Neto’s Passtime Bar, Gila Bend, Arizona

I hadn’t planned on stopping today, but somewhere between Pistachio Rock and Gila Bend inspiration hit me head-on and I had to stop and do something about it.

It was one of those moments that catch you off-guard, although they seem to be more routine in the desert than elsewhere. I was driving into the sunset, in true western fashion, and let me tell you, it was one hell of a sunset. It started out subtle; the sky an ever-deepening blue, a few wispy clouds adding their own commas and question marks to the sky. I rounded a barren, jagged hill, and across the plain in front of me was splendor. Saguaros slid past, their arms akimbo in gestures of praise and wonder, standing in silhouette against the vibrant pinks and oranges that filled the western sky. Farther away the rocky hills became mysterious shapes, almost reminding me of things.

I spun the radio, and landed on a Spanish-language station without accordions. The next song that came on was achingly beautiful, a woman singing of sorrow in a language any human could understand. I will probably never hear that song again, and I will never know who the singer was. Like the sunset, it was just for that one moment and then gone forever.

The station fuzzed out on the outskirts of Gila Bend, but I decided to stop anyway. I found a hotel that advertised wireless internet and checked in. The signal doesn’t reach my room. The bathtub faucet was dripping — a sign of evil in this arid land — but I could not make it stop. I closed the bathroom door to at least shut out the sound, and realized I had a locked door between me and the toilet. The large Coke and 32-oz Gatorade I had consumed on my desert trek chose that very moment to make it known that their probation was up and they were ready to be released right now.

Back at the lobby to get a large paperclip to spring the door, I asked if there was a bar nearby, where I could sit, have a couple of beers, and maybe get some work done. The lobby staff exchanged a skeptical look. “Just down the street a couple of blocks,” the guy said, “there’s a bar. It’s the only bar in town.”

“Can I just sit in your restaurant and have a beer?”

“They don’t serve alcohol. There’s a circle-K across the street,” he added helpfully.

“Is the bar any good?” I asked.

The guy nodded, and got a confirming nod from the girl. “Yeah, it’s a good bar. I like it anyway.” Good enough for me. I had given him the opportunity to issue a safety warning and he hadn’t. Chances of getting beat up or knifed seemed low enough to take the walk up the road.

Now I sit in a long, narrow building constructed of cinder block, listening to “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”. There are no windows and no chairs that can be thrown in a fight. It is winter, and there is a large box fan set up on the table next to mine. Most of the light in here comes from neon beer signs (the only exception is a string of blue christmas lights), and almost everyone in here is sitting at the bar. The freight trains pass right outside the door, blowing their lonesome whistles through the security mesh and adding to the crooning of Patsy Cline doing a song I don’t recognize.

The only nice car in the parking lot belongs to a guy I assume to be the owner. Someone is wearing an obscene amount of perfume or cologne. I’ll sneak a picture once the locals have becomed accustomed to a guy being in the bar with a laptop. In a way, I feel like Diane Fossey with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. They will accept me, but I can’t do too much all at once.

Beers are two dollars and everything comes in longneck bottles. I won’t tell you what I’m drinking, but rest assured the word “lite” is not in the name anywhere. An obscure Stevie Ray Vaughn song has just come on the juke box and it’s time to order a second beer.

Time has passed, just how much I’m not exactly sure. I’ve been here, trying to put a short story out of my misery. A few minutes ago a longneck appeared at my table. “It’s from that guy over there, Gary,” the bartender explained. I thanked her and sent a toast Gary’s way when he finally looked over.

This is a very friendly bar. I have spotted chairs that could be thrown, but I will not revise the above description because I like it, and reality be damned. There’s a good vibe here, the oasis-in-the-trackless-desert vibe. We come from different places, we’re going different places, but at this moment we are together, bound by a common need. And at the oasis there is an eclectic jukebox, and there is joy.

Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi!

A while back I gave you the lyrics for the opening theme to a Japanese animation called Cutey Honey Flash, a sublimely ridiculous retelling of a ’70’s televison series. This one may just top that.

I’ve only watched one episode of the show, but Club-to-Death Angel Dokuro-chan may be my new favorite. The show involves Dokuro-chan, cute as a button with her halo, who has inexplicably moved into the bedroom of a high school student named Sakuro. The guy’s not as lucky as you might think, however; this little angel has a bit of a temper and a giant baseball bat with wicked spikes, which she does not hesitate to use. In the first episode, she decapitates Sakuro with Excalibolg at least three times in great fountains of blood.

It’s hilarious.

As quick as she is to anger, she immediately feels remorse and with a “Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi!” she twirls Ecalibolg cheerleader-style and restores the fragments of his skull. “That hurt,” he said one time after being killed.

She declares that she will be going to school with him, and he makes her promise not to crush anyone’s skull. She reluctantly agrees. Then she agrees not to reveal that she is an angel.

“And of course, you can’t use any of your mysterious angelic powers, either.”

“No angelic powers.”

“No tear gas, either.”

“No firing of tear gas, either.”

“Don’t forget our promise, Okay?”

I don’t want to give it all away, but she’s not a terribly trustworthy angel.

The show opens with Dokuro-chan flying among the clouds, cute little angel wings flapping, a frightfully happy smile on her little face, the vicious-looking bat flying along next to her, while a perky girl-voice sings:

Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi
Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi
The bat that can do anything, Excalibolg!
Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi
Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi
When you hear my magical spell, you’ll be reborn again.
No, no, don’t be like that, dummy!
Don’t glare at me like that! Please!
Club-to-Death Angel, spraying blood everywhere, Dokuro-chan!
Club-to-Death Angel, she makes you bleed from the heart, Dokuro-chan!
I’ll step on you, tie you up, beat you up,
Kick you, be a cocktease, hang you,
But that’s just how I express my love!
Club-to-Death Angel, who pounds you with her bat, Dokuro-chan!
Club-to-Death Angel, blood-stained all over, Dokuro-chan!
I’ll cut you, punch you, toy with you,
Stab you, leave you out in the cold, drip stuff on you,
But that’s just how I express my love!
Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi!

“Bleed from the heart” is more literal in this translation than usual. During the opening credits there is a sequence where she is dancing around like a cheerleader, swinging her bat, and with each stroke more blood splatters about. She ends by dong the splits, hands raised, bat twirling, smiling from ear to ear, a twinkle in her eye, while blood drips down the screen. Priceless.


Christmas Eve in Los Alamos – Farolitolicious!

The stars are close here, and on a still, cold, cloudless, moonless night there are a lot of them. Find a dark place, look up, and you will see them. 2.7 fucking buttloads of them, to be exact. (This number was scientifically determined many years ago by our crack stellar research team.)

On Christmas Eve the street lights are turned off over much of Barranca Mesa, and cars drive slowly, with only their running lights, and the stars shine down in all their brilliance. It’s a good night to take a little walk.

Just why are such unsafe driving conditions not only tolerated, but encouraged? Farolitos, of course. Often called lumenarias (opening the speaker up to correction by the more pedantic traditionalists), these little fires were first invented to act as runway markers for when the Baby Jesus was coming in for a landing. These days their job is simply to look cool, to provide a festive atmosphere without resorting to brash blinking and color. Farolitos glow, a calm and peaceful light that is more a “Silent Night” feeling than a “Jingle Bells” one. It fits with the tempo of New Mexico – it’s not a hurly-burly go-go-go sort of decoration.

Out at the end of Barranca Mesa, the whole neighborhood farolitafies, the street lights are turned off, and the neighborhood becomes a destination for people to slowly cruise or (better) walk, taking in the simple beauty for miles.

Farolito 101

For those among you not familiar with this tradition, farolitos require a little more effort to set up than strings of little blinky lights, but when you and friends work as a team things go quickly and it’s a nice way to spend the waning hours of Christmas Eve. The construction is simple, requiring a paper bag, ballast (usually sand), and a candle.

… and that’s all there is to it (although you do not want me to be in charge of folding over the tops of the paper bags. Many bags were injured this year in the creation of farolitos at my house).

Of course, technology never rests, and at the olde homestead we no longer use primitive sand for the ballast, rather we have specialized bricks, just the size of a typical farolito bag, with a hole ready to accommodate a typical votive candle.

Farolitos are a gentle light, and while photogenic, they require a long exposure. Most of the pics I took this year are hopelessly shaken (I should have used the 2-second delay even when using my little mini-tripod). Here is one of the homestead, including fuego’s giant automobile (dubbed by fuego the “hotelsmobile” and by my parents as “the #[email protected]*!! thing blocking the driveway that has long overstayed its welcome”).

As you can see, the parents favor a combination of electric and external combustion, enjoying the everyday colored lights and augmenting them on christmas eve with the farolitos. This is not uncommon, and allows the festive feeling to continue long after the candles have all burned away.

On the walk between John H’s place and Jojo’s, lugging beers and stopping often for photos, we met others out as well, enjoying the unseasonably warm evening. I’ll be putting up more photos at the gallery shortly.

Word on the street… it’s Christmas.

Tonight is a complicated story, filled with intrigue and the betrayal of innocence. Rudolph garroted and hauled off to the slaughterhouse. I have the pictures, but I’m tired now, so good night and merry christmas.

Remember the Google!

As most of you already know, I like to watch and see just what it is that brings the accidental tourist to this site. Google and its buddies form and extremely important role in the Websphere, finding for people the information they need in this big, disorganized pile of fact and opinion.

The search engines are imperfect, however, and sometimes people end up here.

Usually the search phrase is innocuous, “plate of shrimp” or something like that, but occasionally the search will be interesting, either for the odd phrase or where it linked to. Old-timers can have a little fun chuckling at the resonances between the search and remembered episodes, while newcomers can use this page as a guided tour of some of what has gone before. Search terms I do not want to attract to this page are, as always, haphazardly obfuscated with spaces.

  • b o w l i n g ball rack designs – linked to get-poor-quick page, with team b o w l i n g
  • what does poop look like in dipper’s? – linked to an episode like this one, in which many of those words were scattered about
  • squirrel cult – the SSDC is still popular after all these years…
  • obfuscated pronunciation – linked to yet another episode like this one, for obvious, if obfuscated, reasons
  • goofy footwear – linked to the observations category page, where I devote a very short episode to the subject.
  • haiku on drinking – linked to a description of a very pleasant moment I had. There’s no haiku there, though, just the teaser for the crap shop.
  • arrogant assholes – We know what major metropolis that refers to, right?
  • “sound of p o w e r” – Linked to an episode about, well, the sound of p o w e r.
  • when is the next sign ups for the Kids A m e r i c a n I d l e? – that spelling joke never gets old…
  • “pretty b l i n d girl” – linked to an episode about someone I saw waiting for a tram.
  • c o w b o y gets pulled over and dances – didn’t check the link, but I figure it probably linked to The C o w b o y God
  • b e e r e n a – linked to a episode about a woman in a bar.
  • czechs and beer – the two go hand in hand
  • m e a t rhymes – linked to an episode about hockey, which is obviously what they were looking for
  • st. louis drivers are assholes – I just said they were really bad. And they are. Really, really bad.
  • rumble rumble – linked to an episode about grocery shopping in Prague
  • team b o w l i n g – already starting to make a splash!
  • can’t wait a minute czech lyrics – linked to the main page here
  • s q u i r r e l t r a i n e r – linked to the first shocking exposé of the Suicide Squirrel Death Cult. But… who was looking for a s q u i r r e l t r a i n e r anyway?
  • death to squirrels – likewise
  • triangles in architecture – got quite a few hits on queries like this one, actually, but no architecture guys have chimed in.
  • S W E A T CHEESE – the classic Czech dish is back, this time shouted.
  • poop explosion photo – linked to the Idle Chit-Chat category. Poop comes up in a lot of queries these days, and gets routed here mainly because of episodes like this one, where I discuss previous poop queries.
  • give red flower means pink flower – linked to my erudite and unassailable writings on the meanings of flowers
  • funny spiritual stories and pics – because, you know, I’m famous for those
  • night elf breasts – speaking of spiritual stories, I’ve got your spiritual story with elf breasts right here, pal.
  • make up ideas after wearing glass for a long time – maybe I should try that, but where do you wear the glass? Linked to the main page here.
  • Sunday bloody sunday karaoke – this episode was about the morning after the White Wedding Incident at karaoke.
  • SCARY Squirrel THE GAME – linked, surprisingly, to a story in a czech pub.
  • site : humtum te – top link! (Um, Yippee, I guess…) Led to an episode with whining in it.
  • M e a t parade – everyone loves a parade!

The usuals were there, although egg frying is not bringing in the unsuspecting guests the way it once did. I’ll have to do something about that. And, after all this time denying I have a picture of elk poop, I find that I do have one after all (it’s right there in the middle). Unfortunately no one is coming here looking for elk poop anymore. “M e a t” is becoming an increasingly popular word in searches that bring people here, and I hadn’t considered before just how cool a word that is. I think I’ll say it again. M e a t.

A milestone, I guess

I just left the post office, where I sent off four packages. Two were to fairly large magazines, and two were to literary agents. It was a pain in the ass figuring out all the different do’s and don’ts, and it ended up being much more time-consuming than I had imagined. What I thought would take a couple of days sucked up my whole week. I wish I had numbered the drafts of the letters for the agents, the number would be very high now. Cover letters accompanying my fiction were simpler, but I hope in the future to hone them to let my personality shine through a bit more. (Carefully crafted casualness.)

I didn’t include mention of my media empire in the letters, and now I’m thinking I should have. It could be an important asset when it comes to promoting my books. Or… something like that.

An anecdote you won’t give a rat’s ass about:

I spent several hours agonizing over a two-sentence description of Hunter for my brief description of The Monster Within. I had a longer version and one that came across as glib. After quite a bit of sweat I came up with a compromise that didn’t bother me too much. Then it was time to review the synopsis, and right there in the second paragraph was the exact sentence I was looking for. Should have known to look where I had already made a compact version of the story when trying to come up with a compact description.

I managed to avoid revealing the Big Plot Twist until the third sentence. There wasn’t much more I could do about that.

I’ll be getting one more short story out tomorrow, then I’m gonna take it easy for a while.

By the way, a special thanks to Jojo – not only is she a fine beer slave, she has been providing lots of valuable information and encouragement. She made things much easier for me this last week.

Only in Los Alamos

I saw a truck today, a big ol’ Dodge 4×4, mud-splattered but in good condition. The front vanity plate read “Forget 911… I dial .357!” and had a drawing of a revolver pointed directly at the reader.

On the rear of the cab were stickers. Some proclaimed the owner of the truck to be in favor of various causes favored by the conservative crowd: POW/MIA, the right to bear arms, and so on. There were also five stickers in a row, white ovals modeled after the stickers that in europe indicate country of origin. In this case, the stickers indicated that the driver was from PHP, WWW, MP3, C++, and W3C. Man, what a geek.