Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ah, Fiesta!

I recently was coerced by fate, availability and the lovely wife into taking the dogs “for an outing”.  Something important was happening at the homestead and the Doodles, who consider it their canine duty to bark like mad banshees when people come to the house, were not invited.    

Not knowing what else to do, I decided to take them – and Juneau, the energizer bunny, Vishla – to Fiesta Island.

Fiesta Island is a large track of undeveloped land in Mission Bay and it  is where every year the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club of San Diego sponsors it’s annual Over The Line tournament.   Over the Line is basically beach softball.  Three man (or women) teams compete against one another in an odd shaped triangle on the sand.  Don’t ask me the rules I don’t know them.  But I do know it’s a fun game.  And I do know this particular tournament is about winning, yes, but it’s also about how obscene the names of the teams can be.  Which is major.   And I know too, that the women’s team names make the men’s sound like endearments.   Actually when you get right down to it, the OMBAC Over the Line tournament is mostly about drunk guys of all ages calling for drunk women of all ages to take their tops off.  And the women -  at the least the ones with tattoos – do.  What fun!   Oh - and at the end of the tournament they crown the annual Miss Emerson.

Meaning Emmerson t**s.   

Americana at its best.

(The Desperate Man, of course, has never attended this event on Fiesta Island because though he likes beer and breasts as much as the next guy, he doesn’t deal well with parking.)


Every other time of year it is an awesome place to let your dogs run free.   They poop, they pee, they butt-sniff the other dogs of which there are many.   They race, they roughhouse.   Fiesta Island is the only place, other than our living room, that the Doodles will play fetch and so I always bring a ball thrower with the hopes that I’ll heave it so far out into the water, the Dudes will be swept out to sea.  Or claimed by a water skier. Or arrested by the Coast Guard.

Never happens.

But give it time, they’re still young.

Juneau, they hyperkinetic Vishla, had never been to Fiesta Island before. 

He didn’t like it.   No. 

He loved it.   He went insane over it.   “How come you never told me about this before”,  he said, and ears flapping, he began racing around, bouncing off the landscape like he was a ball of flubber.

Turning, he raced away, doing Mach 123 down the beach and disappeared in the distance.   Moments later he came racing up behind me, leaving me to conclude that he had just circled the world.

When the Dudes went into the water, he just about turned himself inside out with excitement.   He jumped from all fours several feet up into the air, landed stiff kneed and immediately did it again – and again.   He then ran into the water up to his toenails, stepped on a piece of sea weed and did a world record, backward standing broad jump out.   And then barking, he ran in circles, as if blaming it on his tail.   

I felt like I was watching a Warner Brother’s cartoon.  Somehow Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner had married and mated and the results were this gangly dog who could run a billion miles an hour but had no sense of direction.

The Dudes were embarrassed to no end.  Whenever Juneau would come bounding up to them, they’d growl and turn away as if to say, ‘Get the hell away from me, you idiot.  That Collie bitch is staring at us and you’re embarrassing me.”

One slight draw back of Fiesta Island  is that salt water plays havoc with a dog's digestion.  I brought nine plastic bags, three for each of them, more than enough.   They were all used within 30 minutes.  As a semi-responsible dog owner, I always try to clean up after my canines and I’m good at giving dark, disapproving looks at people who don’t.  I’m not good at taking them.  And so I proceeded to walk the beach, pretending these shit machines didn’t belong to me. 

Of course, when an attractive women passes, you can ask her if she has an extra poop bag.  Dogs and poop bags are a great conversation starter and I wish I’d known that as a young man when I had no conversations starters at all.   I wouldn’t have even needed a dog, just the poop bags.   And often the attractive woman will be walking a poodle.  This means Napoleon, the Don Juan of dog eunuchs, will immediately attempt to hump it.   This can make for uncomfortable silences and nervous smiles.  But if it doesn’t, than you know you’ve got yourself a winner.

(As a footnote, I should mention that pushing a baby in a stroller or, better yet, toting it in one of those belly carriers, is also a great way to meet women.  In fact, it's like a smile button.   I wish I’d known that when I was young man as I’m sure I could have borrowed a baby from somewhere). 

At the end of an hour and a half, the Dudes were exhausted from all their ball chasing and swimming and pooping and humping and were panting so hard, their tongues were hanging down to around their clavicles.  They were making it obvious they wanted to go home and get back into their usual routine of sleeping  18 hours a day.   Juneau, however, was having none of it.   Even though he’d already run around the world three times, gotten himself stuck in a drain pipe and survived half a dozen wrestling matches that resembled the X-Games, he wasn’t ready to go and was still careening around like the Tasmanian Devil (another great Warner Brother’s cartoon). 

Juneau, as you might know, is a service dog. He is being trained by the lovely wife for placement in the wounded warrior program at Camp Pendleton.  He lives to obey.

Everybody but me.

Juneau, come!” I said.  Juneau, come!”

He turned and ran away down the beach.    He came back.  He hovered on the periphery.

“Come, Juneau!” I said.  “Come, Juneau!”

He turned away and began playing with an obese Pomeranian.  The Pomeranian’s owner, as obese and wild haired as her dog, smiled and asked if I had an extra poop bag. 

Juneau, if you don’t get your butt over here right now I will kick it in to next week!”   

This was, of course, an empty threat.   If I were ever to kick Juneau’s butt into next week, the lovely wife would kick my butt into next month.   But I was hoping Juneau wouldn’t know that.

He does.  He did.  He ignored me completely.

Five minutes of threats and entreaties later, the Dudes shook their heads in disgust and impatience and turned and padded off in the general direction of the car.   Juneau sat a moment, then raced right by me, yipping – “Guys, wait for me, wait for me!   Guyssssss!"  They ignored him and because they did, like a little kid wanting to hang out with his older brothers, he followed them all the way to the parking lot.

Somewhow I resisted strangling Juneau with his leash.

Fiesta Island.

A great day. 

And to make it even more so, on the way home the dogs had a spirited contest to see who could puke up the most salt water in the backseat of the car.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I had one of those soul squeezing moments this morning.  In fact, am still in the midst of one.   A soul squeeze is when something BIG doesn’t quite compute.  There’s something wrong with the equation, with the moment.  Something on the spiritual plane is out of wack, out of sorts, the scale’s broken.

This is often the case when I’m reading the newspaper.

By newspaper, I mean the real thing.  Real as in ink and paper, something you spread out on the table as you sip strong coffee.   And living where I do, in Southern California, the paper of choice is the LA Times.  It isn’t a bad paper.   It covers the world, the region.  It has a very enthusiastic sports section.  The arts section – the “Calendar” – being totally Hollywood-centric, is questionable.   You wouldn’t compare it to the New York Times.  However the NY Times doesn’t have Doonesbury or Non Sequitar – in fact, it doesn’t have a comics page at all, never has.

So here’s what got me all agitated. 

On the front page today was a photo.   A man,  soaking wet in the falling rain, is weeping.  His eyes are shut tight and his hands are held in front of him as if he praying.  Behind him in an open wooden boat is his family.  Exhausted looking women.  Half naked children.   A fully naked toddler – an exquisite child - who is either sleeping or unconscious.  A sibling holds a ragged umbrella over him/her trying to provide some shelter.   He might as well try to hold back the wind.

They are Rohingya Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar – meaning slaughter – and they are pleading with Bangladeshi border guards for asylum.  They will be refused.   They will be left to the rain.   Boat loads of them will be.

The Beatles’ George Harrison once sang songs asking for assistance for Bangla Desh.    Wondering how he’s feeling. 

Also on the front page is a story detailing how our presidential candidates are “running in place as they duke it out”.  Which means they’re going nowhere.   Maybe they should do it in an open boat.

On the third page is a story detailing how bombings in Iraq have left scores dead.   What else is new?    Oh, but add this – Said a spectator: “I saw pieces of torn clothes, blood, scarves, shoes.” And then, as an afterthought, “I think our politicians are responsible.” 

Maybe they’re running in place, duking it out as well.   Maybe they should do it in an open boat.

And speaking of SyriaRussia denies supplying Syria with attack helicopters.  Good to know.  Good to know that Russia’s military contracts with Syria – meaning weapons sales – is for self-defense.   Maybe they should be selling their weapons in an open boat.  Maybe we should too.

But other than the fact, that while one man was praying helplessly for the life of his family and another was giving testimony to the human tragedy of an explosion, and I was sitting on the couch on my fat ass drinking coffee, here’s what really got me this morning. 

The Emmys

The Emmys celebrate excellence in national primetime programming, awarding top honors at the annual creative arts and primetime awards ceremonies  It says so on their website.

The Envelope.   

The Envelope is a special section in The LA Times giving us information for our Emmy consideration.   It says so on the cover.   The Envelope is an advertisement – it says so on the cover.  

On said cover, two young men in dark suits, who bring a dominating and commanding presence to their performances, stare at us as if they’re fledgling politicians, standing in place before they duke it out.

For your Emmy consideration – Drama!!! 

Cliffhanging, nail-biting and action-packed Drama!!!

Really smart, hard-to-describe, wonderfully nuanced Drama!!!

Dangerous.  Powerful.  Unstoppable.  Intoxicating.  Drama!!!

No.  Sorry.

Dangerous.  Powerful.  Unstoppable.  Intoxicating.  Unbearable.  Embarrassing.  Idiotic.  Posturing.  Self-aggrandizing.  For profit.  Brain-embalming.  BULLSHIT!!!

When reality dukes it out with fantasy, fantasy loses big time 

Or does it?

This is finally what really gets me.   Eventually the photo on the front page of the newspaper will grow dim.   My soul will stop squeezing.   And fuck me, I might even watch the Emmys.

You’d think the death of even one human being would be enough to change the world.  But it doesn’t, does it.  And so I no longer pay attention to the world.  I live in a world of my own.

The U.S. Open – golf – is being played on the TV behind me.  

As protest to the day’s events, I’m going to turn it off and spend the rest of the day thinking of open boats


(If you enjoy the essays at The Desperate Man please share, post and pass on to others.   I'd appreciate it.  SM)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Guess what? 

The Walt Disney Company makes something in the neighborhood of  6 billion dollars a year from their theme parks.

Six Flags Magic Mountain nets 42 million from roller coasters.

Sea World generates about 180 million from fish.

What kind of incredible aberration in the human genome makes this remotely possible?   

Am I the only person in the world who finds waiting in lines for hours to get on insipid rides that bore me, make me nauseous and are over far too quickly, a fate worse than death?   Am I the only guy who finds rubbing elbows on the promenade with Bubba, Lorna,  Dufus and Fatso plus their ten thousand relatives, a bad LSD trip that can’t be over too soon?

Early memory. 

My grandparents – my father’s parents – who’s idea of parenting was to pack their kids off to prep school as soon as possible -  has decided that taking their grandsons – my bother and me; 7 and 8 respectively – to the North Haven Fair would a grandparently thing to do.   I also think my grandfather has decided if he can kill us off it will save my father some child support.  Since he is supporting my father, it is a win-win.  Ten minutes in he decides to off us by putting us on some ride that zigs and zags and spins like a bat out of amusement park hell.   The car, made for four adults is more than big enough for two children.   Zig goes the ride – zag goes my brother and I, smashing around like bowling pins.  Zag goes the car – zig goes my brother and I, our heads crashing together like coconuts.   We seek refuge on the floor of the car.  The ride operator, no longer seeing us and thinking it might be a good idea not to be arrested for manslaughter, stops the ride.  We stumble as we get off.   Since we aren’t dead yet, my grandfather promptly spends 40 dollars so my brother and I can take a ride in an open doored helicopter.    I think he bribes the pilot to do loop-de-loops.

Still, we lived.

Annoyed that we still live, my grandparents takes my brother and me to the New York World’s Fair.  In my grandfather’s further attempt to kill us, we are forced to go on It’s a Small World After All (look it up on You Tube).   That we survive that earns my grandfather’s grudging respect.  From that day forward he will only seek to kill us with my grandmother’s cooking.

I equate amusement parks – and world fairs – with death.

Teenage memory. 

I am 17 and I am with friends at Riverside Park in Springfield, Massachusetts.   It is a cold and rainy night but I don’t care because girls (!) from our high school are there  and I am in the process of falling in love with the beauteous, red haired Kristin Pardee.   We get on the tilt-a-whirl together - how romantic!   We tilt – we whirl.   It’s raining and we are soaking wet but we don’t care.  It’s magic.   This is the beginning of a life together.  One twirly-whirly later, I’m not so sure.  Two twirly-whirlies and our life together ends as hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and soda meet motion.  I puke in my lap.

I associate amusement parks with vomit.

Three parent-child interludes.

My daughter is 8 and on spring break.   She pleads with me to take her and a friend to Disneyland.    (The only thing I ever liked on  The Wonderful World of Disney was – seriously - Texas John Slaughter, you did what he ordered and if you didn’t, you died.).  We drive to Anaheim.   I pay ten dollars to park.  I pay one hundred and twenty to enter the magic kingdom.  Oh, God.   Humans in Mickey suits.   Tinkerbelle and Goofy.  And all around us hemming us in is what seems like the entire population of Hong Kong.   Who knew the Chinese celebrated spring break?  Two hours later we’ve finally been on the Indiana Jones ride.  Not as good as the movie.   Two hours after that, we’ve finally been on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Not as good as the movie.    An hour after that, tired of standing in lines, we’re sitting in a small theatre taking in The Country Bears Jamboree.   There is a reason that there is no one else there.  On the way home, my lovely daughter solemnly tells me that “Disneyland wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.”  I feel like it’s my fault. 


There is no beer at Disneyland.

To make amends six years later I take my daughter and the same friend to Magic Mountain north of LA., a place, she tells me,  famous for earth vibrating rides with names like Apocalypse, Scream, Viper and Goliath.   We dive right in on Goliath which hits speeds of 75 miles of hours as it hurtles down into a tunnel and creates 14 G’s on the body as it bottoms out.  And that’s just the beginning.  It twirls, it whirls, it zigs, it zags, it falls, it climbs.  Suddenly and at high speed.  People throw their hands above their heads and scream in delight.   They take a picture as you get to the end.   In the picture I am a pale, glistening green.   I spend the rest of the day walking through the lines with my sweet  dates, getting to a ride, walking across the ride car, and waiting on the other side until they finish the ride.  Some fun!

Around mid afternoon, having a headache, I channel my grandfather and pay an extra sixty bucks to put the girls on the parachute plunge in an attempt to kill them.  They love it and want to do it again.   I say yes but only if we can leave after.  They say no.  We stay.

There is no beer at Magic Mountain. 

There is also no beer at –

Leggo-land!   For his seventh birthday and at his request, I take the chip off the old block son north to Carlsbad.   I’m expecting Leggoland to be horrible.  It’s worse.  Children are bored and irritated.   Adults wander around in a brain cramped stupor.  How many ways can you assemble little blocks?    The highlight of the day is when we take the leggo-luge which is a raft in a moderately bubbling stream bordered – yes – by Leggo happily smiling creatures.   I get drenched and go around with wet jockey’s the rest of the day.   The only thing my son likes at Leggoland is – yes – the Leggo-coaster.   To celebrate we go on it a dozen times.

I associate amusement parks with no beer.

Last but not least.

I am in Key West visiting my dear friend, Terry.  Terry is an ex-football star, now a  Top Gun pilot who enjoys landing jets on aircraft carriers in raging seas in the middle of the night.  That kind of guy.  Everything I am not.  Terry asks if I would like to out to the base and try... the simulator!

The simulator, it turns out, is a computer enhanced cockpit that simulates the experience of  landings on ships.  It was designed to put pilots into disastrous situations so they could practice getting out of them   Before they had it, pilots had to practice their disasters in real aircraft.    Pilots proved to be cheap and replaceable.  Jets did not.

We meet Terry’s friend, call name Spidey, at the base.   Terry’s call name is Brick.  They actually refer to one another by their calls names and as a token of friendship and affection they give me one – Numbnuts.

They take turns in the simulator practicing disasters, each of them programming the computer to make the disasters more and more disastrous for the other.  These are the kind of guys who, when dealing with disaster, chuckle and say “you fucker”.   Or they giggle and say “asshole”.

When dealing with disaster, I go into a fetal position and scream – “Oh, God!”

And then it’s my turn.   And as I climb into the cockpit I realize that this is the most expensive, most realistic, most terrifying amusement park ride ever made.   Leave it to the military!  It smells of sweat and ammo and jet fuel.  It’s cramped and tight, especially when you buckle in and when the canopy comes down, it’s dark and claustrophobic and far too realistic.   

You’re off, says Terry.

The scream of a jet engine fills the cockpit and everything begins to sway and buck.   The controls and a computer generated screen are in front of me.  It’s as if  I am in a fighter jet!

Let’s fly around for awhile, says Terry. 

Let’s, I say.

We do that for awhile.  Not well.

Call the ball,  says Terry.


The ball it turns out is a computer generated beacon that the pilot uses to find the carrier.  When he sees it, he “calls the ball” – meaning he tells the swabbies on the carrier that he’s coming in.

I see the ball.  It disappears to the left.  I turn to the left.  I see the ball.  It disappears to the right.   I turn to the right.  I see no ball.

You’re upside down, says Terry.

Sorry, I say. 

I’m sweating.   The jet engine is sweating.   The  aircraft is swaying and bucking.  And sweating.

We find the ball.   We’re coming in.   

Are we having fun yet!?  yells Terry.  

I chuckle.   Asshole, I say.    Numbnuts my ass.  Maybe I’ll be a Top Gun pilot in my spare time.

A horn starts blaring.   The jet engines are screaming, deafening.   All at once the cockpit jerks and stops and everything goes black.   There is complete and total silence.

What happened, I ask.

You crashed into the side of the ship, says Terry.

What does that mean, I ask.

You’re dead, Terry says.  

To celebrate we go out and have multiple beers.


There are beers in the Navy.