Above: A "splash screen" featuring a pro-drug background and a border encounter; Macros #4, Dryer Systems logo (a discarded Cardhouse re-branding); a Cardhouse car-crash logo; the initial Mojave Phone Booth visit; Macros #5
1997jan08. Mark Simple is on vacation. While he's away, Colin Maciness has volunteered to contribute to this ongoing dialogue with the world at large.
I am in way over my head with this project. I think that will become painfully obvious almost immediately.
1997jan17. Okay! I am back from my far-flung adventure! I have many stories to tell you, the home/work reader. I would especially like to thank Colin Maciness for tending to the big mess that is Cardhouse in my absence. But now, an emergency PSYCHIC READING!
Hiya. I wanta psychic reading! I'm a little worried that anyone who wastes so much time building a webpage as crappy as mine needs help. Let me know:
My car currently contains: 3 half-empty travel mugs full of cold tea. Kickboxing gloves. Pile of old napkins from Taco Hell, 1 first aid kit the size of a steamer trunk, 1 rollerblade, 1 FarSide calendar, 1 book on Banzai trees, 3 cans of coconut milk and the complete score to Vivaldi's "Gloria."
Livi (of Wagnerian fame) H.
Hrmmmm ... I am getting a sense of a life that is "out-of-balance" ... but "down-to-earth." I am also getting a reading, something about BOXING ... is it "KICK" BOXING, sport of the future? I cannot say at this time.
I am also getting a psychic premonition of a building, no, of actually building, as in the verb. Are you a construction worker? Perhaps this is an avenue of employment that would agree with you.
I see some sort of bizarre mix of COLD TEA and COLA NUT MILK, no, scratch that, COCONUT MILK swirling around, this could be a new taste sensation that you will devise in the near future while listening to ... while listening to I WILL SURVIVE by GLORIA GAYNOR.
Now I am seeing a TINY FOREST ... morphing into a set of dainty napkins. Maybe this is a sign that forestry would be a better career choice, maybe not.
Subject: this kookieness
So, there I am, doing a YAHOO search for the UMPTEENTH time, losing hope and all ... searching FRUITLESSLY for freaking "Stretch & Dust" cloths for Boss-Man's freaking MOP and I happen upon THIS site!
LOL LOL LOL. ANd Ive only just scratched the surface!!!! Its great fun!
Just a quick note to say that you ROCK.
I am now blessing your monitor...
St Aardvark the Carpeted
Hey, I just wanted to send a compliment your way, I really like getting Missives, I always forget about it until it's in my mailbox ... and then I save it so I can read it and not just skim over it. I have a question, I saw your fonts on the dryer page.....very cool. Do you know of any shareware Font maker programs? I would like to try my hand at making a few fonts. I also have an Idea for you for a future missisve ..... how about doing a story on those gosh darn interesting Hand-Dryers in mens bathrooms .... but the kicker would be writing about those people who scratch away the instructions ...... you know ... "these tric dryers have been stalled for our ease" and the ever so famous "push butt .... rub under arm" there just might be a story in there yet?
"Oh Bother," said the Borg after they assimilated Pooh
I am not aware of any shareware Font maker programs. I'll sniff around. The hand dryer idea would make a good photo montage. The manufacturers have been FIGHTING BACK by getting rid of the wording all together and using ideograms instead. Next time you see one, scratch in a picture of a butt.
My name's Carrie. I went in your page when I searched Japanese candy. I wanted to ask if you know of a candy called Milky Half and Half mint. I really like how that cute character looks and I wanted to know her name. I bought the candy that came in a cute tin container with this character. Ok I'm gonna go check out ther rest of your page now. Take Care. Please check out my homepage at: http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/6141.
just a quick note to say that the dryer, the missives, and the defunct x magazine kick my ass. please stop. healthcare is not cheap.
a longtime reader,
Charles J, Esq.
1997may20. Tense Eviction Unfolds After Hostage Situation.
You may recall reading about my move to a house in November of last year. My housemate (let's call him "Mike Jr.") had planned to live at that address for about two years, and I clocked in with the same estimate. The owner of the lived, at that time, in a foreign locale (rhymes with "Texaco City") for a number of years. Intending to continue his stay, we arranged the deal through a mutual acquaintance, and shook on the deal without a lease.
From a tenant's point of view, there's several good things about not having a lease (responsibilities, deposit, the law, etc), but there's one really slimy bad one. And that's the one when the owner of the house decides to move back to America because his father-in-law is kidnapped.
"He ... we ... WHAT? We're being EVICTED because of a KIDNAPPING???"
[my "hairdresser," later in the week]: "Only you, Robot. Only you."
In Texaco City, roughly one-third of the foreigners have been kidnapped (this is second-hand information and I'm too lazy to look it up. I mean, I'm not going there anytime soon, see) or have received a KidnapGram™. KidnapGrams are really bizarre. You (the "VICTIM") receive a letter (from the "KIDNAPPER") indicating that you have been specially selected to be kidnapped at a future date. Send money now! Avoid the rush to kidnap you! Most people apparently pay the money, because, hey, who wants to be kidnapped? Sure, I could get a few missives out of it, but I've heard the food is lousy. Anyway, after they secured the safe release of poppy, they all decided to move up into exactly the same spot we were, not as many kidnappings of Michigrainians, I guess. When I was talking with the owner, I had to bite my tongue so I didn't ask him how much the ransom was.
I mean, that's what you were thinking the whole time, wasn't it?
Ransom ransom ransom. $ $ $. What kind of etiquette is involved? I mean, does Miss Manners cover this? "Tactful ransom amount questions ... page 27." We just sort of sat around in shock for a few days. Then, of course, we went through the whole new house selection process. The highlight of this hoop-jumpin' festival was "Vinnie," the landlord who desperately wanted tenants who wouldn't paint the walls black. But he's not gonna get 'em, with his tough-guy demeanor and crappy house. After seeing way too many small houses, we found a two-story walk-up (that is, the top two floors of a three-story house) that seemed to fit our large space needs.
Moving is a complete pain in the ass. I have way too much stuff. Books, CDs, records, paper. Lots of paper. Practically no furniture, save a desk, a bed, and the Ikea HEVTVEN (Extremely Heavy Home Entertainment Center System valued at exactly 64 dollars). Actually moving this beast again so soon was beyond comprehension, so I reconfigured all the long boards into my own special MILKENSHELVEN (Shelving System Comprised Of Pressed-Wood Shelves and Milk Crates*). I started pitching stuff before and during the move. At one point I decided to toss my dresser out just to avoid moving it up the stairs. Mike Jr.'s father ("Bill") asked about the finish on the dresser.
"My mom refinished it."
"Your MOTHER refinished it and you're getting rid of it?"
"Well ... errr ..."
While I was off moving some other stuff, Papa Bill examined the dresser. He had bad news for me.
"I saw the back with the numbers on it ... this thing's an antique. You could probably get four hundred dollars for it."
Hot dog! That thing is coming with me! This is something I NEED! Then I talked with another friend about the need to discard.
"God I don't need all this stuff. I want a powerbook, and nothing else." "One of my wife's friends only has a duffel bag filled with clothes and whatever."
"Oooh, is she married?"
"Well, she's a lesbian."
"Curse my stinky life!"
After we got almost everything out of the old house, I sat down in the sun room. When we first moved in, we thought we would have been spending many a carefree night sitting on this screened porch, drinking lemonade and fanning ourselves with orca chocolate bars. I ate an orange in the dark and smiled as a train trundled by, causing the house to shake pleasantly.
A few days later and we still hadn't gotten half the stuff out of the boxes, making for entertaining mornings before work. And then, when guests came over, weoooo, how embarrassing ...
"Where's the Trivial Pursuit, oh damn damn damn! Curse my stinky life!"
The two women who live downstairs have identified Mike Jr. as one of the upstairs neighbors, but probably still believe that I'm a phone repairman (an even longer story that, incredibly, I'm not going to tell you). They seem pretty nice, except when they start rubbing all against me, like on "Friends." That's just wrong.
Just around the corner there's a bakery, a surf shop and a tattoo parlor. Mike Jr. and I will become fat curl-shooting bikers in six months! [cue "Hawaii Five-O" theme song, slow fade-out]
* Teens: possession of milk crates is a misdemeanor! Impress your friends! Show the local gang that you've got the "right stuff"! Steal milk crates ... today! [disclaimer: not an endorsement to steal milk crates. "Curse my stinky life" t-shirts available at the Missive Gift Shop, or wherever finer t-shirts are sold.]
1997may20. Short Note About Dangerous Candy Bar.
I was in the supermarket the other day, riding the cart like a bulky skateboard, and I nearly smashed through a new floor display touting "Endangered Species Chocolate ‒ Chocolate That Makes a World of Difference." They had all sorts of chocolaty bars there, with pictures of various endangered animals on 'em. An optional pamphlet explained the humanitarian mission behind E.S.C. (http://www.chocolatebar.com), and it had a few quotes from concerned childrens.
"We shouldn't kill animals, we should pet them" ‒ Ruby, age 6
After reading this, I immediately snatched up "The Orca Bar." The bar was black and white, but it didn't taste like an orca at all. I guess. Maybe orcas taste like chocolate. That's probably why they're endangered, stupid freaking orcas.
1997jun29. It's sum-sum-summertime! Everybody's out bicycling! Everybody's Rollerblading®! Everybody's getting hit by semi-trucks and attacked by squirrels®!
This being summertime, it is a time of renewed commitments to exercise all that winter chubfat off before the women suspect a thing. I choose dancing as my main calorie-burning activity because you can do it in the dark, nobody's really looking at you, and you don't have to figure out how to pull levers or yank on ropes or whatever those Skinner-box freaks over at Bally's have cooked up for us lardbutts. So I headed off to a Detroit dance club one night with Lisa and Cathy, with plans to meet Max at the club. Some kind of asphalt operation on I-75 narrowed the freeway down to one lane; Lisa merged some distance ahead from a semi-truck. The traffic was stop and go for at least a mile and a half. We were dead stopped behind a line of at least six cars when the semi rammed into the back of Lisa's car.
And then again, and again, and again, and some more.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOMBOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Semi-trucks are crafty that way. Just when you think there's a reason for them to stop hitting you, they just keep on doing it. I couldn't see Cathy, because she was in the passenger seat, but I looked at Lisa and we're both kind of dumbfounded and then I looked back and it's all metal, just a metal wall of some sort OH MY GOD! THE SEMI! We checked all around to make sure everyone was okay, we were all just sort of shaken up and wondered what the hell was the driver's problem. We pulled over, the semi pulled over. The car's taillight was smashed, there was a small dent in the trunk. Lisa went up to the truck, jumped on the running board, burned her arm on the exposed exhaust pipe, and the driver says she had cut in front of him. After a mile and a half of one-lane stop-n-go traffic, pretty neat trick on her part. They both agreed to call the police, and the trucker added that "the last time I ... the last time this happened, I had to wait five hours for the police." We only had to wait three, but we were able to make the time pass quickly by staring into all of the oncoming headlights. We all thought the trucker was drunk. Lisa told us about a guy she knew who got pulled over for drunk driving. He blew his way through most of the alphabet, then wrapped it up by saying ...
" ... T ... U ... V ... WHYT!"
The cop missed his addled reference to a local top-40 radio station and let him go.
Passing motorists honked their horns or yelled expletives, offering us moral support. The car battery died, and a young couple pulled over to help jump the car. A taxicab lost control of his oddly fishtailing vehicle and almost careened into the two of them, but regained control at the last minute. The good samaritans flooded Lisa's car and left. The cops then pulled up behind Lisa's car, and a car from New Jersey lost its hubcap. The NJ driver pulled up between Lisa's car and the semi-truck, got out and looked around. Bad area of Detroit, construction/asphalt crews all over the place, a cop, a semi, and us, and he's looking for his stupid damn hubcap.
"I think I have a good idea where it is, you freak! Can you guess?"
He ran over to the cop car.
"Great. I wonder what it feels like to have the police right there when you need them most ... you know, like when a hubcap falls off."
I'm not sure what transpired between the NJ guy and the cop, I'm guessing it was something like
"Excuse me, officer? What's just about the stupidest question I could ask you right now?"
"How about something along the lines of 'Where's my hubcap?'"
"Thanks. Where's my hubcap?"
The cops took the trucker's story first, so they were a bit taken aback by Lisa's accounting of events. The first time she told the story, she banged on her notebook five times to illustrate the multiple-collision nature of the crash; the next time, she started smacking her notebook on the cop's shoulder.
"BANG BANG BAN--"
"Please don't do that, ma'am."
The cops called for a tow truck, and between that and other crazy-ass adventures that night, I got home at around 5:30am. Max was pleasantly nonchalant about our no-show. The next day I went white trash go-kart racing with Max and other friends; I pretended I was a drunken semi-truck driver.
The other half of my summer is going to be spent on my rental's second story deck, reading things and spying on people. It's cozy, a tree is sort of wrapped around it. It's like my little secret hidey-hole treehouse thing. I was sitting out there reading a book about zines and waiting for Chet to show up; he had big plans to go watch the Freedom Festival fireworks from Canada. I heard a rustling noise above me. I craned my neck back, and there was a squirrel on the roof about five feet above, looking over the gutter down at me. Feeling jovial, I started doing my "squirrel call" which causes squirrels to do one of three things: run, become immobilized, or scamper toward me. This particular squirrel found a tree branch to jump onto, and then ran along it until it was about two feet away from the deck railing. It started flicking its tail madly, as if it only had to flip one more bit in its tiny squirrel brain to jump on me, so I used the book to protect my most valuable asset ‒ my mouth. At this point, my housemate, Von Fredrick, came out and surveyed the situation.
"I wonder what that noise means to them."
Personally, I think the call means "sex, sex ... here sex sex sex ..." More tail-flicking. I could have probably stood up and shoo it away, but I want to see how close it would DARE! About ten years ago, one of 'em ran up my bare leg, so I'm a little more cautious about this sort of thing. I could tell that this squirrel was getting ready to jump on my head. At this point, I was glad that squirrels do not drive semi-trucks. I just let it sit there and think about it for awhile, then I went inside. Perhaps when you get up the nerve to attack my head, squirrel, it will happen. But not today, squirrel. But ... not ... today!
Later that evening, Chet showed up with mysterious strangers Len and Jean. Suddenly, in what seemed to be record time, we were in the trucks-only line to cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada.
"How many traffic tickets have you gotten?"
"Eleven. Got out of all of them."
The line part was my fault. Eventually we hunted down the correct entrance (wonderfully hidden and obscure) and finally got to Canada. Oh Canada! First stop, K-Mart's for Kindereggs and Canadian umbrellas, the damn rain was crazy. We ended up having a stereotypical Rowdy American/Canadian discussion with the cashier.
"We know a lot about you, but I bet you don't know much about us. Do you know what our prime minister's name is?"
Damn Canadians! I didn't know there was going to be a quiz. Just to make their point, they turned off the rain before we got outside. I swear I've had that conversation before. No more stumping the stupid American! I made a silent vow to learn more about Canada, about Canadian things like ... say ... Participaction, I guess, and those ketchup-flavored potato chips. We drove around and found a grocery-store parking lot attendant charging four bucks (Canadian) to park. We parked the car rather quickly and ducked into the crowd to avoid the fee until someone noticed that the attendant was giving everybody who paid a piece of pink paper to stick under their windshield. We plowed into 7-11 for more Kindereggs (a chocolate egg shell with a toy surprise inside), tasty snax (Avoine et Creme! Little Debbie has a cake for you!), and drinks. Found a good spot to watch the fireworks in front of the Windsor Casino and hunkered down. Then, the big time fireworks action, a good portion of them burning red and white to celebrate the Red Wings' Stanley Cup win.
"Hey, how long is this thing going to last?"
Fireworks should last a half-hour, tops. If you're thinking about making it more, just double up everything so it's twice as exciting, not twice as long. Set 'em off on the ground if you have to, shoot 'em at the crowd, just don't go over 30 minutes. After about 40 minutes, we wandered over to a jam-packed carnival. And wandered right out of it, to the Northern Belle Casino.
"The Northern Belle Casino, an authentic Mississippi paddle-wheel riverboat, offers a taste of the spicy south, with a festive atmosphere of genuine New Orleans. Every aspect of the boat evokes the madcap spirit of Mardi Gras, 24 hours a day."
-- Windsor Casino/Northen Belle Casino brochure
See, and here I was, just thinking that it was a place to lose money. I proceed in to do same with Len; Chet and Jean waited outside because Jean's only 18 (in Canada, you have to be 19 to enter a casino because of all the drinks flying around). I've only got a Canadian quarter. I found one of the four quarter slots, put in the quarter, and it just ran through the machine into the pan. Because it was...Canadian (rim shot). Actually, after you've exchanged your American money for Canadian, you have to exchange it all to casino tokens. Or you could just exchange your American money for casino tokens. Or you could just heave all of your money off the deck into the icy, unforgiving waters of the Detroit River. Freedom of choice. I couldn't find anyone to change the quarter into a magical token, so we split.
After regrouping and walking back through the carnival, a woman asks us how many ferris wheels there are, as if they're hiding a few behind curtains or something. There's one, only one, and everyone wants to ride it. Except me. Emotionally scarred from a rather involving ferris wheel ride when I was eight, I sat this one out. Watching their car whiz by, I yelled out to Chet.
"HEY!!! Do you know what's holding you up there?"
"One cotter pin, about this big."
"This big" meaning about six inches long, it was surreal. Sure am glad I bowed out on that one. The line for the Zipper was too long, and it was getting late, so we left the carnival, ended up right outside of Casino Windsor. Chet said we should go inside.
"Nah, I don't want to leave you two sitting around outside again."
"It'd be good for the missive, though."
"I don't really try to set up things for that."
"Here's two bucks."
"Okay, see you in ten minutes."
Inside, I lost Chet's two dollars in record time; Len finds two dollars sitting on a machine. I found two club cards that the casino uses to track your wins, losses, and who you're hitting on. Think about it ‒ you start getting chummy with a lady friend with a card, soon you're hitting the same slot machines and tables. The computer tracks this, saves off some compromising snapshots from a few of the security cameras, checks your credit card, discovers you're married, and mails you a few copies of the pictures for blackmail. Computers can do that. Even Canadian computers.
We exit with beaming smiles, passing several people sitting around the entrance.
"Hey, there go some winners!"
"Yep, please don't mug us. Thank you."
As we're walking back to the car, I started thinking about doing this meeting-random-strangers thing more often. "It's working," I thought to myself, "it's really working! People! Wow!" And then Jean half-turned around and addressed me for what seemed like the third time that night.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"You seem sour and bitter. You have a very dry sense of humor."
Well, chisel that baby on my headstone! I mentally ran through about twenty ballsy ripostes, including "you should pick up some tact on the way out," and "screw you." I picked what I believed to be the best one.
Sour. Bitter. Bitter, bitter, sour. Amaretto sour with angostura bitters. Can I get that to go? Of all the sullen teens in the world who would empathize with my apparently bitter, sour perspective, I had to get one of those endangered bubbly ones. Listen up, bubbly teens of the world! You want bitter? I got bitter, baby!
[FX: PULLS BACK TO REVEAL BITTERNESS]
Hah? Hah? Showed those teens.
Hey there, Mr. Dryer. Would you believe I got more information about the Wave Cannon outta your pages than I did outta Bose's pages? I mean, sure, they mentioned it, and sure they had a picture, but when it came to even the littlest bit of specs, I was sunk! Thanks for the service, I love the write up.
I fell in love with the WC just a few months ago ... I visited the newest Fry's Electronics in our area (the Fry's is in Orange County, California, I'm in Riverside, CA) and scattered in the store are about 5 or 6 huge projection TVs, each backed up by a pair of Bose 802s and slung underneath the screen is a Wave Cannon. And I mean huge TVs ... The WC is about as long as the bottom of the screen. I have never seen these bad boys in action, and probably never will, but I immediately fell in love. I'm a huge fan of anything different and unique, so if I had a home theatre setup with a WC bolted to the ceiling ... Heh, that would rock.
What would not rock would be causing structural damage, as you alluded to in your writing. What also probably does not rock well (at least with the consumer-level public) is the price tag on a Wave Cannon. You wouldn't happen to know it offhand?
But thanks for posting the info. Once again proof that you can find out about ANYTHING on the Web. And yes, there are 5 Wave Cannons living in the Fry's in Anaheim, California. Never seen 'em operate, so I dunno if they count for your list of places they're in the US, but I know they're there, ready and waiting. :)
Hope I hear back from ya...
What should my bloodshot ol' orbs stumble upon but yer toyz article! I dig it. 2 random shots into the ether: a) I was dancing bear at a Japanese Kindergarten for three years b) am doing a thesis on 'Language Imperialism' but insteada' the ol' hoary Marxist chestnut 'bout how the poor oppressed 'Other' is duped by English, I wanna' examine how English is taken up by people. Not to romanticize it as resistant or some individualistic savior thing (you know, Captain Kirk comes to the planet with his American agenda ...) but, for example, it might not be coincidence that in feudal/sorta' patriarchal Japan the word for sexual harassment comes from ... eigo.
interesting ? if not, that's cool, sorry to bug ya. Or zap off to anyone who may be interested.
Subject: oi! blu'y knuckle!
To Whom It May Possibly Concern:
[Cardhouse] is a refreshing breath of air in an otherwise smoggy electronosphere. i particularly was stoked to see another's appreciation of the finer things in life such as sanrio, fisher price? and a lack of regard for everyday politeness (sans-ettiquette). is it okay if i link to your page from my humbly starting out elephant gazette?
An: Matthias [EDS guy] @ GMRUESSELTRAN @ EDSHUBNAM
Kopie: Von: Michael [EDS guy] @ EDSUK @ EDSHUBNAM
Datum: 31.07.97 12:14:48
Thema: Re: Physical inventory download
I have receieved a request from EDS Vauxhall sceond line support to run the Vauxhall Physical Inventory job (DEAARE31) to allow them to have a trial run of their reconcilliations procedures prior to the actual production run of this job on the 16th August, 191997.
This job is on request, so can I simply force the job?
I'm afraid I will be in New York City (The 24 Hour Plays) on August 16th, 1997, and cannot monitor the Vauxhall Physical Inventory Job (DEAARE31). I hope you two clowns straighten it out amongst yourselves.
Wait, I've just received another [misdirected] email, indicating that yes, the job can be forced. Good. God, I'm never going to understand this company, isn't this something you two could have done without dragging my big managerial presence into? I apologize for ending with a preposition, but since you've all read my Multiphasic Personal Profile Dataset (REF 2.1394.29A), you will probably remember that I'm rather one lazy bastard. I'll clean up the sentence for our weekly Private/Corporate Email Log Transcription Recital & Ritual Beating.
Pass the donuts!
Robot T. Robotingtonston
EDS Dance Manager USA
Good evening. I am assuming that the travelogue on a trip to Salt Lake was written by you.
I must say that you have provided myself (Brian) and my good friend Sean quite the evening of laughs. We were just at Saltair ... literally, like two hours ago. We too planned a frolic down to the infamous lakeshore for a bit a weightless swimming ... we almost puked about halfway across the parking lot of the "Taj Mahal gone awry." We walked out on the beach as far as we could until our shoes began collecting black sludge... this is one very freaky smelly beach. I didn't see anything about flies and stench in my tourist magazine.
We are going to the salt flats tomorrow and will try to identify the mysterious stupid thing for you.
Thanks for confirming that this was not just a bad dream caused by an evening visit to Mormon square.
Brian and Sean
hello unknown web creature,
i love your site. still reading? good. i thought you might be interested in the club night (that's nite) a friend and i do called pickle. this month it's 'glowing pickle', on a freak-show theme. we play progressive electronica, nu-school, old-school, and school-school hip-hop, trip-hop, flip-flop and other funky stuff, and have fun spelling our names out with pickles, doing projections, 'n' stuff. we're final year art-students here in cape town, and tomorrow i've roped in a physics friend to help me construct a glowing pickle. shall i send you a tif of our flyer? byeee ...
ralph dogboy. (new zealand)
That sounds freaky cool man. Send that tif!!!! Go art students go!
Hi, Robot. I'm Jim.
Wait. Perhaps 'Robot' is too informal; perhaps I'm stepping on your figurative toes by my on-the-spot assumption that you would prefer a casual reference. In that case, let me keep in the spirit of the "don't-touch-me-there" 1990s and offer up appeasement: Mr. Jeff. If that's too formal, see first sentence.
Well, I was reading "Cross Country Burn" for the seventieth ‒ just a second, here. I can't go on without getting it clear in my mind as to what to call you. Therefore, from this point forward in this electronic mail thingy that we computer scientists call "that thing that I don't know what it is," I will refer to you as THE READER. Just like that. In all caps! Festive, sassy, and FUNCTIONAL!
Anyway. I was reading "Cross Country Burn" for the 37,848,960th time, and once again was enthralled by the tale of the Stupidest Thing In The World. Being the fan of personal/reality/humor writings that I am ‒ slashes included due to a Wes Craven film fixation from my early teens ‒ THE READER's tale of a mad dash to stack up inches of playa on one's feet has struck a chord in my unresounding soul since the very first time my eyes fell upon the account.
My verbosity apparently knows no bounds. In an effort to bring this tormenting, amorphous blob of uncertainty to an end, I am curious of one thing, and one thing only. (Yes, one thing.) Did anyone, in the last two years, manage to unearth the purpose of the Stupid Thing and pass it on to you, like savings from Sam's Club? You see, if not, my curiosity will know only the bounds of my current unemployment in seeking an answer. Sadly, the resultant shortage of funds will make it very very difficult for me to go on my self-funded pilgrimage to the Stupid Thing and find out. The public wants to know.
So, there you have it. I am on a fact-finding mission, and YOU, THE READER, may have facts that ‒ no, I can't do this. I can't restrict myself anymore. I will not be anyone's plaything! I will not dance the many-stringed waltz of a marionette! You, mister, are Jeff. No more of this 'THE READER' crap. What do I look like, Jamie Farr? Anyway ‒ may assist me in that very mission. So, thanks, if you have anything to give. And thanks if you don't. I'll subsist on bitterness and muscle tissue alone.
Calling Leonard Nimoy,
Subject: hello from post burningman 1997
hi, i'm kent. in case i met you at burningman. Doc gave me your website address on a popsickle stick, and i have deemed it to be one of the top entertaining sites (to me, anyway) that i have ever laid eyes on. thank you. thank you very much for this island of useless usefulness. i mean, i never ever give links to ANYBODY or ANYTHING from mine unless they meet certain requirements. yours will be number four. i've been at this for three years. okay, i'll quit stroking your ego now.
ps :- my site is www.thisiskent.com if you're curious. not nearly as full as yours, but a site nonetheless ....
Subject: nice page butt...
u should put better cheese and milks in like the 1 where the kick the crap out of all stand up. Also johny the homicidal maniac is a cool comic,squee is another. thanx for your time and write me back
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 17:12:08 EST
Subject: Love story...
Maybe you are rich, very rich and you have gotten everything one could wish for. But something you missed all your life. Your old flame. Then it was impossible for you to marry your great love. And therefore you was in your life unhappy. Today you would give all your money to marry your old flame, but it's too late. I am in the same boat. I would give my all to marry my great love. But I have nots. And bad circumstances make it necessary to have one million $ to marry my old flame. It was impossible for you to marry your old flame, please can you help me, that I can marry my old flame? Have a love-heart, please.
My E-mail address: [someone]@cso.co.at
Is that a million schillings? Or a million US dollars? If it's the former, that's $698,700 USD (currency exchange information provided at the very sexy web page http://www.xe.net/currency/table.htm). I sent email asking the very thing, but have yet to receive a reply.
1997oct20. Hello and welcome again to the Cardhouse Historical Archive Of Cardhouse. I found these splash screens on a CDR with the entirety of Cardhouse from 1999. The splash screens are from October 20 1997 to February 12 1999. This also appears in the history section.
1997oct27. Pixbarn: FEMA fallout shelter snack bar.
1997nov05. Archive Tiem! Here is an old page of links from November 5th 1997. How many of those zines are still around? My guess is zero. [LQQKS] Okay it was more than zero.
1997nov06. The 666 Lego Lawyers.
A Special Really Long Missive Which Was Really Easy To Write Because Most Of It Is Someone Else's Writing, Including Four Lawyers
[Disclaimer: I am not employed by Lego, The Monticello Companies, The Internet Pizza Server, or anyone else mentioned in this article. "LEGO" is a trademark of the LEGO Group, "666" is a trademark of the Monticello companies when used in relation to cough syrup, etc, etc.]
The Internet Pizza Server is a fabulous little site that will deliver virtual pizzas to you, either via email or instantly via the "World Wide Web" (leave it to a bunch of programmers, swimming in a sea of acronyms, to pick the only letter in the alphabet that has three syllables, and then triple it). You can choose from a variety of toppings, including your standard pepperoni, sausage, mushroom; esoteric toppings include things like eyeballs, Altoids®, hammers, Quik®, and firecrackers.
And, at one time, LEGOs®. One of the Internet Pizza Server elves apprised me of this topping change via a forwarded letter from Denmark.
To: [an Internet Pizza Server Elf]
Subject: Misc! ‒ Legos
Dear Homepage Owner,
I am a member of the legal department of the LEGO Group.
I have seen Internet Pizza Server Ordering Area on your web site.
We should like to draw to your attention the fact that the LEGO Group has a wide range of intellectual property rights, including trademark protection worldwide for the LEGO trademark. The LEGO Group has invested considerable amounts of time and resources into creating and developing its intellectual property rights and, as you will appreciate, protecting those rights against any unauthorized use.
I therefore ask that you kindly refrain from using our trademark.
I look forward to receiving your confirmation that you will delete "Legos" from your web site.
The LEGO Foundation [a LEGO Group lawyer]
Fight fire with fire, I've always said (you can quote me). I contacted two of my friends who are also lawyers, and they were kind enough to send along free legal advice to the elves.
To: [Elf #1]
Hello my friend.
Below are the initial comments from my Other Lawyer Friends vis-a-vis your situation.
My advice to you, after reading all this legal goo, is to definitely contact Tyco and ask them for written permission to offer Tyco building blocks as a pizza topping. If the letter is framed in a professional manner, and you offer them the option of having a pertinent disclaimer displayed wherever the building blocks appear, they will probably bite. Why Tyco and not LEGO?
1) You've already got off on the wrong foot with LEGO.
2) I recall reading about a construction project in New York City that was dressed up with giant Tyco blocks/people during the construction phase. It turned out that the designers involved contacted LEGO first, and Lego declined. Tyco was contacted second, and was happy to lend permission.
However, the construction project was a self-contained unit, and had a starting/ending date. Once you (theoretically) receive permission from Tyco, what's to stop you from grouping the Tyco blocks with other repugnant toppings, like eyeballs or cutesy-wutesy little tiny kitten heads? The very thought makes me cringe.
Or, conversely, name the WHOLE SITE the Internet LEGO Pizza Server, make little pizza guys out of Legos and all the toppings will be different lego bricks including that wired-up computer brick so your pizza might just roll off your table and over to some other customer and start gnawing his leg with one of the LEGO Biting Building Kits you've undoubtedly seen at Toys We Be.
And now, comments by My First Lawyer Friend™.
Let me preface any remarks I might (or might not) make by saying that by responding to your question I am not engaging in the "Practice of Law." The state bar of Michigan has made it quite clear that until they get around to sending me my credit card sized certificate of authenticity, actually practicing law will get me in a world of trouble.
So instead of responding directly to the facts as you presented them, I have assumed a hypothetical situation which closely mirrors the situation you described. Significantly, the word LEGOs has been changed (to LEGGOs) to protect the innocent.
"LEGGO" IS A VALID TRADEMARK
Although I did not check with the PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) in Washington D.C., I believe that "LEGGO" is a registered Trademark in the United States. They use the classic circle R on their packaging. The U.S., as a signatory to the Paris Convention, affords protection to intellectual property without regard to national origin. So although "LEGGOs" may not be of American origin, it may be (and indeed appears to be) protected by American Trademark Law.
PARODY IS PROTECTED, MERE HUMOROUS USE IS NOT
I have not been able to access the alleged (hypothetically) infringing use of the LEGGO mark, so I can not address the issue of whether this particular (hypothetical) use is protected under the doctrine of "Parody" or not. In general to qualify as parody, the use of the mark must comment either directly or indirectly on the subject matter of the mark. Courts have been willing to go great lengths to find parody. The Supreme Court held that 2 Live Crew's recording of "Pretty Woman" was a comment on the blandness and banality of the original recording. Similarly, Spy magazine's use of the distinctive black on yellow Cliff's Note design was held to be protected as a parody of the original subject matter. There are limits on this doctrine. Mutual of Omaha successfully sued for infringement against a defendant who printed and sold t-shirts bearing the slogan "Mutant of Omaha" under a parody of Mutual's mark. Therefore, if LEGGO's mark is being used to make a comment about LEGGOs, it is protected by the 1st Amendment. If not, the use is probably infringing.
DAMAGE TO TRADEMARKS IS EASY TO PROVE
Without going into unnecessary detail, let me say that it is extremely easy to establish damages once trademark infringement is established. Beyond injunctive relief, the court may assess a variety of damage awards. While punitive damages are unlikely to be awarded in a (hypothetical) situation such as this, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to imagine a court awarding the successful plaintiff attorney's fees, or even an award for dilution of the mark.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
LEGGOS are not know for being the most litigious company in the universe (that title goes to DIZNEY), but they are not above filing a silly lawsuit. They have sued (unsuccessfully) to protect their proprietary interest in plastic blocks with 8 knobs on top. On the other hand, just because someone (hypothetically) sends a threatening letter doesn't mean that the author has the authority (or intention) to take action.
I wish I had something more encouraging to tell you. Perhaps my years spent in law school have just made me too pessimistic. Let me know if there are any further developments.
This ends the comments made by My First Lawyer Friend™. Batteries sold separately. Lawyer costume included with My First Lawyer Friend™ does not enable wearer to fly. We now continue this block transmission with comments from My Second Lawyer Friend™.
You have asked me about a CND letter that the Internet Pizza Server received from (apparently) someone in the Legos legal department. I have a number of comments about this.
But first, please indulge a few disclaimers. I have not been retained by you or by the friendly elves behind the Internet Pizza Server. I do not represent anyone in this situation. What I am about to say is not intended to take the place of consultation with legal counsel, and in fact I encourage anyone in this situation to seek independent counsel. I am making these comments only with a view towards education. My comments do not constitute legal advice, unless, of course, someone pays for it.
Disturbing as this concept is to the creative spirit with no intent to hurt or profit, LEGO has every right to determine who uses its trademarks and how. That right is part of the bundle of rights that go along with having a trademark. It doesn't matter whether any income is involved; it doesn't matter that someone using the trademark isn't getting any tangible benefit at all. The only thing that matters is whether a person using a trademark has permission to use it. If he/she/it doesn't have permission, the trademark owner is completely entitled to stop the unauthorized use. In fact, the trademark owner may have to take action to stop any unauthorized use. If the owner lets one trademark violation slide, for whatever reason, someone who violates it later could point to the earlier unauthorized use and claim that the owner hasn't been enforcing its rights and has waived them. This is why every once in a while Xerox embarks on an advertising campaign reminding the general public that "Xerox" is a registered trademark and not a verb.
It is not safe to assume that a European company does not have the right to enforce its trademark in the United States. If the European company is marketing its product here, you can rest pretty assured that the company went to the trouble of registering the trademark in the United States. (Just look at the product. If the name has R in a circle, it's registered here.)
It's also worth mentioning that LEGO's letter is extremely mild and polite, in this scheme of things.
Requesting permission to use the trademark is one appropriate response to LEGO's demand (by for example offering advertising in return for the right to use the image and name.) If Lego doesn't want to grant permission, an appropriate response (if avoiding further complications and possible litigation is a goal) would be to comply with the request and remove the use of the name. Renaming the item "Leggo" would be baiting the situation. Using a generic name would be less inflammatory.
As for whether to make a preemptive move affecting other toppings in which someone might hold a trademark ‒ it's a judgment call. It all depends on the level of comfort the elves have with receiving and dealing with legal correspondence.
Thus endeth the lesson.
You may quote me. No tomatoes or eggshells, please.
These letters were perused by the elves, and, after large amounts of highly litigious, hilarious email volleys (not reprinted here), were followed by action. The "LEGOS" offered on the topping page was changed, with understood reluctance, to "non-name interlocking building bricks." Elf #1 then forwarded a personal observation:
So how come you are friends with TWO DIFFERENT LAWYERS? Hmmmmm? Is your soul black and crusty like cajun catfish?
More than two, my friend. More than two.
My final suggestion to the elves now at press time is to perhaps move away from the virtually dangerous "non-name interlocking building bricks" to the new safe "Candy Blox" (manufactured by Concord Confecting of Ontario, Canada) brand edible interlocking building bricks, via a shining, perfect Letter of Topping Request. The bricks look just like you-know-who, as well. Except for the color. But who'd want to eat a bright yellow/red/blue/black building brick?
Last word: Elf #1 sent me a cease-and-desist-inspired poem during the CND mail volleys. Are there any sort of legal ramifications if a poem contains a trademarked brand name? Let's find out.
Plastic yellow smiling faces
Policeman, Fireman, Lawyer
Daddy wears the wrong hat
Beware the Danish menace
A few years ago, I ran an article in X Magazine written by Doc. It was a verbatim transcription of a call he made to the Monticello Companies, asking about their oddly-named cough syrup, "666." Later, this was put on the web site (it is now here: What Damage Control is Like When the Name of Your Product Is "666"). Then Doc received this letter a few weeks ago.
I am writing to you on behalf of The Monticello Companies, Inc., manufactures of 666 band cold products. The Monticello Companies, Inc. has undergone a major change in management since the interaction you had with the company. While the 666 brand name does present some marketing challenges, it's has a long history and a strong brand recognition in it's traditional markets.
The product name was very innocent in its origin. Eighty-nine years ago Monticello first made a quinine medicine for high fever and malaria. The first order was written on an order tab with the number 666. The product worked. People asked for the product by its order number and it started to be called "that 666 product." The name 666 stuck, and as Monticello created more products, they also became part of the 666 family. It was not until about 15 years ago when the movie "The Omen" was released, that the numbers by themselves came to have an evil context. Monticello had not answered ten questions about the name during the 70 years of its existence up until that point. However, it was always Monticello's belief that the mark of the beast "666," was not evil unless it was written on human skin. According to the bible, if this number was put on your skin it would show you had given up your Christianity and been marked for identification.
The new Monticello team takes its role very seriously. The quality products they produce are priced well below nationally advertised brands, thus providing high-quality products at large saving for their consumers. Monticello counts heavily on the brand recognition it has built and it's reputation for producing quality products. The management team feels that articles like yours undermine their efforts, and as so are requesting that you remove the page (and links) from your site in addition to any other know on-line versions of the article. In addition to undermining the product-line, the article also offended the team, they have a lot of pride in the products, the company and the long family history they represent.
If you would like, I could arrange to have a member of the management team contact you to discuss this further. Please let me now if you have any questions, and advise me of what action you'll be taking.
Thank you, [a Monticello lawyer]
Doc's reply follows (See? What did I tell you? This writing thing is a cakewalk).
Mr. [a Monticello lawyer],
Rather than draft something from scratch, I'll respond in accepted Net form, by responding to your letter part by part.
>While the 666 brand name does present some marketing
That you admit this makes me almost certain that you will understand exactly what I'm about to say.
>The product name was very innocent in its origin.
I don't doubt that--but neither does anyone who reads my piece, which they all immediately recognize as a work of humor (as I'm sure you do, too).
>It was not until about 15 years ago when the movie "The Omen"
>was released, that the numbers by themselves came to have an evil
That is not the case at all, Mr. K. Do you believe David Seltzer (the writer of The Omen, which was in fact released in 1976), pulled the number 666 out of the air? Surely you must know that since its inclusion in the Apocalypse of John the Revelator (the last book in the Bible), the number 666 has had an almost 2,000-year history of connoting evil, in every land in which the Bible gained wide distribution.
>was always Monticello's belief that the mark of the beast "666," was not
>evil unless it was written on human skin. According to the bible, if
>this number was put on your skin it would show you had given up your
>Christianity and been marked for identification.
I am a little nonplussed by this. You write as if you believe that people do not recognize humor when they see it. Surely you don't think your customers are as stupid as I pretend to be in the article, do you? Do you really believe that people who see my web site will think they'll be somehow marked by evil if they partake of your product(s)?
>The management team feels that articles like yours undermine their
I am surprised you do not credit your customers with more intelligence. I wonder whether you haven't heard the old advertising / PR saying, "all publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell your name correctly" ‒ or words to that effect. (Even though one can't technically "spell" 666, you understand what I mean.)
>and as so are requesting that you remove the page (and links) from your
>site in addition to any other know on-line versions of the article. In
>addition to undermining the product-line, the article also offended the
>team, they have a lot of pride in the products, the company and the long
>family history they represent.
Certainly no offense was intended ‒ I just think it's funny that anybody would market products using a brand name that for two millenia of Western religious history has signified the ultimate evil. And to judge by my mail, people who read the cough syrup piece have the same reaction: they think it's funny. The only way for you to avoid that reaction would be to change the name of the product. Did you know that here in my state, highway 666 had to change its name and be recommissioned under another number because of adverse public reaction? (As an aside, six years ago I produced a calendar that included a humorous photograph of a Highway 666 sign. It may interest you to know that I received no complaints from the Highway Department.) At all events, my interest in your cough syrup was purely humorous. I would hope that you and those you represent will learn to take it--and this e-mail ‒ in that spirit.
>If you would like, I could arrange to have a member of the management
>team contact you to discuss this further.
Please feel free to forward my e-mail address to any management personnel who wants it.
>Please let me now if you have
>any questions, and advise me of what action you'll be taking.
I hate to have to tell you this, but I believe I am fully within my rights to leave the story on my website. I hate to have to tell you this because you, as a lawyer, should be fully aware of the Constitutional guarantee of free speech, and the Supreme Court ruling that humor and parody are included within the legal definition of free speech. (To refresh your memory, you can rent the film The People vs. Larry Flynt, a film I wouldn't ordinarily recommend, because it stinks. Not that I'd ever try to censor it, or anything ...)
I would, however, be happy to add a disclaimer to the article, stating the non-participation ‒ or even disapproval ‒ of The Monticello Companies, Inc. (If you like, I'll remove the graphics that depict your product. But then I'd have to come up with other graphics, and, given the subject matter, I really don't think you'd want that.) I would even be willing to include your contact information (web URL, e-mail, snail mail). In fact, I think if you approached your brand name situation by showing good sense and good humor (or should that be Good Humor[TM]?), you could even turn it to your benefit. Remember the Smucker's jelly ads? "With a name this bad, it has to be good!"
Your product is called "666," for God's sake--think of the possibilities!
This 666 saga is probably not over. Perhaps we can get together with the Internet Pizza Server elves and come up with a new topping.
Just the other day, I received a piece of mail from Fluxzine, located out in Vancouver, Canada [box 3655 v6b 3y8]. The person who runs Fluxzine also creates stamps. These include Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Cuban poet Jose Marti, and the Mona Lisa. His most recent creation is his "Mondo Post" stamp of a newspaper featuring a picture of Lady Di, surrounded by two columns of commentary on the "media feeding frenzy" of her death. The stamp that's on the Fluxzine envelope has black ink smeared all over it; the other three stamps remain untouched.
Was this package censored by the Canadian government? The American government? A bored Canadian postal worker, flexing his or her individual discretionary big fat marker-wielding muscle [yes, of course I meant that the postal worker's actual muscle is wielding the marker]? But the more interesting question I have here is how exactly do neighboring countries handle international mail? Do they make sure it gets across the border ASAP, or do they carry it as far as they can in their country? Makes you think, doesn't it? Doesn't it?
So, in the end, I ask you: when they come to take away your humor, your writing, your factual accounts, your art, and your commentary, are you going to be ready? Are you going to stand tall? Are you still reading this???
Slovakia 2006: A Study in Courage
Unofficial mascot, 2006 Olympics ‒ Slovakia
Courage. Commitment. Quality. Dedication. Sparky™ stands for all of this and more, but what are the humble, touching origins of this mighty mascot candidate?
I remember it like it was yesterday ... it all started with an unexpected letter that arrived in the Cardhouse mail bag ...
From: [someone] @ru.internet.sk
To: Mark Simple
Subject: competition Mr. Kalisky,
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 19:01:12 +0200
We want to you, to support our project. This project is oriented for publicating of Slovakia candidature for Winter Olympic Games 2006. We are organisiing a competition for this project. So, if you can public our page to potentional people, who can help us. All informations about this project you can find on the following url. We are waiting for your answer.
Brontvay Zdeno, Dr.
I don't think that just showing the URL to potentional people is enough for the country of Slovakia. Hosting an Olympic event is a great responsibility, and I want to help. So I'm thinking, Slovakia, old flame...Slovakia, flame ... who's Mr. Kalisky, anyway ... flame ... and then ... brainstorm.
I am sending your Slovakia candidature web page URL to over 300 people in the next day or two.
I understand that taking on a Olympic hosting is a Herculean event. To further your cause, I have designed, especially for you, an Olympic mascot that you may use in the 2006 Games if you pay me. You may view a preliminary version of this mascot at [this URL].
Yours, Mark Simple
Dr. Zdeno just replied to my letter with a reassuring "O.K. very good!" The wheels are in motion, my friend. The first official act of "Sparky™," the Olympic mascot I have created, will be to kick the sad asses of "Cobi™" (1992) and "Whatzit™" (1996), respectively. Burn on, eternal Olympic Flame®! Burn on!
Preliminary Study for Slovakian 2006 Olympic Candidature
1997nov12. Cheap Date.
The article below was originally commissioned by an online concern; writers in various cities were asked to go out on a date, mix it up, and keep the tab under twenty bucks.
The Windy City. The Big Apple. The Twin Cities. Detroit is known by many names, and is my home. Well, not really. I've lived in different outlying suburbs all of my life; while I'm cooped up in my apartment, weeks can go by between visits to the city. This assignment seemed like the perfect time for Detroit and myself to come to terms with each other. The city is now in its formative rebuilding period; in a bizarre example, Detroit was recently host to the world's largest moving project. The Gem Theatre, weighing in at 2,700 tons, was moved five blocks in a couple of weeks to make room for a new behemoth sports complex. Immediately to the South, Windsor seduces tourists with its completely different monetary system and casinos to relieve you of this very same money. Between this and Detroit's brand-new slogan ("It's a great time in Detroit"), other lesser U.S. cities don't stand a chance. Let's wait here while they fight.
Okay! Detroit wins! My partner in this city tour is a lovely lass who doesn't go by the name "Samantha," but let's call her that anyway. Sam's got a spunky sense of humor that warms my heart. A good thing, because on the day of our cheap date, southeast Michigan is slowly being buried under a blanket of that big, fluffy type of snow you see only in movies.
If you want to get anywhere in Detroit, you're going to support your local economy by taking a car or two. Mine's got a pair of dead windshield wipers, so we're off to Murray's, the huge auto-parts shop where all the "hep" teens hang out hoping to score. Sam voices a serious concern.
"Are they going to have any food there?"
On our arrival, we are pleasantly shocked to discover that Murray's stocks, among the more common snacks, an officially-licensed food product of the Ford Motor Company called "Car Cookies." At a dollar, Sam cannot resist. She also has trouble resisting other things, as I watch her stuffing a sign for motor-parts accessories ("HELP!® Is Here") into her pocket.
"Is that free?"
"I sure hope so."
The old wiper blades resist any sort of attempt at removal, and the movie snow is going into overdrive. The instructions included with the new blades are icon-based and are incomprehensible to both of us. Desperately hungry, we drive off without any improvement in wiper technology. While hurtling through the suburbs, Sam reads the box of Car Cookies.
If you find that any of our Car Cookies have been in an accident during shipping, just drive them into your mouth for a quick and satisfying repair, but be sure not to drive more than one Car Cookie into your mouth at the same time.
Our real food stop is the middle-Eastern Pita Cafe restaurant. The decor is subdued and almost looks more fitting for a smoking room, but the food is cheap and mighty filling. Unsure of how much more money we'll need for the night, we skip the delicious natural lemonade ($2 a glass), wolf down a sandwich apiece and split a garlic spread side between us totaling 7.80 with tip.
Onward! To Detroit! But first, let's spend another five minutes failing to install the new wipers. Now onward! (To Detroit!)
"Omigod! This Car Cookie has been in an accident!"
Sam immediately drives it into her mouth as we pull up to the Heidelberg Project (313 537 8037). In 1986, Detroit artist Tyree Guyton became tired of drug dealers using an abandoned house on his street for drops, so he painted it. In polka dots. Then another house. Then yards. The street. More houses. Found art items, anything and everything including traffic lights, shopping carts, boats and a bus, were either painted, nailed to the houses or trees, or both. The city of Detroit gave Tyree the "Spirit of Detroit" award in 1991 and then, in a stunning lack of inter-departmental communication, demolished four of the art buildings [update: the city is about to tear the whole thing down again]. A large number of people have since volunteered their time to build Heidelberg back up, and it keeps on growing. An entire city block of living art.
If I had been a kid when I first saw this, my head would have exploded. Right now, however, a light blanket of snow is hiding some of the art, like the field of painted shoes. Sam likes the stuffed animal tree. Most of the animals have faded to gray and the whole thing sort of scares me. I'm a lot more excited about the numbers house ‒ an abandoned house festooned with all sorts of big number signs. Our block tour ends next to a human figure made entirely of plumbing pipes. We'll have to come back in the summer.
While I'm giving Sam an informal tour of the city ("There's the big, big fist"), she spots the "Tunnel to Canada" sign and suggests we go. I'm a pushover for foreign countries. Sam informs me that she doesn't have any identification on her. Earlier in the decade, during some skirmish between the Ambassador Bridge customs agents and unknown aggressors, they became complete hard-asses, asking every single person to show identification. I've been taking the tunnel ever since, even though the bridge people have lightened up considerably. However, if you do try to sneak in or out of Canada without I.D., you're looking at an Immigration Office wait of anywhere between ten minutes to four hours (but it's FREE!). We're not even across the border, and we're already gambling. We cross without incident, less two American dollars.
I notice that there's Waterford crystal available at the duty-free shop, and it occurs to me that I have no idea where we're going. The big cheap Zen date. Sam spots a Value Village in a strip mall, and we're immediately sliding across a few parking lots to attack it. Yes, Canadian trinkets! No, they've just closed! Sam then whirls around and locks onto Big "D" Bingo (519 969 2443). Sam informs me that she used to be a bingo caller in a St. Louis VFW Hall, but we're both scratching our heads when we enter. How does one ... bingo? Asking the working teenage girls roaming the aisles with bingo cards seems sensible, but their answers, most along the lines of "I don't know," do not. The hall is packed with mostly older cigarette-wielding females. A sedate male reads off bingo numbers in a bizarre sleepy sine wave cadence that Sam and I have perfected after two minutes, even though we don't understand half of it.
"Okay, single line is closed, double line is now open, the prize is eighty dollars. Let's go ... O-73 ... N-33 ... G-51 ..."
Luckily, there are two distinct visual aids in the form of a large bingo board named "Autotronic 6000," and a television showing an extreme close-up of the next ball to be read. A number of companion bingo boards ("Autotronic 7000/5000") are strategically placed throughout the hall. A young male scoops up used bingo cards off the tables and throws them into his rolling garbage can. Eventually, Sam gives four strong US dollars to a man wheeling around what can only be termed a bingo cart, and gets ten sheets of paper with three bingo boards on each of them. After more queries, we discover we've bought into the 7:30pm round, a half-hour away. Looks like it's time for a bingo break.
Our strip mall wandering finds us outside a closed drug store named "The Bi-Way," and then into a supermarket looking for products with odd French translations. After seeing me taking a picture of a drink named "Gassosa," a clerk asks me if there is "something you didn't like?" I assure him that I am not a Canadian shelf-stocking inspector while Sam wisely beats feet for the next aisle. Among our scientific findings, the raisin-flavored soda and "Captaine Crounche" cereal are easily trumped by "Passion Flakies," a cream/apple/raspberry snack cake. The half-hour melts away and we're back in the hall, ready to bingo.
For our session, the caller is a woman. She has the same cadence to her voice, but we can make out most of what she's saying. Sam buys a Marqueur De Bingo for $1.50 (USD). We're playing for AMERICA. The caller blows through ten "zip" games at double-speed before getting to our card; this is what we should have bought into, at half the price and half the time. Without much fanfare, we've moved into our ten-round set. Sam gets to mark the cards; my job is to double-check Sam's work, fold the bingo sheets, and hide them from the roving eyes of Garbage Lad. Applying some of our new-found bingo knowledge, I secure a copy of the official House Rules from the bingo matron. Sam makes an observation.
"People in St. Louis had small shrines set up, trolls and such for good luck, nobody seems to have anything here..."
"Maybe they're cracking down ..."
The games go by quickly, and include several different variants; forming two lines, an "X," a "T," etc. The "cover the entire board" variant is a fascinating exercise in tediousness, but we're both laughing through the whole thing. It's my turn to make an observation.
"You know, we could have probably just used a pen to mark the card."
"I don't want to hear about it ... you obviously didn't read House Rule number seven."
7.) A bingo dabber must be used, and all numbers called must be marked and clearly visible on all card faces.
I quickly apologize to Sam for doubting her. She's probably not hot for me anymore, dammit to hell.
The bingo round has entered the "Super Jackpot" round, a buy-in event that's too rich for our blood. They're in the middle of the cover-all-squares portion, when, suddenly ... tragedy. The Autotronic 6000 is no longer functioning. During Super Jackpot! The tension level in the room mounts. The caller misreads a ball and several people immediately shout back "G-53!!!" A bingo representative makes a half-hearted attempt to fix the board. The bingo matron approaches the microphone to make an announcement:
"We've got someone coming in, the machine is locked, but we want to keep the bingo going, so we're going to do it manually."
That's when I notice on the House Rules sheet that this bingo parlour is open "24 hours a day, 7 days a week." Keep that bingo coming! Sam wants to know if we can use any winnings to continue the cheap date, but twenty losing minutes later, the question is moot.
As we're leaving, the bingo caller is switched again. This time, it's the Ontario-wide televised bingo game "Superstar Bingo," with a grand prize of $25,000 (Canadian). I snap a quick picture of a Autotronic 5000/3000 board and the bingo matron shoots a quizzical/perturbed look at me.
10.) Obscenities or any other disturbances will not be tolerated in the hall. That person will be asked to leave. "Run, Sam! The bingo lady saw me taking a picture!"
With gas and the return tunnel fare already figured into our total, we end up spending the remainder of the twenty bucks on donuts and a game of Fish Tales pinball (75 cents Canadian) at Tilt, a small Canadian arcade/pool hall. A very special episode of Le Jenny McCarthy Show blares at us from a nearby TV.
Like most of the dates I've been on, this one possessed romantical complications that are beyond the scope of this article.
1997dec07. Pixbarn: Happy Birthday card.
A birthday card which I got my momma. It doesn't really matter what's inside.
Hey there! My friend Brian and I were the ones who wrote you last summer. We were in tears reading about your expedition to the Great Salt Lake. We intended to head west on I-80 to see the salt flats and also to see your "Stupid Thing," but an old man working in Salt Lake City's tourist center said that the flats were pretty muddy that time of year and our intentions of driving on them ‒ a-la land speed records ‒ were misguided. He also said it was just a boring, flat, muddy place, and advised us not to waste our time going there. Salt Lake should hire more tour guides like that man. Anyway, we didn't go to the salt flats, and drove into the mountains instead, which yielded some incredible sights.
I'm going to go see what the hell that thing is, THIS YEAR , if it kills me. From the looks of it (there's a photo of it down this page a little), it could.