Archives - October 2004

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October 29, 2004

Tire Machismo

Those of you who read my post about my tire pressure dilemma know I had a problem with airing up the tires on my 1988 GMC 4x4 Al Queda-funding Suburban with a lift kit, luggage rack, and cattle guard. Since I can't seem to find a place to air up my tires, I decided to buy new ones.

I've been shopping around for tires for a few days now, looking online but more importantly, noticing the tires on other trucks I see on the street. I took a couple of stickie notes and began to write down the names of these tires so I wouldn't forget them. As I was walking today looking at wheels, a thought suddenly dawned on me.

The people who name tires are some seriously maladjusted people. I guess the people who buy them are, too.

I broke the tires down into different categories, each seeming to attract different types of buyers. But there's one thing the buyers all have in common: a problem with their manhood.

The first group is what I call The Rugged Outdoorsmen. Many of these tires have names that identify with the old west and such:

Dakota / Trail / Open Trail / Rugged Trail / Long Trail / Wilderness / Open Country / Adventurer / Laredo / Ameritrac

Then there's the creme de la creme of the genre:

The Wrangler

Very gay.

I guess this one attracts butched-up leather boys who think the term is even better than "cowboy."

The next group is The Martials. As in "I have big wheels and I can kick your ass":

Dueller (which is what's on my truck now, BTW) / Conquest / Challenger / Enforcer / G-Force / The Dominator

But my favorite in this class:

The Norseman

You can't get any tougher than a freakin' Viking, baby.

The last group is the I Want To Look Tough So I'll Try Anythings:

Ecsta - I guess as in "ecstasy." The Barry White of highway rubber.

Mud Rover - I'm a dirty boy. I make mud pies.

Krawler - I'm a dirty boy. I make mud pies. And I can't spell.

Scrambler - I don't think they mean eggs, but that's what I think of.

Scorpion (also Skorpion) - I've got a matching bug tattoo on my crotch.

Tiger Paw - Now, I know this was meant to sound tough, but it comes off sounding like something Winnie the Pooh would put on his car, if he had one. If he had pants.

Decision time. What will I get? I dunno. But I know one thing; they're going to be blackwalls with no lettering whatsoever. Unless I can find the tire with the ultimate macho tire name:

The Road F***er

Yeah; it'll be a set of Road F***ers for me, baby.

Time to do a Google search.

*****

October 28, 2004

New stuff

No, no new writing stuff. New computer stuff. Seems my HP laptop after four years of loyal service, bit the dust. It was running great, but the cooling fan quit spinning. For those who have a laptop, you know how much heat the little bastards can produce. So, I took it in to the computer hospital and told them the problem. Price? Just to open the case was $139.95. Okay, you gotta do what you gotta do. After waiting a week, I called the doctor and asked for a diagnosis. Gee; it was a bad fan. Duh. Price? $110. For a two-inch fan. Okay...agreed to it, signed all the proper releases and HPPA stuff. Waited another two weeks for the part to come in. They hooked it up and guess what? It didn't work, either. They tested the circuit and found that the problem was originating on my mother board.

A mother board is the master circuit board, the brain of the computer. Seems a built-in chip on the board wasn't sending a signal to the fan to turn on. Knowing the answer wouldn't be good, I asked, "Can it be..."

"No, it can't be repaired. It can be replaced."

"How much?"

The guy hesitated, like a doctor who is about to tell you that thing on your neck isn't a freckle after all.

"Between $600 and 800. I know that was something you didn't want to hear. Want me to order one?"

My mind went back to the Dell catalog I had just gotten in the mail. I can get a NEW Dell laptop for under a thousand.

"No, just sew him up and I'll come get him."

When I picked it up, I found out the board was actually $1,010. I took the dead computer home and signed on to dell.com and bought a rocket ship of a laptop for $1,200. Just got it on Tuesday. It is very nice and LIGHT. My experience with Dell was remarkable. Easy shopping, lots of bonuses and freebies, and instant tracking of the process from order to shipping. If you want to buy a PC-type computer, don't hesitate to buy a Dell. I've owned ten computers: five desktops and four, er, five laptops. Three of the desktops were custom-built. Before Dell came along, that was the only way to go if you wanted quality parts and custom design. Now, you can do the same thing online or over the phone.

Tomorrow's post will be about something else that I need to buy but haven't (because I spent all my extra cash on the computer): tires for the 'Burb.

*****

October 25, 2004

Dumbasses part II

Before I get started, thanks to Shel at frugalfun.com for featuring my two Time pieces in his Global Arts Review section. Be sure and check out this site for all things artsy, from the written word to opera and dance.

Saw a real dumbass today. The kind of dumbass you wish you had a camera for...so people would believe the depths to which dumbasses can plunge. I was driving in to work and noticed a pickup truck a few cars ahead of me. Of course, it had one of the ubiquitous boy-pissing-on-something decals in the back window that so many trucks around here have. This one was peeing on the Chevy logo. How original. But as I looked closer, I could see the taillights of the truck. Hmmm...usually a boy-pissing-on-a-Chevy-logo means the guy is driving a Ford. Or in the case of the Dodge pickup I saw a few days ago that had this bit of profundity carefully laid out on the back windshield:

REDNECK

(insert Dodge Ram logo here)

I eat Fords

And shit Chevys

Maybe it was "I eat Chevys and shit Fords..." You say tomAYto, I say tomAHto. Nice.

Anyway, back to today's dumbass. So I see the guy in front of me driving, but I can't quite make out what he's driving. Damn. Those taillights sure looked like a Chevy to me, not a Ford. Geez. I reasoned the guy was driving a GMC pickup and was too stupid to realize it is the same thing as a Chevy. So, I caught up with him just to confirm my suspicions.

He was driving a Chevy.

Now, imagine the work it takes to put a decal like that in your window. You have to buy it, make sure it's centered top to bottom, left to right, clean the windshield, carefully apply it...I'm sure this would take awhile. If this guy has that kind of time and patience, maybe he should TAKE THE TIME TO SELL HIS CHEVY AND BUY A FORD instead of resorting to this. Or again, maybe the guy can't read and just thinks he's driving a Ford.

Tomorrow's post: Illiteracy and its effect on used car sales.

*****

October 20, 2004

Heffalumps and war.

First, a little news on one of my favorite heffalumps, one Maximus, a one-year-old male born at the Riddles Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas.

Seems Mr. Maximus has become a movie star. He's the featured baby in Animal Planet's Growing Up Elephant series which has been running all summer. I wrote a little ditty about Max:

Meet Mr. Maximus

He's really very handsome-ous.

Okay. With his newfound stardom, I just hope he doesn't get a convertible, a 20-year-old starlet, and a bad cocaine problem.

 

Be sure and visit the sanctuary's site. There are plenty of things to see and learn there, and they even host an elephant weekend for those who want some immersion training in the critters. If you want, you can even adopt one of their beasties for a month or two to help them out.

***

I don't rant political here very often, but I feel like it today. Read a news story yesterday that set me off. It seems our late friends, the Spaniards, busted a plot by some Al Queda operators to blow up their largest federal courthouse. The terrorists were plotting the mission to get even with the Spaniards for having the gall to arrest the culprits who blew up some trains in Madrid and killed over 400 people. You've probably seen the lastest video of some of the victims being blown to bits on the walkway...

Okay, so let me get this straight: The Spaniards, in one of the most ass-kissing, wussified displays of cowtowing spinelessness, voted-out their government after the train bombings to more or less appease the Muslim extremists, who were angry at them for getting involved in the Iraq campaign. The Spaniards thought their gesture would stave off any further attacks from Al Queda. Guess what?

It didn't.

The Muslims decided that they would reward the cowardice of the Spanish people by parking a truck with 1,100 pounds of high explosives next to their courthouse. Gee, big surprise. You see, appeasement never works. It never has. Extremist groups view appeasement as weakness. Like a criminal psychopath, they don't see this as a reason to back off. They see it as an opportunity to exploit. A criminal psychopath views a little old lady in a dark alley as an easy mark; he is justified in whacking her on the head and taking her money, because he's on a higher evolutionary plane than her and rightfully is entitled to what she has. The extremists have the same attitude; if they're weak, keep attacking them. I'll butcher a quote from Lenin, the architect of modern terror:

Probe as with a bayonet.

When you find steel, withdraw.

When you find mush, advance.

When you give the playground bully your lunch money, does he go away and never bother you again? No; he keeps attacking because he feels entitled to steal from you because he is superior to you. In reality, the only thing that keeps the bully off your back is a serious ass-whipping. Period.

A similar thing happened to our other spineless former allies, the French. Extremists kidnapped some French citizens in Iraq and demanded France repeal a law that banned Muslim headdresses in public schools. They saw such terror changed the politics of one nation so they thought they'd try it again. It didn't work, but watch as the cowtowing wimps of France get a wholloping big terror event in their country soon, even though they've kissed more Muslim ass lately than the sheik's number one harem girl.

Okay, now that I've made that point, on to my next. Note that I called the Iraq thing a "campaign," not a "war." It isn't a war; it's a battle.

The war against us by the extremist Muslims of the world began not on 9/11/01, but in the 1970's when radical Islam took root - and gained power - in Iran. After we were identified as "The Great Satan" by the movement, which is not bound by national boundaries, the die was cast. War with us was contemplated, plotted, planned, and finally executed on 9/11.

In the 1930's, Imperial Japan decided they wanted to dominate Asia. They were tired of relying on other countries for their natural resources. They needed territory, territory rich with oil, coal, iron ore, farm land, timber, etc. They began their military takeover, just as Germany did, long before the U.S. came into the war. Soon they conquered much of China, Korea, Indochina, Burma and every island nation and territory all the way down to Australia, the great prize of their campaign. They soon realized that the only thing that would prevent them from achieving their goal was the United States. After contemplating, plotting and planning, they struck in December of 1941. It was an attack designed to break the back of American military might; their only obstacle from taking over Australia and the rest of the rich territory they wanted.

Al Queda's attack on 9/11 was the same thing. The only difference was that their attack was designed to break our nation economically, not militarily.

A long story to say that I see the Iraq campaign as just a battle. Like Okinawa or Guadalcanal, or Anzio and Normandy. Stepping stone battles in a long war against those who want to destroy us. I don't get uptight about Iraq; I'm in for the long haul. You may get my point when the bombs start going off in polling stations, schools and shopping malls from now until election day. Hold on to your ass, Fred, because it's coming.

Who do I want at the helm of my nation when the barbarians are at the gate? A guy who can make quick decisions and stand by them, a guy who has no qualms about killing other human beings, a guy who could give a shit about the opinions of the "world community," or a limp-dicked professional politician who can't do any of the above? The choice is clear to me. You can do what you want, but if you think placing our ass-kissing, spineless political left appeasement brokers into power will keep the bombs out of your kids' school, just look what has happened to Spain.

*****

October 13,2004

Beating a dead horse.

I know some of my fan out there might be sick of me ranting about my on-again, off-again antics with Hollywood, but the way I see it, this blog was originally founded with the idea to help indy writers like me. So in that respect, I guess some might find the situation informative if not entertaining. Kinda like the same sick fascination some people have with watching people get screwed on a reality TV show; the good guy doesn't always win.

I guess I've let this latest series of setbacks get to me more than I should. I found myself walking around my house with my cell phone AND my land phone on my hips, waiting for one or the other to ring with the call they promised. Running to the front door to get the mail after work, expecting to find the option contract they promised months ago. Checking my voice mail several times a day, hoping to hear a message from them. Just one more. I find myself at a writing standstill, with my thoughts wandering to what-if's and what-could-be's instead of putting new ink on paper. Obsessing. I give, they take. I'm open and honest; they play games and manipulate. I'm available; they're not interested. They dole out attention in carefully measured doses; I lay bare my soul. As I checked my voice mail yet again today, it suddenly dawned on me what this whole Hollywood thing is like.

A really bad, f***ed up relationship.

The kind of relationship I need to end.

I've been in this situation many times before, with women of course. Toxic women. Women who started out the relationship with much promise, only to deteriorate into the nut cases they really were. Alien life forms masquerading as human beings.

I think I handled those situations well. So in my new illuminated state, I can use some of the same tactics I used then to extricate myself from this situation now. All I have to do is modify them a little.

I started by designing this page. It's my conditions for optioning any of my written work. It's pretty clear, pretty concrete. I guess it's the equivalent of the "Sure we can have a relationship, but I'm going to date other women" ultimatum. It doesn't get any clearer than that; it isn't the kind of relationship in which you give the girl a key to your apartment. Rude, yes, but at least it's honest.

The next thing I'll do is never call them again. And if they happen to call me, I won't take the call, and I won't call them back. This is my literary version of the old male adage, "The worse you treat them, the more they'll want you." But they can wart me all they want; unless they come to the door with the conditions noted above, they can kiss my lilly-white ass.

But the third thing I need to do is find another set of Hollywood contacts; my version of "There's nothing better to make you forget about a woman than another woman." So, I guess I'll fire up the word processor and start sending out queries. Maybe make a few calls and see if I can get a back door inroad to an agent out there - a Hollywood industry blind date, if you will. But whatever I choose to do, at least I won't be sitting around pining over my lost love. Life's too damn short.

*****

October 11, 2004

An Illustration.

Mr. Badwrench by proxy

Looked at the tires on the 'burb a couple of days ago and saw they were a bit low. Actually, when my radio antenna doesn't whack the overhead beams in my parking garage, I know they're low. Now, a 5200 pound Al Queda-funding 4x4 Suburban can do some damage to tires if not properly cared for. So, I grab some quarters and go to the gas station to fill them up.

Now, I might be showing my age here but I remember a time when air and water were FREE at gas stations. No coin-operated machines then, and gas was only 40 cents a gallon to boot. The air thingie was right next to the gas pumps, so you didn't even have to drive to a separate island to use it. Anyway, I drive to the gas station and position the Burb just right so I can get all four wheels done without moving the thing. Take the valve caps off to save time; for fifty cents, you'd think that pump would run all day but it doesn't. Drop in my quarters. Nothing. The piece of shit is dead as doorknob. Since I don't speak Farsi and I had a pocket full of quarters, I didn't bother going in to complain to the clerk. On to gas station #2.

At gas station #2, I repositioned the Burb and took off the caps again. I guess I'm an optimist; I had put them back on after gas station #1. Drop in my 50 cents. The compressor sprang to life. Hot damn! I get down on one knee and check the built-in pressure guage; I was right, the tire only held 28 pounds out of the normal 32. No problem. I push the valve for a few moments, listening to that hollow his of moving air. I let off the valve and check the pressure: 24 pounds. What the hell? The thing was actually SUCKING air out of my tire. I tried a rear tire; sucked three pounds out. I put the hose back on the machine, put my caps back on, and not speaker of Pakistani, I went on to gas station #3.

There, I plunked in my next two quarters. The compressor came on, and I again pushed the filler-upper-thingie against the valve stem. Sounded like a good seal. Nice whooshing. Checked the guage a few minutes later. 24 pounds. I tried another tire. Same thing; no air was going in, but being the optimist that I am, I figured at least this one wasn't SUCKING air out. Again, I didn't speak Vietnamese, so I didn't complain.

At station #4, there was a guy at the air island, helping some girl work on her car. They were doing something with the water hose under the hood, but I didn't see any steam or anything. Looked like it wouldn't take long. Parked the burb and waited. I watched them awhile and realized that the guy was about to OVERHAUL THIS CHICK'S ENGINE RIGHT THERE IN THE PARKING LOT or something, so I put the Burb in gear and headed on to station #5.

At station #5, an older guy in a nice Lexus pulled up to the air machine. I pulled in behind. He dropped in his quarters and the machine came on. He knelt down and pushed the thingie onto the valve stem. After a few minutes he stood up, looked at me, and shook his head. He threw the hose over the air machine, looked at the gas station, shook his head again, and left.

I guess he didn't speak Farsi, either.

So, a long story to tell you my tires look like lopsided donuts now. I guess my only alternative at this point is to buy new tires.

*****

October 5, 2004

Suckfish and the cult of hyperbole

Sorry to my legion of fan out there for being away for a bit. Just bummed out over my latest book-related disappointment. The usual big talk about the book, and accompanying stroking, then the deal falls into that black oblivion of Hollywood apathy.

I smoked a lot of weed the day they taught us the differences between simile, metaphor, analogy, etc. in my 9th grade English class, so I don't know one from another without looking them up. And right now, I'm too lazy to go look them up, so I'll just lay on you my simile, metaphor, analogy, parable, or whatever the f*** it is to illustrate what I've been through.

Have you ever seen that old gizmo trick, sold in the magic or joke shops, of the dollar bill attached to a long elastic string? The gag is to leave the dollar on the sidewalk, then when some poor schlepp leans over to pick it up, the jokester snaps it out of his grasp. And old but still funny gag. Well, that's what happened to me this time, but in a much bigger way; instead of a dollar, it was a six-figure deal.

So f*** me. Back to Square One.

While wallowing in the disappointment of the event, or lack thereof in this case, I looked around at some of the people that come and go in my life. You know them: the kind of people who only come around when they want something from you. They don't give a damn about anything you're going through or what you're doing in your life; they just want to bleed a little something out of you then travel on their way. I was trying to explain this to someone the other day, and I couldn't think of the word to anchor my simile, metaphor, analogy, parable or whatever the f*** it is. The key word, I learned later, was remora: those little fishes that hang on to bigger fish like sharks and rays and ride around for free, feeding on the scraps the big fish miss. Parasites. Dead weight. Useless. But as I was trying to explain my simile, metaphor, analogy, parable or whatever, the species name escaped me. Instead, I said, "You know, those suck...fish," followed by the above description of what a remora is. "Suckfish." That's what these people are; calling them remoras would be an insult to the species. At least suckfish don't promise the moon to the shark while they take a free ride.

*****

September 28, 2004

Words

I didn't even know her. Never met her...she was a friend of a family member. I had heard about her a few times, but that's about all.

But she knew me. Knew my soul.

A couple of years ago, she was given a copy of one of my books, In The Way That Elephants Do. She was going through a hard time - her husband had recently died - and the gift-giver thought she might gain some comfort from it.

A few months later, I got a nice email from her, telling me how much she enjoyed the story. I thanked her politely, this kind lady, for taking the time to write. I was glad I touched her with my words.

This year, I heard that this lady had fallen ill; another trial in her short life she didn't deserve. Cancer. Rapidly spreading, terminal. She fought the good fight, always keeping her spirits up.

Her brother had taken care of her for the past few months. Chemo, radiation and finally, hospice. Just a few days ago, she called him to her room. The cancer had spread to her brain, and she could barely speak. Only a few words would come. She motioned for her brother to bring her a pen and paper. He did so, but knew full well she was paralyzed on that side and could not write. She pointed to a shelf and told him to bring her a book.

"Open it to the bookmark," she wheezed to him.

He did so. Underlined was a passage.

"That's what I want read at my funeral."

Today, I went to her funeral. This woman I don't even know.

But who knew me.

I sat there in the chapel as the minister gave the eulogy. Then her brother talked of his love for his sister, and the good times they had together in her 57 years. Then he paused a bit, and introduced the story of Noah of the Great Flat, the Wanderer. Then he passed the lectern to the minister, who read these words:

We all mingled together for a long time, saying our good-byes to each other, some good-byes longer than others.

"Come here, little one," Dido said as she pulled me close to her. "Can I take him with me? He's an absolute dream."

Mother just smiled proudly. "I think I'll hang on to him," she said.

"Now don't you grow up and act like the rest of these buffoons, you hear me?" she whispered so mother couldn't hear. "You be something special, all right?" I didn't have time to answer. Dido's attention was diverted away from me, and I was somewhat relieved. I looked where she and everyone else was looking.

It was Caleb, coming from his place in the trees, looking powerful and proud. He started with the males, who stood in awe of the magnificent creature.

"Now behave yourselves, and always act with honor and dignity. Carry on the virtue of our heritage, even to the death."

His words were strange to me then, as they were to most of those listening. They were the kind of words that lay dormant and forgotten in the dark recesses of your mind until one day, when your soul is finally able to comprehend them, they come forth again, uninvited, yet clear and precise and true.

He bowed gracefully to all the females, telling them to remain beautiful and loving like they were. Then he came to Dido.

He stood before his beloved sister with a deep, deep sadness in his eyes. Tears began to flow from her own, and they embraced, rocking each other gently back and forth as both clans gathered around and honored their grief.

"See you on the other side of the mountains..." Dido whispered to him softly.

"...where the sweet grass grows," Caleb finished.

They ended their embrace and Caleb backed away from Dido and her clan. He fell to one knee, hung his head low, and bowed deeply.

"Farewell, and God be with you," he said, then turned to us and began walking away.

We waved at Dido one more time, then turned and joined Caleb in his walk to the west. I scurried to keep up with him, not really comprehending what had happened. I turned and looked back at Dido. Aphrodite and Penelope were embracing her as she wept openly. I turned back to Caleb.

Huge tears were rolling down his face as he struggled to remain stoic and strong. It was then that I realized for the first time that Caleb and Dido, after a lifetime together, would never see each other again.

Words are powerful things. We put them together and they mean something. Words can be dangerous things. Or sometimes, they can give life. Sometimes we aim them at each other, hoping the other gets the point. And sometimes, we launch them into oblivion with no real target, hoping they reach someone, somehow.

I guess my arrow found a mark. My words touched someone, someone I didn't even know. Touched her in a way I never intended, a way I could never have foreseen. It is an awesome responsibility, to put words together and launch them into the heavens.

I don't know how to feel about all this. I am glad this lady found meaning in my work; that's the measure of a writer. My words gave this kind lady some solace during the hardest of times. But there is an emptiness to it all; the hovering goblin of a life cut short. And in that, I cannot rejoice.

 

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