Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jew-lysses

I have received a few comments to the effect that content on this site has gotten infrequent, and I apologize. But, as Henry Ford once quipped, "You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do." No one has said anything about what commentary is there getting stale yet, but in anticipation of that horror, I am introducing an entirely new kind of post: a cross-section of my thoughts throughout a possible day in my life, some real, some imagined. My inner monologue is in italics; external verbalizations in regular type. And yes, I realize that my promises to not make this blog a boring and self-obsessed run-through of my days has been completely despoiled of any meaning it once possessed. Enjoy.

8:00 AM: Gabe dresses for a business meeting.

You know, it’s important to have the right number of colors represented in both your cloth goods and leather goods, but there’s a real art to metallic accessories, as well. I mean, I could have easily picked a black belt, black shoes, and a black wristband, or had contrasting monochromatic pants and very busy shirt, but I could have just as easily gotten away without silver buckle and silver timepiece. If I can just make it clear enough without trying too hard that this is not something I labor at, but just what comes naturally to me, people will actively work to make me a success. I believe that. And it’s crazy. But it’s really that simple.

10:37 AM: Gabe reflects in the inner sanctum of a prominent attorney.

Someone hung this the wrong way, but that’s cool. I can correct that without anybody noticing. Hmm. The gaps between the door and the wall a bit thinner than I would like – they should be wide enough that you have some sense what’s going on outside, but not so wide that you could be seen. And the noise level – it’s so quiet you could become self-conscious - if you weren't beyond embarrassment like I am. I wouldn’t do that to you, personally. But you have the right amount of room, and that’s important – you’re not too cozy, but you don’t feel like you’re sitting in the observation deck of the Death Star watching whole solar systems drift by. And you get some sunlight. You know, it’s a mixed bag, but where else are you getting paid three hundred bucks an hour to go to the bathroom? This must be how a racehorse feels.

12:10 PM: Gabe considers himself in the mirror.

What the hell are you doing, man?

2:42 PM: Gabe looks out the window at a magnificent German short-haired pointer.

I want to have one of those dogs – no, two of them, and take them running some desolate place where we’re the only things for miles around, and if I can just run fast enough, there will be classical music to herald my arrival, punctuated by the faintest possible dog barks in the background. And you don’t even know where I’m running to, or what I’m running from. All I that matters is that I keep running.

6:27 PM: Gabe picks his younger brother up at the airport, and is so demoralized from sitting in traffic that he is at first helpless to demand that his brother pick a different CD to listen to. However, he is not too demoralized to suspend judgment.

What is the crap? You know, I feel pretty bad admitting this, but I hate world music. It’s not that I don’t want to like it, either. Just the opposite – I really wanted to get down to the groove of international brotherhood and multi-instrument mayhem, to shake my ass right out of my seat and my white privilege right out my ass. Y’all feel me? But the problem is, I just don’t think that highly of the rest of the world. I mean, you’ve got these primitive, primitive people, blowing into some fakakta river-reed, banging spoons on rocks, or plucking some stringed instrument made out of water buffalo guts, for fuck’s sake. No distortion, no synth, no overdubbing, no nothing. I just think we can plain do better than that, you know? And sure, I know world unity is a worthy ideal, worth sacrificing my auditory comfort, in theory. But in reality, there’s just no way I’m gonna spend $18.99 on a CD of that stuff. That will be all, Evan.

8:34 PM: Gabe takes his sweet time to answer his cell phone.

I was so sheepish and awed about finally having a cell phone, even after three years, that each call I got was like a present I put off opening in order to build my excitement: I’d put off checking my caller ID til the third and fourth ring, simultaneously convincing the other person, or so I thought, that I was a prestigious and occupied guy, and to get me on the phone could damn well take a few rings, and would be worth every second left hanging. The funny thing is, these days I think that I should answer my phone as early as possible, now that my philosophy is to try to make things convenient for others, and shamelessly win customers that way. Sometimes, I don’t even look at the caller ID, because everyone gets the same invigorating greeting from me, and you can take that all the way to the your local branch of the following participating banks. Everyone knows a cell phone is a personal phone, not listed in the telephone directory, and if you’re calling this number, you must be very important to me indeed. Glad to have you. But the really funny thing is, you know how a call on the cell phone used to be cause for celebration? You know, increasingly, the same could be said of a call on your landline. Especially if it’s before 9 PM. Have some courtesy, folks. Yep, 9:00 is the cutoff.

9:12 PM: Gabe has a conversation with an aged relative, and does not have the heart to inform her he has been single for quite a while now.

God, this is great. I’m telling a complete and utter lie, and not only is it going to be almost certainly consequence-free, but it will actually improve this lady's emotional well-being. So what if the company I work for doesn’t really exist? What’s she going to do, learn how to use the Internet? Oh, Christ. She’s going to say “yep, you betcha” for the third time in the past forty-five seconds. May I never live to get this predictable. Shit, there she goes again. What, do you just get to be a certain age and the same garbage is meaningful over and over? I wonder what she’s doing right now. I mean, she lives alone, but she’s 76. Yes, yes, I swear we’re doing fine. I mean, I’m great, she’s great, we’re just great together, you know? Yes, of course I’m thinking about it, but why rush a good thing, you know? I absolutely agree. It’s what holds us together. Oh, definitely. Well, the thing is, you could visit us, but she’s on a, um, retreat right now. No, she’s fine, it’s just something she likes to do from time to time for herself. Yes, of course I’ll call her.

11:45: Gabe relaxes in his easy chair and resumes reading Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan.

Hizb-I Islami? Hizb-I Wahdat? Najibullha...Nakibullah...Sibghatolla? God, this is driving me crazy. Who can keep up with this shit? No wonder everyone over there seems to be a crazed warlord. Ok, Ok...Wow. I never knew that. Well what did you think would happen? You made a pact with a historically devious faction, you get what you deserve. How amazing would it be to fuck in a tent with shells bursting overhead, just consumed by the urgency of it all? If you got hit by shrapnel, would you keep thrusting, or seek better shelter? … Man, do any of those people realize how flaming this all is? These guys are like Adam West and Burt Ward. What do you suppose happened to that girl from the cover of National Geographic – you know, the one with the really green eyes? Is she still alive. Some of these mullahs are pretty fucking grizzled. I wonder how they’d fare in a poker game. You know, this guy seems pretty with it, pretty moderate, I hope his faction wins out, but if I’ve learned anything from the last thirty pages, it’s that everyone disappoints you sooner or later. And I’m going to try my hardest to make her see that’s just not the case with me.

1:19 AM: Gabe helps himself to a chocolate chip cookie and his bedtime glass of port, and reflects on what he has just read.

Yeah, so what if they all said the same thing? Couldn’t it mean just a little bit more coming from me, for fuck’s sake? Couldn’t things be different this once? I’m not saying perfect…just different.

1:43 AM: Gabe contemplates retiring for the night, and turns off the bedside lamp.

At some point, maybe you just have to find a cave to go crawl around in until you can’t anymore.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Unbridled Narcissism

I.

Well, this has indeed been a long day. I was up at 4:00 AM in order to be at the Concours d'Elegance, perhaps the world's premier classic car exposition, by 5:30. As volunteer experiences go, this is a good one: a minimum of heavy lifting, plenty of credulous people to have fun with, tickets redeemable for a spicy Bloody Mary, and of course many of the finest show cars you'll ever see. They're not just for show, though; driving is a prerequisite, and any car that isn't road-worthy is disqualified. Some of these delicate-looking Mr. Toad contraptions can really haul ass, too, even if there's a little guy inside shoveling coal as fast as he can. I mean, how else could the engine compartment be 12 feet long?

Some random thoughts from today:

1. Why is it that people with a lot of money tend to buy the smallest stuff they can find? Think about it: it's well known that the more expensive the restaurant, the smaller the portions. And it's no accident that one buys truffles by the ounce. I bet there's stuff so expensive that it's commonly sold by the gram, even.

The reason I ask is that I saw a lot of absurdly dressed women, presumably the car owners or their wives or family, standing about their cars with dogs that fit in their purses, dogs that could be mistaken for cats, or dogs that perched on their shoulder like a pirate's parrot. These animals are overbred, pathetic, and emit glass-breakingly high-pitched shrieks. On the other hand, the same probably goes for a lot of their masters.

2. What is it about these events that attracts every loafers-sans-socks-wearing guy with a bad ponytail in the entire nation? Is Steven Seagal making a big comeback? Also noticed: many Fabio-inspired quasi-mullets, about a dozen Randy Quaid-in-"Kingpin" haircuts, numerous guys with shitty ponytails who are half bald on top to boot, several Joan Rivers lookalikes, and every mustache known to man. These ran the gamut from works of art that effortlessly transported me back to the 1920s to the dangerously close-cropped suspected pervert hanging out next to my table.

3. In olden times, one often purchased a luxury car in the form of a wheelbase and engine, but the bodywork itself, not only the cabin, was entrusted to a master coach-builder and tailored to a customer's fondest specifications. Hence, styling as a whole, exterior as well as interior, was a custom affair in many early autos. This leads me to conclude one thing: that some people were really rich back in the day.

4. Pebble Beach may no longer exclude Jews officially, but it's definitely not bending over backwards to accomodate them. Viz. multiple mayonnaise-based salads, mortifying abundance of white bread, and pronounced absence of slivovitz from the drink stands. Shrimp, I love; ham, I can work around, but come on, people.

5. Being around all this wealth and power has cemented a goal that's been slowly creeping into the forefront of my consciousness as a result of repeated exhortations from the guys in my men's club. As soon as I am old and rich enough, I am running for Congress. The Democratic party needs someone who knows what he stands for, will be tough on terror, can appeal to everyday Americans, and looks fabulous in a suit. Actually, any one of those things on its own would be much better than they're doing now. Consider this an early announcement of candidacy. Also, I understand that Sam Farr holds District 17 for life, so if you belong to a district with shakier leadership, please let me know, and I could be coming to your town. And if you're a drug dealer, prostitute, transvestite, or otherwise incriminating personage, please start exercising your right to be heard by your representative. Preferably in an extremely personal manner and either on camera or via secret tape recording. I need all the help I can get, folks.

II.

"A River Runs Through It" is quite possibly the single finest movie made during the 1990s. If you haven't seen it, rent immediately; if you have, relive the magic.

III.

I got myself into a completely Larry David situation, and I actually have an idea for a quick fix that would make it astronomically worse if the truth were uncovered. Obviously, I can't provide details here, but if you get in touch with me individually we can probably work something out

IV.

On Saturday the 13th, for the first time ever, my home played host to all three (count 'em) of my honorary uncles at once. Charlie Franklin, Myles Williams, and Scott Nisbet, I salute you. Whether your influence was one of salutary neglect during my moments of indulgence, or involved active efforts to make me a less responsible citizen, it has been much appreciated. And to Miss Molly, my honorary niece, I may never get to teach you how to smoke cigars at the age of fourteen, as a certain uncle did for me, but you have an absurdly thick hair for a five-month-old baby, and in that respect, I have taught you well. Go get 'em, kid.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

He Might Be A Sumbitch, But He's Our Sumbitch

Yes, folks, as of 10:19 AM, it is my birthday. I am not so vain as to suppose this is a matter of any great import to more than a select few, but, as the same could be said of this humble blog, I felt I would let it be known. Dispensing with the usual disclaimers I make about how this is not meant to be a forum for my emotions, which have their proper outlet in gambling, grain alcohol, and mob rule, I will say only this: I have the finest friends and family I could ask for, and it is my goal that today I will celebrate you all rather than selfishly hope that you will celebrate me. As such, no further gifts are necessary.

Unless, of course, you have a good bottle of port or some of those fierce Wyoming-style fireworks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Fashion Police

I recently took a stroll down memory lane, which is pretty hard to avoid doing when you live among the many ghosts of your sordid past like I do. However, even within the fraught and liminal space that is Carmel Valley, I managed to revisit the true sanctum sanctorum of my misspent youth. The place where I watched the Berenstain Bears paddle their canoe past a haunted bog, thick with alligators. The place where I researched fighter jets and their weaponry, against the day I might have occasion to use one to resolve a schoolyard dispute. The place where I was able to read about sex in Cosmo or Redbook before we had the Internet. In other words, the Carmel Valley Library.

During the Harry Potter fracas of the last week or two, I was repeatedly accused of having lost my childlike sense of imagination, of being an old grouch, of hating kids, and many other charges that are all absolutely correct, and to which I say "Yeah. So?" However, even I am not beyond a little reconsideration (unless you ask my parade of ex-wives). And for some reason I had recently had a flashback of a book that had strongly affected me as a kid, Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia. So, I set out to the library to see if this gem of the late 80's was as meaningful to me now, having experienced a few losses of my own along with the obvious innocence and wonder. And, as it turned out, it was. Perhaps even more so.

Before I could reach the children's book room, I had to wait out one of the library's weekly storytimes, when the very young foregather to be read and sung to by kindly adults, occasionally my mother. It being about four o'clock, I had to wade through the storytime crowd and the older grade-school kids as well, and as a result, I experienced another flashback - or so I thought - as powerful as that concerning Bridge. E.A. Robinson probably said it best in his poem "The Wandering Jew":

A dawning on the dust of years
Had shaped with an elusive light
Mirages of remembered scenes
That were no longer for the sight.


However, this turned out to be very true and physically immediate indeed. And what did it consist of? A kid with a foot-long rat tail. A kid with a foot-long, braided rat tail. A kid with both a rat tail AND a bowl cut, all at the same time. It was like 1987 all over again. But in Carmel Valley, we have no sense of retro. As we were, we are. But what could these kids have known? If Confederate flags were considered cool by high schoolers a few years ago (and my trusty source tells me they were), what might enthrall a lad of eight or nine? Clearly, they knew not what they did.

And then, today, I was speaking with someone, and her thirteen year old kid came into the room sporting that rarest of species - the bowl cut where the bowl half isn't much longer than the short half. My first impulse was to snicker. But then I suddenly recalled that crack that someone (Edmund Burke?) once made about how, for evil to triumph, all that must happen is for good men to do nothing. And believe me, if his creepy religious fanatic of a mother hadn't been right there, there would have been nothing stopping me from laying a fatherly hand on the boy's shoulder and saying, in a knowing but kind voice, "Son, you are entering an age that is awkward for all of us, during which it will be all you can manage for girls to not vomit on you outright, much less like you. Why make it harder than it needs to be? I.E., by having a haircut that makes you look, as my Mom used to say, like someone's butt?"

But, as any parent knows, sometimes you have to let people make their own mistakes. And sometimes, it feels better to snicker than to lend a helping hand.