Friday, April 11, 2003

In Which I Am Glad That Jim Varney Was Not My Father

If Jim Varney had been my father, things might have turned out very differently for me. I might own a house rather than rent an apartment. I might have been interviewed on E! Entertainment television. More than likey, Jim (I'd have called him Dad) might have quietly supported me in a performance career but would have made it plain that I had to stand on my own two feet. I think he would have been a kind father and he would have taught me to fly fish.

But, I would have been known as Ernest's son. I wouldn't have liked that. I would have been teased by complete strangers who had seen me interviewed on E! Entertainment television. "Are you really Vern" the refrain would go. The pressure to write a tell-all book about being Jim Varney's son would have driven me to the depths of despair, particularly because he would have been a loving father and any dirt I served up would have been a lie. This would have affected my marriage and possibly led me to the edge of suicide.

I have heard of many people who wished they were Jim Varney's son. I am not one of them. I am happy with my life as it is. I would not trade my father for the world.
In Which There's Some Kind Of Lesson From The Cosmos

If you take a moment and read the post below this one (feel free to forego the poem) you'll see that I was not having an upbeat kind of day. As I finished taking out the leaves and bought the carrots, I made a decision not to worry about the fact that I've been incredibly unproductive. In program-speak, I "turned it over to my higher power." So I picked up the girls from school and while they were watching their afternoon TV, I started looking through some stuff that I haven't finished. Last night, I kept almost getting to sleep when fragments of something would pop into my head. I'm trying to resist the urge to convince myself that it's soooo fucking funny that I will remember in the morning, so I got up and typed the fragments. I did a little work on those. Nothing earthshatteringly funny, but at least I was writing as opposed to moping around not writing.

So, while I'm sitting and typing, trying to convince my children that it's a nice day and they should play outside and GIVE DADDY SOME SPACE, I got an email inviting me to The Comedy Studio.

It could just be a happy co-incidence. There's really no logical basis for connecting the two things. A lot of life is rationalization, though. Why did this bad thing happen? Why did this good thing happen? Why has nothing happened? It's not like I haven't been working towards this goal and that the invitation fell from the sky. Why, then, ascribe it to some ethereally-crunchy nameless something? It's comforting, that's why. It's comforting to know that, occasionally, when you really need it something good happens. It can be a tiny thing that just eases your day - after a miserable day at work, the subway comes just has you hit the platform. These are the moments when it's most important to say "thanks" to who/whatever you say thanks to. Or at least to realize that in the middle of a shitty day, at least one thing went right.

It's getting difficult to type now, as my body has begun to float up into the ether. I truly hope that I don't dissapate into the...

Thursday, April 10, 2003

In Which I Whine And Post Poetry (God Forgive Me)

Is it possible to whine cleverly about not feeling particularly clever? I'm not sure that it is. It feels like the smart part of my brain has been quarantined off from the functional part. Thus, I can carry the leaves out to the curb but I can't find a suitably humorous opposite task with which to compare it to. I could, of course, waste time with Spank The Monkey. Or play some of the lovely games at Orisinal. But the leaves have to go out and I have to buy carrots.

So, instead of torturing myself I'll just torture the readers instead by posting a poem.

I was naked and happy
Eating when I was hungry
Sleeping when I was tired
Content to be where I was
Content to do what I was doing

When it said “better” I didn’t understand
It asked what fruit tasted like, I said “sweet”
It said “more sweet, bigger sweet”
He led me to that tree
And even though I’d looked at them before
They looked bigger now
Inside me I could feel the word “need” replaced by the word “want”

I touched one because I wanted to and because I could

A Voice said
“Why better? Why want?”
And I said
“Because I can’t see You.”
The Voice said
“But you know that I am here.”
And I said
“I can’t see You.”

I raised my arm
The fruit sat heavy and firm in my hand
Still attached
But as if it were picked
My fingers closed around it
The words echoed
More sweet...bigger sweet

“Happy or unhappy
I am unseen
And I will always be with you.
Happy or unhappy”

As I pulled gently, the Voice faded away

I’m not naked and not content
There are days when it’s all I can do not to eat
There are days when it’s all I can do not to stay in bed
Sometimes I think I hear the Voice

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

In Which I'm Grateful For A Murder/Suicide

What a pleasant surprise to look at the Boston Globe today and find that the front page was not the usual banner headline about the war! Instead, the space above the fold was shared with a murder/suicide at MGH. The war must have shifted.

(A quick note on the layout of the article on the web site - The way the Globe inserts ads into its stories created this wonderful little piece of cyber-flotsam, similar to William S. Burroughs cut and paste poetry. It reads "A woman who worked with a prominent cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital fatally shot the doctor and then killed herself yesterday in his office near the hospital's main lobby, police said 8-day sales British Airways plus, flexibility to change flight dates for FREE...")

Indeed, apparently we've taken control of Baghdad. Good for us! I always knew that we could do it! I want to go on record right now (and I must admit I'm ashamed of myself for not saying this earlier) that I never had a doubt that the United States of America Armed Forces could take over a country the size of California. Not one.

The question that remains is - How do I get MY slice of the pie in terms of reconstruction dollars? I've looked on the Free Money website but there's no "Iraq Reconstrutction Bux" section, which disappoints me. As taxpayers, we're shareholders in the war, aren't we? Our money went to finance this whole adventure (which I'd like to repeat was blessed from the start) so, following a business paradigm, we should be getting some dividends. A Conflict Dividend, if you will.

Back to the original point, though. It's good to know that a good juicy murder/suicide of a someone who makes a ton of money can scootch the war, even slightly, from prominence.

To sum up
1) Local Murder/Suicide => War
2) I probably won't get a cut of the reconstruction money, even though my taxes paid for the war. Which is unfair.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

In Which Local Politics Suck

All I can say is GODDAMN IT! I went to a school committee meeting tonight. Two weeks ago, the meeting was going to feature the firing of the school superintendent. She quit before it happened. So, instead, the meeting became a "public forum" for Watertown citizens to voice their opinions to the school committee. The committee, before the last election, was 4:3 in support of the superintendent. After the election it was 4:3 against her.

The main question of the evening was - "Why are you against her"?
Them: We can do better.
Us: How could she have done better? [Long list of accomplishements, awards and money brought into the school district]
Them: We can do better
Us: But HOW? Tell us.
Them: Well, she [list of fairly innocuous wrongs and other poorly conceived problems].
Them: We're not educators.
Us But you were going to fire her. What is your vision? Where do you see the school system going?
Them: To something better.

The sad thing is, I'm not really exaggerating. And this meeting went from 7pm to 11:30pm.

To be fair, neither side of the audience was that well behaved. A rule was made to disallow applause during or at the end of speeches. Neither side obeyed and the chairman never bothered to enforce his own rule. Some of Them would shout out in the middle of a speech, not to be reprimanded by the Chairman. When Us shouted out we were reminded that it was not allowed. Personal attacks, the Chairman stated up front, were not to be allowed. Again, this was selectively enforced. This led to the high point of the evening when this completely insane woman launched into an attack on one of the Us-members of the committee.

Completely Insane Woman: He's a lawyer and he knows the in and outs of the legal system and all the loopholes to get around things to get what he wants. He has frequently engaged in highly suspect practices in his legal career...
Chairman: I think that's enough...
Completely Insane Woman: Just a second...he has frequently engaged...
Chairman: I can't allow this, I'm sorry...
Completely Insane Woman: highly suspect...
Chairman: I really can not allow you to go into this...
Completely Insane Woman: I wasn't gonna! That was the next thing I was gonna say "but I don't wanna go into it"! It's right here in black and white.

In another highly amusing moment (amusing in a dark kind of the-world-is-completely fucked-up-and-please-God-kill-her-now way), she shrieked on about how a child of the Watertown schools would never be hired in the school district because they went to Watertown schools. As the superintendent calmly ticked off a number of residents that worked for the school, Completely Insane Woman woman counted loudly.

The other amusing moment (amusing in the same way as stated previously) came when Partialy Insane Man asked "YOU TELL ME HOW MANY O' THESE KIDS ARE GOING TO HIGH CLASS SCHOOLS!" The Us committee members asked to consult the superintendent and the refused shouting "I DON'T NEED TO HEAR NO ANSWERS!"

It's all completely depressing. The election in November will hopefully put an end to all of this. If any good has come out of this debacle, it's that the citizens of Watertown have been polarized to action. Almost everyone finds it intolerable. It's sad that the system has to break down in order for the system to work again. But, that's what happens when you take things for granted.

Monday, April 07, 2003

In Which Socks My Me Question Myself

When I sort the laundry, I start with the big stuff (shirts, pants etc) and work down to the smaller stuff (underwear, socks). I found that among my socks, are one style of the same sock but in different colors. One is darkish gray, the other is darkish olive. Without a strong overhead light, they look exactly the same color. Somehow, this makes me nervous. Do I dress that dully that I would conciously choose socks that are indistinguishable? Why not just buy all the same color instead of pretending that I'm sprucing up my wardrobe? Can I only tolerate chance to an infintesimal level?

I'm not sure whether to start therapy again or shrug.
In Which I Try To Feel Guilty About Smoking

I started smoking not to be cool but because I wanted to smoke pot. I knew that I had to learn to inhale and, since none of my peers at the time were smoking pot, cigerettes seemed like the logical place to start. I'd get good at it and then when pot became available I would at least be able to hold it down. I swear that this was my reasoning. Finally, we found pot and it was all that it was cracked up to be. I smoked pot from 1978 to 1992-ish. I wouldn't trade that time for the world.

While the pot went by-the-by, the cigerettes have stayed. I didn't have any trouble putting the pot away outside of nostalgic longing. Pot was not physically or even psychologically adictivie for me. If I didn't have it - whatever. Putting down alcohol sucked, though, for a good year or so. Even now, I still get the longing for it. I was at a Meat and Martini party yesterday and, goddamn it, I would have given anything for a nice Manhattan or just a straight bourbon on the rocks.

Cigerettes and I are still good friends, though. Well, "good" is probably not the best word for it. I still truly enjoying smoking (most of the time) even if I can feel the little bastards starting to take advantage of me. While this is blogged, I'll more than likely have one when I reach a point where I need to think. I'll have to smoke outside, though, in the 20 degree weather since smoking inside is forbidden. I don't neccessarily mind, although I don't mind as much in the summer.

I'm one of the few parents in my circle of parents who still smokes. Many of them are ex-smokers and are incredibly jealous/pissed-off that I have not succumb to the bad-role-model-for-your-child thing. I tell my kids that smoking is a stupid thing to do. They hear my hacks first thing in the morning. They're not idiots. I remember in 5th grade seeing the ubiquitous cancerous lung that was passed around and promising never to smoke. Christ, we were all so serious back then! I truly hope that my kids don't start smoking. If they do, we'll have to talk. The talk will be far different then the one my (smoking) parents gave to me. I'm not going to scare them because that rarely if ever works. I plan on holding myself up as a good reason not to smoke. My parents always acted as if it were ok for them because they were adults. This, I think, is the difference between modern parenting. The double standard is less relied upon as a justification.

I was picking my kids up at school a few weeks ago. I was walking towards the enterance to the school, finishing my cigerette. Some guy in a big I'll-kick-your-ass pickup said something I didn't catch as I passed. I turned around. His truck was sitting in a handicapped spot. There were no handicapped plates or temp permits on it. His 13yr old daughter slumped in the passenger's seat.


"I SAID," he leaned out the window, "Ya ought not to smoke around here. It sets a bad example fer da kids."

I couldn't help but laugh. Improper parking is one of the things that makes me crazy. I got it from my mother. Here was a guy sitting in a handicap spot with his daughter lecturing me on setting a good example. I dare you not to have taken the bait.

"Oh," I said. "A bad example for the kids like...well...parking in a handicapped spot illegally? You mean, that kind of bad example?"

His face turned grim for a moment and then brightened.

"Hey! I'm handicapped!" Slowly, he raised his arm, which was in a cast. As he rasied his arm, he raised his middle finger. "Yah see that? Huh? Didja? Didja see that?" He was grinning like a fucking idiot. Boy! He was showing me!

"See what?", I said, now looking directly at his daughter. "Oh! Did I see that you just told me to go fuck myself? Yeah, I saw that. Your dad's a great example, isn't he? Did you see how he just told a complete stranger to go fuck himself. Especially after he told me I was setting a bad example." I turned back to him. "That's really great. You're teaching her a good lesson right now."

His face was murderous.

[NB - Just had a smoke]

As this fun little episode ended, a cop pulled up and told the woman double parked a few feet in front of us to move the car or she'd be towed. They argued back and forth until she finally drove off. I couldn't resist.

"Excuse, officer. Do you want to get this guy parked in the handicapped spot?"

The cop looked over at him. The guy was purple. The cop took a quick scan of the truck.

"Sir, please move your truck from the handicapped zone."

"But," the guy spluttered, holding up his arm, "I'M HANDICAPPED!"

"Sir, do you have a temporary handicap permit?"

He waved the cast at the cop and tried to make his case.

"Move the car, sir, or it will be towed. Now."

As the truck pulled away, I waved. The girl in the passenger seat looked like she was about to die of embarassment. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good lesson.

I should feel guilty about smoking. I know that I should some days, I actually do. When my girls pretend their carrots are cigerettes, I feel particularly badly. I use those moments to reinforce that smoking is a stupid thing to do. My oldest asked me one day - "Dad, if it's so stupid then why do you keep doing it?" She was 7 when she asked me that. She's had the same bunny since she was 2. Since she was given the bunny, it has been her constant companion. Anywhere she went, bunny went. When she turned 4, we told her bunny could not leave the house because he was too worn. This bunny would give Wes Craven the creeps. Yet, at almost 10yrs old, she still sleeps with it.

I told that her bunny was a habit that brought her comfort. And my cigerettes were a habit that brought me comfort. And someday, she'd give up her bunny and I'd give up mine.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

In Which I Begin To Fix The Troubles Of The World

There's a car dealership called Lou Winz Auto Sales whose slogan is "You Win With Lou Winz". This makes me nuts. The rhyme of "you" and "Lou" is cute and catchy, but the "win"/"Winz" makes me...well...wince. I spend far too much brain space thinking about this slogan every time I see it. The solution has finally come to me. The new slogan is "Who wins with Lou Winz? Everybody Wins!"

I will bring this new and better slogan to Lou. He'll read it, a bemused smile on his moustachioed lip. "Kid," he'll say, throwing a well muscled arm around my shoulder (he'll call me "kid" because he's impressed by my pluck), "Kid, I appreciate you tryin' ta help, but I made this slogan up myself and I'm kinda attached to it."

Now, I go into my best John Cusak imitation. "Lou," the earnestness in my eyes and urgency in my voice take him slightly aback, "I'm not saying that you didn't do a great job with the slogan. I wouldn't be here wasting your time if I thought the slogan was lousy. I wanna make this great slogan, a...", I fumble for the right words, racking my brain for the perfect adjective, "superb slogan. Listen to the cadence 'You WIN with Lou WINZZZZZZZ'. It's that...doggone it, Lou, it just sounds wierd." His eyes narrow. "Ok. Wierd is the wrong word. Clunky. Now listen to the new one. Just listen, that's all I'm saying. 'WHO wins with LOU Winz? EVerybody Wins!' Did you hear that? 'WHO wins with LOU Winz?' It's got a flow. It's says everything that you want it to say AND it includes EVerybody!"

I stand before him. He's not really looking at me. He's lost in thought. His lips move almost imperceptibly as he turns the words over, smiling a little more each time he says it. His bald head begins to nod. Now, he looks at me. The grin is big. The grin is genuine.

"Yer right, kid. It's better. Thanks a mil! I'm givin' ya a new car every year fer this."

"I can't take it, Lou. I just can't take it."

He shakes his head then shakes my hand. Unexpectedly, he pulls me into a bear hug.

"I gotta run, Lou," I manage to eke out through my crushed rib cage, "I got more people to help."

"Take care, kid," he says affectionately, tousling my hair, "Take care."

As I pull my car out of the lot, I can see him at his desk on the phone. I can just make out what his lips are mouthing. "Who wins with Lou Winz? Everybody Wins!" Kicking it into fourth, I watch the sun going down in my rearview.
In Which I Am Tired