Me and Earl were living south of Durham on an old train trestle over a creek. We’d built ourselves a little hut about mid-span. The old wooden trestle looked like it hadn’t seen any train traffic for a decade or more before the crap hit the fan, and we didn’t suppose any new trains were likely to start using it. We barricaded and booby-trapped the tracks on either end and climbed up from below. Them flesh-eatin’ rascals can’t climb worth a damn, and they swim like rocks, so we was pretty well protected.
One day we were trying to lash one of the tarps back down when we heard a ruckus from down stream. We looked and seen these three women down there trying to get away from a few biters. These girls musta not known how to swim or they didn’t wanna get their clothes wet or something. Them and the zombies were all scrambling along the bank like idiots. Earl and me was yellin’ to ’em to just get in the creek, but I guess they were too busy squealing and climbing over rocks to pay us any mind.
We came down with a couple ugly sticks and saved ’em, like knights in shining armor. They climbed up to our place and we gave ’em some beans and they shared a can of tuna they had.
Earl and me had talked before about the risks of taking other health nuts in. Earl musta forgot all about that once he seen Brenda. She was in her early 30’s and was pretty in a rough sort of way. The blonde from her last bottle of Clairol was just about visible at the ends of her brown hair. I told her she shoulda cut it short by now, to decrease her grab-ability. She said it aint easy giving up every last bit of the way life used to be, but she’d consider it. It’s a girl thing I guess.
She was on the run from the undead along with her niece Katey and an older neighbor friend named Louise. Katey was pretty skinny like most of us. Her hair had the look of having possibly been last cut with a steak knife. I’m guessing that hairstyle was Brenda tryin’ to keep her kin in pristine, unbit condition. Seems Brenda knew bout keepin hair short for safety, just not her own. Katey kinda looked like a dandelion on account of that hairstyle as she sulked around the trestle just as moody and pissed off as any fourteen year old.
Louise wasn’t a whole lot more talkative than Katey. She just lurked around looking kind of scared all the time. She damn near caught herself an ugly stick upside the head when Earl thought that a Francine Flesh-chomper had somehow made it through the barricades. Soon as she cried out and crouched down, Earl checked his swing. After that, Louise took to clearing her throat a lot. Zombies don’t pay no attention to post-nasal drips, so a sniffle and a cough could go a long way to keep you from getting swung on.
Our little camp got crowded that day, and I made a mental note to give Earl an earful once I had him alone. In the meantime, I tried to be a good host.
[ Chapter 2 is below – if you want to read chapter 1 first, clickHERE]
We made our way back out through the lobby past the plastic trees and hostess stand. My bike had a busted shifter and only one gear of the original 10 still working. Earl was on what they used to call beach cruiser. There weren’t any flesh biters close by, so it wasn’t too tough to get up and moving, even with all the scavenged stuff we were carrying. I learned from experience it aint easy to build up pedaling momentum on a one-speed if a Junior or a Sally Mae is grabbing at you.
Gas was still around if you looked hard enough and didn’t mind getting a mouthful of it every so often from siphoning. Keeping enough unleaded in your car ain’t the only challenge though. People just keeled over dead and abandoned things in the worst possible places. Tryin’ to steer around a big old SUV parked all cattywampus dead in the middle of a back road could land you in a ditch with hungry visitors coming out of the weeds.
Earl had a 250 cc Yamaha for a while, but he switched over to the beach cruiser ’cause a Brenda. She musta got bumped off of one of ’em back in high school with some boyfriend. She raised hell with Earl about how dangerous they were. The whole thing struck me funnier’n hell, since he was using it to avoid zombies. Earl seems to think Brenda’s more dangerous than some old zombie – ‘more I see of her, he might be right.
Earl told me his wife Velma left early in the game. She ended up accidentally providing dinner for one of her friends from the supermarket. She had told Earl she was worried about this girl from the deli department who lived alone. Velma brought her over a casserole but no one answered the door. She musta pushed the door open and poked her head in. Earl was waitin’ in the car and he saw her get yanked into the place. Time he got up to the porch, he already knew he was too late. He swore he’da helped her if he wasn’t out numbered so bad – she mighta lived alone, but that deli girl had no shortage of company when she died. Earl said the living room was packed so full of zombies he could only see Velma’s one foot sticking out and twitching. He just got back in his car and tore ass. Anyway, that’s in the past.
I tend to believe Earl’s stories. He strikes me as the sort who doesn’t have the creative energy to tell too many lies. Velma likely ran the show, and he was used to taking orders to keep things civil. I know it aint right to speak poorly of the dead -‘specially the dead you aint even met- but there’s only so many living folks around to talk crap about.
Earl and me met a ways back, long after the shit had hit the fan. People were getting sick and dying, then they were rising up and eatin’ the ones who weren’t dead or lucky. The folks in charge were talking a lot, blaming each other like they do. The military came rolling in, but then they left all a sudden like maybe they knew something we didn’t. We aint seen em since, less you count the ones who show up looking to take a bite of you. Right before the cavalry disappeared, the power went off for good.
Seemed like once there was no juice, people really lost their damn minds. No TV or internet, no smart phones or Nintendos and no more people in camo keeping the peace. Some of these folks looked like they was tryin’ to get killed. Out there fightin’ zombies like they were action heroes. Sure, them zombies aint too bright and don’t flinch when you swing, but if there’s enough of them, you’re gonna feed em eventually.
I was in a neighborhood looking for food when I seen two of these Schwarzenegger wannabees out in the street taking on too many zombies for their own good. They didn’t have no business being out there, and helping them was out of the question. I saw something move outta the corner of my eye and got my ugly stick up. I relaxed a bit when I seen it was this big guy squatting down behind a recycling can joining me in the audience for the show out on the cul de sac. You could spot another health nut. We did things like squat and hide. Zombies don’t waste energy hiding from anyone, they just stagger non-stop till they get some flesh of the living.
“Hey, I’m Earl” he whispered, “Can’t believe these mo-rons fightin zombies in the street – they sure not gone win”
Earl likely heard some cartoon character say morons that way, and it musta made quite an impression on him, because he said it plenty. After the first fifty times, it wasn’t so funny. Still, having a wingman aint a bad thing to help cover your back. Compared to the two bozos out in the street, he seemed like a good candidate for the job.
Earl was wearing a Bass Boss baseball cap that had once been camo-green, but now was the color of phlegm. His pants were riding low and that plumber’s crack coulda had its own zip code. I was a little jealous to see that he’d found a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and three cans of dog food. Zombies were staggering out of driveways and backyards for a taste of the two Rambo’s. It wouldn’t be long.
I had found some dried beans and an aluminum little league bat earlier – this neighborhood was already picked pretty clean. My original ugly stick was an old wooden one, with a couple of landscaping spikes through the end. I wasn’t gonna retire it, but a smaller one could come in handy.
Earl said if I helped him carry his stuff, he’d get us out of there. He put the beer on the ground next to the cans of horse meat and ducked around the side of the house. I was considering taking the dog food and beating feet when I heard the Yamaha start up. He come rolling around to where I was and said get on. A few of the stumble-bums out in the street heard the bike too, so I didn’t squabble.
I quick put everything in my backpack, keeping a grip on the old ugly stick just in case. Earl wasn’t too gentle with the clutch, and I damn near fell off the back right as a Junior and a couple of Francines started lurching up the driveway towards us. We juked the Junior and tore ass across the lawn. One of the Francinces was close enough to smell so I swatted her one as we roared past. We hit the sidewalk and got the hell outta Dodge. We been teamed up ever since.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I first posted this in December of 2012 – zombies were all the rage and life was simpler. I have written several more installments because I liked Bobby, Earl and the zombies. These have yet to be published, but will be in the days/weeks to come – I promise.
We were looking for some food in the kitchen of an Olive Garden outside of what was once Durham, North Carolina. It was supposedly December 25th – at least that’s what Earl said. The calendar was pretty much useless by that point. Days and nights were spent fighting the undead as they lurched and hissed all around us. The sound of their clicking teeth took the place of sleigh bells and Bing Crosby.
I tightened the grip on my ugly stick and glanced at a zombie that was inching closer. This one looked like she had been an obese woman in her late fifties when she turned. Stalking the planet for the brains of the living might’ve been the one diet and exercise program which had actually worked for her. Her clothes hung loosely on her now, she had lost one of her scuffy slippers and the remaining one was barely hanging on. A couple of curlers hung comically from her foul, matted hair. She wasn’t one of the fast ones. I stole a glance at Earl.
“You telling me it’s freakin Christmas today?”
“I think so, Bobby. I might be a day or two off, though” he replied. “Feels cold enough to be December, don’t it?”
I shrugged my agreement to him and turned my attention back to Francine. Earl and me took to naming them a while back. It made things a little less tedious and could actually help if things got a little too crowded. Housewife-looking zombies, and there seemed to be quite a few of ‘em, were usually called Francine or Edna. Younger ones were named Junior or Sally Mae, depending on their gender. I tried to give foreign-looking ones a name that would match up with their likely country of origin. Earl’s not all that creative so he names all the foreign ones Saddam, whether they look Middle Eastern, Asian or whatever. A young zombie of Asian descent would be “Saddam Junior” according to Earl’s rule book. Naming the young zombies is real important, since they tend to move faster’n the older ones. I know that this aint politically correct, but when you’re about to take a Lousiville slugger with spikes in the end of it across their chops, you don’t waste much time worrying about pissing off Miss Manners. I’m pretty sure Miss Manners got herself chewed up a long ways back anyway – likely ’cause she hadda hold her pinky out when she was swingin’ her lacrosse stick at the undead.
Francine was edging closer. She’d slowed down when she paused to look at some shiny, swollen cans of crushed tomatoes on the floor near her feet. These zombies aint exactly like the pretend ones we used to see on TV. They’re hungry alright, but they can be distractable. Shiny stuff, brightly colored stuff – they’re drawn to it like lake carp. Eventually their appetites get the better of ‘em though, and they start back on their quest for the flesh of the living. Francine had lost her interest in the puckered cans and was heading back my way.
The beautiful thing about zombies is they got none of what you call protective reflexes. They don’t flinch or duck or nothin’. They’ll walk right up to you no matter what position you’re in. I was standing there looking like a major league slugger at the plate with the bases loaded and here comes Francine. Her head was a far sight bigger’n a softball and moving slow. Her arms were up though, so I switched from my Sammy Sosa stance over to a modified Paul Bunyan. I swung like I was piecing out a sequoia and one hit was all it took.
“When you’re done dancin’ around with Edna over there, gimme a hand with this stuff and let’s get back to camp” Earl called. ”The girls’ll wonder where the hell we are. You know how they worry”
“Her name’s Francine, Earl, and I don’t dance.”
I stepped around her, noticing for no particular reason that her second slipper had finally fallen apart. I found a couple of cartons of dried spaghetti without too many mouse turds in them. Things were looking up for Christmas dinner.
Dawn writes over at Tales From The Motherland. She decided to list 50 things she’s thankful for in ten minutes or less. I wouldn’t have known about it, but Darla at She’s A Maineiac and Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride both decided to do it too. I foolishly got sucked into the feel-good blog party of the holiday season. If you have any idea as to the writing prowess and massive followings that Susie and Darla have, you’ll understand why I’m second guessing myself.
I wrote the list in ten minutes, but then took the liberty of going back to clarify what the hell I was talking about. If you’re in a rush, you can skip the why’s and wherefores and just read the underlined, numbered answers.
1. Family – they’ve tolerated me this long….they’re stuck with me now. Many of them have figured out that you can’t run away from DNA. 2. Friends– I have a few old ones and a few new ones. I try to keep the good ones and dump the fair weather variety, but sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who until you get some crappy weather.
3.Potential– things can always change. Any life situation has potential to morph into a better or worse version, so I’ll hope and work for the better and try to avoid the worse. Feel free to post that on your Facebook page with a picture of a sunset. 4. Health– I’m not exactly the spry stud I used to be, but I’m still on the right side of the dirt. 5. Humor– I like to believe that I have a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself. I know for a fact that I have the ability to laugh at others. 6. The chance to make a difference– I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not Mother Teresa, but I like to believe that I’m able to make a little difference in peoples’ lives, and that means an awful lot. 7. Perspective– Hey, it’s in the name of my blog, I’m not passing up free advertising. Perspective gives me the ability to see things for what they are, and given enough time and clarity, to move beyond the fertilizer and appreciate the flowers.
8. Lucy the dog– She keeps me company when I’m raking leaves and shoveling snow. She protects my house from skunks and squirrels. Lucy has left me in the dust in the going gray competition, but I still reign supreme in the baldness category. 9. Time to fix things – Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I feel like I still have the time to fix things. I can still talk, and listen, and with enough humility, figure out where I’ve gone wrong and do something about it. 10. A chance to savor things – I’m learning to see the value in things. To take the time to accept the impermanence of perfection. 11. Food, glorious food – My love affair with delicious, wonderful food continues barreling forward despite my growing waistline and skyrocketing cholesterol levels. Be that as it may, food is best washed down with…. 12. Beer– Frosties, tall cold ones, pints, growlers, kegs, brews, suds, ales, lagers, porters, stouts, imperial India Pale Ales, sessions, the list goes on and on. I’ve finally entered the world of brewing my own. My abilities as a brewer still lag miles behind my oh-so-refined palate, but I’m working on it.
13. Vodka– Yes, I drink vodka too. I’ll let you know if I start working on distilling. 14. Tequila– Give me a short, neat glass of reposado and let me enjoy the peppery aromas, the sweetness of the first sip, the smooth warmth across my chest as I swallow. I’m not sure if I need an intervention or a cold shower.
15. Blogging– The readers, the writers, the commenters, the strange, dynamic community of people I’ve never met in real life, but care for just the same. Actually, I did meet one of you, and that’s part of the reason she gets to be called “Darling”. 16. Donald Trump– He keeps me on my toes. He reminds me of everything that’s wrong with the country. He helps me to understand how “The Love Boat” was ever the top rated show ion TV. He also keeps me guessing about that orange fiberglass comb-over. 17. Internet access– Like many things I’m thankful for, I don’t truly value it until it’s gone. Luckily for me, my home internet service is sporadically provided for a fee by the good folks at Comcast, so I get to appreciate it several times a week. 18. The off switches on my TV, computer and cell phone – These switches are wonderful, yet often over-looked in their functionality. 19. The hope that someday I learn how to use them – Just because I know the whereabouts of those may power switches, doesn’t man I know how to use them – but I’m hopeful I’ll learn someday. 20. The chance that there’s an off switch on my brain – I’ve been dabbling with meditation and trying to sleep at night without the use of prescription meds or excessive amounts of beer, vodka or tequila. If I can shut my brain off, I think I could really gain clarity (or at least stop dreaming about people in donkey masks). 21. Scrapple– I just realized that if I think about certain processed pork products, my brain actually does shut off for a minute. Mmmm…scrapple.
22. My Lovely, Long-Suffering Wife – I know I already covered friends and family, but my wife is in a category all her own. If she actually reads this post, she’ll likely appreciate getting the props she deserves, (but she’ll also likely have a problem with coming after scrapple). It’s not a ranking, Sweetie!23. My memory – I forgot why I wrote this one. I had something really funny or beautiful or deep to write about my memory, but I’ll be damned if I can think of what it was. 24. Podcasts – I love me some podcasts. I’m sick and tired of the massive library of music available to me in my car, but the podcasts rarely disappoint. I started with Serial, and I’ve become a loyal follower of Joe Rogan and a few others. 25. Sarcasm– It’s in my veins, and without it, I’d be even more shriveled up and sad looking. 26. Beauty – I don’t really possess much of it, but I’m surrounded by it. You should see my wife – Yowza!
27. People with bad taste – Bad taste is critical for those of us with impeccable taste. Without bad taste, we’d all be the same, and that would make it tough for me to feel superior to others.
28. Male pattern baldness – Without male pattern baldness, I’d have to struggle for hours teasing, combing and applying any number of expensive, potentially carcinogenic products to my luxurious mane before leaving the house every morning. My lack of hair also exposes my glorious, smooth scalp to the world. It’s okay to stare. 29. Disc Golf – My son, who I’m already thankful for in both the family and friend categories, has turned me on to the game. Unlike traditional golf, the courses are largely free, the equipment is inexpensive and there is no use of little electric carts. Even if you suck, and I do, it’s still a nice walk in the woods. 30. John Lee Hooker – I’m not always as thankful for John Lee as I should be, but I had some blues on while I typed that, and it seemed like a tip of the hat was in order. 31. Seat warmers– My car has seat warmers. I once thought it was the silliest, most frivolous option one could get in a car, but as winter looms, my tender cheeks look forward to that warm embrace.
32. Grandkids – These things are great! Mine are fun and come in handy, like when I need a smile or someone to bring me another beer.
33. Coworkers who see what I see – Sometimes work can provide you with such surreal things that you cannot believe your eyes. Were it not for my colleagues, I might just chalk some of this stuff up to hallucinations. 34. Coworkers who don’t see what I see – This crew is important to me too. I need to realize how clueless some folks can be while still leading productive, normal lives. 35. Cell phone cameras – Without cell phone cameras, we’d all be at the Fotomat booth down in the Shop N Save parking lot waiting for our prints so we could go to the post office and mail them to Instagram. 36. Ice makers – This one might be a little bit of a reach. To be honest, I’m pretty good at pouring water into ice trays then popping the cubes out just 12 hours later. 37. Comingled recycling – When I was a kid, we just threw everything away. Then we started recycling and trash got complicated. The were bundles of newspaper in one spot, cans over there and bottles in yet another location. Thanks to advances in sorting technology, we can just about throw all our crap in one place again! 38. “Fargo” – I’m so very thankful for this “place”. The movie and TV shows have showcased actors who transcended everything else I’ve ever seen them in. It’s the best show on TV and I cannot get enough of it. I’m supremely bummed that it just ended, but I’m confident that there’s more coming. 39. The magic of self-editing special memories – This may or may not be the memory thought I had back on number 23. I’m truly thankful that my memory is able to save precious points in my life while smoothly leaving out icky little details which could take away from the poignancy of the moment. 40. This is harder than it looks – That’s not really something I’m thankful for, but it’s the truth.
41. The Garden State – I’m thankful for Jersey. You got a problem with that?
42. New family – I’m getting new family all the time. A kid gets married – Boom! Instant crew of aunts and uncles and one or two funny looking nephews. Unlike old family members, I get a grace period in which to learn names.
43. Cat-like reflexes – Were it not for my cat-like reflexes, I might not be here today. Just the other day I fell over a log while disc golfing and nearly brained myself. Sadly, the reflexes did me little good, since I was unable to rotate my body one way and my tail in the other, since, you know, I have no tail.
44. Incredible good looks – I realize that I noted earlier that I possess no beauty, but many people will testify that I am ruggedly handsome. While my good looks are not of much value in and of themselves, they do occasionally provide me with a few extra seconds to come up with an answer, while the person asking the question is mesmerized by my chiseled cheek bones and dreamy eyes. 45. Delusional thoughts – See number 44 above. 46. 10 fingers, 10 toes – Not only was I born with a full complement of digits, I still have all of them left, ever after more than a century of slamming car doors, operating power tools and flipping people off. 47. Boxer briefs – A man of my years can truly appreciate the winning combination of support, fashionable appearance and upper thigh coverage 48. The clearance section – Not only does the clearance section give me the best value for my shopping dollar, it also provides me with the best place to look for my wife when I’m lost in the store. 50. Shitty counting skills – …and we’re done.
This time of the year for me is chock full of presentations. People stand before me holding sheaves of notes in one sweaty palm and microphones in the other. The topics are either required by state law, already detailed ad nauseam in the employee handbook, or a favorite subject of someone in higher places.
As such, this provides me with more than ample opportunity to critique individual presentation styles and keep score with my patented “OP-5” (One Point Perspective’s Presentation Pet Peeves).
In no special order, here are a few of my presentation pet peeves:
Power Point Border Patrol – In this scenario, the presenter has no idea how to give us the Power Point without the working border being visible to the audience. People with good vision can actually read ahead in the slides on the left margin, assuming they are literate and awake.
An Old Fashioned Read-Along – This one really drives me insane. The presenter puts together a presentation, and then reads it from the screen – verbatim – to the captive audience. I have yet to sit in an audience where there were known illiterates, but if there were, these knuckleheads are only enabling them.
The Tongue Twister/Ear Acher – This involves rubbing salt in the wounds of the pre-annoyed victims of The Old Fashioned Read Along, wherein the presenter reads the presentation and butchers words with which they obviously have no familiarity. This faux pas tends to take away credibility from the presenter (For the record, it’s pronounced “fox pass”). Mispronouncing words in your own presentation is the epitome of bad form (That one is epp-ee-tohm)
Such A Freaking Joke – There is some sort of public speaking wives’ tale which says that breaking the ice with a joke will put everyone at ease. The audience is generally already pretty relaxed, sitting in chairs and waiting for the dog and pony show. Obviously, the joke is only to put the presenter at ease, but it seldom works. Telling jokes takes a little bit of talent and timing which many presenters simply do not possess. In addition, there is the matter of the joke being worth telling in the first place. Tapping the microphone and asking “Is this thing on?” will often result in ear splitting audio feedback.
If You Have To Ask…– Many presenters like to offer the audience the chance to ask questions, and this should be applauded. One can only hope the presenter knows enough about the subject to actually be able to answer. The pet peeve in this case is when the presenter forgets that he or she is the only one with a microphone and very few people in their audience can actually hear the question. This renders the answer essentially meaningless. This is easily remedied by having the person with the microphone repeat the question before answering it. In the 16 presentations I attended this September, not one presenter employed this simple strategy.
There IS Such A Thing As A Stupid Question – Every so often, the audience member asking the question will be sitting close enough for others to actually hear it. Unfortunately, some people have such enormous egos that they believe that there could possibly be one or more audience members who actually share the exact same problem as them. As an example, an assembled crowd of four hundred employees are listening to a presentation about their new healthcare plan. A person raises his hand and asks whether his preferred brand of toe nail fungus treatment will be covered under the prescription coverage. Those in the audience who could actually hear the question can only stare in nauseated disbelief.
Smart Phone/Dumb Owner – This issue is far from being restricted to presentations, but it needs to be included. Assemblies of employees are frequently interrupted by cell phones, usually those of audience members, sometimes the actual presenter. When buying a new cell phone, customers should not leave the store without first finding out how to silence the device. If you refuse to learn how to silence your smart phone, it should be mandatory that your ring tone be changed to “Hey! It’s for me, [insert name here]! I’m too ignorant to silence my phone.” This would be particularly embarrassing to anyone unfortunate enough to be named Insert Name Here.
It’s A Microphone, Not A Magic Scepter – This is pretty simple. Microphones work to amplify the voice of the speaker. The mike doesn’t work if the speaker’s gestures include pulling the device away from their faces. I’m sure someone in the tech department will read this and buy a few really expensive head-piece microphones to keep the big wheels from embarrassing themselves. You sir, are no Phil Donahue.
A Little Bit of This ‘An ‘At – We’ve all got our little speech idiosyncrasies. For example, it’s accepted that teenagers of a certain era put the word “like” in between every couple of words. Teenagers get a free pass, because correcting them will result in eye rolling and possible sulking. If as an adult, you feel the need to refer to additional thoughts as “this an at” or to use the non-word “irregardless” throughout a presentation, you will incur my wrath. I will keep score and draw non-flattering doodles of you in the margins of my hand-out.
In fairness, I should disclose that I myself gave several presentations to co-workers in early September on the basics of using a patient lift. There was no Power Point and I didn’t use a microphone, so I able to avoid many of the fox passes I listed above. I put my cell phone on silent and stayed away from jokes, deciding that the sight of me hoisted up in the sling would be comic relief enough. Irregardless, I’m sure some of the audience members did not enjoy my presentation.
You may heard about Malala Yousafzai. She’s the young Pakistani woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to fight for the rights of women to receive educations in a part of the world where females are often treated like 3rd class citizens .
Seeing that she’s such a strong advocate for education, it seems logical that Ms. Yousafzai would want to pursue a college degree. Malala stated that she’d condider attending Oxford or perhaps Stanford. It was reported that if she was interested the latter, she would have to take the SAT’s. After all, the prestigious California school get lots of applicants and she needs to prove she can do well enough on standardized tests to hang with the big boys.
I can just picture the scene*…
Setting: The lights rise to reveal a small, windowless room. A red letter “S” with a skinny tree in front of it adorns the wall. A woman and two men sit at a table surrounded by stacks of paper. Each has a laptop or tablet glowing in front of them. Empty cups from fair trade coffee vendors and organic snack bags lay between the papers and computers. The waste basket recycling can in the corner is barely visible beneath an avalanche of crumpled paper.
ARTHUR: What about this Yousafzai kid?
BURTON: Simple: incomplete application – she had no SAT scores reported. Stamp her rejected, we keep the application fee and she goes to her safety school or re-applies next year. What do you two think of this next applicant, Tiffany Amber Carwell?
CANDACE: Wait Burt, it says the Yousafzai girl won some awards. Apparently she’s a pretty big deal in Pakistan.
ARTHUR: Candace, this Carwell kid won some awards too, AND she took her stinking SAT’s like she was supposed to!
BURTON: Christ Candy! We can’t keep making exceptions every time some kid has test anxiety or something!
CANDACE: It was the freaking Nobel Peace Prize, Arty, not 2nd place in the science fair at Clearview High.
ARTHUR: Clearview is a top notch school, Candace. You’re being antagonistic and I don’t care for your tone. For your information, I placed fourth in my junior year science fair, so that should tell you how competitive it is at Clearview.
BURTON: You two need to stop squabbling so we can move on. It’s a done deal; no SAT’s, no consideration. Like I said before, the kid is probably one of those test anxiety cases. Those kids need to toughen up.
CANDACE: I don’t know Burt, I think this one’s pretty tough. Says here the Taliban put out a hit on her.
ARTHUR: The Carwell girl raised money for a local soup kitchen and volunteered to read stories to local preschoolers…two years varsity field hockey, co-captain her senior year….AP classes in history and French!
BURTON: You know, that field hockey is pretty rough. My daughter Allie caught a stick right in the chops, needed 12 stitches. I think that scar on her chin had a little something to do with her deciding to focus on trying out for the madrigals instead of playing her senior year. She almost made the cut too.
CANDACE: Guys! The Yousafzai girl…
BURTON: Are you still on that one?! Get with the program Candy, put her in the reject pile and tell us if you agree on Tiffany Amber Carwell.
ARTHUR: Seriously Candy, look at all these applications, we’ve got a long way to go.
CANDACE: I don’t believe you two! This girl was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin!
Arthur and Burton look at Candace silently, then back at one another. Arthur straightens the stack of papers in his hands, Burton looks intently at his laptop screen.
ARTHUR: In the head?
BURTON: Well then, she’s dead, right?
ARTHUR: Brain injured?
CANDACE: No. She’s not dead and she’s not brain injured. She’s the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, and she did it by being an activist for women’s rights to get an education. She celebrated her 18th birthday by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.
BURTON: Okay Candy, if you’re not going to let this go, I guess we’ll reconsider Yousafzai.
ARTHUR: Did she play a sport or belong to any clubs in high school?
Candace puts her head in her hands. Lights dim, and curtain.
* I tried to put this little vignette in play script format, but couldn’t figure out how to do it. It’s not like I’m a Stanford grad, or even a Nobel Prize laureate.
I’m far from the first person to point out how disappointingly bad the second season of HBO’s “True Detective” has been. I just watched another recorded episode last night, in the futile hopes that the series would somehow pull itself together. I’d watch the finale but I’ve gotten behind on “Naked and Afraid” and to be honest, even watching filthy digitized people eat barbequed snake is more entertaining than this season’s edition of “True Detective”.
The first season was quite good, and cynical viewers might have expected a certain amount of drop-off in quality for season two, but this has been more along the lines of a bungee jump without the cord. Here are a few comparisons of how using the same recipe with different ingredients can go horribly wrong:
Season 1: Aerial shots of vast Louisiana swamps and woodlands – worked because it reinforced the plot. You could easily imagine creepy people doing awful things out in the middle of nowhere.
Season 2: Aerial shots of vast highway interchanges and rail yards – didn’t work because the shots brought to mind strip mining and commuting more than violent crime. It also seemed like there was twice as much aerial footage – maybe they had extra money in the budget for helicopter shots. At least it reduced the number of times we had to look at Collin Farrell pushing his Shemp-style hair back out of his face.
Season 1: Powerful secret organization hides terrible secrets of child abuse and murder – worked because anyone perpetrating such atrocious crimes would be secretive by nature, and who doesn’t suspect that powerful, rich people are up to no good?
Season 2: Powerful men have big sex parties with beautiful prostitutes and/or meet in richly appointed studies to make shady land deals – didn’t work because while the idea of shady land deals is entirely believable, the thought of captains of industry and politicians having orgiastic fun in front of one another is absurd.
Season 1: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughay play cops with personal demons and are dedicated to solving a case despite overwhelming odds against them – worked because Woody portrayed a blue collar cop who plays fast and loose, while McConaughay’s character is a brainiac whose oddness and intellect are both his best and worst enemies. Harrelson’s character is responsible for asking McConaughay’s WTF he’s talking about during his philosophical rants.
Season 2: Collin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch play cops with personal demons and are dedicated to solving a case despite overwhelming odds against them – didn’t work because for the most part, it was difficult to have much compassion for any of them. Every other line had one of them making obtuse comments about the meaning of life. The is no sounding board character, so the audience must ask WTF these people are talking about during their philosophical rants.
Season 1:Opening credits, music – worked because the images and music evoked the overlapping of good and bad, light and dark, etc. Hearing the theme song “Far From Any Road” still creeps me out. The low, mechanical rumble during suspenseful scenes brings to mind the beating heart of a dangerous, hidden evil.
Season 2: Opening credits, theme music – did not work because…I don’t even know why it didn’t work, but it didn’t. The theme song title, “Nevermind” sounds like good advice. The low, mechanical rumble during suspenseful scenes brings to mind the possibility that someone is having an MRI nearby.
Odds and Ends:
The bruised girl singing in the dive bar every time Collin Farrel’s character needs to have a confidential meeting. I’m sorry, there’s just no way she gets to sing there or anywhere else – not even on open-mike night in the City of the Deaf. Replace that droning songbird with the karaoke talents of out-of-town businessmen singing The Cowboy Junkies songbook.
The cops, one of whom was working in the same capacity as Erik Estrada’s character on CHiPs, have the ability to look at complicated legal documents and instantly determine what the fuck they actually mean. I didn’t realize that motorcycle cops had advanced training in contract law.
Collin Farrel’s pudgy, ginger son – I know about as much about genetics as I do about the legal documents for land transactions, but I know it’s genetically impossible to have a kid who looks like that from any combination of those three parents.
They always pick the right door for the plot. Kitsch’s character is being held in a labyrinth of tunnels which according to one of the bad guys, “runs beneath the entire city.” He somehow escapes, killing a half dozen special forces guys who shine their flashlights to give him good targets. After scrambling through miles of tunnels, he emerges via a ladder up to the street level, and the last bad cop is standing right behind the door waiting to shoot him in the back. In an earlier scene, Rachel McAdams is stumbling around a huge mansion dragging a drugged woman along behind her. No one is able to stop her despite her sluggish cargo. She happens to emerge from one of the dozen or more available exterior doors to where Kitsch is standing waiting for her. I can’t find the men’s room at the Cheesecake Factory but somehow these characters manage to pick the right door.
Some of the most stilted, unnatural dialogue I’ve ever heard. Vince Vaughn’s character alone has more awkward things to say in any one episode than I’ve said in my entire life (including some epic drunken stupors and childhood night terrors). It’s difficult to imagine an actor reading those lines and not asking for someone to consider rewriting it to sound like it’s being said by a human being. If you think I’m exaggerating, please note that in one scene, Vince Vaughn’s character made an analogy that not being able to identify his enemies “Is like..blue balls in your heart“.
HBO has contracted with writer Nic Pizzolatto for one more season. Like any true optimistic masochist, I’ll tune in to see if the same formula for season 3 yields an incredible souffle or cold scrambled eggs. A quick FYI; I have a couple of manuscripts on the back burner if HBO is looking for new writing talent.
A great many of my Facebook friends have covered their profile pics in a rainbow gel. They’re ecstatic about the supreme court’s decision to legalize same sex marriage all across the land. Of course, my Facebook friends are a diverse bunch and others are very upset with the decisions of the POTUS and the SCOTUS. As for me, I’ve got more of a problem with the highest court in the land being referred to by an acronym which is just a few letters away from being a ball bag.
As I drove around running errands the other day, I wondered if the I’d be able to detect any change in the world of suburbia now that any two consenting adults could marry. I didn’t notice much. Rainbows didn’t seem any more prevalent than before. I didn’t come across any outdoor same-sex newlyweds having photos taken of themselves with their wedding parties. Admittedly, it was a Monday, which is fairly rare choice of day for even the most non-traditional of nuptials.
To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised. Suburbia is a substantial step away from the big city, where gay pride parades and loving same-sex couples are more than happy to openly express their joy in being finally legally permitted to marry. I know that there are gay people in every corner of the world, they’re just a little less conspicuous in the land of soccer moms and malls.
Nope, nothing to report except the usual sights; people driving with cell phones plastered to their heads, others driving with their knees while employing both hands to text, still others driving while reading texts, possibly sent by the driver in the next lane. Some cars had unrestrained children romping around in back seat, cute little traumatic brain injuries just waiting to happen. It was tough to see many of these folks because they were swerving around me doing 15 or 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. At the supermarket, someone was parked in a handicapped parking spot but didn’t have the appropriate placard on their car.
It struck me as somewhat ironic that so many people seem to either be terribly upset or wildly overjoyed about what it now officially legal, but so many seem oblivious as to what it means to actually obey the law.
That’s what I get for going on Facebook in the first place. I should have just paid attention to the road and left the computer off.
I’m a terminally itchy guy. I always have been. When it comes to addressing my never ending bouts with flaky, itchy awful skin, I’m like an artist. I’m the Picasso of picking, the Stravinsky of scratching. I’m the freaking Jackson Pollock of placating pervasive pruritus.
Since many readers are likely amateurs by comparison, I thought it might be nice to share my wealth of scratching strategies. The truly itchy know that any patch of skin is fair game for a flare up, but for many, the most annoying are the ones located on the back. Those pesky spots can only be reached by a few yoga enthusiasts and circus freaks with really long nails.
I’ve taken the liberty of categorizing the implements/strategies for easy reference – since no one with an itchy back has time to be searching for answers.
Plastic – These are politically incorrect, unless fabricated from recycled milk jugs and lawn furniture.
Bamboo – The green crowd loves these, and they work pretty well. I prefer mine to be sanded to a sharper edge. The few remaining panda bears can damn well eat kale like the rest of us.
New-Fangled Telescoping – These are flawed in design – one good scratch and you’ll never be able to close this thing up again.
Long handled soup spoon – Excellent reach, nice edge, strong stem. Also, you can stir a big pot of soup with it. Dinner guests will appreciate your washing the spoon between scratching and tending to the gumbo.
Ladle – Good reach, stem strength, but flawed edge accessibility due to angle of cup
Serrated Knife – Very effective, but not advised for amateur use.
Yard Stick (Meter Stick if scratching abroad) – Excellent reach, though too flexible unless you choke up on your grip.
Ruler – Better rigidity than the yard stick and easier to hide from the teacher. Use the edge with the metal insert for truly evil itches.
#2 Pencil or Bic ballpoint – Not recommended due to poor reach, and increased likelihood of wrecking your favorite white shirt.
Lacrosse stick – Traditionally strung – good roughness factor, though has a rather broad scratching surface. Avoid goalie and defense sticks.
Whiffle Ball Bat – Good stiffness, reach, but mediocre roughness, unless you have one that the dog chewed on.
5 Iron – Good grip, excellent reach – angle of the blade face may not be the best – I’d consider a sand wedge here.
Dogs – As man’s best friend, you’d think that Fido would be a natural choice, however canines can misinterpret body language and may start humping your thigh instead.
Cats– If you can get them to pay attention to you at all, these furry introverts have what it takes in the claw department. If your back bears any resemblance to upholstered furniture, they may get overzealous.
Hamsters – For some reason, these little balls of fluff get nervous anytime people attempt to employ them around the back area.
Man on the Street – If you can subliminally convince them that they are on a hidden camera show and will look like jerks for not scratching, this may result in a vigorous scratch and limit potential demands for reciprocity.
Dominatrix – These aren’t cheap (or so I’ve heard). If they are too into the sadistic end of things, they may refuse to scratch just to watch you squirm. Find one who knows how to use a cat-o-nine-tails and hope for the best.
Co-Workers – In these politically correct, litigious times, this one can be a little risky. You don’t want a threatening call from the lawyer representing Jeannie Whatshername with the nice nails down in accounting. By the same token, you’d be well advised to avoid asking your boss for a good scratch between the shoulder blades. If possible, use an inanimate object instead, such as a mailer tube or even a compact umbrella in the closed position. If you must employ a co-worker, try to avoid moaning or reflexive leg jerking during the scratching.
Spouse/Significant Other – Relationship experts agree that a successful pairing of people requires a degree of give and take. By their reckoning, a spirit of cooperation is key to a long and successful marriage. It should be noted that relationship experts are often divorced and lonely. It doesn’t take a degree in quantum physics to determine that a thirty second, limp-wristed scratching should not equate to your having to do yard work for an hour and a half. Though itching can be intense and with a sudden onset, you need to take a moment to consider your bartering position and history.
I’d write more about this, but I promised my wife I’d cut the grass.
A few weeks ago, I accepted the friend request from a guy on Facebook. He and I have a few mutual FB friends. His name was vaguely familiar, and I was feeling outgoing in a virtual sort of way.
Perhaps my new friend would post something on FB which would trigger enough synapses in my old wrinkled head to help me recall how I actually knew him (assuming I’d even met this guy in the first place).
Within only a few minutes, I spotted his first post. It was a motivational poster with strong religious overtones. It rang no bells of recognition and no one I knew had commented on it. Before I could waste too much time wondering, another post popped up from him. This one was quite ethnic and not funny to me, though I’m sure someone laughed at it. As I tried to make sense of why someone would post religious cheer-leading, then baby-mama posters within minutes of one another, yet another post popped up from my new friend.
I had published a new blog post. As fate would have it, a few people read it and commented, so I was making sure that I read and replied to as many comments as possible. I also have a job, a wife and a life, so I wasn’t on FB too often. Every time I was though, there were multiple posts from my mystery friend.
I knew I had to block this guy before his dorm-quality WWJD posters and World Star Hip Hop-style homages to booty overwhelmed my news feed. I’d have to sift through mountains of this junk to find the kitten photos and empowerment slogans of the rest of my remaining FB friends.
Before I blocked him, I decided to tally up the posts for the twenty four hours of our friendship. The total: Forty-six photo/slogan/booty-liscious posters and eight religioso posters. None of the posts included photos of the guy, or so much as an original sentence. Fifty-four FB poster posts in the span of one day?! I glanced at his profile page to see what career allows someone the time paste over two of these inane things every single hour of his life.
I won’t be retiring for another 10 years, give or take. I haven’t given a huge amount of thought as to how I’ll spend my golden years. I’m thinking of taking up fly fishing, or maybe opening a combination craft brewery/yoga studio so I can touch my toes before my beer belly gets too big. In the event that I choose to spend my hard earned retirement posting buckets of virtual bumper stickers all over social media sites, I hope one of my actual friends will come over and smother me with a pillow as I sleep.