ERIK DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS


Ur-Flannel

Today I purchased the baddest-ass flannel shirt ever.

Allow me to set the scene.  It was a beautiful sunny day in the city.  I was invigorated by my daily run, consisting of an uncoordinated trudge through the Castro. The disproportionately male denizens of the Castro meet my flabby body with a look of reproach and horror.  This gives me an incentive to elevate my effort.  Once my workouts have resulted in a fit, attractive figure, sufficient to warrant a lustful gnashing of teeth, I will have met my benchmark.

That was a digression.  The day was sunny, and I was feeling good, so I went to the Charity Thrift Store on Valencia to go clothes shopping.  I was in need of some cheap shirts.  What I found there quite possibly changed my life: The Most Powerful Flannel Ever.

It is red and black check, manufactured by “Field and Stream,” giving itself an air of absolute legitimacy in terms of outdoor musky masculinity.  “Field and Stream” clothing has a motto commanding us to “wear our passion every day.”  My passion is ultimate power, and in this flannel I have gained the instrument for ultimate domination of the universe.

On the “F&S” website, my flannel is pictured prominently on the front page.  It is named the “Jackson Jackalope” after the mythical beast, legendary for terrorizing the hills of random yokel towns, and also remembered in reference to the regrettable Dave Coulier, who Alanis apparently slept with which is basically an archetypal “lowering yourself” moment no matter what you think about Alanis.  But that is another blog entry entirely.

The weight of the fabric is heavy.  It armors you against the elements.  Your enemies may not harm you.  The Mongol hordes wore silk armor because the silk could not be pierced with arrows.  Generally, when you are shot with an arrow a piece of clothing remains in the wound after the arrow is removed.  This causes an infection that leads to your death.  With silk armor, the Mongols might be wounded by an arrow, but they could easily remove the missile and sew up the hole.  This is how the flannel works against bad vibes and dark magick of every variety.  But, what if instead of magick, my adversary uses arrows?  I knew you would ask that.  This flannel is so aggressive that no one would dare shoot arrows at it.

The Most Powerful Flannel Ever is so powerful that it immediately destroys all other flannels in its immediate vicinity.  This is not an exaggeration.  As I held it on the way to the checkout counter, I passed another flannel shirt.  This flannel was obviously weaker than mine, because all flannel shirts are weak in comparison.  The weaker flannel exploded in a violent eruption of fire and brimstone.  A high pitched scream issued from its expiring ashes.  In fact, by the very virtue of its existence, my flannel has drained the power of other flannels worldwide by a factor of 10.  The state of Washington will never be the same.

Here is haiku I composed in tribute to the flannel:

Powerful flannel,

Bow before red and black cloth!

You are my servant.

The hide of the Nemeon Lion.

The Hide of the Nemean Lion.

 



Over the Top.
March 4, 2010, 2:58 pm
Filed under: bar | Tags: , , ,

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I expected, a month ago, to post more frequently.  This did not happen.  Instead, I studied for the California State Bar Exam and neglected this blog.  I apologize to my devoted readership (all three of you).  I also apologize for the length of this post.  I will attempt brevity next time.

You must expect, if you intend to enter the membership of a malevolent secret society that exerts clandestine power over all aspects of life, that you will be forced to undergo a self-negating, but ultimately meaningless, initiation rite.  Law is such a society.  A state bar has a lawfully sanctioned monopoly over the practice of law in that particular state.  Why is this monopoly legal when all others that do not involve baseball or health insurance are not?  Because lawyers control everything, and have exempted themselves from laws.  To enter the druidic folds of this shadowy fraternity, an aspiring lawyer must undergo whatever torment the state bar has determined appropriate.  Thus, the bar exam.

I am an attorney in Illinois, but that does me no good in California.  While most states allow attorneys from other jurisdictions to waive in or take an abbreviated bar exam, the California bar is more aggressively monopolistic than other states.  I must take all three days of the bar exam, like a common law student, including the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE), a multiple choice test that I already passed once before when I became a lawyer in Illinois, which, although it is corrupt and terrible, is still a state in the Union and, in theory, deserves some kind of credit for having standards.  But, apparently not.  In addition to taking the full-bore bar exam, I have to pay more than I would as a fresh-out-of-school pup.  Almost twice as much.  Those incredibly smart lawyers in California can’t handle the competition apparently.

I took the bar in San Mateo, a suburb South of the city.  The night before, I sat in my hotel room, two blocks from the cavernous convention center where I would take the exam.  I attempted to review, but it was useless.  I watched The Devil Wears Prada on basic cable.  The Devil Wears Prada is a particularly irritating movie.  In some respects it follows the conventions of the horror movie.  Every character that is nominally villainous is interesting and funny and portrayed by a good actor, and everyone who is ostensibly good is unlikeable, annoying, and portrayed by a bad actor.  This puts you in the awkward position of rooting for the villain, Meryl Streep taking on the Freddie Kruger role in this case, and hoping that Anne Hathaway fails and dies a horrible gory death, which, in a non-horror context, is kinda strange.

The next morning I rose early, probably too early.  This is a thing I do when I have an important engagement.  I alott too much time for tasks.  This leaves me awkwardly waiting around for an hour before the anticipated event.  In addition, when I am nervous I compulsively yawn.  I remember going on job interviews in Chicago, in the winter, wearing only my worn old blue Brooks Brothers suit.  A shivering figure repeatedly circling an office building, clutching a black leather portfolio with a cover letter and resume inside, yawning inexplicably every five seconds, and ducking into Starbucks to pee every 10 minutes because of the cold.  This is what I do.

When the doors opened, I was in line.  The kid in front of me had glassy, drooped eyes.  Slouching in front of me, I realized he reeked of weed.  I yawn; this guy gets weird.  Whatever you got to do.  Did I mention that the February bar has a lower pass rate than the summer bar?  Part of this has to do with the number of re-takers who failed the first time around.

I sat down in my seat.  I continued to yawn.  The person assigned to the seat next to me never showed up.  After our lunch break they took that persons’s identification material away.  I imagined what terrible events kept that person from taking this, the most important exam of their lives.  Sea monsters?  Ninja assassins?  Alien abduction?  The possibilities were too terrible to contemplate.

The bar exam is proctored by elderly to middle aged women, who selflessly stand around for three days watching people freak out.  It must be very thankless.  The proctor at the front of the room began to read the instructions.

“…all cell phones must be placed in the designated box at the front of the room…”

Indeed, at the front, on a table was a cardboard box.  On it was taped a yellow piece of legal pad paper.  On the yellow paper was written diagonally the word “DESIGNATED” in black sharpie.

The first day is devoted to California-specific essays and a performance test.  The performance test is the most inane part of the bar exam.  It is like hazing.  One of those irrational punitive things older members of a club do to incoming members, for no other reason than the older members had to do it when they first enlisted.  You have three hours to read a set of fake cases and fake factual documents and write a memo or some other kind of legal instrument using the information.  You need no knowledge or skill to pass.  All you have to do is know how to read and follow directions.  A third grader could take a performance test.  But of course a third grader can’t actually take the California bar exam, even if they’ve been admitted to another jurisdiction, because the California lawyers are afraid of the competition.

On the second day, we had to wait to begin the multiple choice MBE.  Sitting there heightened the drama, as the proctors wheeled the tests in on a giant rolling slab.  The tests were in high stacks, guarded by a phallanx of proctors.  It was like the Ark of the Covenant or something.  All that was missing was an ominous John Williams score and face-melting.

The third day is the same as the first day: essays and performance tests.  By this time, I was basically exhausted.  I had been sick throughout the week.  I was hopped up on a cocktail of tylenol cold and ricola.  I thought of the stoner in line in front of me on the first day.  I hand-wrote the exam (many test takers use a laptop) and my right hand was twisted into an arthritic claw, throbbing with pain.  I could barely handle the basic object I would need for the exam, a sword a pen.  As a result, I knew that this third day would be an endurance contest.

AN ACCURATE DEPICTION OF THE THIRD DAY OF THE CALIFORNIA BAR EXAM, THANKS TO YOUTUBES:

Many people ask you how you “feel” when you finish an exam like this.  It is hard to respond to that kind of query.  You don’t want to jinx yourself with overconfidence.  You also don’t want to express weakness, because then people will feel sorry for you.  So how did I feel?  Well, I don’t know if I passed.  I really can’t tell you.   Anyway, there is nothing I can do about it now.  It is all over.  That is what matters to me.  I knew many things and did not know some things.  We will see, on May 14th, whether I knew enough.



Manventure.
February 3, 2010, 10:05 pm
Filed under: SF | Tags: , ,

Once upon a time, there were five men who moved to San Francisco for love.  From Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan, and New York, each travelled to San Francisco for a woman.  They became friends along the way, partly because their respective ladies were friends. One Saturday they conspired together to throw off the chains of feminine tyranny.  They set sail on a glorious man-only adventure with two dogs (both males).  They called it a Manventure.

A beautiful thing about The City is that once you cross that big orange bridge north into Marin County, you enter a wilderness.  A 20 minute car ride will leave you in solitude with the rolling waves of the beach or the fresh smell of a Redwood forest.  One of the Men knew of such a romantic locale, perfect for Male conquest.  It was a black sand beach, tucked underneath the broad and arrogant Marin headlands.

The men collected their gear and dogs and piled into a diminutive Acura Integra from the late 1990s.  Across the Golden Gate they drove, turning after the span to climb the steep roads that hugged the side of the Marin cliffs.  Finally, at the beach.  There were goths milling about and two women clinging to each other in the back seat of a Ford Focus.  One of the men said, “Sometimes there are naked people here.”  This observation was disregarded by the others.  It was a cloudy day, slightly chilly, and it would be uncomfortable for some old gay man to run naked on the shore.

The dogs ran free, like the men themselves, free from the city and responsibility and women.  Dogs love beaches.

The men climbed on rocks.

They strolled from one side of the beach to the other.

As they walked past the entrance they noticed a woman lying face down in the sand.  Their hearts filled with dread.  What if she was dead?  That would really spoil the manventure, a dead woman.  Just like a woman, to kill the manventure.  One of the dogs smelled her butt.  She shifted her head, her eyes barely open.  She was alive at least, if groggy.  The men sauntered on.

At the very end of the beach, standing before the slick cliff face, they saw plants.  Succulents of perverse character.  Strange and unidentified.  A short plant guide stuck in a backpack gave no answers.  As they photographed the plants one of them turned.

“There are naked people over there.  Naked women.”

“Holy shit.  Naked lesbians.”

And they were.  Nubile, pure.  Nymphs frolicking in the surf, born from it like Aphrodite.  Dancing and giggling, far enough away that the men saw only two luscious pink shapes leaping into the cold water.  A faint squeal drifted across the space in between.

“What do we do, we obviously can’t go over there.  They are blocking our way to the entrance.”

“What do we tell the girls when we get back?”

The women eventually left the water and stood, holding each other for ten minutes without moving.  In time, they put clothes back on and played a game of catch.  Except they did not have any footballs, baseballs, or frisbees.  They were playing catch without balls.  Making athletic leaps in the air to pull down an imaginary sphere.

“They have to be on mushrooms.”

“No doubt.”

The men steeled up the courage to leave, which required passing the once-naked lesbian couple.  The women reclined in a spooning position next to a rock.  Perched at the rock were two ravens.  Ravens mate for life.  The men pretended to be interested in the birds to avoid the awkwardness when the dogs smelled the once-naked butts of the women.  The women glared.  Their eyes were glassy, their minds attempting to process the existence of the men. Where had these men come from?  They had not existed five seconds before, even though they were in plain view a few hundred yards away!  How dare they violate this private moment of tenderness.  The men stumbled past.

On the other side of this picture are lesbians who were once naked.

The men left, finding a new beach.  This one had surfers.  “Point Break” is the greatest movie ever.

Then the men had beers at their clubhouse.

THE END.



A Book Report: King of the Wood.
January 26, 2010, 12:05 am
Filed under: SF | Tags: , , ,

The below entry was originally published as an email to friends.

Last month, I attended a party at a friend’s apartment. Toward the end of the evening, I was perusing the book shelves when my friend pointed out one of his prized literary possessions. He had purchased it at a garage sale or, I would prefer to think, an estate sale. It was a Tor pulp paperback, published in the 80s, entitled “KING OF THE WOOD.” On the cover, a ginger viking (he has a horned helmet signifying he is a viking), baring his teeth, lifts his broad sword aloft. Appropriately enough, he is standing in a forest. His shiny iron shield bears a wolf’s head. Above the title, the caption screams: “VIKINGS CLASH WITH MONGOL HORDES, AND AMERICA IS THE PRIZE!”

Upon reading the caption, I knew I had to read it. Or at least borrow it, just to be funny. Well, I read it. Below, for your consideration, dear reader:

MY BOOK REPORT:

The novel bears the trappings of a fantasy and science fiction joint, but it is more appropriately called “alternative history.” It takes place in 1450. A century before, the Vikings land in America and instead of being chased off like pussies by the angry natives, make permanent settlements all along the East Coast of North America. They give places like New York City Viking names like “Bjornsby Harbor.” The Moors from Muslim Spain settle in Florida (TERRORISMS!). The Aztec are unconquered and thrive throughout Mexico and Central America and after we meet them the author mentions human sacrifice 20 times a page because he is so excited about it. The villainous Mongols have conquered most of the Eurasian continent, North Africa, Japan and have their eyes set lustily on the New World…

The plot follows a ginger barbarian by the name of Hring as he is exiled from his Norse kingdom for killing a kinsmen and embarks on a meandering journey through most of North and Central America to follow his “wyrd” whatever the fuck that means. Every 25 pages or so Hring bangs a lady, or at least sees her naked (see below). Shortly after every sex scene is a badass fight sequence with swords. About 75% of the time, Hring ends up beheading some jerk. Hring somehow overcomes his absolute lack of personality or charm, when every new culture he stumbles into embraces him. Invariably they make him some kind of general or prince. Among Hring’s adventures (SPOILERS): seeing a witch naked, making fun of a king, seeing a bison in Florida, banging a witch after taking part in a pagan May Day festival where he sprays fake semen over the bodies of village virgins and molests them under official village government sanction, becomes a pirate, almost gets eaten by cannibals, hangs out with the Aztecs, scopes lots of human sacrifice, has lots of sex, decides rather randomly that he hates human sacrifice, learns Aztec, Crow, and Mongol languages, kills a bunch of guys with a stick while tied to a post at the top of the highest temple in Tenochtitlan, leads a Mongol army against the Aztecs, becomes a colonial administrator of the Mongol Horde, becomes king by his own hand in Norse North America, marries the witch, reconsiders his views on human sacrifice and offers himself up to the slaughter on another May Day to ensure a good harvest.

A choice passage: “She stripped off the outer garment, then pulled her undershirt over her head. She stood naked in front of him, her eyes as chill as steel. Her body was whiter than any milk, laced with a network of blue veins, like some fine marble. Her shoulders were broad, her waist narrow, swelling downward to wide, womanly hips. Her thighs and calves were powerful, and the sun behind her shone through a covering of white down, surrounding them with a pale halo. Her belly was rounded, swelling out from below the deep, wide navel into a double curve, cleft by a line running from the crotch upward. Her pubic thatch was a dense tangle of dark blonde curls writhing (ed. REALLY?) upward almost to the navel and coating her thighs on the insides for a handbreadth toward the knees. Hring was grateful that his mailed codpiece hid his reaction.” p. 31.

Everyone needs to read “King of the Wood.”



Masshole?
January 25, 2010, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Rants | Tags: , ,

I generally keep this as a non-political space, except when it comes to Burritos.  However, I have been encouraged by several people to blog my views about the results of the Senate race in Massachusetts, so they might receive (a little) broader exposure.

I generally don’t bother complaining about media coverage of political events.  As we become more polarized, the mainstream media echoes, which is a type of laziness.  Laziness manifests itself in superficiality.  We see events covered in terms of 2012-type apocalyptic cycles, reoccurring every week.  Routine events that transpire in accordance with long-set rules are treated like world-changing, mind-blowing, shocking new phenomena.  Who won or lost this cataclysmic shift in the political world today?  This becomes more important than actually engaging with the issues in a substantive way.  For these reasons, I do not often complain or worry about the way media characterizes a political issue.

But sometimes it is important to examine who lost and why.  Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley last week in a generally liberal state, Massachusetts, winning Teddy Kennedy’s seat.  This is not as shocking as it appears*.  Scott Brown did not change the world.  The Democrats are not over as a party, just as the Republicans were not finished after the 2008 election or after they elected infamous fool Michael Steele to run the RNC.  Also, I don’t believe this has anything to do with Barack Obama.

First Ancient Electoral Rule: If you are a douche with rock-solid hair and you are a Republican, you can really make a run!  This has been a truth since Presidents started having hair instead of wigs.

You see, Massachusetts has been electing douchebag Republicans for quite some time.  Remember Mitt Romney?  They elected him!  I doubt many in my generation would remember William Weld.  TOTES DOUCHE.  We can go back in history and look.  Henry Cabot Lodge!  Love that guy.  In fact, until Deval Patrick won in 2008, every Governor of that state since Dukakis left in 1991 has been a Republican.  A Republican is not shut out of a state-wide race in Mass.

Second Ancient Electoral Rule: If you run an interesting, exciting candidate that changes it up, you will (or are more likely to) win.  If you run a party hack, you will fucking lose.

How often do we see the chosen candidate who views their run as their “turn” get trampled by some out of nowhere new face?  How often do we have to see it until we stop running people who are an anathema to the idea of a meritocracy?  A party hack did not rise through the ranks necessarily by merit.  Rather, they rose from patronage or special interest adoration.  We see Coakley, who ran a lazy and uninspired campaign, gets trounced by an exciting, albeit vapid, new candidate.  A friend told me Coakley ran like 19 events last month, while Brown ran 66.  Apparently, she was excited to lose because she got to hang out with her dogs (WTF?)!   I had a friend, a fellow field organizer in the Obama army, who lives in Boston and offered to lead a canvassing team.  He was shrugged off.  They told him that they were focusing on calling.  [SUB-RULE TO RULE #2:  Obama campaign team training.  First day.  We were taught that canvassing improves turnout significantly and phone calls increase turnout not at all.  If you want to know more, read this CLASSIC STUDY.]

You win elections not by mobilizing the base, but by mobilizing the independents.  Independents don’t get psyched up enough to vote for just anyone.  In fact, going to the polls isn’t even guaranteed for them.  So how do you maintain the attention of someone who doesn’t want to pay attention?  You excite them.  You might be good looking, you might have an impassioned speaking voice, you might run a smartly designed and eye-catching campaign system, most importantly you might represent different ideas and policies (though this is happening less and less these days).  You might get your base so excited that they share the enthusiasm with the independents.  In my perfect world, a fresh candidate would actually be elected on greater merit than the party hack (though this is a questionable view).  Either way, party hacks don’t win over independents easily.  Given Rule #1, the Democrats should have known they couldn’t just offer up some dead fish and expect it to win, violating Rule #2.  I don’t buy the argument put forward that there was no one else willing to run.  I find it very difficult to believe that in Massachusetts of all places there weren’t any exciting alternative candidates available.  I find it more likely that they were shut out by an incompetent state party.**

So, moral of the story: Keep your chin up.  These things happen all the time.  It’s not the end of the world.

*I understand it dooms health care, I am sad about that, but this post is not about health care.

** Be advised that I actually know next to nothing about state politics in MA.



Three Taquerias.
December 29, 2009, 12:00 am
Filed under: Burritos | Tags: ,

This is the first in a potential series of reviews of San Francisco taquerias, with an obvious bias toward the Mission District where I live.

First, an introduction to those new to the concept of the taqueria.  The San Francisco taqueria is like a museum dedicated to the art of the burrito, except it is a museum where you eat the art.  The word burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish.  The origin of the name is a mystery.  Some say it derived from the resemblance of the wrapped tortilla to its namesake animal’s ear.

Bullshit.

Most historical records actually credit the invention of the burrito to the Mayans around AD 200.  Rather than deriving its name from the animal, the burrito was named after the cylindrical spaceships that transported munificent aliens to Mayan temples.  The Mayan “Gods” would exit their powerful ships and bestow upon the terrified and exhilarated Mayan people marvelous technology.  Once they had mated with the Mayan women and granted good luck for the new harvest that year, these Gods would board their white cylindrical sky “donkeys” and ascend to the clouds.  The “donkeys” were the primary mode of transportation for the aliens and the primitive Mayan mind knew nothing of air planes of NASA, the donkey was the only vehicle they understood.  The Mayans would crush neighboring tribes with the tanks and laser guns they acquired from the Gods.  They built large monolithic structures in praise of the Visitors.

Eventually it came to pass that these interstellar guests ceased to arrive.  Perhaps they all died out in a galactic superwar.  Perhaps they contracted some hideous Mayan disease from their many trips to our filthy little planet.  We may never know.   At any rate, the crops began to fail, the young women went unmarried.  In a panic, the Mayan priests began to indulge in human sacrifice, hoping to call the Gods back to Earth.  The Mayans would wrap the human flesh in a flour tortilla, filling the package with rice, beans, and sometimes salsa.  All in tribute to the “space donkeys” that their Gods rode from the heavens.

Cast aside thoughts of Q’doba, BTB, or even Chipotle.  Don’t even think about bringing Taco Bell into this discussion. All are pretenders.  They shiver at the might of the true San Francisco Burrito.  When you order a San Francisco Burrito you should get a “superburrito.”  This includes rice and beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso, and your choice of meat.  A good burrito will be filled with greasy meat, should pack a spicy punch, and should warm your heart with love.  It is important that the fillings of the burrito mix together.  The San Francisco burrito’s circumference is so large that it is difficult to get the entire palate of flavor in one bite unless the fillings are intermixed perfectly.  This is the most difficult part of burrito making to master.  A taqueria should not be like Chipotle.  There should only be brushed metal on the counter behind the glass where the burrito is prepared, if at all.  There should be pictures of Madre de Dios or, equally inspirational, Gavin Newson.  There should be candles.  It should be psychedelic: a dive indulging in vibrant color and ostentatious earnestness.

Taqueria Cancun – Generally acknowledged by all right-thinking people as the Single Greatest Taqueria That Exists and Has Ever Existed, Taqueria Cancun lies but a two block walk from my front door.  This is a curse, really.  The burrito is warm and extremely spicy.  The el pastor and pollo are the titans here. Cancun does not get top marks for ambiance.  It is a little too McDonald’s, but it makes up for it with an amazing latin jukebox.  Service with excitement, the dudes behind the counter are apparently all wasted or, alternatively, just very friendly and having a wonderful time.

Overall Taste – 10.

Taqueria el buen sabor – Loosely translated as “The Taqueria of the Vengeful Sword.”  A little too much rice, which segregates the rest of the filling like a Republican.  Also, don’t put lettuce in a burrito, that’s cheating. As for the service and decor, apparently it is a front for a convent, because only ladies work here.  For the entire month of December they wore Santa Hats.  All of them.

Overall Taste: 8

Taqueria El Farrolito – Perfectly located near 24th Street Mission BART stop for those who are crapulous.  The blend in this burrito was unpardonably separated, but I didn’t really mind in my inebriated state.  To go to the bathroom you have to have the dude at the register buzz you in.  Yes, the door to the bathroom operates like a security door to an apartment building.

Overall Taste: 6

More to come.  A burrito is like a girlfriend/boyfriend.  What do you like in a burrito?  What is your favorite?  What was your most romantic burrito experience?  Have you ever made love to a burrito?  I mean love, man, not just anonymous sex.



Some people who smiled at me while I installed license plates onto Emily’s car for about five hours the morning after my birthday.
December 18, 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: SF | Tags: ,

The Dog Walker – The dog walker passed me, herding three dogs of ascending size: a chihuahua, a bulldog, and some kind of large abomination begat from the unholy union of what appears to be a retriever and another energetic monstrosity.  The dogs smelled the ground.  Of course, the main streets, with their high urine traffic by man and animal, would be better for smelling, but this sunny tree-lined side-street sufficed.   The chihuahua eyed me with motherly worry.  She could see in my face the ravages of a hangover.  Her nose told her that I hadn’t showered.  She could hear my whimpering as I wrenched at the rusted bolts holding the defunct Virginia license plate to the car.

Long-haired Male Model Guy – Long-haired Male Model guy actually passed me several times.  I sat on the ground, prostrate before the car.  The collection of tools scattered around me increased exponentially each time he passed.  I am sure he noticed.  One time, he passed as I was banging on the rusted bolts that had stuck firm to the license plate with a hammer.  Sweat dripping from my brow, I swung high with a manic smile.   He looked at me with pity when I fell to the ground again in defeat.

The Old Men Who Work At the Hardware Store at 24th and Mission – It was decided, by my Senior Mechanical Advisor, that I should acquire a vise grip.  No tools of mine could marshal the unimaginable power necessary to wrest the rusted bolts on the front of the plate loose.  I walked to the closest reputable hardware store.  A musty smell of oil and sawdust filled my nose when I entered through the heavy door.  It was as if I had descended into my grandfather’s basement in Brookfield, Wisconsin circa 1989.   The room was filled with brown, from the wood to the dirty boxes that held a million nails.  The clutter was magnificent.  The old man with a limp hustled softly over to me.  There was no browsing in this store.  I explained my dilemma.  I met confusion.

“uh…a license plate?”

“yes.”

“uh…wow, that sucker must really be on there!”

He fished through a bucket in the corner for a suitable weapon.  He was disappointed he did not have a quality used vice grip to sell me, but I was excited at the prospect of a shiny new tool.  The other old gentleman sang along to the classical music emitting from the radio as he ran my credit card.

The Homeless Dude – The homeless dude stopped for a chat while I affixed the back license plate.  The screws that held the old Virginia plates on the bumper were so badly eroded that they fell apart when I tried to screw them off.  A piece of the screw stayed in the hole, unreachable by any tool, and it took much negotiating to free the holes for the new license plate.*  As I clumsily tried to reach my sausage fingers behind a small opening in the bumper to fix a nut to the brand new bolt I had purchased from the hardware store, I heard a voice.

“New License Plates, eh?”

“Yes.”  I was not in the mood for idle chat.  Jesus, man, can’t you see I am doing AUTO WORK!?

“What’s wrong with the old ones.”

“They are from a different state.”

“Did they cost much?”

“I don’t know, man, I just do the installation.”  This was a bad joke, but apparently he didn’t care.

The Hipster Girl – The hipster girl emerged from her apartment right next to my park car just as I tore the Virginia license plate off of the car with my bare hands.  The rusted bolt certainly budged when I used the vice grips, but then it just spun in its socket, never unscrewing.  So I tore the fucker off.  And then I tore the fucking bolt out.  I sat there, laughing to myself.  I raised the Virginia license to the sky, the sun shining through the gaping gash in the upper left corner where the bolt had been.  And then the hipster girl opened the door, stood outside, looked up at the happy sun, looked down at me as I held the license plate aloft in defiance and she saw the carnage, mayhem, and madness, and then she smiled and chirped, “hey!  what’s up!”  Then she walked away.

*I would describe this in more detail, but it is incredibly dull and unnecessarily complicated.  Let’s make it swift by saying that the original Virginia plates were so old that they were impossible to get off without great feats of engineering skill, which, luckily, I possess.