26 October 2021

Austin Film Fest 2021 (#AFF29) as a blur

Cresting 71W at Del Valle at 91mph, Austin an Emerald City on the bright horizon… “my flight’s delayed!” -- “meet you there!”… rolling into the SFA yet again… HELLO, DRISKILL… finally meeting up with Salvador… “love you man”… “BRETT— THAT WAS SHANE BLACK YOU JUST HUGGED! HE WROTE LETHAL WEAPON!” “Yeah. I know.”… beer thirty… when the bartender recognizes you from the last 15 years… “Wait— your name is Talon?” Bill! Alvaro! “BRETT— THAT WAS ASHLEY MILLER YOU JUST HUGGED! HE WROTE THOR!” “Yeah. I know.”… mmmm pork belly tacos… “how do you pick which toy to play with?” “Oh, it’s a challenge. Speaking of which—”

*** OMFG ***

“Yes yes yes a thousand times yes”… Dawn of the Dirty Goose... missing Shawna… “You brought tequila? Should we have a night cap?” “Why do you think I brought the tequila?”… I only came here to touch Sean’s hair… John Z! “I’ll talk to you in a few, John…” … those were some panels, Walter… shut the fuck up… Return of the Dirty Goose… “wait— you’re THE Brett?” WTF… “You’re not what I expected— and in a good way.” WTF… beer thirty… “did everyone ELSE advance this year? SHIT!”… “where’s the aviator helmet?”… Nadia, the cool chick from 9-1-1 … Vivi!… Beck & Woods...“Brett, we are out of tequila.” “So pick a different bottle.” “Hmmm… bourbon for a nightcap?” “Sure why not.”… Ashley and Palomas and Branagh oh my… “Did I ever tell you about…?”… beer thirty… “This band is great and I’d pay them to go away”…The Gorgeous Girl With The Green Eyes (sigh)… “I’ve not been drunk on a school bus since fourth grade”… “You’re THAT Brett?” “What— are you writing a book?”… Jason! Nick! David! Stacey!“What the hell is an “ethnographer’ anyway?”… The Gorgeous Girl With The Green Eyes (sigh)… “Looks like we’re walkin” … Dirty Sixth…  street pizza sans Muay Thai… “I think we just lost Jason”… “OK, so the way this works is…”

*** OMFG ***

“Do we care for a nightcap?” “Oh, I think we do.”… “We are! We ARE good looking guys!”… Velvet Taco… Charles!… The Shane Black Experience Pt1… Missing Julie… “You look like you were fired out of a cannon. In a good way.” WTF … Javi! “BRETT— THAT WAS JAVIER GRILLO-MARXUACH YOU JUST FIST BUMPED! HE WROTE LOST!” “Yeah. I know.” Revenge of the Dirty Goose… “you’re like, ‘how do I kill the bunny?’ And you have these claws…” beer thirty… mmmm, tacos… John Z! “Can’t talk right now, John— I’ll find you…”… “Hi— I’m here for my free booze, please…” Aggies curbstomp Carolina… The Gorgeous Girl With The Green Eyes (sigh)…“Are you alive? Please confirm.”… Heidi!… ASTROS GOIN TO THE SERIES, BAYBEE… “I’M DRUNKER THAN I HAVE EVER BEEN IN MY LIFE AND I DO NOT KNOW WHERE I AM!” “Read the coaster to me, bro”… F1 Women wear tight pants… The Rescue At Aloft… “If HE likes you, that’s good enough. Send ME something.” “Same here. Send me something.”

*** OMFG ***

“You brought more than one bottle of bourbon?” “Of course. Always be prepared.” “Nightcap?”… Salvador leaves in the night… misty morning march to hair of the dog… mmmm, tacos… Kim!… “Wait— are you… Aggiebrett? I overheard a comment and it sounds like something Aggiebrett would post...” WTF … “Do you have any more Sean stickers?” The Shane Black Experience Pt 2… How many Melissas ARE there? … Dulce!… Dirty Goose: The Final Insult … “Are we alive?”… “I got so drunk I think I drank myself sober. It’s a little startling.”… beer thirty... “Big fan. For a long time. Still am. But very no.”Lauren and David and Bosley and oysters oh my… “You have my contact info?” … “my flight’s delayed-- I shoulda hung around”… mmmm, tacos… The Gorgeous Girl With The Green Eyes (sigh)… “Oh, we’re gonna talk.”

*** OMFG ***

“You should sell t-shirts. I’d buy one”… “As a writer, I think ‘bidding war’ are the sexiest words I know”… Kim and Heidi and Kristen on the wind down…” blackberry old fashioned… The Gorgeous Girl With The Green Eyes (sigh)… one more street slice still sans Muay Thai… beer thirty… “this band is also nice and I’d still pay them to go away” … “my flight’s delayed-- I shoulda hung around” … the final crossing… final nightcap alone as I stare out the window and jot down impressions and sort through notes in the Moleskine… wake up, pack it in, haul it down, head on out… just as “Find Your Way Back” cranks on the random playlist.

Well played, Universe.

Windows down. Volume up.


You stand warned, #AFF29.

21 March 2020

Nate & Hayes: The Weirdest Pirate Movie Nobody Remembers

[note: originally written/posted back around 2002 on epinions.com, but re-embalmed here for posterity.]


After the way my boys responded to Pirates of the Caribbean earlier this week at the local super-mega-omni-hyperplex, I figured that maybe it was a good time to take a break from our standard "Mom's-working-so-it's-bad-sci-fi-rental-night" Friday tradition and look instead for something in a more swashbuckling vein. The local vid-rental shack was stocked to the rafters with obscene dozens of copies of hideously uninteresting new releases, yet I could not find a single decent pirate movie on DVD. And then suddenly I had the urge to look for a specific title that I knew-- I just knew-- would be there in dusty ignored VHS format. So I wandered over to the sad "tape" side of the store, looked in the "Action" titles and found just what I was looking for: Nate & Hayes, one of the strangest and most forgotten movies from the 80s, a decade known for some odd flicks.

How weird is it? Weird enough that when I slapped the tape down at the register to check it out, the normally jaded counter-weasel glanced at it, did a double take, gazed at the cover art for a good ten seconds, then flipped it over and started reading the back of the box for details.

"Is there a problem?" I finally asked, after I'd been standing there watching him read for fifteen seconds.

"Where did you get this?" He seemed stunned.

"Right back there in the action titles. It's an old movie-- made something like twenty years ago."

"I see that, but I've worked here for a year and a half. I thought I'd seen almost every movie in this store, but I've never even heard of this one!"

"Yeah, it's kinda forgotten. It's weird that way."

Nate & Hayes is weird in a lot of ways.

It's weird because it's a classic traditional pirate movie, yet there's never a parrot nor a "skull and crossbones" nor any gold nor anyone with an eye patch nor very many of the classic pirate elements and cliches.

It's weird because it was written by John Hughes. Yes, that John Hughes-- the Home Alone and Breakfast Club and Weird Science guy, the master of the 80s teen comedy. In fact, right after this flick Hughes went on to write Sixteen Candles, one of the crowning achievements of Western culture from the period circa 1983-1987.

It's weird because it stars Michael O'Keefe, best known-- hell, exclusively known-- for his epic turn as "Danny Noonan" in Caddyshack.

But certainly weirdest-- and most wonderful-- of all is the fact that the main character in the movie, pirate "Captain 'Bully' Hayes," is played by one Tommie Lee Jones.

First released theatrically in 1983, Nate & Hayes was cursed by one of the worst titles in modern history, no doubt explaining why it was noticed and remembered by approximately 17 people worldwide. I have yet to meet anyone else who instantly remembers this movie when I mention it. When I start to describe the movie, the most common reaction is similar to that of the video clerk-- "You're making this up, right? There's no way I'd NOT remember Tommie Lee Jones in a pirate movie!". I myself recall discovering on cable TV a year or so after its theatrical release, and I can clearly remember thinking aloud "Jones is a strange choice for a pirate."

Why strange? Because Tommie Lee plays it just as you might imagine. It's almost as loopily surreal as the skit on Saturday Night Live in which Kevin Spacey spoofs missing screentests for Star Wars and shows us Christopher Walken as Han Solo, and Walter Matthau as Obi Wan. In much the same way here, we see a well-known-- almost self-parodying-- screen presence playing a role where he seems almost comically cast against type. Yeah, Jones dresses the part, wearing white pants tucked into tall pirate boots, and yeah he has a poofy pirate shirt open to the navel in most scenes, and yeah he has slightly long ragged hair and a scruffy beard (giving the weird effect of making him look a lot like singer Travis Tritt in many scenes), but no matter if he's buckling swash in a cutlass battle against a German naval officer or swinging buccaneer-style from a rope to board a captured vessel or dodging native spears or taking aim down a big pirate-looking muzzle-load pistol drawn from the sash tied round his waist or waving to familiar folks as he strides confidently into a seedy seaport pirate tavern, he's always plain old Texas-born Tommie Lee, just grinnin' and gabbin' and droppin' his final "g's" like any good old boy from San Saba, Texas. He's in a pirate movie, but he's basically the same character as "Captain Call" in Lonesome Dove-- "a man of vision? Yeah, a HELL of a vision."

Simply put, the idea of Tommie Lee Jones as a pirate is totally weird and completely bass-ackwards, yet somehow, it works.

Told in flashback narrative form to a reporter as Hayes awaits a date with the gallows, Hayes reflects back upon how he was contracted to transport comically stiff young missionary Nathaniel (O'Keefe) and his fiancee Sophie (beautiful Jenny Seagrove), then is forced to hunt down former business partner Ben Pease who is now falsely using his name to spread terror throughout the South Pacific. When Pease raids the missionary camp where Nathaniel and Jenny are (literally) walking down the aisle, he leaves Nate for dead but kidnaps the virginal Jenny for use in a vague scheme to help the Kaiser's navy get anchorage rights from a cannibal chieftain (don't sweat it-- it's all over too quick to care). Nate and Hayes quickly join forces to track down their common nemesis, and a series of laughably convenient and easily-arranged confrontations leads to an overly long and not especially rousing premature conclusion on the deck of an exploding German ironclad, which then leads directly to a laughably easy escape for Hayes on the gallows (eerily reminiscent of a similar scene in the infinitely superior Pirates of the Caribbean, actually), and then everyone first gallops, then sails off into the sunset (literally) as the credits roll and the soundtrack rollicks.

The story is childishly thin, painfully predictable, and downright absurd throughout. The acting is generally only just competent at best, more often drifting into low grade camp. The action sequences and effects seem fairly lame, obviously staged and poorly rehearsed. The Trevor Jones soundtrack seems to have only two basic themes: a nervous tense "something is about to jump out and startle you" theme and then a rolling rollicking "oh isn't it romantic and fun to be a prate" theme, and both themes are alternated and played pretty much constantly throughout, at once both boring and distracting the viewer. Most of the scenery and sets are remarkably unremarkable, especially given the fact that the movie was filmed on location in Fiji and New Zealand. O'Keefe proves that his Caddyshack performance was no fluke (he's clumsily bad both there and here), Seagrove looks beautiful (as she did in the wonderful Local Hero film the year before) but doesn't really "do" anything onscreen aside from look good, and evil pirate "Ben Pease" casued me more than a few chuckles for seeming to be an absolute clone of Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Basically, it's not surprising that so few people seem to recall this movie as there's no truly compelling reason to remember from the 80s or to bother watching it now.

Except for the presence of Tommie Lee Jones, that is. Somehow, Jones manages to haul this under-inflated mildew-stained surplus-store rubber raft of a movie onto his back and then simply refuses to not let you enjoy it. Even while everything else on screen is fighting (clumsily) to put you to sleep or at least make you look for a magazine to read until the credits roll, Jones just keeps giggling and leering and cackling like... well, like a grown up kid having one helluva time playing pirates. He just has so much fun in this awful movie that you wind up forgiving almost every flaw and shortcoming.

So I have a hard time trying to figure out just how to "score" this movie. For everything other than Tommie, I'd give this movie maybe 1.5 stars-- it's not absolutely dreadful, but neither is it especially good. But for scene-stealing Tommie Lee, I give at least 4 stars, yielding my overall 3-star rating.

My boys? They laughed. They clapped. They cheered when Tommie Lee saved the day and they seemed anxious when he seemed in peril, and as the end titles rolled ("theme #2-- 'Rollicking Pirates'"), they both asked me "Daddy, did we rent this, or did we buy it?"

"We rented it. Why?"

"Cuz I wish we bought it. I liked it."

As Tommie Lee might say, "Seems good enough for me, darlin'."

09 July 2018

The Aerosol Swiss Army Knife (The Great Groceries Write-Off)

[originally posted to epinions.com on 2001-05-01]

Subject: Groceries
Pros: Many groceries are very good.
Cons: Some groceries are not very good.
Summary: I have long been a user of groceries, and I recommend them highly.

Modern grocery stores are absolute marvels-- palaces of wonderfully wretched excess where you can find dozens of products for use in any specific situation. Need orange juice? Great-- they have "from concentrate," "not-from concentrate," with calcium, without, with extra A & C, with pulp, no-pulp, some pulp, all-pulp, different pulp.... Need bleach? They've got large, jumbo, mega, regular, lemon, rainfresh, concentrated, super-concentrated, absurdly concentrated.... You say you need apples? Well, there's Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Granny Smith, McInstosh, Rome, Gala, Washington State apples, New Zealand Apples, home-schooled California free-range apples, all available in various size categories.

Being confronted with so many choices can lead to what author Douglas Coupland labeled "option paralysis"-- the tendency, when confronted by a near unlimited number of opportunities or possibilities, to choose nothing. Instead of getting just the right product for the need at hand, you wind up buying nothing, leaving all sorts of problems and needs unaddressed.

Which is why I am so excited to turn your valuable and harried attention to one of THE true marvels of this modern age, one product that will fill the bill for a dizzying variety of chores, a product whose many uses address so many different needs and situations that no trip to the store is complete until you've replenished your supply.

I am talking, of course, about the super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant.

What you say? "Are you high? It's just deodorant!"

Right, and beer is JUST a sports drink.

Of course, it's important that you buy the right brand of no-name deodorant spray. If you buy a name you trust and recognize, chances are you will talk yourself out of using the product in some of the scenarios I will describe. Your best bet is to buy the supremo-monstro canister of the most generic house brand offered-- sheer mass of product is the key. You want a can that looks roughly the size of a 40-millimeter shell casing. Remember-- "quantity has a quality all its own." Plus, a ten pound canister of the no-name stuff will be about 30% cheaper than any recognizable brand name. As for scent, if you buy the real deal-- the no name black can that has "suitable for use on humans" somewhere on the label in tiny type-- your pickings are likely slim when it comes to fragrance, and I'm pretty sure that "regular scented" is what you will wind up with, but fret not, gentle shopper: close enough is good enough in this game. In fact, it's probably best to AVOID any particular pleasing scent, since there's no telling where you'll end up where or how you'll end up using this miracle product. Why, consider just these few actual uses from my own past:

"Shower In A Can®"
While in college I and my roommates discovered that a jumbo canister of underarm deodorant can be an absolute life-saver when you happen to hit that snooze button 16 or 17 too many times in the morning. Picture this scenario: you oversleep, get up and realize that you have only 4 minutes to dress and get to class before the finals start. You understand all too well that you smell like a wet musk ox after a night in a cigar bar but you also know that sometimes there's just no time for hygiene... UNLESS you have the super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Shower In A Can, mist yourself from topnotch to toenail while grabbing a Pop-Tart from the cupboard, then sprint to class to ace that Biochem final and be one step closer to a fulfilling career in brain surgery.

"Room So Fresh®"
You come home after a hard day of Biochem Finals/sales presentations/margaritas by the pool and find a phone message from your parents alerting you that they're in town and stopping by to take you to dinner. You step into your dorm room/apartment/four-bedroom ranch style, realize that the place smells like a wet musk ox after a night in a cigar bar, and then notice the fact that your parents are due to arrive sometime in the next 90 seconds. You know that Dear Old Mom will come in sniffing and wincing, starting her standard finger-wagging lecture... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Room So Fresh spray, sprint through the room while spraying the can overhead, kicking all the dirty clothes and empty beer cans into the bedroom, then answer the doorbell with a big warm smile.

You get back from dinner with the parents at Red Lobster and find another message saying that "everybody" will be meeting and such and such bar that evening and that you really ought to tag along since SHE'S going to be there and this is finally maybe your Big Chance. You bound into the closet and painfully remember that you meant to do laundry that afternoon (you were distracted by cleaning the apartment for the parents, remember?), meaning your cleanest shirt is whichever one that doesn't have palm-sized chili stains, the one that still hints slightly of a wet musk ox after a night in a cigar bar, meaning you're doomed to another night of "Hitler's Secret Arsenal" on The History Channel... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Insta-Laundry spray, shake the Pringles from the pockets of the shirt and give it a quick spritz of manly scent, then head off to be completely ignored by the One True Woman Of Your Recent Dreams.

You stumble back home, broke and alone, heartbroken that SHE three times forgot your name, and you fall into bed, thinking for a moment that the place smells kinda fresh and sporty. You kick off your shoes, stumble to the bathroom for the nightly ablutions, then wander back to bed and suddenly realize that that earlier kinda fresh and sporty odor has been replaced with something that smells none too vaguely of a wet musk ox after a night in a cigar bar with a bag of corn ships served on the side. You realize that those two orders of Buffalo Wings in your tummy are not enjoying this odor, and both you and the wings will be bothered by the foul stench all night... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Shoe-Nice spray, hold your breath as you roll over to snatch the sweaty Nike's, dash to the back porch/patio/garage, fumigate those bad boys but good, then wander back to bed to have strange garlic-fueled dreams.

The next morning you roll out of bed at the crack of 9:30 AM and pad quietly into the kitchen for a healthy breakfast featuring a trough full of Wheaties and a half can of Mountain Dew you forget to put back in the fridge, but when you open your pantry door, you are confronted by a half dozen little brown intruders milling about on the floor of your pantry. You realize that you really ought to start living a little better, possibly picking up after yourself and exhibiting maybe the tiniest twinge of pride in your wardrobe, hygiene, and housing, but you also know that those are really big projects and the project at hand is more immediate and pressing and will quite likely scurry away to the back reaches of the pantry where they will again be ignored and forgotten... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy "Bug-B-Gone" off the corner of the counter (where you left it the night before while dealing with the corn chippy smell), let loose a fresh scented cloud of Insectoidal Death From On High with one hand while you reach in to retrieve the Wheaties box with the other, then wander off to consume a healthy sensible Breakfast of Champions while watching those BodyShaping chicks on ESPN2.

That afternoon you wake up and remember that you promised to meet The Guys for some basketball over at that elementary school with the outdoor hoops. You fumble around your closet looking for your court shoes for a half hour, remember that you still need to do laundry, then remember that your hoop shoes are on the porch/patio/workbench where you left them last week when you previously noticed that shoe smell (musk ox, cigar bar, corn chips, etc.), so you retrieve the shoes, find a pair of acceptably clean socks, and sit to put them on when you notice an itchy burning redness between your toes. You realize that this is what comes from living like a caveman, and again you start to promise that you are going to Change. Things must Improve. You cannot continue to live This Way. But Change is something one does in The Future, and here in The Now you have some Way Nasty Funk going on between your toes, and you don't feel entirely comfortable putting shoes and socks on those toes... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Fung-O-Way spray, hit the affected areas with a light almost-surely medicinal fog, immediately grab that pair of Chinese take-out chopsticks left on the counter and bite down upon them as if they are the rawhide strip in an Apache childbirth scene as rolling waves of silver-hot searing pain course up your leg and into the deepest crevices of your tiny wimpering mind, then slip on the socks and shoes and hobble off for a few hours of huffing and puffing around a dilapidated schoolyard.

That evening, after going out for pizza and beer with the rest of your no-game bad-hooping buddies, you all pile back to your place to watch TV since "Fistful Of Dollars" is on AMC in widescreen. You stop by the 7-Eleven for beer and CornNuts, and as you unlock your front door you look up and see your neighbor wandering over to know if he can bum an extra six-pack off you since you did the same to him the weekend before when you were too drunk to buy more beer. "Uh, no," you explain with annoyance, entering your home and quickly locking the door behind you as your neighbor starts screaming at you, explaining how he'll get that beer, you just watch. Later, as you are grabbing a bag of Funyons from the kitchen during the opening credits, you hear the soft metallic scrape of a window sliding open and you look up to see your neighbor trying to crawl through the small window over the sink in the kitchen, reaching towards the six-pack on the counter and mumbling all the while how you owe him those beers dammit, and you realize that he quite likely will GET those beers dammit... UNLESS you have a super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant. Simply grab your handy-dandy Thief Stoppr from the kitchen table where you left it before basketball, aim suarely between the intruder's beady hate-filled eyes and let fly with a refreshing blast of Mountain Freshness, then rap his windowsill-gripping knuckles firmly yet gently before closing and locking that kitchen window, then grab the Funyons and beer and scurry back to the Media Room so as not to miss any of The Man With No Name.

The next morning, when you waken on the sofa to the sound of the still-playing television, you tear yourself away from The Three Stooges on "N.Y.U.K." on AMC and decide that today finally in that Dawn Of A New Day when you will finally get your act together and start living life like a productive adult human. You pick up all the clothes and pizza boxes and empty plastic six-pack ringy thingies, you change sheets on the bed, toss the old sheets into the dumpster, you load the dishwasher, and then you shower, shave, comb your hair in preparation for going to the store for a full battery of real cleaning supplies. You grab your handy-dandy super-jumbo aerosol can of store-brand underarm deodorant, take aim on the left armpit, and hear a brief quiet hiss which quickly fades to silence just as the sad reality of your situation starts to sink in.

Out of deodorant.

Note to self-- next time buy two super-jumbo aerosol cans of store-brand underarm deodorant.

= END =

16 June 2018

That time I almost killed myself.

[NOTE: this post first appeared as a Twitter thread originally posted on the morning of June 8, 2018, spurred by news of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. A great many people seemed totally surprised by the Bourdain suicide, as they all thought he seemed like he had so much *good* in his life that there was no way the darkness of suicide might ever darken his story. These people were, of course, tragically mistaken, and there was a great deal of discussion onoine by a great many folks, all reflecting on their own personal tales about suicidal depression and episodes. I decided it was finally time to come totally clean on my own long-refrigerated such tale of a close call with suicide.

It refers back to the Spring of 1982, my senior year in high school, and well... "things were not a good as they could have been." The specific detailss are not as important as the events and thoughts in response to those details, so that's what the tweetstorm dealt with: the way suicidal depression can come out of "nowhere" to threaten those whom many would never believe might be at risk.

In a surprise to me, that tweetstorm sorta exploded, with hundreds of thousands of impressions and hundreds of "likes" and several dozen comments and responses (public and private) -- via Twitter but also via email, and phone, and text, and at least one or two real-life convos with friends and family who'd never previously heard a whisper of this tale. Apparently, a great many people were interested (or perhaps just morbidly fascinated-- I do not claim to understand).

At any rate, I had a few people NOT on Twitter ask if I might repost the entire thread in a form/location where it could be seen and read in its entirety.

And so here it is, reposted in one document, with each tweet in that thread now living as a paragraph in the large combined essay.

I don't post this (again) because I want or need attention for any of this, but rather because it feels important to get these kinds of stories out so that others might better understand just how common and easily camoflaged these typs of experiences are. As with Bourdain's suicide, people seemed surprised by my tale. Unlike Bourdain, I survived to share the tale (albeit many decades later). I was stupidly lucky that I pulled off at the last moment and didn't end my life. Others are too often denied that same stupid good luck.

I guess what I am saying -- what I was hoping to convey -- is simply "this shit is real. It is common. It happens to people all around you all the time. Be aware, and stand ready to be the kind of friend who might literally save a friend's life just by being there, by listening, by reminding someone that it's never as totally black as it might seem in any lonely moment."

I hope that makes sense. If not, as always, your full purchase price will be refunded.

"11:52 AM - 8 Jun 2018

Apologies in advance for a long humor-free thread:

When I was 17, I came within a devil’s breath of taking the final leap (literally) in a suicide attempt. I was in a dark lonely moment, and I just wanted that pain and terror to end— more than anything I could think or describe.

I’d not planned it or plotted it nor can I recall ever even contemplating such a thing before. But there came a night when everything swirled into a perfect storm of self-destructive terror, and some still-rational part of my brain plotted a possible exit strategy:

“We’ll dive headfirst from the huge stadium onto the pavement below. We’ll need to make sure to hit headfirst, of course.”

So I climbed the local HS stadium, clambered over the safety fence on the top back wall, leaned out and was holding on by one hand, staring at the pavement below, trying to gauge how much to lean to assure headfirst impact 75 feet below.

And that’s when a breeze of clarity drifted thru my head, and a small voice somewhere inside quietly screamed out “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” And then there was utter silence, and then horrible realization of my predicament.

I probably came closer to falling at that precise moment than at any other, as I almost slipped in my mad scramble to regain tight grip and get back over into the right side of the fence. Which I managed.

And then I slumped down and vomited all over my feet. And I cried for more than a little bit. And then I wandered home, and managed to wash my clothes without being noticed, and never mentioned this episode to anyone for very many years.

I NEVER TOLD ANYONE. Nobody who knew me then ever had any clue about any of this.

I never again had any similar episode, but neither have I ever forgotten how that moment felt: a total loss of rational perspective, replaced by an almost drunken logic where the clearly worst idea seems the clearly best idea. I just wanted the fear to be gone.

I’ve gone thru counseling at least twice in the 35 years since— talked about this in one series of sessions, didn’t in another series. I don’t live in constant terror of a relapse— that was a lifetime ago. A totally different person. A different movie.

But neither do I totally turn my back on the inescapable fact that that... thing— that beast— lurks somewhere deep in my brain, ready to whisper the worst advice at the worst time if I ever allow myself to tune out all other voices. Which is not exactly comforting.

The point to this overlong tale is simply this: you never really know what pain someone else was fighting against for their very lives. IS fighting against. What rationally bizarre and extreme action that struggle might drive them to. Drive YOU to.

These tornados of the soul can swirl up with little or no warning, and leave you with little safe shelter, and lay utter waste to every aspect of your existence. Or they can (as in my case) vanish just as quickly as they appeared, leaving you a shuddering sobbing wreck.

So be careful before you make very many grand pronouncements about suicide and depression. Unless you’ve actually been there and lived through it, you don’t know. You just don’t.

And If you’re very very lucky, you never will. Trust me."


04 February 2017

a bag of crap, a jug of coffee, and thou

It’s Super Bowl weekend, which means it’s also time for the Cub Scouts and their “Super Bowl of Giving,” an annual food collection program benefitting local food banks and charities. To participate, you simply leave some canned goods or non-perishables in a bag hanging from your front doorknob (or on your porch) and Cub Scouts in your neighborhood walk thru to collect the bags and deliver to the aforementioned charities.

Great program: simple, easy to understand, easy for the young Scouts to handle. All good.

I am well past the point where any of my sons are Cub Scout aged, so I no longer have occasion to be reminded of it until I see the uniformed little collectors scurrying around, thrilled at each new donation they pick up.

So I am awake this Saturday, doing my usual “curse tehg gods for my existence as I wait for the coffeemaker to hurry up dammit” routine, and our dogs go nuts: barking, leaping against front door, howling. I glance around corner to see if perhaps someone is there, or if there was a delivery, or if maybe the neighbors are out with their Shih-tzu which to my dogs looks like a walking McNugget.

Nothing. “Stupid dumb dogs,” think, and return to the aforementioned cursing and waiting.

A few seconds later, the dogs AGAIN go nuts, this time even louder. Again I glance, and this time I see a tiny little Cub Scout — Cindy Lou Who Scout — leave something on my porch and then scuttle away quickly. Again I yell at dogs to shut up, I pour my coffee, and I step out to see what is going on. I see the Scout — along with his mom and two other Cubs and a wagon loaded with bags of donations — rounding the corner to leave our cul-de-sac.

“Oh yeah…” I mumble. “Super Bowl of Giving. Cool.”

I glance down and there’s a small white Target bag tied closed, with what looks like a large handful of gravel inside.

“Wow— good thinking!” I think. “They provide donation bags, and weigh them down so they don’t just blow around and create an ugly litter situation!” So I pick up my “donation bag” and come inside to see what canned goods I can part with. I open the bag to dump out the gravel, and that’s when I suddenly reassemble these details into a whole different mental LEGO construction.

This is not a donation bag.

This is a bag of cat shit.

Which The Wife collected from our two litter boxes. And tied closed. And dropped outside on our front porch for me to put into the trash whenever I first went outside.

Which was sitting there on the my front porch. On the Super Bowl of Giving.

When a happy little Scout saw “another donation.”

“OH MY GOD…” I shout and sprint back to my door. I bolt outside, scream ‘WAIT! NO! IT WAS A MISTAKE!”

But I see now Cubs. I rush back and grab my keys and hop into the van: I HAVE to find that Cub Scout and explain. And apologize. Beg forgiveness. “IT’S ALL A HUGE FUNNY MISUNDERSTANDING!” I am pre-explaining to myself aloud in the car. ‘WE’RE NOT THAT KIND OF SICK TWISTED SICKO! REALLY!”

(Well, we might be, but the fact remains that we did NOT intentionally leave a bag of cat crap for a Cub Scout donation. That’s beyond even my childish evility, at least on the SUper Bowl fo Giving. This early. Without my coffee yet, which is still back in my kitchen next to an open bag of cat droppings in my kitchen.)

I circle thru our neighborhood twice, but I never see those Scouts. Chances are, I’ll never see them again. In my mind, I can hear that poor Cub Scout’s Mom: “Jimmy— don’t you EVER EVER go back to that AWFUL neighborhood ever again! DO YOU HEAR ME!?!”

I can hear her reporting this obscene sick demented behavior at the next Pack Meeting: “Sweet mother of god! WHAT KIND OF BASTARD DOES THAT?”

I can see the Dad consoling his son: “Jimmy, there are some bad people in the world. And one fine day we shall hunt them down and use them for dingo fodder.”

In my mind, the imagined conversations are always excellent.

I pull back into my driveway, literally on the verge of tears. Tears of shame, embarrassment, and pity. And as I am sitting there, my phone pings: next text message from The Wife:

left bag of litter on the porch. remember to put in trash. thx

And so it goes.

28 June 2016

A Cunning Plan

"stupid problems require stupid solutions"

[Note: this essay was originally posted to the now/rightly-defunct Epinions.com site as "satire," but in the aftermath of the recent #Brexit vote by the UK to leave the EU... perhaps it's an idea whose time has now come. Perhaps England itself might suffice for some part of this plan. Ahem. --BN]

A Cunning Plan

The problem is obvious: there are too many stupid damned idjuts running loose, stirring up trouble for the smart people like me (and, to a lesser extent, like you). Now, it's easy enough for me to ignore occasional encounters with rampant moronity, but in these dark and troubled times it seems as though a smart man such as myself can hardly go ten or fifteen feet without having to pause to let some wingnut shuffle across my path.

 The problem seems worse online. Here on Epinions, for example, one can hardly utter three words before some slobbering buffoon blunders up to start flapping their Cheeto-stained lips in your face, blathering on about what they think and what they like and what their opinion on such and such is and blah blah blah and I think we've all seen and heard just about enough of this, right?

So I have a plan.

Once upon a year gone by George Carlin took time away from his cocaine dependency to suggest that maybe it might be a good idea to round up all the stupid people and dump them into one of the western states in the US-- one of the big boxy-shaped ones, like Utah or Wyoming or New Mexico-- so that the rest of us might live in peace and tranquility. Many people laughed at this suggestion from Carlin, due in no small part to the fact that he offered this suggestion as part of a comedy routine, plus I'm pretty sure that the aforementioned cocaine dependency did little to build a reputation as a man recognized for cogent thinking.

But just as Da Vinci envisioned the helicopter long before anyone really understand how to make one, Carlin's coke-fueled fantastic dream well have been simply a glimpse into the future, for today I am here to tell you that I know how to make that dream real.

Carlin's plan would never have worked if put into actual use, since there's simply no way that any state's population (or its congressional representatives) would have allowed their state to be used as a National Dillhole Dumping Ground. At this stage of the planning, Carlin likely threw up his hands in frustration and decided to have a few more lines of blow, but as I am not burdened with such chemical distractions, I have had time to work through the problems, and I'm here to tell you that there is a place in the far West where such a plan could work without significant popular or political opposition.


Guam is perfect for my plan. Just consider the many advantages of Guam for such a plan:

• Guam is U.S.-controlled territory, meaning we won't have to deal with any tiresome immigration issues when we start shipping off the morons, but as a mere protectorate (or territory, or whatever it is... we can look that up later) Guam cannot claim the same rights as might a full-blown state. If we buried Oregon under four feet of mewling dipshit, there would be legal challenges and all sorts of problems, but with Guam... I mean, come on: it's GUAM.

• Guam has no significant military might of its own. If we try shoving our morons down the throats of any other country, no matter how normally pacifist and peaceful they might seem right now, once we start pumping our genetic sewage their way, I think we could expect see serious trouble. I suspect that even Switzerland or, hell, CANADA even would nuke up and go postal if they saw a long bus convoy of American morons coming over the hill, suitcases and change of address cards in hand.

• Guam is a long way away, separated from us back here in the U.S. by a few thousand miles of shark-infested ocean just perfect to alleviate any safety or security concerns of lily-livered folks back here who might otherwise worry about some sort of ugly resentful backlash if the (ahem) "parties to be relocated" were ever to find their way back to the mainland again.

• Guam is a fairly large island, allowing for large numbers of morons to be moved there, BUT-- and this is a strong selling point-- Guam is NOT so large that it might offer sufficient agricultural resources to allow the new moron population to expand even more. We neither want nor need a repeat of that unfortunate bunnyrabbits-into-Australia fiasco, so the limited acreage and rocky terrain of Guam will serve as useful "limiting reagents" to the growth of the moron population.

Now obviously there are some difficulties to overcome, but that is to be expected with any grand visionary plan such as this. For example, some of the native Guamanians (Guamites? Guamagranates? Someone Google this up for me, please...) will likely grouse and complain about this plan, unhappy that "their" island was chosen to become "Idjut Country" and possibly even reluctant to vacate the premises, but I expect that we can win them over through a combination of slick advertising and thuggish intimidation. Also, let's not lose sight of the fact that "we" (well, "I") back here on the mainland have done the bulk of the planning and organizing, while THEY on their happy little island have done very little to help, so perhaps we could simply play upon their feelings of guilt and tell them it's their turn to kick in.

Also, we need to help the native Guamanders (Guamicans? Guamese? We really need to get this nailed down before we roll out the hard-sell ad campaign...) get past the initial shock and realize that the wheels of progress can't be slowed just for their own petty selfish concerns. We're up to our eyeballs in morons here in the U.S., while there in the middle of nowhere sits a perfectly useful island that could house millions of morons, and it's time to get everyone on board. We need the space, dammit, so sacrifices have to be made, and I think we all agree that it's a far better thing that these sacrifices be made by folks other than us.

Any lingering reluctance from the natives (I really could use that name, people...) could be washed away just by running a nature documentary about Christmas Island. Twice a year that tiny South Pacific island is literally overrun by tens of millions of ant-sized red crabs as they migrate across the island for their mating and spawning. If you've ever seen it, you'll never forget it-- a seething crawling red carpet of walking micro-seafood. We'll show that to the Guamish (Guamolians? Guamozzles? This is starting to become embarrassing, folks...) and then tell them "now just imagine this same situation on YOUR island, except replace those teeny little crabs with Chuck Norris fans, K-car purchasers, and Ross Perot supporters. Are you SURE you wanna hang around?"

Guam would be vacant by lunchtime.

Remember-- future generations will judge us by what we do today. If we leave our children and our children's children to inherit an America littered with great blundering herds of slobbering doddering morons, what kind of parents are we? What kind of people are we? We need to make the tough decision today to ensure that the future is a little less dim for everyone.

Except those poor Guamicaneans. Er, Guamalusions. Guami... (sigh)


14 December 2012

Now seems a good time to shut up

I sit here on a gray blustery Friday, trying to prepare for a Boy Scout camping trip this weekend, but my thoughts instead turn to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

An armed man entered the school just an hour or so ago, and for no reason yet known, opened fire. On a school full of innocent kids and teachers.

Right now, reports indicate upwards of 30 people killed, including at least 18 children.

Twitter and Facebook of course are already seeing the usual major camps draw into familiar circles: the conservatives calling for prayers and bemoaning the sad state of our national character vs the liberals working up some outrage over the issue of gun control, and all I can think of is "SHUT UP -- ALL OF YOU!"

We have people down. Kids. Teachers. Parents. Bleeding and wounded and dying and dead. We have parents of 400 kids terrified beyond belief that their children were in this slice of Hell this morning, and then forced to pray the horrible yet understandable "please let the dead include someone else's family and not mine."

THAT'S where our thoughts and concerns should be at this moment, not on your -- OUR -- silly damned opinions and politics and morality. Later there will be time enough (and seems like there always is, even when there isn't) to argue and bicker and belabor the "why" and "how" and "what went wrong," but right now to try and use a still-unfolding tragedy as support for some pet belief or cause just seems… staggering gallingly offensively arrogant and self-centered.

Right now it's not about you, or me. It's about us: we have people in harm's way and hurting badly.

If you can't physically help that situation, then have the grace and good manners to stay the hell out of the way and not demand attention for yourself. We'll all then listen to your idiot mewling and lecturing just as soon as our people get loaded into ambulances, OK?