please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Belly of the Beast

Wait a minute. Now I'm back in sixth grade, and my best friend's father is cradling my balls in the palm of his hand. This particular person (one of two Dr. Chucks, important in my early life) is also my Dad's army buddy, from when they served at Fort Knox, protecting all that soup.
I want, I really really want, to play little league football, to the amusement of my parents. "You want to what?" They ask, with little smiles. They're not anti-football; they just know me, and know too damn well that I haven't the faintest desire to engage in that silly bullshit, and am only feeling pressured by my friends to do what is, after all, normal...And even questioning that fact brings you into question.
So back to Dr. Chuck, and my balls. He is, of course, about to ask me to turn my head and cough. Searching for the elusive hernia. However, in the middle of doing his completely normal duty, he pauses, and really gives my equipment the twice-over.
"What, is that swelling?" Dr. Chuck says. Everybody, it seems, is briefly considering my sack. I have no idea what to say, having really only seen my own and having no idea how they should or should not appear.
"No, no...You just have abnormally large testicles..." he said, shaking his head with a little bit of relief, and I swear that the middle aged men in the room gave each other a bit of an approving head-nod at this: kid's got big balls.
This did not translate on the playing field, so much. Mind you, I wasn't half the wuss that Dr. Chuck's kid was. I had-well, that kid didn't know anything. Yes, he was the one who taught me the word 'vagina', but someone would have, eventually...In fact, he kept spelling it, over and over again, until I finally convinced him that I still had no idea what he was talking about, and would he please stop spelling this alien word that seemed so dirty to him, as we were completely alone, and what word in the English language could possibly be spelled B-A-J-Y-N-A, anyway? Weren't there rules?
Not long before this, he and I had been chatting. He and I had always been intellectually arrayed against each other in this sick competition by our parents. Army buddy to army buddy: my kid's smarter than yours'. This led to uncomfortable conversations like the one we had that day. He was saying exactly the following words to me: "I'm a genius!"
With my limited vocabulary and socialization skills, I was unable to explain to him exactly why I thought that it was a disastrously bad idea to say shit like that in public. I believe I made the main point that it would give the other kids the no doubt mistaken impression that he was conceited, or something. I also knew that this wasn't his overactive ego talking: his fucking parents had told him this. On that day I felt sorry for him.
As I say, I quickly came to find the smell of knee pads and polyester (developed by a coach of the Florida Gators, I needn't remind you) sweat to be the smell of desperation, and was no good at this enterprise. "Look at those shoulders!" my coach would scream. "You should be a hell of a lineman!" He wasn't expressing hope, but displeasure. I was not a hell of a lineman, and everybody knew it. Despite my broad shoulders, I was still proportioned like an attractive teenaged girl, and frankly should not have been playing (that's right) tight end at all. (On defense, I was 'defensive end', natch.) But, the kid had big balls, and...
One particularly freezing-the-fuck-cold eastern Oregon day in November, I was standing out there, and the big, fat LSU grad football dad who harrassed the coaches incessantly screamed the word "BLOOD!", and ran over to me. It seemed that my arm was bleeding from a wound that I didn't remember receiving, as my extremities were numb. It was remarked upon at length that I hadn't complained about this, and I saw again that head-nodding thing that middle-aged men do, when congratulating young men on things that are not their doing. I was confused.
"Just like to see that you're coagulatin'," one of them said, another word I wasn't familiar with. It was clear I'd made their simple asses proud, though, and rode it out. The fatass football dad, of course, made it clear to his son that if he was half the team player that I was, he'd...Etcetera.
In fact, the constant pressure of the football dads was a source of early anthropological wonder to me. The fat one kept on using these really uncomfortably homoerotic euphemisms that even then, I wondered about. "Eat their lunch", and "Smell their shorts" were bandied about as positive metaphors for victory. Even worse was the wiry, fidgety little guy who was the sire of Derek, the worst player on the team. He would (entirely unbidden to do so by the actual coaching staff) gather all us boys in a huddle, give us a weird, directionless pep talk, then turn it entirely personal; directed right at Derek. Right in the middle of telling us all exactly what he'd learned about the mystical strategics of football, he'd turn and say, "And Derek, you know that I know your mom's gonna be up there in the stands watchin', and if you let her down,you'll..." Break her heart, and become a homosexual, yes, yes we know.
When the time came for actual games, I knew that my ruse was soon to be found out. In the first game, against the team that most of my friends were on-the ringers, in fact: the son of the high-school football coach amongst them-I was quickly intimitdated by their superior resources of training and indeed, lineup.
However, on that team also, as some sort of sympathy gesture, was my friend Brett. He stood less than four feet tall, by my estimation, but was obsessed with sports and was the next-door neighbor of said football coach's son. In the middle of getting murdered that evening, I saw opportunity come skittering out of the crowd.
Everybody else is looking for someone much larger to be carrying the ball, but they were wise, the other guys, and had given the ball to the tiniest person on the field, sure to be undetected. Now, here is my friend, my little tiny friend, wearing a helmet and mesh jersey, streaking away from a tangle of pointlessly clashing fools, and only I see him. I see my chance, though I am afraid of hurting him.
I run over to him, and pick him up, cradling him gently, as I spin us both around, landing with a great deal more trauma to me than to him. For a moment, I'm a hero.
We spend the rest of the game getting our asses handed to us, of course, but me, ever the politician, I keep on saying to Coach Utter, "Didja see me? Yup! I got 'im! Just went over there and picked 'im up and..." Coach wasn't paying attention to me at this point. He was psychopathic with rage, watching us lose. The only game 'we' ever won, of course, was the one I couldn't make it to. Imagine my shame.
The second Dr. Chuck was a school psychologist. He had been referred to my case by the school district, as I was one of the few success stories of that district, and they didn't want me to morph into some little Hitler. Well, more like I was already pretty damn good at teaching myself things, and they wanted to take all the credit for it, and were busily calling me a genius, something my parents never would do, though they too exaggerated the scope of my abilities.
Dr. Chuck, though a nice man, is entirely transparent. He asks me (he thinks) these seemingly harmless questions like, "If you had some money, and had the choice of giving it to a charitable organization or a street beggar, who would you give it to?"
I would say, "The charitable organization."
He would then ask, "Why, Richie?"
Then I would say exactly what he wanted me to say, about how at least with a charitable org., I could be assured no doubt that my money would go to something worthwhile, and helpful. I didn't say, 'Because that is so clearly what you want me to say, and these questions are tiresome, and I just want that piece of candy you will give me, if I answer correctly.' Then he'd give me a piece of candy.
Good thing we don't have to lie to each other any more, no? Now that we're grown-ups and hold our destinies, gently, in the palms of our hands, yes? Yes, of course.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Quick Musical Interlude

"This bar is a prison. These people are not your friends." Perhaps the greatest two lines ever written, as applied to song. That's Postal Service, a band destined to be utterly forgotten, though highly relevant now. Can't you see it? The grammas and grampas of the future imparting their wisdom, derived from this small collection of songs that made so much sense to them, then?
I've just been down to My Fuckin' Pal. Present this eve were The Babbler and The Baseball Cap Enthusiast. The Babbler, under two minutes of my paying attention to her, was still trying to interest me in her own personal psychodrama: "Even though you never talk to me, I still love you, and..." And I left her there, after freeing my hand from her grasp. This is a person, I might add, who I no longer talk to, as she recently felt some reason to explain to me, with fantastic psych-while-U-bop reasoning, that if you have a problem with someone else's behavior or words expended upon you, it's Your Problem, and has nothing to do with the action or words employed by the other person. So I no longer waste any words on her, when she feels all drunk and serious, and would like the attention, as always, placed upon Her.
I also was walking away from The Baseball Cap Enthusiast, who I had greeted earlier, but had remained engaged by the conversation at my own table, and had not felt the need to join his. He, of course, interpreted this as a horrible personal affront, and he chose to deal with it this way:
I'm at the front door of the bar, and he screams across the room; "Hey Rich! Thanks for saying hello!" In a way as to say, oh, I'm not good enough for you to leave another conversation for? To drop what you're doing and run immediately to my side, as you know all too well how emotionally needy I am, and how much I need taking care of, as we all know You like to do?
I said, "Of course!", when what I really meant was, "hey, maybe you should think of what an embarrassment and liability you've been, every time we've been in public together, for the last two years. Maybe it's time that you just fucking admitted that you're gay, instead of starting meaningless fights with men and pointless drama with women. Maybe you should get used to the idea that I'm no longer there, when you get sloppy. That's why scenarios like last Friday transpire: we walk into The Angry at 2:30, I leave circa Six, at which point you guilt the living hell out of me for actually leaving. I lie, and say that I need a nap, though really I just need to leave, the way any sane human gets out of the way of a train with busted brakes. Twelve hours after our initial arrival, The Iranian Goddess is pointing out how big your tab is, as you've been indulging your horrible, childish neediness on every stranger in sight, buying them drinks in the hope that maybe they'll be your friend, and not a Bastard, like your Daddy. So now you realize, through your haze, how much you've spent, and you try to argue, at bar close, or "kick out time", as she calls it talking to me, the next day. Sap. You are your own death, and I'm not taking that ride.
right now, I'm listening to a tape I made in high school, like I have on several occasions before whilst bloggin'. At the moment, it's The Swans' cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart": 'There's a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold; that something so good just can't function no more.' Yup.
Earlier, it had been Sinead O'Connor's "Just Call Me Joe", my favorite song by her pretentious ass: "Listen to what I'm not saying." And most poignantly, Joy Division's "The Eternal". That song has just killed me, as long as I've known it. Especially the line, "Cry like a child, those these years make me older. With children my time is so wastefully spent..."
(Hey. What's your point?)
"That the world is a wound in the body of Christ/ and that God is a sadist/ and that He knows it"-Coil
(No. What's your point; not these other people. Not your friends the Majickal elves who live within the stereo.)
"And the box office is drooling, and the bar stools are on fire, and the newspapers were fooling, and the ashtrays have retired, and the piano has been drinking, not me."-Tom Waits
(Hey. Me over here. The Other, though not The Exact Opposite. You come and talk to me, when yer like this, remember? What-)
"I had to move, I really had to move. That's why if you please, I am on my bended knees, Bertha don't you come around here. Any more."


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

How to run My Revolution

I saw a bumper sticker today; the beginning of every great discussion. It read, "When Jesus said, 'love thy neighbor', I think it meant 'don't kill them'." I was walking along, and I started hearing them mystic chords of memory again, which is to say, that great Billy Preston keyboard line that sets out the sleepy, underwater sounding song, "Just Wanna See His Face", by de Stones. "Don't wanna talk, talk about Jesus, just wanna see his face..." And I thought, yeah, pretty much everyone throughout history who has made a career of Christ-pimping has been some roaring asshole who is about as far from neighbor-loving as one can be. Quit talking about it; start acting like it.
For some reason, this brings me back to my conversation with The Schlecht. She had walked into the editorial meeting at Sound Out, the piss-poor excuse for a queer paper they had up in Oly. As the only hetero on the writing staff (and one of only three men), I was in a fantastic position to observe. Most of the women on staff had slept with each other at least, and the editorial meetings were masterpieces of passive agression mixed with that awful counselling-speak that somehow rarely facillitates communication. They usually ended up violently disagreeing with each other, theoretically about the story topics, but I just don't think so. In any case, at this particular one, The Schlect walks in and looks at me. She says, "So why is it that the only thing that inspired you to write for us was to attack a Native American man?"
A 'how often do you beat your wife' question, if I ever heard it (because when you say, 'I don't,' your accuser then gets to say, "So you deny it!"). It is true that she was in a bad mood for a perfectly good reason; a political lobbyist, she had spent the entire day watching the latest queer rights bill go down in ignominious flames in the Washington state legislature. And yes, I had just had the opening salvo in what would be a mini culture war published.
There was an advisor at the local liberal arts college (hereafter known as The Evergrowing State Concern) who was also a columnist on this paper. He had been raised white, but had discovered that he had some amount of (proper term here? 'Native American' is a misnomer, I feel. Amerind? Mesoamerican? Descendant of Early Aboriginal Peoples!) DEAP blood around age thirty or so, and quickly parlayed this into a job as Professional Indian at the local college, as First Peoples (eesh) advisor, and doing a weekly radio show. I think his qualification for being in that paper was that he said, one time, that he might be bisexual, or something.
Well, he had written one column that had been on the topic of white male privilege. This was hardly surprising. Not only was he societally empowered to turn every discussion into a debate on this topic, but Olympia in general was very likely to bring this subject up pretty much any time. I had written an extensive text deconstruction of it, where I pointed out the historical and etymological errors in it, and furthermore pointed out at some points that his generalizations were basically racist, where they weren't just dumb. I had no idea that they would publish it; if I had known that they would, I might have removed some of the deeply angry profanity and insults that dot the piece like tiny islands.
The two ladies who co-edited the thing (with a brief aside about how I really needed to learn to type better) liked it. They published it, and thence came the storm. Their readership erupted in a big, whiny rage. Most of it was from his friends, and most had the inarguable premise of "how dare you", rather than an actual criticism. A few people in public approached me and thanked me for writing it, but they did not sign their names next to it, on paper.
The second thing I wrote (and I wonder now if Cammy and Wendy had just noticed how boring their paper had become, and were just in the mood to stir up shit) was a response to the responses. It's clear to me now, looking at it, that I was really having fun now. I point out how much the man in question (much less his allies) sounded like An Oppressor when he said things like, "Hopefully, some of you will learn to be more respectful in the future." I also point out that my first word, taught to me by my Three Wicked Aunts, was 'bullshit'.
So The Schlect, who towers over me and is seemingly incapable of smiling, has set the tenor for the entire debate with her first question. Everyone else leaves the room. I don't intend to let her just use me as a scratching post, but I also don't intend to argue. I had no idea who she was, so I asked who she was, what she did, etc. I was rewarded with this bizarre run down of her Good Folk cred: she is from a working class background, for instance. I hadn't impugned her Not-Richness, but it did occur to me that, background aside, now she had a very, very good paying job. I kept my mouth shut. I was genuinely interested in finding out who this person was, who had so easily assumed the moral high ground, and trying not to envision her as the embodiment of everything irrational and shrill in the human spirit.
But, she was too damn used to shaming people like me, and presented me with the prototypical Olympian phrase: "I mean, don't take this wrong," (this would be insulting, in other words, but would include enough disclaimers that she wouldn't have to take responsibility for it, and I would have no right to be angered by it) "But who are you to tell me how to run my revolution, little blonde haired, blue eyed man?" (How could I have taken that wrong?)
(A person who lives here? A human being that feels that his destiny is more than somewhat wrapped up with your own? An ally that you might not want to alienate? Someone who has every right to comment on whatever the hell he feels like, regardless of what you think? Someone who finds your clumsy attempt to intimidate me with these weird appearance-based slurs childish and sad, ya' big, ugly, hatchet-faced mollusk?)
Needless to say, the conversation did not end well. I kept on smiling like a damn fool. I now realized that she had provided me with the central question that really needed to be asked.
One evening, on break from my job as shitboy on a demolition site, I sat down and wrote one last editorial at Cammy and Wendy's house. It is titled "Friendly Advice from a Janitor". Pretty much everyone who had attacked me (and by now, there were lots of them) had been an academic, politico or at least someone who was not spending their evenings covered with fiberglass and asbestos. Folks who were accusing me of upholding the male stereotype and its attendant privilege, who were all operating at a much higher pay scale than me. I decided that I was, in fact, going to make a very pointed suggestion as to how to run The Revolution.
I basically spoke at length about how no one was ever going to take them seriously if they just sat around calling everyone who was not them (and each other) names. They needed to establish some sort of connection with this majority of people that they had started to view as The Other. I reminded them that the religious right seems pretty cohesive, and they'd better be, too. I reminded them that the only reason anyone listened to Martin Luther King and Gandhi was because they had the respect of their communities, and if they told everybody to stop working, the engine of commerce would grind to a sickening halt. I told them that they'd be much better off telling The Other out there that if queer's rights to fuck and marry whoever they damn well pleased were taken away, it opens up the door to the government doing so to anyone they pleased. "And they just aren't going to feel like supporting the people who sneer at them every time they go to the coffee shop."
I told them that the real problem is fundamentalism, and they'd better not become fundamentalists, too, or it was all over. I still see The Community failing to understand this, and exactly how to couch the argument. The above tactic of scaring the common folk with the Goddamn Gubment coming into everybody's bedroom would probably play pretty well, and going ahead and letting your allies say it in public, too: "These are my friends and family you're talking about, and you Do Not fuck with my friends, and you Do Not fuck with my family." Rednecks get all weepy over shit like that.
I've got a number of other ideas, but this has gone on too long as it is.


Saturday, April 16, 2005


Gringa Alta Prima is trying to sleep, one afternoon a couple of years ago, and can't, because I keep giggling. I don't want to have to explain to her that, for some reason, my mind has seen fit to send me pictures that afternoon. The one I am considering is of a promotional album for some German music variety show called, "Please Stop Fucking Tickling Me". Its host is a smarmy, beaming dork in a bright yellow cardigan.
Matter of fact, as I have already mentioned, one can see many interesting things when one Googles the phrase "please stop tickling me". Mostly it's porn; "Please Master, please stop tickling me!" Sometimes it's some family's home page.
All the boys on the teevee show have named me Condor. This is due to the fact that last summer, when I was approached by the lady who co-owns the production company I work for, she said, "My husband told me to come out here and look for the guy who looks like mid-'70's Robert Redford."
"That's me!" I said, but I don't really think it's true. Lots of people keep telling me I look like the 'Ford, but I think it might be laziness on their part. I am a damn handsome man, mind you, but I am proportioned a bit more like Beck, I think. Even that's laziness, though; he's just blonde n' floppy.
My cat is approaching. I can hear her because she's the size of a bread maker. That whole Feline Stealth thing will elude her for the rest of her days; too heavy to sneak up on a damn thing. I would swear that she gave me a look, the other evening upon my return, that said, "And where the hell have you been?" She is fond of snuggling in the morning, reaching out, in ecstasy, to touch my face with her paw. It's cute, if unsanitary as all get out.
I was dancing with Wrong Again Evans a couple months ago, to her boss's band. She and I were easily the youngest people there, and I had all sorts of drunk people in their sixties all over me. One was a lady who said, "If you hurt her, I'll hunt you down and kill you." Then, the little obligatory laugh that follows this never funny statement. People, as I say, watch too many movies, and are constantly trying to act them out. As a joke, it falls flat, as a threat, it is disproportionate to the case at hand. In any case, on that evening, I finally found the perfect response to it: "You oughta see what's gonna happen to you if she hurts me."
Which she did, come to think of it. I need to mobilize the Red Team. Excuse me.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

A quick one while he's away

Ah. The Brazilian Pampas musical exposition that For Some Reason Needs to take place at Three In the Morning has ended. When it initially began, I was laying there in my bed, saying, well things could be far worse...And then I went to the bathroom window, leaned out into the airshaft and politely addressed my neighbor,"Nice work, sociopath. I didn't really feel like this whole 'sleep' thing anyway, ya' child." But in this really nice, conversational tone that basically let his simple ass Know, and furthermore say, Thanks, Poison Dog. I'll see to it that you won't be sleeping in the back of your fucking truck by the end of the month. In fact, I'll see to it that you will have neither truck nor sleep. And as always, I'm not trying to be rude or insensitive here, just espousing my great love of Brazilian music, especially when it is blared at mind-numbing volumes right next to my formerly sleeping head at ridiculous hours. That's all.
I also keep fielding calls here, at the office, from a fictional phone number. (555) 555-1212. Generally once daily, this number pops up on my Celly, and if I try to answer, it hangs up, and never, ever leaves a message. The fact that I seem to be receiving calls from what had been the phone number for Information, before the rise of 411, is ominous, but even more so, isn't that also the number that every character on a television show gives, when asked? There was even that Simpsons quote where Homer is saying, "555-1212? Hey! This isn't a real phone number!"
The last dream that I remember having (that I feel like discussing here: I feel like it is bad luck to talk about the really bad ones in public) concerns myself and Bobby Massage out on the town (an overdeveloped version of Cortez, Colorado, for some reason) with several beautiful, interesting ladies. I keep on noting how wonderful they are, but keep needing to stop and change my shoes, leading ultimately to being known as The Guy Who Kept Changing His Shoes, as opposed to That Wonderful Man Who I Talked To, Last Night. I'm no rookie when it comes to oneiromancy, and I know what this one means. Like I say, that was the good dream.
Creeping surrealism. This is enhanced by the fact that my waking life continues to strongly resemble my dreaming life, and I feel like something may be broken here. Along with the aforementioned Someone From A Sitcom oftentide awakening me ("Mr. Belvedere holding on Line One...") through the use of Technology, I also keep on experiencing horrible rips in the veil between dream, madness and Good Ol' Consensus Reality, which as I say, should largely be kept to myself, as to speak of them in public would just give them Power. This, as Abdul Alzahred (The Mad Arab) would say, is a Great Secret.
The musical guests on the teevee show the other eve were my friends, The Buttery Lords. They snipped at each other and the show, backbit each other constantly, and then threw down the funky ass beats that gits the whole crowd moving that they consistently do. This happened in an unprecedented-ly large crowd. The local paper, as well as one of the local weeklies, had done a glowing review, though hampered by the fact that I came away from said article with no idea what the show actually was about, or why I should watch it. Mind you, for most of your Walking Bags of Salt Water out there, that sort of thing isn't a necessity, and they came in droves. The nice couple who comes by the Troika every morning was there with the vodka they distill right here in the neighborhood, and of course, those fellas from the Slow Bar were there with the two kegs of Pebist they normally bring. This was in an atmosphere where the legal limit for occupancy in that building had clearly been breached, hot and sweaty, and no water or food was available. Pizza Schmizza ("The Food That Makes Fun of Itself!") didn't bring by its usual stack of pies...Well, in this nightmare scenario, Famous did once again use one of my jokes, and four anonymous crowd members helped clean up, at the end of the show. This is pleasing, as at the end of the show I'm usually up on a ladder, drunk, holding a box cutter, slicing zip ties and hauling down still-very-hot lighting rigs. The fact that they were sweeping up all the candy from the floor is fucking awesome.
When Bobby Massage and I went out to breakfast the other morning, we made up fake commercials for the better part of an hour. There were a lot of winners in there, but my favorite was one for a fictional entity named People Like You, International. Its motto is "Because People Like You built the Pyramids." Meditate on that one for a while, will you?
Truth is, I could go on and on here. I choose not to because, as one local woman put it, it is winter, and god just killed another kitten.