Die, Little Timmy! Die!

I heard once that the Spam company was trying to get people to quit using the term ‘spam’ for unsolicited email. They gave up… ‘spam’ is just too universally accepted as a term for anything that you receive that you don’t really want.

Like a fruitcake, In-Laws, or a drip that requires penicillin.

Or Urban Myths.

You know about the Urban Myths. You get them in email, with the subject line that says “Happy story… forward this to a hundred friends, and make a difference in a little boy’s life, and happy good luck will follow you all your days.”

Little Timmy is dying a slow and painful death from some obscure South American toenail disease he contracted while swimming in the ball pit at McDonalds, and his last wish is for me to send a list of sappy affirmations previously turned down as too saccharine for Hallmark, and not funny enough for Jack Handy, to 10,000 of my closest friends in the next 24 hours, and if I can also see my way to sending him a book of matches from every nudie bar between here and Las Vegas the Doctors in the toenail ward will donate all their earnings to the SPCA to save a blind kitten.

Every day I have five or ten of these waiting for me at my desk, in amongst the real important mail. It won’t quit. We just change the name, change the disease, and it’s a whole new story. Next time, it’s Tommy, not Timmy. It’s ringworm, not toenail rot. We can’t let these stories go. We love the myth. We love the fantasy. We won’t let Timmy die.

And the kicker, the real pisser about this whole thing, the aspect of this that convinces me that I haven’t been nearly careful enough in choosing who I hang out with, is that these are coming to me from my friends. People who say they like me. People who, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t toilet paper my house or leave bags of burning dog crap on my front stoop, but they send me these things because they really believe these stories. What kind of a moron falls for this crap? What kinds of idiots have got me in their address books, that I continue to receive this kind of drivel?

We never used to have these kinds of problems, back in the dark ages before the Internet. Actually choosing to have a subscription to the National Enquirer was the only way you knew that someone was taking up a collection to buy Wolf Boy plastic surgery. They didn’t just drop by the house and slip it in with the bills in an envelope that had an IRS return address, and if you opened it you were automatically signed up to receive another ten Wolf Boy stories in the mail every day. I never had my privacy jeopardized because a coupon book from the neighborhood Quick-E-Mart arrived in my mailbox, and a midget jumped out, ran in the kitchen, stole my address book and started mailing coupons for hookers and farm sex to all my friends. Not before the email.

Ah, the internet. Brave New World technologies that will turn the old school on its ear, and reinvent the way people interact and share and grow and learn and live and love.

Brave New World my ass.

Well, we may have to stick with the Internet now. Too late to do anything about it, everybody wants it, everybody has to have a website, nobody writes letters any more, nobody makes a damn phone call any more, nobody buys Playboy any more, nobody masturbates in the bathroom any more.

I guess I’ll have to get used to unscrupulous mass-market-mailing companies sending my unsolicited advertisements. I dealt with it in the pre-internet days. I’ll deal with it now.

And I guess we’ll get used to the anarchistic, adolescent sexless computer geeks who get their rocks off writing code that brings small business to its knees so they can have their fifteen minutes of fame among their anarchistic, adolescent sexless computer geek friends, because their computer virus corrupted more flower shop’s address books than their buddy’s computer virus.

But this crap from friends I don’t have to stick with. I want someone to write a computer virus that will automatically remove me from the address books of anyone stupid enough to send me this kind of crap, and make me forget that I ever thought these people were smarter than a bag of doorknobs. A virus that will bring an end to this inane waste of time, and destroy the myth. A virus that will kill Timmy. Let go, little Timmy. Let go! Put me out of your misery!

Death to the little boy with the rotten toenails, that’s what I want. Is that asking so much?

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Christmas Hair

The plastic Christmas tree is a vast improvement over the natural tree.

[One], I didn’t have to kill it.

And [B], I don’t have to deal with spiders crawling out of it in the middle of the night and eating my brain.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Yet I still feel guilty somehow, like I’ve committed the ultimate Sin against Holiday Tradition by taking the Holiest of Family icons and replacing it with plastic. Plastic is fine for the baby Jesus on the front lawn … it’s even better if you light if from the inside with a 900 watt searchlight that you can see from space. Baby Jesus projected on the clouds like some kind of holy Bat Signal.

But plastic is somehow innately wrong for the tree.

I don’t miss wandering around the supermarket parking lot inhaling diesel fumes, lost in a maze of cyclone fencing, trying to pick out the best dried-out tree nailed to a wooden two-by-four cross like some kind of weird evergreen crucifix.

And I don’t miss hunting it down myself during my one annual trek to the local hills where snaggle-toothed hillbillies who spend the balance of the year raising punkins charge me seventy-five dollars a foot to watch me cut down my own tree with a dull saw.

But I do miss loading all my kids in the car, cruising from one crowded grocery store parking lot to another in search of the cheapest five feet of decrepit, uneven, rapidly decomposing wad of Tannenbaum, struggling not to let them adopt every 24-inch bare-assed little Charlie Brown shrub we stumble across.

I do miss sliding around the muddy hillside in white tennis shoes, trying to remember whether it was the Noble Fir, the Ponderosa Pine or the California Silver-tip Gravenstein Sierra Madre Mark IV that was under sixty-three dollars a foot and wondering why I ever thought I’d be able to identify any one of them by sight anyway, as the kids mark the latest perfect tree with a coffee cup we find on the trail and then promptly forget which of the hundred-and-ninety-seven acres held that flawless specimen because they instantly find another more perfect tree two minutes later.

And although I don’t miss its crappy little combustible needles all over my living room, turning up in my socks for the next six months like forgotten Easter eggs that you don’t find until after you’ve spent a week emptying cans of Lysol behind the refrigerator and asking your friends if they smell what you smell, I do miss the smell of a real tree, the daily watering, and the odd little dance the two of us do as we cha-cha around the living room trying desperately to find the side that won’t embarrass us with its bald spot.

There is something oddly comforting about the tree giving its all, standing sentinel in my living room for three weeks in its Sunday best. There’s comfort and tradition in the process of hunting and gathering, of communing, of pruning and decorating and lighting and watering and nurturing, watching the tree go to the extreme to bring me and mine happiness and holiday spirit. There’s distinction in seeing the branches and the trunk slowly showing through the thin spots, as it dries and droops and drops its needles in a protective circle around the perimeter of the ceramic town with the plastic train, something you don’t get with a plastic tree, no matter how many automotive air fresheners you hang on it. There’s wisdom, and history, and sacrifice in watching the tree slowly going bald.

Buying a plastic tree is for people who think that it’s the tree itself that’s important. It means forgetting about the process, and focusing instead on the thing, and missing the forest for the trees.

Speaking of which, I had a woman ask me once if I would ever consider getting a hair transplant. Asking a man to consider getting a hair transplant is like asking a woman if she’d consider getting breast implants.

What’s wrong with my hair? Isn’t my hair good enough for her? Has she been looking at somebody else’s hair?

Oh, sure, of course, she says, I love your hair just the way it is, she says. It’s just, well, wouldn’t you like to have a little more hair?

Maybe she’d like me to have big thick hair? Is that it? Like that guy at her office? Or Michael Landon? What’s the matter, Kelsey Grammer isn’t good enough for her? Bruce Willis not man enough?

Look, I’m not happy about the Friar Tuck reflector on the back of my head, the inverse Yarmulke around which my remaining hair circles like a group of whispy gray children playing ring around the sunburned scalp. I have to admit I considered the transplant for a few minutes. I even considered the weave.

I didn’t consider the comb over, or the can of hair. Somehow making a hat out of my own hair holds no interest and fools no one, and having to walk like I’m balancing a book to keep the brown Christmas flocking from sliding off my head just makes me look like a prima donna. Cheez Whiz is for crackers.

But buying the plastic hair, or even rearranging the landscaping, puts the focus on the thing, and forgets about the process. I have no desire to cover up the evidence of my wisdom and experience. I don’t want anyone to forget about the journey of years and pain and failure and disappointment that got me here. Those plastic trees, they may be convenient and look pretty, but they’ve never been alive. They haven’t suffered. So don’t ask me to deck myself in aluminum and fiberglass.

Just quit being such a shallow lazy bitch, and take the time to adventure into the woods and hunt me down. Spend a little time slopping around in the mudflats that are my history, dammit. Go to the trouble of breathing a little diesel fuel and getting lost in a cyclone maze, do a little comparison-shopping to understand why it’s worth it to overlook that uneven spot. Go ahead and hang an old coffee cup on me, so you know where to find me when you’re ready.

You can just turn my back against the wall when company comes over, and spread a sheet around my feet.

Oh yeah. Merry Freakin’ Christmas.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.


Halloween is over.
It’s almost Thanksgiving.
Then Christmas.
Then New Years.
It is, as I like to say, the beginning of the end.

This time of year is, in fact, a season that particularly pisses me off. It’s a series of events that illustrates just how much of our culture and society is really all about just what unrefined, frightened, lonely social animals we are.

We build up for twelve months toward the one major holiday of the year, Christmas (or Kwaanza, or Chanukka, or whatever you celebrate during that season) and it becomes a watershed moment of the year as regards your relationships. Yeah, sure, there’s some religious pretext, there’s all that crap about “good will toward men” or whatnot. But really, what you do is you take stock of your friends and relationships in a very digital way. You prioritize them, in dollars and cents, as to who this year during this month is worth the most effort and expense, energy and attention. It forces you to re-evaluate the most intimate aspects of your life. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on which relationships are showing a worthwhile Return On Investment, and which ones may have run their course. And admit it or not, you use it as a guide to gauge how you rate on the lists of the folks around you.

This is followed by New Years Eve. A holiday which is made somewhat less entertaining by my encroaching sobriety, because drunk people are significantly less appealing when you are not among them. So few of them are as cute as Dean Martin.

New Years is, of course, the personal commitment holiday. After suffering through Christmas (or Kwaanza, or Chanukka) has forced us to evaluate our personal lives and relations, New Years gives us the opportunity to reinvent the things we’ve come to realize aren’t working for us, in an effort to ensure better, more valuable and rewarding relationships and intimacies. To make us more attractive to others.

We’ll treat our significant others better (to reduce the likelihood of being left without a mate). Eat better (to make ourselves healthier and more attractive to potential mates). Excercise more (to make us more attractive to our significant others). Get a better job (to make us more attractive to our significant others). Masturbate less (to save our seed for the procreation that nature demands). Write our great American novel. Be more selfish. Be less selfish. Get laid. Buy a pig.

There is always some apparently significant personal change that needs making.

Then there’s Valentine’s day.
Six weeks into the new you. A month and a half into the first year of the rest of your life. 45 days into the more exciting, healthier, more well rounded relationships you had mapped out.
How’s it going?

This is a poser of a holiday, invented in a smoke-filled room during a meeting between executives at Hallmark and the calendar publishers of At-A-Glance. I know it’s not a real holiday, and I’m willing to bet that “Saint Valentine” was no saint. Probably named after Rudolph Valentino, for all I know.

Frankly, i don’t freakin’ care. What I do know is that, just like Christmas and Chanukka and Kwaanza have been reduced to mere working models of intimate interaction, Valentine’s Day has become little more than the day we reflect on how poorly the new plan is working out.

Unless of course you’ve actually been lucky enough to stumble into a close relationship that appears to be exclusive. Better say thank you! Thank you for not leaving me alone, worthless, and without company. Here’s a card! It has a puppy on it!
Please don’t leave.

Got no-one to send a card to?
Then you probably dropped the ball on that “I’m gonna reinvent my life, goals and relationships” thing.

No big deal, you might say, as you don’t need anyone. You’re whole and complete on your own.
Yeah, right.

We humans are social animals. Our relationships, our family units, our religions and our holidays are about social organizations. About filling our innate need for companionship, reproduction and survival. It’s about all of us being so afraid to be alone, we structure our whole social calendar around guaranteeing it won’t happen. And about being so afraid to admit it, that we hide it behind holidays, white sales, and the seasonal offerings of gifts in exchange for, and appreciation of, just a little intimacy and companionship. We have turned the calendar year into a microcosm of that struggle; a twelve month cycle of family events, relationship evaluations, personal re-inventions, and other endless pursuits of intimacy.

All of which comes to a head over the course of the next six insane weeks, carrying the highest depression ratio of any calendar season.

And it all begins with Thanksgiving, a time when we give thanks to the Universe for not making our heads explode during the past year. Thanks for keeping our cars right side up, our flies shut in front of crowds, for keeping us from guzzling sour milk straight from the carton, and from eating our young. Thanks for all the minor little victories that should have gone without notice, lost in the radiance of success and love and fulfillment but instead were thrust into the limelight of primacy by virtue of the very lack of success and love and fulfillment over the course of the past year.

Thanks for keeping me breathing for the last twelve months. It’s the least you could have done.

Or maybe I just need to get laid.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Too Much Truthiness

I figured out what I want in life. I’ve struggled a long time with this, and more than once I’ve thought I had it all figured out. Today, I’m proud to announce that I finally got it. And it’s not that complicated.

I want too much of a good thing.

That seems easy, right? I’m not asking so much. But I’ve discovered that it’s way more complicated than I ever imagined.

The trick, you see, is in knowing which good thing you want too much of, ‘cuz you’re not gonna get too much of all the good stuff. It just doesn’t work that way. In this life, you’re gonna get too much of one, maybe two good things. Tops. So you gotta choose carefully, and wait for the right moment. You use your one chance for excess on “too much pecan pie”, and you’ve blown your chance at the “too much sweet lovin'” option. Then you’d be pissed.

Now excess isn’t hard to come by … We get plenty too much of the crap we don’t want… excess crap is easy to come by. You never hear anybody saying that they’re not getting enough of the crap.

“Hey, Doc, listen, about that prostate exam. You know, once every two years just ain’t enough for me. Whaddya say we lube up, and we check that bad boy again? Mmm, Hmm.”

No, we got plenty of excess in the crap department. We have way too much Geraldo Rivera, don’t we?

We’ve got plenty of boy bands… really. There’s plenty. Or there’s just the one big one… I can’t tell. I like that one boy band… you know, the one with the cute boy with perfectly sculpted beard thing.

He’s dreamy.

We have too many people who think they can explain to one another what’s happening up on the screen. I don’t go to the movies to listen to the lady behind me translate the film for her ESL movie buddy.

We have way too many stand-up comics who think they can carry a sit-com.

Traffic? Too much.

Missed opportunities? Too many.

Too much of that ‘You Go Girl’ stuff. Really. That was never a good idea.

Inequity? Yup. For some of us anyway.

Irresponsibility and selfishness? Too much.

Entitlement? More than we deserve.

So we set aside all the crap, all the stuff we’re likely to get too much of without even trying, and we say “we have plenty of that stuff. Don’t need any more.” Then make a big old steaming pile of whatever’s left over. That’d be the good stuff, right? Anything that’s not crap, that’s good. We can’t have too much of that.

Too much clean air? Hard to imagine.

Too many options? I don’t think so.

Too much good conversation? Impossible.

Too much time just sitting and watching the ocean with someone you love? Not likely.

Too much ice cream? Not a problem.

Unless it has a stupid name. Ice cream should be named what it is. “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.” Simple, to the point, self-defining. I know what I’m getting.
“Chunky Fatso Garcia Mondo Surprise.” I don’t get this. I don’t know what that is. Don’t do that to me. I don’t need my ice cream named after drug addicts and animal parts. We have too many cute ice creams.

Which brings us to the point that not all the crap in the ‘good’ pile is the kind of thing you want too much of. There’s the things we put in the “good” pile, the “not crap” pile, that seemed like a good idea, that seem like it would be good to have too much of. But we’re wrong there too.

Too much Spice Girls. Especially Sporty Spice. She did nothing for me.

Too much Jim Carrey. Seemed funny at first. Now he’s just a prick.

Bicycle pants and leg warmers, or any other nostalgia for the Eighties. I don’t have to explain that.

Too much political correctness. Everybody can’t be right.

Too much reality television. First it was a voyeuristic turn-on. Now it’s just embarrassing and disturbing.

Too much Porn. At this point I’m just bored, and I can hardly hold a pen.

Too much truth?

That’s the tricky one. Generally, it appears we really aren’t interested in the truth at all.

To paraphrase the immortal Jack Nicholson, “we can’t handle the truth.”

“Does this make me look fat?” “Do I look like an idiot?” “Are you working late again tonight?”

We don’t want honest answers to these questions … there’s a silent, unspoken understanding that these kinds of questions are blatant requests for a lie. The truth just pisses you off, when you hear it.

“You have a fat butt, you moron, and I’ll be home late ‘cuz I’m at the office boinking the cleaning lady.”

Some think that’s too much truth.

I’m not so sure. One thing I do know, what I want in life is too much of a good thing.

Which good thing? It’s a toss-up… pecan pie, sweet lovin’, or truth. They’re all right next to each other on the scale of good… but if I have to hold out for one, I’m just not sure which item on the ‘good’ pile I’ll hold out for.

If I’m lucky, I can work this like the Quick Check at the grocery store… I’ll find me a babe who’ll give me too much good lovin’, and whisper me the truth while feeding me pecan pie. If it comes in a package like that, then it’s just one thing, right?

Until then, I guess I’ll settle for an evening of “America’s Funniest Home Rescues” and a quart of “Sticky Mickey Hunka Chunka Burnin’ Love Handle Surprise”. I’ll be on the couch.

Leave my excess on the porch.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

Llaves Sus Manos. Dick.

Common courtesy is an oxymoron.

It’s bad enough that there are crazy old men with access to biological weapons. What I don’t need is my fellow citizens subjecting me to microscopic toxins just by being slobs.

So I’m at the mall, in the bathroom of one of the large chain stores, which will remain nameless but it rhymes with Schmervyn’s, and I realize that I’m not alone.

This is not what bothers me.

Apparently, somebody is doing some heavy lifting in one of the stalls. Somebody’s having a tooth pulled in one of the stalls. There is a series of sounds the likes of which I haven’t heard since hiking through a mud flat, trying to pull my stuck feet out while wearing a pair of snowshoes. It’s that sound the cranberry sauce makes when you’re trying to bounce it out of the can.

Yet this is not what bothers me.

Somebody is dumping a can of chunky soup into the bowl in that stall, and this is not what bothers me.

What bothers me is that as I’m standing there scrubbing my hands up to the elbows like a freakin’ surgeon, the stall door opens and out walks some red-faced guy, who proceeds to nod cordially at me in a ‘Hi how are you’ kind of way, opens the door and walks on out into the store without so much as waving his hands over the sink.

This is what bothers me.

I stand there, with my newly clean hands, my surgeon’s hands, holding them fingers up and palms toward me as though I’m waiting for someone to slip a pair of gloves on me, and I stare at the door handle.

You know how, in those Hitchcock movies when the actor who’s about to be hit by a safe is staring at something ominous and threatening, and it seems to unhinge itself from the background and swoop towards the camera while the rest of the world just fades out of existence?

That’s what the door handle did.

I realized, standing there with my surgeon’s hands, that there was no way I was getting out of that bathroom without touching that handle.

I started running a number of scenarios through my mind’s eye… I knew the door only swung inward, toward me, that I couldn’t just push it open and make my escape. I imagined trying to grab the handle with my elbows, but if you’ve ever tried holding a cat out in front of you with just your elbows, you know how impossible this is.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But I’m sure you can imagine what I mean.

I imagined opening the door wide, then leaping back, washing my hands really quick, and making it back somehow through the doorway before the door shuts.

But that’s just stupid.

And yes, it occurred to me that I could simply grab one of the paper towels and use it to open the door. But there are no paper towels, only a wall mounted inverted jet engine that theoretically dries your hands but really just fools you into standing there rubbing your palms together in the draft until the water simply evaporates, and is of no use whatsoever in drying your face, because although it looks like it should swivel up, apparently someone thought that welding it in place was a good idea, so you have to kneel down in front of the thing as though you’re praying to it, but there are only two kinds of people who are comfortable either praying to technology or being on their knees in a public bathroom and I’m not either one of them, so that’s not the option I ever take, and although I try valiantly to yank the damn thing from the wall, I can’t figure out how I’d use it to open the door anyway, so it’s of no help whatsoever.

After a few minutes, luckily for me, someone previously out on the retail floor feels the need to use the facilities and opens the door to come in, and although I’m a little embarrassed to be found walking toward the door with a paper seat protector in my hand, I merely smile, shove it in my pocket and slip out the door before it swings shut.

But I am not free.

I look around at the other shoppers, any one of which could be the perpetrator of my nightmarish entrapment in the restroom, and they are looking around at the millions of dollars worth of goods on the shelves of Schmervyn’s, and they are touching them, holding them, lifting them, fondling them, transferring their germs and sweat and dirt and, as CSI:Miami has taught me, their epithelials, which are the dead skin cells that make up most of the dust floating in your house and settling on your furniture which is just gross and is why I wrap my pillow in a towel, and I am put in a mind of those news-magazine shows that throw black lights on hotel rooms to show us the gallons of bodily fluids left behind by previous guests, and suddenly I could swear that all of Schmervyn’s is glowing like a Pink Floyd poster in my 10th grade bedroom, and I just want to wrap myself in duct tape and sandwich baggies.

As I look around Schmervyn’s I realize that it’s the little things that count. Little things like sticking around long enough to make sure a second flush isn’t required rather than leaving a little floating calling card for the next visitor as though marking your territory, like being thoughtful enough to quietly squirt the crap you just coughed up out of your bronchitis-infested lungs into a napkin rather than seeing if you can hit the wastebasket from across the room without taking your feet off the desk like you’re in a Saloon, like washing your hands before going back to work at the CinnaBon stand.

I am not obsessive-compulsive. I am not paranoid-delusional. I am not a Nancy-boy.

But a little common courtesy goes a long way. Life is tough enough thanks to the big hairy dangerous real scary cranky old men with missiles and vials of nasty bugs that make your parts fall off. So I do my best to keep my body parts, its appendages, its cells, its fluids, to myself and the occasional rare brave soul who volunteers to share them with me. I learned how to use a four-way stop, I don’t blow my nose with my finger, and I don’t stand in the middle of the aisle at Safeway with a stupid look on my face when there’s plenty of room over next to the cold cuts.

And I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect others to do the same.

Is that so much to ask?

That’s it. That’s all I got.