…and now, the end is near…

…and so we face the final curtain, ha ha ha…

Thanks, Ed, for having us over. Send my people the clean-up bill.

Everyone else: Have a nice Memorial Day weekend, take a moment to remember the military dead, and why and how they got that way, and for what.

“In these bones you see what war is like. I know war now. I’ll tell you what it is. War is young men killing other young men they do not know on the orders of old men who know one another too well.”

Antoine Wilson out.

Now We Know Why the Voice Coming Through the Speakers Sounds So Disembodied

New York Times: “What made the $12.08 transaction remarkable was that the customer was not just outside Ms. Vargas’s workplace here on California’s central coast. She was at a McDonald’s in Honolulu. And within a two-minute span Ms. Vargas had also taken orders from drive-through windows in Gulfport, Miss., and Gillette, Wyo. Ms. Vargas works not in a restaurant but in a busy call center in this town, 150 miles from Los Angeles. She and as many as 35 others take orders remotely from 40 McDonald’s outlets around the country.”

Given that convicts are often employed as telemarketers, the cynical part of me thinks that this isn’t just a ploy by McDonald’s to shave a few seconds, but a way to cut out the labor quotient altogether. Why pay minimum wage to a worker when you can have a convicted felon do the same work for less?

Catty Observation #482

Have you ever noticed, when an elevator is occupied by one person and the doors haven’t yet closed and you are running to get the elevator before the doors close so that you will not be late, how the elevator occupant stands near the back of the elevator, as if to suggest, “Well, I wasn’t close enough to the panel to hit the DOOR OPEN button,” should you run into this person later? 

In short, this type of elevator occupant clearly wants the elevator to himself.  But what’s funny is when you somehow manage to get inside the elevator by way of tripping up the sensors and you give the elevator occupant a smile and a how’d’ya’do, and the elevator occupant is momentarily ashamed by his rudeness, which you are now both aware of.  There’s no apology or anything.  Just stunned silence. Of course, the elevator occupant practices the same rude behavior the next time you see him.

You Can Justify Your Eating Disorder and Have Yourself Two to Three Extra Years Rotting Away in a Convalecent Home. Me? I’ll Enjoy My Damned Burger and Fries.

Wired: “Aubrey de Grey, a Cambridge University gerontologist, recently wrote a paper concluding that CR [caloric restriction] is unlikely to add more than two or three years to the mean or maximum life span. De Grey said he is skeptical of CR’s potential for radical life extension in part because he sees no reason why it would be advantageous from an evolutionary perspective. “

An Open Letter to Fake Squealy Women

Dear Fake Squealy Women:

First off, allow me to distinguish between you and your counterparts: specifically, those genuinely squealy women or women with naturally adenoidal voices. I have no specific grievance towards this particular population cluster. Because they are, at least, authentic. Rather, my beef is with you.

Here’s the way it works: Every so often, as I listen or otherwise get my tongue tied up in knots over you, you open your mouth and begin to talk back, thus beginning an amicable colloquy. With most women, this is quite pleasant and intoxicating — particularly if you are smart, sexy and playful. But, with you, fake squealy women, what transpires during this rejoinder is something infinitely disheartening. You see, instead of responding with a natural voice, you decide to adopt a squealy and nasal air, as if the entire world has somehow transformed into helium and entered the confines of your skulls. There is a decided effort and highly noticable inflection in the words you speak. There is often fake laughter directed at statements we make that are not, in fact, jokes but sober ruminations that we are intending to share with you and feel you out on. Yet somehow you think that we have absconded with Oscar Wilde’s throne. What you put on here is clearly a performance. And yet you insist that this is the way you naturally talk. Little do you realize, fake squealy women, that despite being male and relatively clueless, we are not dumb. We do in fact talk with your friends and ferret out the truth.

Even in non-dating circumstances, fake squealy women, you still do this, particularly if you are employed in the public relations or human resources department. Why is this? Do you want to perpetuate this heinous gender divide? Do you want to sustain the atavistic notion that women are somehow dumber than men? Do you not realize how unbecoming and unattractive these faux oxygen-sapping vocal inflections are? Do you not realize, fake squealy women, that when you are over thirty and still doing this that you come across not as cute but sad?

My obsession with sex and the female anatomy is no less ineluctable, juvenile and boundless than that of my colleagues. Nevertheless, there is a clear line of demarcation between putting on a funny voice for a bit of adolescent fun and objectifying yourself by completely coming across as an idiotic airhead (when you are likely smarter). I’m hoping that I can appeal to all of you to stop this damn nonsense and speak with your genuine voices. When you have a conversation with a man longer than five minutes, I should point out that the man is not a policemen and this is not a speeding ticket that you are talking yourself out of.

Or perhaps, fake squealy women, you’re terrified of being yourself.

Very truly yours,

Edward Champion

Escape from New York

She has worked at the Haight branch of Escape from New York Pizza for at least four years. So my best calculations dictate. I’ve seen her working there in some capacity since 2001. And frankly I’m a bit worried.

Escape from New York, if you don’t know San Francisco, is a two-branch outlet, specializing in pizza-by-the-slice. You’ll find one in the Haight and you’ll find one in the Castro. You can have yourself a slice of pizza as late as midnight — anything from a slice of pepperoni to the special potato slice. But this is not specifically “New York pizza” — rather, it is some approximation of the same, with considerably less tomato sauce. Walk inside an Escape from New York outlet and you’ll bear witness to pizza-themed records hanging on the walls, as well as autographed photos from the likes of Leonard Nimoy and Matt Groening. In short, the joint serves its purpose. But what makes the Haight street place curious to me is her.

You’ll find her on the evening shift — generally on Fridays and Saturdays. Her hair has been blonde, black and is now currently brown. I get the sense that most of her twenties have been spent at this place. And in the past year, she’s gained quite a bit of weight. I worry and I hope to hell she’s okay. In the past year, I have seen her mouth contort into a vacuous ellipitical shape every time she slides the spatula underneath a full disc of pizza, then transfering a slice of pizza into the oven, where the slice will stay for about 3-5 minutes, and then be transferred to the customer for swift and delectable consumption. I don’t know if this is a method of coping with such a mundane task or whether this is the inevitable conclusion. I don’t think that even a genius can truly intellectualize this pizza-warming process.

I have asked this young lady several times if she will talk with me outside work. She’s said no. I am careful to spell out to her that I am not a pervert or a maladjusted freak or someone looking for a date. Rather, I am curious. I will even confess that I’m a bit concerned. Every time I order a slice of pizza from her, her slipshod hair and her hangdog eyes resembles the telltale sign of one who has had too many hits of pot. Like many working in the service sector, she is going through the motions. One suspects she is trying to survive.

Is this pizza world all that she knows? And if so, how much am I responsible every time I order a slice of pizza?

Is this all she can ever know? Is this all she ever dares to know?

She can’t make much, which is why I always tip generously. But I wonder what keeps someone in a position in which they are clearly miserable. I wonder if there are sidelines, whether ephemeral or addictive I cannot say, that encourage her to remain in this position. I wonder what she’s truly capable of and what her true passions are. And I feel like a bit of a con. Because, after all, she will not speak with me and, even if she did, there is nothing I can say or do to steer her off the track. In short, there’s nothing to contribute.

And every time I order a slice of pizza from this place, I feel somehow as if I am committing my energies towards denying someone a moment. And yet I order the slice anyway, somehow corralling this concern with my hunger. I feel hypocritial. I feel helpless. And I feel irrelevant. I feel as if I somehow commiting all pockets of decency to her demise. Yet Escape from New York is not a Round Table. It’s an independent business. Can I justify this? Or am I just as hypocritical as the rest? Or has this pizza-slinger truly accepted this horrible fate?

Sun-Soaked Roundup

  • Sarah is interviewed by Kacey Kowars. Sarah talks about the history of her blog, how she reads and selects content, her new day job, inter alia. The subject of “mean-spiritedness” is also brought up, to which I reply that what I do here isn’t nearly as vicious as 200 proof vodka. I trust most people to read between the lines.
  • So what were some of the other LBC nominees? Were they corporate sellouts? Were they part of the “literary demi-puppet” conspiracy? Au contrarire. Michael Orthofer weighs in on his selection, Christa Wolf’s In the Flesh. I hope to weigh in on my selection (which was second place!) sometime soon too, but there’s some incredible sunshine and a big trip to Nueva York to prep for.
  • The wifi cafe problem is one of the reasons why I’ve remained reluctant to use wi-fi embedded laptops (although this is likely to change to give you folks up-to-the-minute BEA reports). Cafes are social places where you unexpectedly run into friends and acquaintances or get into conversations with strangers about the books they’re reading or the cool tees they’re wearing or the guitars that they’re playing. But I’ve noticed the gloomy misanthropes who stare into their Powerbooks as if expecting some great theological pronouncement taking up tables intended for four people at my own neighborhood cafe and wonder if this is indeed part of the lingering problem Robert Putnam wrote about in his book Bowling Alone. These people, who feel the chronic need to be connected in all ways but the most tangible ones, rarely buy anything, tip or consort with the nice people behind the counter. Frankly, if killing wi-fi access during the weekends will get these deadbeats to understand that (a) a change in locale doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a work-every-minute drone, (b) you won’t be rebuked if you don’t answer your email within an hour (at least by the people who matter), and (c) if access is the thing, perhaps broadband at home is more your cup of tea (or hazelnut latte, as the case may be).
  • Tanenhaus Brownie Watch is forthcoming. But cut some slack. It’s a three-day weekend.
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard thought that calls from Oprah were a prank and very nearly didn’t call her back for an OBC selection.< ?li>
  • They’re young! They’re hot! They’re good-looking! And damn, these puppies can write! Wouldn’t a writer make a great catch? Lisa Allardice exposes some of the realities behind pairup glamour. And, yes, J-Franz is name-checked.
  • Hemingway’s Havana estate is endangered.
  • Why does Dracula endure?
  • Diana Abu-Jaber dishes dirt on her food memoir.
  • Decency prevents me from commenting upon this Nick Laird “training” revelation. Return of the Reluctant promises a two-month moratorium on Zadie Smith and Nick Laird news, for reasons similar to Ms. Tangerine Muumuu.

Unlawful Common Knowledge

I’m no historian. I’m just a guy who reads books with a layman’s ambition of being well-rounded.

I can give you a brief overview of Ferdinand de Lesseps’ attempt to cut through the Isthmus of Panama without considering the mosquito problem and can suggest, without Googling, David McCllough’s The Path Between the Seas as a good book on the subject. I can tell you about why H&R Block does most of its business in January and why the working poor is terrified of filing 1040s on their own — this, well before reading David K. Shipler’s heartbreaking book on the subject. I can tell you how the umbrella came about and why men have Jonas Hanway to thank for keeping their heads dry.

I could also quote almost any line of The Big Lebowski, sing any Beatles song with pretty solid accuracy, and tell you who directed some random Val Lewton-produced film from the 1940s.

My intention here is not to boast, but to point out that there are just some things that happen to stick and that should stick. Shards of common knowledge that are the average Joe’s duty and responsibility to remember.

Lest the reader think that I am flexing my achievements here, I should also point out that despite several years of Spanish and some time knocking around in Germany, I’m a hopeless monoglot. I’m terrible with remembering first names, even when I use the name in a responsive sentence. Great with identifying sounds and voices, but sometimes the intimate contours of faces don’t always match up, even though I can tell you how a lighting scheme for a stunning shot in a movie works, can negotiate your couch through a tight crevice and tell you whether or not your car will fit into a curbside parking spot.

And I should point out that I often come up with idiotic conclusions, many of which are posted here. I also change my mind on a regular basis.

Seasoning my mind with bits of minutiae has always been a priority for me. Probably has a good deal with the way I was brought up (which was without a whole lot) and my overwhelming need to know things. Some shit, I just pick up. Other things like intricate swing dance moves (working on it) or the correct pronunciation of multisyllable words, not so easily. (In fact, not so long ago, I learned that, despite spelling it correctly on paper, I was pronouncing “mischievous” MISS-CHEEVE-EE-US. How’s that for ineptitude?) But despite the wide swath, I am, by no means, an expert.

But I’m wondering right now, after a pleasant though slightly disheartening breakfast in a diner, just how effective our current system is at turning out well-rounded folks.

Picture your humble narrator reading a book, grooving to Janis Joplin being played over the speakers, nursing a cup of coffee and digging into a fantastic chicken pesto crepe, and doing his best to resist the potatoes with sour cream. (Damn you, starch!) Suddenly, I feel two pairs of eyes seering into me. I don’t look up. But I hear a father talking with his kid, “You see, he’s reading a book.”

I use my peripheral vision to scope out Allen Funt. Not there. Oh yeah. He’s dead.

Is this a recreation of the famous Bill Hicks wafflehouse joke? No. Because reading has taken neither a positive or a negative impression.

“That’s what happens when you go to school,” continues Daddy-O. “You learn how to read and you read books! And you’ll be reading just like him.”

The father’s tone is encouraging. I dig any parent willing to get such a young child reading. The father apologizes. I tell him it’s no problem and scoot up to the edge of the booth, beaming a broad smile to the kid, “And in twenty-five years, another child will be looking at you as you’re reading a book in a diner.”

Nervous laughter, apologies. Really, it’s no big deal, I say. Just part of the natural human cycle that will go on into perpetuity. We are all the richer because of it. I’ll do the same thing myself if I ever have kids.

We start talking. The guy’s all right. This youngish father is there with his mother. To keep the excitement rolling for the kid, I note that Theodore Roosevelt would read a book in one night, starting at a late hour, and was then fully prepared to discuss it with his staff the next morning. The conversation shifts to U.S. Presidents.

The boy’s grandmother is a big Jefferson fan. “Oh,” I say, “have you read Joseph Ellis’ American Sphinx? Great book on Jefferson’s character.” She’s read a few books on Jefferson but can’t remember the names or the authors. “Jefferson still lives,” I say.


“Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day?”

I figure this would be common knowledge for anyone interested in Jefferson, let alone anyone who has ever taken a U.S. history class. That Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other, Adams croaks, “Jefferson still lives” just before meeting his maker, and that, to seal one of the greatest historical coinicdences in human history, the two die on July 4, 1826 — exactly fifty years from the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

But they don’t know this. And while they’re delighted to know, I’m a bit mortified. The young father is a history major. What’s more, David McCullough spoke at his commencement. I rattle off three McCullough books I’ve read, but the history major hasn’t read any McCullough.

Then there are more titles of books, more facts, more things that come to mind (which apparently is a lot) — all in the interests of historical boosterism. I talk briefly about Jefferson’s second catastrophic term as president, about Abigail Adams’ “remember the ladies” letter to Jefferson, and several other things.

“You must be a historian!” says the dad’s mother.

“No,” I say. “I’m just a guy who likes pesto.”

The funny thing is that, as several of my teachers may attest, history was never really my strong suit in high school or college. Even though I could bluff my muddled memory of historical facts in essay form.

But I’m thinking to myself that if these two adults, who are very nice and conciliatory, and who are everyday people, think I’m a historian, then we are in very big trouble indeed.

I’m not trying to smear these three people. They were very grateful for the titles they loosened from my tongue. And they had fantastic things to say about our founding fathers, based on what they could remember. They showed a keen interest and curiosity in the ways that our national quilt was knitted.

But the distinction here is that they had no real grasp on the details, even when, in one case, history was the primary base of knowledge.

This cultural stigma goes far beyond mere facts. I had a conversation with an acquaintance the other night and I mentioned the tea ceremony at the Asian Art Museum, which I was honored to attend last weekend. This acquaintance told me how she couldn’t possibly attend because she was mortified that only educated folks would find the ceremony interesting.

Nonsense, I replied. I knew almost nothing about tea ceremonies and Asian art. But I pointed out the atmosphere, some of the limitations, and the rules that I could remember, pointing out that my pulse rate was halved just by sitting down, taking in the relaxing rites.

When our motley group was strolling around the museum, I was audacious enough to call the artist behind one fantastic piece of chiaroschuro papyrus “the Aubrey Beardsley of Korea,” which didn’t sit so well with one self-appointed “expert” who thought that such comparisons were uncouth. Uncouth? I was just trying to remember. Who knew there was an unspoken code of acceptable associations?

I wonder if this “expert” (or any educator, for that matter) has any idea that strangling an individulal’s curiosity or telling someone how they should talk about culture is what leads to people like the history major who can’t remember basic details. I wonder if the experts are truly cognizant of the unnecessary chasm that separates the layman from the cultured. The strange stigma behind an enjoyable book like Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which sets out to explain a good deal of science to a popular audience.

What we are seeing, I think, in this age of reactonary and results-oriented education, is a nation that is creating or pepetuating a knowledge class system. The disparity between the knows and the know-nots.

And it kills me to see the mad rush of curiosity suffering such an unnecessary crib death. Really, our countrymen are better than this.

In Defense of Fucking the South (And the Red States Too, For That Matter)

“In swearing, as a means of expressing anger, potentially noxious energy is converted into a form that renders it comparatively innocuous. By affording the means of working off the surplus energy of the emotion induced by frustration, the tension between the emotion and the object of it is decreased and the final dissolution of the tension is expressed in a feeling of relief, which in its place is a sign of the return to a state of equilibrium.” — Ashley Montagu The Anatomy of Swearing

The new political correctness has arrived, and it cuts across a much broader swath than Berkeley. It all started with an election, unearthing a long fragmented nation of reds and blues, followed by purples that tried to underplay the division. Some folks, understandably, didn’t buy into this. Before too long, people were fucking the south, letting their frustrations simmer over the linguistic saucepan.

It was all good fun. Because how many of us either thought or expressed these words just after the election? We were able to view the rant, recognize the angry voice, and move on. Because for many of us, the election was really tantamount to crying “Shit!” when stubbing a toe, or “Fuck you, you fucking fuck” to an inanimate object that either failed to function or caused a lasting bruise. An immediate expression of relief (considered strangely profane in some circles), followed by relative equanamity and a determination to get through the day.

Unfortunately, where the reasonable person can comprehend how frustration funnels into curses and profanity (after all, they are just words), the oversensitive idealist can’t. The oversensitive idealist (represented these days by Neal Pollack, whose latest persona is a strangely sanctimonious theologist of expression) views a world where one must say “love the south” instead of “fuck the south,” never considering that in expressing a momentary curse, one might be, as the great Ashley Montagu suggests, converting short-term negative energy into a greater goal of long-term peace and cohabitation. In this sense, the Pollack view is very much like the JesusLand caricature: a place where human expression is unrealistically hindered, where anger isn’t allowed, and where the very idea of allowing one’s fleeting negative emotions to suffuse, whether in conversational or Web form, is verboeten.

As far as I can tell, nobody is painting black Xs on doors. Vigilantes aren’t heading to a red or a blue state to string up a few dissenters. While there are certainly a lot of silly stereotypes being promulgated on both sides, the silent ban on expression is perhaps even more damaging. Because how can anyone on either side “reach out” when they can’t purge themselves of their negative feelings?

If fucking the south, or fucking the red states, or transforming California or Texas a joke (both very easy to do) leads to national healing, then I say let loose. Theodore Roosevelt famously decried politically motivated journalists as “muckrakers” in 1906, but the term developed beyond its pejorative meaning to classify and understand a specific pursuit still quite active today. Sometimes disparagement helps people come to terms with a concept and create the very unity desired.

It wouldn’t be human to do otherwise.

Just Imagine How Much Trouble It Is To Buy A Pack of Trojans

Singapore is lifting its chewing gum ban, but not without a few stipulations: (a) only 19 medicinal brands will be allowed, (b) anyone dealing black market gum will face two years in jail, and (c) you will need a license and an identity card to buy a pack. (And, yes, that’s all true.) No word yet on whether Singapore has taken a cue from the Brady Bill and plans to add a 30 day waiting period.

Conversation with a Fellow Customer

“Security. Does wonders for the mind.”

He set down his bottle, which he paid with a twenty.

“Really?” I asked. “How so?”

“Well, for starters, there’s the discipline.”


“Yeah. Ain’t no job try your patience. I be doing this seven years.”

“What do you do on the job?”

“Stand round, lookin’ wise. Not much trouble. See, they hires us ’cause they thinks they got something. But they don’t. Nothing important. Nothing I see. Nothing no one, no man steal. Know what I’m sayin’?”


“Just ’bout any one get this kinda work. Show up. Stick around, few weeks they make you supervisor. All in the attitude.”

He collected his change.

“And this is good for the mind?”

“Oh yeah. Real good. Keepin’ it real. Keeps you tight.”

“Doesn’t it get boring?”

“Sometimes. Yeah. But it’s good for the mind, wonders, see. I see most folks cut out quick. Real quick. They the ones got small minds. The real ones hang in. Damn easy. If the mind keeps going, shit, you get supervisor pay. Twelve dollars an hour.”

“So your mind’s in this for the money.”

“Hell yeah. Who ain’t? Gets me cab fare sometimes. Some folks don’t know pay when they hang in there.”

Nice Guys & Lesbians

Oddly enough, I had a “date” similar to this, though nowhere nearly as extreme:

ME: Why is she walking home and why are you picking her up.

AFV (now in full blown rage) BECAUSE YOU TRIED TO KISS HER you asshole! Why did you try to kiss my girlfriend. What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?!?…..

ME: What are you talking about? I was on a DATE with her!

AFV: You weren’t on a date.

ME: I picked her up, I bought our tickets to the concert, and I bought our beers. I mean that’s a f*cking date right.

AFV: It wasn’t a date, she just went out with you because she thought you were a nice guy!

(via Six Different Ways)

Beyond the Pale

Maud’s posted a great little ditty on pallor. But I must assure Ms. Newton that she don’t have jack on my albino ass. For years, I was terrified of wearing shorts. I wore T-shirts to apartment complex swimming pools, and I resented the fact that, no matter how powerful the sunblock, I’d return home with ruddy, blistered flesh. Beyond this brutal reddening, I was hopelessly etiolated.

P.E. was always the toughest period to get through. Beyond my scrawny, clumsy self being among the last selected when softball or basketball teams were established on brutal Lamarckian terms, I was subjected to merciless ridicule about my skin that all seems quite silly now. I was terrified of changing out of the school-sanctioned T-shirt and shorts, back into my regular threads. And no matter how silent I remained, the jocks and their jocose acolytes berated me without letup. I was called ghost, freaky, whitey, paleface.

The turning point came, oddly enough, with the Goth movement. I was never into Peter Murphy or those other silly, angst-ridden singers. But the Goth girls would come up to me and say, “You are so Goth.” At first, I thought they were referring to a towering spire that had somehow affixed itself to my back. But it soon became apparent to me that these young vixens, with their colored hair, tenebrous deportment, and passionate piercings, intended to compliment me.

When I moved to the City, the weather certainly worked to my advantage. But since the unspoken policy here was to accept everyone, eventually I had no problems wearing shorts on rare sunny days. I had no problem at all being Mr. Paleface.

They may be honest in Brooklyn, but I’m convinced that some people aren’t meant to turn tawny. And that’s a good thing. I’m also convinced that healthy pallor is one of the most underrated attributes of beauty. Particularly in a lady.

You’ve Got the Touch

I stumbled onto this and was perplexed. But now I think I understand what goes on in the Upper West Side. And, yes, frankly, it’s a little weird to me too, but not that weird. But I respect it, even if there’s no way in hell I could adopt it. Taking the contrarian stance in a society that acts out the opposite takes (no contrarian pun intended) a good pair of balls. But if the likely result is loneliness without touch, well then goodness me.

The Cole Valleyites

Cole Valley seems to be populated by a sizable faction of urban professionals who can kindly be described as Gavin Newsom voters, and can less kindly be referred to as smug, elitist fuckheads. I do my best to ignore these people, living by a maxim I once overheard while working at the docks (“Whatever floats your fuckin’ boat, motherfucker.”). The intent of this quote, as passed from one day laborer to another, was less benign. But the basic principle still holds water.

Despite my willful avoidance, these people accost me. They approach me as I’m scribbling shit down in a notebook. Or if I’m walking up to the Haight. I dress prgamtic. A shirt and blue jeans. Sometimes a T-shirt. And, yes, I wear a pair of Timberlands, but fuck you. How the hell was I supposed to know that these were au courant couture at the Great Mall of America? All I know is that I went to the shoestore and found a fairly robust pair to serve my needs. And then I started seeing the ads every Sunday in the New York Times Magazine. Goddammit.

I wear glasses. But some days I forget to shave. Outside of a receding hairlilne, there is nothing about me that says “yuppie scum.” Or so I believe.

Tonight, as I was walking up Cole, it happened again. Shortly after a homeless man, trundling north with a sleeping bag on his shoulder, asked me for change (my wallet was exhausted of cash and I apologized), I overheard another man behind me, a Cole Valleyite, a thirtyish man who had shaved his pate to disguise the fact that he had no hair on top, sporting some sort of bullshit L.L. Bean chamois. Cole Valley was trying to “understand” this man, but not giving him a damn thing in the way of change or compassion. His right, of course. Judging by the slow gait and the weary expression, the homeless guy had seen it all. But then Cole Valley started kvetching to the homeless guy about how many times he was panhandled on any given day.

Then the following conversation went down:

COLE VALLEY: Did you hear what I said to that guy?

ED: [ignoring him]

COLE VALLEY: I said, did you hear what I said to him? Goddam. Fuck. Biggest headache living in this City is how many times I get panhandled.

ED: The biggest headache in this City is that no one has the plan or the wherewithal to do something for the homeless.

COLE VALLEY: That bleeding heart liberal I was nineteen, twenty, he’s dead.

ED: No remnants?

COLE VALLEY: Fuck that, man. You live here long enough, you get wise. You and Michael Moore are so fucking clueless, you know that?

ED: Michael Moore doesn’t speak for me, man.

COLE VALLEY: If I lived in any other city, I’d be a liberal. Here I’m a conservative. Anti-death penalty and I’m a conservative. This is the greatest fucking country in the world.

ED: I hear you.

COLE VALLEY: You know what Howard Stern says about Michael Moore? He says he’s a left-wing Limbaugh with worse hygiene. [walking away]

If I was still a brash, choleric twenty-two, I would have beat the shit out of him. But not today. Let the guy walk away. Because one day, if he talks like that with the wrong person listening, his mouth is going to get him into some major trouble.

Nureyev By Subway

Who’s Got the Biggest Balls of All? “Does one really need the perimeter of three subway seats to provide salvation for the sensitive seed?….Bizarre that the same boys who cringed at junior high school calisthenics are now exercising their manhood with the barbaric bravado of Baryshnikov.” (via Maud, who has more to say on the subject).

The odd thing is that here in San Francisco, only the young gangsta wannabes seem to do this. But then the fact of the matter is that our subway cars are too crammed at rush hour to allow for this. But I suspect there’s a correlation to the male need to read while on the crapper. (Oddly enough, while I’ve been known to read in the buff, I don’t like the idea of reading as I defecate. Or shortly after.)

In Defense of Scrooge

The Toronto Star: “In other words, don’t question clichés. But this is precisely what Scrooge does at the beginning of the story, when the ‘portly gentlemen’ come soliciting. Here’s their pitch: ‘At this festive season of the year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.’ Oh? And they don’t suffer in January or February? They don’t feel hungry in July and August? Why should it not be just as ‘desirable’ to help out these wretches in those months? Why not go further, in fact? Why not make some ‘slight provision’ for the poor and destitute every single day of the year?”

Michael Levin: “If you think it is heartless of Scrooge to demand payment [from Bob Crachit], think of Sickly Sid, who needs an operation even more urgently than Tim does, and whose father is waiting to finance that operation by borrowing the money Cratchit is expected to pay up. ”

David E. Bumbaugh: “The problem with Dickens vision, of course, is that the Tiny Tims of the world must wait patiently to be discovered by the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world. What is more, they must hope that when the Scrooges stumble across them, it will be after their miserly hearts have been opened by the visitation of the Spirit of Christmas. Scrooge has the resources to save Tiny Tim, but Tim has no claim on Scrooge except whatever obligation his own redemption has laid upon the wealthy man. In the story, Scrooge learned to keep Christmas and to keep it well, and Tiny Tim was saved, but there is no suggestion that the unjust economic system was in any way altered, or that a thousand other Tiny Tims were not languishing and dying needlessly in that gray old city.”

Robert B. Reich, “Scrooge is Alive and Well in America”: “On the other hand, if you happen to work for one of those 24/7 call centers, you may have to work on Christmas Day. Security guards will be at their stations. Many convenience store operators, too. Also hospital staffs, caterers, hotel personnel, emergency repairers of all kinds, fire fighters, police officers, even the staff at Marketplace.”