I submitted this a day early because I'm going camping, you see...

August 10th is my 45th birthday. I was born in 1957 (I'll save you the math) near the top of the baby boom bell curve. My SSN is ***-**-****. I hope there is something left in social security when I retire. I see that dubya is still planning to try and let people invest part of their hard earned contributions into social security in the stock market. Might as well let us take it to Las Vegas.

This is the week-end I go camping with my family, brothers and sisters that is. I'm the oldest of seven and we all get together the 2nd week-end or so in August. We've been doing this for about ten years. We used to go to Allegany State Park in New York. Now we camp at Cook Forest in Pennsylvania. We sleep in tents but those campers are looking better and better every year. Once we were hit with a big rain storm. Wind and pouring rain left everything wet. In the morning the rain had stopped and we tried to build a fire and took some of our clothes and put them in the cars with the heaters on. Down the road we saw an older gentleman step out of a full size camper. He had dry clothes on and looked well rested, sipping a fresh hot mug of coffee. What a wimp. We would have traded places with him in a New York minute.

I bought a new coffee percolator at K-Mart this week. Its from the endless Martha Stewart Everyday brand series and its the best design I've ever seen. Most important, it's stainless steel1. Whether she designed it or one of her many peons did, it has her name on it. I can't wait to try it out. My old one is aluminum and rarely made a good pot of coffee. It took forever to perc even with a full boil and the coffee tasted metallic. This new one is a birthday present from my wife. She thinks I have a secret crush on Martha Stewart. Maybe I do. She deserves a few weeks toward good behavior for a design like this.

1 "This percolator is made from stainless steel that is classified as 18/10, which indicates that the steel has been alloyed with 18% chromium and 10% nickel. This combinaion gives 18/10 stainless steel the qualities that make it an excellent choice for everyday cooking." -printed on the outside of the box

I told my doctor: "The only vice I have is coffee."

"How much do you drink?"

"About three or four cups a day."

"That's not a vice, that's a necessity."

I picked up the cigar habit while camping in my teen years. It was to keep the bugs away. The first cigar I had gave me the munchies. I remember walking the streets of my neighborhood at 10 p.m. puffing on a stogie I found in my dad's room. The wrapper said It's A Boy!. When I got home I wolfed down two bologne sandwiches. I don't smoke them that much. I'm actually a runner but if I'm not running and getting a runner's high I need something take the edge off. I don't drink...
... anymore.

The weather is forecast to be partly sunny with daytime highs in the 80s. I'm still taking a tarp and a plastic poncho. Be prepared. As a scout leader I've picked up a few camping tips even though I've been camping for 30 years. Our scout troop sometimes camps at least once a month year round. I have a lot of stuff ready to go at a moments notice. Live and learn. Not all of my fellow siblings will be there. Some of them are pissed off at each other over some minor squabble that may have happened the last time. We're Irish catholics and we can hold a grudge so long we might forget what we were upset about. My mother goes with us sometimes. She is 66 and can run circles around us. Sometimes she gets saddled with babysitting.

At night we'll sit around the fire and talk about whoever isn't there and how screwed up our family is (except me, ha ha). I've always had one foot in the gutter and one on the straight and narrow. My right brain and left brain are like a couple of pit bulls. My dad is a workaholic who was never home, and when he was all he did was yell and beat the fear of God into us. My mother's parents were divorced when she was seven.2 So she didn't have a father figure around and she was an only child. When my brothers and I were growing up she wasn't sure what our emotional needs were (since her's were incomplete) and with my father never there we were virtually abandoned emotionally. This was explained to me by a shrink along with a few other insights. After three sessions, I found out I was more normal than I thought for only $360 out of pocket.

2 This was back when it was considered a character flaw if you're parents were divorced. My mother has never talked about it.

That's not the worst of it but that's enough. We have a great time really. Floating down the Clarion River on inner tubes and hiking in the big woods and climbing the fire tower and seeing new faces. Most of all doing as little as possible. You see, its my birthday and I can sit on my ass quite a bit and be waited on and catered to, but birthday or not, it only goes so far.

Why are dog owners so damn inconsiderate?

So I go to play frisbee last night with Ian and his older sister, because she's been wanting to play with us for awhile now... We go to pick her up at her house in Waterdown, and she brings her frickin dog out with her. Why are dog owners so clueless? This isn't some fluffly spoiled lap dog named 'Muffi', this an active, manic terrier or something. Of course, I'm too polite to say "I'm not playing frisbee if you bring your dog." And so we play over at some park near her house, and the dog predictably intervenes repeatedly, slobbering all over it and, more importantly, biting it. As a result, the inside lip of this gorgeous, 175 gram, white (very important, as we play mostly at night) frisbee is now destroyed... roughened, gouged, with bits sticking out in places. This is not just annoying for the thrower, but in fact can damage your fingers (I have a bruise on my lower right middle finger now from one of my later throws). So the frisbee, for me, is ruined.

So when we get back to Ian's house, I tell him that he can keep the frisbee. I'm going to have to replace it regardless, and someone might as well get some further use out of it, since I'm not going to. Of course, he takes offense to this, since Monika (his girlfriend), gave it to me for my birthday. She doesn't care what I do with it, but it apparently doesn't make any sense to Ian. It should be clear. The inside lip of the thing is wrecked. That's a lot different than scratching up and gouging out the outside of the disc, as we do on a daily basis playing the sort of high-impact, urban frisbee that we partake in on tarmacs and around school buildings. Exterior damage doesn't really effect your toss, and maybe even aids it (it might give you more control of the disk as it rolls off your index finger). But damage to the interior lip, where you put the rest of your involved fingers whose bottoms you drag against their natural slope during the toss, is a different matter. It can fucking hurt. At any rate, he didn't force me to take it, so I guess it's okay... Maybe he'll give it to his sister, for her dog to play with. I would have, but then she would have felt obligated to buy me a new one, and as I said, I'm too fucking polite to do that.

But the physics and mechanics of it are beside the point. When someone's coming all the way out to Waterdown, and bringing the frisbee, in order to involve you, what goes through the dog owner's mind in order for them to think that it is acceptable, even desirable, to bring their dog with them, without even bothering to ask before showing up at the van with the dog? Clearly the dog is going to interfere with play. That much is blatantly obvious. Moreover, if the dog owner stops to think for more than two seconds, they should clue in to the fact that their dog has teeth, and can cause serious damage to the frisbee. These things aren't cheap. A 175-gram frisbee, with a good aerodynamic profile, is going to set you back about $30 (CDN). We're not just talking about any old $5 bargain store disk, okay. That's a pretty expensive dog toy, especially when it isn't yours.

It's a common fault among dog owners though. For some reason, they seem to inhabit some alternate universe where their pet can do whatever and it doesn't affect them or anyone around them, where everyone wants their pet around and has a responsibility to treat it with total difference. Well, I'm sorry, but one would expect a dog owner to be rather weirded out, if not angered, if i were to start biting and slobbering over something of theirs. But for some reason, it is apparently acceptable for their dog to do just that. It's also apparently alright to allow a dog to do its business wherever it decides to, to rummage through flower beds and bound up to people and jump up at them without their express consent, and so forth. This is all ridiculous. Keeping dogs for something other than specialized work is ridiculous and pathetic in a modern context. Our ancestors domesticated them because they were useful for security and for keeping the hunter-gatherer camp clean of the sort of refuse that would attract less desirable scavengers and predators. But in a modern domestic context, they are a nuisance to everyone around them. Their only purpose is to serve as a second-rate replacement for the real, beneficial relationships that a person would form within their community if it wasn't for the fact that work, consumerism and teletainment have isolated them in a lonely, unfulfilling shadow of a life. The act of being a dog owner, enslaving oneself to this stupid, smelly, obnoxious animal, is little more than a rather disgusting form of self-inflicted mental illness, a vaguely symbiotic form of obsessive compulsion triggered by social anguish. Rather than committing suicide or committing violent crime or, more positively, making an attempt to reach out to the people around them, they go and buy a dog, and feed it food, and have it "love" them. It's a form of wankish gratification that's purchased in bags of chow and timely shots and bending over several times a day to clean up another animal's shit (or leaving it to rot on their lawn or someone else's. (Cats on the other hand are rather inoffensive and downright charming by comparison)

At any rate, that's all for frisbee this summer I guess. I can't really afford to buy another large tournament disk right now, and the only other frisbee I have is a smaller 135-gram blue one, which isn't very ideal for night action. ARGGGH.

At least I have my new bike now. We put most of it together on the weekend, just needed to get new brake cables (my dad bought the wrong type), but he went and finished it and brought it over yesterday evening. I took it out this afternoon and it works marvellously. Excellent glide... we cleaned out the bearing sets in each wheel and replaced the chain and rear gear set. I'm still getting used to having clipped/strapped pedals, but by the end of the day I was getting fairly competent at getting back into them after intersections. After stopping at the mall to get a roll of film developed and send some mail out, I did a 15 km ride around the eastern hemisphere of Burlington. It took far too long to get the thing, but now that I have a decent bike, for the rest of the summer I'm going to try to take it out every day for a few hours in order to make up for the past two months of not riding.

"A heartworm on all your houses!" - gut-wrenching dialogue from the hit off-Broadway show, Romeo and Juliet are Cats

The effects of coffee and jazz on my tortured, chemistry-jarbled brain, late this night and early this morning:

the notes, they spin and spin

I can see their race in my brain

my mind spins and spins

I sit still


unable to point my laser beam at the bull's eye

as though every cell inside vibrates

every molecule of gas jerks so violently

at speeds that blur as I try to understand

let your fingers glide and dance byrd

they disturb the calm

and incite the revolution

yet it can never occur

because the fractals never stop spinning long enough to

move in any direction

and I never stop whirling

the rhythm of my pulse is frantic and unsure

while I live in a fog made of thousands of bright madly twinkling lights

ubiquitous complexity damns all journeys toward simplicity

and I dance in the infinite strings

all of it madly flowing and girating and spinning

and spinning

that which calms this heart and slows this beat

numbs this mind

and I yearn for more dizziness

let the chaos ensue and the entropy buzz through

the depths of the dark night

let the rattle rattle

let us homogenize and dehomogenize

all of it uneven for tiny fractions of time

and equilibriated all at once by blind assumption.

yet the sum never balances to me

and the screams from below and above and within will always be wild and unnamed

we tilt as we move

toward the untamed center

and away from it

disrupt the peace and invite the madness

it lives

and it hides

it fades in and out

but it is always waiting to be stirred

as I wait to be awoken.

My feet feel like they could fall off. The whole front part of my right foot has blisters deep inside the skin, most likely from a simple sock with some wrinkles in it. My toe is infected, and my fingers look like a rat gnawed at them for a good while.

Why you ask? Because I enjoyed the great outdoors. I left the confines of civilization and spent a week in the Wind Rivers region on western Wyoming.

The first day was a long 10 mile trudge with 50 pound packs to set ourselves up for a pass attempt the next day. The mosquitoes were awful, but the rain kept the temperature down so we could wear our clothes with impunity. The next day we attacked the ridge in the bitter cold bite of the extreme wind. Warmed by the sight of a beautiful teenage hiker girl in tight shorts, I ignored my pack and just powered on over to the valley beyond. The rock of the Wind Rivers is mostly granite carved by tremendous glaciers, leaving massive Cirques with thousand foot cliffs. The valley was filled with lakes, trees, and spectacular views of the surrounding cliffs.

My brother Ed recently had become quite fond of rock climbing and bouldering, so we spent a lot of time on boulders practicing moves. Despite slipping and scrapping both his shins bloody on the first rock he tried, he has never been one to heed caution and climbed every rock in sight on almost every day on the trip.

The fourth day was to take us up onto an 8 mile hike along a 12,000 foot ridge, the Lizards Peak trail. This wouldn’t be a problem if the clouds hadn’t been as black as tar, and we donned rain gear and sucked up the hail and water that the sky sent our way. We wandered into a random campsite on the other side, at the base of Lizards Peak. The peak rises 2000 feet of vertical as granite wall a quarter mile away. Its imposing presence made it hard to concentrate on much else.

The rain stopped, and for the rest of the trip the sky was spotless. We tried to climb Lizards peak, but we decided that the slanted slate walkway of 5 feet across strewn with loose pieces of rock that dropped into 1000 feet of death was just too much for one day. We settled with lunch looking at a massive glacier, one of the largest in the contigious US, although apparently not famous enough for me to remember its name.

Today we were going to take an easy day and just hike into the famous Cirque of the Towers, one of the most well known mountainous rock climbing areas in the US. Instead we hiked 14 miles out to the car and took a day early in getting home. The first sentence my brother said when we reached the car was, “Can I put on Chemical Brothers?”

One of my friends asked me why I climbed mountains or went hiking. He didn’t see the point. I can’t explain to him why it is spiritual to me, an atheist. I can’t explain to him how I feel like a god when I step out onto that pinnacle of rock that looks down on everything in sight. I can’t tell him that getting away from other people into a place where your very survival depends on smart behavior is invigorating. I can’t explain to him that when you are backpacking your friend isn’t the one who doesn’t stab you in the back. In the wilderness your friend is the one who gives you his shirt when you get wet and start to get cold. In the wilderness your friend is the one who carries your bed on his back because you are carrying his food. In the wilderness your friend is the one who guarantees your survival, where you depend on people with immediate consequences.

In the wilderness everything is more real. I felt alive.

There's a good chance my car will get reposessed in about ten days.

I'm kind of surprised that I'm so calm about this happening. Granted, I'm not happy about it at all, but at least I'm remaining calm. The biggest loss for me is the fact that I won't be able to get around town as easily. I mean come on, nobody walks in LA. The city is just too damn big to live in without a viable mode of transportation. I'm more upset that I won't be able to see my friends than anything else. Yeah, it sucks that I won't be able to head over to Amoeba for a fresh batch ear candy, but my friends...I'm really going to miss them. I figure if I can come up with 400 bucks I'll be able to keep the car. Seeing as how I am currently unemployed, my fundraising options are pretty limited.

I'm giving serious thought to pimping myself out.

Here’s the thing about women. One of the things, anyway.

They save us from ourselves. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, I don’t know exactly what you're thinking but if, you’re a guy, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of – no! And if you’re a girl, you’re probably thinking – he’s just trying to get laid or else he’s gay.

You’re both wrong but I wouldn’t mind getting laid.

I think about all my experiences with guys (not those kind of experiences, you pervert). Every memory involves pain or humiliation.

I used to be a Marine. I know what you’ve heard; once a Marine always a Marine but whatever. I have no problem with not being associated with that firm anymore. The point is that you’ve got a large group of guys that didn’t make the football team or couldn’t be a cop because of some mistake or lack of talent. Penis envy. That’s my take on it, anyway. How else would you explain the size of the guns and the hazing? Marines are brainwashed to believe that they can stop bullets and walk on water.

They can’t. I tried both and they both hurt and humiliated me.

Never mind the pain, it’s the humiliation. Think about a man you know, that doesn’t have a woman. Are you thinking of one? He’s a dork, isn’t he? Of course he is and it's not because he's a dork that he has no woman but because he has no woman that he's a dork. That’s what women save us from – ourselves.

Without the influence of the female chromosome we tend to resort to a life of instant dinners, comic books and TV. Don’t even try and deny it, you guys who are reading. It’s true and you know it. When left to our own accord we can spend hours talking about the best artist for X-Men and why Jamie Lee Curtis’ boobs are nice but don’t quite compare Brittany Spears’ younger, nubile ones that are plastered all over the internet. I know this and I don’t watch MTV or surf the web.

Imagine the ones who do.

Let me put it to you this way: "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start". This means absolutely nothing to most women, but every guy knows that this is the code to Contra for 30 guys. A few guys will even realized that it's a 2-player game because I pushed "select".

Get a bunch of guys together (especially if there’s alcohol involved) and you’re bound to see a few arm wrestling matches, bets on who can drink some nasty concoction and annoying hugging and “I love you mans”. You’ve been there – you’ve seen it.

That’s what guys do.

We all think of ourselves as James Bond or something but we’re dorks. We really are. Girls are the only thing keeping us from devolving into overweight, Cro-Magnon types that eat Mac and Cheese out of the pot. We’d be watching Die Hard and trying to find a clean glass (one that wasn’t used as an ashtray or dip spit).

The “Guy Dream” isn’t based in reality. It’s based in our own perverted mind. Basically, we want to be like lesbians – feared by men and loved by many different women. That’s why relationships fail. Never mind all the hooey about co-dependency or intimacy issues. Mostly, it’s ‘cause we’re lost in a world of super heroes and scantily clad damsels in distress.

When you ask us what we’re thinking and we say, “nothing”. It’s because, while you lean against the fogging windows of our Jetta (that you made us buy), thinking of all those Meg Ryan movies, we’re trying to figure out if we could open the trunk while the car was speeding down the highway. This might sound stupid to someone who thinks chocolate impacts their day but you never know if ninjas are going to attack in a helicopter.

It happens all the time in action movies. One day, it will probably happen to us. At least, that’s what we secretly all hope.

Think about your boyfriends before you started dressing him. I know it was band T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts (comfortable, but holes bigger than the ones that sunk the Titanic). I bet he lived off Raman and Microbrews (when he was feeling upscale). The couch was his best friend, second only to the remote control and some stained gym shorts. I guarantee there’s porn somewhere in the house and he still has socks from grade school.

That’s what we do. We hoard stuff and pee off things. Testosterone poisoning.

For all the bitching I could do about women, none of it could change the fact that, when she was imagining her wedding gown I was playing GI Joe, upset when I found out that Snake Eyes didn’t talk. Seriously, that was a bummer. It’s true that most girls I’ve met lately have weird issues but, I would bet that, left to their own devices, they wouldn’t make a top 10 list of women over 45 they want to bone or try and smoke 5 packs of cigarettes in 2 hours. That’s what we do.

We’re driven towards self-destruction and not even in a cool, angst-ridden, poetic way. We do it, not because we have a point but because someone bet us or dared us that we couldn’t do it.

Here’s another thing: having a sweet car, even if it's in the shop, is just as cool as pulling up to Radio City in that same, sweet car. That’s why we drive the shit that we drive – for the stories. Any story that starts out with the phrase, “So I’m driving my ’62 Lincoln, the Clash blaring and some under aged cheerleader in the back seat…” is bound to evoke some high fives.

Sorry ladies. That’s the beginning of a damn good story. While you pine over some baby-faced senior and wipe your nose after reading about some bed-headed poet that proposed with long-stemmed roses, we’re trying to see if it’s possible to drink an entire thing of ketchup or we've nailed our skateboard to the ironing board (which was never used anyway) and we're going down the stairs in it.

I think that most of us know that we’re doomed to a life of J. Crew and potpourri as you reinvent us. We know that the lightsabre desire will be traded in for the leash of a small, bug-eyed dog that we walk after work. A job that we have, no doubt, to pay off the debt you racked up at Banana Republic. Our dream of fully loaded Hummers is replaced with the dream of a CD player in our minivan full of carseats and empty, crushed Capri-Suns. We know, in the back of our minds, that champagne and tuxedos laced with guns and mini cameras is a dream but it’s our dream and we'd like to think it MIGHT happen. Understand that and you’ve figured us out.

Now, if you can just get us to get rid of our Cabo San Lucas tattoo and little black book. You’ll have found yourselves a perfectly good Romeo, just don't expect us to talk like that or give up all our ripped T-shirts.

Happy Hunting.

a day of rest

weill in japan: day 39

Week 5 was a rollercoaster week to say the least, and week 6 will be no less stressful. That's why I'm grateful that I took a day off to catch up on sleep.

The day started fairly late as I slept in, making up for the late nights and early starts of the past week. After a quick shower, it was off to Akihabara for the third and last time. My tasks were simple but clear: find a few used games for a friend of a friend, and buy a small watch-type battery for my desk clock. The latter task was quickly accomplished at one of the many small electronics shops just outside the station, but the former took hours out of the day.

Navigation in Japan is somewhat tricky, especially for someone like me who gets lost easily in the U.S. Only major roads have explicit street signs and names. After that, addresses are given by large administrative districts (chome), block numbers, and building numbers. There are area maps posted near stations, but they are often confusing and littered with ads posted by local businesses. Since I didn't have any particular shops in mind, this didn't bother me too much. The complicated nature of addresses might be a clue as to why in-car navigation systems are so plentiful and popular.

My third trip to Tokyo's electric town brought me a lot further out than in the past, as I sought smaller used-game stores. Naturally, low-profile shops include some of the seedier shops, which stock knock-off merchandise and untold acres of pornography. There were several stores where I consulted the guide, went to the floor labeled "games," and failed to notice the word "adult" on the sign before entering a completely pink showroom. People are discreet about this sort of stuff, so I just nonchalantly made my way out.

One nice feature about not being Japanese: I can pretend not to know the language to get people to stop bothering me. This almost worked at one of the small shops I visited early on, but then the store owner started spitting random English words at me instead. I left.

Akihabara is a popular destination for electronics-crazed foreigners, but I didn't really notice that until today. Everywhere I went, I noticed crowds of Americans, Australians, Europeans, and people from elsewhere in Asia. A couple of the duty-free shops hire fully bilingual employees, which surprised me when I heard a customer talking with a salesman in fluent English. This area is a nice place to go to buy electronic goods, but not to learn Japanese immersively.

Another thing I hadn't quite noticed until today: Akihabara seems to be the center of Japan's inventive PC modification scene. Many of the stores I visited had elaborately modified PCs to draw in crowds. One of them had a completely clear case, a drive-bay-mounted fan control, and a camera mounted in a hole on the side. Common accessories like rounded cables, lighted tubes, and fans of all shapes and sizes are on display. Prices are comparable to what you'd pay in the U.S., since nearly all the goods are made in China or southeast Asia and subject to import duty. Seeing that I'm running light on cash, I managed to peel myself away from these stores before I bought anything.

Dozens of shops, miles of walking, liters of drinks, and one Mister Donut later, I left Akihabara with little to show for my efforts. The six games on my list were all available, but for more than I was willing to pay. I bought only the small battery mentioned earlier and a headphone adapter for my SwanCrystal. The adapter, about ¥1700 ($14.20), adds a volume dial and headphone port to the right side of the unit. It's annoying that Bandai didn't include this in the unit itself, since I have to unplug the adapter when I want to use the internal sound. At least the quality is good, and the store accepted credit cards. I also found that I could have saved a few thousand yen on the three games I bought this week had I bought them in Akihabara, but the used games I bought for a friend of a friend in Kichijoji were a fairly good deal. Used games are hard to compare, since price is based largely on condition.

The day ended with a nice dinner at a family-type restaurant near my home with my host parents. Amusingly enough, my host mother struck up a conversation with the family next to us, goading me into helping them out with the English translation for kabutomushi ("rhinoceros beetle" according to my dictionary, but most Americans would just call it a "beetle") and saying "Hello" to their very shy son.

It was a tiring day to cap off a very tiring week, but there's no time to rest on Sunday. I have a test on Monday that I have to study for, and a few assignments to take care of in the meantime.

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