Today is my last day at CTW. I am laid off as of the end of the day. I'm rather sad. I'm wearing my Fucked Company t-shirt.
April 30, 2001
April 29, 2001
947 ms pages and counting.
You may notice that this is Chapter 47, when the last chapter I announced was 48. I did a little reorganization, and now there are fewer chapters.
April 20, 2001
I caught a little of Never Say Never Again on TBS or TNT or some station like that the other night. I was a little startled to see Kim Basinger in it, but not so startled as to see Rowan Atkinson playing the role of one Mr., er, Small-Fawcett, a fellow with the British embassy in the Bahamas. I kept waiting to see if I were really watching Black Adder V....
April 19, 2001
If you live in the Tri-State region, be sure to tune in this Sunday at 5:00 pm to WNET, Channel 13, to see my fiancée Laura compete on the amateur cooking show MasterChef USA. This program is the American version of a popular British cooking show, both of which are hosted by superstar London chef Gary Rhodes.
For more info on the show, check out:
And for a preview of Laura on the web, go about halfway down this page:
If you don't live in the New York area, check your local listings to see if your PBS station carries MasterChef USA and when. It's episode #203!
April 15, 2001
April 12, 2001
April 11, 2001
April 10, 2001
907 ms pages, and still the horror lives!
April 8, 2001
April 4, 2001
[get context here]
Gluttons for Punishment
The only significant way in which Snow and I ever got the better of Roper and Steed was with their nicknames. I don't remember which of us thought this up, but if we ever wanted to rile up the sisters, we just called them Doper and Weed and watched their hackles rise. Though they tried and tried, they could never come up with nicknames as good for us.
There were other times when Snow and I thought we'd gotten the upper hand, but inevitably we'd have the rug yanked out from under us. On one memorable occasion, we beat the sisters fair and square and still they had the last laugh, without even planning it that way.
It was a P-day early in February, and a cleansing Chinook wind had raised the temperature in the city to a balmy seventy degrees. Roper and Steed invited us to meet them at a nearby mall late that afternoon for a friendly round of Canadian-style bowling. Technically this was against the rulesit might look too much like a date to the casual observer, and feel too much like a date to the participantsbut that had never stopped us before.) Neither Snow nor I had ever tried our hands at that particular game, but we were always willing to try something new. We readily agreed to join them.
When the two of us arrived at the bowling alley inside the gigantic mall that afternoon, we shook our heads in disbelief. No offense to you Canadians, but this variation on bowling you've cooked up is, well . . . not exactly something you expect to see outside a carnival midway.
"Do you win a stuffed bear for knocking down all the pins?" I asked Snow.
"I'd feel ripped off otherwise," he said. "Frap."
For those of you who've never witnessed the amusing diversion that is Canadian bowling, picture five short, squat pins arranged in a wide V. (I want to call them duckpins, but I'm not sure they're even fat enough to qualify.) Each is connected like a marionette by a string to the mechanism hidden above the end of the lane; when you strike a pin with the ball, instead of falling over it flies up out of sight. The ball itself, smooth with no holes, is only the size of a large grapefruit, and you throw it down the lane underhand, like you might roll a softball. If that weren't laughable enough, you get three balls in each framethat's three tries to knock out all five pins. A cinch.
It's no wonder tough oil towns like Brooks prefer nice American-style lanes. Canadian bowling is a game for kids. (And indeed, most of the customers that day were mothers with children.)
We spotted the sisters near the shoe-rental counter. "What in shazz do you call this?" said Snow by way of greeting.
"We call it y'all are gonna get your butts kicked," said Roper, smiling a hard smile.
I shook my head. "There's nothing to this. We're gonna wipe up the floor with you two."
"You've never played this before, right?" asked Steed. Her sweet smile was contradicted by the two fists planted on her considerable hips. "Well, it's a lot harder than it looks. It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of finesse, too. And we've had plenty of practice."
Snow rolled his eyes, flashing the sisters the practiced, barely-there sneer than worked so well on his rubbery lips. "Listen, Weed, you can flush your frappin' finesse. What do you think, Shunn? Can we take these two?"
I squinted down the nearest alley like a veteran sharpshooter. "Piece of cake," I said.
"No way," said Roper. "We'll eat y'all for breakfast."
Snow raised his eyebrows. "Gluttons for punishment, eh? Care to back that up with a little wager?"
Roper's eyes narrowed. "What'd you have in mind?"
"Oh, say . . . highest team score gets dinner on the losers?"
"Dinner where?" asked Steed.
"Food court," said Snow. "Restaurant of our choice. Nothing fancy."
"Restaurant of our choice," said Roper. "You're on."
And with that, we all shook hands.
You may think Snow and I had set ourselves up for a fall, but you'd be wrong. The game was every bit as ridiculously easy as it looked, and we took command from the opening frame. By the end of the first game Steed was shaking her head in confusion, while Roper gritted her teeth and demanded a second match. We let them have itand we let them have it, if you see what I mean. As Roper grimly hurled bricks down the alley, losing more of her form and more of her cool with every frame, and Steed kept failing to close out her spares, Snow and I skated to the line with casual grace, as light on our feet as butterflies and as deadly in our aim as heat-seeking missiles. And let me tell you, we cleaned house. We demolished those sisters. We rolled 'em up and smoked 'em, put 'em in the ground and danced on the grave. We. Kicked. Ass.
The sisters hollered uncle after three games. Roper mustered enough cool to shake our hands with passable graciousness, while Steed just stared down the alley like what had happened there was some mystery. "You're sure you've never bowled this way before?" she kept asking, like a flood victim asking where her house has gone. "You're sure?"
At the food court, Snow and I picked a cheap Japanese place, and soon we were digging into hot, heaping bowls of noodles and breaded pork. The sisters sat across the orange tabletop from us, desultorily picking at their own dinners. "I think we were set up," said Steed. "You've definitely played before."
"Look," said Snow, finishing off the last of his noodles, "if you can't lose a game gracefully to superior athletes, then you shouldn't be playing it in the first place."
I patted my stomach, happy and full. "That's right. You were just out of your league, sisters."
"I love humility in a winner," said Roper, pushing her teriyaki chicken around her paper plate.
"Me, too, when it's anybody but us," I said. "Thanks for dinner, by the way."
Snow belched. "Yeah, and thanks for a satisfying end to these P-day festivities." He looked at his watch. "And now I think we just beoh, shazz. Holy shazz."
At that the sisters perked up, like hounds scenting blood on the wind. "What is it?" asked Roper.
Snow had turned white, and now he smacked himself on the forehead. "Why didn't you remind me, Shunn? It's six o'clock. We've got a frappin' dinner appointment with the Kents at six-thirty."
"Oh, flip," I said.
Roper pointed at us, delight slowly dawning on her face. "You two just pigged out on noodles and pork, and now you have to go eat dinner again?"
Steed laughed and shook her head. "Oh, elders, that's too good. I wish I'd thought of that one."
Hastily Snow and I said our goodbyes and rushed out of the mall. Brother Kent was probably the wealthiest man in our wardnot someone who doled out dinner invitations lightly, and not someone who'd be likely to give us a second chance if we blew him off. We had to be there on time or forfeit our goodwill among the ward's high prieststhe older, more established gentlemen whose business contacts might make priceless investigators for us.
Snow drove us recklessly back to the pit, where we peeled off our P-day clothes and threw on our suits without showering. We made it to the Kents' front door only five minutes late, and even so Brother Kent was frowning as he let us in. "Welcome, elders," he said, a white-haired man as tall and grave and stately as the oaks shading the front of his house, with a voice like finely cultured gravel. "Sister Kent has dinner waiting."
The house was dark and cold and sumptuous, finished so expensively that the very walls seemed to swallow all light. There were no actual suits of armor in the corners, but they would not have been out of place. Brother Kent himself, in his tie and vest, needed only a pipe and smoking jacket to complete the picture of a feudal duke on some remote estate.
He showed us to a dark-blue dining room, where a smiling young man in a T-shirt and jeans with unruly blond hair waited at a elegant table loaded with meats and fruits and vegetables and more. "My youngest son Larry," said Brother Kent, introducing us. "He's just back from a mission in Sweden."
Sister Kent, a birdlike woman with mischievous eyes, carried another tray full of food in from the kitchen. "Sit down, elders," she said. "Let's have a blessing so you can get started."
Elder Snow and I goggled at the food as we took our seats. "You won't go hungry tonight," said Brother Kent. "We know what missionary appetites are like around here"he glanced at Larry"and we don't want you to go home disappointed."
When my cousin Jared stayed with my family before leaving on his mission, he and I had gone to his mother's parents house in Ogden one evening for dinner. Jared and I had always competed as children to see who could eat the most, and that night we held one final commemorative eating contest, each matching the other's intake bite for bite. We stuffed ourselves so full that it took me forty-five minutes to eat my last slice of cake and scoop of ice cream, and neither of us could stand up straight when we left the house. There's only one time in my life I've been more full than that, and that was at the Kents' table in Calgary.
Larry, a voracious fellow who must have starved himself for weeks in anticipation of this meal, set the pace, and nothing would satisfy Sister Kent except that we keep up. If we ever took a helping smaller than her son's Himalayan portions, she chided us gently for being shy. "There's plenty here, elders, and plenty more where that came from," she said. "Eat up."
Green salad, fruit salad, Jell-O salad, soup, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, vegetable casserole, and beef stroganoff proceeded one after another, more than once, in a parade so rich and aromatic skirted the vomit-inducing, and all the while Brother Kent quizzed us mercilessly on the details of our lives both back home and in the field. Snow and I exchanged grim, pop-eyed glances each time a new course emerged from the kitchen, and as we shoveled the increasingly tasteless food down our gullets our aching bellies swelled and swelled and swelled, like mosquitoes that can't pull free of the vein.
I did my best to eat every dish placed in front of me, like a good elder should, but I just couldn't make it through my second slice of strawberry cake. I don't know what happened. I kept taking bites but the cake never seemed to diminish. At long last, with Elder Snow slumped back in his chair beside me, glazed eyes staring blindly at the crumbs on his otherwise empty dessert plate, Sister Kent bustled up behind me and said, "If you can't finish that, Elder, don't worry. I imagine you're just about full."
I wanted to tell her I'd been just about full when we started, but I couldn't speak for fear the obscene amounts of food I'd eaten would gush up my throat and choke me.
I'm not sure how Snow and I made it out of that house that night without doubling over in agony and mortally offending the Kents, but we were safely in the car under cover of darkness before we let ourselves emit the whimpers and groans that had clamored for voice all evening.
"Shazz, Elder," said Snow, his face twisted and pinched, "I barely fit behind the steering wheel."
I leaned my seat back and moaned. "I don't think I'll ever be the same again."
"The sisters are gonna love this when we tell them," said Snow, putting the car in gear. "They're gonna eat this up."
And he was right. They did. And they didn't let us forget what our cockiness had wrought.