10 March 2006

Your Wife Says You Snore
Like An Oil Refinery
PLUS: Chris Marshall!

Chris Marshall: shown actual size.


First off, ossum email from Marie. I got it this morning. Nice to know that you still sleep on your back, mouth agape, emitting noises not unlike Bessie Smith trying to gargle a walrus. It sounds like you never got that adenoid pruning that you so parsimoniously saved up for all those years.

I have only a short moment to dash this off. I have work today. So much work. This evening I get trounced by the wrestling saddhus. I borrowed a piece of Silly Putty from one of my co-workers, and I'm beginning to believe that it would make the perfect replacement material for my L5 disc. Maybe I can just get Teresa to pry my vetebrae apart with a 12-inch Kitchen Chef and have her jam some of that Silly Putty in there. Might save a lot of money and put the bounce back in my step post-haste.

All that aside, and in the interest of time, let me introduce you to Chris Marshall here and now, the one and only reader to be featured in this letter. Chris and I used to work at Atom together. Now he is the Master and Commander of the design firm Simple Machine. If the copy on their site sounds familiar, it should. I wrote it.

This short anecdote will explain what I know of Chris Marshall. He and I used to work with probably the most repugnant French girl the world has ever known. He happened to mention to her in passing that he lived on Lower Queen Anne. The very next day, she stopped by his desk and completely out of nowhere exploded with derision for his neighborhood. [Insert Clouseau-esque chevre-loads of French accent here:] "I went to Lowair Queen Anne last night. Eet eez a terrible place! Zere eez nothing to do! Zee coffee eez terrible!"

Chris just looked at her blankly and said, "Are you flirting with me?"

Also of note is the fact that Chris drove The Most Raggedy VW Ghia In Existence (as determined by the Adolf Porsche Institute) for at least umpteen years, and only recently divested himself of it in favor of a new-ish Mini Cooper. So why the switch? "As grand as that vehicle was to own," he says, "it lacked a few modern day necessities such as but not limited to: anti-lock brakes, brakes altogether (at one point), heat, defroster, power steering, seat belts that weren't scary, a back seat, airbags, and last but not least - paint."

That's Chris in a nutshell. And now here's the Man Himself to explain things even further. Hit it!

What do they call you back home? Marshall, king of the brave, commander of imagination.

What do you...uh...do? I make pretty pretty pictures, and say no a bunch. Sometimes I wear pants and go to the office.

What would you like to know about Greg? How many angles (sic) can fit on the head of a pin? Do I scare you?HOW BOUT NOW!!! (You scared me at "hello". -Ed.)

What would you like Greg to know about you? I have no birthmark, wisdom teeth, and was born over-developed. At the ripe age of 11, I flew a Mooney M20 from San Diego to Paris. I ran for senate in Manhattan and was later spoofed by Ralph Fiennes in a stupid maid movie. I've edited books "Dinosaurs of the World" and"The Cricketers' Who's Who". I beat people up every day, sometimes twice. I can't find an alarm that works better than my own mind. I'm not afraid to attack at any moment. I was raised by wolves. I kill indiscriminately. (It's true. You should see him go to town with a flyswatter. -Ed.) I once kicked Chuck Norris' ass, so watch yourself!! (To be fair, Chuck Norris' ass was quite old and was on its way to the glue factory anyway. -Ed.) I'm not to be trifled with.

Isn't it ossum on a hot summer night when you put your arm underneath your pillow and it's still all cold under there, like some kinda"coldness magic"? (ossum is as ossum does )

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.


07 March 2006

No Weed For My Back, Man!
PLUS: 30% More Readers!

Fig. 1 - Our Great Uncle,
Knackered MacVertebrae:
Aigh, me fookin' baack! Think
I'll just sit me'se'f doon an' read fer a wee.


Ouch. Not just ouch - fuckin' ouch. I had an MRI done on my lower spine because it's been bitching at me for quite some time now, and lo and behold I have a bulged disc between my L5-S1 vertebrae. So they says to me they says, "Hey - we got this stuff we can shoot in there that'll make the pain in your spine go away. I'ts kinda like weed for your back, man!" So I said, "Groovy!" But then I decided to get a second opinion and the other doc said, "Don't put weed in your back, man! You're old and it'll dissolve your chi! Bussides, just because you got a bulged disc, man, doesn't mean that's the source of the pain, ya dig? What you need is for me and my crew of saddhus to put you in a full nelson and torque you until you scream 'Nirvana'!" So I said, "Far out! Sign me up!"

I know you have had lower back problems, and our Dad had 'em. And probably everybody else in our family had bad backs stretching back to the day when our first Scottish ancestor, Brannoch McForeskin or whatever his name was, broke his ass on a rock when he landed in the Hebrides. (Okay - I know it wasn't Brannoch McForeskin. That was actually my friend Jim McForeskin's ancestor. It was Gunnar Olafsen, son of Olaf the Black of Norway, and more specifically, William Gunn who was Gunnar's son. Oh yeah, and whoever that Pictish woman was that Gunnar "married". Great thing about Scottish ancestry: tall tree, but not too many branches.) Even your wife Marie has had a really serious back problem. Hey, do you think she caught it from you, man? Trippy! Anyway, I wonder whether the whole spinal thing is a genetic issue, or whether it's a neurotic issue, or whether it's a karma resonating down through the ages and jamming itself right up my bum. I may never know. And even knowing might not make it stop.

Fig. 2 - Our Great Grand Cousin,
Aiken MacEverybone:
Aigh, me fookin' baack! Mebbe
if I scratch me arse on this menhir,
it wi' prrovide soom rrelief!

So I'm thinkin' that this is probably a good time to reflect on the first thing that introduced me to the dharma, which was something in the book The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It was the notion that pain was something that comes with the territory if you have a nervous system, but suffering was an emotional choice that you make about your pain. That idea right there was the bell that woke me up to the Four Noble Truths, even though it wasn't being presented as part of them at the time.

The bad thing about pain is that it freakin' makes you tired, man! Tired! Even when I make an emotional choice about it other than freaking out, I still get tired. Cheebus H. Rice, it's a lot of work to hurt all the time. But just like The Big D said, pain can also draw you closer to others who suffer. When I'm in pain, more and more often I find myself thinking about kids who have had their L5 shot right the hell off in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever. And it's not that it makes me think, wow, I don't have it so bad. It's that it makes me understand life on the whole as something other than just what's happening inside my head and my body right now. Just moving my pain into that greater context goes a very long way to reducing it. So yeah, more empathy, no weed. Bring on the wrestling saddhus.

Meet Tami Fairweather!

The Fairweather family reunion, c. 1952.

I used to work with Tami at AtomFilms during the dot com boom. We were both intoxicated with the belief that yes, you really could make millions of $$ by playing short films on the InterWeb for free. And we also believed that we would one day cash in all our stock options for solid gold rocket cars and fistfuls of really expensive candy. Man were we way off. So at the "It All Went In The Shitter" party that we had at the end of Atom's heyday, I explained to Tami that no matter how good a person's intentions might be, former co-workers simply never get together when they said they would, they eventually lose contact completely, and this would probably be the last she ever saw of me. Six years later, I still sign all my correspondence to her with "Goodbye Forever".

What do they call you back home? Stormy, Tamilicious, Ms. Forkwrangler, Stormfront.

What do you...uh...do? Lately I've been keeping slightly under the radar, only exposing myself to the peeps that mean something special to me. (I'm honored! -Ed.) And those that I won't see ever again, like Thaddeus. (Whoah! Excellent burn! -Ed.) I think this is due to the fact that career-wise I have to be really nice and social all the time, so my off time is more of a muted color palette. However, I'm a helluva lot of fun and very loyal to the important people.

What would you like to know about Greg? Do you have any baggage (good or bad) from being raised in the mysterious Gunn family? (Oh sweet Jesus, don't even crack the seal on that one! -Ed.) Also, is the current Thaddeus your favorite? As a witness to all past versions of Thaddeus, if you could bring one of them back, which one would it be? (Please not the one with the hair. -Ed.)

What would you like Greg to know about you? I'm really excited that The Electric Company is out on DVD.

Isn't it ossum on a hot summer night when you put your arm underneath your pillow and it's still all cold under there, like some kinda "coldness magic"? It's not only ossum on a hot summer night, it's ossum year-round. I'm not a fan of the way-to-fuzzy (whether t-shirt of flannel) sheets that serve like roller-skate brakes on various body parts as you toss n turn through the night. (Flannel chafing is the #1 cause of death among Canadians. -Ed.)

Meet Your Sister-In-Law Teresa!

Small but mighty! This woman can kick your ass before you
even stand up.

What do they call me at home? (Honey let me answer this one. I call her a lot of stuff that 't'ain't even English. Nor is it Togalog or Basayan or Illacano. It's all loving, mind you. But other than that it just ain't. -Ed.)

What do I do? I get paid to break stuff. Honestly! (She's a software breaker...uhh...tester. -Ed.)

What I would like to Greg to know about me - Don't slap my face - just a friendly warning. (Even if he's challenging you to a duel? -Ed.)

Isn't it ossum... - Just as long as the temp doesn't drop down below myaccepted temp range so that I don't have to wear my scowl insurance to bed. (Since she spent most of her life in California and Hawaii, Teresa can withstand a wide range of temperatures, like from 68F to 71F. -Ed.)

Meet Mark Keeney!

That's not the "mahalo" sign he's making.
It's ASL for "I've broken both my legs and
my ass is freezing".

Fresh from the monkey farm: Keeney's offspring Alex (L) and
Griffing (R).

Keeney works over there (he said, indicating the other side of the floor over by where I could hit Tyler Hill with a stick, were my arm mighty enough to blast it through four walls of concrete). What he does over there I have no idea, other than it partially involves asking me to write stuff, and partially involves a small flask of tequila that disappears bit by bit every day. Oh yeah, and he does stuff with math that makes my head whirl so I try not to look. You can't tell in the picture, but he's like 6-foot-a hundred. If the Space Needle were a hoop, he could still dunk.

OTHER VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT KEENEY: Were it not for the fact that he once said "you oughtta have a blog" (after which I asked him "what the hell is a blog"), this blog would not exist. He is Keeney the Kreator.

What do they call you back home? Keeney…if you called me by first I wouldn’t know to turn around.

What do you...uh...do? By weekday I propagate more grey hairs in my mane by performing in a reality show sans the cameras. At night and weekends I construct elaborate railways on the island of Sodor, investigate the subtle differences between a Pteranodon and Pterdactyl, construct forts out of pillows, crank up the Gorillaz and do the funky chicken (er Tofu-Chicken), plant the seeds of passion for Husky basketball, and sit back and watch my two monkeys grow before my very eyes. (It's true. He's a monkey farmer. But not real monkeys - the hairless kind that humans give birth to. -Ed.)

What would you like to know about Greg? What accent do you have? Coffee or Tea? Ale or Lager? Dairy or Soy? Do you have a sports franchise obsession like your brother? If so, what team/sport? (Only if the sport is tuba, and only if the team is the London Philharmonic. -Ed.) If you had to pick one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of your life, what would that be? (Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! It's peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwiches! It's like a heart attack between to slices of bread! But what a way to go! -Ed.)

What would you like Greg to know about you? I once saw Jethro Tull perform at Ephesus, Turkey. (Not really a fan at all, but how often do you get to see an aging 70’s rocker jam on a flute on one leg like a flamingo at the supposed birthplace of Mary?) The real bummer was James Brown was supposed to perform but at that time couldn’t leave the USA on account of a little PCP, outrunning cops, and socking his then wife.

Isn't it ossum on a hot summer night when you put your arm underneath your pillow and it's still all cold under there, like some kinda "coldness magic"? When have we had a hot summer night? (He has a point. We are in Seattle, after all. -Ed.)

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.


06 March 2006

A Whole New Way In Which I Suck.
PLUS: Meet More Readers!

If I were the 20-year-old Pablo Neruda,
it would be almost impossible for
me to suck.


If there's one thing I shouldn't do, it's read. Reading only uncovers new and multifarious ways in which I suck. Take the book I picked up this morning, A Gentleman Pens A Note by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis. It's part of my collection of writing references. I'm a writer. Did you know that? But I'm not just any kind of writer. I'm a copywriter. I get paid positively scads of money to write compelling two- and three-word directives that get consumers to snap up things they probably don't need. Hell, simply writing the words "download now" nets me about $12.50. I've got the sweetest gig in the universe.

Now back to what I was saying about how I suck...

Bridges and Curtis, through several excellent examples, get across a very simple point. Good note writing lies in thinking about the other person. For instance, if you forgot to send a thank you note for something you got last year, their rule of thumb is that it's never too late to say thank you. "Every time I pick up the 'Kats R Krazy' mug you got me for Hannukah '03, I always get a laugh and think of your smiling face..." You don't say, "Man, I'm so sorry I'm late sending this. I'm such a douche. You're so generous - and me? Well, I don't deserve to draw a breath." The latter is about you, you and only you, and not just that, but what a dunce you are. It's as though you're trying to let everyone know that life is an unfolding drama with you as the central character. That's no way to say thank you, now is it?

Which brings me to this blog, which is about me, no matter how much I'd like it to be about you. Ergo, by the aforementioned standards of etiquette set by Mssrs. Bridges and Curtis, I suck. Although this blog is called "Dear Gregory", at a glance one can see that it's mostly about how I suck at Buddhism, how ghey I am for the football, and how I'm a hack who spends his ill-gotten wealth on overpriced PataGucci hiking schwag.

Forgive me. There should be more in this blog about the person who inspires it. It's worthwhile to note that I write these letters to you because I know that you "get it", not because we're related, but because you and I have a unique attunement and understanding others might describe as "shared comorbid neurotic eustress". I must also say that I shy away from bringing up things that you may or may not want out there for public consumption, like details about your brilliant invention [understandably classified], or your address [transient], or your bass-playing acuity [wicked!] which is currently being rented by a country western band [harsh!].

Most recurrent among comments that I have received while writing this blog is the question of whether you're a real person or not, which only underscores the fact that I don't write enough to you, and write far too much at you. So drop me a note, wouldja, and let me know what's fair game and what's not.

In the meantime, dig your crazy readers, man!

Meet Peter Darchuk!

Darchuk is not a unicorn, but he plays one on TV.

Peter Darchuk currently does something or other for Disney, a job for which he can scarcely conceal his loathing. Given his druthers, I'm sure he would sooner skin cats in a Mexican rendering plant (without the benefit of union representation, even) than continue doing whatever he does for The Mouse.

Alas, his job does supply him with a "connection" to the "industry" which he "milks" for all it's "worth". He's a writer, but not the bad kind like me. He's the good kind, the kind that creates works both authentic and unique, that - speaking of egregious unfairness - do not make him dime one. See for yourself.

Darchuk is also the auteur who brought you "Danny Nutter's Tips For Livin'" and The Idjit's Bible.

Meet Tyler Hill!

L to R: Tyler Hill, Tyler Hill, Sara Hill, Tyler Hill.

I could probably hit Tyler Hill with a stick right now - if he were sitting at his desk, and if my arm were mighty enough to blast it through four walls worth of concrete. Perhaps it is, come to think of it. I'm going to shut up and let him talk while I go out and try to find a stick.

What do they call you back home? Tyler, or Ty (if they are feeling monosyllabic). College buddies refer to me by a wide variety of names ranging from Spongeboy to the General.

What do you...uh...do? I'm a graphic designer and occasional illustrator. But, generally I ramble about the board game I'm designing, or how I'm going to make a comic book one day.

What would you like to know about Greg? I think its important that I remain ignorant about Greg.

What would you like Greg to know about you? Recently, I put my quarter-life crisis behind me, and kicked off my third-life crisis by getting a tattoo of a bee. I'm boarderline phobic of both bees and needles, so the event has tons of symbolic meaning that I don't like to focus on too much for fear of it moving from "symbolic" to "trite."

Isn't it ossum on a hot summer night when you put your arm underneath your pillow and it's still all cold under there, like some kinda "coldness magic"? (yes/no) Definitely "cold magic." My wife and I just switched the sheets at our apartment from Winter Mode™ (flannel) to Spring mode™ (cotton), so its all about the cool sheets these days.

(And speaking of Cool Sheet, you should go read Tyler's blog! -Ed.)

Meet Elizabeth Rogers!

L to R: Elizabeth in Australia; Another sign of the impending
apocalypse; Elizabeth at 6,000 ft., above Lake Angeles.

What does Elizabeth do? Well, in her own words she: "...wrangle(s) a bunch of highly intelligent, energetic and crazy people with very short attention spans.


I said I wrangle a bunch of highly intelligent, energetic and crazy people -

Ice cream! Ice cream! Ice cream!

- with very short atten -

Look, birds! I have a dirty hand!

- tion spans.

Can you roll your tongue like this - llyyaaaaayyyllyyyaaaaahhhh?

Thaddeus! Settle down!

Okay, I will. Now what was that first part?

I wrangle a bunch...

Do you like busketti?



Ahem. I wrangle a bunch of highly intelligent, energetic and crazy people with very short attention spans. You know, creative types. During office hours I am their leader which means I mostly channel the collective energy and creative tidal wave towards good instead of evil and remind people to go to recess and write blogs when things are leaning towards the dark side. When I am not at work, I basically hole myself up with lots of sharp tools and yards of fabric. Occasionally stopping to cook and run amok in the great outdoors.

What would you like to know about Greg? What is it like to be Beethoven, Napoleon Dynamite, and Thomas Edison all at the same time. AND how in God's name is that combination possible with the massive amounts of weed you are reported to have grown, refined and ingested over the years? (CLARIFICATION: Greg was not the weed-growing brother. In high school, he only smoked his tuba. She has you confused with the brothers we refer to as "John" and "Tom". -Ed.)

Coldness Magic? YES.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.