Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Friday, April 29, 2005

Seafood Forklift Science

I got sent to Elgin yesterday to troll about a warehouse. Every once in a while a certain massive Japanese corporation calls upon my company's services for more than just restaurant installation and repair. Sometimes they need us to steer their forklifts, build pallets of equipment, and inhale large quantities of floating dust.

Everybody who works where I do is required to spend a short time there. It's our new employee hazing, essentially. New chumps get sent there to learn about the hardware we install and to get a taste of the slimy attitude of our business partner.

I thought back to my last visit, my initiation. The employees there hated their jobs and themselves. They bitched and moaned all day long. They moped through their repetitive chores with no zest or humor. They wielded any petty authority they could seize like high school hall monitors.

It's been two years since I last visited there. Not much had changed. The usual cast and crew of whining maggots still festered there like gangrene in a piranha bite. They moped about sagging their shoulders and smoking their cigarettes with dismissive masochism.

I saw a new guy running about working with energetic abandon and apparent enthusiasm. I asked about him.

"Who's that guy?"

"Oh, that's a temp. We call him the Squidmaster. He'd stupid. A car fell on his head when he was teenager and he's not all there, if you get my drift. He's been here for two weeks now."

I looked over. The Squidmaster was shrink wrapping a pallet, whistling, and smiling. I could not detect any obvious scarring or denting on his bald head. As the day wore on I noticed that people designated their shit work to him.

Personally, I love shrink wrapping skids. I get to run around in circles until I get slightly dizzy. Then I feign losing my balance. I feel younger than myself when I wobble back and forth. The others hate this chore.

"Hey Squidmaster! El Squiddo! Front and center baby! This one is naked and she's waiting for you! Wrap 'er up!"

He cheerfully accepted their commands, oblivious to the condescension. I wondered how long he'd last before the hateful atmosphere would sink in and destroy his happiness.

Later in my day he caught me shrink wrapping a tall skid of boxes.

"Ju no, eef yo no wanna rappa tha squid, I do it fine!"

I shook his hand. He was surprised. I was probably the first.

"I'm Steve. I like wrapping them. Thank you for the offer, though, I appreciate it. Nice to meet you."
7:45 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Praying For Ammonia

I almost died yesterday. Let me share my narrow escape with you, faithful reader.

I was driving to pick up steak burritos from King Taco. I frequently volunteer to pick up lunch for everybody at the office. This allows me to escape the flickering light bulbs and nattering tech speak for a few minutes. I get to breathe fresh exhaust and try to run over squirrels with my four door sedan. I was casually screaming down the street when my radio began playing interviews with excited heavy breathing frantic people. Another religious story. More testimonials from idiots.

I was prepared for this. Ever since the Pope shat his pants for the last time, people have been fondling their rosaries with rekindled desperation. They've been mumbling at the sky with double the hallucinatory fervor. This story, however, was not about the Vatican. The Virgin Mary had returned to Chicago. Catholics were making pilgrimages to the underpass to see her pray for their eternal souls.

The underpass, you ask? Why yes. The concrete supports that hold up the Kennedy expressway have grown a moldy mother of god. Praying freaks are drawn to the spectacle like children with sticks to a rabbit corpse. Below the roaring shuddering rumble of rushing cars at Fullerton Avenue, the candles are burning, replacing the bitter artificial lighting with the warm soft glow of a thousand tiny dancing flames of love.

I brought back the burritos. I bade my time, seething and scheming. I couldn't wait to depart work and go raise hell. When I finally left, I went to the supermarket for some high powered sanitizers. Good strong chemicals that would bleach the nighttime back to dawn.

I'd already had my fill of Pope shit. All sorts of people bitched and moaned about some frail old fuck croaking because he held God's sceptre of divine lightning. Or something like that. I've always maintained that God is Santa Claus for adults. Come on, the parallels are stunning. Heaven is a new bike and hell is a lump of coal. He knows if you're naughty or nice so you better watch out. Et cetera.

That would make the Pope an elf. I like the elves that hide in trees striping cookies with fudge. Since the Pope elf is not, he's off my love list. People wonder why I'm an agnostic.

I just wish I could've scored the last Pope's feeding tube. Those things are shit hot right now. I'd make my own shrine around the corner near the entrance ramp and charge viewing "alms" for all the condemned drooling goulashbrains that walk by, chanting at the sky. Hell, I'd even bless them.

So I went to visit this site to spread my gospel. These people needed to know a few things. I spoke to the assembled worshippers.

"The reason that concrete discolors like that is usually from seepage. There are plenty of birdnests that fill up with corrosive green pigeon feces until a particularly violent sideways rainstorm knocks them asunder. The shit reliquefies and runs down the concrete, staining it forever.

Also, rock salt for dissolving snow from the highway drips down here and discolors the concrete. Try scraping that off and sprinkling it on your french fries.

There's another possibility! Sometimes homeless people die leaning against these cold lifeless stone monoliths, and nobody notices for days on end. Their pulpy flesh merges with the concrete as the bacteria slowly nibble their way through the corpse.

It isn't God! It's some sort of stain. Go away. Save your wax! Save your matches!"

I may be an irredeemable unrepentant asshole, but I'm nowhere near as violent as a Christian who thinks somebody just called Jesus a dirty effeminate wino. Which I did. I also said this Mary they found was better than the one in their silly book with thin paper, because this one is actually probably a real honest to god filthy dead whore. Or at least the remaining stain of one.

They chased me. They pelted me with lit candles that were originally meant to call old Jesus's attention to their pappy's gangrene amputation operation. Candles rained upon me, splashing hot wax all over my clothes and my exposed skin. It felt sexy.

I ran and ran, desperate for an idea. Hell, I even would've settled for divine intervention at that point. If he came, I'd convert. But no God appeared to remind all those foamy mouths to stop chasing the infidel. No heavenly reminder to remember the old adage about turning the other cheek. I would've been trampled and killed and likely crucified if I hadn't pulled the old "made you look."

"Hey, look at the shadow of that fire hydrant! It's the manger with little baby Jesus snoring blissfully under the stars of Bethlehem!"

Only about seven of the furious crowd fell for the obvious dupe, but that was enough to trip everybody behind them. People tumbled and tangled and screamed. I saw elderly skulls pop and splash. I saw middle-aged fat guys with untrimmed mustaches roll off into oncoming traffic, where they met their maker for real under squealing rubber and screeching brakes. I saw an angry mother swearing at me in Spanish until she was tripped by a writhing headless body. She broke her collarbone on the hydrant.

Back down the street at the shrine, forgotten strollers with abandoned babies rolled about aimlessly, carried by gravity and incline. Cracks in the sidewalk halted many of the drifting children. The babies cried for their mothers. Terrible vengeful mothers who'd rather drink my blood than tend their young.

Those poor babies had no idea that Mommy left Jesus to look over them. If he could see through the highway from up there in the dark sky, that is. If he couldn't, they were on their own.

Back at the scene of my gory diversion, blood splashed everywhere, running in amazing fractal pattters across the sidewalk, seeking old cracks and crevices where it could well and dry and make new visual tributes to the Virgin Mary. The blood of the Romans ran at my feet, and I felt like Jesus with a machine gun and a cigar.

The feeling evaporated when I spied a few particularly athletic Christians extricating themselves from the bowels of the limb pile.

Yeah, so I got the hell out of there. I'll try to cleanse the shrine with ammonia later, when there's fewer crusaders. If that fails, there's always paint.

Many thanks to for the photographs. You can visit her by clicking the sidebar or either of the two large photos above.
7:20 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Flowchart Pretzel Science

When I shared an apartment with the former roomie I paid the electric so I could have the big bedroom. We were supposed to switch rooms after six months, but what a pain in the ass, right?

I kept the big room. I bought a humongous bed and I posted flowcharts and lists all over my walls in a checkerboard pattern. Flowcharts, you ask? Why yes. One of my duties when I worked for the global corporation was to clean out the cubicles of severed workers. Laid off, that is. The flowcharts were made by a woman that had serious issues with organization and sequence. She had seven flowcharts for a company Christmas party. One showed the progression from Employees Arrive to Catering Delivery to Santa Visit to Bar Closing to Office Lockup. One list showed all those invited, sorted by department. One flowchart was obviously a plan for her son Rusty's landscaping business. That poor kid probably had a flowchart on his wall that read:

Underpants -> Socks -> Slacks -> Polo Shirt -> Comb hair ->Brush teeth -> Shoes -> Eat Cereal

Yes, she loved capital letters. She also loved reproducing her pristine flowcharts on 11x17 Kodak glossy photo paper. I still have them safe in a box for my next apartment.

Shit. I started writing this because of my bed. So I have this huge bed. I lost the box spring on a forest preserve road next to Oakton College when I moved. I didn't strap it down securely. Hell, it should've been in a truck. It went bouncing down the road off the top of the white minivan I'd borrowed. I hastily pulled over, apologized to the terrified driver behind me, and lugged the thing through mudpuddles up to the gate of a forest access road. It was a tall chainlink padlocked shut. I leaned my box spring against it, patted it, nodded, waved goodbye, and went back to the minivan.

In my current apartment I have a very small bedroom. After my dresser, tv stand, and a slim cabinet thingamabobber for books and music and so forth, there isn't much room left. The bed takes all of it, and it sits on the floor. (No box spring, remember? Hence, the frame is collapsed and stored away.) I walk right over it to turn on the light in the corner when I walk in.

This provides a challenge. I like to do pushups, situps, crunches, stuff like that. I stand the mattress up and lean it against the wall. Sometimes it falls on me.

With all this access to my carpet I've noticed that it's really very abrasive. This carpet is sandpaper. It's like steel wool made from fishing line wrapped into tiny little bulbs stuck together. It's been ten years since I was in a school, but I think it's the same weird multicolored yet colorless stain blending plastic shit they have there. If you try to exercise naked on it, the friction will cause it to eat the skin right off your body. I speak from experience.

Now I have a new hobby. I'm tired when I get home and I like to nap. I've found it's fun to lay facedown on it, contorted and bent. I fold my arms under myself and sleep that way. My legs I cross or fold or splay all over. There's no give anywhere on this floor so my body has to conform to a flat surface. With my arms underneath me my joints get stretched nicely, especially at the shoulders.

I wake feeling limber and ready for action. My ligaments get a good rubberband snap stretch. My face is imprinted with tiny worm threadings. These disappear slowly from my nose but quickly everywhere else.

The carpetlike matting also induces heavy sweating. I just lay there and ooze, while in the background, some assholes on ESPN yell about nothing. That's how it was yesterday, at least. I liked the whole thing. When I woke up I did three times my normal workout. I think it was the carpet. I feel nice today.
7:14 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, April 25, 2005

Metabolic Amnesty

I came home Saturday morning just before the sun struck my window, forcing me to let the blinds down. I brought a few people with me. We'd seen a cover band at 50 North. I was drunk and swaying and extremely grateful to be a passenger. I can only remember vague phantoms of exaggerated facial expressions, but it's safe to assume I had decent fun.

The bar had become a surreal stumble into my past. I saw several people from Zippy's, a fast food restaurant where I used to sling pizzas. For a brief moment I felt like I'd erased ten years and gone back to the days of mescaline and malt liquor. I drowned the feeling with dollar beers. I was already sauced before I got picked up, so I was soon beyond hope. I didn't fall, puke, shout, or fight, so I figure I did okay, even if my best accomplishment was standing upright. Some days low expectations are just fine.

When we got back to my place I distributed cold cans of beer to all present. I kept trying to find something nice to play on my stereo, but everytime I played a request I felt boiling tar scald the skin from my inner ear, and everytime I picked a song I got rolling eyes and sighing disdain. As the drunk got drunker nobody noticed anymore. We all slurped bowls of the hockeyneck soup I'd composed in the kitchen on Friday afternoon. I didn't like it very much.

I tracked mud through the kitchen. The next day I found my shoes encrusted, so I know I was the guilty foot. I figure I must've walked through the sodden lawn when I got dispatched on an emergency tampon run.

I went to the gas station and eyed the Tampax with concern. Would a certain variety be deemed an insult? I don't want the heavy flow tampons, right? That would be akin to accusing her of being a menstrual geyser. Let's see here, satin teen? Nope, definitely not. She might need the whole box at once if those are pencil sized. Aha! Original! I bought those. I was implying nothing with Original. No complaints were issued. The gauntlet of possible unintentional inferences was braved without reprimand.

The morning passed and I slept. I drifted in and out of sleep as the afternoon wore on, unsure whether I'd rather be awake or sleeping.

Two days later I feel the same way.
7:45 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, April 22, 2005

Napalm Suntan

Before the large homes on small plots got planted across from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, there were barren manmade hills of mud and weeds. Kids rode cycles, teenagers did drugs, and construction companies left idle bulldozers and giant segments of concrete tubing there.

My friend Chris and I had lots of time, little money, and compulsive pyromania. I remember one day we spent collecting empty wooden pallets from behind grocery stores. We dragged them there with rope and skateboards. Once we had a decent ten foot tall pile, we took a small trash bin over to the Mobil station and chose a pump that faced the street so the clerk wouldn't see our dangerous container. It only took a buck to fill it up with gasoline. We spilled some on the way back, but we made the rest count. We used plastic cups to splash as much as we could all over the monument, paying special attention to the bottom.

Then we threw firecrackers at it until it caught. We crouched atop a two-story mudpile, enchanted and extremely pleased with our effort. When we heard the sirens we ran away.

A couple years later not much had changed there. Somebody had made bike ramps and and a few scattered foundations had been dug for future homes, but the concrete tubing still sat in orderly rows next to the rainwater maggot ditch.

I got mad at my dad and decided to run away. I think I was in junior high at the time. I lived across the street in Dunbar Lakes, an association of ugly brown townhomes populated by mean dirty children that spent their time catching frogs from the pond and killing them with rocks.

So I left home with nothing and marched indignantly across the street to the concrete tubes. I announced to my friends that the fifth tube with the red spraypaint marking was my new house. One buddy brought me cold hot dogs and vinegar chips. I ate those and sulked for a weekend. I was out of food and hungry on Sunday, so I started uprooting nearby plants. Somebody informed me that I'd found wild carrots. They were probably just thick roots, but they did kinda look like carrots. I rinsed them in the motor oil maggot breeding pond and tried to eat them. They tasted like moldy gingery radishes. I was proud of myself.

I went home later that night. I snuck in through the basement window well.
7:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Nosehair Curling Science

I sat down this morning and leaned back in my chair. The office is quiet, I'm all caught up, why not have a snooze? Then my nose got tickled. I twitched it. Tickle tickle. I wiggled it. Hey, that's a mighty tangy tickle. Then sour. Holy shit, that's actually pretty disgusting. I shuffled myself upwards into good posture and began tracking the stench.

Some mean bastard stashed an open container of ruby red grapefruit juice into the crevice between my desk and the garbage can. I doubt it was an accident. Garbage got swapped on Tuesday, so it's taken mere days to form that white fuzzy old sweater coating on the surface. It's probably only hours away from a circle of green against the plastic, the first step in a transformation from a once-pulpy juice into a sodden tumor.

Yum. I just wanna throw it into traffic. I want to hear the sick squelching sound when it suctions itself to a windshield. I want to hear the honking and the squealing brakes. I want to see the sudden stop fling the mass from the glass to a second wet plopping sound as it strikes the pavement, losing loose moldy chunks as it cascades away from the perplexed and angry driver. I want her to hear giggling from the bushes, and I want her to run towards me, screaming "you damn kids." I want to witness her shock when a full grown man stands and flees.

Strike that. I don't like getting arrested in my home state. Crime is for vacation. I'll just move it somewhere else in the office. It's too precious to throw away.
7:00 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Brain Diaper

I'm feeling a bit groggy this morning. I'm not quite sure what happened last night, although I vaguely recall how it started.

Many friends were calling me. Nonsensically they chanted "Four twenty!" They reminded me of babies that had soiled their diapers and gleefully wanted to tell somebody. "Mommy! Poopie!"

I used to smoke lots of weed. Most of my friends are stoners. Therefore, none of this inane hollering surprised or bothered me. At least they weren't quoting Sebastian Bach and Woody Harrelson interviews from High Times. At least they weren't uttering cringe inducing words like these: nugs, dank, ganj, reggae. Nope, they stuck to their cricket chirping "420!"

I barely smoke these days. I stopped buying it when I quit cigarettes. They went together, you see, and I can't scratch half an itch. For some silly reason yesterday I decided I would celebrate. It would be a sort of epilogue for my former habit.

Instead of my usual placid furniture-dwelling television-watching slackjawed nowhere stoniness, I behaved like I did when I was fifteen. I could taste the tarry brown resin on my tongue, and I got so high I giggled at nothing. My tolerance had completely evaporated over the past few months. Combine that with my regular diet of beer and speed and I was one apeshit monkey.

I know I watched some baseball and talked to the screen, but I can't remember when I went to bed. I can't remember the 10th or 11th beer. When I woke up at five this morning, I was facedown in a miniature cheesecake. I'd eaten half of it. I used a plastic fork until it had broken, and then a spoon. Clumps were stuck in my eyelashes. My stomach hurt. I thirsted for water, desperately.

From now on, I'll dare to say no.
7:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Monopoly At Dawn

I've posted my final episode detailing my brief association with dead Ed. This one is not for those of you with weak stomachs.

The Ugly End

For late arrivals, the...



5:26 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Gone Walkabout

I ate a duck.

There was no bill to keep for a souvenier, sadly. I've kept horseshoe crab shells and lobster claws in the past. They stink after a time, but they make nice temporary mantle decorations if you have no pets. I have no mantle anyways, so taxidermy will have to wait for the future; will have to wait for fishing hooks, shotgun shells, and restaurant menus.

The next day I went for a walk. I cleverly took the day after my birthday off work for hangover purposes, but I never had the urge to drink on Monday night. I think it was the apricot duck jelly. All I wanted was baseball and old techno songs. I got them.

So I began my jaunt by heading west down Cherry Avenue. Flowers, trees, cracked pavement, crossing guards, and bent signposts punctuated the quiet afternoon miles.

I'm back. It feels great to walk. It's my favorite thing to do in the warm seasons. A sense of inclusion prevails over my usual disconnected apathy. I feel like I belong to the human ecosystem, a cog in an organic machine. My body hums with an audible pulse. My skin breathes the sunshine and the air reaches deeper than my lungs, refreshing every pickled organ. My muscles are left limpid and smiling.

I'd never done this particular tour before. Intricate signage welcomed me into Franklin Park, and then again in Schiller Park, but none for my resident River Grove. Sidewalks started and stopped, some smooth, some broken and sunken.

I went through a few quiet industrial parks. I saw lots of Polish flags on parked cars, but fortunately the frequency of their appearance has subsided with each passing day. They're fading from prominence just like the sagging flesh from the pope's brittle bones.

Many signs read "Help Wanted NONE." Neither did I.

I found a lot where all the retired milk trucks go for rebirth into their second lives. They reincarnate as ice cream trucks. The song singers haven't been installed yet, apparently. I wanted one. If I ever have children I'd use it bring them inside for dessert. Pavlov with love and sugar.

I got home. I found my appetite for beer. I watched baseball. Life got perfect again.
8:16 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Antler Sunday

Last Sunday at noon I resolved to eat fried food. I tugged a baseball cap over my unruly mop and jammed some stinky dock slippers on my feet and meandered down to the Deerhead. This bar is a wide hallway with few customers and scant taxidermy.

The door was barred open and the only light was natural from the doorway or blue from the dual television screens that hung above either end of the bar, both set to the Sci-fi channel. Two grizzled old men with faded tattoos and wives at church sat nibbling pretzels and muttering quietly to one another. The bartender was a middle aged woman with pretty eyes and a suspicious gaze.

I strolled in and leaned against the bar, declining a stool. The woman strode up to me and asked "Helpya?"

"Yes please. I would like to order two pizza puffs, to go please."

She stared at me, expressionless. Maybe perplexed. I continued.

"I realize you're not a fast food joint, but I've got a taste for them and I know you've got them."

I glanced down the bar to the makeshift kitchen station tucked underneath the cigarette rack. The fryer was clean, the baskets were up, and I decided the oil was cold.

"Nevermind. I'll try somewhere else."

As I walked out she stopped me and commanded I sit. I did. She doublechecked my ID. I had shaved that morning and she thought I was a high school student or somesuch, wearing a tattered shirt and puffy undereyes. Satisfied, she handed back the card and bade me to wait.

Instead of turning on the big fryer she cranked up the portable frydaddy that rest on an adjacent counter. She sheepishly grinned and whispered a conspiratorial offer.

"Wouldja like a drink hon?

I grinned back and leaned in. I even glanced to and fro. For effect. You know, to see if any perked ears would try to hear our secret words.

"Yes please. A Diet Coke would be just the thing."

She seemed pleased that I chose not to drink booze so early in the day. When she returned with it she pointed straight behind me.

"While you're waiting, hon, try my ham. There's some bread and potato salad too if you like that."

Holy shit. Free food. Again. I hadn't been to this joint in two years. The last time I visited the Cubs were in the playoffs and they were serving free dogs and chips. I told her of this and asked if there was always food for any soul who fell off the sidewalk. No. She told me I was just lucky.

"I sure am."

She went to check the fryer. She came back and leaned against the vodka shelf.

"Not quite yet."

My turn again. "This place hasn't changed during the two years since my last visit. How long has this place been around?"

She hollered down to one of the stroke candidates. A hoarse "1941!" shot back. I nodded in apparent appreciation of the fact. I was actually trying to figure out why I'd been curious. Before I got a chance, my bartender chirped again.

"So why pizza puffs? I've never had one and nobody eats them here. I always thought they're kids food."

"They are. When I was a kid both of my sisters and my brother were figure skaters. I always got abandoned in the arcade at the rink. I'd beg quarters for video games and dollars for pizza puffs. I've hated ice skating and loved pizza puffs ever since."

She nodded as if she'd expected my remarks. I was nearly full from her ham when the first pizza puff landed on my plate. As I finished it I stifled a belch and declined a second.

I paid double. When I waved goodbye I looked her in her pretty eyes and smiled. She seemed sad that I was leaving her to the liverspot crowd. I had never asked her name.
7:18 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, April 18, 2005

A Brief History

I was a filthy child that loved to roll around in dirt and put insects in jars. (Mid-Eighties)

I spent a lot of time in my folks' garage drinking gin and smoking pot. I didn't learn to drive until I was 22, about a year after this. I took many things very seriously, as evidenced by the douchebag ponytail and the earnest Nader/LaDuke campaign pin. (December 2000)

My birthday dinner last Saturday, two days early. Posing with my wonderful mother.
8:38 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, April 15, 2005

Mean Spirited Urine

I'm an asshole driver. I freely admit this. I routinely drive ten or fifteen over the limit, particularly near the airport. The only police there are customs agents. They won't bother me. They're looking for illegal immigrants and kidney smugglers.

I'm the guy that swerves in and out of lanes with mere inches to spare because you have the temerity to drive one under the limit. I'm the guy that speeds up to catch the tail end of a yellow light. I have no patience. I don't like it when people drive casually. To me it's urgent and serious. Especially in the morning. If you're out at five a.m. and you're driving under the speed limit, you're drunk and you should've been home hours ago. The rest of us are going somewhere out of necessity and we want to arrive ten minutes ago.

I use unfair stereotypes to help me drive efficiently. I keep mental file folders, and I've been working up a new one over the past week. This new group I'll get to last. First off, the regulars. Why? I like to gauge the lackadasical before I overtake them. There are a few select groups of people that drive at five, and these are the prevalent stereotypes.

I always look for eighties model Ford compacts with more rust than paint and eleven heads bobbing inside. Mexican immigrants live together and drive together. Very slowly.

Minivans with Baby On Board signs are also slowpokes. This mother is more interested in wiping the graham cracker crumbs off little Timmy's shirt than watching the road in front of her. Fast forward ten years and she's got an honor student bumper sticker and a cellphone, but the driving remains unchanged. For somebody that professes to live in a constant hectic rush she drives like a retarded turtle. Where is she going this early?

The white workvan is an unknown. These bluecollar roughnecks drive with padlocked vans full of giant wrenches, pipe threaders, spraypaint, boiler plating, blowtorches, and who knows what else. Depending on whether they secure these items to the side of the van, they can drive anywhere from twenty under to thirty over. The one constant is that these men always wear gloves and never set down their coffee. I approach them with caution.

Now there's a new type. The Catholic praying mantis. These people are so stricken with grief over the pope's death they now fly the national flag of Poland from their driver side window. Not only do they deprive themselves of fresh air, but they drive like elderly people on motorscooters at the zoo. If we had pandas and lemurs on the roadside these papists would gridlock the entirety of Chicago.

Is that really necessary? If you care that the figurehead of your professed God is dead, why don't you fly the yellow papal emblem? No, you don't care. It doesn't matter that God's Spock has died, what matters is he was Polish. That's why you all chose the red Polish standard instead. This is an excuse to declare your love for the homeland you fled so eagerly, the land of beets and rocky fields. That's okay with me, but please stop driving like infants on heroin.

I know you're suffering from spiritual confusion. Now that the pope is dead, can your family switch back to Judaism or maybe go Protestant? The peer pressure is off, right? Surely the pope will be from Slovakia or someplace, not Poland. To this I say: Keep the quandry at home, idol worshipper. Keep it off my road. Oh, and by the way, fuck the pope.

I was on time this morning.
7:30 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Playing Nice

I've posted the next installment in my sordid saga over at The Handsomes. It tells of my touching heartfelt reconciliation with the dearly departed Ed.
5:26 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Static Thesaurus Science

I'm sitting underneath a blinking florescent light. It's trying to communicate a secret message to me in morse corde, but my eyes cannot discern its rapid flicker nuance. Nor can I write at hummingbird speed.

I could try to modulate my brain synapses into algebraic twinkle receptors and sublimate the information. As I absorb the alabaster light it would percolate in my subconscious, eventually floating to the surface of my mind like fart bubbles in the bathtub.

But I won't. That might cause permanent damage, and I'd become a peculiar rarity: a self-induced autistic. My whole body would become different modes of blink. Eyelids shuttering, tongue wagging, legs kicking, arms flexing. All while doing situps. Forever. I'd be a human cuckoo clock perpetually stuck at the top of the hour. I'd certainly die of malnutrition if I wasn't sedated and clamped to a plank.

Oh. It stopped. Back to solid glow. Now I'll never have a chance to figure it out. Were the bulbs asking for a new ballast? Perhaps the electricity was imbalanced and the tubes are in danger of sufferring a drastically reduced lifespan. I'm sort of glad it's over. It would be a shame if the message was so mundane.

I would've spend so much time deciphering the message with my magical cereal box decoder ring / brain. I would've proved the awareness and intelligence of inanimate objects. A breakthrough. Yet none of it worthwhile because of the pedestrian banality the light chose for its first foray into human communication. I'd be the laughing stock of the whitejacket community.

Nah. I'll just keep looking for aliens instead.
10:36 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Steel Wool Underwear

I don't belong here. I know better than to drink heavily the night before I'm due to wake before the sun, but I expected to have three hours alone here to sulk and nap.

I arrived slightly late to a dark and silent office. Immediately the phone rang. Some restaurant manager was having a cheeseburger apocalypse. I wanted to tell him to go home and take a hot bath. You know, relax, forget everything. Go ahead, deprive the bovine hordes of their glistening lukewarm meatlike products.

But I couldn't. It's my job to pretend I care. I spent an hour quenching the volcanoes.

I then put my head down to rest when my boss pranced in. He was grinning like he'd just been sucked off. What gives him the right to be so damn happy this early? I realize my ire is simply hangover induced, but I can't help myself.

He's going camping for the rest of this week and vacation the next, he helped us win millions in business and he's imagining his office at the top of a skyscraper, and he's playing loud silly pop music and singing along in falsetto.

There's nothing worse than happy people when you're not.
8:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Lobotomy Lottery

I recently spent an evening with public access television. If you don't mind low production standards, public access has a lot to offer. I was going to mention dubious content, but that's standard across all television, so I'm not going to single out the lo-fi programming for their choices of topic.

I enjoyed the first program simultaneously with a bowl of buttered popcorn and a can of diet soda. As I switched to channel nineteen, I saw a strange middle-aged man with electrocuted bleached hair, a fake tan, and vacant eyes. He had an enormous chin and his jaw squeaked when he spoke. I believe his jaw must be a metal replacement. This man could chew through a chainlink fence.

He stuttered his way through a monologue about musical collaboration. Behind him a sixteen color screen saver from an early nineties computer sputtered along, likely powered by shrinkrayed convicts on hamster wheels. Although this show was intended to promote the band, it performed the opposite. The other members appeared and shared their mumbling stoner philosophies on life and music. Several didn't know to face the camera and stared instead offscreen at Shalajoramba, the invisible tiki god of topiary. I didn't once hear a song until the closing credits rolled twenty minutes later.

They're called Moist Guitars. Isn't that disgusting? I'd rather listen to a band called Fetus Burrito than anything with "moist" in the title. One guy said, "When people ask what moist guitars means, I tell them it's a yak. A yak. Either you get it or you don't, you know, it 's like our sound. It's not something I can explain, so I say yak."

Well, I don't get it.

Next up came the Other Winfrey Show, which seemed to be clips of local entertainers jammed together. There was a comedienne that told some funny lesbian jokes, a cover band, and interviews at an awards show for suburban nightclubs. I don't have anything nasty to say about it. I liked the show.

Finally came the true jewel of public access programming. Star Performers Showcase! At first I saw a fat guy wearing sunglasses lip syncing to Ray Charles songs while he swam his head, just like Ray. Then he did Stevie Wonder, and he got the neck twisting body language down perfectly for him, too. He went on to cover Barry White and Al Green songs, and this guy was white as fresh porcelain. It was jarring but wonderful.

Next came a strange dance club in a banquet hall. Men and women alike stood in lines facing each other and people took turns charging up the middle to the stage, where they stuck their asses in the sky and shook them like tambourines while the clapping lines hooted and juked. Twenty year old rap music played. One fat girl's tits swept the floor while her enormous rump slapped bystanders, knocking them stupid to the ballroom floor.

After the rap ended they all lined up for the locomotion dance, but instead the song was "Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter. I was shocked by how many people of different cultures could sing this dubious modern classic with precision until I realized this recording might just be fifteen years old. The guys were separated out and only the women boogied a single file circle, but some sneaky young guys snuck back in, looking around guiltily to see if anybody would bust them for horning in. All of the revellers were seemingly unaware that some practical joker was recording this for transmission.

Finally, real karaoke. Pale sweaty fifty year old men with swaying jowls and thick glasses and suspenders and knobby little hands took turns singing Bette Midler and Jimmy Buffett and Dean Martin. They weren't doing this in a dimly lit bar full of drunks, but instead in a church social room brightly lit. The audience was served chilled fruit medley cups and oatmeal cookies. I'm sure offbrand adult diapers leaked onto metal folding chairs while these dregs of society fulfilled their lifelong ambitions to mimic Jon Secada while wearing a cummerbund. People actually clapped. One poor pre-pubescent boy sang a beautiful rendition of "My Girl." Despite the accolades he received I still think his parents should be shot for exposing him to all those pedophiles.

After this marathon I was exhausted and suicidal.
10:26 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, April 11, 2005

The Eulogy Continues

Today I've continued with my series of memories celebrating the glorious life and untimely passing of Ed. Take a moment to share in the smothering grief.
2:59 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Translucent Onion

On Friday night I overdosed on Doctor Who, Old Style, cocaine, weightlifting, and pornography. I let the blinds down when the sunlight morphed into darting sewing needles and my eyes threatened to bleed. I thought I heard the ocean murmuring from a seashell, but it was just my lazy pulse circulating under my earlobes. At noon I took a shower, blew out some red jelly, gargled, then slipped between my downy sheets. I had a great time.

Angry Potato

I woke up at four o'clock, wild-eyed and frantic. I checked my telephone. My father had not called. He was, no doubt, hungover like me. Surely by this time in the afternoon he was resigned to bourbon and omelettes. I wasn't exactly raring to go visit the hospital, so my ailing grandmother was shamefully neglected. I began the thawing process.

Ultrasmooth Carrot

Sunday I rose at nine and began my recipe. Again. I baked a shank of pork last Tuesday expressly for the bone. Now I could use it for Sunday soup. To my usual recipe I added parsley and some jalapeno jelly my mother had brought me from Arizona. I took special care to loosen the exposed marrow at the bone ends. It really adds life.

I ate seven or eight bowls over the course of the afternoon. I watched three baseball games. I felt giddy and had a silly smile on my face all day long. The breeze combed my hair. The food warmed my tum. The hypnotic monotony of the announcers lullabyed me into blank perfection. Sunday was a good day.

Relfex Celery

Now I'm back at work. I feel intensely healthy. By my count I've eaten 12 onions, 23 stalks of celery, 14 carrots, 6 cloves of garlic, 9 potatoes, and 15 gallons of spiced water during the past six days. I could lift a house.
10:29 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, April 08, 2005

Grumpy Old Saucebrains

I got a call from Dad last night. My grandmother is dying. He quit his job. Shit.

He moved on to the good news. The police visited him again. My dad rents a room in a house that sits alone on a road full of industrial parks. It's a freak of zoning. The house itself sports eight small rooms. The residents fit into two categories: middle-aged divorced bachelors and parolees. This is Dad's second time living there.

The first time he left because he had the worst room. He had to duck under a support beam and walk behind the basement water heater just to get to his door. He's 6'3". Combine that with a bourbon habit and you've got an angry drunk with a perpetually bruised forehead.

There was another factor in his first departure. The drunk in the adjacent basement room died. He was the type who would only leave the house to buy more booze. He would often urinate his pants instead of exiting his cave to go upstairs and use the commode. A filthy man. The other residents, including my father, became concerned when he didn't show his slack face for three days straight. His car was outside.

It took them a few hours but they finally found him dead in his closet, soaked in rum. I asked what had happened. Did he fall into the closet and break his neck? Alcohol poisoning? Prescription overdose? Malnourishment? Nobody knew. I never heard the autopsy results.

Dad moved back in a couple months ago. He'd been kicked out of one residence for rolling around naked in the public hallways. The one after that was dominated by a strange old woman who cooked raspberry pierogies and stank up the house with odd spices and the scent of dyed hair burning on a curling iron. Dad didn't like it, and he had to smoke outside. So he went back to the bachelor/parolee house and scored an upstairs room with a window.

Last Tuesday one of the parolees, Juan, attacked Jimmy, a bachelor. Noses were broken, choke holds were applied, people were thrown, and blood was spilled. The police were called. Juan was evicted and the police wouldn't let him back inside to get his things. Eventually they would arrest him for assault.

Juan called 911 to ask for different policemen. Surprisingly, this helped him none. Jimmy was mad because he'd done Juan's brakes for free the day before. Supposedly the attack was unprovoked. I like Jimmy. He shared some red wine and shrimp linguini alfredo last time I visited, two weeks ago.

Juan is a bipolar alcoholic. He tells a lot of dead baby jokes. Dad is glad he's gone. That's why he was glad to get a visit from the cops. I love my dad. We're going to go see Grandmother on Saturday. Afterwards we'll go get some dinner and play some chess matches.
7:47 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Buzzsaw Killjoy Mudslurping Pigfucker

Today is my fourth day operating under a critical lack of sleep. My recuperation habits have been pulverized by a wheelbarrow of bricks heaved from a skyscraper's height.

My skull is paste. My eyelids are trembling. The little capillaries in my eyeballs are pulsing and engorged with stale blood. I am ragged.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself, rather, I'm attempting to observe the results and symptoms with the utmost scientific objectivity. I may take poetic license in describing them, but don't think I'm whining.

My skin is rippling like light waves lapping on dry sand. It isn't firmly glued to my flesh, and I'm concerned that I might shed like a snake. The difference would be that I'd leave a wet bag of glistening inside-out skin behind instead of a dry husk.

I'm sure some spring ants would use their little mandibles to tear my steaming dermis puddle into tiny little giblets for their queen to gnaw upon. She would dutifully convert me into nutritious ant gelatin. In single serving containers.

I'm walking around like I have sailor's legs, but I haven't been on board a boat in years. The flat earth is seesawing nonetheless. My undigested food is enjoying the water park wave pool on the little Cherrios inner tubes littering the surface of my bile tank stomach. It's a nice relaxing comedown for a half-chewed celery chunk after the esophagus waterslide.

On my way to work I usually kill a hobo junkie with a broken pencil through the eyeball. I steal his syringe and drop it into my scorching hot coffee where it floats for ten minutes sterilizing. I withdraw it and shake it off like a thermometer.

I fill the syringe with my special brown syrup. The recipe for this wake-me-up is simple: boil a large bottle of Nyquil, several handfuls of freeze-dried coffee crystals, ten caffeine pills, and two cups of water for an hour or until the mixture is syrup. It makes for a rough injection, but I perform my job expeditiously all day long on that stuff. As an added bonus my coagulation time is tripled when I accidentally sever a limb. My blood is so adhesive I can just staple a finger right back to my hand with my trusty Bostich 7000 and I'm flexing and coring out earwax within minutes.

This results in numerous Frankenstein stitch jobs crisscrossing over my body like schizophrenic monorail tracks, but I like to think I've discovered the next big trend in body modification. Why get piercings or tattoos when I can have a map of Albuquerque on my torso?

As my day progresses I suckle from my coffee nipple. It keeps me happy and jumpy. You can never overdo the stimulants when you have a young heart.

I should probably get to bed early this evening.
8:11 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Public Service Announcement

I am now a contributor to The Handsomes. I was recently invited by the evil Wino McHackenpuke, author of Walking Blues. Also contributing is the excellent Argus, author of Fast And Dumb. Come check us out. Please. I humbly request your audience. Now I'm more than a Candian Club drinker. I'm a member.

My first.
7:40 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Class of '84

The tattoo guy lost the mayoral race, 464 votes to 2,021. I tried to tell him two weeks ago that his visibility sucked. No signs.

I went to the burrito shack to vote after work yesterday. Four thugs stood outside the restaurant, arms crossed, glaring at potential voters. They looked unhappy without their motorcycles and whiskey.

The leader stepped towards me as I left my car. His eyes darted furtively down the street where a small group of people stood chatting next to a squad car. He turned back to me as I tried to pass him and muttered "vote for Paul" and discreetly passed me a glossy little flyer.

I related my anger at the stubborn littering of my yard by Marilynn. He told me to go tell her myself, and pointed to the little picnic down the street.

I voted. I left. I wished the grunts luck and they waved goodbye. I saw one chuck a cigarette to the ground and brutally grind it out with his heel. They went back to glaring and I drove down towards Marilynn.

I didn't stop, but I did drive slowly to take in the scene. A young cop with slicked back hair leaned against his squad car. He grinned and tapped his nightstick against his leg. He seemed to enjoy the attention from the three women who sat in lawn chairs facing him.

They were distinguished by 80's perms, zippered fanny packs, Misty cigarettes, and enormous cottage cheese hips encased in purple spandex. I didn't see their feet but I suspect there were probably jelly sandals on them. Finally I understood why a guy who owns a tattoo parlor would run here. His competition was a rapidly fading Whitesnake groupie.

I wondered if Marilynn will be able to tear herself away from the Days Of Our Lives and Rocky Road long enough to run our little chode of land or if this'll be a rudderless ship. Oh well. At least she can anchor.
6:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Magic Soup

My simple but elegant recipe, as requested by LostInSpace

Group one: the stock
12 cups water
2 hambones
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
3 cloves of garlic broken in half

Group two: the retarded
3 medium/large potatoes, peeled and chopped into thin discs
3 medium/large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium onions, chopped into rings
4 or 5 celery stalks, chopped

Boil group one for three hours. Strain the stock. Separate meat from bone. Discard bone and gristle. Chop ham and add it to the stock. Add the retarded. Simmer for one hour. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Optional: Extra ham from the roast. (add for last hour of boil) I sprinkle black pepper on the served portions before consuming them.

This soup is very sticky and very delicious. I am proud of it.
12:32 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Just A Bit Outside

Pumpkin Chuckin'. Rock Droppin'. Basketball. I usually ignore it. Not my sport. Recently I've been sucked through the straw into the maw. The Illini and the Bulls are the mad fad rage hereabouts. So I've been watching.

If you watch sports you know where to find the mute button on your remote. All sports broadcasts use talking heads to cram their wisdom into the empty space: the pregame ad blasting, the timeout downtime, and the post game mopping. Yesterday I had to vent on a message board about the yammering gerbils affectionately referred to as "commentators" or "analysts."

Jay Bilas. I have no idea what exactly he said. When he began I was immediately struck with horror and fear and could not comprehend his words. All sound was the bleating of dying sheep as the terrifying display commenced.

When he talks he looks like he's chewing Russian prison food. His squirrel cheeks flex out and his quivering dimples twitch around like spastic commas. His bright white teeth are blinding and deadly as the reaper's scythe.

Go away, Jay Bilas. You picked Illinois on Mike & Mike's radio show this morning so I don't hate you completely. But still. Enough with the swirly psychopath eyeballing. It's killing my sperm and spoiling all the food in my fridge.

Dick Vitale needs to be reburied. Somebody unzip the skin and reveal the remote control metallic robot underneath. That voice feels like sandpaper scrubbing my armpits until they bleed. That shiny head is an antenna for alien transmissions from Pluto. Don't say "BABY!" one more time or I'll hunt you down and choke you with uncooked chicken gizzards you rooty tooty old whorebag.

There. I feel better now. All ready for tonight's game.

- - - - -

That was yesterday. Today I'm hungover and thankful for baseball. Basketball makes me twitchy. It isn't my natural diet and doesn't sit well in my stomach. I tend to lean forward and I clench my fists and my eyes get dry and I punch the air and I pull my hair.

Fuck that.

Baseball lets me sink into my chair and pick my nose in peace. I can sit under a blanket of peanut shells and popcorn kernels and fart stale beer towards the television when the pitcher walks a run home. I can sleep at night.

The Cubs won yesterday and they're in first place. April is good month for Cubs fans.
10:00 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, April 04, 2005

Tumble Grumble

My eyes sting. One curse of sobriety is my inability to fall blissfully into slumber immediately upon going horizontal. This clock changing nonsense may be a factor as well. So could the invisible waves from Planet X. I managed to sink into a shallow sleep around four this morning. That lasted until shortly before seven, when the condo construction crew began their toil mere meters from my bedroom window.

Most construction crews have the decency to make regular noises like hammer pounds, brick clacks, and saw grinds. Not these bastards. Their sounds are jackhammers, shearing sheetmetal, loud beeping, and some odd thing that goes "Gu-gu-gu-gralllp!" every twenty seconds. I wanted to rip out the window screen, aim my morning wood, and arch a bold yellow jet of steaming piss right onto a hardhat. I reined in the idea. I'm not getting arrested on opening day of the baseball season. There's no radios in jail.

I went to the laundromat on Sunday afternoon. When I arrived there were lots of people inside sweating and panting, so I took the initiative and blocked the front door open with a large trashcan. Air swirled in. I stood in the doorway, backlit by the incoming sunlight. I was Atmosphere Jesus, delivering a redemptive breeze to a stifled sauna of laundry hell.

I loaded my loads and looked for a camping pitch to plant my ass with a paperback. The only open perch was a ledge rimming the front window. I sat there in the sun's glare and read my book. People walking the strip mall saw me though the glass. I felt like an Amsterdam quarter whore. The arcade games behind me hollered inanities while I followed the fictional hunt for a serial killer.

Buzzers buzzed. I rose. I've been doing my own laundry for five years, but I'd never folded it before. I felt so grown up. I saw Polish and Mexican immigrants using the tables and decided that I would try the same. Folding clothing wasn't as theraputic as washing dishes, but it was okay. I might enjoy the non-rumpled look. We'll see.

I made my magic soup on Saturday. It tasted so good. So good. I can't even thesaurus about it. Words cannot convey. I ate so much. I want to relive Saturday in perpetuity.
9:02 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, April 01, 2005

I Mean It

9:42 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tinfoil Viking Science

Have you ever experienced a twitch? Sure you have. There are different kinds. Maybe a facial twitch. The outside corner of your eye spasms and you half-blink involuntarily a few times. Maybe a nerve in your wrist jumps, causing your skin to tremble like the lid of a boiling pot. Maybe you feel a twinge under your knee and your leg kicks out and punts a toy across the floor.

Then the biological glitch mysteriously vanishes. You're left wondering what microscopic gremlins are cartwheeling through your innards wreaking havoc, cackling with destructive glee. Is there a medical explanation? Do you have a newly mutated ailment that's never afflicted a human before? You rub your chin and wonder if you will get your own disease like Parkinson or Gehrig. You look around to see if anybody saw your slight jerking motions.

The paranoia has begun. You have something to hide. Maybe. It could be gone. Hopefully it is gone.

I'm here to tell you this is not your fault. It was not caused by an unhealthy diet. It was not caused by the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs back when you were in college. It is not a reaction to the particles of scum floating through the air due to your negligence with the vacuum.

Whoa! Let go of me! Slow down your freakout. I'm not suggesting that your wife poisoned your coffee. She did not inject your bran muffin with ammonia. Nobody is actively trying to ruin you. Well, no human person at least.

You see, there is a far more insidious and terrifying force undermining your bodily self control. You are not alone. Upstanding citizens across the globe are being manipulated by a mysterious force far, far above us. I can't tell you if it's a god or an alien or radiation from another galaxy.

But I am sure it is there. Affecting us. Targeting us. Manipulating us. If action is not taken, this will get worse. We will progress from mere twitchiness to full fledged seizure or worse, automation.

I do not want to scream on the inside while some bizarre force compels me to perform hideous acts of brutality. Or comedy. Comedy might be worse. Duck quacking, chicken clucking, disco dancing. I suppose it depends on whether this invisible puppeteer is malevolent or prankish.

Something must be done. I've spent my entire life preparing for this fight. I have done calculations so complex the human genome would urinate its trousers in shame. I have performed experiments so volatile that volcanos would chill out and go dormant out of humble respect.

I have discovered many means of combating this debasing assault upon your nervous system, but only one way is cheap, efficient, and practical. Only one method does not require millions of dollars worth of sophisticated equipment. Only one way necessitates no painful clamps or hourly injections.

It is truly a marvel. This hat. Just a hat, yes! The brain is the key to your body, you see. It is the floodgate through which your vulnerability has been assaulted. Here, take this hat. Try it on. I have fashioned this one from aluminum foil. Just for you. The aluminum blocks the imperceptible rays. The viking fins redirect them, bouncing the harmful pulses of energy back out into space where they will harm no terran lifeform.

I can only save your life. I can only save your autonomy over your vessel. The rest is up to you. Is is your duty to explain this to others. Spread the message. Make them understand that your hat is not a scarlet letter of insanity, but instead a declaration of your self control and power over the universe. Explain to them how they lack immunity to god, aliens, and gamma rays. Tell them blinking is unnatural, not a regular bodily function to moisten the eyeballs.

They need help, just like you did. I did my part.

Now this in your hands. Your hands.
11:11 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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