Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
-Mark Twain

I've never made an honest attempt at New Year's Resolutions. I often make New Year's Maybes, half-assed vows I make to myself and then forget about them less than a week later. Some of these futile resolutions have been:
1. Quit biting my nails (a filthy habit)
2. Start eating better
3. Get more exercise
4. Read more books that aren't total garbage...
...and the list goes on.

I think every week I make "weekend" resolutions. They usually go like this:

1. Clean my car
2. Do laundry
3. Finish my paper
4. Walk the dogs...
...and these usually dissolve--I forget, or I lose my motivation.

Maybe this year my resolution will be to regain that motivation--or only stick to resolutions I know will actually come to fruition. Here's one: Tonight, I will eat dinner.

Baby steps.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Porcelain Trees

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

-Oscar Wilde
I must be unimaginative, because this is my third recent post about the weather.
If you are one of those folks that lives in a part of the country that gets tons of snow, I don't know how you stand it. This weekend, Albuquerque looked like the opening shot in Fargo.

Last night, Albuquerque received over a foot of snow. I've never seen so much snow, and I've never had to dig my car out with a shovel. Plus, New Mexicans, including me, are incapable of gracefully driving on the icy roads.

This didn't stop my place of employment, Flying Star restaurant, from opening for business, despite the fact that the rest of Albuquerque followed Denver's example and completely shut down. Half of the restaurant staff didn't even show up, while the rest of us resented every single customer that walked through the door. It didn't help my attitude that many of these customers ended up stuck in our parking lot and we had to help push their cars out of the lot. They had to go out to eat because...? I can imagine these yuppie couples in their homes, panicking at the sight of snow. "My God!" the husband might say. "It's snowing and we don't know how to cook! If we don't get to Flying Star soon, we might have to eat the kids!"

Still, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I do enjoy way the snow cover makes everything, from the tree branches to the roads to the homes homes, look as delicate as white porcelain. But I've seen enough, and I'm ready for the sun to return.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Where'd the day go?

“Nothing irritates me more than chronic laziness in others. Mind you, it's only mental sloth I object to. Physical sloth can be heavenly.”
-Elizabeth Hurley

Yesterday was one of those days that I did absolutely nothing. My neighbor brought over his XBox 360 and we hooked it up to my brand new TV. After that, we played for hours, until my eyes were sore and my butt was asleep.

I can't imagine how little I'd accomplish if I owned a 360. I'm fascinated by WWII and WWII films, so if I had an XBox and Call of Duty 3 to go along with it, I think all of my muscles would atrophy (except for those in my hands that work the controllers).

I'm not even very good at video games. Yesterday, Brian, Chris, my brother and I played Halo 2. We played against each other, and somebody killed Brian. "Who was that?" he cried. Then he thought for a moment. "Well, I know it wasn't Simon."

I wonder how I spent an entire day doing something I'm not even good at.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Grocery Trip

"An old man is twice a child."

Today, Kim decided to make appetizers that had ingredients that required a trip to the grocery store. The same grocery store that Kim and I happen to shop at also happens to be the same store that every elderly person in Albuquerque shops at. I'm not joking--it's damned near impossible to walk up and down those aisles. I can't get past the carts parked in the very middle of the aisle and the old folks standing next to them, peering at the canned pears through squinting eyes because they can't read the labels.

I happen to like this store. It's a little bit further from the store that's only a block or two away, but I prefer its prices and the deli. Apparently, the older people like it for the same reason.

Though I have trouble shopping among them, today I found myself actually relating to them when I couldn't find the cans of diced olives. First, I checked the canned vegetables aisle (Are olives vegetables? Are they fruits?), but to no avail. Then I checked the Mexican foods aisle, because I've often eaten Mexican food garnished with olives. They weren't there. I went up and down every aisle that I spotted cans. Finally, I found them with the relishes.

This whole time, I looked as lost and confused as the old men who were perhaps seeking out Ben-Gay in the frozen foods sections.

We went home and made our avocado sandwich appetizers. After we finished eating, we realized that Kim had forgotten to use the olives anyhow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Strongarmed into a Good Deed

"Deeds are fruits, words are leaves."
-English Proverb

We generate an alarming amount of garbage during the holidays. Far more than can be done away with during the weekly trash pickup.

I borrowed my grandfather's pickup and made a run to the dump today. Since we received a new dining room table for Christmas, I'd decided to throw away the old one that happened to be falling apart anyhow. I'd already tried to give it away, but even my little brother, who's supposedly moving out of my parents' house next month, refused the table.

Unfortunately, two of my neighbors (the middle-aged man two doors down and the elderly woman from across the way) spotted me loading the ratty table into the truck. She happens to volunteer for Habit for Humanity, and she decided that my table would be a wonderful donation, despite the fact that it has been sitting in the elements for about a month now. The man also decided that making the table a donation would be a spectacular idea, so much so that he helped me unload it from the back of the truck. "Habitat for Humanity will even come pick it up!" he explained.

Great. Fine. Whatever. Well, Habitat is not open until Wednesday. That doesn't work for me--I need my backyard, plus I'm having company over tonight, and our pile of garbage and old furniture is rather embarrassing, hence my decision to make a dump run today.

But I also did not want to come across as a dickhead. Yes, somebody could certainly use the table. Plus, I did not want my neighbors to see me reload the table into the truck.

I left the table sitting in front of the apartments as I made the trip to the dump, hoping that somebody might steal it. I guess that could kind of be considered a "donation." Anyway, when I returned, the table was still sitting there, alone and pathetic, like a small child whose parent forgot to pick them up from school.

Well, Habitat for Humanity may not be open today, but Goodwill is. I got rid of the damned table. Next time I see my neighbors, I won't be lying when I tell them that I donated it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Whoa! My modest apartment is effing HUGE!

" Decaffeinated coffee is the devil's blend. "

The holiday season, though stressful, does of course have its appeals. One of the more overlooked appeals is the holiday aftermath, when you realize that your home is much larger than you thought.

We usually put up the tree much much too early, and yet it comes down the day after Christmas. You never know how large your living room is until you remove the pine tree that has been taking up more space than your entertainment center for over a month.

It's a very bittersweet moment, that time when you can sit back, finally relax without being bombarded by red and green, and enjoy your numerous gifts. On the flip side, well, Christmas is over; time to go back to work, to pack away the ornaments, and to wait until next year for the yummies and gifts (it's also time to sit back and ponder just how much weight you've packed on since Halloween).

Next we have the New Year, a holiday I am certainly looking forward to. I haven't had New Year's Day off of work for some time, and this year I do. This means that I can actually stay up LATE on New Year's Eve. The problem is, I've gotten so used to getting up at 4:30 a.m. that "late" is usually no later than 10:00 p.m. Oh well, I guess it's a good thing that I work in a coffee shop. Looks like much of my New Year's Eve day shift will be spent getting over-caffeineated. Not a problem--I've been drinking coffee since sixth grade. I can slam the stuff like water (This isn't exactly something I'm proud of, by the way. Without coffee, I "jones" for it like a total addict).

Monday, December 25, 2006

Intestinal Discomfort

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”

I don't think I've ever eaten so much. Last night, it was ham, mashed potatoes, cherries, little pickles, and beer at Kim's parents' house, followed by posole, carne adovado, and wine at my grandparents'. Today, it was manicotti, champagne, and cake at Kim's grandparents', followed by salad, prime rib, potatoes, and pie at my parents'. All of this was interspersed with constantly stuffing my face with Christmas sweets and snacks.

I'm uncomfortably full. It kind of sucks. But man, it was good. I don't know what it is about the holidays, but I can eat like a horse, nonstop. I'm a piggy, just give me a trough full of holiday meals. Yum.

Meanwhile, I got some excellent gifts this year, including a 32" HD television with surround-sound, "Final Draft" (a scriptwriting program for my computer), a gift certificate to one of my favorite breakfast spots, lots of stuff knitted by Nana (stuff that really transforms me into a big softy), lots of books, and the list goes on...As my brother phrases it, "there was a good haul this year."

Lot's of eating, lots of time with the family, and lots of cool stuff this year. I genuinely hope everybody else's holiday season has been just as enjoyable.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Oh, what a night

"This is some good loot."
-Me, tonight

I haven't been on Blogger for a couple of days now. Instead, I've been at work, last-minute Christmas shopping, and getting my cocker spaniel vaccinated for distemper. It turns out that a neighbor dog, one that was purchased from Animal Humane about a week ago, is dying from distemper, and when we were a little frightened to realize that Apple was exposed to the sick dog. Anyway, it's a long story, and luckily Apple seems OK healthwise. My fingers are crossed.

In other news, and in case you haven't noticed, today's Christmas Eve. So far, we've kicked ass when it comes to receiving presents. As of this evening, Kim and I have gotten kitchenware from my aunt Marcia and her lifemate Sarah, as well as P.J.s from Kim's grandparents and some wonderful, handknit scarves from my own Nana.

And now, I'm at home watching a South Park Christmas special from the past. Santa's wielding a shotgun and blasting away furry forest animals, Cartman's making fun of Jews, and some baby lions are performing abortions on Kyle. Oh, and did I mention the blood orgy. I have a terrible feeling that I'm going to hell. Oh well--it's been a good Christmas season, and it's not even Christmas Day yet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Weird Weather (or, Welcome to Albuquerque)

Usually I begin with a quote, but I think that the genius of Bill Watterson is plenty. Lots of wisdom in those comic strips.

The sun has returned and the snow is already melting. That's how things work around here: one day it's windy, frigid, and snowing or raining to no end, and the next the sun is out and Albuquerque is one big sauna. Yesterday, I was bundled up in a beanie, my coat, and a sweater, and today looks like I'll be in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Maybe I'll even sport a lei.

I remember one Sunday when I was much younger, I was with my grandmother on our weekly outing, and it was pouring. We were drenched, but it was very strange because, for some reason, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was sunny and warm, but with rain. I swear, I'm living in the twilight zone.

In any case, the snow was fun while it lasted. I had my one annual snowball fight, and now I'm greeted by slush, hard snow, and some icicles. When I was younger, I'd freeze snow in Ziploc baggies so I could continue the snowball fight in August. I meant to that this year, so I could surprise Kim this summer with a big ol' snowball in the back of the head. It's too late now, though, because slush doesn't freeze as well. I don't think she'd appreciate a concussion-inducing block of ice to the back of the head.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let it snow

"How'd ya like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?"
-"Christmas Island"

Well, today Albuquerque was given a heavy coating of snow. It was gorgeous and welcomed, but it still comes at a price. We live in a desert. For us, driving in the snow is like an amateur juggling chef's knives.

On my parents' street, today I saw a woman in a Nissan Xterra fishtailing from one side of the street to the other. Her face was as pale as the snow, and she gripped the wheel as if she was on a carnival ride. And, though the street was icy, it wasn't that icy. I hope she made it home.

Luckily, I'm on Christmas break and today was my day off from work. Kim works at a middle school, and since they were closed she too had the day off.

We started the day by going for a long walk and gawking at the snow. Those of you from an area that gets tons of snow may think this is silly, but for us this is pretty much our one annual snowfall. We've gotta enjoy it while we can (we do the same thing on the rare occasion that it actually rains).

Then, after my dachsund chewed up my only beanie, we braved the roads and went to REI for a new one. We survived, and were even able to run a couple of errands.

We returned home, made some chai, and watched Little Miss Sunshine. A perfect snow day. We might as well enjoy this until the sun returns.

Unfortunately, the roads are growing worse tonight (they are supposed to freeze over) and my brother is still required to go to work. We're still not sure why--he works at Ben and Jerry's.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas tag

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Looks like I've been tagged by Shadowfalcon. These are always fun.

1. Hot Chocolate or Egg Nog?
Dad's homemade egg nog.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
The elves are supposed to do the wrapping.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored lights. The tackier, the better.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Way too early. Like right after Halloween.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Not really a "dish," but candy. And carne adovada from my grandparents' house.

7. Favorite Holiday memory?
One Christmas Eve, when I was much younger, it actually snowed here!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I always suspected, and then Mom verified it in the parking lot of Target. How do I remember that?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We open gifts with extended family on Christmas Eve at Nana and Grampo's house, then we do the Christmas morning thing.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Lots of lights and ornaments.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it. I'm in the desert, so any moisture is wonderful.

12. Can you ice skate?
God no.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Any gift is the bomb.

14. What’s the most important thing?
Being together.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
More candy.

17. What tops your tree?
Right now, a big red bow.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
Giving. Ah, who am I kidding? Receiving, of course!

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
John Lennon's "So This is Christmas," and anything from Leon Redbone's Christmas Island. It's a great album for this time of year.

20. Candy canes, Yuck or Yum?

So there you have it. My Christmas preferences.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"A Christmas Story"...starring Simon Thomsen

"I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!"
-A Christmas Story

This weekend, Kim and I will be attending a stage production of A Christmas Story. This is cool, because Kim has never seen the film (I have a feeling that I happen to be living with the only person on earth who hasn't seen A Christmas Story.)

I, on the other hand, grew up with the film. Recently, my friend Brian, who also grew up with the film (who hasn't, besides Kim?), admitted to me that he always thought that I was Ralphie. Blond hair, glasses--I'd never thought of this, but he's right: The young Simon looked very much like Ralphie. Hell, when I'm clean shaven I still look like him.

Maybe that's why I've always enjoyed the film. I was, I am, Ralphie. I'm the child with wild fantasies and irrational Christmas wishes. For a while, I wanted a BB gun, but never got one. A few years ago, my little brother finally obtained one. Within five minutes of getting a hold of it, I shot out a window.

So maybe I didn't really need a BB gun, and neither did Ralphie, but he and I shared those sames dreams of saving others from vicious bandits (Ralphie's fantasies had a cowboy flavor, while mine involved more of a G.I. Joe theme). It's not like I'm alone with this hero complex--I'm sure most young boys imagine themselves as rescuers. I still do. When I'm at work, I often imagine myself foiling a hold-up. That's on the slow days.

As youngsters, Brian and I used to carve popsicle sticks into points and tape them, pointing up, to the cinder-block wall surrounding our parent's backyard. The yard became our fortress, and we were the protectors, though if we faced any real threat we probably would have wet ourselves. Chances are, if there were to be an armed hold-up at my place of employment, I'd have that same reaction.

Or maybe I wouldn't. I could be a hero, I suppose. I work in a kitchen, and we have plenty of knives. I'm not a violent person, but it's not like a robber would know that. I'd just have to sneak up behind him, let him know that I have a knife, and instruct him to gently set the gun on the counter. I'd have to take my glasses off first, though, so I look tougher. I could be like Samuel L. Jackson at the end of Pulp Fiction, playing it cool because I've had "a moment of clarity" and I happen to be "in a transitional period" and I'm carrying a "BAD MOTHER FUCKER" wallet.

Fuck that. This guy has a gun, and I've got a dull knife. I'd rather wet my pants.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Coworkers and customers are evil and hateful.

Dante: "You hate people."
Randal: "I know. I hate people, but I love gatherings. Isn't that ironic?"

Recently, my manager called my coworker a "pervert." I laughed because it was kind of funny. Said coworker, however, did not. We'll call him "James." Anyway, James threatened to call an attorney because his friend's dad told him that he could possibly get $100,000 from our employer due to our manager's comment.

Keep in mind that I work on a restaurant line and that far worse things have been said back there, even by James. It wasn't until after he learned that he could make a fair amount of cash that he decided that my manager had said something hurtful.

I asked him if I'd called him a pervert if he'd still call an attorney. "No," he said, "I just don't like him. He's not a good manager." Then I called him a baby. A pervert baby. Just because you don't like a guy doesn't mean you should try to have him fired. Plus, having to work with somebody you don't like doesn't mean the world owes you $100,000. If it did, I'd be $100,000 richer, because I must work with James.

If I spill a McDonald's coffee on my lap, I'll slap my forehead and say "aww shucks." Recently, my workplace had to purchase a new pair of clothes for a customer because she spilled a pot pie. Again, that's an "aww shucks" moment, not a "dial up an attorney" moment. Some folks really get on my nerves, but what can I do? Just keep my mouth shut and hope to one day be self-employed so I don't have to deal with coworkers and customers.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And that's why I can't stand cell phones

"Okay Peter Hammond, now I want you to think long and hard about the answer to this next question, because if you get it wrong, your tombstone will read, 'Here lies Peter Hammond, who valiantly and courageously tried to prevent a brilliant bank robbery by hiding his cell phone, and who ended up getting shot in the fucking face.' Now where's your cell phone?"
Dalton Russell, Inside Man

Yesterday, I mentioned the funeral of my friend Chris and the lovely eulogy given by his grandfather.

In this eulogy, he explained to us that, when Chris was a young boy, he'd play this game where he'd steal his grandfather's pen from his shirt pocket and it was up to Grandpa to get it back. This went on for years.

In one of the most touching moments of Chris's memorial services, his grandfather tucked the pen into Chris's lifeless hand to be buried with him forever.

As the grandfather was explaining the pen's significance, the back-and-forth game between him and Chris, somebody's cell phone went off. If you've gone into a funeral without out turning off your phone, shame on you. I hope this makes you feel bad: You are a terrible person. Period.

What was worse was that the damn thing kept ringing. They didn't even have the courtesy to silence the fucker. It rang and rang, echoing in the church, interrupting that painful eulogy. The ringing finally ended, followed by a beep to signify that they'd left a message.

There was a time, even in my own lifetime, when phones weren't even a necessity, a time when I could have a pleasant conversation without an interruption.

I got rid of my own cell over a year ago, and man, what a relief. I feel good about myself for
not feeling so reliant on this shrinking piece of technology.

Yeah, so I'll admit that a phone would be handy every once in a while, and I'll even admit that some folks actually need their cell phones. But if it's so urgent that you get that call, just skip the goddamn funeral.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Our Troubling Times

"If you never heard him sing/ I guess you won't too soon."
-Neil Young, "Tonight's the Night"

2006 is coming to an end, and it seems to me that it was a good year. I hate to say that before the new year, for fear of jinxing myself, but I'm staying hopeful.

2005 was a much different story. First of all, that year was book ended by the deaths of two of my heroes: Hunter S. Thompson and Richard Pryor. In between those deaths, my friend Chris also died from an epileptic seizure, another Chris with whom I graduated from high school died in Iraq, my father had a meltdown, and that bitch Katrina devastated the south.

It was at Chris's (the epileptic one) funeral that I suddenly gained a ton of perspective on my own life and existence. I'd been to funerals--my grandmother's and my great grandfather's--but I'd never interacted with them on a regular basis. Chris was a different story. One weekend I'm hanging out with him at a party, and the next weekend he's gone forever.

A single life is full of important ceremonies: weddings, graduations, birthdays, and the like. But there's one event that we're really not involved in the planning. Our funeral.

As I sat in the church, listening to Chris's grandfather giving a heartfelt eulogy and somehow keeping a remarkable composure, I wondered what my eulogy would be like. Who would give it? Would it be a celebration of my life or one of those devastating funerals? Who would be there?

It's a morbid topic to ponder, but it's humbling. Sure, it's a little bit self-absorbed, considering that in New Orleans, at that time, bodies were piling up, and the same goes for Iraq (oh, and the tsunami near the end of 2004). But those tremendous losses are all that much more devastating, and human, when you think about it as a single life lost, like your own, and multiply it. It really could cause one to shudder.

My point is this: 2005 sucked the big one. Even RollingStone had a special double-issue with a cover screaming "Worst Year Ever!"; so I know that I wasn't alone. But out of the muck, the dark times and frighteningly real visions of death, I gained a hell of a lot of perspective, and somehow I triumphed.

So here's to 2007 and whatever it brings, the good and the bad. Cheers.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A surreal situation

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."
-William Blake

Once I was at a party, and this girl had the hots for me. She was eyeing me and flirting and all that wonderful stuff and I was feeling quite handsome, although her eyes were glassy and she had been drinking quite a bit. I was twenty.

Well, I kept asking questions, trying to make conversation. Where you from? Ohio. You go to school? Yeah. How old are you? 18. (Yes, this last question is necessary, as the conclusion of this post will prove).

At the same time, some other guy was trying to get her attention, completely disregarding me and feeding her drinks and attempting to be far more charming than me, and to a certain extent, succeeding. And, though I tried, she kept leaving my arm to go to him.

So, after spending much time drinking and sulking, pining for the one that got away, I slept on the lawn that night and I later awoke in the sprinklers. I learned some time later that she and that guy retreated to the bedroom after I’d lost consciousness. I guess she’d come out crying and hysterical, claiming that he’d tried to force sex upon her. It sounded pretty bad, and to this day, I’m quite thankful for my drunken stupor.

Some other partygoers had chased him out of the house—and the entire time I was zonked out on the lawn.

I found out later that she was actually only 15, and I’m not sure what ever became of the guy. It was a complex, icky situation, and though I’m happy that it didn’t involve me. After that, and I stuck to the milder parties. It’s really strange how things work out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dinner party.

"That's hot."
-Paris Hilton

I found this writing prompt online:

If you could invite any three people to dinner (dead or alive, famous, fictional, etc.), who would they be, why and what would the topic of conversation be?

First, here's my three choices and why I've chosen them:

1. Hunter Thompson, because he seems like he'd be the life of the party.

2. Oscar Wilde, for the same reason. Both of them would be witty enough to make for lively converstation.

3. Paris Hilton, because I can't stand her, and I'm sure the Hunter and Oscar would have a heyday subtlely (or not so subtlely) poking fun at Paris. I'm sure lots of the jokes would go right over her head.

And for the conversation topic (actually, I've chosen two):

1. What is the appeal of Paris, and what has she done for her fame, and

2. Why can't Paris, Britney, or Lindsay seem to afford underwear?

The dinner would be a brainstorming session with lots of liquor. I could've made Paris, Britney, and Lindsay my three guests so we might come up with a quick answer to question number 2, but I think I'd rather die.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dana and Norm

"A fast word about oral contraception. I asked a girl to go to bed with me, she said 'no'."
-Woody Allen

The following is an excerpt from a short story I've been working on. Here's the situation: Dana, a high-schooler, is stuck on an elevator with Norm, a cocky frat boy who, due to the heat, has stripped down to his underwear. Oh, and its about sex (like the majority of my writing). So here it is.


Norm’s restlessness grew. He’d twitch and scratch and pace, making Dana, who sat on the floor drumming her fingers, increasingly nervous. They’d been talking to the woman on the intercom off and on for a while now, and Norm and Dana had heard countless times “Just a little longer” and “They’re almost there” and “Hang in there.”

Finally, Norm plopped down next to her and sighed. He scooted close to Dana and said, “You’ve got to get out of that sweater.”

Dana scooted away. “Give me a break.”


“Don’t be a pervert.”

Norm pulled away, taken aback. Then he shrugged. “I didn’t think you were very comfortable, all sweaty like that.”

Dana’s jaw dropped. She wiped the sweat on her forehead with her sleave, paused for a moment, and shook her head. She began to unbutton her sweater. Mom hadn’t allowed to her leave the house without covering her bare shoulders that morning. “Mijita!” she’d cried. “You might as well leave naked!”

Still unsure of Norm’s motives, Dana now wished she’d worn a t-shirt beneath, rather than the camisole with spaghetti straps. Not that she was revealing a whole lot—she still had on her tennies and jeans.

She caught Norm looking at her, though not in any deviant way. There was reverence in his eyes, and Dana loved it. She moved close to him.

“This is kind of boring, isn’t it?” Norm asked.

“I’m not keeping you entertained?” Dana said, playfully.

He leaned into her. “I think we could be keeping each other entertained.”

He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and she tensed. He was clumsy and not so subtle. Despite her discomfort with the situation, she smirked with amusement.

“How about a kiss?” Norm asked, moving closer.

“No way,” she said, moving away. She wasn't sure she could see herself doing anything remotely intimate with a stranger on an elevator, no matter how cute he was. Norm finally pulled away.

“I got it,” he said. “You're one of those Bible-thumpers. Saving it for marriage, aren't you?”

Dana laughed, mostly at herself, knowing that yes, she was one of those people.
She was the good daughter, living in the shadow of her brothers’ partying and countless girlfriends. Once she’d walked in on 17-year-old Antonio and his chica rolling about on his bed. When Antonio realized that Dana was in the room, he lept from the bed, brown skin glistening with sweat, leaving the nude girl to fend for herself. Because the blankets were strewn about on the floor, the poor thing was forced to cover her breasts with Antonio’s Cowboys sweatshirt.

Dana did not see what the big deal was when it came to sex. Mom never said anything about the subject, and her brothers seemed intent on keeping Dana clothed and away from men. Whatever the situation, Dana hadn’t really seen sex’s appeal, especially after seeing her nude brother and his girlfriend, sweating, panting, and thrusting like two animals. There was nothing appealing about that.

Sitting in this elevator with a member of the opposite gender, she remembered the time that Johnny had walked into her room when she was studying with the unfortunate Clyde Sedberry, a scrawny waif of a boy with blond hair and glasses, a boy for whom Dana had absolutely no desire in terms of a romantic attraction. Still, despite the open history books and Clyde and Dana’s lack of physical contact, Johnny flew into a rage when he found the two alone in, God forbid, Dana’s room. After that, Clyde and Dana refrained from speaking to each other.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One paper down...

" Luisa: You have to make the clitoris your best friend.
Tenoch: What kind of friend is always hiding?"
-Y Tu Mama Tambien
So I just finished my final paper for my class on Latin American Cinema. In it I focused on female identity in Mexican films.
The paper was tough, and I'm glad it's done with, but at least I learned a bit. Here in New Mexico, we see many images of the sacred Virgin of Guadalupe. I'd never known exactly what the significance of the image was until I did my recent research.

Basically, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a representation of the Virgin Mary in the Americas. More specifically, as Joanne Hershfield describes in her book Mexican Cinema/Mexican Woman, the legend goes like this: "a dark-skinned apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego in 1531, just ten years after the Spanish destruction of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.”

While the Virgin of Guadalupe could have potentially been seen as a threat to standard European Christianity, Hershfield suggests a certain undermining of Aztec culture: “By building the symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe upon the existing structure of Tonantzin [the hill on which the Virgin apparently appeared, also dedicated to the Aztec virgin Tonantzin]…indigenous groups were able to incorporate the idea of a Christian universe into an existing religious discourse. However, it appears that by seemingly allowing the Indians to construct their own meaning of the Virgin, the Catholic Church was more easily able to achieve its larger colonial intent.”

So I'm sort of cheating on my blog by rehashing what I just wrote twenty minutes ago. But this is cool stuff, and I'm excited to know the significance of this prevalent image. If you have a chance, Wikipedia "La Malinche," another image of Mexican identity usually intertwined with the Virgin. La Malinche happens to be Hernan Cortez's Aztec "lover." Her story is also quite fascinating.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's getting late and I'm tired.

Finals time. Brain is fried. That concludes today's post.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First car nostalgia

"Luna, help me push the car."
Woody Allen as Miles Monroe in Sleeper

My very first car, purchased almost a decade ago, was a 1981 Volkwagen Rabbit convertible.

I was a high school sophomore, and I was tickled that finally I had my own vehicle. I think that when this specific Rabbit was first produced it was red, but when I bought it, for $ 1100, it had faded to a sickly orange-ish rust color.

But I loved it. I thought that car was so cool. Luckily, I knew very little about cars, so I had no clue just how wrong I was, despite how my classmates in auto tech berated the poor car. I called it the "red beast." They called it "little red riding hood."

I loved putting the top down and cruising about town in my sunglasses, silently praying that this small, sputtering, wheezing, odd-looking car with torn upholstery would not break down. I really didn't see much use to ever putting the top up--the thing was full of holes anyway, and the air conditioner only filled the car with the warm outside air. Besides, my radio was an ancient cassette player that was not really worth stealing, though at times I wished somebody would, so I'd have an excuse to purchase a CD player. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't--who would buy a stereo for almost half of what their car cost? Well, a teenage Simon, that's who.

Despite its questionable looks, its rough vibrations, and the way it shook terribly that one time I ventured out onto the freeway, I was so proud of that car. Now I have a 1994 Blazer. I've had it for about a year, and it's only broken down on me once (this week, when the battery died). It's a sturdy vehicle, and I'm extremely happy with it, but sometimes I wonder how my old Rabbit is doing today. I ended up selling it to the daughter of some friends, and as far as I know the car has been sitting in the garage ever since.

As much as I loved that Rabbit, it was an ugly motherf*cker. I wonder what I'd do if I still had that car. Well, for one thing, I wouldn't be caught dead in it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Non-California Dreaming

"It's a scientific fact. For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points of their IQ."
-Truman Capote

Last weekend I attended the NM Filmmaker's Conference in Santa Fe, a huge (and gloriously free to attend) event intended to foster and instruct the local filmmaking community.

The event began with a presentation by a high-profile Hollywood lawyer. A very blunt presenter, his main goal seemed to be to dismiss Hollywood mythology. Overnight success is damned-near impossible, and the road to success is not just brilliance within your film, but within your marketing. "Once your film is in the can, you're only 9-10% finished." He went on to explain that he is "an acquired taste." Maybe, but his advice was incredibly valuable. He emphasized a "non-linear" approach. Because of this, our writing troupe--"The Sexy Chemists"--will be dispersing business cards in beakers. That's "non-linear," right?

There were several speakers, all very good (especially the Scottish guy from the union--he was a hoot), but the one that stuck out the most was film director Gregory Nava, who gave two presentations--one on screenwriting and one on directing, both of which earning standing ovations. "I discovered Jennifer Lopez," he proudly proclaims. Sure, he sounds egotistical, but he's not lying. He gave J-Lo her first film role in Mi Familia, as well as her star-making role in Selena, so the ego is actually allowed here.

Anyway, he advised that, in writing a script, one should think of a beginning first, and make every scene build to that ending, to an effective catharsis. He gave a wonderful depiction of story structure and how it plays off on screen, and I went away with a new understanding of scriptwriting. He was awe-inspiring.

I haven't really considered directing, but that didn't stop his directing presentation from totally commanding my attention. He dissected a perfectly executed scene from Mi Familia, and again I am left with a new understanding.

So, this coupled with my Friday night excursion (see my post "Am I just being judgemental..." for more details) for quite the weekend. I have loads of faith in NM as a filmmaker's burgeoning Mecca. As the lawyer pointed out, "The Hollywood infrastructure is weak." It's our job as New Mexicans to recognize this and build a far more efficient and professional filmmaking community, something for those cartoonish Hollywood types to envy. Sounds pretty sweet to me, and I have all the faith in the world that this is certainly going to happen. Just wait, you'll see.

By the way, parts of Nava's upcoming film Bordertown (starring Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas, and Martin Sheen) was filmed in New Mexico...and I was an extra! I think I'm even in the final shot. Oh, and I saw Jennifer Lopez. She's much shorter in person.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


"Too weird to live and too rare to die."
-Hunter Thompson

I just remembered that some time ago I was tagged by Laura. So, tomorrow I'll be giving a summary of the Filmmakers Convention. As for today, here's 6 weird things about Simon Oliver Thomsen:

1. (and you may already be aware of this) I'm petrified of public restrooms.

2. I'm obsessed with crap TV: Flavor of Love, Girls Next Door, Grey's Anatomy, etc. At least I can admit that they're bad. I like to give them the MST3K treatment (fans of Mystery Science Theater may know what I'm talking about.

3. I'm a cook and can appreciate good food as well as distinguish between good and bad meals, yet I still have a weak spot for ramen. I can't help it.

4. I'm prematurely balding. Yes, at 22, I've got a widow's peak *sigh*

5. I love taking the bus around town. I find it absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Like a slow-moving rollercoaster (with odd smells and odder people).

6. And, lastly, I have a crush on the female silent film stars. Especially Joan Crawford and Georgia Hale. Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, despite what Brad might think, have nothing on these girls.

So there it is. Six quirky things about yours truly.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Am I just being judgemental, or...

"Well, they say/ that Santa Fe/ Is less than ninety miles away,/ And I got time to roll a number/ and rent a car."
-Neil Young, "Albuquerque"

I have mixed feelings about Santa Fe. The city has strict rules regarding their architecture. Buildings absolutely
must have that distinct southwestern style: Wood, adobe, and the occasional corrugated steel.

I admit, driving around Santa Fe is a unique experience. The consistent shades of brown are not always as ugly as they sound (the Southwestern style is an acquired taste) and I can imagine this charming the pants off of a visitor from the east coast.

But, when it comes to a place that is this strict about maintaining a certain, very specific image, many of its residents are bound to be hyper-pretentious. Sorry, Santa Fe, but this isn't only my opinion. You're kind of known for this. Plus, I was there for the NM Filmmakers Conference, and the film industry itself is infested with pretentious people, arteests in their berets and two-toned hair.

Don't get me wrong, though. I didn't look upon everybody I came across this weekend with utter disdain. On Saturday morning, we ate at Zia Diner, and our waitress was among the nicest I've ever dealt with. Unfortunately (and take my word for it, this food was GOOD), the meal was ruined by another customer, a woman that would not quit complaining. "Every time I come here," she whined to her poor waiter, "the food is only mediocre. It's just not worth the price." Blah, blah, blah.

Disgusted, Mike said to me, "Then why does she come here?"

On Friday night, we'd decided to go out for drinks. To our good fortune, we wandered upon a great blues bar, and the band was wonderful (so, Santa Fe, at that point you'd found some redemption). After this, we sought out "Swig," a club recommended to us by our cocktail waitress.

Swig seemed to be swarming with bouncers (not a problem, I'm 22 and with a valid ID). They immediately checked Mike's and my ID's, but upon heading downstairs--which seemed to be the hip-hop room (ick)--we found numerous young girls, obviously much younger than 21, dancing their little hearts out. Oh, and their dancing partners all seemed to be much older men with graying hair. Again, ick. These girls were too young for
me. Didn't these bouncers have a job to do? Or were they keeping certain elements out that might be an obstacle for these predators?

This is when we headed upstairs, to the house music room, where a fortyish blond was dancing along with with a greasy-haired creep in his twenties. This guy looked like a cross between Jim Morrison and Smeagol/Gollum. Mike and I left when the blond invaded our space by attempting to grind against both of us.

By this point, we'd spent the majority of the night keeping ourselves occupied with the drinks in our hand. Now, stumbling along the streets of Santa Fe, we were to find our hotel. This is rather difficult when (1) you're drunk, and (2) every building in town is adobe adorned with luminarias.

At one point, we even went to the
wrong hotel, and even took the elevator up to room 221, before we realized that the hallway looked far different than the one we were looking for.

Hours later, we finally made it back to the room.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Art Meets Horror: A Review of "Lunacy"

“I hold it a blasphemy to say that a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning.”
-George Eliot

Lunacy begins with an introduction from director Swankmajer in which he describes the movie as a horror, and not "a work of art."

"Art is dead, anyway," he claims.

A horror it certainly is, with it's disturbing imagery and hopeless story, but it also maintains an art house quality, with the inclusion of many scenes of stop-motion animation. In these scenes, we watch cuts of meat come to life: They crawl through the mud, they destroy statues, they fill cages to a bursting point. In no other film will you see two cow tongues hump each other.

I haven't quite figured out the significance of the meat. These scenes are haunting enough to almost inspire a vegetarian diet, but they are also odd enough to inspire laughter. Maybe, in the meat's destruction of paintings and statues, Swankmajer is making a statement (as in his introduction) about the state of art. Or maybe he's a devout vegetarian trying to spread his dietary beliefs.

One theory that I’ve come across, and I like this one, refers to the director’s statement at the beginning not to “be such a hunk of meat,” a piece of flesh with no individuality. But the film also presents very unrestrained behavior, making the meat a representation of desire and unbridled primitive instincts.

Then again, it could mean just about anything, so moving right along:

In the film, Jean Berlot, played by Pavel Liska, is a tormented character with what seems to be a fear of mental institutions. He meets the Marquis (Jan Triska), a man who dresses in clothes from the Marquis de Sade's era (the film boasts that it is inspired by the works of the Marquis de Sade and Edgar Allen Poe). The performances are thoughtful and necessarily haunting: Liska wears his torment on his face and the Triska's portrayal of the maniacal Marquis is enough to make one feel the need to bathe. The Marquis gives Berlot a "lift," not in a car, but in a horse-drawn carriage. Watching them en route alongside motor vehicles, despite such a dark atmosphere, brought a smile to my face. Lunacy is filled with moments like this.

In many ways, despite Swankmajer's claim, this is a work of art and a surrealist masterpiece. The film addresses blasphemy by first presenting horrific, cringe-inducing images whose main purpose, it seems, are to be blasphemous and nothing more--these scenes, though disturbing, belong, however, because blasphemy is among the main themes of the film.

But it’s not the only theme. By the end we are given an equally horrifying depiction of something else, something almost completely opposite from the Marquis's initially uninspired blasphemous actions, that to reveal more would be giving away too much. Let's just say that it includes corporal punishment.

The film's intention is discomfort. This becomes a double-edged sword: On one side, it's quite effective, causing me to squirm in my seat, as is it's probable intention. On the other side--well, it's quite effective. Not the most uplifting film.

The discomfort is created by the most disturbing imagery (including rape and the Marquis’s driving nails into a statue of Christ) as well as squishing, mashing sound effects that makes the stomach turn. Plus, much of the dialog is delivered through close-ups. It seems that the audience is spoken directly to about disillusionment, horrific tales (like one about being buried alive), and other topics we tend to avoid (torture, rape, and corporal punishment).

The film could easily be described as anti-establishment, but it gives nothing as a solution. One establishment is overthrown, only to be replaced by an equally disturbing alternative (that's as clear as I can be without giving away important plot points). We are even given a very absurdist reenactment of the French Revolution, as if the revolution had been presented as something staged, a tableau in which history only recorded the picturesque accounts of the historical event rather than a more rounded presentation. I found this clever--what "revolution" is not depicted in history books in the exact same manner? History is written by the victors. And, once again, we are given a commentary on art in which we are to come to our own conclusions.

The film's main flaw is that, though it is thought-provoking, haunting, and rather amusing, the subject matter becomes so dire that I'm not sure I could sit through it again.

What I truly enjoyed, however, was not just the clever surrealist touches, but also that, for a very experimental, art house piece that could have come off like a shoddy student film, it is structured in a linear fashion with a storyline that is complex yet something we can follow. Even the Marquis, who at first seems to be fairly one-dimensional, is given a frightening back story that inspires his initially inexplicable actions. The story combines with well-executed camera work and set design that forms very effective, macabre imagery, making this a truly worthy horror flick.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


"What the Gospels actually said was: don't kill anyone until you are absolutely sure they aren't well connected." -Kurt Vonnegurt, Slaughterhouse 5

For some reason, when I post I no longer have an editing toolbar that allows me to upload pictures. I only have a place for the Title and the body of the post. If anyone can tell me where my toolbar for italics, pictures, font size, etc disappeared to, please enlighten me.

So, on a completely unrelated topic, we somehow ended up at a revival on Thursday night. I find the different variations of praising the same basic principles to be fascinating. The Bible is a brilliant work, absolutely BRILLIANT, and when studying it closely there's a lot to be gained from it that's beneath what we already know. It's complex, and hardly anything, despite what many believe, is black and white.

I'm not a churchgoer, but Kim told me about this speaker who had supposedly been declared dead not once, but TWICE, had OD'ed, had put his hand through a window, and had spent much of his childhood locked in a closet. Even though this was in a church and the chances were that much of his speech would be about religious values that strayed a bit from my own, it sounded like he might have an interesting story to tell. In any case, my bullshit detector was going off (declared dead TWICE??) and I entered the church wary of this guy. Luckily, or so I'd been told by Kim, his speech wouldn't last any more than 45 minutes.

As a boy, my church experience had been the quiet, ritualistic Catholic mass that I attended every Sunday with Nana. I entered this church on Thursday to a completely different scenario (it turned out to be a "revival"). They had not a choir, but a band. People stood with a hand in the air as the band did their thing and I sat knowing that this was just not my bag, baby. Whatever your religious beliefs may be, Christian bands suck, and that's all there is to it. They SUCK. Even Jesus hates Creed.

Then the speaker came out. He was a big guy, and he began with "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son." I sat up, waiting for him to show us his scars or tell us how he foamed from the eyes from a heroin overdose. No dice.

He told us a little about a rough childhood, then went straight into his spiel about the only way to Heaven being through Christ (and rejoicing HIS way--chanting and speaking in tongues and crying out "Amen, brother!" He admitted a certain disdain for those off us keeping quiet). The way he spoke is what really got me--he said "Amen" at end of every sentence, and for whatever reason, he added "a" to the end of every other word. He wasn't even Italian. "...and I felta the love-a of Jesus Christa and I kickeda my-a druga addiction asa soon asa I lefta that churcha." Righta thena a drinka sounded pretty gooda.

He got everybody all riled up and speaking in tongues, except for Kim and I, who were trying to decide just what the hell was taking place around us, so I stood quietly and with the utmost politeness. To each his own, I decided. I came to the conclusion that, despite my discomfort with the situation, the least I could do (I was still a guest) was meditate on the Bible my own way--quietly, analytically, thoughtfully, without throwing my hands in the air and crying out "Hallelujah!" I could've been far worse because beside me was this little kid, and the shit was rolling about on the floor, totally detached (kind of like me) from the surroundings, and using my foot as a pillow. Meanwhile, her mother kept her eyes on that phony of a motivational speaker (Call me a skeptic, but there's no way he kicked a decades-long heroin addiction after a day in church, no rehab, no methadone, nothing. Either he was lying, or his addiction wasn't nearly as severe as he made it seem). I could have totally been a buzzkill by saying "Ma'am, I'm going to kick your daughter in the back of the head if you don't control her." But no, I allowed the lady to revel in God's glory, arms in the air and speaking in tongues, shaking with enthusiasm. She probably wouldn't have heard me anyway.

Then (there's more) the speaker asked for anybody wanting to get saved to come on up to the front. My immediate reaction: NO. I stayed at my seat, head bowed, praying in my own private way. Apparently, privacy is a sin at these revivals, because I had two people, not including the little girl, on two separated occasions, enter my own sacred bubble. Both of these guys stood way too close and informed me that God had asked them to talk to me. Was I sending heathen vibes?

I chose not to tell them that if they'd actually read something other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John they'd know that, unless you're Abraham, the voice of God would kill you. But I refrained. Both men went on to inform me that my only way to Heaven was through Christ. Both said that it was a simple choice, Christ or Hell. And both offered to pray with me.

"I'm good. Thanks though." I said to both of them before they each walked away, disappointment on their faces, disillusionment on my own.

So, not 45 minutes, but rather TWO HOURS later (thank you Kim), I returned to the car. I don't smoke, but a cigarette sounded really good. In our society, we sneer at concepts like Scientology (no, I'm not that either) with such disdain because of the ridiculousness of ritual behavior. Let's not forget that Scientologists are not the only silly ones.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Frightening car rides

"The camera is ruthless and cruel. It reads the mind of the person in front of it."
-Gregory Nava

This weekend I went to the NM Filmmaker's Conference, which was, from my perspective, a total success. Everything was practical and worthwhile, and I now a firmer grasp on the film industry.

Anyway, here's a scene I wrote last semester. The characters are my brother and I. In fact, this is a real incident, but in screenplay format.


Simon drives and Robbie sits in th passenger seat. Music plays lightly, and the two brothers casually chat.

Simon is twenty and Robbie is seventeen. Robbie is looking out the window when Simon gets his attention.

Hey! I think I know that girl.

(peering out of Simon's window)

In the silver car.

We see a girl driving a silver car. She's chewing gum and minding her own business.

Both boys are looking at her.

So do you know her?

I don't know. She's kinda hot, though.

They continue to watch her. Robbie turns and looks out the windshield. We see a stoplight change form green to yellow.

Simon continues to stare at the girl.

(high pitched scream)
It's yellow!

Simon slams on the brakes. The car screeches to a stop with plenty of space to spare ahead of hit. Obviously, there was no real need for panic.


The skid marks is at least eight feet long, and reveals that the car as slid from the middle lane to the right. The light turns from yellow to red.


The boys look frazzled. Robbie leans forward to once again look at the girl.

We see that she is staring directly at them, shocked.

Don't look at her. Don't get her attention.

Robbie leans back.

Damn. I smell burning rubber.
So do you know her?


The light turns green and they drive away.