"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." - Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Bit of Wit From Days of Yore (or Yellow Cab Role Reversal)

I went to dinner tonight with my girl and a friend of hers. Whilst munching on a lovely roast pork-and-green chili burrito, my girl enticed me to tell a story or two (or several, lets be honest) about some of my 'stories.'

These are not the things I write; these are the ones I collect. I'm a firm, firm believer in talking with - and listening to - as many people as possible. To me, a good conversation is an incomparable experience. What may seem prosaic or banal in the present may become funnier or more insightful in the past.

Over time, I've found that I'm a pretty good judge of conversations; I can usually tell if I'm in a good one. Sometimes I even amuse myself in a conversation even if no one else is entertained. I will freely admit that I allow my own wit to take control sometimes, even if it annoys the bejeezus out of others. What I like best though is when someone is able to match me - or even best me at it.

One such one popped into my head at dinner, and apropos of nothing, I mentioned it. It entertained me as usual; it entertained my dinner company as well.

For lack of anything else to put into this spot, I thought I'd share a bit of the wit from days of yore, back when I was driving a Yellow Cab in Jackson, Mississippi.

I got a call to pick up at the downtown Marriott. I swooped in to avoid the vultures of the other companies and picked up one gentlemen: "Take me to the airport," he said.

I asked if he wanted to go the quicker way or the cheaper way. Quicker meant taking interstates; cheaper meant a short slog along Highway 80 through Pearl to the airport. He instructed me to take the cheaper way. Money clearly wasn't an issue to him; he looked pretty well-off, but he was in no hurry.

The gentleman was African-American and an excellent conversationalist. Before we cleared the downtown, we were chatting and joking, and I was already impressed with his wit.

As we slipped into Pearl - which I've always considered the redneck capital of the free world, this urbane gent leaned forward from the backseat, looked around, and asked, "Is this one of those cities where perhaps I shouldn't be at sundown?" I answered that it might be, and asked if I should hurry. He laughed and told me to cruise on; he enjoyed a challenge.

As we passed by the charming farm-implement stores, the tattoo parlors, the secondhand underwear shops, the all-you-can-eat buffets and the fifteenth or sixteenth check-cashing joint, we saw a tall, young woman run across the far lane of the highway into the median. (Of course Pearl's main drag is a highway. Was there any question about this?)

I began to slow for the turn that would take us to the airport. As we did, we both found ourselves looking at the girl - tall, blond, good figure. Our heads swiveled toward her until we got right up on her.

Rotted teeth covered with a cheap gold grill, skanky ballpoint-looking tats on her forearms and thighs, a pair of shorts tight and high enough for us to see that she was quite familiar with the term "Brazilian." And the blond hair...wasn't.

Our heads swiveled back in disgust and he made a sort of "oooogh" noise. I glanced back in the rearview mirror and saw him shaking his head.

"You know," I said. "I don't understand why someone who is attractive would want to make themselves look so completely white trashy."

He then agreed; she was pretty skanky white trash.

The muse was upon me.

"Hey!" I shouted. "I'm not going to have that language in my cab!"

"What?" He actually sputtered.

"I won't have you using that word in my cab, sir!"

"What word?"

"The 'T' word."

He was quiet for just a second. "The 'T' word? 'Trash?'"

"I told you not to say that!"

He leaned forward. "I can't say 'trash'?"

"No, sir," I said. "It's offensive to us white people." I glanced at him; he was watching me. He nodded and leaned back in his seat.

"I can't say that word? Not at all?"

"No, sir."

"You said it."

"It's a white word. Only white people get to use that word."

"I see."

He was quiet about five seconds. Then he leaned forward and asked:

"Okay, but what if I'm just singing along to a country-and-western song...?"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a Few Things I Like...

My brain has been suffering a world-class meltdown lately. Unable to abstract as a higher life form, most of my (non-US Census) thoughts have been of the "I like this"/"I don't like this" vein. With nothing else rattling around inside the little-grey-cellmelt currently occupying a portion of my skull, I thought I'd share just a few of them with you.

Though it may surprise many - if not most of you - I thought I'd start positive, with some of the things I like.

I like having a community baseball field across the street from my apartment. It's a lovely park, and we look out over right field. Play here is constant and year-round. I think it's possible that they take off a few weeks in December, but that seems to be about it. It's a cheery sound, the popping of balls into gloves, the clanking of aluminum bats, the pepper of the infield. They play until 10 o'clock many nights. When we moved in, I thought it would be a noisy distraction; I was wrong. It is a cheering, warm distraction that I have enjoyed listening to and watching on many nights. I have no idea who is playing or what the final scores are. None of that matters. Only the game matters.

I like my coffee. Oh my Lord, I like my coffee. I freely admit to a caffeine addiction that I'll never shake. (I tried once a couple years ago. I got about 36 hours without before I ripped open a box of chocolate-covered coffee beans and ate them while waiting for a barista to whip me up a triple-shot macchiato - all while I was shouting, "coffee, stat!" at her.) That said, there is nothing like the taste of a good cup. Kona is my current dark master, but I still worship at the altar of the Kenyan AA, too.

I absolutely love the new Phoenix album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. For the past few weeks, if I'm not listening to NPR, I'm listening to Phoenix. In fact, I'm trying to see if there's any way for me to just marry the record. (There's apparently a worry that doing so would lead to a slippery slope where a man could marry his dog, a rock, the concept of time, and eventually, even some other guy. Let one guy marry his music and suddenly even "them queers" think they should get to, too.) Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a pop-music masterpiece, with stupendous, catchy cuts like "Lasso," "1901," "Girlfriend," "Countdown," and "Lizstomania." In a just world, each of them would own the top of the charts for a while. But to me, the centerpiece of the album is the brilliant almost-instrumental double song, "Love Like a Sunset Part I" and "...Part II." It's tense, a bit shambolic, a little brutal, and really hints at these guys' skills. It's also the only pop song of the past fifteen years or so that puts me to mind of early Velvet Underground - and that, my friends, is a good thing.

I like NPR. None more need be said.

I like the fact that the Chula Vista PD took a complaint seriously. Just a couple nights ago, some jackass let his car alarm sound on-and-off all night. As I was heading to work about 7:30 in the a.m., I actually heard him shut it off, so I know he was nearby. The next night, the alarm started again in the evening. I called the police, and was told that a few other people had complained. Not too long after, a CVPD squad car showed up, checked out the blaring convertible, and had it towed away - still bleating. Tonight, there was no alarm; there was just baseball.

I like the crew I'm training for the Census. I feel quite happy. I've got a smart batch of folks. Many of them are experienced - but not all. A few of those with less experience I actually trained in a previous class, and I was happy with them then. It makes my job easier and more rewarding to know that the folks I'm training are taking their work seriously, and seem to be as qualified and capable as any out there. I've said it before, people. I actually take this work seriously. I know they do, too.

As strange as it may sound, I've almost gotten to like walking Adam between 6:30 and 7 in the morning. I'm meeting a few new dogpersons and their people (even though I wish the one guy would wear more than just boxers - with the open fly - and a t-shirt whilst he's hoofing his pooch). There's a good community of dog owners around here. I like that, too.

I like the Thai food at Bangkok Spices Thai in San Diego. I like the carnitas at Miguel's in Chula Vista. I like everything I've eaten at Las Quatras Milpas in Barrio Logan. I've been told I need to try some local Filipino cuisine, and I suspect I'll like that, too.

I like having this silly, third-rate blog. I like knowing that there are folks in about twenty-odd countries that regularly read the stuff I post - that actually seem to care what I have to say. I don't know why, mind you, but I admit I like it. I particularly like the fact that you are all very patient with me when my brain is not at its best.

I like that. I like that very much.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ye Olde Random Stuff or Douchebaggery on Parade

Back many moons ago, whilst writing for Jackson, Mississippi's venerable Planet Weekly, a few times I plugged holes in my column schedule by doing collections of - basically - random twaddle. It's a necessity when one has a few little comments or notes to make, but none of them are really worth writing up an entire column/post for.

This is my first official one, though some folks may claim that other bits here have been nothing but that...

Census Update:

You know that old saw about there not being any stupid questions? False. After a week in training, and another day or two to go, I am convinced that there are actually stupid questions.

Trainer: "When you're filling out your E-309C with your WPNO2 (wooden pencil, no eraser, Number Two), you must always do it in this fashion. The only - and I mean only - exception is when you're following up your E-309C with the additional pages from your Q-451."

Trainee: "Okay, but what about if...?"

Trainer: "This is the only exception!"

Trainee: "I get that, but what about if you're doing your E-309C in the office, instead of in the field?"

Trainer: "No exceptions, except for the one we've covered (a lot)."

Trainee: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, but what about if you just really want to do it the other way?"

Trainer: "No, no, no! For love of God, no! The Q-451 is the only exception!"

Trainee: "Okay, I get that. But what if...?"

Of course, I've mangled facts and document pages to keep some secrets, but you get the picture. It's not just the splitting-hairs questions, either. I swear some of them have been of this vein:

"What if...just saying what if here...what if an asteroid hits the Earth, sending up a tsunami that washes San Diego into the ocean...okay? What if that happens? Are we required to show up at the office and turn in paperwork that day?"*

A Week's Worth of Stupidity-Fueled Verbiage:

The past few days have just been riddled with wanton douchebaggery. First South Carolina's pride-and-joy, Representative Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama's address to Congress with "You lie!" It speaks well of most of his party that they were disgusted and ashamed of his behavior. Even Senator John McCain called him out on it. He apparently called and apologized to the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. I do believe that he probably called to apologize to the president himself - other liberals be damned. I don't believe for a moment he actually meant to speak with Emanuel (Wilson's got the brass to heckle the prez, but I don't believe he's got the cajones to actually seek out an audience with the Chief of Staff).

Following this shameful behavior, what happened? Of course, the loudmouth bobbleheads of the fringe right take up his side. Had this happened one year ago, the same brainless twerps who sided with Wilson would have demanded the heads of anyone who had heckled Bush.

Then of course, there was Serena Williams' outburst at a line judge: "I'll shove this ball down your f***ing throat." Staying classy, she was shocked - shocked! - when she was eventually tossed out of the tourney on her keister. Is this the beginning of a new shock-jock life for her, or has she learned her lesson? Who knows, but I'd give 3-to-1 that she pulls the same kind of stunt again.

Stomping through the verdant meadows of mass-media douchebaggery again was Glenn Beck, who "inspired" his people to a) co-opt 9/11 to form a "huge" mass anti-Obama demonstration in DC and then b) fail to show up for his peeps. His teabaggers were out in force - all 70-odd thousand of them. With their silly costumes and dreadful signs it resembled a Klan Rally in more than just spirit.

And we mustn't forget that slice of right-wing whoriness, Michelle Malkin, who immediately began inflating numbers on her blog and on Twitter: 'It's like...like there were half a million there! Or like a million! Wait, it was 1.5 million! No, 2 million!' I expected the Count from Sesame Street to began laughing afterwards.

Her douchebaggery really began when she posted fake photos taken years ago (reportedly from the Million Man March) that claimed to show the streets chock-full of people. However, virtually all non-fringe-right reports on the ground (DC police and Fire Department, for example), dispute all aspects of her claim.

Last on the list: Kanye West. For a man that demands (unearned) respect, he showed a shameful amount of disrespect at MTV's Video Music Awards by stealing the microphone from Taylor Swift and ranting about why she didn't deserve her award and why Beyonce did.** It would've been an appalling thing to do to a long-time veteran; it was shameful to do to a 19-year old young woman who was receiving her first award of its kind.

I'm neither a Kanye nor a Taylor Swift fan, so I have no opinion of any of it, musically. But I understand common courtesy and uncommon douchebaggery. He is clueless of the former and a master of the latter.

Even with the heavy competition from Wilson, Beck, Malkin, and Williams, I think that Kanye's behavior marks him as the biggest 'bag of the week.

I have a question now! What forms would I need to fill out if I wanted to KTC (Kick the Crap) out of that PAB (Punk-Ass Bitch)?


*The correct answer: "That would be a DFQ situation (Dumb F***ing Question). Fill out your PY-HO (Pull Your Head Out) and your CY-PO (Close Your Pie Hole) and then follow it up with a quick STFU."

**However, Beyonce showed global amounts of class by inviting Miss Swift to the stage during her award acceptance and letting the young woman give hers. That's a stunning move. I'm not a fan of Beyonce's music, but I am now a fan of her.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Dose of Common Census

It was with some odd excitement that I returned to working for the U.S. Census today. Technically* I work for the Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, and the division is...I don't know, Census 2010? I'm out of practice remembering all the whozeewhatsits and whatchamadiddles.

I can't really explain why, but I enjoy this work. There's an aspect of problem-solving** that's a large part of it - something I enjoy. I've met some good people***, both in the office and in the field. The pay is quite good, even if the benefits are...to put it as nicely as possible...non-existent.

I won't go too deeply into what I'm doing; I take the privacy aspects of the job seriously. I won't trash the work (as another Cali blogger did last spring) because I enjoy the work. Oddly, I think a big part of why I enjoy it is because of my innate political junkieness.****

The U.S. Census has been around longer than modern political parties. Created by the Constitution of the United States, it is how we allocate seats in the House of Representatives - the more people in an area, the more seats they receive. It is also helps determine how states, counties, cities, municipalities, townships, and neighborhoods receive federal funds. It is a necessary part of how our government works, and I'm happy and proud to be part of it.

Keep in mind: the people who come by and ask you Census questions aren't doing it to annoy you; they're doing it to make sure that the area where you live gets all that is coming to it. I can assure you that the vast overwhelming majority of people employed for us are working with that goal in mind. The Census is not trying to locate your hidden stash of guns, take note of your activities for the New World Order, or trying to make a list of dissidents. Anyone who believes that needs their medication adjusted.

(On that note, let me remind you that that Congress' Midwestern court jester, Representative Michelle Bachmann, has given the Census most of its recent press with her wonky, "Don't let them write you in the books!" prattle.***** Having an elected representative say that is tantamount to having your governor telling the 18-year old young men to not register with Selective Service, because it's a ploy of the Party in Power.)

This is going to keep my brain occupied a while - hopefully give it a bit of a recharge, too. I'll probably post a few odds-and-ends about the Census, but no dirt. I'm not going to trash it or the people working for it. It goes against my nature to do so. I hope y'all will put up with this for a few weeks.


*And temporarily.

**Boy howdy, is there problem-solving.

***Some dirtbags, too.

****Another thing I enjoy is that Census workers fall all over the map politically. As far as I can tell, we have some of the most fervent, yet good-natured arguments I've ever seen. One of my favorite people, who shall remain nameless, is a hardcore conservative, and I absolutely love chatting (arguing) with her.

*****A statement which caused even some of her most ardent supporters to say, "Congressman... Michelle... darling... honey... sugartits... shut the f*** up."