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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Solutions to Problems You Didn't Even Know You Had

Recently, while whittling away my humanity on Facebook, I read the status of a friend who was complaining about the incessant crying of a neighbor baby. She said wanted to just walk into the apartment and “stick a boob in his mouth.” Breastfeeding seems to be a hot topic for some. Most of the women I know don’t feel that being females or mothers obligates them to do much of anything, but they are fairly certain that if they want to whip out their tits and lactate into the baby’s mouth in public, then the rest of the world is obligated to lap it up (figuratively). Just to be clear, it seems natural enough for women to nurse their babies, and I think you’d had to be pretty stupid to try to hold the line against public nursing. Every year, some clueless security guard, bus driver, restaurant owner, whoever, hassles some woman over feeding her baby and showing a little boob in public, and every year a bunch of humorless, angry mothers rally against that hapless boob banner. There really aren’t policies or laws against nursing in public, but someone will always witlessly try to prevent breasting anyway, and the cycle will continue.  My interest isn’t in that debate. I’m a little more interested in the solution suggested by friend for handling problems, putting boobs in mouths. A lot of the nursing enthusiasts are hippie type moms who are generally anti-war, pro nature et-cetera. I’ve seen peace activists at Klan rallies, riots, and angry fag hating Baptist demonstrations trying to help crowds avoid conflict and violence. I think it’s time for the fertile women among them to take the next step. Put boobs in the mouths of all the discontented. If I were angrily protesting the Westboro Baptist Church and getting increasingly angry as Shirley Phelps shit out something vile through mouth I’m pretty sure my anger would be dissipated if some buxom earth mother came up to me, put her titty in my mouth and said “Peace brother, let the waters of life cool and replenish your raging soul.” I can imagine a column of women with dreadlocks, wearing nothing but sundresses walking into an irate crowd, perky nipples at the ready to cool down the masses.

 Speaking of solutions, slapping the side of appliances seems to be a common one. God’s one indulgence to the angry is to allow them to get positive results from smacking the sides of televisions and radio in order to get better reception.  There are similar solutions; variations on a theme. I also read on soul-sucking Facebook that my friend’s mother had recently struck a broken refrigerator with a hammer, and the refrigerator had come back on, fully functional. I can only glean from this that hitting things with hammers can fix them. I want to help the world now. First thing in the morning, when I take the earliest of busses to work, I will look for the poor souls that have obviously been up all night drinking. They’re usually poorly shaved, reeking of stale booze and cigarettes, but no longer; I’m going to give them a playful whack on the back of their skulls. After clearing the initial cobwebs, they will appear clean shaven, in fresh clothing, smelling like roses. They would be elated, but they will have realized that they’ve squandered their lives. All they’ll want to do is grab a newspaper and find a help-wanted ad in order to better themselves. My hammer blows on the bus aren’t over. Often, I notice some mother swearing at her small children on the bus, cruelly berating them in an age inappropriate and ridiculous way. SMACK! Mom won’t be able to talk much for a few minutes, but then she’ll be all smiles, taking life for what it is, not prone to sharp responses or coherent thought really. The public transportation casa novas (oxymoron, anyone?) who harass every healthy woman of breeding age that walks onto the bus is also due for an upgrade.  The next time he opens his mouth, CRACK! In the future, he’ll have to settle for smiles (closed lip) and nodding. If the budding romance is real, it will have to be the initiative of the women in question. This shouldn’t be thought of as punitive. We can improve writers who need inspiration, jolt depressed people who don’t feel anything,  reclaim clowns who need blood to wash away their shameful make-up, help students tune out the distractions in their life, etc. In fact, I might just go on an improvement spree right now, anyone care to join me at the mall?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Many Faces of Montoya


  I guess I have an appearance that leaves many different people with many different impressions. One event in particular might make clear my meaning. A few weeks ago, after a long day of confusing and disillusioning people trying to learn English, I walked by a house where lots of parents and little people were sitting on the porch, bouncing basketballs in the driveway. The adults looked the way you might imagine the people on COPS to look in the rare few moments when they aren’t strung out, drunk, fighting, or fucking strangers(or am I just confusing them with most of the neighborhood’s residents?)/ I was carrying my length-wide book bag, the kind with a strap that goes over the shoulder. One of the kids, nicely enough said “Hi, mailman.”
      If memory serves, I responded “Shut the hell up, you little idiot. I realize you haven’t been on the earth all that long, but you should have better powers of recognition than that.” Come to think of it, that’s not exactly what I said.
My response was more along the lines of “Well, I’m not the mailman, but hello, buddy.”
This funny little interaction reminded me of a similar interaction I had eight years ago, similarly heading home from work. I was wearing my smart, ridiculously authoritative looking Pinkerton uniform. I was some dozen yards away from a playground full of kids a year shy of kindergarten and some little girl knew just the right words to embarrass me “Hi, policeman!”
Of course, having read the Security Officer’s Handbook, I was ready to bring clarity to her confused little mind, “M’aam, that’s not entirely correct. I’m a security officer, not a police officer. I do not have the power to arrest people or to interrogate them; furthermore, I can only detain people or use physical force in limited situations where I can prevent violence.”  In actuality, I was relying on her to read between the lines of my simple, strategic response which was initially a lame attempt to refuse the title that devolved into laughter and culminated with a wave.

            The many people I impress have all sorts of misconceptions about me. I’ve had women  tell me  they were almost certain I was related to Brad Pitt. Noam Chomsky routinely contacts me via my pen names’ email addresses, asking if me if I am in fact his evil twin brother-the Mycroft to his Holmes. Earlier in my life, during a particularly difficult stay in California I was a body extra in Hollywood. Most viewers who couldn’t see my face, but  were still aware of the presence of a body double just assumed I was Ron Jeremy. There are many who have suggested that I be made the next Pope.

Charisma and long-suffering aside, there are a few descriptions that I will not suffer. I will not tolerate being described as a “Republican Party activist.” I’ve never once said “I don’t care about his kids, and he doesn’t care about mine. Why should I pay taxes for his brat?" Therefore, I’m not qualified for such an appellation. While I’ve always considered myself cynical, misanthropic, and suspicious, my left wing sensibilities shudder at the idea of being labeled a “South African-Mercenary.” It brings to mind images of corrupt dictators using blood diamond swag to hire gunmen and prop up their rotten regimes. I’ve never had any rapport with any dictators, and as far as I know neither of the Castro brothers have set up a Twitter account. In a more apolitical vein, I need to make clear that I do not want to be known as an “avid television enthusiast.”  My workplace doesn’t have a water cooler, but even when it did I never stood around waiting to strike up a conversation about American Idol, Friends, Dancing with The Stars, 24,  or any of the other shows I don’t care for. I only watch dozens of shows that I enjoy. Lastly, I remember  a friend of mine who had run on a third-party ticket debated third-party caliber people, one of whom described herself as an “anti-sodomy activist.” That woman’s mind must linger in some pretty strange part of the world if she dedicates her life to seeking out and suppressing buttfucking.  Along similar lines, I’d prefer not to be referred to as a “budding pornographer.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Vast Bisexual Conspiracy

Roger came running towards me.  Roger is  about 18 years old or so and is probably one my favorite students because he attacks geek subject matter with relish. If ever I need to discuss zombie apocalypses, the Marvel universe, or popular science fiction, I need only to turn the nozzle and the hot water will pour out. In fact, it will overflow out of the sink, flood the bathroom floor and seep through the floor until your downtairs neighbor’s ceiling has a leak.  A discussion with him on the X-Men First Class movie's deviations from the actual comics may very well take up your next 45 minutes in spite of any subtle attempts to table the conversation or body language that’s meant to convey “Okay, enough already, damn it.”  In any event,  back on track, Roger came running towards me. As per usual, he wanted to happily inform me of the effects of rough-housing with friends. He once advised me not shake any friends who were stronger than I was. Today,  he proffered this sage advice “Don’t ever get in a fight with a bisexual, when you them, they hit you back a lot harder.” I didn’t have words with which to respond right away.

“Okay, Roger.”

A part of me wanted to ascertain whether or not Roger understood what the term “bisexual” meant; moreover, I wanted to ask him he understood that  in spite of the bisexual’s  raw and energetic appetites, they still, on average, posses no more street fighting prowess than the average queer. In fact, the bisexual’s sole super power lies in his or most certainly her ability to engage in coitus for hours, even days at a time, but I digress… No, unless I’m missing something, the Bisexual Nation nor the Bisexual People have never had advantage when it comes to the art of war. I could be wrong. Perhaps historians will surprise all of us in a year or two by a finding one of Joseph Stalin’s private journal in which he reflects “Indeed, the Swastika was but days away from flying over Moscow and leaving our socialist utopia in ruins were it not for the release of the Siberian Bisexual Brigade. For reasons that would later become obvious the men of this unit never found the military life altogether demoralizing. Every morning they arose renewed and fresh for battle. Our Comrade Bisexuals, upon learning of men and women suffering fascist occupation, would get a special gleam in their eyes, obviously wishing for nothing more than to liberate their proletarian sisters… and brothers. “No the bisexual’s are united by one particular similarity, nor a language, territorial claim, or martial art. That said, it doesn’t stop people from trying to group them. I remember some bag lady sitting in Denny’s Late at night, rambling away about something. I only remember the following words “J. Edgar Hoover. J. Edgar Hoover was slandered by bisexuals.”

This grand, longwinded introduction is simply meant to get you to reflect on the delightful eccentrics of your life and to encourage you to rewind your mental audio in an effort to remember just what it was that they said. Roger’s comment was ridiculous, but not insane, and it brought back memories of a man who used to ride some of the same busses that I did and frequent the same haunts  This man’s most distinctive feature was his small set of lips. His face seemed so small as to be turtle like; in fact, his pursed lips reminded me more a turtle’s beak than a face. He had a crew cut.  His hair was always pretty much shaved down to the scalp. His sitting posture had to be his second most noticeable distinction. He sat with one leg resting over the other, but his knee was always help up high, circling around and jerking, and he constantly tapped his foot.  Then there were his hands, or actually, his hand. He’d pull his fingers down from his hair through his forehand and into his nostrils, but it didn’t seem like he was guilty of nosepickin’. From the nose, he would reach out to something in front of him and then start this tic all over again. Yeah, you’ve probably reached the obvious conclusion by now that this dude was a bit on the strange side. But physical appearance really shouldn’t be reason enough to be considered strange. Well okay, maybe tics can be legitimately weird, but we here at Ray Ray Montoya Industries refuse to be superficial. No, this gem of a man was, and is, cherished most of all for his outbursts, blurtings, his random words.  I remember him favoring bus passengers, none of whom were conversing with him, with some of the following phrases, usually repeated:

                   “That little teacup.”

                     “The story of Sampson. The Jawbone of an ass.”

                     “Those Italians.”

                     “The tallest woman in the world is 7 ft tall. She lives in Mecca.”

                      “ The Birdcage. That was a play about homosexuals.”

                     “Say the Rosary.”

                     “Sink the Bismarck.”

                     “Aaaa mockery of God.”

                      “Ya take out the bones. Codfish, mashed potatoes, and a little bit of butter. It’s really very good.”

“Ringo Star of The Beatles was the only one of The Beatles that was Catholic.”

As admitted earlier, this man and I seemed to travel in the same circles. If it was the type of place where loitering was expected and local color tolerated, then he’d be there. I remember him repeating the phrase “She begged for her life,” while pacing around a bar/ pizzeria. A waitress told him to stop saying that because he was bothering her. He stopped for a second, but then had another false start. Again, the waitress chided him and this time he really did cease his disturbing reverie. On the other side of town, at a cafĂ©-pizzeria, in a gentle cadence, he repeated “No Irish need apply/ No Irish need apply.”

I could refer to him as “this guy” but that sounds too mundane given his antics. I could say “this eccentric,” but that sounds like I’m hedging my bets and holding back. I don’t want to be cruel, but dear reader we’re going to from here on out refer to him as “the weirdo.” The weirdo was well known all over town. Most frequent bus-riders or people who spent anytime downtown knew him as that guy with “shell-shock,” “Tourette’s,” “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,” “Autism.” I heard him referred to as “booger-man” and “hand-jive,”  or “that big guy with the crewcut.” The fact is, if the year were bad for incumbents, he probably could’ve gotten elected to the local city council. The weirdo was literally everywhere. Southside, Northside, on the bus, at the bar, eating at the diner.  He walked down highways into outlying rural areas. There are stories of him hitchhiking his way back home from as far as 45 miles away after having spent the night in a ditch off a rural highway. Sadly, I don’t think this man, this weirdo, is with us anymore. It sounds like a mockery, but I honestly heard that he was seen getting off the bus looking into the sun, muttering something unintelligible, stopping and falling down dead. A mysterious death somehow seems appropriate for an enigmatic man who doubtlessly confused many of his fellow travelers during his lifetime. From a storyteller’s standpoint, I’m not sure we would be any better off knowing what his deal  actually was.

I Bleed My Art-Once A Month

The scene was the Women’s Federated clubhouse, one of Northern Michigan’s many beautiful and historic buildings. Chandeliers, smooth carpet, large handcrafted wooden doors, ornate windows-you get the idea. Although the year was 2004, an angry Victorian era artist of Pakistani extraction was playing classical guitar. Perhaps he was dressed in a ruffled collar and pantaloons; or perhaps a dark suit with a top hat, I really don’t remember. His countenance fierce, he strummed away on his guitar, clearly impatient and offering slim acknowledgement of his “crowd’s” appreciation.  In any event, I think we were all successfully impressed with the realization that, yes, he was indeed a master classical guitarist. There was an afterglow at a local professor’s house. A small group of his admirers, cordial, yet reserved, encircled him, while he stood apart his eyes full of both distance and defiance like some hero from the literature of Lord Byron. He was displeased to have seen a sleeping octogenarian (or ninety something, but I don’t know that word) sleeping during his performance, although to me and his the rest of his audience it was the type of involuntary stupor common to the elderly. He continued his act of faux insecurity and displeasure while being humored by college students and professors of a better nature. Myself, I had too much gratis wine, belying my pretense of being a cultural sophisticate, and my own mood was getting characteristically ugly. For some reason, the guitarist recognized that I wasn’t one of his disciples and deigned to speak to me directly. Earlier, I had asked him if he had played with the Grateful Dead awhile back; only once person laughed; the others either weren’t amused or assumed that I was both confused and stupid. He responded with a simple, but only mildly impatient “no.” In any event, I stood out.

 “Are you a guitarist or a musician?” he asked.

  I told him that I wasn’t.

  “God bless you,” he replied.

This proved too much. This bad act of a romantic exaggerating the snares and pitfalls of his art. This angry artist, bucking the trend of popular dismissal of the finer things,  strongly appreciative of the few souls that gave the pure artist his due.  A few minutes later, I said it.

  “Shut up.”

I didn’t have the witty banter to mock him, nor did I have the musical knowledge to ferret out any small imperfections in his performance and amplify them. So there I was.

   “Shut up.”

  No one slapped my back and told me that what I said was hilarious or spot on in the days that followed, but neither did anyone scrupulously avoid eye contact or hellos either. Over coffee, a fellow student told me that he had lived with the maestro of strings while studying under him. Sometimes, while the student was practicing in his room, the Prince of Strings would burst into his room, yelling “I didn’t teach you to play that.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Snatch of The Titans

I went to see a prominent literary humorist, probably the most prominent literary humorist- I’m not thinking about Billy Collins, either. If we travel in anything close to the same circles, you probably have an idea who I’m talking about. This writer is an affable, cuddly little man. Even in my usual prickly and neurotic state I still wanted to give him a hug.  He seemed humble enough. Ticket prices didn’t require me to sell my mother’s organs; he didn’t have some academic sycophant felate his public persona before coming on stage; neither did he seem arch or snide as, frankly, many of the best writers are. He just read his amusing essays, a “whimsy” and even some journal entries.  The packed audience was all smiles and laughter. Not to be too obvious about it, but Mr  “Mason Aadaris” is a natural humorist. Where stand-up comedy meets literature, there he is. It might be that he is best described as a comedian. Apparently the humor gene is active in the family genome. Forget I mentioned that.  The best performers make it look effortless, so that may be why I’m a bit confused, hung-up on this man’s status. You see, looking around the crowd, I saw primarily young and attractive hipsters, arty queers, (probably their to conspire with their fellow) and what I can only describe as the N.P.R. crowd-middle age, academic, staid in demeanor. These are all groups of people who choose their outings carefully. You aren’t likely to catch them at the Aerosmith Farewell Tour, nor would I have picked too many of them to buy tickets to see Chris Rock at the stadium nearby. I realize that I’m generalizing here, plenty of exceptions of everywhere, but I think most people would have described the crowd in similar terms and had the same perceptions. So why would we haughty types see this man and not Chris Rock. Mr. Kevin Sataris struck some his best blows using wordplay jokes about German pornography, resenting his dad, birds shitting in people’s mouths, (don’t second guess what I wrote, I heard what I heard) being gay, sperm-bank jokes, and quarreling with sist-brothers. This man is an old style humorist who simply writes funny little diddies and then goes on the lecture circuit! So how did the "cultural elite" deem him literary enough to be admitted to the high-art club? I guess I haven’t read much of him, but what I heard was a reinterpretation of a lot of stand-up.

  Mark Twain did the same thing, and I don’t dare to impugn his (or Mr. Gadaris’s for that matter) literary credentials. I’ve read some description of Mark Twain as our nation’s first stand-up comedian.  Twain said “Fine literature is like Champagne. My writing is like water. Everybody drinks water.” That modest (cynical?) self-assessment may be the key. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were written in spare, authentic style which reflected the region that inspired it. His concise, sometimes journalistic style of writing was influential. From Hemingway to Hunter S. Thompson, you can see his influence. To be sure, Twain’s "The Damned Human  Race” and a lot of his other non-fiction is brave and hard-hitting, but it may be that his populist style of writing is why we know his name today. Is that what I’m missing with S—daris? That his yarn-spinning seems so effortless and casual simply because he is such a literary genius? Is it his work that has inspired countless other non-fiction humorist/essayist to fuse writing with stand-up? Or maybe Sedaris’s true genius is taking the piss out of snobs by getting them to laugh at shit.

I Can Be an Asshole Too

I think I’m resentful of the fact that I can’t make any sustained involvement with a church or community work. Doubt, neuroses, and other little ground-crawling, multi-legged insects start crawling all over my brain, titillating my nervous system and the relationship falls apart… but I digress. The other day I tagged along with girlfriend and her kids when they went to a birthday party held at her church. There was contra-dancing and the usual smarmy request that we get up and dance. You know the person who knows that you really don’t want to dance, but feels like exerting their social influence. Nevertheless, we avoided dancing on this end of the week Friday and watched instead. I can’t help but wonder if my charming and lighthearted banter helped us smoothly slide out of participation.
Ray Ray Montoya:  It’s my fault. She can’t dance without a partner, and I guess I’m that sourpuss that doesn’t want to dance.

Church Lady #23: Oh there are plenty of people up there. I’ll dance with her if she needs a partner.

Ray-Ray Montoya: Well, we don’t want to encourage same-sex dancing. It’s a violation or something. It says something about it in Leviticus.

Church Lady # 23: No, there’s same sex dancing. It’s fine

Ray-Ray Montoya: Well it just says something about it being an “abomination” or something like that.

Church Lady # 23: That’s intercourse.

Ray-Ray Montoya: ….

(Three seconds recovery time)

Ray-Ray Montoya: Oh, gosh, you’re right, sex; I’m always getting my rhythms and intimacies confused.

She called my bluff and said the word “intercourse” in church. She won.

Like Adults But Smaller and More Anti-Social

The other day my girlfriend and I picked up her children from their school. School itself isn’t what it used to be. Alexandra and Raymond are now taught by Chinese women who wag their fingers at the little people if they speak to them in any language other than Chinese. The flags of many nations hang in the halls, and end of the day traffic jams around elementary schools have become routine for parents who don’t want to wait an hour for the school bus to take their children across town. In this town, gone are the days of neighborhood elementary schools. The human organism seems to be experiencing more cell division, getting a little more complicated every year, and yet, you can take comfort from knowing that your children, who are adorable, who are gifts from God, are still more than likely little rude beasts!

  This particular instance is as endearing as it illustrative of my central assertion. As you may remember, in elementary school, you became the center of attention when your parent/s came to pick you up. All eyes were on you as an adult came to remove you from the school’s jurisdiction while everyone else had to mind the teacher or wait for the school bus. As my girlfriend and I walked into the classroom where her children were waiting, we saw many little heads and wide eyes staring up at us, with such awe and curiosity that I have to assume they weren’t reacting to my girth and ugliness exclusively. The hugs that lift spirits and make days were forthcoming from the familiar children. They are lovable forever, but only for moments at a time.  Then, the other little faces began to query the children in question.

“Alexandra, is that your Dad?” 

  “No!” both children shouted.

It wasn’t that the question was nosy. In this day and age, the kids don’t necessarily understand and aren’t really bothered by the family situation. No, the breach had occurred because their moment of attention had been interrupted by a ridiculous question! Alexandra clarified with the candor only granted to children, “My dad is bald, and that would look terrible on him!” My own receding hairline quivered in reaction to this statement.