CHANGE JAR STATS
++ As of February 7, 2005,
the change jar was 41.3% full.
++ I last emptied the change jar
on August 11, 2004.
++ The change jar is projected
to be full on October 21, 2005.
[See change jar photo here]
"Well, I can see why, Kilgore," you are saying, gesturing toward the Involuntary Celibacy Watch.
That's not what I mean. I've been frustrated because the weeks come and the weeks go, and what are the tangible results of the time dribbled through my fingers? The paltry financial rewards of my dull job, maintenance of my basic metabolic functions, and the occasional fleeting pleasure of self-induced ejaculation. Consult Ecclesiastes or Ernie Ford for further ruminations along these lines.
Earlier this month, I took two days off work to think about these things and to consider ways to use my time more effectively. Here's what I discovered:
There are only 168 hours in a week.
After working, commuting, eating lunch, and sleeping, I have only 64 hours left.
It is not possible for me to train for an ultramarathon, write for publication, write regularly on this blog, attend church, have my meager social life, and still take care of the myriad crap that goes into staying sane, like preparing salad and cleaning the toilet every two weeks.
That third one surprised me. I don't have a wife (or even a girlfriend), or children, or a demanding job, or a fast-paced social life. And yet, no matter how I juggled the hours and activities, I couldn't fit everything into a realistic schedule. Something had to go.
That something is Chaotic Not Random. This was not an easy decision. I have loved keeping this blog -- it has sharpened my writing skills, bolstered my confidence, and allowed me to meet wonderful and interesting people; that is, those of you who have read my posts and left comments and sent kind, thoughtful emails. I thank you for being a part of my life this past year and a half.
I wish I could continue to post here. But I can't. Writing for me is a slow, difficult labor -- a labor of love, to be sure, but still a time-sucking task that consumes an average of three hours for each post, including this one. Even blogging just twice a week wipes out my Wednesday and Sunday evenings, which is time I could better spend preparing pieces for publication.
So this is goodbye, for now. I'm going to give up the chaoticnotrandom.com domain in a week or two, although everything here will remain for posterity on chaoticnotrandom.blogspot.com. If you want to keep current on my writing career, drop me an email and I'll let you know if I get anything into print.
Can you imagine approaching an attractive woman on the street and saying, "Tell you what. Why don't you remove all of your clothes except for a thong and 4-inch heels, then writhe and prance in front of me to the rhythms of bad '90s prom music? Oh, and you have to rub your breasts on my face and smile as though you're enjoying it more than a shoe-shopping spree on Rodeo Drive. If you do all this, I will give you one American dollar." Yet that's the standard deal in strip clubs. Amazing.
A lot of people think there's a cleaning product called Murphy's Oil Soap. There isn't. It's Murphy Oil Soap -- no apostrophe, no "s".
Suppose that I'm at SuperTarget, looking for a checkout lane, when I notice that one of the checkout girls is very attractive. You might think that my best choice, for staring and ogling purposes, is to go through her lane. But I've noticed when I do this, I'm only able to enjoy limited staring and ogling -- you can only stare and ogle so much when a girl is standing two feet away. My recent experiments have shown that by choosing the lane just to the right of the attractive checkout girl, I can stare and ogle with near impunity. True, the attractive checkout girl is a few feet farther away, but I think the large gain in staring-and-ogling quantity more than compensates for the slight loss in quality.
While reading the September 2004 issue of Runner's World, I noticed an item that referred to a marathon as 1,660,032 inches in length. "That doesn't look right," I thought, and it wasn't -- a marathon is closer to 1,661,220.4 inches in length. The error was due to the common erroneous belief that a marathon is exactly 26.2 miles, when in fact a marathon is exactly 42.195 kilometers (approximately 26 miles plus 385 yards, or about 26.21876 miles).
Perhaps this is unrelated, but my eHarmony personality profile notes that I have "a strong need to be precise."
In the climactic scene of Reservoir Dogs, Joe has his gun pointed at Mr. Orange, Mr. White is aiming at Joe, and Nice Guy Eddie has his gun pointed at Mr. White. Then everybody fires, and two seconds later, Joe and Eddie are dead and Mr. White is mortally wounded. But who shot whom, and in what order? I ran the scene back in slow motion, and this is the best I can figure it out:
Joe shoots first, hitting Mr. Orange.
Mr. White fires next, killing Joe.
Eddie fires, missing Mr. White. Strangely enough, he starts to recoil and collapse at this point as though he's been shot, even though nobody has fired at him.
Eddie fires again, hitting Mr. White.
As he falls, Mr. White shoots and kills Eddie.
Can anyone corroborate this? I only have the movie on VHS, and the slo-mo playback is pretty grainy.
While watching the dreadful Jerry Bruckheimer movie Pearl Harbor, I noticed that during the scene in which Ben Affleck battles German pilots, he shouts to an Allied pilot, "Nice shot, Red Two!"
"Hey," I thought, "that sounds like Star Wars."
Right I was. During the final battle of Return of the Jedi, a Rebel pilot shoots down an Imperial pilot outside the second Death Star. A fellow Rebel pilot shouts, "Nice shot, Red Two!"
That's right -- Jerry Bruckheimer included a Star Wars reference in a movie about Pearl Harbor. Well, heck, a little lack of respect never killed anyone, I guess. I hope that when this guy gets around to making a blockbuster special effects spectacular about 9/11, he doesn't forget to include a guy in one of the Twin Towers, watching in horror as a plane flies toward his building, and then taking a bite out of a carrot and saying, "What's up, Doc?"
Does anyone agree that in the Matt Dillon-Neve Campbell-Denise Richards-Bill Murray-Kevin Bacon thriller Wild Things, the hottest girl by a wide margin is Denise Richards' friend, played by who-dat Toi Svane?
I got my teeth cleaned last week. Was the hygienist cute? I guess she was, now that you mention it. She was slender, bespectacled, slight of bosom, and smartly outfitted in blue scrubs -- I fairly clicked my heels as I followed her out of the waiting room, so eager was I to be examined.
As she took down my dental history, I was relieved to notice the wedding band on her left ring finger -- now I felt no obligation to hit on her. I wouldn't have hit on her anyway, even if she had been wearing a "Single and Horny" T-shirt, but I would have felt obligated to, and then I would have felt weak and insignificant when I left the clinic with no more phone numbers than when I arrived. (Even after discounting for my natural shyness, social ineptitude, and general hostility toward humankind, you have to admit that macking on a dental hygienist is a tough maneuver. I don't doubt it's been executed successfully. But people have also run four-minute miles and climbed Mount Everest, and you won't see me trying to duplicate those feats.)
So this was to be a crush. That was okay, because I like crushes -- that is, I like temporary crushes, as opposed to the pathetic unrequited kind that accounts receivable clerks are known to nurse for years for human resources supervisors until one day they (the HR supervisors) just up and leave to work at Starbucks corporate and don't bother to so much as stop at their (the AR clerks') cubicles to say goodbye.
Temporary crushes, by contrast, offer lots of room for fantasy and self-delusion. For example, let's say you stopped at PetSmart earlier this evening to buy some rat chow. And let's say that the cash register girl was awfully cute: agreeably flat-chested, long dark hair and matching dark eyes, and a smile that would make Apollo squint -- toothsome but not toothy, flirtatious but not wanton, friendly, warm, possibly even genuine.
Your encounter with Ms. Smiley lasted perhaps 90 seconds, from "Did you find everything okay?/Sure did, thanks." to "Have a good night./Yeah, you too." But, as you fight traffic in Cherry Creek, you convince yourself that there was a connection. Nothing major, but as you entered your PIN, you felt a spark pass between you. And you're pretty sure the guy in front of you didn't get quite as nice a smile when she scanned his biodegradable kitty litter. Yeah. She seemed to perk up a little when you came through the line, like she'd been waiting all day to talk to someone like you. Or maybe even you specifically -- you'd been in that store before, and maybe she saw you check out with another cashier and thought, "Wow, he's cute! I hope the next time he comes in he goes through my line!" Now that you think about it, there was an unmistakable hint of recognition in her eyes when she greeted you. Probably she wanted to tell you that she was getting off work in just an hour, if you wanted to grab a caramel-chocolate lattemochaccino at the Peabody's Coffee across the street, but maybe she's shy, or maybe PetSmart has a policy prohibiting employees from hitting on customers, which is bullshit; how can PetSmart stand in the way of something that feels so right? You were this close to asking her out yourself, but you didn't want to embarrass her in front of the other customers, and besides, why not let things simmer for another week or two, until you need to come back for chew toys? None of this is true, of course. Ms. Smiley probably had a number of things on her mind -- her sick four-year-old, maybe, or her delinquent car payment, or her aching feet -- and couldn't pick you out of a police lineup if you built a rat chow bomb and blew up an elementary school. But who cares? It's not about reality, it's about generating the best possible mental images during your daily autoerotic stimulation session.
And once every 31 years or so, the planets align and a temporary crush becomes... something much better. This happened when I was living in San Francisco in 1999 and had a DEFCON-5 crush on Jill, the 22-year-old counter girl at my regular cybercafe. Jill had a taut body, a party girl attitude, and a penchant for dressing like Shirley Manson of Garbage. She was not the kind of girl I usually dated.
One day, while I was sitting outside the cafe, sipping a caramel-chocolate lattemochaccino and struggling to write funny strings of words in my notebook, Jill stomped out to an adjacent table, flopped in a chair, and lit a cigarette. "This day sucks!" she said, exhaling a plume of smoke. "God! I can't wait for it to be over."
"That's too bad," I said. "You should come see Austin Powers 2 with me tonight. That'll cheer you up." I don't normally say things like that to hard-bodied punk-rock-wannabe party chicks who smoke, and I don't know why I said it then. But I did.
She narrowed her eyes and cast me a sidelong glance. "No," she said, "I'm just gonna go home and take a hot bath and relax."
"Fuck that," I said. "You need to have some fun. How much fun are you going to have sitting around your apartment? You should come out with me."
She glanced at me again. "Okay, yeah," she said, nodding.
"Um, okay," I said, feeling suddenly like an weekend card player heading to the final table of the World Series of Poker. "Let me get your number and I'll call you later."
Because this is a family-oriented blog, I won't describe the good things that happened that evening. I will say that while the good things were happening, I thought, "I really should stop for a moment and write down exactly how this happened, because sure as shit I'm not going to remember in the morning how I pulled this off."
I was right.
Anyway, my dental appointment went fine. The cute hygienist had a gentle touch and laughed politely at the jokes I cracked each time she sucked the spit out of my mouth with the saliva-slurping machine*. And we had this exchange:
SHE: What do you do for a living?
HE: I'm an accountant.
SHE: (Insincerely) Oh, cool! Do you like it?
HE: (Insincerely) It's okay. It keeps me off the streets. Do you like being a hygienist?
SHE: (Pause, wry smile) It keeps me off the streets.
It was a nice moment -- a little sad and a little real.
My next appointment is August 4. I've considered calling a few days ahead and asking if Cute Hygienist can clean my teeth again, but that would probably be too weird. So I'll probably slip the receptionist a ten and mutter, "There's an extra sawbuck in it for you if you make sure Cute Hygienist gets the call."
*DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where does all the spit go? What is the minimum amount of money you would accept to drink 8 fluid ounces of that spit at the end of the day?
A few weeks ago, while The Negotiator and I waited for the train to take us to the Mammoth home opener, a young man dressed in large clothing and armed with fliers approached us. "Do you guys listen to hip-hop?" he asked.
The Negotiator looked apprehensive, but I spoke right up. "Sure," I said.
"All right, come to the show," he said, handing each of us a blurry flier for MC Twinkie (featuring Suzy-Q) or some such. He turned to go, but looked back. "And use the other side to write down phone numbers or something. Don't litter!"
"Okay," I said, a bit taken aback but impressed by his nerve.
A few minutes later, the hip-hop guy returned. "You guys can throw those things on the ground if you want," he said, looking sheepish. "I don't really care what you do with them."
If you're going to lecture total strangers at a train stop about the evils of littering, I say stick to your guns. Don't back down, man! If anything, you need to crank the volume to 11: "If I see you guys throwing your fliers on the ground, you won't even be allowed into the MC Twinkie (featuring Suzy-Q) show! You'll have to stand outside in the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
I made some Thai fried rice last week, and the recipe called for chicken broth. While mixing the broth into a peanut sauce, I noticed the label said, "Use in your favorite recipes, or serve as a hot beverage."
A hot beverage? Chicken broth? Really?
BARTENDER: What'll you have?
KILGORE TROUT: Bailey's and broth.
B: You want Swanson broth? Campbell's?
KT: No, well is fine.
B: Beef or chicken?
KT: Beef. And some oyster crackers.
Ad copy seen in the May 2004 issue of Runner's World, for Adidas shoes:
6 Feb 2001: Kitty Cole and 140 marathoners sail to the most remote continent on earth [for the Antarctic Marathon]. The continent welcomes them with gale force winds, snow squalls and subzero temperatures. The runners' unanimous response? Run the marathon on the ship that brought them there (324 laps on the enclosed 5th deck; 422 on the slippery-but-scenic 6th outer deck). Less than ideal? Maybe. Impossible? Never.
The Antarctic Marathon is not easy. It's not cheap, either -- packages start at $4,699. Now, I'm not going to call someone a wuss for not wanting to run in "gale force winds, snow squalls and subzero temperatures," but if you don't want to face extreme conditions, why waste several thousand dollars on a trip to Antarctica? The continent is on the bottom of the planet! What would you expect, sunshine and green meadows? This ad doesn't make me want to buy Adidas shoes. It makes me think Adidas customers are morons.
[If you think it's impossible to run a marathon in Antarctica, go here to read about the North Pole Marathon, won last year in 3:43:17 -- an above-average time in good conditions, let alone on floating ice floes in snowshoes and -25C temperatures.]
Two stories from work:
We started using a new payroll company this year. Attached to my January 14 paycheck was a coupon for a free sub at Quizno's (with purchase of drink and chips).
A few weeks ago, my company allowed a Sam's Club employee to hang around in the breakroom all day and sell memberships to our employees.
Look: if I want a toasted Turkey Bacon Guacamole sandwich or a 200-pack of toilet paper, I know where to go. I already have to endure TV ads, radio ads, sporting event sponsorships, Internet banner ads, spam, junk mail, billboards, ads showing before movies, candy bar ads on gas station pump handles, telemarketing, corporate naming rights on stadiums, product placement in movies, and buses transformed into rolling billboards. Is it too much to ask that I don't get marketed to at work? What's next -- pop-up ads in the accounting software? Sponsorship patches on our business casual clothing? A requirement that we say "I'm lovin' it" before we can get paid?
Is there a theoretical point at which a culture becomes completely saturated with advertising, collapses under its own weight, and becomes a Marketing Singularity?
If you're like most of us, you dislike poor people. They irritate you with their endless prattling about "mortgages" and "the high cost of day care" and "Girl Scout cookies." They drive their own cars and scratch their buttocks in public and their children live with them, instead of in Europe. They reek of sausages and domestic beer. Aren't they disgusting?
"I hate poor people!" you are saying. "There are so many of them that the only way to avoid their kind completely is to retreat to my 900-acre country estate and have my chauffeur drive me everywhere in the car with the mirrored windows."
Isolation can only partially solve your poor people problem. Suppose, for example, that on the way to the yacht club, your chauffeur runs over a poor child, and the poor parent insists on making a fuss. What now? You cannot throw the offending poor person into your dungeon or trample him with your horse, as you would on your own property. You can try to dismiss the poor person by saying, "Away with you, knave!" but -- strange as this may sound -- poor people legally do not have to do everything you say. You will have to deal with not just one poor person, but with a whole host of unsavory types: ambulance drivers, tow truck operators, gawking bystanders, and the police, who being poor themselves will side with the poor person and may require that you "make a statement" or even "appear in court." Keep reading to learn a unique set of strategies for surviving encounters like this one.
When dealing with poor people, you should avoid reminding them of their poverty, as doing so will only inflame them and make them more disagreeable. In the example above, you would not want to tell the angry parent that his child now resides in Heaven and/or Hell, either of which is preferable to the desperate, grinding destitution the child knew in corporeal life. Instead, pay the poor person a compliment, even if it's a lie -- you could tell the parent, "I like your Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt" or "You smell like delicious Hamburger Helper."
On the flip side of the coin, you should never flaunt your normalcy in the face of a poor person. Our angry parent would not want to hear that you have seven cars just as good as the one his child wrecked, or that the accident has made you late for your roast giraffe luncheon. Instead, broach a topic likely to interest a poor person, such as professional wrestling, baloney sandwiches, or Pac-Man.
Consider giving the poor person some pasteurized process cheese food. Poor people love cheese.
In the case of an extreme intransigence, you should consider offering the poor person a job. For as little as $90,000, you can purchase a year's worth of loyalty and toil from nearly any poor person. Once on your payroll, the poor person will have to do whatever you say, like cleaning blood and hair from the grille of your automobile.
Next time you have an run-in with a poor person, follow these easy tips and remember: never let a poor person ruin your day!
Those of you who read this blog with slavish devotion will remember my "Backwards K" post from a while back, in which I detailed assorted misadventures in which I squandered, through incompetence and sloth, opportunities to talk to attractive women. (Automatic entry into the CNR Hall of Fame guaranteed to anyone who can explain why I titled that post "Backwards K." Morocco Man, I'm looking at you.)
One of those stories concerned a cute, very cute lady runner, complete with freckles and flat chest, who struck up a conversation with me at a stoplight near Wash Park -- a conversation in which I came off like the sort of tongue-tangled loser generally played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. That happened three months ago, and I swore if I saw her again I would avenge my defeat at the hands of cowardice.
I saw her at Wash Park last Sunday. I was running clockwise, she was running counter-clockwise (I don't usually date CCW runners, but for those freckles I'd make an exception). I glanced sideways as she passed to make sure it was her, then pulled to a stop and stared after her. I had two blocks left in my scheduled 14-mile run -- further than I'd run in several months, and I was tired, and my quads were asking if we could please go sit in the car now. Besides, what was I going to say? "You probably don't remember me, but..." Weak. Better to finish the run and head home for some Snacky Cakes and a hot shower and some self-abuse. Yeah.
I turned and ran after her. "Hello!" I said when I caught up. "You probably don't remember me, but..."
Pleasant chatter commenced. And then:
Me: So, did you move here for your job?
She: Well, for my husband's job.
Well, shit. That's okay, though. Sometimes you have to feel good about striking out swinging.
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a mathematics calendar given to me as a birthday present by a very kind and thoughtful friend. I had been doing pretty well working out the daily problems, but then came this question:
This surface area of this tetrahedron is 16√(3) square units. What is its volume?
A tetrahedron is a four-sided polygon where all the sides are equilateral triangles. (For those of you who sat at my lunch table at John Adams Middle School, the tetrahedron was the die we threw to determine the hit points of a Level 1 Magic-User.) The problem was on January 16, so the answer had to be 16. But I came up with 16√(2)/3. I frowned and checked my solution (see it here). I couldn't find any mistakes. I threw away my paper, waited until I got home that evening to allow my mind to clear, and reworked the problem from scratch. Same answer. I checked my solution against this website and found that I was right and the calendar was wrong.
Yippee! Yummy! Hip-hop hooray! I found a mistake! I love it when I'm right and someone else is wrong and I can prove it! Sure, that makes me a small, hateful man unworthy of even the briefest affections from the fairer sex, but holy smokes -- what a rush!
Let's say you need to make a sandwich. Maybe you're just hungry, or maybe you're entering a regional qualifying tournament for the World Series of Lunch, or maybe you met this hot girl and she's all like, "Oooooh, make me a sandwich, you big stud," while making her eyebrows go up and down. Well, here's how to make a sandwich that will not only make her moan with pleasure, but will make her call all of her hot friends so you can have sex with them!
You must start with the right bread. Bread is to sandwiches what a foundation is to a house, except bread isn't made out of concrete by sweaty workmen, but out of oats and honey and fairy dust by sweaty child laborers in Nicaragua. You should choose a bread with a name like "Harvest Hearth Artisan GoodWholesome Village Natural Stone-Ground." It should have a picture of a muscular man cutting wheat with a scythe and it should be made with no fewer than 37 grains. "But Kilgore Trout the most I can find is 14-grain bread!" you are saying. Well, I guess you're going to have to find 23 more grains to put in your bread, aintcha? You can usually find at least six or seven grains under the couch cushions or in the back of the glove compartment.
Now you're ready to make a sandwich! Lightly toast the bread, and then smush up half an avocado with some diced chipotle pepper and spread it on one slice of the bread. "Do you say it 'chi-POTE-lay' or 'chi-POLE-tee'?" you are asking. Gee, I don't know. Why don't you call the President of Mexico and ask him? I bet he has time to answer your stupid questions!
Now you fry some shrimp (known as "prawns" to Jerkoff-Americans) and onion in Italian dressing. Make sure you devein the shrimp, whatever that means. "But Kilgore Trout all I have is ranch dressing," you are saying. Well, then fry that shit in ranch dressing, motherfucker!
Put the fried shrimp and onion on the avocado-chipotle spread. Next you fry an egg, over hard. If you have the hot girl over at your house while you're making the sandwich, you should say, "Yeah, baby, I'm making it all hard for you," while you fry the egg, and you should sort of hump the stove while you say it. Make sure you wear a condom and don't hump the hot part of the stove.
Put the fried egg on top of the shrimp and the second slice of bread on top of that, and cut the sandwich on the diagonal. Hey -- what the hell is this? Did I say to cut the sandwich in quarters perpendicular to the edges? Does this look like a club sandwich to you, bitch? Good Christ!
I hereby revoke your right to make my special fried-egg-with-shrimp-and-onion-on-37-whole-grain-bread-with-avocado-chipotle-spread. Now get out of my kitchen!
INAUGURATION DAY: PRESIDENT BUSH PLEDGES TO DO
"WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT"
WASHINGTON -- In an Inauguration Day ceremony featuring the sodomizing of a kindergarten student and the pipe wrench beating of an adorable golden retriever puppy, President George W. Bush promised the country he will spend his second term "doing whatever the fuck I want."
"The American people spoke on November 2," said Bush, "and they stated clearly that, in spite of the shocking incompetence and glaring cronyism that marred my first term, they wanted to give me and my administration of blind loyalists and ideological hacks a mandate to do... well, whatever we fucking well please."
As a symbol of his mandate, Bush spent the next several minutes laughing and throwing darts at an elderly woman chained to a wall.
"You see?" Bush said, wiping his ass with an American flag. "I did that just because I fucking felt like it. Now check this out: I hate Jews. I mean, I don't really, but it's kind of cool to be able to say things like that without fear of political consequences."
"Seriously, though," Bush added, "Jews are going to Hell."
Bush outlined his agenda for the coming year, which includes: urinating on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; conducting the State of the Union address entirely in farts; starring in an interracial pornographic movie; taking Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as his mistress; writing homophobia into the Consitution; creating enormous deficits through out-of-control spending and irresponsible tax cuts; and starting a wasteful, destructive, counterproductive war on the flimsiest of evidence against a country only tenuously connected to the greater struggle against terror.
"God bless America," Bush concluded. "Oh, and I fucked your mom."
LOCAL MAN SURPRISED TO LEARN BIRTHDAY IS FEDERAL HOLIDAY
DENVER -- Kilgore Trout, who turns 31 today, was surprised to learn that the federal government, the state of Colorado, and the city and county of Denver have declared his birthday an official holiday, sources have reported.
"I went to the bank to deposit a check and was sort of taken aback to find it was closed," said Trout. "I always thought holidays were for dead famous people, like George Washington and Wilford Brimley."
Trout described having a holiday in his honor as "super neat."
"I think it's cool that they would make a holiday out of my birthday," Trout said. "But I would have thought there would be some kind of ceremony or announcement or reading of an official proclamation or something. You'd also think they'd give me a certificate that I could show to flat-chested girls with prominent noses. I bet it's way easy to score with chicks when you have your own holiday. Maybe the certificate is in the mail -- I wouldn't have gotten it, then, because of course they don't deliver mail on Kilgore Trout's Birthday."
"I hope the certificate is on parchment, in Old English lettering with the governor's seal stamped into red wax," Trout added. "I would even take down my Run Lola Run poster to make room for it."
Trout said that having his own holiday has not been without its trials.
"I wanted to renew my license, but the driver's license station was closed for my birthday," said Trout. "I was hoping they'd open it up just for me. That would have been a nice birthday present from the state."
"What do you mean, Wilford Brimley is still alive?" Trout added. "Jesus. He looked like he was holding the Grim Reaper's hand about 15 years ago, when he was making those Quaker Oats commercials."
Trout said "he has a dream" that people will spend his holiday in quiet meditation with friends and family, eating Pringles and discussing his blogging and ultrarunning accomplishments.
"As for me, I'm going to the Diamond Cabaret tonight," said Trout. "I sure hope the strip clubs aren't closed for Kilgore Trout's Birthday."
While waiting for G-Dog's flight to arrive at DIA this evening, I saw a sign celebrating the achievement of Erik Weihenmeyer, the first blind man to summit Mt. Everest. That's a great accomplishment, but why would a blind guy want to climb mountains? "Hey, Erik, this is a fantastic view from up here. Too bad you can't see it."
Come to think of it, how does he know for sure that he made it? Maybe some Sherpa guide just marched him around in circles at base camp for a couple of hours:
SHERPA: Okay, we're here.
WEIHENMEYER: Wow! I'm standing on top of the world! This is amazing!
SHERPA: Yup, congratulations. (Yawns.)
WEIHENMEYER: I thought the climb would take a lot longer!
SHERPA (unwrapping a Snickers bar): Yeah, it's not as hard as people think. Ready to head back?
If you're blind and you're reading this -- whoops, never mind.
Yesterday was a Tuesday. Got to work at 8:00, or at least that's what I put on my time card. Moved papers around in a not-entirely-stochastic fashion and thought about having a snack. Went to the john and picked my nose. Ate an apple. Started thinking about lunch. Made three desultory phone calls. Wandered the halls and smiled awkwardly at Cute HR Girl (Single Mom Remix). Ate lunch -- homemade chipotle chicken chili, by a wide margin the highlight of the day so far. "Worked" on TPS reports. Thought about having a snack. Ruminated on the utter hopelessness and emptiness of it all. Eavesdropped on coworker's cell phone conversation with ne'er-do-well son. Took a nap on the john. Ate some mixed nuts. Glanced impatiently at clock. Had strained conversation with visiting manager from Virginia. Left work at 5:20, wrote 5:30 on time card. Ate a Clif Bar while driving to gym. Aquajogged for 45 minutes while uselessly attempting, unassisted by corrective lenses, to ogle swimsuit-clad girls. Drove home. Affixed The Club to steering wheel. Pulled junk mail and bills out of mailbox.
You know: Tuesday.
But when I got to my front door, suddenly it wasn't Tuesday anymore. It was a Good Day! Somebody sent me an unexpected package! A large padded envelope decorated with silly stickers! What could it be? Unwashed underwear from Sadie? Saucy photos of The Maximum Leader's sister? Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts? It hardly mattered. Any time I get an unexpected package on a Tuesday, I'm walking on sunshine, whoaaaa oh.
I fumbled through the front door, dropped my credit card solicitations and auto insurance bill on the floor, and opened my unexpected package without removing my jacket. The booty:
A 2005 mathematics calendar, with a problem to work every day. Finding the solutions is sort of anticlimactic, because the answers always comes out the same as the dates (that is, the answer to August 15's problem will be 15), but an wonderful and challenging gift nonetheless. Click here to see a photo of January and here to see my solution of January 2's problem.
When I went to hang the calendar, though, I found that it had no hanging hole. I turned it this way and that, frowning and wondering whether I was just too stupid to own a mathematics calendar. In the end, however, I decided that the hole-punching guy at the calendar factory must have been hopped up on goofballs or flirting with his own Cute HR Girl at the time my calendar was printed. I considered leaving the calendar the way it was, thinking that maybe only a few holeless calendars had been printed, and it might be worth a lot of money someday, like the upside-down Jenny Biplane stamp. But finally I fetched my Leatherman tool and used the awl to punch my own hole. Given the calendar's subject matter, I considered using a compass and straightedge to find the exact midpoint, but I ended up just using a tape measure.
A The Nightmare Before Christmas illustrated children's book. Some of you might be surprised to learn that I like children's books -- I have The Giving Tree, The Cat in the Hat, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, among others. Isn't it strange that I like children's books, but hate actual children?
A mix CD titled "Kilgore Trout: The White CD." Here's the thing: I have Very Bad Taste in music. I listen to Linkin Park rage-pop, 80's power ballads, and Caucasian-compatible hip-hop. The kind and thoughtful friend who compiled this CD, however, has Very Good Taste in music, so she stocked "The White CD" with dozens of songs by Bonnie Raitt, Meat Loaf, Elvis, Morrissey, Johnny Cash, Prince, Dean Martin, and some outfit called "The Pixies" -- tunes that make my favorite music sound like soft-drink jingles. Listening to this CD flashed me back to my days working at a 24-hour diner in San Francisco, where we were allowed to bring our own CDs to play on the restaurant's sound system. Everyone else brought their ultrahip Siouxsie and the Banshees, Monkey Cunt, and ironic Cyndi Lauper remix albums. I brought Christian pop music and Will Smith.
Like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer using a pay phone, good music frightens and confuses me. I'm a sucker for catchy hooks, but complex musical themes make me adopt an expression like the one your dog makes when you pretend to throw a ball and palm it behind your back. Take Johnny Cash, for example, a man universally lauded as a musical powerhouse. I don't get it. All I hear when I listen to The Man in Black is the whooshing sound of allegedly great music cruising thousands of feet over my head.
Please -- no angry emails defending the musical genius of the man who penned "The Gambler."* This is all my fault, not Johnny's. So I've been listening to "The White CD" on repeat, hoping my brain will soak up some Very Good Taste. Wish me luck.
* I'm just kidding. I know Willie Nelson wrote "The Gambler."
UPDATE! Thursday turned into another Good Day, as I arrived home to find another unexpected package leaning against my door, this one courtesy of Motive Mayhem, my favoritest Utahan ever. Choosing not to lay up for himself treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, mM sent me an 18-oz. bag of Oreos and a toenail clipper. Thanks, mM!
DENVER -- Apprehension reigned in the apartment of Kilgore Trout yesterday, as the 30-year-old Washington Park resident found himself unsure whether his Swiss Army cologne (see photo), purchased at least seven years ago, was still suitable to wear on a first date, sources reported Saturday.
"Does this stuff have an expiration date?" said Trout, peering at the well-worn bottle, which has accompanied Trout on moves to California and Colorado since he purchased it at a Younkers store in Mason City, Iowa, in 1998. "I don't see one, but maybe they figured most guys would have enough success with women to use it all before it went bad. Jesus, this bottle is still 80 percent full."
"I don't usually wear cologne, even on dates," Trout explained. "I don't like strong odors, and it really irritates me when a woman wears too much perfume. If I go into one of those smelly soap stores, like The Body Shop, I get nauseous. But I was telling some women at work that I had a date this weekend, and they said I had to wear cologne, because it's 'so hot' when a man wears cologne. So I guess I have to."
"I bet they don't even make this anymore," Trout added. "I bought it on clearance, so it must not have been selling very well. Swiss Army cologne is pretty funny, when you think about it. Like you should be able to fold a vibrator and a condom out of the cap. Ha ha! I have to put that on my blog."
With time running out before his date's arrival, Trout took a chance and dabbed a small amount of the cologne on either side of his neck.
"It's not like there's milk or eggs in it, so I guess it's okay," said Trout, wrinkling his nose at the musky odor. "I guess it could still go bad, but fortune favors the bold, you know."
"I hope I didn't put too much on," said Trout, glancing nervously at the clock.
Early Saturday morning, a good thing happened. I can't tell you what it was, though.
On Saturday evening, another good thing happened. I can't tell you what that was, either. I will say that it was similar to the first good thing, only different.
Also on Saturday, the Colorado Mammoth opened their 2005 National Lacrosse League season by handing a 12-7 drubbing to the hated Calgary Roughnecks, who upset Colorado in the Champion's Cup semifinals last year. Retiring Mammoth captain (and consensus greatest lacrosse player ever) Gary Gait led all scorers with three goals, and 2004 Goaltender of the Year Gee Nash shut out the Roughnecks in the fourth quarter, stuffing 19 shots on goal in front of 16,397 rowdy fans. Keep it rolling, Mammoth!
The Negotiator and I took the train to the game. I took two homemade signs and my camera, with the intent of hanging the signs on the rail and taking photos of them from across the arena. We got off the train at the Pepsi Center, excited and happy to be going to the first lacrosse game of the season.
The excitement and happiness quickly subsided, however, when I realized I had left my Kodak EasyShare CX6330 digital camera on the train.
"Shit!" I said, frantically patting my pockets. "Shit!" I said again, to emphasize the point. I handed the signs to The Negotiator and ran back to the train, but it pulled away from the stop before I could reach the doors. I cut right and ran hard to the next stop at Union Station, where a very nice Regional Transportation District employee helped me search the train. No luck, no Kodak EasyShare CX6330 digital camera. Shit.
I jogged back to the Pepsi Center, trying not to be pissed off over the loss of what was, after all, just an object. A fairly expensive and particularly useful object, yes, but still -- just an object. Tsunamis and perspective and all that. Besides, I was going to the Mammoth game!
"Shit," I said.
I got back to the arena, hung my signs on the rail, and yelled myself hoarse as the Mammoth took a 6-5 lead into halftime. Then somebody poked me in the shoulder. I looked over to see a woman standing at the end of the row, waving. Incredibly, she was holding my Kodak EasyShare CX6330 digital camera.
"Thank you! Thank you so much!" I said, a little befuddled as I took my camera back. "How did you find me?"
"I looked for the signs," she said.
I hope we all learned a little something from this story. That is, don't leave the house without making yourself easily identifiable by carrying some stupid homemade signs or, if you don't have the time to make signs, a blood-encrusted machete.
On Monday night, a not-so-good thing happened that sort of nullified the good thing that happened early Saturday morning. I can't tell you what it was, because to do that I would have to tell you what the good thing was that happened Saturday morning, and I said I wasn't going to do that, and you can't make me. But I will say that it wasn't so bad, just the sort of thing that happens from time to time, and so you just shrug your shoulders and say "Like, whatever, man," and play a little Pole Position on your Namco 5-in-1 game controller, and before you know it you've set a new qualifying lap personal record of 54.10 seconds, and in all the excitement you practically forget about the not-so-good thing. Practically.
On Tuesday night, a good thing happened that built on the good thing that happened Saturday night and sort of nullified the not-so-good thing that happened Monday night, that is, the thing that sort of nullified the good thing that happened early Saturday morning. I can't tell you what any of these things are, of course, for reasons stated above. But I will say that I'll be spending Saturday afternoon preemptively washing the sheets.
I only made two New Year's Resolutions this year. Making fewer resolutions is the way to go -- I think most people don't follow through on their resolutions because they disperse their energy trying to create too many new habits. Creating one new habit is hard enough, let alone pressuring yourself to simultaneously learn Italian, eat more fiber, call your mother once a week, master the Sicilian Defense, quit huffing Preparation H, and read the complete works of Dean R. Koontz.
Instead, pick out one or two realistic goals on which to focus your efforts. Let's say, for example, that you want to lose weight. So you start a sensible diet and exercise program that allows you to lose about a pound a week. Now suppose that your 2005 goes about the same way that your 2004 went, except that at the end of it you'll be 52 pounds lighter. You'd be happy about that, wouldn't you, Tubby?
It's possible, of course, that at any time you might fall into a grain thresher or torn to pieces by radioactive mutant grasshoppers, in which case you should have spent 2005 eating bacon cheeseburgers and chili-cheese fries. But we try to avoid that kind of negative thinking here at Chaotic Not Random.
Anyway, here are my resolutions:
Run a 100-mile ultramarathon. I was supposed to do this last October, but then I strained something in my ankle and spent most of May through September eating bacon cheeseburgers and chili-cheese fries and gaining 20 pounds. The ankle has healed slowly, allowing me to resume partial training -- three days of running a week plus two days walking plus two days Aquajogging.
For those of you who currently have a puzzled look on your face, Aquajogging is a rehab workout that involves strapping a foam belt around your waist and slipping foam shoes onto your feet, which allows you to stand straight up and "run" in the water, which nicely simulates a running workout without the impact. It also nicely simulates looking like a retard -- see self-portraits here and here. (WARNING:These are disturbing images including chest and back hair, budget swimwear, erect male nipples, and an underdeveloped torso. By viewing these photos, you forever waive your rights to legal redress against Chaotic Not Random, Inc., for any and all psychological disorders, permanent or temporary blindness, allergic reactions, or loss of stomach contents caused by viewing these images.)
Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be lining up at the start of the Heartland 100 in Cassoday, Kansas, on October 8. The reward for finishing: a belt buckle. I'm not shitting you. Belt buckles are a very big deal in the ultrarunning community.
Publish something. Unfortunately, due to limited time, energy, and creative juice, writing for publication will mean posting less here -- probably just on Wednesdays and Sundays. I apologize for the gross violation of your rights under Article I of the Chaotic Not Random Reader's Bill of Rights, but you can use the time not wasted reading my drivel to call your mother or cram it up your ass, whichever excites you more.
I received an email from someone using the name "Scabbiest F. Asphyxiated," which turned out to be a porn spam. Attention spammers: I realize you guys use randomly generated names to dodge spam filters, but might I suggest you purge your word lists of words like "scabbiest" and "asphyxiated"? Even though the "BABE FACE GORGEROUS [sic] BRUNETTE HOTTIE" featured in your message is indeed attractive and flexible (as well as hungry, apparently), words that call to mind images of crusty, bleeding sores and death by suffocation just kill the mood.
A bonus Folly in Marketing was in the body of the email, a collection of Aphorisms for Dummies that I suppose was designed to foil spam filters:
We are living in the excesses of freedom. Just take a look at 42nd Street an Broadway. The mark of a true MBA is that he is often wrong but seldom in doubt.
The word of a gentleman is as good as his bond and sometimes better.
Location, location, location.
A dose of poison can do its work but once. A bad book can go on poisoning minds for generations.Honor is unstable and seldom the same for she feeds upon opinion, and is as fickle as her food.
Emotion is the surest arbiter of a poetic choice, and it is the priest of all supreme unions in the mind.
Now that I think about it, maybe this email represents a Triumph in Marketing instead of a folly -- it successfully circumvented Yahoo's spam filter and got me to open it, if only for purposes of ridicule.
I found a pamphlet in the lunch room at my job advertising the services of Jordan Dechtman, metro Denver's self-proclaimed retirement planning specialist. Go see his website here -- it has most of the same photos as the pamphlet, and as a bonus you can enjoy a snappy Flash montage of frisky retirees fishing and playing the saxophone and not mopping the floor at McDonald's.
I learned a lot about Jordan Dechtman by reading his pamphlet. For instance, he has what must be the squarest jaw in the six-county area, and probably the entire Front Range. If I were Jordan Dechtman, I'd forget financial planning and take a carnival job pounding iron spikes into cinder blocks with my jaw.
"When [Jordan Dechtman] lost his father at 18," the pamphlet informs us, "he quickly realized the importance of proper financial planning." Does it strike anyone else as sick and wrong to flog a parent's death to gain financial planning clients? This just creeps me out. It's like George Costanza using a picture of his dead fiancée to hit on supermodels.
Click "Meet Jordan Dechtman" to see a photo of Jordan Dechtman in golf shorts and snazzy golf shoes, lining up a putt and, from the look on his face, working out a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis. The caption states that "when time allows, Jordan tees it up." Well, so what? Am I hiring a financial planner or a golf coach? I don't care if Jordan Dechtman throws rocks at puppies in his spare time, as long as he gets me a 15% annual return. On the other hand, he does have awfully nice legs for a man his age.
Also on the "Meet Jordan Dechtman" page is a photo of Jordan Dechtman with his wife Kathy, twin boys Sam and Adam, daughter Alana, and dog Buddy. This photo caught my attention for five reasons: (1) it looks like it belongs in a political campaign pamphlet, (2) Alana wears her hair in cornrows, (3) Buddy was almost certainly rented for the occasion, (4) the Dechtman family, by my estimate, ranks no lower than sixth among the world's denim-consuming nations, and (5) Kathy, while not a BABE FACE GORGEROUS BRUNETTE HOTTIE, has a definite grab-a-handful-of-my-soccer-mom-hairdo-and-fuck-me-in-the-back-seat-of-the-Land-Rover appeal.
I bought a box of Archer Farms grilled salmon fillets. The box said it contained five fillets, but when I got home I found that it contained six fillets. I looked at the box more closely and saw that it promised to contain "approximately 5 fillets." (See photo here.) I'm not going to complain about receiving a bonus salmon fillet, but isn't this a little dumb on the part of Archer Farms? Do they hire people who are so stupid and unskilled that they can't count to five?
"Well, Kilgore," you are saying, "salmon fillets come in different sizes, so maybe they put five small fillets in the box and had to add a sixth to make the promised weight."
Yeah, maybe, except that each of these fillets was exactly the same size and shape -- they're not "fillets" so much as "rectangular fish nuggets." So why not put exactly five fillets in each box instead of approximately five? It's like saying a Honda Accord comes with "approximately four wheels" or a Big Mac comes with "approximately two beef patties."
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RED-HAIRED GIRL
WHO LIVES IN 504
Dear Red-Haired Girl Who Lives In 504,
When I went to Office Depot tonight, I never dreamed you would be the one to ring up my order. But when I went to the counter with my 4-pack of Avery Marks-A-Lot permanent markers in assorted colors, there you were! At first I wasn't certain it was you, but when you turned around to stare blankly past my right ear and mumble, "Is that all for you tonight?" I was sure. With those sparkling green eyes and that curly mass of flaming hair piled atop your head, who else could it be?
You probably don't know who I am. I'm Kilgore Trout, from 509. I'm the guy you never notice when you're out on the balcony in your halter top, squatting on the ground and smoking cigarettes while you talk on your cordless phone. Sometimes it's hard to notice me, because I'm ogling you through the peephole in my door. But other times I physically exit my apartment to go running or whatever, and still you keep inhaling known carcinogens and chattering away as if the Secretary of State was on the other end. I always think you might turn and smile and say, "What, running again?" but you never do. I guess I could take the initiative and say, "What, smoking again?" but that would require my testicles to be composed of an alloy of copper and zinc, instead of Styrofoam like they actually are.
I had considered, during the awkward silence while you changed the paper tape in the receipt printer, mentioning that I recognized you as the red-haired girl who lives in 504. But I was pretty sure that would lead to this conversation:
ME: Hey, don't you live on [our street]? Five-oh-four, right?
YOU (totally freaked out): Yeah...
ME: I live there too! In 509!
YOU: Oh, okay. Did you just move in?
ME: Well, in June.
YOU: Oh. I guess I just haven't noticed you.
ME: Yeah, I guess not.
[continued awkward silence as paper tape loads]
YOU: Okay, eighty cents is your change, and thanks for giving me the creeps. Don't be surprised to see a moving van in the parking lot later in the week.
ME: No problem. It's nice to have established that we have nothing in common beyond the close proximity of our living spaces.
It's probably not my place to say this, but you would do well to quit smearing garish eyeshadow all over your upper eyelids. You're quite pretty, and the makeup distracts from your piercing green eyes. Also, it looks slutty. Not that there's anything wrong with looking slutty -- and there's definitely nothing wrong with being slutty -- but making your eyelids visible from space is pushing things a bit. I will say, though, that the tight, too-short Office Depot shirt works for you. Ditto the tattoo in the small of your back. And don't ever let anyone talk you into getting implants. There's one guy in 509 who thinks your breasts are perfect just the way God gave them to you.
I know I'm pushing it here, but have you ever asked your doctor about Accutane®? It's difficult to tell you have a problem, what with all those cute freckles, but when somebody looks at you very closely -- and I was! -- it's hard not to notice. Sure, side effects of Accutane® can include birth defects or miscarriage, depression and suicidal behavior, permanent loss of sight, tinnitus or permanent hearing loss, stunted bone growth, serious muscle damage, hives, convulsions, rectal bleeding, slurred speech, and much, much more; but beauty, like freedom, isn't free.
I've been thinking about it a lot the last few hours, red-haired girl who lives in 504, and I'm pretty sure you're never going to have sex with me, in spite of my excellent references and my queen-sized bed located fifty feet from your front door. You don't seem the type to allow yourself to be seduced by the nebbishy charms of a guy ten years your senior who rules at Trivial Pursuit and for whom a Rubik's Cube is not an ironic Christmas gift. Also, I've noticed that 100% of the men who enter and leave your apartment are members of a race distinct from mine. I think it's great that your vagina is running a strong affirmative action program, but where does that leave me? Jerking off to grainy freeze-frames of Princess Leia being held captive by Jabba the Hutt, that's where.
Maybe it's for the best. We wouldn't have anything to talk about after four or five hours of sweaty coitus and noisy orgasms, and I'd have to feign sleep and lock the door behind you when you went outside to smoke. Then it would be all weird the next time I left to go running and you were talking on the phone. So I guess we should leave things the way they are.
"Yeah! A story!" echoed Kevin around a mouthful of his third s'more. He waved his sticky hands in the air. "Make it a scary one!"
Grampa grunted and threw another stick on the fire. "Your mother doesn't like it when I tell you scary stories," he said. "And I don't want to get in trouble. Why, she'd tan my hide."
Billy and Kevin giggled at the idea of Grampa getting a spanking. "You can't get in trouble," said Kevin. "You're Grampa!"
"Well, all right," said Grampa. "Have I ever told you the story of Kilgore Trout?"
"Uh uh," said Billy. "Is he a monster?"
"No," said Grampa. "Kilgore Trout was -- is -- a man. A long, long time ago, he lived in Denver, not too far from where you two and your mom and dad live now. In the daytime, he worked at an unsatisfying job where he had move pieces of paper around and wasn't allowed to surf the Internet. At night, he alternated between reading self-help books and sitting in the bathtub with the lights off, rocking back and forth and listening to Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory album on repeat. And at night he cried himself to sleep."
"I thought crying was for girls," said Kevin.
"Well, it is," said Grampa, "but Kilgore Trout was very sensitive. Also, he was a major pussy. Anyway, one day Kilgore Trout stopped coming to work. He stopped calling his friends. He stopped spending entire Saturdays at SuperTarget, walking up and down the aisles and eye-groping the pretty girls doing their grocery shopping, but never working up the courage to say so much as 'You like Cheerios? I like Cheerios!' So all of Kilgore Trout's friends -- well, both of them -- got very worried and let themselves in to his apartment. And there they found..."
"What was it, Grampa?" said Billy, his eyes wide. "Did he overdose on smack?"
"Hell, no," said Grampa. "Where would a paper pusher like Kilgore Trout get enough money for the kind of high-grade shit you need to kill yourself? No, what they found was all of Kilgore Trout's stuff exactly where it had always been. Running shoes by the door. Run Lola Run poster hung inexpertly on the wall. Astroglide in the bedside table, top drawer. But no Kilgore Trout. He had vanished, like Alex Winter's career."
"Where'd he go, Grampa?" asked Billy.
"Well, nobody knows for sure," said Grampa. "Some say he went to the Canadian Rockies. Others think he hid in the Amazon rain forest. And some think he fled to the steppes of Siberia. But one thing is for sure -- nobody saw Kilgore Trout for seven years."
"I'm seven, Grampa," said Kevin, holding up seven fingers.
"That's right, my boy," said Grampa, chuckling and ruffling his grandson's hair. "Kilgore Trout disappeared for as long as you've been alive! But he came back. Seven years to the day after he left, Kilgore Trout reappeared in downtown Denver. And he was a fright! He hadn't cut his hair or shaved his face or bathed the entire time he was gone. Those who were at the corner of Blake and 16th Street that day say his eyes were wild -- the eyes of a man who had fought grizzly bears to a draw and chased down antelope and killed them with his teeth and bare hands. His hair was matted and dirty, and his beard hung down to his waist and was filled with fleas and maggots. He wore crude clothing stitched together from animal hides. He was so filthy that not even the homeless people panhandling on 16th Street Mall wanted to go near him, and a crowd gathered to stare, although they kept their distance because he smelled so bad. And then Kilgore Trout spoke."
"What'd he say, Grampa?" said Kevin, tugging at his grandfather's sleeve.
"He said, 'Free mayonnaise,'" said Grampa.
"Free mayonnaise?" said Kevin.
"He was gone for seven years and all he brought back was mayonnaise?" said Billy.
"Well, that's what the people in the crowd thought," said Grampa. "But Kilgore Trout kept repeating himself, saying 'Free mayonnaise. Free mayonnaise. Free mayonnaise,' over and over again, and they could see that as dirty as Kilgore Trout was, the jar of mayonnaise he was holding out was pure and clean and white. There was a young man in the crowd who was eating a turkey club sandwich, and on a dare from his friends, he stepped out and said, 'Sure, I'll take some free mayonnaise.' And he put a little on his sandwich and took a bite."
"Did he die, Grampa?" asked Billy. "Mommy says we're not supposed to take anything from strangers, even if they offer us beer and pornography."
"Your mommy wants you to grow up to be a mincing little wuss, I guess," said Grampa. "No, he didn't die. He ate the bite of sandwich with the mayonnaise on it, and then, without saying a word, he put more on his sandwich and ate it. Then he grabbed the jar from Kilgore Trout and started smearing huge globs of mayonnaise on that turkey club, and he gobbled it down as if he hadn't eaten in a week. And when he finished he licked his fingers and said, 'That's the best motherfucking mayonnaise I ever ate.'"
"I don't like mayonnaise," said Kevin, wrinkling his nose. "It tastes like smegma."
"You don't understand," said Grampa. "This was the creamiest, freshest, most delicious mayonnaise anyone had ever tasted, and it turned the condiment industry upside down. Within months, U.S. mayonnaise consumption went up 3,000%, and almost all of that was KT Mayonnaise, even though it cost three times as much. People didn't just put it on sandwiches and in egg salad -- they ate it plain, sometimes right out of the jar. Ice cream trucks sold KT Mayonnaisicles. Food experts identified no fewer than seventeen distinct levels of flavor in KT Mayonnaise, and doctors found that if you smeared the stuff in the right places, you could cure diseases from lung cancer to erectile dysfunction to social anxiety disorder. And a popular sitcom was built around a black midget saying 'That's tasty like KT Mayonnaise!'"
"But Grampa," said Billy, "if KT Mayonnaise was so good, how come they don't make it anymore?"
"I thought you might ask that," said Grampa. "Let me tell you about Lizzie Hellman."
"You mean like Hellman's Mayonnaise, Grampa?" asked Billy.
"That's right, Billy," said Grampa. "Lizzie Hellman was the great-granddaughter of Richard Hellman, who sold the first ready-made mayonnaise at his New York delicatessen in 1905. Before Kilgore Trout, Hellman's Mayonnaise was the best-selling mayonnaise in the country, but not long after KT Mayonnaise hit the shelves, the only people still eating Hellman's were faggots and fairies."
"Aren't faggots and fairies the same thing, Grampa?" said Kevin.
"Good catch, son!" said Grampa. "I meant to say 'faggots and commies.' Anyway, every day that people ate KT Mayonnaise, Lizzie Hellman was losing millions. So one night, she sneaked into the Kilgore Trout's factory, hoping to learn why KT Mayonnaise was so tasty. Now, this was no ordinary factory. Kilgore Trout had built it in the desolate wastelands of eastern Colorado, and it was protected by electrical fences and war elephants and Imperial Stormtroopers and a moat filled with killer manatees. Nobody ever went in, and nobody ever came out. Kilgore Trout lived there, and no one ever saw him, even though he was worth billions of dollars by then, and could have had any large-nosed, small-breasted woman he wanted. He was the Howard Hughes of mayonnaise."
"Which is correct, Grampa?" asked Kevin. "Is it 'sneaked' or 'snuck'?"
"Both are correct, actually," said Grampa. "Nobody knows how Lizzie Hellman got past the mayonnaise factory's elaborate external security, but once she got inside, she found that the factory, which appeared to be only one story high, went twenty stories deep underground. Lizzie Hellman had to fight past dozens of armed guards and genetically enhanced attack animals, killing them with weapons she found in the stairwells and using randomly scattered medical kits to heal her wounds. At the end of each level, she had to fight a larger, tougher boss guard before she could move down to the next floor. And when she reached the deepest part of the factory, she defeated Kilgore Trout himself, who had had his arms replaced with plasma cannons and rocket launchers mounted on his hips."
"Did she kill him, Grampa?" said Billy.
"No, Billy," said Grampa. "She was about to, but Kilgore Trout threw down a smoke grenade and escaped in a great glass flying elevator. And then Lizzie Hellman learned the awful secret behind KT Mayonnaise."
"What was it, Grampa?" cried Billy and Kevin in unison, clutching each other.
"It was people," said Grampa. "KT Mayonnaise was made of people."
For a few moments all was silent save the crackling of the campfire.
"Grampa?" said Billy, "If Kilgore Trout escaped, where did he go?"
"Well," said Grampa, smiling, "they found the elevator a month later, crash-landed in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. But they never caught Kilgore Trout. And they never found his body."
"But we're in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness," said Kevin. "That's Mt. Harvard over there." He pointed.
"You're right, Kevin," said Grampa softly. "And some say he still haunts these woods, looking for little boys to make into mayonnaise."
Movies in which the main character's [mother/brother/girlfriend/best friend] gets bitten by a [vampire/zombie/werewolf/fundamentalist Christian], causing him or her to [adopt a Romanian accent/start shouting "BRAAAAINS"/mistake your leg for a Milk Bone/distribute Chick tracts], and the main character agonizes over whether or not to [stock up on garlic and holy water/aim for the head/run a Google search for "silver bullet"/purchase a gift copy of anything by Bertrand Russell] and destroy the freshly minted monster. I last saw this tired device in the otherwise decent flick Shaun of the Dead.
You all need to know that if you're ever chilling with Kilgore Trout, and you start metamorphosing into any species of hellspawn, you are toast. I'm not saying that I'd enjoy pounding a wooden stake into your chest, (although I probably would, unless you owed me money). I'm just saying that it's an easy decision.
Magazine articles that incorporate bad puns into their titles. Sports journalism seems especially rife with this sort of thing: a recent issue of Runner's World has articles titled "Iron Maiden" (about an 8-time female Ironman finisher), and "Walking the Walk" (about walking marathons). MLB.com's announcement of Vladimir Guerrero's American League MVP win was titled "Most Vlad-uable." And ESPN.com right now has an article about the Buffalo Bills headlined "Reason to Bill-ieve." Enough already, guys.
When I make a great catch and nobody notices. I was at The Wizard's Chest last weekend, looking at books on a shelf above my head. I put a book back -- not very well, apparently, because a moment later it fell. Startled, I grabbed it out of the air with one hand, only to see a half-dozen more books tumble from their perches. By reflex, I caught them all in a stack on top of the first book. It was like the Warner Bros. cartoons where Sylvester catches stacks of china cups in each hand, with one foot, on his nose, with the tip of his tail, etc. It was an amazing athletic feat that deserved an entire segment on "SportsCenter." I turned around, expecting to see men jealously admiring my preternatural eye-hand coordination while throngs of women with prominent noses and small breasts held out their phone numbers. Instead, I saw a group of oblivious teenage boys playing Magic: The Gathering. You know if I had dropped them all, I would have turned around to see the laughing, pointing members of the local chapter of Single Attractive Women Who Don't Like Children And Crave Sex With Skinny Guys.
This nagging question: Where did Luke Skywalker learn to fly the X-Wing fighter? One day he's toiling on a moisture farm on Tatooine, and the next he's battling Imperial TIE fighters and aiming proton torpedoes at the Death Star's small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The equivalent would be a Nebraska farm boy driving a John Deere tractor all his life and then, with no training, casually climbing into an F/A-18 Super Hornet and dogfighting MiGs over the Indian Ocean.
George Lucas must have sensed this lapse, because before Luke boards his ship, he has an officer walk up and say, "You sure you can handle this ship?" prompting a childhood friend and fellow Rebel pilot to say, "Sir, Luke is the best bush pilot in the Outer Rim Territories." The officer smiles and says, "You'll do all right," which is strange, given that he's just been told, approximately, that Luke is the best crop-duster in all of Scotts Bluff County.
Luke would have been a natural pilot, of course, because the Force was strong with him. But how did he convince the Rebel commanders to let him take a precious starfighter into battle?
REBEL COMMANDERS: Let's get this straight. You have no combat experience and no formal flight training, but you want to fly a sophisticated X-Wing fighter into battle against a military space station powerful enough to vaporize a planet?
LUKE: I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, and they're not much bigger than two meters! And check out this midi-chlorian count!
When I woke up this morning, here's what I knew about the guy who works in payroll:
He's in his mid-twenties and married.
He served in the Marine Corps, where he taught weapons training and marksmanship.
He drives a red Corvette, which he bought with money earned from teaching Coloradoans to shoot guns. He parks the red Corvette at the back of the parking lot, under a tree, so the sun won't shine on it too much.
The red Corvette displays a "BUSH-CHENEY '04" bumper sticker.
He loves Jesus. A lot. He thinks you ought to love Jesus too.
That's all I really ever wanted to know about Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy. I don't talk to him much at work, partly because I'm unfriendly and hostile, but mostly because he's a gun-totin', Bush-votin' Jesus freak, and I didn't think we'd have much in common.
"Come now, Kilgore," you are saying. "Aren't you making a hasty and unfair judgment, based on a few political and religious differences, about someone who might turn out to be a totally decent person if you got to know him a little better?"
Well, ha ha ha all over you. I did get to know Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy a little better today, and I can tell you that not only do we have nothing in common, but I'm not even sure we're members of the same species.
I didn't get to know Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy a little better on purpose. It happened at my company's holiday luncheon, an annual affair where we all climb onto buses and ride to Cinzzetti's, a faux-Italian buffet joint that would look exactly like a rustic Italian villa, if rustic Italian villas were located on I-25 next to a Home Depot and had disturbing replicas of the Mona Lisa painted on their exteriors. Anyway, I sat across from Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy. Usually he keeps pretty quiet, but something in the bruschetta must have put him in a sharing mood.
"I told my wife that if she ever weighs more than I do, she's going to have to move out," was among the insights he offered.
An uncomfortable tension settled on our table, made up mostly of women. "Didn't your wife just have a baby?" somebody asked.
"Oh yeah," he said, "and she's looking pretty good now. As soon as she got home from the hospital, I told her, 'Okay, it's time to lose that weight.'"
I stared at my grilled zucchini. What to say? Little did I know that Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy had better stories to tell on the bus ride home, where I made the tactical mistake of sitting in front of him. I then made the even worse mistake of asking him where he met his wife.
"When I moved to Denver, I started going to this church," he said, "and the pastor's daughter was beautiful. I mean, she was gorgeous. But I couldn't go out with her because her father asked me if I was a virgin, and I said, 'No sir, I'm not,' and he said, 'There's no way you're getting near my daughter.'"
"You know," I said, "if anyone ever asks if you're a virgin, the correct answer is probably 'Yes.'"
"Well, anyway," he said, "I met another girl at the church and settled for her. That was a mistake. But in my religion, you're together until... well, somebody has to die."
"Uh huh," I said. Something about the way he said "somebody has to die" chilled me, as if Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy was thinking about having a accident-on-purpose with his hunting rifle pointed at his wife.
"But she's stable," he continued, "and she submits to her husband, and she does what I tell her."
"Mmm," I said. What else to say?
Turbo-Christian Payroll Guy looked toward the back of the bus and turned back to me, his eyes wide. "In the back, with the dark hair," he whispered, "who is that?"
"I don't know her name," I said, "I think she's a contractor. She works back in engineering. She's pretty good-looking, huh?"
"Yeah, she's a hottie!" he said with enthusiasm, and looked back again. I resisted the temptation to quote Matthew 5:28, where Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
There's are some things you just don't get into on the bus ride back from Cinzzetti's.
How she was supposed to play Bruce Willis' wife in The Sixth Sense, until that bitch Olivia Williams spread her legs for M. Night Shyamalan.
"Let's go to my place and commit an act of biological terrorism."
"Let's go to my place and pretend that you're Olivia Williams and I'm M. Night Shyamalan."
Would nickname my testicles "Uday" and "Qusay."
She never wanted to be an actress. She always dreamed of becoming a meteorologist, but her father -- a Shakespearean thespian -- pushed her to succeed where he had fallen short. When she asked to go to science camp, her father gave her Method acting lessons and a copy of A Streetcar Named Desire. Once, during one of his drunken rages, he took away her hygrometer and her windchill chart and forced her to burn them in the backyard while reciting Kate's lines from The Taming of the Shrew. He died in 1997, wasted away by cirrhosis of the liver. He never told her he was proud of her. She watches the Weather Channel sometimes, and she cries. She cries for what she lost, and for what might have been.
"Your brain's... got the... shell on it."
"Kris Kross will make ya -- jump! Jump!"
Ask her "Who's your daddy?" and find out.
Likes to recite Kate's lines from The Taming of the Shrew while being penetrated from behind.
Sometimes I dream about quitting my job, selling my car, blowing off my credit card debts, and buying a one-way ticket to China, where I would join a martial arts monastery. It doesn't matter which one. As long as it had an old but well-maintained building with a tiled roof and a garden for contemplating, I would find my home there.
At first the monks would not accept me. They would poke and prod me and call me mean things in Mandarin, like "shit-sucking soft American" and "round-eyed pussy." They would ridicule my puny muscles and pelt me with vegetable peels. They would order me to go away, to go back to my SUV and my PlayStation and my Run Lola Run poster, because no American has ever lasted more than two weeks at this monastery. But I would absorb the abuse with dignity and humility, repeating again and again the only Mandarin words I know: "Please, I want to be a student here."
At last, they would relent and allow me to come inside. But they would not allow me to train. I would have to carry water and wash floors and serve the others their meals. They would make me eat scraps and leftovers, standing up in the kitchen, and I would sleep in the basement on a packed dirt floor. The students would trip me as I passed. They would jeer and point. They would knock the water bucket out of my hands. I would bear their insults in silence, and the monks would grudgingly admire my stoicism. And I would watch the students drill and spar as I scrubbed the floor of the training room.
At sunrise one morning, a monk would look out his window to see me practicing forms in the garden. At first he would be furious that I wasn't drawing water for the students' breakfast, but then he would notice the rough grace and dexterity I showed in executing the most difficult of movements. "The American is determined," the monk would say the other monks, "think what he could learn if he was training properly instead of scrubbing floors!" And that day I would become a student at the monastery.
I would learn quickly. The other students, impressed by my iron will and my growing expertise, would come to accept me. But one of them would continue to torment me -- Chen Li, the best and toughest student at the monastery. He would recognize my burgeoning skills as a threat to his dominance, and we would become bitter rivals. Li would hatch a series of nefarious plots to destroy me, but I would foil them all at the last moment, and in doing so would win even greater admiration from the students and monks.
There would be a girl. A peasant girl from a nearby farm, a beautiful girl with delicate features and a slight figure, and she would come to the monastery once a week to sell vegetables to the monks. Her visits would be a splash of color among the grim days of unrelenting training, and the briefest glimpse of her face or even the back of her neck would etch itself in our memories for days. I would make up some pretense to talk to her. She would laugh at my halting Mandarin, but when she left she would press a ripe Fuji apple into my hand. With the passing weeks, we would find ourselves chancing upon each other more and more often -- never for more than a few minutes, but like a dash of hot pepper sauce, those few minutes would flavor our lives for the next week.
All the students would be jealous, but none more so than Chen Li, who would want the girl for his own. He would challenge me to meet him -- alone -- by the old stone wall at midnight to settle our differences forever. I would refuse. Then Chen Li would declare that if I denied him satisfaction, he would kill the girl, and her little dog, too. Enraged, I would spit on the ground at his feet and whisper, "I'll be there."
The fight, intense and brutal, would rage for hours, with Chen Li and I exchanging spectacular flurries of blows atop the old stone wall while silhouetted against the full moon. Both of us would suffer terrible injuries, but our shared hatred would spur us through the pain. Finally, with both of us teetering on the edge of exhaustion, I would force Li to his knees. Li would close his eyes, preparing for the killing blow, and for a moment I would see myself crushing his windpipe with a chop to his neck. Instead, I would help him to his feet.
"The next time we fight," I would say, "we fight as brothers."
You probably want to know what would happen with the girl. How should I know? It hasn't happened yet.