Friday, December 30

That Feels Me Better!

Don’t tell me you haven’t done this. You have sooo done this.

Working the week after Christmas wasn’t easy. Stuffed with ham, turkey, chocolate, OJ, champagne, green beans, coffee, and smoked salmon, I waddled into my cubicle feeling bloated. It was compounded by all the leftovers everyone was sharing in the lunchroom. My self-control stinks; in December it’s worse. On the third day, several people were out sick with the flu, so I thought maybe I was coming down with something, too.

After a salad for lunch, my innards would not be denied. I ran to The Room and took a seat.


Emptying that much gas would make anyone feel better. And now I knew I wasn’t sick. It was embarrassing, but luckily no one else was in the restroom. I stood up, thankful I would be able to enjoy the upcoming three-day weekend.

But oh, no. That was just the overture. The orchestra was just warming up. Kind of like when you top off your gas tank, this was just the small spillage because the system couldn’t hold any more. You’ve heard of a collapsed lung? I was about to experience a collapsed abdomen, in one long uninterrupted Hindenburg deflation that started at my eyebrows and ended at the Earth’s core.

At 100% full, the bassoons filled the tiled room with a rich bass that vibrated the steel of the stalls.

At 90%, the trombones entered with a blatty fanfare, a strong baritone counterpoint to the increasing cacaphony.

At 80%, the pipe organ chimed in with an exuberant thrumming, pounding easily under the door and through the walls. The absurdity of it all started me to laughing. “PMMMMTTTHHHHHHBBBBRBL! Hee hee heee!”

70% - two people down the hall discussed their sadness that Christmas was over, so I caroled them with “Shall I play for you? bum rumpa bum bum!”

60% - someone in the ladies’ room next door pondered how a goat could be giving birth on the fourth floor.

50% - at a deposition in the second floor attorneys’ office, a stenographer could not figure out how to translate “BBBRROMMMMMLLTTTAHHBBBB cackle cackle cackle.”

40% - a chorus of car alarms started in the grocery store parking lost across the street.

30% - at Caesar’s Palace 15 miles away on the strip, a young man on his honeymoon placed his last $20 on a black spin of the roulette wheel. He was dismayed when red came up, but delighted when an unexplained temblor bounced the ball onto black.

20% - herds of hippopotamus descended on Lake Mead 30 miles away, answering what they thought was a massive apocalyptic mating call.

10% - the moon scooted 2 inches farther out in its orbit.

With a final *squip!*, the whoopie cushion that was Kingfisher ended its performance and took its final bow. And there I was, a thundermug gnome, wiping my teary eyes with TP. Strangely, that’s all I needed it for; the rest of me was fine and dandy.

On January 1st, as is my family’s tradition, I will make a big pot of black-eyed peas. I will eat extra helpings, and hopefully amuse myself, my children, plus the entire state of Arizona.

Friday, December 2

The Lesson Of The Window Painter

It was the end of a long week visiting in California over the Thanksgiving holiday. The drive back to the desert from the Sierra foothills is a nine-hour drive in the best of circumstances. It was shaping up to be at least eleven with the endless line of eighteen-wheelers, RV’s, and autos crammed full of vacationers going back home.

My middle son and I were already bored and tired halfway through the trip, despite having loaded up on olives, dried fruit, Jordan almonds, and other central California delicacies at the many road side Mom-and-Pops along highway 99. Just southeast of Bakersfield, as always, the feel of the trip changed drastically. After turning onto highway 58, we began a long climb over the last of the hills to feel the Pacific’s breath. Gone were the endless fields of stuff green or fallow. The orchards with their military rank and file precision disappeared. The earthy tang of cow manure, wood smoke, and growing things gave way to, well, not much of anything.

The Central Valley morphed into another classic west coast terrain, the dry oak woodland. It clung to hillsides traversed by train lines little changed in 100 years. It was a beautiful drive, but bittersweet. In 30 miles, the California I know would vanish. It would stretch in one last fertile and futile attempt to the low mountain pass, then give in to greater forces, meandering downhill to sulk in the Mojave. Before it admitted defeat, however, it showed us one last little gem: Tehachapi.

Those unfamiliar with California tend to visualize the sunny beaches of Malibu, the Golden Gate bridge, Hollywood, or maybe ski resorts. The other 95% of the state is dotted with Tehachapis; small towns with tourist traps, historic markers, or nothing much of note. And in each of these is a place I like to discover: the local café/diner/family restaurant. In Tehachapi, that place is Kelcy’s.

My son and I pulled up in front, weary from an already long trip, and hungry. I set the car alarm, it went “bweep!” and we walked up to the door. A strong odor assaulted us. Looking around I saw a black man standing near the front of the restaurant, peering through the smoke wafting to us from his cheap cigar. He was wearing a threadbare hooded sweater against the chill, warming his hands on a Styrofoam cup of coffee. His beard was ragged and unkempt, bits of broken leaves or some such stuck in it. His jeans looked dirty and had holes at the knees. He peeked at us from the corner of the brick wall, appearing to take some shelter from the breeze. All in all, he looked pretty unsavory.

I ushered my son in and he selected a spot at the counter. We always sit at the counter because it’s an honest-to-God old formica job with decades of wear from the elbows of patrons. The wall in front of us had a 1930’s era radio with an almost as old sign that read “STILL WORKS” scrawled in crooked letters. A few feet to the right of it was an old clock, the type with cardboard cards that flipped every ten seconds or so, advertising local businesses in bright fluorescent poster paint. My son had seen only this one, I hadn’t seen one in at least twenty years, and I don’t think you can buy the gaudy paint in any modern market chain. The opposite wall was covered in old black and white photos of the town and its resident farmers, lumberjacks, ranchers, and, of course, trains.

To my surprise, my son ordered a ham and fried egg sandwich (when was the last time you saw that on a menu?), and I ordered an omelette. My traveling philosophy has always been that the rating of any small town eatery is directly proportional to the size of their omelettes, and the number of hours in the day you can order one. The ubiquitous plump, buxom waitress brought my son’s Sprite, poured my black coffee, and we took to our plates with mismatched silverware.

I made sure to keep an eye out the window. Our car was filled with souvenirs, trinkets, gifts, a chair my mother had given me, and most important, my cherished laptop. Despite the car alarm, I wasn’t too sure about the disheveled character out front. We ate our lunch in quiet, my son and I both in a contemplative space about our recent trip. I watched the car every minute or two until the check came. I laid out bills on the counter, making sure to leave a generous tip, as I always do if the mountain town waitress is pleasant and efficient.

It wasn’t until we stood on the sidewalk that I learned my lesson, and realized my eyes weren’t as observant as I had thought.

There was the black man, a brush in his hand, painting Christmas murals on the restaurant windows. At the moment he was working on an angel. He had completed a Christmas tree, a nativity scene, and the phrase “Happy Holidays” in bright red. The mural had a childlike quality to it. The sheep looked sort of like the camel, and the camel looked sort of like the sheep. The angel’s wings weren’t symmetrical. The tree was ordinary. The writing was definitely not calligraphy. But it was all honest and happy and homely and humble, right down to the squiggly extra rays of baby Jesus’ halo.

My brain fumbled in its unfairness and embarrassment. He knew nothing of my earlier thoughts, but I knew I had wounded him. I struggled for something, anything.

“That looks great,” I said lamely.

“Thank you!”

“You have a Merry Christmas, ” I said.

“Thank you, sir. Happy Holidays, and God bless you.”

Dropping back into the desert on the highway, I knew the painter’s God had blessed me. He had blessed me with shame and a lesson in the meaning of the season of Good Will to Men.

The desert burns the superfluous and indulgent out of its inhabitants, burnishing them with wisdom and truth. And all the rest of the way home, the desert mocked me.

Saturday, September 17

Breast Obsessed

The following is intended for nonjudgmental and not easily offended adults ONLY!

“I imagine the soft curve of her breast as it disappears into the soft lace of her undergarment, whispering the secrets of her goddess, beckoning like a lost invitation…”

Boobies are the greatest invention ever. I am obsessed with them, and I don’t know exactly why. Sure, if I wasn’t supposed to look at them, women wouldn’t have them. One theory is that evolution endowed human females with this sexual dimorphism as a sign of her ability to procreate. They feed babies (wow. just wow.). They have been worshipped since humans could express abstract thought, from stone age fertility fetishes, to Greek statuary, to film noir strategic shadows. One thing is for sure, however you think about men’s interest in this most feminine of physical presentation, across history and across cultures, they are that to which men respond.

So I don’t feel my interest is misplaced. Too much. Sometimes.

I notice boobs first. Always. I don’t form an opinion of a woman based on first sight, but it is as if my eyes and my brain are temporarily stunned and drawn into their mammalian gravity well. Small, large, dark, pale, boyish, or voluptuous, I am entranced. Add a whiff of vanilla perfume, or a stray wisp of hair, or freckles, or an Irish accent, and I am yours for that moment. Whatever you want. For three seconds, I am your obedient puppy, willing to write bad checks on your behalf, wondering and believing that the male in me is worthy of just one peek.

Then I snap back to reality, and feel like a stupid prepubescent who has just noticed the girl next door got a bra over winter vacation. I swear I will be intelligent and mature next time. Next time comes, and I’m just as ridiculously enamored as before.

I’ve had dreams about boobs. Sometimes lascivious, sometimes mysterious, sometimes frightening, sometimes comforting. But whenever I have one of those dreams, I know I have tapped into something primeval.

One of my versions of heaven is a high alpine lake, silent and serene, where I spend eternity in a boat lined with boobs. And one of them dispenses beer. Or maybe it’s a football field of boobs, and I just roll and roll and roll.

I am particularly smitten when they are hanging in front of my face, the feel of her fur against my stomach. THAT, my male comrades, is truly worshipping at the Oracle of the Divine Feminine.

I could play with boobs for hours. For hours. Observing the curves, seeing the way they can change shape depending on her position, watching the gradation in color from flesh to areolae to nipple, absorbing the warm woman smell. It’s a fascination that transcends the sexual or physical. For hours, like a starving infant, or a dog with a favorite bone, or someone engrossed with their latest obsession. I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. I can’t help it.

When, in my life, I have been allowed this privilege, I am ecstatic. For a few moments. Then I realize she is just putting up with my infantile behavior because I enjoy it. Then I feel selfish, ashamed, stupid.

What’s up with that?

Tuesday, September 13

Further Proof That China Sucks

From the Associated Press:

Sep 13, 2005 — SHANGHAI, China
Farewell, "Aladdin Gardens." "White House Mini District" you're history.

The southwestern Chinese city of Kunming is forcing developers to change the names of those properties and others deemed too foreign sounding, saying they debase traditional culture, officials said Tuesday.

At least nine developments in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, have changed their names since officials began implementing new guidelines last month. "Paris of the East Plaza," "French Gardens," and "Ginza Office Tower," were among others making the change.

"It's not proper to name those communities with so many weird foreign titles (blog author: WTF?)," said an official with the Kunming Urban Planning Bureau, who like many Chinese bureaucrats would only be identified by his surname, Xiao.
* * * * *

I'd pay more attention to this guy(?) if he was wasn't named on planet Xthplcth. And didn't live a town named after an oriental porn film. Anyhoo, this is a great idea. I propose a similar arrangement here in America.

FORMER: Chinese Checkers
IS NOW: This is Boring

FORMER: Made in China
IS NOW: Cheap Crap

FORMER: Chinese New Year
IS NOW: We-onry-one-can-firework-regarry-ha-ha! Day

FORMER: Feng shui
IS NOW: Isor ayab (Idiotic Shit Only Retards And Yuppie Astologers Believe)

FORMER: Mogolian BBQ
IS NOW: Dungfire Yak on a Stick

FORMER: Panda Express
IS NOW: Glue Factory

FORMER: Mann’s (formerly Graumann’s) Chinese Theatre
IS NOW: Place of Big American Hands, Feet, and Other Things

FORMER: Chinese Embassy
IS NOW: House of Mirrors

FORMER: Chinatown
IS NOW: Ugly Red Furniture Land

FORMER: Chinese Laundry
IS NOW: Jones Family Confidential Shredding

FORMER: Five Stah Rotus Brossom Rucky Tigah Dlagon Buffet
IS NOW: Petsmart

Friday, September 9

Rule Number Seven

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2005 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Rule Number Seven

“Are you still playing that stupid game?”

“It’s not a stupid game. It’s very hard.”

“It looks pretty stupid when a grown man plays with dolls.”

“They’re not dolls. They’re action figures.”

Her smirk was evidence of her disbelief. He continued to move his finger across the playing field. She stood over his shoulder. It was impossible to play strategy when she was looking, scrutinizing his every move, and forming an opinion without knowing the rules.

“So, are you winning?”

“Kronos isn’t feeling well. I think his son may take his place, but he’s a long way from being a threat. So I’m doing pretty well in the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt.”

“That’s not what Isis says.”

“Forget Isis. She’s not playing. Osiris is making a play, but I am going beat him. He thinks it’s all about cities and power. I’m playing strategy.”

“So what? Baal says Allah is playing strategy, too. Good strategy.”

“Allah just got in the game. He hasn’t even made up his rule book yet, and he wants to ally himself with me. Can you leave me alone now?” He turned his back to her, hoping she couldn’t see the game matrix. No matter what he accomplished, it wasn’t ever enough. Honey, do this. We never talk. You don’t take me anywhere. Where did she think this cushy palace came from? So now he tried to relax and play his game, but she had to try and kill it. Sometimes ignoring her worked. Sometimes it didn’t. This was shaping up to be a didn’t.

“Listen to me, mister. I’ve had it. I was talking to Drvaspa..”

Oh, damn. There it was.

“I can’t even play cards with the girls any more. It’s humiliating!”

“Aw, honey. We’ve been through this. Inari was just a passing phase. A moment of weakness. I know better now. How many times can I say I’m sorry?”

“Inari! What about Ishtar? Was she a passing phase? Or Kuan Yin? Was she a moment of weakness? Or Parvati? Do I have to mention Parvati? That sexy bendable little tramp? It’s all fine for you to play your dumb little game. But I can’t get together with the girls without the snickering and the whispers behind my back. And I can see behind me!”

The game was ruined now. It was obvious well placed flatteries, frivolous gifts, and huge favor repayments were in his very near future. He could control almost anything. Almost. Just not her.

“Please don’t bring up Parvati. Shiva is already winning because of south Asia, I don’t need him angry with me.” He said it with disapproval, but knew he was already doomed. “All right. What do you want from me? It’s my turn and my piece is waiting.”

She stood, hands on hips, with that look. The look that only a woman could give. The look that made everything male in the universe shrivel and cower. He felt his omnipotence slither away to hide in some place even he couldn’t find. Good thing he wasn’t playing the game against her. Looking up from beneath his lowered brow, he saw the pursed lips of judgment.

“This is what I want. This is what you will do. You didn’t even mention me in the first chapter of your rule book, for chrisakes. So I will make a rule for your game now. You will write into it your everlasting shame and dedication. You will promise in your game that you will never repeat your humiliation of me with other women. If you don’t, I shall surely wipe you, your friends, and your stupid game from the heavens. Understand?”

With that, she stalked out. She did have a great wiggle in her walkaway. How could he stay mad? With a sigh, he returned to his game. He knew what he had to do. He would write in the rule she demanded. Just to spite her, though, he would put it after all the stuff that made him important. After all the rules to worship him, and keep his name holy.

With a sweep of his finger, he erased the rock, and inserted: “VII. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.”

Wednesday, September 7

Not Enough Bull Elephants

(This is not a scientific paper. Specific details may be remembered wrongly by the author. The metaphor remains mostly factual; the premise remains the same.)

Elephants are matriarchal. While the genus has been erased from much of the world, evolution has bestowed its benefits on two species, the African and the Asian. This is a story of the African.

Elephants are excellent mothers. The lead female of the herd learned from her mother, and her mother’s mother, absorbing lessons and passing them down to those who succeed her. Where is water? Where is the best feeding ground at this time of year? Which males are friend, and which are to be avoided? Above all, know your sisters, aunts, cousins, and know the strength is the herd.

Males are different. After a certain age, they are expelled from the herd. They are not good parents. They are unpredictable. They are a random element which the herd cannot afford.

But the herd needs them all the same. Like all mammals, without the male, the species ceases to exist. It is a delicate balance the eons have rewarded. Female/male. Territory/resource. Strong/weak. Gamble/offspring.

Somewhere in Africa, it doesn’t matter exactly where, elephants were in trouble. The ivory trade, or macho big game “hunters,” or environmental devastation had wiped out the big bulls. None were left but the core of elephantine culture, the female herds. When the young males showed signs of aggression and maturity, they were kicked out. As it should be.

But something weird happened. The young males were thugs. They went into musth, the natural state of heightened testosterone and territoriality, at a much younger age. They harassed the herds. They took control of the watering holes, chasing everyone away, including their mothers and sisters. They pushed trees over in their anger, removing valuable and necessary food sources. They pummeled youngsters, tried to rape females. The herds were suffering. And so were the males. The politics, traditions, culture, accepted ways of behavior, or the elephant equivalents, were being destroyed.

In desperation, the humans, who had so screwed everything up, grasped at any possible solution. Recognizing there were no adult males, humans decided to introduce them. Two large, mature bulls were transported and let free into this miasma of pachyderm misery.

That’s when a miracle happened. The young males stopped their musth. The patriarchs confronted the younger thugs, chastised them, pushed them, let them know that the elder owned this place, this water hole, these trees, these females. Prove yourself, they seemed to say, and you might inherit all that you desire. It was tough love, and the younger males responded. Gone was the harassment of herds, the coveting of resources. The big bulls taught the younger how to behave.

The elephant population regained some of its past glory. Matriarchs followed the ancient trails without fear. Babies were born and grew without violence. Males continued their sparring and aggression, but now it was expressed in healthy ways.

I live in the United States.

And there aren’t enough Bull Elephants.

Monday, September 5

The Nine, September 2005

…..Suggested Union Slogans That Cut Through The Crap (in honor of Labor Day).

9. You have an IQ of 68. You don’t know a credit from a contract. You have unresolved anger issues. Join a Union and tell the CEO what to do!

8. Tired of being an unacknowledged bitcher complainer? Join a Union!

7. Unions – slacking on the job for over 70 years!

6. U.N.I.O.N.! Unifying No-talents, Imbeciles, Opressors, and Ne'er-do-wells!

5. Why work? Join a Union!

4. Women! Join a Union! And hold a double sided Stop/Slow sign!

3. High school dropout? You too can earn $50 an hour!

2. Honor Labor! By observing a ten hour moment of silence every working day!

1. Tired of propaganda and politics that take advantage of the working man? Join a Union!

(Side Note: To paraphrase a comment I read years ago: "Many cars sport pro-union bumper stickers. I will support the unions' right to exist when I can plaster an anti-union bumper sticker without getting my ass kicked or my car keyed in the parking lot." 'Nuff said.)

Wednesday, August 31

Are We Really This Stupid?

Actual product label warnings:

“Not for human consumption” – from a bottle of rat poison
(Damn. There goes my plans for spouse-icide.)

“May cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery.” – from children’s cough medicine label
(Junior! Park the bulldozer. Time for your 8:00 dose.)

“Ignite away from face.” – from a disposable lighter
(Guess I’ll have to start putting cigarettes in my ass first.)

“May contain nuts.” – from a jar of peanut butter
(Is this a gay lottery? “Shit, Lance, this one didn’t have any nuts!”)

“For indoor or outdoor use only.” - from a package of Christmas lights.
(I’ll remember that next time I celebrate the holidays in hyperspace.)

“No activation required. Call toll-free number to activate.” – from cellphone instructions
(Everything I say is a lie. I am lying. So that means I’m telling the truth. But it cannot be the truth because everything I say is a lie….Help!) (Yes, S., I ripped off Harry Mudd.)

“Remove aluminum wrapper before insertion.” - from suppository instructions
(Honey, bring the aquarium net! I’m crappin’ a gold mine!)

“Not intended for highway use.” – from a wheelbarrow
(Buford, better take that Cessna engine offa the go-cart.)

“Do not reuse bottle to store beverages.” – from bottle of drain cleaner
(Contact me for investment opportunity. Cornering the market on laxatives.)

“This product can burn eyes.” – from a curling iron
(Is there some kind of weird Jedi initiation going on in the girls’ locker room?)

“Not responsible for broken teeth.” – from a caramel apple
(Crap. All those Halloween get-rich-quick schemes down the drain.)

“For use on animals only.” – from an electric cattle prod
(Can I consider my couch in the driveway dog barking at 2:00 a.m. four broken cars neighbor an animal?)

“Warning: May contain small parts.” - from a Frisbee
(Undoubtedly aimed at Steve Tyler and Julia Roberts.)

“Not for infants.” – from a bottle of vodka
(Slap a nipple on it. I’ll drink it.)

“If swallowed, seek medical attention immediately.” – from a pack of alkaline batteries
(No, honey. Leave the vibrator. You’re so full of energy tonight!)

“Safe for children or pets.” – from instructions for toilet bowl cleaner

(Daddy, will it bring Goldy back?)

Saturday, August 27

Life's Random Bounces

When I was a wee lad, back in the mid 1960’s, toys were cool. TV was full of promises on Saturday morning. “It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy!” Mousetrap. Booby Trap. Silly Putty. Tinker Toys. Erector sets. Captain Action with Batman accessories. View Master. Lincoln Logs. Matchbox cars (with real rubber wheels!). Close ‘n Play record players (“When you hear this sound, “prriing,” turn the page”). Even breakfast cereals held forth tantalizing treasures, as long as Mom didn’t mind you emptying the whole box of “They’re GREAT!” into one of her prized mixing bowls.

But one day, I saw something I just had to have. The Superball. Something about the “Super” conjured up images of comic book heroes, Martian explorations, and mad scientist chemistry experiments in a lab with stuff that went “zap” and “chzzzzzzgg.”

In those days (insert sound of grampa here) we weren’t handed toys whenever we wanted one. So when you got a surprise, it was a big deal. You would parade your new toy in front of all the neighborhood kids, accepting their accolades. It was like a mini-Christmas that might happen once, rarely twice, in a year. I don’t remember how I got it. Probably my Dad bought it for me on the way home from work one day just to shut me up.

But get it I did. I opened the vacuum plastic and there it was. Black with a seam around it where the two halves had met in the mold. Even the seam was cool. The other boys and I imagined a factory with sparks and fires and robots, where a brawny man in welder’s goggles poured the secret stuff into a glowing mold to make my Superball.

The very first day I rushed outside with the Superball. Polliwogs and marbles and rocks were forgotten. Everyone, even the girls (ick), wanted to play with it. We rolled it in the gutter, threw it on the sidewalk and watched it describe amazing arcs that seemed to orbit our houses. We quickly learned that if you flicked your wrist, and smashed it into the concrete, you couldn’t predict where it would go. It bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced zig-zag along the street hitting parked cars shaking leaves from the trees scaring dogs making us giggle.

It was the coolest toy ever.

Then, in one horrifying moment, it slipped through my fingers. Into the street. And a car ran over it. It was blown to jagged mysterious boingy pieces

Life is like that. Sometimes it rolls slowly in the gutter. Sometimes it bounces perfectly and you can catch it. Sometimes it aggravates you in your attempts to retrieve it, as it describes its own random path. Sometimes it’s all you can do to chase after it and giggle.

And sometimes, just sometimes, something smashes into it and shatters it into parts you can’t put back together.

I didn’t cry that day. I learned a lesson I still try to remember, although I often fail:

“Damn. That was really cool while it lasted.”

Sunday, August 7


This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2005 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.


There was but one directive. Although she could not know it, it was the overriding necessity of her mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on into the depths of time unacknowledged and unknown. One thing, and one thing only, was the point of her existence. To consume was important, to understand your shoal mates was important, to understand each rock and each phase of the sun and moon was imperative. All this she knew instinctively. Yet there was but one directive: multiply.

She wriggled through the tough eggshell that had encased her, allowing the water to carry her beneath the protection of the smooth stones in the nursery cove. She absorbed the sack from her abdomen, easing her stomach, but not her tongue. Within days, she was chasing the minute shrimp that shared her stony lake bottom. It was good to stalk them, to watch them, unaware of her presence, until her strike and the pleasant wriggling feeling in her gullet. When small crustaceans were unavailable, she feasted on the remains of her unborn brothers and sisters.

Soon her fins were strong enough to venture into the heights of the water column that splashed the suns rays into kaleidoscope patterns. With her relatives she learned to ride these shifting shadows, to hide herself and confuse her enemies. Feel the motion of your brethren! Anticipate the movement of the currents! Know your place and grow strong! Only then would she be worthy of passing on her skills to the next generation.

For months she swam, and gulped, and lived among the thousands of her kind, swirling among the shafts of light, hiding among the rocks at night, avoiding the larger of her kind, and devouring the smaller. Her strength, and those of her kind, was the mass and confusion of the shoal. It was the time of testing. It weeded out the weak, and made the strong stronger. Only the remaining few would survive to multiply, perpetuating the shoals that darkened the wide, warm lake that was their ancestral home.

On the third full moon after the warmest of the waters, the shoal began to fragment. The males who, until now, had mostly escaped her attention, left the safety of numbers and headed to shallow waters. She and her sisters migrated to the deeper, colder areas of the lake, searching out the minnows grown lazy on the free-floating algae and invertebrates blooming in the warm sun of the lake’s surface. For perhaps a half moon they gorged themselves on this field of plenty. Their appetites were insatiable, and they themselves grew fat on the tasty morsels and the unfertilized life growing within them.

On a morning bright with the receding sun, her hunger waned. For a while she and her sisters lolled in the rippling shafts. Within hours, the directive was upon them: Multiply!

With the fever of the annual cycle, they sought out the warmer shallows of the shore, reuniting with the males. She searched the submerged rocks, deadwood, and castoffs of the surface world for the perfect place. The males were dark with aggression and lust, darting at her, teasing her, locking jaws with their rivals. None would do.

In a cove shallow and warm, she saw him. The charcoal stripes on his sides and the flush in his gills were in defiance of predators. His fins rotated with confidence and vitality. His shuddering dance and caress against her scales were irresistible. The depression in the sand, surrounded by carefully placed pebbles, was perfect. The surges within her were undeniable.

In unison, they darted to toward the surface, beginning the intertwining of the mating ritual. Before the dash back to the safety of the sandy bottom, the sky fell in on her. She was hauled into a dry suffocating place where the sun burned her eyes to blindness, and her tail flailed helplessly against an insubstantial atmosphere. Caught in a nasty abrasive mesh for which she had no comparable experience, she gasped and died.

The directive to multiply would die with her.

* * * * *

“And they say unto him, ‘We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.’ He said, ‘Bring them hither to me.’ And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.”

Sunday, July 24

One Red Shoe

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2005 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

One Red Shoe

Goddamn it, where was it? He was in no mood, this of all mornings, to launch a treasure hunt for the aspirin bottle. He hadn’t been thinking clearly all week as it was, and now he had a desperate need he had to work to fulfill. No doubt his buddies had done this on purpose. Jerks.

He glanced at the clock. 7:30 am. So at least he had plenty of time before the big moment. Enough time to ease the tequila vice that was squeezing his skull. A thorough review of the medicine cabinet turned up nothing. Ditto the kitchen drawers. The apartment’s living room was a maze of empty bottles, ashtrays, and confetti. He remembered some of it, but it made his head hurt. Giving up his search, he returned to his bed, in the hopes a brief stare at the ceiling would stop the throbbing that moving only made worse.

He could hear his roommate snoring loudly in the bedroom next to his, the radio still on, playing The Doobie Brothers or something. What a great best man, he thought. Invite the boys, put some porn on the DVD player, and get me drunk. The landlord had come to investigate the noise, that much he remembered, and had ended up staying for the party. At least it was just booze and the guys. He didn’t remember any strippers.

The throbbing was a little better, and he was developing a crick in his back from staring at the ceiling. Changing positions, he threw an arm over the side of the bed, and concentrated on the floor. Something caught his attention, but it took a moment to focus.

His heart went through his feet, through the floor, and into the apartment below. Greeting his gaze like the smile of an executioner was one red shoe. Not a sandal or a sneaker, but a bright crimson, come-hither, high-heeled pump. Oh, shit.

The banging on his roommate’s door brought a grumbled epithet, but after repeated cursing and door rattling, his best man stumbled into the hallway. Shaking the shoe under his friend’s nose, with some additional cursing and hair-pulling, elicited nothing but a knowing smile and a slap to the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, Bud. Looks like you had a good time. ‘Sides, it just your pals. Nobody will say anything.”

The rest of the morning was as blurry as the previous night. His male friends showed up again, grinning mischievously, digging elbows in his ribs. Somehow they got him into the shower, scrubbed him clean, shaved him, and got him dressed. Vaguely he remembered pancakes at the breakfast counter down the street. Hazily, he recalled being stuffed into a limo and driven to the church. In the coat room close to the altar, he was stuffed into his tuxedo. He clearly remembered two things. First, his mother crying as she hugged her single son for the last time. How could he live up to her expectations after his sin discovered only this morning? Second, he vehemently refused any sip from any flask proffered by his groomsmen.

Music filled the air, and his best man dragged him by the arm and shoved him out to the altar. He stood, shaking and excited, consoling himself that whatever happened didn’t really count, he hadn’t been married yet. The bridesmaids marched down the aisle, demure and sweet and floral. The wedding party took their positions, and the organ music swelled to the big entrance. The congregation stood, and the light of the world appeared from the entrance of the vestibule. He was crying with happiness and relief.

For there, in a blazing white gown, was his beloved, wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

And one red shoe.

Wednesday, July 20

The Beam Goes Out

Today one of my boyhood heroes died. Many people won’t know him, but to me he represents an important part of who I have become.

James Doohan, aka “Scotty,” was the most unsung of the Four Heroes of Star Trek. In my tweens and early teens, this show was the basis for fantasy, role-playing, and countless deep discussions of philosophy, the arts, and the future. At least as much as the mental wanderings of young men can be deep.

Some specific others will disagree, but being the oldest of four boys was tough. Male role models, both within the family and everywhere else, were tough to come by. I fear it is still true. But from Captain Kirk I learned a sense of wonder and to stand up for your convictions. From Mr. Spock I learned to disassociate myself from a given situation and see things rationally. (Still haven’t grasped that one very well.) From Dr. McCoy I learned to revel in life’s sensual pleasures, hold your passion like a burning torch, and that a smartass can be a lot of fun.

But my friends and I always knew that no matter how cool all this seemed, our primary heroes would have been squealing little grease stains on some forgotten world without Scotty. He was the glue that held everything together. He was the foundation of the house they all lived in. He was the one who lied outright about fixing stuff, saying it couldn’t be done. But get it done he did, and always in half the time he quoted, invariably because he inflated his estimates. I loved him. I loved him because he made me laugh. Because he refused to accept the impossible. Because he was always one step ahead of his superiors. Because he could grin with a screw-you attitude and get away with it. Without Scotty the grunt, the regular guy, the man who knew and still made mistakes, the Utopian future I so yearned for wasn’t possible.

So call me a geek, a nerd, a pansy, whatever. I don’t care. This was an important part of my growing up. It’s a large part of what I am today.

In one of Mr. Doohan’s last public appearances, he was lauded by none other than Neil Armstrong at a Hollywood Star Trek convention. Armstrong said he hoped one day to captain a starship, and if he did, he wanted Scotty on the crew.

Ironically, good ol’ Scotty died today, July 20, 2005, the 36th anniversary of Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

I hope you were beamed to the good place you wanted, Jimmy. Thanks. For everything.

Sunday, July 3

You Think You've Got Summer?

I live in one of the driest and hottest areas in North America. It’s not bragging, or one-upmanship, it’s simply the truth. But some people just have to top you no matter what. I was on the phone with a midwest colleague a few weeks ago, and she asked “How’s the weather out there?” I replied it was hot already, 105 or more. I braced myself for the inevitable response: “Well, at least it’s a dry heat. You should try our humidity.” My teeth clenched. The other one I always hear is “Yeah, well you should try winter in Buffalo.” Point taken, but we were discussing summer, bonehead.

Everyone lives with something unpleasant climate-wise; blizzards, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, what have you. I spent most of my life with earthquakes that would make anyone east or south of Sacramento wet their pants. I’ve lived in 90 degree heat with 8 billion percent humidity and mosquitoes the size of clipper ships. I’ve visited any number of places in less than ideal conditions. So don’t talk to me about heat.

All of the following is absolutely true. I’m not making any of it up. There are a handful of towns and cities of appreciable size I would agree can match our heat. But damn few. The rest of you can take your precious humidity and stick it.

My fish pond has actually lowered by three inches in one day. With no leaks. In the shade.

It’s not unusual to start my car, get out, and wait a few minutes for the air conditioning to kick in so I can touch the steering wheel without virtually burning my hands. Even then I might drive with two fingers for a while. During the depression, many construction companies issued gloves to their truck drivers in the summer.

Take it from me and a lot of transplanted east-coasters: 95 degrees with humidity is kindergarten compared to 123, no matter how dry.

I’ve made sun tea in ten minutes.

You can get sunburned in less than twenty minutes. And that’s if your skin is already acclimated to it.

Even the hardiest cactus in my backyard needs water twice a month in August.

It has been 105 at midnight.

Buzzards don’t live here.

One of the definitions of a desert is any region which receives less than ten inches of rainfall annually. We average four or less.

The ten year warranty on my above ground pool lining didn’t last three years.

When the sprinklers go on early in the morning, every bird within three states takes a bath on my front lawn.

The ground temperature in the rocks in my backyard can exceed 130-140. Even lizards and snakes go underground.

When the desert winds kick in at 40 mph or more in 120+ heat, newly planted flowers will die in less than 2 hours.

And, yes, we do get humidity. You think 90 is bad? Try a cooling trend from 122 to 118 during the August monsoon season with 80% humidity.

There are T-shirts in every souvenir shop with drawings of cow skulls and vulture skeletons. The caption is “At least it’s a DRY heat.”

Rubber Band Wrists

It started with the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong won it after fighting testicular cancer and the first ones showed up: the yellow rubber wristband. At first I thought it was pretty cool, as it brought attention to a major men’s health issue. We hear about breast and ovarian cancer, plus a host of other women’s health issues, and rightly so, but we rarely hear about men’s health issues. That’s because we’re disposable. At least that’s the way this white middle-class male feels.

But then these stupid yellow things were everywhere. People who had never heard of Lance Armstrong were wearing them. Ask them what they were for, and they would always say “Lance Armstrong.” Not testicular cancer awareness. It became a fad instead of something good.

Not satisfied with diminishing the issue enough, Crayola-bright bands started showing up all over the place. Some people were wearing three or four. I asked a guy about his. “The yellow is for Lance Armstrong. The blue is for the Chicago Cubs. The orange is for sumpin’ else.” Baseball and testicular cancer: The Great American Pastime.

To be fair, I’ve worn these three or four times myself. They had words and numbers on them. But since I was recovering from surgery, I can’t be certain what they represented.

I am wearing one right now. It’s transparent. It means you’re a retard.

Wednesday, June 22

A True Artist

Excerpt from Associated Press:

"LONDON Jun 20, 2005 — .....Paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than $25,000. The three abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol. But while Warhol's and Renoir's work didn't sell, bidders lavished attention on Congo's paintings. An American bidder.....purchased the lot of paintings for $26,352..... The sale price surpassed predictions that priced the paintings between $1,000-$1,500.

"We had no idea what these things were worth," said Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams. "We just put them in for our own amusement." (Administrator: italics are mine)
Congo, born in 1954, produced about 400 drawings and paintings between ages 2 and 4. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis. His artwork provoked reactions ranging from scorn to skepticism among critics of the time, but Pablo Picasso is reported to have hung a Congo painting on his studio wall after receiving it as a gift."


Ignoring the obvious joke that this piece is better than most by Picasso and anything by Warhol, I find it extremely intriguing. Look at the balance and structure of the painting. It is almost symmetrical side to side, and the perspective is what one might expect when looking at a landscape. The point of view is somewhat above ground, the figure(s) receding to the distance, the foreground reminiscent of shadows, the "sky" reaching down to meet the horizon. All what you might expect from a bipedal creature. The painting could represent many things; a vase of flowers, a pond, a garden, a flock of birds, an emotion. While blue predominates, it is subdued by the bold strokes of black, and enlivened with splashes of white. What is most dramatic, however, is the strategic use of reddish "punctuation marks" to disrupt what is otherwise fairly organized and serene.

And it was painted by a chimpanzee.

Was he just playing? Or was he attempting to convey something? I strongly believe the latter. If so, what? What was he thinking? What was he feeling? Did he grasp the abstract? Was there a creative process, or did his mind work unlike ours, immediately interpreting his environment through his fingers? Or is this an internal representation of himself?

Like all great art, this opens up a world unknown to anyone but the artist and begs many, many questions.

Saturday, June 18

The Small Deaths That Kill Us

I don’t like talking about this. Very few know about it, and fewer still understand it. I suffer from depression. And I mean really suffer. But not as much as my wife. I can be the prick of the universe without medication. With it, my chemical instability is under control, my life is normal, and I’m actually a pretty nice guy.

Recently, due to a pissing contest between my doctor and the insurance company, I was rationing my meds. I started by taking them every other day, then every third day, then went without for about a week. In the bewildering grey funk that inevitably follows, I thought about when I first saw the beginnings of my disease. I think I’ve found the exact instant.

My parents introduced me to reading, the best gift I ever got, and supported my voracious appetite for books. I read Peter Pan, The Runaway Robot, Charlotte’s Web. My basically sweet nature made me susceptible to anything adventurous, mysterious, and exciting. I was a naïve and hopeless romantic. (Not in the love sense, but in the swashbuckling, heroic, neato environment way. I still am.)

In the fifth grade, my teacher introduced us to Shakespeare. It was love at first read. We put on plays for the school and our parents, and I found I had an aptitude for the dramatic. I always got the lead, I trend that continued until I gave up the boards in my later youth.

My leading lady was S. She was a year older, just blossoming into womanhood. She was tall. She was gawky. She was smart. She played the piano. My eleven year-old heart was smitten. She played Kate to my Petruchio in our elementary presentation of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

At the end of the year, as young boys are wont, I had to tell her of my feelings. I wrote a note, with painstaking attention to words. It went something like: “Dear S, I really like you. I had fun acting with you. I wish we could be boyfriend and girlfriend. Do you feel the same way? Love, Petruchio”

About thirty minutes before the bell on the last day of school, I met her on the playground. I sheepishly handed her the note, saying “This is for you,” and ran away. Recess was over, and I went back to my 5th grade room with my classmates, most of whom I had known almost all my life.

Ten minutes before the final bell, a 6th grader came in and said “Mrs. Chambers wants to talk to you. (In this instance, I use Mrs. Chambers real name, because if you meet her in Hell, I hope you’ll give her an extra eye gouge.) My teacher dismissed me, and I walked over to the scary hallowed Room of the Sixth Graders.

I immediately went numb. The kids were all looking at me and snickering. Standing like the left hand of righteousness was Mrs. Chambers, MY NOTE IN HER HAND. She looked at me with…what? Disdain? Glee? Arrogance? With three words, she forever shattered my world:

“She says no.” The class erupted in vicious laughter.

I learned years later that S, the object of my affection, carried that moment with her as well. Someone had grabbed the note as she was reading it, and gave it to the teacher. She was mortified.

I can’t begin to explain how I felt as my face burned, trying to hold back the tears, as I ran back to my classroom, the kids asking what happened, the teacher asking if I was okay. Humiliation doesn’t come close. Nor does terror. All I know is that, like Darth Vader, I had started my first step to hating the world, distrusting everything and everyone. I lit the first coal that burns against the world, with the intensity of a thousand suns, that I still carry deep in my breast. I learned and important lesson that day: There is nothing the world loves more than the sweet taste of a romantic’s dreams.

I sit here alone in a bar now while I write this. As I regain my sanity, thanks to my doctor, I think I understand myself a little better.

But some scars never heal.

Monday, June 13

Bring Me the Head of Paris Hilton

There is a secret society out there somewhere, namely the perpetuators of celebrity. I don't know who they are, never met one, but they are responsible for the Holy Order for the Adulation of Nimrods. I call upon all persons with more than two working brain synapses to root them out, torture them, and stop the the cult worship of the vacuous dandelion fluff mentioned above, and the following organisms I want out of my species' gene pool.

Britney (Brytanny? Briteknee?) Spears & Kevin Futterbutz: Give each of these two a rock, and I think they'd be too stupid to figure out how to bang them together.

Bill O'Reilly: The No Spin Zone? O'Really! Walter Cronkite is spinning in his grave. And he's not even dead yet.

Al Sharpton: Who does this kitty litter-stuffed glazed ham represent? I'm guessing one or all of the Four Horsemen.

J-Lo: aka Slutty McSlutslut. Only without the talent.

Ashton Kutcher: How dumb does a creature have to be before it forgets how to live? How annoying can the worst intestinal parasite be? Stay tuned!

Jerry Falwell: Jesus hates you. Really, he told me personally at the neighborhood topless bar. By the way, Jesus really digs dirty Asian chicks.

The Hottie Du Jour With Three Names (e.g. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, et al): I'm convinced there's a breeding farm for these Stepford Starlets somewhere in the San Fernando valley.

Snoop Doggy Drops: I'd rather my daughter was a crack whore addicted to porcupine porn before she got within 3,400 light years of your disgusting self-serving (c)rap.

Hillary Clinton: "Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? I really wanna know... Aw, who the fuck are you? You? You? Yeah you?"

Bono: Who voted him savior? Not me. Pope John Paul II will accept you into heaven, but not before he head-butts you with pope hat of humility.

The Sarcastic Blogger: Get over your jealousy already. Anger management classes figure prominently in your Tarot spread.

Saturday, June 11

Lynyrd Skynyrd Is A Bunch Of Assholes

"Red, White, and Blue," by Lynyrd Skynyrd, has been popular for a while now. Rarely has a song pissed me off so much. I'm about as patriotic as they come, and I don't really care about the group either way, but for some reason this damn song rubs me wrong in so many ways. Read along and see if you don't agree.

We don't have no plastic L.A. friends
--(Well, I don't have no self-important closed-minded illiterate shithead redneck friends. What's your point?)
Ain't on the edge of no popular trends

--(Other than jumping all over the hyper-patriotic fuck-you "America can do whatever it wants" trend that is cornholing society?)
Ain't never seen the inside of that magazine GQ

--(Lemme guess, Guns and Ammo is more your speed.)
We don't care if you 're a lawyer, or a texas oil man

Or some waitress busting ass in some liquor stand
If you got soul we hang out with people just like you

--(Oh, Thank you! Thank you! Did you hear that, Mabel? Lynyrd Skynyrd has decided to come down from Mount Sinai and deigned to spend time with me! I can die happy now that someone so great thinks I'm OK! I'm not worthy! Are you gonna give me some Commandments now? You betcha - read on...)

My hair's turning white
--(So is mine. So what? Sing at the next AARP convention.)
My neck's always been red
--(Do I really need to comment here? Visions of NASCAR and drunken bass fishing abound.)
My collar's still blue
--(Yeah, and the white collar guy is making sure your paycheck is correct and on time, including the three wage garnishments and unpaid child support. And compliance with OSHA, ADA, EEO, FMLA, and all the other things that you sneer at, while working extra extra hours on salary. So lean against your backhoe and get paid 4 hours of overtime every day while 2 hours on the job are actually productive. God Bless The Mafia! Oops, I mean The Unions!
We've always been here just trying to sing the truth to you

--(Thank you again! I'm too stoopid to think clearly without the benefit of yor wizdumb.)
Yes you could say we've always been

Red, White, and Blue
--(And the rest of us haven't?)

Ride our own bikes to Sturgis, we pay our own dues
--(Do other people usually steal a bike to go to Sturgis? Dues for what? This phrase is usually used by folks without any real intelligence or prospects other than luck. Link "Paid my dues" with "School of Hard Knocks," and I'll show you an example of a worthless human bottom feeder.)
Smoking camels and drinking domestic brews

--(Reverse snobism.)
You want to know where I have been just look at my hands

--(Probably have a tatoo of a burning skull and teeth marks from roadhouse fights.)
Yeah, I've driven by the White House, spent some time in jail

--(Well, there's something to be proud of. Did you do something dumb at the White House? Like crush a Budweiser can on your forehead while waving your deer rifle? It's your God given right, y'know.)
Momma cried but she still paid my bail
I ain't been no angel, but even God he understands

--(Even God? Even? If anybody understood everything, I would think He would. You misused the phrase. This is correct: Even Lynyrd Skynyrd should know this song is pandering to the lowest common denomiator. Unless, and I think this is the inspiration for writing this piece of crap, you are more important than God.)

My hair's turning white
My neck's always been red
My collar's still blue
We've always been here just trying to sing the truth to you
Yes you could say we've always been

Red, White, and Blue
--(Heard it. Didn't like it the first time.)
Yeah that's right!

--(No, it's not.)

My Daddy worked hard, and so have I
--(No, you didn't. You got drunk, did drugs, wrote some macho asshole songs, and got lucky with a recording contract. And your precious God saw fit to kill some of you in a plane crash. Ah, sweet irony. Kiss my ass.)
Paid our taxes and gave our lives to serve this great country

--(OK, here's the part that really burns me. In all seriousness, there is no greater respect we can give than to thank and acknowledge our fighting men and women. If anyone deserved our collective gratitude, it is our service men and women, whether or not you supported the particular action in which they were involved. Some of the best and the brightest of our sons and daughters have shed their blood on foreign soil for the things we hold dear. I don't want to be a punk-ass. BUT. One of the things we hold dear is the right to speak out, to question, to disagree, to be free in our thought and philosophical exchanges. Implicit in this statement by the group, however, is that their opinion is somehow better than anyone else's. More than that, it is the only correct point of view. It bugs me that some military families and veterans have a Holier Than Thou attitude about their service. My grandfather, rest his soul, also served his country. He built warships in the shipyards. He built banks and houses after the war. He built dams and any number of other structures. He died a ripe old age. He paid his taxes. Is he somehow less relevant because he didn't get killed by an enemy bullet? The whole premise here is flawed and offensive.)
So what are they complaining about?
--(We're complaining because it is the foundation of this great country you are railing for. Namely, the Right to free speech, free thought, free opinion. Freedom. Isn't that what you are saying you gave your lives for? The hypocrisy is overwhelming.)
Yeah we love our families, we love our kids

--(You're right. None of the rest of us do. We're all troglodytes. Sorry to share your bright and shiny world.)
You know it is love that makes us all so rich
--(Rhymes with "kids...??")
That's where were at, if they don't like it

They can just get the hell out!
--(Oh, boy. I'm a pacifist, but now I just want to kick your teeth in. This is the rallying cry for all uber-flag-wavers. "La-la-la, I've got my fingers in my ears! If I can't hear you disagree, then I must be right!" There's patriotism, and there's wrapping yourself in the flag because you really don't have any substance to your argument. It is beneath you, and insulting to the rest of us.)

My hair's turning white
My neck's always been red
My collar's still blue
We've always been here just trying to sing the truth to you
Yes you could say we've always been

Red, White, and Blue oh...oh...
Red, White, and Blue
Red, White, and Blue oh...oh...
Red, White, and Blue

--(Only one last comment: Fuck You, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.)