Arguileless, or, A sweater named Mittens

Triumph turned to tragedy today like ice cream in a sauna.

All my life I've had argyle envy. I see people in argyle, and I think, I like that argyle. I wish I had some argyle. Sometimes things like this strike me, and I don't realize that this is the easiest problem in the world to solve. You just, you know, buy some argyle. Poof. Done. No more argyle envy.

Well, I made this discovery, but only in the form of hypothesis. That is, I never actually did buy any argyle. Until today.

Yes, that's right. I was cajoled mercilessly by Josh into leaving the apartment. I was carped into going to Target at 5:05 this evening. So there I am, braving rush hour traffic to buy an argyle sweater. I'm the Wicked Witch of the West on the bike, riding past the window, single-minded of focus, cackling maniacally. I'll get you, my sweater.

When I moved here -- I mean, when I physically arrived at my new apartment -- I had three quarters of a tank of gas. That was in early August. I don't drive much in the city. I don't know where I would drive to. So in those months, I've gone from three quarters of a tank of gas to... slightly under three quarters of a tank of gas. And I've driven so little that I'm totally afraid of driving. You never really forget, it's true, it's riding a bike carried over, but in this case the bike weighs two thousand pounds and hurtles like a rocket, held up, my god, by a half-inch of rubber that's full of air. Air! Air holds your car in the air! As you shotgun forward at forty five in a thirty zone while giant SUVs pass you on the right because that's not fast enough this close to the Beltway, you're trusting yourself to a thin piece of rubber.

Condoms fail 5% of the time.


So I banish these thoughts, and I hop in the car, and I put on a mix cd and I can't find anything I like so I'm tumbling along with a hand on the dials and I made it to Target having only had two or three narrowly dodged collisions.

Where's the sweater section? AHA! Argyle!

I'm going to buy a sweater. Then two sweaters. Then two sweaters and a hoodie. Then I give myself a ceiling of $150. When the cash register beeps its last beep, it deducts $204 from my checking account.

But I've got these two fucking awesome argyle sweaters. I've got a cashmere hat. I've got De La Soul bullhorning out the speakers, and yes I turn it down every time I'm stopped at a red light next to somebody who looks like a thug, but I'm loving the ride, you know? I'm enjoying the ride.

And I've got a bit of my confidence back. I'm ducking and dodging through traffic, bobbing and weaving, shucking and jiving. I'm passing the movie theater that's showing a 70 mm print of Lawrence of Arabia, and I'm thinking, I have to find somebody to ask out on a date so I have an excuse to go see Lawrence of Arabia in 70 mm, because I've heard seeing Peter O'Toole appear as a heat distorted dot on the desert horizon is one of the most amazing things, a life-affirming, self-defining moment... but you have to see it in 70 mm. I need a date for this.

I'm thinking, I'm going to put on my new fucking argyle sweater and cold step to somebody with a fresh pack of gum and ask if she wants to go to Lawrence of Arabia on the north side of town. But, of course, I won't. Instead, I go to McDonalds. Second time I've had it since I've been here, and, if possible, worse than the first.

I've done something. I don't do very much these days, other than live in bars and live in books, and I'm feeling good about it, you know? I've broken my sphere, even for something as mundane as a trip to a chain store. I feel good about it. I haven't bought clothes in a year and a half. I've got new clothes. I've never been a sweater guy. Now, with a swipe of the debit card, I'm a 100% non-blended dyed in the wool sweater guy. You want proof? Check the bags, sucker.

It's sad but it's true, I'm excited to try everything on and see how I look in it. To stand at the mirror wearing new clothes and make those exaggerated faces that seem like the faces you make in real life but aren't, because they're your mirror faces. I want to see how my clothes look with my mirror faces.

Hey handsome, I've waiting all night for you to ask me to see Lawrence of Arabia in a 70 mm print with you.

I throw the bags on the couch. I rifle through them. Huzzah! An argyle sweater. Another sweater. But it's not the argyle. It's a cheap striped guy I bought as a backup. Three long-sleeved t-shirts. A hoodie. A value pack of ankle socks.

One argyle sweater... all bags empty. No cashmere hat.

They're on the receipt. That's for sure. Together they cost almost 60 bucks. And they're right there in smeary ink on a slippery piece of ticker tape.

They're just not in the bags.

And, I know, I know. Because I already did it. I already had this conversation with a friend. See, he was an expert, as people always are when somebody else has lost something.

It must be in your car. It's probably not on the receipt. Did you check in your car? You probably left it at the store. Are you sure you bought it at all? Are you sure you even WENT to the store? Maybe it's under the seats. Are you wearing it now? Did you, in a moment of zen, give it to a bum who looked cold? You're wearing it right now, aren't you.

Because I hadn't thought of any of that before I talked to him.

And I've retraced my steps as far as I am able to retrace them, without once again putting the rubber to the road like the wizard meets the toad (with a twinkle in his eye for the magic that's to come).

And you know what? Now I hate the other sweater.

I liked the other sweater better. It was the better sweater. This one I only bought because of the three-and-two-halves purple triangles in the center. I like purple.

But I loved that other sweater.

When I was a kid, maybe seven years old, I got two dogs. They were brother and sister. I named them Sharky and Mittens. Mittens was a doll. The nicest dog in the world. Sharky, he growled and nipped and he was ill-tempered but it's not his fault. Sharky, he's just like that. He didn't have that magic that made Mittens what she was.

Then, poor thing, Mittens runs away and you find her the next day, and she's been hit by a car. And she's dead on the side of the road, and you're standing there, and you don't know what's going on, it's terrible.

I didn't like Sharky much after that. Eventually he bit me and got sent to live on a farm.

And I've never named an article of clothing before. But sometimes, a pet will die, and you'll get another one that looks the same and call it Rex 2. Rover 2. Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad 2.

This sweater is now Sharky 2.

I'll miss you, Mittens, wherever you are. I hope the tables have turned, and you're running free on a farm in upstate Vermont with a whole herd of other cashmere castaways, and your friend the cashmere hat, the cat to your dog. Run free, my love. Yes, I still love you even, though you ruined my day, and all I've got left is your idiot brother. Run free.


Lowest common denominator? Perhaps, my friend. Perhaps.

I haven't been posting much. No, I haven't been posting much.

I feel like, by not posting much, I am letting you, the reader, who has traveled through all these internets to get here, down.

I don't have time to post now.

Plus, the only thing I have to talk about is grad school. And you aren't interested in grad school. No, you aren't interested in grad school.

But, to make it worth your while
(After all, you've come all this way)
Here's a picture I took last Halloween
Of two chicks totally making out.


Just like heaven...

This morning, whilst engaging in some avant-garde autoerotic sexplay, I got Icy-Hot in my armpit. (I pulled a muscle in my back). When you get Icy-Hot in your armpit, there's literally only one thing you can do: hop in pain. You hop around, thinking you're on your way to do something to relieve the pain, and then you realize there's nothing you can do, but you're in so much pain that you instantly forget that and hop somewhere else to do something else to alleviate yourself. You realize your armpit is turning bright red, and you hop somewhere to get something to make it turn white again, because you've forgotten that no such thing exists, but then you mercifully forget that you were hopping for it in the first place. Hop hop hop. Considered breaking my pinkie finger to get my mind off it. Persevered. Human interest story.


Evelyn Waugh said it best when he said, "Beware of the Anglo-Catholics—they're all sodomites with unpleasant accents."

It has been brought to my attention that my last post... wasn't very good. So it's been taken down for reasons of... it not being very good.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, I made a turkey bacon BLT. But I didn't have any tomato, and my lettuce was all wilted.

But, all in all, a rather good day by the end.


I swear to Christ, I want to punch you in the face.


You wouldn't know this wasn't a shitty Emily Dickinson poem if I didn't tell you, volume 1: Emily Dungeonson

There's a room @ ye olde university called The Hut. But it's a completely inappropriate name. Because I've never seen a hut, before, that looks like this.

You're goddamn right that's stained glass. Venerable. Estimable! So I have re-christened the room The Emily Dungeonson. I'm going to make some little signs and put them around. Please, no food in The Emily Dungeonson. Covered drinks only in The Emily Dungeonson. Don't leave possessions unattended in the Emily Dungeonson.

Hey, didn't you study this poem in 8th grade AP lit?

I stepped aloft and tried my place,
A slanted phosphor hem -
Shifting crossways, through the sluice
Of Creon's diadem -

White despair of forge nor flange -

Snakes cackle's blackest mirth

And merriment - of calico -

A shiver in - the wood
Of crinoline circumferences -

Was heaven's counterweight -

Also, here's a picture of one member of a fairly prominent music duo - I can't tell you which, because I don't want the jig to be up - wearing pajama pants festooned with pink cartoons.

Also, it's hard to make out, but if you squint, you can tell that, although he's wearing a sweater, the tail of his hot pink pajama shirt is peaking out underneath.

Ahhh, Mondays. Let the work week begin.


The anxiety of albatross.

I'm drinking a Budweiser to reward myself for a day of almost sublime mediocrity. English students, students of language, traffickers of ideas know these days well. There is a chance -- it is a slim chance, but it's real -- that what you've done over the course of the last 16 hours will change the way somebody thinks about something. There's a chance it's a legitimate contribution to the history of western thought. There's a chance it thinks something nobody's ever thought to think before.

But there's a much, much better chance that what it is is a very average recapitulation of something that's been done to death and then recapitulated to death and then done to death again. There's a much, much better chance that what you mistake for inchoate greatness is just the albatross of unrigorousness your writing wears around its neck because you're not actually talking about what you're writing about -- you haven't really read what you read -- you don't know what you're in dialog with -- because you didn't understand it. You're on a date, at the movies, and she says something, and you say what, and she says it again, and you say what, and she says it again, and you don't want to say what again, so you say, "that's so true!" And you chuckle. Like a fucking asshole. Holy shit, look at you chuckling like a fucking asshole saying "that's true!" and you have no idea what she even said. You want so badly to get in some chick's pants that you can't even risk asking "what" three times.

Except instead, you can't risk three hours -- three Salon-reading, head-hanging, Hot Fuzz-watching hours to actually get your bearings -- so you say, "that's false!"

You say, "Clearly, what this distinguished professor whose work on this subject has been ensconced into the canon of contemporary criticism has failed to understand about Walt Whitman's poetic voice is that..."

And all that really needs to be done to topple that Jenga tower is to say, "actually, he does understand that." You pull the stick, and all the marbles rush out. What a mess.

And, of course, sometimes that's the very best thing, a little bit of creative misunderstanding. But very rarely does a creative misunderstanding line up smoothly with a simpler, messier, more economical straight up failure to understand. An instantiation of your own intellectual apprenticeship, and, even more, laziness. Because the criteria by which I measure what I've done is not whether or not what I've done is good. It's whether or not it's good for the amount of time I put into it. But that doesn't mean I'm not swinging for the fences every time.

Here's the pitch. "Clearly, what Professor Endowed Yalechair McHarvardson has failed to understand is that I wrote this annotated bibliographical essay over the course of eighteen hours that weren't nearly so frenzied as they'd need to be to get the job done right -- though they were fraught with anxiety. Yea, if he understood that, he'd understand that I've debunked not only everything he ever thought, but also everything he ever didn't think he thought but actually did think because he's a repressed, sexist, racist, priggish, whiggish, piggly-wiggly crypto-Tory of an unfeeling schoolmarm with no sense of magic, no common sense, and not a drop of logical rigor. That's why he got his PhD in 3 years. Cutting corners. Me, I'm going to take the whole 6 because I like to get the job done right."

When I actually thought I could be a writer -- before the fact that I haven't got anything like the discipline to be a writer without the unforgiving overlord Deadlines
cracking at me with his outsized, phallic whip, making me want to cry or quit writing for the greener pastures of Best Buy retail or landscape engineering -- I had this idea for a story. I wanted to write about this guy who hires a bodyguard, eight hours a day, to beat the shit out of him any time he's not sitting at the keyboard, writing.

I thought that would be a good way to solve the problem of discipline.

Surely, I've got a great novel in here somewhere. If only I could get it out.

I've got it! I'll hire one of those bouncers you see on Girls Gone Wild infomercials to en-force me to write a novel.

Since I was very young, I've been very smart. I know what art is.

That's why I can debunk Emeritus Professor Leviticus Goodlongfellow Higginsnodgrassingworth III, whose highly influential book on paradiddles in the jazz drumming of Horatio Alger has created a whole new sub-discipline in literary studies.

He just doesn't get it.

I'm gonna go far.


Jumping Jacks = Corkscrew Drill

Yesterday, somebody from Schenectady visited my blog after searching for "looby schenectady" on yahoo. This is in the running for "best thing to happen to me this weekend."

The other day, I went to a pharmacy and checked my blood pressure on one of those little blood pressure checkers, and it was sort of high. Not high, but in that place that alarmists tell you is "pre-hypertension." Being myself something of an inveterate alarmist, this has got me chronicling my salt-intake like each tiny grain were a medieval knight of noble lineage. (That was a pretty Geek-fantastic simile, even for me.) Mind you, I haven't actually changed my salt intake. But, have you ever tried to eat the kind of food you normally eat in a day, and not at least scrape the underbelly of 100% of your daily recommended sodium intake? Fucking raisin bran has 18% salt. And who, in the history of time and space, has ever eaten the recommended serving size of cereal? It's never been done. It's like 3/4 cup. 3/4 cup! And, I'm no expert, but it's not like that much salt actually makes raisin bran taste better.

This is especially tricksy for somebody like me. Because I love salt.
Anecdote for context: As a yea-high boy, I forced my mom to buy me a salt lick. The kind of thing you hang from twine so that deer and, you know, bears and shit can lick salt, if they so choose. The salt that they use in salt licks isn't what you or I think of when we think of salt. It contains "trace minerals." When you're dealing with trace minerals at a large enough ratio, they cease being trace minerals and just start being dirt in your food. It's salt of roughly this quality.

But I put the salt lick on the headboard of my bed, and every day I would lick a little more of that salt lick, and it was salty and that was all I was after. And before you knew it, the salt lick was no more. It was salinizing my sweat and shocking my kidneys, and I was glad, see? Glad!

So it's hard for someone like me to cut the salt out.

Maybe I should just go for a run?

Oh, wait, I'll get shivved in the liver and beaten around the head and neck with a giant dead fish. Possibly a live fish. (Crime report on my neighborhood to follow shortly).

I have, on the other hand, been doing jumping jacks, which is an odd thing to do when you have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows that face a number of other buildings that themselves have giant windows, mostly because I'm always somewhere leftwards on the naked-to-clothed continuum. I must look like I'm practicing to become a corkscrew.

Think about it.

Kanye West's moms died. This has got me sad.

I'm projecting warm feelings. I don't think it will work, but it's the only thing I can do.



I get a call from my dad that I don't answer, because every time he calls me it's either to praise me for something I haven't done ("we're so proud of you!"), or to admonish me for the same ("go to the dentist! your face is going to fall off!"). I don't check the message until 3 a.m., and it says, "no big deal, but mom is in the hospital with chest pains, and here's the phone number to her room, in case you want to give her a call." I don't sleep.

I call her in the morning, and she says, "Hi!"

Which does not make me think she's not going to die.

Before all this, she's at work, and she feels pain in her chest. It gets worse. She can't breathe very well, and not at all if she doesn't keep pressure on or around her heart. She dismisses it, because she's a tough broad.

It's flu-shot day at work. (She works at a hygienic lab. Apparently they do things like this.) She goes to get her flu-shot, and the nurse with the needles asks, "Are you alright?" Clearly, she is not alright, so the nurse makes her go back to her desk to call her family physician. She calls her family physician, and the receptionist says, "I'm sorry, no doctors or nurses are available." So she calls the hospital and talks to a triage nurse. The triage nurse hears her symptoms and says, "Lie flat on your back and don't move. An ambulance is on the way."

Moms hasn't told anyone about this. So she's trying to explain to her supervisor, but she starts crying. She lies flat on her back, and she's crying, and her supervisor doesn't know what to do, but she flies into action anyway, so a big fracas busts up. Everybody's running around not doing much, and moms is laying flat on her back, crying, waiting from the ambulance.

The ambulance comes. She's lifted and strapped into a gurney and wheeled out to the ambulance. They put nitrates under her tongue, and then again, and again, and again. The pressure in her chest eventually lessens. She is swept into the ER, x-rayed, myocardiogrammed, and injected in the belly with blood thinners by a four-inch needle, four times.

Later, it turns out moms has an enlarged aorta. The woman eats like a rabbit, but apparently her cholesterol is suspicious. The schedule her for an angiogram.

They stab her in an artery in her thigh, and the blood shoots four feet in the air. This is standard procedure. Then they put a camera in the laceration and snake it through her insides until it gets to her heart. Everything is clear. She does not need an angioplasty (the thing with the balloon).

The good news is, moms is back home with the dog and the bird after laying flat on her back for six hours to let her blood get back on track. The other news is, all of this is genetic and inherited, though nobody knows from whom, so at some point I have to go in for an echocardiogram, which moms describes as, "SO COOL! You actually see your actual heart actually beating." So that's something to look forward to.

She got a dozen batches of flowers and plants.

But I was furious at moms.

Laid up in the hospital, gowned and intravenously fed, on the phone with me. I tell her that I really don't need the money she's been sending me, much as I appreciate it. She lowers her voice and says, "I might not be able to." Hmm... "Don't tell anyone this." OK. "One of the things that contributed to this was stress. And I'm in charge of the employee appreciation dinner. I booked a room in the Holiday Inn, and we're having 140 people. We're charging $5 per person. We're giving everyone a $4 drink voucher. The bill comes to $5,000, which is way more than we have in our employee fund. So I'm going to have to pay for a lot of it myself. You're the first person I've told. It was really stressing me out."

So, one of the things that contributed to my mom's episode was anxiety that she wouldn't be able to send me a hundred bucks for groceries, because she's dead-set on throwing a $5,000 dinner for her co-workers, because she "really wants to do something nice for them," even if it means recouping $140 at the door.

I was able to convince her to take off the $4 drink vouchers, put up a stocking cap for donations, and not send me any money. But that was about it.

So, god bless you, moms. Take some deep breaths, take the dog for a walk, and don't be so goddamn nice all the time. It's bad for you.

She says, "Getting old sucks."

I love you, moms.


Hi Mom

"Damn right, I kiss my daddy."
~Lil Wayne

My moms is in the hopsittal. I'm not all here.

Instead of me, listen to Lil' Wayne. Despite his suspiciously weak and un-Paul Newman-like chin, he raps like I wanna feel. Awesome.

He loves his parents, too.


Sex of the Kerrys

The point is just that I would not entirely be in the wrong to say that the Kerry daughters

kind of look like they could be the leads in a Norf Jerz stage adaptation of Sex & the City recast entirely with drag queens. They'll have to block scenes around the pole.

The obvious joke here is, wasn't Sex & the City originally cast entirely with...? and the answer is, no. If they were drag queens, they would have better boob jobs.

I'm officially disowning this blog post. It's just mean-spirited.

In fact, I disavow that I had anything to do with this blog post.


Ascap & RIAA: fighting for popular cheerleaders everywhere.

I'm just... I'm not even going to say anything. Just watch this.


Insanity. Inanity. Skulduggery. Douchebaggery.

(EDIT 2: I drafted this post a couple of days ago, when it was true. It is no longer true. PostSecret is thoroughly walloping her. But, I reserve the right to post pictures of Michelle Malkin's carrion-rending maw, to which I don't own the copyright, on my blog for the sake of snarky mockery, which she almost never doesn't deserve (as long as it is about her soul-devouring expression, and not her race or gender).)

I would not normally waste your time with such frivolity (he said with orbit-warping gravitas) -- but the classless, you-got-'servative hot hawk hag Michelle Malkin

is beating PostSecret in the annual best blog "competition." Go vote. Remedy this situation. Because it's just insanity. Inanity. Skulduggery. Douchebaggery.


Mr. Barbecue-Smith

I had a bad week. Which is to say, I had a fine week, except I walked around all the time with my jaw clenched a good deal tighter than usual. It was an anxious, sleepless panorama that culminated in a phantasmagoric Thursday that distinguished itself four main ways.

1) I was a jerk all day. Sorry, all.

2) 9:03 a.m. -- in class, I said, "...brought off, if you will..." in regards to Emily Dickinson having an orgasm.

3) 2:36 p.m. -- in class, I said, "...somebody who likes to get down with virgins..." in regards to a character in Mansfield Park.

4) 5:25 p.m. -- I asked my first question at an academic talk, and I got the bomb dropped on me. "How much sympathy does your position have for a group of key texts?" I stammered, lamb-meek.

Flummoxed, he paced around the podium and started explaining. Then he stopped himself and said, "Anyone who's read my work knows..." Everybody in the room went "OOOOOOOOH!"

In fairness me, it wasn't as bad as all that, because then he said, "...Wordsworth keeps popping up." In fairness to him, I most certainly haven't read his work. Are academics allowed to say that? As if anybody reads their work.

Then somebody gave me a free case of beer and I got wasted on zero sleep, and now I'm waking up at like 8 at night. I just wrote an alarmingly alliterative response paper that included the phrase "maintain the legerdemain," and I'm feeling way too self-referential to be of any good to anybody.

This will be the best November yet.