Saturday, June 30, 2007

Shooting From the Roof In A Too Vivid Dream

We had a good plan. We thought we had a good plan. And then the Christians began to march through the city. It was getting dark and their candles appeared first slowly like fireflies at dusk. But soon it was night and the streets were weaving rivers of wax and light and our plan no longer looked so good. We had not expected them, the Christians not the soldiers. I think they fired first, the soldiers not the Christians. Or maybe we did. My world was atop a thin and rusty apartment building on a broad avenue to the southeast. We did not have a plan. The soldiers could not see me through the darkness, and I could not hit them on account of my innocence. The Christian candles started to go out like neighborhoods on a failing electrical grid. I started to aim my shots away from the soldiers so that they might forget me. They did not. Their rockets were getting closer. One came so close he could look at me, the fire from his back illuminating my face. "I wish I could turn around and tell the others where you are," he said as he shattered apartment 1013 below me and to the west. Near the soldiers, glass shattered and a dam broke. I do not think I was responsible for this. The torrent cooled their guns and quieted their bodies. I walked away from the roof of the thin rusty apartment building and into a store. My friend was there, and although I do not know his name, we chatted like children and relived our newly intoxicating personal histories as the store clerk listened, tired and unimpressed. Then the lights went out. All over, pitch black and a silence like swimming in ink. I bit my tongue and made my way to the broad avenue without my nameless friend. In an orange cone of light, where the drowned soldiers once stood, a flare went off next to my foot. My perch atop the thin rusty apartment building was no longer mine. Someone else was there and he was better than me. Dust danced by my feet to the music of the inky silence and I ran from it like a drunkard. I slithered through the grass of the park trying to make my way to where the drowned soldiers' guns might be. First forward, now listening. I made too much noise to not have been noticed. There was no one there, but I imagined a thousand eyes from just beyond the darkness laughing at my loneliness waiting for me to be almost too close to shoot. I thought at any moment the darkness would errupt in fire and drums all around me. I was teetering on a moment in silence. An elephant walked by. Then a giraffe and two rhinos. Zoo escapees who looked to know where they were going. Another elephant appeared through the trees and I laid motionless and stiff on my stomach hoping not to be stepped on. The elephant passed by and then turned as though he just realized he had missed me. Facing away from him, I resumed my stiff, motionless pose. Headlights warmed my back and melted the dark spaces around my face. I pressed myself further into the mud of a slight embankment. Stiff and still. The soldiers walked by once then twice. I tried to imagine what a finishing shot in the small of my back might feel like. They walked by a third time. How could they not see me? I peaked at their faces, tired and pale, limp and sweaty. I moved more and saw further to my right. Three giant pills, full of blood and bodies, strapped atop another truck. Now they saw me. I was gathered like a sack and dumped with the others. But I am alive, am I not? "Two doctors will cut off our hands to ID us and then we will be dumped in one of the three pills," said the dead face to my left. I sit up amongst the shattered and the drowned, but I am not noticed. It is my turn to face the doctors. I am carried, although I can walk. I wear a black suit and a human face and I hold my hands out to the doctors. The doctor on my left hand scrapes a trail around my wrist with a dull blade. "Excuse me," I say, "I am not dead, as you can clearly see, and I would very much appreciate it if you did not cut off my hands. Your blade looks dull and small and I am quite sure that the pain would be too much. And anyway, since you're doing it to ID me, and I'm alive, you could just ask me who I am." They stare back in silence, unsurprised. Tired and pale, limp and sweaty.

I am not sure if they proceed because I wake up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Brilliant. I Wish I Had Thought of It...But I Guess Then I'd Have to Be English...

Steven Wells
June 15, 2007 12:34 PM

David Beckham is going to the LA Galaxy. Hurrah. Let's all laugh at American soccer. Again.

Modern Englishmen are in two minds about Americans playing proper football. Some think it only right the poor benighted heathens be gifted the game historian Eric Hobsbawm rightly described as an artform. But others fear it'll make Americans more like us and therefore much more difficult to despise.

I am firmly in the former camp. Public toilets, atheism, publicly funded radio and association football - these are all things of which no society can have too much. Witness the fact that soccer-playing America is massively liberal, loving, caring, socially conscious and nice. While soccer-hating America consists of increasingly isolated gangs of Bush-supporting, bible-bashing, gun-crazed, dungaree wearing, banjo-playing, quasi-fascist chicken-lovers and their twelve fingered, pin-headed, cyclopic, drooling monster children.

Alas, Englishmen who live in desperate fear of an American soccer planet are legion. As the recent spate of stories about US businessmen buying British clubs and Goldenballs relocating to LA proved, there's no shortage of stuck up limey soccer snobs who still think it's frightfully funny the ghastly Yanks play the round ball game at all.

Like most prejudices, this hatred disguises fear. Recently a leading English soccer journalist told me he "really hopes football fails in America". Others are less blatant but they make their loathing plain through sarcasm, satire and snidery.

You know whom I'm talking about. Reader, I am about to piss on my chips. I will not only bite the hand that feeds me, I will take the arm off at the shoulder. For no one has mocked American soccer more consistently or with more vigour than the sneering, primly moustached, stiff-lipped cads of the Guardian Unlimited Sports desk.

It's always been thus. In the 1970s, when the star-studded New York Cosmos were filling stadiums during the first American soccer revolution, Roy of the Rovers found himself playing Stateside for the Pine City Pirates. Roy was appalled by the shallowness, ballyhoo and sheer incompetence of American soccer. "I thought I was going to learn something by coming to the States!" he moaned. "I didn't dream I'd have to teach them how to play the game!"

And who could forget the 2002 World Cup and Gary Lineker reading from a typically and hilariously stoopid Yank match report: "Wolff procrastinates over a sideline handpass and is ref-charged for clock abuse" and "he top-bodies the sphere into the score-bag, and Mexico have a double-negative stat!"

Oh those pig-ignorant cack-gobbed Yank wankers! How we laughed. What more confirmation could we possibly need that these gibbering, thumb-fingered mouth-breathers will never understand the beautiful game?

Of course, it turned out Gaz was reading a marvellous Guardian Unlimited spoof. Hell, I laughed. And so did Lawrence Dallaglio when he repeated the quotes the next night on a different TV show. And so did the studio audience. Which is when the penny dropped. This isn't just how Brits think Americans perceive soccer - this is how Brits need to think Americans perceive soccer. And that, actually, is a little bit sad.

During that same World Cup, before the US v Germany game, a British TV crew stopped folks in Time Square and asked them (oh hilarity!) if they even knew a game was taking place (lol!!!!!! rotflmao!!!!!!!!!!). Unfortunately almost everyone said yes. One dude in a soccer shirt even invited the reporter to watch the game with him. "We thought there was apathy," muttered a deeply disappointed Gabby Logan back in the studio.

The rest you know. The "USA!" chants at Manchester United games. The MU Rowdies gags in the Fiver, The Guardian Unlimited design-a-new-hilariously-Americanized-MUFC-crest Gallery that was then ripped off by The Sun so the whole nation could join in the yanks-don't-get-football yukfest.

Then Bex signed for the LA Galaxy-and the whole sad circus started all over again.

Trouble is, the joke tells us nothing about America or American football (or "soccer" as those crazy, propeller beanie-wearing goofballs call it!!!!!!!!!!!!). And it tells us everything about us.

We - a substantial chunk of us, anyway - are desperately scared that association football will succeed in America. That the USA will become a footballing power. That the yanks will develop a version of the beautiful game as irresistible as jazz, rock'n'roll or the amazing American language (and unless you've checked the English/American phrase books handed out to GIs in 1942, you probably have no idea how much American you speak, limey).

Why are we scared? Because as a nation we have a desperate need to feel superior to the vibrant barbarian culture that's replaced us as top global ass-kicker.

Face it, feeling superior to Americans is about all we've got left. But the list of things we actually do better than the Yanks is slim and getting slimmer. Did you know that the bastards even brew decent beer these days?

So what have we got left to be smug about? Wensleydale cheese, Ricky Gervais, Theakston Old Peculier and Helen Mirren. And, oh yeah, football.

Sorry, the Yanks get it. Not all of them. Not even most of them. But enough of them. Even if Bex bombs. Even if the MLS collapses, American soccer isn't going away.

It's time for a new joke.

Monday, June 11, 2007

[Insert Clever Title Here]

Pardon the quotations, movie title, and otherwise lack of bold or italicized writing. I'm flummoxed by html and blogger at the moment. That's right, flummoxed.

"Shut up Amber!"

"Stupid Dog!"

"Can it!"

"Shut UP Ambuuuuuuurrrrrrrr!"

"Amber, enough!"

(Dog still barking)

"Amber, want something to drink, Sweety?"

Amber was a Cocker Spaniel who was angrily barking her displeasure at the two grown men - of which I was one - in lycra and polyester who had dared ride their bicycles within visual range of the monstrous Buick LeSabre she proudly occupied. Amber's owner was a crusty and leathered middle-aged woman. For those of you familiar with the Tuna plays, she was nearly a dead-ringer for D.D. Snavely, gravely voice and cigarette included. She walked with a cane; the temporary kind one gets from a prescription; the kind devoid of any ornamental consideration; the kind one might be prescribed after a farming accident or a too firm kick to their no-good husband's groin, or regions thereabouts (A drunken kick is hard to aim.).

Amber's owner - I'll call her Barb - shoved the gas station door open with one hand and her cane when Amber's barking reached a Cujoesque crescendo as my buddy and I propped our bikes against the outdoor ice machine and started to make our way past Amber's Buick. There's nothing more obvious than a dog owner who has completely out-punted their coverage with concern to controlling their dog. I'm sure Amber was sweet at one time -like pre-Barb- but as we made our way past her car - and I call it "her car" because Barb was clearly the Beta Dog - Amber's barks turned from curious and designed for attention to vicious and designed to fuck you up.

Seeing a Cocker Spaniel who wants to kill you is disconcerting in an almost cute way. You expect a Pit Bull to want to tear your calves from the bone and floss his teeth with your squirting veins, but watching a Cocker Spaniel go over the top is something from which you cannot look away. It's sort of like a toddler suddenly launching into a profanity-laced tirade and pulling a knife on you. I stared through the windows of the Buick as I made my way into the gas station while Barb banged her cane against the car in an even more ridiculous attempt to calm down Amber.

There's nothing like walking into a rural anything in cycling apparel. One feels a little like Kevin Costner's character in Dances With Wolves the first time he rides into the Sioux village. You are a foreigner and the locals might kill you. Fortunately, the girl behind the counter seems to work at this particular establishment most weekend mornings and many-a-cyclist stops there for water and food. She's jaded and typically just peaks at your crotch as you walk in. This makes me feel a little dirty, but it is definitely preferable to dualie drivers who try to run you off the road while yelling out the window such original insults as, "Hey, Fag!"

Apparently, Barb and the girl behind the counter go way back. Barb came back into the store - briefly flooding the small space with Amber's blood-thirsty warnings as she opened the door - and repositioned herself in what looked to be a familiar stance against the counter.

Barb (Chomping on gum): Hey, Hun. You all aren't goin' past [such-and-such] county line, are ewe?

Me (Not knowing at all because I just moved here and turn left or right when I'm told): Ummm, I'm not really sure. Why?

Barb (With Amber's murderous howls in the background): My dawg'll chase ewe...but she's harmluss. She'll stay in the yard.

Me (Knowing she's totally full of it): Really?

Barb: Other's of ewe all (referring to cyclists) have complained and the sheruff even asked me to git rid of'r, but how'm I
gonna git rid of m'baby? I paid tew hundr'd un fifty doll'rs fer her!

Girl Behind the Counter (Without a hint of irony): Ewe'd git rid of that husbund of yer's before you sent Amber off!

Barb: Shooot, he ain't werth tew hundr'd un fifty doll'rs!

Barb and the Girl Behind the Counter (In unison): Smoker's lung cackles.

I paid for my Snicker's bar and water and made my way back outside where Amber's anger had not diminished in any discernable way. I made a point to look in her eyes as I passed by the car. This did not sit well with Amber and she launched into an even more furious battery of barking. Amber was not the type of dog to stay in any yard.

As my buddy and I remounted our bicycles I asked him if we were going near [such-and-such] county line. He said, "No," and I secretly breathed a sigh of relief. A Cocker Spaniel has short legs and small lungs and probably tops out at 15 mph (Without a lead-out I sprint at close to 40mph), so I should not have been worried, but Amber had the fury of hell in her eyes and that's got to be worth an extra kick in the mph department.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hello, I Am Genetically Superior to You in At Least One Way

I went to the dentist yesterday.

Let me rephrase: I went to the dentist yesterday for the first time in at least four years (more like six). As it turns out, once you get into college and eventually are dropped from your parents dental plan, there's really not that much encouraging you to go to the dentist. A simple test:

Please select the most appealing choice.

A). Schedule and go to an appointment with the dentist.

B). Do not schedule an appointment with the dentist and spend the money that would have paid for said appointment on something you really want. Like beer.

It's a scientific fact that most people will select choice B. I certainly did...for four years (more like six). What finally gave me the nudge/shove to schedule an appointment, you ask? My mother called one evening to chat and, among other things, mentioned the epic dental work my grandfather had scheduled and exorbitant cost of that work. The phrase "bone graft" was used and a dollar figure in the few thousands was quoted. Add to this the fact that I was pretty sure I had brushed off a piece of tooth just one day prior, and a trip to the dentist suddenly seemed a good idea.

Unfortunately, the dentist with whom I scheduled the appointment did not have any openings for a good week-and-a-half so I had to stew away in dread of the irreparable damage I was sure I had inflicted upon my poor teeth. This became a conversation piece at work. My job attracts a certain type - rule followers let's call them - and they could not fathom the kind of thinking that would lead to four years (more like six) of forgotten or otherwise put-off dental commitments. An over/under on the number of cavities I was sure to have was started. The magic number was two. Everyone took the over except my boss. When I asked him why, thinking he would say something like, "You seem like the type of guy who brushes regularly and is in most ways healthy," he responded with, "I like to live dangerously."

So the day finally came. Yesterday. Zero hour. I was sure this would end poorly. I would have many cavities and gum disease too. I would face months and months of expensive and painful dental procedures and the whole time I would have to listen to the dentist - in that smug tone all dentists have - ask me why I hadn't taken better care of my teeth. Did I not value my TEETH!?

Well, color me surprised when I was informed that, aside from four years (more like six) of plaque build-up on my bottom teeth - which had to be removed with an instrument the dental hygienist described as a "mini jackhammer" - and a little recession of the periodontal pockets on my lower bicuspids (I'm a good listener), my mouth was healthy and cavity free. The dentist described my teeth as - and I couldn't make this up - "genetically superior". Fuckin'-A right.

I asked her if that meant I didn't have to come back for another four to six years, but I don't think she thought it was funny. I'll take genetically superior over funny any day. If I had a choice, my genetic superiority would be in the realm of extreme speed or reflexes or huge lungs or unfathomable good looks, but I'll take wicked strong enamel if I have to. As a friend of mine said, "Hey, you never know when you might have to chew through something." Indeed.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

You Don't Have it That Bad...Really

So, there's this new show on the History Channel called The Worst Jobs In History (Blogger isn't letting me italicize that with it.). I try to stay away from the History Channel mostly because there is very little actual history discussed on said channel - I mean, the guy from Doube Dare hosts a show about snack foods -, but also because the actual history that is discussed seems geared exclusively toward people who masturbate to big guns and believe the first moon landing was filmed in a Hollywood studio.

Not really my type.

But this new show caught my attention with an episode on the Industrial Revolution that highlighted the important and indispensable position of "Child Hurrier". Seriously. This person's job was to continually harass and harangue the over-worked and otherwise abused child factory workers under his supervision lest they take a moment to, you know, be kids. At this point, I feel I must profess two things:

1. I laughed at the job title "Child Hurrier".

2. I am a terrible person.

It was of this show that I was reminded while eating lunch today with a group of friends and their spouses/significant others. The discussion - and I'm not sure why - turned to pigs and pig farming. The conversation flowed down numerous rabbit holes, including why never to trust a man with a pig farm, until the wife of a friend of mine piped up and announced that during college she had worked on a pig farm as part of workers' program subsidized by the Canadian government (They're The mission of this program was to provide work for mentally disabled adults. Her job was to look after the workers while they were on the job and give them guidance/instruction.

As it turns out, pig farming was not a big draw for program workers so she was really only responsible for one worker. Sounds pretty easy, no? Well, that one worker, bless his heart, was tasked with hosing all of the pig shit through slats in the floor of the pig barn beneath which it was collected in a massive tank of unholiness that was continuously agitated in order to avoid sludge build-up and also to prevent flies from finding purchase for the maggots they wished to lay upon the accumulated crust of filth. The stench from the pig shit on the floor must have been near unbearable, but the added aroma of the constantly bubbling lagoon of filth beneath the floor would have been positively demonic. Added to this comedy of misfortunes is the fact that the mentally challenged are so named for a good reason. Our noble hoseman was apparently lacking in the department of motor skills and would sometimes unpredictably fling the hose toward my friend's wife covering her in a good deal of the deflected filth from the floor. During lunch breaks, as this was an all day task, the other workers on the pig farm would say to her, "Looks like you picked up some more freckles, eh." This is a job for the Seventh Circle of Hell. Given the choice between the two - Child Hurrier and Pig Shit Hosing Retard Wrangler - I choose Child Hurrier every time and so did my friend's wife, she's now a middle school teacher.

And if her job was worthy of the Seventh Circle of Hell, then the hoseman - had Dante thought of it - would be plying his trade well within the Eighth Circle. At least she had all of her mental faculties. I can only pray the hoseman comes back in another life as a brilliant millionaire playboy heavily invested in the perfume industry.

You don't have it that bad.