Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Instead of sailing and backpacking adventures this weekend, I suppose I'll be home jerkin' my gherkin.

I had a full weekend planned.

Friday, take an old friend out sailing in the froth and fury of the Chesapeake Bay.

Saturday, depart for Dolly Sods, and not return until Monday night.

But noooo. Mother Nature decided to be a bitch and give me a golden shower; rain is predicted for the entirety of Labor Day weekend. So now I have nothing to do except sit home with my god damn dick in my palm.


Monday, August 28, 2006

I just quit my job and now I'm gonna sell dirt to the Chinese.

No joke. I just handed in my notice, and damn it feels good. DAMN.

Quitting a hated job lifts your spirits like you have no idea. Two years, my friends, TWO YEARS I stayed at that job, cringing all the way through the drawn-out days, weeks and months. Here are the three main excuses I made for staying:

1 - This is the highest pay in my career field. I'll never find something that gives me the lifestyle I live now.

2 - Most people hate their job, so I have no right to whine about mine.

3 - The benefits are good, despite the bullshit I have to deal with.

All three, deadend rationales, bound for grinding despair.

Folks, if you hate your job, it will slowly devour your soul regardless of the short term material gain. Every year in a despised job makes you less human because most of us have to spend eight hours a day, five days a week chipping away at that drudgery. At some point you have to take a risk and get the fuck out; there's no other way around it.

No one ever did anything worth re-telling more than twice by not taking risks.

So I'm moving on with an extreme career change. For two years I've worked in the immigration field, and now I'm going to sell an organic agricultural product to Asia. Serious. My first trip is to northern Thailand in October.

See ya, suckers!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

DC Public Schools are throwing brand new school supplies into dumpsters.

I just got this email from my Dear Ole Dad who lives up in Maryland:
I went to my regular diner this morning for breakfast, and typically, I see the same folks sipping coffee and swapping tales. Today's subject was a little out of the ordinary, and it's worth sending you a note to vent a bit of frustration and share my amazement.

Joe, who works as a foreman for a local service company, had worked this week in DC where his company was doing some repairs at a local DC school. Over the course of a few days, Joe kept noticing a constant parade of young workers hauling plastic bags out of the school and depositing them into a dumpster. Being a nosy sort of fellow, Joe decided to inquire what the young workers were deposting as trash.

He was told "old school supplies", so he decided to look inside a few of the bags. Much to Joe's surprise he discovered that the contents of the dumpster bags were indeed a collection of school supplies, but they weren't necessarily old supplies.

Being the proverbial packrat, Joe asked if he could take some of the things home for his personal use, and was told to take all he wanted. Thus, this morning each of the regular diner crowd took home a complete supply of brand new geometry tools, still packed in plastic wrappers! Additionally, there were unused maps and books.

I would not have been so surprised, but for the fact that almost weekly we read an article in the Washington Post about (1) the failures of local education, how 3rd World students from the Caribbean islands are beating our elementary students in arithmetic etc. or (2) about the woefully poor funding for education in DC, MD, VA schools.

While the old-timers at the diner were sampling the wares provided by the dumpster-diving Joe, one old-timer piped up with, "Damn, I remember when I was in 4th grade all the rulers had been used so many years that the numbers were rubbed off." I also recall my own years in elementary school in Texas in which we had about one ruler per row of students.

We all seem to know that something is amiss in our education system, but this little story clues me to the fact that the problem may be a reflection of total mismanagement of everything about our schools. For a depression-era guy whose family and friends struggled to overcome many obstacles so that we could share in the American dream, it is incomprehensible that someone would approve of dumping the very implements that got me where I am today.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Motörhead: Killed by Hiccups

Just had surgery on my gums in which the dentist cranked a titanium bolt into my upper jaw bone and sealed the deal with biodegradable stitches, which now scratch the inside of my lips with every syllable I utter and each chew I make.

But the pain from the surgical slices to my mouth aren't bad. The maddening part is the fucking hiccups. Yea, that's right, the hiccups.


I have no f'n clue why I've had hiccups for more than 48 hours straight, but now I understand why Motörhead wrote a song about this type of physical torture.

In the last two days, I was almost Killed by Hiccups.

I know you're thinking it's not possible, but imagine me---my friend squeezing his fingers brainward into my ear-lobes---being shouted at to chug a full glass of lukewarm tap water. ...

To no avail. The hiccups remained.

Hiccups are like an obscure disease straight from the Middle Ages. Who the fuck knows how to cure them aside from hocus-pocus folk remedies like howling at the moon or some such shit. Check out the wiki page on home remedies, and you'll think you've stumbled upon a website written by black-clad wiccans. And there's not one person---medical or otherwise---who can give a proper explanation of WTF a hiccup really is or what the causes are.

If you get them like I've had for the past 48 hours, just pray to god that they don't kill you faster than a Motörhead song. Because I narrowly escaped.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mark my words: I will sail across the Atlantic one day.

Sailing across the Atlantic is unachievable for many sailors, usually for psychological reasons. People hit their 30s, have kids, and the desires from their 20s are left on the ash heap of childish tomfoolery.

But I vow to you, I will sail across the Atlantic one day.

I can do it because I'm already in the process of training a hardy crew for my pursuit. Check them out here, here and here; and those who got an invite for 2006 but couldn't make it are, of course, on the invite for my future trip as well. 2007 will mark the fourth annual Celebration of Life Weekend, in which I load up a sailing yacht to navigate the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and it's one more notch on the bed post of cross-ocean travel. Every year, my men get a little saltier. Each year, our mistakes become our skills. That's not to say I don't need more salt water in my veins. I do. But the more I'm out there, the closer I am to traveling to southern France on the power of wind alone.

The plan is this: 1) Buy a big-ass ketch for cheap; 2) Fix it up, with the help of my loyal crew, no matter how long it takes; 3) Sail to southern France, or thereabouts; 4) Sell the ketch; 5) Fly home.

This desire has been amped up recently because I'm reading Joshua Slocum's monumental 1900 book, Sailing Alone Around the World.

Mr. Slocum was the first man to sail alone around the world, and he did it in 1895 with a 100-year-old fishing boat that had been sitting in a farmer's field for god knows how long. He re-built the thing by himself from wood he cut from a nearby forest. At age 51, it took him 13 months to re-construct it, and a few more perilous years to round our planet. To navigate with his sextant, he bought a $1 tin clock that he got on discount because the glass face was smashed. He couldn't afford a proper chronometer because it was a whopping $10. All this, having lived a life that gave him four kids, two wives (one who died, and the other, a first cousin), multiple knife-wielding mutinies, and a wrecked boat off the coast of Brazil that he re-assembled to sail back to New York.

How weak would I be to make excuses for why I can't do this? How about reasons why I can? Slocum was an old, broken man who did it with FAR less than I have.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's hard to catch salmon, playing golf apparently doesn't convert you to Republican, and Will Ferrell isn't funny.

Just got back from a week in northern Michigan, or as locals call it, "up north".

There's something about the way Michiganders use the phrase "up north" that assumes that if you were heading to any northern area on planet Earth, you'd only be going to northern Michigan. Why would you go anywhere else?

A few notes:

It's damned hard to hook two-foot salmon from winding creeks and rivers flowing into the Great Lakes. During a beer-tossing two-hour trip down the Betsie River, our seven-person crew would sporadically exclaim to each other in amazement at the enormous size of the salmon seen thrashing under our drifting canoes and kayaks. Once, my brother-in-law's oar accidentally landed on an unsuspecting fish and he was almost thrown off his boat into the river. After that, we were determined to catch one.

The next day, we arose at six in the morning in pursuit of one of the monsters. After a 45-minute diesel-powered ride from the liquor and bait store to the Betsie, we traipsed through river mud and slippery rocks, fly rods in hand. We didn't catch the beasts we'd hoped for, but I went home with plenty of pebbles in my shoes. For lunch, I ate a six-pack of plastic-wrapped donuts, a half bag of salted cashews and four sticks of river-water-soaked spicy beef sticks. But I was content. As they say, it's called "fishing" not "catching".

I golfed for the first time in my life. I'd been encouraged by my male in-laws for years and I'd resisted for no good reason. This week---my pride swallowed---I decided to humor them. And you know what? It was pretty fun. That, and I wasn't instantly transformed into a Bush-voting conservative. Who knew! Not saying I'll do it again, but still.

Saw Talladega Nights. Will Ferrell, despite being the current It Funny Guy, is, in my humble opinion, not funny. Sacha Baron Cohen's character was far funnier on many levels. Unless it's physical comedy (running around in tighty-whities) Will Ferrell falls short. Sorry Robbie and Katie, but your man is slowly turning into a has-been.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On Vacation in Exotic Northern Michigan

I'll be gone for a week and won't have access to internet or cell phone until August 21st.

During my absence, I encourge you to check out the album I put together with Sufjan Stevens a few years back (lies).

In case you're too lazy to check out that link, the music is a mixture of Slayer's hit, Reign in Blood, and John Denver's single, Sunshine On My Shoulders, played until your ears ooze honey, dream bubbles and falernum.

You can be assured that that's how I'll be feeling for nine days while gone from the city of lawyers and DBs.

Here's a thought to keep you occupied:

In 10 years, will people finally realize that the 90s were the best musical decade since the 60s? I hope so.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Few Things Sicken Me Like the Smell of a Stranger's Cologne

Am I alone in holding my breath when I see some dude walking toward me with a light blue buttoned-down shirt tucked into khaki pants?

Am I alone in breathing outward when I see a dolled-up floozy with fake tits and crispy teased hair walking toward me?

Am I the only one who can taste the gag-inducing cologne wafting off frat boys?

And am I alone in clenching my teeth and straining my lungs whenever a gaggle of NoVA sparkle fatties swish by me on my way home?

I hope not.

On most occasions, I hold my breath---lips and nose shut off to the world---when someone's appearance indicates that they're also nasally offensive.

Their smells are not similar to other disgusting things (dog shit, bad breath, New Jersey) but it's the combination of someone you don't know and the smell that you think that they're towing.

I hope this doesn't mean I hate people.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

People who are afraid of hot weather, don't eat Pho in August.

Heat waves blur upward from the white plastic tables in front of my secret Pho joint as the sweat droplets form tiny middle fingers coming down my face.

I brush past begging homeless men and cars trying to kill me---speeding up from the cool depths of a nearby parking garage. My uncrowded lunch mecca is a solid fuck-you to the worst bar in DC across the street, which faces my ass as I open the bar-clad door. I have one thing on my mind: the big-as-your-head bowl of near-boiling pork fat, tangy vegetables, beef strips and stringy noodles waiting for me in the back.

At the counter, I feel like I'm in Da Nang, 1967. I imagine carrying on a Full Metal Jacket-style conversation while I order my steaming southeast-Asian soup on a ball-sweat hot day in your nation's capital:
Me: What do I get for ten dollars?
Her: Every t'ing you wan'.
Me: Everything?
Her: ... Every t'ing.

"I'll have the Special Pho with a Dr. Pepper, please."

Easy. Five minutes, done. I sit down in front of various and sundry hot sauces while the dust-coated AC and back-up fan blow straight into my face. There are three people in the place but since we're all 'in the know', we're the few, the proud: the summertime Pho-eaters. A rare breed. A breed that loves the heat of sun and slickness of humidity and will order hot soup in all four seasons.

The liquid burn of the hot slurry of Pho soon makes its way down my gullet, making me quickly forget that my only breakfast was vending machine coffee and lukewarm water from the bottle on my moving bicycle. For 35 minutes of my work day, I am truly happy.

What'll happen when the US is a nation of 300 million winter lovers?---folks who start griping at the first drop of sweat. My friend, sweating FEELS GOOD. That's what it's meant to do.

Drink up summer now because in a few months we're all gonna be two clicks from calling 1-800-SUICIDE when Old Man Winter comes a-knocking.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Six Photos From an Authentic Swimmin' Hole

No summer would be complete without a trip to a proper country swimmin' hole, and as you can see, the liquid pay-off in Harrisonburg, Virginia is worth the two and a half hour drive from DC. There's nothing like it close by, so thanks to Jeff, we cooled off in the freezing green water with the dogs, college kids and guitar-playing rednecks on Saturday.

The most handsomest dog on earth.

My dog loves to eat "creek popcorn" (crawdads) so Katie spent hours lifting up rocks, snatching them up and tossing them to the dog. He ate seven live ones.

It's nice to know there are places in the US where you can risk your life by jumping from a 15 foot cliff into five-foot-deep water without warning signs, insurance waivers or life guards.

Jeff's full back tattoo won him serious street cred with the locals.

Rocks, shoes, dog, beer, me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm going to become an oyster gardener.

My love for raw oysters is no secret. That's why it's going to be extremely hard not to devour the oysters that I plan to "raise" for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation this fall.

I've signed up for a workshop on how to be an oyster gardener. The task includes devoting a year of my time to tending my "crop" of crustaceans which will be hanging from the dock in 18-inch cages where my sailboat is stationed. After a year, when the oysters are large, the ones that can avoid Tabasco sauce and my salivating mouth will end up on a reef built by the Foundation.

In case you don't know, the Chesapeake's oyster industry has been decimated by disease and overfishing in the past 100 years. At present, there are very few left that don't get eaten by the god damn cow nosed stingray. So the program is to encourage people with access to a dock to grow them, and when they've matured, to slowly restock the Bay.

More info here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I'll never buy an American car again.

Today I had a skip in my step because of the wonderful news that Toyota overtook Ford in monthly vehicle sales in the US. It's about time quality overtook shoddiness and gas-guzzlerness.

The Japanese are amazing. Their country was fucking flattened after World War II---like Biafra, Iraq and southern Lebanon rolled into one and multiplied by 25---and they rebuilt that bitch in a matter of two decades. Have you ever met a Japanese guy? They're the most meticulous mother fuckers on earth, and shrewd businessmen and engineers to boot. For every two-bit douchebag who gets their law degree in the US each year, there are 15 Japanese engineers who'd rather fall on a samari sword than fuck up your Corolla or Camary.

Talk to someone from Detroit. They think it's normal to replace a car every five years, while the Toyota drivers on the good ole East Coast have been driving the same car since 1982 with scant repairs. Dear Detroit: THAT'S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

I speak from experience. My teenage years were spent competing with friends over whose Amercian hot rod was best. I had a '66 GTO, another pal had a '73 Chevy Nova, another friend had a '70 convertible Buick, and so on. We spent years fixing them up until we sold them after getting sick of the maintenance! And then we did what every responsible adult does: we bought cars that were built well---Japanese style.

At the risk of offending my Detroit-raised in-laws, I'm gonna say what has been proved today: GM, Ford and Chrysler are all pieces of doo doo, and I wouldn't spend five bucks on one even if their vehicles were mounted with giant machine guns that fired bourbon whiskey and oiled-up sexy ladies.

And I don't want to hear from you dickheads that Toyota doesn't employ Americans, cuz I've toured their plant in San Antonio (that's in Texas) and it's full of whities with beer guts that rival any in Detroit. That plant is altering that region's economy drastically, and everyone's happy about it. And they've got plants all over the US that you've never even heard of.

So let's all breathe deep and face fact: American cars suck. Thank christ for free market capitalism because it'll be the savior of us all. Ford and the boys certainly won't.

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