Friday, December 22, 2006

Engagement Party

"You look like the perfect couple. How you doin'?"

Yellow is a relaxing color, or maybe it's blue. I wasn't too sure. The maroon chairs offered a nice contrast. Plus, they were the most uncomfortable chairs I can remember sitting in for some time. And it's kind of ironic if you think about it. They want you to wait in these chairs. You're supposed to sit in them for a long time. Wouldn't it make more sense if they were easier on your posterior?

"Man, I was shouting 'Yaaaa! AAAAAH!' They had to hold me down."

Darryl was still talking. To us, to everyone around us. People were nodding, trying to be polite. I was trying to figure out exactly how we'd landed in Hell's Waiting Room. But, I realized, that was an inapt analogy. We weren't in Hell's Waiting Room -- we were in Hell itself.

He'd sat down across from us earlier, carrying what looked like a clear plastic cornucopia of gauze and pharmaceuticals. Out in the lobby, a weathered and angry looking old man kept doing laps in his wheelchair and barking at the receptionist from time to time.

"They took one of those sticks, you know - with the cotton on the end - and had it in my stomach. They was rooting around trying to find the pus."

Welcome to the ER Waiting Room on Thursday night.

Welcome to my engagement party.

The day began ordinarily enough - a sunny yet cool start to winter. I followed the routine to the letter: wake, shower, walk dog, eat and head to work. But this day wasn't going to be ordinary; it was going to be special. It was The Day.

Work passed in something of a fog. Basically, I was more useless than usual. Despite my best efforts, I may have actually accomplished something, but it's entirely possible I dreamed that part of it up. I was excited to get through the day. Ready to hit the kitchen to start cooking. I had an exciting menu lined up, great ingredients and new knives. Oh, and there was that whole ring thing too.

I left the office early, met a friend for lunch and hit the gym for a quick workout. Upon returning home, it was time to start cooking.

After a little goofing off, it was time to get my cook on. I started getting my mise into place - using my new chef's knife, I minced garlic, chopped apricots, sliced scallions, trimmed french beans and julienned carrots. It was fun having a really sharp knife to work with, and things were coming together nicely. Cooking relaxes me; I wasn't sweating bullets or fretting. Everything worked according to plan.

One hour out, I browned the lamb, spread the mustard, garlic and bread crumbs to it, and dropped it in the oven. The couscous was soaking up the chicken stock. The table was set, the wine chilled and the ring concealed somewhere handy. Darcy walked in from work as dinner hit the table.

After dinner, I swallowed hard, pulled the ring from it's hiding spot and asked the question.

OK - she said yes.

As Darcy was calling her friends and family, I decided to finish straightening up the kitchen. I scraped the plates, scrubbed the pans and picked up the knife and wiped it down with the sponge. And I was amazed when it cut through the sponge. Wow, I thought - be careful with this - it could hurt. A lot.

I was putting the knife in the dish drainer when it slipped out of my hand.

Darcy knew there was a problem when I shouted a few choice words. One of them starts with "M" and rhymes with otherfucker. We bandaged up the finger.

And bandaged it again after blood soaked through it.

And again.

Two hours and my finger was still bleeding. That's a bad sign. I may not be a doctor, but I hear that when blood seeps out of you for a couple of hours, you may have a problem. So we hit the emergency room -- just in time for their fast track service for minor injuries to close.

So we waited. And met Darryl, who I later saw passed out in the center of the quieter waiting room. Security was getting ready to remove him to somewhere.

We waited some more. And watched the impromptu family reunion as four generations of the James family gathered to find out more about their grandmother who had a stroke. Angry wheelchair man continued stalking the waiting room. I'd lost count, but I think he was nearing his 200th lap. Apparently, this rendered him effectively invisible to the hospital staff, because no matter what he said or did, they just looked past him and moved on to the next person.

More waiting. Darcy nodded off in the seat next to me as Jerry Seinfeld became Hank Hill became the news became Bernie Mac. And still we waited. Finally they took me in for treatment, and decided not to do anything with it other than put the finger in a gauze splint for a day or two - something we could have picked up at Walgreens.

Deep down, I think I was jealous that Darcy got to wear something on her finger but I didn't - well now we were even. While she got to bear a sparkling diamond on her ring finger, I got to wear a sheath of gauze over my middle finger. And I'll get a cool scar. Maybe.

So there you have it. Some people celebrate their engagement by spending time quietly with one another. Others surround themselves with friends and family. Me? I eschew such conventionalities. Give me posture-busting plastic chairs and human misery any day.

Welcome to the family Darcy. Wait 'til you see what I have planned for our wedding day . . .

Friday, December 15, 2006

Apparently, the Axe Handle Wasn't Available

Man attacks another man with antlers in a road rage incident.

I know of people who carry blackjacks, bats, heavy flashlights and even guns in their cars in case they meet some maniac some day. But carrying antlers? I'm all for self-defense, but antlers?

And how exactly does one deal with an antler-wielding attacker?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


When I started dating Darcy, little did I know that every year, if we had the means, we were obligated to make a pilgrimage. So on a cold December morning, we piled into the car, faced east, and began our odyssey.

We crossed the river without incident, and as the strip malls gave away to farms, churches and intermittent houses, I finally broke down and asked, "Where the hell are we? I don't remember any of this from last year."

"We're almost there," she said. And, on cue, Millstadt loomed ahead of us. We made the appropriate turns and were soon at our destination -- the tree farm. Hundreds of acres of green, living trees, all eagerly awaiting some saw-wielding maniac to cut them down, drag them across town and into his living room - where the tree gets revenge by filling the air with enough pollen to make flowers quiver in anticipation.

Upon reflection, I realized why I didn't recognize where we were -- I was distracted last year. But this year, I was prepared. The night before, I borrowed my mother's minivan. If we were going to act like suburbanites, then by God, we were going to look the part!

The minivan fit in nicely with all the few pickup trucks and other vans that dotted the lot; we grabbed a saw from the counter and piled into a van with a family of four and off we went to the trees.

Climbing out of the van, the driver warned us: "Do all the cutting you want before you hand the tree off. We will not cut it for you back there. Y'all understand?" Satisfied with the nods and grunts, he released us into the wild.

The flashbacks started shortly thereafter. "How about this one?" "No." "That one?" "No. It has a bald spot."

"The needles are dying."

"It's not tall enough."

"It's not wide enough."

It became apparent to me that Darcy and my father would have been kindred spirits, and that's a wonderful thing. I now accept the fact that I shall never truly understand the mind of a tree aficionado. But next year, I'm bringing the hand and foot warmers.

Back at the front of the lot, after they wrapped the tree, one of the workers asked if we wanted help taking it out to our car. I bit back the "Where the fuck were you last year?" that almost sprung out of my mouth. It's good to see the filters still work.

I lugged the tree to the van and heaved it into the back. We were off to my house, where the tree would be residing this year.

Despite a small list to the left, the tree fit perfectly in the corner of the living room. I popped Superman Returns (re-review coming soon) into the DVD player - good Christmas-tree-decorating movies are vital to the operation, and got my decorate on.

Tree decorating is not something I come by naturally. Generally, I just look at a tree and say "Perfect! Just as God wanted it!" However, I freely admit that I could be a little hazy on God's plan, so I obeyed the decorating master and began putting ornaments on the tree. I began worrying that the tree was full, but my folly was pointed out to me; apparently, I am not yet ready to snatch the ornament from the master's hand.

And I'll be damned if we didn't hang that last box full of ornaments onto this (admittedly huge) tree.

So now the tree is decorated, and we're all ready for the holidays. I might complain about lugging the tree across town and into the house, but at night, when the twinkling lights cast a calming spell over the room, I'm willing to admit it's worth the effort.

But don't worry; I'm still going to complain about it next year.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reasonable Doubt

Woman shoots husband over a warm beer.

After reading this I have to wonder: was it because the beer was warm, because it was Stag, or because it was warm Stag? It sounds to me like he was asking for trouble.

From the Ashes

Fascinating account, censored until now, of how the Pacific fleet was rebuilt after the attacks at Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Missouri DOR Can Lick My Balls

Copy of the e-mail I just sent to the state of Missouri:

I just spent more than 30 mintues in line only to be told that I could not renew my plates today. Why? Because apparently, I did not have my 2004 personal property tax receipts. That's funny -- and utter crap, because I did have it with me.

It seems that back in 2004 when I purchased my car, I was leasing a Honda Civic. As part of my lease, I had to pay the personal property taxes, which I did. My name is even on the property tax form as a c/o.

When I registered my car, they accepted it without any trouble. So EXACTLY WHY DID THEY NOT ACCEPT IT NOW?

Please answer this for me, because I really want to know. I don't understand how two years ago, they accepted this paperwork without any problems, but now it's a problem. The state didn't have any trouble cashing the check back in 2004, 2003, or 2002. I paid it. I have the receipts, which according to some arcane bureacratic rule, I can't use.

So now I have to go to another office to get a waiver, when in this golden year of 2006 AD, we have these things called computers that talk to one another via this magical invention known as the internet. In fact, I'm using it to communicate with you now! How hard is it to set the systems up so the ("extremely") helpful employee can go ahead and look the damned thing up, thereby taking care of the problem? I'm willing to be that an integrated system would save all sorts of time and money, which is probably why the state rejects that solution. Please explain this me, because I'm utterly confused about this.

But mostly, I'd like to know why is it that I can use a valid tax receipt showing I paid my property tax in 2004 is no longer valid. That doesn't make a lick of sense and right now, I'm so angry that my hands are still shaking. Because Monday, I now have to take time off of work, drive downtown and get a piece of paper (that they probably won't have - because I already paid my taxes) that merely repeats information that I already gave them. Please explain to me how this makes sense.

This state never ceases to amaze me. In the roughly 18 years that I've been driving, I have never had an easy time getting my plates renewed - no matter how many times I check the paperwork I have or how early I start, some new rule keeps springing up that keeps me from taking care of it without jumping through so many hoops that circus monkeys start shaking their heads in wonder.

Thank you for your time. I'm not really expecting to hear from you, since I know what a premium the state puts on its customer service.


Brian McCown

Christ, I am pissed. My hands are still shaking. Needless to say, I plan giving my amigos over at the Missouri Dept. of Revenue a friendly call on Monday so that we may discuss my issues with them. I'm going to try not to use the word "fuck" as many times as I did when I sat down to write this, but I'm not promising anything. In fact, I was kind of proud that I only dropped one f-bomb when I was told I couldn't renew my plates.