Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I have wanted to be a writer for a LONG time. I can recount the first original story I ever wrote. I was in the fifth grade and in response to a class asignment I created my own Greek God. His name was Sapphocrates and he tried to decieve Zeus into striking down Hephaestus (The god of fire and metallurgy). As a result, Zeus punished him by making him a permanent servant to Hephaestus. Sapphocrates was banished to the core of the earth, and every time Hephaestus wants to harness the power of magma, Sapphocrates must suffer the agony of pushing it up through the Earth's surface.

I was really, really proud. I carried that thing around like a gold medal for the rest of the year. From then till now I have written for both pleasure and academic reasons. In that span of time I've compiled a nice little body of work. Don't get me wrong, most of it I wouldnt even show to people, and virtually none of it is publishable without considerable editing. But every now and again I peruse to see how far I've come, and remind myself about why I do it in the first place.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon an old piece of work that I hadn't even thought about in God knows how long. It was written in the early part of my high school career, at the most physically awkward time of my life. I was gangly, pockmarked, I had braces and I was still struggling with my stutter. My self esteem was shaky at best and I wanted to believe that even someone with the lowest opinion of themselves could be thrust into greatness. So I wrote this story, that I would like to share with anyone who cares to read it.

The Adventures of Bucktooth Boy

Chester Harland hates you. Not just you, everybody. Mainly you because you happen to be right here. It’s not your fault, don’t change for Chester, he’s a bit of a dick. Chester has been pissed since the day he was born, and if you take one look at him its blindingly obvious why. Chester Harland is the ugliest man you will ever lay eyes on, trust me on this. I don’t care about that guy you saw once on the subway that frightened even the drunkest hobo, Chester makes that guy look like the belle of the ball.

Its not even Chester’s fault, he just tried to dive in the shallow end of the gene pool and, just like the after school special you saw in health class, he broke his neck…figuratively. His head is shaped like a light bulb, except the bulbous part is well above his gaunt, drooping face, giving him a round, protruding forehead. A tuft of hair that looks to be pubic sits precariously on top of his rotund sphere of a head His nose is shaped like a ski run, with its various zigzags, slopes, rises, and a section of acne that looks suspiciously like trees. The reason behind the peculiar shape is that his nose was broken at birth when the doctor got one look at him and dropped Chester like a hot pan.

Chester’s eyes are a sad, uneven brown, and his protruding forehead casts a shadow over them permanently. He has no eyelashes whatsoever, but it looks like that hair had been transplanted into his eyebrows. They are so bushy that they have to be trimmed with scissors on a bi-daily basis, and Chester once lost a brand new pencil within its curly clutches. They never found the pencil; only the tattered remains of an eraser that looked like it had been partially eaten. The only good part about the eyebrows is that they draw attention away from his skin, which looks like an acne problem, which is afflicted with yet another acne problem
Chester’s mouth is in a constant state of pucker, or as it had been colorfully referred to by most of the street vendors he passes, he has “a mouth like a chicken’s ass.”

The only thing that keeps his mouth open are his huge, off-white, buckteeth that jut out from his lip like two slices of white bread. Seriously, these things are massive. Chester can’t dip his head back during a strong wind because the current might catch under his teeth and carry him away.

Needless to say, God and Chester are not on speaking terms. You wouldn’t be so keen on God either if He/She made you so ugly that the back of your head broke mirrors. But apparently God had other plans for Chester Harland, or as he was more commonly referred to within his community “Reincarnation of the New Jersey Devil.” Here is his superbly strange series of psychotic events:

Anyone with as much time and little companionship as Chester tends to develop certain habits of comfort. Chester’s was walking; its one of the few things you can do alone and if someone asks why no one is with you, you can say you’re running an errand or exercising. This was never an issue really because the only sound other people ever made at Chester was when a baby passed him and started to cry.
One day Chester was walking and found himself in a strange part of town. The friendly, brick-faced buildings had dissipated and industrial buildings spotted the stark environment with their cold, gray, indistinct coloring. But Chester didn’t have anywhere to be, so he trudged on through the desolate landscape. It wasn’t until roughly an hour later his path was cut off by a giant nuclear reactor tower. White vapor billowed out the top of the ominous structure and Chester’s neck craned upward to see the top. There was really no way around it that didn’t lead him to the office buildings for the power plant. Directly behind it though was an unpaved industrial road that led as far as the eye could see.

When you have nothing else, even the simplest things, like walking in a straight path, take on more meaning. To be frank, Chester was pissed, and he’d be damned if any massive tower spewing radioactive bi-product was going to thwart him. So he started the long climb up the side. At first the going was easy, but the slope got steeper and steeper, and about 30 minutes into it Chester found himself a quarter of the way up, with pools of sweat collecting in his massive eyebrows. His body ached to give up and go back home so he could have a cup of tea and go to bed, but this was a matter of principle.

Two hours later Chester could see the apex, and his hand grasped the top so he could pull himself up with one last burst of strength. When he managed to get his footing, he realized his plan had been flawed from the beginning. The edge around the top was too skinny to walk around to the other side, and the steam that shot out was an ungodly hot. Chester immediately regretted this decision; he was ugly enough without being a burn victim.

But that stupid little man called pride was screaming in the back of his head not to give up, and he must have been speaking on a PA system because Chester heard him loud and clear. You would think that bulbous head of his would house a larger brain, but Chester decided to try and jump across from one side to the other and slide down to safety. So Chester braced his aching muscles for the jump, and he shot forth from his unstable footing.

He soared through the air, his hands grasping for the edge, the intense heat from the steam pushed him upward, and for one brief moment he knew the border was in reach. Unfortunately, Chester was wrong and before he knew it he was falling into the abyss of mind-numbingly hot flames and blinded by steam. The only thing that seemed to remain of Chester was his fading screams of “This was such an ill-planned decision…”

The power plant workers took their time getting him out of the core on the grounds they thought that Chester was already dead. When they managed to get his limp body out from betwixt the uranium rods, they laid him out on a table and examined the damage while they waited for the cops. Remarkably there wasn’t really a mark on him but one man commented “My god, the radiation must have horribly deformed him.” Another worker vomited in the corner from the morbid sight while another worker reexamined his life and priorities due to the traumatic image.

So you can imagine their surprise when Chester opened his eyes and started to get up from the table. Not knowing where he was, Chester yawned and stretched out like he was getting up from a long slumber, until he noticed the 12 men in biohazard suits standing around him in stunned silence. To say it was awkward was an understatement, Chester had always been self conscious, but now he was half naked in a sanitized white room around a dozen men with contamination suits and long rod-type things that could have been used for a variety of horrifying purposes. Chester started to slowly back away from the table when a voice chimed in through the intercom, “Uh, sir? Could you please stay where you are? We need to detain you for health and insurance reasons.” The voice was distorted and reminded Chester of all the movies he saw when aliens were held by secret government agencies, this deeply disturbed him.
“Actually, I was just on a walk, no biggie. I’ll just let myself out…sorry for the trouble…”
The hollow intercom voice stopped him in his tracks once again, “You were going for a walk? How did you end up on top of the tower?”
“Well, not that I need to justify myself to you, but I was going for a walk, and the tower was blocking my path, so I decided to climb over it to get to the trail on the other side.”
“You climbed up a 20 story tower to get to a dirt trail? Why didn’t you just try to go through the employee’s complex?
“Everything looked locked up…”
“And the tower is essentially a cone so once you got to a certain height you could have just shimmied around its circular surface to the other side, you didn’t have to jump from the top. Didn’t that ever occur to you?”
“Hey, shut up!” Chester yelled at the intercom to hide his shame at his now obvious stupidity. “It’s great to have 20/20 hindsight, I make mistakes.”
“Disregarding your lack of intelligence in trying to circumvent the tower, aren’t you at all concerned with the obvious deformation the radiation has caused you?”
Chester looked sheepishly at the glossy table before putting his face in his hands and saying through clenched teeth, “Actually, I’m not deformed…I always looked like this…can I go now?”
“OH MY GOD, YOU’VE ALWAYS LOOKED LIKE THAT? –ahem, sorry. My apologies. No, sir you can’t leave, at the very least we have to put you through a physical examination before we can clear you to leave.”
“Will there be probing of any kind?”
“Nothing more than what’s necessary…so yes, there will be some probing.”
“With those long rods those men are holding?” Chester asked fearfully.
“No, we use those on people who piss us off. You’re probing will be comfortable, but awkward…naturally.”
“I’m still not sure if I should consent to this…”
“You’re starting to piss us off, don’t make us use the long rods.”

After that, Chester enthusiastically supported a rod-less physical examination.
Twenty minutes later Chester and the doctor were avoiding eye contact as the doctor pulled off his Vaseline covered glove, “The ear, throat, and nose doctor will be with you in a minute…if you need to clean up there are some tissues over there.” The doctor left and within minutes a bright, cheerful, and rather chubby man waddled in with the stethoscope barely clinging onto his thick neck. “Well Mr…Harland,” he said looking at his chart, “I see by the paperwork here that you had a horrible accident that would normally cause certain death…hell of a day huh?”
“I’ve seen worse.”
“Wow, wouldn’t want to be you then. I’m Dr. Strathford; I’ll be examining you today. Could you please open your mouth as wide as you can?” he said as he was getting ready to shove the Popsicle stick into Chester’s mouth. Chester opened wide and Strathford poked around, tapping every edge with the stale wood.
“Well, everything appears to be in order…” Just then Strathford poked the gum line right behind Chester’s front teeth and a sound of venting gas permeated the room with a green mist. Strathford jumped back and Chester could feel his mouth and gums stretching with a terrible force. When the sound stopped and the mist stopped hanging eerily in the air, Strathford looked at Chester with a gaze of absolute terror.

“What’s the matter, what is it?” Chester asked. Strathford didn’t break his gaze as he handed a small mirror to Chester from the desk. Chester positioned the mirror and all he could see was an off white block of color staring back. The mirror was too small so he walked around the stunned Strathford into the bathroom to get a full length view. A small part of Chester’s mind blew a fuse when he saw what had happened: His already robust front teeth had grown to an insane proportion. He could now say without any hyperbole that his teeth were the size of dinner plates.
“ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TAKE A FUCKING WALK!” Chester screamed from the bathroom, and he brought his head down onto the counter and sobbed uncontrollably. Chester could have sobbed a pool of self-pity, and rightfully so, but when he raised his head he couldn’t help but notice that the front edge of the counter had just been sheared clean away. He didn’t know how it had happened but he didn’t want to pay for the damages, so he looked for the missing piece. He finally found it underneath his right front tooth; the cut was so clean it looked like it had been done by a circular saw. Chester wasn’t a genius, but he could put two and two together, and it suddenly occurred to him his grossly over sized teeth had done the damage.
Slowly the wheels turned, and then it hit Chester…he had SUPERTEETH! He had cut through a counter and not even felt it! He was invincible! Ugly as ever, but now he had super powers! If this didn’t get him a chick, nothing would. Chester ran out of the bathroom like an excited child and shoved the piece of counter in the face of the frozen, mortified, Dr. Strathford, “Look what I did! I’m like SUPERMAN, except, without any of those other powers…and big teeth…but it’s still cool!”
“That…umm…certainly is…something else,” Strathford groped for words in the face of Chester’s two titanic teeth. “Would you mind if I poked around some more…?”
Go ahead Doc,” Chester chuckled, “but watch out; these things are sharp, ha ha ha.”
Strathford wasn’t finding the situation as humorous, and had concluded that Chester had gone insane at the sight of his own hideous face. After a few seconds of continued prodding, Strathford hit the gum line underneath Chester’s protruding teeth again, and a similar venting sound/green mist process began. When that had stopped, Chester could feel his choppers had shrunk back to their normal size, relatively speaking. “Oh that is too cool!” Chester exclaimed, feeling around his gums, “I have like retractable fangs now…”
“Well they’re not really fangs,” Strathford blew Chester’s bubble; “Those aren’t your incisor teeth.”
“So what are they?”
“Well basically it’s an EXTREME overbite, or as it’s more commonly called, ‘buck teeth.’”
“Can I call them fangs at least?”
“Call them whatever you want, it won’t change what they are.”
“Damnit. Well, should I be concerned? I mean, this is pretty freaking weird…”
“Considering the power plant will probably deny you were ever here when they hear about this and I’m not a dentist, I think the best I can do is wish you good luck in getting a dental plan that would cover something like this.”

We’d all like to believe our nation’s power plants are run by caring individuals who don’t mind dealing with the occasional liability lawsuit, but life is cruel. So after 2 hours and roughly 67 miles down a nearly empty highway, Chester was unceremoniously tossed out of a moving van. Chester laid down for about an hour on the side of the sun parched highway, listening to the gentle cackles of the swirling vultures that hovered above him, contemplating the day’s events. A million thoughts ran through his mind: “Will this kill me?” “How do I get home?” “Why me?” “Oh crap, I’ve been gone for awhile, did I leave the oven on?” “Of all the super powers, why did God mock me with extra-extra large front teeth?” Chester raised himself off the ground, dusted himself off, swatted away an incoming vulture, and started to walk as far away from the van’s tire tracks as his legs would take him.

So after hitchhiking twice, stopping at three truck driver diner’s and dancing for spare change, being offered a position in a traveling freak show five times, and fending off four more vulture attacks, Chester stood on his shaky legs outside his apartment building. The elevator was broken, but Chester had become numb to his overwhelming plethora of bad luck and he trudged up the stairs to his apartment door. He used the key hidden in the floorboard to let himself in, and made a direct line for the kitchen where he started to heat some water for tea. He was about to sit down and pontificate on what his next course of action should be after such an absurd day, when his train of thought was interrupted by a high pitched shriek that ran into his ear and scrambled his brain.

Chester immediately got up and went to the door to see what the problem was. As he poked his head out he saw a man dart out of the apartment down the hall with a large bag under his arms while the screaming continued in the background. We don’t know why people do the things they do, but my guess would be Chester was tired of seeing the little man get stepped on, and he ran down the hall after the man. He tackled the man from behind and they tumbled down the stairs together awkwardly. As they reached the base, Chester took a header on one of the stairs and his teeth began to protrude amidst the standard sound of venting gas.

When they both got to their feet, the other man looked at Chester awkwardly, then reared back and punched him right in the teeth. The only sound was a metallic ring, followed by the sound of crunching bone. Chester didn’t feel a thing, but the man dropped the bag and grabbed his bleeding hand in pain. There was a moment of silent confusion before the man simply bolted past Chester as the sound of the screaming lady got closer and closer. Chester didn’t chase after him, but rather retracted his teeth, and grabbed the black bag so he could give it back to its proper owners.

He was met halfway by a rather attractive young lady who saw him with the bag, and immediately gave him a hearty hug of thanks. Chester didn’t know how to react seeing how this was the first time anyone but a physician had touched him in close to two years, so he simply said “Here,” and handed the bag to her.
“Oh thank you so much sir, I came home from the gym and saw that guy rooting around in my apartment. He just blew past me and grabbed my gym bag with my wallet in it. That’s the last time I don’t come straight home from work.”
“I’m happy to help…where do you work?”
“My employers rent out a space a few blocks down on 5th street.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a dentist.”
“Really…I just put on some tea, would you like to have some?”
“I’d love to.”
Sometimes heroes are born from the most unlikely of circumstances.

(To be continued…?)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Deadly Game: the Job Hunt...tribute edition

Before I started looking for my job in corporate America, I was a day laborer. I was a dishwasher, landscaper, even a bouncer. I can't say that I'm a blue collar worker though because I never made a life out of it. I never depended on these grueling jobs for my sole source of income, and I never reached a level of skill that would distinguish me in any of those professions. What I can say is that I gained a strong sense of admiration for those who spend a lifetime doing jobs that most of us would prefer to farm out to other people. Some of them hate their jobs, but a majority of the people I've met in these professions do it with a profound sense of passion. I admire the guts, the resolve, and the determination that alot of them possess despite the fact that they don't bring home massive paychecks. Also, to be truthful, they take alot of crap from a lot of very annoying people. So today I am paying tribute to them in one of the few ways I know how. The manly art of's manly damn you! Don't judge me!

Economic Infantry

Working-class people
Hang out in working-class places
You can tell them by the wear
On their working-class faces
Working-class people
Who gave up on dreams
Work for new reasons
And the working-class seems
To be just working for tomorrow
And maybe another chance
Waiting for someone
To give their working class a glance
They’re tired of the working-class struggle
Taking place from pole to pole
And they’re tired of the working-class shovels
That dug them into their working-class holes
They don’t want a new world
Maybe one with softer beds
And they won’t let a stylist
Touch their working-class threads
There is no working-class botox
No necessary chemical peels
Ain’t no beauty in the pain
That the working-class feels
There’s no working-class poetry
Their time is quite spoken for
Leave at dawn, return at dusk
Stumbling back through working-class doors
Yet they are the vanguard
The advancing front line of mankind
Who eat all the artillery
While the rest, rest behind
The factory workers and auto repair men
The miners, landscapers
And bouncers who scare men
The tailors, the day laborers
The dishwashers and cooks
Those that toil in freezers
Hanging meat through metal hooks
Grave diggers
Construction workers
Dock workers and dredgers
Ah, the mere infantry of life,
Poor beggars.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day...seriously.

This Saturday I, like most Americans, celebrated the 4th of July. I celebrated the same way most people did. I reveled in my freedom to grill food, watch fireworks and imbibe alcohol at an alarming rate (Make sure you don't combine alcohol consumption with fireworks. Every holiday is more fun when you have all you fingers and/or face). I was keenly aware of the historical implications of the date, but the day's agenda didn't include alot of introspection and solemn appreciation. And you know what? I'm tired of feeling bad about it.

It seems like every holiday there is someone in the back of the stands, reminding or even admonishing the majority on what the "purpose" of the holiday is. Thanksgiving isn't about parades, Christmas isn't about presents, Easter isn't about a gigantic mutated bunny, the fourth of July isn't about one is quite sure what Kwanza was about in the first place. I won't go as far as to call them party poopers, but only because their intentions are noble. Let's be honest with each other though, by any other standard they are party poopers.

Yes, Christmas is supposed to center on the birth of one religion's savior. However, your fondest and most enduring memories do not include your pastor's homilies. They include parties with extended family members, the rituals of decoration, or that time Grandma got irrevocably wasted because she didn't realize the egg-nog had alcohol in it.

Yes, Memorial Day is meant to honor those who have, and still do, defend their country with their lives in order to preserve the freedoms we enjoy daily. But are we meant to spend that day mourning them, or celebrating them? We don't forget the sacrfices of the armed forces when we shuck clams, take a day trip to the beach, or share a drink (whatever the amount may be) with our friends. We take one of the few days in the year we have off and we appreciate the freedom and peace granted to us by the brave men and women in uniform.

Obviously, the Fourth of July celebrates the end of a protracted war with a global superpower that eventually won us the right to have any national holidays at all. No matter how you celebrate this holiday, one thing should be universal: What was ultimately won was freedom. That's freedom to observe the holiday meditating in front of a giant flag, or to spend it celebrating your right to act like a drunken moron.

In the end, I feel like people get so caught up in the original intention of a holiday that they forget the underlying intention behind every holiday. Holidays are meant to bring us together when so many forces in our daily lives are trying to seperate us. It doesn't matter if you hold the Christmas tree in higher regard than the cross if you spend the holiday strengthening the relationships that make a life worth living.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Garlic Clove: the pilot

I was reading the online, humorous news source, The Onion recently and thought to myself, "this is hillarious, why can't I get a job doing this?" Then it occurred to me, you don't need to get paid to do something if you enjoy doing it. Besides the possibility of inadvertent plagarism or copyright infringement, what's to stop me from doing what The Onion does on my own time? So I took the bull by the horns (metaphorically of course, if I get near a bull I faint), and decided to do my own offshoot The Garlic Clove. I figured it works because they both have to be taken apart in layers, and both render your mouth un-kissable. My first fake news article focuses on an overlooked portion of those greiving the recent rash of celebrity deaths.

Chronic Masturbators mourn the death of Farrah Fawcett
The passing of any icon is never hard to swallow, but the passing of Farrah Fawcett has left a particularly painful void in the life of Jake Neeley and his son, Patrick. A former chronic masturbator before he met Patrick's mother Denise in the summer of 1987, now Jake is counseling his teenage son through the death of a masturbation icon.

"I couldn't believe it," said Jake now in his late forties, "I didn't want to. She was the original pin-up girl. I logged so many hours in front of that poster. It saw me through my entire adolescent and young adult life." His son also feels the sting, despite the age difference.

"Both me and Dad are pretty upset," he said casually while trying to nonchalantly put away a bottle of hand lotion on his night stand. "I mean, I know she was a bit before my time, but hey, so were the Beatles. All the girls I look at now who straddle the fine line between photography and porn, they all probably owe something to Farrah."

One of the hardest things about Farrah's death has been that it has, at least in the eyes of Jake Neeley and his son, tainted her body of work.

"I had to take down posters in the rec room, and throwaway the Playboy issue she was in," Jake stated sadly, shaking his head. "My son begged me not to, but I gotta' tell you, the idea of him manipulating himself to an image of a woman who passed on seems disrespectful...and kind of creepy."

"Dad thinks they went out in the garbage, but I couldnt let Farrah go out like that," Patrick whispered, "I'm going to pay tribute to her at least a couple more time before I can let her memory fade like that."

Both father and son worry who will fill that void left behind by Farrah. No one, in their eyes, is currently up to the task of filling such big shoes, or has the hair for it.

"I think we lost a real classy lady there," mourned Jake, almost in tears, "that was a woman you were proud to manipulate yourself to."

"Yeah," Patrick comforted his father, "I mean Meghan Fox is hot and everything, but she just doesn't have the 'it' factor that made Farrah such good fodder for masturbation."

Whatever the fate of chronic masturbators across the nation, many Kleenex tissues will be balled up and buried in the bottom of the trash can in her honor over the next few months.