Monday, June 27, 2011
There's a chapel at Gramma's nursing home. Nik & I took Gramma for a walk around her building and we stopped by, because it's down the hall and interesting to look at. We stood there for a few seconds. She said, "Looks nice! Not for me." So we left.
This is the 17th anniversary of my first date with Nik. We've been together uninterrupted since then. I remember we saw Wolf, an extremely shitty and forgotten werewolf movie starring Jack Nicholson. The less said about that the better. In those first few months and years back in the mid-'90s, I used to buy Nik a rose every month-anniversary, so that in the first month she'd get one, the second she'd get two, the seventh month seven, and so on in that fashion until I gave her 12 roses on our first anniversary. I did that for a couple of years until she asked very nicely that I stop because she was constantly chucking out dead roses, and also I secretly suspect she thought it was borderline nuts. For this year, I just got her one nice tasteful bouquet -- no going overboard with it.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I set out on a short run with Stanley to hide my first geocache. I'd spent weeks scoping out several spots for it downtown and settled on one only a few hundred feet from my office. That way, I can keep an eye on it, in case it goes missing or needs maintenance. When you hide a geocache, you become responsible for maintaining it -- replacing logs that are full, replacing the cache itself if it goes missing, giving hints to people trying to look for it, &c.
I chose a small park right in downtown Fall River. You essentially can't get any more downtown than this cache. It's next to a temperance fountain erected in 1882 that has long since run dry. However, Stanley found some stagnant rainwater with a cigarette butt in it and thought that was good enough to drink.
It's not so much a "park" here as "a spot with benches and some plaques." I remember hanging out here a few times on lunch break many years ago, eating a sandwich and reading Don Quixote. The other day I saw two teenagers making out there, eating each other's faces and reading the Braille on each other's T-shirts. Little has changed.
These are the GPS coordinates if you want to go looking for it, by the way. Or find it here, on Geocaching.com.
I'm a fan of geocaching, although I don't get to do enough of it. Go here if you want to know more about what geocaching is, but the basic idea is that it's a treasure-hunt game played with containers hidden all over the world, using the GPS coordinates to find them. A good geocache is a puzzle, exercise, and a geography lesson all in one.
I decided, after a few years of finding caches, to try hiding one of my own. There's a lack of caches in the downtown Fall River area and a few interesting historic sites that I want to show visitors. So I bought some magnetic nano caches to hide. These are extremely tiny: the width of each cache is about half the width of a dime. Not everyone likes nanos, because they're difficult to find and don't contain anything except a paper logbook. But I'm hiding these in high-traffic areas in a city of 88,000 people. They need to be small. Besides, part of the point of geocaching is to get people to visit interesting spots -- the cache itself is only what lures you there.
What does bother me is their appearance. I feel a similar way about lobsters as I do about clams -- that is to say, I don't understand the impulse that led the first human being to want to eat a lobster. They're essentially sea-dwelling insects. Mainers often call them "bugs" to be quaint, but it's true. They're arthropods -- invertebrates with exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and jointed appendages. This puts them in the same phylum as spiders, scorpions, ticks, millipedes, and butterflies. Only recently have lobsters been a delicacy. Before the 20th century, lobster was considered low-grade food for poor people, because, hello, they look like giant roaches. In America we don't eat things like spiders and mosquitoes except when they fall into jars of peanut butter at the factory, or when you're riding a bike with your mouth open. You don't have to study lobsters very long to see the similarities to land- and air-dwelling insects, the similarities which gross me out most being the following: spindly little legs, antennae, mandibles, cold dead black eyes, appendages that twitch and wriggle with whatever chemical impulses are at work in their primitive and disgusting nervous systems. The antennae are the worst. While I waited for two pots of water to boil, I left the lobsters in the sink, and their antennae probed moved here and there, feeling around. I flipped them on their backs so they'd pass out -- the downside of having an open circulatory system.
All of this biology-lesson stuff whizzes through my brain while I'm preparing them, but one thing trumps it: lobsters are also delicious with melted butter. These were good, too. Full of meat right up to the shell. Thanks, dad.
Maddy pointed out, it could mean something else.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Casinos are a waste of space. They prey on the middle class and the poor and the gullible. They provide no benefit for the money you spend. You can waste your time any way you like, and most methods give you something back. You drop $15 at a movie theater, and you get to see a movie. You spend $10 at a deli, and the deli gives you a sandwich. Even strip clubs: you spend a few bucks at a hoochie bar and you get to look at some drug addict's beaver.
Casinos aren't like that. You spend money at a casino and get nothing back except a dose of psychological manipulation that persuades you to spend more money to win back the money you just lost. Pointless fantasy.
So Nik & I went to Foxwoods.
It's a "resort casino," a huge Disneyland-like place in The Middle of Fucking Nowhere, Connecticut. We'd never been before. Within a few minutes of arriving I was confused, mainly because the layout of the place is (by design) maze-like. It felt like there were booby traps everywhere. I didn't know where to park the car, or where to go afterward, and I got the impression that if we stood by fake waterfalls or statues too long someone would come by and beg for a quarter.
Mostly, we were impressed by how closely everything resembled lazy stereotypes from movies. The cliches really are true -- all of them. There really are a fuck-ton of senior citizens and mean-looking Asian ladies in high-waisted white pants at the casino. There really are wheelchairs and Rascals and walkers and disabled-person-locomotion-apparatus of every type crowded by the banks of slots. You really do sometimes see these same people walk just fine without those devices. The place really is full of monstrously obese people. They really are lining up outside the buffet. People really do talk to the machines. Every surface really is glittery. There really are groups of people, some in cowboy hats, crowded around craps tables while some lady blows on the dice. We really did see clusters of obvious bachelors greased up and strutting, and really did see throngs of Woo Women on a Girls Night Out drinking some kind of clearly pomegranate-based cocktail. There really are people sleeping on benches. There really are middle-aged couples fumbling at ATMs with shaky fingers.
Having entered rooms, we couldn't find our way out again because everything was the same everywhere. Foxwoods has several mini-casinos inside, each with some vaguely Indian name designed to give the place a faux-historical context, but fuck if I could tell the difference. Each one has the same slot machines, the same tacky carpet, the same signs advertising whore-like the "Loosest Slots in Connecticut," the same elderly people in loose-fitting dry-wipe clothes tooling around on scooters and mindlessly feeding SSI-check money into uncaring machines. This is the fucking robot apocalypse, I thought. Man is slave to machine. No joy in their faces. I was suffocated by tackiness, despair, and cigarette smoke. I forgot what it was like to be inside a building where they let people smoke. Remind me to give you a lecture someday on why cigarettes are a tool of the wealthy to keep the underclasses sick and poor.
We played some slot machines to see if we could figure out the appeal and lost $15 in less than 3 minutes. Eventually, after I breathed into a paper bag for a while, we tried a few other machines and actually got lucky for a while -- then we'd lose that, too. All told we lost $65, but at no point were we ever ahead of that figure. We'd lose most of it and be on the brink of losing all the cash, then win back about half, which teased us (me, more like) into playing more and eventually losing the rest of it. Logically, I know that slot machines have the worst payoffs in any casino, and that you're more likely to win back money at the table games. But those were intimidating, the stink of hopelessness wafting off the players more pungent, the (imagined, by me) threat of pickpockets at Orange Level. Behind us at one point, I heard a lady shout "All right! WOO!" I turned around and saw that she was looking at someone else's video screen and was cheering because that lady just won five free spins. Holy shit, I thought. "WOO" means you get to watch someone else be stuck in front of a machine hitting a button five more times? THAT'S what you're clinging to?
There must've been hundreds of different slot machines with differently themed reels: fish, mammals, dinosaurs, tropical fruit, seasonal fruit, decks of cards, gems, lobsters, Monopoly, The Godfather, Sex and the City, Lord of the Rings. We stuck with your standard cherries-sevens-and-bars three-reeler machine, mostly because they had physical reels and handles instead of video screens and Spin buttons, and that seemed more fun because it was old-timey.
We looked around and Nik said, "You know what's weird? Nobody looks happy here." Everyone I saw was just sitting there hitting the "Max Bet" and "Spin" buttons one after the other like it was repetitive factory work. Couples looked silently upset for some reason. But strangely, even surrounded by all this fucking financial and emotional agony and $65 down, Nik & I had a great time. I'm a depressive miserable fuck, but I can have a great time with my wife anywhere doing anything. Instead of using two machines, we both stuck to the same machine and kept switching off when one of us started losing. I didn't see anybody else doing that. Mostly because it's goofy. Also, it was like being an astronaut and landing on a planet home to a thriving civilization partially merged with technology to supplement people's atrophied limbs and where the inhabitants subsist on a steady intake of nicotine, ethyl alcohol, false hope, and oxygen delivered in tank form. I find that fascinating, the way kids like ant farms.
We didn't end up at Foxwoods to study the psychology of gambling. We went to see comedian Marc Maron at Comix, the comedy club there. I've followed his stuff on and off since he hosted Short Attention Span Theater on Comedy Central in the '90s. He hosts the podcast WTF, which is essential listening if you like comedy (or the creative process as it applies to any artistic medium). His set was pretty brilliant, and included a bit about how he feels about casinos -- which as it turns out is exactly the same way we do. After the show I was tempted to step up and tell him this, but decided I didn't want to bother him -- a reflex I have with almost all celebrities since this one time in college when I met David Mamet and said, "Uhh!" and nothing else.
Monday, June 06, 2011
People who complain about being trapped in a cubicle: at least that's your cubicle. I've been working in professional offices for 13 years and until now I've never had a cubicle of my own, a little workspace I can piss all over (metaphorically) and keep my stuff.
In my previous job, I shared a desk with another editor. Sometimes our shifts overlapped. I'd be working late, and he'd show up with nowhere to sit -- and because he'd been working there longer, I'd have to move my stuff. Before that, I shared a desk with other editors too. When I left my stuff on the desk, when I came in the next day my stuff would be shoved to one side, presumably because someone else had used that space to keep their own stuff. The walls were too low for me to tack anything to, and besides, why would I want to post a picture of my wife in a cubicle so other people can stare at it? Before that, my workstation was two tables next to each other at perpendicular angles, one just large enough for the computer and the other cluttered up with papers.
Since starting my new job, I have a place to keep my own stuff. They even gave me a key to lock up my stuff if I so choose. Now that I can keep stuff on my desk, I'm going a little overboard. I brought in my old Magic 8 Ball from college, I guess to help me make vital decisions on deadline. I brought in two mugs -- one to keep pens in and the other for coffee. I have an AP style guide and a thesaurus, a Mensa daily calendar, an alarm clock because the office wall clock is just out of my sight line, an in-out tray, a paperweight shaped like a ball of crumpled paper, a padded mouse mat, a box of tacks, several pictures, and two plants. I don't even like plants. But I feel like I should have plants. I bought a jade plant, which will probably die because it's not sunny in there, and some other plant whose species I can't remember but it's got long green spiky leaves like the top of a pineapple but not as thick or sharp. If I could get away with it and not look like a lunatic, I'd also decorate with Christmas lights, bobbleheads, a white board, an iPod dock, a tiny coffee maker, a coaster for my coffee mug, a board to eat sandwiches on, a lamp, a fan, and a goldfish.