When I was an undergrad, several bathrooms on campus had a stall somewhere that was constantly covered in graffiti. No matter which building it was in, this one stall was always having new contributions that developed into conversations. In short, it was the forerunner to the internet.
Typically the topic was consistent to each bath(chat?)room. For instance, the math building had sexual jokes and lewd drawings. The foreign language and sociology building had a running conversation about the morality of homosexuality ("Okay, but why would anyone want to take it up the ass?"). And the designated stall in the physics building naturally featured religious humor ("Jesus saves souls... and redeems them for valuable prizes!").
My favorite stall (and the one I most frequently visited since it was in the bathroom across the hall from the lab where I worked) was in one of the biology buildings. It was on the first floor of a building that a lot of people passed through, so that particular bathroom received the most traffic and, consequently, the most "posts." The stall in the far corner was full of racial commentary.
One "conversation" was a series of insults traded between a black and white guy. Finally someone wrote, "I am an Indian and I think you are both stupid." Someone circled the word Indian and wrote, "These things stink." The exchange continued for several more bowel movements among the participants.
However, the contributions rapidly died down when one insightful fellow brought a Sharpie one day and quipped, "Isn't it funny how everyone took a shit in the same stall?"
Dani and I have been thinking about rewiring the house for a while now. The electrical system needs updating just about everywhere downstream of the breakers. And there are too few outlets in most rooms in any case, especially my office, what with the computer, printer/scanner, stereo, guitar amps, effects processors, guitar synth, keyboard, etc. Additionally we need better insulation. The attic is fine (it's doubled up in most places, in fact), but there's nothing but dead space in the exterior walls all the way around.
I told Dani we ought to rewire it, insulate it, and replace the sheetrock as we go. Dani said that would be a monumental undertaking. No, I said, it's no big deal if you do one room at a time.
Dani called me after work the other day and said she had been talking to the maintenance man at her job. She mentioned to him that we were thinking about rewiring the house. She tells me that he said it's no big deal to rewire the house one room at a time. She tells me this as though this is news. She tells me this as though I hadn't told her this myself.
I'm like, "So you asked an expert and he told you the exact same thing as I told you?"
Her: "Yeah, but it's more reassuring to hear it from an expert."
Me: "What I don't get in any of this is credit for having the same knowledge as the expert. What I'm not hearing in any of this is, 'Gee, Alex. You were exactly right!"
I've mentioned Ron at least a couple times in the course of the Time-Traveling series. He was clueless in so many ways. One afternoon near the end of the spring semester, Ron, Janice, and I were sitting around the dorm room Ron and I shared talking about what we were looking forward to doing over the summer.
Janice was an English lit major. "I can't wait to have some time to get caught up on all the classics I want to read," she said enthusiastically.
I had just gotten my first "real" electric guitar a couple months earlier. "I can't wait to get around to learning to play a bunch of new songs," I added.
Ron was a social retard and probably an undiagnosed Aspergers case. "I can't wait to read some maps," Ron said, almost deadpan.
Janice and I looked at one another. It was difficult to tell if maybe he was joking. His delivery was as dry as a Stephen Wright one-liner, but we both knew Ron was incapable of humor.
He realized we didn't think he was serious or were at least confused, so he gestured to the large map of Louisiana on the wall behind him as though this was an explanation. Yes, Ron had a giant topographic map of our state where any other male college student's dorm room would typically feature movie posters and pictures of rock stars torn from <Rolling Stone. And yet this was a guy who didn't travel, who was uninterested and unschooled in politics or geology. He didn't even seem especially interested in cartography. In fact, he seemed uninterested in pretty much everything social.
Text message from Dani sent and received without irony 7/19:
"Stopping @ store for watermelon - want fried chick 4 din?"
Facebook is for white people, and obviously we ain't white people.
For my partner Dani's baby shower (32 weeks pregnant at the time), our friend Jen brought two cakes. One was for the shower with baby-motif things (blue stork, etc.). The other was intended for her work the next day where a couple teachers were leaving. On it was what was supposed to be red bands encapsulating "We'll miss you." To me it looked like an empty uterus. I said we should put that one out front with a sign saying "Shower canceled due to late-term abortion. Enjoy a slice."
The heater came on last night even though it was already warm in the house, so I asked Dani, "Did you adjust the thermostat?"
"Yeah," she said. "I bumped it up."
"To what," I asked her.
"I don't know."
"That's the problem," I told her. "You don't set it. You just use it like a switch."
"No I don't," she said, "I just turn it up until I think it's going to come on."
My cousin first started driving herself to school during her junior year of high school. One day she told her mother that she wished a certain boy would stop following her around at school. She said he had followed her closely leaving the school parking lot one day, and she confronted him about it afterward. Ever since then he wouldn't leave her alone.
"What did you say to him?" her mom asked.
"I told him he was driving erotically," she said.
"I think you mean 'eratically,'" her mother explained. "No wonder he's following you everywhere."
Every once in a while Dani comes out with something truly amazing. She recently revealed to me that until she was around ten (she thinks), she believed that dreams were something involving dinosaurs. It wasn't until she had a dream that didn't feature a dinosaur that she realized that dreams didn't have to be about dinosaurs.
I was teaching an anatomy/physiology lab when I was in grad school, and we were doing dissection-type stuff (It's more involved than that, but that's all you need to know). Naturally, there was blood, and one of the girls was acting weird about it. The guys in the class didn't care, but the others in her group (all girls) were doing similar. I was like, "I don't get it. Why are girls more afraid of blood when you see more of it than any guy?" They were like, "That's different!"
On the way to my mom's funeral, my Aunt Mildred was riding in the car next to me and spotted a delivery truck next to us for a local potato chip company called Golden Flake. She used to just spontaneously muse aloud about whatever crossed her mind. "Golden Flake," she said. "Sounds like something you'd call a dumb blonde." We all started laughing.
Years ago a friend told me about a time when she ended up at a dance club that people went to on acid just to trip. Apparently the lights were really good, so it attracted that type rather than conventional clubbers (this was probably before ecstasy was more readily available).
At one point in the night, this guy runs up to her, grabs her arm as though hanging on for dear life, and says, "Something really bad just happened, man!"
Alarmed, she says, "What happened?!"
He looks around the room all freaked out and says, "I don't know, but everybody just started melting!"
In the lab I taught in college a few years ago, the topic of tattoos came up. I asked this one girl if she would ever get one. She said, no, she didn't like the idea of having something on her body for the rest of her life. I asked, "So you're planning never to marry?" She said, "You mean the wedding ring?" The girl next to her erupted in laughter. The first girl remained a little confused.
My dad told me he saw a concert by the Eagles on tv, and complained that their sound had really changed. He said he was surprised that some of the members had been replaced with women.
He taped it for me, and I later saw the concert he was talking about.
It was Fleetwood Mac.
Believe it or not, Dani and I tried to visit a swingers club once about a year ago. There happened to be one in the neighborhood where we were out that night (really! I swear!), but I wasn't wearing a collared shirt and they wouldn't let us in. They actually had a dress code.
Apparently you have to dress up in order to get naked with relative strangers.
for history lessons
People liked my Thanksgiving text this year.
Puritan: ...and we thank Thee for small pox...
Indian: Wait. WTF?
Happy Thanksgiving... whatever you're thankful for!
rivalry is nuts
The other day I was changing my only-kid Stan's diaper. He was being kind of wild and kicking around to get loose. One of his kicks hit me right in the balls. I yelled at him, "Don't hit your brother!"
Merry Atheistmas and Happy
I sent out a text on xmas morning: "Merry Atheistmas and Happy Agnostica!"
My friend Carl replied: "Are those real words?"
Me: "Yes, Virginia! They're as real as Santa, Tiny Tim, Jack Skellington, Jesus, or a Roman census in the middle of winter."
p.s. Shanna calls it "Merry Giftmas" while Katie suggests it's "Happy Hallmark Holidays."
My dad loves to tell the story of how he met my mom... especially to old ladies. According to my dad, he had been pestered for weeks by his sister-in-law that he had to meet her friend, my mom. He finally happened to be in the neighborhood one afternoon, so he gave in and went over to meet her at his sister-in-law's place.
The way my dad usually tells this story (especially to the old ladies) is something along the lines of, "So I walked into the kitchen, and there was this beautiful young woman sitting there on a stool by the kitchen counter. She had on a knee-length skirt. She was smoking a cigarette. I looked at her thought to myself..."
And this is where old ladies get built up for the romantic punchline, and then he finishes with...
"Man, I gotta get me some of that."
Then he grins while the old ladies gasp and blush.
A few years back one of my Christian (duh) students defended the (at the time) in-the-news, ACLU-challenged practice of prayers before public high school football games.
As you might expect, I took the opposing view and explained that he already had a time and place set aside to pray: his church; the rest of the crowd was there for a football game.
He said that didn't matter. The Christians had a right to pray before the game and everyone else could just shut up and wait for them for finish.
Fine, I said. Then I have the right to play football in his church next Sunday.
He shut up.
[This one comes from a friend of mine who probably ought to remain anonymous.]
My boss eats these gross combinations of sweet foods and today he stuck a piece of a Kit Kat into a twinkie in front of me. I told him I thought he could start trying to market his dessert ideas to fine restaurants and call that one "Jungle Fever," which is so something I would normally say and haven't said in weeks.
I want to get a Snickers and stick it into a half of a twinkie and label it "keeping it real" and put it on his desk, but I'm not sure if that crosses the line or not.
As we were moving into the new house, Dani and I were moving the matress up the stairs. She said she wanted me to take the fitted sheet off before we made the bed. "Why," I asked her.
"It's dirty and nasty and has a hole in it."
"That was you in college, wasn't it?"
My friend Shawn always had weird things happening to her that were at least in part attributable to her ADD. When she and I were in college, she left her pager in the girls bathroom of some bar one night. She only left it behind in there for a total of five minutes, but somebody had gotten it before she realized that she had forgotten it and returned.
Shawn figured it was lost, but she was fairly religious and so she prayed and prayed that weekend that she might get it back. A few days on she decides to call the pager. A few minutes later the phone rings and this totally gangsta black dude about our age (or at least that's how he was trying to sound) calls her. "Yeah, you call mah beepa?" he says.
She says, "No, I called *my* beeper and I want it back!"
He says, "It's mah beeper."
"Oh yeah, then what's the number?" she asks him.
He curses and hangs up. She calls the pager repeatedly over the next couple of days, but assumes it's lost for good now, but she's wrong.
The next day this guy calls her mom's answering machine, "Hello, this is Eric. I found this beeper. Call me if you want it back."
Shawn's mom is kind of worried, but decides to pick it up from him and gets him to meet her in a very public place and gets the beeper. It turns out that the guy is a private investigator and was on a stakeout in an alleyway when he hears the pager going off in a dumpster. He climbs in and gets the thing out of the trash and calls the number on it and finds out that it belongs to Shawn.
She was planning to send the story in to "Catholic Digest" as an example of the power of prayer, but guess what? A few days after she got it back, she lost the pager again. This should go to "ADD Digest," but I don't think it would get published. I mean, they'd probably just lose it.
When my ex and her brother were kids, their parents were both working a lot of the time, so they were kept by a Vietnamese couple. The wife did the babysitting, but they hired the husband (named Knock <--spelled phonetically) for odd jobs for several of their businesses. Eventually the Viet couple moved on and they lost touch.
One day many years later my ex brother in-law had been stung on the face by a wasp as he was working outside. I don't know where the stinger was, but his left eye had swollen almost completely shut. He was sitting in the living room watching tv with his dad waiting for the swelling to go down.
My ex's dad wasn't a witty or overly-demonstrative guy. Very quiet and laid-back most of the time, so it was disproportionately funny to me when the dad turned and looked over, feigned surprise and said, "Knock! What are you doing here?!"
Back when I was a sophomore, my roommate Jack and I lived on campus, so the meal plan was the most convenient option available to us. Of course, the cafeteria was never "cool," just convenient, and that meant it didn't draw a lot of business. Most students who lived on campus would rather eat in their room while they watched tv. In an attempt to address this issue and (hopefully) bring in more customers, the management rented a video jukebox system.
To begin with, the system was free. The hope was that it would eventually grow popular enough that students would pay for songs. Jack and I sabotaged that in short order. See, you couldn't put the same song into the queue twice in a row... but you could put the same two songs in over and over and over. Jack was into some new Janet Jackson at the time (circa '93 or '94). I liked the "Loser" video by Beck. We just plugged these in until they ran out and something --anything-- else popped up, then we'd go up and plug them in again and again and again.
Before long folks tuned out. Even the frat boys were sick of seeing Janet. And the black girls totally didn't get the cheerleaders in the graveyard. "What the fuck is this?" one of them at the next table asked unaware the culprits could have passed them the salt. With the same two videos playing in a seemingly endless loop for weeks, the video jukebox was background noise most could do without. They'd had enough of the damn thing, and it quietly disappeared a few months later.
Postscript: If you haven't seen the Loser video (or at least in a while), I can't embed it for some reason, but you can watch it here.
Adrian Steel was the TA in my herpetology class when I was an undergrad. We always had time to talk when we were on field trips (we took three over the course of the semester including one that involved camping out all weekend in a nat'l park).
I never met her boyfriend, but she mentioned him a few times. I always referred to him as Superman. She and other people who knew her boyfriend assumed I was making fun of the fact that he actually had a very slight build. In fact, I had never even seen a picture of him, and didn't know this about him until after I coined this nickname.
Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore and asked why he was "Superman"?
I explained it to her slowly and carefully. "Because he's the man of Steel."
When my dad used to live in Texas years ago, it was common for some of his white co-workers to date local girls whose a parents spoke Spanish primarily. One of my dad's favorite pranks was to teach some choice phrases to a white guy who is about to meet his Latina girl's family.
For example, if the guy goes over for dinner, they would explain to him that rather than saying "Gracias" after everything, the formal way to say "thank you" is to say, "Mas papas por favor."
And at the end of the meal, it is customary to announce, "Los gatos son delicioso."
While I'm very much what you might call a "movie person," Dani is quite the opposite. She forgets movies almost as soon as she sees them, sometimes picking up dvd cases and asking me if I want to see a movie we rented just a couple months earlier. When I point this out in the case of a particular title she's asking about, she'll say, "Oh. Did I like it?"
Actually, sometimes she'll remember a movie and just mix up bits from one to another, especially when it comes to keeping track of the actors and characters.
Last night she mentioned to me that she saw that "Basic Instinct 2" was coming out soon, did I know about it? Yes, I told her, but I commented that it really didn't have a lot to do with the original. I explained that it takes place in England and that Sharon Stone is the only character in it from the first one. I said I wasn't sure what they did with Michael Douglas' character.
Dani thought for a second then asked, "Was he the one she was killing bunny rabbits over?"
I have this weird form of synaesthesia where people's names have to match who I think they are. Odds are that if I can't remember your name, it's because I think you have a different one that (in my opinion) better suits you. Yes, there's a sort of an alternate version of you in my head. (S)He is exactly the same, only the names have been changed.
Every semester I taught this one lab in grad school, there was inevitably someone who just didn't look like their name. I eventually started calling them by other names. For example, there was a lady (can't even remember her real name) who looked like a "Connie." I never thought about what a Connie looked like before that, but there she was... sitting in my lab. By half-way through the semester, all her labmates called her that as well.
Apparently I somehow turned my synaesthesia on myself accidentally one day when I was cleaning it, and the next year when I taught the class I just went ahead and introduced myself as Alex. The rest is history, I guess.
When was around eight years old or so, I went on a trip up to Tennessee with my dad. As we were driving up a mountain road, he told me the legend of a Native American named Falling Rocks who once lived near where we were.
Apparently the white men came and killed his family and were trying to capture him as well, but he ran off into the mountains where none of the whites had explored yet. They chased after him, but he knew the territory better than they and not only stayed out of their reach, but also killed off a bunch of them before the rest of the posse finally gave up. Ever since then people have been afraid to go up into the mountains where he had been sighted.
Even today either his ghost or his descendants continue to cause trouble for people who make their way into areas like that where they had no reason to be. My dad pointed to a bright reflective yellow sign by the side of the road that was left there as a warning. It said "Watch for Falling Rocks."
When my cousin was getting ready to start kindergarten many years ago, his parents naturally built him up for it. There was, of course, an ongoing countdown. "Only a couple more weeks before you go to kindergarten." "You're going to kindergarten next week." And so on. Additonally, there were all sorts of other events to remind him like getting a booksack, a mat for naptime, etc., so he was just about saturated with anticipation when his first day of kindergarten finally arrived.
When he returned home from school after his first day was over, his parents eagerly asked him all about his day. Did he enjoy it? How was the teacher? What did he have for lunch? My cousin said it was fine. His parents then asked him what he thought he would to tomorrow when he went back.
He looked at them confused and asked, "You mean I have to go again?"
In all the buildup about the first day of school, they had never taken the time to explain to him how this whole school thing worked, so he thought it was a one-time affair. They said, no, you go again and again, then you're in first grade, then you do that for a year, then you move to second grade for a year, and so on. For another twelve years. And then there's college.
My cousin looked at them very seriously, filled with concern and anger, and said, "Who started this shit?"
That's the thing about the really short guys I knew; all three of them were very anti-macho. They were very quiet and just observed everything. It took a lot to get them to show emotion or to engage in conversation. Usually they would only talk at length if it was a familiar circle or there were four or fewer people present.
Actually, I did get this one guy I knew to break the facade. My graduate group would have lab meetings once a week, and one of the guys there was a tech. He was reading and halfway listening to the conversation before the meeting began. Someone commented about their allergies acting up and a student said that he had heard on the radio that there was a level Orange pollution warning. Another guy jumped in and said, "No, it's probably ragweed, because that's just come into season." It was getting ridiculous at this point so I said, "No, it's micro-meteorites."
I hadn't participated in the exchange up to this point, so it kind of came out of left field, plus it was kind of a science fiction sort of reference that the tech would enjoy. Well, this really tickled his funny bone and he let out this huge guffaw, then immediately stifled himself. It was like he was revealing too much of himself and had to reign it back in before he was struck by a micro-meteorite or something.
At the neuroscience conference years ago, I was at a poster presentation about the affects of alcohol on aggression in rats/mice (whichever). Apparently, they had created a knock-out strain that showed an effect on this phenomenon (or something; I forgot what now). Anyway, I didn't know much about animal behavior research let alone something this specific, so I stopped the presenter and asked him if all mice became aggressive due to the alcohol or if there was variance in the population just as there is with humans.
He said, no, they were as varied as we are in their responses and that they had selected those who demonstrated aggressive tendencies specifically. By this time a young female grad student had stopped while passing through and was listening. The presenter continued, offering that other mice might become disoriented while others might become sleepy and pass out after they imbibe.
"That's definitely me," said the grad student. I turned to her and "innocently" asked, "So what are you doing later?" That got the presenter and her laughing so much that I don't think we ever even got to the results of the study in the end.
My friend Jessica has some great idea for greeting cards. For example, she told me about one she had come up with the other day:Front: I'm happy you're my friendThe other day she told me how she and a friend (who shall remain nameless) actually made some with colored pencils one afternoon. The cards were mostly about break-ups, cheating, and domestic violence because those were the issues they were dealing with at the time. Her friend's domestic violence ones were the stand-outs of the bunch. Jessica's favorite was one her friend had made on the subject...
Inside: You're one of the few people who I don't hate.Front: I'm very sorry I went to the grocery store without asking permission!Unfortunately that was how her friend's life was at that time, but Jessica admits it was somehow very funny and therapeutic for the two of them to have this art project.
Inside: Please don't slam my head into the wall! (with stick figure representation of her getting her head pushed into the wall with crumbling drywall pieces.)
I told her this was simultaneously the funniest and saddest thing I've ever heard.
The lights in my house are operated by remote control, which makes for a lot of fun the first time someone comes over.
For example, a friend of mine stopped by the other day and we were getting ready to go out just as it was getting dark. I had a keychain remote in my pocket that turned off the lights, so I reached my hand in and hit the appropriate button to cut off the light in the living room. With my left hand I made a little finger gun and went, "Pow." The light went off.
She was amazed. "How did you do that?!"
I was like, "Oh, it's magic. Here. You do it," and I pointed to the light in my office, which we were passing on the way to the front door. She tentatively did it, and amazingly enough, the light came on. I told her to shoot it out. She "shot" at it again, and it went back off as I inconspicuously hit the button in my pocket. My friend was just about floored.
She asked me, "Can you do this with any of them?" I said, sure; try the kitchen (which was all the way at the back of the house). She pointed, I hit the button, and the light came on around a corner.
She was totally beside herself at this point, trying to hypothesize about whether it worked like the Clapper (since we were making noises while we pointed and "shot" out the lights), but around that time, Dani was coming up from the back of the house, and spilled the secret.
She just said, "Oh, he has a remote in his pocket."
Man, I could have had so much more fun with that if I would have had a mute button for Dani.
Back when I was in junior high, I used to mess around with role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Actually, I couldn't play D&D itself because my mom said the devil takes over your brain when you play it. Yes, she really said this. However, I had loads of other role playing games.
I started out with Marvel Super Heroes (since I was a big comic book nerd), then a bunch of other games like Star Frontiers, Top Secret, and (my favorite) Gamma World. I loved reading the books and imagining these universes, but whenever I played it with friends, I always had more fun cutting up and acting silly than actually "playing it seriously" (oxymoron alert!).
I quickly realized that the only people who would play these games as they were meant to be played were the ones who played them so intently that I didn't want to be around them, so basically I was buying games that I didn't want to play with anyone else.
One year when I was a kid, my parents and I went on vacation to the Gulf Coast over my school's spring break. We came back home on Easter Sunday morning. I waited in the car with my dad while my mom ostensibly went inside to check for burglars. Of course, in reality she was frantically setting out Easter eggs and baskets and other things so it would look like the Easter Bunny had visited that morning.
I have no memory of what I saw when I made it inside. For all my mom's efforts, all I actually remember of that morning was waiting in the car and being annoyed at how long it was taking for her to check for burglars ...who even I knew must have been long gone by now. Memories are funny.
The year I got my Atari 2600 was the year it hit me that there was something fishy about this whole Santa business.
A few months before xmas, my dad and I were at K-Mart, and there was a guy in the electronics department setting up an Atari to demo it. He spent forever trying to untangle the wires and make all the connections, to get the tv on the right channel, etc. This was before the era of vcrs and Nintendo, let alone actual computers, so I'm sure this was more confusing to him than it would be for us today.
I looked at my dad and said, "How can Santa set up one of these in each household and get to all the other houses?" I don't know if that was just me starting to question things or if the myth was completely cracked at that point, but I was pretty damned sure Santa was not an electrical engineer.
A few years ago I ended up in the emergency room with a kidney stone. I was pretty much out of my head in pain, plus I was getting sleepy from a drip the doctor had given me. People were coming over and asking me questions from time to time, getting me to fill out forms and such, and one of them was a guy who asked me if I had a religious denomination.
I said, "No" in a tone that was so filled with disgust at the thought that they would ask me this most useless question when the last thing I wanted to do was to think about fairy tales. As I answered, I opened my eyes, and it was the chaplain.
I probably would have been more diplomatic about it if I had been more coherent, but you know what? A profession based on a big lie deserves a helping of the truth every now and again.
One day when I was maybe in second grade or so, I ran up to my dad and told him my friend Raymond just said the "F-word." My dad was shocked. Both my parents were really conservative, and I don't think anyone on our street even had cable yet, so they couldn't believe I had picked this up.
Very concerned, my dad said, "Well, do you know what that word means?"
I looked at him very seriously and said, "Yeah. It's a poopsie."
I decided to start telling people I'm from the future. I get people asking about various gadgets I carry around, so it just makes sense.
Now, I don't made a big proclamation or anything. It usually just goes like this:
"Welcome to Steak & Ale. How many in your party?"
"Two. I'm from the future."
"Ummmm. Okay. Right this way."
The world just isn't ready for this knowledge.
Here's a story about me being an idiot and embarrassing Dani. Last night we were on the way to the furniture store and it happens to be next to Home Depot. There was a screw missing from part of the bass, so I needed to bring it with me to get the right size, threading, and length. Honestly, I love this bass. It doesn't play all that great yet, but I'm working on it. If nothing else, it looks like something Boba Fett would play on amateur night at Jabba's palace.
There are pictures of this model here:
As we walked out the front door, there was a lady walking her dog past our place, and she looked at me kind of oddly. I was carrying the bass in one hand and my Alphasmart in the other. I held up the bass and said very loudly, "I'm from the future."
Dani wouldn't let me bring the bass into the furniture store, but I had it with me in Home Depot, obviously. "Excuse me, which aisle are the machine screws on?" The girl at the register looked oddly at me. "It's a bass," I explained. "I'm from the future."
A little later we picked up a prescription for Dani. While we were waiting in the drive-thru, I picked up the bass and played on it. The lady finally returned to the window with the prescription and looked at me oddly, like maybe it was a gun. "Don't worry," I assured her. "I'm from the future."
And we headed off into the night.
The next day I was at Target with Dani and I was typing away on my Alphasmart (sans bass this time, and, no, I wasn't writing the previous sections of this story). The cashier asked what it was. I told her briefly, and she said, "That's pretty neat." Dani chimed in, "Yeah. He's from the future."
I love that girl.
"When I was in my M.Ed. program years ago we had to present autobiographical papers as part of an anthropological section. I could go on about the theory behind that, but then this wouldn't be a sixty second story.
My friend Candace was a typically Asian female (read: 5'2" or thereabouts). She presented a lot of the paper extemporaneously and just used the text as notes which she only briefly consulted. As she approached her summation, she glanced down and read, "I'm short..." She paused, looked confused, looked more critically at the paper in front of her, and finally started speaking. "Sorry," she said. "In short..."
She had to stop for a full minute to wait for the audience's laughter to die down.
I was at a sporting goods store the other day getting a bike odometer and was listening to the cashier who was talking to one of the other employees. The phone rang, and before he answered it, the cashier guessed at who was calling. It turned out that she was right so she said, "I must have ESPN." I waited for either one of them to realize what she just said, but no such luck.
I think the funniest thing I ever said was last New Years Eve when I was at a party. This guy knocked over a bottle of club soda and some got on his pants. He scrambled for a dish towel and I yelled, "Quick, put some club soda on that!" Okay, I was the only one who thought it was really funny, but still.
At the first school where I taught, the phone in my classroom could be used to make announcements over the intercom. I was one of only three males in the building, so one afternoon right after school let out (but before all the kids had left the building) I dialed the intercom number and paged myself. Then I walked down the hallway and laughed as the kids looked at me like I was nuts.
I'm way behind on a bunch of things in my life, but the other day I decided to try and make enemies by writing local superficial girls on MySpace. For instance, I read the following profile:About me:It reads like a parody, but it is apparently 100% legit. So I wrote her the following:
I am really into fashion....I love fashion. I work out a lot, so I'm very interested in fitness. I have a little puppy...her name is Porsche and she is a min pin. SOOOO CUTE.
Who I'd like to meet:
Someone who just takes my breath awaySubject: Homework assignmentMy favorite is the assertion that Texas is the opposite of tv.
Body: Find three differences between your profile and Paris Hilton's.
My results so far:
1) Your picture (Paris is a blonde)
2) You are in Texas (Paris is on tv)
3) I got stumped on the third one
Thanks in advance.
She never wrote back. I was hoping to get something kind of angry in response, like maybe she's going to send a Backstreet Boy to kick my ass or something, but no such luck.
I saw this black fuzzy stuff mixed in with Dani's sewing/crafts things. I asked her what it was. She said it was felt.
I observed that, "If there's anything you got a lot of since you were in high school, it's felt."
Dani and I visited her grandmother Helen in the nursing home for her birthday. Grandma Helen had a roommate named Margaret for the past three years up to this point. Poor Margaret was getting a bit senile and didn't always get what was going on.
Dani and I and her mom and a few other relatives were on her grandma's side of the room giving her presents and such. Margaret was in the room through all of this, but the sheet was pulled to divide the room in half.
Dani's mom was sitting where she could see Margaret, so she leaned over and told her that it was Helen's birthday.
Margaret says, "Oh, we should give her a call and say happy birthday."
Years ago Tom Snyder (former host of a late, late night talk show) was interviewing Michael Moore back when he was doing one of his show TV Nation. He (Moore) was telling a story about a segment they did where they found the guy who invent Musak, the instrumental music piped into elevators and grocery stores everywhere. They went up to the inventors house in the middle of the night and played it nonstop and high volumes until he came out and screamed for them to "Turn that shit off!"
Next they went to the home of the guy who invented the car alarm and set off a bunch of those non-stop until he called the cops. Tom Snyder said, "Hey, you should have tracked down the guy who wrote 'It's a Small World'!" He and Moore laughed about it, then moved on to something else.
A few weeks later, Tom is shopping on Rodeo Drive when he is approached by an old lady. She introduces herself and says she enjoys his show, but did he remember the joke he made about 'It's a Small World'? He shyly confesses he did, and she says that her husband had written it... would he like to meet him? Well, the husband is nearby and Synder apologizes to him. The elderly gentleman says that's all right, he understands that the song could certainly grate on one's nerves after a while.
Then they all run out of things to say and Tom says, "It's amazing my running into you right after mentioning that song."
"Yes," the old man says. "It's a small world."
I have a friend whose throwaway Sixty Second Stories are treatments for independent film adaptations of unwritten novels on their way to cult status. This is but one of them.
In our junior year of high school, Christina (not her real name) left a note in our journalism class which I had written as a love letter from our history teacher to our journalism teacher. It was definitely not meant for any teachers to read. We came in HIGH the next day and she made us wait in the hall when the bell rang and then screamed at us, threatening to sue. It was so scary due to the pot-paranoid state we were in but also really funny. We spent several weeks unable to look at each other without laughing. There was an obnoxious photographer at a wedding we attended who kept blocking the view and flicking her hair over her shoulder with each picture. We found a photo of her and had it blown up to an 8x10 and made a whole life story about her that continues to this day. Her name, of course, is Flick Head. We were 14 at the time.
I was talking to a friend about threesomes a while back and I explained to her that I always thought they were exponentially more complicated than anything that could happen between two people.
I don't know if any of you have heard of the "three-body problem" in physics. You can calculate the interactions between two objects, but as soon as you introduce a third, that alters the math from straight-forward linear equations to multiple reciprocal iterations. In other words, one object acts on the second and the third, but the third is also acting on the second, which in turn alters how the first is acting on the second and vice versa.
Now imagine all three are naked and one of them is tied up.
Last night I passed through the room while Dani was watching Average Joe on tv. The guys were all lined up and the "bachelorette" was talking to them.
Me: Is she picking the winner?
Dani: No, she's eliminating.
When I was an undergrad, a friend of mine used to work for the college radio station, so I would go up there and listen to their cds while she worked. At night during her shift they usually played mostly New Age kinds of music, all these soft, relaxing things. We had several hour-long radio shows like "Hearts of Space" and "Echoes" on big reel-to-reel tapes, so you didn't have to do anything for 55 minutes at a time, then you had to play a few PSAs and do a station identification before you put on the next huge tape.
Well, one night the show was a bit shorter for some reason. We ended up with about 10 minutes of air to fill right at the end of the shift. This was right at midnight when the station switched over to a satellite feed of "Music Through the Night" which was just classical music until around 6 or 7am when her station came back on-line with real DJs. We played a few PSAs, but there were only a handful available, so we were going to run out of them and would have to start repeating the batch if we were to fill the gap (and it's an FCC requirement you don't play dead air). There was no "next show" to start a little bit early.
I had never heard of Dream Theater, but there was a cd in the library there that my friend knew about, so she put it on. It had a huge, bombastic version of "Purple Haze" on it that was completely instrumental and over the top. In contrast to the droning synths of the last couple hours of station programming, this was like sonic pyrotechnics. And it was just the right length to cover our asses.
My friend played the track, then switched over to the soft-spoken public radio guy going, "And now welcome to Music Through the Night" while some chamber music faded in behind him.
She said, "Can you imagine someone at home right now having dozed off during the New Age crap, then sitting bolt upright for 'Purple Haze'?" I think we laughed about that for the rest of the semester.
I worked at a video store a few years ago. One day this woman comes in and tells me she's trying to find this movie where these two instruments play this song where they go back and forth. She gets the instruments wrong and she hums the melody wrong as well. I hum an alternative melody (i.e., the actual one) and suggest that the instruments are a guitar and banjo. She says, oh yeah, that must be it. I tell her the movie she's looking for is "Deliverance." She says, yes, she heard of that one. I say, great, here's a copy. She checks it out, and I figure I've done a good thing.
Well, if you know anything about this movie (as I thought she certainly must have), you remember two things: The aforementioned performance of "Dueling Banjos" and Ned Beatty getting buttfucked by a couple of hillbillies. "Squeal like a pig, City Boy!"
Somehow these facts slipped under her cultural radar, leaving her ignorant of references to the latter scene in countless stand up comedy routines. This was immediately and abundantly evident when she returned the movie the next day looking at me like I was Hitler.
"That was awful! Oh my god!!!" she said, clearly having felt like Ned Beatty's character.
And that's the story of how I violated some suburban woman's mind.
I'm always giving my kids short answer questions rather than fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice tests. Naturally, this challenges them on a number of levels, so the lazy ones hate them... in spite of the fact that I at least give partial credit for answers that aren't 100% correct.
Today, in the middle of just such a test, one of them asked, "Why can't we have A,B,C tests?" I said, "Because you wouldn't make any of the above."
Parents always have euphemisms they pass on to kids for their genitals. My cousin always referred to her son's penis as his monkey.
He never really questioned this, but one day when he was about three years old, he got out of the bathtub and as his mom was drying him off, he announced to her, "I know why you call this my monkey!"
"Really? Why is that," she asked.
"Because when I do this-" and he rocked his hips back and forth to make his penis flop from side to side "-it swings from tree to tree!"
...which is why the religious like their brains washed.
One night back in maybe '95 or so, my old roommate and I were wandering around LSU's campus, just exploring stuff. We happened across a group of maybe 6 or 7 men and women who were in this field in the middle of the campus bowing down like were praying to Mecca or something.
At first we thought it was a hazing incident, but this one guy was walking around with a bible and saying Jesusy stuff to them. The people laying on the ground were all moaning and crying while spouting more Jesus nonsense.
Apparently it is quite painful to have your brain washed (which is perhaps why that woman was screaming).
When I was a freshman in college, I was friends with a girl in my dorm who was stuck with a Jesus-freak roommate. The fundy-nut was fairly anti-social, and she kept to her room all the time. Now, my subconscious works in weird ways, so sometimes I say what I think is random, and it turns out to be right on target. Well, this girl happened to be of hispanic descent, so she had one of those pencil-thin mustaches like the patriarch of the Addams family. One day, I'm talking to someone and tried mention her in the conversation. I couldn't recall her name, so I said, Oh, you know, Gomez. It was funny, but was really, really wrong since it was so true.
My roommate in college and I had chemistry together. In front of us sat this guy who looked like he was a few years older than we were, like he was going back to school to finally get that degree after having partied too much the first time around. He had kind of curly brown hair and a full beard (this predates the modern popularity of goatees). Because of his abundance of hair and maybe in part due to the fact that he was in his early thirties, we started referring to him as Jesus. Never to his face, of course, but on the rare occasions he ever came up in conversation, he was Jesus.
This got to be such a habit that we didn't even think about it until we said it when a couple of uninitiated friends were around. We happened to be in our dorm room and a couple girls were over. We lived off the edge of the campus overlooking the main route joggers would take to circle the perimeter of university. Either my roommate or I glanced down and noticed our messiah look-alike jogging below. "Oh, look. There's Jesus."
One of the girls in the room was very religious. She immediately jumped in. "Don't call him that! It isn't right." We proclaimed our innocence, "No, that's really his name!" As you can imagine, neither of our guests were having any of it. I said, "Seriously, watch," and proceeded to lean out of the window and yell, "Jesus Christ!" in his direction. He had just passed the dorm, but he looked back over his shoulder, startled.
I immediately ducked back in and said, "See, he looked!"
I knew this guy in high school and, later, in college who called himself MegaDave. This was on account of the fact that he liked thrash metal in general and Megadeth in particular. Dave was studying graphic design by this time and went so far as to have a hat and jacket patch made up with "MegaDave" written in the font of Megadeth's standard logo.
Dave and I used to go to this so-called gay bar called Argons. It really wasn't a gay bar, but it was the one place in town that played electronic music, so that was where all the European kids, the goths, and the gay guys would go (Yes, those are largely overlapping demographics, I know). I never understood Dave's attraction to this place though, given his rather narrow musical tastes. I knew his cd collection fairly well since I borrowed from it to annoy my frat boy neighbors periodically.
Most of the crowd at Argons would be dancing out on the floor or watching the weird footage on the monitors around the place that the various artsy types had compiled from independent films. Dave would do neither. He would stand in one corner and just thrash to the techno music like he was at a metal show.
I was like, "Dave, what's up with the thrashing?"
He said, "Well, Metallica is like this: [affecting a pseudo-distorted tone as he thrashed] Chugga-chugga-chugga-bzzzzz... Chugga-chugga-chugga-byeaaaaa!." He stopped thrashing and continued, "And then techno is like this: [resuming his thrashing but with a slightly different version of synthesized distortion] Chugga-chugga-chugga-bzzzzz... Chugga-chugga-chugga-byeaaaaa..."
Dave definitely had a point, and he probably missed his calling as a record producer. Genres just couldn't contain him.
One night the residents association at my school put on a dance for students who lived in the dorms. I really wasn't planning to go, but my friend Jen was like, "Aww, come on." I said okay, but only if I was able to find something to wear.
For the most part, I didn't really have anything up at school with me other than jeans and t-shirts, but I found a decent pair of pants and a dress shirt. I didn't have a tie though, and I really didn't want to go out to buy one.
I went over to Dave's room in the next hall and asked if I could borrow one. Although Dave was even more of a jeans guy than I was, he was pretty sure he had a tie. He opened up his closet and pulled out a shirt with the tie already tied around the neck.
He asked me if I knew how to tie a tie.
No, I admitted. I thought he was going to offer to teach me.
Instead he said, "Well, I don't either, so don't untie this one."
For Thanksgiving, Dani's nephew Adam was among the family visiting with us. He was playing with our foster dogs Tandy (a Boston Terrier with a snipped tail) and Little Man (a pug puppy). Dani had Adam on her lap at one point when Adam asked, "Is Little Man a boy?"
"Yes," Dani said.
"And Tandy's a girl, right?"
"Yes," Dani said.
"How do you know?" he asked.
"Well..." Dani said. There was a pause. "Little Man has boy parts."
"Oh," Adam said. "And Tandy doesn't have..." We waited for it. "...a tail."
"Yes," she said, and grinned. Situation narrowly averted.
When I was in college, there was a small room in the chemistry building where they kept an ice machine. It doubled as a closet, so the janitors used to keep locking the door when they were finished in there. The chem people put a printed sign up that said "Do Not Lock Door: Ice Machine Inside."
This being a campus, some smartass scratched out "ice" and wrote "time" instead. It wasn't long before someone followed that up with, "If it's a time machine, why don't you just go to a time when to door wasn't locked and open it?"
That person was a moron.
I didn't really bother to get to know my neighbors when lived in the dorm my first summer semester of grad school. After all, I was only going to be there a couple months.
Through the wall I could heard my next door neighbor playing an acoustic guitar occasionally. When he did play it, it was always the same four chords: G, D, Em, C, which is basically a bunch of different songs (though not always in that key), but it works for "When I Come Around" by Green Day. In fact, that was probably what he was playing, though it's hard to be punk if you're playing on an acoustic guitar. Come to think of it, it's hard to be punk if you're Green Day, but that's a rant for another time.
Anyway, I had just gotten a guitar synth literally weeks earlier as a graduation present from my parents. I hadn't messed around with it all that much yet since I was right back in school again in pretty much no time at all, so the neighbor hadn't heard much of it, and certainly not nearly as much as I had heard of his four chord acoustic number. Seriously, that's all he played, and it was at least once every two or three days.
I happened to be setting up the guitar synth one afternoon after class when he started strumming on his guitar. I switched the synth to a patch that had a heavily electronic sound with an arpeggiator on it. For the majority of the world who don't know what an arpeggiator is, it's basically a huge cheat: You play a chord and the synth breaks it up into in the individual notes and plays them in a predetermined order (which you establish by programming it). Just about everything electronic you've ever danced to in a club uses these.
As soon as my next door neighbor played the first run-through of the chord progression, I played it right back to him... from the future. What came out of the amp was like Oakenfold playing back a cover of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" to Bob Dylan. I just did the four arpeggiated chords and stopped. There was nothing but silence on both sides of the wall between us. I don't think I heard him play guitar again for the rest of the semester.
Many years ago, my family was getting ready to move away from the rural town we had been living in for about eight years. My dad had a 12 pack of beer in the back of the fridge that had stayed there forever. He was getting rid of everything else, so he went for a ride with the beer in his car and headed out to a really backwoods part of "town." He came across these old black guys hanging out (this was the only pasttime in town, to be honest). He pulled up by the side of the road.
"Do you drink beer?" he asked the first guy.
The first one gave his most convincing, God-fearing, "Oh, no, sir." I'm sure they thought this might be a trap. Here was my dad, a white guy (duh, if you know me) riding into the black part of a town that was about fifty years behind the rest of the country.
My dad looked to the next one and repeated the question.
This guy was a little braver (and also saw that saying "no" didn't win his friend any prizes). "Sure, I drink beer," he said.
"Do you think you'd like this brand?" my dad asked him, and pulled out the case.
If was an off-brand my dad used to like. It wasn't anything exotic, but I doubt he recognized it. Didn't matter. It was beer, and he wasn't fool enough to play the role of a hypocrit. He said yeah, definitely, and happily took it.
I wonder if he shared any with the first guy.
In his youth, one of my professors was about as big a hippy as any counter-culture character you could have found in the background of any scene in Easy Rider. At one point he decided he was going to follow Timothy Leary's directive to tune in, turn on, and drop out. Not just from society, but the country. He wasn't going to be drafted into going to 'nam or pay taxes so he fled to Brazil to evade the government. He lived in a fishing village in a remote part of the country and learned the language from the locals there.
The '60s ended, of course, and he eventually returned to the States and went to grad school, etc. At the time he was my professor, he was teaching at a large university full of international students. From time to time he would be walking through campus and hear the familiar sounds of Portuguese being spoken. He would stop the students and say a putative greeting he had picked up during his years abroad. The reaction was always the same: A moment of stunned silence followed by uncontrollable laughter.
See, even though the students originated from the land he had for a time called home, the language the prof assumed he spoke was not exactly that of this relatively affluent population who could afford to study in America. Having acquired his Portuguese not in an formal setting but rather from the common people, he spoke in ways that would never be expected to come out of the mouth of an erudite academic.
When he said, "Hello, gentlemen. How are you doing?" what came out was "How's it hangin', ya'll?"
I was looking around on Meetup.com for interesting groups in the area and happened across the "Multiple Personality or Identity Disorder" group. It only had one member. I thought this was ironic and pointed it out to Dani. Her take was different. "Maybe that's all they need."
She woke me up asking me what I was laughing about, and I couldn't even tell her because I was still laughing so hard.
In my dream there was a guy who was a master prank caller. He would go someplace other than his home and tap into the phone system there to anonymize or at least misdirect the source of his calls. For one set of calls, he dressed as a nurse (think Joker in Dark Knight) and kept his recording equipment hidden beneath some linens on a rolling instrument cart. He'd plug into a phone jack in a hallway while pretending to tie his shoe. He wouldn't even have to unplug it because he had cleverly broken off the snap that locks it into the jack; he'd just roll away when he needed to disconnect, especially if he needed to make a quick get-away. (My subconscious didn't bother to solve the problem of how he managed to look inconspicuous talking on a phone mounted on a cart in plain view in a hospital hallway.)
Not only was he a master of the technology, the guy was the Frank Gorshin of his medium. The voice he adopts for this series of prank calls is a kindly older woman, probably a grandmother just working part time for a little extra income in her retirement. The supposed grandmother uses a soft-sell approach hawking magazine subscriptions. She excuses herself for interrupting whatever anyone was doing, but she has a lot of different titles at very low rates.
One family takes "her" up on the offer and subscribes to Sports Illustrated. She says great, but there's a slight problem which is why they're able to offer the magazines so cheaply. Apparently, she explains very matter-of-factly, a hacker had gotten into their system and ruined things. Now whenever they go to mail out subscriptions, the address labels would have the correct house numbers and such, but --and she's terribly sorry about this-- would they mind too much that they were addressed to The Projectile Vomit Family?
As I've mentioned before, Dani has a lot of problems keeping movies and actors and, well, almost anything straight. A while back we saw David Lynch's Blue Velvet in which a hopped-up Dennis Hopper infamously yells in self-referential third-person at Isabella Rossellini that, "Baby wants to fuck!"
A few months later we were on the subject of movies, and I mentioned Dennis Hopper. Dani thought for a second and said, "Oh, that's that guy who says" --and goes into her best crazed Dennis Hopper impression-- "'Nobody puts Baby in the corner!'"
Yeah, Dani. That's the guy.
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