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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: October 27-November 1, 2003

Saturday, November 1, 2003:

I read an article awhile ago about how, in some suburban "downtown" shopping districts (such as Birmingham in metro Detroit), the city actually times the stoplights along the main roads in such a way that it's impossible for any motorist to drive straight through the town without stopping. In theory, this is supposed to boost the business of local merchants, because when you're stopped at a light, you have a few seconds to look around and see what kind of stores are in the area. And then you can return to them at a later date to purchase happiness.

Ever since I read that, I've felt really indignant every time I've been stopped at a light. Personally, I find the practice rather intrusive, in that the city is intentionally keeping me from getting where I'm going just because they want to force me to look at the string of Old Navys and Mongolian Barbecues on the roadside. It's not unlike a pop-up window that gets in the way of what you're trying to read. (Luckily, just like pop-up windows have Pop-Up Stopper, motorists can now purchase a hilariously irresponsible device to change the traffic signals to their liking.) I am not a patient person in traffic, and this trickery seems to be designed specifically to irk me.

I had lots of time to seethe about traffic problems in general yesterday, in fact, as I sat in a clusterfuck for two hours on interstate 275, trying to travel the two miles between the on-ramp and the place where a multi-car accident had forced police to close the freeway, and divert everyone off at the 8 Mile Road exit. (Yes, that 8 Mile.) I was supposed to be at Jessi's apartment at 4:30 for dinner, before she, our friend Tim, her roommates, and I went to see Michael Moore speak at Eastern Michigan University. Instead, I met Jess and Tim at the venue precisely at 7:00, right when Mike was supposed to go on. The roomies neglected to save three seats for us, so we sat in the upper-level bleachers instead and Jess ditched them at the convocation center after the show instead of giving them a ride home. ("Eye for an eye, fuckers!" she giggled as we ran out of the arena.)

Somehow, the roommates arrived back at their apartment before Jess and Tim did, however. Considering Jess had just ditched them, I felt odd about asking whether I could hang around until my friends arrived, so instead I just sat in Pip, in the parking lot, until I saw Jess's car. I was parked beneath a streetlight that kept switching on and off every couple minutes, and I sort of assumed that I was causing it, because streetlights to tend to do that when I'm around. So I amused myself by pretending I was a lo-fi version of Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, trying to make the light go on or off by staring at it intensely. It didn't really work, and Jess later told me that particular light always flickers like that.

Oh yeah- the Michael Moore speech. It was great! Like most of his output, the lecture was kind of self-aggrandizing, and he did quite a bit of preaching to the converted (i.e., taking cheap shots at Republicans- not that they don't deserve it), but mainly, Moore was giving an instructional presentation about how best to take control of the country back from the right-wingers in next year's election. It was all presented in an enjoyably casual and funny manner, of course, but he put forth lots of great insights that surprised me in their even-handedness. As blustery as he became about the crimes of the right, he saved a lot of his real vitriol for the Democrats, and how sickening it is that the party refuses to take a stand on anything, especially considering that 2/3 of the potential voters in this country are women or minorities, and public opinion polls have lately shown a marked shift toward the left in public sentiment. (Not that statistics prove anything, obviously, but Moore did reference specific polls from places like Gallup and National Geographic, who are at least respected.)

One thing that I thought he articulated especially well was his caution against showing an "Anyone but Bush" attitude in the coming presidential election. He said that, even though it really is nigh impossible to imagine anything worse than another four years of Bush, if the Democratic leaders hear that we're going to be satisfied with- and vote for- literally any candidate they nominate, we're not going to get the candidate we deserve. That is, if they know they've got our votes locked up, why should they listen to the concerns we might have about certain issues? If Howard Dean doesn't see us cocking a threatening eyebrow about the troublesome way he's holding hands with the NRA, to use Mike's example, he might think that's an acceptable position for a Democratic candidate to take. Likewise, other candidates will feel free to drift as far to the right as they like, under the assumption that they've got us in their collective pocket, and we're going to wind up with what Moore referred to as "Malt-O-Meal" candidates like Al Gore, who are basically Republicans in disguise, only without a spine. (I went to a Badly Drawn Boy show in late November of 2000, and between songs, he commented, "You can't tell me your country couldn't come up with any better candidates than Bush and Gore. That's like choosing between the Devil and the Devil's fucking shite!") Moore said, if anything, we should be telegraphing an "Anything but Lieberman" attitude.

That earned some applause and a "woo!" from me.

So yeah, I wound up getting a lot more out of the speech than just the laughs and factoids I was expecting; I actually came away feeling like maybe all hope isn't lost. That's probably naive of me, but Moore made a lot of sense.

Anyway, back at Jess's place after the show, she gave me some leftover meatless tacos from dinner and I met her roommate's friend, She-Ra. (Probably spelled "Shira," but don't spoil my fun.) Tim and I talked while Jess got into her Halloween costume for a party at her coworker's house we were going to. Jess was dressed as Joan Jett, and she pulled it off incredibly well, even though I initially guessed she was Siouxsie Sioux.

Lots of fun costumes at the party (mostly Jess's coworkers). Jess's friend Rachael, for instance, was wearing a cardboard box that had been spraypainted silver, with "Ghetto-Bot" written on it in gangsta font, and I found that pretty funny. Luckily, I'd randomly worn my Waste Management uniform yesterday, so I could say I was supposed to be a garbageman. Though one friendly guy dressed in chainmail groaned and said, "I design landfills for a living, so the Waste Management logo is exactly what I want to see when I go to a party to have fun, let me tell ya."

One couple named Chad and Natalie were dressed as Bonnie and Clyde, and they may very well be the coolest people I've ever met in my entire life. Chad was 24, and apart from his costume, looked like David Cross in the "Druggachusettes" sketch on Mr. Show. He spent the evening laughing at Natalie, who recently turned 21, and was experiencing the joys of being trashed off her ass for the first time last night. "I thought about trying to tell her to keep it under control and not to get so drunk she'll be sick," he jovially explained to Tim and me, "but then I thought, why?" We hung around with them for a good portion of the evening.

Tim and I went to the backyard to use the keg, and were greeted by a group of amusingly stoned people gathered in the garage. A woman dressed as Enid from Ghost World approached me and, speaking way too quickly, told me, "That guy over there steals meat and cheese from the supermarket. He claims it's because he's a teacher."

"Huh?" I replied.

"He used to steal liquor."

Later, Natalie drunkenly waved her plastic pistol in Enid's face and explained that she and Chad were Bonnie and Clyde. Enid then immediately ran up to me and said, "You're going to grow up to be President someday, only then your daughter is going to get kidnapped and John Goodman's going to take over your job but don't worry because it will all work out in the end and also, you're going to have two very untalented sons."

At this point, Enid's date, who was ostensibly dressed as Seymour from Ghost World, asked her what she was talking about. She pointed at me and said, "He's Clyde. From Bonnie & Clyde. Martin Sheen, get it?"

"That was Warren Beatty."

"Oh... I was thinking of that other movie with Martin Sheen where he..." and she trailed off. Marvelous entertainment! Natalie seemed somewhat offended that Enid didn't understand her costume, but that quickly passed and she began aggressively handing out Junior Mints to everyone around her.

Tim, Jess, and I sat by the bonfire in the backyard for awhile (thus ensuring that I would smell like the inside of a Cracker Barrel for the rest of the evening, which was actually kind of nice), drinking beer and talking. Jess got a little tipsy, and we started discussing Mr. Dressup, which led to the following exchange:

JESS: The puppets on that show were so random and cheap! Like the dog didn't even have a nose!
ME: Oh, they only did that so they could use the old "How does he smell?" joke.
JESS: [Laughs so hard she has to catch herself to keep from falling off bench.]

Regardless of whether your friends are drunk, I don't think there's any feeling in the world more satisfying than making them laugh to a point where they nearly fall over. It really felt good. Probably would've felt better if I'd actually said something funny, but still.

At any rate, it wound up being the best party I've ever been to, simply because I didn't feel awkward and out-of-place at all. Nice, chatty, smart people all around, lots of drama (there was a fight at one point because someone was hitting on someone's significant other or something- details are sketchy), and Chad and Natalie made Jess promise to bring me and Tim around more often, because we got along so well. So successful evening! 50 points!

CURRENT MUSIC: The Last Match by Aislers Set, the Superfly soundtrack, and Oh, Inverted World by the Shins.
CURRENT TRIVIAL FIXATION: Why do lower-case As in Times New Roman have a little curlicue thing on top of them that disappears when the letter is italicized? a a a a a a a a a a. I thought italics were just supposed to make stuff look slanty.
TIME: 6:24 PM.

Doot? | |

Thursday, October 30, 2003:

Dear Hollywood:

Please immediately cease your attempts to make Christina Applegate a beloved figure in the eyes of the American public. She is not talented or funny or charming, and the fact that she has obviously spent the past ten years studying film of Jennifer Aniston in order to steal Jen's mannerisms does not mean that she should be given guest spots on Friends. You know how it's been several years since we've seen Rosie Perez and no one, anywhere, has been forlornly inquiring about her whereabouts? And you know how the streets are pointedly not filled with unruly throngs of people demanding the return of, say, polio? The same principle applies here.

Lots of love,


P.S.: This goes double for Breckin Meyer. Except the Jennifer Aniston bit.

CURRENT MUSIC: Good Morning Spider by Sparklehorse.
CURRENT MOOD: Slightly irritated, but that's probably nothing a little Neosporin can't fix.
DESIRED HALLOWEEN CANDY: SweeTarts and Twix. You can send them to my work. Thank you.
9:14 PM.


Wednesday, October 29, 2003:

I was re-reading my old, private journal that I used to keep, and I found an entertaining bit from July 27, 2001, after Jen, my brother, and I had gone to see the Pernice Brothers in Ann Arbor. At this point, I'm discussing the opening act, The Chamber Strings:

Very few people were on the dance floor, directly in front of the stage, while the Strings were performing, so one guy in the audience grabbed a random girl and started dancing with her as the band played a cover of "Alone Again, Naturally." During a solo, the lead singer leapt off the stage, jokingly shoved the guy out of the way, and started dancing with the girl himself, which was funny.

Our friend-of-a-friend Keith also happened to be at the show, and as he was talking with us between acts, he said, "I learned two things from that set: One, if you're just a random guy who wants to dance, and there's also some girl who sort of wants to dance but isn't with anyone else who wants to, you will be able to dance with her. But I also learned that the rock star always wins. If he plays the rock star card, you're out, buddy."

ME: Even if they're just sort-of rock stars playing in the Blind Pig. As long as you're able to give the impression of having something to do with the rock 'n' roll image, you're set.

KEITH: It's the stage.

ME: Yeah, that extra couple feet above the ground must be the key. Kind of like a pharmacist.

KEITH: Yeah, they're at the top of the drug store food chain. If you're just a clerk…

ME:…or a stockboy, you're not going to have as much luck. They're the lower rungs.

JEN: It's the lab coat. Something about it.

KEITH: Plus their ability to count. "Five… six…" You know what that ability says? It says "Provider."

ME: Well, there's that, but I think it's mostly that they decide who lives and who dies. That's the sexy part.

JEN: It's the danger element.

ME: The whole bad-boy image.

I like banter.

CURRENT MOOD: Unctuous! (Not really a mood, true, but an adjective that's fun to say.)
CURRENT INDUCER OF HYPNOSIS: The pulsating "LOADING" graphic on homestarrunner.com. The slower it loads, the more at one with the universe I feel.
TIME: 7:22 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, October 27, 2003:

I just got a call from some Pizza Hut customer service pollster, in which I was asked a dozen or so questions about the overall quality of the Pizza Hut experience I underwent last night. (That is, ordering two personal cheese pizzas for carry-out. The depressing thing is, in the current state of my life, that does count as an "experience.") It was pretty funny, because the girl on the other end of the line was audibly embarrassed about having to ask me to rate the quality of the building maintenance on a scale of one to seven, when I'd been in the restaurant for all of two minutes while I picked up my dinner. She wanted to get the conversation over with as quickly as I did, so I felt a glimmer of mutual understanding as we rushed through all the questions in terse monotones. I'd like to think she hung up the phone and thought, "Phew- easiest call of the day," since I simply awarded Pizza Hut a perfect score under the suspicion that there would be specific follow-up questions if I marked them down on any point. I live to make people's lives easier. I'm like an Asimo.

CURRENT MUSIC: The Rainy Days and Mondays mix of sad songs that Anne made for me last spring. Just hit the Elliott Smith song ("No Name #3"). There have been times when I've felt better about the world.
CURRENT MOOD: Pulling the hood on my sweatshirt as tight around my face as I can.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: If it ain't Morton brand salt, it's clearly inferior salt and it will probably give you genital warts.
TIME: 7:14 PM.

Doot? | |

PAST JOURNAL ENTRIES: May 3, 2003-May 9, 2003. May 10, 2003-May 16, 2003. May 17-May 24, 2003. May 25-May 31, 2003. June 1-June 7, 2003. June 8-June 13, 2003. June 14-June 21, 2003. June 22-July 1, 2003. July 2-July 13, 2003. July 14-July 20, 2003. July 21-July 26, 2003. July 27-August 4, 2003. August 5-August 9, 2003. August 10-August 16, 2003. August 17-August 23, 2003. August 24-August 30, 2003. August 31-September 6, 2003. September 7-September 13, 2003. September 14-September 20, 2003. September 21-September 29, 2003. September 30-October 4, 2003. October 5-October 11, 2003. October 12-October 19, 2003. October 20-October 26, 2003.