Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Love Boat



"Love, exciting and new
Come aboard, we're expecting you
Love, life's sweetest reward
Let it flow, it floats back to you."

-Paul Williams,
The Love Boat Theme


In January, I announced to the world that Tess and I got engaged on a cruise ship on Christmas Day. I now invite all of my virtual friends to join us virtually at sea on April 3, 2005 at 2 p.m. (PDT give or take 15 or 20 minutes) aboard the Diamond Princess for our wedding. You can watch the ceremony via Webcam from the Hearts & Minds Wedding Chapel at:

WWW.PRINCESS.COM/BRIDGECAMS/DIAMOND_WEDDING_CAM.HTML

The Webcam refreshes a static photo every 60-seconds. I'll be the one in the tuxedo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The bad kernel caper

I was curious as to why I was having a heck of a time doing anything with Blogger today. So I went to their status page and read, "We're currently in the process of rolling back a bad kernel upgrade that has significantly impacted the service."

I hate that when that happens. But that certainly clears things up for me.

Note to IT people: Attempt to communicate to the lowest common denominator (that would be me) and assume your audience doesn't have your level of technical expertise.

A bad kernel to me is something I find in the bottom of a popcorn bag.

If I had written the status report, it would have read, "Thank you for being a loyal Blogger user. We have noted some problems with you being able to blog about what you had for breakfast this morning. We wish to reassure you that we are well aware of the problem and are frantically consulting technical blogs on other sites to pinpoint the problem. We suggest you come back later in time to blog about what you ate for dinner. "

Isn't that much better than telling us about your nasty "bad kernel" problem? That's why I'm a marketing professional.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Signs...



Elvis is everywhere. I was walking near the French Market in New Orleans and noticed this window display in a shop. I stopped to snap a photo and a guy in a truck passing by rolled down his window and shouted, "He's the king, man."

I considered it a sign.

When I first started creating Dizgraceland years ago (it was Disgraceland then before the domain name was snatched up by a record company), I received an e-mail from Rowland Scherman. Scherman was a professional photographer who had work published in LIFE, Time, Newsweek, Paris Match, Playboy, and National Geographic. Scherman e-mailed me to ask for a link to a Web page he'd put up to market a photo book he'd produced called, Elvis is Everywhere. It was a great little book that chronicled Scherman's photographic odyssey across America looking for images of the late Elvis Presley. I was very impressed, because just a few weeks before, I'd ran across a copy of the book at Half-Price Books and purchased it for a dollar.

I considered this a sign.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't see some reference to Elvis Presley. Okay, part of this is because I have a pretty extensive collection of Elvis kitsch (a pompeous word for crap). But that aside, everywhere I travel, I always see some image of the King.

I also consider this a sign.

I don't take my signs of the King as obsessively as the caretakers of Graceland Too. Paul MacLeod and his son Elvis Aaron Presley MacLeod maintain an Elvis archive of sorts in
Holly Springs, Mississippi. For $5, they'll let you tour Graceland Too.
They meticulously catalogue references to Elvis from newspapers, television and magazines. MacLeod has 55,000 newspaper clippings related to the King.

I consider this a sign that one must learn moderation in all things, even obsessions.

I suppose one could explain away that fact that I tend to see Elvis everywhere is simply because I am looking. It's like when you are looking for a new car and you zero in on a particular make and model. Pretty soon you start seeing them everywhere. Are there suddenly more of those cars out on the road, or are you just more tuned in to being aware of them? Or, is this proof of a particular theory in Quantum physics that has proven that in certain instances, the observer actually influences the outcome of a particular event or experiment simply by being there to see it (which kind of has implications for that question they make you respond to in creative writing classes about whether or not a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if there is no one there to hear it). This is sometime illustrated by Schrodinger's Cat (for which I will turn to a definition on found on whatis.com:


No cats were harmed in offering this definition.

Schrödinger's cat is a famous illustration of the principle in quantum theory of superposition, proposed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. Schrödinger's cat serves to demonstrate the apparent conflict between what quantum theory tells us is true about the nature and behavior of matter on the microscopic level and what we observe to be true about the nature and behavior of matter on the macroscopic level.

Here's Schrödinger's (theoretical) experiment: We place a living cat into a steel chamber, along with a device containing a vial of hydrocyanic acid. There is, in the chamber, a very small amount of a radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip a hammer, which will, in turn, break the vial and kill the cat. The observer cannot know whether or not an atom of the substance has decayed, and consequently, cannot know whether the vial has been broken, the hydrocyanic acid released, and the cat killed. Since we cannot know, the cat is both dead and alive according to quantum law, in a superposition of states. It is only when we break open the box and learn the condition of the cat that the superposition is lost, and the cat becomes one or the other (dead or alive). This situation is sometimes called quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox: the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that it can never be known what the outcome would have been if it were not observed.

Quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox...I couldn't have said it better myself. I actually couldn't have said it at all by myself. But my point is, we theoretically influence our enironment simply by being observers. I think it also has some relation to the saying "more than one way to skin a cat." And then there is the unescapable fact that Elvis was also known as the Hillbilly Cat...get it...Schrodinger's Cat...Hillbilly Cat.

I consider that a sign...or at least a really cool band name, "Lady's and Gentlemen...let's give it up for Schrodinger's Cat." They could potentially play the entire set in a box. Could be quite the gimmick (note to self...copyright this idea).

And you thought blogs couldn't be fun and educational at the same time.



Friday, March 25, 2005

Miracle whip



Having grown out of religious inclinations after I turned 16 (and met my first girlfriend), I still am drawn to iconic religious imagery. I took this photo just inside St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. It was a peaceful image despite the fact that just outside the door in Jackson Square, Lucky Dog vendors, mimes and tarot card readers were going about their daily business of raking in tourist dollars. Not to be outdone, you could purchase votive candles in the St. Louis Cathedral to add to this shrine.
And speaking of iconic religious imagery (and since this is Easter), check out a miracle of mega proportions at Shandi's hilarious blog, "Portrait of a closet smart-ass." She has an eerie photo of Jesus living in her basement in 1974. I haven't been this excited since someone sent me a photo of Elvis' image in a meat case in Australia.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Upstaging the monkey

Okay, the Monkey Playing Cymbals is pissed off about my Sea Monkey blog. He claims that any reference to "monkeys" is his territory and I should back off. I argued that a Sea Monkey is a brine shrimp, not a monkey (the point of my entire blog) and therefore it was fair game. But he is still sitting there glaring at me muttering something about "karma."

Grow up Monkey! It's a blog eat blog world.

Sea Monkey Business: An Expose!


I know you can't make a rash statement about accepting that nothing is as advertised and pointing out that sea monkeys aren't really monkeys and just leave it at that.

I'm pretty darned sensitive about the subject. As a kid, I read lots of comic books and in those pre-eBay days (if you can imagine such a time) the back of comic books beckoned me to buy really useless stuff that I couldn't live without. I mean, just look at that ad for Sea Monkeys. They look like characters right out of Dr. Seuss. I had to have them.

So I saved my nickels and dimes and sent away for my own little circus of Sea Monkeys that they promised you could train and entertain people with. Imagine my suprise when they arrive in three packets -- water purifier, instant life and growth food (if you want to relive my experience without the heartbreak, go to the Virtual Sea Monkey page).

But I didn't give up hope. Because as the official Sea Monkey page describes them, I was about to play god...not the god, but a god:

"Sea-Monkeys are a true miracle of nature. They exist in suspended animation inside their tiny eggs for many years. The instant-life crystals, in which the eggs are enclosed, preserve their viability and help to extend still further their un-hatched life span! Sea-Monkeys are real Time-Travelers asleep in biological time capsules for their strange journey into the future!

Scientists call this amazing rare process "cryptobiosis" which means, "hidden life". Among the types of life on Earth that are cryptobiotic in early stages of development are the seeds of higher plants (wheat grains from the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Kings have sprouted after being sealed in urns for more than 2,000 years), the larvae of certain insects, and the thick-shelled eggs of some crustaceans such as Daphnia, seed Shrimps (Ostracods) and Brine Shrimp (Artemia salina). Sea-Monkeys too belong in this category, since they are a variety of Artemia. A relative of Lobsters, Crabs, Fairy Shrimp and other crustaceans, instead of originating in the ocean, Artemia are found in salt lakes and salt evaporation flats. The waters of these areas are often so salty that Artemia may be the only non-microscopic animal inhabiting them."


I envisioned myself in a white lab coat asking Igor for more power as I poured the instant life packet into the purified water container. I stirred and waited. In about a week I saw the specks that were emerging from their cryptobiotic state of suspended animation. These looked nothing like the cute little Whoville-type characters depicted on the back of my Green Lantern comic. These were stupid water bugs...brine shrimp. What a gyp! And as they grew, they didn't look any more attractive.

I read through the booklet that told you how to "train" them to do tricks. You cold make them move from one side of the tank to the other by putting them in a dark room and shining a flashlight on one side of the tank. The stupid things would swim towards the light. This really sucked. I'd been duped. So, I did what any responsible 10-year old would do. I let the tank dry up and returned the Sea Monkeys to their cryptobiotic state. I always felt kind of bad about that.

So who was responsible for duping little kids into buying brine shrimp? His name was Harold von Braunhut. Turns out this same guy also marketed X-ray specs (these prompted quite a few adolescent fantasies for me), Crazy Crabs (hermit crabs) and invisible gold fish (he guaranteed the owners would never see them).


Harold von Braunhut

Apparently von Braunhut built a fortune out of his mail order business. Braunhut held 195 patents on novelty items but the Sea Monkeys were his real claim to fame. He died in November 2003 and when he died so did his generous contributions to the Aryan Nations. Go figure.

Harold is memorialized on the Sea Monkeys Worship Page (yes there is such a page).

If having a Sea Monkeys Worship Page wasn't scary enough, there was a television program that aired briefly (three months) in 1992 called the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys.




One of the eleven episodes that aired was (and I'm not making this up) "Sea Monkey of Love." And they cancelled this program?

Okay, as long as I'm ranting about crap they sold me as a kid, I want to wish a pox on the guy who developed this little promotion:



My brothers conned me into sending for this puppy and a revolutionary war soldier version as well. Even the Sea Monkeys were a better deal. The hundred soldiers were about an inch tall and the "durable plastic" wasn't. The footlocker "toy storage box" was a cardboard box about 4" x 6" big.

This is why I accept nothing is as advertised. But I'd still like to get me a pair of those X-ray specs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Movie Credits Channel

I was watching a movie channel the other night and the movie ended and the endless credits began rolling and I had an epiphany. Instead of wasting all of that time at the end of each movie on the premium channels running the entire credit list (which I assume is required by some contractual agreement that makes sure you will always know who the third Best Boy assistant and the caterer were in any given film) why not create a channel devoted entirely to running film credits. That way, you wouldn't have to wait so long at the end of the movie to watch the next movie. And, if you have a dying desire to know who the script assistant was in Godfather III you'd simply tune into the Movie Credits Channel.

I have many of these great ideas throughout any given day. That is because I am a visionary. Few people appreciate this so I am sharing it with the blogger world. I figure my idea is pretty safe here, because very few people actually read my blog. That is okay. I'm comfortable with that.

The older I get, the more comfortable I am with many of the inevitable things in life. I accept that my ears have begun to get bigger and that those double chins in my driver's license photo actually exist and are not just caused by bad lighting. I accept that I will never win the lotto or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. I accept that nothing you eat is good for you and that the only way to long-term weight loss is not to put anything in your mouth. I accept that nothing you buy is as advertised (i.e. Sea Monkeys are not really monkeys). I accept that I am content to watch 4 hours of television a night instead of reading. I accept that I am not nearly as clever as I thought I was when I was 25.

I think these are minor concessions to make in order to take in the big picture I see as a visionary. For instance, I suggested to Tess (she teaches fourth grade) that one of America's economic problems is that we don't have the cheap work force of third world countries. This is why we have all of our tennis shoes and Barbie dolls manufactured in countries like Indonesia. My solution: we have all of these underfunded elementary schools out there chock full of curious little minds anxious to learn a skill. Why not devote a couple of hours a day teaching them to assemble basic consumer goods. Now, I'm not talking soldiering microships or anything (they could learn that in junior high or high school). I'm just suggesting a cottage industry that takes advantage of an existing supply of cheap labor. Shoot, managed correctly, we could turn schools into a real cash cow. Tess didn't think the board of education would buy the idea.

Not everyone is a visionary.

All ideas expressed in Dizgraceland are the sole property of Tim-Elvis and subject to copyright laws written in languages very few people understand. Thou shalt not steal or borrow without asking. I mean it.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

You ain't nuthin but a Blue Dog...



I may have mentioned that my favorite street in New Orleans is not Bourbon Street, it's Royal Street. You can walk along Royal on any given day and not be assailed with the perfume of Bourbon Street (beer, vomit, urine and disinfectant). It has great shops and you'll always get serenaded by a street musician or two. But one of my favorite places to walk by is the Rodrigue Gallery at 721 Royal St. It's one of two galleries that sells the art of George Rodrigue, best know for his paintings of the Blue Dog.

You can read a biography of Rodrigue at http://www.art4now.com/biogr.htm but in a nutshell, he grew up in Louisiana and studied at the University of Southwestern Louisiana and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Hi work is inspired by the mystical folk tales and ethereal bayous and swamps of South Louisiana.

The really cool thing about Rodrigue is that he used paint in the company of a little black and white spaniel/terrier called Tiffany. In 1980, at age twelve, Tiffany died, leaving a void in Rodrigue's life. To help fill that void, Rodrigue began adding Tiffany's image to his work. In 1984, while illustrating a book of ghost stories, Tiffany became the inspiration for a Cajun werewolf. Rodrigue painted her blue to add to the goulish image and thus the Blue Dog was born (or reborn).

Anyway, I like the Blue Dog paintings, but, being the price of a used car, I can't seem to fit them into my budget. But Rodrigue did inspire me as I walked the streets of New Orleans and I snapped some photos of some other "Blue Dogs" (digitally enhanced only slightly):





This blue dog belonged to some of the "blues" musicians playing on Royal Street. I liked the way he stared wistfully at his owners while they played.



And last, but not least, here is my homage to "Blue Dog III" in honor of the iconic Lucky Dog carts made famous by John Kennedy Toole in his Pulizer Prize winning novel, Confederacy of the Dunces.




Anyway, here's to George Rodrigue and the Blue Dog, Tiffany.

Friday, March 18, 2005

But is it art: Part II




I've never considered myself an artist. But I like the freedom digital imagery gives us to play with photos. I have a darkroom at home, but it has been years since I worked with it. Today's photo software blow anything we used to do in the darkroom out of the water.

I took this photo of a statue of Joan of Arc near the French Market in New Orleans. In 35 mm, it would have been a snapshot that sat in my drawer. With digital photography, it has become an interesting and surreal image that I think is pretty darn interesting.

Oh well, it amuses me.

Dunna, dunna, dunna, du-duh...

At least according to the department of licensing and the social security administration, it is. They can't quite agree on the year, but they do agree that March 18th is my birthday.

I went in a couple of days ago to get my license renewed. And I've got to admit that the DOL has really got dealing with the lowest common denominator of humanity down to a science. Upon entering the office, you are immediately required to take a number based on the purpose of your visit. I chose, "Renew my license" and was issued number 467. There were about eight different windows with eight different numbers going. If I didn't better, I would have thought I was in a keno parlour in Vegas. My number came up pretty darn quickly and I took my well-worn, seven year old driver's license to the clerk.

I don't know what it is about situations like this that make me immediately feel guilty. I haven't done anything wrong and I have a pretty spotless driving record (not bad considering I've had a license since I was 14...they let you get one young in Idaho so you can drive tractors). But the minute the DOL clerk started typing in stuff on the terminal, I knew something was wrong.

"We show your social security number doesn't match the information we have on file," she told me.

"There must be some mistake," I stammered. No, she informed me. They would give me a license, but I would have to get my social security number issue cleared up with the social security administration within 45 days or they would cancel my license. She took my money, sent me to another window where they took a photo of me that looked like Jabba the Hut and gave me a temporary license.

I hate crap like this. Some data entry person somewhere enters the wrong number on a form and I'm sent in to bureaucratic hell to prove who I am and when I was born.

The next day I go to the Social Security office which is conveniently open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. This is apparently because not too many people who have jobs need to go to the Social Security office. But SSA (as they like to be called) haven't learned anything from their counterparts at DOL. Once you get through the doors with a distinctive sign instructing you to leave your firearms at home, you are hard pressed to find where to take a number until the obviously bored security guard hands you one and asks you if you are applying for a card. If you are he will show you the proper forms to fill out. If not he directs you to a chair. I was directed to a chair.

There were two windows. For 45 minutes I listened to a variety of conversations as people bombarded the clerks behind the windows with various scenarios that were much more complicated than mine seemed. I was almost embarrassed when my turn came and I told a very bored clerk that DOL had sent me over because my SS number didn't match the information they had on file. I gave her my driver's license, passport and a copy of my birth certificate. She looked puzzled that I'd come prepared and punched in a few numbers into her keyboard.

"I don't see anything wrong," she said. She turned the computer monitor so I could see it. I immediately noted that they had the wrong year of birth. SSA had me listed as four years older than I was. If I was 17 and that mistake had been made, I would have been happy as a clam. But at this point in my middle aged life, I didn't want to be nudged four years closer to the grave. I pointed out the error.

"You'll need to fill out a form requesting a change to your personal information," she informed me. I cringed at the thought of waiting another 45 minutes to hand her the completed form. She sensed my pain and told me not to take another number but to just give it to her when it was complete. I quickly filled out the form and returned it to her with my birth certificate. She made the changes and told me it would take 48 hours to work through the system. Then I could return to DOL and take another number to tell them all was right between SSA and DOL.

So, what this boils down to is that I won't be greatly disappointed if social security does disappear. Because I don't relish sitting in that same office when I turn 65 or 67 to dispute yet another missed key stroke by a data entry person.

But hey, for now, it's my birthday! And I can celebrate the fact that I gained four more years of my life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ticking...

"Make me laugh."

He was on his right side, facing away from her.

"Make me laugh," she repeated louder. He stirred slightly and groaned.

"Jesus Sandy, it's..." He opened one sleep-swollen eye and looked at the luminescent dial of the clocking ticking hollowly next to the bed. "...it's almost 3 a.m., what the hell are you talking about?"

She was on her back, arms folded behind her head. Her eyes were clamped tightly shut. "Tell me a joke, talk to me, tickle me. Make me laugh."

He pulled the pillow over his head. "I've got to get up for work in about three hours," he said, his voice muffled by the foam.

She didn't say anything. The silence nudged him further awake.

He reached out a hand and touched her. "You aren't mad are you?"

"Uhn un," she mumbled.

He pulled the pillow from his head. "It's just that I get so tired. I'll have more energy this weekend."

She rolled onto her side with her back to him.

"You are mad."

"Mmmm...un," she muttered softly.

He rolled over onto his back. The clock ticked persistently in a metallic monotone.

I can't believe this, he thought. I feel guilty because I won't tell her a joke at 3 a.m. It's not like I'm her personal dial-a-joke. Who ever heard of waking someone up at 3 a.m. to have them tell you a joke? Maybe she's feeling down. She's depressed and she's reaching out for someone. I'm supposed to support her, be her friend as well as a lover. All I can do is tell her I'm tired.

"I'm sorry Sandy," he said gently to her back. "I'll make you laugh tomorrow, I promise. Okay?"

Sandy snorted slightly and burrowed deeper into her pillow.

God, she is mad, he thought as he rolled his eyes upward. I'm tired. Is it a crime to be tired? I'm just doing a number on myself. I work hard, I deserve to sleep. I'm not always tired, he told himself. Besides, she's the one that wants to go to bed by 10 p.m. every night. And all she wants to do is sleep.

It hadn't always been that way, though, he mused. In the first few months they'd know each other, going to bed had been a treat. They'd talk, make love, laugh and talk some more. Sleep hadn't mattered then. Time hadn't mattered either. When had it begun too?

"Do you love me," he asked softly to her back. He listened to her rhythmic breathing. Must be asleep, he thought. Then again maybe she's just pretending she's asleep so she doesn't have to answer me. Maybe she doesn't love me. What if she doesn't love me? What will I do? A trickle of cold sweat dribbled down his side as fear swept over him.

He wanted to take her in his arms, make love with the passion they'd had once. When was the last time he'd woke her up to make love, though? Last May, he remembered with a painful grimace. He involuntarily reached to protect his crotch as he recalled the night. He'd woken up after a particularly erotic dream about Sandy and rolled over on top of her in a fit of passion. She'd woke up screaming and kneed him in the groin. Of course she'd apologized through her tears of laughter as he rolled around on the bed clutching his swollen testicles. He'd just surprised her, she'd said. He'd kept to his side of the bed for quite some time after that to avoid future surprises.

"There's this song by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand," he said sitting up. "It's the one where they sing, 'You don't send me flowers anymore'. I've always hated that song.

"I mean, don't you think it's hard enough to maintain a relationship without multi-millionaire singers implying that we should base love on the number of times flowers are given and received. It's okay to be comfortable enough with a person that love is understood, isn't it? Can we get too comfortable? Are we too comfortable?"

There was no answer. Another wave of panic washed over him. He gasped for breath. Why do I get so frightened, he wondered. This is a modern relationship, right? We're not dependent on each other's love. We can function apart. I don't need her. He lowered his head back to the pillow.

I'll just go back to sleep. No problem.

He shut his eyes. The clock ticked rhythmically. He pictured each sprocket of each gear turning around and a round. His eyes popped open.

That sound, he thought. Geez, it reminds me of when I was five or six. I'd wake up and hear that damned clock ticking, filling the room with the sound. I was afraid then. What was I afraid of? Lots of things -- giant spiders. I remember seeing a Tarzan film where giant spiders attacked and killed people. I was afraid to let my feet touch the floor for a week. I'd walk from chair to chair, bounce off the sofa and leap into the bathroom. Mom finally whacked me on the head. Then I was afraid of her. I still don't like spiders, he thought with a shiver, noticing a stringy cobweb waving weakly from the ceiling.

The clock hand shifted loudly. Damn, he thought. I've got to get back to sleep. I had a method when I was a kid to put myself to sleep. What was it? I remember, he thought with a smile. I'd pretend I had five minutes left until my alarm went off. Those were always the best five minutes of sleep, the ones just before you have to get up.

Let's see, he told himself as he rolled over on his side and closed his eyes. Five minutes left to sleep. Five glorious minutes. Okay, it's working. I'm feeling sleepy. No worries. I'll wake up refreshed. Of course then I'll have to deal with Sandy. She'll pretend nothing is wrong. I'll worry about it the whole day. I'll come home and she'll be gone. I can see the note now:
"Dear Mick, I've left you for Rolf Simpson. You know, the guy from my Tai Chi class. He makes me laugh. Take care and remember to change the catbox. Luv, Sandy."

She would leave me for a guy named Rolf, he thought angrily. And all she can manage after a two years is a "Luv, Sandy." I hate it when people spell love L-U-V. And, it's her cat. I can't stand that cat. It always sleeps on my side of the bed. If she leaves, she'd better take it with her.
I don't want her to leave, he thought. I love her -- L-O-V-E, not luv. The clock pinged and whirred slightly.

I'll send her flowers tomorrow. That's it. I'll win her back from Rolf. Rolf. . .I really hate that name. Sounds like something you'd do after drinking all night. He chuckled softly to himself. Why should I worry about a man with a name that sounds like vomit? He rides a bike and has biceps twice the size of mine, though. He's a real Mr. Granola. Sandy gets into that kind of stuff.
I'm not in that bad of shape he thought, flexing his arm and pinching the bicep. He winced at how flabby the flesh seemed and threw back the covers to look at his body.

Oh my God, he thought, I'm developing a belly. I'm getting like those middle-aged guys at the beach with their bloated white bellies hanging down to their knees. I need exercise -- sit-ups! Yeah, I'll do 50 sit-ups a night starting right now. He rolled enthusiastically out of bed and onto the floor.

"One," he said softly, raising his head slowly off the floor. This isn't too bad, he thought.

"Twooooo. . ." Damn it's cold down here.

"Three. . ." The clock seemed to get louder, booming out the painful seconds as he lowered himself back to the floor.

"Fourrrrrrrrrr. . ." His breath wheezed out between his teeth. He realized that the clock wasn't getting louder, it was the sound of his heart trying to pound its way out of his forehead. Maybe 50 sit-ups is a bit ambitious for the first night, he reasoned. Five should do it.

"Fuh. . .fuh. . . ive." He collapsed in relief.

Look at me. I'm lying naked on the floor ready to have a heart attack and die just because I wouldn't tell the woman I love a joke at three in the morning. This is ridiculous. She'll have to love my body the way it is. In the words of Popeye, `I am what I am.'

"SHIT," he blurted out as he struggled to his feet and got back into the bed. He shook Sandy's shoulder vigorously.

"Sandy, SANDY..."

"Huh...Mick, what is it?"

"Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"

"What?"

"Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"

"What are you talking about, what time is it?" She reached across him and grabbed the clock.

"My God, it's 3:45 a.m."

"Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"

"I don't have the slightest idea," she said shaking her head as she put the clock back down on the nightstand.

"It was dead."

"What?"

"It was dead."

"You had a bad dream, go back to sleep," she said pulling the covers up around her head.

"No," he said, pulling the covers back. "It's a joke. You wanted me to make you laugh."

"I don't even know what you're talking about Mick."

"You woke me up and said, 'Make me laugh'. I was a little sleepy. I sorry I didn't tell you a joke then."

"Mick, that's ridiculous," Sandy said shaking her head. "I don't remember saying that. If I did, I must have been talking in my sleep. Just go to sleep. We both have to get up in a little while."

She pulled the covers around her again.

Mick stared at her blankly. "Do you love me Sandy?"

"Of course I do," came the muffled reply. "If I didn't, I'd kill you for waking me up to tell me a monkey fell out of a tree because it was dead."

"It was the only joke I could think of," Mick said.

"Robin Williams can sleep well tonight knowing he doesn't have to worry about you stealing his job."

"Goodnight," Mick said, smiling as he lay down and closed his eyes. The clocked clicked and ticked emptily. He rolled over with a sigh. I wasn't worried, he thought. A few minutes later he was asleep.

Sandy shook her head. I'm living with a lunatic, she thought. Why would any normal person wake someone up at quarter to 4 a.m. and tell them a joke? It was a bad joke too. I wonder what's going on in his head. Is something more serious on his mind?

She reached out a hand and stroked his back gently. "Are you okay, Mick?" she asked. His back heaved slowly up and down in time to his breathing. She listened closely, trying to determine whether he was really asleep.

How could he fall asleep so quickly, she wondered. Why had he asked whether she loved him?

She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. The ticking of the clock echoed emptily off the white walls.

"Mick, do you love me?"

In the darkness, Mick's breathing blended neatly with the steady ticking. Sandy closed her eyes and waited for morning.

Got beads?


I'm back from New Orleans, but not back to my healthy self.

I made it to the Hotel Chateau Sonesta after a 20 minute cab ride trying to desperately explain to the driver where it was. He insisted it was on Canal Street. I agreed, but tried to convince him the entrance was on Iberville Street. He won and dumped me by the back entrance next to the statue of the main character from "Confederacy of the Dunces." I'm convinced my entire New Orleans trip was jinxed because I wrote a blog about John Kennedy Toole and how ironic it was that he committed suicide before finding out his novel would be published and win the Pulizer Prize. Sorry dude. Peace, okay?

Anyway, the Chateau Sonesta was a beautiful five-star hotel within a block of Bourbon Street. I had this huge room over looking a side street and a parking garage. Despite a car alarm that went off every five minutes and the Harley's racing up and down the street all night, it was an okay room.

Friday and Saturday nights I spent wandering up and down Bourbon Street in pursuit of beads. And no, I didn't have to flash to get them. I have a system. I simply walk under balconies where drunken revelers are beckoning passerbys with colorful strands of beads. These days, all you have to do is gesture and some drunk will pelt you with beads. If they don't you simply scoop up the beads they are tossing at other more uninhibitated and drunken souls who are oblivious to where the beads are landing. You do have to use some disgression if the beads land in water, because odds are the puddle isn't rainwater. Needless to say, after two nights, I collected a ponderous amount of beads.

So on Sunday, I packed my beads and dirty laundry and prepared to come home. That morning I discovered I'd been sharing my 5-star hotel room with another guest...a small cajun mouse. I mentioned it to the concierge when I was checking out and he seemed pretty matter of fact about it. "Hope he was well behaved, " he drawled.

Now I'm back at work and still nursing my sinus infection. In retrospect, my trip to the Big Easy sucked. But I did take lots of cool photos. So when my nose stops running, I can look back and enjoy the city I missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Big Sneezy


So, it is day six of my New Orleans adventure. Today's Pipe Organ music as subsided. I finally figured out that it was coming from one of the riverboats that carries tourists back and forth on the Mississippi. Still damned annoying.

It is still cold here, or at least cold for New Orleans. And that in turn has nurtured my cold.

I tried walking around Jackson Square and up and down Royal Street for awhile but I don't have much energy. A couple of the statue mimes were out posing. I think they are kind of cool for mimes. At least I'm not tempted to slap them silly like I am with traditional mimes.


One thing that I never get tired of in New Orleans is the architecture. There is nothing like it anywhere else in th country. It's a pity most of the streetlevel space In the Quarter is taken up with tacky tourist crap. I mean, how many "I got Bourbon faced on Shit Street" t-shirts can you buy?

I check out of the Wyndam tomorow and move over to the Chateau Sonesta off from Bourbon Street for a couple of nights. At this point, I kind of wish I wuold have just stayed here and avoided the hassle.

But then again, at this point, I wish I was home. Because I'm sick of Oz and there's no place like home.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Big Queasy


It is 2 p.m. in the Big Easy and the pipe organ music has started up. It starts up everyday at this time. If I knew where it was coming from, I'd call in an airstrike. For some reason it only plays German folk songs I remember from high school German class. I could just be hallucinating. The cold medicine keeps me in a fog.

Wait, they are playing "Way down upon the Swannie River" now which makes a bit more sense here in the deep south.

My next marketing workshop begins in 20 minutes. It will be three hours on "Brand Measurement, Its Purpose, Potential and New Approaches." You would think marketing people could come up with a catchier title like, "Burning your brand deep in the dark recesses of the mindless consumer's soul-- a Primer."

It's a bit cold and breezy here in the big easy (sorry...cold medication. It kicks in an out. I woke up at 3 a.m. unable to breath or ge back to sleep. Thank god for the history channel. I watched a rousing documentary about that sneaky German General Rommel and how he eventally met his match against Montgomery in the deserts of Africa. That was followed by a documentary about th British Crown jewels (and no it wasn't about what Prince Charles is packing in his Levi's...these were real diamonds and rubies and much bigger).

I walked around Jackson Square at lunch time. Most of the buskers weren't out. Maybe mimes don't work on Wednesdays.

I went to the Workshop Reception last night. I never turn my back on hospitality. There were about eight people jockeying for position to get their share of chips, dip and cheese. I snagged a glass of Merlot from the bartender and only had to listen to him tell three people that the deepest part of the Mississippi was right outside the window.

I sat at a table by the window and was joined by two guys from the conference engaged in a conversation about how deep the river was. One was Dennis from Chicago (originally from New Orleans) and his friend from Baton Rouge. They seemed like nice enough fellows, though Dennis was a bit vague about what type of marketing he did. He said something about helping a bunch of small businesses market their services. If I were an imaginative type, I might conjecture that, considering Dennis was dressed all in black, had obviously dyed his hair black, sported a pencil mustache, and could have been cast immediately in an off-Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls" that his business in Chicago was "family-run" if you catch my drift.

Not that there is anything wrong with it. Dennis and his Baton Rouge buddy were on their way to a jazz club where anothe friend was playing. They didn't invite me to join them and I would have politely declined if they had. I'm not a big jazz fan. It always sounds like a high school band warming up to me.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Anyway, Dennis kept asking the waiter when the shrimp cocktail was going to be served. He and the man from Baton Rouge seemed to think this was the height of hilarity. The waiter responded, "At 7:05 p.m." The reception ended at 7 p.m. Little did I know it was open mike night at the Wyndam.

Dennis and his friend left and I heard them stop at the bar and ask for "to go" cups of wine. The waiter came by and said, "I see you friends have left." I countered with, "I guess that means more shrimp cocktail for me." He had no response to that so I guess that ment I won the comedy laugh off that night.

Since I have to get to the workshop and this story doesn't get much better, I'll close for now. Let the good times roll.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Can you hear me now?

I've resorted to accessing the Internet via Hotel TV and I can tell you it is like communicating with a tin can and string. It's the best I can come up with. The free high-speed Internet requires an Ethernet cable,so my laptop is making a great paperweight on this trip.

To add insult to injury, this piece of crap timed out and lost what I'm sure was a Pulizer Prize winning Blog. But being ever the trooper, I'm trying to recreate it, despite I've got a connection that looks like a test pattern.

So I made it in on Saturday evening after about 10 hours travel time. You may or may not be happy to hear I managed to upgrade the portion of the trip between Seattle and Atlanta to First Class and enjoyed a fine pesto lasgna with a side Ceasar salad while the scmucks in coach were fighting over peanuts. So what if it was served at 9:30 a.m. It was First Class baby. And I got to watch a fine edited for flight movie with Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hyak and Woody Harrelson. Brosnan and Hyak are lovers that are also retired jewel thiefs. Brosnan is my age. Give me a break. Harrelson plays an idiot FBI agent, so there was some realism in the film.

I normally despise people whining about how crappy they feel in their blogs. but we have already established that I am a hypocrite, so I want you to know that I started developing a major cough and fever on Friday. I've been coughing up things that look like extras in Alien vs Predator. The fever has subsized and I am now settling down to a nasty cold. This is how i arrived in New Oreleans.

This is not a lie. Marvin was indeed my shuttle driver from the airport andhe did shout major city facts into my ear on the way to the hotel (Loyala is apparantely the place to go if you want to be a pharmacist). The French and British tourists were eating it up. For some reason the British are really into New Oreleans (one of three places they ever go in America outside of New York and San Francisco).

Marvin dropped me off at the Wyndam Canal Place pointing out I'd have a great view of the Mississippi from my floor to ceiling windowns. I do. From the 22nd floor I can see the Padlewheel boats glide up and down the river, with rock bands blaring "Sweet Home Alabama" until 3 in the morning. Bright side is that the ice machine right across the hall occasional drowns them out.

Not that I'm feeling up to sightseeing in between coughing up a lung, but after waking up Sunday morning screaming "Sweet Home Alabamba" and "more Ice," I decided to go for a walk. Despite my now draining sinuses, I am fortunate to still have my sense of smell. Because I love the smell of Bourbon Street in the morning, it smells like a garbage strike, stale beer, warm vomit and a impudent little bouquet of disinfectant.

I've yet to see the poor little loser dressed like a "handgrenade," handing out discount drink coupons, but the trip is young.

Other than that, I haven't been out much.The marketing workshops have been pretty good. They have the prerequisite number of blowhards interruppting the instructor to offer tidbits of marketing wisdeom the rest of us are dying for. Because god knows we want te advice of an unemployed marketing wannabe that can't wait to share the next anecdote of there retail experience working at the Gap.

Today I attended an eMarkting workshop that included Blogs as a marketing tool that is sweeping the nation.

Beward the Ides of March.

I shall try and blog again if this piece of crapola Hotel TV doesn't mess with me.

Peace.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Big Easy

New Orleans is the Big Easy. It's also the Crescent City. And, it is also the City that Care Forgot. I like New Orleans. It's like Disneyland without the strollers. Plus you can buy a beer and walk around Bourbon Street with it without violating any open container laws. The south is a very civilized place that way.

Anyway, I like New Orleans and you can imagine my joy when I found out I was being sent there to attend a marketing workshop. No, not there, I screamed when they told me. It was like being sent to your room as a kid...the place where all your toys were...some punishment. I had to mask my joy or they'll realize their mistake.

So tomorrow I fly to New Orleans on Delta Airlines. And hopefully I'll get an aisle seat next to someone who doesn't speak English and won't engage me in a conversation about honeyroasted peanuts, isn't a Customer of Size who can't get the armrest down and isn't a toddler who thinks it is funny to pull my armhairs during the entire flight.

With any luck, I may get upgraded to First Class and avoid the humilation Delta puts you through in coach of having to buy a $12 sandwich and chips. Though the last time I rode First Class on Delta I got the seat by the bulkhead and had to endure the guy next to me taking off his shoes and sticking his feet up on the wall throughout the flight. I don't think he quite understood the "Class" part of First Class. Though I don't think anyone in First Class actually has paid full price for the ticket. It's generally full of people who finally saved enough frequent flyer miles to pretend that they fly First Class as a matter of course. But I digress.

I'm not afraid of flying, but I am really not looking forward to two hours in the airport waiting in security lines that may or may not include a free prostate exam. And I don't relish the five hour flight that will include a first run movie edited for the in-flight audience (translated to mean no gratuitous nudity, profanity or mindless violence...so what is the point of watching). And I'm not thrilled about jockeying for a position at the luggage carousel to elbow an old lady with a walker out of my way to grab my bag before it decides to take another spin around the carousel for fun. Finally, I'm not looking forward to the shuttle ride to the hotel sitting next to Marvin, the wannabe tour guide who will undoubtably shout in my ear so everyone in the back of the van can hear him when he points out the Mardi Gra float museum, Lake Pontchartrain and the Wal Mart and instructs us godless people who live "north of the lake" on the correct way to pronounce "Nawlins."

I am looking forward to the hotel. I've always like the luxury of staying in a hotel. When I was a kid, we always camped. I was a teenager before I got to stay in a hotel. And it was many years before I got to stay in a hotel that you didn't park your car at the door. So, I've always got a weird kind of rush when I enter a new hotel room for the first time. I used to really get a kick out of being the first person to break the paper ring around the toilet seat that read, "Sanitized for your protection." I miss those paper rings.

Anyway, hopefully in between workshops about strategic marketing and managing your brand, I'll be able to soak in some of the flavor of the French Quarter. Because it really is a special city that everyone should see once. Jim Jarmusch (the writer/director) said once that it was one of the only cities outside of New York that was a country unto itself.

And if I can figure out Internet access while I'm there, I'll try and blog. If not, I'll blog when I get back. In the meantime, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Last stop in the free zone, end of the line...


Every day when my bus reaches the International District Station in the bus tunnel, the driver announces, "Last stop in the free zone, end of the line." She is actually referring to the last stop in the "ride free" zone in downtown Seattle (you can ride buses free within downtown) and the end of the line for the Route 41 between Northgate and downtown Seattle.

But it has started to get to me in a more philosophical way. Because I am riding the bus to work every day and I am middle aged. Having someone tell me every day that it is the last stop in the free zone and the end of the line is pretty depressing. But then again, just looking in the mirror every day is getting pretty depressing.

It's just that I've essentially been in the same job for 23 years now. I started as an intern at a government agency doing corporate communications grunt work to get the credits I needed to graduate with a degree in journalism. I had my dreams of being a hot shot reporter, eventually a columnist and then a wealthy novelist. A month of unemployment after graduating was enough for me to compromise and take an offer from the company that I did the internship at doing essentially the same job, but this time for pay. It was a three-month temporary gig. They kept extending my position. I got a few promotions. I became complacent.

Boom. Twenty-three years later, I'm a marketing manager doing essentially the same thing I did as an intern but at ten times the pay. But I'm not a hotshot reporter, columnist or wealthy novelist. I'm a middle-aged, middle manager who rides the bus every day and listens to the driver call out, "Last stop in the free zone, end of the line..." She could by Charon operating the ferry on the river Styx for all I know.

It makes me think of my favorite line in Tom Stoppard's play, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." In case you are Shakespeare impaired, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were characters in Hamlet who were sent with Hamlet to England with a message that instructed the King to put Hamlet to death. Hamlet switches the message with one that instructs the King to put the couriers with Hamlet to death. Hamlet essentially screws over his friends to save his life.

Stoppard's play tells the story from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's perspective. Anyway, just before they are put to death, Rosencrantz says to Guildenstern something to the effect of, "I suppose there was a time we could have said no."

The line just about sums up everything when you stop and reflect on how you ended up where you are. There was always a time you could have said no and taken a different path. Even now, I suppose, I could step off the bus before the end of the line and find a different direction.

But I've been riding this bus for years now. And even if I did get on another bus, another driver would simply call out, "Last stop in the free zone, end of the line."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

E Tu Blog Explosion?

Okay, I had 55 hits on this page yesterday and so far today only five. What's up with that? So I got a little pissy about Blog Explosion in my last blog. I tweaked a few blog types. So what? Am I now on a list of blogs not to view.

Free speech, baby, that's what it's all about. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the Web kitchen.

I don't need your hits. The cheese stands alone.