Friday, December 26, 2008

The Last Christmas Show

I’m usually a grouch during Christmas because I’m almost always broke and get extremely defensive when I turn up to family gatherings without gifts to offer. I also despise the commercialism behind the whole thing. Without getting too Dickens on you, I enjoy the holidays but not when it’s overshadowed with shallow obligations. This year, however, I found the most meaningful gift I’ve ever given.
As many of you know, my friend Roger reads shitty books. What you may not know is that he bitches at me like a pouty girlfriend for never reading his suggestions. I finally read The Last Picture Show when he placed his copy in my hand and sent me away with it, calling it a “unifying theory” between the books he reads and the ones I do. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Larry McMurtry is an author who is accessible to infrequent readers and critics who use a pencil for a bookmark. So, on Christmas Eve, I raced all over town to purchase copies for my mama, daddy, step-daddy, sisters, and soon-to-be brother in law. I recognize how this last-minute gift sweep might appear to be the very holiday glut I rail against, but let me explain its depth. You see, one of my fondest memories of high school was devouring book after book after book. These were terrible novels: space operas and borderline young adult works by authors like Simon R. Green and John Saul, but I was completely immersed in them, and I really enjoyed hiding somewhere and ignoring all my responsibilities. When I’d emerge from my literary binges, I usually had my friend Chad to discuss said trashy novels. When I’d vanish from social sight, he’d already be burrowed somewhere, sitting cross-legged and hunched over the exact same paperback. Together, Chad and I consumed dozens of throw-away books, and I still hold those ridiculously teenaged analyses as a peaceful and satisfying time.
No one in my family is serious reader, but The Last Picture Show is, as Roger so eloquently put it, a unifying theory, and I hope that by reading it at the same time, there can be something common among us to share and to offer a little intellectual ownership of the likes I enjoyed as a kid.
I explained all of this to my family, and their reactions were reserved and unsure, willing but not completely committed. All except my older sister. She was mesmerized by the idea, and I feel this was the first Christmas in a long time that wasn’t forced. Sigh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things I’ve Discovered In 2008

In no particular order or importance. And, once again, feel free to add:

1. The smile icon :) is ambiguously flirtatious and should be used sparingly between heterosexual men.
2. If you can’t moonwalk, don’t pretend to on a crowded dance floor because people will clear a path for you and expect Thriller.
3. Working in an academic environment is the most gratifying job I’ve ever had.
4. Facebook is better than Myspace.
5. Blogging is a worthless waste of time that takes away from my real writing time.
6. I only have one grandparent left.
7. Cormac McCarthy holds a bright candle to people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
8. Primo 360 must be a really awful place to work since they never employ the same baristas for very long. I still love their coffee though.
9. Mrs. Popper helped explain my condition: “Do you know what it means to be broken hearted? It means your heart isn’t whole, so you can’t really do anything wholeheartedly.”
10. Like living well, there’s peace of mind in the virtue of being awful.
11. I finally get General Relativity...mostly, but now gravity confuses me.
12. The world is going to end in 2012 (for sure this time).
13. I was premature in thinking that my reoccurring zombie nightmares are becoming less frightening and that I might have a handle on them.
14. I can finally admit to and laugh at the time I pissed my pants while trying to make it to the Bush Intercontinental Airport without stopping.
15. Turtles evolved in water before venturing out to land, and their shells grew out of their ribs and vertebrae. Rad!
16. Breakfast of Champions replaces Slaughterhouse 5 as my favorite Vonnegut book.
17. The poor majority, the huge masses, will finally riot when they have no food.
18. Americans have the technology to recycle and drink our own piss...in space, but there’re still water-born cholera epidemics in third worlds.
19. I would like to punch Bill O’Reilly, Keith Oberman, Lou Dobbs, and Nancy Grace on the mouth.
20. I’d like to kiss Christiane Amanpour, Candy Crowley, and David Gergen on the mouth.
21. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are messiahs, and I will kill my mother and/or any stray animals if that is their command.
22. Obama has an amusing way of making his opponents seem desperate, and both Hillary and McCain were laughably cute, kicking and spitting from the mats.
23. I had a whole lotta fun making fun of McCain and Palin.
24. John Edwards is not just a first-class shithead, he’s another beautiful example of how “you can take the boy out the country but you can’t take the country out the boy.”
25. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is a wannabe American. Att: Obama: just send Angelina Jolie Voight and William Bradley Pitt over there, and they’ll sort everything out for us.
26. The Russians can still be frighteningly confrontational.
27. Volleyball Olympians have the best bodies. Oh Jesus.
28. India was stampeded by their gods, twice, killing hundreds of people. Americans stampeded once this year, racing toward their gods and sacrificing the life of a 6’5” man in Wal-Mart smiley vest.
29. Gas prices can reach 4+ dollars, and Americans will only suffer silently instead of revolting with boycotts, sit-ins, protests, petitions, and marches, like we used to.
30. Blue eyes came from one person, who, about 10,000 years ago, got a lot of ‘tang. Same with green.
31. The Japanese can now sneak attack U.S. naval bases with invisibility cloaks.
32. I’m almost 30.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Friday Martyr

Friday was a bit of a shit day for me. Allow me to explain. All week, I’d been boasting to people about how many things I’d been invited to on the 12th, so when the time came to begin my rounds, I’d firmly decided on two: Lanita’s housewarming/end-of-semester tutor get-together and Ben and Katy’s Christmas Sweater party. Since both were last minute decisions, Gilda and I dashed to Ross in fruitless search of a sweater and then to HEB for Christmas cookies before going to Lanita’s South Austin home. I was obnoxious with energy and bounced in my seat until we reached stand still traffic on I-35. After 45 minutes of stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, my excited energy converted to seething impatience. To aggravate my condition, a work truck full of pachucos, I unfortunately kept pace with, rudely stared at Gilda not just with subtle eyes, but craned necks and pursed mustached lips. When I stared like a challenging dog at the driver, he stared challengingly back, and I imagined myself choking his dirt-ringed neck. Due to my fondness for geology, I had a heavy limestone clam fossil and smooth river rock within reach, and I thought if opportunity should allow traffic to completely stop, I’d pull the emergency brake, get out of my car, and launch one at a window of their truck. Gilda, oblivious to my testosterone struggle, had recognized my psychological distress and had fallen silent from her endless chatter. I apologized, and we left the highway and into downtown to find Tesoros Trading Co. instead of the housewarming. It wasn’t where it used to be, so we walked across the Congress bridge to find the new location. It was too far, and on the way back, a homeless woman held up her middle finger at me as we passed each other over Town Lake. She was an old black lady with a leathery face, a wide frown, and a green wool cap on her head. Maybe you know 'er. Anyway, her middle finger was long and clearly directed at me. Regardless, I innocently pointed to myself. She nodded affirmatively and went on. Gilda laughed as though she’d lost her mind. I looked back at my antagonist, and she had already passed another pedestrian. I held up a baffled middle finger at him, and he nodded in the same fashion the old woman had. Gilda went into further hysterics.
We were held in northbound traffic on the way home, and eventually stopped at several more places in search of ridiculous sweaters. I hate shopping. It’s like being in traffic or Hell. We didn’t find any that weren’t 40 dollars, and I was sick of going half way to places, so we gave up and went home. Gilda fed me a bottle of beer and cooed me until my four-hour hot flash subsided, and I went to bed like an exhausted baby with nothing accomplished.
The only exceptional thing about Saturday was Milk. I highly recommend it. It was an important film of a shushed and unfinished chapter of American history. Granted, I didn’t do any research on the historical facts, but the actors were held up to the real people at the end, and they looked just like them, so I assume everything else is true.
Sunday was as Sunday always is: pious, and I worshipped myself all day. The only change was the knowledge that ACC’s out for the holidays, and I’m needing some foldin’ money.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I eat danger for breakfast. (par. 1 amended)

The night following the insult to my honor, I did hip things and went to a few bars with Mr. J. S. Katz. He’s going through some hard times, and I’m bored a lot, so it was a mutually beneficial evening. Though I spent much more money than I had intended, I had a good time, and by the end of the night we had joined a bachelorette party. So, these mad honeys, me an’ Katz hooked up wit’ was totally off the chain, yo! They was like, “freak with me!” and another was like, “nah, freak with me!” So me an’ Katz freaked wit’ them while these crazy sharks was all swimming ‘neath the glass of this killa dance floor. Oh, snap! I was like, daaaamn, that one’s fine, and Katz was like shiiiit, check out this booty! And we was like, mmm, mmm, mmm.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I eat danger for breakfast.

The night following the insult to my honor, I did hip things and went to a few bars with Mr. J. S. Katz. He’s going through some hard times, and I’m bored a lot, so it was a mutually beneficial evening. Though I spent much more money than I had intended, I had a good time, and by the end of the night we had joined a bachelorette party. The women were tasteful and because they were mostly in their 30s and married, they lacked the wild hormonal craze I’d have normally expected and dreamed of joining. I did get ridiculed my by a waitress at Fado’s for not wanting to take a shot with the rest of the group. She asked me (rhetorically of course) if I had sand in my vagina, but I couldn’t hear her over U2 music and made her repeat herself until she dismissed me with an irritated wave, and one of the ladies in our party kindly told me the emasculating jest.
Because there isn’t really a god, my internal alarm clock woke me up, for the second morning in a row, after only four hours of sleep. I experienced a hang over of the likes I haven’t known since the projectile vomiting years of my mid teens, and I alternately read The Last Picture Show and napped until dark. After writing a wee bit at Starbucks, for their famous Christmas Blend is in style, I went to Craig’s. On our walk to the Snappy Mart, he told me that raw honey is bad for my health presumably because there’re bees in it. I told him I still prefer it to pasteurized honey, and since I put it in my oatmeal every morning, I eat danger for breakfast. For some reason, that seemed like a relevant conversation for this blog. We rented the pilot episode of Heroes and the movie White Dog even though we watched Barton Fink instead. Heroes was terrible, and I’m embarrassed to admit that we watched the whole thing. The fact that a serious chunk of American society is deeply involved with what I can only describe as shit is cynically telling. Granted, I’ve never written a hit TV show, but I would be awfully dissatisfied with myself if that cheap business was my bread and butter. Content wise, I think I belong in Europe. Not this blog, of course. This is raw American derision, and I do it for vanity’s sake alone.
Gilda flew in mid afternoon Sunday, and I spent my last few hours of freedom, writing as much as possible because she becomes both verbally and physically abusive if I don’t offer her all of my attention. Her resiliency to sleep also leaves me vulnerable to embarrassing photographs and probing fingers into my ears, nose, and mouth. No amount of my angry barking will stop her either.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Saddest Songs in the Universe

I was reading an article on yahoo that claimed the 10 saddest songs ever. Halfway through the list I realized I was reading some asshole’s favorite playlist and decided I could do better. So, here, off the top of my head and in no particular order or proper spelling, is my top 20 saddest songs ever. Feel free to add to the list:

1. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” – Elton John
2. “Death Letter Blues” – Son House
3. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Bob Dylan
4. “Day After Day” – Badfinger
5. “I’ve Been Loving You” – Otis Redding (agree w/ this one)
6. “The Trapeze Swinger” – Iron and Wine
7. “No Woman, No Cry” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
8. “Drive” – The Cars
9. “Devil Got My Woman” – Skip James
10. “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” – Willie Nelson
11. “So Much Like My Dad” – George Strait
12. “Girl From The North Country” Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash
13. “The Man Who Sold The World” – Nirvana (not Bowie)
14. “Bang Bang” – Nancy Sinatra
15. “Everything Will Be Alright” – The Killers
16. “Are You Alright?” – Lucinda Williams
17. “Fade Into You” – Mazzy Star
18. “I Believe In You” – Neil Young
19. “Black” – Pearl Jam
20. “In Dreams” – Roy Orbison

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For Your Enjoyment, My Long Weekend Part II

Something I left out of my Friday entry, but worthy of commentary, was that I slept on Roger’s sofa that night. I awoke around 5am, still drunk and needing to urinate with an urgency I haven’t experienced since I was a 5-year-old bed wetter. Roger’s only bathroom is in his bedroom, and I was terribly concerned that I’d walk in and see him naked or doing something I’d rather not know about, so I started to consider my options: outside the apartment complex, his first-floor balcony, home, or the kitchen sink. Outside and on the balcony was cold and not private enough for my conservative senses, and I was too tired to drive home. I remembered his sink was filled with dirty dishes but had nearly convinced myself that Roger would understand the situation and even appreciate my peeing to the courteous side of them. I didn’t and when I finally woke up, I drove home and went there. Crisis averted.
I picked up my “little brother” on Saturday, and we watched Bolt in 3-D. The movie was a shrug for me and the 3-Dness lost its novelty when I became obsessively aware of the glasses on my face. My eyes were strained, and the pickle my little companion was gnawing on smelled cheap and offensive but made me strangely hungry. When I dropped him off, I stopped and ate at Maudie’s on North Lamar. I like that place, and I go there almost exclusively for the salsa. Unfortunately, the heavy quality of “Josie’s Enchiladas” usually renders me incapacitated, and I have to speed home for an emergency nap. To thwart such slothery, I picked up a six pack of Lone Star (a beer that, to my surprise, I chose over Heineken) and then went home to try my hand at open A tuning. After I popped my G string, I gave up and loaded Sid Meier’s Civilization IV. I listened to the movies Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and most of Footloose while I played into the night. I highly recommend that game. You build a civilization from hunter gatherers to space-faring people, but that’s not the fun part. What I discovered some time ago is that I can alter the terrain and technology of the game and give myself the best resources, money, and military, so when rival civilizations (whom I’ve made to be aggressive) wages war with bronze spears, I simply roll over their culture with unstoppable tanks, bombers, and nuclear weapons, forcing them to their proverbial knees and enslaving their people. That sounds like cheating, I know, but I fancy myself a jealous and wrathful God in the whole matter. There’s a psychoanalytical study in there somewhere I’m sure.
Sunday was truly a lame experience. I almost wished I was religious, so I could have gone to church and felt social with all the other absurd pagans in ties and Sunday dress. I think a small factor in my embracing atheism was the fact that I used to have to suffer Sunday mass in espanol. Church is shitty enough in English, but Jesus, in the language of the Inquisitors themselves? Christ, that sucks.

Monday, December 1, 2008

For Your Enjoyment, My Long Weekend Part I

I’ll just get right to Thanksgiving. If I’d had my druthers, I’d’ve gone to Laredo and had two proper Mexican Thanksgivings with both sides of my extended family, but my car is what it is, and I just don’t trust it on a 256-mile stretch. Sooo, I stuffed my mouthhole at my sister’s fiancĂ©’s house. It was nice. Much fancier than the Thanksgivings I’m used to, but my father was kind enough to generate a little bubble of familiarity by doing child-like impressions of my crying over the wild animals I had captured and accidently killed while trying to care for them. It’s truly difficult to describe a 61-year-old man pretending to be a baby grackle, choking on a wadded piece of bread. He also told of my old turtle, Mr. Turtle, who was eaten alive by fire ants, “eyes and all.” I didn’t know about the eyes part. It was like 1988 all over again. His facts were all wrong. The bird choked to death on a minnow I had squished with maternal concern, and Mr. Turtle was killed by my mother. She had caged him in the backyard for exercise, and the ants got him. I buried him in a ceremonious shallow grave and later exhumed his body for the sake of science. My dad’s impression of my tears was pretty good though, but I couldn’t discredit his historical dramatization over all the guests’ laughter, so I just sagged in my chair, chewed my fried turkey, and remembered the short, sad life of Mr. Turtle.
I met Sonya, or pachuca dolce to you, at Spiderhouse on Friday because I had flaked on her birthday outing on Monday, and I hadn’t seen her in months. She had on one of those Gatsby golf hats the kids are wearing these days, and she petted her long ponytail while we talked about our mutual character flaws. Her DJ friend was “spinning” there, and he had on an interesting hat too except he wore it like Boy George. I think I’ll get a cool hat, but I’ll wear it like a man, maybe put a “press pass” card in the band so I can start saying things like “What’s the rumpus?” I went to Roger’s apartment after Spiderhouse and watched Family Guy episodes and youtube videos. Roger showed me how to tune my guitar to open A, and he let me borrow a slide so that I can sound like Robert Johnson, God rest his poisoned soul (Johnson, not Roger). I can’t do it yet, and I popped the G string on my guitar because Roger wouldn’t answer his phone on Saturday when I repeatedly called him for further tuning instructions. Bastard.
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