REPORT A PROBLEM
a multi-format extravaganza
for your amusement and derision
PRESENTED AS A SERIES
until I get tired of it
formerly the focus and narrator of these
will not appear for a while
presumably due to
LACK OF INTEREST
In other words, I'm going to step outside of my own head for a while, and have some fun for a change.
That guy should have leapt out and stabbed me when he had the chance. That was in March, it was so long ago...
“Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga?”
(indicates loss of sanity)
: The Bareback Horse Rider
She and her horse galloped into the main ring, her strong thighs gripping the animal's midsection. The audience marveled at her skill; her hips matched the horse's up-and-down rhythm, keeping her from being thrown off.
“I wouldn't mind if she did that with me,” I thought, “ha ha ha...”
The entire audience, all at once, turned around to give me a disapproving look for thinking something so crude and obvious. A child cried.
The rider, unperturbed, stood up on her horse's back, performing all manner of exciting gyrations. We were all excited.
“Not inadequacy per se,” said the rider, her arm draped across my chest, “but a false advertisement of adequacy, I would say.”
“It's been a while,” I said sheepishly.
“With practice and training you could improve. I have a riding crop in the trunk of my car.”
“I'm open to that.”
I meant it.
She then offered an unfavorable comparison of my pale, doughy frame to those of the powerful beasts she was used to. I decided to try a gentle approach.
“The gentle approach is a poor substitute for adequacy,” she said. “I have to go.”
: The Clowns
The clowns were sensitive souls who missed their mothers. They wrote letters home once a week, describing their antics. In their spare time, they contemplated their own mortality and bathed the elephants. They were sad clowns.
On stage they performed physical comedy, although their hearts weren't really in it. They also slandered the good name of the bareback horse rider and questioned her virtue. By this time I didn't have the energy to defend her, so I halfheartedly pretended to laugh along with the joke.
Once the show was over, the clowns fell back into melancholia.
“One thing I'll say about him,” said the bareback horse rider, “is that he's extremely loyal. In some ways, he reminds me of a lost little puppy.”
,” said the trapeze artist.
The outcasts and freaks who traveled with the circus were on their lunch break.
“He doesn't appreciate our comedy,” said one of the clowns.
Not sure what to say or do, I picked up my tray and went to eat outside under some trees. A few minutes later the rider came out and sat next to me.
“Your act is getting stale,” she said.
I'm dog-sitting tonight.
I told my friend that I wouldn't take my eyes off him, but in fact it is the dog who will not take his eyes off of me. He follows me around my tiny apartment, alert to my every move. I think he likes my singing.
Now he is all-encompassingly focused on the piece of celery that I am eating. I don't know whether dogs can eat celery, otherwise I would share it with him. He seems content to watch me eat it, and my head swells with pride. To a dog, I am
Sometimes the entire universe exudes menace. Every surface, every empty space, and every living creature through which that universe expresses itself are unified in a dark, violent intensity.
Perhaps you hadn't noticed.
I can't see the road as we speed through the darkness.
Sinister figures seem to float outside the buildings we pass, and I feel uncomfortably exposed to their angry eyes in the well-lit interior of the bus.
We reach a dark, empty stretch of road, so I close my eyes and try to find some comfort by resting my head on the cold window.
How much longer... ?
Tonight, after drinking an entire bottle of wine, my only fun is to believe that no other sentient being has ever suffered as much as I have tonight. For some reason I'm not ashamed to tell you that I cried as much as I've ever cried in my life, I think, and the pain seemed unbearable, and I told it to my real friends, and they still liked me and supported me, and they didn't shrink away, but tried to help me, and it made me feel like the richest person in the world.
Yes, then I cried some more...
Just before we left my apartment she undid her hair, and I watched in awe as it fell around her shoulders.
After saying goodbye at her car I headed home, and just as I was rounding the corner I noticed her sitting at a red light. I slowed down and wondered whether she could perceive my careful observation of those waves and curls in that brief moment before I turned the corner.
It was a cold night. I walked on for about ten paces before I had to turn around to get another look, but by then she was gone.
This guy is giving a presentation, and he's obviously extremely nervous about standing up in front of the class. How can I make him more comfortable?
I nod encouragingly when he makes a point, I rub my chin and try to look interested while he's talking, but the way he's fidgeting with his zipper is just so
I pretend to look down at my book for a second. If he sees me smiling he'll just get more nervous.
zip! zip! zip!
Look up for a second, and...
, I'm going to start giggling.
* I learned a new word:
, a person who choses to be single rather than dating someone simply for the sake of dating.
* 11/11 (lots of ones) is a holiday for single people in China. They have cake and celebrate all of the free time they have.
* The other night before I went to bed I decided to hold an
in my kitchen. I put 1/2 cup of water in a pan to see whether it would all evaporate overnight. The rate of evaporation for my apartment seemed like a perfectly normal thing to be concerned about.
I made the jarring transition from hard-working grad student to penniless bum well enough, but the question is,
what do to now
According to the piece of paper I expect to get in the mail any day now, I am a MASTER of Information Science. What the hell does that mean? People ask me all the time, and each time I shrug my shoulders and tell them that although I could become a librarian, I'd actually like to be something else.
Shall I create a controlled vocabulary for you? Write a poem in XML? Shall I wax your car?
Had she noticed?
We'd had this exact conversation once before, almost word for word. It was my own fault for re-using that joke, but I wouldn't have had to re-use it if our conversation hadn't lapsed so awkwardly.
After dinner I accidentally re-used
joke. I knew she had noticed this time because of the glowering. It was intense and icy. It made me uncomfortable.
After that I was reduced to reciting bits of nursery rhymes, playground gossip from fourth grade, and the lyrics to a commercial jingle for snack cakes that was stuck in my head.
I am unwilling to get out of the shower.
In here I am warm and wet and clean and naked. The roar of the water and the overhead fan block out the telephones and traffic noises. My shampoo smells like kiwis. Yes, I’m pretty happy here in my 48-cubic-foot world.
If it were up to me, I might stay in here all day. However, the limitations of Earth’s fresh water supplies mean that I will have to get out of here eventually. I may as well pull back the shower curtain and face the cold, shriveling world outside.
First there was the lion who came into my garage, roaring and swiping at me. Terrified, I ran into the house and tried to hold the door against his attacks. It seems my house is built on sand, and it's shifting and moving, making it harder to keep the lion out. Eventually even the lion gives up, because he's too afraid to be near this shifting, unstable house.
Then I'm in a classroom, and everything I try to lean on or sit on collapses the second I touch it.
I liked it better when my dreams had less obvious interpretations.
I don't really care
this drink is doing to my body or my mind. Just now I had to move that heavy, ceramic bowl out of arm's reach because I was afraid I would use it to bash my head in. In this state of mind, I think, it's necessary to do whatever you can to make bashing your head in
, and if the only method available to you is getting hammered, you might as well try it.
But then I think about my future, and I wonder how much longer I can keep up this charade.
I saw the most beautiful thing that night... it was a gleaming castle with tall towers and strong-looking walls. I had no idea what I would do once I had reached it, I only knew that I wanted to get closer to what looked like a safe, happy place.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that it was a structure of wire and white Christmas lights, put up in the park as part of a holiday display.
I stood there quietly for a second to compose myself, and got ready to trudge on towards the next illusion.
I met a man in a river of brown, freezing sludge.
We looked at each other, both standing ankle-deep in something nasty. He spoke first.
“What is this, a water main break??”
I shrugged my shoulders, and we began to walk against the current.
“Hey,” he said, “you've gotta love it, right?”
I said that I did not love it, and that my feet were cold.
He held his arms aloft, looked to the sky, and shouted “I LOVE IT!!!”
Before I could stop myself, I grinned and screamed “
I LOVE IT TOO!!!
I thanked him for the lesson.
A friend and his wife were going to visit me before Christmas, but unfortunately she read about Albany, decided that it sucked, and refused to come.
I would understand if she had actually
here, but Albany actually looks pretty good on paper. It’s the state capital, two hours from New York, lots of festivals, a smattering of history, come on! (Not to mention the fact that
here, which is also pretty great.)
In the end, they spent almost a week in Philadelphia, of all places, and I couldn’t help but laugh at their misfortune. Man, that place sucks.
Coffee and Led Zeppelin have become my antidepressants of choice, because it’s impossible to be sad when you’re jittery and bouncing around the room playing air guitar.
bad segue to...
A friend told me that there’s a German word for the sort of depression that sets in when you compare your
world to the
world. I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but I like to believe it because it’s comforting to think that someone experienced that and then made up a word for it, even if I have no chance of being able to pronounce it.
I didn’t expect to hear it from
, especially not during a discussion about education. I told her that I made a bad teacher because I’m too soft-hearted. She asked me to prove that I could be intimidating, and jokingly commanded,
“Be stern with me!”
She must have noticed me closing my eyes for that brief, delicious shudder of pleasure in which I fully considered the implications of that instruction.
Unfortunately, I became so flustered by this that I could only say her name in a thin, high voice and shake my fist weakly, demonstrating a comical lack of sternness.
Our next president should be a big man like the Sumerian leaders of old, with shoulders three cubits wide, arms the size of logs, and strong teeth with which to tear our enemies asunder.
Such a man would have no use for the law, since his actions would create an example to follow, and the fear of his terrible wrath would coerce the people into a perfect obedience. Questions of legitimacy and mandates would be nonexistent, and motions to impeach could be carried out with a simple bare-handed deathmatch.
Vote big strong guy in 2008:
he’ll keep us safe.
Go back to the house where you grew up and remember why you were so angsty as a teenager. With a bit of extrapolation, maybe figure out why you’re so angsty right now.
Politely ask your parents to treat you like you’re twelve. Invite them to scrutinize your eating habits. Make yourself a pawn in the ongoing household squabbles that were hinted at (but never directly discussed) in previous telephone conversations.
Acknowledge that although your family is weird and crazy, this house is the warmest and most welcoming place you know, full of people who accept and love you unconditionally.
For the love of God, stop using the phrase “
at the pump
” when referring to gas prices. I'm serious, guys.
I have some kind of a violent, gut-wrenching reaction when I hear it, and I don't know why. I don't have a car, and I'm not directly affected by the increased gas prices (also, please stop calling it a “price hike”). I think I just don't like the sound of that phrase, and the fact that every two-bit AP news writer thinks it sounds clever means that I have to hear and read it twelve times a day.
According to this video game, I am a terrible king / urban planner. I put the temple of love and wisdom in the center of the city for my people, and the morons grumbled about it because they had to walk too far to get to the fish market. I decided to spend our money on a big park instead of a spear factory, and to encourage art and music in the schools.
Then a bunch of barbarians with spears came in and started killing everyone and setting things on fire.
“I guess this game isn’t for you,” my brother said.
If you have a box full of letters from old friends and lovers, for goodness’ sake throw it into the fireplace right away.
Don’t, as I did, settle in with a cup of tea and flip through them in your comfortable chair. You’ll want to invent a word ten times stronger than “bittersweet” that can describe remembering some of the best people you’ve ever met, then having your guts kicked in because you’ve lost touch with them, or they’re married, or they’ve forgotten you.
I put mine back on the shelf, but do yourself a favor and burn yours immediately.
A Conversation with My Brother (who has a job)
“What did you do today?”
“Did you live life to its
“I bought some vitamins...”
“Is that all?”
“No! I curled up some strips of paper around a pencil and left them on a desk. I figured someone would find them and wonder how they got all curly. Oh, and I played Minesweeper for two hours and did a crossword puzzle. I ate some cookies, too.”
I need to get back to Albany, where I don’t have to hear myself explain how I wasted my day to anyone.
A tiny, mesmerizing sliver of skin was visible between the lacy tops of her stockings and the bottom of her skirt. She had obviously spent a long time at home creating this effect, and it had paid off -- a swarm of guys surrounded her and eagerly fought for her attention.
From the edge of the bar it was impossible to know what they were saying, but it was easy to guess. They had all rehearsed their parts carefully, and they performed them without spontaneity or creativity. She touched their arms, gave them coy looks, and giggled when they spoke.
My thumb traced over the raised letters on the beer bottle. It was brown, like the liquid it and several of its brothers had once contained. Pleasantly drunk, I regarded the symmetry of the bottle with admiration, and enjoyed its cold smoothness in my hand.
I was sure that people were staring at me, but I became increasingly fascinated with the bumps on the bottom of the bottle, and ran my thumbnail along them to produce a captivating Latin rhythm which my friends did not appreciate.
“This thing is a work of
,” I thought, and ordered another.
DECEMBER – Christmas makes everyone happy, and you're left wondering “what the hell is wrong with me?”
JANUARY – New Year's Eve, a time for reflection on how you've spent a whole year without really doing anything significant.
FEBRUARY – Valentine's Day, a time to lie on your couch and drink terrible, cheap wine until you pass out because nobody loves you.
MARCH – Your birthday, a time to reflect on your inevitable death, and the fact that your life has no significance or meaning.
APRIL – It's all rainy outside.
I'm not worried, though, things usually start to turn around in May.
You know what’s fun? Making shit up.
Little kids and fiction writers already knew that, but it’s taken me several months of writing on this site to relearn the simple fact that telling lies is more enjoyable and satisfying than telling the truth. I think they’re more fun to read, too.
If you had a bad day, exaggerate the hell out of it. If one of your friends is acting like a douchebag, turn him into a mega-douchebag. Nobody cares about your bad day or stupid friends, but we all want to hear about heroic suffering and jerky sociopaths.
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