Archive for February, 2012


wide screens, raw green

After emigrating to the United States, Paolo Neal had thought it appropriate to baptize his son with the Anglicized version of his own first name, and found himself so pleased with the result that he would also give the moniker to his subsequent children. The three boys would all take their mothers’ surnames: LaDeen, LaZahn, and Isadora, but the youngest would attempt to distinguish himself from his brothers by using only his first initial. Paolo today called them all together to discuss the matter of their inheritance, a subject which had grown in importance since his health took a recent turn for the worse. His caretaker Rosa met the boys at the great heavy door and embraced them with tears welling up in her eyes. She was overcome with emotion not only at the relief at their reunion, but with guilt over not having been allowed to disclose the details of their father’s worsening condition until this late hour.
The secrecy was only one item on a list of eccentric requests Paolo had made of Rosa with accelerating urgency as his health deteriorated. At his demand, she had moved his bed into an antechamber, giving him a space small enough that he felt he could still exercise some control over his surroundings, though even this was less true every day. The three boys, men now, shuffled into the room, each resisting the impulse to create more space at his crowded bedside with their elbows as Paolo spoke. Everyone was uncomfortable.
“Splendid,” the old man said as he exhaled a prodigious bong rip up in the direction of a housefly that had been bumping maddeningly against the light, sending the bug spiraling to the floor. P knelt down to inspect it, and in doing so noted the pinprick of the fixture’s reflected light quivering on the fly’s hard green abdomen. It was still alive, but utterly uninterested in much more movement than that required by breathing. P used a business card to collect the fly and placed it into his jacket pocket.
Paolo continued, “As you boys know, Rosa’s son, he is very sick.” They nodded. “The costs of his care will break Rosa, and with his four sisters and no father to care for them…”
The middle son interrupted, “Papa, say no more. I speak for us all when I say that our inheritance has been the fine upbringing you gave us, which allowed us all to become quite successful, each in his own right,” he said, and the others nodded again in agreement, for it was true.
The eldest finally spoke. “He’s right, Papa. Our inheritance is each other.”
Paolo gazed at his sons again, beaming with pride.
“Gather close in,” he said. “though I may no longer have a fortune to give you, there is no dollar amount that can be placed on this last knowledge I have yet to impart. Use it wisely.”
They huddled around him.
“You know that Crosby, Stills & Nash song ‘Marrakesh Express’? It’s about eating pussy.”


the smartest kid in the dumb class

Honey, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to have been rescued from that desert island. And although I spent four years, two months and sixteen days dreaming nonstop of the day I would be back in your arms, I know it’s going to take some time for us to get reacclimated to each other. Fortunately, the company is hoping to forestall a lawsuit by providing all of us who were stranded on what the media have called “the longest corporate retreat ever” with group therapy to deal with our survivor guilt. One of the things they told us during our first session today was that the first step to rebuilding our lives is to be honest about the inevitable changes caused by our very different experiences. After all, neither of us is the same person we were the weekend before New Year’s 2008- wait, is it the year that’s ending or the year that’s beginning? Well, you know, 2007 going in to 2008. See, this is one of the many things I’m going to have to relearn as I integrate myself back into society. Oh also, I may need a quick refresher course on how to use silverware after we get done with this family meeting.
The stress of daily life among the twelve who managed to swim to shore after Mr. Amparo’s Gulfstream V crashed into the ocean was overwhelming at times, and for me it was only compounded by the guilt of knowing that you had asked me not to go. As we learned to feed ourselves, finally discovered an effective method for desalination after numerous failed prototypes, and found shelter in caves after a storm destroyed the housing we had built from airplane debris and palm leaves, the other men and women on the island gradually became a family, bonded forever through our struggles. We built a functioning society that was loosely based on our corporate hierarchy, which meant that I wound up doing a lot of the physical labor and drew a disproportionate percentage of overnight panther-watch duties.
A couple of things you should know. For starters, I hope you’ll understand that I didn’t adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet. I need you to be prepared for the possibility that you might walk into me eating a ham sandwich at three a.m. in the kitchen in the dark, my face adorned with a grizzled, thousand-yard stare as I remember the occasional slaughter of a wild pig, for those were the only times our bellies felt full. As for the other thing you’re probably wondering about: although the temptation was there on several occasions, none of us ever strayed from our spouses. It was pretty close; I’ll be honest. The plane that found us flew overhead the day before we had scheduled a vote to finally give up and get buck wild, and the “for” side had really gained traction since the last time we had voted on it. Our cuddle sessions were strictly for survival, as it got pretty cold at night, and I should add that on my request, the company has also provided body pillows with faces painted on them. As an exercise, the therapist recommended that we name them together.


as young as we’re ever gonna get

In years past, the faceless image of the super ripped dude on the mailer, his golden tan abs rippling with the unspoken promise that you could one day look like this if you were taking the right nutritional supplements, would have been sufficient to draw me into the nutrition and fitness store that recently opened up by me, but nowadays the $20 off a purchase of $50 or more was the enticement I found most alluring. Clearly these marketing geniuses had covered every angle. As soon as I walked in, a super cute 22 year-old girl came out of the back, walking casually but purposefully towards me, asking if I needed help finding anything. And because my fear of appearing impolite slightly outweighs my fear of interacting with people, I told her I was looking for a whey protein supplement, hoping that she would just point me in that direction and not do the hard sell but figuring that outcome unlikely when she put her hand forward and said, “Oh, by the way: Hi. I’m Alexis.”
“I’m Gerard,” I lied for no real good reason, and instantly felt anxious about the lie while mentally noting her surprisingly firm grip. I should probably include the detail here that though I hope it won’t always be this way, in this particular chapter in my life my wardrobe choices are made primarily for comfort, which is a euphemism I use to explain some pretty unflattering styles I’ve elected to be seen outside the house with lately. I’m also shaving and bathing for comfort, as long as we’re being euphemistic, so by being matched up with this smartly attired, energetic girl, I was already at a considerable disadvantage. Sensing my vulnerability to a host of upselling techniques, I grimly steeled myself for the engagement.
Relief came over me as someone else came in to the store. It was this creepoid who I had noticed driving around in the parking lot in kind of an ominous way, and before I had a chance to fantasize that Alexis would go interact with this unrepentant weirdo to preemptively safeguard against shoplifting, this other really cute 22 year-old girl came out of the back, honing in on him like a Tomahawk missile with a smile and an outstretched hand. “Hi, I’m Stephanie. Can I help you find something?” I wondered how many of them were back there. Was there a black chick? Did they keep a couple of hot guys on reserve, just in case a lady or a gay guy came in?
Alexis asked about my workout routine, eliciting from me the confident disclosure that I do some light running and swimming three or four times a week. I silently assured myself that by not mentioning weights at all, I had deftly eliminated from Alexis’ sales pitch repertoire several rows of plastic neon-colored jugs containing the Get Huge-type powders and mixes. This strategic move had me suddenly feeling like a chess grandmaster. I don’t exactly have my act together in other areas of my life, but the few hours a week I spend working out is the only time I feel I have even a modicum of control over anything, and in talking about a subject on which I was knowledgeable, I began to feel less intimidated. Maybe even emboldened. If I could display this kind of poise while buying a car or negotiating a conflict with a co-worker, I’d be a completely different person.
Meanwhile, it escaped my attention that by acting interested and impressed, Alexis had subtly built up her own advantage, as she was about to use my own strength against me like a judo champion. Given the benefit of hindsight I can see now that I had underestimated her, but swollen with my newfound expertise, I audaciously filled out the rewards card form she breezily pushed across the counter to me as she ran my debit card, and I impressed myself by savvily maintaining the Gerard ruse. It hadn’t taken me long to get cocky, and my cool demeanor abruptly dissolved when she quizzically mentioned that the name I had written on the form didn’t match the name on the card.
“Stolen card,” I breathlessly blurted in a panic, dreading the phone call I would have to make to the bank to report that someone had stolen my identity. I tried not to think how it was probably gonna look suspicious that the false charge was for a product I’ve been purchasing faithfully every six weeks for the last decade, and instead imagined myself looking graceful and athletic while sprinting towards the white sunlight beyond the glass door. See, I wasn’t just some guy in sweats, Alexis. These were my workout clothes.


fix up look sherpa

“May I have your attention.”
These words, spoken not as a request, but as a chilly demand implying dire consequences for any who might fail to comply with it, were the first sound the students heard after the crack of her pointer on the blackboard. Many times during the upcoming semester her students would imagine the small woman whose hair was held back in a tight bun employing that pointer like a riding crop, living up to her campus-wide reputation as an instructor unafraid to figuratively fleck her charges’ hindquarters to drive them to their talents’ outermost limits. Under her tutelage, her pupils would learn every fiber of the curriculum, but perhaps more critically, they would conjure within themselves a fearlessness forged in the crucible of knowing that any danger they might encounter in the real world would be a trifle when compared with the famous withering glare she directed at any work she deemed below standard. If she was harsh, it was only to prepare them for the relentless onslaught of trials she knew awaited them at their schooling’s conclusion. And though controversial, her methods would be vindicated once the world saw the unprecedented heights of originality, humor and attitude reached by the Class of 1993 of the Spencer’s Gifts T-Shirt Design Academy, though they would later be known as the Class of 68: You Do Me And I’ll Owe You One.


the head dracula

I had just passed Building 28, how was I suddenly in the 50s? It just skipped the thirties and forties altogether. I’ve delivered pizzas to some labyrinthine-ass apartment complexes, but there is none more confusing than this one assisted living facility in the really rich part of town. If I had wanted to spend my life weaving through some huge maze of bullshit to get anything done, I’d have filled out the paperwork to go back to college. Suddenly a teacup doberman in a diamond collar ran in my path, with multiple overmatched staff in ponchos in hot pursuit. One held up his hands like a cop as they crossed in my headlights, another held up his hands in apology. Relieved to see that my brakes still worked in the rain, I then looked up through the part of my windshield that the wipers can’t get to and saw above the crescent the sign marked Building 37.
The man answered the door in a smoking jacket looking just like Veronica’s dad from Archie comics. I probably should have clarified earlier that this assisted living facility is for people who can still cook their own meals and play golf, not like a nursing home. Before I could even say “Hello sir, I have an olive, tomato and mushroom pizza for you” using my talking to someone at the bank voice in a likely futile stab at a good tip, he got annoyed and said, “I had requested delivery from a female driver.” In fact, my making this delivery had been the subject of some controversy back at the pizza place, one complicated by my gambling debt to Wanda, and Wanda’s and my differing rock-paper-scissors techniques. You’re supposed to show what you got as you say the word “three”, not one beat after counting. I thought that was so obvious that I wouldn’t need to specifically mandate that before we played, but on an aborted first try she saw that I was planning to play paper. Probably did it on purpose. Remembering that Wanda couldn’t lock up until I get back, though, I accepted this oldster’s weary, resigned offer of a drink and wiped my feet on the way in.
“Have a seat,” he said. “That scotch is older than you are. Better enjoy it.” Those were the first of volumes of words that came from him as he paced the room over the next twenty minutes, telling me how his son had put him in here so he could take over the company. I got the impression that he didn’t entertain guests frequently. He kept the money in his hand, sometimes waving it tantalizingly in front of me as he got worked up and began to season his speech with gestures. Finally, he slumped exhausted into the wingback chair opposite mine and said, “I wouldn’t even be considered a young President. A young heart attack victim.” He blinked a slow blink that contained the hint of a wince which conveyed decades of accumulated hurt. I was then fully aware of his awareness that he had already begun his life’s final transition, that would end not with a new stage of life, but between impermanent stays at advancing levels of convalescent care. The end of his life would be mired in a transitory state, and he was in the process of giving up hope of ever emerging restored from the tunnel’s end. This interminable passageway was the stage, not a path to some hard-won achievement. I know what that’s like. When I was a kid, there were a couple years after my brother was born but before my sister graduated where my bedroom was in the hallway. Didn’t have any posters or anything, and I had to wheel my bed in every night. Now we were both depressed. He then stood and opened his smoking jacket a bit, raising a hand like a cop at my apprehension, I the only company he could still wield influence over. Displayed were the most comfortable-looking pajamas I had ever seen. They glowed. “These were originally owned by Pat Sajak. I accidentally wore them home from a week-long National Cookie Day party at Ludacris’ and he said to keep them.”

February 2012