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

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.



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