Wednesday, July 30, 2008

enforcement agents

I was hanging out on the beach in Iraq when two American soldiers arrived. They faced off with some Iraqi sunbathers, West Side Story-style, then pulled small silver cylinders out of their pockets in unison. The cylinders expanded into long tubes, and a bouquet of rounded prongs popped out of the end. The soldiers held the silver contraptions over their heads like chef hats and danced around. You would think it looked ridiculous, but it was actually very menacing and intimidating.

The soldiers pulled hand cranks out of the small end of the silver chef hats, and suddenly I realized they were holding giant mechanical whisks. They inserted the whisks in the sand in front of the Iraqis and mixed the sand up into a frenzy. As they mixed, the whisks expanded to become a set of large wheels, and then two large beach bicycles. The soldiers hopped on the bikes and pedaled off along the beach.

I was about to go for a run, so I ran in their direction. The beach soon ended and became a series of crowded streets filled with bazaars. Most of the stalls were selling discount footwear. I finally caught up with the bicycle-riding soldiers, only to discover they were my friends Jake and Branda. I asked how they made their strange bikes, and Branda told me they got them out of a mail-order catalog for way too much money, considering they were already falling apart after one ride.

Then my mom swung by in a special car for legally blind drivers. We both pretended to be blind, which involved sitting in the back seat and hugging large teddy bears with "legally blind driver" printed across their chests. My mom took a wrong turn into the parking lot where all the cops hang out. "Just play it cool," she said.

Our car coasted through the crowded parking lot like a baby seal through a den of sleeping polar bears. There were all kinds of cops---city cops, state troopers, security guards, park rangers, mounties. I pretended to be blind. Suddenly, a cop was rapping on my window. I rolled it open for him, and he said, "I'm gonna have to take you in."

I said, "But we're legal," and pointed to the teddy bears. We had him, and he knew it, too. But he was on his home turf and had something to prove. He pulled out his baton and lightly rapped it against his palm. I started sweating like crazy. I tried to remind myself that just hearing that noise wouldn't really intimidate a blind person. If anything, it sounded like he was casually applauding our efforts. But out of the corners of my not-actually-blind eyes, I could see the other officers closing in on our car. This wouldn't end well.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

barbeque ghosts

I finally went to Dinosaur BBQ up by Columbia, only to find it had been infested by ghosts. Twisty white wisps of ghostiness twisted up from the roof instead of delicious-smelling barbeque smoke. We took some pictures. On the screen of Joyce's digital camera, the ghosts looked past us with empty stares.

So we decided not to get barbeque.

Instead, we attended a happy hour I'd organized for young publishing professionals. There was a pretty good turn out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

worst parents' weekend ever

My parents' were in town, and I wanted to show them a fun New York weekend. It didn't quite work out that way. I tried taking them to the pool party at McCarren Park, and we got there really early, right after my parents got out of church. But at 11 a.m., the line was already all the way around the pool, down the block, and across the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. We waited in line for a long time.

Eventually I gave up and took my mom out to breakfast with my friend Steve and his sister. My dad must have gone home, disgusted with all the queuing. I guess it was a fancy breakfast. I offered to pay for my mom and myself and ended up shelling out $100 for eggs and coffee.

Then my brother and I started breaking into people's apartments, just to check them out. We saw a cute attic room, and an apartment inside a large sailboat with a tendency to flip over even in the mildest weather. The sailboat apartment was full of clues. We discovered a tiny little wrench taped to the thigh of the guy who lived there (he was asleep). Then we found equally tiny little pieces of copper tubing under all the cushions in the room. The more clues we found, the bigger they got, until the entire floor was covered with nuts and bolts that we could barely scoop up into our arms without dropping them everywhere. At some point, we decided to let the clues be clues and leave the mystery for someone else to solve.

Now I was faced with the problem of finding a subway that would take me to work from Queens. The locals were full of useless advice. I took a B or a D further away from the city to catch an M, which seemed wrong, and someone told me it was running local on the weekend anyway. To transfer to the M, I had to climb down out of a parking structure, cut across a perfectly manicured lawn, walk through a very formal living room (which I think is more correctly called a salon), and hop a fence to cross more lawn. The whole time, I could see the train coming. In my hurry I kept tripping and getting stuck on fence posts and knocking over televisions. The various people I'd asked for directions crowded around and cheered me on.

The M station was very technologically advanced, with shuttle pods that would airlift senior citizens directly to Broadway shows. Still, I had to buy my ticket from an angry old woman at the bar, which took some more time. What I'm trying to say is, I totally missed that train, and I knew I would be stuck in Queens forever.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

camping, and not camping

I went camping in someone's backyard in Michigan. I'm not sure who came with me, but she'd never been to Michigan before. It was a terrible night. There was heavy rain, and lightning, and crocodiles crawling around in the tree branches. A couple of deer wandered into the backyard, and I pointed them out to my friend. She was impressed.

But then the night got even worse. Something attacked the deer---it was pretty dark, but in the brief bursts of light from the lightning I made out lions, cheetahs, water buffalo. The deer stood over us protectively. Blood gushed from their flanks. They didn't speak, but I could tell they wanted us to get the hell out of there and save ourselves. So we did. I mean, the house was only about ten feet away, so we went back inside and waited out the storm.

Once it stopped raining, my parents took us to crash someone else's family reunion. We stood in line next on the Wattles I-75 overpass. The people in front of us were taking way too long to hand over their tickets, so we jumped the line and hopped over the turnstiles. This was an unusually rebellious move for my family.

The other family's reunion was pretty lame. I milled about with my mom and dad and brother and unidentified friend. I wanted my mom to play Skee-Ball with me, but I couldn't remember what the game was called, and it didn't seem like they had it there anyway. My mom did find a tub full of pool balls. It looked like those pits of rainbow-colored plastic balls they used to have in the play areas at McDonald's, although trying to jump in it would probably have been pretty painful. We wisely decided not to try. Our rebellious phase was over.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the Israeli army story

I was hanging out with my friend Larry, helping him get ready for his wedding. I told him this story about an Israeli army officer. I have no idea what the story was about, or why I told it, but apparently Larry really liked it.

This became apparent when I showed up at the ceremony and saw my name in the program. I was up right after the minister's opening remarks, telling my story about an Israeli army officer. I sat down at the back of the church. The church itself was outside in a garden, but my seat was behind a wall in the back area. I sat down on a stool in front of a window looking out on the proceedings and hoped no one would notice me.

They noticed me. Five minutes in, Larry called out my name. He pointed at me in the back and beckoned me on stage. "You guys are going to love this story," he said into the microphone, before ushering me in front of the podium.

I drew a total blank. There must have been hundreds of people there, and they all stared at me expectantly, with those polite smiles people have when they're sitting through weddings. "Hey, everyone, isn't Larry a great guy?" I said into the mic. Everyone nodded in agreement. I couldn't even remember how my story started. I shuffled through the papers on the podium, looking for a clue. There was no clue. I was stuck.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Exes and Drunks

One of my exes tried to rekindle the old flame, but I apparently was having none of it. I told him we should just be friends, and he told me he could do better anyway. So he went off in a huff to the Brazilian supermodel he had waiting in the wings, and I went off to find my friends Kelly and Todd. They were on their way to check out the swim club they had just joined.

It turned out the pool was in the middle of a dive bar in a sketchy part of town. As we splashed around in the surprisingly clean yet small pool, old drunk men leered at us from the barstools. They seemed really upset that the swim club was encroaching on their establishment. It was a bad scene. The gentrification around here is really getting out of hand.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

family vacation

I was supposed to go on a trip to northern Canada with both sides of my extended family. At first, they were all crashing in my apartment. They rearranged all the furniture, left my grandad on the couch, and went shopping. I was having one of those days where I just couldn't wake up. I dragged myself out of bed around noon with my eyes full of sleep gunk and stumbled into all the newly relocated couches and chairs. My favorite shoes were sitting right outside my door, and when I kicked them by accident they went flying in opposite directions. One shoe I found under a couch; the other I never saw again.

Then we were at my parents' house in Michigan. I brought my friend Erica and we all hopped in the van to drive to Canada. Halfway to the border I realized I'd left my passport in New York, and I forgot to pack any extra shoes. I was wearing my old running shoes, which I hate. I would look like a stupid tourist all week, running around in smelly white athletic footwear. That is, assuming I got past the border.

My mom refused to turn back. She said we would ask the border guards to issue me a new passport when we got to the bridge. I was skeptical.

But then I was alone in Kitchener, trudging up a snow-covered road, trying to find my cousin and uncle. They were waiting for me in the park, which wasn't snow-covered. Actually, it was a pretty nice day, and dogs were running around all over the place. My uncle had to go somewhere for a minute, and my cousin showed me his special phone. He had a new job with the University of Waterloo, and they issued him a big blue plastic phone that was always connected. My cousin told me whoever was on the other end of the line would provide any information, and do whatever my uncle asked. She goaded me into trying it out.

So I picked it up and held it to my ear. "Hello?" someone said. "Oh, wrong number," I said, and quickly put it back down.

All of a sudden all the dogs went nuts and ran after something on the other side of a hill. There were hundreds of them, all different shapes and sizes. "It's a cat!" someone yelled. And then it was. The cat was booking it, running in every direction with the dogs close on its tail. It ran past our blanket, then attempted to climb a tree that was much too short to get it away from the dogs. "Don't do it!" I yelled. It gave up on the tree, but I could tell it was getting tired. As it staggered on, a vulture swooped out of the sky and nailed it just as all the dogs were closing in. Poor cat.