I had to get cat food this morning.
It was a great day. The sun was shining, it was cool-to-warm, I was playing The Best of New Order, and the air had that evanescent quality that defies qualitative description outside of the word "nostalgic." And "evanescent," but that’s more a description of what happens when you actually try to define the smell. It reminded me of a less complicated youth, a time spent caring only about which 12-inch mixes I was going to buy when payday came around. It smelled like a municipal park on an early morning, like a trip somewhere exciting but at the same time bound for disappointment because I had been there so many times.
I speak, of course, of my years working at the day care. I can’t honestly imagine any other reason I’d know what a park smells like early in the morning, because the only times I’m at a park "early" are actually extensions of the night I’m still having; thus they qualify more as "late" (and usually as "being chased by dogs"). Yes, I used to work at a day care, and to be plain, working with kids was some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Kids are unique wee things, happy one moment and blindly irate the next. It’s not a psychotic tendency, like you might associate with that idea. It’s a singular lack of worries. Being a kid is totally stream of consciousness. Here, look: I dug back into my memory and downloaded a few moments of kid-dom onto this here "computer." Me, I’m just surprised my brain still has memories that old, and that they haven’t been eroded by reckless boozation.
[begin kid data stream]
hey this is pretty cool i have a coke and my nikes are pretty sweet uh oh here come some girls i better throw something at them oh man i’m actually feeling kinda sick it was probably all that weird peach flavored juice i drank earlier crap that reminds me i hate graham crackers my dad’s car is pretty sweet too and i’m totally going to tie some firecrackers to some arrows and shoot them later i think for halloween i’ll be a pirate yeah that would be rad how am i supposed to believe there’s such a thing as england i’ve never been there i wonder what ricky is doing i bet some of those cactus fruit have grown back from when we broke them off and threw them at buh
[end kid data stream]
Yeah, I knew a kid named "Buh." He was a good guy, but compromised by a weird life.
That gets me to thinking: I knew a lot of kids with weird names. Some of them went to the day care, while others of them lived near me. I’ll see if I can extract some of those weird names from the depths of memory, while I have it open here.
Bug (short for "Bug-Eyed Retard")
Puddles (Fathead’s sister)
One particular day care field trip involved a trip to a park we didn’t normally visit. It had a creek running through it, and a big, dead log floated in the center. All of us "counselors" — I use the term loosely, since I never really counseled anyone in anything but villainy and that wasn’t really what I was supposed to be doing — told the kids the log was an alligator waiting in the water, hoping some fool kid would jump in so it could devour him whole. We had to tell them that, really, because you know how kids are. Without the threat of bodily injury, all those kids would have been splashing through that creek within seconds of departing from the bus. Not that big a deal, sure, but when someone goes home all sopping wet and screws up his mom’s car, we counselors would be the ones with our asses in a sling.
The kids played in the park. Most stayed away from the water, but the usual battery of bad kids loitered near the banks, jokingly threatening to throw each other into the alligator’s lair, dipping their toes in the water, and generally requiring more attention than anyone else on the sole principle that they just might get a wild hair up their asses and hop in the creek, alligator or no.
Fathead was one of the little fiends hopping about on the creek bank, so I concocted a clever scheme. One of the older (but still bad) kids was screwing around away from the creek. He was probably throwing rocks at passing cars or something. I pulled him aside and asked him if he had any evil on his mind. He replied that of course he did. "Glad to hear it. Go knock Fathead into the creek," I conspired.
It was like watching someone hatch an idea. A look of malevolent glee spread over his face.
The look paused its spread momentarily. "I can’t. I’ll get in trouble."
"Well, here’s the deal. Yeah, you’ll get in trouble. You’ll probably have to sit out for a while. I’ll make sure that it’s only for five minutes or something, though."
Some of you are no doubt considering me a bad influence. I consider myself to have introduced our young hero-villain to the vagaries of real life at a younger age than normal. This is what’s called "negotiation." It’s balancing wants versus consequences. At the very least, it’s plea-bargain practice.
He took the bait.
The next few moments are lithographed in my mind like comic-strip panels. My protagonist took a few steps back, scratched his feet in the dirt for traction, and charged. Like a bull. Like a car building up speed to jump a ramp. Like a lunatic kid sprinting like all get out to dash another kid to pieces and send him into the creek. There was no need to haul ass as far as he did — I’m talking something like 30 yards here. He could have just quietly sidled up to Fathead and bowled him into the water. It must have been the understanding that there was going to be punishment (no matter how token) involved, and he wanted to do it big.
The impact was… well, it was… it was like… there were….
Words fail me. I’ll deliver the account neutrally.
Fathead never saw it coming. My thug hit him square in the back, impacting with a shoulder butt that carried an upward thrust — Fathead sailed up and out as opposed to simply laterally into the creek. He was not unlike Charlie Brown after attempting to kick a football that Lucy had cruelly pulled away. Remember, though, that for all intents and purposes, an "alligator" prowled the waters. Knowing this, Fathead did his damnedest to stay out of the water. As he soared through the air, he arched his back and pumped his legs as if running, like a cartoon character knocked off a cliff or falling onto some dire object (sharp rocks, a pit to Hell, the love of his comic life) and trying desperately to defy the laws of physics and avoid it.
While he avoided the "alligator," there was no way he was going to escape the water, however, and in abject terror, he splashed into its murky depths (about a foot or so). When the alligator failed to attack, Fathead gave up on his shrieks of terror and instead delivered litany of execration. Wet and foully dispositioned, he hauled himself back onto the banks to the taunts and jeers of the other kids — because kids are mean as snakes. All it takes is an exhibit of weakness or otherness to set them off on you.
My bully-boy did his five minutes nobly, whereupon he got up and fistfought a portly boy nearer his own height.
Then, as now, I loved my job.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, all you micks and would-be micks. I thought I was Irish once, but as it turned out, I just needed to take a shower.
A fish heading for slaughter in a New York market shouted warnings about the end of the world before it was killed, two fish cutters have claimed.
Zalmen Rosen, from the Skver sect of Hasidic Jews, says co-worker Luis Nivelo, a Christian, was about to kill a carp to be made into gefilte fish in the city’s New Square Fish Market in January when it began shouting in Hebrew. "It said ‘Tzaruch shemirah’ and ‘Hasof bah’," Mr Rosen later told the New York Times newspaper. "[It] essentially means [in Hebrew] that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is nigh."
Mr Nivelo told the paper he was so shocked he fell into a stack of slimy packing crates, before running in panic to the shop entrance and grabbing Mr Rosen, shouting: "The fish is talking!" However his co-worker reacted with disbelief. "I screamed ‘It’s the devil The devil is here!’, but Zalman said to me ‘You crazy, you a meshugeneh [mad man]!" Mr Nivelo said.
A disbelieving Mr Rosen then rushed to the back of the store, only to hear the fish identifying itself as the soul of a local Hasidic man who had died the previous year.
It instructed him to pray and study the Torah, but Mr Rosen admitted that in a state of panic he attempted to kill the fish, injuring himself in the process and ending up in hospital.
The fish was eventually killed by Mr Nivelo and sold.
When hippies rear their ugly heads…
When SUVs clog the lanes that decent citizens must use to travel…
When someone wears too much cologne…
When you have too much booze on hand and it needs to vanish, quickly…
…your cries do not fall upon deaf ears. Doc Vodka hears your clarion call — and he responds.
Coming soon to a bar near you.
So, the mass-market paperback of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords just came out. I’ll admit, I’m hooked on the series. It sort of reminds me of the War of the Roses and it gives me that distinct feeling of awe I experienced back when I first started reading Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series, way back in the day. You remember, don’t you? The red, blue and green books? Dragons of Something, Dragons of Something Else and Still More Dragons of Other Stuff?
That’s how old-school nerd I am. And that reminds me of being nominated for an Origins Award for Giovanni a couple years ago. They were nominated for another title of theirs and it was just sort of cool being considered for the same award as a pair of writers whose works I devoured back when I was a wee scutter.
I read maybe a hundred or so pages into the book last night. In one night, I read as much of A Storm of Swords as I had read of whatever book one of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is titled in two months.
That, of course, got me thinking. What was it about Wheel of Time that turned me off? What was it about the general notions of fantasy that Wheel of Time incorporated that soured me toward it, and what universal notions of fantasy did the Martin series employ that endeared it to me? Since I’m working on a fantasy property right now, I thought I better investigate this a bit, so I made some lists.
I have to be fair, of course. It wasn’t the Wheel of Time series as a whole that I didn’t like, because I didn’t read the whole series. I read as much as I possibly could of the first book — maybe 140 pages — and decided I didn’t want to go any further. Not everything on this list may occur in that series at all, and I wouldn’t know, not having read that far. They’re just general things I don’t like about fantasy. Also, this is by no means exhaustive. You know how cranky I am. I’m agitated by a lot of things, and these are just a few.
On to the stuff that bugs me.
Dudes with apostrophes or quotation marks or whatever in their names: Rand al’Thor, I think the guy’s name was, and maybe there was some other dude named Bran al’Vere. In my opinion, no. Is this a cultural thing? It just looks affected. It drives me nuts when people do it in Vampire, too — and I’ve even had to remark to one of my paid writers that it’s Baali, and not Ba’ali or whatever the fruity custom is. As if it wasn’t bad enough this person was using Baali in the first place. It doesn’t look cool, it’s not evocative, and it certainly doesn’t say "fantasy" inherently so much as it says "I’m really trying hard to be noteworthy or different here."
Speaking of trying to be different, using different words for stuff that is better understood using common verbiage: The little village in the Wheel of Time book had a gleeman coming to it. A gleeman? What the schlitz is that? I mean, it’s a real word and all that (and, to be fair, I have a "skald" class in the upcoming fantasy property I’m doing, but that has a distinct Norse element to it), but wouldn’t "bard" or "troubadour" have been less goony? I’m not saying fantasy worlds should have real-world vernacular at their core, as that would make it hard to believe the genre. Do we, though, need some "uncommon" terminology for stuff that people understand anyway, just to set it apart? A dude who says "gleeman" is probably a dude who says "utilize." The phrase for that type of person is "dude who’s trying too hard."
Little dudes: Ugh. While the D&D 3E halflings are a little less grating than the bloated, bulgy-headed hobbits of previous editions, they’re still childlike little buggers. And gnomes — yeargh, are gnomes ever a crime against the genre. Dwarves at least have potential to be cool, but all too often fall into caricatured stereotypes of themselves. Further wrecking the whole "little dude" phenomenon is the fact that little dude almost universally equals comic relief. Look at those Tolkien movies — the only thing that aggravates me at all about them is that whatever that dwarf dude is isn’t gruff or dour or even a character really. It’s impossible to take him seriously as the badass warrior he’s supposed to be as the heir to the thane of the underwhatever because he’s always tripping over his beard or farting or getting bit on the side of the head by a horny horse or something. The whole conceit is so obnoxious that I can’t even remember that guy’s name, he’s so annoying whenever he shows up, and the Lord of the Rings is arguably the seminal genre work. Glorin? Floromir? Zontar? Whatever, he’s the crappy, squatty dude who’s the Lord of the Rings movie equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks.
Well, the Florida show came and went. It wasn’t so good for us, as it was primarily a comics show with a very little bit of gaming tossed in. Not that that’s a bad thing — I’m always glad to see gaming take place at conventions that aren’t normally game-related. Gallons of anime there, too, which, unsurprisingly, agitated my old love-hate affair with the stuff. Honestly, I love it, but it’s so driven by front list that I don’t really ever feel like I can adequately get involved with it without dumping a significant portion of my monthly leisure money on it. Add to that the fact that, even when I buy DVDs, I watch them once or twice (with a few exceptions) and then they sit unacknowledged next to my video games.
We had two cases of Abyssals drop-shipped to the show, which we sold out of. I always like doing that — it makes me feel good. We actually had fans who had the game in their hands before we did, and I think that’s rad.
We made the trip down to Orlando via minivan. You remember minivans, don’t you? They’re sort of like the functional, non-dickhead equivalents of SUVs. The minivan had a DVD player inside, with exposed AV ports — so we snagged a power converter and ran a Playstation in that thing. The triumph of nerd-dom over tyranny! Also, here’s the soundtrack for the trip, as provided by me:
1) Plastic Bertrand, "Ca Plane Pour Moi"
2) Nelly, "Hot in Herre"
3) Motorhead, "Ace of Spades"
4) Love Spit Love, "Am I Wrong?"
5) Judas Priest, "Turbo Lover"
6) Dolly Parton, "9 to 5"
7) Dean Martin, "Sway"
8) Dead Milkmen, "Dean’s Dream"
9) Neil Diamond, "Cracklin’ Rosie"
10) The Damned, "I’m Bored"
11) WWE Theme Music: Booker T ("Can U Dig It, Sucka?")
12) The Fifth Dimension, "Wedding Bell Blues"
13) Van Halen, "Why Can’t This Be Love?"
14) Kraftwerk, "Tour de France"
15) Smashing Pumpkins, "Landslide"
16) Suicidal Tendencies, "Institutionalized"
17) Stone Temple Pilots, "Interstate Love Song"
18) Special Ed, "I’m the Magnificent"
19) Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman), "My Way"
20) The Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop"
21) The Clash, "I Fought the Law"
22) The Butthole Surfers, "Summer in the City"
23) Destiny’s Child vs. Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Booty" (Soulwax Mash-up)
You probably won’t be surprised to see some of those entries in there, as they’ve turned up here. In other musical news, buy this. Still further news is that Sasha and Timo Maas are coming to Atlanta and I find myself strangely but not unpleasantly apathetic. I guess rave is dead, if I’m any indication.
The antics at the show itself seemed to echo this weird funk I’ve found myself in. Usual convention modus operandi consists of a nonstop bender, from the moment we hit town to the last day of the show. That last day’s always a gem, as I’m typically sporting several days’ growth of beard and a booze-ruined lack of nutrition that leaves me with the shakes and cold sweats to rival a heroin junkie. This time, I had only one of those nights, and I found myself notably tired for most of the show. Obviously, I am now officially old.
That one night, however, was a glory. It began with dinner at Corleon’s, where we ate just because we thought the name was funny, as if they were thinking people would go for Italian food just because they had seen The Godfather. Luckily, the food was really good. We started with some prosciutto di parma and my main course was a tremendous chicken saltimbocca, complete with an entire roasted red pepper on top (one of my weaknesses). Topped off with a couple of Manhattans, dinner was downright great.
After dinner, it was back to the hotel, where there was a party going on, but you know me: I have to arrive fashionably late and unfashionably drunk. So we hung out up in the room and slammed drinks while watching the somewhat lacking finale of Oz. When the show concluded and we were adequately sloppy, we hit the party, where we didn’t talk to anyone but ourselves and I had to be talked down from climbing up on the buffet table and drinking from the little fountain they had up there. Actually, I think Brian and Chad talked to one of the convention organizers, but I was up in the room softening up a headache for that. Apparently.
The party concluded around 11, and we hailed a cab to head downtown. While we waited for the cab, we hammered around the parking lot, much to the amusement of some smokers loitering out front of the lobby. I found their self-righteousness ironically entertaining, even in the throes of booze addling — here they were, laughing at "the drunk guys making asses of themselves" while indulging a habit that makes them so stinkingly repulsive to everyone else in the vicinity that the world has forced them to conduct their fuming outside.
Not that I was any bastion of dignity. We were passing around a two-dollar bottle of grape wine that Chad had picked up at a convenience store on Highway 75 and I smuggled in hidden in my back pocket.
Yeah, so we ended up downtown and a club called Tabu but that I insisted on calling t.A.T.u. for whatever reason. It sucked mightily, so we ducked out. (We had actually been there a few years before and it was a fortress of drunken mania. I guess the years hadn’t treated it kindly. The last time I was there, we drank shots out of hypodermics and a cocktail waitress who looked like Geri Halliwell yelled at me for wearing a baseball cap backward, even though I didn’t enter the club with a baseball cap on. I don’t know.) Down the street was another place we had been years ago, and it was weird then — a goth/industrial club that had been converted from God only knows what, because the dance floor was marked like a basketball floor. This time, we ended up inside because after seeing the Bank of America devil-rabbit, we walked past and they were playing the Smiths, which we took as a sign from God, saying, "Fellas, you better get in this bar." Get in the bar we did, and we ended up dancing to some weird shotgun-effect of music that included the Hives, the Pixies, the Beastie Boys and New Order (with accompanying video). At some point, we were pogoing around and some giant devil-creature and bondage-girl joined us. GWAR was in the building. After devil-creature passed out on the ground, we took off and I ended up in the back of some pickup truck while the rest of the crew went looking for a party "at Mike’s." Who Mike was, where the party was located or what went on, I’ll never know.
So we went back to the hotel. Wee Chad went to bed while Brian and I continued to maraud, which led us to the hotel patio, where some people Brian knew were hanging out. I didn’t know them and I was perilously drunk, so I amused myself by throwing the patio furniture into the pool. I jumped in the pool, too, which is odd for me because I generally regard swimming facilities and hot tubs as Petri dishes for other people’s filth. You know how liquor is — removing inhibitions and all that. I also decided that I wanted to body-board, so I went over to the surfboard they had stuck on a post that had the pool rules written on it, which I punched repeatedly in hopes of freeing it from its moorings. That didn’t work, so Brian suplexed me into the pool, to which I responded by spearing him into the pool. About this time, security had just about had enough of this shit ("I wish you guys weren’t here on my shift"). That dude was missing about half his teeth, and I "negotiated" with him, convincing him not to mace us, but only to call the police. After one final, rebellious dash into the pool, we gave up and headed back to the room. Chad had prepared some MRE version of beans and rice in a coffee pot, which I gulped down before hurling my wet socks into his cot.
My pants were still wet when we got home, four days later. Gross.