(Crackle) "Clean up on aisle six..."

At check-out time in the supermarket I follow these simple rules:

a) Go to the shortest queue.
b) If all queues are lenghty, proceed to the hottest cashier.
c) If accompanied by spouse, proceed to homeliest cashier.

*On gub'ment cheque day, send spouse and take boys to the park instead.

There are no guarantees that checkout time will be chafe-free and expeditious. Almost invariably, the little light blinks on and off as the hot or homely cashier looks around helplessly for the manager, thus prolonging the agony (though the hotness of the cashier slightly diminishes the pain).

When the time comes for the final checkout, (insert funeral dirge here), there are also no guarantees. In this case, I would look for the longest line and, at all costs, avoid the one where the manager is helping the hot cashier with a discrepancy.

Cashier - This guy here says we're cashing him out three months early.
Grim Reaper - Hmmmmmm. (Taps 'customer' on the shoulder)
Customer - AAAACCCKKK (...thud)
Cashier - Can I help the next customer?

Here's where the express lane doesn't look so good. "70 years or less" is definitely not appealing. The even more depressing "Self-Checkout" lanes will also not be one of my first choices. That's more of a Hemingway, Cobain or Ochs thing. Regardless of our preference, how or when we check out is definitely out of our control.

I know we'd all prefer the octogenarian "peaceful sleep" method. Sign me up for that sh*t there, today. Because of natural law, though, we can't all live to be eighty-nine years old. If that were the case, the highways would be crowded with Crown Victorias and LTDs, all driving 41 mph with the right or left blinkers on. You'd also never find Metamucil or KY Jelly on the shelves. Utter chaos!

Our culture has cornered the market on violent deaths. Those seem to be our preferred method of population control, though the recipient of such service would probably have preferred the aforementioned "octogenarian" scenario. I've stopped watching the news, since it's largely a grocery list of all the ways I don't want to die. Somehow, small talk and the internet toss these bloody news bits my way despite of my attempts to duck them.

Here then, straight from the news-tickers, are three recent ways or places I don't want to die. (You might notice they're all shootings):

Eating at Denny's - Botched robbery or not, please do not shoot me at Dennys. Though I realize that eating there will probably kill me sooner than usual (and if I eat there frequently enough, I'd be a large enough target for you), I still do not want to perish in this fashion. Whether it be inside, with a mouthful of "Moon over My Hammy," or outside in a parking lot full of rusty F150s and GMC Jimmys, please choose another victim.

I don't quite feel so vulnerable or susceptible to be taken out in one of those whacky fast-food chain massacres, since I avoid McDonald's, Wenchy's or TGI Crapplebee's as much at all costs. Somehow the locale of such fates cheapens the experience of getting murdered.

"Pudgy 38 year old shot to death at Burger King."

It would suck to have my name as the victim in that article.

"Spousicide" My wife will probably kill me when she reads this, but (rim-shot - cymbal crash)...

I'm sure Mary Winkler felt she had her reasons... he left the toilet seat up, forgot to bring up the laundry, or was even tapping one of the members of the congregation on the forehead with his bid'ness while chanting "Thou shalt not, B*TCH!"

Whatever her reasons were, I'm sure they could have been handled more amicably -- either counseling or a good old fashioned coffee mug throwing. Turning your spouse into a bullet-riddled corpse is a bit over-the-top. It's a little unfair, too, since we've come to trust you. We knows you crazy, b*tch, but we loves you anyways. Don't go f*ckin' our thing up by shootin' me!

When Phil Hartman got 86'd by his lovely spouse I joked with my wife that if she wanted to commit murder-suicide, to please do the suicide part first. Though I fear her temper as a lesbian's armpit fears a razor, I think I'm pretty safe from anything beyond a thrown coffee mug and a torn wife-beater shirt.

House-ful of Ravers This is actually a broad category, because though I'd hate to be found shot dead in the company of such, I would also hate to be found dead in a house full of hippies, goths, yankees fans, christians, other religious fanatics, hip-hoppers, light-brown supremacists, college kids, punks... Sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, pinheads, dweebies, wonkers, richies...

This is particularly insulting when you leave my remains amid a puddle of swill, empty plastic cups and clove cigarette butts -- especially at the hands of a dopey gun freak from Montana. Have some decency. The kind request I gave my wife applies to complete strangers, too. If you're in a murder-suicide mood, do Part B first!

Obviously getting shot has no upside whatsoever.

Other methods I'd like to avoid: electrocution, stabbing, vehicular manslaughter, drowning, poisoning, blunt trauma, crucifixion, flaying, incineration, anything war related, hanging, surgical mishaps...

I think I'll hold out for the graceful "old age" method. That's one long line I don't think I'd mind standing in. No cuttin', b*tch. I'll shoot yo' ass.


Erin, go brag about how much you can drink.

Ah... St. Patrick's day. Thank goodness it only comes once a year. In the spirit of the 'holy' day, I thought I'd share with you what I'd like to celebrate about Irish culture. Surprisingly, it wasn't all too difficult to come up with ten things, (unlike Swiss culture, which has a steep down-curve after choclolate, that Swiss Miss, those nifty knives and neutrality).

What I Love About the Irish
1. My wife & in-laws - I've got to put that one first, lest I unleash my wife's Irish temper once she reads this. I mean it honey. You is tops, and so's yo clan. Even the half-Polish ones.
2. 50% of each of my boys - Though I'd say that their finer attributes are the Venezuelan ones, there aren't a finer pair of half-micks anywhere.
3. The music - The Pogues, The Wolfe Tones, Phil Lynott, Van Morrison, The Chieftains... Yes. I will allow the Irish to own guitars and other musical instruments. I have yet to lift the moratorium off of Canada. Though I'll allow Sloan and Gordon Lightfoot to continue utilization of such, I still haven't forgiven you for Triumph, Chilliwack, Kim Mitchell or Celine Dion.
4. Guinness - Okay, at first, this sh*t tasted like an oil-change, but after a while you grow used to it. I've heard that pregnant women in the UK were given Guinness to drink in the Post WWII era, and it's not as caloric as one might think. Apparently it's got some nutritional value, so anything that nourishes me while making all the other rummies in the bar slightly more interesting is okay with me.
5. The myths and legends - Balor, the one-eyed god of death and Cuchulainn, killer of vicious mutts... now that's good folklore.
6. Scones - What do you get when you cross a muffin with a cookie? Dee-lish. (Oh. Did I just say "dee-lish? That was a little high on the 'Brokeback' meter)
7. The art - Though I find the overtly religious imagery a little tiresome, Celtic designs are cool as sh*t... (though sh*t probably measures at somewhere near 98 degrees when it comes out, so I correct myself. Hot as sh*t.)
8. The literature - James Joyce is a bit thick to trudge through, Yeats, Beckett and Wilde could string together some verbage. Frank McCourt also gots game.
9. The hot redheads - (and the accompanying freckled chests... growllll)
10. The cop that says, "Ye' might, rrrabit. Ye might." to Bugs Bunny. It has provided me with an all-encompassing catchphrase with which to tease my wife.

Okay, now that the warm and fuzzies have all been itemized, here's a short list about what chafes me about the Emerald Isle and its inhabitants. Now before you make a St. Sebastian out of me... It was (stifled laughter) difficult to come up with ten things I dislike.

What Chafes me About the Irish
1. The temper - You give the Italians a good run for the money, without the vendettas and concrete shoes. The Middle East might seem to have the edge, though, strictly from a male perspective - but I'd pit a pissed off Irish broad against any irate Muslim dude and comfortably put a C-note on the lass.
2. That potato thing - I'm not going to demean the significance of this event and the millions of people it affected, but you shot yourselves in the foot by:
(a) relying heavily on one crop for your nutritional needs and
(b) allowing effete a**holes to dictate your landowning policies.
3. the Celts - Though this is only partially Irish, when the Romans invaded in 43 a.d. you got your asses kicked. That didn't take long, but you ended up adopting their religions, ooh-ing and ahh-ing their roads and buildings and even went as far as to join the Roman army while the Picts continued to wreak havoc on the invaders.
4. Speaking of Religions - Though I can wholeheatedly say that all religions suck equally (except the Church of Latterday Prego), you fell vicitms to the lethal combo of religion and politics. Then again, so has half the planet. Also, keep in mind that the snakes that St. Patrick was purported to have removed from Ireland are widely considered to be a metaphor for pagan religions. How's that for brotherhood and tolerance?
5. Corned Beef and Cabbage - What the f**k is up with the boiling? There goes the flavour and the nutritional value... up in steam.
6. The Kennedys - I can't fault them for an overwrought affinity for fine tail, but does it have to have a body count? If Clinton was a Kennedy, that chubby-ass 'ho Lewinsky would have been throw in the Potomac faster than you can say "Chappaquiddick."
7. Lucky Charms - Hands down, the worst cereal to grace supermarket shelves, and therefore Leprechauns - A blight on an otherwise illustrious and rich folkloric tradition. The only amusing depiction of such was in the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XII. Other than that, they're about as charismatic as the mascot of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta.
8. Those plaques with Irish blessings and prayers. May the Lord Bless you and Keep you Irish and all that sh*t. I'd rather hang a Velvis on my wall.
9. That goofy-ass dance - Thank goodness I have boys... Otherwise I know my wife would want our kids to learn that steppity-step sh*t. I was at an "Irish" pub in Toronto a couple years back, and they a live band. A couple patrons brought their daughters to do that 'Raindance' bullsh*t in front of them. It was cute for about 3 minutes. After 17 more minutes of the same routine It was downright nauseating.
10. The alcoholic persona - Every mid-March I have to hear every Irish acquaintance tell me how sh*t-housed they're going to get at the parade. Great. Have fun, Paddy. Why don't you perpetuate another classy ethnic stereotype, such as belligerence and lack of height? If you were an Italian woman, would you grow a moustache on your thirtieth birthday?
*11. Dishonorable mention - U2


The Sooth, the Whole Sooth and Nothing but the Sooth.

Over 2000 years ago, Julius Caesar found himself at the wrong end of a deluxe set of Italian cutlery. It's a historical event that matters very little nowadays to anyone but scholars of Roman history or fans of William Shakespeare. It was, of course, Shakespeare who immortalized the event for us laymen in his appropriately entitled play Julius Caesar. These days only a minute segment of the populace gives a flying rat's ass about either.

Sure, people will still pay lip service to Wild Bill and his oeuvre. This is either to convince themselves or convince others that their level of intellect has not waned much after numerous viewings of Survivor, American Idol or Dr. Phil. Men nowadays are more likely to fall asleep next to their wives at Rent or Phantom than Much Ado About Nothing or The Taming of the Shrew

Classical Roman History also gets the glad-hand. Other than purchasing the collector's edition of Gladiator, I don't think anybody outside of academia cares for anything but the rise and fall of Jessica Simpson's funbags in a Pizza Hut commercial. The average Joe has a better understanding of a (yawn) March Madness bracket than of Spurinna's warning to Julius Caesar.

Personally, I don't think it's a crisis. Eurocentric high-brow culture had a long and illustrious run. It's legacy? PBS, Olive Garden restaurants, a successful and continual run of Mamma Mia! and a richer-than-ever Martha Stewart.

Perhaps it's why I was so jazzed about my student Tomaine's answer, when I queried:

"Does anybody know what Caesar's words to Brutus were after they stabbed him repeatedly?"

"I thought we wuz niggas..."

"Yes, Tomaine. That's exactly what he said."

I'll argue that Caesar himself couldn't agree more.

Beware the Ides of March... at least until the Skanks in the City re-run comes on.


Mass Exit-us

Skanks, trollops, hussies, "ho's," sluts, hootchies and skeezers left South Dakota this week in the wake of the reversal of abortion rights in the state.

"I'm bouncin'," declared Trixie McNeal, a renowned neighborhood floozy in Mitchell, SD. "This p*ssy is out of business."

The highways clogged, as tramps and bimbos scrambled to find a more liberal minded state. "I never thought I'd say it, but Kansas and Missouri are starting to look good. I'd like to go to New York, but I hear the taxes are a bitch."

Across the state, men are starting to feel the heat. "Nobody's puttin' out anymore," lamented one gentleman who declined to be identified. "My nuts are bluer than a smurf's ass."

Jim Bob Jenkins, a local low-life, found that his sister Thelma had installed an industrial strength Schlage deadbolt on her bedroom door. "That's it. We're moving to Kentucky."

A Schlage spokesperson declared that Thelma Jenkins is not alone. "Sales of deadbolts have skyrocketed in South Dakota. It's a bonanza." He added that company engineers were working on a pair of chain-mail panties with a cable waistband that can only be removed with a key.

Patrons of Hooter's restaurants found their favourite dining establishments boarded shut. "We just can't fin' no waitresses (sic)," announced a company spokesman.

"It's a sad, sad day when regular guys like us can't get any poon," remarked a saddened Mike Smith. "The gravy train is over." His favourite hooker boarded a bus to Oklahoma on Tuesday.

"I miss her," he said.

The governor, meanwhile, has been tracking stock prices for coat hanger manufacturers. "God bless America," he said, "and God bless South Dakota."

While the governor is making a quick buck, local dry cleaners have had to take added measures to protect their coat hanger supplies. Several Pierre dry cleaning businesses reported theft of their hangers. "I came in to work Wednesday and they were all missing. They tore out the paper 'thank you's' off of them and everything."

Meanwhile, an inebriated Jim Bob's wheels are spinning. "I'll just have to settle for head," said Jenkins.

"The f*ck you will, sh*thead," was Thelma's response.

I hear you, sister.


I Love Livin' in the City - An Homage to Butt-*%#ck-Alo

I love my town. Not in some corny John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen vein. More like in a corny Lee Ving way. I love its convenience. If I want an egg roll at 1 a.m., the Chinese Restaurant around the block might still be open. If not, I can come home with spanakopita instead. Beat's the hell out of the suburbs, where you've got eight Olive Gardens, a Subway and one of those fake rustic places that let you throw the peanut scraps on the floor.

(I hear that if you sh*t in the suburbs, you have to get in the SUV for an eight minute drive just to flush. And you do it in a homogenous environment.)

It's not just the convenience and cheap eats that I love - it's the grit, too. Last week, some poor soul stepped in front of a spray of gunfire a block and a half from my school building. That must've hurt. It happened in the wee hours of the morning, so I was the denied the unpleasant sight of a bullet riddled corpse on the sidewalk, and the even more unpleasant sight of smiling, pointing on-lookers. It's a minor cause for concern, but not so much that it would send me fleeing to the 'burbs or to K-Mart for a bullet-proof jacket.

Whoever shot him obviously had his reasons, so strapping English teachers are not likely to be high on the sh*t-list, unless it's one of the kids I failed (nervous shudder).

That's one of the neighborhood's charms... An illustrious body-count. Last year, a heavy-shakin' momma was found cut to pieces jammed in suitcases, trash bags and the EZ bake oven. No garlic or shallots were found near the crime scene. That's more of an Elma or Franklinville thang.

Other creatures succumb to such horrible fates. I had to sidestep a pancaked rat recently, as I was getting out of my car. Its flesh and coat were a pulpy mess, through which you could see its spinal cord. Other identifying features were crushed beyond recognition, so the Mrs. had a tough time identifying the body. What I'm trying to figure out is how many hoodlum rats it took to operate a large vehicle.

In all honesty, it's been a while since I've even seen a rat - breathing or otherwise. One of the most brilliant decisions our civic leaders wrought was the 'blue bin' distribution. Every household was given a large, wheeled trash receptacle with a hinged lid. This drastically cut down on the sidewalk trash. The local rodentia suddenly found themselves without their traditional cornucopia of half-eaten goods on which to feast. They decided to move further east, to the suburb of Cheektowaga (pronounced CHICK-ah-to-WAH-GAH, if you actually live there), much to the chagrin of its residents. They couldn't believe the city had the audacity to rid itself of its rodent population. Stories circulated about family pets being ganged up on by tough city rats looking for some Chef-Boy-Ardee cans.

You still see some trash, though, but it's usually blown about in the wind - along with convenience store grocery bags, which always manage to entangle themselves in the highest branches of our trees. Also dangling over our heads are the ubiquitous pairs of sneakers and shoes, hanging there like an old ski pass on the zipper of some pansy banker's North Face jacket. NIKEs seem to be the most popular shoes to toss up there, though I did see a pair of Timberlands recently. I'd be pretty impressed if I saw a pair of wing-tips, but I'm not holding my breath. Pennyloafers would be a flat out miracle, though they're still attempting that in Cheektowaga, I hear.

On occasion, if you know where to look, you'll find the classic wooden bumper, fashioned out of a 2 X 4 and bolted securely on the back of a POS Monte Carlo. Some of our more accident prone denizen prefer a beefier 4 X 6, which provides much more rear-ending protection than the factory installed styrofoam/plastic models. I'm not sure how this additional fortification would help them if they happened to get T-boned while rolling through one of the many "optional" STOP signs in the neighborhood.

While on the cost-saving topic of auto repair, nothing replaces a window better than duct tape and Glad Bags. What? You think we can actually afford the glass rider on our insurance policies?

Finally, the people. Not the aforementioned dead ones. A resourseful bunch, if I ever saw one. F*ck paying retail and F*CK paying exorbitant delivery charges. At least that's the vibe I got from the homes I saw riding his bike, carrying a faux brass head and footboard for a double bed. His lady's getting some class tonight. Or my man carrying a bootleg La-Z-boy over his head for several icy blocks. I'm not sure if it was a curb-side score or not, but if it was a purchase, it takes balls the size of coconuts to walk out of the store with it.

"Nah. F*ck all that. I'm carryin' this sh*t home myself."

Then there's the devil-may-care homegirls, bravely darting out into the street to cross to Mc Donald's with their toddler. I'm sure the little ones are only happy to hone their Frogger skills so they can do the same once they reach third grade. Along with automobile dodging skills, the little ones are treated to a myriad of profanities while mommy goes off on da 'muther f*ckin' cell phone. Several of these choice obscenities will come in handy for kiddy when the 'muther f*ckin' teacher gets all in her grill.

Yes, these are the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. It makes the drive home interesting, makes the sun shine all the brighter and it makes me put my wallet in my front pocket. Somehow I manage to escape the drive unscathed, and the sketch factor diminishes substantially, block by block until I get home. When I consider the alternate: cul-de-sacs and manicured lawns - I get a frightful chill down my spine. I'd much rather talk about the wino who stole my shovel and then asked me if I wanted my driveway done for five bucks.

Thank you Buffalo! Good NIGHT!