Monthly Archives: February 2015

Make It Quick, or the Pinkie Gets It

Always have a set of ransom demands.

One, it forces you to grapple with life’s inequities and mysteries, to face the unseen-yet-apparent, to reveal how you view the world and, more importantly, how you’d right it.

Two, you never know.

Hence:

  • Bring back the following words, in the following context: “swell,” as in ‘That’s great,’ not as in ‘That’s enlarged;’ “sore,” as in ‘I’m sore at you,’ not, ‘I’m sore from you;’ “hoosegow” in place of jail — or anything. (it’s just a kick-ass word.)
  • Officially declare three a magic number.
  • Invent and make mandatory the front goddamned brake light: Why is it the only angle you can’t see whether a car is slowing down is when it’s coming straight at you?
  • Atheists: admit it’s a faith.
  • Faith: admit it’s not science.
  • Science: make pets outlive us.
  • Add the Prius to the list of douchebag cars, joining BMW’s, Range Rovers and the Hummer H3.
  • Ban seatbelt laws. Americans have the right to be stupid.
  • Change the national anthem to ‘America the Beautiful.’
  • Stop using “impact” as a verb; it’s not.
  • Adjust daylight savings time so regular people care: “jump back” at 6 a.m. on a workday and “jump forward” at 4 p.m. on a workday.
  • Redefine rich. If a) You can buy anything on a restaurant menu or b) You believed you could be anything as a kid; you’re rich.

For every demand that’s not met, a hostage gets it. Beginning with “impact.”

In the meantime, I claim the following words, just because I don’t want them prostituted by the vernacular

“foist”
“shenanigans”
“miscreant”
“goddamn (small g)”

Oops. The gun went off while I pistol-whipped impact. I hope that doesn’t affect life in the hoosegow.

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Say My Name (Four Times)

Technically, this story contains spoilers to a show some unfortunate souls have yet to see. If so, read no further. However, in this Twiteration, any plot point not revealed 30 minutes after a show airs constitutes less a ‘spoiler’ than an ‘archaeological find.’

 

First, a firm and earnest caveat: I am perhaps the planet’s most ardent fan of Breaking Bad, and it remains my favorite show of all time (though Mad Men, considering its subject matter, may be the greatest). So I realize this is blue meth heresy.

But the fifth and final season pales in comparison to the first four, and, however slightly, tarnishes the show’s legacy.

That’s not to say the fifth season wasn’t awash in genius. Todd and “Ozymandias” should take their rightful place as two brilliant offspring of their (crystal) Glass parents. “Ozymandias” may be the most tense, melancholy and heartbreaking 42 minutes of television.

But consider the first four seasons as a whole: It was unique in that it a) Turned middle class rage inside out and b) Paid attention to the grisly, pesky details of death.

Walt was the ultimate nerd anti-hero. And who was the show’s greatest villain? Fast food manager Gus. Our relatable hero? Jesse, a skinny junkie who sucks at math. It took three episodes (its first shows) to dispose of two bodies, blasphemy for a crime drama.

And remember: Vince Gilligan and writers weren’t sure whether the show would be picked up for a fifth season, so he wrote the fourth-season finale, “Face Off,” as a prospective show-ender.

And what an ending it was! Never has a book seen a more elaborate final chapter. Walt, ever the chemist, luring Gus into one more bump from the one dope he could not resist: vengeance. Gus and Tio’s final, wordless exchange. That Walt simply provided users the tools of their destruction (much like his meth to junkies) proved a perfect, explosive finish, as did the upbeat-yet-bittersweet postscript of the poisonous depths Walt was willing to plumb.

But overdue popularity made a fifth season (and its drawn-out cash-in over two years) inevitable.

And let’s be honest: The fifth season didn’t match the previous in subtle decadence.

For one, the fifth season finale is terribly derivative of the fourth: Jesse, imprisoned in a lab, forced to cook for evil dealers while an armed Walt with uncertain motives arrives for the showdown.

The fifth-season nemeses, as well, lacked that unexpected villainy. Aside from Todd and Lydia, our evil-doers are white supremacists with prison records and swastikas tattooed on their necks. Not hard to hate — or spot, in a run-of-the-mill crime story. Our fifth season cliffhanger is a dying killer on the lam with nothing left to lose. It can turn out only one way.

And to have Walt’s cancer return was a misstep. It made his death a certainty and his life a waste. Walt needed to die from the life he’d chosen (even if it’s by Jesse’s or Skyler’s hand), not from the genes he inherited. His dramatic turn on Jesse, from protector to predator, strayed the what were always the show’s true addictions: Jesse’s need for a father fix; Walt’s high from dealing it.

Of course, this is to critique a Monet. That the show invited such fine-toothing, debate and dispute is to testify to its greatness.

And yes, I still know your name. You’re that high school chemistry teacher. The one with the doting-but-watchful pregnant wife and the high school son with Cerebral palsy that you’re desperately trying to still impress.

You’re Heisenberg.

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Blockbuster: Mankind, In His Natural Environment

I daydreamed about American business today.

I don’t usually. It’s ugly. Business is what we substitute for living in the animal kingdom, where most residents meet their fates by being eaten. So, too, in business. The race to the swift. The weak are devoured by the strong. Mercy is not in the equation.

Except when Michael was involved. He had a way of humanizing everything. Even Blockbuster Video.

That’s where he worked, most of his adult life. Loved the movies, loved the free rentals he got. Even when I invited him to live with me in DC, get a fresh start, that’s where he took his first job. When I was out of town one weekend and had him watch the house, he had mercy on a woman who walked into the store, claiming she was being followed and fearing for her life.

Michael invited her over to sleep on his couch. When he discovered she was a derelict, he gave her what money he had, and gently evicted her before my return. I was initially angry, but it turned out to be harmless. Humorous, even; the woman was so touch by Michael’s kindness she would routinely bring him food from the soup kitchen. Beets, kidney beans, shit no one wants. But she would pack them up, leave them on our front step.

“MICHAEL!!!!” we’d hear her yell from the porch. “GOT SOME FOOD FOR YA!!!!!”

We laughed often about Blockbuster. Once, I went in to register membership at my local store. My first is technically Guy, which is how I fill out all paperwork. But, apparently, the Mensa member logging my membership thought it was Gary. So he misspelled that name. Then my last.

Then, over the loudspeaker, I’m alerted.

“Gray Bowels,” the guy said. “Do we have a Gray Bowels here? Your membership is ready.”

You could have shone a spotlight on me as I walked through the snickering crowd, which must have had pity on the poor guy named after unhealthy excrement.

Or the my cotton candy craving. I was jonesing for it one weekend, and discovered that one store in L.A. — Blockbuster — carried cotton candy. No doubt aged, congealed and putrified for mass consumption. But it bore a resemblance. Then I became a junkie.

Every Friday night, with a couple rentals, a bag of “Fluffy’s.”

“Boy, you sure do like cotton candy,” said the guy, whose pimples were a teenage connect the dots. “You get it every week.”

“I know,” I said, staring at the road map. “But where else are you going to find cotton candy?

Without hesitation. “The circus.”

To Michael and all things fleeting as laughter.

 

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