Monday, May 28, 2007

Pan's Laberoso: a tale of the Odd Squodd

Last Monday night, Li'l Dill came over to watch Pan's Labyrinth with the Boys of Benjiman Street. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Pan's is simulatenously the story of a sadistic military man charged with hunting down rebels in fascist 1940s Spain and a horror-tinged fairy tale about the step-daughter of the sadist who believes she is actually the reincarnation of a mystical princess. An extremely well done film, with some interesting creature effects, such as the enigmatic Faun
his pet winged fairies (which are incredibly difficult to find images of online), and the bizarre creature with an appetite for said fairies who also gives new meaning to the term "hand-eye coordination."

After the film was over, Li'l Dill announced that from now on, he wanted us to call him Faun; not surprisingly, nobody really jumped at the proposed name change*.

The next day, Li'l Dill and I had one of our usual Odd Squodd email exchanges where we strive to out-random each other; Li'l Dill, the most random man I have ever known, generally wins. A part of this randomness manifests itself as constantly shifting email signatures; often mine are a response to his -- he signs off as Leroy the Dragon, I respond as JimBob the Manticore; he signs off as Peter Pan, I respond as Cap'n Hook, etc. Sometimes the signatures are directly related to the content of the email. After reading my blog post about the death of the Blue Beast, he sent me an email offering up his services as chauffeur if I needed them, saying that he had a hat and coat he could wear to look official and offering to wear a mustache as well; I, being the kind soul that I am, reminded him that by the time he was able to actually grow a mustache I'd be back from Oklahoma in my new car. His reply: "Nicely played, swan, nicely played -- The Ugly Duckling." And then, there are those times when it's just a product of our fevered little odd-ball minds: in one of his replies on Tuesday, he signed off as "Pan's Laberoso**" which, in case you were wondering, is not Spanish for Labyrinth, although apparently it is Li'l Dillish.

The night before I flew up to Tulsa, I went out for a "well, since your trip has ruined our surprise party idea, I guess we need to do something for your birthday before you leave" dinner with several of the Singles at Frillys. I don't recall what prompted him to do so, but at one point PigPen called down the table "Hey, Li'l Dill!" and when Dill looked, The Lovable PigPen placed his hands to his face and began to turn his head jerkily in his best impression of the Hand-Eye creature.

Li'l Dill, of course, did what any rational person would do when faced with such a situation: started fluttering his hands like he was one of the fairies from the film and started crying out "Don't eat me, PigPen, don't eat me!'

I nearly injured not only myself, but also the person who was walking by me at the time, laughing so hard; the laughter only intensified when Li'l Dill confided that he was this close to shouting out "I'm a fairy!" but was able to contain himself.

Before he left, Li'l Dill wished me a safe flight, and told me that he'd call me on Sunday to wish me a happy birthday; I almost immediately thought about starting up a betting pool on if he'd follow through or not. The mischievous part of me hoped he wouldn't, since it would give me a chance to give him a hard time***. And, on the day in question, as 10PM came and went without any calls from my fellow Odd Squodder, I began to compose an email in my head which would take the form of a short one-act play wherein I was offered the opportunity to do many wondrous, magical, and profitable things, but was forced to turn them all down because I did not want to risk missing out on a call from One of My Favorite People in the Worldtm, my loyal, reliable, trusted friend Li'l Dill. And, warmed by the thought of how much joy this faux guilt trip would give me, I started to drift off to sleep on my parents' couch with a smile on my face-- only to be awoken by the ringing of my cell phone. I scramble to pick it up, and noticed two things on its screen: first, the picture that signalled that it was, indeed, a call from Li'l Dill; second, the time -- 11:58 PM. Chuckling to myself at his last-minute timing****, I answered the phone the only way I could.

"Nicely played, Faun, nicely played."

*But, speaking of name changes -- I'm highly tempted to retire the "Li'l Dill" nickname and go for something which better captures the random and oddball nature that is the very essence of Li'l Dill; a mildly embarrassing reminder of his pickle festival honor hardly seems to do him justice.
**Honestly, with fodder like this, how can I stick with "Li'l Dill?" No, a new primary nickname is called for, and soon . . .
***"A day without giving Li'l Dill a fake guilt trip is hardly a day worth living," that's my motto.
****Quoth Li'l Dill : "I wanted to be dramatic."


Car Shock

A couple of days ago, my mom turned to me and said "So, do you think it's strange that everyone else is more excited about you getting a new car than you are?"

Well, maybe a little.

Like I said before, I don't necessarily deal well with change, especially when the change takes place so quickly with little to no warning. I've been in a bit of a daze through the whole process. I felt bad when Dad and I took the car he picked out for me for a test drive and I didn't have a "yes, this car is awesome, let's speed back and sign the paperwork now!" moment. Instead, it was more of a "hmmm, yeah, it runs, everything works, already have the paperwork drawn up, might as well go with it."

In case you couldn't tell, I'm really not much of a car person. I have changed a flat a few times, switched out old batteries a few times, and once, with the help of former roomie The Old Man, changed out my alternator, but that's about it. My big concern is if the vehicle is going to get me from point A to point B without breaking down or wrecking; the aesthetic appeal of the vehicle has absolutely no impact whatsoever.* And, remember, I had The Blue Beast for 12 years, and have gotten very accustomed to it's design peculiarities; anything that deviated from that would throw me for a loop, and trying to find a car that didn't deviate would be a fool's errand. So, since I wasn't hopeful of finding an exact replica of my 87 Grand Am that wouldn't have me constantly paranoid that it, too, would break down, I decided I'd just put my trust in my dad's opinion; after all, he's the one that picked Ol' Blue out for me 12 years ago.

Of course, there are a few things I have to get used to with the new car:

  • When I stop at a stop light, there is no longer that reassuring car shaking rumbling to let me know that my engine is running.
  • When I press down on the gas, the car accelerates immediately, without giving me those multiple seconds of "will I or won't I clear the intersection before the rest of the traffic arrives" moments that help remind me how much I cherish life
  • A working CD player will tempt me to abandon the joy of spending the 30 minute drive through the radio station dead zone between the Texas/Oklahoma border and the Arbuckles endlessly cycling through stations to find something that's (a) clear (b) in English and (c) not total crap.
  • The lack of fear of large parts falling off in the middle of a trip will mean that people might actually start wanting me to drive places

I suppose I'll get used to the changes eventually, just have to grit my teeth and power through the tough transition times.

*Well, I say that, but I can think of at least a couple of very boxy models of car that would have been deal breakers


Friday, May 25, 2007

Extended but Uneventful

Just a quick post to let y'all know that I made it to Miamuh in one piece*, which is always good, although I would have been happier if my one hour flight hadn't turned into a 3 1/2 hour flight . . . well, technically, the flight itself was only a bit under two hours, thanks to having to detour around storms, while the rest of the time was spent waiting on the tarmac to either load or unload. Normally, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal, but my still-not-quite-healed tailbone made sitting in the not-super-comfortable airplane seat for close to four hours a bit of a chore. By the time they announced our new ETA, I realized that if I had just rented a car, I would have already been in Miamuh by the time we landed in Tulsa, not even factoring in the extra 45 minutes or so to get off the plane and get our luggage since the baggage claim area had no electricity.** But, again, I made it through the flight without crashing onto a mysterious island filled with smoke monsters and secret hatches and underwater stations and mysterious invisible men, so I can't complain too much.

*Although, if we had been allowed to use cell phones during the flight, I so would have texted "getting to know you, getting to know all about you" to PigPen a couple of times
**Poor mom, who got there a little before 10, had to basically sit in the dark wondering where in the world I was, since there were no screens with departure and arrival times working in the terminal


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Silver Lining

Although the sudden trip to OK to pick up a new car has thrown a monkeywrench into birthday plans with the Singles*, something positive has come out of it: Redneck Diva has volunteered to contact some of our former high school classmates and host a cookout at her place. The fun part came when she asked "Who all should I invite?" and my mind kind of went blank. I mean, Cedric the Destroyer and The Photographer, being the only other Wyandottians I'm in regular contact with, were givens, but beyond that, I've had little to no contact with most of my former schoolmates. Oh, sure, I've added a few to my MySpace friends list over the past few months, but the paranoid part of me kept insisting that there's a far cry from accepting a MySpace friend invitation and actually wanting to see me face to face. But, I did my best Squiggly impression and told the paranoia "Shut your face!"** I then made a brief list of the folks I used to hang out with most in high school and passed it on to Diva so she can invite those she can get ahold of.

My philosophy is going to be this: if people are willing and able to show up, great! If, on the other hand, they get an invitation and think to themselves "Why in the world would he think I would want to hang out with him, I didn't even really like him all that much back then" (as the paranoid part of my mind insists they will), well, who needs 'em? I mean, if nothing else, I'll get to see Diva and Cedric for the first time in, oh, probably close to 15 years,*** which will make it all worth it.

*And not just my plans, as Cap'n Shack-Fu let slip that a surprise of some sort had been in the works for tomorrow evening when I informed him that I was flying out tomorrow morning
**Sorry, Squiggly; too good to resist.
***Dang, does that make me feel old


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"I've Got a Proposition for You": an Excerpt from The Boys of Benjiman Street

As we join the scene* already in progress, "THE LOVABLE" PIGPEN (who is chauffeuring his carless roomie, CAP'N NEUROTIC , to work) has just landed a verbal jab at the CAP'N's expense.

CAP'N: You now, I was thinking about suggesting that your birthday gift to me be letting me punch you in the face four or five times --

PIGPEN: [turns an incredulous look on the Cap'n]

CAP'N: -- but then I remembered how close your birthday is, and feared the retribution.

PIGPEN: [incredulity transforms into wistful joy] Hey, how about this? For your birthday, we box, and I let you win. For my birthday, we box -- and I don't.

CAP'N: [sarcastically] Sounds really tempting . . .

PIGPEN: [excitedly] Ooo, ooo, wait, I've got it, here's an even better proposition for you. For your birthday, we box, and I let you win. For my birthday: mixed martial arts. [evil grin]

CAP'N: Oh, yeah, that sounds much better.

PIGPEN: C'mon; we'll do best two out of three. [evil grin widens]

CAP'N: Well, I suppose by the time your birthday rolls around I might have a month's worth of karate** to keep you from killing me quite so quickly.

PIGPEN: [shakes his head in a "no, still going to kill you pretty quickly" sort of way]

CAP'N: [quietly weighs the joys of punching PigPen in the here and now against the months in traction that would be sure to follow]

It's exchanges like this that make me sad my folks won't get a chance to meet PigPen and the gang this weekend
**Yes, I'm thinking of taking karate this summer, thanks to the suggestions of the green-belted Squiggly; of course, so is PigPen, so you can probably expect tales of violent injuries on the blog to increase as we use each other as practice dummies


Requiem for a Blue Car

Good news: my cell phone is working.

Bad news: my car isn't.

Yes, after almost exactly 12 years of ownership (I got the Blue Beast right before my 20th birthday), my poor, beat-up, run-down automobile has finally reached the point where fixing what ails it ain't worth the cost. Kind of wish it had reached that point before I spent money on an oil change and tune-up instead of after, but such is life; while doing work on it, the mechanics discovered that the timing was about to go out, and warned me that the engine might not have long to live. My parents offered to help me out paying for repairs if necessary. Then my day yesterday went something like this:

  • Car won't start
  • Dad calls and offers to take money they offered for repairs and apply to down payment on new(ish) car
  • Dad goes car shopping in Miamuh for me
  • Dad finds car he highly recommends I purchase (2006 Kia Optima)
  • Plan is made: I'll ride back to Miamuh with folks after their visit and get car then
  • Plan is changed: Folks will pay for me to fly up on Friday, take care of car on Monday.
  • Plan is changed again to flying up Thursday night when I remind them that Monday is Memorial Day
  • Plan is changed yet again when I discover the huge price difference between morning and night flights; Thursday morning it is

Now, those who know me well know that I am not a spontaneous person; I hate making on-the-spot decisions of any sort, and something as major as new car purchase just ramps the usual stress up several degrees. Throw in on top of this the fact that I'm sleep-deprived; already stretched thin financially; dealing with some other, non-bloggable and highly stress-inducing issues; and still nursing a sore tailbone which does not relish the thought of the 5 1/2 hour drive back to Denton, new car or not, and you have a very frazzled Cap'n Neurotic on your hands.

Plus, with everything that's been going on recently, I'd really been looking forward to a nice, long, relaxing weekend where I could just sit around, not worry about anything, and enjoy time with my friends and family. While I'll still get to see the family, and might be able to squeeze in a quick visit with a high school friend or two, the promise of a totally relaxing time got thrown out the window the instant dealing with airports and hours of driving got thrown into the mix.

Don't get me wrong; I am incredibly thankful for all that my parents are doing for me here, and I realize just how blessed I am to have family and friends who are willing and able to help out in a time of need. Things are just moving more quickly than my neurotic mind likes, and I'm having trouble shifting mental gears to accommodate everything. I'm just going to have to focus on the positives (having a car with working AC, working cruise control, CD player, etc.) instead of the negatives (disruption of plans, budgeting for car payments).

The next step, of course, is figuring out what the heck I'm going to do with the dead car in our driveway . . .


Monday, May 21, 2007

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You -- I Hope

Yesterday, one of the newer (and still nicknameless) members of the Singles invited us over to his place for a pool party in honor of his birthday. The Birthday Boy, PigPen, Squiggly, and The Anti-Cap'n decided to take advantage of the pool, while Li'l Dill, Cap'n Bubbles, the other nickless guests, and myself just sat and visited. The Birthday Boy's mom tried hard to talk Li'l Dill and me to jump in the pool with the others; if I hadn't been there Dill might have caved, since his theme song is practically "He's Just a Boy Who Can't Say No," but I was there urging him to be strong and resist his nice-guy urge to please everyone. After a while, everyone exited the pool to eat, and then we wound up playing a game of Cranium; I loved being on a team with Squiggly, who enjoys doing all of the word scrambles and Hangman-styled fill in the blank questions as much as I do, a rarity indeed. PigPen declined to participate in the game, having apparently gotten his fill of it the previous evening when we played it at Trouble's house, and instead just lounged around in the pool, soaking up the rays. Not soon after we finished up the game, PigPen, who had gotten out of the pool for something, hopped back in and swam the length underwater, which I saw as a perfect opportunity to rush to the other side and wait for him to surface in order to peg him in the head with a small squishy ball. While I did manage to launch the ball at him while he was still unawares, my miserable aim unfortunately resulted in a miss. I bemoaned loudly, "I can't believe I missed that clo-- whoa!" That exclamation at the end was my reaction to having been shoved from behind by the sneaky Birthday Boy, who was incredibly pleased with himself for getting me soaking wet -- at least, he was until one of the landlocked onlookers asked if the Birthday Boy had stopped to think about what I had in my pockets. It was only then that I thought about what I had in my pockets: according to PigPen, he could see the realization explode across my face instants before I lifted my poor, waterlogged cellphone out into the air for all to see.

Needless to say, this kind of put a pall over my enjoyment of the rest of the party. I wasn't really ticked at the Birthday Boy; after all, he couldn't have known that I, thinking that the odds of me getting tossed in the pool had dissipated once everyone else had gotten out, had put my phone back in my pocket out of habit. I was just upset in general at the fact that my lifeline to the rest of the world had just gotten snipped yet again. My old, crappy cell phone? Never got it wet once. My new, fancy cell phone? Totally submerged, twice in as many months. The fact that it recovered once gives me a hope that it might recover this time as well; then again, the fact that it's been injured once before makes me fear that this second time I won't be so lucky.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Fragmented Friday - With Friends Like These . . .

The day after I got my butt royally kicked by PigPen, my arms were covered in copious bruises from his grip o' steel. PigPen apologized when he saw a particularly nasty looking one on my wrist, but I assured him that it was no big deal since I've always had a tendency to bruise easily. He nodded in agreement, and then hurled an epithet at me impugning my manhood.

Sadly, it looks like several of the Singles are going to be out of town or otherwise occupied the weekend of my birthday, thanks to it also being Memorial Day weekend. The biggest disappointment so far is the fact that this means that my parents won't get to meet Li'l Dill and confirm that he actually does exist and is exactly as random as I describe and not just a product of my imagination.

Last Friday I met up with Cap'n Shack-Fu for lunch while he was working the disaster assistance desk at the Civic Center. While we were visiting, I told the Shack-man all about my carpet fuzz misadventures, right down to showing off my quickly-fading bruises and repeating all the epithets the "Lovable"* PigPen had stuck me with. A little while later we got roped into helping a guy from the Small Business Administration put up signs outside; the SBA guy had no clue that I was just some innocent librarian dragooned into service until we were almost done. While we were standing around waiting for the SBA guy to figure out what he was wanting, Cap'n Shack-Fu gave me a playful shove, then with a mischievous grin said "Oh, I'm sorry -- did I bruise you?" Looks like somebody finally reclaimed their man card** . . .

Following my tailbone bruising misstep in Bricktown, one of my first thoughts was "Man, am I glad PigPen wasn't here to see that." I went back on forth on whether I wanted to tell him about it, since he has more than enough ammo on me to last several lifetimes without me giving anything else all gift wrapped like that. But, when I headed home early on Monday due to not being able to focus while sitting upright, I discovered that my poor pal PigPen had been up till 4 in the morning with some sort of stomach bug. Overcome with sympathy, I decided I would go ahead and describe my pain and humiliation, since that always makes him feel better. I knew he was really, really sick when my story of horrible klutziness and physical injury barely elicited a half smile, and nary a smartass remark escaped his lips. Of course, by the time the evening was over, after he was able to keep some food down he was apparently feeling much better, since he made a crack which managed to tie my tailbone busting to his previous not-ready-for-primetime remarks about the carpet fuzz incident.

TV tidbits: Good news: How I Met Your Mother and Supernatural have been renewed for another season. Bad news: Veronica Mars, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Jericho have not. Most promising new show of the fall: Pushing Daisies, from Bryan Fuller, the creator of two great, quirky, dark-and-twisty shows Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. You can watch a brief, quirky, dark-and-twisty clip right here.

While my tailbone injury seems to be improving each day, it's still uncomfortable to sit upright; when I told the out-of-town Li'l Dill the the next time he saw me I would probably be carrying around an inflatable donut to sit on, he kindly told me that he would carry one around as well, although he said that his would be just so he would look taller when he sat down.

Yesterday was Zinger and Pooh-bear's 10th wedding anniversary, a fact that I remembered before and after the fact, but not during; typical. The fact that 10 years have passed since their wedding is kind of mind-boggling, almost as mind-boggling as trying to wrap my brain around how long I've known most of the Parkerites. If you had asked me at my high school graduation if I thought I would make friends at college with whom I'd still be in consistent contact with almost 14 years later, I'd probably have called you crazy. Goes to show how much I know, huh?

Although I love Bubblegum Tate's word selections for the latest round of the Write in the Thick of It challenge, I'm afraid that inspiration has yet to strike me, which isn't good, considering the deadline is Monday and I have a full plate of Singles activities over the weekend. I plan on getting something entered in regardless, but I doubt it will be up to my usual standards.

*Does PigPen's new signature amuse anyone else as much as it does me?
**I kid, I kid! Please don't hurt me, oh mighty Shack-Fu!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Leapfrogging Into Pain and Humiliation

On Saturday the Singles headed up to Oklahoma City for our annual trip to eat at Ted's Cafe Escondido. It started a few years back when some of us went to OKC for a conference, had lunch at Ted's and fell in love with it. Is the food there really good enough to warrant a 2 1/2 hour drive? Probably not. Still, we look at it as a nice day-trip, a way to get out of town for a bit, and we try to schedule something to do afterwards; last year it was visiting the OKC memorial, this year it was the botanical gardens in Bricktown. It was there in Bricktown where the second humiliating and painful event of my week took place.

After we had finished touring the gardens, we started the long trek back to our bus. Along the way there were quite a few large posts sticking up out of the ground; I turned to Li'l Dill and jokingly suggested that he try to recreate the scene in That Thing You Do where Giovanni Ribissi leapfrogs over the parking meter and breaks his arm -- do you see where this is headed? The Anti-Cap'n and Li'l Dill both take me up on the leapfrogging suggestion, each clearing the post with ease. I, being of neither sound mind nor body, think to myself "well, that looks easy enough . . ."

When will I learn?

Now, it wasn't trying to get over the top of the post that was the problem; I got the upward momentum just fine. It was the forward momentum that caused me problems, as I miscalculated how much force would be necessary to propel myself all the way past the unusually wide post. I came down hard on the far side of the post, which then sent me hurtling face forward to the ground; I was able to keep from totally face-planting, but wound up scraping up my knee and nearly pulling something in my leg doing so. But the leg wasn't what was really bothering me; no, my true pain and discomfort came courtesy of my poor, battered tailbone. The only witnesses to my display of clumsiness were The Anti-Cap'n, Li'l Dill, and Cap'n Bubbles, and at the time I tried to keep the true level of my discomfort to myself, hoping that it would soon pass -- no such luck. I honestly don't know if my tailbone’s bruised, fractured, broken, or what; all I know is that, five days later, it still hurts to sit in a normal chair for any length of time. It hurts a bit less each day, which I'm taking as a good sign, but it's still danged uncomfortable.

The incident put me into a mild state of depression for a couple of different reasons. The first was just the fact that the injury was going to play havoc with any attempts to work out outside of maybe swimming, and I'm pretty bound and determined not to let anyone anywhere see me in a swimsuit anytime in the near future. Realizing that my attempts to get in shape have to be put on the back-burner for however long it takes me to heal -- not exactly a morale booster. The second bit of depression came from this neurotic idea that the incident was indicative of all of my attempts to be one of the guys: that every time I tried to do something physical I wind up injuring myself (tailbone, ankle, knee, hacking up carpet fuzz, etc.), that I was just a lost cause, laughingstock, total loser, etc., etc . . . . you know, the usual junk that clogs my dark and twisty brain. I'm pulling out of the spiral now, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I bite off more than I can chew and wind up shamed, in pain, and full of self-doubt again.*

*On a related note, I think PigPen has started to suspect that trying to break me out of my negative thought patterns is going to be harder than he thought . . .


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ultimate Benjiman Street Fighting Presents: PigPen "The Humiliator" Diablo vs. Cap'n Todd "The Hacker" Neurotic

Last Wednesday night I was channel flipping, trying to find a way to entertain myself, when I remembered that I hadn't checked the mail which meant there might have been some new Netflix waiting for me. Since our mailbox is located at the end of the street, I grabbed my keys and slipped on my shoes. As I headed out to the street, I discovered that PigPen and his friend Crawdad, who just moved down from Oklahoma, had gotten back from dinner and were just standing around outside visiting. I said hi, strolled down to the mailbox, was disappointed to find no Netflix waiting for me, strolled back to the house, tried to be unobtrusive so as not to interrupt the two visiting, and was promptly nailed in the side of the head by a wadded up ball of paper courtesy of PigPen. Nodding to myself, I bent over to pick the paper up, and placed it in my pocket. PigPen told Crawdad, "He's going to be saving that for later," and I said "Yes, yes I am," and headed back inside. I had now found how I was going to entertain myself for the evening.

I don't think I waited too terribly long before returning the paper wad to PigPen; I don't have a lot of patience at the best of times, and, while I hadn't been in one of my violent moods before, the opening unexpected salvo from PigPen outside had more than taken care of that. I actually managed to catch him unawares for once, and he complimented me for my effort with that tone of voice that suggested the game was well and truly on now. A short time later he launched it back at me, simultaneously lunging forward to try to retrieve it as it rebounded off my skull; I lunged as well, and was able to grasp the paper wad first. My victory was short-lived, as I found my wrist suddenly caught in PigPen's grip o' steel; my attempts to extricate myself and his attempts to pry open my hand soon devolved into a full-on wrestling match for control of the paper. I put up as much of a struggle as I could, but the eventual outcome was inevitable, and PigPen wrested the prize from my fingers. We then returned to our respective seats to catch our breaths and await the next move.

When PigPen finally unleashed his next shot at me, he followed it up with a change in tactics. "Now, Todd, I'm going to give you an option," he said. "You can take the paper, throw it away, and we'll have a truce; or, you can keep it, and pay the consequences."

Now, I ask you: how do you think that I would respond to such a statement? Even if I wasn't already in battle-mode after our grappling match, I think I would have been after that bit of condescension.* ”Now, Todd," his tone seemed to say, "you know you don't stand a snowball's chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks of beating me, so why don't you just be a good little wimp and spare yourself any further humiliation at my hands? I doubt I could think less of you than I do right now, but why take that chance?"

Was I reading a bit too much into his tone? All signs** point to yes; but, regardless of his actual intent, at that moment I felt like I had been challenged, and I'd be danged if I was going to back down. So, back went the paper into my pocket, awaiting an opportunity to use it to prod the sleeping giant again. When I saw an opportunity and launched it at him, huge "yeah, that's right, I have a death wish" smile plastered on my face, his response was a world-weary sigh, followed by a slow shaking of his head. "Todd, Todd, Todd," he said, "you know you brought this on yourself."

And so began Round 2 of our what I generously call our wrestling match, but which is probably more accurately described as "a demonstration of PigPen's complete and total physical superiority over me.”

Now, I don't know if it was because I was just worn out from our first go-round, or if PigPen had decided after I had rejected his offer of a truce that he was going to teach me a lesson about challenging my betters, but Round 2 was much more lopsided than Round 1, with PigPen totally neutralizing me easily with his many years of wrestling experience, so it wasn't long before I cried "uncle" and retreated to my corner to recuperate. However, since, as mentioned previously, I have a bit of a death wish, once I managed to catch my breath somewhat, I found myself mouthing off in order to instigate Round 3.

Now, if I had thought Round 2 was lopsided, it was nothing compared to Round 3, where my limited strength and lousy conditioning totally gave out on me, and PigPen utilized his superior strength and skill to toss me around like a practice dummy. It wasn't long before he got my back and forced me face down into our brand new carpet, pulling both of my hands above my head and pinning them with one hand while his other hand bounced the paper wad off my head repeatedly, each bounce punctuated by the rhythm of his diatribe: "If you'd [bounce] just thrown [bounce] it away [bounce] like I said [bounce], but no! [bounce] Now see [bounce] what you've done [bounce] to yourself [bounce]" etc., etc.

Sounds pretty humiliating and demoralizing, huh? It was -- and yet at the same time, it was totally hilarious to me. Having pushed and prodded and pestered him -- all the while knowing that I was signing the death warrant on what I laughingly call my pride-- I don't begrudge PigPen his display at all; I pretty much brought it on myself. So, even as degrading as the situation was, it's not the thing that left me feeling totally embarrassed and loathe to retell the story.

No, you see, as I lay there, face down in the brand new carpet, struggling to breathe due to being winded from the struggle and the huge peals of laughter racking my body at the absurdity of my situation, I took in a huge gasp of air which unfortunately also brought with it a sizeable chunk of brand new carpet fuzz which lodged itself in my throat. I instantly began hacking and coughing like crazy. PigPen immediately asked if I was okay; when I choked out "NO!" in between coughs he released me from his grip o' steel and I quickly stumbled into the kitchen, where I spent the next 30-45 minutes gripped in heaving convulsions trying to expel the incredibly persistent piece of carpet. The kicker to the whole thing was that it lead to me vomiting a few times; to understand how this affected me, you have to know that, as a general rule, I don't vomit. Prior to that night, there have been a total of three occasions in my memory when I have thrown up, and each one of those times I was deathly ill with the flu. *** At that point in time, the fact that my night of wrestling had ended with me standing over a sink, puking like crazy struck me as proof that I was out of my league, making a fool of myself, establishing myself as a laughingstock, etc. etc. Never mind that there's no correlation between how well I did or didn't do grappling with PigPen and the fact that I accidentally inhaled something that made me vomit -- well, outside of the fact that it was my not doing very well grappling with PigPen that lead to me being face down in the carpet and therefore in the position to inhale something which made me vomit . . . so maybe there is a bit of a correlation after all . . . Anyhow, I found myself apologizing to PigPen for the situation, and he kept telling me to shut up and let it go, there was nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. But those words went in one ear and out the other; the shame had set in, and would not be easily dislodged.

About the time that I had finally managed to get my heaving under control, I saw the wad of paper go floating past my head, only to land on the kitchen tile. "Now, I tossed it to you gently," PigPen said from the other room "and I'm giving you another chance to just throw it away." And of course, any sane person, having just been thoroughly beaten and then thrown up a good portion of their dinner, would quickly thank PigPen for his magnanimous gesture, and throw the offending projectile away.

I have never claimed to be a sane person.

Think of it as an after-effect of the shame of how Round 3 ended, mingled with light-headedness from the vomiting; horribly self-conscious about being perceived as a wimp, I didn't want to complete the image by giving in. Not that I was planning on launching another battle with him anytime soon, mind you; I might be crazy, but I’m not totally stupid. No, in my mind, I would save the instigating object until the next day, when I was recovered and he wouldn't be expecting it. Of course, I should have known better than to try to pull one over on PigPen; about 30 minutes later, the following conversation took place:

PigPen: So, Todd . . . did you throw it away?
Me: What, do you think I'm crazy?
PigPen: [pause] Did you throw it away?
Me: After what I just went through?
PigPen: [slightly longer pause] Did you throw it away?
Me: What would you do if I said no?
PigPen: [silently stares]
Me: What would you do if I said yes?
PigPen: [silently stares some more]
Me: What would you do if I said maybe?
PigPen: The question is, what are you going to say? [pause] Did you throw it away?

At that point, unable to keep it under control any longer, I broke into nervous "oh, crap, he's going to kill me now, isn't he?" laughter; PigPen once again sighed and shook his head in an "I can't believe this dope has managed to survive 30-plus years, let alone graduated with an honor's degree" sort of way before advancing on me; After easily thwarting my half-hearted struggle he finally did what he should have done in the first place if he really wanted to put an end to the mess, and threw it away himself.


A little while later, while we were watching TV, PigPen suddenly got an evil grin on his face, turned to me, and made a joke about the preceding which I refuse to share on a family-friendly blog****; while I laughed, I also inwardly groaned because I knew that now, armed with a naughty punch line, PigPen was not going to let the story drop. And indeed he did not, sharing it with The Anti-Cap'n, Peanut, and Crawdad as soon as he got the chance; and, to compound matters, Crawdad, upon hearing the story, decided to make the naughty punch line into a new nickname for me. So, I am now burdened with an innuendo-laced nickname which I, in all honesty, loathe with a fiery passion, especially since it will only serve to remind me of one of the more humiliating moments in my life.

And yet, the truth is that, up until the new carpet turned on me, I was actually having fun, finally getting a chance to get some aggression out in a way that was a bit more direct than just throwing combinations in PigPen's general direction; sure, PigPen mopped the floor with me, but I have to admit that there's something almost freeing about entering into a competition in which I know beforehand I have absolutely no chance of winning. Which is why I more than likely would have already tried to challenge PigPen to a rematch if it weren't for that other highly embarrassing moment of my previous week which has left a lasting impression a bit more physical than psychological, but more on that later.

*"It wasn't condescension" PigPen told me later, "it was just me slowly and simply explaining to you what was going to happen." Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
**i.e. my history of neurotic, paranoid, self-loathing behavior
***Two Christmases and a Thanksgiving, by the way
****I would urge PigPen not to reveal his beloved jest at my expense here, but I fear such a plea would fall on deaf ears


Monday, May 14, 2007

Cap'n T.M.I.

I have friends who are very stoic, friends who don't like to complain; friends who could be set on fire while being attacked by a swarm of killer bees and rabid squirrels all while suffering from an intense bout of food poisoning and still not say anything to anyone because they don't want folks to worry about them.

It should be only too obvious to you blog monkeys by now that this is not a trait I share.

I try to keep my problems to myself; really I do. But I find myself overwhelmed by this strange compulsion to share all the minutia of my life with others and, all too often, the minutia that's most pressing on my mind is whatever problem (major or minor (usually minor)) is afflicting me at the moment. Sometimes this is a way of working through the problem, especially those problems which keep me up all night with my mind racing; those are the ones that I have to share with someone else in order to get them out of my head. Flunky has probably been the target of these sorts of conversations more often than anyone outside of my parents, although there are others who have found themselves drafted into service to my neuroses (Dr. G’ovich, Papa Lightbulb, and iamam to name a few) ; PigPen is the most recent addition to the list, and I’m sure by this point he’s desperate to figure out how to get removed from it.

I think that sometimes I wind up blurting things out as result of the fact that I can't stand to sit in silence with someone; my neurotic brain always goes to the worst possible scenario, wondering why they aren't talking to me, wondering if I have done something to tick them off, wondering if there's anything I can do to test the waters and find out just how bad I've screwed things up this time without realizing it, I know, I'll tell them all about the nasty papercut I got at work while opening up the mail, that'll be sure to break the ice, oh, no, they're looking at me like I'm some lunatic, retreat, retreat!

Or, y'know, something like that.

Of course, sharing my woes isn't the only way that I overwhelm friends and family with meaningless trivia about my day to day existence. There's also the usual "here's an amusing anecdote" style conversation, which never seems to be as amusing to others as it is to me; don't know whether I should blame that more on a difference in opinion of what is and isn't "interesting," or on my lackluster verbal storytelling skills. I mean, it's always a bad sign when the people you're trying to regale with stories try to have a conversation over you or are too busy screaming at the TV to pay any attention to what you’re saying, right? I thought so.

I also have a tendency to tell on myself when I do something I feel guilty about; did it as a little kid, did it in college, do it still today. When other people try to guilt trip me, I get stubborn and dig in my heels; when I guilt trip myself, I give in every time.

And then, of course, there is the way I can't keep from telling embarrassing stories about myself; whenever I do something potentially mentally scarring, I always tell myself that I'm not going to tell anybody, but it's never too long before the need to overshare wins out and I'm telling everyone I meet about my latest blunder. Since the advent of CoIM, many of these embarrassing moments have been immortalized online for the enjoyment of generations to come -- since I'm frequently accused of writing embarrassing things about others while painting myself in a positive light, I figure that relating some of my less than shining moments should be enough to mollify those who feel like they've been unfairly singled out for mockery.

In keeping with this, I have to say that I am currently sitting on two highly embarrassing and humiliating moments from this past week, both of which started with me trying to engage in some physical activity (one which harkens back to my recent violent streak and one which didn’t), and which both ended with me, flat on my face, showered with pain and humiliation. I really hadn't wanted to share either one with anyone, but I should have known that was a futile desire; the first one was spread quickly by PigPen, sole witness* to the event, who found my humiliation too entertaining not to share with one and all, which has caused me to threaten to retract several of my positive comments about him, but it’s a hollow threat, and he knows it. Meanwhile, the second bout of humiliation has had a lasting after-effect which has pushed it from "embarrassing moment" to "current problem" status, and is thus much more difficult for me to keep from blabbing to one and all. Subsequently, these stories have been spread to a few select individuals, but I have so far managed to suppress the desire to post them to the blog for one and all to see. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time before my willpower fails me.

*For the record: while PigPen holds some culpability in the scenario, I freely admit that I brought it all upon myself, and was the one most directly responsible for my own discomfort and shame.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Boy Who Cried Squirrel

While on the phone with Li'l Dill this afternoon:

Dill: So, my Grampa rolled up his sleeve to show me his old Navy tattoo and -- wait, wait, there's a rabid squirrel! There's a rabid squirrel coming towards me.
Me: Run, Dill, run!
Dill: I swear, it's a rabid squirrel. [calling to friend/co-worker/neighbor B.B.] Hey, B.B., come on out here, there's a rabid squirrel, you gotta see it, and, wait, it's not there anymore, but I swear it was, oh, dang it, this is going on the blog, B.B., I can feel it.
{a few minutes later}
Dill: So, then he says "If I ever find out that you got a tattoo, I'd --" There it is again! B.B., there it is again! Look, it came right over this way, and under here and, well, it's not there anymore, but it was, I swear, you gotta believe me.
B.B.: You're the boy who called squirrel.
Dill: And that's going to be the name of the blog post.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Fragmented Friday - "And Leon's Getting Laaaaaaaaaaaaaarger"

I know my posts have been pretty PigPen heavy recently, but there's a pretty good reason for that; he's about the only person I ever see or do anything with these days. Between the horrid weather, the end of school, work schedules, travel plans, and the like, most of The Singles are in constant motion and hard to pin down. Li'l Dill has been out of town for work quite a bit recently, and even though he's been in town all this week, I still haven't had a chance to hang out with him because he's too busy catching up on all the stuff that piled up while he was gone. And poor Squiggly: after months and months of having to miss out on stuff because she had to go to class, she's finally done with school for a month or so just in time for everyone else to be too busy or distracted to do anything. Think we're going to have to force quality time on the group next week for her sake, whether they like it or not.

This morning as I walked out to my car I initially thought that one of our neighbors' houses had caught on fire because it looked like our place was enveloped in smoke; after I realized it was just an unusually thick fog, which is when I got the inspiration for the blog post title. 15 Blog Monkey points to everyone who knows where that comes from.

I've found out that our church is going to change the way they do Sunday School soon; basically, they're going to mandate that all Sunday School classes align their lessons with whatever series our pastor is preaching on. While I can understand the desire for a united message throughout the church body, I can't help but worry about how this is going to alter the way I prepare my lessons. I don't want to just do canned lessons, nor do I want to have to scramble to find material which fits into the overall "theme" of each series. I prefer to go through a single book verse by verse, trying to put it all in the proper historical, cultural, and theological context, and I'm afraid that's going to soon be a thing of the past.

Cap'n Shack-Fu and PigPen may be The HyperTwins, but Li'l Dill and I are The Odd Squad . . . although, I suppose if we were really odd we'd spell it "squodd" . . . anyhow, if I were to try to keep track of all of the nicknames Li'l Dill assigns himself in our email exchanges, it would necessitate a blog in and of itself. Which could explain why I really don't have too many posts about Li'l Dill, even though he is One Of My Favorite People In The Worldtm; it's just too danged hard to capture the essence of Li'l Dill in such a mundane setting as a blog. I definitely plan on trying, though.

Two weeks until my parents come down, and I still have no idea what I'm going to do to entertain them while they're here. About the only plans I have are (a) eating at Frillys; (b) eating at Texas Roadhouse; (c) making them (or mom, at least) watch Unconditional Love; and (d) going to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Beyond that, I foresee a lot of sitting around doing nothing.

Some random pics from our last paintball excursion:

All right, who gave Fluffy and Cap'n Cluck firearms?

Which of these things is not like the others, which of these things does not belong . . .

Come on, drive recklessly around me, I dare ya.

"I was framed, I tell you, framed! Curse you, Enoch!"

Apparently, Phase Three of the plan involves a bayonet . . .

Just about perfect timing on Shutterbug Shack-Fu's part; great pic.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

He's Not the Devil, but He Plays One on My Blog

I mentioned last week that PigPen had made a comment about how I portray him in a negative light on the blog, and how people who don't really know him might get the wrong idea. I kind of laughed it off, thinking he was being paranoid, until the past couple of days, when conversations with a few different blog monkeys revealed that PigPen's paranoia was justified: my tales of him have apparently convinced some long-distance readers that he is a "jerk."

Dang, I hate it when he's right.

You'd think I would have learned my lesson after the early days of the blog, when I was accused of portraying both Flunky and G'ovich, my two best friends in college, as bad guys*. Of course, G'ovich enjoyed playing the role of villain, even cultivating it in his guest blog post many moons ago, and I was more than happy to oblige the Eeeeeeeeevil one by portraying him as my arch-nemesis, but it still bothered me that my tongue-in-cheek joking had been construed as accurate representations of them. I addressed this in a couple of posts back in October of '05**:

CoIM is based on reality, of that there is no doubt. The people are real, the relationships are real, and the situations are real, at least up to a point. And that point is represented by my role as editor. I tend towards hyperbole and superlatives at the best of times in everyday life; when it comes to flexing my creative muscles, you can increase that hyperbolic tendency by at least a factor of a gazillion, easily . . . If you read my ramblings and think they give you a 100% accurate picture of my friends and family, may I first please slap you upside the back of your head for being so dense before directing your attention to my earlier statements about my tendencies towards hyperbole. I fall into patterns when joking around with people in real life, and those patterns get magnified by a magnitude of at least 2 gazillion when I sit down at the keyboard. I ascribe sinister motives to all of G’ovich’s actions not because I think he’s the embodiment of evil, but because it amuses me to do so. Nor do 99% of the jokes at St. Flunky’s expense have any basis in reality beyond my need for a cheap joke. . . I do worry at times that these exaggerated portrayals might alienate their subjects; if there’s one thing that can’t be over-exaggerated, it’s my tendency to worry needlessly and read too much into simple behavior. But I also sometimes have trouble knowing when enough is enough, getting caught up in the moment and not realizing that I’ve crossed that line between all-in-good-fun and ticking-people-off. I would hope that anyone mentioned here would know it was all meant in jest, but of course, even the most innocent-intentioned jests can cut like a knife if they stray too near an open wound of the psychological variety.
Now, here we are, a year and a half later, and I'm still falling into the same trap, carrying my back-and-forth with PigPen in the real world over to the blogging world, totally forgetting that some blog monkeys, having never seen PigPen and me interact, would miss the true intent of my posts. People see me talking about the jabs he takes at me, and don't seem to key in on the jabs I'm taking at him in turn.

The problem is that, for the most part, I write the blog to entertain, and I find those times when PigPen has gotten the better of me much more entertaining to relate than the times he's just been a good guy, patiently putting up with my crap. When I post a story about him mocking me, it's not an actual attempt to play the martyr, saying "Oh, poor pitiful me, being bullied by the mean old PigPen," even if that's how I coach it; no, it's really me saying "Dang, he got me good that time, gotta share that with everyone . . . and maybe I'll just take a couple of pot shots at him while I'm at it." It's admiration for his Doc-like ability to zing me (as well as a desire to zing him back) that drives such posts -- not anger. Plus, as Diva said to me, it's always fun to have an arch-nemesis to write about, and since I rarely see or talk to G'ovich, I needed somebody to fill the slot; who better than the nearest Doc analogue with a penchant for keeping me on my toes?

Now, I will admit to having one highly passive-aggressive post tinged with bitterness which was written during one of the few times PigPen managed to tick me off (as well as its only-slightly-less-bitter-but-you-can-hardly-tell-from-my-writing-but-trust-me-it-is follow-up); I have to think that it's part of what colored some people's perceptions of him, which is too bad, since it was me working out my bad mood by venting about what was really an isolated incident in my typically hyperbolic way. Not too long afterward we talked about it; we explained where each of us was coming from; he declared that his new mission was to help me break free of my negative self-image; we shook hands and called it good. And if my running off at the mouth online instead of addressing the problem head on is what caused some folk to view PigPen negatively . . . well, mea culpa, my friend; mea maxima culpa.

Even when I do mention one of his positive aspects -- such as, for example, his quest to pull me out of my self-defeatist mindset and negative attitude, which is either a fool’s errand or a hero’s journey depending on your perspective -- the positivity of it gets lost in my need to make jokes, lest my posts become sodden with sappy sentimentality. But by defusing the seriousness, I wind up diffusing the positive image in turn.

So, now, here I am, stuck with a huge batch of neurosis-fueled guilt because of the fact that some people who, more than likely, will never meet PigPen face to face in their entire lives, have a less than stellar opinion of him. For most people, this would barely cause a stir; for me, it’s enough to keep me up at night, worrying because I’ve done something bad to a friend.

So, for the record, in order to clear up any confusion and to make sure I can actually get to sleep tonight:
  • PigPen is not the devil, nor is he a total jerk. What he is is a guy who lives by the motto "I wouldn't make fun of you if I didn't like you." Now, while I may be tempted at times to respond to this motto as one of the girls in the other Singles class does -- "Please, like me less, I beg of you, like me less!!!" -- the truth is that that's always been a bit of my philosophy as well, as I think huge heaping portions of CoIM (including my PigPen-centric posts) can attest.

  • PigPen does not bully me. He picks on me, true, but I pick right back; remember, the key word in the phrase "mutual antagonism" is "mutual." And, while he might totally outstrip me in all areas of athletic competition, I go into such competition with full knowledge of the gap between us, meaning I have nobody to blame for my getting my butt whupped but myself.

  • PigPen is highly competitive, which brings out the highly competitive side of myself when we play against each other; it's not always pretty, as I sometimes succumb to my temper when I'm not doing as well as I should, but more often than not PigPen reacts to this not by rubbing it in my face, but by giving me pointers and/or trying to snap me out of my self-destructive spiral. Not that it's always successful, mind you, since once I slip into the zone of negativity it's hard to escape, but the gesture is always appreciated.

  • No matter how much crap we talk about each other, no matter how often we threaten to kill each other, no matter how often we beat the heck out of each other,*** PigPen and I are friends. In fact, I consider him one of the best friends I have right now****, which means he’s one of the go-to guys for when I’m dealing with one of my existential neurotic meltdowns; if that’s not enough to win him your pity and sympathy, I don’t know what is..

So, there you go; my attempt to fight off the “PigPen is no damn good” impression I’ve apparently given so far. Only time will tell if it did any good or not, but I know I feel better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some sleep; I pelted PigPen in the face with a paper projectile – totally unawares, mind you -- before he headed out for the evening, and I’m sure I’ll need all the rest I can get to weather the retribution that’s sure to come at the hand of my dear, dear friend.

*The fact that I've fallen into the same trap with describing PigPen as I did with Flunky and the Doc is interesting to me if for no other reason than I've often said that PigPen is like an amalgamation of my two old friends -- which should tell you a lot right there about why I get along with him.
**Which can be found in their entirety here and here for those of you who want a blast from the blogging past
***Okay, okay, no matter how often
he beats the heck out of me
****Which is not to be confused with being my capital-b capital-f Best Friend, which is an honor and burden bestowed upon few


The Redneck Hills Mall Mini-Challenge

Due to his status as a proud new papa, Bubblegum Tate had to postpone the submission of the next batch of words for the Write in the Thick of It challenge. In order to keep our minds active in the meantime, Diva sent out a call for suggestions for a mini-challenge, a call which was met and answered by Hillbilly Mom. The challenge: to submit an application for your very own specialty store to be housed at The Redneck Hills Mall. While not all the submission are up quite yet due to some possibly demon possessed email submissions which keep disrupting Diva's computer, you can still head over and check out the first four, which include submissions from my mom and me, right here.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What, Fisticuffs?

I've mentioned before that my friendship with PigPen is based largely on mutual antagonism* which primarily manifests itself verbally, but it occasionally manifests physically as well -- if a rubber band enters into the household, the question is not one of "if" one of us will launch it at the head of the other, but rather "when" and "with how much success**" And, of course, the launching of a rubber band*** is frequently followed by a mad scramble and shoving match as we each try to retrieve the projectile before the other.

Yes, I am a nearly-32 year old Sunday School teaching librarian with a Master's degree -- why do you ask?

Anyway, one day last week I awoke consumed with the urge to ratchet this physical antagonism up a few notches. Now this is far from the first time I've fallen into such a mood -- many's the time I attempted to engage Flunky and G'ovich in battle back in my undergraduate years -- but this is the first time in ages that the fightin' mood has coincided with my having a viable opponent/target for my rampant aggression. Why that particular morning? Who knows? Maybe it was a result of the stress of having to deal with the storm and flooding and all the after-effects of the previous week; maybe it was a result of my having watched way too much UFC/IFL/Bodogfights/etc. over the last several months; maybe it was the combination of allergies, sleep deprivation, and mucho medication playing havoc with my internal chemical balance; maybe I just have a death wish. Whatever the cause, all I know is that I was in the mood to pick a fight, and what better person to pick it with than my good friend and constant nemesis PigPen.

Now, when I say "fight," I don't mean "beat each other to a pulp," of course -- especially since odds are pretty danged good that, in such a situation, I would wind up being the pulp. Instead I mean good ol' fashioned rough-housing – you know, the kind you expect out of teenage ruffians and not thirty-something librarians -- which is why when these "must hit something!" moods hit me I don’t go out looking to bust some heads, but instead seek out one of my good friends who I feel doesn't mind exchanging a punch or two from time to time and who I can trust to, at worst, bruise me but not break me -- I may be crazy, self-destructive, and deluded, but I ain't stupid.

But I digress.

This odd mood struck me on the day that PigPen and I spent restoring our house to livable conditions following the installation of our new carpet. I don't even recall what my attempts to goad PigPen into a physical altercation were, exactly -- probably a launched projectile here, a shove there, a slightly-less-than-playful punch in the arm or two for good measure -- I just know that at one point he stopped, looked at me curiously and said "You're in a violent mood today, aren't you?"

"Yes, yes I am," I replied.

"Do you ever get in a mood where you just want to punch some--"

"Yes!" I said quickly, cutting him off mid-thought, and then punching him.

In the arm.

After he offered.

And then I let him punch me in return.

Because, maybe I am stupid after all.

But again, I digress.

Having been found out in my oh-so-subtle manipulation, I told PigPen that he should feel free to either tell me to back off or just knock me the #!@$&# out, whichever he saw fit. Trooper that he is, PigPen put up with my needling behavior with good cheer and the occasional bit of retaliation but, outside of a brief scuffle or two****, I ended the day never getting a chance to fully exorcise the need for violence which had bubbled up to the surface.*****

A few days later, one of PigPen's pals was telling us about a local bar which has started up a boxing night on Thursdays. Supposedly, the bar charges people for the chance to put on boxing gear, climb into the ring, and beat up on each other for three one-minute rounds. PigPen's eyes lit up, and he immediately started trying to talk Peanut and me into it. "You could work out all of your aggression that way," he told me, trying to tap into my violent mood from a few days earlier. For the next couple of days, when PigPen would successfully land a verbal jab, I would often respond with a mildly threatening "So, what time on Thursday?" type comment while cracking my knuckles of punching my fist menacingly into my palm. A real tough guy, I am. Of course, the odds of me actually getting into the ring with PigPen were slim and none; the reasons are threefold:

  1. PigPen and I are in vastly different weight classes; unfortunately, this is because the bulk of my bulk is housed around my gut, which is not exactly effective in a boxing situation; I make a big, slow moving target.
  2. Long-time athlete PigPen has a commanding edge on me in strength, speed, and stamina, all of which, if I'm not mistaken, are kind of important factors in the whole boxing thing
  3. PigPen: knows how to box, owns his own boxing gear, and has been in his fair share of fights in his life, both for fun and for real. Me: not so much. And by "not so much" I mean "not at all."
In other words, while I have become resigned to the fact that PigPen is going to kick the crap out of me pretty much consistently in any and all sports, and I went into my trying-to-goad-him-into-a-fight mode knowing full well that if I succeeded he would totally thrash me, I really don't feel like paying money to have him beat the crap out of me in front of a room full of people.

And yet . . .

And yet . . .

And yet, there is this small, self-destructive part of me which finds the idea of getting in the ring and swinging away incredibly appealing. And while all the logic in the world tells me that doing so would be a horrible, horrible mistake, there's that primal part of me that screams at me for shrinking away because here I am, less than three weeks shy of my 32nd birthday, and I've never been in a fight in my life. Ever. Sure, I've done the usual horsing around with the guys, wrestling and trading punches and the like, and I know that getting in the boxing ring with a friend wouldn't be the same as a knock-down-drag-out fight -- but at the same time, I have this feeling that, even if we might think it's just a friendly little sparring match, once the gear is on and we're in the ring surrounded by a room full of people, the mixture of adrenaline and fear of embarrassment and desire to win would take over and all decorum and restraint would fly out the window. I find the thought of this both appealing and appalling; I really need a shrink.

While I told PigPen -- who is, by the way, pretty determined to go to this place and box somebody, he doesn't really care who -- my "don't want to pay money to let folks watch you kick my ass" reasoning, I also told him that if he wanted someone to spar/train with, I would gladly serve as his punching bag******. So on Sunday night he got out his boxing gear; he put on the gloves, I slipped on the hook and jab pads, and he started working through combinations. After a while he offered to switch it up and we traded gloves and pads so that I could flail blindly at them like a drunken monkey. PigPen slipped into coaching mode, trying to give me pointers on the basics; I have yet to decide if this was a return of his attempts to break me of my negative self-image, or if he's trying to build up my confidence so that I foolishly climb into the ring with him as part of his incredibly intricate plan to kill me following a long string of psychologically scarring experiences: As the details have been laid out to me so far, Phase One involves unleashing a pack of wild dogs on me; Phase Two involves forcing me to imbibe great amounts of alcohol and have unprotected, pre-marital sex with a woman of loose morals; Phase Three is still cloaked in secrecy, but humiliating me with a public beating that I paid for seems about par for the course*******

But, once more, I digress.

By the end of our brief boxing session, a few things had occurred to me:
  • Throwing punches in Coach PigPen's general direction was highly satisfying; not as satisfying as actually landing punches on The Coach, true, but satisfying nonetheless.
  • Boxing is one heck of a work out: in almost no time I was sweating like Peanut after he eats hot wings********
  • At this point in time there’s pretty much no way I'm going to get in the ring with PigPen unless he has both hands tied behind his back, his feet shackled together, and a blindfold on********* -- and even then, I'd be leery. And yet . . .
And yet . . . when he jokingly suggested we move stuff around to give ourselves enough room to actually spar, that death-wish part of me wanted to say “Hells, yeah!” I’m obviously sick in the head.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: I want to learn how to fight. Boxing, wrestling, karate, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Carggite tri-jitsu -- although that last one might be a bit hard for me to pull off -- I don't care. It’s good exercise, a potential release for stress, and, to be honest, I hate feeling like I’m the only guy I know who doesn’t know how to defend himself.

Plus, if there’s a small chance that it could result in me actually landing a punch on PigPen someday . . . well, then the resultant beating I receive in return will be all worth it.

*Yes, PigPen, for the record and for all the world of blog monkeys who actually read these foot notes to see, I fully cop to the fact that I antagonize you as much as you antagonize me -- except for those times when it amuses me to play the victim and paint you as the devil. Which is, I admit, about 90% of the time . . .
**Quick answer is that my success rate is inversely proportional to PigPen's, i.e. I'm a crappy shot and he's not
***Or couch pillow or rolled up straw wrapper or nerf ball or plastic bottle or . . .
****One such skirmish ended after my thought of "I should probably take off my glasses" was followed swiftly by PigPen accidentally sending my eyewear flying across the room; I was game to continue half-blind, but then we got an invite to dinner and the violence was sadly cut short
*****Although, going to see
Hot Fuzz that evening did go a long way to quenching my thirst for confrontation: gunfire, explosions, serial killings, old women getting kicked in the face --everything I could have wished for and more!
******Not sure if "punching bag" is a step up or down from "whipping boy"
******* The amount of detail being put into these plans to kill me is worrisome. I mean, my plans for *his* death have no psychological warfare in them at all; I need to step my game up!
********A trait that earned him the nick-name “Sweaty” from our waitress last weekend
*********Oh, and his mouth wired shut, but I think that's pretty much a constant, unspoken wish with most people dealing with him


Saturday, May 05, 2007

An End in Sight?

As you may have noticed, I have slacked off considerably in my blogging of TV shows over the past few months. Part of that is just a factor of my general blogging malaise; the blogging does not come as frequently or as easily as it once did. But on top of that, my TV watching habits have undergone some serious changes in the past few months. I actually hit a period of time where it was struggle for me to make myself watch shows that I once loved; I had tapes and tapes filled with episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Medium, Boston Legal etc. and they just continued to stack up. Sometimes, I'd be so distracted by other stuff that I would forget to tape a show entirely -- thank heavens for ABC's on-line episodes, or I would have been really lost on Grey's. In the end, I finally made myself jettison some shows from my regular viewing schedule, deciding to wait for the DVD treatment. Now, my "must watch ASAP" list of shows is down to the following:

How I Met Your Mother
Two and a Half Men

Gilmore Girls
Veronica Mars
Deadliest Catch (just got hooked on this recently)


Grey's Anatomy
My Name is Earl
The Office
30 Rock
Ultimate Fighter
Studios 60 on the Sunset Strip (finally coming back to finish its first season run at the end of May in ER's slot)

Stargate SG-1
Stargate Atlantis
Painkiller Jane (for now; I'm intrigued, but only slightly)

King of the Hill
Family Guy
American Dad

And, out of those shows, at least two are definitely gone after this season (Gilmore Girls, SG-1), a few more are on the bubble (HIMYM, Studio 60, Veronica Mars), and another couple are setting timelines for when they're going to finish their runs (Scrubs, Lost). If NBC doesn't pick up Scrubs for its final season, ABC (which is actually responsible for the production of the show) has promised that it will. Meanwhile, rumors are flying fast and furious about ABC's decision regarding Lost; the most recent to break is that ABC will be announcing an end date of 2009 for the show in the next couple of days, which would mean at least two more seasons, and possibly an extra half a season to bump the whole run up to 100 episodes. This is pretty exciting news, if you think about it, since it means that now the producers have a definite end date in mind and can plan out their reveals accordingly; and, for those of you who have bemoaned the lack of answers, you can now rest easy that the show won't suddenly be yanked before we find out what's going on.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Fragmented Friday -- Let the Speculation Begin!

Time once again for random bits and pieces of my life presented in bullet point form.

  • We have carpet again; they came and installed it on Tuesday, and PigPen and I spent most of the afternoon moving all of the furniture and electronics back in. It's nice being able to hang out downstairs again, instead of having us all hole up in our separate rooms. Of course, when the rainstorm hit on Wednesday, I was highly paranoid about the water levels, checking constantly to make sure we weren't in danger, a fact that PigPen let go unremarked -- until, of course, we were around other people, at which point he took great delight in demonstrating my neurotic behavior for the amusement of others.

  • I'm not sure which Bubblegum Tate is more excited about: the fact that he won the Write in the Thick of It writing challenge this week, or that he is now a proud papa. Oh, sure, if you ask him, I'm sure he'll say that whole "miracle of birth" thing, but I think we all know the truth . . .

  • Speaking of the challenge, PigPen insinuated pretty strongly that the only reason I got more votes than he did was because more of the people who frequent WitToI know me than know him since he was positive that his story was better than mine; of course, he prefaced this with the phrase "no offense," which made it all better, so I am not secretly harboring a grudge which will lead to his eventual demise. Not at all.

  • Following yesterday's post about the growing Legend of Shack-Fu, I got some interesting reactions: Bubblegum Tate wants me to drag Cap'n Shack-Fu up the next time I head Tate's way so that he can meet the legend in the flesh, while Zinger was much more interested in knowing where he could get his hands on some of those emergency lights, for reasons a bit less altruistic than the Shack-man, I'm sure. When I mentioned this to Cap'n Shack last night, he said that he does sometimes wonder what the non-Singles blog monkeys think of him after reading all my stories; PigPen, who apparently feels I sometimes paint him in a less than glamorous light, agreed. All I can say is, at least I haven't created a blog specifically to detail how PigPen is the source of all Eeeeeeeeevil -- not yet, anyway.

  • It's official: the May 15th season finale of Gilmore Girls will serve as the series finale as well. I know PigPen will be heartbroken; now he'll have to find another show to mock me for liking. Guess I could make it easy on him and start watching Ugly Betty again . . .

  • My dad somehow managed to get four days off in a row on the weekend of my birthday, so mis padres will be heading down Denton way to help me celebrate. What fun and exciting things will we be doing? Who knows? Although we found a few things to do around the DFW area the last couple of times they visited -- last summer it was Six Flags -- I have a feeling that there will be much sitting around the house and hotel room this time around. Since they're probably staying through that Monday, they might actually get to meet some more of The Singles; so far only Bizarro-Zinger and The Anti-Cap'n have had the pleasure. It's always interesting to me when my folks and my friends interact, since I get to find out how my parents' impressions of my friends match up with mine, and I also get to see my friends realize that that certain of my quirks are come by naturally.

  • No, I didn't go to the midnight showing of Spider-Man 3; to be honest, I have no idea when I'm going to see it, although I hope it's sooner rather than later.

  • Last night, I allowed something to happen which I had vowed to myself never would; I am surprisingly less depressed about it than I had thought I would be, but at the same time, my mind keeps going back to it. No, it's not a huge deal, and no, it does not involve sex, drugs, rock & roll, or anything remotely profane . . . although, I will admit there might have been a few not-so-clean words coming out of my mouth when it happened. And now, let the speculation begin!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Legend of Shack-Fu: Cap'n Shack vs. the Speed Demon

Sunday afternoon was devoted to paintball, for the first time in months; I might write up a bit more about the experience later, but right now all that I have to say is that our playing grounds were hot, humid, overgrown, and mosquito-ridden; I was glad to be an observer and not in full camo gear because of the hot and humid part, but the long, thick sleeves might have been a relief on the mosquito-front. But while watching paintball was fun, the true excitement of the evening happened later, after our post-paintball dinner. PigPen and I were going to follow Cap'n Shack-Fu to his house so that PigPen could drool over the Shack-man's latest firearm purchases. We had barely pulled out of Jack in the Box and onto the always-congested Loop 288 when some speed demon zipped past us in the soon-ending right hand lane and swerved in front of Cap'n Shack-Fu's vehicle right before the two lanes became one; instants later, someone else pulled out in front of the speed demon; instead of slowing down, ol' speedy swerved recklessly into the oncoming traffic lane. Luckily, there was nobody there, but it was a close call. PigPen and I were both marveling at the speedster's chutzpah when I noticed Cap'n Shack-Fu speeding up. I mentioned this to PigPen and said "How much you want to be he's turned on his lights?"

You see, good ol' Cap'n Shack-Fu, as king of all things emergency management related, has his vehicle stocked with all sorts of tools of the trade; one of the more recent additions is a set of bright flashing lights on the dashboard; while the pattern of the flashing lights would tell anyone well-versed in such matters that Cap'n Shack was on an emergency management type of mission, to the rest of the world bright flashing lights behind you on the highway tend to say one thing: coppers.

Sure enough, the car which had pulled out in front of the speed demon pulled over to the shoulder long enough to let Cap'n Shack-Fu catch up to the speedster, who also pulled over. PigPen and I drove by just as Cap'n Shack-Fu, still fully decked out in his full camo gear, marched up to the reckless driver to tear him a new one; PigPen and I cracked up the rest of the drive to Cap'n Shack-Fu's place at the thought of the crazy driver who had no idea what he was getting himself in for when he pulled that sort of crap around our resident do-gooder.

After we all got back to his place , Super-Shack filled us in on the details of his brief encounter with the muscle-bound speedster; basically, Cap'n Shack-Fu immediately tore into him: "What do you think you're doing? Do you know how many accidents I've worked because of people driving like that? I have a radio in my vehicle, I could call you in and report you right now for pulling that kind of crap" etc., etc. The driver, of course, was freaked out and super-apologetic, even shaking Cap'n Shack-Fu's hand when the good Cap'n let him off with a "warning."

Now, for the record, Cap'n Shack-Fu never claimed to be any sort of law-enforcement official during the incident; no, he was just acting as a concerned citizen who, due to his work as a firefighter and disaster relief guy*, is all too familiar with how much damage a wreck at those speeds would have caused and could not, in good conscience, allow such potentially life-threatening behavior to go unchecked.

Did the incident have any lasting impact on the reckless driver? The cynic in me says "not really," although the optimist in me likes to think that, if nothing else, the fool will wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, haunted by the image of the Cap'n Shack-Fu, a.k.a. The Intimidator.

*Yeah, that's the technical term


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do YOU Know Where My Podium Is?

My Junior year of college I finally gave up the long fight against the inevitable and declared English as my major; I had no intention of becoming a teacher, and little real hope of being a real writer, so exactly what I planned to do with the major, I had no clue. But it was the one subject where I felt on pretty solid ground, and so there I went. As with most college programs, in the English department there were professors I loved, professors I loathed, and professors who had next to no impact on me whatsoever. One of my favorites was my Intro to Brit Lit II professor, Dr. W. He was a bit eccentric at times, but honestly, what English professor worth talking about isn’t? Plus, it was an entertaining sort of eccentric, and he definitely made class entertaining. So, if he was one of my favorite professors, why was I involved with a prank on him? I blame peer pressure, with the peers being the then-current officers of the English Club – including a fellow Wyandotte High School alumnus -- all of whom were in that Intro to Brit Lit class with me. While I would be an English club officer later, at that point I was merely the only non-elected member to show up to every announced meeting and/or function. So, when one of them came to the others with the idea to pull a prank which had apparently become a tradition with Dr. W., I got pulled in as lookout. The prank? Hiding Dr. W.'s podium.

Now, as pranks go, this one was pretty harmless, and for most professors, probably pretty innocuous. But when Dr. W. lectured, he held on to his podium like it was the only solid piece of ground in a vast plain of quicksand; there was no pacing around the room, just much leaning on the sturdy piece of furniture. Many theories abounded as to why he clutched to the podium so tightly, but in the end all that mattered was that the podium was a bit of a crutch and the English club officers yanked it right out from under him, moving the podium to the next class room over shortly before class started while I kept watch in the hallway. We then hurried back into the room and took up our regular seats, awaiting the promised floorshow.

When Dr. W. entered the room, he noticed the lack of podium pretty much instantly. He stopped in his tracks and pivoted towards the room full of expectant students -- the majority of whom, while not actively participating in the prank, were complicit due to their silence while watching us do the dirty work. No sooner had his gaze fallen on the class then one of these onlookers burst into uncontrollable laughter before turning to the rest of us and exclaiming "I'm sorry, guys, but I'm no good at this sort of stuff!"

So much for playing the "we have no idea what you're talking about" card, huh? But at least her exclamation was addressed to the room in general, so the guiltiest parties weren't singled out. Dr. W., who had endured such podium thievery before, announced that he had been planning on letting our class out early that day, but now he thought he'd just keep us the full time; luckily, we all knew it was an idle threat. Seeing that his threat hadn't shaken any of us, Dr. W. then moved on to roll call, which went something like this:

"Kat -- do you know where my podium is? No? Okay. Delinda."

And so on and so forth, with random class members receiving the probing question. When he reached the name of one absent student, he proclaimed "I bet she took it; she's probably walking around campus with my podium in her pocket as we speak." And so the rest of the class went, with Dr. W.'s lecture being punctuated periodically by references to his missing podium until he finally, as we knew he would, let us go early like he had originally planned. Don't know how long it took him to track down his podium, but by the time we came back for our next class, it was back in place.

When the student wh0 had been absent that day heard the story, she jokingly complained to Dr. W. that she didn't appreciate the fact that he thought she was big enough to fit a podium in her pocket; then, that Thanksgiving, while she was in charge of taking care of her nieces and nephews, she engaged them in an arts and crafts project which she would present to Dr. W. on the last day of class: a miniature "pocket sized" podium made out of popsicle sticks, which he proudly displayed on his office mantelpiece at least until I graduated; for all I know, it could be there still.