Archive for April, 2005


This morning, my best friend Tracy and I were having our weekly Kansas City/Austin phone communication when she said,
“Hey, do you know what today is?”
“Uh”, April 30?”
“Yeah, but you know what else today is?”
Reaching back into the vast wasteland of knowledge in my brain, I could not come up with any significant attachments to today’s date. “You’re going to have to tell me” I said.
“Well… it’s the 60th anniversary of Hitler’s suicide!” she exclaimed proudly.
“How odd.” I said, “They didn’t notate that on my Missouri Conservationist’s calendar…”

If it seems strange that my friend, an apparently normal 47-soon-to-be-48-year-old first grade teacher, would know that today marks the 60th anniversary of Hitler’s demise and be excited about that fact, let me give you a little background: Most people might think about Hitler and Fascist Germany occasionally. Tracy thinks about them every day. One day she might be thinking about Hitler’s march across Europe, the next day she may be reliving the horrors of the concentration camps. You see, Tracy believes she used to be in a concentration camp in a former life. Yes, friends, she thinks she’s a reincarnated, persecuted, gassed-or-starved-to-death Jew.

As proof of this former existence, she will point to the tattoo on her wrist. “See where it is? That’s where the prisoners had their tattoos. On the wrist.” Never mind that the tattoo Tracy chose back in the 1970s is of a pretty butterfly and a beautiful purple iris. It was the 70s and you just didn’t go around requesting that the artist tattoo a series of numbers on your wrist.
“You say you want what? Numbers on your wrist? Like a Jew? Hey,I don’t do that shit, OK? How about a nice peace sign or something?”

These days it’s different. Today you could totally have numbers tattooed on your wrist. Today you could have numbers tattooed on your wrist plus starve yourself down to a skeleton and live your life as a persecuted, reincarnated Jewish person and no one would bat an eye. People alter their physical selves every day. Some people even have their bodies changed so they can look like their favorite animal – Humanimals, they’re called. You’ve seen the documentaries – the guy who looks like his pet lizard, the guy who had whiskers implanted into his cheeks so he could be more like a cat. Freaks, some people call them; free spirits, others say.

All I can say is this: I know a woman who thinks she once died in a concentration camp. She has a couple of nice tattoos on her wrist and knows the date that Hitler killed himself. Some might find this a little freaky, but I do not. She’s my free-spirited best friend who I love dearly. I’m just glad she’s not a Humanimal.


big trash day

Yesterday was what is known in my town as spring cleanup, or Big Trash Day as it’s called in my neighborhood. This is where you can, on your regular trash day, put out all the crap you’ve needed to throw away all year, but couldn’t put out for a regular trash pickup. Things like furniture and TVs and old lawnmowers and boxes of junk from your basement. This weekend, piles of trash started sprouting on lawns and I joined them, carting my many loads to the curb last Sunday.

Big trash day always disturbs me. Although glad to be able to get rid of the useless detritus of my life once a year, I also feel wasteful and guilty about the environmental impact. Just the thought of all of those piles of trash all over the city being dumped into a landfill makes me ashamed in a way we liberals know all too well. Yet I join in, grateful to have it all disappear into the big truck. I’m an American and paying someone to make trash disappear is a privilege we’re born with. It’s best not to think about it too much.

If you have really good things on your pile of trash, say like a lawnmower that can be fixed up or a reasonably clean recliner, The Scavengers will come around and take them off your trash pile the night before Big Trash Day. The Scavengers are guys who drive around in pickup trucks looking for “good finds”. Spotting a potential find, they pull their pickup to the curb and quickly hop out, sizing up the item in a flash and tossing it into the bed of the truck if it’s deemed worthy, or hopping back into the running vehicle and swiftly pulling away from the curb if it isn’t. Sometimes I wonder what their homes look like. I like to envision them as happy junkmen, tinkering on a lawnmower or two under the ol’ shade tree in the backyard. In reality, they are probably the same people who live in the house out in the country I pass by occasionally – junk packed into every corner of the yard, entire conversation pits of old furniture next to piles of ancient washing machines and car engines that, over the years, have rusted and fused into one large mass of metal. Sometimes I wonder what they put out for Big Trash Day, but suspect they have nothing to offer.

Before the trash men came, I was surveying my pile of stuff when I spied something new on my pile. It was an unfamiliar box placed on top of everything else and when I looked inside, found it full of photographs – hundreds of them – old black and whites and newer color photos. I took the box inside and started going through what turned out to be a chronology of one couple’s life together. The photographer did not label the backs of most of the pictures so I never determined who everyone was, but found out the following: The husband was in WWII and was stationed in Germany. There were no pictures of concentration camps or starving skeleton-like people, so these pictures were relatively boring ones of fellow soldiers and bombed out buildings. The husband was an active guy – a competitive skier in the 40s, and competitive motorcycle and car racer in the 50s. He owned a 1959 Corvette. Later in years, he and his wife traveled extensively all over the United States, and to India and China. Interestingly, the black and white photos are full of people – people posing, clowning, or just sitting and unaware their picture was being taken. Almost all of the color photos – the travel photos – are of places: restaurants, signs, storefronts, museum displays. No people, just places and things. There were also a few very old photographs from the late 1800s and pictured two brothers. They were posed studio photographs, and paper clipped to one was an obituary dated 1974, saying the deceased was 89 years old when he passed. One of those ancient children got old and died, it appeared.

Why had someone thrown these photos out, I wondered, and how did they end up on my trash pile? Maybe a Scavenger had picked up the box on the previous block, thinking it was something good, then had discarded it on my pile later. Maybe it was left by a relative (son or daughter?) who didn’t want anyone to know they didn’t care about their family photos and had placed them on another neighbor’s pile of trash anonymously. It’s a mystery I’ll never know the answer to. Now the trash man has come and gone and I still have these pictures of people I don’t know. I wish there was something I could do with them but who needs pictures of nameless people they’ve never met? I’ll probably hold onto them for awhile, maybe keep them in the basement until the next Big Trash Day when, perhaps, a Scavenger will pick them up and find them useful for something. Or maybe not, in which case they’ll end up populating the landfill, lost forever.

20 things about me you don’t know

I collect old medical textbooks. I especially like the ones with pictures of autopsies.

I think a good vacation would be to visit the Mudder Museum of medical oddities.

I like to go to the dentist.

I used to tell my doctor I was a non-smoker, even though I wasn’t. Now that I don’t smoke I don’t have to lie about it.

I like to do the same things at the same time every day.

I read books every day. My idea of fun is reading books.

I prefer to be alone and would conduct my entire life over the Internet if it were possible.

My motto is “No new people”. I actually say this.

I’d rather live in the city because it’s closer to art, not because there are more people.

I haven’t listened to a commercial radio station in over a year.

I don’t contribute money to any of the many non-commercial radio stations I listen to, even though I know I should.

I like winter better than summer because you can get ready for bed at 5:30pm.

I like winter better than summer because you’re not expected to do as much

Pepe LePew is my favorite cartoon character and my favorite thing he says is les mew. Sometimes I actually say this to my cats and think they understand.

I can laugh at just about anything even though I’m usually depressed. I don’t find this contradictory at all.

I never attended any dances in high school.
Not because I wasn’t asked, but because a guy I once danced with at a Jr High dance said I was sweaty.

I do not like birds or fish. I will eat birds but not fish.

One of my cats is old and cranky and none of the other pets like her. Sometimes I wish she would hurry up and die.

I don’t like to cook even though I can. When someone says a meal I cooked tastes delicious I think they’re lying.

I have a neighbor from Pakistan whose last name is Hussein. When Homeland Security says to “be vigilant” I keep my eye on him.

who the hell is sean hannity?

Oh my, little Karen has been scared senseless today! For some reason, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to check out Sean Hannity’s website. Before today, I didn’t really know who the hell Sean Hannity was but boy, howdy I certainly have gotten an education now. So sit back and let me give you a tour, kiddies, of a website about a man whose ego is bigger (bigger!) than our president’s…

Sean Hannity is a self-described MULTI-MEDIA SUPERSTAR. I personally have never seen the guy on TV, or heard him on the radio, or read about him in any print media (liberal bastards), so I’m not sure what-all media this guy thinks he’s a superstar of. And he’s never been on Oprah or Entertainment Tonight and frankly, one is NOT a superstar unless one has been on either one of those shows.
So that’s A BIG FAT LIE.

Sean Hannity is a BIG fan of Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, whose dinners are so expensive only Multi-media superstars can afford to eat there. There are two ads for Ruth’s Chris on today’s home page, plus, there’s a nice pic of what looks like a foot-high bloody steak. And everybody knows that all good Republicans like their meat. Rare. Lots of it. Bleeding all over the plate. Mile-high. Bloody. Reminds ’em of huntin’. And fishin’. Killing shit. Killin’ Iraqis. Makin’ the world safe for democracy.

Another part of the website is for Support Our Troops Rally and the header reads Support Our Troops Calandar of Rally’s. Rally’s, get it? I hate it when illiterate dumbasses turn a plural into a possessive don’t you? Buy hey, why be surprised? Isn’t Stupid the new Smart now? (Think: Larry the Cable Guy, a true multi-media superstar)

Moving on to the handy links to all of Sean Hannity’s favorite ultra-conservative, in-your-face, liberal-hating websites. The usual suspects all show up, Newt, Limbaugh, Fox News – who are scary enough – but then there are some that are EVEN SCARIER:

Stop Hillary PAC: Here you can download Buddy Icons that spell out Stop Hillary. I guess you can make a political statement when you’re IM’ing your other conservative mook buddies while you tell them about how you actually got to have sex with your date last weekend, even though you had to slip her some GHB first. Stupid bitch.

CFS Risk Consultants: A place where you can hire folks to protect you and investigate the evildoers in your life. This looks like a place where the average American conservative can reap the benefits of the Patriot Act.

Rasmussen Reports: Looks like a website devoted to hyping Bush’s approval rating, bashing Hillary, and quoting “statistics” about how much the average American loves God (57% of Republicans pray every day and 63% of Americans believe Bible literally true)

But perhaps the most disturbing website link is to the Flirty Flipper. The best I can tell, this chick is some kind of assistant to Sean Hannity (perhaps the Right’s answer to Suzy Creamcheese?). She appears to be an adult female, but it looks like her maturity level stopped at about age 10. She has produced two children who are glorified in all their snotty-nosed splendor above cutesy captions like Daddy Teaching Jack to Mow the Lawn Last Summer and My Little Babies, Growing Up – Now 1 and 2 Years Old!!!, and there’s something going on here with birds. Like she prays TO THEM (not with them, or for them – TO THEM). Even godless liberals aren’t that wacky. Maybe the people from the Rusmussen Report need to have a little talk with Flipper Chick about the exact meaning of paganisn and how good little Republican boys and girls JUST DON’T DO THAT.

Wow. I knew there was a reason I steered away from this kind of crap.
Viva la Liberalism!

jeep thing

Driving home from work last Friday, I noticed the following sticker pasted to the window of the Jeep Cherokee in front of me: It’s a Jeep thing…you wouldn’t understand.

Being an unrepentent SUV-hater, I recoiled in disguest. “Could you be any more arrogant?”I wanted to shout.

Back home, I did an internet search and found this site which is aptly titled It’s a Jeep thing…you wouldn’t understand” which graphically illustrates a typical Jeep experience. Boy howdy, it sure looks like those folks are having some fun driving over big piles of rocks and into ditches and such! I personally can’t think of anything better than having my kidneys jarred over and over and over for hours on end as I destroy ecosystems with my vehicle. Cool!

In contrast, the jeep I saw on Friday was pretty and clean and fairly new and didn’t look anything like the Jeep pictured in the website. It also had two carseats strapped in the back. This vehicle had obviously never been off-road and I can’t imagine mommy & daddy taking their babies out forsome rip-snortin’ off-road fun, can you? So why the sticker?

All in all, I’d say the Jeep fanatics have it wrong. Every American knows exactly what it’s like to feel cultish devotion to name-brand products. We are a nation that virtually worships the name brand, and Jeep people do not possess some kind of secret knowledge the rest of us wouldn’t understand. I think I will get my own sticker. It will read: It’s an ecology thing…you Jeep assholes wouldn’t understand.

the prequel, pt. 2

This sure seems like the week for me to talk about my neighbors doesn’t it? OK, so let’s discuss the people who live on the other side of Chez Karen and are the other half of the reason why I’m building a fence. Let me lay it out for you. There’s a mommy, a daddy, two little boys under the age of five, and two giant German Shepherds. These people are NICE and FRIENDLY and their children are pleasant and non-threatening. Sounds normal, right? Let’s scratch the surface of this seemingly idyllic scenario and see what’s underneath…

Daddy’s a trucker who loves guns. He’s also a conspiracy theorist. And an extreme extrovert with a loud, booming voice who LOVES to talk. Here are excerpts from some actual converstions I had with him just this week:

“…so I told Rachel I didn’t want her cooking the boys’ food in the microwave anymore. Did you know that the microwave makes all your food STERILE? So I said ‘honey, we’re getting rid of that thing’, but she doesn’t want to. Says it’s too convenient. Man, can you believe that?”

“A friend of mine got this big-ass pinecone from a Sequoia tree and he’s gonna give me some seeds – even though they’re illegal – and I”m gonna plant a Sequoia tree in my backyard! Won’t that be fuckin awesome? And when it starts growing up in the power lines and shit, the power compnay won’t be able to cut the tree down cuz it’s PROTECTED by THE LAW! How cool is that?”

” I’d like to get a handgun but I don’t want to do the background check, you know? I think the government is spying on me, which I wouldn’t be surprised if they are cause I’m always talking to people about how crooked Bush is. Anyway, I’ve already got over 1000 rounds of ammo right there in the house. That’s a lot, right? Of course, you know I’m not crazy or anything so there’s nothin’ to be worried about, right?

As if 1000 rounds of ammo weren’t enough, daddy also owns two Nazi patrol dogs – Hannah and Gretchen. They tirelessly stalk the perimeter of the backyard, barking at any and all perceived threats to the security of the family they have been trained to protect. This includes me. In my own backyard. Minding my own business. As soon as I step out of my back door they start – charging the fence, barking loudly. Oh, the mom & dad do their best to make the dogs stop. They yell, “Hannah! Gretchen! STOP BARKING” but soon enough it starts back up again. It’s a never-ending cycle, really. My poor little puff-ball dog suffers the most. He tries to act tough but often just crumbles under the stress of being bullied through the cyclone fence. I often find him huddled next to the back door, high-pitched keening sounds coming from his tiny mouth. This I cannot tolerate. It’s bad enough when they bark at me but Coco really shouldn’t have to put up with that. The dogs are the primary reason I want a solid wall of wood between our yards.

The other problem I have is purely aesthetic. The children own every single brightly-colored outdoor toy that Fisher-Price ever made. They have the red fort with the green roof. They have the green turtle sandbox. They have the bright blue workbench with a million red, yellow and green parts. They have yellow trucks and purple trucks and red trucks. All of these brightly colored objects remain perpetually strewn all over the lawn and it looks like a circus threw up in their backyard. The red fort and the big tool bench are usually on their sides, having fallen down because they’re located on an incline in the yard, and how safe is THAT? Maybe when the fort falls over with the kids inside, the dogs can perform a rescue operation and then we will know their true usefulness.

Soon I will have my little backyard oasis, free from threatening canines and the sight of busy little toddlers systematically moving primary-colored toys around their backyard like a giant game of checkers. The wall of wood will grant me my freedom, and my little dog will once again be able to poop in peace. Serenity now!

The Fence, The Prequel

The fence project Ken & I started last weekend is moving along at a pace you could call admirable for a couple of older folks. I’m especially proud of my work and chalk it up to having the proper attire – tool belt, sports bra, leather gloves. I like to call it the Suburban Commando Butch look. Has a nice ring to it, doncha think?

We have successfully repaired the neighbor’s drunken fence and was rewarded with a plate of ribs for our efforts, which I thought was nice and even told Ken I would take back some of the bad things I’ve said about the neighbor, but not all of them. You see, the fence was built a couple of summers ago after an incident I refer to as the Wagging PeePee Incident. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in July 2003, and here I was, having a normal conversation over the then-cyclone fence with my alcoholic neighbor who had already been slamming back a few brewskis, when all of a sudden I realised he was flashing me. Flashing me. Right there as we were having our normal conversation about lawns and weed killer and the weather. Flashing. Me. At first I didn’t want to believe it, but there it was. He was waving it at me, jiggling it up and down as if were saying “Hey, how ya doin’?” I have to say it’s kind of hard to change gears mentally when something like this happens. I mean, you’re having a normal day and then something happens that’s definitely NOT NORMAL but your brain just doesn’t want to deal with it or acknowledge it. So it took me a few seconds to react to the wagging penis, which I did by saying “Hey! Put that thing up, will ya?” I then turned in disgust and walked away. So he starts yelling “WELL YOU SURE SEEMED TO ENJOY YOURSELF. YOU DIDN’T EXACTLY STOP LOOKING. HEY WHERE’RE YOU GOIN’? HEY, COME BACK. HEY, hey, …” and then he gave up and I assume he went back to swilling his Milwaukee’s Best. I walked into the house, totally mortified, and didn’t visit the back yard for pretty much the rest of the summer – feeling, irrationally, somehow responsible for his behavior, as women typically do. A few weeks later he began construction on what has now become known throughout the neighborhood as the Drunken Fence which started leaning into my yard only a few weeks after it was hastily built. I myself referred to it as The Guilt Fence.

I had the satisfaction of telling the neighbor off a few months after the Wagging Pee Pee Incident, when he called wanting to know if I was “ever going to talk to him again.” I told him he was just no longer a person I considered a friend and that if he thought that shaking his dick at me was somehow appealing, he was sadly mistaken and perhaps delusional. Over the past 2 years, In a classic passive-aggressive fashion, I’ve told mostly everyone on the block about the Wagging PeePee Incident, so his reputation is pretty much shot and now people just look at him as a somewhat broken-down pathetic loser that you’d best keep your children and wife away from lest he shake his ugly ol’ drunken penis at THEM. This gives me a teeny-tiny feeling of redemption. Oh, and now I’ve blogged it so technically the whole friggin’ world knows. So there.

I suppose I should feel sorry for this person. He is, after all, an alcohol-addicted man, younger than myself, who is dying slowly of liver failure, who continues to drink every day. He has trouble editing his words and actions and has been abandoned by his family, friends, and now his neighbors. His once beautifully landscaped yard is slowly deteriorating into a weedy mess. The paint on his house is beginning to peel. He is unemployable. But do I feel pity? Not really, although I would probably have been a bit more generous with my sympathies had certain things not happened.

So what’s the moral of this story, kiddies? Here’s two for you: Good fences make good neighbors, but drunken fences just piss off the neighbors. And Beware of who you wag your pee-pee at – revenge is sweet, my friend.

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