29 December 2006

I'm Going To Write My Own Goddamn Book On Happiness

Is this woman really happy, or is she just
being stabbed in the ass by a vengeful Turk?
You be the judge!


You know me well enough to know that there are two things in this world that I eat with abandon. One is cheese. The other is self-help books. I became intrigued by the whole self-help genre when I heard about how many billions and gazillions of dollars people spend on that stuff each year. Self-help is the top category by a country mile. They've got everything from books on smoking cessation to websites about dynamite sex for septuagenarians. (Warning: sex and high explosives do not mix, especially if you're old and you have that shaky-old-guy-thing going on. -Ed.) So I thought to myself, hey, what's up with this stuff and why do people buy so much of it? Well I found out after reading everything from the venerable Think And Grow Rich to Change Your Life With St. John's Wort that the single point of all these books is - wait for it - happiness. Period. That's all they're talking about. They're all advocating different ways to make yourself happier. (Or happy at all if you're talking about books on suicide prevention. -Ed.) You could make "How To Be Happy" the title of every single piece of media in the category, and make the current title the subtitle. Like this - "How To Be Happy by not drinking so goddamn much." "How To Be Happy by squirreling away a jillion dollars." "How To Be Happy by losing 38 pounds." "How To Be Happy by smoking an ounce of Jesus every day."

So I found a book simply titled "Happiness" by a fellow named Mathieu Ricard and put it on advance order. It came with endorsements from practically all of my favorite self-help authors, like Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence), Martin Seligman (Authentic Happiness), and Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go, There You Are). But in the meantime, I started doing that very simple happiness experiment that I told you about in a previous letter, the one where all you do is before you go to bed each night write down three things that made you happy that day. The effects have been amazing, but I'll tell you more about that in a minute.

Lo and behold, the book shows up seemingly out of nowhere (as I had forgotten that I advance ordered it). And I got about one and a half chapters into it when I suddenly hit my threshhold for self-help books. Something just clicked. I mean, I don't want to sound dismissive of self-help books certainly, as there's a lot of good in them. The thing that made me finally say (internally, thankfully), "OH for the LOVE of PETER DINKLAGE!" was that chapter 2 was all about the Buddhist idea of reality. Look, I'm already a Buddhist, and just thinking about that stuff makes me feel like my ears are screwed on too tight and I'm just about to start peaking on 'shrooms. I can't understand how a non-Buddhist would ever make it past the first three paragraphs.

I mean isn't there a single book out there that goes, "Here's how to be happy. You don't have to understand or adopt an Eastern philosophy. You don't have to be a PhD. You can smoke or not, we don't care. We're not going to beat around the bush. We're going to go straight to the fuse box and touch the freakin' wires. Ready? Here we go." There has to be a completely secular, non-philosophical sort of mechanic's guide to happiness. Call it "Happiness for Shmoes" or whatever. But c'mon, enough with all the method and dogma. Words are a precious resource. They should be rationed. So to all you guys in the self-help business, just shut up and get to the point already before you eat up all the words in existence. "To be happy, just do A) followed by B). The End." Good enough for me.

Why do I believe that it's that simple? The only way to show is you is to have you do it. So here you go. Get a journal - a wirebound notebook or whatever - and a pen and put them on your nightstand. Every night before you go to bed, write down three things that made you happy that day, and what it was about it that made you happy, even if you can't explain it well. No less than three. And they don't have to be complex. I note when I saw a really great sunset, or if I made a particularly bitchen cup of coffee that morning. Little things. Nothing is too small.

But no fucking around! You must do it every night, night after night, without fail. If you choke and fall asleep too quickly one night, do it first thing in the morning. But regularity is key.

I can tell you from experience that this will not make your problems go away. What you will notice, aside from the fact that you will start having a solid night's sleep every night, is that you start reframing your diffculties. You will not see them as less severe or bothersome, but instead will see them against a backdrop of expansive possibilities and options. This will go a long way to reduce your desire to choke the living shit out of the guy who drives the street cleaner past your window at 3:30AM every Saturday.

One of the forefathers of our country - I think it was the guy with the wig - wrote about happiness (or the pursuit thereof) as being a birthright of humanity. I mean look, when you get right down to it, what is our only pursuit in life? Happiness. Life is a means to experience happiness. Liberty is supposed to beget happiness. Either the job you have or the one you want is the thing that'll make you happy. Either the relationship you have or the one you want - your body, diet, wardrobe, car, hair, batting average, four-foot blown-glass multichambered bong - all routes we embark on hoping for that same end: happiness.

Look, we'll talk about this more. I know you're going to hit me with a ton of questions, like about what definition I'm giving for happiness. Or like what a grumpy old fucker like me could possibly know about happiness? Or if I'm so goddamn happy, why did I give a complimentary pressed ham to that guy who stole my parking spot? The answer to these questions and more will come in short order. In the meantime, just put down that tuba, grab a journal and a pen and hit the hay. You have some writing to do.



26 December 2006

Best. Christmas. EVER.

The nave of the chapel at Epiphany Parish, Seattle.
Beautiful church, charming pageant, saucy parishioners.
What's not to love?


Merry Boxing Day! If I were British - or Canadian (...that's "British Lite". -Ed.) - I'd be wrapping up some cock-a-leekie soup for the charwoman, or putting a shilling in my knickers for a blessing from St. Heiner. Or something like that. I'm sure my British constituency will correct me.

But speaking of holiday traditions, Teresa and I did the unthinkable on Christmas Eve morning. We went to church! I thought it might be a laff riot to go see a children's Christmas pageant, so I rummaged around on the InterWebs to see if there was one we might crash. And lo, the InterWebs didst reveal that a children's Christmas pageant shone 'round about Epiphany Episcopal Parish at 9:30AM, and even provided a map to show me the way there. (It is my confirmed opinion that online mapping services should be outlawed inasmuch as they enable people like me to crash children's Christmas pageants, and should be therefore likewise be regarded as a Tool of Satan.)

So we donned our gay apparel and made our way there with plenty of time to spare. Epiphany Parish, as it turns out, is a stunningly beautiful turn-of-the-century church with a parochial school attached and a very young and joyful congregation. The minister, Father Conklin I believe, greeted us warmly at the door, and asked us if we had children in the pageant. I said no, which prompted him to ask again, very politely, just exactly what the H we were doing there. Several smartass replies sprang to mind, such as "reviewing the show for The New Yorker" or "prowling". But instead I told the truth. I said that my father was an Episcopalian minister, that I was raised Episcopalian, and even though I had converted to Buddhism years ago, I still celebrated Christmas. It's one of those answers that makes the querist's brain lock up, as Father Conklin's did, freezing his smile just long enough for me to see his teeth go completely dry. He said Merry Christmas, I guess, and we took a seat.

The pageant was a scream. The Angel Gabriel had to read her lines from out of her sleeve, which meant that she didn't have an extra hand to keep her halo from falling down over her eyes repeatedly, which also made the whole thing a sort of Sysyphean proposition for the poor girl. The dozen or so toddler-aged heavenly hosts seemed befuddled at the birth of the Christ Child and needed to be prompted - LOUDLY - from the pulpit to rejoice, which they then expressed by frenzied bouncing. And at the curtain call, the Virgin Mary held her infant son high above her head and made him bow to all four corners of the sanctuary. Best. Christmas. Pageant. EVER. We wept with joy.

But the thing that made me really love this congregation was the Wassail party in the congregation hall afterward that featured two bowls of Wassail. One of them was completely inocuous but the other was fortified with The Blood Of Our Lord And Savior John H. Daniels to turpentine-like strength. A napkin was placed next to it with a simple caveat pencilled on it for potential meddlers: wArnIng - AlcOhol! I guess it's true what the holy scriptures said about Episcopalians: where there's four, there's a fifth. Even though I don't drink, I seem to enjoy people who do. And of those who do, I enjoy those most who do it most brazenly. Epiphany Parish seems to have beauty and brass in equal measure, and I may just adopt it as my Christian holiday venue of choice.

Afterward, Teresa and I donned our Seahawk apparel and went to the Blessed Sanctuary of The One True Religion to watch the Seahawks host the San Diego Chargers. It was a very exciting game, but heartbreaking nonetheless. Our beloved Seahawks came from behind in the third quarter only to be vanquished in the last 30 seconds of the game. The loss was made that much more poignant by the incredible effort that the Seahawks put forth to beat the team that is arguably the best in the NFL right now. The upside is that because our division rivals the San Francisco 49ers lost that day, we're still in the playoffs. Not exactly the way you want to get into the playoffs, mind you, but we'll take it anyway. We'll just have to wait and see what the future will bring. Go Hawks.

The rest of the holiday was spent gorging myself on candy until I was blue-in-the-lips from insulin shock (...he kids. But not much. -Ed.), so my memory is spotty. I'll have to piece the events together from the tears in my clothing, the angry voicemails on my telephone, and the numerous warrants stapled to my front door. I'll write again when I have a clearer picture.

Cheers and Merry Christmas,


21 December 2006

The New Gunnsberg Miracle: A Christmas Story

Gunnsberg (founded 2005) as it currently appears on my sideboard.
Mount Fridgidaire is visible in the background.


As our uncle Gerald used to say, "Merry Christmas, old man! How's your cotton pickin' liver?" I didn't know exactly what he meant by that then, and I still don't know for sure now. Still, I understand the importance of visceral fortitude during the holidays, especially when it comes to things like aunt Margaret's rum balls. As it is with jumping off a bridge, one must first take at least thumb-gauge measurements to make sure that thirty-two feet per second squared moving vertically won't equal sixty four days in horizontal repose. So I repeat Gerald's greeting here as an invitation to take a dipstick to your innards before you joyously leap off the lip of your beloved holiday bottle of Thunderbird. How is your liver?

As of yesterday, the Gunn household experienced its first miracle of the Christmas season. I don't know if I told you before or not, but when I first erected my tiny porcelain Christmas village last year, Teresa rolled her eyes at it in disgust. It's chotchkes, she said, psuedo-Bavarian miniature kitsch, nothing but a dust magnet, and if I had a pellet gun - ! But manifold pleadings and cajoling and threats of insanity held her at bay, at least for the remainder of last Christmas season.

And then came this year when I re-erected Gunnsberg (which makes it New Gunnsberg, I guess) and she perceived - correctly - that my tiny village was now suffering from urban sprawl. Oh dear GAWD! she cried. Mary, Joseph and diaper-wearing Jesus, how did this happen?!

So I explained to her that last year, the day after Christmas, I was only crossing the street when time and space folded - folded, I tell you! - and suddenly I found myself at Tweedy and Popp Ace Hardware - barely six miles from here - and lo, gloriously low prices on last year's Christmas decorations didst shine 'round about the Seasonal Aisle, and I was sore afraid. I was sore afraid that if I did not avail myself of these deep, deep discounts on tiny, tiny houses that they would be snatched up by those less deserving - Filipino ladies with pellet guns, for instance. So I dug deep and secured not one, not two, but three more tiny porcelain houses, a covered bridge, and a freakishly out-of-scale horse and carriage. (I reasoned that the citizens of New Gunnsberg needed a means of ingress to and egress from Kitchenland and Mount Fridgidaire and, commensurate with that, a mode of transportation. I figured a giant with a horsecart was as good as any.)

So the triumvirate of Hardware Coots at the checkout counter eyed me suspiciously - me, a middle-aged man with a Jesus-load of tiny porcelain domiciles. I was not their kind, apparently. They clucked and cocked their heads and plugged their armpits with their thumbs. They asked one too many times for a price check. Apprently they wanted to make me stand still so they could get a real good look at Mister Dolly Houses. They were mostly wearing coveralls of various dirt-tones and splat-o-flage patterns, accessorized with - who knows why - day-glo orange deerslayer caps. I was in my usual North Face bourgeousie deluxe "steers & queers" model parka, convertible "tree-hugging faggot" pants, and Asics "they sell men's clothes were you got them, boy?" trail running shoes. Not to mention my half-horn-rimmed Giorgio Armani eyeglass frames with a very large "aim fist here" sign on the nose bridge. (Insert banjo chorus. -Ed.)

So the Head Coot says to me - real suspicious-like - he says, "Looks like you take a fancy to these little houses."

To which I replied, "Not so much, really."

So he says, "Why for not? It looks like you got you a load of 'em."

I said, "Yeah - because they drive my wife completely nuts!"

There was a moment of silence and then the Three Coot-A-Teers exploded into guffaws, slapping the counter, bending at the waist, and fanning themselves with their day-glo deerslayer caps. One even underscored his joy by throttling a scythe.

"That's a good one!" they hollered, "We gotta try that!" And with that I was on my way, my city-boy faggot ass miraculously un-kicked.

So yes, my purchase remained hidden in storage for the rest of the year until two days ago when Gunnsberg made its seasonal reappearance on the sideboard. Then my treachery was revealed. Teresa watched the rise of New Gunnsberg with arms crossed and as much scowl as she could muster, muttering threats and accusations whenever possible.

BUT! Just as Aaron and I arranged the last of the little fir trees and streetlights, plugged in the power strip and threw the switch, I caught a glimpse of Teresa's face in the golden glow pouring from the tiny windows. Her features softened. A smile crept across her lips. And then she uttered the unthinkable: "It's cute!" It was a Christmas miracle! The tiny, invisible citizens of New Gunnsberg had softened my wife's ice-cold coal-black heart, warmed her cockles with the Yuletide spirit, and insured their survival for another year. There would be no pellet gun assault from the Filipino infantry! Christmas was saved!

And that's why chickens wear hats. The End.

Cheers and best wishes for the holiday season to you and yours. And if this letter made you laugh once or twice, that too is a Christmas miracle.


19 December 2006

Seattle: What's To Like?

A lupine meadow in Discovery Park, right in the midst of Seattle,
Washington. Living here does not blow - not on account of the
scenery, anyway.


Remember how I told you about that happiness experiment that I was going to do on my brain? The one where every night before I went to bed, I was going to write down three things that made me happy that day?I've been doing it for a couple of weeks now and so far it has been going gangbusters. If the point of the exercise was to make me sleep better, then it works like a well-swung cue ball upside the dome. I sleep like a bear. In addition to that, it has reduced my predilection to ruminate on anxiety-inducing topics - at least while I'm awake, anyway. I still wake up in a froth each morning trying to perform long division on the balance of my bank accounts. But I mean, hey, who doesn't do that at Christmastime?

One thing that might keep people from practicing happiness is that it seems doing so means letting one's guard down. Ergo, while you're busy being a blissed-out hippie, life will sneak up and stab you in the ass. Actually, that's not so. I know from studying this stuff obsessively that happiness and other positive states of mind are expansive, meaning that the aperture of consciousness widens to entertain more possibilities in every situation. So it's more likely that you will both perceive potential ass-stabbers and be mentally ready for them if you are in a positive state of mind. Anger, anxiety and other negative states of mind are more narrowly focused and reduce the number of perceived possibilities. Remember, the Hulk's only option was to "smash". I could go off on my usual didactic saw about emotions being a method of heuristic management. But Christ, how many times do I have to beat that goddamn topic before somebody comes up and grabs me by the heuristics and gives me a shake? You get my point.

So another effect of doing this exercise is that it has made me appreciate Seattle more. Even though I've lived here for twenty years, I've always felt like an immigrant, like I have nothing in common with the ultra-dour locals here, and that they in turn despise my penchant for Sunny Jim exuberance. It seems that ennui and smoldering spite are the only two acceptable modes here. If Thumper lived in Seattle, he would've hucked himself off the Aurora Bridge ages ago. "If you can't grumble something shitty, don't grumble nothing at all." I mean, c'mon, this is the place that invented grunge, which is basically punk rock without the gumption to take a swing at you.

BUT! All of that said, in the spirit of the "things that make me happy" list exercise that I'm doing right now, I thought I'd take a moment to enumerate all the things I like about Seattle. Perhaps it's just because this exercise has seeded my brain with sugar cubes. Or perhaps it's because I fear becoming one of THEM.

I like the way they make coffee here: thick as blood and potent enough to shock the tits off a sphinx. Seattleites feign hatred of Starbucks. It's a faceless, blood-sucking multinational conglomerate they say, and they're quick with a rebuke for anyone who says anything to the contrary. I like Starbucks because they're the only place that makes a decent cup of black drip, so fawkoff. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. (True Made-Up Fact: One in six people in the Puget Sound region is a Starbucks barista. -Ed.)

I like the Seattle Seahawks, even though they have a quarterback with the disposition of a thoroughbred and they've stumbled their way through the '06 season thus far. But you always root for the home team, right? I mean the New Orleans Saints sucked for like 100 years (and now thankfully they're getting their due), but that never stopped New Orleaneans from slathering their team with praise. Well that's not how we do things in Seattle, where schadenfreude is the major import. During the Hawks 13-win run last season, all I heard from the locals was "They got lucky. They'll start sucking again any day now." Then they made it all the way to the Super Bowl - no mean feat. And then they lost (Christ, somebody had to! -Ed.) causing the locals to reprise their glumful mantra: "See? Told ya they'd suck eventually." I say fawkoff, Eeyores of the Puget Sound! And Go Hawks! And I mean both of those things in the nicest way possible.

I like Seattle because it's really goddamn pretty. On the other hand, it's like having a really hot girlfriend who treats you like shit. Sure, it rains like hell and treats you like crap for nine months out of the year. But then the sky cracks open and the sunbeams pour forth, revealing the glory that surrounds us. The only downside is that light and warmth freak the locals right the hell out, and they express their freak-outedness by being even more grumpy and dysthymic. Sunshine, it seems, is the only thing that pisses them off more than rain. (True Made-Up Fact: 78% of the people in the Puget Sound region are pissed off about something right now; 22% are actively searching for something to be pissed off about - and I mean rightfuckingnow! -Ed.)

So yeah - good coffee, the glory of nature, and football. What else ya need in a town besides toilets and a decent newspaper? (Check and - well, we'll get back to ya on the second one. -Ed.)

Cheers, and be on the lookout for that potential ass-stabber in the red suit. If he comes to my neighborhood, his ass is gonna have to have a word with the yakuza. Only they control the toy and goodie market in Chinatown!


18 December 2006

Thank You, Time Magazine. Now F'koff.

"Time" is right. It's about "Time" they gave me
Person of the Year. Bitches.


Didja hear? I got named Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Since I didn't want to come off as ungrateful, I wrote them a nice little acceptance letter. I've reprinted it below for ya. Enjoy.


from: thaddeus.gunn@ifuckinghatetheinternet.com
reply-to: mary_don't_ask@frillypants.com
to: letters@time.com
date: December 18th, 2006 0801PST
subject: Thanks. Now fuck off.

Dear Time Magazine:

I don't know what the fuck you people are up to, naming me Person of the Year and all. Is this some sort of scheme to butter me up - you know, "cupboard love" like my grandma used to call it? Look, I don't care how much you flatter me, no one is ever getting my plasma again so don't even ask. Last year I gave about six gallons of that shit to some fly-by-night outfit downtown, and then I found out that they turned around and made TV screens out of it! Have you seen how much those things cost? I mean, they wheedled me down to, like, six bucks a pint for my juice, and then they turn around and made it into a $6,000 TV screen. And so I go down there to get my share of the dough, and they're all like "We've been closed by the board of health". And I'm all like, "What for?" And they're all like, "We accidentally gave Hep C to like a zillion people." Well, okay, they didn't say that. But they're still a fuckin' bunch of "junkie juicers" if you ask me.

Well anyway, whatever you sneaky bastards are up to, I must say thanks for the cover. As Navin Johnson once said, "This is the kind of spontaneous publicity that makes people!" Now that I'm famous, maybe I'll be able to get into all those velvet-roped places that I couldn't get into before. Like the Oscars. Or the women's restroom at the Washington Athletic Club.


-Thaddeus R. Gunn

11 December 2006

The Last "Dear Gregory" Ever

Home Street Home. I used to live in a '74 Mav just as ugly
as this one. It didn't have a 42-inch HD Plasma, but at least
the seats reclined.


Settle down and stop weeping already. It's not what you think. I'm still going to write to you. It's just that this thing I use to write letters to you - Blogger, I think it's called - is asking me to upgrade to something called a "beta". As I am inextricably drawn with crow-like fascination to all thing shiny and new, upgrade I must. My viscera compels me. Be forewarned, though. My experience with the InterWebs has taught me that it is a capricious and multi-headed beast, and oftentimes takes all your hard work and makes it as though it never existed. So that means the hundred some-odd letters I have written to you could - and probably will - vanish as soon as I upgrade.

By the way, I'm lobbying to change the name of the InterWebs to ¡Shiva The Destroyer! I'll write more about this in the future on my soon-to-be-established technology HateSite, Dubba Dubba Dubba dot I Fucking Hate The Internet dot Com. There will also be an online petition to destroy all the InterWebs, and of course the usual number of hoaxes delivered with the appropriate authoritarian air. In the meantime, enjoy this incarnation of Dear Gregory while you can because as soon as I hit the big shiny "upgrade" button, in the terlit it all goes. Just you wait and see.

Speaking of in the terlit, Christmas is lurking just around the corner which means I'm not nearly done spraying the money hose on everything I see. As we all know, my shortcomings are legion, but chief among them are my ossum credit rating and my propensity for buying Christmas presents. It seems I'm equal parts miser and spendthrift. I have no problem whatsoever purchasing things for other people, but when it comes to myself, I completely freak out. Maybe it's that "deserving" thing, as in wondering if I really deserve it. I've really got that neurosis really bad. (And that one about throwing away bread, as in I can't or I freak out.) I spent a lot of time when I was younger feeling like I didn't deserve to eat. Man that's grim. No wonder I was 6'2" and 150 pounds at age 17. And it's no wonder I lived in a 1974 Ford Maverick when I was 27.

But all of those cheery thoughts aside, I've been entertaining the idea of buying a new TV for some time now (no pun intended), but can't quite bring myself to pull the trigger. (TV as you know is a necessary tool for football- , movie- and PBS-obsessed persons like myself.) On the other hand, if Teresa wanted me to buy her one, we'd've had it yesterday. But no. I took six years making comparisons and test driving before I bought my car. I've only spent about 18 months comparing TVs, so I suppose I have another (...plus nine, carry the five...) four and a half years to spend comparing sets before the suggested retail drops to my Magical Rock-Bottom Ultimate Dream Price of $59.99.

So yeah. And then to make matters more complicated, Aaron - who now specializes in digital video for Best Buy - told me that the best image wasn't from the plasma model I was thinking of. The best image was to be found on an LCD model which is umpteen pounds and tuppence more expensive. (Naturally. -Ed.) And then - and then! - this guy I work with, Mike Woo, gets all up in my grill about how the one I want doesn't have the right contrast ratio or some boo-shit. Daaaamn.

Look, either I'm going to have to reach deep into my magical ass and pull out a couple grand to spend on myself - HORROR OF HORRORS! Or I'm going to do the unthinkable. I'm going to shitcan my TiVo and go back to reading books aloud while Teresa recreates the action with sock puppets in front of an oil lamp. You know, just like we did when we were kids.



07 December 2006

Feeding My Architectural Obsession

Strange But True Psuedo-Fact: My favorite type of roof is the rare
hipped gambrel. This morning I sprained my hip, which gave
me time to read up on gambrels. Coincidence? I think not.


I'm sitting at my favorite writing chair - my only writing chair - wedged in by a sack of ice the size of Baby Jesus' head. I sprained my hip in the shower this morning, an injury I thought was reserved for geriatrics and prison romances. Luckily, I had an appointment scheduled with Calhoun. (...alternatively referred to as "Baby Jesus' Gift to Chiropractors" and "Dr. Brian Graham". -Ed.) Within half an hour of the incident, I was in his office having my ball and socket reacquainted with much limb-wrangling and a loud POP. Now I have to ice it and give it time to think about what it has done. The upside of all of this is that it gives me time to catch up on my reading, which is great because I just bought two new books on architecture.

Stop pretending to be asleep and pay attention. They're both actually very interesting books. And no, having a party boner for early 20th century domestic architecture does not make me a ponce. I don't pretend to snore when you start spouting off about the history of lint, so cut me some slack.

Okay. So. The Abrams Guide to American House Styles is a compact, complete and accessible guide to every manner of shack that has been erected on these shores since Cotton Mather was in knee pants. And it has lots of pretty color pictures, so you'd love it. Strangely absent: the late 20th century McMansions, or as I like to call them, Toilet Farms. If you're like me and you ogle Second Empire rooflines and Craftsman beamwork with a leer middle-aged men usually reserve for photos of the Olsen twins, then this is the book for you.

Incidentally, I picked it up at Powell's when I went to visit John last weekend. He says he can't recall having a brother named Greg, and seemed to be only feigning a recollection of me. He seemed happy enough, though, to receive the All Clad skillet I gave him for a Christmas present even though he kept calling me "Skip" and asking me about my time in The 'Nam. Speaking of music, John gave me an original model Waring blender (...invented by the Bandleader Fred Waring back in the '30s. I shit you not. -Ed.), the kind with the big, beefy chrome base and the glass pitcher. It has the only two speeds you'll ever need: "blend" and "pulverize a dachshund". This is no Procter Silex 25-speed made-from-plastic weenie model. It has enough torque to split wood. I'n so crazy about it that I don't think I'll ever use it. I'll just gaze upon it lovingly from time to time.

Oh - the other book I got at Powell's - it was The Most Beautiful House In The World by Witold Rybczynski. (...whose surname was horribly mangled in a blender accident. -Ed.) The book is about how we give life and meaning to the dwellings that we create for ourselves. Beyond that he has some very interesting things to say about the process of design being more like play than anything else, and in doing so, elevates play to a defining attribute of humanity. So you see, all the goofing off I do at work is actually an indication of my advanced evolutionary state. (No, actually it's not. -Ed.)

Maybe my obsession with domestic architecture has to do with the fact that I parted from my own home so early. What was it - at 15 the first time and then before my 17th birthday for good, I guess. Not that it bothers me, but I don't see other guys with architectural fixations unless they're in architecture school or co-starring on Queer Eye. Or maybe my fixation is so strong at the moment because this is the homey time of year and I live in a space that has no window frames (to speak of) and could really do with some crown moulding. You can practically hear the walls crashing into the ceiling. That's just not right.

So in closing let me say that if you're looking for the perfect Christmas gift for me, get me a gambrel-roofed, six-dormered two story Cape Cod with clapboard siding, a central brick masonry heater, a Japanese bath on the second story, a pergola on the kitchen end, cased doorways, box beam ceilings, quarter sawn cross-braced solid wood interior doors and plate rail wainscoting on the inside.

No, I haven't been giving this much thought at all.



27 November 2006

Joy And Other Truly Depressing Shit

17% Receiving fruitcake
12% Sled and livestock parked on roof
9% Cranberry caught crosswise in own or others' craw
6% If another fuckin' person says fuckin' Happy fuckin' Holidays
to me, I swear to fuckin' God I'll park this fuckin' Buick Roadmaster
right on his fuckin' gizzard. You fuckin' see if I fuckin' don't!


Hope you have recovered from your birdmeat-induced coma. I binged on stuffing, then attempted to purge by burning off a thousand calories on the HellClimber. Some quick math proved that I had ingested at least thrice that amount in one sitting. The point of that fact pierced the gunnels of my soul, causing darkness and despair to leak in.

The sleet outside the window of my garret continues unabated.

Speaking of which, Monday night it snowed about an inch, which meant that the entire town of Seattle came to a slushing, grinding halt. Buses jacknifed. Cars were abandoned. Bars were filled. Pregnancies were created.

So what better time to revisit one of my favorite subjects - positive thinking! Right now the ghost of Alan Watts is sitting in the porch of my ear, whispering that thought itself is the problem. "For if you're thinking, then you're always living in the world of symbols. Can you dig that, man?" I shall poo-poo him for the moment and turn my attention to the ghost of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale who I have trapped in acetate, viz., on a special four cassette edition of "The Power of Positive Thinking". I've damn near worn all the tapes in the collection threadbare in the seven or so years that I've owned them, and am now looking for a digital replacement set so I can rip it and carry it with me always on my Sansa e260R Rhapsody. (You're searching through your comedy bag for some witty way to use the term "Pocket Peale", aren't you?)

The reason I'm bringing it up is not just because the Happy Holidays are really a bubbling cauldron of hate and despair for most people. I'm also bringing it up because of an article I came across in today's paper about current research on happiness. Oddly enough, some of the research echoed what Peale said in his book over 50 years ago: if you want to experience more happiness, simplify the things that make you happy. The article goes one step further in suggesting a very simple exercise. At the end of each day, write down three good things that had happened and analyze how they had occurred, or rather, what about the event made you happy. It surprised me to find out that an idea that Peale formed through his philosophical and religious dialectic seems to have quantifiable results when put into practice. That's not an easy thing to do when working with something as elusive and subjective as "happiness".

It all sounds very naive and simplistic, I know. But so is Zen. (You knew I was going to get back to Watts, didn't you?) I thought I'd give the exercise a try anyway and see what happens. I'm going to put a notebook in the nightstand and see what I can recall each night before I go to bed. Hopefully I won't discover anything truly negative about myself...like that I become overjoyed at the sight of a well-heeled white Republican falling into an open sewer and dying.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes. I'll see if I can track the results somehow in my correspondence. In the meantime, I can say that I am positively gleeful in anticipation of my trip this Saturday to Portland. I'll be seeing our co-sibling John. You remember him, don't you? Gap-toothed smile? Boyish good looks? Swings a mean pipe wrench? We'll be having dinner together Saturday night at an East Indian restaurant called Plainfield's Mayur and doing an early Christmas thing. There's a joke in there somewhere. (Two non-Christian brothers meet to celebrate Christmas in an Indian restaurant. One turns to the other and says - I got nothin'. -Ed.) Let me know if there's anything you'd like me to pass along to him, like perhaps that he has a "brother" named "Greg".



23 November 2006

Happy Mycoprotein Loaf Day!

Please pass the steaming faux meat cylinder!
Who can resist a delectable slice of space age food science?


Holiday related question: On this most meat-centric of all American holidays, who would not want to sit down to a steaming loaf of mycoprotein that is shaped like a marital aid and is roughly the color of GI Joe?

Just about everyone as it turns out. Since Teresa and I are vegetarians, we don't usually have people beating down the door to spend Turkey Day with us. As mouthwatering as the above description sounds, we are hard-pressed to have anyone take us up on such a feast. Nor do we get invited over often. It seems that people don't like to eat meat in the presence of vegetarians.

Don't get me wrong. We're not vegetarian zealots who preach the gospel of meatlessness. I think people like that should be humanely dispatched and then eaten. My perspective is this: I really don't give a rat's meatless ass what anyone besides me eats. I am the sole guardian of my own piehole. What other people put in theirs is their business. And people, please don't apologize to me for eating meat, or go into some lengthy explanation about how you eat less meat nowadays, or only eat fish, or ask me a thousand questions about where I draw the line on meat. ("Do bugs count?" "Oh fuck no. I eat cockroaches and earwigs by the bucketload.") Doing that only consumes too much of my favorite dish: air. So, let me say this as politely as possible: Please shut the fuck up and unapologetically eat your meat and leave me alone to eat my weeds, twigs and berries.

There is only one reason why I don't eat meat. I had a dream that freaked me out seven years ago and that was pretty much the end of my career as a carnivore. The dream was this. I had a beautiful white cow as a pet, one of those really pretty white cows from the Hindu paintings, you know, the kind that look like they had their makeup done at Elizabeth Arden. (Side note: Elsie the Cow chotchkes and ephemera make great Christmas gifts!) My cow was very dear to me and would come when I called her by name (Felice - not my favorite name, but who am I to argue with my subconscious?) and would give me big, wet, sloppy cow-kisses like she was some kind of gigantic Labrador retriever. Then one day I had to go away, so I left Felice in someone else's care. When I returned, they gave her back to me nicely butchered and wrapped up in several little white paper packages. And then they handed me her severed head. My shit was freaked out beyond repair. I haven't eaten meat since.

Teresa once told that story to a Malaysian woman who is Buddhist by birth and who works in the commissary at Microsoft. Her response was, "Whoah - that is sooo Buddhist!"

So yeah, my vegetarianism has less to do with being Buddhist than it has to do with how a dream I had "freaked me out hardcore" as we said back in the '70s. I haven't found an imperative in the Dharmapada anywhere that says that you can't eat meat and be Buddhist. Then again, the Dharmapada isn't about imperatives, and likely would not proscribe the placement of knitting needles in the ear canal either. It's real big on the common sense through logic thing.

No vegetarians were harmed
in the making of this product.

In case you were curious, here's what is on our bill of fare for the feast today. We switched gears this year and instead of the mycoprotein phallus, we'll be having Stuffed Field Roast brand Celebration Roast with homemade roasted vegetable brown gravy. Rounding out the ensemble cast will be skins-on smashed red potatoes, sauteed green beans, mixed wild green salad, my own special tangerine cranberry sauce, and sourdough bread stuffing with all kinds of leeks and nuts and shit in it. ("Shit" here is used in the Detroit Metropolitan vernacular, which translates as "various comestibles and gustatives of superlative flavor". Example: "Dat shit yo moms made for dinner was da shit, boyee!" -Ed.) For dessert, I picked up two large tarts at Le Panier in the Pike Place Market. (...which is something he also did back when he was single, however this time we're taking about baked goods. -Ed.) I got a traditional pumpkin tart, and just for the sake of decadence, also picked up a belle-helene which is a tart so delightful and all-consuming of the senses that it comes with a special knife so that you can commit seppuku after eating it because, hey, life just isn't going to get better than that. (Knife not included. Death optional. -Ed.)

One last note. There's a great essay by (say it with me now) E. B. White called "Death of a Pig" which describes his experience caring for an ailing pig, and in some points, bears congruence to my dream about Felice. ("He had evidently become precious to me, not that he represented a distant nourishment in a hungry time, but that he had suffered in a suffering world.") It's also interesting to consider while reading it that it comes from the author as "Charlotte's Web". Just don't read it at breakfast.

Happy Thanksgiving.


14 November 2006

E. B. White Is The Grammatically Correct Shit

Kneel, bitches! Give it up for the O.G. of essay
writing! E. B. White in tha house y'all!


I'd like to put some effort into this letter but I just don't have the gumption. I'm battling some poorly defined illness who's major aspects are dizziness, wretchedness, ennui, the dubiously correct usage of the term "who's", ( It's supposed to be whose, Typhoid Mary. Take a pill. -Ed.) and other things that end with "-ness". So what I'm going to do instead of composing some sort of cohesive epistle is just try to throw spots of thought on the paper, not unlike the tiny specks in the effluvium issuing from my head. Some of them are interesting. Hey, there's one that looks like a bas relief of Alexander the Great!

While I'm on the subject, how are you? Haven't heard from you. Limbs intact? Just wave if you can hear me.

E. B. White is the shit. He is a straight-up literary-pimp gangsta. (...and probably would not approve of multiple compound adjectives. -Ed.) I just picked up a collection of his essays from the library. It has made me re-think everything I was taught about essay writing. I love writing essays, (hell, I've got a hundred five of them on this here clog) though a long string of well-intentioned editors and teachers tried to bind, gag and exsanguinate that love over the years. Funny how the worst teachers can turn something you had a keen interest in into something you keenly despise. I guess my love of my own opinion has weathered the best criticisms ("You have become a fine and pithy writer - who won't miss any more classes!" -T. C. Boyle, PEN/Faulkner Award winner and six-time O. Henry Award winner) and the worst ("This sucks." -Former Editor-slash-Braying-Jackass).

Here's what I like about White. Instead of the standard "tell what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em" approach, White's essays, at least in this collection, are more of the "March from The Love of Three Oranges" approach. There's very little fanfare at the beginning, everybody in the orchestra gets a shot at the staff, and then before you know it - brrump bump frrump SHRIEK! - it's done. Everything that needs saying is said, the stage goes dark - no punchline, but a great feeling of fullness and satisfaction nonetheless. By comparison, the former approach seems unecessarily didactic and condescending. The closer almost always comes off as, "Hey idjit! Didja hear what I said?"

I'm sure that if any English student nowadays tried to write an essay by the White method (my name, not his), they'd get their knuckles rapped, ironically no doubt, with a hardcover edition of Strunk and White. If the student protested that this was the way he or she had seen White do it, they'd no doubt get the cop-out tautology that White can do that "...because he's E. B. White."

It reminds me of a story that I heard from one of my profs at USC. When he was in high school - a military high school, mind you - he got an assignment to write a two-page essay about the meaning of two lines from Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: "And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep". His essay itself consisted of one line: "It was to give the effect of echoing." His teacher promptly failed him. Righteously incensed, he put gathered up the literary balls to write Frost a letter and ask him directly what his intentions were when he wrote those two lines. Frost replied with one line: "It was to give the effect of echoing." He took Frost's letter back to his English teacher, who then convened a quorum of the English department behind closed doors to scrutinize the letter. Days later, they came back with their verdict: "Robert Frost does not know his own work." The student was promptly re-failed.

Brrump bump frrump - SHRIEK!


25 October 2006

I'm Proud Of You, Son

Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto
(shown here at age 20) hid behind the pen
name Pablo Neruda so that his
father wouldn't have to bear the shame
of having a son who was a poet.
He went on to win the Nobel Prize in
Literature and is regarded as the most
influential poet of the 20th century.
He is also the most widely read author
since Shakespeare.


I was digging around in the bowels of my computer looking for - hell, I can't even remember now - when I found a bunch of letters that I had written to Aaron years ago. Among them was one that I wrote to him about what it means to be proud of your son. I thought I'd reprint it here for your enjoyment.



8 September 2004

Dear Aaron:

I am proud of you. I mean that sincerely. Now let me explain what I mean by that auspicious opening line.

I always thought that I could do something or be something that would make my old man proud. I figured that if I could second–guess what he wanted me to achieve, I would have fulfilled my purpose in life: to make my dad proud. So I wound up doing all kinds of things that I thought my dad might approve of. Like going to an Episcopalian church, being a good student, being a writer, whatever. I don't know if any of that worked, even though I may have been the beneficiary of those actions in the long run. I really love being a writer, even if it was at first motivated by a need to make my dad proud of how literate and verbose I was. Then I grew up and had a son of my own and it changed my whole picture of what pride in one's progeny is and how it works.

I'm proud of you for who you are, not simply for what you do. There's a distinct difference. If you're only proud of someone for what they do, then your pride is poorly founded. Why? Because a single accomplishment will become meaningless over time, the merits of it may be offset by other accomplishments or failures, or it may not be relative at all to your current situation. For instance, if you're real proud of your kid for being able to make it to the toilet on time when he's two, what meaning does that have when he's five? Now it's expected. Now it means nothing. Now there's no reason to praise or be proud. So that makes pride fickle by nature, so what good is it? Why even make the effort to make someone proud of you?

What I'm talking about when I say that I'm proud of you is something far more firm and constant. Again, I'm proud of you for who you are, not for what you have done for me. I'm proud of you for what you have made of yourself, not because you have fulfilled some sort of expectation that I had of you. You have developed your character in ways that I could not have imagined on the day you were born. And all of the positive growth that you've done, although it may seem commonplace and unremarkable from your perspective, is truly stunning from my perspective as your dad. Examples? Your knack and natural enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is both amazing and authentic. Nobody could have taught you that. Your sense of humor is brilliant, sharp and original. And each time I see your artwork, your style becomes more and more distinct and unique. These are just a few, and they are also things that no one could teach you. Nor could anyone cause you to develop these talents by placing some sort of expectation on you and then hoping you'll fulfill it. You're an original, Aaron. That's you. And that will never change. And that's what makes me more proud of you than I can ever put into words.

So instead of placing an expectation on you and giving you the impression that if you fulfill it I'll be happy and if you don't I'll be mad or disappointed, here's what I really think. I do not have an expectation you'll accomplish this or that thing. Instead I have a wish, or prayer or blessing or whatever you want to call it. I wish you peace of mind. Whatever you do, wherever you go, however you make your life, I wish for you peace of mind as you go along your unique path. In my view, peace of mind is the only thing worth pursuing, and everything else in life is downstream from that. I know that any person's quality of life is only what they think and what they feel. It's not any particular thing that happened to them, it's not how much stuff they owned, it's not some job they had or where they went to school. It's how they thought and felt about it and that's it. So that's why I wish that no matter what you do or whatever happens to you in this life, that you always take with you a deep and meaningful peace of mind.

There's a little Dharma story that goes like this: A teacher asks a student, "What is the surface of the Earth like?" And the student says, "It's nice in some places, but it mostly rough and covered with rocks and it'll hurt your feet." So the teacher says, "Would the Earth be smoother and kinder to your feet if you covered it with soft leather?" And the student says, "Yeah, but that's crazy talk. You can't cover the Earth with leather. It's impossible." To which the teacher replies, "No, but you can wear shoes. That way, it's the same as the whole Earth being covered with soft leather wherever you go ." So that's what peace of mind is. It's shoe leather.

I love you and I'm proud of you, my son.


12 October 2006

Turn Me Into Buzzard Snacks, Please

Sky Burial: Why is it that at every party you go to everyone always
hangs out in the kitchen?


Last I heard you were moving and you were going to give me your new address. And that was definitely The Last I heard from you. Hopefully you're not living in your tuba. I can just see you burying that thing up to its bell in the desert sand, then crouching inside it like an ant lion, springing forth to snatch errant hobos as they shamble past, and pulling them down into the warren-like tubing to feast upon their tender innards. Don't tell me you haven't thought of it.

If you have fallen off the social grid into main shaft of the Mines of Endless Leisure (read: homeless), then hopefully either the Reno Public Library or Reverend Dick's Gospel Shelter has Web access and you're reading this right now.

So let me update you on a small family matter which also involves a change of residence: the folks have arrived on the door of their future mortuary. No, they're not dead. They're in Missouri.

I don't know if you spoke to them any time during the run up to their eventual departure to the Ozarks. It wasn't the lack of intellectual stimulus or the abundance of ticks, chiggers and hillbillies that sold them on the place. It was, in fact, the absence of laws governing where and how deep one can bury their relatives. Apparently in Missouri, once a person stops whittling and the corncob pipe drops from their slackened jaws, they're fair game for the mulch pile. None of those fancy rules about "coffins" and "water tables".

Don't get me wrong. Even though I'm clearly not on the Missouri Board of Tourism, I completely understand the motivation behind self-determination at the end of life. Aging is an undeniable process that robs you of functions and freedoms one by one. If you've been on life's stage as long as our folks have (over a century and a half at last reckoning), I think you oughtta be able to have a say regarding your exit.

So, while we're on the subject, and El Dia de los Muertos is right around the corner, I think I'll go ahead and publish my burial instructions right here and now. They're real simple: Don't bury me.

Here's what you do. Buy my corpse a ticket to Bhutan. (If I've planned things right, I should be there already when I give up the ghost. My current death fantasy is to die in Bhutan while hiking - quickly and and by accident, of course. Age of death doesn't matter. I'm in Bhutan, which is a fundamentally a Buddhist theocracy. I'm hiking and I couldn't be happier. What better time to kack?)

So once I've accomplished the kacking part, I want what they call a "sky burial". Here's how it works. The undertaker hauls your corpse up into the mountains. Then he whips out his Amazing Ginsu, flenses your flesh from your bones, and pounds it into meal with a little flour. (I'd like some cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar added. The idea of being turned into a meaty cinnamon roll appeals to me.) Then he feeds the Death Dough to the buzzards who have by now congregated close by and in great number. Once they've eaten all the dough and licked the plates, the undertaker hauls the leftovers - bones and gristle and whatnot - back down the mountain and throws it all into the crematorium. (Sometimes not. Sometimes your bones get pounded into meal too, which would be fine by me. I pray for an undertaker who can swing a sledgehammer like John Henry.) And there you are. The buzzards crap you onto the bottom rung of the food chain and your ashes go in the garden. I can't think of a more wonderful and fitting end.

Of course you're going to say, "It's your funeral. You won't be there. What do you care?" Yeah, so you're right. After I die, I plan to be in the bardo for the next 42 days playing single-platoon old school football with Grampa Teachout (that is until I'm reincarnated as a cold sore for my abysmally horrid karma). Let's just say I want to do this because I believe in recycling. As a matter of fact, I think I'll go have "Please Recycle" tattooed on my sternum, right next to my favorite haiku* and "Do Not Resuscitate" in twenty seven languages. I hope I have a broad enough sternum and enough skin.

So yeah, when I die, be a peach and get me a sky burial, wouldja?



*It is a dewdrop world
Surely it is
And yet
And yet -

-Kobayashi Issa

05 October 2006

The War On Christmas Part I: Full Metal Teepee

If you can't take the day off to celebrate Indigenous People's Day,
(Monday, October 9th), at least find some time to pray in the
direction of Sherman Alexie.


I'm pissed.

I fuckin' walked into fuckin' Lowe's fuckin' Home and fuckin' Garden fuckin' Center (fuckers), and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a quarter-acre CHRISTMAS DISPLAY. They got plastic Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, lights, and those horrendous inflatable 6-foot-high snow globes with a blower in 'em that makes it look like Santa is in the eye of a Tony Montana-sized coke-storm. So what's wrong with that? It was SEPTEMBER FUCKIN' TWENTY-FOURTH! Last time I checked the calendar, we had a whole three months before I had to sit up all night with a shotgun waiting for the fat man. Fawk!

Look, do not for a second think that I'm siding with that toothless, gum-bumping douchebag-with-a-microphone who says there's some kind of ACLU-endorsed "war on Christmas", but goddamnit - I'm about to start one! Are you with me? Then rally the damn troops.

So like any war (with the possible exception of the invasion of Iraq), this war has a plan. I already brewed one up. I knew push was gonna come to shove, so here's how we're gonna shove Dasher, Dancer, and Jesus all the way back to December 24th where they belong.

1. Celebrate the shit out of every holiday between now and December 24th, starting with Indigenous People's Day on Monday, October 9th. (Thought Monday was Columbus' Day? Think again.) As an added bonus, Canadian Thanksgiving Day (or Thanksgiving I: Maple Leaf Rag, as I like to call it) is celebrated the same day. If you're not going to throw down a feast, at least go into Lowe's and ask them where the Indigenous People's Day decorations are. When they shrug and gape at your requrest, stage a sit-in until they give you donuts and beer.

2. Buy Halloween decorations. As a matter of fact, buy all the Halloween schwag you can, including those crazy little ghost candles and stuff. When retailers start seeing a "Halloween bump" in sales, they'll start painting their faces and worshipping Satan faster than you can say "revenue stream".

3. Celebrate Thanksgiving II: The Kreusening (November 23rd). I've given it this title to differentiate it from Thanksgiving I, and to underscore the fact that you should get =/~ drunk as a lord in celebration; that is to say, become "fully kreusened" by internalizing the final stage of the brewing process (or as my wife used to say, become "ale battered"). Honestly, it's the only decent and noble way to honor the brave Native American soldiers who vanquished the white teetotalers at Roanoke Island in 1590. It's either that or take a stone hatchet to a Puritan. Your call.

4. Celebrate Christmas. Yeah, I know, you're all "what the hell!" But hear me out. Just hold out on celebrating until December 24th, and then keep that party goin' 'til Twelfth Night on January 6th. Do not let up. Ya don't stop the punk rock, especially when it comes to the biggest feast of the year. And as a matter of fact, walk right the hell out of work on December 24th and don't come back until January 6th. If they try to fire you, tell 'em to go suck a yule log. Sue them for impinging on your religious freedoms. What're they gonna do, condemn you for celebrating a Christian holiday? Not in George Dubya Bush's America! Nosiree!

Here's my last thought: I'm thinking about creating a foam Baby Jesus In The Manger hat, kinda like those Cheesehead deals you see people wearing at Green Bay Packers games. I mean what screams "Christmas" louder than wearing a manger-nested Christ Child on your head?



02 October 2006

This Is Your Brain On Yelp

Michelle B. at feeding time. Warm-blooded, good-natured and
exclusively frugivorous, Michelle is the person who is solely re-
sponsible for getting me hooked on Yelp.


Look, don't expect much of me today. I'm tired and my brain power is at an all-time low. In fact, I'm experiencing what some might call "rolling blackouts" of the mental variety. I keep drifting off the subject and then not remembering what I was talking about. Might not be so bad except that people keep pointing it out to me.

The upside is that I write crapmail for a living, which means that I know how to write a mean bullet-point list. Bullet-point lists are what you write when you're not smart enough to construct a meaningful conversation, and would just rather lob shit at people than talk to them. This is all fine by me, since most of my conversations nowadays seem to go like this:

ME: Hey, did you hear about the 'Hawks game?
YOU: No, what happened?
ME: What?
YOU: Huh?
ME: What was I talking about?
YOU: (Capitalizing on the opportunity) How you only owe me thirty bucks.
ME: You're goddamn right! And not a penny more. (Shells out $30.)

But check this out. What I'm going to write next is a modified bullet list that will talk at you about the several and diverse topics currently circulating in my world. The modified bullet list will allow you to see in a single glance the salient points of my utterly flavorless existence - with very little writing effort on my part! Hell, I could mash a monkey's face into my keyboard right now and it would probably result in the same quality and clarity of prose. Such is the beauty of the modified bullet list. So here goes:

My Latest Conspiracy Theory - A few years back, Bob Woodward cranked out a 400-page handjob-to-the-administration titled Bush At War. Then just yesterday he grunted out a six-and-a-half-pound hatchet-job on the same administration titled State Of Denial. If he wrote the former so that he could butter up the keyholes at the White House to get unprecedented access to write the latter, he is my new hero. God bless you, Mr. Woodward, you are a one-man Trojan horse.

Seahawks - Got shellacked (37-6) Sunday night by the Chicago Bears and are now 3 and 1. Oh look, you're already asleep.

The HellClimber 3000 - Each and every morning, I've been flaming off 1,000 calories on the HC3K (if I am to believe anything that LED readouts on exercise machines tell me). Then I go lift. I'm doing this so that I'll be ready for next hiking season. Why the intense preparation, you ask? Because next year on my hikes I intend to carry no bear spray, and eat whatever'n'th'fuck I want wherever'n'th'fuck I wanna eat it. That also means I'm probably going to have to wrestle some bears for my peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I also intend to wear a salmon suit and slather myself with dingleberry jam. Wish me luck.

Modern Drunkard Magazine - Puking is probably not really as much fun as I remember it being, but reading the brilliantly unapologetic Modern Drunkard Magazine makes me wish it were. In typically alcoholic fashion, I can't remember how I came across this little gem-at-the-bottom-of-a-shot-of-rye, but I'm very glad I did. Such unabashed praise of drunkenarianism is more than enough to send most former drunks like myself scuttling off to an AA meeting with flagellum in hand. But part of what I had to do in order to stop the guilt cycle that kept me drinking was to realize that I had some really good times being drunk. In a very satisfying and practical way, MDM lets me relive those giddy Bacchanalian days without the money-spendy-blacky-outy-auto-wrecky stuff.

Yelp - My latest addiction is a website that combines the personalization of MySpace with...oh I don't know...some other site where they review stores and restaurants and shit. Michelle - somebody who used to work here (meaning RealNetworks) got a gig over there (meaning Yelp dot com) turned me and a bunch of other folks around here on to it. I haven't been able to leave it alone. I've reviewed a ton of stuff and often turn to it for inspiration when I'm not even inspired enough to write a bullet list. It's fun as hell and will most likely cost me my job. Go sign up or I'll review you.

See ya on Yelp.


21 September 2006

One Giant Biscotto With Dingleberry Jam, Please


I don't know how you got your grubbies on that photo. I've had dozens of lawyers trying to track down that image and suppress it. Now my fascist inclinations are exposed. Damn you, Getty Images!

Apparently Getty can - and will - sell photos of just about anything, up to and including the moment when I brought the populace of Missoula, MT to its collectively quaking knees by threatening it with a mammoth Italian confection. Getty and its minions are everywhere. At least once a week they come by my door trying to peddle another snapshot of Fidel Castro rolling down Broadway in an Escalade loaded to the gunnels with boxes of high-end electronics and cookware from Williams-Sonoma. ("Products which fall from the back of a truck or that can be readily pried from the greedy hands of the capitalist oppressors shall become the rightful property of the people." -Castro.) Or you in your frilly under-drawers, huffing away on that tuba of yours. And I don't care what you say, that underwear doesn't make you a better tuba player.

Speaking of food and Missoula, check this out. At this restaurant in Missoula called The Shack, they have a crouton omelet. No, seriously. Jack cheese, veggies, and garlic croutons. And not small ones. Croutons about the size of Yahtzee dice. And I'm thinkin', who thought this shit up? I mean, c'mon, you gotta be pretty high on weed to think, "croutons - that's what this thing needs!" I should know. When I was in college, I used to spend all night playing the bong and then take a pair of scissors and cut a day-old Totino's party pizza into 5" by 5" squares. Then I'd spark up the toaster and drop it in. Once that popped, I'd put some jam on it and scarf it down. That may sound a little weird, but at the time, it seemed to me that anything that came out of a toaster should have jam on it - like there was some culinary law about that. So I know how these things happen.

But I must say that my hat is off to the members of the Missoula Montana Bong-estra who first cobbled this crouton omelet thing up because it's freakin' delicious. If the good people at The Shack told me they had an omelet that was made with a petrified jelly donut that they carved up with a door plane, I'd eat that too.

All this talk of food has made me hungry. I'm going to sign off now and go eat. I got a jar of homemade dingleberry jam from somewhere in Canada. (Teresa says it's huckleberry but I swear to God the guy said dingleberry.) I think I'm going to start at the east side of the kitchen with that jar of jam and work my way west. I'll let you know tomorrow what goes good with dingleberry jam and what doesn't - although I really doubt there's anything that doesn't.



18 September 2006

Guns Don't Kill Writers. Bulleted Lists Do.

Me, hanging my fool ass off the side of a mountain.
Crypt Lake trail, Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada.


I've been meaning to give you more detail on the vacation I just took, the one that was mostly comprised of backpacking in the Canadian Rockies, also known as the vacation that will go down in history as The Best Freakin' Vacation Ever, Eh?

Since my astoundingly lucrative career as a crudmail writer has compromised every writing skill I ever possessed, I will have to recap (See? I can't even write the word "recapitulate" any more) using bullet points. There's a real funny story about how I wanted to be a famous writer so I made this deal with this one guy. (Featuring: ●CrossroadsDead of nightBanjo stringBlack cat bone ●PLUS - Guy with horns. -Ed.) The upshot is that though I make a load of dough and have literally millions of readers (...no really, he does. Why does no one believe that? -Ed.), nobody knows my name, and all I can write is poopmail that gets promptly deleted. You win some. Then you go to hell. I digress. Onward.

Here are the salient points (Read: ●Bullets. -Ed.) in brief of the places we visited. And by "salient", I mean "filled with salt".

Eastern Washington
● Major Industries: Dust devil farming; Asian automobile modification; shouting epithets from the porches of double-wides
● Major Foodstuffs Produced: Chicken-Fried Steak, Chicken-Fried Steak Substitute
● Ethnic Composition of Population: Bigot-O-'Mericans (Rednecks): 30%, Affluent Bigot-O-'Mericans (Rednecques): 11%, Next-Generation Bigot-O-'Mericans (Red Next): 3%, Mexicans (Voted Most Likely To Be True Americans): 68%.
● Recommended Lodging: My wife's brown-ness prohibited us from staying anywhere.

● Best Feature(s): Doesn't take long to cross going east to west; has trees
● Biggest Boast(s): Great potatoes; fewer Nazis than before
● Dirtiest Children Found Anywhere In The Continental US: Wallace, ID
● Highest Concentration of Crap Merchants Per Square Block: Wallace, ID
● Most Fucking Depressing Place On Earth: Wallace, ID

● Greatest Attribute: It's huge
● Place You'll Think Is Really Nice Because You Haven't Been To Canada Yet: Missoula, MT
● Best Thing To Do While Visiting Glacier National Park: Shoot the guy who runs his gas generator in the campground right after you shoot the guy who cranks his freakin' radio day and night in the campground; ride the bears.

Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada
● Do Not Stay At The: Prince of Wales Hotel
● Why Not?: Because despite stunning photo portraits to the contrary, it is rife with shitholiness. And it costs USD$290 per night and you can hear the Kentish couple next door doing their laundry in the bathtub just as plain as day.
● So What Should I Do Instead?: Stay somewhere else. But definitely go on the Crypt Lake hike.
● Whuffo I Wanna Do That Fo'?: Because you have to take a boat, then hike six miles up above the treeline, then a walk a ledge that has a 600-foot dropoff on one side, then scramble through a tunnel in the rock, then grab a cable and toe-hold your way around another rock face (with another dropoff), then freak out when you see now beautiful Crypt Lake is. And there are bears. In short, it's ossum times Fear Factor. I peed all of my pants - every single pair I own.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
● Definitely Stay At: Deer Lodge.
● People Per Hectare on the Shore of Lake Louise: Over one thousand. No, really, over a thousand. It's gross.
● Best Thing To Do In Lake Louise: Leave and go someplace nice, like...

Skoki Lodge, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
● Talk To Me, Goose: Hike back in the park about 8 miles, go through two mountain passes, gain a shitload of altitude (Shitload: about 8,450 feet. -Ed.), and find yourself at the sweetest backwoods cabin you've ever seen. No electricity, no running water. Wood heat, kerosene lamps, homemade food and the best hiking on earth.
● Who Runs This Joint?: A bunch of very excellent Canadians.
● Why'd Ya Come Back?: That's a very good question. I was thisclose to chucking it all and becoming the Canadian version of Apocalypse Now's Colonel Kurtz.

● Thaddeus

12 September 2006

Merry Gregmas!

Oyez, oyez, oyez!

Faithful rise, be counted, and be of good cheer!

'Tis Gregmas, the Greggiest day of all Septembertide!

This would be totally appropriate attire for any Gregmas celebration.

Dear Multitude:

Even though Dear Gregory has been published since the dawn of the Jet Age, precious few Touchers of the Hem, Adherents to the Peanut Butter Diet, or Readers of This Blog realize that September 13th is the Feast of Gregmas. To wit, it is Greg's birthday, just as Christmas is the birthday of my friend Chris T, or Criticalmass is the birthday of J. Robert Oppenheimer. (J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, or in his words, "Shiva", once gave his teacher a poisoned apple. I shit you not, and neither does last week's New Yorker. Look it up. -Ed.)

I assume that you who are in the majority are now confounded and befuddled. On one hand, you have a whole new square on the calendar to devote to revelry - such a boon! Ut hoy! you cry, and reach for the hookah. But in a trice you realize that you spend every other weeknight practicing the hookah, and this holiday begs for both uniqueness and propriety. What to do?

Fuddle no longer. Below I have compiled a short list of Gregmas facts, customs and traditions. Most of the objects required for celebration (...and worship, if you're so inclined... -Ed.) can be found in the average home (...the exception being the tuba. -Ed.) Enjoy, revel, and Merry Gregmas!

Tradition The First: Immediately upon arising on the morning of September 13th, make a very strong pot of coffee (it should absorb 98% of the available light), fashion a sandwich from peanut butter, bananas and mayonnaise on Roman Meal bread, and grumble while eating your solitary breakfast over the kitchen sink.

Tradition The Second: Six to eight times during the day, seize your tuba with a great deal of ardor and play the piccolo part from "Stars and Stripes Forever".

Tradition The Third: Suffer from the ill-conceived notion that drinking an entire 8-pack of Little Kings Cream Ale won't get you drunk because "the bottles are so small". Re-think your original hypothesis later when you find yourself in an unrecognizable quarter of the Detroit megalopolis (specifically Hamtramck), surrounded by surly Poles demanding to know there whereabouts of their pierogis and their daughters.

My brother Gregory Ives was born on September 13th, 1671. Try as they might, the folks went quite a stretch with no kids - that is until 1962 when I was born. That's why I was named after the patron saint of lost causes. But that's beside the point. The amazing fact about Greg is that although he is three hundred and thirty five years old, rare pharmeceuticals with uncanny moisturizing properties have preserved his ancient flesh. He doesn't look a day over 53.

Greg subsists entirely on peanut butter. "If it's good enough for the koala bear, it's good enough for me!" he has been known to shout.

Do not be misled by his sunken chest and chalky legs. He often crushes Volkswagens with his bare hands.

His favorite movie: Fitzcarraldo. Or is it Nosferatu? Can't remember. Maybe it's Nosfitzcarratu. Anyway, he has a huge poster from Aguirre: The Wrath of God which he can scarcely tear his gaze away from, and he often tries to emulate Klaus Kinski's evil leer, even going so far as to don a tin conquistador helmet at times to heighten the effect.

On Gregmas Day, it is customary to write The Gregory a letter, which he will respond to with silence by the bucketload. So sayeth the lore of Gregmas. Believe me, I've been writing to him for years, and I have yet to see one blot of ink on a shred of paper in reply to a single one of my epistles. On the other hand, he does call "all the gol-damn time" as they say in the red states. Anyhoo, if you like, you can write to him by posting a comment to this blog. (Clog. -Ed.)

It is also customary on Gregmas Day to spend a great deal of time in the bathtub. (That is after the sandwich and the tuba thing. You don't want to do either one of those in the bath. -Ed.) This is to re-enact the Miracle of Gregmas. After six to eight hours in the tub (something Greg does each and every day), your skin shall be verily furrowed with wrinkles from stem to stern, much as The Gregory's skin was once. Then one fateful day, he combined lanolin with turpentine and methyl-ethyl-ketone (MEK) and created the Burnishing Glaze of Brass Instruments and Eternal Youth. And lo, his smooth and youthful hide didst shine like the horn section of the Burbank Police Boy's Band during the Bataan Death March, and he aged no more. You can accomplish the same effect by rubbing yourself down with Mop-N-Glo. Give 'er a whirl. It's a holiday, after all.

And finally, it is customary to purchase several if not hundreds of items from The GregMart for your self, friends and family. Because hey, why give Jesus all your money?