Monthly Archives: November 2007

The Perfect Gift

You know what I hate? Okay, okay, don’t overload. I know the list is long so I’ll just tell you.

People who ask other people things the other person has no shot at helping with. Things such as asking a waitron what’s good. How does the waitron know what you like? What if the waitron only eats the foot shavings of yaks?

Sure, they may know what they’ve been told is good or is being pushed because it’s the last day before it spoils or what other patrons have ordered but that’s so little assistance to you it’s nothing more than a waste of time.

I was with someone who asked, the waitron answered and the asker said,

“Eww. I hate that.”

Then don’t ask strangers for their opinion, you simp.

Okay, I’ll start getting to the point.

I also hate when people ask what I’m getting my girlfriend for Xmas. I know they’re only looking for ideas because, most people who ask, truly have no friggin’ interest as to what I’m getting or why. Then, if I decide to play along with this chip off the old brain damage and answer, they never believe me. They ask, I answer,

“Same thing as every year. Money.”

The looks I get! It’s as if I said,

“Same thing as every year. Testicle shavings of a lemur.”

From experience I know she doesn’t like that. Nor, truth be told, did the lemur.

For some reason saying money makes me seem like some lemur ball shaving psychopath. She likes money. She accepts it. In all my years with her she’s never exchanged it (asked for a larger amount? Sure, who wouldn’t?).

If she asks for something, a Cuisenart or Stratocaster or Kitchenaid or the assortment power tools she craves, I’m more than happy to accommodate. But, most of her gift will be green, foldable, and easily hidden from the government.

But sometimes people don’t take my word for it. They should, as we’ve come to learn, but it seems some people have a little too much jingle and not enough bells. They’ll pish-posh me letting me know that it’s not romantic, thoughtful or just plain lazy.

Okay, there I can’t really argue but what’s wrong with giving someone something they want? It’s not as if I wouldn’t call Fred (my designated elf) and go shopping because we have. The last time we split up and all the shopping was done in an hour. Which left two hours for drinking. You get your holiday spirit your way, we’ll get ours ours.

Why is that more romantic than going to a bank? Sure, she used to complain about never being surprised but that’s gone through a dramatic decrease. Since the lemur shavings incident.

And, truly, I’m not good at surprising people. I don’t think it adds to the festivities because, again, in my experience, whenever I’ve tried to surprise people it usually ends up in a much longer trip to the store to exchange than it did to purchase. Let’s stick surprise to your time of death and just tell me what you want. The holidays are stressful enough without wondering why my surprise gift keeps bouncing across the floor.

But (I told you I’d get to the point), this person just could not believe this was my idea of a gift. Boy, let me tell you, if someone could make me feel bad about this, this guy wouldn’t be him but he did give it a Cringley try.

“What will she have under the tree?”

“Same as every year. Cats.”

“You must put something there she can open?”

I wanted to explain to him that I’m not very good at wrapping gifts. As much as I try, and I do, they never come out like an advertising photo. They usually resemble a mummy. More colorful? Sure, but just as raggedy. One year I ran out of tape fairly early in the proceedings so taped everything with what I had: white athletic tape.

But I knew if I said that he’d think I was using it as an excuse. Why? I don’t know. I’ve wrapped money! But it seems that, during this time of love filled expression, you have to extend yourself to make the holiday bright and memorable to others. So I figured I’d lie.

“It’s not much but I do have something in mind.” The man brightens up and gives me a hearty chuck on the shoulder.

“I knew you had it in you. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.”

“Yeah, that’s what they say.” That’s why I thought ‘money’. I didn’t say that but it was my thought. “I decided to combine two of Terry’s loves, baking and crime, so I got her notorious murders chalk outline cookie cutters and serial killer Jell-O molds.”

Why are people so often disappointed when they leave me?

A Button

After enduring a laborious set-up to a rather simple task I found myself wishing people were more like web sites and you could get right to the meat of the matter by clicking the ‘skip intro’ button.

Paradoxical Pitch

I was just talking to a guy in LA. He was freaking out about the writers strike. He’s a producer so has nothing to pitch to the networks. I felt his pain so I told him I had a reality show idea.

“Call it ‘Strike!’ and follow the writers on the picket line.”

He did not find it as amusing as I.

WGA Strike: A Love Story

Not The Daily Show

Some Daily Show writers take a break from their long day of walking to give you some insider information on the writers strike: 

You Want What?

I do many different things. I’ll write, produce, direct, shoot, edit, maim, anything at any time. I’ve written cremation jokes for a memorial service, stirring verbiage about vacuum cleaners, directed commercials where I’ve actually uttered,

“Can we get another bottle? That one doesn’t look effervescent enough.”

Yes, I am Chris Zell, creative whore. But today I got a call from someone who wanted something that, although my standard line is if it’s in English, I can write it, gave me a moment pause to reconsider.

“I want you to write a story for me to read at my daughter’s birthday party.”


Does he know what I write? Does he want the perv police to pound down his door? I try to explain I’m not a kids writer but he persuaded me to try. I’m a sucker for checks with zeros at the end.

He doesn’t tell me what to write but he tells me his daughter is having a tough time assimilating with some of the kids at school. It’s not as if she’s starting a pre-school Prussian Blue cover band but she’s being shyer than her true personality.

“Oh, and I want to teach her about recycling.”

Oh, well, sure. Makes perfect sense to me. I told him that, although I don’t personally know any, I’m sure he’d be able to find someone more suited to the idiom of children’s literature than I.

“Might try Michael Richards.” I suggest.

“I’ll throw in a case of beer.”

I think for a moment and figure that, yeah, a case of beer may give me good enough a buzz to actually write something like this. I pocket the check, a little while later he comes back with my beer. I shake his hand and tell him I’m on the case.

Of course, I didn’t give it another thought (boy, was I wrong about beer helping my kiddie muse) until I got on the bus this morning when I came up with:

Rex The Green Recycling Bin

Rex was born into a clan of green recycling bins and was taught from his first days to be wary of the blue bins. They were, after all, from the odd week.

When Rex finally reached the top of the green bin pile he knew he’d be safe in his new home. After all, he was a green week so would never have to see another blue bin.

Rex was given a place of prominence to fulfill his life’s work of recycling the waste of the world and began to look around his new home. He noticed some of the older green bins were a different shade, that one was a darker green, this one was lighter. He even saw a red one with strange markings from another land. Rex didn’t know what to make of this. Life with his family hadn’t taught him what to do in his new surroundings.

Even though some of the bins were a different shade of green he knew he’d have to seek them out for guidance. The old, battered, dark green bin, held together with silver tape, was Rex’s only option.

“Hey!” Shiny new Rex called to battered old Norm. “I saw you with a red bin. What’s up with that?”

Norm was a wise old bin and knew just how Rex was molded.

“Kid, out here it’s different. We’re all together to make the world a better, cleaner place.” Rex was appalled at Norm’s words.

I knew there was something different about you.”

Rex turned his back on Norm. Norm rattled his cans and bottles to get Rex’s attention. It didn’t work but Norm knew his words would still be heard.

“You’ll learn, kid. It’s a different world than city hall out here.”

Rex turned to look at Norm. He was astonished Norm knew where he was from. Norm smiled.

“Oh yeah, I’m a bin from the basement too. Just a different generation, kid.”

Norm knew this was more than Rex was prepared to accept so he rattled the boxes and plastics one last time.

“Get some rest, kid. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

Rex had a difficult time sleeping. In the dark Norm frightened him even more. Rex thought he heard the Red bin laugh at him in the night. Norm’s words. “You’ll learn, kid.” Kept racing through Rex’s head.

In the morning Rex was woken by a calamitous rattle. Bottles, cans, cardboard of all shapes and colors began to fill his bin. Rex had never seen so many different things and shapes and colors in his whole life.

Rex shook and bounced trying to get these things away from him. But the harder he shook the more the cups plastic and paper and split pea soup cans seemed to enjoy it. It was like the best ride in Recycling World!

“Stop laughing! Stop touching me!” Complained Rex.

“What’s happening?” Asked a Milk Bottle. “Aren’t you having fun?”

“I was,” Rex barked. “Until you. . .you. . .things showed up. What are you doing around here anyway?”

“We’re waiting to get made into something else?” Exclaimed a Plastic Fork who was used at yesterday’s picnic in the park.

“I want to come back as a piece of paper an artist draws a beautiful picture on.” Said a Box Of Straws.

“Nah!” Cried a Plastic Iced Coffee Cup. “I want to come back as a shipping box filled with biodegradable foam peanuts cradling a child’s birthday gift!”

All the items in Rex The Recycling Bin began to chime in with their dreams jobs! The blare resonating inside Rex was more than he could handle. How could all of these different things get along? Get along? They were having fun together.

All these colors, none looking just like him, actually liked each other. How could that be, Rex wondered? He looked at Norm who had a big smile on his face while being loaded with his collection of bottles and cans and recyclable plastics.

“Isn’t this great, kid?” Norm asked.

This was too much for Rex. But everyone seemed so happy. Could Rex be wrong about the world? Could even that strange Red Bin be good? Rex looked at the Red Bin who was so happy he seemed to be dancing!

“It’s a wonderful day, kid!” Sang the Red Bin. “Working together for a better planet!”

Cheers rose up from recycling bins far and wide. Through an opening in the trees Rex spotted a Blue Bin. He looked like the one that was taken out with him the other day.

The Blue Bin was sitting next to a Green Bin!

And they were laughing and filled to over flowing with bottles and cans and catalogs of all shapes and sizes. Rex’s head was spinning! Everything he’d learned from the other green bins didn’t seem to work in this world.

“Hey!” Rex heard from deep inside him. “Hey! Rex!” Called an Plastic Orange Juice Bottle.

“Yeah?” Rex answered suspiciously.

“Remember when all these guys were talking about what they want to be when they get out of the recycling center?”


“Well, they have it all wrong.” Rex’s eyes rise. Could this Plastic Orange Juice Bottle be letting him in on a secret?


“Yeah!” Smiles the Plastic Orange Juice Bottle. “They don’t know the best thing to be! You!”

“Pardon?” Asked a confused Rex.

“You! Coming back as a recycling bin is the greatest thing in the world to come back as.” The Plastic Orange Juice Bottle said snuggling close to Rex. “That’s all I want to be.”

Rex looks at the Plastic Orange Juice Bottle a little perplexed.

“He’s right, you know.” Calls Norm. “I know what you thought, kid. But out here in the world everything works better when we all work together.”

The cans and the bottles and the sheets made of tin holler and scream and make an exciting fanfare.

“I wish I was plastic so I could come back as a recycling bin!” Called a can of split pea soup. “I love you, Rex!”

It dawned on Rex, not a moment too soon, that the bottles and cans and containers of all types knew what was happening. That the green bins and blue and occasional red bin had a singular goal in mind. To collect all the bottles and cans and things made of plastic, no matter what size or shape or color to work as one making the world a better place to play!

Maybe there was something in that case of beer after all!


Someone was telling me about their great business opportunity. Yes, once again I was cornered by someone who wanted me to get in on the ground floor of a great pyramid, I mean, multi-level marketing opportunity.

I listened for a moment because I didn’t have an alternative. I completed my task and told them I wasn’t interested. But does that stop one of today’s go-getters? Hell no! He went on to explain that I’d be nothing but a fool not to buy a busload of whatever never quite explained product I’d be selling. I tell them, again, I’m not interested and explain that I’ve already invested all my cash in another direction. Not believing I could possibly have a better opportunity, they asked me what it was. Aw, geez, what the hell am I going to say?

“A cabal of like minded individuals has, at a very steep discount I’m happy to say, purchased all of the merchandise big companies have pulled from the convicted athletes they’ve dropped. Shirts, shoes, sticky wrap, you wouldn’t believe the plethora of products. Our first store, called Outlaw Jocks, is opening in the San Quentin mall this week. We’re very excited.”

The sad part is the guy seemed interested in more information.

Damn, I’m glad I didn’t tell him about my toy companies newest product, ‘Lil Waterboarders Kit.