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.
As long time followers know, it’s been a long damn time since I’ve written anything on this blog. My excuses are many, and none of them are worth the precious time required to discuss. The important thing is that I am back.
Did you miss me (Did you even know I was gone)? I apologize. It’s like I’m one of those Dads who goes out for a pack of smokes and doesn’t turn up until 19 years later when Mom wins the lottery or junior is a first round draft pick.
Back when I was blogging like a fiend, I was a self-admitted whore for likes and followers. As the numbers plateaued and the same three people liked what I wrote, the buzz was wearing off. Now I’m back, and to be fair, it is partly because of my metaphoric lottery win. No millions in cash to leech onto, no kid in the big leagues, just you, my handful of patient readers.
When you’re done watching everything you can on Netflix*, the news makes you break out in hives, and you need a moment to get away from your quarantine mates – you’ll come to me, and welcome me back into your worlds without so much as a peep about why a pack of Marlboro Lights took me so long to find.
As for my personal quarantine, I’ll say this and this only: My people are safe and healthy, my food supplies are sufficient and I have more than enough home brewed beer to last me.
I just wanted to say hello, and to let you know that I’ll be turning out some fiction in the weeks/months to come. My penchant for poking fun at the insanity of our times has officially become easier than falling off a log as well as painfully depressing, so I’m leaving that to others.
I hope you are all well, and look forward to writing something more.
*”The Tiger King” is viewing gold. Every episode, every minute. As the saying goes, you can’t make this shit up.
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.
I thought my last post was pretty good. It had lots of great ingredients including a bubble-headed newscaster, Lady Gaga, Academy Awards and racial slurs. In my book, that’s a can’t-lose recipe. I tossed that crap in my handy WordPress Lazy Blogger Crock Pot®, set the timer and toddled off to work. Eight hours later, I’d open the front door and be greeted by the savory aroma of delicious comments and a bountiful platter of steaming “likes”. I knew better than to hope for any Freshly Pressed action – this post was discomfort food, not French-Asian fusion cuisine featuring fair-trade organic lemongrass and sustainable free-range snails [Food analogies inserted to whet the readers’ appetites and make blog writing seem as effortless for me as slow cooking. Analogy of Freshly Pressed as some sort of trendy, politically-correct restaurant is due to my being a bitter man who can’t get a reservation]
I followed the instructions to the letter, adding a little extra salt and a pinch of cayenne, then left for my day of toiling making the world a better place for special-needs youngsters [Shameless self-promotion inserted to make people feel crappy for not reading my last post]
I trudged through the door that night and rushed to turn on the laptop. I was greeted with a mere four likes and a handful of comments from a few of my more ardent supporters. Four likes?! A fifth like showed up later, but it was clearly a “sympathy like” at best. I responded to each and every comment, and waited patiently for the momentum to pick back up. I jiggled the cord to make sure it was plugged in and touched the side to see if it had warmed up [Appliance malfunction analogy inserted to hint at my disappointment and grumbling stomach. Grumbling stomach analogy inserted into aside to imply that I’ll starve without positive reinforcement. Rushing to my laptop involved ignoring the greetings of both my long-suffering wife and gimpy-but-faithful dog]
It’s been too long now, there may be more likes trickling in and possibly a comment or two, but by this point, the post is buried and the expiration date on the topics has come and gone. My post before that one was over at The Nudge Wink Report. It had just a few words and was mostly comprised of cut-n-paste images of Kim Kardashian and her ample tushy being put in a bunch of silly places. It was far from my best work and I was fully prepared to be accused of having “smart-phoned it in”. Despite my doubts about the quality, the post got a butt-load of likes and a bumper crop of comments! Mrs. Kanye West’s ass pasted onto my dog’s nose is apparently blog gold. [Kim and Kanye reference inserted to allow me to put them in my tags for this post with a clear conscience – thus increasing my hits exponentially. Choice of using the words “butt load” and “bumper crop” in reference to ass-themed post responses was entirely intentional]
My first instinct, as a born pleaser, was to try to figure out what I’d done wrong. Surely there were errors in my less successful post and some sort of mysterious appeal to the more popular one. This is far from the first time I’d wondered what I’d done to displease the masses. [Self-reflection reference inserted to paint the author as being a little deeper than someone with an apparent fascination with Kim’s sizeable fanny might otherwise appear]
The bigger question eventually rises to the surface and sits there waiting to be acknowledged, like a turd in the punch bowl which can’t be ignored any longer. Here it is; Who exactly am I writing for? [Rhetorical question inserted in hopes of eliciting cries of “Me, Dave! You’re writing for me – I simply can’t get enough of your snarky brilliance!”. Turd in the punch bowl analogy inserted because, you know…poop humor]
I’ll be the first to admit that most of my blog posts are not exactly the stuff of literary artistry. I have written a handful of serious posts and some marginally humorous fiction in the past, but my blog identity is largely that of a smart-ass commenting on the news and/or the idiocy of the world. I enjoy making people laugh or even just smile. I like the thought of being the sarcastic voice of people who are annoyed or amused by the goofiness of our world. [As if to imply that most folk simply can’t read news stories and shake their heads in amazement without checking for my two cents first. You really should be insulted]
If I’ve learned nothing else from drawing and writing, it’s that people are going to like what they like, and not necessarily what I find appealing. The differing tastes and opinions of people is part of what makes the world go ’round. [Reference to my occasional drawing inserted to portray myself as something of a renaissance man, albeit one who had to try three times before finally spelling “renaissance” correctly. Reference to “making the world go ’round” is a bold-faced lie – we all know damn well that people with poor taste should not be tolerated, and couldn’t have less to do with the rotation of a planet]
Please don’t think this is some kind of a “Read my blog or I’m gonna quit” threat-fest. [Actually, that’s exactly what this is – you damn people better start coddling me a little or I’m going to take my mad writing skills over to the “Rants and Raves” section of the local Craigslist and hang out with the illiterate crowd. They’ll appreciate me even less, but there’s no like button there, so I won’t know]
Here are a few links to some of the posts I mentioned – no obligation, I’m just happy you actually got to the end of the post:
You struggle for half an hour trying to put together a bookcase from a Scandinavian superstore, only to discover the instruction sheet you’ve been following is for a wine rack. In another scenario, you see the police car light up in the rear view mirror and suddenly realize your car inspection sticker expired two months ago.
These types of situations are as unavoidable as potholes in March or a humongous nose-zit on the day of your big interview. It’s called life, people. We’re adults here; we deal with it and move forward. If you’re like many people, these moments of unpleasant surprise are worthy of some sort of verbal acknowledgement to the fates who are responsible for dealing you such a crappy hand.
One of my father’s favorite things to grumble at such times was, “Jesus Christ on a crutch!” We weren’t an especially religious family, so my brothers and I had little fear of lightning strikes or plague-of-locusts type retributions for his blasphemy. We just knew that Dad was fed up and we’d be well advised to steer clear of him.
An acquaintance I met much later in life used a similar phrase but put the Savior on a Harley instead of a crutch. Others have been known to put the Son of God on a pogo stick.
Each of these utterances is colorful in its own way. Christ on a crutch strikes me as more alliterative than visual, though I can picture Him spraining an ankle tripping on an Easter egg when He rose from the dead. Putting the Number One Son on a motorcycle, on the other hand, is purely visual. The comical image of His robes and long locks flowing in the breeze is trumped only by Him kick starting that hog in a pair of ratty sandals. In an effort to avoid upsetting the more pious readers any further, I’ll skip discussion of the pogo stick entirely.
The mütter of all ütterances* has to be free of references to a given era, or the gadgets of the day. It’s got to be composed of only the most elemental components. It should be just as applicable to today’s suburban Dad dropping his iPhone in the urinal at the strip club**, as it would have been to a Neanderthal man stubbing his toe while dragging his newly found mate by her hair.
For those of you who haven’t already guessed it, the original saying for man during moments of frustration and/or dismay is none other than the classic; “Shit on a stick!”
The roots of this gem of an utterance can be traced further back to the single syllable cry of “Shit!” Linguistics experts agree that after creating words to describe fire, cave, hunger and constipation, early man likely named excrement next. Shortly after our ancient ancestors came up with a name for poop, they discovered that saying “Shit!” sometimes just wasn’t enough.
Putting the shit on a stick was a natural choice. Shit on the ground was hardly worth noting. Shit in the sky was a fairly rare phenomenon despite the sizable number of pterodactyls dropping six pound deuces all over the Greater Pangaea metropolitan area. This is not to say that airborne feces didn’t have a place in the vocabulary – but the use of the term “shit-storm” was developed much later and usually employed for more disastrous situations.
Shit on a stick has it all, linguists can only marvel at the catchy rhythm of the words strung together in simple-yet-elegant single syllables. Its practicality is excellent, as the phrase can easily fit into one exasperated exhalation. From a content standpoint, it harkens back to a simpler time, when our ancestors valued a nice stick, and lamented the wasting of a perfectly good one because it had doo-doo on it.
*For all you smart-assed experts in Teutonic grammar who want to point out that “mütter” is the plural form of mother, and that “ütterance” isn’t a word at all, save your breath. I wanted to use some umlauts for comedic effect, and by golly I did. It’s unlikely I succeeded however, as funny letter symbols from foreign languages seldom amüse people and are more likely to scare them away from a post. One can only hope I’ll lëarn from my mistäkes.
**Putting the iPhone in a container of uncooked rice is often effective for getting it to work again. As for getting it to smell better, you’re on yoür own.
Back in the days of semi-adulthood, after college but before having kids of our own, quite a few of my peers went to “therapy”. Maybe it was a New York or an L.A. thing, or perhaps it was a rite of passage. For whatever reasons, I never partook.
From what I heard about it, the big breakthrough that these people got from the therapists’ couches wasn’t particularly shocking. The young women learned that the seeds of all their “issues” were sown by their mothers. The men found out that all of their baggage came from dear old Dad.
I’m sure that my naive synopsis shortchanged the practitioners of psycho-therapy by quite a few doubloons. At the time though, it seemed silly to hire some therapist to give me a pearl of wisdom which my friends had already paid for and leaked to me for free. Besides, even without the second-hand head-shrinking, I would have likely named my father as the prime suspect. He’d been there from the start, after all, and I’d watched his every move. Regardless, I didn’t need therapy, because I was certain that I was a well adjusted, sane person – or so I thought.
When he’d wrestle on the floor with my three brothers and me, Dad was hopelessly outnumbered but still tried to trap us as we squealed and screamed. My mother would stand to the side wringing her hands, frightened and mystified by these displays of male rough housing. No matter how hard he seemed to try to hold onto us, we’d wriggle loose. After a moment of relishing our freedom, we’d jump back into the fray, hoping he’d grab us again.
Dad was there somewhere on the crowded sidelines in the seasons of the games we played. He might not have been the loudest parent, but we’d often find out after the game how closely he’d watched. He was never the parent who badgered coaches or campaigned for more playing time. He let us find our roles on the field without interfering.
Our family was different then others. My parents have always been “theater folk”. While other Moms and Dads listened to Sinatra or The New Christy Minstrels, my parents preferred original cast recordings of “Brigadoon” or “Man of La Mancha”. I don’t recall any efforts on their parts to be like other parents, no matter how much we might have wished they would. My mother was prone to belting out a show tune a’ la Ethel Merman, at the drop of a hat. This isn’t a Mothers Day post however, so I’ll put that topic on a back burner.
It’s difficult to write about my father without including my mother. To this day, they are so intertwined in my mind that they seem to be a single entity. As I type these words, they’re likely finishing up their sleep and ready to start another day together – caring for their latest dog and communicating telepathically from one recliner to the other. For some reason, I just recalled a period when they used to kiss every night as we all sat down to dinner. My brothers and I would recoil in revulsion at this icky display of affection, but they did it anyway.
He taught in the high school we attended, and my brothers and I got to experience him at work. I didn’t appreciate at the time how few children get to see their fathers in their work environments. For many of my peers, the occasional company picnic was about the extent of seeing Dad at work.
Rose colored recollections are all well and good on Fathers Day, but as I noted earlier, I am not without my issues.
As a father myself for nearly three decades, I have no shortage of things which gnaw at me. Did I love my children outwardlyly enough for them to know? Did I do everything I could for them? Did I put too much effort into providing for them at the cost of being present? Did I set bad examples or no example at all? Did I do a good job?
I can’t say for certain what the answers are. If I’ve failed in some regard as a parent, I don’t suppose there’s much I can do to rewrite any chapters of ancient history.
I think again of my own Dad, and I wonder if he ever had questions and doubts like mine. I don’t see any shortcomings in him. I was lucky enough to have been one of his sons, and blessed to be able to tell him so as I wish him a happy Fathers Day.
I got an email on January 17th letting me know that one of the many bloggers I follow had posted something. This one was by Le Clown. Notifications that Le Clown had posted yet again on his blog could mean only thing; the prolific bastard had published yet another insightful, painful and/or amusing post.
For those of you who didn’t follow him, let’s leave it at this – Le Clown’s blog was what yours (or mine) would be if you (or I) were incredibly talented, wildly creative and highly motivated. Over the life of his blog, “A Clown On Fire”, he added other blog sites, including “The Outlier Collective” and “Black Box Warnings”.
You may have noticed that I am writing about Le Clown in the past tense – how very observant of you. The reason for this is simple; in the January 17th post, Le Clown said goodbye. He ended all of his blogs and bid us all adieu. He thanked everyone for participating and issued a blanket apology to anyone he managed to offend.
I was fortunate to have discovered Le Clown, though truthfully he was hard to miss. I was tickled when he eventually read some of my posts. From my perspective, his blogs were tremendously popular and critically acclaimed. At one point, he asked me to write a post for The Outlier Collective. I was honored and more than a little apprehensive. It’s one thing to read someone’s work and be impressed, it’s an entirely different experience to post your own work on their blog. I wrote a post called “Killing Me Softly With Your Ad” about a tragically stupid and insensitive television ad which Hyundai had briefly aired abroad. As it happened, the post I had written was well received by Le Clown’s vast audience and got a respectable number of hits and comments. This would be a great place to put a link to the post, but upon looking for it, I discovered that like everything else Le Clown had a hand in creating on WordPress, it was gone.
Upon realizing that my post had vanished, I was upset. After thinking about it a little though, I’ve accepted its disappearance. In this mercurial virtual landscape there is no permanence. Everything in the world can flash on your screen for one moment and then be gone the next. Nothing is really forever here, not even Le Clown.
I read that scientists in Britain have determined how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Considering they’re scientists, one might expect that they would find a way to put the recipe into some sort of complicated formula that most of us couldn’t easily understand. They did. Considering they’re British, one might also expect that they would somehow include boiled meat and lukewarm beer in the recipe. They did not.
I don’t doubt that following the recipe carefully could result in a tasty bite, but could something as subjective as a grilled cheese sandwich could ever truly be classified as perfect? Chances are, it will only be perfect in the eyes of some, while too cheesy or too bready or too dark or too light in the eyes of everyone else. I think if my long suffering wife made me one on an occasion when I was particularly famished and wanted nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich, I might think it was just perfect, even if she skimped on the cheese as she has been known to do.
As it turns out, the Brits make grilled cheese open-faced under a broiler or toaster oven and have been known to call the finished product “cheese toast” or “cheesy bread”. The scientists weren’t even testing real grilled cheese sandwiches! Be that as it may, a scientific study is a scientific study, so they must be right.
Some of us might question why scientists are wasting their time on such nonsense in the first place. The perfect grilled cheese sandwich seems kind of trivial when there are diseases to cure and CSI evidence to process. Not every Bunsen burner jockey is necessarily the greatest mind of his or her generation. Logic dictates that someone has to graduate last in their class at Scientific U. I would hope that the really smart scientists are all working on important stuff, while the dullards are analyzing sandwiches and dissecting what are purported to be Sasquatch turds.
If I were one of the grilled cheese scientists, I know how I’d answer when asked what it is I’m working on. I can just picture my wife and I mingling at a neighborhood Christmas party in some quaint British pub. She’s wearing a classic little black dress and some pumps*. I’m in my white lab coat complete with pocket protector and slide rule. In my hand I hold a beaker containing precisely 275 mL of chilled vodka with +/- 2 olives. Every so often, when faced with a lull in the conversation, I lift the beaker up to the light and inspect it, staring intently at the clear liquid through my safety goggles, with my head cocked to the side. I take a sip, purse my lips and eventually swallow, my face reflecting deep scientific thought.
With that kind of grandstanding, it’s only be a matter of time before one of the impressionable young wives in attendance would ask what it is I work on in the lab. I startle slightly as her question pulls me from my vodka-analysis reverie. Lowering the beaker, I give her some sort of overly complicated answer.
“I’m currently concentrating on the effect of external thermodynamics on semi-solids in composites of gluten and yeast-based substrates,” I say with a gentle but slightly condescending smile.
“Oh my!” the woman stammers, no doubt confused, but probably more than a little impressed.
I continue on, in what might appear to be an attempt to help her understand.
“You see, the proportions required to maintain the desired ratio of moisture in the center to crystalized gluten molecules on the exterior is critical to the finished product.”
The woman, though totally confused, can’t help but show signs of excitement in the presence of my obviously giant science-brain.
My wife, who’s now affecting something of a Cockney accent, has had enough by this point.
“Look ‘ere, luv!” she says. “Don’t let ‘im impress you too much. What ‘e’s tryin to tell you is that ‘e spends all day in that lab of ‘is tryin’ to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich! Sure ‘e wears a lab coat, but ‘e ain’t splittin bloody atoms all day. ‘E’s nothing more than a flippin’ short order cook dressed like a scientist!”
The woman will look back over at me with a bemused look, then back at my wife.
“So your telling me ‘e’s makin’ cheese toasts in the name of science?” she’d say to my wife.
The two of them start grinning and I know I’m in trouble.
“Tell you what, cap’n; if you start workin’ on figurin’ out which type of cleanser works best on cleanin’ the loo, you can set up your lab over at my ‘ouse! Me and yer missus will be out in the kitchen, eatin’ grilled cheeses and drinkin’ a few pints if you need us! I’ll be expecting that me tiles’ll be gleaming white, they will”
My wife and the woman are now cackling and appeared to have bonded in their desire to emasculate and ridicule me. I slink over to the bar and dump more vodka into my beaker, sloshing way beyond the 275 mL mark and ruining the integrity of all the data I’d gathered up till this point.
I may not have a great deal of research to back this up, but it looks like this will be a long night.
*Loyal readers will be quick to point out that my wife is known to abhor pumps and prefers more sensible footwear irrespective of my begging her to choose otherwise. Further, what little accent she has is closer to Philadelphian than it is to British. Neither my wife nor myself have ever been to the UK. Both my wife’s attire and the location of this fantasy were editorial decisions on my part. Despite my choices, I still ended up looking like a knucklehead in my own fantasy. I wonder if there’s a scientific reason for that.
I commented to my long suffering wife the other day about my recently having achieved another landmark in followers.
“Honey, my blog now has over fourteen hundred followers!”
“That’s nice dear,” she replied, but then asked “Does that mean something?”
I rolled my eyes discretely at her lack of comprehension of the nuts and bolts of blog mechanics.
“It means that every time I write a new post, one thousand four hundred and seven people, collectively known as my followers, are notified of this momentous event. They can then scramble to the nearest smart phone, laptop or if they’re homeless, the public library, and hang on my every word. Despite the publishing industry’s opinion that I have very little to offer in the way of writing skills, there are fourteen hundred people who feel otherwise”
“That’s nice, dear.” she said, already refocusing her attention back to the sudoko puzzle or Kindle or whatever that thing was that allowed her to ignore me.
I sat there, mildly upset that she had not suggested uncorking some champagne to celebrate. I turned my attention back to my trusty computer and looked at one of my latest posts. This particular one was a whimsical discussion as to the merits or drawbacks of a dog having multiple penises, as originally suggested by former President William Jefferson Clinton. Then I jumped over to the stats page.
The post had registered 11 likes and 141 people had actually read it. These numbers are pretty typical for my posts.
I have a list of 70 or 80 people who I notify en masse via email whenever I post, most of them are not technically “followers” as far as WordPress is concerned. The email recipients are coworkers, family members and the receptionist at my urologist’s office among others. Many read the posts so they can avoid being badgered by me to do so, and at least one coworker has admitted to only reading my blog when seated on the toilet. Of my 141 hits, I’d estimate that 27 of them were from my stash of these non-follower, peer-pressure readers.
I try to tag my posts in a manner which accurately guides readers to my work. After all, it’s easy to attract readers from search engines by including content tags like “Bieber”, “Kanye”, “public urination” or “Kardashian” despite the fact that the post was mostly about my fondest Thanksgiving memory. My tags for the dog weenie post were “Clinton”, “dog”, “lucky”, “two”, “humor”, and “dick.”
My estimates for hits generated per tag are as follows:
Clinton: 6 hits. Rationale: Bill, Hillary and Chelsea are still news worthy, depending upon the week’s events. Funk master George Clinton may have been good for a hit as well.
Dog: 4 hits. Rationale: Everybody likes dogs, also I noticed Korea was well represented in my global numbers.
Lucky: 5 hits. Luck and/or being lucky is always a popular concept, though being as lucky as “a dog with two dicks” is still an analogy known only to Bill Clinton and the hill-people.
Two: 7 hits. Two is a pretty good number. Everyone knows that one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.
Humor: 6 hits. In these dark times, everyone could use a laugh. They’ll plug words like “humor”, “chuckle” and “guffaw” into search engines and hope for a few yuks to take their minds off of the rumors about lay-offs down at the salt mine.
Dick: 13 hits. I’m assuming I would have had even better numbers if Clinton had said Obama was luckier than “a pussycat with 17 titties.”
Those estimates account for 41 of my hits coming from search engines.
So between search engines and my personal mailing list I’ve accounted for 68 of my 141 hits. Assuming no random hits, I can deduce that the remaining 73 hits on my post came from actual followers.
1407 followers minus the 73 who actually read the post leaves 1334 followers who didn’t read my post. Roughly 95% of my followers didn’t follow me loyally enough to read my post. Cue the sad violin music and zoom in on the tears welling up in my eyes. As for the “likes”, 11 out of 1407 followers isn’t even relevant. Mathematicians could argue that statistically no one actually liked the post.
I glanced over at my wife, who was so engrossed in the romance novel on her Kindle that she had fallen asleep. I smiled to myself, secure in the knowledge that for the time being at least, she didn’t know what a total failure I turned out to be in the blog world, despite amassing 1407 followers. That bottle of bubbly can just keep on taking up valuable refrigerator space until we have something meaningful to celebrate, like Justin Bieber publicly urinating on a prostitute who turned out to be a Kardashian.