Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pix of my Peeps

I like taking pictures of weird things. Sometimes I stage weird things so that I can take pictures of them. But most of the time I don't need to stage weirdness. Weirdness abounds, yo.

I also like Peeps. When I was in high school, my AP English teacher would give us candy if we got perfect scores on our vocabulary quizzes. She made the quizzes hard, too. But, as you might imagine, I got a lot of candy. One day she happened to mention that she'd found in her desk some purple Peeps from at least a year ago. "Does anyone want these petrified Peeps?" she asked.

"Ooh! Ooh!" I said. "I want them!"

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Because I'm not responsible if your teeth come out."

"No! I want them!" I said. "I like Peeps!"

These things were fairly foul in their texture (or should I say, in their density). But they were completely unchanged in their taste. G-d forbid there should ever be global nuclear war; but the next phase of evolution would begin with cockroaches fueled by Peeps.

My wife gave me fifteen hot pink Peeps in my Easter basket this year. I've managed to show remarkable restraint. (This from the girl who routinely burns her mouth on Sour Patch Kids because she just doesn't know when to stop.) Last night I had two Peeps for dessert. I was about to put the first one in my mouth when I realized that it was a horrible mutant. The front of its head was blank; its eyes were in the back of its head. The brown detailing goo squirter had missed! It was creepy as hell!

So I thought maybe I ought to take a picture of its freakishness. I realized I'd have to go upstairs, get the camera, turn it on, put the Peep under some good lighting, take several shots, plug the camera into the computer, and make sure I'd gotten at least one good picture before eating the Peep.

Needless to say, I can't show you what this Peep looked like.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Public transit story #6: Mystery shoppers

What with skyrocketing gas prices, I decided this evening to suck it up and buy a monthly bus pass in addition to my high-value train ticket. I was hesitant to do this because monthly bus passes cost $70, and I rarely drive anyway because people in these parts are such idiots behind the wheel. Plus, I walk to and from the train station on this end.

Well, most of the time I walk to and from the station on this end. Sometimes I have my wife come pick me up in the evening because my job (and all of its walking) make me just so damn tired that another mile and a half might possibly kill me. But then that means the car gets turned on, goes three miles in stop light city, and gets turned off again. Which uses up prodigious quantities of precious, precious gasoline.

Thus, I finally sucked it up and bought me a bus pass tonight.

After my gloriously ecologically-minded purchase, I got on my gloriously non-ecologically-minded bus. Some of the buses have hydrogen fuel cells these days, but not the ones on the line I use most often. The 9 is seriously AC Transit's neglected child. Tonight's bus not only was carpeted with sunflower husks (unheard of on other lines!), but some of the seats in the back were mysteriously wet.

Two of the dry seats in the back were occupied by a pair of young men, at most 19 years old but in all likelihood no more than 17. These two fellows were decked out in gangsta regalia, pants 'round their ankles and bling 'round their necks. Once I took my own dry seat, one of them asked me where the bus turned.

"It turns down Haste," I said, "and then it goes on MLK for a block before turning again on Dwight."

"Where Haste?" the boy said. (In case anyone was wondering, the verb "to be" is still a full member of the English language.)

"It's in about a block and a half," I replied.

"Okay," the boy replied. "You know that fabric store," he continued, naming a fancy local fabric store.

"Yeah," I said.

"Where's it at?"

I told him.

"Where do we get off for it?"

"Right after the bus turns on Haste," I said.

"Is it for?"


"Is it for?"

"Is it four o'clock? No, it's not." In fact, it was nearly seven.

"Noooo, is it for?"

His friend could hardly contain himself.

"I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're asking."

"Is... it... FOR. Like, how far we have to walk?"

"Oh, is it far? No, you just get off at the corner and walk a block and a half that way," I replied, pointing.

"You smoke weed?" asked the boy.

"No," I said.

"You never smoked weed?" he asked.

"No," I said.

"Okay," he said.

The bus turned on Haste and the two boys got off. Despite my excellent directions (and pointing), they paced around bewilderedly until long afted the bus had passed.

"Those are two of the most unlikely fabric store customers I've ever seen," I said to the middle-aged guy next to me. He giggled.

So I ask you: Were they going to score some weed in front of the fabric store? Did they want to compensate me for my generous help? Did they want to score some weed from me? Did I look high?

Did they want me to come to their hotboxed quilting bee?

In any case, thus far it's $70 well spent.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Public transit story #5: Career aspirations

On my way home from work on Monday evening, the train was surprisingly empty. Usually it's at least moderately full until I make my transfer, at which point I often have to push my way onto a fairly packed car. I rarely get a seat on that line, but it's okay, as I either get off four minutes or nine minutes later, and although I'm not the picture of physical grace, I haven't fallen into anyone's lap yet.

As the train approached my transfer point, I happened to catch a conversation of some high school girls. I really couldn't avoid catching it, though, because they were awfully loud and the rest of the train was awfully quiet.

One of the girls was going on about how her mother wants her to go to this one college, "which is a good school, and it's in our neighborhood, but it's an all-girls' school."

Her friends offered their sympathies. They encouraged her to talk to her mom and maybe get her to change her mind.

Then she said, apropos of nothing in particular, "I saw Memoirs of a Geisha this weekend. That was a good movie. I totally want to be a geisha."


"Um," said one of her friends, "aren't geishas, like, sluts?"

"Well, yeah," said the girl, "but they're, you know, the nice kind of sluts. A geisha is like... like... a high-class ho." She proceeded to go on about the honor of losing one's virginity to specific kinds of customers.

A dear friend of mine has just been accepted to a graduate program at this particular institute of higher learning. She's really into Japanese culture (and wasn't so sure about the accuracy of Memoirs of a Geisha, either the book or the movie). Perhaps she will stumble upon a secret geisha training program, and this teenager will miss out for having obtained her mother's blessing to attend another school, where the boys are but the northern California geisha interns aren't.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My balls

I feel the need to produce a sequel to the one about my ass.

So let me tell you about my balls.

My balls are usually light and fluffy, although occasionally they are a bit on the dense and chewy side.

My balls are subtly spicy, redolent of ginger and curry powder.

My balls are not in themselves salty, but they are bathed in equal parts vegetable bouillon and chicken bouillon.

My balls are best when warm, but not so good when microwaved.

My balls look nicest in sets of three.

My balls are kosher for Passover and all year 'round!

For those who observe, a most happy Passover.

For those who don't, no balls for you!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The dangers of being professionally gay

I went to the dentist today.

While I was waiting for her to come in, I happened to notice a box of Barrier Film next to the chair.

My first thought: "Dude, I bet that stuff would be really effective as a dental dam!"

My second thought: "That's because it is a dental dam."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Have van, will travel ineffectively

Once in a while I will suck it up and drive to work. Normally I just suck it up and leave the house by 7:45am to walk to the train, get on it, get off it, walk some more, and get to work by 9am. But on the days that I suck it up and drive, I can leave the house around 8:15 and have a pretty good chance at getting to work a few minutes before 9.

Driving to work takes less time than going by train, but it's (a) more expensive, with the price of gas these days; and (b) so much more aggravating. The only way to get theah from heah is to go through the Caldecott Tunnel. Which, if one is driving away from San Francisco in the morning and towards San Francisco in the evening, isn't nearly as bad as the other way around. But it still sucks, because within the space of about half a mile, four lanes and an entrance ramp must suddenly become two lanes and no entrance ramp.

No, let me rephrase that. Over the distance of about half a mile, four lanes and an entrance ramp filled with impatient, me-first Bay Area drivers with their cell phones glued to their ears must suddenly figure out how to use their turn signals and merge in a polite fashion and somehow wind up with two lanes of completely intact cars. During commute time, this can take anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes in the direction I head. And, as noted above, this is the less trafficked direction.

On Thursday I drove to work because I couldn't get my butt out of bed on time, my wife and I couldn't get our butts out the door in time to get mine on the train, and I really needed my butt to be in a meeting by 9am. The drive in was actually quite smooth. But on the way home, there was apparently a horrendous accident on the interstate, several miles after my exit, and I traveled maybe 3 miles in 20 minutes. Although things were megatons better once I got off the interstate, I was not a very happy camper. I was rather irritated, and I had to pee.

So I came upon the tunnel and its snarl of cars all trying to be in the same place (i.e., first) at once. My strategy for the tunnel merge is to let anyone in front of me as long as they (a) use their turn signal and (b) haven't already tried to cut someone off. This often pisses off the person behind me, but I think I'm modeling good behavior, you know? Around here, getting ahead by a single car length seems to be cause for orgasm; and there are much better methods, yo.

I'd already let a few cars in front of me when I noticed a beat-up turquoise van three cars in front of me. We were at the point in the merge where the signs no longer read 2 LEFT LANES CLOSED 1/2 MILE AHEAD or 2 LEFT LANES CLOSED 1/4 MILE AHEAD, but rather 2 LEFT LANES CLOSED MERGE RIGHT. Our lane wasn't going anywhere. But the driver of this van was. He zipped over to the far left lane, where there was practically no traffic because the lane was ending in about 500 feet. He zipped along, periodically slamming on his brakes to avoid rear-ending those trying to merge. His passenger evidently thought this was great fun, for he was laughing hysterically and gesticulating wildly with a half-full Dr Pepper bottle (presumably containing Dr Pepper, but one can't be sure).

I let maybe 5 or 6 more people in front of me as the far left lane ended, the turquoise van cut someone off at the last minute, and the second lane began to disappear. When the second lane ended, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw none other than the turquoise van right behind me. Among the two people initially behind the van and me, we must have let at least 10 people in front of us while the turquoise van was partying it up in the not-so-fast lane. One step forward? At least thirteen steps back.

Schadenfreude or no, I couldn't help but start to feel better about that day's commute. And I think California needs a new class of moving violations:

Driving While Stupid.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Public transit story #4: The magic seat

When my wife and I were in tenth grade, we had this chemistry teacher who was, um, a bit odd. I had him first period; my wife had him second period. He liked to play with the bunsen burners. His favorite one was right next to my seat. One day he wanted to show us how different chemicals made different colored flames. So he lit some newspaper on fire. Next to my head. Little bits of burning newspaper flew about the room. I wrote him a note that said I did not appreciate him burning things next to my head and would he please allow me to go to the other side of the room when he wanted to light something on fire. He agreed, but he mocked me severely every time.

This man told racist jokes, made sexist remarks, and was generally an ass for 50 minutes at a stretch. He was also the coach of the girls' tennis team. The girls' tennis team was very good. His chemistry lessons--not so much.

He taught us about electron valences using what he called the Bus Seat Rule. The Bus Seat Rule goes like this: When most people get on a bus alone, they head for a pair of empty seats. Most people will not sit next to someone they don't know unless there is no remaining pair of empty seats. In that case, they will stay as far away from their seatmates as possible. And when an empty pair opens up, most people will abandon their seatmates to go sit alone. He demonstrated this by telling my lab partner to get out of her seat. She did. He sat down next to me and began invading my personal space. I scooted my chair away.

This, he said, is what electrons do.

Either I was an easy target, or he just didn't like me.

Today I was riding the bus. I got on at the beginning of the line. Here is an approximate diagram of the bus at the start of its journey:

The 88, circa 6:45pm PDT

Note how many empty seats there are. Note also that I was not sitting in a seat that must be yielded to seniors or people with disabilities. I make a point not to sit in those seats unless all the rest are occupied. I'd sooner sit next to a person I don't know than sit in one of those seats. I don't like people with mobility issues having to wait for me to vacate the seats reserved for them.

When the bus made its first stop, about eight people got on. The first of these was an old woman with a paper grocery bag. I was peacefully reading my book (Donald Barthelme's Forty Stories, a favorite of mine from, well, tenth grade) and all of a sudden I hear "MOVE IT! MOVE! EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" from this old woman with her paper grocery bag.

I wasn't going to argue with this woman about how I was there first. Nor about how federal law says nothing about who gets dibs on this seat. Nor about how this particular seat actually had less legroom than most of the other forward-facing seats. Nor about how the rows across from and behind the seat were both open. Nor about how the bus was practically empty. I'd already had a traumatic enough day. If this seat was really that important to her, then by G-d, she should have it.

I moved across the aisle. She maneuvered herself into the seat, put her grocery bag on her lap, and sat there scowling at least until I got off the bus.

She would've made one hell of an electron.

Monday, April 03, 2006

No fooling

Saturday was, of course, April Fool's Day. But none of the following three things that happened to me that day was a joke.

The doorbell rang around 10 in the morning. I opened the door, and there were two middle-aged Latina women on the stoop. "¡Buenos dias!" one of them said. "Do you speak Spanish?"

"No," I said, "but my wife does."

"Oh," the woman said, "we are looking for people who speak Spanish."

"We are both English speakers," I said, "but my wife does know Spanish. You can talk to her if you want."

"No, that's okay," the woman said. "Have a nice day!" The two of them left.

My wife had been peeking at this whole thing from the end of the hallway. "I think they were missionaries," she said. "The one was definitely carrying a Bible."

"She also had a newsletter or pamphlet or something that said 'El Reino' on it," I said. "Does that have something to do with Jesus?"

"It means 'the kingdom'."

"Maybe you should've talked to them," I said.

"But I'm already Christian!" my wife said.

"Well, you could've told them that in Spanish. Whereas all I could've said was, um, 'no quiero el Jesus'."

My wife stuck out her tongue at me. And then we realized we'd just been visited by our first Spanish Jehovah's Witnesses.

The telephone rang around 2:45 in the afternoon. I answered it, and on the other end was a guy who introduced himself as Jorge. He was calling from Nielsen, the television ratings people. He wished to speak to the lady of the house.

He said all this in Spanish. I am learning Spanish. I'm not especially good at it yet. My approach to foreign languages is to learn some random words and with them, master grammar. I became so good in German so fast because I refused to limit myself to boring statements like "ich komme mit dem Bus in die Schule" (I take the bus to school) and "ich sammle Postkarten in meiner Freizeit" (I collect postcards in my spare time). No, I needed something more, like "ich komme mit der fliegenden Untertasse in die Schule" (I come to school in a flying saucer) and "ich zerlege Leichnamen in meiner Freizeit" (I dissect cadavers in my free time).

So I understood what Jorge was saying, but I knew I'd never be able to formulate a reply unless it involved my cat, grapes, cows, eating, headaches, monkeys, stealing things on a regular basis, or testicles.

"Speaking," the lady of the house said, "but I don't speak Spanish."

Jorge dutifully delivered his spiel in English. "Are you the lady of the house?"

"Yes," I said, "or, well, I'm one of the two."

Jorge asked me what kinds of programs we tend to watch--comedy, children's, news, or drama. I said drama. Then he asked whether anyone in the house was Hispanic, Latino, or other Spanish-speaking.

"No," I said.

"Okay," he said, "thank you very much, have a nice day."

We live in a neighborhood where native English speakers are in the minority. We'd been geographically profiled twice in one day.

Around 4:30 in the afternoon, we were in the car. That song "Breathe" by Anna Nalick was on the radio. We heard this car honking. It sounded like someone was honking the horn in 3/4 time, with a rest on the downbeat and a honk on 2 and 3. "Breathe" is in 3/4 time, so we thought someone was being cute and having a honk-along. And the honks were off the beat by about the same portion of a second it takes for the horn to beep when you press the button.

But the song changed, and the honking didn't stop. We looked behind us to see who was doing all that honking.

Behind us was a green Rav 4, with a giant banner across its rear windshield. The banner read "JUST MARRIED." The car behind it was doing the honking. I asked my wife to move to the other lane and slow down, so the Rav 4 could pass us and we could join in the honking too. But she was not big on that idea.

In the two miles or so before our house, the honking faded in much the same manner as a two-year-old's temper tantrum does. You know: after the long sob, there are a few isolated squawks just in case you forgot that there is a tantrum going on here. That kind of thing. Eventually the Rav 4 turned right, and that was the end of that.

I swear I did not make any of this up.