In which we are told we can have anything we want.*
*Certain conditions may apply.
My encounters with police officers have largely been, if not pleasant, then at least hassle-free. It helps that I’m friendly, polite, and never in my life more caucasian than when I talk to a cop. I think most cops are pretty decent dudes.
Sadly, the cops I remember most clearly aren’t the officers who’ve helped me when I was in a jam, or even those who had to deal with me when I’d done wrong and had it coming, but rather the jerks who wore their authority like a crown and acted like thugs for no reason other than that they could, the bullies and punks getting off on the power of their station.
It was my displeasure to meet a particularly shitty cop on November 5th, 2002.¹ I’d left my job and apartment in Beaverton, Oregon to bum around the country by rail, and now found myself in Chicago’s historic Union Station, notable for the “baby carriage” scene in The Untouchables.
Filthy and bedraggled, I wander into the men’s restroom to clean up. Union Station is an Amtrak hub, so the bathroom is busy, but I manage to find sink space next to a wretched-looking homeless dude–a black guy with wild, unkempt hair and an eye-watering aroma. His emaciated hands and head jut twig-like from an artificially bulky frame, created by layer upon layer of filthy clothing. He yammers ceaselessly as he washes what appears to be several pairs of socks.
When the guy says “Can I have those socks?” I think at first that it’s just another facet of his apparently unending dialogue with God. But when he says it again, I realize he’s talking to me. He’s looking down at the open travel bag at my feet, atop which lie several pairs of clean socks.
After a span of time that seems longer than it probably is, I reach down to grab a pair socks, and hand it to him. “Here you go.” “Thanks, Brother” he says, and his ongoing conversation–which fortunately, no longer includes me–begins again. Not long after that, he gathers up his things, including his new socks, and wanders off to a stall.
I have just about forgotten about him when the cop comes rumbling in, his black and yellow police windbreaker flashing in the mirror just before our eyes meet. His small shaven head, bullet-shaped, with its tiny piggish eyes and ridiculously oversized mustache is poorly matched to his expansive, well-fleshed body.
“Whaddaya doin’?” he asks, and not at all nicely. My stomach tightens as I turn to face him. There is a uniformed cop behind him.
“Shaving,” I tell him.
“Shaving.” He spits the word back at me like an accusation. Then: “You sure you weren’t washing your feet?”
I tell him I wasn’t, and because this situation is so intense and because the cop is still smirking under his mustache and because I don’t know what else to say, I say “Jeez.” It is the wrong thing to say.
“JEEZ?” he says, seeming to swell as he steps toward me, either side of his mustache punctuated by the edges of a feral smile, and just like that I am fucking terrified.
Then the uniformed cop says something and points down to the stalls. I do not have to know what he said to know where he is pointing, and at whom. As they both charge off in that direction, the bald cop’s little head swivels to face me and, not stopping, he says, “Sorry.” It is a reflex, a word completely devoid of meaning, and he cares not a bit whether I know it. Then he is gone, carried along on a wave of black anger.
“WALTER!” he bellows at the homeless man in the stall, “Get your fuckin’ ass out here, you goof! You’re goofy, you know that?”
Suddenly awash in a rush of relief that feels an awful lot like shame, I slink out of the bathroom, but not quickly enough to miss the firecracker bang of a locked stall door shattering under the force of a boot.
Today our travels take us to the exotic metropolis of Monrovia.
Monrovia is located in the West African nation of Liberia. The troubled republic’s capital is named for American president James Monroe. Although the city is the financial hub of Liberia and boasts an impressive harbor, the metropolis is known primarily for being a fly-blown hellhole.
However, my travels haven’t taken me to the dark continent, but rather to one of our many fine domestic fly-blown hellholes, Monrovia, California. According to Wikipedia, Monrovia (pop. 36,590) has served as the filming location for several (largely unnamed) television and movie productions. It boasts among its native sons such luminaries as Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., Corky King, and the dude who invented pool-cue chalk.
As many of you already know, I’ve ventured to this blighted and joyless place to attend the wedding of my dear friend Dave.¹ Although I stayed the night in Monrovia, it isn’t my final destination. I could have stayed the night a little closer to Dave’s wedding, but it’s in El Monte, and–c’mon–fuck that. If I can, I avoid staying overnight in any town that starts with “El.” And that most definitely includes LA.
air travel, Amtrak, Bee Gees, dope, grass, hemp, marijuana, Mark David Chapman, masturbation, only losers take the bus, pot, reefer, self-abuse, sweet sweet cheeba, the Beatles, Travels With Tardsie, weed
The Bad Touch
I have a friend who maintains–and as ridiculous as this claim may sound, if you knew the guy, you’d understand why I believe it–that he’s tried masturbation only once. He says he didn’t like it.
I told him he was doing it wrong.
Mark David Chapman–We Need You Now!
When I was a kid I had a copy of the Bee Gees’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which I mistakenly believed was the Bee Gees’ original work. One day, while listening to the album and making fun of it, my friend’s mom burst into the room and said, “That’s BEATLES music!” She looked at me with an expression of stone-cold horror and said, “One day you’ll be sorry you made fun of the Beatles!” For a while I was weirded-out by that, waiting for the regret-shoe to drop.
I’m still not sorry, Mrs. Martinez, but I hope you’re well.
Only Losers Ride The Bus
When I can, I prefer to travel by train. Air travel is unpleasant enough, thanks to my fear of flying (I don’t fear terrorists; I fear that the massive metal tube in which I am travelling will, like Wile E. Coyote after he has dashed off the side of a cliff, suddenly realize that it has heretofore been denying a fundamental principle of physics and plummet abruptly earthward, accompanied all the while by the soundtrack of my girlish screams) and the myriad inconveniences attendant with the ‘airline experience.’
Amtrak personnel–if you’ll pardon a rare excursion into vulgarity–don’t give two shits. With one notable exception, they don’t care what you do as long as you’re not so blatant about it that you force their hand. The one rule I’ve seen Amtrak enforce–with a vengeance–is a prohibition against smoking tobacco. Get caught smoking and they will throw your ass off at the next stop. No foolin.’ As I don’t smoke cigarettes, I can enjoy the refreshingly anachronistic freedom the train offers.
A great example of this is from a recent trip I took. For privacy reasons, I make it a point to ask the attendant not to make up my room, usually with the explanation that I work late into the evening (which is true). However, at one point, I hadn’t realized that a new attendant had come on duty, and while I was at dinner, he made up my room. I was chagrined when I arrived back at my room to find several items I would very much NOT like discovered stacked neatly beside the freshly made bed. Nothing more was ever said, however, and of course the attendant got a nice tip.
I’ve always maintained that train travel is for degenerate stoners and the elderly. I’ll let you know right now, folks–I’m not that old.
Sometimes Tardsie Wants To Punch Himself In The Face
I walked into work one day and saw that one of my coworkers, a girl named Kelly, was dressed to the nines.
“Hey, Kelly,” I said, “You look great! Who died?”
“My grandma,” she said.
What Not To Say To A Cop
I lived in Washington State for a while, where having California license plates is considered a capital crime. So one day this cop in Mt. Lake Terrace pulls me over for speeding and starts giving me shit about being from California, “We have speed limits here, son!”
Apparently the little fellow was irritated when I broke eye contact with him to look for my insurance paperwork. He said, “If you don’t want to listen, I can just give you the ticket right now.”
A little pissed myself, I said, “I’m listening, dude, I’m just looking for my paperwork.”
“Hey!” He said, “Don’t call me that. I’m not a dude, all right?”
If I’d had another second to think about it, I would have chosen a different path. Instead, I said, “I’m sorry, ma’am–you looked so masculine.”
He didn’t care for that one bit.
Oh, happy day!–we’ve just received word from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department that our beloved Editor-In-Chief, Tardsie D. Bagg, has been found alive–and for the most part well–in Memphis, Tennessee. During our brief and acrimonious phone conversation with the nylon adventurer, Tarsdie explained in greater detail how he was found lying on the grave of Elvis Presley, turned inside-out and smeared with a honey-like substance.
Tardsie’s recollection of the days following his last known appearance in Aberdeen, South Dakota, is understandably dim. Disturbingly, Tardsie insists that for the last two or three days, he’s been hiding in the attic of Graceland, playing Connect Four with an aging Elvis while the two of them gorged themselves silly on peanut-butter & OxyContin sandwiches.
As temporally improbable as such a claim is, you must admit, it sounds like something those two would do.
Tardsie has missed his last two check-ins. Although we’ve temporarily lost contact with the intrepid knapsack, we remind readers that Tardsie is a seasoned traveler, who’s no doubt having so much fun that he forgot to check in.
“O bury me not…” And his voice failed there.
But they took no heed to his dying prayer.
In a narrow grave, just six by three
They buried him there on the lone prairie.”
We didn’t create Promethean Times so that we could do things the easy way. We believe first and foremost in solid reporting and fierce investigative journalism. It’s no great feat to cover the news in exotic locales like Hawaii, the Caribbean or Ibiza. But when a story reveals itself in a blighted, lifeless place where no reasonable person would want to go, the real journalists rise to the challenge.
Promethean Times’ Editor-in-Chief, Tardsie D. Bagg has been sent on assignment to the Dakotas. In such circumstances, it can be easy to exaggerate the inconvenience or degree of difficulty. However, we feel entirely justified in comparing Tardsie’s departure from our cozy coastal environs for the endless expanses of this half-frozen horizontal First Circle of Hell to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.
He left this:
As the Dakotas are, after Delaware and American Samoa, indisputably the nation’s most forgettable territorial possessions, readers might wonder just what’s happening on the prairie that could command the attention of a busy A-Lister like Tardsie. Instead, we ask you, what ISN’T happening in the Dakotas? We can’t tell you everything, but here’s a little bit of what our very special Special Olympian is up to in the land that time forgot.
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Few aphorisms are as ubiquitous–or contain as much self-evident truth–as ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,‘ the notion that the camera’s eye catches such a visual abundance that it would take 1,000 words to describe it with any kind of justice. This time-honored simile has not only survived since its introduction to common speech, but flourished thanks to its apt and easy-to-understand imagery. The maxim is so well-known that it would not be at all surprising to hear it mouthed by a precocious six-year-old.
But for as much use as it has seen since its probable introduction as a bit of ad copy in the early 20th Century, philosophers have yet to mount a critical study of the proverb’s underlying tenets. Such an examination can yield heretofore unexpected insights into the nature of the image itself.
The truth in this saying becomes evident after a limited examination of just one of the many propositions it puts forth. Given that any single photograph is worth no more and no less than 1,000 words, how are we then to apportion dedicated words to the individual images contained within the photograph?
It would be hard to dispute, for example, that the Colosseum of Rome as depicted in a photograph might on its own merits command 1,000 words, so majestic and replete with history is the ancient structure. That example is easy enough to follow, but lulls the viewer into the erroneous assumption that an image’s word value is a constant. It is not.
Imagine then the same image of the Colosseum, but now with a huge Weimaraner lustily humping a French poodle in the foreground of the shot. Wouldn’t the descriptive words necessitated by the inclusion of this comical scene into the otherwise-stolid tableau syphon syntax intended for the Colosseum?
Unquestionably, the answer is yes: the 1,000 words alloted to a picture must be divided among the image’s component parts, such as in the previous example. However, in the aforementioned instance we posited two subjects–a historical marvel and copulating canines–of equal interest to the average viewer. But when we pair items of unequal appeal–say for example the Colosseum of Rome and a 1999 Buick LeSabre, or the randy dogs and Bob Saget, host of America’s Funniest Home Videos–it quickly becomes evident that all images are not created equal.
Given that the various images captured within a photograph, digital recording device or artwork are not equally deserving of the object’s finite word supply–certainly the copulating dogs in the previous example rate higher than the irritating Full House has-been–the truth which reveals itself through this insight is as old as the image itself. If images within a photograph are inherently unequal, then some are simply more important than others.
What does this all mean for you? The implications are myriad, and at the very least will increase your awareness of the many factors comprising a good–that is, asthetically pleasing–photo. Accordingly, you now will endeavor to pose for pictures with people less attractive and interesting than yourself, and if an enormous black drag queen dressed up like Brittney Spears circa 2001 wanders into the shot while you’re posing for a picture, you’ll be sure to let that thing of beauty speak for itself by getting your ass out of the shot.
Further Examples Of The Phenomenon:
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Much of the hard work which makes Promethean Times such a magical family experience occurs behind the scenes. Our small, tight-knit staff is more like a family than a collection of colleagues, with the exception of our copy editor, Arturo, although we are quite fond of him.
At the center of it all is our venerable Editor-In-Chief, Tardsie the Backpack. Although Tardsie was not the first to helm Promethean Times, it is his vision which guides us today. When Rodrigo O’Bannon was fired after Promethean Times’ shaky first few months, Tardsie came out of a well-deserved retirement to right the ship. The impact of his calm leadership on our inexperienced young staff cannot be overstated, and that Promethean Times not only exists but flourishes today is a testament to his influence.
Tardsie the Backpack spent the majority of his career before coming to Promethean Times as a travel reporter, publishing several travel narratives. The most famous among these, Travels With Tardsie, catapulted the young backpack to stardom and made him an overnight literary darling. His out-of-print novel, So Beats The Nylon Heart, met with a warm response, although sales were disappointing. He worked briefly as an investigative reporter, achieving some success, before being blacklisted for what he calls “political reasons.”
Today Tardsie only slightly resembles the brash young backpack who courageously went undercover to expose point-shaving in Special Olympics basketball and who partied with celebrities. At nine years old, Tardsie has grown contemplative. Two of this three zippers are long gone, “And the other one’s busted!” he jokes. “They made me with cheap nylon,” he says, indicating the rupturing seams along his sides.
“I don’t regret anything,” Tardsie says. “Something my dad used to say still resonates with me. He said ‘Life experiences are like quarters. You lose both by sitting on the couch.’ I’ve tried to live my life by that.”
Although that advice actually comes from the side of a Jamba Juice cup, we’re sure that the elder Tardsie was indeed a wise bag.
August 16, dead celebrities, Elvis Aaron Presley, Elvis Legend of Love (a poetric tribute to the KING), erotic Hummel figurines, Graceland, Marie Greenfield, swap meet treasures, Tardsie, Tardsie The Backpack, TCB, the King, this day in history, Travels With Tardsie
On which a grieving world books a room at the Heartbreak Hotel upon the sad news of the King’s death at 42.
The following poem is from Ms. Marie Greenfield’s heartfelt Elvis, Legend of Love (a poetric tribute to the KING). The book is notable for Greenfield’s charming pen and ink drawings of butterflies, flowers and sequined guitars.
So nifty and handsome,
So charming and wise
The dream in my heart,
The light in my eyes.
Elvis, Elvis tell me true,
Did I have a chance with you?
I would have been your clinging vine,
And you would have been mine.
Sadly, this delightful menagerie of grammar-eschewing poems devoted to the KING is no longer in print. Although Smaktakula purchased Elvis, Legend of Love at a swap meet for a meager $2, he holds it no less dear than his impressive collection of erotic Hummel figurines.