Sunday, October 31, 2010

Near Misses

Since it’s Halloween I thought it’d be good to do a scary story on the times I almost died.  I think I’ve had more near misses than the average person, and they’re pretty weird.
Almost Axed – In third grade I was acting like a smart-ass, not paying attention to the farmer standing by a stump, which I thought would be fun to jump on.  I did it and heard a collective gasp.  Apparently the farmer had just raised his axe to chop it up right then.  I almost gave him a heart attack.  My mother held my hand the whole rest of the class trip.  Kids just looked at me like I was crazy the rest of the day.
Almost Bucked from Rollercoaster – In fifth grade my whole class got to go to Valley Fair and my friend Karla and I got in one of the seats of the Corkscrew, which climbed up a sheer incline, dropped like a stone and then looped upside down.  The plastic seatbelts usually clicked into place.  Except this time mine didn’t.  There was absolutely nothing to hold on to.  As I grabbed onto Karla, both of us mute with panic, we came to the very top of the incline… and I finally felt the life-saving “click”.  I never got on the ride again.
Almost Beheaded by Horse – My 10-year-old cousin and I were on her more rambunctious colt when he took off at a full gallop.  I fell sideways off the saddle, still hanging on to the reins.  Horse hoofs swished by my head and barbed wire from a fence threatened to tangle in my hair, possibly ripping my head off my body, or me off the horse. Luckily my cousin saw and in a feat of inhuman strength, pulled me up.
Almost Trained – I was trying to ditch a creepy guy I met by the river during my walk home.  Putting the train tracks between us seemed like a safe bet, and so I hurried to them, except I heard a train whistle and saw the billowing smokestack approach.  I ran for it, thinking I could hop across the tracks before the train made it.  Half-panicked by the guy who was following me, I jumped over the safety chain and ran forward… until a gut feeling stopped me dead, and the train flew by, inches from me, blowing my hair.  The guy never reappeared, even while I waited for the track to clear, thankfully.
Almost Blown Up – This was just plain stupid of me.  I was coming out of the dorm, tons of thoughts on my college-aged mind, and walked my usual route, except I heard lots of frantic yelling.  What the hell was were those yells saying?  Turns out a bunch of construction workers were yelling at me, because I was about to walk into a big gaping hole they’d punctured into the sidewalk that morning and then filled with dynamite, which exploded a few seconds after I finally got their message and jumped back.  Gee, thanks for the memo.
Almost Gored by Buck – I was getting rid of some equipment that poachers had left of my family’s property when I heard rustling in the brambles.  The rustling sounded like it was made by something larger than a human being.  I stepped back in time to see a huge buck – all antlers and hooves – bounding over my head.  I think it was thanking me for getting rid of the poachers’ crap, but I’m glad I didn’t get it his way.
Almost Cliff-Dived – I climbed a rocky ledge while hiking in Hawaii with family when it suddenly dawned on me that I was on the very edge of a several-hundred-foot drop into more rocks.  I could not even call for help because the movement of my diaphragm could have caused me to lose balance and plummet.  I somehow crawled back to safety without alarming anyone.
Almost Creamed by Car – This has happened almost constantly to me, but one time in particular really stands out.  I was crossing a little two-lane hilly street on a green when it changed to red suddenly and a car in the far lane came flying up the hilly road.  I was right in the driver’s blind spot.  Listening to my gut and breaking all conventional self-preservation rules, I stopped dead in the middle of the street… right as that car flew past me narrowly missing my decorating the windshield with my intestines.
Almost Rattlesnaked in the Face – I was hiking with a friend on a forbidden danger zone on a cliff wall.  “You sure this is safe?” I asked her.  “Oh yes, why not?” was her answer.  As I crawled on my belly up a very steep area, I reached my hand up and heard rattling and hissing.  I brought my hand back and slowly stood so that my face was removed from the snake’s striking range.  Turned out there were quite a few rattlers in that area of Colorado.
Almost Mauled by Cougar – Again, some casual hiking almost proved deadly.  A (different) friend and I had parked by the side of a desert expanse to hike.  While I was ironically preoccupied with the thoughts of running into rattlers, I heard an unmistakable growl.  “Is that your stomach?” he said, wishfully.  “No, that’s a cougar,” I said, just realizing we were in one's territory.  We calmly but quickly got out of there.
So maybe I should be scared that the Grim Reaper has made a few grabs at me, but I just feel lucky to have survived up until now.  (*knocks wood*)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mmm, Crispy!

One of the jobs I’ve had that kinda makes people go “What, really?” was that of prep cook at a Japanese restaurant.  More to the point, I was the Tempura cook.  That means I dipped pretty much whatever people wanted to eat into batter and then fried it in oil. 
I have always liked cooking but it was a real trip the first time I had to deal with removing the legs, antennae and eyeballs from shrimp.  It took me a few tries not to scream and throw the shrimp in the air.  The boss looked at me weird, because earlier I had told her what a pro I was at this.
There were also these little frozen crabs I had to batter, fry and then cut right in half.  Even though they were already dead, I always felt bad for them when I did this.  
Tempura is fun but messy.  You have to fling the batter around with your hand, coating the frying food haphazardly in order to give it crispness and texture.  Oil spatters everywhere and the sink is a wasteland of flour and water.  But ohhh, it tastes like deep-fried angels.
I’ve fried up yams, onions, peppers, carrots… all cut paper thin.  The carrots were the most annoying things we had to cut, because of their density and thickness.  They can dull a knife in seconds flat, but it was fun to sharpen all the knives anyway, dragging them back and forth on the stone like the sushi chefs… now those guys were the real pros.
I’ve only seen a few minor tragedies in the kitchen, when someone had to call an ambulance due to cuts or burns.  In fact my hands were always riddled with them while I was there.  It was just part of the landscape.
The worse day I had was when I was asked to take the trash outside.  I had already moved 25-pound pots of steaming rice across the kitchen, and regularly changed out the oil in the fryer by myself.  How hard could this be?
But there were tons of glass bottles in the trash – some half-full, some broken – from a party the night before, along with all kinds of gooey foodstuffs.  It took three of us: me, a dish washer and a produce delivery guy to get the slippery, sharp 60-pound thing outside.
We all ended up with some bruises and cuts but in the end, the trash was banished to the alleyway.  I have fond memories of the smell of mirin, the sight of colorful sukiyaki bowls ready for the waitresses to pick up… but when I want tempura, I still just go to a restaurant.

The Hair Monster

A single hair – It can be long, silky and beautiful when it cascades over someone’s shoulders, twinkling in the rays of the sun.  But on a cake, a single hair is a horror show.  In fact, it’s enough to make me want to shave my head. 
Did you know the average person loses hundreds of hairs per day?  Did you ever think about where they go?  They usually roll themselves up to form a ball, as if calling to one another across space, and huddle together to form… The Hair Monster.
Hair monsters lurk under beds and sometimes jump up and attack a fallen pillow, clinging with its tangled multitude of hairs to the pillow case, which makes me scream.  Or worse is when they maraud a sweater of mine and it looks like a cat threw up the worlds’ biggest hairball on it.
Fact: Most vacuum cleaners break down because of the loose hair it fails to suck up.  The hairs wind around the brush unit, which messes with the rotation of the brush which shorts out the motor.  If you unplug your vacuum cleaner, flip it over and harvest the field of hair you see there – before it starts smoking and making gurgling noises – you can probably save your vacuum.
Here are some of the worst places to find a hair:
The fridge – Nobody ever goes through the trouble of trying to put a hair in a fridge.  But they get in there.  Worse is when they’re sitting atop the butter or languishing in the ridges at the bottom of the fridge, glued there with various dried food spills.
Food – It doesn’t matter how clean, shiny or well-kept that hair is.  It will never taste good.  Mainly it’s the texture, as it gets stuck between your teeth or halfway down your throat.
Between toes – It’s a helpless feeling having something suddenly bind a few of your toes together.  I guess you never really think about toe independence until it’s lost.
In the mouth – This is kinda like food but at least it’s not mashed in with food.  This is when you just get a loose hair between your lips or something and then you pull it.  It tickles like hell; try it.  Sometimes if you have long enough hair it can get in your mouth and even down your throat without falling out of your head first. 
In the eyes – Medium-length hair can every so often poke you right in the eye, which hurts like hell.  Or it can get stuck between your eyelids, which is weird.  Then there are eyelashes…
Between nylons and feet/legs – it’s always gross when you look down at your leg and there’s something between you and your nylons, whether it’s a piece of lint, a dead bug (God forbid) or a long hair just plastered right there and held into place by your helpful nylons!  These must be dealt with immediately.  Hopefully you’ll never find this in public, because good luck getting to a restroom or something to deal with it without hyperventilating because of the sheer grossness first.
Between the ass cheeks – This always happens when you’re somewhere you can’t extract it.  Like when you’re giving a speech or at a funeral or something major where you can’t reach down between your cheeks and yank it out.  That little hair will seem like a two-inch thick rope until you get to it, and it will take up all your attention.
My boyfriend says at the end of time, when the universe winks out of existence, there will still be loose hairs left.  Maybe if I can stop fearing the Hair Monster, it can find a way to use its powers to stop the end from coming in the first place. 

And if you’re bald, consider yourself lucky. 
…But I bet even you find hairs in the fridge every so often too, huh?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Odd Jobs

I’ve had over 80 jobs in my life – some of them legal, many of them even paid – and they all seemed pretty strange.  Here are the ones that really stick out:
Yard Worker – Aside from the paltry $1 per week my parents doled out for allowance, an old guy who lived behind the pool once paid my sister and me to pick up fallen branches from his yard.  I often wondered if he just wanted to see little girls in bikinis bending over.  Ew.
General Store Clerk – At age 13, I minded a whole store on my own.  One of my parents worked nearby and wanted to keep an eye on me after school, so I guess it was better to break child labor laws than to risk have me going off on my own to vandalize nearby property.
Woodtick Remover – Removed ticks, green and bloated with blood from the dogs when even the big tough guys in the family wouldn’t go near them.  I also removed various other bugs from the house and put them outside because I love all creatures, no matter how much they make us scream.
Fire Starter – It has always been my job to get the fire going and keep people warm and dry… especially at times when the kindling is wet and everyone else has failed at getting it going.  I can light a cigarette with a match in a rainstorm; it’s just one of my gifts.
Dog Extinguisher – I also enjoyed the prestige of putting out the dog after the fireplace spit out an ember on her tail and set her alight, which she wouldn’t notice, so then she’d wonder why I was slapping away at her tail and what that burning smell was.
Broken Glass Handler – My grandma had all these colorful shards of glass that she always wanted my sister and me (and our friends) to dig out of the concrete blocks she used for landscaping, remove the weeds that were growing in the blocks, and then place all the shards of glass back in.  Where was OSHA then?
Charo/Don Ho Photographer – Remember the “Cutchie cutchie” girl and the “Tiny Bubbles” guy?  I didn’t photograph them, but did snap shots of their audience members, selling photos that Charo or Don Ho would sign.  I had a spiel in English and Japanese.  One time I saw Ed McMahon.  Another time I saw Imelda Marcos.  Neither of them wanted a photo.
Paper Jogger – Did you ever wonder how the pages of a book are stacked neatly together?  That doesn’t happen by accident.  They have someone for that: a paper jogger.  The vibrating table was the tool of choice for wrangling tons of pages into neat stacks.  Several jokes abounded about this table.  It was a real boring job and our imaginations ran wild. 
Coupon Victim – You know those annoying little coupons that fall out of newspapers?  Well, they’re a lot more annoying when a bindery machine is dumping out thousands of them on you, and you’re supposed to be putting them into newspapers but the machines are way faster than you are… I often got buried in ads while standing dazed at the assembly line just like Lucille Ball, except I didn't get any chocolate.
TV Juror – Judge Judy once told me to zip it.  Judge Joe Brown was more subdued but he flirted with the ladies.  I got paid to be a juror while watching exes battle over car custody and stuff, sometimes throwing subpoenas and shit at each other.  Laughing fits got you banned from Judge Judy’s jury box, too.
Student Waker – My job simply entailed leaning over and tapping the hand of a narcoleptic student every time he fell asleep during a timed test.  There was also another lazy student I had to call and wake up every morning or she wouldn’t make it to class.
So if you have a job, it’s probably not the worst one in the world.  In fact, it might be more interesting than you realize.  And if you’re between jobs, don’t worry.  There’s a whole world of weirdness out there, and it won’t be long before someone’s paying you to do something weird too.

The Underground

The first time I got on an underground train, we went about four blocks before slamming to a halt right on the tracks, old ladies and bags and bicycles flying everywhere.
It had taken me months to get up the courage to get on a San Francisco MUNI, the local train, which really got you places in half the time as a bus.  But people from Minnesota like me just weren’t accustomed to going underground, “like a cockroach or something,” I told my boyfriend when he suggested it.
But I’m glad I finally got over the fears of being like an insect or coming to constant emergency stops and learned to embrace the underground, even when it takes its underwater route from the Bay to Treasure Island, or screams as its metal wheels drag on the tracks near the SOMA district.
Because on the underground train, you can bring your bike indoors with you.  You can stand up and move around much better than on a bus.  Except there are still those psychedelic-colored chairs everywhere, manically splashed in red, yellow, green and orange patterns.  I think the colors and patterns are supposed to hide stains (poop or vomit perhaps).
On the train, there’s always a freak show and you will become involved.  Public music and theatre performances go over here much better than on the bus.  I’ve seen a young couple playing a guitar duet, four siblings doing a song-and-dance routine, a guy whaling on saxophone, a woman singing arias… and all passing around a hat for donations.  There were even a few impromptu political speeches that got mixed reactions.  Somehow they were always offered free of charge.
I’ve yet to be on a train that breaks down and makes me walk through the dank, dark tunnel over electrified tracks, even though I’ve been tempted to wander around in there at night just to see how everything works.  People joke about gollums, or mud men, living down in the tunnels.  Maybe I’ll bring a camera and try getting some shots of the elusive creature, or just play paparazzi to the next politician making a speech on the underground.

(photo courtesy of

Weird Shit my Pets Dragged Home

One of the joys of pet ownership is finding the gifts your cat or dog brings you from the wild.  These gifts can get especially weird if you grew up in the middle of the Wisconsin boondocks.  Here are some treasures I remember finding in the yard:
Really Big Rats: Our Siberian Husky dog Katya would catch rats that came down from the hill by our house every few months.  They’d be running to escape the trash burning the folks at the nearby dump would perform to clear stuff out.  The rats would become homeless and try moving into our yard, so it was nice to have a big dog out there to run interference.
Shrews: Shrews have been known to attack bears and take down animals many times their own size.  They’re aggressive little mice-looking creatures with big fangs.  But my cat Tiger would chew on them without hesitation.  And leave them for me to find barefoot.
Black Tailed Hawk: The bird made the unfortunate decision to try and carry Tiger off as dinner, and the cat defended himself.  We donated the remains of the bird to a local Native American tribe, I believe.
Deer Leg: This one kind of alarmed me, but pet dogs in a rural place have a tendency to group up in a pack and go “wilding”.  They can bring down a deer with teamwork, and I shudder to think what else.  Not all the dogs were healthy, either.  So my sister and I knew to scamper up the nearest tree whenever we heard the disturbing howls from a pack of wilding dogs.
Snakes: Actually, this was more the lawnmower’s doing.  The closest I’ve ever seen one of my pets come to attacking one was when our mutt Shally clumsily stepped on a three-foot garter snake, which kind of just swore at her and slithered off.
Bat: Tiger was sitting on the hood of a car my dad was working on.  It was dusk and a bat flew by.  With a whoosh!  Tiger caught it in his teeth, looking like he was wearing the bat wings as a bowtie.
So I’ve learned from my pets to be both generous and accepting, even if I’m given something I don’t expect.  And I think they've learned that if some creature they hunted down tastes nasty, they can always leave the leftovers for me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Freak on a Leash

I rescued a cat from a snowstorm one day and he thanked me for it by spending the next year messing with my mind.
Doctor Q, as we named him, was always getting into trouble.  He’d climb the curtains, eat the plants and bite the other two cats in the ass playfully, for which they were rarely in the mood.  He’d swipe at my roommate’s ankles when he came around corners and chew on my boyfriend’s hair while he slept.
He’d climb up onto the stove right while we were cooking and eat anything he found up there.  When we tried dissuading him by pouring dish soap on the stove top before leaving the apartment, we came home to find his tongue marks in it.  He'd drag his whiskers and tail right through candle flames, singeing them badly.
Our new kitty would jump up on a table and then slowly but deliberately bat every single thing off of it, no matter how breakable or expensive it was, while staring us in the eye.  But he was full of love, and would cuddle with us whenever we picked him up (as long as we didn’t do it shirtless, because he was a nipple-biter, and lightning-quick).
One time we decided to help Doctor Q work out his destructive energy by putting a harness-type leash on him, figuring we’d walk him around the block a few times.  But tethering two pounds of furry chaos to my wrist with leather straps and turning it loose into the outdoors didn’t turn out to be the solution we’d hoped for.
As soon as we got Doctor Q into the harness and brought him outside – which took about ten minutes of wrestling him and then five minutes more of pulling the half-chewed leash from his mouth – he rolled around until the harness was completely wound around him… and then he got startled by a bird, jumped up and tried to flee for dear life. 
My arm almost got yanked off when he began leaping away like a deer because of a little bluejay.  Meanwhile, the leash was winding around his stomach and he’d given up trying to reach orbit and lay down, trying to slither away from this demon leash.  I was laughing my ass off and had to sit down.  Doc’s eyes were like golf balls; there was no amount of reaching for the tangle that could help me with him until he calmed down.
Which he finally did, and everything was good for a while.  And I had just gotten the last loop off his back foot when he noticed the stairs leading down to the sidewalk.  Good, we thought.  We’re on our way.  But I don’t think he’d ever seen stairs before because he walked over to the very edge of the top step and then lay down, trying to pour himself down them.
By this time my boyfriend and roommate are cackling too, and Doctor Q thinks he’s got this yard thing figured out while his furry little rump goes thump thump thump down the concrete stairway. He just put his nose in the air and purred.  Then he rolled and crawled around some more in the grass.  Needless to say, we didn’t get around the block that day. 
The last time I saw Doctor Q he was sitting in the neighbor’s yard – the one with the bitchy little dog who yapped all the time – with an attitude that seemed to say “Come on bitch, let’s DO this thing!”  I later found a tell-tale hole in a window screen, where he must’ve leaned into it until it broke and then jumped out.  I tried to bring him back but he had taken off again to unleash more destruction upon the world.  I was just too tame for him.

The Flaming Moped

(This is the only semi-fiction story here.)
Johnson Hall B was considered the “Animal House” of the University of Hawaii.  It was the only co-ed dorm on campus, populated mainly by art students, scientists in training, horny virgins, writers.  Nudity and drunkenness were just part of the tapestry of college life, a nice distraction to take the edge off the pressure of growing up.  Everyone left their dorm rooms open, inviting company.  There were parties every weekend.  Someone launched a flaming moped off the rooftop during my Sophomore year.
Tammy was my roommate at Johnson Hall.  She wasn’t your typical Hawaiian girl – she was pale and blond with deep, sea-blue eyes.  She wore frumpy t-shirts to hide her smokin body (which I knew she had because I regularly got to see her change clothes), kept toned by track and field class.  Her dad worked for Dole so she had grown up in the Pacific islands; first in the Philippines and then in Hawaii. 
She would come home on Friday night carrying her books, intent on studying while other girls in bikinis danced around in the hallways to loud music.  But Tammy would just push her glasses up her nose and close our dorm room behind her, never joining in any of the parties.  Even though I tried getting her to loosen up, she would always just roll her eyes and say that she had better things to do.
“She’s so studious,” complained my friend Maya as we passed Tammy on the way to the showers one night. My classmate Leilani, who had just emerged from the running water and stood nude at the mirror, joined our conversation. “Who, Tammy?” she asked, brushing her wet, hip-length hair.  “That’s bullshit.  I hear she’s a total spaz, getting in trouble all the time.  That’s why her dad sent her here,” she added.
It was a typical weekend night on campus and another party was starting up.  Students were setting up a DJ booth in the lobby, swapping out regular light bulbs for black lights, decorating the hallways with giant beach toys.  The thump of a bass riff started people dancing.  Kids were playing tag on the lawn, pelting each other with water balloons outside the dorm.
Just as we were grabbing some towels a loud FWOOSH! shook the building.  A few girls screamed from somewhere; it sounded like it was coming from the roof.  Leilana, Maya and I ran half-clothed to our dorm rooms to get dressed and go check out what was going on.  Then we heard laughing and a woman above us yelling “WHOOOOO!!”
I poked my head out of my dorm window, looking up, just in time to see a big ball of fire plummeting toward me.  I jumped back quickly, smelling gasoline. CRASH!  The ball of fire hit the ground and exploded, flames and metal pieces flying everywhere.  Maya was just pulling her shirt on when we heard the laughter again, above us.
Sirens screamed in the distance, getting closer.  I ran downstairs.  “What’s going on this time?” I asked the front desk guy, whose jaw was wired shut from a recent traffic accident.  He just shrugged.  A crowd formed outside, someone turned the music off.  There was fire coming from a twisted pile of metal outside on the grass, right in front of the lobby, and there were even a few flames on a nearby shrub.
I came closer to look.  An ex-marine who had been squatting rent-free in the dorms loped drunkenly outside and began helpfully trying to piss the burning wreck out, only to be shooed away by the cops who had just arrived on the scene.  There was a fire truck too, and a group of firemen tromped up the stairs of the dorm, then came back out, escorting a smoking chunk of metal – previously a gas can – out through the front doors.
I stood by some of the resident goth kids who were gawking at the flames.  “What the hell happened?”  I asked the kid with the pierced lip. “I don’t know, they found something burning,” he answered.  “They think it was one of the jocks who did it…” he continued, but I pointed to the football players, who were also standing on the lawn.
“It was a moped,” said a short girl with black eyeliner.  “Someone set it on fire and then threw it off the roof.”  As we stood there watching the first ever bonfire outside Johnson Hall B, some cops emerged from the building holding a woman between them.  It was Tammy.  She was handcuffed, wearing only a bikini bottom, her smiling face smeared with soot.  I guess she had finally joined the party after all, in her own twisted way.

(photo courtesy of

Friday, October 22, 2010

Caught in a Mosh

The time I almost got kicked out of a White Zombie concert was because of the mosh pit: I was just really thrashing around hard in there. 

A fellow slam-dancer called me “the Tasmanian Devil”.  I was whirling around like a top and nobody could knock me down, but I think I had a few too many beers and was maybe bouncing off the people who meant to be onlookers. 
One of the rules of moshing is: Don’t involve the onlookers.  They will jump in themselves… when and if they’re ready.  One of the security guards – actually a friend of my boyfriend’s – had to grab me by an elbow, take me aside and yell, “You MUST CHILL!”  And so I did.
I’ve moshed outdoors in the broken-glass-encrusted mud at Lollapalooza II, indoors for shows by Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam, where Eddy Vedder climbed up one of the rafters and jumped down into our outstretched arms.
I’ve seen Soundgarden, Korn and Tool, who got everyone so excited at First Avenue in Minneapolis that the entire frickin venue turned into a mosh pit.  The bar upstairs, the restrooms, it was crazy.  My boyfriend got a bruised rib when some chick sailed into him.
I’ve seen people bloodied, knocked out, holding broken arms, being hoisted over the security barrier at the front of the stage by guards rescuing them from being trampled on the ground.
These tips can help you survive your next mosh pit:
Being a little drunk or high can actually help loosen you up so you don’t get as injured.
Understand that you’re gonna get touched almost everywhere, but you may take swings at any obvious gropers (who also know this rule, so groping is actually rare).
Even though some guys like being rubbed up against, they usually don’t like it from behind, even if – especially if – it’s from a woman.  Whups, sorry dude.
Help others up.  I can’t tell you how many double-takes I got from these half-trampled mohawked dudes I pulled off the floor.  They don’t expect to see a little five-foot-tall chick like me hoist them to their feet.
Guys with those really long dreds slam hardest.  You would think that hair is soft and lots of it hitting you in rhythmic fashion wouldn’t be a problem, except that being pelted in the face with someone’s long dreads is like being beaten with woolen bullwhips.
The bald guys will nail you right in the face with their heads somehow.  They’ve mastered the take-off and fly right into the crowd, but they never seem to stick the landing without involving another person’s skull.
Anyone who starts doing the gorilla, which is when you flail around with complete disregard for your surroundings while swinging your arms up and down, is fair game for being subdued quickly – because someone could actually get hurt that way.
Don’t wear any piercings, glasses or jewelry; expect anything on your person to get doused in beer, ripped, lost or bled on.  But wear ear plugs.  Some people I know still find hilarious irony in the fact that I’ll go and get 30 bruises and a few lacerations but still protect my ears.  But come on man; it’s just common sense.
If you’re gonna jump in with two nipple rings and no shirt, don’t be the dick who does the gorilla or those rings may get caught on something.
That 300 pound guy in the middle of most mosh pits is your calm in the eye of the storm because even the most violent slammers just bounce off him.  Go stand by him if you’re getting trampled and you’re gonna pass out.
Count your bruises afterward and glow with the feeling of having survived to mosh another day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution

This is how failing a test and fucking around in class made me money and helped my future career.
I was a high school sophomore and wanted nothing more than to cut out of class and party all the time.  But typing lessons had started.  Typing was the class that convinced me that I was expected to spend the next 20 years after graduation in some boring day job, chained to a typewriter, making rent money.  I desperately did not want this to be the case.
This is why I set about to fail at typing.  I thought this would somehow protect me from a future of boring, capitalistic tyranny.  As I sat at my IBM Selectric – the very last of the typewriters, which were replaced by computers the next year – the teacher passed around stupid little list of sentences we were supposed to try and hammer out.
There were phrases like “It’s good to sit up straight and concentrate,” and “Jenny likes to spell words correctly” and shit like that.  I decided it would be more fun to type up rock and roll song lyrics from memory. 
The teacher’d stop and read my progress: “’Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, rock and roll is never gonna die…’ Cris, what is this?  And ‘gonna’ is not a word, young lady,” she admonished.  But she didn’t outright punish me, so I kept it up, not bothering to memorize where the keys were.  What the hell was a QWERTY?  I didn’t care.
The only thing I did care about was removing the font balls from the typewriters so that they wouldn’t work.  I taught the other students how to do it too one day.  It took the teacher a half hour to figure out why all our pages were blank even though we were still hammering away at the keys.
The first test came and I clocked in at under 60 words per minute, failing badly.  My folks weren’t happy but I thought I was now safe from a boring future.
I was also getting bored of the AC/DC lyrics, so I began typing up the dialogue I heard spoken around me, while trying to get really specific with the kids’ pronunciations and stuff.  So my typing page turned rock page started looking more like: “Oh my Gawd, Stacy, I din’t even like, knowwww that ya were GROUNDed!”
But the teacher would just walk by and pat my head.  Soon came another typing test where I had a chance to make up for my previous failings.  After all that fucking around, I was surprised when this time, I got an A+.  Somehow I now had the fastest typing speed in the whole class! 
The teacher smiled at my progress and told me to meet her after class.  Then she offered to pay me $10 a page to type up tests for the other teachers, whom she had be telling about my progress.  It was my first job.  She said she knew that although I wasn’t the apple-polishing type, that I was smart enough to see drudgery coming and try to escape it.  Also, she reminded me, I had even found ways to have fun in the process.
I realized then that I could pretty much still do what I wanted in life, even though certain things were expected of me.  I may find myself sitting at a desk for money every now and then, but it’s not the worst way to make a buck.  There’s always rock and roll, and the freedom to write what I want in a stolen moment, even these AC/DC lyrics:
 “Hey there, all you middle men, throw away your fancy clothes while you're out there sittin' on the fence.  Get off your ass and come down here.  'Cause rock 'n' roll ain't no riddle man; to me it makes good, good sense.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Lazy Lover, the Copier

Machines have gotten cocky lately, and I can’t seem to escape them.  Now there are talking buses that shout out the next stop, nagging me about how I should hang on.  The aisles in the grocery store have machines that blurt out the day's specials when you walk past them.
If I want to hear inanimate objects talking to me all day, I’ll just take more drugs. And now in the office, even though machines are still quiet, many of them have become lazy, bossy, untruthful and downright passive aggressive.  Our copy machine is like a lazy boyfriend to me.  Here's one of our relationship "conversations".
Me: (Puts document in feeder tray, hits copy)
Copier: (Yawns, stirs to life) “Your job will start in 30 seconds. Do not press copy again. Hit delete if you want to cancel job.”
Me: (Waits 30 seconds)
Copier: …
Me: “Fine then!” (Hits delete)
Copier: “No jobs to delete.”
Me: “You said to…”
Copier: “Hit delete if you want to cancel job.”
Me: (Hits delete again)
Copier: (Acts like it’s going to start the copy and then abruptly stops) “Oh, my feeder tray doesn’t work.”
Me: (Takes document out of feeder tray, gets a feeling that the copier’s lying, puts document back in feeder tray and hits Copy.)
Copier: “Mmm, that’s better.” (Copies document)
Me: (Puts another document in feeder tray to copy)
Copier: “Um, paper tray 1 is low on paper.”
Me: (Checks to see that copier has more than 25 sheets)  “You have enough paper, just give me one copy of this one page.”
Copier: “Well, the paper in tray 1 is low, so…” (Sits there idle)
Me: (Puts an entire ream of paper in tray, presses copy a few dozen times)  “Just. Copy!!”
Copier: “Your job will start in 30 seconds.”
Me: (Presses copy again)
Copier: “Paper in tray 1 is low.”
Me: “Lazy whore!!” (Kicks copier)
Copier: “Beep!”
Me: (Kick!)

The Computer as a Crazy Girlfriend

Remember the good old days when you hit a button on a machine and then the machine would just shut up and do what you asked?  Well now that we’ve tried to make everything user-friendly, intuitive and communicative, we’re stuck with the nuts-and-bolts equivalent of an irritating boyfriend or girlfriend. Some people say machines have souls, but I think those souls are dark as toner. 
Here is the rapidly derailing conversation of Guy vs. Laptop:
Guy: (Typing on Laptop)
Laptop: “Upgrading system!” (Boots up another application out of the blue, interrupting the guy)
Guy: “Right now?  But I’m working, here.  Hey, what did you do with my Word document?”
Laptop: “I closed it and put it away.”
Guy: “I was using that!”
Laptop: “Why don’t you use it later when I’m done?”
Guy: “Well, when will that be?”
Laptop: (Shows hourglass) “Oh, I don’t know…”
Guy: “Fine, I’ll just check my email.” (Tries opening browser)
Laptop: “Would you like to upgrade your browser now?”
Guy: “No, dammit, let me into email!”
Laptop: (Opens pop up ad) “How about a vacation instead? Would you like to go on vacation?”
Guy: “Listen, you little…”
Laptop: (Sits there in Excel)
Guy: “!@#$%^&*()!!” (Tries alt tab)
Laptop: (Opens Word)
Guy: (Clicks any key)
Laptop: “Hey, I’m busy. Don’t touch me.” (Screen goes white)
Guy: “But this is MY Laptop!”
Laptop: “Well, if you’re gonna pull an attitude like that…” (Disables mouse)
Guy: “*@#$%^&*!!!#$%^&*()!!!!#$%^&*!” (Unplugs Laptop cord from outlet)
Laptop: (Still stays alive using battery)
Guy: (Removes Laptop’s battery) “Ha!”


Kiss My Ass, Science Master!

The last few questions I asked my husband dealt with whether noses could grow if they’re blown too much, if people in dust storms can drop dead from their lungs filling up with dust, and whether I could get cancer if I walked into an office where the microwave had accidentally been running for a few days (not my fault).  Even though he knows a lot about science, I rarely get a straight answer from him. 
Me: “Hey, can you collapse a lung by sucking in too much air?”
Him: (Looks at me weird)
Me: “Why doesn’t anyone ever answer my science questions?”
Him: “That’s not science.”
Me: “Well what about if someone blows out too much air?  Will they collapse their lung that way?”
Him: (Starts to laugh) “So, you’re actually asking me…”
Me: “Is the answer no?”
Him: “Okay, now you’re just giving me another question I can’t answer.”
Me: “Is that because it can’t happen?
Him: “You know, the Klingons have a saying.”
Me: (Stops and listens)
Him:  “Stupid questions are…”
Me: (Still looking expectantly at husband)
Him: (Cackles madly)  “No, they don’t have a saying.  I just wanted to shut you up.”
Fine, then.  Real nice, buddy.  Next time I have an important question I’m just going to Google it until I get the answer I like.  And the Klingons do have a saying for you, and it translates to: “Kiss my ass, science master!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Called a Broom

It was a still, quiet morning in the neighborhood of Beverly Hills.  Dew clung to the grass and the birds were eating their breakfasts.  Then suddenly… “RUM BUM BUM BUM BUM!”  The zen morning was broken by the sound of gas-powered leaf blowers starting up everywhere. 
If you’re not yet familiar with leaf blowers, they are machines that were invented solely to scream dead leaves and stray grass off a sidewalk.  Because that’s how you want to attack yard detritus: with decibels!
And why am I here in the middle of the noise?  Because I thought I’d take a more serene route to work.  I escaped the myriad honking cars on the main boulevard in order to find a quiet cul-de-sac in a nice, fancy residential area.  But holy Hell, what I stumbled into instead.
Why do the people who pay the highest rent in town seem to enjoy the loudest mornings? Perhaps the leaf blowers double as alarm clocks, so the locals can get up at the crack of dawn to make a lot of money in order to pay their rent again.  I’m not sure.  But these residents seem like they’d be pretty quick to complain if, say, a gang of bikers were to start gunning Harley Davidsons on their lawns.
I’m pretty certain that a leaf blower and a motorcycle reach about the same decibel levels.  You could probably throw in the sounds of snowmobiles, chainsaws and Suzuki Samurai jeeps, maybe even a Beijing Opera.  But would the people who cause these kinds of noises get paid for being loud here?  Doubtful.
The funny thing is that, through the magic of technology, our species has invented something just as good as a leaf blower.  It’s cheap, light, easy to use, quiet, and doesn’t even need gasoline.  It’s called a broom.  And people have been using them for millennia.
Perhaps people here haven’t ever been familiarized with a broom, or perhaps in their world, gasoline still flows like water.  So I just really feel the need to give a shout out here to brooms as a public service announcement.  It’s my good deed for the day.
Some morning, I think a bunch of us should get up early, pay the people with leaf blowers to take the day off, and then ride motorcycles around on the lawns of Beverly Hills.  Nobody would suspect a thing, because the same type of noise would still be hammering at the neighborhood.  And those bushes would still get trimmed, that’s for sure.  It’d be almost like they’d be hiring us to do it!

Danger Desk

This one time I was sitting at my desk when the whole office exploded around me.
Well, it sure seemed like that for a moment, anyway.
My tech support job was in the San Francisco warehouse district.  Pier 49 was right outside the open-air balcony behind me.  The phone was ringing off the hook; business owners were calling me to help them install software.  It was about 1998.  Life was good.
Suddenly, I heard a whooshing noise outside. The walls started shaking, the glass in the window panes rattled.  The whooshing turned into a deafening scream.  Holy shit, was it an earthquake?  Terrorist attack?  What?!?  Instinct got the better of me and I dove under my desk, covering my head with both hands. 
From my vantage point under my there, I sneered at my coworkers, who were still in their chairs.  Fools, I thought.  “What the hell are you doing, Cris?” a coworker asked me.  “It’s just the Blue Angels.” 
It turned out they were all in on the secret: The Air Force flew overhead every year at this time.  That’s right, four large military fighter jets – full of fuel – soared between the city’s skyscrapers for most of that day.  Many of the city’s inhabitants seemed delighted with this.  Why?  I still can’t figure it out. 
“Oh Cris,” people have said at times like these, “You’re so paranoid.”  Hey, maybe I’m paranoid, but I’d be the only one alive if it had been a real attack!  And then I’d still be around to… uh, be more paranoid.
And I must’ve been real paranoid that year, because there was one other time that I dove under that desk, and that was when my coworker Jake almost shot me.
A few months after the Blue Angels debacle, I was sitting at my desk, surfing the internet, when all of a sudden a red dot shone on my monitor.  You know, the kind of red dot you see on some character in a movie, when a sniper uses a rifle scope to blow the guy to smithereens?  Well, that’s what I saw.  So once again I hit the deck, diving under my desk.
I heard snickering almost immediately and looked behind me, over to my coworker Jake, who was playing with his new pen light.  I almost crapped myself over a frickin pocket light.  I coulda shoved him.
And now, since I feel all embarrassed about my paranoia, I’m not even gonna mention the time my other coworker Bill sent me a DOS screen message and I thought it was aliens commandeering my computer!

Dude Logic

My dude’s the craziest man in the universe… and he makes all the sense in the world.
Here’s how a conversation of ours went last night:
(I should mention that we live in sunny Southern California and it never snows here, and hardly ever rains.)
Him: “So my boss gave me this free gym membership.  It’s good for a month.  The gym’s about six miles away, right by my office.”
Me: “Cool.”
Him: “Yeah, she knows I like to run and stuff.”
Me: “So are you gonna start using it?”
Him: “Uh-huh.  I figure I’ll run from home to work…”
Me: “Oh-kaaayyy.”
Him: “And then use the gym to shower in.”
Me: "So you’re going to use the gym membership for just the showers?!?  That doesn’t sound like it makes a lot of sense.”
Him: “Makes more sense than sitting on a bus for a half hour and then running in place on a treadmill for an hour.”
I couldn’t argue with that.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wishes n Shit

I once smoked cat shit thinking it was bong resin.   
Long story, shaggy carpet, desperate girl with no pot.  I remember not really feeling anything, and it did smell kinda gross. 
Actually, I must have been more grossed out than I knew at the time, because it really only dawned on me weeks later.  After telling my boyfriend about the stinky resin that didn’t get me stoned, I then came to realize what I had actually lit on fire and inhaled.  At least I know now that cat feces has about the same melting point as partially carbonized marijuana.
This experience probably should’ve taught me not to get so excited at the prospect of sticking something I found for free into my bong, especially that day when I found a film canister heavy with possibility right outside the office building where I worked in downtown San Francisco.  

I had learned nothing from my previous experience.  But to be fair, I was always finding a lot of things on the ground in that city: money, cigars, batteries, clothes, a real dime-bag of pot here and there.  Mostly, it worked out for me.
And I was sure that I had in my hand, as I entered the smallish elevator – the one with no air circulation or fan – a film canister full of weed, sweet weed.  I knew so many people who kept their weed in film canisters. I mean, what else could it be?  Film?  Come on.  I rattled the canister a little just to be sure. 
No, it wasn’t film.  Whatever was in that canister didn’t have the tell-tale hard edges.  Something in there was soft, roundish, maybe a little wet.  Score!
So the elevator doors close and I’m all by myself and the elevator starts going up and I’m thinking about the email I’ll send to my boyfriend saying, “Guess what I found?!?” and then… Surprise!  I open the canister and there it is.  A fresh bud?  No, a fresh turd.  Looking back at me.
The smell of it filled the small elevator immediately.  There was no mistaking that it was not marijuana!  Human crap has a distinctive odor, one that shot down my hopes of relaxing with a nice joint after work, an odor that now trapped me in an elevator, mocking me, laughing at me in its shit way, safe in its nice, cozy, completely inappropriate container!
It dawned on me that a homeless guy had been hanging around outside that day, picking up and dropping various things.  I almost ran right into him as I jumped off the elevator, pushed the office doors wide and flung that fucking shit canister into the street.  As I held my breath and waited for the elevator again, I heard his laughter outside echo throughout the lobby.
I knew that someone wasn’t getting any change from me that night after my shift, but I don’t think the homeless guy cared.  Having some working stiff excitedly treat his shit like secret treasure must’ve made his whole day.