Monthly Archives: October 2010

Monster Movie Therapy

A couple of things you might not have guessed from my recent blog posts:  That I had a really, really busy week, and also that I am an extreme introvert, at least in the way that I understand the term.

A lot of people think of introverts as people who are really shy, and that’s not me.  I’m not particularly shy.  I’ll walk right up to you on the sidewalk and start talking to you if I feel like it and it doesn’t stress me out in the slightest.  The thing is, though – I usually don’t feel like it.

When you’re an introvert, it’s not that you always keep to yourself, it’s more like that’s your comfort zone – solitude.  That’s where you go to charge your batteries.  My wife is the opposite – her comfort zone is sitting around with a group of people, talking, talking, talking.  The winter drives her crazy, because social functions tend to slow down except for Christmas – and Christmas makes her want to sort of barf.  She’s a complicated woman.

What I like to do is have everybody leave me the hell alone, and I like to retreat someplace and just hang out in my own head.  Ideally, I like to sit in the middle of the woods with a fire and some whiskey and a couple of dogs.  Usually I have to settle for a basement rec room, and some beer, and a couple of dogs.

If I don’t get this type of solitude on a regular basis, I start to crack.  I need about one out of three or four evenings to belong completely to myself, where I can sit and read or write or watch television with my mouth hanging open, farting.  That’s my comfort zone, that’s where I’m happy.  That’s being an introvert.

So this weekend, after working maybe sixty hours and still managing to post eight hundred words every day, after then working some more on Saturday, I wasn’t in a really festive Halloween mood.  Marilyn and the two younger girls were going to a Halloween party and Bethany had to work, and so I clocked myself out of parenting for an evening, bustled them all out the door, and slammed it behind them.

They had taken both of the functioning automobiles with them, so there was no danger that I’d end up hanging out with Shawn or anything.   Before they left, they all trashed the house like an old Quiet Riot video, in the process of putting on their costumes and all that, and I puttered around in the aftermath like Wil Smith in I Am Legend, minus the zombies.

Checked the fridge – exactly seven beers in there.  That would be plenty.  Then I checked the cable box for monster movies – Ah, there was Predators, the spinoff of the sequel to the spinoff of two other sequels.  I reached in and turned my brain down to “stupid” and ordered a pizza.  Dragged the big comfy chair right into the middle of the floor, directly in front of the HD television. 

Just what the doctor ordered.  Sure, I might have looked a little mental patienty, sitting in a room so trashed it looked like the CIA had been round, looking for microfilm or something, and yes, I was aware that my family was off having fun while I sat in front of a flickering, electronic screen in the dark, and that some people wouldn’t think that’s totally healthy, but I don’t get to tell my brain what it needs to quiet down.  I’ve never in my life won an argument like that against my own brain.

And the movie was unremarkable.  Fairly exciting, I guess.  It didn’t really screw around, a bunch of folks just show up on a planet and then the Predators show up to hunt them.  When someone says, “They’re hunters – and we’re the prey!” – it’s not very striking anymore.  Not very dramatic.  “The Most Dangerous Game” is nosing up toward it’s hundredth birthday, and aside from alien hunters with alien guns, this flick doesn’t bring much more to the table.

Even when Morpheus shows up, he just seems tired and possibly drunk.  The last time I saw him, he was in a weirdly straight-faced role as a Mr. Miyagi-style Spelling Bee instructor – taking a little girl through the exact same combat lessons Danny had to go through in The Karate Kid.  Except, with regards to spelling words.  Dead serious, dramatic music, awestruck spectators and everything – holy crap, she’s the greatest um, speller in the world!

Morpheus shows up looking like the Wachowski brothers really broke his spirit when they downgraded him to some kind of aw-shucks sidekick in The Crappy Matrix Sequels, like they had to drag him out of a bar across the street from the set, every time it was time for one of his scenes.

And one of the Predators has a skeletal jawbone as part of his helmet, making him look like a grinning monster from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  So the movie was half-serious, and half ridiculing itself, and I’m not sure it knew about the second half.

I didn’t care.  Monsters, ray guns, some other planet.  There were some barky-barkin’ Predator dogs that looked like Battle Porcupines.  A multicultural cast of racial stereotypes and several white stereotypes – Reluctant Leader Guy, Super Hot Sidekick Girl, Sissified Doctor Boy, etc. – to balance everything out.

The Chinese guy found his own sweet Samurai sword, too!  Didn’t really help him, though – he wound up dead, but he took one of the Predators to Valhalla with him, where they get to have a big pizza party, if my understanding of Asian Religious Philosophy and Whatnot is as accurate as it seems like it is in my head.

And when the dust settled, I was right back to my old self, ready to resume my work and parenting and blogging duties.  You can’t spell “dysfunctional” without “functional,” you know.


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Did Benjamin Franklin Hate America?

Speaking of time travelers, I’m trying to figure out why Benjamin Franklin felt like he had to screw around with everything he ever pointed his face at, just because he thought he was so much better than everyone else that we’d all appreciate it.  For instance, did you know he’s the reason why you can’t get hammered at work?

It’s true.  In his autobiography, he writes about his job at a printing company, at which the normal thing to do was get hammered all day.  These guys would come in and start drinking, rock right on through to dusk, ten hour days, just getting blasted the whole time. 

In walks Benjamin Franklin, and he starts thinking, man, I bet we’d get a lot more printing done if we cooled down on the booze, you know?

They’re all like, well, there’s no way to find out for sure.  But Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t let it go.  So he stops drinking.  Keeps going to work.  At first, nobody notices, because they’re all still hammered.

It’s such a controversial idea at the time that he feels it necessary to spend at least two full pages in his autobiography, defending the notion of not getting hammered at work.  Talking about how one can acquire an equivalent amount of energy by limiting their caloric intake to non-alcoholic sources, such as fruit and bread. 

Water and food, he assures us, are all the body truly needs to function during the work day.  Alcohol, he argues, actually has a negative effect on your energy level.  I don’t remember if he included any diagrams, but he certainly had that tone. 

I mean, he’s not even talking about coffee, just sit there and eat fruit and print stuff.  Needless to say, his productivity goes through the roof.  He seems very proud of himself indeed as he snaps down a pretty thorough argument against getting hammered at work every day – the end of an era.

You can bet your ass he was one popular cat with the other employees, once their boss realized, hey, this guy’s right!  Couple years later, he’s scratching his head on a whole other continent, talking to a cartoon mouse.

It’s not something that goes away, either.  He spent a lot of time toward the end of his life in France, which from what I can tell, was an even more rocking Kingdom of Awesomeness before Benjamin Franklin got there, and stunk the place up.

Check out these letters from him.  I’m not very patient and I’m running low on time, so I only skimmed them when I was googling him to find out why the hell he invented Daylight Savings Time.  He appears to be talking to somebody French – I love the part where he say, so you guys normally get out of bed at what, about noon?

Then he goes on to talk about how he was up at six in the morning and was shocked to see the sun coming up.  He had some kind of Colonial Jet Lag – Ship Lag, I guess, though that seems too gradual to be a lag – and so he couldn’t help it, just sat up at six.

I’m pretty sure he’s joking about being shocked to see the sun.  Sort of like a Hot Enough For You kind of joke.  He starts figuring out, using an Almanac, that the sun comes up at different times during different parts of the year.  Then he goes on about how economical natural light is, and how the workday should be skewed such that we don’t have to use artificial light when we’re printing stuff stone sober.  Thanks, pal.

Yes, and just like a print shop owner, everybody who owned a business in the whole world thought, hell yeah, let’s do that.  Screw around with the workers’ concept of time, sure – but save a few bucks or francs or whatever.  Get it going!

Then he left France – or maybe died there, I didn’t get a History degree for this post or anything –  and I don’t know what he did while he was there, but those guys get up at like ten-thirty now.  He left his big, filthy paw prints all over the place.

Holy Christmas, I just went back over there and read a little further, and this guy deliberately sets about to convince the population of Paris to get up before noon.  I don’t have time to read this whole thing right now but I’m going to definitely read it later, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about it here.  It’s like he’s obsessed with squaring the place off.

Yes, and actually, upon reading a little further, I guess it turns out that practically everything else he invented is really hard to paint in a bad light.  The light bulb, you know, I guess, sure.  Pretty cool.  A stove that keeps you warm and cooks your food – I suppose I forgot that people didn’t have those yet.  What did they have, fireplaces?  I guess fireplaces – got to admit stoves were a good idea.

Lightning rods, bifocals, libraries, the odometer.  Apparently he figured out how to map the Gulf Stream and improve the efficiency of shipping routes.  Good lord, there’s no doubt about it – this guy was definitely a time traveler.

I mean, either that or it really is a good idea to get up before noon, and then not get hammered at work all day.  We shall have to let history be the judge.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag


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The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveler

First, just watch the video at this link.  It’s from a premier party for a Charlie Chaplin movie from 1928, and was shot outside a theatre in Hollywood. You’re going to see the same fifteen seconds or so replayed a few times, zoomed in sometimes, slowed down others. A woman walks behind some kind of fake zebra, and she appears to be talking on her cell phone, back in 1928.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. I don’t want to hear about Occam’s Razor, and how there has to be a simpler explanation than time travel.  First, time travel is a pretty simple explanation – we know that’s where technology’s going, so we know this was bound to start happening.

And anyway, I keep telling you Occam’s Razor is a guideline, not a law of physics. And I’ve also explained already why time travel is inevitable and the folks who can do it are already among us.  And I think I mentioned I’m about one third serious, too.

So, yes, I know a simpler explanation is that the person isn’t talking on a cell phone, that she’s doing something perfectly normal for 1928.  But I keep watching it over and over, and she’s definitely talking there at the end, and she’s definitely got her hand in the exact position a phone would be, and even her demeanor is that of a very relaxed person who is quite used to walking down the street talking on the phone.

Now go back to the link and scroll down to look at the comments – they are too funny.  A bunch of smug time travel deniers taking a bold stand.

Just look at everybody so extra super sure it’s not a time traveler.  Here in a culture where we think good boys and girls get to have a great big pizza party with the invisible Creator of the Universe in the afterlife. 

We need to see some hard proof!  And hurry up we’re late for church!

My favorite response is that the person would not be able to get cell phone coverage back then – there were no cell towers!  Of course.  Because there’s just no way that an individual with the power to travel through time could ever produce a communication device that did not rely on a network of giant towers.

Maybe she’s using a time warp cell phone, rocking around in 1928 while sending and receiving signals from cell towers in 2010.  If we assume the lady can travel through time, then I’m pretty sure her cell phone signal can, too.

Or maybe it’s a Star Trek explanation – A tachyon phone!  How does it work?  Well it works fine, just look at her.

Seriously, watch the movie.  Not only is this definitely a time traveler talking on the phone, I can even tell you who she’s talking to and what she’s saying.  She’s talking to her BFF and she’s telling her, “Damn straight I’m walking right in front of the theatre where they’re premiering The Circus right now, why don’t you get online and look it up.  You owe me a Dr. Pepper, Maxinne.”

In that scenario, see, I guess Maxinne is her time-traveling pal who didn’t think she’d ever be able to blarney her way into the premier party.  We don’t know if Maxinne is in 1928 with her own Time Warp Cell Phone, or if the cell phone can call other time periods – which it seems like it ought to be able to do, at least on nights and weekends.

A cell phone signal is just energy.  Energy goes at light speed all the time.  Just make it go a little faster, and it’s going back in time.  If this lady figured out how to do it with her own physical body and she didn’t turn into pure energy, then she can do it with her cell phone signal, too.  So she could be talking to Abraham Lincoln and Charlie Sheen on a conference call – all bets are off.

Watch.  This stuff is going to start showing up everywhere.  Is that a laptop on the table in The Last Supper?  Does that mummy have a Harley Davidson tattoo on his arm?  Do these two Easter Island statues look like me and my brother Dave?  It’s going to be like, say, how come we never noticed all these crazy time travelers before? 

Well it’s because they weren’t there before.  They probably just figured out how to do this yesterday, so they went back in time and then some Chaplin scholar noticed it the second history changed around him.

Contrary to what Back To The Future taught us, people wouldn’t disappear or reappear gradually on film.  Reality would change, the photograph would just be a part of reality.  We’d never remember the photograph or the film any other way. You’d be sitting there looking at the picture, and then it would be a different picture, and you would have been looking at the new one the whole time.

I’ll tell you what – maybe they have Internet access, so I’m going to start inviting time travelers out for a drink here and there.  If you’re anywhere in time and space, and you have the means to come back in time, just email me with your Tachyon Smart Phone or your new Blackberry Warp, and I’ll tell you where to meet me, and I’ll buy you a drink.  Several of them, if you want to go ahead and toss me the keys to that time machine – can’t be too careful, safety first.

I’m going to need you to first roll by Sister’s Chicken and Biscuits circa 1992, and pick me up a sixteen piece box of chicken – that’s how I’ll known you’re legit.  Once that’s out of the way, we can think of a way to get you in the background on the cover of my book, even though we took the picture two months ago.  I’m sure you can work it out.

Don’t be shy, time travelers.  I’m on your side. 

Earlier: Occam’s Razor Is Not A Law Of Physics

And: Time Travelers Among Us

And: The Time Traveler Proves It


Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag, Time Travel


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Requiem For An Office Manager

It is always astonishing to me how people can be so professional and competent in their own particular lines of work – law, accounting, marketing, etc. – and then weirdly childlike when it comes to basic daily tasks that they are accustomed to relying on others for.

I’m thinking of an office manager I know, and no, she’s not my office manager.  I don’t have an office manager.  But I do frequently find myself walking in and out of her office for various professional reasons and somehow or another, I wound up on her email list, such that whenever she needs to disseminate some information throughout the whole office, I get to to be privy to it.

This is the type of office where a lot of people rent their offices, and then share conference rooms and a break room and secretarial services.  It’s a pretty efficient way to do things for very small businesses, just get yourself an office and an internet connection, and then you get billed for whatever services you use, as opposed to renting a giant office you don’t need and then paying someone to sit there in it.

When people come in to see you, there’s a nice conference room and a receptionist and the general feeling that you are much more than a single person in a room, even though that’s what you are.

Does that sound suspiciously to you like a giant dormitory, and does the office manager sound suspiciously like a house mother?  Because it should.  You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things this poor woman has to email everyone about.

Take parking for instance.  This is about the simplest concept there is – the parking places are clearly marked.

If you’re a visitor, then you are allowed to park in the (very slightly) closer Visitor parking spots.  If you are not a visitor – for instance, if you are one of the dudes renting an office – then you are not allowed to park in the Visitor spots.  I actually picked this concept up without having it explained to me more than a few times, but it’s apparently very tricky.

Try to imagine sending out your sixth email blast on the subject.  How on earth can you possibly make this any more clear without insulting everyone?  Sock puppets?

And on a side note here, I’m just trying to get my mind around the concept of giving a shit about it, too.  Like, if I saw a guy park in the Visitor spot, instead of the Non-Visitor spot six inches away, exactly what kind of full-grown hall monitor would I be if I felt like I just had to drop the dime on him?

Oh, but they do it.  I can tell by the emails.  It’s a wonder some of these folks get any work done, when they appear to be spending most of their time standing at their windows with a pair of binoculars, staking out the Visitor spots.  Who’s that parking there?  Run his plates! 

Then call this office manager up, this person who has plenty to do besides moderate adolescent He’s-Touching-Me style conflicts between grownup business people, adults who file taxes and lawsuits and do all kinds of grownup stuff.  Yes, just call her up and use a sort of bitchy, plugged-nose bird voice and make sure to work the word “ridiculous” in a few times, while describing the absolute highway robbery going on, with regards to Visitor parking spots.

You should have seen the emails when the microwave broke down.  These folks had to cope for a single afternoon with no microwave, and you’d have thought society was about to collapse.  Guys in suits running around with their hair hanging over their wild, crazed eyes, lurching down the hallway throwing trash cans through each other’s windows, screaming about Martian invasions.

I had to drive in there just to watch them, poking Lean Cuisines at the empty spot on the counter where the microwave used to be, making frustrated honking noises like ducks with their feet caught in something.  One guy stripped to his underpants and just sat there scrawling “No cookie lunchy microwave 2012” all over himself with a Sharpie.  I stood there wondering, is this Gotham City after the Scarecrow sprayed everyone with hallucinogens, or is this the giant stadium full of Hurricane Katrina victims?  Why has Our Lord Forsaken Us?

I don’t know guys.  I mean, really – the coffee still works.  There’s a snack bar downstairs.   Seriously, I would run down and get you a sandwich, but I’m afraid you would then rely on me to bring one to you every day, cut the crusts off for you, all that.

Similarly, the automated soap dispenser on ONE of the three sinks in the Men’s room stopped working.  There were dudes trapped in there – What do I do, I can’t wash my hands and I can’t leave without washing my hands and sure I could use one of those other two sinks but I want to use THIS one!

How on earth does one respond to this with a straight face?  Well, I’ll tell you how she does it, calmly and respectfully.  Fear not, People of This Office, she tells them.  I have contacted the Maintenance Department, and they have assured me that order will be brought from this chaos by the end of the week.  Until then, please utilize either of the other two sinks when washing your hands.

Actually the sinks all three worked fine.  It was just the soap dispenser, the kind that you wave your hand under and it gives you a splerk of foamy soap.  One man was found semi-conscious, suffering from severe dehydration, slumped over the sink, twitching as he forever waved his hand in front of the sensor, whispering, “The soap will come.  The soap will come.  Any minute now.  The soap will come.  I am the Angel of Death.  Abide as Emptiness.  Etc.”

What do you guys do at home, I’m wondering?  Is your wife doing all this stuff for you?

If so, please ask her to cut it out.  She is not doing you any favors.


Posted by on October 28, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag


A Very Facebook Birthday

As you have probably heard by now, it is my birthday, and I certainly hope that you have all of your My Birthday shopping done, because the malls are going to be jam-packed.  Here in central Ohio, there is actually a Traveller’s Advisory.

And yes, some people like to wait until after My Birthday and take advantage of the After My Birthday Sales, but that’s tacky.  You know it’s tacky, and I know it’s tacky.  Come on now. 

All you have to do is send over some pancakes or fried chicken or both.  I’m pretty sure FedEx has a special shipping container for those things.  Or alternatively, you could send them by some sort of Something-O-Gram, but not a Strip-O-Gram unless it’s after ten, and to be safe, you might want to make it a dude.

Also, you know, I’ve been registered for the last two months at the Container Store and the Dress Barn (it’s my birthday, I don’t have to explain anything to you) so that you could avoid the big last minute snarl, but if you’ve procrastinated this long then there is nothing I can do for you.  Sack up.

Digitally, it’s my first Facebook birthday, so I was really looking forward to everybody saying Happy Birthday to me on my wall.  It was every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be, and in fact I spent several hours going through and thanking everybody one at a time.  I found myself thinking about how I go about it, when it’s someone else’s birthday – do I post a general Happy Birthday, or do I try to come up with something personal and specific?

That was a new thing for me, thinking about other people.  Did you know that there are all kinds of other people out there besides me?  I started to wonder if I’d ever said Happy Birthday to anyone at all.  Do my children have birthdays?  It seems like they probably do.

That made me wonder if every single one of my Facebook friends was going to say happy birthday to me, or if some of them were going to sort of fade, you know like when you’re in a middle school choir concert and a solid one half of your fellow classmates are not singing?

Like the Dalai Lama.  He’s supposed to be my Facebook Friend, but he hasn’t said a WORD.  Some friend.  I know he’s at One with everything, but it takes TWO of us for me to be wished a Happy Birthday by you.  It’s not like I’m China, dude – quit being so negative.

Then I also started wondering – do some people have an automated Facebook program that just goes around dropping a generic birthday greeting on whoever’s birthday page it is?  Somehow that wouldn’t be as meaningful to me as it is when you click the prompt on your homepage and type it out with buttons.  If I find out folks were doing that I’m going to click on my webcam while I weep about it and pound on my desk, then I’m going to post the video on your Facebook page.  Feel my wrath!

Also a Wife Problem develops:  These are all women, practically, every single one of them!  Who are all these women?  Like there’s a bunch of dudes hanging around on Facebook – give me a break.

Fortunately, the Wife’s not too Facebook literate.  I just said, no, sweetheart those are transvestites, it’s cool.  She squints at the screen.  All right then, she says.  This from a woman who keeps running off to South America like Mark Sanford, and who switched her relationship status from married to “In An Open Relationship” when she was pissed at me four months ago, and never switched it back.

I was sitting in bar when she did that, which I think is what she was pissed about.  I clicked “like,” having no idea there was any kind of problem – really I think I had forgotten my name and where I lived and who my wife was in the first place.  But you can bet your ass I didn’t screw around with my own relationship status.

Facebook is good for making you feel like you are having a big party when you are really sitting there by yourself in workout pants stalling until there’s no more time to workout, especially if you are wearing one of those beer hats with two straws and listening to the Animal House soundtrack.

What I tried to do this year was focus not on the joy and well-wishing from everyone, but instead on the bitterness and spite – that’s kind of my thing.  I was bitter because, here in the real world, what had my own family given me?  Love and presents and adoration and a steak dinner?  Well, sure.  They’re awesome, and I suck – are you happy now?

Well, I am.  Thanks everybody for the birthday wishes, unless you didn’t send any.  And if you didn’t there’s still time.

PS – Popeye’s doesn’t count as fried chicken.  Popeye’s a cartoon, don’t be silly.


Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Fried Chicken, Phoning It In


How I Survived The Big Blow

The first thing I did, was spring into action when the radio told me I should start freaking out.  That’s a common mistake – hesitation – when the radio is trying to tell you about a Possible Tornado or a Snow Event or some Impending Wind. 

Don’t listen to that little voice inside, telling you that the radio is full of crap.  How do you think those people got on the radio in the first place?  It’s harder to get on the radio than it is to get into Harvard.  If they’re telling you that it’s about to rain frogs, then that’s what it’s about to do.

It’s not like they’re motivated to lie to you about impending danger – you don’t hear them insisting that you stay tuned or anything, do you?  Hell no – these are scientists and professionals, not hellishly animated News Golems with dollar signs in their eyes.

You might flashback to a newscast you saw a few years ago, for instance, when all the weather guys were insisting it was about to snow three feet, and then nothing happened.  You might think, didn’t they look like they were about to cry, when not even one person got injured?  When they had all their Action Edge Weather Team Action Hero Reporters out there in the streets, literally holding rulers up to powdery drifts in the gutters, trying to squeeze an actual inch of snow out of reality?

No, this wasn’t the time to second guess the crack reporters of the Central Ohio Local News Force.  I heard on the radio that the wind was going to be gusting at about three to nine thousand miles per hour, and I said, this is it.  This is where the rubber hits the road. 

So I got into my car and rolled through Starbucks and then drove to the bank and made a deposit.  It was kind of windy.  There was a song on the radio by Mumford and Sons which I like but which I’m getting a little tired of, and to be honest, I kind of forgot about the wind while I was listening to it.  

When I got out of the bank, I turned the radio back on and I was advised that the wind was going to be so bad that I should probably go to a mall and start running around stabbing people and cracking their heads open and eating their brains.  “For God’s Sake, run!  RUN!”

I haven’t been so frightened since the news told me that the computers would kill us all at the dawn of the year 2000.  I called the President, got his voice mail – you changed, man.

So I went to a bar.  Some folks are more partial to churches when society collapses, but I like to be where the cops are – makes me feel safe.

It was Jimmy V’s in Westerville, where a couple of dudes next to me spent most of the Windstorm of the Century saying absolutely horrible things about local news personality Andrea Cambern, and talking increasingly louder every few minutes, and I think possibly ridiculing me secretly for any of several possible reasons – my dire need of a haircut, the enormous mole on my right forearm, the plastic tiara I was wearing (lost a bet), and the strong likelihood that I was possessed of a horrible odor.  It had been a long day.

While I was there, I watched several news stations track the Species Threatening Storm Front, which looked like the living geometric arc blur from the eighties arcade game Qix.  I thought, ah, Qix, my old nemesis, we meet again.

Tried to tell the two hard-drinking construction dudes that I was pretty sure the Crystalline Entity from the old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which Data’s brother Lore is introduced, was almost certainly a ripoff of the old Qix.  They made some kind of kitty reference which I didn’t understand, and then suggested I put my hand up my butt – forget it fellas, you can get kicked out of here for that.  Found out the hard way, you know?

So I went back to watching the News Professionals, so they could let me know when it was safe to go back outside and go on with my day.  The windows seemed to be lying to me about the relatively normal afternoon going on outside, and I didn’t like to be played for a fool by windows. 

I leaned forward and squinted, concentrated on the newscasters, which all of the sudden reminded me of the patrons of Bruce Campbell’s plastic surgery center in Escape From L.A.

Their demeanor was such that they didn’t seem to believe I would ever be able to go on with my day again.  Like we were all huddled in the grocery store from that Stephen King story where the nuclear power plant turns all the insects into giant monsters.

I checked the bar for religious fanatics – it was clean.

Then all I could do was watch the Qix rock across Ohio.  When it went over the bar – and we saw it on the screen going over us –it really did rain a lot, and the wind was pretty serious.  But it lasted for less than ten minutes. 

The news got a little defensive about it.  Started posting the rainfall as an hourly figure – SIX INCHES AN HOUR!

Sure.  For ten minutes.  That’s an inch, Scoop.  Thanks a billion.

How did I survive the Big Apocalyptic Wind Blow Rain Event of October 2010?  I sat in a bar stool and drank two beers, that’s how.  It was what we refer to in the blogging industry as a Two Beer Squall – that’s like a Metric Category Five.  Serious stuff.

It’s over now.  All we can do now is pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, and try to move on.


Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag, News/Commentary


The Opposite Of Homeless (XIII)

 (Note this is a work of continuous fiction.  The first twelve parts are at these links:   Part One, Part Two, Part Three , Part Four , Part Five , Part Six, Part Seven , Part Eight , Part Nine , Part Ten ,Part Eleven , and Part Twelve)

It’s about ten minutes work, cleaning the house.  While they’re cleaning, James explains that he keeps the security system on if he sleeps there, so that the beeping will wake him up should Debbie arrive unexpectedly, giving him at least a few seconds to get up and run.

“How serious do we need to be about cleaning.  I guess pretty serious, with no one else here to blame anything on.”

“Well, yes,” he agrees.  “But nothing too crazy.  I’ve never been fingerprinted, so it’s not like you have to wipe everything down or anything.  But yes, Debbie will notice if there’s a glass of Dr. Pepper sitting on the coffee table.  She doesn’t drink carbonated beverages at all.”

“But she chain smokes,” Rose says.

“Yes,” James agrees.  “There’s that.”

They consolidate all of the garbage into the pizza box, and then James goes out to the garage and pulls the truck around, and they drive into town in it, listening to nineties music on the radio, not talking much as the rain rattles against the windshield.

When they get to campus, James is quiet, putting the truck in park at a parking meter, not looking at her, not looking at anything in particular. 

Rose says, “It’s been a great night, James.”

“What do you have to do?”  He blurts out, the desperation and jealousy as sudden and unpleasant as a serious fart would be, in these close quarters.

“There’s just a group of us,” Rose tells him.  “We watch out for each other.  Watch out for some other people.  Strength in numbers, I guess.  And it’s not pleasant, James.  We call ourselves The Grims for a reason, and it’s not as cool as what you have going, but at least I can keep my dignity.  You don’t know what I went through, James, before I joined The Grims.”

But James’ eyes tell her that he knows plenty about suffering and indignity and old-fashioned terror.  He’s a skinny guy, and he’s been on the street a while.  When he was sixteen, there probably wasn’t much of a difference between him and a girl.  Her heart aches for him, and yet she’s trained it so well.  She won’t reach out for him, won’t tell him that she feels anything at all.

Instead she says, “I’m sorry, James.  That wasn’t fair, I don’t know what you’ve been through either.  Kim and Brian, and whatever they did…”

He winces at their name, and shakes his face as if to dislodge their names from his ears.  He says, “Rose, I’m going to get out of this.  I’m going to have my own place within a month, and I’ll take you with me.  You can come with me.  You don’t have to be my girlfriend, just my friend – and it won’t be grim or awkward.  You can forget about all those people and whatever they make you do.”

“They don’t make me, James.  That’s the point.”

And he winces again, still knowing nothing, still operating entirely from his imagination.  “All right, Rose.  Whatever.  Just go do what you have to do.”


“Just go, Rose.  Seriously, I’m tired of begging you to let me treat you with a little respect.  I guess you don’t care about that sort of thing.”

And there it is, they always start hitting you one way or another, once you failed to jump on their arms.  Failed to become an accessory like a scarf or a necklace.  She searches the cab of the truck for whatever it is that she wants to say to him, and she gives up, exasperated.  Gathers up the pizza box and the empty two liter, and the rest of the garbage, and opens the door of the truck.

She says, “I’ll drop this stuff in a dumpster.  Are you going to meet met at the Pizza-By-The-Slice place tomorrow?”

He stares ahead, his hand on the top of the steering wheel, not answering for several moments, then finally he says, “Yes.  Yes, I’ll see you there.”

Rose glances over he shoulder at the damp alley, the garbage blowing around it, and she longs for a stranger’s living room, for the sanctuary that James finds in the gaps of other people’s lives.  The alley seems very stark and lonely, and for a very serious moment, Rose believes she is about to get back in the truck.

Instead she turns back to James and tells him softly, “It’s not a boyfriend.  It’s not stripping and it’s not sex.  It’s just grim, James.  Grim, but nothing that would hurt you.  Nothing that you should feel threatened by.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” James replies, and Rose closes the door, and watches him drive off into the rain.


(Note.  This was the first chapter in an ongoing work of fiction.  The second chapter will begin soon, and I will link to it here.)


Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Fiction, The Opposite of Homeless