Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Thursday, March 31, 2005

Celery Stalker

Another voicemail message: "Steve, fucking call me." Click.

What did I do this time? It was early, so I neglected to return the irate message. He finally called later this morning. My misbehavior is catching up to me. People are adding my name to the "Do Not Invite" list because I break glasses, fall over, and insult people.

"People are talking. They don't like the person you're becoming. I've already been told you're not welcome at a certain party this weekend."

I figure this all began when I quit smoking. I get fidgety and I can't sit still, particularly in social situations. I have to keep in motion. Cigarettes were my punctuation for life, metronomic inhalations separating my colliding moments. Now, since there's no cigarettes, I seek substitutions. I take another sip of my beer. I slam another shot of whiskey. I pop another handful of pills. I dust up another line. This accumulates quickly and I'm retarded within hours. I forget my manners and lose my coordination. Suddenly I'm a gibbering jackass.

When the rest of the room is rolling on ecstasy and their eyes are rolling up into their heads, they want to be surrounded with seesawing blissed out murmuring people like themselves. They want techno music and blacklights. They want people sitting. Not standing, pacing, or gesticulating. They do not want to hear me yelling about "truckers tumbling their trailers across my lanes and taxis zooming for my bumper like bees to honey." I ramble and stop mid-sentence and when I realize they're staring at me, I blurt "What?" and make like I'm about to charge. Flinching ensues.

So that's why everybody is holding their pens in a stabbing clutch. Because of me. I thought they shared my attitude towards the pets, but they probably like those stinky balls of shit. Nobody else wants to blind the ferret and wrench its teeth out. It's me they expect to fend off with a ball point thrust.

More information was shared. The television did not attack me. I knocked over a drink sitting atop it. The fruity concoction spilled into the grill vent while I stood there trying to figure out gravity.The owner cleaned it off. Maybe there were crackling noises emitting from the back of the device. Possibly some wisps of pineapple steam. I remember none of this. So I still have no idea where I got my wound.

I can understand why people would hate me for this. I feel contrite but there's nothing I can say to soothe anybody at this point. I didn't even know until this morning. My best guess from the previous voicemail was that I tackled the TV, pummelled it, beat my chest, and howled to celebrate my triumph over technology. My assumption was incorrect.

I'm staying home this weekend to do push-ups and read Doctor Who novels. I've been collecting Easter hambones from perplexed and suspicious acquintances all week. I'm going to boil them all on Saturday afternoon. My hearty ham soup is truly a wonder for the palate.

After I eat, my burps will be visible. A cloud of green particles and fat globules will hover above my face. I'll watch the surreal display until a gust of secondhand smoke blows in from a roomate's room and disperses my pride.
1:37 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Captured Again

Big thanks to Erica for the pictures. You can visit her by clicking on either of the below.

This blurry image of me is appropriate for my Saturday night state of mind. Note the following: Eleventh screwdriver in hand, half-blink reaction to the flash, black stainproof Cuervo t-shirt, sweaty speedfreak pasty pallor.

My electronic nemesis. I think this was the display after my little accident.
1:35 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Insect Necklace

I was told late Monday afternoon that the office must be gleaming and perfect by today, Wednesday. A tall order. I surveyed the task before me. No problem.

I spied a heap of junked computer shells encrusted with dust and grime. Some giddy ass had sprayed the mound with silicone early last year. Since then, unsuspecting ants and flies have accidentally glued themselves to it. This unnatural electronic flypaper had to be killed. Rubber gloves were not sufficient for this filth, so I wore a full body condom. Well, garbage bags and rubber bands. Dumpsterized. I could do nothing about the tan stain on the carpet, which is shaped like Sri Lanka. But larger.

My next task was to pull a workbench away from a wall. A crafty employee had fashioned it from knotty plywood and bent nails two years ago. When I dragged it away from the corner, out tumbled a nest of knotted cabling and flickering power strips. I began to untangle the unwieldy mess when a I heard a rustling. Startled, I threw the mass to the floor. A dozen chittering earwigs scuttled from the core. Flourescent light struck their ebony carpapaces and they ran for darkness with frantic desperation. I let them go. They only crawl in children's ears and I'm a grownup, so they pose no threat to my hearing.

I untangled the knotted cabling and secured it with clamps and ties. It looked official. My final task was easy. Box things. Anything that sat loose, forlorn, dejected, upside down, useless, broken, obsolete, or just plain offensive went into a box. Even if we're filthy packrats with pounds of useless fuck, we'll pretend to be organized packrats. After that all I had to do was use the internet to translate some strident verbiage into Polish for the cleaning guy. He vacuumed with fervent enthusiasm. I can tell.

Looks good.
10:22 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Victimless Anthropomorphism

I checked my voicemail messages yesterday afternoon.

"Hey Steve, it's me. You don't have to worry about the television. It is now.... working."

Hmm. I'm trying to piece together the late night events of last Saturday. Here's what I've got so far:

At approximately four in the morning I heard a warbling tone oscillating from the front room. Hypnotized, I slowly wove my way towards the source, my arms outstretched and my jaw slack.

When I arrived in the dark room the television went silent and began a rapid blinking. The pattern was impossible to discern but I couldn't tear my gaze away. I stood transfixed. The television was up to mischief. It detatched a black cable from the wall and began to twirl it about in the air. I'm immune to snake charming and this bizarre display actually broke my trance. I had never seen a television act with malicious intent, let alone free will. I was perturbed. I turned to flee. The television formed a lasso with the cable and roped me. I was violently jerked to the floor where I squirmed and drunkenly tried to scream for help.

Nobody came. I watched in horror as the teevee shimmy sashayed towards the brink of the cheap wicker table. It did a diving board bounce and frontflipped towards me. At this moment the lasso loosened and I rolled away. The televison anticipated my movement and dove for my torso, where it struck my right ribcage just below the nipple.

I was innocent of any clumsiness or wrongdoing. I did not knock that television off its perch. In fact, I saved the appliance a wrongful death lawsuit and a revocation of it's warranty.

People say television will rot your brain and make you lazy, but I know the truth. It is far, far worse than that.
6:08 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, March 28, 2005

Yellow Light Warning

Dear party host,

Thank you for your generous invitation last Saturday night. I always seize the opportunity to drink alcohol among friends. And strangers. Allowing me to consume more than I can handle for contributing a mere bag of ice is foolhardy on your part, but you knew what to expect.

I love board games that require hollering and gesticulating, and agree that if was a good way to start us off. It was competitive way for the lot of us to showcase our expansive vocabularies.

Things got hazy after the fifth game. Next time I'll decline the marijuana. I felt dense and feverish after that pipe and I had trouble separating my foreground conversation from the background babbling of other revellers. All sound became a tidal wave of inseparable noise, a cacophony of firecrackers that ricocheted inside my ear canals. The result was that I frequently asked people to repeat themselves and I consequently came off as some sort of stewbrained imbecile with a balance problem.

My vision got fuzzy after that. I remember placing myself in front of your new roommate's computer. I playlisted a lot of Clash and Tupac, all I could find agreeable. Thanks for the veto. Things always go south when my selections are allowed to play. Blood spills, people riot, and I get trampled. You may have saved my life. We'll never know. I stand by my statement that the Beastie Boys are nasal and clumsy.

Shortly after I misplaced my ability to complete a sentence or walk a straight line, a bunch of ecstasy addled party heroes strolled through the front door. A dozen at least. Some suckled pacifers. I whored for one girl's camera and tried exchanging websites with her. The red ink on the torn cardboard coaster was blurry and dancing. I tried to ask her what her site name meant, but I must've started reciting backwards Ewok poetry because she said I was too fucked up to possibly comprehend. "Oh. Yes. Shit." I went away.

The rest is a blur. I know I was groping somebody I should not have been. I wonder if she's the one who left this 3 inch gash under my right nipple. She said the next day that she thinks I'm depressed and need some good pussy. I ignored that. At that point I didn't know about the injury and thought somebody had been pinching and twisting my chest. "My nipples hurt. What the fuck?"

I went home. I discovered the strange injury upon undressing for the shower. If not her fingernails, then what? Maybe I fell on something sharp. Or got attacked by one of your rabid animals, party host. Did some mad freak swipe at me with a razor? Hopefully I'll never know. If it infects, my nipple may turn green and fall off, and I'll never be symmetrical again. I'll pay it special care. I'll bleach my chest when I get home tonight to sterilize any bacterial goblins infesting my new crevice.

All together it was a fitting tribute to Jesus. Thanks for a good time.

With regard and appreciation,
9:26 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

All Rise

Court tomorrow. I cannot wait. It will truly be the highlight of my week, which, until now, has been bereft of excitement.

I always get an elderly woman as my judge. Instead of looking directly at a given document, she'll tilt her head back and peer down her nose at the paper. She'll hold her glasses away from her face by pinching the frames next to her temple, aiming the glasses down her cheeks. She'll purse her lips into a magenta sphincter and raise her eyebrows in a vain attempt to stretch the foggy cataracts coating her eyes.

When she finally looks up at me and asks why I didn't have my proper documentation handily available for the noble officer of the law, I'll begin to speak. She'll cut me off as soon as I've said "I..." and, nostrils quivering, she'll berate me for my lack of humility and respect. I shaved and wore a polo shirt for this?

After my sentence is given, she'll hand my fine down to the bailiff with her shaky liver spotted claws.

Inevitably defeated, I'll mope over to the bailiff. He always looks funny because his police uniform is busting at the buttons with lard desperately trying to jiggle its way to freedom. He smells like pork rinds and his arms are crossed, resting comfortably on his roiling bellyshelf.

The frown he wears is the result of a clenched ass and suppressed farts, not disdain for the guilty or impatience for lunchtime. When this session ends he'll scamper daintily to the staff washroom and fumigate a claustrophobic stall with an assload of putrid swampgas. As he exits he won't look in the mirror to see his curdled smile or crossed eyes. Hopefully there will be nobody else present to witness this horrible spectacle, to hear his rapid panting, or see his sweat beaded forehead. He won't wash his hands even though they're coated in moist crumbs.

Back in the courtroom. As I walk out, I'll feel vaguely jealous of the souls who afforded themselves a lawyer before attending. I'll wish I had a middle-aged, rapidly balding, necktied agent of the law speaking for me with legal jargon and raccoon saddlebags under his eyes. These financial frankensteins with their paper dervish antics and litigious literacy can really keep a man's record clean. I'm not going to spend five hundred dollars to cancel a pollution emission fine of a hundred. Not practical.

I'll go back to work and steal some candy from the snack box and complete my Friday tasks with an air of distracted defeat and harried impatience.
11:24 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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More Idiocy

I drove to court yesterday to settle some outstanding tickets. I had been negligent in keeping my vehicle up to date with pollution laws. I was early. I drove to the top of the parking garage in Rolling Meadows and sat there for thirty minutes listening to the radio. Two chuckleheads on the local sports station were interviewing a Japanese sidearm pitcher for the White Sox.

I went into the courthouse. It seemed quiet. On traffic court days there are usually long lines and lots of impatient shuffling. Odd. Where are the latinos that clutch their beltless pants as they pass the metal detectors? Where are cologne soaked leather jacket wearing hair-gel encrusted former jocks? Where are the fat old men with cabbie hats and mustard stained t-shirts?

Something was wrong. My uneasiness deepened as I approached the my courtroom. Nobody else was waiting for entry. All was dark inside. I dug my crumpled ticket from my pocket and unfurled it before my eyes. That damn officer had bad handwriting. I decided the 3 was a 5. I'm here on the wrong day. Fuck.

I went back to work. I haven't explained that I need to go back tomorrow yet. I feel dumb.
9:04 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Dead End Street

I left early yesterday to procure wire spools and obscure metal brackets. I found myself in a dreary industrial park characterized by grey skies, diesel exhaust, cracked streets, the hum of machinery, and brown brick. It looked like a great place to commit suicide.

The company I visited was new to me. They compete with my usual vendor. I knew they would be courting my business, and by extension, me. They would suck my ass. They would tell industry insider jokes. I'd be expected to chuckle knowingly upon delivery of the punchlines.

I sauntered in, wondering how I could get away with making my purchase while skipping the guided tour. I failed. I submitted myself to a weird conversation about hockey, cable television pirating hardware, security cameras, and Chinese manufacturing. Every once in a while the sales representative would lower his chin, raise his eyebrow, and talk quietly, implying that he was dishing some illicit gossip. I was supposed to lean closer and nod in appreciation. Instead I merely cocked my head to the left and blinked like an automaton. I may have nodded. I had no desire to play along with this odd game. I didn't want to join the tech geek in crowd.

The sales rep reminded me of my father with his bright eyed fascination with ugly gadgets and his incessant repetition. I left. He said "Take care!" at least seven times as I inched towards the door. I escaped.

No, I had not. I'd left my headlights on. My car battery had drained. I slouched back inside and asked for a jumpstart. The staff looked extremly put out by this request, but had no choice but to render assistance. I am a new customer. I am potential business. No jumpstart, no future commission.

Two of them came outside and got me running. They exchanged a supposedly discreet look that screamed "What a fucktard this guy is!" They were right. I have made some bad automobile decisions and I don't know acronyms for security camera light indexes. I am dirt in their book.

I can live with that.
10:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'll Hire Snipers

Paul For Mayor
My Initial Reaction

Vagina Piercing, Tattoos, Kiddieland, Twin Peaks: The River Grove Mayoral Battle

In the first link above you can visit the website for a mayoral candidate in my fair village. Actually we're a tiny little patch of land squeezed between Elmwood Park and Franklin Park, two larger and better known suburbs. We get treated like the proverbial little brother who gets the condescending pats on the head and the raggedy hand me down clothing. Those towns get all the good tax revenues and we get potholes.

Below that is a link to my initial take on the mayoral race. It was prompted by a garish mailing from Paul Collurafici. The other candidate is Marilynn May. Her street team has taken to planting white signs in every lawn in River Grove. They are so prevalent that I'm the only house on my end of the street without one. Probably since I removed it and destroyed it. They didn't ask for my permission, you see. Paul, at least, has been vocal and plaintive instead of silent and assuming. He gets my vote on this merit alone. I probably won't attend his second meet and greet, which is tonight, but I will punch the ballot for him. My precinct votes in a burrito shack. Really. It's awesome.

I don't like this uptight establishment May woman. She's expecting victory on strength of momentum alone. I don't care if she was the dead mayor's wife or the PTA chairwoman or the.... whatever she's done until now. Nobody plants a political sign in my lawn in the dark of night without asking. Nobody. She probably recuited a bunch of glee club highschool goody twoshoes from the local church social to prance about the village with these damn placards. These children probably felt like little legal vandals, dabbling in lawn sign politics instead of toilet papering trees. She probably bought the giggling little shitheads ice cream cones and varsity letters for their efforts. I would love to release fire ants and sewer rats into her headquarters in retaliation, but I swore off politics last November.

But don't let that stop you.
10:21 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dubious Scribbling

I have arrived at work on this fine Tuesday morning with a bag of eggs and chicken. For lunch. Today promises to be a busy day full of ringing telephones, irate coworkers, frenzied scrambling, and frustrated exhaustion. My clothes feel too tight and my shower was cold.

Enough complaining! I'm actually in a decent mood. I slept for fourteen hours and I have energy. Today I will write a book, jog ten miles, design a new frictionless energy source, and save a baby from a burning building. If I have a few spare moments I'll balance the federal budget. I intend to accomplish all of this with chop sticks plugging my nose and a paperclip necklace around my neck. It's good to convey a deadly serious formal appearance if I expect people to treat me seriously. I also intend to fashion a viking hat from tinfoil. Headgear is important. I'd wear a suit but people would accuse me of interviewing for a position elsewhere.

I'm falling off a bit. Getting a little wacky, a little lazy, a little off base. No focus or discipline. I'm kidding myself if I think I had some before, but I'm aware of my scattershot haplessness today. I'm thinking that if I boil some animal corpses for a few hours tonight I should be able to create a hearty broth in which to soften many multicolored vegetables. I'll eat with a funnel and.... my heart is just not in this today. Sorry. I meant that about the viking hat though.
8:51 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, March 21, 2005

Penny Ante

I may need a doctor. My brain is loose in the pan and slides back and forth when I stand or sit. Each time it thumps to a wet stop against my skull wall. I hear a smacking sound like saltwater against the face of a cliff. Dull reverberations travel down my spine.

My nose bled in the shower this morning. I let it drip and splash for a few seconds. I watched the swirling puddles as they diluted. Steaming jets pelted my palms and rinsed the blood onto the curtain. I licked my upper lip.

I walked outdoors into dry cold. My red nostril froze shut. I tried to breathe through my right. It quickly clogged with yellow. I became a mouthbreather. I felt primitive and stupid.

I was late for work.

My face is hanging from my skull, poorly cured leather hastily stapled to bone by a harried cobbler. I wish to sleep for a day. No smiling until then.
8:31 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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M-O-O-N, That Spells Moon.

No Words Today. Posted by Hello
7:51 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Morning Blues

I was fed up with the virus yesterday afternoon. I decided not to wait for the weekend. I would eradicate it immediately. On my voyage home, I stopped and acquired a fifth of Wild Turkey 101. I drank about half before slurping a tray of lasagna and crashing unceremoniously to my mattress. I slipped away from consciousness as the sun sunk below the horizon.

I feel somewhat better today. I woke happy and nimble. I stopped at the gas station for my morning cup of soup. A pudgy fellow with a red goatee and a winter stocking cap was listening intently to his horoscope as the counter girl read it. An undernourished eastern European lad in red Adidas gear was poking the donuts to check their freshness while a grizzly flannel clad grump glared at him for damaging the eclair he coveted. A curlyhaired old man wore the wrong prescription eyeglasses, very thick too, and he had to stick his face right up to each coffee pot label to determine which variety he sought. This caused the lenses to fog and he became irascible quickly. He muttered each time he wiped his glasses clear. I slowly wandered the store gazing at junk food and fizzy drinks, unsure and noncommital, like a leprechaun in a copper mine.

I arrived at work shortly after six and had my soup. The chicken that floated in it looked like chewed, bleached gum or tar lumps, depending on whether it was intended to imitate white or dark meat. I skipped the chicken and stuck to the broth, carrots, and noodles. Now that my stomach has food, a slight hangover has announced its arrival. As a result, I can't wait for this day to perish.

I want my mommy.
7:11 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Circulatory Trench Warfare

People are counting on me, so I must perform. My bodily presence is required daily for seventeen straight days in order to fulfill this obligation. Nobody else can serve.

So what happens when I catch strep throat, or worse, pneumonia? I'm sick, you see. Sure, it's my fault. I managed to get away with wearing no jacket for a couple months, but now my hubris is biting my ass like a rabid howler monkey. I could blame this on last weekend's booze and drug bender. Those always weaken my attack cells. But no. It's probably the lack o' jacket.

The leaves me in the delicate position of hiding my disease and going about my day. If bubbly mucus frogs jump from my throat instead of my usual mellifluous tone, I will quickly repeat my statement and hope the croaky stammering went by the boards with nary a quizzical thought. When my voice cracks, if noticed, I'm prepared to explain that I slipped while scaling a fence. At the top no less, and my testicles were racked most severely. I'll say that I've been prone to the occasional squeak upon sitting down too quickly as a result of the unfortunate incident and that I expect this won't last for long.

Then there are issues of stamina and complexion. I'm likely to shade grey and perspirate upon standing up, let alone hauling heavy equipment through a snowstorm. It will take an iron will to prevent myself from clutching the nearest object for support between carries. To prevent myself from collapsing to the concrete, braying like an asthmatic donkey. To prevent myself from projectile vomiting ugly stews of robitussin, off-brand ibuprofin, and bile.

I'll drink scorching coffee and slog through this gauntlet of unhealthy peril. This weekend will allow me a brief respite, during which I can recuperate and consume hot soups and small servings of whiskey to quell the nauseating assault upon my being.

If that fails, I'm insured.
7:07 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Home Improvement Stir Fry

There was a failed telecommunications project recently that left me with several small satellite dishes to store away. I'll store them in hope that one day they'll be used to bend invisible beams of information through the sky. Somehow we'll alchemize these imperceptible data streams into gold bricks to weigh down the company coffers. Then we'll all get fat and smoke cigars.

The dishes are small: two feet wide, grey, and plastic. They're light. When I get my own home, I want to buy them on the cheap and use them for decorations. While neighbors change their decorations from Easter to Halloween to Christmas, I'll just keep the same old satellite dishes up year round. I figure a few on the roof, a few on the porch overhang, and a few in the garden ought to do it. I don't mind cleaning off birdshit every few months.

My next plan would be to build, steal, or even buy an LED sign. I'll waterproof it and hang in under the gutter. I'll write cute messages and slogans for each holiday and address these greetings to various alien races. There are plenty of weird star and galaxy names with Greek numbers in them like Alpha Centauri and Delta Quadrant, so I can make up names for alien races without straining my imagination too hard. My messages will be friendly so the neighbors will think I'm crazy but harmless.

Stuff like "Happy Thanksgiving, Omega Hyperions! Come visit next Thursday and I'll swap my turkey and pumpkin pie for your zoolchex kizunlii and zzbrtx xtrrllen and we'll drink beers on my front porch rocking chairs. See you soon!"

Occasionally I'll make a big show out of adjusting the direction they're facing. I'll don a straw hat and some faded overalls and punch numbers into my calculater and strain my brow and rub my chin. Then I'll carefully reposition each one and chirp like a sparrow and snap my fingers before scuttling across my roof to the next.

Nobody will ever try to recruit me for Jehovah's Witnesses or sell me girl scout cookies, but you can bet your ass the kids'll come trick or treating.
7:30 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Waterlogged and Vicious

I may have lost my superhero status. My power wasn't particularly impressive. I was merely impervious to cold. I had a natural resistance to shivering, chattering, and nostril icicles. Events have conspired to strike down my magic.

There used to be an abandoned lot next to my house. Deer, raccoons, and other assorted mammalia would frolic and defecate amongst the illegally dumped toxic waste and poison oak. Recently the property was sold and for the past several months a construction crew has been laying brick and mortar for condominiums of some sort. They use our running water via a hose, and for some reason this is plugging our pipes.The washing machine could not empty last night, so the spin cycle did nothing to violently throw the water from the fabrics. Therefore all of my clothing went into the dryer sopping wet. After four dryer cycles the clothes were well cooked but still stewy. By that I mean soaked. All my clothes.

Today I left for work in wet clothing and a bad attitude. I've been entertaining myself by considering awful revenge perpetrations.

I would invite homeless and crackheads to the building site next door, but they'd eventually get rousted and I'd be awoken by sirens, bullhorns, and crackling tazer snaps in the middle of the night.

We got new garbagemen two weeks ago and they don't know to come get our bins from the side of the house. We've been ignored and we're overflowing. My garbage may find a cozy new home amongst the dusty infrastucture. It'll be nice to have the raccoons back in the neighborhood.

Spraypaint is so last decade, and arson is beyond my moral code. I'll just need a little patience and I'll move somewhere else in the middle of the summer.
6:27 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, March 14, 2005

Pixie Snort Handshake Contracts

Be careful with those damn words.

How do you do business? Do you conduct business? Do you propose it, transact it, or merely process it? Around here we make a big fucking cake out of it, lick the frosting off, kick the sponge into crumbs, and scatter those to the wind. Then we sell the stained cardboard from underneath and exclaim "Cake! Profit!"

No, we're not that delerious and stupid. There have been moments, though, when I question our clarity of thought and dedication to expansion. How will we ever become rich and conquer the world if we can't even collect our due?

I just discovered a job we did last October that we never billed. Fourteen grand. Once again I feel important. Fists were pumped in my general direction by departing coworkers last Friday. Hooray for me.

I started here as a field installer. Monkey see, monkey plug wire and balance on the ladder. Work evaporated and they took pity and made me a telephone tech under neon buzz. Monkey hear, monkey repeat with ever-increasing volume and pitch to the lowly braindead restaurant manager.

I sensed that I was expendable and hanging from wet bubblegum stretching to break. So I asked for keys to the accounting software and declared an audit. To my amazement they only blinked once and gladly handed me the needed information. Remember, I am a high school dropout, not an accountant on the lam from better dressed employment.

I went through three years worth of records to see who had failed to pay their bills. I organized these delinquent establishments by owner's name and started placing them on credit hold. I was hot shit. I was coming buckets when I looked in the mirror. I made desperate fry cooks blubber and whimper and call their owners. Nobody would get help from me until my boss was cackling over a hastily signed check that had been overnighted to his clutching grubby paws.

Then they cancelled my little poaching expedition and sent the lot of them into collection. Why threaten a hash brown munching cola slurping degenerate when you can assault a burger magnate's credit rating?

This made me sad. My petty authority had evaporated. I was relegated back to moping peon status. I shredded my project and nibbled on Necco wafers as I awaited the ring of the phone.

Then, lo! One of my bosses was fired, and another promoted. (Yes, and I still have three bosses. I get whiplash frequently. And you wonder why I drink?) They promoted me. I am now in charge of Stuff with a capital S. I order it, I sell it, climb on it and roll around in it like a retarded child with too many cookies and no supervision. I like my job.

Even when I get cardboard burns.
9:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Stumbling Grandstanding

I was bleeding from a small hole on the side of my neck yesterday when I realized I could eat the whites of hard boiled eggs and save the yolks to whip at my enemies like exploding little raquetballs. The only problem with this idea is storage. I'm not sure how long the yolks will stay cohesive. They may crumble or melt before anybody I hate happens across my path while I have them handy. Since it's winter, there's no neighborhood children to pelt, so maybe I'll just leave them under car seats for the time being.

Dear friend,

We were at that bar drinking last Saturday when you invited me to sing for your band. I can't imagine what prompted the offer. I got loaded and sang calypso songs, climbed atop the bar, posed as Jesus, did my best Elmer Fudd opera impression, and composed Shakespearian poems about my elusive shoes. Somehow you decided such behavior deserved public acclaim and attention. I, for one, was ashamed the next morning. Actually I wasn't. But I should've been. I appreciate the compliment, but I think the excessive alcohol consumption and the coke rails we did in the women's washroom may have fueled your admiration for me. Fortunately the bar was mostly deserted and you cannot provide many eyewitnesses to the above. Not enough to stand up in court, considering the level of inebriation experienced by all parties present was evidenced by their backslapping approval of my immature antics. Please do not encourage such behavior in the future. It is unbecoming of an adult and a gentleman and my sterling reputation will surely suffer should I repeat that performance.

I'll probably see you there again next week.
6:34 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Shame Game

Sometimes I read other people's lists, sometimes I ignore them. Until recently I thought listmaking was a lazy way to express oneself and a poor excuse for creativity. Then I made a list, and now I have to stop being a snobby shit and read lists for forty-eight hours straight in penance for my arrogance. Here's a list that was inspired by Internet Addiction Word Therapy. Go visit. See sidebar.

1. I owned one pair of pants in junior high school. When I got holes in the knees, I sewed carpet over them. Then I decided to sew on barbie clothes, plaid, patches, airplane pictures, puffy stripes, and velcro. Also, one wool glove to my ass.

2. My mom threw them away a few years later. I'd worn them everyday for almost two years, washing them weekly or so. She got me new clothes.

3. I peed in my bed until I was twelve. I was cured when I was eleven but I was lazy and it was warm so I kept going for an extra year.

4. I didnt switch to boxers until I was 19. I didn't hit puberty until 16. Now I am tall. Late bloomer incarnate.

5. I had long hair until I was 22. It was shaved on the sides and back but long from the top, the opposite of a mullet. A sensitive guy ponytail. One day I looked in the mirror and decided I looked like a douchebag. I went to the barber. My little sister has the ponytail in a shoebox. I told her to do her dusting with it.

6. I love stapling signs to telephone poles.

7. I collect magnets. I have a hundred. My current roommates let me put them all on the fridge for six months. That was nice while it lasted.

8. I like to make poop jokes at the dinner table when my sisters are there. They think it's gross but they laugh.

9. I am going to be a horrible alcoholic just like my father, grandfather, and great grandfather on dad's side, and grandmother on my mother's side. My sisters know this. They drink too but don't seem to think it will happen to them. I drink a lot more than them. Sometimes with them.

10. My dad knows this about me and he seems strangely comforted by it. He drinks a fifth of Ten High every night. Sometimes I do too and I cradle the bottle like it's a little baby and I rock it back and forth and say "daddy, daddy, daddy."
6:01 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Cross Examination and Self Reference

Blogger's comments aren't working anywhere sitewide. I promise to force feed them moldy turnip gruel and to jam rock salt into their ears with a pool cue.

In the meantime, a few words of explanation are in order. As you can see, unless you have a magical braille monitor, this site has been redesigned. My friend Tom took a few of my tribal scribblings and a newspaper theme and cobbled together this beautiful arrangement. My thanks and a modest chunk of cash were directed his way. He did a wonderful job, unless you tell me something looks off kilter, in which case I'll duct tape his eyelids shut and give him rope burns. Just kidding Tom.

The shark came from a ream of paper. It's the logo for a paper company, although I don't remember their name. I redrew it with spikes and swirls and poison. The suicide ghost lurking under my text was a re-interpretation of a lawyer puppet from an old cover of John Grisham's The Firm. It had a green marble look to the rest of the cover. I left the strings off and turned him upside down so he could be a jumper instead of a puppet. The fire extinguisher was an iconic little thing I drew while bored at work back in 2000. It's appropriate to my handle here so up it went.

I've finally added links! There's only a few right now. I put up my favorites, but I'll be adding links to a lot more of you in my Cohorts section very soon. I hope nobody is insulted that I didn't place you up top, but I can't put everybody there. I still love you.

I started blogging in 2002 when I was forwarded a link for a blog-like thing called True Porn Clerk Stories by a girl named Ali, in which she vividly skewered her customers and related amazingly amusing anecdotes about her experiences behind the counter at a Chicago adult video parlor. I hadn't written anything since a few apolcalypse stories back in 8th grade, but I decided I wanted to share my experiences in much the same manner. I started by writing about strange coworkers and ugly drug purchasings. There were a few times that I lapsed into melodramatic self-pity. When I feel that way now I lash out unfairly at a large segment of the population instead. It's more fun! I've been on and off with this until I moved to blogger late last December. Now I try to write daily to keep my brain sponge battery well charged.

Thank you. My email is in my profile temporarily until comments return.
10:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Light And Glare

Sunday was a tease. I walked outside into bright sunshine, gentle breezes, and children's laughter. A neighbor was playing catch with his son. I flinched and pinched. I was indeed awake. This was no dream or bizarre trick of perception. I took advantage of the March miracle sixty six degree weather and drove over to the filthy taco shack on Harlem. I ordered chiles rellenos and horchata and rolled my windows down. I listened to the Cubs game on the radio. The Giants slaughtered them 10-1.

I realize it's trite and obvious to say so, but I can't wait for summertime. My favorite exercise is walking. Preferably when the temperature is ninety plus degrees and the humidity is thick and stifling. Sometimes I pop a few pills, but usually I go clean. The conditions cause me to perspirate gallons. My sock threads mesh into my footskin, eventually causing blistering, bleeding, and peeling. My shirt becomes drenched and shows tree rings of sweat when it dries. I feel my pulse beating in my scalp, a wake on a river of capillaries. It is all glorious to me. The aching feet and and rubbery limbs complement a cold beer very well when I've finished five or ten miles.

This summer I might try jogging. As a smoker I didn't dare. Now that my lungs are closer to regular capacity, I may give it a shot. I'm terrified that my knee cartilege will buckle and snap off my bones. I'll slingshot to the pavement and my legs will flap about like fish tails while I whimper and panic. My lungs will revolt and exhale so hard they turn inside-out and rocket out through my mouth like starved tapeworms that smelled a possum carcass on the roadside. My eyeballs will pop like gnashed grapes. But it might be fun.

I also love the scenery. I see lots of oblivious drivers picking their noses. I hear lots of bad music, identifiable only by a farting bass line as the vehicle speeds past. Certain plants like lilacs and rose bushes have very short blooming cycles and I have the privilege of witnessing these with my eyes and nose. I eat mulberries right off the tree if there's no visible insects or birdshit on them. I watch ant armies carry ice cream wrappers to their holes, where they pore over the surface until the formerly sticky paper is dry as an autumn leaf.

Soon enough I'll return to all that. I used to like winter and hate summer until I began my ritual physical torture program, but now that I rely upon it for masochism and a sense of accomplishment, winter seems awfully patsy.
12:05 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Muck Gripe

The donation debate continues. Today I have fifty computers in various states of disrepair stacked in teetering columns, held together by the McGrease that permeated the atmosphere of their former residences. When I removed them from our inventory cage my fingers were coated in soda syrup, fry grease, and curdled mayonaise. New colors were invented.

We removed them from restaurants over a six month period. They were used as servers for credit card sliders in stores throughout the midwest. These few remaining metallic crudmuffins are those deemed too damaged for resale but not worthless enough for disposal. We're going to cobble the parts together into as many functional units as possible. Small business packrat mentality.

The're running an old operating system. They have weak processors, low capacity storage drives and little memory. We certainly won't find any willing buyers. Now they're talking about donating them to schools. These days computers in schools are not rare. They all have them. Decent ones. We'd have to go to a very poor neighborhood to offload these shitbombs and even then it would be more of an insult than a generous gesture.

Besides, they're caked in grime. Are we really going to spend money on high potency chemicals to dissolve this putrid muck? I say there will be no miraculous tax write-off.

I'll win in the end. They'll come to realize that the labor and transportation costs far outweigh the meager imaginary write-off. I'll fill the dumpster up, and soon after more landfill space will harbor our decaying plastic waste.
1:55 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hellbent and Furious

Yesterday I obtained permission to recycle several hundred pounds of scrap steel. It's clogging the company storage locker and I'd rather the locker was jammed with ancient registers that are all over the office like giant plastic immobile roaches.

There's lots of useless crap floating about here, including tens of custom made aluminum boxes stuffed with obscure circuitry. They were used for.... nevermind. I trashed them. It took quite a finagle. Certain employees thought some dumb rube would buy them on ebay. No. Just no. I suggested donating them to schools, but they'd have no use for them and the IRS would certainly balk at the dubious write-off. Notion cancelled. The next I proposed was snickered at.

I said we should tear them open and leave them out front, exposing the circuit boards to the sky. If we were quick in reflex and keen of eyesight, we could catch rare exotic endangered birds and sell them to zoos. They'd see the shiny, and hypnotized, circle ever lower to discover what gleaming jewel could be added to their magnificent nests. Problem is, we're in the midwest. The best we could hope for are those abominable Canadian geese and the occasional mallard. Into the dumpster they went.

Yeah, so I'm back on the early shift. Who gave radio shows permission to be funny at 5:30 am? Whoever is responsible is on my shit list. I'll gladly crush his windpipe and eat his children. Warning officially issued, fuckface.
6:31 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, March 07, 2005

Shoelace Noose Considerations

Saturday night. Chicago was quiet and still on the north side. I wandered into a party shortly after eleven with four friends in tow. At the door the hostess asked several people to remove their shoes. I was one of them. She was tipsy and distracted. Therefore about half of the attendees were still clad in footwear. She said something about dogshit and white carpet between the hugs and greetings.

Three steps into the house and I landed in a wet spot. Thankfully it was not brown or mushy. It was the beginning of a bad night for my feet.

The crowd varied. Many were former suburbanites who had migrated to the big city in search of cartwheeling pygmies, twitchy hobos with cardboard, and highfalutin fashion. Things unique to urban life. Since I declined to attend high school none of them were known to me despite our common geographical origins.

Lots of deafening rap was played, and lots of white people threw their hands in the air like they just didn't care. I really wanted to tell them "Yeeah, boyee!" is no longer used, but I didn't have the heart. Watching people desperately clutch at an identity they'll never attain is embarrassing and nauseating. I guarded the keg furthest from the stereo.

The party was fun. People drank, stumbled, laughed, conversed, and stepped on my feet. My socks didn't match, and after about five minutes they were soaked.

Shortly after two I decided to depart. I went to the front door. Lo and behold, only one of my shoes was to be found. It sat dejected and forlorn under a heap of cleaner, more expensive shoes.

I searched. I lifted couches, scanned the front yard, and quizzed bystanders. Most shrugged. Finally the hostess and her boyfriend accompanied me out front to peer up and down sidewalks. The boyfriend confessed that he had indeed witnessed the shoe lying lonely on the front stoop when he'd returned with the second keg. Due to the carrying strain and the impending tapping, he'd completely forgotten about it.

My friends, meanwhile, had progressed from standing around saying "Who would do that? It makes no sense!" to pointing and laughing. Among them was my roommate. I was furious and decided to share it.

"If you like having teeth, shut your fucking trap!" He muttered something and I ignored his unhelpful useless ass.

I decided that some chuckling shinyhaired fratboy scumfuck had picked it up and thrown it as far as his failed quarterback's arm could launch it.

The hostess' boyfriend said "I'm sorry about this man. Whoever did this, I hope his mother dies."

At least I was in good company. I replied "It's not your fault. Thanks for helping me search."

Twenty minutes passed as I stomped up and down Bell Street peeking under vehicles and down sewer grates. My friends stood in the middle of the street giggling and telling me to give it up.

"Dude, it's gone. Let's go. We're cold. You're not going to find it. This is pathetic. Go get new shoes tomorrow. Give me your keys and we'll bring the car here to pick you up." And so forth.

As I strode past a rusted red minivan I saw a familiar white toe peeking from underneath the front end. "Ha! There it is!" I slithered between the van and the shit ugly Ford Escort bumping bumpers with it. I sprinted out into the middle of the street and waved my shoe at my friends.

"Fuck you! Fuck all of you! I found it!" I was literally jumping up and down, apoplectic and ornery. We left.

I went back after dropping them off. I wanted to personally thank the hostess and her boyfriend for their help and sympathy. I also wanted to find two friends I'd left behind. They didn't want to leave when I did and I just knew they were begging for rides by this time. Bernie had already left. Wherefore art thou Bernie, oh transportation forsaken one? Steve was snoring and drooling on the couch. He was one of three guests left. I woke him and dragged him away to the Burrito House on Addison where we gobbled massive burritos stuffed with low quality overcooked steak droplets. Steve ate his burrito, a plate of nachos, and my uneaten portion. I'm sure he shit a football on Sunday.

My friends made almost no effort to help me. Three strangers did. The one I haven't mentioned so far is a beauty. When she heard about my shoe problem she wordlessly left her quiet corner and searched the closet and the house. She's cute and apparently single. I should've made an effort to thank her and ask her out, but I was enveloped in a murderous seething rage at the time. I am still kicking myself over that one. Regret struck about halfway through the burrito.

My family doesn't get Christmas or birthday cards from me. Yet I am seriously considering sending thank you notes to those three people. I know where to find them.
9:28 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, March 04, 2005

Homeward Bound

I finally left work at two this afternoon. Sweet release and time to start some serious festivities. First off: long overdue car bullshit. Emissions, license stickers, and a car wash. I couldn't accomplish the first two. Emissions is closed on Fridays and they won't issue a sticker for my plates until I pass that test. Damn bureaucrats. The worst dregs of humanity are not found in foreign mountains or Kentucky forest meth labs. They're in petty government paper pushing jobs. I've never seen thicker glasses, greasier complexions, or squeakier voices. The smug dick-waving authority they exhibit over powerless citizens is reprehensible.

Had I withdrawn $100 for nothing?

No. I did what any fiscally responsible person would do: I went to the record store. After some casual perusal I blew fifty bucks and strolled out grinning like a fish.

I then pulled into a gas station and proceeded to unload the contents of my car into the garbage can. I can't go to the car wash with a dirty car, can I? What would they think? The garbage can had a small aperture so lots of folding was necessary to stuff the larger items in. There was a giant Chinese lantern lamp that required six folds to shove it through. People were watching me. I beat the dust out of an army jacket and navy peacoat and gently folded them back into the trunk whence they came. Various steel mounting plates, credit card machines, and an old pair of sandals went into the octagonal refuse bin. I was sad to part with them since I'd won them from a rural teenage yokel in a game of poker four years ago. Pair of sevens. But they were soaked in gasoline and beyond redemption.

I haven't written much lately about the other Steve, the fake policeman, but he bears mention here. When he rented out that storefront on Milwaukee Avenue for his call center he'd found lots of leftover parcels in the place. It had previously been a record store, and mix CDs of booty house, salsa, merengue, and others were left behind by the previous tenants. I had grabbed one of each. Now two years later at the gas station I came upon a mariachi CD during this process of purging. I didn't throw it away. One day I might want to listen to it. Besides, I never discard music.

I continued on to Fuller's in Mount Prospect. I'd never been to a full service car wash before. I was excited. After quizzing the Mexican staff they instructed me on the process and I pulled into the first station and gave my car to them. I took my bag of music from the record store and waited patiently in the lobby for them to finish.

Remember, my car is full of loose change, old cigarette cellophanes, nicotine tar smears on the windows and peanut shells from last Friday. A circus of filth. As I sat in the lobby drinking diet soda and unwrapping my CDs, I had an idea. Not only would I tip them handsomely, but I would give them the mariachi CD. Would it be condescending? No. I hope. It would be a shocking surprise, the highlight of their day. Ten bucks and some native tunes.

They were surprised. I didn't indulge myself by watching their facial expressions and basking in the bizarre confluence of circumstances. Instead I took off for the gas station kitty corner that still sells ephedrine, which was banned in Illinois over a year ago and then federally in more recent months. I purchased a few months supply, gobbled a few, and made a beeline for the homestead. I am now enjoying my second beer as I type this. Have a nice weekend.
4:40 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Mouthbreathing Foreign Drug Fiends

I've been invited back to the Polish club on Saturday night. I've already declined. Although I had a good time, I have more compelling reasons for choosing the alternative.

After my former roomie's performance last Saturday he was accosted as he left the bathroom. A few Poles lurking near the exit grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around to face them. "Hey Mr. DJ! We DJs too, we play the music!" They grabbed his tie, tightened it, (a little too much, according to him) and finally readjusted his collar. Naturally he smiled, nodded, and scurried away as quickly as possible.

I had a distinctly weirder experience during my bathroom visit about twenty minutes later. I walked into the bathroom expecting to void my bladder in silence and comfort. Little did I know, but I was an unsuspecting participant in some deviant scheme. One mouthbreather was standing near the sinks. He began coughing, clearing his throat, and stamping his foot as soon as I entered. I noticed another fellow who appeared to be drinking from the middle urinal. I was not distressed by this unsanitary behavior. The drinker quickly hawked some loogies and spit them as loudly as possible into the urinal. He then craned his head to peek at me before shooting more gobs into the porcelain. He was obviously concerned that I might be watching him.

Contrary to my vivid descriptions, I was not. Most of the above was gleaned from auditory evidence and peripheral vision.

It was plain to me that they'd been taking turns snorting rails from the top of the wall potty. I had no desire to give them trouble, but I had to pee. They were using the middle of three urinals. So I walked past and chose the rightmost. I was enjoying a leisurely piss when a hand clamped upon my left shoulder. A face hovered within inches of my ear, breathing raggedly and speaking loudly in Polish. I mumbled incoherently, unable to speak any sense. I kept pissing.

He said something else. It was time for me to respond. "I no speak-a the Polish." I hoped that would suffice. It did not. Was he looking down at my tinkling genitals? I flexed my shoulder and craned my head. He backed up. Thankfully.

The two of them began glancing at each other, mumbling and wringing their fists. Obviously searching for the right word. Finally the snorter's eyes lit up and he pointed at me. He exclaimed "Security! Security?"

"No, no." I was finished. I shook, tucked, and zipped. They laughed uproariously and patted me on the back. I smiled and said, "Yes! The fun." I quickly rinsed my hands and returned to my table. The former roomie was still talking about the weird Polish tie straightening experience. I trumped the hell out of him.

This Saturday I will attend a birthday party instead.
7:04 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Concrete Mattress

Working the early shift has a few drawbacks.

Last night the company president called me to ask for a bracket. I had picked it up from a vendor on my way home earlier in the evening, so I volunteered to deliver it in Chicago after rush hour.

I called a friend since I was, you know, in the neighborhood. He cajoled me into taking a ride with him to go drink shots. I made myself abundantly clear: I must be back to my vehicle by midnight. Under no circumstances would I permit myself to miss any work the next morning. I'm covering the phones for people away on a business trip. I must rise at 5 am and deliver myself to Schaumburg by 6 am.

They rely on me here. I like my job.

So. He's in bartending school. Yesterday was his second day. He already fancies himself a stud bartender and is talking about the movie Cocktail too much. He pluralizes it and calls it Cocktails. I tried to correct him, but whatever.

So I'm gazing worriedly at an array of various fruity schnapps bottles. Queasy trepidation.

I prefer gin or bourbon. Vocally. I suppose you can't mix shots with those, unless you count hyperventilation as an ingredient. Then again, the last time I drank gin in public, (excluding last Saturday) I poured drinks over my head on purpose and lost my pants, so maybe something that tastes bad will keep me in check.

Fruity candy booze is for underage drinking. Right? Am I that out of touch? Don't answer that. Sugary drinks give me headaches and I usually end up telling dead baby jokes to Catholics. Guaranteed disaster. This time things went smoothly and I didn't make any enemies. I found no Kick Me signs affixed to my back upon arriving home.

I had a good time and we managed to leave by 12:30. Not bad. When we departed, a girl offered me a strange hot pink hat. I explained (once again) that I am impervious to cold and wear no jacket. I am the master of my environment therefore need no protection from the elements. She looked at me oddly and proceeded to jam it on my head and "bust it to the right." Her words. As we all drove away a squad of latino gangbangers pointed at me and cackled madly from the high seats of their minivan. I was so funny they clutched at the bandanas slung around their necks. The hat came off quickly.

The discussion turned to cats and I said horrible things about felines, canines, and vermin. My eyes itch just thinking about them. They are disgusting feces factories that try to moisten our faces with crotch brewed saliva. Gross.

Finally we got back to my car and I bade farewell to the bartender and the pink hat girl.

Now I want more sleep. The floor here is hard, but I think it would take electric spikes to keep me from lying on it. No one else will arrive until nine. That gives me two hours.
7:00 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Piwo Jasne Pelne Okocimskie

There's a Polish club right down the street from my house. Last Saturday I was invited to come listen to a deep trance set at 10pm. Another personal invitation, you ask? Yes. All my friends are DJs. They bask in dance music. Hell, I even own turntables and four hundred records due to their influence. I rejected the culture a few years ago in favor of cynicism, self-destructive substance abuse, grating misanthropy, and indie rock. For some reason they kept calling. Here we are today.

I was intrigued when I learned that this establishment describes itself as a cafe. I can subsist on coffee and enjoy myself! No alcohol teasing like Friday night. Excellent. Since I was done with my family obligations at seven and had managed to scrape up a few dollars, I wandered in at eight. It was dimly lit in red lights. I took a corner seat and fished a menu out from underneath some scattered Polish karaoke flyers. I couldn't read a word on it. I don't have the food menu here to transcribe, but I do have a drink specials placard. Some examples:

Westchnienie ulgi bizona powracajacego z za krzaka
Bieg rozsazalalego Shamana na golasa ku rzece
Sep zdechly z nudow
Skowyt Czejena dzgnietego wlocznia w posladek

I was the only customer present. There were two waitresses sitting at the bar. One was gorgeous. The other had been maimed by some unfortunate mishap. Her eyeball hung loose from it's socket, a pendulum that listed back and forth across her rosy cheek whenever she turned her head too quickly. They conversed in Polish with the chef. He wore chef's whites and made grandiose hand gestures.

The pretty waitress strode up and said some words I did not understand. I looked at her. I was blinking, helpless, and dumb. She grabbed the partially translated version of the menu from another table. This menu I could understand. They served borscht, Hungarian meatballs, and fried vegetables. So I ordered coffee. Since I was alone I opened my sketchbook and drew yet another picture of an infectuous disease under a microscope. I have thousands of them now. Later in the evening a friend described it as "a bird corpse." I love compliments.

I began calling friends. The staff were alarmed at the English words. They shot me sidelong glances. I think they were trying desperately to discern whether I was a policeman or a newspaper writer. They could see me glancing about and hear me describing the decor and atmosphere.

Soon after the former roomie arrived. We whined and complained about nothing in particular. I think we just wanted to hear spoken English. By this time about 15 Poles had populated the downstairs room. I love listening to foreign languages, especially a room full of them murmuring, babbling, exclaiming, and rebuking. Truly wonderful.

The friend who invited me showed up at about ten. I'll call him Eurostar. I had just finished my third coffee. He sat down and a new waitress approached. They exchanged a few frantic words in Polish and I added a coffee to his order. My fourth coffee was much stronger, came in a smaller cup, and contained muddy silt at the bottom. They'd been serving me domestic swill instead of their native brew. I was glad to drink the homeland mudcup. It packed a punch, although it was nowhere near as dirty or offensive as the Turkish or Armenian equivalents, both of which I hold in high esteem and affection.

Eurostar exchanged his set time with the former roomie. The results were odd. The former roomie decided to wear a costume that night. He wore a sportcoat, tie, blue jeans, fake afro wig, and giant yellow sunglasses. I witnessed as this strange American boy played cheerful house music, acted like a cartoon, and made devil horns with his fingers to a crowd of fifty bewildered Polacks who couldn't decide whether to dance, kill him, or leave. I was impressed.

As the night wore on I spent plenty of time talking to a multitude of people, all of them English speakers. We had formed a cadre of ten or eleven, all here to wave the colonial flag and represent our country amidst this enclave of European stubbornness.

It got late and many left. I stood my ground, watching the pretty girls dancing. I even wanted to dance from watching the joyous fun they were having. Some of them were horrible dancers but made up for it with exuberance. I cannot get away with that, since I have nothing to bounce.

I chatted with Eurostar and his girlfriend. I listened to his set, which everybody enjoyed. Near the end of the night I was a little bit drunk. The Doctor, who is Eurostar's girlfriend, had bought me several gin drinks while we discussed fleshrotting diseases and a lung cancer blood geyser death she witnessed the first day of her residency. She'd been soaked. I was impressed.

It was nearly 2 am. I'd been there for almost six hours. Wow. While we were all gathering our respective possessions, a loud, swaying, crazy little fellow joined our crowd. He spoke several unintelligible words and threw a five and a single over the cup candle. He promptly ran away. We all looked at the money. It was about to ignite. The former roomie removed it from the candle, down to the table surface. Who would take it? Everybody said no. Yes. No. They stared, greedy and hesitant.

I've spent the past month broke. Bitter about the fact, I finally grabbed it and said "Fuck it. A better man would return this six dollars, but I don't give a shit about some spastic who flings his money at open flames. Let's go."

As I approached the exit, the former roomie said it wasn't a single. Confused, I stopped and asked him to repeat. He told me that it was not a five and a single, but a five and something else. I called bullshit. I reached into my pocket and held the money aloft. "See? It's...."

It was $105. At this point I really should've tracked down the little mutant and stuffed the wayward money into his pocket. I've always thought of myself as a virtuous man who would return a lost wallet intact.

But I am not. I am a filthy vulture. The money was quickly shoved into my seat pocket and my friends and I fled back to my apartment, where we smoked some strong marijuana and hummed the theme to Gilligan's Island.
11:20 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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