wrapped up in Mexican food’s best flour product. The different kinds of burritos I’ve had up to this point have been more varied than I could hope.
In the past three days, I think I’ve eaten more parts of a pig then I knew possible: the fried skin, various cuts of meat, a good majority of their organs including, but not limited to, the intestine and - the burrito I avoided – head meats.
Having survived college, I know a little bit about drinking. I know that I’m quickly getting drunk, but that we’ve already paid for our spot in the camper and the alarm is already set so we can wake up tomorrow and stay on schedule. We have 2-3 burrito joints to hit tomorrow, and I have to finish my digesting in time to fit in samples of anywhere from 2-4 burritos per location. Five burritos if they have a menu that is particularly spectacular. I know that I’m on what boils down to a business trip, but I also know that no matter how much I try to emphasize the phrase “We’re writing a book” it’s invariably followed by: “…about burritos.” I also know that when our stomachs are perpetually being refilled by mass quantities of meat, rice and vegetables, that we’re all capable of drinking more tequila than usual.
Despite my various doubt and subsequent reassurances, I know that I’m having the more fun doing this than my other projects, which mostly consist of me sitting in front of my laptop chain smoking, thinking of things of substance for my characters – not me – to partake in.
Playing Trivial Pursuit with a whole bunch of my friends while killing a bottle of tequila may not be of substance, but I’m doing it. I’m out here following this crazy idea my friends came up with, nurtured, and told me I needed to do. That’s why my favorite memories of the Burrito Tour don’t involve burritos and the consumption of burrito-like slabs of fat, but rather the interactions we had that had nothing to do with eating lots of burritos.
Tonight, there is excitement in the air. Not only have we devised a rotation for playing Trivial Pursuit that seems to make both sides equal almost to the point of a draw, but we are all motivated by the excitement of doing something that just weeks ago we were all convinced was stupid an unrealistic. No matter how much I love burritos, being able to nurture an idea with some of my favorite people in the world is so much more motivating.
Maybe it’s just the tequila saying that.
I’m not tearing up am I? Why is Nate making that face at me?
Fireworks crackle outside as we quickly realize that were the only people in the RV Park that are still awake and don’t look like we just jumped out of the movie Deliverance. All the other campers around us have names like “The Continental” and lower on their chassis before they expand and become bigger than my apartment in New York.
But we’re happy as clams in this crappy little RV that was obviously a bed and breakfast for several families of field mice before we resurrected it from a purgatory of uselessness. You can’t even tell unless we turn on the heater, slowly baking the mouse shit still lodged in all the inner piping of the camper.
The next morning, a little groggy from losing Trivial Pursuit, I wake up to that putrid smell of baked mouse shit. My allergies are slowly starting to kill me, and the stench is doing a number on everyone else. We all clear out of the camper to shower while Julian and I watch Jess drag out the shit-laden tubing and try to hose it down as some senior citizens watch through the window of their camper that is probably named something like: “The International Executive.”
Watching a not-so-fresh, pre-shower Jess mess with a tube full of slightly-cooked mouse shit makes me realize that last night’s warm and fuzzy feeling was about half-tequila.
Albertaco’s Mexican Food
5710 South Hwy. 85/87
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Open 24 Hours, Everyday
Albertaco’s is not attractive to look at. It looks like it use to be a Wendy’s that was shut down and all the color taken out. The walls are all but bare, except pictures of various animals with “flowing” water in the “art”. Like something one would come across a cheesy Chinese place or a trailer, but it’s in a burrito joint. It has the feel of any greasy burger resturant. That clean, but not quite clean enough feel. As though if you actually looked close enough you’d find that they just hide the dirt under the rug. Nothing to stop you from eating inside, just if you don’t have to, why would you?
When one enters Alertaco’s they are greeted with two, not one, but two full service Homies machines. As well as a salsa/pepper bar, that looked as it had been stocked in the early morning and has yet to be refreshed. At the end of the room there is the counter, and around the corner; the kitchen in the back.
Directly to the right of the counter is the main dining area. A kind of scumy solarium, with faded red and yellow booth seats, and chipped tabletops are your options for seating. The windows look old and in need of a good washing, many looked as if the seal had broken causing the build up of years of condensation and mold obscures the view of the highway. The outside dinning area is like that of any fast food place: big circular concrete picnic tables. In the evening, it is covered in the shadow of the building, providing good shade. Although, I imagine for lunch most people would get their burrito to go, or sit inside.
Like Monica’s, Albertaco’s is not a place where people would want to eat inside. It’s someplace to go when you want a quick bite on your way back home. They clearly hope that the food would overtake any and all reversions one might have about eating at Albertoco’s
If you consider yourself someone who appreciates Mexican food, but you’ve been cursed with the geographical location of Colorado, Utah, Arizona or New Mexico, chances are you’re familiar with the Combination Platter. Albertaco had the honor of being our first stop on the Tour that included these staples of Americanized Mexican food. The menu consists of 17 platters and a variety of a la carte tacos, tostadas, tortas, enchiladas and, of course: burritos.
Albertaco is less than an hour’s drive from Monica’s Taco shop, so we decided to narrow our focus, rather than spend our limited funds on yet another Carne Asada burrito. After some deliberation amongst ourselves, and a few mumbled words from the staff, we decided to try the Pollo Asado burrito as a benchmark and the Fish burrito as a representative of a more complex taste.
Overall Rating : 3.75 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 2
Ingredients: Chicken, Guacamole, onions, tomatoes, grilled peppers
Overall Rating: 2.4 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 0
Ingredients: Breaded Cod, pico de gallo (see sidebar), tartar sauce, lettuce
Why choose only two burritos and why these two?
I can hear you asking the question to this lifeless browser window.
The Pollo Asado burrito was chosen because the Asada method of grilling (see previous side-bar) is pretty standard and can be used as a litmus test for any fine Mexican food establishment. It’s simple, but requires a certain flavor. Chicken, having a more mild taste than beef, means in the creation of the burrito; additional ingredients have to be chosen carefully. We were of the mind that the Pollo Asado burrito would give us a good indication as to the preparation of the meat as well as the selection and distribution of ingredients within the burrito.
The Fish burrito was chosen as the more adventurous dish. It was used to pit Albertaco against the everyday corporate chains that cater to the fish-burrito market – Wahoo’s Fish Taco and their faux-surfer decoration springs to mind. The burrito would ideally have been created to compete in the modern burrito-consumer’s market where the fish taco has snatched up a larger percentage of the pie. This would provide a counter point to the Asada, which is uniformly done in most burrito establishments.
First: the tried and true chicken. This burrito knocked most of us to the floor of our less-than-spacious camper’s dining area. The chicken itself was a mix of both light and dark meats, slightly shredded and seasoned well. The marinade had a bold and smoky flavor to mimic the traditional prolonged barbeque background of the dish. The addition of the grilled peppers added little southwestern taste to the overall picture. The onions were not overpowering in the taste, the meat was really the focus of the entire burrito, as it should be. The burrito was served to us wrapped in paper in an open-ended, steamed tortilla. Combined with the abundance of chicken and vegetables, it made for a messy second lunch. All the tasters commented on the need for a napkin while eating this burrito.
The fish burrito didn’t rank as well amongst our tasters. The reasons for this are varied, which is also not a good sign. The first odd factor was the use of breaded and fried cod rather than a breadless, pan-seared fish. Cod is cheap and easy to come by, and when it’s fried it takes on a very specific texture: crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside. The cod in Albertaco’s case was lukewarm and rolling it up with the tartar sauce made the outer breading a little soggy. This is not the initial texture that one desires with their fish tacos. The majority of the flavor in this burrito came from the tartar and the pico de gallo, which is disconcerting. In a successfully made burrito, nothing should overpower the taste of the meat. Not to mention that the soggy nature of the burrito is increased. If the primary flavors of a dish are in the sauce, some major textures should be placed in contrast. Lettuce and soggy breading will not suffice.
To be fair, fish-based Mexican food is a tricky ordeal, especially when added to the menu as a variety expansion. Albertaco made a very well flavored, classic chicken burrito which implies that the skill to cook good Mexican food is there, but the adaptation to an Americanized variant is still lacking. If these reviewers had to choose between good Mexican food and good American burritos, we would take the former every time.
On the Pollo Asado:
“The marinade was like a flock of screaming groupies: very flavorful if not even a little overpowering.” – Nate
“The best burrito I’ve had thus far, the Springs should be proud.” – Julian
“For the price, this burrito is excellent” – Ty.
On the Fish:
“The tartar sauce was a little much. It seemed too heavey to go with the rest of the burrito.” – Julian.
“No Good. Unless you really like cod.” –Nate
Sidebar -Pico De Gallo-:What you get when you order Pico De Gallo will vary depending on which country you’re in. The literal translation is rooster’s beak, which comes from the shape and color of the chile peppers used to create the traditional Mexican dish. Mexican Pico De Gallo is actually a fruit salad that is tossed in both lime juice and a salty powder made from ground chiles. It is one of those family dishes that didn’t successfully migare to the United States where we like out fruit salads with marshmallows and walnuts.
The Pico De Gallo state side is a fresh salsa condiment that you will find at every Mexican restaurant. It is primarily made up of chopped tomato, onion, and a spicy chile, like the typically serrano or the jalapeño. These serve as the base – and defining ingredients – for any self-respecting American Pico De Gallo. As always, additional ingredients can be added to make yours unique. Classic add-ons include lime juice, the ever-popular cilantro, avocado, cucumber, and radish.
When selecting additional ingredients, remember that the base ingredients already have a high degree of water content. If you want your Pico De Gallo to have a lighter flavor and watery consistency, go for the cucumber, radish and lime juice. If you need additional flavors, but don’t want you salsa seeping through your tortillas; avocado and cilantro will be for you.
If you find yourself craving Pico De Gallo in Mexico, you’ll find it under the name “Salsa Mexicana.” The base ingredients of tomato, onion and chile correspond with the three colors of the Mexican flag, tomato being red, onions being white and the chilies being green.
Monica’s Taco Shop
30 E Fillmore St
Colorado Springs, Colorado
6AM-11PM Almost Everyday.
Monica’s Taco Shop is your standard Colorado burrito joint. It has nothing that would catch your eye if you weren’t looking for it. But it carries the soul of any respectable Mexican restaurant. On the side of busy East Fillmore Street in Colorado Springs, it what one would come to except form a small burrito stand.
It’s modest and humble looking, there’s no crazy crap on the wall expect a faded soccer poster for a team you’ve never heard of. Instead, they line their walls with their menus offering a wide verity of choices.
Inside, the dining area is on par with any gas station. There are two small booths that seat four comfortably, and a small table that would seat two. The place is made with a get-in-get-out style: the drive-thru appeared to be the main source of their income. While we were there only three people actually came in the store. Yet, the drive-thru had a continuous line of patrons. The only reason one would really want to eat inside is because their car is simply too dirty.
There was no bathroom for costumers to use - which seems like a very bad idea for any burrito establishment.
The outside dining is not well shaded and would provide no relief from the hot sun. There are two circular concrete picnic tables where people can sit, but again there was little to no shade, so if it’s not too hot or too cold, it would ok…we guess. That is if you don’t mind the sound of a busy road while you eat.
The staff was friendly and helpful. Although it is a self service they answer all our questions and were quick with all our requests. They smiled when we arrived and said thank you when we left.
Let’s face it, if you’re going to make your way to a tiny, shack-like Mexican place, you probably don’t expect to get the hamburger. The menu here at Monica’s is authentic to fault - the fault coming from the “what is in it, really?” factor compounded by the authentic workers who speak only as much English as they need to survive. However, if you’re a burrito novice and simply crave some good tasting food quickly prepared for consumption, it’s hard to go wrong with the recognizable dishes. If you fancy yourself an expert, ask about some of the more ambiguous menu items.
Since we’d like to think that you trust us enough to push into the advanced category, we decided to put a variety of burritos to the test. For the experts in the crowd: try a little bite from the Buche Burrito, or - if you don’t want to jump into ambiguous parts of the pig quite yet - the California Burrito. We also wanted to cover the more traditional taste, so the staff recommended we try the gambit: Carne Asada, Chicken, and Pollo (Spanish for chicken) Asada.
Overall Rating : 1.8 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: .5
Ingredients: Guacamole, onion, tomato, cilantro and pig stomach.
Overall Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 1
Ingredients: Guacamole, onion, tomato, cilantro and carne asada (see sidebar)
Overall Rating: 3.25 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 1
Ingredients: Chorizo, cheese, onion, potato, tomato, cilantro
Overall Rating: 2.33 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 1.5
Ingredients: Shredded chicken, red sauce
Overall Rating: 2.9 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: 1
Ingredients: Chicken asada, tomato, onion, cilantro, guacamole
Monica’s was quite an interesting place to make our first lunch-time foray of the Tour. We tried an unusually varied selection of burritos and each one had their perks and respective downfalls.
The reason behind the numbers most likely has to do with a little problem Monica’s Taco Shop has. It’s good, it’s authentic, but they love their cilantro. The only burrito that didn’t have a more-than-healthy douse of cilantro was the Chicken Burrito, which didn’t have any additional ingredients at all. Cilantro, although producing a flavor commonly associated with the word “fresh,” has the ability to over-power the subtle flavors in Monica’s burritos. For instance, the Buche is subtle, as was the Pollo Asada, which accounts for their low scores.
Enough suspense, let’s talk about the pig stomach. When it comes to Mexican food, there are two kinds of people: those who just eat it for what it is and those who can’t get their mind off what it once was. Jess was the latter, and she described her experience with the Buche Burrito like this: “No matter how many times I try pig stomach, I will never get used to the idea that these chopped up bits of meat once housed food. It’s a rubbery meat that makes you think you have gristle in your mouth. Maybe it does taste good once you get past the idea of eating part of the digestive tract, but I would have no clue because, again, the cilantro overpowered everything.”
The pig is a versatile animal and much of it is capable of being eaten, an idea we all became more accustomed to as our Tour wore on. If you have the ability to look past the fact you are eating a pig organ, then the texture of entrails is the focus of the dish. Menudo, a traditional soup made of pig intestine (tripe, which can be used to describe both the soup and the old Hispanic boy band) and stomach have a similar, chewy texture combined with the recognizable taste of pork.
All of our tasters agreed that the dish was worthwhile after one becomes accustomed to the idea of what you’re eating, but did it hold its own with the other burritos? Not really. It came in with our lowest score.
The best scoring burrito was the California, which held it’s own because of the varied textures and flavors that managed to make themselves known outside the cilantro. Chorizo, a spicy Mexican pork-sausage, has a bold flavor and potatoes add a lot of heft to any burrito as well as a distinguishable change in texture. Hypothetically, these two ingredients can balance out a lot of cilantro and still give the burrito a unique taste. The addition of cheese taps into the grease factor, but it was hardly noticeable in a burrito that tasted as fresh as a California summer (pre-LA pollutants).
Despite the gripes, no one could argue with the prices. Even if we had the above suggestions to make to the people in the back cooking up some little donkeys, we know a damn good deal when we see one, and these burritos were well-sized for a dime over three bucks.
“You’ll taste every dollar you spend.” – Dave
“Simple yet tasty, with spice and color.” – Nate
On the Buche Burrito: “I know it had flavor, but no flavor I’ve ever known. Trying to describe it is like trying to write a poem about my feelings.” – Nate
On the Califonia Burrito: “This was my favorite of all the burritos. It was cheaper and better than going to Cali.” -Julian
Sidebar: “A Side on Asada -Asada means “roasted.” That’s the template for what you need to know about this dish. The basics of carne asada is a grilled steak, but not your good ol’ American steak, not even your plump Australian steak, but usually a thin-cut steak from the flank region of your dead cow - if you’re new to cutting up your own beef, the flank part is towards the groin and right under the breast. If you want to get hardcore with your meat, you can choose a cut from the chuck (shoulder) or round (butt) regions as well. You’ll have better results flavor-wise if you choose beef with some fat in it.
Cut the steak into strips and put them in a marinade to absorb flavor. Usually these marinades have a base of lime or lime juice, which can be found at any grocery store. Now throw in garlic, onion and black pepper and season to taste. To add that extra little something that will distinguish your asada from all the others, get your hands on some fruit juice to add to the marinade. Be simple and add orange juice, or be crazy and add papaya, just don’t add any salt, because that’s added during the grillin’.
Asada is prepared for traditional Hispanic parties and group events and, because of this, has gotten the reputation of being best when grilled over an open fire pit. However, not everyone wants to dig up their backyard for asada, so a charcoal fire with mesquite wood chips provides an artificial substitute. Before cooking, prepare a seasoning mix of salt and other spices (may we suggest cumin and lemon salt?) that you will use to season the meat while it cooks. Slap your meat on the grill and sprinkle your seasoning on it when you start to see moisture.
Flip, season, grill.
Flip, season, grill.
Even for something usually served well-done, this meat cooks fast. Before you know it, you’ve got some asada! Like all good recipes, try this one a few times so you can mess with the flavors. Also, if you aren’t that skilled at cutting raw meat yet, or if you are overpowering your beef with marinade, cook the entire cut and slice it into strips afterwards.
I recently found an archived version of my blog circa 2004 when it was called “Dave Rocks The Universe.”
Here are some other quotes about my rocking:
“Yes Dave, you do rock. you rock the universe. and isn’t there a theory about the universe expanding? therefore, your rockingness is expanding”. - Jen Wilhelm
“Don’t let the critics take time away from living the dream dave. You rock the universe, remember that.” -Ellliott Goldbaum
“You…fucking…rock” -Kate Kuehn
“Did you know that in addition to the normal 46 chromosomes, I have 2 more devoted entirly to rocking. I and genetically predisposed to the rock. I can only assume you are as well, what with your rocking of the entire universe, buddy” - Nate Patterson (again).
You must be doing badly, because I think you mistook what I wrote as being motivated by a sort of depression. I re-read it before responding here, and I can see where my text could be seen as “depressing,” but it did not come from such a motivation. I hope you do better.
What follows is a response to you, but is going to include a lot of various things. It’s a Frankenstein’s Monster of a response, but it’s for you At least know this was intended and originally recorded for you, dear.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics:
Every process that a thermodynamic system may undergo can go in one direction only; the opposite process, in which both the system and its surroundings would be returned to their original states is impossible. The conversion of energy always contributes to entropy.
Entropy is the measure of a system’s energy that is unavailable for work. Since work is obtained from order, the amount of entropy is a measure of disorder, or randomness, of a system
Even science says we must accept the choices that we make, even if they lead to ill. History is a one way street, and the sooner you are able to reconcile with that, the sooner you’ll be able to convert your emotional and personal entropy into usable energy. This isn’t an admonishment, but the clearest way I can relate my depression to yours.
You were in my dream last night. I no longer remember the context or the plot of the entire ream, but I’m sure you are there. Combined with some things I learned recently, I was thinking about one of your classic arguments. So here we go:
Why do we give things names?
The answer I always defaulted to was the very simplistic, logical, linguistic and masculine one: because we need a way to communicate. How would we be able to tell each other where the closest place to buy cigarettes was? To a more basest extent, how would we be able to communicate the necessities in life? Food; where can I get it? Water; where is it?
But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that we didn’t have to name anything. Let’s humor ourselves. Would we be able to communicate through gesture accurately enough to meet our basic needs as biomechanical mechanisms? Of course. Instinct and pack-animal biology would take over.
You can lead a horse to water and it will drink if it’s goddamned thirsty.
But what this denies us as a species is the ability to think beyond the physical. Conceptual connections would elude us. We would most likely feel hunger, but define it as want of food. Things like love, remorse, hate and fear would all be felt, but being undefined, would remain solitary emotions. The ability to name things becomes important in communicating ideas. So language is necessary. Labels are necessary.
Why, then, have you and L both articulated this question to me? The obvious answer is because she is in your direct sphere of influence. I can believe that, and most people will. You’re both intellectuals and bleeding hearts. Throw in some debilitating drugs and similar hair-brained questions are bound to be produced.
But let’s look for another answer. Something more human.
Adam was told to name things by God, not so he would know the name of things he was eating. He was the solitary person in the world, so communication was not important, what was important was dominance over the animal kingdom. We were created in God’s image, and were above the stupid animals. Naming them made him better than everything else. It was a matter of ownership.
Why would you and L reject this ownership?
I have two answers, both of them valid from an outsider’s perspective.
1. As females and intellectuals, you have both been raised and taught to be able to question boundaries between things. You’ve read No Boundary and she is simply full of questions. For a period, even I was convinced that the word “boundary” was evil. That nothing should be as acutely defined as most things were. I almost asked the same question that set this whole thought process off. Why define things at all? So, in your intoxication – be it from pot or exhaustion – the question posed itself: why force our definitions and boundaries on things? It’s “wrong” of us to impose what we think things and people are on things and people. Then, once you both settled down – or after I lead a march of sensibility to beat you two back into line – the concept of “right” and “wrong” as independent qualifiers devoid of the word “necessary” came back into focus.
2. I recently read an excerpt of a book called “Bleeding London.” A character in that book runs a walking tour industry. He organizes walking tours for both locals and tourists. He is unhappy with his job, but he does it. As research for his job, he decides he is going to personally walk every street in London. He has a travel guide, and as he walks a few streets every day, slowly begins crossing them off his list.
The plot of the book involves this man slowly going insane. But as he is slowly losing his mind, he gains comfort in knowing the names of places, things, streets. He is taking ownership of his surroundings and the metropolis. He loses part of his mind, he gains a street, and this keeps him grounded.
When things get hectic and hard, does eliminating the boundaries or renouncing ownership (and in tandem, responsibility) of things and words make you feel like you are recapturing your mind? Is it an attempt to rediscover simplicity? When you and L ask: “Why do we give things names?” are you subconsciously asking to relinquish your responsibility is murder, rape, racism, sexism, stress, the future, and the past?
Don’t name it, and it won’t be ours?
Well your entropy has a name, and it’s yours. It’s all of ours. Some of us are just cursed enough to understand it.
Ignorance is bliss.
I only get depressed during the last cigarette of the day, but I’m coaxed back to my books and e-mails. Most of the time, I’m not worrying.
This is part of my travel journal I kept while in London/Europe studying abroad in 2006.
To get to Nottingham, I had to catch a train from London St. Pancras, a train station about 15 minutes away on foot. I bought tickets only two days before hand and was able to save money by leaving at a very early, most inconvenient, time: 7:55AM. Since I didn’t really know how the whole ticketing and boarding process went, and since I had only a vague idea of where London St. Pancras was, I decided to wake up at 5:45AM. This was easily the earliest I have awoken here, and probably the earliest I ever will, barring the option of more early travel.
It was cold in the train station, and – as opposed to New York’s railways – an entirely open air station. The trains are fairly modern and comfortable, which made the two-hour, forty-minute train ride quite pleasant. I spent the majority of the time finishing off Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and immediately transitioned into a book of Bleak House Literary Criticism. I did take some time to look out the window occasionally, and I have to say that the British Countryside looks amazingly like what one would expect.
The fields were green, and there was a slight fog in the background. Every once in awhile, we’d roll into a more industrial area where there would be rock and sand factories and the like. Something I noticed, but was highlighted in later conversation with Fat Kathy was that the division of land was fairly non-uniform. Anyone flying over the Midwest or flying into DIA can notice that the land is divided into squares and irrigated in circles, making a variety of uniform shapes. In England, they resemble wobbly parallelograms.
Halfway through the train ride, a voice came over the loudspeaker saying we were ahead of schedule and would be spending 15 minutes at the Leicester platform. “If you want to have a cigarette, now is the time.” I’m very pleased thus far with general acceptance of smokers. Cheers.
I arrived in Nottingham and Fat Kathy was waiting directly outside the train door. She was wearing sunglasses and had a nice little smirk on her face, which is actually not intentional. She had a little skiing accident on Christmas Day in Colorado that lead to some pretty major jaw surgery, including the wiring together of her mouth. Currently, the only signs that she has been in an accident are the scar underneath her chin and the tiniest inconvenience of not being able to move the left side of her face. This means that the constant Fat Kathy smile is now a constant smirk, and when her left eye doesn’t involuntarily roll into the back of her head, she is winking with the right one.
Otherwise, she’s normal.
We caught the bus to her neighborhood. Looking out the window, and later when I’d be walking the streets, I’d noticed that Nottingham was a town. Big, yes, but not a London-esque metropolis. When I first got to London, I thought it was smaller than I was expecting. Quickly I’ve learned that spread out with shorter buildings does not equal smaller or less crowded. Back in London now, I understand what a bustling metropolis it is.
We went back to her house because the pubs didn’t open until 11:30AM. There I met – briefly – her hung-over housemate Hannah and chatted with her while her landlord fixed her bathtub and shower. I was assured that they had all bathed recently despite both their bathing systems currently being broken. I told her since I was there for only a day, I wouldn’t have to bathe; that’s why I wore three shirts and a jacket.
When we were convinced that the landlord didn’t need her help removing all the hair clogging her pipes, we went to a pub and poured over my sleazy past over a couple of drinks.
We cooked some pasta and watched Strangers on a Train (I’m really enjoying these 5 British channels) until her bouncy, energetic housemate, Jen came home. Then we took off to have some dinner, etc.
After a dense dinner we went to another one of her friend’s house where we proceeded to play Ring of Fire/King’s Cup.
Let me pause here to get some context. This game involves a deck of 52 cards spread around in a circle (so they all touch) and in the middle of the ring is placed a cup. Each player – there is no limit to the number – draws a card, and each card has a specific meaning denoting something humiliating that has to be done or some further rule or simply to an amount to drink.
I think this is the drinking game I have played most in my life, because it is so diverse in its rules. In Colorado, they fluctuate around a few basic cards. 4s for Whores means when someone pulls a 4, all the women playing must drink. Conversely, 6s are for Dicks. There is usually a “Social” card where everyone has to drink. There are various mini-games involving rhyming or the group’s ability to remember as many types of candy bars as possible. The clincher, that is always the same, is the value of the King. If you pull a King, you have to pour some (or all, depending on what is decided at the beginning) of your drink into the King’s Cup at the center. Whoever pulls the 4th King not only ends the game, but has to drink the sickly concoction in the center. It usually consists of a gross mix of beer, liquor and general mixed drinks. If you know Phil, ask him what it’s like, he always loses.
I’ve played two games of King’s Cup since I’ve been here, one with a group of kids from Jersey and one with Georgia’s Nottingham school-buddies. I’m convinced the way you play this game gives you a general feel for who you are playing with.
The Jersey Kids stumbled into my Flat two weeks ago and asked if I wanted to play “Kings.” They had with them two bottles of Strong Bow, which is an alcoholic cider that is sold in 2-liter quantities for a very low price; Londoners will tell you that it is mostly consumed by the homeless. Not wanting to turn down a free drink, I played with the Jersey Kids. Their method involved playing to the end, no matter when the last King is drawn and was much more focused on getting through the game and the beer at about equal rates. They had a “Never-Have-I-Ever” card, which is exactly like game you’ve played when you were younger, but involving drinks and not fingers.
The Nottingham game was called the less-traditional but equally-acceptable “Ring of Fire” and was absolutely insane. In America, when you break a rule or are assigned a drink, it is assumed that you take a sip or a gulp of whatever you have in front of you. Here, it was expected that you drink it all. There were a few exceptions, like 3s and 4s meant you only had to drink the depth of 3 or 4 fingers from the meniscus of your drink. Certain rules that, in Colorado, are usually added as you go (for “make-a-rule” cards) were automatically in effect: no saying “drink,” no using names, no swearing, no pointing.
Needless to say, I don’t remember anyone’s name. There was a guy who was hard to understand, there was a guy who was sitting in the corner of the couch, there was a guy whose name began with J, and all the girls were “dear.” The brutal card that doesn’t exist in America was the “God Card” which allowed you to make anyone do anything until another “God Card” was pulled. That’s why Kathy had to drink about half a glass of Vodka when she spilled some carbonated lemonade on the carpet.
Point being, long before I was drunk, I was full: full of beer and dense food and carbonation. I couldn’t go to the bathroom unless I got a bathroom card, so I had no choice but to wait it out. I didn’t lose, thank God, and spent the rest of the evening smoking and drinking water to avoid a hung-over train-ride in the morning.
Georgia and I went back to her house where I literally had to wrestle her to sleep, and was able to renew the time-honored “chicken peck” to the sternum. As sexual as that sounded, I really did just wrestle her to sleep. Finally, she set her phone alarm and told me I had to “be nice” until it went off.
If she was sober enough to work the alarm, I’ll never know, because I fell asleep.
The next morning involved some DVDs of British comedy that I’ll have to explain to those who care in person. Let’s just say I have to try using my ear as a place to hold my lit cigarette while I’m doing things with my hands.
I got back on the train and finished my book of literary criticism, then closed my eyes to sleep. I was sitting next to 4 British 20-somethings who kept themselves entertained with word games and small culturally based conversations.
They couldn’t, for the life of them, figure out why Americans liked “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
I guess I can’t either.
Ask Phil about that too.
“Why the gutters run with warm water, I may never know. It’s as if it taunts us with its many pleasures, while concealing the obtrusive drawbacks. It’s as if the gutter calls to me, asking me to sit and let its liquid warmth soak up in the fibers of my pants (and you). The gutter whispers to me about how it’s clean and warm in the winter, and cold in the summer. It is whatever I want it to be. What it does not do a good job of hiding is the laundry spigot that shoots out of the building, pissing its liquid into the very same gutter. What it fails to hide is the pipe that runs through the second class insulation, past the shoddy copper wiring, intertwines with the other decade old plumbing and leads to the washing machine.
“Oh, what a metaphor, the washing machine. Every day, our garments get stained with the human sludge in the world, and every weekend, it is born again (like Christ) after a spin cycle in the washer. Save us, underpants! For you have seen hell in the likes of which I never hope to see. You have been rejected by your Creator (that skinny Islamic man who pulled your seams together with one of the many, many sewing machines operated by the similar unfortunates around the world), you have been sold as a slave (to that fat man who doesn’t realize you are what you eat, consuming his Chunky Munkey: “naturally” produced in factories operated by the lower class), you have been pawned off for profit (remember that used clothing store where you were rubbed and examined until you looked like all the other filthy second hand army jackets?), and bought by another (who ruled by the same fear that if you became ruined you would return to that horrible used-store). Now you are doomed to spend the rest of your textile life, hugging up against the balls of a man who buys his underwear from the Salvation Army.
“This same man leaving behind a trail of human waste as he slowly bleeds to death from the open wound of his humanity. He can’t feel the sludge, the waste, precipitating from his pores and soaking his office chair. He can’t feel the ankle-deep sludge that coats his house. Last year, when the poor man used one of his two weeks vacation visiting Times Square, he didn’t feel the sludge force its way down his throat, penetrating his lungs and almost drowning him.
“When this man takes his last breath, what does he think about? Does he think about his little red headed daughter who is off in some far away country studying the migratory patterns of flying insects? Is he ashamed of her? That is no way to live, he thinks, chasing down six legged critters ‘till your head explodes from boredom. Is he right? Does thinking he is right make him right to anyone but himself? Does it matter that his lungs are about to stop inhaling, that they’re so black from the human sludge that he can’t help but give in? As he takes his last breath of Earth air and curses the daughter he taught and raised, the doctors stand there and shake their heads, respirator plug in their hands.
“’It’s a shame,’ one of them will say (let’s pretend his name is Abe), ‘that his daughter told us to pull the plug. Didn’t even show up, just sent the letter.’
“‘Yup,’ the second Doctor would reply, ‘these Lung Cancer patients are the worst…
“…is it time for a smoke break?’
“You as a pair of underwear should understand this.
“I think a law should be passed by that congressman that looks like a snake (What? No, the other one). I think he should outlaw anyone who started smoking in the nineties from receiving medical care when the smoke shrivels their alveoli. But, the question begs asking, will be done with the sludge victims?
“A janitor I once met -I’m getting off the subject, but just for the hell of it, let’s see where it goes- said that he had once been a King in the Central African Sovereignty of Igclickptbsya (or that’s what it sounded like). The people of Igclickptbsya, the Igclickptbs, worshipped him because he was one of the white-men. The white-men were revered as gods by these naked ebony people. Centuries before those of pale skin and traded them priceless reflective rectangles in return for a few of their peers. No big deal, they collectively thought (in the universal language of the mind), the bastards have been stealing my goats for a couple of weeks now. I interrupted my janitor friend at this point. I’d ask if Central Africans even had goats.
“’You callin’ me a liar?’ he’d respond, sticking his jaw out so his under bite looked more like one of those fish you see in the deep sea issue of some nature magazine. “If ya keep inturruptin’ me, I’m gonna kick you back into the gutters where I found you!”
“’Sorry,’ I replied sarcastically, before I added in a mumble, ‘probably be warmer there anyway…’
“’Nothing, sorry, continue’
“So back in Igclickptbsya, enclosed in the deepest regions of the Amazon (I could have sworn it was Central Africa a minute ago, but the shelter from the rain he had offered me was too precious to bring up this contradiction), the “black-as-night Igclickptbs” had made him a crown made from briar bushes. After a struggle, and quite of bit of shrieking, he was finally able to convince them that, “contrary to their culture, I didn’t want big ass holes through various parts of my face, including my forehead.” The people apparently were baffled by this, and where able to convey through broken English that they assumed this to be English custom. My janitor friend tried to assure them that it wasn’t, but the natives were very insistent. They constantly referenced some sort of effigy of the white-man’s king they had seen around the necks of the previous pasty visitors.
“’Never did get too much of that,’ said my janitor as he poured some sawdust over a fresh vomit stain in the school carpet.
“’Really,’ I said, eyeing the dark puddle that was slowly being devoured by the tan desert. I remembered when I learned to vomit on command in the second grade. I got out of more school that way. This child though must have had a stomach the size of Goliath, judging from the size of the blemish.
“’So the next day, the leader of the tribe comes up to me and says, get this, the women must be impregnated. So I grabs my belt and I start to undos it…’
“’Uh, Janitor, sir? I think I best be going, the chilluns…uh…children will be here soon, it’s almost seven.’ Before he could answer or shoot me one of those damn ichthyic looks at me, I’m back out in the rain; where it was, in fact, warmer.
“Although it did take about a half an hour of downpour to wash the vitriolic sludge feeling off me. I wish you could see it like I can. Green, grey, purple and that horrible zit-pus color. People wading in it. In their gyms, in their bathrooms, in places that have nothing to do with anything, let alone the survival of the human race.
“I once accidentally fell into a vat of human sludge, and was trapped, suffocating for almost an hour while voices yelled to me from its depths. Get off the course, they’d yell. I was fucking up their game, they’d yell, my mouth tasted like a beach (or what I’d assume a beach tasting like, kind of the way you assume the taste of a food by it’s smell). Something about a little bird, a canary perhaps, I’d like to think of it as a canary. I must had stumbled upon one of it’s eggs while floating through the pus-sludge, because I reached out for what was distinctively a white, rounded object. I touched at one point, but it ran away into some sort of underground cave. Like a ground hog’s hole, it’s small at the top, but something made me realize it went down into a cave, a cavern of monstrous proportion, with stalactites numerously cascading across the stone ceiling. For a moment towards the end of my sludge swim, I thought I’d found my way into this cave. I could see in the hazy ooze-filled distance, the stalactites. Then, as more of it came into focus, I discovered these were no distant stalactites, but the spikes on some sort of ghastly business shoe. It was rushing towards my chest at great speed thrust forward with the power of an Armani-clad leg attached to a rather irate looking portly gentleman. He was yelling something too. Something about a bogey on his tail. It was about then, all the pus rushed into me, right after that nice Air Force man drove his spiked loafer with tassels into my chest.
“Look, underwear, I still have the marks on my chest. Just those little marks where he kicked me in the sternum. I wager if he would have shoved those barbs into me an inch and a half to the left, he could have very well caused some internal damage.
“Sometimes I wonder why the entire world doesn’t flood with ooze the way that beach/airforce/game course did. I haven’t been able to find an explanation as of yet. I imagine it has something to do with the laundry. Yes, the laundry (to bring us full circle) I guess it’s less of a metaphor than an actuality. The laundry cleanses in ways that mere mortals have yet to discover. Whoever invented that machine, I bet (not only has the cleanest clothes around but) is fantastically rich.
“I was rich once. A long time ago, but then I started to hear the sludge surging under my house. It was a sound like I imagine the freight trains to sound like if they were to run under ground. Rivers, gallon by gallon would transport this sludge, produced by humans, to…well to somewhere or another. I once tried to describe the feeling it gave me to know that my f(r)iends and I were probably the source of most of this sludge (the rich usually are). It’s something akin to falling off a cliff, and realizing in mid air that all your body was just starting to get that tingly feeling it gets after falling asleep for a long amount of time. Then smacking the ground and feeling the pins and needles shoot through you, lancing all your organs that are vital to you, leaving only the useless ones like the spleen, and the rectum. Within the next year my wife had left me, my children had grown and moved away, and I was left in that damned white gigantor house, with nothing but the sound of human waste-sludge-pus cascading down the waterfall under me. The noise got to me and finally, I had to find out what the sludge was.
“I purchased as jack-hammer with my weekly allowance I allowed myself to expend on useless things to make me happy (the first time it had been used on anything useful, usually just DVD’s, CD’s and small sports cars). I used the behemoth of a machine to burrow under the tile of my house almost forty feet before I was submerged in it.
“Running through my eyes, and invading my body through every imaginable orifice, I felt the sludge pound it’s way down my artery nearing my heart. That’s when it told me all its secrets. Following an hour or so of struggles, I managed to free myself from the sludge.
“Ever since I was able to feel the liquid hat and melancholy the discontent puke out from their pores, I was unable to live my life as an upper-class citizen. I could no longer produce this…this…excrement.
“I sold that sledgehammer and donated the rest of my money towards the education of midget-retarded children (cute little buggers).
“That’s why I bathe in the gutters now, underpants, thanks for asking.
“Come to think of it, you’re the first one to care.”
This is part of my travel journal I kept while in London/Europe studying abroad in 2006.
More often than I expect I find myself in large, historic cities and completely disoriented. Luckily, I’ve stayed pretty focused thus far in London, probably due to my habit of making the first and last pub stops of the day fairly close to where I’m residing. I think I’ll save the larger party nights for when I know the bus system a little better.
The buses here take the place of subways in New York: they run 24/7. The Underground (UK: Tube), on the other hand, closes around 11pm. I had my first bus experience yesterday and found it pretty tolerable. I can see myself on the 19 and 38 lines a lot, since they run to the theater district (Piccadilly Circus – the equivalent of Times Square) and all the sightseeing hotspots (Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace). On the way back from Buckingham Place - where the Queen was in - I took a double-decker bus.
With conviction, I crossed that off my mental list of things-I-need-to-do-or-no-one-will-believe-I-was-in-London.
Back to the subject, during my first few weeks in New York I was frequently too inebriated to make acute observations about the city.
For instance, my first time seeing the Festival of San Genero (pardon the spelling) was completely lost. It’s a festival that extends nine or ten city blocks and has lots of flashing lights and fried food. It’s a great example of two cultures being put in the same area of New York, because it takes place in Little Italy, which in recent decades has been swallowed by China Town. Rather than record all this, my blog entry was:
“Took a walk around NY today. Went to some sort of Italian Feasting Festival. It was on the boarder if China-town and Little Italy. Weird.
On the way back bought an inflatable bong.
Regardless, I’m trying to be a bit more vigilant concerning experiences that define London for me. The three that follow really have nothing to do with the culture or the history of the city, but were just three highlighted moments of the past few days that made me smile in one way or another.
People on My Breakfast Loop
There’s a place called Kekik (or maybe it’s Kikek) about a block down Farringdon Road from the dorm. It’s a café and it’s open at all hours, from what I can tell. It’s been an integral part of my weekday routine, which hasn’t altered since I got here.
First, I wake up in-between 8:30 and noon and walk five feet down the hall to the shower.
Trying to work my English shower the first couple of days was like trying to crack a combination lock. It seemed straight-forward: one knob to control turning the water on and off and cycling through pressure, one knob to control the temperature. The problem was no matter how much I turned the temperature knob, I was only able to coax lukewarm water out of it. The first few days this lead to a quick shower, then I discovered a red switch on the second knob that works as some sort of burn control. To get to the really hot water, you need to depress the switch and continue turning the heat knob. Now that I’ve figured that out, I’ve moved on to the bath knob system, which is entirely separate.
After the shower, I walk out my door, take a right down the Crawford Passage (“Rape Alley”), take a right up Back Hill, and walk past the London School of Art and Design where a whole bunch of hipsters are always outside on the doorstep smoking.
One frequent smoker is a girl with light brown dreadlocks and glasses. She’s a pale white color and always seems energized. I’ll always remember her because she caught my eye on the first day during the afternoon and the evening when I saw her at Kekik. She was there with a whole bunch of Art and Design folk, and she was talking to this gnomish looking squat-hipster with a blonde beard. I don’t know what he or she said, but he left and she started crying, then she rolled and smoked a cigarette and left. I watched all this happen and decided to try to learn more about this girl if ever possible. Sadly, I’ll probably never be able to approach Dreadlock Girl outside the School of Art and Design since they seem to smoke in packs and ignore all people foreign and otherwise. That social trait and their dress is what made me realize that despite the huge difference in geography, Hipsters aren’t different from one metropolis to another.
Past the School of Art and Design on the left is a tiny News and Cards shop where I buy a different newspaper everyday (until I discover which one I like) and a bottle of water. Buying a bottle of water here is cheaper than getting bottled water a Kekik, which is my next stop. That involves walking further up Back Hill, taking a left on Clerkenwell Road followed by another left on Farringdon; where Kekik is located as well as the easiest access to Rape Alley (past the Guardian offices).
I’ve been calling this my breakfast loop because I stop to eat at Kekik where they have 12 different breakfast “Sets” as well as a large menu of Jacket Potatoes (US: Baked Potatoes). There I order my coffee and Breakfast Set and read through a good half the paper. For anyone who cares to know, the best Breakfast so far is a Jacket Potato with Beans (baked beans in tomato sauce are quickly becoming a staple because they’re cheap) with two slices (toasted is a given, but jam you have to ask for). This morning I tried having Set One, which I figured to be “the usual,” that consists of a fried egg, two slices of bacon (US: ham), a banger (US: sausage), beans and two slices.
Coming back from breakfast on Friday, I had to cross Farringdon to get to Rape Alley. It was earlier than usual, probably about 10:00AM, and Farringdon was bustling with traffic. I went to the designated crosswalk and pressed the proper buttons. While I was waiting, I looked across the street and noticed two blonde professional-looking 20-somethings. They were very attractive, and I took note of it, but did nothing else.
A stoplight turned red and pulling up on the opposite side of the street was a big truck. The passenger was a portly mad wearing thin-rimmed black glasses. He had a dreamy look in his eye as he noticed the women. He put his elbow on the dash and his head in his hand and sighed – looking a lot like a fatter version of those stereotypical bored cherubs you see on postcards and motivational posters. His co-worker, and driver of this truck, quickly pumped his fist to roll down the window. As I passed the women and the women passed him, he said, in a very gentle voice, to the nearest one: “I love you.”
I usually don’t have a hard time understanding the British accent, but an odd exception took place when I bought my cell phone. Somehow, I thought the salesman said that my plan and phone cost £89.99, which is completely ridiculous since that would be about $180 and my phone and plan are modest, at best. What he had actually said was £39.99, which is reasonable. But that didn’t stop me from freaking out and running home to get more cash (my credit card was declined – luckily I’ve since corrected that).
On my way back, London schools were getting out. The classic Catholic Schoolgirl uniforms were about, although usually filled with tiny 8-12 year-old bodies. I was actually more interested in their accents than anything else, because the few Schoolgirls I saw were very multi-ethnic, but all talked with a very proper, very posh accent.
In my haste to get back to the cell phone (UK: “moe-bile”) store before closing, I was crossing streets without looking either way.
It’s not hard being a foreigner if you keep your wits about you, because London streets are so confusing, even the locals don’t know which way to look. Most roads have a “Look Left” or “Look Right” painted on them in big white letters, so just look down and try not to break any on-comer’s nose with your forehead.
I approached this particular street at a jog and only took passing notice of 5 or 6 12-year-olds in school uniforms. The crosswalk signal shone its little green, walking man and I assumed I could jog across the street. The school girls and I both had to pull back as a man on a Vespa shot in between us, narrowly missing me. My heart was pounding, thinking that I had almost killed myself by not looking down the street, but the Schoolgirls had a much different reaction. Almost in unison, they all raised their middle fingers towards the Vespa as it sped away and let loose with several strings of profanity: “FUCK YOU TOO!” “WE ‘AVE A FUCKIN’ GREEN MAN!” “SHITHEAD!” “EAT SHIT” a short pause before a tiny black one yelled: “WANKER!”
So that was the first time I actually heard “wanker” used, although it might have been in slight jest.
CASHING TRAVELER’S CHEQUES
Female Cashier: “Good Morning.”
Me: “Hello. I’d like to cash one-hundred and fifty dollars of traveler’s checks.”
Female Cashier: “Ok, if you could just sign the bottom line of those for me.”
Female Cashier: “You here to go to school?”
Me: “Yeah. It’s expensive!”
Female Cashier: “Weather a little cold for you?”
Me: “Actually, it’s not that bad. I’m from Colorado, so as long as it isn’t snowing, I’m happy.”
Female Cashier: “Really? Is Colorado northern? Near Canada?”
Me: “No, it’s a little West of center, actually. But it’s very high up. In the mountains, so it gets cold.”
Female Cashier: “I don’t know where that is. I thought everywhere in America is warm. Are you enjoying your stay?”
Me: “For the most part. My state just lost a big American football game last night.”
Female Cashier: “Really? Against who?”
Me: “The Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Female Cashier: “I’m afraid I don’t know where Pittsburgh is either.”
Male Cashier: “If it makes you feel any better, Liverpool lost as well.”
Me: “I haven’t really learned enough about football yet to know, but I’m sorry.”
Female Cashier: “You men and your sport.”
People say that I don’t have any personality.
Well, I can see where they get that from, but, you see, I don’t need a personality. I have so many interesting friends that just draw attention away from me.
Like… Like my friend Rodrigo?
The guy’s always puking. Not so much because of the alcohol. Well sometimes. But you can be like, “Rodrigo, you drank too much.”
And he’ll puke.
“Rodrigo, your girlfriend cheated on you.”
“Rodrigo, your dog died.”
“Rodrigo, your mother’s dead.”
“Rodrigo, the leaves are changing color.”
I don’t think I’ve seen the guy within a day or two of him puking for some reason.
And… And Chris?
That guy is a kleptomaniac. He once tried to steal a dog from a blind person. I don’t think he really connected the fact that the guy was blind with his failure to chase after him. He used the dog to navigate him around while he listened to music and zoned out on his rollerblades.
He’d just strap ‘em on and lets the dog go. He didn’t really care where he went. So he’d just put on his headphones and some big Stevie Wonder glasses and have this little golden retriever pull him around.
I have another friend, Kate who thinks she’s a zombie. She’s always saying how she has to get up in the morning and put makeup on her dead flesh so it looks normal under natural and artificial light.
She also says no one should have sex with her, because she’s “kind of a biter.” Which I guess is why it took us so long to track down anyone who had.
It was this guy, his name was B.T. and he was this huge black guy with a dew rag which was really interesting because Kate looks like. Well not that she was made out of toothpicks, per se, but she definitely looks like the whole zombie thing could have been true.
Anyway, B.T. said that for as good of a lay as she was she might have well have been a zombie. But apparently she does bite, so maybe B.T. was just having fun making fun of his zombie friends or compadres or whatever the living dead call one another.
So we got back from seeing B.T. and went over to Kate and Chris was like: “You’re not a zombie.” And she was like, “Yeah I am, I’m so a zombie.”
And Chris was like: “Naw.”
And I saw the situation was escalating so I stepped in and I was like: “Hey guys, who really cares if Kate is a zombie, it’s not like it’s not good to have one of the army of darkness on your side.”
And Chris is like: “Yeah that’s what you said about that gothic vampire chic.”
Which was true I did say that about that gothic vampire chick, and that ended up badly because…well if Chris hadn’t stole a cross the day before, Kate wouldn’t be the only one who was a member of the living dead.
So Rodrigo says: “I’m feeling sick.” And Chris is like: “Bathroom’s over there buddy.”
And then my other friend Elliott, he’s a seer. He can see into the future, so he shows up and he says: “Does it really matter if she’s a zombie?”
Because those fucking seers like to get all Obi Wan Kenobi and not really tell you anything even though they know everything.
I hate Elliott for that reason.
Like, this one time, he told me I was going to die and I totally didn’t believe it. But it turns out that everyone dies, so I think I was kind of blind sided on that one.
So, I was sitting in a room with my kelpto friend trying to steal my seer friend’s wallet, which he should have known about if you think about it, then we’re also arguing with my friend who thinks she’s a zombie while my other friend pukes and it occurred to me that maybe it’s better that I supposedly don’t have any personality, cause people with personalities are fucked up.
I wrote this when I wasted as a freshman at NYU.
Not that it excuses any of it, or makes is less pathetic, but I just want you to have a full understanding.
This was going to be published sometime next week but Ed Douglas’ WEEKEND WARRIOR BATTLE CRY this week made me move it to today’s posting.
During High School, I was writing music reviews for the paper and they were never interesting. They weren’t actually contributing anything to anyone who had bought the product. I think a lot of criticism should be personal because trying to be objective is for shit. It created the echo chamber of criticism we have now.
I’m not talking about personal, like, “this review is my feelings,” but at least pull your head out of your ass long enough to realize that your job as a critic is to give context to someone else’s work. That’s why any sort of organized rating system sucks. You end up rating how good of a __________________ the product is. If a 10 is Sgt. Pepper’s, then your editor is going to yell at you when he realizes you reviews of everything produced in the late 90s pop music landscape is averaging around a 4.5.
But things produced in the late 90s/early 00s pop music scene still existed for a purpose, even though the TRL scene was making the overall atmosphere abysmal.
Context. And context is about the surroundings of the piece. And sometimes that’s you.
Even if you have stupid, overly melodramatic opinions, most of which you’ll wince about when you re-read it.
Dear Avril Lavigne,
I’m really, really sorry that I had to let you know like this.
I asked a few friends, and they all said that a letter would be corny in the first place. I suppose I’m only making it worse by typing it out on my laptop instead of scribbling it out on lined paper in my barely-legible chicken scratch. I know there’s something about handwritten notes that harks us back to a simpler time in middle and high school when our lives were decided for us and we didn’t have all these huge choices to make as adults. It’s personal, it’s old school, and sadly – for me – it’s indecipherable. So a typed note you get.
Over the span of our relationship, I’ve watched you cheapen things that were important to me, so I don’t see why a cheapened version of a “Dear John” letter is really out of place. When we first met, it seemed like you cared more about yourself, as well as everything you interacted with. Your emotions seemed pure. You were done with the existentialist bullshit that we were both surrounded by at the time.
Let me set the scene.
It was 2002, I was a Junior in High School, and the world was still in the throes of the post September 11th backlash. Anthrax: remember that? Remember when Afghanistan was still in the news as a “target”? I was just discovering Sartre, Camus, and Chuck Palahniuk. I was very cynical, very disillusioned. I uttered phrases from Fight Club thinking I was making a Pop Culture reference that mattered and scoffed at the idea that the American People would ever let Dubya go after Iraq with minimal evidence. A the beginning of the year – literally on New Years Day – I had begun what would become the longest breakup of my life, not really ending for an additional year. But don’t worry, baby, she didn’t mean anything to me as soon as you came along. I even suggested your first CD to her telling her that you’d be “the next big thing” and that your CD was “sort of like Jagged Little Pill.” I think the latter claim was giving you a little more credit than you deserved, but I was devoted to you from the beginning. I was ready to go to battle for you from the beginning.
The genesis, as far as I can remember, started in a CD store in Boulder, Colorado back when I still had enough money to buy CDs. I was browsing for something new, something that I hadn’t heard before. Also, because I was at the pretentious age of 17, I was looking for something that someone had never heard before. I wanted to “discover” someone for my group of friends. I suppose I still get a thrill if I hear something before anyone else, but I picked up your first CD mostly for monetary reasons. If you remember – it was so long ago – the music industry was just starting to register that file sharing was now the teenaged community’s number one method of getting new music. Their first step was to complain and bitch, but slowly (and I mean slowly) they started slashing prices on certain CDs. It was a promotional gig, no doubt, but it was the deciding factor when I reached towards you, my sweet. For $6.99 I purchased your first CD, with a cover of an immobile you surrounded by the blur of the world.
It was a cool image, and stuck with me. I guess that is sort of how I was feeling towards the tail end of Junior year. All my friends were going to leave me to go off to college. Among their ranks was my first love, and three of my four band-mates. I was really into the High School Theater Department and we were getting an enema, loosing all our talent who had spent years ingraining themselves into the perfect system of typecasting. We were loosing the senior tech crew who knew what to do every time I managed to do something stupid. I was sticking around, finishing off my last year of High School with (arguably) only one good friend and a handful of problems both psychological and emotional that had been passed down to me by my elder class. Everyone was resituating their life, and I was not. I was static, stagnant.
Everyone knows not to go into still water because that’s where the bacteria grows.
At the time I found you, I had become a façade of who I was supposed to be. I had this image of calm that was always projected in front of my face. To everyone around me, I seemed fine with the fact that all my friends were leaving. I seemed okay with the circumstances surrounding my breakup. To those that could look past that, I was falling apart slowly. The fear of abandonment was setting in big time.
When I broke up with her (or rather when we started the long severance process), it was in a parking lot outside of King Soopers grocery in the morning of New Years Day. She cried, and asked me how I could do this to her. And I stoically looked back at her and said that this was for me, for my piece of mind. It would be too hard to say goodbye to her in eight months when she went off to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, so it was best to say goodbye now and let her live out the rest of her High School experience single. Or at least living the life of a single.
I was telling myself what I wanted to hear from her. I wanted to hear that it would be impossible to leave me behind, and that we might as well call it all off now because life was not worth living without me. I was definitely wearing my stoic mask, and not much penetrated it.
Post New Year’s Day, I ignored her when we were in the same room. We only communicated through carefully planned mix CDs and short sporadic telephone calls. Everyone kept asking me if I was okay. Of course I said I was okay. I had gotten my way hadn’t I? I had dealt with the pain of everyone leaving in one large sweeping act. One act that split up the couple that had been together for so long, and divorced the singular personality we had both served as one-half of. I was my own person, or so I thought.
To say I wasn’t in a healthy state of mind when met would be entirely accurate. Maybe that’s why your catchy debut single roped me in. If you were to take each lyric and make it into our first date, or our first meaningful dialogue, it would make eerie sense.
“Uh huh,” you said, listening to my bitching. “Uh huh. Life’s like this.”
Such is life, I’ve heard this before. Stop just mindlessly agreeing, that’s what everyone else does! Everyone erroneously assumed that I knew what I was doing. Then you let loose with your gospel:
“Chill out whatcha yelling’ for? Lay back, it’s all been done before. And if you could only let it be…you will see. I like you the way you are, when we’re drivin’ in your car and you’re talking to me one on one. But you’ve become somebody else ‘round everyone else. You’re watching your back like you can’t relax, you’re tryin’ to be cool. You look like a fool to me. Tell me, why you have to go and make things so complicated?”
Suddenly, your album title made so much sense: “Let Go.”
So I sit down and listened to the whole damn thing the whole way through. And that’s when our relationship started.
I remember those first couple of months very vividly. You and I discussed our views on love, life, and past relationships – you know the normal “getting to know you” stuff.
You started off telling me about your ex-boyfriends. “Losing Grip” was about how you were “in this thing alone.” I knew exactly how you felt. Granted I couldn’t relate at the time to being “just some chick you place beside you to take somebody’s place.” But I did agree with you when you pleaded with your ex-boyfriend, nay, the world to “Open your eyes.” Rock on. Pop-rock on.
I could have been happier with “Sk8er Boi.” But, the whole basis of relationships is giving and taking as a couple and accepting the flaws of your partner. So this was a fable of how not to judge people based on their outward appearance. Sk8er Boi is turned down by a popular girl, and later becomes famous and…you date him? I guess I never got the ending of this tale. Because you were single. I knew that.
You see, I did some research on you as soon as I started listening to your album. You were a musical prodigy from a young age, and got a record deal from Arista when you were just 16. At the time of “Let Go” you were 17, going on 18 – just my age.
When you were still underground, and future-radio-hits like “I’m With You” still spoke to just me and not hundreds of 13-19 year old males, I had a little fantasy. It went like this: you come to Denver and somehow I end up convincing your backstage staff to let me in where we hang out and you are so impressed by my cool demeanor that we get involved and you pluck me from suburbia obscurity.
I think I actually believed this could happen. I think I might have even told someone that I thought this could happen.
So, the goal became this fantasy, and I had to do whatever I could to make it happen. This meant that I needed tickets to your show in Denver, and everyone knows that the best way to get tickets before anyone else is to be part of the official fan club. So I joined your “Backbone Club,” where I got the latest news about where you were and where you were going, as well as what you were doing. I also got to monitor your dating status. At the time, you still seemed single.
I think the farthest I went was to e-mail someone in your entourage and tell them that if Avril wanted to stop by Boulder, we could hang out.
Because it seemed like the perfect thing to do: just obsess enough and sooner or later I’d be rewarded with my very own pop-star.
What I didn’t count on was your success. Soon, you weren’t my personal girlfriend anymore, you were whoring yourself out to the very people you spoke out against on “Let Go.” For someone who “Never wore cover-up, always beat the boys up, grew up in a 5000 population town, made my money by cutting grass, got fired by fried chicken ass, all in a small town, Napanee,” you sure seemed to like starting trends and being MTV’s teen-pop-star spokesperson.
That’s when the lies started to permeate our relationship.
I’ve discovered that when you start a serious relationship with a person, you often end up regretting the things you said during those first couple of conversations. During the first couple of interchanges both members are trying to build an image of themselves that will stay attractive to the other. I can’t count how many times I’ve been bitten in the ass by a past promise or claim, even if these claims were made earnestly. Recently, I told someone that I had a copy of Tolstoy’s short stories that I bring from living-space to living-space with me. In actuality, it’s a book of short stories by Dostoevsky, not Tolstoy. Point being that I didn’t mean to lie, but I had. The entire situation could have been avoided had I not worried about creating this other Dave who sleeps on copies of books by famous Russian authors.
I’m not even sure I’ve ever read any short stories by Tolstoy.
It was about the time I saw you on Making The Video for “Losing Grip” that I realized out relationship had been built on a clever ruse. I got to see you interact with band members and the director of the video. You weren’t as intelligently venerable as I was, you weren’t who I’d built you up to be. I thought lyrics like: “Is it enough to love? Is it enough to breathe? Somebody rip my heart out and leave me here to bleed” would come from a person who had the same realization that I had – the common realization that we were tired of being a pretentious shell of our true selves.
I guess we kind of stopped talking around the time your MTV Diary came out and I realized you were spending all your time with the vapid male members of your band. I guess I don’t hold up to pressure very well, I felt suffocated by these dumb but suffocating personalities that were built out of nothing more than excitement of a paying gig from Arista.
I guess we kind of stopped talking when I realized I didn’t get along with your friends. Kelly Osbourne was a flavor-of-the-week when the Osbournes was ready to start their second bleeping season. Her album was horrible, with maybe one track worth mentioning ever again. She had a similar message to yours: “pop music sucks, rock out, fight the system.” Yet she suffered a similar fate of yours: being a record-executive groomed version of a message they wanted to sell teenagers. I guess I could see how you two could get along, but I burned all my bridges with Kelly long ago. All three of us could never go to a restaurant together.
I guess we kind of stopped talking when I showed my Backbone Membership card to a gay guy during the intermission of “I Am My Own Wife.” In return he showed me his membership to Hooters. To him, they were equally ridiculous.
I guess we kind of stopped talking when I got so many e-mails from your fan-club about your new DVD that instead of fostering interest, the e-mails starting convincing me not to buy it. I didn’t want to see you pervert the image of you I’d been sold by your lyrics.
I guess we kind of stopped talking when I heard that the songwriting superteam “The Matrix” had written all your hits that had spoken to me as true. All those words that seemed to be speaking to where I was at the time, and all those words that convinced me that – only if I could meet you – we’d be destined to at least fuck a couple of times. I read in some interview that the most you contributed to “Complicated” was the phrase “take off all your trendy clothes;” the worst line in the entire song.
I guess we kind of stopped talking when I realized that you were never real in the first place.
What had attracted me to “Let Go” was a product from day one. The CD was on sale, so I bought it. The songs were catchy because they were engineered that way. I listened to them mistaking all shreds of humanity hidden within were yours. The image of you being just like me at my same age, all just garnered from lyrics, articles and pictures that had been airbrushed and double-checked to not betray your image.
I guess I shouldn’t have let you close enough to me to get hurt, that’s a common mistake that I make. But the really fucked up thing is the exact same thing that you did to me I did to all of my for months, maybe even years.
I was fine. I was self-reliant, I didn’t need help. I was a product.
When that façade finally cracked, I ended up going to therapy for depression. It seems that when you cracked, you just made another album.
It seems like a lot of your audience saw you being fake too, because your production team this time around (Butch Walker of the Marvelous 3, Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida and Don Gilmore -Linkin Park, Good Charlotte) has been pushing this album as a “raw follow up;” something closer to your real self. It has even been titled “Under My Skin.”
I’m sorry to break up with you this way, but I don’t think this relationship is going to work out for me anymore. I’m done with people touting easy solutions – people who end up to be molded out of plastic.
I don’t want to be sold discontent, I can manufacture that myself.
I know you might think this is sudden of me and insensitive, but in actuality, it’s pretty well thought out.
I’m not going to tell you what I want to hear: that it would be impossible to leave me behind, and that we might as well call it all off now because life was not worth living without me. We need to call it off now because I’m sick of your product, because it sold me false hope in a meaningful relationship, and then showed me that the relationship that was really false was the one I had set up for myself.
Maybe I’m just projecting my problems onto you, I’ve been known to do that. I’ve been known to be selfish and self-motivated. I’ve even been called a coward a couple of times.
But all those things are me, not a processed version of me.
Besides, Lindsey Lohan understands me now.
I believe this was my college essay for my NYU application. At the time it was my Most Embarrassing Moment, which might have been one of the topics. It also is nice to see I’ve gotten better at sentence structure: “The fact that something I had written had elevated me to the point that my presence and creative input was requested to paint a mural that would be displayed at a place that held such important modern pieces.” WTF?
Since then, my life has been more embarrassing, but not in front of so many people.
I believe modesty is something that has to be learned. When one is a child, it is easy to develop a good sense of humor, but it is difficult to refine as your life goes on. The other fifth graders told me that I was the funniest kid in the class, and I believed it all the way to the eighth grade.
It was early 1999 when I was informed that the teleplay I had submitted to The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards had won the “Gold Award” for my age group. It was delivered in a big envelope with an invitation to visit Washington D.C. for an acceptance ceremony during the summer. As a gift from my grandfather, I was able to attend. Before I left for D.C., I received a letter informing me I was also selected to be one of the few students selected to paint a mural that would be hung in the Washington Museum of Modern Art. With both invitations in hand, I headed to Washington D.C.
The mural painting event was scheduled to take place on the day of my arrival. Walking to the art museum filled me with a sense of pride. The fact that something I had written had elevated me to the point that my presence and creative input was requested to paint a mural that would be displayed at a place that held such important modern pieces. I felt like I was on top of the world.
When I arrived at the Kennedy Center for the awards ceremony the next day, my swollen ego had not gone down. The attendants sat me in a row with the other award winners in the dramatic script category and we rehearsed the script for the show. We had to walk up to the microphone on the stage and say our names and what award we had won.
Rehearsal went well and when the actually ceremony came around I was surprised at what a big event it was. The Kennedy Center was filled with a few thousand parents, friends and well-wishers, and the ceremony was introduced by a video of Hillary Clinton welcoming us all to the ceremony.
By the time I was waiting in line for my turn on stage, I could hear the other winners making jokes at the mic. I was a little startled, since I didn’t know we could do anything besides state our name and award, but I was undaunted by the task of finding a joke suitable for such an occasion. I am a funny guy, I could figure something out. The situation appeared graver by the time there were only two people ahead of me and my mind was racing through the different options of corny jokes. Suddenly I decided to make a play on words with the city’s name. I rehearsed the line over and over again in my head and finally, it was my turn to walk on stage.
I have watched the tape of this moment many times, a complementary video tape was sent to all the winners who attended. On the video, you can clearly see me walk up to the mic, squint because of the bright lights and say, “Hi. I came to see the space needle, but they sent me to the wrong place.” This, of course, is a reference to the state of Washington in exchange for the city of Washington D.C. Even on the tape, the audio cuts out. Every single person in attendance at the Kennedy Center didn’t get the joke. I could have heard someone cough on the third level, all the way in the back, without much effort. Watching the tape, you can see me nervously mutter my name and award then leave the stage. However, as I turn it is obvious that I had failed in dressing myself properly as the back half of my dress shirt was untucked.
After that humiliating spectacle, I went to the bathroom and mulled over my joke’s defeat. My ego had it’s legs cut off, and I was now down to a normal level. I have attempted to stay here ever since.
What’s that you’re wearing, friend, in this harsh weather brought on by the changing of winter to summer? Is that the same thin outer coat made of glossy synthetic material that you wore in the fall? I noticed it incorporates an elastic waistband and zipper, how novel. What do you call this seasonal garment?
What’s that you say? A windbreaker? Such flagrant use of a genericized trademark should be frowned upon. Are you using that windbreaker to go to the Xerox machine? Or to shelter you from the ills of disease so you can save your bucks rather than buy some Kleenex?
How about this: does it make you fart? Are you wearing some sort of Cloak of Flatulence, because that’s what it sounds like, buddy. You are wearing a hoodless creation that has been named as if it was an organism that was seconds away from defecating, if it could just clear the path of all that gas.
Huh, are you wearing a fart? Huh, fart boy?
Do not be afraid, you – like the majority of the population – have become entangled in American colloquialisms. What you describe as a windbreaker is simply a article of clothing that has been given a title based on its assumed primary use. Really, the term “windbreaker” can and should be used to describe anything that separates the air around it as it moves in any of the cardinal directions (and some non-cardinal directions such as up and down).
And most importantly, “breaking wind” has more in common with aerodynamics than you’re flatulence. If we don’t disseminate this particular slang phrase, we run the danger of turning everyday chilly consumers into a race of walking gas factories. As of today, when you are forced to air out your insides via the exhaust of the anus, you are no longer “breaking wind.”
It’s almost impossible to trace this cutesy term back to its origins, since it gained popularity in times when it was rude to reference flatulence, nonetheless come up with an accurate term for it. It has become so ingrained into society that the definition falls under the idiom section under the word “break” right below “breaking the ice” and “breaking the bank” – two equally useless terms.
So it’s going to be difficult to purge this phrase without providing some sort of alternative. Naturally, it will have to be capable of use in formal situations, since that’s the primary use of the offending term in the first place:
Plutocrat: I say, Agnes, do you smell that putrid odor?
Aristocratic Agnes: At first, I was unable to detect the offending aroma, but after a prolonged wiff, I now believe that someone (not possibly myself, for I am a lady of the highest class) has broke wind.
Plutocrat: One of the Negroes has been sneaking tastes of the goat cheese, no doubt.
Aristocratic Agnes: No doubt.
With all the various terms given to gas, it’s difficult to find one that fits in all social situations, so in the true spirit of Newspeak, I will condense all intestinal gas into one simple word that will hopefully breach the barriers of the lexicon.
The furthest I can trace back some sort of root that will allow for the blossoming of this new term is the Indo-European “perd-“ which is used dually for fart and partridge – ironically, an actual windbreaker. It is also the acronym used for the federal Program of Energy Research and Development, which is funny to me since methane is being researched and –most probably – accidentally developed by the team. Perd seems to predate the Old English “feortan” and the Germanic “fartōn,” and will serve as the basis for our solidified term.
Also to be considered is that this term must be verb if it is to replace “breaking wind.” Therefore, we might find some help in the Latin word “cernere” which roughly means “to separate or set apart,” and is the root of “recrement,” another great word to describe waste matter (including your fart and the shits that follow it).
Now, let’s mash these terms together. Perdcernere. That sounds ugly, and cannot be used in proper conversations, so let’s mash it up a little by taking out the offensive letter. Perdcernere becomes Perdsernere (fukk the sees) and with a twist of the gracious becomes Perdserene making your farts tranquil and elegant.
Let’s see how our friends make use of this new term.
Plutocrat: My, my. That a superior meal, dear. Who knew quail eggs went so sublimely with the boiled flesh of peasant children?
Aristocratic Agnes: I was certainly surprised, although the rich flavors might send my navy chest into some turmoil.
Plutocrat: Are you telling me that slight scent is a product your perdserene?
Aristocratic Agnes: Quite.
Now, I’m not as dense as to think you’ll now refer to squeezing out a toot as “manufacturing a perdserene.” So, I’ve made an acronym, P.S. That’s right, P.S. is now farting. How’s that for concise?
Let’s review what we’ve established today: You are wearing a thin jacket, which does break the wind, but is not correctly called a windbreaker. When you fart, you are actually perdserening or making a P.S.
And that plane flying above you is really the only thing breaking wind.
Post Script: In conjunction with the above statements, I hereby decree that post scripts be stricken from all letters. Say what you want to say in the body of your text or just write a new goddamn letter, you lazy bastard. If you end up using the P.S. abbreviation, all enlightened readers with think you’re just farting out some sort of pathetic afterthought.
Post Post Script: Logically, a P.P.S is now your actual feces, since that’s the only logical thing that would happen post P.S.
INT. HALLWAY - APARTMENT
WOMAN 1, carrying bathroom supplies, crosses the hallway and grabs the handle to the bathroom.
The door opens and MAN 3 steps out, only in JEANS and drying his hair.
Woman 1: Oh. Hey.
Man 3: Morning. Great party, thanks for letting me sleep here.
The two move to pass each other, letting MAN 3 into the bathroom.
As they both exit the hallway, MAN 3 sticks his head back into frame.
MAN 3: Oh, I had sex on the crapper, so you might want to avoid that.
Beat. WOMAN 3 sticks her head into frame with a quizzical look.
INT. SITTING ROOM- APARTMENT
MAN 1 sits on the couch, WOMAN 1 joins him.
Man 1: Did you finish showering already? That was fast.
WOMAN 1: Did you invite [MAN 3] over for the party last night?
MAN 1: Yeah, he just got laid off. Thought I’d pick up his spirits.
WOMAN 1: I think he said he had sex on out toilet last night.
MAN 1: On the toilet?
WOMAN 1: Yeah.
MAN 1: Not like…
He looks around.
MAN 1 (quietly, almost mouthed): …while he was pooping?
WOMAN 1: Normally, I’d say that [MAN 3] wouldn’t do that, but now I’m not so sure.
MAN 1: Oh, God. God. How does that even work, like, anatomically?
WOMAN 1: You should talk to [MAN 3].
MAN 1: I’d rather just never mention this again.
WOMAN 1: Someone has to clean the toilet. It could have been fornicated all over.
MAN 1: Jesus.
WOMAN 1: Do you want to clean it?
MAN 1: Absolutely not.
WOMAN 1: I don’t want to clean it. I think [MAN 3] should, right?
MAN 1: On the toilet? Sex on the toilet?
WOMAN 1: It isn’t right that we should have to clean it.
MAN 3 enters the room.
MAN 3: Thanks again for letting me stay here. Man, I was wasted last night.
He notices WOMAN 1 on the couch.
MAN 3: You shower fast.
MAN 3 goes to exit.
WOMAN 1: Hold on [MAN 1} has something he wants to ask you.
MAN 1 looks shocked.
MAN 1: Um. Yes. I do…?
WOMAN 1: Sit down a second.
MAN 3 sits down.
MAN 1: Now, I’m sure this is a misunderstanding, it’s just. [WOMAN 1] was…um…I guess the way to phrase this is…
WOMAN 1: Did you really have sex on our toilet?
MAN 3: Excuse me?
WOMAN 1: That’s what you said, you had sex on our crapper. You should clean it if you got all your…your…butt sweat all over it.
MAN 1: I tried to tell her, man, but she’s convinced -
MAN 3: No. No. What I was saying was…was…[WOMAN 1] looked very sexy…and dapper…
Incredulous looks all around.
MAN 3: Or, alternatively, is a sexy cracker…
MAN 1 isn’t believing it, but wants out of the conversation.
MAN 1: See [WOMAN 1], it’s just a simple-
MAN 3: Because she’s white.
Both MAN 1 and WOMAN 1 look at MAN 3.
MAN 3: Not because she’s delicious or goes good with cheese.
MAN 1: See, it was a simple misunderstanding.
WOMAN 1: Sexy cracker?
MAN 3: Why didn’t you just hover? I see women do that all the time when they stay at my apartment.
WOMAN 1: Is it because you have sex on your toilet too?
MAN 1: Why would you have sex on the toilet at a strangers apartment?
MAN 3: I wouldn’t.
MAN 1: He wouldn’t.
MAN 3: If you’re going to have sex in the bathroom, there’s no reason to do it ON the toilet.
MAN 1: See? The logic doesn’t add up, it’s-
MAN 3: Unless you really have to take a dump and it just can’t wait.
That kills all conversation again.
After staring in horror at MAN 3 for a second, WOMAN 1 turns to MAN 1 and shakes her head “no.”
MAN 1 sighs.
MAN 1: Did you have sex on our toilet last night?
MAN 3: You know, we say “never forget,” but when was the last time we stopped to think about…the holocaust?
ANOTHER LONG DISGUSTED BEAT.
WOMAN 1: Clean the fucking toilet before you go.
INT. HALLWAY - APARTMENT
MAN 3 slinks down the hallway.
He opens the door to the bathroom.
INT. BATHROOM - NEXT
Down on his knees, scrubbing the toilet is MAN 2, someone who actually lives in that apartment.
MAN 3: I am not covering for you ever again.
Man 2: Did they suspect anything?
MAN 3: I had to use the emergency plan.
MAN 2: 9/11?
MAN 3: Actually, I used the holocaust.
MAN 2 stops scrubbing, gets up and puts a hand on MAN 3’s shoulder.
MAN 2: Thank you. That was a bold move.
MAN 3: I’m sorry, but you weren’t shitting at the time, were you?
MAN 2: Only when I wasn’t motorboating.
MAN 3 slowly shuts the door on MAN 2.
INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS
MAN 3 stares long and hard at the closed door.
MAN 3 (quietly): Keep living the dream, [MAN 2]
If you’ve never heard of a site called PartyCampus.com, don’t go looking for it, it isn’t around. But they didn’t shutter their web doors without first hiring me to do some writing for them that was never printed and that I was never paid for.
Also, Carona is no longer my staple. It’s been switched out to Guinness and/or Jamison.
That being said, let’s continue.
New York University is not a place for sports. The list of our club teams includes such “sports” as Water Polo, Hiking, Squash, Ultimate Frisbee, and - my personal favorite official NYU sport – Latin Ballroom Dancing! Our mascot used to be a Violet (yeah, the flower), until it was changed to a Bobcat in honor of our library’s filing system, “BobCat,” not the fierce predator. Basically, if you like sports to be part of your college life, I would not suggest going to an urban university best known for its arts and business schools.
The saving grace of those that enjoy casual physical activity is the intramural sports program, and - lucky for you - most schools have them. These programs are for people whose talent falls anywhere within the range of “I’d be big if my schedule allowed for more practice time” to “What are these s-p-o-r-t-s you speak of?” The most important thing to remember when trying to have a good intramural experience is that it’s all about having fun. That’s what lead some of my buddies to creating a softball team called “The Dred Scott Decision.”
The goal: Live the American Dream.
The American Dream (as we defined it): drunken co-ed, slow-pitch softball.
Our schedule was set up like a single-elimination tournament, so we most likely would end up playing one game. This game was scheduled at 10:30am on Sunday, and to get there we needed to catch a bus from the sports center at 9:50.
Saturday night, four teammates and I ended up going to two different bars. One place had horribly over priced beer that forced me to have one of the stronger Jack and Cokes I’ve ever drank simply because it was $1 cheaper than my usual staple, Corona. The next place had cheap beer in pitchers, so a pitcher was ordered for the men. The women drank Fuzzy Navels or something womanly that I would have liked to drink, but never can if I want to keep hanging out with guy friends. At the second bar, we raised our glasses to waking up at 8:30am the next day and playing some softball. The first toast was hopeful, but by the time we had toasted 5 times to waking up early, the gesture started to feel forced, empty, and sarcastic.
When my alarm went off at 8:30, I was reasonably hung-over. The idea of showing up drunk to an intramural softball game at 10:30am sounds great when you plan it, but the execution – it’s rough on the will. I pried myself out of bed before anyone else and drank some water. Then, onto the beer. I had been smart enough to buy some Corona at a reasonable price earlier in the week. Half a beer into the morning, I start waking up teammates with prime cuts from my All-Star Jock Jams CD. At first, they resisted: cussing, cursing, swearing, and general surly tomfoolery. The mood was improved slightly when another team-mate chugged a 40oz Old English mixed with some orange juice before we caught a cab to get on the bus.
Only 5 out of 9 of us had ever played softball before, and if you take me out of that count - on account of drunkenness - then you’re down to less people than can make a functioning infield. Needless to say, we got some odd looks from the other team, as our group of misfits chain-smoked and tried to advise each other on softball technique and strategy while our drunkest team mate yelled at everyone.
I have very fond memories of the game, because everyone else who was there to play softball was around just to play, not out to win like jock-frat idiots. We played against a team called The Smurfs, who all tried to wear a little blue on their sportswear. We shared their gloves, we cheered for everyone, and since we gave up 15 runs in the first inning, we didn’t care so much about winning that we had to resort to trash-talking or comments about sexual intercourse with the female Smurfs and their Smurf Mothers. We also came to smoke on the field and in the dugout, since that was originally the reason most of us had joined the team. The 2nd Baseman dove into the dirt while clutching a Marlboro Red in his teeth; I smoked half a cigarette, went to bat, grounded out, and returned to the dugout to smoke the other half of the cigarette that had been left burning all along.
After The Smurfs overturned The Dred Scott Decision 16-0, we got back on the bus where some of us passed out while the others congratulated each other on actually playing something that resembled softball. It wasn’t until that bus ride home that I realized that I had really enjoyed the entire process.
I haven’t played sports in 5 years, easy. I’m a short, 135 lb, Hispanic smoker that goes to art school. Yet, somehow I had managed to play some good softball on a beautiful summer day with a bunch of my friends and classmates. I think if you look back in history, that’s why sports became possible. It’s not about winning your tournament, it’s not about being better than the other guy, it’s about having a blast getting wasted on a Sunday morning and hitting stuff with bats.
1962 East Colfax Ave.
(303) 321 3139
Open 24 Hours.
Pete’s Kitchen is a bustling little restaurant whose walls are papered with various awards given to them by local and national organizations for things like “Best Breakfast” or “Hottest All Night Diner.” The neon sign outside shows a fat cook flipping some sort of confection. When we arrived there was a line out the door to get in for seating – always a good sign. The wait staff seemed a little stressed, but were quick to point us to our table as it was getting wiped down.
Below pictures of Pete with John Elway and scraps of paper signed by local bands is a bar where several chefs ran back and forth from griddles to bins of ingredients. The main room containing the bar has a few booths, all filled when we arrived. We were seated on the covered patio, which operates as its own room. If the place is packed, as it was during breakfast, expect to wait a little while before you’re seated. However, as soon as we were settled and our obligatory glasses of ice water sat in front of us, our pleasant Polish waitress was quick to bring burritos to her patrons pining for Pete’s Famed Breakfast Burrito.
As a name like “Pete’s” suggests, the menu is not comprised of traditional or south-western Mexican food. Instead, expect to find soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches – classic diner fare. If you’re on the lookout for some Mexican food, it would behoove you to go elsewhere.
Pete’s only has two burritos for sale, ever. They can both be found on the back of the menu in the Breakfast Section, but don’t let this deter you; Pete’s has a reputation for knowing their breakfasts well, and nicely transitioning them south of the boarder.
Overall Rating : 3.6 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: American Chili – 0 Green Chili - 1
Ingredients: two scrambled eggs, ham or bacon or sausage and hash browns in a flour tortilla, smothered in American chili or green chili
-Breakfast Burrito Supreme-
Overall Rating: 3.9 (out of 5)
Spice Rating: American Chili – 0 Green Chili – 1
Ingredients: two scrambled eggs, hash browns, ham, bacon, sausage and gyros. Smothered in green or American chili, cheese, tomatoes and onions.
These burritos were actually slight variations on one another: add a different kind of meat here and a different kind of chili there and before you know it, you’re looking at a whole different burrito, right? Wrong.
The $.75 extra is well worth the amount of mass gained between the Regular Breakfast Burrito and the Supreme. Plus, the gyro meat isn’t even an option on the Regular. Go begging if you have to – spring for Supreme.
The burritos are served on one big platter, looking gooey and huge. We took a moment to enjoy ourselves, mentally prepping for the long journey ahead before plunging into what we do best: eating burritos. We were all quick to note that both breakfast burritos were not as over salted as we had all come to expect. This is a risk with most breakfast burritos, maybe because the burrito, in concept, is such a spicy dish that when chefs translate it to breakfast, salt seems like a quick way to add flavor. Pete’s avoided this folly by providing a flavorful array of meats and showing confidence in their two chilies.
The difference in chili was easily distinguishable on the Regular Breakfast Burrito because the taste wasn’t clouded with the array of meats. In a showdown between American and green on the sausage Breakfast Burrito the green, with actual chunks of chilies, came out victorious. The consensus was that the green had that extra kick of flavor and spice, even though it cooled to a gelatinous state on the edges of the plate. The American chili contained pinto beans and ground beef, but in sparse quality, resulting in a colorful but bland sauce. The American got its chance to shine on the Supreme and our tasters were torn as to which chili made a better companion for it, although both Nate and Jess commented that sometimes they felt like they were eating a chili dog, not a burrito.
Both burritos have a single layer of egg, as if an omelet, not a scrambled egg was shoved in the tortilla. This ensured each bite had some egg in it, but as Julian pointed out; “occasionally, I would get a little too much egg with nothing else to counter it.” This was on the normal Breakfast Burrito. The supreme had an array of meat that was evenly placed and plentiful.
On the menu, the gyro meat seems to be the odd man out, but when it was in the burrito, its taste was hard to distinguish amongst the relatively powerful tastes of all that greasy pork. Also on the inside, the hash browns dominated texture and balanced flavor. They were lightly crisped on each side and would help the eggs distract the taster from the salt in the dish.
“Amrican Chili is worth the novelty, but one may as well get the Supreme. With the $.75 extra for cheese, the Supreme and the Regular are the same price.” – Nate
“Good, but not $7.50 good. Like $5.00 good.” – Jess
“This breakfast burrito was the best I’d ever had” - Ty
Sidebar: “American Chili” – We weren’t sure what this was doing on a burrito either, because despite it’s contrast on the menu to green chili, it was not a red chili like we expected, but actually chili – like chili-cook-off.
In the world of burrito, no ingredient is off-limits if you can find a way to make its specific texture and flavor work, so we were happy to see that Pete’s could sneak some of it’s diner flavor into the dish. There’s a copious amount of information concerning chili and the proper way to cook it, the recipe is flexible enough to allow for subtle differences and experimentations.
The main ingredients usually include a creative combination of onion, cumin, garlic, chilies or chili powder and meat. The recipe itself varies and adapts so much, chili aficionados have had trouble tracing the origins of chili back to its delicious beginnings.
Most Texans claim very adamantly that the dish is from Texas, but Canary Islanders, transplanted to San Antonio as early as 1723, used local peppers, wild onions, garlic, and other spices to concoct pungent meat dishes. These Canary dishes were a mutation of a similar dish served in the Canary Islands for decades before.
However, we’re guessing Pete didn’t know that when he labeled his chili simply: “American.”
Will be going to the Harts for Easter dinner. I need to come up with a fun dessert.” —My mother’s e-mail update on my sick dogs Bob (a rat terrier) and Dexter (a chihuahua).
I received the above e-mail awhile ago and politely sent back:
I’m not doing the dating thing for awhile. Might possibly be undatable.
Oooh. I have a saved blog post about that….hmmmm…..
And I do have that blog post laying around, though it was me mourning about being undatable after a previous relationship, the basics still kinda stand.
One night last week I got pretty drunk while at Thrash’s place drinking and watching HBO’s Six Feet Under. The show is good, and all the characters are well rounded and real, so I find myself connecting with them in the way you connect with traditional non-television drama like theater, cinema or novels.
The exception, I suppose, would be Shakespeare, which – when performed correctly – is usually concerned with you admiring the skill of the actors and playwright just as much as you are connecting with characters. I don’t spend Shakespeare plays picking then switching sides. Falstaff always has good and bad mixed into him, but I never take my focus off of Hal, because that’s the character you are supposed to identify with. Does that make sense?
Regardless, Six Feet Under causes me to fall deeply into its slightly-over-dramatic world. It might be the substances I put into my body while watching it that makes me enjoy its slight melodrama and the way that all the characters either: a) keep secrets from each other for no understandable reason and give a guilty stare to anyone that may suspect the secret, b) are blatantly emotionally honest with each other for long periods of time before they (and the viewer) realize they’ve been talking in a reactionary manner and suddenly realize they don’t know what they feel themselves, or c) hallucinate their inner monologue.
After a long night of drinking and watching people cause drama for one another, I wandered home and signed on to the internet, as per usual. I decided that I was drunk and feeling emotionally open. The first was true beyond a doubt, but – in hindsight – the former might have influenced the latter.
I signed on to eHarmony.com in an attempt to turn over a new leaf. I read somewhere that more that 50% of male online dating applicants get zero responses to their online profiles. However, from the few women I know that have turned to these sites for a laugh or more, women seem to be inundated with numerous, nearly instant responses, many of them consisting of pictures of dicks.
Large, erect tubes of human flesh being cradled in a tiny hand to provide perspective.
A quick aside about my penis: I have no intention of putting a picture of it on the interweb. I don’t feel it’s anything to write home about, let alone take photographs of to display to people I’ve never met. I’m not one of those guys who wants to hear opinions about my penis, so I don’t know how it shapes up to others. The safe way of dealing with my genital subject matter is to assume self-depreciation is the way to go. If ever seriously asked about my penis, I would say it’s short, skinny like a pencil, slightly curved to the left (but not a hook!), and made out of coarse sandpaper. That way, if you do ever get to see my penis you are pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s made out of calloused flesh. But I digress…
Not thinking about how unlikely it was that one of the fifty women using an online dating service surfed around male profiles instead of sifting through their inbox full of dicks, I signed on to eHarmony and began the personality test that I assumed would lead me to finding a mate, or a t least someone to date for a little while.
After half-an-hour of non-stop questioning, I was directed to a page that I soberly paraphrase like so: “Dear valued user. The system used by eHarmony sorts users into character profiles for matching. Due to this system, 1 in 5 people do not fit the categories established by the eHarmony method. The results of your test do not fall into any specific character profile, you are part of the 20% of the population that is completely undateable.”
Granted, that was paraphrasing.
I tried clicking around the page to get around the warning and into the site, but my account had be flagged with the “weirdo” tag as I was unable to even look at other users. What I did find was my personality profile. I read through it drunkenly (did I mention I kept drinking through the whole process?), thought it was noteworthy and saved it. Angry about being labeled as a social outcast after a mere hundred-or-so questions, I fell into a drunken slumber.
For the pure fuck of it, here are the notable sections of my eHarmony profile, juxtaposed with my immediate thoughts about them. Much like the disclaimer on most good game shows: the parts I edit out of either account do not affect the outcome.
Section One: Agreeableness
You are best described as: “CONSISTENTLY TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF.”
Words that describe you: “Uncompromising, Frank, Astute, Critical, Empirical, Tough, Discerning, Skeptical, Shrewd.”
“A general description of how you interact with others: When someone needs your help or wants you to do something you think before you act. See, at heart you believe deeply in personal freedom and individual responsibility. You think it is vital that people learn to take care of themselves so that they don’t become dependent upon others. You believe that actions have consequences, and people need to accept the consequences of their actions if they are to learn from their mistakes and grow. You believe you wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor if you lift someone out of trouble; they will never learn to lift themselves up if you keep rescuing them. And if you keep giving people a second, third or fourth chance, you have seen that people seldom develop the character they need to live decent and responsible lives.
“You believe that compassion has a role to play in your life, in a structure of values that is encourages people to take care of themselves. Uncritical tenderheartedness does as much harm as good. You much prefer if people understand, in factual, empirical terms, how they got into trouble, and how they can lift themselves out of the mess they are in. In an emergency, of course, you’re there to offer help and if someone has helped you out in the past there is no question about your loyalty. But whenever it is realistic, you are convinced people should take care of themselves.
“Along with this you devote adequate time to taking care of your own needs and wants, in part because it makes you happy with your life and in part because that’s what you truly believe every person should do. You cherish personal independence for yourself and others. Fostering such independence is the best way you find there is to love and care for others.
“Your emphasis on personal independence and personal responsibility may seem to lack in compassion to some people…And some may find you to be rather selfish. You do stay focused on your own life, take responsibility for your own problems, and are not always moved by situations in which some people think some action is required. That is part of you and your basic beliefs about life. And some people will inevitably want you to be different, but that is simply not who you are.”
I forget my year anniversary with Jenn. We went out to dinner, I complained about how tough my life was, I gave her a kiss, I went to a production meeting, I ended up taking a drunken friend home and staying at her house where I called Jenn and she reminded me that I was a dick. A dick that can’t remember dates.
She thought I was screwing her by intentionally not doing anything. Mostly because I had made a big deal about how I don’t like to make a big deal out of stuff like Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Jenn likes to make events out of certain dates. She likes feeling surrounded by people she genuinely likes/loves on her birthday. A Valentine’s Day gift would make her feel happy. Gifts make her feel happy, not because she enjoys receiving, but because she enjoys the act of giving.
I knew all this going into the relationship. Some of the details solidified along the way, but I had no idea how much regret would instantly hit me when I realized that I sat through an entire dinner talking about being out of money, not having a job or some such foolishness while she was silently praying that I whip out some plans and say “surprise!”
This basically sums up why I’m undateable in this regard. If it is illogical to do something, I’ll most likely not do it unless it directly benefits me. If I do something nice, you can bet that it was easy, or your reaction pleases me. You’d think making my girlfriend happy pleased me, and you be right, but constantly putting another person first is not my forte.
I excelled at the original version of The Sims because the interface was very simple. Everything that your Sim did in a day had a logical purpose. My Sim would sleep with the neighbors while their husband was at work. Sims kept good secrets, so the spouses wouldn’t alert each other, they wouldn’t notice a new sexual habit in their Sim-Wives. I didn’t do it for the reasons that I used to kill bugs in my youth. It wasn’t just a passing amusement. My Sim family needed more friend points to advance to the next level (to get a better job, to buy more stuff that helps you get an even better job, which lets you buy more things…etc…). The easiest way to make another Sim like you was to sleep with them. They didn’t even rebuke you that much if you suggested it prematurely. If I asked for some sexy play and the female Sim didn’t like it, I would simply talk to them, dance to the radio, feed them or tickle them.
Even Sim conversation was simple: Talk enough until you can tickle them, tickle them until you can fuck them.
I was good at this because everything had a simple cause-and-effect relationship. I believe things work like this in the real world, there’s just so many variables that it’s often impossible to control. And it’s the mystery variables that drive me mad, because it’s the mystery variables that have lead to the most painful moments of my life.
Living in a cause-and-effect, selfish headspace like I do means that if something goes wrong, you can usually trace it back to your actions. You can heap blame and self-pity on yourself then logically find your way out of it.
I’m fairly sure this looks like mild manic depression when viewed externally, because it’s constant waves of happiness. The best part is when you are happy, it is because you caused it. The worst part is feeling sad and having no logical explanation for why this bad thing happened to you. That’s similar to a Christian dying and meeting Mohammad instead of St. Peter at the pearly gates.
How long have I placed my entire life on a faulty belief system? I think that’s a question people have to ask themselves from time to time. The sad part is that the answer is always: “Forever.”
Section Two: Emotional Stability
On Emotional Stability you are: “SOMETIMES STEADY, SOMETIMES RESPONSIVE”
Words that describe you: “Adaptable, Engaged, Able to Cope, Passionate, Perceptive, Flexible, Receptive, Aware, Avid”
“In some ways, you’ve got the best of emotional worlds. When emotions rise up from inside you or are brought forth from a conversation by a friend, you know how to engage them. You deal with sadness, fear, joy, anger - whatever comes up - in ways that are perceptive and flexible. You can adapt to whatever level of emotion is appropriate to the moment. At other times, you are able to cope with your emotions in a more reserved manner. Because you are aware of what does and does not make emotional sense in a particular situation, you will decide when it is an appropriate time to express your emotions and when it would be best to keep them to yourself.
“All of this gives you a rich emotional life. You are free to express your passions about certain subjects with appropriate people. But you are also emotionally adaptable; if the conversation needs to be more cerebral, you’ll keep it “in your head” and talk calmly through whatever issue is on the table. This emotional awareness serves you well. You seldom get in over your head, either by opening up to the wrong person or by triggering in someone else’s emotions they may not be able to deal with.”
Part of the curse of being a writer (or at least someone who was trained as one, since I think “writer” only really applies to people who make a living writing, not someone like me) is that the line between your training/job and your life sometimes blurs.
Perhaps calling this a curse is a little harsh. Paul, my college playwriting teacher said you can always tell when you are very excited and “in the zone” by realizing that the majority of your daily actions somehow relate to your play. I thought that was very wise when I heard it, but – under further examination – I’m not sure that is the case. Obviously, Paul was saying that as a writer to a writer, but if you think about why everything you see or do is related to what you are writing about, you’ve really just become one with your theme. That’s horrible because you might be too far into the theme and unable to explain to others how to get in. If your audience is outside your theme, it is your job to bring them in, which is best done with an understanding of the destination and knowledge of how a lay-person can get there.
It’s like how every song is a love song when you have recently been dumped by someone. Obviously, every song is not a love song, but that’s how it appears if all you’re wanting is a companionship to replace the one you’ve just lost.
If I’m in an emotional state, I approach talking to people like I’d approach telling you a story. If I can pull you into the story in the correct way, you will reciprocate the emotion that I need from you. It’s really as simple as that. And I should keep it simple.
But I don’t.
Who know what my dating future will end up bringing. Right now, I’m too focused on a dozen other things, or that’s what I tell myself.
Let’s just say that constantly being online means I know where to get good free porn.
W: I am the Widow of the 60s and I will never love another! I refuse to be part of this singing and dancing pornography that I see on the streets around me.
5: This bullshit again? When you gonna get over yourself and get on me? Much more interesting you monogamous dried-up cunt.
W: Free Love was just something people said to guilt others into a plethora of sexual partners.”
5: Maybe you just weren’t hip enough to get it.
W: What? I’m supposed to turn a blind eye to all the fornicating?
4: It’s beautiful.
5: It’s natural.
6: It feels good.
W: Where did we get all this glitter this day and age?
D: We stole it.
W: Stole it?
5: From kids. Children.
6: Your kids. Don’t worry, Sammie liked what I traded him better than glitter.
W: You all are making a mockery of this evening. This isn’t some free-love hootenanny.
5: Really? How much does your love cost?
6: How much does her hoo-ten-anny cost?
W: Blasphemy! I refuse to sit here silently and listen to you malign my lost lover!
4: We were lovers as well.
N: There’s no reason to get nasty.
W: How dare you all speak that way to me. I help breastfed the 70s, I spoiled the 80s rotten and watched as they raised their newest bastard children!
6: Well I hate your children. And I hate their toys. And I hate the weakest members of your family!
W: And now you turn on me? How could you have forgotten me so quickly? I am truly a martyr! How could you leave? How could you pass so quickly! Why couldn’t I have died of an overdose like the lucky masses?
D: We haven’t forgotten you dahling.
5: We just don’t remember things being so exclusive. We all heard the siren song of the deceased.
You know what I always liked about this scene, even though I saw it rehearsed but never performed?
“Well I hate your children. And I hate their toys. And I hate the weakest members of your family!”
I just think that’s a fantastic insult, and I don’t know if it was Laine or I that wrote it. But I’m sure when one of us did, the other was laughing.
I once found a fetus in my lunch.
It was a cold winter’s day at Monarch High School, and we ate silently around a round table looking out over the parking lot. The snow was falling, slowly turning the sophomore parking lot into a mud pit.
I quickly shut the bag and looked around the table, wondering if anyone had been watching me and had read the expression on my face: “Oh God! I’ve got some sort of horrible abortion in my bag!”
Luckily, no one noticed.
Now, the big question: What does one do with a fetus in their lunch? I mean, it was in my lunch bag, and it was sitting on top of a napkin that my mother had decorated with stickers and a small message, written in green marker. My first thought was: “Maybe I should just eat it.”
I hear stem cells are good for you.
How does one get stem cells in their body? Will eating them work, or does the stomach just break everything down in a non-discriminatory fashion? I really haven’t a clue, and if I had read past all the headlines on Google News that morning, perhaps I would have been a little more informed. If I wasn’t so interested in shitty metal bands playing around the state in the next few weeks, maybe I’d be reading medical journals and discovering neat-o facts from the magical world of science. Like if I can ingest stem cells and still make proper use of them.
How does one eat a fetus?
I took another peek in my bag. Something resembling a shaved-gerbil with an umbilical cord was right next to my snack-sized ziplock bag filled with purple grapes.
I shook my bag a little.
Damn it. Mom forgot to pack the chips.
Maybe, I thought, I can just throw it away. I was terribly hungry, so I didn’t want to waste the chips and the grapes, but I couldn’t just non-chelantly walk across the room, passing by the band geeks and the jocks and the other theater kids that my group of theater kids didn’t like with an aborted fetus in my hand.
Then, I imagined the janitor at the end of the day, going about his business and finding a fetus in the lunchroom trashcan. The headlines on the following days Denver Post would read: Abortion at Suburban High School! It would do for High School sex what Columbine did for High School Violence: intensify the need, but drive it underground.
The rumor mill would start. Girls who had been fat, but lost weight would be accused of having a miscarriage in the stalls of the B-Hallway bathroom. The popular Christian girls would blame the sluts, and the sluts would blame the theater kids, we’d blame the band kids, the band kids would blame the Goths and the Goths would finally heap all the blame on the gromits and the burn-outs who probably wouldn’t have anything to say.
This sounded like it might work out.
I clenched my paper-bag womb a little tighter and got ready to stand up and walk to the trash can.
Sadly, Alix saw me.
“What’d your mom write this time?” she asked, referring to the note underneath the fetus.
My mind instantly alerted me at this point that Alix was the kind of socially conscious girlfriend who would be genuinely shocked at a fetus being discovered in her school. She’d probably look for whomever the fetus belonged to and try to console them. At the time – though I realize now this was a ridiculous thought – I thought she might actually be concerned enough with the well being of others as to not have sex with me. That was unacceptable given that at this time in my High School experience, having sex with Alix was more important than anything…
…I meant anyone…
As my mind was racing, knowing that I couldn’t throw the fetus away, I attempted to make up something my Mom would write on a napkin.
“Oh,” I stammered, thinking my cock would die a lonely, shriveled, pathetic death, “it says: Uh, Honey, don’t feel bad about your test, we love you and remember…”
She raised her eyebrows, waiting to hear what I was supposed to remember as I slowly reached my hand into my bag and grabbed ahold of the fetus, which felt like sausage skin filled with long-curdled milk.
“Remember… The insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin!”
Then, I stuffed the entire fetus in my mouth, and begin chewing and smiling, trying to ignore the lumps of underdeveloped child being lodged in that gap I have between my back set of molars. My eyes started watering when I found something crunchy, as I hoped it wasn’t a bone and questioned if bones were formed at this stage of fetal development.
Right around the time I asked myself what the odds were that I was eating a failed attempt at a little brother my mother had sent along with my lunch, the urge to weep caused me to chortle a bit and spit a small chunk of fetus into Alix’s hair.
She recoiled, I apologized and finished my mouthful of fetus.
But because of that single chunk, we didn’t have sex that afternoon. All I could think was I could have just thrown that fetus away.
Then I wouldn’t feel so dirty inside.
I just finished writing my review for My Suicide, which was so damn hard to make cut-and-dry.
I’m usually just invited to screenings for films that I’ve read about or feel like seeing, a publicist will e-mail me this or a friend will say check out that. Never before have I had to distance myself from a film to review it like I had to distance myself from My Suicide.
And here’s why: I made that movie in 1999/2000.
Let me explain. Here is the My Suicide synopsis:
Archie Williams (Gabriel Sunday) is a 17-year old media geek who has suddenly found himself the most talked-about kid in school. He has announced that he’s going to kill himself- on camera- for a class project. His classmates, parents, Sierra- the most beautiful girl in school (Brooke Nevin), and a “Shady Bunch” of shrinks, doctors, pill-pushers, and counselors descend on Archie. Some are hoping to save him, some want to imitate him, others try to push him over the brink. Archie films every moment of his high school experience, hiding nothing from his audience: realities of life, death, violence, sex, drugs, and the intense media overload and hypocrisy that bombard all teenagers.
Now let’s flash-back via text to me in early high school and tell the damn story of SMILE and Rachel Paton.
I have been making small videos with my friends since my boyhood neighbor Ty Hart got access to his dad’s 8mm camcorder. I remember that the first script I wrote with Ty was while we were sitting on the floor of his parent’s living room with a typewriter and a Calvin and Hobbes collection adapting the Transmogrifyer story for our younger brothers to act out.
My 8th Grade year, instead of writing an essay for English class like I was supposed to, I wrote a 27-minute after school special about a kid dying of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. This script was attention-getting enough that my English teacher sent it off to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards where it was awarded a Gold Medal. They flew me out to Washington DC to accept the award and suddenly I had this idea in my mind that I was going to become a filmmaker.
Then, Columbine happened in April 1999, my last semester of high school. I was growing up in Louisville, Colorado, which was a long way from the flying bullets, but since this was pre-Twitter, I spent some of my evening talking down panic relatives from other states while being glued to the TV.
I became mildly obsessed with Columbine and TO THIS DAY have a box full of newspaper clippings form the three major Denver newspapers at the time, all cut out and organized chronologically in folders. I couldn’t pin point why Columbine was so interesting to me then, but now I certainly can.
If you look at all the information about Eric H and Dylan K, they really weren’t that different from me. At the time I was into watching my friends play Doom, listening to Marilyn Manson and extinguishing matches on my wrist. But, and I knew this deep in myself, I would never be able to take out this rage on other people. I was, and always have been, very internalized. I just couldn’t understand how two guys who were like me, and obviously thinking a lot of the same stupid things I was, would actually cross that line and start killing people.
Killing themselves I always got, it was the other people thing.
High School begins and I fall in love with Rachel Paton from a distance. The first semester of high school freshman year, I played on the football team. It was physically and emotionally taxing and I loved it, because I liked the game and I liked hitting people. Even when I was one of the tiniest guys on the field and I didn’t have the Hulk-like powers I had always pictured in my mind, I could just ear-hole a guy and make him see tunnel vision mere minutes before he was spotting me on the bench press. It’s male aggression and it was sweet.
Then, my knees went bad and the coach made it very plain that I wasn’t fast enough or big enough, so I switched to one of the other high school clichés: the theater club. Whatever show was up at the time had a bunch of my friends working tech on it and had an attractive female acting in it, a freshman named Rachel Paton.
I don’t think we’re really speaking now, so I might as well not hold back any details here.
You know that high school crush you will always remember? That’s Rachel Paton. Even when I started dating my first “real” girlfriend, whom I admire and respect to this day, there was always Paton at the back of my mind. Showing up in my dreams, being the physical incarnate of my muse.
So, of course, I see this beautiful girl who is an actress but also popular. I know that my recent fall from football grace, plus the disadvantage of being a freshman leaves me no way to get my foot in the door with this goddess…unless I put her in a movie.
At this point, Ty and I are editing promotional videos for the school district on non-linear software and getting paid by the superintendent, so when I walked into my video production class and spend the first day learning about the rule of thirds, I know immediately that the stars are aligning, I can get an independent study and I can write a project that will get me close to Rachel Paton.
I’m still 15 or 16 at this point, so what came out of me was a half-hour script that was 80% me and 20% fiction.
Here’s the plot of SMILE: Rick (me) is a videographer at school who edits things together for meager money. He is approached by Thora (Rachel) who wants Rick to make a documentary about her. Rick doesn’t know that it’s so people will see why she committed suicide(which she’s been planning for awhile) because he’s blinded by the most popular girl in school wanting to hang out with him. Rick chases his obsession. Eventually Thora offs herself, but not before several dialogue-heavy discussions where Rick really should realize what’s going on… but doesn’t.
Rick was the narrator of the film, doing it after Thora’s final moments, in his garage while chain smoking. At the very end, we were supposed to realize that Rick was making the video about his relationship with Thora before he joined her in the great beyond.
Romeo and Juliet anyone?
The film didn’t end up being that for a few reasons. First of all, I was way more into shooting it than Rachel was, just because actresses who don’t fancy themselves actresses are actually pretty good at picking up that the nerdy video kid might have talent, but is really hitting on her.
The production of the video became long sessions of me hanging out with Rachel and Ty, coming up with a way to get my parents to let me smoke “for the movie.” Because we were filming all this, my first cigarette ever, complete with stereotypical hacking and gagging, is actually on a 8mm tape somewhere.
I screened the video for the class as my final and got a A+ since the only other “real” filmmaker/videographer in the school wasn’t in taking video production that semester (Dan Graeber! Respect!). Though all the note cards I got back made me realize that people didn’t get why Thora would off herself. Truth be told, I don’t think I really knew why Thora would off herself. To me it wasn’t so important. To me, at the time, it was about getting Rachel Paton to notice me.
…which sort of worked.
Rachel and I became friends later on in high school while she was dating other people. One day, while hanging out with Rachel, Ty and my friend Elliott of Serious Bob fame, and I started arguing about SMILE (still not about how it shared the name of a lost Beach Boys album). Rachel and Elliott came up with the idea that we had 2 more years of filmmaking experience under our belts so maybe we could actually tell the story this time.
Elliott, Rachel and I started outlining the movie in 3 acts with notecards placed on my basement pool table.
Because I never knew how to make SMILE, how to break the characters and talk about issues I wanted to deal with, because SMILE initially existed to make me feel better about Columbine and Rachel Paton: I did something I shouldn’t have. I said that Thora and Rick need to have sex.
Filming the sex scene for the second version of SMILE was both really good for me and really bad for the film. Essentially, it was two high schoolers dry humping each other as it was filmed with the black and white omnipresent cam through a crack in the door. It looked awkward, it looked pathetic, and that was the edited version. I’m SOOOOOOO happy that no one has the unedited cuts of the sex scene. Seriously. Awkward. And maybe kiddie porn if you watch the right angle.
Act one was filmed and cut together, act two went up through the sex scene and then the project was abandoned once again after the awkwardness of actually dry humping your crush before having your first kiss dawned on me. And there was some slip-shod ADR for an outdoor scene just made me realize I could be doing something else. Something with humor. SMILE was abandoned, but the following versions exist:
2000 Cut 1 – Only Thora dies.
2000 Cut 2 – Thora shoots herself in the head, Rick ODs on pills.
2000 Cut 3 – Thora shoots herself in the head, Rick does too.
2002 Acts I&II – Rough, but with sex scene and making out scene added.
The first three cuts exist on a single VHS that to this day are in Colorado next to a binder with the original script in it. The rough acts are on a hard drive that will remain secret, lest my one and only sex scene see the light of day.
Rachel Paton and I stayed close for a long time, but now she’s deliberately ignoring me because we’re having one of those fights where two people wake up one day and realize they haven’t been a part of each other’s lives for years. It’s kind of sad, but it’s a more realistic conclusion to the SMILE story.
Enter My Suicide and the Millers, the most amazing film family I’ve ever met in my life.
Gabriel Sunday, the actor who plays Archie, who is their version of Rick, plays high school me like high school me felt, which was adrift, saturated with movies, comics and pop culture. When Ty’s family and the Gonzales’ went on a road trip to Arizona one year, Ty and I started to “document it.” When a rock got kicked up from under a tire wheel and busted my viewfinder, I shot 8 more hours of footage blind because both Ty and I had operated video cameras so much we didn’t need a viewfinder to frame important action. Gabe’s Archie has a multitude of cameras pointed at himself, and they are all familiar to me. The feeling of just knowing that this extension is documenting you and making a product out of your life. And for me, products and movies were real, my life was just confusing.
Archie runs into Sierra, who is played by Brooke Nevin. Sienna is the popular girl. Maybe not THE popular girl, but at least in the popular crowd. The important thing is that she is stunningly beautiful. Sienna is sad and brooding because of some family drama, though when she talks I get the high school Rachel Paton vibe off her: being beautiful isn’t the be-all-end-all easy-way-out that high school students like Archie and I thought it was. That was something I learned through Rachel, but also something that has been hammered into our hive mind by other high school melodramas.
Point being, Sierra latches on to Archie’s pain because she thinks she shares it. Archie becomes closer to her and further from suicide at the same time and they even share an awkward sex scene that fit perfectly in the movie as an emotional beat, once I stopped having flashbacks.
But that’s about where the similarities end, because My Suicide is an issues film and a character film and SMILE is and always was a complex ruse by a media-obsessed kid to get close to the seemingly-unobtainable popular girl he liked.
After seeing My Suicide and talking to the filmmakers, I gave the director David Lee Miller a big hug. And, yeah, I was kinda stoned, but I thanked him for making his movie and I told him that I was so happy that he did it and I didn’t do it, because I didn’t know how.
I still don’t know how to break that damn story down, because it’s my story.
I think “write what you know” is kind of a mixed bag in terms of advice, because – even having lived through it – I didn’t know until I saw My Suicide. And though it was tough to step away from all the personal ways this film astonished me in order to do my fucking job and give it a totally insufficient star-based rating and 700 word write-up, I still can’t write what I know.
I know I saw that film, and I know it shut a lot of personal doors that needed to be shut. The movie – and this is corny, but STFU – reached out and made the entire SMILE experience - filled with failures, including the greatest failure of losing a friend I had tricked into being my friend in the first place – mean something. Because those issues were real for me and feeling them was a lot more disorienting then seeing them manifest as a product of love from David Lee Miller and his family.
Kudos guys. Thanks for the closure.
I went out drinking with Frank and Lindsey the other day, which was nice because I haven’t been out drinking in awhile. Also, Frank and Lindsey are some of my oldest, dearest New York friends. Frank had a friend of his from Illinois coming in with her boyfriend and we were going to go drinking with them. We picked them up on the corner of A and Houston and decided to go to MaMa’s Bar on 3rd and B because it would probably be a quieter atmosphere than other places on a Friday night.
Earlier that day, I had talked to Elliott on the phone, and somehow we had got into a discussion about how his grandmother knows Julia Stiles’ grandmother. I said that I saw Julia Stiles “all the time,” (read: occasionally, and only about 5 times overall), and I should really bring up the fact that, in degrees of separation, I’m about as close to her as Kevin Bacon.
Everyone here is four steps away from Kevin Bacon unless you know some other famous show-people. You -> Chris Sweeney -> Val Kilmer ->Elisabeth Shue (The Saint) -> Kevin Bacon (Hollow Man). You also have four steps on Julia Stiles: You -> Elliott -> Elliott’s grandma -> Julia Stiles’ grandma -> Julia Stiles. Point being, the conversation with Elliott, joking about “the next time I see Julia Stiles, I’ll tell her,” took place four hours before I was in the same bar with Julia Stiles.
I started chuckling to myself as soon as I saw her. It was just one of those days where you talk about something that probably won’t happen, and then it does, and you feel like you should tell someone. Well, I’m telling you.
I hate when you’re trying to hang out in the same place as a celebrity, because the whole issue of eye-contact becomes intensified. When you’re on the street and you see someone attractive, or someone you might know, you make eye contact with them. I’m very happy if I just have mutual, friendly eye contact with someone I will never see again. It’s sort of a subtle way to say to the other person: “I acknowledge you as person.” So often, I just walk around the city not looking at people. Sometimes, I’ll even buy things and not make eye contact with the vendor, or only make sparse eye-contact with waiters at restaurants. Having been a host at a rich-blooded restaurant, I’m also well aware how not being looked at makes one feel in casual situations, especially when you really want to be noticed.
In bars, eye contact is key. If you go to a bar as a social place where you may or may not meet more people and try to sleep with them, then you know that eye contact is step one of the Best-Case Scenario. Even as someone who isn’t looking to hook up at a bar, I still like to make the occasional eye-contact, or have the occasional conversations with a stranger. The thing is, with a celebrity, you can’t make casual eye contact. They know they’re famous, and you know they’re famous, and with like Julia Stiles, she knows you aren’t looking at her because you’re looking at the attractive people in the bar, you’re looking at her because you saw her do a table dance to “Hypnotize” in 10 Things I Hate About You.
This always makes me feel uncomfortable, because I want to look, but I know if I get caught looking, I might make them feel as uncomfortable as I am. “They” being the person that is famous and easily recognizable. I decided just to face the other way in the bar and not even tempt myself. Then, in the middle of this mind-fuck I was putting myself through, I noticed an EXTREMELY attractive brunette at the bar:
Damn your pretty features Vanessa Carlton! Now I was surrounded. Not only that, but one of them was so attractive I had to look. Everyone was stealing a glance at her. For a moment, I thought: “Clever, Stiles, bringing out someone to distract the gawkers.”
I cursed and told Lindsey about my great eye-contact-dysfunction. She suggested I buy a a stick from a street vendor that was made out of neon-flashing lights. That way they - and everyone else - would all look at me, and I might have a chance to make eye contact with Vanessa Carlton, and she might accept me through the eye-contact. But this was not to be, because then everyone in the bar would be looking at me as that stupid idiot that brought the distracting-flashing baton into the peaceful, candle-lit bar.
That’s no kind of desirable eye-contact.
I sped up my alcohol intake just to get out of there, and as we were leaving, I think I caught Carlton’s eye briefly. In my mind, she thought: “Who was that mysterious man with the long dark hair?”
Call me Vanessa. It’s not like you’re doing anything.