Monday, July 30, 2007

Where In The World Is Snag?

Can you guess where I am from the state symbols in this list?

State Bird: Turkey vulture

State Animal: The beef

State Photograph: Governor's booking shot

State Drink: Yes

State Fish: Asian "Jump Out of the Water and Kill Boaters" carp

State Plant: Buckthorn

State Poison: Cyanide

State Gemstone: Bituminous

State Fruit: Jello

State Seal: Baby (clubbed)

State Metal: Antimony

State Tree: Plywood

State Muffin: Mc

State Insect: Tsetse fly

State Song: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bon Appétit, Volume 5 - Recipes From The Heartland

Here I am near the end of a long trip through the Real America, having had the opportunity to sample some of the regional foods that Real Americans eat. Using my worldly charm and boyish good looks, I was able to obtain some Real American family recipes, enough to prepare a dinner fit for the most discriminating palate.

1. Corn

Plant corn seeds. Water until knee-high. Sell corn to ethanol plant. Use proceeds to buy Green Giant Canned Niblets®. Open can. Feeds 8.

Chef's note - For formal occasions, contents may be heated before serving.

2. Ham

Obtain one pork. Trim until only ham remains, reserving scraps. Cover with water and place in 600 degree oven until well-browned, approximately three hours. Reduce oven to 17 degrees and continue roasting for one week. Sprinkle pork scraps over ham and serve immediately. Feeds 6 1/2.

3. Rolls

Carefully form wheat into rolls. Sprinkle with yeast. When rolls reach interior temperature of 92 degrees, garnish with butter. Feeds 8.

Chef's note - Rolls may be prepared in shape of crescent for Muslim guests.

4. Pickles

Prepare pickling batter. Combine one cup heavy cream and two tablespoons pickle sauce (available at most feed stores). Whip until thoroughly blended.

Insert three large cucumbers (you may substitute chicken) into pickling batter. Allow to marinade until pickles form. Slice as desired. Feeds 29.

5. Dessert

Open one package hot dog buns. Bring a large pot of unflavored water to a boil and add buns. Return water to a boil and continue to cook buns for 45 minutes. Using tongs, remove boiled buns from water and chill. Before serving, sprinkle buns with sugar. Feeds 1.

Chef's note - Minced honey or a Pepsi reduction may be substituted for sugar.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Meathead And The Bee

I'm sitting in my hotel room last night after a nice meal at a restaurant I like when I'm in town. The hotel itself is a pit, the carpet and furniture covered with unidentifiable stains, in-room air conditioners that howl like banshees, and rooms overlooking a particularly ugly parking lot.

Topping things off, the internet connection wasn't working. That meant I either had to read or watch TV. Reading gives me a thinkache and all I could find on television were reality shows and advertisements for Bowflex fitness systems. I hate reality and I hate exercise. I decided to to call home instead.

My oldest answers with a grunt. "What do you want?" Caller ID has its drawbacks.

"Just wanted to see what's going on at home," I reply.

"Nothing. I made dinner. It was good. There's not going to be any left for you."

Love you too son, I think, but keep it to myself for fear he'll hang up.

"Anything else new?" I ask.

"I already told you. No."

"Alright," I say. "Can I talk to your brother?"

"Which one?" he asks. "The big moron or the little moron?"

"Either one," I reply.

"The big one's not here. You'll have to talk to the little one."

"That's fine," I answer and he screams for his brother. My youngest gets on the phone.

"What's up, bud?" I ask.

"We had a spelling bee today," he says.

"Who's 'we'?" I ask, perking up at the idea they're spending at least part of the summer in pursuits more intellectually challenging than Xbox and fighting with each other.

"Me and Katie," he says.

I say reflexively, "Katie and I." Then it strikes me he's talking about our black lab. "You were having a spelling contest with a dog?"

"Yeah," he says proudly.

"You won, right?" I ask. Sadly, this isn't a foregone conclusion.

"We both did. We tied."

"You mean you're not better than our dog at spelling?"

"She's a smart dog." Not really, but that's beside the point.

"How come you can't beat a dog in a spelling contest?" I repeat.

"My brothers were the judges," he says.

That explains a lot. "Do I even want to know what words you were spelling?" I ask.

Pause. "Probably not," he says.

"Is your mother there?" I ask.

"Nope," he answers. "She's gone."

I don't blame her. I just hope she's back by the time I get home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome Home

I'm traveling again, out in the country a ways. Dinner tonight was with a local guy, a friend who does some work for my organization. We drove through the small city I'm staying in, headed out to the smaller city where he lives. He bought me a good steak at the local restaurant, then took me down the street to the ice cream shop where his daughter's working for the summer, where she's embarrassed to have her dad come in with his friend, but still likes the attention, at least a little.

It's a nice small town. There's still a main street, and a few businesses, and no chain stores near enough to kill them off anytime soon. The crops are coming along alright, at least so far. It won't be a banner year, but with a bit of luck the harvest will come in enough to pay the bills.

Everywhere I went tonight, there were signs welcoming home the local boys and girls. A unit based nearby just got back from a two-year deployment overseas. Iraq. A few guys got hurt over there, but not too bad. They were lucky.

There were posters in the storefronts saying, "Welcome home 1 LT Jones" or "Welcome home SGT Anderson" and there banners in front of houses. One said, "Welcome home Daddy, I missed you."

The people who live here love their sisters and fathers and cousins and friends and neighbors, they love the people they know who happen to be soldiers, they love their soldiers, they love them just like people do everywhere. They lost them for a while, but they got them back, this time they got them back whole.


It will be a good day when there's no longer reason to read something like this by David Benjamin:

No matter how many times I turn the page in the New York Times and encounter the headline, "Names of the Dead," I feel awkward. I'm tempted to bow my head or raise my eyes heavenward, light a candle (if I had one), or even make the sign of the cross. I do none of those things. But I try to shut out the coffee shop din and force myself to read every word of each brutally brief death notice. I try to picture each casket arriving under cover of darkness in Dover, Md., where some sleep-deprived mortality clerk marks a checklist and dispatches this freight of once-living tissue to its final disposal.

One day last week, the names of the dead seemed especially representative of America's nightmare in Iraq. There were five GIs and three Marines, stacked alphabetically. They ranged in age and rank from an 18-year-old private, LeRon Wilson of Queens, N.Y., to a 44-year-old colonel, Jon M. Lockey of Fredericksburg, Va., with several noncoms in between. This was the day an American soldier was killed in Baghdad's supposedly impregnable Green Zone, and I wondered if this luckless soul was Col. Lockey, who -- said the Times -- was assigned to the apparent safety of Army headquarters.

As always, the list was dominated by kids (I've been calling America's war dead "kids" ever since Khe Sanh) from small towns: Homerville, Ga.; Luther, Okla.; Moscow, Me.; Monterey, Calif.; Coos Bay, Ore., and Fredericksburg. The two big-city exceptions were Wilson from Queens and Angel Ramirez, a Marine from Brooklyn.

I considered how paltry and opaque is this agate-print nod to our honored dead. We know not whether these lost warriors were brave or scared, or whether they joined out of economic desperation or cockeyed patriotism. No high-school transcripts, no rap sheets, no service records, no next of kin. We don't how many deployments they had endured, nor how long it might have been before they were rotated back to safety. We don't know if any of them had ever voted, except for Wilson, who was too young to have ever had the chance.

A little math tells me that these eight young men, in a nation where most people are now living into their upper 70s, died at an average age of just over 27 years. We're told that these young deaths -- deaths among the strongest, healthiest and ablest of Americans -- are justified by the 3,591 who died in the same war before them. If we abandon this war, we are assured, these "heroes" (called such although we know that soldiers rarely enjoy true heroic opportunities in any war) will have died in vain. It's a simple rule: We kill kids to validate the deaths of kids already dead.

We're told that we dare not admit that this ill-conceived cause is long lost. Why so? Does conceding failure -- thus saving the lives of countless still-breathing kids -- diminish these eight deaths? These kids died because they were faithful to their duty and -- above all -- true to their comrades in arms. They died among brothers and friends, but not one of them, as he breathed his last breath, had geopolitics on his mind or the name of George W. Bush on his lips.

In my daily chore of heeding "The Names of the Dead," I sometimes hear, in the back of my mind, faintly, the words of Linda, Willy Loman's widow, in "Death of a Salesman."His name was never in the paper," Linda says in the play's most-moving soliloquy. "He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."

In what crusade did Willy die? He sold objects so mundane that, in Arthur Miller's play, we never know what they were. He spent his last ounce of energy and surrendered his soul to a company which -- in the end -- forsook and disdained him. He barely held the affections of even his family. But a life, as Linda cried out in her husband's last moment, is an immense and fearsome thing. It can be lived for the noblest of causes or, more often, for no apparent cause at all. But, whatever its merits, it deserves to be lived in full. It deserves to be observed, when it's over, with gravity and awe.

Jeremy Allbaugh, Jason Dore, Gene Lamie, Jon Lockey, Sean Mitchell, Angel Ramirez, Steven Stacy and a teenage kid named LeRon Wilson need not have died for good reason or for bad. For us to honor them, it is enough that they died -- terribly young, bursting with vigor, and incomplete. The ultimate tribute to these eight would be to see that no others die in their names.

Fat chance. Since that day, as of this writing, the cause has claimed 11 more. The last name on the list, for the moment, is Robert Varga, 24, of Monroe City, Mo.

So, I sit there helpless, with my coffee, my Times and the names of the dead. But -- as best I can -- I pay attention.

David Benjamin, a novelist and journalist originally from Tomah, Wis., now divides his time between New York and Paris. His latest book is "The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sneak Preview

Because I don't get enough grief from my family, now I find out AG doesn't like my music either. What neither they nor she knows is that for the last two years, late at night when everyone's asleep, I've been working on a rock opera of my own. With a working title of "Harry Potter and the Chicken Salad" I'm confident in its marketability, especially in those countries with permissive copyright laws.

Some sample lyrics to whet your appetites:

Get your blender runnin'
Fire up the toaster
Rummage through the meat tray
Put a turkey in the roaster.
Yeah, darling, gonna make a sandwich
Stuff it right in my big fat face.
Finish all of my snacks at once
And never say Grace.

I like ham and coleslaw
Deviled eggs and cream cheese
Salmon on the grill
And I'd like another steak, please.
Yeah, darling, gonna make a sandwich,
Stuff it right in my big fat face.
Finish all of my snacks at once,
And never say Grace.

I like a good Happy Meal
But we were born, born to eat veal
With a caraway rye.
Oh, I love Frito pie.

Born to eat veal
Born to eat veal.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is This My Beautiful Life?

A not atypical Saturday around Snag Manor.

Get up in the morning and unsuccessfully fend off a teenager's angst. Pray for death.

Go to library and dry cleaner with the youngest. Tell him to shut the hell up the entire time.

Go to grocery and liquor store alone. Best part of day.

Add songs to the iPod. Tell oldest to shut the hell up when he comments on music selection.

Prepare marinade for Yucatecan Grilled Pork. Cook said meal. Serve said meal to family and friends.

Go out front and play catch with kids. Cringe when next door neighbor comes out to watch and ball hits his car. Go inside and make stiff drink.

Build fire in back yard. Step in dog crap. Swear and take off shoes.

Watch movie with kids and neighbors. Carry youngest upstairs to bed.

Write blog entry. Edit same.

Here is my soundtrack:

Synthetic Symphony - Hopewell
Luck Be A Lady - Frank Sinatra
Hold Your Head Up - Argent
Memories Of East Texas - Michelle Shocked
Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones
Cannonball - The Breeders
I Love the Rain - The Real Tuesday Weld
Positively 4th Street - Bob Dylan
Oh Very Young - Cat Stevens
Big Time - Peter Gabriel
Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down - Terry Reid

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Afternoon Top Ten

Let the music møøsic carry you away.

1. "In A Mossy Land" by Møøseker

2. "There She Goes, My Beautiful
Forest" by Nick Cave and the Bad Møøse

3. "Racing in the Woods" by Møøse Springsteen

4. "The Tickbite Song" by The Flaming Møøse

5. "(Don't Fear) The Hunter" by
Blue Öyster Møøse

6. "
Do You Believe In Peat" by Huey Lewis and the Møøse

"Almost Cut My Fur" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Møøse

8. "Let's Go All The Way (Canadian remix)" by Insane
Møøse Posse

9. "Elk in White Satin" by The
Møøsy Blues

and for BP and BG:

10. "The
Møøse Lies Down on Broadway" by Genesis

UPDATE: h/t Jennifer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is It Too Much To Ask?

Finally, I get a decent meal, some sesame crusted rare tuna with a nice glass of wine, talking to my boss, who's not a bad guy, when twenty middle-aged extremely white, extremely upper-middle-class men pour into the restaurant, fresh from some fucking golf tournament or some goddamn thing, half drunk and intent on getting drunker.

Inarticulate joke at obnoxious noise level. Uproarious stupid laughter. Repeat until everyone else in restaurant can't stand it.

Me to waitress. "I didn't realize there was an asshole convention in town."

She smiles nervously, anxious to save her tip. "Sorry, I'm sure they'll settle down in a minute."

They don't, of course, guys like this never do. My boss and I stick it out for a little longer and then leave. I go back to a stupid hotel bar to watch a baseball game and play bar bingo, God help me, but at least it's better than dealing with a bunch of smug, overfed shitheads.

Christ, if I'm like that, kill me please.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'll Take Braying Jackal For Fifty

You know what's worse than sitting in a hotel bar watching Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace on CNN?

Not much.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bon Appétit, Volume 4

AG insists that zombies eat babies. Perhaps they do on the Upper West Side, out on the terrace, with a nice, not-too-oaky Chardonnay and some "French" bread, while they're discussing how much they hate America.

Out here in the real world, though, our zombies still like a hearty meal of good old-fashioned brains and I'm posting some of my favorite recipes to prove it. Whether you're planning a romantic Love at First Bite or a full-fledged Monster Mash, you can't go wrong with these proven winners.

1. Ghoulash

Unearth and pluck five large cadavers. Plunge into one bathtub of boiling oil for an hour. Rinse under cold water until cool to the touch, then coarsely chop. Combine in large stainless steel pot with six potatoes, the juice of three robins, a candied newt, and a handful of thorns. Heat through and serve over gristle. Serves 2.

2. Brain Salad

Select three ripe brains with cerebral cortex removed (ask your butcher to do this for you). With a sharp paring knife, make twelve and one-half incisions in each brain. Insert one bulb of garlic in each incision (yams may be substituted if guests are allergic to garlic). Place brains under medium heat lamp for eight minutes, turning regularly. When brains are tan, scoop into decorative molds and refrigerate until set. Garnish with floss just before serving. Serves 30.

3. Frankenfurter

Give life to one inanimate collection of body parts, basting regularly with a mixture of two pinches of chewing tobacco and the drippings from a roasted D cell battery. Place on pitchfork over open fire until internal temperature has reached 350 degrees, being careful not to disturb. When chest cavity is fluffy and golden brown, remove from heat and serve immediately, surrounded by a variety of diced melons. Serves 53.

4. Death By Chocolate

Prepare one boxed chocolate cake according to instructions on package. Add poison. Feed to enemies. Serves too few.

5. Witches Brew

Capture and gut one dozen small mammals, preserving internal fluids. Soak carcasses in two liters of heavily salted Dr. Pepper until film develops on surface. Remove pelts from brine and knit into a hat. Wear hat on national holidays. In the meantime, bring body fluids to room temperature in a porcelain vase. Stir in one pound of horseradish, two cod, and a tablespoon Crest Pro-Health Clean Cinnamon Toothpaste. Pour over black ice and enjoy. Serves 5.

I'm Better Now

I tried playing dead in the hopes of being left alone but instead merely discovered a horrifying predilection on the part of my children for corpse mutilation.

Back to work it is.

P.S. Zombies eat brains!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Goodbye Cruel World

The estimable Pinko Punko wonders what sort of obituary I envision for myself. It's something I spend a lot of time thinking about, especially when I'm stuck in traffic. Here's the sort of thing I have in mind.


Snag passed away suddenly on Wednesday at his home on Snag Island, surrounded by friends and family, the victim of a tragic hula-hoop accident. He was 154.

The child of a freelance vaudevillian and a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Snag seemed an unlikely candidate for the fame and power that would later come his way. His large head and sensitive hearing made the public educational system difficult and his parents sent him away to a North Korean boarding school at the age of eighteen months. It was there he first met Parquet, the boy who would later become his lifelong manservant.

Immediately following graduation ceremonies, Snag was conscripted by the Royal Danish Army, the result of an hilarious series of misunderstandings. His initial shock soon gave way to acceptance and he grew to love the discipline and saunas that were then a daily part of life in the Den Kongelige Livgarde. He ultimately rose to command this historic ceremonial regiment and led it to victory in the famous Battle of the Ham.

Eventually he tired of the demands of constant travel and left military service at the age of twenty-three. He spent several years in a series of odd jobs, including gold miner, tree hugger, and astrophysicist, before settling in as an enforcer and historian for the notorious Acrylic Cartel of southern Ontario. He relied heavily on his commando training in this position and was reputed to have been involved in the killings of at least twelve rival carpet bosses. Those cases were never solved, however, and in later years he would flog anyone who mentioned them in his presence.

It was then he met the woman who would later become his help meet and to whom he always referred as his Lovely Bride. As a world class equestrian in her own right, she was immediately impressed upon their first meeting, as she assisted him in performing an emergency tracheotomy on a police horse in downtown St. Louis. As so often happens, veterinary surgery led to dinner, dinner to romance, and romance to a marriage proposal on a cross-country pontoon trip.

The wedding itself remains the stuff of legend. With an invitation list topping 3,500 and entertainment provided by world-class carnival barkers, the ceremony itself would have paled had it not been for the Dalai Lama's moving presentation of the couple to those in attendance.

After a three-month honeymoon in Wind Cave National Park, they returned to their new home. Mrs. Snag had insisted he leave the dangerous world of flooring, and his bosses there, while saddened, reluctantly agreed to release him from his employment. With a baby on the way, they needed an income and he turned his attention to perfecting the electric spork.

Weeks of tinkering in his garage finally led to a workable design, which he quickly patented and put into mass production, just in time for the Picnic Craze of '09. Building on this initial success, Snag turned his small company into one of the largest employers in the Andes, earning himself the title of Baron Von Cutlery in the process.

By now, he was the proud "father" of three young boys. When the youngest was arrested for trafficking in black market goiters, Snag realized the need to attend more to the needs of his family and sold his company for the then-unheard of sum of $150 trillion centavos (Canadian) in a complicated transaction involving stock swaps and four elk. He turned his attention to youth sports and his children soon developed the athletic prowess that resulted in their winning a record forty-two Olympic gold medals at the Angkor Wat games of 2028.

In the meantime, Snag had discovered the preservative magic of brining and regularly immersed himself for days at a time in a delicious mixture of water, Kosher salt, and a variety of pickling agents. As those around him aged, he retained his youthful vigor and good looks and began to find himself cast in the role of leading man across from many of the era's most attractive animal actors. Leading roles in films ranging from the screwball comedy "Three Men and a Baby and a Moose" to the Oscar-winning battlefield drama "Apocalypse Moose" cemented his reputation as a thespian second to none.

Snag's collection of Pulitzers also continued to grow, finally joined by a Tony for the comedy gold of his musical reworking of "Paradise Lost." Although he enjoyed the adulation, he was tired by the bar fights common in the poetry industry and after several years retired to Snag Manor, the twine mansion he constructed on his private island off the coast of Nebraska.

His later years were filled with family, colonic irrigation, and quiet philanthropic works, such as funding Kentucky's renowned Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (Fort Knox Campus) Institute for the Study of Existentialist Breakfast Foods. His lifelong studies as an amateur lepidopterist led to the successful introduction in the Scandinavian countries of the Death's-head Hawkmoth and the subsequent deforestation of much of the world's northern forests. In his spare time he enjoyed his phlegm collection and strolling the grounds of his estate clad in an ermine swimsuit, accompanied by his flock of prize-winning badgers.

After lying in state through next June at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Snag will be buried on a rotating basis at St. Peter's in Rome, the Wailing Wall, and Thomas Jefferson's grave site. In addition to Parquet, he is survived by his wife, three children, seventy-four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his beloved black lab, Katie XVII. Memorials may be sent to the Centers for Pyorrhea or the High Stakes Bingo room at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Looking Good!

I'm good to go - the dentist squeezed me in and fixed my tooth. He even threw in some cosmetic work while I was there. Thanks, Doc!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bleacher Bum

Tonight was the last organized baseball game I'll see my youngest play this year. He's got a few more left in this extended season, but I'll be gone for the rest.

I'm not coaching these. Too busy at work, too much travel ahead of me. Coach P. is, with another dad, a nice guy. The team's made up of most of the kids from our regular season roster, plus a couple of others. The league itself is much smaller for now, families finally taking long-delayed vacations, or just doing something else besides watching baseball. Six teams instead of twenty-one. Two games a week for three weeks, and that's it.

It's strange watching the boys play from the perspective of a parent instead of a coach. My boy and I get to the field early to play some catch, but when the others begin to show up I drift toward the stands, leaving the coaches with their team. When the game begins, I watch what my son is doing, not worried as much about the others as I was even a couple of weeks ago. Much of the time is spent talking to the other adults about movies and restaurants and fishing and whatever else comes up, pausing only to cheer or cringe.

The game ends and my son asks if we can go for ice cream. It's late and I've been out of town all week. "Not tonight," I tell him. For once he doesn't argue and we get in the car and leave the park, and now, already, the night and the game are fading away.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Miss All Of You Too

There's a hell of a lot of corn in this country. Miles and miles of it in fact, broken up only by the occasional soybean field. It's lovely in its own way, but I'm tired of driving through it.

At least I was until I got a text message from my oldest in the middle of lunch.

"God hates me," it read.

That's my boy. A pessimist just like dear old dad.

"Why do you say that?" I sent back.

"My brother was born," came the reply.

When I talked to my Lovely Bride tonight I could tell it had been a long day, a point driven home by the screams I heard from my kids in the background. The middle son had been locked out of the basement by his brothers, apparently in revenge for his being born.

"Would you like me to kill them when I get home?" I offer.

She pauses to consider. "Probably not. Let's see how it goes tomorrow."

The oldest gets on the phone. His first words, "Your middle kid's a jerk."

"No he's not. Knock it off."

"See, you love him better." He throws the phone at the youngest who picks it up and launches into some incomprehensible story about a basketball game, told in the dialect of the Whitest Gangsta in America. I try to pay attention for a minute and then realize I have no idea what he's going on about. I don't think he knows either. The whole thing 's just an attempt to annoy me. Eventually it does.

"Let me talk to your other brother." I'm told he's left the house. He's probably out in the yard, looking for sticks he can sharpen into weapons. My wife gets back on the phone instead.

"How was your day?" she asks.

Not so bad after all.

Smile And Say Cheese

You know what's worse than spending weeks driving all over hell and back for work, staying in crappy hotels and eating bad food three times a day?

Cracking a tooth while doing it.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Zig Ziglar Can Bite My Ass

Chuckles has used his mystical wang power to peer through the veil of secrecy and find the real Snag. It is true. I am a motivational speaker. Here's what I said to my audience this morning:

Thank you for paying money to be here today. It makes me a richer person, at least materially, the only way that matters. Just as important, looking out at all of you reminds me how much worse my life could be.

I wasn't always the suave hellcat you see before you. No, I was born a simple lad, raised in a bamboo yurt without running water or sunlight. I was a hard worker, though, and by kindergarten had amassed my first million, selling gall bladders on the open market.

Other endeavors soon caught my fancy. I played professional baseball in a fantasy league for several seasons. I bred kelp. I manufactured real estate. In my heart, I still knew it wasn't enough. I had something left to give.

A decade as a Trappist monk failed to cure me of this conviction and that's when I joined the motivational speaking circuit. I stand here before you today to tell you that you can do what I've done. You can go cave diving in Bismark. You can sell multi-level marketing schemes to schoolchildren in the developing world. You can kill and gut a caribou with a rock and a Q-Tip. But first you have to dream.

Stop for a minute and close your eyes. What's your dream? Is it to be me? For most people, it is. That's not going to happen unless you steal my DNA. Find another dream. Got one? Good.

What is it? You, sir, in the third row, stand up. What's your dream?

You're kidding me, right? That's your dream? I'll be dipped in shit. That's not a dream, that's a freaking nightmare. Alright, whatever, if that's what you want, that's what you want. Jesus.

Anybody else have a dream, maybe one that's not quite so horrifying? You, ma'am, in the back. What's yours?

Lovely. That's just nice. What the hell's wrong with you people? Don't any of you have normal dreams? Did I wonder into a locked ward by mistake? Look lady, I'm sorry, stop crying but I'm not running a Belgian porn site here.

Alright, I'll give you a dream, something to hang on to. Close your eyes again and let your mind drift. Picture yourself in a boat on a river. Now, picture yourself as Paul McCartney. Picture yourself as Yoko Ono for that matter. I don't care, picture yourself as anybody but the pathetic loser you are. Now picture yourself jumping overboard and being eaten by crocodiles.

Okay, open your eyes. Who feels better? Nobody? Tough titties for you then. Suck it up and stop whining. Christ, I'd slap you all if you were my kids. Since you're not I don't care enough about you to make the effort.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

On The Road Again

Here I am back on the road again, which, in my glamorous circles, means lots of crappy meals at crappy restaurants, too many of which are bad chains moving in to replace the places that existed before globalization and neglect destroyed the local economies. Tonight was no exception, "meat" loaf covered with Funyuns® and ketchup.

After dinner I retired to the hotel bar with two of my traveling companions. Thankfully the management stockpiled enough bourbon to wash dinner's foulness from my mouth. Now I'm back in the room listening to streaming music on a wireless network in a shithole hotel that ten years ago would have been lucky to have cable television. Say what you like about this country, its communications technology keeps me alive.

I'll be gone a lot in the next few weeks. A bunch of miles to drive and a bunch of people listening to what I have to say. Or so I like to think. They show up at least, and that's good enough for my purposes. I tell them what I have to say, they pay attention, sort of, and at the end of the day they go away, I hope, a little wiser.

In the meantime, I'll eat a lot of lousy food and sleep in a lot of lousy hotels. I'll spend my nights drinking beer, watching movies on my laptop, wondering whether and how to change the next day's presentation. I'll miss my family, my friends. I'll even miss my stupid dog.

At least I've got a job and a place to go home to.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Do What You Love

Like many Friends of Befouled, I am constantly on the lookout for new career opportunities. It's too easy to just read through U.S. News and World Report's annual article about possible careers. Accountant, lawyer, phlebotomist - anyone can put together a list like that. If you really want to get a handle on your future, you need to dig beneath the surface. That's what I've done for you.

Allow me to present Snag's Hot Jobs of 2007.

1. Gnu-Control Expert

The proliferation of gnus in America, particularly in metropolitan areas, has led to a huge array of problems; fatherless children, overburdened police, shuttered businesses. The expansion of concealed carry laws is only contributing to this, leaving traditional methods of detection and prevention useless against those who would bring gnus into our schools and houses of worship.

As a gnu-control expert, you'll be on the front lines, developing and implementing creative strategies to reduce the spread of illegal gnus. Our nation's cowboy ethos may never allow the type of restrictive gnu laws found in most other Western countries, but there is still good money to be made finding constitutionally sound strategies to fight back against those who proclaim, “You can have my gnu when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” Mandatory employee assistance programs are one of the many perks to be had in this rewarding field.

2. Moose Inseminator

Contrary to what many people believe, moose do not asexually reproduce. Increasing fuel costs have impinged on the traditional courtship rituals of this magnificent beast, however, making it more difficult for all but the richest to make the trips necessary to woo the cows of their dreams. In addition, certain radical feminists have begun to question the need for bulls in the first place given recent advances in reproductive technology.

This is where a moose inseminator comes in. Much like a bee, your job is to transfer the bull’s “pollen” to the cow’s “pistil.” This requires steady hands, a soothing demeanor, and a willingness to wear heavy protective clothing. While challenging and not particularly financially rewarding, this career provides the satisfaction of showing your own children a calf in the woods and telling them, “I made that.”

3. Plaque Disposal Technician

As dental insurance becomes more common, it is accompanied by the need to find ways to dispose of the plaque that is scraped off millions of teeth every day. In the past, it was typically sold as mulch or burned in the incinerators most dentists used to heat their offices. With environmental regulations no longer permitting these means of disposal, plaque disposal technicians play an important role in America’s number one industry, the fast-moving world of dentistry.

You will undergo a rigorous three-week online study course before obtaining your certification. Once properly trained, you may go to work for one of the many Fortune 500 plaque disposal companies. Advanced degrees in plaque disposal are also offered by many larger universities for those who are interested in moving into research or academic positions. Whatever you choose, you’ll be in demand, reflected in salary packages that often approach four figures.

4. Puck Tester

Hockey is the hobby of the future, but it can’t happen without an adequate supply of pucks. As the sport of kings, hockey equipment was once confined to those lucky enough to be descended from one of the great Canadian royal families. Now that these restrictions have been lifted, manufacturers find themselves unable to fill the necessary positions in their research laboratories.

You could be the person to step into this void. Density, consistency, and flavor are the watchwords of the world’s great puck testers and it is only after a grueling apprenticeship that you’ll be permitted to sign off on these universally revered icons. In the meantime, you’ll spend your days shadowing one of the masters and your nights watching tapes of Don Rickles and studying the mysteries of vulcanization. The educational process is capped off with a field trip to one of the great rubber plantations of southern Iowa. Compensation packages typically include reduced-cost bowel reconstruction surgery after five years of employment.

5. Meat Sculptor

Weddings have long been the place to find elaborate ice sculptures and cakes. Those on the cutting edge are no longer satisfied with these pedestrian accessories, however, and are now looking for new and creative ways to express their love on this special day.

Sculptors have begun to recognize this and are turning their attention to the wonders of meat. Whether it is a centerpiece depicting the happy couple in top quality veal or a more affordable collection of offal place cards, meat sculptors commemorate one of the most significant days in any person’s life. Unlimited scraps are just one of the fringe benefits of this prestigious job.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

So That's What They Mean By A Funny Uncle

It was an old-fashioned 4th of July for the Snags, far away from where we live. We go to our friends' place every year at this time, a break that means the world to our kids and us. This year was typical.

We went to a parade:

Our kids hung out:

And we had Scotch and fireworks. That made for a tense moment when shrapnel hit my middle son, but once my Lovely Bride calmed down, it was fine.

Best of all, we had my friend's 12-year-old niece out on a fishing boat, just her, my friend, and me. First she bet her uncle he wouldn't swallow a live minnow for $10. Bad bet on her part.

After that went awry, she tried to change the subject.

"I'm going to ask you questions and you have to answer them," she said.

"Okay," we said. The fish weren't biting anyway.

"Was Noah's Ark real?" she asked.

"Yes it was," came the answer, "It was really more of a floating slaughterhouse than an ark, however. That's why some animals disappeared. Like when Noah got a hankering for some unicorn sausage."

"Next question," she said. "Why does it seem like so many of the nail parlors where I live are owned by Chinese people?"

"That's because of the Louisiana Purchase," we said. "Jefferson insisted on that as a condition because he was worried that once the railroads were built there wouldn't be enough work to go around."

"Alright," she said. "How about flying fish? Are there really such things?"

"There are a few kinds," we replied. "For example, there are vampire bass. It's a common misconception these are bats, but that's because of a regional dialect that mispronounces the word. There are also buskies, a member of the pike family. They have long venomous fangs they uses to stab their prey."

She giggled. "You guys are weird."

We headed back to the cabin about midnight, just in time to open a new bottle of wine. Our wives shook their heads and apologized when she told them what we'd said and our own kids rolled their eyes and said we were idiots. Yes we are, but for these few days we're happy ones.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Woo-Hoo! USA!! USA!!

Well, it's off to a friend's summer place for the Non-Canadian North American Independence Day of English Speaking Nations. My Lovely Bride and our hellspawn will be joining me, which cuts down on my meth use. Instead I'll fill the time with fishing and fireworks, two activities that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The kids have their Jarts game to keep them busy between trips to the emergency room and what with the bald eagle coming off the Endangered Species list, I'll be doing some small-game hunting with my homemade DDT-soaked lead shot.

It's not all fun and games, though. We'll also be taking time to reflect on what makes our nation great. Corn dogs and the invention of the Sleep Number bed would rank high on anyone's list, but my personal choice for the heart of America is the Fuel Mart in Perrysburg, Ohio. With a wide array of hanging air fresheners and books on tape, it's the perfect place to grab a slice of Americana for the road.

Happy and safe travels and may the moose be with you on this special day!