Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lead Us Not Into Deafness, But Deliver Us From Earwax

As a mere tike – blissfully ignorant of endemic corruption, disease, and Sub-Saharan pestilence – The Bastard was nearly pegged as a “special needs child” by the sandbox czars of his elementary school. Then again, during the salad days of Reaganomics, politically correct euphemism had yet to intrude upon our synthesizer coveting, legwarmer-clad society. In the red-bricked realm of education, terms like “special” (retarded), “exceptional” (fucking insane), or in my case “hearing impaired” (stone cold deaf) were but a mere twinkle in the eye of the next decade’s niggling liberal wuss. In fact, one could argue that our resident nurse, in the parlance of the times, advised my mother to “drag my deaf ass to an otologist” or risk having one of those atrocious phonograph cones rammed through my eardrum in an emergency implant procedure that would horrify 90% of the third world. Or so I imagined. To a free wheeling second grader raised on Saturday morning Loony Tunes marathons, reality and stupidity can become dreadfully blurred. When left unchecked, said stupidity might even cause a child to flunk his hearing test. Accidentally. Affecting enough distress upon his thoroughly vexed parents to involve the services of a revered and expensive ear specialist, 200 miles away.

I’m not normally an idiot, but I sometimes play one inadvertently. Although Nurse Ratched promptly fitted me with oversize manhole cover headphones (known affectionately as “cans”), she neglected to explain the rules of the test, at least in a manner palatable to a lunchbox toting rugrat with recess on the brain. Or perhaps, in the most eye winking of ironies, I neglected to listen. Whatever the case, most thumb twiddling brats understood that a series of tones was to be activated in either the right or left headphone with varying degrees of randomness. Upon detecting each sounder, this captive audience of nose bleeders, ass pickers, and lice heads (i.e. the future of America), was instructed to tap the correct ear from whence the notes originated. And in roughly ten minutes, following an approvingly curt nod and hair tussle from the test administrator, one could return to their regularly scheduled lesson on “just saying no” to candy from molesters, already in progress. In other words, you needn’t be some telepathic savant to acknowledge a few simple tweets of Morse code. But to a clueless, diminutive horse’s arse like this writer – unable to steady a humongous apparatus atop his tiny crown much less comprehend the nonsense of haphazard beeps – results were faked out of frantic desperation; arms alternately flailing with the zeal of a Tourette’s patient on a particularly trying afternoon. Hell, I’d mastered the colorblind exam like a champ (you know, numbers hidden amongst a series of dots), and rightfully sailed into this one with the ego of an overconfident prizefighter. Knocked unconscious before the first round.

Staggering ignorance aside, my hearing was fine, exemplary even, or so argued the specialist flown in from Washington DC to assuage my parents’ concerns. Wax buildup, on the other hand, was a hot button issue, as my cochlear canal evidently resembled the inside of a beehive; assuming the bees were jacked up on crack cocaine and worked sturdily through the night like your typical long-haul trucker. Over the next several weeks, (what felt like) gallons of Debrox solution were unceremoniously dumped into both ears, clearing the blockages in the hopes that I could one day pass floss through my empty head in the manner of some Coney Island freak show draw. Unnervingly, the medicine would sizzle and pop, like bacon in a pan, as I lay in the fetal position every night, pondering the exact spot where my life had veered so horribly off the rails. Emergency earwax removal had assumed key placement in the evening ritual of goodnight hugs and the Our Father, and I could either accept it with maturity, or accept it like a whimpering sissy-boy, depending on how the mood struck. Thankfully, this liquid ear excavator, whatever it was, it is still produced – and no one to my knowledge was jailed for producing it – alleviating any concerns of having received the aural version of thalidomide while ensnared in my own (death) bed; dad overseeing the equivalent of a waterboarding session as my ear hissed and sputtered like something doused in battery acid.

Although I boast my share of problems, cranking the television to window shattering decibels, or screaming like a loon at the dinner table, three inches from my wife’s face over the course of normal conversation, aren’t on that list. And noting a distinct positive, I’ve learned to appreciate (read: love) the scent of my own earwax. There’s nothing quite like bringing a stained pinky to one’s nostril and having that punchy aroma overwork the endorphins. Wax is the new cologne, dear reader, tweaking my senses like a sharp swallow of absinthe. While I no longer debase the pages of books with blotchy orange fingerprints, purposely marking my insignia, that brief romance with perceived hearing loss is forever regarded as my first love. Debrox, I hardly knew ya, yet I was your bitch for countless weeks in the early 1980’s. Thank you for making me feel less "special."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If You Listen Closely, You Can Hear The Banjos Strumming

“Yes, We Have Fried Tripe.”

Those were five words which cemented my arrival in the epicurean backwoods of northern New England. Not only was this crudely erected hash house of corrugated metal located on the boulevard of destitute dreams – where streets are lined with Bubba Teeth, and tag sales doom the used shit of an incestuous square mile to forever circulate from driveway to driveway – but this purveyor of roadkill was delighted to advertise bovine stomach chambers as their principal entrée. Squashed squirrel or poached possum be damned, demand for this kibble must have been inspiring enough for the posting of handmade signs promoting its re-availability; signs which, mind you, were plastered on every vertical beam holding the roof in place. One must no longer settle for the chipmunk fricassee, as the second coming of tripe has been resurrected inside these derelict walls of yesteryear’s overbites. Taste it again, for the first time. And no, we wouldn’t think of serving it any other way than from an artery attacking deep fryer, lobbing entire decades off grandpa’s life with each satisfying spork-full of intestinal anti-nutrition.

When The Bastard makes his bi-annual trips to the Maine wilds, slightly south of the Canadian border in an outdoorsman’s paradise nestled hours from any interstate highway, he does so willingly. He is not dragged by his ear, forced to abandon the comfortable trappings of suburban internet connectivity and ever-present culture, but instead embraces the opportunity to decompress. The stress of unemployment glides gently off the bone when seated in a wicker rocking chair overlooking a crystal clear lake, beachfront included. This place is a hidden treasure, a former camp which catered to moneyed urbanites during the earliest part of the last century, arrived at by railroad, and since converted into tranquil private abodes abutting a postcard-pretty landscape of pine, birch, and lupine. Flanked by two welcoming towns offering congenial gift shops and eateries, not to mention multitudes of hiking trails and water sports, this idyllic sanctuary has been rightly cherished by my in-laws since its purchase (for a song and various trinkets) in the late 1960’s. For those who remember, that period marked the zenith of the American Dream, when the middle class – less saddled with back-breaking mortgages, obscene university costs, and oppressive taxes – could afford vacation homes on (not near) the water.

After twelve years of venturing off the grid, I’ve come to appreciate the many allures of unspoiled terrain, not to mention the dustings of quaint charm and curious small town oddities. Due to the unforgiving winters (which cause severe contractions in the plumbing), I’ve also learned to defecate on a crooked toilet, steadying myself against the adjacent sink as if boarding the Gravitron ride with pants around my ankles. On this plot of greenery, drunks clumsily operate barbecue grills, uncles string tightie-whitey underwear across outdoor clothes lines for all to admonish, and gastronomes gorge themselves on cheese, beer, garlic, and fajitas, only to reek like an abominable steaming mess of noxious flatulence for multiple, unshowered days. When I put my mind to it, I can blow out concrete walls and kill small animals. Play hard, stink harder.

Pleasant aromas aside, my in-laws have been nothing but generous in their sharing of this restful patch of God’s country. Under their tutelage, my outdoor education has advanced far beyond kickball games and park fountains. In fact, over a span of years, I’ve come to appreciate that not every resident above 45° N latitude boasts a mouthful of beaver teeth and a lockbox of flannels. Nor would I any longer presume that a Ford F-150 is everyone’s dream graduation gift in that region. To my wonderment, I’m now even aware that well-adjusted white people do work at McDonald’s, and sometimes bus tables in restaurants.

While I may never fully ingratiate myself into the north woods alloy, frequent journeys offer bragging rights as more than a mere tourist. Perhaps one day I’ll have the stones to pull over en route and purchase a two legged chair or set of tarnished spoons or stained Pokémon doll from the interminable tag sales. Hell, I might even close my eyes and try the fried tripe (remember, it’s back). Next time.

Or maybe the time after that. Baby steps, you know?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Human Than Human

In his waning years as a sturdy oak of junior high largesse, my eighth grade science teacher leaned a bit psychotic. It’s not that this sudden brain tic made him less amenable to students or faculty – both of whom respected the man in the way you might honor a former NFL legend-cum-broadcaster at the close of a storied career – but when certain cards in everyone’s deck of 52 get lost, an odd fungus tends to erode the mind. Simply put, if you heave an overhead projector from its stoic desk perch into the hallway, mid-lesson, while attempting to verbally discipline twenty-five or so uninterested snots, you command attention. Naturally, once said projector slams against the far wall, ricocheting like a bad car crash or serious industrial accident, you’ve earned certifiable bragging rights in the dangerous yet coveted “totally fucking insane” realm of educational lore. And congratulations, because that tightrope on which you’re now balancing is one for which an entire district’s worth of teachers would carve out their kidneys. While the meek and compliant enforced rules via rationality, eighth grade science was now policed with the suggestive power of imminent physical harm, random or otherwise, and forever coupled with a dollop of eye twitching insanity. Suddenly, trivial infractions like forgetting one’s homework or passing notes could have resulted in being made to eat chalk, having our hands submerged in jars of hydrofluoric acid, or, shudder to think, our brains eaten by the newly minted mad professor after a lovingly slow roast on the Bunsen burner.

Whatever the curriculum lords may have intended, this class was never a traditional foray into textbooks and mundane lectures. Prior to the bizarre “feats of strength” display, our master of ceremonies sawed batteries apart, ignited and exploded them, lit gaseous substances ablaze on his ceiling, and simulated the creation of a fireball. Package these curious ventures into a fan-friendly Mr. Wizard’s World on crack cocaine, toss a few pieces of machinery to ensure that the master/servant relationship is understood by all, implicitly convince the true believers of your looming psychosis, and bingo: You have the makings of a funhouse doubling as a science class masquerading as an even bigger funhouse where no one really learns anything. Except under this circus tent, the knife thrower flings real weaponry. And you don’t need to volunteer to be targeted. And sometimes he misses. Because he’s a goddamn old man, older than dirt.

Yes, Dr. Frankenstein’s venerable ubiquity was taken for granted. He seemed like he’d always been around; just as apt to have been present at the dedication of the school cornerstone, in a “Science Faculty 1947” yearbook photo, on the Zapruder film, or even etched into cave drawings extolling the merits of the wheel. And while his tales of greatness spanned an amazing spectrum of bygone days, with events unthinkable in politically correct times (i.e. tackle football games of teachers vs. students and pig roasts in the courtyard, to name a few), the year his mental faculties derailed was to be his last. He knew this. Yanking a large metal device out of its outlet, and tossing it against an outside wall with Tarzan-like precision and Godzilla-fueled strength wasn’t exactly placing the twilight of a career in jeopardy, nor was it risking a hefty pension. In other words, when you’re old and fully cooked, you’re entitled. And when you’re overly entitled, and deemed to be halfway between solitaire and senility, you can scare the bejesus out of the most hardened future drop-outs with a few metered bouts of unpredictability.

And that’s not science, it’s art.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Deviant Office Perverts, The Apple of My Eye

During my early years of office purgatory – when mastering the formula for our auto-drip coffee maker was considered an admirable job function, and the Brother P-Touch labeler was one wrist-strap away from being soldered to my forearm – evenings were spent rehashing the merits of a trounced college degree. That said, my pissant status still ranked higher than that of the chest thumping pimps doubling as mail sorters on the building’s eighth floor. In fact, this comparison kept the alarm clock ringing each morning and the belt nooses (which hung from my clothes rod as a hedge against mental meltdown) off my neck. Although the moustached drunks in management were far from a ringing endorsement of integrity, the atmosphere was kept therapeutic by equally incredulous colleagues. An eclectic troop of cube dwellers, we were simply thankful to stand on the receiving side of the cafeteria grill counter. In other words, if the bathrooms of this painfully outmoded building were infested with roaches, at least we weren’t made to strap on an insecticide pack.

The revolving door of temp workers kept the mood light, even in our darkest hours when the final toner cartridge ran dry. Spanning the gamut from punks, artists, whores (not in the official sense), junkies, perverts, and cocktail waitresses (with the inability to operate a fax machine, much less speak English), this collage of misfits flashed a bag of tricks more suited to a circus sideshow than a buttoned-up private bank led by sherry sipping Protestants. And while I shared a few laughs with the overweight dapper dan – dressed nattily in the same black blazer and t-shirt as if wardrobe variety were a death knell – and exchanged pleasantries with the unkempt skateboarder at the elevator banks, none of these characters made quite the impression as did the balding pervert and his alcoholic sidekick.

This peeping tom was a cross between James Lipton of 'Inside The Actor’s Studio' fame, and Andy Samberg’s 'Dick In A Box' caricature of early ‘90’s new jack swing. More specifically, his style was one part uncombed halo of thatched hair, two parts ever-evolving variety of frumpy suits, purchased from a nameless friend
known only as “the haberdasher.” Should I have been in the market for a pre-owned Hyundai Excel, or effected an in-person audit of a Van Nuys porn distributor, this gentleman’s hand – bedecked in faux gold bullion – would no doubt have extended itself in unctuous amity. However, in the caverns of Wall Street, with storied tales of greed, guts, and glory framed by power outfits and $200 haircuts, the presence of an ornamented carnival barker with an eye for ass was more comic relief than hard-nosed deal making. If this man had candy and you had a child, hopefully you also had a shotgun, or the phone number of your local crime stoppers tip line, or at very least one of a decent barber.

Instead of feigning horror, I happily embraced our cast of fools. And while it sometimes takes one to know one, I wasn’t the guy printing out young female profiles from the company picture directory in order to deface their idealism in some grody apartment, nor was I buying polyester neckties on the street corner, wrapped in cheap plastic. And I most certainly wasn’t lunching with a red-faced drunk who preferred virtual reality sunglasses on most afternoons, presumably to hide the pinched capillaries in his cheeks after a solid six of Killian’s (see “The Elephant Cometh” for even more office oddities).

Take me by the hand, o wise sage of haberdashery, o mightiest of Chess Kings, to the place where crazed bums wearing sandwich boards advertise discount strip club admittance and two-for-one suit sales. Show me the wonders of backside pinching and the talent for quick tongue flicks as mating calls. You rule the flea markets of Nassau Street with the heft of a thousand swinging phalluses, sucking the oxygen out of each room you inhabit with a ball sac of potato-sized immensity. In your presence, my testes are mere peas, my persona a regrettable shell of reservation, brains, and common sense. I am but a meek student of the overused pick-up line; unable to smoke enough unfiltered cigarettes to yellow my teeth, ingest adequate spinach to sprout fur on my chest, or haggle with enough gusto for discounted prices on cubic zirconia. Show me the places were beards grow wild and men roam wilder. I want to feel what you feel when you sexually harass an entire secretarial staff, taste what you taste when you hunker down for a broiled steak dinner at the cafeteria-quality Tad’s. More than a budding hero, you are a masculine colossus of 1950’s over-cologned supremacy, a time traveler from bygone eras of subservient women and workplace spankings. Lead me to the well, bald man, and compromise my financial career and economic stability for a quick drink of unbridled randiness. After all, this is our Eden, and no one lasts long in the garden of forbidden fruit (even if that fruit happens to be the cherry of a bubbly yet naïve ditz tasked with faxing trade confirmations).

Awakening in reality, I suppose the switch to business casual came as a blessing in disguise. Most likely, I wouldn't have commanded much respect with a Borat suit and Flowbee haircut. And as a white guy, well, let’s just say when the axe falls, you don’t have that extra card to play. Even so, I'll bet the first bite of that apple was delicious.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Double, Double, Oil and Trouble

Imagine you’ve murdered an entire Saturday afternoon engaged in the mind-numbing task of washing your windows; body contorted into a multitude of obtuse angles, forced to emulate horrible, palsied motions just to squeeze a holster of Windex and an oversized roll of paper towels into new reaches of awkwardness. And while you plugged away with the ineptitude of a one-legged Mr. Clean – engaging in clownish acrobatics to the bemusement (or alarm) of the neighborhood – your friends wasted the hours by mixing bottomless margaritas or participating in swingers orgies, or both, in that order.

Moreover, let’s assume that after slamming the final window against its frame, yourself a sweaty mix of anger and confusion, some kid slaps his mouth against the glass, blowing air forward to comically flair his cheeks. And let’s say this kid is a snot-nosed brat and continues to smear his fluids on your windows as a daily ritual, steaming up the view, perhaps because he thinks you’re amused or perhaps because he aims to disrespect you in some weird game of animalistic dominance. In fact, your threats of consigning him indefinitely to a wheelchair only provoke disappointment within the community, although everyone knows that you possess neither the agility nor the cojones to crack the kid’s spinal column, much less his pinky. Sadly, for as long as this halfwit governs the block with mischievous idiocy, your windows will assume all the charm of a derelict-ridden bus depot. And you will like it. Or you will move.

Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. is the mischievous idiot on my street and, dear reader, on yours. Not quite physically imposing (especially since his illness), Jobs is credited with salvaging the once-marginalized company he co-founded in 1976, and steering it toward renewed greatness with a combination of technological prowess and aesthetic innovation. iMacs, iPods, the Apple retail store, and the coveted iPhone all exemplify the CEO’s second tenure in Cupertino, one flanked by an impressive recapture of market share. Unfortunately, this stint has been tarnished by the growing acceptance of touch screen technology, likening users of the reliable QWERTY keyboard to prehistoric fossils favoring washboards and 78rpm phonographs. Although the iPhone offers hundreds of “apps” which run the gamut from making dinner reservations, analyzing plant life, shaking babies(!), and simulating the snorting of cocaine in true 1980’s power lunch style, none offer the luxury of reverting to a traditional keypad and freeing the display screen from objectionable smudges.

Jobs must have the cleanest fingers in the universe, and obviously never picks his nose nor allows his underlings to blight his precious arsenal of all things touch. Perhaps it’s my OCD talking, but just as fingerprinted jewel cases incited cardiac arrest in the heady ‘90’s, the disrespect of plexiglass screens with unseemly recipes of grease and oil sends me wincing. Suddenly, years of advancement regress in one fell swoop, as the lords of connectivity place new generations of portable devices into the hands of chronic masturbators, ass scratchers, and mechanics; doomed to coat their expensive gadgetry with juices sundry and unpleasant. Anyone who’s ever held a phone to their ear for longer than 15 seconds knows that the resulting film on the display window is forever smeared. Likewise, in speaking for my Mediterranean brethren – never to recognize a day of dry skin, save the occasional chapped lip – touch screen technology is a death sentence, with the only solution being a raid on your local proctologist’s office for a pallet’s worth of latex gloves.

More importantly, will society, in good conscience, ignore the cultural insensitivity levied toward the burgeoning Indian market? After all, it remains customary to wipe one’s ass with one’s left hand in some areas of the curry capital, or so stated my (Indian) marketing professor in 1996. If you thought oily fingerprints were a problem, try cleaning a virtual keyboard after it’s passed through a communal rectum and used inadvertently as fly paper. Then again, said professor was addicted to Virginia Slims cigarettes and harbored an unnatural craving for McDonald’s breakfast burritos, thus lessening the credibility of his declarations.

Most likely, I could purchase heavy drapes for my windows and avoid the blotches of Mr. Jobs and his hooligan fanboy contingent. But most of those flowery curtains are geared for the AARP crowd, and besides, I actually enjoy the wooded view and small brook outside of my home. Clearly, no amount of Windex is going to halt this progression toward scum buildup. Just as mp3 players taught us to shun
audio quality in favor of gigabyte size, touch screen displays are pushing convenience over cleanliness. The least I can do is step off my soapbox, join the neighbors at their margarita party, and attempt to excise any lingering demons. As Bill Gates once argued, “The people who resist change will be confronted by the growing number of people who see that better ways are available thanks to technology.”

Or, as they say in certain circles: “Bend over, here it comes again.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seven Years

The subway prophets spew knowledge and nonsense, unsolicited in the tunnels underground. At times absurdly humorous, but more often militant or scripted, their paeans to God, instructions toward repentance, and reminders of homelessness are ever-present in the sidewalk cellar, competing for attention alongside vermin and peddlers. Last week, the token Caucasian caught my ear with his religious fearmongering, warning of damnation in a city proud to be damned. Plastered across the chest of his navy sweatshirt were the words “Risk All,” while “Fear God” adorned the back in chunky block letters. And like most of the mentally unstable brethren who pay their $2 to entertain and educate, our friend warned of final judgment, his speech authenticated with fire-and-brimstone scripture. Seven years was all he offered. Not a long timetable nor a generous gift, but a manageable frame in which to alter perspective.

Both an eternity and an eyeblink, seven years can encourage remarkable variance – shifting the patchwork of family, career, and personal growth – where the obvious becomes opaque and the expected turns inside-out. Yet as easily as it races, time can mark a flatline where weeks compound to months which drag to years; a glut of opportunities trashed, where the same cup of coffee and the same crossword clues rotate insipidly. In seven years, will you accept your given hand due to economics or exhaustion? Join a cause knowingly or fight a war mindlessly? Retreat greedily or sacrifice needily? Love dearly or hate severely? Discover wealth and lie for it? Take a stance and die for it? Would you change only because you were scared? Or enrich your morals just to be spared?

When the rent is due but jobs are scarce, our subterranean louse withdraws from the labyrinths beneath Seventh Avenue and retreats to an idyllic Main Street; flag lined, sepia drenched, and worlds removed from the urban rot of the rat traps. This cowardly homecoming is pardoned by the same parents whose bank account he raped with impunity. Prophets in their own right, mom and dad have left his bedroom untouched, foreseeing the return of their son, the failed apostle. Aborted by urbanity, excommunicated by progress. Still fearing God but risking nothing. A charlatan. A sham. A waste of seven years.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hotter Than Hell

Between 2001 and 2006, I’d secretly hoped that my friend would drop dead. Well, perhaps “hoped” is a strong word, but my reflexes would have slackened considerably had his frame, say, wandered under a falling piano or against an electrified fence. Although the man claimed relatively sound health, even the heartiest of souls forget to look both ways when crossing the street, especially when nudged nonchalantly into traffic. Normally I’m not an evil man, but these and other scenarios of demise remained wildly vivid like an endless ‘Faces of Death’ montage. Ultimately, should the Reaper have dragged his sickle to Connecticut during that five year window, the chest bumps would have begun seconds after the Cloak of Doom’s Amtrak ticket was punched for his return trip from New Haven to Hell.

You see, my friend was planning to be buried in a Kiss Kasket, or so the rumor mill assumed. Yes, a Kiss Kasket, for the man aiming to piss off generations of his family, living and unborn, by subordinating himself to “putting the X in sex,” female objectification, and chest hair grown amok. After interring four grandparents and a few stray aunts in unadorned steel and fiberglass, the prospect of placing rose sprays over a fully laminated coffin with KISS FOREVER emblazoned across the front and an image of the face-painted band on the lid, seemed an intriguing thumb in the eye to conformity. More importantly, receiving the eucharist to “Beth” during the ensuing mass presented a once in a millennium opportunity.

Within my own rehearsed choreography, I anticipated throwing devil horns – that ubiquitous headbanger hand sign – after concluding the eulogy (and basically everywhere else that day); prosthetic tongue dangling halfway to my nipples while crushing blood capsules in my teeth like I’d just gnashed through a dead horse in the rectory. For those unfamiliar with Christian funerals, the aforesaid events would be construed as “disrespectful” to the sanctity of the church, family, faith, God, and basically anyone in a nursing home on Planet Earth preparing to keel sideways. But at a Kiss-themed funeral, the disrespect would occur from not doing them.

For enthusiasts of Goyim-fronted kitsch and/or male make-up, $4,500 ($5,000 autographed) would have scored a rectangular box proclaiming one’s devotion to “rock and roll all nite,” presumably deep into the inner rings of Hades. In his penchant for shameless promotion, Gene Simmons – demon and marketing genius alike – also presented the container as a dual-use cooler or small refrigerator. In others words, if one were to best the odds of pancreatic cancer or the flesh-eating Ebola virus, the casket could begin a successful barbecue tour, contributing to alcoholism while keeping hamburger meat on ice. And if your ailing grandfather wasn’t a fan of arena rock, himself holding out for the Perry Como estate to introduce their own laminated model, you’d leave your family one less issue with which to concern themselves on your fateful day of reckoning. As for your ball busting friends, well, better Kiss than Winger, I suppose.

The funeral business has made strident inroads since an impoverished Tom Hulce (as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) was unceremoniously dumped into a gaping hole, a perverted and disgraced pauper. In Florida, where humans move to die, warehouse clubs proudly hawk caskets of all styles, alongside their expansive selection of tires, electronics, and mustard six-packs. And creativity abounds freely, as specialty manufacturers have designed coffins to resemble gym bags, guitar cases, cigar humidors, and even yellow dumpster bins(!); assuring your surviving family that if they didn’t consider you an asshole during waking years, this representation would destroy any lingering fondness after your ditch was dug.

On a pleasing note to close an otherwise uncomfortable topic, I no longer wish death upon my friend, not if he’s relegated to the same hexagonal container as everyone else. Where’s the originality in a few refrains of “Amazing Grace” and a procession of black Town Cars? The Kiss Kasket may have been a cheap shot at tasteless publicity, but in this age of inelegant egotism, at least it served a purpose. For all the criticism mounted against him, Mr. Simmons remains a bassist second, but a brilliant salesman first and foremost. His exploits may be derided, but his tagline was marketing gold: “I love livin’, but this makes the alternative seem pretty damn good.” Spoken like a man with a few extra bullets in his love gun.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Come Mister Tally Man, Tally Me Banana

Our freshman dorm room reeked like a cross between overripe bananas and carpet mold. Following a semester at war with hygiene, my body had finally accepted the mold before the bananas so rudely infringed. They didn’t even knock; just settled amongst the festering piles of laundry, potential bed lice, and lingering funk of stale booze.

Oddly enough, my tolerance warmed to the leaky air conditioner doubling as an incubator for mushrooms. And just as I’d relished in the scent of my mother’s lentil soup during saner times, I eventually grew comfortable with the repellently damp stench of that A/C atrocity. In other words, this unventilated shoebox would forever stink like the ass-end of the rainforest, and we could either live in denial or embrace cruel reality. That said, when compared to my buddy’s aspiring Superfund site down the hall – always smelling of warm eggplant and flatulence – our polluted refuge came across like the Four Seasons. Between my fungus and his vegetables, we could have managed quite a trattoria in those days, assuming patrons would overlook the mold (and sudden ambush of eau de banana). When combined, these ingredients spawned a death cocktail of malodorous horseshit.

But then again, what did you care? All things considered, you didn’t have to sleep in that pungent sweatbox, nor allow for disgustingly rank banana peels to slime your radiator grates as they dried; offering the impression that (a) I was banging a Greenpeace activist with a jones for compost, or (b) my suitemates were apes, literally. Nonetheless, when patience became a tedious factor in waiting for the peels to dehydrate, my hair dryer was recruited as an emergency weapon of war. If Steven Tyler could smoke tea leaves to keep in touch with Mama Kin, then a group of moronic eighteen year olds could certainly blow their minds by exploiting the hallucinatory properties of everyone’s favorite phallic crop.

Bananadine, the fictional substance with the asinine name, was the ingredient from which to launch one’s wits into hyperspace. When synchronizing Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ grew tiresome, retrofitting Coke cans into smoke inhalation devices lacked challenge, and erecting beer can pyramids became predictable, an unorthodox produce recipe from a well-burnt baby boomer seized our intrigue. According to Vietnam agitator and ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ author William Powell, banana euphoria could be experienced by scraping the inside of the fruit’s skin, boiling the contents, and smoking the resultant dried powder. Far from ignoring these instructions in lieu of chomping the Chiquita like an obscenely large cigar – one end dipped in lighter fluid and blazing like the Great Chicago Fire – the amenities of a five star kitchen were disappointingly absent from the dorms. A pair of Sub-Zeroes and a Viking range, while nice, would have required creative tiering to the already astronomical tuition costs. As such, abbreviated measures were taken in the quest to purée our brains. Meaning, of course, abbreviated effects were felt. Read: none.

Mr. Powell may have been tooling around his commune with a seven foot gravity bong, clad in an “I ♥ Smoking Bananas” t-shirt, but it didn’t take long for our confederacy of dunces to dismiss him as a crisply toasted lunatic. Said differently, anyone touting the effects of a bogus psychoactive chemical within a how-to guide for explosives manufacturing is a fucking maniac, plain and simple. To add insult to injury, I don’t even like bananas. Not at all, mind you. Not in my cereal. Not in my ice cream. And sure as hell not rolled in E-Z Wider paper. Yet I was now doomed to marinate in the backwash of aromatic dung; staring at glow-stars while quietly awaiting death and praying that my stomach didn’t flip inside-out. To think, I could’ve been catching up on back issues of Shaved Beaver. Or adding extension wings to that beer can pyramid.

If you’re really that intent on frying your head, kid, go sniff some glue.