School Days With Little Louie Shakes

Mom Shakes: Wake up, Louie . . . you’re going to be late . . .

Little Louie Shakes: mumble mumble Five more minutes mumble .

Mom Shakes: No, it’s 9 AM already! You’ve got to get up! Darn it, Louie, you’re going to miss the bus, and there’s no way Dad or I can drive you to school today!

Little Louie Shakes: Shut up, Mom! I hate you! Go away!

Mom Shakes: Don’t you talk to me like that, young man! Your father and I bust our butts to put food on the table and a roof over your head and this is how you treat us? Well, you’d better think again, mister. The gravy train stops today. If you can’t get yourself to school and get good grades then you can just leave now, get a low paying job and waste the rest of your life posting on dirty internet message boards. Is that what you want?

Little Louie Shakes: I hate you all! Shut up! I am staying home today and listening to Black Sabbath records.

Dad Shakes (bursting through the door and unhooking his belt): WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?! [thrash!] [whip!] [pummel!]

Little Louie Shakes: Dad! No! I said I am getting up now to catch the bus and go to school to take math tests!! Stop!! Auuggghhh!!!

Playground Bully (later that same day): Hey dork! [shove!] Nice math books . . . in the mud! Haw haw haw!

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien (Playing the Role of Guy Who Blocks The Flow): Oh, no. Nuh uh uh. This has to stop now. This is making me re-live my childhood, and it hurts. Stop it! Stop it now! There’s no happy ending to this story . . .

Louie Shakes (in 2010): Sure there is, Mister O’Brien. I swear to God that Playground Bully is now making sub-par home fries at Weezie’s Skillet Farms in Hoboskill, way out in Bumbledump County, while I live the good life of a toothless, meth-addicted, hepatitis-riddled, homeless person in Albany. That’ll learn him for messin’ up my books in ninth grade!

Playground Bully (in 2010): Would you like fries with your hamburger and shake, Mister Shakes?

Louie Shakes (in 2010): See, Mister O’Brien? And, uh, nah brah, no fries. I’d like some rock with that instead. You gonna hook me up, or what?

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: You’re the exception then, Louie. Once you’ve been a victim of bullies and domestic violence, then you’re always a victim as I see it. That type can smell the fear and weakness on you. It brings out the worst in them . . .

Lord MacCormack: Piffle, tosh and bumbledump, will you shut the hell up, O’Brien! You sicken me with your weakness and fear! Besides, I didn’t have to go through any of that stuff. I was home schooled. In home schooling, your parents are in charge of the traumatizing.

Viscount Mond: Then you know that the only thing better than beating up dorks at school is beating up home schooled kids in their own front yards.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: But the problem with home schooling is that you then have to be bullied in college, instead of getting it over with in junior high school.

Lord MacCormack: Not if you go to home college.

Viscount Mond: What do you mean by “getting it over with,” O’Brien? [shove!] Nice face, dooder . . . under my boot! Haw haw haw!

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: Mmmgggppphhff!! Grrffff!!! Mmmmbbbpppp!!!

Viscount Mond: Who gets bullied in college, anyway? You just show up to class and leave, don’t even have to talk to anyone. Much different than grade school.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: I’m guessing your college didn’t have a football team, did it, Mond?

Lord MacCormack: O’Brien’s right, dorks can certainly get bullied in college. Unless they go to dork college.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: I went to dork college. I was surrounded by dorks. Computer science programs have a way of attracting them. But it didn’t change anything. You would think that the few jocks who stumbled in would be kissing dork butts so they could get their work done, but no, they hunted me down and shoved my $230 college textbooks into the mud just as they did in junior high school. Oh, the horror! Oh, the pain!

Lord MacCormack: Those must have been scholarship jocks. They have assistants to kiss dork butts for them to get their work done, which gives them more time for the shoving of the books and the tormenting of the weak and fearful and whatnot. At least when you’ve got jocks in the classroom, you know that you’ve picked your courses wisely, and will definitely be getting a good grade there.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: Wrong again. Professors have to show that they aren’t giving all A’s. So guess who gets the D’s to balance things out? Not the starting quarterback, I assure you. Nor the cheerleaders.

(Meanwhile, in a corner cubicle at the nearby public library) The Shower Drain Elves: Alright, Louie Shakes! We’ve got you surrounded! Come out peacefully or we are coming in after you. There’s a sick kid in Teaneck, New Jersey who needs a Christmas stocking and you’re not standing in our way! Chop chop!

Louie Shakes (in 2010): mumble mumble five more minutes mumble . . .

The Shower Drain Elves: No, it’s 10 AM already! You’ve got to get up! Dammit, Louie, you’re going to miss the Hoveround, and there’s no way we’re gonna be able to get this Christmas stocking to little Johnnie F in Teaneck if that happens!

Louie Shakes (in 2010): Shut up, all of you! I hate you! Go away!

The Shower Drain Elves: Don’t you talk to us like that, old man! The Parking Lot Monkeys and us bust our butts to put newspaper under your head and leftover hamburgers and milkshakes in the dumpster, and this is how you treat us? Well, you’d better think again, mister. The hamburger and milk shake train stops today! If you can’t get yourself to the parking lot behind the corner store and score the good rock, then you can just stay here in the library and waste the rest of your life posting on dirty internet message boards. Is that what you want?

Louie Shakes (in 2010): You know what I want? All I want out of life is a hamburger in a milkshake! Not a hamburger and a milkshake. Is that too much to ask? Why is The LORD so cruel to me?

The LORD (bursting through the door and unhooking his belt): WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?! [thrash!] [whip!] [pummel!]

The Archangel McGabriel: Sorry, Louie, some things are beyond even The LORD’s power. Hamburgers and milkshakes must remain separate, world without end, amen. Now, would you like some fries with that?

Louie Shakes (in 2010): Nah brah, no fries. I’d like some rock with that, instead. You gonna hook me up, or what?

Ronald McChronic: I would hook you up indeed, yo, but that fat Mayor McCheese and his cronies done locked up the Hamburglar again! What’s a clown to do, Louie Shakes? What’s a clown to do?

The Shower Drain Elves (in 2010): Robble robble. Robble. Robble robble.

Coffee and Crystal Meth

Scene: Lord MacCormack’s fabulous, wood-paneled reading room, where Lord MacCormack and his posh friends, Viscount Mond, Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien, and Magnum Anvil, smoke cigars and drink cognac while reading their newspapers.

Lord MacCormack: Bunkum and bile, I hate it when I have to go into a Starbucks coffee shop! All I ever want is a “large black coffee,” and all I get is pedantic blowback or eye-rolling from the staff there, who are supposed to be serving me, about how I’m not placing my order correctly. I don’t give a hoot if the coffee comes from Sumatra or Subic Bay or Swaziland. And I don’t want anything dusted on top, or anything foamed, skimmed, curdled or whipped poured into it. I just want coffee, black, in a large cup. It is the coffee shop staff member’s job to provide me that. If they can’t handle that, then perhaps they should be working elsewhere, operating the deep fat fryer and not interacting with paying customers who are in a rush to assuage their caffeine joneses. But, no, clearly they think that it’s better to spend their time chit-chatting with their dirty, tattooed, white-dreadlocked, trust-fund holding, Volvo station wagon-driving “regulars” about all of their special coffee needs and the upcoming Hackey Sack tournament, while they endlessly swirl their little metal cans of milk under their little steam spout things.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: They call them “baristas,” Lord MacCormack. And I don’t find them arrogant. Starbucks stores are sort of like McCoffee shops in a way, or something like TGIF or Applebee’s, rather than being like a locally-owned, real coffee place. The baristas there are just following a set of policies and procedures when they make those coffee drinks. Independent places are better about being flexible, though there tend to be a lot more of the trust-fund dreadlock kids there.

Lord MacCormack: But their policies and procedures are utterly absurd! “Small” is “large,” “medium” is “venti,” “large” is “grande,” or some other nonsense like that. I prefer to say “large coffee” to which they reply “Grande?” and I say “Large!” and they say “Small?” and I say “How about you fill up with coffee the cup that holds the greatest amount of liquid at sea level?” After a few rounds of this, they usually finally capitulate. Oh! And don’t get me started on their useless coffee lids that leak all over the place. How hard is it to put a lid on a cup that doesn’t leak when you drink it? Can one of you rocket scientists investigate that for me?

Viscount Mond: If I wanted to investigate a non-leaking lid system, I’d send some spies into the Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Lark and Madison, and steal their secrets. Dress your spies up as either bikers, cops or homeless crystal meth addicts. They’ll fit right in. I think the secret is in the difference between Styrofoam and paper cups. The leaks always happen at the seam on the paper cups. But good luck trying to get those tree-hugging, owl-loving Starbucks punks to use Styrofoam cups.

Edward Sir Ellington O’Brien: I’ve found a simple solution to the paper cup leaking problem: whenever the barista hands you your coffee, turn the lid to make sure the drinking spout is 180 degrees opposite the seam. It feels nicer when you drink it that way too, as your fingers can caress the seam thoughtfully while you sip. Fool proof!

Lord MacCormack: No, it’s not the Styrofoam vs paper issue, necessarily. It’s the issue of flat lids vs raised lids. Those stupid “dome” lids Starbucks uses just leak, period, because the coffee pools in them when you sip, and when you lower the cup, it drains out of the dome and out the pouring spout. Always get the flat lids if they have them available, the kind where the pour spout just peels back. They will reduce your spills dramatically, unless the wingnuts behind the counter overfill your cup. I might just have to follow your advice, Mond, and send an expert into the Lark and Madison Dunkin’ Donuts to see how they do it there. Anybody seen Louie Shakes around lately? Let’s see if we can raise him on the cell phone here. Hello? Louie? Are you out there?

Louie Shakes (On the Cell Phone): Here I am, Lord MacC. I’ve commandeered a computer at the library, but I’ve been waving an umbrella around and screaming for a few minutes, and the cops are probably gonna shut me down any moment, so I don’t know if I’m going to make it to Dunkin’ Donuts this afternoon or not. But, either way, I have a message for you fancy folks there in the reading room. Here’s what it is: we, the homeless crystal meth addicts, are completely disenfranchised. We have no voice in local politics, where that damn Mayor McCheese just deprives us of our rights, left, right, and straight up the center. So what I need to know is: who will represent us when the war with the Sith Lords finally comes to pass? And who will protect us from the Shower Drain Elves? I have to know, friends. I have to know fast.

Magnum Anvil: Hey, Louie, you know we’re on your side here. Why, didn’t I give you fifty bucks and a handkerchief to wrap around your head when you got that asbestos out of my basement for me? Who but a great friend of the common man would be so benevolent? And, now, next time I see you nodding out in front of a computer at the library, I’ll show you how to connect that computer to the internet. That way your voice will be heard better, without all the shouting and umbrella-waving, and the librarian won’t call the heat in quite as quickly. Hang in there, pallie! I know life has been tough since they banned ephedrine, but I hear Mexico has taken over the meth lab market, and business on the street should be hopping again soon. So you should be set in a few months, if you’re back out of the poke by then, anyway.

Louie Shakes: I dunno about that, Magnum. Mexico? All the way up to Upstate New York? Man, I gotta say, that still leaves me greatly concerned about the availability of my meth. And with my limited income, how will I keep up with the 30% mark-up on imported product? Or will the price be lower than that, and possibly stabilized, to ensure that local meth producers, should anyone choose to take up the gauntlet, can still compete? Time’s runnin’ out here, friends. I need me some answers and a champion.

Magnum Anvil:
I wouldn’t fret, my little speedfreak friend. Here in the great U.S. of A., the price of drugs always seems to go down no matter how much the supply chain moves around. Once the big brew-ha-ha comes to a close you should be sitting pretty. If not there’s always a lot of money out there for someone willing to fake their own death, or sell a kidney. Or both. You just keep waving that umbrella around until the cops show up, and then there’ll be three solid meals a day for a few months, and I’m sure that Local 962 of the International Brotherhood of Homeless Crystal Meth Addicts will have elected some new local leadership, who’ll get your rock prices steady, and maybe even get you a dental plan, by the time you get out. Failing that, there’s always Starbucks, my little junkie chum. There will always, always be Starbucks.

Louie Shakes: Hey, that sounds like a plan, Magnum. You fancy rich folks are always so great to me. I’m glad you’re in my court. Alright, here comes the heat. I gotta go now. See you all in a few months. Auggggggghhhh!!!!! You can’t catch me, coppers!!!! Augggghhhhh!!!!!!

Lord MacCormack: Say “howdy” to Officer Big Mac for us, Louie! And tell him not to put you in the stir with that bad old Hamburglar again!

Hamburglar: Robble! Robble Robble! Robble Robble Robble!!!! RRRRRRRRRRoooooooBBBBBLLLLLE!!!!!!!!

Tiger in a Spotlight

1. For the past two nights that I’ve been at the gym, the talking heads on ESPN’s Sports Center have been working themselves into a lather over the series of vicious football hits that resulted in some unfortunate injuries last week in the NFL . Outrage! Indignation! Affront! We must put a stop to such savagery! Except . . . the whole time they’re talking, they are showing clips of these vicious hits, over, and over, and over, and over again. I’m betting that these defensive players are getting more screen time and notoriety for these hits this week than they’ve ever gotten for what the talking heads would consider to be clean, ethical, safe hits. So what’s the real message? I’m thinking if the powers that be want to stop those sorts of violent plays, that the best thing they could do is fine and suspend the offending players, and then work with the television stations to ban the perpetrators from receiving any air time for some period of time after their offenses. Showing the offending hits repeatedly while complaining about them is not going to deter the next wannabe Jack Tatum out there, folks.

2. My office at the University at Albany is located on Western Avenue, and for most of the two years I’ve been here, I’ve had a nice north-looking view over our parking lot at a pleasant stand of woods, through which I would usually walk when I was heading over to the main Uptown campus. A month or so ago, however, construction began on a new residence complex (which is much needed), so the view from my office went from “green and pleasant land” to “dark Satanic mills” pretty quickly. Now we’ve moved into “Bob the Builder” mode, with huge trucks pushing soil around in a vast field, that looks from the distance I see it like a really big sandbox. Today, however, we looked out in wonder after a little rain storm, and saw our giant construction site framed by a huge, clear double rainbow. One of my employees and I tried to get a photo of it, but the cell phone camera wasn’t cooperating. Fortunately, I received a photo of it from a colleague that appears to have been taken directly above my office, one floor up. I don’t know who the photographer is, or I’d provide due credit where it’s due, but I’m really glad that this image was captured and preserved, even though it was after the top part of the double rainbow had faded (you can see it above the primary rainbow faintly if you look closely). If you took the photo, let me know! And thank you!

3. I’ve been listening to Korn’s recent album Korn III: Remember Who You Are a lot lately, and, by golly, I’m not going to apologize to anybody for doing so, or for enjoying myself while I do so. Of the various guilty musical pleasures that I admit to (INXS, Wings, Abba, Neil Diamond, etc.), this one seems to befuddle and/or annoy people the most. I’m assuming it’s because of the maggoty collective persona that the band has build around itself over the years, or the creepiness of someone close to my own age singing lyrics that would better fit in a 14-year old boy’s secret journal. I understand those complaints, sure, but, damn, I like the way that Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu plays his bass guitar, and I actually think that singer Jonathan Davis has got one of the most effective, versatile vocal instruments in contemporary metal, and the group manages to actually craft some catchy melodies atop their sludgy, ponderous riffs. So, you know, I like it. Does it make me bad?

Back from the Left Coast

Marcia and I returned late last night from a short but refreshing business trip to Yountville, California, in the heart of Napa Valley. Click here to be taken to my album of the fun/non-work parts of the trip, including some links to excellent, recommended vineyards and restaurants, all of them well worth saving, in case you’re out that way yourselves sometime in the near future. (If you haven’t used Flickr before, click the first photo at the left of the big balloon, and you’ll be able to click through the rest of them from there using the “next” button above the right hand top corner of each photo). Napa is a recommended destination, for sure, especially for foodies and wine lovers, though the jet lag on Monday morning can be a bit intense on your first day back at work, I must admit. Hopefully my staff didn’t notice me drooling on myself too much.

Stinking Vegans: Lord MacCormack vs. Sandy Twistedpanties

FRIDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) — As a child’s IQ rises, his taste for meat in adulthood declines, a new study suggests. British researchers have found that children’s IQ predicts their likelihood of becoming vegetarians as young adults — lowering their risk for cardiovascular disease in the process. The finding could explain the link between smarts and better health, the investigators say. “Brighter people tend to have healthier dietary habits,” concluded lead author Catharine Gale, a senior research fellow at the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre of the University of Southampton and Southampton General Hospital.

Lord MacCormack: Oh, those stinking vegans! They got the cause and effect wrong! And their data is skewed, because poor kids don’t get their IQs tested, and kids with high IQs more often come from high income homes who can invest more in their education. High income people are more likely to become vegetarians because (a) it’s a trendy thing for rich people to do, and (b) it costs more than living on McDonalds and pork rinds and Kool Aid, like the poor kids do. Whoever did that study was just sloppy. I have a friend who is vegan who would love to read about this study and then preach at me about it. Except that he won’t get the chance, because I don’t do anything with him anymore since it’s such a pain in the ass to have to only go to the couple of places in town that cater to his ridiculous lifestyle.

Sandy Twistedpanties: I think you’re making assumptions about the study, Lord MacCormack. For goodness sake, take that lamb shank out of your mouth and think a minute before speaking!

Lord MacCormack: Balderdash! Poppycock! You and your kind are just weak! If humans were meant to be vegans we wouldn’t have incisors and canines. If you’d been in charge back on the Serengeti Plain, we’d still be saber tooth tiger food!

Sandy Twistedpanties: The very idea that what we perceive as “natural” is what’s “right” is just bunk. I know you are smarter than that, Lord MacCormack. Leave that natural law nonsense to the mystics and the moralists and the Christians.

The Christians: Whoh, whoh, whoh! Don’t pin that natural law stuff on us! We don’t believe in that either! We have incisors and canines because the LORD wanted us to have them.

The LORD: That’s right.

Lord MacCormack: Look, you little cabbage eater, you . . . if you deny that we evolved to be meat eaters then you are not using the superior brain that meat allowed you to evolve! Vegans are substandard humans! Soy eating wimps who have to lather on the patchouli to cut the stench of garlic! No vegan will ever be in charge of anything important, because they have tiny, shriveled, meat-starved gonads and bad priorities. You know what I want to do this afternoon? I want to go set a bear trap in Leicester Square and see if I can catch a dog, then field dress it, take it home and make dog sausage out of it. Then I will make passionate love to a fertile, meat-eating woman to let off all the testosterone raging through me that the fresh meat produces. Damn, all this meat talk is making me hungry. I’m going to have Roger make me a huge prime rib for dinner tonight!

Sandy Twistedpanties: I cry.

A Cow: I die. So that Lord MacCormack may eat prime rib. I am satisfied with my lot.

Another Cow: It would be a pleasure to have a bolt shot through my brain, then to have my entrails pulled out, then to be cut into pieces with electric saws, so that Lord MacCormack may have the best dinner possible tonight. I envy you, other cow. How I envy you.

Lord MacCormack: Yeah, whatever, I gotta go. My stomach is eating itself.

Lord MacCormack’s Stomach: Gnarr! Gnarr gnarr! Gnarr!

Down the Road

1. I voted last night, using the new electronic voting machines for the first time. While I understand the need to deploy new technology and phase out antiquated equipment, I’ve always thought that the “ker-CHUNK” sound the old voting machines made when you pulled the lever was the sound of democracy, so the new system doesn’t offer quite the same tactile experience for me. I don’t know how it went down at other polling places, but I do think they need to figure out a better way to handle the part of the process between filling out your ballot behind a privacy screen, and then feeding it into a machine for scanning. My polling place had a volunteer standing at the scanner who stuck his hand out to help me feed my paper ballot into the scanner. There’s something that doesn’t feel right about the opportunity for someone to look at your ballot, and it bothers me that you don’t have a (private) opportunity to see how the computer read your ballot, and to confirm that it’s what you wanted, before the process is done.

2. I live near the Northway’s Exit 6 in Latham, and am a map geek, so I’ve been intrigued by the construction project to rebuild that interchange into the region’s first Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI). The new lane configuration and light system opened the past weekend, so after well over a year of avoiding that intersection during rush periods, since construction made it painfully slow, I’ve actually been going out of my way this week to drive over it. My initial reaction to it is that it’s sort of the opposite of a traffic circle in terms of safety. In a rotary, while the number of accidents may increase, their severity decreases, due to the slowing effect that that circle creates as you approach an enter it, and the fact that contact is likely to be side to side. In the SPUI, you move through the intersection rapidly, and I suspect that the number of accidents will decrease, but if someone gets confused about where they’re going and drifts, then the ensuing accident is likely to be at higher speed, and of a head-on variety, increasing its severity. I’ll be interested to see how it works over time.

3. I also live near the new Fresh Market grocery store in Latham, and am a food geek, so watching that project unfold has also been of interest to me, though not nearly as much as it apparently was for many of my neighbors, who lined up to be among the first ones into the store when it opened. I waited a couple of weeks for my first foray into it, and after browsing for awhile, I came out feeling a bit like a victim of media hype fever. It’s a nice, pleasant store, yes, though much smaller than I expected it to be, and its selection, quality and pricing are really not any better than what I’ve been able to get for years at our own home-grown Honest Weight Food Co-Op in Albany. So that makes me feel like Fresh Market is really just a store for suburbanites who just don’t feel comfortable going into the City to shop, which is kind of sad to me. I also don’t see Fresh Market as being the type of grocery store where you can do all of your staples shopping week after week after week, so I don’t think it poses any competition to the Hannafords and Price Choppers of the region. Unfortunately, I think it instead will compete for business with the great small, locally-owned, specialty markets nearby, like Genoa Importing Company in Loudonville, Roma Imports in Latham, or the relatively new branch of Uncle Sam’s Health Food just a few blocks south of Fresh Market on Route 9. When the Home Depots and Wal-Marts of the world come to town and cause the closure of local hardware and variety stores, there’s generally some sense of community outrage against them, but I’ve heard nary a political peep against Fresh Market, even though they’re a national chain, and their impact on small, long-standing local businesses could be just as damaging and severe. I suspect that there’s an uncomfortable socioeconomic element to this disparity in response, in that Fresh Market stereotypically would appeal to the sorts of suburban, higher-income, left-leaning, NPR-listening customers who would be the first ones on the protest lines if Wal-Mart (which stereotypically appeals to more rural, lower-income, right leaning, NASCAR-watching customers) planned to put a big box store in their hamlet. Just because it’s a yuppie-friendly national chain, though, doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt local business every bit as much as Sam’s Club does. Just saying.