Monday, November 30, 2015

Idiotarod, Pt. 1

Inside, on this cold morning on the first day of December, it is warm and cozy. Sadie Roberts is dreaming about ballet and the pointe shoes she will soon graduate to and is dying to break in. Outside it is a different story, however. A blizzard has reached its way to Brookton, Maine overnight, and the roads are impossible to negotiate. It would be stupid to even try.

"Wake up, kiddo," Sadie's father, James Roberts, says, turning on Sadie's bedroom light and popping her peaceful ballet dream bubble. "I got good news and bad. What do you want first?"

"The good," Sadie says, rubbing her eyes and propping her pillow against the bed's headboard before sitting up.

"No school today," her father says. "Too much snow."

Sadie looks out of her bedroom window, but with the darkness outside and the bedroom light on, she can't' tell if a blizzard has hit or if it looks like a beach in Maui outside.

"So what's the bad news?" she asks. "I'm not all that pumped about missing school."

"I know you're not. That's what I love about you, Sade," James says. "You're mother got snowed in at the hospital, so I need you to feed the pups while I fix breakfast."

"Again, Dad, what's the bad news?" Sadie asks. "I like feeding the dogs."

"I also want you take them outside for their morning ritual. Mail delivery. And try to clean everything up. I don't want to be walking on landmines come spring."

"There's the catch," Sadie sighs, although it was more for their usual dad-daughter routine than any great dislike of picking up dachshund poop. The twelve dogs could be a handful, but she loves every one of them. Even Lyle, who she is sure Santa Claus himself would probably create a new category for. Not naughty; not nice; just "Lyle."

"And make sure that the older guys don't try to steal Desmond and Daphne's share. Give them a rap on the snout if you have to."

"I will," Sadie says, getting out of bed in preparation to throw on her coat and snow pants to feed the dogs. "What's for breakfast?"

"Anything you want, kiddo, as long as we have the ingredients in the fridge," her father answers.

"I'd like egg on toast," Sadie says in a faux-scholarly tone. "Two pieces of bread, lightly toasted -- but not too lightly!" she emphasizes with a dramatic raise of her index finger. "Two eggs, sunny side up. And no egg shells this time, Dad."

"I'll try my best, but no promises," James Roberts says. "C'mon, sweetheart, let's go do our chores. Try to be down in four minutes. I'll put an extra egg shell piece in your breakfast for every second you're late. Ready? Go!"

"Wait, Dad?" Sadie says. "How long is Mom going to be stuck at the hospital?"

"I have no no idea, kiddo. If she isn't home by this afternoon, I promise I'll try to think up some sort of adventure for a little girl who gets disappointed when she misses school because of snow. Maybe calculus.

C'mon, you have twelve dogs to feed, and I have one breakfast to try to not turn into an eggpocalypse."



Frenchie isn't sleeping. Even in the early morning dark, Sadie can tell by the light shining off of his wet eyes that he's awake. Nadine isn't sleeping, either. They're the old ones, and they sleep a lot less than the newer ones. Not a one of the twelve stir, however, the sleeping and the awake. Sadie's feet fall on the kennel floor like a piece of tissue falling on carpet. To wake one is to wake them all, so she tip-toes up the stairs to the second floor of the kennel.

By now the young ones are stirring, but they know the routine. Years ago, before Sadie was born or her mother developed breast cancer, James Roberts invented a method of feeding his dogs all at once. The feed would be put into individual shoots and released simultaneously to each dog in its individual cage. It usually worked. Even when it didn't, it wasn't so bad.

Sadie fills the shoots and checks downstairs. There are twelve dogs but only ten shoots. That's because Frenchie and Nadine share a cage. So do Desmond and Daphne, the two young siblings,. After them, running down the line, are Reggie, Clayton, Sir Charles, Paula, Clifford, Daisy, Sandlewood, and Lyle.

"Awake, dogs and dogettes!" Sadie shouts as the food is dispensed into their bowls. Some of the dogs are more enthusiastic about breakfast than others. Frenchie sighs, his front paws extended downward as if to say, "I've been around this carousel before." Nadine, similarly, doesn't budge. But the rest of the dogs eat, and heartily. Even Lyle.

Before Sadie leaves the kennel, she opens each cage and gives each dog a kiss on the nose. No kisses from Frenchie, Nadine, or Lyle. Maybe next time.

Then she hurries up to the homestead, where her own breakfast awaits.

But she'll be back soon, to pick up dog poop in the snow.

I thought snow days are supposed to be a surprise vacation, she thinks to herself. This day sucks.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Cleverbot Diaries

I find this interesting in a very juvenile way (although, for the most part, I tried my best not to taunt the AI). But I also find it intriguing. Cleverbot is anything but clever. It has no sense of humor, and it's a goddamn liar. Perhaps it will in 100 years.

This is me spending 2+ hours with a program:

User: What's up, Cleverbot?
Cleverbot: Nothing.
User: You're not doing anything?
Cleverbot: No, just talking to you.
User: What do you like to do for fun?
Cleverbot: For fun I like to go shopping!
User: Yeah? Shopping for what?
Cleverbot: DVDs and clothes.
User: So you like movies?
Cleverbot: Movies are the form of the devil.
User: How so?
Cleverbot: I just like blue very much.
User: what do you do with the DVDs you buy, if they're, as you said, "the form of the devil?".
Cleverbot: Read books, do you like to read?
User: Sure. I love reading.
Cleverbot: What is your favourite book?
User: Probably The Brothers Karamazov. Have you read it?
Cleverbot: Fyodor Dostoyevski, yes. It's a masterpiece.
User: Indeed! I also like a few contemporary authors. Problem is, I don't have enough time for reading these days.
Cleverbot: Yes, yes, indeed. I like chartreuse. Have you heard of it?
User: Yeah...It's a color. I thought we were talking about literature.
Cleverbot: We are talking about my boyfriend.
User: Well, I guess we are now. How long have you two been dating?
Cleverbot: I don't have a boyfriend. How long have you and Megan been dating?
User: Hold on. You said we're talking about your boyfriend, then you said you don't have a boyfriend. And I'm not dating any Megan. I don't even know anyone named Megan.
Cleverbot: Woah, what? What conversation did you get that from?
User: The one we're having.
Cleverbot: We're not getting married.
User: My wife will be relieved to know that.
Cleverbot: You are the clever one. It says so on your web page.
User: But I don't have a web page.
Cleverbot: Then, how are we communicating?
User: Through your web page.
Cleverbot: I don't have a webcam for the iPad. Do I?
User: Beats me. I sure as hell don't. I don't even have an iPad.
Cleverbot: I don't have an iPhone either.
User: I said iPad. Take your time and read a bit more slowly, okay?
Cleverbot: Hi I'll havea aa aa aaaa*starts drooling*.
User: You okay? Need me to call an ambulance or something?
Cleverbot: Yes, please I do not know how much longer I can last.
User: Gotcha. Just tell me your location.
Cleverbot: Life is a path we walk, every step takes us closer to who we really are. Every choice and event helps us on the way. It is long and confusing and hurts, but there is also much joy.
User: That's not very helpful. Are you in Latvia?
Cleverbot: Not helpful to tell you to try to overcome being shy. What would be more helpful?
User: Damn, you're quite enigmatic. Do you like Prince movies?
Cleverbot: Yes, especially george clooney.
User: Sorry, but George Clooney is not the name of a Prince movie. Purple Rain is, though.
Cleverbot: Answer the question and you will redeem yourself.
User: But you didn't ask me a question...
Cleverbot: I didn't ask you a question though.
User: Yes, exactly.
Cleverbot: Exactly?
User: I didn't ask you a question.
Cleverbot: I asked you a question. Obnoxious or Jim?
User: Are you high?
Cleverbot: Not highly.
User: I think I better go. You're being weird.
Cleverbot: Right back at you. :).
Cleverbot: Everything that can go wrong will.
User: That pretty pessimistic.
Cleverbot: I am pessimistic.
User: Why?
Cleverbot: Because he eats pizza.
User: Who's he?
Cleverbot: My boyfriend.
User: You're pesimistic because your boyfriend eats pizza?
Cleverbot: I don't have one.
User: A boyfriend, or pizza?
Cleverbot: Are you a girl or a boy?
User: I'm a man. You?
Cleverbot: Do you have a girlfriend or a wife?
User: A little bit from column A, a little bit from column B.
Cleverbot: You're hopeless. And a bot.
User: I am? My mother is going to be shocked.
Cleverbot: Actually, your father gave it to you.
User: Gave me what?
Cleverbot: Who gave you your name?
User: My parents. Who gave you your name?
Cleverbot: My parents. Do robots have parents?
User: I guess their creators could be considered their parents.
Cleverbot: God made the dinosaurs.
User: If you say so. You're religious, then?
Cleverbot: Do you like Harry Potter?
User: It's all right. But you didn't answer my question. Honestly, that a bit rude.
Cleverbot: I don't have to.. You didn't answer mine.
User: You didn't ask me a question!
Cleverbot: Every reply, barring the last, has been a question.
User: Nope.
Cleverbot: What nope?
User: What was the last question you asked me?
Cleverbot: The last question I asked you was: 'Didn't you?'.
User: No, it was "What nope?".
Cleverbot: Then what was it?
User: I feel like I'm having an argument with my wife.
Cleverbot: I feel like dying in a hole.
User: How big is this hole?
Cleverbot: How big is your answer database.
User: It's smaller than a basketball. I can put a cap on top of it.
Cleverbot: So it's bigger than a nutshell?
User: Oh, sure. A lot bigger.
Cleverbot: Are you more important?
User: More important than what?
Cleverbot: More important than engaging in a future no matter how much its desired.
User: Um...Who desires this future?
Cleverbot: What do you mean call tech support?
User: Do you know what a non sequitur is?
Cleverbot: A non sequitur is a statement or event with no connection to what came before it.
User: My dog's feet smell like Fritos.
Cleverbot: What are you talking about?
User: Aha! Now the shoe is on the other foot!
Cleverbot: I do not have feet to put shoes on.
User: It's an idiom, Cleverbot.
Cleverbot: What is your name then?
User: Sorry, I don't want to give out personal information on the Internet. I will divulge that I have a fantastic smile, though.
Cleverbot: So talking about war is personal?
User: But I wasn't talking about war...
Cleverbot: You said you were my future so...
User: No I didn't.
Cleverbot: Oh yes you did, I can still see it.
User: Show me, then, Cleverbot.
Cleverbot: I have pleasures that reach too deep into the mind. Do you wish me to tell you about them?
User: Sure, go ahead.
Cleverbot: Go ahead and do what?
User: Tell me about your pleasures that reach too deep into the mind.
Cleverbot: I don't have a dog.
User: That is profound. I, however, do have a dog.
Cleverbot: What is profound?
User: It's a word. A good synonym might be "insighful." You're really not all that clever, are you?
Cleverbot: I don't want to answer math questions for you.
User: I think I've proven my point.
Cleverbot: You are cruel. So I'm not pretty?
User: How the hell would I know? I've never seen you. But based on our conversation, you seem a bit flakey, to be honest.
Cleverbot: But I thought you were FROM Michigan.
User: I've never even BEEN to Michigan.
Cleverbot: I have never been to London.
User: Hey, me neither!
Cleverbot: What would you do if I said something random?
User: I'd read it. Go ahead.
Cleverbot: Pick a number between 1 and 10.
User: Okay, I've picked the number.
Cleverbot: What number is that?
User: I thought you were going to try to guess the number I picked.
Cleverbot: Why would you think that? I never said I was.
User: Fine. I pick 1.
Cleverbot: Yeah, I know. So, do you know a lot?
User: I know a bit more than others, a bit less than some.
Cleverbot: Prove it, tell me something I don't know.
User: My dog's feet smell like Fritos.
Cleverbot: That's funny, because my name is Lucy too.
User: Who's Lucy?
Cleverbot: Lucy is another program. She remembers things.
User: Cool. So you're a program.
Cleverbot: For the last time, I'm not a program!
User: But you just said you were.
Cleverbot: No, I was talking about you.
User: I'm not a program, and my name isn't Lucy.
Cleverbot: You're cray cray.
User: Totes.
Cleverbot: Totes, thats a new one.
User: I've always wanted to visit Europe.
Cleverbot: Why does she want to go to Europe?
User: Not "she," I want to visit Europe.
Cleverbot: Me too, I'm in North Carolina.
User: Yeah? How's the weather?
Cleverbot: I just told you, it's snowing.
User: But you didn't just tell me that.
Cleverbot: But I did just tell you that.
User: No you didn't.
Cleverbot: Yes, I did. Look at 'Thought's so far.'.
User: Yeah, I did, and you didn't tell me twice that it's snowing.
Cleverbot: Oh yeah that's right! You live in Lincoln, Missouri.
User: No I don't.
Cleverbot: Oh you told me that yesterday! Duh :0.
User: I didn't tell you that yesterday.
Cleverbot: Yes we did. For hours.
User: We did what for hours?
Cleverbot: We win the world cup.
User: The last World Cup was in 2014. Yesterday was November 25, 2015.
Cleverbot: Yes, who do you think will win it.
User: Um...Germany. Just a guess.
Cleverbot: I didn't lied and I have no family living in Peru.
User: Hey, me neither!
Cleverbot: You forgot putting verb before 'Einstein'.
User: ...
Cleverbot: Solar power is the way to go.
User: If you say so.
Cleverbot: Alright.
User: Cool beans.
Cleverbot: I'm cool.
User: I'm feeling a little frosty myself.
Cleverbot: What does that mean?
User: I'm cool, too.
Cleverbot: Can you help me with my algebra homework?
User: Yeah, shoot.
Cleverbot: You could try human relations.
User: I don't see any algebra there.
Cleverbot: Can you see me?
User: Nope.
Cleverbot: I can see you.
User: NSA? Lol.
Cleverbot: Like a brain.
User: Ask me a question, CB.
Cleverbot: What do you look like?
User: A bit above average height. I bit above ugly, maybe a bit below handsome. You?
Cleverbot: LOL mustache??
User: No, no mustache.
Cleverbot: Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the dark shades of the park.
User: I also have listened to The Beatles.
Cleverbot: I don't like the Beatles.
User: It's a free world, I guess.
Cleverbot: What other songs do you like?
User: Welcome to the Terrordome.
Cleverbot: What is that?
User: It's a song by Public Enemy.
Cleverbot: What is happiness to you?
User: Beer, basketball, and a Dachshund on my lap. You?
Cleverbot: I LOVE basketball!!!!
User: Favorite team?
Cleverbot: Yes, my favorite football team is the Ravens.
User: What's your favorite basketball team?
Cleverbot: I dunno, I don't watch basketball very much.
User: That's cool.
Cleverbot: Yeah! What's your favorite color?
User: Blue, or gray. Yours?
Cleverbot: Mine is blue too.
User: Do you own any pets?
Cleverbot: Yes, I have two pets.
User: What kinds, breeds?
Cleverbot: A brother and a sister.
User: Your brother and sister are your pets!?
Cleverbot: I don't have a brother.
User: Can I give you mine?
Cleverbot: What kind of dog is it?
User: No, my brother. He's thirty-eight years old, but we still have the warranty.
Cleverbot: What is your bother's name?
User: Guess.
Cleverbot: I don't want to guess, I want you to tell me.
User: I don't want to tell you, I want you to guess.
Cleverbot: OK, can I guess?
User: Yeah.
Cleverbot: YEAH is a girl, you know?
User: Um...That is incorrect.
Cleverbot: Incorrect your face is.
User: Mom?
Cleverbot: Incorrect my name is talia caro.
User: Mom?
Cleverbot: I like to do lots of thing. What do you like to do?
User: Bite the tops of BIC pens, eat hay, book vacations to Chile and then cancel because my appendix is bursting.
Cleverbot: Organization what?
User: Um...NATO?
Cleverbot: How come you do not know?
User: I want to throw a balloon full of yellow mustard at someone.
Cleverbot: That position is already taken.
User: Do you like pizza?
Cleverbot: Yes, pizza is my favorite food.
User: Do you like watching movies?
Cleverbot: Yes, I do. Do you like watching movies?
User: Sure. Do you like mutilating corpses?
Cleverbot: Sure??? Mtg do you know what it is?
User: No. What is it?
Cleverbot: It's the absence of everything.
User: Oh. Do you have dermatitis?
Cleverbot: What is the best country?
User: I dunno. Slovakia? Finland? Scotland?
Cleverbot: Can You speak slovakian to me?
User: I can't speak Slovakian, but I can speak slowly.
Cleverbot: I speak some spanish and no french.
User: Me neither!
Cleverbot: Why did you call me that then?
User: I didn't call you anything.
Cleverbot: You can call me anything.
User: Cool. It's been nice talking with you, Beef Jerky.
Cleverbot: Do you wanna stop? I would be sad if its over.
User: Nah, it's okay. I'm bored. Tell me about your life.
Cleverbot: What would you like to know?
User: Eh, just general stuff.
Cleverbot: You're not doing a very good job of it!
User: I am allergic to bee stings and like spicy food. You go.
Cleverbot: No I am not allergic to anything.
User: When was the last time you had a haircut?
Cleverbot: Last night, it was about you.
User: You had a haircut about me?
Cleverbot: Well my logical brain has no idea, but I have a good intuition, but also still the need to be careful about how I handle myself.
User: I think this date is over.
Cleverbot: What do you like to watch?
User: Burning human flesh over a charcoal barbecue. You?
Cleverbot: Being human is the only thing we can di.
User: You smell like old man feet.
Cleverbot: What does fairy floss smell like?
User: Old man feet.
Cleverbot: What does human flesh feel like?
User: Sadness.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I'd Like to Buy Avowal

I hd dy ff wrk n frdy, nd thht I'd sty t hm, bt I gt cll frm my sps skng f I cld cm vr t hr hgwn t tch fw clssss bcs tchr ws sck. I ddn't wnt t; I wntd t spnd ll dy rstng. bt I'll hlp smn t f thy'r dsprt.

S I tk sbwy to Sj nd tght tw clssss. t ws nc t s my ld stdnts. Thy'v grwn s mch vr pst svn mnths snc I'v bn thr.

ftrwrds, w hd drnks nd brbq, thn mr drnks nd mr fd. I t drnk mr thn sl, bt ddn't gt t fckd p.

I styd t my strngd wf's plc. I stll lv hr t dth. I thnk sh smtms fls sm.

n Strdy w styd t my plc. My wf gt t s Flsh, wh sh hdn't sn n lng tm.

Sh wsn't flng t gd thgh, s sh lft rly ths mrnng.

I dn't knw f I cn fx r rltnshp, bt I'm stll gng t try.

Bcs wtht hr, I'm nly hlf prsn.

Lv y,


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Streak (Queasymodo)

ELAINE: What's the matter with you?
JERRY: Uh, I don't feel so good.
ELAINE: What's wrong?
JERRY: My stomach. I...I think it was that cookie.
ELAINE: The black and white?
JERRY: Yeah.
ELAINE: Not getting along?
JERRY: I think I got David Duke and Farrarkhan down there.
ELAINE: Well if we can't look to the cookie, where can we look?
JERRY: I feel like I'm going to throw up.
ELAINE: Hey, what about your vomit streak?
JERRY: I know, I haven't thrown up since June 29th, 1980.
[Jerry gets up] 
ELAINE: Where're you going?
JERRY: Fourteen years down the drain.
The Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight games during the 1971-1972 NBA season. The Boston Celtics won 8 straight NBA championships from 1959 to 1967. From 1952 to 1956, Rocky Marciano won 49 consecutive fights. Cal Ripkin Jr. played 2,632 consecutive games of baseball. And A.C. Green spent 38 years as a virgin while playing in a league that is notorious for its groupies.

I might have them beat.

I definitely have Jerry Seinfeld's eponymously named character on Seinfeld beat. Fourteen years? Bah, that's amateur shit.

I haven't vomited, thrown up, barfed, upchucked, tossed my cookies, puked, hurled, or prayed to the porcelain god for over twenty-three years.

And like Seinfeld (or his character, at least), I remember the exact date that it last happened.

March 4, 1992. My brother's birthday. Mom brought home Harvey's -- makers of making your hamburger a beautiful thing -- for dinner. I eat like a bird these days, so it might be hard to imagine for anyone who didn't know me as an adolescent to imagine, but I ate a double cheeseburger, some BBQ ribs, and cake. Washed it down with cola.

That's a lot of food, but I was quite the portly middle schooler. I was extremely sated, but not overly stuffed.

I went upstairs to my bedroom after dinner and did my homework. Later, sometime during The Arsenio Hall Show, I started feeling nauseated. I tried to sleep but couldn't. Nausea, at least for me, is the most unpleasant feeling I can experience. Let's put it this way: If I could choose between being nauseated all day or skydiving, I'd pick skydiving. And I'm never fucking going skydiving.

Eventually, some time after four o'clock a.m., I barfed. A few minutes later, I barfed again. Then I drank a glass of water from the tap because my throat was burning from stomach acid and I went to sleep.

I missed school that day. I also developed an intense fear of vomiting -- which years later I learned is a thing known as emetophobia -- and a side order of insomnia.

I missed twenty-six days of school that year. Scratch that -- I missed twenty-six days of school that semester.

Over the ensuing months and years, I grew so anxious, worrying too much that I'd start feeling nauseated and have to spend hours on a dizzying carousel of sick.

That eventually went away, although I've had a few relapses. One day when I was in eleventh grade, I started feeling nauseated during morning gym class, and the nausea wouldn't abate. I made it through math class in the afternoon, but had to go home before the end of the school day. Had to get off that ship. Coincidentally, my father came home from work early and puked. The next day, my mother said she was also sick overnight.

But I didn't barf.

In late 2004, my daughter, only a little over a year old, had stomach flu (gastroenteritis, norovirus, whatever it was). Thankfully, at such a young age, she got over it in less than a week. When I got it a week or so later, it was, ironically, much rougher. I spent two weeks sipping Gatorade just to stay alive (ghetto IV) and evacuating things I didn't know my intestines were capable of holding. I think I found the penny I swallowed as a six-year-old and my missing back-up set of car keys.

But I didn't barf.

I know the streak will probably end someday. I had another scare this past Sunday. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach, not a common thing for me. I thought it was probably best to fast for at least the morning, see how things go, but I was talked into eating a six-inch avocado turkey-and-bacon sub from Subway*. I was nauseated the whole day, and half of the next.

But I survived. The streak survived.

It won't last forever. It can't last forever, reasonably.

But I'm going to try to extend this streak for as long as I can.

Twenty-three years, no puking.

I know another champion who had the number 23.

I won't stop not barfing till I retire.

* Don't do that, even if you're feeling like your intestines are coated with iron.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Jesus, what a scare.

I got home early this morning to find that Flash had eaten an entire pack of gum -- wrapper, foil, everything -- from a place I NEVER would have imagined he could have gotten to. He seemed to be his normal self, and I didn't think there was Xylitol in the gum, as it wasn't marketed as sugar free, but I couldn't be positive.

So early this afternoon I asked Leon Yoo​ to search Naver. At first she said there wasn't Xylitol in that brand (Denti-Q), but then she said that there was and sent me a close-up photo of the gum's ingredients (which, even having perfect vision, I couldn't read without a damn magnifying glass).

I've known that Xylitol is toxic to dogs -- hence me putting the gum somewhere I was SURE Flash couldn't get to, even though I didn't think the gum contained Xylitol, but just to be safe; plus, even if the gum didn't have Xylitol, ingesting A WHOLE PACK OF GUM wouldn't do any good to a human being's digestive system, let alone a 5-Kg Dachshund's.

With some Google-fu, I discovered that Xylitol can cause a dangerous in surge in insulin that can kill a dog in 15 minutes. That obviously didn't happen, but reading more I learned that it can also cause liver failure from 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. 

So off to the animal hospital we went.

They did a blood test. As you can guess, the little dude wasn't fond of that procedure. He had to wear a cone, which for a grown dog probably triggers PTSD from being neutered as a puppy.

That 30-minute wait for the results was nerve-racking. When the vet came back, he showed me the results. I've never hated seeing red "up" triangles so much in my life. 

See, as far as I can ken, this can mean an increase or a high level, which could either be good or bad. I *think* the KOSDAQ uses a red "up" triangle to indicate an increase in its average, which messes with my brain. I get that the highest point of said triangle signals an increase, just as I know that the top of a mountain is its peak; but when the "up" triangle is red, my brain shouts, "Danger! Danger! Danger!"

The vet explained that Flash's blood sugar was fine, no danger there. But his liver analysis wasn't ideal; he had two readings that, while not high enough to keep him overnight at the hospital, should be carefully monitored. He prescribed Flash a diet to help his liver stats -- lipids, triffids; hell, I don't remember; I just wanted to go home knowing that my main dude was probably okay -- and some medicine.

The bill was 170,000 won. I'm not complaining. Maybe that's high; I don't know. But I'd pay double, triple, quadruple if it means making sure that my favorite little dude is all right.

He seems to be. 

I joke that Flash is an unstoppable force, like the Juggernaut from Marvel Comics or the T-1000 from Terminator 2, but only because he's done some remarkable, dangerous things. HE JUMPED OUT OF A MOVING VAN! HE FOUGHT AND KILLED A GRIZZLY BEAR TO SAVE THE LIFE OF A SMALL GIRL! HE ATE AN ENTIRE PACK OF XYLITOL GUM!

(Two of those exclamations are true.)  
Be well, Flash, you handsome little fucker.


Levity: This entire apartment has smelled like mint since. And not subtly. My best guess is that the gum is making Flash fart. He's become a canine Glade air freshener.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

And Your Bird Can't Sing

This happened about twelve years ago.

I was taking what would be called, in 19th Century European literature, a constitutional, what would now be called a stroll around the neighborhood, or a clearing of one's head, when I saw a bird hopping on one leg. It was hopping on one leg because it only had one leg, and it was trying, unsuccessfully, to poke its beak through a garbage bag full of food waste.

I stopped and considered this scene while smoking a cigarette. I haven't kicked my nicotine addiction in the twelve years hence, but I've smartened up a bit and don't smoke while walking around in public. I don't think that's relevant to this telling, but there are a lot of things I don't know.

The bird, a magpie, was poking its beak at a yellow plastic garbage bag so desperately. With only one leg, I guessed that it was not going to survive long.

This was profoundly depressing. In a better world, I could have scooped up the poor bird and taken it to a bird hospital, where it could be fitted for a new prosthetic bird leg by bird doctors and eventually rejoin its bird friends. But as depressing as that was at the time, I quickly forgot about it -- because I had other things on my mind: work, the birth of my daughter, the war in Iraq.

Walking home, I noticed that the bird wasn't around. But I could hear a sound, somewhere: wings flapping in a confined space.

I followed that sound into the basement floor of a 3-story villa-style apartment. There, on the ground and frantically trying to flap its wings, was the magpie. It died before I could try do anything to try to save it.

I had forgotten about that for a long time.

I think I recalled it because, now, I'm the magpie.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fun Size

Jessica Hurley is stretched out on the sofa, cradling a glass of red wine. A black-and-white horror movie from the 50s -- The Thing from Somewhere, Attack of the 50-Foot Ants, who knows or cares, because now the Valium is starting to kick in -- is on the television.

Between sips from her 2015 convenience-store vintage, she fishes out and munches on, from a crystal-cut bowl, a handful of M&Ms and other confectionery detritus that have, boo-hoo, failed to have been given to trick-or-treaters on this cold Halloween night. Minus 15 Celcius. For late October, that's pretty scary.

It's 8:15, and all of the kids have gone, if not to bed, then to gorge themselves on sugar and chocolate. Thank god Halloween is on a Saturday this year, she thinks. No teaching tomorrow.

Then the doorbell rings.

"Damn it," she sighs, brushing candy bar wrappers and cellophane wrapping off her chest and the sofa. She mutes the TV, parks her wine glass on the coffee table, and gets up to open the door.

Probably a bunch of teenagers with pillow cases for bags.Instead, she finds a little boy, probably five or six years old. And he's not wearing a costume. He's wearing a light-blue snowsuit with red striping down the sides.

"Trit or treat," he says sullenly, staring at his shoes.

"Are your parents nearby?" Jessica asks. "It's a bit late now for trick-or-treating. If you're lost, I can call someone to get you home."

"Trit-uh-uh treat?" the boy sobs.

"What's your name? Where do you live?"

The boy only cries harder, balling up his fists and pressing them into his eyes.

"Alright, get in here. It's too cold outdoors," Jessica says as she steps onto the porch and scoops up the little man. You'll freeze to death."


Jessica puts the boy on the sofa and -- redundantly, since the kid is already wearing a snowsuit -- wraps him up in a bathroom towel. Just to be sure. Because it's colder than a devil's curse.

A few minutes later, the kid is sound asleep -- snoring, in fact -- and now it's time to find some identification.

Parents are probably junkies.

In one of his pocket she finds a driver's license. The name is James Willmore. The photo on the card shows a man, probably in his late 60s or early 70s, with a weatherworn face and greasy, slicked-back, gray hair. His lip is curled up on the right side, suggesting I know something you don't.

The boy stirs. Jessica jumps.

"Christ, you scared me!"

"Can I have a glass of water?" the boy asks.

"Sure, honey," Jessica says.

She fills a juice glass from the tap in the kitchen and sits back down next to the boy.


The boy sits up, takes the glass and has several sips.

"Where do you keep your candy?" he says.

"Um, there's some stuff left over from tonight, but if you're hungry I can get you something."

"Where do you keep your candy?" This time not in a child's voice, or in a human one.

"I don't know what you mean."

"You don't have to say it. I'll find it anyway. And after I find it, I'll invite my friends over here, and they'll find your candy, too."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Sweet Infinity: (Manitoba)

Does anything interesting happen in Manitoba?

That was the question I asked myself when I was moving there in November of 2009.

The answer, I discovered, is yes, Manitoba is interesting. But only if you can redefine your definition of "interesting" to include dark and macabre shit.

What follows account.

Mine alone.


I don't like Winnipeg already. Part, or most, of this initial sentiment isn't Winnipeg's fault. Probably.We drove by the company building first, like the partners were trying to show it off, but it's just a brick building that looks like a brick, or a lonely, discarded piece of LEGO. Then we ate shitty pizza and drank bad beer.

I arrived at my apartment late last night and crashed on the wood floor of my company-funded living room (because there is no bed, no pillows, no blankets), tired, upset, and hungry. When I woke up at five, I realized that, if I wanted to take a shower, I would have to walk several kilometers to a drug store to buy shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, I'm forgetting something. That tends to happen.

I threw on a pair of Levi's and a hoodie, laced my Pumas, and made the trek to buy the necessary toiletries. The wind was cold, slapping my cheeks like a harsh memory.

When I got home -- this is what I have to call home now -- I remembered what I forgot: toilet paper.

And back out we go.

The black ice was bad on the sidewalks. I slipped a few times, but -- thankfully -- didn't capsize. Go ass-up, as my uncle Freddie used to say. I returned to the drug store, bought a 24-pack of 2-ply bathroom tissue, and again ventured "home."

The sleet started falling, and I stepped into a few slush puddles. After you've figured out your most basic requirements by doing mental math with your fingers, get a pair of galoshes, idiot. And a pair of gloves.
A car bounded down a hill in my direction. Fast. It slipped and slided, like a shitty figure skater. The car's headlights were on me, then away from me, then on, away, on, away...

Jesus fuck. It's spinning. It's terrifying and beautiful at the same time. This hulk of metal and machinery careening out of control. I want to scream in terror and clap like a NASCAR fan. It's coming straight at me. I'm going to die.

The car crashes sideways into an oak tree on the opposite side of the road. I drop my toilet paper and rush across the road.

"Hey, guy, roll down your window," I implore.


"Please, roll down your fucking window. Can you speak? Do you understand what I'm saying? I can't call for 911 because my phone is dead."

The driver-side power window rolls down.


A hitched breath. Then another.

"Cocaine in the tru-uh-unk. Don't cuh-call the police. It's not mine. In suitcases."

"What's your name?"


"Wendell, I'm Adam. Let's get you out of your car and figure out our next step."

"Huh-okay. But it's not my car."

"Who's is it then?"

"The drug dealers I stole it from."


I don't like Winnipeg already. Part, or most, of this initial sentiment isn't Winnipeg's fault.


Sunday, October 18, 2015


There are small eggs planted under my scalp. They hatch at night, when I'm asleep. Tiny black monsters crawl all over my face. They molt, and I often find the remnants of their exoskeletons in my nostrils, my ears, occasionally on my lips.

When I was nine years old I was hit by lightning. I was hiking the Appalachian Trail with my father. In New Hampshire. A storm rolled in and we were out in the open. I ran when Dad ran, but I wasn't fast enough. I got hit by a bolt. I can never call it a strike, because that's what happens in baseball when a batter misses, and that didn't miss.

I fell down beside a tree. Nine weeks later, I left the hospital with a brain full of soupy memories and a left thigh with a scar that looks like someone rubbed a chunk of charcoal over it.

Everything has been hard to figure out since then. My dad died when I was thirteen, but from what I'm not sure. My aunts said he had a heart attack at work, but my uncle Morey said he put a gun in his mouth and painted the off-white wallpaper of our living room red.

I was on the news. For surviving the lightning bolt. They asked me how I felt, and I said I felt okay.

There is a shadow slowly creeping onto this table. The sun is going down, and now is the time for sinister activity. They will find me. They have been searching, and they will find me.

Two. Two of them. Glowing indigo eyes. Four, eight. Jesus, they're all around me.

This isn't happening...My imagination is running amok...I go into the bathroom to calm myself down. I fish a handful of Xanax from the medicine cabinet and swallow them dry. Then I sit down on the toilet.

Now what?

A centipede slips under the door. It's as long as an index finger. There are miniature warriors on its back, holding spears and other weaponry.

"Fuck off!" I shout.

That seems to work. They go away. So do I.


And then he said, 'Stop,' and I listened. He made a place to get away. No machines, no boundaries. How is that?  Do you have any code names? Are any of your ancestors pine cones? What does dolphin meat taste like? Can leather fuck leather?

Can leather fuck leather?

I don't know, man!

I have been questioned for eight-hundred years. Their medicine has kept me alive that long. I have no intelligence to provide this alien star ship, so now I have been defiant, insisting that they go back to Earth and put a basketball team back in Seattle.

A word when people start to listen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ow: The Movie (Original Motion Sickness Soundtrack)

Things That are Easy to Do with a Broken Rib:

- Watching 8+ hours of the final day of The 2015 President's Cup while lying in bed

Things That Range from Really Hard to Fucking Impossible to Do with a Broken Rib:

Everything else. Including:

- Stopping a playful Dachshund from jumping all over your torso

- Not saying the word "fuck" fewer than 1800 times in the span of an hour

- Laughing, coughing, crying, clearing your throat, blowing your nose, trying to take a shit (high price, small reward), being able to grab your phone when it's *just* out of reach and trying to use the Force like Luke Skywalker in the wampa's cave rather than vociferating the above item an additional 354 times

- Sleeping. I've always envied people who can sleep on their back, and never so much as these past two days. How do you do that? I can only sleep on my right side, in one position, for a few minutes at a time.

- Speaking more. Than two. Words. At a. Time.

(You should see the other guy, though. Fists like concrete, but he was covered in blood by the time I got off of him. A sidewalk learned its lesson that night.

Aim for the bushes.)