Monday, August 28, 2006

Deleted scene: "The Rules"

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The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

That is not a slipup, folks. The second rule is the same thing as the first one. So let that be a gauge of the gravity of this situation or whatever, that I have to repeat myself regarding this rule. Rules. Plural.


Looking at it from your point of view, I can see how this could cause some small amount of confusion. Not a mistake, though. There's the first rule, and then the second repeated rule is the exact same thing. It hammers it home. It lets you know we are not fucking around here.

I guess not exact same thing. The second rule gets stressed more. As I said. Again, that's to remind you: serious shit. This all makes a lot more sense if you just say the first two rules aloud to yourself. You don't do that, it's like, "Huh?" Or: "Wait a sec, isn't that just the same rule as the first one?" Like, "Did he mean to do that?" It does make sense, though. Keep in mind: gravity of this situation, no fucking around.

I did strongly consider making a two-rule combo, so I'd have just one longer first rule. So it would be like, "The first and the second rules of Fight Club are: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club." But repeat it to yourself, get the flavor of it. Sounds crappy, right? You tend not to hear the "and second" part. Or you just don't weigh the gravity of the situation, and you need to do that. We are not fucking around here. Unless you put the stress in there, like, "The first--AND ALSO THE SECOND RULE--" and continue from there. Or, I don't know. I thought about making the second rule sort of a corollary to the first rule. So Rule 1 would be don't talk about Fight Club, and then Rule 1(a) would be, seriously-no-fucking-around, hammering-it-home, don't talk about Fight Club.

You. Please don't write this down. Please? Or so help me I will hit you in the face, even before we technically get started. Hit you right in the face. Essentially, writing things down about Fight Club is pretty much the same thing as talking about it. Actually, it's even worse, because it's talking about it on paper, which means a record of the Fight Club, which is not good. Seriously, dude. Not. Good.

No, there's no need to apologize too much, because I technically haven't finished with the whole rules explanation yet so they're not technically in force until I do. I'm just saying.

So anyway, let's just...yeah.

The third rule of Fight Club is: Everyone must take a slot on the men's room cleanup sign-in sheet.

The fourth rule of Fight Club is: Everyone MUST take a slot on the men's room cleanup sign-in sheet.

It's for everyone's benefit. Nobody wants to do it. I don't want to do it. But it does get nasty in there, with the vomit and from general use, and nobody likes to use a dirty men's room. I mean, we do it, I've done it, kind of scootching around the messes, pretending they're not there, but come on. Let's everybody be reasonable and pitch in, and we'll all enjoy ourselves a lot more.

The fifth rule of Fight Club is: There ARE no rules.

Again, I understand this could seem confusing, but it really isn't.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Film: Dogfight

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Two dogs. One fight. Only one can make it out alive.

Actually, both made it out OK.


Black dog: Myrna
White dog: Stanley
Music: "Mexican Hat Dance" by Tony Mottola
Recorded and edited by me

Everybody together: "Thanks, YouTube, for the piss-poor video and audio quality!"

Monday, August 21, 2006

Here and also there, but not everywhere

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Hello, you. The good people at the world-respected literary tri-quarterly magazine Ploughshares have started a blog on important and interesting happenings in the world of contemporary poetry and prose. If that's your bag. Which I hope it is. Among those nice and talented people writing for the blog is me. There's a new link on the right side of this page, or click here.

That blog is also decorated with cute green and yellow polka dots, whereas this one is boring white.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Five People You Meet in Fall River

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Sages and philosophers say that one goes on vacation not to visit a new place, but to appreciate the old one all over again when one returns. I was on vacation recently, and I think the sages might have been only half-right. Listen, sages: I went to Bar Harbor, Maine. Have you ever been to Bar Harbor, Maine, sages? It’s fantastic. I mean it.

Still, it was nice to come back home. Even in the best places, you miss the things that are familiar to you and cherish them when you see them again. The dog piss spots on my lawn. The way my car lurches forward and makes that almost human groan when it hits the first unavoidable pothole on my street and then the second. The way the red airplane hazard lights on the Brayton Point power plant’s tallest smokestack wink at me when I’m falling asleep, as if to say, “Rest well, little one—I’ll still be here in the morning, farting coal smoke into your lungs.”

And then there are Fall River’s people. Aaah, the people! They’re a totally different breed from Mainers. Bar Harbor people are friendly. Too friendly. Much, much too friendly. Particularly in the mornings, when I’m decaffeinated and cranky. They're stab-with-a-fork friendly.

After a week of hearing "Hello!" from every stranger I met on the street, I’d forgotten how fun it is to be ignored, even avoided. It’s good old Fall River-homestyle social hostility, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Being back in Fall River put me in the mood for a tribute to my favorite people. I even came up with a snappy title for it. Just sort of came to me. I’m thinking of turning it into a bestselling book! And then a Hallmark movie!


The Five People You Meet in Fall River

1. The “Guy” Guy: He wears many faces, this man. And the circumstances under which you may meet him are various. You could be at a bar. You could be at your place of worship. You could be strolling down South Main Street and he could want to bum a cigarette off you and express irritation and disbelief when you say you don’t smoke. Like you’re holding out on him. Whatever the reason, whatever the season, the “Guy” Guy will give you the friendly greeting:

“What’s going on, guy?”

That’s who you are to him. You are Guy. An instant friend. Or enemy. Pay attention to the context.

Don’t tell him your name! He doesn’t care. You are Guy. Don’t like it? Gimme a break, guy.

Don’t bother to let him know you’re a woman. You are still Guy to the “Guy” Guy. It’s the “Guy” Guy’s way of saying you’re one of the guys.

He might work near you, or be your brother-in-law. He could be young or old. He spans the classes. He could wear a tie to work, inserting it as a familiarizer with commands (“I needed that report yesterday, guy”) or he could be that dude standing outside Cumberland Farms all day who needs oddly specific amounts of change (“Hey, guy, you got 45 cents I could borrow?”). The “Guy” Guy is any kind of guy.

Where the whole “guy” nickname started is known now only to history. Though in many regions it died with the first Bush administration, it’s still going strong in this neck of the universe. And only the chill fingers of Death can pry it from the vocabulary of the “Guy” Guy.

It’s not always “guy,” though. Sometimes it’s “chief.”

2. Vavó: She doesn’t have to be your Vavó specifically, although she can be. Anywhere you see an old Portuguese woman walking six miles in a black dress and shawl through shimmering summer heat carrying a shopping bag full of salted codfish—that’s where Vavó is. Wherever there’s a lady in hysterics at the wake of someone she knew tangentially at best—she’ll be there. Every time someone scours the seashore finding live barnacles and sucking them out of their shells then and there—that’s her, too.

Vavó is in every tassel hanging from the drapes. She’s in every driftwood painting of "The Last Supper" and in every commemorative plate decorated with a portrait of John F. Kennedy. She’s in every pot of yellow rice and chicken, every pan of octopus tentacles. She is in the wide-awake face of anyone who walks to 6 a.m. daily Mass.

Vavó is quick to anger. She carries a slipper and she’s not afraid to use it. But she is quicker with her love. The more Vavó cares, the thicker she spreads the butter on your bread.

3. The Community Booster: To defend Fall River from all enemies, foreign and domestic—that’s the motto of the Community Booster. This is the person who, if you don’t like Fall River, will demand you leave. Or, if you do like Fall River, will complain that you don’t like it enough or in the right way. This person is going to write me an angry letter tomorrow.

The Community Booster loves words like “community” instead of “city,” because “community” sounds friendlier. As if we all live in huts and share a bonfire.

The Community Booster also loves these words and phrases: “Proactive.” “Discussion.” “Future.” “Mission.” “Utilization of resources.” “Giving youth the tools they need for success.” “Raising awareness.” “Subcommittee.”

Often seen at neighborhood events, political functions, City Council meetings, or Chamber of Commerce dinners, shaking hands and worrying about the children, the Community Booster’s thoughts rarely extend beyond vague notions of school system reform. Which is not to say our schools are bad. We have great resources! They just need fixing. Immediately. But they’re doing fine!

A bad school system isn’t the greatest horror facing our whatchamacallit. Community. It’s not gang violence or spiking home prices or unemployment, either. The biggest problem in Fall River is that “this city needs to come together as a community.”

How, exactly? I haven’t figured this out yet, but it has something to do with standing outside together and holding candles.

4. The Kid With The Awful Mustache: It’s been growing on and off since the third grade, and one of these days it’ll come through in the middle. But don’t count out the Kid With The Awful Mustache just yet! It could work, given time. But for now, he isn’t about details. Let your imagination fill in the rest.

The Kid With The Awful Mustache lives for the moment. He is ageless. He listens to rap and doesn’t listen to The Man. He drives a fast car with shiny rims, and either he just got his permit or he’s been driving for years. With the mustache, it’s hard to tell.

He’s got a hot girlfriend. That's right. The chicks are all at first attracted to, then repulsed by, the mustache. She will prod him to shave it off at some point. He rebuffs her—what, and ruin years of hard work? Lay off, babe! They could be high school sweethearts—but then again...see, that mustache throws you off. One thing is sure: You have to admire his persistence.

5. Your Cousin: This is self-explanatory. In Fall River, if you meet someone on the street, that person is probably Your Cousin.

It’s never 100 percent clear exactly how. Mother’s side? Father’s side? One of those.

You've met this cousin before. It doesn't matter which cousin it is. You've met before, and most importantly, Your Cousin knows you. When you were 4? That time at Your Other Cousin's house? With the thing? You were just a baby then. Remember? I'd make it clearer than this, but I'd need to draw a flowchart of highly speculative authenticity.

Here’s a handy guide to recognizing who Your Cousin is. If you have dark hair and that person over there has dark hair, that’s Your Cousin. For obvious reasons. If you have dark hair and that person over there has light hair, that’s still Your Cousin. They have light hair on that side of the family.

Being cousins entitles you to all the benefits pertaining thereto: discounts on goods and services ranging from legal services to home repair, an extra free order of fries, several thousand votes come Election Day, and a ride to anywhere in the city. The VIP treatment. In return, all Your Cousin wants is for you to tell your dad hello from him. They're cousins. You can even stop by Your Cousin’s place anytime. Give him a call. He hasn't seen you in so long. But not next week. He’s going on vacation to Canada to visit his cousins.
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