Two Women

I was talking to someone at work about the viral video that is going around, the one about the NASA scientist that made the elaborate, over-engineered, hilarious booby trap to revenge upon thieves that steal Amazon packages. My point is that he made the package look too tempting – he was creating thieves. The other guy disagreed – he felt that people either were thieves or not. I think that it is more a matter of degree, and everyone, sometimes, steals something.

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited this year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a thousand or so words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.

 

Two Women

 

One day, due to a mix-up at a department store wedding registry two weeks before the scheduled weddings, Moss Williams and Isabel Green discovered they were both engaged to the same man, Augustus Piper.

Moss William’s condominium was on the twenty third floor and she had always been disappointed that the windows didn’t open. She lifted up an expensive, exquisite abstract marble sculpture that Augustus Piper had bought her on one of his business trips to Venice and fixed the window. The marble made an appropriate expensive explosive boom when it hit the concrete over two hundred feet below – followed by an exquisite tinkle as the shards of broken glass caught up. Augustus had bought her the condo and had planned on moving in too after the wedding.

She enjoyed the sting of the cold wind whipping through the open wound in the glass wall of the building as she collected everything that either belonged to Augustus or had been bought by him and would fit through the hole in the window left by the marble. This was everything in the place other than the furniture. With amazing energy and rapidity she threw it all out.

The only thing she saved was the cocaine. Moss lined it all up in a group that looked like a tiny neatly plowed field of snowy ground on the glass coffee table – then hurled the expensive sterling necklace with its hidden compartment out too. He had bought her the jewelry in San Francisco. He had bought the cocaine too, but it was too good to waste… even in fury. She visited the little field on the coffee table whenever her energy began to fade.

“Here, dear,” Isabel’s mother called, “I’m back from the store with the ice cream.” She began unloading the pints from the shrink-wrapped cardboard flat and loaded them into her daughter’s freezer. “It’s a little soft from the trip back from the store, but I think it’s still edible… do you want a pint now?”

The loud sobbing from the bedroom paused for a few seconds. “Yes,” Isabel said, “Bring me a pint and a spoon.”

“What flavor? They sold these variety flats and that’s what I bought.”

“Who cares mother? Just bring me something.”

“Chunky Monkey OK?” asked Isabel’s mother.  The sobbing didn’t stop this time, so she assumed that Chunkey Monkey wasn’t good, so she exchanged it with a pint of chocolate mint. The spoon she chose from her daughter’s drawer didn’t look quite right, so she bent over the sink and gave it a quick scrubbing before heading back to the bedroom.

It took two hours and three pints of ice cream to get Isabel to quit crying enough for her mother to feel like she could leave and head home. Alone, Isabel felt that one more pint might hit the spot.  After all, she had been starving herself for almost a year in order to fit into the wedding dress that Augustus had picked out.

Before all this her mother had been wondering how she was going to spend the insurance settlement from her third husband’s death and when, at last, her only daughter was engaged she had her outlet. She paid for the elaborate and expensive wedding dress without hesitation. She bought that hideous marble sculpture at the gallery and insisted Isabel give it to Augustus for his birthday. Her mother gave Isabel the money for the little silver cocaine vault that Augustus had his eye on. Augustus always liked his coke and Isabel always was willing beg cash from her mom and  to drive down to the South Side of town to pick some up for him – though, of course, she always lied to her mother about what the money was for.

Now all that was over. Isabel sat up on the edge of the bed and forced herself to try and imagine what life was going to be like now… how it was going to go on without Augustus. She picked up the little drop knife she kept on her bed stand. Even that reminded her of Augustus. One evening she was standing in a dingy alley in the South Side of town waiting for her connection to show up. She was kicking at the dirt and felt something with the toe of her show. It was the knife, buried in the oily dust of the alley. She fished it out, took it home, and cleaned it up. She liked to think of what horrors that little lifeless piece of stainless steel had seen.

Isabel flicked the knife open and closed a couple of times, thinking about one more horror.

 

———————————————————————————————————————————–

 

Moss looked at the piece of paper for the thousandth time. There was the name of the store, and Augustus’ name and then, under that, instead of, “Moss Williams” it said, “Isabel Green.” She stared at it and wondered what kind of evil worthless harpy that name represented, a name that stole her fiancé. Then she stared at the next line, a phone number. She had seen that number on Augustus’ cell… seen it many times. She had assumed it was his work.

She dialed.

“Why are you mad at me?’ Isabel cried, “I didn’t do anything!”

“Yes you did, you stole my fiancé,” Moss said.

“No I didn’t! I didn’t know anything about you. You stole my fiancé too.  He’s the bastard that screwed both of us. Literally.”

Moss hadn’t thought of that.

A long silence on the line. “What?” asked Isabel, “Are you still there?”

“Yes… I’m here. Give me a minute. I hadn’t thought of that.”

Finally Moss decided.

“Isabel?” she said, “I think we need to meet. We need to hash this out.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“No, not at all. But I don’t see any choice.”

“Ok, Where?”

“You know the pub down on Carol Street, the Golden Horse?”

“Yeah I know the place.”

“Eight tonight.”

 

———————————————————————————————————————————

 

The two sat at a dark table in the back corner. At first they did more staring than talking. But after a few rounds – Moss drank Jameson, Isabel light beer – they began to open up. Each was surprised at how easy it was to get along with the other. They did, after all, have a lot in common.

“I have a confession to make,” said Isabel.

“What?” asked Moss.

“I didn’t know how this was going to go, so I brought this.” She reached in her purse and brought out the drop knife. “I hope you’re not pissed.”

“Oh,” replied Moss, “That’s nothing.”

“Really?’

“Really, look at this.” She reached into her purse for something also. “You know I’m a seamstress? Have been since I was a little girl.”

“No idea, really.”

“So, like you brought your knife, I brought this.” She brandished a heavy, wicked looking pair of pinking shears. She moved it so the light sparked across the wavy saw teeth.

“Wow.”

“Yeah wow.”

“Yeah, I know there’s only one thing we’d both like to use these on now,” said Isabel with an evil chuckle. “I’d love to see what those shears would do to it.”

“Ughh, as much fun as that would be… that’s one thing I don’t ever want to see ever again.”

The two women started laughing and seeing each other laugh, couldn’t stop until the both doubled over with pain in their diaphragms.”

“You know?” said Moss, “I’ve had another idea, one a lot less violent. Something simple. Something to do first, put the fear of God into the rat bastard.”

“What?”

“Back there, by the bathroom, there’s a photo booth. One of those old fashioned ones. The ones that take a strip of four pictures.”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s take some shots. Together. And send them to that son of a bitch. That will scare the shit out of him – the thought that we are together, plotting”

“Yeah lets. Let’s flip him off.”

 

 

 

 

 

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A Trick That Is Too Much Fun

“Sometimes a writer, like an acrobat, must try a trick that is too much for him.”

― E.B. White

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

To get my holiday time off work to an exciting start – I spent a day arranging and organizing my room. I’ve built a new desk and am working on setting it up neatly and efficiently. Part of the work was getting my backup external hard drives out and making sure they work properly. Looking through my old photographs I found this one, part of a set I took years ago at Klyde Warren. I have used other version on the blog before, but felt like playing around with it a bit.

The weather is nice now…. I need to get out.

 

 

Live Through the Night

“Yet, as only New Yorkers know, if you can get through the twilight, you’ll live through the night.”
― Dorothy Parker

Somewhere in the Caribbean

 

The light leaking between the curtains was gray twilight. He didn’t know where he was and the only clock read six seventeen with no AM/PM indicator. He didn’t know if it was six in the morning or in the evening.

All he could do was to stay motionless, staring at the gap between the curtains, waiting to see if it grew lighter or darker.

I See the Top Of the Chimney

“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: “If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.”
― Stephen King

American Beauty Mill, Dallas, Texas

Mac Finds His Pride

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten… somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home!

—- Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

For years I was aware of a television show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but I didn’t watch it. No real reason – there is so much on… maybe I was turned off by the odd theme music.

One evening I was too tired to pick up the remote and actually saw a show. I enjoyed it. Basically it is the story of five people, related to each other in confusing ways, managing a shithole bar in Philadelphia. The actors are good, the jokes are funny, but mostly I liked it because the characters are such worthless, narcissistic, amoral, debauched, drug-addled, idiotic, lazy pieces of shit that it made me think better of myself. I may have my faults – but I am not as bad as these people.

Over the last year I’d watch it off and on. Mostly I’d scan the TV listings and DVR the episodes I hadn’t seen. That way I could binge watch them at odd times when I wasn’t missing anything important. With the DVR, I could fast-forward through the commercials or boring bits and see the whole episode in a few minutes.

There were a dozen seasons (It’s currently tied with Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom – the only thing it shares with Ozzie and Harriet) so there was plenty to watch. I’m not sure how many episodes or seasons I’ve seen – more than a few. There isn’t much of a long-term arc, so there’s no reason to watch the shows in order.

It is fun to speculate about how dark each episode is capable of going. Usually the show doesn’t disappoint and ends up going darker than you thought possible.

And then came the thirteenth season and, especially the final, 10th episode (144th overall), Mac Finds His Pride.

And everything changes.

I was home, exhausted after work, and noticed the DVR was recording the show. I thought I would check it out and realized that there was something else on – some sort of a dance program. The stage was dark and covered in water and a muscular man and athletic woman were doing an amazing dance number to Sigur Rós music.

It was entrancing. As I watched, I suddenly realized, “Shit! That’s Mac dancing.” It was indeed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I immediate rewound and watched the whole show. It started out like any episode – The gang was trying to get a float in the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade to bring in business and wanted someone to dance on the float. Mac was the best candidate, but didn’t want to do it – having trouble relating to his imprisoned father and his sexuality.

One of the running “gags” of the series is the character Mac (full name – Ronald MacDonald) and his struggle to come to terms with being gay.  At the beginning of this episode Frank (Danny DeVito) had broken his nose and was constantly shoving nasty stuff up his nostrils to staunch the bleeding.

All well and good – then it happened. Mac and Frank went to Mac’s father’s prison and Mac put on a dance with a woman to try and explain how he felt.

It was transcendent.

I was gobsmacked. This piece of artistic beauty came so far out of left field and was so unexpected… yet it was so appropriate and inevitable. I some unexplainable way it summed up everything. It was the moment that thirteen seasons – 144 shows – of unmitigated nihilistic worthlessness is redeemed by one moment of excellence.

It was the most audacious, brilliant thing I’ve seen on television since Part 8 of the new Twin Peaks.

 

 

Check out this article about how much work went into this. The actor, Rob McElhenney, can’t dance – more accurately, he can only do one dance. He spent a year learning it. And you can’t help but love his incredible partner, professional ballerina Kylie Shea.

I have always loved Sigur Rós. They sponsored a series of films of their music – The Valteri Mystery Film Experiment. There are several videos of the song in the dance, Varúð. Here’s a particularly good one:

 

I Have A Weakness For Kitchen Gadgets

“Only one in four has a chance at making it…. And right there, I knew that if one of us was getting off dope, and staying off dope, it was going to be me. I was going to live. I was the guy.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets. I always have. By no means am I a gullible person – I believe nothing I see or hear until there is proof. Most of the time.

But show me a slick salesman on a well-produced infomercial hawking some hunk of slicing, dicing, heating, non-stick, time-saving machine and I will invariably think, “Hey, that thing will change my life – possibly even for the better.”

I’m too embarrassed to make a full list, but here’s a few I have purchased over the decades:

Fry Baby (can’t believe I bought one of these – it was in the 1970’s though)

Automatic Bread Maker (Fine if you like cylindrical bread with a big hole from the stirrer in one end – at least it made the house smell great at three in the morning)

Spiralizer (a good idea that didn’t work – too cheaply made and takes forever to set up and clean)

Fancy Mandolin (cut the end of my thumb off – afraid of it now)

Hot Dog Maker (another incredibly bad invention of the 70’s. You put the dogs between two electrodes and it heated them with 110 AC voltage shot right through the “meat”- tasted like burned ozone.)

Home Espresso Maker (there’s a reason that coffee shops use machines that cost thousands of dollars)

Toaster Oven (I already had a toaster and an oven)

Banana Slicer (OK, but half of my bananas curved the wrong way)

Dedicated Vegetable Steamer (Seems like a good idea, but converts crisp, flavor-filled, beautiful veggies into bland mush)

Crock Pot (yeah, you have one, they have stood the test of time – but I call it the “Flavor Removing Machine”)

On and on.

Probably it’s the simple combination of two more basic weaknesses of mine – food and gadgets. The intersection of these frailties leads to a synergistic and symbiotic effect that ends up, in my case as an addiction. The desire to purchase the last kitchen gadget I see is tough to resist.

Still, I usually do. I have a lifetime of cobwebby kitchen cabinets full of forgotten contraptions to learn from. My life doesn’t change and I don’t buy the stuff. Of course, the advent of the internet, especially Amazon Prime, has made resisting my obsession infinitely harder. A few keystrokes and a “buy it now” and that box will soon be at my front door.

So… I was doing better. And then, about a year ago, came the ultimate kitchen gadget. I resisted for about six months, but the pull became too much. I called up Amazon and ordered a six quart Instant Pot.

I have always used an old-school pressure cooker to make beans. It saves time and has the lure of having a bomb steaming away on your stove. And now there is an electric, computer controlled pressure vessel available for consumer use. I had to have one.

And, I must say, I really like it. I use it almost every day. The claims of, say, cooking a roast in ten minutes aren’t exactly true… they don’t include the warm up time to bring the food to pressure (which can take a while) or the cooling-down period. That’s not the point though, the big advantage over the old pressure cookers is that you don’t have to watch the damn thing to make sure it doesn’t explode. It’s all controlled by a finicky microprocessor which you command with an absolutely unintelligible array of buttons and an out-of-date red LED display which seems to display random numbers.

Still, as long as you ignore all the online recipes and printed instructions, it works. All you do is press “Pressure Cook” and some sane amount of time, and a hot, cooked meal will come out.

Oh, and one more thing. I can’t believe it, but I make yogurt in the thing. One of my weekend chores is to make yogurt for the next week. Half gallon milk, can of evaporated milk, boil, put in starter, heat overnight… and there it is. Save a little container for starter on next batch. It sounded so crazy and disgusting I made my first batch as a joke/experiment – but it is so much better than store-bought yogurt, it really is. I use it in a lot of stuff – smoothies, curries, salad dressing, coffee creamer, with walnuts for breakfast. It’s cheap and once you have the routine down, easy.

So now I’m happy. I have the ultimate kitchen gadget and I can stop looking… my addiction is done.

Wait… Wait! Someone I know has this new thing… an electric lunchbox. It’s a sort of Bento Box with a heating element built in. You fill it with stuff and cook it at your desk. Or in your car! It works on 12 volt or 110! This thing will change my life!

Weakness always rears its head…. once an addict, always an addict.