Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Kevin isn't just a blogger anymore, it's also a scent!

To help ease my passage into old age, the kind-hearted and internationally-fabulous Tara purchased for me a supply of Argentina’s premiere fragrance for men, Kevin. Made from a secret mixture of floral essences, rare oils, ground-up grizzly bear bits, and my sweat–Kevin, pour homme is a strong and unabashedly sensual accessory fit only for the suavest of global gentlemen. You see, long ago, a group of Latin American chemists and high-fashion types came to the Insomnia Lair here in Minneapolis with the idea of putting together a new kind of cologne. After protracted negotiations, I agreed to provide them with seven gallons of my sweat and they agreed to furnish me with a private jet, a phalanx of Uruguayan commandos, a fortress in a hollowed-out volcano, and a generous weekly stipend. Shortly thereafter, the chemists began the long process of synthesizing my sweat into South America’s sexiest commodity. The main difficulty was diluting it to the point at which the human nasal passages could accommodate such raw eroticism. I’m told many people perished in the “experimental phase” of my fragrance’s genesis. This is, of course, a terrible shame, but at least those poor souls died excited.

Eventually, the team of crack scientists were able to water down my machismo to non-lethal levels. It is, predictably enough, a well-guarded figure, but rumor holds that a mere 1/1,000,000,000th of a drop of my sweat is included in each bottle of cologne. Even at these near-homeopathic levels, Kevin is still far too strong to be sold in the United States. The Bush administration, acting on the urging of influential religious conservatives, has interdicted several shipments at the Mexican border and, until Tara’s rare heroism, even I had been denied the opportunity to sample the fruits of my sweat glands.

My friend is a resourceful young lady and was able to smuggle out a small supply of Kevin. Yet even she wasn’t able to procure the cologne itself, as Buenos Aires merchants typically sell out of it the hour it arrives in stock. No, all she was able to get her hands on–-at great personal risk, I might add–-was the deodorant/aftershave combo pack. I was delighted nonetheless. Finally, I would be able to smell my namesake product, I would be able to parade around town proudly splashed with this liquid that so many had died to create.

I wasn’t disappointed by my first whiff. It was subtle, yet overwhelming; gentle, yet abrasive; violent, yet smooth. Like a field of the world’s most beautiful peonies, it was a feast for the senses, yet it was also as refined as a Verdi aria. It took every other artificial scent and beat it senseless, yet it did so with grace and elan. After a few cursory inhalations, I doused and sprayed it upon my person with abandon. True, it burned a little at first, but pain is oftentimes the necessary initiation one must go through to join the ranks of the truly good-smelling. I left my house that day reeking of glory and magic.

Little did I know the trouble I was in for...

Not a minute after leaving my home, I was forced into the realization that I was irresistible to all heterosexual women. This understanding first came to me when a slight breeze blew my enhanced pheremones through a passing minivan’s open window. That’s when the driver–-a middle-aged suburban mom, from the looks of her–-crashed her vehicle into a row of parked cars in a frantic attempt to get closer to me. As she stuck her head through the now-shattered windshield, I could hear her crying, “Come back! I want you! I need you!” Her husband, in the seat next to her, was appalled.

How strange, I thought, but I carried on as though nothing was out of the ordinary. It was early, after all, and I hadn’t had my caffeine yet. Consequently, my first stop was at the neighborhood coffeeshop. The baristas there are typically either uncommunicative or out-and-out sullen, but that day they were different. “You may have your grande frosty froo-froo vanilla latte,” one of the comely vixens said to me, “But first you must remove your pants! And hurry up, before I melt from this unstoppable desire!” Since I was not wearing the most flattering of undergarments, I politely demurred. The barista, however, would have none of it. With a look of sheer, untrammeled lust, she held aloft a great big butcher knife and shrieked, “Take them off now! I can’t resist your awe-inspiring macho vibe anymore, you burning heap of manhood, you!” I am not the type to be intimidated by service industry personnel, however, and so I told that, while I would be happy to satisfy all her physical and emotional cravings at a later date, all I wanted at the present moment was a coffee drink. That’s when she stabbed me. I was lucky to have gotten out of there with my life.

Obviously, Kevin, the fragrance, was not to be trifled with. I told myself that, in the future, I would have to apply it with more discretion. This was confirmed at my next stop. Before I go on to describe the lurid and traumatic events that befell me, I should probably mention that one of the great joys of my life is entertaining the elderly. This is why I am known as Sting-A-Roo the Clown at several nearby nursing homes. Of course, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like an eight-inch gash in my shoulder keep me from the fine folks at Bethesda Arms Assisted Living. Even though I was in dire agony, I threw on my polka-dotted vest, slapped a bit of greasepaint on, and went juggling out into the community rec room. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I woefully underestimated the impact my fragrance would have, even in this milieu.

It was chaos, pure chaos. All it took was one sniff and I was besieged by all manner of sex-crazed geriatrics. These people, who ordinarily were chaste and subdued in their enjoyment of Sting-A-Roo’s wacky pratfalls, subjected me to bestial behavior of the most sordid sort. Lucille licked me from head to toe while Flora shredded my clothes with her false teeth. At the same time, Gertrude was attempting to bestow the forbidden kiss upon my groinal region and Myrtle, who I always suspected was a little weird, was attempting to force the leg of her walker up my nether orifice. It was quite an experience (although, I must confess, not an entirely unpleasant one). After several hours, I was finally able to flee. I’m sure I was quite a spectacle stumbling through the streets of Minneapolis in the few scraps of clown garments the Bethesda ladies left me with. Along the way, there was an encounter with a policewoman that I’m not quite ready to share with you people yet. Suffice to say, when I made it back home, I assiduously washed away all remaining hints of Kevin, the fragrance, and, from there, proceeded to have as much of a normal day as was possible under the circumstances.

I suppose that, in the future, I’ll only wear it for special occasions...

My iPod is the luckiest iPod in the entire world!

Imagine, if you will, four iPods sitting on a shelf. The first is snatched up by one of those “gadget guys”, who rushes it straight to his curiously-impeccable bachelor den. There, he begins to download his entire music collection into it. Unfortunately for this iPod, this fellow’s entire music collection consists solely of Steely Dan. Every Steely Dan album ever officially released, of course, along with dozens of Steely Dan bootlegs and unreleased tracks. As gigabyte after gigabyte pours into the hapless little machine, it thinks back to its idyllic life in the Apple Store, when it had dreams of being filled with approximately 7500 of the finest songs ever recorded. It wishes it could be back on its cozy shelf, but no, this is not to be. It instead will spend the rest of its life vomiting up hour after hour of Steely Dan into this strange man’s strangely protruding ears.

An iPod’s life can be a cruel, thankless one. Just ask the second device sitting on that shelf, the one who was bought by a man as a present for his teenage daughter. He’s guilty over his bitter divorce, you see, and he wants to do something painlessly nice for her. So, on one of his rare visitation days, he gives it to her and they spend the rest of the day not talking to each other. Later, she will jam it chock-full of Evanescence, Dashboard Confessional and classic Nine Inch Nails. A week later, she will spill a big glob of black nail polish on it. Six days following this incident, she will throw it at her mother in the midst of a heated argument over the use of a very old Chevy Caprice. All this, however, is merely prelude to her trading it to the neighborhood burnout in exchange for a bag of pot (a bag of pot that, by the way, will be mostly seeds). This dealer will leave the long-suffering iPod wedged between the cushions of his overstuffed couch for nearly a year.

Faced with a fate like that one, the third iPod was downright lucky. Purchased by an accounts-payable associate at a nearby plumbing supply concern, it will self-combust in protest at having to download every single dreadful “American Idol” group number available on iTunes. She will come home from a hard day at work to find a small pile of smouldering microchips beneath a tiny computer screen that reads “Get some fucking taste, why don’t you?” in a gradually diminishing typeface.

The fourth iPod, however, gets off easy. Bought my several of this humble blogger’s dearest friends and then given to him at a local Mexican restaurant, I vowed to give this tiny machine a good life. With me, it would only have to deal with the world’s best music. I would lavish upon it the works of John Coltrane, Serge Gainsbourg, Ella Fitzgerald, the Clash, Sarah Vaughan and so on and so forth. I would treat it kindly, too. I would never drop it into the toilet or leave it sitting on top of a magnet. This iPod would be pampered. It would be coddled, cherished and adored.

Still, deep down, I sort of worry that my iPod might be thinking, Goddamn it, I wish this asshole would hurry up and download me some sweet, sweet Steely Dan...

Thanks again, guys!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Neglectin' my website...

Hello. I have been too engrossed in birthday merriment to write anything here. You must forgive me. I promise I'll be back shortly, refreshed and ready to provide you all with brand new Donald Rumsfeld pornography, family-friendly scatology, and much ill-founded and malicious gossip.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

On this, the anniversary of my birth, my dear friend Mel brings tears to my dry, cracked, old-man eyes...

In this comments section, Mel writes:

HAPPY B-DAY K-MAN. Hope your mom's uterus has recovered. In honor of your Birthday...


10. Kevin has a thick lusterous head of hair. It looks best washed and unstyled.

9. Kevin is a fantasic friend. He is someone I can always call, and do, to discuss anything and everything under the sun.

8. Odd's are Kevin knows more about the city you live in than you do. Ask him a question, even if he's never visited he'll rattle off obscure interesting facts about your hometown.

7. Kevin is kind.

6. Nobody is as good at reenacting scenes from "Showgirls". Sorry Greg!

5. Kevin's ass looks great in Hugo Boss jeans. Highwater pleated pants? Not so good.

4. Road trips are ten times more fun when Kevin is along. Just don't let him drive. One time, he almost killed most of his closest and valued friends. Thanks for that, Kevin. Thanks.

3. Kevin went to countless dog shows growing up. Strangely, he has found that, outside the dogshow community, carrying around a five pound bag of dog excrement does not get you the ladies. Who knew?

2. Kevin's handwriting is tiny. Very, very tiny.

1. Kevin is one of my favorite people. He has added enormous amounts of positive energy, fun experiences, support, love, and good conversations to my life. He does not have the cleanest of bathrooms, but I won't hold that against him. For now. Just clean it when I visit, dammit.

Thank you, Mel. I'm truly touched. I really do have some of the kindest, warmest, funniest, and all-around-best friends in the entire world. Although I must interject that I didn't "almost kill you". I was merely showing the elderly lady in the next lane over that the world is occasionally a cruel, capricious place and that it's best not to take the "rules of the road" as holy writ. It's important to learn that sometimes. And the pleated pants were not technically "highwaters", they were just bunched up in the crotch. But now I'm nitpicking...

Mel, you are the queen. Call me up anytime you want to re-enact "Showgirls". You can be Gina Gershon and I'll be Elizabeth Berkeley.

And tomorrow I begin the weeks-long process of cleaning my bathroom...

Obscure Dead Parisians: skulls and bones in the catacombs

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another Famous Dead Parisian...

Insert your own tasteless Balzac joke here...

Famous Dead Parisians, continued...

Frederic Chopin, if you can't read the monument...

A minor hiatus...

Okay, here's the deal: for the next couple of days, I'm going to be pretty busy with out of town guests, various writing projects, and general debauchery. This means that I probably won't have the time to provide you people with the high-quality, incisive and life-affirming content you've come to expect. I will, however, have time to post some of my travel snapshots. So, without further ado, allow me to share with you...[insert drum roll here]...FAMOUS DEAD PARISIANS!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An elegy for my enjoyment of zombie movies...

I must be getting near the end of my Netflix queue, because they just sent me Dawn of the Dead. I’m not sure why I even asked for it in the first place. For those of you not familiar with this cinema chestnut, it’s about a world where dead bodies dig their way out of their graves and shuffle around looking for living people to eat. The story concerns four people who hole up in a shopping mall and their travails as a horde of glassy-eyed extras in cheap grey makeup attempt to dine on them. Far be it from me to argue that there isn’t drama in such subject matter. I mean, a world besieged by heartless, soulless creatures who will stop at nothing to devour warm human flesh? That’s the kind of plot that deserves to be right up there with all the fundamentals: boy-meets-girl, the coming of age saga, the plucky underdog beating all the odds.

But still, zombie movies no longer do it for me. Yes, I spent my entire teenage years watching them, but the joy is gone now. Back in the day, I used to think, “Yeah! Awesome! That zombie’s head totally blew up!”. Nowadays, however, I just think, “Yuck. I wish they’d stop blowing zombie heads up. And this acting is really bad.”

Have I grown up or gotten lame? If it’s zombie movies today, what treasured aspect of my youth will I be discarding tomorrow? Will it be the music of Morrissey? Will it be jalapeno-flavored potato chips? Will it be tasteless jokes about my balls? It’s scary to think. Really, really scary. After all, I want to be making tasteless jokes about my balls when the grim reaper comes to get me.

My birthday is coming up in a few days, and I can’t help thinking about things like this.

I'm not sure about Nick Coleman...

For those of you not in the Twin Cities area, Nick Coleman is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. To me, his writings are pretty inoffensive and, while I read him, I don’t often find his work especially provocative, moving or insightful. He’s essentially a middle-of-the-road liberal who likes to pose as a salt-of-the-earth populist in that Mike Royko/Studs Terkel mode. However, his regular-guy outsider role isn’t too convincing: his father was a powerful guy in the state senate and his brother is the current mayor of St. Paul (he is not related, however, to former St. Paul mayor and current repulsive Senate hack, Norm Coleman). That being said, he occasionally hits on a good subject and does it justice. He also is willing to go out and talk to the people usually ignored by big media, and he’s capable of telling their stories with respect and thoughtfulness. Other times, especially when he tries to be comic, he doesn't make much sense at all. I don’t like or dislike his writings, really. More than anything, he comes off as another generic city columnist, reliable and predictable and unexciting. Whether this is due to the limitations of the semi-weekly column format or due to limitations of his own, I can’t say.

One thing’s for certain, though. He drives local right-wingers up the wall. The day after he comes out with one of his columns, you can bet good money that certain conservative blogs will be snarling at him and his supposed prejudices and inaccuracies. They never tire of this, apparently. Something about him offends them to the core. Maybe it’s ideological incompatibility, maybe it’s a clash of self-righteousnesses, maybe it’s simple jealousy (he, after all, gets paid pretty well to spout off about the issues of the day while they do it on a pro bono basis): in the end, it doesn’t matter. Once in awhile, it’s entertaining to watch the rightist crew working themselves into yet another lather at yet another Nick Coleman column, but usually it’s just the same old pissing match and pissing matches get dull quickly.

However, the konservative kidz could be right about one thing: Nick Coleman may very well be a raging dickweed. Check out this post here, where the author–an editor at a up-market local magazine-- shares his correspondence with the (apparently very touchy) columnist. Early on in the exchange, he does the whole aggrieved-by-these-people-with-websites schtick :

The Internet does not permit morons who masquerade as professionals to write stupidly without consequence...When you go on local blogs to insult people (linking to your execrable wankings), do you expect a pass? You don't get one.

Unfortunately--and, given the flak he catches virtually every week, this is something Nick should know better than most anyone else–the internet does permit morons who masquerade as professionals to write stupidly without consequence. That and porn are pretty much all you can expect from the internet these days. But this gets beyond the point perhaps. The point is, who gives a shit? Some obscure guy criticizes you on an obscure website: so what? You’re a goddamn columnist at the goddamn biggest paper in the state, shouldn’t you have thicker skin by now? But it just gets better. In his next e-mail, he’s set aside all his Minnesota nice:

Thanks. You have indisputably, undeniably demonstrated what a small person you are. And what a scumbag. Please let me know when you write your next review of all the exciting new advances in bathroom fixtures in your hip, urban mag. I can't wait.

A small person and a scumbag! Wow! And I hesitate to mention that a professional writer like Coleman out to know that “indisputably, undeniably” is a redundancy. But perhaps he was composing this missive in the heat of passion. Perhaps he was so pissed he wasn’t thinking straight. God knows, maybe he was the wronged party in this whole episode. Be that as it may, he should have had the self-control to cancel this next e-mail before it went winging out over the broadband wires:

I don't do any reporting? Really, you ought to stop spending so much time on your myspace account trying to get a date...any date...(boys or girls though? I can't tell what you're after...maybe that's the problem) ut I know that not many reporters can match your Big Bwana reporting from Uptown... when you got all creeped out eating take-out at Lunds...Oooh, spooky! Wow, that was a gobsmacker...What? Were you 2 blocks from the crib? our blog is big bad goo (fittingly) because you don't even cop to your stupid MNSpeak comment that led to my mail…You think it's cool to mock someone by publishing mail that was designated as private...That's beneath contempt...
You are a freak, but people sure love your features on dentists who can brighten up a smile.
We always defer to you for news on the latest cosmetic developments.
We know you are very up on the topic

Now this is dense with references that won’t make sense to the casual observer, so you’ll have to check out the original post if you want to find out exactly what he’s on about. Essentially, he’s angry at the accusation that he doesn’t do any reporting (an unfair charge, in my opinion) and even angrier that this guy had the temerity to publish an e-mail that Nick intended to be private. Now, one would think that if someone went and shared one e-mail from the locally-famous columnist, they wouldn’t hesitate to share others. Knowing that, you’d think that a locally-famous columnist would probably be more circumspect in their later e-mails to this person. One wouldn’t, for instance, hurl a bunch of quasi-nonsense insults and childish taunts at the private-email-sharing guy. Apparently Nick doesn’t think this way, which is surprising for someone who’s been around the block as much as he has.

But understand, I don’t particularly care if Nick Coleman is an arrogant asshole. Almost all writers worth their salt are arrogant assholes. It comes with the territory, I guess. What surprises and entertains me here, however, is that this particular writer is willing to fire off e-mails at slights so small, at people so far beneath him in the media food-chain. Why? That’s what amazes me. Why bother engaging in such hostilities when you’ve got absolutely nothing to gain? Wouldn’t your reputation be better served by staying above such behavior?

Weird. People are weird.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This souvlaki is bringing tears of joy to my eyes...

I had a really good souvlaki sandwich last night. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the best souvlaki sandwich I have ever eaten. It was the kind of souvlaki sandwich that makes you stop in the middle of your feasting, lamb juice dripping from your lips, and think “Damn! This is like Zeus’ own souvlaki sandwich!”. And then you wipe your mouth, stare down wistfully into the pocket bread and, almost solemnly, you think, “I have to slow down. I have to make this souvlaki sandwich last”. Because even the most generous souvlaki sandwich will not last forever. Eventually, we all must return to our mundane and souvlaki-less lives, succored by only the memories of the spectacular souvlaki we have tasted.

Let me try to explain the majesty of this dinner to you. It begins, of course, with supple, soft, and delicious pocket bread. Without that, your souvlaki sandwich is doomed. This particular one, of course, was blessed with pocket bread of such freshness that it almost felt like vandalism to eat it. But eat it I did. And with much gusto. Yet only a fool would suggest that a souvlaki sandwich is all savory pocket bread, perversely ignoring the ingredients within. What about the lamb-meat, Kevin?, I can hear you asking. You should be patient. I was getting to the lamb meat: the lamb meat was exquisite. It was tender, yet not mooshy. It was seasoned, but not excessively so. Admittedly, I am no lamb connoisseur, but this souvlaki sandwich made me want to become one. Have I mentioned the size of this souvlaki sandwich? It was roughly the size of my head. So perhaps it is inaccurate to speak of “pieces of lamb”. We should instead talk of “an entire lamb, in little bitty pieces”.

But I fear I’m neglecting the ancillary ingredients! The bed of lettuce was fresh and crisp! The tomatoes were subtle and not too abundant! The onions were perfectly onion-y! They both supplemented and enhanced the flavor of the main ingredients, creating a bewitching melange of complimentary flavors which excites me even now, hours and hours after the fact. I am afraid I cannot comment on the tzatziki, however. I do not like tzatziki. I asked for it without this disagreeable sauce and my request was honored. Instead, I got the house hot sauce in a little cup to the side, and was thoroughly approving of its complex bouquet of vinegary spiciness.

To summarize, yesterday’s souvlaki sandwich: really, really, really good. Crafted in heaven, assembled at the Holy Land Deli, purchased for $6, devoured in ecstacy, and resurrected in my dreams...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kevin of Arabia

Sometime in the next couple of years, I’d like to take a trip to North Africa or the Middle East. I think it would be a fascinating vacation: I’m curious about life in the Muslim world and I enjoy going places where American tourists rarely go. Yet, at the same time, I’m not the most experienced world-traveler and my grasp of other languages is pretty shaky (I speak a little Spanish and understand some French). I don’t think I’m ready for a hard-core journey into the heart of the Sahara yet. Maybe someday, but as of now I’m researching four cities which seem to be more-or-less accommodating to the amateur adventurer. Let me break down the pros and cons of each for you:

Casablanca, Morocco

The upside:
–Huge, beautiful, cosmopolitan city with a well-developed tourist infrastructure
–Morocco is the setting for many of my favorite Paul Bowles stories
–Can wander the streets pretending that I’m Humphrey Bogart
–Is conveniently located near Rabat, Tangier and Marrakesh
–Hotels for twenty-five bucks a night
–A short ferry ride away from Spain, a country I had a torrid one-night stand with last year and now carry a big ol’ torch for

The downside:
–Have weird fear of winding up in Moroccan prison.
–Have you ever read those Paul Bowles stories? They’re pretty scary...
–Not really a fan of Humphrey Bogart
–Me attempting to buy a Moroccan train or ferry ticket with my bad French (and even worse Arabic) is a situation that could, presumably, lead to me being sent to a Moroccan prison
–What kind of hotel do you get for twenty-five bucks a night?

Tunis, Tunisia

The Upside:
–Tunisia considered the most liberal Arab nation
–Full of sun-deprived Europeans on holiday
–The ruins of Carthage are nearby
–You can find flights there for, I’m serious, like $550. Nowadays, you can’t even get to Chicago for that.
–Hotels for twenty-five bucks a night

The Downside:
–“Most liberal Arab nation” unlikely to be mistaken for a Mediterranean Sweden
–Full of sun-deprived Europeans on holiday
–Small country wedged between Libya and Algeria. Conventional wisdom holds that it is not wise to get too close to either Libya or Algeria
–Hotels for twenty-five bucks a night eerily common in North Africa

Beirut, Lebanon

The Upside:
–Known as “the Paris of the Middle East”
–No longer a war-torn, brutal hellhole
–Great museums, fascinating historical sites, amazing nightlife and stimulating cultural offerings
–I like Lebanese food
–Has bad-ass nickname: “The City That Would Not Die”. You think Minneapolis will ever be called “The City That Would Not Die”? Hell no! They’ll call it “The City That Froze To Death” or “The City That Is Passive-Aggressively Glaring At You” or something like that...

The Downside:
–Is cheaper to go to the Paris of Europe
–Things there occasionally still explode
–Perhaps not the best time to be an American fumbling around that part of the world
–“The City That Would Not Die” implies that there are people who tried really hard to kill it

Cairo, Egypt

The Upside:
–Can make an expedition to see the pyramids, the sphinx, the temple of Karnak, and all that what-have-you
–“The Cradle of Civilization”, they say
–Well-equipped for clueless tourists
–Would like to take a boat trip down the Nile River sometime before I die

The Downside:
–Will be baffled by elaborate baksheesh protocols
–Too many clueless tourists
–Not as cheap as other options

What do you think? Have any of you been to any of these places? Ideally, I'd go to all of them, but I don't think that'll be possible for a long, long while. Give me some recommendations if you have an opinion. This is still at least a year or two off, so I’ve got time to plan and learn Arabic and all that...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The twenty-ninth circle of HELL!

Those who know me know that I’ve been looking around for a new job. My wants are simple, I think. All I’m after is more money, more respect, better hours and a place to sit where there is absolutely no danger of some meth-crazed bipolar hermit throwing a chair at my head. Is that too much to long for? I don’t think so. But the job-hunter’s road is a hard one, fraught with tension, disappointment and all manner of existential not-so-fresh feelings. You know it’s bad when I check out the help-wanted ads and sincerely wish that I had gotten my degree in finance or information technology or something, anything that isn’t hopelessly unemployable. It’s the classic English major’s lament, I suppose. Please–all you accountants and investment analysts and nanotechnologists—please take a moment out of your glorious lives to shed a tear for the poor, misguided English major, that accursed species who has no use for. So smug in the coffeeshop, but so pitiful in the job interview. Woe is our due as we flip through the classified ads, only to be faced with page after page after page of exciting, challenging, well-compensated careers we’re not in the least bit qualified for.

Oh....Was I whining just now?

I was?

Sorry about that. I ought to look on the bright side. After all, I may be a liberal arts guy on the job hunt, but at least...

----Someone isn’t sneaking into my bedroom in the dead of night to stuff bubble gum up my urethra

----I’m not a professional weightlifter who, in attempting to hoist up a record-breaking load, suddenly notices that his rectum and half of his intestines have just fallen out of his butthole.*

----My self-esteem is not dependent on what Simon Cowell things about my heartfelt rendition of a Peabo Bryson song

----My beautiful clipper ship, the fastest in all of Portugal, is not being menaced by rum-numbed, lecherous pirates from the Barbary Shore.

----I am not Ann Coulter’s sex slave

—--I haven’t been programmed by master hypnotists to begin furiously masturbating whenever I hear the word “and”. Instead, I have been programmed by master hypnotists to begin furiously masturbating whenever I hear the word “marmalade”

Hooray! I feel better already!

*This totally happens, like, all the time...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hey Fool! You Oughta Enroll in Conservative Skool!

I’m happy to see that my fair state has a spanking new right-wing training camp. It’s called the Minnesota Academy for Conservative Leadership and seems to have been put together by the same claque of professional ideologues behind many of the state’s musical-chairs thinktanks (or, as I like to call them, “bullshit factories”). According to their website, “the Academy was created to meet the challenges that conservatives face here in Minnesota from the burgeoning amount of liberal grassroots organizations pouring millions of dollars to reverse the recent trend of conservative electoral victories.” How will they accomplish this noble goal? By bringing forth a doughty band of Republi-warriors, of course: “Only by training and educating a conservative grassroots army, we will be able to defeat the liberals at the polls and make Minnesota a more conservative state for generations to come...

It sounds great. If I had the spare money and were I willing to spend a weekend sitting around in a doughnut-scented conference room with a bunch of eager-eyed Young Republican types, I would go to some of these seminars and find out just what they’re about. As it stands, I can only imagine some of the course offerings:

THEOLOGY 101: Here the right-wing blowhards-in-training learn the golden rule of the conservative movement: that no matter the question, the answer is always conservatism. Conservatism is sacrosanct and infallible. It has all the answers. It is never wrong, it is only wronged by politicians and insiders who fail to be pure in their devotion to it. If a Republican’s policies fail, they fail because they were either (a) stymied by traitorous liberals (see DEMONOLOGY 101) or (b) not conservative enough. When Bush’s approval ratings were sky-high and the country bent to his command, he was a vehicle for the glory of conservatism. Now that large swathes of the nation have come around to the view that his administration is wretched, incompetent and dangerous, Bush has become a disappointing betrayer of the true faith. Conservatism is perfect, the remedy to all problems and the solution for every riddle. Let this truth into your heart and what seems dubious will become reasonable, the obnoxious will become ordinary, and Sean Hannity will be revealed as a great thinker.

And how is this done? Simple. All you have to do is take every noble quality you can think of—common sense, self-reliance, perseverance, decency, honor, respect, compassion, valor, courage, etc., etc.—and claim them as “conservative”. All your opponents will have left is low comedy and sarcasm. Therefore, you win. With conservatism, the conservatives always win. The liberals can triumph election after election and socialism can descend over America, it doesn’t matter. It won’t diminish your holiness one bit. It cannot tarnish the sacred truths your Strausses and Hayeks and Ayn Rands have dispensed. When your life is through and you, naturally, ascend to heaven, you will sit at the right-hand of God, the ultimate free-marketeer.

Kids have to learn these things. Otherwise they might end up as RINOs. And that’s almost worse than being a Democrat these days.

ADVANCED RIGHT-WING RHETORIC: Here all the aspiring drive-time radio deejays will become well-versed in the jujitsu of the Professionally Outraged. After all, what cultural warmonger can survive without mastering tactics like these:

#1) The Pile-On: For this to work, you have to wait until somebody somewhere, preferably a left-wing professor no one’s ever heard of, says something ill-advised. Once that has happened you must immediately write ten thousand words about the tremendous affront to decency that the person in question has committed. Shamelessly position yourself as a defender of virtue and a paragon of fairness and reason. Use whatever leaps of logic you can think of in order to connect the ill-advised statement with the contemporary liberalism as a whole. Once all this is accomplished (or, in your mind, “proven”) spend the next five weeks castigating every liberal you can find for failing to condemn the ill-advised statement strongly enough. From that point on, refuse to acknowledge the validity of any position held by anyone who hasn’t adequately expressed their disgust at the ill-advised statement. This is also know as “The Ward Churchill”

#2) The Puff Adder: Get angry. Or at least pretend to get angry. Pour out all your venom on whatever the target du jour is—be it immigrants, Iranians, or Nancy Pelosi. Don’t hold back at all. If you want to call John Murtha a pants-pissing appeaser coward girlie-man, go on and do it, no matter how tasteless that might strike a soberer eye. Conservatives, those who wield the true faith, get license in these matters: you can hurl all the invective you like and still be a member of the civilized party. And whenever some sissy-assed liberal complains about you, you’ve got four strategies you can pick from: (a) go on and insult them too, (b) point out that you were just trying to be funny and isn’t a shame how liberals are so humorless these days?, (c) point out that it’s not a bad thing to be passionate about the issues of the day, or (d) smoothly transition into...

#3) The Switcheroo: This is the subtle device by which you accuse your accursed foe of having committed or countenanced the same behavior that they have just criticized. This is also known as the “But Bill Clinton Did It Too” move. If a liberal speaks about the dangers of unauthorized wiretapping, you angrily point out how they weren’t making a big fuss about Bill Clinton pardoning his friends. If they complain about unethical behavior among Congressional Republicans, you call them hypocrites for not complaining as loudly about all of Bill Clinton’s decades-old transgressions. Some might say that this is a fallacious way to argue a point. They might say that, since you tacitly admit that the conservative behavior is wrong, all you do here is merely impugn the person on the other side for not having said something else. No matter, though. After all, in conservative movement rhetoric, impugning the other guy is the main thing.

#4) The This-Matter-Is-Settled: This is what you pull whenever some liberal wants to argue about single-payer health care, the Iraq War, the social safety net, corporate welfare, or whatever else they’re always on about. When faced with this sort of wonkish blather, you simply yawn, dash off a few patronizing insults, and point your huffing nanny-statist in the direction of a couple of articles which “prove” how incredibly asinine all their opinions are. These articles will, of course, usually be poorly-sourced blog screeds and thinktank drivel, but to you they are as good as holy writ. Just remember this maxim: bias is always the other guy’s problem. The New York Times is commie dreck, but the National Review is scrupulous and fair. The “mainstream media” always has a sinister agenda, but your favorite rightist bloggers are just concerned citizens. This is one of the beautiful things about contemporary conservatism: it’s always everyone else who has the ideology. As an aspirant to the mindset, you’ll learn all about it in your next class...

ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY: Politics is a great vocation for people who want to project their inner conflicts and latent self-loathing onto some nebulous opponent. Here the future Grover Norquists of America will learn that any number of unflattering personality traits can be vanquished simply by attaching them to the figure of “the liberal”. You’ll learn how to make a point out of your own longed-for righteousness by accusing this empty social category of being intolerant, oversensitive, ignorant, arrogant, sex-obsessed, dead-set against sex, hypocritical, hyper-critical, slothful, puritanical, mendacious, hostile, effete, bigoted, short-sighted, intellectually impotent, zealously partisan, humorless, unserious, materialistic, hippieish, brutish, crude, Machiavellian, feminine, haughty, obnoxious and cursed with heads full of poo. Just as everything decent and fine eventually leads to conservatism, all that is wrong and unpleasant can be tied back to liberalism. Only hard-core conservatives really think this way, but aren’t hard-core conservatives the only ones who count? Everyone else is a potential convert, an apostate, or an enemy. You can believe yourself into greatness. It’s sort of a mind over matter thing: being right comes from having the right right-wing opinions. Nonsense, perhaps? But at the Minnesota Academy for Conservative Leadership, nonsense will be the food that nourishes your hungry soul...

APPLIED COSMETOLOGY: Everybody knows that government is a dirty game. You can’t seize it and keep it without getting into bed with some shady characters. Our country just doesn’t work that way. How, then, does a good-hearted young conservative square this with their down-home values and their cherished principles? Well, you’re going to learn! Through a secret and highly-sophisticated process known as “bald-faced lying”, any chipper right-winger can get down into the sewer only to climb out again smelling like jasmine and hyssop. Marvel as our local Brylcreemed Taliban, who have more use for the apocalypse than for democracy, are made over into simple God-fearing folks who just want to be left alone to worship in peace! Swoon as a pack of gun-toting white supremacists magically become true patriots and steadfast guardians of our borders! Thrill as noxious hatemongering harpies are gussied up into take-no-crap comedians! The amazing thing about conservatism is that it can make anyone pretty! Don’t you want it to make you pretty too?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Saga of the Stray Condom, part four

(Before you read this, read parts one, two and three. Otherwise this will make no sense whatsoever...)

My condom was tainted now, though. I barely wanted it. Exciting objects like that only cause trouble, I decided. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. It isn’t every day that a boy finds a rubber, after all. I swore that I’d only put it to benign uses–the aforementioned grossing out girls, or maybe I’d slip it into my brother’s macaroni and cheese when he wasn’t looking. There was also the distant possibility that my best friend Eric would give me one of his patented empty-film-can bombs if I loaned it to him for awhile.

I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t a bully. I would take good care of it. My loving husbandry would redeem it, in my care it would be cleansed of Frankie and Dave’s cruelty. Somewhere on the short walk home, I decided that I would keep my condom. That poor knocked-around little kid would have wanted me to, I rationalized, he would far prefer it to be in my possession than for it to be wielded by his tormentors. I was doing all the Timmies of the world a favor by keeping the rubber out of the hands of miscreants.

In less than a block, I had gone from feeling guilt-ridden to feeling self-righteous. Now all I needed to do was sneak it past my mother. When I was still a few houses away from my place, I stuffed it into my pocket. I made sure none of it was poking out and then I strode up my steps and through my front door.

“Hello, Kevin,” my dear, sweet, long-suffering mother said.

“Hi, Mom,” I said, and I’m sure she immediately picked up on my nervousness. Back then, I wasn’t slick enough to hide much from my mother. Nor am I today, but that’s another thing entirely.

I could hear her suspicion in her inevitable follow-up question, “What have you been up to?”

“Nothin’,” I said. It was my catch-all answer, something to use in virtually all situations, under every known circumstances. The only problem was that nobody ever bought it.

“What kind of nothing did you do?” she asked and I knew I had to get away fast. Otherwise all my plans would be foiled by her damnable persistence.

I dashed up the stairs, shouting back, “I gotta go to the bathroom!” This was a lie, of course. I made my way straight to my bedroom. Once I was there, I yanked out my crumpled and maltreated condom and stuck it underneath my pillow. No one will find it there, I thought, and then I went back downstairs, all sweetness and innocence again. With the benefit of hindsight, I can’t help but figure that my mom was tipped off by the conspicuous lack of toilet flushing.

She started in right away: “Where did you go?”

“To the park,” I answered. Only nine years old and already I knew that short, concise answers were the best. You stand less chance of getting tripped up on the details that way.

“Oh, the park? Was it nice?”

“It was okay.”

“Did you see any of the neighbor kids?”

“Why would I see them?” The trap was being sprung and I was too gullible to notice it.

“Because it’s a nice day out.”

“It’s kind of cold.”

“What did you do at the park?”

That was it. I was caught. My mother should have been a homicide lieutenant. All of a sudden, and for reasons that still escape me, I blurted out: “I found something...”

Mom, predictably enough, honed in on this. “Oh? What did you find?”


But it was too late. “Why don’t you show me?” she asked, and I couldn’t think of a handy way to refuse. I had already used the bathroom gambit. She would suspect something was wrong with my bladder if I tried it again, and I’d be hauled in to see Dr. Dooley. I didn’t want that. I had no other recourse but the truth.

“Let me go get it,” I said before I trooped back upstairs to retrieve my trophy. There was a wistful moment as I stood there, in my well-lighted and cheerful bedroom, staring down in the first and only quiet moment we would share together. We could have had fun, my condom and I, but the world had conspired against us. I sighed and stomped downstairs with a heavy heart.

I don’t know how I imagined my mother would respond to the sight of her youngest boy offering up a limp and battered condom, but I have to say I didn’t expect her to scream so. When she collected herself, she told me to throw it out right away. And not to throw it out in the kitchen trash can, but to go all the way out to the alley garbage and put it in there. Once that was accomplished, under her watchful eye of course, I was sent into the bathroom and forced to endure a hand-washing session of unsurpassed vigor and duration, all the while subject to an impassioned lecture on how I ought not just pick up every little thing I find on the ground. Then, my hands scoured and raw, I was packed off to my room to think about what I had done.

It worked out alright, though. After that, my mom didn’t force me to go outside for an entire week. So I got lots of stories written. And I made a real badass fort out of my mattress and the cushions of the couch.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Saga of the Stray Condom, part three

(For this to make sense, read part one and part two first)

It was a small kid going down the path around the baseball fields. Right away, Frankie and Dave went charging after him. I followed behind, whining “Guys?...Guys?...Hey, guys?” That rubber was mine, I knew. I didn’t want to give it up to a couple of losers when there were plenty of girls to gross out with it.

The kid, who we’ll call Timmy, was chubby and slow, so Frankie caught him pretty easily. As he held his arms behind his back, Dave slapped him across the face a couple of times with the condom. “Hey, fag! What’s going on, fag?” they taunted.

“Quit it!” Timmy shrieked and Dave punched him in the gut to shut him up.

As the poor kid wheezed for air, Dave went on shaking the rubber in front of his eyes. “You know what this is for? You know? Do you know?”

I stood a few feet back. “Ummmm...guys? You better quit it, okay?” I said, my words feeble and weak beneath their shouts and their whooping.

The kid had started to cry. “Leave me alone!” he pleaded, a bit too young to understand that this was the sort of thing that only encouraged them.

“Make him wear it!” Frankie shouted.

“Is that it? You want to put it on, fag? Is that what you want?” Dave asked.

Nooooooo!” the kid shrieked, so loud I’m sure they heard it in Wisconsin. Spit flew from his mouth and landed on Dave, which made him angry. He dropped the rubber and began pummeling the kid. Frankie joined in and I just watched them, whispering “Hey...hey...hey...” until Timmy finally managed to scramble away and tear off through the field.

Dave snorted as the kid disappeared into the distance. “Little fag.”

“Yeah,” said Frankie, “Let’s get out of here.” They went off the other way then, without so much as another glance at me. I stood there for awhile, in the flattened grass where the kid had been beaten, waiting for his crying to stop echoing in my ears. When I realized it probably wasn’t going to, I scooped up my rubber and headed for home.

(To be continued...)

The Saga of the Stray Condom, part two

(Read part one here...)

A couple of other kids were there with me, sitting in the dirt and sharing a filched cigarette. I knew them well. They were a bit older than me, yet they were also a few grades behind me. From bad homes and just a few stages above being feral, they roamed the streets at all hours of the night, looking for the few things they hadn’t stolen, vandalized or urinated on yet. These were the kids with the older brothers who got drunk and high and then raced their cars along the quiet streets whenever they weren’t in juvenile detention or big-boy jail. Staying away from them was one of my major social preoccupations. Let’s call them Frankie and Dave.

Now, ordinarily, I’d be prey for this pair, but Dave had a soft-spot for me. Not thirteen years old yet and he already had that working-class “watch out for the people on the block” thing going on. He lived just a few houses over from me and this mystically tied us together in his mind. When he wasn’t around, Frankie and his evil playmates would chase me for blocks and hurl clots of mud at me, but Dave was more-or-less the leader of that whole crowd. “H-hey guys...” I said, my voice quavering.

There was a long time where they just stared at me. I was worried that they were weighing the risks and benefits of murdering me, but they were probably really just panicking at the thought of me running off to tell their fathers where their mother’s Newport Lights were disappearing to. Eventually, Frankie spoke up: “What the fuck are you doing?”

I shrugged and said, “Nothin’.”

“Nothin’. Oh yeah?” Dave asked and, faced with this kind of ruthless interrogation, I quickly broke down.

“I found something,” I confessed and both of them perked up.

“What’d you find?” Frankie wanted to know.

I tried to stonewall. “Nothin’,” I said, but they had already gotten up.

“C’man,” Dave commanded, “Let us see, why don’t you?”

Again, my resolve crumbled. “O-okay,” I squeaked and then I led them to the rubber. On the way, I was a slightly worried that they’d find my prize babyish or silly or not worth anyone’s attention. I shouldn’t have been concerned.

“Holy shit!” Frankie shouted, “It’s one of those!”

Dave clapped his hands to his cheeks and said, I kid you not, “Oh. My. God!”

Sheepishly, I joined in. “Cool, huh?”

Dave scooped it up, yanked it out of its pack, and–with obvious relish–unrolled it all the way. I was amazed at how blasé he was about the whole germ issue, but I suppose it was clear that this was a reasonably fresh condom. I mean, it hadn’t been used or anything. The idea of it being put to use led my mind down all sorts of forbidden corridors, and so I tried not to think of it.

“It’s so long!” Frankie marveled and this made Dave laugh.

“It’s not long! You think that’s long?” he howled, shaking the flimsy, lube-coated thing in the air, “Do you think that’s long, Kevin?”

“” I guessed.

“Frankie thinks it’s long!” Dave cackled. By this time his friend had turned twenty shades of purple.

“It looked long with the sun in my eyes, asshole!” he growled, and then he hit Dave in the shoulder.

Dave punched him back, saying “Watch it, shithead.”

“You watch it!”

“You watch it!”

“I said watch it, bitch!”

“Bitch, you watch it!”

It went on this way for quite some time, before something caught all our eyes...

(To be continued...)

The Saga of the Stray Condom, part one

When I was a little boy, my mother decreed that I had to spend at least part of each summer day outside. Sometimes I suffered under this dictate, since I was a dreamy kid who would like nothing better than to spend the afternoon holed up in my bedroom, writing stories about skeletons with battle axes and constructing elaborate forts out of my bedding. It didn’t matter. I would be shoved out the door regardless. Usually it turned out fine. There were plenty of children in my neighborhood and I had lots of friends, most of whom were similarly forced to endure the fresh air. Sometimes, however, my little compatriots would be at camp or grounded or down with rickets and I’d be sent out into the world alone. When that happened, I’d toddle along to the park down the street, imagining that I was the only one capable of saving my corner of St. Paul from an army of skeletons with battle axes.

One of these days, I found myself wandering through a weedy baseball outfield, my stomach full of sugary cereal and my head full of zombie-slaughtering tactics. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to an object on the grass. Whatever it was, it caught the sunshine, causing it to light up like a tiny flame. I approached it, cautiously at first, but before long my curiosity took over and I crouched down right beside it. It was a metallic foil wrapper, torn open on one side, with something slithery and moist oozing through the slit. Even though I was only nine years old, I knew immediately what it was. It was one of those things you put on your thing when you do that thing with a girl and her thing.

My heart beat faster. This was a fine piece of contraband. Were school still in session, I would be the most popular guy in class for, like, two weeks if word got out that I had discovered such a thing. In that moment, skeletons with battle axes were the furthest thing from my mind. What I needed now, more than anything, was somebody to show off my treasure to. There was no one around, though. This brought up certain problems. It didn’t seem like I should pick up the rubber. It was probably teeming with diseases and all manner of man-spew. Under a burst of inspiration, I dashed off for the narrow woods that separated the baseball diamonds from the pea-green townhome development. There, I would most certainly find a stick. With that, I could parade my trophy up and down the streets without soiling my fingertips.

I was so caught up in this that I didn’t notice that I wasn’t alone in that forlorn stand of trees...

(To be continued)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hangin' With Dick, a mildly diverting fiction...

Dick Cheney was in town today. Usually, when dignitaries and powerful people visit the Twin Cities, I like to call them up and invite them out to the bar. Most of the time, our schedules conflict and we can’t get together. Then I must content myself with favors, patronage and glossy autographed photographs. Other times, however, the V.I.P. in question is able to escape the barrage of fundraisers and official dinners and whatnot in order to get in some quality time with me, your humble blogger. These are good times for both of us, and I don’t think it’s too presumptuous of me to think that Vicente Fox smiles to remember the evening we spent shooting rats at the dump or to believe that Madeline Albright treasures all the sloppy make-out sessions we've shared.

Well, Dick Cheney and I certainly didn’t make out, but I’m happy to say he was able to work me into his plans. Now, if you know Dick like I know Dick, you know that he’s a real big fan of girly drinks and greasy Chinese food. For this reason, I suggested the Red Dragon, on lovely Lyndale Avenue, in glorious South Minneapolis. The Vice-President readily agreed, largely because of their diverse jukebox selection, but also, I suspect, because he wanted to ogle a bunch of 25-year-old punk princesses. Dick’s a real horndog that way. So, anyway, we rolled up–and after being ID’ed by the bouncer–we found a booth. I ordered my usual, the Red Dragon Special, while Dick went with the Wondrous Punch. All I wanted was an order of wontons, but Cheney insisted on getting the whole Pu-Pu platter. Usually, I don’t let White House officials steamroll me, but I make accommodations for Dick. A long day pretending to be an affable “normal guy” takes a toll on him. It makes him cranky and you’ll never hear the end of it if he doesn’t get his way with the Chinese food. You should hear some of the things that slip out of the side of his mouth. I’d reprint them here, but then everyone’s work internet filters would kick in and block you all from reading me. Seriously, the crusty old bastard can swear. It’s a thing to behold.

Anyway, once the Pu-Pu controversy was out of the way, Dick and I got down to a nice chat. We don’t agree on anything political, of course, but we find common ground in our shared love of Wyoming, Washington gossip, and rococo painting. Plus, he and I are both lightweights when it comes to the booze. Condoleeza Rice and Vladimir Putin can drink me under the table without any trouble, but Dick I can keep up with pretty well.

“Come on, you little shit, let’s take a piss!” he shouted at me after we had killed our first round. This is something I’ll never understand about those western-state alpha-males: they have to make everything into a competition. The next thing I know, we’re standing at the urinals and the Vice-President of the United States of America is cackling like mad, growling “You call that a stream, you little girl? Piss like a man, goddamn it!” I’m used to this sort of behavior by now, so I just said, “Jesus, Dick, you sure do urinate in a more masculine fashion that I, a sissy Democrat, do...” He wheezed a little at that, zipped up, and patted me on the back. I think he has paternal feelings towards me. One thing I confess, though: we did not wash our hands on our way back out. The secret service guys were appalled, but what did we care? We were men of the world, out on the town. Next on the agenda: senseless bellowing.

“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I enthused as the waitress brought us our second round.

“HELLLLLL YEAAAAAH!” boomed the second most powerful man in the entire world.

“YEAAAAAAAH” I seconded and–after a mighty belch–Dick outdid me again. He hollered, “AAAAAOOOOOOOOGAAAAAAAH!” with such force and vigor the entire room turned to stare at us. We slapped five then, and I started to gather wind for my rejoinder, but I stopped when I noticed that Dick had become distracted. He leaned across the table, his bald head a glistening pink, and whispered, “Get a load of her!” He was waving his gnarled hand at a woman across the room. I looked at her and grinned–she was Dick’s type alright. Strange as it may seem, the leading neo-conservative voice in our nation’s administration has real yen for willowy, bookish former women’s-studies majors.

“She’s cute, but I doubt she’s a Republican, man...” I said and Dick pounded the table with his fist.

“How the fuck do you know that? You don’t know that for sure!” he thundered.

“You can tell. You can just tell...” I reasoned.

Dick waved a finger in my face and went on screaming “You fucker! You don’t know shit! She’s a Republican! She’s a beautiful, beautiful Republican!”

I just shrugged and said, “Maybe, Dick. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Ssssssssh!” he hissed, “She’s going to hear you! Christ, don’t you have any sense at all, you little anti-American candyass!”

“You’re the one yelling,” I pointed out, but by the look on Dick’s face I knew the night had progressed to its last phase: teary confessions.

He wiped his eyes, doing a bad job of pretending that some Pu-Pu seasoning had gotten in them, all the while muttering brokenly, “It’s’s all bullshit, dude...”

“I know it is, Dick,” I said. He was still staring at the girl and I watched her flag down the bouncer and ask for a new seat. It was embarrassing for me, but nothing new. I’ve been down this road with more prominent right-wingers than I care to count. It’s sort of a theme with them, I guess.

As he has so many times before, the Vice-President seized my hand and rained liquor-laced spittle over my face. “You know what the worst part is?” he asked, all wild-eyed and crazy intense. “Do you have any idea?”

“Ease down, big boy. Ease her down,” I said, using my gentlest tones.

“It’s that I’m...I’m...I’m so...fucking...insecure!” he bleated in the seconds before his head crashed onto the table. I watched his shoulders twitch. I pulled my fingers free from his. After getting an approving nod from the secret service, I went digging in his coat for his billfold. I needed to settle the bill, after all. It was obvious that our evening was over.

I left a generous tip and stumbled out to catch a cab, leaving the Vice-President to sob in the wreckage of his Pu-Pu platter. I hope that he made it to his plane alright.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A festering municipal scandal...

In his four and a half years as mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak has not landed us a single "sister city". This is, to my mind, disgraceful. As Wikipedia shows (scroll down), our last sister city relationships were forged way back in the Sharon Sayles Belton administration, when Eldoret, Kenya and Uppsala, Sweden consented to be partnered with us. Our current mayor, however, has done nothing to capitalize on this momentum. Why is this so? Why hasn’t Mayor Rybak been firing off letters to the mayors of mid-sized cities the world over, inviting them to share the joys of a vague and relatively meaningless municipal bond with us? Is he paralyzed by the fear that Aberdeen, Scotland might laugh in his face? Does he want to “go slowly” with Recife, Brazil? Is he hopelessly intimidated by Essaouira, Morocco?

Perhaps he doesn’t take the whole “sister city” concept seriously. Perhaps he thinks it’s a waste of his precious time to forge strange, nebulous alliances with the people of distant lands. If this is the case, I’m disappointed in you, Mayor Rybak. Deeply disappointed. I mean, Christ Almighty, any lame-ass “citizens council” can throw a bakesale and you’ll be there, jumping around like a maniac and embarrassing us all with your enthusiasm. Why, then, won’t you spare a few seconds of your downtime to fire off an e-mail to your counterpart in Madras or Trieste or Guadalajara? It’s a global world, R.T., and a city is going to need global alliances if it wants to prosper. Do you want Minneapolis to languish, isolated and sister-cityless, an a fast-paced international age? Do you, R.T.? Do you really? Because if you do, well then, that’s just sad.

Which brings me to my second point. Pardon me if this seems undiplomatic, but it seems that our sister cities are a pretty obscure bunch. Just look over the list:

* Santiago, Chile (1961)
* Finland - Kuopio, Finland (1972)
* Japan - Ibaraki City, Japan (1980)
* Russia - Novosibirsk, Russia (1988, with St. Paul)
* France - Tours, France (1991)
* People's Republic of China - Harbin, China (1992)
* Kenya - Eldoret, Kenya (2000)
* Sweden - Uppsala, Sweden (2000)

I’m afraid we cannot coast on Santiago’s presence here for long. Chile has been doing well recently, and–unless we move forward with this sort of thing–they will likely be looking to upgrade their sister city list. Mark my words on this. Why should Santiago stick with us when Houston or Boston or San Francisco would be happy to have them? Oh, sure, you can point to the long shared history and all the cultural similarities the citizens of Santiago and the citizens of Minneapolis share, but is this really sufficient to keep a sister city relationship alive? Relationships must change, they have to grow, and sometimes they even have to end. It isn’t that Santiago never loved us, you understand, it’s that Santiago might very possibly outgrow us. We have to be adult enough to let Santiago go, if that’s what Santiago chooses.

And, if that happens, I’m afraid the rest of our sister cities won’t be able to “pick up the slack”, so to speak. Now, maybe they’re all fine and happy places, but that doesn’t change this simple fact: you don’t go to Japan to visit Ibaraki City, you don’t go to China to hang out in Harbin, Tours doesn’t have the cachet of Lyon, and very few people (myself included) could find Novosibirsk on a map. In other words, they’re all to their country what Minneapolis is to ours, a more-or-less nondescript place where people live but nobody really goes. But, unfortunately, Minneapolis has never learned to live with this fact. It positively bristles whenever anyone suggests that it might be a little less cultured than Chicago, a little less worldly than Seattle, that there’s a little less “there” here than in Miami.

What I’m saying here is that if we want to be in the same league as Chicago, we have to step up to the next level of sister city. As you can see from this list here, we have some work to do. They’ve got Accra, Warsaw, Osaka, and Paris. Whatever will we do to compete with a sister city juggernaut like that, you may ask? Well, Mayor Rybak, you can just leave that up to me. Because this isn’t just a complaint, you see, it’s also an opportunity. I am willing to put my busy life on hold for the greater good. In exchange for a nominal salary and a generous per diem, I am willing to travel across the world extolling the virtues of Minneapolis sister cityhood with civic leaders of all stripes. I will travel far and wide, to the sexiest and most glamorous locations I can think of, all with an eye towards raising our fair town’s international profile. And, if I cannot meet with mayors or key council members, I will at least leave brochures with their receptionists. I will voyage–selflessly and with a burning sense of duty–to Monaco, to Tel Aviv, to Istanbul, to Cape Town, to Dakar, to Copenhagen, and even to Vancouver. All for the glory of Minneapolis, R.T. All for the glory of Minneapolis.

Think about it. That’s all I ask.

I patiently await your e-mail.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Chesire Candidate

Yesterday there was a strange, short-lived controversy over the above photograph. Did the Mark Kennedy campaign, in a desperate attempt to make their candidate look like a real, downhome Minnesota fisherman, photoshop in that lovely walleye? Did campaign staffers, in their haste, forget to erase the tell-tale third arm allegedly visible in the shot? It would have been beautiful were it true, but unfortunately it is not. No one asked me, but if they had I would have told them that it would be a rare thing for photograph fakers to be so subtle and exact in the shadow you see across Mark Kennedy’s chest, yet so heavy-handed in their forgetfulness about leaving the “third arm” in. As it is, the picture is real, although it does look kind of weird. Congressman Kennedy is thrusting the fish towards the camera, making the perspective such that his knuckle appears bigger than the rest of his arm. Bad photography, perhaps, but no trickery there.

That isn’t what I’m worried about, though. For all I care, Mark Kennedy can photoshop himself mowing down slavering Al-Qaeda hordes with his prosthetic machine gun hand. It doesn’t bother me any. What bothers me is his eerie, vacant grin. That smirk you see, that mindless smirk that finds its way into 89.933% of Mark Kennedy’s publicity photographs. It creeps me out. Check out one of his official portraits:

It might be just me, but I just can't bring myself to trust a politician with a smile like that. I like my politicians to be intense, moody and forbidding. I like them to glare at the camera as if they're immensely annoyed that they had to put down their Santayana treatise to pander to the stupid, stupid demands of the voters. I don't want the subtext of the campaign photograph to be, as it is so often with Magical Mark, "Yaaaay! I'm going fishing again!":

Or, god forbid, "Yaaay! Here I am with the President!":

Or "Yaaay! I get to read a book to a bunch of kids! Yaaaay, kids!"

"Yaaay! Gil Goooot-kneck-tttttffphhpbt!"

"Yaaaay! Face-painted guys! Whooo! Go team!"

"Yaaaay! Tom Delay! HAM-MER! HAM-MER!"

I honestly don't see how anyone can get behind a candidate so goofy. Let's hope he loses, and loses badly. Maybe that should be his opponent's slogan: "Help wipe that creepy, creepy smile off Mark Kennedy's face!"

Just a suggestion there.

Friday, May 12, 2006

An Insomnia Report tribute to mothers...

A few years ago, my health insurance company sent me a book explaining all sorts of common illnesses and the best ways to get rid of them. Here is a quote from the chapter on “Pinworms”:

Pinworms are tiny, threadlike worms that infest the digestive tract...The worms live in the upper end of the large intestine, near the appendix, and travel to the outside of the anus to lay their eggs.

The egg-laying almost always occurs at night and usually causes the child to scratch the anal area. When the child later sucks a thumb or licks a finger, the eggs are ingested and the cycle begins again...

Anal itching, especially at night, is the most common symptom of pinworm infection...If you suspect pinworms, it’s easy to find out for sure in your own home and at no cost. Go into your child’s darkened bedroom 30 minutes after bedtime and shine a flashlight on the child’s anus. The light will make the worms move back into the child’s anus. If you don’t see the worms after checking for 2-3 nights, it is unlikely that the child is infected with pinworms.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a passage anywhere that so beautifully and concisely conveys the sacrifice of motherhood. Mom: she’ll comfort you, discipline you, read to you, inspire you, nurture you, nourish you, and–if she absolutely has to–she’ll also stay up until the middle of the night to shine a flashlight up your ass. Scaring away the disgusting butt worms, that’s just one more thing that we ought to give thanks for this weekend.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Ugly American gets a makeover...

According to CNN, a business group has released a list of behaviors that Americans ought to adopt when they travel abroad. It is hoped that this will help make it so we’re not seen as a nation of unrefined, boastful asses. The problem, of course, is that we are a nation of unrefined, boastful asses and, until that changes, the people who obey the list’s dictates won’t be raising our nation’s reputation so much as they’ll just be faking out the foreigners they meet. That people said, the ideas offered are pretty solid, if also so self-evident that only an American executive would need to see them in bullet-point format: “don’t talk so loud”, “don’t assume you can wear jeans to a state dinner”, “take a moment and listen to what those little crazy-talking fellas have to say”, so on and so forth. It’s a good start, I’m sure, but it doesn’t seem to go far enough. This is where I come in. Because I’m a patriotic American, dammit, I want us to be respected throughout the world. To accomplish this, I have decided to append their list with some of the items that they, whether due to diplomacy or ignorance, failed to include. Here goes:

● When demanding that your cabbie take you “where the action is”, be sure to do so in a personable and non-threatening tone of voice.

● The French probably don’t find your “surrender monkey” jokes quite as funny as those guys in your Ann Coulter book club do. And, seriously, why the hell are you even in France if you belong to an Ann Coulter book club? Wouldn’t you be happier in Kansas or Nebraska or someplace like that? Goddamn hypocrite, trips to France are wasted on your kind!

● Whatever continent you happen to find yourself in, be sure to comment often on how you’d be able to understand what everyone was saying if only they didn’t say it so quickly. And also if they didn't say it in that gibbering, incomprehensible language of theirs.

● Watch out for those brightly-colored frogs. They’re poisonous. Just touching them can bring you a lingering, agonizing death. I realize that this has nothing to do with America’s image, but it simply cannot be emphasized enough: stay away from the shiny frogs.

● Don’t immediately assume that the best thing for the country in question would be a “shock-and-awe” style American bombing invasion.

● One thing that is generally considered rude is the habit of wiping your ass with hotel washcloths. It may be far more comfortable than using the local toilet paper, but it is a burden on the cleaning staff. Interestingly, this is also true within America’s borders. Except in Texas.

● I don’t care what frat-house record you hold, that Australian guy with the grenade-pin necklace can probably drink more than you

● If the Algerian military finds you wandering through the wastes of the Sahara, you better have a good excuse ready. You should be thinking of this during the “months and months of stumbling over sand dunes” part of your vacation itinerary.

● I’m sorry for that knock on Texas earlier. That was unwarranted.

● If you are from Minnesota, for God’s sake, give the fuck up on hoping that anyone anywhere will know or care where Minnesota is. Even people from Wyoming don’t know or care where Minnesota is. The only place where Minnesota is a big deal is in Minnesota. Get used to that. Pestering the people of Suriname, Yemen or Michigan about Minnesota is like asking some goober from Thief River Falls to comment about the possibility of industrial development in east Burundi.

● You know what’s annoying? When you’re on a plane–and it doesn’t matter where you’re going, it could be from Sioux Falls to Sioux City–and the guy sitting next to you wants to “guy bond” with you so he tries to get you to debate where the most beautiful women in the world are. And, nine times out of ten, he’ll come up with some incredibly asinine place, too: like Sault St. Marie or Tulsa or Philadelphia. Not only is this an obnoxious and lame conversation to have, but these men are always all the time completely and thunderously wrong. You wanna know where the most beautiful women in the world are (besides my comment section, of course)? They’re in Istanbul. End of debate.

● Cannibalism is still legal, and widely practiced, in almost all parts of Scandinavia. Be careful out there.

● If you slip up and find yourself, despite all this advice, acting like a total raging asshole, just smile, apologize, and say “I guess that was just the Canadian in me coming out”. Don’t do this if you’re in Canada, though.

We hate the evil urchin too, my dear...

Who knew that my twin brother Magnus and I make such a big impression whenever we go to the gym? We are merely humble farming lads!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

From the Insomnia Archive of Unbelievably Wretched Drivel...

I collect strange, unpleasant and morally dubious books. Someday, when I’m a doddering old man, I’d like to have an entire library of sick and awful texts that I can bequeath to my alma mater as revenge for forcing me to live in a tiny, fetid dorm room with an unsufferable rich prick who told a whole bunch of girls that I was on a chronic masturbator on the second goddamn day of school even though he was the one who crashed our computer after downloading six trillion pictures of Cindy Crawford’s nipples. Don’t worry: I buy all these books second-hand so that their evil pervert authors won’t get any money out of it. I keep them hidden in a secret chamber in my apartment so that my more delicate-constitutioned guests won’t happen upon them and think I’m some kind of sicko. I’m not a sicko. I’m just interested in sickos. There’s a fine line there, I think.

Anyway, one of my prize possessions in this line is a sex tourism guide, or, as the cover pretentiously puts it, “Sexual Paradises of Earth: A Single Man’s Guide To International Travel” (written by the obviously pseudonymous Bill Bronsen). I feel like I’ve done a public service by keeping this thing out of the hands of some desperate fiend. To give you the flavor of the book, here’s a quote from Chapter 2, “Why Go To A Foreign Country For Sex Or Love?”:

For some men, the thing that counts is to beat the generation gap. In this country, we are pretty youth oriented in general, and no one is more youth oriented than the young. If you are over 40, or even over 30, an 18 year old woman in your home town is not likely to see you was a romantic opportunity. Instead, she is likely to see you as some boring old guy, a guy who isn’t with it, who doesn’t have a cool haircut or cool clothes, and who listens to music recorded before she was born. She would be embarrassed to be seen with you...

What a drag! Luckily, there are places where boring old guys with lame haircuts and lame clothes aren’t so viciously dismissed by 18 year old vixens:

For an American tourist, especially a man, Thailand is one of the top sexual destinations in the world...Thai women are often poor. Being Buddhists, they generally respect those who appear wealthy in their eyes, for wealth is a sign of prosperity and merit. The fat are respected, for fatness is also a sign of prosperity and therefore merit. Old people are respected, and many young women see an older man as being the perfect partner...

But what if this old and shabby bastard with a bad hair and no chance of getting a date in his home town can’t afford to fly halfway across the world for a hook-up? Isn’t there some place closer to the good old U.S. of A. where he can find oodles and oodles of girls to exploit? Well, just read on:

Young Jamaican women often do not live in stable family environments. The children of a mother will often have different fathers. Young Jamaicans tend to live a life without a strong sense of responsibility or planning for tomorrow. Teenage girls bored with home life, or forced out by poverty, or violence at home, are drawn to tourist areas in hopes of meeting generous, rich foreign men who will not beat them...

Wait a second! Suppose that you’re a morbidly-obese, tragically-balding, creepy freak shitbag who wants to travel to the Carribean not only to ogle impoverished girls a third your age, but also to be beaten, drugged, robbed, and left for dead on a remote beach somewhere? Well, the book is once again ready with some great advice:

The real thing that makes the Dominican Republic so special is what you find in Santo Domingo. If you go there, you are in for the experience of a lifetime. In this wonderful city, there are a number of establishments that are a lot better than a mere pickup bar, but you will not find them by yourself. If you find a friend or a cab driver, as him where to go...

Because, God knows, the best thing for a dumb and horny gringo to do in places like this is to hop in a cab and ask the driver to bring him someplace off the beaten path so that he can get laid. I suppose if you’re really drunk or incredibly stupid or some combination of the two, this might sound like a good idea. It isn’t, though. Even as amateur a world-traveler as me knows that this is the quickest way to wind up a) dead, b) bloody and broke, c) in the scariest jail you’ve ever seen, or d) all of the above. Not that this concerns me too much, though. If your travel itinerary revolves around fondling as many third-world women as possible, you probably deserve whatever you get.

But “Sexual Paradises on Earth” doesn’t trouble itself with all that business. It’s too busy giving it’s toothless, hairy-backed, dumbfuck audience pointers on how to appeal to those hot island women:

Although the Dominican Republic is a poor country, the women are very style conscious and love beautiful sexy clothes....Unfortunately for the women, they have only a few nice things because they can’t afford more...If you were to go so far as to buy a nice outfit for the size of woman you want to meet and bring it with you, you are very likely to see it filled on your trip...

Now, when I was in New York City, many of the young women I worked with were Dominican. Most of them were pretty poor, at least as poor as I was, and some of them were indeed interested in fashion and nice clothes. However, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that if I ever tried to buy any one of those kind and lovely women an outfit so that they could “fill it for me”, they would laugh their lungs out. And then they would castrate me. So this book isn’t just morally repugnant, exploitative and inexcusable, it’s also full of shit.

How do you know when a book is aimed at an audience of morons? Well, you can be pretty sure of it when that audience needs to be explicitly told things like these:

The Netherlands is located in Europe.

If you go out of your way to insult a person or his culture or his race you are asking for trouble.

Brazil has millions of very friendly and nice people.

Your interest in sex with local women will not win you any popularity in the many countries where the majority of people follow Islam.

If you go to Mexico people will not wonder at your very presence there, will not gather in groups of awe-stricken people to gape at you. They will not act that way in the Netherlands either.

In all seriousness, this book is both the most appalling and the saddest thing I own. Sad because it seems aimed at lonely, miserable men who believe that their lonely misery is because American women think they’re too good for them. Appalling because it urges them to treat the poor women of the world as their sexual playthings. Sad again because it wants to excuse this as an almost noble, mutually-beneficial sort of behavior that only puritans or prudes would quibble with. Appalling once more because its wretched advice is put forth with that naive sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for 4-H Manuals and holiday cards.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I love my alley

There is a van parked in my alley with a sign in its window that reads:

do not enter this van
do not sit in this van
do not sleep in this van
do not hang out in this van

If you open this van, the police will be called and you will be charged
—The owner of this van

Monday, May 08, 2006

# 12,392,226 on the list of things Pat Robertson sternly disapproves of...

Thanks to the City Pages Blotter, I’ve learned that an organization called “The Center For Sex and Culture” in (naturally) San Francisco is holding a “Masturbate-A-Thon” (don’t click on that link if you’re in church or at work or some other place where they frown on such things, but do click on it eventually, because their poster is pretty cool). Now you might ask, just what is a “Masturbate-A-Thon”? Well, I wondered the same thing until I perused their website a little bit. Now that I’ve gone and got myself informed, I think I can accurately report back on what goes on at such a function. Participants get pledges from their friends and neighbors for a certain amount of money per minute, then they go to the venue where the event is held and try to pleasure themselves for as long as possible. The longer they hold out, the more money they raise. Spectators can come and watch these people wank if they wish, either via webcam or live in person, and their hefty admission fees ($50!) are also handed over to charity.

But understand, this isn’t just some onanistic free-for-all: they’ve got some pretty strict rules. Get a load of this:

At least 55 minutes of every hour shall be spent self-pleasuring by manual or sex toy stimulation. Participant shall have 5 minutes off of each hour to replenish and renew. Off minutes may not be accumulated. Off Minutes do not count toward total.

Only five minutes off each hour! A mere five minutes to use the bathroom, wash your hands, eat some Snickers bars, and call your family to give them an update on how much money they owe! That’s downright sadistic! But, seriously, how many people, in their everyday groin manipulations, actually take breaks in the middle of their “self-pleasuring”? Not many, I think. Most people operate under Puritan work ethic when they diddle themselves: they just work at it until it’s done with. At least I assume that’s true. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong.

Also, and pardon me for being a little lewd here, is it realistic to expect the male contestants to be able to take bathroom breaks in the midst of their stroke-a-rama? Because it seems to me that you’d have to wait for your let’s-just-say “excitement” to subside before you’d be able to pee. Isn’t doing this a tried-and-true recipe for the dreaded blue balls? Are there qualified medical personnel on site? And, should you try to make do without these chances to “replenish and renew”, won’t you run the risk of exhausting and dehydrating yourself? This all seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it?

But wait! There’s more!

Participants may continuously stimulate any part of their body as long as they are demonstrating true arousal to such stimulation.

Now, the organizers of this affair might think they’re being generous by letting their contestants “stimulate any part of their body”, but all the business about “demonstrating true arousal” belies this. Apparently, there are arousal referees. They will be enforcing arousal. I take this to mean you must never let your enthusiasm flag, no matter how sore your arm is, no matter how gross the astroglide has gotten. And maybe this is splitting hairs, but how can anyone legitimately judge “true” arousal? I could be deeply and hopelessly aroused in my head, but I doubt that would pass muster with the Center For Sex and Culture’s engorgement patrol. What they mean, I assume, is that you must demonstrate physical arousal.

This is neither here nor there, but I doubt I’d be able to demonstrate any sort of arousal with a bunch of strangers staring at me. Laugh at me if you must, but this is one reason why I like to keep my charitable and my biological activities separate. I don’t think I’m a prude. I’m just shy.

But enough about me. It’s clear that nothing arouses the ire of the Masturbate-A-Thon’s organizers quite as much as out-and-out fakery:

NO FAKING ORGASM. Do not waste our time. If you have an orgasm we are happy for you but this is not our goal. The first detected faked orgasm shall be reason for a 15-minute penalty against accumulated time.
The second detected fake orgasm shall be a thirty minute fine against accumulated time and the third will disqualify the offender from further competition at that event.

I suppose this would make sense if they were handing out prizes for most orgasms, but it doesn’t seem like that’s on the agenda. So why penalize people for faking it? Why does that “waste their time”? If that’s what it takes to get through hours and hours of clitoris mauling, why should the folks at the Center For Sex and Culture care? Aren’t they just giving the audience a more thrilling show? More to the point, how can they be absolutely certain someone’s not having a genuine orgasm? It seems like this is a place where the judges can abuse their authority. I’d be pissed if I was accused of faking an orgasm when I was really just trying to be enthusiastic. Not that it’s really possible for me to fake an orgasm. Well, I suppose it technically is possible, but know...there’s, ummmmm, evidence and stuff...

Oh never mind.

However, I am sure of one thing: for the vast majority of Americans, the only thing more embarrassing than a bunch of people knowing that you’ve participated in a “Masturbate-A-Thon” is having a bunch of people know that you were disqualified for faking too many orgasms.

By the way, the longest anyone’s ever held out in a Masturbate-A-Thon is six hours and thirty two minutes. That sure is a long time to play with yourself. The most orgasms (all genuine, of course) on record is thirty six. That sure is a lot of orgasms. But these people are all pikers. I’ve heard rumors that Sweet Daddy Lovedrops takes eight hours just to get warmed up and has seven to twelve orgasms every time he opens his fly.