Though I've always been fascinated by natural disasters and earthquakes, in all my years on the east coast, I never experienced one. Hence, I moved to California. All right, not hence, but I was excited at the prospect of finally feeling one. After moving to California, on a few occasions, the ground shook from minor quakes, but I was either asleep or in such structurally sound buildings (boo!) that I didn't even detect them. Oh, how I wanted to punch the braggarts who would approach me and excitedly ask, "Did you feel the earthquake last night?"

The first time I felt an earthquake was three years ago, although I didn't correctly identify it at the time. For several seconds, the walls of my cubicle shook, prompting me to say, "Who's doing that?" At that office, the atmosphere was jovial, so I assumed that my coworker was playing a prank on me. Then the general office chatter turned to "Did you feel that?" "Wow, an earthquake!" Not being entirely daft, I quickly pieced together what had actually happened.

While a life goal had been fulfilled, I felt cheated since I had to have someone explain that it actually occurred. Fortunately, I had my chance to improve upon my previous experience yesterday when THE BIG ONE hit.

Yesterday, at about a quarter to noon, a loud, presumably low-flying plane was audible outside my window, disrupting my reading. I did my best to ignore it, but then I jerked at a large thud against the ground and was jostled by the shaking that followed. My thought was that a helicopter landed, crashed, or crash landed just outside my house and the subsequent shaking was the result of a whirring propeller. Pulling aside the blinds, I looked out the window to witness the calamity, only to then have it register that it was an earthquake. As if on cue, at the moment of my enlightenment, the shaking stopped.

My previous lack of experience with earthquakes is detrimental: How am I ever supposed to enjoy one if I can't recognize that is happening in the first place? For crying out loud, I'm so naive that I figured that there was a helicopter crash rather than an earthquake! Moreover, if I can recognize an emergency situation as it unfolds, my chances of survival aren't too good. I didn't take cover, I didn't flee, I just meandered and enjoyed the vibrations.

Since the dogs were barking uncontrollably, I went to console them. Darby, a paranoid pup even before this incident, fearfully looked deep into my eyes and howled as if the world were ending. I took Darby outside where ey took the biggest poop I've ever seen a dog of his size create. I guess that's one reasonable reaction.

I proceeded to survey the house and pick up items that had fallen in the "devastation." Several, and I mean several small objects fell off of shelves and a few potted plants tipped over and spilled dirt. I spent a good ten minutes tidying up after this disaster. Oh, the devastation. Michael's room looked like an earthquake had trashed everything, but I'm pretty sure it appeared that way before the earthquake, too.

I received some phone calls of concern which was kind. From what I gathered, the national media was blowing the event out of proportion. In California, a 5.4 tremor is a nuisance, not a tragedy. At Jessica's recommendation, I put on the news (of the local variety as I do not have cable) and witnessed the ridiculous display. There was nothing to report: not one significant injury and just a couple of isolated incidents of insignificant damage. The footage featured people who pointlessly evacuated their office, and fallen bottles of shampoo on the ground of grocery stores. In other words, frightening images. The shows also screened interviews of locals who gave their accounts of the earthquake, each one more theatrical than the first. I thought one person was going overboard with exaggeration when ey described the quake as lasting a minute. Being quite close to the epicenter, I'd say ten seconds, tops. Then a person comes on claiming the earthquake lasted "about five minutes." Who is ey kidding? They look nearly as ridiculous as the newscasters trying to stir up a story with nothing legitimate to report.

When the real big one strikes, I hope I figure out what's going on before I'm dead.


Hyphenomenal: The Claremont Grammarians Comma Back!

For the past two years, my friends and I have participated in the local 4th of July parade as the Claremont Grammarians, a fictitious organization that advocates correct grammar usage. Truthfully, it's more about being a public spectacle than a legitimate form of education, but we're not opposed to teaching folks along the way. Although our efforts in 2006 and 2007 were remarkable, I'd argue that this year we were funnier and (accidentally -- you'll see why) more offensive than ever!

Leading up to this parade, our members considered changing the grammar theme to something new. The concern was that we had gone as far as we could go with grammar. Amazingly, however, I have such creative, witty friends that the humor quotient has increased exponentially each year. I was legitimately in awe of the puns developed during our brainstorming session.

Jacob spoofed the embarrassing, commonly-quoted America won't back down war stance "These colors don't run" by adding a grammar twist: "These colors don't run-on sentences." He also brilliantly coined "Emoticon use is punctuation abuse!" : ) I'm fully behind this one: colons and parentheses have more important uses than making smiley faces.

Terri contributed a couple of new amazing ones. I have difficulty choosing a favorite between eir politicized "Activists against the passive voice" and eir swipe at text-message shorthand, "'LOL' is not a laughing matter."

Cecilia invented "HOMONYMS OUR/ARE NOT/KNOT DOPPELGANGERS." Then we collaborated on find a pun for hypertext, ultimately settling on, "LAY OFF THE CAFFEINE, HYPERTEXT." Jacob worked on some illustrations to correspond with this sign, including a coffee pot with arms, legs, and a face. We worried that its likeness to the Kool-Aid Man might, although unintentionally, somehow be construed as offensive racial humor, so it promptly received a good old Grammarian edit.
Kat worked tirelessly on a sign commending our celebrity endorsers.
In addition to creating signs, Allison and Jessica led us in Red, White Trash, and Blue rituals, including downing beers in red, white, and blue cans to tie to the back of the truck.

Additionally, we brought out old favorites like "Fragments Fragment Families," "Don't Use Contractions," "Comparisons Are as Bad as Terrorists," and "Double Negatives Are for Pessimists." On Independence Day, it's important to honor the forefathers.

While we were setting up our truck, an aggressive activist approached us to discuss our group's mission. Having seen our signs and heard our chants, he seemed excited that we were championing a cause. Once he realized we were promoting grammar, however, he became immediately dismissive. "I thought you actually stood for something," he said. Cecilia was adamant in defending our position, but our new nemesis treated us with contempt for not doing anything that really mattered as he saw it. At least we were promoting something! Was he going to hassle the cheerleaders for not taking a stance against the war, too?

If you ask me, this guy had us all wrong. As one of our chants says, "Punctuation is Patriotic." We also had some politicized signs.

Spreading the word of grammar is not easy. In addition to confrontational locals, we had to fight the elements, like the heat. Before the parade started, Celeste fainted. Don't worry, she didn't slip into a comma. In fact, she was a trooper and pushed on. (Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.)

Yet again, the crowd had mixed reactions. Most people looked at us like we were crazy, which certainly isn't entirely wrong. Some laughed with us, others laughed at us. Others still commended us on our promotion of proper grammar. One drunken group of older people was particularly baffled by/smitten with us and provided some new ideas like "God Bless Grammerica," which actually became our theme song. We sang it in between our chants, including one of my favorites that Cecilia created: "You are able! Use 'may' instead of 'can.'"

The float in front of was one of a dozen church organizations, but it must have been divine intervention that put this particular church so close to the Grammarians. Their banner read, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma. God is still speaking." Naturally, the Grammarians support a pious punctuation proclamation!

We had some other notable interactions with other parade units. As usual, there was mutual adoration between the Grammarians and the senior homes. We heckled the "Claremont Irregulars" (I couldn't tell you who they were or what they do) for stealing our period joke and sent even more ire to the ambitious Red, White & Blue float for neglecting to use an Oxford comma.

When we rode past the judges table, the announcer butchered our prepared statement. It was something along the lines of "The Claremont Grammarians are comma-ing back at you with their message of good grammar and proper punctuation. This year, the Grammarians are more hyphen-omenal than ever and would like to win an apos-trophy." Each pun was slaughtered and indecipherable to the crowd. I had made it a point to explain in footnotes how those puns should be pronounced, but clearly that work was in vain. Evidently, the Claremont Grammarians need to reconsider their mission; how can we nitpick about grammar when basic literacy is still an issue?

According to Cecilia's friend sitting in the crowd, the judges made disparaging sighs as we approached, sounds which the microphones picked up and revealed their bias toward us. It makes sense, I suppose. Claremont is a traditional town with fairly traditional values. The parade is comprised mainly of retirement communities, soccer teams, school bands, and town council members. In other words, it's dry. The Claremont Grammarians are one of a handful of groups that add some spunk and flare, and I know that a good portion of the crowd enjoys our presence, even if some snootier people are annoyed by us. I'd argue that it's almost more worthwhile to participate because of the haters. The Grammarians can certainly out-stickler the stodgy town officials.

Midway through the route, we encountered an eager grammar fan in the crowd. "Do you remember me?!" she shouted. I recognized her immediately -- it was Comma Momma! Last year, she was the one cheerleader that marched behind us that treated us with respect and adoration, confessing she had once dressed as "Comma Momma" for Halloween. Comma Momma has become a bit of a myth amongst our friend circle, this tiny grammar miracle in a sea of superficial cheerleaders. Seeing her again was a most pleasant surprise, so we encouraged her to hop on our float, to which she complied. Immediately, Comma Momma fit in; unanimously, we loved her.

Overall, it was a great time. We interacted with the crowd well, regardless of whether they were receptive to us. I must say, the parade-goers did seem a bit less knowledgeable than past crowds, though. When we asked them what their favorite part of speech was, someone responded, "Semi-colon." Yeah, that's not a part of speech. When we asked them what their favorite adverb was, they didn't respond, even after we hinted that they often end in the letters "LY." Someone did heckle us well, shouting that our "participle was dangling." Why didn't we think of that?

The best grammar joke of all, however, was unintentional and not discovered until after we returned home. I had made a slightly inappropriate period-themed sign, "Periods are more than monthly" and stuck it on the truck. During the parade, it's typical for punk kids to shoot us with their oversized water guns; it's safe to assume grammar is not their favorite subject. Evidently, the water caused the ink on the sign to run violently, turning this somewhat inappropriate joke into a largely inappropriate joke.

Check out that bloody period! We were retroactively embarrassed after not recognizing this offensive atrocity until after we had paraded it around the town. As Grammarians, we're not afraid to mark up a page with red ink, but we do it with the intention of correcting, not disturbing. It appears as though we might have finally given the town a reason not to allow us back next year. Fear not, for as long citizens misuse "to" "too" and "two," the Grammarians will persist, with or without the recognition of an apos-trophy.

See more pictures from the parade here!


Crack Whores Are Friends

After more than a month's absence, a few of us took a trip to our favorite lesbian karaoke bar. Lindsay arrived at the bar as Terri and I were leaving the house, so she opted to sit in the car and wait. Normally, I'd probably make a similar move, not wishing to sit in a strange bar by myself, but in this case, given the bar's seedy location, I might make an exception and feel safer just going inside.

Indeed, when Terri and I pulled up, we parked on the street next to a run down building with three garish (is that a polite way to indicate whorish?) women sitting on a stoop. Without a word, Terri and I exchanged a glance that indicated, "Do we feel safe enough to get out of the car."

"Are they?..." Terri half-asked.

"Friends," I said pointedly, trying to keep a positive attitude. Once we were a safe distance away, I branded them prostitutes, while Terri supposed they were crack addicts. We comprised, accurately I feel, with the label of crack whores. An unkempt man on a bicycle with a beer bottle in one hand rode by us and approached/propositioned the women. We scampered faster toward Lindsay. I apologized profusely for making her wait in such a sketchy locale, but she promised she was okay.

I thought I was headed for trouble when the lecherously-proposition-me-in-the-bathroom-then-serenade-me-with-Sarah-McLachlan-and-still-don't-take-a-hint man entered the bar. Was I going to have to snub him again? Fortunately, we mutually snubbed one another, neither one of us acknowledging the other's presence.

Oh, but this time a different man hit on me at the bathroom. I was waiting in line behind him, but he allowed me to go first. When I exited, he told me I was nice, which I thought was strange since he was clearly the nice one in permitting me to use the restroom first. He also told me I was cute, which was exactly what I didn't want to hear, so I hastily thanked him and fled back to my friends.

You may be asking, as people in real life have, if this is a lesbian bar, why are you having encounters with older men? (Remember the racist lunatic?) As Terri describes the bar's proportions, "The lesbians are the cake, and the men are the frosting."

Lindsay divulged that last time we visited, one patron recommended to Peter that our friends not come there anymore because the bar is in such a sketchy area. This person only came because her girlfriend is the karaoke jockey and gets paid to come, so she insists on protecting her love. She claims that people get mugged just outside the bar. I wouldn't doubt it, but aside from the hookers, the worst I've seen is the gifting of a Drew Carey doll, and apparently arson.

So the new guy I met at the bathroom apparently gawked me the whole night; I refused to so much as glance in his direction to verify this fact, afraid of repeat shenanigans. Instead, I had a more pleasant encounter with a girl who told me she loved me (really?) and placed one hand on my butt, and one on my leg. She started asking me personal questions, like my dating status. Just when I thought she might be legitimately hitting on me, she pressed whether I was dating Lindsay, then proceeded to gush about her crush on Lindsay. So she was just using me to get to Lindsay. Heck, I got felt up in the process, so I'll take it. I promised to tell Lindsay that this woman thought she was pretty. I'm sad to report that Lindsay didn't even try to hit that.

Though it may not be the safest place we frequent, it's still a fun time. And isn't that all that matters? Sort of? They have cheap drinks, cut us some slack. Also, as we left, Terri and I caught a view of the best thing I have seen in a long time. An honest-to-gosh hooker being arrested by the police. That's so real!

Songs Lindsay sang:
ACDC = Born to Be Wild
Michael Jackson - PYT

Songs I sang:
Blues Traveler - Runaround
Criminal - Fiona Apple


Ten New Links

I've updated several links in the past month; rather than hope you discover them on your own, I'm going to be pushy and call your attention to them here, as well. And so I present, in random order, ten new links for your viewing pleasure.

* When I cohabited with Jef my freshman year of college, I knew I was a fan of his art when he posted a series of self-drawn comics about child molesters in the hall. These days, he posts his comics at Jef Harmatz Is Gay.

* Kirsten got a prestigious fellowship award to Korea and is giving witty, insightful accounts of the experience at Korea Kirsten.

* If you're a fan of Found Magazine, passive aggression, or like me, both, you need to check out Passive Aggressive Notes.

* Amy is as adventuresome as they come and you can see eir take a crossword puzzle to task at Adventures!

* If you're Caucasian, or just wish you were, you need to keep up with the latest trends at Stuff White People Like. Begrudgingly, I must admit that they call me out on stuff that I like, including writers workshops, Arrested Development, indie music, and unpaid internships. It's the finest satire of its sort since Black People Love Us, which is still amazing and, ohmguh, needs to be added to the links list, too.

* When I first started this blog, Jenna was my very first guest-blogger, if you can call it that. Jenna is still working with primates, eir studies currently taking eir to Puerto Rico where ey spends eir time collecting and examining monkey poop. I shit you not -- that's so real! Also, all of the monkeys have herpes, so if they should bite, scratch, or have sex with eir, Jenna could get meningitis and die. If that's not exciting enough for you, then don't even bother visiting Monkey Island Adventures.

* Plastic Is Forever is legitimately inspirational. It's by a pair of twenty-somethings who have pledged to not use more than one new piece of plastic per day to cut down on plastic consumption; the writers share their trials and tribulations with this surprisingly difficult lifestyle since plastic is everywhere. While I can't claim to be nearly as good as they are, I have made an effort to follow their model and cut back.

* Since beginning eir new job at Hulu, Jocelyn has ditched her personal blog to instead provide a Hulu Home Companion. If you're not familiar with Hulu, it's the best new way to watch television and movies on the internet, as it adds an innovative new twist: It's legal! Mind-boggling, eh? At the new blog, Jocelyn wades through the many episodes and clips available on Hulu, and mimes eir feelings about them. No, really.

* For my fellow grammarians, check out The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. If you think it might grow boring seeing pictures of misused quotation marks, you are wrong. That, or you're not a true English nerd.

* Crummy Church Signs provides an endless supply of puzzling and laughable signs posted outside of places of worship.

If you have another link you would like to have whored out, give me a shout. I can be pretty nice and, failing that, do love to whore things out.


"At First When I See You Cry, Yeah, It Makes Me Smile"

Jason: (reading Blender magazine) Who is Lily Allen?
Me: She's famous in Britain.
Jason: What is she famous for?
Me: Miscarrying.

Yeah, yeah, I'll see you in hell.


Cookie Wisdom

Today's fortune cookie:
"Enjoy what you have, hope for what you lack."

Sure enough, your standard sage advice. I flip it over to check out my lucky numbers, but am instead greeted with something that reads "LEARN CHINESE" and a phrase that I can add to my ever-growing Chinese vocabulary. It'd be nice to learn something standard, like "Hello" or "Nice to see you" or "Where is the restroom?" But no, my wise cookie offers me this:
"I'm still single."


Combined with the fortune on the reverse side, I'm convinced my cookie is more than hinting at something. Maybe a mail-order bride is in my future.


You've Never Looked Wetter

On Thursday, Lindsay and I trekked to Six Flags. We lined up for our first ride, and although it was all of a five minute wait, I already had more than I could handle of this too-cool-for-school dad listening to an I-Pod standing next to us. He spotted a kid wearing a Metallica shirt nearby and chatted him up. "Have you ever seen them in concert? Oh, you've GOT to do it, man!" I really wish there was more than two feet of space between him and me, as I did not wish to catch his obnoxiousness. Being a braggart to a twelve-year-old is so becoming. Even more becoming is that he held up the ride to get in a fight with the attendant who told him that, for his safety, he must remove his earphones. Safety-shmafety! Metallica doesn't follow the rules, man!

He was only the start. Forget the rides, people-watching is the real source of amusement at the park. In particular, people's t-shirts fascinated me. A fine pot-bellied gentleman wore a stained t-shirt advertising "Friend with Benefits." I literally had to restrain Lindsay to prevent her from asking for his number. Even better was a woman wearing an "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" t-shirt. If I were to generalize, I'd say she was of the appropriate demographic to have her trailer ravaged by a tornado, so I liked to imagine she was sent on a Six Flags vacation while her home was being renovated for television. Then again, it might be equally funny to imagine she loves the show so much that she went out and bought a shirt to commemorate it. I was so busy admiring her attire that I completely ignored her husband (though it could have been her brother, I'd hate to assume) who was wearing a superior shirt, which read: "Let Freedom Ride!" complete with an illustration of the Statue of Liberty riding a motorcycle. Given that the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration, I would read the shirt as a message of pro-immigration, even though I'm almost positive that wasn't what he was trying to convey. I can't even begin to count the number of vaguely offensive yet patriotic shirts we witnessed that day, but one more does stand out. A man, a line-cutter no less, jumped in front of us. The back of his shirt had a cartoon of a ferocious dog flexing his biceps (which had a patriotic tattoo on it) and it was hauntingly captioned "FREEDOM ISN'T FREE." So I guess that means that to maintain our freedom, we need to beat others up... and train attack dogs. Freedom isn't free -- that's so real!

By the way, "That's so real" is the new catchphrase I picked up from Lindsay. It's best used to respond to something ridiculous or unbelievable, or as Lindsay suggests "as often as possible." For example, "That guy refuses to take off his headphones during the ride." "That's so real!" Reality is subjective, you know?

It wasn't all rides and patriotic clothing, however. Early in the day, Lindsay became sick from the rides, which she claims is a first in a storied history of park-going. Though this turn of events put a slight damper on our subsequent activities, Lindsay proved to be a trooper, insisting on "staying the course." (So patriotic. So real.) So we kept doing the rides, which might make me an ass for not insisting on just going home if we weren't feeling well, but as I saw it, if she were to vomit, I'd be close enough to her to get it on me, too, which would be an appropriate punishment.

The problem with Six Flags is that there is no pretense of entertainment. Though Disney has comparable waits for rides, Disney at least attempts to provide diversions during the wait time. Disney offers videos, statues, animatronics, music, and placards to keep visitors preoccupied, while at Six Flags, you're lucky if the buildings even have a decent paint job. There's no magic to the environment, just roller coasters that afford stunning views of the neighboring roller coasters. Occasionally, there are advertisements to break the monotony. My favorite was a Lunchables ad placed after a log flume ride that didn't even make us damp. The advertisement said, "You've never looked wetter!" The statement was neither true nor appropriate. Nevertheless, it was so real.

While her nausea persisted, Lindsay invented a deathbed metaphor to keep her focused. It didn't matter that she was ill, there were certain rides that she had heard so much about in the past that "even if she were on her deathbed," she would go on them. I worried that maybe it wasn't a metaphor but her actual state of mind, but who was I to deny someone her dying wish? I mean, that's so real.

Consequently, we did all the big and scary ones. If I'm being honest, many of these roller coasters don't captivate me like they used to. It used to give me a thrill as it challenged my fear of heights, but when done in succession, I start to lose the anxiety that makes it fun. The last roller coaster we went on was billed as the scariest, but I somehow doubted it. Signs along the way taunted us, "Are you man enough?!" Lindsay assured me that her dick could handle it, though I was more concerned with her stomach. I figured it was all hype, but it was probably the most frightening ride I've ever been on. I had one of my freak outs as we ascended to the top where I thought, "I'd do anything to get off this ride right now," but it's always at a point where it'd be much safer to just stay on the ride and finish it out that attempt to climb to the ground. When panicking, however, my mind plays tricks on me. It was just the ride I needed to get excited again, and it proved that I am, in fact, man enough. I have three testicles now, actually.

At the end of the trip, I was able to return Lindsay home with no harm done. Well, almost. We had gone on this one water ride where we avoided getting wet the entire way until the last dip, where upon we got completely drenched. I had gone on expecting to get wet, but once I was nearly at the end with nothing more than a couple of drops of water having splashed on my shirt, I realized that I was content to stay dry after all, and that's when the water hit us. Then, in fact, I had "never looked wetter." Lindsay commented, "I hope this water isn't chlorinated, it makes my skin break out." She could have spoken up sooner, I felt like I had been torturing the girl all day.

The water? Chlorinated. Hours later, Lindsay had broken out in hives.

That's so real.


Show Some Respect

Jef: Where are you going?
Chuck: To get a Goodbar.
Jef: That's Mr. Goodbar to you!


A Hairy Situation

I've been overdue for a haircut, which is silly because my barbershop is just a short walk away, and is always a pleasant experience. Well, almost always. Tuesday was the first time ever that I've ever had to wait for a trim, which I suppose is bad for business, but good for my remarkably busy schedule. I waited about twenty minutes through a gentleman's cut before a family of three entered and immediately disrupted the peace.

"I need a haircut!" an obnoxious blonde child said running up to the barber, startling her.

The child's somewhat older brother, a real life embodiment of Nat Nerd the Garbage Pail Kid, speaking in a true nerd fashion without even a hint of affect, nasally stated, "He's not getting a haircut, I'm getting a haircut."

Indeed, the older child had a messy head of hair that could use a shear, while the younger child already had a buzzed head. "It's too long!" the kid whined, though if it were any shorter, he'd be sporting a shiny Mr. Clean bald head.

The father walked in several paces behind. He was sporting a Walmart uniform and using a hands-free telephone headset. Also, he had a mullet, which prompted me to reconsider where I was getting a haircut.

As the younger kid cried about how he needed a haircut he clearly didn't need, the father ignored him, instead continuing with his telephone conversation. Shortly, the first gentleman was sufficiently trimmed and took his leave, most likely grateful to escape the loud family.

It was my turn, so I stood up to take the seat, but the youngest kid sprinted to it first. He sat in the chair and demanded to receive a trim. His father had to actually pry him from the chair, while the nerdy brother sat staring into space, repeating the word "no" quietly to himself. The young kid's tantrum was not done: if he wasn't going to get a cut, he wanted one of his family members to go next. "Don't let him go first! He's going to take foreverrrrrrrrrrrr! His hair is long and ugly!"

Thanks, asshole. To my credit, I was attempting to change the very hairstyle he disliked. Since the dad wasn't paying attention, I glared at the kid in a similarly immature fashion to let him know I didn't appreciate his comment. He responded by screaming at me, "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" His father responded by... oh wait, that's right, he did nothing.

At this point, the nerd brother tried to intervene. "Why don't you read this magazine?" he said flatly. His younger brother responded by hitting him. Finally, the dad interrupted his telephone conversation to chastise his kid, though it wound up being the wrong one. "Quit it, I'll handle your brother," the dad told nerd-kid. This command might have been fine had he actually made an attempt to control his bratty kid, but he didn't.

Between the tantrums, I was able to hear what the dad was so busy doing. It was Nerd-son's birthday this weekend, and he was having trouble finding anyone willing to come to his party. Even the grandparents weren't giving a firm commitment. After so much talk about his brother's birthday, the demon spawn whined about how he wanted it to be his birthday, not his brother's. He expressed his anger toward this impossibility by running up and grabbing the barber by the leg, again crying for a haircut. Fortunately, the barber saw the attack just in time to pull the scissors away from my head and prevent a medical or stylistic catastrophe.

Attempting to problem solve, the barber offered to put on the television, which the aggressive kid accepted. There was a momentary setback in the form of a freak out when the kid wasn't entertained by the current program, but when he was permitted to change it to a channel of his choosing, he was entranced for a solid five minutes.

Just when I was finally enjoying the peace, the kid had gotten bored with the television and cocked an imaginary gun and fired multiple shots at me, while screaming, "DIE!" Needless to say, this form of playing made me feel uncomfortable. I closed my eyes, pretending it wasn't happening. At last, I heard the father speak up. "That's rude," he said. Not to mention psychotic! Does this kid want his head shaved because he's a six-year-old homicidal skinhead?

Once my haircut was complete, I paid and hoped to never look back. "Much better," the father said to me after checking out my haircut. Although I think he was genuinely trying to be nice after his kid made fun of my hair earlier and then, by his own admission, "rudely" pantomimed killing me, I still gave him a fairly dismissive "thanks." I didn't want this unsolicited compliment, particularly not from a be-mulleted candidate for parent of the year.



I'm dragging another student essay out of the vault. This one is by a student addressing a prompt which asks for a persuasive letter aiming to convince the principal who to select as a guest speaker for a school assembly. (This is the same prompt which inspired a student who infamously suggested Helen Keller because "Helen Keller shows us even if your blind, def. and retarded, you still can succed.") Though it doesn't remotely follow persuasive form, it is ludicrous enough to be hilarious. Rather than supporting eir idea with suggestions, the student attempts to preemptively problem solve. I'm also a fan of conclusion paragraphs that dismantle the preceding arguments. As always, all grammatical errors are the student's own, as I am too perfect for typos.

Dear [Principal],

I heard the about the problem with trying to find a speaker to read a speech for the student body of [high school]. Lucky for you I have great idea on who this person should be. its a great idea except for the fact that this person is dead. To me it only makes sense if you actually have [deceased former first lady for whom the school is named after] speak infront of the school.

The idea is great but now we have a new problem. We will have to go back in time to get her. We also have a lot more problems like if she doesn't want to do it or if we mess something up in the past that will effect the future. The biggest problem, however, is how we are going back in time. I think, wrather than just spend billions of dollars and be in debt for years, we hire scientist, extend the contract for the construction workers outside, and buy the parts seperatly. I'm sure the money we spend won't be nearly as much as just buying the time machine alone.

The very last problem will probably not be as hard as the ones before but will still be hard nonetheless: who will sacrifice themself to test the machine. I say we have a dare devil do it so they won't ask for as much as a regular person.

If my plan does not suit your needs, you can always go with Kobe Bryant. he is the best athlete from from southern California. Good luck with that!

[student name - one of the twins]


One Final Bond

After that last fight in my classroom, I swore that I wouldn’t get sentimental about leaving the teaching profession. It didn’t work out quite as well as I planned. As I mentioned before, for everyone twenty kids, there’s one that’s really cool, admirable, and relatable, the kind that, were the ratio even slightly better, make the job worthwhile. Once I became open with my students about the fact that I was leaving, I had a lot more students visit me during the final weeks. Once time was of the essence, students, former and current, finally sought out a bond with me. It meant a lot to me, and the relationships I built, even if at the last minute, were the type I had hoped I would form back before I entered the profession.

On that busy last day of teaching/my birthday, my student “Farley” (which isn’t his real name – it’s actually equally as unique, but even cooler) dropped by quickly after school to check on his final grade. Farley and I were never especially tight, but I wish he were, because he was a teenager I admired. He has a big moppy head of hair, the kind I wish I dared to try in high school. He’s scrawny and white, a rarity at my school. He fences for fun and his friends are slightly dorky without being nerdy. He shares my sense of humor, at least I think, since whenever I make my best humorous lines in class, while everyone else gives a puzzled look, I can discern a half smile on his face because he gets it. Also, he has an abnormally large nose, the kind that might warrant its own capitol, though I’d argue it adds character.

Farley wanted an A. He’s an A caliber student, but could get a bit lazy with completing assignments, a fact to which I could relate. I could offer him a B+ with just a little bit of effort on his part, but he didn’t see the value in a B+. Because of the weighting system with GPA points, receiving a B+ is no different than a B. Still, I wanted to help Farley, so I offered him a deal. If he wanted to do enough work to get to an A-, he could sit with me as long as it takes since I was going to be there for hours to come anyway. Farley agreed, and I was pleased. There aren’t many students who care about their grade at all, let alone enough to choose to give up their first hours of summer break to complete missing schoolwork.

For two hours, he completed assignments. Farley could have finished in at least half the time had we not been chatting throughout. It was nice conversation no less, about hobbies and aspirations, and not once did he course me out! Since he has a good head for literature, I encouraged him to major in English in college – is it selfish of me to hope at least one good kid is inspired to follow in my footsteps? (Not all the way to teaching, though, that’s too far.) Alas, Farley admit that he really likes math more than anything, so he thinks he’ll be an engineer. Oh, like the world needs another engineer, a discipline with practical applications and occupations. I pity him, I tell you what. I wanted to tell Farley, “You think you like math, just wait until you reach calculus,” but I’d rather upkeep my image of a supportive mentor. I made him to promise to take at least a couple of literature classes in a setting where he could have intellectual discourse and not a series of obvious or off-topic comments.

We also ripped on some of his peers in a way that really wouldn’t have been appropriate had I still been a teacher at that point. All right, so it wasn’t exactly appropriate then, either, but it would be far too late to fire me. It’s nice to have someone corroborate my opinions from a perspective on the other end of the classroom.

Every twenty minutes or so, Farley’s friends would call to check on him. He had plans to meet with them after school, and as he was increasingly tardy, they harassed and teased him more. A nice teacher might have said, “I admire your commitment, don’t worry aobut the work I’ll barely glance at anyway. I’ll give you an A, go be with your friends.” Instead, a selfish teacher like myself, realizing I had a lot of time to kill anyway, enjoyed his company so much that I offered him no additional favors to get him out of there sooner. Farley clearly didn’t mind either, because even when he was done, he straggled a bit. He watched me enter some grades, and we discussed the bizarre array of comments available to teachers to put on the report cards. Allowing him to select his own comments from me, Farley was particularly drawn to “Does not dress out for P.E.” and “Does not follow lab safety rules.” See, I told you he has a similar sense of humor.

Before Farley left, he asked if he could have my email address, “in case he had any questions or something.” It was his awkward way of indirectly indicating he wanted to keep in touch; I couldn’t have done it better myself. Naturally, I obliged and encouraged him to do just that. He hasn’t emailed yet (not that I’m constantly hitting the refresh button on my inbox or anything), but that’s understandable, as I can’t imagine what I’d say from his position. Hell, I can’t imagine what I’d say in my position. “Stay in school. Follow your dreams. Earn you’re A- before summer break next time. Adhere to the lab safety rules.” If I was feeling brazen, I might admit that Farley were my peer and not my student, I’d hope to be his friend.

I believe that more positive interactions like this one might have coaxed me into staying. Maybe I don’t want to teach, maybe I’d rather mentor kids like Farley, even if he doesn’t dress out for P.E. As one last joke, I ended up including that comment on his report card, actually. I’d bet that I’m the only English teacher to have used that comment; similarly, Farley might be the only student to get it.


Four-Leaf Clovers

In Vermont, I found two four-leaf clovers. That’s eight leaves, or twice the luck, or so the lore goes. It’s obviously just a superstition, since four-leaf clovers are hardly lucky. In fact, they’re more likely to die than their three-leaf counterparts. When a human comes along, it has no interest in the three-leaf variety, but gleefully plucks the four-er out of the ground. Spin it how you want, but that’s an act of murder, perhaps even a hate crime seeing as it was committed because the victim was different than most. This reason is actually one of my reservations toward vegetarianism: just because broccoli doesn’t scream when you pick it doesn’t mean it’s not dying.

Technically, on clovers, the fourth leaf is a mutation. Since when is that looked upon favorably by society? If I had a third ear, I’d probably hear better, but would it be worth it just to make out the otherwise inaudible whispers of “freak.” When my cousin was born with two thumbs on each hand (true story), the doctors didn’t waste too much time surgically removing the extra digits. Looking back, this decision is actually peculiar considering that the only things that set us apart from many species are opposable thumbs. Maybe evolution was starting to afford humans with a second set to maintain their dominance before the orangutans revolt. Amputating my cousin might have removed eir superpowers for all we know.

Next time I see a four-leaf clover, I’m not going to pick it. Perhaps if I show it mercy, it’ll bestow legitimate luck on me for sparing its life. Plus, maybe the combined extra oxygen creating power of the fourth leaves worldwide are enough to offset a Hummer’s emissions for the day. Moreover, it’s possible that the fourth leaf is a sign of evolution; rather than annihilating them, if we let them flourish, they might go on to have five leaves, six leaves, seven leaves, with that seventh leaf being an herbal cure for cancer. Or, you know, you could be selfish and enable cancer.

In my opinion, four-leaf clovers are the best green mutants since Ninja Turtles.

Download/stream: Abra Moore - Four Leaf Clover


I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Sporadically for a year now, I've been working on a post about reality television contestants who "aren't here to make friends." It's a cliche that intrigues me because it's clearly a defense mechanism of vile individuals, as if to say that they could be friendly if that were their objective. Evidently, for some, the effort it requires to present oneself as pleasant distracts from winning a competition.

Thus far, I've compiled an incomplete list of contestants who hide behind the popular assertion. Ideally, the post culminates in me expressing my desire to see an ostracized contestant who distraughtly wails that she was, in fact, "here to make friends." Though atypical, it would be the most honest reaction of all. I mean, most of these media whores seek validation, be it through fame, money, and contrived romantic love, so it only makes sense that they'd secretly crave friendships with their brain-dead peers, too.

Occasionally I'll ponder it briefly, then edit it slightly before leaving it sitting in my "in progress" file (oh, the half-written blog posts you'll probably never see!) until I eventually repeat the process.

Well, that post will never see the light of day now that I found that I've already been one-upped. Four-upped, even. My blog idol Rich at Four Four (which many of you have discovered previously in my links section to the right) recently put together a video that highlights just how frequently the sentence is used.

I first stumbled upon Four Four because of it's truly phenomenal America's Next Top Model recaps/skewering. Rich, the writer, is multi-talented, however, and manages to address films, celebrity culture, and other trivial topics just as well as issues of race, sexuality, and politics. He seamlessly moves from intellectual to irreverent, and his audience adores him for it. I do tend to skip the tomes on hip hop albums and the videos of his cat, but otherwise I find Four Four a must-read.

Anyhoo, back to the video. Even if you aren't a fan of the genre, I bet you might find the variations on this theme intriguing.

I haven't watched even half of these programs to verify this fact, but a commenter on Rich's site claims that none of the contestants who uttered this catch phrase went on to win, making their attitudes all the more hilarious and pointless.

I might not be on a reality program, but I'm still committed to adopting the sentence into my lexicon. The next time I'm introduced to someone in a social setting, I'll be sure to be upfront with em. "I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win."


I'll Fly Home... Eventually

Getting home from Vermont proved to be far more difficult than one would imagine, a more than fifteen hour experience altogether. Arriving at the airport, I first discovered my flight was delayed by an hour, which wasn't a big deal, because it should still give me time to make my connection. What's the difference between waiting in the Vermont airport rather than the one in New Jersey?

Once the delay was complete, we boarded the plane; my seat was in the second row. The flight attendant asked the person behind me, "Sir, would you mind sitting in the emergency exit row? Sir? Sir, are you listening to me?" At that point, I realized that the attendant was cross-eyed and actually speaking to me. I might have picked up on this sooner if she weren't referring to me as "sir"; I'm still not quite used to being addressed in such a manner. Though I wouldn't normally be, I was a bit apprehensive to hold this position considering our plane had been delayed because of weather conditions so I suspect that there was an increased chance of needing to fulfill my duties.

Alas, all of this proved inconsequential when, after sitting for half an hour, we were asked to deplane. Since I was in the front row, I made sure to pop up immediately, rush to the desk, and worry about booking another connection since I wasn't going to be able to make my scheduled one. Immediately, fifty other passengers lined up behind me, so I was glad to get there first. The employee said ey could get me to San Francisco, but that's so far away that they might as well be putting me in Texas. Finally, ey found a direct flight from New Jersey to Los Angeles, not my intended final destination, but close enough that I could figure out the rest later. Also, I was going to have to fly first class since that was the only seat available. I know I complained about my previous experience, but it seems significantly less pretentious when it's an accidental, forced first class voyage.

The employee told me I was "all but confirmed" on this new flight, which gave me enough concern to leave the terminal and go back to the front desk to make sure I was actually booked. During my hour wait in line, I met nice, though equally frustrated passengers who went as far to offer me a place to stay in Vermont for the night if I couldn't obtain a flight. When I finally spoke to another employee, ey said I actually wasn't booked on the other flight, because ey couldn't "synch" the fact that I was changing from three flights to two, especially since I was ultimately landing in a different location. After a few phone calls "to headquarters" I was booked.

Back at my gate, the first line I was in still wasn't even halfway helped. Everyone was restless, particularly when our next departure time was delayed again. The anger faded into camaraderie, however. Because everyone was in the same predicament, the passengers dropped the role of strangers, bonding instead. I was fortunate to be in Vermont as opposed to most airport locales, since the people there were friendlier than I would be likely to find in other areas. At one point, simultaneously, I became so impatient and unconcerned with social norms, I just started dancing to the music playing on my headphones. This action helped break down a barrier and inspired people to come talk to me. I met a woman with a newborn baby named Zane, whom the mother let me hold. Next, I met a backpacker trying to get to Germany who had a guitar. He played "Wonderwall" by Oasis, and another stranger and myself sang along with him, because it's nicer to be cheesy and communal than bitter, even though this concept seems to go against my every instinct.

I successfully stopped stressing until the flight was delayed for a third time and I realized I probably wouldn't be making my newly scheduled connection flight either. I got back in line, which still hadn't dissipated from when it first started. A person I met earlier in line had found an alternate way to get to Los Angeles that night, but it required getting on a flight for Detroit leaving in ten minutes. "Put me on that, too," I shouted. The few people in front of me in line allowed me to cut in the hopes of getting me on the flight. A person from the other flight came over, wondering why someone was getting booked on a flight about to depart. The employee agreed to take my cohort, but when I tried to do a similar thing with the another agent, ey said that there was absolutely no way I had time to get on the flight. I nearly cried, then begged, but the employee repeated, "No, sir." Again with the sir. So the helpful agent tried to find yet another way to get me to Southern California. In the meantime, they were boarding us on the original flight even though it hadn't been cleared to take off, in the hopes that we might be able to leave, because, they admit, it was essentially now or never. I was having an Amazing Race stressful decision moment to either get on the flight now and take a chance to make a remarkably tight connection which was probably impossible or forfeit it to another passenger hoping to somehow find another solution. "Make a decision now," the attendant demanded, so I got on the flight, expecting the worst.

This time, I sat as closely to the front as possible, next to the elderly woman who I traded seats with earlier. She was reading a book by Obama and, when I explained my situation, she said a prayer for me, which I strangely appreciated. We sat for a while, which I didn't take as a good sign. Unexpectedly, however, suddenly we were cleared for take off; after so many tribulations, taking flight actually seemed surreal. Still, I was so antsy knowing that seconds could count in terms of making my connection that I couldn't read, sleep,

Upon landing,tThe friends I made earlier permitted me to move to the front of the aisle so that I could be the first one off. I thanked them repeatedly and they all encouraged me to run hard and catch the flight, which was just the encouragement I needed.

Off the plane, I sprinted, stopping occasionally to catch my breath. I had to go from gate 53 to 131, which was probably, no joke just short of a mile apart. Part way through my run, my bag, which must have been not zipped shut all the way, spilled its contents onto the ground. A few strangers helped me retrieve my belongings, so I responded graciously before continuing my sprint.

I arrived at the gate as they were preparing to close it. If I was three minutes later, I wouldn't have made it at all. Minutes make a difference, even a brisk walk wouldn't have sufficed. Granted, once the plane pulled away, we proceeded to sit on the runway for more than half an hour, but it still would have been too late. I really wanted to somehow relay to my new friends that I did, in fact, make the flight, that's how convinced I was that they truly cared about my situation. If only I could have let them know.

I felt bad for the person next to me in first class. After running so much, I sweat so profusely that I could smell myself. When you pay that much for a seat, you probably don't expect to have to plug your nose. My odor became easy to ignore once I was served an excessive five course meal. I don't eat such good meals on the ground, so it was an unexpected treat on an airplane. Because I was the last to order, my only meal option was veal, a food I've never had before. I agree it seems fairly inhumane, but, you know, "when in Rome." Everyone describes veal as tender, and I can offer no better of a description.

Arriving in Los Angeles so late at night, I was unable to return home that night, but it did afford me the opportunity to have a slumber party with Kat, which can only be considered a perk.

After having made such a tight connection, I was not expecting to see my luggage once I landed. Being mentally prepared made it less upsetting when the carousel never produced my bag. Then again, I assumed I would have my belongings back in my possession within a day or two. It's alarming for the airline to repeatedly call you and question, "Hey, you haven't by any chance picked up your baggage on your own, have you?" as if I took it upon myself to travel around the country to locate it. They never once copped to it being lost, however, only "delayed," a euphemism which made me feel so much better, I assure you. After they called to ask if I might have tagged my bag with the name "Fujimoto" rather than my own name, I realized it was time to compile an itemized list of the bag's contents in case I never saw them again. Finally, tonight, a full four days later, I just received my luggage, with everything intact.

Altogether, my bad day at the airport was actually a fairly positive experience, or failing that, not too negative. I wasn't flying high, but at least I was able to fly period.


I Got It to Practice

In the history of oral communication, never has an individual repeatedly put his foot in his mouth to such an extent; with each attempt to clarify and downplay, Jacob only made it worse.

Jacob: I saw that when I went to the adult entertainment store.
(Snickers and accusatory ooohs from the others)
Jacob: No, no, I was just there to buy a plastic vagina.
(More snickers and accusatory ooohs from the others)
Jacob: You don't understand, I got it to practice!
(Full on laughter and accusatory ooohs from the others)
Jacob: Practice for examinations! I'm a med student!

For the record, Jacob didn't purchase one, as it was too expensive, and evidently, plastic vaginas don't come anatomically correct: he couldn't find one with a clitoris. What, horn-balls don't care about the toy's pleasure?


The Tragic Tale of Smiley Rich

During the first weeks of college, most freshmen socialize freely with everyone they meet, mentally taking notes on who is worthy of longer-term friendship down the road. Throughout this initial period, I was repeatedly introduced to “Rich.” Rich was one of everybody’s favorite people because he was remarkably affable (if not slightly awkward in his conversations) and always had a smile plastered on his face revealing his rabbit teeth. I had my reservations; I tend to be wary of anyone who smiles that much, as it is sometimes a sign that they are disingenuous or mentally disabled. Though Rich remained tight with many in my friend circle, earning the nickname “Smiley Rich,” I was content to keep him at friend-of-a-friend status.

Discovering they shared an affinity for video games, Rich and one of my roommates became fairly inseparable a couple of months into school. This friendship was one neither I nor my roommate’s girlfriend enjoyed, as it meant Rich practically lived in our already overcrowded room, tirelessly playing video games, and attempting to engage me in ridiculous conversations wherein he’d try to provoke a pointless argument for the sake of arguing. Rich even argued with a smile, the stupidity of his opinions matching his dumb smirk.

Soon, Rich and my roommate switched habits, upgrading to a marijuana addiction. (Granted, they still played video games sometimes, too, though a little bit slower.) If they only smoked once, that was considered an unproductive day. I made it clear that I didn’t want them doing it in our room, a request they didn’t follow when I wasn’t present, as evidenced by their half-hearted attempts to mask the scent – that, or they traded addictions again, this time to huffing Lysol.

The marijuana inevitably only made Smiley Rich even more smiley, though about that time he was also losing his popular moniker. While engaging in a daily pot-and-video-game regimen, Rich allowed his personal hygiene to deteriorate, becoming a sweaty mess of drugs and body odor. As a result of his new routines, Rich lost most of our mutual friends except for my roommate, and his nickname was permanently altered from “Smiley Rich” to “Smelly Rich.” No fear, Rich maintained his “I-have-no-idea-what’s-going-on” clueless smile.

Then, Rich started selling drugs, a move I wasn’t too judgmental toward since he had managed to find a way to take his main interest in life and make a profit from it. However, I did have a problem when he would hold transactions in my room. Once, I returned to my room to find the door wide open with Rich sitting alone on the floor measuring mushrooms of the magical variety on a tiny scale. Irritated, I asked why he had to do such a thing in my room and not his, and he replied, with a smile, naturally, “I could get caught. This is the sort of thing one ought not do in their own room.” Or with the door open wide, maybe?

Though it was a difficult objective, I made it a point to avoid Rich as much as possible. One night while walking through an adjacent college’s campus, I had a chance encounter with Rich who was clearly hopped up on something and smelling fresh as a daisy – a daisy watered with sewage. On our walk back to our dorm, Rich decided it would be a good idea to steal patio furniture off the porch of this other college’s dormitory. I encouraged Rich to leave it where he found it, but when he didn’t listen, I made it a point to walk significantly faster so I wouldn’t necessarily be associated with the stumbling thief.

While in between the campuses, Rich finally decided he had enough of lugging the oversized chair and dropped it in his tracks. Though I was glad he was no longer electing to steal it, I was concerned because he had left the chair smack in the middle of the road, meaning that, with the poor nighttime visibility, the next car to drive through with undoubtedly crash into it. I instructed Rich to put it back or at least take it out of the road, but Rich let out a loud, obnoxious, “No!” So, being the responsible one, I proceeded to pick it up out of the road and move it to a less dangerous location.

Just then, headlights blinded me and I heard an intimidating voice shout “Hey!” I looked forward, but couldn’t see into the car halted beside me. “You fucking need to put that back where you found it, or we’re going to get out of this car and kick your ass!” I froze in a panic. I was just trying to be helpful, but now I’m going to get beat up for Rich’s dumbassery. “Go!” the voice from the car shouted. “We’re going to follow you, asshole.”

I screamed to Rich to join me and accept some responsibility. He glanced back at me, and said, “This looks to be your problem.” Then, Rich ran as fast as his stoned body could manage, leaving me to suffer the consequences. I can’t recall whether I had even a shred of respect left for Rich up to this point, but I’m sure that if I did, it was entirely gone now.

Shaking with fear, I returned the chair to its rightful spot, then sprinted between buildings to avoid the (perhaps justified) bullies catching me. Once returning home, I confronted an unapologetic Rich, who suggested that if I’d just smoke some weed, I wouldn’t even worry about the incident.

A couple of weeks later, Rich was kicked out college altogether, an astounding feat since the rules at my college were so lenient, I’m pretty sure you could murder a professor and only be put on probation. I know this expulsion wasn’t related to the patio furniture incident since that was never reported and smalltime in the grand scheme of things, but I knew it was something juicy when my roommate seemed too embarrassed to reveal the details. The resounding opinion from the freshmen class was “good riddance.”

Fortunately, I’m currently removed enough from these experiences that while recounting them, I’m, like Rich, “all smiles.”


The End of Enlightenment

While cleaning out my classroom at the end of the year

Student: Can I have this little flashlight?
Me: Sure. Actually, it’s not a flashlight, it’s a book light that you can clip on the pages so you can read in the dark.
Student: (setting it back down) Never mind then.