Thursday, May 13, 2010

To Really Kill a Mocking Bird

Upon arriving home from school, I would change from my white polo shirt and khaki pants into some number clad, brightly colored jersey and the next two hours were spent in the front yard in the heroic sports world of an underdeveloped kid with little coordination and a lot of imagination.

Summers, wearing a white Kansas City, George Brett jersey with the word Royals swathed across the front, with a light weight metal bat, I would hit baseballs from the red brick sidewalk that ran across the front of my family home across the street into our neighbor’s yard, desperate to resemble my favorite player.

Occasionally I would really get hold of a ball and send it flying but for the most part, I would pretend that my high bouncing, self-pitched slugs were game-winning RBI’s, barely screaming between third and short into the outfield. Perhaps I would pop up a sacrifice fly so high and short that I could drop my bat and in a few quick strides, catch the pop-up myself. I found forced gratification in this because in this scenario, I had the option of snagging the game winning out, or I could see myself as a martyr, having unselfishly hit game winning sacrifice fly allowing the runner on third to tag up and then score. The imagination was a great thing when you sucked at sports, as long as you were playing alone.

In winters bats and baseballs were traded out for footballs, and of all things I imagined myself as a place kicker, kicking a field goal in the final seconds of the Orange Bowl, or whatever Bowl the OU Sooners were playing in. A similar seasonal barter would take place during basketball season and then there were also filler activities. There was a roller hockey phase, skateboarding phase, and a bicycle phase where I envisioned myself as winning the Tour D’ France, certain that I was moving so fast that at times, people wouldn’t even see me coming, instead only feeling the debree stirring swoosh of my wake.

And then there was the BB gun….

While most men in Oklahoma shot birds, my dad looked at them. He was a bird watcher or if you want to go with the less passive and preferred title, he was a “birder.” Our backyard was adorned with a multitude of different birdfeeders. They varied in size and seed according to what birds were migrating at any given point in time and depending on the season there could be upwards of ten to fifteen species of colorful birds musically dining on millet or sunflower seeds just outside the kitchen window.

This hobby extended into the home of my grandparents, who also had a variety of birds in their backyard. Birdfeeders did not only attract beautiful birds like cardinals and goldfinch, but also less desirable, territorial birds with grand appetites like crows and even pests like the dreaded squirrel. Where as my dad would rue them but allow them all equal opportunity to dine, my grandparents took great joy in spending evenings with a single pump daisy bb gun trying to shoot these avian pirates from the perches of the feeders.

Because the daisy bb gun was a single pump, aside from a startle, it did little damage to the impenetrable feathers of the ominous crow nor did it do anything but anger the chatty squirrels who would seek temporary refuge then return to the tree-hanging dining tube. Upon learning that the animals weren’t actually injured, though reluctant at first, I began to take joy in popping a squirrel, each hit reminding me of that false heroic sense that came with cranking the tennis ball right through the shortstop’s legs, driving in two runs.

After so many lessons, the squirrels and crows spent less and less time on the feeders, disrupting my filler sport activity. That said, I had come to morbidly enjoy the masochistic past time and soon began to seek out these pests in the tree tops of the cedars and elms surrounding our backyard.

One cloudy afternoon, my eye on the high branches of the cedar in the back corner of the yard, I spotted movement. I hurriedly made my way as close to the tree as I could, barely making out the profile of a bird. I cocked the daisy, took aim and shot. My eyes traced the bb’s curved flight from the barrel of the gun straight into the neck of the bird in the tree but instead of angrily flying off like so many times before, the bird tumbled down a couple of branches, getting stuck halfway between the tree top and the ground.

“I got it,” I thought. Where once there had been a bird, now there was not. At first I was elated to made my first kill. I looked around eager to share, locking eyes with a sparrow and a couple of cardinals with whom my victim had so frequently dined.

Everyone I knew had killed things, I assured myself as the first pangs of regret began to fire up my spine. This would put me in a category of manhood that I had longed for. No more place kicking in the front yard of fantasies about shallow pop flies. This was touchdown stuff. This was as macho as a grand slam.

Eager to see my kill, I headed to the tree but couldn’t see it. The bird was too far up. Having dealt with balls stuck in trees a million times before, I did what I knew best. I got a football l and began to throw it at the branch where the bird rested. I hit it once and it fell only to get stuck again. After several more throws, I struck it directly and it tumbled down, bouncing from limb to limb until it thud lifelessly onto the cold winter floor.

I approached it victoriously but upon arrival noticed that it wasn't dead. It was something far worse than death. Much to the bird's disdain, it had mortally wounded. I watched, encouraging it's weak effort at life as it’s wing was still flapping in a hopeless effort to escape its slayer. Not only that but instead of a crow I had hit a mocking bird. Knowing exactly what Harper Lee felt about mocking birds, not to mention my father, I knew that such an atrocity would not be without consequence.

I began to panic as it opened its beak and let out an alien croak somewhere between a cry of pain and a perturbed squawk. Up and down it’s wings flapped as I sat there fumbling together an apology, praying that like the squirrels and crows I had hit so many times before, that it would get up and fly away. At first I thought it was looking me in the eye as though to say “Look what you’ve done,” but I followed it’s eye line up into the tree where I saw what I believed to be a nest. In the nest, I immediately assumed were eggs or worse, baby chicks whose mother was clipped by a sniper in cold blood as she prepared their dinner not unlike my own mother who I could see just twenty yards away cooking dinner for me, unaware of what I had done.

The bird’s wings wouldn’t stop flapping. The frigid steal of the bb gun pulsed in my hand like a friend who had betrayed me and the branches of the trees seemed to reach for me like spindly fleshless hands. This pleasant after-school expression in masculinity had resulted in eternal damnation and I was being waved to hell with each weak flap of the mocking bird’s wings. Ordered downward towards the excruciating magna of damnation with each dwindling croak.

Finally I covered the dying mother and copier of the cries of other birds with a shingle that had blown from our roof from a springtime storm. As I did my mother called me in for dinner. Wiping my eyes, a condemned man in the eyes of the avian gods, I made my way towards the house.

My dad sat at the kitchen table. “Saw a couple of woodpeckers in the backyard earlier today,” he told me. I acknowledged with an almost inaudible and disengaged grunt as my mom brought over my plate. Wheel of Fortune played on the television as I picked at the food my mother served me, praying that a vengeful chickadee didn’t shoot her through the kitchen window. “I’d like to solve the puzzle,” said a contestant on the television as I took a spoonful of rice. “To kill a mockingbird,” he correctly stated as the crowd erupted into applause. It least that is what I heard.

As Vanna White turned the last of the letters and the contestant celebrated his victory, I indifferently chewed the last piece of bird flesh off of the chicken leg I’d been served for dinner, discarded the bone and retired to my room for the evening guiltily pondering the life that I had taken. As I lay in bed, through the wind I could hear the bird's shallow breathing. I was sure of it. With nowhere to rest but within my own black self-loathing, I began to drift off until the next morning when the first, second and third birds began to sing, each bringing the hope that somehow the mockingbird had lived, but I knew that wouldn't happen.

The next day, I put on my George Brett jersey and spent the afternoon like so many days before swinging for the fences but settling for sacrifices, imagining my life not as my own but as someone more colorful, more graceful and more talented, waiting for my mom to call me in for dinner.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

Last Saturday, wearing a pink tie, exhausted from an early morning flight from LA, I entered an uncomfortable church to serve as bridesmaid to a girl that I had only met twice. For weeks I had been joking about the color of my dress, how I would do my hair and the ever cliche "are you going to catch the bouquet." As a travel writer, I found myself constantly searching for an "angle" on the story. This means finding the drama, and what that means is spotting what can go wrong.

The wedding was a unique merging of two people from very different worlds. The groom, my cousin, came from a family who valued fancy things like fancy shirts, expensive shoes and share the overall belief that a vacation isn't a vacation unless 1000 thread count sheets, butlers and caviar are involved. The bride, whom I was chosen to represent came from a family whose passions didn't necessarily align with those of my own family. Simply stated, where as my father enjoyed looking at birds, her family enjoyed killing them.

While one part of me identified with the importance of the day for my cousin and his fiance, another part of me needed the drama. As I considered differences in social status and religious background, I salivated at the idea that somehow things HAD to go askew. Somehow, like most things in my life, something would pop up that I could really sink my teeth into and I'd leave with an unrivaled slice of life piece on a wedding day gone hilariously array.

I arrived and things were going perfectly according to plan. One of the bridesmaids, also a male, and the 21 year old best friend and father-in-law of the bride was driving in from New Orleans, Louisiana where he had been working and as the clock raced towards the 3:30 wedding time, he was nowhere to be seen. Upon his arrival into town, my cousin the groom vanished as well to buy him a shirt. Speculation about the shirt ran amok. What would he be wearing? He had been awake for 35 hours.

I entered the Oklahoma church and went down to the recreation room. On the wall, hanging just above a pool table in a room full of games, was a massive poster covered in colorful child-sized hand prints and just under proclaiming that "everyday 29,000 people die." I rolled my eyes at the absurd poster, certain that no God that I would ever believe in would make that phrase the joyful focal point of a church. I certainly wouldn't want to be married in a house with such a morbidly misrepresented proclamation. The preacher was an unsmiling man of 50 or so with piercing eyes and a cold handshake. Right in line with the type of person who would allow such absurd posters to hang on the wall.

I heard whisperings of arguments throughout my family. The absence of the mother of the groom was also topic of speculation. Having recently divorced herself, she was resistant to come to the wedding which was the cause of much discussion. My phone dinged with texts of people checking in to see how beautiful i looked in my bridesmaid dress. The best friend/brother-in-law screamed in just under the wire in a ball cap, shorts and a tee shirt, which contrasted profoundly against the otherwise immaculately dressed guests and groomsmen. The table was set for insanity.

With no music, her mother on one arm and her father-in-law, now in a suit, on the other, the bride walked down the aisle. Everyone watched. The reached the alter. The priest had them decree their love for one another. He read scripture and they said their vows and as they spoke them her mother cried. After the kiss, my cousin held her for an almost uncomfortably long period of time, savoring the moment that they had just magically shared in front of everyone who loved them. The preacher then erroneously pronounced them husband and wife but of the wrong last name and they walked out the aisle.

At the reception the mother and father-in-law of the bride told me the unique back story in how two people with such an age variance met and fell in love. He told me how his wife had talked to him on the phone for most of the last 15 hours to keep him awake to share this moment with her daughter. To think that at one point so many people were concerned about what he would be wearing instead of the sacrifice he made to be there.

Lots of people with great anticipation, asked me what my take on the wedding would be for a story. As I tried to answer I became awash with guilt. So trained was I in finding the conflict that even as a bridesmaid, couldn't just sit back and see the good in it. So wrapped up was I in what I didn't grasp about the church that I judged a place where people went when they were afraid, alive or in love.

So wrapped up was I in what makes us different people that I didn't see how we were all being unified, then there with my pink tie on, in his father's living room, I watched how happy Morgan and Angel his wife were as they danced to a song played on a single guitar. There in my pink tie realized why I was there and what the story was about. Them and that beautiful, pure moment where two lives come together, temporarily free from fear and judgment, even if only in one another's arms, surrounded by the love unique only to them. Congrats, guys.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I've always had a fucked up view of winning. As an awkward kid with twiggy legs and spindly arms, I played team sports and almost always on the best teams. Unfortunately, however I was typically among the top three worst athletes and most of the time, the coaches were cliche assholes (if you are reading... well... you were) so even when the team celebrated a victory, I found myself on the outside of the victorious dog pile, closer in feeling tone to the losing team, but without a team to lean on.

As a result I hated teams. Still do. I would no sooner play on a basketball team than pursue a career in aerodynamic engineering. On the rare occasion that I'm forced into something where I have to rely on someone else's athleticism or intellect to win something, I almost feel my weight plummet, my legs shrink to pencils and my ability to contribute wane to almost nothing. I go from a fit, confident guy with grand ambition to a tea cup poodle.

With team sports out of the question, I played games like tennis. This seemed like something I could do well. I was on the court alone, so there was no one to compare myself to physically. Tennis players were typically alienated kids so I found myself in the company of other loners which was nice because I could be around people but didn't have to actually talk to them. The really great thing was that I was actually good at tennis. I could spend hours at a time hitting a ball against a backboard or hitting serves and in my mind was a champion every day. When I lost, it was my battle to lose but at least I didn't have to have be the worst guy on the winning team. When I won, I won.

My social insecurity carried from the basketball courts and school into the rest of my life and it was no different in Oklahoma City than it was where my family spent their summers in Northern Michigan. The only difference was that in Michigan, given the town's country club pedigree, individual sports such as tennis among good athletes were encouraged. At this club, we were forced to play in all white clothes as our parents watched our practice over a club sandwich and a cocktail under a pool side umbrella as they discussed the stock market and their golf game.

While I hated being back amongst judgmental piers, the good news was that at least when it came to tennis, I could hold my own, though it didn't allow me any social graces. A strong serve doesn't put hair on your arms and a good forearm doesn't mean make you appealing to the opposite sex. Basically I was back to feeling like shit about myself.

Most of these club members were millionaires many times over and though they owned fortune five hundred companies, for whatever reason, nothing was bigger (or so it felt) than the summer tennis tournament. Most summers, my family had returned home by the time this massive event rolled around but one summer I was there for it and among the most likely to win. That didn't speak well. Especially to parents who put great expectations on their children. WInning every year, was Alexander, cliche-ly nicknamed Alexander the Great.

I have never wanted a victory so much in my life. While most kids lived on the water, my family was up on the "Bluff." which to me was like the hood. Alexander being the cool kid, had all his buddies to hit with and I had my dad or a wall. I felt like Rocky in Rocky Four when all he had was a barn and the Russian had machines, coaches and medicine. Much like Rocky, however I had the unconditional love and support of my family who wanted me to win perhaps more than I did.

I easily made it to the finals and it was me verses Alexander. Word got out that it would be a good match and suddenly the court was surrounded by upwards of 100 people which felt like the entire world. In my own insecure head, I was certain that spare my own family, NO ONE, especially my piers were cheering for me. Luckily, my mom, dad, sister, and grandmother there. Also in attendance, was my grandfather, a war hero and the only person that I genuinely wanted to impress.

We played two out of three sets and Alexander won the first easily. Half way through the second, I was losing steam and it was assumed that he would win. Used to losing, I felt at ease resigning myself to a silver. with one point left to win the entire match, I began to come back. Before long I had won the set. I will never forget winning it and hearing the majority of the kids my age collectively cry "shit!" as their hero lost the set. For the first time I was angry at their discuss and so I fought back.

I came back with a strong game and beat him up until finally I won. I couldn't believe it. I made my way to center court as my piers scowled at me. Mike, the affable tennis instructor smiled and gave me my trophy to some good applause from the parents and then I made my way off the court and as I did, every single kid my age walked past me without so much as eye contact. I found my parents and asked where my grandfather was and they told me he had given up on me earlier in the match and gone home. My parents were then leaving to drive back to Oklahoma City, leaving me there for the rest of the summer.

They took off and I walked to my bike alone. Around the corner, I heard Alexander's mother screaming at him and calling him a loser. I watched this kid who had always been so popular get crucified by his mom. I listened to what she called me and what she called my family and I thought, I should have just let the kid win.

I rode home and as I passed one kid's house, they threw a football at my bike causing me to almost drop my trophy. i remember wanting to just give it to them. I walked into the house where my grandfather had just woken from a nap. "I'm sorry you lost," he said. I told him I had actually won. His face spoke of profound disappointment and though he was disappointed in himself for having given up on me early, that is how I read it. Somehow in the convulsion of my mind, even in victory, I had been defeated.

That night, I lay in bed and listened to kids play tee-ball and read a manuscript my grandfather had given me about his experience as a Prisoner of War in Japan, my trophy on the wicker table next to my bed. I thought about how his hope had left the world with such a powerful story about making it even when everyone had given up on you... About how victory is internal and in that moment, I won. I wanted to write like he did. I just needed to live a life telling about.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Death and Disney: An Alternate Perspective

Today I went to Disneyland and it was terrifying! First, I went on a boat ride through the jungle. The elephants were really cool, but it got a little weird towards the end. Some native had used a magic powder to shrink a guy's head and then he chopped it off and was trying to convince me to buy it.

Next, and slightly unnerved by the post-decapitation that I had just witnessed, I headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean.... and I thought that unruly Native was scary. These pirates are nuts. Two pirates hung a man by his neck and were dangling him in a wishing well. Even when the Pirates were themselves reduced to skeletons (de-fleshed mammals are very popular here), they still wanted to get drunk and kill one another. And another thing about pirates... They love rape.

After that it was the haunted house and while I understand that it is supposed to be scary, I was shaken up by the skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the entry way. Sadder still were all the lost souls and they aimlessly tried to get to heaven but couldn't. Someone should pray for them.

More skeletons were buried in walls in the Indiana Jones ride. Some of them were people (sad that their families will never know what happened to their bodies) and some were animals. At Big Thunder Mountain, the skeletal remains of perhaps a dinosaur are prominently featured on the wall of the hillside.

After my terrifying run through Adventure and Frontier Land, I sought refuge from so much death. I bought a piece of a dismembered turkey and made my way towards Fantasyland. Surely that wouldn't be as terrifying, but it was. There were more pirates, one of whom wanted to murder small children. Thankfully one of the children could fly. Shortly after that, I was forced to contemplate the fate of the turkey I had just consumed as I was eaten by a giant whale and the theme of decapitation was revisited as some crazy witch shouted "Off with their heads..."

Finally I made it to Tomorrowland and was happy to learn that in the future, Michael Jackson comes back to life, only he is black again and lives in space where he works as a ship captain. It got a little weird when in Buzz Lightyear, I became a murderer myself, killing several critters and people alike. Despite the popular song lyric, "the future is so bright, I gotta wear shades," according to disney, that isn't true. The future is very dark because you are in space. There is no grass or trees. That is for sure. Just space ships. Earth was nice while it lasted.

Exhausted from all of this death, it was time to leave. On my way out where a giant rodent tried to give me a huge hug. I got home to find that mouse snapped in two by a mousetrap. Apparently the Disney Mouse went on the Jungle Ride where he was shrunk and decapitated. Glad I got out of there alive.

I can't wait to get a season pass!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Matt Payne: Food Critic

The dining room was expansive but comfortable. I was not.

Entering from the hotel lobby into the elegant restaurant overlooking Atlanta's Olympic park, I was greeted by a three man wait staff with a warm hello and handshake. In route to my table at this steakhouse, I exchanged nods with the chef and his team as they participated in a well choreographed culinary dance around a spit and a grill in an open kitchen, nervously watching my every step.

Three months ago, my average day was writing screenplays at my office in Studio City. Three WEEKS ago, my average day was about the same, but here I was, in Georgia, escorted to my beautifully sat table of one. Job title? Food and Restaurant critic.

I had just spent four days in the wilderness and upon my return to civilization, for lunch ate voraciously at a drive-thru called Bojangles which specialized in fried chicken and biscuits. So good was my cajun chicken in a biscuit sandwich that I had hoped that somewhere on this elegant menu in front of me that I could find it again, but to no avail.

Dressed in my old blue beater sport coat and a pair of jeans, I sat down. Perfectly-lined silverware, a crispy folded napkin, and several glasses sat before me. The bow-tied waiter, with a thick and unfamiliar accent, approached me like a a man in front of a parole board and took my wine order.

"Would you like an appetizer, sir?" he asked.

"Sure, how about the scallops" I said.

"That is a good choice," he affirmed and then said "Can I also bring you the crab cake?"

"If it's free," I thought, but instead I furrowed my brow. If this man thought I was a food critic, I should act like one. "I don't know," I synthetically pondered.... "It's served with a chutney..."

He looked nervous. If he only knew that I wasn't even sure what chutney was, and I was hoping he'd explain it to me. "I assure you it is a magnificent chutney." He says.

"Well... if it's magnificent..."

"And for your salad?" He asked.

I paused. Was I expected to eat two appetizers and a salad and then move onto a giant entree followed by a desert that I had already been assured that was to die for?

"Arugala with walnuts, please."

"Would you like extra bacon and the bacon vinaigrette?"

"That would be fine," as I contemplated the sudden and unexpected influx of pork into my meal.

I sat at the table by myself as the staff watched me. I would occasionally glance around at the decor, pucker my lips as though comparing it to some other magical restaurant and then nod to myself. I'd pick up a roll and stare at it, then butter it slowly, watching them watch me from out of the corner of my eye. Then I'd take a bit and give a satisfactory smile. Catching the bread boy's eye, I gave a thumbs up. He seemed happy.

The appetizers were great. I ate all of them. And my salad. Now they watched me curiously as a small crew cleared my plates. "I see you liked the appetizers," said my waiter.

I responded with something like "how robust that salad was," hoping it carried some sophistication.

"You must be a big eater," he replied. "Of course I am...." I chuckled. "I'm a food critic."

Not sure what to do, as I sat there while Yo Yo Ma played away on his cello through the sound system, I began to fiddle with my phone and as I did, got nervous. I had ordered a sixteen ounce rib eye (The only thing on the menu that I knew I would like). They insisted upon sides, so served with my massive slab of cow were eight thick asparagus spears an a potato. And let us not
forget, desert was just around the corner.

At first, the steak was mind-blowing. This could be because it was well prepared but I remember having a similar affection for steaks cooked over charcoal and marinated in every spice and alcoholic beverage in the kitchen back in my college days.

While the meat was good, my stomach hurt. I tried a small bite of the asparagus and a small bite of the potato and that was it. The waiter came over, concerned and asked if I was unsatisfied. SHIT. No, I told him. Just taking a breath. I patted my stomach and went back to work.

Finally, it was gone. All the food and I felt like I was going to die, but still, by myself at the candle lit table, the whole place watching, had to keep my composure. Sweat beads formed on my forehead and my stomach turned. I accepted a cup of coffee, hoping it would settle my full belly.

Along with the coffee, came the desert. A sampling of every single desert on the menu. There were seven, one of which was key lime pie. I hate key lime pie. The waiter smiled... again.... and told me watching people try the deserts was his favorite part. I swallowed and picked up a spoon and tried the chocolate mousse.... Yummmm.... I said.

The waiter walked away and I frantically scooped bites from two of the less appealing deserts, including the keylime pie and put them in my napkin, hoping that the restaurant didn't have cameras. The waiter returned, satisfied that I had tried them all but noticed that I hadn't finished the key lime. "I'm good," I said.

"No please..." He said, still smiling.

I picked up my spoon, hand shaking, and put it into my mouth. A tidal wave of pre-vomit saliva washed through teeth like a tidal wave.

"Aren't you glad you did that?" he asked.

"Can I use your restroom?" I asked, voice trembling.

"It's across the hotel lobby. I will have someone walk with you," and with that, as I waited to expel five pounds and two hundred dollars of free food, I made the two hundred yard walk, with the manager to the bathroom.

"So you're from Los Angeles and you're a writer," he said.


"How do you like Atlanta? Have you been to any other restaurants?"

"Bojangles," I said. He laughed uncomfortably as I tried not to vomit.

"How was it?"


As we rounded the corner I could see the bathroom and as it appeared, my stomach lost it's last stand against my massive meal. I broke away into a sprint and made it into the bathroom where a minor apocalypse occurred. When it ended, I sat there, feeling empty. Cool, on the tile of the bathroom floor. I took several deep breaths and the world returned to normal.

As we walked back, we chatted more. I told him that the food had been delightful. I sat back down at the table where the desert still sat. I picked up my spoon and took one last bite of the chocolate mousse, and I must say, it was delicious.

I made my way up to my room, pleased that I was now officially a food critic. I wrote about how wonderful the meal had been and how nice the service was and then, just before bed, set out to look for another Bojangles as I figured it would be hard to sleep on an empty stomach.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cat Dude

First of all, if you are a "dude" and you own a cat, use the word "dude" a lot. Dudes use the word "dude."

The discovery that a male friend owns a cat is not unlike pulling along side a a shit-talking co-worker from your Fantasy Football Team at a stoplight only to see that he drives a yellow VW Bug convertible or going through your golf buddy's ipod and notice that the majority of his music has been nominated for a Tony Award. You could have watched that friend blow through five hundred dollars the previous night at the strip club, but no amount of shed singles can change how you feel about that chipper dashboard daisy.

Eight years ago, for reasons to this day, I do not fully grasp, I got a cat. I don't use the term "adopted" because to say "I adopted a cat," is akin to saying "My favorite musician is Lady Gaga" so I use the term "got" and from now on, instead of referring to him as his species of animal, I'll call him by his name, "Howard," a name given in the spirit of such classic lady's men as director Howard Hawks, the insane, but equally wealthy and promiscuous Howard Hughes, and the pervy seafaring fowl, Howard the Duck.

Howard is a brown tabby cat with a white chest and grey and brown stripes. When describing him in public, however, there are only two words. Fat Ass. Why do I describe him this way? Because to describe him as "overweight" implies maternal concern. To describe his as "chubby" would be no different than driving that VW slug bug. If I said he was handsome or god-forbid, beautiful I'd never be invited anywhere again.

There was a period of time that I found myself creating a personality for Howard. I envisioned a scotch drinking, cigarette smoking, elitist who frowned upon technology, thought the world was going to end and believed that American Youth didn't "get it." I thought of him as an obese, lazy movie buff who sits around his midwest apartment all day eating popcorn, masturbating, and talking about how Hollywood has gone to shit and how one day, his autobiographical, Fellini-inspired masterpiece will get made and all will be right in the world. I even thought about making him an aspiring serial killer who sends daunting, typewriter written letters to the editor of the New York Times but whose agoraphobia prevents him from doing any harm to anyone. Even with these personas, I realized that I was still playing some type of sick "dress up" with an animal that would typically find refuge with old ladies who have, by no choice of their own, reclaimed their virginity.

Now, when referring to Howard in casual conversation, I refer to him only by name and when discussing his relationship to me, I use only the term "roommate." When describing him, I pepper my description with complaints including poor restroom habits, sloppy table manners and a lack of respect for personal space. I mention that he constantly talks about wanting to go "hunting" but never gets off the couch. I also mention that he has no sense of humor. When the reveal that this individual is a feline, it is met with far less albeit still some judgment.

Howard is cool because he doesn't care about going on a walk. When I eat pizza or a steak or a burger, he thinks I should simplify my life and limit my diet to one dish. He's totally cool with drinking water out of the fountain and even though he shits in the house, he's nice enough to do it in a box designed for that purpose. He doesn't hump my leg, though I'm fairly certain he watches porn, and if I leave my tennis shoes out for a day, I don't have to worry about them being destroyed when I come home.

When guests come over to my house, they are usually shocked when they see Howard's fat ass making a break to the bedroom (he's hardly a guard cat). It is in this moment of truth, that I feel my face becoming flush and I stammer to answer the question "Was that a cat?" At this point, all I can do is go to the fridge, get my guest a beer, go to the medicine cabinet and grab them an allergy pill and hope for the best...

...and the truth is, if that person has issue with the fact that I live with an obese, aspiring serial killer, fuck em. When they leave, Howard and I will flip on a old Howard Hawks film, talk about how hot bitches used to be back in the 40's days and make it a dude's night...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Monday.....: Matt's Guide to Tweets and Status Updates

As on-line social networking continues to become more and more popular with Tweets and Status updates etc., there are various groups of specific types of tweeters that are emerging. Some of these are people who post articulately conceived statements bringing into our cyberworld nuggets of wisdom, humor or even a life-affirmation . We know who these people are and those 150 letter words are the small puffs of wind that catch our sails and push us through the monotony of daily life.

That said, there are other types of tweeters. There are individuals who feel compelled to remind us what day it is and what they hate about that particular day. Don't get me wrong. Social networking is a great place to express periodic disdain. For instance, after reading a particularly horrible article about how individuals are suffering from depression as a result of the movie AVATAR, I felt compelled to publicly vent about this absurdity. That said, my rear window motor has broken and I have to ritually duct tape it shut on an almost daily basis. While this is frustrating to me, I will not make it my practice to let every one of my nearly 700 close and not so close friends just how much I hate it.

Here is the worst status update ever.

"It's Monday..."

First of all, as working human-beings, we have collectively agreed upon a seven day week. Everyone knows it is Monday. Everyone. Perhaps somewhere in your friends list is an individual who lives in a constant state of "stay-cation" and doesn't track the day, but for the most part, we don't need to be reminded by anything other than an unwelcome alarm clock as to what day it is.

Secondly it is vague. It's Monday without anything beyond it falls into the same category as the absurd posts where people simply type the word "is." It's Monday and what? Are you happy? Is this something you didn't realize until you looked at your calendar? Are you expecting some big announcement that has you eager or do you love your job so much that you can't wait to get back to it after a couple of restful days off. It's Monday means nothing.

If one were to make an assumption about this status, it would be that the individual with so little to say, but loves to express that vacancy none-the-less, it would be that they are bitching. Facebook status complaining is like news feed pollution unless of course it is hilarious. "Sitting next to a Funoin eating, finger-licking gassy fat guy, heading into hour two in line at the DMV and I just realized I have jury duty tomorrow" makes me laugh. A running complaint about your neighbors vocal sexual escapes or a chance encounter with the world's grumpiest grocery checker can be amusing. The fact that you are bored at work, however simply makes other people bored at work. No one cares that you are bored.

Here are a few other do's and don'ts of the update world.

We get that you love your pets, but the bi-hourly update of the Adventures of Milo the Super Pup can get tiring. Especially if Milo's day to day activity doesn't extend beyond a walk, some kibble and self grooming. That said, if Milo The Super Pup managed to chase away an invader from outer space or you woke up at 3am just as Milo placed the last piece of a 5000 piece puzzle, by all means... Let us know!

Motivational phrases. I am all for the periodic inspiring word. That said, when a tweet like Ghandi's "Be change you want to see in the world" falls between the updates "I FUCKING HATE MY BOYFRIEND" and "Super hungover.... and it's Monday" it becomes difficult to take such a profound quote (or you) seriously.

Cutting loose and late night drunken pictures are one of life's true joys, but if you have 908 photos and there isn't one where you're not drinking, or you tweet "......tiredddd of puking goodnight lol" at 4am, you may wind up on, but don't be puzzled when you learn you didn't "get the job."

You've hated the last fifteen dates you went on and every girl (or guy) in your city is totally lame. Don't be surprised if after you add someone that you DO like and they read how fickle you are, when your friend count went from 302 to 301 and your plans for Saturday have suddenly fallen through leaving you to tweet about how much guys suck and the grooming habits of your cat.

Life is at it's best when it's centered around good stories, fresh ideas, and new spins on old ones. I love and have enjoyed status updates since they first came out. I am certain that in pious moments I encouraged volunteerism and talked about reverence for life... That in the wee hours of the morning, I've updated something that I thought was hilarious but was really lame and illegible (CURSE YOU FAT THUMBS!!!), and I've even thrown in a vague ellipse a time or two..... but I try to keep it f, keep it connected and to keep it fun. So when it's Monday......................... Let the world know how it's gonna be a better Monday that the last one you tweeted about and if your dog saved your next door neighbor from a burning house, give him props.