Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pliny The Elder and the Lack of Landspeeders

Pliny the Elder

His full name was Gaius Plinius Secundus, but you can call him Pliny the Elder. He was an ancient Roman senator, military commander, lawyer, historian, scientist, writer, pin-setter, moose patroller, know-it-all, typical over-achieving busy body. Kind of like Oprah.

Presumably, he was called plain old Pliny for most of his life until his upstart namesake nephew, Pliny the Younger, came along. Had there been a third Pliny, one younger than the Younger, the Younger would have become Pliny the Middle, and the Elder would have had to be transformed to the extreme case – Pliny the Eldest, leaving the youngest to be Pliny the Youngest. Since there weren’t three Plinies we can avoid such confusing talk and simply accept the comparative nicknames, and probably forget most of this paragraph.

Pliny the Younger must have made quite an impression on the ancient Roman scene to prompt people to have to distinguish between the two Plinies. Although it has not been documented, Pliny the Younger’s prominence (or at least the threat of greatness) may have provided motivation to the Elder’s persona of being a mover and a shaker, a condition that eventually led to the Elder’s death. It turns out that Pliny the Elder had nothing to worry about, since Pliny the Younger proved himself to be a bit of a slacker and parasite.

Sure, the Younger did go on to become the governor of Bithania under the Emperor Trajan, but the Roman Empire was so huge at that time, being a governor carried as much distinction as being a homeroom monitor today. Rumor has it that his gubernatorial opponent in the election was a cheating, lying drunk who never met a bribe his denari bag couldn’t envelop. That kind of behavior might entice today’s voters, but in those days it was frowned upon, since corruption didn’t become fashionable until the Catholic church was firmly established hundreds of years later.

After Pliny the Elder’s death in 79 (not to be confused with the death of disco in 1979), the Younger took it upon himself to publish numerous writings of the Elder, enjoying every bit of the royalties and exploiting the Elder’s renown. He certainly cashed in on the Elder’s death in the press – appearing with any oracle in any forum for any price, similar to Courtney Love’s mourning of Kurt Cobain, except he never sucked on a microphone for dramatic effect. The circumstances surrounding Pliny the Elder’s death ooze of irony, which provided the Younger an engaging story from which to platform his self-promotion, proving his less than upstanding nature.

Pliny the Elder is most remembered for writing a thirty-seven volume set of encyclopedia about natural history. Oddly enough it was titled, THE NATURAL HISTORY. Above all, history defines Pliny the Elder as a scientist. Back in the early first millennium AD, the scientific technique of favor was based on observation: “If it smells like shit, looks like shit, feels like shit, plops in the toilet like shit and tastes like shit, then it’s shit!” Little did they know that it was actually Aunt Rita’s goose liver pate’. But, they couldn’t have known since they never bothered to test the validity of their observations with experimental study. This is precisely the mindset that led to the demise of the more ancient of the Plinies.

The fatal natural event that sparked Pliny the Elder’s curious eye was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 (not to be confused with the Southeast crater eruption of Mount Etna in 1979), which destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Remember that traveling museum exhibit of the plaster cast-like human forms who appeared to be swallowed in their tracks by the serpiginous lava? That’s how I want to go, but instead of lava, I hope it is sour cream.) At that time, Pliny was enjoying semi-retirement, spending his time writing about things like dog-headed people, people with eyes in their shoulders and super-reptilian serpents that killed bushes and exploded rocks with their breath. Either he was branching out into fantasy fiction, or he was well on his way to marble misplacement. His wife noticed a plume of smoke escaping Mount Vesuvius across the bay and alerted him (note: it is this historical event that led to the practice of all husbands throughout the history that followed to stop listening to anything their wives have to say). The naturalist in him forced him to commandeer a ship and a crew, as he had Naval connections, being commander of the fleet in the Bay of Naples and all. (He was also a nighttime tollbooth operator on the Apian Way, which has nothing to do with this story, but I thought you’d like to know.) He sailed across the bay to observe the destruction up close.

As they neared the shore, Pliny must not have noticed Chicken Little hauling ass in the other direction, because the sky was definitely falling. Fatefully, he chose to proceed. Standing on the shore, making his scientific observations of the phenomenon of all hell breaking loose, Pliny the Elder failed to observe the invisible noxious fumes accompanying the fascinating lava and smoke and shards of mountain that were spewed from the volcano. Unfortunately, his respiratory system made the observation and determined accurately that you shouldn’t be breathing that stuff. He died on the shore in the arms of a couple of his slaves (serves him right for oppressing another human life). Subsequent scientists benefited from Pliny’s deadly observations, which led to the invention of placing a handkerchief over your nose while being doused by a volcano.

Pliny the Elder’s example of being an over-exuberant busy-body who meddled in the business of gods and his ultimate death because of it scared the shit out of other like-minded scientists. They decided to hide in ignorance rather than incite the ire of the gods. This, among other things, like the coinciding formation of the Catholic Church, sowed the seeds for the Dark Ages. One can safely suggest that Pliny the Elder’s shenanigans were responsible for the squandering of 500 years of potential scientific progress. Assuming that’s true, and why wouldn’t it be, one can surmise that without Pliny’s influence, we would be driving around in land speeders by now and shooting each other with lasers instead of barbaric bullets. Thanks a lot, Pliny!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Secular Santa

Ask most Christian kids what the best part of Christmas is, and they’ll probably tell you it is Santa Claus bringing them a boat load of presents. Ask a Hindu kid the same question and the response you’ll receive will probably have something to do with not eating cows and bathing in a cholera infested river. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The idea of Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christianity. The fact that he doles on Christmas Eve is a crazy coincidence resulting from, among other factors, marital stoicism.

If you believe the story told in the made for television special Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, by Rankin/Bass (and why wouldn’t you believe it – they wouldn’t put it on television if it wasn’t true), Santa’s decision to strafe the youth population of the world with gifts was not based on responsibilities or contracts he had with any religion. Also, nowhere was it disclosed that only Christian kids would benefit from their beliefs and his generosity.

Santa began his deliveries as a way to reduce the inventory of toys produced by the Kringle elves, who were neurotic toy makers incapable of curbing their toy-making compulsion. Let’s all thank our lucky britches they didn’t have the same compulsion with M. Night Shyamalan movies. All Santa wanted to do was clear out some of the toys to make room for a pool table. By the time he got back from Sombertown each night, those bastard elves filled up the den with yo-yo’s and sawdust dolls again. Plus, he was tired of sleeping in a bed full of wooden ducks, jack-in-the-boxes and toy soldiers. The miniature elf bed they gave him was hard enough to get comfortable in as it was. And the Winter Warlock was no help ever since he kicked his Angel Dust addiction. Kind of like how Sid Vicious ruined the Sex Pistols when he stopped shooting heroin. And stopped breathing.

Santa’s popularity grew, and more kids, of all creeds, looked for a handout. These demands caused him to reduce the frequency of his treks to once per year. He chose Christmas Eve, but it wasn’t because he felt he owed anything to the Christian faith, in which he may or may not have believed.

As divulged in the TV special, Christmas Eve was also Santa’s wedding anniversary. It was expressed on the program as the “most holiest of nights” . I happen to believe February 29th is the most holiest of nights, but that’s my bag. It was also a night that Mrs. Claus expected to be wined and dined and romanced. In addition, she expected some sort of diamond concoction each year. Santa was sensitive to Mrs. Claus’s anniversary needs for the first few hundred years of their marriage. After a while, his hankering waned, and accommodating his wife became more of a chore than anything else. So much of a chore that he chose to spend that particular night delivering gifts to every damn kid in the world rather than spending it swooning his honey.

This is the real reason Santa picked Christmas Eve to oblige the masses. It had nothing to do with celebrating the birth of little baby Jesus. It had everything to do with Santa being sick of his wife. Can you blame him? You saw Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Did you see what Mrs. Claus looked like by the end of the show? She must have been spending most of her time taste testing the Christmas candy. As far as animated figurines go, she looked pretty good in her younger, school marm days. Once she snagged her man, she let herself go big time. Huge time. There was no reason for her to try anymore. Not that Santa is any prize, either, but he didn’t place any unreasonable demands on her, like the want of diamonds and being paid attention to. He understood why she didn’t grope him anymore. With his size, it would take her weeks to grope him. Santa knew she did not have that much free time (because she was busy taste testing , of course). This explains why he gets delayed each year in Pattaya, Thailand, causing the Australian kids to get their presents a little late (and slightly soiled).

Since this evidence shows Santa’s generosity is not limited to those children who have been brainwashed with a Christian slant, every kid should expect something on Christmas morning. You don’t even have to call it Christmas. It can be referred to the Fat Guy Gift Day: “Hey, Fat Guy Gift Day falls on a Thursday this year. At least it won’t screw up the weekend.” Most of you get that day off from work, you may as well have something to call it.

Now that the moose is out of the rucksack, all of you non-Christian parents out there better start up a Christmas account (do banks offer Fat Guy Gift Day accounts?). Santa gives to children of all faiths. You’ve been getting off easy for too long. As for you Jewish people, you are really screwed. You’ve convinced the kinderlech that Chanukah is better than Christmas by bribing them with eight days of goodies. Now you’ll be flippin’ the bill for both occasion.

For the record, and beside the point (assuming I actually had one), I’m not Jewish but I celebrate Chanukah, because I really hate Antiochus of Syria.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Word of the Moment 1

I used to draw a comic called Comicabulary. Its purpose was to improve the quality of the world’s (and my own) English vocabulary by providing the definition of a word with an accompanying comic using that word to provide contextual reinforcement. Initially, I did not plan to draw a comic panel. My original intention was to present a silly paragraph or two using the word in outlandish contexts in order to develop a unique and memorable impression of the word. My hope was to create an environment that would promote the memory of the meaning of each word. Writing paragraphs proved to be too difficult for me, so I decided to draw instead. Hence, Comicabulary.

I created a set of these comics and sent them to a friend of a friend who happened to work at a comic syndication company. She told me that the comics were good and delightful, but their company wasn’t looking to promote educational tools and it was not the right kind of comic for them at that time. What she really meant was they sucked. Here’s proof:

I was never very happy with them, since they didn’t have enough of a humorous edge for my tastes. However, I hoped they might appeal to the Reader’s Digest crowd. So, why didn’t I send them to Reader’s Digest? Because, I gave up, of course. I’m not very tenacious – more Teflonacious. Ultimately, I was too enraptured with other aspects of life, like watching TV and thinking about keeping the world safe from alien invasion. Who knows, maybe someday I will exhume the comic. In the meantime, I’m going to give my original idea a go, manifested in a recurring Leper Pop feature: Word of the Moment. I don’t want to call it Word of the Day because, I believe, that title is already being used, and I don’t want to get sued. Besides, there is no way in hell I would be able to do this every day. Wisdom comes from knowing your limitations, or, at least, relying on them.

So, stand back, here it goes.

quoin (kwoin) noun – an exterior angle of a wall or other piece of masonry; cornerstone; keystone. verb – to secure or raise with a quoin.

Nobody cares about the quoins in the world. More often than not, we try to avoid running into the quoins while barreling around corners. Everybody loves barreling around corners. Only the sadistic love to barrel into quoins.

Sure, some quoins are bolstered with thicker bricks than the rest of the wall. Even decorative stone, sometimes. But the intentions of those efforts do not have the quoins’ best interests in mind. Those intentions nourish the structural fortitude of the buildings for which the quoins support. These quoin constructors are more interested in ensuring their buildings do not fall down than they are in praising the quoins.

Let us examine the quoin’s counterpart and archrival – the inside corner. The inside corner lives a nurtured life. The inside corner is basted with attention. The inside corner’s greatest offense is a little dusty build-up that can be wooshed easily away by The Swifter. The inside corners in rooms are always considered when determining the décor.

Woman: Honey, what are we going to put in that corner of the room?
Man: A beer keg refrigerator.
Woman: Don’t be silly. I think I’ll pile my stuffed animals there.
Man: Where do you want the TV?
Woman: Oh, put it in that corner over there, and make sure you don’t hit the exterior angle of the wall of the closet when you move the TV.
Man: You mean the quoin?
Woman: What’s a quoin?
Man: How the hell should I know? Can I put the TV down now?
Woman: Not until I decide what to put in the rest of the corners of the room.
Man: I wish we didn’t decide to buy a house with an octagonal family room.

I’m as guilty as anybody in this matter. In the corners of my family room are my amp, a file cabinet of art/craft supplies, a book case, two pool cues, a door way and a pile of leaves. And of the quoins? Nothing, except my son’s guitar is leaning against one of them, and I will have to beat his ass for that. That’s all I need is for his grandma to come barreling her way from the kitchen and smash the hell out of the guitar with her Gene Simmons commemorative boots we bought her for Christmas last year.

In theory, the quoins are all supposed to be left free of debris so we do not trip on anything when barreling our way through the house. It’s a proven fact that humans love to barrel. We were bred to barrel. The social evolutionary consequences of this aspect of human development has led to unadorned quoins worldwide, except for some third world cultures where barreling around quoins is against their religion.

Barreling is a modern sociological human trait. It is one we share with dogs. Dogs love to barrel around quoins, too. They don’t care what is in their way, especially when there is someone at the door. In fact, they prefer to knock things over when barreling. This is why they wag their tails maniacally, so they can destroy our stuff even if they miss it with their barreling. They don’t care. It’s not like they paid for the stuff or will have to clean up the mess. It seems as if they don’t care about anything except for eating, getting pet and going outside. And barreling. And seeing if somebody is here. Can somebody remind me why we let dogs live with us? They certainly don’t care about quoins. And, neither do we. Maybe that’s the bond that keeps us together. Quoins. Quoins will keep us together. Think of my dog whenever, Some sweet standing quoin comes along while we barrel along, Don’t go around, You gotta be strong, Don’t Stop, ‘cause the quoin really loves you, Stop, the quoin is thinking of you, Look in my heart and let quoins keep us together. Whatever.

I think it’s time to change our view of the quoin. However, before we start enhancing our quoins with plants, and totem poles, and piles of candy that we are supposed to consider as art, and lawn furniture, and urns of ashed loved ones, and giant cardboard cut-outs of Charles Barkley, we will need to become more agile barrelers in order to avoid the items with which we celebrate our quoins. We need to start teaching precision barreling techniques in our schools, write a magazine called Better Barreling and create a home improvement show on TLC called This Old Barreler.

Above all that, we should get to know our quoins. I propose an annual world-wide Hug A Quoin Day. It will be held on the first Thursday of every August, and will require one day of post-hugging recuperation, so we can all enjoy a 4 day weekend in the summer (it is true - I don't care about people in the Southern Hemisphere), when we can actually enjoy ourselves outside, unlike the silly Thanksgiving “holiday” they throw at us in November when it’s usually crummy outside and we are forced to sit inside and eat and get drunk. I guess that’s not so bad, either, but the quoins deserve summer hugs so they can get a sense of our sweat and feel a little bit human, if only for a moment. I implore you all to write a letter to your most sensitive and malleable public official and demand that the quoins have a voice in our government in the form of a summer four day weekend, so we can get drunk outside and maybe even have sex in the woods. The quoins want us to cherish them in this manner. Just be careful to look out for barreling grandmas when you are hugging your quoin or when you having sex in the woods.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ride Along With Sid

I've been spending a lot of time on public transportation lately. I'm illiterate and haven't figured out how to work my new iPod, so instead of reading or listening to tunes I've just been enjoying watching my fellow humans. Here are a few of them.

She looked like an elementary or high school art teacher, not the type you would expect to see standing at the station waiting for the next train to the high rise offices downtown. Out of boredom or just fidgetiness, she pulled a Nordstrom’s sales catalog from her bag and began to peruse the glossy pages. Then after just a few page turns she quickly shut it and disposed of it in the nearby trash can, as if she were embarrassed to have almost been sucked into the crass consumerism it represented to her.

iPod theme song: Beth Hart – By Her

She got a poet's spirit
She bums among the clouds
She never stops believing
She only dreams out loud

On the train, a gentleman across the aisle, maybe early 50’s, grayish hair and beard, looks kind of like your math professor, reading. Has some papers and a book inside a manila folder. Very intensely reading the book. So much so that the fails to notice that the folder has drooped away from the book inside, exposing the cover. I wonder what book has captured his interest this morning and see that it’s called The Mistress Manual. I snicker silently to myself and wonder if it’s a mistress on the side kind of deal, or a mistress as in “lick my boots, professor.” When I get to work I check out Amazon and find that it’s the latter – a book teaching women how to be an effective “mistress.” Perhaps he was just wondering what to expect at his first appointment.

iPod theme song on the iPod: Devo – Whip It.

Now whip it
Into shape
Shape it up
Get straight

Woman across the aisle, early 30’s maybe, attractive, unmarried according to her left hand, reading Learn to Sail in a Weekend. I searched the train car for a movie camera, having thought I might have stumbled into a romantic comedy starring the young woman. She accepts a date from her hot and upwardly mobile colleague assuring him that, of course, she has sailed before. Then after a frantic phone call to her snide and unconventional girlfriend, we see her roaming the bookstore looking for the said book, studying intently on her commute to the big city in prep for her date this weekend. Finally the day of the big date arrives. Hijinks ensue.

iPod theme song on iPod: Herman’s Hermits – Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good.

Woke up this morning, feeling fine
There's something special on my mind
Last night I met a new girl in the neighborhood
Whoa yeah
Something tells me I'm into something good
(Something tells me I'm into something good)

I need to get to The University of Chicago for a doctor’s appointment since I want the best geeks taking care of me, but don’t feel like fighting rush hour traffic. However, I note there is an express bus from downtown and I walk to the bus stop, But instead of seeing the usual random mass of people one would expect at a bus stop there is an orderly single file line. I ask if it’s the line for the 192 and get a positive response. Was there ever any doubt?

iPod theme song: Toto – Hold The Line

Hold the line, love isnt always on time, oh oh oh
Hold the line, love isnt always on time, oh oh oh

(Neither is the bus.)

I join the line for the 192 which wraps around a fall display in the plaza of a nearby high rise. The fall display consists of several bales of straw and some scarecrow type things - the kind of generic display that would otherwise be unnoticed by busy commuters lost in their own world scurrying to and from work each day. But today, a homeless looking gentleman carrying a guitar bag stopped at the display. I’m not sure what was in the guitar bag, but it wasn’t a guitar as the neck of the bag hung flaccidly. But I digress. He stepped up on one bale, pulled several pieces of straw from another bale closer to the center and stepped down. I expected him to stick some in his mouth, perhaps going for the Huck Finn motif; instead he took the plastic cap off his paper coffee cup, placed the straw inside, replaced the cap, and wandered off to our amusement.

iPod theme song: Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sid's After-School Special Post

So, remember that cyst they took out of my neck? Yeah, that one. Well, they didn’t let me take it home like I wanted, which is good because after the novelty wore off I’d probably have thrown it in a drawer and forgotten about it. But they’re a little more formal at the hospital and send it to pathology so they can test it, because, well, “what the hell is that thing?” Which was good in this case since it turned out to be cancerous.

But chill out. It’s very treatable and I expect to fully recover. Really. So chill. I f’ing mean it. I’ve spent the last four weeks being scanned and scoped and prodded and poked (at least it’s not prostate cancer), but I found an excellent team of head and neck cancer specialists at The University of Chicago that have determined it metastasized from a small tumor at the base of my tongue. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before, and they assure me that their regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments has a high probability of success, even more so with someone in my otherwise good health and relatively young age. Yeah, I kind of laughed at that one, too, until I looked around the waiting room.

So here’s the deal. There aren’t any guarantees but in the end it should be all cool, and that’s what I’m trying to stay focused upon. So you do the same or else I’ll have to start kicking ass.

I’ll keep you updated as best I can and don’t mind talking about it. In fact, I’ve been writing about my experience over the last month. I’ve found not everyone is quite as ready as I am to joke about it, but if you’re up to the challenge you can read the details of my exploits below. It’s a little long since it covers a month, so pace yourself. If you aren’t up for it, then go read a cookbook. It’s not as funny, but at least you’ll have something to eat when you're done.

Inside Sid

Sorry I’ve been remiss in updating the blog lately, but I’ve been a little distracted. No, Crystal Bernard has not moved in across the street and is not doing pilates with her blinds open. No, Beth Hart has not asked me to collaborate on her next CD. No, Brooke Burke has not hired me as a lactation consultant. However, you might recall that I did have my neck sliced open so my doc could take out a lump he called a branchial cleft cyst. Realizing that I don’t need to go to med school for 4 years to know what the hell he was talking about, I simply typed that into The Google as Storm Large would suggest and got the lowdown. Apparently we all evolved from fish, which is why you see those fish things on Christian’s cars. Once we crawled out of the water and didn’t have to swim everywhere, our gills started going away during embryonic development. That’s what Darwin’s The Origin of Species is all about. But sometimes your body doesn’t figure out it’s not a fish soon enough, and you’re born with some gill left inside your neck. Then randomly, one day, usually if you’re thinking about fish too much, or eating too much fish, or wishing you were a fish, or even just really enjoy those dumbass fishing shows on TV when they should be showing hockey games, your gills start to expand and form a little lump in your neck. You then have to go have it removed so you don’t turn into Patrick Duffy.

My gills got removed without any problem and the doc stuck a drain tube in my neck. This is a nifty silly straw type device that allows your wound drain into a turkey baster bulb instead of collecting in your neck and forcing your head to explode. Little did he know I was such a badass that my wounds don’t drain so he asked me to come in the next day to get the silly straw and turkey baster thing taken out and casually mention that his buddy in pathology called to let him know that it wasn’t a bunch of gills he scooped out of my neck, but instead something called a squamous cell carcinoma. I’m no crossword puzzle expert, but carcinoma sounded like a nine letter word for cancer. I kind of liked the gill explanation better, but there was no going back.

Doc also said I had some good looking lymph nodes and I thought he was just trying to make me feel better, but he was really trying to explain it didn’t look like it had spread in my neck. I performed my happy dance for him, but I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly and forgot to consider the option that it might have spread from somewhere else. Son of a bitch. Fortunately, my doc learned something during his nine years of medical training and didn’t let him overlook the same possibility; I was scheduled for a PET scan a few days later.

If you don’t know what a PET scan is, it’s pretty cool. Except the two-day low-carb diet and one-day fast. If that doesn’t kill you, then you use your remaining energy to chase down the mobile PET scan unit in Elgin, Illinois, and they inject you with some radioactive solution. Then you sit in a room and sing, “got to concentrate, don't be distractive, turn me on tonight, cause I'm radioactive” by The Firm until the techs get annoyed enough to stick you in the tube and start the test. The guy in the dorm room next to me freshman year was a nuclear something or another major, so let me explain how it works. See, the radioactive isotopes are like magic and bond to cancer cells and then they turn pink so they show up on the scanner thing like a thunderstorm on Then you go home and wonder if your semen will glow. It doesn’t, but it was fun checking.

Doc also wanted to stick his finger and some camera equipment down my throat but that tends to make me gag and/or bite, so I was also scheduled for another surgery so he could take some pretty pictures of my insides while I dreamed about Phoebe Cates. I started my third fast in three weeks and dropped into the surgery center to accommodate him. Before starting, he told me he got my vacation pictures from Elgin and there was apparently a thunderstorm warning in the vicinity of my hypopharynx. In case you forgot 8th grade health class, that’s your throat. Just past your tongue. With that, they knocked me out with a sledgehammer to my head, had my pharynx pose for some pics, and decided to cut out some tissue samples. I’m guessing that was so they could find a match for a donor throat. When I woke up, it felt as if I had just finished a delicious meal of barbed wire with battery acid sauce and was presented with a dessert tray consisting of assorted ice chips and some Tylenol. I got sent home later than morning with a complimentary cup of ice and the names of two oncologists and a dentist.

I spent the next day making appointments to meet all my new friends. It was like myspace except all these guys were interested in cancer instead of The Lovehammers. I also started doing a little research and it scared the shit out of me. I was convinced I would be dead by dinnertime, which wouldn’t be all that bad since I hadn’t passed the barbed wire from my throat yet. They really should restrict internet access from all patients at all times. It was like that time Peter Brady decided he was going to be a doctor and Jan was going to be his nurse and they started reading those books of diseases and Peter was convinced that he was going to die until Mr. Brady cleared everything up by discovering that two pages of the book were merely stuck together and the only thing Peter was suffering from was bad acting. But I digress. Just in case I didn’t have a couple pages stuck together I did some additional research and found that the Chicago area has two National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers – The University of Chicago and Northwestern. UC had a nice website and I found a couple of bad asses there that live for this shit and have done a bunch of research about blowing this crap out of people. That sounded cool, so I sent them a carcinoma friend request and they accepted me for an appointment as well. Next I set about getting a copy of all my requested records and test results and photo shoots. UC even wanted those Glamour Shots I did back in 1991. Pervs. I found that getting a complete set of records was more difficult than getting accurate intelligence information out of Iraq. It took a box of jelly donuts for bribes and all the Sid charm I could muster, but I eventually got what I needed. I was a regular Erin Brockovich with carbs instead of cleavage. However, I did have to enlist the help of Mrs. F’er when I ran into some of those Atkins and South Beach jokers.

But my first appointment was with an oncologist at my local hospital. I was a little perturbed that he didn’t have all my records, but I was impressed with his enthusiasm. Even though the previous biopsy on my hypopharynx was negative, with little more than a referral and my own account of my case he was ready to fire up the radiation gun and get started. Fortunately his nurse was a little more tempered in her enthusiasm and realized I first needed to get clearance from the dentist and her half hour lecture on the side effects. She basically said that my skin will likely catch on fire, my mouth will dry out like an old catcher’s mitt, and I will lose the desire to eat Brownie Earthquakes from Dairy Queen. She also added that it was nothing that they can pretend would be taken care of with a little aloe, some Chapstick, and some Slimfast shakes. She also said that my semen wouldn’t glow, but I planned to check anyway. Oh, and as an aside on the way out, she gave me the name of a doctor that would install a feeding tube just in case I lose the ability to swallow freakin’ protein shakes. Thanks, Carol. They also wished me luck on my appointment next week with the chemo guy, whom I was assured had his own evil little plan for me.

Right after that I went to my new dentist. I found it ironic that they stuck a lead shield over me during the x-rays since the purpose of my visit was to make sure my teeth don’t fall out during radiation treatment. But it made the uber-cute hygienist happy so I obliged. Finally, the dentist man made his way over, shook his head at my x-rays, poked around my mouth, and informed me that I would need to tap my reserves of gold bouillon to make sure my mouth would not implode during treatment. I’ve grown rather fond of my mouth despite knowing where it’s been, so I agreed to his demands and scheduled the first of two entire afternoons with him while he called the local Mercedes dealer and made arrangements to upgrade his lease.

The following day I hopped a train downtown and then took another one to Hyde Park to visit the nerds at The University of Chicago and see what they would make of my envelope of scans and pathology reports. The first doc was well versed in origami and made a wonderful dragon looking thing. The rest of the morning was spent trying to undo his handiwork. Eventually they got it all unraveled and the real doctor came in to visit. Well, not the real doctor yet, but a fellow. Essentially a badass in training. He had the pleasure of doing my history and physical and hearing all the great stories of my drunken accidents and diseases. It was like a live Call Me Kitty reading. Then the real doctor came in with his own take. He said the PET scan was done too soon after surgery so it was worthless and I shouldn’t freak about the thunderstorm in my pharynx. I liked that and was about to get up and perform my happy dance for him... then he said even though the biopsy was negative he thought there was indeed something cancerous somewhere and my other doc just didn’t look well enough. He wanted to biopsy me real hard. Unfortunately he was merely an oncologist, but he had an ENT buddy downstairs whose interests include biopsying people real hard and finding cancer. In fact, he enjoys it so much he agreed to see me with 30 minutes notice. Just like the delivery guy at Domino’s. This guy was also very important so he sent his chief resident in to do my history and physical and sort though the paperwork. I guess the resident was bored, since he also decided to do a scope of my pharynx. This wasn’t nearly as fun as a PET scan. This nifty procedure employs something called a nasopharyngoscope, which has a camera attached to the end of small flexible cable thingy. Here’s the fun part – it goes up your nose, back into the throat and down to the vocal cords, stopping along the way to enjoy the view while you squirm uncomfortably in the captain’s chair. It’s like eating licorice through your nose. Good times. He also burned the journey to CD so that I could relive the experience. No nodes on these vocal cords, baby. I guess there is still hope for my rock n’ roll singer career. Next the stud ENT doc came in, said hello, looked over the work of his loyal resident, busted open some popcorn for the pharynx video, and then shared his theory that it was indeed a bunch of gills that just went cancerous. However, not one to waste his mastery of the scalpel, he agreed that a real hard biopsy would be beneficial before getting trigger-happy with the ray gun. In the meantime I would also get more CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and schedule an appointment to meet their radiation oncologist. I was becoming very popular. They even wanted the tissue samples from the previous biopsies. Probably so they could try to clone me like a Scottish sheep.

That Friday afternoon I took the bus back to UC for the CT scans. They were running way behind schedule so I sat about an hour and a half with a bunch of octogenarians who seemed to be there to be tested for any signs of life whatsoever. Finally, my man Anthony came out to get me. He seemed like quite a competent radiology tech, but wasn’t the best IV dude I’ve run across. He eventually got the IV started, but left me looking like a heroin addict. I then got my three shots of contrast dye and wondered if it would make my semen look like a rainbow and made a note to check later. Each contrast shot was followed by a corresponding shot through the CT tube. I normally like making train noises while going through the tube, but the sexy automated female CT voice kept telling me what to do – hold your breath, don’t swallow, stop making train noises…. I was finally dismissed from CT and found that I missed the last express bus back downtown. I could take a cab or walk to the train station. UC isn’t in the best neighborhood and a cab would be prudent, but I was pissed enough about being late that I didn’t think anybody would fuck with me. So I walked down to the "L" platform at 63rd Street. My uncle used to be a Chicago cop and had told me just to look people in the eye. They’ll probably think you’re a cop and leave you alone. And if threatened, just look and act crazy and it might help. I think everyone between the 63rd and 31st Street was so shocked to see a white boy that they must have assumed I was indeed a cop or crazy, and I made it back to the friendly confines of downtown for the train back out to the nurturing mothership in the ‘burbs.

Halloween was my meeting with the new and improved radiation oncologist at UC. I don’t think anyone should make doctor appointments on Halloween, because how do you know if you’re really seeing a doctor or just someone dressed up as one? I had to drive in rush hour to this appointment and it took about 90 minutes. By the time I got there and they took my vitals, I set personal best on the blood pressure. However, they reminded me that the higher numbers are not what we’re going for on that one. I then gave my history to the nurse, which by this time I had converted to an mp3 file so that they can just listen on their iPod while I sit back and play with the anatomical models. Next was the consultation with the fake doctor – this time a medical student - to take my history again and do the physical. She was a slight girl and during the exam she had me squeeze her fingers, so I went gentle on her. She told me to do it again as hard as I could and I ended up cracking at least three of her knuckles. I was glad this wasn’t prostate cancer so she wouldn’t have a chance to get even. She then went to track down the real doctor to give him the executive summary and introduce me. I shook his hand, but didn’t crack any knuckles since the guy owns a ray gun. After reviewing the file, he did his own exam that included feeling around my mouth, including my tonsils and the base of my tongue. It also tested my gag reflex and I made a sound that I’ve only heard before when, uh, never mind. He said he found a hard spot on the base of my tongue and then proceeded to pull out his licorice scope. I sprung out of my chair and jumped to the ceiling, my fingers and toes dug deeply into the ceiling tiles keeping me out of harm’s way. He got his med student to coax me down with some Halloween candy, while I asked if he could just get the CD from the last doc. He insisted that he prefers glossy photos and proceeded to photograph my tongue. He was a cocky son of a bitch, but in a good way that exuded confidence rather than arrogance, and he was the first that wasn’t afraid to commit and tell me what he thought. He believed the primary tumor was at the base of the tongue and that the tests will just confirm he’s right. He said they would likely propose a round of chemo, followed by radiation and chemo concurrently. He told me that when he starts radiation, the side effects would be miserable but that it will likely be successful. There are other treatment options that he presented, but said if I don’t follow his proposal he’ll call me stupid since they know their shit and it works. Hard to explain how I didn’t perceive that as arrogant, but I think it was because it reinforced all the research I did and my decision to pursue treatment there. Finally I signed a consent form that listing a plethora of possible side effects, including death, after which he promised he wouldn’t kill me. On the way out, he also said I had time to take care of any teeth that need to be fixed or extracted.

One hour later I was back in the dentist’s chair and gave him the update. This prompted him to change the treatment plan on the fly and stated, “Well, if that’s the case, I think I’ll take out those two wisdom teeth.” To which I replied with that same gagging noise I made earlier that morning. He began numbing me up as I rephrased questions over and over to assure myself that I wasn’t going to end up clawed in on his ceiling. I might have cried, but I was trying to be strong in front of uber-cute dental assistant who was looking especially uber-cute in her glasses that day. It wasn’t long before he was prying those motherfuckers out of my jaw while I took strength from the reassuring touch of uber-cute dental assistant’s knee on my mid-thigh. The extractions weren’t nearly as bad as I had expected. I left a small sack of South African krugerrands and assorted baubles on the reception desk, and within an hour I was walking out of there with a mouth full of gauze and a look on my face like a dog that had just been neutered. And a card with the times for my next three appointments. I was sore and cranky and didn’t even care what color my semen might be. To make matter worse, I didn’t feel like eating and had to start my next fast at midnight for the next day’s surgery. I spent the evening walking around the neighborhood looking for dogs to kick. To any humorless PETA members, that was a joke so take your boycotts elsewhere and leave Leper Pop alone.

Next day, Mama F’er picked me up at 6:00 a.m. for the trek back to UC for my second scope. My nurse botched the first attempt at the IV resulting in something called a blown vein, which should not be confused with anything you might see in your favorite porn movie. I made the mistake of peeking when she mentioned that my vein looked like a beached whale on my hand, and I broke into a cold sweat, went rather pale, and might have hurled had I eaten anything in the last 24 hours. She did rectify the situation quite to my satisfaction, I calmed myself down by singing Morning Train by Sheena Easton, and then was visited by a string of curious students and residents that would be working with my doctors. It was like a receiving line at the School of Medicine. Eventually my real doctor found his scope and we got started. They must have tired of my singing and before I knew it I was out cold. I woke up with a sore tongue and a terrible hangover and stated as much. And then it was suddenly worth it. The nurse busted out the Demerol. Liquid gold. I watched carefully as it entered the IV and felt a wave off goodness flood my body. I asked my mom to get my wallet so I could tip the lass. I professed my readiness to go home so that I could watch Univision and fingerpaint the walls of my apartment and tell nonsensical jokes to them. She agreed as long as I was able to dress myself. I carefully pulled on the sweats and laced up the Chucks and floated to the elevators. I rode my flying carpet to the car, and attempted to give my mom directions back home. The GPS in my brain was somehow still firing and I got us back to the ‘burbs. I requested a stop to get a milkshake from Culver’s and ordered their seasonal Pumpkin Spice. I laughed to myself as I thought they should also offer Baby Spice and Scary Spice shakes. But not Posh. I wouldn’t drink those. I made it back home, and decided to answer some work emails while drinking my shake. I haven’t gone back and looked, but I think I still have a job. Then I passed out on my bed while thinking about what the world would be like if people had to dress in clown suits instead of business suits for work. I woke up when the Mrs. got home from school, and she seemed amused as I repeatedly tried to say anesthesiologist without wildly slurring or losing my place in the middle of the word. She rewarded my efforts with a bowl of requested oatmeal and some more T3 (Tylenol #3, the stuff with codeine) to keep my buzz going. Which was important, as any movement of my tongue from its position on the floor of my mouth caused the same sensation you might have upon accidentally chomping on your tongue with your molars. Later that night, I had a protein shake, popped some more T3’s, and dreamt of jello wrestling with Phoebe Cates and Crystal Bernard.

I’ve spent the last week drinking protein shakes and eating oatmeal, soup, ice cream and Tylenol. I got the stitches out of my mouth where my wisdom teeth used to be and celebrated with a donut from the Krispy Kreme drive-thru. But even more important than my visit to the uber-cute dental assistant, the ENT nurse called today to let me know that the biopsy on the base of my tongue was positive. She delivered the news in her standard grave tone, but I informed her that this was really good news. They’ve positively identified the source of this mess and can focus their treatments now without turning my whole upper body into Chernobyl. I was also informed that I was on the agenda tonight for their weekly tumor board meeting (Hi, Patrice!) so that they can discuss my case. I felt pretty important and asked if I should send a plate of banana nut muffins or something. The nurse assured me it wasn’t necessary and that after a spirited game of Rock, Paper, Scissors someone would call me later in the week with specifics of what I can expect next.

So there you have it. I’m not sure how I feel about posting more updates here. I don’t mind sharing, but don’t want to turn the velvety goodness of Leper Pop into a medical blog. But I'll figure out a way to keep you updated. In the meantime, rock on. And chill, dammit!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Writing Assignment

Below are my homework assignments for The Second City sketch writing course. The world will see it before my instructor ever does. Assuming the world reads this blog.

The assignment was to describe a place or environment, and to describe an item that has special meaning in my life. So that's what I did. Eat meat, beer and cheese.

The Laundry Room

My laundry room is pretty disgusting by most people’s standards. In addition to providing my home a facility to wash clothes, it also serves as my dogs’ cafeteria, and sometimes their bathroom. Although, they usually prefer the carpet in the family room for the latter.

The floor in the laundry room is protected by cheap vinyl tile. It is the same tile that was there when I moved in nine years ago, as is the rest of the room’s decor, so I have no idea how old it is. It is scratched and tattooed with grime in some places. I see no need to replace it. The dogs seem to like its light blue flower trim pattern. The dogs and I are the only ones who spend any significant time in there. I barely notice the floor’s imperfections unless my wet feet alert me that something is amiss.

The washer is currently unplugged, unattached and pulled away from the wall. It stopped cooperating about a month ago. I’m at the end of trying to fix it. A new washer is on the way. The dryer sits in its customary place, to the left of where the washer should be, had it been behaving. Both appliances are white and stained with the memory of bunny effluence. The bunnies were evicted a few years ago, due to their incessant violations of our boarder contract.

Outside light infiltrates the room from a window over looking the washer and dryer area, and from a window on a door, which leads to the back yard, positioned to the left of the dryer. Both windows are donned with a wardrobe consisting of matching plastic green blinds, which complement the peeling warm red wall paper. These blinds also serve as dust repositories.

To the right of where an accommodating washer should be sits an off white speckled plastic stationary tub. This , too, boasts blemishes of its own, caused by the clean up efforts of the burnt red Venetian Plaster used to adorn the living room walls. On the wall behind the stationary tub is a make-shift splash guard hewn from a piece of faux brick wall covering. This helps promote the luxurious environment required when cleaning painting utensils or hand washing delicates. An electrical outlet, which provides power to the washer/dryer, looms perilously close to the tub, halfway up the wall. It’s a wonder I have not been electrocuted yet, with all the hand washing of delicates I do. To the right of the stationary tub of potential death is a door leading to a glorious bathroom.

Homemade cabinets and drawers, constructed with the finest plywood, cover the walls opposite the washer/dryer area and form an “L” shape through the corner. These are gilded with a pristine coat of brown paint and lacquer. Not paint covered by lacquer – paint and lacquer mixed together and then applied in a hurry, apparently. Depending on the humidity, temperature and wind patterns, some of the cabinet doors and drawers actually close all the way, sometimes. The largest cabinet, in the corner, leases itself to a furnace and a water heater. A mop and a bucket and some other infrequently used cleaning supplies keep them company. The rest of the cabinets secure such valuables as dog food, laundry supplies and whatever else cannot earn a spot in the important parts of the house.

There is a hook attached to the ceiling of the room in the corner. A paint roller hangs there as a reminder to how much this room needs some restorative attention. The ceiling also supports an uncovered light fixture, which is near is a pull down staircase leading to the attic. The panel to the staircase is painted brown so as not to be confused with the rest of the ceiling, which is white, except for remnants of bunny splash and other marks of mystery.

The dogs do their best to coddle the room with their discarded hair, as it comforts the creases and nooks created by the contents of the room. They also employ their own brand of aroma therapy in there, which is only supplanted temporarily by detergent and fabric softener fragrances on laundry days. They don't seem bothered by the room's condition. It is one step above living in the wild, although they spend most of their time on the couch.

The Fabio Photo

My eight by ten autographed glossy of Fabio is FABULOUS. In fact, I think “Fabio” is Italian for fabulous. If it isn’t, it should be. The photograph is black and white in a portrait layout. Fabio stands menacingly just off center to the left as if he was just about to make a proposition – one he is sure would be accepted. One of his hands playfully hides in the pocket of his casual black jacket, while his left hand confidently supports his pose on an unseen structure – probably a Donatello bust.

Fabio wears an angelic white shirt, with buttons hidden and a band collar fastened by an elegant dark bead. His Adam’s apple peaks out just beneath his massive and powerful square jaw, reminiscent of the animated Johnny Bravo of Cartoon Network fame. His golden mane hangs calculatedly untamed around his shoulders as he stares at the viewer like a lion concentrating on a deformed zebra. His enigmatic grin reveals his enjoyment in the zebra’s final doomed minutes.

Fabio's autograph, barely legible in gold ink, begins at his ornate belt clasp and drifts across to the right edge of the portrait. The placement of the signature reminds the viewer that the portrait is appallingly cut short at mid hip, leaving any package peepers wanting.

The picture frame protects the photograph with a frosty plane of glass. The frame is decorated with a double helix rope design bordered by two rows of half circles. The plastic construction is painted to appear as tarnished gold, as if to say, “Oh look, I’m an antique frame, but I was actually bought at a dollar store”.

On the outside of the glass pane, there is an autographed postcard of comedian Jake Johansson. He signed it, “I fucked a sock. Jake Johansson”. He didn’t want to sign it that way, but I asked him nicely, to commemorate one of his jokes in his act, and I wouldn’t leave him alone until he did. He was afraid I’d try selling it on eBay. I wonder how he’d feel sharing the frame with Fabio.

I keep the Fabio picture on my bar for all to enjoy. Friends who stop over and see it ask me if I’m gay, as if only gay people can appreciate the brilliance of Fabio. But I do wonder, sometimes, if I were gay, if I would be attracted to Fabio, and he to me. I also wonder if Fabio would ever consider keeping a photograph of me on his bar. If he did, would it be for the same reason I keep his picture – as a reminder of all that is silly in this world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sketchy Rub

In my quest to become a Renaissance man non sequitur, I have embarked on yet another The Second City tutelage. For those of you who do not remember, or do not care, or both, earlier this year I enrolled in the first level of The Second City’s improv training program. That adventure proved to be too life threatening as I feared following in the footsteps of Chris Farley. Plus, improv makes me sweaty and sore, kind of like sex. So, I chose not to complete the other four levels of improv training and return to the comfort of staring at the wall in my family room to meditate. Even though there is a television set on that wall, with MTV airing on it twenty-four hours a day, it does not mean I was not meditating.

Who would have thought I would have become bored with Laguna Beach, Parental Control and Yo Mamma after seven short months? I needed some new terrain. I needed to find myself. I needed to spend the $260 I found in my son’s dresser before he discovered I had it. Joe Flaherty came to me in a dream and demanded that I call my friends at The Second City. He was clothed as a partially dressed Count Floyd, so I knew he was serious. I intended to enroll in their moonshine jug pottery class, but the only opening they had was in their Comedy Sketch Writing class. So I opted for that.

To prepare for the class, I watched all of Maury Amsterdam’s scenes from the old Dick Van Dyke Show. Or do you say Cock Van Lesbian? Either way works for me.

I was ten minutes late to the first class. The parking lot was full so I had to drive around a while until I was able to roll over a dead guy to park in his driveway. Mike, our reserved yet crafty and slightly crampy instructor, was not fazed by my tardiness. He introduced himself and asked me my name, to which I replied Maury Amsterdam, and I quickly made fun of the bald guy in the class, who happened to be him. I inflated the circle of seated students to create a spot for me diametrically opposed to Mike, except a little bit to the left, but I said diametrically opposed in an effort to show him who is boss – Carl Reiner.

The class consisted of one woman and seventeen men, who were all looking at the one woman with their mouths open. Even with faces agape, everyone had a look of grave concern. I thought I might have stumbled by accident into the obituary writing class instead of a comedy class. I asked the guy next to me which dead guy were we writing about? He said Maury Amsterdam. To lighten the mood, I tripped over an ottoman and Mary Tyler Moore tap danced on my face.

Mike was nice enough not to bore me by repeating the overview crap he had already presented to the rest of the class. He bored me enough with the twenty other minutes of overview he had not yet told. Eventually, we got to our first exercise, which was to interview a classmate and report back to the class how weird xe is. I was lucky enough to get to interview Kevin, a part-time college student, part-time bartender, and full time party dude. He had just gotten back from a week in the woods with a bunch of friends. He said he had to take some time to get away from all the drinking and having fun and naughty making. Good god, where the hell did I go wrong! My life sucks next to this guy! Kevin seems like a good guy and he made it a point to tell me he is not a spoiled asshole. Duly noted. He interviewed me, as well, and seemed impressed that I was not dead yet. We all told each other about each other. I don’t remember anybody’s name or anything about anybody. Well worth my son’s $260, so far.

Mike began to earn his money. He proceeded to teach us about character development. I will not get into the complex techniques required to build such in-depth characters, because I didn’t write them down and I forgot them all. I do remember that being a sketch writer legally allows you to be an eavesdropper, lurker, leerer and voyeur in order to build ideas for creating characters. I asked if it would be beneficial if we wore trench coats while we develop characters. Mike was impressed with my progressive thinking and gave me a gold star. He suggested we also wear the trench coats to class.

Mike is a great proponent of writing for writing sake. He declared that ninety percent of everything one writes will be crap. He must be familiar with this blog. Consequently, we should behoove ourselves to write as often as possible. To assist us in that quest, Mike introduced an exercise where we would write for twenty minutes in stream of consciousness mode, purging ourselves of all thoughts that come to mind. I am very familiar with this technique as it is what I use for Leper Pop articles. The theory is the more you write the more crap you’ll eliminate, kind of like a mental enema. He gave us twenty minutes to dislodge ourselves while he stepped out for a few bong hits.

Following is the fruit of my crap dislodging. As you can tell by reading this, I do not really need to be in this class, but it gives me something to do on Tuesday nights.

I’ve got to get me my own dumpster. This dumpster sharing is too familiar. I don’t like my garbage touching other people’s garbage. There are remnants of spit on garbage. That’s the last thing I want is my spit mingling with other people’s spit. It’s like making out with everyone in the entire building. I don’t want to make out with everyone in the building. I can’t even remember the last time I actually made out with anybody. Do people my age actually do that? Wait a minute, I do remember when it was. And who it was. I don’t want to remember that. Hard to believe I was that drunk and did not black out. Blacking out comes in handy sometimes. You can never depend on a good blackout. My power was out for three days last week. I felt like Annie Oakley. The cowgirl dress was a little tight in the waist. Thought the hat looked nice, though. I’ve never ridden a horse. A horse has never ridden me, either. So, we have a mutual respect for each other. I like to wave knowingly at horses because of it. They look at me like they have no clue what I’m doing. I know they know. They stand there chewing their cud like I don’t exist. Do horses chew cud? Cows do. What the hell is cud? Maybe I should open up a cud bar, where people can come in and chew cud from exotic places. Cows look pretty relaxed when chewing their cud. It’s probably good for the soul. I’ve never seen a cow have a nervous breakdown. I’ve never seen a human have a nervous breakdown, either. Maybe I’m just not paying close enough attention. The cud can be used for medicinal purposes as well as social. Pharmacies can create special cud sections to aid the mentally stressed. Where is the king of Walgreen’s when you need him? Or, is it a queen? Either way, I’ve never seen xe. There is a lot of stuff I haven’t experienced, apparently. I need to get out more, or at least out to more places like farms and Walgreen’s headquarters. Do headquarters have kneepads? Why wouldn’t they? The fact that I don’t know may not be a fact at all. The cream in the church cannot be investigated. There is no way to find the proper channel. Creating a mob is little different, or differs little, than undertaking a bamboo festival. The festival does not interrupt Tuesday. But, Tuesday sometimes impedes the livery driver. Still, munching seems like the best alternative, which brings us back to cud. Cud Munchers will be the name of the bar, although it may be more like a coffee house, depending on the clientele we attract.

We all felt a lot emptier after that. And a little not so fresh. Back to character development. To finish off the class, we played a little cluster exercise. As a class, we were to build three lists of ten items. I do not enjoy group exercises like these when it comes to writing. To me, writing is a personal and solitary task, and my brain doesn’t work so well when being felt up by others. I guess learning as a group is a little different than writing as a group, so I will check my whining at the door. Still, my brain wouldn’t cooperate.

First, Mike asked us to toss out ideas for types of jobs. All I could think to say was “armadillo”, which I offered three or four times while others were suggesting such occupations as policeman, architect, sheep dipper, proctologist and garbage man. Speaking of proctologist, this brings up another aspect of these group games that ruffles my pterylosae. Invariably, in these kinds of groups, there are always one or two people who can’t help but work a little blue. I’m not against working blue, but we are all aware that butts and crotches and everything associated with them and their uses are hilarious. Let’s try to be a little more creative, shall we? Nevertheless, we had to hear the likes of proctologist, OB-Gyn, sperm banks, sheep herder, breast exam, brain enema, and giant rubber dildo. We all know sperm banks are funny because guys are ejaculating in there, and what’s more funny than the look on a guy’s face when he is achieving spasmisitc bliss? Maybe Benny Hill is more funny, but that’s about it. My point is that we need to move beyond those kinds of things to find new hilariousness. Not that I’ve ever actually seen a man’s face when he was ejaculating.

Mike wrote down the first ten of our suggestions he knew how to spell. He then asked us to name examples of emotions. Again, “armadillo” was all I had, and I shouted it a few times, progressively louder each time. Others competed for hilarity with their inane proposals such as torpidity, languishness, gnarlish and tetchy, among the usual emotions, like pretty. Nobody was pretentious enough to suggest “ennui”. I was thankful for that.

Finally, Mike asked us to purge our thoughts about types of places.


Mike pretended to write it down to make me feel better. I don’t remember what everybody else said, since my last outburst caused me to fall to the floor and writhe. Before we moved on, Mike asked us to compile one more list - a list of the most common road kill in Texas. He did this for me and my armadillo obsession. Unfortunately, my mind was road kill at the time and could only produce, “Sea Urchin”. We didn’t use that list in the exercise, but Mike gave me a copy of it for home use.

We chose one item from each list and built a character and a scene out of them. Well, they did. I sat there and wondered if a sea urchin has ever been run over by a pick up truck in Texas. But, I did learn that characters need to have a “want” in a scene. That knowledge should come in handy. I wondered if sea urchins ever want to be run over by a pick up truck in Texas. I wonder if Will Ferrell could play a believable wanting sea urchin. Did Maury Amsterdam ever want Rose Marie? What about Millie? Most guys probably think she was a real goer in the sack since she seemed so dippy and naïve on the surface. They may think she unleashed herself in the bedroom as the sultry bush woman seething with tangles of lust that she really was. I don’t think so. I bet she and Jerry never even did it on Jerry’s dentist chair. Why keep your dentist office at your house if you and the little woman never do it on the dentist chair? What a despicable waste. It saddens me to consider it. I’m glad this class session is almost over. I don’t think I could learn anymore in this emotional state.

Before we could bolt out of class, Mike harnessed us with a homework assignment. I didn’t write it down, so I’m not sure what we are supposed to do. I’ll make a macramé flower pot holder this week and hand that in. He’ll probably admire my progressive thinking and assess it as a metaphor for being a peeping tom, which is the foundation for building multi-dimensional characters. I can tell I’m going to be Mike’s favorite student.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cuts Like A Knife

Sid: Remember, Mom, I have my surgery tomorrow.
Mama F’er: Right. Where are you having it?
Sid: Elmhurst. You know where that is, right?
Mama F’er: Yes, I think that’s where your grandma was. In fact, I think that’s where she died.
Sid: (laughing) Thanks, that makes me feel better.
Mama F’er: Oh, shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.

Admissions Witch: Have you had anything to eat or drink since midnight?
Sid: No, ma’am.
Admissions Witch: When did you last eat?
Sid: 11:45 p.m. – four fried chickens and a coke.
Admissions Witch: Anything since then?
Sid: Nope
Admissions Witch: Take this form, take the gold elevators to the fourth floor.

Michelle, Coolest Nurse Ever: Can you tell me why you’re here today?
Sid: I heard it was Ladies Night.
Michelle CNE: You were misinformed.
Sid: So my ass is hanging out of this gown for nothing?
Michelle CNE: No, that’s just for our entertainment. Now why are you here?
Sid: I suppose you can take this lump out of the right side of my neck.
Michelle CNE: It says here it’s the left side.
Sid: I ain’t paying for this if he takes anything out of the left side.
Michelle CNE: Let me call him and have that corrected.
Sid: That would be swell.

Michelle CNE:
OK, I have it corrected. I need you to sign the surgery consent form.
Sid: (reading) So this gives him permission to slice my neck open.
Michelle CNE: Yes.
Sid: Cool. The last guy that did that to me didn’t even ask.
Michelle CNE: Now sign the anesthesia consent form:
Sid: (reading) This says I can die.
Michelle CNE: You won’t.
Sid: (reading more) It says I might remember stuff about the operation.
Michelle CNE: Yeah, that would suck.
Sid: Here ya’ go.

Michelle CNE: (starting IV) You have good veins.
Sid: I bet you say that to all your patients.

Michelle CNE: Transport should be coming to get you soon – you doing OK?
Sid: I could use a jelly donut.
Michelle, Worst Nurse Ever: No.

Transport Girl #1: Can you get up on this table for me?
Sid: Can you stop looking at my ass?

Anesthesiologist: Have you had general before?
Sid: Hell, yeah.
Anesthesiologist: Any problems?
Sid: Hell, no.
Anesthesiologist: Let’s rock n’ roll.

Unidentified Masked Woman #1:
We’re going to give you a sedative……
Sid: Zzzzzzzzzz…..

Recovery Nurse:
Hey, Sid.
Sid: Hey, recovery nurse lady.
Recovery Nurse Lady: How’s your pain?
Sid: Got any Demerol?
Recovery Nurse Lady: How about some fentanyl?
Sid: I hear it works better if you mix it with heroin.
Recovery Nurse Lady: I don’t think so, Sid.

Transport Girl #2: I’m going to take you back to your room now.
Sid: You’re not Phoebe Cates.
Transport Girl #2: And you’re not Brad Pitt.

Mrs. F’er: Hey, Sid.
Sid: How was your test?
Mrs. F’er: It went well.
Sid: Zzzzzzz….

Mrs. F’er: Hey, Sid.
Sid: How was your test?
Mrs. F’er: It went well.
Sid: Zzzzzzz….

Mrs. F’er: Hey, Sid.
Sid: How was your test?
Mrs. F’er: It went well.
Sid: I already asked you that, didn’t I?
Mrs. F’er: Yes.
Sid: Zzzzzzz……

Mrs. F’er: Hey, Sid.
Sid: How was your test?
Mrs. F’er: It went well.
Sid: I already asked you that, didn’t I?
Mrs. F’er: Yes.
Sid: Zzzzzzz……

Michelle CNE: Do you want something to drink?
Sid: Bombay Sapphire martini, up. Shaken, not stirred.
Michelle CNE: How about some juice, Mr. Bond?
Sid: Fine.
Michelle CNE: Here are some crackers if you feel like eating.
Sid: I love you, too.

Michelle CNE: So when you get home, blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah.
Sid: (blank stare)
Michelle CNE: Any questions?
Sid: (looks to Mrs. F’er)
Mrs. F’er: I’ve got it.

Michelle CNE: How’s the pain?
Sid: How about a T3 for the road?
Michelle CNE: I can do that.
Sid: I love you, you know.
Michelle CNE: I know. Go home now. And good luck.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Call Me Kitty VII - Oktober Fest is Oktober Best

Yes, it's a little soon for another Call Me Kitty installment, but again the season dictates. So if you enjoy the adventures of Dave, crack open a cold one and read on. If you don't, then crack open a cold one and go look at some porn or something.

“One can drink too much, but one never drinks enough."

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Gotthold rocks for an old German dead guy. Bet his drinking buddies made fun of his name. In any case, Gotthold has been brought forth from his old days writing dark comedic drama in the 18th century as he is hereby deemed the patron saint for the day. The final day of Oktoberfest. Why did Dave wait so long? Did the dark German beers frighten him? I think not. Did images of Chevy Chase in European Vacation flash through his mind? Of course not. Was it an irrational fear of being clubbed with a bratwurst and having the dark, spicy mustard splatter and stain his favorite white T-shirt? No. Through intensive psychotherapy he had overcome that fear many years before.

Nobody knows what made him wait until the last day, but it was clear from the yodels coming from the shower and the feather in his hat that today would be the day he would gather up his woman Iguacu and hit the annual fest. Iguacu was new to the country from her homeland of Brazil. Sue, as she liked to be called, had come to America to study dam building with the Army Corps of Engineers after her father was swept away in the currents of the river for which she was named and was tossed over the Iguacu Falls to his wet, messy death. She was distracted from her studies by our wide selection of single barrel bourbons and instead met Dave while sampling some at a local watering hole. Today, she would sample other beverages at another typical suburban homage to the great German festival running concurrently across the Atlantic....

Hoping to get an early start, as they had later commitments, they arrived for the 11 a.m. opening, only to find that it was really a noon opening. Explains the good parking spot. No problem - within eyeshot, a neighboring restaurant that should be open for lunch. Bonus points for knowing the local barkeep that can supply discounted screwdrivers before local ordinance allows. Rock on.

Before they know it, noon rolls around and with it another round before closing out the tab. Amazing how they add up. A generous tip for their old friend and a slightly lubed walk across the street into suburbia’s version of Bavaria.

Only a quick glance to the booths hawking food, drink, and wares was permitted as the first stop would be the ticket booth. Thirty samoleans for the first drop - again, time considerations, you know. Direct shot to the best beer tent - slightly off the beaten track to avoid imminent lines. Overly friendly banter with the staff to ensure they remember you when the amateur crowds begin growing. A quick mention that you are sure that your personal friend Dr. Peter Hellich, brewmaster of the Paulaner brewery in Munich, would be proud of the service and selection found today. After all it is his mastery of the Bavarian summer barleys and wheat grains, carefully malted and roasted, fermenting in the Alps water with the choicest of Hallertau hops is what you will be drinking today. Careful to leave the out the brewmasters exclusive yeast strains - the chicks just don’t dig that word. Tough enough as it is to get them to down a cold one.

Dave then impresses with his own mastery - choosing his beer much like a fine wine. Taking into consideration not only time, but the season, weather, time of day, and food, he requested a Hefe-Weizen. It was the obvious choice given that it was the only working tap at the tent. Add in the .5 l souvenir glass with discounted refills and the party continued. Armed with fresh beer, it was time to attack the midway. Nothing like being flung around the twisted arms and metal platforms of hastily set up carnival rides.

The red pods of the Tilt-A-Whirl beckoned first. The music at the rides that were childhood favorites were always more laid back than the metal tune streaming from wilder rides. Some cool blues, maybe Luther Allison, stung the air as they sipped and strutted their way to the spinning orbs. Can’t leave a beer one sitting out while one rides (could be hazardous to any unattended passing tots), so the remaining contents had to be dumped. Not on the ground, but into their guts. Quickly and efficiently. Tickets pass hands and a good car strategically chosen. With the German beer glass safely on the sideline, the debate begins... will a wilder ride be achieved with their own bony asses in the car or with a load of lard asses? Dave’s brief and unsuccessful study of theoretical and applied mechanics proved useless as the debate wound down and the ride wound up. Trying to throw your weight in the direction of the ever changing slope is part of the fun, and most of the ride was spent trying to coordinate their uncoordinated efforts. As soon as they thought they had it figured out, the ride slowed and their pod came to a pendular stop. They hopped out and found their beer glasses waiting patiently, yet empty, on the sideline. Rewarding them for their patience with another long pour of the Hefe, it become clear more tickets would be required.

With another $30 in pocket, it was back to the midway to the Vishnu-like arms that attracted them to the next ride. Although the beer level had gone well below the .5 l line on the glass, the remaining again had to be dumped to the gut as they approached the line. They set the empties to the sideline again, this time searching for a car on Vishnu’s arm of Padma and the glorious existence and hoping the punishing gada cars would not be running that day. The ride rocked and they didn’t hurl. Good sign, eh? The October sun couldn’t have been warmer, and the same wind that had given their hair a new texture brought the ever increasing smells of the fired up food tents.

But first a refill. The friendly vendor seemed to enjoy watching the couple’s itinerary for the fest develop as he poured another Hefe. Dave exchanged some tickets for the fresh brews and walked off with a loud, “Prost!” to anyone in the vicinity of the tent.

Silver foil trays of brats were the obvious choice for Dave, but Sue wanted to search around. Although she was enjoying the beers that day, brats did not appeal to her despite her increasingly numbed senses. In fact she was even more adamant about finding something more to her liking. A less traditional booth served up some french fries more to her liking as Dave shook his head and went for the condiments. Setting down his beer and shades, he made sure the brat was evenly covered with the spicy mustard and sauerkraut. Sue caught up and got a good supply of ketchup before he was finished and led the way toward the sounds of a nearby tuba. She disappeared into the main tent followed by Dave and together they grabbed a table near the dance floor. Several families polkaed - odd combinations of three generations did their version of the traditional dance. It provided excellent entertainment while face stuffing, and Dave was wishing he had worn his lederhosen. His mind drifted to his fantasy trip to the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and the words of America’s polka king Frankie Yankovic... “Polkas make you forget your troubles... it’s the happiest music this side of heaven.” Not being of Slavonic heritage, Dave had always kept this secret obsession to himself. Dave had not noticed that Sue had wandered off and wasn’t sure if it was her return or the chill that came over him as he imagined a young Walter Ostanek listening to the old Yankovic records as he began his journey to becoming Canada’s own polka king. In any case, the food was finished and Sue was ready to drag him back out to the midway. Today he would not dance. But after grabbing the fresh beer Sue had just returned with, he raised his glass to the band with a knowing glance and ventured back into the bright September Sunday. Only the shock of the sun brought him back to reality as he searched his head for his sunglasses.....

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Win A Date With Moist Rub

First I would like to thank everyone that entered the contest. The macaroni bust and the interpretive dance of his life were particularly impressive; however, a short man wearing a renaissance costume delivered a telegram to my door informing me that I was the ultimate winner. Next year Moist Rub has vowed to remember to include the clause that prevents employees of Leper Pop Publishing and its subsidiaries from entering.

Knowing that Moist Rub is a guitar hero and a Beth Hart fan, I suggested that we go to the upcoming Jeff Beck show at the Chicago Theater. I can appreciate the work of the guitar hero like Jeff Beck, but never thought I could sit through an entire concert of it.

My brother and I used to say that drowning in beer was like heaven, eh? Now he's not here, and I got two soakers... This isn't heaven, this sucks!

However, this time Jeff wised up and decided to invite Leper Pop idol Beth Hart along to sing with his band. So I carefully navigated the Ticketmaster website and found some crappy tickets for way too much money. I gave up hope and figured our date would be the usual night of Cuban food and flamenco dancing. I donned my hand crafted Spanish dance shoes, but then I thought about “it.” Yes, “it” – the dumbass eBay commercials. I fired up my Paypal account and found a plethora of tickets to the show available, and purchased a pair on the main floor at about 30% off from a guy that probably couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with him. I know that because he offered to buy one ticket back if I would be his friend. I had a good laugh at his expense while preparing for my date with Moist Rub.

I carefully flossed my teeth and agonized over whether to wear the black, white or green Chuck Taylors. I decided that the white ones would convey a clean look in conjunction with my jeans and t-shirt. Sure it was after Labor day, but I’m a rebel. Well, not quite. I remembered the show was on a work day. But my rebellion rose from within again, and I decided to flaunt office dress code and wear jeans to work that day. Imagine, it wasn’t even Casual Friday. I paired the Levis with my blue denim shirt, giving me that prisoner in a minimum security prison look.

We decided to meet for a romantic dinner at Potbelly Sandwich Works since it was across the street from the theater, and hey, who doesn’t like sandwiches? I searched the joint for Moist, but didn’t see him and went back outside to get some fresh urban air and wait for his arrival. Several seconds later he walked up and I greeted him warmly with a “hey” and a head nod. We had the normal awkward small talk about the menu, ordered up, paid, and the only two seats were at a counter type table over looking a couple booths in front of us. We stared at the two chicks eating sandwiches in the booth directly in front of us, but even with the most imaginative effort it was not erotic in any way. I don’t know about Moist, but I did make up my own clever backstory for them involving nudity, a copy machine and the demise of their dictatorial boss. Eventually, the dinner evolved into a brief business meeting, which consisted of my unaudited and flawed financial report and his unfinished marketing plan. We then agreed to no longer talk business for the rest of the evening and begin the trek across the street to the theater.

Using the Intellivision skills honed in college, we navigated through the mass of burned out, smoking ex-stoners out front of the theater and through the mass of oblivious people in the lobby who appeared to have been hired exclusively to stand around and get in the way of anyone that might have wanted to walk anywhere that evening. After taking our seats, my first observation was, based on the demographics of the rest of the audience, that we must be old. This was further confirmed after Moist Rub hoped out loud that everyone would remain seated so we wouldn’t have to stand all night. Finally, I considered applying for Social Security after the woman in the row in front of us, instead of sharing a toke from a joint, was offering up some delightful lemon lime gum before the show. I don’t remember what the guys behind us were talking about, but I seem to think it had something to do with Dockers, and I could feel any last remaining shred of cool being sucked from my body just by being there. We gave up hope that the empty seats adjacent to us would be filled by nubile college chicks and sat sullenly contemplating the bitch slap of reality that had just occurred.

Tom Marker, another old guy that’s been on WXRT radio since I can remember, came out not to introduce the band, but merely to announce that the show would start soon. That was about as useful as me telling you that I was planning to eat dinner tonight, but since old Tom probably had nothing better to do that evening we were sympathetic to his plight.

Finally, the unmistakable silhouette of Mr. Jeff Beck appeared from the shadows. It was either him or Nigel Tufnel, but I didn’t see Spinal Tap listed on the bill that evening. He then launched into a pretty cool song that I didn’t know, but with some cool guitar parts. Then he played another pretty cool song that I didn’t know, but with some cool guitar parts. Then he played another pretty cool song that I didn’t know, but with cool guitar parts. Then he played another pretty cool song that I didn’t know, but with some cool guitar parts. Then he started another one, and Beth came out to sing. Beth exuded cool, so much so that I felt a little of it return to my body just from being in her presence. She seemed to fit in well with the band, but it just wasn’t right. It was like watching Marty Casey on Rock Star. Yeah, he was doing well, but it just wasn’t quite right watching him do those songs with the house band. It’s just more right watching him play his songs with the Lovehammers. Or is it just Lovehammers? I never quite figured that out. But I digress.

Beth also sang on the next song, a bluesy number that I actually recognized, and then waved goodbye and went backstage to struggle with her personal demons. Jeff stayed with us and played another 5 or 6 tunes that I didn’t know, but with some cool guitar parts. He invited Beth back out for a couple generic rockers. She sounded a little better this time around, and I tried to support her knowing that the tour would at least look good on her curriculum vitae when all was said and done. I can’t really remember what happened next, mostly because I was fixated on destroying the keyboard player’s equipment in the same manner that Belushi smashed that acoustic guitar in Animal House. It was that annoying, but I guess it’s all part of Beck’s M.O. so it wasn’t going anywhere. Oh, yeah, there was Beatles cover that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. He finished the evening with a solo cover of Katherine McPhee’s Over The Rainbow. Again, it was impressive but at least Katherine was interesting to look at.

I know this hasn’t sounded like a glowing review, but I it was an extremely impressive display of guitar skills. But it just wasn’t fun. It was like sex with a way hot chick that sucks in bed. Beck just uses one damn guitar and doesn’t rely on a bunch of effects – it’s just him and his fingers and all the technique he’s developed and perfected over the years and I’m glad I got to see it firsthand, but I was just waiting for him to do something wicked or more to my liking with all that talent. And it never happened for me. I thought that maybe I was just a moron, and I might be, but I was happy to see that Moist didn’t find it overly exciting either. We walked morosely to the exit, dodging worshippers vying for Jeff Beck memorial shrouds. I bid Moist adieu with a “later” and closing head nod, and he walked toward the parking garage and I toward the train station. He was a gentleman and offered me a ride to the station, but I wanted to avoid that awkward moment when we would have arrived and not knowing what to do or say before getting out. Instead I made a lame excuse about having to stop at the office to make some photocopies of my ass. He seemed to buy it and I made it back safely to blog again another day.

If you want to read a real review of the show (or at least the Oakland show, but it sounds the same), check it out here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Call Me Kitty VI - Sports Palace

This is the sixth installment of the Call Me Kitty series. For any new readers, it's a slight departure from our usual fare, so if you don't like it then just wait a few days and we'll return to our regularly scheduled idiocy. For any fans of our hero Dave, please read on.

“Hey, Dugger.”

“Hey, Dave… Rolling Rock?”

“You got it.”

And so went the usual interaction as he stepped up to the bar at Gordon’s Bar and Grill. Gordon was rarely around, but Dugger was predictably behind the bar anytime Dave stopped in after work. Dave never knew Dugger’s real name, but called him by the name of the small town in Indiana from which he came. Anyone who had ever been to Gordon’s more than once would call him Dugger and would be quickly reprimanded if they called him anything else. Especially if they called him “sir”. Some people are like that.

Dugger dropped off the Rolling Rock and Dave responded with an automatic “thank you, sir.”

Football season was in full swing, so as Dugger stepped to the tap and poured some beer down the side of a small beer glass for himself, Dave asked what looked good this weekend.

“I’m surprised Minnesota is only 4 point favorite this week… spread should be a lot greater than that.”

Dugger pulled up a stool on the other side of the bar from Dave and continued. “The big money must know something, so I’d take the 4 points and hope the Vikes tank.”

Football was always more exciting with some money on the line, but Dave was a little short on funds this week. Dugger was no authority on the game, but his logic sounded good at the time.

“Tell you what,” Dave proposed, “you spot me on this one and I’ll take the 4 points for a buck. If the Vikes do happen to cover, I’ll give you the two seats I got for the hockey game next Tuesday. Center ice, man.”

Dugger knew he shouldn’t take advantage of one of his best customers -- he knew Dave had just broken up with Kate, his frequent companion to the games. And the inside scoop on the line was only some crap he had heard some blowhard spewing out the other night. Hell, if he wanted, Dugger could probably even get a date with Kate. He was sure she would enjoy using the tickets she had become accustomed to.

“Deal, buddy. I’ll spot you a hundred and call Baker.”

Baker was the local bookie that occasionally frequented Gordon’s. He didn’t even need to call him. The Vikings would cover, and even if they didn’t Dugger could talk Dave into rolling his winnings into another losing bet. Life was good. And so was Kate.

Dave finished his beer and a few others and left a generous tip in return for the action. Life was good he thought to himself as he sloughed off to his car. It’s definitely who you know....