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Is Smoking the New Black?

Last week, in a fleet of minivans, the art school students moved back into their dorms. It was cute to see them with their families, a constellation of skinny-assed, disheveled spots in a sea of corporate conformity. Of course, each student’s artistically individualized costume looks exactly like those of all the other students. They are now roaming the neighborhood in self-conscious packs, a herd of antelopes that have shown up at the party in the same dress.

And they’re all smoking because it makes them look oh-so-cool. They artistically gesture with their lit cigarettes, almost putting each other’s eyes out with red-hot embers. I don’t think they all smoked before, so something must be up. A generational suicide pact? I can’t pretend to be interested beyond the number this is going to do on my lungs as I walk down the street behind them, and the likelihood that I will be plucking cigarette butts smeared with black lipstick from our pots of ivy.

Yes, I am an old crank, thank you. When I wore torn black clothing, shaved my hair into a Mohawk, and pierced my body parts with safety pins, it was the nineteen-eighties. Different times, and blah blah blah.

It’s weird out today, burning sun with bursts of cold wind. Rain is in the air. Trees whip back and forth overhead, and the cuffs of the art students’ jeans, which have all been artistically rolled to three inches above their ankles, are flapping around their vintage flip-flops. If Katrina the hurricane had come ashore here, I would have had no fear: our roof has a skylight, and the art students could have sculpted us a dike, or fashioned a dam out of found materials. I have nothing but respect.

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A Mixed Bag

Today, I sold my old car, the Mazda. I suppose “old” sounds a bit pejorative. Today, I sold my double-plus-unnew car, the Mazda. (How’s that, George W. Orwell?) After the string of freaks and flakes who contacted me, the winners were a cute young couple from Dupont Circle who drove off in Ellen at about three-thirty this afternoon, leaving me with a hole in my heart and a fifteen-thousand-dollar cashier’s check. I thought I was going to have to accept less money, as the only other person to test drive it was a wild-eyed older guy from the suburbs who thought he could schnooker me into taking off a thousand dollars because he found a microscopic ding in the passenger side door.

I’m so sad about New Orleans, too sad to actually follow the story. Rob has been feeding me tidbits of news for the past few days, which is bad enough. The only time I ever went there, I saw a prostitute with breasts bigger than her head standing on Bourbon Street. My eyes must have jumped out of my skull; my father was with me and said, “Look away, David.” I feel as if that’s what I’m doing now, looking away from New Orleans, not to protect my virtue* but my sanity.**

 

* Good lord, I haven’t seen that in years.

** Hmm, that, either.

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This Day in History

Today is the first anniversary of this.

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Life in These United States

Picture it, August 10, 2005: In a last-minute effort to write in this web log before embarking on a cruise to Bermuda, our hero David lugs his Powerbook to a hipster café on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that boasts a free WiFi Internet connection. Much to his horror, he has arrived at the beginning of a satanic ceremony known as “Story Hour,” marked by the presence of dozens of human babies—along with their harried nannies, massive buggy strollers, and enough accoutrements to choke a giraffe—and an unending chorus of “The Wheels on the Bus.”

In the name of the Internet, our hero decides to brave this cacophony for a few minutes, only to be greeted with the hideous spectacle of nannies not only changing the shittiest diapers imaginable right in middle of a café, but tossing the used bundles into the trashcan right next to the counter, where the food is located!!!!!

Thus, while David was typing this, he was seeing the nastiest version imaginable ofthis

*

Picture it, August 19, 2005: Our hero David steps into the salon to keep his haircut appointment. In the waiting room, three female stylists between clients giggle and murmur over something appearing on their mobile phone screens. Bored and vaguely curious, our hero pays attention to this ritual for several moments, until its purpose becomes nauseatingly clear.

They are exchanging photographs of their boyfriends’ penises, snapped with camera phones of unwitting subjects.

*

Picture it, August 26, 2005: In the express checkout line at Safeway, our hero David waits to purchase four boxes of dishwashing detergent, behind a man carrying only a bottle of Snapple iced tea. The other man’s attention is drawn to the tabloid rack, which features an advertisement for the latest J.Lo. extravaganza, Monster-in-Law,bearing the tagline “Come and Get It” directly adjacent to the star’s monstrous cleavage.

“You know what that means, don’t you?” the man asks of our hero.

“I can’t imagine,” says David.

“It means you got a date tonight with her, and you gonna get some.”

“Get some of what?” our hero asks as a woman resembling his grandmother enters the line behind him.

“You gonna get some of that, man.” He indicates the curves on the advertisement. “She wants you to take her home. She wants to do stuff with you, man.”

“I believe she is barking up the wrong tree,” says David frostily.

“Yeah, well.” The other man then changes the topic to a Women’s Studies class he once took, during which he learned about the advertising industry’s exploitation of women’s sexuality for fun and profit. “It’s terrible, man. It’s terrible what they do.”

Our hero agrees that it is, indeed, terrible.

“They once asked me—I was the only guy in the class, and they went around talking about it, and they came to me—would you rather your lover be sexually unfaithful or emotionally unfaithful? I was like, I don’t gotta answer that, do I?”

“And what did you say?” David only asks because he knows he is bound by the Geneva Conventions of checkout line conversation. Fortunately, it is suddenly the other man’s turn to pay for his purchase. Then he takes his Snapple iced tea and wanders away, leaving our hero with his four boxes of dishwashing detergent, feeling vaguely unclean.


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TRAVEL JOURNAL, DAYS SEVEN AND EIGHT: Norfolk, VA to New York City

America sounds like trucks backing up. America looks like a naval battleship with its guns pointed at my balcony. Those were the first sensations we had of our home country when we wake up in Norfolk, Virginia. Worse, it was hideously early: passport control officers boarded the ship at seven a.m. and summoned all passengers down to be “processed.” I felt certain I was going to end the day as Soylent Green.

Norfolk, Virginia is less pleasant than Bermuda, in case you were wondering. There is no cheerful man dressed in colonial garb welcoming us with open arms and the tinkling of a bell. Norfolk, Virginia offers the dour faces of Homeland Security, the looming bulk of an x-ray machine, and anti-aircraft cannons pointed at my window.
We went back to bed for a bit of a nap after passing through Immigration, and too soon we were up again, having breakfast, and making a beeline for the nearest Starbucks to find a high-speed Internet connection. I could have stayed all day, but there was only time to do a mail download (I got something like three hundred to sift through) and a blog update; we still needed to find a pharmacy for some sunburn medication and some blank CDs for one reason or another. We needed to be back onboard by two-thirty, not just because we were departing then but, more importantly, a poolside ice cream social began at that precise moment.

Rob’s and Mr. Producer’s question-and-answer session was at three o’clock. As predicted, the usual loudmouths were in attendance. The two loudest of the loudmouths were both theater investors (one had the thick and rotten teeth of a walrus, and the other was a Suzanne Sommers groupie). It was, however, a good thing they were there, as nobody else had any questions at all, although it was with only the greatest self-discipline that was able to restrain myself from standing up and asking Mr. Producer if my magical spell had begun to take effect.
For the rest of the night, we plodded up the American East Coast; it was invisible in the rain and fog, but we had mobile phone reception. If I had plunged overboard, at least I would have been able to check on movie times while flailing toward shore.

*

Another early morning. The last day of the cruise, pulling into New York Harbor, we had to be out of our suites by eight o’clock. As Rob showered, I went out onto the balcony and watched as we passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and as we approached the Statue of Liberty, I started to cry. [Political commentary excised.] So what else is there to tell? Our last buffet breakfast? Our two-hour wait in the lounge for our group to be called to disembark? Waiting in line for a cab? Rushing to Penn Station to catch the Amtrak to Baltimore? We plunged decisively back into our lives and have been on the go ever since.

And that is what I did on my last-minute emergency cruise to Bermuda. I hope my next last-minute emergency cruise is to the mountains.

THE
HEN
END

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TRAVEL JOURNAL, DAY SIX: The Open Seas

Note: Yes, yes, I know. I have been remiss in posting. It’s not as if anyone cares what I did on a boat anyway. But for the sake of completion, the travel journal continues, days after I have arrived home!

Upon rereading what I’ve written so far on this trip, I thought, “How dull!” Not that I’m not having a good time, but it’s hard to convey the languid energy of a cruise to a bunch of landlubbers such as yourselves. One good round of a trivia challenge or one too many teacakes is all it takes to wear you out for an afternoon. Perhaps the reason I’ve had a hard time figuring out the point of all of this is that it’s pointless. Or rather, there is a point, but it’s nothing. The goal is true leisure, broken only by the anticipation of destination. Even as lazy as I am, I’ve never really experienced true leisure before; my mind is at once giving into it and rebelling against it, creating the most appalling schizophrenia: my personal substitute for the traditional seasickness. Most of the people here, however, appear to have no problem with leisure. As intelligent and powerful as they may be in their everyday lives, the passengers have been reduced to the level of kindergarteners or residents in a sanitarium, wandering from one inoffensive activity to the next. Given the lack of anything else to distract us, a new kind of civilization has arisen on this vessel, sort of like Lord of Flies, except the pig is served buffet-style.

*

Rob’s second presentation was this morning, on the topic of the future of Broadway. The two central theses were the continual tension between the artistic and financial sides of the theater equation, and that the predominant musicals from each decade match the zeitgeist of the times. His lecture was attended by a producer of The Producers, who later gave his own lecture and tomorrow is scheduled to preside with Rob over a question-and-answer session. (I can predict exactly which loudmouths are going to show up at that event. They have been asking questions the whole time, although by “asking questions” they mean “expressing their own unshakable opinions and inserting a question mark at the end.”) Also, little does Mr. Producers Producer know, but I have been busily weaving a spell that will force him to arrange for Rob’s play Vanishing Point to be mounted on Broadway with an all-star cast, making trillions of dollars in its thirty-year run.

When people ask me why I have only written two point five pages of my book on this cruise, when I had intended to write twenty, I will shrug my shoulders and point out in an exasperated tone that spells just don’t weave themselves, you know!

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TRAVEL JOURNAL DAYS FOUR AND FIVE: Hamilton to St. George, Bermuda

Still no sign of Tropical Storm Irene, a shame because Rob woke up today wanting to go to a beach. Readers of my previous travel journals know the extent to which I hate beaches, so it was either pray for a hurricane or palm him off on someone else headed in that direction. I was startlingly successful at the latter, and off he went while I walked into Hamilton in search of a Cingular store. I get cell phone reception here but apparently can’t make any calls because I haven’t signed up for international roaming. I can’t even check my messages. This is upsetting because I received an email today on the ship’s glacial Internet connection that Cara, who has been Goblin-sitting, was mugged in our neighborhood, her purse stolen. I feel so awful that I’m just lounging around here when my dear friend is in trouble, but I suppose there’s nothing I can do. At the Cingular store, they explained the problem and said that I might call 1-866-CINGULAR to remedy it.

“Is that a toll-free call?” I asked, inadvertently generating a great deal of mirth.

“Ain’t nothing toll-free in Bermuda,” the woman laughed. I wanted to beg to differ. The National Gallery, just across the street from the Cingular store, had a free admission, as had Fort Hamilton. But then I realized what she meant: in Bermuda, nothing useful comes without a price.

*

It’s a quiet day with Rob gone. I’m glad he got to the beach with someone who was actually enthused about it, because I want him to enjoy himself. He said he couldn’t come to Bermuda and not go to a beach, a sentiment with which I heartily disagree. Bermuda is lovely, but unlike other areas I have visited—like Rome, Edinburgh, Oaxaca in Mexico, and Monteverde in Costa Rica—I don’t feel such an affinity for it that I never want to leave.

I want to leave right on schedule.

*

Rob returned from his beach excursion the color of a plum, a shade that grew even darker and more purple as the evening progressed. He took a cold bath and slathered himself in aloe lotion and my rainforest skin cream, remedies that had a questionable effect on the appearance of his sunburn, although he claimed that there was no actual pain. By the next morning, he was sporting orange blisters on his nose.

It was a rough night for both of us. I had terrible nightmares that combined the theme of Cara’s mugging with the story of a murder-suicide a dining companion of ours had once witnessed. By morning, I had barely slept. The ship moved (very slowly) from Hamilton to St. George overnight. St. George is a posh colonial town that was almost entirely shut down on this Sunday. Nobody could figure out the point of us actually going there, and it didn’t seem as if many people from the ship had gone ashore. The captain announced that we would be leaving a few hours earlier than planned to avoid the worst of Tropical Storm Irene, which had missed Bermuda and was traveling north. It was therefore a quiet day. We took a short walk through the small town in the morning (I wouldn’t let Rob stay in the sun too long), returned for lunch, then watched from the upper decks as the ship cast off. People along the shores and in other boats waved as we passed out of the harbor. Rob and I had drinks and went to tea, then returned to the cabin in an attempt to find Beauty Shop on television again.

We had seen most of the Queen Latifah movie the previous afternoon and, although it is not a brilliant movie, we both fell in love with it. I can’t speak to Rob’s motivation, but for obvious reasons, I was entranced with the idea of setting up a business that is the reflection of one’s personality, and having that vision be shared by loyal coworkers until it finally pays off in the end. The film ends on that high note, of course, whereas in real life, it is extremely difficult for a business to remain successful. But it was nowhere to be found on today’s TV schedule, alas, so we went to dinner and then once again to see our new performer friends’ show.

More medleys. Medleys are probably an art form, and these were probably good ones, but I haven’t spent enough time on cruise ships to develop much of an appreciation, and it’s unlikely that such a thing is possible, even if I were to be trapped on a cruise ship for all eternity.

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TRAVEL JOURNAL, DAY THREE: Hamilton, Bermuda

I woke up this morning when the ship stopped moving on the waves, the stillness being sudden enough to startle me out of sleep. It was nice just to notice something and not be expected to do anything about it. Maybe, in the end, that is what this sort of vacation is all about. As we rolled out of bed and showered (no yoga today), theNavigator sailed slowly into Bermuda’s calm harbor, where it docked at precisely nine a.m. On the shore, a black man in the garb of a colonial town crier rang a bell and screamed that we were welcome in Bermuda, and especially welcome if we brought our wallets and contributed to the local economy. Not much of a danger of that with us, I’m afraid. In Hamilton, the main city in Bermuda, Rob bought a pair of cheap cufflinks, and we had a scone at a crowded café. We peeked into two bookstores and a stationery store without buying anything, and breezed through the tiny National Gallery, which was free. I don’t know if there’s much to see here, but the guidebook lists shopping as the main attraction, even above the beaches. There could be a lot that I’ve missed: the sun is so bright that I can’t look directly at anything, and the heat and humidity are so bad that my glasses lenses are continually fogged over. Even my camera lens fogged when I tried to take a photo of the harbor. After just a short excursion, we returned to the ship for lunch and a nap.

During an afternoon hike through Hamilton, which is only one square mile, we quickly toured the old fort (a remnant of the American Revolutionary War, when the British stationed troops here). After that, we’d seen just about everything there was to see in the city proper and, each of us drowning in his own perspiration, we headed back for the boat once again.

We had dinner with some of our new performing friends and afterwards watched their show. There were a lot of medleys, and I’m not a fan of medleys: if I like a song, I want to hear the whole thing, and if I don’t like it, I don’t want to hear even a note of it. Either way, medleys are a lose-lose proposition in my book, but they knew their audience, and the cruise-ship blue hairs ate it up. After the show we went in search of a lounge for some drinks and bitchy gay conversation, and then bed.

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TRAVEL JOURNAL, DAYS ONE AND TWO: New York and the High Seas

I have never wanted to go on a cruise nor understood those who are enchanted by the idea . . . which is not to say that I’m not grateful for this adventure or that it’s wasted on me. It’s actually quite fascinating to experience the juxtaposition of the “highest” form of our civilization upon the wild and indifferent expanse of the ocean, as if someone has tilted the Plaza hotel on its side and set it adrift in the waves. We’re on the Radisson cruise line, on the M/S Seven Seas Navigator, which we’re told is of a higher caliber than the ordinary cruise. Obviously, I have no frame of reference, but I do know that, on this ship, there is no element that can’t boast being the most luxurious manifestation possible under the conditions, the conditions being that we are hundreds of miles from shore, subject to a relentless undulation, and apparently aimed directly toward a tropical storm. The motion is actually not that bad. We’re told that cruise ships more modern than this one can create greater stability, but I’m not craving it, and there are elderly people who seem equally unaffected as they totter around the corridors with canes and walkers. Of course, I’m wearing my seasickness wristbands. (Rob is faring a bit worse than I am, but he has also eaten more and is a bit hung over from the boozefest of departure.) It’s difficult not to think about the explorers, pirates, colonists, and pilgrims who hundreds of years ago made a similar journey, but I feel certain that they would scoff at this empathy, given my ability to mosey on down to the ship’s air-conditioned library to check my email or to take in a Broadway revue.

We departed New York in the early evening, gliding past the magnificent skyline along the Hudson River and passing the Statue of Liberty as it was bathed in the fire of the setting sun. I told Rob that I was feeling the most uncharacteristic sense of goodwill toward mankind, a sentiment he ascribed to the tequila sunrises they served at the bon voyage party, but really, you can’t see Manhattan from that angle (that is, from the outside) and not be moved by its possibilities. At the party, we sat with Peggy and George, a couple from Sacramento who had done the same cruise last year, and we ate dinner with Tammy and Sue, a lesbian couple from Long Island, retired schoolteachers whose last annual cruise was to the Panama Canal. According to Tammy, cruising is all about life experience. “That’s all there is!” she exclaimed in the dulcet tones of her Long Island accent. Certainly, most people can’t say they’ve been through the Panama Canal, nor will I encounter many people in the future who can say they were on a boat when Hurricane Irene slammed into Bermuda (unless Hurricane Irene sinks the boat, in which case we will all share one last common experience).

Dinner was a leisurely couple of hours, and suddenly exhausted, we went to bed early, lulled by the rocking waves and the creaking of the woodwork.

*

Experience. Cruising is all about experience, is it? Certainly not the experience of being on the ocean itself, or the opulent trappings wouldn’t be a requirement. Nor can the focus be those trappings, themselves. There are people on this boat who are paying almost twelve thousand dollars for their luxury suites, much more than more-comfortable accommodations would cost them on land. And it can’t be the excitement of the destinations, as one could just as easily (and much more conveniently) fly there. I’m trying to figure this out. We woke up early and went to the gym. Rob wanted to use the treadmills, but his hangover was starting to kick in so he went back to the room to practice the lecture he was contracted to give that afternoon. I attended the sunrise yoga class and chatted with the instructor about the tropical storms I had just seen described on CNN. “Bermuda’s no fun in the rain,” she said. “The captain is trying to figure out if we should go someplace else.” I was astonished by this. Obviously, I don’t want to sail into a potential hurricane, but taking an entire ship someplace else just so its passengers can have more “fun” out of the rain hit me as frivolous. The motion of the boat being somewhat similar to that of a train, I was also struck by the idea that we aren’t on a track: we don’t have to go someplace just because we’re supposed to go there.

After breakfast, we relaxed until it was time for Rob’s speech on “Broadway Behind the Scenes.” We ran into the cruise director in the lounge. His name is Sam, and Rob had been contact with him regarding this presentation. Sam fled the “oppressive skies” of Australia as a lad, hoping to break into show business; the dramatic embellishment he gave to his emergency preparation speech the day before was testament to this. Wearing my lifejacket, I was relieved to learn that all of the lifeboats were stocked with songbooks “so we can all sing Kumba-yah together.” I was also interested in getting to know Sam because, according to my reference guide to cruising (a.k.a. “The Love Boat”), the cruise director is the officer appointed by the captain to interfere in the passengers’ lives. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was going to break up our marriage and assign us to other bachelors on board, but as of yet, he has not seemed in the least inclined to do so.

Rob’s speech was brilliant, of course. When you see someone wander around the house in his underwear, scattering a cloud of crumbs in his wake, it’s understandable that one might occasionally forget that he is brilliant, but I was very proud. Afterward, some of this voyage’s contracted entertainers came to introduce themselves and invite us to dinner. It seems that Rob has some good friends in common with them, which made the following confusion all the more odd: they had been under the illusion that he was a Broadway producer. I burst that bubble, and they were gracious enough to pretend that that wasn’t their only interest in us.

After dinner, we all wandered down to the ship’s Broadway revue, which I left instantly upon realizing that part of it was lip-synched. I cannot abide lip-synching. Later, Rob reported back that it got better after I left, but life is too short for mediocrity, if you ask me.

And that was my life experience for the day. Tomorrow: Bermuda.

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Hasta La Bye Bye

I should tell you, although I do so reluctantly, that I am on my way to Bermuda. Yes, right now. I have dashed into a café to enjoy a final wireless net connection (and chocolate-chip cookie) before heading to the dock where my cruise ship awaits.

You may be wondering how a lifelong anti-cruise activist has gotten himself into this predicament. You can blame my husband, who a few days ago convinced himself it was a good idea to take a last-minute lecturing position on a week-long excursion to Bermuda. In lieu of actual money, the payment is two free tickets, everything included.

I love the idea of spending time with Rob and possibly relaxing a bit, especially considering that my last vacation was spent walking thirteen miles a day while simultaneously battling pneumonia. I do not love water. It unnerves me even in the shower, where I carefully stick one body part at a time under the stream. I’m not afraid of water, exactly, or at least no more than I’m afraid of anything else; it simply isn’t my element. I’m an earth sign, my intellect is rather airy, my personality is wooden, my temper is fiery, and my rapier wit is metallic, but nowhere in this elemental concatenation do we encounter two molecules of hydrogen combined with one of oxygen.

I understand you humans are something like seventy-five percent water, and I feel sorry for you.

So anyway, I won’t have a very reliable Internet connection, but if blogging doesn’t begin again in a week, send out the Marines. I have the very uncomfortable feeling that my old nemesis Ursula the Sea Witch is up to her old tricks.

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Close Encounters

I had lunch with Brian today. A tourist to Baltimore, he managed to squeeze in our appointment between the American Urological Museum and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum. He was utterly delightful, but I found myself wondering if my company could possibly compare to that of a roomful of dioramas dedicated to the human bladder.

On the way home, I ran into my dear friend Elizabeth, wandering the streets and looking for the keys she had dropped during her noontime walk. I suggested that she use my mobile phone to call her office to see if she had left them there, and she discovered that she indeed had. No one can tell me I don’t affect lives, although possibly not as many as the human bladder.

After meeting with my general contractor and not meeting with my dear friend Viki, I kept my appointment with Amy and briefly encountered my ex-boyfriend Michael, who presented me with a miniature bottle of cactus juice.

Later, on the train, I met a café attendant who resembled no one so much as Kia, the terrorist designer from television’s “Trading Spaces.” She was running a DVD of Mommie Dearest behind the bar. “That’s my favorite movie!” I exclaimed. “Mine, too!” she exclaimed. Luckily, no one else was in line, for we spent several minutes crowing about our favorite scenes, finally settling on the one where Joan Crawford glides down the stairs of her mansion wearing a gorgeous evening gown and clutching a plate of rotten meat.

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Sunday Blanket Blogging

Well, I knitted this baby blanket.

Also, Content Challenge is over for me, as well as for thee.

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At First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified, See?

My friend Amy is Miss All-American Bird (an aquatic bald eagle), and my friend Tiffany does a spot-on impersonation of Edward G. Robinson singing “I Will Survive.”

I’m afraid my own talents are more limited in scope. To date, I’d have to say that my crowning glory was concocting a lengthy outgoing answering-machine message in which Captain Picard was being forced to scrub the Holodeck floor by Joan Crawford, and looking back, I don’t think I did that by myself.

I have news, Internet, but I’m too tired to share it tonight. Content Challenge has ended for some, but it rages on for those of us who received special dispensation from Cara to start late. I suggested that our next group activity should be called Blog War, but neither Cara nor I could imagine how to bring that about. I suppose the matter would be taken out of our hands if one of our web logs were sitting on most of the world’s available oil, but I think all we can manage is most of the world’s available sarcasm.

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Friday Chupacabra Blogging


“Hello, my name is . . .”

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This Just In

The Internet tried to steal my car.

The Internet also tried to steal ten thousand dollars.

The Internet keeps lyin’ when it oughta be truthin’.

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Ask Me No Questions

The Gallup people just called, acting as if they were god’s gift to the universe, as if I don’t have anything better to do than drop everything and expound on my opinions at length. Okay, they saw me coming. I love to expound on my opinions at length. I was salivating for a juicy poll, like what do I think of the antichrist who is our illegal president, or what do I think of the illegal and ill-advised war he has gotten us into, but they had all these questions about teenage drinking instead. As if anyone cares about that.

They could at least have asked me about SUVs. I have been thinking about SUVs lately, and about how they are about the stupidest thing going. Aside from the fuel economy issue, I love how all of these people buy them because they think they are safe vehicles but then don’t even know how to drive them safely. I saw about twelve SUVs today careening from lane to lane because the drivers couldn’t control them at any speed above forty miles per hour.

Then there were another dozen going forty miles per hour in the sixty-five mile-per-hour zone.

I think people should really stay home more. Write that down, Gallup.

Another thing they could have polled me about is integrity. Basically, I’m in favor of it, but I may be the only one. Do what you say you’re going to do, and take responsibility if you don’t. Corollary: If you have a job, try to do it well. And if you’re a contractor trying to sell yourself as an expert at something, don’t you think it might be nice if you were actually good at it? (Start with the man in the mirror, Gallup. That poll was the crappiest thing to come down the pike in a long time.)

Other things I am strongly not in favor of: the religious right, smoking in public places, littering, dogs that are off leash on the sidewalk, people who try to make me feel bad, artificial sweeteners, Jar Jar Binks, robbers, and people from the future who have time machines just sitting around but won’t use them to help us out of the hideous mess we’re in.

My demographics. I am a twenty-three-year-old Pacific Islander with a Ph.D. and washboard abs.

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First-Person Shooter

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, I’m obsessed with something new. It’s a game called Star Wars: Battlefront, the point of which is to dress up like a stormtrooper or a rebel or a droid and shoot everything else you see. This is not the game I thought it was going to be; I thought it was going to be a space game, but instead, it’s a running around and shooting people game.

I have never played a first-person shooter before, or even wanted to. Guns are bad. I am more the strategic type. There is a game I like to play that is like chess except with tanks and airplanes, and that’s fun, but it stopped working on my computer, so I got this new one.

The great thing about Star Wars: Battlefront is when you get to be a stromtrooper. Every time you get killed, you get to come back from the dead in your choice of new outfits, as if you are Wonder Woman spinning around extra times for an appropriate ensemble. There are regular stormtroopers and stormtroopers with black and blue and yellow stripes. I think that the point of all this is that each outfit gets its own kind of gun, but that’s hard to tell because I keep getting entranced by the green stormtroper’s Sunday best.

The graphics in this game are extremely realistic, which is good and bad. It’s good because playing it is a vivid experience. It’s bad because even if you only play the game for a little while, its realism tends to superimpose itself over your own experience.

Last night, Rob and I went to the Hampden neighborhood for dinner. Walking up the Avenue to the restaurant, I kept getting the idea that stormtroopers and rebels were around every corner. What was really around every corner were bands of belligerent, drunken children, knocking things over, punching cars, and screaming at the top of their lungs. “Are you guys drunk like I am?” one boy kept yelling at us between banging on shop windows and howling at the moon. He was one nasty-looking thirteen year old. I wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him and ask him what he thought he was going to get out of life with that sort of attitude. He was angry, and I don’t blame him. The neighborhood he grew up in is being bought out from under families like his by yuppie gentrifiers, and the politicians his family sees as leaders and heroes are actually lying monsters who are selling their futures for a few extra bucks they don’t even need. How do you tell someone like this that his only chance of escaping the ice floe of misery that’s carrying him toward his certain doom is to defy the low expectations of the world around him and use his anger as a motivating force to improve himself?

Well, you don’t.

What you do is to hope to god he’s not going to kill you for no reason as you walk past, then go home and shoot a few extra stormtroopers in his honor.

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Hippie Hippie Shake

Today is my parents’ thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. As anyone with a brain and a photograph of me can figure out, I came along late in their marriage. When Rob and I have been married for thirty-five years, he will be seventy-three, and I will be fifty-eight.

Good lord, I like older men, but not that much.

Speaking of older men, my grandfather went home from the hospital today. I went to visit him at his retirement home, and they gave me a free milkshake just for walking in the door. Actually, they gave it to me for sitting on a bench outside the door. Why walk when you can sit? Why not drink a milkshake when you can drink a milkshake?

It was chocolate.

Speaking of man purses, I might have to start carrying a man purse. I discovered that carrying my mobile phone in my front left pocket has been creating an almost intolerable blockage of qi in my left leg. Also, carrying my wallet in my back pocket is hurting my ass when I sit down on it. It is thick, not with money but with membership cards for every consumer loyalty scheme known to man. This is funny because I’m the most disloyal consumer on earth. These trappings of consumerism will be the death of me yet.