Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 - A Year in Review - zeus sitting on a whoopee cushion image

Is this post a little outdated? It most certainly is. I was in the middle of writing the 2010 year in review when I found the following article already written. It's a great night in bloggamy when you find an unpublished, completely written article requiring only edits. Something to know about this post is that it really was written a year ago and so I decided not to change any tenses to reflect the current date. In order to understand this post you'll have to put your 2009 thinking cap on and read it. From the perspective of this article, you're in the future!

:: Obscure Fame ::
First, let it be known that fame comes in variety of formats, many of them being: wealthy, a popular entertainer, CEO, or crazy. Below the International House of Fame, are the smaller huts and igloos of local or obscure fame. Yup, obscure fame. For instance, imagine your blog about random life moments while working toward a graduate degree is in the top four search results for the following string of text in a Google search: "zeus sitting on a whoopee cushion image." Now further imagine that you didn't make the cut for the top three search results for that same search pattern. That is obscure. It's obscure fame when it turns out you're number four in the search pattern because people have located and navigated to your website 7 times already! I'm really moving up in the world.
I'd be very happy to help produce a shirt if someone wants to design one that incorporates these key pieces into one design: "zeus sitting on a whoopee cushion image," "From Riches to Rags: The Journey of Gradudate School", and "7 hits." I'll be very happy to sell your shirt on this blog and we can split the profits. That probably means we'd order two shirts and split the cost, but hey... that sounds good to me.
In true irony... the only other registered search phrase that has guided people to this blog has been "graduate school and being broke." That search pattern fostered only one hit. I just don't get it, but I do relish the strangeness and quirkiness of it all. My goal is to have this blog be number one on the list when someone searches for "zeus sitting on a whoopee cushion image." I need your help. In one month's time, I need 19 (the largest prime number less than 21) people to travel to this site using that search listing. We can do this!

:: The 2009 Year-In-Review Preamble ::
There's so much to tell this time around I'm not sure it will all fit. Perhaps a cursory survey of everything with choice details to make the story entertaining or a chance delightful. Maybe however, it is best to start with the immediate moment and expand the story's universe from there. As ideas explode from the origin of a single thought today's journal will originate from the theme of music. However innocuous this seems, I hold to be true the idea that the world is saved and lost in the little things. These are the things that surround us so completely we depreciate their affect, thereby giving them more influence.
I've recently made the switch from music with lyrics to music without lyrics. When people sing, they sing of things that will move us. The number one topic for people to sing about is Love. Ah l'amour. Screw it. I have better things to do. For instance, I'm currently enrolled in a master's program. You may, or may not, choose to believe that this takes a considerable amount of effort but is at this moment more important than the often demotivatingly pedestrian search for Love. To prove this point, my professors are still assigning homework. Your letters to my professors begging for my release from this travesty are very appreciated. Keep sending them. One of these days I'll have no more homework, but I’ve lost the point.
The greatest thing about music without lyrics is that it has all the passion of lyric music, but now in place of someone else's words is the chance to implant my own feelings instead of absorbing a stranger's broken romance or struggle against her father to keep her illegitimate half alien baby. I have plenty of struggles without needing to absorb a stranger's. So I choose to begin the stories here because this is a place to begin releasing drama. Is it hypocritical that I write of freeing myself from a stranger's well-sung upset while at the very moment writing about my own moments and stories? I think not. If you were forced to read this then perhaps yes. Until that time, I'll keep sending the "Thank-You-for-Reading-This-Blog" Bribes Checks.

:: You Can’t Go Home, but Facebook Will Let you Plant Crops while Trying to Swim Upstream ::
You can't go home. You can't stand in the same river twice. You can't unsee what you've already seen. Life is the river and Facebook is a most curious looking glass through which to view it. Past and present merge to create access to new movements in old relationships while furthering the current relationships. 4:03a, listening to new music previously outside of the accepted scope and perusing the past and present via Facebook, is a perfect moment to look at the river and see it new again, as a stranger looking at a painting free from the nuanced artist's struggle seeing only paint and none of the history that created the strokes of paint. To release the past with fresh perspective is freedom. To revisit the past while planting virtual crops in barren virtual fields is Facebook.
For many years I have thought to ask strangers if they knew of my friend George Costanza or where he was. And for some of those many years, I did ask random strangers if they knew of my friend George Costanza and where he was. I know it’s odd to do such a thing. I didn’t honestly believe they would know him or would even fess up if they did know him to a total stranger. The world is more complex than most people give it credit for; which is curious because the complexity is daily driven by those people who think the world isn’t complex, who often lose the grandeur of the moment to a jaded pessimism from a perspective of the entirely un-magical inner workings of Life.
To show that I’m not entirely muddled by bats in my belfry, I approached only a select group of strangers who all shared something in common with my friend George Costanza. Everyone I approached was a Mormon missionary walking the streets of the Earth in attempt to spread a word of their choosing. Growing up I had many Mormon friends, and George Costanza was one of them. I hope by know you’ve realized “George Costanza” isn’t my friend’s true name. It’s a moniker used to protect his identity.
Ever since leaving Texas, at the age of 15, I have moved from one address to another, every year, for 18 years. In this much transition, I have lost contact with many good people, especially the friends of my childhood: George Costanza, Beatle Bailey, Alanis Morisette and Casanova Frankenstein. Facebook has allowed me to connect with a near forgotten past, to see again joy in old memories, to connect with my dear friends and to discover which friends are still dear and which are now wonderful memories. Thank You Facebook for connecting me to Alanis Morisette after all these long years.

:: Christmas Day ::
For years now I've been wishing random people "Happy Holidays" during the winter seasons instead of the more Christian centric "Merry Christmas." I didn't start this to fall in line with any rules of political correctness. I found it to be the greeting that conveys my wishes that people be happy, it's commonly accepted, and it makes no pre-judgement about someone's faith or beliefs. Heaven forbid I wish followers of Christ or Mohammed a "Happy Channukah," or any manner of the opposite. The honest intentions may not tranlsate well. Only one person this season took the time to "correct" me and say something to the effect of "We celebrate Christmas around here." I can't remember thinking about any of this while riding my bike in the snow on Christmas day. I can remember regularly hoping I wouldn't slip on the ice/snow.
I've never made it a habit to be dangerous or do crazy things. I have always made it a habit to do something once I put my mind to it. I get a little blind when I decide something. This trait is clear throughout older posts. I've been cooped up in my house for about four days now because my car has been in the shop. On Christmas Day I decide that I Really want chili, homemade chili. I don't live close enough that making the walk, in the snow, seemed like a good idea. That left only one option... my bike.
My bike is beautiful. It's an old Miyata (Japanese model from the 80's). It's got a steel/chrome/molybdenum alloy frame with more than 2 gears and somewhat less than 101. It's a road/racing bike. It's quick and light with dry weather racing tires. Even as I write this I can't help but chuckle a bit. I know it's ridiculous to bike in the snow on tires without tread, but I got my mind set on chili and chili I was going to have. So I put on 5 shirts, 2 pairs socks, a multitude of undergarments that are best kept undisclosed, 2 pairs of gloves and mind full of all the things that can go wrong when biking in the snow on slick tires, going uphill. The first trip to the store wasn't that bad. I had both of my saddle bags and plenty of bungee cords to hold the rest. The major problem with this whole trip (overlooking the obvious weather barriers) is that I only know how to make chili one way: in large servings. When the shopping was done I probably quadrupled the weight of my bike with: 6 cans of beans, corn and soup, 30+ batteries, 2 quarts milk and OJ and 2 lbs of 80/20 beef (if your beef is too lean you lose the flavor) and hotdogs (mmm.. chilidogs for Christmas).
The worst part about the whole trip? Realizing that because I shipped all my ex-girlfriend’s belongings back to her I now didn’t have a cooking pot. So I resaddled the impossibly thin road bike and trekked back into the below freezing temperatures, uphill, with treadless road tires and had to figure out how to attach a two gallon cooking pot onto a small bike rack.
The best part of the whole trip? Chili dogs...
Was it worth it? You bet!

:: Making Poor Look Good ::
I started the year 2009 with a fire engine red, dashing, cunning, stout and dangerous 1996 Jeep Cherokee Sport. I think you know by this point that my dashing chariot of four-wheeled mayhem rolled itself into a heap of great fiscal sorrow. One hole in the exhaust manifold (no less than $1000 fix), one transmission that wouldn't start in first gear or stay in fourth gear at high speeds ($1900 - $2200), one upholstered ceiling lacking in upholstery adhesive. You know... you never realize how irritating a failing upholstered ceiling is until it gently buffets your consciousness while you're trying to focus on the road ahead. It’s like a little, plush puppy nipping at your heels, or accosting you with its constant barking. It’s like the cat that is nowhere to be seen until you take the first step down the long staircase and it somehow magically appears under your feet, and each step becomes dangerous if your focus slips for a second. It’s like the sibling that’s having a bad day. You know a random punch is waiting to happen but you’ll never know when until after the air has been forcibly driven from your lungs. Except the plush puppy nipping at your heels and the cat isn’t trying to kill you (this time). Failing automobile upholstery is more like an anti-gravity, terry cloth octopus continually buffeting and cuddling against your head while you're driving, an infirm Jeep Cherokee.
Perhaps a better way to picture the scene is to think of driving. You're in the driver seat, turning the wheel to follow the slight bends in the road and you feel this slight weight on the top of your head. It's at this point you realize your car is playing the game of I'm-Not-Touching-You. Even when it actually isn't touching, you can feel this nervous spot on your head, anticipating the very moment when the failing upholstery will blanket your head, inciting small panic attacks, with anti-gravity, terry cloth octopi encroaching your very personal boundaries. There were a few other problems with the Jeep. The locks were going and there was some clear body rust burying into burnt-orange tunnels within the steal exterior. So... one thing to do. I sold the Jeep for $500 and bought a new vehicle.
With the Jeep out of the way, this left me open to purchase something I'd been wanting for a long time. I could now buy anything that was in the fiscal realm of a broke grad student. This meant that I was looking at used cars. Not “used” as in the type you buy a few years after they were made, think older. It also means we're not looking at cars that are in mint condition or close to it. Whatever I purchased though it needed to have style; it needed to speak to my artistic sensibilities. It needed to grab me and say "Hey Man! I may be old, but I'm classically sexy enough to make poor look good." That's a tall order on an emergency, grad student budget of please-don't-make-me-pay-for-anything-can't-you-see-the-whites-in-my-eyes. At first I had time on my side. I could look around and see what the used car world had to offer. While up in Wisconsin for a trip I spotted something old, something antiquely sexy, and something cheap at a local orchard. Sitting on a grassy curb sat maroon elegance, understated by today's standards, exuding weathered and tested confidence and pedigree. My eye spied the 1976 Mercedes Benz 300D (photos enclosed).

The car sat in a barn for nigh on 15 years. My favorite moment was test driving the elegant, maroon tank through a Wisconsin orchard. Grayed skies hung low but bright overhead. Snow lay in mounds throughout the rows and columns of empty trees and for the most part everything was still. The Benz reaches a mighty 88mph with 65hp. The owner let me drive the Benz through his orchard and though the drive was short there's no forgetting the feeling of driving a moment of time from thirty years ago through an empty, quiet orchard passing by trees with all the reckless abandon one can muster going 15 miles an hour over a dirt road. Braking at the end of the road pulled the car hard to the right which is not a good sign for a broke grad student; this means 95% guaranteed brake repair. So... I had to think more upon this car. It gets points for classy, elegant, and making poor look stylish. It loses points for probably making poor be unbearable with suspected future repair bills. Which brings further irony to the question of automobiles, later to come.

:: So You Think You Found a Deal ::
I couldn't honestly reconcile the risk of getting such an old Benz, regardless of its elegance. The initial cost was too high and the expected cost of near future repairs was risky. So I settled on something more better, more cheaper, more risklessier, more unelegantier and generally more morer. So... what caused me to pass over a 1976 300D, with matching hubcaps and front bumper mounted lights? See graph 1.

Oh that's right. I am now the owner and operator of a 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan. I'd brag about it but... Oh! I did get it at quite a deal, as you can see from the graph. While the coolness factor is below zero, the cost factor is close to zero. Initial purchase price: $1600. She's silver, seats 7, which is enough room to hold my laptop. Oooh, both sides have sliding doors and it fits in my garage and the gas mileage is fantastic. I can drive over 400 interstate (300 something in town) miles before having to refuel. Some of you may already be able to do this but you gotta remember, my previous car got 14-15mpg on the interstate. I could go just over 220 interstate miles before having to refuel. Oh, did I mention that in the past month it's needed $1100 in repair? Time to make a new chart.

:: Grades ::
Despite the trials of the Fall 2009 semester, it seems I do best in the Fall. I had three classes: TECH 646, CGT 581c, Independent Study. TECH 646 was a good class. Surprisingly it wasn't as boring as it could have been. The course was a research methods course. Ugh... my fingers tire at even writing that brief synopsis. I know... boring, boring, boring. But! The professor made all the difference. Somehow, a three hour class at night on the subjects of research practices, data analysis, testing methods and all that gibberish was made interesting by expert delivery. The professor has an immediate presentation and clear sensibility defined by: alert eyes, clean and discerning dress, and a quiet, collected, competent reserve. Were it not for the professor's ability to engage students and allow students to guide class conversations I would have reshaped my ear drums with scissors while running really fast, with bacon streamers clipped to my nostrils, chewing on mentos while drinking diet coke, rubbing baconnaise in my armpits. Luckily that's not what happened.
By the end of the semester I was burned out. Moments come to us sometimes where we come face to face with the state of our self. I hit this wall where I couldn't continue. I wanted everything to stop. Everything became overwhelming. Everything became heavy and everything became scary. I didn't think I was going to finish the semester. When it came time to finish the semester and take finals I couldn't study. I tried to want to study. I tried to reach deep down and pull out a miracle of motivation and triumph. What I found though was It's not quite a device to further motivation, but I have to say I became pretty good at killing fake dragons with a very large bow and arrow.

Burnout sucks. Killing dragons saves lives.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Orleans

Introduction: Getting a Faux-Mugging for Free...
     Today's installment brings us to New Orleans: magical, mystical, dirty New Orleans. A relationship with New Orleans can defy simple explanation, can harass the most sophisticated, objective and accomplished distillers of human experience into single words. I dare say categorizing a relationship to New Orleans could even harangue a haruspex. And so, it will be with an abundance of words that I will form sentences. These sentences will conjoin to beget paragraphs. And paragraphs will continue the begetting to beget yet again and form an e-mail. This e-mail, in defiance of the haranguing of the haurspices, will tell of my relationship toward New Orleans. Be careful, it involves a touch of danger, prejudice, Australians, new vocabulary, an honest cabbie and snoring, a deep and rankled snoring torn from the womb of the darkest night.
      And while I may not have killed a shark in slow-motion terror-rama I was faux-mugged by four hoods at 4am on a New Orleans city street. This is, of course, the prescribed time of day to visit an ATM. A faux-mugging is a lighter form of real mugging: same great thrill, less physical violence. It’s 4a. Carondelet is empty with only the hotel porter, a taxi and New Orleans to notice my presence. My flight is early and the cabbie is on his way. So, I gotta get the cash. Scanning the street I see four guys about 50 feet away, walking in a group across the street. I considered visiting the ATM after they passed by but had a dilemma. I figured all the real thugs were winding down around 4a and that crime was waning for the night. Please, don’t ask me why I thought that or figured it was logical. It was 4a, and that’s too late for bad deeds, right? Besides, I want to believe that people are generally good. And how rude would it be of me to assume that 4 random men walking in lurking pack formation would jump me. I guess this story puts the final nail in the coffin of my secret desire to be a spy. So, I decided to get the cash. They cross the street to my side. The cash rolls out as bill by bill flips out to build a growing mound of green currency.
     About twelve feet behind me now I sense commotion. Someone jumps out and shouts “Gimme all you money!” This is followed immediately with a burst of laughter, doubled over snickering and a round of chortles. I jump, turning around with all the cunning and physical alacrity of a six and a half foot tall man being startled by four nefarious looking hoodlums while holding cash on a dark city street at 4a in New Orleans. My flinch prompted more hilarity. As the pack moved on, laughing aloud, they told me to be careful because these streets are dangerous streets. And that’s when I got mad. I hate duplicity.

Staying at a Hostel...
In staying at the hostel last weekend, I feel like I was in that movie "The Island" with Leonardo DiCaprio, except I didn't kill a shark with a homemade shank, I wasn't outrunning drug lords and I didn't join a secret society of hippies and vagrants. What I did find though were Australians, tons of them. What I can tell you now is that if the US wanted to toughen immigration laws against Australians the first step would be to close down hostels. A hostel is kind of like a fraternity. They’re typically dirty, occupied by people who won't stay long (usually), have dorm-style sleeping accommodations, and is party central. The first lesson when staying at a hostel is: bring your own flip-flops. Seriously. You don't want to stand, barefoot on the bare tub in a room that reeks so strongly of mildew that it is literally hard to breath. I guess that might birth a second rule: bring a gas-mask. Third rule: go to bed very early... OR... adopt the schedule of the nearest Australian. It is a guarantee that any Australian in a hostel is there to travel for an undetermined amount of time and will drink heavily as often as possible. Drinking heavily means drinking late into the night. What that means for you is: be prepared to be awoken by drunks, loud drunks that turn all the lights on. One gentleman in particular, an Italian sleeping on the bunk above me, came to bed around 2:30a. He disrobed, angled various objects in random bags at the foot of his bed, and began his climb into the bed above mine. One foot, then a hand, then the entire collection of appendages worked in a loose agreement to scale the 5.5 foot bed-ladder. Now crowning the top of the bed and... Bang! A wooden blade hits a hollow melon. The Italian climbs down from the bed and turns the light on. The Australian in the bed next to me says through laughter: "Aye mate? Did you hit your head? Oh gawd mate, you crack me up? You're hilarious!" The Italian, either truly or pretending, didn't understand the Australian and exited quickly to the washroom. I hope the deep stench of mildew in the bathroom didn't infect his wound via air-contact.
     Not to be outdone in epic moments of depriving others of much needed sleep, that same Australian dug deep within his soul to produce a noise, nay... a death groggle to sound the harbingers of Sleep's most wicked demise. What came next, and I loathe to use so plain a word to describe so violent an offense against man, was snoring. While staying awake during the aural water-boarding, I made a game of the situation. At first, I wanted to find a pattern so that I could focus on it and use that pattern to fall asleep. However, so heinous were the ululations of the sleeping hellhounds deep in his nose-throat that no discernible pattern could be found. Instead, I was able to break his snoring into 11 major variants...

   1. The Whoopee Cushion: brrripp!
   2. The Inverted Whoopee Cushion: the air is being forcibly sucked into the whoopee cushion
   3. The Hissing Cat: a violent rasping of air
   4. The Cat Hissing During Sex while Drinking Milk: see above but with some gagging and choking
   5. The Emphasemic Gorilla Choking on Milk while Being Beaten on the Chest with a Cricket Bat, through Chicken Wire: this one’s pretty obvious
   6. The Elephant's Lungs Filled with a Million Whoopee Cushions, Sputtering Milk while Trying to Breath and Burp and Trumpet Simultaneously: I’m not lying.
   7. The Angry Tiger Cub: It’s like a tiny growl with a hissing noise.
   8. The Mischievous Farting Tiger Cub: see above but more spluttery
   9. The Subliminal Devil's Flatulence:
         - Playing the snore backwards yields the unmistakable sound of the Devil passing gas with a vengeance, producing extreme agony.
  10. The Gasp for Air
         - This is the moment when the snorer's body realizes it needs oxygen.
  11. The Tease
         - Two quiet moments without snoring before fresh batches of kittens are slaughtered in the macabre machinations of the Australian's snore factory

The St. Charles Trolley and S. Carrollton...
     The St. Charles Avenue Trolley is a fantastic ride. Take the ride from Carondelet to South Carrollton. If you're a fan of anachronisms then this trolley is just for you. First, imagine a wooden submarine, but smaller with windows (yes yes, I know. use your imagination). The woodwork is aged but cared for and every piece fits together like the mosaic of an old gymnasium floor. At night, sitting in the slow breeze of a meandering trolley, the wide cavity is lit by 12 incandescent lights possibly of the type used in old marquees. The seats and set-backs are wooden, slightly cramped for the passengers and loose-fitting in its assemblies. With each minor jolt of the trolley comes a predictable series of clacks as seat-backs bounce in seat-hinges. The trolley is simple and the manner of this simplicity brings a warmth and appreciation to be without the frills of modern gadgetry and blinkety-lights. Unlike those modern frills, the input devices, mechanics and presence of the trolley do not beg for attention nor fight for affection. The design is simple and warm. The lighting creates a minor cosmos absent from the daily threads of time. To be sure, when you step-off the trolley and into the night, you are back in the present day and Time finds you once again. However, and let us be honest on this point, if you are on this trolley then you are in New Orleans and as long as you're in New Orleans, time doesn't keep such a steadfast schedule nor does it necessarily bother looking for you here. This is where even Time comes to relax after working hard in New York, Tokyo or London. It rides the trolley and forgets to keep pace (seriously, I was late for an appointment).
     As the design of the trolley relates to any gadgetry, modern or archaic, I chuckle silently. The trolley operator has three main input devices: door (toggle Open/Close), bell and lever. The operator can alert any nearby drivers or pedestrians to the trolley's presence through the use of a bell. Not a horn of any automotive variety. No squeeks or honks, beeps or meeps. Out in front, hanging off the side of the trolley is a bell. At the foot of the operator is a pedal, like those used in sewing machines. Rocking the pedal rings the bell. When a feisty trolley operator is at the helm, the ringing of the bell sounds like a traffic collision of milk-cows reaching three miles long. The lever though is my favorite part. The lever is hinged at one end allowing a near 180 degree rotation from dead-stop to full-speed. A 3 pound, iron handle on a 4 pound, iron lever drives the trolley. Each turn of the lever brings an abundance of unnecessary ratchety noises. Off-key clicks and clacks assault the air with a staccato arrhythmia. I wouldn't be surprised to see Charlie Chaplin operating my trolley inside this amodern time. A parting warning: there's a large box above and to the left of the trolley operator. Stand away from the innocuous box. This is the electrical housing. The discharges are loud, bright and unexpected.

A Few Myths Dispelled About Australians...
   1. Australian's drink Foster's beer: False. This will get you a punch in the mouth with the wrong Aussie crowd.
   2. You can find Aussies in a crowd by shouting "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!": True. A real Australian will shout back "Oy! Oy! Oy!"
   3. Australians occupy 95% of all beds in American hostels: True... without a doubt.
   4. Australians speak English: False. I can't understand half of what they say. So, good luck to you on that one mate.
   5. Australians like TacoBell: True! This is a true fact. Even after repeated attempts at describing TacoHell as having terrible food, the Aussies just love it. And this assumption about all Australians is accurate based on a small random sample of late teen travelling Australians that stay in hostels on a budget of expendable cash. The sample size of this testing group is 2... or 3.

New Vocabulary...
    * Ginger (n), British-English: a red-head. This used to be a derogatory term until everyone in Britain used it. Now I've been told it's ironic. In a sentence: "Look at that ginger, she's smokin!"
    * Piss-take (n), British-English: a spoof. In a sentence: "My categorization of Australians as not speaking English is a piss-take on their ultra thick accents and strange cannibalistic customs."

New Orleans...
     There is no city in the US like New Orleans. If you mixed the history and architecture of Boston with the general debauchery of Las Vegas you'd have the facade of a fair attempt at New Orleans. I mean it as straight as I write it. New Orleans is dirty, lazy in appearances, mystical, darkly veiled, vibrant, a living relic, historic, violent, unapologetic, unconcerned, and slow. Walking around even one night in New Orleans emotes a feeling of dark and unspoken mysticism. I don't mean the new-agey shamanism prevalent in television, popular culture and yoga circles. I speak more of a presence in the city that exists of the same roots from which the city was born. So thick is the air of the otherworldly that the various Day of the Dead relics sit not as tourist junk but as broadcasters and conduits in the store-front windows.
     In almost every aspect of downtown New Orleans exists a lean, unkempt presence. Something hungry watches and lurks. It's behind the overgrown plants escaping onto the sidewalk, or the rotten shutters north of Canal Street. The heart of New Orleans watches the passersby and either opens up, hides or lashes out. This unkempt presence extends from downtown out west of along Magazine street and the surrounding area. There is very little about most of New Orleans that would pass a homeowners association inspection. There is no agreed aesthetic except that which was built and deserted or handed down through generations. Vines and plants grow largely unchecked. Paint fades or peels at the sole discretion of the weather or the complacence of the standing structure. Gates are old and iron and generously dusted with rust and peeling black paint. Sidewalks sink or rise per the wishes of the old and sometimes restless oak trees.
     Bourbon Street - This is what Las Vegas wishes it was: all the debauchery with none of the excessive hype. Bourbon Street is terminated by Canal Street on the southern end. Where it goes on the northern end I don't know. I always visited Bourbon Street at night and this is when the soul of New Orlean's Mischief is at play.
     The entrance of Bourbon Street, from Canal, is immediately inhabited by a few bars (The Bourbon Cowboy has a mechanical bull), a high end sex shop stocked with risqué lingerie, 'who needs an imagination?' lingerie and toys. Also sitting in the first block off Canal Street is the Royal Sonesta Hotel. There is no hiding the purpose of visiting Bourbon Street: gluttony and lust in the delivered forms of: strippers, hand grenades (a highly potent alcoholic party drink… they’re freakin huge), beer, dance clubs, beads all year round, public drunkenness, and even public displays of dancing. When the Royal Sonesta Hotel establishes a permanent residence on Bourbon Street, it further solidifies the cultural acceptance of a never-ending party. The farther I walk down Bourbon Street the more common strip clubs and dirty men seem to be. The street is not without its dirty women. They are slightly removed, standing recessed in doorways or dancing in various states inside the adult-clubs. Near the very end of the lit section of Bourbon is an adult house promoting acts as indelicate as their burning neon signs. Of the multiple times I've visited New Orleans and walked down Bourbon Street there exists a section of Bourbon where the lights don't shine anymore. This line is further demarcated with a final police fence. Tourists, such as myself, warn each other about walking down Bourbon past the lights and daring the dark to scare and spare us. I dared a fellow traveller to walk with me into the first darkened block. He wouldn't do it and I am honestly grateful. Bourbon Street is best understood by living it, if even for a day.
     Canal Street - is the connective tissue tying all the disparate, emotional states of New Orleans together. It is the arbiter between the carnal, darkly lavish feasts of Bourbon and the refined pillars and gardens of the gentry of St. Charles. The world makes first contact to New Orleans via Canal Street.
     St. Charles Avenue - is gorgeous. This is where the homes of past thrive. Mansions against mansions against the open air gaiety of well trimmed shrubs and personal gardens. Sights worth seeing: Academy of the Sacred Heart, Tulane, Audubon Park, S. Carrollton Avenue and the oak trees. Academy of the Sacred Heart, Tulane and Audubon Park are all worth your time and can all be seen from the St. Charles Trolley (line #12) and can be read about in travel books. What you might not read about are the oak trees. The old oak trees cover the street and create, or reflect, the same shadowy veil of mystery that can be felt in the dirtier and darker corners of the city. Even out here, in the noontime sun on St. Charles Avenue, twilight hides in the trees and falls like slow to the concrete below. This silent dusting of the shades of night reveal hints of the city’s other face. In this falling dust of the city’s twilight eyes, history mixes with superstition, voodoo, and something wild to create a doorway that almost shows itself in the shade of these trees. Just behind the trees lay the secret of New Orleans. As the trolley sparks and abuses its bell toward traffic obstructions, pedestrians and random squirrels this twilight passes as a dark dusting from the old oak trees of St. Charles Ave. I am deeply enchanted. I favor the trolley ride and the old oak trees as my brightest highlight about the city of New Orleans.

Restaurants of Note:
    * Slice - On St. Charles. Locally owned pizza joint that sells by the slice or by the pie. Big slices, great taste.
    * Juan's Flying Burrito - Local favorite
    * Tris - Haven't been here but it looks fantasic. There's an outdoor patio. It's on S. Carrollton which is very timeless.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Greetings to all who read this,
This moving journal marks important events of recent times. I completed my calculus course. This cause for great elation. So please elate, I can wait. As always if you're reading this and wish you weren't I can remove you from the list. If you're not reading this and wish you were, we need to have a deep philosophical discussion. Tonight's installment marks the first time math has been used to generate multiple laughs in one journal entry. You will need to remember some of your calculus in order to truly get some of the jokes. Anyone who's suffered enough math to get these jokes deserves to have jokes written for just them.

Ants Carry their Dead...
I bet you didn’t’ know this. I know I didn’t. I had to see it with my own eyes.Certain types of ants carry their own dead. After one close encounter I had with an ant, who shall remain nameless, I killed it. What moved me about this particular ant lay in the events that unfolded after the ant had a near-miss with my hand ( I say "near-miss" because it nearly missed my hand. This correction in word usage I borrow from George Carlin). I saw fellow ants roll-up to the scene of their slain ant-fellow, inspect with their feelers, and then one ant picked up his/her dead comrade and began walking away. Normally I'm all for ants cleaning up after my messes but I couldn't have more ants returning to the scene of the crime. I had to whack the witnesses. I made these cute his-hers matching cement shoes (12 pairs in all). Ants all share a similar shoe size so fitting them wasn't hard. Now, they're swimming with the fishes.
In addition to the invasion of my home by ants, I am also visited by spiders. Eesh... I hates spiders. I think it's all those legs. The spiders and I were having something of a land dispute over who exactly ruled this territory. In matters of land dispute, or most matters in general, it is important to communicate clearly. Because spiders speak no language other than their own dark, ultra-high frequency death cackles, I knew I had to teach them to read English. So, I created a perfect trap, an infallible trap. You’ll find on my kitchen counter some baby books, grammar flash-cards, followed by Dr. Seuss, the Sideways Stories of Wayside School and the Spiderwick Chronicles. After this, the literature graduates to more serious and technical materials: Beowulf, Chaucer and Whitman balanced against the dry logic of the Robert’s Rules of Order, Common Sense, and old copies of the Bar Exam. At the end of this literary obstacle course lay my lease agreement and a large collection of virgin, nubile and supple flies. The trap is set. The flies are temptation. The baby books and remedial English books are there to teach the spider English. And to lease agreement is to prove, bryond a reasonable doubt, that I am the rightful renter.  By the time they reach the top, those tiny spiders will know enough English to know it's time for them to move out.
I sit silently in my kitchen, waiting for my first crop of literate spiders to read, once and for all time, that this land is my land. I’ve been sitting here, waiting for the spiders to read my lease, for 3 weeks now. I think they’re in another room building a human sized spider web in the doorway. It's almost completed.

   It is done. Calculus class is over. I finished my final exam early today making sure I now don't have to be present for the rest of the course. This makes time for me to travel to New Orleans for Siggraph (computer graphics convention). After Nola, I'll be in Boston for a week. I remember calculus to be particularly challenging, from the last time I took it. I was last enrolled in a calculus class at the University of Illinois, at Shampoo-Banana, during my undergrad. This calculus class I found much easier. It allowed me the space to drop it early and take Russian Literature in its place. Somehow I found the summation of depressing Russian authors to be less weighty than the summation symbol itself. My first go at dropping calculus was made easier by the strange and wondrous vocal inflections and heady dialects of my instructors. The professor was a German mathematician of note, whose note I lost so I can't remember his name. His teaching assistant was of clear descent. He came from an area in the Eastern Hemisphere, south of Russia, east of India, north of Australia and west of the Pacific. I could always tell when he was speaking because his mouth was moving and clearly and intentionally vocalising some manner of gibberish. It sounded like copper nails falling on piano strings. To be honest I couldn't understand a word he said. I tried very hard. I really wanted to like math even if I had to enjoy it clandestinely and not tell the other painters. Because calculus has a high rate of change of student enrollment I found it all to easy to keep this joy so clandestine that I forgot about it until 12 years later in the middle of my second attempt at a calculus class. I couldn't have picked a better or worse time for round 2.
     On the heels of a break-up it is often recommended to "get back on the saddle," or "do something with yourself," or "hey buddy, my eyes are up here," or "get out of the house you stank-nasty hermit and change the shirt you've been crying in for the past four days." Anger is a fuel by which we keep reminding ourselves not to call him or her back. We are reminded by way of intrusive memories and occasional Alanis Morissette songs that we deserve to be treated better than we were before and just how angry that person made us. While anger can keep us away from temptation to reconnect, if left unchecked it can become its own malaise (at better times) or its own sleep-depriving obsession. Sometimes you gotta feel what you gotta feel and there's no way around that. But when there is a way around it, swapping sources of anger can drain the intensity of a bountiful ire. In fact calculus is a wonderful proxy on which to focus your anger, when you seek to affect the rate and change in rate of you anger. Calculus will let you scream ghastly obscenities at it, at the very heightened expanse of you lungs. Ne'er will calculus take it personally. It is committed to being just as difficult after a 10-minute, red-faced, drool-inducing, verbal slug fest, as it was before you shouted those perversions of nature at it. Thanks calculus. After all my effort (38 homework assignments, 10 quizzes and 4 exams, in 7 weeks) I expect a C in the course... perhaps a B-. Damn... that won't look good on the transcript.  The last exam was was a bruiser. From the very moment that exam was handed to me, its gnarly eyeballs stared me square in the face, set its equally square jaw, inflated its menacingly saggy jowls and howled mathematical belittlements at me... for two whole hours. It called me the little root to its big square. It said I'd never be a numerator, only a denominator. It even said I was easier than finding the antiderivative of a constant and cheaper than an internet calculator. Believe me, that's just mean. I managed to slightly shame it with a few well placed jabs and even a hook, like knowing the limit as x approaches 0 of sin(x) over x or knowing when L'Hospital's rule was unnecessary. Easy. Solving the indefinite integral of cos(x) + cosh(x) all raised to the power of fear squared... that was more difficult. At the day's end, the points were awarded by the judges as follows: Calculus Final Exam score: The Riemann Sum from 0 to 64 with f(x)=x-cubed :: Britton's score: shame. After 1.5 hours of the test the formulas started to look like the sounds my first calculus teaching assistant made when he spoke.
       You know what Calculus? You're not invited to my birthday party anymore.

Bloody Knuckles...
   I'm a man. Therefore I like to punch things and blow things up. If I could get those two things on a comforter and wallpaper trim I'd decorate my son's room in such manly glory. "May he be a masculine child." I've found that the feeling of busting at the seems is a fantastic opportunity to try something new, or grow a little, or even just brutalize a punching bag. Brutalizing a punching bag is awesome. If I could put that feeling in a bottle and carry it with me I would. Maybe I need a portable Weeble. Like calculus, a punching bag feels no pain nor regret at being verbally assaulted. Unlike calculus, a punching bag will taunt you until you let loose and deliver every ounce of frustration in a fusillade of spastic punches and violent upper-body twitches.
     A punching bag, even the non-canvas types, require taped fingers or gloves. One of the many services a punching bag provides is the liberation of wimpy, sissy skin from your knuckles. Just a few robust minutes at the bag and your dermis is birthed joyously into a loving world by repeated punches against a semi-soft, inanimate opponent. The punching bag I have is the type whose base you fill with water or sand. I filled mine with water. Because of it's relative lightness, my punching bag fears me. The range of problems that can be worked out on a punching bag are broad. Having a case of the Monday's? Taking calculus? Suddenly Single? Having trouble sleeping? Having trouble staying awake? Bored? Have too much to do? Too much stress? Have a punching bag and don't know what to do with it? A punching bag can address or completely resolve each of these problems.
    My knuckles have been on the continuum of bloody to calloused for over a month now. I proudly tape my fingers before each round against my foamy aggressor and smile if I happen to leave some extra skin on the punching bag. I'm a man. I like to punch things and blow things up.


Monday, July 6, 2009

I Moved Again

::Mandatory Preamble::
The events discussed in this moving journal relate to both moving and of tidings unfortunate. If you find yourself in a mood unprepared, or unwilling, to digest a spot of sadness then I recommend you put this down and come back later - at a time more suitable. I believe in laughter and make light, as much as possible, of events that are otherwise. I do this as a choice and not to be obnoxious (however, if you knew me as a 7 year old with a dinosaur jokebook you might easily believe that being obnoxious is second-nature). Finding something positive in things negative is what I try to do. So, this journal is dedicated to the notion: if it's not a comedy, you might still be able to salvage it as a dramady.
Oh, and of course... if you're happier to be without these e-mails then let me know and I can revise the mailing list. Conversely, if you haven't received this e-mail and would like to receive future messages I will be happy to amend the mailing list.

Things to Ponder...
When living Life, one has chance to ponder many things. Some things to ponder are frivolous, which is not to say unimportant: can I still eat tacos after they've been fire cooked; can I fit that whole cookie in my mouth, at once; Is buying a Nintendo Wii an acceptable expenditure after a break-up? Of course some things pondered bring to mind serious health risks or ring eerily of the lesser adventures of Scully and Mulder: what Is in my sink that, when dishes are left in it for a while, manages to Etch glass permanently? Should I be showering in the water that comes from the same source as the mysterious glass-etching sink water? Is it just the sink bacteria from dirty dishes left out longer than publicly acceptable that etches the glass of my dishware? Is that thing I just squished really a spider or is more like a light-armor plated tick crawling up my torso? Then, with any life, come the tasks for which there is no room to ponder and yet I find myself pondering upon anyway: Do I really have to start packing my apartment? Can't I train the boxes to pack and move themselves? Should I turn the gas utility on at my house before or after I move in? Invariably we find the answers to be roughly as we thought: no; yes; yes; no one knows because it seems to only happen to me; I'd rather not know but maybe someone reading this will have a better answer for me; see previous answer; armor-plated tick (I think); yes; no; before, if I want hot showers in my first week of moving. Then there are the questions of purpose and pedigree and other p's of portent: What is best in Life? I believe Conan said it best... To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women as you stuff whole cookies in your mouth. Nom nom nom...


The first year of graduate school has ended and only one totally haiku e-mail was sent. Let us give thanks. Oh, first things first. I have moved. My new address is:
(my privacy clause in my blogger contract prohibits the releasing of this data...)

For those counting, this marks legal residence number 17 in as many years. My current nesting fantasies center around staying at one address for 2 years or more. Oh, and whenever I walk through certain sections of Target I can't help but think I need throw pillows for my futon. Throw pillows, really? In the middle of one of the very intense nesting urges I called a friend out in California for a little anti-shopping therapy. I don't need throw pillows. I truly do not. They serve no purpose. And yet I can't help admit that they sure would add a nice accent to the living room. Ugh... If you'r reading this, you may receive random calls from me asking for your assistance to guide me away from the "Home Interiors" section at Target. (my thanks for Mr. Mack's voicemail for being the first to take this hit)
But... back to the new house. The current location is ab-fab (minus the ants longer than my thumbnail and the abundance of spiders and the mowing). It's a two bedroom house with a garage, washer/dryer, central air, roof, driveway, clothesline (in olden days, that harken back to tymes when people visited ye olde shoppe and Dickens was a fast-paced novelist, people used to dry their clothes on long hemp-cords that hung outside of their homes where little sun-particles magically mated with the water particles causing them to leave my clothes), recycling, nicely painted walls, front AND back yards. It's a nice place, very homey. It's no larger than the previous apartment but it is free of domestic abuse neighbors, leathery-skinned old men driving lawnmowers attached to chairs, and the old landlord. Of course, there's the reduction in energy costs promised on this new home that make the move very appealing.
I moved about 3 weeks ago now. Most everything is still in boxes. Calculus (summer school) and my new Nintendo Wii seem to take some prime daily schedule real-estate.

After a Break-Up... If it's not a comedy, you might still be able to salvage it as a dramady.
Life after a break-up is complicated. This complication arises from the immediate lack of complications that are present when dating ends. Now I'm forced to find new ways to occupy my time. Did I mention calculus and the Wii? Putting Life back together after such a dramatic event finds me celebrating the little victories all over again. For instance, just the other day I folded my clothes. What else happens after a break-up?
Let me tell you about the virtues of random crying. First, your friends love it. Imagine a quiet Middle-Eastern bistro set to the peaceful backdrop of redneck central, with 4x4 dualie pick-up trucks growling blackened smoke from their custom dual exhaust pipes pointing up to the great fume absorption sponge in the sky, our ozone. Set in this bistro, where red sauce smells quite sharply of Chef Boyardee and the waitress has never played a game of Memory in her life, your friends will look upon your crying over a break-up as emotionally machismo and daring to brave the socially awkward gaps in conversation with random and scathing comments about engagement rings and commitment. Ne'er will your locally grown friends chide you for this behavior that was once thought to be girlish. This is a new time, and you're a new man breaking gender barriers at speeds greater than the sonic boom of the break-up itself. The woman's movement adores you for bringing a fresh blend of nambypambyism to today's modern male.
Oh, and you find spaces on your bed that you hadn't discovered since the last time you were single. Once again... the bed is the right size.

17m:36s of eau du grammont...
     A conversation with a supportive gramma is an ameliorating experience (thanks to Ms. Kubo  for helping me study those big words). When breaking up, much is in turmoil. Physical habits, day-to-day habits, emotional and even spiritual habits are altered or affected by the presence of someone, and then again through the immediate removal of that person's presence. Reminders of that time are everywhere and can sneak to the deepest feelings in our bodies; mine sneaks to the center of my chest. That feeling finds it way to the center. It takes root, and as alarm-clocks are irritating reminders that it is time to leave bliss, so too are those rooted feelings. Every altered habit triggers that alarm-clock. Every stupid song on the radio. It's so easy to learn sadness in a hyper-romantically-aware culture. There are two cures to these blues: 1) comedy (of the non-romantic nature) and 2) eau du grammont.
     When comedy is the cure, my antidotes are "The Lonely Island," "Lego Batman," and "Flight of the Concords." Be warned now... NO SONG on the Lonely Island album is safe for work (and that's one main reason it is hilarious) or safe for mother's or grandmothers. The second cure, seems to be 17minutes and 36seconds of Gramma.
     Sometimes a Gramma is just thing I need to pick me up when I'm feeling blue. I've tried, for a few days now, to find ways to best describe Gramma. Is it her voice, her grace, her general Southern charm all mixed with a hint of the frenetic and wild-eyed artist? It occurs to me then the best way to describe Gramma, aka. The G-Ster, is through food and charm. Imagine a Rube-Goldberg assembly-line contraption that starts with fresh pea-can pie (it's pronounced 'pecan' everywhere outside of Texas). Those pies roll over about 10 feet of airport baggage claim conveyor belt technology where they fall into a large glass distillery. The pea-can pies are smashed with large auxillary hammers and broken down into the smallest particulate construct of pea-can pie, the lesser pea-can pie measureing approximately pi centimeters across. Now the process requires the distillation of the lesser pea-can pie crumbs to the essence of gramma (or... eau du grammont). Add a Texas flag, one brick from the Alamo, and sugar cookies from the bakery at 2411 N. Zarsamora (in San Antonio). Combine these ingredients with the pea-can pie crumbs and voila. You have, in your hand (though I recommend you put it in a bottle first and the hold it because its a liquid and it'll get all over your hands and then people will wonder why you talk like my gramma and that would be a hard one to explain... trust me) eau du grammont. So, what that fantastically distracting metaphor alludes to is, though I'm sure it was totally obvious already, that I love Gramma. After 17 minutes and 36 seconds of talking to her, she made me feel like a million bucks. If you ever need a self-esteem boost, just call my Gramma (1-800-THATS-MY-GRAMMA). She'll hook you up yo.

It's Time to Put Those Things Aside...
I was going to take this space to write about an interesting, informative and hopefully inspirational conversation I had with a student a few months ago. He was failing my class through what appeared to be a practice of over-extending himself with a plethora of commitments. He was calling it quits on my class before the class itself ended. He hadn't taken the final, nor had the due-dates passed for several important assignments. He carried with him deep grief and regret about not doing more to excel in my class and apologized to me personally for his lackluster behavior. Shame and guilt were his companions and I could see them resting heavy on his brow. It saddened me to see this. Though I try not to be emotional with students, his guilt and his shame have very much been my own throughout much of my Life and so I could relate to his heavy head: guilt, regret and shame over heights not achieved and over hurt-feelings caused along the way. Because his companions are my companions too, I asked him if he might take the time to set aside shame and guilt. I asked this of him because I know that shame and guilt never solve a problem. They have never helped me pass a course and it was very clear they were not helping him. I told him that these feelings will always be there when he wants to visit them and that if he puts them down for a bit (to pass my class) he can puck them up again when the work is done. Nothing will be missing and nothing will be taken from him, not even shame and regret. So as I read the title of this section I think of the engagement ring that sits in a box, on a shelf. And I still don't know when the time will be to put that aside.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now in Haikus

Hello everyone.

In an effort to thank you for your time and attention I believe it is necessary to reward the reader (that's you). Sometimes rewards come in the form of large, fat cash payouts sometimes in the size of $20million (US). Sometimes the rewards can be less extravagant. I've decided to stop writing your checks for $20 (US) and am instead changing the format of today's moving / grad school journal. I am writing today's journal in haiku form. I think you'll find that these autobiographical haikus are worth more than your checks for $2 (US). I think it best to keep in the tradition of the haiku format specifically as they relate to philosophical musings about nature and hardships. The haiku format gives a spiritual compass for the intended subjects by painting words with a broad brush providing you with the opportunity to ponder the minutiae minutae minuatia mininininin of the moment.

I journal maker
The writing esta bueno
Welcome to hiakus

Dodge Jeep strong like bull
Transmission of demon spawn
Vroom-vroom crash, tear drop

Chicago road trips
Windy skies and snowy fields
Enjoy this haiku

Teach computer class
Grades like ice flower in sky
Why students exist?

Apartment so cold
Why landlord no fix heater?
Tiny spring flower

I watch Olberman
Heat bill three hundred dollars
Tiny flower wilts

Landlord is missing
I see though he did one thing
Weather stripped screen door

I write graphics code
Artist is now code monkey
Hoar frost grows in ears

It’s now 2 a.m.
Code shimmers, waves like mirage
Damn the blue screen death

Hello Lafayette
Why hast thou forsaken me?
Die pretty flower

Spring Break with Girlfriend
School Conference with Free Travel

Stands tall with presence
Kendo practice good for soul
Students now half off

Drip drop ceiling wet
Landlord make roofing repair
Fix ceiling later

Ceiling now have holes
Frozen air pours from baseboards
Where is sealing foam?

Must make finance books
Desperate blackness eats soul
Small flower is broke

“Zak and Dakota”
Bring old project into school
Can I have money?

Crazy professor
“That’s hard like hell!” says teacher
Rose blossom on leaf

Homework due Friday
Dear God, will it ever end?
Needs more horsepower

Mutter’s Apple Pie
Her Gramma bakes a fine treat
Word to yer Mutter

Thank You,
Andrew Britton

Friday, February 20, 2009

2008: A Year in Review

It's often best to get right to the point, to get right to the heart of the matter. Today's journal will get right to the heart of the matter through clear obfuscation. In short: I am a Japanese Power Ranger.
The holidays, the previous summer, and the semester's end have brought many confusions: learning statistics (wait till I tell you my final grade... hello nervous anticipation), navigating safe passage through Love, a first semester at University, moving to the Midwest, living again in the Midwest, The impermanent and vaguely unattainable Hope of Straight A's, two dead cats, one irritating police officer, random rudeness and the mistaken identity as a vagrant, an ill-professor and his extra workload, travel, grading, test-writing, students who beg, ailing automobiles, ill-timed NSF deadlines, money, self-identity inquiries and I-65.

It is over. The semester hath ended. With an extreme fury - like that of Zeus fathering a child who turned out to be the illegitimate lustful offspring between Cronos, Boetis (a famed she-goat known for her in-depth knowledge of manual transmissions and all things relating to horse-power) and Elmus (a lesser Muppoid of the house Sesamete) - the semester wrought great havoc upon my Life. Last semester Severely harshed my mellow man. Through the thick and thin of it all I managed a feat previously unattainable by my mortal hands... for the first time ever, dating as far back 42 bce, I earned the famed, the coveted, the oft-sought and rarely discovered, the pinnacle for the house of reformed slackerdom, the non-trivial proof that maturity has finally latched its spindly tentacles into my cerebrainium... Yes... I say clearly to all who read this (thanks mom), I have, on record, as documented by the school of Purdue University, through no coercion or subterfuge of my own, and achieved, while maintaining academic integrity, a 4.0 for the semester.
Thank You.

Two Dead Cats...
Lafayette will always be a bizarre place for me. I feel very much as an alien in visit. I observe, make judgements and generally avoid too much interaction. It's not as if I'm anti-social. No one around here would claim that of me. It's more that I hope to make this visit impermanent. Y'know, so it won't be permanent. Last semester greeted me with a plethora of surprises, some of those surprises were even welcome. Of the set of welcome surprises, the two dead cats are not included. The first little kitty I found in the dumpster behind my apartment. It lay motionless inside a plastic grocery bag. Angry and very upset, I called non-emergency police. I wanted to know about the legality of leaving a cat in a bag in a dumpster. This seemed illegal. After inquiring with the police operator I was informed that if the cat has passed then "What else is someone supposed to do with it?" To be fair, she did inquire with others to ascertain the legality of this practice. She also informed me that this is one way people get rid of their dead cats. It's very sad to think this is what's become of a cat. I was hoping that maybe the cat would be buried or taken to the vet.
A few months later, I found another cat. This one lay in the street. I pulled it out of the street and onto the curb to keep it from getting run over.

Money? Ha! I'm a grad student now...
Status report... The car: The transmission dies slowly. By the end of last semester it began slipping gears and starting in 2nd. $2200 to rebuild. Monthly electricity costs: November electric bill - $270, December electric bill - $370. The transmission rebuild is being stalled until such time as I can find $2200, not on credit. However, the power bills did have to be paid. What was the landlord's reaction to the electric bills? "That sucks man. I know how it feels. I have $400 in power bills at my house." Maybe, dear landlord, you'd like to look around and see what could be done? "Well, I really don't know what we can do. I guess we can put a piece of insulation that covers your side door." That will be better than nothing. At this time the doors are so poorly spaced from their frames that cold air pours into the apartment. In the beginning of February I'll investigate why my feet are cold when I'm in the office. I will also be amazed, in February, when my power bill for January will $330 while running 3 of 5 of the apartment's baseboard heaters. The bathroom and bedroom heaters will be turned off. By this time in December though, I am sleeping on the floor of my living room because the bedroom is too cold, even with the heater turned on.

Back to the Present Past of December 2008...
Christmas vacation ended. Mom was decorating the house with maroon swatches of fake flowers. In the final moments of said decoration, I jumped at the middle son's obligation to ally a 5 year old's obnoxious sense of humor with a mother's words misconstrued. She, telling the room that had her father fought for the Japanese during WWII (and not the Americans) AND had she been trained in flower arranging then she might have been a Japanese flower arranger. And Me, acting 26 years beneath my physical age and perhaps 2 less then my mental age, asking if my mom was a Japanese Power Ranger.

I got a 4.0 GPA last semester. That was awesome. And, to be clear... My mom would make an excellent Red Power Ranger. Her martial arts knowledge merging with her legal acumen would thereby produce her own style: Kung Sue.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tacos en el Fuego

This nugget of my culinary acumen is shared because... it is ludicrous. And... as always, if these messages make it through your spam filter and you wish they hadn't, please send $10 restocking fee and a letter to my editor and these e-mails will cease.

Cooking fire...
I enjoy cooking. It brings joy. It is creative and it involves eating. I like eating. Cooking can also be fun when the entrees are given ridiculous names like: Criminally Insane Cashew Chicken or Murder & Mayhem Mongolian Beef. Dishes of such distinguished names are, in my experience, best tasted with a similar visual palette... in front of the TV watching Alfred Hitchcock or "Thriller" (an old hour long thriller, suspense show).

So the other night, I'm trying to prepare a meal. I'll not lie and try to tell you that it was a nice meal. Specifically, it was leftovers: tacos, taco shells, reheated re-fried beans, Mexican rice and broccoli. It went down well the first time I cooked it, so I figured the reheating would do similarly as well. Oh, I forgot the corn-bread. I was busy though so I thought... I'll just reheat everything together. I put the taco meat, the corn bread, the beans & broccoli and the shells all on the same cookie sheet, slid it on the top rack of the oven and set the broiler on High, y'know... to speed things up. I came back to the oven in a few minutes smelling the food from the other room. I approached the oven to to begin feeding my belly and noticedI left the oven light on... or had I?

In a culinary move, straight from the ramen-noodled pages of my undergraduate years, the soul of my food danced in ignition as it moved beyond the corporeal world and into the great beyond, ashes to ashes and tacos to dust. The People's Exhibit A & B provides all the evidence you need to pass judgement on this cooking maverick who buzzed the culinary tower one too many times. In short.. I set my food on fire. The taco shells were burning something wicked as everything else was reaching a nice warming point. I'm a guy... so I acted quickly in the following manner to extinguish the fire:

  1. Assess the true danger of the situation.
    1. The fire was inside the oven... I'm all good.
  2. Slide the top rack out a little to get a better look at the fire
  3. Nod my head slowly and grin widely in clear appreciation
  4. Think to myself... "I should put the fire out.... but NOT before I get a picture."
  5. Take a picture of the fire
  6. E-mail said picture to girlfriend.
  7. Fill cup with water
  8. Throw water on burning taco shells
    1. Try again... because those taco shells were really burning
  9. Take a picture of the ashes and e-mail that as well.
  10. Try to eat what wasn't burned
    1. Realize, after biting into it, that all other food is soggy from water
  11. Order pizza