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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Head Case

Head Case
based on a true story

I was cleaning behind my stove the other day. I actually risked a major gas explosion by pulling it completely out. Trust me, it was an absolutely appalling sight, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. So I started cleaning up whatever it was that was living under my stove, or had lived and then died. I had to bend over to get at the mess and on two separate occasions I stood up and cracked my head on the cabinets that hang over the stove. You would have thought that one time would be enough to teach me to avoid this, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is the second time I cracked my head I hit it really hard. I stood up from a squat and planted my head quite firmly on the corner of the cabinet. I think that I heard some dishes rattling inside. I would estimate the blow to be equal to the force necessary to hit a center field home run. My neighbor pounded on the wall for me to keep down the noise.

I didn’t even come out of the squat I was in as a sort of preparation for the certain medical trauma I was about to experience. It is amazing how quickly your mind works in times of crisis. I made a mental note of the first aid for shock I would need to perform on myself. I went over the procedures for the Heimlich maneuver, reviewed the best knot options for a tourniquet, repeated the mantra “feed a cold, starve a fever,” and then I became distracted by trying to decide whether or not I could get cholera from my own rotting corpse, but I was comforted by the thought that at least my body would lie on a clean floor.

And then I became aware that it didn’t even hurt. Not even a little. I stood up and waited for the throbbing that would surely accompany a head blow of this force. Nothing. My first reaction was one of relief: I felt that I had dodged a bullet, but I hadn’t dodged a bullet. I had taken one at close range, and a head shot at that. Quickly my relief turned to despair as I considered all of the evolutionary reasons why a strong shot to the noggin should hurt like hell. Pain is a defense mechanism that warns us to potential dangers. For a man, the brain is the second most vital bodily organ and yet my brain seemed to be screaming out for a beating. My head pain warning system seems to have shut down completely. My hat rack was like a crippled antelope on the savannah, begging to be devoured by lions and cheetahs disguised as low kitchen cabinets or anvils falling from high windows.

My despair turned to panic when I thought that perhaps the lack of pain represented some grave, self-inflicted internal damage. My god, maybe I have brain damage. I gave myself a quick intelligence test. I tried to think of the date for Washington’s Delaware crossing. Think. Even in my trauma-induced, mentally-impaired state I remembered that American history was never my strong suit, and you can forget about math and the sciences. Who cares about state capitals is what I’ve always said. I’m never going to south Dakota. I’m certainly not about to learn the names of all of those African countries until they stop changing every other year. What am I on fucking Jeopardy? I don’t need to prove myself to anyone and certainly not to someone (me) who has just cracked their head twice in the course of five minutes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Does This Mean That I Have To Watch the Super Bowl?

Does This Mean That I Have To Watch the Super Bowl?

Until yesterday I had always thought that Seattle was oriented more towards baseball than football. I’m not much of a football fan. I haven’t paid attention to the game for a long time. I won’t go into my reasons for ignoring football over the years, let me just say that it is impossible for me to tune it out now. After yesterday’s victory over Carolina, the Seattle Seahawks were finally able to cross their name off the list of teams who have never made it to the Super bowl. I won’t go so far as to say that I have jumped on the bandwagon, but I’ll watch it drive by.

Yesterday was the first football game that I actually planned to watch in many years. This is not to say that I haven’t watched a game or two by accident here and there, but I set my day’s schedule around the Seahawks’ game. I watched the first three quarters while working out at my gym. The Seahawks dominated the game from the start and they were well on their way to victory as I showered and walked to a local sports bar near my apartment.

The place was completely packed with the loudest, drunkest crowd I had ever seen anywhere in Seattle. I had watched a few important baseball games here and none of them compare with the rowdiness of these football fans. It was fun and exciting to experience this big crowd celebrating the penultimate win to a national championship. I’m glad that I wasn’t at the bar for the entire game. To many “High Fives” (Hi-5)for this fair weather fan.

Two guys sitting at the bar in front of me gave each other the Hi-5 at least a dozen times in the last ten minutes of the game. Everyone in the bar was giving each other Hi-5s every time just about anything happened on the TV. I took some notes on the phenomena and came up with this very incomplete list of reasons football fans have for giving Hi-5s: your team scores, your team almost scores, your team gets a first down, there is a commercial on that is funny, your team wins, and you feel that it is not socially acceptable to make out with your buddy in a sports bar. I saw some Hi-5s that were every bit as passionate as any Bogart-Bacall kiss. You could have cut the sexual tension in the air last night with a broken beer bottle.

I suppose that Hi-5s are kind of like doing the wave: it’s just not done at baseball games. I can think of only a couple of occasions in baseball in which Hi-5s are appropriate. Say your team hits a walk-off home run in the last game of the World Series to win it all, or how about when Randy Johnson unleashes one of his radar-defying fastballs and hits a bird. If you are feeling sorry for the seagull, I heard that it just took a very fishy dump on a baby and so deserved his fate.

Towards the end of the game the camera panned the sidelines. Team owner, Paul Allen, was looking satisfied with the game. He was wearing one of those dorky ID lanyards around his neck. Dude, you are like the world’s 3rd richest man, you don’t need to wear a fucking ID lanyard. If anyone has a problem with you not wearing it you can have them killed. If Paul Allen took a dump in the ladies’ room at Seahawk Stadium with the stall door open I guarantee that no one would say anything.

Woman #1 walks into ladies’ room at Seahawk Stadium and sees Paul Allen taking a dump with the stall door open.

Woman #1: Yikes!
Woman #2: Relax, it’s Paul Allen.
Woman #1: Silly me.


So it looks like there will be two games that I make an effort to watch this season. Go Hawks!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

This Expensive Water Tastes Awesome!

Do you see this bottle of water that I’m drinking? It costs $3.99. I got it because it was the most expensive one in the store. I won’t put any of that other crap in my body. As you can see, the bottle isn’t even very big. It’s a half liter, whatever the fuck that means, fucking French people. It has some gay-sounding French name I can’t begin to pronounce so I don’t even try. I let my money do the talking for me. You can bet that foreign guy at the mini-mart is impressed by someone like me who throws away $3.99, plus tax, on water.

No, I don’t want a bag. I want everyone to see me drinking a bottle of water that costs as much as the recommended monthly donation to Save the Children. Hey kids, are you thirsty? I got bad news for you. You can’t share this with me. I go to the gym every day and I do yoga. I don’t eat fried food. I take care of my body. I’m not about to mess up my health by letting some diseased kid take a swig of my designer water. Keep drinking out of that puddle next to your hut. It hasn’t killed you yet.

Oh yeah, that is some good water. You wouldn’t believe how good it tastes. I can’t even describe it, that’s how smooth it is. Tom Cruise drinks this brand. I saw it on TV. I’ll bet he uses it to make ice cubes. He probably showers with it. I’m going to try that some time. I bet that would be sweet.

You can keep all of that lousy off-brand agua you poison yourself with. I would rather lie down on the sidewalk and let an old hobo take a leak in my mouth than settle for the bottled water you drink. I’ll keep shelling out $3.99 for this until something more expensive comes on the market. This stuff comes from the Alps. The Alps are in, like, Europe or Switzerland, right? That’s why it tastes so good.

I go through at least three bottles a day. Fuck no I don’t recycle. That’s for hippies. I don’t have time. People who work at landfills need jobs, too, but you probably never thought of that. I’m sure that if you Green Peace dorks had your way we’d all be drinking tap water. How are we supposed to illustrate the ever-widening socio-economic rift in this country if some of us aren’t allowed to spend $3.99 on a bottle of water? Try to think this through before you criticize guys like me who have nothing better to do with our disposable income than to rub poor people’s noses in the fact that $3.99 for a few ounces of water doesn’t mean shit to us.

You know what else? Not only am I not going to recycle this bottle but I’m just going to chuck it out the window because I don’t want a bunch of empties cluttering up the inside of my Hummer. I like to keep it nice. I get it detailed once a week and I keep it garaged. I’d like to be the guy who buys this thing off me when I move on to the next über status symbol/vehicle. I like to stay on the cutting edge—even with the water I drink.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Several Occupational Hazards of Being a Wise-ass

Several Occupational Hazards of Being a Wise-ass

—Cracking yourself up when you are by yourself in a public place. Most of the time it isn’t anything that another person would find even remotely humorous. If you have ever seen anyone laughing uncontrollably in public, the last thing that you think is that he or she must have a great sense of humor. I don’t know about you but the first thing that I want to do is throw a net over them or shoot them with a tranquilizer dart and ship them back to the zoo.

—Being completely aware that it is not humanly possible that anyone else on the planet could think that you are as funny as you do. I think that I am finally at peace with this realization so I can laugh about it now.

—Spending at least an hour each day searching desperately for something that will make you laugh. It is like having an addiction to comedy and by feeding it on a daily basis you develop a resistance to normal humor. The stronger your resistance becomes, the more you are likely to fall for increasingly twisted and cruel forms of mirth. What started as a polite chuckle when Dick Van Dyke tripped over an ottoman festers until the only thing that will bring a smile to your face is wholesale death and destruction—but in a funny way.

—Trying to impress women with your wit only to have them stare at you blankly as if you were speaking in a foreign tongue. Women all say that the most important thing to them is a guy with a sense of humor but mine has never gotten me very far. Good for me I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of show tunes and a voice like an angel. Women won’t admit to it but that is what they are really after.

—I have a really annoying compulsion to try to make complete strangers laugh. In this aspect I have become my father. As a kid I remember being embarrassed half-to-death by my father because he, too, would say things to strangers. I felt like my dad’s Ed McMahon, the straight man in his act, the un-funny Marx brother. I remember being a rather shy 8 year old kid and thinking to myself, “Dad, can’t we just buy the goddamn golf balls and get the fuck out of here like the last people in line?” That wasn’t dad’s plan. He had to tell a joke and people always laughed. I don’t think they laughed because they thought that he was funny, I think that they were physically intimidated into laughing by the 6’4,” 240 pound wise-ass gorilla that had spawned me. Years latter you can subtract seven inches and about 60 pounds and the wise-cracking guy goes by the name Leftbanker. My father has risen from the grave and now inhabits my body. Someone please stop him.

Back in the days when I was the class clown it was all about trying to impress the hot girls. Although it is still a nice thing to make a beautiful woman laugh, I get just about the same kick from cracking up senior citizens or children. I have probably mentioned that I live only a few blocks from the Space Needle. I pass by this Seattle icon quite often and one of my favorite gags is to approach a group of little kids and ask them if they can tell me how to get to the Space Needle. Five and six year old kids will absolutely scream at me, “IT’S RIGHT THERE! What's wrong with you?” When I feign not to see it they lose their little minds and laugh at my stupidity.

I have nothing to gain from making children laugh or cracking up some old woman at the supermarket by examining a strange vegetable as if it were a spare part left over from a car repair job that I thought I’d finished, only to have her tell me, “It’s called a chayote squash.” Or when some old lady apologizes because her dog jumps into my lap when I bend over to pet it and I ask her if she’s tried hitting him with a board with a nail sticking out of it to make it obey.

Just this second a kid about 8 walked into the coffee shop here with some funky science project thing under his arm and I told him to use it for good, not evil. His mom is pretty nice looking but that’s not why I said it. I don’t know what makes me do it. Probably low self-esteem, or high self-esteem, or just the perfect fucking amount of self-esteem (combined with a foul mouth which seems to be a vestigial organ of my military days when profanity was the lingua franca).

On a positive note to all of this, I am able to entertain myself rather thoroughly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Leftbanker: The Musical?

...tough to "sell out" when no one wants to buy your wares...
kevin m

First there was “Cats.” I’m not allergic but sometimes the lower case, not-in-quotation-marks brand of cats creep me out. I never made it to a theater to see that one, “Cats” that is. Not in New York and not in one of the off-brand, regional theater productions. It’s too late now; “Cats” closed in 2000. Although I suffer no allergies from, nor have any aversions towards sewer-dwelling composers, I haven’t made it to “Phantom of the Opera” either. It is still going strong in New York’s Majestic Theater, so I still have the opportunity to stand in line for a ticket. I mention this because “Phantom” just broke the record previously held by “Cats” for the longest running show on Broadway.

I mention all of this because it got me thinking that there is a fortune to be made in musicals and zero money to be made from blogs. Even if you could make money from this sort of internet scribbling, I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to do it. I mention this because I have decided to turn this web site into a Broadway musical. If Andrew Lloyd Webber based his blockbuster on a hoary 1911 Gothic novel, I can take a few of my favorite essays, turn them into musical show-stoppers, and sit back and watch the ticket sales go through the roof.

After all, I have been classically trained on the piano. Of course, I am to classical music what a wrecking ball is to an abandoned building, so I’ll just set all of the numbers in my musical to the themes songs to The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Gilligan’s Island. Admit it; those are real toe-tappers. I’ll have the cast members dress up as mice because mice are cuter than cats if you believe all of the cartoons I watched growing up.

Of course, if it’s just about making money, I suppose the easiest thing would be to turn this blog into an international drug cartel. International drug dealers may only have a fraction of the life expectancy of Broadway musical composers, but they get more respect in seedy Miami night clubs. The smartest move would be to turn Leftbanker.com into a multi-national oil consortium, but that would probably mean I’d have to spend too much time in the Middle East where there are practically no seedy Miami night clubs. I would rather have been forced to sit through every single performance of “Cats” than spend a three-day weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Turning this blog into a gold mine is harder than I thought, and in light of current events, you can forget about turning this into a gold mine—too dangerous. I don’t think that there are enough suckers like me left to make a killing by selling a bunch of worthless stock for Leftbanker.com. I don’t have the material to turn this into a tell-all because I haven’t slept with anyone famous, and no one who I have slept with has the ambition to get famous. Has anyone ever made a killing from failing to make a killing?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Love Spam

A lot of our popular culture is driven by sex: getting it but mostly talking about it. The pop vernacular for the act has never been more vulgar than it is today. "Freakin’ on a Ho" is supposed to be synonymous with intercourse. I looked at some of the lyrics of current chart-toppers and found examples of even less charming ways to describe sex. My favorite is when sex is used as a verb as in, "The boys they wanna sex me." The same song goes on to use the word ‘hump’ over three dozen times. I suppose that the word 'fuck' is just old fashioned these days. "Wishing to be the friction in your jeans." I’m not even sure what that means but it’s probably something dirty.

You have to wonder whether or not hip hop artists really talk like they do in their song lyrics or if it’s just an act to get dumb suburban kids to buy their music. I don’t object to the current slang out of prudishness; I just think that it is puerile and incredibly unromantic—even anti-romantic. They make sex sound about as appealing as dental work. All that I’m trying to say is that if these people make love as clumsily as they write lyrics, someone could get an eye poked out—maybe worse.

Now that I am into the third paragraph in my diatribe against crude pop music lyrics, I realize that my own dialect for sexual activity is also fairly childish. I would imagine that part of sexual intimacy is developing a linguistic intimacy, creating a language only understood by two people. To steal a couple of lines from my uncle, Marc Bernard, the winner of the 1942 Prix Goncourt, "Bientôt je serais le seul dépositaire de nos souvenirs. de nos secrets, d'une langage que nous n'étions que deux à connaître, avec des références à des faits connus de nous seuls, de tout ce qui lie secrètement deux êtres qui se comprennent avant même d'avoir parlé...." [Soon I would be the sole possessor of our memories, of our secrets, of a language spoken only by the two of us, with references and things known only to us, of everything secretly binding two beings who understand one another before anything is spoken.]

I, too, have developed my own secret language that I have used with the women of my life. I would like to think that my own patois for the language of love is not nearly as vulgar and course as that employed by the pop artists, but I’m absolutely positive that it is pretty stupid. I will list a few of these phrases and euphemisms and let you be the judge.

"Honey, can you come in here? I think I have something in my eye." Probably a little more subtle than “I wanna sex you” but every bit as straightforward.

"You must be freezing to death. Let’s get you out of those wet things." You can’t blame a guy for trying is what I always say, although I don’t think that defense will get you very far in court.

"Would you like to come up and look at my etchings?" Since I have neither an upstairs nor etchings, only the most naïve of women could fail to see the sexual innuendo in that proposition—especially a woman I have been dating for several months. Although it’s kind of like the bedroom equivalent of those emails from the Nigerian minister of finance, you would be astounded at how often women fall for that one. Then again, maybe women agree to “take a look at my etchings” just to shut me up.

I suppose that I should apologize for my earlier condemnation of pop music lyrics. I don’t want to sound like the old guy complaining about the music those young punks are listening to these days. I freely admit that the lyrics to my own songs won’t win any awards.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Glass is Half Full

but There’s a Hair in it: Examining Optimism

Some people look at a glass and say it is half empty while others say that it is half full. I look at it and say, “I’m not going to pay for this beer that I just drank; the glass has a chip in it and it’s dirty.” Who is the optimist now? Notice how I took two negatives, a chipped and allegedly dirty glass, and turned them into a positive: a free beer. That, my friend, is optimism—optimism and an almost complete lack of personal dignity.

Isn’t life super swell?
Much of the behavior that we consider to be optimistic or upbeat is really nothing more than a complete lack of dignity and brain cells. Take morning television talk show hosts. A lot of viewers probably think that anyone that happy and smiley so early in the morning must be incredibly upbeat and optimistic. Should someone really be so perky while they read a news report about people dying in a mine explosion? Is it appropriate to have that same “Gosh, isn’t it super to be alive” attitude when talking about the war in Iraq as when you’re looking at pictures of the new baby panda at the zoo? I guess that for talk show hosts life is just words on a teleprompter. Let’s call it the Kathy Lee Gifford school of journalism where the key to all of life’s troubles is a trip to the mall or the nail salon. “Today 100,000 people were killed in ethnic fighting in the Sudan. Time to go on a Carnival Cruise®!”

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
It isn’t possible to be more upbeat than motivational speakers—that’s their job. It’s like everything they say needs to have an exclamation point tacked on to the end. You can do it! Try harder! Anything is possible! That shit makes me want to puke. It reminds me of the homos at the gym who scream at each other to lift more weight. To these people, the gym rats and the loud-mouth motivational speakers, I say, “Just do your bench press and live out your ridiculous and pointless lives and shut up. Some of us are trying to read.”

I’d like to be the anti-motivational speaker and see how that works for people. To begin with I would lecture people on the futility of dieting. I would preach that sometimes quitting is the smart move. I would sprinkle my talks with news items showing man’s inhumanity to man and the unbelievable injustices in the world. I would show countless testimonials of people who had failed miserably in spite of their eternal optimism and remarkable diligence. I would tell stories of people who had been knocked down and who picked themselves right back up, only to be run over by a bus at the next corner. We pride ourselves on our competitiveness. In competition most people fail—just ask anyone who happens to be a Seattle Mariners fan. I have something to say to those people who exclaim, “We’re all winners!” If your team doesn’t come out on top just try collecting money from the football pool at work.

We should prepare people for failure. I don’t think people need to be prepared for winning. Most people dream of it their entire lives. As a little kid I never remember standing at the free throw line imagining missing the last shot in the big game. When I was in grade school I always fantasized that I would make the final shot and then I’d do a line of coke off of a cheerleader’s butt and then after a night of drunken revelry, I’d get arrested for a DWI. I may have had to put my fantasy on hold while I threw up five or six air balls, but eventually I always won the big game and had my night of debauchery. If there is a little kid out there who day dreams about fucking up the big game, I want to meet him. I wasn’t that original growing up.

Everyone can handle success, teaching people to fail takes real talent. That’s why I have developed the Leftbanker Failure Counseling Strategies. Not only can I help assuage your grief about totally blowing that last shot, I can make all of the losers like me feel better about not even making the team. Find comfort in these words:

“Hey, at least you tried. A little,”

“Fuck it. Just quit. You’ve got nothing to prove.”

“She must be a lesbian if she doesn’t want to go out with you. What other reason could there be?”

“A winner never quits and a quitter can get a partial refund on that gym membership you never use.”

“You gotta die of something. Am I right?”

“Sure, you could stop drinking or you could finally accept yourself for the drunk that you are. Mister judgmental.”

I don’t know about you but I feel better about myself already.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Every year in this country 6-8 people are killed and perhaps a dozen are injured by a falling can of tomatoes while the victims are reaching for something on an upper shelf. Most of these people are short; perhaps some even children, which could explain the complete absence of national outrage. If tall and averaged-sized people were perishing in these horrific numbers you can be sure that those bureaucrats in Washington would sit up and take notice. Instead, our elected officials sit back and enjoy the bribes they receive from the powerful 32 ounce canned tomato lobby. In size and importance the 32 oz. can tomato lobby trails only big tobacco and assault weapons influence peddlers.

Think about it. Do we really need 32 oz. cans of tomatoes? Wouldn’t two 16 oz cans serve the same purpose without risking the ghastly consequences of falling 32 oz. cans? How much longer are we going to force the short people of this country to play Russian roulette every time they make spaghetti or a pot of chili? With top shelves stocked with 32 oz. cans of tomatoes, cooking for short people becomes as dangerous as over-running a Nazi machine gun nest.

“What about step stools?” That’s the extremely specious argument put forth by America’s liberal media. What they don’t tell you is that almost 10 short people are killed annually and God knows how many are maimed in step stool-related accidents. If short people need a can of tomatoes why don’t we just make them walk a tight rope while juggling live hand grenades? Step stools? How can people be so hateful? You make me sick. We may as well just kill short people in their sleep; that would be more merciful.

Some of you insist that short people should wear helmets. What is this, the Warsaw Ghetto? Must we further stigmatize short people beyond that which their lack of vertical height already inflicts upon them? Imagine for a moment that you are a midget and society demands that you wear an outward symbol of your shortness besides your Gap Kid jeans with the nine inch inseam.

Perhaps you just don’t care. I’m sure some of you even think that it’s funny when a short person gets cracked on the head by a falling can, but let me warn you that even short people have their boiling point. Not to digress too much but I actually figured out the boiling point of short people. I was bored one day so I stuffed a very small person into my biggest stock pot. The boiling point was 212º, just like water, which makes sense seeing that people are something like 65% water—even short people, who generally seem meatier than taller folks. My point is that eventually short people will rise up—if you’ll pardon the pun. The conflict looms just over our horizon (short people can’t even see it yet unless they use a step stool—what a bitter irony). The coming storm will make the Tutsi-Hutu genocide in Rwanda look like a harmless coed softball game at a company picnic by comparison.

Have you ever noticed that the word ‘coed’ can either tick you off a little or turn you on, depending on how it’s pronounced? If you say “co” “ed” this just means that you have to find a few girls for your softball team and they’d rather lay out by the pool and drink wine coolers. If you say “coed” as one word it brings to mind such film classics as Coeds in Heat. English is such a rich language.

Now comes the truly shocking news. I myself almost became a statistic. I wouldn’t consider myself to be excessively short but let’s just say I won’t be dunking a basketball any time soon. Let’s just say that when I sit in a chair my feet won’t be touching the ground any time soon. Let’s just say that unless I’m standing on a couple of New York City phone books the bartender won’t be able to see me when I try to order my grasshopper. I was trying to get something from one of my kitchen selves when I was almost killed by a falling can. After regaining my composure from this near-death experience I noticed that it wasn’t a can of tomatoes; it was a 32 oz. can of pure coconut milk. After thanking the lord for sparing me, the first thought I had was, “What in the fuck am I doing with a 32 oz. can of coconut milk?” I wondered if perhaps I was from the Philippines and this could explain why I am only 5’9.” With a helmet I top out at 5’11.”