Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Did I Call You?

My friends have been worried about me lately. I've been calling them at odd hours, often late at night, leaving voiceless messages.

But's not me, I swear. My cell phone is possessed.

At first it was just inconvenient. I'd open my phone to use it, and before I touched anything it would pick out a number for me and dial it. "Hey! Whoa!" I'd snap it shut and start over. No harm done.

But last Saturday noon my friend Kjell called me. "You okay? I got a message from you at 1am, but all I heard was bar noise in the background." I remembered that my phone had died around 9pm, so I tossed it into my coat pocket. I didn't resuscitate it until I left the bar around 1:30am, so apparently it booty-called him while it was off, a voice from the dead. And although I adore Kjell, male country singers are not my first booty choice.

At 5am Monday morning I was awakened by scratchy voices in my bedroom. I thought I heard the "If you'd like to make a call. . . " lady's voice, and my phone was all aglow in the dark. "Hey! Whoa!" It is surprisingly hard to shut off a phone when it is already off.

I met a friend for dinner later that day. "What's with calling me at 5am?" she asked. "I heard heavy breathing, like snoring. Or maybe drowning." She looked at me skeptically while I stammered an explanation. I even tried to show her a demo, but of course in front of her my phone had perfect manners. Worse, now show knows I'm a noisy sleeper.

My phone provider told me to bring it in for a software update. They were currently using version 8, I was at 3. It took about an hour, and as soon as I got into my car my phone self-dialed Verizon. At least it has a sense of humor.

My friend Raoul insists on carrying his phone in his back pocket. He butt-dials, and I get to overhear his scintillating conversations about real estate deeds. I yell "Hang up your phone!" but he can't hear me through his pants. I'm so very afraid that someday he's going to butt-dial me over a dinner of refried beans.

And then it happened, the Holy Grail of cell phone dialing. We were at the bar late, Raoul shifted in his chair, and butt-dialed a woman at 12:30am—a booty booty call.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Love Skills

After spending enough money on therapy to have bought a decent sports car, I learned that I try to buy love. Indeed, a lot of people do. The theory goes something like this: we know ourselves well enough to realize that, if you knew us too, we have no clue why you would date us.

So we compensate with tangible things we do understand. I, for one, will fix your leaky faucet or your broken shower head. The internal argument goes like this: when Mr. Funnier Young Betterhair comes into the picture, with his newer car and bigger lug nuts, I can say, "Yeah, but when the wax floor seal of your toilet needed replacing, who was there for you?" And you'll be totally unable to imagine F. Betterhair fixing your toilet, and you'll choose to stick with Toilet Guy.

At least, that's how we do the math. It doesn't sound as smart when I actually type it out.

It might be a better plan to be emotionally available. I didn't learn that from my dad, but he did teach me how to sweat-solder a copper pipe and cut a compound miter joint with a radial arm saw. I'm sure my dad's great-great-great-etc grandfather taught his son how to club a buffalo, or something romantic like that.

My friend Raoul takes it to its logical conclusion: a guy asks a girl out on a date, buys drinks, then dinner, escalates to a fancy trip to Costa Rica, gets married and builds a home, then fighting starts and divorce and she ends up with everything. So when Raoul gets a crush on a girl, he just buys her a house to get it over with.

"For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son," the Bible says, and His Son was a carpenter. We consider carpentry a quaint trade now, but remember, back then everything was made out of gravel. If you wanted a nice front porch you had to try to scoop up a pile. A carpenter back then was the high-tech equivalent to today's webmaster. Everybody wanted one! He must have seemed like a Jewish Steve Jobs or something. Maybe that's why everyone followed him. While he was saying "blessed are the meek," women were thinking, "That dude could build me an awesome sun deck."

Men don't really get why women love them, so they come up with reasons like these. I cannot come up with any other explanation for why a man would become a plumber, except that he needs love that bad. The snag is that when you hold a plumber's hand, you can't stop thinking about where it has been.

Musicians get around it, because when they sing broken-hearted songs, the opposite sex swoons, "He understands!" Unfortunately, he understands because he just got dumped by his girlfriend when she caught him reading the instruction manual for his new hammer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


We are ruined. It happens this time every year, and today is the day. Temps rise past sixty and your entire body clock adjusts to spring weather with one ratcheting twist of attitude.

A week ago if it got down to ten degrees you'd think, "It's Nebraska. I'm tough. Bring it on." Now if it gets below thirty degrees you'll start every conversation with "I'm so fxck!ng sick of this weather!"


It's not the cardinals and robins singing, not the scruffy, scrawny, blinky-eyed bunnies venturing out who tip me off that today is the day. It's when pink-bellied neighbors toss their turtlenecks and chinos for tank tops and shorts, and go for their first run of the year, blind to the three-inch-deep potholes still hidden by oily black puddles. Joggers are all over the place today, winter pudge still jiggling as their translucent tummies compete for the sun's attention.

Me, I was ruined by lunchtime. I sat outside on my patio, its bricks still warped by frozen waves underneath, and I read the newspaper's weather forecast: sixty degrees for today and tomorrow. But later in the week, down to 35? "What kind of crap is that???" Spoiled in one day. Four days ago it neared zero, and I endured without a word, like when the doctor stretches on a rubber glove: you know it's miserable but you just turn your back on it and act like everything's fine.

My yard smells like what it is: four months worth of thawing critter poop. No lavender or orange blossoms up yet to mask the smell, but it's sweet just the same, because in just one day, winter is over.

Tonight Memorial Park near my house will look like a cattle feedlot as half-naked people punch through ankle-deep mud trying to play Ultimate Frisbee. Every dog in the city will get an extra-long walk tonight, sniffing at every tree and pole, catching up on melted messages posted by neighbor dogs since last November.

You'll go for a walk tonight, grill a salmon or burger or brat, not caring that the sun still goes down at 7:30.

While I was typing that last sentence I saw a convertible go by with its top down. Oooooooh, that seals it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Audacity of Change

I used to flick through 99 TV channels, marveling that I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch. In disbelief I'd go for another spin. No, I don't love Raymond, I'm not buying any imitation jewelry, I'm frightened by Japanese-speaking chefs competing with sharp knives, and I've long stopped believing that Peter Boyle is anyone's goofy uncle or that anyone has Stiller and Meara for parents.

One square mile of rainforest contains 80% of the world's insect species. So it's not like I'm not learning anything. But still I cancelled everything but the basic channels, which still include two Spanish ones where every show features this giant guy who looks like a mix of Antonio Banderas and Fabio, wearing shirts sized for Doogie Howser. I still have nothing to watch but it now takes me only twenty channels to figure that out.

Yesterday one show advertised another show, on channel 998. I was musing on the wisdom of one channel letting another channel run an ad—it's a testament that they secretly don't think their advertising works. Then "998" hit me. When did that happen? How long does it take to flick thorough all those? Do you need a special glove? Has anyone found anything to watch yet?

A reporter interpreted for me what I myself just heard a politician say. Then Hillary defined the crucial difference between "renounce" and "reject," thankfully sparing me the embarrassment of using the wrong word, her husband having already clarified for me what "is" is. Obama confessed that he did indeed communicate with our feared enemy, the Canadians, even though yesterday he said he didn't, explaining that yesterday he didn't know he did. John McCain is repeatedly making sure we're clear on his NAFTA stance, though we don't really know what NAFTA is, and Mike Huckabee has stopped campaigning on how much weight he lost, because, um, well—don't worry, Mike, the campaign will be over for you soon.

I've decided to vote for Julie Loyd. She's travelled the country bringing her message to music venues like Mick's. She's stopping by the open mic tonight, so you'll get to see her for free. A little musical caucus, with great martinis. And I promise, the more you vote by going out, the more choices you'll get. I can't promise 998, but still.

In 1987 I didn't have a TV or cell phone or computer. Yet in many ways I felt more connected, because I actually went outside and did things. It's my night off tonight so I'll venture forth—right after I get the latest on those important primary races (half the channels) and check in on the Mexican soap operas (the other half) to see how many buttons have popped. ¡Que rico!