Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dial 0 For An Operator

So last week on Facebook, I noticed that it was my friend’s birthday.  I wished to do the polite, friendly thing and wish him a happy birthday, but being the mentally under-developed, man-child that I am, I couldn’t just say “Happy Birthday Buddy!” because that’s too easy and makes too much sense.

To be honest, I really don’t like having to be reminded of my friends’ and family members’ birthdays through a soulless website. I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.  But, much like the rest of the mindless cattle that make up the Internet community, I don’t like having to remember things like birthdays, anniversaries, blood types, which color wire to cut, when to enter the number sequence into the hatch computer, how many bushels are in a peck (or vice versa?) and so forth. It’s a hassle. Having a machine do it for me is so much more convenient. Which means that when SKYNET takes over and the robots enslave us, we’re going to all stand around in a confused manner, trying to remember if it’s Taco Tuesday or Hot Wing Wednesday.

Anyway, I decided to congratulate my friend on surviving another year, but I wanted to do it in my own special, idiotic way. So I texted him. Allow me to present the conversation in its entirety:


There are a couple of things you may notice with that brief conversation. The first being that I completely neglected to say anything birthday related, or even positive, during that exchange. I completely dropped the ball on that. Oops.

The next thing you’ll notice is that I begin by beseeching my friend to “stay black.” This is impossible, of course, because he’s white. But we can all dream, can’t we?

The other thing that may jump out at you is that this person has absolutely no idea who I am. None whatsoever. But, being the trooper that I am, I push through and continue with my end of the conversation, undaunted.

At no point do I break character or fumble on the main talking points of my argument. I want this person to stay black and I want them to know that I cut bitches. Also, because I like to add a dash of mystery/suspense in all that I do, I leave them curious as to my identity.

Keep in mind, even though I was not recognized during this text conversation, I was convinced that I was talking to my friend Tom. It wasn’t until a few days later that I talked to him and discovered that he had changed his number (Years ago and never let me know. Some friend he is.) and the person I texted is a legit stranger and probably now stays up at night wondering about the random person who texted him about his bitch-cutting hobby.

With this being the Internet, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody out there knows who this person is, or knows somebody who knows somebody who once sniffed a chair that this person I texted once sat in. In which case, you have two options here. You can let that person know that I made a mistake, I meant to text a happy birthday wish to my goofy white friend, and then you can both enjoy a hearty guffaw. Or, you can tell them that you’ve heard whispers about me. I’m out there, I’m sharpening my knives. And I’ve got hair like mid-90s Lorenzo Llamas*.

*Because, why not?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Underpants Go Under the Pants, Superman

“Excuse me. Your shirt, what is that?” she asked.

Again with the damn shirts. My shirts always manage to elicit questions, mirth, distain and confusion. It’s my own fault though, I do wear them after all.

Here I am at the SuperNoVa ComiCon, or something to that effect. Though I personally have never found Northern Virginia (or any part of Virginia) to be super in the slightest. But here I am, at a low-rent comic book convention in the back of a fire station (seriously*). Meaning I should have known better than to wear a shirt with a drawing on it. These comic book types would probably think I was one of them.

“Umm. It’s just a black lion. Maybe a Voltron reference? I don’t know really,” I stammered.

“Okay. It just seems like a very distinctive and familiar drawing style,” the lady behind the table said.

I smiled weakly. Not knowing how to continue this unwanted pregnancy of a conversation, I did my best to shuffle off and get lost in the crowd of… seven, eight, thirteen people? Is that a good turnout for these things?

Moving on from her booth, I did my best to take in the entire majestic scene at once. The “con” had about a dozen tables, with racks behind them. Each rack had an assortment of old, faded comic books featuring superheroes currently viewable on movie screens for twenty bucks and your left kidney. Spider-Man, Ironman, ManMan, ManWoman, Professor Lord and, of course, Bert. On each table was a collection of white cardboard boxes filled with more comics and signs advertising three comics for a dollar and other low prices for undesirable titles. This is where one could find such titles as Little Lulu, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Weatherbee: Archie’s Principal, Mr. Brooks’ Wild Ride and The Further Adventures of Frazzle, the Hobo With AIDS and Severe Depression. Also, anything by Todd MacFarlane.

Behind each table there was one of two kinds of guys: fat guys with ponytails and thin guys with ponytails. It was like a series of weight-loss before and after pictures. One guy had… (Okay, let’s have a sidebar for a minute. We have a lot of fun here, right? I tell jokes, we share a laugh, friendships are forged and lives changed. But what I have to say next is no joke. It’s a thing that happened. It’s real and we all need to accept that and try to rebuild our now shattered lives.) one guy was wearing socks with the Batman logo on them. Adorable.

Until he turned around and I noticed that his Batman socks had capes on them.

Go back and reread that sentence. Picture, in your head, an image of a man in his fifties or so. He’s white, he’s nondescript. Wearing glasses, slight paunch, thinning hair, regular, out-of-touch old people clothes. If you saw him out in public, you wouldn’t think twice about how average he is. If he had been living on your street and you found out that he’d been kidnapping and licking mannequins, you’d be that neighbor who tells the reporters “he always seemed like a regular guy, I never would have guessed he was a sicko!” Anyway, picture that guy wearing socks with capes. Hell, picture anybody wearing socks with capes. You can’t, because it’s stupid. I don’t even know what’s worse, the fact that a guy would buy them or that somebody made them, (unless he made them himself, in which case, be on the lookout for any missing mannequins in your neighborhood.)

Besides comic books, these (let’s call them… people) were selling pieces of art that they had drawn/painted themselves (they were artists after all). Oddly enough, many of those pieces of art involved random animals dressed as The Avengers, or Luke Skywalker or Doctor Who or Janet Reno.  I guess people really like to combine their favorite superheroes, sci-fi or fantasy characters with stuffed animals. Not my thing, but a striving industry nonetheless.

I purchased a poster of Cobra Commander imploring people to join his terrorist organization. That poster will look quite well on my wall and will surely be a “chick-magnet.” Quick comment: Cobra Commander is a really lazy name for the guy in charge of Cobra. We don’t call the president “America Boss.” That’d be silly.

The con kind of petered out as the day came to a close. But for me, the highlight was and always will be the fact that the men’s room of the fire station had potpourri by the sink. That’s so random.


*Seriously.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A 21st Century Christmas Story (From the U2B Files)

I woke up.

Have you ever noticed how many stories start with somebody waking up in the morning? I wonder why that is. I mean, unless you were kidnapped in the middle of the night, without your knowledge, stories rarely begin first thing in the morning. Even if you’re waking up next to somebody you don’t recognize, with a swastika tattoo on their forehead and a satisfied smile on their face, the story didn’t start there. It started with that first shot of tequila and your friend daring you to shave your taint, (at least, that’s how most good stories start.) It just so happens that everything between that shot of booze and waking up next to Josephus, is too much of a blur for you to remember.

I think that stories start in the morning because it’s like a save point in a video game. It gives you the opportunity to take stock of what’s happened, figure out where you are and try to remember where your underwear ended up.

So, even though it’s not where my story begins, it’s where we join it. Already in progress.

I woke up. I was alone. This is pretty typical for me, (preferred, even). Except that it wasn’t my bed. I pulled myself up on my elbows and absorbed my surroundings. Next to me, the glowing red numbers on the cheap, generic alarm clock said 7:30 am. On the other side of the bedside table was another bed. Still made and untouched from the previous evening. I was naked, in a matching queen-sized bed. Same maroon bed spread, same starched white sheets, and probably the same amount of gross stains revealed by black light.

The disgusting beds, gross floor and unfathomable bathroom could only mean one thing: cheap ass hotel. The kind that’s one step above paying an hourly rate, but where the night manager is probably used to renting out the same room more than once an evening.

I leaned over the sides of the bed until I located all my clothes and gathered them up, all while playing the most difficult game of “Everything is Lava” ever devised. While getting dressed, I pieced together the previous evening…

It was winter, 2002. I was still in my first year being stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Still months away from my first trip to the Middle East. I was pretty new to the Army, but no stranger to being young, immature and living on my own.

Those of us in the division Public Affairs Office were pretty tightknit. Sometimes incestuously so, (but that’s another story). In our off hours we would often hangout together for beers and good times.

And so it was that I recalled the previous might began with a few of us partaking of libations at an abode off-post. It was Christmas Eve and we were all feeling like inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. Instead of visiting family, we stayed in the area. Eventually, a combination of alcohol and boredom set in and we desired new activities in a new locale. But before a consensus was reached, my hilariously ancient, turn-of-the-century cell phone rang.

“Josh?” It was my girlfriend.

“Yes, Jewels?” I responded lovingly.

“I was just in a car accident and my nose is broken.” She muttered.
Holy shit. That sounded pretty serious. I sobered up about 30 percent, (I was 22. Still young enough to drink a case and then go run three miles) went off somewhere more private and invoked the aura of “Concerned Boyfriend Josh” (chicks love Concerned Boyfriend Josh).

“Tell me what happened,” I said, my voice oozing with the promise of emphatic, long-distance hugs.

She started telling me a very disjointed story about a side-collision in an intersection in Maryland that I knew very well. But for some reason, things weren’t adding up. Timelines didn’t jibe. Bullets were not magic enough and there was no second shooter on the grassy knoll.

That’s when I remembered a very important fact that really should not have slipped my memory as often as it did (and bafflingly enough, still does to this day): She is one of the biggest liars in the known world. Hey, do you know that guy who lies to you so much that you can instantly believe the exact opposite of what he says? He still doesn’t lie as much as she does.

It turns out that she didn’t like the lack of reciprocity in responses to a text conversation we had been having earlier in the day. She thought that I wasn’t paying enough attention to her. So she pretended to have been badly injured in an imaginary car accident to get my attention. Because that’s something mature adults do on a regular basis, right?*

It’s okay though. I am a loving and understanding boyfriend, with infinite patience and a demeanor that cannot be perturbed. I only spent five minutes cussing her out before hanging up the phone in righteous anger.

Then, I went to the Korean bar.

For those not blessed to have lived on or near a military instillation, it can be quite an interesting cross-section of ethnicities. Because when you travel across the globe, shooting people, it’s a small world after all. In its past, the 101st Airborne Division had been sent to the Pacific and many Soldiers had returned with Korean wives. With such a growth in the Asian demographic, there were, naturally, Korean churches, stores, bars, etc. I happened to be a fan of a Korean bar whose name I completely forget, (like, I’m not even going to make something up. Considering how often I went and how much money I spent there, I’m kind of embarrassed that I forgot its name.) because they had generous portions of booze, the most ridiculous karaoke music in this hemisphere and a menu that included a plate of spicy, boiled caterpillars and grubs. Oh, and hot bartenders.

Her name was Connie. She was 36. I was 22. I liked those odds. She had a daughter who was six years younger than me. I ignored that bit of information. Connie, like any woman looking to get drunk, enjoyed a few tequila shots (On the house. Being a bartender has its advantages.)

People, I’m no hero or role model,** never claimed to be. The events that evening were fueled by anger, alcohol, indignation and lust for a hot Asian chick who was much older than I was. She followed me to a nearby no-tell motel where we played Monopoly and braided each other’s hair for a few hours until she had to get home to feed her cats.***

                                                              * * * *

Back to now. I was fully dressed. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw myself giving me a knowing nod. Hell, my reflection practically did a slow-clap. Feeling groovy, I left the room, checked out and walked to my car, where I used my sleeves to dust all of the snow off the windows.

Which was helpful, because it allowed me to see my car keys, still in the goddamn ignition. So I had to stand out in the snow, with a hangover, waiting for the locksmith. At 8 am on Christmas morning. Probably the shittiest way to start a Christmas I had ever attempted.

Which is when the phone rang.

“Josh?”

“Merry Christmas, Jewels,” I responded lovingly.



*No. Not in the slightest. That is some crazy shit.

**Not true. I am the BEST role model.


***This is exactly what happened.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Where's The Beef?

Alright, I’m a little late to the party, but better late than never, right? It seems that I went in the wrong direction with the whole blogging thing. See, I thought people would be really into reading funny things written by a guy who has both a great imagination and many real-life adventures. But I was mistaken. Turns out that people enjoy reading about and looking at pictures of food. So much so that it’s got its own name: food porn.

So it’s time to stop bringing the funny and time to indulge The Great Unwashed and their narrow-minded, idiotic desires. Considering my background, finances and general laziness, I’ve decided to review different hamburgers, because seriously, who doesn’t enjoy a good, juicy burger? (Jimmy doesn’t, but it’s okay, because he never reads this. We can talk as much shit about him as we want!)  These burgers have been reviewed based on taste, price, looks, ingredients and as a bonus, eatability* after a night of drinking.

1. Big Kahuna Burger, Big Kahuna Burger $$$,

The Big Kahuna Burger is a Hawaiian-themed (duh) burger with obvious island flavors. Instead of the usual lettuce, tomato and onion, it comes with Swiss cheese, bacon and a couple of slices of pineapple. Best if ordered to a juicy mid-rare, this is indeed a tasty burger. If you’re hung over, the flavor combination will definitely restore some vitality. I suggest you add a couple drops of hot sauce to really get things going.

2. Good Burger, Good Burger $ (and a half),

The Good Burger is your basic, typical hamburger, with all the usual “fixins’” but the key thing that sets this burger apart from the rest is its low price and special sauce.
A closely guarded secret, the special sauce seems to have hints of tarragon, oregano, thousand island dressing and Himalayan yak semen (A very distinct flavored semen different from yaks in other parts of the world, so buttery!) Sadly, the sauce alone isn’t enough to make this burger get more two(ish) stars. But if you want to eat one when drunk, you’re better off throwing it against the wall and letting it slide down. It has great heft and is surprisingly aerodynamic.

3. Sympathy for the Deviled Egg Burger, Bob’s Burgers $$

This burger is one of many in a rotating list of burgers this establishment offers. Others include…I don’t know, they weren’t currently available and my eyes were kind of out-of-focus. The burger was okay, but the atmosphere was a bit off-putting, as a young boy, wearing nothing but stained underwear, worked the grill.

4. Double Wimpy Cheeseburger, Wimpy’s ££

For the final burger, I decided to visit our sad, boiled meat-eating friends to the East. So I traveled to England via flying Harry Potter car to try out the Double Wimpy Such-and-such. Wimpy, as we all remember fondly, was the well-dressed bum in the Popeye cartoons who would pan-handle for hamburgers. Offering to pay people back the following Tuesday, but never explaining where he would be getting said money. Very suspicious and I’m not sure anybody fell for it. So how he got his own multi-national fast food chain is confounding.

Anyway, the burger was edible, but the real star of the meal was the chips, which helped to soak up the many room-temperature pints of lager I had imbibed the previous evening at my favorite pub The Rusty Saw & Tender Ankle. The burger wasn’t expensive, but it was offset by the cost of getting over to the UK. If you’re a jet-setter, or a rapper who wants to impress people in their lyrics, then by all means, bottoms up! (That’s what they say over there, right?)

So there, food blog world. Eat some meats based on my excellent and well-crafted reviews of these restaurants. I suffered it all for you. You’re welcome.


*Not a word.

Friday, July 11, 2014

UNSANE

People often come up and ask me the deal about my tattoo. “Why did you get a misspelled word permanently etched onto your body?” “Why on your hand?” And, of course, “who are you wearing?” they expect some kind of wondrous story, with tigers and pirates and lasers. An answer that will make perfect sense and will, (at the very least) make them wonder why they haven’t done that themselves, or (most likely) set them along the path to Nirvana.

To be honest, I don’t have a good answer for why I did it. Hell, I don’t know why I do most of the things I do. I’m stupid that way. But I do kind of feel bad about it. I feel like, with my awesome imagination and unparalleled story-telling skills, that I owe some kind of story to those who ask.

So, to that end, I’ve come up with a few stories and you get to pick the one you like the most and helps you sleep at night. Enjoy!

1.      When I was a kid, (growing up in Toledo) I used to be very adventurous and very stupid. Unlike now, where I am only slightly less stupid, and yet a whole lot more dumb.

I used to do all types of dangerous activities because (and how sad is this?) I wanted to be a stuntman when I grew up. Between Hal Needham (R.I.P. 2013) Super Dave Osborne, and the tv show “Fall Guy” (An 80’s show about a stuntman who also randomly solves crimes while doing more stunts, starring Lee Majors. It was the best. Go 1980s!) I felt that I had no choice but to jump out of second story windows, crash vehicles into other vehicles that were already on fire, and get into fights with large bald men named “Tiny.”

One day, I was walking to school when my archenemy Junior Barnes stopped me and dared me to jump across a nearby creek. The ledge in question that he wanted me to jump across was eight feet high and six feet across. Seemed like a chinch, so I agreed.

“What do I get when I make it?” I asked.

“I won’t mess with you for the rest of the year.”

“And if I don’t make it?”

“A punishment of my choosing, to be named later.”

I figured that it didn’t matter, because I’d make it.

Anyway, long story short, I didn’t make it across, ended up with a nasty gash on my leg from the rocks below (14 stiches) and Junior Barnes laughed at me all the way to school.

He never brought up my punishment, and in time, I’d forgotten about it and assumed he had too. How na├»ve of me. Fast forward to our ten-year high school reunion. Junior Barnes decided to make good on his punishment for me. He made me get a misspelled word tattooed in a very visible spot on my body, so that all potential bosses for any future jobs I applied for would see it and silently judge me. Unfortunately for him, it kind of backfired and, much like a coffee table book, invites conversation and breaks the ice. Joke’s on you Junior Barnes!

 

2.      During my college years, I became obsessed with the occult. Going to college far away from home and the wonderment of this transition into a new, independent world, and eye-opening way of living expanded my mind and left me open to all sorts of new ideas and actions. The very concept of the occult , and the idea that there were other worlds, realities, levels beside the  conscious one of which we are presently aware, fascinated me to no end. What could we glean from these other planes of existence? These thoughts consumed me. Soon I was seeking out tomes and grimiores to further gain the dark knowledge of beyond. Poe, Crowley, Lovecraft, I soon saw how narrow-sighted they were. They were blinded by their own human desires and fears. They had no idea how to shed their earthly, corporeal selves to travel deeper and deeper, to bathe in the glorious dark light of the Ancient Ones.

So many magnificent displays of art I created! The acid, the mushrooms, the mescaline, even the fasting, the sacrifices and the rites of putrification, all of these were my tools, my keys to enter realms that were beyond imagination. I reveled in it. I was baptized in the blood of the unholy.

My greatest achievement, was when I was able to locate one of the few remaining manuscripts of the Necronomicon in a marketplace in the bowels of Hatra. At this point, I had obviously dropped out of school. I saw no point in keeping up the charade of caring what those fools had to tell me when I could learn so much more from the dark. The dark called to me. It offered me so much more than any earthly instructions could. The dark whispered to me, it teased me, it showed me the most exquisite dreams, nurtured all my desires. Who was I to say no to such delights?

With the Necronomicon in my possession, the most vile and blasphemous book ever created (they say that it was inked in human blood and bound in human flesh) I could devise such feats as mankind had never seen. I held the power to the very fabric of existence. It was mine to wield, to abuse at my slightest whim. Only one thing remained in my way.

In the course of my studies I have had to undergo many surgical procedures and operations to transform my body into a vessel to hold the power and might that was soon to be mine. The self-mutilations I performed were very painful, but what is the severing of fingers and the bloodshed and pain involved in such acts when compared to the delicious, everlasting pain that was to consume my body for eternity, the unholy anguish that was to course through my veins?

According to the Necronomicon, all I had to do was have a mystic rune engraved into my flesh. And so I was off to have my latest tattoo etched into my skin.

It wasn’t until I woke up many hours later that I realized what had happened. I had been tricked by the Cabal. A group of people who were jealous of my power and inspirations. It turned out that they had fed me a fake version of the Necronomicon and that by having that false word tattooed on my hand, I was forever locked out of the other realms. I was trapped, confined to the limitations of the here and now. A punishment worse than death itself.

So I dusted myself off and got a job at McDonalds.

Damn, I wish I hadn’t dropped out of college.

 

3.      Spring break, 1974. It was early evening, but my friend Frost and I had already spent most of the afternoon, bellied up at the bar of our favorite dive, The Hill. I sat there with a nice glass of Ol’ Brooksies’ single malt. Frost was enjoying an appletini, which, in retrospect, seems odd, since appletinis hadn’t been invented yet. After many hours of drinking, we were itching to go out and have an adventure. The bartender (busy wiping out the inside of the same glass for the last 20 minutes with a dirty rag, as bartenders are oft want to do) overheard our conversation and wandered over to where we sitting.

“You fellahs lookin’ to get into a little mischief tonight?” he said with a wink. ”Here, take this card, follow the address, be sure to knock five times and the password is “banana.” While talking, he handed me a business card, with rudely written words on it. Drunk and with nothing better to do, we hopped on to the public bus (don’t drink and drive, kiddies. Or, do. Who cares?) and made our way to the address on the card.

Twenty minutes later we were as close to our destination as the bus could take us. We debarked (stumbled would be a more apt word) and proceeded down an alley until we arrived at an old rusty door, with a sign above it with the address “742 Evergreen Terrace” which was confusing to me, as there wasn’t a single tree to be seen. We knocked and gave the password and were granted admission, both of us curious as to what we’d see inside.

Turned out that it was some kind of underground pine wood derby racing syndicate. Midgets in Cub Scout uniforms and their pimps/”fathers” would race miniature wooden cars that they had crafted themselves. They raced for “badges.” It was all kind of creepy and unsettling. So Frost and I decided to leave and go get our belly buttons pierced.

Turns out that we had gotten stupid tattoos on our hands instead. Why? That’s a story for another time.