My thirtieth birthday is fast approaching, and I'm feeling a little bit of trepidation about it. I know your thirties are supposed to be so much better than your twenties. But all I can think of at the moment are all the things that movies, television, and magazines have led me to believe I should have done in my twenties.
The fact is, I squandered most of my twenties in Richmond, VA, living in a series of crumbling ghetto establishments, scraping for work and thinking I was an artist. I can take a small amount of comfort in the fact that if I had been living a fabulous lifestyle as a wealthy young rock star in L.A. I would have been too chronically depressed to enjoy it. Licked that little tendency in my twenties, thank God.
One thing that's great about impending age is that I am zooming away from the time in every man's life when he gets hit in the groin the most: high school.
Professional athletes excluded, guys don't really get hit in the nuts after 18. After 18, people understand the cause-and-effect of delivering that kind of blow. A young man doesn't worry so much that he has actually brought crippling pain into someone's world at 18, but he does begin to understand that hitting another guy in the nuts usually means the favor will be returned, with interest.
My friend Danielle was asking me the other day what that felt like. The nearest thing I could come up with was that it was like a week's worth of menstrual cramps compressed into 30-60 minutes.
Not so much for this guy. For this guy, getting kicked in the nuts by a Shaolin monk probably feels like throwing junk mail in the trash, or stopping at a red light -- just a minor task, not pleasant, but hardly the worst part of the day:
This comes from a longer video segment on YouTube, part of an even longer video about the Shaolin practice of Iron Egg training. Thanks again to WFMU for bringing this practice to my attention.
I've mentioned before on here that I work for AOL, and very little else about it. I like it that way...keeps my lives seperate and my ass covered.
Just this once I'm gonna poke through the membrane a bit and cross audiences.
In my professional life, among other things, I edit and contribute to the general well-being of my co-worker/close friend Kenny Hill's blog Worth Repeating and the AOL Gay & Lesbian channel as a whole. Now, Kenny and I have launched what is to be a weekly column exploring (some would say PROBING) social and cultural issues from the perspective of a straight single man (me) and a married (for all intents and purposes) gay man -- Kenny.
The column is called 'Straighten Out'. Many of you got an email from me this week soliciting feedback -- I'd encourage both of you who do not know me personally to check it out and critique away. If you think the picture is too cutesy though, you can fuck right off. All the homos at work love it.
I emailed a lot of friends and family (all straight, strangely enough) this week as fodder for next week's column... the question was: When did you know you were straight?
Every last one of the answers I got was AWESOME. I'm posting them here, sans names of course.
There was never a moment when I thought, 'you know what, I'm not gay, dicks are not for me'. I didn't even know what gay meant when I started liking girls, even though I liked calling people faggots.
When Jay gave me a Valentine in first grade and I dreamed about kissing him for the next 3 years...until I met Teddy in fourth grade - and so on.
I knew I was straight the minute I put my face in someone else's vagina. Up until then there was some doubt, as I have always had an awareness of the same sex. I can still appreciate a nice rack and a high ass. But oh no. That vagina. nothing doing. It tasted, smelled and felt all wrong. And that is when I knew without a doubt that I liked something different than myself. There is no substitute for an actual penis.
Never really think I made that adamant conclusion. Just always knew.
Never knew I was straight. Cuz I never knew there were options.
Remember getting in trouble for grabbing a boy in the kindergarten coat room and kissing him; just one in a looong series of heterosexual crushes, one after another after another.
By high school, I discovered there was some kinda gayness thing. Knew I also felt weird, outta place, different; maybe that was it!!? Thought it over for awhile; but nah, guess I was whatever I was; which, apparently, they call straight.
I knew I was straight the day I woke up with my face buried in my boyfriend’s sweaty armpit and, instead of retching, just laid there and drank in the funk. There’s no sexier smell on earth than a ripe armpit on the right guy.
The year was 1984, I was home early one saturday afternoon and found my Dad meddling with a new piece of technology- the VCR. He had rented Risky Business when obviously nobody was supposed to be home, but he played it off cool and let me watch it too. Looking back this was the perfect litmus test for my as yet untested sexuality: boyishly naughty Tom Cruise prancing about in his undies, or Rebecca De Mornay as the hooker with the heart of gold? Well I still don't like Bob Seger, and ever since the train scene I've been straight up and down like 6 O'Clock.
When i learned it what it was like to be around a bitch with PMS.
If you've got your own stories, or criticisms, leave 'em in the comments section...
For reasons I really do not want to discuss, I was in the waiting room of a mental hospital recently. For those of you that know me and might be concerned, I did not proceed past the waiting room area -- was waiting for someone else.
I'd flipped through all the channels on the TV, read both tattered old US magazines back to front and eaten everything from the vending machine that I thought could alleviate my terrified boredom.
An orderly came in and sat down, beaming from ear to ear. "Hey m'man," he gleamed, "Where are you from?"
I was thrilled for the conversation. "Me?" I was the only one there. "I'm from Norfolk. Norfolk, Virginia."
"Norfolk, Virginia! Wow! Macarthur Mall is up in Norfolk..."
Macarthur Mall is a brand new shopping mall in Norfolk. It has been referred to as the Tyson's of the South.
"Macarthur Mall, that's like the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian of malls..." he trailed off, his eyes focusing on something distant and wonderful.
At this point a loud alarm bell began clanging repeatedly. We had to shout over it. "That mall, it's the best thing in the world. It's got an Abercrombie and Fitch and airthang. I don't go up in a mall unless it has an Abercrombie and Fitch, and that mall has the BEST Abercrombie and Fitch. That's my test for a mall, do it have an Abercrombie and Fitch, and that Abercrombie and Fitch passes like a motherfucker!"
He said 'motherfucker' with such sweet sincerity that I almost thought he was complimenting his mother on a new dress.
The bell continueed pealing.
"Yeah, boy, I was up in that mall one time and"
Another orderly hurried into the room and shouted "Mister Jenkins! Mister Jenkins! Do you hear that alarm bell, Mister Jenkins!?"
Mister Jenkins tore himself out of his retail reverie. He looked at me and winked, still smiling, and said, "Oh yeah, honey. I heard that alarm bell. I just wasn't tryin' to hear it."
Then he got up, excused himself, and went off to attend to God only knows what neglected task.
A couple weeks ago, I was waiting outside of Busboys and Poets for a friend who was very late. His cell was cut off, so we had to revert to the old days, when people either showed up when they said they were going to or waited around a whole lot more.
I was leaning up against the wall, just checking out the action on 14th Street when Cindy Sheehan walked out of the restaurant. She sighed and pulled out her cell phone, made a call, left a message, then sighed some more.
I had to speak to her. I thanked her for all her efforts, and her face lit right up again. I asked if she was alright.
"Yeah," she said, "I'm fine, just tired. I was calling my boyfriend to say goodnight, but I had to leave a voicemail."
For some reason it never occurred to me that Cindy Sheehan, leader of the international movement to stop this ridiculous war, would have a boyfriend.
"He lives in (a midwestern state I forget)," she explained. "He could live right next door to me in California, and it would be a long distance relationship, though. I travel so much, I'm only home in Calfornia a few days a month." Here, her face sagged. She has an infectious smile, but it dropped for a second, and I could see an exhausted middle-aged woman stretched way beyond her limits.
Trying to cheer her up, I asked about the fun side of the travel. "Surely you get to go to some awesome places, though," I said. "What's the most interesting place you've been recently?"
It turns out she'd been the guest of America's favorite Texan for a few days that week: Willie Nelson!
"What," I said, "You stayed at this house in Texas?"
"No, MAUI!" she replied. "It was gorgeous!"
"What's Willie Nelson's guest room like," I begged. I had to know.
"Oh, you wouldn't believe it. It's beautiful, and twenty feet past the end of the bed is a sliding glass door. You walk out that door, go fifty yards, and your toes are in the ocean!"
It blew my mind. I had another question, but I couldn't bring myself to ask it. It just seemed wrong at the time, and now I'm kicking myself.
"So what are you guys up to tonight?"
"Well," the leader of the peace movement said, "we're supposed to go dancing at Cafe Citron, but I really want to go to sleep. My friends want me up in the club, but I've been through so many time zones this week I just need to lay down."
Cafe Citron. Cindy Sheehan was going to go with her international peace activist friends to shake that ass at DC's biggest Eurotrash NoVa bridge-and-tunnel club. This was a revelation.
Not as big a revelation, though, as the answer to my unasked question would have been. We chatted for a little more, and then she left. On the tip of my tongue the whole time was "So did Willie Nelson get you baked back into the stone age or what? Was there pot in a small dish by the guest bed?"
Maybe a better question would have been: "So what was it LIKE getting high with Willie Nelson?"
Several months ago, I posted a video of an NASA animation that I set to Radiohead's 'National Anthem.'
Here's a reminder:
Another enterprising gent on YouTube has mashed together digital artist Daniel Maas's animations for NASA's Pathfinder mission to Mars with Nine Inch Nails' 'Sunspots.' The results are pretty bad-ass, if I dare say so.
Something about this video gives me the chills, and part of it has to do with the fact that I know we as a species are savvy enough to actually do this for real. I've said it before (click the link and scroll down), that humans are the admirable and terrifying vermin of the universe. All that scary alien stuff we see in sci-fi movies is sheer projection: we're the real techno-savvy monsters, adaptable, ruthless, and getting close to needing a new host planet.
My attention span makes a fruit fly look like a chess grandmaster by comparison, so it is easy for me to forget that this video starts on Earth. Mentally, I fade in once the chute on the lander deploys and starts floating to earth.
In my mind, I am a little boy -- maybe my own grandson -- playing in the vast red dust behind my family's trailer in Arizona. I see the lander bounce like a massive superball and I run towards it, arms outstretched, wanting to play. Then it deflates and hatches like some kind of egg, and I get really, really frightened.
When the small Pathfinder robot comes out, bristling with instruments and antennae, I try to play with it. But it just turns one of its scopes towards me and emits a series of whirring clicking sounds and rolls away, purposefully and uncaring.
The terror grows, and I cannot finish my dinner that night, knowing that in twenty years' time, there will be no dinners and none of my people left to want them.
It sounds grim, but man, if we can go to war under false pretenses and melt our own icecaps, we'll have no problem terraforming some sweet and peaceful planet and raping it for all it's worth.
I check my horoscope at least three different places a day. Compulsive, I know. I also drink about nine shots of espresso a day. I'm vibrating my way through cosmos as we speak. I'm sure that one habit has something to do with the other, but I can't quite see the connection.
The 'scopes are all pretty vanilla -- nothing too involved here. All I know is that I'm a Gemini with a Gemini rising, born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon. I'm fascinating and all fucked up, astrologically speaking. Excite has a pretty good setup, and I love the little graph they give you for your day -- it's got your romance, career, and personal energy all mapped out on a little bar graph. I can never figure out what the personal bar is for. What could be more personal than who I love and the way I contort my soul to get paid?
I digress. Must be the espresso residuals. Those crazy people that drink the coffee brewed from beans pulled out of monkey shit only do that because they don't know the street value of my bloodstream.
These horoscopes, I find them comforting somehow. I don't put a huge amount of faith in them, but hey, it wouldn't have been around this long if it didn't kinda work, right? They're comfortable lenses to see my day through, a good track to sorta see if I can adhere to.
The only scope that really matters, though, my desert-island can't live without it horoscope, is whatever one is published in the Washington Post. By that, I mean that any horoscope that is published in the Washington Post will be the ultimate filter that I apply to my life on a daily basis. I read Sydney Omarr for years until he went on to the great crystal farm in the sky, and now Holiday Mathis has earned my trust.
Here's my horoscope from yesterday:
GEMINI (May 21-June 21). Is it wrong to desire status? No -- as long as you realize it won't make you any happier. Having more status, you will impress others, but you probably won't care. Happiness happens at all levels of the status continuum.
I found those so, so deeply relieving. The fact is, I'm a bit status-obsessed. Not for other people, but for myself. I'm obsessed with my blog traffic, my readers, how far I can go with this blog and my work projects. I've spent so long writing for an audience, craving the approval of as many total strangers to feed my great green greedy dragon of an ego that now I don't completely understand how to turn it off. Every click, every eyeball, every unique visitor is a tiny massage to a sore self-confidence, a little reminder that someone out there has seen my series of complex rain dances behind this glowing screen and they might have even clapped.
This says to me that while it's not all pointless, this striving and craving and scrapping for audience, there is so much more. And man, I needed to hear that.
I'm reasonably happy with my life right now -- I like my job, love my family, and I'm surrounded by great friends. For the first time in my life I don't have to choose between food and fun. Sure, there's stuff I'd like to change. But to know that realistically speaking, this is as good as it gets -- I kinda like it. I find that relaxing.
Or rather, I find it as relaxing as someone who needs a caffeine fix at 1 am finds anything...
You ever just get into a roll at work and all of a sudden something jumps out of your mouth that's just a little too real? Do you keep going and gently steer away from the topic or blush and sputter apologies while you wait for the carpet to turn into a Sarlacc Pit and swallow you whole?
One thing's for damn sure: if you called somebody a 'nigga' at work, you probably weren't live on national television like Booker T here:
T gets 4 million bad motherfucker points for being all shiny and buff as hell, wearing gold tights and still making my testicles retract with the sound of his voice. He loses 3.5 million bad motherfucker points for dropping his head into his hands in shame, however. He still comes out ahead enough to be able to reach right through my computer screen and ask for my lunch money.
Do you think he was embarrassed because he called Hulk Hogan a racial slur period, or because he knew the Hulkasaurus was white and never flubbed the line at rehearsal?
My friend David works drilling for methane in Calcutta, India. For real. I posted one of his more colorful letters a while back, and have heard little from him since, except for this cryptic missive:
This place continues to impress me with it's ability to drive people insane. I found out that our last supervisor, to cut a long story short, ended his employment with us by chasing people with a front end loader.
Rather, I had heard little from Dave until last week, when I got this letter. You may be frustrated with the bozos at your office, but I can guarantee that your cubicle is about to get a whole lot more comfortable: ___ At this moment, I am waiting for our water truck to arrive. We can't drill without it. It’s a general election tomorrow, so driving is kind of banned for the moment. The police have apparently stopped our water truck. They have no doubt found out where it's headed and are holding it until the appropriate security measures (i.e. bribes) are carried out.
Here’s what else has happened in the last couple of shifts:
Our supervisor Liam (promoted from driller after supervisor 9 was carted off) spent last night vomiting back up all food and drink due to dehydration. It’s pretty hot here and he not only has to perform all supervisory and admin tasks, he also has to train our newly promoted driller, Abdul, who is now taking Liam's place. Liam sacked Abdul last month. The head office sent him back with a pay rise and instructions to train him to become a driller. Liam’s not getting much sleep at the moment.
I spent the first few hours of last nightshift waiting for semi trailer to come back from the old site with equipment necessary to continue rig move. I'm unable to drive back to the old site myself to find out what was the hold up as my driver had gone back to camp for some unknown reason. The crew at the old site eventually came back to tell me that the semi trailer driver got there okay, but announced he was running low on fuel and drove home instead. None of the other truck drivers were willing to go unless we made them dinner first (they'd already eaten dinner). So, I had to track down a prime mover at another site, drive it myself, hook on to the trailer, repair the seized brakes, load the trailer and drive it to the new site.
While transporting the rig yesterday, a man stopped Liam and demanded 100 rupees (3 dollars) to drive through "his" street or else Liam would be shot. This was no great drama, as the guy didn't actually have a gun on him. We met the same guy again today as he has been hired as a labourer for this well.
Everything, I mean everything, that we do here is harder than it needs to be. That is not the problem. That’s actually the challenge and the reason that we're flown over here. We’re meant to have the knowledge and the experience needed to make things happen where others can't.
The problem is that we get no support from our own company. Many of the difficulties we face can be alleviated, eliminated or just plain easier to ignore if our own employer was looking after us properly. But they're not.
There are times when it is worth gritting your teeth and working through a whole lotta crap because, eventually, things improve and you feel like you played a part in making something better than it looked like it was ever gonna be. And there are times when you are the only ones giving a shit and running yourself ragged while the people who should be making your life easier are nowhere to be found. After three months, I know where I’m at and I’d be an idiot to keep doing this.
The water truck still hasn't arrived, and I’m not sure if we'll be allowed to drive back to camp in the morning, either.
I literally sweated myself awake by ten. The temperature could get up to 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit) by day. Given that our quarters were made of corrugated steel and located in the middle of a shadeless desert, sleep was really just a series of naps punctuated by trips to the rainwater tank for a few glasses of water. Every time I relieved myself on the sand, a swarm of ants and flies would break their little insect necks just to slurp thirstily at my urine before it disappeared into the parched red dirt. By the time I got back to bed, the sweat, which had woken me up, had completely evaporated.
If we both happened to be awake Craig and I would chat sometimes in between siestas. I learned that his wife left him when his now-grown children were still small, after she had gambled away much of their savings and slept with a neighbour. “I’ll tell you, mate, times were tough in early days, but I kept our family together as best I could. We used to go out shooting as a family, the girls spottin’ ’roos like you’re doing now and the boys helping to gut them. I don’t have much saved in the bank, but them kids had all the books and clothes the other kids at school did. Life was hard enough for them with no mum, without other kids taking the piss out of us for lookin’ shabby.” This happened thirty years ago and Craig’s eyes still smarted from the pain.
Sometime around four in the afternoon, we’d start gearing up for another night’s shooting. I’d pull on my unspeakably foul-smelling T-shirt and the jeans that had become a giant, wearable scab, and we’d bump out into the cooling afternoon to get the feel of the land. That part of the day was the most enjoyable—four-wheeling across massive red stretches of scrub and sand, seeing feral camels and hulking yet nimble families of wild goats.
Then the night’s shooting would start, and it would go as I have described. The first ’roo of the night always would more or less fuck me up, and then I was just in it until the night was over. Craig would explode at me and call me a hopeless bloody cunt a couple of dozen times a night, balling his fists up and spitting with rage, then turn right around and ask about Natasha with genuine empathy. I’d get kicked and clawed by headless, convulsing kangaroos. Their severed heads would look serenely at me as Craig and I did unspeakable, efficient things to their bodies, and I would invariably get the creeps.
The closest parallel to Australian ’roo-shooting is perhaps the us$600 million a year hunting industry that has thrived on deer overpopulation in the United States. Drastic reductions in the numbers of wolves and coyote have created an ideal, predator-free environment for deer that has allowed their numbers to skyrocket. Herds ride roughshod over gardens, parks and roadways; in rural areas, they drastically heighten the dangers of driving at night.
However, deer in the US or Canada do not pose quite the same threat as Australia’s kangaroos. It’s this threat and the great numbers driving it that make killing kangaroos so commercially viable. While hunters may eat the deer they shoot, there’s no supply and demand influencing the hunting activity that allows them to make a living. Generally speaking, deer hunters will take two or three deer in a season and then call it quits. Craig and I pulled in a four-and-a-half-tonne haul on an eight-day trip.
On our last night, we got absolutely legless on VB (Victoria Bitter, Australia’s answer to Budweiser) cracking kangaroo legs and heaving the carcasses into the freezer as we told dirty jokes. I can remember slipping and falling face first into a four-foot deep pile of cold kangaroo corpses, screaming with laughter. “I don’t know whether to help you up or just hand you another beer, you drunken fuckwit,” Craig chortled.
He asked me what I was going to do when I got home, and I was about tell him I was never going back to sleepy Richmond again when he interrupted me, grinning widely. “Don’t tell me what you’re gonna do when you get home, mate. You’re a young buck with a pretty lady that loves you... You’ll have a root first chance you get. I’m an old fucka, so me and the missus are gonna sit down and watch bloody Law and Order.”
We talked about loves we’d lost and the loves we had and shared a sincere and honest belief in a divine power. To say we bonded is an understatement. I was on a million acres of desert with a foul-tempered man who was extremely good at killing large mammals; I had never felt safer in all of my life.
The next evening, after we’d spent two hours wrestling kangaroo carcasses into his trailer and tying the stack down with a tarp to keep the flies off, Craig turned to me and said the three little words that would have made anybody’s heart melt: “Let’s go home.”
********** This is part 5 of a five-part story. Click here for parts one, two, three, four, or five.
As you can imagine, a raging debate exists in Australia over the ethics of kangaroo shooting. A dozen Australian environmental groups have joined forces to mount a legal challenge to the hunting. This bloc has also found a powerful ally in the British animal-rights group Viva! (Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals). Viva!’s Save the Kangaroo campaign has attracted sympathizers outside of Australia, including famous vegetarians like Paul McCartney. Accusing Australia of conducting “the biggest wildlife massacre the world has every seen,” Viva! has scared major UK supermarket chains into removing kangaroo meat from their shelves and has also targeted soccer stars like David Beckham for wearing Adidas kangaroo-hide soccer boots.
Viva!’s most successful tool has been a video that shows an “experienced, unlicensed but commercial killer” brutalizing kangaroos in the outback at night and claims the activity is standard industry practice. The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) vehemently refutes every single claim made by VIVA—chiefly that, due to underreported kill rates, kangaroos are being driven to extinction—and reserves an exceptional level of rancour for the video in question. KIAA counters that non-commercial and illegal kills are a very minor problem and that the shooter in the video “was actually entrapped into performing his misdeeds by the film crew telling him they were from an American game-shooters magazine.”
As for the Australian RSPCA, it neither categorically rejects nor condones kangaroo shooting, but takes every opportunity to clarify that certain parts of the country are overpopulated by kangaroos and culling or selective shooting of the population “is essential for a humane management of the population.” The official RSPCA line is to prevent cruelty and seek the humane treatment of kangaroos. “If kangaroos are to be killed,” the society argues, “then every effort should be made to ensure it is done humanely.”
Kangaroo shooting is, in truth, nothing so much as working in a free-range slaughterhouse. Most people don’t want to see films of their sausages being made any more than they want to see kangaroos being shot responsibly, much less brutalized by someone who may or may not have been paid to prove a lobby group’s point. Interestingly enough, while I lived in Australia, unless I raised the issue I never heard anything about it there. People talked about the surf, the weather, the war in Iraq, sheep and shearing, mining, all sorts of other things. A number of my male friends had some passing knowledge of it, having grown up in rural areas before moving to Perth. They’d either done a bit of it themselves in a responsible fashion or gone on the piss with a bunch of their yobbish friends. But they had quickly outgrown the practice. Kangaroo shooting may not be pretty, but it’s necessary; most ordinary Australians don’t give it much thought past that.
Craig and I hunted from sundown to sun-up. We trawled the flat, red flood plains, bumping over dead fences and long-dried washouts, constantly combing the land with our massive, high-powered cones of light. I would zone out and get lost in the wonder of the Australian night sky. The stark light cast on the gnarled trees and brush made it feel like we were a deep-sea craft trawling the bottom of the ocean—the trees, giant anemones; black, invisible water all around us. Occasionally the lights would sweep across a bizarre, neglected sight, like the disembodied legs of an emu wound in razor wire. I would not have been surprised in the least if we had trundled past the exposed skeleton of a massive prehistoric whale.
I started taking my thoughts away, just to cope. I would remember the way that my girlfriend looked in the ocean as she swam up to me, clutching my torso to bob together through waves. I'd think about my grandmothe's voice, calling me for dinner as a kid, and my dog's paws on my leg reminding me of her dinnertime. These reveries would invariably be shattered by the sound of Craig’s barks from the cab. “Move that fuckin’ light, cunt, you’re off with the fuckin’ fairies up there, I can tell!”
The nights were really shocking and appalling to an American city kid—every time I drifted into mind-insulating escapism, we’d stop with a jerk and have to kill some more. We slowly marinated for hours in our sweat and the ’roos’ blood, dust settling into the mix to form a nearly visible, sludgy paste. Craig would take his shirt off early in the evening, exposing a torso that looked like a model of Mars built across a whale’s belly—broad expanses of craggy, handbag-quality skin marred with amateur scars from knife slips over the decades and a professional kidney removal. I was, at those moments, making a mental note: “This, Jeff ... This is what happens to people who think sunscreen is for pussies.”
“What the fuck are you starin’ at, mate? If you’re a fuckin’ poof, I don’t care, just keep it to your fuckin’ self, aye?”
Once we got back to camp, the task at hand was as simple as the night was nasty: get all twenty or so kangaroos off the truck, sever the legs, slip the government-issue tag through the animal’s rump and hang it in the massive diesel-powered meat locker. One living kangaroo smells wild and pungent. Over a tonne of dead ones slowly oozing their remainder blood is an unbearable olfactory experience. After several days, the smell would worm its way into our water supply, making the water taste like it had been poured over a kangaroo’s chilled, blood-clotted hide.
We generally finished the night around five in the morning and would finally collapse onto my sweat-stained foam mattress. After about three minutes, I couldn’t even hear the diesel generator roaring outside my door.
I'm sorry to interrupt the series in progress here, but I simply could not get my shit together last night, not even enough to warm over a pre-existing piece and pass it off as new. Instead, I've got this little tale for you:
A few years ago, my friend Eric (a heterosexual man) had a dream about Leonardo DiCaprio that was as vivid as it was erotic. Eric was kinda troubled by this. He told his roommate Jeannie all about it, describing the dream in flawless, blow-by-blow (ha! ha!) detail. She was like, "nah, don't worry about it. It's way more normal than you'd think." They both had a laugh about it and never discussed the dream again.
More to the point, they did not discuss the dream again until a few weeks later, at Eric's surprise birthday party. The centerpiece of the party, right in the middle of the drinks table, was Eric's birthday cake -- a rendering of his homoerotic DiCaprio dream in sugary, colored icing.
Before I reveal the photo, I'd like to take a second to address my family -- mainly my uncle and sister, who read this thing regularly, but any Simmermon relative should take note: You are about to see a rendering in frosting of my friend Eric (not the one you know personally) grasping Leonardo DiCaprio's genitalia. In the picture, both of them are pretty pleased about it. This would be a great time to close your browser and get a bit of fresh air -- or, if you feel like adding this post to the list of things that we have telepathically agreed to never, ever discuss, that's cool with me too.
And now, the DiCaprio Reacharound, in Icing:
There was way more cake than party attendees, most of whom had filled up on tequila before cake-time in the first place. Also, the cake tasted nasty. Eric and Jeannie sent pieces home with everyone and still had a lot left over.
Eric tells me that five days after the party, he opened the fridge for a late-night snack. And the only thing in there, other than mustard bottles and some dried-up old takeout, was a single piece of cake on a plate. Apparently nobody else had felt like eating the piece with Eric's hand wrapped around Leo DiCaprio's unit on it.
So Eric ate it alone, under the light of a lone fluorescent bulb one drunken Manhattan midnight, quietly reflecting on his life, and what the twenty-sixth year of it would bring.
We wait for the sun to drop. Then Craig turns to me. “Here’s what you do. Get out of the cab and up on the back of the ute with this spotlight here. I’ve got on on my side as well. You move that light nice and slow over the left side of the road while I drive and do the right. You see any ‘roos with that thing, tap the roof with your hand.”
Simple enough, it seemed. The hard stuff came along pretty quickly. We stopped with a jerk, Craig mashing the brakes with his feet as he loaded a shell into his rifle and took aim. A kangaroo sat frozen in my spotlight’s cone of light, its eyes two tiny reflectors and its jaws the only movement.
When a kangaroo gets shot in the head, it jumps straight up and flips over backwards like some kind of weird 3-D Atari game. One leg vigorously pumps the air, a flailing faucet draining away the last of a kangaroo’s energy until it drops into the dust with the rest of the body. My job was then to leap off the Ute, run up to the kangaroo, grab it by that same recently-kicking leg or the tail and drag it back. Ninety percent of the time the animal was dead by the time I made it to the truck.
As I walked slowly to my first dead kangaroo, processing all of what had just happened and what I was about to do through thin filter of functioning emotional shock, Craig barked at me from the Ute.
“Let’s get a wriggle on, we haven’t got all bloody night!” His shouts were punctuated with the rhythmic clacking drags of a knife on steel.
I dragged the dying beast as fast as I could, trying to block out the little shakes traveling up my arm as its shattered head bumped over uneven ground. This was even harder than it sounds because I was also trying to block out the distinct thought that I had seen something writhing in the kangaroo’s pouch as I grabbed its leg.
I didn’t have time to dwell for long. As soon as I got to the truck, Craig handed me an enormous machete and a bloodstained wooden block.
“You know how to use these? You’re gonna learn fast, mate. Watch close and listen carefully. I fuckin’ hate having to repeat meself. First, we get in there and split the heart. If ‘e’s not quite dead, that’ll do him quicker than anything. It gets all the extra blood out too so’s you don’t have such a fuckin’ mess later. Then we get the head off and put it out here.”
With this, Craig stabbed the kangaroo in the neck, rummaging around in the spine for what seemed like a particular juncture of vertebrae. Upon finding it, he quickly slashed through the remaining neck tissue, grabbing the poor creature’s head by its long ears and flinging without even looking into the dark bush, where it hit the dirt and rolled with a series of sloppy wet flopping sounds.
With maximum efficiency, he turned to the tail, severing it from the ‘roo’s rump with a few deft strokes, grunting “these’re worth a dollar apiece. Coons buy’em and make soup out of em. Bloody beautiful soup, too. Lotsa guys don’t save ‘em, but I say why throw money away? Now get over here with that block and machete.”
I was responsible for hacking the forepaws off of each kangaroo while he beheaded and be-tailed them. Craig reckoned I’d pick this skill up quickly enough. I had no prior machete experience, and found that I had to hack repeatedly at the animals’ wrists, sending a fine spray of blood and bone splinters onto my face and into the night sky. I learned very quickly to keep my mouth shut at work, both literally and figuratively.
“Yeah, you’re crap at that, alright,” Craig said. “Now, take this knife and cut that bit of skin there on the back leg.” Although longer, the bit of skin Craig referred to is analogous to the skin between a human’s Achilles tendon and the bones of the ankle. Under Craig’s guidance, I guided a large, S-shaped meathook tipped with very sharp points through the hole. Surprisingly enough, I had not yet vomited.
“Now, for the big boomers, there’s no way you’re gettin’ ‘em up by yourself. I’ll help you with this’n and the other big boys. But the does, you can get those alone. That’s why you’re here. Me arm is all fucked from years of this shit.”
Female kangaroos, however, pose their own problems. Although easier to lift than male ‘roos or “boomers,” the does are often pregnant. And in those cases, the only humane thing to do for the joeys that can’t survive outside the pouch is to kill them on the spot, quickly and decisively. It can be an emotional challenge. Even for Craig, who accepted this part of the job decades ago.
The best methods for dispatching joeys include beheading them or stomping them beneath your boot. The bigger ones you grab by the back legs and smash against a nearby rock or even the truck’s tire. After we killed five or six ‘roos, Craig would stop to gut them, pulling the babies out to dispatch them en masse. After one such performance Craig peered at me through the swirling dust and sighed.“Mate, I’ve been doin’ this for fifty years, and this part always makes me feel like such a cunt.”
Let the record show that I didn’t participate in this part of the job. The one time that I did, I made a horrible mistake. I was dragging a doe up to the Ute and could see something wriggling in the pouch. All of a sudden two legs stuck out. I grabbed them, pulling the joey free. I meant to hold it up and shout to Craig, “Hey, what should I do with this one,” but it leaped out of my hand and hopped into the distance with a chirping scream.
“You stupid fucking fuckwit, that joey’s not big enough to survive on its own out here! E’s gonna go off and get eaten or starve to death all alone all because you think you’re such a fucking animal lover! Now chop that cunt’s paws off doubletime and help me get these fuckas up on the Ute!”