Sunday, February 7, 2016

Martha's Problem—a short story.

It's Short Story Monday! Okay, that's not really a thing, but who doesn't like a little yarn that doesn't require a major time investment?  Hey and also, it takes less time to write, so it's a little bit of a win win. This one veers a little toward the dark side, but then again, don't Mondays? Hope you enjoy it.

Martha's Problem

"Thirteen hundred dollars? I.. don't think I can do that right now," says Martha. For God's sake, she's just met this guy—what's his name? Yes, Conor. And he's already dishing up financial ultimatums.

"Hey, sorry, okay, I should probably back up a little."

Okay, maybe he's not so bad.

"I just moved in and I've got to prioritize some things, and this hedge right here is priority number two, right after number one, which was the dry rot in the bathroom." 

Martha can't remember seeing anyone with eyes the color of Conor's. Like a storm on the horizon as you're standing on a beach, they were saucers of cobalt grey with an undertow of green. She awkwardly forces her stare away from his face. "Yeah, I understand how it is when you move into a place. You see a million projects that need to be done, and... "

"Yeah, well, listen Marla... "

"It's Martha... "

"Right, anyway, I'm not trying to be new asshole on the block here, but this hedge is encroaching on the cable between the telephone pole and my house." Martha watches Conor's eyes, which are apparently having a side conversation with her breasts. "Technically, this pig of a plant is one hundred percent on your property. And nothing makes little Conor crabbier than waking up to no ESPN in the morning because of some goddamn dinosaur plant."

Too late, Conor, thinks Martha, you just won new asshole on the block in a landslide. She takes a step backwards toward her house and shrugs at the ground."You know, right now, I just can't afford $650. I'm really sorry, I can pay you back in instal.. " 

"Not to worry, Marla.. er Martha." Conor bounds swiftly toward her, landing inches from her face. "I'll spring for this one. It's no harder than finding the right two Mexicans to do it." The eye/breast conversation re-ignites, like a couple of junior diplomats making ground at a Starbucks while their bosses drink the good stuff back at the hotel and solve nothing. "I'm sure we can think of something."

Before Martha can quite process the innuendo, the sky erupts in the cries of a thousand crows. As if pulled along, Martha follows their darting swirl up the street where a teeming cluster of blackness is assembled, hopping and yakking into a pitched frenzy. 

They hop sideways, clearing a path for her. It isn't until she's kneeling next to the injured crow that Martha realizes—the street has grown silent. A baby, or at least an adolescent. squirms on the ground spinning awkwardly on a bent leg.

"It's okay, honey." She carefully slides her palms under its body and scoops it up. Wow, heavier than she'd have thought. "Come here. That's right."

"Are you kidding me?" she hears Conor yell, apparently still back by the controversial hedge. "That's disgusting! It's a crow, for God's sake!"

Martha passes Conor, concentrating so hard that at first she pays no attention. "I said, what are you doing with that bird?"

Gently brushing the crow's flossy crown with her finger, Martha says, "I'm taking him inside."

"You can't be serious."

"I'm serious as all hell, Conor. It's either that or look out my front window and wait for him to get smashed by a car." She looks down and whispers, "We're gonna get you all fixed up, Sweetie. Yes we are." The baby's parents skittishly hop alongside Martha.

"You're like a crazy cat lady," yells Conor, "Holy shit, but you're a crow lady, which is even weirder."

Martha slams the door behind her.

Within a week, both the bird and the hedge are doing much better. After an hour's worth of Internet scouring, Martha has fashioned a splint for his leg out of doubled-up masking tape. His nest is a plastic kiddie pool filled with newspapers, sticks and towels. He's so much more cuddly than she'd imagined, burrowing his fuzzy head into her whenever nestles him close. "You are a little sweetheart, aren't you my Cameron."

She carries him to the window and examines the hedge. Apparently Conor has managed to find "the right Mexicans" and it not only looks a lot better but is safely trimmed back from his stupid cable. Jackass. Shit, speaking of jackass, there he is.

From around the hedge comes Conor, right up into Martha's yard.

Shit, he's coming over. Just be nice, Martha tells herself. Maybe you misjudged the guy. Placing Cameron back in his nest, she girds herself for an uninvited visit from her new neighbor. Before she registers the six-pack dangling from Conor's arm, a shiny object glints from the mat next to his foot.

"Hey, uh, I just wanted to say sorry about the other day," says Conor. "I was a little rude and thought I'd stop by with a little piece offering." He hoists the beer up. "Hope you like Belgian."

Martha bends down to examine the jewel. It's a burgundy stone, translucent and cool in her palm. "Oh, thanks." She straightens up. "That's very nice of you. Sorry, I'm a little distracted lately. My baby crow's parents—I call them Agatha and Brutus—they're always leaving me stuff... buttons, paper clips. Sometimes I give them scraps of food or bring Cameron outside for them to see. Oh, um," she twisted the doorknob, "do you want to come in?"

"Absolutely." Conor walks into the kitchen and slams the six pack on the counter. He bangs around in the drawers.

"Looking for a bottle opener?" Side of the fridge."

Conor hurriedly pries open two beers chased by the clack of caps on her floor. Still holding Martha's beer, he pulls a gurgling gulp of Belgian followed by a robust belch. "'Scuse me." Conor yanks out one of Martha's mismatched kitchen chairs and tilts backward, splaying his legs as he drains the beer. "Oh, yeah, here you go. Cheers."

He hops up, grabs another brown bottle and re-splays himself while Martha stands in the living room. Should I sit at the table? That would imply a lengthier visit. Think I'll stay here for now.

"You single?" asks Conor.

"Yeah."

"You seem like the single type."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know, you're a crazy crow lady—one of those women that are so lonely they adopt wild animals and treat them like children. Shouldn't you take that thing to a wild animal vet or something?"

Martha sets her beer on the counter and folds her arms. "Right, like I could afford that." She walks to the corner to pick up Cameron, startled by another bottle cap clacking on the linoleum.

At the kitchen table, a tinny version of Golden Years seeps from Conor's phone, his palm slapping rhythmically against his inner thigh. "You like Bowie?"

"Who doesn't? Martha cradles Cameron, focusing on the other guy in the room, who in five minutes drank three beers and camped in her kitchen like it was his. Jackass meter definitely trending upward. "Hey, Conor, listen, I'm really sorry, but I need to get up super early for work tomorrow. Thanks for the beer and really thanks for the hedge. I can pay you $100 a month. It would take a year but... "

"Yeah, about that." Conor slowly rises from his chair. "Like I said, there are other ways to pay me back." His stormy eyes burn into hers as slowly lifts his finger up under her chin. "More satisfying ways."

Martha slides around him, back into the living room, She's still clutching Cameron. "I'm not interested, Conor."

"Come on, I've seen how you look at me."

"You need to go."

Conor's eyes dart back and forth, at her, at the crow—at the beer, of which he grabs the last two off the counter. "Fine," he unpredictably chuckles. "We'll work on some other type of arrangement. Have a nice evening, crow lady."

He leaves the door open and Martha hears Agatha's distant caw.

She brings Cameron into her bedroom that night. The stench of Conor's Belgian beer breath and whatever shitty cologne he was wearing still permeates her nostrils. Hugging Cameron like a teddy bear, she stares at the ceiling. "I swear to God, Cameron, if that asshole sets foot on my property again, I'm calling the cops.

She so wants to call her mom, wants to spill her guts about the psycho next door. But naturally she can't, unless of course she's prepared for a sixty-something roommate with arthritis in her left knee and more than a good word of advice.

A gun, maybe? Yes, definitely maybe. Something worth considering further in the morning. Martha finally drifts off around two, still cradling Cameron.

Awakening thirstily after a fitful sleep, Martha rises and places Cameron back in his kiddie pool. As she shuffles over to close the front blinds, her vision seems deceitful. For some reason, her driveway looks to be piled with foliage, with mounds upon mounds of leaves.

She flicks on the porch light. "Oh, my God." It's not a spectral mirage, though. Her driveway is filled two feet high with trimmings. All down Martha's property line stands the skeletal remains of the hedge. No heavy foliage, just a brown tangle extending the entire length of her driveway. "That son of a bitch!"

Lizard brain fully inflamed, Martha bolts down her steps and up to Conor's front porch. Her finger jabs the doorbell, but that's not hard enough so she gives it a nice rabbit kick. The door swings open to Conor, squinting and spiky haired. "What? What do you want?" His light blue boxers hitch up between his thighs.

"You know what I want, you prick! You mangled my hedge and left your shit in my driveway!"

"Not sure what you're talking about. Let's talk in the morn... "

"You asshole, you did this! Just admit it!"

The fog in Conor's grey eyes slowly abates while he stares unblinking. "Okay, Martha, I'll admit it, I enjoy a bit of late night gardening every so often." He tilts his head and stepped toward her. "But tell me—what are you going to do about it?" He laughs as the door slowly closes.

Punching her heel into the fake wood, Conor is thrown back into a semi-crab walk. He lurches at her, hugging her, pulling her face toward his.  "Let go!" Martha knees him in the thigh and breaks free, but her grabs her again, jamming his face into hers, cramming his tongue down her throat. She bites down.

"Aghh!"

Wedging herself away again, Martha sprints back to her house, the breath of her pursuer scorching her back. She leaps two, three steps at a time to the door, throwing it open and jamming his meaty fingers between metal and wood. She lets up just enough to let him yank it out, slamming and bolting the door in half a heartbeat.

She bangs her shin on the stupid IKEA end table as she lunges for her phone. Somewhere between the 9-1 and 1, Martha hears him scream. It's not the scream of a kicked shin, nor of jammed fingers, nor even of a clench to the groin.

Flicking on the porch light, Martha opens the door to see Conor lying next to her rhododendron, the one that always blooms in February, howling and gripping his bloodied face. Staring up at her from the welcome mat are Agatha and Brutus. Such a strange time for a gift. Agatha's beak glistens with clear goop as Brutus rolls up their latest offering before her like a dog with a tennis ball.

Conor's stormy grey eye never looked so beautiful.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Luminous Millennial.

"If I had a superpower, it would be to be able to fill things whenever I want. Like, to fill people's refrigerators or water tanks or bank accounts or whatever. Just fill things."

In 2000, William Strauss and Neil Howe released the first book devoted to this generation, titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Defined as anyone born between 1982 and 2004, it's something I never realized I had in common with my fifteen-year-old daughter—we're both tail-enders, she being born in 2000 and I with about a minute to go in the fourth quarter of the Baby Boom.

According to Wikipedia, academic opinions vary on the Millennial mindset—anywhere from civic minded and tolerant to narcissistic and entitled (Just between you and me, that's a check-check-check-check for my kid, plus a few more).

She and I talk about lots of things, but always in small, concentrated blocks, and usually sandwiched around dinner. The remainder of her time she spends either in her room or with friends. In a few short months she'll have her driver's license and be ever scarcer around these digs.

Over the years, I've enjoyed interviewing people, especially my kids. Inevitably, a nugget will surface that I hadn't anticipated, a view of the world I hadn't known or appreciated. Well, it's been a while, six years in fact. since I got her feedback down in pixels, so I thought I'd check back in.

I sat down with my daughter on a recent Wednesday evening, following a nearly-satisfying dinner of Costco Asian chicken salad and a zealous negotiation culminating in the eight-dollar interview fee. Clad in her post-shower garb of t-shirt, sweats and fuzzy socks, she reclined on the couch two cushions down as I opened my notebook.

How do you feel when you hear an adult say something like, "Oh, she's just a teenager. You know how they can be. Their brains are completely offline, raging with hormones and they're incapable of perceiving consequences?

Honestly? It pisses me off. It's totally degrading to us, calling what we say and think invalid.

Interesting. What about the consequences part? 

Adults like to put kids into stereotypes: these kids go here, those kids go there. I'm not this person or that person.

Knowing what you do now, what advice would your almost-sixteen-year-old self have for the nine-year-old I talked to six years ago?

Oh, Geez. Um, even though you don't have any friends now, you're going to have friends who are really cool. Everything turns out a lot better for you. And... try to like your sister more.

That makes me sad.

You can't do that. You're supposed to be the interviewer.

Right. So I have to ask—is dating something you're interested in right now?

Not really. I don't want to talk about this stuff. I don't want this stuff on your blog.

Fair enough. How do you visualize yourself as an adult? In other words, at what age do you imagine your established adult self? In your 20s? 30s?

I picture myself around 30. I've got a really good job and I'm hella rich. I've probably been married for five years already and have one kid. I'll have another one later.

What's this job you've got that makes you hella rich?

No idea. I'd really like something to do with marketing. I'm good at pretending to have confidence when I really don't. I guess I'm really good at bullshitting.

Yes, it is a very special skill. Good luck with that. Okay, so just to get a better idea about your attitudes, we're going to play a game called "You can only have one." First off, you can only have one: Eating lunch in the school cafeteria every day for six months with just your parents, or not talking to your friends for six months?

Really? Oh. .. I'm going to go with sitting with my parents. Oh, my God, I can't believe I said that. But losing all my friends for six months? I can't even imagine... oh, that would be so bad. Yes, parents.

Hey, thanks!

Um, I don't think you should feel good about that.

Okay, one more. You can either give up bread forever or lose all your friends and have to start from scratch.

I guess it has to be bread. I do love bread though... that's okay. There's a lot of people out there who are gluten free.

Who do you like for president?

I'm feeling the Bern. He stands for everything I like.

Everything?

Pretty much.

What about Hillary?

I think she has made several mistakes. I saw something on Twitter from the 60s or 70s and she said some racist and anti-gay stuff. I don't know if it's true, but I do trust Twitter.

Are you serious? You trust Twitter?

Yes.

How do you feel about Mr. Trump?

Oh, my God. I don't want to waste the energy I have on him. He's the exact definition of a joke.

Along those lines, what qualities do you admire in a person?

Let's see... honesty, loyalty and... having a good sense of humor. Yes, all three.

Do you see those traits in yourself?

Yes, I do.

Okay, last question: who's your favorite guy over 50?

I guess... my dad?

Correct!

You weirdo.

And with that, she stood and dropped the pillow onto the cushion and walked away, "I'm going to go chill and watch some Gossip Girl.  Oh, and don't forget," she yelled just as her bedroom door closed behind her, "you owe me eight dollars."

Hey, no problem. She won't let me forget.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Chances Aren't.


Oh my God, that was ridiculous. And that poor kicker—hooking a point-blank 27-yarder wide left to vaporize a cocksure Viking triumph. Holy Hell. In one hurried thud, Blair Walsh scrawled his name into the annals of pigskin calamity, alongside other greats like Trey JunkinErnest Byner and Tony Romo. In the shank of an eye, Pete Carroll cemented the chance to slap his chinos and chomp his gum for another sixty minutes plus three hours of Chevy commercials.

Granted, placekickers know what they’ve signed on to do. While their teammates repeatedly launch their beefcake into each other, inciting unthinkable peril to body and brain, the kicker… well… kicks. He lopes onto the field, works for two seconds, then trots back off, his chin jutting in exultation or sagging in dejection; no gray area exists for those who boot the rock.

But still, we’re talking about an 81-foot field goal. Missing one is as unlikely as a child vacuuming well. It's as crazy as a goose in a ball pit (Did you picture that goose? Crazy!). 

According to ESPN.com, heading into Sunday’s game, kickers had made 188 of 190 kicks, or 98.9% of field goals this season inside thirty yards. That translates to a single turkey every 100 kicks. On the surface, you’d think that 1 in 100 borders on the impossible. And I suppose it does—until it happens. 

Like you, me and anyone else who’s ever roamed the planet, we’ve all defied such minuscule odds that a one-percent probability of success seems just shy of a sure freaking thing.

Think about it. Without getting too specific, what do you imagine your chances were of being the "swimmer who won the medal round"? I’ll tell you, it's around one in 300 million. I don’t see Michael Phelps beating a field that large, but by golly, y’all sure did, and without the seven-foot wing span. All you had was a cute little tail that shimmied its way to paydirt.

But if you really want to enter the Land of Blown Minds, let’s look at the endless combination of events that had to transpire to enable your existence. For example, if If it weren’t for Kohar of Kardashian and her unique ability to market nonexistent talent in her 13th century village of Bellairhkadzor, Armenia, she and her five daughters would surely have starved and wiped out an entire branch of the family tree.

Just to fathom a world without them… can’t… won’t.

Anyway, you see what I’m saying? We’ve  defied some fairly husky odds to even compete in the sperm sweepstakes. Factor into that the smattering of close calls and near-catastrophes we’ve encountered during the course of our lives, and all told, each of us is a singular link in our lengthy and fortunate legacies. Kind of makes that kicker’s miss seem a little more probable, eh?

Just kidding. What a choke.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015: A Little Skin in the Game.


"Is that potato...or finger?" My wife poked through the blood-spackled chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes, brushing them into a ring and isolating the little morsel of pinkish meat.

I held my arm aloft, squeezing the paper towels so hard my bicep went to sleep. My stomach lurched at the sight of the kitchen knife she gripped, the same instrument that seconds before had pruned the tip of my left pinkie.

"That's finger," I said, tiny waves of nausea rippling through my entrails.

It was Christmas Day, which signifies the one meal of the year that my family indulges in a recipe originally found in Oprah magazine. The kids call it "Oprahtatoes," a heart-stopping mashup of gold spuds, butter, half-n-half and cream cheese, topped with cheddar and chives.

Seriously, if any food is worth spilling blood over, it's Oprahtatoes, but this bleeding wasn't stopping. Desperately desiring not to spend Christmas evening in the ER, I watched as my wife tightly wrapped the finger in Band-Aids, attacking from all angles.

To avoid boring you with a step-by-step account of the ensuing 36 hours, I'll just say that there's an urgent care doctor working at a facility in a strip mall in Vancouver, Washington, who knows fingers like the back of his hand. The dressing he crafted rolled on like Grey Poupon to a Little Smokie, and I won't even delve into my awesome pinkie hammock.

So yeah, anyway, that's pretty much how my 2015, shall we say, wrapped up. How was yours? Be honest, how much do you actually recall about what happened last year? I'm only asking because until I looked it up, basically all I remembered was watching the Seahawks blow the Super Bowl and reading memes about dogs and Obama.

But I also knew that A.D. Twenty-fifteen witnessed its share of extraordinary happenings—some good, some bad, some... well... meh. I found a great source to refresh my memory, a website called onthisday.com, which chronologically registered the year's major world-wide goings-on. And just to get a feel for the type of year it was, I'm going to randomly pick a few events and we'll see how things stack up overall. Let's dive in!

On March 26, King Richard III (1452-1485), whose remains were discovered beneath a parking lot, is exhumed then interred at England's Leicester Cathedral.

Conclusion: Bad. I'm from Seattle. Reverse composting is a gross misdemeanor.

On April 14, the world's oldest stone tools, dating back 3.3 million years, are found in Kenya.

Conclusion: Good. This proves that I'm not the only guy too lazy to get the hammer. Sometimes a big rock works fine.

On April 23, Loretta Lynch is confirmed as the first female African-American Attorney General of the United States.

Conclusion: Good, especially if you're Donald Trump ("I don't care who she is. It's goddamn amazing for anyone to be both an attorney and a general.").

On May 11, India's population officially reaches one billion.

Conclusion: Meh, it was a misunderstanding. Trump thought they said Indiana ("My people tell me Indiana has a billion illegals. Trust me, I will round these people up. What's that? It's actually India? Shut up, punk! Get him out of here.").

On June 17, the United States Treasury announces that the Alexander Hamilton ten-dollar bill will be replaced by a woman.

Conclusion: Meh, another misunderstanding. Trump was stoked because he thought they meant a real woman.

On July 20, The Impact Team announces they have hacked into the client list of Ashley Madison, the marital cheating website.

Conclusion: Good, except stock for Motel 6 and the makers of Febreeze for Car Upholstery tanked.

On August 21, the oldest known message in a bottle is retrieved on a German beach after 108 years adrift.

Conclusion: Bad. It was a list of Germany's top ten baby names, with Adolph coming in at a solid number three behind Axel and Gerd.

On December 7, Time readers voted Bernie Sanders Person of the Year.
Conclusion: Very, very good.

Wow, so it wasn't such a rotten 2015 after all. Our representative sample landed on four "Goods", two "Bads" and two "Mehs." Let's just hope things work out even better for 2016, if you know what I mean.

The Trump jokes are getting less funny.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Last-Minute Gift Guide For The Guy Who Doesn't Want a Gift

Last I checked—which was very, very recently—I’m a guy.

And we guys are not easy to buy stuff for; I understand this. We’re weird and quirky individuals. We’ll say thanks so much for the thoughtful gift, then secretly exchange the bow tie and sweater vest for a machete.

So I’m here to help. My aim is to assuage your uncertainty, to hedge your apprehension that you've chosen the right gift for Captain Dontworryaboutme. My guess is that he's like me—an average middle-aged dude who needs nothing and wants nothing… unless it’s cool. And since you’ve still got a solid week-and-a-half to procure a gift that doesn’t suck for your finicky fellow, here are my top ten token tips this Gringletide season:

10) Hockey tickets—Even though your hometown may be absent an NHL team, that doesn’t mean good hockey isn’t played in your area. Here in the PNW, we’ve a couple of junior hockey teams, the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds. Tickets range from $16 to $40 for the opportunity to watch highly-skilled teenagers sling each other around like spatulas of Crisco. Good times, seriously.

9) 1960s Animé cartoons—Before you judge, check out some of the old Speed Racer or Gigantor episodes. Fast moving and a smidge mistranslated, your beau will squeal like a pig as he hoists this out of his stocking ($23 for the first eleven episodes). 


8) Personal grooming devices—You and I both know that your chap could use a little Bastille Day for that old growth around the nose and ears. Nothing will capture his imagination like the sound of the nasal trimmer hitting paydirt. It may sound like a cross between a weed whacker and the Magic Bullet, but you’ll be able to eat tapioca out of those nostrils when he’s done ($33 at Nordstrom).

7) Lunchboxes—They’re back! Did they ever go away?


When I was in grade school, a lot of kids had this Charlie Brown model. Why not drop a subtle hint to see which pail your best bloke had as a schoolboy? He’ll love you for it, even though the price isn’t peanuts (Around $65 on eBay).

6) A pack of floats—I’ve done this a couple of times and it’s fantastic. Suspended in a light- and sound-controlled environment that reduces sensory stimulation, your guy will float in a super-saturated solution of epsom salt and water. The liquid is heated to skin temperature and after about fifteen minutes, he'll lose track of where the water ends and his body begins. 

Not suitable for the claustrophobic, it's amazingly relaxing and I’ve come out feeling better and for longer than after a conventional massage (Nearly always available on Groupon, around $40 per hour-long session). 

5) National Lampoon’s Vacation Boxset—All four original films are included on this DVD for only $30! Give him Chevy Chase at his comedy apex, bring back Clark, Audrey, Rusty and of course, Cousin Eddie. The shitter will runneth over, and so will your man’s cup.

4) Risk—Appeal to your guy’s inner nerd with the famous board game of world domination. For only $30, you’ll have a million rainy Saturdays-worth of fun while learning how your lifemate handles both megalomania and tactical impotence. Or maybe you already know.

3) A gift card to… nowhere. Seriously, don’t buy him a gift card, even to Hooters.

2) "Feel the Bern” products—Bernie Sanders, opting to forego super pac funding, still rivals Hillary Clinton in dollars raised thanks to small contributions from over 750,000 private donors. 



Why not dish out $15 for a coffee mug or $25 for a t-shirt to make your dude look a little smarter than he actually is!

1)  Any type of artwork, done by you—How often have I heard a friend say, “I’m not an artist. I can barely draw a stick figure.”? And my reply is, who says you have to draw a stick figure? Everyone’s an artist; I truly believe that. Sketch something out, paint a nice abstract scene, take a beautiful photograph—then frame that shit up because everything looks better in a frame. Trust me, he’ll love both it and you for putting yourself out there.

I know your man's been hard to buy for in the past, but keep in mind: he’s still a guy. While his interests may seem to vary immensely, when you really break things down he’s really only interested in four or five distinguishable topics and one of them is quite fleeting.

Good luck and happy shopping!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's Time to Get Real About Guns.


Time to play the familiar loop ...again:

A shooter unleashes his (and now her) demented angst upon a school, a shopping mall, a workplace.

We're not shocked; that emotion has been slowly phased out of the routine, vaporizing years ago, so we move on to horrified. From that point, our behaviors branch out a bit—some are sad, some are grateful that tragedy hasn't yet knocked on their own doors, and others, others are angry and ready to blame.

We blame the president or NRA, the liberals or conservatives, even the cultural demise of the American family. Rhetoric spins around in a sideways number eight, always moving but never veering off its predictable track.

You may agree with what I'm about to propose. Perhaps you'll dissent yet agree in principle. Or, maybe you'll think I'm just another bleeding heart progressive whose head's been in the sand so long it's formed a cement block around my senses. In fact, it's what I anticipate the reaction will be among my conservative friends and family members.

That's fine, I just wanted to get this down in words, because as macabre and dramatic as it sounds, tomorrow could be the day it happens—maybe at the grocery store, on the bus, at the office or during a high school band concert.

And as scary as the threat of terrorism is, of ideological thugs entering America with bad intentions, that's not my biggest fear. The lion's share of my trepidation is the home-grown variety. Since the Columbine killings ushered us into a new age of indigenously-sparked carnage, 388 Americans have died in mass shootings at the hands of fellow Americans.

I'm not including those paralyzed or disfigured, not those who were murdered in groups of two or even three. According to the New York Times, 388 is the tally of people whose last breaths were drawn in large-scale acts of violence committed overwhelmingly by US citizens with lawfully-owned weapons,

Although a few should not have been sold firearms despite failing background checks, a large proportion of wholesale killers hadn't broken a single law prior to visiting their collective slaughter upon our innocent brothers and sisters.

So what the hell can we do about this? I think most of us, liberal and conservative alike, believe that mental health screening is the key to keeping guns out of the hands of the psychopathic, but after that, our squads quickly diverge.

The Republican right, already consumed in a state of seething indignation over Obamacare and increased government "handouts," would hardly endorse further spending for a concept as abstract as preventative mental health care. Ronald Reagan, standard-bearer for all that is Right, enacted the Brady Bill while simultaneously slashing funding and casting millions of schizophrenic government dependents to lives of homelessness.

The cons may maintain that the private sector can handle this burden, that faith-based organizations can pick up the slack, but how's that been working out?

Those of the libertarian persuasion, already highly distrustful of an executive branch hell-bent on taking their guns, would just as soon allow the feds to pay a visit to a mentally ill family member as they would go to a concert where Jane Fonda opens for the Dixie Chicks.

In light of these belief systems, where does that leave us? Same place as usual—gun control. During Barack Obama's first term, 91% more background checks were performed than in George Bush's initial four years, and over 65 million Americans have purchased firearms during the Obama administration. I'd say we're pretty well stocked at this point, wouldn't you?

For those friends among us thinking that the Apocalypse may very well happen a week from Tuesday, I'm willing to bet they've got enough ammo to set them up until then and a thousand Tuesdays into the future.

So since you people already have yours and then some, how about we think outside the box a little? Why not impose a moratorium on gun sales, or at the very least on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? Simultaneously, how about cracking down the illegal weapons trade while we're at it? Last I checked, it's not too easy to order yourself an RPG launcher, and there's a reason for that. It's time to treat guns like the weapons of mass destruction they really are.

Contrary to what you may believe after reading this, I'm not stupid. Guns are as American as cookie dough and Maxwell House, and we're a country built largely from the business end of a rifle. The Second Amendment secured the ability of a ragtag militia from rural Massachusetts to hide in the bushes and pick off all those redcoats dumb enough to march down the middle of the road. Later, the fastest and easiest way for a lawless West to be settled was through a lot of shooting and threatening to shoot.

But wake up. Times have changed, if you haven't noticed. How many freaking guns do you need, people? I guess in America, the answer is more.

Always more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Holiday Specials: A Quiz


Happy holidays! Although Yule season commercials have been on TV since a couple of days before Halloween (October 28, for Walmart—made a note of it), it hadn’t really felt a lot like Christmas until Sunday, when two things happened:

1. We put up our Christmas tree and all the trimmings around the house, and good news: this time, I didn’t sweat enough getting the tree into the stand to have to change my shirt.

2. The promo for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS. It’s on tonight (Tuesday) at 8.

A rush of Christmas emotion overtook me as I watched those little, jerky characters marching around. I knew then and there that Noel was officially on. 

But good Lord, Bumble the abominable snow monster, as low-tech as he is, still scares the gizzard up my gullet. As a kid, I always found it convenient to grab a HoHo and linger in the kitchen until he was finally subdued through unbridled tooth extraction.

In my opinion, Rudolph, produced in 1964 with its innovative stop-motion animation, and Chuck Jones’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, combining the genius of Warner Brothers and Dr. Seuss, are the Ali and Frazier of holiday TV specials.

But there are so many others. That’s why today, as we countdown to Rudolph’s 52nd network-television take-off, I’ve scrawled out little a quiz to see how well you know your boobtube Festivus fare. Best of luck in choosing the correct answer, because this one's no cakewalk.

Who claimed, “I want to be a dentist.”

a) Jeb Bush after looking at his latest poll numbers.
b) A four-year-old me, just before they put me under to get my tonsils out.
c) Hermey, the meek elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That is, until he went all medieval on Bumble with those pliers.
d) All of the above.

Answer: b—Bush would never put his hands in people's mouths, and I wanted to play for the Packers.

Who said, “All I have in my pockets are a short-circuited wand and a few last morsels of magic feed corn that make reindeer fly”?

a) Greg Brady, when Carol finds smokes in his letterman’s jacket.
b) The Winter Warlock in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, as Mrs. Claus desperately attempts to spring him from the North Pole supermax.
c) Beaver Cleaver, after a tough Saturday frog hunting.
d) Ben Carson, maintaining that Jesus listed these among his carpentry tools.

Answer: b— Greg  also had weed in there, The Beav never came home without at least a few polliwogs, and JC didn’t need that shit to do a nice mudroom remodel.

Who wondered, “What if Christmas doesn't come from a store?”?

a) Jeff Bezos.
b) The Grinch, just before his heart grew three sizes.
c) Donald Trump (“F&ck no! I told you, not if that shit’s made in China!").
d) All of the above.

Answer: d

Who said, “I’m cuuuuuute!”?
a) Me, yelling out the window when I cruise Alki Beach.
b) Rudolph, when Clarice’s words made him spring briefly into the air for the first time. As we know, those things can happen to a young reindeer. Perfectly normal.
c) Most dogs who’ve just eaten a shoe.
d) All of the above.

Answer: b and c—I don’t need to shout it out, right?

I hope you’ve fared well on the Christmas special quiz; I know it wasn’t easy. Sorry for not including some of the other great shows, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, A Christmas Story and so many more. Enjoy the season and watch a few of the old favorites!