Sure, it's the heat.

If you don't live in or around St. Louis like me, you might not know that it's currently hotter than balls here right now. Looking at the temperature doesn't do it justice, because that usually only tops out in the high 80s to low 90s. You have to couple in the horrific humidity that makes the heat index, as it was this morning when I left for work at 107 degrees.


I don't understand how heat indexes work, but the basic gist is "Oh, it's actually only 80 degrees outside, but because of all the moisture in the air and lack of wind it feels like it's 100." Well if it feels like it's 100 doesn't that make it a fucking hundred?

Anyway, there's no respite. It's in the 90s when I wake up and go to work in the morning, and it's in the 90s when I go to bed at night. It's disgusting. As soon as you walk outside you're sweating.

So I was enduring the hell that is Midwestern living while I was pumping gas at the QT by my work when a car pulled up at the pump beside mine. The passenger got out and I noticed right away his pants were sagged to below his knees. I could literally see his legs below where his comically-oversized boxers stopped, his jeans were that low.

If you didn't know, "sagging" (I put it in quotes to sound educated. And white.) originates on Death Row, where inmates are often denied things like "belts" and "elastic bands" and "anything at all because you're probably going to kill yourself or someone else with it," so their pants often sag. This eventually caught on with "gangsta" rap and thus got co-opted, focus-grouped, packaged up and sold to the youth of America as something the cool kids do. Children doing this are literally emulating someone who can't be trusted to not injure themselves or others with an elastic string.

So this guy hops out of the car and immediately lurches into a wild, backward scramble until he smashes into my car. The alarm goes off and he turns around to stare at me, sizing me up before deciding the fat guy with the little girl haircut is probably not a threat.

In MY mind, I'm thinking, "What the fuck is your fucking problem you fucking stupid fuck?" But that's no way to make friends or avoid getting your ass kicked at a gas station, so instead I say to him, "You okay pal?"

He looks at me, completely dazed, and says, "It's hotter than Mama's chicken wings out here." He then proceeds to launch into the most cartoonish, over-acted, drunk stumble I've ever seen into the gas station. Loony Tunes characters don't wobble this much even when they're taking pulls from some jug marked "XXX" and hiccuping every 20 seconds.

But at least I came away with a new phrase to use: "hotter than Mama's chicken wings." I've never heard something so clever, probably because my mom usually just buys chicken wings from a bar.

Life After the Bell: Jessie Spano

Continuing my examination of what happened to the characters of Saved by the Bell once the lights turned off.

Jessie Spano was always a little out of place at Bayside: she was the rigid, unwavering feminist/environmentalist forever fighting the current of mindless consumption and sexism roaring over Southern California like a tidal wave 24/7. Sure, she wasn't so committed to her principles that she didn't pose for the occasional beauty pageant or get hooked to "caffeine pills" in order to further her burgeoning lip-syncing career at The Max, but she was still the Class of '93's moral compass in most cases.

After failing to land admission to Stansbury, "The Harvard of the West," Jessie fell into a deep depression. She briefly considered throwing caution to the wind and moving in with her longtime boyfriend A.C. Slater to raise a family, but her mother eventually convinced her to pursue her education, even if it wasn't at the university of her dreams.

One chilly December night she paid a surprise visit to Slater at California University. Her exposure to the binge drinking and blatant homoeroticism of partying with Slater's "bros" led her to question if their entire relationship had been a decoy to throw their friends off the scent of Slater's latent homosexuality. Jessie decided she would be the first true friend Slater ever had, and asked him directly if he was gay. She hoped to coax him out of the closet by showing that she cared for him and supported him no matter his sexual orientation, but the confrontation threw Slater's defensive mechanisms into overdrive.

Jessie endured his screams and insults as he called her a whore, a filthy no good pig bitch, and assured her that he had cheated on her with the majority of girls at Bayside High and half his freshman class at California U. Deep down Jessie knew these were all lies; she had tried to initiate sex once with Slater at a late night study session. He'd blanched at the idea, and she could see the abject terror in his eyes as he rattled through excuses as to why everything had to be "perfect" before he could "nail" her.

She had called his bluff, leaning in to kiss him passionately on the mouth while stroking his manhood through his acid-washed jeans. He was completely flaccid. She'd spent several months wondering what was wrong with her, but in that terrible moment at California University she realized it was no fault of her own that she could not satisfy A.C.

Unable to convince the one person she'd ever loved that he was worth loving, she left Slater there drunk, teary-eyed, and screaming obscenities at her as she headed back home. Jessie wondered if her staunch feminism was a coping mechanism for the failures of all the men in her life: Slater's inability to admit his gayness, Zack's constant scheming and womanizing, her father's divorce and subsequent marriage to that tart she never approved of, and of course Eric, the creepy step-brother she'd acquired through her mother's second marriage.

So many times she'd returned home to find her panties missing, or rearranged in their drawer; that was when she was lucky. Some nights Eric didn't even have the courtesy to throw the semen-coated thongs and boy shorts into the laundry. They'd be waiting for her the next day until she would slip them on, feel the cold slimy embrace of her step-brother's jism on her labia, and scream.

Her mother wouldn't listen, and of course her step-dad took Eric's side, so Jessie was forced to take matters into her own hands. Taking a page from Zack's book, she created fake correspondence between her step-father and his secretary. Using Zack's gargantuan cell phone she would make late night calls and in her most breathless, sultry voice ask her mother to put her step-father on the phone. At first the fights only made things worse; the tension in the house led Eric to act out even more aggressively, at one point threatening to kill her mother if Jessie wouldn't give him anal.

Strengthened by her convictions and the confidence in her own abilities, Jessie stuck to her plan and before long Eric and his dad were heading back to New York, disgraced. Jessie's mom apologized profusely for not taking her warnings and subsequent complaints more seriously. Jessie said she forgave her, but the words were just words; they didn't mean anything to her.

She finished college and went on to study Law at Princeton. Shortly after passing the Bar Exam she was recruited by the top corporate defense firm in the nation, which offered to make her an immediate junior partner. She turned down the offer to open her own practice serving the needs of immigrants, unionized workers, and victims of sexual assault and discrimination.

She never looked back. She never returned to Bayside, either; not even for Christmas or the birth of her daughter, Liberty Virtue Spano. Jessie chose her daughter's father from a catalog of sperm samples after deciding that was all the male contact she would ever need again.

As Liberty grew up Jessie didn't realize that the strength and pride she thought she was displaying and instilling in her daughter were actually fear and weakness. Her disdain for men as being useless, empowering in her mind, came across as a meek, fearful anger. She could never operate in a man's world, she could never be "one of the guys." She'd certainly never trust another man again.

Jessie could never bring herself to come out of the closet. She craved men, fantasized about them, but could never admit to wanting or needing one. When Liberty came out of the closet at 15, Jessie was elated that her daughter would never know the sting of male hegemony in her relationships. When Liberty came out as "confused," two years later, Jessie became depressed with the knowledge that there was no escaping the white-male-dominated society in which they lived.

She remained a successful, albeit financially struggling attorney for 41 years before finally retiring to live out her days in her daughter's care at the home Liberty shared with her wife, Maureen, in rural Massachusetts. She died at the age of 82, and was celebrated as a champion of the downtrodden and the victimized.

No one from Bayside came to the funeral.


Cwunch it up...

You may think I'm posting this to make fun of Merrill, but I'm posting it because I think he's kind of adorable. Even if in person I bet he smells a little weird.

Gracias, Mung from Zug!


Cookin' with Class

My wife works as a commercial fisher, so she's gone for the summers. I usually have three months to myself, which just started last week, and it's usually pretty nice for a week or so before the crushing loneliness sets in.

However, upon learning of the "Funyuns, Cherry Coke, and Taco Bell" diet I enjoy while she's out of town, she decided to ruin everything improve my ability to take care of myself by signing me up for a cooking class.

I showed up to my first class late because the tiny place had no available parking, so I had to find a spot in the subdivision behind and hope I didn't get a ticket since I didn't have the permit for the local neighborhood.

I have this weird and totally-not-helpful hangup about trying new things: if it's not my idea, I'll most likely hate it. If it's not going perfectly, I'll definitely hate it. It doesn't make sense. It totally sucks to deal with. But it's my hangup. I recognize that it's a personality flaw you could easily describe as "crippling" or "the most annoying fucking thing on the planet," because that's how I see it. But so far I don't know how to get rid of it.

Anyway, I was already cursing under my breath at the parking situation when I walked in to find 12 other people surrounding a very confused-sounding older woman as she explained what a knife is.

Seriously. She pointed out the handle and the blade.

I took my spot at the left end of the U-shaped counter next to an old guy who looked almost EXACTLY like Creed from The Office. Everyone has a kitchen knife and we're shown how to properly chop, which involves a motion our teacher describes as "like a locomotive." Everyone whips out their kitchen knives, except me. Since I was late, I get to practice chopping with a steak knife.

Uh, what? If I wanted to learn how to chop a carrot with a fucking steak knife I would have just stayed home and fucked up dinner like I always do. Is the COOKING SCHOOL seriously out of kitchen knives?

In all honesty, I can cook. If you give me a recipe I can make a reasonable facsimile of the intended end result happen. I just hate to cook. It takes me a lot longer than most, because I have no knife or planning skills, but I'll make it happen. I can't really just "whip something up" though. I can't look at separate ingredients and say, "I know what I'll do with this!" Instead, I look at my pantry, overflowing with starches and grains, the spice rack as tall as I am, and the freezer/fridge full of fish, cheese, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, chicken, and say, "Fuck. We don't have anything to eat." Then I usually get myself a bowl of cereal.

Since we were starting our lesson with "This is the pointy end of your knife," I wondered if I'd underestimated my abilities. I chopped my carrots and onion with the locomotion maneuver and began to feel slightly badass. Creed fumbled his knife four times, nearly stabbing me in the arm once. In my head I fantasized about slamming him against the wall, my tiny steak knife at his throat: "If you cut me with your stupid fucking knife I. WILL. GUT. YOU."

Instead I watch as Creed endures a sneezing/coughing fit, spraying his cutting board, knife, and vegetables repeatedly. The instructor seems to notice as well, mentioning that normally we all wash our hands before we begin cooking, but since this is just practice it's okay.

None of us ever washes our hands the rest of the night.

We sit as the helpers clear away our vegetable wreckage and our teacher drones on and on about what we'll be making. I survey the crowd assembled; there are 13, including myself.

- Directly across from me, at the other tip of the U, sit the Abercrombie kids: a guy and girl who could conceivably be brother and sister but are most likely a couple. She wears one of those hipster t-shirts with the huge neck so that one shoulder and half her bra is constantly exposed.

- To their left are the Frownies. I think they're a couple, but they could also be related because both of their mouths form the same taught, perfect frown. They constantly look as though you just stepped on their feet and they're trying not to cry.

- Next up, lonely dude. A young looking tall guy, pretty heavy, who awkwardly crosses and uncrosses his arms. He is loudly trying to strike up a conversation with the woman next to him, and at one point brags that he knows how to fry candy bars. He offers to bring one in for her. She declines.

- Sassy, the object of lonely dude's affections, seems like a pretty straightforward lady. She has a pretty good attitude, and gives knowing winks when engaged in conversation with the rest of us. Were I single I would be trying to impress her with fried candy bars, too.

- Next up, the Trucker. A smoky older woman, maybe 40s or 50s but looking closer to 60s-70s due to a hard-lived life. She doesn't have the raspy cigarette-smoker voice yet, but if you listen real close you can hear it starting to register.

- Next to her, Track Star. An athletically-skinny woman, college-aged and very very serious looking. She looks like she is here to learn some fucking cooking and would appreciate us knocking the bullshit off.

- Beside her is Sara, who's not actually named Sara but fits the mold of every other woman I've ever met named Sara (with no H. Sarah's are a totally different breed): short, a little chubby, big boobs, a splash of makeup, and a bubbly laugh. She also sports a "lookatmelookatme!" princess-cut engagement ring. She is the first one to acknowledge me in the class and seems nice.

- Next to Sara is the Kid, a tiny woman no bigger round than a drinking straw whose facial features and familiarity lead me to believe she may be Sara's younger sister. She is very quiet but smiles a lot.

- Next up, Legs. A pretty average-looking 40-something, wearing khaki shorts with perfectly smooth calves. He either waxes or is physically incapable of growing hair on his legs. He seems a little nervous and out of his element, but has a good attitude.

- Creed, the old guy I already mentioned, who leans in to tell me he's a huge klutz and will probably hurt himself and/or others before this class is over. I hope he means accidentally.

- Me, the sarcastic fat guy with the homeless-man beard and the greasy unwashed hair silently judging everyone else based solely on their appearances.

As our teacher's giving us the basics of how to not stab ourselves in the eyes with olive forks, a huge, fat fly lands on the work surface in front of Sara. It tries to fly a few times but seems drunk or injured or just too huge and fat to move. Teach notices the vermin and gets pretty embarrassed. She turns to one of the helpers, "Could you...ah, try to get that fly?" My eyes light up at the thought of the teenage girl in skinny jeans wielding a fly swatter through our cooking session, but no: she rushes up and smashes the fucking thing on the counter with her bare hand.

We all sit, staring at her, wondering if she realizes she just smashed a fucking fly where we're going to be chopping vegetables for soup in a minute. She's not sure if she made full contact, though, so she drags her hand back to her; the resulting smear of fly guts across the counter must mean we're ready to cook! "Oh, god, spray something on that," the teacher winces. Assistant #2 sprays something with bleach and dutifully wipes any trace of the murder that just occurred, and now we only have the pungent smell of Clorox to remind us.

Creed, Legs, and I get assigned to making vegetable soup. One of the ingredients is chicken stock. "So, if I were to make this on my own, I could get chicken stock...where?" Legs asks me.

"You can get the concentrated stuff like this here in the store, or if you're at just a grocery store you can get it in cans or cartons from the soup aisle so you can just pour it in," I answer, genuinely trying to be helpful because this man has lived nearly half his life without knowing what stock is.

"How do I know how big to slice this potato?" Creed motions toward me with his kitchen knife. Awesome. A klutz with a knife who talks with his hands. He later asks the teacher, "When you say, 'Heat the pan,' do you mean HOT hot?"

I chop my celery and carrots and add them to our bowl of chopped shit. We make our way to the pot and begin cooking our soup. Legs is afraid to stir; apparently he was burned as a child. The recipe calls for broken vermicelli, which I keep in our measuring cup. "So...Legs asks me inquisitively, "this is vermicelli?"

The dude doesn't know what vermicelli is.

I can forgive you if you're not sure what shape vermicelli might be, but he's looking right at it. It's the only pasta mentioned in our recipe. What the fuck could it possibly be but vermicelli?

The teacher passes around some compound butter she's made with garlic and herbs. We all take turns smearing some on bread and enjoying. The trucker asks, "What's the difference between salted and unsalted butter?"

"Salt," I blurt out before I realize what a sarcastic ass this makes me sound like. The entire class turns and stares at me like dogs that have just been shown a card trick. I retreat to the bathroom.

I duck into the bathroom, which is roughly four and a half feet away from the stove. Luckily I don't have to shit, because I can't imagine walking out of there, poop stink fumes billowing out and into the kitchen, and trying to act nonchalant.

I pee. For a minute or two I strongly consider leaving my dick out under my apron, but eventually I decide the hilarity is not worth the sex offender registry.

I wash my hands and come back out to the kitchen where I'm charged with seasoning the soup. I taste it and it's terrible; all I can taste are the canned tomatoes that went in. It's metallic and bland and horrible. I salt and salt and salt but can't kill the flavor of can.

Before we serve it to the class, the recipe calls for shredding fresh parmesan over the soup. Creed is charged with this task, but looks to us feebly for help. "Can you help me?" he pleads, "I've never used anything like this before." A cheese grater? You've never used anything like a cheese grater before?

While we're watching another group make stir fry the helpers serve us each a glass of white wine. Abercrombie boy downs his in a single gulp. He and Abercrombie girl continuously flirt and touch each other while the rest of us peel onions and chop shit.

The stir fry is served and the chicken is the consistency of shoe leather. To overcook this chicken further you would have to fly it to the sun. I dutifully chew through and look around; everyone is silently doing the same.

Eventually the class is over and we part ways, assured by our teacher that next week we will master chocolate cake. I'd be happy with just getting the right fucking knife.


There maaaaaaaaay be an earthquake that maaaaaaaaaay collapse the Golden Gate Bridge and maaaaaaay affect the rest of the West Coast.

In September.

And this guy is pumped about it!

Of course when this shit really goes down in September and the entire West Coast sloughs off the continent and into the ocean, he will rule us all with an iron fist.

A big, retarded, iron fist.