Thursday, January 29, 2009
Isn't the Earth a magnificent place?
I agree. But, more importantly, it has come to my attention recently that not everybody I know here on Earth is aware of something I learned about long, long ago--before you were even an hallucination in your mother's mind--something called a psychosomatic pregnancy.
Well, that's what I always heard it called, anyway. Apparently its more correct term is 'pseudocyesis.'
But what does this mean?
I'll tell you what it means--it means the crazy part of a woman's brain (1-100%, depending) is able to convince her body that it is pregnant. Her belly and breasts swell, she lactates, she stops menstruating...it appears to be a typical, tried-and-true pregnancy.
Except she could very well be a virgin!
It was either the first or second time I heard this phrase (maybe it had come up already in Psychology 101?) that the concept became indelibly ingrained in my mind, courtesy of Allison Anders.
It was...1998 or 1999, and the 'hot young edgy director' of Gas Food Lodging was giving the well-paid ($10k?) opening speech to a student film festival at my college.
Allison Anders was a very atypical filmmaker who had gained a lot of traction in the independent film world in the early nineties. She had a 'great story'--abandoned by her father, raped at a young age, done drugs, wandered the Earth, been to jail (?), had a baby young, worked her way through community college and film school in Los Angeles...and immediately broke out on the scene as a unique voice; and had a lot to say.
Probably the only thing I remember from her speech is an anecdote she lingered on during the 'rundown of the hard times in her life' section of her speech (which was by far the biggest part). It involved her teenage psychosomatic pregnancy--with Paul McCartney as the father. The psych-out went as far as her going into labor...but never giving birth to anything!
Needless to say, many of the questions during the Q & A centered on this fantastic experience. Also needless to say, Ms. Anders underwent intense psychotherapy as a result of the faux pregnancy. It's safe to say this girl has an active imagination.
Her movies may not be my cup of tea--certainly not the awful Mi Vida Loca--and I don't think she's done anything in a while, but isn't it amazing to hear proof of how powerful the human mind is?
That being said, apparently we have nothing on dogs. Should they be in charge?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Except the egregious stupidity of those charged with your safety.
How the hell does a 14 year-old kid pass for a grown man, much less a police officer?
Oh, wait--my bad--he had a sweater vest stuffed with magazines and a hat; I get it now.
As dumb as everybody involved in this scenario is, I think the grand prize goes to whatever fucking bag of donuts was riding around in a small car with this kid for five hours and not only did not realize that he wasn't a cop, but also did not pick up on the fact that he was talking to a 14 year-old.
What were they talking about? Pussy? T-Pain? The relative merits and limitations of Obama's proposed economic stimulus package? Cafeteria nachos?
I can imagine their conversation, as the two representatives of "Chicago's Finest" lazily cruised through red lights without even blipping their siren:
"Dude, look at that fine-ass bitch over there."
"Man, I love pussy..."
"Me, too...wish I was old enough to actually see one live in person..."
"What was that? I couldn' hear you--I was just groovin' to this bomb-ass T-Pain jam, man. This guy is a fucking genius. He's like Einstein or the guy who invented macaroni and cheese and shit."
"Totally. Everybody at my high school digs that shit like Clifford the Dog, man... Best thing to come out of Tallahassee in a minute..."
[A drug dealer rolls his Cadillac to a stop across the street, leans out the window, shoots a five year-old kid in the face, and then shouts at the child's mother: "That's what you get, motherfucker! That's what you get!" and peels away. Our two heroes do not notice.]
"Man, this job sucks. You wanna hit up Dunkin?"
"Totally, man. I'm feelin' that donut shit for real."
But don't worry--and, more importantly, don't ask any questions as to how this supremely dangerous situation could possibly have occurred in the Chicago Police Department in 2009 and go unnoticed for an entire five-hour shift--the Deputy Superintendent Dan Dugan is looking into the matter in complete secrecy, lest the safety of his officers be in danger.
What, you mean more in danger than they already are by working in an environment far less secure than your average high school?
It seems as though this sort of incident was bound to happen at some point, though. If it wasn't one thing, it'd be another, and we're all lucky nobody got hurt. I mean, listen to how dumb Dan Dugan is; he can't even spend five minutes devising a coherent statement to vomit onto the understandably frothy-mouthed press:
"This individual has identified egregious breech in security," said Deputy Superintendent Dan Dugan. "Realistically, to open that up to a media scrutiny, while I can understand and appreciate it, I have probably as many questions if not more than you have relative to this. It would tend to exacerbate the security issue that has been identified and we would not want to exploit it for the safety of the officers that work in facilities throughout the city."
Did he borrow those $2 words from his daughter's junior-high grammar textbook, but not have the stones to ask her how best to use them?
Idiot...even Paul Blart would know better!
Wouldn't you love to live there?
There aren't too many jobs around these days, but if you are willing to rule the nation, you're in luck--cuz nobody else wants to!
Although it hasn't been released to the press at this time, an adorable little Icelandic mole informs me that--by an overwhelming majority vote--the people of Iceland are willing to sweeten the deal by offering the hand of the voluptuous virgin they were planning to sacrifice on Thor's birthday.
Criminals--this would be a great way to strike out a fresh existence.
(Yes, Barons of Wall Street--I'm talking to you...)
So...think about it!
*Will also consider a ruthless despot, but only if s/he promises to leave our handful of rich people alone.
Today I liked Maureen Dowd.
Simple, efficient, ruthless, fair.
Too bad it doesn't matter.
I know it's defeatist to say that, but...it is sadly true. Whatever will happen, will happen. The assholes on top will always be the assholes on top. You know why? Because it takes an asshole to get on top; it's ingrained in the species.
Why do you think I chose to be a recluse? Well, a recluse with a lot of friends (a lot--trust me...at least like 3400...), who gets out a lot, and travels a lot...wait...what would be a better word for it?
I don't participate in anything that isn't worth my time, anything I cannot affect. I am eminently efficient, eminently cowardly.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
If you have had sex with 4 or more partners, then the answer is yes.
The craziest thing about this Guardian article (well, sanctioned blog entry) is not the outlandish assertions of the article itself, but the unbelievably numerous and varied user comments posted along with it. The article is about one page in length; the comments will last easily an entire lunch break.
I have never seen this many comments posted on anything; nor have I ever seen comments reveal a more fascinating cross-section of a nation/commonwealth.
Here are my favorites, with comments. Enjoy!
"More or less?" What does that mean, birch? 'Monogamous' is a pretty specific term...and how old are you, by the way? Regardless of your answer, well done!
"I'm an artist , and have been in a monogomous(more or less) [sic] relationship for twenty years. Before that I had more than a hundred sexual partners, however. Just thought you'd like to know."
Wow. 'Miserabilist?' That's a great new word; but 'bedsit narcissism' is a phrase that blows it right out of the water. Were it socially acceptable, I would marry that phrase.
"Morrissey is no contradiction. Any miserabilist who makes his name singing endlessly about the alienation and misanthropy of bedsit narcissism to the same tune shouldn't be having any sex and shouldn't be called 'creative'."
The easy joke--but that doesn't mean it isn't also funny. Well done, roy fox! You somehow managed to overcome your tragic council-bedsit narcissism and drop the right joke at just the right moment. You can now begin the brief, steep, downhill portion of your life...Cheers!
"I'm sure lawyers have more sex. They f*** everyone."
"What do you do with a creative man who is incapable of kissing and sort of bites instead and who is a very selfish lover? Can we say that he is expressing his art through his love-making? I think I should get rid of him anyway. I'm stuck in a poor Middle-Eastern suburb and if I get too horny and search out a mate, I might be arrested. And they greatly mistrust creative types here..."
It appears as though you have the misfortune of dating a standard British male--or somebody trained by one. I recommend you immediately fake your own death and emerge in the Western world, friendless but free to embrace your horny-ass self. Trust me, it'll be worth it; there is nothing in the world worse than caged heat.
"I have no knowledge of his endeavours in the bedroom, but Joseph Beuys (along with Mr C, one of the most influential Shamen [sic] of the last century) maintained that all men are artists. I tend to agree with him on that one, even if his work tends towards bogosity. Which means of course this study should be filed alongside other bits of Bad Science; as well as reminding us that being creative, like having sex, is really nothing special."
First off, for all you non-Bill-&-Teds out there, courtesy of dictionary.com:
/boh-go's*-tee/ The degree to which something is "bogus" in the hackish sense of "bad". At CMU, bogosity is measured with a bogometer; in a seminar, when a speaker says something bogus, a listener might raise his hand and say "My bogometer just triggered". More extremely, "You just pinned my bogometer" means you just said or did something so outrageously bogus that it is off the scale, pinning the bogometer needle at the highest possible reading (one might also say "You just redlined my bogometer"). The agreed-upon unit of bogosity is the microLenat.
Also, the potential field generated by a bogon flux; see quantum bogodynamics. See also bogon flux, bogon filter.
(2002-04-14) The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © 1993-2007 Denis Howe
"Im an 'artist' and have yet to embrace this so called 'sex' craze,Who said honesty was dead? As clearly as they avoid apostrophes like the plague, fat and pretentious British 16-year-old males simply do NOT have sex. If you want to argue with that, please meet me in the middle of the English Channel for a preliminary dance-off.
because i'm not a licentious fool.
This ideology is the residual effect of my christian upbringing....
Im 16...My age group epitamizes promiscuity.
Again, this is a lie...I'm an anomaly to the rule that at 16, an influx of salacious behaviour occurs.
Im fat, you see. and a pretentious little twat.
"I have a very long personal experiencie of live in the world of the mind out of the normal experiencie of life. i have been a ill person blackboard in myself.NOW is very different,the life smiles me,I have avery good work,a long number of friends,love for myself and the mines,my husband,my mother.my brothers... But my personal history can be helpful for another persons that sufer my last problem."
Please down another pint before speaking to me, good Quim--I am having trouble understanding your fancy new Oxbridge speech.
Schizoid, please--not again. The last time you tried to sell 'damn painting,' we ended up with an entire globe full of idiots who put everyone's money in derivatives and destroyed your life...wait--is this just a cycle? Are you the devil? God?
"tonight, there's an opening in town...it's fairly unimportant....I'm goig to fuck everyone there and pass my mad genes on to the richest of those that I fuck and maybe, just maybe they'll buy damn painting."
"Clearly either artists are not promiscuous or they are not promiscuous enough. As a non-artist I am having a hard time meeting my urge to be promiscuous without paying a lot of money. Now perhaps I should become an artist - since it seems then I could be promiscuous on the cheap. On the other hand I could aim to get rich so I can afford to be promiscuous. I have aimed at the second route since it seems to have the lower risk vs. return ratio"
Randy Newman? Is that you? Now it all makes sense--you are forgiven your sins, my brother.
Finally, a voice of wisdom among the riff-raff. I guess the two sides of the coin will simply never understand the other. 'Hot boffing,' indeed, Mr. Hyde!
"I don't know that getting a lot (or too much?!) destroys one's soul. I fear that this is the consolation of the prudish, the shy or the sexually enchained.
I think hot boffing and true love can quite happily be kept in separate compartments.
In my case, Dr Jekyll leads an exemplary monogonous [sic] existence, while Mr Hyde regularly goes out and "paints faces and sheets", as someone here so smartly and tartly put it."
The final word:
"Artistic types make better lovers than non-artistic types. And researchers are only just 'discovering' this? Well duh, folks. Throughout the ages, history's great lovers, the Don Juans and the Casanovas, have all been poets or painters or musicians. No one ever talks about what a great lover King Henry the 8th was, whereas women still go ga-ga over Byron. This isn't new or surprising; it's common sense. The balding troll in office isn't sensitive and attuned to the delicaties of love; the love-sick poet, composing his sonnets, is. The business minded has a cold and clammy touch, the creative mind is sensitive and caressing. It's like asking a woman to choose between Donald Trump and Syd Barrett, 'You're FIRED!' or 'You're a lilac desire.'"
As any douchebag worth his salt might say--- 'nuff said.
The Syd Barretts always win.
Eat your hearts out, squares!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
So, unsurprisingly, the current #1 most emailed story on nytimes.com has nothing to do with the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, the situation in Guantanamo, the continenet of Africa, the chaos in the Euro currency system, the unadulterated greed of Western bankers and businessmen, or Obama's first days in office.
Surprisingly, it is NOT a fluff piece about George Bush spending more time with his pets now that he's retired from politics (as if he wasn't at home in Crawford 80% of the time anyway...).
No. The most emailed story is titled "What Do Women Want?"
Meredith Chivers--whose photo is unavailable anywhere and whom you'll notice does not have her doctorate, oddly--has been studying sex since the age of five and is currently doing it for pay, at a Canadian university. She is trying to find out what turns women on, what they crave...and is having a tough go of it.
So are three other women studying the question from slightly different approaches.
After reading all eight pages of this article, the one thing that is clear is that these women are clearly studying sex about 500,000 times more than they are having it. I know they're smart, but are they really the best women for the job?
The long and the short of the article is that while men were 100% accurate in judging whether or not they found something arousing, physically, women had no clue; their minds and their vaginas were complete strangers to one another.
Why is this? Why do they get aroused when they see monkeys mating but not admit it? Why do heterosexual women get more aroused when they see lesbians going at it than they do when they watch a man and a woman? Why would they rather see a woman than a man? Why do they lie about it?
As a man, I need no persuading that women are a mystery--but they are a beautiful mystery. Why try to explain it? Why waste your life and research dollars trying to reduce nature's most beloved nonsense to a science? Why not just kick off your clothes and get busy with some strange man you met in the elevator?
Especially when all anyone brimming with curiosity has to do is watch the Mel Gibson movie!
I won't spoil the ending for you, but just so you know, it's fabulous!!!
Actually, without even thinking about it, I might have hit on something there. Maybe all women want...Mel Gibson?
Let's see...it worked for Helen Hunt, Rene Russo, Pocahontas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jodie Foster, the chick from Braveheart (although she had her throat slit for it)...and the average woman drools over awful romantic comedies...maybe...that has something to do with the fantasies of the average woman? Or is it merely a symptom of the problem?
"Hey, God! Are you there? It's me, Charlie. I have another question for you..."If he doesn't answer me, I'll just petition the government for $150,000 to insert scientific instruments into a hundred women's vaginas while they work their way through Mel Gibson's oeuvre. Might as well...
Question of the Day: What is it like to bring yourself to orgasm with your head in an MRI scanner?
Incidentally, if any women out there are looking for Mr. Right, I think I found him hiding in plain sight!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
An overwhelming feeling of contentment washed over me a few minutes ago.
I wish you could have been there to see it, as the experience was transcendental and will never be repeated.
There I was, laying on my couch, sipping a good bourbon, allowing heavenly soul music to softly tongue my ears, pondering the problems of the weaker sex, when a little birdie came and told me that everything would be okay.
All lonely women have to do is read this douchebag's book and everything will be explained, solved.
Hurrah! The world is finally a happy place--all it took was to first make a worthless, self-obsessed poser rich!
What a small sacrifice! Let's do it again, people of the globe! Me next!
As much as I love to hate Ron Howard , I watched Frost/Nixon tonight and must admit I found it compelling.
The story was marvelously told and moved through difficult territory with surprising efficiency--with the glaring exception being the scene in which Richard Nixon shouted at David Frost over the phone, breaking down the similarities between both men, pumping up his adversary like a particularly inspiring coach.
Whose side is he on again?
The fact that later in the movie Nixon does not remember the phone call seems convenient. His arrogance and venomous bullying are so hard-wired that they escape even his own consciousness--I get it. It seems a ham-handed way to psyche the audience up for a heartwarming "good triumphs over evil" finish that at this point in the movie seems well-undeserved.
But what do I know? Maybe Mr. Howard got his audience right:
I would rather just see reality.
"We'd better see him sweat it out now, Marjorie; we'd better see a lot of shots of him doing his homework and being exhausted if this is going to turn out all right and not make me displeased with my experience at the cinema this evening..."
Also worth noting is that Kevin Bacon appears to be a fourteen year old boy wearing his father's suit in this movie--was that somehow an asset to his role? Or was it merely an innocent mistake that Mr. Howard will regret for the rest of his existence?
I'd love to ask him that hard question on camera. And make him sweat!
All that aside, however, I thought the boxing-match structure to the story was elegantly appropriate and a great pacing device for what could easily have been a sluggish story. An opening befitting a consummate professional.
I like it like my asshole friend likes his meat--well done.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
why don't you just surround yourself with that fence?
we don't need your tortillas
we don't need your greed
we don't need your ignorance
and we certainly don't need your seed
please do us all a favor and secede
2009 Oscar Nominations were released today. Unsurprisingly, I have a few things to say about it.
- Slumdog Millionaire is the favorite for more big awards than any other movie (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay), as well as a host of others for which it is in the running (Best Original Song, Best Original Score, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing). Yet...none of the actors were nominated. None of them were even bandied about as potential nominees. The telltale sign of a movie that isn't that great, but which strikes a chord with people because it is 'heartwarming' and 'different' and chatted about by fat women around watercoolers. Or is the academy just afraid of giving out awards to Indians? Even Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and Sideways got actor noms.
I can hear the justification right now, reverberating among the Hollywood Hills: "Well, the script was amazing, the directing of the actors was amazing...but those people speaking the lines and being directed were not very good--but I loved the movie. Best of the year for sure."
- Josh Brolin in Milk....over James Franco in Milk? Are you GAY?!?! Franco played a much tougher role, did it much better, and was in many respects the emotional core of the movie. Hmmm...but we remember Josh Brolin from No Country for Old Men and Franco from Spiderman...hmmm... Let's see--are you more impressed by an actor who can believably play Spiderman's arch nemesis, a funny and charming sweetheart of a pot dealer stuck in an action comedy, and Harvey Milk's lover (all in the last year alone), or Josh Brolin, who pretty much plays the same guy every time (even in W, oddly)--a reticent, pretty-boy tough guy with a soft side? Can you imagine Josh Brolin playing gay? Can you imagine him playing a pot dealer? Can you imagine him playing a superhero villain? Come to think of it, I think I'd rather see Franco as W. Who knew I was so in love? I guess you learn something new about yourself every day.
- Surprisingly, the three animated features nominated this year were...the three animated features released this year.
- Has Ron Howard made a movie that he was not nominated for as Best Director? Is this the first time Clint Eastwood was not nominated? Is it only because he split the old person votes for Changeling and Gran Torino?
- Can't we just give the cast of Doubt an ensemble Tony Award? There needs to be a special category for "filmed theater that puts me to sleep."
- Why is there never a frontrunner in the Best Actress race, but always in the Best Actor race? It's Mickey Rourke's award to lose, but a free-for-all once again among the Best Broads.
- If Penelope Cruz doesn't win Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (based on the competition) then I will fucking quit my job and run away with her. If that doesn't motivate her PR team to light a fucking fire, I don't know what will.
- Best Picture category is the weakest I can remember. I hope Milk wins and I can't believe I'm saying that. I hate Sean Penn!
- Robert Downey, Jr for Tropic Thunder? Huh? I mean, he was the only thing worth watching in that movie, but if we are going to start rewarding supporting comedy roles (which we should), then we need to take a fucking time machine back to 1998 and give Matt Dillon the first one for There's Something About Mary.
That is all for now. I haven't begun to sift through the scientific achievement nominations...
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
A few days ago, as I sat at a sidewalk cafe in Larchmont Village, I read in the LA Times that my favorite radio station was dead.
The news explained why the comforting voice of Steve Jones was nowhere to be found on the dial at 12 bells, replaced inexplicably by the same Mexican music blaring from 80% of the other stations on the dial.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks.
I listened to Indie pretty much every day. Aside from Jonesy's Jukebox in the afternoon, I greatly enjoyed The Last of the Famous International Morning Shows, hosted by small-time-punk Joe Escalante, featuring a cryptic weather report phoned in by David Lynch and an always-entertaining frantic sports report from Timothy Olyphant.
It was the perfect way to enjoy a morning drive to work, just as Jonesy was the perfect way to while away an hour stuck in traffic in the afternoon.
So why did the good times have to end?
Well, here is one explanation, courtesy of the LA Times:
"The station cultivated an aura of hipness and iconoclasm – great for making a small and loyal audience feel like part of an exclusive club, but not necessarily a good business model. In the most recent Arbitron ratings, Indie ranked 38th in the market, averaging just 0.6% of the listening audience, compared to the 3.5% for alternative music outlet KROQ-FM (106.7)."I know radio is 'a dying medium' and there is 'no market for good music anymore' but I thought Indie had found its niche in one of the few cities that could actually support such a station. LA is the home of numerous shitty bands, and numerous losers, but also the home of a multitude of hipsters and artists with pretty good taste in music.
I figured they all listened.
Maybe they did--I mean, how does anybody know if I am listening to the radio in my car? 0.6%? Do they get those statistics based only on call-ins or random telephone polls or something? How can that be accurate?
And yet, when I brought this news of cancellation up to my friends, I discovered none of them were listening. So maybe I was, indeed, one of the few, proud, and now sad.
I no longer use my radio. Hardly anybody I know does. Why would they? An era has ended.
Thanks, corporate America! And goodnight, sweet prince.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Two great lines from the end of Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life (1959):
"Our wedding day and the day we die are the great events of life."
"I'd like to be standing with the lambs--and not with the goats--on Judgment Day."
That should give you something to talk about over dinner with your spouse and children this week. Or for the rest of your lives. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
We all have problems. Some of us are drowning in debt, some of us only have one leg, some of us love children more than anything and will never be able to have any, some of us can't be productive because we're always high and eating sandwiches...and some of us cower in fear of a self-forecast and destructive deluge of pussy and money.
Please watch this brief video (courtesy of defamer) of Mike Tyson's fascinating speech at Sundance recently, where the documentary Tyson is playing.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
According to all comers, obese Hollywood shit-schlocker Kevin James' latest puerile turd, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, was a megaplex megadisappointment. And keep in mind expectations were not high to begin with.
As today's special treat--you're welcome--please read the most negative, sarcastic, and brief New York Times movie review I have ever read. It will make you smile. And everybody should smile more.
As soon as you're finished smiling, read this and drown yourself to death in tears for the fate of humanity.
[Confidential to Kevin James: One of my more avid readers informed me the other day that when asked whether they would rather have sex with Adrien Brody five minutes post-mortem or the dude from King of Queens, they all chose the fresh corpse of Adrien Brody. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.]
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Will things ever be the same again? Might up become down? Could Pakistan rule the world? Will '60s muscle cars never again growl down your street in a post-oil landscape? Are $5000 handbags going the way of the dodo? Has the shocking decline in luxury good sales affected legendary couturier Karl Lagerfeld?
"For Mr. Lagerfeld, cutting back his own spending at Chanel is not part of his 'new modesty' strategy. He said he is not being forced by the private company’s owners to bend or adapt because of financial constraints. 'We have no budget, we do what we want and throwing money out the window brings money back in through the front door,' he said. 'The bottom line is that I don’t deal with the bottom line. The luxury in my life is I never have to think about it.'(courtesy NYTimes.com)
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In a rare moment of beauty, millionaire actress Glenn Close showed the world, unabashedly, just how much she loves herself by making out with her star on Hollywood Boulevard during the unveiling ceremony.
Sources close to Close say the exceedingly-vain behavior had nothing to do with her being overwhelmed by finally receiving what she deserved after her very first role--evidently she does the same thing every time she catches a glimpse of herself reflected in a mirror, window pane, or polished object.
"I just can't help myself! I mean, could you? Look at me! I am eminently beautiful, lovable, and the best kisser I have ever known. Trust me."
Ms. Close then noticed her face gracing a magazine cover at a nearby newsstand and fainted into several piles of human excrement on the sidewalk. Her 2nd Assistant immediately thanked God for his swift and undying sense of justice as her 1st Assistant phoned Donatella Versace to demand immediate delivery of a new pantsuit.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
It’s amazing how much time there is in a day when you have no friends, you’ve read all your books, you don’t have a TV, and you don’t have two coins to rub together. I’d already worked a mindless 9-5 at an insurance company downtown and spent another two and a half hours in my booth at the pub afterwards, writing a script and nursing a glass of Coke til it got too loud. Dinner was a can of clearance Godzilla-shaped spaghettios, so that didn’t last long, and bedtime was still hours away. Nothing left to do but stare out the window.
Appropriately, my affordable housing did not afford me a remarkable view, so I was forced to people watch. And then I saw her. She was standing on the sidewalk across the street from me, moving as if tethered to an imaginary stake in the ground, occasionally launching unintelligible remarks at passersby, sipping from a can of beer. She was overweight and unattractive, but dressed mildly provocatively, if shabbily. It dawned on me.
“Is she a--“
“Oi! What you lookin’ at?!”
She stared right at me; I panicked and jumped back from the window. Holy shit--she was a prostitute! A real, live prostitute! I had never seen one before. I wanted to look again, to watch her, to study her, to see what they were like, what the transactions were like; I was bursting with curiosity. I slowly stepped back up to the window, just as she looked back up at it.
“Oi! What the fuck?!”
I jumped back again. I closed the curtains, so she couldn’t see me; she could see me. I turned off the lights and peeked through the curtains; she saw me. Each time, she looked up at just the right moment; each time, she shouted at me with renewed vigor. This prostitute had eyes like you wouldn’t believe--or did she sense heat? I went over to the bed, the only piece of furniture in my room, and stretched out. A prostitute... I might as well have seen a mermaid flapping around on the sidewalk singing La Habanera.
It was July, I was nineteen, and I was in Boscombe, England, a downmarket suburb of Bournemouth, a sleepy seaside resort town-cum-thriving center of non-London business. I came here because I wanted to see if I could write a feature-length film script, to see if I had it in me, and I thought it’d be easier if I didn’t know anybody.
My arrival could not have been more dramatic. On my deathbed for several weeks at the end of Spring, with some vague non-mono, but fiercely mono-like, illness, my summer in England was officially canceled. All that sacrifice for nothing! And then, one day, I suddenly felt better. My parents were in London, coincidentally, where my father was giving a talk, so I bought a last-minute five-hundred-dollar ticket and surprised them there.
I immediately decided I had to be near the water. London was too crowded, too hectic, too expensive. According to my Dad’s local sponsor, Mick, “Brighton’s dirty and full of...poofs. You should go to Bournemouth--it’s beautiful. Jill and I go down there all the time, when we go to see the ponies in the New Forest.” I took the train two hours to Bournemouth.
I hailed a black cab at the station and set off for the Hotel Miramar, clutching the full-color brochure, staring at the stately old mansion on a cliff overlooking the sea, dreaming about my life there. I would live in the servant quarters, be a bellboy, meet interesting strangers, and write on the lawn after work, staring at the rolling waves, only occasionally getting embroiled in the drama of the endearing, archetypical lifers on staff.
The cab dropped me off and I entered the lobby, suitcase in hand, backpack on back.
“No--I’d like to apply for a job.”
“Ummm...I don’t think we... Let me check...”
They didn’t have any openings. Neither did any other hotel in town. Nobody did, in fact. Or, at least, not for a Yank with a three-month work permit. I hadn’t expected this; I never expected to leave the Hotel Miramar grounds, in fact. My funds dwindled to time-to-go-home-lad levels before I stumbled upon the blazing blue door to Reed Temporary Services. I remembered hearing that Americans are miles ahead of anybody else when it comes to computer skills, so I went in and walked out an hour later with a six-week job at Royal and SunAlliance Insurance Company, as a data-inputter in the Boots the Chemists® Travel Insurance Unit.
Job-in-hand, salary on the way, I went to look for a flat. My income and time in the country limited, I signed up for the only place available. It was weeks before I realized it was a halfway house for parolees attending court-ordered Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I wondered why it seemed like I was the only one with a job and what the hell everybody meant by ‘the meeting.’
“Are you going to the meeting?”
“Where’s Bobby? I didn’t see him at the meeting...”
“He’s not here--said he’d talk to ya after the meeting.”
After the old guy--the ‘father’ of the house, for sure--taught me to put salt in the water when boiling pasta and another made me my first curry, as he reminisced about his childhood in Glasgow, I finally felt confident enough to ask about the meeting. To his credit, Kenny told it to me straight:
“We’ve all been to jail for drugs and now we’re livin’ on the dole, goin’ to Narcotics Anonymous meetings or we wind up back in jail.”
Kenny was a good guy. He used to be a bad guy--a very bad guy--but he gave that up. I believed him. His will to be good and surrounded only by good was impressive in its strength.
One day, I was reading a book in the tiny park by our house. I called it Penis Park, due to the unbelievably lifelike, if grossly oversized, phallic stone monoliths peppered around the lawn, each surrounded by shrubbery at their base. Kenny picked me up off the grass by my shirt collar.
“What the fuck?!”
“What the fuck’re you doin’ here? Nobody’s in this park unless they’re buyin’r’sellin. Jesus Christ...you coulda been hurt...”
I looked around--the only other people in the park were a handful of teenagers loitering around a park bench; they could have been dealing drugs, sure, it’s not impossible to imagine, but they were hardly dangerous. Kenny was huffing pretty hard, though, as if he’d been worried about me, as if he’d narrowly rescued me from a dire fate, so I relented and finished the book in my room.
The street we lived on was called Boscombe Crescent. In Britain, due to the popularity of the Royal Crescent in Bath as an immediate architectural touchstone, these sorts of things sprung up everywhere. A crescent-shaped street that detours from a main drag before rejoining it, lined by buildings of a similar architectural style opposite a small D-shaped park (sometimes filled with penises).
The Boots the Chemists® Travel Insurance Unit at Royal and SunAlliance Insurance Company was a relatively young, hip group of suits. The woman who trained me and the other four temps was a totally lovable twenty-five-year-old babe; I have fond memories of her teaching me what “full-stop” and “zed” meant. There was another woman, Claire, who was a purebred, stone-cold fox. Each time I saw her getting dropped off at work by her Italian boyfriend on a growling Ducati motorcycle, my heart skipped a beat; I could only maintain eye contact with her for about one second before my brain went into self-imposed cryogenic suspension; it was a delicious dream and no more.
I was somewhat of an oddity--not only did I travel around their island more than they did (“You’re going to Edinburgh? Oh...I’ve always wanted to go there...” “It’s only a nine-hour bus ride...”)--but I was American. Not too many Americans work in Britain, I guess, and certainly not as a temp in a place like this--and, as such, enjoyed a minor celebrity around the office. Sadly, it was not enough to get me into any pants. Not that I tried. Not that I didn’t want to--Lord, I wanted to--but I had no idea how to do that sort of thing. British girls don’t exactly melt at the sound of an American accent; they don’t return the favor.
One of the four other temps, the sexy one, oddly the only one whose name I can’t remember (serves her right!), became the more-realistic-than-Claire object of my affection during my stay in England. I have two lasting memories of her:
We were walking to the park one day, because I always brought my lunch, and Mark Griffiths (I even remember his last name, and I can’t remember her first) nearly broke his neck to get a longer look at a sexy girl walking by.
“Cor, that’s a fit bird...”
I laughed. What a phrase! Sexy Temp Girl laughed, as well, and looked me square in the eyes.
“What would you call her? A ‘hot’ ‘chick?!’”
She broke into childish giggles, the kind that you just can’t help. I melted from a mixture of lust and embarrassment.
I guess you could call it a cultural exchange. The other memory is less colorful. I told her how I would love to buy an old Mini, bring it back home, fix it up, and drive it around.
“You want a Mini? Ugh. They are so uncomfortable. And loud. No girls would want to ride in it. I hate Minis.”
The romance didn’t quite take off, as you might imagine.
One night, one of only four nights I consumed any alcohol--I love the stuff, but I was broke--a friend of this girl drove us all home after a post-work pint. Her friend couldn’t believe where she had to take me.
“You live in the Crescent? Shit, mate, you know you live on the most dangerous street in the most dangerous neighborhood in Bournemouth?”
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the urban U.S, where people have guns and no health care, but I just found it hard to believe. Well, I believed it--but that didn’t mean that it was actually dangerous. The worst neighborhood in Harmlessville is still harmless.
It was a good two miles from work to my place. I walked it twice a day, too broke to pay fifty pence for bus fare, despite the fact that I would defeat the purpose of my shower by getting to work sweaty, despite the fact that I only brought three nice shirts and could only afford to do laundry once the whole time I was there, despite the fact that my boots were literally falling apart.
I brought two pairs of footwear with me on the trip: an old pair of boots and a brand-spanking-new pair of sexy, electric-blue suede Nikes with an orange swoosh. Those were beautiful goddamn shoes. I took a picture of them, they were so beautiful, and it was a good thing I did; they were stolen from the tiny communal bathroom while I was in the shower at the Surfer Hotel. I only wore them a few times and that picture is all I have left.
The Surfer Hotel was so-named because the surfing in Bournemouth is legendary. The only surfers I ever saw came out during the only storm I ever saw and the waves were still hardly any bigger than those in tranquil Lake Michigan, so the legend remains a mystery to me. It was a truly atrocious bed and breakfast. It was grotesque, decrepit, infested...and all the other two-dollar bad words you can think of. Nobody lived there but me and maybe some as-yet-undiscovered corpses. The brunt of their business was stag and hen parties from London on the weekend. Those were trying evenings for me, I must say.
I moved there when money got really tight, when I had been there for weeks without a hint of future employment. I had been staying at a nicer bed and breakfast with clean sheets, an edible breakfast, and a working TV, where all my hotel rejection letters were sent, where the women who ran it worried about me like her own child, despite the fact that I had never spoken to her beyond “Hello” and “Thank you,” but I had to give it up. I criss-crossed the city looking for the dirtiest place I could find, assuming it would also be the cheapest, and tried to settle in without touching anything.
Five minutes later, my shoes were stolen and I had to make do with the boots. Not long after they became my go-to pair of shoes, they broke into many pieces. I bought a tube of all-purpose super adhesive and used that to glue my shoes together every night. I had to carry the glue with me at all times because every day they fell apart again.
Toward the end of my stay in Bournemouth, as I approached the Crescent on my walk home from work, I saw the prostitute again. I hadn’t seen her since that night she hollered at me. She was leaning into the window of a Lexus stopped at the traffic light on the near-end of the Crescent. I stared at her from across the street as I waited to cross.
“Well, it’s ten quid for a hand job.”
I heard this loud and clear. From across the street. I had always wondered what that sort of thing cost. I’m not sure if Kenny heard it, but I don’t think he cared about the details; he saw her and he knew what she was up to. He raced across Penis Park, shouting.
“Oi! Get the fuck outta my neighborhood! This is a family neighborhood! Full of good, hard-working people trying to live decent lives! We don’t need your fucking trash around here! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! NOW!”
The driver of the Lexus slammed on the gas as soon as he heard the word “Oi.” The prostitute attempted a rebuttal, but quickly realized its futility. I got a lot of satisfaction from seeing Kenny put her in her place, after the way she shouted at me that one night, but as I watched her sulk off in pursuit of some other john, on some other crescent, I also felt sorry for her. And the john.
Why can’t two people conduct a little business together? They’re not hurting anybody. Who is Kenny to say what can and cannot happen in this neighborhood? Just because Krooked Kenny done gone straight doesn’t mean he’s some sort of moral authority. And even if he was, who is hurt by that hand-job? She gets ten pounds, he gets a good time.
I walked past Kenny, into our house, up the stairs, and into my room. I closed the door, plucked a magazine off the floor, and leafed through it for probably the tenth time.
It was only six o’clock--what the hell was I going to do for five hours?