Wednesday, November 23, 2005

100 Things About Me: Alternately Titled, a Prolific Waste of Your Time.

Ready to indulge in 3,000 words of my total narcissism? Good. There’s a beer involved somewhere if you make it to the end.

1) I once had an opportunity to throw a cheese scone at Margaret Thatcher’s head, when she was five feet away from me in London’s British Museum, having, as café supervisor, a bowl of warm cheese scones at my disposal. I would have made international news had I done so; the fact that I chickened out is one of the greatest regrets of my life.

2) I have been a bartender in three separate countries.

3) I broke my right big toe kicking a wall on a frustrating day in a restaurant kitchen; it never healed properly and is still crooked. Some Christians came over my house one day and prayed to fix it, but it seems not to have worked.

4) I once wrecked a 1973 Triumph Spitfire convertible into a 1993 Cadillac. I still view the matter, given the 1:3 weight ratio I was working against, as a profound victory for the little guy.

5) I did not fly on an airplane until I was 22. The experience still terrifies me beyond measure.

6) My brother Andrew made a sincere effort to drown me when I was eight years old. I’m not sure if I can still press charges.

7) I’ve hauled the same six-stringed acoustic guitar around through fourteen separate residences over the course of sixteen years. I can presently only play about seven songs, badly, on it.

8) I smoke cigarettes while drinking, and at no other time whatsoever. An absolute on/off switch seems to be in operation. And if I’m indoors and no one else is smoking, I don’t do it then, either. Perhaps I should quit.

9) I am the rare person that has no dog/cat ideological leanings: I like well-trained animals, and dislike disorderly ones. I could care less about the species.

10) I daydreamed through all of primary school, and hence am self-taught on penmanship. My print script looks like that of a left-hander, even though I am right handed.

11) I only appreciate and understand baseball as a sport, viewing all others as an elaborate fertility metaphor governed by clocks, goals, and yardage. (Live hockey is kind of cool, though.)

12) I have made three separate batches of beer, two of which were awful, granting me transcendent respect for German braumeisters who mastered this stuff in the first place.

13) I’ve had five distinct weblogs, one of which cast me as a fictional character in Tennessee, which, oddly, was the most popular. I also have six active email accounts.

14) I went on Buspar, a mood-evening psychotropic for a few weeks; while I quickly grew bored of the deadening effect it had on my personality, I did get to tell a patently deranged, screaming woman at my retail job that she lacked manners and should take her money elsewhere, calm as a cucumber.

15) I once watched an adult female gorilla, a bit confused as to how to get a shiny soda can that someone had thrown near her enclosure, into her hands. She picked up a stick and dragged it to her. It remains, to this day, the most incredible display of animal intelligence that I’ve ever seen.

16) I can eat, and in fact enjoy, eating food so hot that it makes other people cry and sometimes vomit. Prince Charles’ son-in-law, Thomas Parker-Bowles, has done this exercise with me and can attest to the veracity of my assertion.

17) My free-to-the-public weblog, My Life as a…Gas Station Attendant, drew attention from a staffer at The Atlantic Monthly.

18) Because I am slightly built, I constantly wear Docs or Sketchers that make me appear two inches taller than I actually am. Although I am six feet tall, I am haunted by the understanding that short and skinny is hard in this world.

19) I am an ardent Marxist in an era and a country in which Marx is decidedly out of favor. I really wish that everybody would get over the Cold War. It’s done, people, and the guy was really smart.

20) I once defeated the antagonistic school bully by lessons gleaned from The Dukes of Hazard: I was being abused, by said bully, on the way home from school, and threw a wild roundhouse at his head, expecting him to duck, like it went on the show. He did not duck, and took the blow full force in the jaw. He ran inside crying and never bothered me again.

21) I have as much music on vinyl as I do on C.D. My C.D. music only gets played on my crappy T.V. which, lacking cable, only plays music and DVD’s. I don’t feel morally superior about my “kill your television” lifestyle, although it is assiduously tempting to do so.

22) I was a published author at seventeen, and not yet one since. I cannot explain this profound incongruity.

23) Although I support, principally, the rights of hunters and gun owners, I have neither ever hunted nor discharged a firearm.

24) I am a huge Rolling Stones fan, and am bewildered that the recent album A Bigger Bang, easily their best effort in 27 years, has met with such popular indifference.

25) My kindergarten girlfriend, Robin, got knocked up by my older brother’s friend, John, at thirteen, and hence had to miss our eighth grade graduation ceremony.

26) I was utterly horrified of bats as a child, not aided by the fact that bats would sneak into our home during every two-week summer vacation to Saint Louis. My siblings would play upon this fear by throwing black socks or other pseudo-batdoms into the air around me as I tried to sleep.

27) I have been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and am truly puzzled as to why a small, badly engineered structure in backwoods Italy is part of the Western historical cannon.

28) I am an agnostic who despises the intellectual hypocrisy of theists: I allow the possibility of God, given sufficient evidence; they would not allow for the possibility of atheism were it the most empirically provable thing in the world.

29) I have been to eight foreign nations and yet only seven domestic states.

30) I did not see any ocean until I was 23 years old, on the south coast of England.

31) I once met a Frenchman, an the deck of a castle in Naples, who confirmed every known stereotype about Frenchmen: he was short, smelled of B.O. and heavy cologne, addressed a complete stranger (in Italy) in French, and, upon identifying me as an American, lectured me at length on the evils of the Bush administration.

32) My younger brother, his friends, and I once held a burial service for his deceased iguana, Butthead, in my parents back yard, in which we marched in funereal procession with spades and quoted from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest as the internment Mass.

33) I can neither whistle, nor blow bubbles with chewing gum, nor snap my fingers, despite years of trying to correct these glaring inadequacies; my attempts at fly handshakes with black people end in inevitable disappointment and failure.

34) I met Jim Koch, “brewer and founder of Sam Adams,” and thanked him for helping American beer not suck so much anymore. He sagely replied, “I just wanted something I could drink.” I liked that guy.

35) My brother Jason once lodged his head between the railings on my maternal grandmother’s porch, when I was seven and he was five. I tried to tell the cackling adult female hens who were suggesting medieval birthing techniques like bacon grease to extract his head that they merely needed to turn his body sideways and pull him through the long way; no one would listen, and when they figured it out hours later I cried because I had seen it and no one had taken the time to let me speak

37) I was given, as a gift, a brown lambskin blazer, by a friend in New York that had been given to him by his girlfriend as a sample item from a prominent clothing company. I wore it to a friend’s house in Columbus, Ohio, to find that his English fiancé, who had previously worked in New York, had designed it. Small world.

38) I once flipped over a go-cart, at a public track in Cleveland, Ohio. From what I understand, this is not a common occurrence. We weren’t allowed to ride again after that.

39) There exists a game called “Shell Shocked” on many versions of the Megatouch machine popular in many American taverns. I am invincible—I have made it to round 24. I have no idea why this is, but am willing to prove the assertion.

40) Once, in Chillicothe, Ohio, I watched people line-dance to Nirvana. The horror is seared into my memory.

41) Without much provocation, I have had three loaded weapons pointed at me in my life. The last instance convinced the police to ask a bartender to give me and my companion Jaeger shots at 3:45 A.M.

42) I know more about beer, wine, and liquor than 90% of the human populace and yet spend most of my free time drinking Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

43) I once haggled over a pair of Doc Martens in London; the clerk didn’t have my size, so he went into the back of the store and found it after agreeing to my price. Only later did I realize that I’d been Jedi mind tricked; he gave me the same shoes he’d walked away with (too small) but lowered the price a bit. I destroyed them within weeks trying to break them in despite their painfully incorrect dimensions. Score one for the Jedi mind trick.

44) My father did not marry until 33, and seems to have established a blueprint for his four sons, who at 35, 34, 32, and 29, are all still bachelors.

45) I find Christian philosophers Augustine, Aquinas, Thomas Merton, and Anthony de Mello some of the most profound minds in the English cannon, and yet find Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson disgusting hacks perverting the entire idea of Christianity. Jesus would not approve, I suspect.

46) I am deeply competitive regarding games in which I’ve only modest skill: I equally hate losing at darts (awful), foosball (abysmal), air hockey (competent), chess (decent), and dice (hopeless).

47) The fact that some very intelligent people believe in astrology is utterly dismaying to me. I’m a Leo, by the way.

48) I was casually associated with the Russian mafia for a bit. Four of them, who I played cards with at an after hours party, later made it into U.S. News for getting caught importing a BMW full of ecstasy into New York.

49) I love living alone and could not imagine a roommate that I wasn’t sleeping with.

50) Light-colored eyes are captivating to me; I’m not sure I could marry a brown-eyed girl.

51) I compulsively dislike disposable lighters and use matches instead for everything I possibly can.

52) I went out for a walk during my first hurricane (Ophelia), just so I could say that I’d done it. It was a rush.

53) I rarely eat other mammals, out of a weird ethical sense of relation. Birds, fish, and shellfish are pretty stupid and hence fair game.

54) I am one of the few remaining individuals of my generation with no piercings or tattoos. The latter are going to look really goofy when those people are 70.

55) My elementary school’s ethnic makeup featured: one Asian boy, one black girl, one Afghani girl, two Lebanese boys, and about a trillion white kids, 90% of whom were of Irish descent. I had no real concept of ethnic diversity until college.

56) I’ve ridden in a 1993 Ferrari 348 and a 1998 Porsche Turbo. The Ferrari, while easily the slower of the two, was ten times as cool.

57) If my first novel gets published, the first thing I’m doing is buying a houseboat.

58) I absolutely love vampire and zombie movies, usually even the awful ones.

59) I have watched The Empire Strikes Back at least 100 times, and can recite large swaths from memory. As I enjoy having friends, I do not do this often.

60) I think Bud Lite may be the most revolting beverage ever to call itself beer. If Anheuser-Busch put ten percent of the imagination used in their very funny ads into their brewing, perhaps that wouldn’t be the case.

61) I like the female names Melanie, Amanda, Melissa and Marissa. I may have an “m” fetish. Kate, Amy, Kim and Jennifer should be banned from the record for at least thirty years do to their grotesque overuse in the 1970’s.

62) My first car was a 1981 Plymouth Horizon. It was such a piece of shit that it has given me a lifelong prejudice against all Chrysler products, German or not.

63) I am bewildered by people’s love of ice cream. Watching them eat it grosses me out the same way watching someone eat lard would.

64) I have remarkably dexterous toes, and once changed a tape with them just to prove that I could.

65) The more formal learning I acquire the more bewildering the world becomes to me; I’m going to feel like a drooling ‘tard by the time I get my P.H.D.

66) My former roommate Joe used to leave dirty dishes out in our roach-infested college apartment. We started leaving them on his bed because he wouldn’t stop after we told him not to.

67) I have been written on with permanent marker, had me nails painted, had ice put in my pants, and had my legs shaved, among other things, while passed out drunk at teenage parties.

68) I have wrestled (and lost) in one of those sumo suits; everyone needs to do this at least once.

69) When I was ten, I dove forward off the front porch of my parents’ house, breaking my two front teeth on the driveway. I think that I really though that I could fly.

70) I despise the Helvetica font; it annoyed me all the years that Apple used it as their default.

71) I love living by the ocean and am not sure I can ever live inland again.

72) I am usually a happy drunk, rarely a sad one, but never belligerent. I think habitually belligerent drunks should be shot.

73) I think people who respond to ten degree weather and two feet of snow by celebrating “all four seasons” are bloody insane.

74) I can’t dance at all. I feel bad about this, but never do anything about it.

75) I was a promising artist and sculptor as a child, but gave them both up for no reason that I can remember.

76) Any pet that I own has to have a Shakespearian name. This is trickier than it sounds; naming your dog Othello or Horatio makes a person sound like a complete wanker.

77) I lost an entire semester’s worth of graduate writing when the hard drive on my three-month old laptop failed. That really sucked.

78) I went to three different high schools in four years despite living in the same place; I thought about having tour T-shirts printed up.

79) I changed my birthday from August 22 to March 13 one year just so the kids at my high school would decorate my locker and give me stuff. They did.

80) I skipped out on paying my rent at an Irish youth hostel by lowering my bag to the ground from a third floor window with a piece of twine and then walking past the front desk without it. I feel kind of guilty about that.

81) I had 36 drinks once in a day that took me from an airport in Dublin to an airport in London to an airport in St. Louis to a bar in Cleveland and then to an after hours party. I did not feel good when I woke up.

82) I once ordered dinner in Basil, Switzerland despite the fact that we spoke no German and the staff understood no English. I ordered in French from out Turkish waiter. It was kind of surreal.

83) I think Northwest Wales is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

84) For my 23rd birthday, my British flatmates surprised me with a ferry trip to Cherbourg, France. We stumbled around the entire day publicly drunk on red wine, so maybe #31 was actually karmic retribution.

85) I attended and graduated from Ohio State without ever attending a single sporting event.

86) My favorite tea is Earl Grey.

87) I think squirrels are really, really evil looking.

88) I despise fluorescent lights; they give me a headache and make it difficult for me to concentrate.

89) If I could meet anyone from history, it would probably be William Tyndale, the guy that wrote that contentious little document called The King James Bible.

90) I think Mahayana Buddhism is the coolest name for a religion ever.

91) One Tree Hill is shot in my city, and the cast can be seen about town regularly during the production season. Oddly, I find nothing exciting about this whatsoever.

92) If I could be wounded and survive with a scar and a cool story, it would clearly be by shark or crocodile bite.

93) The bar I hang out in was an ammo depot for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

94) Tom Willis (real name Franklin Cover Jr.), the white guy married to Lenny Kravitz’s mom’s character from The Jeffersons grew up in the house next door to my parents. He’d come to visit his folks and I and my siblings all harassed him for his autograph.

95) Things on my essential list of lifetime to-do’s: hang gliding, sky diving, and riding in a hot air balloon, just because each one would terrify my nearly to death.

96) Bars in Ireland often stay open well past legal closing time. My ignorance regarding this fact caused my brother and me to miss the last train and walk twelve miles on a cold, damp night back to our hostel.

97) I was once brutally beaten by three guys in defense of a girl that ended up sleeping with my friend Pat. I’m still a little bitter about that.

98) I find comedy sketches involving fake severed limbs and spurting blood to be indescribably funny. I’m not sure what this says about me.

99) I am compulsively finding other people’s lighters, pens, and sunglasses, balancing out the mathematical ratio for all you people who are always losing the same.

100) Anyone who actually read through this entire list gets a cocktail of choice from me in any city we might ever mutually be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tales of yet Another All-Nighter

As I sit, here in the oh-so-writerly leather armchair, preparing to embark on a new historicist essay on Stephen Crane’s bleak 1893 realist novella Maggie, I must review the checklist that allows me to sit with some psychological comfort, in the knowledge that I will not have to get back up in thirty seconds because I’ve forgotten something:

1) Cup of strong French Roast, made from freshly ground beans, unfiltered, with the electric percolator. Check. I taste it. Damn, them’s good coffee beans.

2) Source text: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York), Bedford cultural edition, with all the wrong passages underlined because I changed topics at the last possible instant, as nearly always. Check.

3) Pencils, to be abused, blunted, and broken; sharpener, to restore care, keenness, and intact status to maligned pencils. Check and check.

4) Horribly bad intelligent design book What Darwin Didn’t Know, by some crackpot by the name of Geoffrey Simmons, M. muthaeffin’ D., lurking at the edge of my vision, leering and whispering, “Read me, so you can turn apoplectic at my bottomless inanity instead of writing your paper. You know you’ll compose better once you’re good and livid with rage.” Uncheck. That book needs to go away. Check.

4) Cigarettes, (check) and lighter (check) which will remain untouched until I put myself down at about eight A.M. with…

5) Bottle of inexpensive red wine. Nowhere to be spotted on the horizon, lest we include the sad, hollow remains of Alice White 2004 Shiraz, evoking fond memories of Melbourne in the Spring…er…medicating myself to sleep at eight o’clock this morning.

6) Backup plan once I run out of ideas: a trip to the grad lab to mine the OED online for arcane essay-padding materials such as the definition of “ruin” as applied in the late 19th century. I love the OED; it makes insipid, underresearched papers so much…longer. Check. The fact that this bluff has yet to be called by an instructor is testament either to its true shrewdness or their own utter disillusionment and cynicism toward essay-grading.

7) Something reasonably intelligent to write about the 19th century discourse of women deflowered prior to marriage: nope, still working on that bit. It shall require…

8) Second cup, French Roast coffee, English strength, black. Ah, it’s good to know that my blog post is now as ideologically strip-mined as my new historicist essay. And with that, I shall say…

9) Bye now. I gotta write a paper.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tropical Thanksgiving

So, perhaps this aside will be yet further incontrovertible evidence that I am a Yankee, with all such ill-mannered and cold-weathered associations that such entails, but can anyone point out any good and sensible reason that the high today was 81 degrees Farenheit an freakin' November ninth? I am thoroughly accunstomed to all insects being deceased at this point in the season, yet instead I have been compelled to buy a screen so that 19 different species of them do not invade my open front door each night. Insects are not supposed to be alive on November ninth, and I am not supposed to require my front door to be opened because it's too damned hot in my apartment. I must retreat north across the Mason-Dixon line, and soon, before I start getting fool ideas about never dealing with the abhorrent wretchedness that is snow ever again.

Oh yes, and people in Southeastern North Carolina tell me--really folks, they do--about how cold it is every time the thermometer dips a shade below forty. They all need to be interned in the Great Lakes region for one, just one, Winter, and we will see if that criticism is ever uttered again in a place in which half the trees never bother to change color. Well, assuming that that the Confederates survive the experience, that is. You Southern folk and your cold. Bah! I scoff at thee, December-hoodie-wearers. You would not know Winter should he--ah, never mind, y'all just don't know what Winter is. Come with me to Cleveland for Christmas, my children, and I will show you Winter, oh scarfless and earmuffless Carolinians. And you will tremble in fear and, oh yeah, cuz' it's ten below.