Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dumb Starbucks

Idiocracy is the best, most sweepingly epic movie of our desperate times. Mike Judge has demonstrated his skills as a Swiftian prophet on more than one occasion, but thus far, Idiocracy is his masterwork.

When I watched the movie for the first time, I scratched my head and thought to myself, “Huh. This is supposed to take place 500 years in the future? Isn’t this the world today?” I’ve been accused of being a snot in the past. Just last week, a random Christian guy on a thread told me I needed to repent of the sin of pride. Well, okay, I’ll try not to be a snot if Americans try to stop vying for membership in the Cult of Stupidity. For membership in the Cult of Stupidity, one doesn’t need a low IQ. I, in fact, as a member of Densa (the low IQ society), have been banned from said cult. I’ve been banned because the one rule for entrance is one I won’t follow: Be intentionally stupid. Be as intentionally stupid as possible. And be proud of it. Yes, that IS one rule; the other two are specialized supporting tenants.

I had the hankering to watch Idiocracy yesterday and, even though it was about the fifth time I’d viewed this prophetic work, I was no less startled with the utter mirth of it. In fact, owing to my sinful pride, the film inspired me to once again offer a Brawndo to the next person who mocked me for using multisyllabic words, otherwise known as “talking like a fag.” Wanna Brawndo? It’s got electrolytes. Hey, did you see “Ow, My Balls!” last night?

Not surprisingly, after I’d sated my Idiocracy lobe, I discovered that somebody had opened up a store called Dumb Starbucks. Idiocracy mocks several franchises throughout the film–Starbucks is one of them. I wondered if the genius behind Dumb Starbucks really is as dumb as he sounds, or if he’s cracking some ironic post-Idiocracy joke? It’s hard to tell. If Gentlemen’s Lattes are on the menu, I won’t be surprised.

You be the judge:


Winter Trees

DSCF0095The trees took root in a better time, I suspect, before the water iced over. The signs of life are there, and in a peculiar way, the green in the background creates a starker image in a winter scene than it does when the distraction of warm breezes and pink blossoms cloud the senses. The winter forces us to become acutely aware of life.

I have a tree of life in the nether regions of my mind. It beckons to me, especially when winter white air cloaks the landscape. I can see it–its tendrils attempting to reach my conscious mind. I know this is the case because I’m drawn to images of trees of life, whether they’re depicted in bead-work by a Navajo artist or woven into an English tapestry. I know it because, in the middle of banal activities, my mental space will fill with a tree in full bloom, its branches and tendrils sighing, whispering.

Sometimes, I sense there’s a hand grasping mine, and it isn’t invisible in a true sense, but only by the five senses we’re confined to. Please don’t misunderstand me; this is one of the few days I’m not pretending to desire to have a hole drilled in my head, one known for opening up the “third eye”. My sardonic, contemptuous view of the world is turned off for the day. I’m not wearing those glasses. Instead, I’m simply sensing the hand that nudges, shakes gently, wakes up the person hiding inside.

The water is covered with thin sheets of ice. They’re so thin they aren’t much of a barrier to what lurks beneath. They’re like shifting, tectonic plates that shatter as they shift, and then melt away as the winter sun radiates subtle warmth on them. If the earth were that fragile, we’d have fallen into its center by now. But if it were that fragile, it wouldn’t contain a molten core. Perhaps we’d fall to the center and swim to the other side. Why is so difficult to break out of the ice?

The trees took root in a better time, and now that conditions are no longer conducive to their producing fruit, they’re stuck. Wake up! Shh…it’s the wind. I heard a voice, but it was a current of air. The sun won’t be out for long. That’s the way it works. There are only so many hours of daylight to wake up, stretch, break out of the ice, but the daylight, itself, distracts and dazzles with the way it shines on the ice.

The ice is beautiful and mesmerizing. We aren’t alone there. But nobody’s speaking; the silence is frighteningly deep. Wake up! Who can hear anything when the silence is deafening? Instead, the hand continues to hold mine, and little by little pull me closer to the tree of life. I don’t desire to sleep in its shade or climb its branches. I desire to be inside its trunk, lost in the nutrients circulating from the soil to the crown. Who doesn’t?

I’m tired of the oppressive silence, ironically filled with a din of voices I don’t care to listen to. I tell the voices to shut the hell up, but they don’t heed my voice, and why should they? Everybody has a part in it. Every frozen creature has something to prophecy to the frozen creature stuck next to it. Oh, but my philosophy works, and if you’d only listen to me, you’d thrive. Shut up! Just shut the hell up! You’re as stuck as I am, and, besides, I’m trying to hear the wind.


Facing Off With Fitzgerald: Part II

I used to be a stingy bastard. I still am, to be frank. Is frankness still acceptable in polite company? As a youth fresh out of high school, having sent my graduating class off with a scandalous valedictorian speech that was a little too frank for boomer parents, I set sail for San Francisco in my freewheeling 1980 Rabbit. That Rabbit was a beast to look at, but it ran, and it was easy enough to fix.

I was too stingy to buy anything newer. I was too stingy to pay for motels or diner food. I bought cans of Vienna sausages and ate them off toothpicks, along with whatever else I could spear: grapes! mushrooms! gherkins! I traveled down the coastline by day, wasting hours walking on beaches, and slept by night, the passenger seat cranked and flung back as far as it would go, and my legs cramped against the floorboard. I had a blanket and a pillow, and clean clothes for the morning. I was very particular about my clothes. This was something I could never get my wife to understand, which is why I fired her as my laundress within a week after we were living together. The professionals could clean and press the collars properly, for god’s sake. But that’s another story. The wife didn’t have much training in that area. She has her skills, and collars aren’t one of them.

I hung my shirts at night and let the sea air work out the wrinkles, and then did the best grooming I could manage once the glow of sun broke through the trees. As somebody who grew up swimming in the northern Pacific, I thought I could take early morning swims in the ocean. I did once or twice, but if you’ve never swum off the Washington or Oregon coastline, you won’t understand how frigid it can be first thing in the morning. Sixty degrees Fahrenheit seems a warm, distant memory come to think of it.

Long about Gold Beach, I ran out of steam. Literally. I couldn’t move on without a good breakfast of real food or a laundromat. Plus, the water pump was leaking. This stingy bastard rented a room for the night at one of those beach-front strip motels called the Americana or some such, the kind of place where the TV worked, but the maid didn’t. I made myself a peanut butter sandwich and ate an apple in anticipation of the Jerry’s diner I’d seen on the way in.

The next morning, I had an epiphany. It was an epiphany that stuck with me, and one that I understood better the older I was. There I sat, scarfing down ham, slugging down coffee and milk, when a filthy man dressed in his entire wardrobe, even though it was June, walked in the door and dropped a pile of filthy blankets and a military issue backpack near the restrooms.

“No way!” the waitress yelled with unnecessary force. “This is the third day. I’m going to call the cops if you drop your shit in here again.”

“I just want a cup of coffee to go,” the man said. He fumbled around in his pocket for change. “How much? Is this enough?”

“It’s $1.50. All you have here is $.85. So, no. No coffee to go.”

By that time, I was irritated with the yelling. Clearly, the woman wished to bring the restaurant patrons into her self-righteous bitchery. Maybe they were supposed to be her witnesses.

“For fuck’s sake, just give the guy a cup of coffee,” I said. I didn’t need to shout for my voice to carry. The high school dictators, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Brown, realized that when they turned off my mic during my valedictory. It all came from the diaphragm.

“I can’t just give him coffee,” she retorted, but her voice went down a notch.

“He’s with me. Whatever he wants goes on my ticket,” I said. “Unless you’re into denying paying customers or hating on the homeless.”

“I just want a cup of coffee to go. I’m not with anyone,” the man said.

The waitress spun on her heels and grabbed the carafe from it’s burner. She sloshed it into a Styrofoam cup, then slammed the carafe back down with so much force I was surprised the glass didn’t break. She stuck a plastic lid on the cup.

“Coffee to go,” she said. “Now pick up your shit and go.”

People with bad tempers rattled me. Believe it or not, neither of my parents had bad tempers, not even my mom, who did whatever the hell she wanted to. I’m guessing that was why she was always so happy. My dad just wanted to keep the peace. God, my parents disgusted me. But people with bitchy temperaments bothered me more.

The man left his coffee on the counter while he slowly gathered up his things. He shrugged on his enormous green pack, picked up his blankets, and when everything was is in its proper place, he took hold of the cup.

He turned to me before he walked out the door. His eyes were bloodshot, but steady, and they bored into me. “You shouldn’t talk to ladies like that, especially ones that work as hard as she does,” he said. “And just so you know, my home is the world. I’m a natural man, and as a natural man, I have the right to pay for my own coffee and come and go as I please.”

When he plunked his change on the counter, he smiled at the waitress. “He’s just a kid. Cut him some slack. And thank you, ma’am. You have a nice day.”

“I’ll try. Tomorrow, leave your stuff outside. Nobody around here’s gonna steal it.”

“Maybe, maybe not. It’s all I have in the world.”

“I hear you,” she said, and she sighed heavily.

The dynamic between the waitress and the vagabond mystified me. Yeah, I said I had an epiphany, and I did. What you have to understand is the guy wasn’t unique in my eyes. He resembled all the shiftless men I regularly witnessed at the Greyhound bus station in my youth. We went there frequently, my dad and I, to pick up my mom after she’d taken off for who-knows-where, to visit friends or lovers; or to attend art fairs or polyamory conventions. I don’t know if there’s such a thing, but if there is, I can guarantee my mom’s been.

What struck me was this: I’d spent way too much of my life hating my mom. But, despite appearances, I realized she was like this man–a man I was willing to go to bat for. Like him, she didn’t have the same constraints as the rest of the human population. The world was her home. She was a natural woman, and she came and went at her own whim.

I didn’t stay long after I’d finished my breakfast. I had too much to think about. Somehow, I had become a natural man, too. My home was the world, or what I could reach of it by car. I wasn’t sure what it all meant yet, but some integral piece of me shifted that day. And I knew I had to move on as quickly as possible–as soon as I could get my clothes washed and a new water pump in my car.