Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chronicles of Cow Country High VI

Since the cold and snow were letting up, we started playing basketball after school on the humble little court in Dutch John. One night there were new kids on the court. They had just moved in to town. It was Minnow and the Epitome-of-Sweetness. And because I am awesome at first impressions, I believe that was the night my brother and I got into a scuffle on the basketball court. For some reason we occasionally get into fights when we play sports. It’s mostly my brother’s fault but I think it was my fault that night.

Minnow has told me the story again and again: his father announced to the family that they were all moving to Cow Country on April 1. He thought it was a joke. And when all of their stuff was packed in a truck and he had a new room in a new house and he saw the glorified trailer park lacking paved roads where he would attend school, he thought the joke had gone too far.

Minnow’s first sister was so sweet because she looked like a little pioneer girl in their family photos and she idolized Ty Detmer for his prowess on the football field at Brigham Young University where one of her other brothers was in school. But sweetness is wasted on me. I am much better at annoying-older-brother, so we called her sloth because she wouldn’t run when we played basketball and if you confronted her about it she would disrupt the game by pointing to a mystery bump on the calf of her leg and claim that it was cancerous.

Minnow inadvertently and begrudgingly took Cow Country by storm. Geppetto had an older sister named Cordelia and Cordelia was the uncontested and reigning leader in Grade Point Average at Cow Country High. To be honest, there was nobody at the school who cared to give her a challenge. But Minnow moved in and his GPA was the better. Fair-haired Minnow was 6’3”, went to church, had the highest GPA in town and was awarded the schools “Outstanding Male” certificate within weeks of his arrival.

This is probably one of those seldom times that a discouraging word was heard on the range and it was heard most loudly from Minnow. The award was given as a flattering gesture but it was more of a symbol as to how pathetic and desperate the school really was and, as the new smartest guy around, Minnow knew it.

In California, my biology teacher would blow up Sodium Metal in water and let us dissect things, but in Cow Country the science teacher looked and sounded just like Vizzini (“Inconceivable!” From the Princess Bride). He was very smart but not a great teacher. The only hands-on work that he did was to photo-copy worksheets. He would also expect the kids to respect him and quiet themselves independently at the minute class was supposed to begin. When the rowdy teens inconceivably were not quiet by their will alone, Vizzini would stand at the front of the class with his face turning red. When steam started piping out of his ears he would leave the classroom and pout to himself in the hallway until he felt the kids were ready to behave. Expecting kids to show a boring teacher such respect is good in theory but didn’t work out so well in practice.

The class was organized with tables that could seat two students each. For reasons that should be obvious by now, I was alone at one of the tables. On Minnow’s first day of school he showed up late for science class and he took the seat next to me.

He made me laugh because everyday he penned out homage to his disdain for Cow Country in his notebook: “I Hate Manila.” And then the next day: “I STILL Hate Manila.” And he decorated the words with hard, thick strokes of ink.

And when he arrived, things seemed to come together. At the very least, Minnow and I had a fish-out-of-water bond working. And Minnow went to church with Geppetto and they became fast friends. And as soon as we looked like we had our eastside pack together, Beanpolio didn’t want to be left out. In a very short time the four of us formed a close group. Things seemed to take on an “Us and Them” atmosphere. We didn’t necessarily dislike everyone else, we just didn’t seem to mix that well and were most comfortable with each other.

And with this newfound strength, confidence and support, there was bound to be trouble.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

80's Movie Quote Trivia

I'm bored. If you are reading this then you must be bored, too. So here are some lines from mainstream 80's movies. I tried to keep away from easy lines that would be plastered all over the internet, which actually makes it tough to make a good quiz. I took out, "Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?" and stuff like that. But see if you can get these:

1. Even in the future nothing works.

2. 8 am tomorrow I'm a senior. I've got one year to make it all work and that's what I'm going to do. Make it work.

3. I got some naked pictures of your mom taking a bath. You want to buy em? Real cheap.

4. The bones tell me... nothing.

5. I spilled beer all over that car when it smashed into me. Who's gonna pay my cleaning bill?

6. Otisburg. Otisburg? OTISBURG?!?!

7. If this were to get out it would seriously ruin my reputation as a dude.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Broke The Mountain's Back

My friends have offered up their feelings on the movie "Brokeback Mountain" and now I will, too.

Here are the thoughts that stood out in my mind while watching the movie:

1. Heath Ledger is earning my respect as an actor. He does a great job of seeming like a different person in nearly every movie; compare Brokeback to The Brothers Grimm to all those other teeny bopper movies.

2. Yes, I have an appreciation for acoustic guitar and vivid trips to the mountains.

3. I am not gay. I'm not gonna tell you who or how to love but that doesn't mean I'm gonna celebrate watching some dude take a tour through another dude's chocolate factory. Especially in this movie; You get the feeling that both of the characters had something of a lost childhood but I still expected Ennis to coldcock Jack when first their lips met. And I expected it for awhile after that, too.

4. Uugghh, more kissing? I am REALLY not gay.

5. The characters in the story are likable but I get a little disappointed and lose sympathy for them simply because they are never true to themselves. Ennis is true to a cowboying lifestyle that leaves him impoverished and lonely. He learned long ago the hatred and violence towards gays by the people with whom he chooses to associate. Why not leave those people behind to pursue your true joy in life?

Both characters remain faithful to the end that Greco-Roman wrestling and spooning up in the mountains are the first and second best reasons for living. Yet they both marry girls and have kids. Nobody is honest to eachother. Jack travels to Mexico on occassion to get his fix of man-meat from male prostitutes and Jack's parents tell Ennis that he even made plans once to move to the mountains with some other dude.

So Jack wanted the mountains with a nice guy. Ennis wanted the mountains with Jack but would never allow it to be a permanent thing due to lessons from his youth. I felt really bad for Ennis' wife. Jack's wife obviously wasn't too concerned. They ended up sad and I feel that it was because they weren't willing to work for what they really wanted in life.

As I am writing all of this "Cow Country High" stuff I hope that people can get the sense that I feel like I was part of a special time and place that I would continue forever if I could (not counting the school crap). In that respect, it is easy for me to get drawn into the dream of the gay movie cowboys and just be glad that my heaven isn't nearly so complicated as theirs. It's funny because over the years I thought of the "Cow Country High" stories as a tale of friendship but the more I think ahead of things to come, it seems to be more about freaky guys and their endless desire to nail teenage girls.

Maybe when I put all the stories together in a dimestore novel, I will give it a tagline like: In a world where dudes are ferociously battling to bang teenage girls, a few guys and girls were lavished with magnificence by a remarkable place and supportive friends and neighbors. Gimme a break, I don't have time to think of something clever.

It would have been awesome if this movie had come out when I was attending "Cow Country High" but it probably would have been more trouble than I could handle as I would have no restraint in using the film to annoy straight cowboys.

Overall, it's a pretty good movie but I felt like I needed a counterbalance to the gay stuff. Want to make out, Sugar Beat?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Power of Love Deliver You There

After a particularly hard night of dealing with kids who won't sleep.

Eleanor: "I can't take it anymore."

Me: "Hey. I love you."

Eleanor: "No you don't."

Me: "Yes, I do. All of us do. We love you to death. Didn't I tell you that everything I love turns to dust?"

Chronicles of Cow Country High V

In March, the sun was moving closer and there was only snow in most places. Bare patches of earth were beginning to show, even among the juniper trees. Beanpolio introduced me to a veritable goldmine for industrious teens, such as we were: The dump. It was a landfill, so you couldn’t count on seeing the same stuff on each visit. You had to grab things fast, lest they be buried tomorrow.

They had one hole for garbage and another hole for scrap wood and things like that, which made it easier for us. There was also a Forest Service dumping ground where they put things out of the way, like the floating outhouses they had used on the lake in years before but later decided were a bad idea.

But what Beanpolio really wanted to show me were two stacks of doors sitting next to the hole full of garbage. Regular house doors; front doors, bedroom doors, closet doors. I guess there were between 50 and 100 doors in those stacks. He told me he had designs on building a fort using these doors. I said, “Cool.” And we grabbed a bunch of doors and tossed them over a chain link fence and carried them to a spot he’d picked out already. He had moved some doors there previously as well. It is hard to pick a good spot for a fort in that area because the places that don’t have juniper trees turn into washes during rainstorms. But Beanpolio had picked a good spot that wouldn’t flood. We could envision the fort even as the doors were flat on the ground or leaning on trees around us.

Then it was back to the brimstone school with the creepy crawls and the living dead. My story for English class was coming along nicely. I was doing my part. Beanpolio was a year ahead of me in school and most of my classes were with the rest of the sophomores. My favorite class was woodshop because I got to make things. I did most of it by myself or it was just me and the teacher. I made a nightstand that is in my daughter’s room right now. The metal shop was basically in the same area as the wood shop, so sometimes the cowboys would overflow into where I was working but most the time they stayed in their space, welding “headache racks” for their trucks.

I wasn’t making friends in my class. The nicest guy there was still a cowboy through and through and he worried me a little. Nothing bad, but when we played basketball in Gym and I was guarding him as he tried to drive the lane, he spat, “Get out of the way. I play football, dammit!” Remember, the school had no football team. I think he was trying to sound tough and give me a reason to fear him. I thought he sounded like he was about to cry. There was no sense in reaching out to a guy like that. Leave him be.

The Green River is a world-class destination for fly fishing and occasionally movie stars fly in just to drop their scuds in the rushing water. But if you go into any gas station or lodge in the Flaming Gorge area and you see an autographed photo of a movie star hanging on the wall, the odds are, it will be a photo of Loni Anderson.

Would you believe that THE Loni Anderson is connected to Cow Country High? It’s true. Her sister was the Home Economics teacher at the school. Her nephew was in my class. My first impulse was to call him Eyebrow Monster for this story, but let’s call the nephew Eddie Munster instead. Eddie Munster was the son of the Forest Ranger. They say Eddie Munster dated one of the twins from a Double Mint gum commercial. Eddie Munster worked summers at the local yacht club. Do you know what that made him? Hot. Shit.

I think Eddie Munster had seen the world outside of Cow Country and he knew cowboy wasn’t cool everywhere. So Eddie Munster was only cowboy some of the time. Other times he was Utah Cool, meaning denim shorts and a braided belt. Eddie Munster wasn’t braggadocious about how he had things happening in a far out kind of way but he did walk around with a strange grin locked on his face like it was only a matter of time before you found out how great he was and then, oh yes, the fawning would begin. He could wait.

I think these things gave Eddie Munster a boost in self-confidence. He wasn’t shy to talk and he talked loudly like he was going to say something funny, but I can’t remember anything he ever said as funny. I remember he took the dry erase markers and was making a show of sniffing them at his desk. The principal rolled his eyes at the wolf-boy of destiny and went on with class. I think that’s about as funny as he gets.

I tried to make jokes with him during class for a couple of days but he made no response, except one day he got up and moved to a different desk. Like I said, my material was no good with this crowd. Too bad I didn’t have a famous aunt or a need to be a prick, maybe we’d have something in common.

Eddie Munster came up to me in the locker room one day and said, “Emmett. My dick is purple.” I looked at him and waited. I was certain there must be more to the story. He said, “MY DICK. IS PURPLE.” I waited.

Then he calmed down and said, “We were talking about how you laugh at everything. I was just testing you.” What was the difference between passing and failing, I wondered. Nothing, as far as I could tell.

There was no luck for friends on the drab side of the lake. When the bus took me back to the sublime side of the lake I started walking home. I was walking next to Geppetto who was a year behind me in school. We said hello. I was staring at an outcropping of red rocks on a nearby ridge. I asked him, “Have you ever been up to those rocks up there?” He said, “No.” I said, “They look cool. We should hike up there sometime.” Geppetto said, “Yeah.” I said, “Do you want to go right now?” Geppetto said, “Sure.”

We didn’t even go home first. We just pointed ourselves up the mountain and went. It was a few miles up the hill and Geppetto told me how all of his family lived down around Vernal. His grandpa had a recycling plant and would pay him to strip copper wire. He planned on living around here forever.

I liked Geppetto. I guess getting to know someone is just not worth the risk for some people. With others, you can just point up a mountain and say, “Want to climb it?”

My Laugh

This isn't meant to be entertaining. It's just a getting-to-know-me reference post and I think it will probably come up a bit in the future.

It's about my laugh.

I have this laugh. I've had it all my life. It has a life of its own. It doesn't need me at all. I don't even think about it. I don't even notice it. It's just been there. My whole life. Like my shadow.

It's kind of an Elmer Fudd, Beavis and Butthead thing. My wife laughs at me and calls it "Your nervous giggle." I don't think that "nervous giggle" is a good way to describe it.

But like I said. I don't even notice it. I don't realize that I do it. I'm not about to try and change it. But when I hear myself on tape or video or whatever, I hear it. That's when I notice it. And I think, "Man... that's kind of annoying. That guy laughs way too much. Why does he do that?"

Simple. It's just been that way his whole life. His laugh is like his shadow.

Other people who laugh way too much always tell me they love my laugh. And everyone else is just polite enough not to say anything. But I've thought it too. "Man... that's kind of annoying." But I'm not about to try and change it now.

When I was in that car accident last summer, after I was soaked in Dr. Pepper and waited 3 hours to fill out an accident report, closet-gay Brad and his pseudo-girlfriend and the pseudo-girlfriends family drove me to my car.

Brad told me later that when I got out of the car, the 13 year old little sister said, "Finally. He's gone. Every time that guy says something, he laughs." Man. That guy is kind of annoying.

Don't worry. It will grow on you.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Portraits of General Apathy and Major Boredom

I need to strike first, so here.

I finished my shower and came out of the bathroom, partially clothed.

Eleanor: "Wow. You really do look like Superman."

Me: "You mean my body?"

Eleanor: "No. Just your hair. I'm going to call Emilee and tell her she did a good job on your haircut."

And I tell you that in defense of this conversation we also had:

Eleanor: "I'm trying to laugh like that one surfer fish on Spongebob. Nahh Ahh Ahh. Nah Ah."

Me: "That's not very good. It kind of sounds like a goofy witch or someone doing a bad impression of a neighing horse."

Eleanor: "You try it."

Me: "I think I can do it, better than you anyway, but my throat is sore."

Eleanor: "You're rude. And don't say you can do it better than me if you won't do it."

Me: "I know I can do it better than you. I just don't think you have the pipes for it. Just like I can't sing like Mariah Carey."

Eleanor: "Do it!"

Me: "No. I'll have to do it loud and the kids will wake up."

Eleanor: "You're mean. You tell me I sound like a dumb witch or an ugly horse. See, I'm going to start my own blog just to counter your blog and tell everybody all the mean things you say to me."

Me: "Are you going to call it Swims-with-fins?"

Eleanor: "It would be Swims-without-fins, dummy."

Me: "I thought Swims-WITH-fins would be the opposite. Maybe, Doesn't-swim-with-fins. Anyway, can we just end this conversation now?

Eleanor: "Ooooh. You're a mean, mean man."

Me: "If I was as mean as you say I am then I would have told you to shut up 15 minutes ago."

And just so the world knows: She used to threaten to break my fingers when I did the "Whatever" W-sign at her with my hands.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tricks to Being Alone and How I Put Too Much Stock In Cartoons

Are you familiar with those days when you just kind of hang around the house and by the end of the day you just start to feel bummed out?

I think it has to do with our desire as people to make progress in our lives. If we hang out for a day and don't make any kind of progress on a personal level then things start to seem wrong. I think this explains why we use shopping as therapy in America. Because if we buy something cool, though perhaps completely unnecessary, then it makes sense to us that our lives will be substantially better once we have that thing.

To avoid any guilt, one day I thought, "maybe I will go out and get my wife something nice." Just so long as I'm buying something. One second later I reminded myself that we don't have any money for me to go buy her something nice, but while I was thinking about money I sat down and paid some bills. And somehow, paying the bills made me feel better. Not like I was getting ahead in life but that I was at least taking care of my responsibilities, which is something I know a lot of people have difficulty doing.

I told my wife about my thoughts and that I was surprised that paying bills made me feel better. Here is what she said:

Eleanor: "I think you get bummed out because you are high maintenance."

Me: "WHHAAAaaaaa...?"

Eleanor: "You are high maintenance. Listen. Most people are happy sitting on their butts watching TV all day. All it takes for me to be happy is for my husband and kids to be nice to me."

Me: "Goodluck with that one."

Eleanor: "But you... you expect life to be awesome. You expect everything you do to be a cool experience, like snowboarding or biking or travelling. You expect more out of life than most people and when you can't have it you get bummed out."

Me: "Television sucks. I can't sit inside all day. And I have this crazy idea that life should be enjoyable. I'm an idiot."

It's good to pinpoint the problem. So, in short, I think people need to be patient with themselves. Baby step through work. Baby step through bankruptcy. Baby step to the timely passing of your wealthy relatives. And then you are set. If you can't wait that long, I hear drug dealing puts you right on the fast track... but if you choose this route DO NOT GO TO PRISON. I hear bad things about that place. And don't piss off the drug cartels, I hear that is an unpleasant experience as well.

The very best thing is if you can develop an attitude towards work like Spongebob. He loves his life and everyday is pretty much the best day ever. I often think that but then I compare my life to that of the yellow one without spicules. Squarepants owns his own home. Flat out owns it, before he even has his boating license. All of his family is in town and his two best friends live right next door. He has easy access to the Jellyfishing Fields and Goo Lagoon. He can setup a bubble blowing stand in seconds and even produce a living bubble friend if the other guys aren't available. He has no problem living on fastfood wages.

If I didn't have to worry about a home mortgage, I could easily live on the money I made as a dishwasher/busboy/prepcook as a teenager. If I could get out of town by taking a hop, skip and a jump down the street then I would rarely complain about living where I live. And friends? Who has time for those. Most of them can't even be bothered to check in on your blog every once in a while.

Yes, Spongebob has got the life. He should never feel sorry for himself ever again. If it was really feasible to live at the bottom of the ocean with a fishbowl on your head I think we would all be there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Some Real Conversation For Your Ass

The thing about posting bits and pieces from conversations I have with people (usually my wife) is that I only imagine they are entertaining to me and my blabbing partner. I can easily see them from an objective perspective as, you know.... pointless.

But I will ask the readers. Do you like or dislike these?

Shopping before Christmas---

Me: "Are you really going to make me go into this store just so you can buy MORE wrapping paper?"

Eleanor: "EVERY husband has to do stuff like this ALL the time."

Me: "But do you ever wonder where bad husbands come from?"

What's in a name---

Eleanor: "You never brought me the fingernail-polish-remover like I asked you to."

Me: "I looked for it. I couldn't find it. Don't you think that fingernail-polish-remover is a funny name?"

Eleanor: "No."

Me: "You don't think it's funny that the stuff doesn't get it's own name. It has to be named after something else with the word REMOVER added to the end? It's kind of like when people call you Emmett's-Wife or Ethan's-Mom."

Eleanor: "Yeah, they take away your identity. Every time I go to the school EVERYONE ALWAYS calls me Ethan's-Mom."

Me: "See. When you go to the school you aren't Eleanor anymore. You're fingernail-polish-remover."

Eleanor: "Okay. I guess it's kind of funny."

And if anyone wants to argue that "Hey, that stuff is called acetone." Then I argue that the only people who know that are science geeks and people who are desparate for reading material when they are sitting in the bathroom working out a three-day cheese-plug.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Answer to the Question Nobody Asked

I spent most of the weekend with my younger brother and half-sister at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The festival is a strange mix of experiences for me.

First, I was excited to be with my siblings and I always think of movies as impersonal events. Like if you take a date to a movie, you may as well just be watching a movie by yourself at home. You can't talk, you can't get to know each other. So I was a little resentful of the movies for dominating the time I could spend with family, but at the same time: They flew in from California for the festival. So I can't be that mad.

And it is possible that the movies saved my little sister from having her ear completely gnawed off by me. I can be loud. I can be obnoxious. I can take things too far. When I say things that may be overheard like:

"We'll just hang out here with the smokers... even though they aren't supposed to be smoking within 25 feet of the entrance to the building. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT, PEOPLE?"

or when people are shuffling into the theater seats a row behind us and I stop talking mid-sentence to whirl around and hiss the word


at somone, and then my sister started laughing a hearty laugh... I want to believe that it was because she finds me wildly entertaining and not because laughing is just her way of dealing with an embarrassing situation. I ask that my sister please let me believe that, even if it isn't true.

My sister is in the "Film Society" at her respective university and she had a house with twentysome of her fellow students in the mountain town. There were two students in particular who seemed to be the designated Bosshogs who yapped and yapped about making everyone stand in line for tickets but never seemed to get anything accomplished aside from making everyone wait around and listen to their annoying boardroom-type banter. We were supposed to give some girls a ride into Salt Lake to their hotel and we felt obligated to listen to everyone gab for almost half an hour with no final decisions when my little sister just told them, "Well, we're going now." And then she walked away slowly with a sidelong glance as if to say, "going, going, gone." It was the right move.

When we got to the car, I said, "That one guy talked so funny. He's from the Future Micro-managers of America or something." I also added later, "He probably talks that way about everything, too, like taking out the garbage."

My brother said, "I've talked to him twice now and BOTH TIMES he used the word 'GOTTEN.' Is that even a word? It doesn't sound right."

And my sister lost her faith in the Future Micromanagers of America when it turned out that I kept buying my tickets right at the door when the movies started for less than what she was paying for tickets bought by her fellow students sleeping on sidewalks in freezing weather. After that she didn't have anything to do with her film society and made it into all the movies she wanted to see anyway.

The festival is a fun atmosphere as long as you don't gag on all the people flaunting money and trying to look important. It seems like most of the films are out to shock people. I commented that I would like to see ONE film that doesn't have a gun in it and everyone seemed to be doubtful that I would achieve that goal. Maybe the party got started on the wrong foot when the first movie I saw was called "Weapons" and the opening scene of the movie has Nick Cannon's brains getting Wild n' Out with the aid of a shotgun. That movie was well-made but still amounts to just hanging out with a bunch of dumb teenagers.

We watched a mexican movie called "Night Buffalo" and though I seemed to understand most of what they were saying, even without the subtitles, it still left me completely lost.

When we came out of the theater I said, "That movie was surprisingly boring considering how many naked people were in it." And I asked my sister, "Why didn't I understand it? Who was that guy with the longer hair?"

She said, "That was a flashback. It was the main character."

I said, "Oh crap. I thought the whole thing was in chronological order."

It was one of the most confusing movies I've ever seen. But even if I knew that most of the scenes were flashbacks I am still convinced that the ending was stupid.

I didn't see any stars while I was there. My sister got into Steve Buscemi's movie and he told everyone the backstory to the remake he made. My sister also knew the director of a movie called "Four Sheets to the Wind." He is a native american from Oklahoma and the movie is basically about an Indian who discovers that there is life off of the rez.

Before the showing of the film, we went to a luncheon being held by all of the people who made the movie. The director was there and all and we sat at a table with a bunch of people who are part of the film festival.

A lady who said she was a film-maker and "programmer" for Sundance started talking to my sister. My sister just told her she was there with her film society and that she had met the director of this movie and then my sister got up to buy us tickets to the showing of Four Sheets that started immediately after the luncheon. The Festival ladies turned to my brother and I and wanted to know what business we had there.

I said, "That girl is our little sister and we're just here to make sure nobody messes with her." And I tried to say it in a way that implied these little ladies had better watch out. I told them that I lived in Utah and that my brother was living on the rez. They asked where the reservation was in California and I asked them if they had heard about the 2002 fishkill in the Klamath River, as that is one of the more notable news stories of the rural area in recent years. They said no but they wanted to know all about it. I directed them to my brother as he has worked for the tribal fisheries department for years and years now.

My sister returned from unknowingly buying tickets to some after-party later in the week that none of us will be able to attend, and she was surprised to find us talking about the river and salmon. I started to apologize to my sister for being weird and she said, "No, I'm glad you are talking about this... I just don't understand how this conversation got going in the few seconds it took me to go buy tickets."

It turns out that the film-maker/programmer is from Oakland (which is near my sister's school) and is making a movie "about water." The lady told my brother she would like to talk to him more about the whole fishkill story because of his fish knowledge, but it was my sister who was there to make connections so we had to bump her into the spotlight. I told them that my sister was the leader of her tribal youth group and student body president and that she had won a major environmental award over a river project. My sister told me to hush and gave the lady her business card (18 with business cards!) and told her she could send her a good DVD about the whole thing.

My sister was a little disappointed that during her entire time at the film festival, she had only given out that one card. I told her it sounded like that might be the one that counts though.

There was another lady at our table who said she was in charge of all of the shortfilm submissions for the whole festival. My brother and sister didn't realize who she was but I told them, "I think she's just the lady who picks up the mail. Otherwise I would have laid on the charm." Instead of trying to impress her, I told her about my role in that "vampire western" movie I worked on. About how I played an Indian guide who is killed by vampire only to rise again as a vampire and be killed again. And I told her with a straight face that it was a shame that the film was never finished because "it was really groundbreaking stuff." The lady had no response.

Then I missed the "Four Sheets to the Wind" movie because there was no place to park the car and the movie would have been half over by the time I parked and rode a shuttle back to the Raquet Club. So I let my brother and sister watch the movie and I played Mario Kart in my car until the movie was over.

So I embarrass my sister but I do it for her own good. And I'm trying to help her. If I expect her to come back I think I will probably have to make my own awesome film for the festival and then I can be her connection. I am going to get to work on it right away.

I like the movie-makers probably more than I like the movies themselves. It's interesting how it all comes together. And the lesson my sister should learn from this experience is the same lesson we should all learn: It doesn't matter what knowledge you have, it matters what you will do with that knowledge. Think about it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chronicles of Cow Country High IV

Time past the way it always does. I wasn’t making any friends at school but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, given my options.

I tried joking around with the kids in my classes but none of the rules I thought I knew seemed to apply here. Figuring out what was “cool” at Cow Country High was like playing some hick version of Three Card Monte. The gag was on me. I didn’t know anything about “Yeah, we drive a BMW… a Big Mormon Wagon, HUH, HUH, HUH.” It was a little early for me to be dancing close with a girl and have someone say, “Leave room between you for the Book of Mormon” and then come back with, “There’s room between us for the Book of Mormon… on CD. HUH, HUH, HUH.” And I certainly didn’t know about calling people a “Renob.” But if I knew then the things I know now, I totally could have ruled at that school. The question is: Would I have wanted to?

There were only a handful of teachers at the school. Every teacher seemed to wear at least three hats, which is ironic being as hats are not allowed in any school in Utah (The exception being: if you are a girl you may wear a hat on school grounds because “it’s part of the outfit.” Technically, once you add a hat to ANYTHING you may be wearing, male or female, doesn’t it automatically become PART OF THE OUTFIT? Just another incomprehensible thing I SHOULD have understood before I arrived at the school, I guess.) By “three hats” I mean to say: my Algebra teacher was my Health teacher was my Driver’s Education teacher and so on.

The school principal was my English teacher. The first thing he did was assign us to write a story about anything. From February on, I spent most of my time focusing on writing that story. I will post the story on the web soon for your reading pleasure if I can find my copy of it. But another thing the principal did was to break the class into groups to prepare for an oral report on “What do I see myself doing five years from now?”

I was in a group with a “super-senior,” which is someone who should have graduated already but has failed to do so. Let us call him Donny Osmond because he hails from the quintessential Mormon family. How many Osmonds can you fit in the cab of a pickup truck? I think the answer will always be “at least one more.” It’s always a party when you have a big family.

Anyhow, to help him prepare, I asked Donny what his plans were for the next five years. He told me, “Well, I plan to graduate high school and then go on a mission and then probably go to college.”

I was still ignorant to what Mormons were all about at the time, so I had to ask, “What do you mean you’re going to ‘go on a mission’? You’re going to join the marines and go on a mission, like Chuck Norris/Delta Force?”

And that gave us something to talk about for the next ten minutes; about how he was going to feed Jesus’ sheep. And he got up and told the class his one sentence just like he told me and they didn’t have any questions at all.

Almost right after Donny was done, his younger sister Marie got up in front of the class and outlined her own plans for the next five years: “I’m going to graduate high school and then get married and have lots of babies; Twelve of them.”

To me, it sounded like the girl was hot to trot. He’s a little bit Country, she’s a little bit Rock n’ Roll. But again, the one sentence came across as normal to everyone else so I wasn’t about to risk opening my big mouth.

Being friendless wasn’t bothering me, but one day my step-dad came to me and said, “There’s a kid next door named Beanpolio who is about your age. You guys should go do something together.” I asked, “Does he seem pretty cool?” My step-dad said, “Well. He wears glasses and he kind of walks like he’s got a stick up his butt… but he seems alright.”

I appreciate my step-dad for his upfront, yet diplomatic, assessments of people.

It seems like Beanpolio talked to me first and we ended up taking some inner-tubes into the mountains to slide down some hills and build some snow caves under a vivid blue sky and accommodating winter sun. There was a mountain field with a deep stream meandering every which way and it created a fantastic canyon of steep jumbled snow drifts leading down to the icy waters. The canyon was curvy and beautiful enough that we couldn’t resist riding to the bottom on our tubes.

The ride was short and sweet and we were still smiling and laughing as we stared up the steep walls around us wondering how in the devil we were ever going to get out from there. There was a split moment when we really thought we were in trouble but we just kept talking and laughing and trying to scale the granular walls and we crawled out without any need to worry. However, we both decided a second ride down would be unwise.

Beanpolio also invited me to play volleyball with the adults of our town on Wednesday nights. I showed up nearly every week. I think he showed up about two times. But I got to know people around town so it was okay. And at school, nothing seemed to change. Beanpolio would say hello to me occasionally but he rarely associated with me to the degree that anyone might mistake us for friends.

One thing about school: the kids, like myself, from the east side of the lake (primarily, the boys) seemed to be lumped together as “the usual suspects” for anything that went awry at the school. At this time, there weren’t that many boys from the east side so a couple of boys named Geppetto and Sven seemed to take the fall for everything. “The janitor is missing his keys. Get Geppetto and Sven in here!”

One day, I was talking to Beanpolio and somehow we got talking about emergency services like 911. I told him that there were other emergency phone numbers like 611 for other purposes but he did not believe me. So what did he do but pick up the payphone in the school hallway and dial that number just to prove me wrong. When a lady answered (who was probably the 911 operator as well) Beanpolio freaked out and handed the phone to me. I took the phone and said to the lady, “Beanpolio wants your body.” And then I hung up. Then we fled the area.

Moments later I heard a page over the school intercom, “Geppetto and Sven! Please come to the office!” Apparently, I had not attracted their suspicion yet. This was my freebie. I never heard anything else about the prank call. You should also note that the school was small enough that when they paged someone to the front office, they did so only by their first name. There were only one or two exceptions to this, like when TWO guys were named Beanpolio, but I will do you a favor and assign every one a different alias.

There was another teacher who was the King of the Cowboys. Let us call him The Dook. Of course he taught several completely unrelated classes. He also owned a ranch, wore Wrangler Jeans and Brushpopper shirts and hid his chew behind his shiny hubcap of a belt buckle. He was also the assistant to the assistant principal; third in line to the reins of the school. Beanpolio also pointed out to me the thirteen year old girl who tended his children so extensively that she had her own room at his house. Beanpolio said that he was banging that girl like crazy. You have to earn a name like The Dook. He wasn’t a diamond but he made the rough sparkle and shine. Tin can shine. It just needs to be rubbed a lot.

In the high elevations of Utah you should expect to be buried in snow. One day we got to school and a solid blanket of snow was dropping on us from dark clouds overhead. Kids started throwing snowballs at each other and some of the more aggressive kids brought a few snowballs into the school. Someone threw a snowball at Beanpolio. He picked up the broken pieces and tried to press them into something that would pass as a snowball. When he raised the snowchunk to throw it, the stern voice of The Dook came rumbling down the halls, “Beanpolio! Don’t you dare throw that snowball!”

A sheepish grin spread across Beanpolio’s face and for a second he acted as though he might throw the snow at The Dook himself. The Dook said, “Do it and die. Beanpolio.” And then The Dook confidently turned his back on us and started to walk away. I used facial movements to tell Beanpolio, “Throw it at him!”

Beanpolio’s face shook with fear. There was no time for dawdling. I grabbed the chunk of snow from Beanpolio’s hand and hurled it at The Dook. The snow hit him in the center of his salt and pepper head.

The Dook’s voice grew louder than ever, “BEANPOLIO!!!”

Beanpolio was squirming in his shoes, “I didn’t do it!”

The Dook demanded to know, “WHO DID?”

Every finger in the front lobby of the school (the common’s area, as they call it) pointed damningly at me, including the finger of Beanpolio. I had never felt such betrayal. Is there no code among kids in Utah, aside from “do what you’re told or at least make it appear that way?” I turned to my unreliable pupils and pathetically cried, “What is wrong with you people?”

The Dook walked over and grabbed the back of my neck. He shoved me outside beneath the dark clouds and the falling snow. I didn’t fight him. This was my first time in trouble at the school. I wanted to see what he would do.

He took me to a snow bank and pushed my face into the white powder. Then he let go and walked back into the school. And as a rotten teen, I had to have the last word. I popped back into the school with a smiling dripping face. I said, “I can’t believe how GOOD that felt. That was REFRESHING!”

I guess I said it for my own sake. I knew all of the minds inside were sour. But maybe sour was all the rage at Cow Country High.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lessons Of The Day On The Blackboard Night Seem To Be Erased And The Beacon Has No Light

Fine, you guys win. I will graciously lose this round of "The Quiet Game." I haven't been busy at all. There's just been absolutely nothing I've wanted to say. Why do people talk so much? Can't we just sit here quietly and still be comfortable with eachother? Well then, I will talk and you just sit there and listen.

Here's something:

Some kids play video games but this is how my wife discovered our son the other day. She just walked in the room and there he was... attaining enlightenment. I should teach him the family chant: O'whatanassIam. He's probably sitting there with his thoughts about how if he can't have an opposable toe then he should at least be able to have a spur on his heel like an emu (like he complained to me the other day). Or he's thinking about how Santa jipped him out of that parachute and hang-glider that he specifically asked for on two separate Christmas lists.

I finally went snowboarding on the big boy slopes on Friday. It was frostbite temperatures with scattered tree stumps and LOTS of rocks but everyone seems to have agreed that it was the best day to be on the slopes this season. I also went on Snowbird's "Magic Carpet," a 600 ft treadmill through the peak to the backside trails. It's pretty much just what it sounds like. Coffee is available inside.

I came up with a million dollar idea while I was there:

You can usually tell who the poor people or college kids are at the ski resorts. They are the people who look like they got all of their gear at a yard sale. But people with money buy such high tech gadgets and pre-coordinated ensembles that they look like they are up on the slopes fighting crime or something.

I saw such a keenly-garbed warrior under the Baldy Express pressing his crotch against a pine tree. I knew what he was doing, he was peeing on that tree just like the scrappy poor people do. He tried to assure me that there was a terrorist chipmunk in that camouflaging conifer and that he was simply trying to "bring him down" but no... that scuba guy was peeing on that tree.

But the man is one of our affluent elite. He shouldn't have to tolerate me and my ah-ah-ah-ing as he pees into the watershed. He should be able to pee when and where he pleases.

My Invention: Snowpants with a built-in catheter. For the teenaged rebels, we can make a version with a flourescent green, external "bladder." It will look very high tech.

Here's another thing:

It's a nerd. It's so plain. It's.... my alter-ego, mild-mannered Emmett. Able to barf up an example of exemplary customer service in a single heave. All of his weaknesses still sound like strengths.

I got a hair cut to go to a job interview. Here is a picture of me even as I type this. In the middle of the night. After a long night of work. I wasn't staring at the floor to pose for the picture... that's just what I do while I'm awake in the wee hours, trying to stave off another day of awesome responsibility and lame errands. We're out of milk, again?

I feel like punching myself.

When I got to work, my boss freaked out. "Holy cow, Emmett! Your hair doesn't look like Lord Farquaad anymore!" And everybody and their dog always wants to know "Why? Why did you cut it?"

When my bosses asked me why, I said, "So you would give me a promotion." And somebody chimed in, "A haircut won't get you that. You're supposed to bring knee pads if you want a promotion."

After being asked "why" a ton of times I finally started saying things like, "Do the words 'head lice' mean anything to you?" But the biggest laugh of all was when somebody asked me and I said, "I'm just trying to look respectable."

It's not that funny, Muthaf***ers.

My bosses probably suspect that I am looking for another job. I went to a 3 hour interview today. I think it went well. I say that, but when I walked out those managers were probably slapping the table with laughter, "How many times did that guy say Um? Did you see his black socks with his brown shirt?" We'll see how it goes.

And I will miss the mofos if I get it. It's such a stress-free job. No more drag racing the bumper cars. No more guitar with Chad or playing basketball on breaks. When the hours went nuts at Christmas Chad and I stopped bringing our guitars. It was just too much of a hassle. They guys talked me into playing a game of basketball and I've been playing every night ever since.

They call me Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I only make a basket every now and again but my defense is good. I stuff people and block passes all the time. It's a crowd pleaser. There is a huge tongan guy that plays every once in a while. He's like Shaq except he sucks. It takes him three shots from a foot away to get the ball in the hoop. The guys like to make me guard him because I'm one of the taller people at work but the guy outweighs me by at least 60 pounds. All I can do is put my arm against his chest and shove him away from the basket so somebody else can have a chance at a rebound.

The best thing about playing basketball at work is: The big boss plays with us. I respect the guy for that. How many people have the luxury of taking a shot at their boss EVERY DAY? I've seen my boss with two busted lips and a black eye already.

It is a dead end job but I actually enjoy it. But if I can get a better job than I'll have to take it. Such is life, I guess.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chronicles of Cow Country High III

The days started calmly at Cow Country High for my brother and I. We both had long hair inspired more by bands like Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana than by a figure like Crazy Horse. At first impression, I’m sure we looked like scary girls with caveman posture but we soon jumped columns to just plain Wild Injuns.

People at the school were excited for our arrival because we represented the 97th and 98th souls in the student body from 7th grade through 12th. It was so close to 100 that the town was ready to burst or something. I was a little upset because they were making me repeat a World History class that I had already taken for the sake of being with my lame sophomore class. The U.S. History class I was SUPPOSED to be taking was the single credit I needed to finish high school in a three year period, but apparently you only learn U.S. History as an 8th grader in Cow Country.

*This is by Utah standards. Much more schooling is required in California to be accepted into a University of California school. Mormons have setup the public school system in a manner that students can miss an hour of “public” education each day to attend a nearby mormon seminary class during regular class time. To adjust for this, students in Utah take a semester less of Physical Education, a year less of English, etc. than students in California are required to take for college acceptance.

Another thing that really upset me was that this was the semester that I was supposed to attend Driver’s Education in California, but Cow Country High only taught Driver’s Ed during the fall, meaning I would have to wait for my Junior year to get my license. You can imagine my dismay as someone who formerly hitchhiked to school and currently traveled over 40 miles, one way, to get an education.

I also find it puzzling that we rode a bus over an amazing engineering feat (the dam), past a destroyed ecosystem and the newly created one that replaced it, through a complex mountain range that had pyramidal, glacier cut peaks on one side and weathered rounded peaks being pushed up from underneath on the other end with a river cutting right through the high mountains instead of traveling around them, past numerous geologic wonders where the horizon would whip its head back until it was vertical like an ocean wave made of layer upon layer of sandstone, past historic ranches, past moose and bobcats and bighorn sheep, in the opposite direction of the biggest quarry of dinosaur bones in the entire country… to a cinderblock box… with windows too high to see through… in a field of sagebrush… to learn stuff. But what do I know? Maybe a class of deflated spirits and row upon row of dead eyes is a better learning environment for bright young minds yearning to blossom.

People are strange but these people were stranger. Instead of drug deals in the halls like my previous school had, it was:

“My dad wants to know if you have any hay for sale? Really? How much alfalfa is in that hay?”

The first locker room banter I heard was:

“You’re not a man until you’ve pulled a calf. Well, I haven’t pulled a calf but I watched my dad do it.” (“Pulling a calf” being a reference to putting your arm inside a cow’s womb and pulling the baby out.)

In P.E. we played basketball. In the entire class, excluding myself, there was one… ONE single guy who could do a lay up or jump shot without landing flat on his face. When the first couple of guys tossed up the ball and proceeded to eat the floor, I thought it was funny. When they all did it, I thought it was a practical joke on the new guy. When they all ran to the one guy who could plant his feet and make the ball hit the rim to ask him his technique it was unbelievable. I still can’t believe it. Friends were the main reason I never “tried out” for the basketball team, but another haunting feeling was the embarrassment I would feel sitting on the bench while these clowns were out bumbling around the basketball court during the basketball season. If you are thinking to yourself: If you can do a lay up and a jump shot without falling then you would surely make the first string… then please adjust your thinking. This was a small town. The people come to see their kids play, not some wild injun making a mockery of the sport with his long hair and all.

Outside was frigid winter, but inside they all looked like California Girls. Every girl seemed to be tall and blond and they wore shorts and t-shirts regardless of the season. The heaters must have been on at full blast. If the Special Ed teacher was on our bus, bundled in her thick winter coat with her window down on a morning that made chunks of ice form in your showered hair, I guess the girls would just pile into a seat and huddle for warmth.

There was a girl who was not normal in the sense that she was not blond and she stared at you like a bird about to pluck up a worm. She stared and stared. You could stare right back and she wouldn’t flinch. She would lock onto you for minutes at a time. We came to call her Mental Woman.

On one of my first bus rides to school we were deep in the snow covered forest and I saw a peculiar spot in the snowy terrain. I turned to anyone who might hear me and asked, “Is there a pond out there, underneath that snow?”

Mental Woman cocked her head towards me. Her stare penetrated me like a knobby elbow. She squawked the word, “DUH!”

Yes. Duh on me, everyone. I forgot to look out of the window with my x-ray snow goggles. The new guy is an idiot, pass it on.

I will tell you that I probably looked funny so that I can make light of my fellow students without rebuke. First, I was an Indian with long hair – like something out of a cartoon. I was also hitting a growth spurt and all of my pants were too short for me. I probably also wore a steady facial expression of “What universe am I in?”

Most of the other boys in the school wore cowboy boots and painted on Wrangler jeans. Sometimes the jeans had a ring worn in the back pocket from a can of Skoal but most of the guys had stolen their grandmother’s silver platter and were using it as a belt buckle; they hid their can-o-chaw behind their gleaming waist shields. Learning names was made easier because many of the guys had their names punched into their leather belts. “Okay, that guy’s name is Dewey.” (I wish I could tell his last name, too.))

The shirts varied from Brooks & Dunn to something with a cow skull and the slogan “Hooked on an 8 second ride.” If a guy was feeling fancy he would wear a “Brushpopper” shirt, which is a button up shirt with colors brighter than any rainbow and patterns inspired by the tread on a new set of Uniroyal tires. Even as I was running to find a garbage can to throw up into after being taken off guard, girls would compliment the boys on their Brushpopper shirts, “Nice shirt, is it new?”

I saw a textbook owned by Lucifer, but let’s call her Lucy. She had written on her book: Gomez is a sex machine. I call him Gomez because, I discovered later, the “sex machine” looked nearly identical to a 15 year old Gomez Adams, of the family Adams. He had the mustache and everything.

Seeing all of this, I figured it wouldn’t take long before the girls found me to be a breath of fresh air but it turns out I felt stifled and alien for quite some time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Relax, I can tell you all about that movie and The Wheel of Time

Here was my conversation tonight with the partially brain damaged guy at work:

Me: "So how was that date you had last night?"

Zack Morris with a lobotomy: "Well, I put my hand on her arm and that was okay so I put my other arm around her shoulder and that was okay so I put my hand on her collarbone and then she tensed up. She said, 'Don't move your hand ANY LOWER, Zack Morris with a lobotomy.' And then she just acted like all she cared about was watching the movie."

Me: "Do you always try to put your hand down a girl's shirt on the first date?"

ZMWAL: "It was our second date. I kissed her like six times on our first date."

Me: "You like this girl so much you thought you should do that?" (ZMWAL is a very churchy mormon who only wants to marry a teenaged virgin mormon cheerleader. And he only wants it REALLY BAD. The girl he was on a date with is a 36 year old widow.)

ZMWAL: "It was dark in the movie theater... so it was romantic. I couldn't help it."

Me: "What movie were you watching?"

ZMWAL: "It was that "aliens" movie."

Me: "Aliens with Sigourney Weaver?"

ZMWAL: "Yeah, I think so."

Me: "I thought you were at a movie theater. I can't think of ANY movies that are out right now with aliens in them. Was it a NEW movie?"

ZMWAL: "Yes. It's a new movie. It has like... pterodactyls in it..."

Me: "I can't think of what movie that could be."


Me: "So I took my kids to see that Eragon movie today..."


Aliens? Pterodactyls? Oh, Zack.

Yes, the family went to see Eragon today. It was good for a kids' movie. I think people give the movie A LOT of credit to make comparisons to other notable films like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

If the movie was a rip off of anything then it was a rip off of "Xena: Warrior Princess." It feels like you are watching the best episode of Xena ever made. Again, I liked the movie just fine. It was just sort of cheesy with stylish peasants with dirt smudges in all the right places. Everybody is wearing an even coat of make up and has straight white teeth. If you are looking for big breasts, you will not find them in the movie, but you can probably see some on the men sitting around you in the audience. My wife and I noticed that we had the only kids in the entire theater when we saw it.

The kids liked the movie a lot. One good thing about this movie: IT WASN'T 3 HOURS LONG, which I think is important to kids. It had characters that were just-scary-enough instead of the usual ogres that look like they will tear your head off with all your vital internal throat tubes dangling and dripping blood.

This movie shows some progress to the LOTR trilogy: Lord of the Rings depicts a diverse world of white hobbits, white elves, white dwarves, etc. and Eragon takes it a step further by having a character played by a black guy. He doesn't even die. Truly ground breaking stuff in the world of fantasy.

There were similarities to the keystone fantasy stories but they didn't bother me. I know a lot my friends really like those "Wheel of Time" fantasy books and those reach an offensive level of plagiarism.

I've discovered that wikipedia has some very good "Cliffnote" versions of the Wheel of Time books that even throw in bits and pieces of information like "Yes, the author admits the entire beginning of the story is a take off of Lord of the Rings" and "Yes, most of you will probably know this part of the story better as 'excalibur' or 'The Sword in the Stone'." With the condensed versions, I can speed past all of the parts that bug me and get acknowledgement of copy cat writing.

If you like the books then read them till your heart is content. Remember that your driver's license will probably be expired when you finish the series. Or do like me and save yourself about 10,000 pages of reading with the condensed versions.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I didn't want to get spit all over me

I've had silly musical plans for my significant other for a long time. When I was younger, I wanted to give this person a harp for the obvious implication AND because harps are cool. But harps are also expensive and require a lot of room for storage, so that hasn't happened.

I also asked my wife if she would do me the honor of singing "These boots were made for walkin'" with us if I was ever to get a band together. But she just said she didn't have the singing range for that song. And then Jessica Simpson redid the song for the Duke Boy movie and that was pretty much that.

But last night I received a ukulele as a Christmas present from my brother-in-law. When I opened it up, I became very happy and looked to my wife. The first thing I said was, "NOW, we can sing that song together just like they do in "The Jerk." This has also been a longstanding musical fantasy of mine. I haven't talked to her about learning the trumpet solo yet... maybe after I learn the ukulele part myself.

I found out how to tune a ukulele (very strange, 3rd string, 2nd string, 4th string, 1st string) and learned some basic chords. I have a natural impulse to go all Greenday on the thing and I continuously have to repeat to myself, "Think Hawaii." I don't think there is any such thing as a power chord for a ukulele but I'm sure one could be invented.

I was thinking my son could learn to play the ukulele but the chords are a little tough. The C and D major are the same finger pattern as the ever-dreaded F chord that causes so many people to give up the guitar.

But it is my goal to learn the song "Tonight you belong to me." Coincidentally, another blogger I read recently posted the bit from The Jerk on his site. So it makes me feel like I'm stealing but I don't care, because as much as he may like the movie, I know the song still means more to me and I would like for you all to see it. It doesn't appear that Steve Martin is actually playing (though, given his banjo skills, I'm sure he could) but Bernadette Peters performance is a bit more convincing.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cow Country High (II)

If I had moved to the sagebrush plains of The Great Basin, I don’t think that I could have handled the change in landscape, but moving to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was sort of like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The first time we skirted around the frozen blue reservoir through the crimson rock formations with their white caps of snow, I knew that if any of my previous friends had had any interest in nature they surely would have liked this place. Water was in abundance and we were nestled up against the tree-covered north face of the Uintah Mountains.

We lived in a town of about 300 residents called Dutch John. The town is like four blocks of suburbia cut out from a regular city and plopped down in the high mountains. The town was formed during the construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam. In order to live in the town, you had to be an employee of the United States Government (it has since been privatized and is now open to anyone who cares to live there).

The reservoir is the heart of Daggett County. On the east side of the lake is Dutch John, rich in red rocks and evergreen juniper trees with their squat bodies and stringy bark. On the west side of the lake is Manila, the county seat. Manila is in sagebrush land with homegrown hicks and three paved roads, including the two highways that meet in the town. I have always described Manila as a glorified trailer park. They have a couple of gas stations, a restaurant or two, a church, an “old” school with a “new” school next door and rodeo grounds.

My parents told me that my future school laid behind the rodeo grounds. There was no football field, just the big wooden bleachers and a sign that said, “Cow Country High.” I was soon to learn that tourists were not the only ones who got trapped in this burg.

My parents allowed me to stay home for a couple of weeks to get adjusted. I also had a cold and I was downing a lot of Nyquil. I spent most of my time laying in bed, watching PBS, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and reading Robotech in novel form. In the dark days of winter with a foot or so of snow in the yard, it was comfortable, but soon to be shaken up by my return to school.

Chronicles of Cow Country High (I)

At 15 years old, I was isolated on my grandpa’s mountain. So far out that we had 1.5 television channels and no telephone service nor 220 volts to run a clothes dryer. There wasn’t much to do but explore the woods and the river and get ahead on my Algebra II homework. I had friends but didn’t get to see them except during school hours. My mother didn’t like them because they were into drugs.

I went to school on the Indian reservation. In this school, there were more drug dealers than there were potential customers. I think the main thing that saved me from drugs was that by the time I would have even considered doing drugs, most of my friends were already trying to quit doing drugs. My friends also considered me “the responsible one” whom they could one day call to bail them out of jail. For the sake of not wasting that one hypothetical phone call, they discouraged me from jumping into the mess they were in, even while they were lighting up.

My sister was eager for a better life so she moved out the moment she turned 18, even before graduation. My mother and stepfather made money by fighting forest fires and they were gone for weeks at a time. My brother and I were expected to go to school despite the great distance and lack of transportation. It was recommended that we hitch-hike to the bus stop but we usually ended up walking the 4 mile route instead during dawn and dusk. It was frustrating to successfully make it to school and then meet my friends excitement, “Hey, let’s all ditch class today!”

When my mother told me she got a new job in Utah, I saw it as a chance to act out. I stopped doing all of my schoolwork but nobody seemed to notice except the teachers. And when they would say things in front of the class like, “Emmett! You haven’t turned in an assignment all week. I ALREADY have you marked down to a B!” It was usually met with laughter from my fellow pupils, “Can I have a B, too?”

Until we moved, I spent most of the school day in the library playing “Oregon Trail” on the computer. Uh oh, Tornado Bob has Typhoid Fever! Oh well, let’s go hunting.

Needless to say, my lackluster life was pretty lifeless.

My parents expressed concern about moving into Mormon country. I had never heard of Mormons. Not even the famed Tabernacle Choir. I asked, “What’s wrong with Mormons?” My stepfather told me, “People just think of them as… you know… goody two shoes.” That was the nice description. People my age seemed to focus on the “multiple wives” aspect of the religion. So Mormons were into orgies? Each to his own, I guess. And it was a total mindblower that Mormons were the ones behind all of those commercials brought to you by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (You can just call them LDS). I wasn’t worried about it.

During a cold and wet January, we loaded up a U-Haul truck to find out what so many people were running from when they were told to, “Go West, Young Man!” My parents were driving a Toyota truck and it seemed like I spent most of my time riding with grandpa in the U-Haul. Yep… riding with grandpa. In a U-Haul. 45 miles per hour. Maximum speed. Across Nevada. Waiting for grandpa to start a conversation was like waiting for the next ice age. Anytime now, a glacier will be sliding through this valley. Anytime now. Any… time… n’zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

How long was I asleep? Ugh, it’s still Nevada. Is there a glacier in the valley? Nope. Just grandpa behind the stearing wheel, like a petrified log. And then we drove through Utah. And over the corner of Wyoming to a place called Flaming Gorge.

Two Thousand Sux

It is a new year and the odds are favorable for improvement over those just past. We got that ambulance bill at the beginning of December and a few days before new years our furnace died. I called some heater-guys and told myself that I would have to inspect everything if they recommended replacing the entire furnace. But I was standing right by as the guy pulled out the circuit board. It looked like something that Ethan would make at school using construction paper and macaroni shells. There was a big black scorch mark on the board and the wiring harness was melted. They said that the board, alone, was $1300 and they would need to replace that to get it running so they could begin to determine where the water running through the machine was coming from.

We ended up buying a whole new furnace. It cost $5001. The guy said there was no way he would take off that $1. I said, "Well, could you throw in a free duct-cleaning?" I didn't realize that duct cleaning is a $1500 service and when he told me, I said, "Well, it doesn't cost anything to ask." And he said, "Actually, it does. I'm writing that down, right here." Funny how a $5001 day at work fires up your sense of humor. Before we signed, he told us he told us that we could take our time deciding and that he wasn't going to pressure us. I said, "You won't pressure us but Winter outside on the doorstep will." It was 20 degrees that night. We won't start paying for a couple of weeks but I am still willing to save 2007 by calling the heater issue a 2006 problem.

The best thing I can think of about 2006 is that after all of our deductions and my sketchy work year, our reportable income will be below the poverty level. Cha-ching! Tax Return, Yo! It might even be up around three, possibly four, figures. 2005 was probably the highest grossing year of my life and now I follow it up with a 2006 wage that a high school drop-out could achieve.

It was a hard summer with work, selling a house, work, buying a house, work, moving, work, buying a car, and work. And let's not forget the car accident I was in. Now I've been T-boned from the left AND the right. My spine should be back where it belongs.

I haven't had a vacation since 2003 unless you count unemployment, during which time I mostly visited Job Service. But I am planning a vacation for this spring; my job is lenient and mismanaged enough that I should be able to take some unpaid time off. Oh yeah, January 1 of 2007 was the official day I decided I was too sexy for company health insurance. $400 per month for the pleasure of paying 40% of costs to keep the doctors we have had since before our kids were born. Thanks, but no thanks. It makes me feel elite. It didn't meet my high standards of SAVING ME MONEY SOMEHOW.

Now that I have "relaxed" at a job that doesn't give a damn about what I do, I will start looking into a real job. Possibly, even into going to school again just to prove that I am hard-headed enough to keep pounding it against the wall until either the wall yields or I fall down dead.

I would list the good things about 2006 but when I think about them... it turns out they are all just things that I miss to myself while I'm working. Here is a good sign though: I have received movie passes for my birthday in August and more for Christmas. I have been trying to use them since August but I get shotdown everytime. But tonight we went out and (finally) saw "Blood Diamond." It is pretty rough and tough but a very good movie at the same time. I think it is good for the world and I encourage people to watch it if you care about anything that goes on beyond the edge of the suburbs. I hope Leonardo wins an Oscar for it.

I have never been into New Year's Resolutions. Possibly because I have never smoked or been overweight. But this year I think I shall resolve to write about my experience of moving to Utah, making friends and surviving a totally f***ed up school. "Lindsay-Weaver" posted an EXCELLENT representation of this experience when her son tried to forge a teacher's note but it seems to have been removed. WHY, Lindsay-Weaver?

I have thought of telling these tales for years but have never felt I had the right approach but, again, I am tired of waiting around for life to happen. So here it comes, perfect or not.

Hot N' Grody

If I had to choose ONE WORD to describe the pizza I ate for lunch it would NEVER be "supreme." Can't the FDA ban manufacturers from using this type of word on things like frozen pizza?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How NOT to Build a Log Raft

When I was younger and lived on my grandpa's mountain I spent a lot of time by myself. At one point I decided to craft a raft out of logs and spend a day floating down the river just as Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn would have done. I figured that when I reached the fork in the river where the lumber mill stood (that replaced the village of my mother's ancestors) that I could ditch the logs on the riverbank and make the eight mile walk back to the house.

As I did not possess my own chainsaw, I took an axe out into the woods and chopped down three or four trees of about 50-60 feet tall (if you decide to try this, you need to be careful not to let the tree "hop" off its stump and crush you). I chopped the trees into equal lengths and dragged them half a mile to the river.

Because I couldn't wait to test it out, I lashed together about six of the logs and tossed them into the river. I attempted to ride the logs. Very soon, I realized that even if I had fifty logs strung together side by side that they still would not float above the surface of the water.

To make the typical log raft that you see throughout your life in television cartoons would result in a boat that could technically float but would also leave the riders waterlogged for the duration of the voyage. The log raft idea is crap. It no does work. You are much better off using a cheap rubber raft from the big box dealer near you. Otherwise you might want to make a raft like the one in Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown comprised of a wooden deck on top of four rubber intertubes.

Consider this Friendly Advice from someone who has wasted a lot of time and trees and who gets a bitter feeling every time he sees a cartoon raft made of logs bobbing buoyantly, high and dry, down some skyblue waterway.