It's like Mardi Gras meets the bombing of Dresden...
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
With You Always
*First- a quick note to the mother of a friend who reads my blog regularly and apparently likes it. Thanks! I'm actually a little embarassed on some of the content, so please note that quite frequently I'm not totally amoral. Deal?

I can never thank Hans enough for introducing me to Larry Van Pelt and his wonderful drawings of Jesus lurking in the background of everyday activities such as selling insurance, retarded juggling, and bank telling. Now finally, Larry has finally added a magnificent sketch of Jesus on duty with the troops. However, what I (and Dick Cheney) really want to see is a nice picture of Jesus hanging out with some troops while they waterboard suspected terrorists. I think that would be sweet. Almost as sweet as this video, which is almost identical to what I could imagine if I told Charles to reenact the story of Redhurt's life through rap...
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Weekend Bullets
I don't even want to write an intro paragraph...

1) I'm not sure what I was surfing to get to a graphic t-shirt website, but I found this shirt. The shirt really isn't that great, but the description is- "Our most intelligent shirt by far. You see, some kids at an early age in life are labeled as not being "good" at math and are therefore sent on the "slow track" in mathematics throughout junior high and high school. Good kids by all measure, they wind up in class with their "shady" friends who are in general disbelief to see who they once considered an intelligent person share the same math apptitude as them as well as younger pretty girl students who look at them instantly like they are the bad boys for not knowing math, because they are probably too busy partying and getting into fights to learn calculus. Well, to that person I raise my beer and say, "Congratulations sir, I have been down that road and you are going to tear Algebra 2 up this semester.""
2) I was at a local Honda dealership today, investigating my upcoming purchase of a 2007 Civic. Seeing that I've spent the better part of the last three years in a business primarily concerned with merchandising, I'm familiar with some of the tricks of selling. So, here's my short dramatic piece entitled "Monologue for a Car Salesman". Look buddy, you aren't going to con me into purchasing today because you asked me "How much do you want to put down today?" I understand that by assuming the deal and skipping certain steps people are more likely to buy, but probably not people who know what you're up to. Bastard. Yeah, you. You're a bastard. Look at you. You're wearing a sweatervest. I can't take you seriously. Furthermore, had you paid attention to the meaningless questions you asked about what it was that I did, you would have heard say "financial analyst." Even with no prior experience with the field, you might have been prudent enough to know that by just defining the words in my job title, you could tell that my job involves "analyzing finances." You know, crunching numbers. So, when I say that I'm not buying today and say that my reason is "I don't have my down payment ready", you should know better than to try to push me on a sale with "no down payment." I already ran the numbers, I know that taking a few grand off my down payment can cost me into the thousands in added financing costs. In conclusion, I was fully prepared to purchase a vehicle from you, you had it on the lot, I took it for a test drive, I was in. But you ruined it. So, I'm going to go buy the exact same car at the Honda dealership down the road. Congratulations, you're a douche.
3) Today I watched Crash, Be Cool, and Batman Begins. All great movies. Except for the middle one, which is just mildly entertaining. What can I say? I like Dwayne Johnson. 4) Finally, if I was the director of the CIA, I would definately have Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas killed. Or if I was a mob boss. Or someone who knew how to kill people. I'm pretty sure this opinion is shared by anyone with taste. She's on some cell phone commerical, and it makes me wish I was Helen Keller. Seriously, it's like someone took an average body, made it work out, put a couple thousand dollar pair of breasts on it, topped it off with the head of Andre the Giant, and then had Don DeLillo write song lyrics. Charles, feel free to drown this last paragraph out by just turning up "My Humps" a little bit in your headphones.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Editorial Oversight
The headline on my Google news page currently is, "Speaker Hastert testifies before panel probing sex scandal." Not much by itself, but I took a screenshot of this just a day or so ago... Seriously, does every single headline regarding the opening of a sexual assault case have to contain the word "probe"? What about investigate? Or the myriad of other acceptable synonyms with less explicit baggage? Can't we agree not to "probe" sexual offenders anymore?

In other news, my job is sweet, and I've narrowed my car selections down to either a 2006 Honda Civic Coupe or a 2006 MINI Cooper S. Most likely a Civic... I can't decide if driving a MINI makes me an unrepentant anglophile ala J. Morgan, or just kinda creepy. I'm leaning towards creepy, but having a car I could store under my desk during work (and thus avoid paying exorbitant parking fees) would be a definite plus. Anyway, The Italian Job is still cool, right?
"I'm the #1 ranked car in terms of resale value!"
Friday, October 20, 2006
Weekend Update
What? No poorly written prose? Nope, just a bulleted post explaining why I haven't been posting by summarizing the previous seven days...
  • I failed to attend Homecoming at Grove City on Saturday under the assumption that I would stay in Ohio and work on my presentation for PGA checkpoint, and that I would go to bed early since I was getting up at 3:30 am for my flight down to Raleigh. Sometime Sunday night I realized that I was dragging from only getting three hours of sleep, and that I had nothing done on my presentation. Verdict- should have attended Homecoming.
  • I passed all my certification requirement at PGA checkpoint (including my presentation- regardless of it being a poorly disguised polemic against the PGA) which should have made me eligible for election into full PGA membership this January. However, it seems that my "firing" has invalidated my long months of underpaid internship. Frustrating, yet oddly appropriate. For me, drafting angry letters against injustice was as much a part of college as videogames, pizza, and beer. Glad I get one more shot at it...
  • For the fourth time in six flights, I was delayed flying through Atlanta. To me, it seems that if you are going to close runways for maintenance, the least you could do would be to build that into your flight schedules. Instead of getting back to Ohio on Wednesday at 7 and having plenty of time for a good sleep before my first day of work, I got back at 11, got to sleep by 12, and got back up at 5:15. Gross. The rest of my flight experience can be expressed in the following logical progression:
    • I have scar tissue on my eardrums from childhood ear infections, making it extremely difficult for me to handle extreme changes in pressure. Dive to the bottom of a ten foot pool I don't.
    • I happened to have a cold. Not a drippy, coughy cold, just pure congestion, plugging up my head and my mind.
    • Consequently, I experienced the most excruciating pain in the world since Denzel cut off some fingers in "Man on Fire." As soon as the plane started its decent, the pressure became acute in my ears, and as a result of the congestion, it felt like someone was driving a railroad spike through my left eyebrow and into the center of my brain. Only the railroad spike was on fire, and made out of angry badgers. I seriously thought I was seconds away from having an aneurysm and bleeding out on the airplane floor. As soon as the pain hit, my left eye started to water. Well, not water, flood. It just poured tears, Victoria Falls style. I was under such agony that I thought I was going to throw up, and I was forced to grab the vomit bag from the seat back. To make the situation even worse, I happened to be lucky enough (and then unlucky enough) to be sitting amongst the NC State women's varsity volleyball team. They proved extremely sympathetic, while I proved myself the world's biggest wuss.
    • As insult to injury, I didn't have a direct flight. Meaning that once I landed, I had two hours to look foward to going through the exact same thing again. Yay!
  • While in North Carolina, I stayed at a friend's brand new condo while he was off on his honeymoon. While the wedding gifts we opened in his absence included a shower rod and shower curtain, they didn't included shower rings to bind the two. Consequently, I took my first, second, and third bath in well over a decade, and it was horrible. Seriously, taking a bath is what I'd suggest if I was trying to come up with the longest, most uncomfortable, ineffecient way to get clean. Someone please explain the attraction to me of soaking in your own filth. Also, he didn't have any shampoo yet, but antibacterial hand soap left my hair squeaky clean.
  • I started my job on Thursday, and completed my second full day today. Some quick reason my job is better than yours:
    • No one keeps track of my hours, or my days off. Consequently, once I'm off the radar for being a rook, I can show up whenever, leave whenever, and travel whenever, within reason.
    • We have a kickass coffee maker that brews individual flavors of Green Mountain Coffee.
    • Monday afternoon will involve me going to the mall and shopping, in order to chart traffic on a few of the retailers I cover and promotional and pricing trends. I'm not sure if I'll be able to write off things I buy as business expenses though.
    • In the hierarchy of interesting-ness, my job ranks highest. For your information, the hierarchy is as follows: Market Research, Culture Research, Theology, Fashion, IT, Computer Programming. Take that Redhurt.
    • I have an amazing view of the cold, grey Cleveland sky.
  • Finally, a quick summary of what I've accomplished at work in the last two days.
    • I sat in on some conference calls.
    • I sat in on some meetings, including one with the CEO of a major publicly traded company. I'll refuse to name names, but the highlights of the stop included this exchange:
      • CEO: "Our line of industrial snow melters faces zero market competition."
      • Senior Partner at my firm: "What about the sun?"
    • I spent eight hours reading financial reports and company information on the specific retailers that I cover.
    • I updated my Facebook profile, read articles at ESPN and NationalReview, talked to some of you through GMail, and was blocked from websites NSFW at least half a dozen times. That's right MySpace, you are officially NSFW.
  • Tomorrow, I'm off to meet up with the manic-depressive, former fullback that some of you know who may or not be the direct descendant of a garden gnome. We're going to go car shopping, and probably celebrate my belated birfday at some Japanese restaurant where they grill the food at your table. That's right, I said birfday. For the record, I'm 22, some old hag is old enough to be my... well... older sister, really.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Christian Music? No Thanks...
By the time he arrived, the band had already been playing for half an hour. He squeezed through the aisle, each person seeming not to notice until he touched them on the shoulder, then making an awkward display of pressing back against their seat so that he could get by. Thirty minutes, long enough for the acrid stench of the artificial smoke to drift silently up into the fifth row of seats in the lower section. The smell was familiar, yet twisted. It seemed commonplace, yet different, and wrong. He couldn’t place it. The arena had been split in half by a huge curtain, creating an amphitheatre effect and halving the number of available seats, but even so it had failed to sell out. People stood crowded on the floor directly beneath the stage, but on the lower level empty seats were easily discernable, and in the outreaches of the arena small groups hung in clumps, framed against the folded chairs. He wondered why they didn’t move closer, there was plenty of room and it was obvious he was among the last to arrive. Maybe the fact that it was a Christian rock concert had something to do with it. Was it immoral to jump a few balconies and claim a better seat? Would the band stop playing and pray aloud for contentment among God’s people? He was in uncharted waters, and felt that voicing these questions would betray him as an outsider.

He hadn’t intended to attend this concert, nor had he ever heard music by Audio Adrenaline, or the feature band Mercy Me. To be specific, he'd never even heard of Mercy Me. He had planned on staying home, working on his presentation, and falling asleep early. He had picked up a cold during his visit to Michigan, as usual, and wondered if he had contracted it while at the hospital, or while running around downtown Grand Rapids, underdressed, drunk, and lost. Supposedly the colder weather had little to do with the illness, it had more to do with the increased transmission of viruses while sequestered inside for the winter months. While he agreed with that in theory, he still wondered why he seemed to catch cold every time he left the south to visit Michigan in the winter. Regardless of the method of its acquisition, the cold had left him tired and congested, and the music rang hollowly in his plugged ears.

He had been roped into attending the concert by his friend’s parents, whom he was staying with for a few months until he found his own apartment. They had an extra ticket, and he had no excuse why he couldn’t go, save his general aversion to Christian music, and he felt he couldn’t use that excuse without offending them. Plus, he was indebted to them. Not only were they largely responsible for his new job, but also they were putting him up, and refusing his offers to pay rent. If spending a few hours listening to mediocre music helped even the deal, then he would grudgingly attend.

The artificial smoke continued to assault his nostrils. He took out a couple pieces of Trident Tropical Twist gum, but even while chewing with his mouth open the stench wafted up and into his brain. He finally placed it. It smelled like buttery movie popcorn and flatulence. No, not flatulence, ass. Hot, wet, steamy butt. It didn’t have the pungent spice of a good fart, just the heavy, monotonous reek of sweaty ass. It reminded him of a bus trip back from Cedar Point during eighth grade. After a warm day running through the park, the group had stayed for the laser light show, which had been impressive framed against the dark clouds. Halfway through the dark clouds opened up, and twenty plus eighth graders and chaperones had ran a half mile or so back to the bus in the rain. The combination of old sweat and new sweat was magnified from the rain, and overwhelming in the enclosed bus. It was that, plus popcorn. He took a big whiff of the smoke to make sure he had it pegged. He gagged, if anything, quantifying the smell had made it worse, but even so, the description was so precise and perfect that he couldn’t help smiling.

On stage the first band was wrapping up its set. They were attempting a big finish, but for some reason the crowd had trouble matching their enthusiasm, even with the efforts of the tech crew to synchronize the clapping, arm waving, and screaming through a twenty foot screen projected on the curtain behind the band. He no longer had any interest in the music, to be precise; he now had less than the zero interest he had started with. His attention was focused on the crowd, and on exploring the reasons why this concert seemed different from a secular one. Several reasons immediately came to mind, and he started to mentally draft a future post for his blog. First he needed a clever title, something along the lines of “Ten Reasons Christian Concerts Suck.” No, wait; he had a better one, “Why Christian Concerts Have No Soul.” Less polemic, it was drier, subtler, more appropriate.

The obvious first reason was the crowd. On stage the lead singer from Audio Adrenaline was thanking the crowd for fifteen years of devotion, apparently, he had unknowingly attended part of the farewell tour. Fifteen years… that would put the debut date in the early nineties, and explain the proliferation of not-so-young mothers accompanied by their newly balding husbands. They had been in the latter stages of secondary education or the early stages of college back then, at the age where new bands become emblematic of a generation. They were the initial followers, and had been responsible for purchasing initial cassette tapes, then CD’s, and probably now shelled out money for DVD’s of concerts they’d never attended. When the rest of their generation had been mourning the suicide of Kurt Cobain, they had been rejoicing to the accompaniment of their bland, Christian pop-rock, and reading World Magazine as Tupac was gunned down in the streets.

The rest of the crowd was older, and less demonstrative. They’d probably attended Guns and Roses concerts twenty years ago, maybe even had a White Snake jacket. Now they attended Christian Rock concerts in order to feel young without betraying their middle-aged family values, or as a result of some compromise made with their pubescent child. He had it. That was the problem with Christian Rock. Hell, that was the problem with most of Christian music. They were taking genres and divorcing them from their roots, neutering them in the process. Rock without counter-culture, Metal without protest, Grunge without depression, Rap without violence, Music is hollow without context. You can’t explain troubadours without chivalry, classical without the Enlightenment, Jazz without Black America, Pop Music without consumerism. Where is Frank Sinatra without the Fifties? The Beatles without the Sixties? Kanye West without Enron?

He turned his attention to the stage area, not to the band, or the stage itself, but the first few rows of floor seats. One staff member in a yellow shirt relaxed on a folding chair, head nodding along with the music. The audience stood by their seats, hands raised, devoid of the frantic crush and mayhem appropriate to front-row floor seats at a secular concert. On stage the lead singer was rolling through some canned monologue about the graciousness of God, the audience enrapt. Musicians without Megalomania, he was on to something there. At a normal concert the focus is local, superficial. Religious music resists the deification of its performers, and deification is responsible for the intensity of secular concerts.

Ironically, the last concert he had been to had also been in Cleveland. When was that? Four years ago? He had been a college freshman, and had somehow wound up eight rows back from the stage on the aisle watching Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors. He'd felt detached the whole night, the only person in that section who didn't push up against the human security fence when Tim McGraw came up through the floor and ran down the aisle onto the stage. He'd been the only person who laughed out loud when a woman was allowed to climb up on stage sobbing, and show how off her Tim McGraw tattoo. The only person who knew less than half of the songs. The only person more interested in watching the crowd than the performers. He felt the same way now. The difference was the level of excitement. For Tim McGraw, it had been harder not to get swept up in the emotion of the crowd, forty thousand people screaming, clapping, demanding more music. Now there were what? Five thousand? Nor we they packed tight enough to feed off each other's energy. For Tim McGraw, he'd had to stand the whole night just to see the stage from eight rows back. Here, he counted less than eighty people standing in the entire floor section. The audience was reserved, quiet even. After Tim McGraw the girl he'd gone with had been so turned on that he'd wound up rolling around in the back of an Explorer parked outside a self-storage park at three o'clock in the morning. Had they attended a concert like this, he would have been lucky just to get a kiss later. No tongue, no eye contact...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Prose Blogging
He placed the small, plastic garbage can on the floor, feeling both repulsed and oddly fascinated by the disgusting collection of fluids congealing in the bottom. The thinner, less viscous, green bile raced around the darkened clumps where stomach acid had mixed with blood and mucus, turning almost black. The neon rivers seemed to glow as they coursed through the larger, darker clumps , the fluorescent sheen reminding him of ectoplasm, or what he imagined ectoplasm would look like. Perhaps cartoon acid was a better description. He imagined someone carelessly knocking a beaker over and seeing the glowing, green liquid eat through a table, hearing the tell-tale sizzle and then viewing thin cartoony wisps of smoke floating up, as only an acid-shaped hole remained. His esophagus was raw from vomiting all morning, and the animation in his head seemed to resemble old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoons, so he decided cartoon acid was a better analogy. After all, ectoplasm would most likely have some restorative benefit.

The matter settled, his stomach lurched, and he looked away quickly, regaining control before adding more to the bucket. He slowly straightened his arm, watching the drips fall faster and faster in the IV, until it was impossible to discern one from the next, and the now steady stream of fluids flowed down through the plastic tubing and into his arm. The IV fluid, though room temperature, created a numbing sensation in his veins, causing him to shiver violently under the thin hospital gown. The nausea medicine seemed to be taking effect, and he could no longer feel the unmistakable twinge in the back of his throat. Was the medicine working, or was he just imagining himself feeling better? The calm mechanics of the hospital and smooth, unhurried professionalism of the doctors had caused him to feel slightly better the moment he'd arrived, body numb, muscles locked, mind frantic. The curative powers of modern medicine were probably due as much to some placebic effect from watching fictionalized TV accounts as from science. On TV, doctors miraculously cured strange illnesses in the nick of time, finding the cure just as the patients neared death, before retiring to the break room to bang hot nurses. How could one not feel better at the hospital? Nothing bad ever seemed to happen in hospitals. Bad things happened in subways, and at intersections, and on overloaded backyard decks.

He eyed his sweatshirt sitting on the counter across the room, wondering why he was forced to remove it when he could have just rolled the sleeve up. The IV had come close to draining itself, and just minutes after its insertion, was now nearly two-thirds empty. Still cold, he pulled the hospital blanket up farther, trying to guess how many times it had been washed since someone died under it. Two? Five? Twenty? How many people die in hospitals in medium-size metropolitan cities every year? How many blankets do they have? Why the hell couldn't he just put on his sweatshirt? He lay back, closing his eyes and trying to relax his muscles in order to stop the shivering...

He had arrived in town less than forty-eight hours ago, intent on burning a few days of his two week break between jobs. Agenda? He had no agenda, save trying to put together a small presentation he needed to give in ten days to complete his certification as a golf professional. Mostly, he planned on watching some TV, drinking a few beers, and catching up with some high school friends he hadn't seen in months. The first night had been simple enough, some chicken and beer at one of those mid-level generic restaurant chains. Which one was it? Fridays? Chili's? Applebee's? Ruby Tuesday? They all seem the same. Surely there was some scathing intellectual commentary of the commodification of American taste that existed on the Internet somewhere. Most likely written by some wanna-be academic indoctrinated on Karl Polanyi theses and Chuck Palahniuk novels. Most likely, a white, upper middle class, card-carrying member of the intelligentsia, bound for success in corporate America, and slightly uncomfortable because of it.

He had played some pick-up basketball at the YMCA that night. Coincidentally, he'd played on an all-white team versus a couple of all-black teams, and not coincidentally, they'd won every game. While not yet on Wikipedia, there exists some principle that states all-white pick up teams generally outperform their all-black counterparts in full team games, unless huge physical dissimilarities exist. The reason is that white kids, suffering from years of embarrassing defeats in individual match-ups against black kids, realize that to avoid getting kicked off the court, their only hope lies in playing solid, fundamental, team basketball. Consequently, they spend the game setting picks, making extra passes, hitting three pointers and playing help defense while black kids, cocky from thrashing white kids in individual matchups their whole lives, are tempted to try to do it all themselves. Empirically, this theory had never been disproved to him, holding true from intramural games at college, to pickup ball at the outside courts, and now YMCA ball on a Wednesday night. He'd always wanted to test this theory at the NBA level, curious to see how a team consisting of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Larry Bird, and some big, white center would stack up against Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron. Even with the principle, he still figured he'd bet on the black team in this example, unless the white team was coached by Phil Jackson, and the black team got Isaiah Thomas.

He hadn't done much the second day either, getting next to nothing done for PGA checkpoint, waxing a couple of his friends at Tiger Woods 2005 for Xbox, and eating half a cheesecake he found unattended in the fridge. It had been delicious. Once his friend had returned home from work, they had run to Taco Bell, and the Chicken Ranch Wraps he eschewed his normal Grilled Stuffed Burrito for had been a mistake. It had been years since he had tried anything else, not only did the Chicken Ranch Wraps not look anything like the poster (the Grilled Stuffed Burrito looks identical, placing it in a very select group of photogenic fast foods, along with the McDonald's ice cream cone, and Wendy's chicken nuggets), but they had also been unexpectedly diminutive.

He had recently decided that it was not man's strengths that made him human, but his weaknesses. Man's humanity is more clearly demonstrated in the fact that he dies, rather than because he lives. While free of many of the flaws that plague lesser humans, he still had a couple of weaknesses, namely narcissism, and top-shelf vodka. While technically he possessed the free will to be able to moderate his consumption of such spirits, occasionally events manifested themselves in such a way that his free will was negated. Events such as weddings, hurricane parties, and two dollar you-call-it's at VIP parties. Ironically, The Perfect Storm was playing on HBO that afternoon, filling the room with thick New England accents and as yet unnoticed symbolism. As people filtered into the apartment, Svedka vodka was poured into shot glasses and consumed, chased by some cheap tropical punch. His reaction was mixed. Grey Goose it wasn't, but it was definitely a step up from the Aristocrat pounded in leaner days at college parties. A few shots and fifteen minutes later, he and the others piled into a few vehicles and made their way to the bar, courtesy of drivers he didn't know.

He was held up at the door, his Florida license being carefully inspected. The process seemed somewhat weird, until he realized that it had been months, if not years, since he had last been carded. He realized that being in a town with a large, underage undergrad population, his out-of-state license probably seemed suspicious. After all, who leaves Florida to go to school in Michigan? No one that he had ever heard of. Finally allowed into the bar, he paused long enough to get his green bracelet signifying him as one of the lucky few who would be drinking for next to nothing tonight, and then ventured upstairs.

It was early, and the bar was far from busy. A few older people were mingling around the remains of a buffet, most likely the remains of some earlier birthday party held before the night bar rush, although judging by their ages, it could have just as well been a retirement party. He opened a tab, and within seconds, his first Grey Goose and Cranberry arrived. A few moments later, the empty glass was replaced with a full one, and a few moments later, the new glass was in turn replaced. Sitting in a booth watching the Mets-Dodgers game, he was soon absorbed in the idle bar chatter that goes with heavy drinking.

"You're retahded... No, you ah..."

The conversation was punctuated with Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch SNL quotes whenever Nomar appeared at the plate for the Dodgers. He looked at his glass, and noticed he'd been saving the straws from each drink. How many straws were in his drink now? Seven? Nine? He lost interest in counting them before he arrived at a definitive number. Excusing himself, he made his way down the stairs to find a bathroom, gripping the handrail and taking the steps deliberately. He still felt sober, not sober enough to drive, but plenty sober enough to keep up his current pace. As usual, all the normal height urinals were in use, so he placed his hand on the wall as he leaned forward to make sure the splatter would stay in the urinal, and not rebound out and on to his pants and shoes.

As he made his way up the stairs back to the booth, he became aware that the bar had definitely picked up in intensity. No longer could he just wait at the table for the server to notice his emptying drink and replace it, but he had to fight his way through the crowd to the bar. To save time waiting, he began to order two drinks at a time. Later, he would view this as oddly analogous to much of American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century, a short term fix that only fuels underlying problems. The problem with ordering two drinks at a time is that one is immediately downed in order to save the trouble of wandering around the bar with both hands full, while the other is eventually consumed at the normal rate. In essence, this nearly doubles the pace of drinking, but in a way that is not immediately obvious to the drinker.

He wandered over to where his friend was talking to a couple of girls, noticing that his buddy was paying much more attention to the more attractive one. A team player, he engaged the other in conversation. While talking to her, he kept noticing that he wasn't paying attention to what she was saying, but rather he was constantly lapsing into some internal monologue.

"What is with her hair? Why is it sticking up in the middle when it appears to be tied back? It looks like a female mohawk. Wait, I've seen this on other girls... when did this come into style? I wonder what it's called, does it even have a name? I think I'd call it the continental divide, or maybe... why did she stop talking? Did she just ask me a question? Shit! What was she just talking about?"

He had no idea, and he took advantage of the crush of people to slip away without looking like he was abandoning the conversation. At least, he tried to make it look like that.

"Fuck! You just broke my thumb, you asshole!"

He collided with his friend, jamming his thumb awkwardly into his chest, causing immediate swelling and tenderness in both knuckles. The pain was real, but deadened by the alcohol. He pressed on, fighting through the crowd, he made his way to bar and ordered two more drinks...

He woke up, shivering violently, clothed in a sweatshirt that wasn't his, still wearing the jeans from the night before. He felt his pockets, and found them empty. Where was his wallet? Cell phone? He remembered he'd left his keys at the apartment, but couldn't remember what else he'd had with him at the bar. He pulled the blanket up over him, it had only been covering his legs, and rolled away from his cramped position against the wall on the floor of the apartment. He was curled up in the fetal position in the corner of the hallway, next to the bathroom. Had he been throwing up? His mouth was dry and tasted like vomit, and throat felt raw. He vaguely remembered huddling over the toilet, on hands and knees, shivering constantly except for the brief periods of sweating immediately after the evacuation of his stomach.

He was freezing, why was he so cold? He racked his brain, trying to piece together what had happened after they had left the bar. Jumbled images came to mind, he remembered sitting on the curb talking to a couple of girls while also talking on his cell phone, but he couldn't remember their faces. So he had had his cell phone on him, hopefully, it was somewhere in the apartment next to his wallet. He remembered wandering around the city in just jeans and a shirt, knowing it was cold, and that he was cold, but not feeling cold. That explained the shivering, he must have gotten chilled while running through downtown trying to find someone he knew. How had he gotten back? He vaguely remembered a taxi ride, but couldn't place how he had flagged one down, or how he had given directions back to where he was staying. As far as he knew, he didn't know the way from the apartment to the bar, so he must have met someone he knew on the street.

As drunk as he was the night before, he felt amazingly good. He looked at his watch. Ten o'clock. He'd been asleep for at least seven hours. He stood up and stepped into the bathroom, noticing the shoes he'd worn the night before, and the vomit caked onto the top of the right one. He didn't feel hungover, his head felt clear, and he seemed to be moving without the uncertainty that happens when waking up before the ingested alcohol is fully processed. He turned the water on and took off his clothes. Looking at himself in the mirror, he didn't see any bruises, scratches, or caked blood. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. He turned on the sink faucet and starting gulping the cold, clear water. He knew he was dehydrated, and drank as much as he could before turning the faucet off and stepping into the shower.

He stayed in the shower for over half an hour, turning the water hotter and hotter, but yet he wasn't able to stop shivering. Finally, he reached the point where the water could get no hotter, and he turned it off. He dried himself quickly, rushing to get back into some pants and the thick sweatshirt. He walked through the apartment, finally settling into the couch and covering himself with a blanket. One of the guys he knew from high school was playing Xbox, and he half watched while he tried to fall back asleep. He noticed that watching the TV was starting to make him feel nauseous, so he closed his eyes. It didn't help, but standing seemed to. He strolled over to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water, and started to drink. It caught in his throat. Putting the glass down quickly, he walked quickly to the bathroom, closing the door. He threw up quickly, and immediately felt better.

Minutes later, he joined one of his friends who needed to run a few errands. His friend needed to stop at the bank and then the gas station, and he wanted to purchase some Vernors' from the gas station to settle his stomach. While sitting in the car at the bank, his stomach wrenched again. He stepped out of the car, feeling somewhat refreshed by the cool fall air, but not completely. He threw up in the grass, feeling the stares of some Mexicans unloading a produce truck across the street. His stomach already emptied by vomiting earlier, he gasped and spat, covering the ground with green bile. He hated dry heaves. He hated how he felt that there was something inside him to be vomited, and how he knew that there wasn't. The agony was in the contradiction. He sat back in the car, ignoring the workers across the street, and waited for his friend to finish up inside the bank.

At the gas station, he purchased two twenty ounce bottles of Vernors', and once back at the car, opened one and took a small swig. The crisp taste and carbonation provided a welcome relief from the dry, stale taste of vomit. He was extremely thirsty, but had enough self control to pace himself, to make sure that he could hold down even a little bit. He smiled at the irony, had he paced himself last night, he wouldn't even be in his current position. Within minutes of arriving back at the apartment, he found himself once again hunched over the toilet, stomach painfully cramped, regurgitating the small bit of pop along with more stomach acid.

The intervals were shortening. Whereas he had almost forty minutes between the first and second time he vomited that morning, he was now throwing up regularly every ten minutes. Not only that, but his intestinal track was also... shaky. The problem with puking and pooping is a matter of proper ordering. Should he puke first, or poop first? Puking first raised questions of bowel control, as he imagined it would be easy for the wrong muscle to clench itself in the process, but on the other hand, throwing up into a toilet so recently fouled did not appeal to him either. After a brief moment of indecision, he decided to vomit second, but only after dousing the toilet with a thick layer of Febreze Air Freshener.

His hands were numb. He was puking roughly every five to eight minutes, and the time spent balanced on his hands and knees seemed to be taking a toll on his circulation. He thought that placing that much pressure on his wrists had started to limit blood flow to his hands, and he tried shaking them and leaning on his fists to restore the flow of blood. He vomited again, and began to notice that his legs were going numb also. He tried standing up and walking. However, rather than lessen the heavy feeling in his extremities, movement seemed to accentuate it. The numbness was spreading farther up into his arms and legs, and he could feel his face pulse. Four minute intervals, and now there was blood mixed in with the vomit. Immediately after vomiting, the dullness in his body would dissipate, only to return more severely seconds later. His stomach muscles were almost permanently flexed, squeezed so tightly that his breathing grew shorter, and more labored.

His face was now almost fully asleep. He thought of the movie Blow, and the quote from the small-time drug dealer after doing a line of almost pure coke.

"I can't feel my face, I mean, I can feel it, but I can't... feel it."

A million pin pricks seemed to be pushing up from the inside of his skull into his skin. He was starting to panic. He considered calling his parents and asking if he should consider visiting a hospital, but decided against it. He settled on calling one of his friends who was pre-med. He had found his phone and wallet earlier, but was now surprised how much difficulty he had trying to push the buttons on his phone. His hands had started to clench, fingers and thumbs extended, resembling clamps. He threw up again. He was now gasping for breath, only able to inhale shallowly and rapidly, as he couldn't get his stomach muscles to unclench. His friends had gone out to lunch, and he realized that he desperately needed to go to the ER. He thought about driving himself, but realized that he did not have sufficient control of his body to operate a vehicle, nor did he know where the hospital was.

He could now barely move, and his body was shutting down rapidly. Realizing that he was alone, and that in a short period of time he might be unable to get help, he called his friends, only to find that his jaw was now locking up. He was mumbling barely intelligible phrases, but they promised to rush back and take him in. His mind was racing, but there seemed to be no pattern to the thought. He couldn't think clearly, nor could he pull a solitary image or concept from the avalanche of his mind. He tried to walk downstairs after the phone call, to meet his friends outside and make it in faster, but his friends burst in before he made it out of the apartment. How long had it taken him to make his way to the front door from the bathroom? Thirty seconds? A minute? Three? He had no idea, it only seemed that there had been no delay between calling his friends and their arrival.

They half-guided, half-carried him down the hall, into the elevator, and into the Jeep in front of the building. Someone had thought to bring a small, plastic bucket, and he threw up again. Immediately after, he felt the brief relief of his muscles relaxing, and he found himself able to communicate clearly. It didn't last, and by the time they were stuck at a red light, the paralysis had returned.

"Fuck it, drive... I'll pay... ticket," he mumbled desperately, once again hunched over the small plastic bucket. He had no idea how far away the hospital was, and figured getting pulled over would at least provide them a police escort, saving them a few minutes in the process. The hospital was situated on top of the next hill, and pulling into the ER drive, he stumbled out of the front seat only to collapse into a waiting wheel chair.

Communicating with the nurse at the front desk was difficult, as his jaw was now almost completely immobilized. In an effort to speed things up, he struggled to remove his license and insurance card from his wallet, and placed them on the counter.

"Is this the right address?"
"No... I... don't live in Florida..."
"In town?"
"No... moving to Cleveland..."
"Where have you been living?"
"North Carolina... but don't live there... now... use parent's address..."

It took a few minutes for him to say the address clear enough for the nurse to register him. Finally, he was wheeled back to a room, where he collapsed on the bed momentarily, before vomiting into the plastic bucket. Two doctors, a physician's assistant, and a nurse all came through the room individually in the next twenty minutes, all asking the same questions, before he was finally hooked into an IV, and given some medicine to lessen his vomiting.

That was where he was now, reclining in the hospital bed, shivering under the thin blanket, gradually regaining the sensation of feel in his arms and legs. His breathing was less labored, now that the medicine had eased nausea's strong clench on his midsection, allowing him to close his eyes without immediately grasping for the bucket. The technical explanation for the paralysis had been a form of hyperventilation, as the near continuous vomiting had changed his breathing sufficiently so that he burned off more than the usual amount of carbon dioxide through respiration. Low carbon dioxide levels cause the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, creating the numbness in his face, and the rise in his blood's pH reduced the amount of available calcium, affecting his nerves and causing the numbness in his arms and legs. It would be a few hours until he was released, as the doctors ran tests to determine what had caused the initial wave of vomiting, but he knew.

28 hours later he would be engaged in some intense games of beer pong, esophagus aching, Miller Lite bottles stacking up on the counter, hospital bracelet still attached as a reminder to exercise better judgment. The keyword being better judgment, as the fact that he was drinking again was clearly against good judgment...
Thursday, October 05, 2006
I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but sometime within the last few months I've become increasingly addicted to coffee. Granted, my taste has not developed to the point where I can discern a Costa Rican Terramazu Estate from some hot water sloshed around a coffee pot that hasn't been cleaned in a couple of weeks, but I'm still stunned by the development. After an incredibly intense bout of introspection, I've reduced to my addiction to a few key factors.

1) I've moved back across the Mason/Dixon line, reaffirming my allegiance to things like reading and abstaining from sex with family members, and the cold mornings (currently defined as anything under 60 degrees) are much more compatible with a hot beverage.

2) I've become a suit, and in order to complete the change to my new identity, I need to be able to competently trash ubiquitous coffee chains in favor of independent growers in the least accessible places on the globe, while simultaneously pumping money into SBUX (Starbucks) through my Ameritrade account. Nothing screams "I've made it!" louder than a brand-new Dodge Stratus and a heaping pile of self-contradiction.

3) I enjoy hanging out in coffee shops, and I feel uncomfortable raping free Wi-Fi access without purchasing something. I also feel uncomfortable with just buying something and throwing it away, so naturally, I buy coffee I don't want and then drink it. (Oddly enough I just broke into the "USA!, USA!, USA!" chant...)

4) Most people I hang out with drink coffee, consequently, the trait appears more desirable. Other similar concepts that I was once opposed to made more attractive by association include postmodernism, Christianity, and monogamy. Hopefully, I'll stop short of letting Charles make me into a relativist...

On a final, semi-related note, I was rudely awakened this morning by the high pitched whine of an automatic grinder/brewer at my friend's apartment. Had someone immediately offered me a choice between the following two explanations, I would have chosen (B), Occam's Razor be damned!

(1) The sound is from an automatic coffee grinder/brewer.
(2) Somehow I've fallen asleep on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and I'm seconds away from having an F-14 land on my face.

Lastly, can anyone explain why "a F-14" sounds like velociraptors attacking a chalkboard, and "an F-14" sounds like a koala bear crapping a rainbow in my brain? Wouldn't "a F-14" be correct?
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Adventures in Capitalism
Since I've upgraded careers, it is only a matter of time before I decide to upgrade the rest of my life. Now that I'll be making real money, and with my looming graduation, I'm months away from having the apron strings cut, resulting in a repossession of my truck by my parents. Consequently, it's time to start car shopping. So, in a Clinton-esque manner, I'm going to conduct a quick survey to see what kind of vehicle is favored by the public at large. However, in a very un-Clinton-esque manner, it probably won't factor into my final decision. Ready? Let's roll...

I've narrowed the field down to a few choice selections- I'll let you know how they stack up after I get some input. Please don't hesitate to suggest cars that aren't currently in the top five, but for every hybrid suggested, I'll club at least two, but no more than five, baby seals.

1) Honda Civic- Economical, Efficient, Generic
2) Audi A4- Tasteful, Appealing, Cost-Prohibitive3) Nissan 350z- Exciting, Sexy, Not Practical4) Nissan Murano- Rugged, Modern, Exotic5) Volkswagen Passat- German, Reliable, Cliche
Lastly, I'm not buying a Kia, Hyundai, Daewoo, Suzuki, Ford, GM, or Chevy- so don't even think about it.