•October 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

More expensive than an intern but with less complaining.

A blonde at the carwash stands blankly staring into space with her arms limp at her sides as a placard advertising $6 car washes rotates lazily in front of her. She is a mannequin, of course. The bangs of a blonde wig cover most of her face disguising all her features except for a passive, disassociative moué on her molded plastic lips. The placard is attached to a turn-crank attached to her navel. It rotates in a lazy up-and-down figure eight like the world’s laziest sign spinner ( which of course she is). She is the poor-man’s version of a sign spinner. Her makers didn’t even bother to bend her arms to give the illusion that it is she who is moving the sign- she’s just a decorative stand that happens to be woman shaped- perhaps to give the advertisement a human touch without having to actually involve a human. What she may lack in enthusiasm (or emotional affect of any kind for that matter) she makes up for in uncomplaining perseverance. Drag her out to the curb in the pre dawn hours and plug her in and she will work all day long with never a bathroom break or a sunburn or a word of complaint about the pay. What’s she going to do? Walk off the job? She’s not going anywhere, but just to be safe, her feet are bare and one ankle is visibly chained to the metal base that she stands upon. 

Every day I see this figure from the window of the bus. Today she stood in a cloud of soap bubbles being emitted from a bubble machine. Every day I look at her and struggle to decide whether I am looking at a picture of human laziness and tightwaddery, or at a pointed statement about attitudes towards the American work force. I know rationally that it is the former- someone’s idea of a cheap way to get attention with the minimum amount pic effort or expense, yet still my conscience is pricked by the suspicion that the underlying message has more to say about the fact that it is preferable to have an inanimate object do a job, badly, for free than to hire a human. So much preferable, in fact, that they needn’t even disguise the fact that the human has been replaced. 

I’m curious too, to know whether this actually sells more car washes, and, if so, is it noticeably more than when a human sign spinner stands out front or is it merely the same amount just with less expense? And is it worth the underlying message unintentionally being sent? Do they even care about the message? I doubt it. As long as people get the message that A Carwash Costs $6 there is no reason why they should care if there is a subtext that Humans Are Replaceable?

Not a Dog, Not a Cat

•October 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Don't mind me.

Don’t mind me.

A red Camaro blasted past, inches from my window, as we attempted to merge into his lane (just ask him) and then had the temerity to give us the finger when we put our high-beams on in annoyance. He then proceeded to become the most timid and brake-happy Camaro driver in the history of men in sports cars. Until we changed lanes and passed him, at which point he became very motivated indeed. Now, he thought, it was his turn to have the high beams on and no amount of lane changing was going to stop him. We merged right three lanes, then left, then right again. Each time he would wedge himself in behind us and turn the brights on again.

We elected to get off of the highway before our usual exit: if he was vindictive enough to follow us then we didn’t want him knowing our usual route. The Camaro stayed on the highway and good riddance. We followed surface streets through neighborhoods for the rest of the way. About halfway to our turn, traffic slowed down. The Curmudgeonly Lion could see a dog up ahead and speculated that it might’ve been someone’s lost dog and that was why everyone was slowing down. As we got closer, it became clear that no, it wasn’t a dog it was a coyote scavenging in a heap of construction detritus. Everyone was slowing down to look at the coyote.

I figured that would probably be my quota of wildlife for the day, but as I went out the back door to toss some watermelon rinds in the compost bucket I saw something skitter along the backyard wall out of the corner of my eye. I figured it was a cat. There are several neighborhood outdoor cats who come by to torment our indoor cats. Nope. It was cat sized, but it was definitely an opossum. Or a giant rat. It disappeared into the bushes before I could get a really good look at it.

Clearly we have relocated to the edge of the wilderness.

All these wildlife sightings have made me wonder whether the Camaro driver was real as well. Maybe he just seemed like a dildo in a sports car: you know, out of the corner of my eye. But I doubt it.

That was my excitement for the day.

Contractual Obligations

•October 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Damnit Rufus- pay attention.

“What’s the matter, Nugget?”

A pair of tiny, frightened eyes were peeping at me from around the corner of the wall leading down the hallway to the bedrooms. I could feel them watching me without seeing them. I paused Indiana Jones in his exploration of a temple which may or may not contain his doom and turned to look at the five year old hovering in the doorway.

“I can’t sleep.”

“Why can’t you sleep, Nugget?”

“I want some water.”

“You had some water.”

“I’m still thirsty.”

I sighed and got out of the chair. The problem wasn’t thirst: once the Nugget had a drink it would be time for the bathroom and then it would be another bedtime story and then it would be “Can I stay with you?” and Indiana Jones would never get to experience his doom. 

“C’mon,” I said, sweeping the Nugget into the air. “Let’s get you back to bed.”

“No! I can’t go on there!” Nugget squealed and writhed like a clawless cat trying to get away. I got a firm grip on the elastic waistband of a pair of alphabet themed pyjamas and hefted the kid to eye level.

“Why not?”

“There’s a monster in my room.”

This too was a familiar tactic: the Nugget’s bedroom at home was a veritable menagerie of monsters and bogies tucked into every dark nook. But this wasn’t the Nugget’s bedroom, this was my guest room- an art studio by day furnished with an old fashioned Murphy bed that folded into the wall when not in use. It seemed that Nugget was determined to bring the monster infestation to my place. And there was no getting rid of them once they settled into the house. My sister had already tried all the conventional techniques: logic, reasoning, outright denial. This was going to require pre-emptive containment.

“Yes of course.” I said. “That’s where I keep them.”

The Nugget tensed, uncertainly. 

“What do you mean?”

“It’s my guest room. All my guests stay in the guest room, even monsters.”

“You have monsters as guests?”

“Yes of course.”


“Well, I invited him. His name is Rufus.”


 “Because I knew that you were coming over and I know you’re used to having monsters at home. Don’t worry, you won’t see him- he’ll stay under the bed.”

We were at the bedroom now. I put the Nugget down on the bed and pulled up the covers.

“But the monster’s not under the bed- it’s in the closet.”

The Nugget had seen the opening and jumped on it. 

“Oh is he?”


“Well, he shouldn’t be. I’m paying for a bed monster, not a closet monster.”

“There’s weird noises and the door opened all by itself.”
“Is that so.” I went to the closet and the Nugget’s eyes got wide.

“What are you doing! Don’t go in there!”

“I’m going to have to have a word with Rufus.” I said. “A contract is a contract. The real monster is a monster who doesn’t honor contractual obligations.”

I didn’t wait to see if the Nugget understood. I stuck my head in the closet and let my eyes adjust to the dark. 

“Rufus, what are you doing?” I said. “This isn’t what we discussed.I hired you to be a bed monster.”

Rufus huddled in the farthest corner, a dim lumpy shape made of shadows and uncertainty.

“I’d make a great closet monster. Just give me a chance!”

“We agreed that you’d start under the bed and we’d see how it went.”

“It was just a little… You know, improv.”

“There are no small parts, Rufus, just small monsters.”

“I know, but…”

“Who’s going to make noises under the bed if you’re in the closet?”

“I dunno. No one I guess.”

“And who’s going to guard the room from gurglers?” (this was the Nugget’s other great fear- burglars.)

There was a slumpie sound as Rufus’ shrug knocked a sweater off of a hanger.

“And who’s going to keep the nightmares away? Don’t you like nightmares?”

“They’re delicious, but…”

“But nothing, Rufus. Look at those fingers- they’re not meant to be hidden in a closet.”

Rufus looked at his hands.

“You like my hands?”

“Yes.” I said. “Very snakey, but furry. Good long reach. Those are fingers just meant  for grabbing little feet that hang off the bed.”
“Also for catching Nuggets that fall out of bed so they don’t hurt theyselves.”

“You’re catching on.” I peeked out of the closet to see Nugget eavesdropping on every word with a wide eyed expression. I ducked back inside to Rufus. 

“I’ll let you head back to the bed in your own time.” I said. “But Nugget’s awake now so wait until you won’t be seen, ok?

“Ok. I’ll be a good bed- monster, you’ll see.”

“I’m counting on it. I’ll just leave the for cracked open, ok?”


Retreating from the closet a dusted my hands and turned to the bed. The Nugget regarded me with solemn doubt.

“He’s really in there?”

“Don’t worry.” I said. “He’ll be out of the closet just as soon as you fall asleep.”

“I wanna see him.”

“Well you’ll just have to stay in bed and watch for him.” I said. “You know if you go out of the room that’s when he’ll make his move. We should turn off the lights too- monsters can’t come out in the light that’s why they stay under beds and in  closets.”


I went to the door and clicked off the light leaving only a narrow path of light from the hallway.

“Ok. You keep an eye out for Rufus, ok?Stay very quiet and still so that he thinks you’re asleep.  He’s keeping an eye out for you.”

Nugget nodded solemnly and settled back into the bed, hands folded on top of the blankets settling in to wait and I shuffled down the hall to where Indiana Jones awaited his doom.

•October 24, 2016 • Leave a Comment

It was full dark when I stepped out the door for the morning- a first. Partly this was due to the time: I needed to leave myself enough time to refill my transit card. Partly it was because the skies were still cloudy.  We had received another two minutes and thirty seconds of morning rain during the pre-dawn, so it seemed wise to leave early to compensate for the inevitable traffic delays from the Angeleno drivers who Lose Their Damn Minds in the face of wet roads.  At any rate, I’m going to need to start carrying a flashlight.

The roads are dry now but the sky is still overcast and the traffic is still slow. I hope that after a weekend of such deep introspection that I can get on with making some progress towards various projects. I suppose that the first step is to choose which project I plan to commit to. There are a few that are still big enough to be intimidating to the point where it is easier to put them off than to face them full on. But considering how quickly October is slipping away, I’m going to need to change that attitude PDQ if I don’t want to be carrying them over into the new year. Even so, I find myself tempted to take on new projects for the novelty and ambition of it. Sigh. It was this kind of thing that got me into trouble in the first place. 

Ahh well. Live and learn.

Emotional Work

•October 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment
A little box of emotion bombs.

A little box of emotion bombs.

The rain came down for exactly two minutes during the morning: long enough for the Curmudgeonly Lion to go outside to try to bring some cardboard boxes into the shelter of the workshop, and stopping promptly the minute that there was nothing left outside to rain on.


It was a day of sudden showers all around. I found myself back at the task of sorting through a box of old letters and papers from my high-school and undergraduate days. The letters trended towards the celebratory: Happy Birthday, Congratulations on Graduation, Happy Valentines Day, Merry Christmas, Thinking of You. So many well wishes. So many friends from the past. So much love. But I quickly found myself in tears. For all the good memories that I kept, I also stored away the bad ones: loneliness and broken hearts and rejection and deep, deep periods of depression that I sometimes like to pretend never happened. The letters from friends and family now departed: some after long lives and some taken too soon. Reminders of voices I’ll never hear again and of my own mortality.

A part of me wonders why I keep these memories if they upset me so. If I threw them away, would I be able to forget? Would I be happier for the forgetting? Could I prune away the parts of my past that still cut to the bone? Can I forget who I was now that I’ve become someone else? Or is it disingenuous of me to pick and choose the parts of my life that made me who I am today?  If I fail to accept my worst moments do I fail to accept myself? Am I saving these documents for myself because I want to look back and know myself better or do I save them out of vanity hoping that someday someone else will look back over them and try to know me better? I suspect that it’s probably the latter: since I learned today that I can barely stand to look at them myself. Will these papers reflect the authentic me? Do I want them to? For all the tears that I shed during my walk down memory lane, I failed to throw away a single card or letter.

For now, I’ve elected to pack everything back into the box that it came from. When I clear a place in the closet I will tuck it away on a shelf for another twenty years or so in the hopes that maybe time will take the sting out of it.

Changing Room

•October 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Hello, who are you?

Hello, who are you?

I stood in the Kohl’s changing room, trying to look at myself in the mirror without actually seeing myself. I was there to buy bras. I was hating every minute of it. I found four that were nominally in the size that I wore. I put them on and took them off as quickly as I could. They all fit differently, but they all fit Well Enough that if I bought all of them then two of them would be half off and I wouldn’t have to buy bras again until they fell to pieces, which- in my experience- takes about five years.

There’s nothing pleasant or flattering about a changing room mirror. In a normal mirror, I’m generally pretty happy with what I see. In a changing room mirror I see a ghoul. Somehow, in a changing room, I am paler of skin, flatter of foot, broader of beam, older, zitier, drier, lumpier, and generally appear less like myself than I find reflected on any other surface on earth, including the front-facing camera on a camera phone. And we all know what those are like. There’s nothing like a changing room mirror to remind you that you are out of shape. What shape did I expect to see exactly? Perhaps I don’t even know. Although I’m certain that there are cultural standards of beauty that affect my self-image, the biggest problem that I have with the changing room mirror is that the image that I have of myself in my head doesn’t match the image that I see reflected back to me. But who am I, then, if not the person that I believe myself to be? Am I the image in my head or am I the image in the mirror? Which reflects the truth? Does either?

This question has been on my mind for the rest of the day. Is this state of being out-of-shape temporary? Or is this just how things are going to be from now on? How much more work is it going to be for me to stay the same as I was? Is it more work or less work than just working to accept the stranger that I see? Is this someone that I can accept? Do I have any choice? I’m not really sure where all this is coming from, but I sure hope that buying the bras was worth it.

Ennui Again

•October 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Le Sigh

Le Sigh

All that I really want to do is go to bed, but since I didn’t write anything earlier today I need to write something now. I somehow thought that if I waited until the end of the day I might have a more cogent thought to put into words, but it turns out that I’m still as scattered of brain now as I was then. My motivation has dropped noticeably in the past few days: it feels like a lot of work to sit up straight and to keep my eyes open. Once again I find myself wishing that nap-pods were a socially acceptable and readily available thing in office buildings. I sometimes feel like if I could just get horizontal for ten minutes then I’d be good for the rest of the day. It’s not like I use those fifteen minutes for anything more important than surfing Facebook.

My present state of ennui is probably the most newsworthy observation that I have for today. I got up. I went to work. I came home. Just like yesterday and the day before that. At work I continued to work on the same project as the day before. I’ve learned how to do more parts to the process, which feels like progress even though the work itself has not changed in a quantifiable way. And I don’t really mind the mind-numbingness of the work except that I can’t seem to snap out of it afterwards. My mind feels very full and very empty all at the same time: too full to focus, too empty to have anything to focus on. Small, basic tasks feel like a lot of work: doing the dishes= too much work. Watering the plants = too much work. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe I’m still adjusting to working full time (but c’mon, it’s been almost four weeks now). Whatever the cause, the result is the same: too much to do and a mind too foggy to do any of it.

It’s early(ish) yet, so I’m going to call it a night and see if a little bit of extra sleep helps get me back on track.

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