Tuesday, November 20, 2012

There are still creatures here.

It’s night time, but still early.
I’ve parked the truck after a trip to Los Betos, eager to tear into two pounds of chicken nachos supreme.
Locking the truck, I start through the parking lot and notice unusual movement to my left.

So I stop and look. Not twenty yards away, along the sidewalk moving in silence, is a furry creature.
The overhead streetlight etches its shape in a stark contrast.

It’s too big to be a cat. Lumbering too heavily, not feline at all. It’s not a dog, its movement is too deliberate to be anything remotely domesticated. I’ve seen javelina before, this isn’t one of them. This thing has a long banded tail, drooping low. It's stronger looking than a coyote or jackal, and doesn't have a skip to its step like they do. 

In the small town of La Porte, I once walked alongside a family of possums. This was more like a possum, but didn’t waddle as they did.

I need to know what this thing is. So I take a few quiet steps across the pavement and onto the thick, winter lawn. It’s cool and forgiving under my feet, making no sound. The creature still hasn’t noticed me.

I wish instead of this bag of nachos, I had a National Geographic accent and a camera.

I follow it slowly, crouched, getting closer. It’s stopped at the base of a tree, the only object that looks familiar to it, I figure.

This is a wild animal. No one owns this thing. It hasn’t run away from somewhere, no one’s looking for it, or given it a name and collar. It’s just out here adapting and surviving.

A breeze comes from behind me, making the plastic bag flap a bit. I cringe at the sound. The creature hears it, and stares right at me. My cover is blown, so I remain still.

Its face, I recognize it now. A black mask, like war paint over its eyes. This is a raccoon. But far larger than any raccoon I’d seen on TV. If raccoons had professional wrestling, he would be their Hulk Hogan.

Its eyes were unblinking, alert but not afraid. Only a glint of light revealed their aim at me.

Neither of us move, just watching each other. The city sounds of cars and bustle seem far away now, a nuisance neither the raccoon nor I want around.

There’s something unreal about this encounter. It makes my regular life seem ugly, robotic and empty. This creature has no set schedule. No bills, no anxiety, no depression, nothing to envy, no one to impress.

It’s doing so well despite a million reasons to be afraid. If our situations were switched, and I was stuck in his normal environment, I would die within mere days. I’d wither and fail, worthless and soft.

This raccoon is better at life than I am.

I take a cautious step forward, it matches with a hand on the tree. I say ‘hand’ because I was close enough to observe what looked more like fingers than paws, even in the dark.

By now, this raccoon, however he’d manage to survive in this city, had seen his share of humans and avoided them successfully. I’ve never seen something like him, though. I wanted to help him, or pet him or something. Stupid city boy.

I knelt down, opened the nachos and took a handful out of the box. The crackle of the bag sent him a few feet up the tree trunk.

I tossed the handful towards him, at the base of the tree. If I threw a little harder, I could have hit him. His eyes remained on me, unwavering, pondering and weighing threat levels.

I take several steps backward, improving his odds.

He smells the nachos with a twitch of his nose, eyes flicker to them, then back at me. He moves down the trunk in a way that the streetlight fully illuminates him. His hair is wild and coarse, like armor scraped after many battles. This is the king of all raccoons. 

I take a few more steps back. He’s at the base of the tree again, shoulders square with mine. He’s going to eat them! I’m so happy about that.


Our moment shatters. Monster raccoon flies up the tree, hidden under the leaves now except for the tip of his tail. He doesn’t trust me, or my nachos, anymore.

Some girl has revealed herself, about to go on a walk with her purse dog on the other end of the parking lot. I pick up my bag and move away in the dark, as the girl and her dog come onto the lawn.
Because of her blaring headphones, she is completely unaware of me.

Her purse dog’s collar has a little bell on it that jingles. The dog and the girl move without any of the cautious calculation that the ‘wild’ raccoon had. Doggy has discovered the handful of nachos, he eats it, while being scolded “Ohmygod ew what are you doing! No!”

I look back to the tree, she has no idea a giant raccoon is just above her head, either.
Raccoon and I have something in common there, for a moment.

I see the tip of its hairy tail flick, then retract into the unseen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scottsdale Lady Meltdown

I had just put in a solid six hours at Grand Lux Cafe. Dinner was going to be slow, so I was relieved of my night shift double. Good thing, because my knees were starting to ache.

So I walk through Z Tejas and Kona Grill’s patio area, and continue towards the parking garage.

Ahead of me are three Scottsdale women. There are two blondes, and a woman that looks like Annette Bening from American Beauty in the middle.

I’ve unbuttoned my collar and wrists, apron under my arm; I can’t wait for a nap. I follow the women up two flights of stairs, hearing their clacking heels, as breezes bring their powerful perfume.

I move faster than them, and have caught up so I’m about ten feet behind. My truck is in view.

A large Toyota FJ Cruiser, propped up on giant wheels with limo tint, backs out very slowly in front of the women. He’s stuck between two parked Escalades, and can’t see a thing.

“Um, hello! There are people here!” Annette shouts.

Not hearing her, the FJ driver continues to inch out of his spot. The women aren’t in any danger. The two blondes seem to think Annette is just joking.

“Stop! WHAT are you doing?!” Her voice cracked. Something terrible is about to burst through.

The blondes stand still, watching. Annette has placed herself right behind the FJ Cruiser. She’s banging on the back window now, I can hear her diamond rings scratching up the paint and glass, “This is the ugliest car I’ve ever seen! What the hell is wrong with you!”

I’ve set my apron down by my feet and have lit a cigarette, observing.


I hear a power window roll down, and a calm voice comes from it, “Oh, excuse me ma’am. I didn’t see you there.”

Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say.

“Fuck you 'you didn’t see' me?! I hate you! I hate you!” The last sentence gurgled through clenched teeth.

Annette starts swinging her Prada purse like a wild woman, hitting the window over and over. The Cruiser was built for mountains, floods, fires and bullets, but I wince each time her purse smacks the rear window.

Her lipstick, eyeliner, tampons and cell phone have sprayed out all around her on the pavement. The Cruiser’s reverse lights shut off. He’s just sitting there parked now, halfway out of the space.

Annette’s screaming about him leaving her, and she hates him, she hates him, she hates him. That stupid whore too, she hates her too.

A pocket mirror lands in front of me, I pick it up. While she continues to swing at the Cruiser, I quietly start collecting her purse’s contents, hoping to save her some further embarrassment.

The two blondes have since acted like they don’t know her, and have gotten into their car and driven away.
The Cruiser driver resorts to backing out again, rolling up his window for safety. Annette moves aside, and is tiring herself out with a few more swings at the passenger door.

Her screams have deep breaths in between them now, her hair is a mess. Somehow she broke a heel, too.

The Cruiser, with just enough room to leave, does so in a hurry. With one last “Fuck you!” Annette crumples to the floor, grabbing her face and crying deep, shuddering sobs.

My truck is just passed her. I could just go. Leave her here. Blend in.

The cigarette dwindles in my mouth as I approach her, carefully selecting a tone of voice. The one you use with a child throwing a tantrum, or someone holding a shaky gun.

“I got your stuff.”

She glances up at me from behind her hands, then covers her face again. Now she’s embarrassed.

“Oh…God I’m… Oh God…”

“It’s all right.”

“Do you think I could...” she looks at my mouth.

“Sure, here you go.” I hand her a Camel and light it for her, then sit beside her in the parking space.

“Thanks,” she says, taking a drag like she hasn’t in years, but remembers it well.

“Rough couple days?”

She rubs her wedding ring, unsure of its meaning anymore. 
“Try a rough couple years,” her voice is still a bit shaky. She wipes her eyes and gives a sad chuckle at herself.

“It’s okay. You should probably never wear those shoes again, though,” I nod to her feet.

She laughs, “Oh geez, he’s turning me into one of those crazy girls.”

“I hope not, we already have plenty of those,” I smile at her, “Do you need a ride or anything?”

“No, the Benz is… right over there somewhere,” she waves her hand in a general direction, fixing her hair with the other.

She’s stood herself up, wiping dust off her skirt, “I just… I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“I’d start with a nice bath, glass of wine, light a few candles maybe. Just relax, you know?”

“Good idea, a really good idea,” she says, taking another drag.

“Okay well, I’m gonna go home. You sure you’re all right?”

“Yes, thank you young man.”

Sometimes they just have to let it out. Other than how she’s holding her shoes in her hands, you’d have no idea she just went murder rage on a stranger.

In my truck now, I start backing out, she waits for me.

“Whoa, careful there. This one’s pretty ugly too!” I holler at her.

She laughs, covering her face.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Andrew Goes on Another Date

POF is usually a waste of time. Yes, there are Plenty of Fish in the sea. But there are also poisonous jellyfish, sharks, eels, ugly things, salt, tidal waves, and death. Case in point, occasionally logging into the free account usually reveals a series of tragedies.

There’s a message in my Inbox, I ready myself for something horrific, but am instantly surprised upon a few clicks. It seems this time I’ve caught a beautiful marlin.

This girl is gorgeous. Her name is Diane. She’s 23, it says. A 1st grade teacher, so she likes kids. She’s got a great smile in her little black dress. From a large family. Dark hair, even darker eyes, and a shapely, healthy yoga body. No cats. A nonsmoker. Classy, but sexy. She even writes in complete sentences.

So I respond to her, with brevity. Friendly, but all business. Within minutes I have her number, and she wants to meet me at a bar near her house in Tempe.

I couldn’t believe how easy that part was. I was so excited, reinvigorated even.

After work, I open my phone and see that Diane texted me “See you there at 10!”

She remembered me! She really wants to see me!

I get to the bar twelve minutes early. I want to get at least a drink in me beforehand. I’ll need the social lubricant, especially because I need this date to count.

I finish my first long island and check my watch. It’s ten o’clock.

10:05 rolls around, and I imagine myself reliving that scene from Dumb and Dumber. I order a second drink. What if she never shows up? A part of me would be relieved, for some reason.

At 10:07, the door opens. It’s her. And there isn’t much left to the imagination.

In the picture, Diane’s hair was tied back neatly in a studious bun. This time, it’s long, dark and flowing. She has strikingly smooth, fair skin. I noticed this, because she wasn’t dressed like a teacher would be. Not even close.

Diane’s in tiny jean shorts (so the pockets stick out the bottom) and like half a top with her glorious boobs pushed up. There’s some kind of bracelet and ring accessories going on, but I’m too intimidated to look any longer.

I stare at my drink, as she sits next to me. She smells like vanilla and fruit mixed together.

“There you are, Andrew,” there’s a smile in her voice. I turn to her, and watch my body operate in its charismatic charade. It says hi to her, tells her she looks great. She giggles, like a ray of sunshine bouncing in her stool.

“You look better than your picture,” she says, clearly relieved about it.

As the minutes pass, and the booze tingles through me, I start to realize she’s just a person. I can talk to people. She’s just one of them. My funnyguy shell is doing great, I let him handle it.

It’s going well, she’s laughing real laughs. At one point, she kissed my cheek in between sips of her cosmo.

I check my watch, it’s 11:30.

“I wish I had a teacher that looked like you in 1st grade,” my mouth says.

“Oh… I’m not a teacher,” she says to her cosmo.


“Are you still in school for it?”


“I’m sorry, your profile sa-”

“No one means that stuff.”

“They don’t?”

“No one reads it, either.”

“I do?”

“That’s stupid.”

So I sat for a bit, sounds of sports and clamoring drinkers around us. I wonder how far her profile’s inaccuracies went.

“So what do you actually do?”

“I’m a dancer.”

“A dancer. Like the kind that uh… make lots of money?”

“The exotic kind, yes,” she smiles from her lips, but not from her eyes.

The internal conflict of excited weiner versus disappointed brain waged inside of me. I could feel my shell faltering.

Diane’s finished her drink, and is concentrating on her smartphone. I take the moment to observe her. Some of her hair has fallen across her pretty face. While looking at her phone, a shade came over her eyes, and for a second they looked much older. I really don’t know a thing about this girl, I realize.

She taps something on her phone, and is putting it back in her purse, and says

“So you gonna fuck me or what.” 

So flatly, I wasn’t sure if she actually said it.


She’s got her purse over her shoulder, ready to leave, “Uh yeah, so we gonna fuck?”

The last word flicked out of her face again, so casually, so routinely, so empty of any emotional investment. This was happening, this was real. This was what I thought I always wanted.

But why don’t I?
Wait, I do. Don’t I? Am I finally lucking out?
 I should. No, don’t. Should I? Is this a trap?

My charismatic robot body was failing. It was just me now, showing through. Nervous and lost.

She must have sensed my hesitation. I could feel the window closing rapidly. She didn’t move away, but the distance between us tripled.

“You don’t want to?” she asked, slightly confused.

“Yeah, I mean yeah I do. I just. Well usually I have to court her for a while first. Get her to like me, or something y-”

She puts a hand on mine, patting it, “Don’t worry. I don’t like you. I don’t even know you.”

“Well isn’t that. I mean why, I don’t, uh.”

She stands up from her stool, placing a crisp fifty on the counter.

“I’m gonna go. Forget it,” her voice fell flat again. I was already worthless to her.

The bartender, who was in earshot of the whole thing, watches her rear as it swaggers out the door.
There’s a pause, I’m staring at my hands, and I feel him lean in towards me.

“Wow. You blew it man... Holy shit.”

My hands clench and unclench. The room is much dimmer now.

“Can I just get another long island, please.”

“Sure, man...” he looks again at the empty doorway, breathing in the last of her scent, “Damn.”

I watch him chuckle to himself, shaking his head, as he makes my drink.

This long island tastes much stronger than the last. He must be thinking he’s doing me a favor. I sit alone, watching a few replayed innings of a baseball game I don’t care about, hate myself, then leave.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Second Look at Ugly Cakes

Now I’m a realist, so I partially expected Ugly Cakes’ last order of snickerdoodles (previously reviewed) to be an overly delicious fluke. Anybody can make a one-hit-wonder, the hard part is maintaining that level of accomplishment consistently. And now that they've set the bar so high, I'm willing to be slightly disappointed this time around.

So to celebrate my recent healthy weight loss, figured I’d order another dozen snickerdoodles. Because, you know, I’m worth it and I deserve nice things.

A quick message left on Ugly Cakes’ Facebook resulted in a quick response, having the cookies ready by the very next day.

And this time, ohh this time, they’d be brought by Cindy the Baker herself.
Ugly’s headquarters is on the opposite side of town from me, so Cindy and I met up halfway. I arrived right on time, but she was already there early. Like a professional.

Cindy the Baker is a modest woman, very friendly, even slipped in a colloquial “Dude” when she spoke to me. I’m not sure if she’s actually this hip, or she’s just very good at speaking to me in words I can understand. Cindy explained that the recipe was still the same, but a slight adjustment had been made. I can’t reveal this adjustment. Just know that it’s absolutely diabolically genius.

I have to insist upon giving her some extra money for driving closer to me, she accepts it graciously.

We say our goodbyes, but it turns out we’re both parked in the same area. Walking in the same direction, she keeps chatting away with me, and I try to respond, but I’m too entranced by the idea of me and these new snickerdoodles being alone together.

It was the longest drive back home in recent memory. Every red light seemed deliberately insulting.

Now in my room with the door and blinds closed, I look over the package.
Some changes have been made here. The small easily-torn paper bag has been replaced with a hefty tote. Instead of three groups of six cookies wrapped together in sticky paper, they’ve all been placed evenly in a single covered tray. This method is slightly more costly, but a welcome improvement from my perspective.

The same adorable graphic design is present, with a handwritten “Thank You & Enjoy!” on the business card for that personal touch.

The $19 got me 13 cookies this time, not 18. Regardless, I’m technically paying for a dozen cookies, so 13 is still a pleasant surprise. This was a reasonable choice on Ugly’s part to save on cost and maximize the profit margin- a sign that Ugly is gaining steam as a serious business.

Removing the first cookie, I notice this new batch’s babies are thinner. The same diameter across, but about half the thickness. Where the first snickerdoodles sat sinfully heavy in my hand, this new model seems to have spent the last two months at the gym. This one’s leaner, more honed and perfected.

Now the moment of truth.

Upon taking the first bite, more like a first kiss, all my doubts melt away. By the second and third bites, I’ve forgotten about bills, the war, our economy, hippies and depression.

Initially welcoming and lightly sweet, this cookie gets softer the more you get to know her. The center is moist yet firm, doughy but responsible… it’s just right.

There are few things that deliver this many smiles per dollar. And although a bit different than the first batch, these snickerdoodles have somehow figured a way to surpass my expectations all over again.

Well done, Ugly Cakes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Andrew Gets Somewhat Even

Headed home, I stop by the usual Chevron station for some gasoline.
Walking inside to pay cash, I freeze.

It’s her again. Elisa. She’s standing there like a goddess of deception, in revealing summer garb.

She’s got her back to me, swindling another young male into tobacco-related coupons and spam. His shoulders are slumped, I remember the feeling too well.
I watch him leave her, staring at his coupon in defeat, as he walks past me out the automatic doors.

I could ignore the situation, blend in and move on like anyone else. But I don’t. It’s the principle of it all, dammit. I can’t let this go on.

“You.” I say to her, squinting.

She turns
“Uh, who me?” she stands with a model’s grace. Her disarming voice, like a perfect song.

“Elisa, is it?”

“Uh… yes?”

“I’m onto you.”

“What, what do you mean?” she twirls her beautiful hair between her fingers, smiling innocently.

“That won’t work this time. Your ruse, although clever, ends today.”

She walks up and quickly grabs my hand, pulling me into the candy bar aisle.

“Listen man, don’t blow my cover,” her voice drops.

“Oh, I think I will.”

“Come on, so I played with you a little bit, no big deal,” she whispers.

Despite how good she smells, my arms are crossed, lips curled, face stern. I’m appearing very hard to convince.

“I mean, didn’t… didn’t you get some sweet coupons in the mail afterward?”

“Yeah, for Camel SNUS. That’s like a coupon for a kick in the balls.”

She stammers, so I turn away from her, inhaling a bunch of air then “HEY EVERY-“

“-Shh! Quiet!” she whispers harshly, pulling my hand again.

“What if… what if I gave you my number?”

I stroke my chin at her.
“Hmm. Go on.”

She tears off a bit of paper from her clipboard, and scribbles a number on it.

“Here, this is my cell. Just call me, okay?”

I take it. My weiner says I should leave, but I don’t listen to him.

“This is your number?”


“And that,” I point to her cell phone sticking out from her cutoff jeans, “is your cell phone?”

“Uh, yes.”

I open up my own phone, dial the number, put it on speaker, and stare at her.
She looks back and forth, as my phone begins to ring, but hers doesn’t.

“Come on, honey. Don’t… don’t do that…” she reaches out to touch me, I step back.

“Thank you for calling the Phoenix Costco warehouse- ”  says my phone.

I close it, with an audible snap. She flinches from it.

“Oh, that’ll cost you.”

Her eyes widen in panic, as I turn away from her again towards the other customers.

“WAIT! Okay I can uh… what if I got you two bucks off a pack?”

I snicker, “Nope. I'm actually trying to quit.”

“Oh God. Okay! Okay! Just… okay here. I got something just for you.”

She reaches into her front pocket, and pulls out a single wrinkly coupon.

“This… this’ll get you any pack of Camels for fifty cents. It’s the best I can do.”

I take it from her, “Can I use this right now?”

“Well I’d rather y-

“Don’t you move.”

I approach the counter, and sure enough, after a quick inspection of the coupon, guy sold me a pack of Camel Lights for exactly fifty cents.

I return to her, she’s fidgeting.

“Did… did it…”

“Yes, it worked. Touché, devil woman.”

She sighs, relieved, “Okay, can I just get back to work then?”

“For now, yes.”

I abandon her there in the candy aisle, pay for my gas, and leave feeling much better. :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ugly Cakes - Reviewing their Snickerdoodles.

By now you know I'm a jerk.
If you've ever gone out to eat with me, you REALLY know I'm a jerk.
Especially when it comes to food. I'll eat anything, but I'll whine and complain about the sauce being wrong or something most of the time. I'm a man of discerning tastes, people. A snooty, snobby Foodie.

Figured I'd review something edible. So I messaged Ugly Cakes for an order.

Two days later the sky parted, and an angel landed. I think her name was Lindi or something, doesn't matter, what matters is, she brought Snickerdoodles. Ugly Cakes is a local venture, brand new, consisting of Cindy the Baker and her daughters.

Though I've enjoyed some of Cindy's baking before, years ago, she's since taken it much more seriously. I had to know if this was for real.

I handed the angel a twenty. She took it with a gracious bow, then flew away on a unicorn leaving me and the Snickerdoodles together at last.

I held them close, looking over both shoulders, and ran up to my apartment.
With the door locked, and the blinds closed, it's just me and these cookies now.

Sure I've done well lately, losing 18 pounds by eating healthier.
But clearly, little things like being attractive and living longer mean NOTHING when I smell these cookies.
I'm so entranced by the scent, so thoroughly seduced by this bag of sin, that I nearly missed the adorable packaging. I was going to expand more on this, but I can't take it anymore. I need a Snickerdoodle in me right now.

Ripping open one of the bags, it seems Ugly has blessed me with a number of generous extras. I ordered a dozen, but got somewhere between 16 and 18. (In hindsight, I'm not certain of the original number, because I ate them too quickly to stop and think.)

Unwrapping the first Snickerdoodle, it sits heavily in my hand. It's big, it's round, it's soft. Bits of warm cinnamon and sugar smile with tiny bursts of light. The cookie seems to beat in my hand, as if it has a tiny heart that loves me.

I take a bite.
My entire body shivers. The room brightens for a moment.
There's nothing like this in a store or restaurant anywhere.
These weren't just baked. These were meticulously created... by someone who probably has superpowers.

This wasn't just eating a cookie, it was living an experience. An event everyone should have in their life at least once. Like the first time being stoned, or the first time making love.

But we're on a diet. Each one of these surely has more calories than a normal person needs.
Shut up brain, you don't know what happiness is.
But I do. I've found it. I've found happiness, and I have 14 fleeting moments of it left.

Now 13.
Now 12.
Now 11...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Angry Barber

I’m walking out of Safeway, had to made a quick deposit at the Wells Fargo. In the window’s reflection, I notice I look terrible.

Figure I’ll get a hair cut. That should fix it.

So I walk into the Great Clips next door. Why Great Clips? Because I’m a guy and who cares.

I’ve been to this place before, I remember the slender young barber up front. She’s got the same long auburn hair, same vivacious personality. She’s warm and inviting, like every day is the greatest day to be alive, and cutting hair is freaking awesome. She did a great job last time, too. But she has a customer at the moment, the only other one in the shop. I’m moving forward to greet her when a low voice greets me instead, from far away.

“Velcome. Vhat ees phone number.”

The voice's source appears from behind a divider, this woman is old. Very old, with ghostly white hair and a Nazi’s cold glare.

I tell her my phone number.

“Thees way,” she says to no one in particular.

I follow her, figuring this lady is just as good as the young girl. They’re both professionals, right? How could I lose? Sure this one’s not nearly as pleasant to be around, but hair is hair. I’ll be fine.

She picks a seat on the opposite end of the room, as far away as possible from her bubbly coworker.
I sit in the chair and she wraps the haircut apron thing around my neck too tightly.

“All right well I’d like a-“

“I see the vay you look at her,” she cuts me off, in an angry whisper.

Her voice was deep and foreign, a thick accent somewhere between French and Russian. Think Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle, with a tinge of feminine Dracula. Her face shows long hours, from a job or a lifestyle of disappointments.

“What? Who?”

“You vanted her, deedn’t you? The young girl. The preety von. I see the vay you look at her. But no. You get me. You get me and you hate eet.”

“I don’t, what no, no! I-"

She grabs my hair tightly with both hands, and pulls my head in close from behind.
I freeze, gripping the chair hard under the apron. We watch each other in the mirror.

“Every day ees the same theeng. They vant her, they ask for her. They like her.”

“Hey listen I’m sorry I-"

“Shh, shh. Don’t speak. I know vhat you vant,” she whispers into my ear.

I watch her boney fingers, the kind of fingers that enjoy long skinny cigarettes held in an even longer skinnier cigarette holder. She weaves them through my hair, closing her eyes.

Then leans in and smells my head. Yes, she smelled my head.

“Hmm. Yes. Your hair. Eets so theeck. Mmm. I saw eet and I knew vhat eet needed.”

“You what?”

“Shh, shh. Quiet.”

She massages my hair some more, so I just sit there.

The phone rings, interrupting her moment.

“Don’t. Move.” She says to the mirror.

I don’t move an inch. Just swallow, wide-eyed, in the mirror.

I wish I was in the young girl’s chair. Where the light is. Where it’s safe and happy.
Where I am, it’s dark, far away, vulnerable, lonely and scary.

Dracula lady returns, this time with scissors in her hand. She starts cutting my hair.
Okay, we’re gonna be fine. I’ll just let this lady do whatever she wants and everything will be f-

“So… are you seengle or?”

“Uh, yeah. Starting to regret that now bu-"

“Shh, shh. Yes. Good. Don’t be stupeed like her and get married so young.”

“Oh I’m not single on purpose or anything I-"

“Shh, shh. No. Stay seengle. You are vhat, een your early thirties?”

“Actually I’m twent-"

“Shh, shh. You talk too much. You are perfect age. Yes,” she rubs my hair some more with her eyes closed, “You are perfect age. Still handsome. But your eyes. They’re… so much older.”


“Shh, shh.”

She cuts my hair some more, but the pace is quickening. I listen to her breathing speed up, her face twists into a grimace. Snip snip snip snipsnipsnipsnip!

There was hair all over my face, so she blew on it. It wasn’t a cool breeze, this blowing, no, it was a sloppy wet speckling of cranberry-flavored spittle.

Now there’s spit on my face, and falling hair is gluing itself to it.

We both overhear the distant chatter from the other barber, who’s laughing and joyously telling her equally chatty customer about her wedding plans.
Each word from the sunny coworker seems to burn Dracula lady. Like holy water on a demon, it irritates her somewhere deep inside.

There’s no apparent planning in her snipping anymore, there’s clearly rage in each snip now. Her gaze is somewhere else, angry, frustrated. Chunks of my hair are flying, and my scalp has been jabbed a couple times with the scissor tips.

I have to do something. I have to fix this. Don’t just agree with her sadness, that could be too obvious, too patronizing. She’s old, she’ll smell bullshit. No, be sincere. Challenge her, but in a loving way. I grip my chair even tighter.

“Hey… hey… it’s going to be all right,” I say to the mirror, as if she’s holding not scissors, but a gun.

She stops cutting, and our eyes meet again in the mirror.

“Let’s. Let’s uh, let’s talk about you. Something seems to be bothering you. Tell me about it.”

She bites her lip, her eyes glossy.

“It’s all right. You’ve had a long day. Go ahe-“

“No von understands. My husband, he’s worthless. Thees… thees life. Eet’s meaningless. I should be free, I should be young again. I’ve wasted my chance. Don’t waste your chance,” she whispers harshly.

“It’s never a waste.”

“Yes eet ees. Eet’s a… eet’s not how eet was supposed to be!”

“However it happened, that’s how it was supposed to be. That’s the only way it could have been.”

“You’re wrong!” she crosses her arms.

Silence in the room. Apparently the other couple heard that last bit.
We watch each other in the mirror for a moment, waiting for the others to resume chatting.
When they finally do,
“Are you sure? You can’t always change things. Change the way you look at them instead,” I whisper, "You'll be okay, I promise."

“…No. No I’m not sure. I’m not sure of anything anymore,” she says, barely audible.

The air thickens, tense and cold. I let it hang us both for a moment, then

“Hey, I don’t know if you noticed, but my head looks like sheet.”

She laughs, hard.

“Oh my, eet does. Oh my boy. You don’t need haircut anyway. Your hair ees handsome.”

Half my head is still long, the other half missing chunks here and there.

“You wanna just buzz it off at this point?”

“Okay I buzz.”

She buzzes my head, calmly this time.

“So. You come back, two weeks?”

“I think I’m gonna. Gonna grow my hair out, actually. Starting right now. Think I’m gonna yeah grow it out.”

“Eef you change mind, you come back to me?”

She smiles, and tenderly towels away all the hair on my face and neck.

She rings me up, I tip her $5. She smiles and waves to me as I leave.

This is what happens when you try to save a buck on a haircut.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pictures and a Bit from my Standup!

Got some cell phone pics from an audience member. Since there was no video or sound recording, here's the bit that was photographed. This was a younger crowd, college aged. Especially the type that likes to go to clubs and hump on strangers. So I gave them what they deserved- humor catered just for them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Andrew Gets Completely Worked Over.

I'm foggy, on my way to Lotus for a night shift, and darn it I'm out of smokes.
So I pull in to the Chevron right off Chaparral and the 101.

Head down, I walk towards the automatic doors and they open.


This gal is really pretty. Right in front of me.
I go to robot around her, like I didn't notice her, when

"Hey, have I seen you here before?"

I look behind me, then back at her "Who me?"

"Yes, you silly."

"Uh, I don't... I don't think so?"

She smiles some perfect teeth. She's just shorter than me, long dark hair, some mixture of Italian or Hispanic, I can't tell and I don't care.

"Yeah I remember you! You're cute," she bites her lip a little bit.

I glance around, making sure this isn't a hidden camera show.

"Ah- wow thanks. Yeah I uh, I come by here to uh, get cheap cigarettes sometimes."

My face grimaces at my own words, she giggles an angel's giggle.

"Oh you smoke?"


"What kind?" she leans in.

"Camel lights."

"Oh me too! What's your name?"


"I know a lot of Andrews, what's your last name, sweetie?"

"Uh, Centrella."

"I'm Elisa," she smiles and gives me a dainty handshake.

"Hey Elisa."

By now she's brought me off to the side, by a stack of sodas. Customers pass us going in and out of the store. Elisa is very close to me now, looking up at me, and she smells good. I see our reflection in the window behind her, I look terrible, further exaggerating how attractive she is.

"So... do you... live around here, Andrew?"

"Down the street, yup."

"Oh cool! But hey, I'm sorry, I know you were probably busy. I didn't mean to stop you," she says, nibbling her lip again. Her lashes seem to get longer with every blink of those big brown eyes.

"Oh yeah, I was on my way to work. It's okay though."

"What if I don't see you again?" she asks. I'm lost in her eyes at this point.

I stammer.

"I hope I don't sound too forward but... you think I can maybe get your phone number?" she asks.

"Sh-Sure!" my mouth says, then it tells her my phone number.

"Great. Thanks," she says flatly, pulling out a small clipboard from behind her.

She jots down everything she just learned about me, seems I'm one sucker of many.

I can't move. I can't believe it. I watch her hand me a coupon for Camels, saying something about something.
My hand takes the coupon, and I stare at it.

She laughs, clearly the victor.
I'm jolted back into life when her phone rings.

"Sup," she answers, her voice is different now, all business. She's looking passed me, as if I'm not there anymore.
"Yeah, I'm at 92 people so far. Cool, yeah, all right. Almost done. Pfft of course. Yeah okay see ya."

She returns to her post in front of the doors, waiting for another easy kill.

I don't even buy cigarettes. I just walk out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Epic Conclusion: Jack in the Box Part 3.

I’ve let myself marinate for five days without a salad, and alas, I’m too lazy to cook and the chub seems to be returning as a result.
Plus I need some cheap laughs, so I figure I’ll visit the circus at Jack in the Box one last time.

I’m hoping to see Lazy Eye and Samantha when I walk in, but none of the regulars are working tonight. Instead it’s empty behind the counter.
The dining room is quiet, no music. Only hidden sounds of food being made.

I hear the door open behind me, and the clang of a skateboard.

Holding it is a very slender teenage boy. He’s got a tiny Element t-shirt on, with skinny jeans barely clinging onto his little waist. His skater hat is also strategically askew in its placement on his head. The whole ensemble is a perfectly planned attempt at seeming careless.

A new face approaches from behind the counter- ‘Manny’ his nametag states.

“HeycanIhelpyou,” Manny tells the monitor screen.

I take a moment to drink in Manny. Manny is a mouth breather. His eyes are far away. At best, his mind is asleep while his body moves as a robot in routine.

I could order something Manny has heard of before, but instead I use the secret phrase that unlocks Entertainment Mode.

“Hi, I’d like a grilled chicken salad, please.”

“Grilled chicken sandwich you wanna combo.”

“Oh no fries with my salad, thank you.”

“We don’t make salads with fries.”

“I know.”

Manny stares. The skater kid stares. So I stare too.
Then I try again.

“I’d like a grilled chicken salad. The salad kind of salad, please.”

“Kay grilled er crispy.”

“Grilled for here.”

“Here er to go.”

“For here.”

I have the $6.20 ready for him so he doesn’t say the amount due.
Manny rings up my order, walks behind the metal wall, and reappears with a salad.

“Dang you guys are fast.”

Manny mouth-breathes, and puts a Southwest Crispy Chicken salad on the counter.

“Hey that was pretty close!” I say, happy.

Manny picks the salad back up and stares through it, then puts it under the counter, and goes back behind the metal wall again.

“Fuckin sucks. Hate that shit bro,” Skater offers.

“Oh it’s okay, I mean it only takes two se-“

“Here you go,” Manny cuts us both off with a new salad.

“Whoa! See? That was so fast!” I say to Skater, pointing at the new salad.

Skater stares. Manny mouth-breathes.

“Well done,” I tell them both with a firm nod.

I eat my salad, it’s just as I ordered it. Skater gets his burger and leaves.
I’m sitting at the first table by the entrance, halfway through my meal, when the door opens again.

The smell of very, very fresh marijuana wafts in with two college freshman boys.
They have huge smiles on their faces, one’s smaller, wearing a tank top and a sunburn. The other has curly hair and rosy cheeks.

“Hey guys!” I wave.

Tank Top hears my voice, checks the ceiling first, then the floor.

“I’m over here!” I tell him, three feet away.

“Oh hey man! What’s up? I’ve NEVER seen you before!”

“Whoa me neither!” Curly exclaims.

“I know, huh? The odds are like, one in seven billion that you’d ever meet me! It’s like you just won the lottery a hundred times,” I congratulate them.

Tank Top’s eyes widen, “Dude did you hear that,” he smacks Curly’s arm, “We just won the lottery!”
They both laugh too hard.

“Let’s buy whatever we want then!”

Now they're both trying to make sense of the menu behind Manny, who’s still mouth-breathing.

“Hey you know what you guys should get?” I ask from my table.

“What?” they both respond in unison, turning towards me.


Manny’s mouth closes.

With paranoid eyes, the two stoners whisper to each other too loudly.

“I didn’t know they make salads here.”
“Me either.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“Whoa when did we get here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“I say we try a salad. It could be cool, man.”
“Yeah plus we won the lottery. We should get a salad huh.”
“Yeah let’s get one. Well one for you and one for me.”
“Ok cool.”

Manny’s gaze and mine battle a silent war in the background.

“Whoa wait. This is Taco Bell right?”
“Who’s that guy?”
“I think he works here.”
“Can he make salads? Does he know they make salads here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”

I stand up and join them.

“These gentlemen will have a grilled chicken salad a piece. On me.”

I hear giggles of relief from the boys.

Manny sighs, then robots the order into existence, and gives them both a salad within seconds.

“Whoa, thank you man!” Curly can't believe it.
Tank Top gives me a bro handshake.

“No problem, happy to help,” I tell them, laughing at their permanent grins.

Ah, youth.

I return to my seat and finish my salad, listening to the boys discuss what they’re going to buy with their lottery money.

Clearing my tray in the trashcan, I wave to them on my way out the door. They both grin back, overly satisfied with the food filling their cheeks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jack in the Box, Part 2. Oh, there's more to this!

I’ve never written a sequel before, but this Jack in the Box is a rabbit hole that goes so deep. And the situation so impossibly odd, I had to write it down the moment I got home. If anything, to make sure it really happened.

Refresh yourself with the previous post if you haven’t already.

Wow, all right. Here we go.
I remembered the salads being pretty decent, and it’s a much more normal time of night, around 9:30pm. So I figure at the very least, I won’t get the same ambiguously gendered person messing up my order. But just in case, this time I opt to walk inside. I figure the possibility for error is much smaller this way.

Letting myself inside Jack in the Box, the room is quiet. I’m the only one here again, with Rick Astley (ha, I know!) playing just audibly overhead.

Eventually I’m noticed by a small Hispanic man. He’s thin, with a mustache, and his front teeth seem to be a home repair job.
I breathe a sigh of relief. At least I know he’s a man.

“Hi. Hi. Can, can I help… yoosir.”

“Yes I’d like a grilled chicken salad.”

He nods, then stares at his computer. He’s lost, finger dangling over the monitor.

“Ensalada… ehh…ensalada…”
His brow ruffles.

“Oh and the nuclear launch codes.”

He nods again, and keeps staring at his computer.

“No, no Pedro. Don’t worry I’ll get this,” I hear a feminine and yet masculine voice say.

It appears from the left. That same it from before. It’s here. It’s working again. And it’s just me and it.


Pedro thanks his lucky stars, bows to it and me, smiles and returns to making food in the back.

“Sup,” it says.
Same spiked and buzzed hair. Same everything from before.

“Hey… uh. I’d like a grilled chicken salad please.”

“Crispy or grilled.”

“Grilled, for here.”

“For here or to go.”

“For here.”

“Okay six twenny,” it says, glancing toward the drive thru window.

My hand goes to reach for my wallet, but I stop it. I have to know. I have to know now.

“Listen. Hey, I’m sorry. I just. I just really need to know if you’re a guy or a girl.”


“Actually. What’s your name?”


Crap. I look at its shirt, it just says ‘Sam’.

“Oh okay cool. So uh. Samuel… Samantha…?”


We stare at each other in silence. A duel, a standoff. If we were outside, surely a tumbleweed would have blown by.

“… It can’t be just Sam.”

It removes its headpiece, gives a nod to an unseen coworker in the back, and turns back to me.

“Why not? Dude, what does it matter if I’m a boy or a girl? What are you, a bigot?”

“Yes, and I need to put people into categories. Boy, girl, asian, rapist, war monger and so on.”

Sam scoffs at me, as I see a larger man approach from the side. He’s got a different colored shirt on; clearly he’s more powerful around here.

“Camera’s off,” he tells Sam, “We got a problem?”

Sam thumbs to me, “It’s that fuckin salad guy I was telling you about. He’s here and he’s being an asshole to me again.”

The supervisor nods with a stern grimace, then turns so he’s facing me.

“Oh! Wow…” escapes my mouth. I wasn’t expecting what I saw.

“Oh, so now you’re making fun of me too huh? Fuck’s your problem man? First you order salads, who the hell orders a salad here. Then you get off calling her names and laughing at me too, huh?”

I should have just apologized and left right there, but I didn’t. Instead, for some reason, that filter between my brain and my mouth completely vanished and this popped out:

“Well most the time when I see a lazy eye you know I gotta play that game where it’s like ‘okay pick an eye’ and I talk to that eye. But with you it’s like, shit man, one eye’s checking the back door and the other one is sizing me up. I mean I’ve seen my share of lazy eyes, but that one hasn’t worked a day in its life. That is the laziest lazy eye… I’ve ever seen. Lemme tell ya.”

That wasn’t the right thing to say.

His lip quivers, then he bites it. He’s angry now.

I make sure there’s enough distance to where he couldn’t lean forward and grab me over the counter.

“F…fffuck. You. Bro,” his lips overly enunciate each word. His good eye is wide open with rage.

“Okay I’ll make a deal with you two. Forget the salad. Forget salads for a while. Just tell me. What is that,” I point to Sam, “Is that a boy, or a girl.”

“Why does it even-” his hands turn to fists, but then he stops, “Sam’s a…a… Sam is… hmm.”

Now he’s confused. I’ve confused him. We’re both confused now, looking at Sam together.

“Sam es my seester!” Pedro yells from the back.

Me and the supervisor burst out laughing, as Pedro’s silly head pops out from behind the fryer with a huge smile.
Sam isn’t happy, which makes it even funnier.

“I knew it! Well I kinda did,” I holler, making the supervisor double over the counter. He’s laughing so hard, for a good minute or more.

“Oh man. Ohhh man,” supervisor wipes his eyes. “Dude I’ve wondered that for so long. So long, dude. You have no idea.”

“I hate all three of you!” Samantha says, crossing her arms and heading to the bathroom.

Me and supervisor laugh some more. Then finally, now apparently friends, supervisor puts his hand on the computer and asks me,

“All right. Whew. Okay. So what did you want?”

“A grilled chicken salad.”

“Crispy or grilled?”

“Grilled, to go.”

“Okay, for here or to go?”

“To go.”

“Okay six twenty.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Big Mistake at Jack in the Box.

I’ve been sent on a mission for two salads, to a nearby Jack in the Box at 1:30am.
Certainly this should be easy.
Pulling in, there are only two employee cars in the lot, and none in the drive thru.

I move up to the order screen and wait a moment.

A small voice greets me “Hey man, whatchoo need.”

A bit colloquial, but it’s late, I’ll let it slide.

Then I make a huge request, too detailed, a big mistake.
“Good evening. I’d like a Club salad with crispy chicken, and a Southwest salad with grilled chicken.”

There’s a pause.

“Kay two grilled clubs. First window.”

“Oh I’m sorry, no it was one Club salad and one Southwest salad.”

“Crispy Southwest with a Club, kay. Twelve twenny, first window.”

“Are you… are you messing with me?”

“Drink with that?”

“No thanks.”

“Kay, window please.”

I don’t move. Wondering if this guy is trolling me, or stoned, or if this is what happens when you order salads from Jack in the Box.
They aren’t busy. If they were, I’d be okay with inaccuracy. But it’s just me.

“All right, let’s just start over, okay?”

No response.

“I want two different salads. The first salad, write this down, is a Club salad. Like all salads from here, it comes with the option of grilled or crispy chicken. This Club salad, check this out, will come with crispy chicken.”

“...One Club salad, okay first window.”

“Nope, there’s more to this. Okay stretch first. Here it comes. There’s also going to be a Southwest salad. This salad, holy shit, will have grilled chicken on it.”

There’s a full minute of silence. I wonder if the guy quit. I’m about to leave when
“Okay I think I got it.”

“All right, man. Well I’m coming up to your window.”


I pull up. There’s no one in there. So I wait.
Finally, an ambiguously gendered Hispanic person appears.

It’s got spiked hair on top, shaved on the bottom. Heavy set, there could be boobs, but I’m not certain. They could be man boobs. Or gloriously restrained female ones. This person has a soft face, like a girl’s, but moves like a man. It’s got one faux diamond earring on the left ear.

“Sup,” it says to me. The voice is equally ambiguous.


“Okay so what did you want?”

My right hand grabs a cigarette. I light it, take a long drag and stare back at him/her.

“A Club salad with crispy chicken. And a Southwest salad with… grilled chicken.”

“Oh, you sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure.”

“Aight one sec,” it tells me, then vanishes.

It left the window open, and I could hear what sounded like pots and pans being dropped. A fumbling hurry, with two voices arguing in Spanish.
He/she reappears with a bag.

“Aight. Twelve twenny.”

I hand my card over, wondering what’s in the bag. I do enjoy surprises.

She hands my card back with a forced smile. I think it’s a girl. Well, pretty sure it’s a girl.

Returning home, I’m excited to see what I got.
I got two salads that were opened and the chicken switched. The Club had grilled, and the Southwest had crispy. CLOSE ENOUGH!

And they were actually pretty tasty. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Great Moment at Walmart, of all places.

Figure I'll pick up a few things from Walmart.
So to look the part, I change out my collared shirt and slacks for ninja turtles pajama pants, sandals and a Coors Light t-shirt.
I make sure to smoke a few cigarettes on the way too, to class up my breath.

Now I'm strolling down an aisle, selecting a case of Monster, when I see a middle-aged woman browsing the same aisle a few feet away.

I continue on, this time in the cereal aisle. There she is again.
Loading up on Pop Tarts (keeping it real with Strawberry), I ignore her as we pass by each other.

Two aisles over, I'm pondering over soups to myself.
Then I hear her squeaky cart approaching and there she is again, appearing at the opposite end.

How many times do you pass the same stranger without saying hello?

"Whoa wait," I say, hands out, "Where have I seen you before?"

She freezes.

"Oh I remember! I love what you've done with your hair since the soda aisle."

And to my surprise, she whips up a dry wit.

"Why thank you, dyed it myself," she bats her eyes, "You must have good taste in groceries."

We both look in my cart, filled with very blatant guy-in-his-twenties type products and laugh.

"Make sure you get all your vitamins, young man!" she wags a finger towards the 6-pack of Blue Moon, and exits my aisle, never to be randomly seen again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trying to play videogames, as an adult. [huge rant]

So I had a bit of nostalgia kick in. It had been years since I really sat down and played a videogame (well other than Street Fighter 2). Something I used to be really in to as a kid, the hobby vanished once I became a real workin' man.

When I was a kid, I took pride in my endless patience, skill and intuitive conquering abilities when it came to any game, at any time.

Surely videogames nowadays are no different, right? Better graphics, big deal.

My girlfriend has a polished Playstation 3. Something I never invested in myself. It's slick like steel, cool looking. A symbol of technology passing me by.
The games she has all look intimidating. So much time and effort goes into every detail, even the cover art is overly epic. Over the years, game design has been taken more and more seriously, it seems.

I pick her crisp copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and go to play it. But then confusion kicks in.

How do I turn this on? There's no buttons on the console, just like, touch sensors or something. I put the disc in, there's no tray, it just swallows it in digital silence. The game doesn't start right away either, instead there's this homescreen with 50 icons floating around.

The controller doesn't work. There's no wire connecting it, I panic. Then my girlfriend touches the Power button on the controller for me with a sigh. Now it works.

I can't find the game among the icons. So she finds it for me. Then hands me back the controller again.

Explosions and lasers occur, extreme music blasts MARVEL VERSUS CAPCOM FREAKIN 3! BOOOM!!

Then more explosions and lasers and colorful flashing bits. I fight through the fanciness, dodging pop up messages saying I have no internet connection so I "can't play online"

I didn't even realize that was a problem. Can't I just play alone?

I select "Offline mode" and the game sort of snickers at me. Who's this loser, it thinks.

Finally, the character selection screen. I pick a super extreme looking Spiderman, Ryu, and Akuma. Characters I remember from childhood. Fond memories of whooping on games with these guys back in the day. Should be a piece of cake, I got this.

More explosive menus occur, I don't understand them so I just tap buttons until the first fight starts.

Then this happens. ^^
I have no idea what's going on.

Things are moving onscreen like a MMA fight during a rave, while on acid. My mind quickly recalls the complex moves from a dozen years ago. Ones that would crush any opponent.

Well these didn't work.

I was trying too hard. Trying to time things, implementing strategies that are no longer needed, for patterns that no longer existed. Instead of 50 perfectly-timed button sequences to pull off a cool move, you just press one button and BAM the world's aflame. I can't even begin to comprehend the constant seizure of lasers and fire and bullets and screaming onscreen.

So I stop playing.

I feel old. I feel like a defeated moron. What the hell happened to videogames?

I know! I'll play Megaman 2. Now THERE'S a game.

Firing up my ROM version for the PC, I'm excited to finally be in control again.

Then I realize all I can do is jump, die, and shoot little white dots. I'm cute, tiny, a pipsqueak. The enemies are all bigger than me, all cooler and stronger than me.

Megaman is instantly and always a very obvious underdog. He can't do shit. It's all on you, the player, to win anyway. This will require patience, dedication, timing, REAL skill.

After just 10 minutes, I can't take it anymore. This game is so hard. I can't DO anything but die, it seems. This cute little game is RUTHLESS.

My thumb gets tired, I can't think fast enough. I want everything now, I don't want to wait. Megaman's impossible odds bother me, unlike before. "Megaman, you suck."

When I was a kid, I could blast through this with ease. Now I have zero chance of success. Why?
The game hasn't changed.

I have changed.

Is it just me? Or has society become this way, as a whole? I'll argue it has, by simply looking at videogames from today.

Here's a fine example of what's out there now.

God of War.
In this game, you're immediately a badass named Kratos. You can slice and dice enemies with violent fluidity. Some of the bosses are larger than you, sure, but you're still infinitely cooler than they are. You never feel small, like you do in Megaman.

You never feel threatened, like you can't win. There are a few moments where you might have to try more than once to succeed. But you'll NEVER have to throw your controller in 1992-like rage. You can save whenever, have endless lives, and a million spectacular moves right off the bat. As Kratos, you're a god. No one can stop you, and then it ends when you destroy the hell out of everyone.

Instant gratification, overwhelming explosive visuals and sounds. No need for the player's own imagination, no need for any real dedication to win.
Not to discredit the brilliant artists and engineers behind these new games and effects. Even the 'average' games now blow my mind.
But what does this all boil down to?

It's not the extreme videogames' fault. Naturally as technology advances, things will get bigger and badder. The games only reflect what people want. And that's more of everything, right now.
This results in a generation of jaded weaklings, with only immediate gratification on their menu. When these kids meet difficulty in the real world, they'll crumble.

They'll be an entire mass of people that won't go out and build things, or know how to fix things. Widespread lonely depressants that never meet their neighbors, but have a thousand distant online acquaintances.

Then again, I don't know.

Maybe this is just a misguided rant. Maybe this is just me feeling old at only 26.

Or maybe I should just try playing Megaman one more time :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

POV outside Arizona GOP Debate :)

I could write on and on about this. But instead, for now, here are the sights and sounds outside the Mesa, AZ GOP debate in photo and video form.

Video taken on a crappy handheld. Starts off with a little crowd exploration, paranoia, then following some crazy people and finally arriving at a church to watch Ron Paul speak in person! Snarky captions throughout.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Long Lost Son

I’m at the Laundromat, just north of Greenway and 32nd street. I’ve loaded the clothes, it’s slow today.
Tired of the same old magazines on the counter, I’ve purchased a crisp copy of Motortrend to brush up on cars I can’t afford.

It’s just me in here, until I sense someone small beside me.

I ignore it, keeping to myself. Then the little person moves closer, I can smell him. He smells like Juicy Juice.

I glance over a moment, and see him studying the cover of my magazine. He’s small even for his age, maybe four years old. Big brown eyes, with thick dark hair, wearing light up shoes and a t-shirt with speeding cars all over it.

He smiles bashfully then hides behind my bench seat.
So I go back to reading about how the Volkswagen GTI’s interior compares to those inside the pricier Evolution and STI, when I smell him again.

I look up and he’s right in front of me this time.

“You want to read this to me?”

His eyes widen with a silly grin.

“Here go ahead. I’ll scoot over.”

He takes the magazine carefully in his tiny grip. Where normally a kid his age would tear the pages with careless sticky hands, this boy is different. He holds the Motortrend as if it were the Holy Grail, the only one on Earth.

“What’s that say?” I ask him, pointing to an Audi A7.

“This car is for mommies. Mommies like this car,” he says, following the article with his finger and translating it. His voice is thoughtful, he’s certain of every word he’s saying.

Satisfied with that, he slowly turns pages. He meticulously studies every picture on every page, pondering deeply about each one.
Then he stops on a big shot of a green Range Rover Evoque.

“This one is a fast car for daddies. Daddies like fast cars. If my daddy were still here... he would buy this,” he reads.

“Which car is for you?” I ask him.

He smiles at me, then hurriedly flips back a few pages.
“THIS one is for Anthonys. I’m a Anthony. This car is for me.”

“The Ferrari 458 Spyder, smart choice,” I tell him.

He keeps his big eyes on the bright red 458 for a while, taking in every detail.

“I’m gonna show mommy!”
“Okay, I’ll wait here.”

He puts the magazine down gingerly with the correct page open, climbs off the bench seat, then takes the magazine again. Anthony stares at the 458 a moment longer while he stands there. With a firm nod, he hops over to his mother, absolutely sure she’ll love it as much as he does.

She’s packing up the last of the folded clothes from the dryer.

“Mommy. Look. It’s a furry fourfitty ate!”

She ignores him.

“Mommy, lookit. It says here this car’s made just for me,” he’s turned the magazine spread up to her, and is desperate to show her the miracle he’s discovered.

Clothes ready to go, she finally looks down at him.
“Oh no, WHERE did you get that? It’s not yours!”

His eyes drop, his lip quivers a second but he’s trying to stay strong.
“I… I’m just… I’m just-”

She snatches the magazine from him and his little body flinches.

He looks much smaller now, without the Ferrari in his hands. He’s crumbling, like a part of him just died.

“I don’t have time for this shit,” she mutters, tossing my Motortrend on the dryer beside her.
I walk over to the Motortrend and pick it up.

“It’s all right. It’s for him. I don’t need it anymore,” I hold out the magazine to Anthony, who hesitates.

His eyes change between his mother and the magazine, unsure of which he loves more.

“No really, this is just for you, Anthony.”

“Fine, just stop bothering me about your cars all day,” Mommy says to Anthony.

He’s okay with those demands, taking the Ferrari in his tiny hands again.
“Come on we’re leaving!” Mommy says, grabbing the clothes basket, “What did I say about NEVER talking to strangers!”

He follows her, hugging the magazine tightly to his chest, and looking at the floor like he’s in trouble.

I watch her walk out the door, then see him stop a moment behind her. 
He gives a little wave to me, making sure Mommy doesn’t see, smiles again then hurries after her.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scottsdale's Attempt at Road Rage


Day at the office comes to a close, it’s ripely 5pm Rush Hour. Luckily, I’m just making a quick stop at the gas station for a Monster or two.

Normally flowing freely, Scottsdale road is clogged to a bewildering halt. There are people making desperate U-turns and near-collisions to avoid the ugly scene ahead. Horns honking, people screaming at their steering wheels.

I dodge into a side lot and make my way to the Shell. Afterwards, I turn towards the only available exit and am stuck behind two cars waiting to make a left into the hurricane of traffic on the main road.

Three cycles of green and red lights occur, no cars have moved. People are getting more upset. My left leg is tired from holding down the clutch, so I switch to neutral, turn off my headphones and listen to my surroundings.

I notice the driver ahead of me flinging his hands around inside his black Mercedes. His windows are up, so I can only imagine what he’s yelling at his windshield-
Until he opens his door and steps out.

“What in the FUCK are you waiting for?!” he’s tall and well dressed in a dark suit and tie. His voice is distinctly British. His arms are flapping all around, cursing in a way I almost can’t understand. He pounds on the driver’s window of the Suburban in front with his fist.


The Suburban driver, seeing how his left turn is impossible to make anyway, opens his door and reveals himself as well. He’s wearing a cut-off shirt, neon green, flaunting tight abs and gym shorts.

“Hey MISTER I can’t move okay JEEZ!” he waves his finger around, with his right hand fashionably at his waist.

British business man and buff gay guy both yell at the top of their lungs at each other for a few minutes. The rest of the cars stop honking and start watching the scene unfold instead.

Now the lights have gone through green and red cycles three more times. We’ve been stuck here at least twenty minutes.

The argument has since left the subject of the traffic situation, to plain insults.
“You DRIVE and TALK like a WOMAN!” British guy yells.
“Well your tie is SO WALMART!” gay guy retorts.

Should I? Oh why not.

So I step out too and walk up to them with a cigarette.

“Guys, guys. Relax. Get back in your cars.”

They both face me, and take turns
“WHUT! No YOU get back in YOUR CAH!”
“Stay out of this little man! You don’t WANT NONE!”

“Gentlemen. There’s a dozen cops a quarter mile from us. They’ll come over here and detain you bo-”

“Oh COME OFF IT! I’ll knock you BOTH out before that happens!” the Brit wipes back his hair.
Gay guy gasps.

I hulk up, take a deep breath, and thunder
“Oh yeah?! Well your accent sounds REALLY PLEASANT!”

“WELL Y- what, it does? Oh… why thank you,” he fixes his tie and chuckles, then realizes he’s supposed to be mad, “But this SILLY CUNT in his SILLY SHIRT is causing me quite the headache!” he points.

“You guys wanna beer? We should just split a sixer while we wait for this traffic to clear up.”

“Oh heck, I’ll have one. I’ve worked out all DAY I deserve it!” says buff neon shirt, raising his hand.

British guy looks around, nods at the ground for a moment, and after a heavy sigh “I guess we might as well. This is QUITE the pickle we’re in.”

We orchestrate ourselves in reverse, backing into the Shell station. I buy us a six pack of Blue Moon and we share them in the Suburban.

British says his wife has been cheating on him every time he goes on a business trip, he thinks, that’s why he was so upset. Gay guy says he felt scared despite his Superman body.

We joke further about how lousy American light beer is, and how British can’t wait to go back home where things (other than his wife) make sense. Halfway through our second beer each, the traffic eases up a bit. So we wish each other well after a few more laughs, and split ways.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Versus Cigarettes.

It’s been a long morning at the office. I’m in line at the overpriced Shell station across the street, eyeing the wall of sin behind the register.

My turn arrives “Hey I’ll take the Camel Lights,” I say, digging for my ID.

“No need, bud,” cashier puts a hand up, revealing a fresh pack with the other.

“Dang, over seven bucks now?” I cringe.

“Yeeeahhp. Harsh, huh?”

No matter. I’m in my truck now, the glossy pack of Camels fits perfectly in my palm. Inside are twenty little companions. Twenty little vacations.

I take the shiny tab in my fingers, and unwrap her like a present that’s just for me. The lid pops open with the crispness of a spring morning, revealing her metallic undergarments. They too, slip off with ease.
Ah, the first cigarette. Smells good, rolled nice and tight. She cheers smoke into my lungs, I smile and together we head out.

I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times it’s not even funny. I’ve tried substituting with patches, cold electronic variants, gum, hell even chewed on toothpicks. All failures.

As my little damsel sits comfortably between my fingers, I let her spirit escape out the driver’s window.

“You know those’ll kill you.”
“They make you stink.”
 “They’re so expensive.”

We pull back into the office parking lot. I suck away the last of her, toss her corpse into the dumpster, and head back to work.

It’s stressful inside, even for me. The client’s demands are all wrong, what they want will look like crap. The time frame is laughably small, with expectations disproportionately huge.

A few hours pass. I get a call as I’m saving the final design saying we have to start over.
I want to take my laptop, throw it across the room, scream, punch whoever’s next to me, tear off my pants, scream again and run out.

But then I see the Camels on my desk. They sit, pleasantly waiting for another visit. It’s not cancer they want to offer me, just a moment’s peace.
I take cigarette #2 in my hand, exhale a deep breath and step outside with her.

In there, it’s pure anxiety. Out here, it’s just me and God’s green Earth. Birds, clouds, and the Sun.

“Welcome back,” I hear a tiny voice say.

“Yeah thanks. I was about to go insane.”

“I know Andrew, I know. Just smoke me. It’ll be all right.”

“You know you’re killing me right now?” I tell her, taking a drag.

“That office is killing you faster.”

“You know people don’t like me because we hang out,” I tell her.

“Who needs people.”

“You know I’m going to walk back in there, smelling like you, and everybody will think I stink.”

“Again, who needs ‘em. Didn’t I just save you from certain doom?”

“Yeah but I could always just come out here for a moment to relax without you,” I tell her.

“Sure you could. Try just standing out here in the parking lot. Not doing anything, just standing here for six minutes. You’ll look like a creeper. You’ll look like you’re waiting for drugs, or a rape victim or something.”

“But I won’t be stinky,” I counter.
Before she can argue back, I stomp on her face then toss her corpse in the dumpster too.

I’m feeling positive I can quit for a moment, that I don’t need those cigarettes anymore.
Then I walk back into the office.

“Shit man, they want a leaf with a guy in it in the logo but it has to look like the letter O somehow I don’t even know where to start with this can you do it we have like fifteen minutes!”

 I whip out a machine gun with a knife on it and tear my way up and down the halls. Blood sprays like rain, I’m eating people’s brains and cackling madly.

“Sure, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks Andrew!”

Back at my desk, my head pounds away. My fingers whip up multiple solutions. It’s not about being creative, it’s about getting it done. And that bothers me.

The Camels beckon, I do my best to ignore them.
It’s not just the nicotine that’s the hard part to stop. It’s all the little moments and details around that as well, that keeps you coming back.
It’s the jobs like mine where you opt for a six minute breakaway, rather than going Rambo on innocent coworkers. It’s the moments of peace that you just want to yourself. Without cigarettes, you lose those moments.

But you gain lung strength, stamina, stink less, spend less, and there’s less chance of cancer later on.

So risk explosive rage (but while in great health!) or keep smoking and keep subduing.

Wish me luck kids, I’m trying to quit again!

…Right after I smoke this final damsel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fixing Peter the Drunk

The sun’s recently set. Night time has arrived a bit early, but there’s still a hint of the day’s warmth.

I’ve just picked up some last minute prints from Office Max to get a head start on tomorrow.
On the way back to the office, coming down Scottsdale Road I see a lone car up ahead. 
A dark blue Cavalier, swaying slowly in and out of the empty lanes.

Thunderbird approaches, my turn off. 
I should just go back to my little life. Go back to the office, finish this job, and be safe. Be normal. Blend in.

I watch Thunderbird get closer and closer… and let it pass me. For some reason, I decide to just keep watching and following behind the Cavalier.

This person isn’t texting, where there’s a slow floating to one side, then a quick jerk of a correction.

He’s drifting from the far left lane, to the far right lane, and back again in long gradual sweeps. I get just close enough to read his license plate. But I don’t call the police.

There’s minimal traffic coming from the other side, and with a divider between us and them. So I don’t feel too worried about Cavalier Driver hitting someone head on. As he lingers to the left, I cringe in anticipation of him nailing a tree, or rolling over the median and flipping.

The light ahead of us turns red. He slams on his brakes, way too early, coming to a screeching halt about 100 feet from where he should have.

I stop beside the Cavalier, and take a close look at the driver.
He’s got a college kid face. Curly brown hair, with a lousy goatee.
He has the windows down, seemingly using the cold winds in an attempt to keep awake. He’s leaning forward, almost nose to the steering wheel. His eyes close heavily for a moment, then force themselves open a few times.

I want to say something to him, but what?

The light ahead of us turns green. It takes him a moment to notice, but he does eventually, and we continue on.
I stay, very obviously, even with him, keeping an eye out for police. When he drifts into my lane, I move over a bit. He hasn’t glanced in my direction once. He has no idea I’m even here.

When you’re this drunk, everything and everyone you interact with isn’t fully real. Never entirely solid, your environment is more like a movie being played, where normal fears and consequences are so distant in your mind it’s almost as if they don’t exist at all.

I begin to see other cars off in the distance ahead. I’m running out of time.

Cactus turns red. Cavalier man stops, this time in the crosswalk.

I watch his face this time as well, knowing this is a longer light.

It’s quiet. I can overhear him talking to himself. “You… you can do this. I can… I can do… I can…” he holds his face in his hands, rubbing his cheeks and eyes.

Oh man.
I can’t yell at him for driving drunk. I don’t want to scare him, or make him angry. I don’t know what kind of drunk he is. Or why he’s drunk. There’s only one safe question to ask a stranger who’s clearly inebriated.

“Hey! You hungry?” I holler.

He looks to the left, then in his rearview mirror. His eyes are wide open, startled. Was he hearing things?

“Dude! Over here! We’re going to Jack in the Box! You comin?”

 He follows my voice with his drunk head and finally sees me.
“What… no one told me you were… you were goin’ there. Yeah… yeah I wanna.”

“Cool man! Follow the white truck! It’s going to make a U-turn.”
He nods as his eyes close again. The light turns green and I gas up a bit ahead of him.
I blinker to the left lane with him floating around behind me too closely.

I make a slow U-turn, watching him attempt the same. His back tire nudges the median curb.
We creep up to the Jack in the Box together, he follows me into the empty parking lot and parks sideways across three spaces.

I get out of my truck in a hurry and meet him outside his driver’s window.
The car sputtered and shut off abruptly. I glance inside and notice he’s asleep, face on the steering wheel, his right hand taking a nap on the shifter.

I pull up the door lock in the window sill, and open his door.
“Come on man! We’re starving!”

He jolts awake and reaches with both arms towards me in a panic, “Get me… get me out of here! I’m stuck!”
He’s not stuck. But I pull him out of his dead Cavalier anyway.

He leans on me, and puts his face within licking distance of my own. His breath is like gasoline, “Dude… dude… I’m p-… I’m Peter.”

“Right on Peter, I’m Andrew. Let’s roll.”

I half carry him into Jack in the Box while he slurs something about his dead buddy’s name being Andrew.

He starts leaning/falling towards the front counter, so I corral him into the nearest booth instead. He plops into it too hard and looks around apparently confused at his suddenly different surroundings.

“I’m gonna get one of those sirloin burgers with everything on it. You want one too?”

“Yeah… I… yeah, yeah gimme uh… gimme one a… one those things.”

I order two of the sirloin burgers. Not hungry myself, but this guy needs some time to sober up. I’m not sure why I’m doing this. I thought of the heroin kid at the office, and how I let him leave.

“You wanna Coke?” I holler back at Peter.
His head is down on the table, sleeping again.

So I buy us each a Coke, too. Maybe the food and caffeine will help him.

I stand by the counter, waiting for our burgers, letting him sleep a moment. When the burgers arrive, I hear him groan into the table, so I take them both and sit with him quickly.

“Here you go, eat up, Peter.”

His head pops up, there’s slobber connecting from his mouth to the table. He doesn’t notice it. Peter just stares at the burger wide-eyed.

I push his burger towards him, then begin opening my own.

He takes his sirloin burger out of its box, and starts biting into the entire thing, without removing the paper wrapping first.
“Ohh… mmff… mmm oh man. Oh man thank you.”

At least he’s eating. That paper can’t be any worse than the booze he drank.
He eats, and eats. Every bite seems to send a beach vacation down his spine. He loves that burger way too much.
Peter licks his fingers, slams down the entire soda in a gulp then leans back on his side of the booth, overcome with satisfaction. His eyes, though still very glazed, stay open now. He’s looking up at the ceiling, as if imagining the stars beyond it.

“Feeling better?” I ask him.

“Yeah, thank you. What was your name again?”


“Yeah, yeah that’s right. How did we get here?”
I laugh at him, and he smiles, embarrassed.

“We lucked out, that’s all,” I tell him, “So what’s the deal? Pretty early to be this drunk on a Wednesday? Where’s the party?”

He looks at his hands, pondering whether he should tell me.

“Are you drinking to remember, or drinking to forget?”

He crumples in his seat.

“To… to forget.”

I know that look. Too well.

“What did she do to you?”

He puts a hand over his face, it muffles his sad response.
“She… she cheated on me. Like right in my face, too.”

“Did you try to fix it?”

“Yeah but she dumped me anyway. Says I’m a… she said I'm a loser.”

“How long were you with her?”

“Since high school.”

“Oh wow.”

He tries to sip from his straw, finds the drink empty, then falls back into his seat disappointed.

“Yeah I know. And you know what else? It’s gonna sound really, really lame.”

“Try me,” I say, sipping my own soda.

“She was the only girl I ever had, man. She was really something special.”

“That doesn’t sound lame at all.”

A smile appears then vanishes just as quickly from his mouth.

“So why the driving drunk?”

“Oh I don’t know. I just… I guess I just do it to see what’ll happen.”

“If you want to kill yourself, just use a gun,” I tell the table.

He chuckles at me, “Yeah that does sound pretty stupid, when I say it out loud, huh?”

“It’s okay Peter. It’s okay to be depressed for a while, it just shows how much you loved her. Just be depressed in the living room, not on the street.”

“You’re not gonna tell me to like, ‘go find other chicks, she was a bitch,’ and bullshit like that?”

“I’m sure she was a great girl at one point. And you’ll find another one when you’re ready. Just don’t think of her as your only reason for living.”

He nods, thinking about it. His gaze bounces between me and his hands for a moment, then he asks

“Ok, Andrew. You’re… you’re really nice. Are you from AA or something?”

“Hell no.”
He laughs, relieved, so I do too.

Peter seems to have taken those bits to heart. His demeanor lightens up and we talk about what he’s doing at ASU, and where he wants to work.

We go outside, he offers me a cigarette which I decline in favor of my own. He tells me his phone number, says we should hang out. I put it in my phone and call it, but don’t save the number.

We chat for a bit longer, I observe him closely to make sure he’s sobered up enough before I let him get back in his Cavalier. Eventually, after we both laugh at his terrible park job, he shakes my hand and opens the car door.

“Hey, thanks man. Thank you,” he says from his driver’s seat.

“Don’t worry Peter, you’ll do great. Just keep your head up, okay? You’re worth it. Just go home and sleep.”

“Thank you, I will. I’m right down the street from here. Thank you!” he starts his Cavalier, and waves at me as he pulls into the street.

I watch him drive away, staying perfectly in the lines.

Here’s hoping Peter made it home safely.