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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bathroom Pixie

Quote of the Day: "We've been waiting here an hour. He's peed three times already."

If David were to reveal to Boomer that he had some kind of pixie—a small, glowing woman with silvery wings, a creature no bigger than his palm—living in his apartment, sharing his food, and sleeping in a birdcage hanging from his bedroom ceiling, he’d never hear the end of it. Boomer might laugh. Or Boomer might be concerned about David’s mental health. Either way, David wants none of it.
“Where’s your head at?” Boomer asks as the wrench slips and David smashes his hand on the edge of a keg. They still have six refrigerated beer boxes in three more bars encircling the venue that must be ready to pour beer in the next hour, before the doors open and crowds swarm the hall.
“I’m just tired,” David says. He reapplies the wrench to the nut and twists, attaching the hose to the air tank. He releases the air from the tank and watches the gauge. He stands and pulls the tap handle. Beer flows into the stainless steel drain beneath the tap.
“Done,” he says. “Next bar.”
Boomer pushes the dolly carrying a keg while David frantically wipes the black gunk from his hand with a blue bar towel. “You’re wasting your time,” he says. “We have more kegs to hook up. You’re only going to get dirty again.” But David can’t stand the gunk.
As he scrubs between his fingers, he listens to the keys hanging from Boomer’s belt. It reminds him of the faint jingle he hears from the pixie, or fairy, or whatever it is back at home. He thinks her wings make the sound. In a tinny, confident voice, she’d told him to call her Lucia. “It’s a pretty name,” she’d chimed, “I like the way it sounds.”
“Hey, space cadet, we’re here,” Boomer calls from behind. David had continued to walk while Boomer had stopped at the door of the next bar. Boomer unhooks the set of keys from his belt and searches for the right one. He shakes his head. “Seriously, wake up. Is Rachel on your mind, or what?”
“I’m just tired,” David says.

Lucia had appeared one morning in his apartment’s small bathroom. David was following his normal routine:
8:00 a.m.—Wake up, start coffee.
8:05 a.m.—Take piss, brush teeth.
It was here that David had heard the jingling. At first he didn’t hear anything, the sound of his urine hitting the water overcoming the sound of Lucia’s wings. But when he was done he grew confused—his mind in that his early-morning, groggy daze—because he’d finished pissing, and yet he still heard some jingling that, at first, he’d assumed was still piss hitting water, though he wasn’t even pissing, but then he sensed the glow somewhere to his left. He turned his head and there she was, floating above the sink, a tiny pixie, a glowing figure of a woman suspended by such fragile looking wings, similar to those of a dragonfly. She seemed nude, but she had no distinguishing features, not even nipples or a navel, just the shape of a perfectly-formed woman floating above the sink, two bright white pinpoints for eyes, peering from her yellow glow.
Embarrassed, David pulled himself back into his boxers and flushed the toilet.
“Excuse me,” he said, slowing moving towards the faucet handle. As he washed his hands, Lucia said, “My, for a bachelor you sure keep a clean home.”
“Thanks,” David said apprehensively, turning off the faucet. He dried his hands. Suddenly, he felt a tightness in his stomach. He checked the clock above the toilet: 8:10. “Shit,” he said. He’d fallen two minutes behind schedule.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quote of the Day: "Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together."
-Hunter S. Thompson, "He Was a Crook," his eulogy for Nixon

Hunter S. Thompson practiced what he proclaimed to be "Gonzo" journalism, a sort of freelance, down-the-last-minute, no-time-to-edit journalistic endeavor in which the author becomes one of the main focuses of the piece, journalism in which there really is no focus, a fly-by-night approach to one subject that becomes several.

It was the 1970s that Thompson brought this about, and ever since there have been countless imitations. However, it seems that today Rollingstone's political articles and articles on various social issues have become very polished and streamlined, far different from Thompson's approach. These articles are professional and polished, nothing like Thompson's work, but still quite relevant.

My question is this: Is blogging the new Gonzo? It's an online journal, work that becomes published with little or no editing. It's an approach that almost always makes the bloggers themselves the topics, and their surroundings become secondary. Our reactions become the main focus of our work.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Quote of the Day: "Just look at the face: it's vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who's lost a bet."
-Shaun of the Dead

Tonight in Film Theory we watched the original Dawn of the Dead. Like any zombie movie, it was pretty ridiculous.

I've never been a huge fan of horror movies, with the exception of very few (The Exorcist comes to mind). I can't say I was all that impressed with this one, despite it's being regarded as somewhat of a classic.

In our next class, I know that my professor will explain to us something along the lines of the ways Dawn of the Dead illustrates those complex filmic concepts of time and space, of alternate realities, of the development of a fictional world and the similar development of a new lifestyle in the mall in the, and all that wonderful post-modernist stuff. Honestly, I don't even know what makes something "post-modern," but it's a term that gets bandied about a lot in class and I think it's important.

Anyway, I think I prefer Shaun of the Dead. It's a film that finds the humor in zombie films and totally feeds off of. Dawn of the Dead, I think, does this to an extent, but Shaun of the Dead can easily be labeled a comedy, while Dawn is more of an unintentional comedy.

On the box for the Shaun of the Dead DVD, the film's honest approach to it's subject matter is recognized and embraced: "The Smash Hit Romantic Comedy," it says, "With Zombies."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Cigar is a Cigar

Quote of the Day: "This is the first baby born in 18 years and you want to name it Froley?"
-Children of Men

Yesterday afternoon, at a wine tasting, conversation turned to cigars. I like cigars, though I don't know a thing about them. I think I find the appeal in the process: clipping off the tip, lighting it, and spending the next half-hour or so puffing away.

Cigar smoking, because they take so long to finish, is a way of forcing yourself to take a break. Once you've lit it, you know you're going to be there for a while. It's actually like a bottle of fine red wine--once it's been opened, it's necessary to spend the time finishing it, or else it goes to waste.

You sit their, brain stimulated by the tobacco and nicotine, but there isn't a lot you can do but think or converse. Once you've gotten into the cigar, you settle in, you embrace the stillness, the time you've set aside, and it is quite enjoyable.

Of course, depending on the cigar, a brushing of the teeth and a shower is often required afterwards, when you must reacquaint yourself with the world after your short respite. But it's totally worth it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Were You Like This When We First Met?

Quote of the Day: "You see life is like that. We change, that's all. You see, the guy I am now is not the guy I was then. If the guy I was then met the guy I am now he'd beat the shit out of me. Those are the facts."
-Stevo, SLC Punk!

An old coworker of mine, from my very first job, happened to get a job where I currently work. In my first job, this guy actually trained me and helped get me initially get acquainted with the restaurant industry.

Now, we once again work together in a kitchen. "I've been a cook for eleven years," he proudly claims to the other cooks. Unfortunately, he sucks.

He's slow. His food comes out looking terrible. And his attitude is awful. "I'm gonna punch him in the fucking neck," another coworker said to me today, after my old acquaintance accused him of being wrong about an omelet that, after 15 minutes, was no closer to the customer's table. Needless to say, my former acquaintance was wrong.

The worst thing about this whole situation is that my former acquaintance goes on and on about how he and I go way about, as if the two of us were best of friends. How embarrassing.

And yet I feel for the guy. I think he's trying. But, out of sympathy, I'd rather him get fired or quit than remain in the same kitchen. Is that bad?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Christ Lives Next Door

Quote of the Day: "The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails."
-James Joyce
When I lived next door to Jesus (I'm not kidding, the bearded carpenter next door really did look like Christ himself), the walls between our homes were so thin that I could hear every one of his phone conversations.

He'd awake at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and immediately begin banging around his home, making his phone calls. I'd awake to "Hi, Ma!," then he'd circle around his home and my apartment and roam the backyard that we shared as he continued his converstion with Ma in such a loud tone that I usually would get up and start my coffee rather than go back to sleep.

He had a cat that seemed to be about a thousand years old, a little black thing that would begin meowing incessantly on the few days that my neighbor did not awake at the crack of dawn. "Shut up, Nefirtiri!" he'd cry. "Goddammit, shut up!"

He was a trip, and though I had to change my sleeping habits, he remains my favorite neighbor. He was truly talented when it came to carpentry, and he enthusiastically joined me in constructing a pond in our yard.

One morning, Nefirtiri disappeared, and we searched everywhere for that old thing. Finally, Kim and I noticed a clump of gray and black fur in a nearby street. We told our neighbor, and he absorbed the information in his usual demeanor: in that loud voice he said, "Well, she was blind. She probably wondered out into the the street." Then, looking contemplative and slightly morose, he went back to whatever project he had going on the garage."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Does UNM Offer a Blogger Class?

Quote of the Day: "Kids. They're not easy. But there has to be some penalty for sex."
-Bill Maher

Today I found out that my human sexuality class is not going to count for anything--it gets me no further to graduation. Looks like I'll be dropping down to fifteen hours for the remainder of the semester.

Unfortunately, this means that I'll have to take summer school. While it's not too late to drop a class without a grade (luckily), it is too late to register for a different one. Bummer. I really didn't want to take summer school, but I also really want to graduate by next fall.

I guess I'll have to bite the bullet this summer and take a class. There is some good coming out of this, though. I now have the time I'd devoted to my human sexuality class. Now I can start commenting on the blogs of others! Sorry I haven't been around lately, but I'm back.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Quote of the Day: "We shouldn't be attacking the vulnerable."
-Craig Ferguson

In my film theory class, the audience is often compared to the voyeur and somewhat of a sado-masochist, watching others in conflict. It's something similar (and completely inexplicable) that drives us to watch September 11 footage over and over, to slow down when we pass a car wreck.

Is this why we're so compelled by Britney Spears, who has shaven her head and checked into rehab? We all saw this coming. We knew it was inevitable. We've reached the climax, the third act. Her story has become a predictable melodrama.

I really want to poke fun at the girl, but I find myself agreeing with Late Late Night host
Craig Ferguson. She's vulnerable, and in a unique situation. I still think she's an idiot, don't get me wrong, but at least she's honest enough to check into rehab.

I can't wait for her to sober up though, and lose that vulnerability, because then I have every right to poke fun at her. As for now, at the height of her breakdown, I hate to admit that I like her pain. You do too. We may have to bite the bullet and wish her good luck.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sleep is Overrated

Quote of the Day: "The only people that make love all the time are liars."

As you may know, I go to work at 5 a.m. I do this four days a week, about 35 hours altogether. During the other three days of the week I spend 18 hours in class. During the time in between I (try to) do homework.

Of course, somewhere in there I try to pack in what little social life I have, my time with Kim, my family time, my me time. I don't sleep anymore.

I need to get up 7 hours from now, which isn't so bad considering the maybe 5 or 6, often 4 hours that I usually end up getting. Much of my sleep isn't really even sleep--my mind continues to race after I shut off the lights and this has made night and day into indistinguishable static. I feel like I've been robbed, as if I'm coming down from a drug binge, but I missed out on the high.

I've had to decide into which area I need to allot my mental energy: work or school. Since I'm in school, I won't always need my current job. My mental energy is being stored up during my work days and expelled in class. I suppose it's a wise decision.

But I need a time for my brain to stop altogether--I really need my sleep. Or do I? Maybe not. Sleep is for sissies. Night time is for us caffeine loyalists anyway.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Quote of the Day: "Ever hear the one about the joke with no punchline?"

I had a writing assignment to begin a short story with a brief summary of that story. So how does mine begin?

"When Samuel Morris turned sixty, he courageously went into the burning home of his neighbor, Rich Sedberry, in a valiant attempt to save him. Unfortunatlely, a burning rafter fell from the ceiling and crushed the head of Mr. Sedberry before Mr. Morris could save him. When the rafter fell on Mr. Sedberry’s head, brains spurted out and into Mr. Morris’s mouth. He contracted Hepatitus C."

Isn't that gross? What the hell is wrong with me?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I Like Words

Quote of the Day: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
Mark Twain

There are some words that are just fun to say. They roll off of the tongue, and you can say them over and over because they sound so neat. Here's some of the words that I like saying:


...and lot's more. You get the picture. What are some of your favorite words?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rooftop Shenanigans

Quote of the Day: "Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."
Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to sneak up to the roof of the Sheraton. For whatever reason, the roof access at the hotel was never locked. They'd always leave the padlock, open and hanging from the access door, almost as an invitation.

So we'd go to the roof and look off of the side, maybe watch our spit drop to the bottom. Once, my friend Chris, whose car was a moving trash bin, had a roll of toilet paper in the backseat. We brought it with us to the rooftop and tossed off the building and into the night. The toilet paper unraveled and seemed to stop, caught midair, a white streamer floating in the dark. It caught in the trees, and we shrugged and left.

Later, Chris had a bachelor party at the same hotel. His buddy Taka decided to bring a blowup doll, which he'd left in the car. Taka and I went downstairs to bring the doll to the room. When we got to the parking lot and to his car, I found that the doll was already blown up, its mouth formed into a permanent "O."

We carried the woman to the elevator and stood her up next to us. She was our vinyl escort.

An elderly couple joined us on the elevator, and they stayed very quiet. It was an awkward moment, one that screamed for explanation. Taka turned to the couple and said, "Bachelor party." The couple responded with a "Hmm," and they smiled apprehensively. The elevator dinged and we exited, red-faced and struggling to keep from laughing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Raw Pancakes

Quote of the Day: "The man who said 'I'd rather be lucky than good' saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose."
-Match Point

Recently, two of my kitchen managers were fired. Food costs were too high, the kitchen was falling apart, and nothing was going right. They had to take the fall.

Today, I discovered that one of those managers really didn't like me. Adrian, a coworker from Guadalajara, said to me today, "Si, he no like you."

This left me wondering why. Why would somebody not like me? Was it because he was my supervisor, yet I had to correct him all the time? "Dude, stop sending out raw pancakes!"

Not that this really bugs me that much. At least I still have my job, bucko.

Simon's Current Obsessions:

The Departed
my DVD finally came in the mail. I'll probably watch it about 17 times this weekend. Then I'll fall behind on my blog and my homework. But it's totally worth it.

The Magic Kingdom
by Stanley Elkin

This book, which is even more death obsessed than The Departed, is phenomenal. If anybody can construct a sentence, it's Elkin.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day Massacre

Quote of the Day: "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
-Lewis Carrol, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Tonight I finally made my lobster.

I purchased the creatures this morning. When the woman from the grocery store removed them from the tank, the lobsters stretched their arms out wide, as if to make themselves look larger and more intimidating, or maybe they both knew what was coming and just wanted a hug.

After I brought them home and used them to chase the dogs, I befriended the crustaceans. I put them in a pan and covered them with a wet towel before placing them in the fridge. All day long, whenever I went for a snack, I asked how they were doing, if they needed anything, if they had any last requests.

I considered using dental floss to create lobster marionettes. I one point, I thought it might be fun to having them play out scenes from classic films. I could put a hat on one and have it say to the other, "Here's looking at you, kid."

Instead, I chose to let them live their final moments with dignity. Even when I put them in the boiling water they didn't fight back. I just tossed them in and closed the lid. No screaming, no rattling, nothing. It was very anticlimactic.

They tasted delicious too. The missus and I gorged ourselves on lobster, shrimp, scallops, bacon-wrapped filets, sauteed mushrooms, and basil berblanc (sic?). But the lobsters got me back. Turns out I have a minor allergy to shellfish.

I never knew this. I've had lobster before, but I always thought that the itching on my hand was from squeezing lemon in my palms to kill the shellfish smell. This time, immediately after cracking open the shell and having lobster juice spill across the back of my hands, they swelled, began to itch, and I broke out into a speckled rash.

I've decided to take it like my lobster friends. No big deal, just an uncomfortable allergy. I finished my meal with a quiet dignity, and I concluded the feast with a respectful nod to the carcass of my lobster buddy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cops or Criminals

Quote of the Day: "You got a nice suit at home or do you like coming to work everyday dressed like you're goin' to invade Poland?"
-Colin Sullivan, The Departed

Today, The Departed finally gets released on DVD. Like most people, I like crime movies. I absolutely loved this one.

I was once told that sex is like pizza: When it's good, it great, and when it's bad, it's still good. The same goes for Martin Scorsese films. Even his mediocre movies--Casino and Bringing out the Dead, for instance--are still far better than most of the fare that is out there.

I consider The Departed one of his greats. The horrific violence and naughty language make it an arguable "guy movie" (though I know women who are just as passionate about this flick as I am), but the movie also offers some commentary on masculinity. When DiCaprio's character, Billy Costigan, orders a cranberry juice at a bar, another patron asks him if he's on his period. DiCaprio responds by smashing him in the head with a glass.

When maleness comes into question in this film, violence is often the response. It is implied that Matt Damon's character, Colin Sullivan, is impotent, and even his sexuality comes into question. It's no surprise that his actions have the most damaging consequences in the film.

Then, of course, there's Jack Nicholson's character, Frank Costello. Nicholson has been criticized for the performance being "too much Jack, not enough Frank." That's like saying there's too much of a good thing. Jack hams it up to the maximum, and it works.

The film's main flaw is the contrived love triangle. A remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, The Departed combines the original's two female characters into one, which hurts the film' integrity. With the being said, Scorsese has found a unique beauty (I'd compare her to Patricia Arquette) and impressive actress in Vera Farmiga, so I can't say I was all that concerned with the contrivances of the film.

The Departed is a certain crowd-pleaser. The direction is top notch, and William Monahan's script is a damn good yarn.

In other news, tomorrow's my big day: I'm cooking lobster. I've been looking forward to this almost as much as I've been looking forward to The Departed getting released on DVD.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Tale for Children

"Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"

Today, I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings."

What an incredible story. Marquez calls it "A Tale For Children," and though a child would never fully grasp the story, but an adult (except for Marquez) would never actually even consider a man with wings, an angel, falling to earth.

The story conveys that childish sense of wonder, something magical, but it also undermines it with a cynicism in the reaction that people have to the old man. The man himself, perhaps an angel, in not described in an "angelic" way, but rather he is decrepit, his wings flea-ridden, his body old and worn. I'm not sure what to call this story: fantasy realism, maybe?

Though the locals reaction to the angel is depressing, when the old man finally takes flight there is somehow a sense of resolve, but not overly so. Like a good haiku, the story makes a point but does not leave us with a "bowtie" ending. It's like a breeze, making one shudder but appreciative of the fresh air.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bad Manners in the Workplace

"If I need a favor at four o'clock in the morning, whether it's a quick loan, a shoulder to cry on, a sleeping pill, bail money or just someone to pick me up in a car in a bad neighborhood in the driving rain, I'm definitely not calling up a fellow writer. I'm calling my sous-chef, or a former sous-chef, or my saucier, someone I work with or have worked with over the last twenty-plus years."
-Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Our prep cook called in sick all weekend. This wouldn't be a problem if she didn't do this all the time.

Plus, our other prep cook decided to change his schedule and now he doesn't work weekends anymore, either. Of course, he informed our kitchen manager last week, but the manager never told anybody before taking the weekend off. Basically, it was a really hard, busy weekend at the restaurant that could've been avoidable if 1. Our prep cook was considerate enough not to call in every time she sneezed, 2. our other prep cook had given fair warning before changing his availability, 3. our supervisors actually reprimanded employees for this behavior, or 4. our kitchen manager gave us a heads up before abandoning our understaffed kitchen for our busiest weekend in months.

I should be graduating in less than a year, and at that point I will be (I hope) through with restaurant jobs for good. So why do I let my job, my temporary job, bother me? Do I care too much? Obviously, mediocre employees can get away with practically anything without consequence, so what's stopping a good employee, like myself, from calling in for a weekend?

In the entire time I've worked there (it's been about a year and a half), I've never called in sick. I went home early once, but considering that it was either that or puke all over the flat top grill I think I made a wise choice. Imagine the smell of sizzling vomit.

One morning I went in with such a wicked hangover that I had to leave the kitchen to puke every 15 minutes, but I still came to work. I had one coworker who seemed to call in sick whenever the Cowboys played. It took months for him to get fired.

One of these days, I'm hoping this ultra considerate attitude towards work will one day be pay off. It helps to believe in Karma.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Homework Sucks

Quote of the Day: "I came up with a new game-show idea recently. It's called The Old Game. You got three old guys with loaded guns onstage. They look back at their lives, see who they were, what they accomplished, how close they came to realizing their dreams. The winner is the one who doesn't blow his brains out. He gets a refrigerator."

-Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Today, my cocker spaniel got groomed. She was matted so badly that they had to shave the poor thing. Now she looks like a rat with a head that is much too large. It's really quite hideous.

Otherwise, nothing much is new. Homework's kicking my ass, though, so I must log off of Blogger and focus on school for tonight. I'll be back tomorrow with a longer post.

I hope everybody has had a fantastic weekend!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Gettin' Clipped

Quote of the Day: "Leave the gun. Take the cannolis."
-The Godfather

To benefit the Albuquerque Children's Hospital, the Lobo Theater has been hosting an Italian Film Festival. Last night, my brother and I were lucky enough to attend a screening of The Godfather. There is no better place to view this film--the theater is very old, and upstairs is a balcony and a pair of ancient bathrooms with slender, knobless doors and red and white tiles. What's really odd is that the bathroom looks almost identical to the one in which Michael Corleone must find the gun hidden behind the toilet. This theater has a certain 1930s or 40s elegance totally reminiscent of The Godfather's Gangland Elite atmosphere.

When we arrived, outside of the theater we noticed a glass door splattered with red paint, and we commented on the splatter's similarity to the countless blood splatters on my favorite film of 2006, The Departed. We laughed.

Leaving the theater, looking over our shoulders in the dark and, fueled by The Godfather's plot of paranoia and betrayal, we eyed that same splatter with far more caution. Before we got in the car, I think we both peeked into the backseat to be sure nobody was waiting with a piano wire.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Blog's New Feature! (and Screams from the Kitchen, part III)

Quote of the Day: "If you're going to kill someone, do it simply."
-Johnny Aysgarth, Suspicion

A worker who got his degree from some culinary school made some suggestions for my Valentine's Day lobster dinner. He suggested a butter/basil mix to go along with the lobster and a mushroom sauce for the filet. Something fancy to make the dinner less barbaric.

Still, I'm now planning on a ritualistic boiling of the creatures, like that initiation of Nemo in the fish tank. It'll be as if I'm sacrificing virgins to a volcano. I'll beat drums, I'll dress in warpaint, and hopefully by the time the lobster is ready Kim is still around for the fancy part of the meal.

Be happy that you dropped by "Dispatches From Suburbia" today for you are witnessing the unraveling of a new feature! When I'm rich and famous you can tell people you remember when Simon unleashed a new section of his blog!

Every month, there is a section in RollingStone magazine entitled "Our Current Obsessions." Well, I've completely stolen that idea. So every Thursday, expect my own obsessions. Behold:

Simon's Current Obsessions:

Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion
My favorite of his films. I love the glowing glass of milk (sound familiar?).

Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology. Edited by Philip Rosen
This is my textbook for my film theory class. The essays are dense, the ideas extremely complex, and every page is a total pain in the ass to trudge through. Still, the big words and brain-bending concepts blow my mind, and I think I might actually be grasping it, making me feel smart.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dirty Plates and Homicide

Quote of the Day: "Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay,/ it only took my little fingers to blow you away."
Elvis Costello, "Watching the Detectives"

Yesterday, I mentioned the unnerving thought that we never know exactly what our proximity to violence is. We can never truly fathom the histories of the people that surround us everyday.

When I worked in catering, the restaurant hired a new dishwasher named Rolfe. He was a grizzled, older man that reminded me of the boat captain on Jaws. He was redheaded and toothless and shorter than me but he was certainly built. He had unrecognizable tattoos peeking from beneath the hair of his arms, and outside of work he wore boots, jeans, and a gray cowboy hat. Oftentimes grumbles could be heard from beneath his bushy red mustache as he pushed dishes through the machine, and his social skills were non-existent. He frightened the waitresses and made the line cooks uncomfortable with his raspy laugh.

I usually took my breaks outside by the dumpster, where I could find some peace from the hectic kitchen. One evening, he came outside, and out of habit I immediately tensed up.

He lit a cigarette and asked how old I was.

"20," I replied.

"Hmm," he said. "I've been in prison for almost your entire life."

I didn't know if it was rude to ask why, though I was dying to know, so I didn't. Fortunately, he told me. "Anger and alcohol don't mix. I killed a man in a bar fight."

The strange thing about it was that, after he told me this story, I was more comfortable around him. At least I knew his story, and the mystery surrounding him was dispelled. At times, he'd tell jokes and smile his toothless smile and I'd even enjoy being around the old fart.

Then, one night he asked me for a ride home. I told him "No problem." It bothered me that I didn't even feel hesitant or worried that this man could snap and kill me. I often saw him in the kitchen, angry and shouting at the dirty plates, as if they were responsible for some unhappiness that lingered within him. And yet I never felt any fear for my own safety.

In my car, listening to him talk about nothing in particular, I tried to find fear within me, some kind of anxiousness that maybe this man, a convicted murderer, could pull a knife and command me to pull over.

Obviously, he never did. I gave him several rides home after that, and every time I'd drop him off at his small, yellow apartment in a dodgy part of town, I'd feel not fear, but sympathy for the man.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

We're Not in Santa Rosa Anymore, Nana

Quote of the Day: "Come gather 'round people/ Wherever you roam/And admit that the waters/ Around you have grown
And accept it that soon/ You'll be drenched to the bone."

-Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

Stacy, a coworker, lives across the street from my grandparents. During the holidays, my gentleman grandfather, who'd never spoken to Stacy, brought them some Christmas treats.

Stacy responded by making them a plate of treats. When she brought them to my grandparents, they invited Stacy, Stacy's son, and her roommate in. They sat them on the couch, offered them posole and something to drink, played with her kid, and treated them as if they were old friends.

When Stacy told me this I laughed. "Sounds like they've adopted you into the family," I said. "You know," I told her, "If Charlie Manson came to the door, I wouldn't be surprised if they let him in too and offered a bite to eat."

This is a scary thought. In the past few months, Albuquerque has seen a rash of "home invasions." Is there a more frightening phrase than "home invasion"? Apparently, a group of people has been all over town, going into homes, roughing up the people living there, and robbing them blind. It's a matter of being careful--just don't let strangers into your home, right?

It's one of those types of stories that my mother would tell me when I was younger to remind me why we don't open the door to strangers, stories that I now take with a grain of salt (kind of like the "terror alerts" or whatever the color-coded system is called). I'm careful, and the chances are slim of this even occurring to me. Still, people are mysterious. Stacy told me that, about a month ago, her roommate's boyfriend was in the bathroom when he noticed somebody staring in the bathroom window. He ran out into the snow, in his boxers, carrying a knife and a tazer gun, but it was too late. Peeping Tom got away. And I'd always thought of my grandparents' neighborhood as quiet and peaceful.

Then, last week, a man came to my grandparents' house and asked to use the phone. "He looked scruffy," my grandfather explains. So what did my grandparents do?

They let him in.

This scruffy man has been back three or four times since, and they've allowed him in every time. At one point he came over with a nasty sore on his cheek, saying he needed a ride to the hospital and asking to use the phone once again. My grandfather finally drew the line when the man asked for $20. "No sir," my grandfather said, "I live on Social Security."

My grandparents are members of a totally different generation and two people that raised their nine children in the small New Mexican town of Santa Rosa, "where everybody knows your name." But over the years, even Santa Rosa has developed a crime and heroin problem.

Thankfully, they finally grew afraid that maybe this guy was casing the house for a future break-in. When they mentioned to their children what was happening with this stranger, that they'd let him in the house, everybody replied, "Don't ever do that!"

"At the time," my grandmother says, "we thought nothing of it."

This afternoon I went over to visit them and to make sure nobody was hiding in the bushes. I was surprised to find that their front door was locked. In my 22 years of living, my grandparents have never locked the front door. I find it sad that they now have to, and that I come from such a different generation in which locking a front door is a no-brainer. I even envy them.

I like to think that I'm over-reacting, but things happen. Even in my grandparents' time and even before, human beings have often acted in evil ways. We kill. We engage in warfare. We steal and we backstab. It can be a hostile world. But when was it that we became prisoners of not only the external threat of hostility, but our own mistrust of the world around us?

I like to think that I could leave my front door unlocked and not worry about anything happening to me or my Hi-Def TV or my laptop. But it happens. A few years ago here in Albuquerque, a man broke into a couple's home, bound the wife, and killed her husband right in front of her. These more recent home invasions were less brutal--the burglars reportedly roughed up the homeowners but luckily went no further than that--but still, I suppose it can't hurt to be wary.

My other grandfather used to sell paint to the Clutters, which makes me wonder just how close I am to any sort of violence. Sure, these recent burglaries were not as brutal as they could have been, and we ought to try to maintain some of our innocence, but whenever I hear the term "home invasion," this is, sadly, what first comes to mind:

Monday, February 05, 2007

I've Moved On, Steve, and You Should, Too

Quote of the Day: "Serenity now!"
-Frank Costanza

After yesterday's post, I received some wonderful comments in which people shared their own horror stories about jackass neighbors. I especially liked the Pine-Sol story from "anonymous" (who I later discovered was my mother).

I've had an entire day to think about this, and fume, and though I'd love to get a drum set or an electric guitar--two instruments I'm sure the fascist next door would absolutely love--I've decided to give it a rest for now.

After yesterday's altercation, my neighbor, Steve, was smiling. Plus, my landlord likes me and I like him, and I'd hate to make him feel like a babysitter. When confronting me about the volume of my television, my landlord even said in regards to my neighbor, "Some people have to go to the landlord. They can't just ask you to turn it down."God forbid my neighbor has to leave his lair and walk the few steps to my door.

So I've moved the TV. I've made it clear to everybody I know that the parking lot is reserved, so visitors MUST park in the street so Sir Cry-a-Lot doesn't have another fit. By the way, this was never a chronic problem. ONCE, Kim's grandmother misunderstood, and she (gasp!) parked in his space. He totally went off on her--he screamed at the poor old woman because she misunderstood.

Then, last night, when our friend parked in Steve's spot, that was strike two, and he had another fit, and blah blah blah--if you read yesterday's post, you know the story.

What bothers me the most is that I've let this anger me so. I feel as if I'm a lesser person for allowing myself to dwell on this for a full 24 hours. I can't even focus on my schoolwork. The way I'm so consumed by this, so irritated and irritable, makes me sound like somebody I know--Steve!

But two posts is enough to spend on Steve. He deserves no more. Here's the new Simon Serenity Prayer:

Now it's time to let it go.
I will not speak to Steve or even think about him anymore.
Breathe deep--life's too short.
In the time that it took me to write this post,
I've found peace with the situation.

Now I can forget about Steve and enjoy my apartment.

That is, until Steve's next complaint.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Buzzkill

Quote of the Day: “I don't think much new ever happens. Most of us spend our days the same way people spent their days in the year 1000: walking around smiling, trying to earn enough to eat, while neurotically doing these little self-proofs in our head about how much better we are than these other slobs, while simultaneously, in another part of our brain, secretly feeling woefully inadequate to these smarter, more beautiful people.”
-George Saunders

When my landlord, a soft-spoken, gentle man, came by to pick up the rent a couple of days ago, he informed me that my neighbor had complained about my television being too loud.

I don't blame my neighbor. I got a new TV for Christmas, along with a surround sound system, and I've probably gotten a bit carried away. Plus, the TV and subwoofer are against the wall that we share with this man.

Not wanting to be rude neighbors, I apologized to my landlord and Kim wrote a long apology letter and taped it to our neighbor's door. She explained in the letter that if there are any further problems, the neighbor should immediately let us know and the problem will be remedied.

Then, we moved the TV to the opposite wall and completely reversed the surround sound system that had taken me an entire day to install, just to avoid any future nuisances for our neighbor. Besides, as the apology letter stated, if he had any further issues he had the friendly invitation to let us know.

Tonight, we invited a few friends over to watch the big game. The parking lot has reserved spaces at our apartment, and though we instruct our friends to park in the street, somebody parked in our neighbor's spot. What impeccable timing.

Instead of recognizing a simple mistake, my neighbor parked his 4-Runner directly behind our guest's Miata. I went next door to apologize, yet again, and to ask him to please allow our friend to move his car.

Keep in mind that, by this point, I've never spoken to our next door neighbor. He went directly to the landlord, not to me, to complain rather than to simply ask us to keep it down. Ever since Christmas, I'd never known there was a problem so the volume went up and up. Am I that difficult to approach?

So, tonight, he answered his front door and without even opening the cast-iron door he barked out of the shadows, "What do you want?"

"I'm really sorry, we had a misunderstanding, can my friend move his car?"

He still refused to even open the door. "I'm not leaving for another hour," he said. "And I called the landlord and a tow-truck." He said that his car would not budge until the tow truck arrived. Ouch.

After some pathetic pleading (thank God I'd been drinking), I got him to move his car. "Thank you," I said. "My name's Simon, by the way."

He shook my hand. "Steve," he said. "Oh, and I've also told the landlord that you're music is too loud." Then Steve, a little guy, victoriously strutted home. His screen door smashed shut, and I was left feeling that this was not over.
It's not. I think that, in the middle of the night, I might begin a steady tapping on the very wall that I share with Steve, that wonderful ball of sunshine next door, just to drive him completely insane. I've considered jumping the back wall and going into his backyard to tap on his sliding glass door. I will drive him absolutely nuts. I will make him miserable. He may not hear my TV or my music anymore, but he will hear these strange tapping sounds in the still of the night that may or may not be his neighbor's doing. All of this because he had to go directly to the landlord rather than growing some balls and asking me to please keep it down. It's on, Steve.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Very Pleasant Surprise

(This picture is from the "Random Photo File" and has nothing to do with the following post. So don't be startled when you realize that what you're reading has nothing to do with sailing, or vacationing, or the Mexican sea captain in a visor and a dirty shirt, or the guy in a gray polo trying to figure out his camera, or Simon looking terribly sunburned and seasick. -S)

Quote of the Day: "It tastes like the back of a fucking L.A. school bus. Now they probably didn't de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine bullshit. Fuckin' Raid."
-Miles Raymond, Sideways

Since I must arrive to work at 5 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, I've basically given up the nightlife activities of a college senior, that is unless I want to show up to work unshaven, useless, and still pretty tossed.

If I do some heavy drinking on Friday or Saturday nights, it must be done before 9 (10 at the latest), which is when I go to bed. Since I don't start school until noon on Mondays, I can actually stay up late on Sunday nights--which is unfortunate because at this time everybody else is catching up on sleep that they've lost over the weekend. Luckily, tomorrow's Superbowl Sunday, in case you were unaware, which means that I have an excuse to get tipsy and even be social for once, even though I don't really watch football. I don't even know who's playing. Whatever. Game on!

We went to the nearby liquor store today to stock up on beer. I love this place--it's not a seedy, run-down joint, but a rather quaint (but with a large selection) store run by some pleasant Koreans. We noticed that, in the corner of the store, was this shorter guy pouring wine for and chitchatting with customer. It turns out that every Friday and Saturday, in the afternoon (those are my preferred drinking hours), there is a wine tasting at this liquor store.

I don't know much about wines, and I'm not about to pretend that I do. I hate how everybody that has ever seen Sideways suddenly thinks that they're a wine expert: "Uh, do you happen to have a Peenit Noyr?" Still, I can at least pretend on Fridays and Saturdays and enjoy afternoons of free wine. Game on!

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Fine Line Between Homage and Blatant Rip-Off

Quote of the Day: "No, now I'm recording Tony fucking Wilson."
Marin Hannett, 24 Hour Party People

Remember that really bad Jet song, “Look What You’ve Done,” from a couple of years ago? (Yeah, I know, this post is a bit outdated, but while the song has been around for a couple of years, my blog has only been here for a few months).

Anyway, the song is lame and goes something like this:

Take my photo off the wall
If it just won't sing for you
'Cause all that's left has gone away
And there's nothing there for you to prove

Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems like such fun
Until you lose what you had won

Give me back my point of view
'Cause I just can't think for you
I can hardly hear you say
What should I do, well you choose

Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems like such fun
Until you lose what you had won

Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
A fool of everyone
A fool of everyone

Take my photo off the wall
If it just won't sing for you
'Cause all that's left has gone away
And there's nothing there for you to do

Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
Oh well, it seems like such fun
Until you lose what you had won

Oh, look what you've done
You've made a fool of everyone
A fool of everyone
A fool of everyone

Does that seem familiar? Especially the part that goes “Oh, look what you’ve done/ You’ve made a fool of everyone”? Wait a second, that does ring a bell:

Sexy Sadie what have you done
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie ooh what have you done.

Sexy Sadie you broke the rules
You laid it down for all to see
You laid it down for all to see
Sexy Sadie oooh you broke the rules.

One sunny day the world was waiting for a lover
She came along to turn on everyone
Sexy Sadie the greatest of them all.

Sexy Sadie how did you know
The world was waiting just for you
The world was waiting just for you
Sexy Sadie oooh how did you know.

Sexy Sadie you'll get yours yet
However big you think you are
However big you think you are
Sexy Sadie oooh you'll get yours yet.

We gave her everything we owned just to sit at her table
Just a smile would lighten everything
Sexy Sadie she's the latest and the greatest of them all.

She made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie.

However big you think you are
Sexy Sadie.

You may notice, however, that the Beatle lyrics are much more involving, poetic, and moving (One sunny day the world was waiting for a lover/ She came along to turn on everyone) than the amateurish crap churned out by Jet (“Give me back my point of view/
'Cause I just can't think for you).

And, the Jet song sounds almost exactly like the Beatles one, except that Jet’s rip-off is more shoddy and very little, if any, talent shows through.

For some reason, I felt the need to vent tonight, and I found a victim in Jet. Sorry fellas.

But seriously, guys, this could've all been avoided if any one of you had an original bone in your body.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It Puts the Butter on the Skin; or, Screams from the Kitchen, part II

Quote of the Day: "However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home...it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you're tilting it from a container into a steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to teh container's sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle's rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof."
-David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"

So I've already mentioned that I am cooking live lobster for Valentine's Day ("Screams from the Kitchen"), but it wasn't until recently that I realized that, since I will be cooking two lobsters, I'll have lots of fun opportunities.

I considered making one watch the other boil to death, just so I could see if it reacts. Then I thought maybe I could make them fight and tell them the winner will be allowed to live. Then I'd cook them both anyway, despite the winner. He's a cruel, mysterious God, the winner will thing as a dunk him into the boiling water.

I wouldn't have to boil them both if they were were cheaper. Then I could buy three lobsters and actually allow one to go free. Then he'd take off and soon die in the hot Albuquerque sun. As he dies on the pavement, this lobster's momentary joy from being set free will soon wear away and he'll think, What a cruel, mysterious God.

I mentioned to a coworker that these were my fantasies. He told me I should talk like Buffalo Bill when I eat the lobster: "It puts the butter on the skin or else it gets the hose again." Then I could tuck my genitals in and dance about in costume made from lobster skins.

I don't know, maybe I'll actually think they're cute when I bring them home. In that case I'll have to remove the rubber bands from their claws, so that they feel that they actually have a chance. Then I'll boil them and enjoy my dinner.