November 27, 2002

Credit Cards and Hi-Jackers

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

This Hi-Jacker is Good

How do you know if you're a really good hi-jacker? Well, if you can hi-jack two airplanes in your lifetime, I'd say you have the whole hi-jacking thing down pretty good. Such is the case with a fairly unstable Frenchman who managed to hi-jack his second plane Wednesday using an empty cardboard box and a TV remote control.

What floors me about this story is that the guy also hi-jacked a French plane in 1999. How does a guy like that get out of jail, let alone step back on board an airplane? Who fell asleep at that ticket counter?

TICKET AGENT: Hmmm, it says here that you hi-jacked a plane in 1999. Now, before I give you a ticket, I need you to promise not to hi-jack this flight. Do you promise? Good. Here you go.

Oh, but this story gets much, much better.

French police said Savorani also commandeered an Italian train in 1998 with a toy gun, but no charges were pressed against him because of his mental illness.

That's right, folks, this man has been able to use his mental illness to shield him from blame for two previous hi-jackings. I think I speak for everyone in the entire world when I say, "what the fuck?"

Authorities said they did not immediately know if he spent time in prison after the 1999 hijacking.

How could they not know?! How is it possible that, in our country, the public is notified by the press when a registered sex offender moves into a neighborhood, but in France a two-time hi-jacker can walk around practically undetected? Someone, somewhere, is simply not doing their job. And what does Savorani's mother make of all this craziness?

"Oh God, he's done it again," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted his mother, Orella Savorani, as saying. "I've been anxious for hours because he didn't come home at lunchtime."

How messed up must your son be if, when he doesn't come home at lunchtime, you have to worry that he may be out and about hi-jacking things?

She said he borrowed $500 from her in the morning, saying he needed it to pay university fees.

*groan* That's like the oldest trick in the book! I can't believe she fell for that.

On a more serious note, and a little editorializing on my part, this story points out a glaring reality when it comes to organizations like al Queda. After 9/11, the terrorists were held up as organizational and tactical geniuses for the way in which they hi-jacked and flew planes into buildings.

The reality is that they did nothing more spectacular than a mentally insane Frenchman with a TV remote control. They had, and have, terrorist training camps set up to teach radicals how to do what Savorani has done, not once, not twice, but three times.

Seriously, if there are any al Queda dudes out there reading this, I have to say, that's pretty pathetic, guys.

Posted by Ryan at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

This Girl Pays Through the

This Girl Pays Through the Ass

I was laying in bed with my girlfriend last weekend. We were naked because we misplaced our clothes. At any rate, my hands were exploring the small of her back, when I decided to give her butt a nice friendly squeeze. So, I grab a cheek and I feel something odd sticking to her ass. I peeled off the foreign object and brought it forth to reveal that it was. . .

A nickel.

She had a nickel stuck to her butt. This was very funny to both of us, and we laughed muchly. Then, the girlfriend reached back to the other cheek to give it a scratch, only to find. . .

A quarter.

Now this had gone from a silly novelty laugh to a full-fledged comedy uproar. We couldn't stop laughing.

It turns out that, when I removed her overalls, um, rather forcefully, I scattered the change in her pockets over the bed. Then, after a sweaty activity that shall remain nameless in this blog entry, the nickel and quarter apparently welded themselves to her pretty little posterior. Mystery solved.

Damn it. And I really wanted to believe that her ass grew money too.

Posted by Ryan at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2002

The Month Before Christmas Tis

The Month Before Christmas

Tis the month before Christmas, and I've just begun shopping.

And there's no telling how much damn money I'm dropping.

The credit cards will be smoking and charged to the max

Once I've completed my assault upon the store racks.

The clerks are all nestled, all snug in their stores,

With hopes of commissions and Christmas price wars.

With my girlfriend on a mission, and me close in tow,

There's no telling just how much money we'll blow.

When out in front of the mall there arose such a clatter,

As boy scouts ring bells so you put cash in their platter.

Away to Radio Shack, I flew like a flash,

To look at flat screen TVs that cost a whole lot of cash.

There are many decorations and lots of fake snow,

Giving the appearance that Christmas is all about show.

The stores are all decked out, and they look pretty slick,

But the commercialization of Christmas is really quite sick

Yet the shoppers don't notice, because that's not why they came,

They came to do shopping, at all the stores they can name.

"Now Woolworths! now, Macy's! now, Sears Roebuck! now Penny's!

On, Cabella's! on Dayton's, whoops, I mean Marshall Fields!

To the storefronts we go! To the bargain back wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

Scuff marks bedeck the floor as the crowds pass on by,

Janitors just can't keep up, no matter how hard they try.

So up to the storefronts, the shoppers all flew

To buy lots of gifts, and perhaps something for them, too.

*shit, I'll do more of this later. I'm running low on marginally witty rhymes*

Posted by Ryan at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2002

I hesitated to write about

I hesitated to write about this for a long time, mainly because I couldn't seem to put a humorous spin on it no matter how hard I tried. It's hard to see the humor in a bad romantic situation, but time has a way of numbing old wounds and revealing the comedy inherent in almost all things romantic. So, without further delay, I give you:

The Long Distance Lesbian

I met Martha (name changed because it's neat to change names) completely by accident. She became a fan of my weekly newspaper column, and she finally worked up the nerve to e-mail me the same week she was about to move about 3.5 hours away.

I'm always happy to hear from fans who like my column, although it happens about once every nine months. I like keeping in touch with people who enjoy my columns, because it means there are people out there who are warped enough to laugh at my sense of humor.

Martha was different, though. She wanted to meet me for drinks. This had never happened before, and I felt a bit awkward, and so did she. In the end, she lost her nerve, and I was actually a little bit relieved myself. I didn't feel comfortable becoming too familiar with someone who contacted me just because she liked my column. There was something a bit "not right" about that.

Still, Martha kept e-mailing me even after she moved away, and we corresponded back and forth for about three months. And I became entranced by her witty and intelligent writing. I started wondering what she looked like. I knew she was my age, and we shared a lot of the same interests, so it was natural that I become curious.

Finally, I asked for her phone number, which she gave me, and I called her two days later, an acceptable interval of time that I believed showed that I was interested without being overeager. It was a bad phone call, one of those stilted conversations where I wanted to crawl under my bed and wish I had never dialed. But, we muddled through, and I forced myself through to the conclusion. She sounded nice, although there was a hint in her voice of "better than everything." I shrugged it off as my own imagination.

Another month of e-mails followed, with both of us firing out little literary tests to see if the other could wrestle their way out of the traps we set. My tests ran the gamut of likes and dislikes, while hers were obscure tests, like seeing if I knew where the term "penguin dust" originated (from the Gregory Corso poem Marriage). I became aware that Martha was more intent on expounding on her interests than asking about mine, as if naming off her favorite books and music somehow made her an authority on everything.

Of course, I mistook her arrogance as a "strong opinion" and I like women with strong opinions, because they make for lively conversationalists and fun arguments. Martha, however, was not interested in conversations or arguments, as I was to learn. For Martha, Ani DiFranco is a lyrical genius, and she didn't want anyone telling her that maybe, just maybe, Ani's lyrics are a tad on the male-hating, penis-chopping, angry-at-the-world side of things.

"Oh well," I thought. "So she's a little intractable. I can probably work with that."

There were other warning signs. Martha was a major drug user during her college years, dabbling in every controlled substance I knew of and I few I'd never heard of. She engaged in a threesome with two guys once, and she related all the sex she had with all her former male roommates in college as casually as if she were relating her favorite foods. In short, she had more issues than an election year; more baggage than Northwest airlines over the holidays; more difficult problems than a college calculus textbook. But, did I see any of this? No, because romance is just stupid like that.

Finally, Martha asked me if I wanted to meet her, and of course I did. I was so blinded to her suspect personality at that point, even Ray Charles would have slapped me across the face and said, "Can't you see what she is, boy?! Can't you see?!"

So, I hopped in my car early one Saturday morning and drove 3.5 hours. I greeted Martha at her apartment door and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she was quite attractive, in a weird sort of way. Shoulder length brown hair curled slightly at the ends, as if embracing her small face, a face with no remarkable features save for her Ashleigh Banfield-like glasses. She had a stellar body, with strong runner's legs and a conspicuous lack of any discernible breasts. She insisted on calling attention to her seemingly breastless torso as if it actually mattered to me. So she had small breasts. So what?

That first weekend went very well, with the two of us actually able to communicate without relying on the medium of e-mail. We couldn't craft a flawless message, and then spell-check, and then go back and clean it up further. It was actual human conversational interaction, and I learned some valuable information. Namely, Martha was even more, er, "opinionated" than she let on in her e-mail.

She proudly displayed her vast bookshelf, going into detail about each book she read, and giving an audible aloof sniff any time I had to admit I hadn't read one of her books. When I saw "Catch-22," my favorite book of all time, she tersely said she hadn't read it yet, snatched it from my hand, and went on to her favorite book "The Gastronomical Me," a book I had never heard of. Determined to find some common ground, I offered to read the obscure book so we could discuss it later. She approved heartily of this idea. Then I suggested that she should read "Catch-22," and she gave me a disapproving look, as if I had defecated on her floor.

"Well, I'll think about it," she said, not meaning it, and I took it to mean she would think about it.

Aside from Martha's condescending attitude when it came to literature, and the Scrabble game we played later that I didn't particularly care for but she treated like the landing at Normandy, we had a fun night. We cooked lasagna, went to see a jazz band, and then went dancing at a local club. When she forgot about how much she thought she was better than everyone else, Martha was actually pretty fun.

That night, as I prepared a bed on her futon in the living room, she had a request for me.

"I'd like you to sleep with me tonight," she announced. "But, no sex or anything like that. Just sleeping. I just want you to hold me."

This was a first for me, having the terms of the evening spelled out for me so bluntly. In the end, I agreed, as any man in my position would, because there was more of a chance I would get lucky while holding her than by sleeping on a futon in another room.

Lo and behold, Martha meant exactly what she said. I held her throughout the night, while she actively rubbed her thigh over my penis, making it stand at attention for eight straight hours. Navy Seals aren't subject to such cruel and unusual punishment. No kiss. No sexual touching. Just sleeping and holding.

"What the fuck is this all about?" asked my penis, and I had no answers.

"Just go to sleep and it will all be over in the morning," I thought, and I battled through the night with a massive stiffy.

The next morning, we went for a hike at a local state park, and I departed at about 3 p.m. She hugged me and thanked me for a great weekend. I then drove 3.5 hours home. Thus ended our first encounter, setting the stage for encounter #2 two weeks later, an experiment in romantic hell that I will not soon forget.

Normally, I wouldn't subject myself to additional torture in a relationship that had about as much traction as a sprinter on an ice rink. It wasn't going anywhere, and I knew that, but then I got an e-mail from Martha.

"I'll bet you're wondering why we never kissed," read the e-mail, as if sensing my thoughts. " I want you to know that I've been hurt before, by the love of my life, and I want to go really slow about everything if anything. It means a lot to me that you didn't try taking advantage of the situation that night when you held me. I appreciate that kind of respect. I hope we can get together again sometime."

"Well, there it was!" I thought. "That explains everything! She was hurt before! By the love of her life, no less! Oh, cruel, cruel world."

So began two weeks of additional e-mails leading up to yet another 3.5 hour sojourn to go see Martha. I just couldn't stop myself. I knew she was nothing but bad news. She was the Enquirer or The Globe of female bad news. Metaphorically speaking, I was driving headlong into a red light, about to hit a big old gas tanker in the intersection, and I was clinging to the belief that I would somehow emerge unscathed.

I arrived late that Friday evening, armed with a bottle of wine and messed up head of thoughts. I knocked at her door, officially starting a two day nightmare.

Martha was dressed in a tight black top with thin shoulder straps. The top was tight enough to reveal, once again, that she had very small breasts.

Her pierced navel peered seductively from the bottom of her shirt and her voluptuous hips descended into a pair of dark blue jeans. I have to admit, she was stunning, and I say this because my penis twitched its approval. Then there was me.

My thin frame felt almost skeletal in my jeans and T-shirt, and I kept my hat on because I was secretly afraid that she viewed my shaved head as unappealing. Normally, I parade my shaved cranium around proudly. It makes me look somewhat intimidating, or so I like to think. I had been shaving my head for five years, never thinking twice about it. Never before, in any relationship, had I elevated someone so high above myself that I felt small by comparison. It really was sick.

We drank some wine, and she played selections from her vast music archive. She reveled in music, citing her favorite lyrics in a steady stream that would have been considered annoying from anyone else. She did the same thing with movie lines. I just nodded and smiled as I tried to fit these idiosyncrasies into the mangled world that was Martha's mind. Just as with her books, her taste in music, and the movie lines she recited, were small tests.

Martha wanted someone who could fire back responses that coincided with her likes and dislikes, which is a horrifying expectation, especially given the wondrous diversity of thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes of every human being. She wanted a pre-packaged male version of Martha, which was impossible. After all, there can only be one Martha, and for that I've been thanking my holy stars every single fucking day.

Eventually, we went to bed, just as we had two weeks before, with me holding her close. Finally, we kissed. I held her left cheek in my right hand, and I marveled at how small her face was just as our lips met.

amazingly, it was a bad kiss. Honestly, I would have been better off kissing a ceiling fan set on high. Not that I was totally surprised by this. Everything leading up to that moment had been cold eggs on a countertop. There was no anticipation, only a forced connection of lips that actually felt cold.

"Well, that's it," I thought. "No chemistry here, obviously. The kiss is never wrong. I'll just pack up tomorrow and be on my way."

We went back to our embrace. Just as I was drifting into slumber, however, Martha started kissing me again, and I responded willingly, eager to explore the possibility that the previous attempt was only a fluke, an aberration. It wasn't. There was no passion, no increased heart rate, none of the wondrous transformations that occurred with other women.

Martha eventually pushed me back, smiled, and rolled away from me.

"Thank God," I whispered under my breath. The only way sex between us could be made more uncomfortable would have been if my mother were somehow involved. I welcomed the opportunity to dismount. However, there was still a part of me that hoped we could salvage a friendship and, if so, perhaps let it evolve into something it most definitely wasn't.

So, the next day, we went shopping, and my head hurt, but I would say nothing. It seemed that everything Martha said made my head hurt worse, and she simply wouldn't shut up, so my head hurt to an unusual extent.

Our shopping excursion lasted only about half an hour, and it would be the last time we shared a good laugh, at least willingly. She drove back to her apartment and called her friend, Tasha, who was one of a group of her female friends who she referred to as "The Bad Girls." The girls were having a barbecue and a party for Tasha's boyfriend's birthday. It sounded harmless, and fun, but I knew there was more to it, and I was wary. Still, I rummaged through my new clothes and selected a nice pair of pants and an equally nice tee-shirt. For her part, Martha underwent the bathroom transformation process typical to most women. When she was getting dressed and made up, Martha was decidedly quiet, which was a major departure from the stream-of-consciousness conversation she engaged in at all other times. This was a good thing, because it gave my screaming head a respite from her inane blather.

"Do you think I talk too much," she asked with a smile.

"Not at all," I quickly answered, but in my mind raced a multitude of things I wanted to say: "Yes, you self-absorbed nightmare! I could be stranded on a desert for four years and be rescued and STILL not have as much to say as you do!"

Martha put together ingredients for making brownies at Tasha's house, including two eggs, and we then went to the liquor store where we purchased a twelve pack of beer. That should have been plenty I thought. But, I hadn't yet met the bad girls and their friends. It wouldn't be enough.

Tasha lived in an older, rougher neighborhood, with large trees that shaded white houses secretly rotting beneath dirty siding. On the porch of one of the many almost-white houses sat two women. Tasha waved to us. She was only slightly heavy, with a positively adorable set of breasts which Martha, of course, commented on often. Tasha's round face was pleasant, with long brunette hair and a metal bead protruding from her chin. Her tongue, too, was pierced. She conversed freely, although she centered on topics that I only had passing interest in. Martha, on the other hand, seemed transfixed by the conversation. The other girl, Tina, was a large red-headed girl who laughed easily but did not stay long.

Gradually, I was introduced to the other bad girls. There was Pam, a playful redhead who was Tasha's roommate and a noticeably close friend of Martha; and there was Nicole, a ravishing beauty with native American blood running through her veins and a noticeable scar on her chin, the result of a car crash years before. She brought her five month old son, Brandon, who was the most wonderfully content child I had ever seen.

I tried to make myself useful. I helped prepare and light the grill, and I cleaned up as the girls prepared a heroic amount of food. And my new pants got dirty, which I considered a minor nuisance.

Then, the friends arrived. I was sitting on the porch sipping a beer when they piled out of a large SUV. Tasha's boyfriend, Frye, the birthday boy, was black and dressed in bright loose clothing. He wore a wispy, spotty beard and he also had a metal bead in his chin. He looked every bit the gang-banger he said he had been in Arkansas. But, he was amiable, in an immature way.

"Let's all get drunk!" he whooped, which was probably the best idea I had heard all day, and he handed me a large bottle of some awful alcohol which I obligingly sipped off. He then gave me a high five and asked my name. I told him.

In short order, I met T-dog, a hyperactive man with huge hair, baggy clothes, and a wild flare in his eyes. I distrusted him immediately, and I made sure I knew where he was at all times. There were two white guys in the group, both with more tattoos than free skin and a nasty habit of referring to all women as "bitches," "sluts," "cunts," and "whores." Occasionally, they would mix things up and say a girl was "a slutty cunt whore bitch." Finally, there was a smaller black man nicknamed Fortune, who I liked and felt at ease talking to. Despite his heavy ebonic dialog, he was curious, and he was considerably less wild than the others at the party. His eyes were kind, and they flashed with a gentleness and a hint of sadness. He was very skilled at grilling, and he was quite proud as the burgers and bratwurst cooked under his adept hand.

They all drank a lot, especially Frye, who was determined to consume two large bottles of the vile brew he had me sip off when we met. I was asked to go buy another case of beer. I eagerly took the task. I needed to get away for awhile and just be alone. I even stopped for awhile and walked before completing my assigned task. I was feeling frazzled, but I was determined to see the crappy weekend through to its crappy conclusion. Things were sure to get worse before they got better, and I used my solitary time to brace for the inevitable.

I returned, and the house was in a massive state of disarray. T-dog and Fortune were wrestling in the yard in a drunken attempt to spank Frye 25 times in honor of his birthday. I carried the beer inside and found the only task that made me feel even remotely normal: I washed the dishes. None of the bad girls were drunk, mostly because they knew they had to remain somewhat in control given the state everyone else was in. Martha approached me and asked if I was having a good time.

"I'm having an interesting time," I answered, and I left it at that.

She smiled and told me that Frye and Tasha had engaged in a threesome the night before with some "chica" they met at a bar. She then shrugged and went into the living room to talk with Tasha.

Finally, the food was ready, and everybody shuffled through the kitchen to fill their plates and then ambled out front to eat. The picnic table was full by the time I emerged, so I sat on the porch well away from everybody else. I ate ravenously. The day's events had unknowingly taken their toll on me and I wolfed down two burgers and a mound of potatoes and beans. Tasha stood up from the picnic table and invited me to sit next to Martha, but I instinctively refused.

Mercifully, the drunken revelry started to wear on Martha, and she suggested going back to her apartment to take a nap. There was no hesitation on my part this time. I was fucking tired.

Feeling drained, I opted to take a shower, shave my head, and dress myself in another new ensemble. I then curled up on a chair in the waning daylight and read a poem entitled "The Wild Party," a messed up piece of literature with complementary art that can only be described as disturbing.

Eventually, Martha awoke and started sifting through her music archive.

"Oh, you have to hear this song," she announced unexpectedly and held up a CD. "When I was in college, I had just dropped acid, and I was on an insane amount of pot, and this song started playing. I can't believe I'm telling you this, but it was so good I just sat there and had an orgasm for the entire song, without touching myself or anything. That's how wonderful drugs can be."

Seriously, how do you respond to an admission like that? That's like a girl saying she has herpes after having sex with you four times.

Martha then inserted the CD, balled herself up on a futon, and told me to close my eyes and listen. It was a wild song, with vocals by Lou Reed, entitled "Heroine." It had intermittent series of slow and fast moving music and was capped off in a cacophony of confusing noise masquerading as music.

"Isn't that awesome?" she asked.

"It was all right," I answered, but the truth was that it made me nauseous. The music didn't make me nauseous. The music was, in fact, exciting and different. What made me nauseous was the thought that there was a point in Martha's life when her small body was so totally polluted with drugs that her poor mind couldn't discern between sexual activity and a song. At that moment, I really wanted to know who she would have been if she hadn't spent year after year in a drug induced existence. I'm betting she would have been an amazing creature. But, we'll both never know. Drugs killed that amazing creature years ago. As it was, she believed she was amazing, but she wasn't. It was sad, and I was briefly mad at the world for the way that she was.

Martha then started getting ready to go back to the party, and she emerged 20 minutes later looking gorgeous, seductive, and alluring. And none of those adjectives were meant to attract me. She wore tight black velvety pants, a tight black top, and a red leather jacket. Her ensemble was capped off with a metal chain she dangled around her waist. Sure, she looked almost like a prostitute, but I wasn't going to say anything, because I didn't honestly care any more.

I should have simply opted to stay in the security of the apartment, but I wanted to see this nightmare through to its conclusion. It was nightfall, and we went back to the party.

It was then that I met Mildred. She was sitting on the porch when we returned, and she gave Martha an approving whoop and holler, and she shot daggers through me for having the audacity to show up with her. Mildred had a pretty but tough face, with too much make-up, particularly around the eyes. She had short blonde hair with too much hairspray. We didn't have much to say, and I cut my pleasantries short once Martha and Mildred cozied up to each other. I walked to the refrigerator where I knew a beer awaited me. On the way, I met Tasha and asked where the guys were. She said they went to play basketball. Briefly, the thought of those drunken messes attempting basketball seemed genuinely amusing to me. No sooner had I enjoyed my only amusing thought of the night when the SUV again pulled up outside and the wasted men practically fell from the doors. It was ugly.

Chaos ensued for half an hour at that point. A large marijuana joint was passed around, of which Mildred, Martha and myself declined. Frye, having completed his drinking goal, fought with Tasha over the stereo volume. T-dog, dangerously high on alcohol and THC, searched everyone's eyes looking for an excuse to start some sort of fight, any kind of fight. Fortune was lamenting the fact that his "teetee" (his aunt?) was angry at him for drinking so soon after ulcer surgery. Martha and Mildred heightened their flirtation (yes, flirtation), even as Frye made overt drunken attempts to attract Martha. Eventually, a large group that included Frye, Martha, and Mildred disappeared into the bathroom to do only God knows what. It was only 9 p.m.

It was eventually decided that we would go to a local bar where a live band was playing. I was recruited to carry Frye to the back seat of a car because he could no longer walk. Drunken bodies are among the most unwieldy things in the world. As I played the part of the sober do-gooder for the hundredth time that day, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to be the drunk guy being carried around. At least I would have had some fun.

Martha drove Mildred and me to the bar, with me sitting obediently in the back seat as the two girls talked closely, virtually oblivious to my presence. My self-esteem slipped to a level somewhere below human, and I started to feel uncomfortable with myself.

The bar was crowded, and the band was great. I made a mental note of where my crowd of acquaintances was gathered and I went to sit at the bar. I needed more than anything to get away, if even for a minute. I ordered a Crown Royal and Coke, and I asked the bartender to go heavy on the Crown Royal.

The same drama that played out at the house carried over to the bar. Frye stumbled from table to table introducing himself to people who didn't want to meet him. He then stood up on a table until bouncers ordered him down. I did everything to focus on how good the band was.

I eventually re-joined the group of acquaintances. The band finished playing too early, and we made the decision to go to a dance club. The dance club was a raucous mix of every background, and I had a pretty good time. However, our stop didn't last long because Tasha discovered that she had lost $80 at some point during the night and she was going to backtrack in a hopeless attempt to find it. T-dog and Frye were passed out in the back seat. Fortune was nowhere to be seen. Martha and Mildred decided to visit one last bar, and I simply HAD to see what those two vixens had planned for the night. Mildred continued to hate me simply for being alive, and I returned the favor.

We arrived at a small dance club, and I was vaguely aware of what kind of establishment I was about to enter. It was a gay bar, and at 11 p.m. it had transformed into an incredibly gay bar. I had been in such bars before, but I had been with friends I knew and could depend on. Once again, I was hopelessly out of my element. Martha and Mildred wasted no time going to the dance floor where they gyrated together in a display that would have intrigued me if I didn't have guys trying to dance with me every four minutes. I sought refuge at the bar, where the bartender said I could have whatever I wanted, on the house. I'm apparently a BIG hit in gay community.

I ordered a Bud Light and was about to pay for it anyway when I was approached by my next male hit of the night.

"You shouldn't be drinking alone," he said.

"Sometimes that's all I want to do," I explained.

"Would you mind if I drank with you?" he asked.

"Go ahead," I said, wishing for all the world that I had some friends with me. "But you should know ahead of time that I'm totally straight."

"Do you realize where you are?" he asked somewhat amazed. "You're probably the only straight man here."

This was not comforting information, but he dropped the matter at that and walked away. I sipped the beer and watched Martha and Mildred dance together with a growing number of like-minded women. I also was hit on by three other men in quick succession. I've turned down male advances before and, for some reason, I always feel like I'm doing something mean. So, I felt pretty much like a jackass by that point. Still, I'm straight, and there's no subtle way to state that fact at a gay bar, at least none that I know of.

Finally, Martha approached me and asked me if I was having a good time. She didn't mean it, and she didn't care, but it was probably the only question she could entertain at the time.

"I was just thinking," I said.

"About what?" she asked disinterestedly.

"About whether there was any real reason for me to come down this weekend," I finally admitted.

"No," said Martha as casually as someone after a large meal rejecting dessert, "Probably not."

Of course, I already knew that, but I was curious as to what she would say. Not surprisingly, it was a typically emotionless and distant response. I smiled, shook my head, and sipped my beer.

Mildred approached, scowled at me and offered her hand to Martha. Martha took it mindlessly and they went to the dance floor to resume their taunting gyrations. Mildred grabbed Martha's hips, and Martha caressed Mildred's hands. Men were kissing three feet to my left, and a man without a shirt was grabbing another man's crotch to my right. All of this was occurring in the flashing and rotating lights of the dance floor. It was like a gay version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire."

"Do you want to go out and dance," asked a voice to my right. I managed to slowly turn my head. An inebriated and overweight man stood looking at me.

"I'm straight," I said so fast I wasn't sure if I said it at all.

"No shit?" he said in disbelief. "Then what are you doing here?"

"I thought I was here with a friend," I stated without inflection.

"Well, you're damned hot," he offered. "Are you sure you don't want to dance?"

At that point, I figured, "why the hell not?" So, I went out and danced with the fat gay man named Steve. I should stress here that it was NOT a slow dance. Rather, it was a fast disco-like tune that didn't require male/male touching of any kind. However, It wasn't long before I was surrounded by men, eager to ply their best pick-up lines on me. My shaved head was apparently a bug light for gay come-ons. I quickly realized that my decision to dance was not particularly one of my better ideas.

A few men made brief hand contact with my ass as I shuffled hurriedly to get myself off that meat market floor, wrestling myself free just as the last song of the evening concluded.

Martha approached me and asked me if I was okay to drive. I snatched the keys from her hand and moved quickly to the door. However, I had to wait for the girls to go to the bathroom. Of course, they went together, and my mind entertained all of the things they may have been doing during the 17 minutes they were in there together.

Martha asked Mildred to come back to her apartment with us, but she refused, much to my amazement. I dropped Mildred off at the party house from earlier in the day. She shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, and she didn't mean it.

We finally arrived back at Martha's apartment and I prepared to sleep on her futon.

"Aren't you going to sleep with me?" she queried sounding hurt. Despite the screaming noise ringing in my ears telling me not to, I slipped under Martha's bed covers.

"Mildred said she might come by later tonight, so I'm not going to put pajamas on," she announced, and she peeled off all her clothes, revealing her body to me as some sort of cruel taunt. "We won't do anything unless she comes over. You don't mind do you?"

Mind? Why should I mind? The fact that she didn't want to have sex with me unless another woman was involved? How could that possibly bother me?

She crawled into bed and wrapped her naked body around me like some sort of diabolical serpent. It wasn't a sexual embrace. It was more of a utilitarian hug that gave her a male shoulder to rest her demented head upon.

To me, she was a carcass of the woman I had fallen for via e-mail all those months before. That false girl was dead, and the twisted mess of past drug use and uncertain sexual exploration was all that remained, and I held her without emotion.

"I'm sorry that we didn't work out," I said, and my voice seemed unnatural to me. She murmured her assent and crowded closer to me. "And I think you're a pretty messed up woman."

"I don't think so," she said sleepily defiant.

With that, I detached myself from her embrace and rolled away, sleeping fitfully for several hours, my dreams hounded by countless images of every surreal event of the preceding days.

I awoke at 9:30 a.m., and I silently showered and packed. I should have left without a word, but I went in to wake Martha and say good-bye.

"Why are you leaving so early?" she asked.

"I want to get home," I stated plainly. "I hurt a little, and I want to feel better, and I can't do that near you."

She didn't hear me, I don't think, but she reached up her arms and pulled me into her in a surprisingly strong hug she didn't want to relinquish, and I felt for her, but I couldn't stay. I pulled free, and she kissed my neck.

The sun was shining as I walked outside. The early summer air was hot and heavy with indifference.

Romance is fickle, and everyone at some point has to decide whether they want to pursue something they know to be unhealthy. I did not. I put on a pair of sunglasses and started my car.

It was early, and the drive was long.

Posted by Ryan at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2002

I Owe My Life to

I Owe My Life to Video Games

For those of you out there who believe video games are a one way ticket to nowhere, with a left turn toward geekdom, let me just tell you, I owe my life to video games.

No, I don't mean video games saved my life in some sort of freakish scenario where, if I hadn't been playing video games at 4 a.m. that one night, I never would have smelled the smoke and evacuated the apartment complex before it burned to the ground, although that would really be sweet.

Rather, I owe my current state in life, complete with technical writer geek work, to my love for video games. I started out as most people my age did, with hazy memories of playing Pong at a relative's house. I didn't understand everything involved, but I knew I was controlling the action on a television set, and that in itself was pretty amazing. From Pong I graduated to Atari, and from Atari to my neighbor's Texas Instruments computer that played a hokey game called "Buck Rogers." It was the first computer I had ever seen. It looked like a TV, but not quite. I was intrigued.

I then went through the transition from Nintendo, to Sega, to Sega Saturn, but it wasn't until I saw "Command and Conquer: Red Alert" being played in college that I fully started to understand how important computers were if I was to continue killing time in a high tech way. So, I traded in my Macintosh Performa 305, a machine that was primarily only good for word processing, for a Compaq Presario with a 200 MGhz processor, considered screaming fast at the time.

So, if it weren't for Red Alert, I wouldn't have explored Windows-based PCs, and I wouldn't have learned all the nuances of the maddening operating system, and I wouldn't have picked up all the required skills that allowed me to waltz into my last two jobs. So, here I am at IBM, writing technical articles for a geeky magazine, installing software occasionally for my co-workers, marveling at the strange back-door method by which I was able to turn a journalism major into a potentially lucrative career.

So you see, I owe my life to video games. I just really wish I was playing one right now.

Here's a list of celebrities in an attempt to boost traffic:

Tyra Banks. Adriana Lima. Heidi Klum. Kate Moss. Cindy Crawford . Rachel Hunter . Gisele Bundchen . Jessica Alba . Jessica Simpson . Namrata Singh Gujral. Cerina Vincent. Lauren Lee Smith. Tawny Cypress. Jayma Mays. Rose Byrne. Natalia Tena. Carice van Houten. Sonya Walger. Michelle Ryan. Alice Braga. Kristen Stewart. Katie Leung. Vera Jordanova. Mia Maestro. Ninel Conde.

Posted by Ryan at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2002

Safety First I am by

Safety First

I am by no means complaining here, but it sure seems as though kids today have things a lot safer than when I was their age. When I was twelve, there were skateboards, and there are still skateboards today, but today the riders are more heavily armored than most Abrams tanks.

When I hopped on a skateboard in my youth, I only had my skin and perhaps a tee-shirt to cushion any potential falls. Wearing a helmet or shin pads or elbow pads was a sure indicator that you were at best a wussy and at worst a momma's boy geek nerd. So, I would hop aboard, roll down a large hill, attain speeds that would rip the wings of a stealth bomber, hit a pebble, and do my very best to keep my head from smacking the concrete, dashing what little brains I had onto the street. Then I would run home, pour hydrogen peroxide on all my fresh wounds, and go bolting out the door for another trek down the hill.

And that's another thing. We just had hills. Oh, sure, if we were lucky we had a couple of cinder blocks and a warped piece of plywood to create a makeshift ramp that would cause Evil Knievel to cringe in horror. But kids today have entire skate parks to play in. I mean, come on! Skate parks? Why, back in my day, all those 15 years ago or so, the concept of such a niche park built for kids was unheard of.

In fact, parks of yore in general weren't particularly safe for kids. Nowadays, elaborate jungle gyms are so well protected with padding and fences, they could be used to house the mentally insane. But back when I was crawling around park equipment, such safety measure were not enforced.

Indeed, you had to absord a certain amount of schoolyard wisdom to know where on the merry-go-round a jagged piece of metal jutted forth, causing nasty rips in both clothes and skin. It was just generally understood that you didn't ride or approach the merry-go-round at that dangerous spot. Nothing was every done about the metal. No janitor ever came by to hammer it away. That would be too sensible.

It was just there, an angry rusted metal tooth just waiting for an unwary child to wander within range. Of course, it's not dangerous enough as it is. No. You have to get the merry-go-round spinning, so now you have what amounts to a kid-sized rotary saw. The rest of us would just watch, unable, or unwilling, to say anything. It was a rite of passage to be bitten by that particular spot on the merry-go-round. It was just a matter of where and when you were bitten. The deeper the gouge, and the more exotic the locale, the more playground respect was bestowed upon you.

And slides! Was there ever a more notorious playground invention than the slide? Here's an idea, let's take a child, perhaps seven or eight, and tell him or her to climb a ladder to, well, nowhere. You just climb, and when you get to the top, at a height so daunting for a youngster you think you can actually touch the face of the sun, you're given two choices. You can either wuss out and climb back down, which isn't really an option because you have extreme playground standing due to the massive merry-go-round gash you suffered only inches from your groin. As far as the the other kids are concerned, you're practically a god. You can't back down the slide ladder. Gods simply don't do that.

So, you opt to sit down and propel yourself down the slide, on a gleaming metal surface so hot it was actually used by cafeteria staff to cook pizzas. Despite your sizzling skin, you remain stoic, because, remember, you're still a god. With a massive push-off, you try to slide down the stove-top, only to stop about two feet later with a "squeek" as your shorts ride up and you're brought to a halt by the friction of butt-cheek on metal. So, you scoot forwared a little bit, push off, and two feet later repeat the prodedure. At the bottom, with the majority of your legs and behind now suffering third-degree burns, you run back to the ladder to start the process all over again.

And that's if you were lucky! One of the slides in my neighborhood, which was about 15 feet or so high, had no barriers at the top preventing a child from plummeting into thin air, which is exactly what I did. I just remember I was at the top, and I was getting into the squat position to ride down, when suddenly I just kind of felt myself falling through space. After a brief 15 foot fall, I landed flat on my back, on a child-trampled ground that was so hard it might as well have been concrete. My tiny body let out a terrific "WHOOF!" as all the air was pushed out of my lungs.

I had never before suffered the ordeal of having the wind knocked out of my body and, as I crawled around below the slide, strangely unable to suck in even the smalled whiff of air, I believed for all the world that I was just seconds away from death. My life flashed before my eyes, and all the visions had to do with merry-go-rounds and slides. After several seconds of total panic, I was finally able to suck in a few painful gasps of precious air, at which point I started one of the most mournful, wailing cries of my entire little life. I walked home, crying all the way, and I trie to explain my ordeal to my father, who kissed my forehead and told me to wash up for dinner, because he had cooked hamburgers. "But, but, but. . . I almost DIED!!! Still, hamburgers sound pretty good actually."

And don't even get me started on swingsets!

Now, in an attempt to boost Web traffic, here's a list of famous women:

Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Jenny McCarthy. Christina Hendricks. Kate Hudson. Christina Hendricks. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Heidi Klum. Angelina Jolie. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Jenny McCarthy. Christina Hendricks. Kate Hudson. Christina Hendricks. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Heidi Klum. Angelina Jolie.

Posted by Ryan at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2002

What Was He Thinking? I

What Was He Thinking?

I know, I know, the story of Michael Jackson dangling his youngest son from a fourth floor balcony has already been done to death. However, I simply can't help myself because the visuals are just too rich. So, let's play a game called "What's is Michael Saying or Thinking." Simply click">this link, study the picture, and come back and comment what you think The Gloved One is saying or thinking in the photo. Winner gets the glowing satisfaction of being a winner. I'll start us off. . .

"God, I'm such a great father!"

"I wonder if his head can fit in my mouth."

"Hey, you people down there! Catch!"

"Do you like my little Klansman?"


"Oh, his mother is going to chew me out for this one."

"And I remove the handkerchief and *poof,* the baby becomes a rabbit!"

"Yes, world! I really am this fucked up!"

"Gosh, it sure feels good to be out of that courtroom and endangering the life of my child."

"AHHHHHHHH! I'm such a freak!"

Posted by Ryan at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

WOW! Those Chips Are Good

WOW! Those Chips Are Good

For those not familiar with WOW! potato chips, let me explain why I think they're just totally super awesome. In short, they make you poop suddenly. I'm not kidding. I was sitting at my desk yesterday afternoon when, out of the blue, I realized I had to crap really, really, really bad. I briefly considered hunkering down over my trash can because I wasn't sure I could make it down the hall to the bathroom.

WOW! chips are cooked in Olestra, a funky oil-like substance that isn't absorbed by the body. Therefore, they're virtually fat free and they honestly taste like regular potato chips. However, right there on the bag, the consumer is warned that ingesting the chips "May Cause Loose Stools and Fecal Urgency." I want to know what politically correct genius conjured the term "fecal urgency," a benign wording that really means your ass becomes a cannon in the blink of an eye. Apparently, all that free-flowing Olestra swimming in the gut greases the chute, making a frictionless surface that acts as a fecal water slide.

So, I ate an entire bag last night. I'm anticipating something ugly to happen in about an hour.

Tyra Banks. Adriana Lima. Heidi Klum. Kate Moss. Cindy Crawford . Rachel Hunter . Gisele Bundchen . Jessica Alba . Jessica Simpson . Namrata Singh Gujral. Cerina Vincent. Lauren Lee Smith. Tawny Cypress. Jayma Mays. Rose Byrne. Natalia Tena. Carice van Houten. Sonya Walger. Michelle Ryan. Alice Braga. Kristen Stewart. Katie Leung. Vera Jordanova. Mia Maestro. Ninel Conde.

Posted by Ryan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2002

"Rhodes Versus the Rodent" c.

"Rhodes Versus the Rodent" c. Ryan Rhodes, Nov. 10, 2002

A couple of weekends ago, I was visiting my girlfriend in St. Paul and, for a brief moment, I genuinely believed my car was about to be stolen. . . by a squirrel.

I know, I know; squirrels can't steal automobiles. However, the next time you endure a traumatic rodent takeover of your vehicle, you just see how much common sense you display.

So, there I was, sitting in my car, preparing to go to a gas station. I was just about to close the driver's side door when I heard a commotion outside that involved screeching tires. I like to think that a wayward squirrel was almost run over in the street and became disoriented and stressed out. I like to think this because it makes what happened next seem a little less surreal.

Perhaps a split second before my door slammed shut, an agitated squirrel came cruising from out of nowhere, jumped into my car just as the door closed, and perched in the back seat, barking in that unique squirrel fashion that sounds like they're about to barf up something truly ugly.

I whirled around, and I found myself locking eyes with the furry intruder. We were face-to-fuzzy-face and, at that moment, I realized that I'm a really poor excuse for a swaggering male. I mustered my most girlish shriek, fumbled for the door handle, opened the door, and scrambled frantically to put distance between myself and the barking menace in the back seat.

Once I was safely outside the vehicle, I tried to take stock of the situation. "Okay," I thought. "There's a squirrel! And it's in my car! What do I do? Is this covered in the owner's manual?"

I cautiously crept up to the back window and peered in. The squirrel was on the floor of the back seat, apparently sniffing around for something to eat. "What if it finds something to eat in there?" I mused. "Will it ever leave? The door is open. Why doesn't it leave?"

As if sensing my presence, the squirrel jumped back up on the seat and started barking at me again, and I leaped back a safe distance, just in case it had some special power that allowed it to hurtle through auto glass and attach itself to my face.

It was at this point that I did something I still can't totally understand. Seeing that the squirrel was intent on barking at the back window, I seized the initiative, ran to the open driver's side door and. . . grabbed the keys out of the ignition.

It was only after I retreated back from my car that I realized the idiocy of my action. What the heck did I grab the keys for? What good were the keys possibly going to do me? Did I secretly believe that a squirrel could somehow manage to start the car and drive it away to a rodent vehicle chop shop somewhere in downtown St. Paul?

With my pride and male bravado now at all-time lows, I started taking a more analytical view of the situation. Exhibiting the first clear thinking of the ordeal, I opened the passenger side door, thus giving the tiny hijacker two avenues of escape.

However, rather than taking the hint, the squirrel opted to hop atop the passenger seat and further voice its displeasure with me, prompting me to once again run away screaming. This was just becoming too embarrassing, and I was getting mad. So, I started yelling at the squirrel.

"Get out!" I demanded, only to be rebuffed by an onslaught of raspy barks.

"Get out now!" I yelled again, this time waving my arms to augment my point. But the squirrel only scurried once again to the back seat.

I briefly searched for a long stick or a rod, something that I could shake at the squirrel to prompt it to exit the vehicle. Finding nothing of adequate length, I decided to try a different approach. I went back inside the house. I figured that, if I was out of sight, the squirrel would be more apt to leave.

As I stood in the doorway, peering out at my car, I started to feel like an absolute failure.

"That's it," I thought. "The squirrel has forced me indoors. The squirrel has won. This is truly a sad day for Ryan Rhodes."

Finally, I had had enough. I was determined to rid my car once and for all of Bullwinkle's sidekick. I threw open the door and went running toward my car, yelling expletives all the way. Apparently shaken by my renewed bravado, the squirrel scurried out the passenger door, climbed a nearby tree, and started taunting me once again with its incessant barking.

What the squirrel didn't know was that I had won the game early on. After all, I had the car keys.

Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2002

Just to see what it does

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Posted by Ryan at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Oh, Those Chicken McNuggets I

Oh, Those Chicken McNuggets

I recently rediscovered the magic of McNuggets. I'm not sure why or how, but the misshapen bits of compressed chicken parts have once again become a fairly regular part of my diet. Maybe it's the unknown origin of the chicken meat, or the fact that 80 percent of them roughly resemble small boots, but whatever the reason, I'm eating more than my fair share of them.

When it comes to fast food, there are few menu items that attract the derision of the mass media more than McDonalds' McNuggets. They're the Saddam Hussein of the fast food world. Any time a bone or a human finger is discovered within the hard crust and the squishy meat of a nugget, it's almost always front page news. When a patron discovered a perfectly formed and deep fried chicken head in her value meal awhile back, you'd have thought she had found the eyeball of Hitler himself. Come on, mistakes happen when you're dicing up a pen of poultry. So, a head snuck into the batch. So what? It's not like she ate it.

I kid, of course. If I were to unearth a chicken head from a batch of McNuggets, I'd probably hurl vomit a distance of five buses parked end to end. But, until that day, I'll happily scarf down chicken bits with the best of them.

My first long-term love affair with McNuggets began when I was living in Tokyo my senior year of high school. The wrestling season had just wrapped up, and I was very eager to start packing on the pounds that were denied to me all season long as I battled to maintain my weight. So it was, the week I became free to ingest all that was before me, I entered a local McDonalds and ordered a 20 piece McNugget meal.

Thirty minutes later, with my stomach coated with McNugget oil and chicken slurry, I genuinely believed I was going to suffer some horrible death due to over-ingestion of mushy chicken. It was all I could do to keep the pullet parts from coming up to take a bow. Three hours later, the danger subsided and, the next morning, I deposited a truly disturbing quantity of bird butt in the commode.

>From that day on, until I flew back to the U.S. to attend college, I ate about one 20 McNugget box a week, and each time I suffered the same uncomfortable ordeal, but I just couldn't stop. Whatever drug Ronald McDonald injects into those nuggets, it kept me coming back for more. I couldn't help myself. Finally, I left Tokyo and started the life of a college student, abandoning my strange love affair with McNuggets for several years. . . until this fall.

Maybe it's the encroaching winter, or the cold short evenings, but I just don't have time to think much about mealtime, so McNuggets have begun to fill the void. I've done the 20 nugget meal three times since October, including once last night, and I don't like how the rest of the winter is shaping up. Sure, I exercise almost religiously and will probably suffer no physical decay due to my shoddy eating habits, but this still can't be a good thing. I must fight the draw of the evil McNugget goodness.

Just as soon as I go take a massive shit.

Tyra Banks. Adriana Lima. Heidi Klum. Kate Moss. Cindy Crawford . Rachel Hunter . Gisele Bundchen . Jessica Alba . Jessica Simpson . Namrata Singh Gujral. Cerina Vincent. Lauren Lee Smith. Tawny Cypress. Jayma Mays. Rose Byrne. Natalia Tena. Carice van Houten. Sonya Walger. Michelle Ryan. Alice Braga. Kristen Stewart. Katie Leung. Vera Jordanova. Mia Maestro. Ninel Conde.

Posted by Ryan at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2002

Bueller? Bueller? Turns out actor

Bueller? Bueller?

Turns out actor Jeffrey Jones, the guy who played the cranky dean in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, may be a child molester with a penchant for kiddie porn. Say it ain't so. I keep thinking back to a scene in the movie when the dean, mistakenly believing he found Bueller in a local teen hangout, says, "The game is up. Your ass is mine." Kinda has a whole new meaning now, dontcha think?

And yes, all I did today was blog, thanks for asking.

Posted by Ryan at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

When An Attack Becomes "Spectacular"

When An Attack Becomes "Spectacular"

I don't mean to pick on the FBI's choice of words, but warning that al Queda is likely to pull of a "spectacular" attack just seems, I don't know, almost fun. The word "spectacular" is usually reserved for Fourth of July fireworks displays or pictures of Britney Spears naked.

Lousy wording aside, it appears that we, the American public, are being warned yet again that al Queda is up to something. To borrow heavily from Ned Flanders, let me just say, "Well, no diddily ding dong shit."

But White House officials said the warning was based on a summary of intelligence, not new information, and that an attack was not imminent. In addition, the government did not increase its terror alert status, used to notify the public of potential attacks.

Keep in mind, this was the top story on In other words, they dedicated #1 billing to a story that tells us that pretty much nothing has changed. Wow, we're being targeted by terrorists? Who knew? I'll let you in on a little secret. I honestly think White House journalists are really, really lazy. I think they just kind of hover around a doughnut platter toward the back of the press briefing room and simply transcribe whatever ends up on their tape recorders later on. This isn't news, this is regurgitation.

IN A BULLETIN circulated to law enforcement officials nationwide, the FBI says, "Sources suggest al-Qaida may favor spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: High symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the U.S. economy and maximum psychological trauma." The FBI posted the alert on its Web site early Friday, after The Associated Press and The New York Times reported its existence.

Wow, way to go AP and New York Times. How long did it take you to copy and paste this tidbit of information? If Nixon were alive today, he'd be asking where these journalists were when he was president. He could have avoided the whole Watergate thing because Woodward and Bernstein would have been surfing the Internet for porn.

NBC's Pete Williams reported that U.S. officials said the warning follows a series of events β€” topped by the recent release of an audiotaped message believed to be from bin Laden that could contain a message to al-Qaida members β€” rather than any new intelligence. "It's a building of concern," one official said on condition on anonymity.

Why in the hell would you want to maintain anonymity for an innocuous quote like that? That's like me saying, "Well, I guess I feel fine today, but don't tell anyone I said that."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan cited the lack of any intelligence about specific time, date, location or method of possible attack as the reason for keeping the nation's official terrorist threat level at code yellow, the middle of a five-level scale of risk developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

So, in other words, we don't know when, where, how, or generally anything at all when it comes to this all-but-certain attack. It's nice to know the expensive eyes and ears of America's intelligence community are able to stay so well informed.

FBI AGENT: Watch out! There's an attack coming your way!


FBI AGENT: I have absolutely no idea! But stay sharp, because one is coming. . . sometime!

The recent nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia, the assault on Marines in Kuwait and the attack on a French oil tanker near Yemen β€” as well as the U.S. strike on a car carrying suspected terrorists, also in Yemen β€” are described by several law enforcement officials as actions that point to an increased threat.

Let me get this straight: recent attacks point to an increased threat? Hmmmmm. I guess that seems plausible. It's a good thing the folks in the established media are there to point stuff like that out, or I'd be in a world of hurt. That aroma you just whiffed was the smell of insane levels of sarcasm emanating off the preceding sentences.

"If there was any doubt in anybody's mind that al-Qaida remains a dangerous threat to America or the world, I suspect it was dispelled with the string of attacks," Tom Ridge, director of the White House homeland security office, said Thursday.

That's a pretty profound statement there, Ridge. You sure you don't want to maintain anonymity when spewing forth groundbreaking opinions like that?

"I think that as we ratchet up toward Iraq, we have to believe that there will be attempts in this country anywhere, perhaps everywhere, to do us harm," Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN.

I remember, when I was little, my older brother would tell me that the bogeyman was watching me and he could see me everywhere. It's nice to know the concept still applies today. Does it just seem that people in Washington are determined to keep everyone as terrified as they possibly can? Can't they just knock it off long enough for me to enjoy an ice cold beer? Yes, I get it, we're in danger. Now shut up! I'm trying to score with this hot chick over here.

"We can't find bin Laden, we haven't made real progress" in finding key elements of al-Qaida, said Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?"

Daschle likened bin Laden to the Washington-area sniper, who unleashed a wave of terror around the nation's capital. "Osama Bin Laden is the sniper," he said. "He is terrorizing this country as the sniper terrorized Washington."

It's crap like that that makes me understand why the Democrats lost so horribly during the recent election. If all you can do is come up with lousy analogies, and point figners, without offering up ideas and solutions of your own, yes, you're going to fail miserably come election time. The Bush administration may be pushing forth unpopular legislation and foreign policy, but at least they're doing something. Daschle's a legislator. Perhaps he could try his hand at a little legislation and a little less oration. Hey, that sounded a little like that recent Elvis re-release. "A little less oration, a little more legislation."

Whatever. I'm tired.

Posted by Ryan at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

Unbridled liberalism is Sometimes Just

Unbridled liberalism is Sometimes Just Plain Stupid

For those not familiar with the work of Jill Nelson, let me just explain that she's MSNBC's contribution to retarded wishful thinking. She has a lot to say, and it's usually dead wrong. Anyway, her latest diatribe actually had be laughing out loud. Here are some excerpts with my own interjected editorializing.

Over the past 14 months, Americans have struggled to figure out how to live with the reality of past terrororism and the possibility of future attacks. It's sad to say that after all this time, the best the Bush administration, most of our elected officials, and too many average citizens have come up with to exorcise our own terror is to wreak it on someone else. Welcome to the tyranny of the terrorized.

Actually, I haven't really been struggling at all. I wake up. I go to work. I bitch. I complain. I go out on the weekends. I enjoy pretty much everything my limited finances have to offer. The thought of future attacks really isn't a huge concern for me. Granted, I don't live in New York, where the towers fell and paranoia must run rampant, but I'm pretty well aware that terror on American soil is sort of a difficult trick to pull off, considering we've been terror-free pretty much since 9/11. But, hey, if Jill wants to feel terrorized, I guess that's her business.

TODAY THE NO. 1 candidates for this terror transference are Saddam Hussein of Iraq and alleged D.C.-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. The president tells us that we can quell our national terror by taking pre-emptive action against Iraq. This is the classic bully mentality: Get them before they even think about getting us. John Ashcroft, the right-wing attorney general, manipulates the system in order to try Malvo, a juvenile, first in Virginia because that state executes minors. Does the state-authorized killing of a profoundly damaged, manipulated, misguided 17-year-old kid β€” or anyone else for that matter β€” really wash our collective terror away?

Okay, did everyone catch what Jill is doing here? She's making the argument that prosecuting a demented sniper and making war on Iraq are attempts to take our minds off terrorism and make us feel safer. Riiggghhht <-- insert Dr. Evil inflection here. In actuality, we're prosecuting a 17-year old because he randomly shot innocent people from the trunk of a modified automobile. That has nothing to do with terror and everything to do with common sense.

Of course, Jill's biggest gripe is that the death sentence is being sought for Malvo, as if being 17-years old somehow makes his actions excusable. Oh, wait, I guess he's "profoundly damaged, manipulated, and misguided." Well, hello, so am I. But, you don't see me popping a round into a Ponderosa patron. You see, Malvo is what I refer to as "a coldhearted killer." I don't care that he's 17. When I was 17, you better believe I knew the value of human life. Actually, that realization set in when I was a lot younger, when I dealt with the reality of a neighbor killed by a drunk driver. I was maybe seven or eight, and I knew that I missed him and that his death was wrong. So, don't go telling me that Malvo was damaged, or manipulated, or misguided. He killed people, innocent people, and he knew he was killing innocent people, and I see no reason why we can't extend to him the same courtesy.

Seriously, how much difference is there between being 17 and 18? 365 days? One stinking year? Jill wants to hold up Malvo's age as some sort of shield. Puh-lease. Take note of how she skillfully refers to Malvo as a "child" in the next passage. That's like saying Methusala was "over the hill."

It's also been declared irrelevant to point out that Lee Boyd Malvo is a child who was clearly inappropriately influenced by his 41-year-old "pretend father" John Muhammad. Forced exercise, a diet of crackers and honey, months spent homeless and on the road β€” this is how this kid lived during the months leading up to the killing spree. And yet we show him no mercy or compassion. Instead, the attorney general, the man who's supposed to impartially uphold the laws of the land, publicly shops for the state most likely to convict and sentence to death a screwed-up teen-ager. In fact, Ashcroft leads us in the disturbing national chant of kill, kill, kill.

I didn't hear that chant. Did you? It has a good beat, and I can dance to it. "And a one, and a two, and a kill, kill, kill." I love how Ms. Nelson provides a laundry list of how Malvo was "abused" -- a diet of crackers and honey, months spent homeless and on the road, exercise. Oh, the shame of it all! We should all pitch in and give this young man a house! Oh, wait, he shot and killed people at gas stations. Never mind.

I am ashamed by the glee with which government officials and talking heads virtually lick their lips over the prospect of executing a 17-year-old while they simultaneously fight gun control and embrace the rabid NRA. But more than ashamed, I'm saddened to realize that the dream of a Democratic America doesn't stand a chance against the tyranny of the terrorized. We've become a nation of people who, like children playing a game of hot potato, seem to believe we can escape terror by passing it on to others. In this country, whose leaders are so fond of praising the teachings of Jesus, whatever happened to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?

It's tough to poke holes in a good Jesus quote, but let's reverse the equation a tad. Do you think the golden rule was bouncing around in Malvo's head when he pulled the trigger that utimately snuffed out the life of an unwary FBI agent? I say do unto Malvo as he did unto the FBI agent.

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Posted by Ryan at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2002

Simultaneous Solar Flares Could Be

Simultaneous Solar Flares Could Be Al Queda Signal, Officials Say

Rhodes Media Services--WASHINGTON D.C., Nov. 14, 2002 -- Two simulataneous massive solar flares observed by researchers at the National Solar Observatory in southern New Mexico may, in fact, be secret encoded messages to al Qaeda operatives, U.S. officials said today.

"Time and time again, we're surprised at the resiliancy and resourcefulness of terrorists," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "When you think about it, two giant solar flares appearing on opporsite sides of the sun simultaneously can't just be coincidence. They have to be a signal to terrorists to resume their strikes."

The flares, witnessed on the morning of Oct. 31, have been dismissed by scientists as naturally occuring phenomenon. Observatory researchers believe that magnetic fields may have primed the flares to erupt seconds apart. However, they admitted that there simply wasn't enough data to posit a working theory.

"You want a theory? I'll give you a theory," said President George W. Bush. "Those flares were obviously manipulated by al Qaeda to encourage more attacks. Magnootic, er, megnantic, er, metallica. . . whatever. . . those fields had nothing to do with it. I can assure you, we'll be carefully monitoring the sun from now on looking for more of those flare thingees, and we'll have top decoders working to decipher them to figure out where the next attack may occur. Bush then looked up at the sun, only to recoil due to severe retinal pain.

"Damn you, bin Laden!" yelled Bush. "I'll get you for that one, too!"

UPDATE: Jesse Jane is hot. Jesse Jane is really hot. So is Tera Patrick. Jesse Jane.

Posted by Ryan at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2002

Don't Forget: We're At War

Don't Forget: We're At War

Maybe it's the sweeping recent Republican victory, or maybe it's the revelation that our old buddy, Osama bin Laden, may still be skulking around a cave somewhere still breathing, but I find myself more and more supporting the overall war on terror. Not so much the impending attack on Iraq, mind you, which is a thinly-veiled grab for oil no matter how much Washington spins it. But the war on terror, the covert war meant to expose and dispose of those cancerous terrorist cells, is a necessary part of today's world.

The war on terrorism will be won, not on a traditional battlefield, but through the sustained efforts of information gathering experts worldwide and the use of search and destroy tactics meant to wreak havoc with terror's command and supply structure. I fully support it, no matter how distasteful it may seem at first. I just kind of assumed that Americans understood that.

Alas, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune letters to the editor section has sported two opinions over the past couple of days that show just how mistaken I was.

The day justice died

Is anyone else appalled by the missile attack on the car full of suspected terrorists in Yemen last week? Even though the Bush administration calls it a military action, it was an assassination, plain and simple.

One of the basic tenets of our legal system is the belief in innocence until proven guilty. We just blew that principle out of the sky with a couple of well-aimed Hellfire missiles. So much for due process. Sept. 11 was a terrible day for our country, but we are certainly losing the moral high ground in our fight against Al-Qaida. We simply cannot execute people at will, no matter what we think they may have done. We cannot go down that road.

-- Melly Ailabouni, Farmington.

Okay, class, does anyone see the flaw in Melly's argument? Well, let me tell you what I think. In short, I think Melly needs a good beating with a reality club. Lacking that option, I guess I'll just spout off.

One reason that the car happened to explode so totally was because it was loaded with weapons, weapons to be used against Western interests. Myself, I'm pretty glad we fired those well-aimed Hellfire missiles. If it were up to Melly, she would have had the "suspected terrorists" detained and given a good talking to. Then, once the corrupt Yemeni system ensured that they would be set free in 24 hours on a "legal technicality," they would have hopped back in their car for a good, old-fashioned dance club bombing.

We reserve our American legal system for pukes that go on a Washington D.C. sniping spree, not for a carload of terrorists in Yemen. In fact, let's not call them terrorists, let's call them soldiers, enemy soldiers, who just happened to poke their heads out of the trench long enough for our trusty drone to atomize their worthless carcasses. So Melly want to call it an assassination? Fine, whatever. Just so long as we keep the assasinations coming.

I particularly like the line, Sept. 11 was a terrible day for our country, but we are certainly losing the moral high ground in our fight against Al-Qaida. Yes, I'm sure Osama bin Laden right now is sipping tea with his pinky up, saying, in a British accent, "Well, that drone attack was just bad form. We'd never do something so low. Now get out there, guys, and blow up a school."

Hey, Melly, just for the record, Al-Qaida targets everyone. You. Me. Rush Limbaugh (which isn't so bad, actually). They don't care if you're a soldier or a Peace Corps volunteer. They kill anyone and everyone. We targeted a carload of terrorist operatives (enemy soldiers) about to make a delivery, probably saving the lives of countless innocents. You want due process? Fine. Go tell that to every family member who lost a loved one during the Bali bombing and then come back and make the argument that terrorists should get their day in court.

A death march?

Last week KARE-TV (Ch. 11) showed Afghan prisoners being transported to Cuba -- bound, hooded and crowded into the hold of a transport plane. The image recalled the death marches and train transports of Jews during World War II. I write this on Veterans Day, thinking of the human-rights violations perpetrated on innocent people at that time.

Now it is our administration that may be responsible for such terrible deeds. Are we above all international laws? There have been no trials, but I suspect much abuse and torture in the cages.

-- Avis Allmaras CSJ, St. Paul.

You're right Avis, next time we'll be sure to buy first class tickets on United Airlines and keep the champagne flowing. Sheesh! How can one even equate Jewish persecution to the transport of prisoners of war? Jews were sent to be gassed, while Afghani fighters were sent to Cuba, where they were even allowed to pray daily. Oh, no, but they're hooded and bound! What are they? Animals? Well, yes. These are soldiers who, just days before, had sworn that their sole purpose in life was to kill Americans. I'd want to keep them bound and hooded too.

But, apparently Avis thinks it would be better to have them free to roam around the plane and make small talk with each other, and then maybe organize themselves and perhaps kill the American soldiers and take over the plane. Avis and Melly really need to get together and maybe, just maybe, they'll see how totally dumb they are.

Perhaps this fact is lost on Avis, but the folks crowded onto the cargo plane were actually the lucky ones. Chances are, they were pleased as punch to be bound and hooded and flown to Cuba. Why? Because, our allies, the Northern Alliance, weren't exactly interested in taking prisoners. No, they were more likely to stake the enemy to the ground, cut off their eyelids, and face them toward the sun. I'm betting they were pretty much screaming to have a hood at that point.

As a nation, I would have to say we're probably in the upper class when it comes to the treatment of our prisoners of war. Were the Afghani soldiers interrogated? Almost certainly, although I doubt they had their fingernails removed with a pliers. You'd be amazed at what can be drawn out of people through a little sleep deprivation, maybe a skipped meal here and there, and the possibility of never seeing home and family again. All three of those combined would have me singing like a canary.

In the end, these were men that shot at and schemed against American troops, and more than a few of them probably had a hand in helping get 9/11 off the ground, so to speak. You may want to make their lives all nice and cozy, but I certainly don't.

We're at war.

Posted by Ryan at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2002

Big and Important News I

Big and Important News I Can't Keep Quiet About Any More

I routinely surf the Web looking for news items and quaint bits of idiocy that I can write about in my weekly column when I can't mine my own personal experience. However, because I've been able to write about myself for the past couple of weeks, my cache of odd news items has reached critical mass and I simply have to spout out about them or I fear I'll explode.

Okay, I won't explode, but wouldn't it be disconcerting if people could actually explode at will without hurting others? You could be walking down a mall, when suddenly the person next to you realizes they bought the wrong size shoes and, in a fit of anger, detonate in a spray of crimson and sinew that soaks everyone in a 20 foot radius. Sure, it's a gross thought, but it certainly would add a whole new dimension to the human equation, i.e. watch your stress, or you'll explode. Where was I? Oh, yes, odd news items.

We begin with a doozy. According to a Nov. 6, Reuters new report, Workers to Donate Sperm to Pay Plant debts. Excuse me for just a second. . . HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! There, I'm back.

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Workers at a Romanian car factory have decided to donate sperm to get the debt-ridden plant out of the red, private television ProTv reported on Tuesday.

Myself, I'd probably start scanning the want ads before I volunteer my little swimmers to save my job. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy my current work environment, and I'm pretty good at my job, but doing the five finger knuckle shuffle in the name of job security just seems a little severe.

WORKER: Hi, honey! I'm home!

WIFE: How was work today?

WORKER: Oh, good, I guess. Seems the plant has some sort of financial concerns, so I may seem a little less than "interested" in you for awhile. But, don't take it personally. I'm simply going to be masturbating to save my job.

WIFE: Oh, okay. Would you like a sandwich?

"Our feasibility study shows that if 1,000 workers donate their sperm for several months, we can get enough funds to pay part of the plant's debts," Ion Cotescu, trade union leader at ARO Campulung, told ProTv.

Feasibility study? Here's a thought. Rather than conducting expensive feasibility studies on worker sperm donation, perhaps the union could have dedicated the money to something a tad more productive like, say, keeping its members fed for a couple of weeks.

I'd actually like to see that feasibility study, you know, provided the pages aren't stuck together. Two other things strike me in that totally rich sentence. First, the union isn't asking for a one-time "donation." No, they want workers to donate sperm for several months! Second, with 1,000 workers donating sperm for several months, they can only garner enough money to pay part of the plant's debts. Facing that kind of bankruptcy, you'd think they would throw in the towel. Er, I guess they are kind of throwing in the towel. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

Cotescu said the decision came after reports in the local media said a fertility clinic in the western city of Timisoara offered donors the equivalent of $50 a visit. The monthly average wage in Romania is around $150.

Now we're talking! Fifty bucks a pop?! And here I've been tossing off all these years for free! I'm such a fool. I could have been a millionaire by now, or at least really, really, really well off! Seriously, with that type of money, um, up for grabs, I'd quit my job at the factory and just "donate" for a living, and I'd probably skip to work each day while whistling a jaunty tune.

Cotescu told Reuters the sperm donation scheme also amounted to a protest against the government's privatization authority APAPS which had failed to find a strategic investor for the plant.

"They always told us to come up with a solution. Now, we have found one that even the best economists have never thought of. I hope APAPS will like it," he said.

Sheesh. Here in America we've been wasting out time with strikes and picket lines.

Okay, it's tough to follow up a good sperm donation news story, but there are a couple of other nuggets that I need to share.

According to another Reuters article from Oct. 31, Bed Forces Sleepyheads To Rise In the Morning.

NUREMBERG, Germany (Reuters) - A German schoolgirl has invented a "merciless bed" to ensure that sleepyheads get up in the morning.
The bed gradually raises the mattress after an alarm rings. After five minutes, the sleepyhead is rolled onto the floor.

"I constructed it myself," Iris Koser, 16, said at an exhibition of inventions this week.

Believe it or not, that's the entire news article. But, I guess it pretty much explains the important details. Now, I have to admit, when it comes to alarm clocks, I'm a chronic snooze button pusher. My fastest movement of the day is when I shoot forth my sleep-heavy paw and slap the snooze button. Total elapsed time -- .3 seconds. Given my love affair with the snooze button, I'd probably get pretty pissed at a bed that tumbles me to the floor. Besides, considering my stubborn sleep nature, I'd simply curl up on the floor and sleep for an additional four hours.

But, leave it to the Germans to come up with inventions that cancel each other out. According to News of the Weird, German inventor Matthias Knigge said he has developed a desk with an inflatable airbag, for office workers looking for a quick nap (Hamburg).

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2002

A Place to Call Home,

A Place to Call Home, Sort Of

Since I began college in 1993, and in the years following, I've called a total of six different places "home."

Although I'm not a huge fan of uprooting myself and moving to a new apartment or house every year or so, I have resigned myself to the fact that, as a young man trying to
find his niche, I'm destined to shuffle around nomadically for an indefinite stretch of time.

I've learned some very enduring lessons as a result of living in six different places with ten different roommates over a span of only about nine years. The biggest
lesson, I've leaned again and again, is that no place is perfect.

My first year of college at Winona State University saw me living in a former nun's quarters (and, no, I'm not kidding). Lourdes Hall, a recent WSU acquisition, was a
sprawling expanse about a mile or so off campus that was the site of the former College of St. Theresa. Anyway, the building I was assigned to (or imprisoned in) was, according to campus legend, a former nun's quarters. It wasn't hard to believe either. In addition to a concrete floor, concrete walls, a fifteen foot-high concrete ceiling and a steel door that went "clang" when it closed, the room also had an old-fashioned steam grate heater that got so hot that, come winter, it melted my shoes from two feet away.

I did what I could to make my first college room seem non-nunnish, but I just couldn't mask the room's convent appeal. No matter how many Budweiser and "girlie"
posters I put up, I still felt as if I had to kneel and ask forgiveness after every exam that I cheated on or woman I messed around with.

The only entertaining aspect of the room was that I had access to the hot and cold water shut off valves to my wing's bathroom facility. Whenever my neighbors, with
whom I carried on an escalating year-long war, used the shower, I would delight in denying them access to either cold or hot water, depending on my mood. You could hear them screaming practically all the way down the hall when their once-relaxing shower became an inferno, or a cryogenic chamber, all according to my whim.

In the two years following my stint as a male nun, I settled in a fairly nice house, which I shared with a former high school classmate, Troy, and a devil-may-care comedian, Luke. The building's owner, Kevin, also lived in the house and, for the most part, except for the fact there was only one bathroom, it was a pretty pleasant stay.

Eventually, Luke moved out and, after about one week of cleaning up used condoms, and an additional week of airing it out, I moved into his room. It was an ideal situation for two full years, until Kevin decided to get married and we had to leave. Troy and I understood. If there's one thing about married life I've noticed, it's that people don't want two strangers living in the same house.

Troy and I set out on the difficult task of finding a new apartment, and we quickly hooked up with three other acquaintances who were doing the same. When we heard
there was a house for rent for five people, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, it was an entire house with five bedrooms; it had to be simply glorious. As it turned out, that house was, quite possibly, the biggest dump in the entire city of Winona that had not quite yet reached "condemned" status.

When I pulled up to that house for the first time, I was struck by its unique porch. Literally, a small board fell from the roof and struck me in the forehead. In addition to
the rotted middle porch support which rested on rotted porch boards, there was a pair of rotted couches sitting outside, for no particular reason except that they smelled really, really bad.

The inside of the house was, thankfully, much better than the porch indicated. For one thing, the five couches that sat in the huge living room didn't smell nearly as bad as the two on the porch.

Why so many couches? One thing about having five roommates is that everyone has a couch or two they can't bear to part with. If there was one good thing about that dilapidated monstrosity called a house, it was that I was never hurting for somewhere to sit.

Of course, I ended up in the smallest room in the house. My room was so small, it didn't even have it's own closet. Rather, my closet was out in the hall, an unfortunate placement because, since our house was a well-known party shack, my clothes were regularly barfed on by party-goers who couldn't find the bathroom.

Our house was eventually dubbed the "Shark Shack," so named for the plastic life-sized hammer-head shark we mounted on the wall. Despite, the grungy carpet, dirt-streaked walls, filthy ceiling and overall mangled structure, the "Shark Shack" was, without a doubt, the most care-free and fun place I lived throughout my college days. It was amazing how much fun I had living in a house that could only be described as "disgusting."

I've lived in three other places since leaving the "Shark Shack," and I'm sure I'll have just as many, if not more, places I'll call home in the future. But, I've learned a lot from the places I've lived and from the people I've lived with.

I know, for example, that I never want to be a nun, and I'm no longer afraid of sharks. I've also learned that you can never have too many couches.

Posted by Ryan at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2002

Redundancy in Advertising I was

Redundancy in Advertising

I was rollerblading with the girl last night in temperatures more suited to hunting polar bears, but whatever. After about six miles, we passed a dentist's office called Family Dentist Tree (get it, dentist tree (dentistry), yeah, it's pretty lame). Anyway, aside from a somewhat witty play on words, the office also touted "Gentle Dental Care."

Oh, it's gentle dental care. Well, I was hoping for a place that dealt a little more in pain and suffering, so I guess I'll keep looking. I mean, really, are people that concerned that they'll enter a medieval dungeon with a rack and boiling oil that they need to see an office that advertises a gentle approach? Imagine a television commercial for a "pain only" approach to dentistry:

DENTIST: We here at "Drill 'em and Fill 'em" don't believe in novicaine or nitrous oxide. Pain killers are for wussies, and they're just expensive add-ons. No, our dentists are specifically trained to offer our patients only shots of J&B whiskey or Yukon Jack. Yes, feel dental work as it was meant to be felt, with screaming pain and occasional fainting. Come to "Drill 'em and Fill 'em" today, and crap your pants when you see the size of our pain-inflicting instruments.

Come to think of it, maybe Family Dentist Tree had to include the "Gentle Dental Care" addendum after an unfortunate string of accidents. Maybe, after years of whacking out teeth with hammers, the folks at Family Dentist Tree discovered that business would do better if they offered a more gentle approach and felt compelled to advertise their newfound gentleness.

Whatever the reason, I think it's still pretty stupid.

You know what though? I have the same general gripe about a lot of restaurants that offer "Good Food" or "Fine Italian Cuisine." As opposed to what? A heaping pile of donkey dung on a platter? "Oh, look honey, this place says it has 'Good Food.' Let's eat here, because that place down the street that offers 'Dog Ass Grub' just doesn't sound like something I'm in the mood for right now."

And, really, I kind of figure that, when I go to a place called "India Garden," I'm probably going to see a menu that features Indian food. I don't need the neon sign telling me that they feature "Authentic Indian Cuisine." Are there Indian restaurants out there that specialize in faux-Indian cuisine? Where the tandoori chicken is, in fact, the Colonel's Secret Recipe? Where the special Indian nan bread is actually Roman Meal or Wonder?

At any rate, I'm finished with my rant. In conclusion, I totally agree with Tammy when she says that Strong Bad is the best. He'll have you laughing till you stop. How's that for a glowing endorsement?

Posted by Ryan at 11:30 AM | Comments (4)

November 06, 2002

Ugh, Republican Hangover You know

Ugh, Republican Hangover

You know how, after a night of excessive drinking with your friends, you wake up and the mere mention of beer, or the smell of your own alcohol-laden breath, makes your head pound like the one armed drummer from Def Leppard and you go sprinting to the toilet to see if there's anything to expell? And then, after your stomach muscles have finished clenching, you cough into the bowl three times for good measure, and then drag yourself in front of the mirror to ascertain that you do, indeed, look like absolute shit. Well, that's how I feel today after watching the Republicans take control of the Senate.

I simply can't look at any more today. The beaming face of Trent Lott makes me want to barf in a way usually reserved only for Jack Daniels residue clinging to my stomach lining. *erp* Oh, there's Norm Coleman, fresh off his victory over Mondale. *shudder* Huh, 20 of 36 governorships went Republican. *heave* *splash*

Yes, if pushed, I have to admit that I'm primarily a Democrat in nature. Sure, if I one day find myself to be a billionaire CEO of some ridiculously large corporation, I'll probably change my tune, but until then the conservative coalition called the Republican party strikes me as a pack of fat cats suckling the money teats of businesses that want to free themselves from such irritating government shackles as trust-busting and environmental safeguards.

Not that the Democratic party is flawless, God no. But, at least with the Democrats you have the chance to see genuine change, an experimental push in an unpopular direction because, in the end, it's the right thing to do. Or at least that's my idyllic view of how the Democratic party should operate. As it stands right now, the Dems have about as much direction as Stevie Wonder on a hunting trip in the Amazon.

Watching the Minnesota Democratic campaigns this year was akin to watching a roomful of toddlers trying to understand the complexity of an erector set. They couldn't find focus, and they couldn't find any issues that resonated with voters. All they could pretty much say was, "I'm a Democrat, and I stand for something, er, I think." And, when I voted yesterday, I felt strangely hollow when I checked a Democrat, because I couldn't remember any one thing they stood for, beyond the fact that they were Democrats. That's not voting, that's resigned indifference. "Well, whatever."

Not so the Republicans. I have to hand it to them. This year, they played the fear card brilliantly, focusing on the war on terrorism and Gulf War II to help scour over Bush's dismal economic record thus far. I honestly believe that the American public is still so scared of terrorism that they'll vote for a referendum calling for mandatory genital piercing if it means they can feel just a little more secure. And, as much as I despise the guy, "W" has a calming effect on people, like having a favorite uncle who doesn't know too much but who tells neat stories to take your mind off things. Which is why Bush's whirlwind campaigning for Rebublican candidates over the last couple of weeks worked so well. Bush shows up in Minnesota, and for the next few days you see newspaper front pages sporting his confused yet happy mug. "Bush is here! Bush is here! I feel better, so now I'll vote for Coleman."

So now we get to look forward to two years of Republican control, two years of watching Bush swagger around as if this election established a mandate for his presidency. War with Iraq can now proceed quickly, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I hate to think of the U.S. acting alone. We'll see even more corporate collapses quietly swept under the rug, we'll see drilling in Alaska for oil we're not even sure is there, and we'll see global warming get a jumpstart from relaxed government standards on emissions. In short, we'll see a whole lot of nothing being done when a whole lot of something could be getting done. Oh, my head just hurts.

*retch* *hurl* *ker-vomit*

Posted by Ryan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2002

Running a Late Campaign I

Running a Late Campaign

I recently decided that I need to take a more active role in politics, because I think "Senator Rhodes" sounds just totally super-cool. Therefore, I am hereby announcing my own write-in campaign to run for everything.

That's right, I'm running for everything, whether it be a coveted Washington senate seat, a school board post, or a high school hall monitor, I'm calling on you, the American citizen, to vote Rhodes for something. Anything. Whatever it is, I assure you, I'm the best person for the job.

I realize I'm running my campaign a little late in the election season, but I'm here to tell you I will campaign vigorously starting, and ending, today. Sure, it's election day, and my chances at winning anything are decidedly slim, but I'm nothing if not optimistic. So, get out there people, and remember to vote for Ryan Rhodes, you know, for whatever.

Now, I know what you're thinking; you're thinking "Sure, Ryan Rhodes is a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness, but what does he know about politics and today's hot issues?"

I'll admit it, I don't know much about politics outside of the television series The West Wing, and hot issues for me usually revolve primarily around the "brunettes verus blondes versus redheads" debate. But, because I want to be a dedicated public servant, someone you'd trust to be in whatever post it is you're voting for, I'll work tirelessly to familiarize myself with today's hot political topics, whatever they are, provided I can still play computer games once in awhile.

For example, it has recently come to my attention that social security is a matter of great concern for many Americans. I guess it has something to do with money for retired people or something. Well, because I like money, and I'd also like to retire some day, social security is important to me too, I guess.

Many people advocate putting social security away in a lock box. I believe this is a terribly bad idea, mainly due to the cruelty inherent in locking poor social security away like a common criminal, denying it basic rights. Who are we to lock up social security, shackling it behind bars, preventing it from seeing his wife and little social securitots? Nay, I say, nay! Let social security be free. Free social security!

Still other people are proponents of the privatization of social security. This, too, is a bad idea. We can't allow something as important as social security to have too much privacy. Seriously, what is social security up to that he wants to keep himself so private? Just a short while ago, social security was in danger of being put in a lock box, so he obviously can't be trusted too much. Does social security have ties to al Queda? In this new world of global terrorism, we can't have social security scheming away in private. No. Keep social security public. Public social security!

Another hot political topic is an apparently imminent attack on Iraq. Now, I just did some thorough Internet research on Iraq, and I discovered some pretty shocking details. For example, I learned that there are people living in Iraq. No, I'm not making this up. Honestly, there are people living in Iraq. Here we are planning an attack on Iraq, apparently oblivious to the presence of nearly 21 million people.

Instead of attacking Iraq and disrupting the lives of so many people, I think we should attack Nebraska. After all, it sounds a lot like Iraq and there's hardly anybody there, so we can attack to our heart's content. Yes, we should focus all of our attacking rage on Nebraska. Attack Nebraska!

Finally, I've been informed that the American economy recently fell to its weakest level in nearly ten years. Now, as a fledgling politician, I find the shape of the economy deplorable. I'm appalled that the economy let itself go to such a pathetic degree. Look at those flabby economic arms and that sagging GDP beer belly. Disgusting.

I pledge to you, the American voter, that I will work to whip the economy back into shape, primarily through a rigorous exercise regimen and the Atkins diet. Yes, all those currently unemployed muscles will strain under the Ryan Rhodes economic exercise program but, rest assured, we'll have a nice, strong economy that we're not afraid to show off to other countries. Our economy will proudly answer the door without wearing a shirt, showing those softies in France and Germany its rock-hard economic abs. Yes, our economy will go from a beer belly to a six pack. Beer belly to six pack!

So, get out there, America, and vote me in to some elected position somewhere!

Posted by Ryan at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

You'll Hate Me, But. .

You'll Hate Me, But. . . Las Ketchup

You'll hear them once, and you'll say, "what the hell is this crap?"

You'll hear them twice, and you'll say, "they're playing this crap again?"

You'll hear them three times, and you'll say, "why are they still playing this?," but you'll notice that your feet are tapping, and you're coming up with your own version of the Macarena.

Come the fourth time, "The Ketchup Song," as it is known, sung by Las Ketchup (three girls, two okay, one cute) will have you wondering why you, a sane person, find this mindless diddy so damn entertaining).

If you know why, please comment. I can't write any more because I'm trying to come up with my own dance.

Posted by Ryan at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2002

Election Eve and Two Almost-accidents

Election Eve and Two Almost-accidents

So, I'm driving around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area this weekend, and practically every street corner was adorned with a truly horrifying number of campaign placards, a dizzying array of colors and names that pretty much amount to pollution stuck in the ground. Even prostitutes must travel past those corners and think they look trashy.

PROSTITUTE: Oh, my, God! I can't believe they allow trash like that to just sit on a corner all day long, trying to entice voters. I wonder how many tricks I'm going to turn tonight.

I don't know about you, but I'm not swayed in the least by those elections signs. When confronted with 28 election boards on a single corner, my eyes don't have time enough to digest the conflicting colors, let alone concentrate on a single name. To counteract this effect, people should be more creative in their placement of election placards. Hey, isn't election day pretty close to Christmas (according to most retailers it is)? So, why not put a stuffed Santa in a sleigh, and then string out the placards as if they're reindeer?

"On Daschle, on Dutcher, on Coleman, on Gutknecht, on Mondale, on Penny, on Canfield, on Ozment!"

Of course, I still wouldn't be swayed, but I'd give points for creativity. Only one more campaign day to endure. Can I make it?

Also during my weekend of traversing the metro area, I was treated to two almost-accidents, incidents that involved screeching tires and wide-eyed anticipation of onlookers eager to witness the crunching of metal and a little mayhem. Alas, both times, the drivers were able to avert disaster, denying us expectant bystanders the carnage we so richly deserved to witness.

I have yet to see a full-fledged accident unfold before me and, quite frankly, I'm getting tired of waiting. Oh, sure, I always see the aftermath, with emergency vehicles on-scene and personnel working to free the drivers and any passengers. But, I've never seen two vehicles smash into each other, never seen the crumpling metal and shattering glass, and I just think that would be cool. It would give me a neat story to relate. Instead, I'm treated to "almost-accidents," and no one really wants to hear about those.

Posted by Ryan at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2002

Friday Slack Attack It's almost

Friday Slack Attack

It's almost 4 p.m., and I can't for the life of me find the ambition to perform work-related tasks. Somehow, sifting through press releases for the product news section of our magazine and writing an article on the role of instant messaging software in the workplace just don't strike me as entertaining in the face of a waning Friday afternoon that actually allowed the sun to shine for a change. Instead, I want to do pointless, non-productive things, like write dirty limericks.

There once lived a hot looking mama,
Who's fellatio could put men through trauma.
She'd nibble and bite,
And wrap her lips tight.
Who knew head could entail so much drama?

An old man had a very large nut sac,
So he had surgery to have it cut back.
As for the extra skin,
The Doc kept it for him.
And it makes just an excellent backpack.

Okay, I'm sufficiently disturbed by my disgusting poetry. Back to work.

Posted by Ryan at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

Yes It's Cold, But I'm

Yes It's Cold, But I'm Still Running

It has been a cold October, even by Minnesota standards. The temperature read 26 this morning, and I'm betting it wasn't much warmer last night as the tots of the world wrapped themselves in their scariest best and begged for candy.

Still, I've had an unusually lazy week, despite a mid-week visit by the girlfriend that resulted in much sweaty sex (shhhhh, I may be falling for her). I ran five miles on Sunday and I did two hours of hapkido Tuesday night, but that's been about it. I was feeling guilty about my lazy approach to the week, but I still opted for a two hour nap last night after work.

I wrestled free from my bed's warm embrace at 7:30, cursing myself for my snooze button addiction. I hurriedly donned my warm running outfit, strapped myself with my mp3 player, and ventured outdoors. And it was fucking cold! Holy balls! Determined to head off hypothermia and/or frostbite, I started running at an unusually fast clip.

About a mile into my jaunt, I acclimated to my cold surroundings, and my body started generating enough heat to activate a few sweat glands. With warmth taking control of my body, I was able to look around and fully appreciate my Halloween run.

Vehicles loaded with eager children, decked out in costumes they no doubt obsessed over for the last three weeks, ambled from door to door, with a parent behind the wheel wearing the obligatory multi-colored clown wig. Older children, more experienced when it came to the art of trick or treating, went door-to-door without parents, loading their bags with enough sweets to make Willy Wonka puke for hours.

Three miles into my run, I felt something smack the dead center of my back. I wasn't sure what it was, and I was too intent on my run to really give it much thought, so I kept on running. By this time, my whole body was damp with sweat, so stopping would have been monumentally stupid because it would have given the perspiration the excuse it needed to freeze. I had flashbacks to the Loony Toons St. Bernard with the cask of rum under the neck trying to thaw me out. No thank you. Must keep running.

After completing my five mile jaunt, I walked the final two blocks to the house, my entire body steaming in the crisp Minnesota air. I walked into the kitchen and removed my sweatshirt, only to discover an egg yolk in the direct center of the back.

Trick or treaters can be such fuckers.

Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker.

Posted by Ryan at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)
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