Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Which I Wax Romantic

Here's another story inspired by the Simple Something suggestion from Just Call Me Lynn. Her suggestion was actually two separate suggestions, but I found a way to work them together. Here's what I had to go by:

Title: Fates Intertwined
Name: Evelynn (Evy)
Location: Yorkshire, England
Emotion: Bewilderment
Object: Umbrella

Title: Sometimes It Never Ceases
Name: Leo
Location: Portland, Oregon
Emotion: Impatient Despair
Object: Fortune Cookie

It's not my usual stuff, and it's not quite romantic despite the title of this post, but it's not anywhere close to what I've written recently. I hope you enjoy it!

---

Fates Intertwined: It Never Ends

It was only after she stepped out into the rain that Evelynn realized she forgot her umbrella inside the restaurant. It didn't matter; no amount of rain would get her to go back inside. Spencer was inside, and she didn't want to be anywhere he was. Besides, the rain helped hide the fact that she was crying. Thunderclouds boomed over Yorkshire, its rolling peals and crashes echoing within Evelynn's mind. She pulled her jacket up around her neck and began to walk home.

Other than her broken heart, the primary emotion she felt was bewilderment. She hadn't seen this coming at all, and her mind was in a completely different frame of thought when she got the text message from Spencer on her cell phone earlier in the day. Given that the past couple weeks had been rocky between them, and knowing his work day doesn't often yield time for much else, it put a bright spot of hope in her heart.

“want 2 meet for lunch?” it read simply.

“yes! where?”

“chinese okay? oriental city... around 2ish?”

She replied happily in the affirmative, and couldn't stop watching the clock until her lunch hour arrived. Before dashing out the door of the advertising agency where she worked, she gave herself a quick, perfunctory once-over in the bathroom mirror. She smiled at herself, smoothing her blouse down over her flat stomach.

He always did like this blouse, she thought. This impromptu lunch date would set things right between them, she could feel it. They could make it through this rough patch and be stronger than ever. Besides, they had been together for two years, and this wasn't the first speed bump they'd encountered. She bounced out the door, grabbing an umbrella to shield herself from the rain, and went to meet Spencer.

Evelynn couldn't hide her smile during the train ride across town, even with the gloomy weather. Her smile remained on her face until she first saw him, waiting for her in the entryway of the restaurant. She could tell something was wrong immediately.

He greeted her with a quick kiss on the corner of her mouth, and it seemed to her like he was avoiding her gaze. Her smile faltered for the first time, but brushed aside any negative thoughts. This was, after all, when they were going to patch things up. Perhaps he was just nervous. The host ushered them to a corner table, and left them with their menus.

Conversation between them was a bit forced at first, with both of them picking up on unsteady vibes. There was palpable tension between them that lessened once their food arrived. Evelynn started into hers with gusto, glad for a distraction. Things started going downhill when she asked why Spencer was only picking at his.

At that, he pushed back his plate. “I can't do this any more, Evy.”

The tone in his voice made her drop her fork, and suddenly she was afraid to look up at him. She knew what she would see. She had seen it before. Evelynn summoned the strength, and lifted her head.

Spencer looked exasperated. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but only managed to gesture a bit with his hands. When he did speak, it came out in a rush.

“There's someone else. I'm so sorry.”

At first there was nothing but shock. Then, as much as she willed them not to fall, the tears came. She choked her way through a few questions, but no amount of reassuring on his behalf that it wasn't her, it was him, would make her believe it.

Other people in the restaurant were starting to take notice of her display of emotion, and it was obvious to all who looked on what was happening. Evy suddenly felt as if the very walls of the room were closing in around her.

“I've got to get out of here,” she said, and got up abruptly from the table. She grabbed her purse and jacket and walked hurriedly towards the door.

“Evy!” Spencer called out. “Hold on, let's finish talking.”

“I think you've said quite enough already,” she said through her tears. She threw her purse over her shoulder and shrugged into her jacket. The host tried to say something to her as she threw the door open and walked out, but she ignored him, just as she ignored Spencer's pleas for her to wait.

She stood outside the restaurant, the cold rain soaking through her jacket almost immediately. She then recalled leaving her umbrella inside, but going back in for it was not an option. Thunder cracked above her. She was thankful for the rain as it disguised her tears, and pulled her jacket up around her neck. It was a long walk back to her flat. There was no way she could go back to work after something like this.

Evelynn was almost to the end of the block when she heard Spencer call out behind her. She almost didn't stop, but there was an urgency to his voice. Her heart leaped up into her throat, hoping for the briefest of moments that he had changed his mind.

He sprinted down the walk, splashing puddles under his feet. He had something in his hand that Evy couldn't quite see. When he finally caught up to her, water dripping from the tip of his nose and spattered on the lenses of his glasses, he held out his hand. In it lay a fortune cookie, wrapped in cellophane.

“I know you're crazy about these things,” he said.

“I'm crazy about you, Spencer,” Evelynn replied, her voice hoarse.

“I know.” He placed the fortune cookie in her outstretched hand. “I'm sorry. Really I am.”

At that, Spencer turned and walked away. Evelynn shoved the fortune cookie into her purse and once again headed for home. Bewildered, broken-hearted, and alone.

* * *

While there was a lot he wished he could forget, Leo could recall most of the afternoon his fiancee died in vivid detail. There was the accident, of course. The sound of the rescue teams sawing off the doors to their SUV as thunder crashed and lightning tore up the sky. The shouts of the paramedics as they pulled his wife-to-be from the wreckage, calling for a back board and neck restraints. The pebbles of broken glass floating like blue-green diamonds in a pool of spreading blood.

They were on their way back from dinner at China Wok-In, one of Portland, Oregon's best places to eat. It was Sheila's idea to go out to dinner, but the topic of conversation was something he didn't see coming. Her words blindsided him, rocking him back into his seat as if he had been slapped, the air rushing out of his lungs.

“Leo, did you hear me? I said... I said I'm having an affair.”

Sheila dropped the bombshell of all bombshells just as their combination plates were arriving at their corner table. Neither of them touched their food, choosing instead to point fingers at each other over their rapidly cooling meals and shout accusations. They left the restaurant after the host approached their table and asked them to either quiet down or leave. He slapped a fifty dollar bill on the table, took Sheila by the wrist, and pulled her up to leave.

Yanking her arm back, she stalked indignantly towards the exit. He followed quickly behind her, casting an eye upwards at the approaching storm clouds. She got to their SUV before him, and got into the passenger seat, slamming the door.

On the nights after the accident where Leo would turn to drinking, it was because he remembered some of the horrible things they said to each other as he drove them home. He remembered how angry and hurt he was, and how he didn't realize he was speeding. He remembered how he ignored Sheila's request for him to slow down, that he was scaring him, that if he would just give her a minute to finish talking.

“Why should I?” he yelled, flipping on the wipers as fat raindrops began to fall. “Why should I listen to you after what you've done to me?” His heart was pounding heavy in his chest like he had just sprinted down a city block. There were tears, but he held them back.

“Because it's over, Leo! That's what I've been trying to tell you this whole time!” she cried back, and for the first time since she first admitted her wrongdoing, Leo could see the pain in her eyes. He took his eyes from the road and searched her face to see if she was telling the truth, not knowing he was pressing harder still on the accelerator.

A jagged strip of lightning flashed down just then, and that brought Leo's attention back to the road. He saw the car stopped on the shoulder, and that he was headed straight for it. He swerved to the left to avoid it, mashing his foot down on the brakes. The wheels locked, and the SUV flipped.

Leo would later hear that the people in the car he swerved to avoid hitting saw his SUV roll seven times before landing in the culvert on the other side of the road. He doesn't remember it happening that many times, but rather coming back to consciousness and looking at Sheila's face.

The impact hadn't killed her, but in his dazed condition Leo knew she was fading. All that blood had to come from somewhere. Their eyes locked briefly, her injured brain attempting to get them to focus. Her lips moved, trying to form words, but there was no air behind them. He found himself also without the ability to speak, and by the time he could, whatever was left of her was gone.

He somehow made it through the accident with only a few broken ribs and some lacerations. The doctors who confirmed Sheila's death at the hospital said that she likely died with the first impact of the SUV flipping, since it landed first on her side of the car, and that whatever movement he had seen her made was likely just the last few firing synapses. That was little consolation for him, and he blamed himself. All he needed to do was just listen to her.

His therapist told him that guilt was just one of the stages of grief, and that he'd eventually come to a place where he could release himself of it. Leo wasn't so sure for a long while, but something had to be said for what he found in his pocket after getting released from the hospital.

A taxi brought him home the night of the accident. After changing painfully into pajamas, Leo rummaged through the pockets of his torn and bloody jeans to make sure they were empty before throwing them out. There was nothing out of the norm, save for the small cellophane wrapper that contained what at one point had been a fortune cookie.

He must have absently grabbed it from a basket near the host station as he passed by, chasing after Sheila. Turning it over and over in his hands, he wondered why he picked it up. The woman he had chosen to marry had just admitted her infidelity over crab rangoon and beef teriyaki, and yet he had the presence of mind to grab a fortune cookie. He was all set to throw it away when he remembered how Sheila was crazy about the fortunes inside.

The brittle cellophane wrapper opened easily, spilling out yellow crumbs onto the floor. Leo let the wrapper and the remaining cookie fragments drop to the counter, and smoothed out the wrinkled and crumpled slip of paper with the fortune on it. It hit home, bringing on a new wave of sadness and regret, but he forced himself to read it aloud as Sheila always prompted him to do.

“Losing everything is a chance to find it all a second time.”

* * *

Evelynn dropped her jacket on the floor once she got inside her flat, and started to peel off the layers of wet clothing. She placed her purse on the small bookshelf that stood nearby the door as she made her way to the bathroom for a hot shower. She heard something fall out and hit the floor, and almost didn't stop to see what it was. If it wasn't for the sound of it's cellophane wrapper, she probably wouldn't have.

She bent to pick up the fortune cookie from the floor, and for a moment thought that she should just toss it into the trash. Let the last thing Spencer gave her go right where it should. She almost did, but she found she couldn't without at least seeing what her fortune was. Fresh tears spilled down her cheeks as she read it aloud, for it rang true, given the recent turn of events.

“Losing everything is a chance to find it all a second time.”

* * *

Leo returned to work two weeks after Sheila's funeral, not being able to bear the silence of their empty home any longer. He didn't want to be at work, either, where everyone was asking how he was doing and walking on eggshells around him. He just needed a distraction, something to help get his mind back on track, something which he had been struggling with over the past two months since coming back to the firm. When his boss suggested he go visit his firm's partner in England, he all but jumped at the chance.

His plane was just touching down at Leeds Bradford International when the events of recent weeks flashed through his mind. He did his best to push them to the background, and did what he found helpful whenever the memory of it all got to be almost too much to handle. Leo reached into his wallet and pulled out a laminated card that preserved the fortune from the fortune cookie he grabbed from China Wok-In. It wasn't much, but it was something.

Leo consulted the notes his boss had made for him that told him to look for a representative from the Yorkshire advertising agency who would be taking responsibility for him during his stay. He shifted his carry-on further up his shoulder, and scanned the crowd of people waiting where the passengers of his flight were unloading. The airport was loud and chaotic, but somehow he heard his name being called out.

“Leo! Over here!”

He turned and saw a woman standing in the reception area, holding a sign with his name on it. The woman was strikingly beautiful, her smile hesitant but welcoming. Leo thought he could see remnants of recent pain in her eyes as he walked up to her.

“You must be Evelynn,” he said, extending his hand. She accepted it and shook it lightly. With the touch of her hand against his, she, too, noticed pain in his eyes.

“All my friends call me Evy, so you must, too,” she said, smiling more broadly now. “Shall we go, then?” She released her grip on Leo's hand, and beckoned towards a sleek black car waiting by the curb outside the reception area.

“Lead the way,” he replied.

---

I hope to have more of these suggestions out soon!

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Which I Open My Mouth Too Far

The Boss and I have this unspoken understanding about the music we listen to when we're in the car. We have a stereo in the car with an iPod hookup, and we have a wide variety of music on there. Some for her, some for me, and some that the both of us enjoy. Since our music preferences vary wildly and to avoid any conflict, we always keep it set to shuffle.

This unspoken understanding we have is that we'll scan through the songs until we come across a song she likes. We'll listen to it, and then find a song I like. There usually is a song that the both of us like somewhere in between, but it rotates like that pretty much the entire time we're in the car. It's an oddly complex system, especially since we never negotiated this verbally, but it works for us. 

Yesterday, while driving eighty miles to get Chinese food, was nothing different. A little country, a little metal, a little classic rock. A little Maroon 5, a little Weird Al, a little Led Zeppelin. Lather, rinse, repeat. Everything was going smoothly until the random algorithm strung together some of The Boss' favorite songs, including one that I really can't stand (but tolerate because of The System). I endured it because I knew that once it was finally over, I could pick a handful of songs that only I like. 

When the time finally came for my music choices, I happily scanned through the songs, landing on one that I never seem to get a chance to listen to. The Boss groaned and rolled her eyes as I turned the volume up. I rocked out for a moment or two, and then started to pick up on this vibe coming from the passenger seat. I stopped rocking out and turned the volume down.

"Is everything okay?" I asked. 

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said curtly.

"Is it about the music? Because we just listened to-"

"I know. I just don't care for this song." 

"I'm sorry. I'll be over soon," I ensured her. There was silence between us while the music played. "I was just making sure because I was picking up this vibe that you were mad at me."

"I'm fine, Mike, okay?"

"Okay, okay!" I held my hands up in protest. "I'm just big on picking up vibes. I'm a big vibe-reader!"

Coincidentally, the song ended just as I was saying those last two words. Vibe-reader. The words came out of my mouth, innocent and well-intentioned and reminiscent of the "master baker" incident, but ended up sounding like I was claiming to be a woman's battery powered masturbatory device. As the next song began (coincidentally something we both enjoy), The Boss and I broke out into laughter until tears were streaming from our eyes. 

I've been called many things, and I've likened myself to many things, but I am most definitely not a vibrator. 

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Which The Countdown Begins

Dear Baby Badass,

There are just two weeks left until your mother and I will get to meet you. These past nine months have passed by at a rate of speed I previously would have thought to be impossible, but here we are nonetheless. We're finishing up getting your things ready and our bags packed for the hospital. While I'm sure the next two weeks will seem to drag by at a snail's pace to your mother, we'll both be counting down the days until you arrive. We've waited this long, what's another fourteen days, right?

A lot of people have been asking me lately if I'm scared or nervous for your birth. To be honest with you (as I promise I have been throughout these letters), I'm not. There definitely was a time where I was absolutely petrified about it, but I've come to realize that giving birth, like breathing, is perfunctory. Even if the mother doesn't know what to do (and yours does; we've been to the classes), the body knows how and will do what it needs to do. Additionally, we live in a world where medical science is on the cutting edge, and after hearing how many nurses and doctors will be present on the day you arrive, I know you're going to come out safely. Your mother might scream and curse while you're on your way, but I've got faith.

You'll find out about this when you get older, but faith is an important thing to have. I'm not referring to religious faith here, but rather faith in what you know about yourself and others. I've mentioned previously my concerns about being a father to you, and I was able to overcome those concerns is by having faith in myself, and by having faith in your mother, too. Her and I have been through some thick stuff and made it out no worse for wear, and the experience of it made us that much closer. There are going to be hurdles and speed bumps and lots of other challenges with analogies I've yet to come up with, but I've got faith that your mother and I can get through them just fine.

After all, we've got each other, and we've got you. What else is there?

All my love,
Dad

---

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Which I Can Think Of A Better Way

One thing I've learned over the past couple of months that The Boss has been pregnant is that once Baby Badass gets here and is of age, watching children's television programming is more than likely inevitable. I'm not going to be one of those parents who plops their kid down in front of the TV from the moment they get up until the moment they go to bed, but a visual stimulation in moderation is good for developing minds (in my opinion). I used to think that kid's shows weren't all that bad, but after spending some quality time with my niece over the past couple of months, I've found that kid's shows are truly awful.

I'm not going to gripe about any one in particular, but as per usual, thinking about how these shows are naturally boring (and sometimes painful) for us adults got me thinking. Specifically about how different certain shows would be in they existed in real life.

Take the classic "Blue's Clues", for example. Here's what I picture:
"Damnit, Blue! You got footprints all over my stereo! And just what in the hell did you step in, anyways? I've been finding your footprints all over my shit for years!"
Or another classic, "Sesame Street":
"Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to-"
"Yeah, yeah, how to get to Sesame Street," the distressed and shriveling man behind the newsstand says, his voice heavy with annoyance. "I only get asked that about three hundred times a day. It's about seven blocks down, between Fifth and Bleeker."
Let's try a newer show, like "Dora the Explorer":



"In other news, area police have placed an Amber Alert tonight for a young girl who was reported missing earlier this afternoon. Dora the Explorer was last seen leaving her house by her family's housekeeper with her pet monkey named Boots yesterday. Her family says that she often goes exploring by herself, but became concerned when she did not return home for dinner. A search party scoured the woods behind the Explorer household, fearing that local troublemaker Swiper the Fox might have had a role in her disappearance. Authorities are concerned for her well-being, and anyone with knowledge of Dora's whereabouts are asked to contact them immediately. Support from the community for the Explorer family has been overwhelming since word of Dora's disappearance, but her family, while concerned, are confident that she will be okay. She reportedly had a backpack on when she was last seen, and it is hoped that she had supplies in it, most likely a map, that would aid in her survival."
Lastly, there is "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". Out of all of these shows, I despise this one the most. It's full of nonsense words and unlikely scenarios and unrealistic solutions. To make matters worse, the voices are like nails on a chalkboard. If old Walt Disney were still with us and not cryogenically frozen in some lab somewhere, I'm sure he wouldn't have allowed this show get past the boardroom.

Take this episode that is mostly clear in my mind. Mickey and his crew are out gallivanting in search of something (just what, I don't recall), and they are hopping everywhere. To assist in said hopping, they are wearing shoes with springs on the bottom. Now, for anyone not familiar with the show, Mickey has this magical tool chest that follows them around on their excursions. On this particular episode, they come upon a river that they have to cross. Not just cross the river, of course, but hop across it. And what tools do they use to cross the river?

Two hippopotamuses. 

They hopped across the river on their moonshoes on the backs of two hippos. There was no searching for a narrower spot of the river to cross, no group consultation to consider hopping over on some rocks, nothing. Mickey just called for his magical fucking tool box and poof! two hippos appear. I'm pretty sure that this is the only time in the history of bridge architecture that the best and most logical solution to cross a river was to use the backs of two hippos. Utterly ridiculous.

Now, before any of you think that I don't understand that kid's shows are for kids and are designed to appeal to their intellectual level and speak to them on their terms, I do. I get it. That doesn't mean I don't wish for a show that couldn't be used as "encouragement" in terrorist interrogations.

Does anyone else have ideas about other kid's shows that wouldn't be quite the same in real life? I'm all ears.

Monday, March 21, 2011

In Which I've Sheen Enough, Part Two

Dear Charlie Sheen,

It's been two weeks since my first letter to you. I wasn't holding my breath for any miraculous turnaround, but I'll admit to the fact that I did have a vestige of hope that you would. You know, so the rest of the world (including myself) could move on with their lives relatively Sheen-free, and not hear about your latest exploits every time we turn on our computers or watch the news. It seems like quite the opposite has happened now, and I'm not sure how to respond to it.

When I first wrote you, your efforts seemed to be focused primarily on Twitter, and your online video chat was just beginning to gain speed. You were spouting such diatribe against those you had worked with on your TV show, talking about warlocks, and babbling incessantly about winning and tigerblood. Your off-the-wall antics and general crazy talk garnished a lot of attention, which only added fuel to your fire. And now, what's this I hear about you taking your one-man shit storm on tour?

When I first heard about your tour on Letterman last week, I thought it was a joke. The name for the tour, "Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option", sounded utterly ridiculous and very much like something his writers would come up with. I chuckled a bit, but the next morning I found out that it was real. I couldn't believe it. I went to the internet and looked up more information on the tour, and found that people were actually buying tickets to see you. Handing over their hard-earned money to watch you take crazy to a whole new level on stage. From what I could find, the shows were sold out in nearly record time, too. I shook my head in dismay, not just at you but at America, too.

My fellow Americans shouldn't be wasting their money to see your show, because it's like encouraging a child's bad behavior. It's like putting someone with an eating disorder in a room full of food with a toilet in the corner. It's like giving a convicted arsonist a gallon of gasoline and a box of matches. You being allowed to go on tour is a prime example of what is wrong with today's overbalanced focus on celebrities and their hijinks that no one would bat an eye to if it were a regular person losing their grip with reality.

There's a lyric from a Niel Young song that says it's better to burn out than fade away. Some people have taken that too seriously (Kurt Cobain, for one), but do you really want to go down in history as the guy who made an absolute fool of himself before a tragic drug overdose/heart attack/suffocation from hooker orgy? Maybe you do, and maybe I've got it all wrong. All I know is that I've almost reached my breaking point with you.

Enough is enough. Call it quits before you hurt yourself.

Sincerely,
Mike

---

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Which I Take The Easy Way Out

It's been one hell of a week, and while it pains me to do so, it'd pain me even more to not post anything. The lesser of two evils is to do a re-post (originally posted here). I hope you enjoy these leftovers, and I'll be back with some fresh, normal fare on Monday.

---

It had been a harrowing week, thanks to the court proceedings that drew me to testify against a feared member and leader of the local mob branch. True to the story of my life, I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and found myself scared for my life. And yet I agreed with the D.A.'s request to testify, and wound up with a 24-hour security detail to protect me from any mob low-life who might try to silence me.

I sat in the darkened living room in a safe house in an uncomfortable easy chair, looking at one of my heavily-armed security guards asleep on the couch. There was another guard by the front door, and a third by the back door leading out towards the patio. By all rights their presence should have made me feel more at ease, but I felt just the opposite. I jumped at every small noise I heard.

When the knock sounded on the front door, I just about popped out of my skin.

The guard asleep on the couch sprung up, and had his sidearm leveled at the door and his finger on the trigger before he was completely upright. The guard at the door had done the same, sliding silently off of his chair and into a crouch. The third guard at the back door hid around the corner, only the tip of his rifle visible.

There was a second round of knocks. The hollow sounds seemed almost annoyed at being forced to wait. The guard at the door motioned for me to get up. My chair creaked as I stood up, and I walked quietly to the door.

"Who is it?" I called out.

"US Marshalls, Sir," a stern voice replied. "We need to talk to you. Urgently."

"Let's see some identification," the first guard said. "Hold it up near your chest."

The first guard leaned towards the door and looked through the peep hole. Seemingly satisfied, he dropped his sidearm. "All clear," he said to the other guards in the room. "It's legit."

He opened the door, and two large men stepped inside. He held up his badge for me to see, and indeed it was legit. His partner did the same, shifting the weight of the gym bag he carried to his right hand. I acknowledged them both with a nod.

"The name is Watts," he said, and stuck out his hand. I grasped it and shook it firmly.

"What's this about?" I asked.

"Sir, our surveillance team keeping tabs on the man you testified against this week discovered plans to launch a large tactical assault against this house later tonight. We're not sure if this is threat is real, but we can't risk waiting it out to see. It's been decided that it's no longer safe for you to stay here. We're placing you in protection."

"What do you mean? Witness protection?" I stammered, my skin turning cold.

"No, not witness protection. We were given orders to place you in our Wetness Protection program."

I blinked. Did I hear him correctly?

"We've got your supplies right here," he said. Turning to his partner, he reached for the gym bag. "Simmons?"

Simmons reached down and picked up the bag, and handed it to Watts. He grabbed the zipper and pulled it open. Pulling the large flap back, I looked inside. There were at least a dozen adult-sized diapers stacked neatly side by side.

"This... this doesn't make sense. Surely you misunderstood your orders."

He laughed arrogantly. "Sir, I assure you that I heard my orders correctly, and frankly, you've got no real choice in the matter."

"But... wetness protection? That doesn't even make sense! How is that supposed to help me from getting shot up from the mob?"

"That's up to you, I suppose. Orders are orders. Now, come on. We've only got a few minutes. Hop to it."

He shoved the gym bag at me. I caught it at my chest and stumbled back a step.

"You've got to be kidding. I'm not changing into a diaper. This is ridiculous!"

Watts sighed, and turned to Simmons. They seemed to communicate through a series of shrugs and nods. Watts turned back to face me, and then grabbed me by the shoulders.

"Grab his pants!" he cried. I struggled against his strong grip, but couldn't free myself.

Simmons leaped forward and began unbuckling my belt. I kicked and thrashed my legs.

The guard who had been sleeping looked down at me, but offered no help.

"Having problems with incontinence?" he asked, as if genuinely interested.

"Get affordable wetness protection now, with new adult diapers!" Simmons said cheerily with a booming voice. "Discreet, not bulky under your clothing, super absorbent and non-constricting!"

Watts spoke up. "Available now, in a variety of sizes, at your local supermarket or pharmacy!"

---

I woke up, gasping, and sat up. I had fallen asleep the couch, and the TV was on still. I blinked my eyes to clear the sleep from them, and sure enough, the tail end of a commercial for incontinence products was on.

Damn overactive imagination.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Wish These Were Real

A few weeks ago, thanks to some inspiration from a co-worker of mine, I decided it would be fun to come up with alternative food names. And by "alternative", it would naturally mean "foods named after Star Wars". I brainstormed these ideas throughout the day, and put up most of them on Twitter. For those who missed it, I'm going to share them all with you now.

  • Obi-Wan Cannoli
  • Jabba the Hot Pocket
  • Ewok Stir-fry
  • R2D2-layer cake
  • Corussants
  • Chewbaklava (thanks to @JohnnyVirgil for this one)
  • Princess Leia Organic
  • Tauntaun Soup
  • Han Solo-mein
  • Endoritos
  • Bespinchetta
  • Mos Ricely
  • Aunt Berhubarb Pie
There are a couple others that I pulled from the list because I photoshopped a few images to make product mock-ups of them. Feast your eyes upon these:










Personally, I think some tatooweenies and some Endorito's sound pretty damn good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

In Which I Go To Class

The Boss and I went to a childbirth education class this past weekend. It was an abbreviated class, only a few hours Friday night and a couple more on Saturday afternoon, but it was surprisingly informative for a guy like me. And when I say for a guy like me, I mean for someone who has been purposefully avoiding any confrontation with the most uncomfortable part of the whole pregnancy: the actual birth itself.

Since we were paying $90.00 for a six-hour class, I figured I'd get the most out of it and ask questions if they came up. I want to be prepared, or something similar to it, but some of the questions were out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop and think about what I was getting myself into. Here are a few I regret asking:
  • "What, exactly, does the placenta look like?"
  • "How big is ten centimeters dilated?"
  • "Wait... meconium isn't a mineral?"
  • "What is a lotus birth?"
Let's just say that if I wasn't scared or queasy before, I certainly am now. Some of the images I saw in the videos the instructor had us watch will haunt me for a long time. With all the strange, painful looking devices and disgusting noises and shouted commands and cries of agony, you'd think that the producers of the video had taken some cues from the Saw movies.

I asked the questions I asked because I wanted to know, and because I didn't want Google remembering what I had searched for by looking it up at home and reminding me of it later. I figured that if I'm going to be the one helping The Boss through this, I should be somewhat prepared for what is to come. Despite all the horror stories and awful things people say about childbirth videos, I had to know it and see it for myself.

After the class was over on Saturday, The Boss asked me where I thought I'd be in relation to her during the birth. I paused for a moment before answering to allow the flashes of the childbirth video to clear through my head (oh my god, the pubic hair! why does the baby look like it's covered in spaghetti-o's? here comes the placenta!). Swallowing hard to keep down the contents of my stomach, I replied.

"Behind you, as far as I can get, resting a comforting hand on your shoulder."

She laughed, until she turned and saw the serious expression on my face. I chuckled a bit, and then told her that I'd be wherever she needed me to be. She seemed satisfied with that, because she knew I meant it. The end result will make it all worth it, even if it does take some time to recover mentally from the carnage that I'll be witness to.

It'll definitely take some time before I will consider eating anything with marinara sauce again.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Which It Might Be Helpful For Some

I happened to be walking by the television when an infomercial was on recently, and was a bit surprised by what I saw. Of course, after a closer look I realized that what I thought I had seen was something completely different, as is often the case. I find myself doing double-takes like this very often, and I attribute that to a combination of wishful thinking and brain boredom.

The commercial was for a popular (in the infomercial world, at least) home vacuum system that was boasting about their latest steam cleaner. They were touting all of the wonderful things it could do, how easy it could make your life, that cleaning could even be fun! if only you had their steam mop contraption. I barely listened to what they were saying. I was solely focused on the logo for the device:




Now, after I had taken a closer look, I came to the depressing realization that what I thought I had seen simply wasn't there. I'm pretty sure you know where I'm going with this, but here is what I thought I saw:




What an unfortunate graphic design oversight. We've seen this gaffe before, like the V&G Construction signs I saw a while back. I know that not everyone has their mind perpetually in the gutter, but I think there are enough of us out there where paying attention to things like this would be important. 

At least so you don't disappoint people who are looking for vag steam cleaners. Those things are hard to find.

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Which I Tell It Like I See It

I'm not sure about where you live, but around where I live, the latest and greatest thing to do these days is to emblazon the back of your minivan or SUV with these cutesy, whimsical decals to tell the person driving behind you about your family. Take a look:




There's a stick figure decal for each member of the family. You've got the parental figure decals (mom and dad, or mom and mom, or dad and dad), your children decals (teenager, toddler, or infant varieties), and then you've got your pets (dogs and cats). Apparently there are options to have the individual names of your family members listed on the decal, too, but I've seen just as many of these decals without the names as I have with them.

When I first started seeing these, I thought they were a bit foolish. I mean, come on. Is there really a need to broadcast to the entire populace driving around you the size and makeup of your family? If you're driving a minivan, odds are you're carting your kids around. We can put two and two together without needing it spelled out. And those who have them with the names listed? That can be flat-out dangerous, as anyone who has watched recent episodes of Dexter will know.

I've mentioned my dislike of these decals to others, and a few people have said that it's not all about telling others about your family. It's to try to influence people to be a safer driver around cars that likely have children inside. When you say it that way, sure, I get the point. If it works, great. Otherwise, I still think they're kinda foolish. Besides, not every family is a happy family, as these decals always portray. In my mind, here are the real listings of the family members as shown in the image above:
  • Eric (father) - Having an affair with his secretary at the office,
  • Debbie (mother) - Closet speed-freak, regrets her boob-job,
  • Jack (son, oldest) - Watches his sister in the shower,
  • Kim (daughter, middle child) - Watches her brother in the shower,
  • Susie (daughter, youngest) - Future bulimic,
  • Rex (dog) - Eats own poop.
I think I'm going to start making my own decals that show the true colors of the all-American nuclear family. While I'm sure not everyone will appreciate the stark honesty, I'm sure there are enough of us out there who will. For those who have these decals on your car and don't think this is funny, well... I'm sorry. Sort of.

Monday, March 7, 2011

In Which I've Sheen Enough

Dear Charlie Sheen,

I hope this letter finds you doing well, or at least what you consider to be well. It's got to be tough being you these days, but I'm sure you're used to that by now. You seem to like your time in the limelight, although I'm not entirely sure you've picked up on the fact that not everyone thinks you're as awesome as you do. If I had to put a number on it, my guess would be that about seventeen people think you're awesome and #winning currently. The other millions of us who use Twitter and rely on the internet for news wish that you'd just give it a rest, already.

I can't turn on the news these days without hearing something about you, whether it's another one of your drunken escapades or another botched interview. I can't check my Twitter feed without seeing updates of yours re-tweeted or some of your stupid fucking hashtags out there (#Tigerblood? Really. Any my RSS reader? Forget about it. Journalists and bloggers alike are writing about you like anything you say is actually relevant and important. Yes, I realize that I'm writing about you, too, but really I'm writing to you, in hopes that you'll shut the hell up and let us get back to our normal lives.

Allow me to put it into terms you'll understand.

You're not a hot shot. You apparently have no code of conduct and you're in no way, shape, or form in the major leagues. On Twitter, you're the rookie with a follower rate that is increasing at a terminal velocity, and your love for free money from your silly endorsements is pathetic at best. Your witticisms are a constant flow of crap, and us innocent bystanders are in it deeper than deep. Want some good advice? Before you take a deadfall and burn out in a blaze of glory, get yourself some help.

Go to a place where there aren't any hookers or booze, no drugs or cigarettes, and most importantly no internet, and get some therapy. Do some soul searching. Improve your skills as a warlock. Something. Let the internet and the rest of the world move on without you for a while, because seriously, you're dragging us down.

I apologize if I've come off harsh and angry to you. Take a look at yourself from my perspective, someone who never really cared for your TV show or really anything you've done. If all you heard about was the latest thing someone you disliked did or said, you'd get fed up with it pretty quickly, too.

Get yourself off the internet and into rehab, Charlie. Please. Do it for America.

Regards,
Mike

---

Anyone else as fed up with this guy as I am?

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In Which I've Got One Month

Dear Baby Badass,

I don't know about you, but doesn't it seem like someone adjusted the progression of time recently? It seems like every time I turn around another week has passed, and we're one more week closer to your due date. There's a little over a month left now, and time is moving by at a blistering rate.

All throughout your mom's pregnancy with you I've talked about how fast time is going by, and I don't want to sound like a broken record. It just doesn't seem possible that you're almost ready to join us when it feels like we were just finding out about you a few weeks ago. I have this feeling that time isn't going to slow down much when you finally do come and complete our little family, as much as I deceive myself into believing it will. I'm pretty sure that I'll blink and you'll be taking your first stumbling steps. I'll blink again and you'll be going to school. Blink again and you'll be asking about boys and when you can date (I can tell you right now: you can date when I'm comfortable with the idea, or when you turn 25, whichever comes first). Blink again and I'll be taking you to your driver's license exam. Blink again and you're graduating high school, graduating college, getting married, making me a grandfather... It's almost too much to think about.

I have on my desk where I sit and write these letters to you a framed picture of your very first ultrasound, and I look at it often, especially when I'm trying to find inspiration for something. Elementally, when that picture was taken, you were nothing more than a few dividing cells and a flickering heartbeat, but that was all it took. I started loving you from the first second the monitor came to life with that image. I never thought that would happen to me, that I could love something so completely so quickly. After spending some time digging deeper into my mind and into my heart, I realized that this was the first thing you had taught me. Unconditional, unstoppable, irrefutable love. 

I know there will be much more I will learn from you, and I, despite my previous groans about the progression of time, simply cannot wait. 

See you soon,
Dad

P.S. If you were worried about not having enough stuff, let me assure you that you will have plenty. By the time you arrive, there will have been four baby showers. FOUR. You'll have more than you'll ever need.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Which I Recommend

Ever since I finished my King Quest last week, people have been asking me what my favorites were. That question is very difficult for me to answer, considering all the time I put into it, and I haven't been able to really give an honest reply to any of those who asked. I owe it as much to myself as I do to the people who ask to come up with a few of my favorites, and that's what this post is all about. My top five favorite Stephen King books, and why.






1) The Stand - This book is thought by many King fans to be his best work, short of the Dark Tower series. I read this fairly early on in my Quest (the expanded edition, that is), and this book is what sealed the deal for me. I had enjoyed what I had read of his up until that point, but this book changed everything. I was blown away by how he wove dozens of characters and plots and back-stories together to make something as elemental as the fight between good and evil so utterly believable. He had me so emotionally invested in the characters in a way I had never experienced before. The way he describes how the Super-Flu spreads across America still gives me the chills.

2) Bag Of Bones - This book stands as one of the very few that actually scared me. I could relate to so much of the location and scenery not just because I had memories of them, but because at the time I was living in a town very much like TR90, in a house on a lake that I felt might have been (at least a little) haunted. This scene in the basement cost me a few sleepless nights, and it was through reading this book that I learned it is often best to read King by daylight.

3) Misery - I just could not put this book down. His portrayal of Annie Wilkes as Paul Sheldon's "biggest fan" and her descent from slightly disturbed to bat-shit crazy was awesome to watch. I regret having seen the movie before reading the book, but there was so much in the book that the movie leaves out. The thumb-candle, for one, and how she really hobbles Paul, for another. It was a very fast read, and it was just the right length. Sure, there is more you want to know when the book is over, but I couldn't ever remember feeling like he was drawing things out.

4) The Green Mile - I'll be frank with you: This book made me cry. I had my doubts about it when I first started reading, as it started off pretty slow. I was used to this, as this is par for the course for a lot of King novels. Right from the start we know that John Coffey is innocent, and what got the ol' waterworks churning was his decision to take the electric chair in the end. I didn't want that for him, but King shows us that it's for the best by the last few pages.

5) On Writing - As the only non-fiction book in my top five, this book holds a special place. It is a wonderful book, one that just about everyone (at some point) has asked me if I've read it when I mention I like Stephen King. It provides wonderful insight to the person behind all of these wonderful stories, and some priceless information for someone who aspires to one day write something of worth.

---

Out of all that I read, picking just five is tough. There are so many others that I enjoyed reading and could recommend at a moment's notice, but I had to pick the ones that I have an emotional connection with. Conversely, there are a few that, while I appreciate them for what they are, weren't that great at all (The Dark Half, Rose Madder, Gerald's Game, to name a few). For someone as prolific as King, I would expect there to be a few sour lemons.

Some of you may be wondering why none of the Dark Tower series made the top five. I certainly enjoyed the series, there is no doubting that, but I couldn't just recommend one out of the seven. To fully appreciate the breadth and sheer immensity of all that it is and encompasses and means, you have to read them all. Picking just one or two out of the series just wouldn't do it justice.

Feel free to ask me for other recommendations, if you've been thinking on reading some King. Regardless of tastes and preferences and tolerability of the scarier things one can imagine, I'd be glad to talk with you and make some personalized suggestions. Just leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

P.S. The mosaic above is made up of all of King's fiction book covers. Click the full image to see a high-resolution version of it.