I got an email this afternoon. It said: “Hi Mark, Thanks for that moving write-up about your grandmother, and your uncle. It honestly choked me up and really stopped me in my tracks, so to speak. I’m sure it got a lot of us cynical, sarcastic hard-hearts to quietly reflect on the state of our own lives and family… You have a great gift at making people laugh with your vinegar view of the world. Again, thank you for sharing your life with us like you do, making us laugh and think.”

    To which I responded: “Mind your own fucking business, asshole!”

    I thought that was funny as hell, but Linette, who was looking over my shoulder, told me that he might not understand that I was joking. I ended up adding a real note below it, telling the guy that I appreciated his taking the time to write, etc. Inside, it was killing me to do it though. I would have loved to have had the balls to have just sent it as it was. I can’t imagine what the guy would have thought. Here he takes the time to tell me how my writing choked him up and I reply with, “Mind your own fucking business, asshole.” Classic.

    That makes me think of the film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Do you remember the part at the end, when Charlie thinks he’s won the grand prize, but then Gene Wilder, suddenly acting like a real prick, reels off the list of all the shit Charlie fucked with while he was in the chocolate factory and tells him to get out? I think that must have scared the shit out of me the first time I saw that movie as a kid. (Before I realized that everything was going to work out.) At any rate, what I almost did to your fellow reader reminded me of that exchange between Willie Wonka and Charlie.

    Amazon’s Anus

    I just happened to stumble into the last square inch of Amazon’s colon yesterday.

    I think it’s named something like, “My Treasure Chest” or “My Gold Box.” The link to it sits up in the upper right-hand corner of the Amazon home page. When you click on the chest, it opens up to reveal a ‘great’ bargain of some kind, some incredibly marked-down thing that you’d be stupid to pass up. You’re then presented with a choice. Either you can buy it or you can pass it and go on to your next fantastic deal. If you pass on it though, you pass on it forever and you’ve only got 60 minutes to make up your mind. There’s a clock there, counting down for you too… The pressure is on.

    Once you go through five such deals, you’re done for the day. That’s all you’ve got. In a way, if you liked the stuff, it would be like gambling. You’d have to agonize over each choice and whether or not to risk it and move on to the next one. If you liked the stuff, it would be like “Let’s make a Deal.” The only problem is that there’s NO FUCKING WAY IN HELL that you’re gonna like the stuff.

    I just ran through it yesterday and my best thing, the very best of the five, was a “20-inch Green Velvet Frog.” I couldn’t make that shit up it I tried. It was originally $25, marked down to $7, which, I’ll admit is a great fucking deal, if not for the fact that it was a Green Velvet Fucking Frog!

    If it were a ceramic bust of Lady Bird Johnson, I’d snap it up in a second. If it were a “Best of Goober” video compilation from the “Andy Griffith Show,” I’d probably toss in $7. There’s tons and tons of shit that I don’t need, and probably don’t even really want, that I’d pay $7 for.

    There’s no way, however, that I’m going to pay for some shoddy velvet frog, whose big, plastic eyes, I could tell, would choke a toddler to death in a minute flat. I’m not going to do it. And I’m not going to pay $14 for an eight-piece auto jack set that was made in Croatia. (I believe that was one of my other choices.) I’m not going to crawl under a car that’s being held up by a product that was made in an eastern European, state-run labor camp during the mid-1980s.

    The stuff inside the Gold Box is basically stuff that didn’t, or couldn’t, sell on the Home Shopping Network, but isn’t quite ready to go the Dollar Store route. My theory is that most of these are products being liquidated by third world socialist governments. I bet there was a Chinese factory just kicking these velvet frogs out in the early 70′s. They probably used them in some secret, late-night communist ceremony at the Great Wall.

    The thing that made “Let’s Make a Deal” great is the fact that some of the gifts were good. You’d have something pretty good, but there was the chance that you could have something even better if you’d only take the risk. Here, that’s not the case. There’s nothing good to risk. There’s only shit that wasn’t good enough to be absorbed by the Amazon system.

    This “gold box” is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to unload shit. If you don’t believe me, just check it out.

    Announcing the Birth of Theodore Bundy Kulpanowsky

    Linette and I went and saw Dawn and David last night in the hospital and we got to spend an hour with their new son, Nicolas Evan Kulpanowsky. It was cool.

    Other than the minute I spent trying to convince the new parents that there was a famous serial killer in the 70′s named Nicolas Evan, things were very nice. (Can you imagine if you didn’t really follow the news or popular culture and you named your kid Ted Bundy Kulpinowsky, only to find out that there was another Ted Bundy who had made quite a name for himself already? That was joke I was going for.)

    I felt bad about that. I always feel bad when I say inappropriate things like that. I’ve got some kind of Comedy Turrets Syndrome though. I make bad jokes when I shouldn’t. It’s like I can’t hold back when I think something might be even remotely funny. Telling beaming new parents that they just named their gurgling little cherub after the guy who inspired “Natural Born Killers” isn’t funny, even if it does illicit a priceless moment of worried silence as the parents consider the option of changing their son’s name.

    Other than that, the visit was great. Nicolas was beautiful and it was good to learn that everything went well for them the night before.

    There was one really freaky part during our visit though. When Dawn got up out of her hospital bed to hug me goodbye. I heard this big splash of water against the ground and thought for sure that it was her guts falling out of her, or her water breaking again. I half expected to see a big chunk of placenta sitting on my foot when I looked down. Instead I just saw a cup that she must have knocked off the table. It really bothered me though, at least for a second.

    Before leaving, I related the touching story my mom told me about my own birth. Apparently, she was completely knocked out, unconscious when I was delivered. They had to pull me out with forceps, which they clamped down on my head, because she couldn’t push. (As a result, my head still comes to a point at the top. There’s a ridge that you could cut paper on. It’s like the line of plates along the back of a stegosaurus’s tail. (I could have probably been a great swimmer if I’d applied myself.)) Well, once I came out, and my mom came around, a nurse laid me on her chest and said, “Mrs. Maynard, here’s your brand new baby boy.” To which she responded, “It’s not mine. I haven’t had my baby yet.” I can’t wait to have a lawyer lay that on a jury one day. It’s my “get out of jail free” card, and I fully intend to play it. My own mother rejected me and it’s been downhill ever since.

    At any rate, concerning mothers and babies, we were discussing the fact that women often, in generations past, didn’t realize a lot of things about their bodies and about pregnancy in general. We were, I think, talking about episiotomies and one of us mentioned that their mother didn’t know what one was, although she’d most likely had one. It made me wonder if women generally knew about placentas, if they knew that their body generated a huge organ that also passed through them at the time they gave birth. I know that women on farms and such certainly knew, but did women in cities, women who never saw other animals and people giving birth? I wonder…. I’m not going to spend a long time wondering though. I just think it’s interesting.

    It makes me recall a letter I once read in an American Studies class. It was a letter sent between a young Victorian wife and her mother, written on her wedding night. She had apparently dashed out of their wedding chamber to jot down this note. All I recall is that she mentioned the “little man” that rose up from her husband’s lap. I think she was suggesting that he, the husband, might be a warlock or some such creature. It was pretty funny, but I suppose it wasn’t the first time such a thing had happened. Say what you will about porn being a great sin, but at least I knew what I was in for. I didn’t have to write my dad about the “pink monster that unveiled itself unto mine eyes.”

    All this other shit aside, Nicolas was a beautiful little kid and Dawn and David are going to make great parents. That makes me happy and gives me some hope for the future of the world… not much, but some.

    Adam Curry: VJ/Parent/Freak

    I went to the blog page of Lawrence Lessig last night. He’s a famous Stanford law professor who quite often speaks out on issues relating to patent, copyright and the ownership of digital content. If I get motivated, I’ll link to an article, if I can find one that simply outlines his positions. (OK, I found some articles and interviews that are pretty good. They all mention his Mickey Mouse example. You’ll like that.)

    Lessig 1 2 3

    “Wait, so markmaynard.com has stories on fuel cell technology AND digital copyright law!”

    “That’s right, guys! We’re not just cheap laughs about Phyllis Diller’s panties anymore. We’ve got it all here at MarkMaynard.com. If it’s hip and now, we’re all over it. This isn’t your father’s MarkMaynard.com.”

    At any rate, I was looking around his page when I noticed his long list of links down the right-hand side. I thought it would be neat to take a few minutes and see who my esteemed blogging colleague liked to read, the people who perhaps influenced him to create his own weblog.

    OK, I see Adam Curry on this list. That’s an interesting coincidence. I just read something about his blog and how popular it was. I think that maybe it’s interesting if professor Lessig is looking at it, so I follow the link, not knowing what to expect. Would it be nostalgia for the music of the early 80′s when he, Adam Cury, was a VJ on MTV? Or, would it be the day-to-day musings of a high-tech tycoon? (I’ve heard that he’s now very wealthy.)

    Nope. I was wrong on both counts.

    It’s complete fucking insanity from a fried new age nutcase. Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe I should have read the entire thing, instead of just the first posting, but that first posting was so damned troubling that I just decided to draw my conclusions based solely upon it. (I can’t imagine that any of the rest of it is much different.)

    Here, for your enjoyment is an excerpt in which he describes the birth of his daughter some twelve of thirteen years earlier:

    “The radio was on, playing “In my life” by the Beatles as our princess was lifted from her warm nest and brought into the world.

    One more bit for the record, we chose Christina (Christopher had it been a boy) because this love child was conceived under the dining room table during a romantic holiday dinner the previous Christmas.

    Today you become a young woman, but you’ll always be Daddy’s girl. Happy Birthday my darling Christina! – Love, Dad.”

    WHAT THE FUCK! Did I read that correctly? They lifted the baby from its “warm nest”?! Am I the only one who finds that creepy? Do other folks call their wife’s womb, vagina, whatever, a “warm nest”? And what’s up with telling the world, not to mention the kid, where you conceived her? The last thing I’d want to know is that my parents named me Mark because the were fucking and my mom’s head made a “mark” on the wall at the moment that I was conceived, or that my dad, handed her a German “mark” as they were role playing “Bad Nazi and the Polish school girl.”

    I don’t want to obsess on this. I’d rather go on and on about something that matters, like the Ritalin bottles I found in my back yard last week, but this just creeps me out. I don’t want to slander the man, but I’m getting a weird incest vibe from this site. I’m sure I’m just misreading it though.

    I have to get back to working on Crimewave now. Bye.

    Posted in Other | 6 Comments

    Shiv

    I wish that I could show you things. I know the technology exists, I just haven’t figured it out yet. I want to show you photos of things. I’m looking at a crude weapon that’s sitting here on my desk at home. It’s a handmade knife. Linette says it looks like it was filed down and welded together in a prison cell. The blade is about three inches long, as in the handle. The handle is just an old bicycle pedal, metal covered in hard, worn rubber. This evil-looking little shiv was fashioned by my father as a child, at or around 1950. I found it when going through some boxes with him after his stepfather passed away a few years ago. I don’t know the whole story behind it and I don’t know if he ever actually fought with it as a kid, but it’s here on my desk. It’s weighing down the stack of bills that I just used it to open, about a million miles away from the small, rural town of Liberty, Kentucky where it was made. I find things like that really interesting. I like when things change context. I read a story once about a gay man who used pieces of his grandfather’s KKK robe in a quilt that he and his partner now display on their living room wall. I’d like to think that a number of things here with me now will have a life after me, independent of me, like this odd, rusty letter opener that I wish I could show you.

    To Blog or Not To Blog

    It occurred to me earlier this evening, as I laid on my couch watching the TV show “Big Brother,” that it’s much easier to sit and watch television than it is to create fresh content for a weblog. In spite of that fact, I felt it necessary to force myself to share a few things tonight, while they’re still fresh in my mind.

    Grace Lao

    Linette’s grandmother passed away last night. She was an incredible woman and she will be missed. Her name was Grace Lao and was almost 100 years old. She lived on her own in San Francisco until two days ago. (She had a woman bring food and clean, but other than that she was on her own.) I was fortunate in that I got to spend time with her on a number of occasions over the course of the last five years or so. There’s a lot that I’d like to share with you about her, but I don’t know how to go about doing it. Maybe I’ll just jot down some short notes and memories. Hopefully, they’ll be enough to give you a flavor for the kind of woman that she was.

    - She got dressed up every day and put on her make-up after doing her exercises, which consisted of doing the Charleston while sitting on the edge of her bed. She didn’t like to have visitors until after 2:00. When she had visitors, she was ready for them. She always had coffee, food, and desserts at the ready.

    - She was, as a child in China, a favorite of her father, a man who had, I believe, eight wives over the course of his lifetime. She was the daughter of the number three wife. Her father made his fortune painting ships in Shanghai. The fortune did not extend far beyond his life, but the family was able to send Grace, in the 1920′s, to university in the United States.

    - She was, it sounds, a fashionable modern woman of the flapper era. She met her husband, who was also from China but studying in America, at a New Year’s party in Manhattan. I believe she’s told me that it was a black tie affair and they met when a party favor that required two people to function brought them together.

    - As a young woman, she had many suitors, but she chose S.K. Lao, Linette’s grandfather. According to the story, she was serious about two men and both men knew one another. She asked both men what they thought of one another and S.K. was the more gracious of the two, telling her all of the good traits of the friend instead of taking the opportunity to make him look less appealing. She chose S.K. I like that story not only because it shows the character of Linette’s grandfather, but also because such things occurred to her grandmother. She was very, very bright and she was able to pick up on people’s character with the words they chose and the actions they took, things that aren’t obvious to everyone.

    - She had said to me on many occasions that she was not smart, but cunning and crafty. She said the same thing about Linette. She also said to Linette on one occasion, “I know what you like. Big shoes and little hair.” If you know Linette, you know how right-on that is.

    - The last time we saw her, she didn’t like the beard that I had grown. She rubbed her hands on her face, where her beard would be if she had one, and she frowned and shook her head. She said that I’d been handsome before. Then, in defense, I said that Linette liked my beard. She thought for a moment and then suggested that Linette liked it because it kept other women from finding me attractive. She smiled at Linette and said, “crafty.” She laughed and nodded her acceptance.

    - During World War II, while S.K. was managing a factory far away from her and their eight children, she was forced to protect her family. When it was obvious that she could no longer stay where she was, due to the advancing Japanese army, she had to move them all. The story of how she pinned some money inside the clothes of each of her children and handed them up to strangers through the windows of a train is one of the most harrowing stories I’ve ever heard. (Fortunately, things worked out for the best and all were reunited shortly thereafter.) She was not only a cool and beautiful woman, but a strong woman.

    - She lived here in the US since the 70′s, but didn’t take the test to become an American citizen until she was in her mid-90′s. She studied for her test and passed it. It meant a lot to her.

    - Her mind like a steel trap. She once recounted in detail the number of cans of varnish that were used on the floor of the International Hotel in Hong Kong, where she had worked for a time. She also recalled in frightening detail the knife fight between cooks that took place on that same varnished floor.

    - Among other things, she worked with Margaret Sanger to establish a Planned Parenthood program in China.

    - At 98 she cooked Linette and I a wonderful five-course meal. She made sure it was all vegetarian since I had mentioned on a previous trip that I didn’t eat meat. She also remembered, from my previous trip, that I liked to drink water and she had a bottle ready for me.

    - She liked Hagan Daaz ice cream. She ate half-pint a day and said she got her nutrients from that and the cream she took in her coffee. She also liked the biscuits from Kentucky Fried Chicken. She never drank just plain water as far as I could tell, just tea and coffee.

    - Linette and I went to San Francisco to see her in person and to tell her that we planned to be married. It was the first time she’d met me. We were kind of asking for her approval, not really considering that she might say no. Fortunately, she didn’t. After we left, she apparently called her oldest daughter, Pauline, and told her that I had good blue eyes and that she was impressed by the fact that I’d gone over to the cleaning woman before leaving to tell her goodbye. Like I said before, she was always noticing little things about people and their behaviors.

    - I don’t think her kids or grandkids that lived near her in San Francisco had heard her speak English in years. (They always spoke Chinese when they were together.) When Linette and I mentioned to someone else in the family that we’d chatted with her for almost three hours, they were shocked. I remember the person saying, “Grandma speaks English?” As little as she may have used it though, she was still fluent. As with other things, her memory for the language was almost perfect.

    - At one point, during our last visit with her, she told us the story about having to flee with her children. In the process of telling the story, in vivid detail, she began to cry and she said, “my memory is a curse.” She said that every time she thought of things, she would essentially be reliving them.

    - She was a very proud, very bright woman and she would not want to live in any kind of assisted-living facility. I couldn’t picture it happening. Her children had made plans for it to happen this week though. She’d fallen twice in the past six months and it was becoming obvious that she was getting to the point where she needed something more than the Medic-Alert buzzer she carried around her neck. It seems to me as though she may have made a choice to pass away when she did, with the same dignity that she had lived the rest of her life with.

    - When asked how she managed to live so long and so well, she would always mention God and simplicity. “Simple. I live everything very simple.” (The word “simple” sounded like “simpo” the way she said it, and I loved it. I’d look forward to her saying it in conversations. For lack of a better descriptive, it was damned cute the way that she said it.)

    - She stopped me at the door after we first met and looked me in the eye and said, “she’s my grand daughter,” motioning toward Linette. She wasn’t telling me that they were related either. I knew that. We’d just spent the last three hours talking about it. She was saying, that Linette was part of her. It was kind of a warning, like she was telling me not to ever hurt Linette, at least that’s how I took it. I loved her for it too. I responded, “I know, and I love her more because of it.” I see her in Linette a lot and it makes me happy to know that when/if we have kids, she’ll be in them too.

    - I will miss her very much and I am saddened by the fact that our children won’t get to know her as Linette and I did, but I am very happy that I will have these memories and others to pass along. I am also extremely happy that Linette and I traveled with a video camera on our last trip to California for the express purpose of taping our conversation. I like knowing that we don’t just have to rely on our memories of her, but that we can hear her and see her if we want to.

    When Linette called me on my cell phone this morning to tell me about her grandmother’s having passed away, I was standing in a building in Ann Arbor, just feet away from where I was six months ago when I got the call about my uncle. The two calls, while very similar, couldn’t have been more different. In the case of my uncle’s death, it was unexpected. He was relatively young, he was, in a lot of ways, a lot like me, and he chose to take his own life. I had, and I still have, a great deal of anger, confusion and sadness over his death. It was unnecessary, violent, and shortsighted. I cannot begin to imagine the kind of pain he must have been in to have done what he did. I feel so, so sorry for him and I would do anything to bring him back. He was a very good man and the world is a darker place without him. He went before his time.

    In the case of Linette’s grandmother, it’s very different. She was ready to go. On our last trip to visit her, she explained how life was like a tree and how she had grown so big, spreading her limbs and leaves out to catch more sun. She said that now it was her time to shrink back in size and allow other trees to see the sun and grow bigger. She was happy with what life had given her and she truly believed that there was a better place waiting for her. Her attitude toward life, and toward death was profound, as was her thankfulness for all she had been given in this life.

    My uncle, struggling with depression, was looking for the kind of peace that she had, but it eluded him. When he passed away, I was given his copy of the Dahli Lama’s “The Art of Happiness.” It was one of the three books he had been in the process of reading when he finally decided to end his life. That for me makes it all the sadder, the fact that he was trying desperately to find a way out. And it makes me that much more fortunate that I have met someone like Linette’s grandmother, who will, for the rest of my life, serve as a symbol for what I hope to be. She was truly content with who she was and what she had done in her life, and I can’t imagine a better place to be. I just wish that my uncle Thom had been able to meet her.

    So as not to leave on a sad note, I’d like to mention that within just hours of Linette’s grandmother passing away last night, our very good friends, Dawn and David gave birth to
    Nikolas Evan Kulpinowski.

    Nikolas is 8 lbs 6 oz and 22 inches long.

    I guess that’s the way it’s meant to happen.
    Old people die and new people are born.
    Things just keep going around.

    Posted in Other | Leave a comment

      I’ve wanted to post more than I have over the past few days. Part of the reason I haven’t is physical and part of it’s mental. The physical part has to do with my right hand. It’s not working the way that it should, the way that it used to. Something happened about a month or so ago, some kind of muscle/tendon/nerve damage. The inside of my right thumb, between the knuckles, hurts like a bitch whenever I extend my right arm. It burns. Best-case scenario, I’ve got carpel tunnel. Worst case, I figure, I’ve got some fast-moving degenerative neuro-muscular disease. My grandmother fought ALS (Lou Gherigh’s Disease) for a number of years before her death, and I don’t want to go through anything like that. That, unfortunately, is the diagnosis I’ve given myself. (I have an appointment with a real doctor tomorrow.) Whatever it is, the pain’s been getting worse. It not only affects me when I reach now. It hurts to do almost anything with that thumb, including typing. As a result, my posts have been sporadic and my emails have been less than exhaustive. I think that people are getting pissed at me.

      Someone writes me a well though-out 500-word letter and I respond, “Thanks for your note. –M”

      The mental part I was referring to is just procrastination. I haven’t been institutionalized or anything. I’ve just been hesitant to write. Maybe I just don’t want to write anything as god-awful boring as that “I love fuel cells” piece again (see previous, drunken, “I want to save the world by going to business school” post). Whatever it is, I’ve been taking every opportunity given to me to not write.

      “A two-hour episode of Big Brother? Sure. Sounds great. Let’s microwave that gallon jug of liquid cheese and break out a new bag of chips.”

      So, I’ve been rubbing my fucking thumb and sitting in front of the TV. I want to get the new issue of Crimewave off to the printer by September 15, the new Monkey Power record needs to go to press, and I want to do a better job with this site, but I can’t seem to find the motivation. (I suppose it’s conceivable that the pain in my hand isn’t even real. Maybe I just dreamed it up to give myself an excuse not to work. Could that be possible?)

      Actually, my hand feels OK right now, probably because I haven’t typed since Friday night. Hopefully, it will hold out long enough for me to get a few short stories out. Wish me luck.

      Fighting over Phyllis Diller’s Panties

      Linette and I got into a fight the other night over Phyllis Diller’s panties, or, to be more correct, we got into a fight over a reference I made to them in Friday’s post. The reference, if you’re going back to look for it, is already gone, so don’t bother. I took it down after the fight, thinking that it wasn’t worth the headache… You’ve got to pick your battles in life, and I wasn’t about to make one of my big ones about a pair of an old comedienne’s panties, real or imagined.

      “What did you say that was so bad, Mark?”

      I said that it was, “dryer outside that Phyllis Diller’s panties.”

      We hadn’t had much rain these past few months here in Michigan and, as a result, a lot of our plants are struggling. It bothers me quite a bit. At any rate, I was trying to think of a way to relate the severity of the dryness. Apparently, I took a wrong turn, but I did it in the name of comedy and clarity. It’s important to me that you know that.

      Actually, I was trying to expand on that idea for quite a while, but I just couldn’t get anywhere. “It’s dryer out there than Phyllis Diller’s panties during an audience with the Pope?” I don’t know. I was trying to think of something that would be completely un-sexy to Phyllis Diller. “Kenny Rogers?” “Her husband, Spike?” “Jim Nabors?” Or, I could have linked to a photo of some horribly un-sexy person, like one of my friends or fellow zine-publishers. That’s probably what I should have done.

      At any rate, the comedy was never fully incubated. I shouldn’t have posted it anyway.

      Linette said it made me sound like I hated women. I hope that no one else would think that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love women and I admire very much the work of Phyllis Diller. She’s a pioneer. In fact, I’ve spent more than a few hours, trying to arrange an interview with her through her agent of Crimewave.

      So, at least for a while, it’s going to be all penis jokes here at markmaynard.com. I hope you can live with that? If you absolutely need a joke about a vagina, or panties, wet or dry, please email me and I’ll see what I can do on the side. It may not be top quality, but maybe it can get you through the day, and that’s what’s important. I don’t want any of you giving up on life just because I’ve cut off your moist panty humor lifeline.

      The Bachelor Party

      The bachelor party last night was good. I got to play laser tag for my first time, and I learned how to shoot craps. I also got to stand on a pedestal in the middle of a giant, inflated life raft kind of thing and beat on another man, also on a pedestal, with a giant, padded log. It was like something from American Gladiators. Very homoerotic. And you can’t ask for more than that from a bachelor party.

      Some guy smacked me in the head really hard in the process of playing this game of skill and balance and I felt my brain slosh up against one side of my skull. I could literally feel my brain get bruised up and down one side. It could have been worse though. Another guy, this big, 300 some pound fellow, got knocked out of the inflatable arena and landed squarely on his neck. We all heard a crunching sound, but he jumped up, shook it off, tried to play it cool for a few minutes and then excused himself to go home and wait for his fingers to lose feeling. I heard that someone else had his eye pop out, but I didn’t see it happen.

      Later in the evening, things got kind of scary when a woman cop came in and told to us cut down the noise. But, guess what? She wasn’t a real cop at all! She was a dancer, dressed up like a female police officer. Can you believe that? (I should have guessed something weird was going on when the stranger came in a few minutes before her and started the CD player. I forget the song, but it was something like “Hot for Teacher.”)

      The important thing is that I didn’t break down in tears when the woman sprung out of her cop’s uniform. I also didn’t run and hide. I just stood there, leaning against the wall, sipping my beer, acting cool. I handled it perfectly. I didn’t ruin the moment for anyone and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

      Neighborhood Watch

      Apparently, there was a lot going on here in the hood last night, while I was out learning to shoot craps and hold my composure in front of a naked woman. According to two neighbors who came up and talked to me as I chased Foxie around the yard this morning, the house on the next block, the one that there’s always something bad or annoying going on at, outdid itself. Apparently a small fight broke out on their front porch around 10:00 PM. It began after a full day of drinking, when two women began slapping one another. Eventually men got involved and the thing grew. Passers by apparently got sucked up into it too. At the end of it, chairs had been brought out and broken over people’s backs and one fellow had to be taken away in an ambulance after he was beaten to the ground and then kicked in the head repeatedly. Five police cars responded to the scene and there were some arrests made. (I figure our property value probably falls one percentage point for every person carried away on a stretcher from that house.)

      I walked by the house today and there’s something that looks like Jed Clampett’s truck outside, all filled up with broken furniture and plastic bags full of clothes. Either someone is moving out, or someone is moving in.

      I’ve seen ambulances there two times in this last month and I heard one of the women explaining that she’d fallen in the kitchen and broken her arm one of those time.

      There are six apartments in this house. The landlords, whoever they are, allow dogs and they charge less than any other landlords in the area. As a result, they attract people who raise pit bulls and like to drink.

      Every morning, as I drive out for work, I see them walking down the street en masse for their first beers of the day. The rest of the day is just spent strewn around the house, on the house’s broken decks and in the yard, drinking, singing, rapping along to the radio, yelling at passers by, etc.

      I want to write more. I really do. But I have to work on some other stuff before my thumb starts hurting again.

      Good night.

      Posted in Other | Leave a comment

      I want the “all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger,” to come to my house to sell Tupperware!

      And does anyone know how I can get a hold of K.D. Lang? She still owes me lightbulbs and dishwasher detergent from my last Amway order.

      Posted in Other | Leave a comment

      On strippers, b-school and alternative fuel vehicles

      Skip This Section:
      Unless You’re Interested in Alternative Fuels and High-Tech Business Startups

      I just went out and had dinner with a guy who used to work for me. He took me out to dinner and expensed it to his new employer. He’s got a good job with a consulting firm in California. He’s a genuinely nice guy and I’m happy for him… He wants to work with me again at some point in the future and that means quite a bit to me. As cynical and uncaring as I may come off at times, it makes me happy when people like me. It makes me even happier when people who have worked with me in the past come back and tell me that they either learned a lot when they were with me, or respected the way I handed those few things that were under my control.

      This fellow spent the evening encouraging me to go back to college and get my MBA, like he did. I’m conflicted about it. On one hand, I want it and I want the security, opportunity and higher wages that it might bring with it, but on the other hand something about it repulses me. I can’t articulate it, but I have these conflicting feelings. On one hand, I know that I’m good at business and I know that it’s in my blood to some extent. On the other, I’m ashamed of that fact. Every time I think about going to business school, I feel like either vomiting or spitting in my own face.

      “So, this is what it’s like to have multiple personality disorder.”

      So, right now, I feel like studying for the graduate entrance exams. Tomorrow I may not, but tonight I do. I want to go back to school and earn my MBA. I know, given the current climate of corporate mistrust, you must not be thinking very highly of me right now, but let me explain… I don’t aspire to be the next CEO of ENRON. I’d sooner dig out my eyes with a fork.

      I’d want to use my degree for good. To be painfully specific, I’d want to use my degree to find a way to introduce alternative fuel technologies into the marketplace so that they make economic sense. I know that’s not exactly “shit your pants funny,” but I think that’s what I want to do with my life. I want use my talent, such as it is, to see that it becomes economically feasible to widely introduce technologies which will cut our use of natural resources.

      The bottom line, and I’ve learned this from my years undercover, observing people in business, is that things won’t change until there’s money to be made, or until they’re made to change. For an example, US auto manufacturers will not seriously pursue alternative fuel vehicles until they are either forced to, or until it makes economic sense for them to do so. While the world may only have another 20 to 50 years of fossil fuel left (probably closer to 20, given the increased use by China and other developing nations), auto manufactures will keep making SUVs until the demand dries up. Their job is to increase shareholder value at any cost, not to save the world. That may seem counterintuitive, but that’s the way it is.

      (GM, I should mention, is showing some foresight though. They have, in recent public statements, made it clear that their long-range goals take them beyond fossil fuel. They have indicated that their goal is to provide vehicles for such a vast number of people (i.e. all the people in China) that dependence of fossil fuel isn’t an option in the long-term. Toward this end, they are investing in alternative fuel research. Of course, they are also, at the same time pushing their own SUVs and fighting against the state of California and its current mandates concerning the percentage of zero emission vehicles that need to be on the road by 2004. Like I said, it’s a complicated issue.)

      Each automaker says that if they didn’t give the consumer what he or she wanted, that said consumer would go elsewhere, and they’re right. Consumers would go elsewhere, as long as it makes economic sense for them to do so.

      Of course, government intervention does work to move things along that the economy can’t. It’s doubtful that we would have experienced the last fifty years of prosperity, for instance, if not for the fact that the United States government stepped in and established the interstate highway system when it did. No entrepreneurs would have stepped up and made that significant of an investment. Right now, we’re faced with the same proposition relative to alternative fuels.

      Let’s say, for instance, we decide to pursue hydrogen as the fuel of the future. What would need to happen to see that accomplished? How would fueling stations need to be altered or how would new ones be rolled out? How would hydrogen be processed and transported? How would legacy systems be dealt with? How would new vehicles be introduced? How do you go about convincing a critical mass of people to forgo what they’re comfortable with in favor of a new, perhaps risky technology? How are work forces retrained and transitioned? How can you get people to buy a fuel cell powered vehicle, for instance, when it’s unclear as to whether such a vehicle would retain its resale value? I’d like to work on market realignment strategies that take such questions into account.

      OK, I promise never to post something so boring again. I’ve been drinking and you’ll have to forgive me… The point is, however, that things won’t just change because they should. Things won’t change unless a great many people are motivated to make a change. The puzzle is, how do we set things up so that a vast number of different constituencies, on a number of different levels, are all incented to pursue the same course, a course that makes sense for the future of the world?

      OK, OK, I’m sorry for boring you. What if I talk about strippers for a while? Would you like that? Judging from the letters I’ve been getting, it looks like you folks appreciate the good wiener joke or stripper story more than you do the essays on the future of the human race. That really surprises me… I will, however, like the automakers, give you what you want, even if it’s to the detriment of our planet.

      Print this and File it Under: “Mistakes Made By Mark that I Can Learn From”

      I have to go to bachelor party this Saturday. Chances are, it will be my last. This is the last of my last good, straight, male friends that’s getting married. Once he’s hitched, that’ll be it. Every single one of my non-gay male friends will have given in to the seductive allure of married life.

      I suspect that a few of those marriages won’t last. (I could say which ones, but then Linette would get mad at me and I’d have a few more couples not talking to me.) So, maybe there’s hope for bachelor parties in my future. That’s a long way off though. In the near term, this is it. This is my last one, and, because of that, I feel as though I should enjoy it.

      My experiences at bachelor parties up till now haven’t been all that good. For some unknown reason, I tend to get really upset at them. It’s not like I break down and cry at the sight of a stripper, but it’s pretty damned close. The last bachelor party I went to, which happened to be my own, I spent the evening locked in an upstairs bedroom of a friend’s house, afraid of the strippers and other bad things taking place below. As best as I can figure it, I didn’t want to do something stupid by accident and ruin the plans for the wedding a few days later. I didn’t trust myself and I certainly didn’t trust my friends. (If you want the whole story, check out Crimewave USA #13.)

      As a result of my behavior, people got mad at me. Apparently, I even upset the strippers. I guess they’d seen lots of shit go down at bachelor parties, but they’d never heard of a man barricading himself in a room, at least not in a room without them.

      The bachelor party before that one, I also kind of let people down, but for a different reason. I was with a van full of guys who went to a strip club in Canada. After I found out that the exchange rate was what I considered to be a rip-off, I decided to go out and sleep in the van by myself.

      In spite of all this, I was invited to the bachelor party this weekend. When I accepted the invitation, I promised that I’d be more social, even if it meant looking at naked women though the tears in my eyes and letting go of some hard-earned cash. I figure it’s my last chance to make amends for some of my bachelor party behavior of the past and to reverse some of the bad stripper karma that’s hanging over me like a black, bikini-waxed cloud.

      So, here’s my problem, and it may not be the problem you expected from the intro… You see, I’ve somehow gotten myself into a situation where I don’t know how to use the ATM, so I can’t take out money for the bachelor party. As this circumstance never occurred to me, I never planned for it. Linette always gets the money out of the bank for us. And, until now, that’s worked just fine.

      Even if I could take money out, thought, there’s a bigger problem. I have an insane dedication to Quicken, our home accounting software. I love it and I account for every penny I spend… It embarrasses me when I go to eat at Cracker Barrel or Old Country Buffet for lunch. Linette always gives me shit about it. But there’s no hiding it. When she asks me where I ate, I can mumble something and change the subject, but all she has to do is to check Quicken. If I give someone twenty-five cents for a bite of their tuna melt, it’d be there in Quicken for her to see.

      “My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is being used against me!”

      I have no secrets.

      So, I want to take at least $150 out of the bank for this, my last bachelor party. I want to be able to chip in for the booze and the strippers when everyone else does. I don’t want to be cheap, like I usually am. I don’t want to sleep in the van or hide in the attic. This is my last chance to prove myself.

      Unfortunately, this means that I have to ask my wife to get the money out of the bank for me. And, it’s embarrassing to have to ask for lap dance money, no matter how old you are.

      The other problem is that once I get the money, even if I could get it, I’d have to account for it. I couldn’t just say that I’d lost the money. I couldn’t even make up a fake reason, because I don’t trust myself to remember later that the fake reason wasn’t real. (Does that make sense?) I couldn’t for instance say it was for “charity” for fear that I’d forget it really wasn’t it and reference it on my tax returns, only to be arrested for it later.

      Lessons:
      Don’t let your OCD run your life.
      Don’t let Quicken dominate you.
      Don’t ever get in a situation where you don’t have fast access to untraceable cash.
      If you’re upset by strippers the way some folks are upset by clowns, keep it to yourself.

      Posted in Alternative Energy, energy, entrepreneurism, Mark's Life, sex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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