Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My ancestors

As described by Henry Miller in Tropic of Capricorn:

"Some cities you don't even have to pass a night in--just an hour or two is enough to unnerve you. I think of Bayonne that way. I came on it in the night with a few addresses that had been given to me. I had a brief case under my arm with a prospectus of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I was supposed to go under cover of dark and sell the bloody encyclopedia to some poor devils who wanted to improve themselves. If I had been dropped off at Helsingfors I couldn't have felt more ill at ease than walking the streets of Bayonne. It wasn't an American city to me. It wasn't a city at all, but a huge octopus wriggling in the dark. The first door I came to looked so forbidding I didn't even bother to knock; I went like that to several addresses before I could summon the courage to knock. The first face I took a look at frightened the shit out of me. I don't mean timidity or embarrassment--I mean fear. It was the face of a hod carrier, an ignorant mick who would as lief fell you with an ax as spit in your eye. I pretended I had the wrong name and hurried on to the next address. Each time the door opened I saw another monster. And then I came at last to a poor simp who really wanted to improve himself and that broke me down. I felt truly ashamed of myself, of my country, my race, my epoch. I had devil of a time persuading him not to buy the damned encyclopedia. He asked me innocently what then had brought me to his home--and without a minute's hesitation I told him an astounding lie, a lie which was later to prove a great truth. I told him I was only pretending to sell the encyclopedia in order to meet people and write about them. That interested him enormously, even more than the encyclopedia. He wanted to know what I would write about him, if I could say. It's taken me twenty years to answer that question, but here it is. If you would still like to know, John Doe of the City of Bayonne, this is it...I owe you a great deal because after that lie I told you I left your house and I tore up the prospectus furnished me by the Encyclopedia Britannica and I threw it in the gutter. I said to myself I will never again go to people under false pretenses even if it is to give them the Holy Bible. I will never again sell anything, even if I have to starve. I am going home now and I will sit down and really write about people. And if anybody knocks at my door to sell me something I will invite him in and say "why are you doing this?" And if he says it is because he has to make a living I will offer him what money I have and beg him once again to think what he is doing. I want to prevent as many men as possible from pretending that they have to do this or that because they must earn a living. It is not true. One can starve to death--it is much better. Every man who voluntarily starves to death jams another cog in the automatic process. I would rather see a man take a gun and kill his neighbor, in order to get the food he needs, than keep up the automatic process by pretending that he has to earn a living. That's what I want to say, Mr. John Doe."

Loud guys

I seem to be surrounded by loud guys lately. Guys who feel compelled to make their presence known by loud belching, indiscreet farting, and random moans, groans, and other indescribable outbursts.

While watching the Giants game on Sunday, two of my friends decided that at this point in our friendship (we've known each other since we were children) there's no point in standing on ceremony. If you've got to belch or fart, just let it rip. We know we're pigs, so why pretend otherwise. For years now we've even developed a sort of ritual, a sort of call and response if you will, in which each burp or fart is greeted with a hearty, "Morning, Judge." We've gotten a lot of mileage out of this gag and given the right set of circumstances, it can still be pretty funny. But Sunday was different. My friends were erupting with such force and regularity that I was on the verge of erupting myself with a "Will you two shut the fuck up!" I mean, every man has his limit. Can't a guy watch a game without feeling like he's living in a barn?

Speaking of farm animals, my new neighbor in the apartment below me makes noises that I've never heard emitted by another human being before. I've had a bad vibe about this guy since he moved in with my original neighbor, a stewardess who never made a sound because she rarely ever spent the night in her apartment (where do women find these guys? And, more to the point, why do they consent to live with them?). I know it's not right to judge a person by their appearance, but when I saw this guy (mid-20s, 6' 2", 250 lbs) decked out head-to-toe in what appeared to be a facsimile NBA uniform, sucking on a cigarette while yapping on his cell phone in front of my building late one night as I took out the garbage, I got a bad feeling. The barrage of House of Horrors sound effects soon followed. Seriously, it's like an Edgar Allen Poe movie down there. Moans, groans, wall-rattling coughs, unintelligible shouts at the television, and, worst of all, blood-curdling, guttural grunts at the conclusion of his morning ruts (the poor woman!). Last night it sounded like he was being murdered. I've never heard one person make such a racket!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Poetic Justice

One of my favorite moments from the Giants victory over the Packers on Sunday actually occurred during the post-game blather (I know, I'm a hypocrite, but the Giants don't win the NFC Championship every year). Terry Bradshaw, the lone pundit to finally pick the Giants before the game, got to go inside to interview Giants players while the three negative motherfuckers got to sit out in the cold shivering (Jimmy Johnson was turning purple which was even more glorious in HD on my friend's monster TV). Sweet revenge!

Monday, January 21, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I thought it was a great movie until Anderson botched it completely with that last, ham-handed scene. That last scene didn't even feel like it belonged to the same movie. The tone was completely different and the jokey violence was like something out of a Tarantino movie. And to build all that up just to slam religion (literally)? Man, what a let down. Not as bad as the raining frogs in Magnolia, but close. I think Anderson would be better off if he quit trying to inject "big ideas" into his movies. Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Punch-Drunk Love were much more effective because they weren't bogged down with some profound statement Anderson was trying to make (the other problem being that Anderson's profound statements aren't all that profound).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More sports stupidity

I meant to write about a stupid sports article I read a few weeks ago in the NY Times (it appeared the day before the Buffalo game). And in light of recent events, it seems even more stupid now. "Sports news" has this tendency of becoming almost instantly obsolete. In general, I don't read sports news. I think it's the biggest waste of time created by man (because it's so cliche-ridden, I think of it as "romance fiction for men"). If you didn't see the game, what are you going to get from reading an article about it? Surely, an article written after the fact can't begin to capture the excitement of the actual game. If you did see the game, what's the point? Are those handful of sports cliches uttered by the players and coaches really going to give you some special insight? I would be perfectly happy if the sports section consisted entirely of game scores, stats, and current standings only. All the "reporting" and "color commentary" adds absolutely nothing to the game.

The title of the article I read was: "It's Time Manning Plays His Hand." Like other NY sports lightning rods before him (Alex Rodriguez and Darryl Strawberry are a couple others who come immediately to mind), Eli Manning is making people crazy. When a New York team doesn't instantly fulfill its destiny of winning a championship, the crazed fans and "sports journalists/analysts" begin to look for a scapegoat (and with football it's always going to be the quarterback). It then becomes the sports writer's duty to feed this frenzy. William C. Rhoden, the author of the article, gives it his best shot. According to Rhoden (and the lunatic fans he represents), Manning is overdue: "Problem is, after four years, hoping is not good enough." Note the ridiculous sense of urgency (and the conspicuous absence of the fact that it took Peyton Manning five years before he won his first playoff game); you can always count on sports writing for this inane quality.

Next he boils the Manning dilemma down to this simple question: "Can he or can't he?" Of course the quarterback's performance is important, but to lay the entire responsibility of a football team's success on one player is absurd. There are so many factors that can contribute to a team's lack of success in a game (including chance and luck which no sports writer in his right mind would ever mention) that pinning the blame on one player is just plain lazy. It's the dumb sports nut's easy out. You can hear these morons 24/7 on sports radio: "If they only got rid of..." is their mantra. All of these deluded geniuses are convinced that if only they were calling the shots, the championship would be a cinch.

But this isn't enough nonsense. Rhoden's got to finish with a flourish: "Giants fans continue to give Manning a hard time, but in many ways he is a symbol, a product of his generation. This is a generation whose competitive spirit has been compromised by commercialism, new media exposure and escalating compensation." He also goes on to say how "each generation seems to get a little softer" (wow, I've only been hearing that one since I've been alive). See what I mean about how worthless this garbage is? But you see it all the time in the sports media. When I read or hear one of these windbags making judgments about a man's character or "what is in his heart" based on how he plays a game (a game most of us stop playing when we're children), it makes me want to puke. Before his career is over, I hope Eli Manning gets the chance to give all these douche bags the Goose Gossage treatment (thank you, Tinsel and Rot) they so rightly deserve.

Meanwhile, I'd like to take this opportunity to send out a special "Fuck Yeeeeeeeeeeew!" (thank you, Xmastime) to Curt, Terry, Howie, and Jimmy, the four brain dead robots who for the past two weeks obviously ate up all the sports media crap about Manning before unanimously picking Tampa Bay and Dallas. I'm sure they'll all be in agreement again this Sunday when they pick Green Bay over the Giants. Great! It will give Manning yet another chance to stick it to the "negative motherfuckers" who think they know what's in his heart because of the outcome of a game.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Someone call Ripley's

Last summer I bought a defective pair of pants. Because I generally don't try on pants in the store (my approach to shopping always being "get in and get out"), I didn't realize until the following day that they were missing the buttonhole for fastening. I exchanged them the following weekend. This past Sunday I bought another pair of pants at the same store. My "get in and get out" approach was thwarted this time by a men's pants section in such disarray that I had trouble locating pants in my size. After more than the usual rummaging, I finally found a pair. I was so happy just to find a pair in my size that I didn't think twice over the fact that they were missing the usual price tags (the cashier had to type in the item number to bring the price up). Imagine what an idiot I felt like when I discovered on Monday that the pair of pants I had worked so hard to find was missing a buttonhole! Yes, that's right, I had just repurchased the same pair of defective pants that I had returned months earlier! What are the chances? It's mind boggling! Someone call Ripley's!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Mavericks

The mavericks are gone. What else would you call a bunch of guys who opened a bowling pro shop in a storefront several blocks from the nearest bowling alley? I knew their business was doomed from the beginning, but admired their gusto in following their crazy dream. For the several months that they were open, I never saw a customer in the store (I saw someone once holding a bowling bag on the sidewalk outside their store once, but for some reason I didn't get the impression he was a happy customer; more likely one of the owners just back from the lanes). I would see them at night occasionally after I got home from work, gathered around the small counter, eating takeout and laughing it up, and think to myself, "Man, they're living the life!" As much as I envied their carefree existence, inwardly I knew their days were numbered. They were laughing now, but in time they would be down with the rest us, grinding it out, hating every minute of it. And now they're gone and I feel a little guilty that I never gave them any business. Although I vowed many years ago after a resounding trouncing in a men's bowling league in Queens that I was "bowled out" and that I probably didn't need to bowl ever again, I contemplated buying new shoes or one of those modern bowling bags I saw in the window that didn't even look like a bowling bag to me (was there some secret shame attached to the old style bowling bag that I was unaware of?), if not to single-handedly keep their business afloat then at least to show them a sign that their insane endeavor had not gone completely unnoticed. The mavericks are gone and I miss them already. Their likes, I fear, will never be seen again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

College football

The reason I don't watch college football suddenly dawned on me last night: marching bands. Is it absolutely necessary to blast us with snippets from the Star Wars theme between every play? What could this possibly add to the game except a monstrous headache. God awful. Unwatchable except with the sound turned down.

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