A flight of hairy angels sing the to thy rest

March 5, 2013

Some facts in this story have been changed to protect the guilty. Duh, da duh duh. 

So, me, I’m sweet on this lady-type, but she cuts it off, and I’m singing the Massachusetts Blues. They’re like the regular blues, except a lot colder, and there’s free healthcare. Anyway, me, I am not devoid of a certain… greasy charm. Much like a used tuxedo or brand new chimichanga. Somehow, I manage to lure a lady into visiting my abode. Someone may have claimed that they have a large collection of etchings which should be looked at. The young lady, she asks if she can bring a friend? I think the same thing every young man thinks when he hears two ladies want to come visit him in his home: “I hope they make the Arrested Development movie soon”. 

So I’ve got to impress this duo. What to do? I go, I get myself some chickpeas. Some chickpea flour. A lemon, some parsley, an onion. A case of beer. A bottle of tequila. I’m going to make homemade falafel, and also beer and tequila. The young lady had heard that I’m a good chef. So the ladies come over, I’ve got all the falafel stuff mixed up in a bowl, and I fill the deep fryer with oil. We mix some drinks and engage in, if I may be generous, “conversation”. But that’s how first two-on-one dates are, everyone’s sort of feeling everyone else out, just trying to make sure no one’s a serial killer or whatever. Everything we said to each other sounded like we were trying to determine if they were being held hostage without alerting Hans Gruber who is listening in on the phone call. So, time goes by, some mixed drinks are mixed with mixed messages, and I figure, it’s time to make some falafel. I mean, the lemon is cut up and everything. I’ve got a plate just sitting there. The oil’s hot, the chickpea mush is ready, and I’m ready. I’ve never been so ready. I scoop up some falafel in a hand, moosh it into a ball, look over at one of the young ladies, wink, and drop the falafelball into the oil. 

Now, it turned out to be good luck that I was looking at the young lady, because as soon as the falafel hit the oil A SIX FOOT PILLAR OF SCREAMING FLAMES SHOT OUT OF THE DEEP FRYER. Three things happened at almost the same moment: my sideburn was singed off; my sleeve caught fire; and the falafel was rocketed about the room with a splattery sound that would have been comical if I HADN’T BEEN ON FIRE. 

Fortunately, as a total physical coward, my first instinct was to curl into a ball, and in doing so, writhing on the floor, I put out my garment and managed not to knock over the oil. The oil, I guess put itself out. I’m not a physics guy, maybe there was some falafel-reactive vapor or some shit, I don’t know. Anyway. I calmly unplug the fryer. I try to laugh it off, but the ladies leave, I had to shave my beard, I need a new hoodie, and my kitchen smells like burning middle-eastern hair that would go good with hummus. I’m sad and I’m lonely and my face is cold and I hate this stupid world. 


Handsome Joe

February 6, 2013

I went to the deli yesterday. I’m standing around waiting for my gyro, by which I mean my pile of meat and onions that has a pita underneath it someplace. I’m watching a story on the TV about a sports star mishmashing the bible into his response to someone’s passive-voice twitter insult, and I realize that there’s a girl at the table by the napkins and the ketchup that’s sobbing. Eyes red hands shaking shredded napkins in a pile long old drippy boogers hanging out of her face sobbing. There’s a guy across from her, and I instantly conclude he’s breaking up with her, which must mean she was a straight up blood-soaked murderer, because a world where a pile of hair and flannel like that dude breaks up with a modest beauty like that dame for any other reason is a world that cannot exist. Heaven would flood that shit for 41 days just to be sure after neglecting to tell anyone anything about how to make or operate an ark. I’m a polite guy, so I try to divert my attention. I look at every single thing in that deli except those two. But my ears, they’re harder to point away, and I start to think maybe they’re not breaking up. The guy keeps kissing her hands. If he was breaking it off, he knew less about ladies than I did in eighth grade. Or twenty-eighth grade, who in the hell am I kidding?

At one point the guy uses the phrase “My work in neuro-” and I never hear the end of it because thirty people trying hard not to listen in on these two snicker.

Anyway. I get my gyro and I go. A man comes sprinting out of a laundromat. Joe! Joe! Is that Joe! Hey Joe! Exclamation points all the way. I stop and tell him he’s got me mistaken for someone else, and he doesn’t believe me. I’m digging through his accent with a shovel, and I think he’s telling me I’ve got the hat, I’ve got the whiskers, I must be Joe. I tell him I’m not, but it’s good to know there’s some other handsome devil out there making this look WORK. If he sees Joe, I tell him to say Hi for me. He’s standing there in the snow flurry in a t-shirt, he ran out of the laundromat so fast, and every night since then I’ve begged whatever petty moose-headed abomination rules this universe to let that befuddled pink northeastenaaaa run into Joe. 

We all learned from Bugs Bunny cartoons that when you die your life gets played for you like a movie. It’s hard to describe without resorting to idiomatic expressions, it flashes before your eyes is what I’m referring to. I don’t think that’ll happen. In 2006 I was in my first year of grad school, and I went to Florida for a conference. The other grad student and I picked a hotel on the outskirts of town to save money, and it was awkward, because there was a switch on the wall that turned on a set of purple neon lights hidden in the moulding that made it clear that the room was not intended for two people to not fuck in it. I went to the bar that night, and ate nachoes and buffalo wings and drank warm miller, and there was a guy there studying to become a professional umpire, and he was furious that he’d seen a commercial for Walmart on TV that morning that was entirely in Spanish. “I didn’t like that at all” he said. The moment before I die, I’m just going to see that conversation with him over and over and over again and then I’ll be gone. 

there’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke and the whores and the bartenders and the grocery clerks never know that he’s in there.

January 20, 2013

I went to DC for a conference last week. I hate DC. The whole town has a case of the Too Importants. Every single person that lives in DC thinks they’re a big somebody, but really it’s just a giant pile of nobodies in popped collars drinking thirty dollar martinis that taste like ashes. 

The one night, I have 100 problems, so I decide I’ll head on down to the gin mill. I think that I’ve been to that bar before, years ago when I dated someone that lived in DC. But maybe not? It was sort of a Deja Vu thing. Anyway. I’m sitting there, and to my right there are these two barstool physicists. “But time doesn’t really exist, it’s just a construct, think about it, man,” one of them keeps saying in a thick Scottish accent. The other one seems bummed about something. 

The Scot leaves, and I managed to carry my stony silence through two more pints of bass before Dr. Guzzler T. Drinkington decides to hit me up for conversation. I tell him that I’m from Bucks County, where the film Signs was filmed. The guy on my left starts to laugh hysterically, and it turns out he’s from Lancaster. He’s there with his wife, and the four of us get talking. Dr. Drinkington, who I now call Guzzler, we’re friendly, works for the Justice department “keeping track of the Amish.” It doesn’t occur to me until the next day that he might be making fun of my beard. The guy on the left was in the army “for a little while” and he’s going to go to Tajikistan to train their forces over the summer. It’s a shit position, but the pay is good, and he and the wife have a learning-disabled son. He really wants to be a professor – he’s an electrical engineer, and doesn’t wear a wedding ring, but does have a circular scar around his finger where some voltage jumped and burned him good. 

At the conference, I can’t pay a single goddamn scientist to take my business card. At the bar, 20 minutes into the night, we’re singing and laughing and buying each other drinks. The soldier’s wife spends 30 minutes talking to some guy that buys her a drink, and I point it out to the soldier, and he says he knows he’s going nothing to worry about. Later, I return to the hostel and lock myself out while taking a pee. So I have to go to the front desk in nothing but my underpants to ask for a spare key. No shoes, no glasses, no nothing, and when a 230 pound wave of hair and beef comes spilling out of the elevator, the desk clerk doesn’t even flinch. Dude was unflappable. 

Two nights later, I’m at a different bar. This time, I’ve got the Deja Vu mais je compris. I’d been in this bar before, the Capitol Grill, years ago when I was dating that individual. At the time I thought I was a big somebody; taking someone out to a fancy high class eatery. That memory is a Xerox of a counterfeit, because this time, I’m looking at the place with the jaundiced, bloodshot eyes of the weary business traveler. It’s a Fuddrucker’s for fuckers that wear sunglasses indoors and sport popped collars. It’s like I was looking at the past with fresh eyes – I thought I was a big deal taking a pretty girl out to a fancy bar, and years later, I realize the place is a I wasn’t a big deal she wasn’t that pretty and the bar wasn’t that fancy. Two man-children wander up to the bar next to me and order “Two shots of Jamie and two light beers” and the sudden urge to put my head down, swing my elbows, and clear a lane to the door boils up from deep inside. 

The second day of the conference. I go to a local pub for lunch – it’s weird to sit alone in a restaurant, but not to sit alone at a bar. There’s a guy next to me and he doesn’t even pause to take a breath. The moment he arrives, he chatters non-stop until I leave. He was amped. The nametag said he was with MDOT, but his eyes said he was with NarcAnon.

We’re driving back from the conference, and we stop at a scenic overlook to switch drivers. The Hudson river is below, NYC is in the distance, and I spot a number of roses scattered in the weeds out near the cliff-edge. There’s graffiti on one of the big rocks, in Arabic. I have the Latvian grad student take a photo, since i don’t have a camera, and I ask a friend to translate. It says: 

“My dearest Haala, With all my senses and emotions I say to you that your name, your beauty, your daintiness, your presence, your eyes, your laughter, and each and every thing about you is one of the delights of the world. I praise God who created you on this seventh day from this beautiful spot. I write your name on this rock, Halaa, and I called your name and it came back to me. I send you a heartfelt greeting with the strength of the rock.

My darling Halaa,
You are the light of the world.

I’m back in Worcester, and I go out for supper. There’s a Mexican place, and the food is so-so, but the owner is an obese man with a complete set of gold teeth, and he’s just so happy to see you that I keep going back. I eat several sope while watching giant Mexican breasts jiggle across the Sabado Gigante set. On the way home, I stop in a gas station. A middle aged woman, who looks like the years have been paying interest on her, tells me that she’s going to get a job as the person holding the sandwich board on the side of the main road for a tax agency. She has a huge open sore next to her mouth, a tongue ring, and a grandson who is fat and pink in the photo she shows me. The job is $10 an hour, under the table, and she’s super excited. 

Anyway. I apparently live in a short story by Bukowski. 

Allah y rham chouhadaa
Allah y rham li da7a
Allah y rham ay wa7ed

I teach a class

November 10, 2012

I’m teaching a class on mechanics. Analytical mechanics. Torqued, not shaken. (That’s covered in, I shit you not, a class on vibrations.) I’m at the board, giving a lecture.

“Now, as you can see, if we have a shaft with non-constant cross sectional area, we know that the polar moment of inertia varies as a function of X. So let’s say we take a slice out of that shaft. A pancake, of thickness dx. What does that mean?”

After a long silence, a student: “The polar moment of inertia…”

Me: “WRONG. What does it mean to have a pancake of thickness dx?”

After another long silence: “The maximum shear stress will be…”



October 28, 2012

Tonight, I came home. For supper, I had a pan-roasted filet mignon with caramelized shallots fried in butter. I treated myself to a properly chilled bottle of St. Bernardus abt. 12. It was delicious! Then, I drank 11 cans of Genessee Cream Ale and ate a double-handful of pizza bites because IT IS NOT CLEAR TO ME HOW THE ZEN PHILOSOPHY IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.

A Chicken!

October 6, 2012

So, I decided to make myself a proper homemade supper tonight. I made a salad, some rice, and I roasted a whole chicken, using a Jamie Oliver recipe, mate. So, I start carving the chicken, and there’s like zero meat on it. And I’m super depressed, because I was hankering for some delicious chicken. Then, I flip it over, and there’s lots of perfectly cooked juicy meat! It turns out I roasted the chicken upside down.

Anyway, knowing how to cook is supposedly a super attractive thing in a man. So allow me to say, ladies, I know how to cook, but there’s a chance I’ll end up motorboating your shoulder blades.

Doctor’s Visit

October 2, 2012

So. I went and got my yearly physical today, just to introduce myself to a local doctor. This one, I think I like. He told me my weight was totally appropriate. For a mid-range sedan. Oh, I’m not a car? he said. Perhaps I should lose a few pounds. He also laughed at me when I told him, entirely honestly, how much beer I drink each week, and wrote “in moderation” on the form.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. I want to talk to you about the draft. No, excuse me, I’ve got that wrong. I want to talk to you about a set of guidelines for how best to create a urine sample. So, there I am, in the doctor’s office, sitting on the Group W bench, and a nurse comes over from me. She takes a few tubs of blood out of me, then tells me to go into the can and hand over a shot of the ol’ apple juice. Sweet kidney tea. Australian beer (ha!). So I go into the john, and as I’m standing at the sink trying to force my suddenly barren and wind-swept (normally swollen and moist) bladder to produce, I start reading a sign taped to the mirror. 

The sign is a set of instructions. A set of detailed instructions. A set of really, really detailed instructions. Step one: retract foreskin. Step two: Rinse the tip of the penis with 2-3 ounces distilled water. Step three: Pat dry with paper towel. Step four: Open specimen jar, being sure not to touch inside of container. And on, and on, and on. 

Now, listen. I do a lot of degrading things in my life, every single day. Everyone does. There are so many reasons. I worry about how I dress, and I worry about how neat my beard is, I call the voice on the other end of the microphone in the mouth of the plastic clown ‘sir’, and I stop at red lights at three in the morning when there’s not another car on the road in the entire county, like an idiot. I do all of these things because my society has dictated that my dignity and masculinity aren’t getting top billing on this marquee. And since I can’t do without society, yet, I have to play the game and hope that my ancestors aren’t watching from the next world, stroking their weather-beaten faces with hands covered in plow callouses, wondering why I’m eating my lunch off of the greasy paper wrapper in which it wrapped like a goddamn prisoner. 

But I absolutely, categorically, refuse to read a set of instructions telling me how to piss in a jar. I think I managed to figure it out. Three generations ago, my forefathers came to America at half my age, alone, with just a pocket full of old bread and a language that wasn’t English, and now here I am standing in a doctor’s office reading the instructions on how to properly operate my meaty trouser banjo? No. Unacceptable.