I’m over there!

Joseph Scrimshaw’s blog is now self hosted at josephscrimshaw.com.

Same blog with twice the “self.”

If you would like to be notified of new posts, please hit all those follow buttons on josephscrimshaw.com.

Many thanks.

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IT’S OVER, SNOW

I’ve lived in Minnesota for many years. Lately, I’ve been traveling more and I’ve had the good fortune to meet people on social media, particularly the twitters. I keep trying to describe to friends, both new and old, how I feel about snow. I realized the best analogy for my relationship with snow is this: It’s like dating a crazy person. The following is my attempt to break up with snow. It will probably get ugly.

Snow.

You and I have to talk.

We’ve been seeing each other on and off for more years than I like to think about and—no, no—Snow—I don’t want to play. No, I don’t want to throw you at my friends or roll you into balls and make you a man. That’s just weird.

Snow. This is serious.

It’s not you, it’s me, but I think we need to break up.

No, no, Snow, don’t lose your shit. I don’t deny we’ve had some really good times together. Usually in December.

You’ve been away for a while and when you first come back I’m excited to see you. You look fresh and pretty. And, honestly, it’s really nice to have you around for the holidays. I sit by a warm fire and I could just stare at you all night.

But then January 1st hits and I am so fucking done with you.

Why? Because I know you’re going to spend months making ridiculous demands of me.

How many times have I made plans with friends that I have had to cancel because of your bullshit?

I’m sick of the embarrassment of calling my friends and family and saying, “Sorry, I can’t make it to dinner or the show or the family reunion because Snow showed up in the middle of the night and fucked up my car.”

You don’t care what’s going on in my life. You show up whenever you want with all your needs and your issues. Shovel me! Scrape me! Blow me!

Not to mention my favorite passive aggressive game—pour kitty litter on me or I will knock you on your ass. That’s just deviant.

And then you try to play it off  like it’s cute. You’re all like, “Oh, come on, stay home from work, lie down inside me, and let’s make an angel together.”

It’s cute in December, Snow, but by February, it’s just pathetic.

And that’s another thing. By February, you’re not exactly pretty anymore. Thousands of different people and machines have trampled through you, you’re full of mud and filth, you keep melting and refreezing, melting and refreezing. By March we finally start to see the truth: you are a messy, dangerous bi-polar pile of crazy mush.

No, no, I am not being overly harsh. Remember when I said it wasn’t you, it was me? I was lying.

It is totally you. You’re insane. You dictate where I can park my car!

By the end of March, you are downright sociopathic. I’m not playing with you enough, so you start a big melt to try to get my attention back. The second I start to feel a little sad that you’re leaving, you pound me with another ten inches.

That’s it.  That’s the end of the story. Can we just be friendly about it?

Can I have my stuff back?

What stuff?  All the stuff I’ve lost inside you over the years. Hats, mittens, keys, glasses.

No, you do not give them back every year. I wait while you slowly melt to find the stuff I dropped. Somehow, my class ring never reappears but you manage to retain every single piece of dog shit you’ve collected for the last six months.

See? I can’t do this anymore. You drive me into a frenzy of anger and whining. I can’t even complain about you to my friends because they’re sick of hearing it.

All they say is, “If you hate this relationship so much, why don’t you just move on?”

And the answer is: I don’t know.

Maybe I  like to complain. Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m afraid to try a different relationship.

What the hell is out there for me, anyway? I don’t want to date fog. I don’t want to build a life with dry heat. I know you’ll just follow me to the mountains.

I need to be strong. I need to break the cycle. I need to do something crazy like hook up with a fault line.

Until then, you and I are stuck with one another, Snow.

But from now on, we are just friends. And barely that. I’m sure I’ll see you at parties. Whether you’re invited or not.

I’ll do my best to be civil and if I can’t look at you without screaming, I’ll just hide in my house. But if you pile up on my roof and try to break into my house—I will get a restraining order.

Have a good life, Snow, have a good life.

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Preparing (Emotionally) for the Zombie Apocalypse

If wishing makes it so, there is little doubt we will soon face the horror of a zombie apocalypse.

Many people consider themselves well prepared. We all have our preferred zombie hunting weapons: shotguns, cricket bats, golf clubs, longbows, a replica of a broadsword from any one of the Highlander films or television series. Basically, anything that is long and hard and/or fires a projectile. That’s normal and healthy. More on that later.

We all know where we would hole up to make our stand against the undead horde: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, The Big K, Target, Super Target, CostCo. Basically, any place that has a lot of food and would also be a depressing place to die. That’s just common sense. More on that later.

We all know who we would try to rescue and/or protect: our spouses, significant others, our children, quiet neighbors who keep to themselves because they probably have a lot of weapons in their basement. Basically, all of the important people in our lives who are still mobile or have tactical value. Grandparents are pretty much out of luck. That’s just good strategy. More on that later.

Say what you will about the lazy human beings of the 21st Century, we are physically prepared for the zombie apocalypse. But at the risk of sounding unmanly, what about our feelings?

Are we, as a people, EMOTIONALLY PREPARED for a zombie apocalypse?

Let’s start by reconsidering some of our cold, cruel, and emotionally distant physical preparations.

Do we have to slaughter zombies with phallic objects? What if we imagine hitting them with something soft and beautiful? A tulip? A handwritten letter? An unframed Monet print from a college dorm room? Would that be effective? Probably not. Does it make you sad that beauty is useless against zombies?

What if we didn’t make our final stand in a soulless big box store? What if we went to a happy place? A used bookstore? A locally owned homeopathic day spa? A patch of shade under our favorite tree? Would these be good fortresses? Probably not. Does it upset you to know your happy places make for great zombie feeding grounds?

What if we didn’t just rescue helpful people we love? What if we went out of our way to help a stranger? Or someone we know to be a jerk? What if we raced to a nursing home to protect the older generation from certain doom? Would a cranky wizened old man with a catheter and a penchant for racist slurs be a cheerful and valiant comrade for our desperate final stand? Of course not. Does it agitate you to think zombies might force you to die in the company of annoying people?

Zombies limit our options, don’t they? And it makes us angry. It makes us want to kill them viciously in a large well-lit retail environment.

Picture it: A reanimated heathen monstrosity shambles through Super Target. It’s Doug. Doug from that yellow house down the street. He gives out full size Snickers bars on Halloween, not just the misleadingly named fun-size. Doug is following you down the cleaning supplies aisle. His grisly arms outstretched as if asking for a reassuring hug. You savagely beat him about the head with a metal toilet plunger designed by Michael Graves until his skull caves in like a rotten melon.

Achievement Unlocked! You just killed (or re-killed) Doug, the full sized Snickers man, from down the street.

How do you feel about murdering Doug? He made you do it, right? But, still.

Those are Doug’s brains you splattered on the floor. You’ll be thinking about that when you get out that pole with the tennis ball on the end to rub the streaks off the cold unforgiving tile. And as you stare at your reflection in the Super Target floor, the horrifying truth wrestles its way into your conscious mind: ZOMBIES ARE US.

On some level, we are the undead and the undead are us.

And so we have to ask, “Why are we hitting ourselves? Why are we hitting ourselves? Why are we hitting ourselves in a Super Target with a metal toilet plunger designed by Michael Graves?”

Yes, the zombies make us do it. Yes, it’s us or them. Yes, zombies are murderous mockeries of our former selves–mindless, unreasonable symbols of death and decay. But they do have one thing going for them:

Zombies are goal oriented.

Zombies want to eat the brains of the living and that is all. No excuses, no bullshit.

Zombies don’t stand around at cocktail parties claiming they’re going to eat brains after they go back to school and get their MFA in theoretical brain eating.

Zombies don’t DVR episodes of The View to get step by step brain eating tips from a panel of experts.

Zombies don’t drop everything and move across the country because they think they’ll have better luck eating brains in Portland, Oregon.

Zombies don’t start arguments on the internet about whether or not they are eating brains ironically.

They just fucking eat brains.

And maybe that’s why we fantasize about killing them so much.  The shambling bastards make us feel lazy.

Perhaps we should stop thinking about how successful we will be in slaughtering our reanimated friends and neighbors in the inevitable zombie apocalypse and spend more time with ourselves.

What if we all focused on our own inner zombies? What if we pursued our life passions with the indomitable ferocity of a zombie who wants to eat brains?

What is your eating brains? Is it climbing a mountain? Playing the tuba? Becoming fluent in modern conversational French?

Set your sights on your goal and let your inner zombie go! Stumble-walk as fast as you can! Smash through the glass! Rattle the fence until it falls over! If someone chops your legs off with a heavily discounted wood axe from Wal-Mart, then dig your fingers into the very ground and drag, drag, drag your chomping unyielding jaws to victory!

Because the only way to truly EMOTIONALLY PREPARE for the zombie apocalypse is to lead a life that is worth fighting to keep.

When you have achieved this goal, you can happily look forward to the zombie apocalypse–fully prepared to bash the heads of the undead with a toilet plunger in your hand and a bounce in your step!

But until that happy day, all you can do is get out there in our pre-apocalypse world and chase down your dreams.

Now, go, my friends, go out there and eat the metaphorical hell out of some jerk’s brains–like only you can.

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THE BEST (PROBABLY) FAKE STUFF OF 2011

I wanted to surprise people with my best of list so I decided to applaud stuff that is not real. At least, I assume this stuff is not real. Anything is possible, because the internet.

BEST BACON THING

The Bacon Bowl Hat.

It’s just like the old school beer hat but with bacon. You put this bowl hat on your head, then put a bunch of chopped up bacon bits in the bowl, then suck them through the attached straw until your heart hurts. Yes, it’s dangerous to suck chunks of bacon through straws, but really you should only wear The Bacon Bowl Hat at parties. And at any party where The Bacon Bowl Hat is welcome there will be at least one jackass who thinks he knows the Heimlich Maneuver.

BEST SEXUALLY EXPLICIT POP SONG

Errybody Be Tired (From F*ckin’)

It’s a wonder it took someone this long to come up with a good post party anthem, but singer/songwriter LaJohnson really knocked this one out of the park. And his partner, MC Proper, did an amazing job with the family friendly radio edit Errybody Be Tired (Of Auto Tunin’).  All the power of the original in half the time.

BEST NEW TV SHOW

Going Postal.

In this riveting murder/post office procedural, brilliant but misanthropic Post Officer, Kenny Hammer, discovers a body part in the mail. This leads him to team up with sexy but smart FBI agent, Amber Bradley, who is also a world champion kickboxer. After they solve that first case in record time, the government assigns the unlikely couple to work together on ALL Post Office related murders. Tensions rise as Hammer and Bradley begin to flirt, investigate the decades old unsolved postal related murder of Bradley’s favorite uncle, and break all the rules by going out of their jurisdiction to investigate a Fed Ex related serial killer. A gripping show with plots ripped straight out of the headlines and not a bad advertisement for the endangered USPS.

BEST SNL SKETCH

Ren Fest Talkie Guy.

He’s at his office job, dressed normally, but he’s still yelling really loud like he was doing his shtick out at the Renaissance Festival. It is hilarious. I could go on and on about this bit for twenty minutes and I still couldn’t go on about it for as long as the sketch lasted.

BEST NEGATIVE WORD CO-OPTED TO MEAN SOMETHING POSITIVE

Used.

As in “that shit is used!” If something’s really sick or tight you can go the extra mile and say, “that shit is gently used.”

BEST POLITICAL SEX SCANDAL

Senator Bob Sanderson accidentally masturbating during the Republican debate on PBS.

This was a groundbreaking twist on the inevitable revelation of inappropriate sexual conduct and the inspiration for the most politically damaging animated gif ever. While the strange display did give him a brief jump in the polls, the revelation of the underlying psychological condition ultimately tanked his candidacy. One prominent political analyst said, “America is looking for a team player.” Personally, I saw the candidate Republicans claim they want: a no-nonsense guy who takes what he wants.

BEST MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE

INFJ

BEST NEW GOOGLE PRODUCT

GoogleYourMom.

This innovative program scans your e-mails, g-chats,  Google+ status updates, etc. for trigger words or phrases like stress, alcohol, chocolate, in-laws, and CGI additions to original Star Wars trilogy. When a danger level is detected, GoogleYourMom checks in with you to make sure you’re okay and that you’re not fucking up your life. Messages include–”Are you hungry? Should we order a pizza?”, “Do you feel safe? Should we call a cab?”, “Do you want me to look on ebay for the unaltered 2006 DVDs?” Under particularly harsh circumstances you will get this message: “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.” Having received that message more than once, let me tell you, it is effective. When something that exists on the internet is disappointed in you, that is a wake up call.

BEST VIRAL VIDEO

British Man Alarmed By Cat.

“Oh, bugger me, a pussy!” will be in our cultural lexicon for some time to come.

BEST ZOMBIE FILM

Zombie of the Zombies.

In this brilliant meta mash-up, a group of attractive young twentysomethings are infected with a mysterious zombie plague while locked in a movie theater watching a marathon of zombie movies. The massive variety of types of zombies, I mean, like, there’s both fast and slow, makes this film totally used.

BEST OFFENSIVE MEME

The AIDS Dolphin.

Is AIDS Dolphin tasteless? Oh my, yes. Is there a possibility that the omnipresence of this promiscuous marine mammal is helping to raise awareness of a horrible disease? You bet.

BEST NEW SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM

KeepIt2Yourself.com.

This exciting new site allows you to post all the angry, bitter, ugly things you don’t want to share on all your public accounts. KeepIt2Yourself.com features an intricate connection system in which all friendship requests are auto blocked giving you the satisfaction of saying no without all the social risk. Warning: This one is a real time suck. Almost more than TymeSuckr.com.

BEST NEW FAST FOOD PRODUCT

The Salad Burger.

The Jiffy Burger franchise’s game changing idea of constructing an entire heart healthy salad (with lettuce, ham, cheese, jerk chicken, and Low Fat BBQ Chipotle Honey Mustard Dressing) then serving it between two massive quarter pound Angus Beef Burgers on a Butter Injected Bun was only missing one thing: bacon. Luckily, the company recognized this embarrassing gaffe, called a press conference, made a public apology, and immediately released The Salad Burger 2.0: Bacon Harder.

BEST META JOKE IN A BEST OF LIST

This one.

And that’s 2011! I look forward to writing my Best of 2012 which should include only one item: Best Apocalypse.

If you feel I missed any really, really great things that didn’t happen in 2011, feel free to add yours to the comments section.

Happy New Year and all the best (real or fake) in 2012!

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A Death Star To Guide Me

The following is the letter I should have sent to Santa Claus when I was a young boy.

Dear Mr. Claus,

My name is Joseph Aaron Scrimshaw. The adults in my family call me Joey. I hate that. I tell them my name is Joseph. They laugh and call me cute. I tell them their reaction is condescending and pejorative. At this point, most adults leave the room.

Their loss.

But back to subject matter that is more germane to this missive. In regards to my Christmas present this year–it is my deepest desire to be the first child on my block to own a Death Star Space Station play set inspired by the major motion picture event, Star Wars.

Now, Santa, I realize you are probably not a fan of this recently released sci fi/fantasy epic since you are of the older generation and probably prefer more adult fare such as Annie Hall, ABBA:The Movie, or Exorcist II:The Heretic.

Suffice it to say, like yourself, Star Wars is rooted in ancient mythologies. Its timeless narrative allows young people to vicariously live a life of noble heroism through the main character, Luke Skywalker.

The film reminds us that we all have exciting destinies. As soon as a fascist regime brutally murders our parents or guardians, oh, the adventures we will have!

At the end of the film (after his second parental figure, Obi Wan Kenobi, has also been murdered) Luke Skywalker deals a terrible blow to the Galactic Empire by destroying the aforementioned space station, The Death Star.

The film’s phenomenal box office success has generated an unprecedented wave of merchandise. There are Star Wars glasses, posters, cereals, pillow cases, ornaments, etc. In Germany, you can even get Star Wars toilet paper.

Wiping your ass with an image of C-3PO seems like an odd way to express your interest in the film. But then, it’s Germany. I don’t need to tell Kris Kringle how weird the Germans can be.

(As a side note: I am so completely surrounded by the oeuvre of Star Wars, I often wonder if it will warp my mind and lead me to an adult life in which I obsessively quote the film and pretend any long cylindrical item I see is a lightsaber. So it goes.)

The most popular tie-in product is the Kenner toy company’s line of action figures. Action figures are like dolls that don’t threaten your masculinity. As much. The Death Star is a play set for these action figures. Sort of like Barbie’s Mansion, but evil.

And speaking of evil, I realize the irony of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ by receiving something called The Death Star. I could argue that there is a STAR connection to the story of Jesus’ birth, but I think we both know I would be equivocating.

I ask you to judge the Death Star not by the blatantly evil name (in fact, one wonders how the Empire got this name past the steering committee. Perhaps The Force was used?) or the rather inflated suggested retail price of $49.95, but rather judge it by the joy it would bring to me–young Joseph Aaron Scrimshaw. An intelligent, sensitive young man trapped in the barren wastes of the frozen tundra that is Northern Minnesota.

(Another side note: Northern Minnesota is much like the North Pole if most of the elves were alcoholics and Mrs. Claus had never heard of contraceptive devices. That is to say: it is lacking in magic.)

Rest assured, Santa, that I have exhausted every other possibility for acquiring the Death Star. I have asked my 26-year-old hippie parents to buy it for me. They answered a firm “no,” shaking their needlessly long hippie hair.

Even both of my Grandmothers put together to form a sort of financial Mecha-Grandmother could not afford the Death Star. I find this hard to believe as I have personally witnessed my maternal Grandmother smoke at least $60 worth of Virginia Slims cigarettes in one sitting.

And so, Santa, as holographic Princess Leia said to Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope. I risk no hyperbole when I say my entire world view for the rest of my life hangs in the balance.

I realize the Death Star is merely a collection of cheap plastic (and orange foam used to clumsily symbolize the garbage in the trash compactor), however, what magic has been fused into the plastic? Is it really an overly priced commercial tie-in? Or is it like a star itself? Both a muse to sentimental poets and a very real giver of light, warmth, and life?

If I receive the Death Star, I will be justified in my current belief that the world is a bright and happy place in which one can always make one’s dream a reality.

OR these fragile beliefs could be ruthlessly shattered by YOU. And I will be sentenced to a long and hollow life devoid of joy, compassion, and love. Suddenly, $49.95 doesn’t sound that expensive, does it?

Yours with much affection,

Joseph Aaron Scrimshaw

 

P.S. I must warn you in advance, I will not be able to leave out any cookies for you. As I mentioned earlier, my mother is a hippie, so I hope you will enjoy her seasonal collection of dried fruits and unsalted nuts.

Merry Christmas and May the Force Be with You.

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Condom Plus One

A wise friend once shared this pearl of wisdom about the early stages of a romantic relationship:

“Never buy a large box of condoms. This is hubris and you will pay.”

He told me this on a Friday. On Saturday, I bought the largest box of condoms I could find. The only way it could have been larger is if I bought it in bulk at Costco. On Sunday, with no actual knowledge of the hideously large box of condoms, the woman I was dating broke up with me.

I developed a paranoid habit of purchasing condoms one at a time. Unfortunately, I thought it was too odd to just buy one condom by itself, so I often bought one other thing. You know, to make it less weird.

Please, allow me to assure you:

There is no single item that when purchased with a single condom does not make the single condom even more bizarre.

As a Public Service Announcement for the socially awkward dating community, here’s a list of seven items one could purchase along with a single condom. Some of these are purchases that I have actually made. Some are not. Feel free to contact me with your guesses. If you are correct, I will buy you one condom and nothing else.

A condom and a Star Wars action figure.

This seems like it should be the ultimate statement of confidence: yes, I purchase Star Wars toys as an adult and plan on copulating. And yet, it’s not. There’s really no individual Star Wars character that doesn’t imply some disturbing fetish–Darth Vader equals auto-erotic asphyxiation; Force Spin-Action Yoda equals tantric masturbation; Princess Leia in Hoth Gear equals a deep and abiding love of cold repressed women. If you attempt to buy a condom and a Star Wars action figure, the checkout person will ask the same question about both products: “So, you’re not going to be taking this out of the package, are you?”

A condom and a Snickers bar.

This may seem like a safe, casual purchase. After all, everyone needs a mid-day snack and wants to avoid pregnancy and STDs. I would, however, advise against such a phallic shaped treat as a Snickers bar. You don’t want people to think you’re using the condom ON the Snickers bar. You will increase the odds of this interpretation if you purchase a magnum condom and a king-sized Snickers. Actually, any food product is a bad idea. An apple and a condom suggests you’re planning some sort of dubious Garden of Eden cosplay. And that’s not going to help anyone.

A condom and a day planner.

This tells a simple and sad story. You will be having sex exactly once this year. You just need to pick the date and write it in your sad little calendar, you sad anal-retentive sex planner.

A condom and a thumb drive.

This is almost acceptable. Perhaps you are a spy. All spies should have a condom and a thumb drive. Unless you’re also purchasing a wristwatch that shoots ninja throwing stars, you will just come off as someone who needs more digital room to store all the episodes of “My Little Pony” you’re pirating online.

A condom and a hoodie.

When you buy something that goes on the upper half of your body and something that goes on the lower half of your body, it implies you’re putting together an ensemble. A condom and a hoodie! It’s a new fashion statement! EXTREME casual! Look for photos in Vogue! Upsetting!

A condom and a Mother’s Day card.

I feel no need to elaborate on this one.

A condom and…another condom.

Yes, you’re tempting fate by purchasing two condoms together. However, this might be the most elegant solution to this thorny condom problem that plagues tens of neurotic shoppers every other day.

If you buy two single condoms together, there’s no other product to inform the awkwardness of the single condom. Perhaps you’re just too broke to buy a WHOLE box. And while two condoms doesn’t suggest you will be having sex often, it does create a sense of hope.

Even if you never use those condoms, they will have one another. Two condoms, together in their loneliness. Like so many things in life, it’s kind of beautiful if you just stop and take the time to obsessively over think it.

Happy condom buying, everyone, happy condom buying.

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A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A DEAD MAN

Last Halloween, I was challenged to write a scary story. So I wrote about the most horrible thing I could imagine. It’s not “creatures popping out of the dark, make you scream, run, and twist your ankle” scary. It’s horrible explicit gore. But not physical gore. It’s emotional, existential gore. It’s like a pompous French film version of Saw. It’s a story about fear. Please try to enjoy “A Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Man.”

John Ludd died accidentally on October 18th, 2011.  He is survived by his parents and some friends. I guess. When reached for comment, his parents simply sighed. John Ludd had no spouse or partner to contact. He also had no children. He didn’t even have pets.

I guess it’s safe to say John Ludd is survived,  begrudgingly, by his parents and the not insubstantial amount of mold growing in his kitchen.

And, of course, his friends. If you could combine the hundreds of people John knew, taking bits and pieces of all them, they would form one or two actual close friends. I, myself, am writing this obituary because you can only play hot potato for so long before that tuber starts to cool down and you have no choice but to say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, John was a nice, fun guy. He was interesting to observe in exactly the same way a black hole is: from far enough away that you don’t risk getting sucked into the void.

But here I go.

John Ludd was a novelist. He was cooking up a great American novel in his head. But there seemed to be an unfortunate blockage between his head and his fingers because, to my knowledge, not a single word of that novel exists in the corporeal world.

John spent his final days on his smartphone playing a game called Words With Friends. Words With Friends should be called A Barely Legal Rip-Off Of Scrabble With Strangers From The Internet. Of course, that’s not quite as appealing. But then honesty never is.

John held a string of crappy office jobs. He would immerse himself in petty office politics—who got to take a longer break, whose key card allowed them to swipe into the slightly nicer bathroom, how come someone threw out his week old frozen pizza leftovers after only giving him three written warnings but no verbal warnings, and on and on.

It was almost as if he needed to cram pointless crap in his head to make sure the great novel simmering in there never had a chance to come to a full boil.

Still, John was not without his accomplishments. He once scored over 120 points in Words With Friends. Even more impressively, he did this by spelling the word “Jazz.” It must be noted, the game only provides one “Z.” So John, in a display of patience and planning rarely seen in his life, had to hold on to the high point letters of “J” and “Z” until a blank tile came up that he could transform into a second “Z.” Luckily, John immediately took a screen capture of the game or this momentous achievement in his life would be lost to the mists of time.

I knew John, as almost everyone did, as that mildly entertaining guy who hung out at the kind of depressing bar that had a really good happy hour deal on Miller High Life. I would call John a bar fly, but comparing him to a weaving darting creature like a fly would not communicate the anchor like weight with which he sat at the bar. John was a bar hippo.

John had an uncanny ability to know exactly how other people should fix their lives with absolutely no ability to apply the same ideas to his own. He would dole out advice like “remember to keep things in perspective” and “just be the best you you can be,” not to mention rhetorical winners like, “Are you afraid to be fearless?”

Sometimes, after a particularly long rant, listeners would comment, “You should write that down, you could use it for your novel.” To which John would reply, “You’re right. Another pitcher sounds like a great idea,”  and launch into yet another cheap beer infused tirade about the mysteries of the universe.

Alas, in my humble opinion, life is like a “life is like” analogy made at a bar late at night. It only makes sense to people who are drunk.

John always said he wanted to die in an interesting, flamboyant manner.  And, well, there’s no way to sugar coat it, he failed at that, too.

John died as he lived. Just fucking sitting there. There was a slow but deadly carbon monoxide leak in his apartment building. Everyone else got out as their alarms alerted them to a problem. Not only had John removed the batteries from his alarm, he had earbuds in and his iPod set to maximum volume. As far as we can tell, the last thing he heard or experienced was Led Zeppelin III. Which isn’t even a particularly good album.

John did not believe in the afterlife. Which should be a comfort to his atheist friends, I guess. And god knows, atheists could use some comfort. After all, atheists are, by definition, cheated out of the opportunity to gloat. When you die and stop existing there’s really no opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

To be perfectly honest, I used to be an atheist.  But after John died, I just can’t. I mean, the man did nothing. It’s frankly amazing that I have so much to say about someone who did so little. I want there to be an afterlife, so John can DO SOMETHING.

Screw the great American novel! Write a cookbook, a haiku, carve a dirty limerick on the back of whatever tablets god’s cooking up for us in the next century. Just make a fucking impression.

In conclusion, John Ludd was a novelist.

He had a great novel.

In his head.

He once tried to shotgun a beer out of a glass bottle.

There will probably be a small, informal memorial service at the bar during happy hour. Maybe we’ll scratch his name on his favorite stool. And we’ll share memories.

One last memory before I go. John often talked about what he would do after his novel was published and he made a bunch of money. He described this moment as “when his ship comes in.” It always struck me as a pretty depressing turn of phrase for someone who lives in the middle of the land-locked Midwest. But in all fairness, I think a lot of us are waiting for our ships to come in.

Allow me to close by sharing my new personal motto. A motto that is, at the very least, co-written with John Ludd.

If all I intend to do with my life is wait for my ship to come in, the least I can do is move a little closer to the fucking ocean.

Thank you.

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Rock N’ Delicate Roll

Rock n’ roll is delicate. Yes, it’s powerful and sexy, but maintaining the illusion of all that sexy power is such intricate work. It’s like a little lace doily in the shape of a penis. It’s ridiculous.

In high school, I played drums in a rock n’ roll band. Like all high school rock n’ roll bands, we did it because we loved the music. And by “loved the music,” I mostly mean “wanted girls to like us.” Oddly, we chose to call our band The Flaming Twinkeez. A name that could easily win the glitter encrusted tiara and scepter at the Most Blatantly Homosexual Band Name Evaaar Pageant. We were young and stupid. I insisted on spelling it “Twinkeez” to avoid legal issues when we made it big. Even when we tried to be smart–we were stupid.

The Flaming Twinkeez’s set list was some Pink Floyd, some Led Zeppelin, some Metallica, one original song about eating chili, and almost every Guns N’ Roses song.

I loved Guns N’ Roses. They smoked and drank and had overdoses and occasionally attacked their audience members. Unlike a lot of hard rock musicians at the time, they weren’t closet classical music fans with blow-dried mullets. They actually did the horrible things they sang about doing.

I was a scrawny, angry kid who liked to write and draw and get good grades so I could stay on the honor roll and get a 50% discount from the local Domino’s Pizza owned by Jesse Ventura. I was not entirely happy with my life. I identified with Axl’s anger. His skeletal, heroin chic look bolstered my self-image. Guns N’ Roses’ music did what it should: it offered a catharsis.

Eventually, the Twinkeez broke up after our two lead guitar players had a spat about whose amp should be louder. Two lead guitarists. We were so stupid.

As I grew up, I found my catharsis in writing and performing comedy. But I continued to listen to Guns N’ Roses. It was the soundtrack to a huge chunk of my life. It was a part of our culture. It was now being played on oldie’s channels. I even bought Chinese Democracy the day it came out. I drank whiskey and listened to the whole thing and didn’t hate it.

But with all the Guns N’ Roses obsession, I never saw Axl perform live. So when the band came through Minneapolis recently, I decided to carpe the fucking diem and buy tickets.

We sat in the second row of the balcony. As evidenced by this photo my wife snapped, I was almost surprised to find myself there.

I took a look around and the snark flood gates opened. I tweeted this:

My reaction to the crowd: Welcome to the middle-aged people wearing black who smell of pot jungle, baby. #GunsNRoses

But I was wrong. Not all the douchebags were middle-aged. When I walked into the bathroom, I headed to the stall to urinate. A young douchebag yelled, “Only fags pee in stalls!” Which was odd, because he was pissing in a trough along with five other guys–wangs hanging out like some limp dicked douchebag honor guard.

I started to think the simple term douchebag would not be enough to differentiate the audience members. Perhaps I would need to construct an elaborate taxonomy of douche-things. Douche-bags, douche-heads, douche-canoes,  douche-bungalows, douche-heinekens, etc.

Two ironic hipsters sat in front of us shouting disparaging comments at the stage before anyone was even on it. They reminded me of the balcony dwelling Muppets, Statler and Waldorf, but not as cool. I thought of them as Statler and Asshat.

A man behind us sighed and said, “I got these tickets free. Axl’s not even going to show up. And I have to work tomorrow morning. In Fargo.”

An extremely friendly woman sat down next to me and said, “Hey, I’m going to try to sneak down onto the main floor. I’ll take my shirt off and wave at you, okay?”

The opening band started playing fifteen minutes late. They were boring, repetitive modern rock–like Nickleback but louder and less charming. In between songs (or it could have all been one song with breaks—who knows?) the singer would regale us with his wit. A sample:

“Whoever’s smoking that fucking green shit, I want some! If you could say one thing to your boss, I bet it would be like, ‘fuck you!’ What the fuck’s wrong with rock n’ roll, man? All these fucking rules and shit! Fuck, man, fuck. Who wants a fucking drumstick? I’ll trade you for a motherfucking pot treat!”

His liberal use of the f-word eventually caused him some problems when he told us in great confidence, “We’ve been on the road with Guns N’ Roses for a while, man, and let me say—they are fucking really nice guys.”

Really? According to the opening act, Guns N’ Roses were men who “peed in stalls.”

Blissfully, the opening act stopped playing music or speaking. I always thought opening acts were designed to raise the energy. No. They are designed to lower the bar.

About twenty minutes passed. Statler and Asshat screamed for Axl to hurry the hell up. Fargo guy considered leaving. The woman who wanted to be topless returned–thwarted in her attempt to get closer. She lit up a pity joint. I went to the bathroom again and urinated in a stall like a gay man. The convenience vending machine in the men’s room only sold three things—aspirin, ear plugs, and condoms. So many ways to dull your experience! The machine bore the slogan, “When life just can’t wait!”

I walked back into the packed, restless stadium. You could feel the confusion in the room. Why were we here? What did we even want? Was Axl going to be like he was when he was young? An ass-hole who starts his set whenever the hell he wants? Yes, yes, that’s very rock n’ roll of you, Axl, but you’re pushing fifty and some of us have to be in Fargo in a few hours. Come the fuck on, man.

Still, he didn’t show. It was like the white trash equivalent of Waiting For Godot. Statler and Asshat actually screwed around trying to take their shoes off.

I tweeted more. This time about the fact that I wasn’t even waiting to hear the real, original Guns N’ Roses:

“Soon the current members of #GunsNRoses will hit the stage! Axl! Not Slash! Guy Who Owns A Bass! Studio Drummer! Someone’s Brother-In-Law!”

Finally, an hour and a half after the opening band killed all the energy in the room, the lights lowered. All was dark save the glow from the prohibited cell phone cameras spread throughout the stadium. The room looked and smelled like a Christmas Tree made of hemp.

Suddenly, the lights blasted on, a familiar riff ripped through the speakers, and Axl bound onto stage and wailed.

In terms of a concert review, I’ll just say this: If you don’t like Guns N’ Roses, this was a terrible concert. If you do or ever did like Guns N’ Roses, it was amazing.

Axl danced. But not too much. He didn’t thrust his hips but he did a little jig that suggested he might do pelvic thrusts should the mood strike him. He jumped off things. But nothing too tall. He took his time and built up to the big screeching, bending notes. And he held them. For a long time.

One of the prohibited cell phones snapped a picture of Axl at the end of a song. The lights went out. In his youth, Axl would have jumped into the crowd and beat the hell out of the photographer. After a few seconds, Axl  said, “We’re having some technical difficulties. Thanks for your patience.” Then the lights came up and on he rocked.

The whole room seemed to wonder, “What the hell happened to him? Has he finally swapped heroin for Xanax? Does he owe the government money and just can’t afford to screw this up? Why is he being kind of awesome?”

I started to feel like a prick about my snarky tweets. I realized I had tagged them with the Guns N’ Roses hashtag. Axl could look at them. Then, I thought, “What if he reads them on stage? That would make a great story.” I felt like an even bigger prick.

There he was on stage—just working. He wasn’t trying to regain his youth. He wasn’t playing only the old songs. He was swearing here and there but nothing compared to the opening act’s carpet f-bombing. When someone threw a bra at him, he just said, “thank you,” and gently hung it on a mic stand. He was just delivering the songs to the best of his fucking ability.

Statler and Asshat were rocking and chanting. Fargo guy and not-topless pot girl sang along. So did I. The songs didn’t make me pine to be younger, they just made me remember what it felt like. I thought about who I was then and how lucky I was to be sitting next to my wife now, listening to Axl Rose screech about being a Rocket Queen. I didn’t know what the hell a Rocket Queen was back then and I don’t know now. More importantly, I don’t care. It just sounds cool.

The band played for almost three hours. After they did an encore, they came back and did another bow.  At this point, I was almost annoyed. Axl hadn’t done anything crazy. He had done very little “rock n’ roll” besides the whole performing three hours of rock n’ roll music. He was all doily and no penis.

After the whole band bowed, Axl walked back on stage. He stepped up to a mic and calmly said, “You guys were a great audience. We really appreciate your support. We hope to be back to Minneapolis real soon and we hope you’ll join us again. Thank you.”

There was a brief pause. Come on, man. Do something crazy. Read one of my tweets and threaten to kick my ass, say something crazy about the socio-political realities of democracy ever taking hold in China, punch something. At least swear, man, come on.

Then he leaned into the mic and said in a rich, deep, rock n’ roll voice, “Seriously, thank you. Thank you very fucking much. Good night!”

No, Axl, you crazy bastard, thank you. Thank you very fucking much.

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Bullshit Time

There’s a theater event in the Twin Cities called THIRST. It’s an evening of four short one-act plays performed in a bar. The only writing guideline is this: the scene has to be set in a bar. Audience members eat and drink and every ten minutes or so a little bit of theater suddenly starts happening at a nearby table. It’s not nearly as frightening as it sounds. This is a monologue I wrote for THIRST a few years back. Have a drink, enjoy, and try not to be frightened by BULLSHIT TIME.

Excuse me! Excuse me! May I have everyone’s attention for just a moment?

Hi. My name is Evelyn and I am a single woman. I’ve been coming to this bar every night for the last week trying to meet that special someone.  I’ve had dozens of blow-my-brains-out-boring conversations with individual men. And I just don’t have time for it tonight. I still have to go to the gym, grab a burrito at Chipotle, and watch at least four hours of television so I’ll have something interesting to dream about when I get my four hours of actual REM sleep before I get up and go back to work.

So basically, I need to save time by hitting on every man in this bar at once. And the ladies who are open to experimenting. I just want a life partner—I’m not picky. As far as I’m concerned a spouse is like a library card or a liberal arts degree–probably wouldn’t actually use one much but I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t have one.

Sooo, about me. I’m adventurous. Obviously. I am an excellent multi-tasker. I can do almost anything I set my mind to and bitch about it at the exact same time. I don’t cook. I’d throw my refrigerator out but that would just be another part of the kitchen floor I’d have to clean. I like to laugh. Sometimes I feed my cat a saucer full of milk and Jameson and then film her trying to play bat the string. I’m not a bitch about it. I don’t post it on YouTube or anything.

What else? I work for an office furniture company. I’m in charge of designing office clocks. I like to think that’s my contribution to bringing the different demographics of the USA together: no matter who you are, how you vote, or where you live—chances are you’ve stared at a clock I’ve made and cursed it for not moving faster.

It’s fair to say I have some issues with the concept of time. I call bullshit on time. Not even time itself, really, but all our bullshit rationalizations.

Time isn’t a friend that accompanies us on our journey. Time is an annoying little jerk poking you in the back. Time is that cliché where you’re driving a car and there’s an obnoxious kid in the back going, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” That’s what time feels like until you turn thirty or forty and suddenly that little shit in the back seat isn’t saying, “Are we there yet?”  She’s saying, “You passed it! You passed it! You passed it!”

And there’s no turning around. You can’t whip a shitty on the highway of life. You miss the exit and you’re screwed. You will never use the bathroom at that particular McDonald’s. You just have to wait for the next one. Even though all the McDonald’s kind of look the same, you’ll never know if that was THE ONE.

Not that I’m comparing men to McDonald’s. Sure, men can make you happy and fat and take years off your life, but they are inferior to McDonald’s in one significant way: they do not change their menu or policies based on social or economic pressures. I’m not sure if that made sense.

I don’t mean to be maudlin. I don’t care about getting old. Crow’s feet, love handles, cankles, turkey neck, the golden arches–you name the insulting term for the natural progression of the female body–and I couldn’t care less if it’s happening to me. I just don’t want to get old without having all the stuff I want.

Which leads to the obvious question of what I want.

I want companionship. I want to have sex with a man, then wake up and be happy he’s there instead of wishing I had an ejector button for the right side of my mattress. I want someone who won’t be offended if I accidentally drop the f-bomb during our wedding vows. I want someone to come with me to the emergency vet when my cat’s liver inevitably fails. I want someone who will lie to me and tell me it had nothing to do with the Jameson. And then laugh at his own bullshit.

I want a man who will give me a baby. Literally. Like he’d step out for a pack of smokes and he’d come back and say, “Honey, I decided to pick up some pizza rolls for dinner and I adopted this baby so you don’t have to deal with all that pregnancy crap.”

I want a man who understands that I want the destination without all the damn travel.

Sooo, that’s me. I guess if you could make it through my little presentation and you still want to date me, I’d probably say yes. I’d take you back to my place to meet the cat. I’d tell you to pick out the best of the James Bond films to watch on Blu-Ray and see if you get it right. We’d make sure we can order a pizza without debating the toppings like it was a nuclear disarmament treaty.

There would be no sex that first night. At least not with you.

If everything went really well, I’d pick a fight with you over money just to make sure that’s not going to be a problem. And after that, a hug. A nice warm make-up hug. Because no one ever got gonorrhea from a hug.

So, in closing, thanks for your time. Best of luck with your journeys and if you think I might be the right destination for you, just do what the television tells you to when you’re drunk at 3 AM. Don’t wait! Call now! Supplies are limited and time is running out.

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The Very Best Of My Very Bad Halloween Costumes

A brief remembrance of my top five horrible Halloween costumes.

1) ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER

Age 7. My cape was an old white pillow case that had turned kind of yellow. It was tied tightly around my neck. My tunic was a red-tinted Super Grover Sesame Street t-shirt. My little green shorts were a pair of long green bell bottoms. I had no mask because my parents were concerned about my safety. Apparently, they wanted me to be able to clearly see what was happening when I choked to death from having a pillow case wrapped around my throat. Also, my older brother dressed as Robin’s crime fighting partner: Humphrey Bogart. I am not making this up.

2) THE MASTER FROM DOCTOR WHO

Age 11. For horrible details, see this post.

3) AXL ROSE

Age 15. Some friends who lived in a not very cultured (okay, white trash) suburb of Minneapolis convinced me that we would get a “butt-load” of candy if we went Trick Or Treating as the members of Guns N’ Roses. I won the honor of being Axl because my natural physique was closest to that of a heroin addict. Our costumes were mostly jean jackets and fake mullets. We were indistinguishable from the majority of grown men who lived in this suburb. We did not receive a “butt-load” of candy. Perhaps, a “shoulder-load” worth, though. Most adults probably thought we had come to the door due to a paternity dispute involving their teenage daughter. No singing was involved.

4) A KINKO’S EMPLOYEE

Age 28. For three years, I was an assistant manager at Kinko’s. I happened to quit on Halloween. My girlfriend and I were going to a costume party that night. By now, I was an actor and didn’t like dressing up for Halloween. As I told her, “I feel weird looking like a plumber without doing plumber things. I don’t want to go to a party and put on a little plumber play.” As I tore into my closet full of theater costumes and props, I decided I should probably put my stupid blue Kinko’s apron in there in case I ever wanted to play a stupid Kinko’s guy on stage. Then I realized, I could play a stupid Kinko’s guy for Halloween. So I wore the stupid blue apron. I wore it ironically. And I spilled a decent amount of beer on it. Perhaps intentionally. Perhaps not. Intent and beer are often mortal enemies.

5) A GIANT SQUIRREL

Age <redacted> I now worked at a museum giving tours and performing. I felt obligated to attend a co-worker’s costume party. Strangely, the stage costume I felt most comfortable in was my giant squirrel outfit. The giant squirrel outfit wasn’t easy to put on. There were belts and straps involved. I put it on in my apartment. I walked two blocks to my car, while smoking a cigarette. I stuffed myself and my huge tail into a Subaru. I then drove several miles, hunched over the tiny steering wheel. I imagine it looked like Frank Miller illustrating a Warner Brothers cartoon. I got to the party. There were witches, mummies, vampires, and plumbers. I was voted “most creative costume.” People kept offering me the bowl of mixed nuts. I only knocked two paintings off the wall with my tail. Overall, I felt it was going well. I spent the rest of the night drinking bloody punch (cherry vodka) and chatting about the future of non-profit organizations in Minnesota. Dressed as a fucking squirrel.

Happy halloween.

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