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Above: The last issue of X Magazine (#13). [FX: tightly wrenches money-spewing fire hydrant closed].

Longer 1995 articles: Three Arrested in Drunken Santa Spree / Cross-Country Burn: Burning Man 1995 / Big Trouble Little Windsor Ray-Bob / X13: Danielle Briesbois Todd Matthews / X13: Milk and Cheese Evan Dorkin / X13: Japanese Candy and Gum reviews Jack Szwergold / X13: Science - The Leap Second Scott Berk / X Magazine #13: Japan. Last issue.

February 1995.

1995feb17. The day after Valentine's Day, I received a letter from "Compatible Connections", addressed to "THE SINGLE PERSON AT ... " It contained two pieces of paper ‒ one, a letter of introduction, and the other, a list of questions.

"In today's world, single people are faced with a challenge that is unique to the onset of the 21st century. It is not in meeting new people or even finding relationships. The challenge is finding compatible, fun, lasting relationships. This eludes single people of all ages.

You know that somewhere, there is the person who shares your leisure interests, your moral outlook, the person who has an intellect, temperament, economic and education background, that's right for you."

The letter continues with the normal singles connection minutiae we've all become familiar with. The enclosed list of questions, however, are from Mars. I present them to you in their entirety.

Should the theory of evolution be taught in public schools?

Should single men and women ever take trips together otherwise unescorted?

For you to be happily married, must you have an extremely affectionate spouse?

Is religious instruction necessary for all children?

Can theft ever be justified?

Does our society place too much significance on sex?

Do people feel you are a critical person?

Do you normally repeat the "Good Jokes" that you hear?

Can you be made to "Fly off the handle" (lose your temper) easily?

If children want to select a specific religion, should they be permitted to do so?

Is going to night clubs permissible for those people that work with children?

Do open displays of affection among teenagers tend to bother you?

Does the opposite sex hold a very strong attraction for you?

Comparatively speaking, did you enjoy your life as a child?

Would you prefer to spend most of your time with other people?

After you die, will you be penalized for your sins on earth?

Is a jury trial the best way of obtaining justice?

For a successful marriage, do you feel romantic love is a must?

Does being shy cause you problems?

Do your moods rise and fall for reasons you can't explain?

Are you called upon once in a while to lead at social functions?

Are you a consistent church goer?

Should women become attorneys and judges?

Do "Off Color" jokes and stories tend to disgust you?

Would a quiet spouse please you more than a lively one?

Are you sensitive about certain things?

In your opinion, are social functions worthwhile?

Would you rather associate with "God-fearing" people who attend church?

Does a Supreme Being control mankind?

Should more stringent divorce laws be enacted?

Is sexual compatibility necessary for a successful marriage?

When entertaining friends, do you really enjoy yourself?

Do you often feel "Down in the dumps" ‒ just plain miserable?

Do social activities appeal to you more than staying home?

Is tremendous good on earth brought about by religion?

Is it all right for married men to associate with "other women" outside of business?

In your opinion, are you an affectionate and warm person?

Does an open display of affection normally cause you to respond?

Does membership in social organizations and clubs appeal to you?

Do you believe in a "life hereafter?"

Are most viewers adversely affected by shows displaying sexually suggestive performers?

When you are with strangers do you feel uncomfortable?

Is your attitude toward life usually happy and even tempered?

Are you usually a sound sleeper?

Do you feel your prayers are answered by a Supreme Being?

Is it all right for women to ask men for dates?

Should children be given sex education in school?

Is the company of the opposite sex more enjoyable to you than that of your own?

Does nervous tension cause you to have aches and pains?

When criticized by others are your feelings easily hurt?

The bottom of the page lists the copyright date of the form: 1969.

1995feb17. Route 66 Fiasco (part 4 of 4).

Yes, I've been a bit lax in serving up this latest fine missive. Please understand, the holidays always take a while to get used to. For instance, you may be receiving holiday-type cards from me (if you're one of those people on the list that actually knows me apart from these strange words appearing on your screen and the ever-popular X Magazine, which will not be talked about at all in this missive, ain't life grand?) within the next month, and I think you're going to like them. They're satin, they're lace...they're beautiful.

Lucky takes a dive in the first round: The Routed 66 trip.
[Note: This factual account of the Route 66 road trip contains references to gunplay and is recommended for mature audiences. It also has the word "bastard" in it.]

If you've been paying attention to previous missives, you may have seen more-than-passing references to the highly touted X Magazine staff car Christmas exchange, an event which went horribly awry and left the celebrants in odd state of shock and disbelief. To wit: it threw a rod in Bloomington, Illinois. The car drove like a champ all the way to Michigan City, Indiana, the hand-off was made, Doc (looking resplendent in his Santa suit and Bono "fly" sunglasses) and Burford (playing the part of "elf," phoning major airports trying to arrange a pick-up of the rest of his costume on the way) drove off on a foggy night with the heater cranked, ready for adventure. When they stopped for the night, they were refused lodging at a Famous National Low-Cost Hotel Chain Thing (1:00am: "Ummmm...we have a BIG PARTY coming in tonight, don't we?" "Yeah, YEAH!") but were accepted at the Days Inn ("Where America Shops/Works/Eats/Sleeps"). The next morning, the car ran funny (that is, funnier than a car with the top cut off and Little People frescos on it could run) for awhile and then left a 300 yard oil slick behind it while putting several holes in the oil pan. Reports are sketchy at this point (The Drop-Off Crew, including the author, were secure in Chicago proper during this fracas, put up by Liz) but apparently shots were fired at Lucky; the elf was packing heat. Six holes in Lucky's head (all responsibly placed within a small distance of each other) finished the bastard off for good. The rest of the Drop-Off Crew went to retrieve our stranded heroes (and the bran' spankin' new battery!), while I took a train home, physically exhausted from a strict regimen of being mysteriously, continuously ill. Sure, I left out a lot of details, but I wasn't there, I was trying to sleep while listening to my seatmates, the only people talking in that car; a thirty-seven year-old dad and his eight-year old son. It has nothing to do with X, or anything, for that matter, that's why I'm sharing, with you, some of their precious conversation, which got more interesting as dad slugged down a great number of beers (Yes, the diner car serves alcoholic beverages ["Who's your Bud? I AM, DAMMIT!] to qualified customers, who can then take it back to their seat and pass it to anyone they damn well please; in this case, however, our hero drank alone):

"Remember when mommy crashed the white car?"
"Remember when mommy crashed the brown car?"
"Remember when mommy crashed the other white car?"
"Yup. Did you ever crash a car?"
"I got a dent in my truck, but that was even before I met your mommy."
"Now, all you have to do is, tell the judge that you want to live with me."
"That's all?"
"Yup, and then I won't have to pick you up and you won't have to ride on the train!"
[much later]
"So we'll go pick out a new truck. What do you like?"
"The big one ..."
"Yep ... as soon as I get my license back, we'll go right in. Five years, boy, have I been waiting."

For the rest of the story, go to Deuce of Clubs: Wagnernugen.

April 1995.

1995apr18. Post Office Visits I Have Known (addendum).

Random Day, 1990: Arrive at Post Office, pick up X mail. Minutes later, mail bomb goes off.

Random Day, 1991: Arrive at Post Office, pick up X mail. After a ten-minute drive to work, I find my co-workers glued to the radio; an ex-postal employee just shot up the place. "But I was just there and ... ewwww..."

April 15th, 1994: Arrive at Post Office, pick up X mail. Am accosted by person of unknown gender, dressed in (what appeared to be) a large eagle costume, passing out pads of paper and pens. The side of the pen reads:

Old Town District
"Service" is our last name.

April 17th, 1995: As staff Macro historian Neal M and I walk up, we notice a now-familiar tv news truck parked outside. Momentarily forgetting the day's proximity to our nation's fine tax deadline, I run through a quick mental checklist: "terrorists?" "ebola virus?" "comet?" Lot of people with suits on, can't be any type of unexpected tragedy. Pick up the mail (a ton of bills), and I'm stopped as I exit by someone from Edy's Ice Cream Inc.: "Want some free ice cream?" "Hell yes!" Neal already had picked up his share, and we had a fine ice cream eating time while watching a WHAT-TV greenhorn making the annual tax day puff piece broadcast. Someone from Edy's slipped him a bar just before he went on the air, in a brilliant piece of product placement. Could you think of a more worthwhile job? I mean the ice cream people, not the reporter. Imagine, giving away ice cream, for free! Who's going to argue with that, except those wussy lactose-intolerant gimps? This gets me thinking that this free ice cream gig is going to line me up with random babes, so I confront the elderly lady holding the big free ice cream bag:

"Can I give out some ice cream?"
"No. Only people associated with Edy's ... my son works there."
"Just three bars."

And RIGHT THEN, of course, she gives a bar to what was to be MY future WIFE in that PARALLEL DIMENSION in which MRS. FRUMPY didn't have such an ATTITUDE!!! But I got free ice cream. Of course, as we're leaving, somebody dressed up as an eagle gives me a flyer announcing a food drive. I'm having a problem with this eagle thing, I really don't understand the motivation behind it. I think it's my reluctance to relate the concepts of "taxation" and "freedom," but don't worry, I'll get over it. There was some sort of demonstration there, according to people I talked with later, but all I saw was a car plastered with placards that had the words "tax" and "Levin" jammed into various forgettable sentences. I rate the effectiveness of this demonstration to be 0%.

1995apr18. Much happiness. We just stopped into a local Japanese supermarket and pointed at things, mostly slogans written on sushi lunch boxes:

Selfish lady ‒ for the original lunch scene

Unintentionally with individuality and nonchalantly with sensibility

Dream and romance, and the beauty of functional goods now we present you our new commodity.

They also had free calendars, sponsored by OB Beer. The picture for January/ February features a snow-covered mountain montage, with a woman in the foreground holding a can of "OB ICE," a woman off to the side leaning on a snowmobile holding a semi-automatic rifle; in the background there's a helicopter with a gunman hanging out of it. Beer! Guns! Armed babes! Daring he-man! Air travel! If they had ads of THIS caliber in the USA, I'd be stinkin' drunk every day.

1995apr18. Mail.

Book Review Editor
X Magazine
Dear Book Review Editor:

Enclosed please find a review copy of SHE'S THAT UNIVERSAL LADY! by our author, Richard Poor.

SHE'S THAT UNIVERSAL LADY! is a romance novel that captures the impassioned suffering of the U.S. immigrant.

We believe that the underlying New Age theme of this work will be of interest to your readers and we are certain that you will favorably consider printing a review or listing...

Vantage Press, Inc.

May 1995.

1995may21. About 20 years ago, I travelled to Washington DC with my family. After doing the usual touristy things (target practice at the FBI, receiving free $20 bills at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving), we stopped at a large cafeteria that served food Automat-style. Automats were supposed to be the cafeterias of the future; a large wall separates the kitchen from the dining area, and functions as a large vending machine. You select your foodstuffs from glass doors, put your money in the appropriate slot, open the door, and withdraw your dinner. Heavenly. Scott Berk, our illustrious staff chemist, indicated to me that he was heading down to DC for a short while. After a making a few calls, I found the following message on my answering machine:

"I'm calling from Washington DC regarding the information you requested for the food automatic facility. I've checked with the Smithsonian and various other tour organizations within Washington, and no, that particular place is not here at this time; we certainly hope you still will come and enjoy Washington; we do have cafeterias in place of the food automatic. Thank you for calling our office of Tourism and Promotion."

I have passed the word along to Scott ‒ be rest assured, they do have cafeterias in Washington DC. Now I'm wondering if there are ANY Automats left ‒ I'm sure there's some rotty Automat Appreciation Society somewhere.

1995may21. Down on the farm.[br ] Stopped into Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum the other day. Marvin travels the world looking for ancient mechanical devices used to entertain the masses; everything from hand-cranked flip-card film machines to Chuck-E-Cheese audio-animatronic cast-offs (brrrr). The big pay-off, however, was an extremely large diorama created by the butcher of Alcatraz. In the 1930's, this guy killed off an entire farm family. After shipping off to The Rock, our wood-artisan/mass murderer "feels remorse" (according to the handwritten index card) and spends the next forty years of his life creating this intricate pastoral farm scene, with hundreds of moving parts. People fishing, a farmer pitching hay, skunks shuffling around, and off to one side, a recently-axe-detached goose head (1 cm) opening and closing its tiny wooden mouth. Wonderfully eerie ‒ four stars. [31005 Orchard Lake Road / Farmington Hills MI 48334 (810) 626-5020; $.25]

June 1995.

1995jun08. Travelled to a small town on the outskirts of Traverse City (hold out your right hand, palm facing you; Traverse City is roughly 4 hours from Detroit) this weekend. Passed through a lot of small-type towns with big, big signs proclaiming their big, big plans:

Copemish: On track to the future!
Coleman: See where we're headed!
Smalltown: Currently sucky, but just you wait! Stop laughing!

So I ended up horseback riding, for the first time, with some friends. The worst part of it was just getting on the horse; not that it's a big deal, but I can't recall ever getting onto the back of another animal. Hey, lookit me, I'm a cowboy, howdy, howdy! The ranch hand gives me the basic operating instructions for Horse v1.0, which turns out to pretty easy to remember, especially the part about jerking the reins to do wheelies. We set out unto a two-hour ride down (mostly) two-tracks; Patches has been through this whole boring thing 10,000 times before, so when I just suggest moving left or right, he knows I want him to move to the other track. For the first ten minutes, I resisted the movement of the horse and became quite sore; then, suddenly, I remembered that lanky cowboy saddle-swagger, began swingin' my Marlboro Manly-Man Man-type Man hips with the horse, and started getting into the horse-type groove. The lead horse, Penny, is constantly spooked by inanimate objects, bringing the pack to a halt ("TENT!" "CAR!" "OUTHOUSE!"), and it's the leader's first day, so we get lost. At one point, we brought our fine steeds into a canter [n. a unit of weight in Moslem countries, varying from c. 100 to c. 700 pounds]; then, in a stunning display of uninhibited freedom, the woman ahead of me pulled a half-Lady Godiva. I really like horseback riding.

1995jun28. Hot Summer Treats for Bachelor/ettes: Pot Kool-Aid (one in a series).

Equipment: 1 large pot

1 packet of Great Bluedini Kool-Aid®
1 Zip-loc bag of sugar
1 refrigerator
1 Slurpee straw
1 bowl

Directions: Put bowl under refrigerator leak on Tuesday. Thursday, fill large pot (because you don't have a two-quart container) with water, and Great Bluedini Kool-Aid. Does anyone remember when Kool-aid had names like "Fruit Punch" and "Cherry"? Are these new names legal? Toss adequate amount of sugar from Zip-loc bag (because you don't have a sugar container) into pot. Place now-formed ice disk from bowl into pot. Place pot into refrigerator. Chill.

Serves: one thirsty mother. Drink with straw leaning into open fridge.

This Pot Kool-aid® is making me sick.

1995jun28. Nila Wafers Blow Up. I recently travelled to Toledo to meet Paul and Liz and take in a Toledo Mud Hens game. The Mud Hens are a minor league team, owned by the Detroit Tigers. The story of the Minor League was attached to a cap I bought:

For nearly 100 years, Minor League Professional Baseball has reflected the character and passion of North America. Generations of baseball heroes have honed their skills in ballparks throughout the continent providing enjoyment for fans of every age. Minor League Professional Baseball is the foundation of the Game, unique among all sports in the United States and Canada. This unrivaled heritage is reflected in the quality of all Minor League Professional Baseball products.

The Mud Hens franchise just won't shut up about how "Fun" they are; the word is plastered everywhere, and their official, non-trademarked slogan is "Our Fun is Famous!" Hey, I'm there. Every night also seems to be a themed night: Library Night, Dairy Mart presents Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Disco Night, Advertisers Appreciation Night, and everyone's favorite, Arrows Thru The Head Night. That evening was "Rained Out Night"; fun! All of the excitement, none of the action! We picked up a few souvenirs and beat feet for the nearby Nabisco plant. One of my favorite sections of Beer Frame is the inevitable tour of some broken-down factory, long since abandoned to the ravages of time. Unfortunately, the guards posted at the front gate of Nabisco Inc. appeared very much alive, and not quite happy to see us. After a few introductory remarks ("we're visitors!") they loosened up quite a bit, which leaves me worried about the future safety of America's favorite snack cracker family. "The numbers on the grain silos indicate the year they were built..." I remained a safe distance away from the guards, packing heat: my cheap-ass Kodak 35mm. I took one picture of the safety board and the guards became tense again: "Did he take a picture?" "What was that flash?" Both of them instruct our group not to take pictures so close, because the silos could explode.

No, I'm serious here. They said that. "How?" "Friction. They'll fire anyone found on plant grounds with a cigarette." Cigarettes and camera flashes being about as close as Sonny and Cher these days (did I say that? Just can't believe I used the old "Sonny-n-Cher" crutch gag), I had a hard time believing I could have taken out half of Toledo with a CAMERA. Personally, I wouldn't miss tourist-trap Tony Packo's ("Our Dogs Are Tough Fun!"), but then again, I'd be gone as well; any martyrdom in a storm, I always say. Bored stiff out of my skull one day, I started asking around about this exploding grain silo phenomenon thing.

"Oh, yeah," one of my friends assented... "it has something to do with the fumes."

Another friend gave me instructions on how to create my own mini-grain explosion (and I just gave away most of my toy farm set! Drat!), but no flash photography was involved. Just as I was about to send random farmers in Iowa some Fun-Saver cameras, X's staff chemist stepped in:

Flour consists of very tiny particles. These particles have tremendous surface area. In fact, the total surface area in a teaspoon of flour is equivalent to 3.7 football fields! [I totally made up that statistic, but it IS large, really...] Anyway, the more surface area, the better things burn, because there's more exposure of the material to oxygen, the burning element. For example, try to light a block of steel on fire ‒ you'll have problems. Now try it with steel wool. Voila! Instant sparklers! So, if you light flour on fire (especially a lot of flour), it will burn with explosive vigor. My guess is that long ago, when photographic flashes actually burned, someone blew up a bunch of flour. The tale (flash photography = ignition source = flour explosion) was perpetuated, even though now photographic lighting is completely contained and spark free. So, the answer to the question, "Why can't I take a picture in a cookie factory?" is "You probably can and the prohibition is obsolete." It DEFININTELY has nothing to do with "friction."

Thank you, Dr. Berk. Later, we ended up polluting a bar called "Wilson," a carnival, an abandoned mattress factory with unopened mail from 1994, and "Paris," the other bar, within the space of four hours, surely breaking some kind of Guinness record. Fun™!

July 1995.

1995jul15. New York, New York New York.

The totally unplanned trip to New York City propa PH started with a phone call I received at TCBY Friday.

Bill: "Hey, you want to take a road trip?"
Mark: "To New York City?"
Bill: "Yeah ..."
Mark: "Right after work?"
Bill: "Yeah ..."
Mark: "I'm in."
Bill: "We're using your car. And two other people are coming."

Erp. Serves me right for being only partially psychic. I tossed my latest project ("Make checkerboard yogurt") aside along with my apron and headed home to do laundry (you can never be too unprepared). Bill informs me that we'll be staying with someone he's only met for 20 minutes. The other baggage errrr passengers, Terry and Amy, will be fending for themselves in the Bwig City.

The stats:

Bill is a photographer and has been X Magazine's staff photographer/publicist/right-hand man on and off for five years. Man, that is a sick long time.

Terry is an assistant to a famous Detroit-type photographer. We share almost identical tastes in music, which is quite eerie, I must say. Maybe I don't get out enough.

Amy is a model-type who fits the bill for "model-type extras" in various movies. She appears in the yet-unreleased movie "The Heat" as The Model-Type Who "Takes Cover Behind Car" When DeNiro, Packing Heat and Carrying Val Kilmer On His Back, Starts Unloading The Hot Lead In A Scene Some Would Call Climactic, Neigh, Innovative, And Unique To Its Genre. She also apparently hangs with Mr. Reeves. His first name is pronounced "Kee-YAN-oo" - I had been saying "Ken" all this time. Don't ask me how I got hooked up with this dish ‒ things like this just don't happen to me. But for the purpose of this story, it happens all the time; I swim in seas of models. Cindy! Naomi! Kitty Cat Chow Chow Chow Bela Lugosi! Let's do launch! Whatever.

Everybody piles in with the world's largest jambox. The first hour of any road trip is always the fastest; I don't even remember it happening. Thus, no discussion thereof. We pick up our story just before the Ohio Turnpike toll booth.

As we approach the Ohio Turnpike toll booth, Terry puts System 7 in the jambox. I am delighted. "Put on the last one first ... it's my favorite. It's a killer." As the track unfolds, the others are not impressed.

"So when does it pick up?"
"It's not very good."
"Is it picking up yet?"

Ohio turns into Pennsylvania. Personally, I just wish they had a trebuchet (see this month's Scientific American for information on the killer catapault that can hurl pianos and small cars) at the border; I'd pay big bucks to get launched over the state. I have nothing against Pennsylvania, it's just too damn long. Suggestion to state government: annex into West/East Pennsylvania, or even West/Mid/East, add some carnivals and live sex shows at the borders to wake up the commuters, you're in business. The $100+ ticket for two mph over 55mph doesn't help matters any; oddly enough, the fine for 80+ mph isn't much more, so what's the point? Drive like mad ... Pennsylvania turns into night, and I turn into a vegetable. Amy assumes driver command, and control of the jambox. Amy likes Thai pop music. She knows the words to at least one hunnerd Thai pop songs.

yah rong hai
cheht nam dah, sah
pom ja glap low reo reo nee
kid tung kuhn ...

There is something about Thai pop songs. Something sinister. Something more sugary-sweet than any song by Book of Love. Book of Love to the power of the Archies. In the Thai language, if you carry a note for musical effect, it magically changes the word(s) of the song. Musical morphing (brrrrrr ‒ I hate that word). There's not much opportunity to carry notes, unless you phrase the verse in the form of a question. No, seriously! However, there is a Thai punk, a Thai pop-music rebel, who just carries notes, confusion be damned ‒ good luck to you, mister or miss translator! "I am loving your plate ..." Luckily, the music acts as a sedative, and I fall quickly asleep. Amy bails after three hours of horrid driving conditions (construction, rain, trebuchets); I don't blame her. I take back control o' the wheel, fall asleep three times and careen into Tenafly, NJ on fumes. We're put up at a nice suburban house occupied by Bill's 20-minute acquaintance, a young Korean couple, their two children and no furniture. I mean ... none. The dining room table was a board laid over two cardboard boxes. I really like this. Of course, since we didn't bring any blankets or pillows (ummmm ... whoops), we crash on our clothes, a fire blanket, and a sleeping bag pad. I really like it ‒ up to a point. Two hours later, the older daughter (3 yrs) is roaming around the living room, towing a small karaoke box, and singing into/eating the microphone.

nega macho
nega tulylo
narang sanguan opso
kachima! kachima!

I'm laughing constantly for ten minutes due to a combination of sleep deprivation and the max-volume karaoke sing-along. After an hour of karaoke, I fall back asleep. Thirty minutes later, everyone gets up, and we trundle to the dining room.

No bulso mogotni?

Chris translates for us ‒ are we hungry? Oh my yes. We are served spaghetti and watermelon. The daughter is shy, disappearing behind doors while we tramp around; the son (8 mos.) motors about in a five-wheel slobber utility vehicle, oblivious to anything but food.

After eating, we thank our hostess as best we can (Chris has already left for work; he fixes/creates violins), and head for the bus to NYC. We end up grabbing an all-stop deluxe city bus for maximum passenger interaction. On the way there, Bill espies a store called "Raspberry Beret" and though I'm sure every muscle in his mouth spasmed against it, he began singing the Prince song of the same name. Five minutes later, I spot a business entitled "Coffin Turbo Prop Inc."

Coffin turbo prop
The kind you find in a second-hand store
Coffin turbo prop
And if it was warm she wouldn't wear much more

Coffins have propellers? I know very little about this "death" business, but already it sounds exciting! Our arrival in at Port Authority lacked everything I had hoped for in NYC. You know, grime, filth, etc. It was pretty clean, I must say. An LCD sign flashed one of the reasons:


If I eventually get these missives moved to the web, you can bet yer bottom dollar I'll provide an audio clip of exactly how that should be pronounced for maximum comic effect. Eventually we descended proper to the subway level, and I found all the maximum livin' I was looking for.

While in NYC, we really didn't have a strict agenda; just check out the city, interact, react, and avoid looking like tourists. I packed a small handgun errr 35mm camera in my pocket. A quick flip and maybe I've got a keen picture of an interesting building, or maybe it's the back of someone's head. It's not important. We trip into Liquid Sky, a rave-type shoppe with fine CDs. The new Locust! My standard pick-up technique (stand around looking dumb ‒ try it, fellers!) is working wonders on one of the customers, so I get the hell out of there. Suddenly we're in the middle of a street fair. There's a tasty looking Lil' ole French crepe stand at the beginning of it, I'm hungry, everyone is hungry. A customer following me in line has a question for the cook.

"What's in the strawberry and banana crepe?"
"Strawberries ... and bananas."

I myself partake of the wonderful chocolate and banana crepe, which contains, inexplicably, bananas and chocolate. I eat crouched on a street corner with Amy and her pal Art (they've picked up a traditional Thai breakfast ‒ blearrrgh!), and Bill (who got some sort of chicken-type lunch thing). In the middle of my meal, I'm rocking to the Pop Tart beat of some band playing across the street. Some guys playing guitars and the pan flute. Didn't look anything like Zamfir, so I bought the CD.

Ch'uwa Yacu ‒ Clear Water (Sounds of the Andes) [CD] Tranquil stuff. Think Can with a pan flute, I guess. I don't know, I'm not getting paid for this, so I'm not going to look up any impressive words. I'm kind of ticked that the song that made me buy this CD isn't on here. It's okay, I'll be fine.

There are many musical-type vendors here; several of them are fine tape bootleggers, plying their astro-brite cardstock j-card tape wares. You could pick up #501, DISCO DANCE PARTY, for instance, or you could pick up #504, DISCO DANCE PARTY, or mebbe #508, DISCO PARTY TIME. Actually, I wouldn't mind having the tape with JAM ON IT in my collection. As we're all leaving, most of us hear a fragment of a disjointed conversation (one in a series):

"Should we stop in before we go out or should we go out before we stop in?"

Dragging along the Soho (Soho stands for "South of Houston Street"), we encounter random drunk #721, who's wandering around in circles singing. Somehow he's able to combine Harry Belafonte, Bill Halley and the Comets, and Chris Elliot as Marlon Brando into one seamless quote of total perfection:

"One, two, three, four, five o'clock bananas!"

If he had asked me for money, I would have dumped the contents of my wallet on him. Much better than the street crazy we saw earlier in the day, who seemed to have a one-word fetish: "Communists. Rats. Terrorists ..." Please say "agitators," please please please ... "Agitators ..." YES!

We effortlessly segue into Barney's, a hi-fashion type New York store yeah. I start writing down overheard conversations; I have no desire to purchase any clothes created by a purple dinosaur. Get it? Barney's? Damn, the kid is HOT! We're in the shoe department. A woman watches a man ‒ try on shoes. He motions to the salesperson with an Expensive-type Shoe.

Guy: "Can I try on a nine?"
Gal: "NINE?"
Guy: "Oh, sorry, nine and a half, ten."

Present tense: I've read about people doing odd things in dressing rooms, figured I'd just cut out the middleman and let you read writing created in a Barney's dressing room. How do I do it? Volume.

Barney's Fitting Room [NYC] This moderately-sized changing area provides a cozy atmosphere when writing small notes. There are several amenities available, including a pants rack and hanger-hooks (2) that have a malicious, fabric-endangering sharp point up top. The chair is a deep reddish-brown and very comfortable, but too slatty for my taste. I could live here for two or three hours.

While in the dressing room, I am afforded several opportunities to transcribe nearby conversations. Big deal.

Guy: "Do they look a little big?"
Gal: "They're long, but they'll be cut."
Guy: "They're like baggy."
Gal: "But they'll be cut, they won't be baggy."
Guy: "You're cutting it a little bit, not a lot."
Gal: "Yes."
Guy: "I'm going to like these?"
Gal: "Definitely, you like them. These are the ones you fell in love with." [br Guy: "Mmmmhhmmm." [three minutes later]
Gal: "You love them?"
Guy: "Mmmmhhhmmmm." [two minutes later]
Guy: "I just want to see them!"
Gal: "It's a good fit."
Mark: "Come on! Let's mix it up out there! Gossip! Backstab! The cameras are rolling!"

No, no, I bolt for the top floor, where everyone else is. As you ascend, the music and clothes both get sleazier. Top floor, Sheena Easton and sweats! Perhaps this is aural negative reinforcement. Stay below, Armani, Armani, Ah-Ah-Armani. Time to go.

Chinatown was being beat down by rain when we arrived. As we wandered past the street vendors and avoided umbrellas, a New York City police communications van (with four loud speakers) made announcements no one could understand. All we needed was a pissed-off Vangelis following us with a keyboard, and it's Blade Runner 1995! We ducked into a noodle place ("Wonderful Noodles" or "Happy Noodle Time" or "Hot Damn! Noodles!," I can't remember) and had some steamed dumplings and noodles with a bizarre peanut butter sauce. One member of our entourage (six and growing), Emily, glanced through the Japanese candy reviews of the last issue of X and later handed me a box of Japanese caramels to give the author. "He'll like these." Hmmmm, I would too ... boo hahhahahaha!

Later in the day, I ended up meeting that very same author (Messr. Jack S) for the first time at some packed-but-bland Italian dessert place.

From there, our group ended up in some ridiculously-spacious 20something commune apartment thing; the residents were playing a dice-oriented drinking game. Clash of the interests. We leave and immediately notice a David Bowie clone, dressed as a clown, briskly walking to a corner convenience store.

Jack: "You could go in there and take a picture of him."
Mark: "I thought about it, but I figure he's packing heat."

"Packing heat" is an important phrase; I try to inject it into every conversation I have. A friend of a friend of a friend of Bill's lets us crash in the city proper that night.

The next morning we hit the streets again with a whole new attitude. Citibank apparently has one, too. "Say hello to a whole new way to bank," read the signs. The dumbing down of America continues, vis-a-vis ATM transactions:

Please dip your card in and then pull it out so we can begin.
I'm working on it. Just a moment please.
It's always a pleasure to serve you.

Coddle the user! Coddle the user! More window-display propaganda: "touch it try it see it hear it." What happened to "taste it" or "smell it"? Onward to Dojo, a very cheap mostly-vegetarian restaurant. While sitting at the outdoor cafe, we're verbally assaulted by a man trying to sell the table a book, "The Complete Films of John Wayne."

"I swear he was the duke ... I swear it!"

Uhhh, thanks. As we're leaving, my hands fall victim to a random pamphleteer for the Hemlock Society.

"We believe that persons who are hopelessly ill have a right to choose the time and manner of their death; that a painful dehumanizing death prolonged by artificial means is a violation of that right."

"Death is not the greatest tragedy in life. The greatest tragedy is what dies inside us while we live. We need not fear death. We need fear only that we may exist without having sensed something of the possibilities that lie within human existence." ‒ Norman Cousins

It's time, quite obviously, to do some New York-style book shopping. The Strand is a big bookstore. This is where we shopped. Oodles of design books, art books, whatever books ‒ tons of books reviewed in the New York Times, half off the cover price. I didn't get much farther than the "B"s (Dave Barry) before giving up. Too many books, not even sorted by fiction/non-fiction like the paper does. It's criminal. Here's a nice U.S. Customs House Book.

Article 728.3.1. Complete color television receivers contained in a single housing apparatus for receiving and displaying off-the-air each standard broadcast channel, with or without external speakers, having a single picture tube intended for direct viewing, with a video display diagonally exceeding 45 cm but not exceeding 50 cm.

Article 728.3.2. Complete color television receivers contained in a single housing apparatus for receiving and displaying off-the-air each standard broadcast channel, with or without external speakers, having a single picture tube intended for direct viewing, with a video display diagonally exceeding 50 cm but not exceeding 52 cm.

Such a large bookstore leaves room for the undesirable elements of NYC to make their mark; one large post bears the McWit of several El Marko authors:

Work: the process by wich (sic) the masses exchange the fear of starving to death for the reality of being bored to death.

d-ear me

This is a pillar of society?

Bill bought a wheelbarrow filled with books. This is the perfect thing to carry around New York City with you, so we wander around until we're sucked into Tower's Cut-Out Shoppe. I pick up some very old cheap things.

Neil Arthur ‒ One Day One Time [CDsingle] Arthur at one time was one-half of Blancmange, a euro-pop duo (duh) from the early 1980's. He left his soul back there, too. Incredibly schmaltzy; Arthur could pick up some serious coin in Thailand.

The Forbidden City ‒ Pu Yi [CDsingle] Enigma crashes into bus of drunken singers.

Steinski & Mass Media [CDsingle] A knee-jerk reaction to the Gulf War. Palatable, but not up to Steinski standards ("After These Words"). Worth $2.00, which is what I paid for it, because I'm cheap.

System 7 ‒ 7:7 expansion [CDsingle] Always nice. Where the hell did my album go? I mean, it was in the jambox, right? Go back to the toll booth part. See???

98jan11 update: Two years later, a back-seat passenger in my car found the System 7 disc in the seatback pocket.

Dinner that night was at the Time Cafe. There's some kind of movie-script writer guy talking to his first date friend across the way.

"I generally eat every 3, 3 and a half hours ... small things ..."

Help me, please. Time, like several other shops in New York, has tons of free advertiser-sponsored postcards. Ad on front, blank on back. I like to grab these, write out messages to my friends, and never send them. After dinner, we catch the bus back to Tenafly ‒ can't find anyone in the city who'll put us up. Such is the way of the Totally Unplanned Trip With The Way-Too-Long Journal.

The next morning, I awoke to the familiar sounds of child-karaoke.

ottoke kamnikka San Jose ...

Once again, we are served spaghetti for breakfast, this time with sweet pickles. And then we went into the city. Yeah, yeah. I stopped in at Time Cafe to see if I could hook up with Erv, who wasn't there the previous day. He's tending bar. Even though he's just about to leave, he characteristically sits and talks with us for a half-hour ... Erv recently went to some bar in Tennessee or thereabouts and had something called (I'm way off on this one) "The Big Toe Drink." You pick any drink you want, some guy's now-famous severed toe is dropped into it; you have to knock the drink down and let the toe touch your face to get their "Big Toe Drink" certificate. Allrightie then. Bill learns from Erv that Everything But The Girl had just played 10 nights at the Fez, an adjoining club, and practically tears his hair out. His own hair, that is.

Fez (212 533 2680)
July 18 Innocence Mission / Candy Butcher / Katell Keineg / The Catchers
July 19 Melissa Ferrick / Francis Dunnery / Lisa Germano / Angelique Biana
July 20 Mingus Big Band
July 21 Kill Rock Stars ‒ Mary Lou Lord / Phranc / Elliot Smith & more
July 22 Rosie Flores / Once Blue / Vonda Shepard / Lucy Kaplansky
After leaving Time Cafe, I stop and make random phone calls. More graffiti:

AIDS man made by Kennedys Shirley Maclaine Planet Hollywood stars Hitler sex curse by his son from the liebenborn Baryshnikov Hitchcock

More random overheard conversation:

"Is this the only way you could think to get there is to go ALL the way around?"

Amy sings more Thai pop songs:

chooay bork tahng bpai San Jose ...

She tells us about a guy at a clothing store who gave her a little love note:

Anything created by love will be practical but in the end it will have a lasting value.

2.) I want to love you as one should to excess, with delight, jolly but I do something better than to love I know how to suffer. I hope that you will write.

There's some explosions while we're lounging at the Mission Coffee House, pre-fourth of July stuff. More explosions while I'm on the phone. It's Monday night; Amy wants to be in NYC another day; Bill, Terry and I bail and ride the subway to Port Authority.

98jan11 update: There's actually a mini-article behind that last sentence. Amy, using her feminine wiles, talked the rest of us into agreeing to leave a day early. Each of changed our plans to accompany her new schedule, and that was that, until we got to the Mission Coffee House and she had decided she wanted to stay an extra day. While Bill and Amy argued about it, I just watched in fascination, since I was the one driving. After they both ran out of breath, I said "I'm leaving, now. If you want to go, fine. But this is it." Amy shot a confused look at me; I guess she doesn't normally meet this kind of resistance, but I had been jerked around long enough. From what I understand, she rode the train home.

While we're waiting for the last bus back to Tenafly, Terry reads the back of his Dunhill Lights Filter De Luxe cigarette pack.

These fine cigarettes, in the new distinctive bevelled edge pack, are made to Dunhill's unique standards of perfection with superior quality tobaccos, bringing a new dimension of lightness to the gentle art of smoking

And I grab a Lotto form.

(e) if you can't think of 10 numbers, just mark the Quick Pick option to have the computer randomly select all or some of your numbers for you.

One, two, three, four, five ... It's our last ride back to Tenafly. There's the damn Raspberry Beret storefront.

Raspberry trebuchet
The kind you find in a second-hand store ...

We played a little pick-up basketball (all 35 seconds of it) in a deserted parking lot in THE HUB OF TENAFLY. Pack up our stuff, rearrange, leave. The drive back was uneventful and tiring. Terry couldn't drive because his contact lens was torn, so Bill and I shared duties; we kept switching drivers in increasingly shorter periods until we were handing off the wheel every other mile. Then home.

Present tense: Now it's Saturday afternoon. I'm starving. The contents of my refrigerator are as follows:

(1) Bowl of ice
(1) bottle of ketchup
(1) packet of Morinaga caramels

I hope I can make it through the night ..." Ladies and gentlemen ... we now bring you ... KETCHUP ON ICE!"

Next Missive: All About Hippos

1995jul23. Mail.

Hey Day Care Directors ... [that's us!]

Are your kids a bunch of little "hot dogs" in front of the camera? Oscar Mayer Foods Corporation invites your day care center to enter Oscar Mayer Day Care Talent Search '95 ‒ a contest where your center has the chance to be a "wiener!" If your group of kids can "cut the mustard," Oscar Mayer will send the famous Wienermobile™ to visit!

Just send us a videotape of your group of kids (ages 4-12) singing the Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle ("Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener ...") or the Bologna Song ("My bologna has a first name ...") by September 1, 1995. Twenty "red-hot" 1st Place centers will win a Wienermobile pedal push car, and one "top dog" center will win the Grand Prize: a Wienermobile pedal push car and a visit from the famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!

Let's do some hot dog math. According to the letter, the push car is valued at $115. The grand prize is valued at $400, so that "means" that the visit of the Wienermobile is valued at $285.

What a bunch of cheapos.

Given a chance to make a difference in an educational setting, possibly throwing some cash at the kiddies for new lab supplies (note to myself: maybe kids can make drugs in lab for me?), they instead blow their wad on glorious product placement. Tell you what, Oscar baby ‒ cover all the bases, and make sure the passenger of the Wienermobile is a specially-trained Oscar Mayer tattoo artist! The kids will squeal with delight. [warning: I don't like the flow between the previous sentence and the next one, so instead of actually using my brain and fixing it, I've cleverly disguised it with this dissonant musical interlude: la la leee la la fa ray mondo ta] The winning kids will stake their undying devotion to the whole Oscar Mayer food chain, while hundreds of losin' kids around America tearfully pester the parentals to switch to Ball Park Franks. "Those lousy hot dog bastards," one upstanding father grits through his teeth as the last packet of Oscar Mayer wienies is shoved through the Insinkerator.

I have also received a letter from one F. of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Mr. F asks for MY help with a problem.

Are you the same X MAGAZINE that was reviewed in SCREW #1325 (the July 25, 1994 edition)? If you are, I sent $3.50 to your Portland, Oregon address in August 1994 and never received any kind of response. Several months later I sent another letter trying to find out why I didn't get the zine or my payment back, and that too was not answered or returned to me.

I wanted a copy of the issue reviewed in the above mentioned SCREW. I don't see an issue number, but the cover has the words "PRURIENT APPEAL - A DARKER SIDE TO FASHION" over a photo of an attractive light-haired young woman being held from behind a dark haired guy. I'd like to get a copy of that issue if any are still available.

I found this address in FACTSHEET FIVE #53. If you are not the same X MAGAZINE, please disregard this letter. If you are the same magazine, let me know if you didn't get the check so I can get the trust fund staff to get the money put back in my account. Thanks.

I have the issue in question; it's nothing to write home about, save for the Barbie Liberation Organization article, but that's just my opinion, you see, really not actionable as libel. But seriously, folks, this lackadaisical (I LOVE THIS WORD ‒ my mom put it in a letter to my eighth grade wood shop teacher, Mr. Snow; why I remember things like this and not, say, the rest of eighth grade [save for those stupid multi-colored plastic-injection-molded big combs everyone would have comically sticking out of their respective back pockets {wait, I remember something else ... deely bobbers. Thank you.}], is a mystery I'm sure we'd all like to solve) stance taken by our sister magazine (whatever) is an affront to magazine publishers everywhere. I do it all the time! HATS OFF TO ALL THE X MAGAZINES IN THE WORLD! Was there a point to this paragraph? Buy the new Tricky album! Eat more fiber! Relax!

August 1995.

1995aug22. This is Your Brain in America/Canada.

[We now join our author already in progress, ruminating on possible destinations for his upcoming, unnecessary road trip]

Earlier on TV Nation, Michael Moore announced that Crackers, the Corporate Crime Chicken, would be appearing in Philadelphia the following day. A worthy road trip, but I was unable to locate a driving partner in time. That week's show could have been the one.

There was the Baloney Festival in Prince, Michigan. Alerted to this pageant by a co-worker, I suddenly had a desire to eat liverwurst. I'm not kidding; it was a disgusting staple of my youth (along with a large amount of mayo; I'm talking metric tons [Humor tip: never just "tons" ‒ go for the linguistic gusto with "metric" tons!]). This is what happens when your school lunch is made by your grandma.

"Try some of this large curd cottage cheese, Mark."
"Mmmmm, hot damn, grammie! Slap some mayo on that and pack it in some Tupperware®! I'm off to further my edumacation!"

So I had to ask.

"Any liverwurst at the Baloney Festival, or just baloney?"
"Just baloney. There's the crowning of the Baloney King and Queen, and a baloney parade that lasts for about an hour."
"Hrmmmm. This sounds important. What the hell is liverwurst, anyway?"
"The worst part of liver?"

There was the Silver Lake, Michigan thing. My mom was supposed to be camping out there. We used to go there a lot during my formative youth, and I wouldn't mind checking the place out again. Of course, the five million old-tyme pinball machines they had out there are now all rotting in some landfill, but hey, that's progress. As it turns out, she never went, so it's a good thing I passed on this one.

There was the VINYL rave in Boston. Boston seemed more intriguing and solid, having been invited out there by Messr. Jon Ferguson, our Web Page Guru Guy. I packed for Boston, but was ready to change plans SHOULD Crackers be within striking distance.

The fastest way to Boston from Detroit involves a shortcut through another fine country, Canada.

IMPORTANT PIECE OF TRIVIA: To get to Windsor from Detroit, you go SOUTH. Never forget who told you. I expect 10% from all bar bets. Or send me some liverwurst.

The Ambassador Bridge is just one of the many ways to accomplish this. It's too short, though. You're on it, trying to get a good look at the scenery without pulling a Flyin' Yugo, and then it's over.

There are some things in life you just can't do. Fuck with Customs, for example. Like my Intro To Political Science professor (who may or may not still appear on "Stump the Professor" or some such show on [local reference] WDET) said, "police have varying levels of authority, from mall security, to federal police, to the U.S. Customs, who have the legal right to kill you." A certain person on this mailing list has what has to be the most entertaining detained-by-Customs story ever; it involves drugs, weaponry, beer, underwear, and a Bible; I'm publicly encouraging him, via this forum, to create a written account of this tragedy to be made available ... via this forum, of course. If anyone else has a Customs story that's ready for public scrutiny and/or ridicule, come on, send it in!

"Are you bringing anything into Canada?"
"Just this jambox."

A word about the jambox [now playing: Deee-lite ‒ Dewdrops in the Garden]. I borrowed it from a friend. My car has no stereo. This may help you get through portions of the New York road trip story missive thing, since I neglected to mention this, as various people have pointed out. What I also neglected to mention to the Customs Agent that this certain jambox, when actuated with the proper sequence of push-button button pushing, turns into a highly sophisticated device rarin' to record THE SECRETS OF CANADA.

"Any guns, tobacco, liquor?"
"Sure, I'll take all you got."
[My actual answer is below.]
"How about drugs? You didn't ask about drugs!"
[My actual actual answer is below.]
"Thank you."

I stopped into the Tourist Information Center to exchange some money. It feels very weird to be in Canada. Like, foreign or something. I haven't been here for a long time, and I really don't know the way to Boston, although I've been told it's "obvious." The exchange rate is 31.9%, thus barely qualifying Canadian currency for Funny Money status. [Tricky ‒ Maxinquaye] But what's this? Some kind of coin? A dollar coin? With the Queen on the front, and a duck on the back. Hrmmm. This is new. Or not; my coin is dated 1989. Has it been that long since my last visit? Puzzled, I used the restroom.

SECRETS OF CANADA #1: Faucet and blue! Hot and cold!

Forgetting to look at a map at the visitor's bureau, I turned back onto the 401 (The QED! No! The OEM! No!), and had to stop for a light.

SECRETS OF CANADA #2: The "New" traffic signal sign! Canadian signs/lights that have recently been changed or installed have a large circular sign accompanying them that reads "NEW!" It looks like a pinball bumper, or an advertisement. "NEW! Left turn with RETSYN!" "NEW! Long Red Lights in crush-proof box!"

It starts to rain. One would not be far-fetched to assume that it rained the whole way. Actually, I broke out of one storm system in New York, only to catch up with the next one an hour later. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't even mentioned that the trip took 15 hours. Wait, don't read that. [The The ‒ Infected]

I stopped off at an official Canadian rest area. Inside the men's bathroom was a faux designer fragrance dispenser that had some directions on it. One step caught my fancy:

2. Place loonie in coin slot and turn.

Loonie? Loonie? What the hell is that? I tried to put this "Loonie" thing out of my mind. Outside, I found a vending machine that only dispensed M&M's. This thing was as big as your American-type pop vending machines, but it was all about M&Ms! Yum.

Just before you come up on the South side of London, there is a crucial highway/freeway option. Route 3 cuts a shorter path to Niagara Falls (the East end of my Canadian journey), but it's a rinky-dink little highway. 401 continues North-East. Route 3 looks faster, if you've already passed it up by 10km and it's raining (see? I told you) and you're sick of driving on the freeway. [Letters to Cleo ‒ Aurora Gory Alice] So I cut down a cute little two-lane road to get to Route 3, which surely had to be bigger, lane wise; I mean, the road I was on was this thin little black line, and look at Route 3, it's double-thick red! My mistake. Route 3 is one of those cut-through-the-farmland-stop- at-every-town-two-lane-highway roads. [YMO ‒ Hi-tech/No Crime] One of the first things I see: a modest ranch house with a lanky cowboy silhouette tacked on the side of it. I've seen these around; in rural Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. I have no idea what they mean. Cowboys. Better than those painted wooden pictures of people bending over. Don't ask if you don't know what I'm talking about ‒ it's not worth the effort.

Delhi is just another small town alongside Route 3, about an hour's drive East from London. It's a big tobacco town, with tobacco farms, the Tobacco Museum and Heritage Center, the Golden Leaf restaurant. There are smokehouses on the tobacco farms that are very picturesque; rows of them painted flat colors, very surreal. Everyone in that town was smoking. I didn't stop, I drove through, saw about 20 people, some teenagers, they're all puffing down on Official Delhi Product. That's hometown pride! [Bill Pritchard ‒ Three Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days] Do people have a tough time keeping cigarettes lit in the rain? That's something I'd never really thought about until then. I was concerned. I could envision a "Smoker's Pal" clip-on mini umbrella. I saw ancillary products. I saw a tie-in with Joe the Camel. I kept driving.

SECRETS OF CANADA #3: Headlights always on! It's true, 90% of the cars driving along the Canadian highways/roads had their headlights a-blazin', rain or shine. The other 10% were probably from the U.S. Not me, I gladly turned my lights on, it made me feel like an honorary Canadian. "Ohhhhh, Canada...blah blah blah!"

I got gas at Simcoe, a small town with a store called "The Meat Box." Esso gas was 52.9 Canadian cents per liter, and damned if you're going to pump it yourself, Mr. Foreigner! No self-serve. [Portishead - Dummy] The farther you get from civilization, the less chance you're going to have of doing things yourself. This means that by the time you get to a desert, someone will be serving you mai-tais. I like this idea.

SECRETS OF CANADA #4: The "?" highway sign! It's just a white "?" on a brown background. If I had more time, I would have investigated, even though it scares me. I mean, WHAT IS IT? THAT'S THE POINT! "Who knows ‒ this way!"

I'm poppin' down the km like candy. I stopped off in one lil' town to buy some fine Naya bottled water (no Evian in Canada ‒ me smell French-Canadian Conspiracy), and I saw a package of King Dons. Or Ding Dongs. Dammit to hell, I was going to write down which they were in the car, but I got there, knocked down the Naya, and went on my way. [Orbital ‒ Snivilsation] I hope you'll forgive this lapse in journalistic junk culture fervor. I'll attempt to patch things up by providing yet another SECRET OF CANADA.

SECRETS OF CANADA #5: Canadians have a different numbering system! Until I realized this, I had been taking Canadian speeds at par! For instance, 80km becomes 80mph. It made things so much easier.

It's the end of Route 3! Finally! [Colourbox ‒ Colourbox] Fort Erie! Surprisingly, there's a Tim Hortons right there. I give the counter person the last bit of Canadian money, the coin of the realm, the dollar thing, the one with the duck on the back, hmmmm, could be a loon ... the ... LOONIE! Damn, I'm good. Got me a Boston Creme donut. Kreme. Cream. Kream. Whatever. They also have donut holes, which they call "Timbits." You know, bits of Tim.

Just before I got to the US/Canada border, I passed a big ole' flea market with oodles of those damned silhouette cowboys tacked to it, and cowgirls, and there's a silhouette wolf howling, and golfers, fisherman, dogs, hunters, and oh my, it's the king himself. Fifty million immortalizations can't be wrong! The hunter silhouette has his silhouette gun pointed right at the Elvis silhouette's temple, so there's that, at least. In big type on the side of the barn:

We sell silhouette patterns

Ah! Paint-by-numbers for adults! Another nagging mystery solved. The next stop was on the New York Thruway. This one had public fax machines! And "Crazy Love" playing on the radio!

it happens all the time
this crazy love of mine
wraps around my heart
refusing to unwind
oooooh, crazy love
ahhhhhh ahhhhhhh

Why do I remember shit like this? Useless information like this seems to be taking up more and more of my precious gray matter. Soon, my entire working-set memory will be reduced to the names of the Pep Boys.

"Mark! Let's go get something to eat!"
"Manny! Moe! Jack!"

"Sir...are you aware that you were travelling 90km/h in a 70km/h zone?"

"I'm pregnant, Mark. What are we going to do?"

This might not be such a bad thing. In the parking lot of rest stop were many hot rods. The drivers of these fine vehicles invariably looked like (local reference) Arthur Penthollow or a (not dead) Wolfman Jack. While I'm travelling with a pack of them in the rain, I really, really thought it was 1957 until I saw a penny on the dash with a "1995" date on it, and I started screaming "NOOOOO!!!!." What I want to know about Somewhere In Time is if Jane Seymour gave Christopher Reeves the pocketwatch "in the present," and Christopher Reeve gave Jane Seymour the watch "in the past," who in the hell made the pocketwatch? DIGRESSION!

I finally ended up in Waltham at Jon and Jenny's [Stereolab ‒ Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements] with car-style hair and a mean need for sleep, a good ten hours' worth. Later that afternoon, I browsed Jon's latest New Music Express.

"I don't really have any memories...I guess I don't have much use for 'em. Maybe I wasn't born yet." ‒ Will Oldham

The rave itself was held at the New Expo Center in Boston proper. Jon drives over one of those square-shaped firewater bottles and immediately gets a flat tire. After changing it, we waited in the pack of people outside.

"You see anyone our age?"
"Nope. Wait...maybe that guy."
"I'm getting too old for this. I used to say that as a joke ... but now ... "

It was twenty clams to get in, which is about your average club night price in NYC, you know, like the Sound Factory. Which actually is about the only club I've been to at NYC. Why, I remember it like it was yesterday ... we were in line, and ...

"You know, normally, they don't let in breeders."
"So why are they letting us in?"
"Breeders night?"

Anyway, I almost slipped by security with my Evian bottle...waited for Jon and Jenny and entered the RaveSpace proper, with earplugs and my walker. The thing I enjoy most about raves is the commitment to youth fashion these kids show. By that I mean my youth. Adidas stripes all over the place, and I'm suffering flashbacks to seventh grade. A Charlie's Angels ringer t-shirt (Ringer: a fashion term denoting a white t-shirt with a colored collar. It's true.), throws me into conniption fits. "Uhh, Sabrina ... uhhhh, Jill ... "

Various circles of people form off the dance floor. One area features a "dance off" where young lads enter individually to show off their latest dance moves. I was this close to jumping in the center of the ring, splaying my body and start barking like a dog, but I figured I'd wait until they started breakdancing.

I need a lot of room to dance. For this reason, I tend to dance on the fringes of the dance floor, away from the throng of people who A) want to watch the DJ B) are on drugs and are using other people to prop them up C) don't really dance as such, just do that little rave-shuffle thing to conserve energy and look like twits. I mean, I don't mean to be harsh, it's just that if you've got someone laying down a serious groove, and the whole joint is shaking, I can't imagine moving around like Charlie Chaplin in a straitjacket is very satisfying. Myself, it's the only exercise I get, so I tend to turn it into aerobics. Anyway, no matter where I ended up, it was always at the crossroads of Four Very Important Things, so there were people constantly cutting through, interrupting my complex interpretive dance moves. Go around, putz. Toes will be stepped on. I cannot claim responsibility. The music has taken control. But of course, this being a rave and all, I feel massive amounts of love for all human beings, at least the ones who give me a wide berth.

The intense humidity brings on rain from the roof. I betcha the guy wearing the umbrella hat thinks he's Mr. Smart Guy now.

Jon and Jenny spotted one guy actually older than us who wasn't on staff: some 50+ geezer who was apparently a clone of Ben, of Ben & Jerry's. They both think he's coming up with new flavors of ice cream.

"Ravey Gravey!"
"Stupid Phat!"

I found my groove around 3:30am, and held onto it for about three songs, one of them without ear plugs, imagine that sort of recklessness if you will. The Groove is Important.

Pure dance music, if it has any lyrical content at all, will only deal in the emotions experienced within the four walls of a club late at night; basically desire and, more importantly, that area which is beyond desire at the very centre of the Human Psyche. Everything else is meaningless. Any creator of pure dance music that is attempting to communicate any other subject should be treated with deep suspicion. With a danger of getting too carried away on our own pretensions we state that it is through dance music and dancing we are able to get momentarily back to the Garden. Of course, in the clear light of day this is all very silly.
-- The KLF: The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way)

The new DJ, Frankie Bones, starts up a much more varied and interesting set, but it's too late ‒ the relentless, pounding beat has made mincemeat of my little mind. (Memo to myself: maybe some type of illicit drug would suppress fatigue?) We head back home with heads filled with bass.

There wasn't much time to stick around Boston Sunday morning; lucky me, it was a massively-sunny day. I did mention that I don't have an air conditioner in my car, right? [Yello ‒ Zebra] After I got on I-90 and screamed through Massachusetts, I started seeing even more of those hot rods, still headed East. Must be some kind of new transportation system for lemmings interested in pitching off into the Atlantic. As it turns out, they were all headed for Syracuse, New York, and the 1995 Street Rod Nationals, but damned if I knew that. All that I knew was there were a lot of people shelling out good money to re-capture their youth. What's going to happen thirty years from now? The 2025 Pizza-stained Interior, Dented Chevette Nationals?

One of the major disadvantages for being on the road for more [Los Straitjackets ‒ Los Straitjackets] than three hours at a time is Bad Road Food. You have nowhere else to go, you're going to have to force yourself to buy McDonald's, and try to keep it down, please. However, at one of the Thruway stops, there was a Good Humor cart. My mind races: do I have a trailer hitch? I spot the hallowed TOASTED ALMOND BAR on the menu and approach. The top hole of a Good Humor cart is just big enough to stick your head in. Well, my head, at least. "Hello? Hello, toasted almond bar ..." The Good Humor Gal is unamused. Health hazard, maybe. Not her, my head. There are no TOASTED ALMOND BARS, but chocolate eclair will do in a pinch. Life is good.

A scant ten minutes back on the road, and I'm stuck behind a minivan [I Start Counting ‒ Catalogue] which is stuck behind a truck which is stuck behind other vehicles. There's a kid in the back seat, about eight-ten years old. Hey, kid. The kid takes a box of cereal and plasters it against the back window. Uhhhh, okay. Then he takes a piece of paper and sandwiches it between the window and the box. It says something. It's a drawing ... the letters are too tiny ... it's a drawing of a brain.

"This is your brain"

Okay ... there's another brain next to it, inside a larger drawing of the United States flag. I'm trying to make out the words, but it's no use. I smile at the kid, he's happy, I'm happy, but disappointed that I couldn't read the rest of his drawing. Sorry, kid. A hot rod ("Easy Driver") with Michigan plates passes me, the first travelling West. Dropped off the lemmings.

Within a ten-mile stretch, I spotted a cropduster actually cropdusting ("What the hell, he's going to crash! Oh ... cropduster"), and a family sitting on motorcycles on an overpass. I wave, they wave back.

As soon as I got to the Canadian border, things got slow. The bridge at Ft. Erie was backed up; some people I've talked to still have a hard time believing this. I'm in Canada, again! Funny money...again! Loonies...again! Ten dollars gets you $13.19. Right inside the border, massive road construction! Wahoo! A lot of road construction [The KLF ‒ Chill Out] [Pet Shop Boys ‒ Disco] [Rave 'Til Dawn compilation] [Single Gun Theory ‒ Burning Bright But Unseen] [Pop Will Eat Itself ‒ Cure For Sanity]. After this cleared up, I started driving 90 mph (approximately 5.3 km/hr) to make up for lost time. I picked up a ringer (Ringer: a driving term denoting a driver following you because they think you have a radar detector, or figure this will reduce the chances of them being pulled over by 50%. It's true.) in less than an hour. Day becomes night, and I [Trance Europe Express compilation] became unbelievably tired. DAMN YOU RAVE!

I pulled into a Canadian service station listening to Spooky's cover of Throbbing Gristle's "Persuasion", a first-person-child-molestor exposition, while various families are approaching the Burger King. This, combined with my eternal ravelag has got me completely wigged out.

The Burger King employee has a special sign in front of him.

please have

He spotted me four cents for my cheese burger-like substance. Eternally grateful, I went to the car, pulled out a bunch of X Magazines and a nickel, and handed them to him. His automatic response, "Gee thanks," was eerie, like he was on some local cable production entitled "Food service industry employee receives yet another free publication from appreciative foreign customer."

I'm starting to play mind games with myself as I barrel [Consolidated ‒ The Myth of Rock] through Canada. Spotting three trucks on the highway, I immediately assigned them names: "Spider" for the black one, "Dutch" for the brown one, and "Bixby" for the white one. "Yo, Spidee!" Don't ask me. Someday, I will be able to harness this uncanny ability to go totally loco for large amounts of dollars (If you enjoyed this missive, please send $721 to ...).

Bridge, or tunnel? Tunnel ... bridge ... tunnel. Haven't been through it in awhile, I started getting misty-eyed for that Can-US tunnel vapor. There's cops right inside the Canadian side. Hey, maybe another dumb driver decapitation! No such luck, just a stalled car. At the U.S.-Canadian Windsor border, there's a Corisca [The Goldentones ‒ Atmosphere] in front of me, which has a nice ravey logo, if you care about that sort of thing at all. I do. Sometimes I wish I could design logos for cars (I wonder what that's like?). Then no one would buy them. Save the earth through consumer disgust, I say.

Finally, I'm home. Trendy, drowning-in-coffee Old Town. There's a new "Apollo Burger" at the local Hardee's. Tastes just like the food the astronauts ate, or the spaceship itself. Doesn't matter. No more road food for me.

October 1995.

1995oct08. I get a lot of mail. Some of it I actually like.

Dear Mark H. Simple,
President Bill Clinton urgently needs your immediate response to the 1995 Presidential Poll enclosed with this letter. [tearful cajoling for $$$ follows]

This has to be the most obnoxious piece of mail I've received in my entire life. First, how the hell did I get on the Democratic National Committee's "Beg" list? Luckily, the DNC kept my tricky middle initial intact ("H" ‒ Harper's, "W" ‒ Wired, "S" ‒ "Splosh"). Second, the whole envelope is done up like an airbill from some pseudo next-day air company, even though it's marked bulk non-profit US mail. Lots of small print about "shipments," "authorization," and the like. The sides of the address label are flanked by perforated tractor-feed strips, or IS IT? In actuality, they've just printed grey-colored circles (the envelope color) to create the illusion of tractor-feed paper. The "From" and "To" fields are printed in one of those cheesy "real-writing" fonts. But to cap everything off, the design element that set me over the edge, the reason you're reading this VERY SENTENCE: the address portion of the "To" field is half-scratched out, just one of thousands of scratched-out "personal" 1995 Presidential Poll envelopes. I didn't even need to open the damn thing; I know more about the DNC thanks to their multi-trick envelope than I would by reading anything they've written. Keep in mind that given a choice between the two evils, I'd vote Democratic; but for the last ten years, I've been filling out the write-in ballots for Banner, the tv-friendly talking toilet paper tissue. "This is a BANNER ELECTION!!!," I would yell at the top of my lungs from within the booth while scratching out my hero's name in a crabbed hand. But once again, I'm settling for a lesser candidate; I personally prefer that little Zip-loc finger guy, but I don't know his/her/its name. Maybe if I just wrote "the little Zip-loc finger guy" in the space, they'd figure it out. It's a plan! Vote often!

Dear Mr. Simple
In about a month's time, I will be moving to the Detroit area. After thorough research, I have familiarized myself with your magazine's "alternative" style. [ANSI-standard resume follows]

Wow! The bullshit flies in the second sentence! [My PR department has just issued this inter-departmental memo concerning this very letter: "SENSATIONAL!] Perhaps she forgot to familiarize herself with our "constant laments about lack of money" style or mebbe even our "no staff" style. This is the fifth resume we've received in the last year. Times are tough out there. Jobs are getting harder to get. This concludes my pinpoint social commentary for this missive. Collect them all, but you knew I was going to say that. I've become formulaic and drab.

November 1995.

1995nov15. Archive Tiem: some graphics used on the site around this time.

1995nov16. Mail.

Dear X Magazine,

I am a twenty year-old part-time film/photography student who would love to write for your magazine. Living in Canada I could be your magazine's very own roving-gonzo international correspondent. I have no qualms about rolling up my sleeves and uncovering scandals from cafeteria recycling to the illegal trade in beaver pelts and muskets which still flourishes unabated to this very day. Considering the volatile social climate of Canada, a culture capable of bringing the free world to its knees, it is not only irresponsible but potentially dangerous that your magazine has no Canadian representation. This Christmas give your readers and loved ones the gift of me, even though they may not appreciate it now and may in fact feel alienated and insulted by this cold, seemingly meaningless gesture, I assure you they may get some sense of your half-hearted attempt at gratitude, and may even thank you for it sometime down the road. Knowing that it is a compliment to suggest to a business that its time is an extremely valuable and carefully rationed resource; I won't waste any more of your valuable time with my sad, run-on sentence ramblings.

Brent P. Esq.
Windsor Ontario
P.S. Could you please send me some subscription information.

I've got to stop reading my mail while I'm in line at the Post Office, the clerks are starting to wonder what the hell's so funny all the time.

1995nov16. I have been told occasionally that I receive "interesting mail." Ha! You people who tell me this, you don't even KNOW interesting mail. Occasionally letters appear for former owners of the X box: a small businessman, a syndicated TV show about glass-cutting, etc. One day, the businessman gets a letter from Nigeria. Right, like he had business in Nigeria. That sucker's MINE. I glanced over my shoulder for the postal inspector, and hightailed it out of there into a world of INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE. Oh yeah.

Sir, [form letter! My hunch is korrect!]

OUR URGENT REQUEST FOR YOUR UNALLOYED CO-OPERATION We are a team of top officials who are highly placed with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as well as the Federal Government of Nigeria Contract Review Committee, who are interested in commencing an immediate business relationship with you. We hereby solicit strongly for your assistance, to enable us transfer (forex) funds which total USD21,500,000.00 (TWENTY ONE MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND U.S. DOLLARS ONLY) into a reliable bank account overseas, which you have absolute control over.

Our firm resolve to go into this partnership with you is anchored on our strong desire to establish a long-lasting business relationship with you, having been recommended by an associate at Nigerian Chamber of Commerce here in Lagos, who assured us in confidence of your ability and reliability to prosecute a transaction of even greater magnitude.

I interrupt here to mention that the previous box holder, evaluating the types of BILL PAST DUE letters I received for some time after his vacation, probably ran a business with not much more conviction and magnitude than the statement "on a whim" can provide.

These funds are presently trapped [I must SAVE them!] in the NNPC account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). These are as a result of grossly over-invoiced contracts blah blah blah...

As it turns out, the entire COUNTRY is corrupt and junk like this is flying out of Nigeria at a blinding pace. What the hell would I do with twenty-one million dollars, anyway?

1995nov16. I haven't been dancing in a long time. As winter approaches, the desire to regularly attend a club-type locale rears its ugly head once again. I am not a club person, but I get lots of sorely-needed exercise from dancing. My friends expressed interest in "going out"; we are all approaching the time of our lives when "going out" will no longer involve any physical activity more taxing than hailing cabs. There is a dance club located on Fourth Street in Old Town, that will have to suit our needs for the night. A majority of this club's playlist is standard dance hits from 1993. I am not the type of techno-oriented faux-DJ-type person who believes that anything over six months old is right out, but I do have my limits. As we entered, we were suddenly accosted by a magician hired by the club to entertain the drunken hedonistic masses. You could tell that THIS was exactly what today's modern yoot wanted in the form of club amenities. Pick a card. Any card. Is this your card. Feel this steel ring. Hold this ring. Hold this rope. Take these scissors. Cut this rope. I cut the deck, and they're ALL aces! I don't like magic; there's too much free labor involved. I was pretending to be much more interested in the large video screens showing cheesy computer graphic demos ([Note: it is in this parenthetical note that I remind the reader that I can say anything I want to, without adhering to "context" or "sense." Thank you.] Are any of them good? Why does everything have to be so goddamn realistic? Let's stop pretending and go back to the halcyon days of the Atari 2600. A block was a tank, a plane, or a bomb, and you used whatever was left of your brain to imagine the damn things. It's just like music videos. And who in the hell designed the Academy Awards logo? Are these people still alive? This is wrong [the really sad thing here is that this all makes perfect sense to me]). Actually, I wasn't pretending. Then, one member of our group spots a small shank of rope resting by the magician's shoe. This, of course, is a magician's naughty bit, the crux of the "tie knot onto long piece of rope to make it look like two pieces of rope" trick. Hey! This magic is FAKE! Never trust a guy in a turtleneck. On our way out, the magician revealed a trick of the club itself: strippers are given the red carpet treatment there. Free admission, free booze. This explained the overabundance of short skirts, Miracle/Wonder/Amazin'Bras (actually, they're everywhere now. Even pets have them), and pancake make-up. The magician scrambled to a remote corner of the club to insert Yet Another Magic Prop into his mouth, and continued to work the crowd as we left.

December 1995.

1995dec23. Telegrams and Why, I Guess, They Suck. [research: Todd M. & Jay R.]

I've recently taken a shine to a woman with whom I am acquainted. I have not told her this. As a novel way of broaching this topic with her (although we, meaning you, all know that she knows, because all women know before men because men just don't know, and I kind of knew that she probably knew, but what we, meaning I, don't know is if she's, you know), I thought about sending her a telegram. Something like


"Wouldn't that be the bee's knees?" I thought to myself. While explaining this with very little overt exertion of pressure to my crack research team (Homeslice Pop-Culture Investigations, Ltd), they were immediately on the case and on the phone with Western Union. WU has come a long way since the first telegraph transmission in 1794 (Paris, to Lille, France, a distance of 126 miles. One can imagine that telegrams of lesser distances were implemented, but they didn't make any of the history books I have, and, once again, I do not hesitate to say that I can only do so much in a Missive, or, more succinctly, you get what you pay for). Here's how a telegram used to work. You would go to a telegram place (say, Western Union), hand-deliver your message and the address of where the message was to be sent. Then they would get on their little telegraph machine, and tap your message in Morse code along with routing codes (one would imagine). The station nearest your destination address would eventually receive the message ("Sent to Chinese a potter's wheel, good luck") and send a cute lil' Western Union courier (wearing one of those darling hats; of course, back in the early 1800's, it may have been tri-cornered. I try not to think about such things) to hand-deliver the message to the address. It's 1995 now. There are phones. There is Fed Ex. There is the Internet. Western Union now mainly functions as a money transfer service, but there are still telegram services. Oh my yes. There's an "Opiniongram," a "Mailgram," and the standard "Telegram."

An "Opiniongram" consists of 1-20 words that you feel you must send to an elected official. This service costs $9.95. Each additional 20 words tacks on $3.50. I believe this service is made available primarily for prisoners requesting pardons at the eleventh hour ("In my opinion, I think you should SAVE MY ASS from the gas chamber, a lethal injection, or the chair, whatever they've got cooked up for me, no pun intended" would cost you $13.45, for example. At this point, I would assume, money would be no object). Actually, as it turns out, our elected officials, in their infinite, free-franking privilege wisdom, have assigned different levels of importance not to the messages contained therein, but their mode of arrival. A telegram is the gold standard, a letter second-best; a phone call is considered to be 1/100th of a letter, and email, 1/1000th of a letter. Perhaps voting should work like this. For example, if you walk to the polling station, which is actually pretty easy, your vote counts as 1/1000th of a person. But say you rent a limosine and a trailing conga line...your vote would really count! Once again, the opinions of the rich and stupid are valued over those of the masses.

A "Mailgram" is 1-50 words that you'd like to send to someone else through the United States Post Office, and costs $18.95. I'm sure all of us, at one time or another, have had the desire to write someone but regarded the execution thereof tiring and laborious. Now, you can just pick up the phone! I'm sure there's an additional charge for more words, but the crack research team was interrupted by my comical phone book readings (one HILARIOUS example: "Hey! Here's 'Taxidermy'!").

The hallowed, historic "Telegram" is 1-15 words that are delivered to your desired party via the telephone. This will set you back $16.95 (16-25 words $23.95). If you'd rather have it hand-delivered, that's an extra $13.95. It will be delivered by a non-hatted third-party courier service (like those maniacal DHL boys, for instance). Well, doesn't this just Suck. What a pathetic shell the Telegram has turned out to be in these modern times. Clinging to its last breath, the Telegram demands premium payment for the redundancy of its existence, and can't even offer the novelty of a hatted messenger boy you can kick around if the news is bad.

In a way, I emulated the modern-day telegram delivery process with my crack research team, barking orders over the phone which were then relayed to the Western Union operator who was on another line. However, my crack research team refused to ask the operator about "Theragrams" or "Teddy Grahams." Perhaps I don't pay them enough.

If I ever got a telegram in the mail (or over the phone) from someone, the first thing I would think would be "neat!," immediately followed by "what an idiot." So I sent Dominique a Strip-O-Gram.

1995dec23. Cardboard money. My serious addiction to Pepperidge Farms Goldfish Tiny Crackers® has enabled me to complete multiple sets of Goldfish milkcaps (collect all six!). Milkcaps, for those of you cowering under rocks, are small cardboard discs with images on them. These are implemented by the global youth in some sort of 90's Marbles game mutant offshoot. They used to be called "POG"s (for "Papaya Orange Guava," the types of bottled juice that originally yielded the game pieces), but of course someone snarfed the trademark to that one. If you can imagine a tiny Goldfish cracker engaging in he-man MTV-type sports depicted on a small cardboard disc, you're just as insane as the marketing board that came up with this idea. These are three concepts that should have never been crossed. Someone should keep track of this heinous trend and make a coffee table book: "Late 20th Century Travesties in Marketing." Anyone interested in acquiring the rarer "Spike!" (armless Goldfish wearing handkerchief and sunglasses, somehow playing volleyball) or "Shot!" (armless Goldfish somehow implements hockey stick) milkcaps should drop me a line to receive a true Christmas Miracle™. As an aside (is there anything that I write that isn't an aside?), I enjoy saying the phrase "tiny crackers" immensely and try to work it into conversations whenever possible.

"To understand Nazism as its creator understood it requires that we discover something of Hitler's real purposes, for only in terms of purpose does any human action make sense."(1)
"Hmmmmm...tiny crackers."

Additionally, I received an evil skull milkcap from Juxtsuppose magazine with the following written on the back in teeny tiny letters.

P.O.G.: Pre-pubescent Organized Gambling ‒ the POG is symptomatic of society's desire to propagate the super-capitalistic ideas, greed and selfishness from the older populace to the younger. By instilling these raw and powerful emotions at an early, impressionable age, they are sure to be carried through to adulthood, successive generations, and so forth. The POG, by no coincidence the size and shape of a coin, is a lead-in, something to accustom a child to the concept of money. They are a status symbol ‒ the more POGs one has, the higher one is held in regard. The gambling aspect divides the children into winners and losers, or bourgeois and proletariat, while the only constant winners are the POG manufacturers, i.e. the government/elite class. As an aside, POGS are also the same size and shape as a diaphragm. The POG as metaphor for sexual control and gender displacement ‒ if parents even suspected!

(1) Doc, "The Heart of Hitler: Adolf Hitler and the Immemorial Message of Man" copyright 1994-95, manuscript

Update (1996jan09). Missive reader Britain P. Woodman has forwarded this succinct definition of pogs® created by net.pundit Lazlo Nibble:

"Pogs are small cardboard discs stamped with artwork (superheroes, baseball players, pretty colors) and impregnated with a new liquified variety of crack cocaine. They are sold in comic shops, convenience stores, and street corners, the target audience being impressionable 12-year-old boys who like to "slam" them, throw them at each other, and lick them so they'll stick to their foreheads. Several children in the US have lost eyes to this "sport." After a year or two of exposure to pogs (or, as the banners draped across the front of every laundromat in America read, POGS), children are encouraged to move on to "harder stuff," like Magic: The Gathering and X-Files fandom. At this point, the government just rounds the kids up and ships them to strategically located dog-food factories.

Tourism to this country is strongly discouraged at the moment."

Update (96jun16). The Goldfish Tiny Crackers milkcap premium campaign is winding its way down; now only the low-selling varieties of Goldfish ("great regular" flavor, "bacon-n-cheez," "sharp porcelain") only have POG treats inside. The new premium, however, has my heart all a-fluttering. "FREE 8x10 Portrait from Photography by JCPenny: Creating Memories for a Lifetime™." This for only TWO packages of Goldfish Tiny Crackers. By the time of the deadline (June 30 1996), I estimate that I will have had over 30 free portraits taken. Toward the end of my photo reign, I will probably start dragging in furniture and appliances from other departments, just in case my apartment catches on fire.

Insurance agent: "You took ALL THIS STUFF down to J.C. Penny's for insurance photographs?"
Mark: "These items ... were so close to me ... [fake tears] ... especially this projection-screen TV ... and this cashier ... I must replace these things immediately ..."

The bags of Goldfish crackers are flying off the shelves at my local supermarket.

1995dec23. Really Karen, It Wasn't Anything.

Occasionally, a large group of my friends and myself gather for a comfy dinner at some tres chic prix-fixe elite meet-greet diner. This particular unnamed restaurant caters to a heavy lunch crowd, but at dinnertime it thins out a bit. There was one other couple there, and the eleven of us. Our entire party, naturally, goes into Immediate Cocky Mode. Oddly, so does the waitress.

Waitress (noticing a severe lack of menus): "You're going to have to guess what the food is today. If you get it right, you get it free. Also, we're out of glasses. If you'd like some water, please hold out your hands."
Guy: "What's your name?"
Waitress: "Guess."
Guy: "Fred."
Waitress: "It's Jane. No, it's really Karen."
Guy: "Okay, Really Karen, I'll have the minestrone..."

The other couple leaves. Now things really go to pot. Everyone starts singing kindergarten songs, including the waitress. At one point, she sits down at the table to talk about "her life story." One member of our party gets up, goes into the kitchen, and gets her a glass of water. The waitress gives the bill to us via the traditional "duck-duck-goose" method. Really Karen then takes us on a whirlwind tour of the restaurant, including the deep freezer.

Gal (whispering to me): "You're going to ask her out, right?"
Me (whispering back): "DUHHHHHHHHHHH." [whispering "DUHHHHHH" is strange]

Really Karen gets a big tip. Almost 50%. I get her phone number, and FLOAT out of the restaurant. Really, ask any meteorologist about that night. The next day, I called the number. Or rather, tried to. It was wrong. Way wrong. The prefix doesn't even exist for the area code she gave (save cellular phones). A few companions who caught wind of this distressing development urged me to RUN to the diner to make sure the number wasn't just written down poorly.

"I mean, she was so cool! Why couldn't she just say no?"

I have spoken with several women on the subject, and giving out wrong numbers is very common, especially amongst waitresses. I can imagine that some men are rather persistent in this arena, and giving out a wrong number becomes an automatic reflex to rid themselves of vermin. Not that I think I'm vermin, but I'm sure a wrong number would get rid of a liquored-up businessman efficiently. Not that I think I'm a liquored-up businessman. Am I a liquored-up businessman? This deserves further investigation.

I was content to leave this as is; no need to actually return to the restaurant to verify. But one particularly PERSISTENT (ah-ha!) male (ah-ha squared!) member of this very missive list who also was in the restaurant with me that night could not BELIEVE that this was the case. The bastard was playing devil's advocate. Let's call him "Pal."

Pal: "I mean, maybe it's like a TEST! She's seeing if you're REALLY interested in her."
Me: "Or she's found some loopholes in the stalker legislation and will be ready with the authorities when I arrive."

It's like throwing good money after bad. He started to quiz me about the number, and determined that IF you switched the area codes, the prefix was in Ypsilanti (pronounced "Ypsilanti"), home of Eastern Michigan University. It connected me to a health center.

Pal: "She's a student at EMU! She mixed the number up with her parents! It's gotta be!"
Me: "You want this worse than me."
Pal: "Don't cost nothing."

Damn. Repo Man philosophy. I wasn't going to do it until he said that. I will be returning to the diner in short order.

Update (98feb01).

The wrong number was a mistake. She gave me the right number, but then said she had a boyfriend, but if I wanted to talk, that'd be fine. She never returned my calls, so that's the end of that.

1995dec23. I recently (read: "within the last six months") had a rendezvous with two of the nation's finest tactical consultants, Ray and Jennifer, at a steak-oriented restaurant called "Damons." Damons has been designed with the avid TV watcher in mind. Four large projection screen TVs face the main dining area. All the TVs are showing sports; one TV is showing a rollerblade-hockey match, which is in stasis while one of the players twitches in pain on the ground. "Pass the fries!"

There's a small box with an antenna on our table. Ray explains that this is used in conjunction with an on-screen trivia game. An ad on the trivia game's monitor is for Cuervo Gold: "On a bad date?" Hrmmmm. "Get plowed! Party 'til she's cute! Cuervo Gold goggles!" This is a bad ad, unlike the ad for Cuervo 1800, which simply says "wicked fine." Makes me suddenly want to become an alcoholic.

The trivia game starts; Ray enters our team name ("WORTHY") into the tabletop box. We're competing not only with people in this restaurant, but thousands of other losers scattered across the United States and Canada. Technology, bringing people together. Another high-ranking contestant in this establishment is named "F-SPOT" and has a small mark next to his/her name. This person cares enough about the competition to have registered their name earlier.

The three of us form a triangle of educational power and quickly overwhelm the other contestants, except when I start screwing off. There is a momentary fight for the number one position with F-SPOT, but F-SPOT tailspins into the number four slot. We emerge as TRIVIA CHAMPIONS. Nationally, however, we placed 532nd. I guess we shouldn't have been trying to eat at the same time. This restaurant also, unfortunately, has a DJ, tucked in a corner by one of the projection-screen TVs.

"And the big winner this round was WORTHY, topping out with 32948 points..."
"Shut up!"

The post-game interview with Ray is candid.

"How do you feel about this win?"
"I'm jizzing my pants."
"Can I quote you on that?"

It is done.