Part of your Hoard

Although The Little Mermaid is one of my most favorite Disney films ever, I think it’s time we acknowledge it as the possible source of the hoarding movement. Certainly, we had hoarders before Princess Ariel started stashing useless shit in her grotto, but who knows how many countless children were brainwashed into thinking that amassing stuff would lead to dream fulfillment?

How many wonders can one cavern hold? Apparently as many as your obsessive-compulsive ass can fit into it.

No wonder King Triton blew it up. And that’s what I call an intervention.

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To All the Dragons I’ve Loved Before

Having always loved the fantasy genre of film and television, my heart has always belonged to dragons. Evil ones, good ones, and rogue agents with no such allegiances. I caught the film Dragonslayer (1981) the other day on Amazon Prime Instant Video and it really brought up a bucket from the well of memory. I mean, how awesome are these creatures? Total and complete bad asses. No one wants to mess with them.

This led me to host a contest for Best Dragons from my childhood experience:

Maleficent from from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)

maleficentWhile technically not a dragon (at least most of the time), this was probably one of the scariest cartoon draconians I remember. Mostly, I was afraid of her because I had never heard such foul language uttered in a Disney movie until I saw Sleeping Beauty. Case in point: “Now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of Hell!” Who cast such a potty mouth? Anyway, Maleficent was actually an evil fairy godmother with the ability to change into a dragon, and ultimately, the world’s most famous anti-cupid with her desperate attempts to keep Princess Aurora and Prince Philip apart. And all because she never got an Evite to Aurora’s baptism. Jeez, petty much? I think a more effective punishment on the kingdom would’ve been a curse on all the chamber pots.

Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer (1981)

vermithraxShe was 400 years old, slept in a lake of fire, and her kids were slaughtered by a bumbling magician’s apprentice – so the chip on her shoulder may be justified. Apparently, she accepted two virgins per year from the local kingdom to leave crops and villages alone, so she doesn’t seem to be completely unreasonable at the negotiation table. She has the added benefit of a weird but pretty cool name: Vermithrax Pejorative which in Latin translates to “The Wyrm of Thrace that makes things Worse.” She was also nominated for an Academy Award (ok, well the special effects were), and she has some wicked bat-like wings. Who needs aerial drone strikes when you got Miss Pejorative on your side?

Granamyr from the He-Man & The Masters of the Universe television series (1983)

GranamyrNot as famous as some other dragons, but pretty damn powerful and the oldest of the Dragons of Darksmoke on the planet of Eternia. Granamyr had a bigger ego than Kanye West, but perhaps rightfully so, as even the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull admitted being afraid of his wrath. When He-Man asked where to find him, the Sorceress was like, “Bitch, I ain’t telling you! I don’t need those dragons puttin’ my castle on blast. Go look it up in the library.” (paraphrased but true – just go watch the He-Man episode, “The Dragon’s Gift”). Granamyr was a double threat: not just a fearsome dragon but a sorcerer as well. Unlike most dragons, however, he had a hint of compassion for human beings. He places a high value on loyalty, keeping your word, and courage. In short, the Big G was a very honorable reptile.

Tiamat from the Dungeons & Dragons television series (1983)

tiamatOk, this hardcore Dragon Queen wasn’t scared of anybody. She also had five heads and each one shot some nasty-ass projectile vomit – fire, lightning, poisonous gas, freezing ice, and acid. A tad bit of talent overkill, to say the least. Like Granamyr, Tiamat had magical abilities and was able to teleport at will. She lived in an outer space graveyard, and conspired to help some teenage kids commit murder (see D&D episode 20, “The Dragon’s Graveyard”). She had a scary ass voice too – somewhere between a hiss and a vocodered Cher singing “Do you believe in life after love?” Good thing she was a dragon, for a career in telemarketing was not to be.

Falkor from The Neverending Story (1984)
falkorThis dragon is an honorable mention. I found him to lack a certain edge that I like my dragons to possess. Plus, he looks as if he belongs on dog food packaging. Still, the term luck dragon became part of my vernacular after seeing this film, and he does bring a certain sense of optimism and cheer to a fantasy role usually reserved for terrifying monsters. In this case, Falkor broke some new ground and delivered something unexpected to my childhood view of what a dragon should be. Still, you have to wonder if he had to get any rabies shots or if his contract required payment in Milk Bones.

 

Today I Wept Over a Sandwich

Today, I cried over food…

Not because I was starving…

Not because it cost too much…

But because it was a perfect sandwich, and it made me happy every time my incisors dived into its delicate brioche surface…

But now, it shall be no more.

There is a magic in food of certain flavors; that combination of notes activating your senses and coloring your memory. And this was mine…the sweet apple, the sherry dijon-dashed arugula, and the bite of a fiesty cheddar (I love a good savory punch after some heavy-handed treacle). On my most terrible of days, I could wander into this specialty café and the wonderful young women there would whip up this monument to the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. Alas, this establishment will close tomorrow afternoon and with it, my sandwich days there will have come to pass.

However, like the little whisper of hope that left Pandora’s box of evils – all is not lost: One of the lovely workers scratched down the name of the bakery where I could get the bread, the types of cheddar, apple, and mayo to use, and a small heart symbol with a peace sign. I now possess the secret alchemy to try my own hand at sandwich perfection.

My last Turkey Apple Cheddar sandwich at my favorite café.

My last Turkey Apple Cheddar sandwich at my favorite café. Sad, and drooling.

Apparently My Hair Needs An Oil Change

Living in Seattle, I have become accustomed to a certain amount of tree-hugging. I’m not complaining, as I am usually quite environmental and I dutifully recycle or compost about 90% of my garbage. But these days, I am learning that even I have my limits. Case in point: the All-Organic Movement.

First of all, let me say that I do think there is definitely some benefit to avoiding non-organic food and it’s cool when people can create industrial strength rope out of hemp, seaweed, or whatever. However, I am finding that some people are taking the “organic” label a bit too far.

An “eco-salon” recently opened near my home and for those of you that don’t know, it’s basically Captain Planet-meets-Vidal Sassoon. I was doing some research to find a new place to get my hair cut, and when I called this joint – I shit you not – their sales pitch included the following:

We use all natural products on your hair, including environmentally safe shampoos and conditioners. We also have the means of organically disposing of your hair clippings.

Organically disposing of my hair clippings? I think my mouth dropped open like I was trying to catch flies in it. I wanted to say, “Dude, my scalp is not an SUV that needs the Pennzoil changed, it’s just hair. I could bury it in your backyard and you’d be none the wiser.” When I pressed for more details on this miraculous means of waste disposal, I was given some vague story line about a special process that avoids putting chemically-treated hair into the area landfills. Apparently all those 80′s perms are coming back to haunt us again – in our ground water. Who knew?

Of course, I ran with this and asked if it involved storing the hair in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Needless to say, I don’t think the gentleman found my joke very funny.

"Haircut" by Steve Walker (2001)

“Haircut” by Steve Walker (2001)

When Friendship Transcends Pooping

Last weekend, I had an hour-long conversation with an old friend of mine from Iowa. She’s pretty “coarse wool” in the fabric that is friendship, but we’ve been through so much together that our foundations are like granite. She rarely indulges my self-pity, and once – when we were roommates – she started vacuuming right next to me when I was crying on the phone. Her motto has always been, “Get the fuck up and get on with it.”

Anyway, near the end of our phone call she said, “Ok, I gotta go to the bathroom, and unless you want to be on this phone for that, I’d better go.” We said our goodbyes, and at the last second, we got caught on a tangent. This sparked a whole new leg in the conversation and then she interrupted me with, “I hope you don’t mind, I am pooping right now.” I waved aside her warning and we proceeded to talk and ultimately ended the phone call about 10 minutes later.

When I got off the phone, I realized how weird that might be for most people – to poop on the phone. But it didn’t feel weird for us at all. I wasn’t getting the play-by-play or anything, and with the exception of my recommending prunes to help facilitate her future bowel movements, the bodily function had no interference in our communication. I then realized that it takes a very rare type of friendship to transcend the disgust that is fecal matter: a friend will help you move, a real friend will help you move a body, but your best friend will poop on the phone with you.

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The Wealth of Laughter

If there is one thing I will miss when my days are done, it is laughter. The kind of laughter you shared with close friends where your eyes would water and you couldn’t control your own breathing. A joyous pain in your “diaphragm-in-spasm”.

"To Laugh Again" by Bob Salo (2009)

“To Laugh Again” by Bob Salo (2009)

I remember when I was in high school we would prank call people until the advent of caller ID shut our sorry asses down; we’d tell people they had packages at the post office or that we were calling to see if they were interested in writing for a local religious publication. We’d also throw rocks at corrugated metal buildings because the sound was somehow hilarious to us. I even remember we once went out in the middle of the night and took plastic kid cars and tricycles (left abandoned by their owners in their respective yards) and parked them all like regular cars in their rightful spaces on the Main Street of our small Midwestern town. The town cop was not impressed, but we howled like raucous hyenas as we covertly watched him collect the miniature child transports and put them in the back of his police truck.

Those days seem so long ago, and yet the memory is like gilded crown molding on the ceiling of my soul. I wish I still laughed that hard and that much, but as with all things in life, repeated experience has a way of stripping out the vibrant colors. I still manage to get them once in a while, but they just seem fewer and further between.

You always hear “you can’t take it with you” when people talk about money, and that’s true – the physical shit in this life (including your body) isn’t going into the Great Beyond. But I really hope – if there is any kindness in the Universe – that we get to take our memories of laughter with us. I’d smuggle them out of the cave like gemstones if I knew how, but something tells me that is going to require some hardcore shoplifting talent.

Because if there is a Creator, he or she ain’t no damn mall cop.

An Elegant Monster

If you voraciously devoured the second season of Netflix’s web series House of Cards this past weekend, you were not alone. This writer also binged on the newly delivered loot.

I almost watched the entire 13 episodes without stopping – but my stomach requested nutrition and I figured I should probably shower. I actually felt a little like a crackhead, or at least what I imagine one feels like – bypassing normal behaviors to submit my will to this unfolding, fictitious character study. I won’t give anything away, but the season was definitely worth the wait. It delivered high voltage shocks in its political backstabbing, sexual side turns, and naked power grabs.

Of all this show’s twisted personalities, my favorite character is the devious Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). She plays the wife of Kevin Spacey (as VP Frank Underwood). A methodical machine, she carefully manipulates (often better than her own husband) her preferred outcomes in challenging situations. When her enemies fall, she doesn’t even give a smile of satisfaction; she coldly moves on to the next target with eyes like steel knives. No unethical tactic is beneath her, yet her subtle grace and calm voice give you the impression she is the most trust-worthy and caring individual you’d ever meet. A vintage sociopath. Now that I know what levels of power she has attained, I can not wait to see what she does to her opponents in the next season.

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Although this is just a TV show, it could be considered strange to cheer on a psychotic. However, villains are usually the more fascinating individuals in a story. I feel like you always want to know, “What broke them?” Or “What made their emotions turn to stone?” How did their obsession with an audacious goal become their fundamental purpose in life? And how will it ultimately be their undoing (as it usually is)?

Claire, your magnificent malice brought you to the top. I can’t wait to see how it brings you down.

This is going to be one for the Ages.

The Star Wars Holiday Special

If you’ve ever done anything in your life that you aren’t proud of or that you simply regret, I have something for you that might help: It’s called the Star Wars Holiday Special.

It’s a horrible bastard-of-a-TV-program that aired only once (in 1978 on CBS) to capitalize on the wave of pop culture mania that followed 1977′s Star Wars. As with all cash cow Hollywood projects, it’s thoroughly terrible and pointless. It’s also unintentionally funny, but perhaps in that way when something is so poorly constructed you might think it was done on purpose. No, this comedy comes with pain. The kind of pain you feel when you know someone actually wrote it down on a piece of paper. That the project was approved by someone. That millions of dollars probably produced it.

If the "Carol Burnett Show" and "Star Wars" had a baby and then aborted it, it would be the Star Wars Holiday Special.

If the “Carol Burnett Show” and “Star Wars” had a baby and then aborted it and mixed it with Hamburger Helper, it would be the Star Wars Holiday Special.

I won’t go into the details too much, but if you watch it you can expect…

  • about 15 minutes of Wookie famly dialogue with no subtitles (or any other language to explain what’s going on)
  • Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur trying to parlay variety show comedy like a bridal party serving wedding punch from an old toilet bowl
  • Chewbacca’s father basically having a sex dream about a 70′s disco diva while sitting in a “fantasy simulation chair”
  • a musical performance from Jefferson Starship
  • Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) singing a holiday carol about “Life Day” (the Wookies’ version of Christmas).

Trust me, by this point you’ll wish YOU had a cocaine habit.

Anyway, when all is said and done, think back over your life and your mistakes. Watch this televised horror and remember that no matter your guilt about dropping out of school, cheating on your taxes, or raising a kid that turned out to be a deadbeat…at least you had nothing to do with creating the Star Wars Holiday Special.

The Fine Line Between Friendship & Cannibalism

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of dining with a friend of mine who I had not seen for a hot minute. As we sat enjoying some overly-priced tomato soup, our conversation turned to our respective plans for 2014: overseas trips, personal projects, and potential moves. Somewhere during the chat, we touched on our the duration of our friendship and how it has survived the test of time – largely in part due to our shared love of dark humor and a celebration of human wickedness that is more a parody of human failings than a serious love of evil.

During this segment of the conversation I offered to my friend a hypothetical gift I would grant to few others. “If we ever get trapped in an avalanche on a mountain together – and I die first – you have permission to eat my body if you need to survive.” However, I added a warning to this culinary invitation by telling him, “It will probably taste like disappointment and anger, just so you know.”

He offered a quick retort, “No worries, I have a recipe for a wonderful brown sugar scrub that would do wonders to balance your flavor.”

Somewhere in this macabre and disturbing exchange was an undeniable, universal truth: Only your closest friends possess the recipe to minimize your flaws and compliment your sourness.

"Saturno Devorando a su Hijo" by Francisco de Goya (1823)

“Saturno Devorando a su Hijo” by Francisco de Goya (1823)

A Fond Farewell to 2013

If my year was a movie
Playing on the big screen
Here would be the plot points of 2013…

My career path was corrected
Goals brought into focus were finally seen
Prince, P!NK and the Postal Service
Were my musical caffeine

In Portland for birthday 39
With friends as fierce as wolverines
They fought a lot but Mount St. Helens taught
Even old volcanoes turn back to green

A class reunion long over due
Took me back in a time machine
But we had some laughs (and Casey’s General Store escaped my wrath)
On our mnemonic trampolines

I experienced magic in Montréal
A welcome break in my routine
Many thanks to Jay who saved the day
A friend-turned-tour guide reigns supreme

Saw the film “Gravity” which made me cry
And for the lonely this was your theme:
You must give your best to pass the test
And remember Endurance (your best vaccine)

So keep what has value and sever the rest
But make sure that your cut is clean
Because you can’t do it over – there is no magic clover
And bring on 2014