7/29/11

Free Chair.

Since I am now an expert at giving away free stuff, as witnessed by my record-breaking three-minute giveaway of Some Kind Of Ass Building Torture Device, I have decided to help out other folks who have free stuff to give away.

There's a really nice recliner out in front of a house near me, and it's been there for two weeks without a single bite. I figure it's a marketing problem. Who wants a smelly used chair, am I right?

I made this sign and put it on the chair, and I'm pretty sure it addresses most peoples' main reservation about taking a free chair from the side of the road:



As of last night, the chair was still there, but I'm certain it's only a matter of time.

Also, typing is really hard because I chopped off the top half-inch of my index finger the other night. I can't wait to tell you about that little piece of stupidity.

Off to raid the Vicodin bottle. Wish me luck.

7/26/11

Bite me.

The mosquitoes are brutal right now, and every time I go outside it's like an all you can eat buffet of my exposed bits. That's the one bad thing about living in the woods in upstate NY -- the black flies of spring hand off to the deer flies of summer, and the mosquitoes are just all the damn time. Once, last year, I had about four or five of them trying to suck the blood out of my steak as it cooked on the grill. That's hardcore blood suckage right there. You have to be serious about your meal to try that shit.

I actually used to use an insect fogger around the place, but it tended to kill the butterflies, too, which wasn't optimal when your wife has a giant flower garden and happens to really like butterflies. So I laid off the fog for the last couple of years, and the flying insects have made a magnificent comeback. I was trying to take a few garden pictures the other day and was absolutely eaten alive while doing so. On the plus side, as I was swatting and swiping and swearing, it reminded me of a story.

The Snitch, Houdini and I were in the back yard riding on the whirly bird, and even though Houdini didn't know it, we were trying to make him sick. We were having a difficult time of it though, because it was only the three of us and the thing was completely unbalanced. Every time we got up any sort of speed one of the legs would start coming off the ground and the whole thing would threaten to tip over. We really could have used Markie. With a fourth for balance, we could get that thing moving so fast Houdini would be begging us to stop.

The Snitch and I heard it at the same time, and looked at each other. A faint droning in the distance, a high-pitched whine that sounded a little like a cross between an electric drill and a coffee grinder; a sound that could mean only one thing.

"THE MOSQUITO TRUCK IS COMING!" The Snitch yelled, jumping off the whirly bird without warning, almost sending Houdini and me to the ground in a pile of twisted metal and bruised ass-parts.

We jumped off too, and followed The Snitch as he ran into the house. "THE MOSQUITO TRUCK! THE MOSQUITO TRUCK IS COMING!" he screamed again, like some sort of mid-70s version of Paul Revere.

We had a job to do, and we took it seriously. Whenever the mosquito truck threatened our neighborhood, it was our job to protect our house by running around and closing all the windows. If we didn't, the inside of our house would be filled with dense, white clouds of DDT. The truck would drive slowly down one side of the street, traveling at perhaps ten miles per hour, spouting enormous gouts of fog, then it would come back up the other side and do the same thing again, pointing in the opposite direction. Sometimes we'd catch a break and they'd start on the other side and the wind would be blowing away from our house, but usually they waited until dusk on the most stagnant days, and the fog could sometimes hang around for 30 minutes or more. We didn't have much time.

As we ran around slamming windows, we could hear the obnoxious whine getting closer. It was loud, and the sound bored into your head like a muted chainsaw stuck on full throttle. Houdini ran to the front bay window and closed the bottom sliders and yelled, "I think I can see the fog! Hurry!" You'd think we were in a monster movie or something, and if The Fog touched us, our skin would bubble up and our eyes would pop and we'd instantly be reduced to raw, smoking meat and bones. Actually, the real reason was because my mother hated the smell of the fog, and so we did everything in our power to make sure the house was sealed tight against the poisonous fumes. If we got them all closed in time, we felt like heroes. This time, we made it with minutes to spare.

We ran back outside as the truck turned the corner and headed toward us, belching smoke toward our side of the street. We grabbed our bikes, and waited. Well, the Snitch and I did. Houdini was still a little too young to be allowed to ride by himself on the street. The front door on the house across the street opened, and Markie ran down the stairs. He mounted his own bike, jumped two curbs, rode directly across our front lawn and joined us.

"You guys riding?" he asked, nodding toward the truck lumbering toward us.

"Yeah," I said. "Looks like it'll be a good one, too. It's really still outside."

As the truck crawled by, we watched as the giant cloud billowed slowly toward where we were waiting. The greasy, kerosene-like stink of the fog enveloped us, and even though it burned my eyes and made me cough a little bit, I sort of liked the smell. It was a weird combination of charcoal lighter fluid and bug spray and it smelled like summer. We all thought it was incredibly cool to be standing five feet away from someone you could suddenly barely see. Inhaling poison, but that's beside the point.

But hey, it was 1972. Who knew? They were just figuring out that cigarettes were bad for you. To my mother's credit, she told us that we weren't allowed to follow the truck, but sometimes we didn't listen. If she happened to be away at a neighbor's house, or if we were across the street at Markie's when we heard the distant whine, we'd close all the windows and do it anyway.

We pulled in behind the truck, pedaling hard to catch up. We were in a crowd of about a half-dozen other kids on bikes, and a few more just running behind. It was sort of a mess back there because nobody could see, and we tried to avoid running into each other. Not only were we blind, we were also deaf. The truck was incredibly loud when you were literally ten feet from the power nozzle that was blasting out the fog. I remember that you could feel some kind of warmth, but I'm not sure if it was the hot exhaust coming from the truck, the residual heat from the sun-baked pavement, or some by-product of the fog-making process itself.

"It's gonna turn down Broderick street!" Markie yelled over the incessant whine of the fogger jets. We already knew this, because we were watching the same truck Markie was, but we were so excited to be flying in a cloud that nobody even yelled out the standard retort, "No Shit, Sherlock!" As the truck turned, we hung back a bit, because it was fun to let it get a little ahead so the fog had a chance to build up. Then you could go a little faster and not worry about passing the truck.

We were following the truck down the street and had just started coasting down a slight hill, The Snitch directly to my left and Markie on the right. Markie was probably ten feet away from me, and the fog was so thick I could barely see the outline of him and his bike. Suddenly there was a crashing noise and Markie disappeared behind me. I heard him yell "SHIT!," and The Snitch and I reluctantly peeled off from the pack and turned around, moving back up the hill through the thinning fog toward Markie.

When we reached him, he was just picking his bike up off the street and checking out the front tire. "What the heck happened?" I asked. And then as the fog cleared from both the street and my brain, it all clicked.

"Car got in my way," he said, looking down at the scrape on his elbow.

He had ridden directly into a parked car, and it was awesome.

From then on, we always rode down the center of the street when inhaling our poison gas.

It was much safer.



7/19/11

Check please.

I wrote a check the other day, and I felt like I was trying to remember how to speak high school French or something. First I wrote the amount where I was supposed to write the name, so I tore that one out. Then when I finally got that straight, I drew the line before I had written in the second part of the dollar amount. Apparently I don't know the difference between dollars and cents. I signed it, and handed it over, only to have it handed back because I neglected to date it. I probably looked like I shouldn't be allowed to live on my own, but that's what it's come to.

I write maybe two checks a year. Everything else is swipe this, wave that, click the button for the other thing. I pay my bills from my bank's website, or automatic deduction from my checking account, or even with this ridiculously old-school thing called Quicken. I'm pretty sure I may have actually forgotten how to write. It's that bad.

Apparently Indiana is phasing out cursive starting this fall, and I am pretty sure children everywhere are rejoicing. Granted, it was on its way out even when I was in high school, but to stop it completely is sort of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it's practically useless and it's true that most things are done on a computer now, but on the other hand, it's supposed to help with comprehension and also hand-eye coordination. I don't know if I buy that, but from a purely selfish standpoint, we had to suffer through that shit so they should have to as well. Plus if there's no cursive, all the kids will have to come up with their own symbol to use when they sign stuff. I guess Prince was ahead of his time. A hundred years from now everyone will probably just sign shit with a talking hologram of themselves, or a DNA sample.

I really noticed how utterly inept I've become at writing while I was signing books. At first I tried cursive, just because I thought it would look more professional. I felt like I had brain damage. I kept forgetting the order of letters, putting extra loops where there shouldn't be any... finally I just gave up and started printing the inscriptions, which was only marginally better. I must have wrecked 4 or 5 books so far -- just because I made such a mess of them I couldn't bear to send them out. And for those of you who actually received signed books and still could barely make out what I wrote -- you have a frame of reference as to how bad the ruined ones actually are.

In fact, I actually did send out some that I probably shouldn't have, but they cost me almost five bucks a pop, so I apologize if you got something that looked like it was scribbled on by a pre-schooler.

If it's any consolation, the signature looks different on every one of my credit cards, so I'm probably wide open for identity theft. You probably won't get much though.

Love,






7/14/11

Get Ready.....FIGHT!

Weener!

OK, I generated a random number between 1 and 64 and it came up all 31's.




If I counted correctly, (skipping my own comment) it looks like the winner is Robin.

The second Robin. Sorry, first Robin. Thanks everyone! E-mail me and I'll get your details and get you hooked up. (Also, if you don't want the Initech shirt, let me know.)




7/9/11

Fake Company.

Hey everyone, I know it's been slow around here lately -- I have a bunch of stuff to write about, but it doesn't get dark until after 9pm, so sue me. In the meantime, just to placate all you sonsabitches, I'm going to have a little contest.

As you know, once in a while I get offers that are along the lines of "Your blog readers would love our {x}! If you write a review of {x}, and post a couple of links, we'll give you a huge discount and let you pass these amazing savings on to your readers!" Number one, don't give me a so-called "discount" on crap nobody wants and try to pass it off like you just did me a huge favor or gave me a free iPad or something. I'm pretty sure they're not interested in your automatic squirrel feeder. Number two, I'm not your whore.

Well, that turns out to be not entirely true. Sometimes I am your whore, if you offer up something that tweaks my geek bone enough. Also, I'm not sure exactly where my geek bone is, but I think it just moved.

The other day I was contacted by crazydogtshirts.com, and they said they'd give me four shirts of my choice to give away in a contest, and all I'd have to do is hit them with some links in the post. That sounded easy, however I am normally not a "funny tee-shirt" kind of guy, mostly because I don't think most tee-shirts that try to be funny actually are, and also because I would probably never wear them. Since I'm all about transference, I figure everyone who reads my blog is exactly like me and wouldn't wear tee-shirts with sayings on them either. (I'm giving you guys the benefit of the doubt here. Don't prove me wrong. If I find out you're wearing some free mustache rides crap out in public, we're done here.) These guys, however, have some cool retro stuff, which I would totally wear. I would also wear some of their shirts that sport fictitious company logos from my favorite geek movies. Hence the bone-tweaking.

So long story short, I'm going to give you a chance to win a four-pack of my personally picked favorites. Here are the shirts that are up for grabs -- your choice of sizes:




Added bonus if you can name the movies they're from without asking the interwebs. And yes, I own copies of all of these movies. Don't judge me.

I'm not going to make you jump through hoops because I know how you are. You are not hoop jumpers. It's all I can do to get you to leave a comment in the first place. So I'm going to make this easy.

In order to win these beauties, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. That's it. I'll let it percolate for a bit, then in a few days, or whenever the entries seem to stop, I'll pick a random winner. Also, in your comment, let me know if you've bought my book or not. It won't have any bearing on whether you win or lose, but it will satisfy my curiosity.

Good luck! Also, free mustache rides.

P.S. - If you can spare a few bucks to help out a friend, please read this.

7/4/11

Mr. C's Great and Wondrous Show.

In honor of this country, absent friends, new friends and laziness, I'm going to do something I've never done before -- I'm going to resurrect a post from the past. My friend Paul's birthday would have been the 28th of June, and he's been on my mind a lot lately.

When Paul and I were still living at home, Paul's parents hosted an annual 4th of July cookout. Every year I would spend most of the day over there stuffing my face with hot dogs and hamburgers and pasta salads and chips. Before we turned 18, we'd steal beer when nobody was looking, chug them in the basement, and hide the empties behind the bar. Later on, when we were legal, we'd bring our own beer so we didn't have to drink his dad's Black Label. All in all, it was a good party, and we looked forward to it. The food was always good, and the fireworks afterward were the highlight of the day. I don't think I missed a single fourth of July there throughout all of high school and college.

After dark, when the coffee was brewing and the desserts were on the table, Paul's dad would break out a metric ton of illegal fireworks and put on a show for everyone in attendance. Most of the neighbors came over to watch, too. Everyone would applaud and ooh and ahhh over them, and Mr. C loved every minute of it. Because it was a residential neighborhood and fireworks in New York are technically illegal, he always went easy on the rockets and tended to stick with the stuff that stayed earthbound. I'm not talking snakes and sparklers here, I'm talking things like giant spinners, jumping jacks, boards full of nailed up pinwheels, and ground blooms.

Paul liked rockets though, so his dad always got him a few extra-large rockets that he was allowed to launch over in the baseball field of the nearby school. Part of our yearly routine would be to head over to the field at dusk and launch one right before the show started at the house. Then after his dad's show, we'd go back over with the others and send them up, too.

The one year I'll always remember is the year that things didn't go according to plan. That year, I think Paul and I were getting bored with the same old thing. We were probably around 15 years old, we were tired of the whole "family cookout" extravaganza. In our minds, we had become too cool for that. As we were walking down the street toward the shortcut through the woods to the schoolyard, Paul said, "I wonder what would happen if you lit one of these things horizontally? Ya think it would go anywhere?"

"I dunno," I replied. "It would have to be on something pretty smooth."

"Like the road," he said, looking up and down the street to see if there was anyone around.

There wasn't. Everyone was in their backyards with their grills going full-bore. The fronts of the houses were deserted.

"Yeah, like the road," I agreed. "The road would do it."

The road that Paul lived on was about a quarter of a mile long, and straight as an arrow until the right angle turn slightly past his house. He laid the mammoth bottle rocket down flat in the middle of the street and took out his lighter.

"Think we should?" he asked.

I could already tell he'd made up his mind to do it, regardless of what I said.

"It's your rocket," I said. "I'm just here to watch."

For some reason, I think we both expected that the rocket would just shoot straight up the middle of the street and that would be that. A boom, a laugh, and it would be over. Looking back on it now, I have no idea why we would have believed that sort of trajectory was even a remote possibility. These rockets were powerful, and wanted to go up.

He checked again for cars and people, and when he didn't see any of either, he reached down with his lighter and lit the fuse. While we were clearly ignoring the majority of the safety instructions written on the rocket, among them being minor details like "CAUTION: VERTICAL LAUNCH ONLY," and "USE WITH ADULT SUPERVISION" we did follow the bit that said "light fuse and back away quickly." We very quickly put about 20 feet between us and the sputtering rocket.

If you've ever lit the fuse on a large rocket, you know there's always that second or two when the fuse disappears into the body of the rocket and nothing happens. You wonder if it's a dud, or if it's just taking its sweet time. You are torn between waiting for something to happen, or walking up to it to see what's going on.

The fuse disappeared into the rocket, and nothing happened. We looked at the rocket, then at each other, and then back at the rocket. Paul said, "I think it's a d--" and then the street erupted.

The rocket took off down the road with a deafening whoosh! amid a huge shower of silver sparks and a billowing cloud of smoke. This was made all the more impressive because the rocket only traveled about a hundred feet down the street before it hooked left and jammed itself under the front tire of the neighbor's car with a loud, hollow PONK!

It sat there spewing an ever-increasing shower of sparks as we looked on in horror. I barely had time to think, "no, no, no, No, NO!" before the rocket petered out.

We had taken a step or two toward the car before we remembered what came next -- and decided that maybe moving toward this thing wasn't such a good idea.

What came next was not good.

As we watched, cringing, the rocket made a noise like a warm bottle of seltzer being stabbed with a knife, and then shot two dozen flaming red balls in all directions. The balls started spinning around madly, bouncing around under the car and jumping onto front lawns and driveways alike. Then, almost simultaneously, each of the 24 burning balls changed color to vivid green and exploded with a high-pitched crack.

At that point we figured the worst was over. We were wrong.

We had been watching this unfold for what seemed like an hour, but had been, in reality, perhaps six to ten seconds. A split-second later, fresh activity began under the tire. We looked at each other with expressions that were half "What the fuck did we just do?" and half, "What the fuck should we do?" For lack of an answer to either question, we just continued to stand there and watch as another huge cloud of smoke and a fresh burst of golden sparks shot out of the jammed rocket, right before it blew itself to tiny smoking pieces with an explosion that sounded like a mortar shell.

"HOLY SHIT!" Paul exclaimed.

I had no immediate answer to that that statement. It really said it all.

We waited another minute for the car to explode, and when it didn't, we walked cautiously toward it to assess the damage. Surprisingly, other than some gray powder burns on the tire, there wasn't any. There were some scorches on the road from the fire balls hopping around and exploding, but there didn't seem to be anything else burning. We figured we had gotten lucky and that maybe we weren't going to end up owing anyone a new paint job.

Unbelievably, we were still the only people on the street. We quickly gathered up all the bits of plastic, un-jammed the wooden stick from under the tire and nonchalantly walked away, as if it had been someone else entirely who had almost blown up the neighbor's car and lit the entire subdivision on fire.

When we got back to his house, we stole a couple more beers, drank them in the basement and then headed out back to watch his dad's show. It was great, as usual. We clapped and hooted at every one he set off, even the ones we thought were lame. Looking back on it now, it was great to be there surrounded by family and friends, with nothing but good times ahead of us.

The potential of those days was staggering.

Happy 4th of July, mate. I miss you.