Tuna Egg Salad Sandwich

You remember the scene from The 40 Year-Old Virgin where Seth Rogan describes his crazy weekend in which he went to Mexico and witnessed a terrifying Tijuana sex show involving a woman and a horse, and Steve Carell tries to be cool and describe his equally “crazy” weekend in which he decided to make an egg salad sandwich?

Well, that was my weekend (making tuna egg salad, not seeing a live sex show in a Mexican border town).  Pretty much exactly the same, except I had bread, which I reckon means I had one up on Mr. Carell.  Actually, come to think of it, I’m also not a virgin AND I’m under 40 years old, which technically means I’ve got THREE up on Carell’s character.  So take that, you sons of bitches!

Seriously, though, that couldn’t possibly have been the highlight of my entire weekend, could it?  COULD IT?!?  I mean, it doesn’t get much better than finishing off a bottle of Wild Turkey while listening to Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” on a loop, does it?  (On second thought, don’t answer that.)

All I ever waaaaaanted… all I ever neeeeeeeeded… is heeeeeere, in myyy aaaarms… words are verrrrrry unnecessaaaaaaary… theyyyyyyy can only do harrrrrrrm.”  That’s good stuff right there.  Why in the hell doesn’t anybody make music like this anymore?  I watched Lady Gaga sing a medley of songs from The Sound of Music on the Oscars tonight, and you’d have thought she hung the damn moon.  What fucking decade is this?  Where in the hell am I?  It’s the 21st Century, man… we should be well past “The Lawrence Welk Show” days.

Football Season is Over

Ten years ago today, Hunter S. Thompson put one of his many guns into his mouth (in this case a .45 caliber automatic) and blew out the back of his bald head in the confines of his snowy Colorado compound.

His suicide note was surprisingly brief considering the writer’s prolific talent. It read as follows:


No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun – for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax – This won’t hurt.

He titled the note “Football Season Is Over,” an allusion to the fact that the Super Bowl had concluded two weeks prior (coincidentally the Patriots won that one, too) and his favorite sport would not resume until September. I reckon Thompson was disenchanted with the prospect of facing another seven months without anything to look forward to.

The world lost a lunatic that day, but it also lost a talented writer and a soul courageous enough to stand up for what he believed in.  Thompson was one of the last true patriots and also one of the last true individualists–he was a man who ultimately didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought, and he was entirely true to himself.  Nothing could keep him from speaking his mind, and he never shied away from calling a spade a spade–never hesitated for a moment from telling it like it is, embracing his convictions and calling out the pigs and the fascists for who and what they were.  I shudder to think what kind of a force he could have been in the last decade–what kind of a voice he could have been, especially to the affectless youth yearning for something to rail against.  In our modern age of languid losers, H.S.T. could have been the voice we needed to get the listless to become listful.  There simply can’t be a revolution without voices like Thompson’s, railing against the injustices of the world and calling the fuckers out for their actions.  They just don’t make ’em like that any more, and this country (and this world, for that matter) is worse off for it.


Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish—a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow—to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested . . . Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.

Six months after his death, a wild party was held in the guise of a funeral for Thompson.  The guest list was a who’s who of friends of Hunter, including old politicos like George McGovern and John Kerry and Hollywood A-listers like Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, and Bill Murray.  The funeral was more or less drawn up according to Thompson’s own specs–he had detailed exactly how he wanted to go out, which is to say his ashes were stuffed into mortar shells and fired out of the top of a giant Gonzo fist monument amongst fireworks and rock and roll.


H.S.T.’s crazy ass funeral

I do want to make it clear that I am in no way glossing over or glorifying Thompson’s suicide.  While I did describe the man as courageous, I don’t believe his suicide was a courageous action.  Ultimately, one must accept that there’s very little courage in killing oneself, and I’d like to think Thompson understood that much.  But there’s also something to be said for living (or dying) on one’s own terms, and I think Thompson understood that as well.  There’s no denying that he sure as hell did both.

I’ll be enjoying a bottle of Wild Turkey in his honor tonight–I’ve got nowhere to be tomorrow, anyway.  God bless 101 proof whiskey, and God bless the memory of that madman, Hunter S. Thompson.

imageR.I.P., H.S.T.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love


“…and there’s a picture of a train!” – Ralph Wiggum

Oh, Ralph Wiggum. Poor bastard didn’t stand a chance. The Simpsons may have lost its relevance in recent years, but back in the day, not only did it feature the best satire on television–it also had some of the most honest and human moments. And it was a damn cartoon! Consider the Valentine’s Day episode from 1993, entitled “I Love Lisa,” in which Ralph misguidedly falls in love with Lisa only to end up rebuffed on national television:

Oh, man, that’s rough.  It’s bad enough to suffer heartbreak in private, but to have to suffer complete and total heartbreak in front of countless others is something else altogether.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day cartoons, it’s time to dust off the old VHS copy of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and have a good laugh at the misfortune of everyone’s favorite blockhead as he, too, wrestles with the agony of unrequited love.

Nowadays, I imagine that he would be checking his phone or his inbox rather than his mailbox. What I’d like to know is, how is it possible for the hopeless to exhibit so much hope when it comes to affairs of the heart? Why do we continually check our phones or our inboxes when we know nothing is going to be there? How delusional can we continue to allow ourselves to be? I mean, in Charlie Brown’s case, the sorry sonofabitch even brings a suitcase to his school’s valentine exchange in anticipation of receiving so many valentines that he won’t be able to carry them home. And of course, his suitcase winds up just as empty as his mailbox.

A wise and pretty girl pointed something out to me today, the gist of which was that to receive valentines, one needs to give valentines.  That thought had never really occurred to me before, but she’s right.  When it comes to love, we must ultimately lie in the beds we make (no pun intended).  Charlie Brown has no right to complain about not getting any valentines because he never sends any himself–he just spends all of his time sitting by his mailbox and waiting for someone to love him.  Sure, he fawns all over the little red-haired girl, but does he ask her out?  Does he even have the courage to tell her how he feels?  Of course not, because that’s not in his character.  He is the perpetual loser, after all, and it is his place in the universe to remain unremarkable and unloved.  Why fight the cosmos?  I’ll tell you why–because the impossible can never become possible if one doesn’t even try.

peanuts_unrequited_love True story: there actually was a “little red-haired girl” in Charles Schulz’s life, whom he dated for three years before proposing. Not only did she turn him down, but she quickly ran off and married a fireman instead. Seriously. Of the event, Schulz said, “I can think of no more emotionally damaging loss than to be turned down by someone whom you love very much. A person who not only turns you down, but almost immediately will marry the victor. What a bitter blow that is.” I believe it, Chuck.

Of course, one of the predominant themes in Peanuts is unrequited love: Charlie Brown and the little red-haired girl; Sally and Linus; Peppermint Patty and “Chuck;” Marcie and “Charles;” Lucy and Schroeder; Linus and Miss Othmar, etc. The fact that even intellectual Linus is a hopeless case indicates that no one is immune from the stupidity and silliness that comes with unrequited love. Sally is literally in his face doting on him, but he’s more concerned with loving someone completely unattainable: his teacher, Miss Othmar. I especially like the scene when Linus loses his shit trying to deal with his rejection:

Oh, the things we’ll do for love. I saw a news story that mentioned the average person will spend $143 on their valentine this year, up about ten bucks from last year. So I reckon I’m gonna go buy myself $143 worth of those antacid hearts with the cheeky expressions on ’em. I’m actually out of Tums, so this is pretty serendipitous, come to think of it. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get the one with the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on it (side note: this scene has since been edited out of the television re-broadcasts, which is a damn shame):

There are few things on this earth as wonderful as being in love. And while it’s undeniably wonderful to be in love, I think it’s much more important to be loved. That’s the key, I’m convinced. As fun as it may seem to indulge in idolatry and worship women whom we place on pedestals (where would the world of art be without this phenomenon?), at the end of the day, it’s far more important to have that feeling reciprocated–to feel wanted and appreciated and validated as a man or a woman (or just as a goddamn human being). Like Harvey Fierstein famously said (or SNL’s Jon Lovitz as Harvey Fierstein more famously said): “I just wanna be loved, is that so wroooong?

So why do we torture ourselves? Why can’t love just be a simple and uncomplicated thing? Because we don’t allow it to be–that’s why. The happiest people I’ve known in my life have either been the least complicated or the most willing to accept life on its own terms and without prejudice.  People with open minds and open hearts can roll with the punches while the rest of us with our preconceived notions of how shit is supposed to work hit the deck. By our very nature as human beings, we are complex and complicated–we can’t help it. This is what separates us from the animals, after all. But why do we have to make it all so complicated?  Why do we overthink things to the point of fucking them up?  Life and love likely seem a whole lot easier when you’re willing to play the cards you are dealt rather than fold your hand–if you’re willing to either take what life gives you and embrace it, or decide you’re going to bluff your way into something better like Jay Gatsby. Giving up is simply not an option.

When it comes down to it, the human heart is a fragile fucking thing. Romance is ultimately fleeting and takes a great deal of effort to sustain; it’s hard damn work, and when you find yourself facing adversity or hardships in life it’s difficult to devote enough time and energy to properly nourish a love affair–no matter how much you might love someone. Hopefully, the pain or misery you are experiencing won’t make the person who loves you miserable, too.  But sometimes that’s inevitable, and when that happens, what do you do? Do you decide to throw in the towel? Well, in most instances you don’t because the other person will throw it in for you as the damage is almost always already done. Sad, but true.

Whiskey Straight, Coffee Black


“You told me to go back to the beginning…”

It’s official, kiddos–shit just got real.  I have decided to follow the lead of Inigo Montoya and I am going back to the beginning.  All the way back.  I’m talking Sherman’s march to the sea scorched earth, folks–nothing to see here but smoke and cinders.  When one has been so depressed as to contemplate killing oneself, then the only course of action is to follow through on some level.  So that is exactly what I am doing here.  The man I have been for the last several years is as dead as disco.

I am no longer going to be the person I have been expected to be.  There was once a time when I had the courage to stand up for my convictions and live life on my own terms–a time when the fates would throw me a punch and I would punch back twice as hard.  I’m returning to that time–I’m gettin’ back in the saddle again, so to speak.  So watch the fuck out, life, because I throw a mean jab and a downright wicked right cross.

No more dwelling on the past.  No more regrets.  I am now concerning myself only with what I should be doing rather than what I should have done.  I will live my life as MY life, from my head and my heart, focusing on the things and the people that are truly important to me–those who are truly genuine, and that which is righteous and sincere.  My life should resemble Linus’s pumpkin patch:  “nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”  I will no longer suffer fools gladly nor tolerate bullshit from fucking phonies.  I intend to walk tall, chewing bubblegum and kicking ass like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live–seeing people and things for what they really are and treating them as such:

Those who show me love shall receive love in return.  Those who show me kindness will get kindness in return.  Those who show me meanness, or show meanness to those I love, well… those folks will get punched in the mouth and dropped on their ass.  Hard.  “Be nice, or be away from me,” as my mama used to say.

I’m going to live deep like my homeboy Henry David Thoreau did–sucking out all the marrow of life.  Everything from this point forward is going to be intentional and deliberate.  No more bullshit. No more pretense.  From now on, I will only drink my whiskey straight and my coffee black.  What’s the point of drinking either of those if they taste like something else?  Life is much too short and far too precious to artificially sweeten anything anymore–the bitterness of those drinks lets me know that I’m alive.  I should savor the acridity, not mask it with sugary sweetness.  Whiskey should taste like whiskey and coffee should taste like coffee, dammit–they should taste real.  Life should taste real.

Movie Night: Brief Encounter (1945)


Director David Lean is best known for filming romantic epics as lengthy as they are beautiful (Doctor Zhivago – 3 hrs. 20 min., Lawrence of Arabia – 3 hrs. 48 min.), so it comes as quite a surprise that he managed to capture arguably more romance than all of his films combined in a mere ninety minutes with his moody monochromatic 1945 classic, Brief Encounter. I honestly cannot believe it took me this long to see this movie, as I’ve always considered myself a David Lean fan.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Bridge on the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia, but for one reason or another, I never got around to watching this Criterion Collection classic until today.  And now that I’ve finally seen it, I would argue that this film is every bit as good as any of his work.

Based on a play by Noel Coward (who also produced the film), the story involves a month-long love affair between a bored housewife (Celia Johnson) and an equally bored doctor (Trevor Howard).  Both characters lead their lives in a monotonous routine, but by mere happenstance manage to encounter each other and inevitably make an indellible impression on one another.  Over the course of the film, the two doomed lovers (quite tragically) never manage to fully consummate their love affair.  In fact, I think their affair stops at first base.  I wonder if the film’s moralistic overtones were due to the cinematic morays at the time, or if perhaps it had more to do with the fact that the film was just so damned British.  It’s of no consequence, however, as there are enough Freudian sequences of trains to keep the sexual tension more than palpable.


plenty of steam and trains going through tunnels, if you know what I mean

When I say the film is British, I mean that the film is British. This might put off some American viewers (I would presuppose the same kind of viewers who might be put off by black and white films or subtitles), but I say “fuck them”–they have no business watching this movie anyway.  Any viewer with half a brain and a heart will quickly overlook the British contexts of the film and see the story for what it is (undeniably honest) and the characters for who they are (undeniably human).

Hands down, the best thing about the film is Celia Johnson’s performance as the tortured Laura.  In fact, the film is worth watching for her performance alone–she was absolutely brilliant.  Primarily a stage actress, she detested acting in films, but when Noel Coward himself read the part to her, she consented to taking on the role and was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.  (She ultimately lost to Olivia de Havilland, which I find highly suspect considering the two actresses bear a striking resemblance to each other; I can’t help but wonder if the Oscar voters confused the two.  No knock on Olivia de Havilland–Celia Johnson was just that good.)   There are several wonderful moments of internal monologue from Johnson’s character, such as when she’s contemplating her conflicting emotions about the affair:

This can’t last. This misery can’t last. I must remember that and try to control myself. Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. There’ll come a time in the future when I shan’t mind about this anymore, when I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was. No, no, I don’t want that time to come ever. I want to remember every minute, always, always to the end of my days.

In fact, the writing in the movie is almost as good as the acting.  Consider this heartbreaking exchange between the two paramours:


Him:  “I do love you–so very much.  I love you with all my heart and soul.”

Her: “I want to die.  If only I could die…”

Him:  “If you’d die, you’d forget me.  I want to be remembered.”

Holy fucking shit… how bad ass is that!?!  But then again, what is a love affair without passion and regret?  Not much of a love affair, I reckon.

The film also manages to capture what very well might be the single most poignant parting scene in cinematic history.  The last moment to be shared by the two lovers is brutally interrupted in the most obnoxious manner, and upon having to leave, he simply places his hand on her shoulder before he walks out of her life forever.  When he touches her shoulder, I fucking feel it.  I can feel the anguish and the heartache–the fleeting passion and finality of it all–and I swear to God, it hurts me almost as much as it hurts her.  That’s how powerful this scene is.  And that’s how good this movie is.


To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

What exactly does it take to recognize that you may have hit rock bottom? Is it when the only things on your grocery list are cold medicine and cat food? Is it when the people working the counter at the liquor store and the drive-thru at McDonald’s suddenly know you by name? Or is it when you catch yourself saying “that sloppy joe was less than stellar” after dinner?

It’s hard to gauge precisely when one bottoms out. I mean, just the other day I helped a tweaked-out junkie at the library apply online for a part-time job at the Dollar General.  Surely to God I’m in better shape than she is, right?


Dollar General: the place where dreams are made

They say that it’s always darkest before the dawn, but things have been so awfully dark for so long now that I’m worried I haven’t even hit rock bottom yet and I’m even more concerned that there isn’t going to be a dawn. I simply can’t see anything good coming my way anymore. Even Charlie Brown had enough optimism to believe he would one day get to kick that ball, or fly that kite, or win that baseball game, or receive just one goddamn valentine in his mailbox. I don’t share the same optimism as that hapless loser, and yet, I continue to carry on. But why? I’ll have to think on that and get back to you.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that I may have hit bottom is that it seems like one of the few things I look forward to nowadays is falling asleep. I don’t know why, as none of my dreams are pleasant–all I ever seem to have are nightmares. For instance, the other night I dreamt that I was stuck in a sea of people at the world’s largest outdoor mall on a sweltering day, wearing a sleeveless shirt and covered in second degree sunburns. When I awoke, rather than feel relief at having been delivered from that godawful nightmare, I sighed at the prospect of having to face the day. Nightmares are still less painful than the waking life for the simple fact that dreams aren’t real and reality most certainly is–it’s cold and concrete and certain. The phrase “pinch me, I must dreaming” implies that pain is what separates dreams from reality, and I reckon that’s true. Dreams, as painful as they might seem sometimes, are ultimately harmless–life is quite the opposite.

Sometimes I find myself hoping that the last few years have just been a bad dream–that I’ll wake up and have it be two or three or even ten years ago so that I can do absolutely everything differently. Or maybe I could wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette like Bob Newhart did in the finale of his 80s sitcom–that would be okay, too.  (Actually, that would be fucking awesome.)

single greatest sitcom finale ever

But unfortunately, there are no do-overs–life doesn’t hand you any mulligans. When we rear back and take a swing, we are stuck with whatever lie we receive, and for some reason I keep on shanking my ball into the damned rough.  Sooner or later I’m bound to make it onto the fairway, right?  Or is that just Charlie Brown talking?

It’s the Little Things

When you’re having a rough go at life, sometimes it’s best to distract yourself from your daily despair by finding comfort in the familiar.  Listening to a favorite record for the umpteenth time (“Give Up” by the Postal Service), re-reading a cherished book of poetry (High Windows by Philip Larkin), or binge-watching something as strange and wonderful as Twin Peaks just to remember how brilliant Kyle MacLachlan was as the quirky FBI Agent Dale Cooper.

Here’s one of my favorite Agent Cooper scenes.  You can watch the whole thing, or skip to 1:45 to cut to the chase.

Happy Birthday, Langston

What better way to kick-off Black History Month than by celebrating what would have been the 113th birthday of Langston Hughes.  Google has even dedicated today’s doodle to Hughes with an animation of his poem, “I Dream a World.”  If I could only use one word to describe the man, it would be “cool.”  Actually, “cool” doesn’t have quite enough “o”s; it should be “coooool.”  I mean, just check out this cat’s outfit in the picture the Post Office chose for his commemorative stamp.  Coooool.

langstonhughesBack when postage was 34 cents, this was the only stamp I used.

Langston Hughes was one of my earliest loves in poetry, probably because his work was so honest and accessible.  It was cool and unpretentious–the antithesis of the kind of writing that has given poetry a pejorative connotation among young people in recent years.  John Keats wrote arguably some of the greatest poems in the English language, but if you hand an eleven-year-old boy a book of Keats, not only will he hate you, but it’s also likely that he will think he hates poetry as well.  Give that same boy some Langston Hughes, and he’s got a fightin’ chance.

Another reason I enjoyed Hughes’ poetry might have been because I listened almost exclusively to classic soul music at that age, and Hughes’ terse and powerful verse carried the same rhythm and sincerity found in the music I loved.  It also reflected the same themes, whether that be striving for social justice or simply telling it like it is about the human condition.  I know I’m opening myself up to criticism here from the literati who might be quick to assert that Hughes’ style was jazz, not soul, and I can’t rightly argue with them; rather, I’d simply like to point out that to me, jazz can be all over the place–long-winded, intricate and improvisational (three things I’ve never identified with Hughes’ writing)–while soul is short, simple and structured (three things I’ve always identified with Hughes’ writing).  And if we’re going to be spliting hairs here, his poetry oftentimes came closer to resembling the blues than either jazz or soul.  Take for instance the following poem, “Too Blue,” which I once cut out of a middle school textbook and taped to my wall (back when I thought it was hip to be melancholic):



I got those sad old weary blues.
I don’t know where to turn.
I don’t know where to go.
Nobody cares about you
When you sink so low.

What shall I do?
What shall I say?
Shall I take a gun 
And put myself away?

I wonder if
One bullet would do?
As hard as my head is,
It would probably take two.

But I ain’t got 
Neither bullet nor gun–
And I’m too blue
To look for one.


If that’s not the blues, then I don’t know what the hell is.

The library where I work chose to honor Hughes several years ago during National Poetry Month by creating a “human poem” out of one of his more recognized poems, “Dreams.”  We were each asked to wear a black shirt and tape a word from the poem to our shirt.  (I was quick to select the word “broken”–don’t ask me why.)  When we didn’t have enough black-shirted participants to fill out the poem, extra bodies in all colors of clothing were recruited to help finish our half-assed attempt at a human poem.

Here’s what our motley crew looked like:

Human Poem 001

You can click the picture for a larger image, but even then you’d still have a helluva time trying to read the poem, so I’ll type it out here for you:



Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


One word:  coooool.