Showing posts from 2023

Non Compos Mentis

Proof that I have problems: Whenever I leave my apartment I press on the door three times, after having locked it, so to confirm it secure. I may even be out of the building and half way down the block when I’ll stop and turn and go back to check the door once more. (In my defense, I succumb to this last compulsion infrequently.) I have multiple copies on various media of everything I’ve ever typed into the computer. I take a floppy disk copy of said writings—secured within two Ziploc baggies—wherever I go. * Of the writings that are not recorded into the computer (id est, upon/within various notepads and notebooks), I keep most of them, along with an autographed copy of Mamet’s The Old Religion , in the freezer. (Said freezer is of the non-ice accumulating variety.) The rationale: fire protection. All of my valuables (which carry little value beyond the bounds of mine own heart) are hidden in odd places. I shall not detail such “odd places” upon these pages, dear reader, lest you be

Cock and Bull

The restoration of the giant shack next door was NOT  proceeding according to plan. This much was clear given the view from my window. * The fools they hired botched the job and the shack toppled into my building. Either the shack was stronger than it looked, or my building was a great deal less stable than it seemed. Whichever the case, I had but minutes to gather all of my valuables and escape certain death. I loaded my backpack with rare books. I took an autographed first edition copy of Mamet’s The Old Religion (in which he scribbled ((to me)), “Thank you for your most kind words”), along with a first edition copy of his first novel, The Cabin (which I have yet to read † ); I also packed my Harry Potter books (British editions all, and a bulky lot, to be sure); and somehow I managed to cram in my thick, hardcover volume of Richard Matheson’s The Twilight Zone Scripts . And then, just as the walls of my wee studio efficiency apartment gave way, I fled.  Over the next few weeks, a

It's Ok, Though

For the second time this week a girl—a beautiful girl—looked my way with desire in her eyes. I’m serious . It was desire! I tell you: DESIRE! And I did nothing— nothing! —but smile back. * This inaction, albeit chivalric , left me in a sour mood. Sour . SOUR! I left work a short while later hungry and ticked off. The weather outside: raining—no: sleeting! The fierce , unrelenting wind very nearly murdered an umbrella I’d owned for a decade. (Well, perhaps I owned it for only a half -decade, but still closer to a full decade than an actual half-decade. So, like, seven years? Six and a half? The point is that I’ve never owned an umbrella for this long in my entire life.) Whilst battling the elements, I stepped into a frigid puddle of dirty water— filthy, oily curbside water. It seeped through my left shoe, soaked the sock, and all but froze my foot to death. Amputation seemed a likely possibility. All this, only to find: no new issue of PerformInk . Meaning: I’d walked blocks

S T R E A M # 2 5

Start: Ah. Nerves. Plenty for tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight, barring The Unforeseen, the Gods have allotted another potential Fifteen Minutes of Fame for the FireVaney. The Gods bend over backwards for this clumsy schlep. And he’s going in unprepared. That’s right, folks, he’s Winging It! That’s okay. (It’s also OK, and Ok, and okey-dokey.) Well, it’ll be okay so long as he doesn’t stutter too much. His objective is to add interesting and amusing Input to The Ongoing. Then again, for all he knows, he might not get past security. They seem to play it fast and loose over there. Either way, it should be, at minimum, “interesting.” And then there’s tomorrow night. Looks like he’s going it alone. Like the ole Os Man liked to say in the face of possible catastrophe: “It’s all good.” That’s the notion FireVaney must cling to. The turtle won’t get nowhere until he sticks his neck out. Golly, this ain’t no Stream. This is a Stumble Through. STREAM, DAMNIT! The point is not to eat cheese


My new next door neighbor regularly struggles to unlock the door to her apartment. As a result, she’s struck up a friendship with the building manager’s wife. This new neighbor is apodictically elderly, while the building manager’s wife is nearly, but not quite, elderly. (My apologies. You’d think, by now, I could offer better descriptions. At least I made use of “apodictically.” There’s a ten-dollar word you don’t run your eyes across every day, eh?) After the building manager’s wife managed to unlock the troublesome door, the two babushkas continued their hallway confabulation. That is, they did so in the space between my new neighbor’s door and that of my own. I’d had a late night and their chitchat woke me up. Since they were responsible for disturbing me, I felt it well within my rights to eavesdrop. Let’s call the building manager’s wife, “Olga.” The name seems to fit. * Olga could not believe that my new neighbor (whom we’ll call, “Blanch”) did not own a television set. † “Wh

Fried, Vocally and Otherwise

I’d planned to break up with Cindi tomorrow night. Her appetite for me outstrips my appetite for her. It’s a shame, really. She’s quite accommodating and not at all bad looking. The first time I saw her I wanted to kiss her. But she smokes (granted, she’s trying to quit—just for me) and she looks a little too much like my father’s second wife.  The ugly truth? I’m not looking for my match. I’m looking for a woman I can worship, idolize, set high upon a diamond studded plinth. I want a woman I’ll never feel worthy of, a woman I’ll never quit pining for.  Cindi left a fraught message on my machine this evening, before I came home from work. It wasn’t what she said as much as how she said it. If the creaky front door of a dilapidated old house could speak, it’d sound a lot like Cindi. So, even though it was late, I had to call her back.  She picked up in the middle of her machine’s greeting. She sounded groggy, like she’d cried a lot. But when I asked her about it, she said she hadn’t cri


On the bright side,  unbridled artificial intelligence  might have such a  corrupting effect that the ensuing  chaos   renders the World Wide Web useless. 

The Burner

Pop turns to me—I’ve just walked through the door—he turns to me and says, “Did you lose your phone?” My answer is, “No.” He asks because he found a dirty old cell phone lying on the front stoop. He’s just come back from the library; I’ve just come back from the gym. My mind jumps to the postwoman. (She always lets Pop kiss her on the cheek.) I see her in her mail truck yapping on her cell phone nearly every day. So I go looking for her, but she’s gone. Then I get the bright idea to take the strayed phone to the nearest U.S. Cellular store, since that’s the thing’s brand. The girl behind the counter says she can’t track the phone back to its owner. This seems stupid, but what do I know? I’m not a criminal. So I take the phone back home and scroll through its own phone book. I press a button to dial up the “home” entry, but the phone doesn’t connect. So I dial up the post office (using Pop’s landline) and leave a message; then I drop the phone in Pop’s mailbox. The next day the postwoma

S T R E A M # 2 4

In any case what matters most are the subjects closest to the heart and that of course goes without saying. So what’s left to say? Well, today it’s going to be pleasant—and not simply dude to the weather. (Or, if you prefer, due to it. Albeit admittedly nonsensical, “dude to the weather” is funnier. Don’t you think so? It’s certainly curious. You must concede that much. No? Pshaw!) And how do I know this? I don’t. I’m not a meteorologist. But I can feel it in my gut. Some folks feel it in their bones or, more specifically, in their knees or in their elbows. I feel the weather in my gut. Ah, but what sort of weather are we discussing? Internal or external? I say both are closely related to tomato paste. I do. You see, there is, or there was, recently, a scare connecting salmonella to tomatoes. And what happened next? All this flooding! All these tornadoes! See? It’s all relative. Aside from that, he fully intends to strut up to a chick on the beach or in the park or on the farm and ask

Great Starts - Take Two

Even after I apply every conceivable precaution, there are times when the microwave will nuke the cheese on my “Great Starts” breakfast sandwich beyond all edibility. Such was the case yesterday morning around a quarter to five. This sight, of the mangled and burned and unchewable brown and yellow glob clinging to the edges of the English muffin sent me over the edge—for I am ALWAYS on edge when made to rise at FOUR-THIRTY A.M. to open a bloody coffee shop. So what did I do? Well… I slammed my fist down on the “Great Starts” breakfast sandwich again and again and again, until cheese and egg and Canadian bacon and English muffin bits clung to the kitchenette cabinet doors and the fridge and all four walls and even the ceiling of my “studio” apartment—which is smaller than a one-car garage. (My bathroom-ette was largely unscathed, save for the single small spatter of egg that stuck to the upper left corner of the mirror.) If nothing else, this mess will make the roaches smile. And who ca

Great Starts - Take One

There are times when, even after I apply every conceivable precaution, the microwave will make the cheese on my Great Starts breakfast beyond edibili IT DRIVES ME NUTS  WHEN I LEAVE WORDS,  NECESSARY WORDS,  OUT OF SENTENCE!  20 January 2001

Rather Prosaic

I want to believe that Canadian bacon is authentically Canadian, just like I want to believe that French toast is authentically French. I want to believe this because I want to believe that Canadians and French folks are gastronomically superior to Americans. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, I am chewing on a scrap of “Canadian” bacon. (And, no, I am not being euphemistic.) Specifically, I’m enjoying a Swanson Great Starts English Muffin with Low Fat Egg Patty, Canadian Style Bacon, and Cheese Light Breakfast Sandwich. Quite filling, I must say. The Dominick’s down the street never stocks enough of them. Come to think of it, that store rarely stocks enough of anything I like. Could it be that I prefer too many popular things? Hm. And all this time I’ve assumed my palate was rather eccentric.  9 January 2001

In Three Words...

 All is folly.

Closing Night Shenanigans

The playwright spent the entirety of our final performance with his head in his hands. We all knew that Alfie would instigate shenanigans of some such (and I state that warmly), but no one could say exactly what. Probably, he didn’t know himself. I warned him not to pull anything during the funeral scene—as he had several weeks ago. The show consists of loosely connected vignettes; the first is set in a courtroom. Before the proverbial curtain rises (“proverbial” because there isn’t one), Lisha and I take the two seats reserved for us in the front row of the audience. The place seats maybe seventy patrons, if you really pack them in. I couldn’t tell you why Lisha and I were seated in the audience. I wasn’t there to question directorial choices. I was there to work the rust out of my acting chops. The show actually begins just prior to the courtroom scene, when the rest of the cast enters and crisscrosses the stage as if they’re all single, love-starved (or at least horny) adults on the

S T R E A M # 2 3

Start: He whispers the word, “Calm,” and he takes a slow, deep breath. Next, he whispers the word, “Happy,” and the ends of his lips curl upward into a smile. He’ll do this even if he isn’t legitimately happy, just as he’ll recite the word “Calm,” and draw and exhale a deep, slow breath, even if he’s officially agitated. After that, he’ll whisper the word, “Here,” and he’ll focus on something in the room, or on something wherever he happens to be; he’ll note the shape, the color, the size, perhaps even the feel of whatever it is. The order of these three words—Calm, Happy, and Here—is not important. He shuffles them around. What matters is that he remembers to say the words and complete their related tasks whenever he finds himself dwelling, or whenever the bottom of his belly fills with the feeling of lead. He doesn’t know how many times a day he recites the words, but perhaps he should start keeping track. If he keeps track, he’ll be able to track his progress—assuming progress is be

"Oh, That's Rich!"

So this fellow barista of mine, let’s call him Rich, he comes off as a real clean-cut type, a real stand-out citizen. Rich could’ve been the dude who gave Little Goody Two-Shoes her first pair of pumps. He’s a part-timer at the coffee shop. This baffles * me given that he’s also a full-time chemist/biologist at Redacted Labs, teaches kids how to play chess on Sundays, serves as a “big brother” to at-risk youth, volunteers to feed the homeless, patronizes the opera, easily qualifies as one who is “well-read,” and continues to take physics college courses “ just for fun. ” I learned earlier this evening that Rich has a dark side, too. When he’s not brewing coffee or being an altruist or an overachiever, he’s going to raves, he’s getting smashed, he’s experimenting with very dangerous illicit drugs. He goes through men and women like Denis Leary goes through packs of cigarettes. But to look at him, you would never know it. This Rich guy, he’s the poster boy for the young affluent yuppie

A Touch of Hirsutism

Whilst making out with Cindi last night, I stopped to ask— very gently —if she would do something—not necessarily right there and then —about the few hairs growing above her upper lip. I had no idea what female facial hair removal involved. I figured you could simply and easily shave it off with a disposable razor.  “No,” Rich told me, this morning, at work. “It must be plucked, or removed with special creams, or by electrolysis.”  Cindi was rather upset at my request. “What’s the big deal?” I’d said, in the moment. “It’s only a few hairs.” But amongst all her many smoochers, I’d been the first to make mention of it.  She would not let me kiss her for the rest of last night. Did I make her feel like a hairy beast? Does this mean she enjoys my habitually unshaven face, along with my hairy chest and back? [I never thought to ask.] For the record, I don’t care for it myself. I’m particularly hostile toward the hair that sprouts from my ears and noses. [So sorry, only one nose—at last coun


Cindi looked out the window of her apartment this morn and spotted a bright orange hard-backed chair. It sat across the street in a lot between two unremarkable buildings. Curiously, this chair appeared to be perfectly centered in said lot.       — I wish I had my camera, she told him.       — As neat as I’m certain that experience was, he replied — it was not art. He invited her to look it up. He labeled it: happenstance.       — Art is deliberate, intentional, he declared. — It is, at root, a creative expression.  He reflected on the aforementioned episode, years later, whilst rereading this journal entry. The photo Cindi had desired to snap of the chair, centered in the lot, would indeed count as art. What’s more, he’d admit, if he could (for Cindi’s whereabouts were unknown to him), that he was in no way qualified to judge what counts as art. Is a maple leaf art? Are caterpillars art? Would the wings of a moth or a butterfly not count as art? And what of the tornado tossed tract

S T R E A M # 2 2

START : Ah, this music? It’s from that movie nobody appreciates. I love this movie. And its music. To date, it’s their best effort. The Brothers. You know those Brothers. Surely you do. Evidently, the music in the movie wasn’t an original score but, rather, arranged by Mister Burrwell. All these years – since 1894, I guess – I’ve been convinced that Mr. Burrwell was the composer. Of course, it’s listed right there on the back of the compact discus case – that the music in question was composed by Mister Khachaturrian. (Better check that spelling.) Some name, huh? Ah, but it appears that Mr. Burrwell composed some of the music, after all. This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time I’ll have overlooked a glaring detail. I do this all the time. I hope folks look upon this trait, this foible, this quirk of mine as more endearing than annoying. Whichever the case, nobody mentions it. Well, that isn’t entirely true. My father enjoyed ridiculing me. Exempli gratia: At a Bennnigan’s in Alabaa

Dorks of Suburbia

Thirteen degrees below zero didn’t stop us from joyriding through suburbia last night. We ate pie at Poppin Fresh Pies for dinner. Huddled in our booth, I bitched about the warped logic of rooting for the “home team,” given that most players rarely hail from the “home town” in which they play. Seinfeld likes to call it rooting for laundry. Those who don such laundry (in my worthless opinion), they’re basically athletic mercenaries. Did Spiffy give a shit? Nope. He’s always all about what’s all the rage, but only superficially so. He watches the Super Bowl (exempli gratia) for the commercials. And Flabjack? He won’t take sides. He keeps his beefs and passions, if he has any, to himself. I admire that. So it’s not like I’m preaching to the choir. It’s more like I’m preaching to an empty church.  Spiffy didn’t follow my train of thought. (When he does, he usually seeks to derail it.) Instead, he expressed his desire to send flowers to his ex. Nummy dumped him after three years, exactly th


You people who whistle—I mean while strolling down grocery store aisles, while changing your clothes in gym locker rooms, or just generally whistling around perfect strangers—what the fuck is up with you people? I’d like to know if anyone ever says to you people, “Oh, what a lovely whistle, please continue.” And why are you whistlers always middle age or elderly men? Fifty years ago, did everybody whistle wherever they went every time they left the house? Is this the cultural effect of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs? And why always men? Have you ever heard a women randomly whistle in public? Does some law forbid it? I’m not talking about whistling at beauty. That seems to’ve fallen out of fashion in most civilized communities. But whistling for the simple enjoyment of it, you’ll still hear it every now and again. I’m sorry, but there is too much noise pollution in the world as it is—what with sirens, car horns, stereo speakers, jackhammers, cicadas, cell phone chatter, barking dogs, etc.

In Rabid Transit

That was your coat—your only coat—or rather the only coat I’ve ever seen you wear—or rather a coat just like yours—and that was me assuming that that was you (wearing it)— whooshing by on the Wilson stop platform. Rather, that was me whooshing by—rather, the L-train was. I was simply sitting in it, trying and failing but trying to read a corny book. * My hope was that that was indeed you—and you saw me, too—and you’d cross all the cars linked together to get to me, sitting in the first car. † But you didn’t. In fairness, I didn’t cross into any of the other cars to look for you. When I stepped off my stop, I looked for you, but the train hurled itself away from the platform too quickly for me to distinguish any of the faces contained within. Assuming that that was indeed you, were you on your way to love? That’s what I feared, and still fear now.  26 April 2005  * [I cannot fathom how all of you read fiction at the beach or in a park or in a café or aboard public transit. For t

The Goo

If it takes more than two globs of goo to mold my hair into place, that means it’s past time for a cut. “Normally,” I shouldn’t need more than one glob. And you may ask: Dude, why did you put the word “normally” in quotes? And I may answer: You haven’t seen my hair. You haven’t seen my body. I’m a beer-gut with moobs and toothpick-thin arms and legs. The head is an afterthought. My LIFE is an afterthought. But this isn’t about my body. Or my life. This isn’t about my hair. Scratch that. This IS about my hair. Continuing: I also know it’s time for a cut when the bathroom mirror shows me spiraling wild sideburns. I don’t allow them to creep DOWN my face, those sideburns, but they do grow OUT without much rhyme or reason. Anyway, anyway: The barbers, they never smear the goo on the way I like it smeared on. I always, always, want my hair gooed BACK (pretty please), but they all always, always goo it down flat or straight forward. It’s a conspiracy! Well, maybe not. But conspiracies give l

S T R E A M # 2 1

Dude, just. Knock it off. Would’ja? Just. Please. It’s really stupid. Really, it is. Why continue to beat around the bush? Why not come straight out with it? Yes, yes. I know. Who doesn’t? That’s right: You’re very accomplished, dare I say extremely accomplished, at beating around the bush. Aren’t you? Yes, you are. Admit it. You are. Admit it! You. You. Beater Around The Bush, you. Why is this? What has made you this way? I would remind you to tell your mother that she sat on the bench near the bush when she was pregnant with you. But I daresay she recalls the experience. You claim to remember it as if it happened yesterday. But it didn’t happen yesterday, did it? No. If it happened at all, it happened nearly thirty-six years ago! Me? Pshaw! I remember nothing. I do my best to forget everything. In so doing, I can’t be hurt. I can’t be touched. (Not by the law, anyway.) I can plead ignorance. Because it is, in fact, true: that saying, you know, about: ignorance and bliss. Why, af


Where I live, there’s this plant. It’s inside the house. It looks more like a small tree than your garden-variety house plant. But instead of a tree, I’m calling it a plant. Because it’s potted. And it doesn’t really have branches. So it’s more of a tree-wannabe. It “looks” out the window all day long at all the tall trees out there. And it’s envious. Or is it grateful? Whichever, this much is clear: The flora on the flip side of that window has yard-cred. And we all want cred of some kind, don’t we? ‘Cause if we’re not cred, we’re crud.  But this tree-wannabe’s always been right there, where it is, all of my life. Right there, in that pot, in that room. “The library,” Pop calls it. It’s got two shelves of books, so I guess it qualifies. Said tree-wannabe hasn’t gotten any taller; hasn’t gotten any shorter, either. Nobody ever mentions it. Pop walks into the “library” only when he’s looking for a stamp or a paperclip. He’s a paper reader. Newspapers and magazines. Books are too much of

Use The Hole

Nearly everywhere coffee is served in this country you’ll find what we, at Chicago Coffee Cadre #7, call a “mixing station.” I.e., a stand where a patron finds plasticware, wooden stirring rods, a variety of sweetener packets, and creamer carafes. Additionally, our mixing stations (we have two) each feature a hole, six inches in diameter. Said hole exists as the opening above a hidden receptacle. Said receptacle awaits the rubbish that results from the addition of whatever you put into your coffee.  [If this is, indeed, you, have you ever considered just how many white / brown / pink / green / yellow / powder blue paper packets of sweetener you’ve ripped open and discarded in your lifetime? What if you had to keep all of those packets with you for the rest of your days? How on Earth would you ever get by if all idiotic “single-use” things—like sweetener packets and mixing rods—were outlawed?]  Most patrons of CCC #7 understand and appreciate the function of the hole in our respective


Last night, over the phone, Cindi told me that her Coke was looking at her.    I didn’t ask how an aluminum can might’ve sprouted an eyeball. Instead, like any protective beau, I threatened it. “Quit looking at my girlfriend!” I shouted. “She’s waaaay outta your league! And besides, you don’t exist to… to ogle your consumer! You have one job: Contain!”   The can offered neither appeal nor apology.    So, through clenched teeth, I issued this warning: “Keep it up, buster, and I’ll crush you flat under my shoe!”    In sooth,   I said none of that.   What I actually said was,   “What?”   Cindi told me to “never mind.” But I pressed her and, finally, she disclosed what I thought I heard her say. Was the eyeball, I asked, giving her an inquisitive look? The famed " evil " or " stink " eye, perhaps? Might it be a look of surprise? Or fear? No, she told me. It was merely looking at her, with no particular look.  “Ah. Well. Good !” I said. “Gives me something to jot down

Mussy Love

Somebody left a bowl with a spoon upstairs on the toilet’s tank-top. The guilty party presumably finished their breakfast in the bathroom, and the bowl and the spoon were left there all day, or for several days, or for many. Had the culprit spooned up their Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch or some combination of the aforementioned whilst perched on the toilet, id est, whilst making a deposit? I didn’t ask.  And what of the piles of Sunday newspaper advertisements that bury the ledge just inside of their front door? We’re talking several years of Sunday ads, or so it seems. Don’t the coupons contained therein expire?  And let’s not forget the balloons that hover above the low-hanging streamers from a party they hosted two weeks ago.  Clutter dominates every room.  And by the way, dog hair and dog slobber coat the interior of their car.  Ah, but life is mussy. And the two who call this place home, they are far happier than I. They have jobs, they mingle, they revel. A

S T R E A M # 2 0

When you said, “Canada,” I immediately thought of the river. That garden where you left me. And then I thought of Tom Patterson Island. I thought of the time we stood on the bridge that stretched between Tom Patterson Island and the rest of Stratford, Ontario. We watched the swans and the couples in their paddle boats. We talked about the awful production of Romeo & Juliet we’d just seen. It was the second production of Romeo & Juliet I had seen at the festival inside of ten years, and both were simply dreadful. But they did know how to pull off Chekhov. Their mounting of Uncle Vanya was superb in every way imaginable. The performers truly brought out the play’s dark humor. It was cathartic. Also, their production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona : cathartic, first rate. You cried. I held you. It was wonderful. On that bridge, we kissed. That was where we first kissed. And then you said you were late for work at the Tango Cafe. Do you remember that lavish room upstairs at the M

New Bed, Same City

Ma bought me a futon. It’s twice as wide as the bed I’ve been sleeping on most of my life. So now I need to get rid of that old twin bed. But it’s a spare surface. For stuff. For piles of stuff. Yes, technically, the floor is a surface, too. So, what I mean is, the bed is a good raised surface. For stuff. For piles of stuff. Not that I have much stuff or many piles of it. But piles tend to multiply like gremlins  in water. Just ask StepDude. Three rooms of the house he shares with Ma are crammed with pillars of magazines and manuscripts and thick newspapers.  My new futon, like many futons, folds into a sofa. But I’ll have to take all the sheets off when I have company. Well, I guess I don’t have to, but it would be the hygienic thing to do. Or, maybe I just won’t have company. Should I change the pants I’ve worn all day before sitting on it? Nah. It’s not like I spend my days seated upon filthy surfaces. [Assuming I don’t venture onto a CTA bus or "L" train.] Rather, I sp

New Car Smell Addicts

Ma and Stepdude traded in their new SUV for a newer SUV. Ma swears this one will be the last one. But that’s what she said about the last one and the one before that. Seems like Ma and Stepdude jones for a new SUV every time the Earth tilts. Doesn’t help that they’re both hooked on TV, that the TV’s always on, and that Stepdude’s a lifetime subscriber to Car & Driver magazine. It’s a game they play, dreaming up the rationale to trade in whatever new car they own. The last one gave Ma a rash. (Supposedly.)  Ma goes, Dust mites.  I go, That what the doctor said?  Ma goes, He’d say, “Don’t bug me about dust mites.”  So I go, Second opinion?  Ma waves me off. Then scratches her leg.  So I go, You fix the Electrolux?  And Stepdude, he goes, I think we tossed it.  Ok. So. How ‘bout a new one?  A new car ?  A new Electrolux . Or a Hoover.  Pshaw! Maybe when we pay off the Hummer.  (Ok, maybe not “ Pshaw! ” But that was the intention.)  Together, Ma and Stepdude earn just enough, mayb

Hapless Mac

Cindi finds Mac whimpering under her desk. No, Mac isn’t a co-worker. He’s not some random dude, either. He’s Cindi’s boss’s golden retriever puppy.  (Later, when Cindi shares this news with me, she adds that her boss moonlights as an analyst for the NSA. The extra moolah supposedly supports his cocaine habit.)  Cindi captures her boss’s attention long enough to point out that something purple protrudes from Mac’s butthole.  Cindi’s boss calls from his office. “Here, Mac!” He whistles in that shrill, staccato way some dog owners do. “Here, boy!”  The hapless pooch waddles in. Every few feet he stops to squat. He doesn’t squeeze anything out. He can’t. Cindi’s boss crouches for a closer look at the purply wad. He follows Mac around the office on his hands and knees.  Finally, he says, “I know what this is.”  He reaches out and pinches the purple lump. Then he pulls at it. The puppy’s whimper swells. The purple thingy stretches. Cindi bunches her fingers and presses them to her lips. She

S T R E A M # 1 9

The time has come for all men to eat their cookies after dipping them in milk. This must happen at the same time. All men must do this at the exact same time. We shall define a man as any male having had at least one wet dream. That should do it. Scientists have recently discovered that a build-up of testosterone – combined with the consumption and absorption of milk and cookies (chocolate chip cookies) – will result in a physical and chemical reaction that will, ultimately, decrease global warming. Regrettably, the latest research also shows that when women come together to consume milk and cookies their collective estrogen level has the reverse effect – indeed, global warming increases . Thus, scientists have theorized that the best way to fight global warming is not to attempt to reduce so-called “green-house” gasses, but to round up men and get them to stuff their faces with milk and cookies. Yes. Milk and cookies. How wonderful. Nobody is going to believe it, though; hence, we are

Au Naturel

After all of the bars in Champaign closed, Cindi and her roommate stripped and made a mad dash for their apartment building. [Whose idea was this? How often did they do it? Would they streak home in the dead of winter, or only on warm, summer nights? Oh, and, just how far was their building from the nightlife? Alas, if I asked these questions, I’ve long since forgotten the answers.]  Then, during a party in their apartment, somebody came up with the wacky idea of group streaking. All twenty revelers shed their clothes and stampeded out to a nearby park. There, they frolicked. Many wound up muddy.  Upon their return, they discovered that no one had the means with which to enter the apartment building. So here we had twenty naked twenty-somethings standing outside of a building in the dead of night, buzzing buzzers with the collective hope of being let in.  What would you do if some stranger buzzed your door in the middle of the night, begging to be let in? And what if you then looked

The Whiff

Don’t be surprised if the first of your five senses to go, as you age, is your sense of smell. By that point you probably won’t give a shit anyway. In fact, you’ll probably be in denial—of your age, your hair loss, your failing memory, never mind your fading sense of smell.  Take Grandpop, for example. He’s in the habit of changing his socks, his pants, his underwear just once a week, on Fridays. Possibly, it’s what he’s done since the Great Depression. Pop bathes no more than once a week—on Thursdays. His baths are brief. He’s not a big fan of soap and water. But then, past a certain age, dry skin becomes more the norm than the exception.  On Fridays, I pick his lady friend up and chauffeur the two of them to an early dinner at the local deli and then to temple for Shabbat service. On Mondays, I return Pop’s lady friend to her “cell,” as she calls it. Before I moved in, she’d journey from Senior Heights all the way to Pop’s house on a public bus.  [Maybe public buses are nice wherever


We know we have evolved beyond the wilds of Mother Nature because we clip our fingernails. Or we paint and polish them. We know we’ve evolved because we pierce our earlobes and fill them with bits of pretty metal. We know we’ve evolved beyond the wilds because we’ve invented toilets and sewers and landfills. We’re evolved because we use Charmin, or White Cloud, or Cottonelle. And if we’re really evolved, we use a bidet. (That’s right, some of us are more evolved than others of us.) Many of us gargle with Scope or Listerine; this is yet another indication of our evolved status in the animal kingdom. We use Speed Stick and Right Guard (but hopefully not at the same time). For these reasons, and many others, we belong at the tippy top of the food chain. Included with the aforementioned “many others”: the fact that we drink bottled water; and the fact that we use Sharper Image gadgets to trim the hair out of our respective nostrils. (Well, I do. Does that make me more evolved than you?) W

"Dying is Easy. Comedy is Hard."

Where we’re at, it’s not even a coffee shop. It’s this funky food shop. But tonight it’s where we find a handful of comics belting out their yuks to a crowd of college kids. The room is made tougher by the fact that you can’t even get a beer here. And the “stage”? It’s a plywood box less than half the size of a coffin. As for the comics, most’ll never get the wet out from behind their ears. (Me? I’m not wet behind the ears, no. I’m soaked through . My sopping shoes squeak with every step. Odds are, said squeaks’ll garner the only giggles I’ll ever get.) There was one washed-up hack, though. He’s fast becoming a buddy of mine. Let’s hope he’s saving his best bits for the paying gigs—assuming he gets those. Let’s hope he’s just here to test drive new material. And the last comic of the night, he wasn’t a “headliner,” no, but he was the best of the lot. I caught his act at a different venue, last Wednesday night. Even bought his CD. But this funky food shop was all wrong for a night of

S T R E A M # 1 8

Ralph never wanted Toy soldiers to invade his papier-mâché teepee. (Who would?) But they did. And they took him prisoner—that’s right, the Toy soldiers did. In fairness, Ralph didn’t mind being held prisoner. Toy soldiers are famously courteous and well-groomed chaps. ‘Twas the fate of the papier-mâché teepee that worried Ralph. He is , after all, a bit of a neat-freak. Plus, as you might expect, his humble abode was a rather fragile affair. Ralph deliberately built the teepee here, on the ever-calm shores of Flapjackistan. Here, in Flapjackistan, the wind nearly always blew less than a half mile per hour. Serenity prevailed. That is, of course, until the invasion of the Toy soldiers. To be clear, these Toy soldiers were not the tiny green plastic men you might have in mind. No, they were brutes from Toyota. In sooth, they merely fancied themselves as brutes, for they were really quite civil. Indeed, shortly after becoming the World’s #1 auto-maker, Toyota went into the real estate bus

Q & A

Q : What do you want to do with the rest of your life?  A : Write great fiction. A : Eat cookies.

maerD ddO rehtonA

I woke up in my childhood bed. I didn’t question how or why. I threw off the covers, stood, and staggered to the bathroom. It was exactly where I’d left it, fifteen-odd years later. But then bathrooms don’t tend to move, do they? Particularly when they’re one of seven rooms in a single-story house. The bathroom’s sink and tub were overflowing. On the bright side, they were overflowing with water. So, it could’ve been worse. StepDude didn’t give a damn. He’d left the water to fill and overflow. In fact, all of the sinks in the house were overflowing—with water—which, at least to the eye, seemed clean. Thank God. There’s always a bright side. If your house must  flood, better if it’s flooded with clean water—as opposed to rusty colored water, or saltwater, or sewage. But I hadn’t realized something. Since I’d moved out, fifteen-odd years ago, StepDude inexplicably had sinks installed in every room and also in the hallway. That makes nine sinks—nine sinks and faucets * —if you count th