Tuesday, January 31, 2006

News You Can Use

To help everyone get through tonight's State of the Union Address, here are a couple of drinking games tailored just for the event:

Thanks to ZUG's Madd Matt for turning me on to this link. It's a little left leaning for a Republican-authored web site, but what the hell, I've recently turned centrist.

Zug's Just Llama is to thank for this little tidbit.

Then there was a worthy suggestion from Zug's Chit: "do back to back shots until it begins to sound like everything is gonna be alright."

Enjoy people!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Insight into the Skating Culture

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend the weekend alone with my daughter, which does not happen very often. I like when it does however, because it forces me to try and come up with ideas for having fun that does not involve alcohol or include activities that may draw the attention of law enforcement authorities. My daughter is only five-years-old and is not yet capable of the evasion skills required for tossing eggs at moving vehicles. On top of that, the concept of omerta is still a fairly alien notion for a kindergartner and I have little doubt that she would narc me out in no time if the cops started putting the screws to her.

So, this weekend we decided to go roller skating, something that I have not done in over twenty years. I have had better ideas. One would think that, have spilled out of countless bar stools in the decade and a half since being able to legally drink (and having fallen out of myriad of other things while drunk prior to that) that I would have learned to take a good fall by now. Well, I’m here to tell you that falling down drunk and falling down sober are two entirely different things.

When one is drunk, one’s body is quite loose and able to “roll with the punches” so to say. This is why a man can down sixteen beers and a quart of spirits, smash his Ford Pinto into tanker truck full of nitro glycerin, get blown halfway to San Diego before crash landing in a six foot high pile of broken glass and walk away from the devastation with nary a scratch while his misadventure has claimed the lives of twenty-two honor students, a truck driver and a slow moving squirrel, all of whom were completely sober. Now had the driver been sober, he probably would have died of a massive heart attack the instant he realized what it was he was about to hit.

Roller skating is little different than driving in this regard. You are too aware of your environment when doing it sober, so you end up hurting yourself far more often and far more severely. First, you feel your left leg start to get away from you. Then you feel your right leg heading off in the opposite direction. Then you tense up and try to force them back together, unwilling to face the realization that they passed the point of no return. Your leg muscles then tighten up, preventing any movement that might lessen your injuries and then you hit the hardwood, wind knocked out of you, gray matter pureed beneath your skull and defenseless against the taunts of ten-year-old rollerblading prodigies that zip around you with the barest minimum of conscious effort.

I hit the deck several times and nearly had a mishap at the urinal that would have caused the roller rink’s janitorial staff far more effort while cleaning the restroom than I am sure they are usually accustomed to. By the time we finally left, I had discovered muscles in my thighs, back and calves that I never knew existed, had an elbow that was swelling up far too fast to be natural and was a little impressed at my unknown ability to do the splits without requiring major surgery to reattach organs that I believed to be rather essential to my sexual identity. My daughter had the time of her life and before we had even turned in her skates, she was asking me when we were coming back.

I did not have the heart to tell her that we would probably not be doing so unless we could convince her mother to stand in as a designated driver.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Little About The Host of Super Bowl XL

Being a native of Detroit, I am used to the threat of invasion. The restless Canadian hordes are just over the river in Windsor Ontario and could easily stream over the Ambassador Bridge at the slightest provocation, draining our beer supply, ravaging our women, mispronouncing the letter “o” and engaging in a wide range of other deplorable acts that could undermine the moral fabric of the area for generations to come. Though I was born and raised beneath the shadow of this ominous specter, I have become accustomed to it. I have armed myself well and have taken steps to train my children in unconventional insurrection to resist the invaders if they ever do arrive and have taken the additional precaution of teaching them the subtle art of beer bonging in case the rebellion fails so that they can excel in the culture of the aggressors. They have adapted to my teachings well. My five year old daughter can kill a six pack in fifteen minutes then drop a stray cat at two hundred yards with a high powered assault rifle.

At present, the Canadians seem content to stay put but now we find ourselves under attack from another menace that we have never anticipated. We are being invaded by football fans that have flanked us, breeched our perimeter and will soon be running rampant in the streets inflicting wanton mayhem and devastation on a scale the Canadian hordes could never have aspired to match. They are here for the Superbowl, an event that, as the home of the Detroit Lions, we were fatally ignorant of. We know we have met our match so, instead of trying to resist the deluge of barbaric bacchanalians breaching our borders we have decided to embrace them, show them around and familiarize them with our culture. So, for those adherents to the cults of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks who will find themselves in the Motor City over the next couple of weeks, allow me to show you around.

The Natives

I believe that those visiting Detroit will be pleasantly surprised to find the aboriginal population of Southeastern Michigan warm and welcoming for the most part. We are a simple people, mostly blue collar and increasingly, unemployed. We will be enthusiastically interacting with you, asking you what your name is, where you are from, what you do for a living and whether or not the company you work for is hiring.

Southeastern Michigan is a tribal area, and outsiders are generally greeted differently depending on the region you find yourselves in. In Oakland county, a stranger is likely to be welcomed with a firm handshake and a stout pat on the back (or butt if you are in Royal Oak). Downriver folks may choose to skip the handshake and just ask you to pull their finger. In Detroit itself, visitors are often greeted with two shots to the heart and one to the head.


Southeastern is a virtual paradise for water sports, bordered by three major lakes and a plethora of lesser water bodies throughout the region to swim, boat, water ski, jet ski, wind surf, scuba dive or fish in. Unfortunately, in early February when the Superbowl is held, these bodies of water are usually covered by several inches of ice so if you are going to participate in any of these activities, dress warm.

Michigan does offer its fair share of winter sports to enjoy, but very few in the immediate Detroit area. There are ski opportunities available but do not expect an Aspen-esque downhill experience. There is little in the way of sea level variation in the Detroit’s immediate vicinity so all of lower Michigan’s ski hills are built upon converted landfills, giving one the impression that they are practicing their slalom skills at the city dump.

Tragically, winter is a particularly dull time to be in Detroit. The natives endure the winter by hibernating in windowless drinking establishments where they stay well lubricated while complaining about the weather and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. For those hoping to supplement their unemployment checks, the city also boasts three major casinos.


Detroit has some of the best restaurants in the nation. The Greektown district is known as a premier entertainment center and offers diverse venues that are all an almost orgasmic pleasure to the palate, located very close to Ford Field where the Superbowl is being hosted. I would recommend The Pegasus Inn, Pizzapopolis or Fishbone’s. Less well known and a little farther out is Mexican Town offering truly succulent Latin American delicacies in a neighborhood that is frightening similar to what one could find in Tijuana, less the conspicuous houses of ill repute but with a little more drug violence to make up for it. The food is worth the risk though, being zesty and flavorful and bringing the best of Mexican delicacies north while leaving the Montezuma’s revenge behind. No trip to Detroit is complete without at least one visit there.

If one wants to go native, they must dine at least once in a local coney island restaurant. A coney island is a hot dog topped with chili sauce, onions and mustard and, having been all over the country and the world, there is an inimitable staple of the Detroiter’s diet. A local favorite to partake in this delicacy is Lafayette Coney Island on Lafayette and Michigan Avenue, a restaurant that is known by virtually every native Detroiter but unheard of anywhere else. White Castle hamburgers are another staple Detroiters assault their digestive tracts with and, combined with the coney island, goes a long way in explaining why finger pulling has replaced the handshake in many parts of the area.

International Activities

Detroit is the only US city where one has to travel south to enter Canada, and there are plenty of reasons to do so. The beer is much better on the other side of the border, and if the ballet in the US was the same as it is in Canada, I would not be so resistant to going out on the town with my wife to take in a little culture. Like the US, Windsor Ontario also has a casino, though one that is significantly smaller than its American competition. Winnings however, are not taxed in Canada and that fact, coupled with legalized prostitution and the proposed decriminalization of marijuana, Windsor has the potential of becoming one of the premier tourist destinations in North America, though I doubt the type of tourist they will be getting is the type they would want.

Those football revelers descending upon the Motor City to take advantage of the Superbowl festivities are sure to leave with an experience they will never forget. If nothing else, they can return home and say with genuine honesty, “I’m so bad, I vacation in Detroit! In winter!”

For the next couple of weeks, in celebration of the Super Bowl, I will be writing up local places of interest (mostly bars, I would guess) that if you are ever in the area you will most likely find me at. If by chance you see me, and have sufficient bail money handy, introduce yourself. I am usually good for a couple of drinks. I’m the bald, goateed gentlemen usually being forcibly ushered towards the parking lot by two gorilla-like members of the bouncing staff at the end of happy hour.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cereal Filler

A tactic favored by some parents while potty training their kids is to make a game out of using the bathroom by throwing a Cheerio, Fruit Loop or some other piece of cereal in the toilet and encouraging the child, usually a boy, to try to aim for it. A friend of mine recently tried this with his son.

He was impressed by the results. His son, who has been a bit reluctant to give up the joys of soiling himself, could not wait to play the cereal game and enthusiastically grabbed his father when it was time for him to relieve himself. After tossing a Fruit Loop into the commode, my buddy then stepped outside of the bathroom to give his son a little privacy while he tried to sink the morsel. He said that he could barely keep from laughing as he heard the sound of his son’s stream hit the toilet water and the muffled sounds of glee coming from child as he chased the morsel around the bowl. When the din of the game died down, he stepped back into the water closet to congratulate his kid but found himself perplexed by what he found, or rather did NOT find, in the toilet. Though his son managed to put the contents of his bladder into the drain, the Fruit Loop was nowhere to be seen. It was however, heard. It lets off a fairly distinctive crunching noise when crushed beneath the molars of a three-year-old boy that believes it to be his rightful reward for finally using the toilet.

I am going to assume that wasting food is not much of a problem in my friend’s household.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Revel WITH A Cause

When I first started The JEP Report, I intended to write political humor. The problem is that for the most part, most people seem to think that politics are about as funny as testicular cancer and my early political diatribes went largely unread. This was not much of a surprise since, as a Republican, I would not expect to gain much of an audience from those members of the blogosphere that lean left of center. Those to the right of center however, seem to lack appreciation for a well written anecdote about a digestive tract gone horribly awry. So, I basically left the political rants aside and concentrated on what essentially resulted in me writing my memoirs. This proved far more successful and the change lead to a twenty-five fold increase in the numbers of The JEP Report’s regular readership. In real terms that meant that instead of two people tuning in every week, just under fifty were. Now, The JEP Report gets about 40 visits a day, still nothing in the world of the blogosphere, but enough to encourage me to keep writing.

Now The JEP Report stands on the verge of another overhaul. The fact is that I have a finite supply of sea stories that I’ve all but exhausted. Every once in a while I’m reminded of something else from the past but the story, once put down on paper, is too close to something already written so I discard it for fear of being repetitive. A few months ago, I tried to write straight fiction but that turns out to be much more difficult than one would imagine. I’m still working on it but its going to be a while before that starts surfacing in its final form. So what’s left? Well, it looks like I will soon be going back into the political arena for no other reason than there’s never a shortage of material there. Also, I have a legitimate cause to embrace now. I have decided to embrace the cause of radical centrism.

I’ve always been a stalwart supporter of the GOP, but recently have been suffering a major crisis of political faith. Flush with a string of recent victories, the party leadership seems to believe that their success is a reflection of a shift in public opinion that favors the conservative movement. They feel emboldened and empowered, as if they have been given a mandate by the people to move ever closer to the far right and promote the agenda of people who, not all that long ago, would have been considered the part of the party’s lunatic fringe. I do not believe that the GOP has been given a popular mandate any more than I believe Bill Clinton never inhaled or never “had sexual relations with that woman”. I believe the Republican Party owes its success in large part to the implosion of the Democratic Party.

During the 2000 presidential race, the Democrats tried to take the middle road, projecting an aura of moderation as did the Republicans. The result was one of the narrowest elections in the history of the United States. In 2004, they tried to distinguish themselves a little more. They went further left, nominating a former anti-war activist who tried to play himself off as compatible with the political mainstream. He failed miserably. He seemed unable to commit to any particular strategy so that when he tried to project himself as strong and unwavering, he appeared insincere and as if he was not really sure what he was doing. For all of George Bush’s faults, he at least seemed to have conviction, something a president needs to have if he is leading a nation at war. Though a close race, I never doubted Republican victory.

After the 2004 campaign, the DNC just seemed to cave in upon itself. They seem to be moving even further left than they were before in spite of the fact that the voting public is reluctant to move along with them. Instead of offering alternative solutions to the issues of the day, they only offer adversarialism, doing their best to obstruct Republican initiatives for no other reason than that they originated from the opposition. The leaders of their party offer little more than vindictive diatribes, which are at the same time transparently hypocritical and devoid of any spirit of constructive cooperation. They want all but are getting nothing. This is an extremely dangerous situation as a viable opposition is an absolutely critical component of a healthy democracy and without it, there is little to keep the process’s victors from becoming victims of their own excesses.

With the DNC drifting further left and the GOP marching further right, what happens to those of us in somewhere in the middle? Our voices get lost in the rhetorical hyperbole of fringe activism, unrepresented as both political institutions drift farther away from the mainstream. In a democracy, the government should reflect the common values of society as a whole, not dictate those values to society, which is what I see happening today. Take the issue of gay marriage. Personally, I fail to see how two homosexuals getting married will impact my life in any way whatsoever. I take great exception to people on the right trying to imply that if I condone this activity, the responsibility for the resultant collapse of western civilization rests upon my shoulders. I also resent the left’s seeming implication that if I do not enthusiastically endorse gay marriage that I am some sort bigoted religious zealot. Frankly, I could care less one way or the other and if the situation does not affect me, I can see no reason at all why I should put any extra effort into impeding another individual’s constitutional right of the pursuit of happiness. Let them get hitched. I only ask that they keep the more explicit honeymoon pictures to themselves.

The reason I picked this issue as an example was that I was involved in several debates on this topic during the last campaign. It seemed like most of them began split along party lines, with Republicans against it and Democrats for it. The longer the debate went on, the less passionate people were about the issue until in the end it seemed to me as if no one truly cared much about it. It was as if they were just taking their cues from the party they were loyal to. If we lived in a politically healthy era, their parties should have been taking their cues from them. Yet in today’s environment, it is almost impossible for the politicians to hear moderate voices of reason over the clamor of special interest groups. The rational voice of moderation needs to be heard, yet at this point I do not think it has a voice. The centrists need an Ann Coulter or an Al Franken, someone who can galvanize and unite the mainstream majority, suggest common sense compromises on thorny policy issues and speak loudly enough to drown out those on both sides of the aisle that try to force us either further left or further right than where we think we should be. I would volunteer for the job but no one has any idea who I am and I’m sure that my lurid accounts of alcoholic excesses would surely prevent me from being taken seriously in the political arena. Then again, people in the political arena take Teddy Kennedy seriously all of the time.

So anyway, I’m going to venture out into politics yet again on a quest to find the voice of reason in American politics. What this means to The JEP Report, I do not know at this point. I have considered starting up a separate blog for politics and updating The JEP Report more infrequently, but I have also considered starting up several subject-specific blogs and using The JEP Report as a resource for just posting everything that I write. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. In the meantime, you’ll get pretty much everything until I make a decision.

Monday, January 16, 2006

TV in the Bedroom Cuts Sexual Frequency by Half

I can see this. Especially during American Idol season. That Randy Jackson dude would turn anybody off. Even if he was sitting next to Paula Abdul.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The JEP Report Now Presents.............

Elsewhere on the Blogosphere........

One good thing about writer's block is that instead of spending tons of time trying to figure out what to put on this blog, I've been able to go out and start looking at others. When I first started doing this, I was searching rather randomly and what I came across were mainly teen-angst driven cyber diaries written by emotionally disturbed people (as teenagers usually are) with the literary abilities of lobotomized crustaceans (an admittedly hypocritical observation from someone who is too lazy to proofread, or for that matter, even spell-check his own damn blog posts). It seemed as if the advent of AOL-speak was poised to destroy the poetic flow that the English language has such potential for, particularly on the internet. I am a huge fan of good writing, not just in comedic form, but in any form that radiates interesting information in a format that is a pleasure to read. Of late, I've been a regular visiter of Musings, by Solo, a blog that emphasizes music and has been rather well enjoyed by someone who of late has not been keeping up on what's out there (Sacto Ritch - Musings is right up your alley).
I would also like to direct everyone's attention to The Daily Mr. Sir. Mr. Sir started another blog in which he has vowed to post random thoughts on a daily basis, and appears to have been failing miserably at it since it's inception. Mr. Sir is a great writer though and a fellow aspiring alchoholic, and I would reccomend him any time.
Then there's the Lorax Line, a blog from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Dartmouth was my earliest source of encouragement when I started The JEP Report, having somehow developed a small following at this prestigious institution of higher learning even though I have never set foot in college myself. This following seems to have largely dissapated though, leading me to believe that they all either graduated or just got better taste in the literature they choose to read on their time off. Anyway, Travis is a liberal but I won't hold that against him. He linked to The JEP Report on his blog so he can't be all that bad.
This morning I found In Erica's World. She only has five posts, but one of them was this, so I would say that she is off to a mighty fine start.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Confronting Demons

When I was seven years old I had a dream that I was in the living room watching television with my parents. At some point, my father decided that he needed something to drink. He left the living room and headed for the kitchen. As soon as he stepped into the hallway separating the two rooms however, Bozo the clown burst out of my parents’ bedroom, located at the far end of the hall, with a butcher knife in hand and a mouth full of silver fangs and various other forms of dental armament. My father never had a chance. He was disemboweled before the commercial ended and, with his throat cut, dragged by the murderous clown back into my parent’s bedroom where he would be consumed.

After my father’s gurgling screams died down, my mother calmly explained to us that a Bozo must have gotten into the house and that she would call an exterminator in the morning. In the meantime, we could not walk on the hallway after sundown or else the savage would eat us. If we had to go to the kitchen, we needed to jump over it. She also told me to keep an eye on my infant brother and make sure he did not try to crawl over it.

A little while after that, my mother decided to go to the kitchen as well. She jumped over the hallway on the way there, but forgot to on the way back. She too met a horrible demise at the hands of the clown right in front of us. It was a very disconcerting experience. I decided to watch more TV to try to get my mind off of it. During the following commercial break, I tore my eyes away from the screen just in time to see my infant brother sitting in the hallway, waving at me. A large, gloved hand then appeared above his hand and snatched him out of my sight. He barely had time to scream before being silenced by a sound reminiscent of a large meat cleaver slamming against a wooden cutting board. I turned up the volume to try to drown out the horrifying sounds of tearing flesh, gnashing teeth and the spackle of crackling grease bubbling over in a frying pan. There was nothing I could do about the smell of bacon permeating the house though and it was making me very hungry.

I wanted to get a snack out of the kitchen, but did not want to become one in the process. Still, I wandered over to the hallway and peered down it to see what was lying in wait. The door to my parents’ bedroom cracked open ever so slightly and an evil predatory eye peered back. Bozo was waiting to pounce. I was quite hungry though, so I decided to chance it. I went to the far end of the living room to get a running start and then shot myself towards the kitchen with all the speed I could muster. I jumped just before I hit the hall and hurtled myself through the air. I looked to my left as I was still airborne and captured a glimpse of the cannibal clown barreling out of the room at me at a full sprint, giant clown feet moving at maximum velocity and butcher knife in hand. He was not quick enough though and before he had even made it to the bathroom, I was safely tumbling across the kitchen floor.

While I was there, I loaded myself up with potato chips, cookies and soda, enough provisions to get me through the night and prepared myself for another running start. This time I tripped though, bounced once across the kitchen’s linoleum deck and landed facedown in the hallway carpet. Knowing the fate that was about to befall me, I rolled over and watched terrified as Bozo loomed menacingly above me. He smiled wide enough to allow a stream of crimson saliva pass through his fangs and run down his chin. He then raised his bloody knife and…….

…..I woke up. Every time. I had this dream over and over again for at least two years and it never deviated the slightest bit. I still remember it vividly though it has been at almost thirty years since I last had it. It was terrifying and when I was little, I was petrified of going to bed because I knew that there was a very good possibility that I would be forced to relive a moment that had the potential of setting my potty training back several years. Needless to say I was not a big fan of The Bozo Show.

That’s why I could not understand why, when my second grade classmate Michael Warner’s mother called and invited me to join her son at a live taping of the show, my mother did not hesitate to send me over there with them. It was an experience so traumatic for me that I have honestly repressed the memory. I do not recall a single detail of that day save that I did actually go. I do remember watching myself on television the following day though, sitting wide-eyed and terrified in the stands with about twenty other kids, completely silent and probably wishing that the police would bust down the door to the studio and kill that maniac with a dull fire axe. At one point I was chosen to take the stage with about five others and do some retarded kid dance but I refused to leave my seat until that unholy abomination was well out of sight and hopefully, being restrained and brutalized by the uniformed representatives of the law enforcement community.

My mother got the point. She kept my exposure to clowns to a minimum after that though she regularly tried to reason with me that by and large they were harmless entertainers employed to make children laugh, not make them entrées to be devoured over a plate of fava beans and a succulent glass of Chianti. In time, the nightmares subsided and so did my paralyzing fear of anything in pasty white makeup. Eventually, I could even dine in at McDonald’s without wondering which one of my classmates had been ground up to form the hamburger my parents expected me to finish.

Just when my phobia seemed to be on the verge of becoming a distant memory however, the news broke of a serial killer in Chicago who tortured, raped and killed over thirty young men and boys and then buried them in a crawl space beneath his suburban home. In addition to being murderous psychopath, John Wayne Gacy also happened to be a clown and several frightening photographs of him in all of his creepy regalia were plastered all over the nation’s television screens. My suspicions were confirmed.

So I have this thing about clowns. A couple of months ago, my wife brought my son home from day care and announced that they had arranged a field trip to the Shrine Circus. She asked me if I would take the day off work so that I could help and make it feasible for us to take all three of the kids to go see it. For obvious reasons, I told her that this would be unlikely as the period immediately following the holiday shut down is sure to be busy and I will almost definitely be needed at work. She thought that having the kids play hookie from school, watch aerial acrobatics and stunts involving animals, eat cotton candy and gorge themselves on soft drinks would be fun. I thought that paying my hard earned money to surround myself with heavily disguised sexual deviants with cookbooks penned by Hannibal Lector would not. I briefly considered going, just in case one of the malcontents was unable to repress his primeval urges and, overcome with an irrepressible thirst for the blood of an innocent, charged the audience but in the end decided that if they wanted to disregard my misgivings about the situation and go, they were on their own. My wife ended up taking the kids by herself.

When I got home from work yesterday, I asked my kids how they liked the circus. My daughter just beamed as she described the dancing poodles, the tigers leaping through rings of fire and the bear that rode the bicycle. My son on the other hand, seemed pretty awestruck by getting to watch an elephant pee in a garbage can, an event that was confirmed by my wife. This was not a planned part of the act but as it took place center stage, turned out to be one of the most exciting parts of the show. It definitely made a lasting impression on my son, who could not stop talking about it. Strangely, this kind of had me momentarily rethinking my policy on clowns.

Now, I’ve had some experience with elephants. I even wrecked one once. I have never seen one provide a urine specimen in a garbage can though and I think that I just might possibly pay $12 and brave a small army of tarted-up savages to see something like that. That is something you just do not typically see on TV. Not even if you have cable.

Next year, I think I’m going to face my fear and go.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A New Era

Yesterday, as I tried to make my way to bed, I stopped in the middle of brushing my teeth to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror. The whites of my eyes had turned an angry shade of crimson and I had a fierce welt right above my right cheekbone where I had been pummeled by a marching baton earlier in the evening, not long after having two devastating kicks to the groin. I also had fingernail marks gouged into my nose. My shirt was torn near the second button from my beltline and a fresh vomit stain covered my left shoulder, flowing down my chest and into my pocket. Six or seven years ago, one could guess with a fair chance of accuracy that my romantic advances had been violently spurned by a drum majorette whose stomach could not bear the thought of seeing me naked. These battle scars did not come from a young lady exercising good taste however, they came from a nine-month-old baby boy who is just learning how to crawl.

This new ability surfaced over the weekend and life has taken on a new sense of urgency ever since. Not only is my son now mobile, he moves at a velocity that is nothing short of astounding for a child of that size. He now spends his days chasing the dog (who has learned to give him plenty of room or else loose a handful of fur that will surely be excruciatingly ripped out of his sensitive posterior regions) around the house and pulling little items such as lint, pieces of metal, hair pins and tape left over from the Christmas presents out of the carpet so that it can be taste tested. When he’s not looking for a non-organic appetizer he’s doing his best to capture, and immediately drool all over, his sibling’s playthings much to their overt horror and disgust and his hysterical delight. His upper body strength has increased dramatically, demonstrated by his almost samurai-like ability to wield his sister’s baton. His legs have also become quite deadly, both strong and accurate, and he tries to show this off with a swift kick to the family jewels every time I try to pick him up. I’ve launched spit out of my nose on several occasions after being kicked by him and was once even brought to my knees, on the verge of throwing up.

Before long, he will be trying to walk. Having been through this twice before, I have learned some things that should help get me through this most trying period of child development. Namely, when he finally pulls himself up for the very first time and then tries to take those very first tentative steps on his own, it’s important that he be tripped immediately. The more devastating the fall, the better. No child should walk until they are old enough to be reasoned with and understand what the phrase, “No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! That can !#$%&*@ KILL you!” means. I’m guessing that comes in somewhere during the 5th year of a child’s life.

So, now I spend a large portion of my day getting battered, bruised and brutalized by a baby boy for doing nothing more than trying to keep him from killing himself. Granted, making unwanted advances at majorettes might make for more riveting reading but any success gained from such an endeavor is usually fleeting. Successes gained from parenting last a lot longer, oftentimes forever. It is rare that a tryst with a majorette will give you anything that lasts forever, unless it is herpes or immersion into the joys of parenting a lot sooner than you had expected to.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Fatherly Wisdom

This morning my daughter, a budding hypochondriac, exposed my three-year-old son to the word, "diarrhea". Looking a little perplexed, he turned to me and asked what diarrhea was. At first, I tried to give him the medical textbook definition but believed that all of the long words would just invite more questions than they answered. In the end, I just fell back on tradition and explained it to him the way it was taught to me when I was a little boy:
"DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!
DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!
Some people think its funny,
But it's really hot and runny!
DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!
DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!
Some people think its gross,
But its really great on toast!
DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!
DIARRHEA! Phbbbt! Phbbbt!"
Of course, my wife will be home from the store soon and I just can't get the little maniac to quit singing it. Being proactive, I've already moved a pillow and a blanket to the downstairs couch and informed the dog that he'll be my spooning partner again tonight.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Facing "The Fear"

I had a conversation today in which the other party, a man in his late 40s, started railing about the dismal state of today’s youth. I’m sure everyone out there has heard this rant at some point of their lives. I started hearing it in the 1980’s when people were blaming the deteriorating morals of our youngest citizens on the emergence of MTV and demanding the banning of video games to cut back on the chronic epidemic of youth violence. This connection was so illogical to me at the time that, as I approached legal adulthood, I had formed the opinion that most people above the age of 27 were solid, irreversible idiots. I was horrified to find, when I reached and then surpassed twenty-seven years of age, that I was completely correct.

As I was growing up, I watched a lot of MTV, played more video games than my paper route income could reasonably withstand and watched more sex and gore in the cinema than the American Psychiatric Association would surely deem healthy. I ended up acquiring nearly every vice imaginable by the time I finished my freshman year of high school, was sexually active two years before I was eligible to get my driver’s license and had developed a habit of street brawling even though I repeatedly demonstrated to myself and to my peers that I had no real talent for it. I can safely say, twenty years later, that MTV, video games and graphic movies had absolutely nothing to do with it. If my parents wanted to blame someone for the wayward path I had embarked upon, they should have sued the public library.

I was a voracious reader. In elementary school, I had read everything by Jack London and while I was in the fifth grade started putting away adult oriented pulp fiction I bought at the second hand book store down the street from my house. As I started middle school, I read all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, The Communist Manifesto and by seventh grade had gotten into the spy stories of Frederick Forsythe and John le Carre. In eighth grade I was feeding an addiction for Leon Uris and Jack Kerouac. It was also in eighth grade when, while also following my other passion for music, that I stumbled across P.J. O’Rourke while thumbing through an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. That was the first time I had ever been stopped dead in my tracks by something I had read and thought to myself, “Wow! I want to do exactly what that guy’s doing!” What P.J. O’Rourke was doing at the time was getting blasted out of his mind and then traveling to a wide array of Third World hellholes and then making people laugh hysterically at his observations of them. I started drinking a few months later to help prepare myself for my future career as a foreign correspondent.

A couple of years later, via a means that I just can not remember, I ended up with a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a sordid first hand account of a man locked in mortal combat with his drug induced hallucinations. He was attacked by imaginary bats, tormented by a mob of lizard people and nearly cut to shreds by his psychotic companion who had discovered a talent for wielding cutlery in the midst of an acid trip gone horribly awry. That sounded like more fun than the human mind could possibly process and from the moment I laid that book down, I was calling people on the phone trying to figure out how I could score some LSD.

It took about a week, but on the following Saturday afternoon, Lucky stopped by the house with a piece of paper perforated into little squares with pictures of Daffy Duck on them. We took a square each, turned on the television, had a few beers and waited for the world around us to explode into indescribable chaos. It was not what I expected. It did not instantly turn us into homicidal serial rapists like my parents told me it would nor was I pursued by a vicious mob of humanoid reptiles or savaged by vampire bats like Hunter Thompson was. I was pretty disappointed. Six hours after taking the drug, I was beginning to think Lucky’s connection had ripped him off.

It eventually did kick in, when we were in the car on our way to get some more from another source, and though there were still no lizards or bats, there was a total sensory inversion that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was like I could see sound and hear light. At times I was tickled by the sensation of weightlessness, at others I was emotionally overwhelmed by just the very concept of my existence. It was an awesome and at the same time, humbling experience though there are better places to do these kinds of things than while at the wheel of a 1976 Dodge van careening through suburban side streets at twice (or half - that stuff kind of makes it hard to tell) the legal speed limit. I found LSD incredibly fun, so much so in fact that I quit doing it a few weeks after I started. I liked it way too much.

I had one relapse in 1991. I went to Las Vegas with a couple of friends during the first Gulf War and deliberately decided to do just one hit to pay homage to my literary hero. Let me tell you right now that Las Vegas is NOT the place to go experimenting with hallucinogens in. The place is an assault on senses under the best of circumstances but when you wander around it with a hyper-sensitive psyche, you’re just begging to have your synapses irreversibly rewired. My prior experiences with the drug had been very pleasant, but on that last trip down Vegas’s glittering strip, I was overtaken by what Hunter Thompson described as “The Fear”.

Now, drug induced paranoia usually begins with the feeling that you are under some sort of covert surveillance, as if the police department or the principal has received a tip that you are doing something illegal and has embarked upon a crusade to ensure that you are caught and held accountable for it. I had always been able to fight the onset of this by reminding myself that most people I do not know could really care less about what I am doing and since I had no felonious history, they had better things to do than watch what I was up to at all times. The problem with Las Vegas is that you ARE under surveillance at all times and there are literally hundreds of people that I have never met taking a very keen interest in my every move. I remember sitting down at a slot machine and wondering where the surveillance cameras were located. I found them in short order. It was not hard as the casinos did not even bother to try hiding them. They wanted people to know they were being watched. If people knew Big Brother was keeping an eye on them, they were less likely to cheat. The next thing I wondered was how many of those cameras were zeroed in on me. The only logical conclusion a person with a head full of mind altering substances could draw was that ALL of them were. I then felt myself starting to panic and I tried to decide what to do next.

I came to conclusion that my best course of action was to try and blend in with the crowd. If I acted like everyone else around me, the men behind the cameras would not pay me much mind. I looked to my right and glanced over at the man at the machine next to me. He was an older gentleman, probably past retirement age, and gaudily dressed like only the elderly or hopelessly color blind could possibly be. He was putting portions of his pension in the machine’s slot in a very rhythmic fashion but pulling the lever at infrequent intervals. After a couple of seconds of intense studying of this character, I figured out that he was gambling. I then deduced that if I was going to try to look like a gambler instead of an inveterate abuser of illicit drugs on the verge of a complete mental meltdown, it would probably be in my best interests to do a little gambling myself. I just happened to have a pocketful of quarters handy from my pre-hallucinogenic sojourn through Caesar’s Palace earlier in the day so I was spared the risk of having to ask passerby for change.

My first couple of pulls on the one-armed bandit went fairly well. I put the coins in, pulled the lever and watched the wheels spin. When they stopped, I repeated the process. It was a routine that I felt I could handle for a fairly long stretch of time until I was able to get a handle on the idea that there really were people watching me this time. Then, without any warning whatsoever, the machine screamed at me. It was not a human scream, but bell-like, something like the old style of telephones but much louder and at a much more rapid frequency. It scared the living hell out of me and I jumped hard enough to fly backwards out of my chair and stumble out into the aisle. I was trying to figure out what was going on and focusing on keeping my bladder under control when the old man sitting next to me turned around and said, “Good job son! You just won twenty bucks.”

I shot the man a stare of disbelief and then squinted at the machine to see if he was right or if he was colluding with the machine’s side to try to lure me back in close so that the thing could try to freak me out again. It turned out that the old man was right. I had won twenty dollars. With my heart racing out of sheer terror, I suspiciously retook my seat and prayed to God that nothing like that ever happened again. I put three more quarters into the machine, avoiding sudden movements so as not to provoke it and while holding my breath I closed my eyes and slowly pulled the lever to get the wheels rolling again. I heard the machine spinning for a few seconds followed by the distinctive “CLUNK! CLUNK!..............CLUNK!” of the wheels stopping and was relieved to hear nothing else. I repeated this several times before everything just up and went all to hell a few moments later.

I was just starting to get comfortable with my routine again when the world around me suddenly erupted into an explosion of light and color. It seemed like the casino’s lights had suddenly gone dim and the air was instantly filled with the sound of an all-encompassing fire siren that instantly drowned out every other sound around me. When I opened my eyes, I saw streaks of red light racing across the walls, red lights that were all too familiar to me as a veteran of multiple traffic stops. It was the cops. I was busted.

Once again, I shot out of my seat and stumbled into the aisle, looking around nervously and going through a long list of possible transgressions that I may have committed and already forgotten about within the last few seconds. I wondered if I had accidentally taken some quarters out of someone else’s bucket. I doubted this as I had been pulling them out of my pocket but it was possible given my compromised psychological state. I then wondered if maybe I had exposed myself to one of the old people within whose midst I had been gambling in for the past few minutes. It was not like the thought of just dropping my trousers and mooning a random geriatric just to see what their reaction would be had never crossed my mind before. Hell, I thought about doing that all the time even when I was completely sober. I had never acted upon it before but there was no telling what kind of effect a powerful hallucinogen could have on one’s inhibitions. Still, I thought that I would have remembered doing something like that and hoped that I would have formulated a reliable escape plan before undoing my belt.

I was still standing in the aisle trying to figure out what I had done when I saw the first uniformed man round the corner into our aisle and begin bearing down on me. I turned to begin walking the other way but realized that I was cut off by another who had crept in from behind. “Oooooooohhhhh Gaaaaaawwwwd!” I said to myself as I realized they had me surrounded followed by, “Oh God! Oh God! Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod!” as they started closing in. I found myself hoping against hope that they would suddenly morph into those lizard people that Hunter Thompson had talked about. That way I would know for sure that they were not really there and I could just go back to playing my slot machine while trying to ignore them. I had no such luck. They were still coming and soon they were close enough that I could see them smiling. My heart sank as the realization set in that I was about to be locked into a confrontation with a couple of casino goons that took immense enjoyment in their work. I was doomed.

It was about that time that I started struggling with my fight-or-flee instincts. I decided that if I made a mad dash for it, I would probably have no problem getting past one of the goons. The problem was I was not really sure where to go next. I had lost track of the exit and had no idea which direction would lead me into the dry desert air outside. As for fighting, well, the US military did train me to kill. Unfortunately they trained me to kill by pressing buttons on really cool pieces of technology that sent missiles flying hundreds of miles away to obliterate my opponents, and I did not have one of those really cool pieces of technology handy at the moment. The only thing I had ever killed with my bare hands was a bottle of tequila. Not to brag, but when I am confronted by a belligerent bottle of booze, I’m pretty deadly. The goons bearing down on me among the slot machines looked like they would put up much more of a fight though. So there I stood, trying to decide whether to fight or flee. Fight? Flee? Fight or Flee? Flee? Fight? Fightorflee? I desperately needed to make a decision but incredibly I just could not do it. While I was incredibly frustrated by my inability to make a choice, at the same time I remember feeling very relieved that I lived in a civilized society and did not have to deal with this sort of critical indecision in the wild. If I had been in the woods and found myself being charged by a maniacal groundhog ravaged by advanced stage hydrophobia, I would have been screwed. That’s one reason that, even now, I am loath to walk into any sort of forest unless I am appropriately armed.

At some point I must have just resigned myself to going along quietly, which is amazing itself given that it is completely against my nature. My muscles seemed to go limp and my knees started to wobble as I braced myself for the inevitable. Then, just as one of the goons was almost upon me, he turned right and approached the old man who was playing the machine next door. The goon approaching me from the rear also strolled up next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. They were after him, not me. For some reason I was not all that surprised, seeing as how I was suspicious of the old bastard anyway. He looked like a pervert.

Come to find out, the old man was not a pervert as I suspected. He was a winner. He had hit a pretty sizeable jackpot and the security guards were swooping down to escort him to the cash cage as his winnings were too much to be collected from the machine. They reset the machine, mercifully killing the siren and rotating red light emanating from it, and gave him a hearty congratulations. I did not congratulate him because I still didn’t trust him.

After that, I collected my winnings and made for more soothing environs, namely a place that dispensed alcoholic beverages. After discovering that you can’t order a shot of tequila and a Heineken from a blackjack dealer you’ve mistaken for a bartender, I finally just gave up and decided to go back to my room at the Circus Circus.

The walk back to the hotel was hell. It was pure sensory overload and I believe I made most of it with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears. When I finally made it back, nothing let up either. The Circus Circus is a virtual kaleidoscope of loud colors and louder audio ambience, as it seemed to be designed by P.T. Barnum while he was on more (and undoubtedly better) drugs than I was. I rushed to get through the lobby as quick as I could and after getting temporarily lost amidst another sea of paranoia-inducing slot machines, I found an elevator and ducked inside. As the steel doors closed, the noise outside faded away and I finally found just enough peace to open my eyes and let out a long hard sigh of relief. It was then that I was confronted by the most terrifying apparition I had ever found myself faced with.

Now, I would stop short of saying that I am afflicted by Coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns, but that doesn’t mean I particularly trust the fuckers either. I am especially wary of them when I am trapped in a confined space with one. Judging by the reflection I saw on the steel doors of the elevator that is exactly the situation I found myself in. An involuntary whimper escaped from my lips and I instinctively stepped back away from the vision I saw on the doors, unwittingly closer to the beast behind me.

It was a small elevator, and we were very close. I could feel its breath on my neck and smell the pungent aroma of rotting meat and fermented blood that was carried upon it. It was the breath of a cannibal and I was in very grave danger.

There was no conflict between my urges to engage in combat or run for my life this time. I was in an elevator and there was nowhere to go. My only option was to strike out offensively, with decisiveness and devastation. I spun around, let out a battle cry and lashed out blindly. There was nothing there. Nothing save the large poster on the back wall portraying an evil looking clown advertising some sort of circus act held four times daily somewhere on the grounds of the hotel. I really needed to get somewhere out of sight as quick as I could.

I was relieved to find once I arrived at my room that my buddies were still out on the town somewhere. I really needed some alone time in a place where I could deprive my senses until the thunder in my head had died out. I pulled the shades, drew myself a nice hot bath, turned out the lights and crawled into the tub. Bathing in the dark was a great idea. It gave me a warm womblike sensation, especially when coupled with the deafening sound of my own heartbeat, and I felt safe and secure. With my inner peace restored, I dried off and went to bed, intent upon sleeping off the rest of the effects of the drug.

Now, you can do a lot of things while under the effects of LSD. You can hitch a ride through the clouds on the backs of Valkyries, raining droplets of Nirvanic enlightenment on the bellicose natives below if your psyche is wired that way. You can even survey the Congo on the back of a yellow hippopotamus if that is your fancy. You can levitate, breathe underwater and shoot yellow laser beams out of your right nostril. You can even travel to the inner rings of Saturn via astral projection and share a Twinkie with a past incarnation of the Dalai Lama and Pol Pot if you want. One thing you can not do however, is sleep. When the first of my buddies entered the room sometime during the early morning hours of that night, he found me right where I had been since I left the tub, sitting upright on the bed in total darkness with my eyes wide open and flashing him a wry surprised smile like I had just caught a discreet glimpse of Tipper Gore in her underwear.

I have not done drugs since.

Now, fifteen years later, I find myself as a parent with a real dilemma. What do I tell my kids when they ask me about drugs? One problem I have is that, while I’m not necessarily proud of my youthful recklessness, I by no means regret it either. I am not sure if this is because I emerged from my youthful recklessness completely unscathed or because of some sociopathic aberration in my personality. Regardless, that does not mean I want them trying the stuff. Though I survived, in fact some might even say thrived, in spite of my experimentation, several members of my teenaged circle of friends did not. Some have even died as a result. So, what tactic do I use to dissuade them? Do I adapt a strong, paternal stance and dictate that, “Thou shalt not do drugs!”? Or do I provide a strong paternal stance enhanced with a realistic account of what to expect from narcotics along with sound advice about how to handle those sorts of situations if they arise, like, “Thou shalt not do drugs…..especially in Vegas!”?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The JEP Report's Greatest Hits

Well, I’m going to be busy for a little while, so I decided to compile a list of The JEP Report’s Greatest Hits, posts that if you haven’t read them yet may be worth your while. If you have already read them, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you could vote on them or something. Some good news though, is that over the holiday, I was reminded of a couple of events from my youth that could bear inclusion and will be working on those forthright. So, without further adieu, here is the list of the best posts of 2005:

1. Genesis

2. Birth of an Unrepentant Libertine

3. The Intrinsic Hazards of Philippine Cuisine

4. Savage Sushi

5. Thai-ing One On

6. Conquering Fuji-san

7. Training Day

8. Tijuana Travesty

9. My Brand New Boy is Here

10. Decatur Debacle

11. Teasing Neptune (Mainly Because I was really proud of the fish I caught on that one)

I think my own personal favorite is Training Day. I just submitted it to McSweeney's for consideration of publication. I'll let you know if anything comes of that.

Anyway, it looks like I may be out of action for the rest of the week. Hopefully I’ll have a couple of epics ready by the time I get back.

Happy New Year Everybody!

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