Friday, January 28, 2005

She had a thick bumpy white line of scar tissue closer to the palm side starting at the middle knuckle running down to the hand and then back up to the middle knuckle of the next finger. Between each finger a similar scar ran. Noticing my gaze as I held her hand lying next to one another, she said, “It’s where they removed the webbing?”
Not really processing what she said, I repeated, “webbing?”
“I had webbed feet too. Like a duck.” She said matter-of-factly without shyness or embarrassment.
“I didn’t know that happened. Why did they remove… cut it?”
“Purely to look normal.” She gave a quick shake of her head like when you see someone doing something stupid. “I was very little. And at the time I was quite happy to have it done. And agreed when my parents suggested it. Now. It makes me a little sad. So few of us have anything truly unique about us. Even a genetic anomaly is a welcome difference.”
“I’ll tell you what. I don’t mean to boast. But, I have a bit of uniqueness about me. I know something that very few people know. It is a fact so rare that even if I were to tell you. It would not lessen the uniqueness of it for either of us. Not many people get two chances at being unique. What’d you say?”
“Okay.” Her eyes widened and a smile splashed against her cheeks with a child’s enthusiasm. “What do you know?”
“I know an English word that rhymes with orange.” I quickly added. “I know. It’s not the secret of enlightenment or the answer to why men have nipples. But, it truly is a tidbit of knowledge that only a select few know. Are you still game?”
“Sure. Forget about why men have nipples. Why do you have such small nipples? They’re like cat nipples.”
“Hey! You’re not making a very good case for me to share this with you.”
“I’m sorry.” She said between giggles.
“Alright.” I leaned over and whispered my morsel of the arcane.
“Oh. Yeah. It does.” she said with surprise.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I worked with I__ for several months. He had read the manual on the New York Italian-American stereotype and lived it to the letter. He was short but thick from constant weight lifting with his brothers. He had long hair held in a ponytail and the quintessential Roman nose. The brothers still lived with the parents along with a grandmother with whom we would share shots of sambuca. I’m not joking when I say he was the living and breathing generalisation of the New York Italian. Right down to the accent and frequent adjusting of his manhood in public. He’d tell me about the anti-immigrant bigotry he faced after his family moved to the south. That’s right even in the last two decades of the twentieth century there was still a demographic of southerners for whom the jury was still out on Catholics and southern Europeans. Yet even after being confronted with the blunt end of bigotry, an exceptional number of conversations began along the lines of ‘you know what’s wrong with those fawking niggers’. Yet, he was not a man beyond redemption, but nonetheless was a bizarre human being. I have several stories about him but as I recount them none of them would do much to improve the ball grabbing racist portrait that I have painted of him thus far. Please believe me when I say he was a great guy. With that I will tell you a few of my favourite I__ stories. We were waiters at a retirement centre. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but old people are like teenagers. Or wolves. If you get them in large packs, they become savage. They eyeing you for weaknesses waiting for the opportunity to lunge for any unprotected flesh. Old women are the worst. Besides a fatted lamb, a young waiter is the preferred prey of the old lady. Put a lone waiter at a 6 top of old biddies and the permed blue rinses will bob as they sniff the scent of fear in the air licking the salivation from their sharpened dentures. First they play with their victim batting back and forth between each other with inane questions like “What’s in the Spinach salad?’ The drink orders are then taken with exact numbers ice cubes and exact ratios of seltzer to blush wine are given which require a pipette to measure. This comes with feigned hearing loss that is maintained through out the hunt. Trust me. These devils with bad circulation are just fine. They gossip about other residents at the other tables in whispered tones that are heard without the need for clarification or repetition. Yet, when the poor young man who stands before them in an itchy tie and cumber bund, they have things like this to say.
‘What?’ ‘Speak up!’ or they say to one another, ‘I can’t understand him.’ ‘Yes. I know. I think he is Mexican. Look how dark he is.’ ‘Are you a Mexican?’ ‘No. My last name is Irish.’ ‘You sure? You look like a Mexican.’ then turning to one of their conspirators and say, ‘He’s a Mexican’ which is received with a confirming nod. Half way through the meal the poor waiter’s mind is addled. This sort of conversation continues during order taking. So, between making sure that granny Satan wants the chicken soup with the chicken strained out and replaced chopped up cube steak. No. She does not want the beef broth, as she does not like beef soups. but cube steak is beef. Yes. she says but its beef in chicken soup. okay. but during this conversation grandma Beelzebub is telling you her wine spritzer is too watery. It’s because you wanted ice in your wine and ice melts into water thus making your wine watery. This is when nanny evil incarnate shouts her order as she gets up to go use the toilet. The order incidentally is for a dish that is not on the menu. Another keeps asking if you have her extra portion of tartar sauce. Yes. I have that written down. Good. well. I changed my mind she says. I want cocktail sauce instead. Okay cocktail sauce. I don’t want cocktail sauce another will shout. Yes. I know she is having cocktail sauce. You are having the lamb. Am I? I don’t want that. Give me the menu. It is because of this that on occasion like the lamb that gives on last dying kick to the jowl of the wolf that is about to devour it that a waiter occasionally has a bit of sport with those spawns of hell with the senior discount.

Cube steak was a regular item on the menu, but I__ convinced them this was also a regular typo. It was meant to read tube steak. So, it happened that you regularly got little old ladies innocently saying they wanted a smaller tube steak, as the normal portion could not possibly fit in their mouths.

My favourite resident was miss Hyde. Aptly named as it happened. She could no longer walk. She got around on a scooter driven at top speed. This in itself was not so dangerous. What made this situation precarious was that it was well known that Miss Hyde bribed her nurse to smuggle in fifths of Vodka that Miss Hyde drank with youthful enthusiasm. Advanced dementia, severe drunkenness and only two teeth (one up. one down) in her head made Miss Hyde somewhat of a sight to behold. You would take her order or give her a polite greeting to which she would reply with yelled incoherent babble punctuated by obscenity. “BLARGGG GLARG France. GO TO HELL!” This did not impede I__ in the least where the rest of us would make such interactions with her as minimal as possible. He would hold whole imaginary conversations with her.

“Good day Miss Hyde. How are you today?”
“Grarg. NAAAAAAARG. Fuck!”
“Oh. Today certainly is lovely. Don’t you just love the spring?”
“Bring me a TRAAAAA. Now! Bastard.”
“Certainly. Would you like some fresh baked rolls while you look at our menu? I know you just adore the brioche.”
“Fuck off!”
“Excellent. I’ll bring you some immediately.”

And so on through out the meal.

On another occasion after a certain table of four old ladies had worked him over through out the appetizers and main course, I__ took the desert orders. One lady ordered a mint chocolate chip ice cream. As he left the table to fill the order, she called after him, “And don’t be so cheap. I want a good-sized portion.” She got her good-sized portion. We served ice cream in a glass bowl with a stem. It normally held about 2 to 3 scoops of ice cream. This time I__ put nearly a half-gallon of ice cream into the little cup. Like a circus bear on a tiny cycle, the ice cream remained precariously balanced. When he delivered this enormous, dripping, neon green dessert. The little old lady’s eyes popped out of her head. “Ohhh. My goodness!” Surprisingly she didn’t complain. She picked up a spoon and started to excavate away from the great mass before her.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The other day, I got a fantastic package from Japan (Cheers Karla! Send more Miso! just kidding). It was filled with goodies like royal milk tea of which I had drank in a matter of days. It also had a bunch of Japanese candies as well. All the candies have such enthusiasm for itself. It always has a cartoon picture of the sweet inside smiling and waving. Hurray! You are going to eat me! Even the turd candy was thrilled I was going to eat it.
My impression of Japan closely mirrors this. It’s a country full of enthusiasm. Maybe it’s just their television, but every time I see a Japanese advertisement or television show there is always someone forcing a huge smile, shouting and wagging the peace sign at the camera. After five seconds, I am exhausted. I have far too much Anglo in my Saxon to be anything more than suspicious at such behaviour. Enthusiasm is not to be trusted. Although I have to say I prefer this loud direct approach to the more insidious and manipulating approach that is common parlance here and in the States. As a child raised by bob barker and the golden girls, it has taken a long time to recognise how little the crap they are hawking is necessary. I have become slightly neurotic in this now. I hesitate to purchase things that prove to be indeed useful. Yet, I still find myself with crap I purchased for no good reason. The balance is difficult to maintain. A perfect example is my bread machine. In the centre of the honkey flag there is a bread machine driving an SUV, but I was given one of these for Christmas. Let me explain. I do quite a lot of baking. That is because deep down I am a 70-year-old grandma with bad hips and blue rinse just screaming to get out. I make bread quite often but it is a laborious task. It takes all day to do it right. A bread machine sounded great but the tension between my honkey upbringing and my fight against such tendencies prevented me from buying one. The truth is I love that damn thing. I haven’t bought bread from the store since. I can’t win. I must accept my destiny. My parents were honkies and so too must I be. It’s only a matter of time before I’m complaining about poor people and voting Tory. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a rye which is almost finished.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The holiday season is particularly busy in this town. Added to that are the last minute tidying required at work. Luckily, one of those last minute untidiness required me to make a quick jump to Barcelona. A near perfect town. I was only there for three days but it was still enough to eat a drink myself towards bliss. I am a fat man in a skinny body. I love to eat. I wish I had less socialization that would allow me to reach over a stranger’s table and shove a handful from their plate into my mouth, as I remain leaning over their table humming in bliss of the flavour of the pilfered nourishment. “Mmmmmmmm”.

Until then, I am content to eat from my own plate with appropriate silverware I am at those Basque tapas bars where the bill is tallied by the toothpicks left on your plate. These places are easy to fin just look for the ‘x’s in their names. Besides endless fantastic food and drink, the city itself has a great texture. The museums only contain a fraction of the town’s art. The streets themselves contain the vast majority. You can wander through the old town, look at the tiny gallery or artisan shops, never see the awe inspiring sites such as La Sagrada Familie, or Parc Guelle, and still feel you made a great visit.

Christmas time is also a great time for Barcelona. They have unusual Christmas traditions in Barcelona, and the Christmas market near the cathedral is the place to become acquainted. First is the caganer which I believe simply translates as the ‘shitter’. It is a Catalan tradition to have in every manger scene a guy behind the bushes taking a shit. That’s right. Baby Jesus. Mary. Joseph. The three magi and some guy smoking a pipe wearing a beret laying ass cable. Nowadays, you can get caganers in the form of a businessman, politicians, and even a bishop. The nativity scene is a pretty serious business. Some of the kits cost several hundred Euros and with these high-end manger scenes come a very well crafted caganer. The turd still dangling from his ass cheeks looks very realistic. I opted for the cheap plastic one. I queued up behind a young and sharply dress couple buying their first nativity scene for their new house. When they had finished their transaction. I stepped up to the elderly Catalonian woman. I gave her a smile and said in the best Spanish I could muster, ‘One shitter, please.’ The other tradition that I had explained to me at dinner later after seeing several stalls selling nothing but logs with two legs and painted on eyes. His name is uncle Pepe. Catalan children at Christmas find the uncle Pepe filled with candies. The children then take a stick and beat the uncle Pepe log. Eventually the candies begin to fall from (guess where? that’s right!) its ass. They also sing a song as the literally beat the ‘shit’ out of this log. This is a culture I can do business with.

Ahh. But now. The holiday season is over. I’m back in the office and back to the usual grind of procrastination and mouse clicking my way through the Internet.

P.S. Today I taught my spell checker the words; turd, shitter, and Pepe.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


My two dogs
tied to a tree
by a ten-foot leash
kept whining and howling for an hour
till I let them off.

Now they are lying quietly on the grass
a few feet further from the tree
and they haven't moved since I let them go.

Freedom may be
only an idea
but it's a matter of principle
even to a dog.

-- Louis Dudek

found via this guy's website

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The office I work is quite nice in the sense that not one of the five people who occupy the desks where born in the same country. The office across the hall has a few other nations represented. Between the sporadic bursts of productivity (It amazes me how little of the day is spent with my chair swivelled towards the computer), we chat about our different upbringings. I love listening to these stories. Did you know that in France red-headed people are thought to be stinky? I try to contribute when I can but I have found that there is nothing I can say about the American experience that hasn’t been broadcast into every corner of the world in one medium or the other. What the hell is the point of moving across the ocean if you can’t earn the extra ‘exotic’ bonus points? My accent isn’t even exotic. My pronunciation is the ‘sitcom’ brogue from the telly. So, I have resorted to making up lore of modern Americana. Did you know in Louisiana they still practice cannibalism? Everyone is familiar with Americans’ penchant for circumcision, but did you know the leftovers are used to top the tree for the child’s first Christmas as an offering to the baby Jesus’ own covenant. I bet that was never part of an episode of Friends!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

I just finished theThe Ragged Trousered Philathropists. It's a great book about turn of the century (1900s) working class England. This book is fiction but it is hard to ignore that the consumption which plagues the main protagonist also killed the author. It is pretty transparent that you are reading one man's view of being cursed with too much vision about the powerlessness and desperation in which fate has thrown him. Of the characters, one of the numerous and mindless workmen seem a more merciful existence. In the book, a socialist workman is conversing with another who has since become disenchanted with the movement. He has this to say about the electorate.

"As for the people-- they vote for what they want; they get-- what they vote for; and by God, they deserve nothing better! They are being beaten with whips of their own choosing and if I had my way they should be chastised with scorpions!...

They vote for it all and uphold it. Well, let them have what they vote for..."

Yep. That was about my exact feeling when the numerous people asked of my opinion about last November. The leader is merely a symptom, not the problem. Anyway, I'll cut this entry short. all politics and no play make jack a dull boy.