Monthly Archives: August 2007

Talkers

I am not, as I’ve stated numerous times, a friendly person. That doesn’t mean I’m not a great friend (I’m stupid, can lift heavy things, and quickly forget where we’ve hidden the ‘items’) but, if you’re not a friend of mine I’m not much of a ‘chat it up’ kind of guy. I’m definitely a ‘don’t, just don’t’ kind of guy.

But does that stop people from trying? Does it stop them from telling me I’m not what I damn straight know I am? Does it stop them from doing things that, as hard as I try, I find I just cannot ignore? Hell no, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t just happen once or twice. It seems as if all I have to do is be somewhere with my eyes open and someone has to try to make a new friend. I don’t think I’d mind if the people who ignored my usual expression (eyes staring straight ahead, speaking to no one, sometimes drooling and growling) had something to say. I’m not even saying something useful. Just not stupid or annoying.

But I’ve never been lucky in this life. So the next one better be one rip-roaring, hum-dinger!

The part that sets me off quickly is when I’m asked personal questions. Maybe you think you know me because you know a guy who knows me who you were kicked out of reform school with but, trust me, you don’t. So that doesn’t bode well when you show your inquisitive nature and ask things about my personal life. I live by a simple creed when it comes to imparting parts of my life to people,

“That’s why they call it a personal life. It’s personal therefore none of your business.”

Trust me when I say that doesn’t often lead to gracious exits but, happily, it leads to exits. And, really, isn’t that all I’m looking for?

Just the other day someone who knows someone I know tangentially asked me how long I’ve been with my girlfriend. I never know why they care. Is there a pool I’m not privy to? If so, let me know what it’s up to and maybe I’ll cash in my chips.

But this person felt that, because they have some proximity to someone I barely know, this is a perfectly acceptable question. Being a simple one I tell them. I know it’s a mistake but I try not to be rude right away. I give it some time. It’s my version of the five second rule.

Then they ask about kids. I mention there may be a sixteen year old somewhere in the vicinity but, being sixteen, they’re pretty much invisible to adults so I’m not sure of the veracity of my statement.

The guy looks very confused by this. Accustomed to that reaction I begin to disengage. He stops and asks how it is possible that, within a seven year relationship, there could be a sixteen year old involved.

Now do you understand? Do you see why I walk the world with a furrowed brow? It’s not that I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s not that I give a whit about most things. It’s just that I’m always on idiotic question alert. And, let me tell you, that takes a toll on a man.

I look at the guy for a moment, expecting a friendly joshing to come my way. But all I see back at me is a dumbstruck expression that makes me want to stick funnels in his ears and fill his head with cement to complete the procedure.

“She has that disease where you age in double time.” I say and walk away. I don’t like to have to walk away but it’s like a vacuum to a cat. I feel it’s best I skitter away.

I will admit to putting myself in harms way from time to time. Sometimes my aforementioned girlfriend and I go out to grab a drink. There’s always a possibility no one will bother us but that’s few and far between. Sometimes it’s not even my fault. I’m just sitting there, watching the ball game, enjoying my frosty, adult beverage when things just barge right up.

Now my girlfriend can more than handle herself. She has quite a vocabulary, a larger attitude and is more than capable of offering pieces of her mind. And that’s just what happened the other day.

She talking to some people while I’m enjoying the aforementioned game and frosty when a guy, someone we’ve seen around from time to time but now new to the AA program, begins to proselytize his viewpoint. I find it odd that he should be keeping company with us lowly bar folk but that’s none of my concern. He’s not, as of yet, a blip on my radar.

“You should go back to drinking,” Terry says. “You were much less annoying.”

Sip. Ball game. Ahhhhhhh! I’m having a fine time.

“You should start douching.” Comes his retort.

Sip. Ball game. Ahhhhhhh! I’m having a fine time.

Then the guy has to get me involved. Hey! I agree with her. He was a lot more fun hitting the bottle than hitting the program but if it agrees with him that’s great. But, going to a place where people visit specifically to imbibe may not be the best place to bring his game.

“What?” I say knowing I’m on the way to missing another inning.

“Did you hear what she said to me?” Let me stop here and ask, did anyone see anything in that sentence that specifically pertained to me? No? I didn’t think so. Moving on.

“Yeah, and I heard your lame retort. If you’re going to insult, you really should learn to do it better.”

He puffs up his bloated chest and challenges me to come up with something better. I smile and nod. I spin my chair to face him and say,

“You see, you’re really limited with the douche comment. It’s not as if she has stink lines floating from her crotch. No, to be an effective snap you’ve got to interject yourself into it. Truly insult her. Something along the lines of, ‘Why? Do you want me to fuck you again?'”

It’s always at this moment when all the bravado leaves the room. Too many people are snickering. The posturing of early have vanished. It’s just him and I. And I’m patient enough to wait for his move.

“Fuck you, you wise ass.”

As usual, when people get topped, they don’t like to leave gracefully. It’s nothing personal. I snark for cash. I begin to turn back to the beer and ballgame when he says,

“You think you’re a tough guy?” Well, I see there are some behaviors the program hasn’t taught him yet.

“Well,” I say, once again turning from my ballgame. “Let me ask you, do you want to cry or bleed?”

I like to give options.

I took the reddening of his face as a sign he was thinking. Or about to have a stroke. Either way, I was willing to wait until his formulation was complete.

Before the guy can formulate his response another gentleman chimes in,

“I don’t know how tough he is,” states this gentleman. “But still being alive with a mouth like his makes me not want to try him.”

It was an unlikely source of support. He’s a nice guy but we disagree on many things. Like religion, politics, whether it’s okay to scream ‘Fire!’ in a crowded intensive care burn unit.

So we have a tact silence between us. I wish others took his lead. But, what he said seemed to work. The guy grumbled a few things as he made his way out the door. I turned to my defender but he waved me off.

“Don’t. I still think you’re an asshole but I know he can’t fight his way out of a wind storm and I hate to see grown men cry.”

Later that evening my girlfriend is talking to someone about gardening. This is good. I figure no matter where I go I’m going to have one person feel the need to talk to me. My quota for the evening reached, I take this as a good sign.

But we all know how bad I am at reading.

Unbeknownst to me, the seat next to me opens. I don’t pay attention when someone sits there. I pay even less attention when he begins to talk to the person beside him.

However, I did begin to pay attention when he began to speak directly into my ear. Now why would a rational person do that? Bark unwanted nonsense right into a strangers ear hole? I guess he took my silence and dead stare at the TV as some sort of invitation.

I turned because my ear drum was soloing (I hate ear drum solos) and after listening to this babble for what seemed like an entire beer (oh, wait! It was an entire beer. Thank gawd I drink fast) I said,

“Listen, it’s great that you know all this shit but if I was interested in anything you had to say I’d pull out my own brain and spank it for hanging with a bad crowd.”

He seemed stunned but undeterred, bloodied but unbowed, as it were.

He chuckled and began to talk about the size of Juan Marichal’s hands when I held up my two tiny paws and said,

“No, seriously. If you continue to speak at me I’m going to shoot you in your chest then dig out the bullet with a spork because I’m quite the recycler.”

I stared at him for a moment with a look that often shows people I’m really not the guy you should keep pressing. So he harrumphed and wandered to the other side of the bar to bother those people.

And, yes, I could hear the words, “Juan” “Marichal” and “hands.” He had a story and, damnit, a death threat wasn’t going to stop it! Move it? Sure. Stop it? Not in this lifetime.

Later still another guy started to talk at me (yes, plant talk went on for quite some time. Not that I, for most of the time, considered that a bad thing) and, this time I didn’t have a chance to fathom what the guy was talking about when he said,

“You don’t look like a mason.”

I think about that for a second before I realize I have on a t-shirt from my neighbors masonry company. I look at the guy and say,

“You’re right. As a matter of fact, I’m not an Odd Fellow or an Elk either. But I am a Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can I interest you in a Watchtower?”

I like when they flee quickly.

And a bartender is near.

Cats!

Because we have cats, a camera and a music library this was bound to happen: 

Have I Read You?

One of the stupider questions I’m often asked is if that person has read anything I’ve written. The only way I can be sure this is a possibility is if a person:

1) recites something I’ve written
2) holds something I’ve written in front of me
3) comments on something I’ve written
4) tells me I’m a sick fuck.

I’ve found anything else is a dubious guess on my part. But that doesn’t stop it from happening. So much so I have some standard answers. Such as the obvious,

“I doubt it. After all, you haven’t run away.”

The vaguely frightening,

“Being who I write about I hope so!”

Or even turn it around,

“I can’t be sure. Do you hang around the men’s room at city hall?”

People have taken umbrage at my approach. I guess that proves if you have to ask, you haven’t read me. People have often become downright surly with my flippant answers. What do they expect? I’m not one of those people who believes there are no stupid questions. There are plenty of stupid questions. The good thing is I don’t respond outwardly to 99.9% of them. I just let them roll around in my head casting casual aspersions at your lineage.

Think about it, if I took time to respond to every stupid question in my day, by noon I’d be choking out people with the regularity of a pro wrestler.

Then we have the people who ask this question. Most of the time I smile and explain there is no way for me to know their reading habits. Even after they list the periodicals they read.

“Do you write for The Dollar Shopper? The Bingo Bugle? Latex Lovers Quarterly?”

Even after that I still have a smile plastered on my puss. It’s not a happy smile. But, for most, it still passes as sort of non-threatening. But there’s only so far I’m willing to go. Once I’ve given a few publications, maybe some TV and radio, maybe a web site, possibly my bibliography, I begin to become weary. Worn down. Downright surly it’s been said.

Don’t get me wrong, I want new readers. I’ve actually gone to places to pimp my work. I answer email. I talk on the phone. I’ll do whatever it takes to get one more person aware that I’m out there making the world safe for swears.

Through all this I’ve met people who read my crap. And, truth be told, some of them don’t look long for this world. I’m just being pragmatic. I appreciate anyone who buys a book, purchases a shirt, hires me to work, but I’ll need someone to fill that spot when they die which is why I talk to people.

As you can see, I don’t go out of my way to alienate people. It just seems to happen quite often. It could be me. I think I’m very patient when, in fact, it might be seen that I snap as quickly as gum in a whores mouth. But there’s only so far I can go before I rise up on my haunches and scream,

“If you were any more useless I’d work my ass off to get you elected to congress.”

But it’s not for any lack of trying. Such as last night. I was asked by someone to come to an art opening. As much as I avoid things like this (proving I have some self-awareness) the guy said the magic words,

“I want you to bring the books I ordered.”

Well, fill my mouth with Bubble Yum and call me easy.

I get to the event at the half way mark. In my experience, arriving then means people are already into their own things so I can run in, greet who I need to, meet who I must, and be out the back door before my wine has warmed.

I walk up to the host who gobbles up the books and brings me around as he distributes them. I meet my new friends and we have a lovely time.

I’m checking my wine level and see that fade out time is drawing near. I move the conversation in other directions to pull the focus off me. It’s an old trick but one that usually allows me to disengage and wander off.

It’s not a fool-proof plan because, if it was, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m eight feet from this group, backing off undetected, when this woman introduces herself and jumps right into her resume. She’s a this scholar and a that fellow and a this is really annoying.

After completing a tour of her CV from Boretheshitouta U. she turns her focus on me. She begins by telling me what she’s heard. The weird part about this is I’ve often found out about things I’ve supposedly done this way. Let me tell you, the heard about Chris is much more interesting than the walkabout Chris.

I smile, thank her and gently begin to pardon myself. I’m not going out of my way to be rude it’s just that I don’t see my book in her hand so I’ve got to go pray to keep one of my readers alive.

Sensing that she’s boring, I mean, losing my attention she asks the stupid question. It’s from pseudo-intellectuals I most abhor this question. Mainly because it usually turns into oneupsmanship. I’ll answer and they’ll respond with,

“Oh my! I would never read that publication!”

Followed by a series of jabs at my limited scope. Followed by something to assuage my battered ego. If they only knew they’re emboldening the terrorist. Snide comments about me are like mosquitoes to bats. They keep me alive and tickle my throat.

“No matter who you’ve written for I’m sure, if Ben is a fan, you’re a very talented artist.”

What is she talking about? What I do is not art. I write foible fables. I sniff deeply of the bad breath of humanity and wallow in the bile of insecurity in search of the perfect dick joke.

She begins searching her vast database of past words read while asking, once again, if she’d read me. Once I uncover that she, in fact, does not speak Croatian, we disregard the groundbreaking work I did on Večeras s Joškom Lokasom. That Joško, he’s such a card.

The harder she pressed the more I wanted to kick her. There! The truth is out. You don’t want to know how many people I want to kick in a day. Trust me, kicking surprises them much more than punching.

“No,” I found myself saying at one point. “I’ve never heard of the Journal of Artistic Pretension much less written for it.”

Finally, when I’ve worn out my work experience and she is unwilling to believe Ben knows a writer she doesn’t, I take the bitch by the teats.

I pull a pen and pad out of my pocket, jot something down, finish with my scribbled signature, hand it to her and smile. Then watch as she quickly blinks and backs away.

Maybe I should have written something other than,

“You have officially read me. Now fuck off.”