When you say
“I wandered desolate”
It just makes me
Want to punch you
Copyright © 2018 cjcheetham
When you say
“I wandered desolate”
It just makes me
Want to punch you
Copyright © 2018 cjcheetham
One of the great things about living in small town America is you can always find interesting people, businesses and places. One of the things I love about New Hampshire is, that while 7-11 and Cumberland Farms are ubiquitous in their offering of convenience 24 hours a day, the family owned country store is still readily available. The country store offers something that the chain stores cannot offer – a unique experience.
About 3 or 4 times a year, I get a craving for Twizzlers. It’s like clockwork – about every 100 days I get a Twizzler itch and it must be scratched. Today that itch came while I was driving through a small New Hampshire town, which luckily had one of the aforementioned country stores.
As I pulled into the store parking lot, I immediately took note of the non-descript, cement-block-of-a-building with a fading olive green paint scheme. High, near the roofline, a sign told potential customers everything they needed to know:
CIGARETTES – COLD BEER – GAS – DELI
Now, THAT is a mission statement that anyone could understand and get behind. “When you come to our store to fill yer tank, we’d be obliged to sell you smokes, brew, and a large Italian sub with lettuce and tomato.”
The process improvement facilitators across the land with their black belts in how to re-engineer any company’s mission statement and develop your corporate vision statement, could learn an awful lot from this Mom and Pop outfit. The people who own this country store are not “Providng 21st Century customer service focused on the needs of our clients, community…”
Oh shut up! We sell Marlboros and 12-packs of Coors Light.
In the front of the building there was a long flower box, built about two feet high, just about the length of the entire store front. It didn’t look like any flowers had grown there in a very long time. It was really just a box of dirt, with gum wrappers, drink lids, cigarettes, and a few weeds. As I pulled into my parking spot I noticed a small humanoid sitting on that very flower box.
He or she had longish snow-white hair a sheepish, toothless grin on his face. I got a better look as I shifted my truck into park. This was a male, probably in his late 60’s. He appeared to be healthy. His height was hard to tell because he was seated, but I estimated he was no more than 5’ 2” tall. His head was large but seemed to be balanced on his body rather than connected to it. His shoulders were small and slumped – not from discouragement – but rather from a lifetime of bad posture. He wore a very tight shirt and it appeared his upper body was without bone structure. His torso was gelatinous.
It could have been simple lack of exercise. Although, I imagined that he was at one point over 6 feet tall, but over the course of his life he had lost 4 – 6 ribs and 5 – 7 vertebrae under very mysterious circumstances.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was the Creature Double Feature that was played every Saturday afternoon on UHF channel 56 out of Boston. Typically, the movies broadcast were b-moves in black and white that weren’t all that scary. Occasionally, I’d get creeped out by Vincent Price (The Tingler!) or by the Wasp Woman (Roger Corman classic). But for the most part it was not so scary giant lizards, vampires, werewolves, and aliens.
One Saturday, when I was probably 9 years old, Channel 56 broadcast a very chilling film. It was a movie that took place on a remote island that somehow had mutant turtle-like creatures that fed on bones. I can’t remember if these turtles were from outer space or a nuclear experiment gone wrong. In any event, the turtles would attach themselves to unsuspecting cows and suck the entire skeleton out of the cow’s body. All that was left was a mushy cowhide pile and a boneless cow head with a surprised look on its face.
It was a creepy movie. It got creepier when the turtle-things started to feed on humans. I remember my horror at seeing a scientist in his lab coat getting his skeleton sucked out of his body, leaving a gelatinous mess.
So this guy, let’s call him Whitey, with a great head of hair and a gelatinous torso testing the strength of cotton t-shirt tucked smartly into his checkered pants, is just grinning at me. And I am getting that Saturday Creature Double Feature feeling.
But I am here for Twizzlers, so I just smile at Whitey as I walk to the front door of the store. Whitey averts his eyes when I acknowledge him sitting there. Weird.
Just as I suspected this Mom and Pop Store is like walking back in time. At least half of the store is devoted to beer. It’s not like a 7-11. In a 7-11, you walk in and it’s always the same; same coffee counter, same design, same ATM, same refrigerators, same same same. This store is different. This place is disorganized and hard to understand. You have to work hard to find your Twizzlers. The shelves are filled with products you thought were long defunct – there are Andy Capp’s Hot Fries over there, Mello Yello on that shelf, and all 3 flavors of Charleston Chews (strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla – for the unenlightened).
I start to doubt they will have Twizzlers, but then I spot them – right next to the Sugar Daddys and the Mallo-Cups.
As I get to the register there is a guy in front of me buying a couple of jumbo, 24-ounce cans of Busch Beer. He’s a big guy, perhaps 6’ 4” tall and he has that country strong look. Brawny hands and forearms, with a thin layer of grime covering him. His gut is big; these obviously aren’t his first man-sized beers, and the buttons on his shirt are straining to hold his pot in and keep everything together. His gray hair, long and greasy, is combed straight back Fonzy-style and it frames his red face.
Ruddy, a good old Irish term my mom would have used to describe him. Ruddy? I’ve always thought alcoholic when I’ve seen faces like this guy’s.
He pays for his brew and walks out, stiff-legged like his hips are out of their sockets.
I pay for the Twizzlers and head out – I am back in the cab of my pickup in no time.
Seated on the flower bed, less than 10 feet from my truck are Whitey and Ruddy.
I pull a Twizzler from the package and take a big bite. It’s fresh and soft and I savor the texture. There is almost nothing worse than a stale Twizzler; flavorless and brutal to chew. You may as well gnaw on a bag of clothesline if you get a bag of stale Twizzlers. No worries today. These Twizzlers are fresh and true. I take another from the package without looking; my eyes are locked on Whitey and Ruddy.
Ruddy is holding court. He is taking long pulls off his can of beer and in between swallows his is intensely talking to his protégé. His free hand is gesturing wildly, his eyes are bulging and he is stridently talking to Whitey.
Whitey is locked in on every word. His gelatinous torso is moving independently of the conversation, but Whitey is listening intently, sipping his beer like it is a hot coffee. They look like a bizarre coach and insane player strategizing during a critical time out. Ruddy is drawing up a play, imploring Whitey to victory and Whitey looks determined to make the play work and win the game.
Whitey nods. He understands the situation. The spittle is flying from Ruddy’s mouth now but Whitey is undaunted; focused.
I am on my fourth Twizzler when Ruddy finishes his fiery speech. Whitey lowers his can of beer and they make deep eye contact. No one says anything. They are perfectly still except for Whitey’s gelatinous torso.
They both start laughing. Whitey’s stomach churns and rolls happily. Ruddy’s face turns even more red as tears stream down his face.
And I am sitting there thinking to myself:
“What is so funny?”
“What the Hell is so funny?!”
Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham
I found myself watching the NFL draft this week and I have to admit, I took a lot of joy watching Commissioner Roger Goodell take a beating. For the entire first round of the draft, fired up football fans in Philadelphia raucously booed Goodell. Pick after pick, out walked the beleaguered commissioner to announce each team’s first round selection and the fans responded with pure venom. You’d think even Philly fans, famous for their outright cruelty, would get bored with the ‘let’s boo the commissioner” act. But no, the rain of boos continued for hours and I waited patiently (hopefully?) for someone wearing a Wilbert Montgomery shirt to gun a cabbage right at Roger’s head.
Let’s face it – Roger Goodell is the least likeable person associated with any sport anywhere in the world. Not only is Goodell blessed with a perma-smug look on his face that screams to anyone near him “punch me!” but he has mismanaged almost every league controversy during his tenure. Whether it was Ray Rice drilling his wife with an uppercut, egregious over-punishment of the New Orleans Saints (some of which was overturned), or the bizarre, unfounded Kafkaesque “trial” of Tom Brady over the fact that footballs lose air pressure on cold rainy nights – Goodell has poured gasoline on every league brush fire.
Typically, that kind of record will get a man fired. However, Roger looks plenty safe. He’s collecting $35 million a year. The owners are showering the man with money, while the fans are burying him with hate. Beyond the amusing spectacle of watching the awkward, smarmy Goodell getting heaped with derision, I found myself wondering aloud: Why?!
Why do the NFL owners, the most unified group of totalitarian oligarchs since the Soviet Politburo, trot out Roger to be pilloried by riled up, sauced-up, NFL fans every draft? Conventional wisdom would have us believe that the owners are desperate to protect the brand of the NFL from any criticism from fans or the media. If you’re an NFL owner couldn’t you find someone who, for a cool $35 million per year, could be a little more competent and a little less odious than Roger Goodell? So again, I was left wondering, why?!
Then it came to me. The NFL draft reminded me of something I’d read about years ago.
“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”
– 1984 by George Orwell
For the same reason Orwell’s Inner Party trotted out Emmanuel Goldstein for the “two-minute hate,” the NFL sends out roger Goodell for the “first-round hate.” When your real goal is to manipulate the proles and redirect their emotions; when you have no respect for the average fan; that’s when you create spectacles like the NFL draft broadcast.
The owners are acutely aware that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference. Believe me, the owners deeply fear indifference.
So, you give the fans an outlet for their seething hatred – you offer them up the most hated man in sports, once a year, to be scorned. In order to prevent a revolution, or even worse the loss of Red-Zone subscriptions and TV ratings, it is best to just let Roger take a beating. Let the unwashed masses yell and scream – there will be no damage to the league and nothing will change. Fanatics can huff and puff at Goodell’s multi-million dollar brick house, but rest assured the pigs are seated comfortably inside.
The owners need not worry when fans are yelling death threats at the commissioner. Just so long as it never gets to the point where the fans do something really dangerous – like turning off the television or cutting back on fan merch purchases.
That’s the game being played here folks. It’s a two-minute hate with Roger Goodell playing the role of Emmanuel Goldstein. We are all being manipulated – and I am right there with the rest of you, enjoying my hatred of Roger Goodell. As Winston Smith confessed in 1984 – once the hate-fest starts, it is impossible to avoid joining in.
Does any of this bother Roger Goodell? Not at all. He could care less what the fans think, because he works for the owners. And those same owners give Roger 35 million reasons to endure public hate and discontent.
For Roger, It’s all double-plus-good.
Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham
If you are an out-going president who wants to destroy any chance of your successor doing well while in office (country be damned!), you are probably going to want to use the full force of the intelligence community to attack your political opponents.
Before you can start the process of using the FISA courts as a smokescreen to your unethical political attacks, it is important to identify a foreign nation that you can easily get a judge to approve wiretapping operations against. There are many potential nations you could target but the tried and true patsy – the one guaranteed to get you the authorization you need, is Russia.
Russia has a well-earned patsy-status because of its long history of spying on the United States during the Cold War. Never mind that during the Soviet era, when Russia was an actual expansionist power hell-bent on Marxist domination of the world, the media downplayed the threat as did most political leaders in the Democrat Party. Stick with today – and there is virtually no one today who isn’t well aware that the Russians are almost constantly spying on the United States. They spy with covert operatives, they spy via space-based technologies, they spy via daily cyber intrusions and attacks, and of course they conduct overt spying via their ambassadorial staff, bureaucratic governmental interactions, and commercial enterprises EVERY DAY in the United States. None of this is a secret, but it will help you in your goal to unethically spy on, and ultimately smear, American political opponents who ostensibly have constitutional rights designed to thwart your dirty tricks campaign.
Once you’ve decided on Russia as your fall-guy, it is a simple step-by-step process to engage in Nixonian attacks on your political opponents.
Identify key Russian players who will want to engage in talks with the next President. This should be easy to do because you remember the transition process when you ran for President the first time. For example, a real no brainer would be the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Once you have a solid list of Russians who will want to meet the next American President (no matter who it is) you are ready for your next move.
Step 2: Start leaking lots of ominous information and intelligence to friends in the media and congress regarding “Russian cyber-attacks” and “potential meddling in the upcoming election.” Of course, you are not lying. The Russians are collecting intelligence on a daily basis across the spectrum of intelligence disciplines. However, you must act like you are shocked by the unprecedented “meddling” in our elections. Continue to use the word meddle or meddling because it is almost impossible to define. Lucky for you, the media will never ask you “what do you mean by meddling?”
Your opponent is oblivious and will probably just try to “get along with the Russians.” Perfect! So sit back and wait for the media to pepper your political opponent with questions about vague “ties to Russia”– yes! Now you know that it’s all coming together.
Step 3: As Election Day gets closer, you are going to want to go to FISA court to get your wiretap set up. Don’t over reach and ask for broad powers to tap every call to your opponent’s campaign. That will get turned down. But lucky for you, FISA courts are spring-loaded to approve requests to defend the nation – so go in there and say “look we have unprecedented Russian meddling in our elections.” You know that is a whopper of a lie – but so what? It’ll get approved because no FISA judge wants to explain the request he didn’t approve if the shit hits the fan later. So now you are golden – you have broad wiretapping authority to listen to the Russians (who you don’t really give a rat’s ass about) and more importantly precious legal cover for pulling a Nixon and listening to your opponent’s campaign. Could it get any better than that? Yes, it could! Which is why we are moving to step 4.
Step 4: Continue to generate media excitement and anxiety over these unprecedented (not really unprecedented) Russian attacks. Likewise, keep up with the “concerns” over “meddling.” Now is the time for the 3 options in Step 4.
Option A: Your party wins the election. Congratulations! Before you celebrate too much, store away all the juicy “intelligence” you have on political opponents aligned with your opponent’s campaign. This could come in handy later. For example, during a Supreme Court nominee’s hearing you may be able to destroy an opposing senator as a result of your efficient wiretapping.
Option B: You lose the election – but you have evidence of treason by your opponent. This is highly unlikely, because let’s face it – all your efforts have been contrived political bullshit. You actually kind of like the Russians; certainly you like them better than the other political party. But if by some miracle there is evidence of crimes – go nuclear with the information.
Option C: You lose and you have no evidence of your opponent conspiring with the Russians. Do not panic! This should be expected and still offers great options for character assassination. Begin by leaking that there may be intelligence “linking” your opponent to “meddling” by the Russians. Use the New York Times and CNN because they have such low journalistic standards they will push whatever you provide. Keep leaking a bit here and there. Remember, by this time on the calendar there is no longer any question in public opinion as to whether the Russians “meddled” in the election. Your media friends have seen to that. So keep pushing the “conspiracy to meddle” angle and use cherry-picked, leaked intelligence to character assassinate anyone who objects. Remember, even though you have corrupted a process – you can always say it was all approved by a judge.
At this point you are in great shape to destroy your political opponents. Oh sure, there will be some people that may start to wise up to your abject corruption. Just remember to stay the course. If a politician attacks you, call for long, drawn out investigations that never will solve anything. This helps you destroy your political opponent. Long drawn out investigations covered by your friends in the media will actually be an opportunity to take down more opponents. Here you should focus on minutia – it is perfect for tripping up even the most honest opponent.
If a talk show host or minor media outlet points out you look a lot like Nixon, send out your surrogates and have them say “FISA, FISA, FISA” – this incantation will placate your friends over at the NYT and CNN to shout down and drown out any criticism. Capitalize on your momentum by asking (in hushed tones for maximum effect), “why is such-and-such Radio Talk Show Host not concerned about Russians meddling?”
If you play your cards right, you may get a FISA court to let you wiretap that radio talk show host.
Bad TV that insults me freely; still I know what I’m dyin’ to see
Announcer: This…..is Sports Center.
Skip Grayness: Good evening everyone, welcome to Sports Center. There were lots of athletic events tonight but let’s get straight to breaking news. Our own Chip Morgueworkersson has breaking news on the latest Patriots scandal! Chip, what have you got and just how sensational is it?
Chip: [Speaking in grave tones] Well, Skip it doesn’t look good for Bill Belichick. I’m told by highly placed sources that the Patriots actually used a Bigfoot – a Sasquatch – to deflate balls before the AFC Championship game.
Skip: Whoa, Chip… this is big.
Chip: Yes it is Skip. I have looked into this extensively and the ceilings in the men’s room at Gillette Stadium are 10 feet tall. My sources tell me that that is clearly a high enough ceiling to handle a Sasquatch which I’m told on average runs between 7 and 9 feet tall. There was a report in the 1940s of a Sasquatch that was over 10 feet tall, but my sources stress it would be extremely unlikely that such an animal would still be alive. Even if he was alive, he’d be almost 80 years old and it would be extremely unlikely for him to live in Foxboro at that age.
Skip: Wow, you’ve done your homework. That’s why you’re the best in the biz, Chip! How exactly did Sasquatch deflate the footballs, thereby giving known cheaters Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots a huge advantage en route to their narrow 45 -7 victory over the plucky Indianapolis Colts?
Chip: Skip, I am told that they pre-positioned the Sasquatch in the men’s room. When the ball attendant brought the bag of game balls into the men’s room, the Sasquatch went to work. I don’t think I have to tell you, the Squatch, as the experts call him, has massive hands and is enormously strong. It could easily squeeze the air out of 11 balls.
Skip: Why only 11 balls, why not 12?
Chip: Well Skip, and I’m speculating here – you know I don’t like to do that, I like to deal with facts; but purely speculating I think it is safe to say that most Bigfoots have trouble counting any higher than 7.
Skip: So this Sasquatch exceeded expectations with 11?
Chip: Belichick wouldn’t have it any other way, would he? I mean he can coach. He obviously has a Sasquatch that knows how to do his job.
Skip: Great work as always Chip. This is truly BREAKING NEWS! Now, let’s turn to our panel of unbiased experts. Joining me are Michael Bonbon of the Chicago Press, and some guy wearing a New York Giants shirt named Coco. Coco, let me start with you. What are the implications of the Patriots using a Sasquatch to doctor balls and steal victories?
Coco: Well Skip, my first thought is how long have they been using giant mythical primates to win football games? And this goes beyond deflating balls. The NFL will have to investigate if the Sasquatch was using its giant leathery hands – I’m told they are like sandpaper! Were they using those big meat-hooks to scuff footballs? And don’t get me started on game prep – because a 9 foot tall primate on the practice field is a huge advantage for a QB like Tom Brady when he walks through how to cheat, I mean beat, a defense.
Skip: Fascinating. Bonbon, what do you have?
Bonbon: Look, the Patriots are always going to push the line. Is there anything in the NFL rule book that states explicitly “You cannot use a Sasquatch”? No. The NFL has got to get the integrity of the game back under control. The Patriots should not be allowed to hide a Sasquatch at Gillette Stadium to affect the outcome of games.
Skip: Bonbon, and I want to stress right now the league is still investigating, but when they reach the obvious conclusion that Belichick used a Bigfoot – what does Roger Goodell do?
Bonbon: Make Belichick confess! Right now, TODAY, the NFL has the authority based on what we know from Chip’s report to put Belichick on a bread and water diet! So what haven’t they done so already? And I don’t want it to be french bread and bottled water. Give him white bread, WITH high fructose corn syrup, and room temperature tap water.
Skip: And after he confesses?
Bonbon: Well look, we don’t need to go overboard. Just bury him up to his neck in the Arizona desert, cover his head with honey and let the ants have him.
Skip: Seems reasonable considering how much damage the league is taking as a result of rampant Sasquatch usage by the Patriots. What about Brady?
Bonbon: Let him play in the Super Bowl. But wrap his thighs together with some heavy duct tape. Force him to shimmy around the pocket or hop like a rabbit to avoid the pass rush.
Coco: Skip, I’d like to jump in here. Did you notice Belichick’s answer on media day to the question about the Sasquatch?
Skip: Wait… he was asked about Sasquatch?
Coco: Yes, when the cute little 4 year old girl asked Belichick, “what is your favorite stuffed animal?” Belichick said he liked a monkey that you can put your hands inside to control – like a puppet. First thing I thought was this. He is positioning himself to say he was referring to the Sasquatch he has been using, FOR DECADES, to win football games. A primate puppet? Come on! It’s obvious.
Skip: Old Belichick is always trying to stay one step ahead isn’t he?
Bonbon: He should be publicly executed.
Skip: Before we wrap up – anything else from you Coco?
Coco: Will you be showing anymore highlights of the Giants this week? I’m used to you showing highlights of the Giants beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl at least 19 times a week since 2008. I’ve noticed that this week, you have only showed it 12 times. It really makes it more fun for me to caress my Michael Strahan bobble-head doll when you play those highlights.
Skip: Coco, great lead in! It’s coming up right after the break!
Copyright © 2015 cjcheetham
Right up front I need to say it: I am no food snob.
I much prefer diners to so-called “fancy” or “upscale” restaurants. My experience with diners across the United States has been remarkably consistent. You can get eggs and hash browns; or get burgers and fries – and the typical diner will come through and satisfy you.
No, I have never eaten at a diner and then said “wow! That was the best meal I have ever had.” Likewise, until recently I would have never said, “the food in that diner is so bad that people should be arrested.” But a couple of days ago I ate at a diner so grotesque that I am petitioning the U.S. Department of State to classify the entire restaurant as a terrorist organization.
Let’s set the mood. I had spent a day in Sedona AZ. A quaint town of cowboys and hippies nestled in the Northern Arizona wilderness. It was a remarkably hot day, but that hadn’t prevented our family from executing a morning hike to Devil’s Bridge, an afternoon of shopping, and wrapping up with a late afternoon jeep excursion into Sedona back-country. The jeep excursion wrapped up at about 8pm.
We were all a little hot and tired – so the family agreed: “let’s go quick, cheap, and easy” for dinner before returning to our hotel.
Burger King, the ever steady quick, cheap, and easy solution raised his big paw and said, “Hey Cheethams – I’ve got you covered.” But I drove right on by. There had to be a better option. And of course, there was – because on route 89A South in West Sedona, we all saw the same thing: The Red Planet Diner. Glistening in the street lights in front of the diner was a hovering flying saucer. The lights inside the diner were on and the parking lot was full – everything seemed perfect. I was ready to explore the Red Planet. Little did I know that I would end up like Kane (played by John Hurt) in the original Alien film.
Diners, generally speaking.
Diners are a great and safe pick 99.9% of the time. It is really hard to screw up scrambled eggs; or fries; or a BLT. In fact, if I was forced to name THE safest thing to order at any restaurant in the entire nation – I would go with a BLT. Not only that – but a crowded diner is the closest you will ever get to a sure thing. Big crowds at a diner equal safe choice. Or so I thought.
Therefore, I was confident that I was about to get some decent diner-fare; some comfort food at the Red Planet Diner; it would certainly never be something bad. But, then again – Kane never expected an alien to impregnate his stomach with a lizard, did he?
Red Planet or Death Star?
As I walked into the Red Planet Diner, I was surprised to find myself in a bar room. Not just any bar room – but a full-fledged dive bar. Here are some key indicators of a dive bar: if it is dark, creepy and more than 50% of the patrons have facial tattoos? You are in a dive bar. I don’t particularly hate dive bars – but I certainly don’t take my kids and wife to a dive bar to grab an omelet and a smiley-faced pancake.
I immediately began to check myself. Had I walked in the wrong door? Maybe. As I considered turning back I was greeted by an overwhelmed “host” who asked “would you like to sit at the bar?” I immediately pictured my 8-year old sitting next to the bald guy with the eagle-claw tat guzzling tequila. Just as I was about to say “you must be nuts” – the host gestured to the other side of the diner where there were five empty seats at “the bar” also known in diners as a “counter.”
As we walked to our seats I checked the customers’ faces in the packed diner. What I saw screamed “turn back now!” But I denied my instinct. The diner customers were a combination of sour faces, anxiety, nausea, and despair.
We took our seats at the horseshoe shaped counter. The surface of the counter was filthy – covered with some kind of sticky slime. At my place there was a carton of yellow mustard bottles. Next to the box was a dirty dish rag emanating a sour-milk fragrance that tends to kill your appetite and break your heart.
Then I got a good look around the Red Planet. It was filthy from top to bottom. Discarded fries on the floor, brown liquid stains splattered the floors, walls, and amazingly, the ceiling. I had a very bad feeling about the entire operation. Should I have left? Absolutely. But I was just too tired – or perhaps too confident in the American diner, to believe that this wouldn’t turn out just fine.
We placed our order with the host who was now acting as the waiter (he also appeared to be the dish-washer and cashier). The kids ordered burgers and my wife playing it extra safe went for a BLT. I was even more cautious. I ordered the “Space Dog” figuring that even an orangutan could cook a dog and not screw it up. You can’t go to a diner without getting milkshakes, so four of those were ordered as well.
I watched as the sweaty staff moved about in a confused manner – like zombies or perhaps stroke-victims, the staff was constantly mumbling and bumping into one another. I had to avert my eyes. I had a great view behind the counters, and I could see inside the cabinets below the counter-level. The cabinets were all empty, save one. There was one cabinet full with about forty bottles of hot sauce. My son saw the same thing. Something was desperately wrong at the Red Planet Diner.
The walls were adorned with grubby rubber aliens. At the counter, beneath the filthy, sticky plexi-glass, there were photos of UFO sightings. Interesting fact: Sedona Arizona has the second most UFO sightings of any city in the USA. Not so interesting fact: I couldn’t read any of the captions of the UFO photos on display because someone had typed the captions in Brush Script MT Number-Four-Font; I couldn’t have read those captions with the Hubble telescope.
Our waiter returned with our milkshakes and announced “I don’t have any clean glasses guys” as he plopped down four metal mixing cups and four straws. I know what you are saying right now. You are saying “Leave. For God’s sake, why won’t he leave?!” Because this is a horror story, that’s why.
We dutifully picked up our shakes that were in the mixing cups and began to drink. (Aside: if the glasses were all dirty in this joint, tell me – do you think the mixing cups were clean?) I began to feel queasy and had to put my shake down. To my left was a green rubber alien head that had the top of its skull cut off (YOU CUT OUT HIS BRAIN YOU LOUSY APES!).
I thought, “That might be a tip jar. But it is so filthy with blackened goop; it could also be what they use to change the oil on their cars.”
Behind me two men were standing demanding, no pleading, for a check as zombie waiters passed them by. Desperate, they ultimately threw cash on their table and sprinted to the door. Sadly they went out the wrong door which leads to an outdoor seating area – completely fenced in. (Aside: what kind of diner has fenced-in outdoor seating? Answer: the worst diner in America.). The two men had no way out. They glanced back at the door and saw mumbling, zombie waiters approaching. They had no choice. They had to climb. I watched as two men in their early fifties summoned long-forgotten strength and scaled the fence. Freedom. I had tears in my eyes.
Our food arrived and the waiter announced: “I don’t have any clean silverware guys.” My “Space Dog” was a vivisected mess on a stale bun. It was charred and disgusting. Amazingly, the waiter couldn’t find any mustard, after having finally moved the box that had been in front of me most of the evening. (Aside: Why couldn’t they let the orangutan cook just this once?!) I gagged down about four bites. My kids were struggling with their burgers that looked like Wookie-Scat on wonder-bread. My wife, was having the easiest go of it (God bless the BLT) but her coleslaw resembled a wet disintegrating softball and it had become a solid mass.
I lost control. I found myself shaking and uncontrollably shouting “Check! Check! For the love of God! Someone bring me a CHECK!!”
It cost a small fortune. I began to hate the Red Planet – to hate all Martians for that matter. We escaped through the bar. I smiled at the cross-eyes guy with the python tattooed on his forehead; he raised his glass to me as we slipped out the door.
We all immediately began to feel sick. The hot dog, churned in my belly for hours. As of this posting, it has yet to develop into an Alien Lizard and rip my living guts out – so there is a chance I may yet avoid Kane’s fate.
Worst. Diner. Ever.
Watch Kane get the alien treatment here: http://youtu.be/vJD0kXVdM7c
In all seriousness – never eat at the Red Planet Diner in Sedona AZ. It was the worst experience of my life.
Until my late 20’s I rarely would go to a gym and workout. I always found ways to be active by playing sports regularly. But by the time I started to hit my late 20s, I began to develop the build that no man wants – Fat and Skinny.
Fat and Skinny is a look where all your muscle mass (in your chest, arms, legs) atrophies but you simultaneously begin to develop a bag of flab just above the belt line. Fat and Skinny is hideous. And so in the mid 90’s as I sensed a looming Fat and Skinny look in my mirror I started hitting the gym regularly. I pretty much have gone to the gym every weekday for the last 18 or 19 years. I like lifting weights – I like working out; but the gym? I don’t really like the gym. I have a good reason.
All gyms are full of The Gym Cretins.
A Gym Cretin is a person who will simply annoy you to no end. They are oblivious to their cretinism. They roam the gyms of America taking every opportunity to ruin your day. For almost two decades, I’ve been tracking the Gym Cretins like Von Helsing tracking vampires. I have kept copious notes and sketches in notebooks. If I can only understand the Gym Cretins, perhaps I can find a way to stop them; perhaps there is still time to save mankind.
I offer this guide in the hope that we are not too late.
The Gym Cretins – A Field Guide
The Cable Guy: The Cable Guy is not a funny southern comedian nor is he an overlooked character from a Jim Carey film. The Cable guy is the cretin in the gym who sets up shop at the cable machine and will not leave. He does 90 minutes of cable flys, cable curls, cable press downs , lat pull downs, reverse pivot cable extensions. You name it; if it can be done with a cable, the Cable Guy will do it and he doesn’t really care that there are about 73 other people in the gym who just want to do THREE stinking sets of triceps push-downs.
The Elaborate Move Guy: Look for this cretin near the dumbbells. The Elaborate move guy is the guy who will be wildly swinging dumbbells in a 360 degree motion while doing reverse leg-lunges; then he will immediately knock out high knee sprints and drop for 20 wide-leg push-ups. During all this frenetic activity other gym patrons are left ducking, leaning, and wincing – in hopes of avoiding a dumbbell off the head. When you ask the Elaborate Move Guy what the heck he is doing – he usually says something about muscle confusion before knocking out 50 jumping jacks (the cretins call them “Jacks”) while bouncing a medicine ball off the back of the nearest person’s head.
Spandex Shorts Guy: I first encountered this cretin in 1996 while stationed in Germany. It was an encounter so frightening that nightmares of it plague me to this day. I was in the gym and in walked a Lt Colonel who I knew (I was a 1st Lt. at the time). He didn’t see me. This Lt Colonel was not in great shape. He was a bit pudgy actually – but he still thought it was smart to wear a pair of electric blue spandex shorts. To top off the look, he was wearing a white tank-top, the string kind with the extra thin straps; the tank top was tucked into the blue spandex shorts. I was almost catatonic as I stared at this spectacle of cretinism.
Then he started to move.
He started doing some kind of side lateral movements while looking at himself in the mirror. He wasn’t wearing headphones – but it was obvious that in his mind the song “Maniac” by Michael Sembello (from the atrocious movie Flashdance) was filling his mind.
I turned away; but my mind has never purged that image from my memory. I fear that my last moments on earth I will think of that cretin – “Maniac, Maniac on the floor…” and then I will die.
Grossly Inaccurate T-Shirt Guy:
The Grossly inaccurate T-Shirt guy is the cretin with a Fat and Skinny body type who is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt that says things like:
I may be stupid; but I can lift heavy things
Life is Short; work hard
No Pain – No Gain
A living oxymoron.
Multiple Injury Guy:
This Cretin will hobble around the gym wearing a knee brace, elbow brace, ankle supports, taped wrists , ace bandage wrap on the thigh and of course one of those magnetic wrist thingies that are supposed to give you energy and help you avoid injury (working great!)
To make matters worse if you are trapped within ear shot of this cretin you will hear his call: “I used to be able to lift this much; I used to squat: I used to be able to bend at the waist…” etc.
The Screaming Guy:
Making a little noise during physical exertion helps – We all get it. Even Steven Segal, master of Aikido, has been known to let out a grunt or two when destroying a group of bad guys with rapid blows to the face, neck, and chest.
But the screaming Cretin wants everyone in the same zip code to know – he just did a really heavy rep on the squat rack. If you see this cretin in the Fat and Skinny version – just leave the gym and go for a run or something. Do not approach the Fat and Skinny Screamer.
The I Only Do One Exercise Guy:
From the same phylum as the Cable Guy, this cretin takes up residence on a piece of equipment and does one exercise for 60 minutes. I first encountered this particular Cretin on a Pec-Deck. The cretin was doing pec contractions on a Nautilus machine. I wanted to use that machine but I went about my workout and checked back every 10 minutes of so. This Cretin sat happily doing pec contractions for more than an hour. You will also find this cretin on the leg extension machine for up to 90 minutes at a time.
The Horrible Form Guy (aka the Weight-Psych Guy)
These male cretins are usually accompanied by a female cretin they are trying to impress. I recently saw one of these cretins in my gym I go to now. He approached the cable-cross over machine and put the pin in the highest weight setting. He was planning on doing pec cross overs with an incredible amount of weight. He was wearing an Inappropriate T-Shirt.
Now as an aside, the proper form for a cable cross over is to grab the two handles attached to the cables and then bring the knuckles of your two hands together like you are hugging a rain barrel that is right in front of your chest. You don’t need a lot of weight.
But Horrible Form Guy is trying to impress his girl. So he has a colossal amount of weight on each side. In order to move the stack of weight, he literally has to jump in the air while grabbing the handles in order to generate enough momentum to get the weights off the ground. Once he has done that – this particular Cretin ends up flexing his wrists repeatedly because any real movement of his arms will result in shoulder dislocation. The wrist movement is bizarre, and not really an exercise – so he will typically start screaming with each wrist flexion repetition.
Innovator Guy is a cretin who will take a piece of equipment and use it for something it was never designed for. For example, you might see innovator guy balancing on a medicine ball while juggling 5lb plates; or doing handstands with two kettle-bells tied to the laces of his sneakers.
Naked Locker Room Guy:
Look – people change in locker rooms – so there will be nudity. But Naked Locker Room Guy covers a lot of ground and has no idea where he left his towel. So you might be brushing your teeth and Naked Locker Room guy is standing next to you, flossing. Or you are tying your shoes and naked Locker Room Guys is checking his e-mail on his cell phone – standing. I ran across a particularly nasty version of this cretin about 7 years ago. He liked to walk around the locker room engaging strangers in conversations about the Tour De France. I finally said “How about the Tour de Pants, jackass? Put some clothes on!”
I realize I am only scratching the surface; there are so many more forms the Gym Cretins can take – and yes I am also troubled by that.