Archive for September, 2010


it took being on drugs for me to realize that the song “double vision” by foreigner was about drugs

Perhaps the strangest tale of my long and storied career occurred in 2006, and the professional damage done by the continuing fallout from it is the reason why I finally had to take this gig as an underwear model for the sizes that can no longer credibly have a picture of a guy with Michelangelo’s David’s abs on the package, so they’ve dropped the conceit altogether. After all I’ve been through, I’m most appreciative of the paycheck, but it’s also provided a much-needed ego boost to have been chosen as the guy at the casting call least in need of airbrushing due to liver spots or bypass surgery scars.

After a long silence, former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena was planning to release a greatly anticipated album of his unique blend of electroclash, synth pop, and Afro-Cuban hardcore black metal played on the clavicytherium, and the magazine I freelanced for had been given authorization to conduct an exclusive interview. It was the primal urgency of his early work that had first made me want to get into music journalism (though he had lost a bit of his focus with a 1997 run as Secretary of Energy that I found a bit too ethereal and meandering), so this was a plum assignment.

I lobbied hard to do the interview, and being awarded it represented the high-water mark of my career as a writer up to that point, a standard I anticipated would soon be surpassed by its publication and the many accolades to follow. I felt a rush of adrenaline being charged with the documentation of a musical event that occurred as infrequently as a hybrid total/annular solar eclipse, or the Rolling Stones reuniting with Brian Jones through seance to record a new secret album to be distributed only to elite members of the Freemasons, the Illuminati and Skull and Bones (both events take place approximately 7 times per century).

While busy at work, the only time I have to email or text people is while I’m in the restroom, so I have to construct mental barriers, usually to help me dissociate the girls I am trying to ask out after meeting them online from the various vulgar sensory experiences inherent in the process of evacuating one’s bowels. This practice caused some awkwardness when I opened the email on my phone from former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena containing directions to his place in Brooklyn, as I did not let the standard office restroom protocol limiting verbal communication to coughing or clearing one’s throat stymie my joy at hearing from one of my idols. Security was called.

At the appointed time, I knocked on the heavy metal door to his austere pre-war apartment in Williamsburg. He was reluctant to let me in, explaining that my brown Dickies shirt as viewed through the peephole made me look like a UPS delivery guy, and he only signed for packages from DHL, the shipping carrier least likely to inspect parcels with drug-sniffing dogs. I finally sat face to face with my subject, resplendent in a regal-looking bathrobe purloined from the Four Seasons with a pair of adidas basketball shorts underneath. He offered me a bong hit, which I politely declined, but even clear-minded, I still remembered very little of anything he said over the ensuing two hours. Later that night when I played the tape back, I began to panic upon hearing his response to my opening question about his new record:  “I’m loath to discuss the work before it’s actually released. Just seems like it would make it difficult to judge it on its own merits if the listener already knows too much about my intents or the creative process that birthed it.” I weakly countered (clearly intimidated by being in the presence of this hero of my adolescence) that having appendices and other resources could assist the listener in having a greater understanding of the record upon repeated listenings, but former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena insisted on preserving the integrity of the album’s first impact upon listeners. From that point on, he would only coherently respond to questions that directly addressed his favorite types of ice cream (fudge ripple, pralines and cream, cherry garcia).

Using the interview only sparingly, I drew upon reserves of bullshitting ability I didn’t know I had to stretch the precious little source material into an 8,000-word piece. It never ran, and several other people in the office had to intervene to prevent my editor from cutting off my pinky finger with a kitchen knife. As for former Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Pena, he disavowed the album immediately before its release, necessitating an Alan Smithee credit for all the clavicytherium parts. The album was brilliant but doomed to obscurity, serving only as a minor footnote to history as the first recorded work in the burgeoning musical career of former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, who put down some really solid tambourine work on a couple of tracks.


warning: in case of rapture, this car will be unmanned while the driver does some last-minute stranger fondling

“Buy! Sell!” he yelled, over and over, in staccato bursts that eventually became shouts, until in a final display of exasperation, he smashed his cell phone on the pavement. Reflected light shone off the slivers splayed spectacularly on the sidewalk, catching the attention of just a few passersby, and even then only momentarily as they continued about their business. More than embarrassment at this loss of self-control, he felt a deep impotence that his act of rage had failed to make much more than a ripple on this city street.

His eyes flitted over hundreds of indifferent faces in the seconds that passed, and he felt particularly aware of his solitude in the world. This was one of the many times he had sensed a need to leave the city altogether. If he could only kick the adrenaline habit, he could cash in his chips, buy a place in the country, start taking better care of himself. He had married a good woman years ago, perhaps it wasn’t too late to give her the life she deserved. What was he trying to prove anyway, spending all those nights on the cot he had set up at the office, all in pursuit of more expensive gifts to lavish upon her, when all she really wanted was him?

What he really needed, his friends would tell him, was a different perspective on life. He wouldn’t be so hard on himself if he would occasionally remember how far he had come, which was much further than an anthropomorphic hamburger had any right to expect. Just making it this far without getting eaten, something no member of his family had managed to do, was a major accomplishment.


gord is my copilot

Mad Libs:

My life was pretty terrific. I had a (an adjective) wife, (a number) kids, and a split-level ranch home in the suburbs. Best of all, I had a new identity and brand new fingerprints, so my days as a mercenary-for-hire were finally behind me, or so I thought. Imagine my (a word expressing surprise) when my phone rang, and a digitally scrambled voice on the other end asked if I could get my team back together for one last mission. My pulse raced with excitement, but I coyly feigned hesitation, telling the voice I was pretty out of shape, given that as a suburban dad most of my spare time these days was spent catching up on (a menial household task) or, if I was lucky, (a shockingly depraved act of self-pleasure) with (a vegetable).

Another obstacle was the fact that getting my team back together wasn’t an option. Most of those (a plural noun) were either presumed dead or enslaved in secret prison labor camps, having been bartered away to warlords in exchange for (a type of fuel) for my (an amphibious vehicle with armor plating) so I could get out of  (a third-world country) with my (a sensitive body part) intact.

“Maybe I called the wrong guy,” the voice said, and I took the bait, growling, “Listen up, (a pejorative term for homosexuals). I’ve committed (a wartime atrocity that calls the narrator’s very humanity into question) so that you could enjoy Family Board Game Night every week without worrying about whether the thimble, race car, or top hat had been covertly replaced by ones made of C-4 plastic explosive or radioactive Polonium-210.”

The phone conversation went on like that for what seemed like (a plural unit measuring time), with each of us volleying statements of braggadocio about our masculinity, creating a tense, charged atmosphere that, had we been speaking in person, would have no doubt led to us making out, our hands racing all over each other’s shirtless bronzed glistening torsos as we finally gave in to feelings we knew had been inside us all our lives, the repression of which had fueled countless murderous rampages of unarmed villagers in faraway lands on the American taxpayers’ dime. Unfortunately, we were unable to agree to my financial demand of (a number, expressed in a difficult-to-trace currency), so the voice and I wished each other well and hung up. And although I know I had done the right thing for my family by rejecting his offer, I couldn’t help wondering what tantalizing adventure I had passed up for the continued privilege of (an activity in the garage to procrastinate yet another episode of passionless sex with one’s wife). Dejected, I considered dosing myself with (a date rape drug) to erase any memory of the phone conversation.


i done wanged all the chung already

Before I begin, I ask you to bear in mind that the events I am about to recall occurred several decades ago, so if the references I am about to make to various elements of anachronistic technology are something that you can’t handle like adults, you can kindly get the fuck out now, because they are integral to the story. Very well, let’s continue.

You see, my freshman year of college was a time when I had yet to establish the aura of unflappable cool that is now my trademark, and due to my unfortunate haircut, complexion, and personality, I found myself having immense difficulty persuading my female classmates to -and I hope this polite euphemism isn’t too obfuscating- have sex with me. Fortunately, I was able to channel my frustration into a healthy brooding that led to groundbreaking successes in the field of terrible, hackneyed poetry. My potluck roommate, similarly unburdened by good looks, charm, or a mastery of the English language, chose a different route to deal with his vexation, becoming a regular fixture in any dorm room on our hall in which a pornographic film was being shown (I should take this opportunity to point out that internet pornography had not yet been popularized, as only a handful of fetishists were able to derive any sexual meaning from the punchcards emitted by the room-sized vacuum tube-run computers that characterized the era, so with pornography such a rare commodity, it was often necessary on the sporadic occasions when a pornographic film became available for pornography enthusiasts to gather together for a communal viewing of the film, mocking the first of their accomplices to excuse himself during the viewing and announce that he wasn’t feeling well and needed to use the restroom).

It was an arrangement that suited me just fine, as it afforded me many hours alone in our room to take quill to parchment and make nauseating metaphors comparing the chest of a female classmate, which I covertly watched rising and falling hypnotically as she breathed during the Tuesday-Thursday History 102 lecture, to a bellows stoking a great fire in my loins. Of course, the arrangement could not last, as it one day came to the attention of my roommate’s fellow stag-film aficionados that he had gone nearly two semesters without contributing anything other than the occasional remark comparing the female lead’s breasts to Cookie Monster’s eyes as they joggled about during an intense bout of lovemaking. Understandably concerned about losing the few social connections he had made during a year of sleeping through class, drinking mouthwash to catch a cheap buzz, and smelling vaguely like Doritos, he approached me with a simple request: to help him procure a pornographic film that could redeem him in the eyes of his peers. Mindful of his easy access to my toothbrush while I was away at class, I obliged under the condition that I be given authority to select the film with the title I deemed most amusing.

I was a bit surprised upon my rental of Dong Day Afternoon (which had narrowly edged out such classics as Tit Happened One Night, Gift of the Vagi, and Stop! Or My Cock Will Shoot) that I was expected to put down a deposit for $35, a princely sum at the time for a struggling student whose funds were quite deplenished, with financial relief still a month away once exams ended and my grueling summer job resumed of driving steel for the transcontinental railway which was still taking shape across our great nation. But I was assured by the cordial woman behind the counter that my deposit would be returned in full once I brought the videocassette back, so I wrote a check for the proper amount, even signing my actual name as a show of confidence in the merchant’s reputability. I delivered the paper bag containing the videotape to my roommate, who thanked me profusely, pressing a sheet of expired pizza coupons into my hand to show his gratitude.

Upon the morrow, I returned from class to find the paper bag on my end table, in accordance with our agreement. Satisfied that I had the right bag after opening it and finding a videocassette clearly labeled Dong Day Afternoon therein, I hailed the next approaching horse and buggy and gave the driver the address of a church within reasonable walking distance of the pornography store. As I entered the store, I removed the videocassette from the bag, an act which immediately drew the ire of the woman behind the counter, as she began yelling at me in a tone that seemed completely alien when viewed in the light of the previous day’s interaction with her. Between the “sorry motherfucker”s and “son of a bitch”es that were the primary defining qualities of this woman’s rant, I deduced that apparently my roommate and his friends had made an attempt to copy the videotape, an endeavor that if not done carefully, can leave distinctive markings on certain stickers placed strategically on a videocassette by pornography retailers. Imagine my shock at seeing this woman who just a day before had soothed my misgivings with her cheery demeanor, now callously employing air quotes to express incredulity at my assertion that the videocassette had been for my roommate. Taunting me presently with the check made out for $35 I would never see again, she noted the university P.O. box listed as my address and asked whether my professors would be interested to learn that one of their students had been banned for life from that pornography store. There is truly no more humiliating feeling than being dressed down by a pornography store clerk, whose tirade had now escalated to a froth befitting the Marine Corps’ saltiest drill sergeant. I had hoped that a plaintive request emanating from a curtained-off series of booths to “Keep it down, please; people are trying to masturbate over here!” would have stemmed the tide, but the screaming persisted, even as I pulled down the brim of my fedora and walked briskly away from the store, knowing that if I ever returned, I would do so as persona non grata and be removed from the premises immediately.

So, that’s why I can’t go in there and return your videotape, pal. As much as I appreciate you picking me up while I was hitchhiking in the rain a few miles back, I’m gonna have to ask you to come up with another way to repay you for your kindness. Here, perhaps these expired pizza coupons will suffice.


it’s only a crime if you get caught, or commit a legal infraction of some kind

All right, listen up, you worms. We’re only two hours into this three-week session, and already I’m hearing a bunch of complaints from several unnamed whiners who think they’re not supposed to be here. Well, it’s time for a reality check, sweethearts. Your parents sent you to Bully Camp for a reason: your milk money’s gone long before the bus arrives each morning, you hide behind your mom in public in constant fear of a chance encounter with your classmates, and you’re coming home with the waistband of your underwear wrapped around your glasses. Sound familiar? Well, I’ve got you marshmallows for the next twenty-one days, and in that time I’m going to equip you with the tools required to deal with the bullies that have been making your life a living hell every year from September to May.

In this intensive session, we’ll explore important self-defense techniques, such as running away, groin-kicking, and deflecting bully attention from yourself to other nearby nerds. Our experts will help you select next year’s school wardrobe with muted tones that will help you blend in to your surroundings. They’ll also update you on the latest in space age fabrics that repel any ketchup and mustard stains incurred in the cafeteria, in case history repeats itself and the entire football team decorates you like a Christmas tree again. Advanced students will receive instruction in how best to publicly humiliate their tormentors with cutting remarks pointing out that their aggressive behavior is a common way to avoid dealing with the emotional trauma engendered by the bully’s divorcing parents, while deftly sidestepping the role that low self-esteem associated with their own parents’ dissolving union has played in their vulnerability to bullies.

Look at the person to your left and right, cream puffs. I’ll be honest: not everyone is gonna make it. But the sad fact is that we can give you what it takes to survive if you dedicate yourself to the programs offered here. And trust me, you bunch of nancies are gonna need all the help you can get. Because right across the river at Camp Shady Pine they’re doing a monthlong workshop giving bullies valuable pointers on how to more efficiently kick nerd ass.

September 2010