The Glee Club

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Coffee Chat Of Doom

So I think it's about time I told the story about the morning I was jarred out of a sound sleep by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Well, you know, how does one start a story like this? I was minding my own business, sleeping (is it possible to mind someone else's business while sleeping? if so, please advise), and as much as I'd like to labor you with a lot of expository build-up to the big event of this story, there's not a whole lot else to say except that I remember waking up to a big loud crash and all of a sudden there are four enormous horses in my living room with four rather nasty looking ghouls mounted atop each beast.

Actually, I'd say they were more wraithlike than ghouly. But I don't really want to give up the word "ghoul" to describe them. They were ghouly wraiths. Wraithy ghouls. You couldn't go wrong with either description, really.

Needless to say, this woke me up in a way that was not exactly soothing. I sat bolt upright in my bed.

"You broke my desk!" I screamed.

The four ghouls rattled some chains on their cloaks and did whatever it is that ghouls do when they break into someone's apartment. It was all very dramatic and presentational.

"WE ARE THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE," they groaned in unison.

"Okay," I said. "Well, I don't care if you're Fleetwood Mac. You're still paying for this property damage."

The largest of the four gloomy wraithy people bristled and said, "DO YOU NOT FEAR THE END TIMES?"

I considered this for a moment, and replied that it was too large a question for me to field on the spot, though I confided that I do tend to feel bad when I'm late for work.

The large figure floated of its horse (which was really cool, by the way) and removed the large black cowl from its head, revealing a glowing green skull with burning red eyeballs which looked as if they were made of fire. Its teeth were filed to monstrous points, and snakes slithered menacingly over its scalp.

"I AM DEATH!!!" it hissed.

"Don't be so hard on yourself. We all have image issues," I said, trying to be supportive.

"I CANNOT CONTROL MY T-ZONE," it bellowed with great existential angst.

"Tell me about it," I said, reaching for the Biore strips on my nightstand. "Winters are a bitch on my skin. I have to moisturize, like, constantly."

"YOU ARE DOOMED," Death hollered.

"Right?" I said, peeling my facial strip. "Sometimes I'll literally slather Carmex all over my face in the morning and I still end up looking like a walking pie crust at the end of the day. It's pretty bad."

At this point, another of the wraiths chimed in.

"DID SOMEONE MENTION PIE?"

This second creature hopped off its horse and fell to the floor with a great ker-flump. Actually, it wasn't so great. The second wraithy thing wasn't very heavy, so it was more of a mediocre ker-flump.

"I AM FAMINE!" It said to me in a wavering moan.

It lowered its hood to expose an emaciated face, its ghoulish appearance obviously ravished by severe malnutrition.

"Oh my god, you have the most sexy cheekbones," I said to it. Because it did. I would kill for this ghoul's facial features. So sharp. So classic. So Euro.

"THANK YOU," Famine groaned to me. "DO YOU HAVE PIE OR NOT?"

I didn't have any pie for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, unfortunately. I never plan these things out ahead of time. I'm bad with that kind of thing. I apologized to Famine, adding that I did have an unopened bag of granola I could share.

"DOES IT HAVE A GOOD CRUNCH TO IT?" Famine asked.

"Well, I don't know," I said. "I think it's pretty fresh. I mean, it's unopened."

"I LIKE A GRANOLA WITH A GOOD CRUNCH TO IT, OR ELSE WHY BOTHER. IF IT DOESN'T HAVE THE TEXTURE OF A GRAVEL ROAD, I FEEL LIKE I DON'T GET MY FIBER."

"That's fair," I said. "Speaking of granola, what brings you nice Horsemen of the Apocalypse to my neck of the woods this morning?"

A third horseman waved its arms dramatically and made its cape twirl in a way that was really impressive but surely difficult to re-enact, kind of like when you were in school and your shoe made a farty noise and everyone would notice and think you passed gas, and you'd try really hard to re-create the noise with your shoe and you couldn't do it and nobody would believe you didn't let one rip, which just for the record, never happened to me, or if it did, I've let go of the trauma because I'm a well-adjusted person, you petty bitches.

"I AM PLAGUE!" the twirly wraith said in a very girly voice.

The fourth horseman looked at the third horseman. "NO YOU'RE NOT", the fourth horseman said, clearly annoyed. "I AM PLAGUE! YOU ARE PESTILENCE!"

The third horseman sighed. "ARE WE GOING TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN?"

"YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET RIGHT WITH YOURSELF, PESTILENCE," the fourth horseman said. "I CAN'T DO IT FOR YOU."

"Actually," I said, "I don't think you're Plague at all. Aren't you supposed to be War?"

"DON'T FIGHT MY BATTLES FOR ME!!!" the confused wraith whined.

I didn't know what was going on, so I just kind of shrugged at the third horseman and said "he's right, you know." I don't know why I said that, other than I kind of felt like I was on Oprah, only it was apparently the end of the world or something.

"SILENCE, MORTAL!" the four shrieked in unison, sounding like a cross between a murder of crows and Barry Gibb.

I explained to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that I didn't appreciate being dismissed as a "mortal" and being told to silence in my own home. I told them that I was feeling really alienated and uncomfortable with their admonition and that it would be kind of like if some friends and I came over to their house and just out of nowhere said, "shut your piehole, you silly ghoul". The Horsemen said they understood what I was saying and that we could probably work through this conflict without having to bring in a mediator. I agreed. I told them I appreciated this little time-out. They agreed. Then I asked them if I was doomed.

"ALL HUMANS ARE DOOMED!" Death bellowed.

"There you go again with the 'human' stuff," I said. "Did you listen to anything we were just talking about?"

"I CAN'T DECIDE IF I'M CRAVING SAVORY OR SWEET," Famine interrupted. "MAYBE BOTH. I COULD DO WITH A SALAD BAR RIGHT NOW, TO BE REALLY HONEST."

One of the horses pooped on my television set.

"Horse just pooped on my TV," I announced to anyone who cared. Nobody did.

"I FEEL THAT WE MAY BE HITTING A CONVERSATIONAL LULL," Declared Death. "THE TIME HAS COME TO CUT TO THE CHASE, MORTAL."

"INDEED," Famine said. "WE MUST SPREAD CALAMITY ACROSS THE LAND; THERE IS NO FURTHER TIME FOR DAWDLING WITH THIS FOOLISH HUMAN."

"ENOUGH OF THIS FOOLISHNESS!" Pestilence chimed in. "I WILL NOT BEAR ONE FURTHER MOMENT OF THIS INSOLENCE!"

"I'M NOT SURE YOUR COMMENT WAS ALTOGETHER APPROPRIATE, PESTILENCE," Plague chided.

"ARE YOU CRITICIZING MY HUBRIS AGAIN?" Pestilence replied with more than a trace of annoyance in its cold, eerie voice.

"IT'S LIKE I KEEP TELLING YOU," Plague replied. "YOU KEEP RUINING THE MOMENT FOR THE REST OF US. IT'S LIKE WE'RE TRYING REALLY HARD TO BE 'HELLRAISER' AND YOU DRAG US DOWN TO 'SPACEBALLS'. IT'S NOT FAIR. YOU RUIN EVERYTHING."

"WELL, FINE," Pestilence said. "IF THAT'S HOW YOU FEEL, MAYBE I SHOULD JUST QUIT. IF YOU THINK YOU LOOK STUPID NOW, JUST WAIT UNTIL I'M GONE. THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE WILL LOOK PRETTY STUPID WITH ONLY THREE OF YOU."

"HA!" Plague replied. "DON'T FLATTER YOURSELF. YOU'RE UTTERLY REPLACEABLE. AND I HEAR MELANIE GRIFFITH IS LOOKING FOR WORK."

Pestilence pouted. "FINE, WHATEVER. I'LL STAY. I NEED THE HEALTH BENEFITS."

I dared to chime in. "So, um, can we get to why you're here?"

"YOU DARE TO CHIME IN?" Death squealed, in a voice that sounded a little girly.

"It's just that I have to be at work in about 45 minutes and you guys are cutting into my primp time," I replied.

"WE COME BEARING AN IMPORTANT OBJECT FOR YOU," Famine said.

Hearing this, I felt sure that my life was about to take a sharp, dramatic change. I'd always secretly longed for my Joseph Campbell Power of Myth Decoder Ring moment, and buddy, this was it. What did these legendary bringers of end times have for me that was so special? The holy grail? A loch ness monster egg? A spare set of keys to Stonehenge? The Talking Heads box set I've been wanting? My mind literally boggled. And a boggled mind is a special thing, let me tell you. It goes great with coffee.

"WE BRING YOU COFFEE!" Death said, whipping a Starbucks venti from the folds of his mothbitten, bloodstained cape.

"Gross!" I screamed, shielding my face with my arms.

"OH, MAN UP ALREADY," Death moaned. "IT'S NOT LIKE I DRANK FROM IT."

"But it's cold!" I exclaimed. "I can't drink cold coffee! That's nasty!"

"SO MICROWAVE IT," Famine said.

"You know microwaved coffee doesn't taste right," I said with a glare. "It has to be fresh and hot or else it tastes skanky."

"THAT'S NOT ENTIRELY TRUE," Famine said.

"Then you take that lukewarm coffee and you dance your happy ass into my kitchen and nuke that coffee and drink it yourself," I said.

"NO."

"Ha!" I laughed. "See?"

"WELL, THIS VISIT WAS A REAL BUST," Pestilence mumbled.

Plague shot Pestilence a dirty look. Famine glared at Pestilence. And if looks could kill, the look Death was giving Famine would...well, you get the idea.

"So, let me get this straight," I said. "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse crashed into my home this morning to bring me coffee?"

"PRETTY MUCH," Death said.

"I'm guessing I'm not going to have a very good day at work today," I sighed.

"YOU COULD READ INTO IT THAT WAY," Famine said.

Plague shuffled its metallic feet sheepishly. "WE WERE TRYING TO BE SUBTLE ABOUT IT."

"Well, you guys tried," I said, trying to reassure them. "You should probably go, though. I need to tack some blankets over this big hole in the wall where you guys crashed into my home, and then I have to get ready for work."

"OKAY," Death said. "WE'RE REALLY SORRY ABOUT THE WALL, BY THE WAY."

"It's okay," I mumbled.

"REALLY. WE'LL PAY FOR IT. IF YOUR LANDLORD GETS UPSET, JUST TELL HIM WE'LL BE IN TOUCH. SERIOUSLY."

"No worries," I said.

"I'M REALLY SORRY THE HORSE POOPED ON YOUR TELEVISION," Famine added in.

"I think you guys really need to leave now," I said calmly.

And so, in a blaze of brimstone and hellfire (which, by the way, scorched my sofa - THANKS GUYS), they were gone.

And, as fate would have it, work really sucked that day. And, quelle surprise, I never heard from any of those jerks again, with the possible exception of a package I got with no return address, which merely bore a wadded up coupon for 15% off my next purchase at Home Depot.

The coupon? Expired. Thanks a lot, Death.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Math Homework

I go to a movie with $10.00. I buy a candy bar for $3.00. I play Donkey Kong for $2.00. Now I'm hot. Do I have enough money to buy an ice cream cone for $2.75?

MY ANSWER: You could buy a box of Little Debbies for a dollar and play Galaga for free on the Internet. Because you are so stupid with money, you may be able to afford your precious ice cream cone, but it's obvious you don't deserve it. Give me all your money, and if you tell your parents about this, I'm sending Freddie and Jason over to your house tonight.



There are 175 cookies and three children. How many cookies does each child get?

MY ANSWER: None. How about that? Who are these children and why am I feeding them cookies all of a sudden? You're awfully presumptuous. Do I get names? Even people who sponsor third world children get letters every now and again. I get nothing except your passive aggression. I'm tired of this. I told you things were going to change. So NO cookies for the children - and YOU get to explain to them why that is.



Jerry and Bill live far away from each other, but have made plans to travel an equal distance to meet for a vacation. If Jerry lives 1,047 miles from the meeting spot and Bill lives 1,123 miles from the meeting spot, and each have to pay .008% tax for their plane tickets based on mileage (keep in mind Jerry is 24 and Bill is 28), what time should they arrive at their destination?

MY ANSWER: Where the hell are they vacationing - Brokeback Mountain?!?



Glory had 9 gumballs in one pocket and 22 in the other. If she had holes in her pockets and by the time she got home there were only two balls in each pocket, how many gumballs fell out?

MY ANSWER: I think Glory has bigger problems than candy if she has such big holes in her pockets. I'm starting to wonder if perhaps Glory's parents are neglecting their child. Maybe a little bit too much money goes to scratch-off cards and Wild Turkey, if you know what I mean. And clearly the pattern of addiction is trickling down to little Glory. I mean, come on. Twenty-two gumballs??? Telling. Very telling. Get this child away from her parents and find her some counseling before it's too late. Obviously her childhood is shattered. We need to make Glory whole again. What's so funny?



There were 435 dinosaurs and 4,123 unicorns. They sold 988 golden butterflies and 12 ewoks. But they got 5,000 more dinosaurs and 765 more talking lions. How many magic animals are left?

MY ANSWER: Listen, Bjork. You need to hire an accountant or something. This is a bit much for me to process right now.



If Savannah bought 6 books for $3.24 each, how much did she spend on books?

MY ANSWER: I know the kind of books that cost $3.24 each and frankly, I'm disgusted. Peddle your smut elsewhere, trollop. But you should leave a copy behind so I can, um, disperse it to the authorities and whatnot. Not that one - the one with the prison scene on the cover. Yeah. That's the one. Now get out of my decent blog and never let me see your face here again. SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!



It is 56 miles from Al's house to Sue's house. It is 45 miles from Larry's to Sue's. If Al is traveling at 16.6 miles per hour and Larry is traveling at 18 miles an hour, and both boys leave their homes at the same time, which one of the boys will get to Sue's house first?

MY ANSWER: Ooooh! I don't know, but I'm gonna pull up a chair and watch this baby-mama drama play out to the ugly end.



If a cube 8cm by 8cm is painted silver but then cut into 2cm cubic pieces, how many 2cm faces were painted silver?

MY ANSWER: True.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cargo Like Me

One of my favorite commute-to-work games is "Dope Fiend or Cell Fiend", in which I observe those people during my daily bus/train rides who appear to be talking to themselves, in an attempt to figure out if they're babbling away on a hands-free device or merely ranting into the air.

Actually, it's become a very challenging game.

I try to take the bus to work in the morning and I usually like to take the train home at night. I like bussing it to work because it's a slow ride in which I can spend 45 minutes or so waking up, reading a book, listening to my headphones on shuffle with the knowledge that when I first wake up, for some reason every song I hear is The Best Song In The World.

It's a good day when a newer bus lumbers around the corner to pick me up in the morning. The newer buses are warmer and also feature single-seats along the right side of the bus. This no-schmoe insurance has become a source of great comfort for me, as I always seem doomed to sit next to Cuddles McFootsie on public transportation, and I've never been one to humor chronic space invaders gladly.

This morning, alas, I had to suffer a rickety old-skool CTA bus, complete with an authentic drug-fueled full-throttle ranter who was only too happy to work the entire bus in an effort to put on a full-scale, top of the line Five-Star Cracktacular.

This is why I insist on the sense-damaging earbuds with the little soft plastic tunnel designed to burrow directly into one's ear canal. It's much more entertaining to experience someone on full-rant when you can see them acting out in front of you, but you don't actually have to listen to their performance. Let's just call it the New Mime.

At the end of my work day, I like taking the train home from work because it's fast, and the red line wastes no time speeding its passengers out of downtown Chicago's Loop district. On a good day, I'm out the door of my workplace and in the door of my apartment in a short, sweet 25 minutes.

I guess it goes without saying that my transit habits pretty much expose my feelings about downtown Chicago - I'm in no hurry to get there, but at the end of the day, it's time to get the hell outta Dodge.

But my daily migration is based on something else, to be honest. I truly believe the speed of the vessels dictate the tempers of the people riding them. In other words, I think the relative plodding action of the morning bus has a calming effect on the passengers. I think the harried staccato of the CTA trains go right to our adrenal glands.

I've felt it in the morning - taking the train to work can feel like an Olympic event...run three blocks to the station, climb the stairs, brave the cold of the platform and queue strategically so you can be directly next to an entrance when the next train arrives...all the while battling every other cranky soul who's trying to do the same exact thing.

Meanwhile, with the bus, I stumble out of my apartment, walk a block or two down my street, and eventually the #36 yawns down Broadway and scoops me up with a minimum of incident. I can save my O.J. Simpson Avis routine for after work, when I've built up eight hours of fidgety pent-up energy and am willing to kick butt to get back to the relative serenity of my home. Heck, there have been days when I've missed the train by mere moments, and have actually chased the train down the platform to the next stop...and won! It just proves, when it comes to getting home ASAP, I have no problem becoming faster than a speeding locomotive.

Unless I'm riding with someone else, I usually don't like to sit on the train. This is mainly due to packed subway train trauma experienced in my previous life as a New Yorker. Packed peak-hour trains in Chicago are no treat. The train cars hardly provide enough room in which to breathe, and people are mean and smell bad to boot. Multiply this by about 100, and you have a New York subway train. There were days in which the train was so ruthlessly crowded, I wasn't allowed off the train at my stop because the train car was so incredibly packed that people would not - or could not - move to let me out.

Add this to a pre-existing issue with claustrophobia and you've got a Glee Club ready to explode with something less than mirth.

So, part of my Urban Training was the art of staying near an exit at all times, or at least figuring out how to get near the exit within two stops of my destination...while at the same time, not contributing to the problem of the train car's overcrowding problem. People tend to want to bottleneck at the exits of a train car, most likely for the same reason as I want to be near the doors. This, of course, makes it difficult for people to enter or exit the train. So, I make sure I'm the last person to board the train, and I make sure to step off the train when people board, so as not to be in their way. This also benefits me, as I always end up in the same spot - right next to the exit.

I've always thought of New York's subway system and Chicago's El as urban Darwinism at work. The train is not for the plodding rural lollygagger, nor is it for the suburban couch potato whose outlook is "the world is my living room". During rush hours, the train is not particularly even for people who are, as a rule, nice. It's a churlish orgy of entitlement and foul moods, and if you don't stake your ground then someone else will be more than happy to take what little personal space you have and reclaim it as their own...especially if it gets them in a seat or off the train before you.

Sounds awful, and it is. But hey - it gets you home in a flash.

And really, I shouldn't be getting all "jungle law" about the train, because I don't have *THAT* much room to complain - I'm lucky in that my work hours are modified to get me to work before the 9-to-5 transit rush, and to get me home before the daily commuter mosh pit starts to spin its fists and elbows. Even at this advantage, the train is still an obstacle course...but at the end of a typical work day, it's a nice little workout before I hit my doorstep.

And the next morning, the bus will creep down my dark, quiet street and ease me into another day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This Extremely Urgent Missive, Which Completely Justifies The Importance Of The Internet Itself, Was Brought To You By The Number 12 And The Letter B.

Hi.

You know what, you can do a lot with bags.

You can put things in bags, and when it rains, you can put a bag over your head to keep your hairdo from getting wet.

If you have paper bags, you can cut them up and make a wide assortment of craft projects, from masks to Christmas cards to armbands. If the paper bag is small, you can make a puppet and put on a show for your co-workers.

Plastic bags can be tied to your feet and worn as stylish rain boots. Plastic bags can also be placed over your bicycle seat to keep it dry. Plastic bags are also popular tree ornaments in most major metropolitan areas.

In some cultures, people trade bags as a form of currency, though in most of these cultures, you can be arrested or even killed if you try to substitute a sack for a bag. It's important to know the difference, but I can't get into that right now.

Bags are perhaps the most versatile objects in the world, other than water and performance fleece. I didn't mention that you can take a large paper bag, cut two holes in it, and wear it to conceal your identity. You can do that.

Really, there are many things you can do with bags. I think sometimes it's not fair that I don't have the time to come up with new uses for bags. But who could ever have that kind of time? It's like that thing where they put the monkeys in the room with the typewriters and eventually one of them writes King Lear. Only this time, it's bags and not typewriters. It just boggles the imagination.

Thank you. That is all.