Monday, April 28, 2014

Moving On...Sideways

The time has come once again. Time to pick up stakes, and much like Bruce Banner, or Kane from Kung Fu (insert more up to date reference) move on.

I thought that I had gotten lucky this time. Ever since I was 17, I’ve moved over and over again. Never staying anywhere longer than a year. Be it a college dorm, army barracks, storage container in the middle of the desert, coffin, or pineapple under the sea, I’ve constantly been moving. I don’t even bother to unpack anymore. I’ve been living out of boxes since before I started growing chest hair (last year). It’s not the most efficient way to live, but on the bright side, every time I repack for another move, it’s like Christmas morning. Oh wow! I’ll say to myself, there’s my itching powder and whoopee cushion. I’ve been looking for those things for months!* And there’s my Brooksman and  Professor Lord action figures! Is that an old VHS tape of Labyrinth starring Jennifer Connelly? Not to mention the oodles of ironic tee shirts that I buy (usually involving support for child suicide, or announcing to the world both the length and girth of my undercarriage.) that randomly appear in the oddest places. You’d be surprised, but then again, we’re talking about me here, so you probably wouldn’t.

Of course, it’s a damn hassle to have moved over a dozen times over the second half of my life. Always having to buy boxes, calling moving companies (I learned years ago to do as little heavy lifting as possible. Smart? Of course. Lazy? You bet.) I haven’t put up a picture or painting on the walls in years. Speaking of which, at what age is a guy not supposed to put movie posters on the walls? Is it age or economic status dependent? Like, if I was rich, I could probably nail soiled diapers on the walls and people would call me the next Warhol. But as a bachelor in his early 30s, who (usually) lives alone and hasn’t put down the toilet seat in years, I’m chastised for putting up my Die Hard and Indiana Jones movie posters. What a world we live in.

You know who’s lucky? Oscar the goddam Grouch. He’s got so much subterranean real-estate that he has both an indoor pool and a tennis court. And the weird part about it is that I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have legs. And even if he did, who would he play with? Everybody hates him, (which I’m not going to get into right here. That’s an entry unto itself.) Wait, Oscar has a car too. Which I believe he also kept in his trashcan. What’s that about, where’s he driving to? If I recall (Since my knowledge of Sesame Street is legendary**) Oscar usually had a garbage man carry him around, still sitting in his trashcan (the mind reels). As you can tell, I think about Oscar a lot. Janice too, but that’s another story. 

For the last three years, I’ve kind of been living in the same place. I first moved into my two-bedroom apartment back in 2010. After a year my lease ended and I had to move elsewhere. In one of those odd quirks that pop up so often in my life, my neighbor lost her job and had to move out. Which means I got to move in. Have you ever had to move one door over? It’s the easiest move you’ll ever have to make. I didn’t even have to pack, (which greatly appeals to my laziness).

In another weird twist, in my first year of living in my new apartment, four different sets of tenants lived in my previous place. That seems weird to me. I mean, I didn’t notice any paranormal activity, or apparitions or conjurings or Blair Witches or poltergeists or any other ghostly phenomenon that earned its own Hollywood movie franchise. It’s still unexplained to this day. Mysteries abound in this world.

Anyway, the time has come again for me to move along. I must once again pack, once again call the movers and once again make some new place my home. “But Josh, why not just buy a house? Why not lease a condo?” Good questions. The problem with that is that I’m free like the wind, man! I can’t be tied down by domestication. Besides, the day I own a house is the day I’m rich enough to just walk into a realtor’s office with big ass bags with dollar signs in them, and I’ll buy a mansion for straight up cash, (and that place better have a two-floor pool, a laser tag arena and a moat to keep the riff raff like you out).

Until then, feel free to come help me move. Free pizza and beer for everybody!

*That’s a true story. Not kidding in the slightest. And if you’re nodding to yourself and saying “I know Josh. I totally believe that is how your life works.” Then you know me well and I am ashamed of my life choices.

** Example: did you know that Sesame Street takes place in the same city as the Simpsons? That’s right: Toledo.

Monday, April 21, 2014

And There She Was

So. Would you like to hear a story tonight?


Very well. As you know, if you go back far enough in the history of mankind, and if you peel away the layers that make up all of the stories ever written, spoken, or even thought of, that they can all be broken down into two categories: Comedy and Tragedy. Which would you like to hear?


You sure?


Okay. Well, this story starts (as most of them do) with a person. A guy, as a matter of fact. A guy named Henry if you wanted to get really specific about it.

On this particular day (geez, a Tuesday! You keep trying to focus on the pointless details, then you’ll miss the bigger picture. Quit interrupting the flow of the narrative and just lay back and sink into Henry’s world. It’s worth it if you pay attention.)

Now where was I? Oh yes. This particular Tuesday morning was very rainy. It was the kind of rainfall that you only see in Ridley Scott movies about Harrison Ford either killing or humping murderous androids. The kind of rain that comes down and soaks you to the bones, like it has a personal grudge against you. So, as you can imagine, Henry was pretty relieved when the subway train finally pulled into the station and he was able to escape his watery hell.

As Henry navigated through the crowd of tourists, octogenarians (Who rode the subway because it was the only way for them to have contact with other humans. Humans who were trapped and forced to hear the stories the old people constantly spouted.) and people who obviously enjoyed eating at “all you can eat” buffets, he pulled out his Mp3 player, (that’s what the kids call them, right? Portable phonographs?)

Henry had few interests or hobbies in his life. He just didn’t have the imagination for that kind of stuff. But when he listened to music, well, that was an entirely different thing. That’s when Henry would melt into the world in his mind. He would use the music as his canvas, where he could paint anything he wanted, and a surprising amount of the stuff he imagined did not involve naked women lusting for him. Instead he would use the music. Bend it, shift it, mold it into amazing landscapes. Places that could only exist behind his eyelids, but which fit the music perfectly, as if they were costume designed by a kind of musical surrealistic artist. And if you could ever peer into Henry’s mind, everything you saw would make perfect sense and you’d not only wonder who could weave such gloriously perfect tapestries of sound, visuals and emotions, you’d wonder why you never heard that particular song the same way that Henry did.

Because of the rain, Henry felt a bit wistful, and decided on songs that were appropriate for pondering random nothings on a Tuesday morning. Pressing play without looking at which song he had chosen, Henry settled back in his seat for the long ride into work.

As the music played, a woman began to sing. Henry wasn’t sure what she was singing, or if it was even in English, but it didn’t matter. It was her tones that broke through the barrier of comprehension and reached Henry. Her voice seemed a little melancholy, but not completely sad. More like she was resigned to something. Almost as if she was trapped in a situation over which she had no control, but was doomed to repeat, like some kind of infernal merry-go-round. Henry imagined her as being in a never-ending cycle of yearning and pain with some lover. The beauty, joy and happiness of being together soured and made bitter and vile by their inevitable separation. And then the cycle started all over again.

The singer dared Henry to make this journey with her. To see what she saw and to feel what she felt. Whenever the music grew like an ocean wave, Henry could feel the connection the singer had with her lover. As the music reached its crescendo, and the wave crashed, Henry felt lost, swirling around in the cascade of loneliness and abandonment.

While Henry was listening to the song (“Nebulous” by the artist Mr. Brooks? Henry didn’t remember downloading it and that certainly wasn’t a man singing.) he scanned the other passengers in the subway car. The car was silent, save for the screeching of the train on the tracks and the sound of the air rushing between the car and the wall of the tunnel. You could tell the regulars, the ones accustomed to riding the train. They either had headphones on, like Henry, or had their faces buried in books or magazines. But they all had one thing in common: they kept their eyes down, or to themselves.

Except for her.

Her head was up, her eyes facing forward. The rain had destroyed any kind of hairstyle she had crafted for herself that day. Her make up ran down her face and made it look like she was crying black ink. It was in contrast to the redness of her lips. She looked over in his direction, but not at him directly. To Henry, it seemed as though she had what Soldiers called “the thousand-yard stare”. He wondered what she was looking at or thinking about. From beneath her mess of hair, Henry noticed that she was also wearing earphones. He wondered what she was listening to. Country? Rock? Rap? Pop? Ancient Gregorian chants? Adam Corolla’s latest podcast? The recorded screams of death from her most recent victim in her cannibalistic murder spree? (Anything’s possible these days, you know. Always remember to Protect Ya Neck.) He couldn't begin to guess.

Henry thought that she had an ethereal beauty to her, even after being soaked by the rain. He knew that it was probably the combination of the weather and the music, but he felt that he could accurately divine her back-story.

Let’s see, he thought to himself, she’s riding into the city, but I don’t see a backpack or briefcase, (which isn’t to mean that it’s not under the seat. Also the fat guy in the seat in front of her obscured her outfit.) so it may or may not be that she’s going to work. She may be going to a friend’s place, or she has a job that doesn’t require her to carry anything around, or that she’s coming home from work. Too many variables. That was a dead end. So Henry decided that with her slumped shoulders and vague staring, that she was just coming back from a shift at some job that probably involved having to deal with the public at large. He decided that she was probably on the receiving end of phone calls from idiots who had complaints about products not working properly, or forgetting to unplug their electronic devices and then plug them back in, or who wanted to order that automatic taint-scratcher they saw in an infomercial at 3 am. That would explain her glazed-over eyes. She probably spent the last eight hours listening to the dumbest of the dumb saying the stupidest of stupid comments. Henry knew if he had a job like that, he’d be wishing that bars opened first thing in the morning, because that’d be the first place he’d go after work.

As far as Henry was concerned (or, face it, wanted to believe) she probably had a crappy boyfriend who most likely didn’t treat her the way she ought to be treated. He probably didn’t even have a job and mooched off of her. Henry wouldn’t be surprised if Dumbo (as Henry had already dubbed him) brought other women over to the apartment while Veronica (Why not? Henry was always a sucker for women whose names started with the letter V.) was out making money for both of them. She deserved better than that!

The song that had been playing when he first noticed Veronica, eased gracefully into the next one, which was just as haunting and evocative as the previous song. He wondered how long she’d be on the train. How long he’d be able to look at her before she reached her stop and was out of his life forever. Because, as far as he could tell, she erased the clouds from the sky and already made his day brighter. Hell, she was probably going to be the highlight of his day. 

As soon as he thought that to himself, Veronica’s eyes shifted, focused and landed on him. As if she could hear what he was thinking. Are you a mutant? He silently asked her. Does Professor X know that you’re away from the mansion?

No visual response.
Ok, he thought, just checking.

At that moment, the subway train entered the next station and grounded to a halt. It wasn’t Henry’s station, he still had three more stops to go, but her eyes turned toward the door and it looked like Veronica was getting up.

“Veronica” stood up, revealing an expensive pantsuit. Then, she bent over and picked up a bag that had been sitting on the floor.

Well, there goes my theories, he thought. He had to admit, he was disappointed. In the world he had created for them in his head, things were bright and wonderful and exciting and fulfilling. Much better than her current life with Dumbo. But it turns out that it was just a combination of music and wishful thinking.

Oh well, it was fun, he thought as she walked by him through the door and out of his life. That’s when he glanced at her bag when she passed by him and noticed that the tag on her bag read Vanessa G.

Henry quickly jumped up and hopped off the train. While doing so, he switched his MP3 player to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

Well, a V name is a V name, he said to himself with a smile.
The end.


Which kind of story was that, you ask? That’s for you to decide.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Almost there. He was almost ….there. But not quite.

It was harder then he first thought it’d be. He knew it’d be no walk in the park, but this was more than he’d anticipated.

Besides, he thought, what the hell does “walk in the park” mean? They aren’t normally known for being easy. He knew a few women that were easier to walk on than a park. He also didn’t understand the origins of “drink like a fish.” What’s that all about? Oh well, that’s just the way it is, he guessed, nobody ever questions the words that come out of their mouths. Mindless repetition makes the world go ‘round.

Speaking of mindlessness, back to the task at hand. The undertaking. The hardest part was figuring out which ones have to go. It was painfully obvious that some had to go. They had to be deleted. Erased. Destroyed. But which ones?

For example, there was the time he broke that kid’s nose in elementary school. There they both were, on the playground during recess. The kid was a bully. This bully had been teasing him and getting on his nerves for weeks now. So what if he was a little scrawny? So what if his parents worked long hours and he didn’t get to see them that much? What business was it of the bully’s? So he punched him. With a crowd around them, egging him on, he’d cocked his fist and broke the bully’s nose.

It felt so good. So righteous. He had stood up for himself and showed that he wasn’t a coward. He and his family were strong, and the cheers of the surrounding horde of dirty nobodies, (their faces lost to time), agreed with him. But at what cost?

He hurt the shit out of his hand. It was bruised and stiff for days. And as for the bully, he had been shamed. Brought down and shown to be full of nothing, in front of his peers. His nose suffered severe damage and he had bandages over much of his face for weeks, if not longer. Stright up Owen Wilson nose. He was a laughing stock for the rest of his days (kinda). The bully was lucky that little kids have the memory retention skills of Kardashian fans.

So take that memory as an example, he said to himself. Should it stay or go? It straddled the line of being both good and bad at the same time. Is it in or out? That’s a tough call. He’d put it off, until he was able to sort out the ones that he knew for sure needed to be gotten rid of.

He thought back to what made him originally decide to mess with, (“Alter” is what they officially called it, but he didn’t like that term. It was too clinical, too neat and sterile.) Everybody knows what the process really was; he was messing with his mind, his brain, his thoughts, memories and personality. “Alter” was the wrong word, “messing around” or perhaps even “wrecking” seemed more appropriate.

His original purpose was one of the most typical and base reasons: a woman. He was tired of songs on the radio evoking memories of her. He was tired of scents in the breeze making him whip his head around trying to find the source, because it was the scent she wore. He was tired of situations on tv shows and movies dissecting their relationship so well, and not on purpose. Last week he even saw a girl who wore a similar pair of socks and it stopped him short. Even socks? he thought. Jesus Christ! Who reminisces over a pair of god damn socks?!

He thought it’d be easy to excise her from his memories. But he didn’t realize how much memories were woven together, perhaps even tangled, in the most complicated pattern ever designed. It was like trying to decode the human genome, or trying to take off a chick’s bra with two fingers. Very frustrating.

So far he’d lost all memories of his dog, Jay, that he’d had for ten years. (At least, he thought he had. He couldn’t remember.) Also gone was what his favorite food was, along with any food allergies that went with it. So that would be a fun adventure, rediscovering both. He was also pretty sure that he was an adult, but a few birthdays were missing. And who is Mr. Brooks?

It’s worth it though right? He asked himself desperately. He would no longer remember anything about her or their time together. It doesn’t matter if the memories were good or bad, he couldn’t take the chance, they all had to go. Some sacrifices need to be made. Or else, it’s just a sad, pointless slog through life. Then again, maybe he was just a pessimist. He didn’t know anymore.

Once he’d finished going to town on his memories, he’d be a new person. Make no mistake about that. A new man. Would he be better, or worse? Only one way to find out. And in the end, the funny thing is that all that loss would affect him the least. Because he wouldn’t remember a bit of it.

Wait a minute, what was his name again?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Hell Froze Over

Dec. 8, 2013
DAY 1: Well, it looks like the weather men were right for once. Guess I should have played the lottery last night too. My odds of winning couldn’t have been any worse than the meteorologists.

For the last week, all the news outlets: television, newspapers and internet, have been warning us about an imminent “snow storm of the century.” Considering that we’re only 14 years into this infant of a century, I don’t know if that claim really means much. Of course, that didn’t stop the rest of the stupid population from running out and buying groceries and supplies. It was worse than every Black Friday combined. 148 people were killed the first day. Most were trampled, others were run over for parking spaces. Still others were just outright murdered because they tried to get the last box of Pampers, or whatever.

It only got worse as the week continued. Riots sprang up all over the east coast. At food factories, grocery stores, even farms. People were desperate to stock up before “Goliath” (as it had been dubbed) arrived. Oddly (or, in retrospect, maybe not so oddly) liquor stores and gun stores got it the worst. Which, when combined, became the poster child of what’s wrong with this damn country.

With two days before landfall, the President addressed the east coast, to assure us that all would be well. We, as a nation, were strong and together, we could overcome any obstacle. I laughed so much I threw up.

Goliath landed this morning. Between family, neighbors and friends, there’s 14 or 15 of us in the house. Including Mr. Brooks, who nobody seems to know and nobody knows how he ended up here.

As far as supplies go, we have a good amount of food. Pooled with the food that people brought with them and we’re in good shape (unless we lose power). In case we do lose power, we have an assload of candles, a bunch of flashlights, a lot of batteries of various sizes and even some hand-crank lantern/radios. Even though everybody is treating this like the end of days, I’m a bit more skeptical. It’s not like they’ll have to call Marshal Law or anything. People scare too easily.

DAY 8:  It snowed for four days straight. Leave it to the weathermen to get one storm right and it’s the one that devastates an entire coast. Snow was up to four feet in some places. New York (as usual, they had to show everybody else up) got the worse of it at just under six feet. Ice was everywhere. Fire hydrants were frozen. Firemen learned that the hard way when they tried to fight a house fire in South Carolina that accidentally happened when the family inside tried to make a fire for warmth. Lakes and rivers barely stood a chance. The temperature was in the low 20’s and getting lower.  

Our electricity finally went out yesterday. Surprised it lasted this long. Luckily for us, our stove and hot water heater run on gas, so we have hot water and can cook some stuff. (that’s how it works, right?) Can’t say the same for the elderly in Boca Raton (Rat’s Mouth? Really? How high was the person who named that place?) the EMS people found the first five bodies the other day, and another 15 yesterday. All the bodies were frozen stiff. The result of which made the corpses look like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon.

DAY 24: Well, Marshal Law was declared. Considered what I wrote in a previous entry, I guess I was asking for it. Anyway, now that shit has gotten really out of hand, some people in the group want to go on foraging/raid missions. Turns out that there was a stockpile of guns and ammo in the cellar. Which leads me to believe that this used to be Pablo Escobar’s summer home, or something.

So far, initial foraging expeditions have brought back three bananas, two slices of American cheese, a tennis ball (chewed up and heavily coated with dog slobber). A copy of A Beautiful Mind, starring Jennifer Connelly and a Penthouse magazine, (which may sound pointless, but trust me, in this weather, even some solo friction can warm you up.) finding more food is paramount, we’re almost out. Next we’ll be eating our shoes, like 1930’s hobos. I don’t want to be a hobo!

DAY 84: Out of the original 14 of us, we’re down to eight. We’re all emaciated, with various sores, vitamin depletion and illnesses, (except for Mr. Brooks. He looks fine and smells delightful, which is a mystery since he’s wearing the same suit he wore when he got here and I’ve never seen him bathe*) I think uncle Luke has small pox and aunt Jon (it’s not his fault that he’s a woman born in a man’s body) has colic.

Disposing of the bodies of our loved ones (and Henry. Screw that guy. He never helped with anything. Just sat there, listening to music and babbling about some chick named Vicki, or Vanessa or Verruca. I don’t remember and who cares anyway, he’s a Henrysicle now!) wasn’t easy. Kind of heart wrenching, in fact. It took me a whole seven seconds to work up the courage to chuck my mom’s body into the street. Throwing out the dead pets was easier. All it took was a quick punt. As a house record, I sent the puppy 45 yards. Which may not sound like much, but that mutt was frozen rock-hard. I almost broke a toe and ended up walking with a limp for the next few days.

DAY 101: There’s been a lot of whispering going on the past few days. It all started last week (Man I hope I’m getting these days and weeks straight. All the cold is in my brain and it’s making it hard for me to think. Luckily for me, my Spongebob pillow finally broke his vow of silence (turns out he was a Buddhist monk and only pretended to be stuffed with cotton, asbestos and Chinese newspapers in his spare time.) and he’s helping me to maintain my fragile sanity.

Anyway, last week, we were raided by the Johnsons from down the street. We lost most of our food, a couple of people were shot and our couch cushions were sexually violated. Schnietz Marphis was not happy.

This whispering has me nervous. I know that we all have cabin fever, most of us are on the verge of cracking up completely and Spongebob has informed me that he noticed some people caressing knives, eyeballing us and licking their lips. I’m going to have to gather the other two wretches** so that we can defend ourselves, if need be. Weapons aren’t ideal, we have a ski pole, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a lampshade. But I’m positive that with determination and a little spunk, we will turn the tide on these wannabe cannibals, and win out the day!

DAY 102: Boy was I wrong! Those fiends attacked in the middle of the night. Roscoe went down immediately, with about 20 fondue skewers protruding from his face and chest. The cannibals made a good choice, Roscoe’s ample fat reserves would make for good eating and the tallow from his blubber would keep their lamps lighted for days.

After Roscoe went down, Paul and I managed to escape through the bathroom window. The bad news was that Paul and I weren’t dressed for single-digit weather. I was only wearing my smoking jacket, my fez, my monocle and only one slipper, (I may being living with a group of savages, but by god, I will not stoop to their level. Apocalypse or not, I’m still a gentleman and I still take tea at precisely 5 pm. God save the queen!)

And Paul was naked, save for a sock on his junk, (I don’t know if he crazy glued that thing on or what, but throughout the entire chase, it never fell off.)

We tried hiding out in a neighbor’s garage, but changed our minds when we saw the entire family that had committed suicide in the car by gas inhalation. Hanging out in a place like that is bad juju.

Luckily, the family had a woodshed in the backyard and we were able to safely make it there. Well, to be honest, I made it in safely, Paul was kind of in the way of me closing the door, so, umm, he fell, or was pushed into the snow. Nobody can be sure. Spongebob saw what happened, but in an odd turn of events, his tongue was accidentally cut out and he could no longer talk.

DAY 103: It’s three am and I’m tired as shit. They’ve been banging on the walls for hours and it’s starting to get to me. Now I have a better idea of what Anne Frank went through, and I have to say that she’s a pussy. Anybody can handle Nazis, try dealing with cannibals who you used to play spades with at family reunions.

Aww, shit, looks like one of the flimsy tin walls is buckling. This may be it. Let me make it clear though, I won’t go down like a punk. I’m going to scratch and pull out as much hair as I can, Jerry Springer style!

Alright, here they come. This might be my last entry. If so, then for whoever finds these, my last words, just know that the gold is buried in the

*Not like I’m sitting there watching him wash himself or anything, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen him go to the washing area, a.k.a. the boot room.

**As a surprise to nobody, Mr. Brooks was nowhere to be found. Don’t even know when he left or who he was. Forever a mystery.