Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I am not a shopping savant

The other day I decided that shopping was necessary. Ordinarily I fight these urges the same way I fight all reminders of responsibility: With beer and whining. This day, however, I wasn't really feeling that great, and also I had been putting off buying bathroom items for a long time and it was starting to bother me, so I figured I'd better bite the bullet and go to the store.

My bathroom items are simple: Toothbrush, toothpaste, bar of soap, shampoo, face lotion, and deodorant. You see, I tried to bury face lotion in that list, but it is impossible to hide my shameful addiction. Sometimes when people say "addiction", they actually mean "I just really like something", but not me - I actually think my face is addicted to the face lotion. If I don't put it on after I shower, my face gets the shakes, cold flashes, and puts in midnight calls to the methadone clinic. Also, it gets kind of dry. Because I am physically attached to my face, I feel it is best to keep my face happy, even if it means being a slave to the God of Lotion and the brand the God of Lotion has chosen for me, Kiehl's Soothing, Nourishing Face Creme For Men.

Unfortunately, lack of appropriate sacrifice has apparently caused the God of Lotion, or Lotionfer as I like to call him, to make it so I can't just walk around the corner to the grocery store to purchase this special addictive face lotion. Instead, I have to go to this annoying outdoor mall called University Village (although I have subsequently been informed I could also get it at Nordstoms. I reckon Hell hath such choices). Why is this outdoor mall so annoying? Here is the exhaustive list:
  1. Getting there is annoying.

  2. Parking is annoying.

  3. I hate it here so why can't I just go home?

So anyway, I sucked it up and went to University Village to buy my stupid face lotion. Fate made me park in such a place as to force me to walk past the GAP that every mall, indoor or otherwise, feels compelled to include. If I owned a mall, like if maybe I won one in a raffle or something, I would totally delete the GAP in favor of something more useful, like a bowling alley. I just kind of scowled at the GAP as I walked past it on my mission to the Kiehl's store. After purchasing my face lotion, however, I guess my disposition had improved to the point where the GAP didn't seem like quite as scary of a place, and hey! Maybe they have some T-shirts that I like or something.

The truth is, I had been looking for some blank, colored T-shirts that fit me well so I could paint my own designs on them for some time. Being that I had nothing better to do anyway, I decided that I would duck inside and quickly check out the T-shirts, and maybe the clearance rack if they had one. I discovered, to my lasting surprise, that GAP-brand medium "athletic fit" colored tees are the perfect size and fit for me! I grabbed three of them off the shelf, and this sweater that I found that I liked, and took them up to the counter. I was making excellent time.

The girl at the counter rang up my purchase and the subtotal came out to something like $63, which I figured was pretty good. I was starting to feel okay about this whole GAP place. The girl looked at me and asked, "Did you know that we're having a sale right now, where if you spend more than $75 dollars you get an instant $15 off?"

I informed her that I was, despite my savvy shopper appearance, not aware of the GAP's current special pricing arrangements, and started doing a little math in my head. "Let's see," I thought, "if I buy something else for $15, it's like I get it for free. I would be stupid not to grab another sweater or something." I left my items at the counter and turned to venture back into the untamed wilderness of the Men's section. As I was walking away, however, the girl held up one of my T-shirts and said "Did you know that this shirt is a 'Classic Fit', and these other two are 'Athletic Fit'?" She held the "Classic Fit" T-shirt out to display its considerable girth, as if asking me if I planned on gaining a bunch of weight anytime soon. Not if being in the GAP doesn't depress me so much I have to go home and eat a gallon of ice cream, GAP girl.

I told her I would swap it out for another, properly sized, T-shirt and departed from Register Town, USA. "Okay", I told myself, "just grab another T-shirt and the first other clothing item that you like, and we'll be out of here in no time."

First I went back to the wall of T-shirts and starting ruffling through all of the carefully folded clothing, looking for a heather gray 'athletic fit' medium shirt. Apparently, thin people are not allowed to don this classic gray color in T-shirt form, because there were none to be found. So now I had a tough choice of a third color: Dark brown, or this other dark brown. Hmm. I agonized over this decision for a good half an hour, asking passerby for their opinions, holding each up in different mirrors, cursing the difficulty of finding dark colors that complement my fair skin. Finally, I decided on dark brown #1.

At this point, I started experiencing what I like to call "shopper's trance". I was no longer capable of making decisions, I felt the need to check every tag even though I had already found my size, and I started humming along with the music that was playing. I shuffled, slowly, over to the sweater section, and began tugging witlessly at the clothing on the rack. If normal Grant is a horrible shopper, Zombie Grant is even worse. Finally (and I mean *finally*), I decided on another sweater, and took my new items up to the counter.

I put on a big, dopey grin and handed my clothing to the girl who had helped me before.

"Wow, took you long enough", she said, I guess as a joke.

"Yeah," I said, but really I was thinking, "must eat braaaiiinns".

She rang up my five items, and the subtotal came out to $61. I stared at the little screen for a minute until I could formulate some non-grunt words. "How did my clothes get cheaper?" I finally managed.

"Well, before you had two of one kind of T-shirt and one of another. We have this sale where if you buy three T-shirts (regularly $16.50), you get them for $12! Now that you have three of the same, it made your total less," she spat excitedly with a giant training-video grin.

"But that sweater is $20."

"No, actually it's $10", she said. I thought maybe she was going to tell me of this other sale that the GAP was having where everything you buy makes you have to buy more crap, but she just stood there smiling and blinking, so I turned from my pile yet again.

Having silently vowed to never look upon that cursed sweater rack again, and being pretty well stocked in that area by now anyway, I decided to check out the wall of jeans. Surely I could spend $15 here, I thought. I started pawing through the tightly packed cubby-holes looking for inspiration in this distressed, boot-cut world, but at this point my energy levels were getting dangerously low. If I was a video game character in a game where you are, uh, shopping or something, my "health" meter would be flashing red.

I grabbed a pair of jeans from the top cubby hole and tried to yank it out so I could inspect the quality of the cut and design in relationship to my body type in front of the nearest mirror, but the jeans were so tightly stuffed that I ended up spilling a half dozen pairs on the floor. I tried to wedge them all back into their compartment, but I am not GAP-trained in the ancient art of clothes-compression, so I figured I would just leave a couple of pairs on top of the shelves.

As in the classic movie "Goonies", so too is the GAP absolutely riddled with booby-traps. As I was lazily sliding my unwanted jeans onto the top of the cubby-hole wall, I disturbed a Plexiglas sign that was just kind of hanging there, informing me of my various fit options, so that it slipped from the shelf and crashed to the ground. I quickly bent down to inspect my destruction and to clean it up before I got in trouble, but failed to notice that in my haste to attend to the shattered Plexiglas I had also disturbed a much larger element of the display. Leaning against the wall, on the top shelf of the wall-o-jeans, were a dozen or so giant cardboard cutouts of stylistic silhouettes that donned actual GAP jeans and sweaters. I feel that cardboard was a poor material choice for such an application, since the weight of the clothing made the displays top-heavy and imbalanced. As I had pushed the jeans onto the shelf, I had unknowingly pushed the bottom of one such cutout too close to the wall, disrupting its precarious balance. I noticed this when, as I was hastily trying to scrape the bits of the other display I had ruined under the nearest clothing rack, all light was suddenly blotted out by the tumbling but well-coordinated cardboard model.

I threw my arms up just in time to catch the display, but the cardboard bent and tore as it hit my hands, and we collapsed together in a pile of distressed jeans and tasteful sweater/undershirt combinations. Good thing no one saw that....oh wait, that GAP dude has been watching this whole time.

We both apologized profusely, even though we both knew that it was entirely my fault and that I probably shouldn't be allowed to walk around unsupervised in public. He then stiffly asked if I needed help finding anything, but I declined, because I decided I really didn't want any of those stupid jeans anyway. I grabbed a thermal undershirt as I awkwardly escaped my wreckage, and quickly made my way to the counter....again.

That stupid undershirt turned out to be $10, so I was still $4 short of spending the same amount of money I would have an hour ago. I smiled at the GAP girl, thinking that maybe she would find my incompetence endearing, but she shot me a look that plainly said "You are the worst shopper I have ever seen. Also, you need a haircut."

I looked around at the counter for some stuff I could use to make my $75 quota, but I would have had to buy, like, 5 chapsticks, and I don't really use chapstick anyway. I gazed back into the Men's section, looking for inspiration and discovered that GAP dude had called in another GAP dude to help him clean up my mess. I looked around a little more and my eyes fell upon the socks and underwear section. Ha! Who couldn't use more socks?! I jogged over to the socks and grabbed heedlessly the first pair I could touch, as I was turning to bolt back, however, I noticed that there are two different types of socks - ones that cost $3 and ones that cost $5. I wasn't sure which one my lucky victim was, so I had to grab another pair just to be sure.

I took my socks to the counter and the girl scanned them. As she scanned the second pair, she turned to me with a smile. "We have a sale where if you buy two pairs of socks (regularly $3), you get both for $5!"

I almost had a heart attack, thinking that I would have to buy more socks, or maybe some gloves or something, but it finally settled in that I had done it! I had won! $76!! As the second pair was registered by the scanner, the total dropped to $61, $66ish with tax, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

"Aren't you glad that we are having this sale? Look at all this other stuff you got for the same price!" The girl beamed.


Well, one positive thing that I gained from my ill-advised GAP trip was that I was reminded of this awesome video! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Every once in a while I will be walking somewhere and think, "this seems like it would be a pretty good place to sleep if I was homeless". Not that I intend to ever be homeless, but I figure it can't hurt to have a plan just in case. However, one thing that I don't really have a concrete plan for yet is what I might put on my cardboard sign that I hold while milling around the freeway exit or outside 7-11. It seems that this is a pretty cutting-edge field in the landscape of being homeless, where innovation is heavily rewarded before it becomes adopted as industry standard. I'm thinking that the first guy that made the "It's For Beer" sign made a killing for the first couple of days before everyone else on his street adopted the "charmingly honest about my vices" approach. The thing is, it's probably not that people wanted to buy this gentleman a beer, but rather they were responding positively to the creative marketing effort he was employing.

I think the first sign I might try out would be the logical extension of the "It's For Beer" paradigm: "It's for her" with an arrow, and I would just hang out next to a prostitute all day. See, people would probably think, "I don't agree with his behavior, but I cannot deny that that guy is really honest, thus is probably the most worthy of my change", but in reality the joke would be on them because I'd probably use it to buy beer. Another thing I might try if I was one of those homeless dudes who has a dog would be to make a sign that said, "Need more ingredients for dog stew". I bet people would think it was a pretty good joke, chuckle, and give me a quarter or two, then a few minutes after they drove away the doubt would begin to creep in. Sign for outside a coffee shop? How about, "drip coffee instead of a latte could save you hundreds of dollars on an annual basis", then I could collect for my helpful money-saving tip when they exited the store. They would probably also appreciate the irony of receiving financial advice from a homeless guy and might kick in a little extra.

It is also entirely possible that the writing on the sign is completely irrelevant. Probably my first homeless project would be to build an abacus out of beer tops and coat hangers to perform some statistical analysis on the collective panhandling experience of my new colleagues. One guy in particular that I'd like to gather data from is the guy who operates the cardboard sign that reads "GOOBLES?" on the Greenlake off-ramp from I-5. Whether by the inherent lack of precision of his materials, or by poor stylistic choices and shoddy execution, it took me at least five minutes to figure out that it was probably intended to read "GOD BLESS". Since the "GOD BLESS" signage flavor is so ubiquitous, it would make an excellent control sample to base the specific performance of "GOOBLES?" on.

My gut would tell me that the brilliantly incomprehensible "GOOBLES?" should massively outperform the forgettable "GOD BLESS", for reasons not the least of which is the innovative quality of asking a question to inspire interaction with the end-user. I don't want to rely solely on my gut here, though, because if I'm wrong and the cleverness or uniqueness of the sign is irrelevant, I just wasted a dollar on a black marker that I could've put towards my next alcohol purchase. Kids, this is why studying statistical analysis is important.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


So I used to live in a tiny crappy rental house with Kyle and Brian. It was the only house that we could find to rent because as college kids, we were bound by our college kid duty to trash everything in sight. Our landlord, Ol' Crazy Ben, was not bothered by this impending demolition of his house, however, as evidenced by his willingness to rent it to us. We have reason to believe that this is probably because he was perpetually high.

Our rental house was on a busy street and it had a porch. It was a pretty good sittin' and watchin' porch, so we built a bench for it. We also kept a bucket of pinecones on the porch for one of our favorite pastimes, Plankball, which, um, involved having lots of pinecones in a bucket. Also we used the readily accessible bucket of ‘cones for throwing at stuff, like each other, or our occasionally operational van.

One day in addition to the bench and bucket of pinecones we found two bottles of beer and a hand on the porch. Wait, that didn’t sound dramatic at all. One day our socks were blown clear off with amazement and fear at the discovery of two bottles of beer AND A SEVERED HAND ON OUR PORCH! HOLY CRAP!!!

Okay, so it turns out that it was just a mannequin hand.

One of the bottles of beer was Corona, and the other was an unmarked brown bottle. Being that we were not yet of legal purchasing age, the fact that it was unmarked and came from an unknown source did not deter us from pounding that thing straight away. The booze was good, all the more so because it was free. It also helped calm our frayed nerves from the sight of the horrible severed hand!!! mannequin hand.

What compels a person to leave a mannequin hand and two bottles of beer on someone’s porch? Was it a warning? IS SOMEONE GOING TO CUT OFF OUR HANDS?! We had a mystery, and being that it was a weekday, skipping class was in order to try to solve this mystery. Also, solving mysteries requires a lot of brain power so we fueled up with a big pile of bacon before we set to work.

The first step to solving a mystery involving a mannequin hand is to pull your hand into your sleeve and put the mannequin hand there instead, and then pretend to cut it off. This is most effective with various household implements, like novelty baseball bats, remote controls, and spatulas. This helps you get into the mindset of the mannequin-hand-abandoning culprit.

Hours later we were still no closer to solving the mystery, and we were running out of things to cut the hand off with, so we got ready for our weekly dealer’s choice poker game. This poker game tradition involved dragging the kitchen table into the living room and putting a tablecloth on it and sitting around, waiting for other people to show up with various containers full of change. Kyle had a flower pot full of change that even had a fake flower in it to complete the illusion. I had a soup can. That is how I roll. I don’t remember what Brian used to hold his change, so in my mind I like to think it was a sock, so just in case we got out of line he could whack us upside the head with a sock full of quarters. [update: it was a Crown Royal bag.]

This dude Rowan just held his change in his shirt and then dumped it all over the table when he arrived. That guy is a step and a half below soup can. He brought beer, though, so I guess one can partially forgive him.

We realized that poker would be an excellent opportunity to grill our friends about the mannequin hand. The plan was simple-- just stare until they crack and spill the beans. All of our questions would be answered; Why did you leave us a hand? Do you think we stole something from you? Are you trying to tell us something? What’s the deal with that freaky unmarked beer? Do you have more? What other female mannequin parts do you have? Wait, don’t answer that. When did you leave us this cryptic message? What were you doing up before noon?

Well, the staring didn’t work so well. Not even a single trembling drop of sweat was produced by our furious gaze. Plus, all that grillin’ made us thirsty and sober so we got right to work rectifying that. Maybe we just needed a mental break to let the facts sink in.
  • Fact: A mannequin hand was left on our porch.

  • Fact: Beer is delicious.

  • Fact: None of our friends even twitched at our bad cop/bad cop/bad cop routine.

  • Fact: Rowan needs brake pads. You can hear them grinding for blocks.

  • Fact: Hey, Lorney brought cookies!

  • Fact: Where’s the rest of the mannequin? Oh no, has anyone been to the back yard yet today?! What will arrive tomorrow, a bloody mannequin head?!

  • Fact: It’s my turn to deal.

The best dealer’s choice game ever is, of course, Follow the Chicago Baseball Bitch on the L-Train from Omaha to Dayton. It is a quaint little split-pot 7-card stud game we painstakingly developed where all 3’s, 9’s, and Q’s are wild, plus whatever card immediately follows a face-up Q, plus all those of the same rank as the card following the Q, plus the highest card or lowest card in your hand, and, uh, 4’s get you a new card. I think we also had to pass 3 cards to the left, and there might have been 4 community cards and diamonds may have also been wild. Anyway, the pot was split between high hand, low hand, and possibly whoever had the lowest spade. It is also called “give each other some nickels”, or “Derek refuses to play this one”.

Well, after a couple hours of relaxing our brains and challenging our livers instead, we kicked everyone out and went to sleep. Actually, that’s a lie. After everyone trickled out to go to sleep, we stayed up to harvest mystery clues from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which came in on the only channel we got on our trusty television, Glowbox. Glowbox never lets us down, and this was no exception. Of course! Someone must have been developing some Lost World fan fiction footage where a dinosaur rips the hand off of an Amazon woman! They must have gotten a little carried away and lost track of the hand! And the beer….well, that was probably Karma. Satisfied with our detective prowess, we went to bed. Well, after we played some Starcraft.

The next day we awoke just in time to hit the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Godfather’s Pizza up the street. Amid the hunger and hustle to find our shoes and stuff, we let the mannequin hand slip quietly from our minds. We were just about to leave when we spotted the mannequin hand waiting dramatically in our entry way. A torrential flood of fear and poker-night-induced headaches swept through our now-troubled minds. Well, maybe not fear per se, but definitely some sort of troubling emotion. Some sort of headache-like emotion.

What we had deemed a distantly plausible explanation the night before now seemed hollow and lacking even the slightest hint of rational thought.

We cautiously opened the front door but found the porch devoid of additional cryptic warnings and free booze. There would be no new clues to mull over this morning.

[insert three centered asterisks to indicate the passage of time]

* * *

[good job with those asterisks]

Well, no new clues were revealed that morning, or evening, or the next day, or even the next, or later the next week. Or month, even, really. The sun arched in her time worn groove. Leaves shot out of branches, browned, and fell. The minute hand stood still, while the hour hand raced by (okay I stole that from crazy accordion dude who was at Bumbershoot that one year). Slowly time buried the mystery, and the mannequin hand was incorporated into our catalog of randomocity, and we used it in an art project, and we ceased to remember its tumultuous and mysterious beginnings.

Then one day Ol’ Crazy Ben was over poking around for some reason and he very slyly, or I imagine he felt like he was being very sly, began dropping hints like “hey guys can you give me a hand with this?” or “do you think you have a handle on this?” or “so do you guys like homebrew or what?” Being that Ol’ Crazy Ben was prone to blabbing on and on about stuff, and that I’m pretty sure that putting up with him was a component of our lease, we met these statements with the same blank stare we always gave him. “When is he going to leave”, we all thought as our eyelids drooped uncontrollably.

Ol’ Crazy Ben, perhaps slowly beginning to realize that his cleverly crafted joke was being unintentionally stonewalled by his bored and sleepy tenants, pushed on.

“Man, I’m aching”, he said, leaning slightly and putting his hand on his hip in an exaggerated theatrical portrayal of a sore back. “Man I’m Achin”, “Manemachin”, “Mannechin”, “Mannequin!”

He mouth was moving but all we heard was the slow motion drone of the cars on the street, and the wind above, and a pinecone falling. I can’t wait until Ol’ Crazy Ben leaves so we can play Plankball. Eyes…falling…so….sleepy…Ol’ Crazy Ben…so…crazy.

“I left you guys a mannequin hand and some beer. Didn’t you get it?” He said at last, losing patience and his morning buzz probably wearing off. I guess we had ruined his joke. He looked kind of put out.

We were shaken out of our inane-rambling-induced daze by the annoyance in his voice. We stood rooted to the spot, trying to figure out what he was talking about. Then the mannequin mystery of yesteryear came rushing back to our minds.


We stood there holding our breaths, hoping our hastily assembled response would satisfy our landlord. I tried to smile a little. This was just as awkward as when he accused us of growing pot in the basement and was disappointed when we showed him that we weren’t. But really, who leaves a mannequin hand on their tenant’s porch and then brings it up in riddle form LIKE ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER?

Ol’ Crazy Ben was evidently happy with the response, however, and he chuckled as he turned to putter back to his minivan and drive off into the sunset. Well, he drove north, so I guess he was actually driving off NEXT to the sunset. Well, if there was a sunset. It was only noon at the time.

[next time write a story with an ending]

Saturday, July 19, 2008


So one day Brian, Kyle, and I were in the front yard of our tiny rental house publicly demonstrating our professional-caliber skill at millin’, which is similar to chillin’ but with more movement. Usually the movement is back and forth between the living room and the refrigerator, but today we were taking our act to the people by millin’ on and around our front porch.

Millin’ is like a canon in music. You know, like Row Row Row Your Boat, where one person starts, and then another starts a few bars in, and so on. Each additional element adds a level of richness to the piece that belies the simplicity of each individual part.

Soon the combination of our individual ‘mills’ was a veritable ballet of slouching, whacking the hedge with a piece of wood, and chucking pinecones at FreeVan. It was beautiful. The glorious radiance of our millin’, combined with the low afternoon sun, inspired passing motorists to don their shades as they approached.

As the complexity of our millin’ increased, an amazing thing happened: Kyle, casually swinging his groundscore piece of lumber in the general vicinity of our neighbor’s hedge, happened to catch an errant van-ward pinecone in his sweeping arc.

The pinecone rocketed right into the side of the house, exploded, and a new game was born. There would be no need to find additional activities today.

After using the plank to generously deposite some pinecones around the front yard and into the street, we began launching them over the house into the backyard. The sharing of the plank became tedious, being that there were three of us, so we figured we needed to get some reinforcements. Fortunately, we had a pile of scrap wood in the backyard, and we had also, conveniently, just relocated some pinecones back there anyway.

We each chose a plank that suited our fancies and weren’t covered in spiders or anything. One of them was a No Parking sign we had stolen from outside the bar down the street. We found some of the pinecones we had crushed over the house and resumed redistributing them throughout our neighborhood. However, with three planks we ran out of projectiles in, like, two minutes, so we had to go back to the front yard with a bucket to get some more.

Yeah, so that bucket didn’t last very long, so we had to shake the pine tree to get some more pokey brown rockets to blast. At this rate we wouldn’t have ANY pinecones left in 20 minutes or so. We had already investigated alternate sources of projectiles, but rocks were even harder to find than pinecones, and the over-ripe plums from the backyard just kind of exploded over everything in a big sticky mess. We needed to begin a progressive pinecone rationing plan.

Phase one of the pinecone rationing plan was to use just one at a time. I think this is like the diet I read about on the back of a Corn Flakes box where you eat slower so your body realizes it’s getting full sooner. This was also like returning to our pre-three-plank roots of half an hour ago, so I guess there was a nostalgia factor as well.

Phase two involved researching the limited reusability of pinecones. You can whack a pinecone approximately three times before it just kind of becomes a weird moist sawdust lump. We sent a three-person away team to retrieve reusable pinecones from the street and the top of FreeVan.

Phase three involved realizing that we didn’t want to have to hold back three times before uncorking on those helpless little seed pockets. We wanted to launch them now!

Phase four had us realize that hitting pinecones at each other is hilarious.

Phase five brought the discovery that the planks could also be used to shield one from enemy ‘cone fire.

Phase six was sending Brian in to get some Coke. Wailing on stuff is thirsty work.

Phase seven was whacking enemy fire back to the sender.

Phase eight was whacking enemy fire at the other guy who doesn’t expect it. Sucker!

Phase nine was whacking enemy fire at another other guy and having him whack it right back.

Phase ten was sending the pinecone around in a circle and then obliterating it into the neighbor’s yard just as it was becoming a pulpy little blob. Plankball!

The secret to Plankball is being disciplined in your approach. To ensure the pinecone makes it around in a full circle before launch, we had to develop a volley strategy. After several iterations and more Coke and some tortilla chips shaped like little scoops (to hold the salsa in), we ended up with the following system:
  • Players stand in a triangle.

  • Player One “serves” the pinecone toward Player Two with a long narrow plank. This allows him to hold the 'cone in one hand and the plank in the other.

  • Player Two “bumps” the pinecone in a gentle upward arc toward Player Three with a No Parking sign held with both hands. The extra width greatly improves accuracy.

  • Player Three “sets” the seed back toward Player One with a mediumish plank chosen for its lack of spider eggs or earwigs. This is best done with an overhand stroke to project the pinecone in a roughly horizontal trajectory, much like a baseball pitch.

  • Player One then wheels around toward our sketchy neighbor’s backyard and TOTALLY UNLOADS ON THAT GRODY LITTLE LUMP! VICTORY!

You might be thinking “Hey, ‘serve’, ‘bump’, ‘set’... this sounds a lot like volleyball,” and you are right! Plankball is more like volleyball than any other sport. Similarities include:
  1. Both contain the word “ball”, although in Plankball it is not exactly a ball, it is actually a pinecone.
So after we honed our skills at Plankball, we could complete a full volley about 50% of the time. This is like batting .400 in baseball. It is likely that future Plankball players will harp for the days of yesteryear when the pioneers of the sport were Gods rather than mere mortal college students. I predict that the future of Plankball will find standardized plank dimensions, rules against treating planks with gross plum juice, and probably they will use synthetic pinecones. The sport that we love will have sold out.

Also, I think the future of Plankball will find a whole grove of pine trees in our neighborhood in 50 years.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reminder of my mortality


I certainly hope that I'm not the only person to remember the Crayola "Lemon Yellow" color, because I was informed upon inverting my Snapple cap today that that that color, created in 1949, was retired in 1990. Nineteen-fucking-ninety. I've been consuming my tiny morsel of time here on earth apparently unaware that the colors that I knew and loved from my 64 color crayon box (with built in sharpener) are apparently disappearing from existence. 15 years (!) worth of today's children have never pondered the reason for 2 identical colors (distinguished only by including the word "lemon" on one of them) occupying valuable crayon real-estate in that magical moment of promise and delight upon opening a new box of crayons.

And then I began thinking, why did that waxy flavorless reaper come for my lemon yellow, opting (apparently) to not break the brotherly bonds of the yellow-green/green-yellow twins and their indomitable space-wasting redundancy? And "Burnt Umber"? Why do bad things happen to good, honest colors like lemon yellow?

Sure, I'd rate yellow a solid "3" out of the primary colors, but how many shades of brown do you need? What's next- bumping "Red" to introduce "Light Raw Sienna-Plum-Maize"?

In my naive idealistic childhood, I embraced the vast variety of 64 "unique" colors each prominently represented upon those 3 tiers within that sacred box. (I even heard legends of an elusive 128-color set. Wow). But now that I think back to squeezing that last stub of red crayon while "Cornflower" remained perfectly preserved, frozen in time, reminding me that my precious wax drawing instruments were once new and perfect, and now old and dirty. Shreds of paper wrapping blowing in the wind. Unidentified additional color on the tip of "White". No more "Orange".

If I were to assemble a box of 64 colors today, there'd be 20 "Black" (for drawing the outlines of helicopters and tanks), 20 "Red" (for Nazi blood), 20 "Green" (trees are important for background scenery), and 4 motherfucking "Lemon Yellows" for establishing that this fucking drawing is taking place during daylight hours.

Am I living on borrowed time? The cruelness of this harsh world took "Lemon Yellow" 15 years ago, snuffing it's life like a tiny flame in a windstorm. If a color can be consumed so emotionlessly by the slow march of time, do any of us stand a chance? A once proud existence entombed within our dwindling memory and Snapple "Real Fact" #379.

Apparently, when I am no longer of this world, my best hope is to be so encapsulated within a refreshing beverage's trivia lid.


Thursday, July 17, 2008


So I don't really know anything about astrology, but every once in a while, completely unbidden, I will suddenly blurt out "what is your sign" if it comes up in conversation. I do it kind of jerky-like, as though maybe I'm not actually saying it but some sort of astrology-obsessed alien is using me as a puppet. I mean, once I get the answer I have no use for it. Or maybe, deep down, I still harbor a hope that one day I will ask someone what their sign is and I will be completely blown away by it.

"Hey, what is your sign", I say, kind of stiff and wooden, like a puppet.

"My sign is the Falcon. I am mortal enemies with those who bear the hapless sign of the Horrible-Scary-Snake", they reply, crossing their arms over their chest in a giant "X".

I'm pretty sure, though, that while I can't actually name all twelve signs, or care enough to look them up on Wikipedia, that I would have remembered if there was a Falcon sign. And this brings up another point: I have gleamed that a function of astrology is determining your compatibility with other people, but this is really boring. I mean, I think people would care a lot more about astrology if it was more of a guide to who you should choose as mortal enemies. I think this would lead to all sorts of great drama in our day-to-day lives. Can you imagine finding out that your cubicle-neighbor was born in August and is therefore YOUR MORTAL ENEMY AND MUST DIE AT ANY COST?! Drama!

Also, I think the mortal enemy connections should be chosen by the probable real-life relationship of the astrological, uh, mascots. Like, I'm pretty sure that I (a Pisces, which I guess is some kind of fish) would be natural enemies with whatever month has the goat. Sure the goat is larger than the fish, and could probably eat me in one bite, but maybe I am one of those fish with the really poisonous organs.

And maybe instead of just directing us to whom we should harbor irrational hatred towards, astrology could also direct us toward other passionate relationships. I bet Pisces would get along really great with the crab-thing, so why not just be BEST FRIENDS! BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!

Damn this astrology is making my life easier.

Oh, and I think that maybe astrology could help define other kinds of relationships so I wouldn't have to go through all the hard work of getting to know people! I'm thinking that one of the signs, like the lion (there is a lion sign, right?) could be a trusty sidekick! And maybe whichever sign has the magical unicorn could be like the harsh disciplinarian, but deep down they really just care about my wellbeing, but don't know how to show it.

How about it, astrology?!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We should barronk to tabo tuesday!!

From the opening of 'A Christmas Carol', by Charles Dickens: "There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate." I feel this is a pretty good format for the opening line of this story. With strategic word replacement, here is how my story is going to begin:

There is no doubt that 'Carpool' is in the dictionary. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

If you are not absolutely riveted by this introduction, you may choose to begin your reading adventure with a special edition "Alternate story beginning", which is pretty much exactly like the intended beginning, but for one important change:

[Special Edition Alternate Story Beginning] There is no doubt that 'Taco' is in the dictionary. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

If you do not believe me, you may see for yourself at dictionary.com that both carpool AND taco are actual words, and if you don't believe the internet either, you may choose to use your analog, flammable, paper dictionary to convince yourself that for once I am not lying to you. However, I am going to hazard a guess that your non-internet dictionary does not include as awesomely succinct of a definition for taco as "Mexican cookery".

Anyway, I find the "T9" predictive text feature on my cell phone to be amazingly handy for all of that intense tex'in that I do, and I am constantly amazed at how accurate it is, even for a lot of common names and places. Overall, I would have to grant "T9" the highly sought-after "pretty much awesome" rating. However, consider the situation in which you wish to enjoy discount tacos for a local sports bar's "Taco Tuesday" promotion, and you wish to consolidate transport among your colleagues to this event. A reasonable text message for this situation might be "Hey we should carpool to taco tuesday!!" Here's where the amazing power of T9 has a chance to save precious seconds to be used on tacos instead of pushing tiny buttons on your cellphone. After all, all of those words, as previously alluded to, ARE in the dictionary.

Eager for tacos, I watch as the magic T9 letters flow and unfold upon my cellphone screen:
Hey x
Hey we
Hey we s
Hey we pg
Hey we sin [who are you to judge, cell phone?]
Hey we shot
Hey we shoul
Hey we should
Hey we should a
Hey we should cc
Hey we should car
Hey we should cars
Hey we should carro
Hey we should carson
Hey we should barronk

At this point, I press the "+" key to advance to the logical next word in the T9 queue; Carpool. I press and press and press, but "barronk" has clenched it's iron fists upon the 2277665 number combination. Where is my "carpool"? Also, what the hell is "barronk"? Alas, my stalwart champion, dictionary.com, can provide no insight into this mysterious, sinister Barronk character, so I desperately turn to the greatest reference source ever devised by man: urbandictionary.com. Never before have I been denied a definition by the finest compilation of real and made-up combinations of letters available to humanity....

Until now.

Completely striking out on Barronk, I glumly resign to splitting "car" and "pool" so as to proceed with my important message. I continue:
Hey we should car pool to t
Hey we should car pool to u2
Hey we should car pool to tab
Hey we should car pool to tabo

Again, I press the "+" key to cycle to "taco", for SURELY taco is part of a dictionary that includes the word "barronk"...

Nope. Tabo it is. Again, dictionary.com lets me down, and I am forced once again to slum around in that wonderful seedy wasteland of urbandictionary.com. Unlike the failure with Barronk, however, urbandictionary comes through with the flying colors I have come to expect. Tabo, naturally, is a man with a small penis, and it even offers a suggestion for usage: "She couldn't even feel anything, he's a total tabo." THANK YOU URBANDICTIONARY!

What is my phone trying to tell me here? Why does it want me to communicate "Hey we should barronk to tabo tuesday!!"? Ordinarily, I would find this amusing and inconsequential, but I find it disturbing based on how common of a message this is. In fact, here is a graph of common text messages by usage patterns:

Clearly, subjecting 18% of it's T9 aided messages to a desperate plea for "tabo" is an indication that my phone has a problem. A sick, sick problem. And I'm still not sure what "barronk" is, but now it seems likely that it is some sort of dirty phone talk.

Anyone know of a good phone psychiatrist who might have some fringe techniques for scaring my phone straight?

Stir-fry or Stew, a MYSTERY

I have a mystery for you, detectives. I recently embarked on a journey to the grocery store for to obtain meats for my belly. I felt that pork was providing a strong argument for it's election to my innards, so I went to the deli to research my price and configuration options. I found a package of delicious-looking little chunks of former pig that seemed to fit all of the criteria I had assembled for my dinner, and was throwing it into my basket when I noticed that this meat came with a recommendation for it's usage: Great for Stir-fry Stew. Stew had been hand-written on the package with the same marker that had been used to cross out Stir-fry, a technique that I find lends a certain confidential-FBI-document-like touch. While it did take me a minute of angling the package to the light to decode the hidden stir-fry message, this was clearly sloppy document protection. The proper technique would have been to photocopy the blacked-out tag, thereby concealing the message forever in a pleasingly uniform black box.

I may not have gotten as far as deciding exactly how I was going to prepare the pork for it's journey into Stomachfornia, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be stew. The written word, a handwritten deli meat label included, has a powerful effect on me, so I began to second-guess that this was my meat soul-mate after all. I was about to dip my feet back in the pork pool when I noticed that ALL of the little chunky pork bits came with the same modified recommendation. clearly, this meat is Great for Stir-fry Stew only. 30 or so packages had been modified to carry this special message, and I couldn't help but wonder why someone would go through all of this trouble.

Admittedly, I am no cooking expert, but something tells me that there is not nearly as much difference in stir-fry pig and stew pig as this marker-wielding grocery employee would have me believe. Am I wrong? Perhaps there are vast cultural differences between Pigs of the Stew and Pigs of the Stir-fry, a constant rift that threatens the stability of our world. Has my sequesterment from the threads of current events left me ignorant as to the shifting control over our nation's delis, and the reckless power play by the House of Stew (Pig Chapter) that instigated this seemingly trivial relabeling job? Or does it have something to do with corn?

This seemed like a diversion, a dead end, so I took a step back in this mystery of mysteries. I stood in the deli section, letting the facts swim about my head like a dark ocean about fleshy, um, head-shaped crags. At this point in the pulp mystery novel version of my story, a sinister figure knocks me unconscious with a cunning blow from a salami or a roll of aluminum foil or a can of chili, and I awake to make an important connection that I had hitherto ignored. I waited, but no clarity-inspiring concussion ensued.

It does seem clear to me, though, that someone is trying to tell me something. Maybe someone is in trouble, and this is their message to the world, a desperate plea, a riddle in meat.

Help me, detectives, someone's life may be in your hands. Also I'm hungry.

LIFE: KaBloomers, Des-truc-tion!!

I am filing this under "Life", because death is a part of life, and this story deals with death. The death of a building. I have heard that death is really just a transition from one state to another. I think this is especially true for buildings, where death is merely a transition from being a Building to being a Pile.

One morning, I woke up, stretched, and looked out my bedroom window to find that sometime between Thursday morning and Friday morning the building behind my condo had undergone the transformation from fully-functioning building to fully-functioning pile. Check it out:



I stared dreamily at the pile for a bit before deciding that I needed to go investigate closer, to check out if there was anything awesome to score from this wreckage. I went up to the next street up to check out the pile from it's natural vantage point:

King of the Hill!

Hey! The fridge is totally winning the King of the Hill challenge! You would think that the pile's construction would be analogous with the original building's construction; you know, roof material on top, and so forth. So how did the fridge get up there? Did I just never notice that there was a refrigerator on the roof?

Also, it brings up another interesting point: Why was the refrigerator still in the building when it was demolished? Wouldn't you have thought to remove all of the non-attached stuff before you started recklessly bulldozing everything? This is better illustrated by this:


Dude! That's someone's TV! This makes me wonder if someone went out to grab some tacos or something, and came back to find their home totally converted to pile. Crap! How am I going to catch CSI:Miami now?!

Another great feature of this pile is the requisite pile of beer bottles:

Party time!

If you look closely, you will find that not all of the empty bottles belong to the associated half-rack box! This means that multiple packages of Henry's were consumed to celebrate some element of this pile, and we are only seeing a tiny projection of this consumption onto our visible world.

What's great about drinkin' by this particular pile is that the Boxcar Alehouse is approximately twenty feet away. But no! I eschew the social acceptability of enjoying ice-cold brews served by an attractive waitstaff in the company of interesting people for sitting in the shadows of the messy remains of a crappy apartment building and pounding bottle after bottle of cheap local beer!

Alas that this aloofness is feigned, for I DO love me a twelver of Henry's Dark.

So at this point in my exploration I begin to circumnavigate the perimeter of the destruction, thinking that this is a pretty boring pile, TV aside, but lo! What is there to greet me on the north side but more evidence that this demolition was indeed in haste:

Oh dear

NOOOO! You left your dildo in the building! Now it is all covered in dirt and broken 2x4's! NOOOO!

You might be thinking that perhaps this device was planted on the scene after the actual demolition as a joke or something, but I poked it with a stick and confirmed that it is indeed half-buried in the rubble. Why would someone intentionally go through the trouble of submerging half of a dildo in the remains of a crappy apartment building?

I guess this is another one of life's mysteries.