Monthly Archives: June 2011

“The way things are goin’…they’re gonna’ crucify me.”

Gotta admit, I was a a little surprised to read this.

The scales continue to fall.

The Hollywood Beauty Process

Digging through the stacks of refuse that were generously referred to as  “collectibles” at an off the beaten path second hand store, I came across a small rectangular case made of alligator hide. The intricate silver hinges and thick hand stitching on the leather handle told me that it had been made in an era far removed from our current one in which such items would most likely be mass produced with cheap materials on far away Asian factory floors. Assuming that it was a womans makeup case of some sort and probably contained nothing that I might find interesting, I nearly returned it to where I had found it unopened when for some reason I flipped the two latches holding it shut and raised the lid. What I saw was not the expected satin lined container with a few old lipsticks and mascaras, but  a glimmering black surface with two gem like emerald and white bakelite knobs. Centered between these knobs was a small chrome toggle switch and under the toggle switch the word “activate” was impressed into the surface. There was a small door under the knobs and upon opening this door, a frayed silk wrapped cord with an ancient  two-pronged plug on one end fell to the floor along with three smaller wires, one with a small metal clamp on the end, the remaining two with flesh colored rubber suction cups about the size of a quarter. There was some sort of writing on it that I couldn’t make out. Looking over my shoulder and making sure that the proprietor of the second-hand store was occupied with something else, I grabbed a piece of antique textile on an  adjacent shelf and vigorously rubbed the dirt accumulated over decades from the black surface. In a sophisticated art deco script arching over the knobs the words “The Hollywood Beauty Process” revealed themselves as I scoured the last  bit of grime from the case. Looking for an electrical outlet and finding one by following a tangle of wires from other assorted obsolete electrical items, I plugged it in, turned the knob on the left to the on position, and with a faint hum and sharp ozone smell, the art deco script and green and white knobs slowly lit up. It was beautiful. What could it be? The knob on the right had a small white mark on it that when turned clockwise, would click into place on numbers one through ten.  Mesmerized by the glowing case and gathering the wires that had spilled from the small door into one hand, I hypnotically turned this knob to the right, and then to the left, and back to the right, letting it eventually rest on ten before turning my attention elsewhere in exploring this fascinating little thing I held in my hands. Captivated by its beauty and without really considering the consequences, I flipped the small toggle that said “activate”.

I don’t really remember feeling the electric shock, but I do remember watching the case fall to the floor, seemingly in slow motion. I also don’t recall the sound of bacon frying in a pan although the proprietor of the shop told me that this sound is what alerted him to my location where he found me laying on the floor still gripping the tangle of wires in my right hand. Upon regaining my senses and tending to the moderate burns on the palm of my hand, the shop owner told me that what I had found was an item purchased by his mother from a long forgotten traveling salesman that was meant to tone and invigorate the muscles of the face. By applying the suction cups to “problem areas” and then attaching the grounding clamp to a finger or other extremity, and then gradually over time working your way up from number one on the knob, the facial muscles could be toned through mild electric shock and a youthful, “Hollywood like appearance” could be attained. “That’s what he told my mother anyway” said the shop owner. “She thought it looked dangerous and never used the thing. It’s been sitting here ever since”.  Having now fully regained my faculties and sensing the potential for mayhem that this device could provide at the rendezvous planned by my drinking pals for later in the evening at the local watering hole, I asked maybe a bit too eagerly “how much?” As I walked back to the car with the small alligator case under my arm, I knew that I had paid too much for it. I also knew that no price could be put on that which was to follow.

I smuggled it into the bar stashed under my coat with no one being the wiser and we launched happy hour as we always did, drinking deliberately and quickly to derive maximum inebriation before the prices went up. This particular bar employed a tender who consistently thwarted us in our attempts to down the most beer in the least amount of time by dawdling between fill ups, preferring instead to flirt with  the occasional female patron in this predominantly male occupied tavern. When the bar-keep presented our tab and feeling that we had been denied his best and most professional services, I reached under my coat and nonchalantly placed the case on the bar and opened it up.  “What the hell is that?” asked the tap-tender, suddenly dropping his interest in lying to the woman who had recently taken up residence at the far end of the bar. “This is how I propose that we settle the tab”. By now my four compatriots had ceased their conversations and were also focused on the small alligator case in front of me. Reaching behind the bar and plugging in “The Hollywood Beauty Process” for perhaps the second time in sixty years, the five of them had the same reaction as I did in the second hand shop when it hummed to life and lit their faces in glowing green and white light. They gazed at it in silent reverence, wondering what it could be.

When I opened the small door on the case and briefly explained that what we were looking at was a pair of electrodes and a ground, a numbered dial and an “activate” switch, their reverence was broken and the purpose of this little device and how I intended to use it became immediately apparent to all.  “You’re not puttin’ that thing on me.” said the bar-keep. “You guy’s just pay your tab and put that back under your coat”. If there is one thing that men in the company of other men are proficient in, particularly when fueled with excessive alcohol, it is the ease in which they can talk their fellow men into doing things that in hindsight might seem like a bad idea simply by calling their manly credentials into question.  “Don’t be such a pussy. It’s only 110 volts. Whoever hits the highest number and stays on his feet wins. We pay double or we pay nothing.   C’mon, I’ll go first”. Glancing back at the girl at the end of the counter, our bartender saw her smiling and just like that, he was in. Of course while it was in fact only 110 volts, what he failed to grasp was that the purpose of the numbered dial was to increase amperage rather than voltage. As you may or may not know in the context of an electric shock, amps provide the oomph, as our bartender was soon to discover.

We had quickly decided upon some ground rules. The first being that the shocks would be self administered. The second rule was that rather than start at a low number and gradually turn the dial to the right increasing amperage until refusal, we would each choose a number, set the dial, and then hit “activate”. The third was that consciousness must be maintained and falling from the bar stool would result in disqualification. The only other rule was that a draw would go to the house. Moistening the suction cups with a thumb and a little spit, I placed them about two inches under each ear. Approximately where the jaw bone meets the skull. Attaching the ground to the little finger of my left hand, I set the dial to five and flipped the switch. A strong but tolerable jolt ran through my face followed by a fast rhythmic clenching in the muscles of my jaw. The effect while uncomfortable, was fortunately limited to the immediate area of the suction cups. In the interest however of maximum intimidation of my opponent, I made the rest of my body intentionally rigid and rolled my eyes back in their sockets, accompanying this with a rapid fluttering of the lids. After around five seconds I theatrically tore the cups from my jaw and threw them to the bar, downing in one gulp the schooner of suds that the bartender had placed in front of me. “OK, now you.” He looked at me soberly and perhaps a bit warily and said, “Fuck that shit. I’ll pick up the tab. You guys take that thing and get out of here.”

This was unacceptable. Although I had accomplished the objective of free beer by starting with a high number and forcing my opponent into forfeit with a bit of exaggerated drama, I was left feeling unsatisfied with the nature of my win.  Thinking that I had blown it by over playing my opening hand, I was reluctantly ready to call it an evening when after a bit of behind the hands discussion, my drinking buddies came to the rescue. “We want in too! Same deal but with a kicker.” they told the bar-tender. “Each of us goes one on one with you. You win and each of us pay the entire amount of the tab. Which ever of us wins, walks. The tab will be based on drinks consumed between now and last call.” Our host now had some serious skin in the game and was giving it a second thought. If the tab at the end of the evening came to a couple of hundred bucks, there was the potential of a grand to be had. Raw greed won out over self-preservation as it often does and after coming around to our side of the bar and attaching the electrodes in the same place that I had a few minutes earlier, he readied himself for battle by quaffing his own schooner of beer. Unbeknownst to us, he had devised a strategy that he thought would bring decisive victory. By setting the numbered dial to ten right out of the gate he would out flank his enemies, leaving us with no recourse but a draw and humiliating surrender. Settling onto the bar stool with an ecstatic look of impending victory on his face, he spun the dial to its maximum setting and hit the switch.

Defeat is most bitter when unexpected. In tipping his beer back, the last of it had spilled around the edges of his glass and came to rest around and under the suction cups attached to his mandibles. On the occasion of the last activation witnessed by myself of “The Hollywood Beauty Process”, a sharp electrical pop like a circuit breaker tripping was accompanied by an intense blue glow emanating from the mouth of our bar-tender, where evidently a couple of fillings in his back teeth were arcing out on each other.  A loud scream followed as our bartender levitated from his seat and fell to the floor. His forgotten girlfriend at the end of the bar rushed to his side, tearing off the electrodes and applying a wet towel from behind the bar to his blistered jaw line. He was swearing loudly and creatively.  The stink-eye being applied in our direction by his lady friend and his increasingly aggressive language convinced me that perhaps some sort of gratuity might be in order for our host and I left a twenty on the bar before we beat a hasty retreat.

In our rush to vacate the premises before the authorities could be summoned, I left “The Hollywood Beauty Process” on the bar and never laid eyes on it again. In hindsight, it’s a shame it was left behind as I think that I could use such a device in the raising of my two teenage boys. In our age of empty threats regarding parental violence when chores and homework remain undone after multiple reminders, the smell of ozone, the sight and sound of crackling blue flame, could have been just the thing to let them know that if pushed too far, I might be capable of anything.

Approaching Double Nickels

Today I turn fifty four years old.

When I was twenty, I would gaze forward through the mists of time and wonder what life would be like in the year 2000. I would be forty three. God…that’s beyond old. I was not going to settle down with a steady job, wife, and family of my own, that was for sure. That life was for suckers. For the unimaginative. I was going to live bigger. To be one of the chosen few meant to wonder from place to place in search of adventure, flipping my life upside down and reinventing myself every few years when I grew bored with where I was and what I was doing. And that’s just what I did. Ski bum in Colorado. Deep sea diver in the Gulf of Mexico. I had quite a time. By the time I  reached thirty eight after having bounced aimlessly around the country for fifteen years, I found myself back home in Seattle driving a cab downtown ferrying parking meter thieves and drunk frat boys in the AM hours wondering where the time had gone. Only five years to go until the millennium when I would be old. Funny thing is…I felt old already.

Fast forward fifteen years and I’m a homeowner, working a steady job with a family of my own. It’s not a perfect family by any stretch but we are sixteen years and counting so scoffing at the law of averages anyway. Like most notions floating around inside the head of a twenty year old, I had it exactly backwards then. I had started with all of the answers without knowing any of the questions. That I am a stubborn man capable of employing copious amounts of rationalization is patently obvious as it took me a decade and a half from the age of twenty to figure this out. The past fifteen years have been a time of asking questions, of always hoping that I am asking the right ones but never knowing until I work the problem, and in realizing that the working out of these problems rather than picking an answer at random and running with it are what keep you young.

When I was twenty I had all the answers. As half a century of living fades in the rear view mirror I increasingly have only questions about the road ahead. When problems are overwhelming I try to fight the trap of certainty and instead employ curiosity. When the problems of life are big, the working of them make me bigger. I am fifty four years old and have never felt younger.

Rookie

Boy! Does this guy have a lot to learn about how things work in Washington!

H/T Protein Wisdom via Maggie’s Farm.

Hmmm…..

Posted without comment.

My list…Your list…”Our list”

As long as I’m on the topic of things that men and women are likely to never see eye to eye on, I’d like to discuss “to do” lists for a moment. We men have our “to do” lists, most commonly stored in our heads, of the things that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, and these lists are generally prioritized according to our own particular interpretation of that which is most pressing, or that which we simply wish to procrastinate a bit in accomplishing. Sometimes when faced with the choice on a beautiful summer evening of mucking out horse stalls or heading down to the docks to put a fresh coat of varnish on the boat woodwork, I will choose the more pleasurable of the two. Fully aware that at some point in the very near future the other less rewarding task will need to be done as well. The point being that as the list is mine, I  am free to arrange the order in which the tasks are accomplished in any way I see fit as long as everything gets done in a timely manner.

Women also organize their own “to do” lists in this fashion I assume. Problems arise however when the items on her list somehow migrate onto my list in the form of “our list” which is always presented in written form and taped to the refrigerator door. “Our list” is consistently broken down into three sections. The items that I had chosen to tackle as high priorities on my list have been moved to the bottom of the list or eliminated entirely from our list. The tasks that I had determined to have the least priority on my list are now of mid-level importance on our list. Magically, and here is where my beef lies, the items that she had determined to be of such odious nature that they had been delegated to the furthest reaches of the bottom of her list, are now hi-lighted in bold ink at the top of “our” list which make no mistake is now to be considered my list.  I believe I can speak for nearly all men when I state that I have never, ever, vaguely even considered constructing a “to do” list for anyone unless they were under the age of ten or in my employ and walking a fine line on whether on not they were soon to be formerly in my employ. If any of you women out there can say the same thing, I am ready willing and able to print this post, combine it between two pieces of seven grain with some fine crow meat and eat it enthusiastically in its entirety. In my experience, I am willing to bet I will go hungry.

If you won’t look before you leap…don’t blame me when there’s no water in the pond.

Yesterday I was admonished by my wife, again, for that which no man should ever again express shame or contrition. I am speaking of course of the single greatest indicator of the Neanderthal like nature of men, the leaving of the toilet lid in the up position. Somewhere, somehow, it has been determined that not only are we men responsible for lifting the lid prior to our use of the facilities, which is only fair, but that we are also to be held accountable for carefully preparing and staging the area in question for the next user. I can’t think of any other area in which women will so doggedly defend their right to behave as clueless bimbo’s, unwilling or unable to perform a task in reverse that we men accomplish reflexively in lifting the seat numerous times daily.

Try and imagine girls, the conclusions we men might reach if upon using an automobile women consistently and unanimously complained that after use of the car by the men in their lives, they just couldn’t figure out how to reach the gas and brake pedals upon inserting themselves in the driver’s seat. If rather than simply adjusting the seat and getting on with their day, they made a sport out of using this as an example of the basic mental inferiority and savagery of the human male. Feels good! Of course from our perspective we would be thinking, if the shiny buttons controlling the seat are too confusing for you, or if you are too scatter-brained to remember to check and adjust the seat position as necessary, why don’t you just say so and in the interests of chivalry toward such delicate blossoms we will gladly accommodate your lack of problem solving skills. I might add that the operation of a toilet seat, while quite a bit simpler to operate than the seat controls on your average automobile, still seems to elude the grasp of the supposedly superior female mind. Just sayin’.

I’ll make you a deal. If you women will embrace the concept of personal responsibility in this most basic area of what might be considered the most personal of your daily business, we men will stop thinking that maybe the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was a well intentioned mistake.