Sunday, March 18, 2007


Stuff like this keeps me guessing:

Just the other day, Girlfriend said this to me while I drove her to Preschool. She said to me: "When I was your grandmother, you had yellow hair and Uncle Marc hit you on the head with a hammer."

"How'd you know that? I never told you that!"

". . . And I have a sister who is dead," she said. "And I miss her."

Shocked, I asked her, hands shaking at the wheel: "What was her name? Do you know her name?"

"Her name was 'Johnny.'"

(Thank goodness she didn't get that part right.)
It's good to feel uncertain. I guess.

Monday, March 12, 2007

How to catch a taxi in Frankfurt

It was a nice warm summer night in Frankfurt's famed redlight district. I was looking for a taxi after having just dropped my girlfriend off at the Hauptbahnhof so she could catch a late train home. We had been out with some squad mates for a night of drinking after being in the field for a month. Long excercises tend to make a growing boy thirsty.

I was walking along, enjoying the lights on the cathouse signs, smelling the food in the Greek place with the killer gyros. Being as it was about 1 A.M. or so, I was also getting tired. The redlight in 1985 was not really the nicest place to be when you're alone, half drunk and tired, and an American soldier. Terrorism was not so much a common occurrence, but things did happen. I once saw a Sergeant get hit by an Audi driven by someone associated with the Red Army Faction--but that's another story. Still, the redlight was full of all kinds of people you wouldn't want to hang around with if you could help it. Druggies and dealers, thieves, and any other miscreant you can think of tended to congregate there. I needed to find a taxi and unass that area of operations.

I rounded a corner hoping to run into a cab, but the night had other plans for me.

The streetlights were not working on this block, as there was a construction site on the other side of the street. Some office building or whatever being built at the time. Since the lights weren't working, it was quite dark on that street, only the lights from the new building and the glow from the next block allowing me to keep from running into anything.

I could see the sillouette of a girl leaning against the wall several meters ahead, casually smoking a cigarette. Getting closer, I saw she had a rather short dress on, and stiletto pumps. Both were red. One of the redlight's famous hookers.

The laws in Germany allowed for prostitution, but the girls were supposed to be inside the cathouses, and not on the street. All newbs arriving in Europe were told not to partake of hookers soliciting outside of established whorehouses, as they were far riskier for diseases, and could very well be thieves, having partners hiding in the shadows, waiting for young , stupid G.I.'s to clip.

I strolled on by the girl, not saying a word. Didn't even make eye contact. I wasn't looking for company. Like I said, I was looking for a taxi so I could drink with my friends some more.

She had other ideas though.

I heard the clicking of her heels on the pavement. I tried to step out a bit more smartly, but she caught up to me anyway. In a rather smokey voice she said to me, "Come in my room, funfzig mark, good fuck!" I told her no thanks, and tried to go about my business. She hooked her arm in mine and, more emphatically repeated herself. "Funfizig mark, good fuck. Let's go in my……."

Like I said, I was tired. Not looking for sex, just a cab, my buds and more booze.

I was also irritated at that point that she would grab my arm.

Before I go any further with this little tale, I should tell you that her voice was more than smokey. It was rather deep. She was also taller than me, and I'm 6'1". Taller by several inches. I was not looking for sex with a woman, let alone with a man dressed like one. And now my personal space was just invaded by a tranny.

About the time he was finishing his sales pitch, I grabbed his arm, spun around and slung him against the brick wall he was leaning against. He kind of bounced off of it, and slumped down rather ungracefully to the sidewalk. The heel of his pump had snapped, throwing him off balance.

He yelled out something in German I didn't quite understand. I just started walking away, looking for a goddamned taxi. A million taxis in this town, and not one anywhere in sight. Never when you need one, eh?

I heard some commotion behind me, and turned around to see five or six more trannys running after me. Big German Trannys in Fishnets. Fucking hell, this is not gonna be my night, is it? I'm in jeans, and leather soled boots which offer no kind of traction on pavement. I'm also tired and half lit, remember?

I'm thinking to myself I have to get the fuck out of Dodge. Now. I start running as fast as I can. I slide around the corner, where at least the lights from the brothels let me find a possible escape route.

Theres this cathouse called the Eros Center. It has three big glass doors. Inside, it's kind of a maze, and is built with what looks like polished marble. The girls that work there sit on barstools in all these corners and you normally walk around til you find one you like, and go upstairs with her. Well, I'm running as fast as I can, on polished marble in the aformentioned leather soled booties, slip-sliding around this marble maze with twenty hookers laughing at me while being chased by six guys in drag who want to kick my ass.

Having frequented this particular establishment in the past (young soldier, remember?), I recalled that there was a stairway that went up to the second floor, and another stairwell that went back down to an exit back on the street where I was sniffing souvlaki on the warm summer breeze.

I haul ass up the steps, make a right, down the hall and steps, out the door.

Lo and Fucking Behold! The gods do have mercy once in awhile.

A taxi where one wasn't not five minutes before, sitting on the curb idling away, and nobody in the back seat.

I dive into the taxi and yell at the driver to get to Sachsenhausen in a goddamned hurry. He looks back at me with his big goofy 80's Euro mustache and tells me, "It's no problem for me man!" He hits the gas and we clear the curb just as the Tranny Gang are busting out the door. I hear them yelling some obscenities as we barrel down the street.

The driver asks me what happened.

I tell him, "Nothing, I was just looking for a taxi."

--Mr. Thel

"Lowest Common Denominator"

Well, that makes sense:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mitigated Woe

And lo, a Snake was summoned from McLendon's Hardware, and Mr. Thel did cajole and contort the Snake to no avail.

So a Plumber was summoned. And behold! His snake didst uncoil itself to a mighty length of One hundred and Ten feet! (Huh huh huh.) The Snake of the Plumber did clear the pipe of its Infernal Plug, and there was much rejoicing. (Also much showering and laundrying.)

But ho, what madness be this? Hast the Plumber uncoiled his Snake most unmannerly and clumsily, that it sulketh asnarl in the Pipe and refuseth to return unto the quiet coil whence it sprang? Indeed!

So lyeth the Snake, a-coiled and a-tangled within the Pipe, for the Plumbing Company must open a manhole in the street to pluck it out, and they have returnethed not to accomplish this Dire Ordeal as of yet.

In other words, it's been patchy good luck around here lately, for which I'm patchily grateful.

The Bad: OH NOES, all the laundry water is coming back up through all the drains in the house AUGH!
The relief factor: Ah well, the plumber cleared the plug without too much effort (until he unfurled his snake into the main line).

Bad: Fuckity fuck fuck, now the plumber says that in the process of trying to rescue the snake his dumbass lackey mishandled, he discovered a break in our pipe!
Oh, well, ok then: The break is in a shallow section of pipe that Mr. Thel can dig out and replace himself for about $30, yay!

Bad: The house three doors down from us was broken into and robbed the other night and one of the inhabitants assaulted.
Redeeming aspect: No, sorry, there was no goodness about that, other than that nobody died. Ugh. (Oh and by the way, German Shepherd of the house? Thanks a lot for sleeping soundly and not alerting us through all the ruckus during and after that. That's very reassuring.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tell it like it was

I haven’t lost very many people close to me in my life yet, and I don’t feel very familiar with the contour lines of grief. I wish I could prolong that unfamiliarity, but I know it’s a terrain I’ll be traversing more and more as I get older.

In the meantime, I'm in here without a map, trying to slash my way through to the other side of sadness, hoping there's something like resignation, if not actually acceptance, on the other side. When I think of Bill, my grief tends to manifest itself in frustration at first. I’ll half-remember an anecdote he told me (Yeah, I was driving through Roseburg on my way back to Berkeley this one time, man...) and find myself thinking damn, I should get him to re-tell it, because I can't remember some detail-—and then memory kicks in, and I am suddenly angry and devastated that he won’t, that he can’t, that it’s just...gone. Whatever detail I forgot, it's gone forever.

I'm terrified that this will happen with Mr. Thel before he has a chance to write down his stories. Oh, man, and does he ever have stories. I mean, my stories at their most exciting are like this:

I was at this rollerskating party for one of my classmates, and they did the "Couples' Skate" bit, which...we were fourth graders, so we just held hands with our friends. And I was holding hands with Kelley Shamblin, who wasn't really my friend but she lived even further up Olalla Road than I did, so we rode the same bus to school together. Plus our parents knew each other; her dad kept rattlesnakes in these dusty aquariums in their house. One time someone told me her older brother Andy kept naked women under his bed, which I took literally for awhile.

Anyway, we were skating and Kelley fell down. I stopped and crouched down next to her to see if she was okay. And when I crouched down, I lost my balance. Both my feet shot out from under me and I slammed forward onto the polished wood without time to put out my hands. My front tooth took the force of the fall; it snapped off halfway down, leaving just this jagged vampiric snaggle behind.

One of the employees came over to take care of the situation. He found the broken-off piece of tooth, and found my mother, and took me aside to ask questions for his incident report. I was shaking, and bleeding, and sniffling, and feeling like a total idiot because everyone was still staring at me. And then this guy totally deadpanned, filling out his form: "What's your name? OK. What's your phone number? OK. Are you married?" And I remember finding it so incredibly ridiculous and hilarious that he would ask me that...that I actually started laughing through my tears, amusement at his joke overriding my embarrassment.

You know, they just glued that piece of tooth back on with some kind of tooth-superglue, and it stayed that way for the next ten years. It finally broke off and I had to get a crown last year.
Hum de freaking drum. And here, by contrast, is part of one of Mr. Thel's stories:
So there I was, running as fast as I could down Oudenarder Strasse with a dozen pissed-off drag queens running after me.

So here I am, running as fast as I can after the people in my life with a pen in my hand, trying to jot down as many of the details as I can before they vanish forever. And that is why I was so irrationally moody yesterday.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Today I'm reading a book called Exploring Washington's Past: a Road Guide to History. The entry on Spokane tells the story of a fire in 1889 that wiped out the fledgling city. The paragraph about the fire concludes, "Leaky hoses used in vain to fight the blaze cost the water superintendent his job (although he was hired back as a private contractor to rebuild the entire water system)."

So first of all I had to re-read it three times to savor the dry humor of the person who could include that tidbit in such a brief history of Spokane. And second of all...well, there's really nothing new under the sun, is there.

That's all for today because we're having a Plumbing Issue...and the nasty underbelly of proud homeownership is the fact that the Landlord, who can, with proper application of the appropriate arcane rituals, occasionally be successfully summoned up by renters to repair such grimy little problems in their dwellings--well, we have to take care of these things on our own now, apparently. We have summoned a Snake, and are hoping that our awkward contortions and self-abasement will please the Snake to find and destroy the Infernal Plug inhibiting the graceful flow of the Waters in our home. I'll let you know the result of our beseeching and our sacrifices.