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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Life In the Tree

I had a dream a few years ago, in which I had seen to it that my friends and I got into a certain rock concert due to the fact that I'd be working there. This was/is not too far from the case with my real life: I've seen a lot of bands I probably wouldn't have otherwise due to working in the stagehanding game.
In this dream, at the end of the show, I was told that I needed to join the rest of the crew on a plane, as we were going to Jakarta, Indonesia.
"But this was just a one-shot deal," I said. "I don't work for you."
"You do now." was the reply.
I sort of feel like my life has become something along those lines.

I spent three days last week building The Singing Christmas Tree. For thirty years, this freak who has started his own church/non-profit organization has put this thing on around December time.
The 'Tree' is a pyramidal set of risers where people stand and sing Christmas carols and hymns. It is be-garlanded and lit with many tiny lights, and spins, occasionally. I was an electrician on this show, because "everybody needs to know how to do everything", as Rain told me. Having not done lights since I was (snicker snicker) Lighting Director on the Famous Mysterious Actor's Show, this made for a steep learning curve. Five rails of hanging lights, at least thirty mounted on the balcony, plus hundreds of tiny lights strung on the Tree, just like you would at home.
Basically, I spent those three days getting paid for putting up Christmas decorations.

After that, another dumb day at Nike, getting paid handsomely for doing very little, and then I was whisked away to Seattle. The Chief is a guy I've been hearing about for years, and I was offered a chance to go work with him, for hourly as well as lodging and meals.
Just as well: for all the money I make, I'm often broke. Also, I had no idea what I'd be doing up there, which made for a delicious sort of mystery/challenge.
First, let's meet the crew:
The Nail, a forty-five year old with a constant little cowboy hat fetish, and plugs in his earlobes the size of golfballs...Way too many tattooes, you know...He is one of those guys who peaked in the Portland punk scene of the late '70's, early '80's. He's still here though, and wants to tell you all about how fabulous he is. And the fact that he used to be in porn.

Mutumbe, which is the name we assigned to this particular person, were he to choose to become a channeler/psychic/smooth criminal. He is black, has well-kept, thin dreads and dresses impeccably. I have worked with him at the Ballet Theater for years, and I was pleased to have him along.
Were he to join the psychic friends' circuit, I suggested that he come out in a suit, explaining that he didn't go in for this mystical shit at all, and has an MBA from Wharton, and...Suddenly, rips off the suit; exposing a loincloth underneath! Mutumbe! Nubian Warrior come to explain to housewives how to please their man!

And The Chief: a mountain of a man, bleary-eyed philosopher and bon vivant.

Upon reaching Seattle, we secured our rooms and went in search of sushi. The first stop was a no-go: a hybrid of Japanese and Polynesian cuisine that Mutumbe described as "T.G.I. Sushi". We left after hearing that there was forty-minute wait.
The place we actually ate at was just called 'Uni', or something. Sexily lit, with nouveau cuisine-sized portions and presentation, fancy cocktails...I said out loud that in this, the most fashion-conscious of Northwest cities, I felt a little strange wandering around in dusty Carhartt's with tools sticking out of the pockets. It might just be a knowing affectation, or maybe I was just out of my element.

My three companions knew each other from the small community of stage workers in the Portland area, but also due to the fact that they're all denizens of Black Rock City. They faithfully attend Burning Man each year. Therefore, almost all the conversations we had involved sex and drugs. Certainly, I was able to keep up, just not so much with stories about either of these activities out in the fucking desert.
We spent a lot of time laughing, which is good. I was doin' my raconteur's best, causing The Chief to say, "You're going to fit in just fine, Rich", at one point. The Nail, indicating me, said, "This guy's even funnier than I am!"
In that I have a sense of humor, I suppose. It's not that he isn't funny; he just happens to have that thing going that all too many Americans do: he spends all of his time quoting cartoons and movies, occasionally singing popular songs in the style of William Shatner. Whereas I like to make up my own jokes, occasionally augmented by references to popular culture...And mere imitation of recognizable celebrity voices doesn't do it either. How about the absurd juxtaposition of corporate voice-over in everyday situations? The man who makes movie trailers for a living attempting to order a burger at a drive-thru? The man who does teasers for the local news who will read anything put in front of him, comprehending none of it?

Anyway, just as the evening was getting good, we had to bed down. I had a room at the Marriott Springhill Suites all to myself, and disappointingly, was only going to be using it for a lackluster shower and some sleep. I still get a little excited by hotels after all these years, and want to build a little fort, or something. This is life on the road, I thought to myself. See the world, or at least its airports and hotels.

In the morning, we gathered in the lobby for shitty coffee and the reading of the Post-Intelligencer, one of Seattle's two papers. I still really wish they'd adopt the slogan, "Information for the Post-Intelligence Age". We also met the travelling road crew we'd be working with.
An enormous black man from Texas, and his two cracker minions. The enormous black man had the same speech patterns as Johnny Cochrane (or worse yet: the actor who portrayed Kramer's attorney on "Seinfeld" who was supposed to be like Mr. Cochrane). This made listening to, and taking orders from him, difficult.
We were deep in the bowels of the Washington State Convention Center, and were charged with the lighting and wiring for sound of a stage soon to be occupied by one Sylvia Browne: channeler, psychic, frequent guest on 'Montel'.
That's her up at the top. Note the blank stare of implied wisdom. And the vacant little smile: I am your friend, and can heal your pain, or maybe just tell you how to please your man. She is in a wheelchair, and has the odd face of someone who I think went through a windshield at some point.

Most of her fans are also middle-aged women of a portly type, often in wheelchairs themselves. I find this degree of fan devotion to be disturbing-crippling yourself, I mean-and...
The tour manager is a little firecracker of a lady in her early forties . That's how she'd probably enjoy being described: firecracker. She has the corporate smile in place, and could very well be an effective PR flack for anything or anyone. She just happens to work for this monster who lies to the stupid and insecure.
The fans were already streaming in (in as much as moving slowly could be described as streaming, I suppose), and we still had some work to do. The video screens were up, the pipe and drape hung at sixteen feet, the lighting truss hung, the speaker wires run, the ramp built, but a few more items remained to be done, and the firecracker wasn't having it.
She took a moment to scream at everyone, then wandered over to me, the smile turned back on. "Aren't I bossy and cute?", she asked.
Well, you're half-right, I nearly said, but actually intoned, "It is, after all, your job." A little meaningless platitude I enjoy sharing with people who aren't really listening. I don't know what the hell that was.

I needed an extension cord. Nothing complicated or hi-tek about it: just a damn extension cord to run from the camera out in the audience to the backstage area. This led to the Johnny Cochrane and the Git 'er Done type who worked for him debating at length the merits of extension cords vs. me just crawling under the stage and painstakingly unfurling the existing power cable running to the...I pointed out that the show would be starting in three minutes, and debate of this sort was counterproductive.
The Johnny looks at me and starts spieling: "Rich: now looka here, Rich. Rich Rich Rich Rich Rich..." he was really wasting time, explaining something, theoretically, but not so much. I did as he said though (which involved me crawling under the stage and painstakingly...), as he was boss.

We went and got lunch. I hadn't eaten anything since sushi the night before, and now it was nearing One P.M. I was exhausted and cranky. We chose this strange place named Von's, which I'd noticed the night before. It advertised itself as the 'Martini/Manhattan Memorial'. Whatever. It specialized in rotisserie meats with absurdly long menu titles. And 'personal pitchers' of beer that were in fact enormous mugs, difficult to lift.

After this, I met up with Disco Boy, up on Capitol Hill. Went to a joint called 'Bleu', causing me to wonder aloud if I'd like it even less were it spelled 'Blue'.
"No, you'd like it even less if it was spelled B-L-O-O," he said.
Inside, the joint was strange and claustrophobic, but in a comforting way: it felt like a warren of train berths, or something. Apparently they change the decor of the entire place on a bi-monthly basis. I'd enjoy being their carpenter.
I ventured that there was a time when running a con job was a great deal less complicated than the spectacle I'd been involved in all day.
"Like nerve tonic?" Disco wondered. I relented: pretty much since the dawn of the Broadcast Age, it had been like this. Still, it was oddly depressing.
We sat there and discussed the entertainment biz, our exotic personal problems and generally had a bunch of laughs until I had to go back downtown.

Now, any time spent with Disco Boy is time well spent, but I am now sad that I missed the show. Apparently at some point, a woman in the audience asked Sylvia about her niece, who had been missing for the last eighteen months. Was she okay?
"She's dead," came the flat response. "Somebody strangled her."
Even for a professional swindler, this seems a bit cold. I guess there was also a woman who stormed in at some point, shouting about how all The Voices in her head were saying too much for her to handle, and Sylvia, you gotta help me...And was wrestled out the doors by the numerous security staffers.

And then load-out, and more laughter of the delerious sort...Further debate about the proper packing of a truck (I've seen some vicious arguments on this subject)...Me interjecting, finally, having done this sort of thing a lot, subject to disapproval by Johnny Cochrane...
We drove (well, I drove, as The Nail is just not to be trusted, even behind the wheel of his own vehicle) back to Portland, cracking a constant string of jokes in a tired way.

And a whole lot of other things happened, since Thanksgiving fell the next week, and much to be said there of course. Just not here. It has been sleeting outside. Tiny white beadlets of frozen precipitation, bouncing off the neighbor's roof like happy little ping pong balls. Nice to see you guys again.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Poking Fun at the Functionally Illiterate Since...

(I received this piece of high weirdness in my increasingly-compromised hotmail inbox the other day. I apologize in advance for my crap knowledge of Html and such, causing me to, for some reason, have to write in the same hysterical bold face as this message:)

This mail is serving as an invitation to treat with the above named company. I will not fail to state that I am sorry for encroaching in your privacy I,am the Executive Officer of Uawithya Machinery Co., the leading supplier of high quality Quarry Equipment in Thailand. Established since 1968 we have developed a skilled and dedicated team as well as a reliable network of 10 Service and Distribution Centers.
(Well, I do like my mail to serve as something. I further thank you for not failing to state that you're sorry for encroaching in my...Oh dear. You comma, uh...Are the...'Treat' with You? 'Trade', maybe, but...)

Uawithya is the owner of Chai Explosives: a full range Explosives Manufacturer located in Pak Chong,Thailand It is upon this note that we are writing you this mail to seek your assistance in representing our company in your locality as our RECEIVING AGENT/REPRESENTATIVE.One who will act as a medium for our clients in those locality to be reaching us with their payments and so on.
(I keep forgetting that 'explosives manufacturer' is a proper noun, and must be capitalized. I will not fail to be sorry for that. And you want to put explosives in chai? What sort of monster are you? 'Thailand it is upon this note'? What am I going to be doing for your-AAAHHH! A RECEIVING AGENT? And I'm also supposed to act as a medium for your [presumably dead] clients? 'In those locality to be reaching us with their payments and so on', indeed!)

Note that, if finally aprroved as our Representative,you are entitled to an annual income of $24,000USD and 5% of whatever amount you receive from customers who are making payments for outstanding invoices on behalf of the company, We seek your honest cooperation and assistance to establish a cordial relationship with our clients.To facilitate the conclusion of this transaction
(Well, I always feel entitled to an annual income of $24,000 Real American Dollahs, regardless of whether or not I receive it...And I guess I've already been approved, since you're emailing me out of fucking nowhere and offering me jobs. I'm not certain that my cooperation will be honest, though. I'm just sayin'. The transaction concludes...Abruptly, as if MrMartinsBenjamin [that's what it says his name is] gets killed before he can end transmission.)

(Hmm. I see that we get to type in normal font again. Strange. Well, this next one turned up on Craigslist under the-again, boldface-heading: "UNDERDOG POSTING".)

Looking for real underdogs trying to overcome personal hurtles and
their dreams on a new show for a major cable network.
('Hurtles' like chronic misspelling? And inability to understand that indentation generally implies a new paragraph?)

Are you or someone you know deserving of help from a huge celebrity and
a team of true pros to attain a life long dream while overcoming
obstacles? These obstacles could be fears, disabilities, self-doubt or
any other hindrance in the way of your destiny! We would like to hear
your story, what your goal is, what your obstacles are, and why failure
is truly not an option.
( A big, fat celebrity could, I suppose, come in handy occasionally. A team of true pros? Sure, I'd like that...If only I could find one. Personal-NEW PARAGRAPH! obstacles? Obstacles can be hindrances, and hindrances obstacles, I guess. It's sort of part of an organic whole, and the cycle of life, really...And failure is not an option, in this case, because I think you're talking about the complete failure on my part to live [i.e. death]. Or on the other hand, based on this strange as hell sentence, you might be talking about failure to achieve some as-yet-undefined goal that could, perhaps, just be 'get a job' or something. As Sly Stone said: "I'm the Underdog, but I don't mind, 'cuz I can handle it." Word.)

(This here's from the Willamette Week's personals section. Just by the way: Willy staffers...It speaks volumes about your readership, and indeed your weekly itself that most of your personals ads were written by folks of around or past retirement age. Just saying.)

I'm an outgoing, warmhearted BM in a wheelchair. I am 40 and a DJ. ISO a lady, 40-46, who enjoys music that makes you move from the 50's-80’s. Dinners, movies, quality time. LTR possible. Clean background.
(Never, not even in my meanest mood, would I describe the disabled as a bowel movement. Especially a...Warm...Hearted... Ewww. And I think that it's great that you're forty years old: now stop picking on yourself about being a Dumb Jerk, or Demonic Jackass, or whatever weirdness you kids are describing yourself as these days. And the descriptor regarding music raises several uncomfortable questions: a lot of things made me move from the 1950's-'80's. It was just time to go, you know? I couldn't stay in that particular thirty-year period forever. And secondly, does the music need to make me move around in a wheelchair? Last but not least: 'Clean Background'. Well, for starters, that sounds like a desktop command on one's computer. And I suppose you may mean you don't want people in your life with herpes all over them, but it sounds like you're screening for felons.)

Tall, Fit, SWM, 55, HWP VFW Huge Majestic Priv Wa Coastal Ranch& No Bad Habits.
(Oh, laaadies! There's a ranch over here trying to get your attention! Or maybe the guy is boasting about his majestic property he owns...Wait. Dick joke? Accidentally transposed two seperate ads, horribly, into one? Pleased to see the ranch doesn't have any bad habits, but what ranch does? The other great thing about this puzzling piece of lonely is that the guy fucked up and printed it twice.)

(And of course:)
cxcvdggtttry mjyutyer hdtyrtsrtswe erwerwerwere er werwerwerwerewrwerwer wer werwerwer q
(That was the response in the 'Why you should get to know me' category in one lady's online profile. The rest of it is in English, however. )

(Turning to the news now, this is from CNN's website:)

Brazen snatch highlights crisis
(Ahhh. Don't they

'Naked Chef' urges action on fat U.S. kids

First Person: A reader loses his "Star Wars" virginity!
(There's just nothing like an exclamation point to make an already uncomfortable sentence excruciating.)

('The Note', from ABC online's Political Unit [their choice of word, not mine], is already justifiably famous for its smarmy insider-ness, clumsy use of cultural in-jokes and surreal sentence structure. Let's look:)

In his final public act before he goes abroad to astride the world like a colossal lame duck, President Bush meets with the Big Three automakers at the White House at 1:15 pm ET.
(I just don't think it's fair to use something that's already a metaphor as a lame insult. I'm sorry.)

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) holds a pen and pad briefing at 11:00 am ET to discuss the midterm elections and Democratic majority plans for the 110th Congress at H-306 in the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Hoyer is a good vote counter, The Note would Note.
(Just as we here at PSTM would note that that final sentence is cringe-inducing. And why is it even in there? Jeeeziz!)

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), who is not always listed among those Republicans planning to run for the White House in 2008, delivers the 2006 Albert H. Gordon Lecture at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA at 6pm ET.
(What are you, Note? A gossip columnist? "Say ladies, which eligible bachelor whose name I dare not speak maybe just maybe is running for POTUS of your heart?")

(And from ABC, but not its political unit per se, this headline:)
No end in sight
(But I won't do that to ya'...)


Monday, November 06, 2006

The Fucked Up Side of the Moon

I've just walked about seventy blocks in the rain, due to reasons that I don't one hundred percent feel like getting into here; besides they're irrelevent to the topic at hand, but it left me lots of time to talk to myself; one of my favorite pastimes.

Well? I mean, I've always got something interesting to say, and I always listen. You gotta apply your people skills to yourself sometimes, you know.

And I am reminded of a conversation I had recently about why otherwise nice, smart, normal people end up doing hallucinogens. It's getting into the toolbox and messing with the wiring, I said, and the person I was talking with agreed. The results, depending on the pilot, will vary. This too, along with set and setting, as Tim Leary would have it.

But it's a lot more than being in a pleasant setting, with people you like and trust, and with your mind in a positive place. That sort of thing strikes me as some weirdly corporate way of viewing your consciousness expansion: be proactive at all times, American, and you'll be just fine.
No: some times it's about putting yourself in specifically difficult circumstances to see how this fine, oversized simian brain of ours reacts.

When I helped Johnson get a job at the hospital, I wondered what the hell I'd been thinking. I nonetheless walked up there on his first night, to see how he was doing. I noted that he was training with the hardest, most doctrinaire, actually runs down the hall Material Transportation Technician there was. But curiously, Johnson was smiling.
"How's it going?" I asked, and he just kinda made this weird little grunting laugh noise I recognized well, and sorta bugged out his eyes at me.
"You're not." I said, but he was. He had decided to take LSD for the occasion of his first night working at a hospital. Not all that long before, GNP and I had walked through there in a similar state, to get my check (and referring to ourselves as 'High Level Officials' all night long), and were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of misery present.
But I gotta admire Johnson for his perceptual fortitude, and later did a lot of the same (my Dad's wedding where the Governor of Oregon is giving away the bride?[!!!]).
Bradfield ...well no. Some more name-play. The Enigma? The Handsomest Head of Hair in Davenport, Iowa? The Yupperstretcher?-Naw. That one's even too much of an in-joke for this setting. Any way, Bradfield, when he was moving out here, took Amtrak and decided that being trapped on a fucking train was a salubrious set of circumstances in which to trip. While going through the Columbia Gorge, he saw (or thought he saw) an eagle swoop down out of the sky, and pluck a salmon from the river. At that point, he was glad about his new home.

And that 'thought he saw' above is important. A lot of people who don't know of which they speak will tell you that you hallucinate in these circumstances. I don't exactly agree: you don't (or rarely) see things that aren't there. You just see a great deal more of the totality of things, people and situations. This is why these drugs worked fantastically in therapeutic settings, and why-if you are of strong enough mind- you may also self-administer some therapy.
And for bad or for good, you always learn something: which of course is also one of life's great lessons. After a while, you realize that there's really no difference between you on drugs and just you. It's always You, having a conversation with yourself.
Or, if you believe in God, you get to meet Him, and perhaps challenge him.

So much psychedelic music (generally speaking made from the middle '60's to very early '70's, at which point it splintered into a million different directions [of course]) you would think, to hear some folk tell it, is of the peace n' love and everything somehow being All Good. Not so much. A lot of the folks who fucked with their own wiring got to see the scary part of the basement of their various minds, and decided to point it out to you, in various ways.
Since you're sort of voluntarily courting insanity ("Drugs are a bet with yr mind", wrote one James Douglas Morrison), it's worth noting that you'll probably encounter some rather serious issues and questions about the world and (especially) yourself that generally you either wouldn't, or Wouldn't Let Yourself.

In this vein, let me say: it's kinda weird how Pink Floyd is such fucking depressing music, where the overarching themes are insanity and despair, and yer average American teenager will so often spend their first occasions being initiated into the Mysteries listening to it.
Nonetheless, Dark Side of the Moon really is a great album to trip to, if you ignore the lyrics completely. (Ummagumma, as the name suggests, is the one you really want, if you ignore the second disc completely.) But if you really wanna head to the dark side, I always suggest:

Strictly Personal, by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, is such an extreme mind-fuck that you'd better know what you're doing, pup. It's a nightmare of over-affected flange rock and Don Van Vliet, as always, skewering the already sacred beliefs of hippies.
From "Ah Feel Like Ahcid", the opening track (and one of the few moments of comic relief), it goes. Sets the mood of Yeah, I do drugs, but I'm not a fool, and songs about this least objective of activities are ridiculous. Mind you, if you're all simple minded, you'll go Heh Heh cuz' this's a song about Drugz.
"Licked a stamp, saw a movie, dropped a...Stamp.
Ooh, I ain't got the blues no more I said
Put me thinkin' the postman's groovy..."
Totally stupid, and funny as hell: sung like an old bluesman. But he's actually got a serious mission (except when he jokes again, on side two- "Beatle Bones and Smokin' Stones":
the strawberry house, strawberry car, strawberry caterpillar. Strawberry Fieeeelds! Long Winged Eel Slither!).
He would like to remind you exactly how susceptible to programming and bad ideas you are in this state: No Good Gurus, and even Dylan never said it this good.
"Trust Us" starts after a weird noise intro, where he says, "I may be hungry/but I sure ain't weeeeeirrrrrrd..." It's a collection of easy to memorize (and easy to write) rhyming slogans. Harmless enough on the face of them, but if made into doctrine...Who knows?
By the time he gets to the psychedelic flange nightmare in the middle, it's become:
the path is you
let the lying lie
the path is you
let the dying die

Half-enlightened advertising slogan transmogrified into something I can kinda hear a vicious idiot like Charlie Manson saying...

And as I've said before, Free Your Mind, and Your Ass Will Follow by Funkadelic is also a broad tour of The Basement, while also being nothing less than a revolutionary document: a perceptual Declaration of Independence. But it too understands that with your new-found power to Remake Yourself and the Entire World, comes a certain amount of responsibility, and you need to not be a jackass. Furthermore, They're Black, so that adds a whole somp'thin' other to it. When it's not poking vicious (and dead-on accurate) fun at the world we seem to have found ourselves in, they're right there in your head, screaming over the noise:
In the background, you can hear one of them saying, "I'm so confused..."
Yup. Welcome aboard.

It's worth noting that at first, this category of drugs were described as psychomimetic, or compounds that imitate psychosis. Then it was hallucinogens (and I've described my problem with that one above), or things that made you hallucinate. Finally, someone (I'm gonna say Humphrey Oswald, but I'm not sure) came up with psychedelic, which just means Mind Expanding.
Of course, in their way, they're all somewhat accurate. "This, like anything, is a mirror: if a monkey looks in, no philosopher looks out."
True. And also worth noting that Albert Hoffman, when he accidentally discovered it (right in between the Television and the Atomic Bomb. How odd.), was trying to synthesize another, better, headache remedy. What happened instead was a cure for...The Biggest Headache of All? Life, perception and the human pain associated with religion and the industrial revolution...
Again, it's just too big a topic.


Friday, November 03, 2006

What to do for a Living, or Small Men Make Threats

"Look at this prince of evil
Fighting for your mind
Fighting all priests of shame
For the thrust of my challenge is aimed at the hearts "
-Black Sabbath, 'Born Again'

It's a Halloween-y enough quote, I guess, with enough cheese to make fondue. I've already dealt with Adult Halloween (again, the Saturday preceding Halloween), so let's talk about what happened on the real evening in which the spirits o' the dead chose to rejoin us all for drinks and conversation.

It was a day fraught with Arguments with Strangers. First Argument: Th' Gringa and I go to get some burritoes. We are greeted by an older gentleman who prefers his beer out of a bag. He seems friendly enough, just Satan help you if you're not in the mood for a conversation.
He is eventually chatting with each of the patrons of said taqueria, until the very nice counter girl very politely asks him to leave. He says he will, and doesn't.
She keeps very nicely asking him to please go, and he keeps pleasantly not doing so. At this point, I realize what this situation needs is someone who is Not Nice.
I step up to him and say, "Okay. She told you to fuck off. Now fuck off."
My elbows were, ever so slightly, digging into him as my arms were crossed on front of me. I was making it clear that I was prepared to bulldoze him out the door, if necessary.
He looked at me and said, "You jus' siddown!"
Smiling in his face, I said, "Oh, now you're telling me what to do?"
He thought about that and said, "Okay, I suggest that you sit down."
"That's much nicer. But you still gotta go."
"Look at these hands." He lifted one paw, sorta making the Secret Devil Horns Up sign, but only sorta. "I'm serious. I could throw you across the street, jack."
I dunno. He didn't look so serious. I wanted to say, 'Small men make threats', or 'I SHALL DROP ON YOU LIKE THE WRATH OF GOD!", but really I just stood my ground, arms crossed, silently giving him the steeliest of gazes.
Short story: he left. He didn't like it, but when I stopped talking, it became clear that he'd already lost.
I was thanked by the nice counter lady. This was the first of three good deeds I did this week: the others being telling Rosebud that the guy she was getting back together with still hasn't taken his online dating profile down yet, and bringing soup to someone after their first root canal.

The second argument: We're taking a trip down the highway of memory at the Laurels. The band that evening is one that Miss Kitty and I encountered in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show in the early '90's. They were up there on the stage, and having known them for years, they joined us after.
Unfortunately, the bass player pointed out that his side project was one I'd heard of: they're called 'Funk Shui'.
Eeeeeerrrrggggh. I've been wanting to give someone shit about that name forever. But the thing is, I no doubt picked the wrong time to do so, and certainly because I had the fires of hell in me that evening, clearly.
"So what's up with that name, anyway?" I asked. Tryin' not to be a dick.
"What's wrong with the name?" Bass Player shot back.
At this point, I knew I'd already gone too far, but still was in it, and needed to ask the next question very carefully. I needed to avoid words like 'stupid', for instance. I forget how I actually put it, but he supplied this answer:
"Well, if you look at the actual Chinese character for 'feng', you see..."
And from there it went from a bad joke to a pretentious bad joke. He went a long way down that road, and I knew that the whole thing hadn't been worth it, so I said, "Y'know, at this point, I'm sorry I brought it up..." And we spent the rest of the night talking to other people.

Aaand the Third one: Afterward, we're shooting some bad pool at Belula's. The pool table there is hemmed in at either end by unforgiving walls, and you spend a lot of time contorting to avoid them. At the other end of the bar, a fire-hydrant proportioned girl is loudly celebrating her birthday with friends.
At some point, I'm trying to take a shot from the kitchen. I am backed up against the wall, one foot up, stick angled wayyy the fuck up, and the fire hydrant approaches me. She informs me of the existence of those tiny, half-size pool cues made exactly for this purpose.
"Oh, you mean 'Alice'? Naw, I hate those things. I'm fine just butted up against the wall like this..." All true, by the way: I do hate those fucking sticks, and am pretty agile in a tight spot.
She wouldn't hear of it. And while she was advocating for miniature pool cues, she was also noting how interesting it was that we were both from rodeo towns (somebody had told her this, I guess), especially when it's so hard to find anybody around here from Oregon at all, and...
She had a voice like a chainsaw cutting corrugated tin. She was right up in my face, cheerfully, but in that way that you know is just going to go exactly the opposite if you do the wrong thing. Aaaand I did.
I asked her if maybe I could just shoot some pool, since I didn't really feel like visiting very much. This didn't faze her a bit. She just kept on yammering away with the voice that Probably a fire hydrant would actually have if they were capable of speech. Somewhere in here, frustration, liquor, the lateness of the hour and a number of other factors caused me to say, in a low, calm voice:
"You're being a dick. Now get offa me."
(Were you waiting for this one?) The Fire Hydrant exploded at this point, gushing tons of invective at me, and I knew that yet again I was trapped in a situation where all that could be done would only make it worse. I yelled this long, monosyllabic, subverbal thing just to let her know I could be loud too. A cry of pure frustration. I turned my back on her, walked back to my friends.
She stalked off back to hers, but kept stalking over, yelling more loudly and more violently now, soon having to be physically restrained by her companions, who agreed that she should not talk to me just now. Hilariously, as they repeatedly dragged her away, she kept saying things like, "I THINK A FELLOW OREGONIAN AND I COULD HAVE A PERFECTLY RATIONAL DEBATE ON THIS POINT! PEFECTLY CALM AND RESPECTFUL!" All the while literally clawing the air, wishing it was me.
I knew the barkeep, and when the place closed down, I specifically asked if we could stick around a few minutes after the other party left. The answer was yes.
Didn't help though. We stepped outside, and I hear, from across the street, "THERE'S THE ASSHOLE NOW!"
Janik just goes, "Rich, get in the car. Now." I did.
The Fire Hydrant, after a few more words, dropped her pants and mooned us, right there in the middle of 28th avenue.

Now begins the time of year in which the lovely fall colors rapidly fall from the trees brought low by heavy rains and winds worthy of sonnets. They lay there getting rained on until they become this slick carpet of rot and death, eventually decomposing altogether and leaving this weird protein ghost image on the sidewalks. Naturally, the conversation last evening between Bobby Massage and I concerned aging.
He wasn't in favor of it, to sum up quickly. Instead of my usual arch rejoinder to this ("Well, that's what happens when you keep on not dying."), I went a different direction.
Bobby wasn't talking so much about getting old but more like becoming uncool. (And he was further noting that the crops of cool kids that followed us seemed like pale specimens indeed. I never like this line of argument, dating back to our cave hipster forebears.)
What I said was, "We've outgrown cool. And good for us: it was a ridiculous construct to begin with, and I don't need to tell you that the nature of the universe is change. Who cares? You find other reasons to live, and let the resta those people play their stupid games."
"Easy for you to say," he said. "For me, it's all gonna be, 'after Thirty, it's Behind The Camera'. But you've got that whole Hugh Hefner thing going on..."
Heh. He's right. I guess I do. But not really. It's a living, in any case.