Day One After 909: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer Of Quality Education

originally published June 28, 2014

It is the final day of classes. Just a day in the life of Mr. Maxwell, a grade six teacher who’ll be flying across the street to teach summer school next week. It’s not the end for him, just the annual hello/goodbye to this year’s crop of kids. The man has a real love for his profession, but something doesn’t feel right today. This boy wants a vacation. And his kids are running here, there and everywhere with the bottled-up energy of ten months’ anticipation of being – finally – free as a bird.

MAXWELL:  Good morning! Good morning everyone. Take a seat.

JIMMY: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes Jimmy?

JIMMY: I forgot to remember… to forget… to get a note from my mom about our end-of-year picnic today.

MAXWELL: I’ve got a feeling you’re still half-asleep. The picnic was last week. Remember the rain?

JIMMY: Right. Those three cool cats were sniffing an old brown shoe while two of us threw rocks at it by the new grazeeboo.

MAXWELL: The what? What’s the new – Mary-Jane, tell me why you just smacked Joey in the head? You can’t do that.

MARY-JANE: He told me, “Run for your life, cuz I’m searchin’ for a taste of honey, and baby, it’s you.” He’s always so bad to me!

JOEY: Oh yeah? Well she said… she said I was the sun king.

MARY-JANE: I did not!

MAXWELL: Alright, that’s enough. Mitchell, slow down and get back to your desk; you’re liable to trip and roll over Beethoven, the class gerbil, and I ain’t using my first aid skills for no one on the last day of school. *

MITCHELL: Yes Mr. Maxwell.

MAXWELL: Okay everyone. It’s the last day! Let’s talk about the summer. I’ll be on my way to the airport after dismissal today. I’m headed back in the USSR on a long, long, long flight (please let it be a smooth one). It won’t be long though, and I’ll be back here with another class of bad boys – sorry, just ‘boys’ – and girls. Ha ha.

JULIA: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes, Julia?

JULIA: Why do you call it the USSR? It’s Russia, isn’t it?

MAXWELL: I call it the USSR just as I call your name – it’s how I’ve always known it. You see, in my life there’s a place in my heart for Moscow in the 80’s. The inner light of that city always spoke to me; I’m so tired of hearing how bad it was back then. The night before I left last time, the warm and lovely Rita – she’s a girl I’d just met – whispered words of love into my ear. She said, “I need you to know that I’m happy just to dance with you, but that true happiness is a warm gun.” Yep, that’s what I loved about Moscow – the girl and the guns.

JULIA: Do you miss it?

MAXWELL: When I get home from Moscow in August I’ll be fixing a hole in my heart. I feel fine while I’m there, but I want to tell you that if I fell in love just once, it was with Moscow. I’d love you to see it in person. And the women are long… tall… Sally, quit passing notes! *

SALLY: But…

MAXWELL: No reply from you, not today. Arguing will get you nowhere, man – I don’t care if you think you’re not guilty. Now where was I?

JULIA: Moscow.

MAXWELL: Right! These were the days before the revolution.

HOWARD: The Russian Revolution?

MAXWELL: No, that was revolution 1. By the late 80’s I think they were up to revolution 9 or so – Glasnost. Anyway, there was Rita. She’s a woman who knows what goes on, if you catch my meaning. She was a wild honey pie, the kind who wouldn’t be afraid of saying, “Hey, why don’t we do it in the road after sundown?”

CLASS: <befuddled looks>

MAXWELL: So I’d wait and wait for her, like dreamers do. “I’ll follow the sun to your doorstep and wait beneath Mr. Moonlight until I’ll get you, in spite of all the danger. PS, I love you.”

LOUIS: Cheesy!

MAXWELL: Maybe. *

JULIA: I think it’s romantic. She loves you! Or ‘Sie liebt dich’ as my German aunt Maggie may say.

MAXWELL: Thank you, girl! But I think she loved some other guy. Oh, the misery. “It’s only love,” I’d tell myself. “I should have known better than to slide down the helter skelter of the heart.” But wow, when I saw her standing there beside that little child holding a matchbox and munching on a savoy truffle, I said, “I wanna be your man!”. But then came the end.  It was time to say goodbye.

JULIA: No!

MAXWELL: Yep. It was rough. “I’m a loser who can’t figure out the magical mystery tour of love!” I told myself. We fought, then she came in through the bathroom window one night to tell me she had a ticket to ride – that she’s leaving home for the land of the strawberry fields. Forever! “We can work it out,” I pleaded, but she shrugged and said, “That’ll be the day. I don’t want to hear about yer blues; our love is so yesterday. You like me too much, you never give me your money, and while I love the rock and roll music you brought into my country, I simply can’t live within you. Without you will have to do. You know my name – look up the number. You know what to do.” But she never told me where she was moving. ‘Land of the strawberry fields’??? Is that code?

JIMMY: I don’t think so.

MAXWELL: Think for yourself, Jimmy. <sighs> Love me, do not love me – Rita couldn’t choose. So while my guitar gently weeps for her when I play in my band on the weekends (with a little help from my friends, the Max-tones, of course), I’ve moved on to a better lady. Madonna said it best in “Papa Don’t Preach” when she said – Hey! Jude! I said no more passing notes! *

JUDE: How do you catch every little thing I do wrong?

MAXWELL: You’ll have to carry that weight of your bad luck eight days a week, Jude. Such are the chains of bad karma, y’dig it?

JUDE: All I’ve got to do is be more careful, because I want to get away with stuff any time at all.

MAXWELL:  You’re getting better at it. All you need is love and good deeds. All my loving balances out my bad karma.

ELEANOR: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes, Eleanor Rigby Bronskowitz?

ELEANOR: How do you do it?

MAXWELL: What do you mean? Tell me what you see me doing.

ELEANOR: For you, blue shouldn’t be an option. You should be happy! What I’ve learned from the things we said today is that if you’ve got trouble – like your love for Rita not working out – why not just track her down and tell her, “I’ve got to get you into my life, somehow, some way?”

MAXWELL: It’s not that simple.

ELEANOR: Yes it is!

MAXWELL: Honey, don’t argue with me. Look, today I’m down about it. I will bounce back, and tomorrow I’ll have the landscape of Moscow to hold me tight. I’ll cry instead of searching for her – there’s no point! Tomorrow never knows what the piggies of yesterday might reap.

LOUIS: Huh?

MAXWELL: It’s all too much to cram into a metaphor. Look, I know what you’re doing – you really got a hold on me feelings and such, but there’s no point. Love may be an octopus’s garden of delights, but eternal love is only a northern song lyric – it ain’t real. Sometimes you’ve got to hide your love away or else you’re going to lose that girl. *

MARTHA: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes, Martha my dear?

MARTHA: What is sex?

SADIE: EEEEEEEE –

MAXWELL: Sadie! Don’t interrupt!

SADIE: – EEEEWWWW!!!!

MAXWELL: Martha, your mother should know. Ask her. Dammit, Pedro! I want to hold your hand and drag you to the office – I said no more passing notes! I’m not going to warn you again, not a second time!

JULIA: Or, ‘komm, gib mir deine hand’ as my German aunt Maggie may say.

MAXWELL: Thank you, Julia. I want a postcard if you travel this summer. Don’t let me down or I’ll be begging my mailman: “Please, Mr. Postman! Don’t pass me by! Please! Please! Me old friend Julia is sending me a postcard, I know it!”

JULIA: <giggles>

MAXWELL: Ain’t she sweet? Hey everyone, do you want to know a secret? We have some time for questions before the year-end assembly. Dear Prudence, why don’t you start?

PRUDENCE: No please, start with another girl.

MAXWELL: Okay then. Hello, little girl! What’s up with her majesty, queen Michelle?

MICHELLE: Can you please tell the foreign kid I want my paper back?

MAXWELL: Right. Er… can you please call him by his name?

MICHELLE: I can’t pronounce it! Obla Diyobla?

OBLA: Da. That is good.

MAXWELL: Brendan, what are you doing?

BRENDAN: I’m only sleeping, Mr. Maxwell! Louis, lend me your comb; I think he’s going to send me down to see mean Mr. Mustard.

MAXWELL: You’re damn right. To the principal’s office. Now.

BRENDAN: Aww….  <leaves>  *

MAXWELL: Anna, go to him too. That’s it for passing notes.

GERTIE: There’s a blackbird outside the window! I have one of those in a cage at home!

TROY: And your bird can sing louder than your mom, I know.

GERTIE: Shut up, Troy. And look at that blue jay, way over by the playground!

MAXWELL: Okay, okay, I know you’re all excited. It’s a good day – sunshine, cool breezes, a brilliant blue above, like a loose sea in the sky, with diamonds of clouds speckling the view. It’s a glorious display of polythene – Pam? You have a question?

PAM: What are you talking about?

MAXWELL: Just getting a little poetic. You won’t see me again until the fall, and by then I’ll either be exhausted from a hard day’s night of travel from Moscow, or else I’ll be jilting the taxman who’ll come looking for my money. That’s what I want to do – spend all my money before my birthday, then tell the taxman, “don’t bother me” when he shows up to collect. I’ll just drive my car across the universe and back.

YOLANDA: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Yes, Yolanda?

YOLANDA: I lost my little girl-shaped cookie. It was going to be a gift from me to you, but now it’s gone! This morning I was crying, waiting, hoping you’d like it, but now I’ll never know! <cries>

LOUIS: <quietly, to Jimmy> That girl will cry for a shadow. She needs help!

MAXWELL: Don’t listen to them, Yolanda. Cry, baby. Cry all you want. As for you, Louis, I’m looking through you. I’ve just seen a face made of cookie icing poking out of your backpack. You think I’m the fool on the hill up here? That I don’t see everything?

LOUIS: But…

MAXWELL: You aren’t sneaky, Louis. Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey, but I am the walrus of wisdom. Don’t think kids didn’t know how to steal stuff till there was you. Give it back.  *

LOUIS: Alright. <he gives the cookie to Yolanda>

MAXWELL: Anna? What are you still doing here? To the office, I said! I’ve been waiting all day – trip ‘er and you’ll be off to the office too, Louis. Tuck in your leg. Anyway, I’ve been waiting all day to hear what you kids are up to this summer.

ELIZABETH: Ask me why I’m so happy!

MAXWELL: Because you’ve been running around in circles until you were dizzy? Miss Lizzie, that’s just a joke.

ELIZABETH: I know! My family is going to Kansas City!

MAXWELL: Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! That’s a great place! If I needed someone to show me the beauty of Missouri, that’s where I’d go. What’s wrong, Penny?

PENNY: Lane stole the picture I drawed!

MAXWELL: Drew, Penny. The word is drew. Jeez, ten months and I couldn’t twist and shout proper grammar into your head, hey?

PENNY: <to Lane> Leave my kitten alone! I drawed that for Rocky!

LANE: Raccoon! It ain’t no kitty, it’s a raccoon! Look – the word at the bottom, it says ‘raccoon’!

OBLA: You kids all be same. Much o’ this make no sense to Obla.

MAXWELL: Settle down, everyone. Lane, give her back the picture. Oh! Darling Naomi don’t enter those golden slumbers like Brendan did. You have all summer to sleep. Okay, let’s come together as a class one more time. Any more questions?

BECKY: There’s a bulldog outside!

MAXWELL: That’s nice, Becky.

BECKY: Hey! Bulldog poop!

MAXWELL: Focus, everyone. We’ve got just a few more minutes in this yellow submarine of a room. Man, I hope they paint over the summer. Besides, I know that bulldog. There’s a devil in her heart; she poops in the playground every day, honey pie. *

RACHEL: I have a question! I want you –

LOUIS: <quietly, to Jimmy again> She’s so heavy!

MAXWELL: Louis! To the office! It’s the last day of school, with mother nature’s sun blasting a carnival of light from the sky like a magical glass onion. No need to be a little asshole or I will keep you after school on the last day. What were you saying, Rachel?

RACHEL: Will you ever move to Russia?

MAXWELL: It’s the long and winding road of paperwork to move to Russia that’s holding me back. Maybe after I retire, when I’m sixty-four or sixty-five. Besides, baby, you’re a rich man from inheritance if you can simply up and move around the world on a teacher’s salary.

OBLA: You can’t buy me love. Not for sale. Not I, me, mine or myself’s.

MAXWELL: Right. Thanks, Obla.

TERRENCE: I am being, for the benefit of Mr. Kite, our shop teacher, a wood-saw for Halloween!

MAXWELL: We weren’t talking about that, but that’s great, Terrence. Monty, what are you drawing?

MONTY: It’s a bunch of babies in black makeup. Kind of a goth album cover for this 12-bar original song I wrote. It’s called, “You’ll Be Mine Or Else.”

MAXWELL: Cool! What does it sound like?

MONTY: Have you ever heard of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

MAXWELL: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

JULIA: “Re: prize”. I just got an email with the subject line “Re: Prize”! Do you think I won something?

MAXWELL: Julia, what have I told you about checking email in class?

BILL: Mr. Maxwell?

MAXWELL: Ah, another chapter from the continuing story of Bungalow Bill! Here comes the son of Doctor Robert Grossman, my chiropodist, with another great question.

BILL: I want to be Norwegian. Would…

JIMMY: <quietly, to anyone who’ll listen> This bird has flown out of his mind!

BILL: …that be possible?

MAXWELL: If you go to Oslo and act naturally, eventually you can be. Oh, and quit dressing like the sheik of Araby. Norwegians dress just like us.

JULIA: Mr. Maxwell, will you ever try to find Rita?

MAXWELL: Look, I don’t want to spoil the party, kids, but it’s time to head to that assembly then out the doors for summer. I’d love to stay and chat until Christmas time is here again – and I love her, Julia, I do, but it wasn’t meant to be. Single-file, kids. And because I won’t see you again for a couple months, let’s say it all together now:

ALL: Good night!

Day 900: All The #1 Hits Of The 1990’s, In Dialogue Form

originally published June 18, 2014

“What are you going to do for Day 900?”

People have been stopping me on the streets and demanding this information for weeks now. Pretend people, sure, but then they’ve also been on pretend streets so that cancels out the white lie. Anyway, the answer is “pizza” because I just ate some pizza and I don’t really feel like flexing my imagination today. Also, I will incorporate the titles of every song to hit #1 on the Billboard charts in the 1990s. Yes, all of them.

After recently imbibing a cigarette of curious origin, a man (MAC) and his wife (JEAN) call up their regular pizza guy (LOU) in hopes of ordering something that will conquer their suddenly mighty hunger.

MAC: Hey Lou, it’s Mac. I’m hungry. Again.

LOU: Mac! A-rain-a, or a-shine-a, you truly, madly deeply love-a your pizza!

MAC: …

LOU: Mac?

MAC: What… are you doing some sort of accent now? You trying to freak me out?

LOU: Heh. For me this is the first night back at work, one week after I dropped on bended knee to propose to my dreamlover. I’m just full of good vibrations and warm emotions, my friend!

MAC: Ah, the mighty power of love. No offense, but every creep takes a joyride with the right girl eventually, then boom! You’re in love.

LOU: This is a good thing though!

MAC: I don’t have the heart to tell you the truth, Lou. Sure, your vision of love is unbelievable today. She wants to be with you and she’s your fantasy. Right. But have you ever really loved a woman, Lou?

LOU: I swear, as water falls from the sky, I don’t have to justify my love to you, Mac. I feel more than words about her. Everything I do, I do for you-know-who.

MAC: Sure, sure. It’s the promise of a new day today. But someday she’ll find you weak. She’ll yell, “Jump!” and you’ll be expected to say “I’ll be there!” That’s the way love goes, Lou. Then she’ll be all like “But I’m your angel!” and you’ll fall for it the first time, maybe the second. You’ll be together again, but only because she will hypnotize you.

LOU: Mac, I adore me amor. I believe she’s no unpretty heartbreaker. She’s an angel of mine, Mac. I don’t want to cry about the end of the road.

MAC: This used to be my playground, Lou. That’s all I’m saying. When a man loves a woman, he does it all 4 love – he can’t help falling in love. But love is a gangsta’s paradise. One sweet day you’re her genie in a bottle, the next she’ll say you’re too close. And you’ll wish you were still her candle in the wind. 97 times I’ve lived through this, I’m telling you..

LOU: I wanna believe you have my best interests at heart because you loved me my friend, but please release me from this black velvet escapade of negativity. Love takes time.

MAC: You’re just set adrift on memory bliss, my friend.

LOU: What does that even mean?

MAC: I don’t know. Had to shoehorn that one in.

At this point, JEAN picks up another extension – yes, she and MAC still have a land-line.

JEAN: Hold on, Mac. I don’t want to miss a thing about this conversation.

MAC: Uh-oh. Here comes the hotstepper.

JEAN: It must have been love blinding me all these years. I’ve been thinking about your words, and I’m starting to think that I’m too sexy to be with you.

MAC: Baby, baby… don’t say that. I can’t live without your love and affection! I’m your baby tonight and every night – you’ll always be my baby! I was just – ”

JEAN: Just begging for 4 seasons of loneliness?

MAC: No! Let me explain, baby, one more time.

JEAN: Shut up. I’m gonna make you sweat for a little bit before I give you one more try. Look Mac, I will always love you, but it sounds like Lou is at tha crossroads of his life. He’s not looking to be livin’ la vida loca, or to be gettin’ jiggy wit it – he wants to take it nice and slow.

LOU: All my life I’ve waited for someone to be my all.

JEAN: I know, honey. You are not alone in that. But for those of us who are romantic, this is how we do it: all for love, right?

MAC: Baby, you’re makin’ me high with all this romance talk. Something about the way you look tonight has me all hot. I’ll make love to you if you want. We can even invite Lou! How do u want it? A little… California love? Let’s let it flow.

JEAN: I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that. I’m outa here until you can un-break my heart.

MAC: <snorts> I’ll be missing you, but my heart will go on.

JEAN: Seriously? Have you ever considered how much opposites attract? Love will lead you back to me and I’ll be your everything – just wait.

MAC: How am I supposed to live without you? Come on, baby. You’re my black cat! Nothing compares 2 u, and I’m not just saying that because your hairstyle is in vogue.

LOU: Stop fighting, you two! I’m praying for time like you have together; if wishes came true, I’d live in a whole new world just like yours. Can’t nobody hold me down from that dream.

MAC: <sighs> He’s right. I’m sorry Jean. Lately I’ve been distracted by bills, bills, bills, but if you had my love for a second you’ve had it for a lifetime. Please stay. I missed you when you were gone last week.

LOU: She was gone?

MAC: Yeah, my baby got back from Phoenix just yesterday. How do you talk to an angel across the country with no decent long distance plan?

JEAN: <giggles> The boy is mine, no question, all the man that I need. Because I love you, I’ll forgive you.

LOU: So… I like the way you guys banter, but do you guys want to order a pizza? Don’t let the sun go down on me – we’re closing at dusk today.

MAC: Sure thing, we’ll get to it before the sign says you’re closed. Whew! Time to exhale – shoop shoop some pepperoni on that baby.

LOU: Got it. We’re using a new brand of pepperoni – it’s incredible.

MAC: Mmm. Bop a little extra on there then.

LOU: Check.

JEAN: My love will never do without banana peppers.

MAC: Damn right!

LOU: We can do that. We slice them extra thin…

MAC: You don’t need to take me through it step by step.

LOU: Sorry, just being a helpful informer.

MAC: Oh, and no diggity and no scrubs please.

LOU: No… what?

MAC: That’s street-slang for onions and anchovies. You don’t know those?

JEAN: Oooh, and some of that smooth, wild, wild west hot sauce!

LOU: Done. Do you want the usual cups of large sprite?

MAC: With extra ice. Ice, baby. That’s what makes Sprite great.

JEAN: And a hero sandwich for lunch tomorrow. Damn, I need to roll up another one.

MAC: Yeah, we could use a good blaze of glory before the food arrives. Ooh! And I thought I’d save the best for last. Two black or white cookies, Lou!

LOU: They’re black and white. Your total is $49.96.

JEAN: Ugh. That’s a lot. Mo’ money, mo’ problems – we don’t have that much on hand.

MAC: Yeah, forget the cookies. But two coffees, both with cream.

LOU: Tell you what – I’ll throw in a kiss from a Rose. Rose is our assistant manager – she bought a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses and I’ll throw one in for each of you.

JEAN: You’re the best!

MAC: I feel really close to you, Lou. Can I give you one last piece of advice?

LOU: Bailamos. That’s Spanish or something for “we dance”. So by that I mean ‘yes’.

MAC: Don’t rush rush when you’re doing the ol’ bump ‘n grind. If you’re coming out of the dark – meaning you leave the lights on – you should take it slow and take a bow. If she doesn’t appreciate your tenderness, she ain’t worth it.

LOU: Got it. Thanks.

MAC: Hey – do that accent for Jean. Doo wop, that thing you did when you answered the phone.

LOU: You’ll-a get your-a pizza in twenty-a minutes!

JEAN: You guys are both idiots.

Day 892: 8 Obscure Poetry Forms For The Love Of 80s Movies

originally published June 10, 2014

I have a tendency to mistrust my own ambition. One morning I felt the urge to spend that day’s kilograph using however many haikus would be necessary to fill a thousand words (eight-two, apparently). Another day had me wrestling to produce nine Shakespearean sonnets, adhering as closely as possible to the specific rules the Bard created for himself. Once I stuck my e-quill into the murky ink of limericks. Every time I drift from prose into the rhymey, heavily-structured stuff it sucks up most of my daylight hours.

Yet here I go again, this time seeking the lesser-known twists of poetic construct, and aiming to siphon yet another perfectly good weekday into the mire of make-workery. Such is the sacrifice that I shall make for you, the reader of my manifesto of madness.

And because nothing is really drop-kicking my heart of hearts between the uprights of noble inspiration this morning, I’m going to use films from the 1980s as my muse. Suck it, romanticism.

I’ll start with a seguidilla, a Spanish form of verse with a specific syllable count (7,5,7,5,5,7,5) and rhyme scheme (x,A,x,A,B,x,B).

Consider: five lives meeting,

locked in detention;

overcoming plot points, and

child-scar retention;

it might happen there –

in Fiction, Illinois, sure;

fist-pump in the air!

I’m not winning any awards with these – best to accept that early on and continue.

For my erasure, a form of ‘found poetry’ in which the words of another piece of text are erased, leaving something that might resemble a piece of poetry, I’m borrowing from James Earl Jones’ monologue from Field Of Dreams.

They’ll come to your driveway

They’ll arrive for twenty dollars

And they’ll sit on children.

Heroes dipped in magic so thick, they’ll come.

People, Ray.

Ray, baseball.

Steamrollers erased our past, Ray.

People, Ray.

People.

I think it makes the same point as the original, but with greater brevity. Sort of.

A clerihew is a quick, four-line biographical poem with irregular lines, an AABB rhyme scheme, and a whimsical structure. Since ‘whimsical’ is a must, I feel I should write one of these for the film Sophie’s Choice.

Sophie had a crappy day

They (spoiler!) took her kid away.

And though she fooled around with a guy named Spingo

Did it still hurt like hell? That’s a bingo!

Wow. Even with the fun Nazi reference to Inglourious Basterds, I still feel filthy after writing that.

A cadae is a poem based on math, because the people who develop new forms of poetry are unnaturally cruel. Each stanza of the poem contains 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines, representing the first numbers of pi. Also, each line contains the corresponding number of syllables, because why make this easy?

To sum up: five stanzas with the line count above. Syllable count in each line should match pi’s digits: 3.1415926535897.

Since these poems are all about pi, I’ll write one about the greatest pie scene of the decade, from Stand By Me.

A large kid –

Huge –

Davie Hogan.

Loathed.

“Lardass” to others,

He plots an elaborate revenge:

Contest.

Comeuppance through baked goods.

“Boom-baba-boom.” Dicks.

Castor oil,

raw egg for the win!

He launches a well-placed, vulgar,

purple vomit-bomb. He sits back, chills,

and lets those jerks drown themselves.

I have never been so proud of myself for something so… vaguely inappropriate.

A fib is similar to the cadae, in that it uses math so as to challenge the poet into not going insane under such weird constraints. Rather than revolve around pi, the fib involves the Fibonacci sequence, that string of numbers wherein the next in the series is the sum of the previous two numbers. This creates a poem of six lines, with a Fibonacci syllable count: 1/1/2/3/5/8. One could go further, but by line twelve you’d need to fit 144 syllables in, and who wants to put in that kind of effort?

Grace,

this

snot-nosed

punk – Ferris –

he’s lying; he won’t

leave my cheese out in the wind, Grace.

Is this great art? No. Will I hit my daily quota and learn something about poetic forms that I’ll probably never even think of again? I guess. Do I hate it when people ask themselves easy set-up questions and then answer them? Yes, and I should stop this immediately.

I’m a big fan of the pruntiform poem, mostly because it doesn’t rhyme, giving me one less thing to worry about. The idea with these is that you can read the first line across and down, as the first words of all subsequent lines. American poet Randy Prunty invented this format. Congratulations, Randy. You’ve gone down in history.

Axel, this mystery will lead you west to fight another;

This darkness, this murder – shrouded in sulphurous

Mystery; hold tight to the truck-chains, steal hotel robes.

Will Serge make you coffee with a lemon twist?

Lead role as Balki he’ll take soon – but this is not your concern;

You must dig beneath coffee to find drugs in the warehouse –

West coast white people wear funny jackets…

To the strip club with Rosewood and Taggart with ye!

Fight Victor Maitland; there’s no concealing he’s the bad guy.

Another use for a banana you’ll find in your travels.

It’s hard to imagine I’m giving all this poetic fortitude to the masses on the internet for free, isn’t it?

Next I’ll try a little scifaiku – the science-fiction variant on the haiku form. The only differences are that they must have something to do with sci-fi or fantasy (obviously), and while minimalism is key, they can deviate from the 5-7-5 syllable structure of the haiku if necessary. Screw that – where’s the fun in this exercise if I’m not blindly adhering to structure?

Cute, crafty Muppets

Time to hoist those swinging logs;

Can’t use a blaster?

The tetractys is yet another exercise in syllable-counting. Just as the tetrad is a sacred triangle, the related poem is set up in much the same way. The first line is one syllable, then two, then three, then four, then ten. I don’t know why ten and not five – ask the ancient Pythagoreans.

“Karl

you should

have heard your

brother squeal when

I broke his fucking neck,” said John McClane.

Poetry is meant to touch the soul, and if your soul was raised on 80’s flicks like mine, I hope I inspired a tear. If not a tear, then some longing nestled within the cradle of your heart’s memory that cultivated a yearning for… oh, what’s that? I hit my thousand word quota? Should I stop writing now?

Yes. Yes I should.

Day 750: The Celebrity Strangeness Quiz

originally published January 19, 2014

While in the next room my wife is no doubt running the trumpeters through a quick rehearsal of the jazzed-up fanfare that will herald the massive party she is throwing in my honor, I’m going to flex my consonants and stretch my vowels for the final 250-day sprint to the finish line. I’m right on course with this project, having achieved my goals of graduating from University and acquiring a paid gig spewing words onto a screen. All that’s left is an upgrade to my day job, perhaps the shedding of a few pounds and having Scarlett Johansson sing me an acoustic cover of Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection album while I feast on bacon and hummus.

But then I don’t know the details of the party next door. Maybe that’ll come off my list today.

For an insatiable snarfer of inconsequential trivia, this project has been a god-send of forgettable (though momentarily nod-worthy) factoids and tiddly-bits. It’s been a treat finding so many wonky folds of space-time that have overlapped with my daily topics and rewarded me for having scooped up all this pop-cultural flotsam. Today I’m going to treat my readers to some of the great weirdness upon the Hollywood petri dish. Today’s quiz is a glob of some of the weirdest facts I could find about A-list stars. The answers are, as always, linked at the end of each question.

  1. One year after serving as an usher at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, this actor took the Morehouse College board of trustees hostage (including Martin Luther King Sr.), refusing to release them until the school agreed to reform its curriculum and policies. He won, but was then convicted of unlawful confinement and kicked out of school for two years. Answer.
  2. At the age of 22, this star became a New York City Firefighter, a job he held for five years before quitting to pursue acting. During the hazy aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when headlines were breezing by in a blur of carnage and horror, this guy re-enlisted with his old firehouse and spent several 12-hour shifts sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center, looking for survivors. Answer.
  3. This magnificent actor fought to join the US Air Force during World War II, heading up the 703rd Bombardment Squadron. He earned two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and a heap of other shiny doodads for blowing up a bunch of Nazi stuff. He came home and stuck with the USAF Reserve after the war, eventually reaching the rank of Brigadier General. He even participated on a mission in Vietnam. By the 1980’s, he was one of the most respected men in movie history, and quite literally the very model of a modern Major General. Answer.
  4. It’s one thing to be a famous actress, but quite another when you’ve got a beefy family history to stand upon. This lady’s family includes several famous British politicians and noblemen, a maternal grandmother who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, and a great-great grandfather who happened to be the Prime Minster of Britain from 1908 to 1916. Her mother is a psychotherapist, and this actress regularly discusses her characters with her in order to work through their psychological motivations. Some people become stars through leaked sex tapes and professional whoredom – this lady pours her sweat into every role. Answer.
  5. Hooked on cocaine at 13, this actor is probably lucky to still be alive. He was charged with attempted murder at 16 for bashing a Vietnamese man’s head with a wooden stick and blinding another one in one eye. At 21 he broke a neighbor’s jaw and went to prison for assault. Luckily, his “good vibrations” led him from a cell to a recording studio and eventually to the big screen. Answer.
  6. This actor met his current wife in 1984 when he played a bad guy on one episode of the show Airwolf, while she played his terrified hostage. Not really that mesmerizing a story, but I wanted an excuse to mention this guy because he’s just awesome. Answer.
  7. If this writer/actor is technically on Hollywood’s A-List, he has probably found something about it to complain about. He was a writer on Saturday Night Live for one season in the mid-80’s, scoring only one on-air sketch. That lone piece was plopped into the 12:50 slot, right before the end of the show when only the insomniacs are still watching. Answer.
  8. Her grandfather was an acclaimed stage and screen actor, her father directed some of the greatest films of the past century (and won two Academy Awards), and her nephew plays the masked bad-ass Richard Harrow on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. What the hell is it with these Hollywood family dynasties? Answer.
  9. This guy returned to New York University in 1994 to complete his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. By then he was already able to score a table at any restaurant in the city, he was locked into one of the longest-lasting modern celebrity marriages (hey, nine years ain’t bad), and he had no legitimate vocational need for a college degree. I guess he just wanted to learn how to work his craft well, rather than ride his celebrity status into easy money. Probably why everybody (except the occasional paparazzo photographer) likes the guy. Answer.
  10. Years ago, my wife and I took an early, pre-Facebook online quiz to determine our celebrity spouses. She got Mike Myers (this was pre-Love Guru so that wasn’t an embarrassing result) and I got this woman, which worked out well since I’ve had a star-crush on her for as long as I can remember. I was able to look past her boozing at Studio 54 (at age 11), heavy pot-smoking (age 12), and bizarre 3-month habitation with David Crosby in an attempt to get sober. I’m pretty sure my window of opportunity (which – let’s face it – never really existed to begin with) is shut by now. Answer.
  11. Despite having scored the same legal team that kept O.J. Simpson out of prison in the mid-90’s, this actor was still sent to the joint for 3 years for being unable to control his substance abuse problems. He was once busted for wandering into a neighbor’s home by accident and falling asleep on one of the beds. On another occasion he was caught driving his Porsche naked, with some coke, some heroin and a .357 Magnum on the seat beside him. Talk about committing to one’s own downfall. Answer.
  12. This director, whose movies have been cloaked in ominous darkness, co-wrote the screenplay for Stewart Little in 1999. He was also revealed to have been the ghost writer of the fluffy teen comedy She’s All That, and was in line to write the fourth Indiana Jones film for a while. Perhaps the strangest twist in this guy’s life was when a Sci-Fi Channel documentary in 2004 revealed that he had been dead for nearly 30 minutes in a frozen pond as a child, and since then has been able to communicate with spirits. Okay, it was all a hoax. But someone must have believed it, at least for a few minutes. Answer.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck around this long, and who has continued to give me an audience for my ramblings for over two years. 250 days to go… then I sleep.

Day 700: What The Hell Drugs Did I Take? – A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story

originally published November 30, 2013

When that girl at the party slipped you a tablet of something she described as “kind of like E”, you simply went with it. After all, you’re young, you work out, and that bacon-laced poutine you ate for dinner should keep anything you ingest in check, right?

Except that you aren’t at that party anymore, you can’t remember how you ended up in this stairwell, and your fingertips feel like pencil erasers. This isn’t good. Your phone is missing from your pocket, and your left foot is slightly colder than your right. You suddenly remember you have to meet your girlfriend in front of her apartment at 10:30, but you gave your watch away to that Armenian hobo with the up-turned eyelid last week in an act of confused generosity.

It’s time to take action. The drugs are oozing into your brainstem and you need to move forward.

If you run down the stairs to street level, turn to section 2

If you run up to the roof, turn to section 3

2

You burst onto a bustling Williamsburg, Brooklyn street. At least you’re pretty sure you’re still in Williamsburg: a disturbing number of people are sporting ironically thick-framed glasses and at least two cars in earshot are listening loudly to Mumford and Sons. Seems about right.

A digital clock across the street informs you that it’s 10:16. You’ll never make it to your girlfriend’s place in Park Slope, not by 10:30. Also, the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower a few blocks to your left has just turned into a wobbly cartoon stack of dishes, topped by a Red-lipped batfish. And it’s looking right at you.

If you panic and run across the street, turn to section 6

If you clamber into the sewer grate beside you, turn to section 17

3

You sprint onto the roof, six stories above street level. This frantic burst of energy has caused your bacon-poutine to retaliate and charge forth from your innards in a Technicolor display of firework-juice and half-crushed styrofoam peanuts. You struggle for balance and observe a massive digital clock across the street that reads 10:17. You’ll never make it in time.

You gather your senses, brush your shirt clean of potato-chunks with your rubbery fingers, and look around for something you can use. You spot two things: a backpack and a large red and white zeppelin.

If you open the backpack, turn to section 7

If you climb in the zeppelin, turn to section 11

If you do nothing but sit down and wait for the situation to resolve itself, turn to section 18

4

You give up. You slump down in the alley in a pool of what might be urine, or possibly the fluid that has been building in your left shoe. It doesn’t matter anymore. Your last thought before you drift into unconsciousness is whether or not that Puerto Rican lady at the CVS near your apartment will let you trade in this slightly-used nail file for an eyepatch. Probably not. The end.

5

You skirt around the outside of the game. It takes you about three minutes (though it feels more like forty), and your foot is practically numb now. You are about to call out to your girlfriend, who seems quite engrossed in playing Candy Crush on her phone, when a homeless man steps in front of you and asks if you can spare a dollar.

If you give the homeless man a dollar, turn to section 12

If you lie and tell him you don’t have a dollar, turn to section 23

If you’re honest and say you simply don’t want to, turn to section 29

6

You just panicked and ran across a New York City street. What were you thinking? You are immediately mowed down by a taxi (which you could have hailed, but I didn’t give you the option because I’m the author and I’m allowed to be an asshole), and then stabbed by an undetermined number of passers-by, just because you were stupid. The end.

7

The backpack turns out to be a parachute, and just as you open it, a gust of wind swoops in and blows you right off the roof. You start to freak out, but your arm is looped through one of the straps and you quickly realize you’re being flown through the air in the general direction of Park Slope. This could be the miracle you’ve been waiting for.

Beneath you the streets look like overturned Lego. Whatever was in that pill you took, it might be a bit too strong for your system. Also, you’re getting really concerned about the chill surrounding your left foot.

You land in Prospect Park, just a short stroll from your girlfriend’s place. You’re going to make it!

If you perform a dance of joy, turn to section 13

If you sprint through the park, turn to section 21

8

Trees, trees and more trees. It must be almost 10:30 now, right? Where the hell is the end of this park and how far away is your girlfriend’s place? And what was in that pill you took?

No time to think – you continue forward. There’s a fallen tree in front of you, but you think you can see some sign of life just beyond it.

If you climb over the fallen tree and continue onward, turn to section 16

If you continue through the trees around it, turn to section 27

9

You land on the hippo and realize immediately that it isn’t a hippo. It’s a submarine! No wait… it’s the starting lineup of the 1987 Notre Dame basketball team, gathered under a grey tarp! No wait… it’s a pile of garbage bags! No wait… it’s ninety-seven mohair sweaters stitched together and stuffed with old Domino’s Pizza boxes! No wait… yeah, it’s garbage bags, you were right. But the drugs remind you that sometimes garbage bags can fly. You squint really hard and try to will this heap of trash into the air, but it doesn’t happen.

Also, you pass out. You wake up the next morning, certain you’ve been dumped by your girlfriend and more than a little concerned about your left foot. Also, your pants are missing.

To be continued in my next book: Where The Hell Are My Pants? The end.

10

You make it about two-thirds of the way when you feel the familiar thud of a Frisbee making contact with your temple. The world swoons and flips upside down, and suddenly a guy with blonde dreadlocks is leaning over you, saying, “You should really get your foot checked out, dude. Also I think I dented your skull with my ‘zbee.”

“No one calls it that!” you cry as you clamber to your feet. In a rage you hurl the Frisbee as hard as you can. It sails up, up, over your girlfriend’s building, quite possibly as far as Queens. The players around you are in awe.

“This is, like, your calling, brah!” breathes an excited skinny vegan in a tattered Widespread Panic t-shirt.

You decide to ditch your girlfriend, seek out more of whatever the hell this drug was, and begin a new life as a professional Ultimate Frisbeeist. You are the flag-bearer when the sport is inducted into the 2024 Olympics, but you end up with the silver medal when an ACL sprain hinders you in the medal round. So close! The end.

11

You clamber into the zeppelin and quickly orient yourself with the controls. In a flash you are aloft, swooping through the streets of Brooklyn like you’ve been flying these things all your life. You try a barrel roll. It works! You try another. Success! Your left foot is feeling increasingly cold, but you don’t care. You’re an ace zeppelin pilot! You expertly land in the park across the street from your girlfriend’s house. Well done!

Turn to section 22

12

You fish through your pockets and hand a dollar to the homeless man. You call out your girlfriend’s name and she waves. You did it! Your left foot has no feeling left, but you did it! The homeless man gapes at the dollar.

“Sweet Jesus,” he utters in a voice that sounds like it was dipped in caramel and rolled in gravel. “This is a 1935A experimental silver certificate dollar bill! I can reclaim my fortune by cashing this in! Thank you kind sir!”

“It’s a what?” you ask, dumbfounded. You move in closer to see, at which point he stabs you with a shiv.

“You’d make a rotten zebra-hoister,” he tells you. As the blood drains from your side, you feel both drenched in utter confusion and a little pissed off that this will be the last sentence you ever hear. What the hell? The end.

13

You begin dancing a jig, while the drugs in your system graciously supply the music to your brain. It’s a rhythmic jam, hypnotic and entrancing. Your feet don’t want to stop – well, your left foot does; it’s almost frozen. But you dance on.

A gaggle of Hare Krishnas wander by and join you. This feeling is exquisite, like swimming through a giant teacup filled with gummy bears. Your arms sway like gaseous noodles. Your hips gyrate with the magnitude of a lateral gravity. But no matter – this dance has become the defining moment of your life. You don’t even notice when the Hare Krishnas scatter after the police officers show up. It’s only when you realize you’re in a jail cell that you finally stop. You might have gone too far. If only you could remember your lawyer’s phone number, or for that matter his name. The end.

Turn to section 19

14

These drugs must be stronger than you’d thought. Those aren’t neo-nazis, in fact they’re a kindly group of elderly ladies, returning from a fun-filled afternoon in Manhattan where they saw a matinee performance of Jersey Boys. You realize this with relief, and ask them if they know the quickest way for you to get to Park Slope.

Unfortunately, your words come out all mangled and twisted, sounding like, “Gobbum majalla ploonfig yerp falloo Park Slope?” One of the ladies screams and jams a nail file in your right eyeball before they all run out of the alley.

If you give chase, turn to section 20

If you give up, turn to section 4

15

There’s nothing here. No choices would have brought you to this section, so if you’re reading this you’ve either flipped here by accident or you’re cheating. For shame.

16

Another thirty seconds of walking through the trees and you reach the edge of a lake. The drugs may be battering your system, but you know better than to try to swim across. You turn back to the trees and continue in the direction you hope will lead to your girlfriend’s place. You come to a fork in the path.

If you head to the left, turn to section 8.

If you head to the right, turn to section 27.

17

Aha… many would have suspected that flipping toward the end of the book this soon would net you an easy death. It’s okay – the sewer was actually a wise choice! You find a jetpack leaning against the ladder, with no one around to claim it. You scan the controls, pause to scratch your increasingly chilly left foot, and strap it on. Park Slope suddenly doesn’t seem so far away.

Turn to section 24

18

You sit and wait for things to straighten themselves out. What follows is a fascinating hallucinatory trip through a drug-fuelled portal of color and energy, but to sum up, you don’t meet your girlfriend and you spend the rest of the night on a roof. Where’s the fun in that? The end.

19

What are you doing here? I said “the end.” It’s over. Stop doing mysterious drugs.

20

You collect your balance and sprint after the ladies. Unfortunately your sense of direction is somewhat skewed and your left foot is now practically numb with cold. You take a left where they took a right and find yourself face to face with a pack of actual neo-nazis. This can’t be good.

If you try to run away, turn to section 26

If you stand there and wait for them to react, turn to section 28

21

You crest a hill and suddenly you can see it! Your girlfriend’s building! She’s standing outside, waiting for you! You’ve got about two hundred yards to cover, but right in front of you there are a group of college-age people playing a frantic game of night-time Ultimate Frisbee. This could pose a problem.

If you run around the game to the left, turn to section 27

If you run around the game to the right, turn to section 5

If you try to run through the game, turn to section 10

22

Okay, the zeppelin wasn’t real, and that most certainly was not ecstasy that you took at the party. You have climbed into a discarded refrigerator box, and your two barrel rolls just brought you precariously close to the edge of the roof. Also, your left foot still feels uncomfortably cold. You panic and race down the fire escape to the alley below.

A pack of surly neo-nazis is approaching on your left. To your right is a large hippopotamus.

If you ask the neo-nazis for help, turn to section 14

If you hop aboard the hippo and hope you can ride it to Park Slope, turn to section 9

23

“Sorry, I don’t have a dollar on me,” you explain, waving in an attempt to get your girlfriend’s attention.

“You’re lying,” the homeless man snarls at you. “There’s one pinned to your shirt.” You look down and realize he’s telling the truth.

“So I do…” you chuckle, though he is clearly not amused. You fumble with the pin for an unusually long moment, as your fingers still feel like rubbery nubs and you’re having trouble being dextrous. You hand the ungrateful homeless man the dollar and start across the street. Just then, the parachute, which had been scooped up by another gust of wind, sails just over your head and ensnares your unsuspecting girlfriend in its fabricky talons. She panics, struggles, and eventually suffocates.

But according to her watch, you made it there by 10:29. So at least you were on time. The end.

24

Yeah. You don’t know how to properly use a jetpack. You’re dead within three horrifying seconds. The end.

25

Nope, nothing up here. Also, you shouldn’t climb trees when you’re stoned on a mystery drug and one of your feet is practically numb. You descend the tree and thank god the author wasn’t such an asshole that he made a branch break and killed you for having a sense of adventure.

Turn to section 16

26

You turn to run away from the neo-nazis. Probably a good idea, except that the ground feels like a giant waterbed, and it takes you no more than six steps to run head-first into the brick wall beside the back door of a Kinko’s. This might have knocked you unconscious, but instead it drives the nail file deep into your brain with an audible ‘sklorrp’. The neo-nazis shrug and continue making their plans to meet up at IHOP after the rally on Tuesday. What a way to go. The end.

27

You run into a thicket of trees. It’s dark, and you quickly lose your sense of direction. In front of you is a knotty elm that seems to cough as you approach. “Must be a hallucination,” you figure.

If you walk past the knotty elm, turn to section 16

If you climb the knotty elm, turn to section 25

28

You stand there, your left foot cold, the world swirling around you in a vortex of hallucinatory wiggles, waiting for the neo-nazis to make the next move. They are in awe of your strength, your lack of panic with a nail file sticking out of your eyeball. They immediately renounce their cause and swear allegiance to you. You now have a gang, a posse. You feel empowered, though maybe it’s the tetanus that is undoubtedly creeping into your bloodstream.

“Quick! To my zeppelin!” you shout, racing back toward the fire escape and up to the roof you’d left. Your new friends are disappointed by the lack of actual zeppelin on this roof. But they forgive you. That’s what a posse does. This could be the beginning of an exciting and weird new phase in your life. Still, you should really get that foot checked out. The end.

29

The homeless man scowls at you, then nods his head slowly. “I appreciate your being forthright with me. Here. I have a dollar for you.” He hands you a dollar and continues on his way. You limp across the street and hug your girlfriend.

“I should probably go to the hospital,” you explain. “I think I took some nasty kind of drug by accident.” Neither of you bat an eye as your parachute, which had been picked up by another gust of wind, sails inches from both of you, swirls around in a cross-breeze and shoots back across the street, wrapping itself around that homeless guy and suffocating him to death.

“Wait,” she says, “What the hell is wrong with your foot?”

You both examine your left foot and see that blood has been filling your shoe. It seems you got your Achilles tendon pierced at some point between that party and when you awoke in the stairwell. The piercing appears to be platinum and there are some interesting beads on it, but really there’s too much blood for it to seem ‘pretty’ or ‘fashionable’.

“I guess I have two reasons to go to the hospital then,” you reply. You both start laughing, the world pauses in a freeze-frame, and the closing credits scroll by. It’s mostly a happy ending, but they totally misspelled the Second Unit Director’s last name. Oh well. The end.

Day 660: Generational Labels – A Primer For The Young’uns

originally published October 21, 2013

Good morning children. I know what you’re thinking – you’d rather be outside, frolicking in the gumdrop sunshine, knocking a hoop down the street with a stick or catching a picture show at the local nickelodeon, but this will only take a minute. You see, you don’t yet realize that before long your cultural choices will come to define an era. Your era. That’s right, your tastes will set the font and lighting for the legacy your generation will hoist upon the world.

And that’s a big responsibility.

Before the 20th century – so here we’re going back beyond your great-grandparents’ time – nobody kept track of generational labels. People were born, they worked in the mines or the factories or the fields, then they died of scurvy and the world moved on. ‘Cultural milestones’ were almost unheard of. But the more we became connected to one another, the more we sought to define ourselves in grand, sweeping terms. Generalizations that could redact our forefathers and eventually us and our children with the economical swipe of a single brush.

So listen up. Your future – or more importantly the way your time on earth will be judged by the rest of us – is on its way. It would serve you well to learn a little something about the crowds that swarmed these streets before you.

The Lost Generation includes everyone who kicked off from the starter’s block in the late 1800s and came of age around the time of the first World War. I don’t want to depress you kids, but every generation seems to have a war or two to pin on its chest, so you’d best start watching the news now so you’ll know who to hate when the time comes. Gertrude Stein allegedly passed the term ‘Lost Generation’ on to Ernest Hemingway – it came from an outburst by a garage owner yelling at a young mechanic who had failed to properly repair Stein’s car. It was an early exclamation of “these kids today”, something you’ll probably hear your parents grumble when they discover what fluff-pop crap you’ll listen to as a teenager.

Were these folks lost because they had to share in the most globe-blasting conflict in the planet’s history thus far? Were they lost because they were the first generation to embrace feature films, jazz music, and the debauchery of the speak-easy 20’s? Did they simply not know how to follow a map very well? Ultimately this group of fine men and women are defined by a single Parisian garage owner who felt that young folks were lazy. That’s a good lesson kids – it just takes one famous slip-up to define you all.

Journalist Tom Brokaw came up with The Greatest Generation to define those who grew up during the Great Depression and went off to fight in WWII. What makes them so great? Well, they survived the Great Depression and fought in WWII. They laid the foundation for the western way of life as we know it, I suppose. They invented the earliest computers, televisions and frozen dinners. Bebop and duct tape. The microwave and silly putty. Velcro and LEGO.

But were they really the greatest generation? No, Brokaw wanted to sell a book by that name, that’s all. Every generation has had its share of dynamos and douchebags, children. Look around you – some of you will fall into one of those two categories also, though for the most part you’ll grow up to be drones, plugging your lives into the system just like the rest of us. Sorry, I’m getting a little dark here. Let’s move on.

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) was too young to serve in WWII, but a lot of them got to dive into Korea, so they had that. Time Magazine did a story about these kids in 1951, describing them as grave and fatalistic, with confused morals and these crazy women who wanted both a career and a family. These are Don Draper’s people – sorry, you kids probably don’t know who that is yet.

In England these kids were the Air Raid Generation, having grown up amid the panic of the second World War. Some of these kids helped to invent rock & roll though. Shit, you kids probably don’t know what that is either. Put down that Bieber garbage and ask your parents who Eddie Cochrane was.

The Baby Boomer generation is the most important generation of all time – just ask any of them. When your great-grandparents came home from WWII, they made lots of babies. Don’t ask me how – that’s for another article. But those babies became the first generation of youth with a real power to affect the marketplace. Their war was Vietnam, and if they weren’t there, they were probably back home fighting another war, against the war in Vietnam.

Baby Boomers think of themselves as a special generation, and in a way they’re right. They were the first to have a youth culture, graced with that sweet spot in history when technology connected us and delivered digestible culture to every hi-fi and console set in the country. Also, there were drugs. Ask your grandparents about those when your parents aren’t around and you’ll learn a lot.

Many of you probably have parents who belong to Generation X. Born between the mid-60’s and the late 70’s / early 80’s, we’re the gaggle of guys and gals who got screwed over when the Sexual Revolution turned into AIDS-mania. Sure, we’re known for being more accepting of racial, gender and sexual orientation equality than our folks, but we’re also the first generation who decided it was cool to be unimpressed by anything. Our war was Desert Storm. Whatever, we won in, like, fifteen minutes or something.

We got a little mopey and disenfranchised with society for a while, yet we embraced brand culture like it was going out of style (which it apparently never will). We watched our music on MTV. We had no Beatles, but dammit we had Star Wars first, and even your generation will grow up loving that shit. We were slackers, but one study at the University of Michigan claims we turned out rather well-balanced and happy. To be honest, I’m a little surprised we made it.

I was born right on the cusp between Generation X and Generation Y, which begins around 1977 or so and stretches into the 90’s. These were the first kids to grow up with computers in every house, and with video games as a staple of home life. They’re known as the Millennial Generation because they were in a culturally-relevant demographic when the year 2000 hit. Some call Gen-Y’ers ‘Generation Me’ because of a trend of narcissism and entitlement that permeates through them. I’m not quite so brash.

Their war was the mess over in Afghanistan and Iraq, and like the Baby Boomers there were a lot of them against the war back home. Except their music wasn’t anywhere near as good.

As much as we older folks like to rag on the Gen-Y crowd for coming of age right around the time the internet stuck its flag in our collective brains, they’re actually a civic-minded bunch with a strong sense of community. Snarly Youtube comments notwithstanding.

This brings me to you lot, known as Generation Z because we seem obsessed with developing labels for generations before actually learning the traits that will define them. You have quite the canvas upon which to paint your legacy, being the first to enter the connected web-wide-world and experience it from the moment your eyes can focus long enough to check out the latest Vine clip.

You are the most diverse generation of children in American history, so you’d better one-up the eras that came before you and figure out how the hell to get along. According to one study you are the least likely to believe that such a thing as the American Dream exists. I hope you go through your cynical, hate-the-world phase quickly and quietly, and move on to fixing the crap-heap we’ve left in your possession.

And take care of the old folks. We didn’t screw everything up, honest. It was messed up when we got here; we just didn’t know how to fix it.

Day 650: There Once Was A Law About Naming…

originally published October 11, 2013

There once was a thought for a game:

To write about laws about names.

And just for a gimmick,

To write it in lim’rick

Though some will turn out rather lame.

It’s been quite a while since I tried

A full kilograph longer than wide.

I could do so much worse

Than a column of verse

Though I’ll come off as mocking and snide.

But why not indulge in a caper?

I fear my strong output might taper.

You’d best read up soon, you’re

Expecting a junior,

And with it a blank birthing paper.

Some countries will let you go nuts,

And name your kid “Boner” or “Putz”.

But check out the law

Or get smacked in the jaw

When the government kicks both your butts.

In Denmark they’ll humbly insist

That your baby’s name’s on their big list;

With just seven grand

That the Danes understand;

If you pick something else they’ll be pissed.

In China they’re not quite as picky,

Though one tiny point remains sticky:

The name must go through their

Official computer,

And sometimes that feat can be tricky.

But with so many characters out there,

The Chinese have reason to doubt their

First choice when they bred

By PCs will be read,

So they’d best pick their names with devout care.

While the surname can come from the mother

If they feel that the dad’s is a bother,

You can use just one letter

If that will sound better,

They won’t make you pick out another.

There once was a girl named Ma Cheng,

Who grew up in noble Beijing;

Yet part of her name

Looked exactly the same

As three horses – just look at this thing:

A man named Zhao C went to court,

For his name he was told to abort.

The ‘C’ is a Latin –

They cannot write that in

The characters Chinese. Too short.

In Germany names can’t be neutral;

The gender-slant mustn’t be mutual.

A frau is a frau,

And so help you if thou

Try to name your kid ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Google’.

A trademark or brand name’s a no-no,

Though they’ll prob’ly allow you ‘Hans Solo’;

You submit with a fee

And a ‘no’ isn’t free;

And dear god, please don’t name him ‘Herr YOLO’.

In Hungary, just like the Danes,

There’s a list that you must entertain.

If you want something new

There’s no way it goes through,

Which to me appears somewhat mundane.

While in Iceland (in case you have wondered),

Their list has about eighteen-hundred;

They’ll allow ‘Bil’ or ‘Bjork’,

But they won’t allow ‘Mork’;

Which to me is a policy blundered.

The Italians don’t lay it on thick;

They just hate the obscene or the sick.

It’s a simple adherence,

For Italy’s parents,

To try not to name like a dick.

And really, why be such a fool?

Why name your kid something so cruel?

It’s just common sense

On behalf of the ‘rents

Not to name their kids Hitler or Zuul.

In Japan names like ‘Warren’ or ‘Angie’

Only work if they’re written in kanji;

That’s Japanese script

(Though they’re rather tight-lipped

As to why you can’t name him ‘Comanche’).

There’s a list once again in this nation;

Though they seek to expand its notation.

Yet some kanji proposed

You may wish to oppose,

Such as ‘poop’, ‘corpse’, ‘curse’ and ‘fornication’.

In New Zealand it seems to be fact

That their laws are a touch more laid-back;

Though in 1-9-9-5

For all Kiwis alive,

They enforced a few rules in an Act.

To divert any pranks on the map,

Names too long or too silly they’ll slap;

They officially sank

Names which also mean rank,

So you’d best forget ‘Major’ or ‘Cap’.

While in Stockholm they think they’re so smartsy,

Where some parents, they yearn to be artsy;

If you need to digress

That the name should ‘express’,

Then the law will rip your dreams apartsy.

Twenty years ago there was a scene

Among Swedes who were caught in between

Where the law said “no way”

And their hearts said, “What? Hey!

We just want to name our kid Brfxxcxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116!”

(pronounced ‘Al-been’. Seriously.)

“It’s expressionist!” so said the folks;

And I know, you may think it’s a joke.

They were told “Stow your belts

And select something else.”

So they thought they’d give ‘A’ a poke.

(‘A’ in this case is also to be pronounced ‘Al-been’. I swear, I’m not making this up.)

If that’s strange (I said in italic… uh…)

A couple selected ‘Metallica’.

The Swedes couldn’t pass –

There’s already a lass

With that name; mom and dad were smart alecs… uh.

If the Swedish law seems rather stingy,

It’s still best that our names don’t get dingy;

They were probably right

When they turned down the plight

To use ‘Allah’ – that name would be cringe-y.

Our celebs, yes it’s sometimes a fact

That the names they pick out are just whacked;

You may think that the best

Is the baby North West;

There are worse that I wish they’d retract.

Tracey Morgan chose ‘Maven’ – that’s swell!

Anna Paquin picked ‘Poppy’ – oh well.

You could scantly do worse

In the breadth of this verse

Than the junior Nic Cage: it’s ‘Kal-El’.

And while Reese may be blonde legally,

She still named her poor kid ‘Tennessee’;

If you think that’s no fun,

Name your kid for a gun;

Levi Johnston’s ‘Beretta’, you see?

Jason Bateman’s great show is a staple,

But he christened his poor daughter ‘Maple’;

Though it beats out ‘Moroccan’

(Mariah’s concoction),

He could have picked something more papal.

Michael Jackson’s hermano, Jermaine,

May have also gone somewhat insane;

So beyond just a travesty

To poor ‘Jermajesty’,

This really rattles my brain.

The law might have been a protector

For Jason Lee’s ‘Pilot Inspektor’;

Or Northern Exposure’s

Rob Morrow’s disclosure:

‘To Morrow’. A pun? More a specter.

No, it won’t do to lean on our laws

To exclude our creative faux-pas;

While our freedom’s robust,

There’s an inherent trust

That our parents won’t name without cause.

And it’s true – we can’t all be the same,

With such limited breadth in our names;

Though I ask you respect

He or she you protect,

It’s their future your quirkiness maims.

Day 624: Lipograms – Or How To Avoid A L*tt*r For 1000 Words

originally published September 15, 2013

Ambitious? Yup. Crazy? You know it. How can an author concoct a full-on book whilst omitting that most popular ASCII swirl – that which shows up in an almost full swath of our words? You know what I’m talking about: it turns ‘bit’ into an act of chomping; it turns ‘pat’ into a pasty duck food apt for applying to a Triscuit; it turns ‘hug’ into a word for gigantic.

Could I pull it off? Is it within my hobbling Sunday morning skills, sitting in a glow from an almost-autumn sun, to plot out a kilograph of words – still witty, still topical, still skillful to charm my own brain – without using that which falls b’twixt ‘d’ and ‘f’? I highly doubt it. To accomplish this is a coup, okay, but I also think it would bring a pain within my rattling skull. This would insist upon grit, a touch of humility, and a cool and stubborn focus.

I don’t know if I got it in my digit-tips, but I’ll launch it past that bow and find out. This is a batshit-nuts try at a lipogram.

A lipogram is stunt of constraint, of rigorous word control. Is it fun? Possibly, though it’s taxing on a brain’s ability. This act of play is found in old books from that nation – you know, that classic civilization with pillars, philosophy and tzatziki. This guy, Tryphiodorus, was known for his lippogrammatic adaptation of that book… not Iliad, but that similar story by that guy with a similar autograph to that of Bart Simpson’s dad. You know.

Wow. This is tricky. My digits just waltz, shimmy and foxtrot around that button on my laptop, with such an attraction to simply plunking upon it and watching that swirl show up on my display. But I can’t – I can’t sail this far through this many words without punching that button, only to succumb now. I’m not an inaugural wordsmith in trying this, but I can truly pour a touch of compassion from my soul for that tiny batch of nutjobs who did try this. It’s hard to pull this off smoothly.

An author known as Wright (I can’t say his full monogram, thanks to my boundary for today’s kilograph) built a 50,000-word book, a work of fiction, whilst omitting that damn ASCII-swirl, just as I’m trying to do now. Gadsby is that book, and it is surprisingly smooth for having to stick to such a strict limitation. This narration flows so brilliantly, critics had to applaud not only Wright’s gimmick, but also his absorbing skills at cultivating swift drama and rich dialog.

A Spanish playwright (just his initials would push my words into illicit bounds, so I’ll just call him Ricky) sought to publish a handful of short fictions in 1926 and 1927. Ricky’s aim was for his individual fictions to omit a chunk of his ABC’s – no ‘A’, no ‘I’, no ‘O’, and so on. I don’t know if any of Ricky’s work is worth looking at; I can only do so much digging today as I try to thwart this itch to yank my hair out from paragraph to paragraph.

I can’t omit this Francophonic wordsmith, who in 1969 took on a similar task in his own vocabulary, which also has you-know-what as its most common word-part. His book is La Disparition. Franco-Man (again, can’t print his actual ‘nom’, if you catch my drift) claims Wright’s Gadsby was a primary inspiration for this work. An aggrandizing triumph was brought to our world by Gil Aldair, a man who took a shot at a translation of Franco-Man’s book, calling it A Void and sticking to that dastardly painful axiom of omitting that button adjoining ‘w’ and ‘r’.

Also, I must toss out a quip about Franco-Man’s hair. Okay, it was 1969 and drugs did a good job inspiring a lot of wacky coifs, but I’m holding out a big pair of up-facing thumbs for this guy. Kudos on the ‘do, Franco-Man.

Walt Abish’s book from 1974 is similarly grand. His first part consists only of words starting with ‘A’. Abish follows up with only words starting with ‘B’ and so on. I don’t know how Abish got through ‘Q’ or ‘X’. Just past his ‘Z’ part, Abish turns it around and strolls backwards to ‘A’ again. Talk about ambitious, or possibly just crazy.

How about that whacko author with a ‘G.B.’ monogram? I wish I could say his full autograph; this guy totally wins this kooky insanity. His pursuit was to adjust Britain’s mighty Bard’s works into a lipogrammatic sport. That play about that Danish guy with a ghost for a dad? G.B. did it without using ‘L’. G.B.’s variant on that play about that Moor had him skipping out on any ‘O’. That infamous Scottish play? His adaptation not only follows my limitation for today, but also has no ‘A’. I can’t fathom that at all. This was without doubt his most ballsy victory.

Placing limits such as this whilst trying to fashion a slab of writing that isn’t monotonous or just idiotic is not a straightforward affair. My palm is throbbing from smacking my own skull on so many occasions this morning, I might want an Advil soon. I can’t harbor how a pop song was put out with only ‘O’s – no sign of ‘A’s, ‘I’s, ‘U’s, or that individual you-know-what that I aim to banish from today’s writing. But “Ojo con los Orozco” hit pop-music radio back in ’97.

Okay, I had to drop a handful of math digits into my writing, and I know that saying ‘97’ out loud would call for that taboo sign to fall from a human’s lips. But this is still my phonic Olympics, and I’ll allow for a minor way out so that I can craft a fully lucid history of  lipograms. I allow no apology, nor do I admit to skirting my laws in this writing. A digit is a digit – how an individual says it is up to that individual.

So a lipogram such as this, skipping that most important tool of linguistic communication, is viably within my limits as a columnist. That’s good to know. Now I think I can justify a tall drink. A tasty alcoholic libation. I could also grow my hair in a way similar to Franco-Man; I won that right today. Huzzah.

Day 587: Describing My Beer Using 35 Figures Of Speech

originally published August 9, 2013

This is a fantastic beer. No, I mean it. This is the kind of beer you write home about, so you can tell the people living there to set fire to the place, collect the insurance money, and spend it all on this particular brand of beer. This beer is so good… well, to be honest with you I’m at a loss to describe it. 586,000 words under my project’s belt and I’ve finally uncovered the nectar that could stop my typing fingers in their plastic tracks.

I’m not going to specify which beer this is, but come on – it’s probably something by Big Rock. They brew pure liquid euphoria in that place.

I feel the need to employ some figure of speech, some linguistic trope that might properly convey precisely how luminously mellifluous this brew feels upon my virginal tongue. Perhaps if I took the lazy approach and leaned on our language’s myriad of figures of speech.

Simile: This beer is as majestic as the Statue of Liberty wearing a crown of bald eagles while a giant replica of the Constitution billows behind her as a cape.

Hyperbole: A sip of this beer by our world’s leaders would no doubt bring about an era of peace and stability the likes of which we have never seen.

Inversion: Soooooo good this beer is.

Aphorism: How can anyone claim to know true flavor when true flavor has not heretofore existed outside this singular bottle?

Double Negative: There is no way I am not finishing every golden drop in this bottle.

Anthropomorphism: This beer pats me reassuringly on the head and tickles my belly. From the inside.

Synecdoche: This is the most fantastic bubble I’ve ever had the privilege to imbibe.

Neologism: If I keep tossing these beers back, I’m liable to have a wardrobe malfunction in my own living room.

Euphemism: Another beer? Don’t mind if I do. But first I’m going to have to water the daisies, if you catch my drift.

Metalepsis: A bird in the hand is worth absolutely nothing if you have one of these beers waiting for you in the bush. Seriously, even if it’s a condor. Nothing.

Non Sequitur: This is the most refreshing beverage that has ever hit my throat. I once ate a pancake that looked like Leonard Nimoy.

Paradiastole: Sure, if I drink enough of these beers I’ll probably end up throwing canned ham at passers-by and I might pass out beside the toilet. But that’s what makes it all so much fun!

Circumlocution: I’m not saying you should be drinking this particular fermentation of hops, malt, yeast and water, but I’m sure as hell enjoying it.

Personification: My glass is perspiring at the thought of not getting the opportunity to be filled with more of this beer.

Parasprodokian: As far as good beers go, this particular brand won’t because I’m keeping all of it right here in sight.

Onomatopoeia: Don’t mind the braaping belches when I drink; I think when the beer splooshes against the back of my throat I lose gaseous control a little. Hic! Sorry.

Allusion: One sip of this mellifluous beverage after having swilled that six-pack of Coors Lite earlier this week and I’m Andy Dufresne, arms wide in the rain after having crawled through the river of shit beneath Shawshank Prison.

Archaism: This beer is so surprisingly fantastic, methinks I doth wet my pantaloons!

Snowclone: This flavorful ale boldly goes where no brew has gone before.

Pathetic Fallacy: There’s no question, those Hallertau hops were pleading with the Brewmaster to please, please smush them into the most delicious libation ever to find its way into a bottle.

Sesquipedalianism: I feel so strongly about this beer, I’m going to use sesquipedalianism to describe it. That’s the unnecessary use of long and obscure words. See what I did there? In your face, grammar!

Oxymoron: Has anyone ever tasted a better beer than this? Hmm. As expected, nothing but a deafening silence.

Metaphor: This beer is the first warm summer day after a long, seven-month winter. Of course in Edmonton, that day was only four days removed from the last warm sunny day this year, but I digress.

Invective: You’d rather drink that other brand? You are a pusillanimous and oafish ignoramus. What’s wrong with you?

Paralipsis: I don’t even want to get into how completely my thirst is quenched right now because of this beer.

Cliché: This stuff is the bee’s knees!

Epanorthosis: Wow. Coming up with literary ways to describe this beer is taking me thousands… well actually dozens of minutes.

Malapropism: I’ve got to slow down with this stuff – only a few beers in and I think I’m getting a little nipsey.

Antonomasia: I can’t decide if I want to watch The Iron Lady or that movie about The Mahatma while I drink my next beer, or if I should just chill and listen to some Fab Four or something by the King of Pop.

Epitrope: Sure, I’d happily concede that your favorite brand of beer is better than this one – no problem! You’ll just have to whip up a quick little time machine, then travel back a few years and bomb this brewery to ensure my brand never gets invented. Then you’ll have my vote.

Metonymy: Not even the Crown would dispute the fine frothy flavor in this bottle. I’m petitioning Washington to make this our official national beverage.

Pun: If you think your country’s sharp, hoppy Pilsner Urquell is better than this brew, you’d better Czech again.

Pleonasm: Even my pet bulldog knows, this ale beer is best served freezing cold for maximum enjoyment, gratification and delectation.

Irony: The throbbing in my head is evidence of how easy this article was to write. Good thing I have more beer.

Allegory: There once was a man who fell in love with a beautiful woman. He went on one fantastical date with her, and it turned into one of those magical nights – you know, when two people stay up until dawn, just talking and connecting with the universe and each other. He didn’t call her the next day. In fact, he spent the ensuing week reflecting on that magical night and retracing every supple contour of her lovely face in his mind. When he finally drove to see her at work, he learned that she had been killed in a freak bobsled explosion. He knew he would never again know such bliss, such pure and unblemished love. And that’s why I have to get to the liquor store before they sell out of this beer. So long.

Day 500: The Chains Of Deceit – A Piece of Wikipedian Noir Fiction

originally published May 14, 2013

As a one-day deviation from the normal, I’m going to cast off down the waters of fiction for Day #500. Having always been a fan of Raymond Chandler / Mickey Spillaine style hard-boiled detective fiction, that’s the direction I’ll be pointing my shadow-blanketed fingers. Imagine the chiaroscuro lighting, the weather-beaten fedoras and the foreboding shadows of classic film noir against the grey wall as you read this.

Oh, and since I don’t want to leave out my constant companion, I’ll be making liberal use of Wikipedia’s ‘Random Article’ button to move the story forward. Very liberal use.

That way, if this experiment is a disaster, you can blame Wikipedia.

It was half-past far too late when I finally tucked the Kratochwill case into its dusty file folder and dropped it in the cabinet under ‘N’ for ‘Never gonna need this again.’ The Kratochwill case had gotten to me. Mrs. Kratochwill had been murdered while exploring the Sandhohallet Glacier. With my years of experience, I was able to crack the case without leaving the city. Never trust a woman’s “best friend” who can freely quote  Eleanor Cameron. Explicit knowledge of Canadian children’s authors is always a tip-off that someone is up to no good.

I sat at my desk, put up my feet and poured myself a bottle of Glenlivet, a fine scotch I hadn’t drank since that night I’d cruised through Montana on Secondary Highway 323, back in the better times. I had a woman back then. A dame with legs up to her gills, and a set of curves that made that Montana highway seem straight as a ruler. She was the abandoned daughter of a fly-fisherman. Gustina Williams was her name. Damn, I miss that skirt.

I was just about to call up my buddy Jimmy Lloyd to see if he wanted to grab some beers and watch the Brooklyn Bums lose again, when she walked in.

She filled out that dress like an obsessive landscaper fills a bagh. That’s a kind of Asian garden – I read about them on a beer coaster once. The garish print on her dress seemed to scream “Rock this bitch!”, while her smoldering eyes clearly held more secrets than the Joseon Dynasty. As her crimson shoes poured her curvaceous form across my dusty wooden floor, my mind played with Occam’s Razor – she looks like trouble, so she’s just got to be trouble.

Mr. Eppler?” she asked, her voice growling like a well-fed campfire.

“Eppler’s my partner,” I replied, popping a fresh Lucky Strike between my suddenly dry lips. “And I can tell you right now, you don’t want him. You want me.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” she purred, her voice sounding like it had been combed from the depths of Saumarez Reef. “Who are you?”

For some reason I’ll never fathom, I almost spat out the name ‘Svetlana Gladysheva’ like I’d forgotten who I was. “Mike Elmore,” I replied. “Have a seat.”

Never in my life had I been so jealous of a chair. She fixed me with a look that was anything but normal. “I have a problem, Mr. Elmore.”

“Most dames do when they walk through that door.” I lit my smoke with a quick flick of a match, wondering what kind of twisted plot from a Jean Louvet play might have brought this broad into my office.

“I think my husband is trying to murder me.” She spoke in a voice that could have made every palooka in Oyster Bay crawl into a shell.

“That’s a pretty serious charge,” I said, wondering if she was on the level or trying to sell me some foreign direct investment in Romania, as the saying goes.

“Listen, Mr. Elmore. I’m not some moon-faced floozie, fresh out of the Idaho Leadership Academy. I know when somebody’s following me, and I know Andreas, my husband, has motive.” Her eyes were watering like some pasty little kid’s, stuck on the last level of Simon the Sorcerer 5. I almost felt bad for the broad.

“So who’s the other guy?” I asked, taking a long, deep drag on my filterless Lucky as the tears started tumbling down her cheeks like bulbous little micromollusks.

“How… how did you know?”

“Listen, Mrs…”

Norge.”

“Norge? Isn’t there a semi-rigid Italian-built airship by that name?”

“Yes there is.”

“Alright, listen Mrs. Norge. A guy doesn’t have to have read every issue of Partners of Peril to know when some skirt is trying to be cute. A guy’s gotta have a heart of Plumosite to want to pull the plug on a dame like you, or else he’s gotta be jilted. So I ask you again, who’s the other guy? And don’t get all Magdalena Wilhelmine of Württemberg on me here, hiding behind your big nose and blemishes. I want the truth.”

“My… big nose and…”

“It’s a turn of phrase, baby.”

“Okay, okay. His name is Tom. Tom Gorman. But I swear, we broke it off two months ago!”

The poor girl was trembling like German biologist Jörn Vogel accepting his 2010 VAAM research award. I lit another Lucky with the one that was dwindling in my hand and adjusted my genuine Tammar wallaby tie.

“I haven’t even spoken to Tom since then. It was… it was a one-time – ”

“Hey!” I shouted, my patience drying up. “Did you come here to hear a list of Calgary Stampede rodeo champions or do you want some real help? You’re no Altus Theart, gifted South African actor. I can see right through you, lady.”

“Oh God!” she sobbed into her sleeve. The fringes on her dress barely moved, like stoic cornices on a mind-boggling edifice. When it didn’t look like she was gonna break out of it, I snuffed out my Lucky and walked up behind her, putting my hand on her shoulder. “I met him at Nanjing University Literature School,” she said, her voice muffled and distant. “He was guest-lecturing, telling the students about his novel based on the life of Englebert I of Nassau. I was traveling back through Nanjing after having donated some artwork to the Fakir Khana museum in Bhati Gate. It was… it was electric between us.”

“Look,” I said, spinning her around in her chair and kneeling low so I could see into her eyes, which ran deeper than the Gada River. “I need to be able to trust you. I’ll take the case, for the same reason I spent an agonizing summer with a dangerous dame in Sévigny-Waleppe. I’m a fool for a pretty face.”

“Thank you, Mr. Elmore. Thank you so much.”

“My fee is fifty bucks a day plus expenses, and don’t try to negotiate – it’s as unmovable as the tarmac at Borisoglebskoye Airfield.”

“Fifty plus expenses sounds fair.”

And with that I kissed her, and kissed her hard. I was drawn to her like a Tischeria pulvella to a flame. This case would be my undoing – I knew that. But then, I’m a sucker for a bucket of curves in a dangerous dress, like a camshaft falling for the timing chains in a Toyota UR engine. I just couldn’t help myself.