Friday, August 26, 2005


Since the beginning of time, man has ventured out into nature and attempted to beat it into submission. This is a reasonable urge because nature is pretty much a bad thing and will kill you the moment you turn your back.

Don’t believe me? Check this out: Just last week, two people wandered off into a patch of nature outside Texarkana to search for Indian artifacts. They got lost and died. So there. Nature is bad.

Lately I’ve been fighting my own battles with nature. My wife and I have realized our lifelong dreams of owning a little hunk of Arkansas. It’s located in Texarkana and it contains a house. We live in this house. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around those few simple facts, but that’s a whole other column.

So we own a home and we have a deal between the two of us. She earns the money to pay the mortgage, and I agree to kill any non-primate living thing that tries to enter it. This usually involves stepping on spiders and spraying wasp nests with deadly chemicals.

But now our Little House on the Confederacy is still under attack by a force far more pernicious than a marauding Union army: locusts.

Now you can get into some trouble down here making fun of insects. Southerners are very proud of their bugs. At least that’s the impression I get. At any number of convenience stores, one may purchase a post card or t-shirt proclaiming the mosquito as the “State Bird of Arkansas.” Just down the street in Texas, one may purchase a shirt claiming the mosquito is the state bird of… wait for it… Texas. So insects, especially sucking insects are taken very seriously here.

But insects can also be the tool of a wrathful God, and now we’re back to the locusts that I was discussing two paragraphs ago before I got distracted by making fun of Texas and Arkansas. God smites people with locusts when he’s not happy. So he’s clearly mad with Texarkana. The place is awash with the chirping, jumping little monsters. And now they’ve invaded our home.

We keep our doors shut. Our windows are always closed. But still they find their way into our home. It will be late at night, and you’ll hear that chirping sound that means they have once again violated our sanctuary. So that means I’ve got to grab a shoe and start smacking things.

(In the interest of accuracy, Julie has noted that our home and yard and entire city are being invaded by crickets, not locusts. I’m sure there’s a difference, but they all look pretty much the same once you’ve smacked them with a shoe.)

So I’m spraying deadly chemicals about and running around with a shoe, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. Now a tribe of ants has joined the locusts in the assault on our home.

At night, I can see the carnage of the battle. Ants that crossed my line of death lay strewn across our bathroom floor. Empty cans of Raid litter our garage, while the smell of dead locusts (or crickets, whatever) befouls our back porch. It is not a pretty scene. But I feel all of this violence is for nothing. The bugs keep coming, and I don’t even get any satisfaction at their deaths.

So I’m calling upon the pest control industry to develop new technologies in the fight against bugs. Might I suggest two new products:

1) A spray that kills ants, but painfully. I’m not sure how this would be accomplished, but I’d feel a lot better knowing that the bugs suffered for daring to invade my home.

2) A spray that merely “roughs up” insects, and sends them on their way. As it stands now, some ant colony sends their troops into our home in search of food, or water, or just to piss me off. They’re killed by the deadly toxins I’ve sprayed around our home. So the queen ant is all, “What happened to that last batch of guys? Let’s send another wave of ants to find out.” This cycle of death repeats itself daily and never really ends because ants are stupid and have very tiny brains.

But what those ants came back to their hill with broken legs and concussions and afflictions like that? I imagine they’d probably stop sending their troops our way.

So I shall wait for that glorious day when I can put these new tools into action. Until then, I will live in constant fear and sleep with a shoe under my pillow.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


I'm in a small Texas town doing man-on-the street interviews about the possible closure of a local army base when the following exchange takes place:

Me: So do you think they'll close the base?

Texas Guy: Thah g'vrnment, thah do wut thah want!

Me: OK.

Texas Guy: Whur yuh frum?

Me: Excuse me?

Texas Guy: Whur yuh frum? Yuh frum Nuh Yurk or Cal-fern-yuh?

Me: Actually, I'm from New York and California.

Texas Guy: That splains yuh! I can't ur'stand thing yuh sayn.

Me: Excuse me?

Texas Guy: Yuh got wurst accent I hurd! Can't ur'stand thing yuh sayn.

At that point, every synapse in my brain fired at once and my head exploded. I am now dead. I'm writing from beyond the grave.

Friday, August 19, 2005


"Love Triangles Are Often Wreck-tangles"


Thursday, August 18, 2005


I look in the mirror and don’t know who is staring back at me.

I’ve lived most of my life being this poor, unemployed person, who lived in a car. And now… now I think I may be turning into a snot. I can’t be sure, but I had a troubling incident the other day that points in that direction.

The guy who installed the sprinklers in our yard came by to collect payment.

Now before we go any further, you may be thinking that I feel like a snot because I can now start a story with the line “the guy who installed sprinklers in our yard.” You would be right. But that’s not even what this story is about. So don’t fixate on the sprinkler guy. It will just distract you.

So the sprinkler guy is over and I give him his money and offer him something to drink. It’s an average summer day in Texarkana, so it’s about 172 degrees outside. I get him a bottle of root beer out of the fridge. It’s a “Hank’s” root beer, made in Philadelphia. Quite tasty.

After taking a few sips, the Sprinkler Guy says, “This is really good. Where do you get this?”

“You can’t get it here. You have to go to this store in Dallas.”

He looks at me like you might expect a person to look at a unicorn, or perhaps a space alien.

“Can’t get it here?”

“No. There’s no place that sells it in Texarkana. But there’s a place in Dallas, and I think there’s a place in Shreveport that will have it soon. That will save a lot of driving.”

He keeps staring at me, and all of the sudden it hits me: I’m now the kind of person who will drive 200 miles each way to buy “the right kind of root beer.” How did this happen?

Living in Los Angeles for 8 years certainly didn’t help. You just get used to having access to “things” that are “good” and that you “like.” Getting married also was a factor. Having a wife with a real job that pays in actual money allowed me to refine my sensibility.

Now when I say “refine my sensibility,” I’m not saying I’ve gone highbrow. Instead, access to money has allowed me to take my lowbrow tastes (grilled cheese sandwiches, root beer, movies) and make them more expensive ($10 grilled cheese, imported root beer, movies with European people whining), and therefore more worthy.

Then there’s the move to Texarkana.

They have microwave pork rinds here. I’m not kidding. It’s right next to the microwave popcorn at Albertsons. When I saw that for the first time, I blacked out for a moment, but I’m OK now. My point is, it’s very different here. Or, more accurately, I’m very different here.

I’m always asking people to spell words here, because I just can’t understand what they’re saying. Did he say “veal” or “veil”? Was that “lion” or “line”? Does that kid want to rent “The Cruddy Kid” or “The Karate Kid”?

It’s hard to say. In the south, a lot of words get pronounced the same. By my estimation, the people here have decided there are just too many words, so they’ve decided to consolidate a few. Within 50 years, southerners may have gotten things down to a single word (“cho”) and will express meaning only through tone.

So at this point, I really don’t know if I’m a snot, or if very single man, woman, and child in the south is strange. Both are equally likely at this point, but I really don’t have time to contemplate that now. I need to make some calls to ensure my cheesecake has been properly airlifted from Rochester. You can’t get any good cheesecake here.

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