Wednesday, November 26, 2003

[Next Owls! posting will be Monday 12/1.]
The last couple of weeks have seen the inexplicable return of an inexplicable habit I was thrilled to defeat a few years ago: at times of stress, and sometimes for no reason at all, I am once again "chewing" nonexistent gum. I don't mean I'm chewing my lip or the inside of my mouth or any other known human behavior: no, I mean I am uncontrollably pretending to chew phantom gum. It usually goes on for several seconds before I realize I'm doing it, then it takes several more before I can rein it in. The most distressing part: I really don't know what it looks like. It may well look like I'm chewing actual gum. Or, as I suspect is more likely, I just look crackers, around the bend, bats.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

When I first starting working in this industry - which fulfills every stereotype of wealthy, alcoholic, serial-mistressing white-collar men - I was shocked at being regularly spoken to using words like sweetheart, doll, honey etc. That really goes on, still? In San Francisco, no less? I didn't object, exactly, since I couldn't care less what these individuals thought of me, what esteem they held me in. But I was surprised. Now, a few years, Stockholm Syndrome (I use this phrase here with my usual bold disregard for correct usage) has set in. Now I feel spurned when such words are not used. What'd I do to piss off Bill? He called me by my name.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Here's a realization I encountered this weekend; perhaps it will be as instructive for others as it was for me. It will only come into play if you're lucky enough to be at the zoo when they're feeding the hyenas, and you witness a brief but impressive hyena fight. If you think not only that this was "rockin'", but that the hyenas themselves love to rock, you may want to lay off the Judas Priest for a while.

Friday, November 21, 2003

With this year's advent of early-evening darkness, I find myself once again contending with lightless, almost phantasmagorical bicyclists during my drive home. My night vision's piss-poor, it's true, but even with normally-sighted motorists these cyclists are rolling the dice. And they're everywhere, of course, since it's Berkeley. I've taken to leaning my head out my window when I pass near them and saying "You're invisible." I do this both as a public service and as revenge. Because it seems to spook them a little. From what I can barely see of their faces, that is. They look a little unsettled. But I'm only speaking the truth. They're like hallucinations, a faint movement at the edge of visibility.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

A couple of days ago, I related to a friend a recurring-dream pattern of mine: when I finish reading a novel that's made a strong impression on me, I often dream I've relocated to the city where it took place, and have immediately adopted affectations designed to make me look like a long-time local, with spectacular failure. E.g., if I finish a good Nadine Gordimer novel, I might dream I've moved to Johannesburg and am assily calling it "Jo'burg" within a couple of days. (I've had that precise dream, in fact.) Or I might read an NYC-themed novel, say, and dream I moved there and immediately started claiming authority on where the "real" delis are. I described this pattern to my friend believing he'd laugh and say something like "Gah, how embarrassing even to dream that!" No. What he said was "Oh, you'd totally do that."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

One of the drawbacks of my default facial expression (even when I'm feeling no particular way and thinking no particular thought, I appear to be scowling almost ferociously) is that Russians take to me immediately. There's a new Russian employee at the coffee shop I frequent, for example, who's decided that I alone among his customers am worthy of hearing his real thoughts about his customers and humanity in general. It isn't pretty. He's about the fifth or sixth Russian that has reacted to me, within seconds of meeting me, in this way. It's a bit of a burden. Yesterday morning, when I warily asked how his weekend was (I ordinarily refuse small talk, but I'm afraid of Russians), his response was a snarled "Well, you know how things go." Do I? Why am I the only person (I know, I've watched) who gets this from him, rather than the overweening quasi-warmth everyone else receives? Do I have to start smiling to avoid these awkward situations in the future? God forbid.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Because I am evidently unable to purchase a full-size bottle of Advil for use at work, and because I chomp Advil like Flintstones vitamins, I'm constantly buying convenience-store minipaks, with 2 or 4 tablets. The 4-tablet pak is apparently the luxury version, because it comes with what the company describes as a "drinking cup". The audacity of this lie is breathtaking. It's an envelope. The tiny envelopes keys are often placed in, you know that size? That's what this is. Its paper is not waxed, nor are its seams glued with any particular care. But the real fun of this "drinking cup" is the information printed on it:
Another Innovative Idea
for the
Mechanical Servants, Inc.

Ballsy and creepy: a rare and admirable combination.

Friday, November 14, 2003

On this Friday, the fruit-suit guy is nowhere to be seen. Instead, there is a gaggle of tiny, uniformed young women handing out samples of Nivea's new men's skincare line. Their smiles were bright and genuine, and from what I could tell they were enjoying an extremely high success rate in getting men to accept the samples. My only question involves the uniforms. What are they meant to represent? Flight attendants? Meter maids? Private girl's school teachers? Nurses? It was dramatically unclear. Perhaps it was meant to be a personalized subliminal suggestion, a sort of dream-melange of typical male fantasies. Pick your uniformed lady; whatever your vocation-related fetish, it's represented in the garb of these sample girls! Makes pretty good economic sense, actually.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Several months ago, Lord Ocelot and I began compiling a long, envy-soaked list of the traits of the very, very cool. Not cool like the coolest person in the group at a smallish party: this involved the uppermost echelon of cool, the cool with charisma so strong it puts its hand down the pants of everyone in the room. The list included generalities like their consistently good luck, and specifics like how they knock on doors, how their jeans fade, and how they're easily able to summon the waitstaff at restaurants without embarrassing anyone involved. The list was intended to be ongoing, with additions being made whenever they occurred to us, but it seems to've fallen by the proverbial wayside. I am proposing two additions, in this more public forum:

1) If they happen to sing in a band (and don't they always? unless they're the drummer?), they can perform an impromptu cover song in their band's encore without a trace of the dreaded Karaoke Effect; their unrehearsed, one-off performance of the song is entirely their own, with no verbal trademarks of the original singer's rendition.

2) If they speak another language, they can seamlessly insert phrases in English into the middle of a sentence in the foreign tongue. For example, if they were asked by a pair of French homotourists where the gay bars in Berkeley are, their in-French answer would contain "White Horse" and "Telegraph Avenue" with no hitch and, most critically, absolutely no French accent.

These sound like things you could do? Don't trust that feeling. Not unless your jeans fade perfectly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

What I think at you if you're behind me on a one-lane escalator, chuffing audibly and kicking at your step impatiently because I'm standing, not climbing: What, are you an EMT? What's this going to cost you, 12 seconds? Let's relax together, shall we? Let's breathe together and share this little break from the incessant hurry. Idiot. You don't have to live like this.

What I think at you if you are standing in front of me on a one-lane escalator when I walk to climb, not stand: Is this f*cking Disneyland? Are we on a ride? A pleasure cruise, you blindered, selfish mule?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In addition to the cognitive-functioning defect described yesterday, I also have several longstanding sensory disorders. One involves "smelling" or "tasting" scents and flavors when a word merely sounds like the name of the item I'm "smelling" or "tasting". The most persistent example of this involves the trash service in our building. When we have a large box or other oversized item that won't fit in a wastebasket, we have to write "BASURA" - Spanish for "trash" - on it, to ensure its being picked up. There are obvious socio-ethical issues with this practice, of course. It ain't my rule. But it stands nonetheless. Now, whenever I have to write this word on a box or whatever else, I immediately "smell" basil su-roh, a Chinese dish I frequently ate in college before realizing I motherf*cking hate Chinese food, and basil as well. I write "basura" and immediately get an overwhelming ghost-whiff of the retroactively-loathed dish. Enough to gag me, sometimes. Sometimes I wave frantically at the air above the box, to dispel the phantom odor. I invite you once again, readers, to imagine life as me.

Monday Night Football's 11/10 "Name of the Game": Na'il Diggs.

Monday, November 10, 2003

As the Bayrea weather turns ugly, as opposed to merely lousy like the rest of the year, I find myself once again facing an outerwear-related psychological condition. If I go outside with my coat on and am not freezing cold, I interpret this to mean "I'm not cold, so I didn't need to bring my coat." As such, the next time I go outside I will skip the coat and be blue-lipped, with broken spirit, within a minute or two. I'm pretty sure this proves that a major part of my critical thinking faculties is deeply flawed. "This object was useful, served its purpose, so I obviously didn't need it."

Friday, November 07, 2003

I think I have an new best friend in the building. This morning I was in the elevator with four of the wall-humpers, who were discussing the Tommy Lee (formerly of Motley Crue, for anyone in dire need of remedial rock study) episode of MTV's "Cribs". The tone of the conversation was mostly critical of Mr. Lee's Malibu excesses: the staffed Starbucks in his game-room was a particular point of ire. Three of the humpers were laughingly listing their favorite parts, in a jeering manner. Then, abruptly and loudly, the fourth bellowed, "Dude, Tommy Lee drummed in a spinning cage, that's all you need to say. He can do whatever he wants." Were truer words ever spoken? A salty tear, like the content of his ex-wife's factory-made breasts, came to my eye.

(Related: people who don't understand why Motley Crue was a different animal than Warrant, Poison & their ilk should throw out their stereos and give up.)

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I've decided I have to stop exerting emotional energy caring about what I'm reading on BART, as far as the opinions of my fellow riders go. This is a ridiculous thing to be concerned about. I just started a collection of stories originally read on NPR, and I can't afford the anxiety of "Will everyone who sees this think I listen to NPR?" My god, can you imagine the prison of living like this? Thinking that everyone on the train is tremendously interested in what you're reading, and ready to judge it? And in this case, what's the fear, really? That they'll think I am of a similar political temperament as they are? Am I really so contrary (not to mention megalomaniacal) that I can't bear the thought someone might mistakenly think I agree with them?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I had to talk to her, too, later on Halloween. We never speak unless it's to exchange opaque "pleasantries" with barely-submerged subtexts of hostility. She, at the bathroom sink: "Awww, you didn't feel like dressing up?" [She was, I must emphasize, the only costumed person in the entire 20-story building.] I gave her a few seconds of expressionless staring before answering no, and adding, bland-toned, that I "felt really left out". What with all the other costumed people. "I thought you would, though," she said breezily, with clenched jaw. "You seem like the Halloween type." I am interpreting this to mean she's yet another person who looks at my occasionally-includes-black-wardrobe and my discheerleaderish demeanor and thinks these things add up to "Goth", despite not betokening this in the approximately 40% of the human population who share them. I will never escape this bizarre, apparently permanently-epidemic misreading.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Regular readers of Owls! may recall my description of my down-the-hall enemy, she of the "panda" sweatervest. As Halloween approached, I grew both excited and filled with dread that she might be one of the very few Financial Districtites to come to work costumed. I had a fairly strong feeling she would. She didn't disappoint. She was - well, it's not quite accurate to say she "was" Tigger, since her costume consisted of a Tigger sweatshirt (collared), black stirrup pants and jack-o'-lantern-festooned Keds. Oh, and facepaint. Yeah, um, about that facepaint. Does my enemy choose to live without mirrors? I saw her ensemble at a little before 8:30 a.m., so the state of that paint could not be attributed to hours of smearing and incidental touch. It looked as though she'd rooted around, truffle-search style, in a pan filled with semi-powdered coal and Cheeto residue. I can't in good conscience refer to the design as "stripes". Stripes tend to have some sort of linearity, as far as I know. She also . . . she did a dance that I assume was related somehow to that bouncing Tigger does, but this was considerably more . . . coital. It was a little coital.

Monday, November 03, 2003

A final note about the collector's sword business discussed on Friday: both of my accusers were Dungeons & Dragons players in their youth. This is something they're fairly open and candid about. I have no such history. They still found me to be more naturally inclined toward this collecting - and this wasn't just about ownership, a further discussion this weekend revealed. It's also the mounted, prominent displaying of the swords. I'm sure you all think I should just let this go, but really, could you?